When Today Isn’t Better Than Yesterday

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As part of American culture, one of the things that’s ingrained in us from the beginning is that if we work hard enough, hope hard enough, and believe, tomorrow will be a better day.  It manifests in the various systems that make up our way of life: the school system trains kids for a brighter tomorrow. The criminal justice system rehabilitates men and women in hopes of better conduct. We work to experience more and better things for ourselves and our families. But…what happens when it doesn’t go that way?

What happens when our entire system comes crashing down because the very promise that we made to ourselves, that today would be better than yesterday, doesn’t get fulfilled? What do we do when life is dark and filled with pain. Where do we go when the kingdoms we have built for ourselves become nothing more than wreckage? When fires burn, when floods of tears can’t be held back…when today isn’t better than yesterday?

I only know one place to turn. In the midst of chaos, pain, confusion, and doubt, we turn to the one who is stronger, the one who is bigger, the one who is better. We turn to Jesus. In the person of Jesus, we find the strength to face systems and plans that do indeed crumble, that inevitably crumble. When these hard times come, we need to turn to the words of Jesus in Matthew 11:28-30:

Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”

Jesus’ invitation when we can’t handle things is simple. “Come to me.” Who can come to him? All of us. Anyone weary, hurt, saddened, depressed, out of sorts, or broken. All who struggle under the weight of burdens that they have both chosen and had laid upon them. And when we come to him?

Rest.
Rest we might not can give ourselves, rest that escapes us in sleepless nights, rest that lets us not be chased by the demons in our heads and hearts anymore.

Then, we take his yoke. A yoke is the instrument that guides oxen as they plow fields, to help keep them in line. Jesus says His yoke is easy, it is light. He trades our heavy burdens for His, and He desires to keep them, even when we want to take them back. Why? Because He is humble, and gentle at heart. His teachings give us the peace and comfort we need to stand strong when life falls apart.

So today, if it’s not better than yesterday, would you let Him take your burdens? Would you carry His yoke forward? Would you allow Him to help you? Would you come to Him?

That’s the only way tomorrow can be better than today.

To Whom Will We Go? (A Meditation on John 6:68-69)

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When life is full and bright and crisp.
When flowers bloom and love exists.
When warmth is found and hearts abound,
To Whom will we go?

When days are dark and filled with pain.
When eyes grow tired or filled with rage.
When another disappointment comes to stay,
To Whom will we go?

We believe. We know. You are Holy. You Are One.
It’s hard, but oh, your Word captures my soul.

When hearts ache and we don’t know why.
When the smallest things bid us cry.
When joy spills over like rolling tides,
To Whom will we go?

When choices made are second guessed
When life is wonderful in the mess
When fullness gives way to empty nests,
To Whom will we go?

We believe. We know. You are Holy.  You are One.
It’s hard, but oh, your Word captures my soul.

We cannot stop the season’s change
but we can embrace the path it brings
and hand in hand we’ll face these things
To Whom will we go?

Jesus, You are where we’ll go.
Jesus.
You are where I’ll go.

Wifey Wednesday – Know the Word, Speak the Word, Do the Word

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I grew up in a house with two Christian parents.  Two parents who believe in God’s word and it is evident in their lives.  Chuck, my dad, instilled in me a passion for knowing the intricacies of scripture: the who, when, why, and where.  Y’know, those kind of bits of information that when you share them people look at you funny for knowing it, like, the third wife of Abraham was Keturah, and she gave him more children that either of his other two wives.  I’m a nerd, and I’m OK with that.  Debbie, my mom, taught us the day to day of living the Christian life.  She read us our devotions every night and prayed with us, she taught us how to be wives and mothers,  and taught us to live lives full of God’s grace and mercy (although I struggle with that one, as I have a lot of my daddy in me, too).

But, I’ve found in the past 10 years knowing God’s word has become of utmost importance to me.  Why?  Two reasons, Isaac Soren and Annaliese Foley.  I want my children to know God’s Word, and know it intimately.  Knowing his Word is how we know Him. It’s how we know His voice. It’s how we hear His call.  Scripture says to hide His word in our heart so that we might not sin against Him, and if his words are hidden there and our heart is the wellspring of our life, think of the sweetness that is going to come out of that!

However, I also know that Jesus spoke God’s Word. (I mean, He is God’s Word, see John 1:1)  When He was tempted by Satan in the desert, He used the Old Testament.  Hebrews 4:12 tells us that God’s Word is living and active and sharper than any two edged sword, Ephesians 6 tells us that it’s the Sword of the Spirit.  We will battle, but our battle is not flesh and blood, our battle is against the deceiver, and the only way to battle deceit is with the truth.  Peter tells us to be ready in season and out of season to give an answer for our faith.

I want my kids and my husband to be ready when the devil attacks, because he’s roaming, like a lion seeking whom he may devour, he’s like a thief who seeks to steal, kill, and destroy.  I don’t want to send them out unprotected.  They are saved, yes! I believe that is once and for all because no one is strong enough to snatch them out of the Father’s hand, but they can still be wounded. I don’t want them to have one scratch!  Yet, I know they will. We’re imperfect people who are never going to get it all right all the time. My responsibility is not on how they react but that they know.

Speaking God’s Word is powerful. Jesus said in John 6:63, “The words that I speak to you, they are spirit, and they are life.” We’re called to speak life to others.  Demons tremble at the name of Jesus. (And guys, if we’re gonna believe in angels we better believe in demons, spiritual forces of evil in this world.)  We don’t use it to cut down others, we’re not struggling with flesh and blood!  Psalm 19:10 says God’s word is …. sweeter than honey.  In my healthy eating journey I have learned that honey is a healer.  It helps fight infection, it soothes aches and pain.  So while God’s word will convict us and cut us to our core sometimes when it’s rooting out those evil influences in us, it also heals and brings comfort.  That’s what I want my kids and the other children and teens I come in contact with to find. I want them to find their healing and comfort from the Word.  When I speak that over them, sometimes I bring conviction when they are wrong but when they need comfort that’s where I get it, too.  I’m sure they often get tired of hearing, “Well, the Bible says…..” but as they’re older I know that they will appreciate it!

We know the word and we speak the word so that we can do the word.  The Bible calls us all to be doers of the word, not hearers only.   It feels good to come sit in the church house and sing good songs and hear an encouraging word.  Sometimes we get that Holy Spirit high.  We think, “If I could just stay in my Holy Huddle things would be great!”   But, the church is not a building, it’s the body.  And if our spiritual bodies just sit around and eat all the time we will get spiritually fat!  We have to put action to our faith.  The opposite is also true, we can’t just serve all the time without putting good food into our bodies or we will get burnt out, we become malnourished.   As in everything balance is key!

God says he has begun a good work in us, and he will be faithful to carry us through until it is completed.  He has created us for good works!  Paul says our faith is dead if we don’t have some action with it.  I can say all day long that I believe a chair will hold me up but if I never sit down in it, do I really believe it?  Our faith is proven by the good things we do.  Don’t get it flipped, we do not earn our faith by doing good works, but we do good works because of our faith in God, and we have to teach our children that.

Growing up, my family was serious about serving the church. We were there earlier than most, we served on committees, and we came to every function. The church was our family.  When they needed us we were there, and when we needed them, they were there.  I love to tell the story about the Father/Son work day my dad made ME go to (newsflash, I’m not a son) because he was serious about teaching me to serve.  The early church we read about in Acts shows us a legacy of service.  Jesus tells us to take on the attitude of a servant, the old song says, “They will know we are Christians by our love,”…and here I thought it was our youth group t-shirts that were gonna do the trick.  I learned to serve by watching those around me serve, until I was convicted to serve on my own.  God has a purpose for all of us in His Kingdom, both in church life and the secular world.  But we have to know God’s Word so that we can know what He has called us to do in this world.

His final words to us on this earth, recorded in Mathew and Acts, teach us that our job as disciples of Christ is to teach others about Him.  In the original Greek, it says as we are going, to make disciples.   That is your primary job.  You may be a banker, a teacher, or a stay at home mom, but your role first and foremost is disciple maker.

Know the Word.  Speak the Word.  Do the Word.

Anyway.

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This morning, I was struck by a thought. It’s funny that it had such a profound impact on me, almost stopping me in my tracks, because it’s something that I have heard time and time again, expressed in countless ways. I posted a status about it on Facebook, but it was simply a shadow of the impression that this left on me. What was that thought?

He loves me anyway.
Jesus loves me anyway.

What joy, what freedom, what relief wells up in my heart as I read those words. He loves me anyway.  Even at the depths of my deepest, darkest sin (which He knows, by the way), He still chooses to love me. The Bible says in Ephesians 3:18:

And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is.

This is part of Paul’s prayer for the church at Ephesus, people who he dearly loved. I had this Scripture read over me when I was 17 years old and had just been saved, and it has stuck with me since then. And you know what? All of us, as followers of Jesus, should seek to understand God’s love. We should seek to know how wide, how long, how high, and how deep….but the further I go, the more I find!!!

At the width of my sin, spread out, covering people, places, time, and more; He is there.

At the length of my walk away from Him, no matter how far; He is there.

At the height of my selfishness, when my kingdom falls; He is there.

At the depth of the darkness within my heart, so black I feel I’ll never see light again; He is there.

Anyway.

Jesus is there. He will be there. He’s always been there. And He will be there again and again because His love never fails.

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good!
His faithful love endures forever.
Give thanks to the God of gods.
His faithful love endures forever.

~Psalm 136:1-2

I’m reminded of a song by Sidewalk Prophets, “You Love Me Anyway”. These lyrics of the song describe how I feel most accurately.

I am the thorn in your crown
But You love me anyway
I am the sweat from Your brow
But You love me anyway
I am the nail in Your wrist
But You love me anyway
I am Judas’ kiss
But You love me anyway
See now I am the man who yelled out from the crowd
For Your blood to be spilled on this earth shaking ground
Yes then I turned away with a smile on my face
With this sin in my heart, tried to bury Your grace
And then alone in the night I still call out for You
So ashamed of my life, my life, my life

For the times that I feel faint. For the days that I do what I don’t want to do. For the weeks where I seem to just mess everything up. Yes, even for the lifetime that’s spent away from Him.

Jesus loves us.

Anyway.

Wifey Wednesday – Who Am I And How Did I Get Here?

(A note from Marty: back when I regularly blogged, I asked Erin if she would like to guest post on my site. She said yes, and honestly, those became some of my favorite posts from that site. So, when I said I was going to start writing again, she asked if she could join in, and naturally, I said yes. So, Wifey Wednesday was born. I hope you enjoy her wisdom and insight as much as I do!)

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Before I was married I was Chuck and Debbie Foley’s daughter, after that I was Marty’s wife or that youth pastor’s wife.  I’m ok with both of those things, because I’m proud of those people who help to identify me.

I have always believed that I can do anything I put my mind to, and that if I can’t do something it’s because I haven’t put any effort in to it. I might not be able to do it well, but I can do it. So it’s no surprise that in 4th grade my aspirations were to be a school teacher, teach piano after school, and cut hair on the weekends. When I explained this to my mother, she didn’t laugh in my face as maybe she wanted to do. She did, however, question how I was going to have time for all that and if I was going to have a family. I replied in the affirmative and that surely I could make it work.

As I grew older I learned piano playing was not going to be my forte, and while I honestly have considered cosmetology school, I settled on education when I went to college. I was going to be a high school history teacher. When my mother gently pointed out that I wasn’t a man (what?!?) and I didn’t coach, she explained that in this area I was going to have a hard time finding a job. So, I struggled for a minute until my roommate introduced me to Social Work. Prior to 1998 I had never heard the term social worker, I didn’t have any in my life, had never come in contact with one, and I wasn’t quite sure how that whole thing worked. But, I decided then that was going to be my mission: to rip babies from unloving families homes.

Gosh, that sounds heartless. I learned sooooo much from that major.

My first job was working as a Children and Youth Case Manager in a mental health field, and again, I learned sooooooo much from that job! After Marty and I married, I got a job closer to where we were ministering, again, working with children.

But, what I learned from living a ministry life with my husband was that, as his wife, I better be just as called to this ministry as he was for it to work for us. And I was: I grew up the daughter of a lay youth director, a deacon in the church. I saw a lot of the administrative stuff from behind the scenes from early childhood. A lot of times, I was the one making the room lists for camps and conferences or making the calls to remind people of meetings. The Lord began preparing me at 10 for the life he was calling me to live! Honestly, because of my social work major and my youth ministry background, I was more prepared for the behind the scenes of ministry than Marty was in those early months even though his degree said “Youth Ministry!”

We learned and we grew together in those early days of marriage and ministry, they happened simultaneously, and they were good years.

But, I was doing it, I was working, I was a wife, and I was in ministry. I had it all, according to the world. I wasn’t making a ton of money: I became a teacher’s aide so that my summer’s would be free to be in ministry. However, I was contributing, I was keeping the house and cooking, and I was teaching and leading, and at the church almost as much as Marty a lot of weeks!

Then, we got pregnant with our first child. I began to research childcare, I was going to be spending my whole paycheck to put my child in daycare. During that summer after he was born I began to see that I couldn’t do it all. I could not go back to work, be a wife and mom, well, the kind I wanted to be anyway, and be as involved in the ministry as I felt called to be. So, I began to talk with Marty about me staying home. He resisted at first, wondering how we would afford it, but ultimately we understood that staying home would be best for all of us.

I assumed that when my kids were school age I would go back to work. My mom worked when I was a kid, and I turned out fine, and my sisters turned out even better! So, we were trucking along with that plan, when kid #2 turned 5 and started Kindergarten I was going back to work, even if it was just subbing regularly. Honestly, at that point, I was ready.  Stay at home parenting is lonely. I don’t make friends easily, and I didn’t have close friends where we were living, even after 7-8 years of being there. I felt alone a lot of days.

But, then we felt God calling us to homeschool, we started looking at our lives and the reason that I stayed home was so that I could be involved in ministry and not feel guilty when I had to be gone on the weekends or if we carted the kids to ANOTHER ball game or band concert. We realized if we homeschooled our kids we would be free to do ministry the way we always had. We love our public schools, we try to be as available to them as we would if we had kids in them. We buy the overpriced candies and wrapping paper, we go to as many ball games and concerts and plays as we can. Honestly, I love going to those, I wish more of our parents would let us know about their kids’ special things. If I had kids in public school, I’d be super involved at their school, but may miss out on things going on at the 7-8 other schools we serve. For us, it just works. It’s not better, it’s just different. I didn’t want to do it, I struggle with it still, but for now, we know it IS what God has called us to.

Moms and Dads, we can’t do it all. We can’t. That’s why God created us for marriage and community. That’s why it takes two of us. I need Marty. He pays the bills. He needs me. He needs me to manage our home and help with ministry. I was created to be his helpmeet, not his head, his partner side by side. He is to love me like Christ loves the Church and He gave his life for her. I am to love him like the church loves Christ, giving my life for him. Are we perfect? NO! Do we screw it up? YES!  But we love each other and know that we cannot do it without the other. Love is all about sacrifice.

I sacrificed my job and, sometimes I feel like my sanity, to do what is best for my family. I’ve struggled with being just a mom. Marty sacrificed an extra income for my sanity.  Because, I would have tried to do it all, and we all would have suffered. My kids have sacrificed travel dance, doing more than one sport at a time, and clothes that weren’t bought on sale or at goodwill for the ministry God has called us to, we don’t have the time or the money for a lot of that.

As families we have to have time together. Not just in the car running from one event to the next.  Time at the dinner table talking to each other. Time  playing games together. Time serving together. Time at church together. I promise whatever you sacrifice to get that, will be worth it.

Why am I here, on this blog? When Marty started talking about blogging again, I knew that I had things to say. I’m a verbal processor. When I verbally process, sometimes good stuff comes out. I have discovered in the past year, after pulling out of a lot of ministries at church, that God has gifted me for some of those things that I was shaking off. I have discovered I have a passion for teaching God’s word, like Jeremiah said, “his word burns in my heart like a fire.” I have a passion for the ministry that God has called Marty and I to, and for me not to do it was killing my soul. We can’t do it all, but we better do what He has called us to do! 

This is just another place for me to verbally process what the Lord is teaching me. Some of these things, I just have to get out. I was composing them in my head as I lay in bed at night anyway. I hope you’ll join me on Wifey Wednesdays as we process together what the Lord is teaching.

Begin. Again.

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The irony and humor of starting another blog with another post about starting over again is not lost on me. I’m pretty transparent, so I’ll be upfront on the front end: I’m not very good at consistency.

In my mind I am. In my mind, I have grandiose visions of how life would be if I were consistent in everything: how I eat, how I spend my time, how I spend my money, how I do ministry. Yet, time after time that just doesn’t seem to come to pass. And yet, that may be the very most consistent thing about myself. So, yay! Consistency.

This is, again, one of those “beginning” posts. I have kept a blog on and off for years, with dreams that someone, somewhere will read a post one day and say to themselves, “Hey, that kid’s got it.” I’m not really sure what it is, but I imagine it to be something that gives me lots of recognition, comments, and the ever-elusive, yet important “like” or retweet. But I’m not sure I’m ready for “it”, whatever that is. This idea, of writing, of bringing back a space where I tell my story, has been banging around in my mind for about 3-4 months now. It won’t leave. It explodes to the forefront at weird times and I get oddly excited about it, and then I forget. Typical Marty.

But, this idea keeps coming back.

So, maybe there’s something here: something worth doing, saying, or existing for. So, if you want to, I’d like you keep coming by. Pull up a chair, share a cup of coffee or a piece of bacon (unless I’ve eaten it all) and join me in my life. I’m probably going to talk about ministry, my family, video games, life in general, and I’m definitely going to overshare about board games. If any of that interests you, then great. If not, let’s still be friends, ok?

Here’s to beginning. Again.