I know God’s Calling for My Life

“God did not call me to do that.”

“Not everyone is called to be missionaries, so give some money and help these people tell the world about God.”

The only problem?  Jesus did not make distinctions when He said, “Go into the world and preach the gospel.”  It’s not just for a certain group of people. 

He never said, “If you feel called” He said “Go.”  That applies to everyone. 

Don’t feel the calling?  I bet Shadrach didn’t feel like being thrown into a fire. I bet Corrie Ten Boom didn’t feel like spreading the love of Jesus in a concentration camp. I bet martyrs didn’t feel like being tortured. JESUS DIDNT FEEL LIKE DYING ON THE CROSS!

Are you a Mom?  Be so wildly in love with Jesus that your children see Him as the very air you breathe!  Be so beyond patient that others notice something different about you and have to comment. And then answer!  

Are you a husband?  Love you wife like Christ loves the church. Daily die to her!

Do you drive?  Forget about road rage. Do you buy coffee?  Grab a cup for someone else. Invite a homeless person to church. Stop and chat with a lonely person. 

Be so crazy in love with the King of kings that you are a fool in love. Live like this is not your home!

And when you screw up, BECAUSE YOU WILL, the absolute biggest way that you can stand out among the crowd is to ASK FOR FORGIVENESS!  

Ask for forgiveness and FORGIVE, that is what I am called to do. What better way to preach the gospel?

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Spiritual Flesh and Blood 3

The funeral of my mother at the age of five altered my life forever.  We had been a happy family.  I was not only provided for, but I had been invested in.  I had been the child of my parents’ happy marriage which had spilled over into a happy home.  My father, a manly man, had been so pleased to work hard to provide for his wife and children.  He felt he was good and he felt God was repaying him with this happy life.  With the death of my mother, I also lost my father.  He could not be father and mother, so he decided to be neither.  I lost my childhood.  I lost my innocent happiness.  I stood at her funeral, holding the hand of an aunt that I did not know, and so unsure of the new emotion that I felt:  fear.  I was a motherless child.  

After the ceremony, the few people my family knew in our little town gathered at our house.  It was a small simple farmhouse but my mother had made it a home.  With her death, even our home died.  Now it was just a house.  It suddenly lacked the charm that comes when there is happiness in the air.  I stood in the corner near the staircase.  I was blocked by a wall, but around the opening I could hear relatives whispering, “What will Matthew do with these children now?  What a burden for him.”

No, I was not the only child of Matthew and Grace Parker.  I was one of three children.  I had a brother, David, who was four years older and a sister, Fern, who was two years younger.

The whispers continued, “She always spoiled them and now he is going to have to pay the price.”

“Well, I think he deserves it.  He should have taken better care of her.  It is his fault this happened.”

“All I know is that children are expensive.  He doesn’t have any money.”

“Well, I happen to know where he can find a new wife.  That is the only solution I know of.”

“You are exactly right.  I mean it.  I agree with you.  And he’d better come to terms with that sooner than later.”

This was followed by small snickers.  They were not possessed by demons.  These people had been saved by God.  But they had been stopped in their footsteps.  They refused to fight.  They stood in their comforts of life and did not want to be burdened by the troubles of this world.  When they were tempted, they quietly gave in and kept it hidden.  When demons told them to judge, they gladly obliged.  They were modern day Pharisees.  The demons could not enter their bodies, but they could sit on their shoulders and whisper into their ears and influence their thoughts and actions.  The demons promised comfort in this world in exchange for their cooperation.

This is how the community felt about their responsibility to fill in the motherly gap that we now inherited.  There was never a solution or an attempt at one.  Our happy home was never happy again.  We had lost Eden.

To be continued…

Dust and Shadows

9 years old and it is simply amazing what she can accomplish. I know that little girl inside and out, her strengths and limits, how she ticks, and what she can accommomplish. 

Summer days are our contradictions. Each day can be the extreme opposite of another. In order to defend myself in what I am about to tell you, I will first say that we just returned from a week’s vacation at the beach. There was nothing except play, family memories, and fun to be had the entire day. 

And then there was yesterday. Yesterday, my girl woke up to a list. Beside her list was my list. The two of us worked pushing out speed, racing the clock, accomplishing task after task after task. She is 9 years old and what she accomplished is impressive!  Get herself ready for the day, make bed, read two chapters of honors reading book, feed fish, give water to gecko, walk around the house and clean up any mess that belongs to Madison, practice piano, pass 1 level of rocket math division, read one more chapter, make a birthday card for Nana, a Father’s Day card for Grandaddy, vacuum, mop, set the table for dinner, and read another chapter from her book. 

And why do I make her do it?  Don’t I love her?  Am I not older?  Could I not accomplish these tasks with greater speed?

She is quickly catching up to me, but there have been nine previous years where I took double, triple, 25 times the time to involve and teach Madison in the daily chores that need to be done and the lessons that need to be learned. And why?!  Why would I have a three year old help me carry her laundry to the washing machine?

And you all know the answer. Because it is good for her. Because it is my job to teach her to be an independent adult. And that baby girl is going to make one amazing grown woman one day!  Because as she works, she learns to love work. And this is what Madison’s typical day looks like. But then sometimes, as happened yesterday, she puts a cherry on top and she goes above and beyond. Lastnight, Madison made a homemade apple pie for the family. (Not on her list) and then she picked up another book and asked her Daddy if she could read a chapter to him. (She did.)

And my day to day can be such a struggle. My spirit is willing but my flesh is weak. But sometimes, at the end of the day, I get a little glimpse of the woman that all her hard work is raising her up to be. And in these moments, I get a little “ohhhhh, I get it.”

Why does God make me work so hard every day?  Why do I hurt and suffer?  Why can this life be so tiring and painful?

Because he is making a list for nine year old Caroline and look at all the things I can accomplish because he is teaching me how to help this world. Once I was three years old and my tasks were so little as I did them with my Father. Now he expects more. And now I want to bake an apple pie for my family. I want to share the gospel wherever I go. I want that to be my priority and the center of my life. I want it to dictate where I live, what I say, and how I spend my time. 

My little girl is starting to dream. God has big huge plans for her. If you asked her today, she says when she grows up she wants to train dolphins. Give her time and she starts throwing in other animals that she wants to train as well. Point is, she has some big dreams. And if you ask me, she is firmly on track. 

What do I want to accomplish?  Is it to have lots of influential friends that like me?  Is it a newly remodeled wow inspiring home?  Is it finances of extreme comfort in the bank?  

Is it to welcome homeless people into my home?  Is it to be put in harm’s way so that I can help when emergency strikes?  Is it to tell other hurting people, no matter what the cost, about the amazing love of God their Father?

Oh Holy Spirit, I long so much for your presence. Give me hurting people in my path so that I can show them your love. Guide my steps so that I can serve the church. And then I will be a mature Christian, finally maturing into who you made me to be and then I will have intimacy with you as you accomplish the impossible in me. 

Everything else is dust and shadows. I will not settle. I will grow up one to do list at a time. 

This Being a Mom Thing 

Mother’s Day is beginning to decorate my home with homemade gifts stacked in a chair and fresh flowers from my husband. It weighs heavily on my heart to be celebrated. Should I be?  Should my motherhood be celebrated?

With the greatest of intentions, I have seen articles running around Facebook on the topic that are as empty, shallow, and impersonal as a Halmark card. One article stated for the low feeling mother, You are a great Mom because:  and it stated things like: You got out of bed this morning and you are trying.  On such, I hold back from adding to the comments, “Sometimes the first step to good change is realizing that you suck as a mom.”  

It is no secret that there are some really awful moms out there. And hey, I do NOT want to be one of them. 

Allow me to tell you a little story:

Third day of school, my newly third grader climbs into the back of my car on the third day of after school car line. I have learned not to ask her about her day, but give her a little time and then she will begin to spill. After a few minutes of silence, she began to speak in complete seriousness, “Mom, Mr. Parker said we are not going to have any more fun in school. It is all hard work from here on out.”  And then a sly smile began to creep upon her face, “…But guess what!  I still had fun today.”

And that, I believe, pretty much sums up being a Mom. If you are getting into this whole business for fun and happy days, you are in for a rude awakening.  To sum up motherhood by saying it is hard work is an understatement!  

It is more like always being in labor!  The day I birthed my little miracle was the most painful and the most wonderful day of my life!  But it wasn’t because I was trying to have fun. I was trying to survive!  And then all of the sudden, I was so incredibly madly in love with someone that I was meeting for the very first time that had brought me more physical pain than anyone else I had ever known. That is what motherhood is like. 

This being a Mom thing is hard work!  It can’t be explained!  But I think we should stop trying to enjoy it so much!  I think we should stop trying to make everything so pretty, stop bribing our children, stop handing out so much candy, stop trying to have it all together, and be ok with our kids crying and embarrassing the shit out of us!

Hey, I do not like to discipline. I would much rather make her bed than take longer to teach her how. I think our kids need to learn how to behave at a restaurant rather than watch the iPad.  I think we need to be on our knees begging God for our children to love the Lord with all their heart and mind and soul because we care more about that than what other people think about us. I think as a Mom I should not be able to spend a day at the spa or get the house I want because I am doing without (whatever that thing is for you) so that my child can learn a new skill I never knew or go to the school that is the best for her or whatever. It is about sacrifice. 

I want to hear the truth!  

“THIS LIFE IS NOT ABOUT YOU!  It never was!  If you do not put Jesus before yourself, how do you ever expect to be of any worth to your child?!  Be the person you want to be your child’s role model!  This little life is your responsibility!  It is hard work!  Understatement!”

And then after an absolutely exhausting day, I want to lay down in my bed. I want a little sly smile to cross my face and I want to proclaim, “Know what?  I still had fun!”

So…should we be celebrated?  Should I be celebrated?  For me, it is a day to hug and kiss my little baby. To thank her for all my homemade gifts. To appreciate my husband for all his plans. And to say, “THANK YOU JESUS for seeing fit to make me a Mom!  I give myself to you. Please use me to direct this amazing blessing to you and to your amazing plan for her. It sure is crazy hard work!  …and I am enjoying it.”

She Praised God

“I can play it?”  Her eyes lit up with curious excitement. 

“Sure you can.  Let me get my bloodwork done and then we will go down there.”

She turned and gazed at the shiny black grand piano with great admiration. Then she looked up at all the floors it would reach through the open halls and the massive waiting rooms that would all hear her music. With a nervous second thought, she changed her mind, “No, I don’t want to.”

She had already ridden with her Daddy and I the good time of seven hours from home to our hotel. She had missed school this very day, which believe it or not, is a huge negative to her. She had woken up early to sit and wait during my neck ultra sound. She sat again and waited through, not one but two doctor appointments. She now sat waiting again for me to have bloodwork accomplished. After that, it was promised we were done for the day and we could hit the road again. Late night travels would ensure she could go on the field trip with her class the following day. She didn’t really want to make that linger. 

“I’ll let you change clothes into your new dress before we leave like you wanted to.” I offered up as a bribe. 

“Ok.”  She gave in, a bit happy to be persuaded, because she wanted to play that beautiful piano anyway. 

After being poked and prodded, the day of appointments were done. But there was one more thing we had to do at Duke.

Standing in the basement is a grand piano. It is surrounded by cancer patients and their families waiting on the Doctor. The ceiling opens up to four more floors of more cancer patients, families, and waiting rooms. 

She shyly sat down at the grand piano, much finer than her usual instrument and she laid her small nine year old fingers across the keys. 

Praise God from whom all blessings flow. Praise Him all creatures here below. Praise Him above ye heavenly hosts. Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Amen. 

The tunes of the Doxology rang throughout the hospital. It was melodic, soothing, and cheerful for its surroundings. It was even more impressive at the hands of a child. 

But, for her story, it was more. Heaven above raised their voices in song. The angels sang praises to the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Time stands still in heaven and Madison’s entire life played out. 

The specialist told her parents that they probably could not get pregnant. They said that even if her Momma did get pregnant, she probably could not keep the baby. And then after no problems and a beautiful pregnancy, a little miracle is born. And then the doctors say that she has 50% chance of having cancer. But where there is no time and they did not have to wait three months to know that she tests negative for the gene. This little miracle girl grows up taking her Momma to doctor appointments at Duke. 

She did not think, as her fingers struck the keys, of the beauty of her little life joining with the angels in song, as she sat in the hospital where science said she would never be. 

Praise God from who all blessings flow!  My little girl was born to praise God. Amen. 

And how many times will she do something so very simple and not even know the impact it has on eternity?

Momma is Packing

“There are three types of people in this world:  sheep, wolves, and sheepdogs.  

Some people prefer to believe that evil doesn’t exist in the world, and if it ever darkened their doorstep, they wouldn’t know how to protect themselves. Those are the sheep. 

Then you’ve got predators, who use violence to prey on the weak.   They’re the wolves. 

And then there are those blessed with the gift of aggression, an overpowering need to protect the flock. These men are the rare breed who live to confront the wolf. They are the sheepdog.”  

-quote from Chris Kyle’s father in the movie, American Sniper 

Oh gracious we have come a long way!  From the pilgrims that died of starvation and sickness while seeking religious freedom to the PC police that call out every single damn little word that hurt their tender little feelings. (As a little side note, these wolves sometimes disguise themselves as “Christians.”)

And I have this baby, this girl that has been running ahead of me since she was born. A tough little cookie that is growing up a Noah in this world of sheep and wolves and where does she fit?

Well, if I may, this woman I am is a natural sheep. I like to graze in my little pasture and lay in the sun and drink from the clear flowing creek and not worry about what is beyond the fence and get along with all the other sheep. 

But then something happened. She is blonde and loves every single animal (even the ugly scary ones) and reads every single written word put before her. 

And I took one look at her and fell so deeply in love and then I stared that big bad wolf in the eyes and said, “Ohhhhh HELL NO!”  

And while I do not always write to one particular group, I realize that I am writing to parents here, and educators, and leaders, and those that care to voice their opinions to influence others. We have two jobs in this life as mom and dad and those caring for children:  protect and prepare. 

Protect.  I have been accused, the finger is pointed and they think they are laying the final blow, “Your daughter is in a bubble.”  My response?  “Hell yeah!”

Do you know what this world is like?!  In big ways, my daughter is protected that she has no clue what it means to be hungry. My daughter is among the few children that still lives with her mom and dad. She does not know what it means to wonder where we will sleep at night or how are we going to pay for medicine or any of the other luxuries that so many of us in our protected culture take for granted every single day!  

But do not think for one second that while I am protecting her, that I am not preparing her!  While we are laying the Biblical foundation at home, we are preparing her faith to be attacked. While we are strengthening her confidence, we challenge her to stand up for the weak. 

Lord Jesus, I am overwhelmed!  I am just a little sheep!  But you are not only a sheepdog, YOU ARE THE SHEPHERD!  You love your sheep!  You are not afraid of the wolves. And you have sent your sheepdogs into this world to protect. 

So, while I bring my little sheepdog every day to the Shepherd for lessons and while I know that my power and protection come from the Shepherd, when I am just a sheep hanging out with my sheep friends in this world of PC sheep that do not even believe that wolves exist, I have been pushed to the limit where I do not have the luxury to be silent anymore. I am stepping out where I know I am going to get shoved back and I know not everyone agrees with me. (AND THAT’S OK!  I am perfectly content to agree to disagree!) 

But when civilians are being massacred in GUN FREE ZONES, it is ignorance to claim that we need more gun control!  When ISIS is thinking up new cruel ways to murder Christian children, we can no longer tolerate leaders that will not identify radical Islam as our enemy because they are afraid of hurting feelings!  We have moved past that!  

And I will close my, what I hope is seen as a thoughtful opinion backed up with facts and not a rant, with something I believe so firmly in that has been lost in our modern comforts:  The Second Ammendment. 

“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

So, while everyone likes to talk about “my rights,” what really is my right?  Well, one of them is to carry a gun. Go ahead. Label me. 

Screw Up and Move On

Roast and potatoes were simmering at a low temperature in the crockpot, a fire burning and sending a glow through the room set off the cold weather outside in a perfect comfort of a home that was my dream come true. The floors glow freshly mopped and the last load of laundry has been put away. Madison’s homework is completed to perfection and a little ahead of schedule. We slide into the newly refinished chairs with an afternoon snack and time to spare for a game of Chess. This is my perfection. More so than the winter ice that quickly melts with the change of season, I wish I could freeze and live in this moment forever and ever. An eight year old daughter that still needs me to style her hair in the morning, a husband that will walk in the door after a hard day of work at any moment, and the general good mood that I let determine way too much of my world. 

Literally, the only difference was laying down for a night’s rest. I slept hard and my dream wasn’t over when the alarm clock yelled at me, rudely interrupting my comfort.  As soon as I get started, I am running late. Madison is grumpy and complains about the uniform that she has to wear every day. I am grumpy that James has not brought me a coffee yet. My clothes are not complementing me like I want them to and my hair looks hideous. I stumble past the unmade bed to the kitchen with a sink full of dishes and an overflowing trash can. Where in the hell did this mess come from?!  My good mood is gone. 

To fault, I am an idealist and a perfectionist. My realist husband lives in this same morning as me and he sees (or doesn’t even see) the mess and interprets, “This needs to be cleaned up.”  I see:

I am a failure. My life is awful. I am a horrible wife and mom. Why can’t I wake up early and make eggs and bacon for my family?  Why does this world have to start so early?  It is my fault Madison is grumpy. Where is my coffee?  It is James’s fault. He must not love me. 

It take two cups of coffee for me to move on. But as this same scenario plays in my world almost EVERY SINGLE DAY, I am starting to learn that failures are what matter. Weird, huh?  Here is what I mean:

When I am grumpy, am I a yeller?  When Caroline doesn’t get her way, that determines if I am a selfish or giving person. When Madison’s homework is stressing us to the limit, am I patient?  When James tells me “no” to something I want to purchase, how do I take it?  It is the hard times, not the “my perfect world” times that determine who Caroline really is. 

How can I make a mistake and learn from it?  When I sin, how can I ask for forgiveness?  How can I give my life, all of my life, the good and the ugly to serve my family and others?

When my schedule is packed full, Lord, send me someone for me to help.  When my budget is tight, Lord, show me someone that has less than me that I can strengthen. Oh God, I want those in dire need right in my obvious path!  Because this is the meaning of giving.  That is service. When it hurts, when I am grumpy, when I lack energy, that is when it is not me because I can not do it. That will be God in me.