A Nice Big Slice of Humble Pie (sugar-free, please.)

OK, world. Here goes. I should start, I suppose, by telling you that until now I have generally avoided social media and all things face-twitter-insta-book with the same level of caution with which I refrain from sugar and high-wedge shoes. The sugar I forego due to its unfortunate relationship with my pants. (I.e., I can have comfortable pants in a size I can live with, or I can have sugar.) The wedges? Well they, like so many other things, are so cute on other girls, but… I will never be able to unlearn a bit of wisdom from an adorable antique book from the fifties I bought as a girl called, The Tall Girl’s Handbook. “The tall girl should eschew the wedge like the plague; it makes her look like a Clydesdale.” Ahem. They didn’t sugar coat advice in the fifties, honey.

But I am swallowing  my fear, antisocial tendencies, and cranky-old-ladyness to share somethings that God has been urging me to say. Me! As if anybody could learn anything from me. We’ll apparently our Lord and Father can use us messy people for His glory too. So from the start  let me set you straight about one thing, people; me pretending to be anything other than a hot-mess-who-needs-Jesus-just-to-get-through-a-day-without-losing-it is a bald-faced lie.

“An ounce of pretension is worth a pound of manure.” This is one of my favorite quotes from my all-time favorite movie, Steel Magnolias. So, so true, M’lynn. So, here it is folks. (If there are any actual folks reading this.) I declare my purpose forthwith. My intentions for this literary vehicle are noble, if not altogether prudent. Please call me on it if I ever wander astray. I intend to share my struggles, my mess, my absolute need for Jesus, with other stressed-mess mamas and worn-out women of this crazy world. Because Pinterest is bull-poop, honey. Nobody has all her mess totally together. NO-BODY.

If you are shaking your perfectly coiffed little head no right now and telling yourself that you are the exception, then prayers for you, sister. Hop on off of here and come find us again when you find yourself hiding from your own kids in the bathroom or when you realize getting a trip by yourself to Walmart feels like a vacation.

Any who. I felt a bit nudged to share this today, when I realized that I had read or heard three different messages this week from Christian speakers and writers encouraging us to be honest and to humble ourselves before our God, and each other. Humble ourselves. Admit our weakness. Our flaws. Share our struggles. So that others may benefit. Yikes. (At this point, my own sweet Mama is probably clutching her pearls wondering what I might divulge. Guard my mouth, er, fingers, Lord. Let me not bring shame upon the family.)

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.                                                                                                 

                                                                                                           2  Corinthians 12:9

“So that Christ’s power may rest on me.” I am not even able to receive His awesome power until I admit to myself, my God, and the people around me that I can’t do diddly-squat without Him. (I believe “can’t do diddly-squat” is from the King James Version.)

OK, Lord, I hear you loud and clear. So here I am, boasting like a banty-rooster all about my weakness. I have the market cornered on weakness, people. Lay some of that Jesus power on me, Lord. I need thee every hour.

SO, I suppose, for this to be a truly obedient act of humility, I must share the reason for the name of the blog, “Sweet” is Not my Default.

Um, well. I seem sweet to people who know me out there in the real world. I smile a lot. I usually don’t have anything mean to say about anybody. (Although, God forgive me, I am slipping as I age, Lord.)

But inside? I am a whole lot more Ouiser than Truvy. Bless your heart if you don’t get this reference. (Steel Magnolia’s again, sorry. You must watch it, soon.) Ouiser is a grumpy, frowny Shirley McLane, Truvy is a sweet, sunny, Dolly Parton. I am naturally the former rather than the latter, no matter what I may dish out to you.

I do not mean that I am walking around being fake all the time. (Lord help me not to be fake.) I am simply telling you that my natural, sinful, default reaction to most everything in life is that of a grumbling, crotchety, cynical, bitter, and sometimes angry and unkind old poot. Anything else you see coming out of me is directly from the Holy Spirit.

Yes, Lord I need thee every hour. My family knows this is true. My three boys have seen more of the crusty, stressed, mean version of Mama than anybody should. Now, I do not mean to suggest to you for even a second that the Holy Spirit has fastened His mighty hand upon me and I am now a well of sweet-flowing water from here on out.

God help me, I wriggle out from under His Holy Spirit hand almost daily. I am as squirmy and hard to wrangle as a toddler in need of a potty. (Speaking of toddlers. I will give you a second confession (Free!) for this post. My three-year-old’s nap just passed into the three hour mark. We are almost into let-him-sleep-on-through-the-night territory. But, alas, I will get him up, in just a minute. He needs supper, and a bath, and a potty break. Don’t judge me. You don’t wake napping toddlers. Not on the third kid, anyway. )File:Steven's Apple Pie.jpg

Sweet, you see, is not my default. My default is u-g-l-y. (You ain’t got no alibi.) And messy. And sometimes, at my most stressed out, striving to be perfect, striving to please people, striving to seem to have it all together, sometimes the Mama created by this perfect storm of stress and sin, and maybe hormones, sometimes she’s just plain mean. Mean and impatient and too too critical of my own sweet family. My own precious children the Lord blessed me with. God forgive me for every word I have said in anger to these sweet children. Lord help me to build them up for you instead of tearing them down with constant criticism.

Keep your gentle Holy Spirit hand upon me, Father. Help me seek you first everyday, so that no matter how ugly and nasty and even mean my default might be, your sweet sweet spirit will be what people see in me.

 “Let your gentleness be evident to all.” Philippians 4:5

And with that, a sleepy-eyed, hungry, slightly-grubby toddler just shuffled into the room. Praise God; He is good.



Sweet Lord, please deliver these sweet menfolk you gave me from stressed-out Mama drama.




Fix My Eyes, Lord



Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who, for the joy set before Him, endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.                            

 Hebrews 12:2


Sometimes my eyes don’t work quite right. I don’t mean that my vision is starting to go, because thankfully that hasn’t started, yet. I mean that sometimes all I can see is the bad, the ugly, the dirty, the negative. Sometimes I completely miss the glaring glory and grace of God because I’m too busy grumbling about toast crumbs in the butter tub or wet towels on the bathroom floor.

Fix- (v) to repair

Fix- (v) to fasten something securely in a particular place or position.

The best and only way for me to fix (repair) my eyes, my perspective, is to fix (fasten) my eyes on Jesus. Securely fastened and unwavering focus on my Savior and Creator changes everything.

Truly seeing His glory and grace should inspire gratitude in me. Gratitude is a perspective which not only brings me joy and peace, it also makes me more pleasing and useful for His glory and Kingdom.

Because a grumbling, negative, and ungrateful Christian is not much help furthering the Kingdom and might well be getting in the way. In fact, we are in danger at some point of provoking God’s wrath, or at least His discipline, when we persist in this kind of attitude. Glaring examples of this are when He delivered the children of Israel out of Egypt and into the Promised Land. How many times did they complain and question and forget to thank and trust Him, even after seeing miracle after miracle with their very own eyes? They were so stubborn in this behavior that He called the whole lot of them stiff-necked and eventually let them wander around in the wilderness for for forty years for complaining and questioning Him. (This reminds me of myself telling my kids I’m about to give them something to complain about. It may not last forty years, but I like to let my older two wander around in a technology-free wilderness when they provoke my wrath. They look just about as lost and forlorn as the Israelites too, poor things.)

When I take my focus off of Jesus, my own sinful human eyes dart directly to the negative. They magnify faults, they distort danger, they focus on frustration, failure, and futility. These negative thought patterns are natural for me. But God can fix my brain and eyes, can actually renew my mind, if I choose to reroute these thoughts, to replace negativity with His truth from His word.

The gratitude I gain from glimpsing His grace and glory gives me new eyes. When I view my days through a lens of gratitude, I can find in everything an opportunity to thank, praise, serve, and glorify Him.

Psychologists call this re-framing. Consciously shifting your perception of a situation into a more positive light. But we Christians already have the most positive light there is, Jesus. And “In the light of His glory and grace, the things of this Earth will grow strangely dim.” Our problems will not overwhelm us. We can see beauty and God’s grace, even in the ugly things. The things my ugly human eyes want to focus on and complain about. I have made a list, just from this week.

Ugly- varicose veins and stretch marks. God’s grace- three big, healthy baby boys. Ugly- muddy dog footprints on my floors, dog slobber on my windows, dog hair everywhere. God’s grace- two sweet, loyal dogs to love on.  Ugly- kids loudly arguing, playing, singing, talking- I can’t hear myself think, and we haven’t followed the plot of any show or movie on television since 2003. God’s grace- a house full of healthy kids who are growing too fast and will be gone someday soon. (I will probably hate the quiet.) Ugly- boys’ and one sweet man’s shoes everywhere but in the closet. God’s grace- Sweet boys and one sweet man everywhere in my house. Ugly thing- barely making ends meet. God’s grace- somehow, through Him, always making ends meet.

I know that these examples are not real problems. I know that we all encounter bigger, harder ugly things that aren’t so easy to be grateful for. Illnesses, loss of loved ones, loss of jobs, loss of homes, real struggling and suffering. But He promises that trials will produce patience and strength in us. (James 1:2-8) and that He works all things, even ugly things, for the good to those who love Him. (Romans 8:28)

And in the end, the light of His glory and grace gives me new eyes to see that, no matter what, He has already saved my soul from hell by dying on the cross to give me eternal glory with Him in heaven.

Everything else He gives me here is gravy.

So we fix our eyes, not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

                                                                                                         2 Corinthians 4:18









When God Turned Out the Light


From the sixth hour (noon) until the ninth hour (3:00 PM), darkness came over all the land.

 Matthew 27:45

I am always shocked and grieved when I watch the movie The Passion of the Christ and try to fathom the physical suffering that my Lord endured that day for me. The whipping, the beatings, the thorns, the nails, all while those He came to save mocked and scorned. All after watching some of those He loved most betray and deny Him.

But God is revealing to me that the deepest sufferings my Savior bore for me that day were in those three hours of darkness. So far beyond our comprehension that we were not even permitted to see them. Humans had born witness, as detailed thoroughly in all four Gospels, to every excruciating step of the Messiah’s physical torture. But when the ultimate costs of our sins had to be paid, God shielded our eyes from the worst horror, as one blocks a child’s view of disturbing things.

And it has gotten me thinking about darkness and light. How we naturally fear the darkness. My four-year-old, Jackson, must have several sources of soft light in his room each night or he cannot settle into fearless sleep. Sometimes he even requires a small flashlight to feel safe. In this way, Jesus is our light in this world. We can relax in Him.

But while Jesus was here on this Earth, the only source of light, strength, and truly unconditional love for Him was His heavenly Father. He turned to Him in every situation, and He never faltered, never worried. He relied 100% on the “One who sent Him” for the strength and comfort of His loving presence.

But on that day, for those three hours, Jesus was completely alone in the darkness. He was plunged into depths of sin and shame beyond our ability to comprehend. And for the first time in His life, He was without His Father.

The Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.

                                                                                                 Isaiah 53:6


When Judas, after choosing to betray Jesus for 30 pieces of silver, truly realized the full shame of his sin and the separation from God it had created, he could not take the despair and he hanged himself. That is one sin from one man.

A few years ago I had grand jury duty. Two weeks of hearing one month’s worth of one city’s crimes laid out  in great detail. 300 cases; murders, rapes, robberies, drug dealing. The absolute worst for me were the child abuse cases. We were warned by the feisty woman charged with tending us that we had better not cry, no matter what.  She said the children would stop testifying, afraid they had done something bad because they had upset a grown up, and then their whole case would be dropped. Somehow I managed to sit dry-eyed through their heart-wrenching stories and save the tears for the drive home. I had to leave that courtroom twice that day because I recognized names of witnesses on that docket as former students of mine.

I left that experience emotionally drained. What an evil world this is. What depths of depravity can we sink to without God’s light to save us from ourselves? I believe that history has shown us that there are no limits to the damage we can do to one another when we combine our weak flesh, Satan’s deceit, and an environment of abuse. I didn’t have the stomach to hear the details of one month’s crime from one city.

Try to imagine every sin from every human living from then until now. Every evil deed and thought. Laid upon Him. And he felt it, as if He bore the responsibility and the shame of it. As if He had done each evil thing Himself.

To me, there are two human emotions hardest to bear. The first is shame. When I have messed up, and I know it has hurt or disappointed someone I love, I am one miserable creature. As a Christian, this shame is multiplied when I know I have hurt God with my sin. Until I repent, I cannot rest. I cannot live with it.

The second is separation. What suffering do we know beyond separation from loved ones? Especially death, because our temporal minds strain to understand that we will be with them in eternity. We want them here now. Beyond my experience and ability to comprehend is the pain of separation from a loved one who has chosen to leave me.

And while my Savior bore the incomprehensible darkness of every sin laid upon Him, He could not even turn to His only light, His only source of strength through every struggle on this Earth, His heavenly Father, the One who sent Him.

Because He had turned away.

Jesus felt for the first time, the depths of despair that cold separation from God’s presence brings. Sin by its very nature separates us from God, and that day Jesus bore all of it. God could not even look at Him.

 My God, My God, why have you forsaken me? 

                                                                                             Matthew 27:46


Of course God still loved Him. Of course He soon restored and even raised Him to higher glory than before at His right hand, because of this sacrifice.

But I don’t want to miss the biggest part of this gift given to me by both the Son and the Father, who loved each other more than I have the capacity to love my kids or my parents, but somehow loved a wretch like me enough to do this. As a parent, I cannot imagine the agony of watching one of my children suffer, and I would gladly endure any suffering to keep them from it. As a child, even now, disappointing or shaming my parents and separation from them are devastating prospects for me. And yet, look what God the Father and God the Son did for me that day.

Because they chose to make this unbelievable sacrifice for me, I will never have to know this darkness. I will never have to feel this cold separation from God’s presence. I will never have to bear this unbelievable shame.

I take this for granted everyday. I get all tangled up in the busy details of modern life and I forget to look up to the Father and the Son who saved me and thank them for sparing me the darkness that I deserve.

And I also often forget that God has a job for me here, to point the lost to Him. Because they are drowning in that cold darkness and may not even know it. The absence of Jesus is the hole in their lives that they try to fill with every destructive vice placed on their paths by a devil who hates them almost as much as God loves them. Jesus’ light and love are waiting to rescue them, they just need a wretch like me to point up. Lord help me to do that better. Help me never to take for granted the incomparable gift you gave me that day, when you turned out the light.


“He was despised and rejected, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering…”

Isaiah 53:6 (700 years before Christ!)



Peace Under Pressure

Let your gentleness be evident to all.

                                                               Philippians 4:5

Lord, you know I have tried. I keep messing this up. This verse has been popping into my head quite a bit lately. Usually after I have let some other, less attractive reactions to pressure be evident to all, such as anger, irritation, impatience, stress, negativity, and yelling. And occasionally throwing things.

I cannot make myself gentle. I am flesh. My bad reactions to life’s pressures come straight from my stinky, weak flesh.

And my fleshy reactions always make things worse. They also always make me feel terrible two seconds later. I flare up, then apologize, then feel like dirt for days. And Satan smiles. Because my fleshy over-reactions also hinder God’s plans. Once again, my grown-up tantrum has undermined whatever good work God had intended for me in that situation. It has also left me doubting my ability to serve Him well.


But God keeps whispering this verse about my hard-to-find-gentleness to me. I figured I’d better go have a look at this verse in context.

Of course, the first thing I noticed was that I wasn’t even remembering the whole verse. The second part, the sentence after this one, is the real key.

Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.

Because is the implied word here. Because my Lord, my Savior, my Redeemer is always near me, I can be gentle in all situations. From His strength not mine. After all, isn’t gentleness really the ultimate sign of real strength in tough situations?

Jesus’ reactions to pressure during His time on Earth are my ultimate example of gentle strength. In the face of every imaginable offense and injustice, He remained calm and focused. He would not be provoked.

And His gentleness was not weakness. He told everyone the truth, even unwelcome, uncomfortable truth. But He always told it in love.

And even our go-to Christian example of Jesus’ anger in the temple is not our kind of fleshy anger. Yes, He flipped some tables. But I  don’t believe this was a loss of control. I think this was the demonstration of righteous anger these moneylenders needed at that moment to understand just how serious an affront to God their behavior was.

God is showing me through this verse that this same divine gentle strength of Jesus is available to me in every situation, because He is near.

So, I’m a visual person. I realized that I need to picture the physical Jesus standing right beside me with His calming gentle hand on my shoulder before I react to anything. What could I possibly encounter that His physical presence couldn’t put into His perfect perspective?

Because, He’s there, every time. I’ve just been ignoring Him.

The Lord is near. When my sweet, but often lazy, middle school students complain, or horse-play, or phone it in, or make that sassy little teeth-sucking sound. He’s there with me when my two oldest boys bicker constantly, or leave a trail of messes through our house, or make us late for everything, or ignore me to stare at a phone or game console that we bought for them. ( I have started snatching the phones and games in these instances and keeping them until I am satisfied true learning has occurred. Mama will not be ignored!)

He’s there when my four-year-old will not stay in bed, or eat his vegetables, or let me go to the bathroom in peace.

These are really all very small things. But my stressed-out schedule plus my messy flesh can magnify them into kindling for a Mama tantrum. Jesus’ calming hand on my shoulder gives me His perfect, Holy Spirit perspective in everything. So that His gentleness is evident to all. That is my testimony and His plan. And that is what Satan seeks to sabotage through the inevitable trap of my triggers plus daily life pressures and my automatic flesh responses. Just set her up and watch her go.

But not today, Satan. The Lord is near. And you may easily get my goat, me being a weak little human and all, but my Lord will not be provoked. And His hand is on my shoulder.

The bigger context of the verse had even more for me. God showed me that this whole chapter in Philippians is really a recipe for peace for the early church leaders in Philippi who were under tremendous pressure. Paul was giving them God’s plan for peace.

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 

(A. We always have a reason to rejoice in our redeeming Lord.)

Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 

(B. Because the Lord is near, I can be gentle.)

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.

(C. Pray with thanksgiving; do not worry.)

 And the peace of God,which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

 Philippians 4:4-7

I love it that God will guard my fleshy heart and mind from whatever I may encounter with something as gentle and as strong as His perfect peace.

I just have to remember that He is near. His gentle hand is on my shoulder, making even me more gentle and strong like Him.




Purposeful Peace

The decorations are finally put away, and regular life is about to resume. I had to explain to a crying 4-year-old that if we leave it all up all year, it won’t be special. Part of me is always a little sad at this time too, though I know my words are true.

There is for me a bit of let-down after the holidays, when I finally stop reeling from all of the whirlwind of  December. The quiet and calm bring questions. What now? I need purpose.

I have stopped making New Year’s resolutions. I have found them to be as dependable for me as Birthday candle wishes. This specific calendar day has no more power to help me manifest my good intentions than the growing number of tiny flames crowning the strawberry Birthday cake Mama always makes me. I need a higher power.

So I am not making any grand declarations today. But I am trying to remember that my Lord put me here for something, and that He has some ideas about how I should be using this time and freedom and health He gave me. As I say to my two absent-minded, tech-distracted teenagers, I need to wake-up and pay attention, daylight’s a-wasting. I need to focus on my purpose.

I know God has a very individual purpose and specific gifts for each one of us. But He is also clear about His two biggest purposes for every human alive. I will be doing well to keep my monkey brain focused on these two jobs. If I’m honest, I haven’t been doing my best at really focusing on either one of these lately.

 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”

Mark 12:30-31

Well you can’t get much clearer than that. 1. Love Him. 2. Love each other. That’s it. Get after it.

But honestly, even though my very busy days are filled with a long, exhausting checklist, do I really make these two a priority in my day ?

Of course I always love God. Surely I love my neighbors. These are unarguable truths I stored away in my heart as a child, never to be questioned.

But as an action verb, where I am physically showing my love for God and my neighbors by serving them selflessly? Everyday? As my top job, the reason I get up in the morning, the majority of my time, money , and energy spent on these two commandments? Forgive me, Father; I have fallen so short here lately.

Because, not to make excuses, but, I get distracted.

By life. Kids. Job. Stress. You know the list, I’m sure you have one too. But if I’m really honest, my biggest distraction lately has been nothing as noble as these. I can get all caught up in spending way too much time and energy worrying about….. myself.

Measuring myself. Improving myself. Comparing myself. To others, even to younger, thinner versions of me. But never quite happy. Never quite satisfied.

I have learned some things about comparison, which has always been a problem for us humans, but which has kicked it up a few notches in our time thanks to social media.

“Comparison is the thief of joy.” Theodore Roosevelt said that. Have you ever been perfectly happy with something in your life until you compared it to someone else’s?

This is childish, and it is normal, and hopefully most of us through God’s grace and Spirit-leading can get past the pettiness of comparison and just be grateful for what the Lord has seen fit to give us in life.

But technology’s new levels of access and visibility into the lives of others has made questioning our own lives so much easier now.

Vacations, New homes, vacation homes, super-clean and fancy homes, dramatic weight losses, big job promotions, fancy parties. Everything looks gorgeous and fun and fabulous.

But it’s not the whole story; is it? We fall into a trap when we compare our reality to their well-edited highlight reel.

I’m not saying social media isn’t true. I’m saying it’s only the stuff people want you to see the way they want you to see it.

Most people don’t post pictures of themselves doing laundry and cleaning toilets in their stretchy pants. ( Though I would LOVE to see this. Well, maybe not the toilets.) But everybody does these things. Everybody struggles with their kids, and with household mess, and the day-to-day worries and stresses of everyday life.

The truth is, the enemy can distract us from our God-given purpose with this kind of comparison in two ways. One, we can let it paralyze us by making us feel inadequate, unequipped, and unsatisfied. Or Two, it can push us to strive to perform, to compete, to impress. But to what end? If we are hustling to perform and prove our worth to others, how does that glorify God?

He is showing me that the balance between paralysis and striving is purposeful peace. Being at peace with who I am to Him. Having a purpose to serve Him. I am His creation. I am unconditionally loved by the One who created me. I do not need to prove myself to anyone. I need to seek His will for me and only His approval. He approves of me when I serve Him by serving others in love for His glory.

It’s not about me, or anybody else. It’s all about Him.

So, when I come into any situation in the security of remembering His unconditional love for me, I can be used by Him to serve others in His name. I cannot do that if I’m all worried about measuring up or how I will be perceived by others.

Remember when the disciples argued with each other in Luke 9 about which of them was the most important? Honestly this story makes me feel a little better because even the disciples had selfish, petty moments where they didn’t quite get it, and look how the Lord was able to use them.

I know Jesus was too kind to roll His eyes, but I bet He wanted to, having to listen to these sinful mortals fight about which one was better at doing the works He equipped them to do in His name. But he just calmly told them the point, again.

The one who is least among you is the greatest.” Luke 9:48

See, He’s really not interested in all these things we measure in ourselves. Here’s what He cares about.

At the end of the day, did I do what He asked me?

Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.

Love your neighbor as yourself.

That’s it, Heather.

Get after it.


Like Family


OK, here’s a funny, and maybe a little gross, insight into the mind of my four year old, Jackson. This weekend it was just the two of us, his two older brothers and father gone to the woods, hunting. Jackson and I pretty much camped out in the living room all weekend and shared our colds, some late-night no-no nachos, a couple of Hallmark movies, a lot more Paw Patrol episodes, and some “healthy” oatmeal cookies we made with flax and chia seeds. (The quotes are because flax and chia don’t mean you should eat the whole batch.) And soup. My sweet Mama brought us soup, twice. One bowl of vegetable beef from my sweet grandparents, another batch of chicken noodle from my own sweet Mama and Daddy. (Seriously blessed, y’all.)

So any way, the funny part. (and gross. Sorry Mama.) So Jackson is already kind of weird and propitiatory about our two bathrooms. As in he has it his head that “his” bathroom (the guest bathroom,) is the boys’ restroom and that “Mama’s” bathroom (the master bath) is the girls’ restroom. He has actually tried to steer our company in this fashion, and once even had the gall to fuss at me for using “the boys’ bathroom.” (I set him straight right-quick on both of these errors.)

But lately he has taken to fussing at his much older brothers when they leave “his” bathroom in a state of disrepair. (As teenage boys are wont to do, in my experience.)

So I am treated to the hilarious sound of him dressing them down like a little red-headed drill sergeant for leaving toothpaste in the sink, or the absolute worst, putting their candy and food wrappers in the bathroom trashcan. (When they actually hit the can with it, and not the floor. )

“You don’t throw your candy and food trash in the bathroom trashcan! That’s dis-gust-ing! You throw it away in the KITCHEN!”

And yes, of course he is parroting his Mama, who finds new levels of nastiness daily to endeavor to work out of these folks before I send them out into the world. Let’s just say we are not ready for any White House dinners quite yet.

So anyway, this bossy little red-head had called me in, as is his custom, to over-see and perhaps help with, um… To wipe his hiney. Forgive me for sharing too much. Please don’t judge me for not cutting this string quite yet. I am teaching him to do it, but not fully confident in his ability to do it to my satisfaction yet, since I do the laundry, and am privy to such matters.

So there we were, taking care of his business. All was well, we were flushed and washing our hands and he looks around and sniffs. He makes his disgusted face. “Ugghh! Do you smell that, Mama? My brothers are so nasty! They stunk up my bathroom again!”

They were not even home. This kid literally thinks his poop doesn’t stink. And he threw those two tall big brothers of his right on under that bus.

Now, of course he does love those fellas, and thinks they hung the moon, and follows them around like a puppy all the time.

But he will tattle on them in a second to save his own little hide. And he always sees their faults miles before he sees his own. (If he ever sees his own.)

And aren’t we all like this at times, in this big human family of ours? I think it is amazing how God uses my little people to show me things about my human nature in a very clear light. Kids are so  transparently human. This is who we all are, really. Without the help of Jesus.

We judge each other. We condemn and rebuke each other for faults we all have. We are petty. We blame. We hurl stones. We sometimes even tear each other down in a misguided effort to build ourselves up.

And here’s my  inner curmudgeon showing again, but I think we as a culture have gotten worse in this area with the advent of technology rather than better. It is so much easier to hurl stones randomly from behind a screen than in-person.

For example, I was recently reading a really honest and inspiring post by a Christian writer and mother sharing some of her very real struggles that all moms have and how God has helped her use her failures to be honest with her kids about her need for Jesus. (I can really relate y’all. I embody this conversation with my kids daily. Mama is not perfect. Mama needs Jesus, we ALL need Jesus.)

So, the comments section is where they get ya, right? Everybody had really positive, loving things to say. But one response had a distinctive note of judgement. As if the mom should really have it more together. As if she were not doing a better job of mothering because she had not prevented the stress and problems that had arisen from her everyday life as a mother.

I know one negative comment is not a huge deal. The internet is full of people who seem to want to drag other people down. I guess I was just surprised to find one on a Christian website literally designed to lift each other up. And in the guise of helpful advice.

Now look, every woman alive has had “helpful advice” flung at her in a way that seems more designed to tear you down than lift you up. And it would be downright Pollyanna Naive of me to think for a second that Christian circles are immune to this phenomenon.

I’m also not deluded enough to think that I have not myself participated in similar behavior. I may not have said these kinds of things, in-person, or via world-wide-web to the person in question. But have I had judgmental thoughts or comments about other people’s choices that were absolutely none of my business? Thoughts and words that were the opposite of edifying? Sadly, yes.

This may be my human nature, but it is not who I want to be.

Lets’s look at Romans, where folks in that Christian circle had taken to fussing, and back-biting each other, so that Paul had to step in with this humbling bit of advice.

“You then, why do you judge your brother or sister? Or why do you treat them with contempt? For we will all stand before God’s judgement seat.”                                  

                                                                                                              Romans 14:10


“Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and mutual edification.”                                        

                                                                                                       Romans 14:19

Edification is building people up. Not just sweet people who smell good. All people. We certainly all need it. We all really crave it, no matter what we might tell you. Everyone wants to be accepted, approved, loved. Everybody definitely wants and needs grace. Why do we withhold from others the things we want so much for ourselves?

Does that mean we should be fake and give our approval to things we know fly in the face of God’s ways? No. But look at how Jesus handled and still handles showing love to sinners who were still stained with sin. (Sinners like every human He ever met, including you and me.) He loved us, first and foremost. He shared the truth with us, in love, from a place of relationship, not condemnation.

For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him.                         

                                                                                                                     John 3:17

Sweet words for a sinner like me, even if they are not as famous as the awesome verse that came before this one. And if the only sinless One to ever breath air does not see fit to condemn and judge me and all of my sinful brethren, who am I to do it?

When I judge, I am literally clinging to the life boat that is Jesus, and glancing around at the poor folks splashing in the waves He just pulled me from and shaking my head instead of reaching out a hand or at least pointing up towards Him, the only help there is for any of us.

He is showing me that when He calls us brothers and sisters, children of God, He really means it. And in this society where we draw lines so easily and obsess over every difference, He is showing me that our view of each other should be like His view. Like family.

As much as siblings might bicker and blame and throw each other under the bus as children, blood runs thick. Most of us can probably say that there is nothing we wouldn’t do for our flesh and blood, our mothers, our fathers, our brothers, sisters, and children.

I think God wants us to spread that kind of concern and grace and selfless love beyond our bloodlines to our neighbors, our coworkers, church family, community, country, and even world. And I know that sounds like a greeting card or a t-shirt, and as an idea is certainly not new, but I feel Him urging us towards this love for each other, now more than ever.

But it will never happen in our own power. We are too weak, too selfish, too, too petty.

I will leave you with this verse that God showed me first thing this morning. No context, it just jumped out of my Bible at me as I was thinking on these things. It gives me hope for us in this, because the power doesn’t have to come from us.

“Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth. This is how we know that we belong to the truth, and how we set our hearts at rest in His presence whenever our hearts condemn us. For God is greater than our hearts, and He knows everything. “

                                                                                                         1 John 3:18-19



The Power of Humility in a Horn-blowing World

It’s been bugging me a lot lately. I find that I am focusing on it. Pride in others. Self congratulation. Me! Me! Me! Selfies. One-upping, glory-hogging, conceit, and bragging are more prevalent in our culture today than ever before. But it has always been a human problem to forget the humility that ought to come hand-in-hand with our humanity. We are all in danger of becoming too big for our britches if we aren’t careful.

Ironically while I’m writing this post about people blowing their own horns, people are driving by on the highway in front of my house loudly blowing their car horns, blaring their music at full volume, completely oblivious to the other humans with whom they share this world who might want peace and quiet.

And may I digress to fuss a second about people walking around talking loudly on blue-tooth ear pieces whilst sharing shopping space with me in a store. It makes them look crazy until I figure out that they are just oblivious and rude. Discussing all of their personal business full voice in my face while ignoring my presence and irking me with every detail of theirs. I am not impressed.

And while we’re in the store, can we talk about pants? When I was a kid people wore them in public. Not shorts so short that when you wear them with a loose t-shirt their existence becomes an unsettling mystery. And do not get me started on stretched-to the-limit leggings, jeggings, tights, and yoga pants with a rear-end very clearly there for all the world to see. Where are these girls’ Mama’s and Grandmama’s? I’m sorry, I digress. I went to the store in my head, and I got distracted.

Back to my own epiphany. Apparently God had some things to teach me about my reaction to over-blown pride in others. (And my reaction to the growing lack of public shopping etiquette or apparel.) I took it upon myself to look into His word on the subject of humility, and what I found was very humbling indeed.

Do you remember the story of the Publican and the Pharisee? In Luke 18: 9-18, Jesus told a story about a publican, or tax collector, and a pharisee, both praying in the temple. The pharisee loudly made a big production of  thanking God that he was not a terrible sinner like all these other people, especially this wretched tax collector.

13 “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’

14 “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God.

          For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

  Luke 18:13-14

Ouch. When I focus on other people’s prideful behaviors, when I congratulate myself for being raised right and not acting like a horse’s rear-end in public, then I am being the Pharisee in this scenario, and not the Publican.

And y’all. The Pharisees were jerks. They always stood around judging everybody for everything and looking like they were sucking on lemons. The Pharisees put themselves and their prejudices above serving God and loving His people.

I do not want to be anything like them. I want to be the one hiding quietly in the corner, tears streaming down my face, beating my chest, crying, “God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”

And when I let my disdain for sinful behavior in others overshadow my love for people, I am being a self-righteous Pharisee. When my inherent cranky-old-lady-ness notices something that flies in the face of my Southern Baptist raising and my knee- jerk reaction is to make the Ouiser Boudreaux stink face, I am not reflecting the heart of my Lord.

ouiser in church

Let me tell you what God showed me about the humble heart of my Lord.

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

Who, being in very nature God,
    did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
    by taking the very nature of a servant,
    being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
    he humbled himself
    by becoming obedient to death—
        even death on a cross!

Death on a cross was a shameful thing reserved for the worst criminals. A way to make an example of you. And while my Lord hung there, mocked and abused by the lowest of the low, did He judge them? Did he deride them for their sins and point out his lack thereof?

No, he advocated to His Father on their behalf. “Forgive them, Father; they know not what they do.”

That is my example of how to react to sin in this world. And I need to learn this lesson quick, because the days are evil.

But a hardened heart will not win people for the Lord. A lemon-face will only reinforce the world’s view of Christians as judgmental hypocrites.

What I need to do is stop looking for prideful behavior in others and just be mindful of my own. And when I encounter behavior in others that bothers me, I need to pray for that person. Not like the Pharisee, “there but for the grace of God…” Sincere, humble, loving prayers for God’s will for that person. Because whoever he or she is, that person is a child of God, and a sibling of mine, and I need to advocate for them.

Only then, can I truly reflect the loving humility of Jesus.

Sweet Lord, please just help me to keep a-hold of my face.




Don’t be a Gus.

It’s finally Fall down here, y’all. As in it has actually dropped below 80 degrees for a second. I am super-excited. This morning, I jumped out of bed like a kid, anxious to grab my coffee and head outside for some gorgeous Autumn morning devo time, when I step out onto my back porch and into a ginormous puddle of hound dog pee. Awesome.

Let me introduce y’all to Gus. Augustus Boudreaux Mattern is the Black and tan coon hound we rescued two years ago. I found him online on a Hound Dog rescue network. Yes, it’s a thing. I had no idea that there were so many homeless hound dogs that whole networks were required to rescue them. But there are. Apparently hounds of all kinds are over-bred for hunting purposes and then abandoned and often put down. I know, it hurt my heart too, because I love me a big ole floppy hound dog.

So, we jumped through all our adoption process hoops and finally went to meet the volunteer drivers halfway at a vet in Evergreen. Our fella had been chauffeured thusly by two other awesome volunteers all the way from the Gadsden area. They kept sending me updates of his progress, and I would grin, picturing his big head and floppy ears flapping in the wind as he journeyed to his forever home.

Then he was ours, and it was love at first sight. He was huge! But he was so skinny all of his bones were showing. I joked that you could hang laundry off of his hip bones. We were honestly worried he might not make it. But after a vet visit and some TLC, he started to gain weight. And more, and more, and more. Last time we took him to the vet he advised us to cut back on Gus’s food. He was too fat. He said this as if it were an easy thing. Just cut back a little.

Well that would be easy, I guess, if Gus weren’t bat-poop crazy when it comes to food. He is completely, one-hundred percent obsessed with food. This became apparent the first five minutes he was home. The only reason this dog was ever skinny was the worms in his belly. It certainly wasn’t lack of appetite.

Let me paint a picture of Gus’s crazy for you. As a hound dog, Gus has been suitably gifted with the deep, sonorous baying you are probably familiar with. (Think-Where the Red Fern Grows ) Wooo wooo wooo wooo wooo! Any time he feels the slightest hunger, or sees another person or dog or chicken being fed, or his own bowl empty, or just because it is 4:00 AM or PM, he directs this powerful baying at you. And he is super adamant. He climbs the door, the window, he finds you.

He also whines and drools at our meal time, waiting, watching Jackson (the four year old) hoping one of these fellas will share or drop something he might “clean” for us. (The focus on Jackson is based on probability. He’s crazy, but not stupid. The other two don’t share or drop.)

Gus and Jackson

“Are you gonna eat that?”

But his worst food obsession behavior is on display with his older brother, our little old Beagle, Jack. Jack actually lost weight when we brought Gus home, and we quickly figured out we have to feed Jack inside. (While Gus watches from the door window, forlorn.) Gus would hover over him while he tried to eat. He would hide Jack’s food from him. I’ve seen him put rocks in his own food bowl to hide the food. I’ve seen him nudge his food bowl under a plant to hide it.

He wasn’t trying to starve his new brother to death. He was hoarding all the food for himself. I have even see him eat to the point of being sick to keep others from getting it.

I know why Gus is crazy. Gus is afraid of not having food because he has experienced painful hunger in the past. They found Gus wandering the streets, starving. He has known real starvation and he fears it. Even though he is in a loving home where there is no reason to question the absolute guarantee of his next meal, Gus is forever anxious about it. He cannot relax in our love for him and just trust us.

So, back to this morning. The puddle. We house-trained Gus when we got him, and he is really good about it. But occasionally he leaves us huge puddles on the porch or in the garage. Last week he peed right in front of me one morning in the garage because it was sprinkling outside.

This morning on the porch, he did it because it was a little cooler. So apparently he’s scared of slight changes in weather too. This must be more PTSD drama from being on the mean streets of Gadsden, Alabama.

Poor Gus. But I got to thinking about my crazy dog this morning, and I can see how I can be kind of a Gus myself sometimes. I can be a real worrier. I can make myself hound-dog miserable with worry.

And I can obsess about things. Health, weight, finances, my job, my kids! The second each one of  my babies was born my crazy mom-brain engaged. It provides me with endless vivid daytime nightmares of all the millions of ways my kids could be harmed in every new situation. (My oldest will be driving soon. Dear Lord in heaven, I’m gonna give myself an ulcer.)

And sometimes I can even wonder about the provision God has proven to supply us with again and again. What more must He do to earn my trust? He literally gave His life for me. Do I really believe he would do that and then not take care of me, of us?

Gus’s fear is irrational, but it is based in his experience. But what are mine based in? I have never had to miss a meal or endure the discomfort of the elements. I have never known my Lord not to hold me safely in His loving hand. My worries are unfounded and unnecessary. A product of my sinful nature.

Sometimes we, Moms especially, tend to wear our worry and stress like a badge of honor. Almost as if it proves to ourselves and the world what great moms we are if we are all wrapped up in worry for our babies.  I don’t think God sees it this way. He is convicting me that when I stress and worry about things, I am showing Him that I don’t trust Him.

For God hath not given us a spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.                         

                                                                                2 Timothy 1:7


It is irrational fear. (Just like Gus.) It is a complete waste of my energy. (Just like Gus.) It is unhealthy for me. ( Just like Gus.) It annoys my Master, who will provide for and protect me and my babies, as always, in His perfect timing. (Just like Gus.)

I look at that word “annoy” and I wonder, do I really annoy Him with this? Well, there are plenty of examples of folks working God’s nerves in the Old Testament by not just trusting Him to provide for them. In some cases, it even brought out His wrath. So yeah, I can for sure get on His nerves. But He still always loves me.

Just like I still love my Gus. Even when he truly believes he will starve if I don’t feed him RIGHT NOW!

Even when he pees on my porch.



Skinny Gus, first day with us. (Forty pounds ago.)

Focused and Full, or Distracted and Drained?


It has always been an issue for me. Distraction. I joke with my students that I’m so old they had not invented ADHD or its medicine when I was little so I just got lots of whippings. I remember that my sweet Mama would put a towel over the mirror on my vanity/dresser to force me to focus on my homework and stop making weird faces and talking to myself.

But in the past few months, I have felt God speaking to me about staying focused. Specifically about keeping my focus on Him, and not getting all tangled up in all of the mess and nonsense that stresses me out, steals my joy and peace, and makes me pretty well worthless for His work for me.

The other word He has been whispering to me lately is fullness. As in the fullness of God, life, and joy that He died to bring me because He loves me that much. As in, “Why are you squandering the fullness that I suffered to give you by allowing yourself to be distracted by things that do not matter? Life is short, Daughter. Use your time wisely!” This last sentence, by the way, was present in the comments section of every one of my elementary school report cards, along with “talks at inappropriate times.”

Set your mind on the things that are above, not on the things that are on Earth.                                                         

                                                                                       Colossians 3:2

Because most of the things that surround and distract us down here are pretty awesome at keeping us from focusing on Him. Even the good stuff can be a problem when it pulls too much of our attention. It’s almost as if there were someone behind all of these distractions, someone who delights in tangling us up, throwing us off-course, and wearing us completely slap-out by encouraging us to chase our own tails constantly.

What kinds of things distract and drain us these days? Everything! Work stress, family stress, schedules, mountain-sized problems, mole-hill sized problems, technology/media, obsessing over ourselves, obsessing over other people, obsessing over what other people think of us, comparison, 24 hour-World-National-Local news, endless to-do lists, health concerns, relationships, kids, pets, life!

We all have to think on these things; we cannot ignore them. But when we “set our minds” on the things above, on GOD and His kingdom, it gives us the “mindset” to manage these things in their proper context. That context is always one that places Him in ultimate control over everything else. This is the mindset of peace. A head space where both mountains and mole-hills can be maneuvered peacefully as we are led by His mighty right hand.

But how do you “set” your mind? I can barely set the alarm clock. (Seriously, my husband always checks behind me; it would be very insulting if I didn’t agree it was necessary.) Changing my mindset is not something I can do alone; I need the Holy Spirit to guide me. But that doesn’t mean I don’t have work to do too. God doesn’t change us without us being involved in the process. It’s also not a once and done change. I have to renew my mind everyday. I have to be intentional daily to make myself set my mind on Him.

I can do this in a very practical way by forcing myself out of that bed at 4:30 to sit with Him on my couch with a cup of hot tea or coffee every morning, whether I feel like it or not. If I really give Him the first minutes of my day, it puts me on track to keep my mind there when the distractions, little and big, pop up later. (And they will.) This has become my daily habit, but sometimes I have to really fight for this time. Not just because I want to hit snooze, but because some mornings I feel like our beagle, hound dog and four-year-old are all determined to stop me. Whether it’s bellowing for nourishment or wiggling beside me on the couch, none of these three fellows has any qualms about distracting me from my devo-time if I inadvertently awaken them before dawn. Because of this I have almost mastered the art of sneaking through the dark like a ninja to get to my precious peace place.

Another thing that has been helping me lately is to remember the following verse.

I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

                                                                               John 10:10

Jesus died to give us a full life, y’all. Not a life full of distraction, discouragement, exhaustion, and stress. I believe He meant for our lives to be full of the fruits of the spirit, like peace, love, and joy. I believe a life to the full is full of God-called purpose and the power of spirit-led self-control. I believe it is a life lived focused on the things that mattered most to Jesus when He chose to walk a short lifetime here in our shoes. His full life was centered on serving His Father, and serving others in love with every breath He took. I am so grateful our Savior did not allow Himself to be distracted from His focus.

So this verse just humbles me into working to enjoy the fullness of my life. It is so ridiculous to think this is something that I must work at, when my blessings are beyond counting. I know that. Yet, this world with all of its distractions pulls me often from consciousness of this beautiful truth: That I am a blessed and beloved child of the Almighty God. The day-to-day grind can steal your joy. I think we have all been there.

One thing I have found helpful lately is to search for little moments during the day to be grateful for, then list at least ten of them before I go to bed. ( I got this idea from Rachel Hollis, Girl, Wash Your Face!) Its’ like I’m looking for little treasures God is hiding for me throughout my day. I wait and watch for them purposefully. It totally shifts my mood and my mindset.

Ten little blessings. Not just the same big ones like a home or a family that I thank Him for daily. Just little things that make me smile or laugh; little things that bring me joy. Funny things like my four-year old, Jackson, having a full conversation with me under the crack of the bathroom door, complete with a proposed play-by-play of what I might be up to in there. Happy things like hearing my two older boys belly laugh together in their room. Peaceful things like a beautiful sunset spent at the beach with all my menfolk. Ten tiny blessings to be grateful for every day. It makes me more mindful of savoring and not squandering the full life He already gave me.


nathan jackson beach bucket splash



Counting My Blessings

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The Wonder of His Warmth

I always hear him coming as soon as he steps out of his room, his door, like all of our doors, screaming for some WD-40. (It’s on my to-do list.) He pads in, whispering to himself, and works his way around to my side in the dark. His little face inches from mine, studying my closed eyes, breath sweet on my face. (Why don’t little people get morning breath?) He knows I’m playing possum. “Mama? You awake? Mama, Jackson get in with you?”

Ya-us, thank you Lord. Him coming in beats me coming out. It has been dipping into the 20’s around here this week, and I had to drag myself back to real work in the real world from my very cozy state of near-hibernation during Christmas vacation. I knew this was only a reprieve, like a squirmy little snooze button. But 20 minutes from now, was better than now. It was Saturday morning for Pete’s sake.

So I pull him up and in. I cover him with the blanket and pull his little back into my chest, wrapping my arms around him, kissing the back of his sweet little red bed head.

And he giggles. Just the best sound ever. “Mama, you love me?” He’s laughing. He’s eating it up. He’s delighting in my love for him. He knows good and well that I do. He just wants to wallow in it a bit.

The LORD your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.

 Zephaniah 3-17

It is just so crazy how God uses these moments with my kids to open my stubborn eyes. My mind immediately jumped to this verse, and to this first-hand feeling of taking great delight in my child, to the undeniable truth that He feels this way about me. And His love is even stronger than this, because I am limited by humanity.

Then I flashed back to a similar moment a year ago when God whispered those words into my mind while I was looking into this same little boy’s sweet blue eyes and sharing another delicious giggle. “This is how I delight in you.” He said to me then. My eyes welled up with tears as I attempted to digest this.

It was a time when I was struggling with other thoughts popping into my head. I had been allowing myself to question my worth to Him or to anyone. I had even allowed these toxic lies about myself to cripple me at times, which is of course the purpose of all toxic lies flung at us by the enemy.

Talking about this makes me sound a little nuts, and I know that. I think Satan kind of bets on the fact that we won’t discuss our struggles in matters of the mind, especially not in a spiritual warfare kind of sense. As in- Satan is attacking you in your thoughts with his lies so that you will be weakened in your effectiveness for God’s kingdom. Preachers and Christian writers may speak this way, but out there in the world, folks would look at you like you were  growing a horn out of your forehead if you were to say that the devil had been attacking your thoughts spiritually.

But even in our Christian circles this is not something we really want to talk about. We Christians, especially Christian women, are supposed to have it all together and be models of spiritual and mental health, passing out cute baskets of the fruits of the spirit everywhere we go.

But the fiery darts are real. The armor God gives us works, it protects us, but only if we remember to turn to Him in every attack. And it is an attack, make no mistake. Satan’s lies are so perfectly crafted to hit us right in our weakest spots. He makes it his business to know just what they are. He knows “right where my goat is tied,” as my Daddy would say.

One of my weak spots, it seems, is a question of my own worth. A nagging wonder if God could really love me that much. I realize the source of the lie, but still it surfaces, along with others, from time to time, to torment me.

I cannot stop Satan from flinging fiery darts, but I don’t have to build a fire out of them and camp out around it.

camp fire

I can put on my armor every day by soaking my mind in God’s truth. I can rebuke the toxic thoughts and reject them. That includes every negative, self-harming thought, from “You look so fat today.” to “How could God ever trust you to _________?”(Insert work God wants you to do here.)Entertaining these kinds of thoughts is allowing the devil himself to make himself at home in my brain.

I need room in my crazy brain for sweet, healing, sometimes hard-to-believe thoughts like the verse from Zephaniah above. He delights in me. He rejoices over me with singing. Just like I do with my precious babies. Really? As big a mess as I am, and He sees the sweetness of His precious Son when he sees me? That still just bolls me over y’all, and I’ve known and believed it since I was eight.

But He’s also showing me that when I allow myself to question His love for me, or my worth to Him, or both, not only am I harming myself, but I am hurting Him. Jump back to this morning, snuggling with my three-year -old who just relishes the love we all pour all over him. What if he didn’t? What if his question, “Mama, you love me?” had really been a question? What if he truly wondered, or worse, pulled away from my warmth to suffer alone with his doubt in cold darkness?

That feeling I just imagined is what I put my Lord through when I doubt the depth and height and length of His amazing love for me. And Satan’s jealousy of this love and his desire to cripple all of us who enjoy its warmth and render us weak for our work for our precious Father make him a tenacious enemy. He will not stop until it is all over. We all know who wins in the end. (Spoiler alert.) Please don’t allow him to steal even a moment of your joy. Snuggle right on up to our good Father and wallow in the wonderful warmth of how much He truly does delight in you.









Don’t Steal His Blessing

 Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us,

Ephesians 3:20


God’s amazing power makes anything possible.  We just need to ask Him. You won’t annoy Him by over-asking. Ask His will first, then your heart’s desires, with a grateful, obedient heart ready to accept His will, even when it contradicts ours.

But why do I forget to even ask sometimes? I think He wants us to ask for things and believe that He can and will provide as He sees fit, according to His riches in glory and His good, good plans for us.

But, I tend to focus only on needs. I find I am very conservative and logical in my prayers and even restrictive in my dreams for myself. He promised to provide more than we could ask or even imagine, and for some reason I try to put limits on this.

I guess it is my way of mitigating the space between His will and mine by trying to totally submit to His wants before ever even considering my own. That’s what we’re supposed to do, right? But, what if I’m disappointing Him by avoiding disappointment for myself by not asking Him for big things He wants to give me?

If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!

                                                               Matthew 7:11


Like so many other lessons He tries to teach me, God is using my own children to teach me what a good Father He is to me. When I consider His side of this, as a parent, I can see where I have erred in this a bit.

When I ask my own kids what they want for Christmas and they hesitate to tell me anything because they don’t want to be selfish, or worse, because they don’t think we can afford what they really want, does that make me feel great as a parent?

Sure, I’m proud that they are sensible and thoughtful and not totally self-absorbed and superficial like many other kids their age.

But, I also want them to keep a little magic and wonder and belief that we can give them something they would love. Now, granted, my kids are also super-easy to please, since they are somewhat sheltered and pop-culture deprived. (I am not poor-mouthing, here. God has and continues to bless us and supply our needs daily. But, we tend to keep it pretty simple in our family. We joke that we are like the “settlers” in the Direct TV commercials. “Ma has her cabbages, and the boy has his stick and hoop!”

Honestly, being around teens and tweens all day, I see first-hand that this simple raising is really the best for my own kids. I constantly over-hear thirteen and fourteen-year old kids bragging about and even insulting one another over the cost of designer brands at insane prices for ridiculous items that will fall out of fashion quickly and lose whatever superficial glory they provided as soon as the next, new thing comes along. It is a cold, slippery slope, materialism, and some children ride it all the way into adulthood. It never satisfies and leads to endless striving to impress.

Worse, for these kids who have done nothing to earn these extravagances, there is no true value in these items for them. They want it, they get it, they brag about it and even insult others about a name on a shoe, or a phone, or a jacket. (Or the lack thereof.) Then, it is on the the next big want.

Sorry, y’all, but I’m on the front lines of this kind of behavior and I see up-close what it is doing to the character of our kids, and it ain’t pretty. So, sometimes, I preach a little. Quietly, to the side, not in any official capacity. But, yeah I preach a bit.

I have been known to gently remind some of my church-going students upon overhearing such name-brand shaming that “Jesus did not have designer sandals nor even a house of His own, and He is the King of Kings, so I choose to be grateful and humbled by any clothes, shoes or home the good Lord sees fit to provide for me.”

But, I digress. Back to my own children. Our two-teacher budget, ultra-conservatism, and innate old-fashionedness (We were both born old.) have led us to raise these boys to be pretty much oblivious to name brand materialism. I am not bragging, this is just how it is for us. I couldn’t spoil these kids if I wanted to, y’all. But, thank you, Father, for showing me that I don’t really want to.

But, when I ask them what they want, and they temper it, or hide it for fear of making us feel bad, well that sure does not feel good. They are not grown-ups yet, for goodness sake. They have a whole life of sensible reality ahead of them, right? I’m proud of their good heads and hearts, but I want to give them good gifts that they want because I love them.

And I don’t want them to question whether they deserve them or whether we are able to provide them.

So, I get it, finally, that my Father wants me to ask anyway. He wants to know that I believe that He can and wants to give me good gifts.


More than I could ask or even dare to dream or imagine. He is able. Believe it. He wants to see that little sparkle of magic in my eyes when I realize He has provided the desire of my heart. It is His blessing to bless me.

I remember my sweet, sweet grandfather, Daddie-Freddie, teaching me this lesson when I was little. He was trying to give me something, a little money, I think, on a non-birthday, non-occasion. He just wanted to give me a little something in that moment. I was like eight, I think.

I said, “No, thank you. No I really couldn’t. No, I don’t need it, thank you, but no, no no, thank you.” (This was my raising, folks. Yes, I do see that the apple does not fall far from the tree. Touche’.)

Daddie-Freedie shut me down gently with a calmly raised hand, hushing my repeated protests.

“Heather, you are stealing my blessing if you don’t let me do this.” Well, who can argue with that?

So I have to remember not to steal my good, good Father’s blessing. I have to remember to dream, and ask, and believe that He wants to give me good, good gifts as His beloved child.

It doesn’t make me selfish, or spoiled to live in, and expect, and enjoy the fullness of His love.

It is what He came to give us.

Ask Him for good gifts, believe He will provide, watch for His blessings, and thank Him from the bottom of your heart.

Don’t steal His blessing.



Counting My Blessings


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