Day 167: A Game of Did I

I planned to take the girls to see their mom today, but on the way, Baby S threw up. Nothing like projectile vomiting on the beltway to really get the adrenaline pumping. The thoughts (intermingled with actual conversation) went something like this:

Oh My Gosh! What the . . ? (madly exit beltway)

"Oh baby, hang on. Mimi's coming."

Please light, turn green, so I can pull over somewhere."

"I know Baby, Mimi's coming. I'm sorry, dolly."

"Man, where can I pull over. Oh My GOSH that stinks."

"No Baby, don't touch it. Mimi's gonna help you."

Baby S: "It's yucky Mimi. What happened Mimi?"

"You threw up baby. You're okay."

"Oh yes, a parking lot. I'll pull in there. Holy Cow that stinks!"
(Throw car into park, jump out, fling open back door, gag, gag again)
"Oh Lord, please don't let me throw up!"

Yeah. That's pretty much how it went.

So we turned around and came home.

After I put the girls in bed for their nap, I called their mom. She started telling me what all she was going to do when they came home. WHEN THEY CAME HOME???!!!!!

If I was the cussing sort, I'd cuss right here. (Well, actually, I sometimes am the cussing sort, but I'm trying to work on that, since I am a Pastor and all.)

As they slept, and I did my usual routine of picking up, I started playing a game of "Did I."

Did I do the right thing in letting them come here for so long?
Did I make our time here everything it could have been?
Did I make their Christmas as special as it should have been?
Did I cherish my time with them?
Did I give them enough love to sustain them?

My heart is aching a bit at the thought of them leaving. It's 6 weeks away, if they do end up leaving (February 6th), and who knows what will actually happen 6 weeks from now. I'm praying for an act of God.

All that to say, "I trust you in this, Lord. Did I mention we'd like to raise them, love them, give them a home for the rest of their lives? Did I?"

Day 166: Learned From the Boys, Learning From the Girls

We got bored tonight. Our toddlers were also bored. And bored toddlers have a very distinct and ummm, let's say LOUD way of communicating their boredom.

So we loaded them up in the car and after driving around for about 10 minutes, we decided to head to Incredible Pizza. I have to say I was a little worried about going there, since the last time I went there, I left in an ambulance with a severely broken arm.

When we got there the twins' eyes widened to about the size of half dollars. The sights, the sounds, the smell of Incredible Pizza is well, in a word, overwhelming. (Have I mentioned how much the girls love pizza?)

We tried putt-putt. Big NO. They didn't really understand the concept of hitting the ball with the club, so they just chased their ball all over the place. And they also chased other people's balls too. And they picked up other people's balls too. Those people weren't too understanding.

We tried skee bowling. They weren't so good at that either. People nearly lost limbs. I didn't want to lose a limb. I've come close to that at Incredible Pizza. I didn't want to do that again.

So finally, we discovered the little people village. It was perfect.

Fearless Baby N was in heaven, running from ride to ride, trying to board them often while they were still moving.

Baby S, well, she was content to watch everyone else ride, until FINALLY, I got her to agree to just SIT on the pony and watch her sister ride the nearby train. Then when she least expected it, I pushed the GO button. And she loved it.

Why is trusting so hard? She had such a hard time trusting. But when she finally relaxed, and trusted that I wasn't going to leave her side, she loved it!

I'm so like that. I find trusting so hard sometimes. But when I finally relax and just trust God, I become like Baby N, fearless and loving life.

All that to say, I have discovered in life that I learn so much from watching my kids live life. It was true of the boys. And it's true of the girls.

Day 165: You Might Be Surprised

People often write things on my wall or on this blog about how encouraging I am, or what an inspiration to others I am, and so on.

I think sometimes that those people might be surprised at this Carol that sometimes lives in my skin.

She's not so nice.

Her words are not always kind and gentle.

Her spirit is sometimes overcome with anger and bitterness.

Her heart is not always soft and compassionate.

Sometimes this Carol, the one who invades my heart and mind, is mean-spirited. Sometimes she yells at her husband and shakes her fist at the world.

Sometimes she thinks more highly of herself than she ought.

Sometimes she's just a big fat beotch.

Sometimes she doesn't want to cook or clean or do one more load of laundry or answer a single other question or make one more decision about anything, including where to go for dinner or what to wear or anything else.

Sometimes, this Carol, the one who speaks on my behalf, sometimes I like to let her out. Sometimes I like to let her talk. And sometimes I wish I could lock her in a trunk and throw it to the bottom of the deepest sea.

All that to say, you might be surprised that I am not always inspirational or encouraging or even nice. Thank God that His mercies are new every morning.

Day 164: Love Beyond Logic

I watched the Blindside tonight. I've seen it before, but it was very different watching it this time. The first time I saw it, we had not taken in the girls. Watching the way the Touhy's had to defend their actions to people felt hauntingly familiar.

We shouldn't have to field commentary about race, and lifestyle, and socio-economic status, but we do. We shouldn't have to try to explain what we're doing, or why we're doing it. People say incredibly well-meaning, and yet very hurtful things to us all the time. Sometimes those well-meaning, yet hurtful things must register in my eyes because those are the times that people tend to launch into the "Well, of course I think what you guys are doing is incredible, it's just that _____ (fill in the blank.)"

I find I get really tired of explaining myself, my husband, our family, our thoughts, our hopes, our fears. It's draining if I'm honest. I don't mind telling our story, I just mind trying to help people "understand." Seriously, I don't understand it myself. So explaining to someone else is virtually impossible. Sometimes God just calls us to do things, things that are illogical.

Here's the real deal. I'm nothing special. We're nothing special. Yes, we're empty nesters, on the road to retirement, and now we're parenting twin toddlers. Yes, some days it's trying. Some days it's hard, (like when they break my nose or scratch my cornea! tee hee) But I don't really think we're sacrificing all that much.

We're just loving two little children, and their mama who is a very young and troubled girl. In church today we heard that God is love. I think this is the love God intended for us all to show one another, regardless of race, or socio-economic status, or even logic.

Love beyond logic. That might catch on.

All that to say, Love beyond logic.

Day 163: Soaking It In

Sweet Baby N.

I love the way she closes her eyes when she takes a bite of anything. It's especially funny because she isn't really adept with her silverware yet, so closing her eyes doesn't help!

I love the way she falls prostrate on the floor and closes her eyes when we're playing chase and she's close to getting caught. It's like she's "disappeared."

I love the way she laughs the deepest belly laughs you have ever heard.

I love the way she says, "Potch" when she is calling Mike. (Pops)

I love the way she eats her favorite thing on the plate really fast and then points to the empty place and says, "more, more."

Sweet Baby S.

I love the way she sings. Anything. Everything. Last night she was singing the
Itsy, Bitsy Spider, complete with handmotions.

I love the way she says, "Yesh" when she is saying yes.

I love the way she wakes up and yells, "Mimi . . . Mimi . . . Mimi." And gets louder each time.

I love how she says, "More" even though she hasn't had "any" yet. What she really means is "May I have some." :) We're working on this.

They are so sweet when they:
Hug each other when they are saying they are sorry.
Sit together on the same riding toy.
Wake up in the mornings.
See the pizza man at the door and run wildly to their high chairs screaming, "Pizza, pizza!"

All that to say, I say all the time that if I had to do it over again, I would take the time to soak in the small stuff. Just needed a good soak.

Day 162: A Soldier's Perspective

This was sent to me by a reader, KD Page. KD sent me this about the Armor of God as told from the perspective of an Army Solider. It is so incredible I had to share it with you. I have been saving it for the end of this series. I hope you love it as much as I did.

Hi Carol,

I know we are simply friends on facebook. I presume, outside of facebook, you know little of me and my past. When we have been in each other's presence, I have often been Nick James's shadow . . . Anyway, since we have been friends on facebook, I have followed your blog. Your recent posts on Ephesians 6:10-18 have really touched a very sensitive place in my heart.

I am a soldier, an Army combat medic to be exact. Joining the military was the best worst decision of my life. My experiences have left deep scars and painful memories, ones that I struggle with on a daily basis since my return from Afghanistan. However, those experiences have made me stronger. They helped mold me into becoming the person the Lord intended His creation to be.

Being a soldier, I have found a deep personal love for The Armor of God. Many Christians today don't see that we are fighting a spiritual war. They don't aknowlege the presence of an unseen enemy that waits patiently for the right moment to attack. They don't know how quickly they can fall when ambushed. If you don't know you're in a fight, you will lose everytime. There are a few that realize that we are in the middle of the longest war known in the universe. Those are the ones that train and prepare and learn to use the tools God has given us to take part in His victory. When I read Ephesians 6:10-18 I think of the equipment I wore evertime I went out on mission.

My belt: It was issued to me during my first few days of basic training. It's the only belt I have ever worn. Whether I have been crawling through the mud or sweating in the hot desert, I have worn that belt. It has never frayed, or stretched, or even becomed discolored over the years. I have had to replace every other item I have been issued, but not that belt. It's reliable and always with me. That's the truth.

My breastplate: The body armor I wore was a vest that had four plates (one front, one back, and two on the sides) and it weighed nearly 20 pounds. When we were issused these vests I took my time choosing the proper size and fit. Most of the other soldiers just took what they were handed. I just couldn't do that. This was something that was supposed to save my life when things took a turn for the worse. It was designed to stop an AK-47 round at point-blank range. I wanted to make sure I did everything in my power to get the right vest for me. I wanted to be fully protected and be able to move in it. I am a medic. I need to be able to move to the wounded as quickly as possible. My life and the lives of others depended on this piece of equipment. The next morning we had to wear all of our gear to formation. My squad leader went down the file asking each soldier how they liked their new vest. Most of the answers were complaints. "It's heavy!" or "It's uncomfortable!" When he got to me, I answered, "I feel like Superman. Nothing can hurt me." A part of me really believed that.

My boots: I love my combat boots. I hate breaking them in, but once they are, oh buddy, they are the best! Are they pretty? No. Are they the most comfortable shoes I own? Nope. Are they EXACTLY what I need in order to get to where I am going? Yes. They are tough. They are durable. They are meant to get dirty. I can run in them, march for miles in them, I have even danced in them. No matter what I am doing as a soldier, they are perfect.

My shield: I drove an uparmored Humvee in Afghanistan. Just imagine, a Humvee with half-inch thick steel plating all over it. The windows were made of 6-inch safety glass designed to stop a sniper round. (I have witnessed this marvelous safety feature personally. There was a nice chunk of glass missing from the window on my side of the vehicle right where my head was.) The entire vehile was designed to protect those in it from bombs, bullets, and RPGs. When my team was out on mission, my guys would not let me leave the vehicle unless the area was secure. The safest place was inside my truck. The team wanted me safe, so I would be there to save their lives and the lives of others. On many of the longer missions, I would sleep in the truck. It was my second home.

My helmet: 8 pounds of Kevlar. Yep. It was heavy. It was ugly. It had one purpose: to keep my brain inside my skull. I hated wearing it most of the time. In fact, there was one day when I had observation duty that I took it off because I didn't think I needed it. I was in a tower. There wasn't a threat in the area. It was hot, and sweat poured down my forehead into my eyes. My complacency was nearly my undoing. Halfway through my shift there was an explosion in my section. I didn't really believe it had happened, so I waited and listened to the radio traffic. Ten minutes later there was another explosion. My tower trembled and shook because of the shockwaves produced by the mortar's impact. Yep, it was real. First thing I did was put on my helmet. I was fully protected and felt more secure with it on.

My sword: Medics have a choice when it comes to using weapons. If we follow the Geneva Convention we cannot use weapons if we want to have protective rights as medical personnel. I'm fairly certain terrorist don't really sit around reading the Geneva Convention or take the time to see who they are not supposed to kill in combat. Because of this, I learned how to be very proficient with every weapon I had at my disposal, but my personal favorite was my M-4 rilfe (nicknamed Mikey). Everything else I had to put on was for defense from the enemy's attacks, but my rifle was the only thing I had that could actually do some damage to the enemy. I learned to shoot expert at 300 yards without a scope. (If I have to kill someone, I want them to be dead far away from me.) Hours upon hours were spent firing round after round just to learn how to use that rifle properly. It went with me wherever I had to go. Gym, chow hall, I even took it with me to the bathroom. I always had to keep it with me because I never knew when I would need it. I slept with my rifle while I was in Afghanistan. It became an extention of me. My hands still have calluses from holding that rifle all day, everyday. When I came back to the States, it felt weird to not have a rifle with me. I had to have something in my hands to provide some sort of comfort. Walking around with a rifle would alarm a few folks, so I had to settle for keeping my cell phone or car keys in my hands at all times. (My iPhone is now permanently attached to my right hand.)

I have been told that my experiences in the Army will help me grow as a Christian. I know that it has changed the way I see the world and those in it. There are many other stories I have, but that will be for one day when I have my own blog, I guess. I felt lead to share this point of view with you. Most of the literature I have come across on the Armor of God presents everything in the Roman style of armor. That was what they had back then, and it was great for the wars they were fighting then. I just wanted to give you a little modern spin on it. The enemy has evolved in his strategy and tactics, but so have we.

Thank you for sharing your thoughts and providing encouragement to so many through your blog.

All that to say, The enemy has evolved in his strategy and tactics. Profound. KD, thank you for what you are doing for our country. God bless you.

Day 161: This Is My BIble, It Is What It Says It Is

" . . . and the Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God." Ephesians 6:17

Oh, I have been waiting for this one. It's the one piece of armor that didn't need explanation for me.

One night, at a camp, I met a girl. I had never been introduced to her, and yet I knew her name. (True story) And I knew her story. I sat behind her, reached my hand forward, called her by name, and asked her if she was okay. She burst into tears. What happened over the course of the next hour and a half changed my life and my faith forever.

This story will sound like an outright lie to some of you, I am sure, or at the very least a pretty good work of fiction writing. Had I not been present myself, I might not believe it myself. But this really happened, and I'm only going to be able to give you the short version.

"Lauren" agreed to let me pray for her, but as we prayed, her facial features changed and her eyes turned black (yes, turned black, as in they changed colors, right before my own eyes) and her voice changed from that of a scared teenage girl to that of a deep bass male voice. And she said to me, "Bitch" (in a very long, drawn out way.) At first I freaked out a bit, okay, a LOT.

I spoke to Lauren, not this thing that was speaking to me. And I asked her what was hurting her and she said she was thinking about suicide. And I prayed, "Spirit of Suicide leave this girl." But the voice just got deeper. Finally I told Lauren that I thought she had to pray, so she did and her face changed and her eyes changed. But the story doesn't end there (though that should be enough).

For over an hour Lauren would be overcome by a new voice, her eyes would change and she would name some other thing that was happening to her or was holding on to her. She had been raped, was taking drugs, was cutting herself, etc. It was the saddest and most frightening thing I had ever witnessed.

Prior to that, I really did believe that "spiritual warfare" was just a way of saying that life was hard. And then I did something that might have been stupid. I asked God for eyes to see the spiritual realm. And what I saw scared me half to death. So much evil. So much evil. The enemy had been there all along, not hiding, but right out in the open, IN A CHURCH SERVICE, but I just had not seen him.

As Lauren left that night, she left a different girl, literally. When I left that night, I left a different girl too, but for different reasons. And when I got alone in my room, I began to recall scripture about the enemy and his legion and how they returned when cast out, and not knowing what else to do, I got up out of my bed and got my Bible, my "sword" and I laid it on my chest, placed my hands over it, and fell peacefully asleep. Just having on my hands on it brought me comfort.

I think now how silly that was. What was I going to do? Beat off the enemy with a book? What that started in me though was a love for God's Word. A need to know it. To be able to use it as a sword as Jesus did when Satan tempted him in the desert. I think that far too often we as Christians use the Bible to fight each other. Imagine if we remembered who our enemy was and used God's Word, the Sword of the Spirit, to defeat our real enemy, who is not flesh and blood?

Hebrews 4:12
For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart

A sword is a weapon for close-range battle. It's not for far away enemies. But the Sword we have is able to divide joints and marrow AND discern the thoughts and intents of the heart. That's pretty powerful.

All that to say, suited up for battle, my Sword in hand.

Day 160: Wrap Your Head Around This

"And take the helmet of salvation . . . " Ephesians 6:17

I thought for a few moments this morning about all the times that people put on a helmet. Here's my list.

1. Football players when they walk out onto the field
2. Skateboarders right before they jump on their board
3. Cyclists right before they go on a ride
4. Motorcyclists (the smart ones) before they start their engines
5. Rock climbers before they find the first footing
6. Soldiers before they leave the safety of their compound

I'm sure there are many more. That was my quick mental list. But the thing about each of these people is that they put on their helmet BEFORE they begin their activity. It's not the first piece of equipment they put on. In most of those cases that would be pretty silly, but they certainly don't wait until they are in the middle of the activity that REQUIRES a helmet to put it on. And they don't just put it on once, they do it multiple times, every time.

When I first read through this passage on the armor of God, I thought to myself, "why wouldn't you put on the helmet of salvation first?" You know, get saved, then suit up for battle? But that's not what this passage is saying to us. Yes, I do think it is talking about actual salvation, scriptural salvation, salvation from sin that leads to eternal death, THAT salvation. So why is it even included in a passage to people who are already saved, already walking in the light of salvation, already Christians?

I believe it is a reminder that we are fighting a pretty tremendous and difficult fight with an enemy that is not flesh and blood. An enemy who is cunning, and seductive and a brilliant liar. And if for one second he could get us to doubt our salvation, we are done for. So when you suit up, place that helmet of salvation firmly over your head, your mind, the place where the enemy does his work. Remind yourself of the fight you are fighting.

These scriptures tell us what we are fighting for. The hope of our salvation.

I confess that “in due season I shall reap if I do not faint.” (Galatians 6:9)

I confess that “the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared to the glory that shall be revealed to me.” (Romans 8:18)

I confess that “my light affliction, which is but for a moment, works for me a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.” (2 Corinthians 4:17)

I confess that “Christ Jesus in me is the Hope of glory.” (Colossians 1:27)

I confess that “whom He justified, these He also glorified.” (Romans 8:30)

I confess that “now is my salvation nearer than when I first believed.” (Romans 13:11)

I confess that “I can do all things through Christ Who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13)

Paul says it this way in 1 Thessalonians 5:8-11, "But let us who are of the day be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet the hope of salvation. For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, that whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with Him. Therefore comfort each other and edify one another, just as you also are doing."

. . . "and as a helmet the hope of salvation."

All that to say, Jesus Christ is our hope, the hope of our salvation. Instead of trying to wrap your head around that, try wrapping it around your head.

Day 159: All Other Ground is Sinking Sand

"In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one." Ephesians 6:16

When I lived in Georgia, it was my first real experience with cold weather. I mean COLD weather. The kind of weather you have to layer your clothing to live in. So I learned to layer. I usually started with a cami, something close to my skin and snug fitting. Then I put on my long sleeve layering tee. It covered my arms and added another layer to my torso. And then I would finish it off with a warm sweater, usually a turtle neck, a very thick turtle neck. Then I donned warm pants, thick socks, winter boots, and lastly, if I was going outside, I put on a coat over all of that.

But layered up as I was, nothing could protect me from a cold and blowing rain, except a really good umbrella. Which I quickly learned the value of when my cheap umbrella turned inside out and protected me from NOTHING. Wet from head to toe is not much fun in frigid weather. And considering I worked an hour and half from my home at the time, I only had to experience it once to know I never wanted it to happen again.

I think about my shield of faith like that umbrella. It's not a very soldier-like analogy I know, but it paints a realistic picture for those of us who have never gone off to war, or who can't really relate to "battle gear."

It really didn't matter how layered up I was with my other protection if my umbrella failed me, or if worse yet I forgot to pick it up at all. "In addition to all this, pick up your umbrella or you will find yourself cold and wet and miserable."

The purpose of a shield is to be our first line of defense. It blocks the onslaught of the attack, be it icy raindrops or fiery arrows. It deflects the attack. Ever seen an umbrella that absorbs? No! If it's a good one, the raindrops bounce right off. But if it is going to work at all, we have to PICK IT UP and hold it over ourselves or it is useless.

All of the rest of God's armor up to this point is something we wear, and once we put it on, we don't have to do much else with it except move around in it. But the shield, it requires us to actually use it. How to do that . . . that one seems much harder than opening an umbrella and holding it over our heads.

Our faith, faith in God, is a constant daily trust in God's promises, His word and His character. Without it, we are done for. Without it, the enemy's fiery arrows will reach our breastplate. And over time, the constant onslaught of his attack will breach our breastplate.

I picked up my umbrella in preparation for the the rain that I assumed would come. I pick up my shield in preparation for the attack I know will come.

"Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the things not seen." Hebrews 11:1

All that to say, "my hope is built on nothing less than Jesus' blood and righteousness. I dare not trust the sweetest frame but wholly lean on Jesus' name." His promises, His Word, His character. I hold those things over me. And I trust them.

Day 158: Shoes, Glorious Shoes

If there is anything I know about, it's shoes. Flats, pumps, boots, Mary-Janes, kitten heels, stilettos, round toes, pointy toes, square toes. Oh how I love shoes.

When I buy shoes, I go through a series of thoughts. First of all, do my feet and legs look good in them? Secondly, are they for long length pants or short length pants? Thirdly, how much are they? (truthfully, this is probably question #one for me.) And lastly, how will they feel if I have to walk in them for very long?

But the shoes of the gospel of peace? I gotta wonder, do I own those shoes or did I leave them at the store, fearing they might be a bit uncomfortable if I had to walk in them for very long?

Ephesians 6:15 says, "And having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace."

Wow. That's a mouthful. If I tried to reword that I might say, "let the gospel of peace be your shoes." But I don't know if that's exactly right.

What are the shoes of the preparation of the gospel of peace? Those don't even SOUND comfortable? And considering they are in the midst of a passage about spiritual warfare and spiritual readiness, they must be a necessity (like a good pair of winter boots).

So, let me see if I understand this.

Shoes are what let us walk securely. Bare feet can step on things, tiny things, that can feel giant and cause quick and severe pain. They let us walk on unstable terrain. They allow us to move quickly. So, in short, if I were a soldier (which I am) and I put on all my battle gear and then left for war with bare feet, I'd be pretty stupid.

So the "shod your feet . . ." part, I get. But what is the gospel of peace? That one is a little harder. The Bible talks about many gospels, the gospel of the Kingdom (Matthew 4:23), the gospel of Jesus Christ (Mark 1:14), the gospel of the grace of God (Acts 20:24)and the gospel of peace (Romans 10:15). Well, then that's confusing. That's a lot of gospels, so why am I told to "shod my feet with the gospel of peace?"

Romans 10:14-15 says,
"How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: "How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, who bring glad tidings of good things!"

I don't know what Paul intended when he penned these words, but here's what I think. My main purpose is to bring glory to God's name. To glorify him in all I do. The world is watching. They are watching how I walk. Because it is a reflection of God and who He is. The shoes I put on are the shoes I walk in. So here I am, a soldier, ready for battle, but walking first and foremost in the peace of God.

All girded up, with my belt of truth in place, my breastplate of righteousness ready to fend off any mortal blows, but my feet shod with peace.

All that to say, God's Word is so powerfully beautiful.

Day 157: Shot Through the Heart

Facing the hordes of Satan, you brace yourself and pray. The hosts of your enemy share a collective, malicious grin, waiting for the command to do their worst.

The battle cry sounds. They begin their charge; you tighten your grip on your sword and raise your shield. Weapons begin swinging with unrivaled fury; you do your best to parry the onslaught, but there are too many weapons to block. Eventually, you watch as one of your opponent's swords begins making a clean arc that continues right past your shield and toward your chest.

You brace yourself, preparing for the worst and expecting your quick demise, watching the weapon move ever closer to you as time slows to a maddening crawl—waiting, waiting, when CLANG! The reverberating noise of the sword striking your breastplate pierces the air.

Shaking your head in disbelief, you look down to find that your breastplate stopped the deadly blow in its tracks.

I love this visual picture of the purpose of the breastplate. A striking blow to our chest would very well kill us. Our heart and our lungs along with all of our vital organs (minus the brain) are housed there. If the enemy needs a place to strike, that would be the area.

The thing about a blow to the torso is that it would be easy to die a slow painful death from a wound in this area.

Don't believe me? Ever seen anyone whose heart is heavy with unforgiveness or with hidden sin? It's like a poison shot deep inside them. And the thing about arrows laden with unforgiveness and sin is that often we think we have dealt with them, but in reality we have just broken off the shaft of the arrow and left the arrowhead buried deep within us, where it festers, slowly killing us.

Ephesians 6:14 says, "Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness."

So what is righteousness? To be righteous is to do what is right in God's eyes. God's commandments are righteousness. In contrast, lawlessness is sin, and sin is the opposite of righteousness. So to be righteous is to obey God's laws of love.

As my Pastor preached last night, fall in love with God's Word, don't JUST read it every day, meet God there in it every day.

All that to say, my righteousness is as filthy rags according to Isaiah, thinking I can protect myself from the enemy is pointless. I cannot. But covering myself with the righteousness of God . . . if God is for me, who can be against me?

First paragraph courtesy of

Day 157: Cookies are Coming

Tomorrow we will celebrate our Jones family tradition called "Cookies." I have already mixed the secret cookie dough and it is chilling in the refrigerator, waiting to be rolled out into delicious goodness.

In the last two weeks alone I have had at least, and I do mean AT LEAST (no hyperbole here) 4 people ask me if I have baked "the cookies" yet. These aren't just any cookies, they are the most yummy sugar cookies, baked to perfection, and then dipped in frosting that is so sweet and delicious that it makes the cookie literally melt in your mouth.

This year will be extra special because we will celebrate "cookies" with the girls. I hope they love it as much as we all do!

So, tomorrow, I will go to church, then come home and bake cookies, all in anticipation of a fun family night!

All that to say, I love this holiday tradition. I hope to win this year. I learned from Jackie Key last year that if I just give my cookie a fancy and long name, I'm a shoe in to win!

Day 156: Gird Your Loins

We were talking about sin the other night at a Bible Study, and how we seem to repeat the same familiar sin, over and over and over. I offered a possible reason to the group saying, "We are weak, and the enemy knows where our weakness is, so he keeps going at that place over and over and over. Our only hope is to put on the full armor of God."

To that, one of the women in the group said, "Okay, but how do we do that practically?" I decided to look it up and try to figure it out. This is my best shot at a start. It's long, but hang in to the end.

“Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist.” Ephesians 6:14


Roman soldiers wore a linen undergarment next to the skin, covered by a woolen one–piece tunic that came down to the knees. It was shaped like a “T” with a hole at the top for the head. It was sewn on two sides and generally had half sleeves. At times they were dyed, but most often they were the natural color of wool. The colored tunic was usually reserved for army commanders, the wealthy or those of the government status.

Over the tunic they placed a breastplate. At the bottom of the breastplate they wore a heavy belt made of connected bronze plates and leather with a buckle very similar to what we use today. This belt had one function. It served as the foundation on which the sword, dagger and metal apron were attached.

The Point

Basically, everything depends on the belt of truth. It is foundational to the whole armor of God. If you don't get this part right, there's not much sense in the rest of it, because it will be attached to a weak foundation.

If there is a place in our life where the enemy wants to and will mess with us, it is with truth. Truth is measured/determined in our hearts and in our minds.

As William Gurnall wrote, "Truth is the sincerity of the heart. Sincerity leads us to be open to God. It keeps our motives pure, devoid of malice and wickedness towards our fellow men."

Truth in our minds convinces us of our next action.

Both our hearts and our minds are the enemies playground, the place where he works overtime to convince us to believe and feel things that are not true. His goal is to weaken our armor, to get to our weak spot.

Practical Placement

So how do we practically put on the Belt of Truth each day?

1. Pray for truth to be revealed to you every day. Ask God to help you see, feel, think what is true and recognize what is not. It's not as easy as we might imagine to immediately recognize what is true and what is false.

2. Practice truth. Simply put, tell the truth. Speak it. Get rid of exaggeration, half-truth, and protective lies. A lie is a lie. A lie is not truth.

3. The "I-Know-This-to-Be-True" exercise. I do this exercise when I am struggling with knowing what to do sometimes. When I am not sure what is true or what my next step forward should be. I say, "But I know this to be true. God created the universe. He did it in 7 days. He came to earth as a man and died for our sins." Etc. Repeat every foundational truth you know until you feel a spirit of peace come over you or until you see truth.

4. Seek truth scriptures, scriptures about the heart and the mind. Here are a few. Look for others on your own. I Corinthians 5:8, II Corinthians 1:12, I Peter 1:13-18, I Timothy 1:5, Ephesians 4:12

All that to say, that's a lot to take in. And we're only on the first piece of Armor.
(Disclaimer - I'm not a theologian or a Biblical Scholar, so if I have any of this wrong, please feel free to set me straight.)

Day 155: Soldier Ready

I mentioned yesterday that I am studying what it means to battle the enemy (meaning satan) who seems to desire nothing more than to distract me from God, His purposes, our relationship with one another, etc. In that, I am reading through, studying, and dissecting Ephesians 6:10-18. I'm writing down what I am learning. Feel free to study along.

I'm writing out the verses so you don't have to go get your Bible.

10Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. 11Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. 12For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. 13Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm.

My first thought is this. Know whose armor you are wearing. Armor was often custom fit for each soldier. It's how it protected them so well. We are told to put on (literally pick up or take up) the full armor of God. This is the armor of God. Custom fit for God. GOD. And we, who are in the image of God, have an armor custom fit for us. You have, at your hand, the strength and might of the Lord God. Think about that for a second. Let that sink in. Armor, Custom Fit for God, is yours for the wearing. Put it on. And don't just put on some of it, put on the FULL Armor. All of it.

Second, Know why you are putting it on . . . so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. (vs. 11) TO STAND FIRM AGAINST THE SCHEMES OF THE DEVIL. Put on all of it. (vs13) so that you will be able to stand firm, resisting evil. I looked up "standing firm" in the original text. It basically means taking a battle ready stance. Think of judo (sorry, it's the mental picture I got). There is a basic fighting stance that when mastered allows you to be quick and flexible, but immovable when the enemy strikes. So "stand firm" means that you are in the "ready" position, and when the enemy strikes, you will be able to withstand the blow. So, if you have on the full armor of God, you are not only ready for the strike that will come, but you will also be able to stand up to (stand firm) whatever the enemy sends your way.

And Third, Know your enemy. (vs 12). Sometimes for me, the best way for me to think about what something is, is to think about what it isn't. It lets me rule out stuff. So to think about who my enemy is, I thought about people that I have an "enemy like" relationship with. Then I thought about who others might say their enemies are. Then I wrote all of those down as "who your enemy isn't."

Who your enemy isn't:
Each Other
Your Mom, Dad, Aunt or Uncle
Your Husband or your Wife
Your Annoying Neighbor
Your Daughter or Son
Your Friend that hurt your feelings
Your Boss or Your Sister or Your Brother

It's not:
A Teacher, or a Lawyer, or that person that wanted to get you fired.

It's not:
The person who convinced your teenager to start drinking or doing drugs or,
The person your spouse had an affair with.

If you want to know who your enemy is, know who it ISN'T.

vs. 12 For your struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.

All that to say, I must remember that my enemy is not human. And it's not even the people I know that don't act human. And, I need to rest my mind now. That's a lot to take in, in one day.

Day 154: Father Forgive Them

I was praying the other day and while praying I saw a vision (a mental picture) of Jesus being nailed to the cross and in that critical moment saying, "Father forgive them for they know not what they do."

Father forgive them.

I thought to myself, how many times have I felt hammered by someone else and in those times cried out, "Father forgive them?" The answer is easy. Zero. Zero times.

Forgiveness comes so hard for me.

Yet Jesus forgave instantly, in the moment, while being crucified.

He didn't say, "Lord, I know I need to forgive, and I will, but I'm gonna need some time to process this. I'm gonna have to work through it. I'm need to peel back the layers slowly."

Nope, he just forgave. Instantly.

Imagine if we could just forgive. Instantly.

We know that healing comes with releasing the debts of our debtors. We know that bitterness is dissolved when we say, "I forgive you, releasing you of anything I think you owe me." So why is forgiveness so difficult?

All that to say, as in all things, Jesus is our living example. Lord, help me to be forgiving. To release all debts. To forgive as you do.

Day 153: Dance It Out

I am a Grey's fan. Grey's Anatomy for those of you who didn't immediately recognize the spelling. It's perhaps not the most wholesome show on TV, I confess. But nonetheless, I watch it faithfully, Tivo it, watch it online, whatever it takes.

It's pretty surprising how much of Grey's language has even seeped into our culture. For example, the phrase, "my people" has been around a long time. You know, "I'll have my people call your people." But the phrase, "my person," that's from Grey's. For those of you who don't watch the show, "My Person" is your person that you can go to for anything. You share your hurts, your dreams, your failures, your successes with this person. And no matter what, they speak truth into your life, and they love you unconditionally. If any of us ever have "a person" in our lives, we should count ourselves pretty lucky.

Another Greyism is the phrase "Dance it out." When life has you down, when you have a big decision to make, and even if your bored or deliriously happy, you dance it out.

I typically prefer the Motown Classics when I dance it out, but I'm open to whatever I might happen to hear on the radio or have in my CD player at the time.

Some occasions in life when I have danced it out . . .

Jacob's illness and the day of his big tests.

When I was bored and very tired of painting, I danced it out to Etta James' At Last. (and yes, I used my paintbrush like a microphone)

Yesterday in the car when we had accomplished a lot of things in Austin. (We danced it out to ACDC's "You Shook Me All Night Long.")

And this morning. With the girls. We danced it out.

We danced it out to The Temptations. And to "Little Bitty Pretty One" by Thurston Harris.

At first I think the girls thought their Mimi had lost her mind. But then suddenly they grabbed their baby dolls and they danced. They shook their heads, they snapped their fingers, they twirled around, they jumped up and down and they laughed. Oh how they laughed.

On the way out the door, I heard Baby S singing "Bitty bitty bitty bitty." So cute.

All that to say, dance it out people. Dance it out.