Not So Perfect Parenting

A note to my regular readers:  You should feel very accomplished.  Whether you realize it or not, you have journeyed through the entire New Testament.  Ready to move on?  We're heading into the Psalms next.  Get ready to get your praise on!
Proverbs 22:6 Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.

I was ten months into the parenting adventure.  My Christmas list to do list was shaping up nicely:  Decorated tree - check. Hung stockings - check.  Presents purchased and wrapped - double check.  I smugly evaluated my performance as a parent and thought I was on my way to my first (of no doubt many) perfect Christmases.

Someone apparently forgot to tell my daughter about my master plan.  She spent the next 30 days breaking ornaments, gumming stockings and ripping wrapping paper.  That first Christmas didn't turn out as I projected.  In fact, the following fourteen haven't exactly gone according to my plan either.

Today I begin the book of Psalms with the first chapter.  This passage compares the person who leans on God to the one who attempts life without Him.  My greatest desire for my children is that they follow God with their whole hearts. 

Early on, I thought the key to my parenting success would be perfect holidays, the right set of friends and well-planned activities.  Somewhere after the third or fourth failed attempt at a Martha Stewart Christmas I realized I needed some Heavenly help.

Psalm 1 gives me God's parenting road map.
  1. Delight in God (Verse 2) - In what do my daughter's see me truly taking delight?  Adorable shoes marked 80% off?  The latest installment of my favorite show?  Another pound shed?  I must admit all these make me grin but what makes me truly shine?  I pray that it is my excitement when I talk to them about my love for Jesus.  The righteous delight in God.
  2. You are What You Think (Verse 2) - Where do I park my thoughts in the quiet of the car or those precious moments alone in the shower?  Too often my silent time composes lists - errands, groceries, projects. The righteous meditate on Scripture.
  3. Wait Patiently (Verse 3) - I'm not certain that I'd make a very good farmer.  I want to till, plant and reap in a span of a few hours.  It's easy to get discouraged with child-training when I don't see the immediate results I'm looking for.  The righteous puts forth fruit in due season.
Jesus, thank you for this powerful reminder that raising children is a marathon not a sprint.  Here in my not so Martha Stewart world, I lean on You. Today I will delight in You, meditate on Scripture and wait patiently for Your fruit in the lives of my girls.  You, the Perfect Parent, completes my not so perfect parenting.

Great Expectations

Psalm 5:3b In the morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation.

I walked in, smiled and shook his hand.  I quickly assessed the telltale tan line on his left hand. He's probably one of those scumbags who picks up girls at the office too naive to look for a ring mark, I silently appraised.  Though I must admit that I felt a certain animal attraction to said scumbag. 

With this strange allure, I found it difficult to concentrate on his questions and they were far from ordinary.  His inquiries were insightful, piercing and a touch provocative.  It was as if he could see beyond my resume to the carefully guarded person who'd just surrendered it. 

I entered expecting an ordinary interview.  I exited with a hazy memory of my answers.  Somewhere in the interview process, I became more enamored with the asker than my responses.

Today's passage is Mark 16.  It opens on that most exciting Sunday we refer to as Easter.  The women traveling to the tomb to care for Jesus' body are concerned how they will gain access.  Much to their surprise, the tomb is already open. 

No doubt this trio awoke to the expectation they would perform the typical Jewish burial treatment.  They were greeted not by death but life.  A young man sits in the tomb eager to turn their expectations upside down.  He calls Jesus "the Nazarene".  I think this is because that's who they anticipated seeing. 

They were going to the tomb to the body of a great prophet and friend, Jesus  They thought He was only the man from Nazareth. 

When I walked in that interview over nine years ago, I presumed just that - an interview.  What I received was an encounter with an intriguing individual who would a year later whisper in my ear, "I love you."  I expected a co-worker; I gained a husband.

What do I expect from Jesus?  Do I like those three Easter morning women, expect only a man?  I can know Jesus is more but not truly believe He will be. 

Jesus, as I walk into Your arms another morning, I ask myself what I expect.  I anticipate seeing You living, active, working.  You are not just Jesus the Nazarene.  You are Son of the Most High King.  Today holds great expectations.

I've Got a Ticket to Ride

2 Corinthians 5:14 For Christ's love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all

"Stand tall," I whispered in Hayleigh's ear as we approached the front of the line.  After an hour wait in ninety-five degree weather, we were all  eager to enter the water ride.  One final measuring stick loomed ahead.

Hayleigh slid up to the gatekeeper, stretched her back and tilted her head to its' highest position.  A tiny stream of daylight escaped in the gap between her head and the bar.  I donned my best sad eyes and asked for an exception.  None would be given.  Hayleigh stood just shy of the height requirement.

Today I am reading Mark 15.  Jesus appears before Pilate, receives an unjust sentence and receives His punishment.  Jesus hangs on the cross to bear the full measure of God's wrath and the penalty for the sin of all mankind.  The religious elite come to taunt Him, believing they have won a great victory.  "He saves others, but he can't save himself," they mock.  Their words are hollow and just shy of truth.  Jesus chose not save himself so he could save others. 

Too often I live my life just short of the truth.  No matter how hard I try to stretch, my back will only take me to the height of my limitations.  It's when I stand on the full measure of God's truth, I reach the places I dream.  Armed with the power won at the cross, God is able to work through me to accomplish far more than I imagine possible.

Jesus, today I dare to pen a God-sized dream.  I will reach for it mounted squarely on Your feet.  Braced by you there is no marker too high.  I can march through the line to the front of my dream knowing that You bought my ticket 2,000 years ago.  I've got a ticket to ride.

Famous Much?

Psalm 86:12 I will praise you, O Lord my God, with all my heart; I will glorify your name forever.

Singer.  Dancer.  Actress.  Model.  Perhaps it's a spot on the girl DNA.  All I know is all four of my daughters have dreamed of taking a stage and the world's applause with it. 

At Casa Milholland we're American Idol junkies and hold auditions often.  Out of the thousands...okay six of us...the same four are chosen every city, every season.  With my husband, Scott, and I in the judges' seats, our four girls are shoo-ins to make it Hollywood.  And they never get voted off!

Today's passage is Mark 14.  Jesus is hanging out at a dinner with friends.  At this gathering, one party-goer makes quite the impression.  It isn't clear if this lady was a guest or just crashed the party.  Either way the host's name is Simon the Leper so this definitely isn't an "A" list crowd. 

Our featured attendee grabs the attention when she pours an entire bottle of high-priced perfume on Jesus' head.  Her performance is met with criticism.  It was marked as wasteful and careless.  She would have "gone home" for certain had Jesus not intervened. 

Jesus is smitten by her heart.  She loves Jesus freely and gives to Him extravagantly.  When others want to send her home, Jesus declares what she did would always be remembered. 

Last night American Idol Season 10 came to a close.  Scotty McCreery was crowned the winner.  With his first words thanked the "Lord for getting me here".  Many will remember Scotty's performance, charm and kiss with competitor Lauren Alaina.  I will remember Who received the glory for his win. 

Jesus, my little girls dream of filling a stage.  Transform their dreams and mine.  As this one-act play called life unfolds, we each take a stage.  May our lives bring great glory and fame, not to our name but to Yours.

One Stone Unturned

Exodus 14:13 Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today.

I stood at the altar with tears streaming down my face.  I knew I was about to make a huge mistake.  But when I made the commitment to marry, I believed it would last a lifetime.  It never occurred to me years later the fabric of my marriage would be torn to pieces.  When my marriage ended, I never anticipated that God would offer me a second chance at life.  God, full of mercy of grace, gave me Scott and two more daughters.

When someone meets us and sees how well our lives turned out, we are often asked, "Was it God's will for you to divorce and marry?  Is this part of His plan?" This is a great question.  The answer is no.  Even knowing how amazingly happy and in love we are, neither one of would if we could turn back time divorce our first spouses.  We would stand in the most tumultuous moments of our marriage and try harder, give more and love unconditionally.  We believe through the power of God, our first marriages could have been saved.  We also believe that was God's perfect will for our lives.

This answer usually surprises the inquirer.  God has redeemed our mistakes for our good and His kingdom but it doesn't negate the sin we committed.

Today's passage is Mark 13.  Jesus peers through the lens of time to see Jerusalem destroyed.  He warns His disciples that some day no stone will remain of the city's hallmark - the temple.  This image was inconceivable.  They could not imagine a Jerusalem torn and destroyed.

Have you ever reached a point in life when your stones were tossed about?  If you're like me when you stood at the altar, birthed your child or started your business you could not imagine that day.  You were devastated when your daughter allowed drugs to destroy her life.  You were shocked when your business partner embezzled your profits.  How did life turn out this way?

Like me, if you could turn back the hands of time, you likely would.  You could get your daughter counseling early on or select a different partner.  I can not time travel back to 1990 and transform my first marriage any more than you can right the tumbled stones in your life.

So what can we do?  We can stand on the unshakable, unchangeable, everlasting Word of God.  As Mark 13 closes, Christ boldly proclaims that heaven and earth will pass away but the promises of God will not.  I stand in my current marriage and declare that divorce is not an option.  I can by faith choose to believe God and build my current marriage on the lasting foundation of Jesus Christ.

Jesus, when life crumbles, You stand firm.  You do not tremble at circumstances.  You have no fear of tomorrow.  Your promises hold true.  They do not fail.  Today I will stand on the Cornerstone.  You are the Stone Unturned.


Mark 12:30-31 Love the Lord your God...Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.

I'm hurting.  There's no other way to say it.  As my daughters have aged from the innocent play of toddlers to the tumult of complicated middle school and high school relationships, I aged with them.  One day my girls hosted play dates and tea parties; it seems the next they wrestled the girl drama monster.  When they struggle with loneliness or feel persecuted for their faith, I carry their pain.  It ages me and I hurt.

This morning I read Mark 12.  In this passage, Jesus summarizes Christian truth.  Love God.  Love others.  It sounds simple but it is a God-sized charge.

When some girl leaves my daughter out, I want to exclude her from my love in direct proportion.

When my daughter gets "unfriended", every cell in my body wants to demonstrate just how unfriendly I can be.

Then I remember this beautiful admonition to become a people lover.  Do I cry less tears for my kids because I choose to love?  No, but I make the decision to allow my tears to flood others with kindness and compassion.   Do I feel less angry over the hurt of one of my precious daughters?  No, but I use my passion to love unrestrained.

A few moments ago one of my daughters went to bed with tears streaming down her face.  I can't alter the hurt she feels, but I can channel it to greater love for Jesus and those He loves.  I can show her how to love the unlovely.

Jesus, You love every girl - the one who excludes and the one excluded.  You cherish the faithful and unfaithful.  Whatever side of that equation I or one of my sweet kids falls on, may I ultimately fall on Your side.  Your side is the one that loves others with grace, forgiveness and compassion.

His Grace Catches Me

Psalm 37:23-24 If the LORD delights in a man’s way, he makes his steps firm; though he stumble, he will not fall, for the LORD upholds him with his hand.

In the last five years my stilettos have become sneakers.  Life on the run with four kids is better navigated in practical footwear.  This day, however, was special.  I pulled out some three inch heels.  It was Easter Sunday.

Easter at the largest church in Memphis is packed.  People are everywhere.  Energy pulses through the air.  Jesus is risen!  His victory party causes all to smile and celebrate.

As I walked out to my car drinking in the excitement, I alternately smiled and sang under my breath.  I hummed those praises all the way down and stumbled and fell to concrete.  Those shoes looked great but caused an exit more humiliating than triumphant.

Today's passage is Mark 11.  It opens with Jesus arrival in Jerusalem.  He is greeted by shouts of praise and waves of palm branches, an event commonly referred to as the "Triumphal Entry".

I pondered that.  Was this truly Jesus' triumphal entry?  Was His greatest victory when the masses fell at His feet with homage.

His greatest victory walk would begin five days later down the Via del la Rosa.  This road led straight to the cross.  He walked to the backdrop of jeers not cheers.

The greatest moments of my life are not those when I receive laud.  They aren't when everything is going well and I have no worries.  The times of highest triumph are those of biggest trial.  It is when I fall that I fall on Christ.

His victory at the cross delivers the grace that catches me.  His moment of humiliation and anguish guarantees that I will never walk a difficult road alone.

Jesus, when I fall I fall on You.  Thank You for paying the price to guarantee Your arms of grace.  Your grace catches me.

Cling to the Right Customs

Romans 12:9 Cling to what is good.

Scott cleans his sports car after each use.  Hannah selects milk over any other beverage.  Hayleigh jumps on the trampoline following cheer practice.  Clara sticks her tongue in her cheek when she concentrates.  Carynne sleeps on her tummy with her arms tucked underneath her.

These qualities are unique to each of them.  I would never mistake Clara for the one polishing the car or Hannah for one with her tongue in her cheek.  They are habits so ingrained, they are a part of their identification of individuals.

Today's passage is Mark 10.  Jesus arrives in the region of Judea across the Jordan.  There He teaches the people.  What strikes me is Mark's description.  He teaches them as was his custom.  Jesus was known, identified by an inclination to instruct others about God.

As was his custom.  Each time I have traveled internationally, I went through Customs to reenter the county.  Customs controls what foreign substances come into our nation.  They regulate to keep the residents of America safe.

Jesus custom regulated what others thought about, listened to and consumed when they were in His presence.  He desired those around Him to feast on God.

Recently Carynne's (4) teachers inquired what her mom's favorite activity was.  Her answer:  sleeping.  Not exactly a home run of reputation.  If she were surveyed, she would identify me by my sleep.  Bummer.

If I could pick a custom to be known for, I would select encouraging others to see God in the every day of their lives and find joy in the ordinary.  That statement might be a bit over her head just now but someday I pray it's so a part of who I am that I am known, identified as that kind of woman.

Jesus, I want to make You my custom.  I long to grow in intimacy with You.  Today I will regulate what I think about, listen to and consume.  I will cling to You so that I can dwell more richly in the presence of the One who Teaches.

Lonely? Look Around

Psalm 62:6 He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken.

For over three weeks my husband has been helping to lead an effort to shelter and feed those who were displaced by the recent flooding in Memphis.  His work has great purpose. In the midst, he fights for time with his family.  He honors his commitment to lead our family spiritually.  He is on the phone A LOT.

His wife, aka me, wrestles with feelings of loneliness when his time and attention is captivated elsewhere.  I struggle as I vacillate between guilt and compassion.  He has one hundred percent of my support.  He also has one hundred percent of my heart.  I down right miss my husband and friend.

Today I am reading Mark 9.  As this chapter opens, Jesus leads Peter, James and John to the mountaintop where He will be changed before their eyes into His heavenly appearance.  Talk about your extreme makeover!

Appearing with Jesus are Moses and Elijah.  As quickly as they come, they go.  "Suddenly, when they had looked around, they saw no one anymore, but only Jesus with themselves." (Verse 8)  Do you ever look around and realize the road you're walking is a bit lonely?  I do.

These last few weeks have given me a glimpse into what James, John and Peter must have felt at the precise moment they realized this spectacular event had come to a close.  Let down.  Alone.  Tired.

As with any relationship, my marriage has its' share of trials but our marriage is spectacular.  So often the love I feel for Scott is so intense, it is palpable.  These last few weeks have left me disconnected from the one I love and weary.

In the middle of their let down, James, Peter and John need only look around.  Jesus was with them.

What comfort there is in knowing that Jesus is with me.  Whether I'm feeling elated or deflated, I am not alone.

Jesus, thank You for Your presence in my life.  When I long for relationship, I only need to look around.  I will see You with me.  You are in the lonely.  You are in a crowd.  You are with me.

I Can't See the Forest for the Trees

1 Corinthians 13:12a Now we see in a mirror, dimly (NKJV)

In early 2005, I was a lady of leisure for the first time of my life.  We lived in a new city.  We redefined our family with my new position - stay at home mom.  My youngest, Hayleigh, was in Kindergarten.  I enjoyed the greatest amount of free time life had given me since childhood.

It was at this freest point, that Scott and I chose to have our third baby.  My life was instantly hurtled from easy street to the intersection of overscheduled and outnumbered.  Instead of allowing myself to fully enjoy this new adventure, I mourned the freedom I thought I lost.

Today’s passage is Mark 8.  Mark continues to chronicle Jesus travels.  The journey leads to Bethsaida.  Here Jesus encounters a blind man but this healing is unique from any other recorded miracle - his sight is restored not instantaneously but in stages.

After the first round of treatment, Jesus inquires what the man can see.  As he tries to process the images he knows he is seeing people walking around but they look more like trees than humans.  A second round of care completes the process and his sight is fully restored.

My spiritual and emotional sight can be impaired by situational blindness.  I find myself immersed in my circumstances and fail to process my situation with the power of perspective.

Surrounding this incident, Mark records two additional events that inspire my use of a healthy dose of perspective:

1.  A Second Feeding - The disciples are charged by Jesus with feeding 4,000 hungry followers.  They have zero clue how to carry out this duty.  This wouldn’t seem strange except they already witnessed Jesus miraculously feed 5,000 people.

How quickly I too forget what God has done in my life.  How He has shown up.  How He has proven Himself faithful.  In the midst of my mess, I need to remember this isn’t my first feeding.

2.  A Bothersome Question - In the midst of this second incredible feeding, the Pharisees come to question Jesus.  He sighs.

I tire of the questions in my life.  They make me sigh if they focus my attention.  Jesus didn't stop His thoughts at His sigh.  He lasered on the truth of God's Word and responded with that truth.  In the middle of my trouble, I need to recall God's truth.

In a few months that third baby will go to Kindergarten.  I can not imagine life without her.  She and her little sister have completed the love and joy in our family.  I celebrate every busy, overscheduled moment her arrival brought with her.

Jesus, in 2005 I couldn't see the forest of the blessing for the tree of my immediate discomfort.  Like the blind man, You have restored my sight in stages.  I now see the full favor You gave our family in the package of our third child.  As I encounter new difficulties may I remember the power of perspective.  My new challenge will not be my first feeding.  The potential worries that come with that challenge disappear when I filter them through Your word.

Traditions Can Be Highly Contagious!

Mark 7:15b It is what comes out of a (woman) that makes (her) unclean.

For a week I sneezed, coughed, shivered, ached and perspired.  I was certain I would shake this "cold".  My immune system did not agree.  My battle for a drug free recovery lost, I went to the doctor.  I was diagnosed with infection in multiples zones and prescribed an antibiotic.  No harm; no foul...or so I thought.

This morning Hannah (15) woke up with a drippy faucet for a nose and a bad muffler for a chest.  I had not intended to pass on my illness but I had.  I'm willing to bet Hannah wishes I'd kept this pearl to myself.

Today's reading is Mark 7.  As this passage opens, a showdown occurs between Jesus and the local religious leaders.  They are incensed that Jesus' followers don't follow the tradition of ritual hand-washing before a meal.  Jesus, as usual, is able to sum the situation cleverly.  "You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of men," He notes.

This wise word from Jesus got me thinking about what it is that I pass to my girls.  Instantly I could envision them as adults with identical attitudes and words about various areas of life that I hold.  Am I inadvertently passing traditions to my children, I'll later wish I hadn't?  Will my words go viral and spread to all four of their homes?  Chances are yes. 
  • If I want them to enjoy food preparation, I need to express the joy of cooking
  • If I desire them to serve their families with gladness, I need to model the delight of keeping a home
  • If I would like them to become an asset to their husbands, I need to practice helping my own
Later in this chapter, Jesus reiterates that it is out of the heart, that the body speaks or acts.  My germs originate in my heart, incubate in my thoughts, spread through my mouth and are highly contagious!

Jesus, may the traditions I pass to my children be joy, humility and contentment.  These are antioxidants that will guard their hearts against the cancer of temptation that gives way to sin.  Today I will be intentional with my words and remember the eight little ears that hear and catch my traditions.

Nested in Christ

Matthew 12:33 Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit.

One of my favorite childhood stories is that of the “Ugly Duckling”. Victim of an egg-rolling mishap, he ends up hatched with ducks instead of swans. His duck family has little appreciation for his elongated neck and ivory feathers. The ugly duckling hunts for a creature like him.

He encounters a number of animals but each possesses different attributes than the graceful lines of a swan. Tired and ready to surrender, he swims around one last bend to see a family of birds glide across the water. They notice the ugly duckling and immediately recognize his features as their own lost cygnet.

Today I am studying Mark 6. In this chapter, Jesus travels to a number of locations. In his hometown, unbelief yields a lack of ministry. In the countryside, He feeds 5,000 men plus their wives and children with just five loaves of bread and two fish. On the Galilean Sea, He walks on water. The last stop is Gennesaret.

As soon as His boat strikes shore, the people of this region recognized Jesus. This is remarkable. There were no newspapers or cameras. The few artists were dedicated to crafting likenesses of the aristocracy not a common carpenter.

How I wonder was Jesus described in such a way that on word of mouth alone people identified Him?

Was it His eyes that pierced beyond the surface?

Was it His smile that radiated from His face?

Was it His posture that mixed humility with purpose?

Repeatedly Jesus referred to those who followed Him as His family. Jesus was distinguished without one formal picture ever taken. Do I bear a family resemblance?

Do my eyes see the needs of others?

Are my hands quick to lend aid?

Is my countenance a reflection of my kin?

Jesus, I want others to see You when they see me. I don’t want to be a roll-away egg that hatches qualities unrecognizable as Your own. Tuck me in Your nest. Speak gently to my heart. Mold me into Your undeniable offspring.

Inside Out

Matthew 23:27b You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men's bones and everything unclean.

As we waited, the compassionate doctor rewarded my companions, 5 and 4, with stickers.  "Look, Mommy, my stickers are a pencil, an apple and a Bible."  I smiled.  A quick glance confirmed my suspicions.  Clara's "Bible" was just an ordinary book. 

Later we sat at the pharmacy surrounded by canes and pill bottles.  The canes became crutches; the pill bottles maracas.  Several passersby snickered at my "elderly" preschoolers who hunched over their crutches, sang "I can't walk", and danced to a background beat played on their medicine drums.

Today I am reading Mark 5.  Jesus and His companions have traveled to the region of Gerasenes.  Here they encounter a violent, unkempt man whose resided in a cemetery.  Jesus smelled him before He saw him - his repulsive odor a mixture of filth and blood.

Just the image in my mind causes my to recoil.  Jesus, however, is not dissuaded.  He approaches the tomb dweller without hesitation, eyes the demons within and commands them to go elsewhere.  The result is a clean man with his sanity restored.

This morning I saw a book, a cane and a medicine bottle.  My children saw the same objects not for what they were, but what they could be.  I saw a symbol of debilitation, my children beheld a toy.  I viewed rows of medicines, they envisioned musical instruments.  I pictured an ordinary book, they spied The Book. 

When Jesus looks at us, He contemplates not what we are but what we can be:
  • Restored (The Cane) - Our lives are broken. Without Christ, we limp along a path that leads to destruction. Jesus sees a future filled with the joy of walking braced by His strength, not our own.
  • Healed (The Medicine) - Our hearts are sick. We need Christ to transform them with the music of His grace.
  • Connected (The Book) - Our souls are lonely. We need the fellowship of the Living Word living in us and with us.
Jesus, too often I'm a whitewashed tomb dweller. I look presentable on the outside but inside I'm falling apart. When I allow You to walk about in my heart, I come out restored, healed, connected. Today, I'll allow You to change me from the inside out.

Who Says Close Only Counts in Horseshoes?

Psalm 145:18 The Lord is near to all who call on him.

For the first few weeks I attended Clements, I thought our mascot was a piece of outerwear.  When I noticed the horse on the gym wall, I realized my error:  Our mascot was a colt, not a coat. 

Fast forward six years.  I no longer misunderstood my classmates.  I still didn't drink sweet tea, but in my heart I was a true Southerner.  These kids that I once couldn't even understand were my closest friends. 

Soon I would graduate from Clements High School.  Designated the salutatorian of the class, my class rank was second.  Second is great, except it isn't first.  I wouldn't have been so bothered by it, except I knew why I was second. 

It was not physics, trigonometry or biology that marred my academic record.  It was home ec.  That's right.  What I ended up doing every day of my life, is the one course in which I failed to score an "A". 

This morning's passage is Mark 4.  After a series of lessons, Jesus retreats with his disciples to the peace of the Galilean Sea.  Peace was swallowed by a furious storm.  As the waves crashed against the boat, it was almost swamped by them.

In all the times I've read that story I hadn't noticed the word "almost".  It may be the most important word in the entire story.  I have encountered many "almosts" in my life's journey:
  • Moments when my marriage almost didn't make it
  • Trials I almost couldn't bear up under
  • Worry that almost consumed me
I survived the almost because Jesus was with me, just as He was with the disciples in the boat.  He gave enough grace to heal my marriage.  He granted enough strength to endure the trial.  He dispensed enough peace to shoulder my worry. 

I thank God for the almost in my life.  I'm even thankful that I was almost first in my graduating class.  Because my sole "B" was in home ec, I rely on His strength not my qualification as a mother. 

Jesus, today I choose to celebrate the almost in my life.  Because You are with me, You transform my almost from failure to victory.  You are close and that makes my almost count as a win.

Is It Too Late to Surrender my Mom Card?

A Note to My Regular Readers:  I am taking a little side trip in honor of Mother's Day.  I will be back to the book of Mark shortly... 
2 Kings 14:2-3 His mother's name was...He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord.

It was my first trip through the entire Bible.  It had taken me nearly twenty years of my faith walk to make the decision to read the Bible cover to cover.  I was only a couple books in and already wanted to chicken out. 

I knew what 2 Timothy 3:16 said.  "All scripture is God-breathed and is useful."  Certain verses had special significance for me but all scripture?  I wan't convinced.  I was on book number three of sixty-six and found entire chapters dedicated to rules, regulations and genealogies.  How in the world was this useful?

Reading the Bible cover to cover isn't the only life goal I began but then wanted to punt from the list...

Being a mom seemed like a great idea.  After all, women had been doing it for roughly six millenia.  How hard could it be?  It was day one home from the hospital that reality slapped me right across the face.  This little thing cried at regular intervals throughout the night.  I could not reason with her.  She cried.  I obeyed.  I wondered if it were too early to start her on a scripture memorization plan.  She could stand a dose of Ephesians 6:1 Children, obey your parents.  So far, I had done all the obeying.

Have you ever wanted to turn in your Mommy card and pick a different life goal?

It was somewhere in 2 Kings I realized how thankful I was to have persevered.  A pattern emerged as I read about Israel's kings of old.  Some honored Jehovah.  Others led the nation into sin.  God recorded the names of their mothers. 

In ancient Israel, women possessed zero political power and few rights.  God counted them possessors of great influence.  Whether they were raising a king or a shepherd, mamas carved the course of the nation.

Night time interruptions.  Endless laundry.  Homework meltdowns.  These are opportunities.  They are moments of great influence.  They shape our nation. 

If I could sum up all the dreams I hold for my four girls in one phrase, it would be this:  That they love God with an undivided heart.

Jesus, many times I've considered trading in my mom card.  I won't quit. I won't stop short of all You dream of me to be.  I am a mom.  I am a person of great influence.  Someday may it be said of each of my girls:  She loved God with an undivided heart.  Her mother was Shannon Milholland.

Am I Doing TOO Much Good?

Psalm 62:5a Find rest, O my soul, in God alone.

Today I am reading Mark 3.  The scene opens with unusual bedfellows cooperating in an attempt to snare Jesus.  It was the Sabbath - the day designated by God for rest. Hundreds of rules were penned by various rabbis to clarify how to make the Sabbath a day of rest.  Jesus is faced with the opportunity to heal a man.    To heal would be to work.  Would Jesus dare to work on the Sabbath?

He does.  Jesus knows that a heart that loves God and loves His people does good even on the Sabbath.  That speaks to the heart of this mom who processes dishes, laundry and errands on every Sabbath.  It is what Jesus does next that might surprise this busy mom.  He still takes the time to rest (Verse 7).

Is it possible that I am doing too much good?  Jesus balanced giving with resting.  Perhaps I need to learn to as well.
  • Could my family eat on paper plates this Sunday?
  • Is it possible to take a day off from laundry and not become overwhelmed?
  • Could I squeeze an extra errand in on Saturday so I have more free time on Sunday?
Perhaps the best good I can do this Sunday is to just be with my family.  As I create space in my calendar, fun, laughter and love inevitably fill it.  That's six tanks filled for the price of one!

Jesus, I may do too much good on the Sabbath.  You designed my body, heart and soul to need times of rest.  For my family and for me, I choose rest.  This Sabbath help me do the greater good of just being with my family.  In You, my soul finds rest.

When Jesus Comes Home

Mark 5:19 Go home to your family and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.

Home.  It's a word charged with emotion.  Some welcome its' images of laughter, home-cookin' and love.  Others would rather forget its' silence, hurt and pain.  Home is not just a place.  It's a feeling.

In today's reading, Mark 2, Jesus comes home.  To celebrate, His town threw a great big welcome home party with Jesus as the guest speaker.  So many gathered that the bodies were packed tighter than carry-on luggage for a week-long trip. 

Of the many that congregated, four chose a fashionably late arrival but instead of toting the latest handbag, they brought a friend.  This friend was paralyzed.  They thought perhaps Jesus could help.  Word on the street was Jesus could make the lame walk.

Their hopes were dashed when they saw the crowds.  There would be no forcing their way through the crowd.  They pushed through their disappointment.  They brought him to Jesus another way.  They lowered him down through the ceiling. 

Mother's Day approaches in a handful of days.  Today my thoughts are toward moms who pray quiet tears for wayward children.  As I read this passage, I hear God's word of encouragement:
  • You Didn't Arrive Too Late - Whether it's a wayward cowlick or a wandering heart, moms tend to blame themselves.  We think we did too little, too late.  When these four late arrivals showed, the house was already full.  They probably felt the same way.  Does it feel like God's house is already full and He isn't hearing your pleas for help?  Know that you didn't arrive too late.  Jesus is waiting.
  • Word on the Street is Jesus Makes the Lame Walk - Has your child fallen so many times you assume he's lame?  The hours you spend on your knees, gives strength to the legs of your children.  Lower them into His care, He can restore their walk.
  • They May Come Home Another Way - I noticed the friend was brought to Jesus not by his aunt, pastor or mom.  He was brought by four friends.  Wait with the confidence that Jesus can bring them home another way.
Home is something we feel not just somewhere we dwell.  In the heart of every home is a mom.  She prays.  She pleas.  She waits.

Jesus, make our homes somewhere You would come.  Bring our children.  We wait confidently for that day.  We believe our children will come home and tell all You have done for them.

Casting Call

Psalm 73:26 My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

The wind sang through the trees.  The river laughed as it jumped over rocks and ducked under branches.  I stood at its' banks.  I observed nature - untamed, untouched.  I dreamed of the day I would cast a rod into the stream and retrieve a fish. 

Your first fish at the family cabin fetched a significant prize - the admiration of our grandfather and a silver dollar.  I stood at the bank and practiced with a rig seen only with my eye.  Eventually I tired but I left the riverside confident I would one day return and retrieve my reward.

Today I start a new book, Mark with the first chapter.  The stage is set by John the Baptist.  Jesus bursts onto the scene.  He first encounters Simon (Peter) and Andrew.  The two brothers were caught mid-cast.  As they tossed their net into the waters of the Sea of Galilee, they expected a catch.  We don't know if they hauled one in that day, but we do know Jesus tossed a new fish into their nets.  He invited them to fish for men.

I never caught my prize fish.  As I entered my school years, family trips to Colorado came less frequently.  My grandfather passed when I was sixteen.  My dream of a silver dollar perished with him.  By then I was casting for bigger fish anyway. 

I wanted a boyfriend so I could feel validated as a woman.

I dreamed of an important job so I could fill my closet.

I cast my empty net expecting to fill it.

What do long to see dangling from the rod of your life?  An attentive husband?  A bigger house?  A fulfilling occupation?  Grandchildren?  A comfortable retirement?

Twenty years ago, Jesus happened upon me.  I was busy casting my net.  He caught me mid-cast.  He invited me to follow Him and fill my net with a catch that would at long last satisfy my longings. 

Jesus, You satisfy.  I am tempted to pick up my rod and reel and cast my heart out to lesser things.  Instead I choose to toss my net with reckless abandon into Your ocean of love, grace, mercy.  Today I will answer Your casting call.

Breaking News

Matthew 28:6a He is not here.  He has risen, just as he said.

This morning the world woke up to a headline a decade overdue.  Osama bin Laden: terminated.  As the pundits weighed in, the reactions ranged from measured pleasure to downright elation.  Some called it the best news of their lifetime.  Our President proudly announced bin Laden's death and declared his demise a welcome event for all who love peace.

Today's passage is the last in Matthew - 28.  Long ago another radical was terminated for His crimes.  His regime threatened the underpinnings of His society.  His enemies celebrated His death - certain their problems had died with Him.

When His followers came three days later to care for His body, they found it removed.  Where could His body be?  The greatest press secretary of all time appeared just outside the Oval Office grave to make the announcement.  "He is not here.  He is risen, just as He said." 

In the light of the announcement 2,000 years ago, this morning's news pales.  Thirty-three years prior, that young radical entered the world.  His birth announcement read:  "Peace on Earth.  Goodwill toward men."  All who love peace welcome His birth.  All who love peace remember His death.  All who love peace celebrate His resurrection.

Jesus, there was only one greatest morning.  It was Your morning.  You conquered death without the assistance of a single Navy Seal.  No team of CIA agents could locate Your body.  You are alive.  In the face of any piece of news that seems earth-shattering or life-changing, may I remember that the most earth-shattering news is that You conquered death.  The most life-changing event happened 2,000 years ago.  Your resurrection obliterated the bondage of sin and death.  Now that is breaking news!

Like Dandelion Dust

Ephesians 1:4-5 For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will.

This weekend we rented the movie, "Like Dandelion Dust" which is based on the novel by Karen Kingsbury of the same name.  This story depicts the struggle born from the love of two mothers.  One is a mother by birth who loves her son enough to let him go.  The other is a mother by choice who loves her son enough to fight to keep him.

Today I am reading Matthew 27.  This passage recounts the trial, crucifixion, death and burial of Jesus.  From the cross Jesus cries, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"  This is a phrase that wrenches my heart every time I read it.  Jesus is separated from His Father for the first time since eternity past. 

Like any parent, I am struck by the incredible sacrifice not only by the Son but also by the Father.  What parent could willingly give up their child?  I thought of the mothers who bravely choose adoption for their baby armed with the belief that another home can better love and care for the child.  God sent Jesus not to a better place but to a world stained with sin.  The Father gave His Son not to be adopted but so that He could adopt us. 

"Like Dandelion Dust" made me consider the cost of adoption.  To be certain it is an expensive financial venture for the adoptive parents with a price tag of about $25,000.  There is another cost difficult to measure - this price tag is emotional.  Both sets of parents pay an emotional price - one of separation the other of assimilation. 

Jesus, before the world was formed, You planned for my adoption.  Then You provided for every cost.  You paid the price of separation and assimilation.  You were separated that I might join Your family.  You spread Your arms to blow God's love wider than dandelion dust.