Category: SGMRadio.com archives

A what spirit?

Originally published: Adventures in the Life of a Southern Gospel Wife ~ february 2009 ~ SGMRadio.com

Have I mentioned that I am Irish and Italian?

I don’t say this to encourage stereotyping, but it is a long-running joke with those close to me that is called upon to explain my temper…and my temperament. I am by nature sarcastic, hotheaded, defensive, and a slammer/thrower (door, drawers, remote controls against walls).

Fortunately, God’s presence in my life means I have a new nature.

Unfortunately, I don’t always put on the new nature. You can get a witness, and his name is My Husband Rod.

Let me take you on a jaunt through a portion of 1 Peter, chapter 3. I’ll be honest with you: there’s some stuff there I don’t like. Mainly, verse 4 is what bugs me, because what it says is not dated or potentially offensive in a politically incorrect sort of way (as the “submit to your husbands” of verse 1 is often considered). What it says is rather lovely and promising, and seemingly rather impossible for this Irish-Italian warrior maiden: (Name origin: Kelly = warrior maiden. I’m not making that up).

“[Your beauty] should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.” (New King James Version)

A what spirit? Quiet? Gentle? Huh?

Here are a few more confessions for you: I want to be unfadingly beautiful, in God’s eyes and in my husband and children’s eyes and in the eyes of the other moms at the library story hour and those skinny girls who are too small to buy off the rack at Old Navy. This is part of the reason I refuse to leave the house without make-up and part of the reason I’m praying and sometimes cursing my way through Weight Watchers.

I realize that this passage is speaking about inner beauty and well, I want that, too! But quiet and gentle? REALLY? Even as it relates to my family – especially as it relates to my family! – quiet and gentle is not my way.

Quiet and gentle translates to me as passive, weak, dependent, and mamby-pamby, traits I am intentionally teaching my daughters not to have!

The opposite of quiet and gentle – all the attributes I listed above – well, I like to think that those things just show I am a passionate person, and we’re supposed to be excited and zealous when it comes to God and our family, yes?

(Sigh. My guess is that “quiet and gentle” and “passionate” are not mutually exclusive).

So as I talk myself into acceptance of this admonishment (I had to deal with the submission thing a long time ago), I’m also pondering why exactly God has called me (and the rest of you wives) to be quiet and gentle.

What I have come up with is in no way earth shattering, but it’s certainly challenging: We, the women, the wives, the moms, are to set the tone for our home.

If we are high-strung, tense, combative, impatient, loud: what kind of home can we expect to have?

We have four kids. Until recently, they all lived with us. So now we’re down to one teenage girl, two toddler girls, a very loud and blissfully ignorant dog, several businesses run out of our dining room, frequent visitors, and too many TVs and phone lines and iPods and toys that sing and beep. It gets loud enough without my nevermind being added to it.

I get that. So what do I do when something drives me over the edge, be it the defiance of the eldest child, who just moved out with a big “in your face” to us or my struggle with winter depression?

Superficial answer: Hightail it to the Bahamas. (Who doesn’t love a January gospel cruise? Can I get a big, fat “Amen” here?)

Truthful answer: I was neither gentle nor quiet as our son, in his breezy, 18 year old manner, packed his T-shirts and video games and left our house. Possibly, some things were slammed by me in the immediate thereafter. And just yesterday, when the winter blues were so large and looming that I didn’t even notice that the sun was shining, I slammed a few more things and yelled at my two year old for saying “Mommy” too much and almost took Rod’s head off for, um, emptying the dishwasher.

(Ouch. It hurts to write that).

Truth: Putting on the new nature – in this case, the quiet and gentle one – is not to be done without help…from the One Who calls us to it.

In this passage of scripture, God is calling wives to a whole lot, six verses worth of tasks. It’s almost as bad as Proverbs 31! But as it goes with our God, who is kind and loving and really, really smart: if we follow these precepts, there is a reward.

In this case, it is something that we are in desperate need of right now: Hope. Do you feel that desperation, sisters, when you watch the news? Does your heart literally sob at the sights and sounds and just mere thoughts of women in Haiti who have lost their children, watched them die? Do you mourn for the American women who proudly sent their children to protect ideals of freedom and bravery but will never see them again? Are you haunted by infertility or a prodigal child or a chronic illness, or a have you been left to handle it all by yourself?

Hopelessness and fear are what God calls us to conquer in 1 Peter 3. We yell when we are scared. We enter into conflict when we feel no one else will protect what is dear to us. We lose hope when we take our eyes off our Savior. The enemy of our souls knows this, and he will seek to rob us of what we already know.

God says in 1 Peter 3 that if we are gentle and quiet in spirit, he will make us daughters of Sarah. Do you remember what happened to her? As an infertile mama, I remember it every day! Even in her lack of faith, God blessed her with her most precious desire: a son. And then he blessed her again and again and again and…you get it.

As I write these words, hope is rising in me. I have no hope of being all God called me to be without His help. But I have no doubt, none at all, that His help is available to me in all that I do. He will help me to be patient with my children, even when they are drawing on the kitchen floor with markers or screaming for hot chocolate while I’m on the phone with Random Important People, even when their laundry is piled so high that their whole bedroom smells like a moldy sock, even when they are moving in with another family just to escape us. God will help me to answer my husband with kindness, even when I’ve gotten myself and the girls ready for church and he’s not yet dried his Southern Gospel coif. God will help me to navigate excess belly fat that can only be eradicated by zero-point cabbage soup, endless gray days of winter, passive-aggressive Facebook statuses posted by toxic friends, and being unfollowed on Twitter for my taste in music, politics, and non-organic food.

It’s time for me to bite the bullet in this way. The immediate and fleeting satisfaction of a grown-up version of a temper tantrum in no way compares to having “great worth in God’s sight.” Can I get an “Amen?” That’s one word we don’t have to say quietly!

Clearing the Space

Orginally published: Adventures in the Life of a Southern Gospel Wife ~ January 2010 ~ SGMRadio.com

The twist-ties from the Made in China extravaganza litter every hidden crevice of the house. The food that inspired belly rubs and third helpings is wrapped in its Gladware, likely until trash day. The cookies, initially attacked while they were too hot to eat, are reduced to stale crumbs, and my insistence on playing Christmas carols until New Year’s Day is now met with rolled eyes instead of goofy sing-alongs. The decorations feel like clutter. Oh, and at least two strings of lights plus the tree top are now officially burned out.

Post-Christmas can be depressing. Nothing looks as magical as it did the weekend after Thanksgiving. The anticipation is gone, and it seems the wonder is as well. We know the answer to this: it lies within the misplaced good intentions of what we make Christmas. This Christmas night, after a good cry, I told my husband it will change next year. I will not spend all day in the kitchen. I will not spend all month writing cards to people I never see and shopping for that “perfect thing” when the kids are happy with Target’s dollar-bin spatulas. I will not let another Christmas Eve AND Day go by without heading to church to set aside time, real time, to reflect on the Reason why we bother, or at least, what is supposed to be the Reason. The build up and the aftermath of our Christmas this year was simply lovely, but the day seemed empty, and that’s part of why my “resolution” for the New Year seems so clear. It’s time for a cleanup.

When we got back from our “2nd Christmas,” the one in Ohio with Rod’s family, I spent the evening indulging in my OCD with several categories of trash bags, baskets, and bins, organizing the girls’ new toys and getting rid of things with missing pieces or whatever they don’t play with. I made a stack by the tree of unopened packages to return or give away, because I don’t think more than one set of creepy giggling Elmo hands (yes, HANDS) should be allowed in one household, and I don’t envision my husband, who keeps his shoes on until bedtime, relaxing in a Snuggie, ever, even if it is Kentucky blue. Rod laughed at me as I classified art supplies, play-kitchen accessories, and plastic musical instruments for our 3 and not-quite-2-year-olds, but the process was cleansing for me… and inspiring, too. As I sorted and tossed, I smiled at the memories already being made by our young children, how Kaity excitedly refers to our “Christmas Treat” (tree), how we sang “Happy Birthday” to Jesus, how the most animated Miranda was on Christmas Day was when my dad blew bubbles for them in our family room, how they love to dance at the end of every movie with their daddy and me.

Why, in light of all the simple and good that comes naturally, do we feel the need to fill our Christmas with Stuff? Just one more DVD, gift card, shirt, baby doll with party and play clothes, Meaningless Thing? It’s the same reason, I suppose, we do it to our lives. There are so many pretty, snazzy, hi-tech, competitively-priced gems out there that are often hard to resist. Who doesn’t want a bargain coffee grinder? A two-for-one zoo membership that can only be used on Wednesdays? A gift with purchase?

I think, for 2010, my answer to those questions is Me. I don’t want anything else. I don’t want another item in my house (I even resisted the Kitchen Aid mixer offer. You cooks know how hard this was! But you also know how much space one of those requires, and my counter doesn’t have it).  I don’t want another activity, no matter how fun or reasonably priced, written on my calendar.

What I want is to take care of what has been given to me as a steward, a disciple, and a leader in my family. I wrote last month about simplifying, and that theme continues to build as I ponder the unnecessary. I don’t need to dress my toddler in a sweater/coat/hat/gloves/boots to take her to music class when we can sing and dance in our kitchen. She won’t need a full pasta dinner for 30 to celebrate her 2nd birthday; she’ll be happy with familiar faces and macaroni and cheese. And 500 people on my Facebook list whom I haven’t seen in 20 years or who never comment on anything likely don’t care if the pictures of her in her birthday dress make it online before midnight.

I am not criticizing any of these things, but I am making it my goal for the year, for my family, to put away and when necessary, throw away, that which muddies the space, regardless of how pretty it is. The model for the family we have is as simple as this: Our kids need us, and we need God. It is more important that I spend time with my Lord than I spend time categorizing our digital photos and correctly tagging my blog posts. It is more important that I spend time hugging, singing to, and blowing bubbles for my kids than baking them a castle cake (which will inevitably look like a misshapen lump anyhow) or finding them the perfect version of “Jesus Loves Me” on iTunes (what could be more perfect than our, ahem, special version of three-part-harmony?). It is more important that I call a friend or my cousin or my Gramma when I have 10 extra minutes than I scroll through to see what 30 random people are cooking for dinner (Note: I’m not leaving Facebook, just putting it in perspective).

When I look ahead to the coming year, I see opportunity run amuck for my family. The tasks we’ve already taken on are growing. New doors are waiting to be opened. Likely, we will be forging new ground that will change everything for us. We don’t have room for anything extra, be it gadgets, pounds, or organized play. Time is precious, that which we dedicate to our Father and that which we share with our loved ones. How will we spend it?

I vote for spending the first portion of that time clearing the space. Then I vote for singing and dancing on whatever floor we find ourselves.

Happy Clutter-Free New Year. May God bless you with health, opportunity, and many reasons to celebrate.

The twist-ties from the Made in China extravaganza litter every hidden crevice of the house. The food that inspired belly rubs and third helpings is wrapped in its Gladware, likely until trash day. The cookies, initially attacked while they were too hot to eat, are reduced to stale crumbs, and my insistence on playing Christmas carols until New Year’s Day is now met with rolled eyes instead of goofy sing-alongs. The decorations feel like clutter. Oh, and at least two strings of lights plus the tree top are now officially burned out.

Post-Christmas can be depressing. Nothing looks as magical as it did the weekend after Thanksgiving. The anticipation is gone, and it seems the wonder is as well. We know the answer to this: it lies within the misplaced good intentions of what we make Christmas. This Christmas night, after a good cry, I told my husband it will change next year. I will not spend all day in the kitchen. I will not spend all month writing cards to people I never see and shopping for that “perfect thing” when the kids are happy with Target’s dollar-bin spatulas. I will not let another Christmas Eve AND Day go by without heading to church to set aside time, real time, to reflect on the Reason why we bother, or at least, what is supposed to be the Reason. The build up and the aftermath of our Christmas this year was simply lovely, but the day seemed empty, and that’s part of why my “resolution” for the New Year seems so clear. It’s time for a cleanup.

When we got back from our “2nd Christmas,” the one in Ohio with Rod’s family, I spent the evening indulging in my OCD with several categories of trash bags, baskets, and bins, organizing the girls’ new toys and getting rid of things with missing pieces or whatever they don’t play with. I made a stack by the tree of unopened packages to return or give away, because I don’t think more than one set of creepy giggling Elmo hands (yes, HANDS) should be allowed in one household, and I don’t envision my husband, who keeps his shoes on until bedtime, relaxing in a Snuggie, ever, even if it is Kentucky blue. Rod laughed at me as I classified art supplies, play-kitchen accessories, and plastic musical instruments for our 3 and not-quite-2-year-olds, but the process was cleansing for me… and inspiring, too. As I sorted and tossed, I smiled at the memories already being made by our young children, how Kaity excitedly refers to our “Christmas Treat” (tree), how we sang “Happy Birthday” to Jesus, how the most animated Miranda was on Christmas Day was when my dad blew bubbles for them in our family room, how they love to dance at the end of every movie with their daddy and me.

Why, in light of all the simple and good that comes naturally, do we feel the need to fill our Christmas with Stuff? Just one more DVD, gift card, shirt, baby doll with party and play clothes, Meaningless Thing? It’s the same reason, I suppose, we do it to our lives. There are so many pretty, snazzy, hi-tech, competitively-priced gems out there that are often hard to resist. Who doesn’t want a bargain coffee grinder? A two-for-one zoo membership that can only be used on Wednesdays? A gift with purchase?

I think, for 2010, my answer to those questions is Me. I don’t want anything else. I don’t want another item in my house (I even resisted the Kitchen Aid mixer offer. You cooks know how hard this was! But you also know how much space one of those requires, and my counter doesn’t have it). I don’t want another activity, no matter how fun or reasonably priced, written on my calendar.

What I want is to take care of what has been given to me as a steward, a disciple, and a leader in my family. I wrote last month about simplifying, and that theme continues to build as I ponder the unnecessary. I don’t need to dress my toddler in a sweater/coat/hat/gloves/boots to take her to music class when we can sing and dance in our kitchen. She won’t need a full pasta dinner for 30 to celebrate her 2nd birthday; she’ll be happy with familiar faces and macaroni and cheese. And 500 people on my Facebook list whom I haven’t seen in 20 years or who never comment on anything likely don’t care if the pictures of her in her birthday dress make it online before midnight.

I am not criticizing any of these things, but I am making it my goal for the year, for my family, to put away and when necessary, throw away, that which muddies the space, regardless of how pretty it is. The model for the family we have is as simple as this: Our kids need us, and we need God. It is more important that I spend time with my Lord than I spend time categorizing our digital photos and correctly tagging my blog posts. It is more important that I spend time hugging, singing to, and blowing bubbles for my kids than baking them a castle cake (which will inevitably look like a misshapen lump anyhow) or finding them the perfect version of “Jesus Loves Me” on iTunes (what could be more perfect than our, ahem, special version of three-part-harmony?). It is more important that I call a friend or my cousin or my Gramma when I have 10 extra minutes than I scroll through to see what 30 random people are cooking for dinner (Note: I’m not leaving Facebook, just putting it in perspective).

When I look ahead to the coming year, I see opportunity run amuck for my family. The tasks we’ve already taken on are growing. New doors are waiting to be opened. Likely, we will be forging new ground that will change everything for us. We don’t have room for anything extra, be it gadgets, pounds, or organized play. Time is precious, that which we dedicate to our Father and that which we share with our loved ones. How will we spend it?

I vote for spending the first portion of that time clearing the space. Then I vote for singing and dancing on whatever floor we find ourselves.

Happy Clutter-Free New Year. May God bless you with health, opportunity, and many reasons to celebrate.

The Simplest Thing

Orginally published: Adventures in the Life of a Southern Gospel Wife ~ December 2009 ~ SGMRadio.com

I have a confession: I have really not started ‘Christmas’ around here at all.

We have no photos for the Christmas cards.

We have no Christmas cards.

I have not made a list, much less checked it twice.

I have not found even one of those ‘perfect gifts’ for someone.

And I sort of don’t care.

As our family looks back on 2009, we see a big whirlwind of not just activity but big life changes. My husband’s career changed. Our ministry has changed and expanded greatly. Both Rod and I are stay-at-home, work-at-home parents now, and so the dynamics of our home have changed dramatically. We have a post-high school kid in the house. We have one who is making plans to travel to Europe with her high school choir. We have one who got herself out of diapers and into Princesshood. We had one in the hospital… twice… who is into everything else the rest of the time!

Because of these changes, and the changes in the world around us, we are simplifying as much as we can. We are planning, when the time is right, to move into a smaller house and, like many, having one car. We are eating at home much more often. We are enjoying what we already have instead of wishing for the next shiny thing.

I don’t just want the simple things; I feel called to them. I feel like there is too much to do… loving our family and paying forward the love of Christ… to focus on the petty and the complicated.

I don’t want to debate the importance of the sexual orientation of the latest American Idol or whether reading Dan Brown novels or letting my kids watch Disney movies is evil. Nor do I think God is spending much of His time worrying about more than the condition of my heart, as that is where my actions will begin.

Along those lines, and like good Christians are supposed to, (please note sarcasm), I have just read The Shack, by Wm. Paul Young. I am now trying to keep my thoughts simple as I ponder its message and why it is so riveting to so many people.

The Shack strikes pretty much every emotional cord I have. It’s not much of a spoiler to tell you that a young child is murdered in this book, and as expected, her disappearance and death cripple her family. This is not the first time I am telling you that this very kind of thing is my worst fear, worst nightmare, and I am essentially avoiding tales like this, because there are enough real life ones to keep my tissue boxes empty.

The first problem I had with The Shack is the same I have with Dan Brown novels: interesting concept, riveting storyline… pretty mediocre writing. The descriptions have not passed the Show Don’t Tell 101 test, the protagonist’s inner dialogue is often trite and tinny. And as is the case with too many country and gospel songs bearing the word ‘angel’ in the title, the situations were manipulative.

Moreover, I fear that like anything on Oprah’s list of cultural must-haves, this book is going to mislead people. It presents a very wordy, complicated, and causal view of the gospel that can’t even really be equated to The Gospel, and because it is presented via very lovable and loving God-characters, it’s easy to swallow.

In fact, as I was on an airplane home after four long days away from my kids, reading about this poor, grief-consumed father getting to see his child’s joyful romp in heaven, I was swallowing it too.

And then I started to research and review, and realize that The Shack isn’t much different from the ‘prosperity gospel,’ or drive-thru church, or ‘more than one way to Heaven’ or whatever you want to call it. The Shack’s story is telling people that God would never punish His (or Her!) children, because sin is punishment in itself. It tells us that God will submit to us because He wants to form a circle of relationship with us. And while that is some lovely ear candy, it contradicts what the Bible tells us.

The Bible tells us that God hold us to standards and gets angry when we rebel against them (Matthew 25:31-46, for one example).

The Bible tells us that sin has consequences. (Romans 6:23)

The Bible tells us that God is Lord of all. (Revelation 17:14)

Maybe that’s a letdown compared to The Shack’s bear-hugging, big-dinner-cooking Mama-God who admonishes us gently for our forays into independence but basically, eventually, gives us everything we want. But it’s what the Bible says.

Don’t be disappointed though: here is what else The Bible tells us:

God loves us. He loves us so much He made a perfect world for us to live in, with beautiful things to look at and smell and taste. He gave us companions to love and with whom to experience joy. And – ready for the simplest part of all? –

He gave us His Son… His Son… to bridge the gap between God and us that we created. He sent Jesus – Immanuel – to be God with us.

(That’s why we’re stringing the lights, baking the cookies, and catching up on Martha Stewart watching for centerpiece-inspiration, my friends!)

There isn’t much ‘southern Gospel wife’ or ‘adventure’ in this message – and it’s not for the lack thereof in my life or heart – but I would be remiss to hold from you any message I feel has been given to me and through me. And I am not saying don’t read certain books or listen to certain speakers, because I believe every person has to decipher for herself what is truthful.

I just believe that perhaps I am not the only one being called to the simple.

At Christmas, the world around us tempts us with 500 Ways to Make the Holidays Prettier, More Colorful, and More Stressful; it tempts us to look at sources other than God’s Word for our truth. And the truth, it bears repeating, is simple:

“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:14

Bobbing for Grace

Orginally published: Adventures in the Life of a Southern Gospel Wife ~ November 2009 ~ SGMRadio.com

And God said unto Balaam, Thou shalt not go with them; thou shalt not curse the people: for they are blessed. – Numbers 22:12 (King James Version)

“Be careful what you write, for you shall possibly be called to live it.” Steven Curtis Chapman

Last spring, I heard an Evangelist Jim Velazquez of Santa Fe, New Mexico teach on the above scripture from Numbers. Of the many points Brother Velazquez made, the one that was circled and starred in my notes was: “GOD DOES NOT CURSE US. SATAN TEMPTS US OUT OF OUR BLESSING AND WE CURSE OURSELVES.”

That’s pretty easy for a Christian to believe, right?

Well, sure it is. We get fed the word GRACE since before we even know what it is.. you know: it’s amazing, it has a sweet sound and all. Even so, sometimes it’s the part of this whole believe-receive-go to Heaven deal that’s the hardest to believe. It’s the easiest promise to slip away. Grace, after all, is more than saving us from eternal damnation. Grace means God actually likes us, loves us, favors us, wants good and happy things for us.

I had my own lesson in the meaning of grace when God blessed me with my babies. (If you’ve read anything I’ve written before, you may have noticed this gets mentioned nearly every time!) I thought I couldn’t get pregnant because God was punishing me for stupid, hurtful things I had done. It took the not-so-gentle admonishment of a dear friend and mighty woman of God to say tell me how misguided I was – and it took five positive pregnancy tests to make me finally believe it.

Ever since then, I can honestly say I have believed in the grace. But this year.. wow.. 2009. It’s been a fairly great year for my family. A lot of doors have opened for us, even amidst some disappointments. But for other people, mostly people in the outer edges of our ‘circle,’ people we can’t quite touch or comfort directly, this has been the worst year ever. There have been terrible losses suffered.

The latest happened again just a week ago. Some of the most kind hearted, fun loving, full-of-the-joy-of-the-Lord people I have ever met suffered a nightmare. And for a few hours, maybe even longer, I doubted the grace. I doubted enough to get mad at God, at my Savior. I asked Him why He let things so awful happen to good people, people who serve Him, people who sacrifice for Him.

And then once I asked that question, the thought in my mind became: I wouldn’t want this to happen o anybody, whether he was serving God or not.

So the question came back on me, and the answer is the one we usually get when we question God’s ways. They are higher than ours (Isaiah 55:8). He makes no promises that our lives will be easy (John 16:33). And then there is the one that sends me for a tailspin: Psalm 84:11 says no good thing will [God] uphold from they walk uprightly.

Because of this, I suppose it’s no surprise that our human minds turn to devastation and doubt when one who is walking uprightly in every way we can see is caused to suffer what we cannot fathom.

I think of this often as my husband ministers. He sings one song in particular, about the trials of Job, which, in light of the words from Steven Curtis Chapman above, make me tremble a bit. Job.. he lost everything! – all of his children, his health, his financial security, his lifestyle, the encouragement of his friends, and the support of his wife. Any one of those losses would send me reeling. And yet, Job remained, in the eyes of God, the most faithful man in the world. If I take what Mr. Chapman says to heart, and Mr. Burton keeps singing songs about amazing saints preserving in the wake of horrible grief.. what does that mean for us?

I know. This is November. I should shut up, shout a “Hallelujah,” and pass the gizzard stuffing and gravy. But life just isn’t like that. Being a Christian isn’t all happy all the time.  Sometimes the joy of the Lord seems as elusive as the slippery apples our kids go bobbing for throughout this harvest season. But His grace doesn’t have to be. His love is as sufficient as a pile of mashed potatoes and as filling as a green bean casserole and as exciting as a day when eating three kinds of pie is perfectly acceptable.

We have to wash our hands and fill our plates with His goodness.. and hold tight to the promise that it will take us through times that are quite the opposite of good.