Creating Fertile Ground

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Every time I’ve written this in my head it’s been one of “those” posts. The history of wanting to go to Allume and finally getting to go. Praises of the conference, speakers, multitude of inspirational women there. Love for my fellow sweet bloggers.

Like Jennie Allen really wanted to preach something cute and easy on Friday night, I really want to write something sweet and charming and loving to everyone I met.

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{My oldest blog friend, OhAmanda, with my baby boy. So much sweetness.}

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But really? I want to tell you what shook me to the core, what gave me vision, the water Jesus brought me when I have been so very thirsty.

One of the most significant encounters I had at Allume was with Kimba, who used to blog at A Soft Place to Land. She was not there as a blogger, though, but as a vendor, representing her new endeavor Everyday Icing. Everyday Icing sells jewelry and accessories on Facebook, and 10% of all profits go to Compassion International.

Kimba told me how affected she was at the Relevant Conference a few years ago when Shaun Groves spoke about Compassion. She wanted to do more for them, and through Everyday Icing is able to donate more money than she’d ever thought possible.

At one point we talked about the vision I thought I’d been given for my site, and how scary it is for me to give up “Vanderbilt Wife” after so. many. years. And she told me that it was so scary for her, too. But that if God had to burn the ground of all her striving to make it fertile for what she was doing now, it was well worth it.

Oh how that image has stuck with me for the past few days. (Kimba, if you’re reading this, you’re one of my favorites.)

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In Holley Gerth’s session on Friday morning, she talked about your brand. That sounds so business-y for me, but she urged us to think of how we want our readers to feel when they come to our site. Are you meeting at a coffee shop? In a church pew? Outside, under the stars?

I knew my answer, exactly.

Readers, I want to invite you into my living room. Onto my couch. The rest of the room is probably littered with toys, purses, diaper bags, craft supplies, an empty coffee mug or two, the throw pillows my children INSIST go on the floor, and cracker crumbs. But I can clean the couch off, and I can probably manage to get those pillows back on there.

I want you to sit with me and look me in the eye. I’m going to tell you about how I’m a mess. Not just literally, although that’s true, but inside. Some days I feel like I want to hide in bed rather than face mothering again. Some days I’d just like my body for myself instead of being nursed on and climbed on and pulled and pinched. Some days I want to give in to Satan’s lies that tell me these kids would be better off without me, my husband is going to run off on me because I’m such a disaster, and God must be ashamed of me.

I will probably cry, just so you know. But I’ll also feed you, because that’s what I do. I love to cook and I love to feed. I will make your Great-Aunt Hoopti’s recipe for Fish Egg Stew with Homemade Ketchup and Steak Tartare if it will make you happy and feel loved.

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My other main takeaway from Allume was just how much God is working. Does it seem silly to say that? I just NEEDED that affirmation. Hearing stories of vast amounts of money raised $20 at a time through blogs, helping spread justice and mercy in this hurting world. Simple things, like a woman asking God for direction as she drove around with bread in her van, and finding herself pulling into the driveway of a hurting person – and learning what they had in common. Seeing God speak to artists as they painted (and the beautiful stories like Amy’s about why she needed that exact painting!).

I didn’t know it, but I was desperate for confirmation that God was still active in the details today. And I got it. Everywhere I turned there was a story of His personal work in the details.

I think we will be able to spend all of eternity swapping stories of His goodness in our individual lives.

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I could write for another 1,000 words, but I’ll spare you. Just know it’s possible I might be changing things up a little bit. I hope you’ll join me on my couch for a chat. I’d love to hear your story of God’s lavish love, grace, and mercy in your life.

Five Minutes on Mercy

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Mercy.

I can still hear their little voices answering the questions, right before they were challenged to read the Greek alphabet.

“What is grace?” “Getting something you don’t deserve.”

“What is mercy?” ”Not getting something you deserve.”

{I think that’s right. They were better than I was at not mixing up the two related words!}

Deserve is probably my least favorite word in the English language. Want to make me livid? Show me a stream of commercials telling me what I deserve: a new convertible, a day at the spa, time for myself, clothes, a fairytale romance, McDonald’s for lunch.

Do I deserve any of that? No. What would make me deserve it? You know what I deserve?

To spent an eternity separated from God because of my sin.

“Thank God, he’s not fair. He is just, but he is not fair. Because someone sinned, someone must die. In his mercy, God sent his Son, Jesus, as a sacrifice for our sins. If we know Jesus, he doesn’t give us what we deserve. We read earlier in Romans 6:23, ‘The wages of sin is death.’ That’s what we deserve. But that verse doesn’t end there. It continues, ‘But the gift of God is eternal life.’ Thankfully, we don’t always get what we deserve…” – Craig Groeschel, Confessions of a Pastor

It’s easy to see how we get tangled in debt, isn’t it? It’s SO simple to validate a purchase with the words “I deserve it.”

I would challenge you, though, to think on that. Why would we deserve more than our brother or sister in the Gambia or Thailand or down the street?

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Today, I looked at my sweet baby Joshua. Talk about something I don’t deserve! We were trying to prevent pregnancy. When I saw those two lines, I was flat-out mad. Not another nine months. Not another trying-to-make-it-trying-to-parent-other-small-children-while-in-pain-and-throwing-up.

And yet here he is, in my arms, the sweetest, happiest baby in the world.

God’s small act of mercy in my life, giving me this third child I didn’t think I was ready for.

Just a whisper of His Big Act of Mercy, giving me life long before I had breath in my lungs.

Thank You, Lord Jesus. For crossing out all my “deserves” and stamping them over with the word Mercy.

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Five Minute Friday is where we write for five minutes about one word with no editing. It’s hosted by Lisa-Jo, the Gypsy Mama. 

Five Minute Friday: Worship

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This week Five Minute Friday is at (in)courage. You can read about its origin there.

Prompt: Worship

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Dishes (July 30, 2009) [134/365]
source: brenderous

The laundry’s been in the dryer for two days. It’s my clothes, so I convince myself it’s OK, that as long as I have something to wear I’ll be fine. Yoga pants that I wore pregnant and are hanging off, huge? Whatever.

I feel caught in a trap of bad housekeeping. Every time I start, a child wakes up, cries, or gets everything back out. (I am in fact doubtful I can make it five minutes without the baby waking this morning.) And, of course, to start with, I am an awful, reluctant housekeeper. It’s one of my main sources of guilt.

And if I face it with guilt, with dread, with “why doesn’t my husband help?” or “when can I teach the kids to do this?” it rarely gets done.

But when I cling to the sponge as if it’s Jesus? Washing dishes with Scripture in my head or a podcast playing on the laptop or hymns on my lips? It becomes worship. It becomes church, right there, praise and thanksgiving and confession and letting Him be good enough for me.

It’s when I embrace doing whatever for His glory that I really feel alive. That I feel Him next to me, drying the plates and telling me I am enough for this life He’s put me in.

SEEING People

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Back to back in the waiting room
source: Samuraijohnny

I had a conversation yesterday that it would have been really easy not to have.

I took Joshua to the pediatrician for his 4-month check-up – just me and him. We sat in the waiting room, the baby making his normal gigantic smile at anyone who would look at him. Across the room sat a little girl who was probably 8 or so. She and her mom couldn’t stop staring at Joshua and told me how cute he was.

After awhile, we were the only two groups left waiting. I motioned for the girl to come over, let her coo at and hold the baby. Her name was Carlie and she had beautiful, long brown hair with a turquoise streak.

And when I asked her what they were there for, she told me her parents had just gotten divorced, they had just moved here, and she had to see a new doctor.

They got called back then, and she handed Joshua back and frolicked through the door in the way of 8-year-old girls.

It would have been easy to ignore her. But it was just as easy to say hi and I hope make her feel that she was special.

I drove home from the doctor’s office crying a little. I want all my encounters to be like this: to treat people like God sees them, as absolutely precious in every way. It doesn’t matter who it is or how they see me. To God, you are amazing.

I just want to see like He sees.

He Loves YOU, This You Can Know

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SheReadsTruth

Yesterday’s passage to read on She Reads Truth was 1 Peter 2:4-12. It’s a lovely, awe-inspiring passage that Peter writes.

Check out verse 4:

As you come to him, … in the sight of God chosen and precious …

And then verse 9, a favorite passage in all of Scripture for me:

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.

I hope Stacy doesn’t mind me copying some of her comment from the She Reads Truth post. She puts everything in such vivid language!

We all want to be chosen, don’t we? It’s the whole bachelor/bachelorette scenario. There are ten people and only nine roses and even if we didn’t give a hoot about the one doing the choosing – we still would want to be picked, right? We all want to be wanted.

How much more amazing to be wanted and chosen by a holy God who knows every intimate detail about us! He sees us in all our brokenness and says, “Yes. I choose her.” He sees what we do not see in ourselves.

Last night, praying and dwelling on all of this, I could almost hear Jesus say,

“Jessie. I love YOU, and you can know it. My Word tells you so. Your little ones – your loved ones – YOU – you all belong to Me. You are weak, but I am strong. Yes, I love you, Jessie.”

Put your name in there. Dwell on His love for you, chosen one.

Happy Sunday.

How Young Is Too Young: Some Thoughts on Baptizing Young Children

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Baptism Pool (A Holy Hot Tub)
source: Jared Cherup

Sometimes I’m grateful that when I was very young, we were Methodists.

I joke sometimes that I’ve been baptized both ways – as an infant and by choice, as a feverishly religious 10-year-old.

But why, you ask, would I be grateful for that? Well, I didn’t have the chance or the pressure to “ask Jesus into my heart” as a very small child. We moved to Virginia when I was 8, where we visited every single Methodist church in a 20-mile radius. My parents didn’t like any of them, and that is how we ended up Southern Baptist, attending a church a few miles down the windy road.

I fully believe in “adult” baptism – that is, baptism that is a symbol of a choice made in a person’s heart to accept Jesus’s crucifixion, resurrection, and saving grace. We have our children dedicated as infants to show our commitment to raising them to know Jesus, but not sprinkled as some denominations do.

So let me tell you a story.

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I was a camp counselor the summer after my freshman year of college, along with three other precious and equally insane girls my age. We led worship at weeklong mission camps, where the students participated in home renovation projects for those in need. In between weeks of camp, we also worked at a traditional cabin-in-the-woods kid camp, re-cooperated at a sketchy, ancient church in downtown Richmond, or were allowed a few days at home.

But the endcap to our summer was assisting at the Youth Evangelism Conference, a statewide event for middle and high-school students. It consisted of a few nights of revival-type services – only with rockin’ Christian music instead of the Gaithers – and a day at an amusement park with a big-name concert at the end. (I think that year it was Audio Adrenaline.)

I’d been to the conference as a youth but never experienced quite the flavor of preacher as they had those few nights. “Repeat after me,” he would instruct. “Friends … don’t let friends … go to hell.” That’s all fine and dandy, but he also insinuated that no one in the room was actually saved because they were probably so young when they asked Jesus into their hearts they didn’t mean it. The counseling rooms flooded with students, and I was left to talk to kids who had all the sudden been forced to doubt their salvation. It sucked.

I didn’t know what to tell those kids then, and I’m not sure I would know what to say today. I’m glad I was an older kid at 10 when I was baptized after a very clear calling from my Heavenly Father. No, I didn’t know all the minutiae of the Bible – who does? – but I had a firm idea of Jesus and His sacrifice.

Fast forward 12 years and yes, I still think that pastor was way too aggressive. He scared me and had me doubting my own salvation at the time. I had to shake my head of the hoopla and examine my heart. But I do get a little bit what he was conveying.

It made sense for me when I read Katie Orr’s post today at Inspired to Action. She writes,

Our kids want to please us, so desperately. If we talk about becoming a Christian enough, most children will ultimately come out and say that they want to be one. I’ve witnessed many parents put a ton of stock in the fact that they prayed with their child once, but this is the only “evidence” they have of their salvation.

 

Salvation is and isn’t a one-time deal. Once the “deal is done,” the Holy Spirit is sealed inside you. But there’s also the continual growing. As parents we are responsible for the spiritual education of our kids – not the schools, not the church. And teaching your kids about God doesn’t stop when they accept Christ. That’s the beginning!

Maybe all these youth who flooded the conference rooms of the amphitheater in Richmond, Virginia, circa 2001, had parents who were doing nightly Bible studies with them, praying for them ceaselessly, showed interest in their spiritual well-doing. But I think maybe, like in a lot of things, it’s easy for parents to get lazy when the going looks good. (Hello, preaching to the choir.)

I don’t want my kids doubting their salvation at 12, 16, 30. I want to provide them with a background so they know how desperately Jesus loves them and pursues them, but I can’t make their decisions for them. I pray fervently that they will know the height and depth of God’s love, but I can’t make them believe it. And I pray that I won’t pressure them into anything they aren’t ready for – even baptism.

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