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My husband gave me a great gift and sent me to the Gospel Coalition Women’s Conference this weekend.

Thousands of women.  Incredible Bible teaching.  Beautiful moments of worship.

One highlight: Listening to verse -by-verse exposition of Revelation 4 and 5, having our hearts and minds filled with scenes of heavenly worship, and then wholeheartedly singing, “There is a Higher Throne,” led by the Gettys.

I got off the plane, was greeted with a swarm of smallish arms all wrapped around me, and the strong arm of my husband drawing me in.

Then someone had to go potty. Right! Now!

We took the kids for a special treat and they started arguing over who got the most Slurpee.

We got home, and I noticed the full laundry hamper (truly a happy sign of a fun weekend with Daddy),

Daddy was off to a meeting, and I was pretty sure I smelled something that didn’t belong upstairs in a bedroom.

Soon I was bathing my little girl after a potty accident, kneeling beside the bathtub, telling her how much I missed her while I was gone, how much God loves her and how He can wash all her sin away through the blood of Jesus.

Then it was on to prompting another child along in his bedtime prep, brushing some teeth, hanging up Sunday morning’s dresses, kisses and prayers, and heading downstairs to pick up the evening’s clutter and wash up the dishes…

The bathroom-taking, argument-breaking, clothes-washing, dish-washing….this is where I can display the glory of God in my life.

I came back from the conference with a full mind (session after session packed full of biblical truth!).  But as I was scurrying around from task to task, Paul’s words to the Corinthians kept coming to my mind,

And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.

I can put my mind to work, applying my attention and intellect to understanding the beautiful intricacies of the Scriptures.  I can delve into commentaries and theological works, both incredible gifts to the Church.  I can raise my hands in worship in response to hearing God’s Word.

But if I come home and can’t kneel and wash my little girl… I’ve gained nothing.

If I can’t put down my computer and play a game with my boys… my learning has been in vain.

If I sit down in the morning and delve into verse-by-verse inductive study, but don’t get up from my quiet time ready to lay down my life for my family, church, and community, I have simply exercised my mind but my heart remains changed.

Hearing the Word must result in true worship of the Savior and a deeper love for Him and those He has put in my life.

So my prayer this week is that His grace will keep me coming back to His Word, His grace will keep me studying, and then His grace will take that reading and studying and transform my heart so that I can worship and serve.

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Mom! He has my belt!

Mom! She won’t give me my stuffed lizard!

Mom! He took my money!

These cries from my children pierce me, too hard. Didn’t we just talk about dying to ourselves? Didn’t I just patiently explain to them that Jesus died for their sins so they are no longer slaves to sin, slaves to these desires that rise up within them so strong? Didn’t I just ask them to think about how much God loves them so that they could love each other with His kind of love?

Aren’t I doing things the right way? Then why aren’t they? Why aren’t my children responding the way I want them to? Why aren’t they following the formula? Didn’t they read the same parenting books I did?

My motives and true desires are so exposed when things don’t go as I planned!

Am I laboring to raise my children for His glory, or for mine? Did I read the books so that I could find The Path to Raising Christian Kids, or is this parenting thing really all about us- me and my children learning even more to lean on Him, to surrender to His good plan?

If I read the books, if I gave them the talks, to bring glory to God, to shine the spotlight on Jesus and His incredible work on our behalf, why am I so anxious when they don’t respond, when they turn right around and have the same fight all over again?

Didn’t I just ask Him to glorify Himself in any way He chooses in my life? Didn’t I just surrender my hopes and dreams for my children and our family to Him? Am I already taking it all back, setting up my own kingdom so quickly after declaring His Kingdom and His will are my greatest desires?

Ah yes, I am prone to wander just like my children! I, too need a fresh look at the Savior. I need a new reminder that I serve a King who sits on His throne, that He is writing a story, a Grand Story, to bring Himself fame and glory and honor. And He has included me and my children in this Story of redemption and grace.

But we are not the stars of the Story.

The Grand Story He is writing does not depend on my kids getting it right this morning, on them taking in my well-crafted talk and responding immediately and completely.

No, He is writing His Story, and all of our stories, the good and the bad, to showcase how amazing He is, how perfect and glorious.

Even now, while I wait for the fulfillment of His purpose, while I wait for my hope to be realized, I can be encouraged I can even be changed– by the words of John in God’s Revelation to him,

Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!

I can take my focus off of myself and my expectations for my kids, and I can bring my attention instead to the heavenly scene John described in his book,

And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying,

“To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb
be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!”
And the four living creatures said, “Amen!” and the elders fell down and worshiped.

I can be free to parent in grace, to parent with real hope.

Hope that His plan will be accomplished. His perfect plan, crafted in Love, to bring Him the most glory. The glory of God is where my true joy must begin. That is where hope can finally take root in my heart.

Here, at His throne, I can release my children from the expectation that they must bring me glory. Before Him, I still must teach and train and show them over and over again the beauty of the Gospel truth. I can tell them they can be set free from sin because the Savior lived the perfect life and died in their place and rose again. Here, before Him, I can teach and train and pray, and leave them in His hands.

I don’t have to take their sin and failures personally, I don’t have to get depressed or anxious when they are not responding.

I can look hard and see where He is working in their lives instead of trying to pound out every bit of disobedience and bad attitude.

I can discipline and teach with great hope and expectation that One Day, the end of this life will come, and we will enter into His Rest, we will bow before Him, and we will also join this heavenly scene,

And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb… and they sang a new song, saying,
“Worthy are you to take the scroll
and to open its seals,
for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God
from every tribe and language and people and nation,
and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God,
and they shall reign on the earth.”
Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands…

(Revelation 5:8-14 ESV)

Several years ago, my good friend very accurately told me my life motto should be, “Why stand when you can sit?”

Not-lean.  Uncoordinated.  A reader.  That girl in school you really hope doesn’t get picked for your kickball team.  The lady in front of you in church who can’t clap and sing at the same time.

Yeah, that’s me.

And I’ve been ok with that.  I love watching all the good dancers at weddings.  I am perfectly content making dinner while my family plays soccer.  Sometimes I even sit on the deck with a good book while they have their crazy fun.

But a while back, I started seeing a problem with the way I was living.

The problem comes because I need a strong heart to be a good mom to my kids, to mother them without falling on the couch in exhaustion every afternoon.  I need stronger muscles so I can hike with them when we go to the mountains.

And most importantly, I need a strong spirit- my real, forever heart- to fight the good fight of life well. And I can’t do that if I stay content with my weaknesses, if I keep coddling myself.

All this sitting and watching, all this keeping myself safe under my crocheted couch blanket isn’t making me stronger, isn’t making my heart yearn more for Him.  

In fact, my safety in doing only what I am good at, what comes easy to me, might actually be producing bad fruit in my life.  Self sufficiency.  Lethargy.  A heart that takes refuge in comfort instead of in the Comforter.

So, a couple months ago, after a long while of reading, thinking, researching (things I am good at!), I finally felt Him nudging me out of my safe place, into a pair of running shoes, and onto the pavement.

Even after almost 4 months, I still don’t know a lot about stride, pace, and pronation.

But I keep putting my shoes on and hitting the road.  Keep putting one foot in front of the other.

I still have to walk during a ‘run.’  I get out of breath and feel sick and I am eagerly waiting for the infamous runner’s high (does that really exist?).

Sometimes I tear up and want to cry when I come around the corner and see my house. One day, I walked in the door after a run and just sobbed into my husband’s arms, “I can’t do this!”

I fight to put my shoes on, to get out the door.  I have read that it gets easier, and it also doesn’t get easier.  A hearty yes to both of those sentiments.

This is an ugly business, this putting off the old and putting on the new… this training of body and heart.

But my legs and lungs are getting stronger, and so is my reliance on the One who graciously showed me my need for change and Who has given me every once of strength and any bit of resolve I may have to keep going.  Seriously, running is so far out of what I have ever done or have ever even wanted to do, there is no explanation except the grace and mercy of God.

Running is simply one way I die to myself and live for Him.  Laziness and love of comfort are two habitual sins that tempt me.

But God gives me strength, and help, and courage.  He does not just give me help, He is my Help.  The more I think about what He has done for me, how He has completely justified me through His Son Jesus, the more I strength I have to walk in the truth that I am a new creation, I am no longer a slave to my passions and my comfort.  I don’t have to stay the same.

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