chosen.

Ya’ll, I can say that now because I’m southern, the Lord has been wrecking me lately. He hasn’t asked my permission on the matter at all. Even before the night that left me sobbing on the floor of my living room, He was working on me. His word was not whispered to me, but shouted at me. Scripture was as alive as it has ever been and I readily soaked it up. I longed for the pure spiritual milk that Peter spoke about as I was surrounded by prayer and encouragement from my church family.

I have been hanging out in 1 Peter lately. When suffering was too much I went there to sit and study after listening to the Gospel Coalition Women’s Conference. Between Jen Wilkin’s breastfeeding anecdote and John Piper pressing into the fact that your suffering is not purposeless, I quickly realized that I needed to spend more time in this book. I’d read it while doing the three year survey of the Bible, but I’d never just lingered there.

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So I lingered and I wrote. I wrote every word. I copied it straight from my Bible into a beautiful peacock notebook that I received as a gift from a sweet sister in the Lord. Then as I reread it, I paraphrased and wrote it all out a little more. As I wrote and lingered, I paused in many places. The first place I paused: verse one.

“Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ: To the temporary residents dispersed in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia chosen..”

Then I stopped. Right there. Chosen. Sure, there’s more. It wasn’t the end of a sentence. As Peter continues he presses in

“Peter…chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father and set apart by the Spirit for obedience and for sprinkling with the blood of Jesus Christ. May grace and peace be multiplied to you.”

So much is there, but I stopped right on chosen. My life is not about me. It’s about the One who chose me. He picked me out of my sin and mess and muck. If He hadn’t, I’d still be there. And honestly, I wouldn’t be looking for a way out. He chose me for the life that He’s given me – that includes the difficulties that I can’t make sense of. That is why this verse – right at the beginning of where the Lord led me to study and learn to trust – struck me. It’s so easy for me to get whiny and stuck. I forget what my purpose is and why I am here when the waves crash so hard against me.

Then He reminds me, one verse in, that He chose me. Not the other way around. So with that truth, I begin to find rest.

Is there a verse that has caused you to pause and linger lately?

He reminds me

What is it about being sick that makes me forget that I was ever well? It’s like being stuck in this confusing space between “this isn’t right” and “nothing will ever be the same” – even though I can’t remember what the same felt like. Recently I left work with a temperature over a hundred. Ick. I spent the whole day laying in bed and bingeing on The Blacklist. I ate egg drop soup and Popsicles while my children were kept from me so that they wouldn’t also catch this plague. I was nearly quarantined in my own home and barely functioning. On the second day of horrible congestion and a head that felt like it was going to explode, I was slowly approaching normal again. As my mind cleared up I realized that this is always what happens.

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When I have a bad day, I can’t see past it. When my husband and I go through difficult times, I can’t remember when it was ever good. All the times that things went wrong are abundantly clear when things are going badly. My mind is clouded by lies and half-truths. In these times I really need to be reminded that it’s not always like this. Not only is it not always like this, but it’s usually not. I remember the wrong things. If I’m remembering the wrong things the obvious next question is: what should I be remembering?

Jesus. What a Sunday school answer. But really! My only issue isn’t perspective, but that’s one of them. I have to stop looking at myself – especially myself when I’m falling apart – and start looking at my Savior. Remembering what He’s done in saving me and keeping me is an absolute necessity. Suddenly it all looks different. Suddenly it’s not about me and my life and my feelings and my marriage and my whatever. It’s about Him. It’s about His life and His plans and His work in my life. It’s about His glory. If only I could always remember to stop and refocus. Too often I allow a bit of discontent or misunderstanding to turn into full on sin. That’s not where I want to be. That’s not where I’m supposed to be.

These are the moments that I’m so glad that he holds me. I’m thankful that he reminds me of who I am in Him.

How does the Lord remind you of who you are in Him?

 

what to do with your children’s trust

Growing up I trusted my parents. I lived with both my mother and father and my grandmother. So many other people were in and out of the house through my 18 years in that home that it would be a post in itself to explain. I don’t know that I had to make a conscious effort to trust my parents or my Mama Joyce. It was just a part of who I was. I was a kid. These adults are here telling me what to do and when to do it and how to do it and I didn’t know – for a long time anyway – that doing the opposite of what they said was an option. Sure, like most kids, I was disobedient at times. I lied. I stole candy. I stole money a few times to buy candy. This isn’t really about the inherent sinful nature in children, but why pass up the opportunity to point it out. There it was. In me.

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Anyway, I think that we have an innate trust in our parents, or the people who we grow up to know as our parents. Why wouldn’t we? They take care of us and they are the adults we are around the most. My one-year-old babies know my voice and my face and come to me. My mother-in-law always says, “they know their mama!” And they do! It’s amazing! It makes me light up to see my baby foxes squeal with joy and come crawling toward me as quickly as their little arms and legs will bring them.

These two little people trust me. They trust me and my husband. They wouldn’t describe it as trust (because they don’t describe anything yet – they’re babies). Yet, that’s what it is. So, what am I to do with that? I have been called to this most difficult and important task of raising two people into adulthood. What do I want them to know? What is important to me that they “catch” from me? What kind of adults do I hope them to be? The answers to those questions differ from parent to parent. I would challenge you to look to the Bible to find out what God wants from you as a parent.

“Listen, Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is One. Love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. These words that I am giving you today are to be in your heart. Repeat them to your children. Talk about them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Bind them as a sign on your hand and let them be a symbol on your forehead. Write them on your doorposts of your house and on your gates.” -Deuteronomy 6:4-9

This is not the time to get into whether or not these words are to be used as an exhortation to Christians (although I do have something to say about that). This is a time to see what the Lord has said to us and about being parents. He tells us who to trust. Then He tells us who to teach our children to trust. Even with these verses the answers to the questions above will look different to everyone, but let me leave you with just this nugget: He wants you use every part of you to bring Him glory and to teach your children to do the same. That’s our jobs. Our calling. Our ministries in our homes. I’ll be figuring out what that looks like for a long time, but right now I am, at least, certain of the direction that I should be going.

How do you (or do you plan to) teach your children to trust God with everything?

a little marriage advice

Everyone loves a good advice column. Sometimes we even enjoy a bad advice column because we want to see how badly the train will wreck. So in the light of both of those facts, I thought that I’d jump on the advice bandwagon this week! Enjoy.

Disclaimer: This may or may not be a letter that I wrote just now to respond to.

Hello, JaQuinn,

I see that you have been married for some time. I am a husband and father of two small children. We love Jesus and reading your blog (even though we’d really like posts more frequently). My wife is a wonderful woman who has recently come down with some kind of vile sickness. She has a fever and keeps crying. She wants to sleep but can’t and had to miss work. It’s very unpleasant and I don’t want to get sick or my children to catch whatever it is that she has. My question is, what should I do? Thanks in advance for your vast amounts of wisdom.

Healthy and could be happier

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Dear Healthy and Could be happier,

I’m so sorry to hear that your wife is sick. I’m sure that she wishes that she could be kissing those babies and helping around the house. Unfortunately, our bodies are not perfect and sometimes catch disease and sickness. I understand why you wouldn’t want to get sick. You see her laying there looking so pathetic – hair undone, face oozing, coughing and icky. However, is not getting sick the most important part of what happens next? I don’t think so. I think that the most important thing is your sweet wife – who you claim is wonderful – healing. You want her to be healthy!

God has given you an opportunity to serve your wife. He has called us as spouses to humble ourselves before one another. So, here you go! She is humbled because of her sickness. You can serve her in an obvious way. When I’m sick my husband handles it quite well. He brings me freezy pops (because they feel so good on my sore throat). Then he brings me medicine and keeps the babies in the other room until I’m absolutely needed for something. He lets me sleep and binge on Netflix in bed and rest. That’s not to say that’s exactly what you should do, but I think that’s the right direction to be heading.

The purpose of our marriages are to bring glory to God – Soli Deo Gloria! A question to ask yourself when you’re not sure where to begin may be, “how do I give glory to God in this situation?” I think, and I’m sharing because you asked, that you should start with caring for your wife. Show her in a hands-on way that you care for her. When she gets better she’ll be so thankful and ready to get back to her daily duties.

I pray that your wife would be led to love Christ more because of how you care for her in this situation. I pray that your marriage would be one that shows others who Christ is because of the way you serve and love one another.

Grace and peace

JaQuinn

 

 

two one year olds and a cold parking lot

I feel badly for people who can’t find their cars when it’s cold outside. Tonight as I was waiting to turn into a parking spot at Target, I noticed a woman looking incredibly lost. She continued stopping and going and looking in circles. Then she spotted it: her car! Her body language shifted from confused and shoulders hunched to happy and peppy! I was so happy for her! Know why? Because it was 30 degrees Fahrenheit outside! That’s freezing! She was walking around looking for her car in the freezing cold. I sympathized, nay, empathized with her. Not because I have lost my car in the cold – as a matter of fact I walked right back to my prime parking spot with all the speed and fervor in which I had left it – but because I’ve been a mother of twins for one year.

It’s not exactly the same as walking around in the freezing cold looking for a car, but it’s surprisingly similar. The first couple nights I was so happy! I had babies! Two of them! Who wouldn’t be elated? I had the babies and they were healthy and going home with me! I hadn’t slept in months, but that’s irrelevant. Just like the lady leaving Target, presumably pleased with her purchases and heading out into the parking lot to get into her predictable car and turn on the heat. Only there was something she wasn’t expecting…

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And that’s the rest of the year. Me – unexpectedly taking on every detail of two tiny humans. It didn’t always feel like hypothermia slowly taking over my body, but it had it’s moments. I remember once standing in their nursery. I was holding one and the other was in the crib. It was about 2am (or 3, or 4, is there really a difference?) and both of them were crying. When I say crying, I don’t mean that in the cute baby way. Not a single tear poetically rolling down each of their gorgeous faces. I mean ugly crying. Screaming and wailing and completely inconsolable. Sure, they sounded like baby dolls (and that was cute) but I was sleep deprived. So what’s a new mama with two crying babies to do? Join them!

I cried along with my babies that night. We all cried until we were too tired to cry anymore. Then we all went to sleep. It’s like we found our cars that cold night, turned on the heat, and enjoyed some relaxing music. Here’s where the analogy breaks down, I didn’t drive home. Nothing was back to how it was before. I keep getting out of the car, going into Target, and roaming around the parking lot in the cold over and over again. Every time I think that I’ve figured it out – we have our routine down, everything is going smoothly – BAM! New phase. They’re growing and learning and advancing. It’s absolutely amazing.

Honestly, I wouldn’t want it any other way. The last year has been nothing like I could have imagined, more than I ever expected, and every other wonderful cliche about loving the unexpected. I’m glad that woman found her car. Not only because she was standing in the parking spot that I wanted while she looked for it, but also because it’s warm in there. That’s where the ride happens for most people. But this last year for me was all about the parking lot.

Wish my twins a happy first birthday!

 

theology, the Bible, and me

Can I begin by saying that I spent time considering whether or not I should use that second comma in the title? It probably seems like an insignificant detail, but I really thought about it. Words, sentences, pauses, stories: I’ve been taking them all in with such intention lately. When people speak, instead of waiting my  turn to talk, I listen. I lean in. I want to hear their words and decipher the meanings. I don’t want to miss what’s happening in their lives because of all the mess happening in my own brain.

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This detail-oriented way to approaching life has been exciting and confusing. My mind can’t relax at times because I won’t stop making sure that I understand. The need to understand is difficult when so many important topics are brought to my attention. Some people – I thought that I was one of them for a long time – are okay with not understanding. But my tears over election and the souls of people I love have proven otherwise. The last 7 months have been a journey of sorts in knowing what I believe, why I believe it, and how it affects my life. This is not the time to get into the details of what I have learned about theology or the nature of God. This isn’t the time to talk about the community that I’ve joined in beginning to understand my faith and my God in a new way. This isn’t the time to try to teach you about these things because I’m only beginning to understand them myself. This is the time, however, to say that it matters.

What you believe and why you believe it matters. For the last 363 days I have been responsible for caring for two tiny people. Those little, beautiful babies are going to look to me for guidance. I am entrusted with teaching them the ways of the Lord. I’m not completely sure, but that is part of what has projected me onto this journey of theology and understanding – really understanding – the Word of God. (Although this is a big part of my why, it’s not the only one).

I’m still learning. I don’t think that I’ll ever stop learning, but I do think that I will have clarity and peace. Sparked by one line in the Christmas story that I’ve heard and read hundreds of times in my life, Christ has given me peace. He’s given me peace with a difficult question. It shook me in an unexpected way, but I’m thankful for how he has shaken me up and is shaping me up.

“Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace on earth to people He favors!” -Luke 2:14 (HCSB)

What are some verses that God has used to shake you up or shape you up?

in the face of persecution

Last week I sat down on my green sofa, placed my laptop on my lap, and planned to write. I imagined words flowing out of me. Words would encourage you and build you up. I imagined my words filling you with courage and boldness to face the world in spite of Christians being murdered on American soil. Thoughts of how we don’t understand real persecution and how we didn’t care enough until it happened to us rushed over me. I realized that I didn’t have the words. The words that were necessary to embolden myself in the midst of guilt for not caring enough – and not truly understanding – and being heart broken about my brothers and sister in Christ being shot in the face was too much!

I’m sorry. I’m sorry for not being able to find the words. I’m sorry for my silence. The eloquence necessary to give you what you need in this situation does not come easily for me. All I have for you is honesty, and the Word. He knows. He understands. He is not surprised or taken aback or scared. He’s not worried. He is faithful. He is in control. He is good. I know we just went over this: reminding ourselves that He’s good. But I think that in these moments, when Christians are being crucified (yet we still feel so far from it) we need to come back to the truth.

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They are not standing up for nothing. Stephen prayed for his persecutors! He prayed for them as they killed him. Lord, we are missing so much, and we are so scared, but You are so good. Jesus knew this was going to happen. Before He left this earth He told us what to do. What better words can I go to than those of our Savior? We can’t always find the words, but more often than we realize the perfect words have already been spoken.

“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” ~Jesus in Matthew 5

The word translated “blessed” here means “when God extends His benefits” or “happy, blessed, to be envied.” You are in such a position when you are under persecution for your faith that others should be envious of you. That is your position, although our feelings don’t always match up with what God has said you are. I’m not saying that it will, it doesn’t always for me. I am saying, He is never surprised. He knew. He warned. He is with us in it all – even when we can’t quite figure it out.