ordinary offering

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I live at the corner of ordinary and unremarkable.

I get up every morning. I fumble to the coffee pot. I try not to be grouchy with my 4 year old, who shouldn’t be awake. I sit, Bible in my lap, coffee in my hand, and I try to read a few lines of scripture before the house gets too loud.

I load the dishwasher. I throw away yesterday’s mail. I pick leaves out of the carpet at the back door where the dog brought them in. I turn on Spotify and dance with my kids in the kitchen to worship songs.

I kiss little fingers that have paper cuts, I fill sippy cups with diluted juice, and I tie small shoelaces that belong to small shoes that fit on small feet. I take dinner to a friend who has had a hard day. And I make a grocery list that fits a small budget. And I sense that my gain is good. (Proverbs 31:18)

This is my very delightful, very ordinary life.

But some days I struggle with my humble calling and ask, “With what shall I come before the Lord and bow down before the exalted God?” (Micah 6:6) What do I possibly have to offer my God and my Redeemer? Is this possibly enough?

I have no extraordinary gifts to speak of, no notable contribution to offer to the kingdom of God. I’m just a congregant, a friend, a mom, a daughter. I’m just a 28 year old, wife to a tech guy.

But that’s absolutely enough. Because ultimately, God doesn’t want my offering. He wants me.

He wants ‘a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart’. (Psalm 51: 17)  Jesus says, “I desire mercy and not sacrifice. For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Matthew 9:13) He knit me together and He knows my heart. I lift these feeble offerings with blood stained hands. There’s nothing I possess that can impress Him, no mighty acts of righteousness that can satisfy Him.

He is the lover of my soul because Christ won me on the cross. And it’s my life, hidden in His, that brings God glory.

I don’t have to strive for his affection. I don’t have to work to set myself apart as special. It is finished. He delights in me. I have nothing to add to His work.

So what is my purpose? Is my life without meaning? No! Because although God does not need my offering, He delights in it. He delights in every ordinary, unspectacular labor because it testifies to the work of His hands– every carefully ironed shirt, every lovingly made casserole, every kind word declares His redeeming work and His victory over my sin.

It’s not meaningless!

In Christ, I’m free to love Him ‘who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good’. (Ephesians 2:10)

Remembering these things helps me to loosen my grip on what ‘ministry’ should look like for me. I can hold my ordinary life with open, extended hands. Because He’s gripping me.

 


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In we stumble, one by one, from the wet, rain soaked parking lot.

The little one trips on the entryway rug and falls face first into the floor, tangled in his own feet.

The baby clings to my chest like a dryer sheet to a towel.

After a brief disagreement about who gets to hold the wad of children’s bulletins just stolen from the information table, the oldest two run quickly to the pew where they collapse into their routine positions.

I melt onto the pew like butter and slide the diaper bag onto the floor with a loud thud.

The ten pound bag of Bibles is opened and the Word is distributed among the little people.

The call to worship is given and I sigh with relief and expectation.

Lord, I want to meet with you.

I look over to see my daughters skirt up by her ears.

A quick word to her during the hymn, and I reestablish order…until I hear the little one singing the lyrics to Shake It Off over and against ‘The Old Rugged Cross’.

The Spirit is working during the pastoral prayer, and as long as I jiggle the baby and feed her blueberry puffs, she doesn’t try to plank herself out of my arms.

Finally, the sermon…

The reading of the text.

Please, Lord, renew my mind.

The words sink in as I try to contemplate their meaning.

The sound of violent scribbling interrupts my thoughts.

A light thump to the back of his head does the trick and I quickly try to jump back into the sermon.

The preacher is talking about the context of the passage… something about first century agrarian economics .

Hmmm… that’s interesting.

The baby yells out.

Shhhhhh. Shhhhhh. I whisper in her ear.

She keeps fussing. I look around to try to discern if people are distracted.

A sweet lady down the pew smiles at us.

Yup. Oh I know! I brought her lovie, but I left it in the car.

A quick whisper to the husband, I’ll be right back.

He nods, knowingly, and bends down to tell the little one to stop kicking the pew.

I quickly run back out to the car, frantically hunt for the lovie, find it, and race back in to try and catch up to the sermon.

The baby sits happily, snuggling her lovie, as the pastor proclaims his second point…Second point? What was the first point?

I try to remember as his gives his point: an aggressive call to pray for the people of God, followed by the question, Are you praying for your brothers and sisters in Christ?

Ouch. No, of course not… I mean, not like I should!

I admire his passion as he talks about God calling us to be the body of Christ.

I notice his own conviction as he pleads with us to be empathetic towards the people of God.

I’m so often not!

The baby starts wriggling. I gently press her head onto my shoulder where it stays and she begins drifting off to sleep.

The pastor gives his third point… “You see what the apostle wants us to understand here is the importance of not grieving the Spirit of God.

Oh no. I forgot to turn down the crock pot.

The pastor continues, “Your love for God and the people of God should drive you to fellowship with his people, to read His Word, to meet with Him in prayer…”

I can feel myself wincing…

He’s about to mention Sunday School.

“You should attend every function of your local church. Be here on Sunday morning to study and learn in the Sunday school classes…”

Out of the corner of my eye I see my son cup his hand under his chin.

Nose bleed!

Without waking up the baby, I quickly trip out of the pew and wave for him to follow me to the bathroom.

We race to the bathroom and quickly pinch his nose with toilet tissue.

Just as we return to our seats, the baby begins to stir.

I sit down and ask my husband what we missed.

“The Gospel.” He replies.

And just as the words fall from his lips, the service closes…

“Let us pray.”

What? I missed it? 

There was a bite sized chicken nugget of Gospel in there and I missed it.

Are you kidding me? But I needed it!

Disappointed, I rub the baby’s back to keep her quiet during the final prayer.

Tired, and depressed, I smile wearily at the deacons as I make my way out of the church and back to the car.

Once there, the toddler throws a rock at a stray cat sitting by the sidewalk.

The nose bleeder says through his toilet paper, “Dew you think it stopped bleeding now?”

The oldest has no shoes on and I tell her to go find them as I buckle in the baby.

“We’ve really got to get up earlier next week so we can make it to Sunday school.” I say out loud to myself.

 

 

 

 

 


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I stand with Jim Baird

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Last night our denomination met for general assembly.

I usually don’t follow along closely, but I sit back and watch as my husband watches ga online…which is in and of itself an event.

But one of last night’s topics was centered around racial reconciliation within the pca, and so I followed along.

I don’t understand the politics or the procedure well enough to really understand half of what goes on at ga.

But I’m encouraged by what I did understand…that the conversation has started.

That repentance is on the table.

That Aslan is on the move.

This is a topic that I have for a long time been passionate about.

Being from the Delta, I am not unfamiliar with the issues of prejudice that were and are prevalent in the South, and it is my sincerest desire to be on the front lines with my African American brothers and sisters, pushing for equality and solidarity.

But here’s my struggle… How do I do that, practically, as a white, middle class mommy of four?

I often find myself there, ready, anxious, revved up, and completely lacking direction.

(Feedback and suggestions from friends welcome here.)

I mean, I can build relationships here in my hometown, in my church, in my neighborhood. I can love my African American brothers and sisters in Christ and express to them my desire for friendship and intimate fellowship. I can join the conversation and seek to understand and empathize. I can make sure that my children understand the worth and value of diverse people groups, and I can teach them to treat people with love and dignity and respect.

But when panning back and looking at the big picture of race relations in our country, all this seems so insignificant. My contribution is not enough. Change doesn’t happen fast enough. The sacrifices I make aren’t big enough, or bold enough, or effective enough.

And yet, I don’t have a better answer.

But last night I watched Jim Baird, a founding pastor in our denomination, stand among his peers and humbly confess his sins.

And I realized I can start there, with him.

So I can and do stand with Jim Baird in confessing my sins.

My blog is perhaps the biggest platform I have, so I’ll start here and now.

I confess my indifference toward the suffering of others.

I confess my inaction and passivity, and failure to stand up and do the right thing many, many times.

I confess, I lock my doors if I think I’m in a sketchy part of town. (Black men walking around= ‘sketchy’)

I confess wasted opportunities to pursue reconciliation.

I confess my nervousness when mine are the only white children on the playground.

I confess my lack of empathy, and even at times hardness of heart.

I confess my reluctance to own the historical collective sins of white people.

I confess my frustration and lack of patience with those who respond to their oppression with destruction and violence.

I confess that my desire for self preservation outweighs my desire for change.

I confess that I often fail to acknowledge the current struggles that my black friends face.

I confess that I am lazy, self absorbed, and afraid.

I confess my pride and my reluctance to admit my prejudices.

And this barely scratches the surface of my sins against God’s people.

Please forgive me, brothers and sisters.

And please help me where I fail.

Encourage me to fight with you and for you, to speak out against injustice, and to pursue solidarity.

This is still only just a small step in the right direction.

But it is a step.

Now…

Your turn.

 

 

 


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One of those days

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It has been one of those days.

It’s only 4:00 and I am already SO ready to quit and start over tomorrow.

How many times have I snapped at my kids today?

I’ve lost count.

As desperately as I’ve longed to enjoy them, I’m so so frustrated with them that I can’t!

They have been mean, and petty, and unhappy, and defiant, and I have preached and preached and preached.

And disciplined, and preached some more.

And again and again and again they just keep sinning. Over and over again.

And I’m just worn down.

There are so many of them… Four of them!

And if it isn’t one, it’s another!

A few minutes ago, I just found myself up to my elbows in dirty dish water and bubbles and realized how absolutely disgusted I am with all of us.

I sat, arms draped over the side of the counter, and I just wept.

I cried for all the times I didn’t love them well today. I cried for all the harsh words I spoke. And for the many times I said no, just because. And for every time I made the Gospel sound ugly. I cried because I’m not sure I told my children about the hope that they have today.  And I’m pretty sure I made them feel shamed, and like they aren’t enough.

It was a good cry. A good, ugly cry.

And then, Jesus.

I felt a quiet tug on my heart, and my conscience prompting me to lay it down.

And I did… Right there this morning’s bowl of half eaten fruit loops.

I layed down my anger, my resentment, my failure. I layed down my expectations, which have been shattered by my imperfect children today. I layed down my desire to fix everything. I layed down my desire to quit. And the guilt that grips me for having lost another day to sin. And I just let the tears roll.

Because Jesus.

Because Jesus died for big time grouchy, sinful mamas like me.

Because no matter where I turn, no matter how far I run, I can’t escape His unfailing love.

Even after I’ve tried everything I can possibly think of to ‘fix’ today and ‘fix’ my children and ‘fix’ my house… He gives me this beautiful dose of truth.

I’m the one who’s broken.

And He loves me in spite of everything.

And unlike me, He’s gracious– all the time, every time–to forgive and love.

When I come to Him, broken, and bleeding, He doesn’t shame me, He doesn’t yell at me, He doesn’t withdraw from me.

But He wraps me tenderly in the arms of His truth. And He comforts me.

He assures me that I am loved, and cared for. And He gives me strength to get up and to try again.

Its so scandalous.

This is the hope that I want to share with my children.

Where I fail them, He will never.

Grace, what have you done?

“Oh to be like you,

to give all I have just to know you.

Jesus there’s no one beside you.

Forever the hope in my heart.”

 

 


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Ninja Tettles

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It’s ten days til Christmas and I STILL don’t have all my shopping done.

And I know that is normal for some people… In fact, my husband is of the breed that doesn’t begin shopping until the week of…

But I personally like to feel prepared. And with SO many stinkin kids and other people to shop for, I have to!

But this year has been tough! The kids are getting older and their interests are changing.

I also told them that they really will only get 1 toy that they really want.

I’m happy with this rule for lots of reasons, but the one negative side is that I feel the pressure to get exactly the right thing.

So I have been asking them lately what they want and I have gotten some really funny responses.

My conversation with the little guy above went like like this.

I picked him up and put him in ‘Santa’s’ (unfortunately soft) lap.

Ahem.

Me: Hey buddy! What do YOU want for Christmas this year?

Atti: Oh, Mommy, I want a Ninja Tettle.

Me: Ohhhh, a Ninja Turtle, huh?

Atti: Yes!

Me: Well, which one do you want?

Atti: I want Michaelangelo!

Me: (getting excited about my intel) Oh, great! Is that the orange one?

Atti: (stops what he is doing to look up at me… giggles.) Um, no, Mommy…. He’s gween.

Of course he is.

 

 

 

 


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Freedom

Well, I did it.

I went dark.

I deactivated my Facebook account. I would have deleted it altogether but I am afraid (after downloading my ‘life’ history from the last 8 years) that some important photo might have been missed and would be forever lost to me.

So let’s see… Do I feel liberated?

Not totally.

I am a bit worried that I will reactivate it tomorrow. I’m hoping my resolve surprises me (and you), and that I can make it at least a couple months without returning to my old habits.

I have seen other people deactivate and thought before… Heh, heh, heh…they’ll be back.

Look how cynical I have become!

Well, I hope for their sake and for mine that it IS possible to QUIT Facebook.

So why am I quitting it?

Well, I am conflicted about it…to be sure.

I feel like it has been a great way to keep in touch with people. It has given me insight into people’s lives, and real, true friendships have been formed.

But in short, it is (one of) the black holes of my life.

It sucks me in and precious time is lost forever. It makes me sad that I can’t set a limit for myself and stick to it, but I can’t.  I can’t tell you how many hours have been lost to long conversations on Facebook. I think it’s natural to want to use your voice to make a difference. But how many lives have been changed over a lost– or won– Facebook argument? I’m not sure. In the last 8 years have I really made a difference to anyone at all?

It also serves as a band aid for the social interaction in my life– or lack thereof. Being a stay at home mommy can be lonely, and I think I use Facebook as a replacement for meaningful adult relationships. And it takes a lot of emotional energy and investment that I could otherwise be putting into real social situations. In real life. With coffee. And sunshine? I don’t know…

Also, my poor children need me. They need real things from me. Like breakfast. And love. And attention. And they need me a lot more than the masses need to see a picture of my coffee, or the clever meme that I found that perfectly sums up my life.

I just feel like I am a slave to this particular brand of social media. And for the longest time I have wanted to be free from it. And so today, impulsively, without thinking too much about it, I just pulled the plug.

But I want to hold to the relationships that I have long distance, so I am hoping (fingers crossed), that I can replace countless hours a day Facebooking, with at least one hour a week of blogging.

Because technology is an amazing thing (Thank you, Lord, it pays the rent…) and I want to use it to share my heart and my life with you.

Unlike Facebook, which often feels fastpaced and impersonal and needy… this blog is like an old friend. Always there to listen. Always full of hope and possibilities– A new, blank page just waiting to be filled with the outpouring of my heart.

It’s like free therapy for me. And some people (you) are kind enough to sometimes read it.

And even kinder to send me messages of encouragement when I need it.

So, here’s to the blank page. To a Christmas free from the invisible prison. To children and family and food and REAL fellowship.

And here’s to you. Cause if you found me here it means you cared enough to come look. Thank you.

Let’s see how this thing goes…

Love,
Me
girls


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Do you know that feeling you get after a good meal, when you’ve made something wonderful and delicious with your very two hands and then watched your little people as they fill their hearts and tummies at the family table?

I hope you do.

I hope you can sigh with me that sweet sigh of contentment as they all get up and move to the family room to spend time together in rest and fellowship.

And the world sings with joy, and worship overflows from the church where it began on Sunday morning and it fills our homes and our hearts with an otherworldly type peace– a sweet longing for the full satisfaction that we’ll one day have… The sweet heavenly satisfaction that we’ve only just tasted.

To use my wise brother in law’s phrase, God didn’t have to be this good.

But He is.

On days like this one, when the burden of sin feels a little lighter, and the sweet blessings of love and companionship, and the comforts of a warm meal and a happy, loving family all but swallow us up, for a minute the veil seems so thin.

And I remember the days, when like my children I hoped to have more time in this world before the Savior came back. But those days are long gone.

And I find myself sitting in the quiet of my living room with tears stinging my eyes from pure reckless love for my Savior, and whispering Jesus, please come. Come now.

Not because my life is bad, but because it couldn’t get any better. And if the blessings of this life are only a pale shadow of the blessings to come, I want to sit at the Lord’s table now.

And I want to feast on the promises fulfilled, and I want to drink in the goodness of His grace, and sit with him face to face…unhindered by these earthly eyes.

And I want to hear His voice, calling me to worship.

“Oh give thanks, to the Lord. Call upon His name. Make known His deeds, among the people,” ps 105:1

Do you know that feeling, friends?


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