The Battles That Won't Go Away and The Savior Who Won The War

Want to know what is exciting about today? Ok, there's actually 3 things that are exciting about today:

  1. We have a working laptop that I am currently.typing.on. We've been praying and hoping and wishing for a laptop for months. Our computer is tucked away in the basement and our two year old is not exactly trustworthy upstairs on his own. So our to-do's have been limited or pushed off because our times without child are few and far between (especially for me). God, in His awesome wisdom and knowledge, showed us that we actually already had this "dream laptop" and it just needed a little tuning up. So here I am, on the laptop we already owned, and writing away in.... A COFFEE SHOP! (That's my #2)
  2. I'M IN A COFFEE SHOP!  (Ok, so I have a problem. It's called coffee. But I don't want to talk about it.) When asked what I would do for myself if I were given the time without child or other obligations my answer is always always always "Oh, I'd go to a coffee shop and read and write." THAT'S HAPPENING TODAY! Yay! Which leads me to #3...
  3. I'm writing. I've been wanting to write regularly for such a long time. Mom life is demanding and while that is not my excuse for not writing, it plays one part of many as to why I am not writing like I wish I were.

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The other day I taught a class on Galatians 5:16-17. This verse jumped out at me and spoke directly to the inner struggle I've been having most of my life, but have been acutely aware of as of late. The questions I ask myself are these:

"Laura, you are a woman who loves her Savior Jesus Christ fervently. You chase after Him. You rest in Him. You desire to be more like Him. You encourage others in the freedom they have available to them in Christ... and yet you do wrong. You give into this sin and that. You nit pick about your body, your attitude, your thoughts. You strive for perfection while constantly holding your life up against everyone else's as a rule by which life should be measured. You desire contentment and yet you strive to be perfect and for everyone around you to be perfect. You long for acceptance just.as.you.are. and yet your eyes continue to wander and seek the beauty in what everyone else has. Why do you think what they have is what you need? Where is Christ when you are giving into your false identity and lashing out at those you love? Where is the woman you know you are in Christ when the going gets tough and your attitude is challenged?"

This inner dialogue rages through my mind, sometimes quietly like an annoying hum and other times at seemingly deafening volumes. So when I came across Galatians 5:16-17 I was intrigued, relieved and confused.

"So I advise you to live according to your new life in the Holy Spirit. Then you won't be doing what your sinful nature craves. The old sinful nature loves to do evil, which is just opposite from what the Holy Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are opposite from what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, and your choices are never free from conflict."-Galatians 5:16-17 NIV

Never free from conflict? Seriously? So the dialogue probably won't ever completely stop? Awesome.

But as I sat in that attitude of defeat I chose to read  bit of commentary on the passage. Matthew Henry says in his commentary on Galatians 5,

"That there is in everyone a struggle between the flesh and the spirit (vs. 17): The flesh (the corrupt and carnal part of us) lusts (strives and struggles with strength and vigouragainst the Spirit: it opposes all the motions of the Spirit, and resists everything that is spiritual. On the other hand, the Spirit (the renewed part of usstrives against the flesh, and opposes the will and desire of it: and hence it comes to pass that we cannot do the things that we would. As the principle of grace in us will not suffer us to do all the evil which our corrupt nature would prompt us to, so neither can we do all the good that we would by reason of the oppositions we meet with from that corrupt and carnal principle."

The perfectionist in me sort of wants to crawl in a hole and never come out upon reading this. We are set up for failure as far as the perfectionist is concerned. We will always have this battle being fought, flesh vs. Spirit, and while we know who the ultimate Victor is (Jesus Christ), the"other guys", or as we call them with our children, "the bad guys", will always be scrambling and striving for our attention and our worship, believing that winning the small battles will ultimately allow them toe victory over our souls. When we have the attitude that we are set up to fail we are taking the focus off of Christ, the ultimate Victorious King, and placing it on ourselves, our sin and on this side of eternity.

It's a reality, we aren't there yet, and so we are stuck with these bodies, this flesh and the sin that comes with it. But when we keep our focus on that sin and that flesh and that body we aren't having the mind of Christ. We aren't saying,

"Yeah, Jesus, my mind travels to places where you are not. It goes to the places of anger, of selfishness, of idolatry. But Jesus, YOU are King and Victor of my life, so once again I will take your hand as you walk me out of those places of self-preoccupation and into the bountiful places of Christ-preoccupation. You are not shocked that I'm here. You are not offended that I'm here. And You are merciful and gracious to keep ushering me back into the Spirit of Truth. May Your Name be praised!"

We can't get wrapped up in our failure. We have to get wrapped up in His victory, mercy and love.

I've been a believer for 14 years and I still need to be reminded that He is good in these things. That He's not the one expecting perfection here...

I am.

Matthew Henry continues to write, "where there is something of a good principle, there is a struggle between the old nature and the new nature, the remainders of sin and the beginnings of grace; and this Christians must expect will be their exercise as long as they continue in this world."

When the inner dialogue rages, that is where the remainder of sin meets the beginning of grace. Where the reality of salvation becomes tangible. And where Jesus is always waiting.

Paul says it best in Romans 7 when he says,

"14 This is what we know: the law comes from the spiritual realm. My problem is that I am of the fallen human realm, owned by sin, which tries to keep me in its service. 15 Listen, I can’t explain my actions. Here’s why: I am not able to do the things I want; and at the same time, I do the things I despise. 16 If I am doing the things I have already decided not to do, I am agreeing with the law regarding what is good. 17 But now I am no longer the one acting—I’ve lost control—sin has taken up residence in me and is wreaking havoc. 18 I know that in me, that is, in my fallen human nature, there is nothing good. I can will myself to do something good, but that does not help me carry it out. 19 I can determine that I am going to do good, but I don’t do it; instead, I end up living out the evil that I decided not to do. 20 If I end up doing the exact thing I pledged not to do, I am no longer doing it because sin has taken up residence in me.  21 Here’s an important principle I’ve discovered: regardless of my desire to do the right thing, it is clear that evil is never far away. 22 For deep down I am in happy agreement with God’s law; 23 but the rest of me does not concur. I see a very different principle at work in my bodily members, and it is at war with my mind; I have become a prisoner in this war to the rule of sin in my body. 24 I am absolutely miserable! Is there anyone who can free me from this body where sin and death reign so supremely? 25 I am thankful to God for the freedom that comes through our Lord Jesus, the Anointed One! So on the one hand, I devotedly serve God’s law with my mind; but on the other hand, with my flesh, I serve the principle of sin."-(verses 14-25 in the Voice)

Call me crazy, or selfish maybe, but I find a lot of comfort in knowing that Paul and I weren't necessarily too different in this area. He struggled. I struggle. And you struggle too. But pick your head up and I'll pick mine up too because it doesn't stop there...

"Therefore, now no condemnation awaits those who are living in Jesus the Anointed, the Liberating King, because when you live in the Anointed One, Jesus, a new law takes effect. The law of the Spirit of life breathes into you and liberates you from the law of sin and death."-(Romans 8:1-2 in the Voice)

You are not condemned. I am not condemned. Not only is He not shocked by this inner struggle (He knew what He was signing up for when He chose us, which makes it all the more incredibly glorious) but He does not hold it against us. He does not cast us aside because of it.

He liberates us. He breathes life into us over and over and over. Stop and take a deep breath. Really, just stop and breath. As you inhale and fill your body with new breath remember that He can and will breath new life into you in those dark moments of battle. His supply never runs out.

Glory! Halleluia!

So let's all choose to go into battle with one another, and recognize that we're all deep in the thick of it and not one of us is actually perfect or has it all together. The only One who is is Jesus. And He wants to show us "us" and how to be like Him.

laura b

When You Come Together Changed--A Post About Reuniting

I've been MIA. This post will shed a little light as to why.

He came home. Like, home home. FOR. GOOD.

Hallelujah! Thank you, Jesus!

For weeks I had been preparing, cleaning, ready-ing, organizing and anticipating. Then he came home, and since then we've been embracing, unpacking, relaxing, adjusting, moving and just overall figuring this thing out. Because as wonderful and blessed any reunion is, there is always adjustment--and those are the feelings that aren't talked about much.

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Do you know how wonderful it feels when I look over at him and breathe in deeply the truth that we don't have a set number of days? Those moments when I choose to forget all the things and simply embrace the truth of today are invaluable. There isn't much like it, I must say.

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Then there's the moments where my mind begins to gear up for the usual routine (rest, write, blog or practice yoga during naptime; grab a bowl of cereal and netflix to hunker down before bed) and I'm reminded that life has changed. And it hasn't changed in the sense that now we must both revert back to life as it was before our year of separation, but changed as in we have now entered an entirely new land... and I don't know how to begin the journey of exploration.

You see, we've both changed. A lot. Our God brought us each to a new place in our intimacy with Him. Most days I marvel at what He brought us through and how He must've seen it as necessary to bring us through separately. It's a wonderful, glorious blessing. I'm so utterly grateful for His willingness to show us the parts of ourselves that needed to be left behind, and for graciously showing us how to shed those layers and break those chains.

But what do you do when you come back together?

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There has been a lot of pull to go back to those old habits, because they are what we have always known of life together. "Laura and T" life looks like this ______. But there are pieces of that picture of the past that I don't care to bring with us to this new place. With simple, and seemingly harmless habits like eating dinner while watching tv, or baking a batch of cookies and eating a solid half of the batch before they are even fully cooled, comes deeper strongholds and ways of life that I know neither of us want to continue in. In them lies joylessness-- a settling of sorts. And yet, while our desires to make changes now that we know will bring us joy are so present, our minds and bodies seem to want to go into autopilot.

In enters our will.

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The word "will" means, "Diligent purposefullness; determination: an athlete with the will to win." "The mental faculty by which one deliberately chooses or decides upon a course of action."

A mind or body on autopilot doesn't often dance with the will. They seem to keep to their corners of the room. But when I step back and I look at the two, square in the face, I unabashedly choose the will. There is so much more work, humility, face-planting and friction with that choice, but there is also so much reward.

Jeremiah 25 shares the story of Jeremiah trying, yet again, to knock some sense into the people of Judah. For years and years (23 to be exact) he had been trying to get them to turn from their evil ways of worshiping false gods and in doing so be able to live in the bountiful land the Lord had given them.

"Turn now everyone from his evil way and from the evil of your deeds, and dwell on the land which the Lord has given to you and your forefathers forever and ever;" (vs 5)

I taught in my class Saturday that the word "evil" used here doesn't merely represent malignant, wicked things but also means "sad", "unhappy" and  "miserable". The times when I struggle with depression, sorrow and overall listlessness are at their worst when I am living life on autopilot. In this understanding of our present circumstance, that we are on the cusp of choosing a land of bounty at the price of greater effort, or a land of sorrow at the cost of little effort, every day, all day, I will deliberately choose the way of greater effort. I may need to breath heavier and at times might feel the strain in the deepest parts of me crying out for the days of old, I know that truly living and loving doesn't happen comfortably. It takes hard conversations. It takes sore muscles. It takes falling into bed at night because while the day might have taken much from you physically, it has filled your heart to the brim with all the goodness that comes from living it. It might also take laying face to face, heads on pillows, and humbly expressing wrong choices made and attitudes held--and voicing that sometimes living life together is hard and weird and we aren't always very good at it. Do you know how much freedom is held in those honest conversations? Mountains upon mountains.

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I'll take conversations at the dinner table over mindless Netflix binges.

I'll fight for evening family bike rides over cookie baking.

And I'll have the hard conversations, when I feel I've been misunderstood in this mess of figuring out how to live and love together, over closing up inside because "how could we possibly be arguing already?"

Life is arguments and feelings and romance and adventure and nothingness all wrapped up and happening at the same time. It never stops. It's always moving.

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We will change some more, and we will figure out what life looks like then too. But for now, every day is a day of small battles against our flesh so that we may live in this bountiful land God has given. Somewhere we were told that life should be joy-filled and effortless. What I'm realizing is that we need to see the joy in working hard for the life we've been promised. A life of contentment-- a life of completeness in Christ.

So that's what we are doing. And the best part is we are doing it together.

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Oh Hey There!

I wasn't around last week because this happened...

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And I will continue to not be around this week because these things are happening...

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Life is happening, as it always does but these two weeks it's been happening outside of the social media world. And I just love it.

But God's been stirring my heart and I'm anxious to get writing again. So until then, I'll keep on living life with my two best guys and I'll meet you back here next week.

29 - A Birthday Blog

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I realize 29 is still young; I'm not going to be that woman, but for the baby of the family (by 8 years) it's hard to imagine myself so close to 30. Especially when I'm married to a man who is 4 years younger than me. (Yes, it's true. He's the luckiest of 'em for snagging an older chick.)

I woke up quite early today (4am) and as I laid there my mind began to dutifully travel down the path of birthday drudgery- "Man, you're almost THIRTY!", "You're only going to get fatter and frumpier from here on out.", "You've only got a year or so left before your joints start to ache and you lose your spunk."

Obviously these statements are all absurd, and it took me all of 2 seconds to snap out of it and change course. The truth of my heart is this: the older I get the better I get. Maybe not everyone is like this. I know there are many women who try to hold onto their twenties with all they have, but that's just not me. Thankfully, my husband doesn't mind a woman with little makeup on her face, dirty feet from never wearing shoes and hours spent in the kitchen or craft room home-making like the best of them instead of hours spent pampering herself. The older I get the less I care about myself... but in the absolute best way possible.

Recently I've been contemplating just how much our "self-worth" can't actually be about self at all. I plan on writing about this one day (soon) but today I'd like to put pen to paper some of the things that make me glad about being that much closer to 30. (And no, this is not going to be a "30 is the new 20" thing... honestly, I'm not interested in living my 20's any longer than God intended me to.)

What's So Great About Heading Out Of My 20's:

1. The older I get the more life I've lived. Duh. But in that obvious statement is a very beautiful truth: God has been faithful to me. Part of parenting that terrifies me is the reality that I am NOT guaranteed any number of days with my sweet boy. He belongs to God and each day with him is quite literally a gift. Even the bad days. Similarly, my life and each day of it I've lived has not been guaranteed. It has been a product of His faithful love to me and to those that love me. Above that, I believe He has chosen these days in order that He may complete His work in me, that He decided before the earth was formed. He still has more to do with me... I can't even conceive how awesome that Truth is. So, I'm heading into my 30th year of God choosing to keep me around, choosing to show me who He is, and choosing to bless me and use me and love me immensely. Guys, each one of us should be jaw-droppingly grateful right now for all the days we've lived. How faithful is the God of the universe? Inconceivably faithful.

2. In these 29 years I, like everyone else, have experienced challenge. I've made bad choices. I've chosen myself or the world or idols over my God. And I have an enemy who tries with all his might to wash me in guilt and shame over these experiences. This, again, is something I plan on writing about in the (soonish) future. Again, the Truth here, is that in each of those instances I've been showered with grace, mercy, love and restoration. And in turn God has grown me in wisdom. When I think of this I can't help but look ahead at the next 29 years with anxious anticipation. If each hardship or bad decision has already been washed by His saving grace and will in turn grow me in wisdom and closeness with God, then how could I not be excited for each year He blesses me with?

3. That husband of mine. While he still has some time to camp out in his 20's, I can't help but love "growing older" with him. Knowing that as each year passes I get to fall more in love with him makes my eyes widen in wonder. How is it possible? Knowing that God will use us for His glory makes me never want to leave his side. There is adventure and love and joy and heartache that we can't begin to imagine awaiting us in this future of ours. I absolutely can't wait.

4. Sweet little M. How is it possible for God to love me so much? This child (and I'm sure our future children as well) is a constant reminder of my Lord. In each smile my heart swells at the love lavished on me, and in each tantrum I'm left with nothing but to cry out for the strength to parent from His spirit, not my flesh. If you desire to grow in your faith and love of the Lord, have a child and open yourself up to allow God to use that child. You will be taught things no pastor could ever teach.

5. Something I've struggled with for most of my adolescent and adult life has been friendships--specifically one-sided friendships. In those relationships was a deep-rooted need for affirmation. "If she would just want to be my friend as much as I want to be her friend then that would mean I matter." Sometime this last year I spent a good amount of time thinking about this part of my past and I found myself feeling sad. How many great relationships were overlooked because I was focused on someone else, thinking they were the ones to give me value? As God has graciously opened my heart to see the dark spaces, He has shown me how no human being is able to give me value. Only He can give me value, so even if I were best friends with each of those women I would still be left wanting more. In the not-so-pretty revealing moments of this part of my heart God has been faithful (yet again). He has brought some wonderful women into my life. Our lifestyle has forced us to be away "physically" from many that we love, but I've been blessed to establish some deep and meaningful friendships despite the distance. While I may not get to shop or have coffee and study God's word with my best friends, I always know that they deeply love the Lord and me, and that no matter where life takes us, they are a blessing and never the source of my value. What an awful burden for anyone to have to carry. (I'm glad you ladies don't know who you are otherwise you'd probably feel an immense pressure knowing how much I had riding on our friendship in this anxious heart of mine.)

Those are just some of many reasons why I'm happy to be making my way out of my 20s. I'm grateful beyond words for each and every way He has directed my life thus far, and in that gratitude I can't help but be so joyful as I look to the future.

These days that we celebrate our birth... they are really absolutely not about us. They are 100% about our Maker. It is because of His faithful love that He has chosen this many days for us. Days of love, heartache, loneliness, joy, growth, change, and above all, blessings.

Guys, 29 is so good. Just wait until Taylor Swift is 29; she'll know exactly what I mean and write a catchy song about it. #justyouwait

Day 12: A Worthy Heart

20140225-173135.jpg "So no matter what your task is, work hard. Always do your best as the Lord’s servant, not as man’s." -Colossians 3:23, The Voice

Laura's post yesterday spoke to me so much so that as I have been immersed in the classroom today in lesson plans and grading, and my husband spent his own time on the opposite side of a classroom, learning, I have found myself meditating on how we can be living a life worthy of His calling.

I believe it starts with understanding we are not slaves to man. All that matters to God is that we are living a life worthy of Him--serving Him as our true Master and working from our heart every moment of every day.

For that reason, I want to piggyback on yesterday's post and ask us all to simply mediate on the God-breathed word: "Servants, do what you’re told by your earthly masters. And don’t just do the minimum that will get you by. Do your best. Work from the heart for your real Master, for God, confident that you’ll get paid in full when you come into your inheritance. Keep in mind always that the ultimate Master you’re serving is Christ. The sullen servant who does shoddy work will be held responsible. Being a follower of Jesus doesn’t cover up bad work." -Colossians 3:23, The Messsage

May you feel encouraged by Christ today in all that you do! -Caitlin

Lord,

As we strive to live a life worthy of You, I simply ask that we would earnestly seek you. I lift up my husband today in a simple prayer: that whatever he does Lord--wherever You call him--he would work at it with all his heart to please You and not man. I know that part of his deepest need is to be respected. I ask that he would feel that at home and at work, but in a way that honors You. Instead of seeking a power trip at work or school or home--may he seek Your honor God. May his heart be pulled towards a life worthy of Your calling so that his heart is completely won over to do your work. Help my husband today and in the days to come to see that he is not a slave to man, but instead serves You and You alone. I pray that his heart would honor you in all that he does, speaks, and feels. Capture his heart for you Lord, so that his life can be full and well in You. In your Son's most holy name,

Amen.

Time

I've been thinking a lot about it today... time... and my thoughts have ranged from too many cuss words to admittedly type, to warm and fuzzy and full of hope. Tomorrow is the day. In my darkest of thoughts I have gone to the extreme of counting the hours we have left. (It's 22 hours and counting at this point... but I'd rather not be counting, if I could help it.) The thing about time is that it always passes, even when we wish with every fiber of our being that it would just stop. Or when the opposite happens and we wish with all of our might that it would speed forward. It just keeps. passing. tick. tick. tick. And that is what makes me want to slap it in the face.

When I think about 22 hours and I know how quickly it will pass I want to scream and throw up and crawl under the covers. I want to weep for my son. I want to weep for my husband. And I do weep for myself. Because no matter how hard we pray and no matter how well we spend the last hours, they will still pass. We will still hug and kiss and say our "good-byes" (or rather "see you soon"s)... and I just don't want to. I want to be the little girl in the corner with her arms resting on her knees stomping her foot in defiance. I just don't want to say goodbye.

Here's why time is a bitch. Because all of the things in life that are hard, that we dread, happen eventually. Grace is when we don't know they are going to happen ahead of time and we are forced to accept it and move on in order to keep functioning. Time is a mean girl sitting in the corner during every interaction we've had together these last few months, with her legs crossed and her finger gently tapping the watch on her wrist. She doesn't need to say anything, we all know she's there. And in these last days and hours she's grown to be about the size of an elephant... I'd love it if she'd leave.

But another reason why time is a bitch is because it can be so dang sweet. For every mother who has waited and carried and prayed for 9 months, time can be the most annoying and exciting thing in her life. I don't think I've ever been more excited than when we counted down the days till we met our son. I didn't like time then, but in the best way possible. For every family member who has excitedly awaited the arrival of their loved one who has been gone from them for months, the passing of hours is enough to make you explode with butterflies and tinglies. Minutes feel like hours but the smile on your face is enough to let any passerby know something amazing is about to happen to you.

Today, someone who passes me by may wonder if my dog just died or something equally horrible. (Side note: when either of my dogs do die, I can guarantee you I will be approximately 125% worse than I am right now.) I can't stop thinking about the passing of time, first with feelings of hatred immediately followed by so much hope. Because my soldier will come home. In about nine months I will be close to exploding with butterflies and tinglies. And we will be reunited and it will feel so good.

Because of His goodness I will not be overwhelmed. His grace will cover me. His grace will cover my husband. His grace will cover our son.

My life has been filled with hugs and cooking and laundry and walks and dishes and kisses and everything else that is oh so sweet about our life together. And for a very short season it will look a little bit different... a little less full of those things. But it will still be full, and this I know. Because no matter where we are or where our "home" may be, I know he is coming. I know he loves me. He knows I love him. And Christ will bridge the physical gap ahead.

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So bring it on, time. And I promise I won't call you a bitch again... I'll search for a more creative option.