Why Won’t My Heart Change?

A couple days ago I confessed my frustration toward a certain someone to a friend.

I’m just so frustrated by her behavior. And I’m trying not to get bitter toward her. So just pray for my heart in it all…I concluded. In essence, I was asking her to pray that my heart would change so that I could be more like Christ. If my heart changed, then I would change.

My heart did need to change, no doubt. But as I prayed later that evening, my patient Savior showed me that regardless of how I feel in a given moment, I am to remain obedient to Him. And in that moment, maybe it wasn’t my heart he was concerned most about…maybe it was my mind. Because it is with my mind I choose to follow him or to not follow him. It is a conscious decision I have to make day-by-day: to deny my pride and anger and desires and submit to Him and His will, which is revealed in the Word of God.

But I say unto you, love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you… (Matthew 5:44)

I’ve read it so many times. So when I don’t like someone, do I get on my knees and pray for them? And why couldn’t I simply pray for my own heart in this matter? Because humbling myself in prayer for someone else who is an enemy of sorts is exactly what would change my heart.

So, I’ll leave you with this:

Is your heart gripped with anger, bitterness, worry, lust, envy, pride?

Well, maybe the reason our hearts aren’t changing is simply because we aren’t applying our minds to scripture, mentally understanding what he’s asking us to DO and then humbly doing it.

Psalm 40

He’s Watching Me

I walk around my kitchen and feel the pair of eyes staring at me. Every time I glance over my shoulder, there he is: wide-eyed sucking on his little fingers and watching every move I make. I smile at him and he returns the smile with a half-grin covered by wet, pruned fingers. I continue preparing dinner and washing dishes and he seldom takes his eyes off me.

Here’s some photos of the cute little guy:

A lot has changed in the last four and a half months.

I’m a mom now.

And more than ever before, I feel the influence of my life on those around me. I feel it in the two little eyes staring up at me, watching me, observing me. And as he grows, he’s learning what it looks like to live and be and do. When he sits in my lap at the dinner table, he watches my fork move from my plate to my mouth. He’s learning how to eat. When we do something as routine as walking, he’s learning how to one day do likewise.

And while it’s fascinating how much kids take in, isn’t it frightening? Because he is also learning how to respond to a rough day at work, a disagreement with the spouse, hurt feelings from a friend. He’s learning how to talk about others when they aren’t around, what to do with downtime, and what to watch on TV or the internet.

Our homes are the place where our faults and struggles are most exposed.

It’s the place where we are naked.

And perhaps it’s frightening that as they watch us, they learn from us, and one day, they’ll imitate us. It’s frightening unless…unless we are imitating Jesus. In which case, it’s discipleship, and perhaps the sweetest form.

Because it’s in our homes that true discipleship happens best.

In the context of vulnerability and honesty and love and grace, we learn our great need for Jesus and his great power to save us and transform us even in especially in our weakest moments. And our kids get to see this every day…and let’s be honest, several times a day.

This is as raw as it gets, friends. And what an opportunity it is to show that the gospel transforms our entire life and every day and every moment is an opportunity to LOVE JESUS.

Not to confuse that with being perfect. Or not sinning ever. But I’ve heard parents say that parenting is sanctifying…amen to that one.

So as those little eyes observe me day in and day out, on days when I am sleep deprived and on days when I feel a little more put together, I hope he observes really imperfect people who really love Jesus and really follow Him in the nitty gritty of everyday life. I hope he learns to love and follow Jesus in his own marriage someday, in his relationships and church family and work, with his money and time. I hope he sees the power of Jesus to save and believes it by faith.

And to that endeavor, I rest on the hope that “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness” (2nd Peter 1:3), which means that He is able to transform me more and more into His likeness (for his own glory!) as I submit to Him. Seriously…so thankful for this hope! Because without His help I am helpless and so are my kids!

Who is watching you?

We are all being watched and followed. It may be your own kids, or perhaps other kids who look up to you, or maybe it’s your friends, or your siblings, or your coworkers, classmates, enemies, or cousins. This day in age, maybe it’s your twitter or blog followers. What are they learning from you?

What If My Son Isn’t Healthy?

I hadn’t let it get to me before, despite the comments of others. “As long as he’s healthy…” I’d hear them say. But what if he wasn’t? It may make life harder, but would it make it any less blessed?

Then today, fear struck me. The possibility of Lyme disease being passed from me to my child paralyzed me for a moment. I mourned for the life he may encounter with such opposition.

Not that any other opposition is less of a fear, but the memories and possibilities of Lyme disease are all too familiar. If you don’t know about the prevalence of this disease in my life, you can read a bit about it here in my testimony. I’ve known a lot of people with this disease; I’ve seen people no longer able to keep their jobs, continue school, or enjoy former hobbies and activities as they are confined to their beds.  And of course, I know firsthand the pain of this disease and how difficult it is to treat, especially if passed from mother to child in the womb.

As these thoughts penetrate my mind today and tempt me with fear, they also challenge the foundation of my hope: Do I hope merely for that which is seen – the physical blessings of this world – or do I hope for that which is unseen – the reality of heaven?

Of course, I hope for my son to experience health and happiness. But beyond such a temporary hope, I long for Him to experience Jesus.

Hope in the latter brings me back to reality. This life passes quickly and Jesus is coming soon, so we persevere through present sufferings with our hearts and minds fixated on this unseen hope of heaven (Romans 8:18-25).

Because if I only hope for my son to be healthy and not suffer the pain of such a disease, or of any disease or ailment he may encounter, then my hope will be crushed because suffering and pain are prevalent in this world.

So I turn my hope to Jesus because He alone is able to redeem the sin and suffering we encounter in this world and the former fears fade in light of eternity and the joy of knowing Him.

While I continue to pray for His miraculous power to protect my son, I trust in His goodness and sovereignty, whether through sickness or through health, and I pray that my son would know Him who makes all things new.

“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us…” -Romans 8:18

We’re Homeowners!

Ever had a moment when stress turned you into a different person? All of the sudden, you go momentarily insane and become somewhat irrational? I’m not proud of these moments, but truth is I’m human…and femaleand pregnant.

My doctor keeps telling us that having a baby is one of four big stressors of life and that we should not pair it with another big stressor, such as buying a home. On measures of stress, it’s good advice. My husband and I are first-time homeowners and it is truly amazing how God worked out these details! We are so excited! Here’s a photo of our little home:

But as for the stress…it’s there. Because along with the great charm of an old house comes the plumbing, and the heating/air, and the electrical wiring, and the kitchen repairs, and the walls, and the floors…so much work to do and to organize on top of working full-time and trying to support my beloved husband as he goes through his second block of medical school. Oh – and on top of being pregnant and not being able to do most of the work myself.  ;)

We are extremely blessed by God’s provision in this home and astounded by His grace and how He worked it all together!! But it is busy. And it is stressful.

You know what I love about seasons like these though? In midst of the decision-making and the budgeting and the multiple gas leaks and the foreign language of loans, plumbing, electrical, and everything-else-home-related, the opportunity exists to cling to God as my helper and refuge, to commit myself to His word, and to experience His peace on a whole new level. It exists just as much as the opportunity to stress out and become momentarily crazy.

And those moments, when I feel the weight of stress overwhelm me, I turn to God and surrender it all to Him. I choose to trust Him. I choose to wait in Him. And the cares of this world grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace…

I hope that as you encounter those opportunities to stress out and worry over life, you instead take the opportunity to trust in Him and submit all to Him – your burdens, your fears, your attitude and emotions. Because, trust me, I get it – in that moment the stress is so real and largely consuming, but we are not to be consumed by the flesh, we are to be consumed by Him. And I can testify that HE turns really stressful situations into peace-filled, God-encountering situations as we turn to Him.

Be blessed in whatever busy season you are in, friends. Take the opportunity to know Him more intimately as your refuge, strength, hope, redeemer, provider, and friend.

“I sought the Lord, and He heard me, and delivered me from all my fears…The angel of the Lord encamps all around those who fear Him, and delivers them. Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who trusts in Him!” Ps. 34: 4, 7-8

Someone Was Missing

I sat at my desk and wrote a card to my mom for her birthday. After thoughtful words were written, I mindlessly signed the names I’ve signed for the last five and a half years: “With Love, Mike and Brandee.”

But this time, God filled my mind with an impressionable message: someone’s missing. It caught me by surprise but I couldn’t ignore its meaning. Is our family incomplete? Is it not supposed to be just the two of us anymore?

OK, this was a big deal – and might I mention – a deal outside of our previous plans to wait another year. I couldn’t tell Mike the details right away, but when I saw him the next day, he shared a strange dream he had. About what? Oh, just about us having a BABY.

Ever get the idea God is trying to tell you something?

So we prayed about it and decided to wait a few more months…and then three weeks later, we were pregnant. I’m thankful God’s plans always prevail. And now we wait joyously for the arrival of our baby in mid June!!

Dear baby,
As your life begins
May your eyes be opened to the grace of God.
May you know Him, even now,
As the Creator who came to give you life.
Oh sweet baby, we love you,
Just as He created you.
His hand covers your life,
Look to Him for purpose.
For He created you with divine wisdom.
And this we know for sure is true,
That sweet baby, someone was missing,
And that someone was you.

.

We can’t wait to meet you, baby!!

.

Money, Marriage, & Real Life

I recently sat down with a soon-to-be college graduate who asked me about the greatest financial lesson I’ve learned since I got married and graduated college.

Without pausing, I answered: I learned to tithe.

My sudden response surprised me. I wasn’t trying to be spiritual; God knows it’s been a lesson learned. But it’s a lesson that kept my heart in check and put my treasure in Christ alone.

I went into marriage with a somewhat solid understanding on financial success: live within my income, spend wisely, and save as much as I’m able. Of course, it isn’t always that simple, which I quickly learned as a young, newly-married college student. But I grew up with a dad who was very wise with his money and taught me basic financial principles that I took seriously. So granted, I went into marriage with a solid conviction to live within my means, even if it meant living with less than what all my friends were able to have. Sure, it kept me and my husband humble. We weren’t trying to match what others were able to spend, and we weren’t pretending to. We just wanted to live humbly with what God provided us and be content with His provision.

Of course, I admit that I’m kind of overly frugal. So it wasn’t until Mike and I got married that I slowly learned to give to God, and to give cheerfully. My husband has the gift of giving and a deep conviction to give to God. Me…not so much, not initially. Our conversations early in marriage began like this:

Husband: I prayed about our tithe, how much do you think we should give this month?

Me: Oh dear, he remembered. I hoped he’d forget. We don’t have the money to tithe! Well, what’s the LEAST we can do…hmm…(numbers rolling through my head)…uuggh…I guess whatever 10% is.

Husband: Pray about it. I think we should give more.

Me: !!! MORE?!?!?!

I know…my heart was ugly. So I’d humble myself, pray, and of course, God would give me a number. I’d write it down; Mike wrote his down; pass and exchange paper; and waalaa…they’d often be the same! And if they weren’t, I submitted to his number because let’s face it, his heart was beautiful and my heart…well, not so much.

So now, five years later, God’s changed my heart and taught me more about godly stewardship. I’ve learned to give of our first-fruits, not our leftovers. I’ve learned to give enough that my flesh cringes as I release its grip from my hands (and heart) and drop it in the offering bag. I’ve learned to give enough that I have to trust God. And I’ve learned that God always…always…provides (what we need, not always what we want). Because at the end of the month when I did the budgeting, the numbers didn’t always make sense, they didn’t add up, but somehow we came out even.

Is tithing an end-all to our financial struggles? No. I think godly stewardship is about a whole lot more than tithing, but I think that tithing is at its core. God promises a blessing with it; and He blessed us. Ok, ok…God blessed Mike, but I am his other half. ;) So thank you, Mike, for your faithfulness to God and for teaching me what it looks like to give from your heart. And thank you God – for challenging my heart, for changing my heart, and for giving us abundantly more than we need. Though the world may call us poor, we are rich and overflowing.

What financial lessons have you learned?

I Believe

I believe in a God who restores health and who inflicts pain.

I believe in a God who gives life and allows death.

I believe in a God who promises joy and assures us of sorrow.

I believe in a God who extends mercy and executes judgment.

I believe in a God of grace, and I believe in a God of war.

I believe in a God who hates sin but who loves sinners.

I believe in a God who rejects the unrepentant but forgives those who ask.

I believe in a God who is fearful and yet approachable.

I believe in a God who is sovereign.

I believe in a God who is Love.

I believe in a God whose ways are not my own.

And I believe in a God whose ways are better than my own.

I believe in God the Father; I believe in God the Son;

I believe in God the Holy Spirit; and I believe they are One.

I’ve wrestled with these different and seemingly contradictory attributes of God — uncertain of how I felt about a God who inflicts pain, a God who rejects the unrepentant yet good person, a God who forgives those sins I wouldn’t forgive — but I am certain that HIS sovereignty is good. As we study the Bible, we are faced with the questions: do we believe in this God and will we submit to Him? And after years of seeking Him and knowing Him, I testify that in all these things, He is good, and I say with confidence: I believe. Choosing to believe in Him and submit to Him…it changes everything.

Are there aspects of God that are hard for you to accept? How have you sought Him and yielded to Him in these questions?