Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Brokenness

If I had to pick a word or phrase that captured 2016 it would be

brokenness

because it was absolutely a long season of this process of breaking.
Of humbling.
A needful process.
A not-done process.
Ever-on-going process.

While the circumstances have been totally different, the feeling has been much like when I first came to know Jesus. He was calling me, is still calling me, to a deeper walk, and while I would confess with my mouth that I wanted that, many of my actions did not speak of a woman devoted to Christ. He was calling me to lay things on the altar that I had a death-grip on.

Where your treasure is there shall your heart be also.
I quickly found I could not serve two masters. In fact, I can only be loyal to one.  You, God, You called out to me, "Who will you be loyal to? Where is your heart?"

He showed me that by trying to protect myself, my friendships, my life, my reputation... I would lose, I would lose it all in the end. And I would lose Him. He asked if I would be willing to lose it all for His sake, to lose it all and gain Him.

He said so much without saying much.  Weird how He does that.

What is your life, Mandy?
Where are you headed?
Is this what you want your legacy to be?
You can have as much of Me as you want, dear.
If you find yourself with so little, then you must want something more than me.
What do you want more than me?
Is that worth losing your life over?
Is anything worth losing Me, my dear Mandy?

Question after question slammed and broke me.
Broke me down.

You know when you've been broken.
You know when you've hit a huge transformational transition.
A total paradigm shift.
You know when your world has been beautifully and wonderfully and forever wrecked by and for Jesus.
I know because I've had an experience like this once before, and it forever changed me. It forever transformed my marriage, how I interact with my spouse. Saved me. Saved my marriage.



Oh yes, this year was rough. Mostly marked by depression, but Christ... He has truly set me free! In what seems like one swoop of His hand, He has delivered me from anger, depression, a heart of criticism, and many other issues I have dealt with my entire life.
He did it.

And I know I must keep myself surrendered to Him in order to stay free.

Freedom, I see and know and experience, is by the Spirit, by being under the Spirit, under His covering, submitted, humbled, like a child.

Oh how this year has been a very, very humbling one.  I want to tell everyone what the Lord has done, but words are not adequate. I try, and a jumble of words come out. I don't even make sense.

I probably sound like a crazy person.
But I don't care.
And that's a miracle. I don't care. Who would have thought I could come to that place?

I truly don't care what people think about what the Lord is doing in my life.  Their opinion matters not. I have come to see that truly (TRULY) it only matters what my Father God thinks. What if I please the world (as if this were even possible) and grieve my God? No! I will not walk in that anymore. I will not be driven by man's approval. I can't do it anymore. It is a stomach that is never satisfied.

His breaking of me has shown me my great (GREAAAT) neediness for Him and thereby, His great ability and His great love.  Seriously, I've never felt so loved in my life, and yet this great love has been there all along. I had tasted of it, but now, I feel it. Feel it flooding over me like a waterfall. Day after day. Moment after moment.

I am asking Him to take me deeper. I know He will. He has heard my heart on my "clearer" days for more of Him, and His breaking of me has been His answer to my cry to know Him.






Sunday, December 25, 2016

Merry Christmas!


Hey look! A picture of all of our children, actually smiling, and no one picking their nose!

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Lies Run Deep



These lies run deep,
I don't even know how far the roots go down.
I think I'm free,
But I can't even see how tight I'm bound.

Peeling back the layers one-by-one,
Always yet another when I think I'm done
Peeling back the layers, one-by-one,
Always yet another when I think I'm done.

These lies run deep,
I don't even know how far the roots go down.
I think I'm free,
But I can't even see how tight I'm bound.

You got me walking through the fires so these ropes burn up,
But all I can think is that it hurts so much.

Feeling so exposed and overwhelmed by Light,
I can choose to stay in fear or overcome the night.
Feeling so exposed and overwhelmed by Light,
I can choose to stay in fear or overcome the night.

These lies run deep,
I don't even know how far the roots go down.
I think I'm free,
But I can't even see how tight I'm bound.

I know it's You, leading me through,
Stripping off the weights that pull me down.
Leading me through, this desolate place,
Making sure there's nothing that clouds Your face.

(By Mandy)

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Break Us Down



Destroy our walls and break down our strongholds.
Destroy our walls and break down our strongholds.
Let us fall apart and crumble down.
You build us up from the ground.

Let us find comfort in the truly humble place,
Where we see Your loving face,
And receive Your whole embrace.

Let our fear give way to trust in You
And here we find our souls renewed,
And here we find we're safe and sound.
So let us lose ourselves and in You be found.

Stop protecting.
Stop defending.
Stop running away.
For Jesus You are able to hold me;
You are able to keep me safe.
For Jesus You are able to hold me;
You are able to keep me safe.

[by Mandy]

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Walking Wounded



"People don't mind doing CPR on a crisis victim, but no person is equipped to be the constant lifeline to another." -Lysa Terkeurst, Uninvited

These words slam me hard.  Oh man. I've been on all sides of that. The crisis victim, the person administering CPR, and the panicked gal in constant need of an oxygen mask.

I believe the Lord is calling me to let people go. To let them go in my heart. This thing in me that is so needy for people, rather than totally dependent on Him.  He needs to be the One who steadies me. I've been walking around so needy, expecting people to rush to me and help me, to know I was a mess, to fix me.

Walking wounded.

I can't do that anymore.
I can't keep seeking approval outside of Jesus Christ. I'm not just saying I shouldn't... I'm saying, "I can't." It's wearing me out. It's wearing me down.  It's what feeds my depression. I can't do it anymore.

What if... what if I seek only Him.
What if I let everything else die?
What if I let everything else go?
Can I even do that?

Will my whole world come crashing down?
Will I lose it all?
What if I try to save it all and lose my soul?

What if I really let go?
What if I fall into His arms, and I look only at His face?
What if I let my heart's focus on pleasing God alone?
And I let everything else fall.

There's a feeling in the pit of my stomach.
I will lose it all.
Am I willing to lose it all?
Am I willing to forsake it all?
Am I willing to make Christ my One Thing?
Am I willing to lay down all the things I've used as lifelines, and let Him alone be my life? My whole life?






Friday, September 16, 2016

Self-Consumed

In my journal I scribble down, "What if we lay it all down—this pursuit of self-love and self-glory in all its forms, even the ones that are accepted in Christianity today—and simply receive."

I make note, "I can't really love others if I am self-consumed. And I can't even really receive love if I am self-consumed." 

I want to receive love, and I want to give love. But, I see, I'm obsessed with myself. Totally. The Lord unravels me, shows me how crazy self-obsessed I am. It's everywhere. The root of self runs deep.  In the world of trees, it's a Redwood, wide and tall, casting a shadow on all of my life.

"We can cut it down, if you want to," He says.  And the thought is exciting and terrifying and wonderful all at once.  What happens if I stop thinking of myself all. the. time? Trying to make sure I'm okay? What if I stop seeking after acceptance and approval? What if I stop caring about everyone's opinions on my life? Is that even okay? 



Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Exposed


I have so many thoughts swirling around in my head—I'm not even sure I can gather them all together, but I will attempt.  These last few years I feel as though I have been challenged in ways I have never been challenged before.  I am seeing myself, and therefore Jesus, in a whole new light.

When I was a child, I would find my thoughts to be my company.  I believed I was alone in feeling and experiencing the things I did, and so I often isolated myself.  After all, no one could possibly understand, right?  I carried that mentality into adulthood, but over the last year or two, I see the Lord freeing me of this, along with so many other falsehoods.

The reality is that every being in the human race is very similar, despite our differences.  I do believe that all of us have experienced that sickening feeling in our throats, the brick in our stomach that often comes when fear rushes over us like a consuming, crashing wave.  I'm not alone in that.  So I know that all these things the Lord is revealing to me are not unique to me—it's the human condition.  I have seen these things pop up before, but like a game of Whack-a-Mole, I have quickly shoved them back down, unwilling to face the truth because, well, it's embarrassing, humiliating.  I preferred to live in denial, but those things were still nagging me, tucked in the corners of my soul.  I knew they were there, and I knew they were affecting the way I functioned.

I can't remember exactly when it was, although I'm sure I could find a more specific date if I looked through my journals, but there came a time when I told Papa God, "Do Your work.  Dig it all out. I can't live like this anymore. I'm ready."  I don't deny that I was trembling, my faith weak, my heart pounding wildly because I knew I was asking Him to do major surgery, and what if... what if I didn't make it out alive?

I find in me this desire to let go, and yet, at the same time, to cling tight to things I know I should not.  What if I let go and it all comes crashing down?  What if I tell God, "Do with me what you will," and that proclamation leads me to a concentration camp like Corrie ten Boom?  What if I tell God, "I want to know You.  I want to experience You like never before!" and the path to knowing Him, experiencing Him and deepening my faith is to lose nearly everything I have- even my children- like the writer of It Is Well With My Soul, Horatio Spafford? What if I sink instead of soar?

And yet, I realize that all those things could indeed happen to me, with or without God.  Wouldn't I rather know Him, experience Him, trust Him through it all?  Wouldn't I rather be broken upon the rock than be crushed by it? What if I stop self-protecting, which is really no protection at all, and I let go?  What if I really let go and let Him do His work?

I've been asking a lot of "What If" questions lately.  It began as an ending— as in, I came to the end of myself, and I hammered What Ifs into the gates of Heaven. I was afraid of my own anger and passion, then shocked by Jesus' gentleness to what felt like the equivalent of beating my fists upon His chest.  He wasn't phased.  I thought He would have been.  He wasn't angry.  In fact, He was strangely pleased. It seems as though He has been waiting for me to unburden myself of my questions.

Since then, the What Ifs have been more like post-it notes I leave all over for Him to answer, if He wants, when He wants, how He wants.  Many times, the What ifs are answers in and of themselves— bold questions with bold implications.  

What if I really am radically loved?

Just asking the questions is healing, because in the asking I am laying them down.  I am releasing my grip on them, the shame and fear wrapped up in holding onto them.  I lay them down, and I'm no longer consumed by them. I'm exposing them.

I have found in laying out my questions, I have freed Jesus to lay out answers, to bring things bubbling to the surface— things I had tied anchors to in an effort to forget.  Lately, He has done that in such a strange way, by what I can only describe as an out of body experience.  I'm there, observing myself, observing my reactions and emotions, and the physical manifestations of those things (the fear-induced nausea, for example).  In those moments, I realize that He sees me, He really sees me.  With others, even my husband, I have often felt like, if they really knew me,  if they could see all of me, they would not really love me.  This induces a fear within me that I will be exposed and then rejected. Even though I know with my logical mind that God sees all things and knows all things, that one cannot hide anything from Him— after all Scripture testifies to this over and over [Nothing in all creation is hidden from God's sight; everything is uncovered and exposed before the eyes of Him to whom we must give account (Heb. 4:13). The eyes of the Lord are in every place, watching the evil and the good (Prov. 15:3).]— I realized that something within me had a belief that if Jesus really saw me, if He really knew me through and through, He too would reject me.  I find in myself many beliefs which I act from that are not based on the Truth and Reality of Christ.  In His kindness, Jesus is digging them out.  It is painful, but it is good.

I feel much like a tree that is being pruned.  Limbs are being lopped off, which in the moment feels completely wretched, but the purpose is to create a beautiful, fruitful, strong tree which is not easily swayed by strong winds and wild storms, whose branches do not bow under the weight of nests and scampering squirrels.

However, it is incredibly uncomfortable to be exposed, to be splayed out.  I feel naked and ashamed.  The truth is I have lived much of my life like that ruler in the story of The Emperor's New Clothes, except instead of false, non-existent clothes, I have false, non-existent shields. All my attempts to cover myself, to control my environment, really just leave me exposed and vulnerable to attack.  My armor is insufficient.  I'm naked and I don't know it.  But then Jesus exposes me, and I see my nakedness, see that I've been fooled, and I am humiliated.

But then I see, we're all naked.  We're all alike.  I don't have to be humiliated.  I don't have to be ashamed.  You can judge me, but in your judgment, you will find that you are the same as I am. The Kingdom of God seems upside down, but then I realize, it's this kingdom on earth that's upside down and inside out.  The truth is that when we are willing to be exposed and vulnerable, we are covered by God, fully protected. We walk in the light.  When we try to cover ourselves, we are exposed and vulnerable, and we are walking around believing we are shielded by a wall thats' weak and crumbling, believing we are protected from the fiery arrows headed our way.

I'm standing outside of myself, watching my emotions brewing, and I'm seeing those emotions have strings, and these strings weave quite a web all over my life impacting how I interact with people, what I believe, what I do, how I feel....  Jesus and I, we follow the path and see where the first knot was tied.  Again, I'm tempted to be ashamed, to wallow in it, but that's not why He's exposing it.  He's exposing it to heal me.  There is no condemnation in Him.  He speaks gently, "Look.  There.  See? There it is."

"You feel like you have to be someone.  Like you have to be special.  That's a burden to you."
Sometimes I defend myself, "But, haven't you called me to be a world changer?"
He smiles, the kind of smile you give an innocent, naive child. "No."
His response is simple. It's one word, but as His response comes out, His truth floods in. It's amazing how He has to ability to say so much with one word.

Receive. He has called me to receive, specifically to receive of Him.  He shows me that I get caught up in being a good mom, in being an excellent wife, in being a wonderful friend, and those all sound like good things to me, high callings, even.  But I'm focusing on producing fruit, and He never called me to focus on producing.  He calls me to abide, and the result of abiding.... is fruit.  It's no wonder that I'm often flustered by myself, because I'm always checking the fruit.  Is there a bud?  Is it blossoming? How many are there?  Is there enough? Is He proud of me? Does He love me yet?

Oh.  Oh.... there's that knot, there's where that string leads to.

I turn to the Scriptures, "When we got it all down perfectly, Christ loved us."  Oh, wait, that's not in there.  
Romans 5 comes to rescue me. While I was yet a sinner, Christ died for me.  While I was ungodly. Because I could never be enough. His love rushes in, pulls me close, takes away the separation.  His love makes me righteous before I've done anything right. Suddenly it makes sense again.  The gospel had become mere words on a page to me, words I could quote but just words, and in this moment, they become life again.

Monday, July 18, 2016

You can live if you want to.

As my husband and I sat on the porch the other night, staring out at the stars, this thought came to me as if from the mouth of Jesus. "You can live if you want to." 

Live. You can live your life, if you want to. Truly, abundantly, vibrantly. You can stop trying to walk the line, worried you are going to step out of place. You can stop tip toeing. You can stop fearing. That's not living. That's dying. 

 It's like the line from that song, "You can dance if you want to." I think God is inviting us to the dance floor, but we think we can't dance, we are afraid to look like fools, and we don't want to step on any toes. And if we do go out for a dance, we fearfully inspect ourselves. "Am I doing it right?" And He says, "Relax. Enjoy the dance." Because life with Jesus is full of swirls and dips and He will toss you up into the air, but He will always catch you. Sometimes it's slow and close, head on His shoulder... other times it's upbeat and fast and your heart is beating out of your chest, but He's leading and you can follow.

You can dance if you want to. You can live if you want to. You can throw off your shoes. Jesus doesn't need your high heels and Sunday best. He doesn't care if you sing on key. You can sing if you want to. "You can really live if you want to," He reminds me, because I've stopped living. I become a robot fueled by fear and rules, wavering between a strong desire to check all the boxes or rip up the whole dang list.

I sat outside, listening to the crickets sing. It was if my hearing had improved because I threw off all the noise in my head. I don't need to carry all the conversations in my head. I don't need to worry about yesterday or tomorrow or five minutes from now. I'm just doing the next thing. I'm living. Here. Now. Which is the only place we can really live. Yesterday is gone. Why concern ourselves with it? We stress ourselves out by trying to figure out the future, why not trust it to the Father's hands? Why not take those Hands? You can dance if you want to. Why worry about what other people think? This is not their life. Let them live or not live their own.

But I can live if I want to. And I want to. I want the adventure.  My sister Manderly and I were talking about this very thing.  "I think we imagine adventure to look like this major outward risk taking but I think it's taking a risk with our heart. Even if our life on the outside looks mundane still," I commented.

I imagined her nodding in agreement as she texted back, "I had really wanted it to be some outward risk, but I actually think it's connected. So much of my outward life is held back by my fears and lack of trusting the Lord to give me good things. I'm still waiting for the bottom to fall out."

I often live waiting for the bottom to fall out. Manderly and I talked about facing the truth, asking the questions, truly seeking, not being afraid to dance.  Maybe that's what it looks like to really live. To step out, even when you're scared. To dance, even when you don't  know the steps. To trust God in you.

I met up with some of my girls for lunch one afternoon.  I said, "I think I've been waiting for permission to live, and the Lord is saying, 'Stop waiting for permission. I've given you permission. I've planted dreams and desires within you. Don't be afraid to walk in them.'"

I get so caught up in all the voices of other people telling me how to live. I get distracted by looking at other people's lives well lived and think mine needs to look like that.

I know God is trying to break that apart. In order to do that, He has to destroy this desire I have to be understood, to be accepted, to be approved of by others.  I'm experiencing the freedom of that, but it's a tough habit to break. I can't really live if I'm too busy trying to spin all the plates. I have to lay down other people's perceptions, judgments, and opinions of my life.

I'm called to work out my own salvation. No one gets to work it out for me. I don't get to work out anyone else's.

I feel this overwhelming desire to use up the moments. To live. Because I want to.




Thursday, July 14, 2016

The Questioner


I hold the questions inside, push them down. He knows they are there.  Why does it seem more righteous to keep my lips shut rather than confess the wonderings swirling in my brain?  I try to repeat "truths" to myself, but the questions press me. I press them back. Down. Down. Down.

But I reach a point where the questions won't be pushed down anymore. They have piled up, begging for answers, and soon they roll off my tongue sounding frustrated.  It's really just desperation.

Then I feel guilty. I feel guilty for slamming Him with question after question. Why, God? Why? I'm like a curious child, and later I realize that is a good thing. I'm small, and I don't know a lot of things. Isn't that a good place to be?

Maybe in the pouring out of hurts and questions and the beating upon His chest because, Oh God, I want to know You and see You better, isn't such a bad thing. Isn't He big enough to face the queries and outbursts that passionately overflow? Can He not see they are the ramblings of a girl who doesn't want to memorize answers and hear canned speeches but truly, desperately, wants to know her God?

A real knowing.  Beyond knowledge.  An intimacy.
A depth that comes from asking those questions that beat upon the door of my mind.

It's a continual coming-to-an-end-of-myself. Because, let's be honest, I go through seasons where I'm not sure how the gospel really changes things. I could lead you down "the Roman's road" and recite John 3:16 by heart, but when I look at the world around me, I feel heavy.  I don't see the gospel changing things.

I want to feel the gospel pulsing through every fiber of my being, through the whole church, through every believer.  I want to see Jesus impacting everyone we touch with His amazing love. I want to see this gospel flowing through me and around me and in all the universe.... and sometimes I can't see it.  I feel like a blind man who needs clay formed from Jesus' spit and the dust of the earth so the scales fall from my eyes.  Would I see it then?

I want to see heaven invading earth. Heaven, invade earth.  Papa, do you see how badly we need You?  Do You hear our cries?

I press in, because all the things I comforted myself with before just won't do.  The answers I used to give myself just don't work.

What if Jesus really meant it when He said, "You'll do greater works than these when I go to the Father."?
What if He really wants us to ask and seek and knock, and keep on asking and seeking and knocking, and what if He really wants to answer, and reveal, and fling the door wide open?
What if He doesn't mind if we wrestle things out with Him? Maybe, just maybe, He is inviting me to do that.  Maybe He is waiting for that, because it means I've decided to get into the game rather than sit on the bench.
What is seeking anyway?  Is it not messy and chaotic at times? Doesn't seeking begin with a question? "Where are you, God?"  "Why is this, Jesus?" "Holy Spirit, what are You saying?"  "Are you there?"

I've been thinking of the things we say, these Christianese answers we are so familiar with that maybe we don't even think twice as we rattle them off.  Maybe because there is a bit of truth in them, but there's more... maybe they aren't the whole truth.

"We don't get to know..."
     But what if we do?  What if it is the Papa's heart to disclose things to us? What if He wants us to consider that we don't know, and stop thinking that we can use theology to explain everything, that we can figure it out by our own understanding?  What if He wants us to know from our hearts, not just from our heads? What if He wants us to ask? What if He put His Spirit within us to reveal truth and wisdom because He wants us to know?
“But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come." [John 16:13]

I beat upon His chest, and I cry out, and I'm afraid because He could throw me down and break me into a million pieces. I worry I'm being disrespectful, that I'm irritating Him, that maybe I'm pushing boundaries. But I'm desperate.  I'm so desperate to see His Kingdom come.

I feel crazy, but it occurs to me that maybe this is sanity, and maybe pacifying myself with answers that did not satisfy was the real crazy.  I remember, years ago, being told that I just needed to have more faith.  I learned questioning was not okay.

Maybe what Jesus really wanted to say was, "Ask, but not really.  Just have more faith." No. I don't think that's what He meant at all.  What if it is my faith that demands I ask.  Is it not faith that says, "There is a God whom I can boldly approach. I believe He is available. I believe I can climb up in His lap and ask Him all the questions!"?

So I push past the fear, the fear that says He will strike me down.  All the words tumble out, and then I'm exhausted.  A picture pops into my mind of a little child running to the arms of her father, tears rolling down her face, a fierce expression, words flying, and she cries and screams and yells and flails..... and when she has emptied herself of every expression, she falls asleep peacefully, and her father presses her tight against his chest and kisses her sweaty forehead.

He loves her.
He loves me.

I sheepishly look up at Him. "I'm sorry, Papa.  Did I offend You?"  I'm ashamed by how messy it looks, how messy it feels. Should I fall on my face and repent?  Of course I should, right?

But instead I feel like He's saying, "Keep it coming.  Let it go.  Unburden. Bring it to the Light."  And I see that before, I was in His Presence, but I was standing at the door.  Too afraid to really approach, unless I felt like I had behaved and said all the right things.  But here I am, frustrated and overwhelmed and burdened and the only solution seems to be the craziest solution of all.  Run. Run beyond the entry way, right into His lap, my face to His face, feeling His breath like a breeze in my hair.

And He heard me. He heard what I was saying, beyond the flailing and the hurting and the words which failed me.

Later I told my sisters, "I feel like God has so many things to say wrapped up in His Presence where He doesn't actually say a thing, it's just understood. Like He isn't disappointed or angry with me at all. That asking and seeking and knocking looks messy and sometimes lunatic. That verse in Revelations about being spit out because they are luke warm comes to mind, and I feel Him saying He'd rather have passion, even if that passion scares me, scares others... than have people who stand at the door looking in, too afraid to scream for answers and beat down doors until their fists are raw."

"It's okay for you to be in this place. I'm the One that invited you in."

He's accessible because of Jesus Christ.  Jesus calls me friend. Real friendships, deep friendships... they are messy.  I feel like a mess.

Papa whispers, "I like the mess. It's My mess. You're My beautiful mess. I like you."



I've heard that before. One night as I ugly-cried on my bed, ashamed of the tears, ashamed of the mess... my husband wrapped me in his arms and whispered, "You're my mess. I love you. I like you just the way you are."

And I have begun to believe it.

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Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Mercy for our Mistakes

I'm not really sure what to do with this blog now.  You see, I started blogging years ago, and in that span of time, I've changed quite a bit.  The truth is, we are always growing, always changing, always learning.  This blog certainly has cataloged much of that growth and many of those changes.

I'm not the woman I was when I first purchased this domain.  In fact, I was a pretty new believer back then. Though I had grown up reading the bible, I didn't fall in love with Jesus— didn't start walking with Him— until my mid-twenties. As with any relationship, we have had our highs and lows. We have walked through some dark valleys, climbed some steep mountains, stood at the top of some amazing peaks and marveled at the view.  And, just like marriage, it's been a journey of getting to know Him.

Many of the things I posted years ago were likely with the wrong heart.  I have spent much of my life battling a legalistic mindset. And I can definitely say I have often turned a relationship with Christ into a list of do's and don'ts.  I'm sure that is reflected in some (many?) of the posts here on this blog.

We celebrated Christmas, then shunned every bit of sparkly tinsel and holiday trinket only to make a Christmas-comeback with presents tucked under the tree and advent devotionals read each evening.  I've had seasons where I tried head covering and tucked my jeans away in storage.  And I've worried about whether I'm doing it all right or screwing it all up and if I'm going to get to Heaven and God's going to shake his holy finger at me and say, "I'll let you in, but, dude, you just barely made it."


But something happened a couple years ago.
I decided to lay down the worrying.
I decided I would stop focusing on the what and focus on the who.
Because all the rest will just fall into place when my eyes are on the Prize.

Because the Lord reminded me that there will be people who say, "Did we not prophesy in Your name? Drive out demons in Your name? Perform many miracles in Your name?"  And yet, Jesus will answer, "I don't know you."

And this is always the struggle as a believer.  I believe most of us have been there at one point (or one thousand points) in our lives.  We get so focused on the doing, on producing fruit, and we forget that the Lord's desire is for us to be wrapped in a deep relationship with Him.  That comes first. The fruit is a by-product of abiding in Christ.

There have been many, many times when I've put works first, and not love.  When I've lived trying to be good enough and earn His favor rather than abiding in His love and letting His work flow from me.  Cart before the horse, Mandy. Cart before the horse.

There are quite a few times in scripture when God states, "I desire obedience over sacrifice," and that used to baffle me.  I would think, "Wait? Didn't He command those offerings? Aren't they obeying by bringing these specific offerings He commanded they bring?" 

Christ says that whole of the Law and the Prophets is summed up in these two commandments, to love God with all of your everything and to love your neighbor as yourself.

God was calling the people to not simply go through the motions, not just bring the offerings and tithes, but to engage in a love relationship with Him.  I can tell you that when you are living from a place of love it changes everything.

If you've been around my blog for a while, or if you know me personally, it's no secret that my husband and I nearly divorced in the first three years of our marriage. I may have cleaned the house and made dinner, but it wasn't out of a place of love, and I think the atmosphere of our home reflected that. A tidy home and a plate full of food can't cover up a twisted heart attitude.  I can tell you that the writer of Proverbs 15:27 knew what he was talking about when he wrote, "A vegetarian meal served with love is better than a big, thick steak with a plateful of animosity [ISV]."  Truly, love has a way of making a meal or a moment much sweeter.  Maybe that's why the Apostle Paul commanded the Corinthians to do everything in love (1 Corinthians 16:14).

In the beginning of my marriage, I did things for my husband because I wanted something from him. Maybe I wanted to feel good about myself  ("See what I did for you!").  Maybe I didn't want to feel guilty about something else ("I made you this meal, please don't comment about how much I went over the grocery budget!").  Maybe I wanted him to do something for me.  But typically, even though I often didn't realize my own intentions, I did things out of love.... for myself.

Honestly, that's how the first 20-something years of my life went.  I didn't even know God. I just tried to the things I thought He wanted me to so I wouldn't go to hell.  I missed the point. I missed Him.  And then Jesus captivated me, and I began a relationship with Him.... but at times I have veered off the path of loving Him.  I've done things because "He told me to," or because I thought they were good, and at times I've abandoned everything just to do what I want to do.  But He is so faithful to call me back to Himself. To abiding.  To true obedience.

And true obedience isn't doing, but loving.  There is a difference.  Loving involves doing, but doing does not always come from loving. The actions can both look the same outwardly, but the heart can be totally different.

Wow, this post is becoming a bit lengthy, isn't it?

My point in this all is.... this blog records much of my journey.  Some of it has a lot of the doing and the "good looks" and the trying and striving that isn't actually stemming from love.  And some of it is passion-induced, deep-Jesus-moment writings.  Then there's that stuff of pictures and randomness.

Maybe one day I'll have the time and energy to weed out the junk of it, but my prayer is that until then, you'll have the discernment to know what is which. Hopefully you won't judge me too harshly, because, hey, we're all on a journey!

I think we all need a reminder from time to time that it's okay to change your mind and change your perspective... because that's part of growing.  It's my desire to grow into a deeper and fuller relationship with Christ, and that often means letting go of preconceived notions, theories, and beliefs as I give myself to trusting in and agreeing with God.  There's mercy for our mistakes!

Thursday, March 31, 2016

A Little Big News Update!

Has it really been a year and a half since my last post?  That seems a little crazy.  So much has happened in a year and a half, and, well, I don't think I can even begin to "catch up" my blog.

If you follow me on Instagram, than you probably know all the news anyway, but if you don't, then here's the best bit of news to happen since my leave of absence:



We added another little one to our crew! We are now a family of nine.




Meet Jethro Fallon.  He's a month old now!



And Shiloh Mae (age 2) is now a big sister.  She's a super cute big sister who at first didn't want anything to do with Jetty, but after a few days she decided he's pretty awesome, and she should have the right to hold him all the time, any time.  I mean, he is pretty much doll-sized.

Jethro was 5 pounds and 13 ounces when he was born, but he's been gaining pretty steadily (although he still has chicken legs).  He's a super sweet baby, and we're glad he made his way to us!

I know you're probably wondering if we're done yet, because that seems to be the question we get the most.  We think that this is probably it.  Most likely.  I mean, seven is a great number.  I make no promises, but we're feeling pretty strongly that our family is complete.

Someone just loaded up his diaper, so that's my cue. I'm hoping to make more posts in the future, but... well, we'll see. Instagram has become my "blog" these days, so I hope you'll follow me there (@mcmandymom).