A Fairytale in the Flesh

Untitled presentation (14)

It has been a lifelong theme, for me.

A yearning for “good ol’ days”. An attraction to happy endings. A steady heartbeat of longing for things that cannot be found where we are, no matter where we go.

This world is a hauntingly beautiful song that is being played on a slightly off-tune instrument. One side of it is so lovely that it brings me to my knees in praise and amazement and the other side splits my eardrums in two, tempting me to claw at the dirt in a desperation for escape.

Relics from Eden abound. In love stories. In the laughter of children. In nature. In acts of kindness and self-sacrifice.

But the strains of discord ever threaten, and ruinous vines entangle what should have been perfect. Divorce and adultery shatter families. Children become victims. God’s handiwork is decimated and cluttered by our filth.

And isn’t this why we love good books, inspiring movies, and fairytales? Any story, really, that will carry us away from the reality we try so desperately to ignore?

Craving wells up and reverberates through shed tears as we survey all the tales that should have been fact, tales of redemption, of true love, of peace, of hope. In those pages and on those screens, our broken and searching hearts whisper that “yes! This is what life is supposed to be like! Shouldn’t love last forever? Shouldn’t men should choose to do good, even when it is hard? Cannot even the vilest offender be redeemed and spend his life in beauty??”

And, fueled by the ache within, we labor our lives away, attempting to craft fairytales with our own hands and by our own means.

We pursue love, dreaming with stars in our eyes of how that man or woman will fulfill us and make life the song that we’ve been trying to write since we could pick up a pen.

We pursue a life of comfort, with a couple of healthy kids and a cozy house with all the trimmings.

We pursue fame, attempting to fill up the burning of our hearts with more recognition, more ‘likes’, more followers.

The options for soul satiation are so shiny when they are still on the shelf.

And so we choose an available portion with glittering eyes, greedy with hope that this will be the solution that will finally tame our hunger.

We pick up a spoon, we dig in and we feast with passion…

but as we chew on life, the realization soon settles that every single dish we have chosen to fill up our soul was nothing more than a heap of dry ashes masquerading as fulfillment.

We begin to choke on them.

We can’t swallow.

We drown in a rush of bitterness and disappointment that life, once more, has let us miserably down.

Try as we might, there is just no dodging the truth that every single fairytale this world has to offer is a phony, an illusion that, once tasted, loses its luster and dissolves into dust.

Except, that is, for one.

A mother and father traveled far from their home, and in a borrowed stable, a baby boy was born. They bundled Him up like parents do, but contained in the flesh of His humanity beat the very heart of God.

He lived a perfect life, fully God, but in a body that was fully man. He loved. He had friends. He lost friends. He witnessed death, seeing and feeling the sting that haunts the human race. The wretched sting that haunts us today. And, like us, He wept, tasting the salt of human tears that sprang forth from a heart that felt real human pain.

He was Emmanuel, God in the flesh, and everything He touched was made beautiful. Lame were healed, blind were given sight, sinners were redeemed, and His perfect words of truth and wisdom sliced through the veil that had shrouded centuries.

Bur three years into His public ministry, the time arrived for Him to fulfill what He had come to earth to do. The fall of man needed to be paid for, and He, in the greatest act of love the world has ever known, was going to provide the sacrifice.

His body groaned the night before His crucifixion, and His spirit was violently tested as He submitted to the will of the Father. But still He marched, resolutely, surrendering himself to his enemies and to the cross of a criminal. He was nailed up and tortured, and in unspeakable pain and suffering, He willingly took every last trace of mankind’s punishment as His own…

even as mankind spat upon the gift.

And all those things that plague us? The tragedies, the disappointments, the addictions and the brokenness that leave us raw with pain and longing?

He defeated them on our behalf, annihilating each and every one with a passion that made the earth quake in reverence.

And then He was no more. The debt had been paid in full, His spirit was given up, and His dead, limp body was carried away as His mother and His friends mourned in despair that the Light of the World had been snuffed out.

They buried Him in a borrowed tomb and the next three days were filled with unimaginable darkness. Darkness of soul. Darkness of grief. Darkness of doubt. Yet another fairytale had been dangled before human eyes, only to end in utter disappointment and loss.

But just this one time…

a happy ending was coming…

and it was going to change the world.

Their world.

Our world.

The fairytale came true.

In the exact miracle that He and the prophets of old foretold, three days later, Jesus Christ rose from the dead.

Hundreds of witnesses saw Him, talked with Him, touched Him, and a hunkered down and mournful Church rose up, bold and fearless, in belief. They had seen this man die, and now, He was in front of them, the wounds in His hands and side to prove it.

He remained among them for forty days, teaching and ministering, before ascending into heaven where He is preparing a place for all those who believe on His name, even those of us who have yet to see Him with our own eyes.

And in a day that is coming soon, oh glorious day…

He will return to this fallen and disappointing world and He will make all things new for those who put their trust in Him.

Love will become true and eternal, children will be safe, creation will shine in all of its intended glory, and all of those stories that we wish could be REAL, those glimpses of Eden that are so beautiful that they bring us pain…

They will be an every-day, every minute reality, as natural to us as our fears are today. The craving will be satiated. The ache will disappear. The emptiness will be filled up and forgotten.

And all the wrongs will be made right.

Our souls will finally rest.

My heart is irresistibly compelled to believe and to proclaim it, that Jesus Christ is the fairytale we’ve been hunting, the love that will remain, the comfort that is forever, the hope for today, tomorrow and eternity…

but He is no fairytale.

He is real.

I believe.

Do you?

~

All comments are welcome and read, but are only made public by my discretion. To hear more from Mrs. Gore, find me on Facebook or Instagram! Thank you for reading!

Help a Mother Out: the How-to

Biblical and practical tips for keeping the mom in your life from going INSANE

I hope that Saturday’s blog post about helping the moms in your life impacted you, and I’m excited today to move on to the more practical aspects of how to make that happen. But first, I have a tiny little story to tell…

My fourth child is about to have his first birthday, and just recently, I have found myself rising above the funk that I have been in since his birth. For ten long months, I’ve been in a haze, heavily sleep-deprived and unable to conquer the realm that I have been charged to keep. In fact, the only area of my life where I wasn’t failing was my ability to make egg-in-the-hole for our supper every. single. night.

Two months ago, however, I realized with a start that I had signed up to host our church’s monthly ladies fellowship at my house. Talk about kicking me into gear! For a concentrated week, I cleaned and polished and organized and before I knew it, I was on top of things again. My house was sparkling and so was my heart. It was perfect timing to match the clearing postpartum fog in my brain and, with this completely fresh slate, I have kept my house comfortably tidy for weeks, even managing to keep laundry cleaned and put away.

Until two weeks ago. A busy schedule interrupted my new mojo and, day by day, the house slipped, and with it, my attitude.

I was cranky.

I was frustrated.

I felt ten steps behind and I felt like a failure. And in the midst of all that gloom, I lost site once more of my purpose: to glorify God in my home and to share the gospel with my family.

 Until last Thursday.

When we were in the city for our kids’ music classes, my mom snuck in and cleaned my house for me.

Just like that, in the span of one afternoon, with clean floors under my feet and an uncluttered backdrop in my periphery, I am on top of the world again, and I tell you this story for this specific reason: in a couple of hours of unmerited and unsolicited service, my mom not only cleaned my house, she gave me freedom.

The next morning when the children came downstairs, I was able to greet them with a happier heart than I’ve had for days. I made my bed, I did a load of laundry, I started on the dishes and I made my family a good breakfast, simple things that, in my previously frustrated state, felt almost impossible to accomplish.

My point is this: when you give up your time and energy to “help a mother out”, you are not just giving her a good surprise or making her feel loved. You are not spoiling her. You are contributing to her ability to mother her children well, to love her husband well and to commune with God, and in so doing, you are helping your local church body and you are living the gospel message out for her family to see.

Helping the moms in your church is, without a doubt, powerful and life-saving Kingdom work and it spans generations.

 ~

 So, we’ve established that moms need help.

 How are we going to help them?

 #1. Love.

 Because it is obviously impossible to address every possible situation in one blog post, I want to start with this, the one act that will never fail and that will work for any mom: love. Love the fire out of the moms in your church. I assure you, they need every ounce of it they can get, regardless of how “together” they seem to have it. Pray for a heart that is full of love toward this group and see how the Spirit moves you.

#2. Compassion.

Many young moms are not just facing the most physically hectic and draining years of their life, they are learning to spiritually die to themselves for the first time. At least, that’s how it was for me. I needed practical help, but I also needed patience as I found my footing in a world that I was completely unacquainted with and slowly learned how to work hard and live for others. If you can manage to help the young Mrs. Gore’s in your life without being put off by their seeming lack of vision, purpose and get-up-and-go-ness, you’ll really be doing them a favor. Hang in there with them, teach them by example, instruct them gently and someday, they’ll be writing super-long blog posts about how you helped them through their metamorphosis.

 #3. Use your giftedness.

I am learning great things about how God crafts the church. Our gifts are chosen by Him to be used by Him for the benefit of the church He has placed in our life. So what are you good at? It is no mistake that you’re good at that thing you just thought of. It is also no mistake that you attend church with that frazzled mama two pews behind you. How might you turn your gift toward her?

#4. Use your season.

I remember when some of our friends were in a season of life where discontentment could have become an issue for them. They were ready to have kids, but circumstances were preventing it and so what did they do? They POURED themselves out for us and invested in our kids. This was just downright beautiful! I have also learned so much by watching my mama, at a time in her life when she could be traveling and doing whatever she wants to do, invest countless hours and funds into giving us the help that she remembers needing as a mom with young kids. This is how the body of Christ looks so different from the world, choosing to die, even when they don’t have to. God has you where He has you for a reason and that reason is to help me. ;) I kid. But, seriously. Bloom where you’ve been planted and watch as God unifies your church and causes it to flourish.

 #5. Service with a smile.

If you took a survey and asked moms where they most need help, I am almost 15% positive that their answers would fall in the category of housekeeping. There is just so much to do and, when the children are little, there is no one to help. I would daresay my life is easier with four children (aged 7, 5, 3 and 1) than it was when I had a 3- and 1-year old! And if it weren’t for the support of those around me, I don’t know that I would have graciously survived it. Here is a short list of things that have been done for me that knocked my threadbare socks right off my feet.

  • Laundry. Laundry is a great way to start helping moms out, because it is something you can pick up and take back to them. At least once a week, my own mom drops by and demands that I send a couple of loads home with her. The next day, she brings them back and, being very comfortable in my home, puts them away. Sometimes she helps me with the ironing. Sometimes she helps me fold the five loads I have stacked up in the laundry room. All of it is immeasurably helpful. Like, to the moon and back.
  • Cleaning. Being served in the area of cleaning has been life-giving. I’m talking, LIFE-GIVING. My husband, my mom, and my friend, Chrissy, have each routinely surprised me with a completely cleaned house while I was away, and I almost die of happiness, every time. It NEVER gets old. Also, as often as she can, my mom drops by and spends the day helping me clean my house. When you add a helper, a filthy house goes from completely overwhelming to totally doable. I don’t know how I’d make it without these boosts. I’m not exaggerating. I also once heard of a church member hiring a professional deep-clean for her pastor’s wife who had small children. I can’t think of a better or more useful gift!
  • Cooking. I’ve mentioned this before, but when we came home from the hospital with Baby Shep, our church ladies prepared healthy, delicious meals for us for an entire month. It was heavenly. And, occasionally, even if we don’t have a newborn in the house, a friend will drop off food for no reason at all. Sometimes it is a half a lasagna that their family couldn’t eat alone. Sometimes a basket of fruit. Sometimes garden-fresh produce. Sometimes a dessert, fresh out of the oven. ALL of it is a gift that deeply blesses me and lightens the load.
  • Miscellany. During particularly difficult seasons, we’ve had neighbors and friends drop by and mow our yard. We’ve had friends surprise us by cleaning out our van. And here’s something kind of awesome: I have loved observing one of our older church ladies who is gifted at gardening use her time and energy to plant a garden for a friend with young kids who showed interest in planting one. She faithfully checks in and helps them tend it, as well. Be creative and remember that there is probably no area of the mom’s life that couldn’t use some “tlc”. Personally, our life is chaotic from our cars, to our sidewalk, to our porch and to every last inch of our house. Pick a spot, any spot.
  • Childcare. I’ve come down on “me time” in past writings, but that doesn’t mean I don’t think it is important for young moms to have some time to themselves. Just today, my husband took all four kids for an hour so I could clean without interruptions. It was so nice and helped me to be refreshed for the second part of the day. There are so many options for helping in this area. Sometimes my mom and dad take all four kids overnight, giving us two whole days to rest and reorient our house and schedule. Sometimes they take one kid overnight or for the afternoon (don’t underestimate how taking even one child off a mom’s hands will help her!). You could get with some other ladies and offer to keep the kids from several families at the church for the afternoon. You could offer to baby-sit one evening. But if those ideas cause you to shiver, how about acting as a mother’s helper? It would be so helpful to have someone come to the house and play with the older kids in the yard while the babies were napping. Or come for an hour and read books to the little ones if mom is homeschooling older kids. I also know of a lady in our church who accompanies one of my friends to her doctor’s appointments, keeping the siblings in the waiting room. Whether your goal is to give mom some me-time or to help her juggle the chaos of her life, the possibilities are extensive.
  • Church nursery. Again, moms are first and foremost responsible for their own kids and should be happy and willing to help in the nursery at church; that said, I cannot express what a HUGE blessing it is to get to go to church and not go straight into a room to do what you’ve been doing 24/7 for the past week. Getting out the door with little ones in tow is a herculean effort, and some weeks, I am exhausted before we’ve even walked in the church doors. And remember, the more people who participate in a nursery rotation, the less any one person in particular will have to keep it. Spread the word, get people excited and do whatever you can to ensure no one is routinely stuck in the nursery (something we’ve all probably experienced!)

 #6. Teamwork.

This is for all the husbands out there. Your wife needs help! It took a lot of communication, a lot of trial-and-error, and a handful of years to get there, but my husband and I are getting into a routine that helps our marriage to thrive under the stress of this season of our life. For instance, here is our recent bedtime routine: he puts the big kids to bed upstairs while I put the baby to bed downstairs and tidy up the living room. We sit down and relax and watch a television show. We get up, clean the kitchen together and start the dishwasher. We go to bed. And then, in the morning before he leaves for work, he unloads the dishwasher and makes the coffee. This gives me such a headstart on the day! We also take turns keeping the kids so the other can go out with friends. We’re a team, and it makes all the difference in our home life and in our marriage – when everyone is working hard together, it makes resentment a true rarity. It takes time to learn these things, but if you’re new at all this and have ever harbored the notion that your wife “just stays home all day” while you’re at work, I humbly invite you to get a new worldview, and godspeed.

#7. Sisterhood.

We need to return to the world where it took “a village to raise a child”. Us moms are so busy being either paranoid or prideful that we try to do everything by ourselves. Posh! It is such a blessing to me when our church ladies grab one of my kids and help them fill up their plate at potlucks. It helps me when they tell my kids to slow down when they’re barreling down the aisles at church. It helps me to be in a room with my friends who also have little kids and tag-team holding babies and wiping noses and breaking up arguments over toys. We’re on the same team, you know, and today would be a good time to start acting like it.

#8. Encouragement.

And lastly, encourage the moms in your church. Every so often, someone will say something out of the blue that just knocks me over…

“Your children are really well behaved. You’re doing a great job.”

“You’re a natural mama.”

“The gospel is so evident in your home.”

Who? ME?! Are you talking about MY kids? It is always a shock to my unsure heart to hear that I’m doing okay. Kind words bring refreshing to the soul and do wonders to calm the inner storms that we try so very hard to keep quiet. Gifts of encouragement can be as varied as the giver, a hand-written note, a quick Facebook message, a token of love and appreciation, a short prayer in the hallways of the church, and you’d be surprised at how big of a boost a simple Facebook “like” or comment can give. You “like” the 25th picture I’ve posted of my kids this week? Lady, you just made my day.

It always pays to remember that every single person we pass – even on the internet – is fighting personal battles and could use a pat on the back.

~

And there you have it. In just under three thousand words, I’ve managed to write a book on the one thing I wanted to say today…

When you help a mama, you have helped the Church, both present and future.

~

And now I invite you to share. My original intent was to ask only those of you with moms in your life to share this on their behalf, but I also want to challenge YOU, little mama. Do you need help? Are you drowning? Tell your church family. Tell your pastor. Ask for help. Let people into your messy house and your disorganized life. Break down the walls of pride and perfection and begin a transparent conversation about your REAL life. Your help may not come overnight and it may not come ever – and if it doesn’t, you must not point fingers – but do your part and entrust the rest to God.

And thank you to ALL of you for hanging in there and reading this lengthy post. I am passionate about the church and long to see it strengthened and purified! I hope these thoughts help us along just a tiny bit.

As ever, you can follow Mrs. Gore’s Diary by signing up at the top of this page to receive e-mail notifications or by ‘liking’ us on Facebook.

Help a Mother Out: A Cry for Help. A Call to Arms.

Untitled presentation (11)

Over the past year, I have shared a couple of posts that directly relate to the heart of a mom; personal responsibility is a big deal to me, and if I’ve learned one thing in the last decade, it is that most of my problems begin and end with sweet little ol’ me.

I truly believe that the Spirit’s work, paired with a believer who is eager to mortify sin and grow in godliness, can overcome the most overwhelming odds.

(I speak, of course, of dishes).

In that regard, we moms are without excuse and should flee from entitlement and bitterness.

We’ve established these thoughts.

Been there.

Done that.

Roger, over and out.

Today, however, I humbly want to grab the ear of, well, basically everyone else.

The friend of a mom. The mom with bigger, more independent kids. The single. The newlywed. The grandmother. The widow. The married couple who haven’t had children. The aunt. The uncle. The neighbor.

I need to let you in on a little secret…

the mom in your life with young kids needs help.

It’s an emergency!!!

Because, as responsible as we each are for our own actions and territory, we were also created for community. We’re supposed to be there for each other. We’re supposed to bear one another’s burdens.

Er…not that little children are burdens.

That totally came out wrong.

Anyhow, to flesh out my point, I’ve been looking at it this way…

imagine that one of your church sisters is taking in her ailing mother.

Imagine that her mother needs round the clock care and can’t do anything for herself, that she frequently needs to be spoon-fed, to be cleaned up, and to be changed. Imagine that she cried uncontrollably for long periods of time as her daughter tried to find ways soothe her. Imagine that she woke her daughter up several times a night, night after night after night, sometimes for weeks or maybe even months in a row.

That would be enough, I suppose, but let’s keep going for a little bit.

Now imagine that the woman also had an ailing father, one that was a little easier to care for but that still needed constant care. He could pick up food and eat it, but all of his meals had to be prepared for him. He needed help getting dressed. He had to be bathed. He would have random meltdowns, especially when he was sleepy. He would make giant messes when his daughter was focused on taking care of her mother.

And then imagine that this woman had other typical responsibilities to shoulder. A house to clean. Classes to teach. A yard to care for. Groceries to buy. Laundry to wash. Relationships to nurture. Etc., etc., etc., etc., etc., etc.

Now…

please.

Pretty, pretty please, tell me her church would rally behind her to help?

Would not a sister or a brother come alongside her and help her carry the load?

Or would they cross their arms and say “she made her bed, now she can lie in it.”

Would they roll their eyes at her when she grew weak and wonder why she’s being so dramatic?

Would they smirk and say “I paid my dues when I took care of my own parents. Now it’s her turn.”

Oh, dear. I sincerely hope not.

I think you know where this is going…

Our churches are full of such women who have found themselves in a season of life that is routinely exhausting and overwhelming, caring for one, sometimes two, sometimes three, sometimes…FOUR!! (haha)…and sometimes even MORE little human beings who are wholly dependent upon them.

And, in many churches, I’m afraid this group of women are suffering alone. I think the reasons for this are manifold:

1. Many young mothers put on a brave face. Pride keeps them from asking for help because they don’t want to look weak or needy or imperfect. Thus, they show up to church, paste on a smile, and save their tears and honesty for the privacy of their homes. No one knows they need help because they never ask.

2. Motherhood is such a normal part of life. Sure, we’d rally behind the lady who was caring for her parents, because that just doesn’t happen everyday. But the lady with the toddler and the infant? That’s normal. Comical, even. It’s so cute to see her plop down in a heap of exhaustion while her two-year old climbs on her back and her baby crawls under the church pews (really…it IS cute).

3. We fail to recognize how drastically society has shifted. Where once local communities thrived and neighbors could be called upon to watch over the kids so mom could run down to the grocery store, or grandmothers were close at hand to help however they could, many moms now live on an island of sorts.

As a result, many of the young moms in our congregations are drowning in housework, fatigue and loneliness and feeling completely cut off and alone.

Now, before I move on, I know what you’re thinking…

“Presumptious, much?”

Should a lady who has little children REALLY be writing a blog post about how women with little children need help with their little children? Isn’t that like announcing your birthday on Facebook with a link to your Amazon wishlist?

You’d think. But what you may not know is that I have been approved to write this article, because of the following factoid alone: I have a LOT of help in my life. My husband works flexible hours right down the street, my mom lives 10 miles away and I have a church full of wonderful people I could call upon should the need arise.

In fact, the helpful and thoughtful people in my life are actually the ones who INSPIRED this blog post, giving me experience to draw from and a success story to tell of how moms can thrive under the care of a loving support system.

As such, I feel very comfortable today initiating this conversation and speaking on behalf of the demographic that I represent; for their sake, I will shout from the internet rooftops what they’ve been hiding. Listen closely and you can hear the cries of their heart…

HELP!!! I’m sinking, I’m drowning, I’m dying, and I don’t know what I’m going to do.

~

I hope I’ve caught your ear and your heart. Stay tuned for Part Two, full of practical ideas for helping the moms in your life. Coming up Monday!

The Most Important Article You’ll Ever Read on Child Safety

Untitled presentation (9)

Sorry about that title.

This article probably won’t help you much when it comes to child safety.

Because, frankly, for the past seven years, I have learned one important lesson from the internet and the news: children die out there.

There are the obvious fears that we face as parents: cancer, drowning, strangulation, suffocation, choking, car accidents, being ran over, accidental shootings, targeted shootings…

but in case we weren’t scared enough already, there’s also all of the obscure stuff out there that makes the rounds on Facebook and 24-hour news channels like wildfire: secondary drowning, sandhole collapsesbrain-eating amoebas in pond water, etc., etc., etc.

Every possible way in which a child was harmed or has died is cataloged and published and shared and you’re sitting there zoned out in front of your computer reading about it like a slumped-over toad (because isn’t that what we all look like while we’re on the computer?), but on the inside this scream of hysteria is building in your throatal regions because your greatest fear – losing this little piece of you that you love so fiercely – is being described in another harrowing tale, and even worse, in a new horrible way that you never even dreamed of!!!

Seriously?

A sandhole collapse on the beach?

The water and the sharks weren’t scary enough?

Or the pedophiles?

Now we’re dealing with sand, too?!

Please, please, PLEASE don’t get me wrong: I love the idea of being prepared, and I am so grateful to the brave mothers who shared their stories to inform us of potential dangers that might threaten our children.

But you know what I don’t love?

Adding fear to my fear.

Adding worry to my worry.

Adding terrifying tableaux to my suitcase of worst-case scenarios.

I had so many of those already.

And now, I’m not only a wreck as I watch my kids swim, paranoid that I won’t see the nearly undetectable signs of drowning

now I’m watching them for hours afterward to make sure they are not secondarily drowning… 

and my mama-sized panic is compounding and I’m thinking crazy little somethings like this...

You know, Rebekah got some water in her nose and choked for a while. I read that the symptoms of secondary drowning are lethargy and sluggishness. But…my kids just swam for seven hours and now they’re all sacked out like corpses in the living room…what if she is drowning right now??? Should I wake her up? I know I’m being crazy. But…what if I’m wrong and its too late?!..

Sometimes, when I’m not panicking in the midst of all these potential dangers, toils and snares, I can’t help but reminisce about my carefree childhood in Oklahoma where my best friend and I could go meandering down our remote gravel road, sticking our feet in the creek, playing alone in the barn, going swimming in the pond…

you know what?

My kids don’t know that life.

Because, six years ago, two girls were shot and killed while meandering down an Oklahoma country road very similar to the one that I used to frequent.

Gravel roads haven’t looked safe since.

And there are snakes in the creek.

And there could be deadly amoebas in the pond.

And there could be sex offenders near the barn.

And that’s just the beginning.

They can’t drink out of the waterhose. That’s toxic.

If the baby falls asleep in his carseat, we should wake him up after we bring him inside because nine babies died from sleeping in carseats this year (by the way, why is this article all over Facebook right now when it was written in 2006?!).

Oh! And speaking of Baby Shepherd, OH MY GOSH, there is a balloon next to him and it must be popped and discarded of because if a baby even touches a balloon, they could inhale it and choke to death!!!

And sorry, this is off the subject a bit, but did you know that having a child blow out the candles on a birthday cake is a great carrier for germs?

(not to mention their hair could catch on fire).

God?

I’m freaking out here.

Again, I sincerely don’t want to be misunderstood: my point is not that it is bad to be informed.

Information is good.

Warnings are great.

Education is a gift.

And you’d better believe that if something tragic happened to my child that I could help others to avoid, I would do everything I could to get the word out.

My point has nothing to do with the information, really…

and everything to do with what we DO with the information.

How do we respond when we read these warnings?

Do they make us paranoid?

Do they chew up our bellies with fear?

Do they cause us to imagine the worst?

Do they make us feel helpless?

These kinds of responses are red flags, and they are scarier than pond water, because they belie a problem that is deeply rooted within us, a problem that is as old as time and feels impossible to shake…

We don’t trust God.

We want to BE God.

And, deep down, we hope that if we do this and avoid that and plan for this that nothing bad will happen to our children, ever.

All of which point to a most unbiblical conclusion…

we think that the only hope for our children is us.

And that is how the simple act of reading internet articles can be a diving board that catapults us into very dangerous waters; cataloging every possible death trap and fearing every single worst-case scenario, we subconsciously trample upon every word the Bible says about God’s sovereignty, about His goodness, about His will, and about His calling.

Through our fear and helplessness, we discard the scriptures that we so vocally uphold, saying aloud “Yes, Lord! You are so good and ‘I surrender all’ and ‘have thine own way’ and all those Christiany things I’m supposed to say” while our hearts are kind of screaming “YOU AREN’T BIG ENOUGH, GOD, AND YOU DON’T CARE ENOUGH”.

If you think that sounds like an exaggeration, consider how the article about secondary drowning receives our rapt attention while God-breathed texts like Romans 8 gather dust on our bedside table…

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 

For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. 

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. 

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, ‘For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.’ 

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 

For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Did you hear that?

This is just one tiny excerpt from a book that is TEEMING with hope.

Hope for me.

Hope for my kids.

And while those ancient words may not contain step-by-step instructions for keeping my kids alive, they provide so much more, a bountiful feast of peace and truth for my fearful soul…

a wellspring of beautiful principles that my starving and terrified heart devours.

God is in control.

God is good.

God does everything for my good.

God created my kids.

God loves my kids more than I do.

God has a plan for me that will bring Him glory.

Nothing can separate me from the love of God.

I am in Christ, and my children can be trusted to Him.

There are greater things to fear than death.

Granted, the Bible makes no promise that all of my safety- and wellness-centered prayers for my children will be answered; in fact, most passages of comfort in the Word were written to a people who were enduring suffering like many of us have never seen.

It is inevitable: every person dies and no one is exempt from pain and sadness.

But when I read the Word, it helps me to breathe.

It realigns my heart with a truth that I cannot inwardly deny.

It stamps a purpose and a hope upon even my worst-case scenarios.

And it reminds me that this life isn’t even the one I’m supposed to be living for, anyway, and that, if God would be so gracious, I have eternity to spend with each of my most-beloved children.

Eternity!

So yes, let’s read and share all the articles and take the precautions as we slather on the suncreen and zip up the sleepsacks and fasten the safety helmets and cut up the grapes and mince the hot dogs and AVOID ALL WATER, PERIOD…

but let’s also stop living as if there is no God.

After all, there is really nothing more toxic, hazardous, poisonous or dangerous than that.

 ~

Want to keep up with Mrs. Gore’s Diary? Find us on facebook! I promise not to share scary articles there. :)

Letting Your Light Shine in the Little Places

Letting Your Light Shine in the Little Places: finding joy and rest in God's seemingly small assignment for your life

I’m so proud of him. He has given up so much to be here…” I said, for perhaps the 18th time in as little as a year.

And although it escapes my memory who I was talking to, I know exactly who I was talking about: my husband.

A hyperintelligent young man, he was accepted into Princeton University as a high schooler and had plans of graduating with a law degree, undoubtedly at the top of his class. And with his nearly perfect test scores, he could have accomplished it all without paying a cent.

But God had a different course for his life, and after several sleepless nights and the heaviest spiritual wrestling matches he has ever experienced, his plans were rerouted: he would become a minister. That acceptance letter to Princeton was discarded and to Oklahoma Baptist University he went, where he graduated with honors before continuing his education at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky.

I knew he was a smarty-pants all along, but it wasn’t until after we married and I joined him at SBTS that I realized exactly how brilliant he was. He excelled in all of his classes on the advanced track to a Masters of Divinity, and was a shoo-in for the prestigious P.h.D. program. On several occasions, I heard his friends make light-hearted predictions that he would be the next president of the seminary.

I was certainly in awe of him. Because not only was he as bright as a 200-watt, he was down-to-earth. Humble. Kind. A magnificent speaker. Wise. And one of the funniest people I knew, with a wit so sharp it could cut the blues right out of you. Everyone liked him. He always knew what to say. He never took a wrong step.

He could have done anything.

But one semester into his very exciting and beloved P.h.D. studies, God tapped him on the shoulder with another unmistakable call, and after seeking guidance from his professors, with bittersweet resolve, he walked away from his very bright future, for three reasons…

1. God was strongly compelling him.

2. I was pregnant and he wanted to give me and our baby more than his work load would allow.

3. Our tiny church back home needed help.

Fast forward seven years. He has been senior pastor of that church now for five years. Attendance: 100, on a good day.

Growing up, he probably expected that by the age of 33 he would be a well-established lawyer, and I have no doubt in my mind that we would be bathing in dollar bills by now.

And even after he surrendered his life to the ministry, I’m sure there were dreams. A big, thriving church with thousands of podcast subscribers. Magazine articles and book deals. Big-time speaker at SBC conferences and church camps. Board member at OBU and SBTS…

instead, he willingly and passionately oversees this tiny flock that God has bound to his heart.

He creates tissue-paper poofs for baby showers, he keeps nursery on some Sunday mornings when our other pastor is preaching, he drives elderly congregants to the hospital, and he unclogs church toilets.

The work is challenging, and the results are slow.

No one really cares what he could have been.

And the only writing he does these days is the daily Bible reading guide that he crafts specifically for our congregation to help us meditate on the exposited Sunday text.

There are no book deals. No interviews. No headshots. No board meetings.

And what I didn’t realize was that there were hidden parts of me that struggled with this until I heard those words come out of my mouth yet again: “He has given up so much…

the Spirit pricked me.

What, exactly, my dear, has he given up?

Money?

Prestige?

A name?

All passing fancies and possible traps that could lead to the ruination of Mr. Gore.

Ten thousand people instead of a hundred?

As if the one hundred were not worthy of a life laid down for them…

as if the one hundred deserved someone less smart, less wise, less qualified, less caring.

I would never have said it in so many words, but what God uncovered in my heart that day was the lingering (and toxic) idea that big gifts needed to be used in BIG places, and that anything less was sort of wasteful.

Silly me.

Indeed, from a worldy perspective, Mr. Gore has given up much to obey God’s call on his life, and I have watched him continually lay down his life to pursue difficult things and to crucify the parts of him that could have been used to build up a kingdom for himself.

It is never easy to deny yourself, take up your cross daily and follow Christ.

There is great loss involved.

But how twisted was my underlying thought that there was any import in the number of people someone impacted, rather than in the impact itself?

As if success could be gauged by how many church members one had, or how many baptisms, or how many students, or how many awards, or how much money, or how much exposure, or how many Facebook/Twitter/Instagram/Pinterest followers, or how many subscribers, or how many fans…

as if the unseen work of God could be measured and weighed and calculated.

It is important to note that this belief I was harboring in my heart was nearly undetectable. I LOVE our church (almost as much as my husband does). I love my life. I pursued these people and cried out to God to spend my life with them. You would have to move me from this place kicking and screaming, and there is nowhere on earth I would rather be than walking alongside the brothers and sisters God has placed on my path. But my constant acknowledgement of what Mr. Gore had given up was a red flag, and, once I examined my heart, I found a root of pride twisting its way through my belief system.

And, as we all know, roots of pride must be demolished.

As usual, God has been faithful to uproot and rebuild me, and it is for this reason that I am so eager to encourage you today.

To the mom who chases after toddlers. The blogger with fifteen subscribers. The pastor’s wife who disciples two young women. The pastor who never receives a plaque at the associational meetings. The church body whose building is outdated and embarrassing. The layman who sees the same two employees all day, every day. The photographer who has seven clients. The teacher in the small classroom in the small school in the small town. The musician who sings and plays on the smallest stage. The grandmother who invests in her handful of grandchildren. The prayer warrior in the tiny church. The homeschooler whose college diploma gathers cobwebs in a cardboard canister while she teaches her children how to read…

Never let the miracle escape you that, even though your light is shining in seemingly small places…you have a light.

Your work is no less important to the Kingdom and no less assigned by the God of the universe.

And if you lined up all of our rural towns and our private homes and our homeschools and our classes and our ministries and our prayer meetings and our blogs and our tiny churches where God is being made much of day by day, and you flew up into the clouds and you looked down at night, you wouldn’t be able to differentiate the big lights from the little lights…

you would just see one giant, beautiful remnant that reached all across the world and back again.

A light is a light is a light.

Don’t be ashamed that yours is shining in a place that no one else knows about.

Don’t feel like a failure because you’re not moving on to “bigger” and “better” things.

Don’t be afraid to live and die in a tiny church in a nameless town.

And don’t think that your gifts are wasted because the recipients are few.

Your light is a vibrant and necessary part of God’s story, whether you are shining on the biggest platforms in the world…

or the smallest.

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may seen your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

Matthew 5:14-16

 

Spirit-led Parenting

"The challenge isn't so much in knowing the right and wrong things to do, but in learning to listen to the Spirit in my heart in each moment, and to obey the various pulls and tugs, even when I don't want to."

While it has obviously tied up my writing time, nursing a baby for the past 6 months has not only given me lots of time to play Candy Crush, it has given me lots of time to think, about lots and lots and LOTS of stuff.

But the thing I’ve been ruminating over the most has been so freeing and so life-changing, it sort of begged me to sit down for a bit this afternoon and share the wealth.

Spirit-led parenting.

It is changing everything for me.

Question: how many parenting blogs have you read in the last two months?

Me? Probably 15 or 20.

Make that 25.

At least.

Articles are great. They are easy to read, they address one specific topic, and they give these great daily boosts of encouragement and motivation. I love a good article.

But articles can also be dangerous.

Here’s why…

What you are essentially reading in most articles and blog posts is an author’s personal conviction. Something has come up in that person’s life that has bothered them, and they are turning over a new leaf. Or, like me, they’ve been ruminating on some “stuff” and they sit down to hash it out on their blog.

It is a gift to be let in on these glimpses of personal growth and conviction, and they can be greatly used by the Spirit to promote change and conviction in our own hearts.

But what we, as readers, can sometimes do, is stand up from our daily dose of internet consumption in a fog of guilt-by-comparison.

What?…This lady doesn’t spend time on the internet? I must be a bad mom for loving Facebook so much.

This lady doesn’t tell her kids to ‘hurry up’? I’ve said that at least five times this week! I’m the worst!!

This lady doesn’t buy paper plates anymore? I’m never going to use a paper plate again without feeling like a failure…

And in this rush to heap guilt upon our heads, we make a major mistake, failing to recognize that what we are reading is one snippet from one person’s life that is very specific to their situation.

Let me explain.

I threw in the part about the paper plates because, GASP, I am the lady who doesn’t buy them anymore. After deciding to give them up a couple of years ago, I haven’t bought one. single. package.

I know. I’m incredible.

Now. Imagine if I shared that information in a blog post highlighting tips for cutting down on waste or ideas for improving your monthly budget.

And then imagine that you got that guilty feeling in your stomach because you can’t imagine giving up paper plates. “How is she able to do that?” you ask yourself, “I’m such a loser!!”

But what you wouldn’t realize in that 1000-word blog post (what?! sometimes I keep it to 1000 words) is that, yes, I gave up paper plates, but there is no way in a hundred years that I could give up disposable diapers. Or wet wipes. Or paper towels. Or Hostess donut gems.

It didn’t hurt me much to give up paper plates.

And my real motivation for chucking them in the first place? I wanted extra spending money for fresh flowers.

Because fresh flowers make me happy, and in comparison, paper plates, in my opinion, are kind of…meh.

SO. Obviously, you shouldn’t feel bad about yourself when you read about my paper plate fast.

Now, that was just one example, and a silly one at that, of the misguided comparisons we can make as readers. But now let’s take it to the next level.

What do you do when you read blogs that focus on the very essence of who you are, a wife, a mama, a daughter of God?

Do you unobjectively compare yourself?

And even worse, do you immediately make unfair judgements about yourself followed by sweeping resolutions to make improvements, thinking that if you “do” or “don’t do” these things, you will be more pleasing to God?

The possibilities are clearly endless…

Give up screens for a month.

De-activate your Facebook account indefinitely.

Pull the plug on television. Forever!

Decide that Santa is the worst.

Decide that Santa is okay so long as he is portrayed as St. Nicolas.

Decide that Santa is the BEST.

Do Elf on the Shelf.

Don’t do Elf on the Shelf and think that people who do Elf on the Shelf are ridiculous.

Orchestrate precious birthday parties for your kids.

DON’T orchestrate precious birthday parties because parties are the stupidest, most indulgent thing ever.

I could go on forever, but if we are not careful in our blog perusal, we can tie man-made nooses around our necks, so that the only way we feel successful in the parenting department is if we adhere to this ever-growing list of goals, ideas, resolutions, wars, stances, boycotts, philosophies and even menus.

Our days are spent in guilt because we aren’t sitting in front of our kids, watching every minute of their growth, and because we said this one phrase to this child, and we didn’t throw the party like this one Mom did, and we don’t eat anything organic or we have too much stuff in our house or WE DON’T HAVE ENOUGH STUFF or we….

whew. Can I stop now? I’m exhausted.

The internet (and even this blog!) is RICH in help and advice…

but sometimes our little tummies just can’t handle that level of decadence.

We are one person.

With one story.

And this is why I’ve been so encouraged lately, not only to be a better reader, but to realize that there is a huge difference between listening to another believer’s journey and gleaning wisdom from their story and unjustly comparing myself to them.

There are things that we, as parents, MUST do.

Bible things.

Deutoronomy 6:1-9, I Corinthians 13, Proverbs 22:6, Ephesians 6:4, 2 Timothy 3:15 (and many more).

And then…

well, then there are the other things.

The nonessentials.

The opinions.

The personal convictions.

The things that we’ll find alllllllll over the internet.

And while the advice and journaling from other believers might just change our life for the better, sometimes we are so busy trying to be 100 other people, we forget to listen to the most important voice in our lives…

the voice of the Spirit.

The Helper.

The Comforter.

And here’s what it all comes down to.

I know when I’ve been sitting at the computer too long with my back to the kids. I can feel it in my heart and I can see it on their faces.

(But then, if I’m being honest, I can also recognize those free moments when I can spend some time with my friends and family on Facebook).

I know when I need to put down Candy Crush and just watch my baby nurse and marvel at God’s miraculous provision.

(But then sometimes I feel perfectly allowed to zone out with some chocolate candy balls and stripy candies and exploding candies. Key word: candy. p.s. I will CRUSH you).

I know when I need to allow my daughter to bake with me and learn alongside me.

(But sometimes, after gauging the situation and her countenance, I can send her on her way because I need to hurry so we won’t be late to church).

The challenge isn’t so much in knowing the right and wrong things to do, but in learning to listen to the Spirit in my heart in each moment, and to obey the various pulls and tugs, even when I don’t want to.

All of the above was the most roundabout way ever to say this…

Let’s stop comparing ourselves to every mom and wife and lady on the internet. We don’t know their situations any better than we do Martha Stewart’s or Michelle Obama’s.

But then again, let’s also be very honest about our own situations and focus more on pleasing God with our innermost thoughts and motivations than we are on fulfilling this pipe dream of perfect parenting.

Are you spending too much time on the internet? Only you know that. (but you know you know it).

Do you need to give up something to be financially faithful? (may I suggest paper plates? Just kidding).

Have you assumed that by doing what everyone else is doing that all is well between you and God? You’ll know the answer to that if you simply ask, and it is a really important question.

Are you fulfilling lots of 10-step programs to better housekeeping and homeschooling and parenting but failing to live the gospel out for your kids to see?

It would just be really unnecessary to lose ourselves in a sea of helpful voices only to forget that God Himself is in our homes. Right here. Beside us. In us. Everywhere.

He knows what is best for our family.

He knows how to parent the quirky individuals He crafted for us to bring up.

He knows what we need to add, what we need to give up, where we are excelling and where we are lacking.

He knows our schedule. He knows our hearts.

And He even knows when we should have a big ol’ birthday party or scale things back a bit…

which leads me to my next post, “Mother Hen’s Seventh Birthday”, coming up next week!

~

I’d love to hear your thoughts! Have you snuffed out the voice of God in your preoccupation with looking like the perfect mom?

How is He teaching you and convicting you in your specific situation?

Do tell!

 

 

 

When “I Signed Up For This” Doesn’t Work

My New Year’s resolution of “I Signed Up For This” has done me a lot of good, for several reasons:

1. It has connected me with many new enthusiastic readers, all of whom I love and appreciate dearly. Hi, you’s guys! Welcome to our online community of randomness.

2. It resulted in my first ever magazine article (Yippee!).

3. It has actually worked.

Most days, I feel like a new woman on the motherhood, homemaking and homeschooling front.

Like, you know, a grown-up or somethin’.

And I can’t TELL you the last time I sighed when I loaded the kids up in the car. January 1, at the latest. (Two months may not seem very long for some of you, but for a perpetual sigher, it is like a millennia!)

As far as resolutions go, this one (by the grace and help of God) has seemingly reformed me, through and through.

Oh…

except for that frustrating day last month.

And that horrid afternoon a couple of weeks ago.

And last night, for a spell. 

And, um…all day today.

Even though a “mantra” or a resolution might pull a sinful woman like myself out of habitual and mindless complaining, there are days – lots of them – where I need something more.

Something deeper.

Something higher.

Today was definitely “one of those days”…

A random foot injury caused me to acutely feel every step I took, and in a two-story house with four little ones underfoot (pun intended), that’s too many to count.

Another covering of snow outside our windows was causing me to feel hemmed in and blahhhhhhh.

The children were rabid with cabin fever. I actually think they had foam coming out of their mouths.

I couldn’t think of anything to fix for lunch OR supper.

Rebekah’s hair was a tangled mess and I couldn’t find the hairbrush anywhere.

There were about two thousand tiny pieces of Play-Doh under the kitchen table.

And the list went on and on and on and on…

By 3:00 p.m., I wasn’t only sighing, I was hissing.

What had begun that morning with just a hurt foot continually climaxed to the point that a typical littering of Play-doh in the kitchen made me want to lay in the floor and cry like a baby; my despair had stacked up so high that I was being buried underneath it, and I felt like I was drowning!

I really knew that things were beyond my reach when I told myself “remember, you signed up for this…” and myself responded by saying “shut up, Mrs. Gore!”

Yikes.

Touchy.

On any other day, none of the things I mentioned above would necessarily cause me to want to throw in the dish towel.

Which is my point, exactly.

Rarely are the toughest days circumstantial, usually having more to do with how we are feeling on the inside than what is actually taking place around us.

As this kind of sinkhole frustration can be very common in the “trenches” of motherhood, I thought it would be a good idea to pen my thoughts on a day when I needed more than a New Year’s resolution, in case it might be a help to someone else.

Without further ado…

What do we do when “I Signed Up For This” doesn’t work?

1. The first thing I always try to do when I want to implode is to take a moment to pray.

This doesn’t have to happen in the quiet privacy of my room or in the church sanctuary. In fact, on this day, it took place in our schoolroom with kids running all over the place. I sank down onto the antique steamer trunk that holds all of our curriculum, I put my elbows on my knees, I propped my chin up with my hands, and squishing my cheeks up and down with my fingers, I began to talk to God.

“What is UP with me today?…”

What followed was a good moment of introspection coupled with many minutes of wordless pleas for help, in which I identified that my problem, as usual, had little to do with what I had been handed that day, and more to do with my lack of purpose, discipline and contentment.

Seriously.

I’m not being hard on myself and I’m not heaping unnecessary guilt upon my head; this is just pure, unadulterated truth, that I have a gloriously sweet and blessed life, yet, when left to myself, I will always, always find something to complain about.

Dang.

Talk about sobering.

But while this sort of “digging in” is always painful, I really believe that if I skip this step, I will miss something huge.

Here’s what I mean: imagine if life was composed entirely of comfortable moments. For instance, a morning at the spa followed by a shopping spree followed by a deliciously catered lunch followed by a nap followed by an idyllic walk through the countryside, day after day after day…

Or even in less grandiose terms, imagine if my life as it is was frustration-free. My foot would not be throbbing, my menu would be planned, my children would be so thirsty for knowledge that they would sit on the edge of their seats and drink in my every word, I’d know where the hairbrush was hiding, and I would be constantly aware and accepting of the fact that what I’m doing here is important and eternal.

Sounds dreamy, doesn’t it?

But that’s exactly what it is: a dream.

And while a hiccup-less life is what I sometimes (always) long for, without the hiccups…

I would never grow.

I would never conform into something that looks less like me and more like Christ.

And so, while it might seem like the spilled milk and the beyond-energy-filled 1st grader are random happenstances in the day, they are so much more than that.

Or, rather, they can be.

Being at the end of our rope reminds us of how tiny we are. How fallen. How needy.

They remind us that there is a Care-taker on whom to cast our burdens.

And, as a result, they allow us to pursue holiness when we probably wouldn’t be otherwise motivated to do so.

This is why it is a good thing that “I signed up for this” doesn’t always work.

And this is also why, although I truly adore “me-time”, I never want to run to it first, because doing so would be like applying a band-aid to a mortally gaping wound.

My wounds need antibiotics, not bandaids.

And so I run to my Father, where healing and change are found.

2. After I have asked for help from God and confessed my sin, I feel very free, happy and wise to look for help from outside sources.

In the vein of “I Signed Up For This”, yes, our children and our homes are completely and 100% our own responsibility, and we are not entitled to outside help or relief. We shouldn’t whine about it. We shouldn’t expect it.

But on the other hand, we are not meant to walk this life alone.

Do you feel overwhelmed at the mountain of tasks that lie before you? That’s because there is a mountain of tasks lying before you. You can’t tackle that by yourself.

Do you feel like you just can’t do it all? That’s because you can’t. If you can find me a woman who can cook three meals a day, spend time with the Lord, bathe and groom all of her kids, teach them all their different lessons for the day, bathe and groom herself, nurse a baby every three hours, clean the entire house, buy all the needed groceries and school supplies, do all the laundry, read aloud to each child, and still be sane by 3:00 p.m., I so desperately want to meet her and learn all her secrets.

In my house? It’s just impossible. I need help.

And help can look a thousand different ways…

Sometimes it is enough to simply put a movie on for the kids so I can retreat to my room for some alone time. Television, when used wisely and in moderation, can be a great friend in times of need!

Sometimes my husband takes the big kids to the church in the afternoon while the little ones sleep, giving me a chance to clean or write or nap or simply to cry without an audience.

Sometimes I call my mom and ask if she has a day she can help me deep-clean the house.

Sometimes we all just load up in the van and drive around town counting animals.

Sometimes we retreat to mom’s house for afternoon coffee and snacks.

Sometimes I ask my husband if we can get a pizza for supper.

Sometimes we do a joint supper with friends to brighten up our routine and pull us out of the doldrums.

I could go on and on, but it is less about the particulars, really, and more about the principle: after engaging in combat with the “old woman” that still hangs out in my heart, and after diligently chipping away at the root of sin that my despair has illuminated, I seek to start afresh and give myself a break…

no guilt…

no shame.

Because it is just an incontestable fact that sometimes mommy is broken and needs to depend upon her support system, whether that can be found in a husband, a church family, a mama, a sister, a family member, a friend, a neighbor, or, yes, a 30-minute show on Nick Jr.

~

There is no formula, really, to any of this, and being a mama is no different than any other calling: there are easy moments, there are joyful moments, there are average moments, there are very sad moments, and there are excruciatingly difficult ones…

such is the rhythm of life and sanctification.

But every moment counts, and can be used for God’s glory and for our good.

I’ll try to remember that the next time I’m sitting on a trunk in the schoolroom squishing my cheeks and trying really, really hard to hold it together. I hope you will, too!

Mrs. Gore’s Tips for Not Making Your Pastor Wish He Was Anything But a Pastor

One aspect of my life that I don’t talk about very often is the fact that I am married to a pastor.

My shepherd at church is also my shepherd at home.

Not to be confused with my infant baby, Shepherd. You can tell him apart from my husband/pastor shepherd because he wears onesies and his name has a capital “s”.

Anyhow, this not only makes me the heralded “pastor’s wife”, it makes me an expert in all things pastorly.

And since I am both a full-time layperson/congregant and married to a full-time person of the cloth, I thought I would merge my two worlds today and give some pointers on how people like us (the congregation) can be a help and not a hindrance to people like us (the minister and his wife and family).

As usual, I can only talk about things like this because our church is the totes awesomest. I give you my word, there is no hidden agenda or lurking jabs in the words that I shall henceforth be sharing.

Or in the words that I heretofore shared.

Let us begin.

1. Obviously, don’t be a poo-poo head.

I’m glad we had this talk.

2. Guard your little words.

As your God-appointed leaders, your pastor spends his week praying and, if you’re lucky, maybe even fasting, with you in mind, expecting the Lord to do something great in your life; thus, imagine how it must deflate him when he sees you at church and says “Good morning! How are you?” and your response is “It’s cold in here” or “Your microphone is too loud.” Um, ouch. Try instead to tell him what you appreciate about him or how the Lord used the sermon to impact you. He truly wants to hear about it. Then you can tell him you’re cold. In a nice way, of course (see point #1).

3. Likewise, guard your big words.

Speaking of “um, ouch”, I’ve taken note over my lifetime in church of how folks tend to speak more bluntly to pastors than they do others. As a full-time SAHM/homeschooler, I can’t imagine what it would feel like if someone walked into my home and started picking apart my realm, not only finding fault with the things that make up my entire life, but sharing my faults openly with others, all before giving me pointers on how to do my job better. It would be heartbreaking. Guard your tongues, ye brutal and loose-tongued opiners, and, not to be redundant, but…see point #1.

4. Give your pastor plenty of family time.

Our church is the BEST at this. We are five years into our ministry here, and never once have I felt that I am competing with the church for my husband’s attention. Granted, he has set firm guidelines in this area, but our church has also done its part, giving him freedom to come home when he chooses, to keep flexible office hours, and to arrive and depart from church with his family rather than in separate vehicles (meaning, no late-night meetings, etc.).

A church that competes with, rather than nurtures, their pastor’s life at home fatally damages his potential for fulfilling his biblical call. Tsk, tsk, tsk. That’s worse than being a you-know-what  (see point #1).

5. Incline your ear and follow your leader.

My husband pour hours into preparing his sermons, every week. On top of that, he writes a daily Bible reading guide so we might better ingest the exposited text. He asks us to pray for specific things. He encourages us in specific areas. He gives us tasks that are unique to our situation…

that’s his job.

Now it is the job of the congregation, myself included, to follow. The most encouraging church members are the ones who really listen and do the things their pastor asks them to do (obviously, this includes neither sinning nor drinking any kind of poisoned fruit punch).

6. Think about your particular gifts and use them to minister to your minister.

It has been a joy for me to watch our congregation encourage our family, in all kinds of different ways. Their gifts literally keep us going. Whether it is the deacon who makes hospital visits to give our pastors plenty of study time, or the older women who tidy up my husband’s office, or the young mom who brings us food, or the widow who frequently sends us encouragement, or the couple who constantly prays for us, or the man who mows our yard, the love and generosity of our church family makes the way so much easier for us.

Do the same for your pastor, and I’m pretty sure you’ll get an in-ground swimming pool in heaven.

7. Work hard to keep your pastor safe.

You can do this in so many ways. Pray for him. Give him plenty of rest. Pray for him. Protect him from she-devils with wicked intentions. Pray for him. Be his visitation buddy. In other words, be his watchdog and his mother hen. Taking care of your pastor helps ensure he will be equipped to take care of you.

Oh and don’t forget to pray for him.

8. Give him time and room to grow.

Although it is imperative that he meets the requirements that scripture lays out for his eldership, your pastor is being sanctified just like you are. Remember, pastors are people, too. And people are poo-poo heads sinners.

9. Give him time and room to preach.

It has become a token joke in today’s church culture to make references to the length of the pastor’s sermon, and although this is usually in good fun, I can imagine that it could easily turn harmful.

Imagine, for a minute, the pressure of knowing that the God of the universe was watching to make sure you said everything you were supposed to say. And then imagine looking out across of sea (or a small pond) of people who were tapping their feet and checking their wristwatches, expecting you to accomplish that daunting task in twenty to thirty minutes per week.

Cherish the pastor who is more afraid of God than he is of you, and give him the freedom to do his job and do it thoroughly and “with joy” (see Hebrews 13 below).

10. View your pastor and his family as a team.

This advice is more practical than it is biblical, but I appreciate it so much that, when our church members pray aloud for my husband, they pray for me and our children, too. I also personally love it when women include me in messages they send to my husband or seek us both out for advice; it is in no way necessary (because I read all his messages anyway), but it is a very cool thing to do, and it strengthens our family unit, which, again, is only for the good of the church.

11. Pay him well.

Many dole out big bucks for their doctors, dentists, accountants and personal trainers without question, but then expect their pastor and his family to live like paupers.

You pastor has been assigned by God to watch over your soul and train you in righteousness, the single most important aspect of your life…

you can help by making sure he doesn’t have to worry during the week about how he is going to afford some cornbread to go with his beans.

(Kudos to our church family for our generous salary and for a yearly cost-of-living increase!).

12. Include him in your decision-making.

I’m guessing at the math here, but 9 times out of 10, congregants approach their pastor for advice on big decisions…

after their decision is made.

Contemplating a huge change? Tempted to join another church? Feeling like getting a divorce? Make haste to the preacher-man, seek his biblical advice and counseling, and, if he isn’t leading you in something that is unbiblical, do what he says to do. Which leads us to our next point…

13. Make the way easy for him by submitting and not grumbling.

This one is straight from the Bible. Hebrews 13:17: “Obey your leaders and submit to them; for they are keeping watch over your souls, as men who will have to give account. Let them do this joyfully, and not sadly, for that would be of no advantage to you.”

Your pastor will answer to God for how he led you. You will answer (also to God) for how you followed.

‘Tis a very freeing and simple arrangement, is it not? I wish I had realized that sooner.

14. Keep poo-poo heads accountable.

Lastly (but almost certainly not leastly), if you hear someone speaking ill of your shepherd, either gently rebuke them or change the route of the conversation. Their words will not only harm your pastor, they could harm your own ears, planting seeds of discord in your heart that could lead to a root of bitterness. Which could turn you into a…well, see point #1.

~

As with any list of advice or etiquette, I am sure these pointers are far from comprehensive, but I hope they provide some helpful insight. How I could have used this list when I was younger! If I could go back and be a better sheep for my former pastors, I most certainly would. Consider this my public apology, for when I typed these words and revisited old memories, I felt sheepish, indeed. Baaa.

I also deeply apologize for how many times I said or referenced “poo-poo” in this blog post. 

~

Mrs. Gore’s comment policy: all comments are read and appreciated, but only those that are edifying and do not lead to lengthy internet discussion are approved.

And, finally, because I love ya, a pin for your bookmarking and sharing convenience…

pastor tips

Dear Beautiful

Dear Beautiful, a letter to my daughters about being pretty

To my beloved daughters, aged 4 and 2,

I remember when I was quite young and my Mama would tell me what made a girl pretty…

her smile. She said a happy smile was the prettiest thing in the world.

And she always told me that it was what was on the inside that counted.

“Inner beauty”.

I listened.

I tried to take it in.

But I didn’t really believe her.

Because I had seen what beautiful was…

She-Ra. She had long, blonde, flowing hair and a white mini dress. (and a unicorn with rainbow wings).

Miss America. The ballgowns, the swimsuits, the sparkly crowns, the perfect smiles.

Barbie. Big boobies. Big, big boobies.

Paula Abdul. I don’t know. I just loved her. Did you know she used to be a Laker Girl? I did, because I read her biography. In the 3rd grade.

As a little girl, I looked, wide-eyed, upon the outward features that made something beautiful to me – a certain type of hair, a beguiling turn of the eye, a fancy schmancy body – and I dreamed of attaining that level of pretty.

And the more I admired what was beautiful to me, the more my mom’s definition of “pretty” seem kind of hokey and like something people said to make sure that every girl at least felt pretty, whether she was or not; inner beauty was a good thing, and I wanted it, but it seemed to have little bearing on whether I was perceived as a beautiful person or not. And I wanted to be jaw-droppingly beautiful.

I spent years, even my outwardly-prettiest years, shrugging off her compliments. “You’re my Mom,” I would say, “of course you think my hair looks good like this.”

“You’re my Mom,” I’d laugh, “only you would think this dress looked nice on me.”

“You’re my Mom. You have to say that.”

But, little girl, then I had you.

They placed you on my chest, squalling and crying and covered in birthing stuff, and everything she ever taught me about beauty made perfect sense.

You were alive and breathing and it was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen.

And every morning when you walk down the stairs and I see that you are still alive and still breathing…beautiful.

I finally get it now: the prettiest thing about a girl, any girl, is that she is fearfully and wonderfully made by God. She is alive. She is a person. She has a soul.

Do you understand how fantastic that is? God made you! I know He did, because you weren’t there, and then you were there.

I didn’t make you (minus that one night with your Papa, wink wink, nudge nudge).

Fate didn’t.

A coincidental twist in an evolutionary cycle didn’t.

God did.

I like to think about Him crafting you, weaving all of your different features together into a unique and breath-taking work of art.

Your hair? It’s so amazing. It was made by God.

For you, Rebekah, He chose golden hair, with a natural side part that suits your face just right. It is straight and silky, with a slight bend at the end; sunlight runs to dance among your strands, crowning you like a glowing halo. God gave you a gift when He crafted your locks.

And Betsie Fair, yours is light brown and wild, a perfect match to your carefree and joyful childhood. When you wake up in the morning, your mane is as big as your eyes, ready to take on the world, ready to catch syrup and dirt, ready to make a most fitting frame to your precious, ornery little face.

Your hair is beautiful.

Your bodies? They were made by God, so different, but equally lovely.

Rebekah, my love, your body is like your spirit: strong, sturdy, and precious to behold. When I hold you in my arms, my heart is full and soothed.

And Betsie, your slinky, skinny body is so fun to watch. You run and hop and leap and dance uninhibited, and I marvel at the way you move, like an instrument that proclaims with every step that God is singing over us.

Your bodies are beautiful.

Your eyes? God made them, giving me windows into your sweet, sweet souls.

Your cornflower blue eyes burn holes into my heart, Rebekah Sunday…

and Betsie, your naïve glances cause me to melt.

Your eyes are beautiful.

Your hands? God made them. They’re beautiful.

Your feet? Your toes?

Made by God.

Beautiful.

Your nose? Your mouth? Your lips? Your teeth?

God, God, God, God.

So beautiful.

And oh, those smiles.

Your Grandmother was right. When you smile and your eyes perk up with twinkles of happiness, you are the essence of beauty. And when you throw back your head and laugh, the trees tip their hats and the mountains bow in reverence to this pinnacle of God’s creation.

Yes. Your smiles are beautiful.

So, please, my darling daughters…

Don’t spend a day feeling miserable and fat.

Don’t look with covetous eyes at the hair that was given to another girl.

Don’t wish for blue eyes when yours are green.

This world is not your mirror, a reflection of what you are lacking or what you should look like.

It is your playground.

Live here, freely, happily, and unhindered by the chains and lies of a worldview that says some people have beauty and some don’t, that some have perfect bodies and some don’t, that some are made for magazines and the big-screen and some are not…

because that’s about the stupidest and most shallow thing a girl can believe.

You were created for richer feasts.

When you gaze at your reflection, do your Mama a favor and admire the handiwork of God. And then…

walk away.

Run and play.

Sing.

Laugh.

Dance.

Love.

Tell your friends how beautiful they are.

And, through the grace of the God who made you, work every day to purify your soul and mortify your sin, leaving a beauty inside of you that will dazzle this sad and captive world with the light of Jesus Christ.

They will never know what hit them.

Falling on Grace

The following was written the night before Mr. Gore’s spinal fusion and I’ve just gotten around to finishing it up. Thanks for waiting. Even though you didn’t know you were waiting.

~

Betsie fell down the stairs this morning.

I was walking a few steps behind her, a hamper full of random stuff on my right hip, when I saw her foot slip just past the landing before she tumbled down…

down…

down.

My eyes were fixed on her slender little neck the entire time, willing it to remain untouched, prayers of “Oh, Lord!” and “Oh, God!” bouncing off of my tongue in panicked tones.

Her shoulder.

Her knee.

Her arm.

As she was rolled and tossed about by stair after stair, seemingly every part of her body made contact with the floor, except for her neck.

Finally, she landed with a “splat!” on her belly in the kitchen and I shot down to retrieve her, the hamper that I dropped in my distress tumbling down behind me, leaving a slew of toys and clothes on the stairs as it fell.

She was screaming.

I was sobbing.

And as we sat on the bottom step and rocked back and forth, our tears flowing, my heart racing, I could tangibly feel the grace of God in my arms.

In the body of my little girl who was alive and unbroken.

In her beating heart and her breathing nostrils.

Within minutes, her tears were spent.

But mine were just beginning.

“It’s okay, Mama…” she soothed me with her halting and precious toddler vocabulary. “You need some…toilet…paper?”

I nodded, and away she scampered, soon returning with a tiny piece of tissue that she used to pat my face and neck.

You know you’ve cried a river when your neck is wet.

It was awful, terrible, horrible and every other word in the thesaurus for “really super duper bad”.

But it was also interesting…

once my initial distress had subsided and I could think and say something besides “are you okay?” and “oh, Betsie” and “thank you, God!!”, and once my tears finally stopped flowing and my hands stopped shaking, I felt a surprising amount of gratitude for what I had just gone through.

For one, Mr. Gore’s surgery was tomorrow and I’d been needing to cry about it. Two birds. One horrifying stone.

And secondly, with that pending surgery in mind, my apprehensive heart needed to be reminded of the seen and unseen grace of God that guides our every step.

My husband has led me in this truth for years. A naturally fearful person, my anxiety began to climax when I first became a mom, and I found myself drowning in worst-case-scenarios and constant thoughts of what-could-happen…

Mr. Gore never indulged or babied these thoughts, but faithfully used the Sword of Truth to slice through my sin and lead me to a renewed mind, always pointing out that I was ignoring the million ways that God had taken care of me to focus on one scary situation (at a time) that hadn’t happened to me.

When he put it that way, I slowly began to see my fears for what they were: silly. Senseless. Illogical. Ungrounded. Totally unnecessary.

But even though I’ve grown, I still struggle sometimes.

Especially the day before my husband will be heavily sedated and having his spine tinkered with.

And for all these reasons, although it scared the living daylights out of  me, seeing Betsie tumble down the stairs and walk away unscathed made me feel loads better about…well, everything.

It brought to mind all the times we’ve gone up and down the stairs and haven’t fallen. All the drives we’ve taken without crashing. All the sicknesses we’ve endured for a day or two before getting completely better. All the food we’ve eaten without choking…

all the millions of seconds and the countless moments where grace has sustained us and kept us safe and kept us from stumbling and kept us from sin and we never even had a clue.

I’m not promised health and life on any given day this side of heaven, and no amount of positive thinking can buy me that sort of security; but whether we live or die, are sick or healthy, are rich or poor, the grace of God is as sure on surgery day as it is on going up-and-down-the-stairs day. And whether Mr. Gore is working in the garden or going under the knife, his story is written and his life is firmly held in the hand of a most-wonderful Creator.

These are hard truths to comprehend, but they are comforting.

Rebekah asked me one day if I loved God more than I loved her…

I was about to pop out a textbook “of course I do!” but the words lodged themselves in the middle of my throat; I know my heart, and on my worst day, in the words of John Calvin, I am “an idol-making factory”, doting more on things seen than unseen. I might be redeemed, and I might even be devout, but my penchant for blindness and stupidity knows no bounds.

But the reason her question really stumped me was because, even on my best day, my love for God feels so different than my love for my family…

the two are all bound up together in a thick cord of awe and affection and gratitude, and if I am being very honest, it is hard to separate and categorize them sometimes.

Thus, my answer to what I wish was a simple question went something like this: “When I say ‘I love God’ it doesn’t feel like the same love I have for you, Rebekah. My love for you is different. But one thing I am really sure of…my love for you leads me to God. I can’t look at you and love you without thinking about God and loving Him more…”

I love my husband. I love my kids. They are walking reminders to me of the greatness of God, who can so intricately design specific personalities for specific purposes at very specific times; I am continually astounded and filled with wonder by the scope of His craftsmanship and I have a houseful of His handiwork to study. To me, their very presence shouts of “God!” It is like living among the stars…

But that love runs so deeply and throbs so intensely, and if I don’t guard myself, my worship can turn towards the created over the Creator. And questions plague me.

Would I still love God if Betsie had broken her neck today?

Would I still love Him if Mr. Gore doesn’t wake up from his surgery tomorrow? If he wakes up paralyzed?

Would I still be faithful if one of my worst-case-scenarios comes true?…

Oh, how I tremble in the wake of these accusatory questions, and there is only one thing that causes the trembling to stop.

Grace.

The grace that tumbled down the stairs alongside my baby girl this morning.

The grace that will be with us tomorrow as Mr. Gore is wheeled into a surgery room.

The grace that has kept, is keeping, and WILL keep my feet from walking away from the faith, come what may.

The grace that has been there, since day one, before I even knew it existed.