Tuesday, December 23, 2014

When Expectancy Eclipses Distraction

Christmas is in two days.  Two, short, 24-hour periods.  Unbelievable.

Sometimes the days are hard and rough and I think they will drag on forever.  How long will we be in this place, Lord?

Other days are saturated with joy and gratitude and intention and they vanish like hot breath on cold mornings.  Where has the time gone?  Weren't we just expectantly waiting the arrival of twin girls?  And suddenly, they are on the edge of two years old.

Every year we wait expectantly for Christmas.  The excitement begins to churn in November.  There is a lot to look forward to.  A reminder of love and grace.  We fight for humility and thanksgiving.  There is celebration and light, music and warm hugs, and yet another opportunity to share Christ with a dying world.

The weeks before Christmas come as a hallowed stirring, a heavenly build up, a holy pressure.  All for the birth of a God-made-human who would forever change my life.  A baby changes everything.

This is right.  This is holy.

My family and I light candles on an advent wreath during the four weeks leading up to Christmas Day. On the first day of advent we light a single candle, and each Sunday after that we add one to the circle of light.  When we lit the third candle last week, my four-year-old giddily bursted with, "One week closer to Christmas!"

He gets it.

The world would have us so wrapped up in red wrapping paper and red prices on a sales tag that our bank account reads red as well.  Distracted by the depression of debt.

The world would have us so stretched thin by commercialism and perfectionism that there isn't much left to give Christ.  Keeping up with the Jones' doesn't leave much time for keeping up with the Spirit.  Distracted by the entitlement of a thousand-dollar-Christmas.

Expectant waiting keeps our eyes focused on Christ.  It keeps our hearts tied to the one who created them.  Expectant waiting not only produces anticipation, but also appreciation.  It provides proper perspective.  It smooths over the disappointment, entitlement, loneliness and other distractions that Satan uses to draw our attention away from a most holy and awesome God.

Two days until Christmas.  Two days until we officially celebrate the arrival of our personal hero.  The one who sweeps us off our feet in the threat of hell.

Fight the temptation to be distracted in these last couple of precious days.  Every heart prepare Him room!

Merry Christmas my dear, sweet friends.  Merry Christmas.

Monday, December 15, 2014

New Stuff: About Me and Why I'm So Adventurous

If you haven't noticed, I have given the blog and Facebook page a little face lift.  God has given me fresh direction for my next steps and I am very excited about it!  A few of you who read this blog know me intimately, and when you read the following, you'll think, Yep.  Sounds about right.

But many of you don't know me from Eve, and I wanted to formally introduce myself.  So here is my "About Me" summary that you can also find on my Facebook writer's page.  And maybe a web site sometime in the future!

Just for the record, the above picture was taken by my rockstar hubby.  He's the best.

Who is this girl and what does she have to offer me?

Well, since you asked, my name is Stacey and there really isn’t much special about me.  I’m just a girl from a smallish town who God got a hold of.

I’ve always been a feeble follower of Christ and I’ve always wanted to be a wife and mother.  I had big ideas, big dreams, and soon-to-follow big disappointments.

Like taking a sip of Coke when you think it’s going to be sweet iced tea, I was rudely woken up to the messiness of life.  But in the midst of all, I was given these gifts.  You know, kind of like when you unwrap a shoebox on Christmas morning only to find there is a diamond ring tucked away inside (that’s never happened to me, just to be clear, cough*hubby*cough. Maybe this year.).

Through lightning-like motherhood, a faulty misconception of love, and a marriage marked by infidelity, I was wrapped with the luxury of wisdom, discernment, grace that will knock you off your feet, and a rock-solid definition of love as only God has intended it to be.

So, there’s that.

Also, you might enjoy knowing that I have three littles who keep me insanely busy and senselessly happy.  They are simultaneously aging me and delighting me on a daily basis.

I also have a rock star filmmaker husband who lights up my world.  He immediately turns on my heated seat for me every time he starts the mom-mobile. Oh, and he brings me chocolate and Mt. Dew on long, hairy days.

You should also know that if you’re reading this, I love you and I have prayed for you.  Crazy, right?  I’m not a weirdo, I promise.  I just have a fiery passion for women who are seeking after the Lord.  Our heavenly Father has placed a calling on my life that I just cannot ignore.  He has called me to encourage and love on His daughters.  And that is exactly what I plan to spend the rest of my life doing! 

Why Adventurous Love?

The Merriam Webster dictionary defines adventure as an undertaking usually involving danger and unknown risks.  It also defines it as an exciting or remarkable experience.

Isn’t that just like love?  Marriage?  Family?

It is a risk to love.  What if you aren’t loved in return?  What if you pour your heart and soul into someone only to have them show you the scars that the world and sin have left on them?  What if selfishness, addiction, or Godlessness drives you toward the boundary of “not what I signed up for.”

What if your children fly from your nest and leave a wake of disappointment and heartbreak in their path?  Risky business.

Love is giving the other person longer than they deserve to correct a mistake.  Love is earnestly praying for those who have smiled to your face and tarnished your name behind your back.  Love is humbling yourself enough to admit your part in the destruction of a relationship.  Love doesn't advertise someone else's sins to make your own a little dimmer.  Love is refusing to let past betrayals control your mind and heart today.

So here’s why it’s worth it: because it is also a remarkable experience.

It's exactly what God has been doing for us since the day he created us in his infinite imagination.  He loves us in spite of who we are, and he calls us to do the same.  Marriage and family are designed to be a picture to the world of how God loves us. 

Heavy stuff right there, but it gets me excited.  It is a pure honor to love my husband, a privilege to love my children.  I am so imperfect at it.  Some might say bad at it, but the idea that God gives me the opportunity to emulate Him to others who so desperately need Him (just like me), just leaves me punch drunk.  How awesome.

So, I’m glad you’re here!  If you choose to hang out and spend some time with me, just know that God is here as well.  Isn’t that great?  I hope you find both love and adventure here.

It is in Him that we live and move and have our very being,

Stacey Layden

Monday, December 8, 2014

Grace In The Form of Animal Cookies

Something bizarre happened this morning.  I woke up sick, which doesn't happen often.  I'm not visiting the local Urgent Care or totally knocked out in my bed.  It's just one of those no-energy-fairly-nauseous-sore-throat-cloudy-headed kind of feelings.

No matter the severity, raise your hand if you know that mamas and daddies don't get a sick day.  Also, two thirds of my littles don't feel well either, so they are in desperate need of extra TLC and won't nap.  The remaining third of my brood threw up this morning with no warning, but insists he feels fine.

I started the day totally spent.

So today, I would like to let you know that I put a giant tub of animal crackers on the floor for everyone to dig out of for breakfast.

Like a feeding trough.  A feeding trough of cookies.

And then my husband realized that something was not right with the universe and made us all eggs.

And that is why I have no substantial, biblically sound, insightful message for you today.

I just want you to enjoy the fact that I gave my kids a superstore-sized tub of crackers (are they crackers or cookies?) for the most important meal of the day.

Thank God for grace.

In any case, I hope you all are having a fabulous Monday!

Monday, December 1, 2014

Acts of Kindness for Littles That Don't Require Extra Doses of Sanity or Sanitizer

Welcome Advent!  The four weeks before Christmas is upon us and we are all abuzz with excitement in our house.  Each year we implement new and old ideas for keeping our focus set on Christ throughout the season of advent.  This year we are re-focusing our Elf on the Shelf as well.

Anna at The Imagination Tree has had a genius idea for Kindness Elves.  Each day, the elves are re-set in a creative place and fashion, but instead of creepily watching your children throughout the day to see if they've been naughty or nice, they bring an act of kindness to try that day.

I'm so glad!

But after searching google and pinterest for fresh act of kindness ideas, I couldn't find very many that worked for our family.  Donating toys to the children's hospital is a fabulous suggestion, but it's not "my best yes" to juggle two two-year-olds, a four-year-old, and a box of toys through a hospital.  I just don't have enough sanity or sanitizer for that.

Making a Christmas meal for someone in need is also very kind, but my twin toddlers aren't great at stuffing a turkey and I just feel like the sentiment and lesson would be lost somewhere in me yelling at my kids to get out of the kitchen because I'm cooking.

So I came up with 25 acts of kindness that will work for my family this year and I thought I would share them with you!  Advent is here!  Let's make room for Him in our hearts!

1.  Share your favorite toy with one of your brothers or sisters.

2.  Bake cookies for the post office worker and leave them in the mailbox.

3.  Make and send a card to grandparents (Ginga and Papa) who don't live nearby.

4.  We will do #3 twice to show kindness to different sets of grandparents that we don't see often (Papa Taylor).

5.  Give this candy to your brother or sister. (Our elf, Jack and The Beanstalk, will bring three small pieces of candy, one for each of our kids to choose to give away. And yes, my son named our Elf Jack and The Beanstalk. We call him Jack for short.)

6.  Bring food to church for the food pantry.

7.  Pull garden weeds for mom.

8.  Tell your brother or sister something that you love about them.

9.  Tell your cousins that you love them.

10.  Help carry in the groceries from the van.

11.  Give a big hug and kiss to everyone in your family and tell them that you love them.

12.  Leave quarters for someone else at a toy or candy machine in the grocery store.

13.  Bring donuts to everyone at Daddy's work.

14.  Throw away diapers for mommy.

15.  Let your brother or sister go first.

16.  Throw this ball for Captain in the back yard. (Jack will bring a tennis ball for our dog.)

17.  Take a sweet picture for Daddy on his ipod and leave it as a surprise.

18.  Bring this treat to Nani and tell her you love her. (Jack will bring dark chocolate which my mother-in-law loves.)

19.  Bring a small gift to your pastor's family on Sunday morning.

20.  Donate a small stack of books to your Pediatrician's office.

21.  Write down all the things you love about Daddy and leave them all over the house.

22.  Say a special prayer for someone today.

23.  Give a wallet picture and a special kiss to Grandaddy.

24.  Help clean up the toys in the back yard.

25.  After opening gifts on Christmas morning, tell each member of your family that Jesus loves them so much!

Monday, November 24, 2014

How to Slow Your Roll This Thanksgiving

"When I set my life to the rhythm of rush, I just quite honestly don't like who I am."
Lysa TerKeurst, The Best Yes

Think about when you are the most short-tempered, snappy, critical, or down-hearted.  For me, it's almost always when I am in a rush.  When I am trying to accomplish something within a period of time, and time feels like it is mocking me as it runs away.  When I've spent way too long trying to produce or complete or perfect and everything feels like an interruption.

As Thanksgiving charges us this week, and Christmas trails not far behind, I challenge us all (myself most included) to take a closer look at the way we navigate these holidays.  Too often, my rhythm is set to rush as we hurry to start the turkey, hurry to sit at the table, and hurry to clean up, so that we can hurry to bed at the end of an exhausting day.

Today, I have two days to pack for five people with a mountain of dirty laundry and three children under the age of four to work with.  I have Black Friday to plan, sales to map out, and a Christmas list to finish.  Blog post due, book cram shouting, a Sunday service plan begging for attention.

Not to mention, who will keep the dog while we are away, I should have had those bills in the mail last week, and I feel guilty about bringing nothing to my mother's table for the feast.

With all of the To-Do's snatching at my apron strings and ringing in my brain, I snap when a small little voice asks to be pushed on the swing.  I roll my eyes when he asks to paint at the kitchen table that I just finished cleaning.  I react with little to no grace when a major spill sets me back 20 minutes from my plan.

"She is a child," the Father whispers.

And then their tears break my heart.

So, how do I slow my roll during these busy holidays so that I don't miss out on the joy and the gratitude?  How do I soak in intention and purpose?  Here are a few things I'm going to try this year:

1.  Grace

When you overcook the turkey or forget the rolls entirely.  When you are the only seated guest who contributed nothing to the meal at all.  When your children don't have adorable matching outfits with turkeys and pilgrims and monograms.  Give yourself grace instead of wallowing in self-deprecation.

When they fight throughout the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade so that you can't hear all of the Broadway hits.  When their spills and lost socks and refusals to get buckled up cause you to be late to the big dinner.  When they complain about your cooking (or worse, your mother-in-law's).  Give them grace instead of harsh tones and threats.  Should we withhold what we are so freely given?

2.  Leave Room

I understand just as well as anyone that this can be a tall order.  Those "Leave it to Beaver" days when you're all set to go with time to spare and everyone is packed and prepared with a smile on their face are rare.  I get it.  If it were that easy, you would make every day so.

But this year, give special effort to leave yourself a little extra time in the day.  Lay out some outfits the night before, get up just a touch earlier if you can, or delegate a few more jobs to the hubs.  Whatever it takes to allow yourself to stop and smell the turkey every once in a while.

It is the minutes that make up the day and when you leave yourself space to tie a shoe with a smile or give praise for a handprint turkey, you leave space for the Father to love on His children.  You make room for His presence to fill the room instead of the traditional tension.

3.  Stop and Soak

Deep breaths are hard to come by on busy days.  Who has time for breathing?  This year, I will force myself to stop and soak it in.  I believe five minutes is all it takes.

You've heard it said that sometimes it is hard to see the forrest because of all the trees.  In a jam-packed room of family and friends and rush, it is more valuable than time to step back and count your blessings.  Sneak out to the porch and peek in the window at the abundance of life going on inside.  Give silent thanks if your grandmother is still alive and making her famous gravy.  Gobble up the picture of your father sneaking a piece of pie for your toddler.

These are things you might miss when you are set to the rhythm of rush.  Five minutes out of twelve or more hours is all that it could take to stir a sense of gratitude and proper perspective in your heart.  Five minutes could make all the difference for your day.

Happy Thanksgiving Y'all.  From the Laydens to you. :)

Monday, November 17, 2014

Face to Face With 17-Year-Old Me

If I had the opportunity to meet with the 17-year-old version of me, I think I would invite her to a coffee shop and shock her when I sip my caramel macchiato.  She hates coffee.  This is what I would say...

Hey, you.  Yep, this is what you look like when you're twenty-nine.  Sure, you don't weigh 95 pounds anymore, but I think the little extra suits you.

Let me hit you right off the bat and say, things don't really turn out the way you plan.  Life has this way of producing a beautiful disaster that you become oh-so-grateful for.  It's an adventure, so just try to go with it.

Love isn't what you think it is today.  Don't tighten your lips together like that.  I know your rolling your eyes on the inside.  I'm not saying you're too young to know what love is.  I'm just saying that at twenty-nine, you are still building upon your definition of love.  The bible is clear on what love is, but tragedy and pain and surprise and fullness all begin to define the curves and edges of love for you.  It moves from head-knowledge to heart-knowledge.

Take him for example.  Yes, the one you plan to marry after college.  Twelve years later, it's still up for debate about whether or not love truly lives in that relationship.  There is devotion, for sure.  You're the most loyal girlfriend in high school.  I see how you've taken care of him when he's been sick.  I see how you've put him first.  You've been through some heavy things together.  But it doesn't equate love.

Even after five years of marriage and three kids following in your footsteps, you're still learning what love is.  Yep, brace yourself for that.

You know how Nana always tells you that you have the Holy Spirit living inside of you?  It is the most incredible gift you will probably ever be given other than salvation.  It flourishes into something indescribable.  Start feeding it now!  Discernment and wisdom are priceless pieces of armor that you will bear for the war ahead.

Don't get so attached to this town.  It's not the ends of the earth.

Don't be so anxious about your major.  Without spoiling the surprise, let's just say God works it all out. The path twists and turns and sometimes falls right out from under you.  But the important thing is that you are following Him with every careful step.  You will not fall into a career that you will hate every day for the rest of your life.  Things are much more interesting than that.

Once again, it's all an adventure.  Your relationship with your heavenly Father will become the most precious relationship you have.  It will feed you in ways that you have not yet dreamed of.  The intimacy between you and Him will be incomparable.  Chase it, dear one.  Pursue it with all of your resources.  Don't let any guy, job, family member, bill, friend, or insecurity hold you back from the most valuable love you will ever experience in your life here on earth or after.

And for heaven's sake, get rid of those shoes.

See you again when we're thirty-nine.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Happy Blog-iversary Loves!

Happy Blog-iversary to you and me!

Four years ago this week, I decided to put my love of words to work for the Kingdom of God.  I sat down and wrote a blog post called Giving Up My Apple Jacks.  It was born out of my realization that Christ had died so that I didn't have to be a control freak or a people pleaser.

Ever since then, I have been using this space to share with others what God is doing in my life.  And let me tell you, sister, He has done quite a bit in the last four years.

I've learned so much about marriage and motherhood that it strikes me with amazement that I'm still so new to this whole thing.  My oldest child is only four years old.  I've only been married for five.  It's hard to believe that we could potentially have 50 or 60 more years on this earth of learning.  Or maybe God has crammed an awful lot into the last four years because we actually won't be here that long.

Either way, it's been a crazy ride so far.

Lord, what do you want your daughters to know?  How do you want them to grow or be encouraged?

This is the prayer that stays on my heart for you, dear friend.  God has always been faithful to answer it.  He gives me a burden for you.  Every update I notice on social media, every blog post you make of your own, I ache for you to live magnetic lives that just ooze the love of God in a life-changing way.

I want to rejoice with you when your babies are born.  I want to wrap my arms around you when you sob with cold depression.  I so desperately want to do life with you.

These are my precious, precious daughters.  Speak to them and help them walk with me.  Love them.

And I do.

This is what I want you to know today.  You are so deeply loved.

This blog is for you, my love.  This quiet little corner has been born because God has called me to love you and be whatever it is He needs me to be for you in this season.  How awesome is that?

So whether this is your first visit here, or you find yourself here often, just know that you are loved and held in prayer.

Four years later, here we are.  I hope for 40 more.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

WHEN God Gives You More Than You Can Handle

Has anyone ever said to you...

God won't give you more than you can handle.

I've been told that a thousand times, and I've offered it a few times myself.  One of my favorite songs even declares:

I won't give you more, more than you can take.
I might let you bend, but I won't let you break.

But you know what I've personally experienced?  God does give us more than we can handle.

You see, when people have offered me that encouragement in the past, it has never wrapped me in comfort the way I suppose it was designed to.

When I was overwhelmed with the news of pregnancy just a few weeks after my honeymoon, someone said to me...God won't give you more than you can handle.

When my father had a stroke and I spent my weekends caring for a newborn and an adult patient, someone said to me...God won't give you more than you can handle.

When I was overwhelmed, yet again, with the news that I was pregnant with twins, someone said to me...God won't give you more than you can handle.

When my daughter was born with a hole in her heart and was in and out of the hospital, someone said to me...God won't give you more than you can handle.

When I found myself married for three years with three babies under the age of three, someone said to me...God won't give you more than you can handle.

When my husband told me he wasn't in love with me anymore, someone whispered to me...God won't give you more than you can handle.

I found no comfort in that place.  I found no strength in that statement.  Guilt took the place of encouragement.  I should be braver.  I should be stronger.  I felt a vague sense of dread creep in with the thought that I wasn't who these people thought I was.

So I came to the conclusion that God does give us more than we can handle.  Because truthfully, apart from Him, I can do nothing.  Grace under pressure, patience, strength, and discernment are all natural characteristics of God, not me.

The truth is that God gives us more than we can handle, because it gives Him the opportunity to shine.  He steps in and fills the gaps.  He more than makes up for my lacking.  His strength is made perfect in our weaknesses, right (2 Corinthians 12:8-10)?

I never would have made it through any of life's major trials on my own strength.  I probably would have committed suicide long ago.  If we are being honest.

I have truly soaked up my most recent study of Gideon because I think the story of Gideon illustrates this point so perfectly.  Gideon was nothing but timid, fearful, and insecure when the angel of the Lord came to him.  He had no strengths or attributes that specially positioned him for success.

And God dwindled his resources even further after calling him to become a leader!  Defeating the Midianites was more than Gideon could possibly handle...alone.

I believe God gives us more than we can handle, and that brings me more comfort than anything else.  It brings me comfort to know that there is one so much higher than I that can assure that I make it through any trial or storm.  And He is for me.  Never against me or indifferent.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Why This Cosmo Culture Makes Me Want To Vomit: A Plea For My Children's Purity

"Mom, look at that!" my four year old whispered in the check-out line at Wal-Mart.  I was devastated as my eyes followed his pointing finger to a scantily-clad Emily Ratajkowski on the November cover of Cosmopolitan magazine.  There wasn't much left to the imagination.  

A string of questions followed and the middle-aged man in front of us chuckled as he commented on how full my hands must be.  I, on the other hand, found myself heartbroken as I waited to pay for my groceries.

How do I explain that it's not okay to put your body on display like that when it appears to be so normal in every check-out line?  Will that image be burned on my preschoolers eyes as he falls asleep tonight?  I just thanked God that he can't read yet... 

And what about my girls?  How old will they be when they start comparing their bodies to the photoshopped and airbrushed bodies they see on the racks?  Will they mistakingly find themselves seriously lacking in who they were meant to be (or who they were meant to be like)?

I'm so sick of this culture.  We are so intentional about the kinds of music we listen to on the radio, the kinds of channels we watch on TV, and the kinds of people we let influence our kids. 

But now I have to defend my child's innocence while simply buying groceries for my family?  I wanted to rip the cover off, ball it up, and eat it.

I thought about it so hard on the 35 minute drive back home, that I scarcely remembered the journey.

When I mentioned my heartbreak to the other women in my small group bible study, several of them confessed to being "magazine-turners."

"When I go through a check-out line full of boobs and tongues, I just start turning them all around so the covers are covered."  We all laughed, but it begs the question, "What are we to do?"

How will I protect my children's purity in a culture that screams sex so loudly?  I'm not one to shelter or value the "bubble" that some parents keep their kids in.  But I do want my kids to grow up with an intense respect for their bodies and others' bodies.  I do believe that they are at ages in which their minds are still being molded to the lens of the world they live in.  And I don't want them to be worldly-minded.  I want them to be kingdom-minded kids.

How do you raise your children to be kingdom-minded kids?  Are there any other magazine-turners out there?

Lord, give me grace to parent these little blank canvases.  Show me how to raise kingdom-minded kids who respect and cherish purity.  Protect their little hearts, Lord.  Fill in the gaps where I can't, Father.  I know that as parents, we set the tone for our homes.  Show me how to be the kind of mother who sets a tone of clean, respectful purity.  Not self-righteous, prude-ish behavior, but a magnetic bodily perspective based on your truth, Father.

Friday, October 31, 2014

31 Psalms That Meet Me in the Mess - Why I Shout For Joy

My lips will shout for joy when I sing praise to you-I, whom you have redeemed.
Psalm 71:23

"I just want to hug you and tell you how brave you are for being so transparent.  I know it's not easy to be so open."

I had just shared part of my ugly story with a group of women at a nearby church and a few of them approached me after the meeting to ask questions or share pieces of their own stories.

I shook my head gently as I said, "How could I not be?  God has done the most unbelievably incredible things in my life.  I'm so passionate about it, I can't keep quiet."

And that's where I am today.

Y'all.  Can I just tell you?  I wish we were sitting face to face somewhere with a warm cup of coffee.  I wish we had hours to just sit and exchange.  I want you to know my story, and I want to know yours.

Where have you been?  Where are you going?  How has God turned your life upside down?

The way He moves and blesses and stands is just awe-inspiring.  I've had a front row seat to the glory of God.  He made the blessing of redemption so real and thick that it's almost tangible.

My husband and I both found ourselves in a state of hopelessness.  Our marriage was broken, full of distrust, faithlessness, and dirty.  On the edge of signing papers, we were spun around so fast we almost didn't know what hit us.

God granted me a positive answer to so many of the prayers I laid with on sleepless nights.  He redeemed.  He took back what was lost.  How could I not share that?

No, it's not easy to talk openly and honestly with strangers and family alike about matters that come out of your most private struggles.  But it is so worth it.  It's worth the hope that it gives to others.  It's worth the tears I see slide down faces who have endured similar heartache.  It's worth the smile I see when I say, "God is good."

I am saturated with joy and I will shout and praise for I have been redeemed.  We have been redeemed. 

Want to read more from this series 31 Psalms That Meet Me in the Mess?  Click Here for a complete listing of daily posts!

Thursday, October 30, 2014

31 Psalms That Meet Me in the Mess - The Attention of the God of the Universe

Because he bends down to listen, I will pray as long as I have breath! (NLT)
Psalm 116:2

In recent weeks, we've been having a bit of a problem with our four-year-old.  He is overly aggressive, demanding, and just downright disrespectful.

While talking it out with another mom of young boys, it was suggested that he may simply be grasping for more of my attention.

I strive to be very intentional about letting each of my kids know how deeply they are loved and cherished, but it is a possibility that it gets lost somewhere between me and my boy.

Whether or not this is the root of his aggression is yet to be seen, but my analytic and meditative nature kicked into high gear over Psalm 116:2.

The visual of God actually bending down to listen to me has been carved onto my brain.  What a beautiful picture of attentiveness and engagement.  Our heavenly Father stooped so that no words are lost between my mouth and His ears.  The God of the universe leaning in close so that not a crumb of emotion, affection, or urgency is dropped.

I never have to worry about whether or not God is paying attention to me.  I never have to do a song or dance to get Him to glance my way.  I don't have to fight the rest of the world for His engagement.

Thank God, because I would surely lose that battle!

Matthew 10:29-31 lets us know that His eye is on the sparrow.  If we are more valuable than the birds,  how much more does He focus on me?

Want to read more from this series 31 Psalms That Meet Me in the Mess?  Click Here for a complete listing of daily posts!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

31 Psalm That Meet Me in the Mess - Idols on the Throne of God

For all the gods of the nations are idols, but the Lord made the heavens.
Psalm 96:5

Idolatry.  Not really something we talk much about in the church these days.

Mostly because the word, idol, conjurs up images of carved wooden figurines and large golden statues made from melted earrings and such.  Handmade items given a holy value and placed on a pedestal to be literally worshipped. 

We don't see a whole lot of that in modern America.  

But to be honest with you, idolatry is still running rampant like a virus in our culture.

Priscilla Shirer defines an idol as:

"Anything in the visible, created realm that begins to operate in a role 
that should be reserved for God."

Anything in your life that takes precedence over God and His hand in your life.  Anything that weighs in more heavily than the Holy Spirit's voice in your heart.  Anyone or anything that causes you to compromise your beliefs.

For me, it was the love of my life, my husband.  I put him on a pedestal and raised it so high that he disappeared.  It didn't matter how much God pursued me.  Mr. Layden began to define me.

When I thought I might lose him, I thought I would also lose my safety, sanity, and security.  I looked to him to make me happy when I was down.  I looked to him to protect me when I felt threatened.  I looked to him to make me feel beautiful when I didn't like what I saw in the mirror.  I valued his opinion above all others.  Including God's.

God used our separation to break me of my idolatry.  True to His jealousy, He removed the very thing I attempted to replace Him with.  When I hit the rock bottom of loneliness, insecurity, and feeling unlovable and undesired, I realized I had a decision to make.  Will I leave my husband on the throne where my heavenly Father belongs?  Or will I surrender to the only one worthy of my worship?

When we give hours to Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest only to fall asleep five minutes into our bible study.

When we consistently choose our boyfriend over small group meetings, mission opportunities, or sunday morning services.

When we fear the opinion of others so much that we hush our passion for Christ while in their presence.

When we hold back the ten percent we are called to give because of our fear of not having enough.

Money, guys, social media, phones, and approval can all very easily slide into the role that should be reserved for God.

Priscilla Shirer also says,

"When we can go to the drive-through window to get it, pick up the phone to order it, turn on the television to see it, run to the mall to buy it, or snuggle up on the sofa with it, it becomes easier to choose than God."

Can I just encourage you that God has not taken a bathroom break?  He hasn't asked empty sex, empty bottles, or empty bank accounts to keep his seat warm.  He is here in our midst and very much in charge.  He can fill your every single need with a depth that is beyond your imagination.

The question is: Who or what is sitting on the throne of your heart today?

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Tuesday, October 28, 2014

31 Psalms That Meet Me in the Mess - The Skies Pouring Forth Speech

The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.  Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge.
Psalm 19:1-2

My husband and I often stop and grab each other's hands when noticing the sky at certain times of day. 

Sunsets are just incredible at our house.  The sun often slips down right in a clearing between two wooded areas, with crazy shades of purple and red splattered across the great expanse of blue.  I forget to breathe every time.

Sometimes it's at night as we are unbuckling three car seats and transporting three sleepy kids to their beds.  We pause right in the front yard to marvel at the clarity of the stars or the sheer size of the moon.

If the skies are pouring forth speech, what are they saying?  If they are displaying knowledge, what is it that they know?

I think I know.

The skies, the sun and moon, the stars, they all scream the glory of God.  Breathlessly they are saying, "Just look at this beauty!  This creativity is far beyond any you will ever encounter.  This...this...came from His imagination!"

How could we not worship that?  The magnificence is humbling.

Maybe I'm just a science nerd, but creation does that to me.  The vast variety of life forms and colors and environments just astounds me.  The fact that our all-powerful creator thought of all of this, formed it, and then pushed it into motion...

And not in mass production.  He considered each piece of creation as He formed it.  He detailed the lines and fingerprints in my husband's hand that I hold each time we marvel at what the He has done.

Lord, I am so small, and yet, you have made me so significant.  Thank you for your care.

How long has it been since you marveled at a sunset-painted sky or the stars against a black night?

Want to read more from this series 31 Psalms That Meet Me in the Mess?  Click Here for a complete listing of daily posts!

Monday, October 27, 2014

31 Psalms That Meet Me in the Mess - Your Bare, Broken Heart

Record my misery; list my tears on your scroll-are they not in your record?
Psalm 56:8

When words fail us, tears speak equal volumes.

It soothes my soul to know that the long nights I spent soaking my pillows and the long showers I took washing the salt away were not in vain.  I feel considered and treasured when I think of how those tears did not evaporate without notice.

The sound of the breaking of my heart was as worthy as any well-spoken prayer.  My heavenly father's heart breaks when my heart breaks.  He sees my anguish.  He is moved by my agony.

The tears of His children are never lost.  They are precious in His sight.

Our father can do miraculous things with a broken heart.  The next time words fail you, just know that He doesn't need your eloquence.  Just your bare, broken heart.

What was the last thing that broke you to tears?  Take comfort in knowing that He saved and cherished every drop.

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31 Psalms That Meet Me in the Mess - God's Cultivation of You

Those who sow with tears will reap with songs of joy.
Psalm 126:5

Oh sweet Jesus, I thank you for Psalm 126:5.  

Sowing is labor.  Usually hard labor.  Your back breaks as you bend, your shoulders stiffen under a crushing weight, your knees crack as they give way.

You fight, you push, you struggle.  You persevere to see the work completed.  You endure to complete it well.

You cultivate and dig and turn up.  And all the while, you just barely grasp hope with the tips of your fingers.  It almost escapes you.  

You engage in a struggle with trust as well.  It squirms and writhes to break free from your resolve.

And when all is said and done, when perseverance has completed its work, songs of joy burst through the black earth and proclaim the glory of the giver of life.

Look what He has done!  Praise Him for the joy that is yours!  Praise Him for bending with you, shouldering your burdens, supporting your frame.  Praise Him for fighting for you when your strength ran away.  Praise Him for supplying your perseverance, endurance, resolve, hope, and trust.

Find joy in the product of God's cultivation of you.

Want to read more from this series 31 Psalms That Meet Me in the Mess?  Click Here for a complete listing of daily posts!

Saturday, October 25, 2014

31 Psalms That Meet Me in the Mess - The Praise of a Future Generation

Let this be written for a future generation,
that a people not yet created may praise the Lord.
Psalm 102:18


This is incredible to me.  

It just brings into sharper focus that He knew me before I was born.  It blows my mind to try to understand the way God experiences time and space.  

It humbles me right to the floor to know that He made arrangements for me to glorify Him before I was even born.  The bible is a written record that affords me a precious opportunity.  Not only do I give praise for what He is doing today, but I can read and treasure how He has been moving since before the beginning of time.

I can read and understand that He is unchanging.  I can believe that He embodies the characteristics of patience, goodness, and faithfulness because every documentation in His holy word points right back to those truths.  It is affirmed time and time again.

I can praise Him because His goodness was written for a future generation.  The bible was written for my mother, for me, for my children, and for their children to come. 

For generations that have not yet been created.

Enter the jaw-dropping awesomeness of God yet again.

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Friday, October 24, 2014

31 Psalms That Meet Me in the Mess - A Pure Craving

My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh 
cry out for the living God. 
Psalm 84:2

Warm mug in hand, filled with coffee or tea.  Sunk into my bed or couch.  Oversized, fluffy blanket draping my shoulders.

And my bible.

My sweet, treasured, falling-apart bible.

It's an image that soothes my soul.  A place that I long to be.  

When I spend time alone with the Lord, I do many different things.  I read the scriptures that are so preciously recorded for me.  I read the commentator's notes.  I pray through them.  Sometimes I journal.  Sometimes I get down on my knees.  Sometimes I follow a bible study that another soldier for Christ has written.  Often, I sing.

But one thing is always the same.

I am never sorry for the time given.  I always come away with a filling sense of companionship.  A loved-on feeling.

This deep connection makes me yearn for the courts of the Lord.  He is with me all day, yet I can't wait to get back to a place of undivided attention between just He and I.

My flesh needs Him.  It cries out.  I crave Him in the purest way.  And I hope that I always feel this way.  It saddens me to think of a day that my passion may fade.

Do you crave time alone with the Father?  Do you ever feel a quiet time is your most pressing priority?

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Thursday, October 23, 2014

31 Psalms That Meet Me in the Mess - Peace Washed Over it All

In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, Lord, make me dwell in safety.
Psalm 4:8

I had an excruciating decision to make.  And everyone knew it. 

Not only did they know I was at a crossroads, they all knew which turn I should take.  The only problem was, they didn't all agree on the direction.

My agony spilled over into my children.  I was tense, harsh, impatient, and not fully engaged.  An entire bag of jellybeans graced the floor and there was a horrifying trail of toilet water coming from the children's bathroom.

My phone harassed me with texts and calls, all loved ones who knew what was best for me and wanted to make sure I made the right decision.

I was tormented.  My stomach turned, my hands shook, my head ached.

But a simple prayer while standing at the kitchen sink washed peace over it all.

"Lord Jesus, you know the turmoil inside me.  You know the decision I have to make.  I know that you calm the storm and you make your will known to your children.  Please help me, Father.  Please. Please."

The phone stopped.  The children quieted and even laid down for an afternoon nap.

But even more importantly, the storm inside me quieted.  A new thought (a decision) entered my mind. It seemed so simple and obvious, but in my chaos, my lens was smudged and my perspective was skewed.  

When the revelation of His will graced my mind and heart, sweet, clear, easy peace enveloped me.  I soaked in the best sleep that night.  I rested easy because the Lord alone allows me to dwell in safety.

Want to read more from this series 31 Psalms That Meet Me in the Mess?  Click Here for a complete listing of daily posts!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

31 Psalms That Meet Me in the Mess - The Gift of a Rebuke

Let a righteous man strike me-that is a kindness; let him rebuke me-that is oil on my head...
Psalm 141:5

"That was rude.  You shouldn't have spoken to her like that."  Years ago, my husband rebuked me for my short temper and sharp tone with a restaurant hostess.  

He was right, but I was annoyed.  By him and her.

Can I be honest?  I do not like to be set straight.  When someone tells me I'm doing it wrong, I get defensive.  

I jump to extremes.  They think I'm a person.  They think I make poor decisions.  They think I'm an inadequate Christian, mother, wife, human being.

But Psalm 141:5 lends encouragement for us to allow other God-lovers and God-fearers to have a word in our lives.  This scriptures nudges us to humble ourselves to the wisdom and concern of others.

Genuine godly counsel is a gift of relationship.  It is a gift of love.  When you hold deep relationship with another human being, it is according to design that we spur one another on to greatness for God's glory.

If you enjoy a rich connection with another child of God, please do not resist their discernments. 

It can be edgy, rough, uncomfortable, or downright painful.  But, if they are truly spirit-soaked and seeking your best, you can trust that God is using them to mold you to His will.

Other believers in your story are often instruments in the hand of God.

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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

31 Psalms That Meet Me in the Mess - Fearing God in His Favor

The waters saw you, God, the waters saw you and writhed; the very depths were convulsed.
Psalm 77:16

The authority and power of God never ceases to enthrall me.  Psalm 77 speaks of the day that God parted the Red Sea.

The Israelites had escaped from Egyptian slavery and were being pursued by hundreds of Egyptian warriors.  In a moment of panic, hopelessness, and confusion, God made a way when there appeared to be no way.

He parted the waters of the Red Sea and allowed His rescued people to walk across on dry land.
Daunting walls of water on either side.  Walls that could tumble at any moment and envelop the Israelites in a liquid grave.

The bible doesn't express it, but I imagine a roar of wind and water.  I imagine tears and trembles and the holding of breath.  I imagine total and absolute terror.

I imagine Great White Sharks, Giant Sea Turtles, and other marine life approaching the walls, sliding along the boundaries like a larger than life aquarium witnessing God's glory and simultaneously multiplying the fear in the hearts of the Israelite people.

What I don't have to imagine, is the fact that the Israelites came face to face with the unshakable truth that their lives are in God's hands.  Oxygen filled their very lungs by the order of the almighty.  Their hearts continued its life-giving rhythm because of a never-sleeping creator.  Their children's frail bodies were kept in tact and full of life because the most powerful entity of all existence was holding up walls of water on either side of them and holding back the enemy.  They had their very being because of His favor.

Once they had crossed safely to the other side, all it took was a swipe of Moses' staff to bring the waters back down.  Back down and on top of every single Egyptian horse and rider who had pursued.  Of all the warriors that bared down on the fleeing Israelites, not a single one survived their foolishness to test their mightiness against God.  

Exodus 14:30 records how the Israelites saw the Egyptians' dead bodies on the shore.

If that doesn't invoke your respect, check your pulse.  

Even crushing waters obey His slightest whim.

That's how my fear of God is defined, my friend.

Want to read more from this series 31 Psalms That Meet Me in the Mess?  Click Here for a complete listing of daily posts!