My Portion

Phew.

There’s a lot of stuff going on.

My heart has been so heavy for friends going through difficult circumstances.

Sickness. Death. Abuse. Unrest. Loneliness. Injury. Persecution. Lack.

It’s easy to worry.

But this morning I was reading Psalm 73:25-26 which says,

“My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”

It’s comforting to know that when everything else falls apart (flesh and heart – which other interpretations call our bodies, health, emotions, mind, spirit and any other personal noun you want to throw in there) that God has promised to be our immoveable strength.

But this morning I felt led to look at the end of this verse: my portion. What in the world does that mean? What is our portion?

The Hebrew word is chleq and it means “my territory.”

My territory is everything and everyone in my circle of life.

I decided to interpret it like this: “my people.” The people I love. The people I care about. The people who are in my world in any way, shape or form.

I am finding great comfort today knowing that God is not only the strength of MY heart – but He is the strength of MY PEOPLE.

And God is the strength of YOUR PEOPLE too today. Your children. Your parents. Your spouse. Your co-workers. Your friends.

You do not need to carry their loads. Jesus has promised to hold onto their hearts and infuse their weary spirits with supernatural strength from on high.

The Message version says this: “God is rock-firm and faithful.”

And that’s enough.

Thumbs Up – Thumbs Down

I’ve started listening to Pandora.

For those of you that are even FURTHER behind the techy-wagon than I am – Pandora is an online radio station. The coolest thing about Pandora is that you can type in an artist that you like, and they will select similar songs and artists and create your very own perfectly crafted playlist. At the top of the page, there’s a thumbs up and thumbs down icon. If you really like the song and would like to hear more like it – you can click the thumbs up. If you hate what is playing, just click the thumbs down and Pandora will banish similar songs from your offended ears forever and evermore.

I always feel bad clicking the thumbs down. It’s not like any of the artists will personally feel my rejection, but I still feel judgy. Clearly I have other issues.

As I was listening today, I began thinking about church, music, worship, and personal style and preference. Oh my, this is the topic of all topics, isn’t it? Jeff and I have been in the church music scene all of our lives, particularly the last 19 years as worship leaders, and we’ve experienced no shortage of discussions, tears, rending of garments, and gnashing of teeth when it comes to music in the church.

And yet today, as I was getting ready to hit the thumbs down on another stinky Pandora selection – I felt like the Holy Spirit challenged me on how often I take this same approach when it comes to CORPORATE worship. Far too often we approach corporate worship with our own internal version of thumbs up or thumbs down. If the music style fits our preference… thumbs up. If we don’t care for the song selection… thumbs down. The worst part about this is we quickly acquaint “anointing” and “the presence of God” with our personal preferences.

How self-absorbed can we be? Shouldn’t the time when we’re worshipping God together be the time when we’re least concerned about ourselves?

Music preference is a very personal thing. The number of styles and genres selling MILLIONS of copies of music every single day should remind us that there is something quite intimate in the way a specific style of music resonates with us personally. And what connects deeply with me – can absolutely make the hair on your neck stand on end. It’s incredibly individualistic – yet another testament to our incredibly creative Creator.

So what do we do when we gather together with a hundred believers to lift our voices in song, when every single person may have a different taste in music?

It’s an impossible problem.

Seriously. There is NO answer to this question.

Oh, we’ve tried. We’ve tried to offer hymns as well as choruses. We’ve tried to offer a wide variety of styles and choices. We’ve created separate services for different tastes. We’ve even gone so far as to remind people that there is probably a church across town that will more fit their particular preferences. We share blogs promoting our point of view and how God most certainly prefers the same type of music we do.

And I can only imagine that all our whining and complaining has done nothing but grieve our Father.

Why?

Because it has nothing to do with Him.

When we are frustrated because the style of music being played isn’t our particular preference, we assume the type of music I like is only kind of music I can worship to. This is true if you are a twenty year old wanting louder guitars and it is just as true if you want hymns on an organ.

It’s all about YOU.

And whenever worship is all about US – we have missed the point entirely.

The ONLY solution to this problem is for us to lay aside personal preference and instead focus on lifting our voices in unity.

Jeff always says, “Can’t we just all get into a room and sing some songs?” It really should be that simple. Let’s just sing some songs. It doesn’t really matter what they are… but that they are an expression love and devotion to God. That they remind us of His attributes. That we have a chance to thank Him for all His goodness. And if you find yourself frustrated because they aren’t songs that you personally enjoy – then it’s time to do a heart check about the level of “self” you’ve allowed to creep into your worship.

I remember a few years ago my grandma was visiting our church. I know that to her, the music was loud and obnoxious and still, you could hear her singing above the crowd in her sweet loud granny voice. I mentioned something to her and she said, “Well… it might not be my cup of tea, but I just love to sing to Jesus.”

I’m embarrassed at the fickleness of my worship.

So – can we all do something? Can we remember that for twenty minutes, once a week, we come together as individuals to lift our voices corporately? It doesn’t matter what the songs are. You may love it. You may hate it. What matters is that you lift your voice and join with the voices around you – young and old, black and white and everything in between – and focus our hearts on our one true God.

We live in a day and age that you can access ANY kind of music you love ANY time. You can worship to any style of music the entire 10,060 minutes left in your week. You can thumbs up and thumbs down your Pandora station all the live long day. You can satisfy your personal preference to your hearts content.

But when we come together. When we step into that room on Sunday, we should leave our preferences at the door. And simply worship.

He Trains My Hands…

So….. I don’t really enjoy doing what is referred to in the Kerr house as “grown up stuff.”

If you want something made pretty or a catchy jingle to hum… I’m you’re gal.

But if you want something organized, phone calls made, or spreadsheets created… well then… yikes.

I’m not saying I don’t do these things. Indeed, I try my best because I am… after all… an actual grown up. I dig deep, procrastinate as long as humanly possible, and then take three times as long as the average grown up would take to accomplish said task.

(Have I mentioned that I can write a pretty darn good limerick in about five minutes flat? I have other skills people.)

I’m learning to embrace my strengths and weaknesses. But lets be honest, just because something isn’t your strength, doesn’t mean that you can avoid it your whole life. The truth is that every day, you and I have to do a million things that we’re just not great at. A million things that are hard for us. A million things that aren’t in our sweet spot. A million things that we don’t have the answers for.

And I’m not just talking about my “to do list.” There are days I have NO idea how to help my kids through the things they are struggling with. There are days when I have no idea the right thing to say to break the tension that has been mounting between my husband and me. There are days when I have no idea how to make the money in my bank account stretch all the ways I need it to stretch.

I find myself praying for wisdom. A lot.

A few years ago I was in the midst of a work project that I had NO idea how to do. I was actually negotiating a contract for an event – and was being quite intimidated by the whole process. I couldn’t have felt more inadequate for the task at hand. One morning I stumbled across this verse:

“Praise the LORD, who is my rock. He trains my hands for war and gives my fingers skill for battle.” Psalm 144:1 NLT

The word TRAIN in this verse means: to be taught… to learn.

Charles Spurgeon said this: “If we have strength we are not much the better unless we have skill also…. Therefore the Psalmist blesses the Lord as much for TEACHING as for STRENGTH.”

He goes on to say,” [This is] also PRACTICAL. God helping David with skills he needs for everyday living. For him, it was battle.”

Isn’t that fantastic!

David was a soldier. His every day job was walking into battle and fighting against an enemy. And he was thanking God for giving him the SKILLS that he would need to accomplish the task of the day.

Basically this verse was saying:

“I praise the Lord who teaches me how to do the thing I have to do today.”

I am claiming that promise with every inch of my being.

“Praise the Lord who TEACHES me how to be a better wife and mother.”

“Praise the Lord who SHOWS me how to come up with creative solutions for my job.”

“Praise the Lord who is giving me every SKILL I need to effectively face everything I have to do today.”

God has promised us abounding wisdom. (James 1:5) His Holy Spirit whispers creative solutions in our ears that we KNOW would have never come from our own understanding.

I’m praying that today, the Lord would “train your hands for war and give your fingers skill for battle.” That in moments of uncertainly – you would hear His whisper and know EXACTLY what do to. When you aren’t sure what to say, that the Holy Spirit would put words on your tongue that most certainly aren’t your own. And in moments of doubt, you would feel His presence reminding you that He is close and has every answer you need.

For every single thing you will face today.

Even the grown up stuff.

 

 

Is It September Yet?

I was judgy.

I admit it.

Every year I would read about the mothers who were counting down the days until their kiddos went back to school and posted gleeful pics of themselves enjoying brunch on the veranda with their girlfriends on the first day of school and I would self-righteously think to myself, “I LOVE having my kids home. I’m ALWAYS sad when they go back to school.”

Whatever reaping I shall receive for my pious-mother sowing I will take with humble acceptance – cause folks… I cannot get these kids out of here fast enough.

And let me tell you why.

Why oh why.

First of all… the messes. Sweet Lord in heaven… the messes. My friend Judy Miller once told me that kids got messier as they got older. Once again – I scoffed. No way able-bodied above infancy children could create more disasters than toddlers with toys and poop.

Oh my… was I ever wrong.

Have you ever had to clean a stovetop after your kids have made themselves Mac & Cheese? How in the world can they manage to get that sticky powdery cheese stuff into every possible crevice God ever created? And WHY is it so hard to ladle a spoonful of pasta into a dish without leaving a trail of squishy smashed macaroni?

Oh… lest you tell me how YOU always make your kids clean up after themselves…let’s me just say “Whatevs.” My kids cleaning up said mess can only be described as creating some sort of smushy cheesy trail of semi-wiped up nastyness. It takes just as long to clean up their “cleaning.”

And then there’s the socks discarded in the middle of the backyard only to be blessed with the morning dew and turned into a muddy smelly mess. And the flip flop avalanche by the front door. And the laundry… I can’t even talk about the laundry.

They’re here ALL the TIME and therefore the messes are constant. The ONLY room that is ever clean in my house is the one I JUST picked up… because by the time I get the next one cleaned… they’ve already destroyed the one I just left. Its madness, I tell you… madness.

And that’s only the beginning of my woes.

Can we talk about the “question” situation? I never knew there were so many questions that existed in the universe. “Can I go here?” “Can I go there?” “Can so and so come over” and “Can you drive me to such and such?” The sheer brain energy that it takes for me to navigate the barrage of questions that are sure to come my way at any given moment is enough to make me want to cover my ears and scream, “LALALALLA – I CAN’T HEAR YOU! I CAN’T HEAR YOU!” There are just SO. MANY. WORDS.

And then there’s the people. ALLLLLLL the people. I love our neighborhood children SO dearly – they are honestly some of my favorite kids in the world. But after three months I just want to scream “IF I did not ACTUALLY give birth to you…I am not giving you ONE MORE juice box!”

And can we talk about the driving? The endless hours shuttling the people from one place to another. And their friends. And the friends of their friend’s friends. I am quite confident that I singlehandedly bought some BP executive a third yacht this summer with the amount of gasoline I purchased.

So I admit it. I can’t wait for school to start. Not because I don’t love my children (I really, really do.) And not because I don’t love to spend time with them (I seriously, seriously do.)

But because I’m only human. And there is a time and a season for everything. And by golly the season for them to enjoy the company of their teachers and give me time to hear myself think is upon us my friends.

And of course… you know that as soon as they’re gone… I’m going to smile and take a selfie of myself enjoying a quiet cup of coffee.

And then I’m going to miss them…

The Right Person for the Job

 

This is the SOS text my sister sent to my husband a few weeks ago.

 

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My niece is still trying to get the hang of the ole two wheeler and for some reason she doesn’t want anyone to teach her but her “Uncle Jeeeffff.” (Imagine that said with a cute Liberian accent and you’ve got the idea.) Her obsession with Uncle Jeff started just days after she joined our family and Uncle Jeff showed her his awesome (?) dance moves during an all family dance party. From that moment on… he has been “all-star” status for that little girl.

But lest you feel bad for my brother in law… the list of things that my son would ONLY do for Uncle Ricky is long and deep. Everything from potty training to tying his shoes to learning how to swallow a pill. Jeff and I could have turned seventy shades of purple trying to convince him to do something… but if Uncle Ricky said it… DONE.

That’s just the way it is.

Sometimes… you’re just not the person for the job.

As a mother who narcissistically wants to be THE most important person in my kids lives at all times…(yes… I know…) this is an important lesson for me to remember.

Sometimes, the very best person to teach something to my child… is someone other than me.

And of course I know this. I look back on my life and an incredibly long list of aunts and uncles, teachers and pastors, family friends and youth leaders who spoke something into my life. Each of them with a unique skill or influence.  A special voice that was able to influence a place that no one else could.  Many times they didn’t even realize the impact they were having. They encouraged an ability. They challenged a shortcoming. They let me be a part of their lives and see how they handled themselves in a variety of situations. They listened when I needed someone to talk to.

And even though I couldn’t ask for better parents – I fully recognize that the sum of who I am is made of not only my family… but of a host of other people who took the time to invest something into me.

So… I ask you… who is investing into the lives of your children? Are you providing opportunities for them to be around people who are shaping them?

Like this guy…

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I would move heaven and earth to give my son 15 minutes with Micah Mac. I don’t think I could even begin to express what he means to Charlie.

And this crazy lady…

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Who on more than one occasion has pulled my Betty aside and had “Miss Linnea chats” about everything from fear to friendship. (ironically enough… HER mother, Miss Marilyn, was MY girls group leader when I was Betty’s age.)

And this sweetheart…

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Who has mentored my daughter in her craft… giving her opportunities to serve but more importantly giving her a front row seat into her own beautiful heart of worship. I pray that Lucy will have the same love for Jesus that Steph has.

And this lady…

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Who has an incredibly full plate… and yet serves FAITHFULLY in Dottie’s classes both on Sunday’s and Wednesdays. Most weeks the sole motivation for getting my kid out the door is that she gets to see “Teacher Diane.”

There are times that I’d rather have everyone stay home instead of having to drive them to A-NOTHER activity. And there are times that my mommy-ego is a bit bruised because in a perfect would I wish that they would want to talk to ME about every single thing going on in their lives.

But that’s just not the way it is.

And so – I pray for these incredible people who have a voice in my children’s lives. I try and be diligent about getting my kids around them.  And I do my best to give them a glimmer of how INCREDIBLY GRATEFUL I am to them for the investment they are making in my kids.  It’s beyond words…

AND I am reminded to  look for opportunities to be that kind of voice in the lives of my kids’ friends, my friend’s kids, and any other young person that God brings across my path.

Because sometimes I’m the best person for the job.

And other times… I’m not.

 

 

Fully Devoted Fathers

28246_1423561903535_5707203_nExcerpt from “Either He’s God or He’s Not” by Jeff Kerr

 

That day was a beautiful June day in Minnesota. Kristie was 28 weeks pregnant, I had the day off of work and I was about to go golfing. Kristie mentioned to me that she wasn’t feeling well. She didn’t know if anything was wrong, she simply said, “Something doesn’t feel right.” So she called the doctor and they told her that, although everything was probably just fine, she should come in just to make sure everything was okay with the baby.

We drove to the doctor’s office, and they discovered that she had begun dilating. Soon after that, she began having contractions. When they couldn’t get those to stop, they put her in an ambulance and rushed her to a different hospital in downtown Minneapolis that was better prepared to handle a baby born so early.

I followed a few minutes behind, making the drive to the hospital. It’s funny the things I remember from that ride—I remember how nice it was, perfect temperature, clear blue skies, setting sun, windows down. I wasn’t playing any music in the car, which is rare for me, but in that moment listening to music seemed out of place.

In my car that night, God and I had our blunt conversation.

“I need you.”

That’s all I said.

I was at a loss for more words. In those moments I was unsure of what was happening and somewhat in shock. I was unsure if I was about to be a father for the second time. Our baby wasn’t due for another three months. We hadn’t discussed any names or even found out if it was a boy or a girl. There were any number of things that we weren’t ready for because, after all, we thought we had another three months to . . . you know . . . pick names and paint bedrooms and all the stuff you do when you’re about to have a baby. I was on my way to the golf course a few hours earlier and now I was driving to the hospital. I was quickly realizing the wide range of scenarios that could play out in the next few hours, everything from doctors stopping the labor and everything being fine, to the baby being born and being fine, to the baby being born with any number of serious health complications, to the baby being born and dying soon after.

“I need you.”

And God responded, as clear as I’ve ever heard Him:

“Do you trust me?”

And honestly, I needed a minute to think about it.

I wanted a different response from God. I wanted God’s response to be, “Don’t worry, I’m locating the heavenly contractions lever and I’m powering it down right now.” (Just like Obi Wan when he powered down the Death Star force field, making that same peeuuuwwwwwwww sound.)

I wanted God to give me the Superman response: “What’s this? You’re in trouble, Jeff? I’m ON IT! DA-da-da-DAAAAAH!” (That is supposed to sound like Superman music—apparently I want a God who communicates using boyhood sound effects.)

But all I got from Him was, “Do you trust me?”

“Yes” was my eventual reply. I did trust God.

“Do you trust me even if they can’t stop the labor and this baby is born tonight?”

I needed another minute.

“Yes.”

“Do you trust me even if this baby is born tonight and it doesn’t survive?”

I needed a couple more minutes for that one. And I was beginning to get a bit annoyed. But honestly, deep in my heart, I knew this wasn’t God being a nag, and He wasn’t adding salt to the wound. This was a heart-check moment to see the level of my devotion. I had to cast aside all religious pretense and predictable Sunday School answers and decide if I trusted in a good, holy, loving God NO MATTER WHAT happened next. Or had I reached the limits of my devotion?

“Yes, I trust You . . . no matter what happens.”

Charlie was born that night.

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Today, he is a healthy ten-year-old boy. He’s a miracle. In the past ten years there have been countless opportunities for me to thank God for my son. There have also been about a million more “I trust you” conversations that I’ve had with God regarding Charlie, including four days later when the doctor told us that Charlie wasn’t going to make it. I’ll get into THAT in the next chapter.

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Perhaps you are reading this and you are in the midst of one of those honest, heart-check, gut-wrenching conversations with God: “Why is this happening to me?”

In those moments, we all must remember that victory over tough obstacles is not the goal, but rather, full devotion to God is the goal. God is looking over the whole earth for those who are fully devoted to Him. Our goal is full devotion, and our goal remains unchanged when we receive the miraculous victory and when we don’t.

This means we never get to the point where we have reached the limit to our devotion. It means that we never declare an area of our lives as “off limits” to God. It means that we trust Him completely, even if the outcome is not what we were hoping for.

I don’t know all the reasons God chose to bring Charlie into the world the way He did that day. I know that we’ve seen God use that experience to bring encouragement and hope to others who are going through the same thing. I know God used that day and the months that followed as the most significant season of spiritual growth in my life. And I know that He’s used that day as a reminder He does indeed work miracles.

Spiritual Parenting 101

 

I wouldn’t say I’m a model parent.

 

Nope. Not even close.

 

There are Moms who run a crack ship and whose children never have knots in their disheveled hair.

 

I am not one of those Moms.

 

Kerr’s tend to follow a more…. “relaxed” approach to parenthood. We like to go with the flow. Jeff says that if you’re going to choose to have four kids, you’re going to either have to become an organized genius… or lower your standards.

 

We’ve gone with the latter.

 

 

A few years ago God really challenged my heart that I was failing miserably at a really important part of my children’s upbringing. Although I was diligent about making them do homework, making sure they were emotionally safe and secure, and that they were well fed and healthy… I was not doing a very good job at challenging them SPRITUALLY. Their physical, emotional, and intellectual development was getting all the attention. And although I was deeply invested in their spiritual growth… I didn’t have a lot of structure or tools to help me .

 

So I got some.

 

So, I thought I would share with you a few things that the Kerr’s have found helpful in investing in our kids spiritual lives.

 

First – it seems simple enough but we started having our kids read the Bible. We use a couple cool tools to help us with this.

My favorite app for this is the NIV Adventure Bible app by ZonderKids. It has a verse of the day… and we pull it up in the mornings and we all practice repeating it together while we eat breakfast or sit in the carpool lane. (Side note… this has been GREAT to help ME memorize scripture as well. This ole mind ain’t what it used to be… my memorization skills are definitely at an elementary school level.)

 

Another one of my FAVORITE new tools is a book by Sarah Young called The Jesus Calling Storybook. It’s one of the best overviews of all the stories in the Bible that I have ever read. Short and sweet (no need to skip pages J ) we use it at night before bed. She does a great job of making practical connections from the stories in the Bible to the kids everyday lives. It. Is. Fantastic.

 

And then lastly – this might seem like a no-brainer – but we have our kids read the Bible. Like the real deal with pages and stuff. I’m pretty purposeful about this because I realized that my kids were learning scriptures on the big screens at church and on the phone or ipad– but they were never looking up verses in the actual Bible. They weren’t learning how to navigate the scriptures by learning were the books of the Bible were in context. I needed to teach them HOW to study the Word of God. So – I give them scriptures to look up and a journal to write down what they read and one thing they learned from the passage. If we want our kids to grow up knowing what the Bible says – we have to TEACH them how to navigate it.

 

We have also become really purposeful about praying together. We say “Family Prayers” at night before bed most evenings. (Now – before you start thinking we’re all “Leave it to Beaver” about this… please know that there are nights when I shoo my children off to bed with a dismissive “Go away… its time for me to be done with you…” cause my goose is cooked.) But on the days I’m still conscious at 8:30pm… we gather and have the kids pray for people who are sick or sad and any other needs we can think of. It’s good for them to think about their friends and family who are in need and its good for them to practice praying out loud in front of other people.

 

We also are quick to pray in everyday circumstances. When they’re fighting with their friends… we stop and pray for wisdom and grace. When they’re sick or hurt… we stop and pray for healing. When they’re overwhelmed or scared… we stop and pray for bravery and courage. I really hope to teach them that in ALL things in life… our very first course of action is to run to Jesus with our need. If I can teach them that… well… then I guess that’s really the whole ball game.

 

I know it can seem overwhelming to add more stuff into schedules and days that are already jam packed full. And believe me… I know how frustrating it is to try and start to implement things only to be met with resistance and the discouragement that comes when you inadvertently forget to do any of the above for six days in a row. But can I encourage you today – do something. Start somewhere. Find something small and manageable and do your very best to work it into your lives.

 

When it comes to your kids… it’s the very best gift you could ever give them.

“Mom-ories”

So, today was a fairly odd day for me.

My youngest daughter is in half –day Kindergarten, but she went to a friend’s house afterschool today.  So I have been alone… in my house… for the last 6 hours.

Weird.

I picked up this morning… and everything is still picked up.  I lit some candles… and no one blew them out.  I made myself some lunch… and no one complained or tried to eat off my plate.

I started thinking about next year when all my kids will be in school all day long and I almost broke out in song.  Or some kind of Jericho March.

And then my mind immediately began thinking about the last 13 years that I have had small children at home, filling my days and hours with toys, naps, Cheerios on the floor, crying, cleaning, spilling, picky eating, playdates and potty training.  I remember the sleeplessness and the weariness.  I recall wearing the same sweatshirt for days and practically accosting the Fed Ex guy at the door so I could engage him in adult conversation. (To which he said, “Uhm… nice sweatshirt.”)

A season is ending for me.

And as my “mom of little ones” time is ending, I’m thinking today of my sweet friends who are in the midst of this incredibly wonderful and challenging season.

I just want to tell you something.  This time of your life is precious, glorious, life changing… and sweet Mama… it is HARD.

It is relentless and the pressure cooker of all pressure cookers.

My body ached constantly because I spent days on end wresting a toddler in one arm (much like wrestling a wild elephant in my opinion) while carrying an infant in my other arm. (Just so you know, all that Mommy-wrestling is pretty good for the physique… I have discovered a saggy arm situation that I am directly connecting to the fact that I’m not carrying any little people around anymore.  Sigh…to the gym I go.)

My emotions consistently ran from extreme exhaustion to extreme boredom.  I treasured the moments I had with my children and simultaneously could not wait to get away from them so I could hear myself think.  I loved my husband immensely but had to resist the urge to only look at him as  “the guy who shows up so that I can go take a shower.”

My spirit longed for time with the Lord… and every sermon that challenged me to spend hours waiting quietly in his presence left me with tears of disappointment.  Because my reality was not quiet.  Ev-er.

But, I learned to make space where I could make space.  My Bible is filled with little hearts drawn by little hands because my children sat with me and we read together. I resisted the urge to believe it only “counted” if I read a certain quantity of scripture.  I learned to pray while I did dishes and realized that Bible studies with daily homework were just going to have to wait until a different time of my life.

I invited Jesus into my season and He met me there.  In that crazy, chaotic chapter of my life… I look back and see the sweet presence of my God… revealed in whispers of wisdom when I didn’t know how to discipline a child.  Revealed in quiet conviction when I knew I had spoken harshly and needed to apologize.  Revealed in moments of complete and utter exhaustion where I felt the breath of heaven fill me up to face another day.

And revealed in the way he completely re-shaped this very selfish heart by making me swallow the daily pursuit of my own comfort by deferring to the needs of these four precious babes.  Man, did my flesh fight it.   I’m slightly embarrassed at the number of moments I threw a baby girl fit because I didn’t get to do what I wanted to do when I wanted to do it.

And yet, 13 years later, I like to think I’m less self-absorbed.  I like to think that this pressure cooker refined some things in me that can only be refined by daily dying to yourself and choosing to serve another person… no matter how big or small that person might be.

So, yes… my friend… these years are hard.  But they are incredibly special.  Resist the urge to put Jesus on the shelf until your life feels more settled.  Don’t fall for the lie that Jesus only arrives in the stillness.  In my experience, He comes in the thick of it all.

And when you look back… you will see His fingerprints all over it.

Job’s Wife

There are a lot of names you could call me that would roll right off my back.

Procrastinator…. Tis true.

Messy… always have been.

Overzealous… occasionally.

But if there is one word that I would absolutely cringe at… to the core of my being… if you were to utter it in the same sentence as my name, it is this:

Unsupportive.

Especially an unsupportive wife.

My husband and I have been a team from the moment we met. Probably more than most – because we work together so closely. He yings, I yang. He leads worship, I stand beside him. I lead worship, he stands beside me. We have always been partners in every sense of the word.

But the Lord convicted me of something this morning as I sat down for some quiet time with Him. As I was sitting at my piano, worshipping Jesus… He called me a name.

Job’s wife.

As in… “Kristie, you are acting like Job’s wife.”

It was not the nicest thing I have ever had said about myself.

But it’s true.

I like to think that I’m not QUITE as bad as this woman in the Bible who looked at the circumstances of her life and told her husband to “Curse God and die…” but I have to admit, that the same seed that led her there could be said of me.

You see, wives… sometimes God asks our husbands to go through something. He takes them through a test. He leads them on a journey of refining and growth and testing.

And we get to come along for the ride.

Job lost his home, his children, his property, his health… EVERY-thing. Which in turn means that this dear lady ALSO lost her home, her children, her property, and a healthy husband to stand beside. And while Job looked at the situation, recognized the test and determined to trust God even when he had no earthly idea what was going on… his wife had a different response.

I know it can be easy to gasp in shock at this woman’s reaction. But I gotta say – I’ve been around a LOT of women for a LONG time and her response is far more common than we would like to admit.

A husband tells his wife that he feels called to step out in faith and do something new… and the wife says, “Not while you’re married to me!” A husband feels the call of God to give a large sum of money and the wife says, “You have lost your mind.” A husband wants to try a new career or take a missions trip or simply starts to go deeper in his walk with the Lord and he speaks the words out loud to a spouse who responds with a quick roll of the eye and a sarcastic quip.

Oh how I am guilty.

God has put some dreams in my husband’s heart. I have watched Jeff faithfully follow Jesus off the beaten path, into a season where we are waiting for God to give us clear direction. We take steps of faith that make absolutely no sense to us. Sometimes it feels like we are in the densest fog possible, taking steps to the right or left as the Holy Spirit leads us – and yet we have no idea where each step is taking us.

And while the season has its joys… it also has its challenges because God has us WAITING. And we’re not even sure what we’re WAITING for.

And all along, my husband has shown the restraint of a man who has walked with Jesus for a very, very long time. “We’re just going to keep doing whatever Jesus tells us to do, Kristie…no more, no less.”

But my patience has grown thin and I’m ashamed to admit that my responses to him lately have been far more rooted in frustration and resentment. “Maybe you should just MAKE something happen.” “Maybe you are hearing God wrong.” “I think perhaps God has made a mistake… and we need to take matters into our own hands.”

Job’s wife.

I’m not really sure what God is doing – but I do know this. I have the power to either encourage my husband’s faith, or slowly and methodically chip away at it. I’m sure there are already seeds of doubts in his mind and I can add water to them or faithfully pluck them out of the soil. I can put my shoulder to his back and keep pushing him toward the things of God, or I can use his love for me and desire to protect and provide for our family as ammunition to pull him back towards the comfortable and safe.

I can make it easier for him, or I can make it harder for him.

Oh how I want to make it easier for him.

So, until I can see the full spectrum of all that God is doing in my husband’s life – my role is quite simple. To encourage him to keep trusting in God. To remind him that I’m WITH him no matter what God asks of us. To assure him that his obedience and faithfulness is a sign of strength and I respect and honor that in him. That his determination to follow Jesus will not be met with cynicism and second guessing by his wife.

Because Jesus is teaching Jeff something.

Which means Jesus is teaching Kristie something.

Keep Me from The Crazy

Jesus is funny.

Not ha-ha funny… but funny in how He deals with me.

Like how He randomly slams me with something deep, and hidden in my heart… things I perhaps knew were there but were very far from my consciousness and yet nevertheless a part of the framework of my life.

This morning I was reading through Psalm 121. I’ve been enjoying some new Bible Studies and commentaries, and as I began to dig deeper into this verse, I got smacked.

Right in the face.

Right there in the New Living Bible… verse 6.

It says this: “The sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon at night.”

Harmless enough, right?

One author had raised the question, ‘What is there to fear about the moon?” You and I can fully understand what the psalmist was speaking of when he spoke of fearing the harms of the sun. They lived in the desert. They traveled on long journeys with little water and shade. Surely the sun was something to fear.

But what about the moon? In my experience, I have never, ever thought of the moon as something to be afraid of.

But this was not the case in ancient times. Actually, the moon was one of the things they feared the most. The culture and reasoning of the day associated the moon with sickness, disease, health problems, and most importantly, mental illness.

Lunar = Lunacy. Get it?

Some ancient customs called for people to cover the faces of their children at night so the moon could not endanger their life and health. Even Shakespeare talked about the vexing powers of the moon in Othello:

It is the very error of the moon;
She comes more near than she was wont,
And makes men mad.

Now, this might seem silly to you and I… but this was a very real fear for the people of this time. Enough so, that is makes an appearance in this beloved Psalm that reminds us over and over again that the Lord is the PROTECTOR of our lives.

As I sat here this morning, something deep in my heart began to rise to the surface.

God was the protector of my mental health.

Yes, my initial thought was “God will keep me from The Crazy.”

You see, I have a history of depression in my family. My Grandmother was very honest about her struggles with depression because she was quick to confess how Jesus absolutely lifted her out of the pit and healed her mentally.

So, somewhere along the way, this little fear has crept into my heart that I too could fall prey to the grips of depression. My temperament easily leads me there. In seasons of struggle, the enemy of my soul likes to lure me to the cliff of despair and entice me to plummet over the edge. It is a recurring weapon formed against me.

So when I read this morning that the Lord will PROTECT me from the “moon at night…” and realized all that meant… I grabbed a hold of this promise with every inch of my being. I do NOT have to fear the power of depression. I do NOT have to believe the lie that hereditary tendencies and family history are greater than the power of My God.

So, what is your fear? Maybe you think “My dad was an alcoholic, so I guess I will be too.” Or “My parents were divorced, so I guess my chances of a happy marriage are a long shot.” Or even, “My family history means I will probably get cancer.”

Whatever it is that the enemy would whisper to your heart today, let it go. Remember that your help comes from the Lord. He WILL protect you from all harm. He WILL protect your life. Your coming and your going are in His hands.

And let me say this. I understand that in this world we do indeed face depression, sickness, addiction, and divorce. Our tendency is to then think, “Well, Jesus sure isn’t protecting us very well…” Or perhaps you are in the midst of sickness or depression and this verse causes mistrust and anger to rise in you. “Great… God may have promised that He would protect me… but yet here I am… struggling with the very things you say He will protect me from.”

My friend, can I tell you something? Sometimes God protects us FROM things, and other times He protects us IN things. Verses 3 & 4 assure us that He is NOT asleep. He has not forgotten to protect you. He has allowed you to go through a storm for whatever reason His purpose has in mind.

So, this morning, God did not promise me that I will never struggle with depression. He promised me that He will PROTECT me from depression. Big difference.

I may struggle, but I will not be overcome. I may be tempted, but greater is He that is in me. I may have to fight through it, but I will be empowered by the Sovereign Maker of heaven and earth. In my weakness, He WILL be strong.

And so will you. Lean into Him. Throw yourself at the feet of the One who will NOT let your foot slip. Resist the urge to call Him unfaithful. The truth is that His promises are backed by all the honor of His name. You may not understand. You may not know why you are facing what you are facing. But know this. Your God is there.

Both now and forever.