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Fishers of Men Not Means

Through earnest prayer, I have seen God change so many circumstances in my life and the lives of people I love. More importantly, I have seen him transform me so that I am not bound to begging for a different outcome but rather a divine income.

For many years I thought the purpose of prayer was to get something from God. Now I understand that the hope of prayer is to get God. Just God, more of Him and less of me. His desires become mine, not vice versa when I sincerely seek Him.

Praying does not require fancy language. God does not give credit for style. He is looking for surrender.

Prayer changes everything. The thing is, change just does not always mirror our desires.

I have heard a couple of renditions of this misconception the last week, “I don’t understand, He didn’t answer my prayers.” He did, friend. He just answered them His way, and we are not called to comprehend but to commit.

If you are a parent and you make decisions that are best for your children, you know sometimes they are hard, but they are also right. Our kids most often do not understand. Hard and holy go hand in hand, though, and it has been that way since the beginning.

God understands our difficulty because He, too, is a Father. He is a person to know not a commodity to control.

Prayer sometimes changes earthly directions, but most importantly it alters eternal destinations, and that is our primary commission.

We are fishers of men not means.

If I can pray for you today, please let me know. It is my privilege to petition the Prince of Peace on behalf of my friends.

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Perfectly Imperfect

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She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future.  When she speaks, her words are wise, and she gives instructions with kindness.  She carefully watches everything in her household and suffers nothing from laziness.  Her children stand and bless her.  Her husband praises her: “There are many virtuous and capable women in the world, but you surpass them all!”  Charm is deceptive, and beauty does not last; but a woman who fears the Lord will be greatly praised.

Does this crush you?  It sure does me if I am using it as a motto to live instead of a model to learn!  I cannot measure up to this, and I cannot think of anyone who does.  This passage is not meant to condemn us, though, but rather point us to our need for Jesus.  Also, the last part is the concept we all need to grasp. A woman who fears The Lord will be greatly praised.  Fear in this sense does not have a negative connotation, but a positive one.  Do we live in reverence, of God, desiring to please Him and be obedient to His will?  Do we do this to make ourselves look good, or because we understand the sacrifice Jesus endured for us, and we want to honor Him out of an understanding of the deep love He has for us? A love so sincere and pure that he died for us.  If we try to be good out of our strength we will never measure up; we will be crushed by our failures.

Mom shame is one of the deadliest tools of the enemy that depletes our self-worth, peace,  joy and contentment.  We have all experienced it, and we have all felt the condemnation that accompanies it.

Yesterday morning was one of those less than stellar mom mornings for me.  I was feeling remnants of anger and frustration from an event the night before, and the scurry of the morning had further contributed to my agitation.

In my sinfulness, at a point along our drive during morning carpool, I pounded my hand hard on the steering wheel.  I spoke no words, but my action resounded loudly.

Immediately I felt shame and convicted by The Lord.  I had just modeled very ungodly behavior for my children. It threatened my “good mom righteousness,” (which is sinful in itself, but that is a whole other post!) and I felt condemned.

After the kids had gotten out of the car, I pulled over and prayed a prayer of repentance and then asked Jesus to help me rest under the warm, peaceful shade of the promise given in Isaiah 30:15~ In repentance and rest is your salvation.

After getting right with The Lord, I knew I had to apologize to my children.  Boy, that is a lot of fun! Humility is holy, but sometimes very hard.

I sent both kids a text that read: I modeled bad behavior for you this morning.  I am sorry I let the frustration in my heart show itself in my action this morning.  I have repented and asked Jesus for forgiveness.  I am also asking for forgiveness from both of you.  I was wrong, and that is why I need Jesus every day!  Love you both, Mom.

The Lord was merciful as He showed me there is good that comes even from my goof ups if I am seeking Him.  After repenting, I felt at peace.  God can bring redemption to every story in our book of life.  He showed me that sometimes my biggest mess ups are my best means to teach my children lessons of eternal value; such as repentance, prayer, and most importantly how much we all need a Savior!

Moms, give yourself a break.  Nowhere does it say we should be perfect, just progressing.  When your brokenness comes knocking, and it will, model for your children how to restore it in a way that redeems and glorifies the Lord.  Sometimes it is our biggest mistakes that convey our best messages when we frame them in the context of the gospel!

Perfectly imperfect,
D’Anna

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Our Father Is Bigger

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The last month The LORD has been working a lot in my heart.   Specifically in two ways I am aware of and probably in others that I am unconsciously aware, too.   Life is hard!   Parenting is hard.   Marriage is hard.   Relationships are hard.   Life is hard!

Recently we have been dealing with a difficult issue that broke my heart for all parties involved that arose from gossip.   I think we all forget, gossip is a sin.   I know I have to be very mindful of it.   A very knowledgeable friend gave me the best advice I have ever received regarding gossip; ”If you are not part of the problem or the solution, then you should not be talking.”   That is very sound counsel that I try to use as a filter for my words before I speak. I am imperfect.   I am also vulnerable to the devastation of gossip, as is everyone breathing.  

As I have been reeling in pain lately, an older, wiser friend reminded me, “D’Anna, God your Father is much greater than you a mother, spouse, daughter, friend…”   At that moment, her words were the balm for my aching soul.   Although I was deeply affected by what happened, I was reminded I was not, and never am fully in charge of anyone’s well-being, even my children.   God is in charge, and His ways are always perfect, although sometimes very painful!  

The second way the Lord has been refining me is that I did not realize how much responsibility I was carrying for people’s actions around me.   I am quick to forget that I am only responsible for myself, and while I may play a role in how people act, I am not responsible.   They are!   Taking responsibility has been a tremendous amount of weight I have been bearing.  

Recently when I was sitting in quiet reflection, these words became audible in my head.   “No matter how someone acts, it should not affect how you are called to react.”   Does that mean I do not respond at all?   No. It simply means God originally designed me to react in a manner that is pleasing to Him, not me.   Also, I am not responsible for the actions of others–they are.   Friends, starting to understand that concept is the beginning of a large dose of freedom.   Practicing this has allowed me to love better and live bolder.   It is like getting a haircut, having a thorough house cleaning or getting all the laundry done. You just feel lighter!

Taking on the responsibility for the actions of others crushes us and allows the enemy to win.   He does not want us delivered; he wants us defeated.   Taking the liability for your prodigal child, your struggling spouse, your suffering friend or whomever in your life that you are enmeshed with creates insanity.   We definitely have a role in the lives and circumstances of the people we love, but NOT ultimate responsibility.   God The Father is much bigger than we the (fill in the blank.)   Who are you bearing responsibility for today?   Lay them at the feet of Jesus and pray for them because YOU cannot perfect them.   May you all be free to let your Father be in charge today and every day.

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A Prayer For Aching Mamas Today

Father you know we mamas are creatures who crave constancy not change.   When it comes to our children, our hearts are never more troubled by the trials of transition.   Tis the season of so much change, God. Our babies are starting kindergarten, entering high school, arriving for their senior year and launching off to college.    As our lives are fluctuating, our familiar is becoming foreign, our normal is becoming new and our usual becoming unknown.   It feels as if pieces of our lives are changed forever. They will never be as they were again.   It is the dying of a chapter that is so deeply rooted and known that it is painful to imagine how life will look moving forward.   We are challenged to hold gently and fondly to what was so that we may courageously embrace what now is.   Give us the grace to be more than conquerors in all these circumstances of change, Father.   May the faith that lives in our hearts be bigger than the fear that lurks in our minds.   Bless our children.   Insulate each and every one of them from head to toe in your cloak of protection.   Remind us mamas that we have raised them to run this race with determination not retreat in doubt.   There will be trails, and there will be triumphs.   May we and our children know that disguise in all our disappointments are Your appointments.   Give us the courage to not look for life somewhere under the sun but in someone above it-You, Father.   Amen   P.S. Father, please bless all our special teachers and administrators.   Refresh them daily with endurance, compassion, empathy and love.

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The Enemy is on Instagram


There are days I wish I could quit social media altogether. It crosses my mind frequently, but ultimately it is not reasonable for me right now having two teens. It is my job to monitor their accounts, their etiquette, or lack of, their friends, what the current concerns are and so much more.

Lately, though it is getting harder for me, especially Instagram. I am concerned by the fading presence of modesty, particularly in young girls. Tiny bikinis that leave little to the imagination litter feeds. Low cut tops. Shorter than short shorts. Tight clothing that hugs curves and features as if to highlight and focus attention on them. As a mom of a boy, this is concerning. As a mom of a girl, this is concerning.

Girls are being reduced to the “perfection” of their bodies. Comments are rampant about bootys, boobs, abs and so on. All this, portraying the picture that your worth and power is based on your body. No one will be able to measure up to this standard forever, and some never.

I cringe when I see comments like these direct quotes, “I wish I could be you,” “Why can’t I be beautiful?” “Body goals.” I want to grab these children and say, you are beautiful, there is no one like you, and these are not goals! Ugh! Their precious, immature and permeable hearts! I think my soul sheds tears every time I read these comments.

I understand in young, immature minds that is what they think. I have been there. We as parents have the power to speak into that faulty thinking, though. If I think a post is even remotely inappropriate, you better bet it is being deleted. It has happened; it will happen, and it will continue to happen. I will never explain or apologize to anyone for that! Also, we cannot control what others post or comment, but we can sure communicate with our children about what is and is not appropriate.

It saddens me to see girls so young using their bodies to draw attention, affection, approval, power and validation. How this will impact them as they grow older is even more concerning. Our girls must know if they want to be respected and cherished for their hearts and minds, and if not now, someday they will; that is what they must accentuate. Our outward bodies decline quickly. Inward beauty has the potential only to get better as we age.

Equally as tragic are the boys who are looking at and commenting on these photos. They are not learning to respect girls. They see what is as it is! That is all! They are being bombarded with physical images that are hard to remove from their minds. The impacts of this, as they mature, are devastating.

The prevalence of pornography addiction is astounding. When I was, a child boys had to sneak and steal magazines and go off into hidden places to look at them. Now it seems as if what they are holding in their hands right under our noses borders on pornography. It is in my feed, and what is in theirs is worse! This is a problem on so many levels. Boys grow up to be men. Once the seed of addiction is planted in the adolescent years, it is VERY hard to overcome in the adult years. Porn and sexual addictions are destroying today’s families. If you do not, believe me, visit websites like Route 1520. Read the book, Surfing for God by Michael John Cusick. It is real. It is rampant friends! There is hope but not without going through hell first!

Sex trafficking and pedophilia are also alive and well in our world. We like to turn a deaf ear and cast a blind eye to these problems, but they are not going away. They are in our community, our churches and sometimes our homes. Who knows who is looking at our children’s photos. There are so many ways to access them and then do with those faces and bodies sickening things. Please don’t be naive.

I pray for the social media trend to shift from worth and approval based on my body, friends, likes, the number of comments and successful social lives. I pray girls and boys, too, learn they are already fully accepted and approved of by those who truly love them for who they are on the inside, not the outside. It is a pervasive battlefield where the enemy has a strong foothold, though. We must fight back!

Technology continues to change and evolve. Our talks and teachings with our children must too. Morals have not changed; we have changed. It takes more strength, courage, and prayer to be steadfast than streamlined. It is true, but it is entirely possible, and our children’s hearts are entirely worth it!

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Grace and Gratitude

 

Last Thursday my son became ill with a severe intestinal bug. I have never seen him struggle with one so fierce. It has been days of cleaning up, changing sheets, throwing away sheets, scrubbing and sanitizing. Also in the adventure was a trip to the ER for IV hydration and medications. Poor guy has been through it. It was no fun for me either.

The first evening when he woke up, he and his bed covered with vomit, I kicked into mom mode. The cleanup was not fun. It encompassed a large span of space. Once I got that cleaned up, there was another bigger mess waiting for me to clean up, and so was the chorus of the next several days. One thing that keep surprisingly capturing my attention was the grace God was giving me in every moment of all the messes. Very briefly on several occasions I wanted to complain. Before the words could even take full root in my mind, much less form from my lips, I found myself praising God instead. I would say this is not the natural bend of my heart, but praising God has quickly become much more my default through no merit of my own, only His.

I was praising God for the opportunity to take care of my son. I was praising Him for the opportunity to clean up, wash and care for my son because just seven months earlier he nearly lost his life in a tragic accident.

When you stand in the shadow of death, you often discover the shelter of gratitude. The mundane in the midst of the messy become little fountains of joy that water your soul in parched places.

I felt the searing sting of near loss, and anything but gratitude naturally felt unnatural. Anything but gratitude felt dishonoring to the deep appreciation purposed from a place of such pain.

Suddenly I was grateful for:
Good mattress protectors, washing machines, latex gloves,
Lysol wipes, Lysol Neutra Air spray, adult pull ups, trash bags, beach towels, two sunny days, windows that open, laughter, lotion, candles, GRACE Oh precious GRACE
and last but not least all of my
sisters in Christ who were persistently sending me texts of prayer and encouragement.

I never before knew the wealth of gratitude ushered by grief. It sounds incongruent until it is your reality. I am very thankful for the beauty born for brokenness. I am very thankful for the surprising mercies of God’s grace. Thank you, Lord for allowing me to find the splendor wrapped in the struggle of the last six days.

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Parent’s Prayer

 

As the beginning of a new month and week dawns, bless all of us moms and dads, Father.  This parenting gig is hard, but you already know that.  You know every battle, grief, and gratitude of each parent.  Remind us these are not our children, but yours, God.  It is easy to beat ourselves up over their vices and puff ourselves up with their victories.  Give us wisdom to understand that while we play a role in every aspect of their lives; ultimately we cannot take responsibility anymore for their feats than their failures.  As it is with us, their struggles and their successes are yours, Father.  Us moms and dads, though, we bear them, too.  Performance becomes a heavy cross that burdens our hearts and blurs our gaze.  You often use the unexpected to change the expected.  We are prone to forget we are not in control, being quick to angst and slow to assurance.  Parenting is fertile ground for insidious places of unbelief to gain a foothold in our loving hearts.  Wrongly, “certainty” allures us into comfort and uncertainty into chaos.  May we remember we are our children’s earthly shepherds, not their eternal Saviors.  We play a part in the objective but do not direct the outcome.  In our limited insight, defeats can seem doom, and accomplishments are assuring.  These are the things that we use to misshape our peace and righteousness, Father.  Assist us in quick recognition and repentance of the deceptively, filthy rags we dress in.  Continue whispering in our ears; it is not about the accomplishments but You-The Author.  It is not about defeated paths but divine pictures.  We lose sight of this when it is all up to us, God.  That is just it.  We forget it is less about us and our “stellar” parenting and more about You and Your sovereign plan.  Allow us to love each child as you made them, not as we imagined them.  As try out season, course card decisions,  college and career selections, and so much more are all occupying our minds, God unburden our hearts with the weight of determined desires.  Allow our freedom from the obligation of expectations, and gift us with rest in Your destination.  Amen.

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Jesus Holds Our Little Lambs

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Yesterday was a difficult day for me as a mom. Some days our hardest job is remembering that God does not get it wrong-ever! In no circumstance is this a harder fight than circumstances involving our children. My son suffered a traumatic brain injury last July. His cognitive recovery has been a struggle. School is a struggle. Life is a struggle.

His neuropsychologist and case manager spoke with me about considering placing him on a life skills tract as opposed to a diploma/college track at school. He is in the ninth grade. The doctor said his cognitive scores place him within the category of a life skills track. These were very tough words to digest. I tried to put my best armor on and let the words bounce off of me, but the tears were tougher, and they won out.

The emotions are still raw from that tragic day. I think they always will be. A sight, a sound, a smell, a memory; they can all trigger a rush of emotion that no amount of effort can contain. My son is forever changed. I am forever changed. Our family is forever changed. This is not all ominous news. Change chiseled from crisis forges character, perseverance, deeper faith and so much more. The fruits born out of frustration are often some of the sweetest.

My son is not a victim, and I refuse to be either. Once we take on that role we put limitations on ourselves. We also maximize our sufficiency and minimize the soverignty of our Savior. I am sad that the circumstances are as they are. I hurt, I ache and at times I worry about the future. In all my fleshly responses, a voice keeps echoing in my head, BUT GOD. That is my life preserver friends! Test scores are indicators, but they are not dictators. Doctor’s opinions are assessments, but they are not absolutes. I much prefer the infallible provisions of My Provider to the fallible predictions of man.

I don’t know at this time what our decision about our sons’ school track will be. I am not ready to make that decision, nor am I ready to confine him to the limitations of a label. Labels we put on things are typically stickers. Over time, they are prone to fall off. I choose not to rely on labels, I prefer to rest in the hope of providential plans.

Yesterday I heard this quote from my friend, Julie Sparkman, of Restore Ministries. During the third session of her bible study series, Unhitching From the Crazy Train, she said, “Getting under the yoke with Jesus does not give you a different life; it gives you a different way of doing life.” Those words spoke so poignantly to my heart.

No matter what obstacles you or I are confronting today friends, our hope does not rest in the what of our struggle. It resides in the Who of our surrender. That is great news! This truth is a rest for our weary souls. Will you fight to reside here with me? Jesus holds our little lambs.

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There is Beauty in the Crisis

 

It was exactly 5 weeks ago yesterday that Carter’s accident occurred, and our family began a new journey carved out of crisis. The definition of crisis is: A crucial or decisive point or situation, especially a difficult or unstable situation involving an impending change. It is the very identity of the word that sheds light on our fate of victim or victor. A crisis diverges into two roads, and the direction we walk either creates or conquers us.

There is so much potential, opportunity and beauty that can be born out of crisis. It is something most dread. None of us would choose it, but unfortunately it sometimes chooses us. It’s where we react from when our name is called that writes our story of one who soared or succumbed. It is not the strength of our faith, or the amount of knowledge we possess, but Who possesses us that determines our destiny as we travel through a crisis.

Today Carter was in the neuropsychologists office for 6.5 hours of cognitive testing. I picked him up at 11:30 for an hour lunch break. He ate about five bites of food, and immediately fell asleep in the car. He was huddled in the seat with the sun piercing the windows shining warmly on his face. It had been 2.5 hours into his day and he was exhausted. The taxing of his mind in that short time was a lofty challenge.

Before falling asleep he told me: my eyes hurt, I feel pressure in my head and my vision is blurry. He said it all from behind the voice of one trying to hold it all in, but tainted with the sound of tears. I knew that sound. He could not hide it. Not from me. Not from me who knows him so well. So he released it all bravely, and then he was rescued by a deep, desperate sleep.

Isn’t that an organic picture of life? We try to hold it all in, and conceal that which opposes us. We try hard, and then a little harder to not be found. Then there comes a point when we are pinned under the pressure of the fire we are walking through, and we release it in a spewing of toxic ash that has been brewing under the surface. It is in those times, when we let ourselves be fully known that we can be fully loved. It is those moments of true identity and authenticity that afford us the pacifying balm that our true self longs for everyday. It’s in the most desperate moments that we are most receptive to receiving the mending, and comfort of Jesus, who already knows us just as we are anyway.

Masking of inadequacies only delays His refurbishment. We live in a world that is in the business of replacing all that is broken, but Jesus is in the business of restoration. It was right there in my car today that Carter was allowed to fall apart and risk being fully recognized. It was also there in that hot, cramped parking lot of his favorite burger place that I was reminded that this is how it goes. We carry things far too long. We shoulder burdens and limitations that we were never meant to bear. Why do we delay our recovery so long?

There comes moments in this life when it takes more courage to fall apart in the presence of someone who loves us than it does to keep it all together. At the heart of us all we just really want to be seen, heard and understood.

Today, again was a call to trust in our Savior who in His timing restores, and makes all things strong and steadfast. In his kindness God called you to share in his eternal glory by means of Christ Jesus. So after you have suffered a little while, he will restore, support, and strengthen you, and he will place you on a firm foundation.~1 Peter 5:10

Restoration rarely happens how we envision it, and never as timely as we would like, but all good things have to happen on a timetable that is outside of ourselves. Overseen and orchestrated by The One who knitted us together, every little detail, with his soft and sovereign hands.

I am thankful for those moments when courage wins. I am thankful for glimpses of Carter’s true struggle today. I pray as he matures that he will become more and more comfortable shedding the layers of protection and trading them in for the acceptance and love that transparency affords. It is in our purest identity that we are open to the most beautiful of possibility. May we all embrace those things that embattle us. We were given them for a reason, a resource and as a bridge for restoration. Much love and thankfulness for all of your prayers and support in so many ways.