I Bought a Palm Tree

For February to be the shortest month, it sure can seem like the longest. It just FEELS longer. It can feel cold, dark, and depressing. I guess that’s why we have to go with what we know to be true rather than what we feel is true. February really only has 28 days, except for this year when it has 29. Great. Even still, it’s the shortest month to feel so long. February can take many of us into a wintertime depression if we let it.

So many times we allow feelings to drive us, and the result is we often completely ignore truth. If I feel that the Lord is distant, I can ignore the scripture that tells me he is closer than a brother (Proverbs 18:24). If I feel overwhelmed, I can choose to deny the scripture that tells me that I can do all things through Christ who gives me the strength to accomplish the things I need to do (Philippians 4:13). When I cannot feel His peace over my life, I can easily forget the passage that tells me that He gave it to me already (John 14:27).

Feelings are good, but feelings can also lie to us. We have to make a conscious decision some days to ignore how we feel and go with what we know. I know, on those days that seem too overwhelming, that God is faithful. I know when I feel that I have to carry my burdens all alone, that Jesus has said I can hand them off to Him and He will give me rest. I may feel one way, but I know the truth. I have to live my life in truth.

Our enemy wants us to live in our feelings instead. He wants me to feel as if February is the month of never ending winter. I can easily begin to wonder if I’ll ever see another spring even though I know, like clockwork, the season will change, and I will see flowers and birds and sunshine once more.


Last week, as I drove home after a long workday, I caught sight of one of my favorite things. In the ditch in front of my house was a beautiful clump of daffodils, just one bunch of them standing alone in the whole wintery yard, reaching their heads up to the sky. There they were, a living testimony that truth prevails and God is still God, even in February. When I caught sight of them, I shouted! Oh, how I needed to see those yellow blossoms.

Then, during my weekly trip to Walmart for groceries, I decided to wander through the garden center. There’s not a lot going on there yet this early, but there were a few plants out for sale. I bought one. A tiny palm tree. I saw it, and it seemed to call to me. It was like another promise of sunny days to come… of warm summer days, blue skies, sand and surf. I took it home, and it now lives on my kitchen counter. It’s there where I can see it and be reminded of other promises and truths that I can forget when my lying feelings get in the way of me living in truth.

A Mother’s Biggest Impact

A young friend of mine will soon be a mother. Another young friend of mine just became a mother. In a way, I envy them. There is nothing in the world like being pregnant or being a new mom. It is completely uncharted territory, and there is nothing that can really prepare a woman to be a first time mother. Every mom will give them advice, whether the new mom asks for it or not. We all think we know stuff. And we do, but no two situations are the same. No two moms are the same, and no two children are the same. Each experience is unique unto itself.

baby

Almost.

There are so many parenting books on the market. So much instruction. Spank. Don’t spank. Put the child on a strict schedule. Let the baby decide its own schedule. Immunize. Don’t immunize. Breast. Bottle. Have the baby sleep on its back, its side, its tummy. So. Much. Advice.

Sigmund Freud labeled the mother as the most influential person in a child’s life. He would also blame us moms for most of our children’s issues. Mommy issues are the worst, he would say. I’m not sure I agree completely with Sigmund, but I will say this… there is something that a mom can do that just might impact the lives of their children more than anything else.

More than how much she holds the baby, reads to the baby, sings for the baby, or tends to the baby’s needs… or doesn’t. More than she provides clothes, shoes, toys, lessons, and play dates… or doesn’t. This one thing a mom can do for her baby will impact that child more than anything else.

There is nothing a mother can do that will have greater influence over her child’s life than to pray for that child.

Oh.

That’s it?

Yes. That’s it. On the surface, that might not seem like all that much. I mean, tending to a baby and meeting its physical, emotional, educational, and social needs seem like a bigger deal, right? All that time involved in the day to day raising of a child is pretty overwhelming, and of course those things matter. But what matters even more in the life, and for the life, of that child are the prayers prayed by its mom. As a mom of four mostly grown kids, I know this to be true. The proof really is in the pudding. I look at my kids and the lives they lead currently, and I just sing praises to the Lord over all the answered prayers.

And yet I know I could do better. Even though I pray fervently for my kids, I know I could do more. I could pray more often, for more things. A friend of mine once said to me, “Stacey, what if…God does nothing in the affairs of man except in answer to prayer? What if the future of our children really is impacted by our prayers?” My friend was on to something.

As mothers, what are we leaving on the table? What prayers have we not prayed? What have we been too timid to ask for on behalf of our kids? Too lazy or too busy to address? Growing up, the kitchen wasn’t considered clean after dinner until everything was removed from the table. Are we leaving something there on the table? As women called to be mothers, are we really willing to do that?

Jesus valued his own mother, Mary, so highly. Even in His darkest hour, she was on His mind. And oh, how she loved her son. How she must have prayed to God the Father for Him. Jesus knew her heart for Him, and I think He knows my heart for my children, too. When we, as moms, speak to the Lord on behalf of our children, He hears us with the understanding of One who also had a praying mother.

I like to give new moms a book of prayers to get them started. It’s never too early to start praying for that little bundle, and for those of us with bigger kiddos, it’s never too late.

Here are just a few for those of you just starting out… to get you going!

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Feel free to add your favorites here, too!

You Are Here

What steps are you taking today to reach your goal for the future? It’s a question that a life coach friend of mine asks of her clients.

I think of her question sometimes. I actually love the life I have, but if I could tweak it just a little, I’d love it even more. I think many of us could say that. But most of us settle. Most of us get to a point of “good enough” and sit down.

Look around. Where we are sitting is a representation of all of our life choices to this point. Good or bad, they are responsible for where we find ourselves perched right now. 

Sometimes we want to blame others for our circumstances,
and while they do influence our lives, we are sitting where we are sitting voluntarily. 

Think about it. We married who we married. We went to school or we didn’t. We accepted that job or we passed on it. We spoke up or we kept silent. We stepped in or we kept our distance. First one choice and then another, followed by another and dozens more. Our choices, every one. 

The next choice is ours, too. We want to tell ourselves, “I have no choice. I have to do this.” But the truth is, we always have a choice. Choices do have consequences, but we always have a choice.

  
When we make plans or have desires for what we want our lives to look like, smart cookies map that out. It’s like those maps at malls that say, “You Are Here”. You walk right up to that map, locate where you are in relation to where you want to be, and then it becomes clear what you need to do next to go find those cute shoes you came after. 

Has your life ended up where you had hoped? Is there something that needs a little tweaking or a lot of renovation? Map it out. Start with the “You Are Here” dot on your map, and go from there. 

I’m going to follow my own advice this time. I don’t want to be like Alice in Wonderland who said, “I give myself very good advice, but I very seldom follow it.” 

So often I am Alice. 

Many times, I know exactly what I ought to do, and yet I don’t. That kind of attitude gets me nowhere fast. 

It’s time to work on my map. In all honesty, I need to have a few maps in the works. I need a career map, a writing map, a keeping my house neater map, a “how am I going to get all these books I’ve bought read?” map. 

I can have a map for every goal I have for my life. All I have to do is take one step. One step today puts me that much closer tomorrow. 

Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth; all the stages of my life were spread out before you, The days of my life all prepared before I’d even lived one day.  Psalm 139:16 

There is a plan for our lives. There are things for us to do that were decided before we ever took our first breath. Those things aren’t just going to do themselves. We’ve got to get moving. 

The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps. Proverbs 16:9 


When we establish goals with the intent of honoring God with our lives as the chief aim, He will illumine our paths.
The way will not be dark. The steps won’t be hard to find or to take. We are following, not leading, after all. It’s much easier to follow a path laid out than to make one. 

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, we must get rid of every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and run with endurance the race set out for us. Hebrews 12:1

Life in the Ditch

Apparently, when Jesus was on earth and trying to help folks understand the Old Testament Law and the New Covenant, there were a lot of farm animals that landed in the ditch on the Sabbath. Lots of directionally challenged mammals, in those days I guess.

If the animal had the misfortune to fall into the ditch on the Sabbath, the poor thing had to just hang out in the ditch until the day was over. To lift the animal out would constitute work, and there was to be none of that on the Sabbath… according to the Law. There was no grace for the poor thing… just rules that left them out of luck. Jesus knew that, Sabbath or no Sabbath, it was no good to stay in the ditch, and he told them so. He knew the longer it stayed in the ditch, the worse things would get for the animal.Unknown.jpeg

I spent a good bit of time this week with someone who has chosen to live their life in the ditch. They’ve been in the ditch long enough now that they have stopped trying to get out, and they abuse anyone else that tries to help left them. In spite of multiple helping hands, I believe this person actually prefers to live their lives in the ditch. I know that sounds crazy to most of us, but it’s true. Some folks have grown so accustomed to ditch living, they just decide to stay put.

It’s not that I sit up on high from my lofty position, and peer down my nose at the one in the ditch. I have run my life off into a ditch a time or two. What I cannot understand is the willingness to stay there… I wanted out of that ditch as soon as possible and by any means! We may not always like the hand reaching to pull us out, or the method they choose to employ to lift us… but when you are in the ditch, you can’t be so choosy about the help that comes or the manner in which the help is offered. After all, you’re the one in the ditch.

Life in the ditch should be a humbling position, not one that lends itself to an attitude of entitlement and a never-ending pity party because you have decided to stay where you are. Expecting others to fund (either emotionally or financially) your ditch dweller’s life is just unfair. It’s called enabling and every psychologist worth their salt will tell you that enablers are often the largest hindrance for getting someone to come out of their ditch.

This week, I saw what staying too long in the ditch can do to a person’s perspective on life. They can no longer see what the rest of us can clearly see. They have lost the ability  to have vision. What can be plainly seen from the roadside, is lost on them down there, and if you give them long enough, they can begin to convince you that what they see makes more sense than what you see.

Jesus knew that the grace under the New Covenant was sufficient for everyone. But He also knew that people had to be willing to make the hard choices to follow Him in all things. In Matthew 19, the rich young ruler asked Jesus how he might get out of his own ditch. The young man knew he needed what Jesus had to offer, but sadly, he was unwilling to do what it took to truly follow Christ and leave the ditch behind forever. He turned from Christ and climbed right back into his ditch.

It’s hard when the person in the ditch is someone you care about. Most of us will go above and beyond to help those we love who find themselves in dire straights, and yet there comes a point when the person in that ditch has to decide they want out; that they are willing to submit themselves to someone who can still see what they can no longer see from their poor vantage point. Sometimes love is doing the hard, right thing. Enabling isn’t love, it never has been and it never will be.

 

 

 

Carrying Burdens

FullSizeRender.jpgWhen you read my memoir, this will be the character building, funny part… I’m sure of it.

This has been quite the challenging several few days. I’d list it all out for you, but I promised God I would only dump it on my best friend, and be done with all that talking about my woes. Who else really wants to hear about it other than your best friend? And does she really want to start off her week hearing about it all? Well, she did, and that’s why she’s my best friend.

I’m sure you’ve had weeks like the last one has been for me. I’m not the only one who faces trials and struggles. I did reach the point where I made the mistake of saying, “Surely nothing else can happen now.”  You know you should never say that, right?

There’s kind of a dumb saying that just seems to keep floating around the world that says, “God won’t give us more than we can handle.” Really? How is that even biblical?

Jesus says, “Come to me, all who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”

Psalm 55:22 says, “Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved.”

Paul instructed the Galatians to “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.”

Where it gets a little tricky is here in 1 Corinthians 10:13… and where we might be going astray with thinking God won’t give us more than we can handle…

“No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.”

That verse clearly has to do with temptation to sin. Not burdens to bear. When we are tempted to sin, there is always a way out. We never have the excuse that we had no choice but to sin… God will always point to another solution. This verse addresses sin, not burden bearing.

There are plenty of times when we are called to bear the weight of burdens that we alone cannot bear. When those times come, we can run to Jesus when we are weary and carrying the weight of the world on our shoulders gets to be too much. Jesus will give us the rest we need to stand up under it. It is through His strength and might that we can carry the load that rests upon us. And thank God that we bear one another’s burdens.

So like I said, I called my friend this morning and asked… “Can you handle my stuff this morning? I know it’s early and it’s a Monday morning… but I promised God earlier this morning when we were talking about it all, if I could just tell you that I wouldn’t go around spoiling everyone’s day with my stuff…just yours.” And because she loves me and she knows that I will also bear her burdens when I need to, she said, “Of course. That’s why I am here.”

When I am burdened I find rest in Jesus. When the weight of all I carry gets too heavy, Jesus will not let me be moved. He will strengthen me with his righteous right hand. He will reach in and pull me out of the muck and the mire and set me up on high ground where I can gain a new perspective. And my precious friend carries a bit of the load with me. She listens, gives sound advice, loves on me, and most importantly and very key, she prays for me.

I’m still carrying everything I was before… but now the weight of it feels more manageable. I’m learning some great lessons right now, and if I ever do write my memoirs, this will definitely be some of those character building, funny parts that I will look back on and laugh about. Not today, mind you… but one day.