The Most Important Thing in Building a House

IMG_8455

I never thought I’d be hearing a sermon in my bathroom.

I stood among the sheetrock dust and cast off nails and listened as my tile guy told me how he could not put the tile on the wall the way I envisioned. On the far right and far left of our newly constructed master bath stood our bathroom vanities – one for me and one for my husband. On the floor was some type board to go under the tile, that had been recently nailed into the subfloor. The shower was tucked in the corner and coated with red waterproofing.

My tile guy, Randy, stood in the center of the bathroom where my tub was to sit, behind him were red lasers running the length of the wall and floor to guide his tile installation. This was the wall where I dreamed of large white textured tiles running from floor to ceiling.

My husband and I are in the home stretch of building our dream home. We moved from the city to the country to build next door to my parents. My brother and his family live on the other side. Through the process there have been lots of ups and downs. I’ve learned a lot about pressure treated pine, building codes and the true meaning of “estimates.” (It means add 20% to your estimated cost and pray to God you don’t exceed it.)

Randy walked to the wall where the laser made a line parallel to the floor and measured from floor to line. Then he walked across to the opposite wall and measured again. “Yep,” he told me. “It’s 7/8th of an inch difference from one wall to the other. If you run tile all the way to the ceiling vault, you’ll be able to see that.”

Let me be straight with you. I know there are more important things in life. People starving. Those who don’t know Jesus. Too many kids in the foster system. Homelessness…just to name a few. In comparison to the big picture, me not getting tile on the wall behind my tub doesn’t even rank a blip on the radar. It’s not important.

But, it was a little disappointing nonetheless.

I stood there looking at the floor with my wary eyeball trying to see the difference in height – which I couldn’t – and imagined the framers as they put the floor down. Honestly, in this process I’ve learned how one small decision or mistake anywhere in the course of the build can alter the whole thing.

“It’s crazy how one small thing being a little bit off can affect every single thing that comes after it,” I told Randy.

From behind me, Randy’s helper, Anthony, spoke up, “It actually goes all the way back to the foundation. If your foundation isn’t right, everything in the whole house is off. The foundation is the key most important element in the whole build.”

I’m pretty certain my mouth hung open a second as I realized the sweaty, dust-covered man in front of me had preached an entire sermon in one statement.

I chuckled a little and told him, “Preach it, brother.”

You don’t have to build a house to need that important information. Your foundation– everything you believe and stand on – must be strong in order for your life not to fall down around you at the first storm.

That foundation, the building blocks of your life and who you are, must be in Jesus Christ. He alone can smooth imperfections and level out floors. Have you ever tried to put something together and realized it won’t work because you don’t have something lined up just right? It can be frustrating. But don’t give up. It’s never too late to start over with a new foundation in Christ.

And if you forget, don’t worry. Wherever you are, God will remind you – even in the bathroom.

For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 1 Corinthians 3:11 ESV

Carol

Press On

FullSizeRender 4

I saw it out of the corner of my eye, flittering at the window. I turned from where I was enjoying my morning cup of coffee to see a hummingbird at my kitchen window. It fluttered and then landed on the suction cup feeder right next to me on the window.

I tried not to make any quick movements for fear it would fly away. My hand crept to my phone to open my camera. The bird leaned down in quick spurts to drink and then looked right and left, checking for danger.

Dip, drink, check.
Dip, drink, check.

Its wings fluttered once or twice as it moved to a different drinking location on the feeder, until finally it settled on the middle.

Dip, drink, check.
Dip, drink, check.

But then the hummingbird did something I’ve never seen one do before. First it looked up as if it saw something on the house above it. Then it stretched its tiny neck all the way back, looking upside down behind it. I thought maybe it was stretching at first, but then it didn’t move, staying in that position at least a full minute or so.

FullSizeRender 6

I sat watching it, wondering what it was seeing, when I realized I should move in closer to get a picture. With its neck stretched back, it wouldn’t be able to see me coming.

I continued watching it and chuckled to myself when I thought of how that tiny bird with its miniature ruffled feather neck resembled myself. Sometimes I’m so consumed at what’s behind me, I miss what’s coming ahead.

God recently pointed out how I am so consumed with sharing all He has done in my life, that I have become content to live in the past. “Let me tell you what God DID.” (past tense) Like it’s a one-time thing and He is done. Which, by the way, He is NOT. Not done. At least that’s what He revealed to me.

“There has never been the slightest doubt in my mind that the God who started this great work in you would keep at it and bring it to a flourishing finish on the very day Christ Jesus appears.” Philippians 1:6 The Message

I’m so busy turning around pointing out God’s path in the past, that I’m missing what He is doing right now. He’s still working on me, and as that verse says, He will continue to work on me until Jesus returns.

The Bible has quite a few examples of God saying, “Don’t look back!” Remember Lot’s wife? Lot and his wife lived in a sin-filled city. The city was so vile, God wanted to destroy it all, but He was merciful and allowed Lot and his family to escape. The angels sent to save Lot hurried his family to safety and told them not to look back. “But Lot’s wife looked back, and she became a pillar of salt.” (Genesis 19:26) Some say God was harsh, but in His Sovereignty, He knew the motive and the heart of Mrs. Lot. Perhaps she was looking back and longing for the immorality of life there. Only God knows.

Here are a few more verses about keeping our eyes ahead.

Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead. Philippians 3:13

Jesus replied, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.” Luke 9:62

Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland. Isaiah 43:18-19

Maybe you can relate. But maybe what you are turned around looking at is not a positive thing. Maybe it’s a hurt or a past behavior that haunts you. Maybe it’s a health scare. Maybe it was a bad financial decision. An abortion. An infidelity. A death.

Whatever it is, sweet friend, it’s time we turned back around. It’s time to look forward and see what God has in store for today.

Let’s press on.

I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:14

Carol

Is God Really Perfect?

IMG_5141

I knew the tears were coming. As the church stood to sing, I heard the opening notes and recognized the tune immediately. We sang it at her funeral.

“You’re a good, good Father…”

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve sung it since, and each time I think of my best friend Mary Ann and her recent death. I remember sitting at the edge of her bed less than 24 hours before she left this world and planning her funeral with her and our other best friend, Allison. Even typing the words “planning her funeral” slay me – like touching a bruise. Our whole lives the three of us have always done everything together. I just never imagined that would include funeral planning.

She picked that song, and Allison and I nodded our heads, tearful, knowing the truth of it all. The truth that she was about to look Jesus in the face. The truth of the song’s words – despite her cancer, He was and IS still a good, good Father.

But Sunday I didn’t expect the feeling that welled up in me. As we continued the song, we sang, “You are perfect in all of your ways.” And I had to stop singing. My heart skipped a beat, and I asked, “Are you? I prayed fervently for Mary Ann to be healed and you let her die. How can that be perfect?”

The question shocked even me. I thought I had reconciled with it. So I asked – is God perfect? Really perfect? Because the death of a best friend, a daughter, a young wife and mother of two doesn’t feel perfect.

My six-year-old daughter, Grace, recently accepted Jesus as her personal Savior. A week or so after her decision she asked me, “Mama, sometimes I can feel Jesus close to me, but other times I don’t feel Him there. Is Jesus still in my heart even when I can’t feel Him?”

I shook my head and wondered how many adults have thought the same. I explained to Grace how the Holy Spirit lives in your heart when you accept Christ and even when you don’t feel Him, He is still there.

And in the same way Grace doesn’t always “feel” Jesus, I don’t always “feel” that everything in God’s ways are perfect. But the only thing that isn’t perfect is me. I don’t understand why God chose to take Mary Ann.

But God says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.” (Proverbs 3:5) You see trusting means accepting something even when you can’t make sense of it all. That’s where faith steps in.

I’m sure I won’t understand until I get to Heaven and can ask Jesus myself. But Mary Ann’s cancer wasn’t sent from God. He IS perfect in all of His ways. But you know what? My heart still pains a little when I say it.

It hurts because “self” gets in the way of God. My selfish wishes were to keep Mary Ann here. So the pain I feel when I say God is perfect in all of His ways is actually because I’m admitting that I don’t understand it. I’m dying to self. And let’s be honest with each other – dying to self is a painful process.

“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20)

So when we die to our selfish desires, we are allowing Christ to live through us and then we live by faith – trusting He knows what is best. And while that is a mouthful to say, it’s still easier to say than to actually live it out. Because, let’s face it, life is hard. And some days really stink. Sometimes no matter how much we pray, God still doesn’t answer the way we think He should. So living by faith is a daily choice.
But it’s what I’m choosing today because my God is a good, good Father. And though sometimes my flesh forgets it, I do truly know He is perfect. Perfect in ALL of His ways.

As for God, his way is perfect: The Lord’s word is flawless; he shields all who take refuge in him. Psalm 18:30

If you can’t see this video, click HERE.

Carol

You Can’t Hide From Jesus

mfVzK2Q

If I’m honest, I was pouting. I know I’m blessed beyond measure, but things hadn’t been going my way.

It was two weeks before Christmas, and I needed to buy stamps from the post office for my Christmas cards. The older two kids were with friends, so Grace and I headed out to check off some errands. I was completely engulfed in my thoughts.

We finally sold our home. After it being on the market all summer with not much action, we took it off to pray about it and re-listed it a month later. We got two offers within four days. The best was only $4,000 off our asking price. We were thrilled and relieved all at once. But unfortunately it wasn’t as simple as we’d hoped. The appraiser refused to use 2015 home sales in his competitive market analysis and was forced to look at sales over a year old.

While that may seem like no big deal, over a year ago the home prices were much lower. So the appraisal for our home was $24,000 lower than the contracted price. If you haven’t sold a home before, you may be confused by now – but just know the bottom line – we had to lower our home price – a lot!

Meanwhile, my best friend was in the hospital. When I say best friend, I could interchange that with sister. Our mothers were friends before we were born; we couldn’t remember a time without each other there. She had Stage 4 lung cancer (a non-smoker) and was having a hard time breathing. While we thought she just needed some extra oxygen or maybe a lung drain, the doctors told her there wasn’t anything else they could do and suggested hospice. She died two days later. And the morning after her death, I found out the home appraisal news.

Needless to say, I was a little miffed – frustrated that God hadn’t answered prayers like I wanted. I walked in the post office with Grace, took note of the line and sighed. Couldn’t you at least give me a short mail line, Lord?

I got at the end of the line, counting the people in front of me, while Grace walked to the card corral to touch every single card. “Mama, what does this one say?” She’d walk the two steps to my side and hold out a card for me to read. An older gentleman and his wife finished filling out the information for their package and got in line behind me.

In front of me, a thirty-something lady turned to look at me, then positioned her body so she could keep watching. I offered a weak smile, clutching the stack of Christmas cards needing postage and shifted my weight, uncomfortable under her gaze.

Normally, I pray for people to be drawn to me because they see Christ in me. It gives me a chance to start conversations about Jesus. But I wasn’t taking the bait today. Really, Lord? Don’t you see? I’m done. I’m mad. I’m beyond sad. And I don’t feel like talking.

I imagine God sighing and shaking His glorious head at me.

“Wow. You sure do have a lot of cards to mail.” The woman spoke up. Shaken from my thoughts, I nodded and smiled, taking notice – real notice this time – of the woman in front of me. She stood with a tattered coat and one single red envelope. One.

dMMEIf

My gaze shifted from her one to my 70-ish or so Christmas cards. “Carol, you are sending cards to the people who love you. People you call friend. People you could count on if you needed them. And you could have sent more. Do you realize how blessed you are?”

Before I could even respond to the Holy Spirit’s voice in my head, another woman finished mailing her package and started chatting with a friend she hadn’t seen in a while. You know those people who have really loud conversations so everyone in the room can hear them? Yeah. It was some of those people. And remember my mood? I was not amused, but couldn’t help but listen.

“Girl. I’ve never been better!”

“That’s great! You look so good. What’s different? How’s your job going?”

“Oh, it’s good. I don’t have to pay Daddy’s car payment anymore so that’s good. But I’ve been going to church up the street at the big white one on the hill. And I’m tellin’ you something. My life is changed. I poured out a full bottle of whiskey yesterday – right down the drain. I don’t need it. I’m a new person!”

I continued to listen to this woman right across the aisle from me share how God had changed her, when the man from behind bumped into my purse.

“Oh, excuse me,” he said.

“You’re fine,” I told him.

The women walked out continuing their chat outside.

“I got so excited listening to that woman talk, I wanted to get all up in that conversation. I went to raise my hand and bumped you,” the man explained.

I think he was the one who finally jolted me out of my gloomy mood. No matter how frustrated I was with my situation, Jesus was all around me. In front of me, reminding me how blessed I am. Beside me, showing me how He can change the unchangeable. And behind me, reminding me to give Him praise. I couldn’t hide and pout.

I turned to face the man behind me and look him in the face. “I know what you mean,” I told him. “Praise God from whom all blessings flow. Can I get a witness?”

“Oooooh, yesssss!” The man told me. His wife looked over his shoulder and said, “Hallelujah!”

You see, no matter what you are going through, God is with you.

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
and the flame shall not consume you.
Isaiah 43:2

Life isn’t easy. But God will carry you through the bad times – even when you try to hide. Friend, I don’t know what you are going through, but I’d love to pray for you. Leave me a comment or use my contact page to shoot me an email. You are not alone.

Carol

Girdles Aren’t Just for Grandmas

12027818_10206322387810315_393383868364492679_nMy son, Colin, started playing football this year for the first time ever. He is fourteen and is already over six feet tall, so people have been advising him to get into football for a while. This year, our family moved to a new school system and Colin started high school, so it seemed like the thing to do.

I’m learning lots about positions and plays and yellow flags and uniforms. I had no idea all the pieces and parts a player must wear on the field. The first week Colin came home with his uniform, I learned he wore a girdle. A girdle!

He asked, “Mom, do you even know what I girdle is?” Instead of telling him there was one in my panty drawer, I just nodded my head with uncertainty, wondering why a football player needed smooth curves. You see, I knew what a “granny girdle” was – a torturous contraption to squeeze the ever-lovin’ life out of you. I knew you didn’t sit in them for long periods of time or the oxygen would shut off to your brain and you could faint. I knew you couldn’t eat seconds wearing them and probably should order a salad. I knew you shouldn’t attempt to put one on in front of your spouse for fear they would see you shouting, hopping, swearing and stomping.

But this was something completely different. Colin’s girdle is like padded underwear. It is an added layer of protection between his body and the elbows, knees and helmets of other players.

12009753_10206322384130223_5158050819434169955_n

Today, I was reading Priscilla Shirer’s book Fervent. And in it she talks about the armor of God. In referring to the “belt of truth,” she says, “Based on the history of what first-century soldier’s gear was like, think of it like a girdle, worn close around the body, with all his other pieces of armor tucked into it and held together by it.”

When reading that, I immediately thought of Colin’s football girdle and how it provides protection from hits. Paul tells us about the spiritual armor of God in Ephesians 6:10-20.

Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm. Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness. Ephesians 6:13-14 NLT

The belt of truth is that girdle – an added layer of protection from the hits. It’s at the center of us. Truth. It’s what holds all the pieces together.

God’s Truth.

So, if you feel like you are in a battle or maybe you feel like the bottom man of the dog pile on the football field, and the weight of it all is more than you can bear. Strap on your girdle of Truth.

God will never leave you or forsake you. (Deuteronomy 31:8)
He has plans to prosper you, not to harm you. (Jeremiah 29:11)
He who began a good work in you will finish it. (Philippians 1:6)
God loves you with an everlasting love. (Jeremiah 31:3)
God will work all the events of your life together for His good. (Romans 8:28)
God will fight for you. (Exodus 14:14)

So stand firm. And that hard thing. That thing that feels like it will consume you – it won’t. God won’t let it.

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. Isaiah 43:2 NIV

Put on your girdle. They’re not just for grandmas anymore. It’s the Truth.

Carol