Let It Go, Mom.

katieoutfitIn going through “Throwback Thursday” photos on Facebook recently, I came across this one. Thinking about it again today, I realized I’ve contrived my own version of “Let It Go”. Mismatched, out-of-season clothes…is that kid happy, loved, fed, modest, and relatively clean? Let it go. On Sundays, I get to pick what she wears, but she does her own styling the rest of the week. If I’m worried about it, it’s because others may think I’m a bad mom for not color coordinating everything, making sure it is a fashionable ensemble. It doesn’t matter. A decade from now, she won’t remember what she wore. Neither will I. She needs to be a kid. 

ps This same principle applies to Pop Tarts for breakfast, school on the trampoline, homeschooling (or not), cloth diapers (or not), nursing your baby (or not), and a host of other things. Let other moms have the same latitude you need. Embrace and encourage your mom friends right where they are…because we all need that. Rest in what your own crazy normal looks like today, and help other moms who are wearily wielding their swords to find rest for their souls. It’s in Jesus, in His perfection. It’s not in trying to attain “perfect mom” status. That’s just plain exhausting.

Lay it all before God, and honor Him.

The Words You Want to Speak

communication-1015376_960_720I’m not sure who this is for, but I felt compelled to write it this morning. Maybe you’ve been given an opportunity to speak, and it intimidates you. Perhaps you, like Moses, are questioning your ability to communicate the truth you feel responsible to relay. It could be that fear has just overtaken your heart when you know you need to speak up about a certain matter. Perhaps you are wondering if you are making the best use of the influence God has given you. If any of these things sound like you, read on.

I remember years ago, my brother Dave shared with me that he believes everyone has their own “congregation”. That is not to say everyone is a pastor. What he meant is that we all have our own peculiar circle of friends and acquaintances. And that is not to say your folks are peculiar. 😉 What I mean is, you have a group of people that is unique to you, and among whom you have a voice.

Sometimes people in that “congregation” are not interested in what you have to say. Sometimes they will debate with you. That’s not always bad. We should always consider the smallest snippet of criticism with care, to see if there is any truth in it. Sometimes perspective is lent to us by very unlikely sources.

On occasion, you may be passionate about what you want to share, and it falls upon deaf (or at the very least, disinterested) ears. I’m here to say that if you have felt compelled to speak, then there is at least one person who needs to hear. It may be you!

First, you need to listen to yourself with your Bible and your heart wide open…as your soul has a chat with the Holy Spirit about what is pressing on you. I’ve found sometimes what is weighing so heavily on me is a divinely-tailored message meant only for me. At least for that time.

After you have had your “vertical appointment”, it’s time to consider your message, your method, and your motive.

Message

Is it biblically-based? Doctrinally solid? Not contrived by isolating verses out of context? Does the Bible speak to your ideas in various places? Have you studied and prayed about how to communicate it? Excellent. It doesn’t matter if you don’t feel respected, or that your words don’t have authority or weight. You don’t have to be “somebody” to be used of the Lord. The authority of God’s truth is enough. When Moses hesitated, God told him He would help him say the words. Have courage.

Method

Sometimes, regardless of how loving your words may be, your method might require some thought.  There are times a word is meant to be shared personally and nothing else will do. There are other times you can convey things clearly in writing. Is what you are mulling over good material for a blog post, or a book? Is your message appropriate for an intimate conversation, or a roomful of people? Don’t gasp. God may one day call you to that. The days are very near when there will be very little truth being spoken, and you will be drawn out “for such a time as this”.  Pray about how to deliver your words. Make sure, whatever method you use, that they are wisefitly spoken, seasoned with salt, and full of grace.  

Some may find offense in the truth; but your delivery (body language, tone of voice, gestures, facial expressions) should never be the cause.

Motive

Ephesians 4:15 has been my go-to passage when considering the “why” of what I want to say. Speak the truth. Only the truth. No spin. No twisting. Subtract the selfish motives, the desire to make your point, to prove yourself right (or to put someone in their place). Simply put, get out of the way and let the truth of God’s word speak for itself. If it’s His message, it will soon become clear that you are an instrument, a vessel for His use. Whatever your opportunity is, whether it is a visit on a front porch, speaking at a ladies conference, pouring yourself into a book, or sending a letter (if anyone does that anymore!)…make sure the words are His that you wish to speak. You can be mistaken. Your reasoning can be wrong. God’s truth needs to prevail.

Be mindful to speak those words in love…with an unselfish desire for the best in the lives of others. This means you will be willing to say hard things, but gently. If you need to, run your outline through 1 Corinthians 13:4-7. Are those words:

  • patient
  • kind
  • without boasting and pride
  • not motivated by envy
  • not dishonoring
  • not driven by anger
  • not assuming the worst of others or gossipy
  • given with a forgiving spirit, without holding onto past wrongs
  • evidently filled with truth
  • protecting the heart of the hearers…not injurious
  • filled with future hope of what God will do as He works

After you have checked these things, you’ll know how to proceed.

Even after this careful examination has taken place, your words may still not be received. There may be many who reject them. Look through the New Testament and you will see that this happened over and over again not only with the disciples, but with Jesus Himself. Most may turn away from your message; but bear in mind that it may never be clearly evident to you, who may be listening.

Speak the truth as He would have you do it.

“Old Things Are Passed Away”: The Day I Left the Laundry on the Bed.

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted. I’ve been thinking a lot. I’m going to share some things here that I am finding are true for me. Maybe you’ll relate too. This is going to be candid. I’m finding I don’t help anyone by keeping life lessons to myself, so please bear with me.

Reminiscing.

My husband just came back from a conference, and he remarked about meeting people who learned he was my husband. People who had known me “back in the day” when I had a prominent, very public persona at a well-known Christian University. Back in those days, I taught multiple groups of (mostly freshman) students, held meetings with hundreds of students in attendance, and spoke for ladies events. There was a lot going on to make me feel “significant”.

Fast forward a couple decades. I’m living a much less commotion-filled life in rural Wyoming, largely spending my days in the house, homeschooling kids and doing housework. Anticlimactic? It could be. If I let it be. And I had.

Real Me.

I was feeling full of angst. I was defining my “usefulness” by my past. I was allowing my sense of worth to be attached to the person I was. But that very public person had such a needy heart. No one ever knew it. I was strong for everyone else, seemed to have the answers, but was so weak inside. I hope and pray I am a better person today than that woman was.

yayruthMy flesh seeks accolades. Does yours? You know…the pat on the back that says we’re worth something. Life was full of that back then. And it was dangerous for my heart.

Today I find myself mostly doing the average stuff. Fixing meals. Writing lesson plans. Supporting my pastor husband. Keeping the laundry rolling, searching for rogue socks. Satan whispers, “You used to be ‘somebody’…you used to make a difference.” He’s a liar, and I know it. But, I’m ashamed to say, I still wondered.

Dear lady, if this is you, please hear me. The answer is yes. You make a difference. You are fearfully and wonderfully made, and loved with everlasting love. And, the quiet stuff, the daily routine-y things…they mean much more than we realize. They only “burn us out” when we do them for the wrong reasons. Have you heard/read this quote before:

Those who think that a woman detained at home by her little family is doing nothing, think the reverse of what is true. Scarcely can the godly mother quit her home for a place of worship; but dream not that she is lost to the work of the church; far from it, she is doing the best possible service for her Lord.

Mothers, the godly training of your offspring is your first and most pressing duty. Christian women, by teaching children the Holy Scriptures, are as much fulfilling their part for the Lord, as Moses in judging Israel, or Solomon in building the temple.

~Charles H. Spurgeon

I’ve read these thoughts and ones similar to them before. But I honestly can’t say I believed them…not for myself, anyway. Because when I try to do those things Spurgeon mentions, I fail so often. I’m not perfect at them.

Realization.

busy-mom-multitasking

This is what I’d forgotten. Again. Jesus is my perfection. He is Jehovah Tsidkenu, the “Lord my righteousness”. He is that. I’m not. I knew that the day I trusted Him as my Savior…and then I forgot it when it came to every day life. So I became exhausted. I convinced myself the answer was to do more. If I couldn’t do it right, at least I’d kill myself making more and more attempts at it. More is better! That’s spiritual, right?

It was killing me. It was erasing me from the lives of my kids, I was becoming so preoccupied with getting it right. I was so overwrought with my failures that I was becoming weighted down and joyless…and that feeling, that drudging, dragging outlook, was all I had left to tap into when it came to my role as a wife as well.

This life lesson has been a long time in coming. He’s been trying to teach me, but my life had become so noisy seeking significance and satisfaction outside of Him, in me, trying harder. Battling with chronic pain and health issues only added more shackles (and truth be told, the stress I was creating for myself very likely made things worse). I believe the adversary was rejoicing, because I’d been floundering for so long.

Resolve.

laundry-basket-webYesterday, I decided to simplify (which was my “buzz word” for 2015, ironically…but I complicated my life even more trying to see it defined in my life…what a mess). I had laundry to fold. I wanted it all to be done for my husband’s return from a pastor’s conference, so the house would be neat, and he’d have what he needed to pack for a men’s retreat which starts today. Meanwhile, our teen daughter sat in the living room alone, watching “Catching Faith“.

I looked at that pile of laundry on the bed. I knew my husband was not due to be home until hours later, and I made a radical decision. Don’t laugh. My perfectionistic nature likes to expedite things. I’ve written about this before.

I’d told our daughter that I might come watch with her…when I was done with the laundry.

“Yay!” she exclaimed.

And I stood there…absurdly weighing things. I realized that checking stuff off my to-do list had become a god to me. I had convinced myself that if I got stuff done, if I achieved my goals, I had worth. I had a sort of epiphany moment when I saw that HIS goals were much more realistic, lasting and worthwhile than mine….and His list was much shorter. And I left the pile on the bed. Just left it, and had a lovely time sharing that movie with her, chatting, laughing, making observations about life.

Reflection.

My response to my husband’s observation from that conference was, “And now the tables have turned, and I’m happily known as “the Baptist preacher’s wife”…and I meant it. The people in our home…they are first. If “Mom” and “Sweetie” are the only titles I hold for the rest of my days, I’d love that. Old things are passed away (even good or great things which have just become, well, old), behold, all things are become new. I am a “new creation” in Christ, every day. His mercies are new each morning. His faithfulness is great! (Lam 3:22,23) I want my heart to be satisfied, not with labels, titles, or accomplishments, but with my new name as His child. That is enough. No, it is “exceeding abundantly above all that [I] could ask or think”. I want this to be fresh in my mind, every day. I want to continue to be a better person than I was…not only those many years ago, but also better than who I was yesterday…or this morning. Growing up into Him.

Rest.

There is rest in this. I have a hard time resting. Do you? Even when I seem to be, I’m not. I’m planning, thinking, always on the watch for something else to do. Jesus said to His disciples, “Come apart and rest awhile”. It’s a spiritual thing to rest. Now, to get caught up in the “me time” mentality is unhealthy; but a life with balanced seasons of rest and service is wise.

Remember Elijah? I’ve studied his story. I’ve referenced it frequently. I’ve blogged about him. Now I’m ready to own the truth of his story for myself. In my heart, I was ready to run. Overwhelmed. To the point of a magnificent melt-down a few weeks back.

Burning his candle at both ends, we would have called Elijah “stressed out” back there in 1 Kings 17. God forced him into rehabilitation. God’s answer wasn’t “Do more”.  It wasn’t even”Do something else”. God’s answer was “Stop. Sleep. Hydrate. Nutrify.” Simple. Needful. Noteworthy for us. We tend to ignore the obvious. My husband could see my need for this. I wouldn’t. He’d take the kids out and tell me to relax…and I’d clean the house. After all, when else could I clean it, and have it stay clean for any span of time? Shame on me for not listening to his loving leadership.

I’m looking into doing a review on The Elijah Project which was featured in “Catching Faith”. Here is the author, describing it.

I’m corresponding with the publisher right now. If you are with me, on this road to Cherith, keep an eye out.

The Manicure Legacy

Soul searching going on. Proceed with caution.

I remember many years ago when I was teaching classes of freshman girls at BJU, one student came up to me at the end of the semester to say goodbye.

“I’ll really miss your class, Miss Cannon…” she began.

I then prepared to hear of some fond memory, a lesson learned, a nugget of truth brought to light, some sort of lasting inspiration or impression.

She continued, “…you always looked so together, and your manicures are so pretty.”

You know that needle-scratching-across-an-old-LP sound? I think I heard that.

Really? This is my legacy? Dress stylishly, girls…and don’t forget to coordinate your polish.

It made me feel sick. Was that it? Oh, God forbid.  Please…no.

It was humbling. Even if that student had not been “catching what I was throwing” all semester…her compliment still stung my spirit and rang in my ears long afterwards.

It still does.

What am I teaching to my current “class”…our three kids? What do my words and actions each day say to them about priorities?

“Cleanliness is next to godliness”?

I talk about cleaning up a lot. Yes, it is about stewardship…but there is so much more I want as a takeaway from my life.

When I am gone from this place, what will be that last image they have in their minds? Me, standing there with one hand on a hip, and the other on the Swiffer? Ugh. How much will dust and a few footprints matter then?

So, that God may be glorified… I’m reading. I’m studying. I’m memorizing. I’m trying to love people. Praying God will help me live the fruit.

When you pray for stuff like that, look out. Oh, the opportunities I’ve had to test the love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness and patience in this fragile life of mine!

I’ve been reading Paul’s epistle to the Philippians every day for about a week. I will continue to do so for many months. I highly recommend this kind of approach. These things are already burrowing deep into my thought processes:

According to my earnest expectation and my hope, that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but that with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life, or by death...Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus…Holding forth the word of life; that I may rejoice in the day of Christ, that I have not run in vain, neither laboured in vain...Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith…Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus...Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you...”

God, make me worthwhile for you. Let me show by my life that loving You, wanting You most, is worth it.

“Let us so live that when we die, we live on, like Abel, who being dead yet speaketh. The only way to do this is to live in the power of the Immortal God, under the influence of his Holy Spirit: then out of our graves we shall speak to future generations.” (Excerpted from “Bought With a Price“,  a sermon by Charles H. Spurgeon)

Beyond Valentine’s Day: Amping Up Our Love

love-God-love-others-title“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

–This seems awfully simple, right? But…when was the last time you exerted yourself to perform this well, for a day? Love God supremely, with every thought, word, motive, deed, reaction, hope, plan, choice? Hm. Not so simple.

–Now, factor in loving others as much as you do yourself. You may not consider yourself to be egocentric (that you are the center of everything)…but how much time have you devoted just this morning to caring for your needs and preferences?

*You desired a good night’s sleep.
*You woke and perhaps exercised, for your health.
*You (hopefully) had a quiet time of Bible study/prayer, for your spiritual health.
*You fed yourself.
*Took your vitamins?
*Now, you’d better get dressed. If you do so fashionably, you have catered to your self esteem. If you do so seasonably, you are mindful of caring for your body in dressing for the weather.
*Looked in the mirror today?
*Fixed your hair?
*Even used make up? Hm.
*How about jewelry?
*Now, get in that car you bought for yourself.
*Fastened the seatbelt? To protect yourself from collision hazards…or from the pretty flashing lights that may be following you?
*Turned on the heat, if it was chilly?
*Stop by Starbucks to grab a cuppa? Now I’m meddling.
*Arrive at the job you found for yourself, to pay the bills you incur, and buy more food and clothes and makeup and jewelry and shoes…and maybe even a favorite dvd or cd…or perhaps new curtains for the kitchen?

–This is a snapshot of only the first few hours of the morning…and do you see how much you love yourself? We just do. Now imagine if you felt and demonstrated that same degree of love for others. Well, now. That would change the world, wouldn’t it? For each of us to put ourselves aside, and love others MORE than self? Earth shaking!

“Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.” Phil. 2:3

–What one step can you take today to love someone else more than you love you? Make it so!