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unexpectedturns
When we tell you these things, we do not use words that come from human wisdom. Instead, we speak words given to us by the Spirit, using the Spirit’s words to explain spiritual truths. But people who aren’t spiritual can’t receive these truths from God’s Spirit. It all sounds foolish to them and they can’t understand it, for only those who are spiritual can understand what the Spirit means. Those who are spiritual can evaluate all things, but they themselves cannot be evaluated by others. For, “Who can know the Lord’s thoughts? Who knows enough to teach him?” But we understand these things, for we have the mind of Christ.
I Corinthians 2: 13-16

My family, namely my husband and I, have been challenged as of late to take what some might call drastic steps of faith. In our pursuit of all that the Lord would call us to do, it has become evident that it’s time get every aspect of our lives in line with the Word of God. And the main aspect in our lives that’s lacking is our finances.

I read the book The Blessed Life by my pastor, Robert Morris, two years ago. I read it and wanted to live what it talks about. The book is a life-changing revelation of what it’s like to live with reckless faith. And so my husband and I decided to start tithing faithfully, the full ten percent, not just whatever we could scrounge up as we had made a habit of doing. It has been a blessing to see God’s right hand of provision on us since we made that decision. Bills that shouldn’t have gotten paid got paid. Checks we weren’t expecting came. Clients I never dreamed of called me up. Blessing has piled upon blessing and we both know that it’s because of our obedience to the scriptures when it comes to tithing.

But despite all our blessings, we just couldn’t seem to get ahead financially. We always seemed to be “just making it.” Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that I expected, by tithing, to become rich and worry free. That’s not what I expected at all. But I also thought that things would get a little better, somehow, in regard to our finances. I puzzled over the situation for months, never really expressing to my husband just how confused I was about it. So I decided to pick the book back up again and see if I had missed anything.

And then it hit me.

The Blessed Life lines up steps we, as Christians, need to take regarding our finances in order to get them in line with the Word of God and in line for abundant blessings. The first step is to get out of debt. When I read that, I thought, “Well, we’ll just pay minimum payments and get out of debt the slow way. But we’ll stop using credit cards.” And we did. We stopped using them. And we were faithful to make the minimum payments. But if you have a credit card, you know that minimum payments take about 10,000 years to pay off even a tiny amount of debt. They do that on purpose, so that they can get as much interest from you as possible. (Two thousand dollars of debt and it only costs $25/month? Sweet!)

What I failed to consider was that by taking the “easy” way out, I was really taking the long, hard, beating of way out. While I watched others who sacrificially laid their finances at the throne become financially free and blessed, I wondered why we were still “slaves to the lender.”

That’s when I asked God to open my eyes to what I was missing. And He did. By his Grace, He did. He challenged me to stop looking at our life the way I thought it was “supposed to look.” You know the way – get married, get a house, get nice cars, have cute kids, trade in your cars for nicer cars, trade in your house for a bigger one. Look like the Joneses. Keep up with them, at all costs. That’s the path we thought we wanted, too. So when God challenged me to throw that idea away, I fought Him for a while.

“What, you mean, do something drastic to get rid of debt? Like what? Get rid of a car?”

But that wasn’t drastic enough.

“Move into a tiny apartment?”

But that wasn’t drastic enough, either.

“Live in a box on the street corner?”

I was just getting snippy by that point.

“What if we moved in with someone?…”

That was it. But I was absolutely mortified to bring it up to my husband. I just knew he was going to laugh in my face. Or look at me like I’d lost my mind. But instead, to my utter shock, when I suggested it, he actually stopped, pondered, and didn’t say a word for a minute or two. That’s when I knew he was truly considering it. When he came back and said he agreed that it was probably the best idea, I couldn’t believe it. I mean, utterly couldn’t believe it. It was then that I knew it had to be God’s idea. So then I had the task of mentioning it to my parents. I decided to go for the joking route.

“I’m tired of paying minimum payments on credit cards and not having any money to help anyone else or do ANYTHING else. Maybe we’ll just move in with you guys. Heh.” *wink, wink* *nod, nod*

“Well come on over!” was my mother’s reaction.

Wait, what? Is this real life?

Yes, this is real life when God orchestrates the movements. So here we are, about to move in with my parents for a season while we get completely debt-free. Let me tell you, I understand that scripture I posted at the top in a way I never would have before. We have had all manner of crazy looks, protests, questions, and downright rudeness when we tell people what we’re doing.

“Why would you EVER move in with her parents?”

“Are you giving to the church and LOSING YOUR HOUSE? STOP GIVING TO THE CHURCH!!!”

“Are you crazy? You can’t do that! You’ll ruin your life! You’ll ruin your marriage!”

But you see, we know that while it will certainly present its own set of challenges, the choice we’ve made to do something radical about our situation is completely and totally God’s plan for our lives. And because of that faith, we’re not scared. In fact, truth be told, we’re both excited. We can’t wait to see what’s waiting for us on the other side of this step of faith. We can’t wait to see what God does with our willing hearts. And we can’t wait to bless others the way we’ve been blessed.

If I’ve learned anything about living by faith it’s that you have to expect the unexpected. You have to let go of preconceived notions, you certainly have to let go of your ideas on life, and you have to run with full abandon towards what you know God is telling you. Sometimes it’s weird. Sometimes it’s crazy. Sometimes it’s hard. But always it’s amazing. Always it’s a blessing.

So that’s what my family is doing. We’re running with full speed towards the prize, the blessing that is living by faith. We’re diving in, not sticking our toes in, to the blessed life. And we aren’t looking back. This will be our year of Jubilee!

If you feel like God is telling you to do something, maybe even something challenging or crazy, what’s stopping you? Is it fear of failure? Is it fear that it might not be God’s voice? Is it fear of what others will think of you for doing it?

Let go of those fears and press forward. Keep your eyes on Him, not the naysayers or the potential failures. Never forget that if God is opening the door, He will light the path. Never forget that if you’re not going the right direction, He will stop you in your tracks. Read the Bible and trust. Do what it says. Dive in. All in. And let’s live this Blessed Life with reckless abandon!

The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is slave to the lender. Proverbs 22:7

I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us. Philippians 3:14

But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. Hebrews 11:6

Now he who plants and he who waters are one, and each one will receive his own reward according to his own labor. I Corinthians 3:8

And he said to him, ‘Well done, good servant; because you were faithful in a very little, have authority over ten cities.’ Luke 19:17

God is interested in building His Kingdom. That’s why He is going to entrust funds to people who are proving to Him that they will be good stewards with those funds – giving when God tells them to give. They won’t squander their resources on useless things – they’ll budget their money and be accountable. They will also be good stewards of their time, relationships, and talents. This is the message in the parable of the minas. Jesus makes a similar point in the parable of the talents (Matthew 25). God gives talents to each of us according to our ability, and He expects us to use those talents for Him and for His Kingdom purposes. We will never see God’s miraculous power given to poor stewards!
-Excerpt from The Blessed Life by Robert Morris

(If you haven’t read The Blessed Life yet, do yourself a favor and read it. Go get it. Today.)

sissymen-01

One of the many random courses that I was required to study in my otherwise useless degree was Inter-Personal Communications. Although it had little to do with the direction I had planned to take my Communications Degree of Radio / TV / Film, this class was one of my favorites. It was taught by an atheist professor that didn’t like me and my “preachiness” (as he put it) very much. But, oddly, I really liked him. He fascinated me.

He looked almost exactly like Christopher Walken, but somehow, with an even surlier demeanor. He was dry and slightly bitter. But he was well-spoken, and despite his liberal tendencies, spoke of by-gone times and by-gone ideals for which he longed. He was a walking contradiction and I suppose that’s why he fascinated me.

I had seven courses with the man, mainly because the communications department in my university was paltry at best. (Serves me right for choosing an agricultural school to study Communications, I suppose.) Inter-Personal Communications was the very last course I took with him, in the very last semester of my college stint. One of my favorite topics we discussed in that class was the phenomenon of role-reversals in today’s society. His beef was with the fact that he couldn’t seem to get his wife to submit to him as he wished. But for me, the study opened my eyes to a big problem in society as a whole.

We are cheapening men down to nothing more than accessories and we are asking women to fulfill the roles of both the man and the woman.

Gone are the days where “father knows best.”

Go turn on your TV tonight to any current major network television show. Tell me if there is one where the father in the family (if there is even a nuclear family anymore) isn’t an idiot. I can sum up the major comedies of the last ten years like this: goofy, somewhat unattractive yet slightly endearing man meets super smokin-hot woman in college. They get married during their drug and party experimentation phase and somehow come out of it a well-rounded, happy couple. The show picks up somewhere in the middle of their child-rearing phase of life. Now the husband is fat and stupid, spending his time looking for ways to get out of annoying family expectations like, you know, dinner at the table. The wife is still smokin-hot, way too skinny to have had so many kids. Her super-mom status has her running a household, rearing the children, working full-time, and somehow still having the energy to workout like a fiend, dress to the nines, keep the house magazine-ready, cook every meal, and offer hot, steamy sex to her husband whenever the mood strikes. She is perfect and her plight is that she has to be subjected to her painfully unglamorous family. But no matter, she finds her identity in her job and that’s what keeps her sane.

Sound familiar? It’s the plot line or premise for any “family” comedy or show on TV today. And it’s quite telling of the role-reversal phenomenon of modern times. Here’s a fun experiment for you: go turn on your TV. Now just watch commercials. See if you can find even one where the man is portrayed as the head of the house. Even cleaning commercials make men look like a bunch of imbeciles, for goodness sake. Gone are the days where “father knows best.” Instead, father is a gamer who drinks too much beer and resorts to asking his wife what to do and how to think. Mother is the head of the household today. And somehow she is supposed to both manage a perfect family and hate the concept of staying at home all at the same time.

Today’s woman is expected to have a perfect body, perfect home, perfect children who NEVER act up in public, and a husband who shuts up and knows his place. And today’s husband has little more expectation than to sit back and watch it all happen, beer in hand.

Bottom line: we are becoming a generation of sissies who shouldn’t be allowed to call themselves men, and a generation of women with unreasonable, unattainable expectations. And it’s destroying our society.

It’s high time we get back to the Biblical principles of the nuclear family, where the man is the head of the household and the woman submits to him. I know submission is a dirty word to most women today. But submission doesn’t mean, “Yes, sir. Whatever you say, sir.” It doesn’t mean you don’t have an opinion, ladies. On the contrary, it means that your opinion, along with your husband’s, is submitted to Christ. And it means that together, you seek His will for your home.

Submission is impossible for a woman when she’s married to a boy.

Submission isn’t abuse. It isn’t for a by-gone time. It isn’t outdated and embarrassing. It’s life-giving and absolutely necessary if we are going to experience the fullness and joy that is supposed to come with marriage.

But that’s just it – we’ve lost the concept of marriage, too. Marriage is no longer a life-long commitment before God. Now it’s a “as long is it’s easy” half promise before friends. And that comes from the fact that we’ve stopped asking men to be men and started asking women to do it all, perfectly, without mistake or complaint.

The thing about submission is that it brings about a partnership between the husband and wife. The thing about submission is that it means that neither of you is facing life alone. You are in this together, you are working together, under Christ, to face the trials, the joys, the losses, the triumphs life brings. The thing about submission is that it is absolutely imperative to success in marriage.

But submission is impossible for a woman when she’s married to a boy. But it’s awesome, fun, exciting, sexy, and downright unbelievable when she’s married to a man.

So men, step up. Put down your game controllers and be the man in your home. Love your wife the way Christ loves the church. Put her on a pedestal and revere her as the beautiful woman she is. And lead her in Godliness with the Holy Spirit as your guide.

And women, learn to submit to your husband, even if he’s not “submit-worthy” just yet. The humility that comes from doing what the Bible teaches even when it’s not easy will bless your marriage more than you can imagine right now. And stand by and watch the fruit that comes of it.

And parents, step up and rear your sons to be gentlemen and your daughters to be ladies. Don’t shy away from chivalry and manners. Don’t be slow to ask your sons to step up and take responsibility for things around the house. Don’t be hesitant to ask your daughters to be lady-like. Teach your sons that a woman’s worth is in her heart, not her cup size. Teach your daughters the same. Give your children real responsibilities and expectations. Let them fail. And then use failures as learning opportunities, not belittlement opportunities.

If we can get our homes back on track, the rest of the world will get back on track, too. In fact, most problems of the world (if not all) stem from the home. Want to reverse the trends of socialism so prevalent today? Teach your kids to take responsibility for their actions, pride in their work, and face consequences with grace. Want to teach the world that they need Jesus? Teach your children. Consequently, you can’t teach what you don’t know, so make sure you’re not setting expectations in your home that you’re not meeting yourself.

That’s our job as believers – to start in our own homes. And that starts with a long, hard look at ourselves and what we need to get right with God, submit to Him fully, and let Him change in our way of thinking. After all, if we, this generation, don’t, who will?

And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. – Romans 12:1-2

Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting for those who belong to the Lord. Husbands, love your wives and never treat them harshly. Children, always obey your parents, for this pleases the Lord. Fathers, do not aggravate your children, or they will become discouraged… Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people. Remember that the Lord will give you an inheritance as your reward, and that the Master you are serving is Christ. Colossians 3:18-20, 23-24

perception-reality
Before I had children, I knew exactly what kind of parent I was going to be. After my first child, I just knew I was mother of the year. After my second child, I questioned whether or not I should give my children up to be raised by wolves – perhaps they would do better than I.

After my second child, I questioned whether or not I should give my children up to be raised by wolves – perhaps they would do better than I.

I went to the hospital yesterday to visit a friend who just had her first baby. It was a beautiful baby girl and I saw the joy and sparkle of new parenthood in her mother’s eyes. But what I didn’t expect was a mirror image of myself three years ago. There she was, my friend, a new mom, laying in the hospital bed asking me the very same questions I asked myself, my mother, my sisters, my parent-friends when my first child was born.

“She’s nursing every hour but the nurse says she’s supposed to nurse every two to three hours. Is everything ok?”

“She cries all the time. I’m afraid something might be wrong.”

“She’s not latching well. I’m afraid we’re going to have to supplement and I don’t want to.”

I heard my mother’s words in my head: “He’s three days old! Give him a chance to figure it out!” I looked at my friend with a smile and said, “Everything is ok. There’s nothing wrong. You’re both just figuring things out.”

That’s it. We’re all just figuring things out.

I have the privilege of leading a life group for moms at my church. There are new mothers of months-old babies, mothers of teenagers, and everything in between in our group. I love hearing from each of them the joys and challenges they face at every phase of parenthood. And if there’s one thing I’ve learned from being around them on a weekly basis, it’s that in every phase, whether young or old, we, as parents, are just figuring things out. There is no handbook. There is no club. I never knew how lonely that could feel until I became a mother myself.

Before I was a mother, I had this idea that all parents are in some sort of unspoken club, the kind where once you’re in, you’re told all the secrets, learn the secret handshake, and get winks and nods from other parents wherever you go. Kind of like the Masons.

Much to my chagrin, there is no such club.

No, in fact it’s quite the opposite. That doctor hands you the baby and then expects you to figure it out. Jerk. No handbook. Not even a pamphlet. Just a smile and a weak, “Congratulations!” He should have said, “Congratulations. You’re about to realize everything you thought you knew means nothing at all. Have fun!”

I will never forget that first day my husband went back to work after our son was born. My parents had been staying with us for a few days, cooking meals, cleaning up, helping us get used to the baby. But, like all good things in life, that came to an abrupt end and there I was, sitting on the couch with a brand new baby in my arms, watching my husband walk out the door and thinking to myself, “What now?”

We’re all just blindly walking around a giant room with our hands out, feeling for the next thing to grab on to that we call our “parenting philosophy.”

I had never felt so alone or scared in my life.

But this particular blog is not to discourage you. This is no, “Welcome to Club Hell. There is no escape.” In fact, this is to let you know that despite how it feels, there really is a club of parents. Despite what it seems, we’re all in the same boat, no matter what age our children are. We’re all just blindly walking around a giant room with our hands out, feeling for the next thing to grab on to that we call our “parenting philosophy.” It’s not always easy. It’s often quite frustrating. But I can assure you, you will figure this phase out. And as soon as you do, the next one will start. My sweet sister even had to remind me of this fact at Thanksgiving. My little “Princess and the Pea” wouldn’t sleep to save her life during the entire holiday. By Thanksgiving night I was ready to run away and tell God I died. I know for sure I gained a few more gray hairs that weekend. I saw them this morning. But as I was sitting outside alone in the cold wondering how I had become such a terrible mother, my sister came out to remind me in a way only she could that it’s ok. None of us has it all figured out. And that doesn’t mean we’re inept parents. It means we’re human. And, as my mother would say, “this too, shall pass.”

So sweet friends with brand new babies, I want to send you my love, my warmest wishes, and my sincerest prayers and tell you that it’s going to be okay. I know, even if you’ve only been a parent for a few days, that you’ve probably already felt overwhelmed and wondered what you’ve gotten yourself into. It’s ok. We’ve all been there. And we’ll all be there again from time to time.

But the blessings of being a parent – the sweet first smiles from your three-month old, the laughs at peek-a-boo, the silly games you play in the car, the first time your toddler tells you he loves you – those are the moments that will fill you up to overflowing. Those are the moments that will get you through the days when your infant screams when you hold her, screams when you put her down, screams when you feed her, screams when you don’t feed her. Those are the moments that will keep you from killing your son when he screams, “I CAN’T WANT THAT!!!” at you for the thousandth time that day. Those are the moments that will never, ever leave your heart and will remind you why God graced you with parenthood to begin with.

So hang in there. Take all the advice you get, put it together and form your own conclusions. Do what works best for you and your babies, not what Dr. Phil says. Or Oprah. Or your favorite parenting blog. So what if you have Disney Junior on longer than the recommended 30 minutes per day? (Thirty minutes? Give me a break!!) So what if you co-sleep? So what if your kid drinks cow’s milk at 9 months old? So what if you don’t immunize? So what if you do? It’s your kid and God gave you something precious that ONLY YOU have for your children – intuition. Use it. Trust Him. And have a glass of wine.

Everything is going to be okay!