From: Your Anxious Mama

I’m sorry. I’m sorry you didn’t get the perfectly filtered mom only found on Instagram. You deserve her. You deserve the carefree mama who laughs at the messes and realizes that being around the perfection of you is worth every moment of stress.

But that’s not what you got.

Most of my life I have been intrenched in a fairly well-hidden battle with anxiety. This is, in fact, the first time I have discussed this fight in such detail, but I need to for your sake. I need you to understand this issue because you need to know that IT ISN’T YOUR FAULT. When I get stressed and have to walk away for a minute to collect myself, IT ISN’T YOUR FAULT. When I have to get very quiet and focus on my own breath, IT ISN’T YOUR FAULT. This problem didn’t start with you. It is MY ISSUE and not yours. I’ve tried very hard to make it clear that it’s my cross to bear because I don’t want you to live the way I have to live.

This is an especially hard truth to share as many will no doubt comment that I just need to “pray it off of me” or scold me for not heeding what I know are multiple Biblical commands regarding fear and anxiety. I want you to know that I spend a great deal of my time praying that God will heal me, and I believe He will, but until then I am trying to understand what good could come of this…and I’m hoping that perhaps this public admission is the start of some of that good.

When you were growing in my belly, I consistently prayed one prayer over you-that you wouldn’t live in fear. I pleaded the blood of Jesus over your mind that you would not be controlled by worry the way I have been at times. I spoke against generational curses that would try and destroy you. This is why I actually rejoice at your daredevil tendencies and cheer that you have “never met a stranger”.

You are EXACTLY what I prayed for those nine months you lived within me. As long as I’m alive, I will keep declaring that you will live without worry about tomorrow. The truth is, I would gladly live the rest of my life in this prison of anxiety if it meant you never had to stay there for one day.

But staying this way is not the solution I’m looking for. Just as I spoke God’s peace and favor over you, I declare it for myself and my friends who struggle as well, because I know this sickness is not the abundant life we are entitled to.

So today, I’m holding fast to these scriptures for myself and my readers:

“I will not die but live, and will proclaim what the Lord has done.” Psalm 118:17

“…our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” Romans 8:18

“Cast all your anxiety on him because He cares for you.” 1 Peter 5:7

“When I said, ‘My foot is slipping,’ your unfailing love, Lord, supported me. When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy.” Psalm 94:18-19

War

“Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake. And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.”

These are the words of Jesus, uttered on the Mount of Olives, and recorded in Matthew 24. This was His response to a private meeting with the disciples after they had asked how they would know Jesus’s return was near.

In light of recent events here in America, I’ve heard people say that no one could have predicted where we are now. But that’s not true. Jesus told us exactly what would happen before His return, and it’s happening before our eyes.

I don’t recognize my nation anymore. National news reports show government corruption, brutality by those in authority, and retaliation by those seeking vengeance. Our streets are flowing crimson with the blood of those assumed guilty. Evil is celebrated and the faithful are called bigots. Our God is no longer the Lord, instead we have made ourselves gods, putting our desires above all else.

Walking through this passage has opened my eyes in regards to my country and how close we are to Christ’s return:

“…you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake.”

This scripture is being fulfilled in a couple of different ways. Firstly, it is no secret that America is hated. We have been the target of ire by many by virtue of our once strong affiliation as a Christian nation. Secondly, we Christians are now hated by our own countrymen when we take the Biblical stance on social issues. Supporting the right-to-life or “traditional marriage” as it is now referenced means you are an uncompassionate bigot.  Believing that the non-negotiables of birth, such as gender, are not up for debate mean that we are heartless idiots. Leave no room for doubt, we are hated for carrying the name of Jesus.

“And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. “

The word “Lawlessness” comes up later in this monologue, but it bears bringing up here because it is a spirit that has invaded not only our nation, but our churches as well. Over the last couple of years there has been an all out social media attack on the Church, brought by those claiming to be fellow believers. They release blogs, posts, and videos denouncing the need to gather together and explaining why they are justified to do so. They tell that the Church is nothing but hypocrites who don’t really care about others. They whine about not getting their way in services. They complain about structure and they even get upset because the Bible is being upheld (this complaint is easily explained-it’s called “conviction” and it comes from the Holy Spirit, not a minister). They try to act like they are the enlightened ones, but their words are filled with such bitterness and hate towards Christ’s Bride, the Church, that I can’t believe they are the one’s who have seen the light. All across our nation we see churches splitting over petty arguments and congregations staging coups against their shepherds. All this is symptomatic of the spirit of lawlessness, not wanting to be under anyone’s authority-not even a God-placed pastor.  Due to this desire for independence, many are easily seduced by the false prophets of our day telling congregants whatever they want to hear, as long as the money rolls into the coffers.

“And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold.”

This spirit of lawlessness has taken hold in our government. This week started with news that one of our Presidential nominees had broken the law and lied about it, but would not be charged. This person believed they were above the law-and they were proven to be correct. Then the news shifted to stories of young men who were killed by police officers and the story quickly became that it was in the name of racism. A few days later, angry citizens, believing our officers were acting as judge, jury, and executioner, took matters in their own hands, executing several police officers. The narrative is that we have a “race issue” in America. I believe racism is a sin that has no place in the heart of the believer, but I think this is so much more than that. It is this spirit of lawlessness that has caused our heart ache. Citizens believing they can break the law without consequence and officers believing they can decide innocence or guilt on a street corner, it’s the same spirit. And because we have lived as though there is no higher law, our love is all but gone. We don’t love our neighbors as ourselves and that’s why we have no respect for human life and we haven’t for a long time. We aren’t shocked or saddened by blood in our streets because not that long ago we were standing in the same streets celebrating another victory for the pro-choice movement. We mourn when an animal is killed, but disregard the thousands of innocent children slaughtered in the name of “choice” and “freedom”.

My nation has not only gone out of its way to exclude God from our decisions, we have decided to do everything we can to prove our backs are turned against Him. When I watch the news I don’t see the country that was so special because she was good, instead I see a war zone. We were supposed to be the safe ones. I guess war doesn’t seem so bad until it lands in your yard.

The only peace I can gain in this time is knowing that all this strife is proof of two things: 1. God’s Word is proving itself more indisputable everyday by its prophecies coming true.2. Jesus is coming soon, and as long as we endure, we will be saved.

To the Unappreciated New Daughter-In-Law

Congratulations on your marriage. Condolences on your new relationship with your mother-in-law.

I get it, it’s confusing and frustrating. How could the man you love so infinitely have  been raised by a woman who seems to disdain you so deeply?  How could it be that the things your husband considers your best qualities-your independence, your free spirit, your strong-will and determination-make her shake her head in disappointment?

And while we are on the subject of disappointment, how can someone be so judgmental about housekeeping? What difference does it make if you use fabric softener or wash your dishes by hand or vacuum on a regular basis? And why should she care? It’s not her house. They aren’t her clothes or dishes or carpets.

I know what it feels like to hear stories of women who have good relationships with their husband’s mom. It feels like a knife in your stomach. You sit and wonder “what’s so special about her? Why does she get the respect and I get the commentary on my inadequacies? Why does she get welcomed into the family with open arms while I get thrown under the family bus?”

It hurts. It hurts more than you want to admit. As tough as you are and as much as you don’t need her to like you, deep down you know you want her to like you. It would just make things much easier. It would be nice to not get nauseous at the thought of spending holidays together. It would be cool to be able to tell your in-laws where you live and not live in fear that they may stop by.

I want to share with you, my headstrong sister, what the Lord showed me about this oft-painful relationship…

Her feelings toward you aren’t actually about you at all. In fact, they were created long before she met you…perhaps even before you were born. She decided you were a problem the day your husband was placed in her arms. That love is unmatched. No one (in her mind) could ever love him like her. Not only did she give up rights to her body for nearly a year to carry him, she gave up her dreams and plans for the next decades to keep him safe, happy, and healthy.

You didn’t do that. You can’t even comprehend how to do that.

She gave her life for him to have one of his own.

None of this occurred to me until I had a son of my own. I pray for his future happiness. I pray for his spouse and want nothing more than for him to find a good woman who will love him and love the Lord even more. But…

it is NOT POSSIBLE for this GIRL to know how to take care of him like I do.

I’m the one who cools his macaroni and makes the perfect blue bubble bath. I’m the one who heals boo-boos with my kisses and taught him to walk. What will this GIRL know how to do other than how to get a husband waaaaayyyy out of her league???

These are seriously my thoughts…and my son isn’t even two yet!

See, his future wife isn’t the  problem, and neither are you.

The problem is that when a woman becomes a mother, raising her  child becomes her career. Whether she stays home or works three jobs, this becomes the most important role. And now here is this woman who has poured her heart and soul into this “business” and now, at the pinnacle of her success, her job is being outsourced. Her job is being handed to a rookie who has NO CLUE how to met the job requirements. Can you see now why she may be a little upset? The housekeeping and cooking concern her because she knows what her son is used to. She wants him to be comfortable and content, and it’s hard to accept that another woman can fulfill that role, so instead of accepting it, she criticizes it.

It’s probably not that she hates you…it’s just that she loves her son and she’s too blinded by this change to realize that loving him means she should love the one he chose.

And that’s another thing to remember…he chose you. You already won his heart, so don’t turn everything into a battle over it. But you have a responsibility in this victory…a responsibility to be gracious and remember that some day, God willing, you will be in the same boat.

Pray for her. Pray for peace of mind that her son will be okay. Pray for confidence that she will realize she still has purpose.

Pray for yourself. Pray that you will have confidence in your new role as wife and daughter-in-law. Pray that you will develop a genuine love and admiration for your mother-in-law even if she never changes her mind about you.

Then put legs on your prayers. Reach out. Ask her to teach you how to make one of her special meals. Spend time together. Ask her about stories from your husband’s childhood. Applaud the job she did in raising a man so good that you choose to give your life to caring for him, and assure her that your goals and her’s are the same-to see him happy.

Romans 12:13-18 may be a good passage to put up in your home,

Practice hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”

Try to see this scenario through her eyes, and your world may change.

Signed,

A Wife Who Wishes She Understood This Sooner

Pull Over

In my formative years growing up in a small town in the American South, I have vivid memories of a somewhat strange act that seems to be giving way to progress and our newly hurried lives-the pull over.

This act involves pulling one’s car over to the side of the road and waiting, often in silence, as a funeral procession moves by. As a child, I knew exactly what would happen when we spotted a hearse and cars with headlights on in the middle of the day-we would stop, no matter how rushed we were in our own lives, because it was the right thing to do.

I’ve heard much debate over the legitimacy of the practice and the reason for it. The general consensus is that it’s out of respect for the dead. To me, it isn’t about the dead at all. It’s a sacred act carried out for the living who were left.

One of the most painful parts of losing a loved one is the frustration or even anger that the world just keeps moving, as if your world didn’t just fall apart. Pulling over is symbolic. It’s me saying to a stranger, “I will stop my world for a moment to acknowledge that yours will never turn the same again.”

Jesus “pulled over” in John chapter 11 after the death of Lazarus. Jesus appears almost cold upon hearing of the sickness and subsequent death of Lazarus.  In reality, His attitude was informed by the fact that He had a plan all along, and that plan necessitated that He wait so that the miracle could not be questioned. Because Jesus loved Mary, Martha, and Lazarus, He journeyed back to Judea, a place of great danger to Jesus, to perform this miracle.

He ignored His own safety. He ignored His own agenda.

He pulled over.

When He arrived in the midst of the mourners, He shows His first hint of emotion over the death of His friend. Verse 33 says, “When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled.” A couple of verses later we read that “Jesus wept”. He didn’t weep for Himself, as this wasn’t guilt over waiting to come to Lazarus. He didn’t weep for Lazarus, as He already knew his resurrection was on its way. No, Jesus wept for Mary and the friends who were grieving.

He pulled over.

It occurs to me that many in the Church have forgotten the importance of pulling over. When there is a death, we may bring food after the service if we aren’t too inconvenienced, but we don’t really stop in a sign of solidarity with those left behind. And know that death is not just defined by physical death, it’s any time one among us feels like their world has stopped turning. This can be the result of a divorce, hurtful decisions made by family members, the loss of a job, addiction, etc.

We have to pull over.

If you hurt, I hurt. If your world stops, mine should as well, even if only for a few minutes.

Lord, help us to see past our own agendas and plans. Teach us to stop and be near to the grieving, just as You are.

 

To the Mother of the Wild Child in My Pew

Hey girl,

I see you. I see you trying to keep your kid on lockdown during prayer. I see you dodging flailing arms during worship. I see you, jamming gummies in your kid’s mouth trying to keep him from yelling back at the preacher during his sermon. I see that look of failure as your child attempts to storm the platform. And yes, I see the side-eye you’re getting from the other parishioners as you sit helpless in the face of your tithe-envelope throwing hymnal scribbling, matchbox car throwing offspring. And I have one thing to say to you…

I’m proud of you.

I’m proud of you for raising your child in God’s house even when every voice in your head (and perhaps some whispers behind you) say you should’ve stayed home. I’m proud of you for filling your child’s ears with the sound of worship and their mind with the Word. I’m proud of you for recognizing that you CANNOT raise a child in this world in your own strength. I’m proud of you for acknowledging that without God’s help, you can’t be the mom He called you to be.

I know it’s hard. I know that every time someone looks your way you assume it’s because they are annoyed. Those sensitivities come naturally in a world where moms are judged constantly. The fact is, I don’t know if you’re right or not. But I know this-it doesn’t matter. What does matter is that you and your baby need to be in church. If those people really don’t want you here, then that’s an issue between them and God since the Word demands that we welcome children among us.

But know this, if I look at you it isn’t out of judgment, it’s out of respect for a woman who got up way too early on a Sunday to make breakfast, fought your child to get dressed, and tried to make yourself look presentable enough so that no one says “have you been sleeping? Because you look awful” during the greeting portion of the morning.

I know motherhood is lonely. That’s why you need to be here. You need this community. You need me. You even need Sister side-eye. And this community, including side-eye and myself need you and your baby to be a part of our family.

So don’t give up. Don’t let the enemy convince you that everyone is better off with you locked up at home. Like any predator, he’s trying to separate you from the herd so he can devour you-don’t let him.

 

 

Pet Snakes

I had a dream that my husband brought home a baby snake as a pet for our young son. Seeing the snake as “cute” and “innocent”, I agreed to welcome this creature in to our home. I had a great feeling of security with this little snake in our house because we had clear boundaries in the form of an empty aquarium. A problem arose, however, when that cute little baby snake was no long so cute or little. In the dream, I went to my husband and pleaded my case, explaining that due to his new size and strength, our son’s “pet” was becoming a dangerous liability. My husband agreed to get rid of the reptile, but when we went to get him we discovered the snake had escaped his aquarium! The dream ended with  my heart fallen deep in my stomach as I knew that our once adorable little friend was now lurking behind every corner. Worse yet, I knew that because we had raised our child without fear of his pet that he wouldn’t know to be cautious with this predator.

We made three mistakes with the snake:

  1. We assumed it’s size made it less than a real snake. We somehow thought it was harmless because it was comparatively “small”.
  2. We thought we could contain a creature that is predatory by nature.
  3. We didn’t see that we were dismantling our son’s natural healthy fear of a dangerous animal.

Every day we welcome “pet snakes” into our homes and lives. They are the “small”, “cute” sins we invite to take up residence. We make the same mistakes as I did in the dream:

  1. We assume the “size” of an infraction makes it less than “real” sin. What does it look like to welcome in a “little sin”? Have you ever heard a child admit not to telling a lie, but rather a “fib”? They’ve created an economy that says if an untruth doesn’t visibly hurt another, then it isn’t a “real” lie, it’s just a little “fib”. But even the tiniest lie puts distance between us and our Holy God who cannot lie (titus 1:2). That distance makes it more difficult to hear the Holy Spirit convicting us. When we create an environment which is tolerant of small sins, we deceive ourselves into believing that the lust for sin will not grow. Sin is never satisfied with part of you, it will pursue every piece of you until it destroys you. Look at the story of David as told in 2 Samuel chapters 11-12. David, the once hailed hero of Israel, sees Bathsheba bathing on a rooftop (11:2) and let his gaze linger too long. This “small” sin of looking upon a woman who was not his to look at in that way led to the sins of adultery (11:4) and murder (11:24). What started with a prolonged look led to both the murder of an innocent and good man and the death of David’s first child (12:15).
  2. We think we can “contain” our sin. We only lie when it’s for a really good reason. We only get drunk on vacation where we won’t be caught. We only destroy someone’s reputation when they’ve really made us angry. But just as with the above point, sin won’t be satisfied. When you give it freedom in one area, it will take it in the others. David thought his sin was contained because Bathsheba’s husband, Uriah, was away at war. No one would know what had happened. It would be their little secret. But those plans fell apart when Bathsheba became pregnant (11:5). David learned that Numbers 32:23 is true when it says, “you may be sure that your sin will find you out”. Containment doesn’t work. Once you’ve allowed sin in your life it will chip away at the walls you’ve set it in until it is on full display, destroying your life and your witness.
  3. We don’t see that we are becoming comfortable with sin and are unafraid of its consequences. I’ve seen parents teach their children to lie for them. Things like, “if anyone asks why we missed church tell them you weren’t feeling well.” Unfortunately, the parent doesn’t realize that they are building a skill. It may be useful to the parent to have their 6 year old lie for them about where they were and what they were doing, but it won’t feel so cute when they are a 16 year old lying to their parents about about where they are and what they are doing. As David’s sins escalated he didn’t immediately see the consequences for his actions. He wasn’t caught when he started inquiring about Bathsheba, nor when he sent for her, nor when he called Uriah home in an effort to cover his tracks, not even when he ordered the man’s murder was David caught. It wasn’t until Nathan arrives in chapter 12 that David realizes that the Lord had seen it all and that punishment was coming. Without swift consequence, we are often deceived into believing that none are coming, but the bible tells us in Romans 6:23 that the wages for ALL sin is death. Sin will wait for you. Sin will find you. Sin will defeat you…if you let it in.

 

1 Peter 5:8 demands that we “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” The devil is lurking. He’s looking for the smallest part of your heart and life to enter and to grow. Don’t let him in.

The Day We Killed Me

When I was a single woman my life (and my closet) looked very different. I had a well-paying job and barely any financial responsibilities. I would often set out on shopping adventure days that started with a wallet full of cash and ended with a trunk full of shoes, jeans, dresses, and fancy hats (don’t judge me-those hats were fabulous and one should always be preppared to attend the Derby). Looking back, I realize that my money could have been spent much better, but I was certainly within my rights to spend it. I worked hard for my paycheck and the sprees became my stress relief.

Those days started winding down when I got married. And when my son was born they came to a screeching halt. You see, becoming part of a family means becoming a “we” instead of a “me”. Decisions are no longer based on what one wants or even what one “deserves”, they are based on what is best for the family. Could I go back to spending frivalously? Sure. But I don’t want to, because now instead of seeing a gorgeous pair of $200 boots in my closet all I would see is the money that could have been used to pay off the family car or be placed in my son’s college fund. This realization marked two things:

1.) I was becoming a mature, unselfish adult.

2.) Becoming a “we” had killed “me”, an exchange I was more than happy with because the death of me meant being a part of something much greater than myself.

As a youth worker I often get questions about sin. I get asked about the line on sex, drinking, modesty, and any  action you could think of. I watch debates ensue that almost always go like this:

1.) the topic is established

2.) the “pro” side says why it’s perfectly okay

3.) the “con” side offers what is deemed an antiquated scripture (note: NO scripture is antiquated. See 2 Timothy 3:16-17)

4.) the pro person calls the con person a pharisee and begins to discuss personal conviction

5.) at least one party begins to sub-tweet about the other before suggesting they delete them “if they don’t like it”.

Discussions like this highlight a huge misunderstanding about God’s Word: The opposite of legalism is grace, not anarchy. Jesus even told us He didn’t come to abolish the law (Matthew 5:17). The shedding of His blood was not meant to create a Church in which anything goes as long as you don’t feel bad about it, rather he was slain to make us holy (Hebrews 10:10).

So what does this have to do with my shopping issues? When we are saved from our sin we are adopted into the “family of God” (Ephesians 1:5). Just as my actions and desires were suddenly based on the “we” and not the “me”, so must our actions be based on the good of our adopted family. Paul laid it out firmly in 1 Corinthians 10:23-24:

“‘I have the right to do anything,’ you say—but not everything is beneficial. ‘I have the right to do anything’—but not everything is constructive. No one should seek their own good, but the good of others.”

This highlights the reason the New Testament church was able to thrive in the face of persecution-they were a community. If someone lost their job, the others would sell their possessions to care for their brother. They understood better than anyone the concept of “we” over “me”. In some ways these verses from 1 Corinthians place even MORE restrictions on what you do than the lists of demands found in the Old Testament that we so easily dismiss as being erased by grace.

So when deciding what you can or can’t or should or shouldn’t do, ask three questions:

1.) Does the Bible explicitly restrict this? If it does, or you even think it does, the decision making is over. There’s no personal justification to dismiss God’s Word.

2.) Does this benefit the body of Christ? Note that Paul did not say you could do as you wish as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone, he said not to do it UNLESS it BENEFITS your adopted family. If what you are contemplating doing, saying, wearing, or adding to your body doesn’t benefit anyone else, then it has no place in your life.

3.) Will this hinder my ability to be used? If you want to be a leader in your faith, then this concept of we becomes much more important. Think through your choices and make sure they can’t be used against you in the future to limit your ministry.

The death of me sounds terrifying, but the benefits of becoming a family cannot be overstated. Yes, you may have to give up some things you don’t see as wrong in order to help you brother or sister, but you also gain a support system that is doing the same for you. There is nothing that compares to the love of this family.