Go and Learn What This Means

We are probably all familiar with Matthew 9. The pharisees in all their blind pharisee-ness asked why Jesus was eating with sinners. We can all roll our eyes here, but Jesus didn’t. He wouldn’t even roll His eyes at us if (when) we said it today. Instead, His answer blows me away still.

Jesus told the pharisees that He had come for the sick, not the healthy, in verse 12. But then the part that gets me is verse 13, “But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” He wants us to show love and kindness instead of proving how holy and perfect we sometimes think we are.

There was an assignment given to Jesus’ listeners and us today: “Go and learn what this means.” He knew we wouldn’t get this right and that it would take a lifetime of trial and error. He knew then, like He knows now, that we are slow learners. We try to do the right thing and be an example of virtue. We get caught up in trying so hard that we lose sight of helping those who need us. We essentially tell them, “Hold on, Imma going to get to your problem as soon as I show God and all you people how great I am.” Sometimes we deny ourselves thinking it makes us more holy when what would have more impact would be to reach out.

The best part of this is that it is never too late to start doing good. Even if we got off on the wrong track and only worked on getting our own house in order, we still have time to eat with “sinners.” Even if we ignored everyone’s needs around us because those vacations weren’t going to deny themselves, God is patient with us. There is plenty of room for living a good life AND bringing food to a hurting neighbor.

I’ll be honest. If I were Jesus, I probably would have blasted us off the earth by now. I’d rip off my sunglasses and throw them across the room. (Not sure why I picture myself needing sunglasses, but I do. So they’re in the scenario.) I would pick up my nearest Bible and thumb through all the verses and passages that spell out what is asked of people. I’d mumble to myself how I just want them to love me and love each other. I requested for people to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with me. I would want them to not judge others’ sins as worse than their own and instead tell those people what I have done in their lives. I would want them to invite people who are different than them over to their houses so they could find all the ways they are the same. But no, Jesus keeps giving us chances to catch on.

So, we are here another day. Why? To keep learning what Jesus meant when He said, “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.” He would rather compassion than a pretty life. He wants us to step into someone else’s shoes and not shine our own. When we mess this up, the important thing is to try again. And again. Never stop trying to get love right.

Linking with Holley Gerth

The Wrong Voices

Me posting a picture of my girls smiling together doesn’t make me a good mom.

Me letting my girls play outside without me doesn’t make me a bad mom.

Me saying nice things about someone doesn’t make me a good Christian.

Me having a glass of wine doesn’t make me a bad Christian.

Me making my husband’s favorite cookies doesn’t make me a good wife.

Me disagreeing with my husband doesn’t make me a bad wife.

Me believing the same thing as you about abortion doesn’t make me a good American.

Me voting for a different candidate than you doesn’t make me a bad American.

Me helping a poor person doesn’t make me a good person.

Me not appearing to care about a particular cause doesn’t make me a bad person.

When someone tells me I’m a great mom, I don’t listen. When someone tells me I’m a bad mom, I don’t listen. Their choices or limited knowledge of me don’t make them an expert on my kids. My experience and the fact that God gave them to me make me the expert.

In every part of my life, there are people who would interpret my actions as good or bad. I could listen to them and let my mood be dictated by whatever part of the roller coaster I was just on, but what good would that do me or the world around me? Whether I feel approved of by people or not, I don’t answer to them.

God is the only One able to judge me, because only He knows my heart and intentions. (Sometimes I don’t even know!) Any other approval or disapproval needs to be shaken off and not dwelt on. If I let me ego get big because someone thinks it is great that I came to my child’s school event, I will eventually trip over it. And if I let someone make me feel worthless over my choice of clothing, I will miss my worth in Christ. Both options are bad.

I am approved in Christ. I am accepted and whole in Christ. I am chosen. That is all I need. It is enough.

Linking with Holley Gerth

In the Meantime

Fear has no place in my life when You’re in it.

The future is uncertain. My life from one moment to the next is not promised. Life here is like a vapor that disappears. There is no sense trying to grab it and hold on, because that isn’t mine to control. That distinction belongs to You alone.

Yesterday on my way to work, the song “Thy Will” by Hillary Scott came on when I needed to hear it. “I know You’re good but this don’t feel good right now. I know you think of things I could never think about…..Sometimes I gotta stop, remember that You’re God and I am not, so Thy will be done.” There are some things right now in my life that don’t feel good, but You truly have good plans in store for me. That song always undoes me.

Then right after that song, You had me hear “Just Breathe” by Johnny Diaz. “I’m hanging on tight to another wild day. When it starts to fall apart in my heart I hear You say, ‘Breathe, just breathe. Come and rest at My feet.'” You know I need to hear words like these to calm my weary and worried soul. My heart that wants to beat for You gets pulled away and distracted by the what-ifs that I encounter. Instead of pulling closer to You in the face of the unknown, I tend to go inward. I close in on myself as if by doing so the world around me can’t get me. But without allowing Your protection, the world does get me.

I need You always, every day, but I don’t cling the way I need to. You are God and I am not. Whatever happens to me or around me is not out of Your vision. None of it gets by You. In fact, it has to go through You.

Beyond my tear stained face, You are there. You have promised to never leave me and You haven’t. Why do I think You suddenly will? No matter what, I truly want Your will to be done. Your will is spectacular and leaves nothing to chance. There is no detail so small that You deem it unimportant.

When worries get to me, I need to just breathe and rest in You. Your shoulders are big enough and strong enough to give me shade from even the biggest storm. You will carry me through the scary waves and place me gently on the shore when the weather calms. I have nothing to fear. In the meantime, I will keep praying for Your will to be done.

Linking with Holley Gerth

Shine YOUR Light

Both of my girls want to be like other girls. Big surprise there! They each know someone who is cooler than them or makes friends easier than them. The funny thing is that both of these other girls have the same name! As a parent, it is my job to help my girls see the truth. I am supposed to tell them that they are special and help them believe it, never mind the fact that I go through this same issue.

God has a sense of humor, doesn’t He? He knows that I struggle with wanting to fit in when I was created to stand out. He knows how I want to belong and am tempted to change who I am in order to do so. No one but God understands the struggles I have (which is a good thing. No one else needs to be privy to that.) He knows all of this and knows that helping my girls see the truth will help me see it too.

A few months ago and a few days ago, I had conversations with the girls about their admiration of their peers. In their minds, they are lacking traits. They don’t see all the good that I do. When this first came up, I told one of the girls’ moms. She said her daughter wished she were more like mine and some of the other girls. Yep, none of us seem happy with who we are.

Human nature dictates we want what we don’t have. Maybe sometimes this is good. If we see a trait we can develop, seeing it play out in someone else’s life shows us how important it is. Someone giving, serving, hard working, kind and full of faith is someone we should strive to be like. Emulating those qualities is what growth is all about.

However, when we look at ourselves and see someone less than or not worthy of love, there is a problem. God gave each of us different talents and personalities so we can achieve different things here on earth.

My way of getting through these moments of unrest is to first recognize them for what they are: lies. There is nothing wrong with the way I was created. I am worth the same as those around me but just wired in a different way. Not better or worse, just different.

Then instead of going down that rabbit hole of degrading myself, a better thing to do is to think of a few good things I have going on. I try to think of a few things I am good at naturally and work to be even better at them. Choosing to see the beauty in myself makes the rest seem insignificant.

There are always ways we can improve. However, instead of focusing on ways we think we are missing out, we should work on making the good traits even better and stronger. God made each of us to shine a different color. Let’s shine the brightest we can by being completely ourselves. The world needs each of us, but only if we can be ourselves.

Linking with Holley Gerth

Beautiful In Its Time

My girls are in their second week of school. They started July 31! Let that sink in. My school where I serve lunch started this week. Where did summer go? And how do I already have a middle schooler?

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Time, y’all. It goes so fast. One minute I was a kid and the next thing I knew, I had a kid. Then another. Then one started school and then the other. They keep learning and growing. They enjoy helping in the kitchen sometimes and they are usually fun to be around. Time goes by in the blink of an eye.

When I think of time passing, I think of Ecclesiastes 3 and how there is a time for everything. A time to weep and a time to laugh. A time to keep and a time to throw away. A time to be silent and a time to speak. (We certainly have done all these things this summer!) But I think my favorite verse in this passage is verse 11. “He has made everything beautiful in its time.” That certainly applies to my children!

My life is becoming beautiful but it has definitely had ugly moments. God has been working on me and He keeps refining those rough edges. I don’t always know what is coming up ahead, but God does. He is working it all together so that my life can have the most meaning and can influence more people.

Living isn’t easy. Days, months, and even years are in valleys that don’t make sense at the time. Why would God allow this to happen? He is making me beautiful. Why did I lose that family member or that job that I thought was perfect for me? He is making me beautiful. He is sifting my heart and bringing to light those thoughts and attitudes that need adjusting. Sometimes it is only in those seemingly awful moments that I find clarity and I cling to God harder than I had. He knows that.

Who am I that I presume to know what is best for me? Did I create the universe? Did I have a plan that I set into motion before the beginning of time? Really, I am just along for the ride and not the ride operator like I presume.

What is becoming evident to me is that I need to hold my plans loosely so I can change them easily when I need to. God’s plan for my life is so much better than anything I could come up with. When I let myself believe that, and I don’t fight the changes, everything works out. Worrying over what might happen will do no good, so why worry?

When I get to the end of my days, I want to be able to look back and see the beauty created by God. I want to see that even those times that seemed like the worst served a purpose greater than I could have imagined. The way God works is always better than the way I think it should be. I want to live out that belief.

Linking with Holley Gerth

No, Really, Surviving the Road to Hana is a Big Deal

This is my last post about our trip to Maui….for now at least! We had the most magical 6 days there last month. Our last full day was driving the road to Hana, and let’s just say it was not my favorite day. This road is 64 miles long but has over 600 hairpin turns. It is scenic and terrifying. Beautiful and death defying. Here are some things I learned that fateful day.

I learned that no one in my family gets carsick.

I learned that I can white knuckle a car door handle for the better part of 13 hours. If that isn’t a record, well, don’t tell me.

I learned that cars in Maui magically shrink to fit side by side on one lane. Wait, that isn’t true? Well, the road is wide enough for only one car in many stretches, so it isn’t my fault for thinking that.

I learned that if you’ve seen one waterfall, you’ve seen…a waterfall. The next one is nice and all, but they all start looking alike after awhile. I only posed like this for the first one.

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I learned that there is a cute little town named Paia right before you start the journey to Hana. If you are close to needing gas, you better stop there.

I learned that restaurants in Hana close at 5 PM, so you better not have an appetite on your way back.

I learned that black or red sand beaches are pretty, but are they worth risking your life to see?

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I learned that there is such a thing as too many curves.

I learned that Hana is a rainforest. Who knew it rains so much in a rainforest?

I learned that there are lots of pretty sites on the road to Hana, sites I could have seen pictures of.

I learned there is a reason they make the “I Survived the Road to Hana” T-shirts.

I learned that the best thing we did before exploring Hana is to download an app to guide us. The Shaka Guide taught us so much and I am still in mourning over not getting to hear the Shaka tour guide’s voice every day. He was awesome!

OK, so there really is lots to see on the road to Hana and it is amazing. These are my thoughts, and if you aren’t a big baby like me, Hana may be your favorite part of Maui!

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Linking with Holley Gerth

THIS Moment

Are you always aware of the beauty around you? Not just when life is easy, but during the difficult days or the rushed days? I know I am not. It seems like I only find beauty when I am looking for it or it is right in front of my face.

Yes, I am going to talk about Maui again! I knew Hawaii would be gorgeous and walked around constantly amazed by what I saw. Sunsets and sunrises, palm trees blowing in the breeze, clear water, and sandy beaches: what is not to love? We were even amused by chickens coming up to us while we were eating breakfast. Life on an island while on vacation. Of course it was perfect.

What about when life isn’t perfect? I want to be one to purposefully look for the good instead of dwelling on the bad. Even if the day is hard, I want to cling to that moment where my heart finds peace.

My girls getting along even when they are tired.

Finding something I want on sale. (Yes, sales are beautiful.)

Eating dinner on the deck, because it is a rare low humidity evening.

Curling up on the couch with a good book and no guilt that I haven’t done something that needs to be done.

Having unexpected one on one time with my children where I hear their heart.

Finishing a hard day’s work that satisfies.

Laughing with my husband.

Beauty is all around me when I take the time to shake off my mood or look beyond my own circumstances. It may be a fleeting moment, but I want to wring that sucker dry. I want to bask in it because I only have one life, and it is flying by.

Another thing I want to do is not live IN past beautiful moments or live FOR the future ones. The moment I am in now is pretty special. Right now, I am healthy and I am caffeinated. The house is quiet and I know I am loved.

Not every day is going to be a vacation, and if it was, I wouldn’t appreciate it. That sounds like a sad way to live if I start to miss even the obvious beauty and perfect moments because I am used to them! I just need to remind myself of this.

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Maybe this wasn’t what I saw while I drank my coffee this morning, and that is fine. My view may change, but I want my perspective to change with it. I will treasure the vacation moments for the rest of my life, while I make new ones. The new ones will also make me smile and fill me with joy. Some will undoubtedly be at the beach and some will be ordinary moments. It is up to me to notice them and cherish them. I am up for the task!

Linking with Holley Gerth