Keeper of His Home

by Chelsea McCafferty

I Give Up

Today I feel like giving up. Oh, I’ve felt this way before but I confess at this moment, in the very moment that I type these words, I am at the most difficult time and place of my life. This is real. Honest. Transparent. Probably too transparent. Yet something tells me to write it and be honest because I know there are others who feel like giving up too. I know it. I pray that God brings those dear ones to this blog and encourages them.

“Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.” Psalm 42:11

Why are you downcast, oh my soul?

I’ll tell you why I feel like giving up, though I know it won’t adequately capture what’s going on with me. It’d be the same if you were writing about your heartache. It’s difficult to convey the depth and width of the pain. As I write this, I’ve been battling what specialists believe is a persistent and chronic lyme disease. After two plus years of treatment, I’ve made no progress. I endure severe pain on a daily basis. I feel like a 37 year-old trapped in an 87 year-old’s body. I have a vast array of symptoms in addition to the pain, including insomnia (which is why I’m writing this at 1am), gastric issues, POTS symptoms affecting the heart, dizziness, chronic sinus and other infections, splitting headaches, intense fatigue and more. I struggle with depression and anxiety with full-blown panic attacks (which I have never experienced before). I also struggle with the results of multiple prescribed medications and having to withdraw from them. There’s a lot more but I won’t babble on. I can only say that it’s horrible having to live this way, and I have no reason to believe I’ll find remission any time soon.

In addition to the chronic illness, my life is riddled with what seems like problem after problem, trial after trial. It’s almost become comical. I won’t go into detail as much of it is private, but I can only say that I often, throughout the day, shake my head in disbelief at how badly everything goes. Relationships. Finances. Events. Treatment. Even day to day living…like with the household. Everything. Everything goes wrong. It’s shocking. It’s so disheartening. It’s so hard to push forward. That’s why I want to give up.

Now, when I say I want to give up, I’m not saying that I want to take my life. That is something I will never do. I would never do that to my daughter. I would never do that to my Lord. When I say “give up”, what I mean is “give in”. I feel like giving in to despair. I feel like giving in to full-blown grief. I feel like isolating. I don’t feel like going shopping, being social or even talking, really. I feel like spending my time with my kiddo and just letting it all fall apart, since it seems to be always falling apart around me anyways. That’s how I feel, but let me assert with confidence that giving up is not the answer.

Suffering is a part of life, and some suffer more than others. Some Christians suffer more than others. It’s life in a fallen world. Sickness, stress, pain, divorce, brokenness…it was never part of God’s perfect plan. Sin brought it in along with death and decay. We live in a world that groans because of the pain and sin and destruction. We await with hurting hearts the redemption of the returning Messiah. It’s a mess, friends. I know this is the truth and so I do not resent God for the pain I’m experiencing. I know He didn’t send it to me or inflict me with it. Now, He may be allowing it, but that’s not the same thing. He has promised to make beauty from ashes and to redeem our suffering. He is the Rescuer. Deliverer. Savior. Father. King of Glory. He is all and everything and perfection.

 

““The Rock, his work is perfect, for all his ways are justice. A God of faithfulness and without iniquity, just and upright is he.” Deut. 32:4

“To the King of ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.” 1 Timothy 1:17

“For the Lord your God is a merciful God. He will not leave you or destroy you or forget the covenant with your fathers that he swore to them.” Deut 4:31

““For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16

“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”” Rev 21:4

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28

 

I believe what God says in His Word. I believe it, but I’m weak. I’m broken. Brokenhearted. Broken in body. Broken Spiritually. So here’s the good news….God can and does work in our brokenness. If you’re broken and hurting like me, know that God isn’t finished. He is working and stronger than ever in our weakness and brokenness. We are not alone. We are not lost causes. God has not and will not ever forsake us…..even if we give up for a while.

 

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Matt 11:28

“The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.” Psalm 34:18

“But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” Isaiah 40:31

“The Lord is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation; this is my God, and I will praise him, my father’s God, and I will exalt him.” Ex 15:2

“He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength.” Isaiah 40:29

 

We may not know what God is doing…I don’t. I don’t understand it. I ask Him, “why? Why me Lord? How can You love me and allow this? Am I cursed? Have I done something wrong to have earned this constant pain?” I don’t know what He’s doing but I can trust in Him because He said I could and because He is good. He is God. He is love. I trust in His character and His promises. He never promised a perfect or pain-free life on earth. He promised salvation from the grave and everlasting life. He promised we would not drown when the waters overtook us. We would not burn when the fire burned all around. We would be pressed but not crushed. We would be broken but not destroyed.

 

“For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.” 1 Cor 13:12

 

All we need to do is cling to Him and wait. Wait. One more day. One more hour if need be. We need to wait and not give up. Can we not wait for one hour? We can through the power of the Holy Spirit my friends. We can. I’m praying for you. Please pray for me too. And remember….

God is good and He loves you!

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” Romans 15:13

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Love & Connection…Basic Human Needs

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God created us all with basic needs. We need oxygen to breath. We need nutrition and water to sustain life. We need shelter and clothing. These are all needs, but we shouldn’t forget that one of our basic human needs is for love and connection. God created us to NEED love and to feel connected to other people, both in friendship and also in romantic/intimate love.

“Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” Genesis 2:18

It wasn’t good for man (or woman for that matter) to be alone. Alone. So many people are feeling alone at this very moment…their hearts aching to feel loved and connected. It’s such a strong longing that it can consume a person. It can steal his joy and leave him wondering how he will persevere through another day without it. God said it wasn’t good for man to be alone. We were made for connection.

We were made for romance too…

“Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice in the wife of your youth, a lovely deer, a graceful doe. Let her breasts fill you at all times with delight; be intoxicated always in her love.” Proverbs 5:18-19

Sounds a little racy for the Bible right? God created romance. He created sexual intimacy. He created us to desire that connection. This is a such a strong need that it often leads people to be tempted to sin because of the lack of fulfillment. A husband or wife who is cold to his or her spouse is tempting them to sin. Is that an excuse to sin? Of course not! There’s never an excuse to give in to sin, but there is responsibility there.

“The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband. For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. Likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.” 1 Corinthians 7:3-5

“So they are no longer two but one flesh.” Matthew 19:6

One flesh…in both spirit and body. They are one. God made us to need to be one with someone. He designed us to need to be one in a spiritual and emotional connection. A deep connection…one that is exclusive and evident in their lives. Couples who have this connection and oneness are so in sync with one another that they finish each other’s sentences and anticipate their beloved’s next move. They know each other’s interests, goals, dreams, likes and dislikes. They understand their spouse’s fears, struggles, joys and needs. As they grow and change, they change together and continue to learn about each other.

God also made us to need physical oneness. I mentioned it a few paragraphs ago. Sex. Intimacy. Connecting in a way that, again, is exclusive and vulnerable and a primal part of the human experience. Do you know how difficult it is for most people to live without sexual intimacy? Singles usually struggle immensely in this area, as do married people in lonely and cold marriages. Why struggle? Because humans were designed to need sexual intimacy and oneness, and we ache for it when we don’t have it.

So many marriages are made up of people who are still two separate beings. There are many reasons this happens. Some reasons are due to sin, ignorance of God’s plan, interference from outsiders and a general fading away of love. In these cases, there is every reason to hope for and work towards fixing the problem and connecting with your spouse.

Others have a much more difficult problem. There are many, many couples who married for all the wrong reasons. There are couples who married before they were believers only to find out that they shared none of the same values, passions and goals. There are marriages consisting of one believer and one non-believer.

These problems are not so easy, folks. I think sometimes The Church as whole looks on these issues as being minor or of little consequence. People are told just to “keep their vows” and not worry about the rest. Well, I’m not arguing that we shouldn’t keep vows or that marriages with issues should just be abandoned. I’m not advocating for divorce…not at all. I do think that Christians need to be very careful not to dismiss the heartache, pain and loneliness that people are feeling in their broken marriages. We need to have empathy and compassion. We need to understand that what we are advising is not easy at all…it’s literally denying one’s basic needs in service and obedience to God.

There are few things as destructive and hurtful as a marriage that has no love and connection. It’s devastating for the children. It’s a daily emotional and spiritual and even physical beating for the unhappy and unfulfilled husband and wife. Is there hope? In Christ there’s always hope, but that doesn’t mean the day to day life is any easier. It doesn’t mean the tears shed every night aren’t real. The pain is real. The loneliness is like your heart being trampled and abandoned day by day, and oftentimes no one even knows it’s going on behind closed doors. They suffer alone.

Connection. How can people feel connected if their core values are different? How can they feel loved if sexual intimacy is always withheld? How can marriage be successful if the two people in it are complete opposites and have no understanding of each other? Sometimes they fail. Sometimes there’s divorce. Sometimes bad marriages are so painful that people become physically sick. Sometimes sexual immorality enters in. Sometimes there’s depression and suicide….

…but sometimes there are miracles. Sometimes people find God and change. Sometimes wives read the Word and start to follow the leadership of their husbands. Sometimes husbands learn to love their wives as Christ loved the church and gave Himself for her. Sometimes love and connection is rekindled, or formed for the first time. Sometimes people changed profoundly by the hand of God and the movement of the Holy Spirit. It does happen.

I very strongly want to encourage my fellow believers to lift up in prayer people in lonely, broken, loveless marriages. We were designed to need love and connection. If we don’t have that connection, there is suffering and pain. It’s not a minor issue. It’s like living without air. Like drowning. It’s a BIG issue.

So stop downplaying it. Stop giving easy answers. Give scripture, yes, but acknowledge that it’s not an easy road. Most of the time one spouse is willing to try but the other isn’t. Many times one won’t even admit there’s a problem. No one is guaranteed a good outcome. There are couples who never had love for one another and maybe never will. Acknowledge that their pain is real before you tell them just to choose to love. Have some compassion.

If you’re reading this and you’re longing for love and connection, just know that you’re not alone and your feelings are valid. You were made to need love and connection. It is a deep and basic need. My prayer for you is that you will be able to withstand the temptation to sin, even in your pain. I pray you are able to find love and connection to the right person, your spouse if you are married, or in a future spouse if single. Praying for all of my lonely and hurting friends tonight that you would feel the comfort of a God who loves you, that you will not fall into despair and that you would remember that your life is important to God and to your loved ones.

Photo credit: Nick-K (Nikos Koutoulas) First dance! via photopin (license)

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Loving a Lymie

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It’s not easy loving a lymie, or anyone with chronic illness actually. It’s not that it’s hard to love the person. Many times you’ve known them and loved them long before they got sick. What’s hard is when God calls you to come alongside someone who is ill and is likely to remain ill for the rest of their life (aside from a miraculous healing…always a possibility). It’s tough and I’ll tell you why.

Whether it’s a friend, a family member or someone from your church, you probably know someone with some sort of chronic illness such as fibromyalgia, MS, lupus, Lyme Disease or even something that hasn’t been diagnosed yet. If you’re my friend, you know me! If you’re not already aware, I have chronic lyme disease and have been sick for going on six years now (though the past 18 months has been by far the worst).

It’s not an easy path when God calls you to support and love someone who is always sick for many reasons. Here are a few for you to ponder and perhaps pray about:

  1. The Long Haul

Chronic illness is, by definition, a lifelong problem. Unless God heals it miraculously, a person who is chronically ill is likely to be sick throughout their life on earth. Why does that make them hard to help? Because they ALWAYS need help. It’s not quite the same as bringing a meal to someone who has the flu or cleaning someone’s house after they just had a baby. When you’re called to serve someone with chronic lyme or another illness, there is no end in sight. We are “needy” for the long haul. It’s hard on our friends and family, and it’s so very hard on us. Believe me, we don’t want to feel like a burden. We don’t want to ask for help over and over.  We really don’t want to be so keenly aware that we will suffer like this for the rest of our lives. Still, Christ gives us assured hope that this pain and sickness, while it may last for the duration of earthly life, will be healed when we are with Him. So we press on.

  1. Chronic Illness is Boring

If you knew me before I was sick, you know that I was a very active person. I have a big personality, some would say. I love to laugh and have fun and go out. Being sick really interferes with your social life. I’m blessed that I can still make it out sometimes, but more often I’m too tired and sore to leave the house much. I don’t always make it to church (which is super hard for me). I can’t go to every birthday party or concert or ministry event. When you love a lymie, you have to realize that we just aren’t as “fun” as we used to be. We can’t do what we did before. It’s hard to be friends with someone who can’t go shopping with you or come to your kids’ birthday party. Still, you can have fun with us if you come and sit with us a while. We can laugh and catch up and have a nice visit if you don’t mind us lounging around in our PJs.

  1. You Give More Than You Get

If you’re called to walk alongside someone with chronic illness, understand that you’ll probably be giving more than you receive in some ways. We may not be able to “do” acts of service for you in the way you do them for us. We may not be able to cook you meals or help clean your home or bring you coffee as often. Again, I’m blessed that I’m still able to do those things on good days. I find it absolutely delightful to do meals for people or to run errands and help out. I love that I can still do that and I’ll keep doing it until I absolutely can’t anymore. Still, for many lymies their illness has meant they are bedridden and confined to their homes. Sometimes they are attached to IV’s, trying to recover. Ultimately loving someone who is very sick means you have to give without asking for much in return. What we can always give back is love, prayer and friendship. Sometimes that has to be enough.

  1. Another Post About Lyme?

Yes, I post a lot about lyme disease. Some people post a lot about fibromyalgia or MS. Why do we do that? There are several reasons. When it comes to lyme disease, people generally know so little about it…even in the medical community. We are always trying to raise awareness. We also share because we often feel lonely in our illness. We are aware that people don’t usually understand what we’re going through or how sick this disease makes us, and we have a strong desire for our friends and family to understand. Sometimes we post because we really need prayer or because we’re having a particularly bad day and need help but are too prideful or shy to just come out and ask for help. When you love a lymie, you may have to deal with reading posts or hearing us talk about our illness. It may seem boring to you or redundant, but it’s what is happening in our lives. If you ask how we are, our first response will usually be about being sick because it affects every area of our lives. Please be patient with us. Loving an ill person means you should take an interest in learning about our illness, reading our sometimes subtle pleas for help and offering us lots of grace.

  1. Love Bears All Things

Love bears all things and endures all things and believes all things. Love never fails. Loving the chronically ill is not an easy road. I can tell you that having chronic lyme has affected many of my friendships. I have often felt alone, misunderstood and that others don’t believe how sick I am because we don’t always look sick on the outside. Lyme Disease beats a person up physically, emotionally, financially and sometimes spiritually. We have a hard time finding a doctor to help. Treatment makes us sick and often leads to bankruptcy.  It’s so very hard, my friends.  I’ve been blessed to have one friend from church who checks in on me consistently and offers to bring meals and groceries (thanks Anna!!!) and also several good friends locally who have surprised us with meals, offered to help around the house and even brought me coffee ! I’ve also had some amazing people in my life help with the cost if treatment.  I appreciate you all more than words can say. Loving someone with lyme is not easy, but true love bears all things.

Loving someone with chronic illness is a burden, but it can also be a blessing. I believe truly that we, The Church, are called to love and serve one another in a real, daily life kind of way. I believed it before I was sick and I believe it now. Jesus sacrificed everything for us on the cross, but before that He also took on the position of the most humble servant in the house and washed feet. He ministered to crowds to the point of exhaustion. He wept over the death of Lazarus with great compassion, even though He knew He would raise him from the dead. Jesus served people fervently. He gave all of Himself and that’s what we are supposed to be doing. I will keep doing it until I have no more strength left. Now I need to work on being willing to receive from others that love and support in my illness, putting pride aside.

So there it is friends. It’s difficult to love someone who is always sick, who can’t give much back in return, who isn’t quite as fun anymore and who goes on and on about the new research coming out about their illness. I get it. I see that it’s hard, but if God calls you to love that person, then He will give you the strength, the wisdom and the courage to really love and serve them. Honestly, I think it’s something we are called to do. The Church needs to do this. This is how The Church is supposed to function. Yes, it means sacrifice. Yes, it’s often inconvenient. Yes, it’s also a blessing.

Sick as a dog via photopin (license)

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Heart of a Mother

A mother loves.

She loves in good times and bad.

She loves without reserve.

She loves big and deep and wide.

She loves when it’s not returned.

She loves unconditionally.

A mother serves.

She serves til it hurts.

She serves when everyone stops.

She serves with self-sacrifice.

She serves without recognition or reward.

A mother edifies.

She builds them up.

She encourages them in their dreams.

She reminds them of their worth.

She is their number one fan.

A mother cares.

She cares for their needs.

She mends their wounds.

She comforts their hearts.

She sings over them with joy.

A mother prays.

She prays for their future.

She prays for their hurts.

She prays for them to love Him.

She prays for them to soar.

She speaks blessings over them.

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A mother is joy.

She brings light and love.

She holds their hearts.

She is the keeper of memories.

She is a blessing.

By birth, adoption or in loving bonds

Motherhood comes in many ways

And each is special.

Honoring mothers today

For all you do and all you are.

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Excerpt from My New Book – “Be Church. The Church. Real Church”

The following is an excerpt from my new book, “Be Church. The Church. Real Church.” The book should be released and available by July 1st.:

            “So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.” Galatians 6:10

 

            “I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment.” 1 Corinthians 1:10

 

            “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” James 5:16

 

            “For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.” Galatians 5:13

 

            “As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions. One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables. Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him. Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand. One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind.” Romans 14:1-5

 

            “So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus…” Philippians 2:1-5

I read these passages about the New Testament church and I can’t help but feel that we have really tried to box church up into this nice, aesthetically-pleasing package. We have focused on creating order and being organized. We have established traditions that we now stick to as if it were written on the same tablets as the Ten Commandments. We keep Sunday morning running smoothly, eliminate distractions, ask the Holy Spirit to move in our timing and according to our schedule, and we avoid any breaking of what is our regularly scheduled program. Yet, I’m not seeing any of that with the New Testament church from scripture. I’m not seeing an outline of the service in the church bulletin. I’m not seeing a well-oiled engine that makes sure people are in their seats at 10am and out the door at 11:45am on the dot. I’m not seeing shallow conversation or niceties or the need to stick to this version of church that we have created.

Now, please don’t get me wrong. I love church. I love going to church and I am not poking fun at churches that run this way. I understand that these traditions have been deeply engraved in our development of church history. I am not writing these words in anger or frustration with the church. Not in the least. I believe that the church is filled with God-loving people who are doing their best (for the most part) to honor Him. I know there are dodgy churches out there teaching false words and so forth…I’m not talking about them. I’m specifically addressing the Bible-believing, Jesus-loving Christian church. We come in all shapes and sizes, colors and flavors, but we are all united in the blood of our Savior. Despite our denomination or church affiliation, most of our church fellowships fall into this habit of putting church (and ultimately God) in a box. That is what I’m addressing in total love and honor of my fellow believers.

While I love the church and see many wonderful aspects of the church (Bible study, worship, fellowship, etc.) shining forth from it’s congregations, I also see some real problems with the church in general. Now this may or may not apply to your church body. This is not a new concept. I’m not the first to feel this conviction, nor the last. Others have written about it. Some have put it into practice in their churches. It’s not new, but it is my personal take on what’s happening in the church today and how we may start to really be church….the real church.

The first thing we have to do is to recognize and acknowledge that the church is made up of Christians. Christians are people. People suffer. There is pain. There is sickness. There is trouble and persecution. Jesus never promised Christians an easy time on earth. In fact, we were warned that we’d face spiritual and physically warfare and pain. Life is messy. If church is going to be real, we need to allow people to be real in the church. If church is going to be sincere, we need to allow people to share their lives. Church is not a beauty pageant, where smiles are glued in place to make sure they don’t drop. Church isn’t a show. It isn’t a pristinely- put together show. It shouldn’t be. It should be a real life experience of people being themselves, bringing their pain, being ministered to, sharing testimonies of God’s power and glory, being exhorted in the Word, feeling free to confess, being prayed over and being fed. Real church doesn’t have to look the same every week. It doesn’t have to fit in the box man has created.

I love the church, but something’s missing. Something’s wrong. We know it is because we are losing people. We are losing battles. We are sending some away just as broken and lonely as when they arrived. We are failing to meet needs. We are failing to offer real discipleship. We are not bearing one another’s burdens as we ought to. We don’t even know what their burdens are because we don’t take time to get to know them! For all of the beauty of a well-organized Saturday or Sunday morning service, we are missing out on some of the most important aspects of being a church family in the first part.

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A Message About Love

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photo credit: “Love One Another…” ~ digital paint effect ~ [Explored] via photopin (license)

“1 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.” 1 Corinthians 13:1-3

I know a lot of clanging cymbals. I know plenty of Christians who are bankrupt in the love department. I’m sure that I’ve been one a time or two in my life. Yes, I’m quite sure that I have, but something has happened to me.

There’s been a change of heart here. You see, for so long I depended so heavily upon the apologetics and study of my faith and the Word of God (not entirely a bad thing), but I often failed in the love department. I failed to see people hurting. I failed in compassion but excelled in the “calling” of giving advice. I had a quick answer for everyone but not a heart of discernment as to when to share that advice and when to be a silent encourager.

As God has shown me to see His hurting people through His eyes, my heart has softened to the plight of the suffering and lost of this world. My eyes see more clearly now that there are people within the church who are in pain but suffer in silence for the sake of an obligatory smile on Sunday morning. Well-primped and properly-dressed Christians fill up the pews and all is right in the world….only it isn’t. Very little is right in this world because the enemy of our souls is constantly on the prowl, looking for whomever he may lie to, cheat, harm and break. Death and sickness plague us. Adultery and immorality are ever present. We rejoice in the Lord and His blessings, but may we never forget that this world is moaning as it awaits redemption and renewal.

With all the suffering that there is in this world, we need to be all the more abundant in love, compassion, grace and bearing one another’s burdens. We need each other. We need love. There’s no question that we need to study God’s Word and know His precepts also, but fellowship and love within the body of Christ must never be side-show attraction or a secondary concern in the body. Disconnected believers are easily brought down. Isolated Christians have no one to see when they are falling and no one to pull them up when the cares of the world pull them down.

Clanging cymbals. They do everything right, don’t they? They know the Bible. They live pure lifestyles and their tithe is 10.1 percent. The words on their lips are goodness and their homes are fortified. They do everything right….except love. They do everything well…except that which is most important.

“Faith, hope and love; these three abide, but the greatest of these is LOVE.” 1 Corinthians 13:13

We learn so much about love from this chapter in 1 Corinthians. My heart cries out to my fellow believers that we need to understand love more. We need to give it more freely. We need to be willing to get our hands dirty to wash the feet of those who have walked a thousand miles in pain and hardship. We need to love til it hurts. Love is sacrifice. Didn’t our Savior teach us that? We need to love like Jesus did….laying down our lives and giving all of ourselves.

Don’t be a clanging cymbal, dear one. Don’t excel at having all the right answers but fail at loving with a pure and dedicated love. Agape love. Unconditional love.

When I die someday, whenever the Lord wills that to be, I don’t want it to be said of me that I was a Christian who knew all the right answers. I don’t want it said to me that I was a good tither or had an excellent church attendance record. I cringe to think that my mourners would speak only about the Lord’s gift of music in my life.

Oh Lord, may they remember me as one who loved! Jesus, may I love so fiercely that people would never forget it. May my love comfort Your children and draw in the lost! May I love without reserve! May I love without bounds! May Your perfect love be perfected in me that I might be worthy of being called a Christian at all!

May we love deeply. May we love true. May our love be a sweet, sweet sound to the Father and may our love drown out the clanging cymbals.

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Dealing with Typical “You’re Homeschooling?” Frustrations

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My husband and I are the first couple in our respective families to choose home education for our child. It is a decision we had come to long before we had our daughter, and one that we personally have felt convicted about ever since. Those of you who share the conviction understand how strong it can be, and yet those who look down on homeschooling can be quite passionate about their opinions on the matter as well. While we have been blessed to have families who support us (teasing and joking aside), I have had no shortage of jabs, insults, attacks, rude remarks and what I call “the look” from friends, strangers, acquaintances, etc.

I really had no idea how often it would happen until my daughter reached school age. We had done preschool at home and I have directed a homeschool choir for the past 6 years, so we were already well engrossed in the homeschooling community. Then my daughter turned five. Suddenly everywhere we went people began to ask her if she was in kindergarden. This is the question that does it. Here’s what often follows:

Acquaintance: “How old are you sweetie?”

Tabi: “Five”

Acquaintance: “And are you in kindergarden this year?”

Me: “Yes she is, although she’ll be starting first grade in about six weeks. We are home educators.”

Acquaintance: (*the look) “Oh, ok. And how is she going to be socialized?” or “Wow. You’re brave.” or “Well, I leave that to the professionals.” or “I’ve heard homeschooled students can’t get into colleges” or sometimes “Well I don’t think homeschooling is right. You don’t want your kid to grow up being different and weird do you?”

Yes! These comments are a dime a dozen. I hear these and many more constantly. Sometimes people hold their opinions and simply give “the look”, but I tell you, that look can be just as frustrating as the person who has to be reminded that not all socialization is beneficial or that colleges usually welcome homeschooled students because of their advanced study habits. It’s not easy to hear these comments or witness that “look” day after day. It’s not easy to be different. Yet, I’ve found that, while I don’t appreciate the response I get from people and wish that society as a whole were more open minded to accepting home education as a valid and fine educational choice, I have noticed that these anti-homeschooling remarks never sway my commitment to this path. I LOVE being a home educator and I know that it is the best choice for my family.

That being said, I want to share some tips on how to best deal with negative remarks towards homeschooling as a Christian and home educator:

1. Grace and Love. Remember that we are called to offer grace and love, even if we’re not getting it back. Smile. Be kind. Be gentle. Try not to let anger take over, but rather just be okay with it. Ask God to give you loving and kind words in your response.

2. Humility. Often our reaction to someone challenging our choices is pride. Homeschoolers can be very prideful about what we believe in and in a negative way. God never approves of a prideful spirit. We need to remember to put on humility and let that show in our response.

3. Facts. While speaking in love and humility, it’s okay to defend home education by sharing facts and information that the other person might not know. Try not to blast them with too much information, because that will come across as aggressive and we don’t want that. Just answer their points kindly and with information that makes sense.

4. Tolerance. This is a funny word that can be good or bad at times. While we want society to accept and respect home education, we also must be respectful and tolerant of those who have different opinions. The truth is, if people choose public school, it’s because they believe it is the best choice for their family. If we choose homeschool, it is because we believe it is the best choice. We don’t have to agree. What we do want to do is to respect one another and acknowledge that both they and us are simply doing what we think is best. I hate to see homeschoolers mocking and putting down public schooling just as much as I hate it when we are mocked. In this sense, we need to follow our convictions and respect one another.

5. Teach our kids to do the same. As often as we are confronted about home education, our kids will be confronted all the more. It is good for us to teach our children to be able to defend homeschooling in the same manner of love, humility, tolerance and with sound information like we should be doing. We don’t want to teach our kids to be prideful or judgmental, but rather to be confident, kind and loving when they are asked about their education.

I have one other bit of advice….choose your battles wisely! If I know that a certain person looks down on homeschooling and that a conversation about it is going to be pointless and frustrating, I may avoid the issue altogether. We don’t always have to be soldiers on guard to defend home education. We can choose peace over pointless conflict. It’s like the song says, “live and let live” right? haha

At the end of the day, these “looks” and remarks are going to keep happening and it probably gets worse as the kids get older. We have to try not to let it bother us and to remember that as Christians we are used to being different and standing apart. If we can reject the world to love and follow Christ, then surely, by the power of the Holy Spirit, we can face challenge and even ridicule with grace and dignity, being good representatives of the homeschooling community.

God bless!

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Tips on Having a Christ-Filled Christmas

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We love celebrating Christmas in our home. It’s quite literally my favorite time of the year…nevermind that my birthday is on December 23rd. I decorate the house. We have a special tradition of going to a lovely place in the hills to get a tree. We give and receive presents. We love it and we enjoy watching our daughter love it all too. Still, as much as we love Christmas, the desire of our hearts is to keep our eyes and hearts on Jesus. This is what I want my daughter to observe and learn; a Christ-filled Christmas being our number one focus.

So from my family to yours, here are a few tips for creating a Christ-filled Christmas for your family:

  1. An Advent Activity. Advent activities can be lots of fun for the kids, educational and spiritually-enriching. What we did this year was decorate advent envelopes, one for each day of December leading up to Christmas, and I filled the envelopes with three items: a scripture that had something to do with the birth of Jesus, a picture to illustrate the scripture (my daughter is 5 years old), and some sort of a treat/activity. Each day my daughter opens the envelope for that day, we read the scripture and talk about what it means. Super fun!
  2. Caroling. We love to go caroling, and I am the director of a Christian homeschool choir so every year we go caroling in our town. We sing songs that are glorifying to God and draw the attention to our Savior.
  3. Decorating. I love Christmas decorations. I have them everywhere. I have a lot of variety in my decorating, but we do love to have decorations that remind us of our Jesus. We have nativities. Our Christmas tree is filled with ornaments that tell the story of His birth. We have a sign with light up letters outside with the word “Hope”. We want to share the hope and love of Jesus with our neighborhood. Not all of our decorations relate to Jesus, but He is the overwhelming theme in our home for sure.
  4. Blessing Others. A great way to share the love of Jesus at Christmas is to minister to others, and there are many ways to do that. Serving at a soup kitchen or bringing food to struggling families is one way. We did a box for Operation Christmas Child, so we filled a box with gifts for a little boy that will be delivered to him. We also like to make cookies, wrap them up and take them to our neighbors with Christmas cards that talk about Jesus. Our neighborhood is a bit scary at times, but we know God has put us here for a reason and we are not going to pass up the opportunity to share the gospel when we can.
  5. Christmas cards. Sending out Christmas cards with a gospel message is great because people will read them. Even just a few words of hope can make a difference.
  6. Saint Nicholas. We love Santa Claus! No, he’s not a pagan. While we focus our eyes on Jesus at Christmas, we have no problem with the legend of St. Nicholas. He was a very cool man and one that loved the Lord. He was generous and selfless. We love to talk about St. Nicholas, learn the history and play Santa Claus.
  7. Birthday cake for Jesus. Tabitha and I started the tradition last year of making a birthday cake for Jesus. We usually do it Christmas Eve and on Christmas morning we literally sing happy birthday to Jesus. Now, before you get all scholarly on me please know that we are fully aware that December 25th is not likely the real birthday of Jesus Christ. However, we choose to celebrate it that day, so instead of ripping right into the presents, we fix our eyes firmly on Jesus and thank Him for being born, dying and rising again for us.
  8. Gifts from Jesus. While we love to talk about St. Nic, we encourage our daughter to understand that every gift we have is from Jesus. Everything we have comes from God and nothing is really ours. So, while we may joke about Santa bringing presents, she can tell you that every gift is from Jesus and we thank Jesus for all He has blessed us with

These are just a few ways we keep Christ the center of our attention during the holiday season. If you have any other tips you’d like to share, please do so below. I pray that your Christmas is Christ-filled and joyous! It’s all about Him!

These are just a few ways we keep Christ the center of our attention during the holiday season. If you have any other tips you’d like to share, please do so below. I pray that your Christmas is Christ-filled and joyous! It’s all about Him!

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Three Ways to Combat Division in Marriage

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Candida.Performa via photopin cc

“So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” Matthew 19:6

When God said that nothing should separate a husband and wife, He did it for a reason. He knew that the world would present ample devices for creating a wedge between a man and his wife and that it was important to be aware. These devices come in many forms. Sometimes it is people from the outside, the girl making eyes at your husband at the workplace or your best friend who tries to encourage you to talk bad about your husband behind his back. Maybe it’s a family member who is always stirring up trouble and planting seeds of contention in your marriage. The devices could be idols in your life such as an over-indulgence or an unhealthy focus on television, sports, hobbies (especially those hobbies that require money), or even ministry. Division can come from our own selfishness or self-focus. There are many tools that the world, and the enemy of our souls, uses to try and divide a husband and wife. The following are just three of the ways you can combat division in marriage and keep your home in peace and unity:

1. Communicate Freely

Whether it’s Christian-based counseling or secular counsel, most people agree that communication is key in marriage. The fact is, when it comes to combating division, the most successful weapon is communication. Now, this tends to come easier to us than to the men. We ladies are usually talkers. We are more than happy to discuss our day, our feelings, our dreams and our concerns. We could discuss them all day! Men, on the other hand, usually don’t need that kind of sharing on a daily basis. Still, it is so important that husband and wife communicate freely in order to stay united. What does that look like practically speaking? I don’t keep secrets from my husband and he doesn’t keep them from me. We do not withhold information from each other. If you want to share something with me, know that I won’t tell anyone else about what you share, except for my husband. We communicate freely about our concerns, our feelings, our challenges, our sin, our goals, our fears, etc. We communicate about those things that could bring division into our home so that we can deal with them. Most importantly, we communicate about the Word of God and what the Lord is doing in our hearts. We talk about His plans for us as a family. We pray together. We encourage each other as we talk about the ways of God. This communication shines a bright light that expels darkness and division from the home.

2. Make Tough Choices

Keeping a family united sometimes means making hard choices. Making those choices could cause hurt in other relationships, but it’s important to remember that the marriage and family relationships are top priority. If someone or something is coming between you and your husband, it must be dealt with. Sometimes it must be removed from the home. For example, if you and your husband argue often about a certain television show, then perhaps the best choice is to stop watching it altogether. That’s an easy one, of course. What if there is a certain friend who always seems to try to stir you up to anger against your husband? Once you have searched out your own behavior for issues where you may have encouraged the intrusion, and confessed, then it may be necessary to share with this friend, in love and gentleness, that this is becoming a problem and must stop. If the friend does not stop, it may be necessary at that point to stop that relationship. Sound extreme? What if it’s an extended family member? Same plan? You know, many marriages have crumbled and burned because of people from the outside bringing division. Sometimes it’s an obvious agenda and other times it is more subtle. Just remember that God said nothing should come between a man and wife. Nothing. No one. Nada. You may need to make some tough choices to purge your home and marriage of division and division-makers.

3. Be a Team.

Sounds easy enough, right? Just like with anything else, it’s easy until it’s not so easy anymore. Why is being a team important? When you are a team, you forfeit personal preferences and desires for the victory of the team as a whole. It’s no longer about what I want, but what we want. We are willing to compromise, to work together, to communicate freely and to give in for the good of the family. A team is united. Strong. Dedicated. A team member does not betray another member or defame his character, but rather lifts him up in encouragement and edification. Cheer for one another! Fight for one another! Stand with one another! That’s a team that will not be divided.

Your marriage is important. It is the most important ministry of your life. It is absolutely vital that you beware devices of division. Get rid of division. Make those hard choices. Be your husband’s best friend and teammate. Communicate freely and do not let the sun go down upon your anger. God will bless the home that stands united on the Rock, that is Jesus Christ. He will keep your home standing while others around you are blown away by the storms of life and the attacks of the devil. May the Lord who created marriage keep you united as one for as long as you both shall live.

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Is My Daughter Too Kind? Sweet? Friendly?

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(photo: Tabitha with her sweet friends Scarlet and Eden)

It happened at the play area in McDonalds today (I hate McDonalds but my little one loves the play area). It was busy and there were lots of kids running about and climbing through the colorful mishmash of fun. I could see my daughter interacting with other kids and hear her sweet words saying, “Hi. My name is Tabitha. Want to play with me?” This isn’t odd for her. She is usually outgoing and quick to make friends. She rarely needs encouragement to introduce herself.

As I watched and listened, taking sips from my diet coke (yes, I know it’s bad), I witnessed an encounter that just breaks a mother’s heart. My daughter was attempting to play with an older kid and his sister. She said to them, “you are my new friends.” The insensitive older boy replied, “we’re not your friends.” Taking his sister’s hand, he led her away to play elsewhere.

Ugh. My heart sank for my sweet girl. In her eagerness to reach out and make a friend, she had been shot down. I hurt for her, knowing her feelings had been hurt. I wanted to sweep her up in my arms and give dirty looks to that rude kid, but I knew that these kinds of things are just a part of life, and particularly of a Christian’s life. You see, she made herself very vulnerable. She put herself out there. She was kind and friendly. She was welcoming and warm. In return, she was slighted. It happens. As a Christian, I understand that on a deeper level and am willing to let her experience it so that she too may be an effective follower of Jesus some day.

We are supposed to be vulnerable. We are called to love our enemies, pray for those who persecute, reach out to the lost and angry, and minister to whomever God puts in front of us. We are supposed to love the unlovely. We are called to show grace and mercy, and we are supposed to love freely as Jesus did. He’s our example. He loved. His love and kindness made Him stand out. People were drawn to His kindness and love, and when we walk like Jesus, they will be drawn to Him by seeing His love in us.

What my daughter experienced today made me so sad for her. As we got into the car, I explained to her that some people were not ready to be kind to others or make new friends. I tried to explain in the simplest terms that it was wonderful for her to be kind and to offer friendship to others and that his rejection was only because he didn’t know how to be kind or even that he should. I assured her that she was a great friend and that anyone would be blessed to have her as a friend, but that sometimes people reject our friendship because they have their own problems and they take it out on us.

Maybe it was a little deep, but I wanted to use it as a teaching experience. As I pondered the event, I started to wonder if perhaps I was wrong to raise Tabitha to be friendly and warm. Maybe I had taught her to be too friendly? Too kind? Too open-armed? Perhaps I should toughen her up, like the rest of the world? After all, she is so vulnerable when she puts herself out there. She opens up her heart to hurt and rejection. She leaves herself wide open to disappointment. The world is creating kids who are tough as nails, what with all of the divorce, violence, drugs, etc. Maybe I should teach Tabitha not to make new friends and to make people earn her love rather than giving it freely? Maybe I should encourage her to be cold, critical and selective?

No. I won’t.

This world has too many cold people already. The world has too many tough and scarred kids. The world is overflowing with kids who are rude, disrespectful, mean, arrogant, insensitive and unloving. We need no more conceit, cruelty or rejection. Enough!

What we need in this world is for children (and adults for that matter) to walk like Jesus. Speak like Jesus. Love like Jesus. Be wiling to suffer the consequences like Jesus. Jesus loved and was despised. He was warm and welcoming, and He was rejected. He gave of Himself and they mocked Him. He offered Himself as a sacrifice and still people refuse to accept His gift of salvation. Our Savior showed us all how we are supposed to live, and yet we are often too afraid of rejection, persecution and disappointment to make ourselves vulnerable to love those He puts in our path without reservation.

I guess that’s what I love most about Jesus. He never hesitated to accept and love the people He encountered. My daughter reminded me today of what that can look like for us. She offered friendship and was rejected. Her beautiful heart felt that pain, and I wanted to take it away. I really did. Yet I know that my daughter, in offering love so freely, is far more like Jesus than I am. What a lesson in love. May we all be more vulnerable and continue loving people, whether or not they accept us, because some will. Some will be moved by our love, warmth and acceptance and will fall in love with Jesus as they see Him in us.

My daughter will experience more pain in her life, but I feel confident that the Lord is going to use her mightily. So I will comfort her, learn from her about offering simple love and pray that the Lord never changes that beautiful part of her heart.

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