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Suddenly Spraying

We were on a family vacation one summer and traveled west to a dude ranch. My sister-in-law and I decided to go on a hike. We were heading back to the ranch following the dirt road when I grabbed something out of my backpack. As I swung my backpack around, I heard a thump on the ground. We both looked at each other wondering what had made the loud noise. Before I turned fully around it dawned on me what the item was. It sounded like a soda can falling to the ground. Only we didn’t have any soda with us. The bear spray I had in the side pocket had slipped out, crashed to the ground, and popped open.

As this realization dawned on me, I took off running and yelled for my sister-in-law to get out of there. When we were a safe distance away, we turned around and watched the can spinning in circles. Thankfully, somehow when it popped open it was facing down and sprayed the dirt road instead of into the air around us. We were extremely lucky to have escaped its harmful ingredients. Of course, after we were out of harm’s way, we looked at each other and started laughing. How in the world did that happen?

We went back later to pick up the can and dispose of it. We were grateful to have escaped the situation. I was a little disappointed I had used our one and only bear spray container.

This reminds me of our faith journey. The way my sister-in-law and I took off sprinting away from the bear spray is also how we Christians should run away from sin and temptation as if our life depended on it. The Bible says, “So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.” (2 Timothy 2:22)

1 Corinthians 6:18 states, “Flee from sexual immorality.” 1 Corinthians 10:14 says, “Flee from idolatry.”

The Bible is clear about running away from sin. May we turn and sprint from these things. We are called to, “Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness.” (1 Timothy 5-6).

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Mortifying the Mint

One beautiful spring day, I was planting flowers in pots. My eleven-year-old daughter came outside and joined me. We finished planting all the pots and decided to tackle the beds which needed to be weeded. Someone who lived in our house prior must have planted mint and it has taken over. Every year we try to exterminate the mint, but it proceeds to come back.

My daughter and I headed over to the beds and started pulling the mint up. You can pull it out, but underneath there are more roots you must find. Mint sends out runners that spread above and just below the ground. It quickly takes over an area. We discovered groups of it growing up into other flowers. We spent about an hour pulling up piles of mint. My daughter commented on how fun it was. Thankfully the roots come up easy and it’s very rewarding to make a lot of progress quickly.

This reminds me of our faith journey. Mint is like our sin. It will continue to spread and reappear until we mortify it. We must keep digging and digging until we find the roots, pull them up and dispose of them.

Pulling up the mint from our beds was tedious, tiring, and overwhelming at times. However, it was worth the effort. I can now gaze at the flower beds and appreciate how pronounced the flowers are without the mint resting aside them.

Unless we truly mortify our sin, it will continue to reappear and cause havoc inside us, spreading to areas of our lives we didn’t intend it to impact.

Thankfully we have a loving Father who can help us and is there to forgive us. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)

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Arriving Ahead

One year we were on vacation with my family. My kids were having a blast spending time with their cousin. We were headed out to dinner and were a larger group, so some were going in the rental car, and the rest were riding in a shuttle van. The van showed up and was ready to load passengers. We were hustling around grabbing last-minute items before we left.

The kids (there were four of them) wanted to ride in the shuttle van so they jumped aboard. A few minutes later the van pulled away. We quickly realized there were no adults aboard the van. The kids spanned ages from thirteen to six and were a fairly responsible group (for children), but we never intended on sending them alone. The impressive (or scary) thing is how they convinced the van driver to leave without a parent. Once we realized the kids were on their way without us, we hustled into the car and hurried to meet them.

The kids, sure enough, were waiting for us at the restaurant. They were beaming with pride from their adventure and were surprised when we didn’t match their enthusiasm. We chatted with them about how we were glad they made it safely, but next time they are not to leave without an adult. We expressed our concern for their safety and explained why their decision to drive off without us was not safe.

This reminds me of our faith journey. Sometimes we like to forge ahead, we make our plans and ask God to bless our path. This usually turns out how the adventure with my kids went. We might reach the destination, but if it wasn’t God’s plan for us, something is usually missing. We rush ahead convinced we know what is best, forgetting to ask God to align our will with His will. When things don’t work out as we planned, we are disappointed.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8-9)

May we keep in step with the Spirit, for the steps of a man are established by the Lord. (Galatians 5:25 & Psalms 37:23)

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Cheerfully Chosen

My husband and my daughters submitted a video to be considered in a photoshoot for a hunting organization. My husband Jonathan loves to hunt so this was a natural fit.

I helped them take a few videos and pictures while dressed in head-to-toe camo, and Jonathan sent them off. A week later, he was told he had been selected and they also wanted one of our daughters.

My husband was out of town when he got the news. We called him and I put my daughter on the phone. She hung up the phone after speaking with him and had the most precious look on her face. Her smile got huge, she looked into my eyes and tenderly said, “They picked me.” She spoke with surprise, humility, and delight. She seemed shocked they had chosen her.

This reminds me of our faith journey. We all desperately want to be known, seen, and heard. My daughter’s humility spoke of her character. I was excited for her. It feels good to be chosen, and it was important for this pre-teen girl to be seen and selected.

The great news is God sees you and me every day! He loves you and never takes His eyes off you. Wow! That is hard to comprehend. If only we walked around with that confidence every day, letting the negative comments bounce off us.

God knows you and loves you. Getting that information into our hearts takes some work, and an enemy is trying to block that truth from penetrating. Psalm 139:1 states, “O Lord, you have searched me and known me!”

If I could share her joy that afternoon, I would. That same joy felt by my daughter can be felt by you. You are known, loved, and cared for by the One that matters most.

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Smothering the Scent

One evening I headed upstairs to put my kids to bed. As I walked into my youngest daughter’s room (who is seven), I was blasted with a pungent smell. She immediately started saying sorry and explained the reason for the odor.

She had opened a container of nail polish. She didn’t actually put any on, but the act of opening the jar had smelled up her room. In our house nail polish needs to be done in the bathroom, and usually with mom’s permission.

When she realized the intense odor, she came up with plan B. Plan B involved taking hand sanitizer, rubbing it all over her hands, and waving them around the room. When this only increased the aroma in her room, she went to plan C, call in re-enforcements (big sister).

When I entered the room, older sister is by an open window (in the middle of winter) and I had a hard time distinguishing what scent I smelled. The two of them were scurrying around the room trying to make the odor disappear. I was especially light-hearted about this incident after I realized no harm was done, no property was destroyed, and no one was injured.

This reminds me of our faith journey. We sometimes try so hard to cover up our sin to God. We act as if we can hide things from Him. Instead of humbly coming to God and confessing our sins, we cover over them, or at least try to, just like my daughter did (usually making the situation worse).

Jesus died so we don’t have to carry around sin and burden we were not meant to carry. Don’t hide your sin from God, take it to Him, and let Him wash you clean. Remember the sacrifice He made for us and live in the freedom He desires for you. “For freedom Christ has set us free.” (Galatians 5:1)

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Rapidly Running

One brisk fall morning, my girls and I were on an early morning walk as my husband was leaving for work. As he began to pass us, my middle daughter who is ten started picking up speed and took off running adjacent to his truck. In our leisurely walk, I wasn’t expecting her to take off so suddenly.

Without looking back, she ran with all her might to keep up. When he stopped at the stop sign, she also stopped and leaned over to catch her breath. I was impressed with her stamina and determination to keep up with him. I admired her drive and joy.

This reminds me of our faith journey. Oh, if we could run our race like my daughter did that morning. “Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.” (Hebrews 12:1) 

What if we could run after God with the same intensity as she ran beside my husband’s vehicle? What if we did not grow weary of doing good for Him? What if we pumped our arms with enthusiasm and a huge smile on our face?

Imagine if all Christians chased after God with such veracity and drive? Maybe we all need to strap on our running shoes and be ready. Maybe we need to get out there and start walking so we will be prepared and ready as He leads the way.

We will need to occasionally stop and catch our breath, just like my daughter did. We need to constantly replenish ourselves in Christ and the truth the Bible shares. Then we can get back out there and continue the race.

“Let us not grow weary of doing good.” (Galatians 6:9)

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Clothes for the In-between

One beautiful fall Saturday, I took my oldest daughter shopping for clothes. I relish these opportunities when I get a chance to spend one-on-one time. Sometimes it takes a child growing out of her clothes to permit the occasion.

She is twelve but almost my height. She has long legs and everything in the kids’ section is too short and won’t fit after one wash. We found a few items in the ladies’ section, but most of the clothes were not made for a twelve-year-old body.

After a few hours of shopping, we pieced enough clothes together for her to have something to wear for fall and winter. It’s tough to be in between sizes. She’s not a woman, yet she’s not a little kid anymore.

This reminds me of our faith journey. As adult Christians, we are no longer children, ignorant and innocent. We are aware of our sin patterns and usually know the paths we should take. However, we retain our childish tendencies such as refusing to ask for forgiveness and wanting to do things our way.

Even mature Christians don’t feel worthy or deserving of the freedom and guidance God provides. It’s hard for us to step into and accept the unlimited help Jesus provides. We still like to figure it out for ourselves, leaning on our own understanding. I don’t think we will ever feel truly worthy of fitting in the clothes Jesus has for us.

We don’t have to think we have mastered everything in the faith. We are in the in-between place until Jesus comes again. We get to feel unqualified and unequipped because we have Jesus to fill in the gaps. He is there to cover our inadequacies. We get to be limited in our physical, mental, and spiritual abilities because He is unlimited. He loves us as we seek to know Him. He puts us back on the path when we wander off. He comforts us when the sin of this world is too much for us to handle.

As you seek Him, He will continue to clothe you with His goodness. “Put on Christ.” (Gal. 3:27)

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Deliberate Dolls

What a children’s book and our faith have in common

One evening I was reading to my six-year-old before bedtime. We were reading The Doll People by Ann M Martin & Laura Godwin. This children’s book tells a story of a doll Annabel and her family. They live in a dollhouse but can walk and talk. They only move about when their human owners are asleep or not home.

In the first book of the series, Martin & Godwin informs us how the dolls are created and made “real.” The dolls decide if they want to be a regular doll (giving up human abilities) or a doll person (can walk and talk). If they choose a doll person, they must take an oath.

Annabel is informed right before taking her oath that being a doll person is harder, it comes with great responsibility. It also comes with fun and adventure.

This reminds me of our faith journey. The Christian life is not easy. Although we don’t take an actual oath, we do commit our lives to Christ. We promise to live for Him instead of ourselves. This is no easy task.

In the book, if humans catch the dolls moving, they are thrust into doll state where they can’t move or talk for 24 hours. There are also rumors of a permanent doll state for serious offenses.

As Christians, when we mess up, thankfully we aren’t thrust into a paralyzed state like Annabel. Instead, we repent of our sins to our loving Father in Heaven. He doesn’t reprehend us, but rather washes our sins away. He doesn’t chastise us and shake His finger in our face. He accepts our burdens and mess. He cleans us off, and helps us get back up again. What an incredible Father we have!

Just as Annabel forgets, or chooses to ignore her oath on occasion, we sometimes forget who we are living for. Or we choose to go our own way knowing it’s not God’s plan.

Being a Christian comes with responsibility and risk. It also comes with a great reward.

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Keenly Knocking

Little girl shown in picture not actually Charlotte

My joy-filled six-year-old daughter Charlotte awoke one Saturday morning excited about her first horse lesson. She walked down the hall and knocked on Madelyn’s door (her older sister) asking what she should wear to her lesson. 

Charlotte’s enthusiasm was not matched by her older sister who did not appreciate being woken up at 6:00 am on a Saturday. Madelyn rolled over and tried unsuccessfully to return to sleep.

This reminds me of our faith journey. Jesus will come and knock at your door. He won’t force His way in, although He could.

He comes offering a better way, help, and peace. Most of us roll over and ignore Him thinking we’ve got this on our own, we don’t need help.

For those of us who rise, open the door, and invite Him in…. oh, the wonders that await you. You can ask for wisdom or knowledge or anything your heart desires. (Psalm 37:4)

If you open that door, put your seatbelt on because you are about to embark on an unbelievable journey. You are not guaranteed an easy path, but He promises never to leave you alone. (“God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9)

God will always be there to offer assistance, wisdom, discernment, courage, comfort, and more. Even when you turn your back on Him, He’s still there, patiently waiting.

My daughter’s enthusiasm for her horse lesson does not compare to God’s enthusiasm for you. He desires you to know Him. He has blessings to pour upon you, peace to give you, and an unforgettable ride to take you on.

Don’t roll over anymore at His knocking. Get up and open the door!

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Dilapidated Buildings

Note: This isn’t the actual building. The building we were looking at was in much better condition.

My husband drove us by a building once and pulled in. He told us about the vision he had for the structure and corresponding lot. He desired to buy the building and turn it into an area where people would congregate.

He saw a revived shopping area for folks who lived nearby; complete with a coffee shop, lunch spot, etc. He shared the extensive vision; sidewalks, stores, outdoor space, and how it all worked together. He saw the big picture. He saw a building with potential.

I saw an old, dilapidated building. I saw a structure in such bad condition they were using it as a haunted house during Halloween. I spotted rotted boards and old paint. I saw a shabby neglected building in need of ample repair, or a bulldozer to tear it down and start new.

This reminds me of our faith journey. Sometimes we can feel like that building. We can feel worn down, isolated, left alone, as if not much good is coming from us.

God sees potential in us. He sees the big vision with us thriving and fulfilling His plan.

We might have a past we aren’t proud of. We probably dealt with hurt and pain. We sometimes feel like that run-down building – not sure if we can be used for anything.

We have to remember our boards are never too rotted for Him. No matter how beat up and battered we are. He can tend to our cracks. He sees a beautiful vision of His making. He never abandons us even when others might.

Just like my husband saw possibility where I saw shambles. God sees potential in you. He sees the wonderful creation He made. Never forget you are “fearfully and wonderfully made.” (Psalm 139:14) God’s works are wonderful.