Why I Am an Unfit Mother

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09.14.15 Lisa Smith

Motherhood wrecked me. I remember holding my firstborn for the first time. The pure love swelling through my soul. The ferocity of it all. The challenge to love, protect, nurture and raise well  this perfect baby girl came at me colliding with my own broken self. I vowed to God, “Whatever it takes.”

It wasn’t five minutes before I knew we were in over our heads.

Clueless.

I had no idea what that prayer meant, “Whatever it takes.”

Turns out, mothering takes our all. All our time. All the time.

That baby girl I vowed to love, protect, nurture and raise well? She, along with her sister and brothers, are the most precious gifts that keep giving. Mothering is a gift requiring us to give our all back to it every single second of every single day. A gift that leaves our broken laying before us, well, broken. When they fail, sorrow feeds my broken. When they succeed, humility pokes my broken. Mothering can be our greatest joy and our deepest sorrow. Our greatest pride and our deepest heartbreak. Mothering is after all, our heart laid bare, exposed.

As my daughter wears a big, blue sling and administers an IV to herself instead of taking her driver’s test, I realize how unknowledgeable I really am. Clueless. Unfit. As my son immerses himself in an iPad gaming adventure as the doctor shakes his hand, I realize how unable I really am. Clueless. Unfit. As my daughter tells stories about her friends and I later realize they are TV characters, I realize how unqualified I really am. Clueless. Unfit. As my son slumps next to me in the church pew sighing and squirming for the entire service, I realize how unprepared I really am. Clueless. Unfit.

Really, I am simply not fit to raise kids. Not alone. Not without prayer. [Click here to tweet this.]

But God.

God doesn’t want me to simply raise kids. He wants me to raise them prayerfully, His way. To Prayse Them is what I’m calling it. He knows I’m not fit. He made me unfit. He made me unable, unqualified, unprepared. He allowed me to be born broken. So I recognize my need for Him.

Nothing in my life leaves me face to face with my own broken like mothering. Nothing causes utter dependence on Him like mothering. Nothing.

A few months ago when I buried my face in the carpet beside my bed and cried out to God, I was feeling failure. I was humbled at how unfit I really am, how unknowledgable, how unable, how unqualified, how unprepared I still feel as a mother. My babies are (almost) grown. More teen than baby. And yet, here I am. Still clueless.

God reminded me He never intended for me to simply raise my kids because I can’t. I am unable, unknowledgeable, unqualified, unprepared, unfit, clueless when it comes to parenting His way. And God reminded me that I vowed not to raise my children well. But I vowed to raise my children His way. On that piece of soggy carpet, I vowed to prayse them all over again. I started all over again. In His Word. With His promises.

Now, when I am reminded of being unfit, I respond like this:

Lord, You tend Your flock like a shepherd: You gather the lambs in Your arms and carry them close to Your heart; gently leading (me) that has young. In Jesus’ name, Amen. (Isaiah 40:3)

And when I see my own brokenness reflected in those I vowed to do whatever it takes, I respond like this:

God, You know the plans You have for (Julia, Allyssa, Hunter and Palmer), You declare, plans to prosper them and not to harm them, plans to give them hope and a future. In Jesus’ name, Amen. (Jeremiah 29:11)

And although, I haven’t seen all the miracles I expect. I am encouraged. This unfit mother is becoming spiritually fit for the job of mothering. When I focus on how I’m praying for my kids instead of how I’m raising my kids, I am a mama who feels spiritually equipped and ready for whatever mothering may bring. When I focus on how I’m praying for my children instead of how I’m raising them, I see myself as the mother I want to be. [CLICK HERE TO TWEET THIS.]

As I prayerfully raise my children to be who God wants them to be, I become the mother He wants me to be.

Are you unfit to simply raise your kids too? Want quick personalizable prayers for your children straight to your inbox everyday? Sign up here to Prayse Them!

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To No Me Is To Love Me

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Yes equals love in my world. No means rejection. Hearing no delivers a suckerpunch leaving me on the ground gasping for air, vulnerable to full attack.

I’m not sure how this faulty thinking rooted itself in my life. Maybe I was born with this disposition, perhaps childhood experiences influenced my thinking, or maybe I subconsciously chose to believe this way. Equating no with unlove created an overextended, trying too hard version of me.

This always-saying-yes and looking-to-be-loved-girl struggles. This crazy outlook sneaks itself out of my heart worming its way into my everyday actions. I struggle, unable to implement hard boundaries, enforce firm rules and execute consistent behaviors.

Thankfully, I belong to a really amazing God. One who empowers as He enlightens. As God reveals wrong beliefs and bad habits, He unveils strategies to combat and replace them with wisdom found in His Word. Scripture heard many times before breathes life into sin’s well-worn path deep in my heart.

“And you shall remember the whole way that the Lord your God has led you…in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not. And he humbled you and let you hunger…that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.” Deuteronomy 8:2-3, ESV

When my yes to God began to sound a lot like no, visions of an empty-ish calendar danced in my head. Fear of missing out waged war against relief from too many commitments. Instead of producing deprivation, saying no has developed a contentment I’ve only dreamed of possessing. Fulfillment came from this unlikely place of my withholding.

I now find no less restrictive than yes. A yes allows only one thing. A no only rules out the one. This roaming within no engages me in unique ways. Wandering within the boundaries of no’s inspires me to explore my own creativity, push myself to new limits, accept previously unknown challenges.

Saying no can still feel bad, wrong, weak. Yet in the no, I discover an uncommon strength. The more I exercise my no-muscle, the stronger my yes-muscle becomes. Saying no to the right things builds a certain momentum; and this momentum unleashes opportunity to say yes to all the right things.

Because I dare to say no, I get to say yes–yes to what I’m called to do, created to do, love to do. I’m discovering fulfillment in the very opportunities God reveals to me when I heed His no. Deeds created long ago….”For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” Ephesians 2:10, NLT

Exercising my no transforms my yes. My old washed out, overused yes enables its recipients. My new, strong answer, be it yes or no, empowers as it’s extended.

God couples Life experiences with my growing faith to enable me to see beyond His no’s. When God tells me no, I know I am loved. And because I am loved in God’s no, I can love others with my own no.

I still love to hear God say yes. And I still long to love God with my yes. But I’m learning how to love with my no. And I’m learning to receive God’s love in His no to me. To no me is to love me.

Shades of Grace

02.23.15 True Love is the Perfect Shade of Grace LisaSmithOnline

Maybe it’s because I’m dramatically emotional, maybe it’s because I’m slightly OCD or maybe it’s because I’m a (perfectly) recovering perfectionist. My personality desires decisions and situations to be black and white. Trouble is, we live in a shades of gray world.

I love or I hate. I’m all in or I’m totally out. I do it well or I don’t do it (Although I’m willing to die trying to change this.) I’m completely against something until I am it’s biggest and loudest advocate. I eat junk until I eat no sugar. I don’t exercise until I train for a marathon. I don’t clean house until I clean every room, closet and shelf. I’m all or nothing. Needless to say, when I seek God, I want answers.

I want the Bible to be like a Magic Eight Ball as I ask God a question and open His Word to my answer. In my mind, God’s voice thunders from heaven telling me exactly what to do, how to do it and when to do it as I seek His will in my life decisions.

I can live this way too—actually believing it is possible to seek God hard enough, read the Bible enough, listen to wise people enough to do it all perfectly. I want to believe it’s possible to live without messing up; because then the fallout won’t be on me. Mistakes won’t be my fault. Consequences won’t haunt me and I won’t have a messy, disappointing life. I can trick myself into believing this is how God relates to those He loves and it causes me to wonder.

If He loves me.

I tend to think if God loves me, He will teach me to make perfect decisions about what to major in; who to marry; how to choose homeschool, public or private; to be a stay at home mom, work from home mom or work outside the home mom; to let my kids do sports, music and drama or just one; to let them go to the party or make them stay home.

You get the idea.

Reasoning with black and white, right and wrong decisiveness in life’s gray areas literally makes me crazy and my mind chaotic causing me to waste away with worry over things I should have done better and ways I missed God. Paralyzing fear causes me to avoid missing the perfect decision all together. So I miss the chance to make the best decision by making the worst one—doing nothing.

Then I had a friend who had a baby girl. She named her Grayce. When I read the birth announcement, I asked myself, “Why would anyone add a ‘y’ to grace?”

Then I heard His voice thundering from heaven as He whispered to my heart, “There is always grace to surround the gray.”

And this Gray(ce) freed me.

Because He loves me.

Suddenly it didn’t matter where my kids went to school, if my marriage was a work in progress, what house we bought or where I worked because God is more concerned with who I am than what I do. “People look at the outside of a person. But the Lord looks at what is in the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7, NIRV)

God is more concerned with my outside than He is with my inside. He is more concerned with my motives than He is with my choices. He doesn’t scrutinize decisions looking for ways to punish. He looks at our hearts and offers love to cover our shortcomings and grace to make us better.

And He loves us.

He loves us in this gray world. This life is filled with gray areas and unclear decisions and He made it that way. He made faulty people to rely on direction from a Holy God. And just as I allow my children to make decisions on their own, He lets His. And just as I put my foot down on occasion, He does too.

And although, even my best parenting isn’t perfect. His is. And so I move forward. Navigating the gray parts of life becomes easier when I head toward grace.

Because there’s always gray to surround the gray areas in life.

Maybe God gave life gray areas as a reminder. If it weren’t for life’s shades of gray, grace wouldn’t be needed at all. With no place to exercise faith and apply the Bible’s lessons, grace would be unnecessary. We would all be able to make perfect choices and live perfect lives.

It’s funny. The grace-beacon of light in all life’s gray is not a gray area at all. Grace is a black and white issue. We all need it. God gives it without discrimination. His grace is vast enough to swallow every sin and big enough to cover every mistake.

Because He loves us.

Love erases many sins by forgiving them.” (1 Peter 4:8b, NIRV)

His grace is love’s free gift. And there are no shades of gray in His love. There is no gray in love at all. True love is the perfect shade of grace.

He loves you.

It doesn’t matter if you love Him. It doesn’t matter if you seek Him. It doesn’t matter if you even believe He exists. It doesn’t matter if you love Him or His very presence angers you. It doesn’t matter if you refuse His love or grow in it. It doesn’t matter if you consider Him in life’s choices or pompously strike out on your own.

He loves you.

His love for you is one decision that has been clearly made. It’s written in black and white. And stained in red. There’s no grace in true love. It is the shade of perfect grace.

“No one has greater love than the one who gives their life for their friends. You are my friends…” -Jesus (John 15:13-14a, NIRV)

Be A Bridge: Mothering From Scratch

Every mother needs the wise encouragement found in Mothering from Scratch by Melinda Means and Kathy Helgemo. This message is a bridge leading weary mothers’ straight to God’s grace.

Mothering is filled with hard places. Empty places. Spots where my best mom effort doesn’t dent the deficit in my child’s character. It is in these places, the void between my mothering and my child’s bad behavior, where the abyss seems unbridgeable.

But God.

He sent His Son to lay down His life by spreading His arms on a cross where a Savior became a bridge. He bridges the abyss from my mothering failures to my child’s sinful heart.

Jesus is the ultimate Bridge. He bridges the chasm between my imperfect parenting and my imperfect children. Or rather, Jesus bridges the gap between in-progress parents and in-progress children.

Before having my own children, I believed mothering was building. Mothers build fairy tale lives for their children to incubate their unlimited potential… protecting their young from the evil of the world, providing them every opportunity to excel in their gifting and proving to the rest of the world how highly esteemed their children are. And every acclamation, award or honor the child receives, the mother receives glory for her investment in her child.

Boy, was I wrong!

“There can be an assumption that if a child is doing something wrong, they simply haven’t been parented well. Or that every good and right thing they do is somehow a result of supreme parenting skills.” [p. 141]

There are many well-meaning mothers who make a full time career of building lives for their children. I know them and so do you. My mommy guilt leaks out when my child is on their child’s team, in their child’s class or competing against their child on a stage. “Mommy guilt stems from the illusion that we’re ultimately in control.” [p. 33] As mothers we must look to God for approval and direction. We must let the His Word and His life be our measuring stick. When we spend time with Him, we assault our guilt with His grace.

“If we look for our sense of self by pursuing the goals our culture tells us are valuable, we’ll never end our search. And we’ll never measure up…Our talents, unique personality traits, preferences and gifts all come from our Creator. They’re part of who we are and they don’t determine our worth or value.” [p. 62]

Mothering from guilt causes deficits in my mothering to consume me. No matter how hard I work, the bridge I build is never long enough to stretch past my shortcomings. The gaps glare at me; my own sin and scattered success stark amidst my children’s own deficiencies and sinful deeds.

Constructing faulty plans connecting my parenting methods to my children’s behavior, beliefs and abilities runs me ragged. When the bridge isn’t quite long enough, I simply push myself harder. Do more, spend more, give more believing I will eventually achieve their positive response.

And when I keel over from exhaustion? I push my family harder. I nag my husband to do more. I nag my children to try harder. Because I am a mother with a misguided purpose—I attempt to raise perfect children.

“There can be an assumption that if a child is doing something wrong, they simply haven’t been parented well. Or that every good and right thing they do is somehow a result of supreme parenting skills.” [p. 141]

Believing my child’s behavior is a direct result of my mothering arises from assuming the wrong role in their lives.

A mother’s role is not to build bridges for her children. It is to simply be a bridge.

God is the bridge builder. I am merely the bridge.

God gives mothers specific opportunities to act as a bridge. Or become a barrier in strengthening the family dynamic and forming a lasting legacy.

We are bridges to our children’s father, family and friendships.

Because mothers typically spend more time with their children than their husbands, our words, our actions, our respect of our children’s father greatly influence the father/child dynamic and relationships in our homes.

“As moms we connect all relationships within the family to each other. Here is where we have a choice to become a barrier or a bridge between our husbands, extended family members, siblings and children…Our diplomacy as we navigate these interactions helps our children engage with the world.” [p. 140]

We are bridges to our children’s faith.

We cannot guarantee our children’s faith. We influence them by our own example of walking with God. However, no amount of church involvement, family devotions and summer camp can change that. Only God can change hearts and draw them to Him. We can pray with all our might our children choose Him. But ultimately, the choice is theirs.

“Spiritual formation of children…is exposing them to the Bible and prayer and helping them form a good conscience…They need the freedom to make mistakes, pay consequences, and reap rewards  (age- and child-appropriate). It allows them to experience God’s grace, mercy, and faithfulness firsthand. We cheat them of something by making life too easy. How will they see their need for God if we’re continually rescuing them?” [p. 139]

When I am a bridge,  I stop building, I allow God to start; He then perfects my children. And me. More accurately, He completes my children while He is completing me. When I follow Jesus’ example and stretch my arms in surrender, I bridge them to Him. I become a bridge.

Suddenly it seems so clear: a mother’s purpose is not to reform her children. A mother’s purpose is to allow her children to reform her. Parenting isn’t all about the children. It’s all about God. And that’s how God intended it.

“Mothers don’t voluntarily sign up for character change. God seems to make it happen ever so effectively through mothering children…The demands of motherhood can cause us to view our children as barriers to our goals, personal development, and productivity…God allows [us] to recognize [our] children as divinely given molders of [our] character.” [p. 43-44]

Refocused perspective allows me to approach each day with gratitude. I thank God for this strongwilled, opinionated, courageous, spirited, persevering, energetic bunch to mother. I thank Him for using my children to make me more like Him.

This book came as I was grieving my many mothering mistakes. This message has silenced old regret and released fresh stamina in my own motherhood marathon.

Now I  parent with confidence as God’s intent: To become more like Him. And I am thankful my children are a vital part of God’s purpose.

Many people can build houses, but God builds everything. Hebrews 3:4


Sweet, tired momfriend, lay down your hammer. Quit building your child’s life. Let the Holy Builder make you into your child’s bridge. Lay down your life today. Become a bridge.

In what area do you intend to become a mothering bridge?


To order your own copy of Mothering From Scratch, click here.

Because it’s (almost) Valentine’s Day, I want to give you a {FrEe} tool to be a bridge to your child’s faith. Simply click here and follow the instructions to download a {FrEe} printable way to surprise your child with God’s personalized promises.

Also posted at the #SDGGathering.

{FrEe} Valentine’s Day Printable

 

As a mom who take the responsibility of passing down a spiritual legacy to my four children, I am desperate for creative, engaging ways to get God’s Promises into them! That’s why I started sneaking little notes into their big backpacks.

When they were itty bitties, a lunchbox went everywhere with them. Toddlers and preschoolers need snacks on demand. Writing a special note or an encouraging Bible truth on their napkin became a fun game. The days I was too tired to produce, or just out of napkins, they asked where their notes were.

As they started school, they began buying their lunches. Now that they’re all in school, they’ve all established their routines. I have a lunchboxer, a brown bagger and two buyers. My lunchboxer doesn’t even glance at a napking–ever. As evidenced by the unused napkin found in a slightly crumpled version of the way I inserted it in his lunchbox, message or not.

I wanted to find a more age appropriate way to get God’s Promises to them. So I created #BackpackPromises. These are Bible verses I personalize with my child’s name and give as a note/prayer to each child. I can slip in their lunchbox, brown bag, notebook, backpack or sock drawer. Just a simple gesture to let them know Mom is praying for them each day.

For Valentine’s day I decided to slip some to you. To let you know you’re prayed for. And so you can let your children and loved ones know you’re praying for them. Just click  the link below and download a printable version of 4 #BackpackPromises.

Please let me know if you like them so I can create more!

Remember, I’m praying that {God’s girls} being rooted  in love, may have power to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ. Ephesians 3:17-18

Help your family celebrate the love of Christ Valentine’s Day and everyday!

Where will YOU share #BackpackPromises?

CLICK TO DOWNLOAD {FrEe} Printable BACKPACK PROMISES

 

A Space for Grace

2 Corinthians 12:8-9aI recently moved into a new house. A beautiful new house filled with glorious space.

God moved us to the perfect place. More space than I ever asked for or dreamed of.  As a matter of fact, as we moved in I thought we would have empty rooms and empty spaces for a long time. Imagine my shock when immediately every space had a purpose; no room, closet or cupboard remained empty or undefined. What I thought was too much, was in fact, the perfect amount.

I learned two lessons:

  • My stuff expands to fill my available space.

  • I sorely misjudge how much stuff will fit into any given space.

These truths played out on my reduced calendar all fall. My commitments expand to fill my time. My reduced commitments sadly still crowded my schedule.

As my house is becoming my home, it’s teaching me a lesson:

Moving doesn’t solve problems; it just takes the same old stuff to a new place. Although my new place houses all my old stuff; its spaciousness leaves a place for God’s grace.

For years I’ve been trying to cram grace in a too small space. The result is no life at all. No grace at all.

I’ve noticed with the addition of space, lots of the old stuff doesn’t irritate me quite as much anymore. This space around me beckons grace. When I’m not crowded, pressed and pushed on, I can breathe. I can think before I act instead of reacting. Instead of praying for grace, I’ve learned to pray for the courage to make space for it.

When I asked God to give me more grace and He said, “My grace is sufficient for you. My power is made perfect in your weakness,” maybe He was simply waiting for me to make a space for grace to be. What if I already possessed the grace I longed for but my own doing crowded out His being? Maybe my weakness wasn’t my inability to handle my many responsibilities well but my inability to accept my limitations– perhaps my weakness lies in my physical capacity for doing, or rather not doing.

I find His grace rests in this truth: I am capable of doing much; but, I am capable of only doing a little well. Therefore, I will restrain myself from doing much so I can do a little for His glory.

And if His grace rests there, perhaps His strength is made perfect in me as I humbly accept my own weakness and do the little He’s called me to well.

I longed for Him to give me more grace when the grace I had was sufficient for the life I was meant to lead, but not the life I was leading.

I took the life He gave and built the life I wanted by adding things I thought I needed. I unintentionally crowded out grace losing life itself. Only by tearing down the life I’ve built can I live the life He gives, my life that is space enough for His sufficient grace to dwell.

His grace is sufficient for me if I only make space for it.

More space really can solve problems.

Life with space leaves me noticeably different:

  • I am calmer here.
  • I am more organized here.
  • I am less frantic here.
  • I am more fun to be around here.
  • I yell less.
  • I laugh more.
  • I am available.

My kids respond to this new grace. My husband comments on it. I rejoice in it.

For years I’ve had it backwards: I’ve been living over-busy, overcommitted, overwhelmed begging God for more of His grace to handle it all. He’s quietly been whispering His answer:

The key to receiving His limitless grace is to limit the activity in my life. To experience His grace, I must create a space in which to place it.

A long time ago my calendar contained all the commitments I wanted to do. Then for a long time it only contained the things I felt I needed to do. Last year, it contained things only I could do. With God’s help, my schedule now contains only things He’s calling me to do.

It’s been as hard, stressful, chaotic, uncomfortable and inconvenient as buying this house was. But both of these new spaces, the space in my house and the space in my schedule, are filled with His grace.

With the addition of more space, I’m able to live actively instead of reactively. I just thought this house was all about space. Now I know it is really all about making a space for grace.

Sisters, His grace is sufficient. We only need to make a space sufficient to utilize it.

I’ve had to ask myself two hard questions:

  • Why am I doing this?
  • What do I hope to gain from it?

If the answer is anything other than: “God told me to,” or “so I can know Him and make Him known,” I cross it off my list!

“Three times I pleaded with the Lord…  But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.'” 2 Corinthians 12:8-9

How will you make a space for grace?

Hosting the #SDGGathering with Jen today & #OperationRest.

When God Calls You to Say No

1.12.15 Lisa Smith Matthew 11:30

Heart exploding “Yes!” swiping at tears and crossing my heart, I promise God my answer to Him will always be, “yes.” He knows my heart’s desire is to love Him, serve Him, worship Him and change the world with Him. When He talks to me, I answer. Yes. Always yes.

Yes is an action word. Movement always follows His yes. On a word from Him, excitement surfaces in my soul; eagerness surrounds my routine and I energetically get about His business–changing the world.

Then, the whisper, “Will you rest in me?”

God shows me my life is like a Texas-sized steak dinner complete with a loaded baked potato, corn on the cob, and a fluffy roll. All on a cheap paper plate.

My plate is too full. I need to limit my portions so my paper plate won’t fail and find my juicy life-steak wasted.

Sometimes the movement following a yes in the soul is a no in the natural.

Say yes to My rest by saying no more often, He says.

Walking away from good things hurts. Weeks of prayer births courage to say yes…By saying no.

Hours of sending resignations, RSVPing refusals, and politely rejecting requests bring sadness yet relief. With every agonizing decision, I feel my load lessen. Like a child, I lift my plate to God showing Him how smaller portions perfectly fit my plate.

Satisfied with my new restful routine, I set goals based on my dream list and make progress. Slow progress. I determine to be content with slow.

When suddenly He whispers:

I hear the yes in your soul; let me see more no in the natural.

Say yes to My rest by saying no to more.

More no is hard. I sulk; I sigh and, like a child, my disappointment fills the air thick. Desire to handle lots, big things, large loads burdens me.

 Yet, clearly I hear Him:

Say yes to My rest by saying no to more.

I draw strength through the words of Kristen Welch in her book, Rhinestone Jesus:

“It all comes down to this one question: Do I love my comfort more than Christ? I get a different answer every day. But I believe we need to struggle…Struggle is the food from which change is made…Those who accomplish change are willing to engage in the struggle.” (p. 193-4)

Today finds me caught. Struggling. Hope for new tomorrows battles fear of future change.

He reminds me to come to Him and find the rest I crave:

Say yes to His rest by saying no more.

In answer to His invitation to rest, I empty my full plate. And fill it…with a giant portion of only Him. [CLICK HERE TO TWEET THAT.] 

I understand my cheap plate is meant to hold only one thing. Jesus fills my flimsy plate perfectly.

He refreshes. Only Him. Always Him. In His work is freedom. He says, “My yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:30 NIV)

Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly,” He says. (Matthew 11:30 The Msg)

Say yes to His rest by saying no more.

Yes to His rest is my response.

And so I say no more often.

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” Matthew 11:28-30

*****Friends, how will you express your Yes to His rest? What will you say no to?

SDG

I’m guesting over at Jen’s place for the #SDGGathering and #OperationRest. Come for a visit. It’s a “Come as you are” type place. No makeup required. Just the sisters hanging out!

 

To Hold His Hand

12.15.14 To Hold His Hand Lisa Smith

When my husband and I go out to parties or fancy events, I always ask him to put my lipstick in his pocket—with my phone, wallet and keys. He carries my stuff so I can hold his hand.

Because in order to hold his hand, I must first empty mine.

Glasses clinking, friends chit-chatting, party going, when it happens. Gathered around a dinner table, someone makes the one comment that spurs the inside joke. Under the table, I squeeze my husband’s hand.

Later that night when a snarky comment is made about one of my kids, I squeeze my husband’s hand tightening my grip on his strength, his stability, his ability to smile at snarky comments.

As he grabs my hand to leave, I hear it. It’s the “cocktail effect.” My name is mentioned, my ears perk up. I didn’t hear all that was said, but I do know the feelings that come with the eye roll and catty laugh that follow. I just squeeze his hand harder as we walk together.

When I hold his hand, I don’t have to speak my mind, I can hold back the tears and I find the strength to walk away. I just keep walking hand in hand with him. Remember, he’s carrying my stuff so I can hold his hand.

Because in order to hold his hand, I must first empty mine.

Sometimes holding hands takes work. Like when we were all diaper bags and babies. My hands were always full. I learned to shoulder the bag and balance the baby in order to grab his hand. Graduating to potty training and toddlers left me full of chubby fingers and the stuff they made; they learned to carry their own creations so I could hold their daddy’s hand.

Now that our children are older, my hands are always holding the steering wheel—I drive them everywhere. All the time. And, I remind myself when we are in the car together to take one hand off the wheel to hold his.

Because in order to hold his hand, I must first empty mine.

At the recent Soli Deo Gloria retreat Jen shared about overcoming sadness, anger and control over her husband’s pornography addiction. When her husband stumbled, she grew angry. She felt responsible because she had agreed to hold him accountable. She couldn’t trust her husband and she wasn’t submitted to God.

Through desperate prayer, she was finally able to give her husband and his addiction to God. Once she let go of her control and obsession, she was able to take God’s hand. She let Him carry her stuff so she could hold His hand.

Because in order to hold His hand, she had to first empty her own.

Walking hand in hand with God; He taught her to offer forgiveness and to extend grace. When the disappointments came, she learned to just squeeze His hand.

As she squeezed His hand, the forgiveness and grace came as God ruled her actions. Yet, when she walked alone, without His hand in hers, emotion ruled her reactions.

As Jen spoke, I saw my own hands. And they weren’t holding His.

They were full of stuff.

Spending days working to empty my hands was only emptying my heart. My effort to finish my tasks in order to spend time with Him was backfiring.

I need to grab His hand before I fill mine with daily duties.

Because in order to hold His hand, I must first empty mine.

Without His hand to hold, I live in reaction to life instead of living in action with God. I need His hand to hold. I want His hand to squeeze.

Extending forgiveness and grace to others is easy when I’m extending my hand to His. Squeezing His hand in response to life’s hurts, allows me to gather the grace I need from His grip.

However, I must remember:

In order to hold His hand, I must first empty mine.

Friend, what are you holding today that prevents you from holding His hand? Look at the places in your life that need forgiveness and grace. What must you drop to extend them? Extend your hand to Him today. Let Him carry your stuff so you can hold His hand. And, when life gets hard, just squeeze.

Remember, in order to hold His hand, you must first empty yours.

The Gift

Five years is a long time. It’s also a huge milestone in the lifetime of someone with cancer.

It’s a celebration date those who’ve battled cancer look forward to celebrating. But to those who’ve lost someone from cancer, five years can feel like a lifetime.

My dear friend, Melanie’s son, Andrew, lost his fight with cancer five years ago today. Melanie is like any other mother. When she held her son for the first time, she couldn’t imagine living five minutes without him.

And it’s been five years.

And it’s Christmastime.

Every time I read the Christmas story, I think of Melanie. Because I can’t read the Christmas story without thinking of Easter. Without the cross, we would have no reason to celebrate Christmas. And without the resurrection, we would have no Easter. And without Easter there would be no need for Christmas.

And Melanie, like Mary, lived through her son’s suffering and her son’s burial. But, Mary’s Son conquered death through the resurrection. And because one Son conquered death, another son will be reunited with his mother.

And that’s why we celebrate Christmas. Even in our suffering, we celebrate.

This poem I wrote just after Andrew’s death was read at his funeral and remains, my gift to Melanie.

Upon hearing of Andrew’s death I was speechless and numb. As I began to weep, I started to pray.

“Lord, you know I love you. You know I trust you. You know I believe you are good. But, Lord, you know I have to ask ‘Why?’”

“Why now? At Christmastime?”

“I hate that I am preparing to go buy my children Christmas presents and Melanie is preparing to bury her son.”

“Why?”

And quietly, in my questioning, He spoke.

Lisa, why are you buying your children gifts?

“Because I love them, Lord and I want to shower them with affection. I want them to celebrate an outward expression of my love.”

And what will you do with the gifts that you buy?

“I’ll wrap them and place them under the tree for my children on Christmas Day, Lord.”

What will your children do with the gifts?

“Why they’ll take delight in them and enjoy them and use them.”

Even quieter…

What will Melanie do with Andrew?

Me, softly, “She’ll place him in a box and present him to you, Lord.”

And I will take great delight in him and enjoy him and use him.

You may not see it yet, but Melanie is blessed among women. She has the opportunity to give me a very precious, rare and costly gift that most can never give. She knows I will use his story.

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Andrew

He is a Present-Help

If you are here visiting today from Kristen’s place and WeAreTHATFamily, welcome! I am so excited you’re here. I’ve been picking up and plumping pillows in anticipation of your arrival; so grab a Diet Coke and a comfy seat and visit for awhile. I can’t wait to get to know you better!

He helps us pick presents. He helps us pick His presence.

He helps us pick presents. He helps us pick His presence.

Have you ever found yourself in crazy Christmas traffic, elbow deep in tossed in tinsel and empty shelves shopping for that one perfect gift…On Christmas Eve? I find myself here every year.

I shake my head in disbelief as I realize the holidays snuck up on me; yet, I soldier on propelled by the fear of disappointment in little eyes after Santa leaves.

Sad, I know. Because I’m smarter than this. And I know you are too. Because you are here, reading these words.

Matthew 1:23 says, “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”).

If you’re like me, you want to remember the true reason we celebrate Christmas. You want to remember we celebrate because God is with us. We want to remember God is with us. He is with us. This God who is present. This God who is The Present.

Even if our loved ones open boxes, empty except for IOU’s for a time when the Walmart gets restocked, let’s don’t let our hearts remain empty. Let’s fill them with His perfect present to us, His presence. He is offering it to us; we need only to receive.

And when you find yourself trying to pick perfect presents from the empty aisles of the picked-over Walmart, remember what Psalm 46:1 says, “God is our present-help…” He is with us as we pick presents. He is waiting for us to pick His presence. [CLICK HERE TO TWEET THIS]

Lord, Thank You for Your always present presence. Help me to choose You today. When this holiday season gets hectic, help me to remember You are a God who is with us and help me to celebrate Your presence today.

Linking up to Jen and the SDG Sisters today.

As a thank you for visiting, nice to meet you and Merry Christmas and Happiest of New Year’s, I am thrilled to give stuff away! One winner will receive a gift package containing a Fair Trade Friday single pack and a copy of Rhinestone Jesus.

fair-trade-flags  Rhinestone Jesus

Simply click the link below and follow the directions. You will have a chance to submit several entries to win (all entries will be verified). Winner announced on December 25. Merry Christmas!!!

Please enjoy this interview I had the privilege of conducting with Kristen this past Saturday …