Dust and Shadows

9 years old and it is simply amazing what she can accomplish. I know that little girl inside and out, her strengths and limits, how she ticks, and what she can accommomplish. 

Summer days are our contradictions. Each day can be the extreme opposite of another. In order to defend myself in what I am about to tell you, I will first say that we just returned from a week’s vacation at the beach. There was nothing except play, family memories, and fun to be had the entire day. 

And then there was yesterday. Yesterday, my girl woke up to a list. Beside her list was my list. The two of us worked pushing out speed, racing the clock, accomplishing task after task after task. She is 9 years old and what she accomplished is impressive!  Get herself ready for the day, make bed, read two chapters of honors reading book, feed fish, give water to gecko, walk around the house and clean up any mess that belongs to Madison, practice piano, pass 1 level of rocket math division, read one more chapter, make a birthday card for Nana, a Father’s Day card for Grandaddy, vacuum, mop, set the table for dinner, and read another chapter from her book. 

And why do I make her do it?  Don’t I love her?  Am I not older?  Could I not accomplish these tasks with greater speed?

She is quickly catching up to me, but there have been nine previous years where I took double, triple, 25 times the time to involve and teach Madison in the daily chores that need to be done and the lessons that need to be learned. And why?!  Why would I have a three year old help me carry her laundry to the washing machine?

And you all know the answer. Because it is good for her. Because it is my job to teach her to be an independent adult. And that baby girl is going to make one amazing grown woman one day!  Because as she works, she learns to love work. And this is what Madison’s typical day looks like. But then sometimes, as happened yesterday, she puts a cherry on top and she goes above and beyond. Lastnight, Madison made a homemade apple pie for the family. (Not on her list) and then she picked up another book and asked her Daddy if she could read a chapter to him. (She did.)

And my day to day can be such a struggle. My spirit is willing but my flesh is weak. But sometimes, at the end of the day, I get a little glimpse of the woman that all her hard work is raising her up to be. And in these moments, I get a little “ohhhhh, I get it.”

Why does God make me work so hard every day?  Why do I hurt and suffer?  Why can this life be so tiring and painful?

Because he is making a list for nine year old Caroline and look at all the things I can accomplish because he is teaching me how to help this world. Once I was three years old and my tasks were so little as I did them with my Father. Now he expects more. And now I want to bake an apple pie for my family. I want to share the gospel wherever I go. I want that to be my priority and the center of my life. I want it to dictate where I live, what I say, and how I spend my time. 

My little girl is starting to dream. God has big huge plans for her. If you asked her today, she says when she grows up she wants to train dolphins. Give her time and she starts throwing in other animals that she wants to train as well. Point is, she has some big dreams. And if you ask me, she is firmly on track. 

What do I want to accomplish?  Is it to have lots of influential friends that like me?  Is it a newly remodeled wow inspiring home?  Is it finances of extreme comfort in the bank?  

Is it to welcome homeless people into my home?  Is it to be put in harm’s way so that I can help when emergency strikes?  Is it to tell other hurting people, no matter what the cost, about the amazing love of God their Father?

Oh Holy Spirit, I long so much for your presence. Give me hurting people in my path so that I can show them your love. Guide my steps so that I can serve the church. And then I will be a mature Christian, finally maturing into who you made me to be and then I will have intimacy with you as you accomplish the impossible in me. 

Everything else is dust and shadows. I will not settle. I will grow up one to do list at a time. 

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World Domination

With the mighty roar of the lion, every knee shall bow and every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. 

ISIS will fall on their face and tremble and they will worship the King of all Kings. The UN will bow to the Almighty. The comfortable and rich and those on welfare, Africans, Europeans, the famous in Beverly Hills, all the world will know the Truth and all the Lies will be thought no more. And we will worship. 

And then we will be separated. Saved by grace and damned. 

And then there will be an account. The saved will stand before God and he will ask, “What did you do with what I gave you?”

We die tomorrow. Live that way. 

Screw Up and Move On

Roast and potatoes were simmering at a low temperature in the crockpot, a fire burning and sending a glow through the room set off the cold weather outside in a perfect comfort of a home that was my dream come true. The floors glow freshly mopped and the last load of laundry has been put away. Madison’s homework is completed to perfection and a little ahead of schedule. We slide into the newly refinished chairs with an afternoon snack and time to spare for a game of Chess. This is my perfection. More so than the winter ice that quickly melts with the change of season, I wish I could freeze and live in this moment forever and ever. An eight year old daughter that still needs me to style her hair in the morning, a husband that will walk in the door after a hard day of work at any moment, and the general good mood that I let determine way too much of my world. 

Literally, the only difference was laying down for a night’s rest. I slept hard and my dream wasn’t over when the alarm clock yelled at me, rudely interrupting my comfort.  As soon as I get started, I am running late. Madison is grumpy and complains about the uniform that she has to wear every day. I am grumpy that James has not brought me a coffee yet. My clothes are not complementing me like I want them to and my hair looks hideous. I stumble past the unmade bed to the kitchen with a sink full of dishes and an overflowing trash can. Where in the hell did this mess come from?!  My good mood is gone. 

To fault, I am an idealist and a perfectionist. My realist husband lives in this same morning as me and he sees (or doesn’t even see) the mess and interprets, “This needs to be cleaned up.”  I see:

I am a failure. My life is awful. I am a horrible wife and mom. Why can’t I wake up early and make eggs and bacon for my family?  Why does this world have to start so early?  It is my fault Madison is grumpy. Where is my coffee?  It is James’s fault. He must not love me. 

It take two cups of coffee for me to move on. But as this same scenario plays in my world almost EVERY SINGLE DAY, I am starting to learn that failures are what matter. Weird, huh?  Here is what I mean:

When I am grumpy, am I a yeller?  When Caroline doesn’t get her way, that determines if I am a selfish or giving person. When Madison’s homework is stressing us to the limit, am I patient?  When James tells me “no” to something I want to purchase, how do I take it?  It is the hard times, not the “my perfect world” times that determine who Caroline really is. 

How can I make a mistake and learn from it?  When I sin, how can I ask for forgiveness?  How can I give my life, all of my life, the good and the ugly to serve my family and others?

When my schedule is packed full, Lord, send me someone for me to help.  When my budget is tight, Lord, show me someone that has less than me that I can strengthen. Oh God, I want those in dire need right in my obvious path!  Because this is the meaning of giving.  That is service. When it hurts, when I am grumpy, when I lack energy, that is when it is not me because I can not do it. That will be God in me. 

Yesterday, He Was With Me Always

The pain of being told a baby is likely to be an impossibility in the belly of a woman that has dreamed of being a mother since she was a baby herself. 

The joy of holding a newborn cheek to my own and singing quietly of the love of my God that made her a reality in my life and holding the hand of a growing miracle. 

This world tells me to silence my voice, to not offend. But when I see this tortured world seeking an answer, when that Good News is spilling out of my heart, I WILL NOT BE SILENCED!  

The world all around me seeks and wanders and I know the GRACE that sets free. The people lust and leave but I know LOVE that is faithful. The sick hunger and suffer but I know the maker of all things new!

I am not here to cast judgement and follow rules. I am far from being good and I do not fit into the crowd. But I have a story. I just recently met this man named Jesus. And now I see, since FOREVER he will love me ALWAYS. 

Writers are Readers

  
 I turn in my bed, open my eyes, and lay on my pillow for another minute. There is no beeping alarm and I smile at the thought. (I do not usually smile in the morning). I grab my phone off my night stand and take a quick look at the clock. Just after 8. Fall break is great for sleeping in. 

I stretch open my eyes and pop in my contacts, fill a glass with water and quickly swallow my morning medication. I head straight to one of the most important things in life:  coffee. I grab my extra large homemade coffee mug and sort of smile when I remember that I paid ridiculously too much to paint this mug one day on a play date with my girl and some friends. But the mug says, “Caroline’s Coffee” and I like that.  Fall breaks are the best for drinking coffee. 

The house is quiet. James has already left for work. (He does not get to observe Fall break with us). Conner has already left for college. (My niece lives with us and I love her to pieces!  Her college break is not even as long as my third grader’s). And Madison is still asleep. I will let her sleep just a little bit longer and give myself a little time to read. Fall break is made to have a little extra time to read. 

Over Fall Break, I completed Ben Carson’s “One Nation” (AMAZINGLY INSPIRATIONAL), started “Teresa of Calcutta” by D. Jeanene Watson (wow!  I want to be this woman!), and read a few more chapters of “12 Huge Mistakes Parents Can Avoid” by Tim Elmore.

I am a parent. I make mistakes. I want to avoid mistakes. This is the book for me. My daughter is eight years old. This is a great time to read this book. He says things like “let your kids fail” and my heart has this little battle with Tim and I say, “WHAT?!” And he says “yes” and I scream “no” and he says “It is the best thing for Madison” and I say “ouch!” And grab my heart and I don’t want my little girl to hurt but he walks through the benefits of letting our children fail and learn from their mistakes and what unbeneficial adults our kids will grow up to be if Momma is always coming to the rescue. And I want my daughter to be an aide to society, so I read on. 

I do want what is best for my girl, even if it is hard for me to loosen my grip and let go of one, maybe two fingers.  But as I do this, something absolutely spiritual happens.  Every finger that I release is replaced by one of God’s fingers!

Ya see, I am not throwing my eight year old into the hands of this world. Hell no!  I am releasing her into the hands of loving God, that believe it or not, loves her even more than I do!  He has plans for her, plans to prosper her!

So, this book has helped me with some very practical ways of knowing how to appropriately give an eight year old independence and what are some ways that I can let an eight year old take responsibility and feel some natural consequences and some natural benefits!  

And do you know what, she amazes me!  And when that girl works hard and gets things accomplished and when she is not entitled to sweets and playing and when she earns a trip out to get frozen yogurt with her cousin and a family night of Uno, she loves me all the more for it and I see that, as Tim Elmore says it, that “I am not raising a child. I am raising an adult.”  And Fall Break is the best time to raise my future adult. 

When I Suffer

When I am tired, I want to be exhausted because I have completed the work you have for me. 

When I laugh, fill me with joy to share.  Surround me with the Good News of your goodness. 

When I am rich, let it be in your mercies.  And when I am poor, may it be because I gave it all away. 

Speak the truth in me. When I open my mouth, let it be your words. 

And when I suffer, let it be because this world mocks me, let me count it joy that I am crucified with Christ and let it fill my heart with peace and assurance because I have stood strong when my body was weak and I shouted your grace when they told me to shut my mouth and when I suffer, may my suffering be worked together for good because I suffered loving Jesus!

When I die, let it be because your plan is done in me. And when I open my eyes in death let it be because I will forever have eternity by the side of my Jesus that I have longed for my entire life. 

Naked People in Heaven

Instant bad mood.  I search around for my screaming phone on the floor under my bed.  The damn alarm clock continues to scream at the top of its lungs.  Slowly gaining control of my sleeping body, I step out of bed, pick up my phone and turn off the alarm.  The pain of waking up.  In heaven, I will roll over and enjoy the waking up process just as much as snuggling into bed and drifting off to sleep.  (That is if we sleep in heaven.)

My world runs about me in fast forward.  Honking impatiently at the slow moving car, spending what we don’t have for the newest item that hits the shelves, driving around our children to some place other than home.  Why do I join the insanity of the crowd?  I do believe in busying oneself with hard work, but that is not what is happening here.  We are all consumed with what does not matter.

Now.  What we want is now.  The admiring stares of those we don’t know.  Now.  The praise of what drives us around.  Now.  Winners of the race.  Packed pantries to overflowing.  Fashonable jewelry on our bodies and extra in the closet.  Fancy modern restaurants.  Everything that our neighbors have.  Our neighbors that we want to be like, not the ones outside of our neighborhood.

But all we think about is now and we laugh at anyone that suggests otherwise.

Ted Turner is famous for a lot of things, one of them is stating what is on his mind.  Hey, I can respect that.  He likes to chose his words so that other people listen.  He doesn’t just fit into the crowd.  I respect that also.  But I wish that someone would tell him, and a whole lot of the rest of the world, that they are on the wrong train.  When Turner quoted, “I’d rather go to hell.  Heaven has got to be boring.”  I wish someone would have asked him, “What do you want most in life?”….”It will be in heaven.”

Heaven is better than being a billionaire.  There is money to spare, Hey, let’s pave these streets with gold.  Heaven is better than pornography!  THERE WILL BE PERFECT BODIES WALKING AROUND NAKED!  And it will be a good thing!  No one will be embarrassed!  (There will be no sin in heaven.  Pornography is a destructive, cruel sin.  The point is, naked bodies will be good….and everywhere.)  Heaven is better than Hawaii.  All the food will be paid in full!  Heaven is better than Christmas!  That baby Jesus, he will be with us!  It doesn’t sound boring to me!

And what will not be in heaven?  Babies without mommies.  Wheelchairs won’t be needed in heaven, or medicine, or hospitals.  There will not be divorce, no one’s heart will be broken.  What have you been through?  What hurts?  What tugs at your heart and makes you cry out, “That is not right!”  God will end it.  He will make all the wrongs undone and he will wipe away that tear.

“Jesus’ miracles are not just a challenge to our minds, but a promise to our hearts, that the world we want is coming.”  Tim Keller.

So, look at this world.  Read the Bible.  Take a look at what is good in this world.  LORD, FIX MY PRIORITIES!  SET MY MIND ON THINGS ETERNAL!  Get ready.  It is going to be the best party of all of eternity.  Don’t throw away your invitation.