Tuesday, October 06, 2015

Chapel Life in South Georgia

Ten months ago we moved to a quaint coastal town in South Georgia to our second duty station on this adventure called military life and chaplaincy. It has been a beautifully wild ride switching coasts and, man, the differences are many! It has been an adjustment, but I am certain that we are exactly where the Lord wants us. 

My husband was previously stationed in 29 Palms with 3rd battalion 4th Marines, then regiment, and then 1st Tanks. We were there just shy of 3 years before moving to GA. Those who know me will recall that I loved our desert dwelling. I loved the sunshine, the people, the chapel family and ministry we were a part of, the hiking. It was very difficult to not play the comparison game when we first moved here. For the first several months I think I made the transition a little bit more difficult than it would have been had I surrendered to the Lord's will sooner. Always learning the hard way, I am. 

 In December of 2014 we moved to beautiful South GA where T is now ministering at a chapel, which is basically a church on base for sailors, marines, retirees, and others with base access. He preaches weekly, leads a bible study, counsels A LOT of people, officiates weddings, and prays at numerous events from balls to retirement ceremonies to even a Solar Farm dedication (yes, that really happened). He also does a bunch of things that I don't see or know much about, many of which are administrative in nature. We LOVE our sweet little chapel here but we (I) have had to get out of the way and allow God to move. Let me explain. 

While in the desert, we were part of a large and thriving chapel. We knew that the one in GA would be small and in my head I thought it would be no big deal. Yes, it would be small and vastly different from what we experienced in California, but we would just love Jesus, love the people, and let God do the rest. That sounds AWESOME and super spiritually mature, doesn't it? And that's totally how it went down... (crickets...chirp...chirp). Yeah. Just kidding. 

Honestly, we arrived here and reality hit that we were starting from ground zero with a wonderful staff, an amazing pianist, and...that's it. Something of importance to note is that we have one building for both Protestant and Catholic services. The catholic congregation is very large and thriving, with around 300 people on Sunday mornings which is pretty incredible and rare for catholic chapels. This being the bible belt and all, catholic churches are far and few between (as in there is one other catholic church in the entire county, I believe) whereas you can find a protestant church or three on every corner. This presents a unique challenge but nevertheless, we rolled up our sleeves and got to work. 

The first Sunday T preached, there were 13 people in attendance, including the 7 in our family. Many were retirees (they are lovely!), plus some RVers that were there for a season (also lovely), and a few single Sailors and Marines (we love our men in uniform!). Over the next several weeks it was about the same. During this time, our youngest son proved to be very challenging as we taught our children to sit quietly through the service and to be patient as daddy preached. I often ended up in T's office in tears because the three year old would run away or even run up to the podium WHILE T was preaching. I was horrified inside but would paste a smile on my face as I walked to the pulpit with the baby strapped to my front in the ergo and grabbed at the wiggly preschooler as he screamed, "I. WANT. MY. DADDY!'" Sometimes I couldn't grab a hold of him and T would have to leave the pulpit and grab him for me. Looking apologetically toward the congregation, I would make the walk of shame to the back, out the door, and hunker down in the office wondering what in the world we had gotten ourselves into. The children and I worked at home and had daily "training sessions" where we would all sit in front of the TV and watch parts of  a sermon, lengthening the time little by little. Everyone did really awesome during the week - even the preschooler - but inevitably, on Sunday, it would be chaos all over again. Every week I beat myself up about my parenting skills with the disobedient child. What was the answer? We spanked. We did time out. We took things away. We talked. We hugged. We prayed and prayed and prayed and prayed some more. Over him, with him, about him, FOR him.  Where had we gone wrong? Was there any hope? Was he going to grow up and do dugs? Rob a bank? Get kicked out of college? Would he even make it to college? Irrational much? Ha! Maybe. One thing was for sure, something had to give.  I had grown weary of going to church. What was the point if I never heard the sermon and merely babysat my children in the office? It's important to point out that the members of the congregation were so understanding gracious during this time and they still are. We have some amazing people who have become like grandparents to my kids and friends who don't mind holding babies. It's been a gift from the Lord to have these people in our lives!

So. It turns out that it wasn't my little son who needed to change. It was my perspective. My heart. I had to surrender my ideas of what Sundays should look like, and embrace my new reality. We continued going to chapel faithfully and some weeks were better than others. Sometimes our little guy made it nearly the whole way through and other days we would take a walk outside and try to find the alligator that lives in the pond behind the chapel. We would talk about how Jesus made the alligators and squirrels and the trees and grass. I began to enjoy that time with my little ones. Even though I didn't always hear all of sermon - if anything at all - I looked forward to the fellowship time after the service and getting to know those who came any given week. I had to get back to the original idea of loving the people God brought. I could do that. That was easy - I love people! So, I began to focus on getting to know the chapel-goers better, making notes of prayer requests, enjoying the conversations, and my soul started to find rest. We started a fifth Sunday fellowship potluck for every month that has five weeks and we started a Wednesday evening worship service. When Wednesday didn't work out because of a scheduling conflict in the building, we moved it to Sundays. Sundays didn't really work out as a full fledged worship service and instead became an intimate time of bible study. We were changing as the Lord saw fit. I was tempted to start a children's ministry even though that is outside of my natural gifting but as we prayed, T and I both felt a peace about waiting. We agreed that we didn't want to start ministries just because we thought it would draw people in. We didn't want it to be about numbers. So we waited

In August, our oldest son came down with viral meningitis and encephalitis, also knowns as meningoencephilitis. It was a battle to get someone to take us seriously and not just pass it off as "just a virus," but the Lord is good  and provided exactly the doctors, staff, and facility we needed. It was during this time that the Lord just poured out his love from the community around us. Our neighborhood friends, our chapel family. He used that time to show me how very blessed I am right where we are. Then, one Sunday while I was still at the hospital with our son, T called on his drive over and excitedly told me about a couple with four children who came to chapel and desired to start a children's church. My heart rejoiced that I had been obedient and waited on the Lord's timing. A couple weeks later, children's church was born and it's been going really well. We are so thankful for this couple and the work they are putting into this ministry for our chapel children!

In the past few months we have also been blessed to exercise the gift of hospitality, which I LOVE! We have had the staff over, many single marines and sailors, other members of our chapel family, and many friends we have made since moving here. We recently said our first goodbye to a Marine that we had welcomed into our home a few times and whom my kids had grown to love. This Sunday we say goodbye to a couple beloved sailors. Its not easy, but its been such a blessing getting to know them. There are many others to minister to, still, so it doesn't stop here! 

There is still much work to be done, and so much potential for this sweet chapel, still people to get to know and have over, but I am certain of WHO has it all planned out. In the next few weeks I am hoping to get CPR certified so I can begin providing a nursery on Sunday mornings. It is also my hope that we can start a women's bible study by the new year. We are growing slowly but surely. It changes from week to week because that's just the transitional nature of chapels. I can't say that things are drastically different from when we first came to GA, but the Lord has changed my perspective and priorities. HE now guides me expectations and I am excited to see what HE has planned! As a chapel, our hearts are being knit together in Christ. We are real. We are imperfect. We are fellow travelers on a journey to know the Lord better and do His will. And though small, by most people's standards, we are a family and I wouldn't trade this experience for another one. God is good and we thank all of you who have kept and continue to keep us in your prayers. May God bless each of you greatly, according to His glorious riches in heaven. 

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Shrapnel and Amazing Grace

Yesterday morning, early, I was spending time with the Lord and confessing to Him (who already knows) my horrible attitude the day before. I had let a broken vase, burnt bread, squabbling children and a forgotten commitment to keep a friends children completely wreck me. My voice was loud and my words unkind toward the sweet child who broke the vase. I sent a scathing string of words via text message to the husband who had laid aside his work and sermon prep to go to the grocery for emergency pesto to put on the pasta I was preparing. Ungrateful much? Oh friends, I was utterly a mess. What are we to do when a pretty gets smashed, the anger bubbles fierce, and our words explode right at ones we love, the shrapnel piercing their very hearts? 

So, there I was the next morning, coffee mug in hand, bible laid open, heart stripped bare, asking the Lord what in the world my problem could be. Because isn't he there in the broken vases, the sibling squabbles, the burnt bread and the last minute shifting and changing of plans? Isn't he there in the midst of poopy diapers and laundry mountains, and the daily washing and putting away of dishes, over and over and over again? Is my faith so small that a shattered inanimate object and the chaos of little people can make me absolutely lose. my. mind. without a moments' notice? Yet God whispered his love loud there at that table where my family breaks bread and laughs and read devotions about His love, strong and true. God IS here. If I don't see him, if I don't SEEK him in the mundane, it's my choice. The opportunity is there to turn each moment over to him and trust him for grace in the spilled milk, the crayons on walls, and a child's anger at another child. It isn't easy. It requires a sort of surrender that is uncomfortable and seems to stretch us to the breaking point. Jesus reminded me (again) that he is indeed here. He does see. And he wants to be my everything.  

When my world is wrecked by the circumstances of this mommy life, it's not because God isn't in it. It's because I am not making the choice to live steeped in his truth, filtering my circumstances through the lens of eternity. These things, the daily grind, it all matters to him, I only need to give it over to him. In my study in the wee hours my heart was pierced by Proverbs 12:18 which says, " Rash words are like sword thrusts, but a wise tongue brings healing." Oy! So much work to be done in this heart of mine! How many times have I stuck a sword into little souls? How many times have I spoken rash words to the love of my life? Yes, I am imperfect and I will inevitably fail, but my desire is to press in hard towards Jesus and live in His grace. I desire to speak healing, life-giving grace-words, even when I feel like spewing ugliness. 

Every moment is an opportunity to seek the Lord. To strive for holiness. To be refined. When I stop seeing the each day as an opportunity to become more like Christ, I begin to flounder and flail, becoming all tangled up in my flesh. Friends, the gospel is not a one time event that changes us from enemy of God to friend of God. It's a daily laying down of self and picking up of the cross. The work of the gospel should change me DAILY. Moment by moment. My attitude, reactions, and responses hinge on my faith and belief in what Jesus Christ did on the cross. In the light of his unfathomable suffering, my struggles are small potatoes. In those struggles, I can rest assured that they each serve a purpose. Our trials, both big and small, are meant to complete something in us, to grow and mature us (James 1:2-5).  

When we do fail (and we will, because we are human) we can humble ourselves, confess, repent, and seek forgiveness from those we have lashed out at. We can press in, to the One who loves us and whose perfect record has become ours because of blood shed on a cruel, rugged cross. Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me! Aren't you so grateful for the grace and mercy of our Lord? I know I am! Press in, mamas, to the one who knows you inside out and loves you no matter what, and sojourn on!

Friday, December 12, 2014

On Crippling Insecurity & the Tyranny of the, "What if?"

Insecurity. It's ugly, y'all. Plain and simple. It can mask itself as humility and meekness, among other things but underneath it all, it's pure sin. Self-focused and fixed on what the world thinks, insecurity, if given the opportunity, has the ability to utterly cripple us, hindering the Lord's work and the Word of God from going forth in glory. Insecurity is a condition where the preoccupation with I trumps the I AM. Did you know that insecurity is a form of pride? No? It is. When we are so consumed with ourselves and what others think, we are not fixing our eyes on the author and perfecter of our faith. When the acceptance and favor of people becomes more important than what our very Creator thinks, that, my friends, is called idolatry. 

How can I speak with such authority on this topic? Sadly, I am an expert. I have lived nearly my entire life, drowning in my own self-doubt, worry, paranoia, and the desire to be liked - no - loved. By everyone. I have allowed preconceived notions to get in the way of building relationships and hinder those that were already established. If someone looked at me funny or didn't respond to something I said or did in the right fashion or if I thought someone didn't like me or thought ill of me in any way, it rendered me utterly useless until I was sure something was not amiss. If perhaps someone didn't return a call or a text or, heaven forbid, use emoticons so that I could understand their "tone" I would worry and fret. It would keep me awake at night or cause me to slack in my daily duties of being a mom and teacher to my kiddos, and wife to my husband. I am not exaggerating, though I wish I were. It got so bad that everything became about me and how I perceived the world around me. And these perceptions were not often not even real, mind you. I smiled and laughed on the outside but inside I was a mess. A self-absorbed wreck, convinced that nobody really thought I was special and those who said I was were probably just saying that to be nice. Decisions I made, words I said, were all based on big fat, "what ifs" of which 99.9% have NEVER occurred. My world became all about ME and what others thought about ME.

The enemy can certainly feed our desire to be seen as good and wonderful. This can be dangerous because the bible tells us that the heart of man is deceitful (Jeremiah 17:9) and that there are none who are righteous, not even one (Romans 3:10) On our own, we are wretched. It is only by the blood of Christ that we are made clean, righteous, holy, and redeemed. So you see, the problem in placing our hope in others opinions and perceptions of us instead of in Christ, is destructive and leaves us weary and worn. This makes the enemy simply giddy because we have played right into his hands. I know the strain of living for myself and for everyone else but Jesus and it was utterly exhausting and devastating to live that way. There are three things I have learned through my battle with insecurity (pride):

1. Insecurity hinders relationship with the Savior. When I am so focused inwardly I often neglect my daily time with the Lord and as a result I feel very distant from Him and spiritually dry. 

2. Insecurity hinders relationships with others. There were cases in which I became so focused on friendships that I wished would develop, that I missed out on relationships with really great people right in front of me. There were also instances where a relationship was just fine, but, because I perceived there to be a problem I brought an awkwardness to the table that didn't need to be there. 

3. Insecurity hinders us from doing what God has called us to do. In my experience, I allowed my insecurities and pride issues to cripple me. I was going through the motions of my Christian walk but I was not very effective and I had very little joy. Even my daily
responsibilities were shirked because my sin ran so deep.

It would be a lie to say that this is no longer a battle for me at all. However, it is getting easier to recognize when I start heading toward my old unhealthy way of thinking and to stop the lies before they take root. This is by no means a complete list, but these are a few of the main things that have helped and are helping me overcome the sin of insecurity. 

1. I must remember that my hope is in Christ alone. He is the only
one who will never leave or forsake me. He is my defender. My shield. Perfect and holy, I can trust Christ with my whole heart. People will always fail us. (Psalm 118:8, 146:3, Isaiah 2:22)

2. I must take every thought captive (2 Corinthian 10:5) and choose to think on whatever is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, and praiseworthy (Philippians 4:8).

3. I MUST memorize and be able to use scripture to head off the lies of the enemy. This is scriptural and is modeled for us in when Jesus is tempted by Satan in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1-11). Every time Satan tempted Jesus, Jesus was able to combat it with scripture. By memorizing truths from God's word, we have power to stop lies in their tracks. When we aren't sure how to respond, the Holy Spirit can help us remember the truth we have stored up. Scripture memorization is key! 

4. This is the most important one. I must daily meet with Jesus and read the Word. There is no formula for this and it will look differently
for each of us, but we must take time to pray, read and study the word, as well as take time to listen so that we may respond in obedience to what we are learning.

If you find yourself in a similar battle please know that you are never alone and there is always hope. Keep seeking the Lord and I promise, He will NEVER fail you! If you aren't sure where to start it is okay to ask for prayer and for some guidance as you begin the daily battle to surrender wholly to Christ. Cry out to the Savior and ask Him to lead you. This is a process that is hard and exhausting at times, but not impossible. If God is for us then who can stand against us? Sojourn on, sweet friends! 

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

When God Uses the Desert to Quench Your Soul's Deepest Thirst. (A "see you later" post for my 29 Palms Family)

Blazing sun in a cloudless sky. Parched ground, cracked and thirsty, crying out for the heavens to open up and pour out refreshment. Brutal winds sweeping across the terrain, stirring dust and tumbleweeds. Snakes, scorpions, coyotes. These are all images that would realistically come to mind when thinking of the desert. Desolate. Dry. Hot. Barren. Lonely. But, what if I told you that the desert can be a beautiful oasis? What if I told you that, in spite of the harsh weather and terrain, the desert is teeming with abundant life? What if I told you that even in the loose sand and rocky soil it's possibly to grow roots deep and strong? 

Yes, roots. Roots are a hard thing for this nomadic soul. I've never been good at growing them for long. My mode of operation has always been to flee. To move on. Or, at least, to spend so much time thinking of fleeing and moving on that I've missed out on life right in front of me, often blaming others for my own hurt and discontentment. Growing up, I faced many obstacles and difficult circumstances. Some were heartbreaking. Some were terrifying at times. Others seemed utterly hopeless in the moment. During those times, I willingly, yes, even eagerly, dumped all the hard stuff into a big backpack, and proceeded to carry the obnoxious thing around with me, making it nearly impossible at times to remember anything good. And there has been plenty of good in my life. You see, sometimes we enjoy having an "out" for our sin. Pushing the blame onto other people or our circumstances and/or holding on to hurt, refusing to forgive seems easier than taking responsibility or simply letting go. Simple does not equal easy, by the way. Concepts and ideas may be very simple but implementing them can be very difficult. Putting these things in action takes a daily surrender that can leave us feeling exhausted and defeated. I can tell you with confidence that the enemy would love nothing more than for us to live in our past and wallow in insecurity, anger, and self pity.  But when we do so, we miss out on so much life has to offer. Here is part of my story and how God used this desert to satisfy a deep longing.

Two years and 8 months ago I entered this chapter of our life, STILL carrying the backpack of hard around. We had endured some pretty brutal trials in the months before and God had brought us through the fire in a  mighty way. Some of the hurt came from our own sin, struggles, and lack of maturity and some came from things we experienced in church ministry and life in general. Needless to say, we were excited but wary of what to expect. Military life was new, shiny, uncertain and scary at the same time.  In the past, my role in church ministry was pretty defined from the get-go. I worked alongside my husband and took care of our kids. At our best, we were very much a team. Chaplaincy was a bit different at first because of the nature of the ministry/job. Because confidentiality is a big deal in the military, much of what T does cannot be talked about. He is dealing with sensitive issues in the lives of Sailors, Marines, and their families and so it's not like I can just deliver a meal or provide support to anyone who needs it, unless I know them directly. There are chains of command and protocol and other things that are very different from church ministry. I was a bit lost when we first came into this world, but with the help of a wonderful Family Readiness Officer (FRO) I was able to find where I fit in. I was able to help start a meal outreach for our battalion and a bible study for some ladies who were interested. A lot of my personal ministry ended up really being one on one type of stuff, just getting to know individual ladies and learning about who they are, praying for them, etc. I learned a few hard lessons along the way about trusting others and being very careful about the words that came out of my mouth because, in this world, perception is reality in many ways, like it or not. Also, Travis and I were still very much a team. Even though we were not always serving side by side, our goal was unified in one Jesus-commanded goal: Love the Lord our God and love the people we were sent to serve.

With joy, I can say that EVERY fear and uncertainty I had about this lifestyle was completely unfounded once I really let go and allowed the Lord to work. I never imagined the community He would surround us with. In the midst of the harsh climate and terrain, my Jesus rained down an abundance of love, grace, joy, and mercy through the people I met in the desert. Even deployment, though hard, was a time of struggle, growth, and learning the hard lesson of allowing people in to love on us. We got plugged into the base chapel and that body of believers, of fellow desert dwellers, they became our family. We joined the worship team, became active in ministry within the chapel as well as within the battalion and we made a home and a life there in 29 Palms. We joined a bible study and became bonded together forever with some most amazing people. Our neighbors and friends were the best we could ever hope for and they became our family. Every dinner shared, fire pit chat sat around, s'more cooked, playdate, impromptu get together, every household item borrowed or exchanged, every heart to heart talk, tear cried together, every celebration, every adventure, each bore its way into my heart and I am forever changed by my time in the beautiful Mojave. That metaphorical big bag of hurt I had carried for so long, it is no longer there. In no particular order, here are just 10 (though I could list 100 more) important things I learned while in the desert:

1. The desert, though harsh, dry, and seemingly barren, is actually teeming with life. And it's beautiful. 

2. Sun shades for the car are necessary. Trust me.

3. Community can be sweet and life-giving. There really is no community I have found that compares to that of my military family. 

4. Lake Bandini is not, in fact, a lake. REALLY trust me on this one.

5. Flash flooding in the desert is for real, y'all. I'm not even joking.

6. There really is nothing like a homecoming. I still tear up any time I see the white buses, people waiting for their loved ones, and pictures or videos of people celebrating the return of a service member. Doesn't matter if they are complete strangers. Tears. Every. Single. Time. 

7. It's true. Military spouses don't do spring cleaning. We do, "Oh-crud-my-spouse-comes-home-in-five-days-and-I-still-have-one-hundred-and-seventy-three-items-on-my-to-do-list!" cleaning. Somehow, though, it all comes together, and by the time that big day comes, you don't care if it all got done, you just want to see your love :)

8. Learning to receive can be a hard lesson. During our stint in the desert, my family was the recipient of A LOT of love. God provided in so many ways via that precious community. We had meals given, maid services gifted, even friends who cleaned my house, including the toilets. There was hildcare provided, coffee delivered, hugs given and ears that would listen during rough times. During deployment a neighbor mowed my grass almost the entire time. Oh, and the lawnmower was given to us. Even as we prepared to leave last week we had so much help freely given without any expectation or strings attached. It was hard to accept such love sometimes, but it was the greatest gift and much needed. I pray those precious people each know how much they are loved and appreciated!

9. Having a family, be it blood family or an extended family of sorts, means accepting people for who they are, where they are at, and loving them no matter what.

10. Semper Gumby is the only way to survive this hurry-up-and-wait kind of life. Always flexible. Always bending :)

To say I miss my desert family would be a drastic understatement. I believe I left a part of my heart there in 29 and will be forever grateful for each lesson learned and each relationship forged. God used the desert to quench my soul's deepest thirst. I used to think that the thirst was for community and though that need was indeed met, I have learned that the true thirst was for love. For true love, pure and perfect. He showed me through His beloved people just how loved I am and renewed a hunger and thirst for the Word. For LIVING water. The kind only Jesus provides. The only kind that truly satisfies. He showed me that HE is enough, even without community, while simultaneously providing the community and friendships I longed for. Now, our journey takes thousands of miles to the south and I look forward with great expectation to what lies ahead. Fair Winds and Following Seas, 29 Palms! We love you!

Monday, April 28, 2014

I'm Not Super Mom!

I have no cape. No wand or special weapon. No mask or fun cute leggings and boots. Tragic, I know! Most days I'm doing well to be bathed and dressed by lunchtime. I yell at my kids and I hug close and seek forgiveness often. I have drawers filled with fun crafty goodness that has never been used and baby books begging to be filled with memories quickly growing dim. There are enough Cheerios in between the couch cushions to feed a small army in spite of my best intentions to enforce the "no food in the living room," rule and I promise the laundry pile has simply tripled in size overnight. Is there a laundry fairy somewhere? Anywhere? I am often rushing out the door after performing a search and rescue expedition for my phone, my keys, someone's shoes, a special lovey or a water bottle. There are days where fatigue grabs hold and won't let go. Sleep hangs on tight as I rage the against the sun and beg for just five. More. Minutes. No,  I am most certainly NOT Super Mom!

There was a day where admitting that I don't have it all together would have been so difficult for me. I mean who wants to let their mess loose for all to see? I didn't. But, as I started talking to my friends, I realized I wasn't the only one who struggled with bathing regularly, going to bed at a decent hour, and keeping my temper at bay. I wasn't alone! You see, somewhere  along the way, in our media saturated lives, we have accepted this idea that good moms complete ridiculous amounts of Pinterest projects, have their kids in fifteen extra curricular activities (and balance it all superbly), let their kids watch just an hour of TV per week (or no TV at all), feed their kids only organic, raw, grass-fed, God-made food, and can keep a perfect house with children underfoot. Oh and she has a blog that brings in income for the family and has morphed into a book, a vibrant and consistent quiet time, is a model church member, Crossfit warrior, and an outstanding citizen of the community. Who IS this person?

It is easy to compare ourselves to these impossible standards. We often forget that what we see on facebook, twitter, and blogs is only a glimpse of that person. We only see what that person is allowing us to see. 
Whether you are a Pinterest project queen or if you wouldn't know what mod podge was if it walked up and slapped you in the face... Whether you have 1 kid or10... Whether you feed your kids paleo or frozen chicken nuggets - YOU, my sweet friend, are beautiful and dearly loved by a most awesome God. Other people's opinions and accomplishments do not define you. Your failures and successes do not define you. 

If you are a follower of Jesus Christ, you have been bought with a price. Redeemed. Forgiven. I love this passage in the book, "Because He Loves Me," by Elyse Fitzpatrick: 

"Here's the reality of the great exchange: our sinful record became his, and he suffered the punishment we deserved. But that's not all he has done. If it were, that would be a great blessing, indeed. To stand innocent - to be back where our first parents were in the garden - would certainly be wondrous. But he hasn't left us there where Adam began. No, through the Second Adam (Jesus), he has done even more than even more for us; he has justified us. As you probably know, this concept of the great exchange is often referred to as justification. I've heard the word justified defined as "just as if I'd never sinned." And while that's true as far as it goes, it doesn't go far enough. Not only do we have a clean slate as Adam did, we've got something written on that slate that is so amazing I can scarcely believe it: Jesus' perfect record has become ours. Because God has accredited or imputed Jesus' perfect obedience to you, when God looks upon you, he sees you as a person who:
- always does the things that are pleasing to him;
- is so focused on accomplishing his will and work that doing so is your daily food;
- doesn't seek your own will but seeks his will instead;
- doesn't seek to receive glory (praise, respect, worship) from others;
- has always kept all of his commandments;
- lives in such a way that your life brings holiness to others;
- loves others and lays down your life on a consistent basis;
- lives in such a way that the people around you know that you love your heavely     Father more than anything else; 
- seeks to obey every command so that righteousness will be fulfilled.

In God's opinion (the only one that matters!) that's your record today."

WOW! Friends! That's incredible! When we compare ourselves to others and wallow in our own perceived shortcomings, we will ALWAYS face condemnation. This comes from the enemy who prowls like a roaring lion. When we are resting on the promises of God, we can be assured that, apart from Christ, we really are a mess, but it doesn't end there. Romans chapter 10 reminds us that, "no one is righteous, no not one," but because of the blood of Christ, when God looks at us, he doesn't see our mess. He sees JESUS. What a miraculous and undeserved gift! It's time to lay aside the guilt and the pressure we put on ourselves to be "perfect," and realize that we are dearly loved by a perfect Savior. Without him we would be lost and headed for eternity in hell. Receive the gift of Christ's perfect record and start walking in the freedom of Christ! This doesn't excuse us from confessing our sin and striving to be Christlike in all areas of our lives (including our walk with the Lord, marriage, motherhood, taking care of our bodies, etc.), mind you, but it frees us up to make mistakes, seek forgiveness, repent, and move forward without being crushed under the weight of guilt and condemnation. It frees us up to follow the unique path that God has set before each person individually without feeling pressured to imitate others. 

Go forth into the world, warrior mamas! As you change diapers, cook meals, struggle to be calm and patient and find yourself caught up in the day to day monotony that can sometimes ensue, may you take time to seek the Lord through prayer and the reading of His word. Take time to grow in knowledge and pray for wisdom in how to apply what you are learning. Find your rest and your confidence in HIM who died for you. I pray that each of you leave this page feeling encouraged, refreshed, and utterly in awe of what Jesus accomplished through his death on the cross. Claim your inheritance and walk in freedom, sister! You are loved! 

P.S. If you would like to buy a copy of the book quoted above, you can find it HERE. I highly recommend it!