Freedom from Mom Guilt

Those who look to him are radiant; 
their faces are never covered with shame.
Psalm 34:5

The first hour of the morning is often the worst part of the day in my house. The hustle and bustle of getting three boys dressed, fed, and lunches packed while they are constantly distracted to do anything but leaves me anxious and frazzled. I can’t tell you how many times I’m heading to work wishing I could have a do-over.

Since do-overs are not possible and the morning logistics are not changing anytime soon, I began to wonder what can be done? No matter how well I plan my time in the mornings, doing as much as I can before the children awake, things happen. Namely, emotions happen. They’re tired or whiny. They don’t want to get dressed or eat as quickly as I want them to. I feel my patience thinning as I make second and third requests for shoes to be put on.

When I don’t tend to my emotional state, the irritation grows to anger and I end up speaking louder and with more condescension in my voice. And that’s what I feel guilty about. That’s what leaves me wanting a do-over. It’s not that we are late or that bellies are empty or arms are bare on a chilly morning. The actual stuff that needs to happen, happens. It’s the way in which it happens that I want to change. I want to handle myself differently.

As I look to free myself from this mom guilt, I’m reminded of Psalm 34. This passage was written by David after he had done something extremely shameful. While running from King Saul, who was trying to kill him, David pretended to be insane in order to avoid being identified. In fear, he allowed saliva to fall to his beard, a sacred part of his body. This helped him escape, but I’m sure he felt the sting of guilt afterward. He had dishonored the Lord and himself. I imagine he would’ve liked a do-over.

But what strikes me most is the way David deals with his shame. He knows exactly where to go for comfort – the Lord. He begins the chapter with praise, having already accepted the forgiveness God so freely offers. David understood that God was not an irritated, condescending Father who would shake His head or turn away when David repented. David understood the character of God to be loving and forgiving like that of a parent who welcomes a child in after making a bad choice and sits them down over warm chocolate chip cookies and ice-cold milk to discuss. Verse 4 says, “I sought the Lord, and He answered me;  He delivered me from all my fears.” God didn’t make David feel worse about what he had done – the magnitude of his choices did not elude him. Instead, the Lord’s radiance extended to David’s face, cleansing him from the guilt and shame.

On my most difficult mornings, I have the opportunity to do the same with Jesus. When I pause to look at Him rather than the chaos around me, I find peace. I can be free from mom guilt because He always extends an arm around my shoulders, comforting me and calming my fears of failure. He doesn’t reprimand me or say, “You better get it right next time, or else!” He’s more like a warm hug of encouragement saying, “You can do this. Just keep your eyes on me.”

I’m never going to be the perfect mom. Thankfully, I don’t have to be. God’s grace covers what’s been done so I can embrace what’s to come. Freedom from mom guilt provides a fresh slate to move forward upon. And who knows, maybe I will get it right the next time.

To Walk Where Jesus Walked

If I had to describe my recent trip to Israel in one word, it would be overwhelming. While there, every part of my being was overcome with stimuli – physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. From the time we arrived until we departed I struggled to get my bearings on what I was experiencing.

Previous journeys I’ve taken out of the US have been to South America, to which travel time was short with minimal change in time zones. I had no idea how physically taxing a trip around the world is. Sitting on an airplane for 16 hours prompted neck, back, and leg soreness which I tried, in vain, to alleviate by frequent trips to the restroom.

I left my airplane seat for good once we arrived in Tel Aviv at 9 am. Our hotel rooms would not be ready until the afternoon, so we made good use of the day in Joppa (also called Jaffa). We walked and walked, ate some lunch, then walked some more. By early afternoon, I could no longer keep my eyes open. Thankfully, it was time to check into the hotel and I took a nap. Little did I know then that I would fight to keep my eyes open nearly every day of the trip.

We covered hundreds of miles by bus and on foot while in country. My shoes collected mud from Mount Arbel. I wiped sprinkles of rain from my face in Capernaum. Fierce wind atop Mount Carmel blew my hair into a frenzy. My legs felt the gentle sway of the Sea of Galilee. My eyes witnessed place where Jesus was crucified and the empty tomb where His body had been laid. My heart skipped a beat upon entering the Garden of Gethsemane. From climbing the southern steps to tunnel navigation through the City of David, our bodies were physically challenged every day.

Our tour guide made sure I was mentally challenged each day as well. Her understanding of the history of Israel and the Jewish people and how they both have Biblical relevance was astounding. I willed my mind to recall what limited Old Testament knowledge I have, but was frequently lost in the details. As if drinking from a fire hydrant, my mind was overloaded with information at every stop. Methodically trying to download as much as my brain could handle, I vowed to read my Guide to the Holy Land book later that evening. Yeah, that never happened.

Perhaps the most overwhelming part of the trip was the emotional roller coaster we road. Each day invoked a variety of feelings ranging from anticipatory happiness to sobering reverence. I imagined the excitement of those who saw Jesus riding into Jerusalem on a donkey via the Palm Sunday Road. Sadness settled in my spirit as I sat under an Olive Tree, remembering the time Jesus begged for an alternative to the cross. Peace washed over me as I envisioned Jesus on a hill, teaching the people of God’s care for the birds of the air, the flowers of the field, and for them. Love swelled my heart as I began to understand the Lord’s sovereignty for His people.

Last, but not least, was the way my spirit was overtaken during my time in Israel. On more than one occasion, the hairs on the back of my neck stood up as chills covered my body in response to the Holy Spirit. His presence gradually pealed back layers of callus built up on my heart from years of trying to pretend I have it all together. Day by day, my heart softened to the truth of His love. On the southern steps of the Temple, I came face to face with a clear picture of the way God sees me – a priceless, beloved daughter worth dying for. I was undone by the weight my sin and the price He paid for me to have eternal life. It was then that I realized how nothing I do, nothing I say, and nothing I accomplish or fail to accomplish influences my position as His child. His love overshadows all offenses made against me and compels me to forgive others as He has forgiven me.

Jesus didn’t just walk the streets of Israel two thousand years ago, He walks them still today. His footprints have left an indelible mark on that land and because of that, I will never be the same.

The Evidence is on Your Face

Those who look to him are radiant;
    their faces are never covered with shame.
Psalm 34:5

Last week I made dark chocolate pudding popsicles. They were amazing, if I do say so myself. My son thought they were amazing, too. The evidence was all over his face. His brothers and I began to tease him about the melting chocolate goodness dripping from his chin. He didn’t care, he was enjoying his dessert. He didn’t mind that others could see the proof of what he had eaten.

A great deal can be told through the look on our face as well as the look of our face. Spending time in the sun reveals a deeper complexion. Spending time in the anesthetist’s chair reveals clean, shiny skin. Spending time in braces reveals a beautiful, straight row of teeth. From an external standpoint, others may know what we have done or where we have been by simply looking at our face.

The same was true for Moses. In Exodus 34 we find the account of his time spent with the Lord on Mount Sinai. Because the first covenant tablets, the ones with the Ten Commandments inscribed on them, were broken when Moses threw them to the ground in anger at the appearance of the Israelites worshiping a golden calf, he went up the mountain a second time.

When Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the two tablets of the covenant law in his hands, he was not aware that his face was radiant because he had spoken with the Lord. When Aaron and all the Israelites saw Moses, his face was radiant, and they were afraid to come near him. (Exodus 34:29-30)

Imagine if Moses came down the mountain no different than when he went up. Would the Israelites believe he had spent time with the Lord? Sure, he had tablets in hand, but those were nothing compared to the evidence of the glory of the Lord left on his face. There was no denying Moses’ connection to the Father and the rest of the Israelites revered him as such.

Matthew Henry comments, “Holiness will command reverence; but the sense of sin makes men afraid of their friends, and even of that which really is a favour to them.” The Israelites likened Moses’ radiant face to that of the Lord’s. Their sin made it difficult to approach Moses as a fellow human while the glory of the Lord shown about him.

The fact that Moses didn’t realize the radiance of his face lends to the intimate relationship he had with God. Moses didn’t do anything to earn God’s favor; the Lord’s blessing was placed on Moses in response to his willingness to obey. Rather than being transformed by this encounter, it seamlessly became part of his being.

This passage illustrates to two ways in which we can experience life –  as a direct reflection of the Lord’s Glory or as an onlooker, fearful of approaching the throne. Ask yourself,

1. Does spending time with God leave evidence on my face?
2. What is preventing me from experiencing the Glory of the Lord in my life?

James 1:23-25 says, Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. Whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do

Our appearance will change after being with the Lord. Our demeanor will reflect His peace. We will receive the Lord’s favor.

Dear Heavenly Father,
You graciously extend blessing upon blessing, even when we don’t deserve it. Thank you for the example of Moses’ willingness to intently look into Your perfect law, receiving Your Glory as evidenced on his face. May we desire to seek you in a similar way, finding favor in Your sight.
Amen

 

The Only Valentine

He conspicuously ushered the young couple into the church. They loved each other and wished to be married.

After a discussion of the meaning of Christian marriage and God’s intent for them as husband and wife, he agreed to unite them through holy matrimony.

During this particular time in Rome, the Emperor had forbidden the marriage of young people. But, for St Valentine, serving the Lord was more important than serving the emperor. Therefore, he married couples quietly. He knew it was risky. He knew he could be thrown into jail. He knew he was doing the Lord’s work.

Unfortunately, St Valentine was caught and thrown into jail. Eventually, he was beheaded for disobedience to the Emperor. But his obedience to God lived on. His reputation grew into one of the greatest Saints martyred for love – the love of The One Valentine, Jesus Christ.

Although we consider Valentine’s Day a time to celebrate love between people, the meaning originates in God’s love. The flowers, chocolates, and cards we use to communicate our love for others, pales in comparison to the love Jesus has for us.

Whether you are single, dating, engaged, or married, Valentine’s Day can have significant impact. When Jesus is our One Valentine, we will never be let down by what we did or didn’t receive or experience. He will never leave us with unmet expectations. And with Him, every day can be Valentine’s Day. For He has loved us with an everlasting love; He draws us with unfailing kindness. (Jeremiah 31:3)

Consider what the Lord says in Hosea 2:

She will chase her lovers,
But not overtake them;
Yes, she will seek them, but not find them.
Then she will say,
‘I will go and return to my first husband,
For then it was better for me than now.’ (v 7)

I will betroth you to Me forever;
Yes, I will betroth you to Me
In righteousness and justice,
In lovingkindness and mercy;
I will betroth you to Me in faithfulness,
And you shall know the Lord. (v 19-20)

May the Lord be your Valentine this year, for He is The Only One who loves us with an everlasting, never-ending, unrelenting affection far greater than what we could ever experience in human form. He considers you His bride. Will you consider Him to be your  husband?

Dear Heavenly Father,
Thank you for being a lover of our soul. When we feel lonely and discontent with our relationship status, may we turn to You. Be to us The Only Valentine we need.
Amen

When You Aren’t Feeling Cherished

via Daily Prompt: Cherish

My grandfather is on Hospice Care and will likely go home to be with the Lord in the next few days. He will be the first of my four grandparents to pass. I’m sure it will be difficult on my family, especially my grandmother, as they have been partners in crime for over seventy years. When asked how she was doing recently, she responded, “We’ve had a good life together and we will be together again one day.” She cherished my grandfather and he cherished her.

I’m sincerely grateful for the example of faithfulness and commitment in my grandparents and parents. Staying married “’til death parts us” is a difficult feat in and of itself, but enjoying your spouse for a lifetime is a completely different ball of wax. One that is not without effort on both ends.

But what if that’s not your family tree? What if your mother wasn’t cherished by your father or vice versa? What if the history of your family is riddled with brokenness, abuse, or neglect? Witnessing love and affection between parents may be a foreign concept. To you, marriage is an unnecessary commitment guaranteeing pain and rejection.

Unfortunately, this is true for far too many people I know. Thankfully, many of them have begun to look to their Heavenly Father as an example of love rather than their earthly fathers and husbands. Because the reality is, each member of our family is a sinful, flawed human being, lacking the ability to be the perfect example of love. Because of that, we can expect to experience feelings of loneliness and rejection from time to time. We may long to be loved, cherished, and accepted.

But, not feeling cherished doesn’t change the fact that we are.

When you aren’t feeling cherished, consider this:

The Lord has loved you with an everlasting love. He draws to you with unfailing kindness. (Jeremiah 31:3)

God has engraved you on the palm of His hands. (Isaiah 49:16)

Jesus gathers us in His arms and carries us close to His heart. (Isaiah 40:11)

You are precious, honored, and loved by the Father. (Isaiah 43:4)

It’s easy to look to others to make us feel loved, valued, or cherished. And although the marriage covenant is ideally designed to meet our needs in that way, it doesn’t always work out like that. But when our Heavenly Father becomes our ultimate source of affection, we don’t need it from others. His love far surpasses anything we could experience through human interaction. Allow Him to lavish you with affection and adoration, for You are the prized treasure He has created you to be.

Lord,
Thank you for the everlasting love You have for me. You hold me dear to Your heart, You care for me, provide shelter and comfort. You are all I need when I’m not feeling cherished by those in my life. Help me to believe Your opinion of me higher than anyone else’s.
Amen