“Do Not Worry About Your Life”

I come from a long line of worriers. If you were to ask my worrying ancestors about the practice they would likely tell you that they had a lot of things over which to worry, and so with so much practice, they became experts. This hard won skill was then passed down through the generations to me. But I don’t think it’s just my ancestry. I think you come from a long line of worriers, too. Perhaps to varying degrees, but we all worry about something. It’s due to our human condition. We are not all-knowing, and we cannot see into the future. We cannot know what will happen even one second from now. The only moment we can count on for sure is this one. It is the not knowing that is our undoing.

Because Jesus became a man and walked among us, he had the unique opportunity to understand this issue of worry. He saw how it could consume us if we didn’t put it into the correct perspective. So Jesus addressed the problem of worry. He told us in Matthew 6:25, “Do not worry about your life”. Jesus asked us not to get bogged down in the details of our existence. Jesus wanted us to see that the birds that fly freely around us do not gather to commiserate on whether or not there will be enough food to feed all of them. They truly live in the moment. It’s all they have.

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My little Aunt Jean lives in a nursing home. Dad and I work together to make sure that she is well cared for. Dementia has taken over her mind, and has robbed her of her ability to worry. It has stolen other things too, like memories and independence, but one blessing of dementia is that it has taken her ability to worry. Jean does not worry about anything. The only moment that exists for her is the one she is in currently. It has offered her a unique freedom. She has no anxiety, no stress. She is happy to see me, but does not worry about what might happen to me when I leave.

Andy Stanley, pastor of NorthPoint Community Church, teaches that we worry about the things to which we are most devoted. As he puts it, he does not worry about whether or not I have a job. He’s not devoted to me. When I look to the things I spend time worrying about, it’s usually all wrapped up in my family and the things that impact them. Are they well? Safe? Are their futures secure? As if my worry is some sort of insurance policy against calamity. If I just worry enough about those things, then they will all be fine, and I will no longer have anything to worry about.

Jesus pointed attention to the wild birds because his point was this. They don’t worry, and yet the Lord meets their needs. And then He asks the question. “Aren’t you much more valuable to the Father than they are?” If the Lord meets their needs, how much more and consistently will He meet ours?

Jesus understood why we worry. We lack information. We want information. And in the absence of information, we make some up and it’s usually not good. And this imaginary information becomes our focus. We can dream up a lot of catastrophic circumstances, can’t we? We can play them out to their bitter end and fret our days away.

What would happen if we shifted our devotion? I’m not saying we don’t do the things we need to do to be responsible and take care of “our part”. I cannot expect that my children will just know how to live lives devoted to Jesus if I don’t teach them how and model that for them. But then I’ve done my part. My part does not, then, include worrying about whether or not God will do His part.

What would happen if I am most devoted to Christ, developing my relationship with God the Father, and being filled with the Spirit? What if I choose to put my worries there? What if I seek God first? And then trust Him with the rest? Well, Jesus said then all these other things? These things I used to worry about? Those will be added to me.

Are we really so devoted to our worries that we aren’t willing to take Jesus at His word? We trust Him with our eternity, but not with our now?

Doesn’t His way seem to make life a good bit easier? I mean we can choose to worry and fret if we want to, but to what end? We aren’t replacing worry with ambivalence, we are replacing worry with trust in a trustworthy Father.

Saying Goodbye to Old Things… Making Room for New

This last weekend, we packed up our house and moved it to a new location. Well, not the house, just the stuff inside. I can honestly say that I should be a moving expert. My best friend sometimes shows me her address book where the “B” pages are all full of my previous addresses. Well, now she has to find room for one more.

This is our moving routine. Matthew gets the current house ready to vacate. This usually means fixing or completing those things we have not had time to fix or complete, but now must do before we can sell the thing for what we hope to get for it.

Then the house goes on the market. That means getting it and keeping it show ready, and that means all hands on deck. You never know when those potential buyers want to show up. Have you ever gone to Williamsburg to see the old colonial homes there and the tour guide tells you, “This is a working kitchen”? Well, just because the house in on the market doesn’t mean it’s not still a working kitchen… and bathroom… and den…

Then the house sells, and the reality of “Get your stuff and get out” sets in. That’s my cue. Matthew generally takes care of the fixing and completing, and I take care of the donating, tossing, and packing of our worldly goods. I sort of enjoy this part… to a point. It’s those last two or three days when things start to get a little crossways for me. It’s that last bit of stuff that doesn’t seem to fit into a box, or doesn’t go with anything else that’s left, so things just start getting thrown into a hodgepodge of packing with the hopes of sorting it all out later… and my nerves get frazzled.

Then the moving truck shows up. With four kids… we don’t usually hire movers… we are the movers. This time, though, with our kids being a bit up and out… we were down to two kids still available to help. And help they did! We pulled in a few sweet friends to help here and there, and together we managed over three days to squeeze a four bedroom house into a three bedroom apartment. Mostly.

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As I finished up getting the house ready for the new family to move in… I walked through and thought about both the sweet and joyful, as well as the hard times, our family has had in that house. I watched our kids grow to young adults in that house, and those can be some gloriously challenging years.

With us moving all the time, I used to worry about our kids when they were growing up. I never moved once during my childhood, and I put down deep roots in my childhood home. But early on my husband told me this truth… “For our kids, home is wherever we are.”

Saying goodbye to the old can be hard, but sometimes it’s the only way we can say hello to new things. One thing is for certain… whether you move a lot like we have or not… things rarely ever stay the same. We can’t hold too tightly to what we have if we want to have an open hand for what’s coming to us. That’s been a hard lesson for me to learn. I want to hold onto that bird in my hand so tightly that I miss the ones in the bush that are meant for me.

So for the next few months, I am going to embrace apartment living. I am going to live with two open hands and see what new things come. I don’t want to miss anything new because I’m trying to hold on to the old stuff.

The Narrow Way

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As parents, we worry about the people who have influence over our children’s lives. We hope that people come alongside our kids and help them stay on the straight and narrow, for the Bible tells us that wide is the road that leads to destruction, but narrow is the way that leads to life (Matthew 7:13-14). We don’t, as a species, tend to choose the narrow way. I mean if I am hiking in the woods and I am faced with a choice between a wider, well-worn path and a little used narrow path, I’m going to go wide every time. I need those people in my life that tell me to choose the narrow way. I need convincing that the narrow way is the better choice. Left to my own devices, I may not choose so well. Left to my own, I might choose the path of least resistance. I might choose easy.

But as followers of Christ, we are called to a different path. The path that we are called to looks a bit precarious. It’s not well traveled and so at times it’s hard to even know for sure that it’s a path at all. And there’s not too many others to keep us company on the narrow way. That very fact causes us to doubt it from time to time. I mean, how can this be the right way if so few people are choosing it? If this was truly better, wouldn’t more people be here? Wouldn’t it be better marked with clearer signage and places to rest, and why isn’t there are water fountain somewhere? This path is really hard, and right about now you wish you had chosen different shoes.

Just about the time you think you’ll go back to the trail head and take the other way, you see someone on up ahead of you. Or perhaps someone comes up beside you and you make your way down the path for a while together. After a time, something becomes evident about the people on this narrow way. Their focus is less on the difficulties of the path they are traveling and more on the destination up ahead. They are driven by something that has less to do with the narrow way they are traveling and more to do with the purpose of the journey. They speak words of encouragement and life as they walk this way with you. They help you take steps and climb higher. They offer a hand up and a boost when the way gets steep. And when your feet step to the right or left of the path, they come alongside you and help you see where you have taken a wrong turn and show you the way again.

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Unfortunately, it’s not enough to set your kids off on the narrow way and expect that there will be no more trouble for them. The wide road still calls. It continues to tempt with its broad, level, well-worn surface. Those who travel that way shout invitations to those traversing the narrow way. By all earthly measures and to the naked eye, the wide way does seem pretty ideal. It has everything a path needs to be a successful path… except that it eventually dumps its followers out into their own destruction.

It would be easier if the wide road would just disappear from view entirely, but then, how would anyone from that road ever see that there is another way? We cannot ever completely separate ourselves from those who have chosen the wide road. We were all once traveling the wide road, until someone shouted to us from the narrow way, and encouraged us to give it a try. The same has to be true for our kids. We cannot, nor should not, keep them from exposure to the wide road. Our peace of mind, then, has to be in their connections on the narrow road.

From among the 12 disciples, Jesus carefully selected four. With those four, he spent extra time and invested himself. They were tight… and they had chosen the narrow way. As a matter of fact, they were the first to ever walk it. Jesus reached out constantly to those traveling the wide road, but His closest contacts where those who had chosen differently. His closest friends had chosen the narrow way. As usual, Jesus is the example.

Kids are kids and most will chose the path of least resistance when left to their own… even really “good” kids. The narrow way doesn’t get easy, but the burden gets lighter when they travel it with a buddy. It’s often been said of kids, “Show me their friends and I’ll show you their future.” Mind with whom your kids spend time. Never give up, never give in… because the lure of the wide road will not. Trust me, as a parent, I know it gets exhausting, but we really can’t afford to turn a blind eye… and hope for the best. Hope is not a strategy!

We have to press in, ask questions, hold them accountable, and make the hard choices when it comes to who has influence in their lives. I wish it was easy… but the narrow way seldom is.

Covenant Marriage, Singular Faith

“He has remembered His covenant forever, The word which He commanded to a thousand generations…” Psalm 105:8

Marriage is a relationship like none other. When it is entered into as it was designed, it is a bond. When things are bound together, the intention is that they stay that way for good. It’s like when we choose a glue… we look for one that provides a good bond. We want those pieces to stick together as if they had always been stuck together, and we want that bond to stand the test of time, use, etc. In the Old Testament, you can read about such bonds. They were referred to as covenants. To break a covenant with someone was a serious, serious matter. So for most Christians, we view marriage as less like a contract and more like the Old Testament covenants.

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A contract has more to do with protection and mistrust. There are exit clauses and loop holes. The law of our land provides that marriage is a legal contract. This is a connection, not a bond. Connections can be broken. I lose my wifi connection at work all the time.

There are actually three states in the US that provide a Marriage Covenant for people. People who choose this route do so understanding that to exit from it takes a good bit more effort. When you look into the scriptures you will see that God made covenants with His people, not contracts. You will find no mention of God entering into a contract within scripture.

So I say all that to say this. Matthew and I have a marriage covenant, not a marriage contract. Now, we were married in Alabama. Alabama is not one of the three states that offers the actual marriage covenant. But in our hearts, we don’t care about the paper contract, we have a covenant… a bond not easily broken. We are bound together legally, physically, and spiritually. Matthew is responsible to lead me spiritually, and I am responsible to let him, bless his heart. As head of our household, he is responsible to make sure that I am growing spiritually and leading our children to do the same. I feel that very strong spiritual bond with him, and it has great influence over me.

But here’s the thing. While I have a covenant marriage with Matthew, I also have a singular faith. Matthew is responsible for fostering in me a desire to grow deeper in my relationship with Christ, but ultimately, I am responsible for that relationship. Matthew will be held accountable for how he did his part, but I will stand alone before God one day to give an accounting for what I alone did with Jesus.

For years, I blended the two so closely that I failed to really take proper responsibility for my growing faith. If Matthew was growing, I was growing. If he hit a plateau, I just hung out there with him until I got the signal that we were moving forward again. At that point, I’d gather our stuff and plod on. I did this to the point that I would even mirror his moods. If Matthew was having a tough day, so was I. I would look to him to gauge my own feelings. This was not Matthew’s fault, it was just that I felt so closely bound to him, spiritually, that I had begun to put more into that relationship than into my own, separate relationship with Jesus.

And here’s the kicker… when I began to see this area of my life differently, an amazing thing happened. My relationship with Jesus grew, and my relationship with Matthew got even better. If Matthew is having a bad day, he doesn’t need me to mirror that, he needs me to help him find joy again. If I join Matthew on his spiritual plateaus, then he’s likely to hang out there longer. I mean, he does enjoy my company!

This shift in perspective does not mean that I am then leading him… not at all. It means that I encourage him, support him, love him and pray for him. I don’t just sit and idly wait. I love his company, too, but I like it much better when we are marching forward together.

As a Christian wife, it would be easy for me to find my identity in that position, and I have often done that. But in truth, my identity is found in Christ alone and in who He says I am. When I find my worth there, then my value as a wife increases profoundly. I am so thankful for these two, very related, yet distinct positions that I hold. And I love it so much when, about my spiritual growth, Matthew says, “You go do what you need to do.”

The Sandwich Generation

I first remember hearing about the “sandwich generation” when my parents found themselves in that place. After my Pawpaw died, my Granny moved in with us for a while so that we could help her over that hump, and figure out what she needed to do next. Those were great days for me… I loved having her with us, but I know they were challenging for my parents. They still had two teens at home to look after, my dad owned his own business, and then there was the displaced, saddened little old lady to care for. They were sandwiched between two generations that needed their help.

IMG_3739.JPGNow, I look around and see that I am that sandwich generation. As my parents get older (Dad turned 80 last weekend) there are times that they need my help with some things, I’m working full time to help put my kids through college, and I’m still working to get those kids safely to adulthood. I also have the additional blessing of a bonus “parent”, my Aunt Jean, to care for. These are busy, wonderful days, and I would not trade them for anything. I love my life so much.

But these are interesting days. These are different times from when my parents where the sandwiched ones. Take phones, for instance. From the time of the invention of the phone, moving ahead about a hundred years… nothing changed too much about it. We were all pretty much tied by a pig-tailed cord to the kitchen if we wanted to talk to someone on it. Let’s just call it Phone1.0. Phones were just phones, no one expected anything more than that, and we all just talked on them. Phones were an even playing field across the generations. Everyone sort of lived in the same ballpark.

But today, things are different. While my parents have smart phones, they still pretty much just use them as… phones, and they expect/like it when people call them on their phones. My mother tells me most of the time I could stand to do that a lot more. When I call my kids on their phones, they’re like, “Um, why are you calling me on the phone? Couldn’t you have texted me?” You see, for their generation, their phones are less phones and more… everything else. The phone part of their phones is the least thing they do with their phones. I’m not even sure why they still call their phones phones. And they are always waiting for the next upgrade or innovation for their phones. I mean I went my entire childhood, into adulthood with the SAME PHONE tethered to the wall in my parent’s kitchen. It didn’t even have buttons, just a rotary dial, and I was completely fine with that.

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So being the sandwich generation is a little different these days. It’s a little like having one foot in one dimension and the other in another, completely different dimension.

C Wright Mills was a prominent Sociologist around the time of the end of the Second World War. He worried that societies were changing at a pace that was too fast for most people to keep up… and that was back when phones were still tied to the kitchen wall. I bet his head would spin if he saw the pace at which society is changing now. I used to marvel at my great grandmother, and all that she had seen happen in her lifetime. But y’all, they just grew a baby goat in a plastic Ziplock bag in a lab. Are you kidding me? There is now an app for the phone where you can take a picture of a suspicious mole, upload it to the app and it will diagnose that mole with greater accuracy than a dermatologist. There are predictions that doctors will soon go the way of travel agents. Travel agents are something my parents knew about that my kids have never heard of, and would find completely irrelevant today. (My apologies to all my doctor friends… but you have been warned.)

I can’t say that I really have a great point to all of this, except to say that I have a lot of friends who are also sandwiched right now, and I hope to encourage them as they navigate these years. We are living in a time like never before in history, and we are all just trying to figure it out and keep up. We have been entrusted with some pretty special people to help take care of on both sides, and we are the bridge that joins them together. It’s a pretty special place to be, really… sandwiched in like we are.

Mike Pence’s Dinner Rule

I’m sorry ladies. If you want to have dinner with the Vice President, you’ll have to accept his wife coming along. Can you believe that? Who does he think he is, after all? Step into the 21st century, man!

Many in the liberal media couldn’t wait to beat up on our Vice President for this seemingly shortsighted, non-progressive “rule”. Lately, I’m feeling so much like an entitled teenager, rolling my eyes at every stab people make at what seems like such antiquated thinking. Are these people really serious? This is not news, people, but it is good practice.

If you aren’t aware that you leave your wedding with a target on your back, then you need to wise up. Marriage is God’s thing. Our enemy doesn’t like God’s things and immediately will set out to destroy those things. If you step into your happily ever after without your guard up, every day, all the time, no second to waste… then you should expect the trouble that’s coming.

“Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.” 1 Peter 5:8

Marriages can flourish… within proper boundaries. Marriages can last a lifetime… if you stand your guard over them. You can have your happily ever after… but only after you do your due diligence.


Mike Pence shared one of his rules for marriage… I’ll share some of mine.

1.) We, too, do not have dinner with a member of the opposite sex alone. Or lunch, or breakfast, or coffee… I mean unless it’s each other… then alone is awesome.

2.) We do not get into a vehicle alone with a member of the opposite sex… to go across town or across the street.

3.) We do not meet for business alone in a room with the door shut with a member of the opposite sex. As a matter of fact, Matthew has had a window cut in his office door before, just for people to be able to see in at all times.

4.) We do not send private messages on social media to members of the opposite sex. I severely limit the members of the opposite sex that I friend on Facebook. You pretty much have to be related to me for me to accept your request if you are a man.

5.) We know where the other one is pretty much all the time. We share plans for the day. We have an app on our phones that shows us where everyone in our family is at any given time. (Find My Friends) We don’t make an obsessive habit of looking at it, but it’s there if we need it.

6.) I can look at his email and he can look at mine. I can open his snail mail, and he can open mine.

7.) I know all of his passwords, and he knows mine.

8.) I can pick up his phone and read anything on it I want, look at his photos, too. Same for him.

9.) I can look in his wallet, and he can look in my purse. God, help him if he does, but he can.

10.) We do not have close friendships with the opposite sex… apart from our spouse being close friends, too, with that person. 

I realize that some may find these things very restricting. I guess they are. But within these guardrails there is complete freedom. There is complete trust. There are no secret places or shady practices. There is no space where he cannot look into my life, and none closed off to me. We know the target on our backs and we are ever vigilant to ward off any attacks. There is no room to be lax or lazy. Flattery turns into compromise… lack of diligence into accusation. Loss of trust is the beginning of the end.

I happen to be very proud of our Vice President and his very public dinner rule. He has a lifelong marriage to show for the consistency and concern that he demonstrates. Take a look at the marriages of those who are throwing stones… ten to one they can’t hold a candle.

You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet

Getting older isn’t for sissies, sister. I say this on the heels of someone I love turning forty. Like many of us, she is not completely embracing this adventure into a new decade. As one who has been there and done that, (forty, I mean) I can say in all sincerity, that forty really is fabulous. It’s true, there’s no denying the image in the mirror looking back at you is no longer that hot 25-year-old who once peered back at you, but hey, there are always tradeoffs.

On the eve of her fortieth birthday, she sent me a text that said,

“I’m not doing well with turning 50”

Then she said,

“40. Lol”

And finally,

“I guess that auto correct put it into perspective”

Yes, I thought, it does. You see, I’M actually the one turning fifty…

 In preparation for turning fifty (tomorrow!), I have been calling myself fifty for the last year just to get used to the idea. My best friend will always emphatically remind me that I am not fifty… YET!

I can’t say that I completely appreciate the folks who say that age is just a number. I can find merit in what they are trying to convey, but they want to assert that your age is irrelevant. I think it is relevant. With age comes a lot of things. Each year brings us experience and insight. We gain perspective and wisdom as we move through this life. That 25-year-old young woman who used to look back at me from my mirror was lacking in so many ways. She thought she had the world by the tail, but she was so naïve. She had no idea of the things she would experience and learn, and the ways she would grow and become.

There is a Facebook group that keeps a record of and memorializes classmates who have passed away since my high school graduation. Far too many have died way too young. They didn’t get to grow old with their spouses, see their kids grow up and get married, and they didn’t get to meet and love on their grandchildren.

Every day we exchange carbon dioxide for oxygen is a blessing, and to bemoan any single one because we are growing older is displaying an ungrateful heart. At least that’s what I tell myself on those days when I notice the wrinkles, sags, and bags, and aches and pains start to get me down.

I am determined to face this next decade with grace and class. To my younger friends, I can say with all confidence that the last decade has been fabulous. The forties have us stepping into a confidence in ourselves that we have not felt before. We have finally had enough life experiences to go boldly into each day knowing that we can likely face whatever is coming and know how to handle it well. Our relationships grow deeper and mean more to us because we finally begin to understand the things that truly matter in this life.

And here’s the kicker for us who believe and trust in Jesus. We are just passing through this place anyway. We hold so tightly to this world that we can sometimes forget that we will one day take off this aging, sickness prone, imperfect body in exchange for one that will know no time, no age, no pain and no leaky bladders! We will praise Jesus, worship the Father, and abide in the Holy Spirit for ten thousand years and find we have “no less days to sing God’s praise, than when we’ve first begun”. We trod through this life in a body not meant to last, and we get all upset when it begins to show signs of wear.

Not too long ago, I played a silly Facebook game that assigned an age to my profile picture. The age I got was 21. Now that’s funny. Facebook is such a liar.

No, Facebook, this is what FIFTY looks like!

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Yesterday, I was in my garage repainting a few interior doors as Matthew and I get ready to sell our house. I was pondering our next steps when the next song from my iPhone started playing. It was Bachman Turner Overdrive’s song from 1974- You Ain’t Seen Nothin Yet. It is one of my classic favorites… despite the terrible grammar.

And as I listened to it in the light of turning 50, I couldn’t help but think, “That’s God’s message to me right now!” He’s done so much in and through me to date, but in that moment, I believe He was telling me, “You ain’t seen nothin yet!” And I believe Him.

And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns. Philippians 1:6