Motherhood

These Are The Moments

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He used to be so small when I rocked him. His head would rest on my shoulder and his curled up little self would reach about to my ribs. Now he’s almost two and his long legs extend past my knees and I can’t believe how much he’s changed. Now instead of rocking him and seeing his little baby squirms, he tells me the names of his friends he’s thinking of and brings up various things that he remembers doing that day.

I don’t get to rock him as much as I used to. Recently he learned that he can go to sleep on his own, so he’ll ask to go to bed and I’ll listen to him shout and sing to himself for a while before he falls asleep. 

But the other night I went to lay him down and instead of his usual “I love you! Bye!”, he stood back up and, with a tiny “please”, reached out his arms for me. I am many things, but someone who is able to withstand that is not one of them. So I picked him up and I held him. I rocked him until he fell asleep and then I held him longer. I held him even though my back was aching and his sweet little self basically functions as a miniature heater and it was approximately 5000 degrees at every point of contact between the two of us. I held him and prayed and tried my best to memorize every little bit of him.

Oddly, there are always critics about that sort of thing.

“Don’t hold your babies too much or you’ll spoil them.”

“They need to learn how to fall asleep on their own right away or they’ll always need you.”

“You shouldn’t pick them up every time they cry because they’re learning to manipulate you.” (When my son was all of four days old.)

Here’s the truth of the matter. Things don’t last. My son has always been a remarkably easy child, except for one thing: he liked being held. I mean, he really liked being held. For the first month of his life, I couldn’t put him down without a meltdown. Daytime. Naps. Nighttime. Awake. Fast asleep. Any time in any situation and he would lose his mind if he wasn’t being held. Attempts at swings or rock n’ plays or any artificial comfort would be met with derision, disdain, and extremely vocal disagreement on his part. I’d sit up in the middle of the night watching Netflix and reading articles about high needs babies and skimming articles or Amazon for any tips and products that people swore helped their baby sleep alone. (Pro-trip: delete the Amazon app before having a baby. Your tired self at 3 am is not strong enough.) Nothing worked. 

Until something did. Eventually he was able to sleep at night without being held. Not for long spurts, but enough that my husband and I could both sleep at the same time. And I dreamed of the days where I could sleep through the night again. I did my best not to overreact at every person who told me about their newborn sleeping through the night (Every woman anyway. Their husbands always had a different version. Remember that when you’re exhausted and can’t handle the bragging.) I tried schedules and swaddling and noise machines and nothing worked.

Until something did. Eventually he slept through the night. And I started to become a person again. I don’t know if I’ll ever recover the brain cells lost during that period, but I started to get a full night’s sleep again. Started to enjoy having quality time in the evenings with my husband again. But for some reason, I couldn’t lay him down for naps. He’d be dead asleep and I’d slowly, gently lay him down and attempt to sneak out, but before I could make it to the door he would be up and protesting. And by that point he wouldn’t go back to sleep so I would spend the next bit of time counting down until I could put him down for the next nap or for the night. I would hold him through his naps and watch Bobby Flay beat most of his opponents or read a book because he just would not nap on his own. I held him through nap time for longer than I’m willing to admit publicly. I wondered what it would be like to have a few hours to myself to get things done because no matter what I tried, nothing seemed to work.

Until something did. I was finally able to lay him down and he’d stay asleep and take naps on his own. And then I wondered if he’d ever have the ability to fall asleep on his own. And I’d read up on attachment parenting and crying it out and do all sorts of research. But all the research in the world means nothing when your baby is calling your name and begging to be held by you. I thought he’d never learn to go to bed and sleep on his own.

Until he did.

My second son is due in about a month. My ability to focus on and rock or hold either of them won’t be the same as it was the first time around. And while I (daily) have a lot of things I’d do differently, and while, yes, there are times where different situations call for different actions and doing what they need isn’t always doing what either of you wants, the fact that I have up to this point generally held my son whenever he asked is not a thing I regret.

So what’s the point here? I’m not entirely sure.

Something about trusting yourself. Motherhood is rife with insecurity and when you’re a new mom and exhausted and every person is overwhelming you with different advice for what to do, doubts creep in and it can be easy for them to take over. Listen to the good, have confidence you’re doing the best you can to do what’s right for your child, and let the rest go. There are a lot of experienced parents out there with great wisdom and advice for what worked for them, and you can and should learn from them. But when it’s 3 am and you’re alone with your child trying to make the right decisions, your choices are the only ones that matter. So trust yourself.

But more than that, the point is something about seasons that don’t last. Babies don’t stay babies. And there is joy in each season. I miss the sweetness of my son’s newborn self, but I also love the growth and changes I see in him every day. I love the kisses he gives me now and watching him discover things and develop an imagination and fall in love with ice cream and watermelon. I love seeing him become a sweet, outrageous, loving, silly, kind, helpful little boy. But I’ll also take the time to cherish the things that don’t remain.

It’s hard for me. I’m a worrier and like for things to be settled. I like to know what’s coming and when it will get here and how to prepare. And parenthood doesn’t allow that. I don’t know when the next stage will arrive or when the current one will suddenly end. I can only teach and train and do my best to take joy in and learn from the joys and struggles and lessons of each day. I can only thank God for His grace in allowing each one and strive harder to understand “sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” I can only prepare for the future, but live in the moment.

So I’ll hold my babies while I can and continue to do my best to show them they’re loved when I can’t. And I’ll try my best to treasure and appreciate the moments as they are, not how I think they should be.

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Marriage

Marriage Isn’t a 50-50 Relationship (It’s not 100-100 either)

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In our element. Traveling, sightseeing, eating, and about 20 minutes away from passing out in our hotel room.

“Marriage isn’t a 50-50 relationship, it’s 100-100.”

That’s what I always heard. It’s what I believed.

At 15, I would hear this and take notes and as I contemplated the future. At 20, I solemnly nodded along as I thought about my upcoming marriage. And now at 31 and having just celebrated my 10th anniversary, I smile and think about the ridiculousness of it all.

In my house, I’m the cook. My husband can and has cooked some: he’s master of the grill, gumbo maker extraordinaire, and makes a mean omelette. Recently, he has taken over duties as late-night maker of the crepes when we have a sweet tooth on movie nights. But really, I’m the cook. I enjoy cooking. I think most of it tastes okay. I like the satisfaction of taking a bunch of raw ingredients and turning them into tasty creations. More than anything though, at heart I just feel like an old Italian Nonna who enjoys showing love through food and making people happy by creating good things for them to eat. So being the chef of the house makes me happy and my husband happy and ultimately, we all end up happy that way.

When I don’t cook, we eat a lot of Chick-fil-A. Or pizza. Subway. Which is fine for a night or two, but too much fast food leaves me feeling blah, unnourished, and fiscally irresponsible. There are times in life that happens though. A few months after we got married I had ACL reconstruction surgery and didn’t do much of anything for a few weeks other than experience my first binge watch of Gilmore Girls from the comfort of my couch. My last semester of grad school while also working full-time left me too tired to do much of anything other than collapse once I actually arrived home. After my son was born, we were showered with generosity in the form of food for nearly a month. But in the time between that month and the point where he learned how to sleep a little bit and I began to feel like a human again…well, I like the 8 count nugget meal. And I had a lot of them.

In those times where I don’t accomplish one of the most basic things I feel like I bring to our relationship, I tend to feel like I’m not bringing anything at all.

There are days where I feel like I’m contributing 100% to our family. I get the house clean. I make time to buy my husband his favorite candy or make his favorite cookies. I’m selfless. My son is having a Pinterest type of day. I’m putting everyone else’s needs first. I’m killing it.

But then there are the other 364 days of the year. Some days I’m down. I’m sick. I’m keeping a small human alive and it’s taking everything I’ve got. Some days, physically, mentally, emotionally…it just feels like there’s nothing there to give.

In our ten years of marriage, and 12 in a relationship, we’ve been through a decent amount. A long distance relationship. Four states. Several jobs. Six degrees. One baby, with another one on the way. A natural disaster. Deaths of loved ones. Family issues. Financial issues. Health issues. A plethora of other issues of the sort that don’t seem big but add up to take a toll. In short, we’ve had a pretty typical life. Most married people can probably look at their relationship and say some variety of the same thing.

And that’s why we need to give ourselves a break and see marriage for what it is.

No marriage is ever going to be 100-100. First of all, math doesn’t work that way. It just doesn’t. You ever hear someone tell you to give 110%? Because that’s also impossible. What do they teach them at these schools?

But (and this is the more important point) people don’t work that way. No marriage can be expected to have both spouses give 100% of themselves because no person is going to always be at 100%.

Marriage isn’t about giving and expecting perfection from the other person at all times. It’s about recognizing our own humanity and having a willingness to fill in the gaps when the other person can’t. Sometimes it’s a 60-40 thing. Sometimes 30-70. And sometimes it’s about 10-10, with neither one of you coming close but you know you love each other so you collapse into bed secure in the knowledge that you’ll both be there the next day to try again.

God didn’t institute marriage because we’re all perfect. He created Eve to be a helper to Adam. He tells men to be understanding to their wives. You know who needs a helper? You know who needs people to be understanding to them? People who aren’t perfect. Spouses who don’t have it all together on their own. You know who knew that would be the case? God did. He created us for each other and expected us to work within our own limitations.

And this requires work. It requires understanding and compassion to recognize that the person we love needs a break and sometimes we need to step up and fill in the gap. It requires humility that we can’t do it all alone and that God gave us our spouses for a reason and there’s no shame in accepting help from them. It requires communication. Sometimes we try too hard to convince ourselves that we have it all under control that we convince others we have it under control, and then hurt and resentment builds because we hide our struggles from the very people who are most situated to help us.

So do your best every day to be the best spouse you can be. Aim for that 100%. But give yourself a break for falling short, because you’re definitely going to. And give your other half one too. You’re both going to need it.

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Not Mine to Keep

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Three nights ago I was taking my son’s 3-6 month clothes from the closet and putting it in the box. Or at least, I was attempting to do so. I have a friend from church who had a son born two months before mine but, as I seem to have given birth to an adorable and excessively long little boy that some have (affectionately, I believe) called a “chunk”, she kindly offered to loan me some clothes that her son didn’t yet have a need for and mine was in need of unexpectedly early. So, being appreciative and in a spirit of mutual cooperation, I wanted to return the favor with the clothes he had grown out of. All things in common and all that, right?

Unfortunately, every time I picked up a new item, I was convinced he could still wear it. That shower gift from dear friends? Surely he can fit into it. That little hipster onesie set with the bowler cap that was the first thing I ever bought for him? That’s still got a wear or two left, certainly.

And then I had my first seriously emotional “I can’t believe how fast he’s growing up” moment. Not even necessarily because he’s growing up. I’m looking forward to that. To seeing how his already charming personality further develops. To watch him learn new things and go on new adventures. To us both being soundly asleep at 3 am.

The emotions I felt weren’t because he’s going to grow. I want that for him. Instead, the knot that took up my throat was because of just how much I realized that he’s not mine to keep. He doesn’t belong to me. He never has.

The story of Hannah is one that I can’t remember ever not knowing. But growing up, it felt like almost a recital of facts and highlights. How she couldn’t get pregnant. How fervently she prayed. How Eli thought she was drunk; she must have looked crazy, right? How she named him Samuel, Hebrew for “heard of God”, because of her gratitude. How she didn’t go to the temple until he was weaned because once she went, she was leaving him there for God. How God listened to Hannah.
The first time I read this passage after having my son, my heart broke for Hannah. I wept (those baby hormones really made me quite the cryer) for her sacrifice. Her dedication. Her sincere love, appreciation, and devotion to the Lord that caused her to fulfill her promise and return her son to Him because He was willing to give Samuel to her to begin with.

And then my heart broke for myself, because I realized that if I do my job, I am Hannah. Every Christian mother who decides to have children has to become Hannah. Not in the sense that we have to send our children away to work in the temple. (Although I married the preacher, so sending him to the office with his dad is fairly conceivable.) But in the sense that our children aren’t ours. They’re Gods. He’s trusted us to take care of them and teach them, but they aren’t really ours.

Right now, my husband and I are pretty much everything to my son. He’s a three and a half month old little flirt who loves people. He gives his smiles away freely. But he absolutely lights up when he sees me. I’m there to comfort him when he’s crying, feed him when he’s hungry, get him to sleep when he struggles getting there on his own, make him laugh when he’s playful. I’m his whole world.

But I won’t always be. My job is to make sure that I won’t be. If I do what I’m supposed to, God is going to be his world. God will be his first thoughts in the morning and final prayers at night.

When he’s hurt, God will be who he goes to in prayer. When he’s thankful and joyful, God will be who he goes to in praise. When he’s searching for answers, God’s word will be where he goes to find them. We, as his parents, are here to help him on that journey, but our job is to continually point him back to our Father.

My son isn’t mine to keep. I carried him and birthed him. I can love and care for him every day. But he doesn’t belong to me. He was given to me to care for by the One who is Father to us both with the responsibility of doing my best to make sure he is returned to work in His service. So I’ll treasure these sweet moments. The cuddles and bath times. The look of intensity in his eyes when he’s mastering a new skill. Even the most intense diaper changes and middle-of-the- night wakings. But my goal is to be a Lois and a Eunice and leave a legacy of faithfulness and servitude to God. I can enjoy him and love him for now, but teach him Who he truly belongs to. In doing so, I’ll get to love and enjoy him for eternity. I couldn’t dream of anything more than that.

In Him,

Lauren

(Originally published on Magnificat Minded.)

 

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On Having Courage and Being Kind

I-want-to-tell-you-a-secret-that-will Disney is a collection of classic movies.  But within their many works, every child has their own canon that contains special meaning.  For me, there are three in particular that I can remember watching over and over as my mother probably wept silently for her sanity in the background.  Or she just enjoyed the peace that was me not talking for a few minutes.  (No lie.  When I was little she tried to pay me a quarter for every five minutes I could be quiet.  Never made one.  Not a single quarter.)

My own personal ode to Disney would include recognition of the following: Bambi (because obviously), Jungle Book (who didn’t want an ursine best friend after watching that), and as a girl born in 1987 – The Little Mermaid.   The last one in particular was a particularly inspiring movie to a growing girl.  The theme that you can do or be whoever you want.  The encouragement to follow your dreams.  The call to bravery.  Also, it might have contributed to my deep-seated longing to be a ginger.

And as I got older and Disney made more movies, there was a common theme with some of my favorite heroines.  Ariel.  Mulan.  Jasmine. All brave and courageous and did whatever they wanted to do.  I loved them.  I still love them.

But this last weekend while my husband was on his annual man camping trip, I watched the new Cinderella movie with a friend.  And was left in awe.  Because in an era of bold and brash girl power, this was a throwback to something.  A reminder of an even bolder type of strength.

“Have courage and be kind.”

This was the message repeated throughout the film.  Courage and kindness.  More than that.  Courage through kindness.  What a novel idea.  What a beautiful concept.  One that we forget about so often.  One that has proven to be controversial as some critics have called out the movie for its anti-feminist and regressive messages.  One that serves as a reminder that your strength and courage and dignity can come not when you fight for yourself, but when you elevate others above yourself.  A courage that is scoffed at for its simplicity but a courage that few of us have the strength to carry out in our own lives.

And while the movie was by no means a religious one, that theme is at the very root of God’s call for how to live our lives.  Not to compromise or give into every twist, turn, and teaching that life throws at you.  Not to fight for Christianity so harshly that it seems cruel and unloving.  But to live a committed life to the God who loves you and put others before you no matter what happens. It’s a message that permeates the pages of Scripture.

“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” -Philippians 2:3

“Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.” -Romans 12:10

“Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them.” –Romans 12:14

“But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil.” –Luke 6:35

“He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” -Micah 6:8

It’s a scary message.  One that relies on trust.  Cinderella was courageous and kind and because of that her fairy godmother swooped in to save her day.  Instead we have the God with a capital G who promises to save our eternity.  But you have to trust that He will be your ultimate defender, and that’s hard.

I’m among a group of women who sometimes feel frustration with the Proverb 31 woman.  Partially because she’s the topic of 68% of women-focused studies, but partially because it seems so unattainable to aspire to be her.  All that she does.  All that she takes care of.  When does she sleep?  She doesn’t sleep in, we know that much.

But really, I’d like to be like her.  I’d like to be as accomplished as her.  As successful.  As motivated.  As hard-working.  As recognizable.  In all truthfulness, she’s not the woman I’ve always struggled to want to emulate.

That would be Ruth.  Quiet Ruth.  Soft-spoken Ruth.  Selfless Ruth.  Sweet Ruth.  Pitted against Daniel in the VBS song, Daniel is a MIGHTY MAN, while Ruth is…good and kind?  How ordinary.  Unexciting.  Simple.  That’s all very well and good for Ruth, but I always thought I was capable of more.

Really, I’m not capable of that.  To be good and kind.  It’s easy to find a moment of courage when you know there are accolades and glory waiting on the other end.  That’s exciting.  It’s desirable.  It’s a boost to our ego.  But to be good and kind when it’s embarrassing and you’re overlooked and feel like you don’t matter?  That’s hard.  That’s true courage.  That’s real strength.  That’s what God calls us to be.

And not just the fairer sex.  All of us.  Because that’s what He did.  And if the Creator of the universe’s greatest act was one of love and humility, how could I possibly consider those traits too simplistic for my own life?  How could I think that I’m capable of better?  When I’m not even capable of carrying out those successfully.

What is true strength?  True greatness?  To have courage and be kind.  To put others before yourself.  In bold, dramatic, world-altering ways or in quiet, unseen, everyday ways.  Have courage.  Be kind.

So thanks for that Disney.  Thanks for the reminder to the little girl and the grown woman in me that courage comes in all shapes and sizes and to love and be kind is the greatest way of all.

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Being the Good

“Despite everything, I still believe there is good in the world.”

There’s a reason Anne Frank’s words continue to resonate with people.  Our hearts break for this girl – hiding from the Nazis with her family in constant fear.  That these are the last words we have from her before her capture and death is tragically beautiful.  Her words give us hope that if she can still find good in the midst of the Holocaust, there’s no reason we should be able to find glimmers in our own lives.

Christianity is a pretty great thing.  While there are those who have done their best to give it a bad name (Crusades, blowing up abortion clinics, those picketing whackos, etc.) that’s never what God intended for us.  For His church.  He meant for us to have freedom.  Joy.  Family.  Love.  Confidence.  Peace.  Harmony.  And so on and so forth.  You get the picture.

It’s a beautiful picture too.  But despite that little factoid, it’s getting harder and harder for so many to believe there is still good in the church.

Let me be blatantly honest – if I see one more blog with some title that’s yet another variation of “Why You’re Doing Christianity Wrong”, I might lose it.

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It’s not a pretty picture.  I don’t like doing it.

But for an added dose of honesty, my initial desire as of late has been to write a withering post about all the joy-killing bloggers in the world that keep depressing me.  Until I realized the (obvious) counter-productiveness.

Because really, I admire a lot of them.  I admire the desire to call Christians to a higher standard of living.  It’s a worthwhile goal that I (generally) appreciate.  There has always been and always will be room for improvement in the church as it’s a body of people made up of people.  There’s nothing wrong about encouraging that improvement.  If people were doing what they should have, a pretty good chunk of the New Testament would never have been written.

Nonetheless, sometimes it can feel a little exhausting.  As much bad as there is and as much as correction can be needed at times, there’s far more good.  But I don’t think many are getting that message.  Because if reality t.v. has taught us anything (and really, reality t.v. has killed more brain cells than otherwise), it’s that people love a train wreck.  That problem-causers are the ones that get most of the attention.

Which is a travesty.  Because there’s so much good being done out there by Christians.  Fortunately and unfortunately, the people that take God’s commands to love our neighbors seriously are generally the ones that take the whole “don’t let your right hand know what your left hand” concept seriously as well.  So we don’t know about it.

But it’s there.  And I’m wanting to start sharing some of those stories with y’all.  But off the top of my head, here’s just a few things I’ve seen recently from Christians:

  • An exhausted mom receiving prayers and words of encouragement and finding new strength in her day.
  • A homesick, lonely college student being taken in and becoming part of a surrogate family.
  • A family sending me a text to let me know they’d be late getting to church services because they stopped to help a woman with a flat tire and recognized the hypocrisy in passing her by so they’d arrive early.
  • Family after family opening up their homes (and wallets) to house and feed teenagers at an annual youth conference.
  • A man paying for marriage counseling for another couple struggling.
  • Food being brought to new moms, or the sick, or those recently undergoing surgery.  (I live in the South where food can also be loosely translated as “I love you.”)
  • College students giving rides to the elderly.
  • Kid President and his older brother-in-law (also with a new book out), committing themselves to spreading cheer and the idea that “it’s everybody’s duty to give the world a reason to dance.”  If you’re living under a rock, watch his pep talk and try not to smile.
  • People donating their time at the local food bank.
  • Countless individuals giving money, gift cards, “blessing bags”, etc. to those asking.
  • A man filling up a stranger’s car with gas.

And there’s plenty more.  So, so many more.  Some big, some small.  Some impacting thousands, if not millions.  Some never to be known outside of the one person who felt the difference in their life.  All done by Christians as a way of letting their light shine to the world.

What the world needs now is love, sweet love.  And we have it.  God IS it.  And Christians have a responsibility to be love and share love with others.  So what have you seen?  Share it below, or even better – share it with others in your own life.  (Both options are acceptable actually.)  On your Facebook, your Twitter, at school, at the office, with your friends, with your family, with the Brookshire’s dude who’s carrying your groceries to your car.  Christianity is more than being against Starbucks, yoga pants, and 50 Shades (which, you know, probably shouldn’t be watching that).  There’s a lot of good in the world, but there’s so much more in God’s kingdom and it’s time for people to see that.

In Him, Lauren

KatharosNOW

You Are Not Your Mistakes

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“What if you’ve already made mistakes? I hear lessons all the time about staying pure and why you shouldn’t do things.  But I never hear anyone talk about what you do if you’ve already messed up.”

I heard these words while sitting in a circle of beautiful, flawed, wonderful Christian girls.  Girls who tried, but had fallen short at time.  I saw recognition in the eyes of the others as they thought about things they had done, or said, or not done and wish they had, and nodded along with the girl who said what they had been too shy to say.  Too scared to admit to a group of girls that they respected and admired that they weren’t always what they tried to look like when they were sitting in this circle.

And it hurt me.  Broke my heart that in the (worthy) quest to encourage others to seek after Godliness, some had been left to feel like their sin had already ruled them out.  That instead of hope, they just felt guilt.

So here’s my response.  To her, and to anyone else who has ever felt like their past is bigger than their future:

Dear Girl,

I understand.  You hurt because of your mistakes and you hurt because you worry that this is it.  You would change what you’ve done if you could, but you can’t.  You want to be the kind of Christian others can look up to, but you worry they’ll never look at you the same if they really knew everything about you.

Here’s the thing.  God already knows everything about you.  And He definitely still wants you.  Remember the prodigal son (Luke 15:11)?  How he embarrassed his family and betrayed their trust and sinned and fell lower than he ever though possible?  Remember how ashamed he was?  Remember how he volunteered to be his father’s servant because all he wanted was to be accepted back into his family but he didn’t know how to ask because he didn’t feel like he deserved it?  Remember how his father’s only concern was just that he come back?

God wants you to come back.  He’s not waiting to berate you on how far you’ve fallen, He’s just hoping to see you return.

And when you do, God can still use you.  It’s no accident that God chose Paul.  Paul, who had done awful things and orchestrated the murder of Christians, was shown mercy so that “Jesus Christ might display His perfect patience” (1 Tim. 1:16).  Look what Paul went on to do.  He was never proud of his mistakes, but was always proud to serve the type of God who could forgive and use him anyways.  So he wanted to tell others.  You can do the same.  Others feel broken and need to be shown and to feel the same type of love and forgiveness.

But to do that, to make a change in your life and in others, you have to remember that God doesn’t want you to keep doing the same thing.  I sometimes worry that there’s too much pride in saying that “we’re all sinners” and that we shouldn’t judge one another.  Like once we’ve admitted it, that’s the only step we need to take and we don’t need to try to live better.  We are all sinners and God doesn’t want us to judge hypocritically, but God wants us to live our best for Him.  To constantly grow and try to be like Him and walk in His life.  He doesn’t expect perfection but He does expect us to put Him above ourselves.

Basically, what I’m trying to tell you is it’s ok to move on.  You are wanted.  You are loved.  By God.  By the church.  You’re a new creation.  God doesn’t care about your past sin, He cares about changing your life and returning to Him.

Don’t worry and tell yourself that no one will ever be able to accept you if they knew the truth about you.

It’s not true.

Realize your mistakes and sins were just that: mistakes.  Nothing can change that.  But that doesn’t mean they have to define you.  That only happens if you let them.  You can change your future.  Because of God’s grace and His willingness to see past that if you just ask.

Don’t let anyone else judging a part of you that you’ve left behind hold you back.  If they try, that’s their sin to carry and not yours.  No one has any right to see what God doesn’t.

So it’s up to you.  You’re the only one who can decide whether or not to live with guilt or move on.  God loves you.  His people love you.  I love you.  I hope you allow yourself to love you too.

In Him,
Lauren

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The Bible Talks About More than Homosexuality

pursuit of truth

There’s a lot to like about the Bible.  I’ve always been a lover of stories and books and fabulous writing and you can find it all in spades among the pages of Scripture.

Joseph?  All the excitement and intrigue you could ask for.  Twists and turns as a (slightly arrogant) younger brother goes from favoritism to slavery to honor to jail to near royalty to a suspenseful family reunion.  Throughout it all we watch Joseph in his unwavering faith and trust in God.

Job?  Heartbreak and loss.  Incredible dialogue looking at man and our rightful place and who God is.  What He’s done.  Eventually we see Job’s faith rewarded and new life given.

Esther?  Now that’s a story.  Little Jewish girl finding herself in a once-in-a-thousand-lifetimes sort of situation and saving a kingdom.  Haman working his betrayal and finding himself on the end of the very noose he had built for his enemy.  God using ordinary individuals to save His people.

Peter? Watching his life, from fisherman to Pentecost, and seeing him grow and stumble.  Witnessing his very believable, very human struggle to follow Jesus in the way he wants to and knows he should.

I love studying words and themes.  Covenant and mercy and grace and judgment are all throughout the Bible, setting patterns that God follows throughout history.  I hate seeing how many times the Jewish nation failed God, did “what was right in their own eyes”, hardened their heart to His commands – knowing I’ve done the same thing.  I love seeing how many times He forgave them, over and over as many times as they were willing to return to Him.

These things define me.  They define my Christianity and, as such, I hope they define my life.  Things like knowing God is a just God who has incredibly high expectations from everyone who claims to follow Him.  Knowing I have a responsibility to study His Word and obey it.  Things like knowing that as much as I try to do all that, salvation still wouldn’t be possible without Christ’s sacrifice and the unbelievable mercy He showed to me.

When I think about what defines my Christianity, do you know what I almost never think of?

Homosexuality.

I believe the words of the Bible, that living a gay lifestyle is a sin.  Just as a I believe that living an adulterous lifestyle is a sin.  Or a drunken lifestyle.  Or a pornographic lifestyle.  Or any lifestyle that’s outside of the commands of the Bible.  I’m not ashamed, either of what the Bible teaches about homosexuality or my belief in that teaching.  But, in my own mind, that knowledge is a relatively small part of my view of my Christianity.  It’s there.  I have no desire to deny it, hide from it, or say it says something other than what it says.  But there’s so much more to who I am, what I believe, and most importantly – Who I serve.

Which is why I often have such mixed feelings.  This week, so much has been focused on the Christian view of homosexuality – as often happens when a public figure makes a non-approving stance.  I appreciate that there are those willing to do so, and are not afraid of standing by the Biblical view of marriage.  But I hate that once more, Christians have been backed into a corner of sorts and had our focus chosen for us.  In a whole wide world full of all sorts of sin and lost souls, there are so many things I’d like to teach people.  If the media is going to focus on Bible teachings that Christians believe, I’d love for it to be on the idea that God “is patient…that all may reach repentance” (2 Peter 3:9), or a textual study of Romans, or what the Bible teaches about baptism.  Things that don’t make Christians look like Bible-beating, ignorant bigots.  Things that are foundational to Christian beliefs.

But that doesn’t sell magazines.  Messages of love for everyone might be kinder, but it doesn’t cause the kind of controversy that people love.  And let’s be honest – people crave controversy.  Everyone “hates drama”, but we’re all attracted to it like crazy women are to a black Friday ad.  And homosexuality is a big deal right now.  It Gets Better, DOMA, Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell – you couldn’t get away from it if you tried.  As culture changes different issues are going to become more prevalent.  Every Christian throughout history has had to deal with living in a culture embroiled in some sort of sin.  We don’t really have to fight back against gnosticism, or polytheism, or other issues some earlier Christians faced.  This happens to be the card that was dealt to us.  This is what the world cares about right now and this is what it’s focused on.  Why do Christians in the news seem to focus so much about homosexuality?  Well, nobody’s really asking about their views on the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.  Homosexuality is current, it’s accepted by most of the world, and people know Christians will give them the controversy they’re craving in their lives/magazines/Twitter.

But Christians shoulder a lot of the blame too.  Why do we wait so long to put our foot down and take a stand?  This week I saw over a million people join a boycott page on Facebook in less than 24 hours.  Less than a day!  I saw a major restaurant chain reverse their actions because of an outpouring of response from offended Christians.  I’m happy to see that.  I am.  I’m happy that there are people out there who are willing to say something isn’t right and do something about it.  But why don’t we see that happen every day, instead of only when we’re upset about losing a cast member from a beloved TV show?

Of course the world is going to see the church as focused on homosexuality when that’s the only time we decide to unite together and make a statement.  Why don’t we do that for divorce?  How on earth can we expect us the world to take us seriously if we say we believe the Bible teaches one man, one woman for life but choose to ignore divorce and adultery and premarital sex as we focus on gay marriage.  I’ve seen far too many of the same people quote that 1 Corinthians 6:9 talk about how they love Blake Shelton and Miranda Lambert – whose relationship began while he was married to another woman.  That’s inconsistent.  And the world sees that.  Who do we have to blame other than ourselves when we get called out for it?  When we pat our self-satisfied selves on the back for refusing to back down on this issue, but daily ignore so many of the rest of the “weightier matters of the law” (Matthew 23:23)?

What if we cared as much about standing for every part of God’s word as we did for the Bible’s view on homosexuality?  You know, Paul was a pretty dedicated Christian.  From the time he met Jesus on the road to Damascus, he was absolutely committed to the cause of Christ.  He didn’t shy away from mentioning homosexuality (1 Cor. 6:9, Rom. 1:26-27, 1 Tim. 1:9-10).  He acknowledged it as sinful behavior.  But that was a pretty small part of his focus as he dealt with teaching the truth in every aspect of Christianity.  And do you know what he was accused of?  “Turning the world upside down” (Acts 17:6).  I’ve seen religious people this week band together in a way that has shocked and, in some ways, amazed me.  But I wish it was bigger.  I wish it was more.  I wish we would band together and really seek to fight all sin and, in doing so, turn all people to God.  With God and His truth on our side, Christians today are absolutely capable of turning the world upside down.  We just have to care all the time, not just when something is media-worthy.

In Him,
Lauren