Leap of Faith, But Black Your Eye

Eliana Falls

When I’m exhausted or even when my back is hurting, I love laying in the floor. For some reason, it helps me feel a little better. It helps align my back and just feels good when I’m tired. After a long day, it is one of my first go to’s when I get home from work. It helps me rest for what’s coming that evening.

However, now that I have kids, when I lie in the floor it is inevitably interrupted by both of them wanting to wrestle. I’ve essential become a jungle gym. It never once has bothered me because it is one way I can distract them from mom. My kids want mommy more than daddy, so anytime I can steal them away and spend a little time with them, I’m all for it.

Eliana is our fearless one. No counter is to high, no shelf is out of reach for this little one. She sees them not as limitations, but as obstacles in her way to what she wants and she will stop at nothing to get it. She loves chips and will go to any lengths to climb into the cupboard and get her favorite snack.

Eliana also loves to play a game where she stands on my chest, while I’m laying in the floor. She, then, plank falls over my head so that I catch her in my outstretched arms. I keep my arms above my head to catch her because I’m afraid she would leap even if I didn’t. She trusts me to catch her every time.

I love playing this game with her because she giggles the entire time. Whenever you are feeling overwhelmed, spend time with a child and make them laugh, I promise the cares will melt away, even if it’s just for a moment. It becomes an addiction to make them laugh again.

I’m not proud to say this, but there have been a couple of times where I couldn’t keep her from hitting the ground. Sure, I broke her fall and kept her from serious injury. However, she fell in the wrong direction once. I got my arm under her before she hit the ground, but she rolled off and smacked her face on the rug. Another time, we were playing and she was just jumping up and down on me practicing her balance. All of the sudden, she leaped without warning and my arms weren’t there. I broke her fall, but she hit her head on the tile floor. It wasn’t enough to bruise or give her a bump on her forehead, but just enough to garner tears and daddy feeling horrible.

What I’ve come to realize is God’s arms are always there to catch us when we leap in the direction he is calling us too. It may even seem like we’ve fallen flat on our face or sometimes we leap in the wrong direction. Neither  instances mean that God isn’t present and He can’t be trusted in the future.

The first, oftentimes, means we either leapt too early or God did let us fall so that He could mend us and build trust. As Jesus followers, we sometimes get in a rush to go where we feel like God is leading us that we miss out on the development that He wants to do in our lives in our current situation. I think it’s why God only gives us a step or two at a time. He wants to develop character and trust in us. If we saw the whole picture, it would most likely scare us. It’s ok to go slow and develop into who God wants you to be. In the meantime, worship God. Worship is how we build trust and it’s how we show trust in God.

The second, leaping in the wrong direction, happens when we trust our ability more than we trust the hand of God. If we don’t take time to see God, to worship Him, and we blindly leap in a direction, How can we expect the Father to catch us? Yes, God loves us enough to soften the blow, but in those instances we are the ones at fault. Yet, every time we fall and we fail, we blame God. Sometimes it is our fault and other times it’s God testing us.

In ancient times, a blacksmith would sit next to a fire with molten gold or silver in a crucible. They would stir it to bring up any impurities and then skim the impurities off the top. Once this was finished, they would be left with almost pure gold (99.99%).

God tests us so that he can refine us. Will we ever be 100% perfect? Not here on Earth, but once we get to heaven we will be made perfect.

“For the sake of my name I delay my wrath, and for my praise I restrain it for you, in order not to cut you off. ‘Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction.’” Isaiah 48:9-11

Think about when you wash your clothes. It isn’t the simple act of adding water and laundry detergent that cleans the clothes. It’s the tumbling or the agitator in the middle of the wash basin that beats against the clothes to help them release the dirt. Did you catch that? The agitator. The clothes have to be agitated enough to become clean.

The tough moments in life are a way for us to be agitated enough to change who we are and our dependence on God. There are times God always us to be test because it is the only way He can get our attention. The plans are never to harm us. This process is just an opportunity for God to help us get out some of the impurities in our lives so we can draw even closer to Him.

Eliana still loves to fall and have daddy catch her. I am now more alert when she is standing on me that she could leap at any moment and in any direction. And every time, I am there to catch her and to laugh with her. God is near and ready any moment you leap. Just stay close so you know what direction His arms are leading you. And then wait and listen for Him to say when it’s safe to leap. And if you fall, don’t be angry with God. See it for what it is, an opportunity to learn from your mistakes and brush off some of the impurities. Then, one day you’ll be able to stand before the Father 100% you.

If you liked this post, check out my post on The Greatest Catch where I talk about overcoming our fears and knowing that God is on the other side.

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How We Live Happily Ever After

Celebrating 16 years

August 10th, Alissa and I celebrated 16 years of marriage. Where does the time go? The truth is it doesn’t seem like it has been that long, but at the same time it feels like we’ve spent our entire lives together. I love my wife. She helps me see a perspective I never would have known had I not married her. Our anniversary has gotten me thinking about love. Big surprise there, right? You’d hope it would get me thinking about love and not dread.

Love is a word we associate with so many feelings. Any time something puts the warm fuzzies in our heart, we say that we love it. Or at the very least, we press and hold the like button and then slide right to the heart. Love is associated with so many things that it has desensitized us to the word love. We love our cars, our houses, and even our best friend’s hair. We love the food we eat, we love our beds and air conditioning (It’s ok to love air conditioning. It is a gift from God).

For 14 years, I had a white 1997 Honda Civic. Over the years it became affectionately known as “The Civic”. It wasn’t fancy and didn’t have any of the bells and whistles. It didn’t even have power steering, for that matter. What it lacked in frills, it made up for with faithfulness and loyalty. I made so many memories driving that car around, coast to coast and back. I put 200K miles on “The Civic” before I sold it. The only reason I sold it was to replace it for our growing family.

I’d say I loved that car because it became part of my family. It was something I could constantly depend on and I had a tough time selling it. But, you know what? I sold it and bought a larger vehicle that would hold two carseats and have room for our stuff. Why? Because I love my wife and kids more than an object that is easily replaced.

What I’ve come to realize is that love is something you do more than something you feel. I think it is what Jesus was talking about when He said, “So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” We can’t see someone’s feelings, but we can see their expression of love by what they do.

Emotions Are a Gauge, Not a Guide

There are moments in life when your feelings will lead you astray. You can’t always trust your feelings. If we lead our lives allowing our feelings to dictate our decisions, then we aren’t worth following. If you are like me and have insecurities, your feelings will always lie to you. I’ve learned that if I tell Alissa how I am feeling, she will help me see the validity of the right emotions and the lies that my insecurities tell me.

I believe the difference between successful marriages that last a lifetime and marriages that end in divorce (I understand there are many instances where there is infidelity or abuse of some type to which this does not apply) is choosing daily to forgive and not trust your feelings. Our anger and insecurities can carry us to a place we never thought we would go. They cause us to read into what our spouse is thinking and feeling as well. When we fail to communicate with our spouse in a healthy way, we will always read negativity into things they say and do. It’s our natural tendency. We tend to think in worst case scenarios. Why do we do this when our spouse is suppose to be our biggest supporter?

I’ve heard it said that “blood will always heal.” This expression means that no matter what happens in your biological family, the family can heal. “Water”, or relationships outside the biological family, don’t have the same properties and ability to mend itself. Jesus talked about this, “’For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one flesh.” Our marriage has to transfuse us together from the very beginning. When this happens, “blood will always heal” is an expression on which our marriages can build trust.

My feelings are fleeting and so are yours. They cause us to assume and set up defenses that wall out everyone that is important to us, including our spouse. Love breaks through when we serve one another. Our job is to no longer serve our own needs, but meet our spouse’s needs. I am not saying be everything to your spouse, because you can’t. If you try, you will fail and you’ll both be beaten and bruised by the rubble left. Jesus is the only person that can be our everything.

As a spouse, we are to serve one another and lead one another closer to Jesus. I think it’s what Paul meant in when he said, “Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord…Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” Marriage is not a relationship of one person being in charge of the other, but a symbiotic relationship in which both show each other love by meeting each others needs. Problems start to arise when there is an imbalance in whose needs are and are not being met.

Open Wounds Need Blood to Heal

A couple months back, I was repairing the deck in our back yard. Now before you are impressed that I can actually wield a circular saw, tape measure, and drill, let me finish the story. I took all of the old boards off and took out the rotted parts of the framing. While adding in new framing boards and fixing the decks structure, I put a screw through two boards and down my middle finger. It split my finger about an inch in length.

The only thing that would keep in from bleeding is if I squeezed it together and wrapped it tightly with a cloth. Every time I let go to rinse it, it would gush and be extremely painful. Alissa wrapped it in a towel and I drove myself to the urgent care. Well, actually I had to drive myself to two urgent cares. The first one said they had too many people in front of me. Apparently, if you are bleeding out and you go to an “urgent” care, you better hope you are the first person in line. The pain of rinsing out the wound was only dwarfed by the shot they place in it so they can do the stitches.

However, you know what the doctor didn’t say? “Well, I think each side of your finger needs a break from one another to decide how they feel. It’s not you, it’s each of the sides. They just aren’t feeling the love they once felt. They feel like it would be best to just stay apart for a while to see if they can heal on their own and come back together later.” He stitched it up because he knows that the quickest way to heal an open wound is to bring both sides as close to one another as possible. He forced them to stay together until my body could work it’s magic. Blood will always heal wounds.

I think our marriages work the same way. When there is a deep wound, the quickest way to heal is to bring both sides together as close as possible. Isolating ourselves from our spouse is one of the most damaging things we can do. It becomes about self care rather than serving one another and healing each others wounds. Isolation of both sides leads to infection in the marriage. Sometimes our bodies and our marriages can ward off infection, but more times than not the infection takes over and death happens.

Open wounds in our relationships need us to come together and it be covered by the blood of Jesus. As Jesus followers, we believe that Jesus lived a perfect life and died on a cross, shedding His blood. His blood was shed to heal our relationship with God, but also with one another. The cleansing of any wound hurts. It’s not easy to go through and will cause pain. However, it’s in this moment that we have to choose to love.

Love isn’t something you always feel. Sure it gives you the warm fuzzies and feels good at times. I still get the butterflies in my stomach when I take Alissa on dates. Those are all great feelings, but the way she knows I love her is by how I show her. For us, it’s me finding childcare and taking her on a date where we can spend quality time together. I can only speak her love language if I am willing to do rather than just feel. And the paradox is, I feel more love for her every time I get to serve her.

Alissa at Shuffles
Alissa at Shuffles

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Vacations Are Overrated

foggy day at the beach

It’s been a few weeks of no writing. I apologize for my absence, but I tried to take full advantage of our vacation in Oregon. The biggest goal I had while there was to rest and recover from the busyness and the day to day work. Though I love what I do, it can be taxing over time. It can especially be so, if you are like me and you fail to rest any other time. I’m not talking about just getting sleep and not working your job, but even the tasks you have to do at home. Amidst all of those things, you have to make rest a priority.

The time difference between Oklahoma and Oregon is two hours. Now you might not think that is a lot, but when you get use to everything being two hours earlier, it can mess with your internal schedule. We spent a week going to bed at 11pm – 12am PST, which in Oklahoma is 1am – 2am. During our work week, we generally go to be at 10pm here in Oklahoma. You can see now why over the first three or four days of being back I struggled to fall asleep. Jonas seems to have adjusted well, but Eliana is still awake until almost 10pm most nights. Last night was the first night she went down around 9:30. We are slowly working our way back.

What helped me re-acclimate back to CST? After having a night of not being able to fall asleep until 11:30pm, I had to be at a friend’s house by 4:30am to drive him and his family to the airport. I woke up feeling so unrested, but felt like I could manage the drive. After dropping them off at the airport, I took their car back to their house and picked up my own. It was 5:30am by this time and I knew it’d be 10 minutes home plus another 15 minutes to fall asleep. This would then be followed up by my two-year-old waking me up 30 minutes later. So I did what any sensible person would do, went for gas and coffee.

After I got home, spent time reading the Bible and praying, my normal routine began. By the time I got to work at 9am, I was already tired from the day. I couldn’t focus or stay on task. It was a struggle to stay present.

That afternoon, I walked into Greg Fisher’s office so that we could talk about some security measures we have put in place at our church. I sat in his office trying so hard to be fully present and fully engaged. However, my eyes began to glaze over and I began to feel catatonic. I could hear what he was saying, but didn’t know if I was thinking or speaking. The rest of the day was a blur, literally. I couldn’t tell if I was awake or asleep. There was no struggle to go to sleep that night. And the next day, I felt so refreshed after eight hours of sleep.

This got me thinking about what the Bible says about rest. Rest isn’t just sleeping at night, but fully disengaging from the things that cause us the most stress. In the Old Testament, God tells the Israelites to work for six days and on the seventh to observe a sabbath. This means a full day of rest from all work. It’s not just talking about work that the Israelites did to earn money, but also the tasks that one had to do around the house.

In our culture, this is an area in which we struggle. We may have every intention to take a sabbath day, to not do work, but then there are always things to do around the house. “When will everything that I ‘need’ to do get done.” “If I take a day off, I will get behind and then be completely stressed that nothing got done in my absence.” “I’ll rest next weekend. I’ve got to get this done today.” And so, we put off one of the things we need most…rest.

We look forward to vacation because it is a break from all of the work. We get away, leave it all behind, and grab hold of every moment we can. As Jesus followers, we may reconnect with God and declare that from this moment on things will be different. We promise to spend more time reading and praying. Some may even promise to go to church more regularly and even make sure to observe a sabbath. We have a great encounter with God, things change when we get home…at first.

God created a rhythm for our lives of work…rest…work…rest, but we have pushed rest to the side and relegated it to the two weeks of vacation we get each year. So our rhythm looks more like work, work, work, work, r…work, e…work, s…work, t…work. We try to fit rest in when we can, but it’s not a priority.

What I have come to realize is if we don’t plan for it, it’s just wishful thinking. This is true with rest or anything else we want to do in our lives. When we plan for it, we prioritize it and so it becomes something we work towards.

A twenty minute nap isn’t enough. We have to be willing to establish a 24-hour period where we don’t work. When we take an entire day to rest, it causes us to trust God to help us accomplish all of the tasks we see as important. Rest causes us to realize our dependency on God and to trust Him more. When we fail to rest, it’s because we don’t trust that God has everything under control.

Kids and teenagers every year get away for a week of camp to unplug from their daily routines, put aside things that distract to focus in on God. They come back with a new passion to follow God more and change the world. Within two weeks, that passion has subsided and the students are distracted. It happened to me more than once as a teenager. I believe what we need is that camp experience once a week.

We need an experience with God that helps us to unplug and refocus our hearts and lives back on Him. Rest. Breathe. Sabbath. All of our stress would be lifted if we practiced resting in Him by creating a Sabbath. Is it going to be easy? Heck no! You will more than likely fail at it multiple times. Just get back up and try again. God established these rhythms for a reason and its hard to march to the beat of a different drum. There will be many other beats to distract you from God’s, but just keep focusing on Him. It’s the rhythm for which our souls long.

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