A Fairytale in the Flesh

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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: A Cry for Help. A Call to Arms.

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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

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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. :)

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

Della.

From Della to Mr. Gore, July 2007…

Jackson Energy ERM 9

If you had told me two weeks ago that my first outing with Baby Shepherd would be to Ms. Della’s funeral, I wouldn’t have believed it.

But such is the nature is death…

if we knew when it was coming, we would spend every waking moment in bedside vigils, hanging onto the ankles of those we knew would soon be departing.

As it was, they were so habitual and ordinary, I don’t even remember my last words to Della.

I know we were probably standing either in the dimly-lit church sanctuary or in the fellowship hall, where we crossed paths Sunday morning after Sunday morning after Sunday morning, for as long as I can remember.

I would have told her how beautiful she looked.

(She always looked beautiful).

She would have asked how I was feeling and might have exclaimed over how much Betsie has grown or how handsome Gideon looked in his dress clothes or how Rebekah’s hair is getting so long.

(She always took time to notice the kids and ask how I was doing).

We probably hugged, and I am positive that I felt happy on the inside just to see her for that brief moment before we moved on to our respective Sunday School classes.

(Della always made me happy).

But whatever greetings we swapped during our last meeting on this earth, one thing is certain: I had no idea they would be my last to a woman who meant so much more to me than a passing hug, and who I admired for so much more than her physical beauty.

If I had known…

I would have cradled her beautiful face in my hands and told her that she was dearly loved…

I would have thanked her for consistently exhibiting to me those Christian fruits that are most admirable in a woman of God…

I would have asked her to tell me all of her funny stories one last time so I could write them down for safekeeping…

I would have recorded her speaking voice so I could listen to her rich and indescribable tone anytime I wanted…

I would have asked if I could come over and learn how to make her to-die-for homemade rolls…

I would have told her that, during the toughest days we’ve had in the ministry, her unswerving faithfulness, gentle guidance and genuine words of encouragement helped keep us going…

I would have hugged her tighter, I would have memorized the lines of her face, and I would have sat beside her at worship…

I would have asked her to wait just one more week, so she could hold my new baby…

And I would have promised her that I would miss her every Sunday and at every women’s fellowship and everytime I drove past her tidy, yellow house for the rest of my life.

Della was not a relative of mine, and if it were not for our like faith, we never would have known each other…

but when the grace of God reached down and plucked her from the road that leads to destruction to place her on the path to life, and then did the same for me years later, all of that changed; by the world’s standards she wasn’t my grandmother or my great aunt or even a distant cousin — she was just a “little old lady” who went to the same church as me.

But my redeemed heart knows better…

she was my sister. My mother. A vibrant, intrinsic part of my family.

And though I know we will spend forever in the same place, my humanity weeps bitter tears at the thought of saying goodbye.

Tears that bring to mind a day, half a decade ago, when Mr. Gore and I were discussing our future and weighing the pros and cons of him applying to be senior pastor at the church I had grown up in; to say that things at the time were messy and complicated would be an understatement. And although my husband was inexperienced and fresh out of seminary, he was a brilliant man with accolades and references galore; he could most likely have found work anywhere…

but “anywhere” wasn’t the story God had written for us. He wanted us here, and He tuned our hearts and our passion to stay, no matter how difficult the road ahead seemed to be.

The church was in turmoil, the budget was limited, and due to an unfortunate church split five years prior, well over half of the remaining membership was over the age of 65. There was one baby in the nursery and he was ours…

But it didn’t matter. We were in love.

“I just can’t leave them…” Mr. Gore said, with conviction. “I want to be their pastor. I want to walk them through the rest of their life. I want to preach their funerals…”

My heart agreed, most vehemently.

But here we are so many years later, and my, those funerals are hard…

Each lifelong friend who leaves us for “Beulah Land” leaves a huge vacancy in our hearts, not to be filled until we meet once more in our forever home; God has only caused our love and tenderness for them to multiply, and while our initial dream of walking these dear saints through life has come true, it carries with it a pain that we couldn’t have imagined…

The day before Della’s funeral, Mr. Gore went to her viewing at the funeral home. Finding himself very much alone with the body our friend left behind, he sat and wept. Della had ministered to him in ways no one else ever saw, giving him godly advice, sending him encouraging notes and cards, praying for him

much like our sister Thelma and our brother Richard, the world might not have known the tiny little lady in the little yellow house, but she mattered, and her role in the Kingdom was vital and beautifully performed.

Since the day we pursued this ministry, God has been so faithful to us and to our church. The division we inherited has flown the coop. Old wounds are being healed. Our membership, though smaller, continues to grow purer and purer. Love abounds. And while our budget is still limited, God has met every single need.

If the thought ever crossed my mind that we would be giving something up to “lay down our lives” for a church that was tiny and troubled and, frankly, not-the-coolest, five years with Della (and so many like her) has proven me stupid…

we have gained the world, drinking in priceless wisdom and encouragement from some of God’s very best, and learning what it means to be the body of Christ.

We grieve over the precious and important member we lost this September…

even as we thank God for the gift of knowing her at all.

~

Della, holding Baby Rebekah at our women’s fellowship in 2009

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Want to know more about Della and the sweet people in our church? Read one of my favorite posts: The Early Birds

What A Day That Will Be

As my 2-year old Betsie would say, “Oh derr…”

Things are about to get all sentimental up in here.

The baby has left my tummy, and though it might make me sound a bit dramatic, I am already reconnecting to the old Mrs. Gore…

the one who really likes people and loves life and enjoys playing with my children and also the one who cries at beautiful things.

Not to be confused with Small Elephant who just cries at…things.

Like, seriously. Inanimate objects. Scents. Plants. Anything.

And my heart is light with relief, and delightfully heavy with an awareness of what I’ve been given, not just for this vapor of a life, but for eternity. Because He is good, I am so sure that God will save my children, and though my prayers for them are desperate, they are also confident. I think I will be with them forever, in the Eden we could have/should have/would have lived in were our hearts not so wicked and prone to wander…

and I rejoice in this knowledge.

But I live in a pilgrim’s body, with a pilgrim’s heart and a pilgrim’s understanding, and the dying part of me acutely feels the passing of each day we have on this earth together…

Even though I hope and believe in eternity, I long for it as if it doesn’t exist. And when I hold my newborn baby boy, a part of me praises God for the forever Kingdom we will be a part of, while another part of me mourns for this transient and blink-of-an-eye life that I can so tangibly feel in my arms and see with my eyes.

It passes so quickly, and the joys and beautiful moments and triumphs from which I would drink so deeply slip by as I scramble, wide-eyed, trying to hold on, trying to remember, trying to cling to the shadow rather than to the hope, and I am reminded over and over again that I am far too sinful and far too stupid to properly understand this great, big, mysterious, overwhelming life.

Holding Baby Shepherd…

it’s like holding Baby Gideon all over again.

6 and 1/2 years since the day my eldest and I were born into a mother/son relationship, 6 1/2 years since my soul was awakened to the nurturing fire of motherhood, 6 1/2 years since my feet were set on a path to dying more and loving more and feeling more and wanting less…

and as I breathe deeply of the sweetly indescribable scent of new life and baby lotion and as I feel once more that velvety soft baby skin underneath my chin, those 6 1/2 years of memories dance wildly about in my mind, causing me to cry, causing me to laugh, causing me to pray.

There are no words, really. Just silent meditations. Wordless pleas. Whispers of thanks. And maternal cries for help to survive the heartbreak of seeing them grow.

Gideon…

Rebekah…

Betsie…

and now Shepherd.

I would hold each of you just as you are for an eternity.

I would go back to any day in our history and stay there forever.

I would journey with you to our future and never leave your side.

And so I entrust us all to God, for safekeeping, knowing that one day our faith really will be made sight. The pilgrim will be gone. The citizen will be born. The mysteries will be revealed.

And we will rest in the place that our hearts have longed for since the day we first met.

“What a day, glorious day that will be…”

Do Not Forsake: my wrestling match with Hebrews 10:24-25

“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”

~

“I don’t know…” I said, “I’m just so tired of talking about it. I don’t want to answer any more questions. I don’t want to talk about how my belly has dropped or that yes, I’m “still here”, you know?…”

My husband just looked at me.

I squirmed.

I knew exactly what he was thinking and, as usual, it was conveniently lining up with what the Spirit was already telling my heart.

It was late Saturday night and we were discussing what I should do come morning. Nearly one full week past my due date, I knew that no one would expect me to be at church, and would even be surprised if I made an appearance, but I was feeling so torn about it.

“If you don’t feel well, that’s one thing,” my husband encouraged me, “and even if you just want to stay home and rest, that’s perfectly fine. But don’t not come because of what you just said…that’s not you.”

I knew he was right. Even as the words left my mouth, I was uncomfortable with them, as they went against everything we say we believe and have worked toward in our church.

You see, the last couple of years in our congregation have centered on learning to become a family. Loving each other as true brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers. Being transparent and real with one another. Assuming the best of each other. Bearing one another’s burdens…

And if I truly examined my heart, I was lying about why I didn’t want to come to church the next morning, because, honestly, if I showed up and no one mentioned my pregnancy or how I was feeling, I might have returned home confused and hurt, feeling like no one cared. I love those people. And I love their concern for me.

The truth of my resistance was simple to diagnose:

I wanted to bear my burden alone.

I didn’t want to humble myself and accept sympathy.

I didn’t want to appear weak or tired or haggard or needy.

In other words, I just wanted to disappear from among “my family” for a bit until I could return to them in better form…sitting up straighter, feeling more like myself, victorious over this pregnancy….you know, normal. Healthy. Whole.

I didn’t want them to see me defeated.

So now I was really torn about going to church, because this had just turned from a simple question of “should I?” or “shouldn’t I?” into a very personal spiritual battle that I didn’t want to deal with; I didn’t want the Spirit to be teaching me anything. I was a week past my due date! Wah!!

But deciding we were borrowing trouble by worrying too much about it – after all, my water could have broken in the next 20 minutes and all of this discussing would be a moot point – we decided to just wait until morning and see what happened.

The next day, Mr. Gore decided to let me sleep until I woke up; by the time I joined the land of the living, there was only enough time to fix Rebekah’s hair and send my family off to Sunday School, tentatively planning to join them for worship.

On their way out the door, my husband continued to gently encourage me to attend if my body was feeling comfortable, reminding me that I could retreat to his office and rest on his recliner at any point during the service or the post-service potluck.

But, shutting the door behind them, I still didn’t know what to do…

it was so quiet in my house.

So safe.

So comfortable (I was wearing my muumuu).

And no one could see how big I was, or how tired, or how mentally fatigued or how weak; I was alone, and a part of me really liked that, even as my heart yearned to see the dear faces I had been missing over the past two weeks.

But I really needed to make a decision, spit-spot!

And in the end, it wasn’t my stamina that got me dressed and ready and out the door in time to make it downhill to hear the preaching. It wasn’t a supernatural burst of energy or resolve. It wasn’t even a spiritual change of heart or mind…

It was the truth of scripture and the example of my husband.

You see, during the 9 months that I have been growing our 4th child, he has been dealing with his own set of problems; a year and a half ago, he had a non-invasive surgical procedure done on a herniated disc, one that would potentially put a stop to his chronic back and leg pain without resorting to major back surgery.

Sadly, while it gave him relief for almost a year, he blew the disc out again early this year, and it has been undeniable that a fusion was in his future, the sooner the better, not only to put a stop to his pain, but to keep his nerve from becoming permanently damaged.

But I was pregnant.

And we have three little children.

And a two-story house.

And in a huge act of sacrificial love, he chose to put off surgery until I could have a full month to recover from having our baby…

Which meant that he had an extremely long year ahead. Pain management has been key, but even on medication, he has been either persistently uncomfortable or downright hurting. Sitting for long periods is unbearable for him, meaning he needs to be on his feet or lying down on the floor. His “office” became the couch in our church’s foyer where he laid with his laptop and a pile of books nearby, and most of his meals in 2013 have been eaten at his family’s feet…

and while God has been so gracious to allow him to comfortably stand and preach every Sunday morning, he comes home pretty sore in the afternoon and desperately in need of rest.

If anyone should feel the right to stay home on Sunday night while our other pastor teaches, it is him.

And if anyone should feel free to cut out early after that teaching and skip our weekly fellowship meal, it is him.

But I’ve watched him.

All year.

He wakes up from his Sunday nap, he takes his pills, and he goes to the one place that he knows he needs more than anything else.

To his church.

His body.

His family.

And he does the most unheard-of thing I have ever witnessed in my 31 years of church life.

He gets the pillow out of his office….

and he lays down in the floor at the back of the sanctuary to hear the Bible lesson.

People walk past and he talks to them, waving, smiling, never blushing, never acting as if it is out-of-the-ordinary that he is laid out on the floor in a house of God.

You know why?

Because when he says he loves his church family, he means it. And when he says that there is no better place for him to be than among the brethren, he truly believes it. And when he expounds Hebrews 10 from the pulpit and teaches us that one of the greatest and most powerful tools for our growth and encouragement is to spend time with each other, he then lives it out for his flock to see.

And as I considered his example on Sunday morning, I started to realize what I would be missing if I stayed home in my muumuu…

Getting my act together and making it to church wasn’t about a legalistic check-mark to prove how godly I was; this was a chance for me to have faith in the word of God and to seek His way rather than my own. And as much as I didn’t want to put real clothes on and face my own vulnerability by making a public appearance, it was undeniable that the Spirit was wooing me to come.

Take up thy pregnant girth and follow Me.

And so I took my bath. I got ready. I made some biscuits for the potluck.

And right as the preaching began, I waddled into my home-away-from-home.

The minute I entered into that familiar room filled with familiar faces, I knew that God had been good to pursue me in this. I needed this time with my family. I needed their love and concern. I needed to hear the Word expounded.

I needed to trust in what the Bible says is good for me and not what I felt like I needed.

And as unimportant and gross and exhausted as I felt that Sunday morning, my church needed me, too. To see that I was okay. To use their gifts to minister to me. To be encouraged by my gifts. Such is the beauty of the body and every single one of its members. There is no doubt that I would have enjoyed my Sunday morning at home, but I was richly blessed by joining my local congregation to worship the God who made us a family in the first place. I might have gone home tired, but I was refreshed.

Again, attending church every Sunday isn’t some sort of mystical bullet on a spiritual to-do list that will earn you points in heaven….

but we should never underestimate how important each opportunity to “stir one another up” is and take advantage of those opportunities, whether it is easy and we are excited about it or whether it is difficult and as inconvenient as getting a pregnant lady out of her muumuu.

We don’t need to wait until we are healthy and well…sinless…perfect and put-together…strong. We need to go now, just as we are…

just like the guy who lays in the back of our sanctuary every Sunday night.

Let not conscience let you linger, nor of fitness fondly dream, all the fitness He requireth is to feel your need of Him. I will arise and go to Jesus, He will embrace me in His arms, in the arms of my dear Savior, oh there are ten thousand charms.

My Confession(s).

Not so very long ago, I sinned.

And it wasn’t the kind that was just between me and God, that I could quickly work out through private prayer and repentance; rather, from the get-go, it was glaringly obvious to my redeemed heart that I must confess my sin to the one I had sinned against and ask forgiveness…

in this case, my wonderful, sweet, kind, pure-hearted husband who, though he knows the very worst about me and loves me anyway, would be rightfully disappointed and saddened by my actions.

Kill me now.

And to make things worse, when I met him outside that very day to carry out my intentions, I chickened out and sort-of confessed before softening my sin with a blatant lie.

Heavy sigh. Now I had two sins to confess.

I carried them around for two entire weeks.

They sat like weighty bricks on my conscience, and I prayed for an opportunity to release these burdens…

but everytime the opportunity arose, the words stuck in my throat. I just couldn’t allow him to see me for who I really was.

“Tomorrow…” I thought, “I’ll do it tomorrow.”

Obviously, God was using the entire episode to teach me a great truth, because He pursued me like a hound, convicting me through sermons, hymns, Bible verses, and even other people’s facebook statuses; I could not escape the fact that I was meant to confess my sin to Mr. Gore, and I knew my soul would not rest until I obeyed.

Dang it.

Finally, in the most yellow-bellied act of all time, I sent my husband a facebook message with three confessions and three pleas for forgiveness…

1. My initial sin.

2. My lie about that sin.

3. For pathetically confessing all of the above via the internet.

When he later checked his messages and responded in the most gracious manner possible, I began to weep right there at my computer. And as tears ran down my face, great understanding about the art of confession flooded into my heart, things I had never seen or understood before that moment…

when it comes to sins against other people, verbal confession is vital to repentance. Even though I had talked to God plenty about what I had done wrong, until I obeyed His Word and made known my secret sin, I hadn’t truly dealt with it. And it wasn’t until I received that response from Mr. Gore that I was able to freely mourn over my initial disobedience in an honest and healthy way; it was so painful and so freeing at the same time and one of the most defining moments of my Christian life to date.

verbal confession is one of the greatest forms of accountability. The guilt I suffered those two long weeks, coupled with the awareness that my husband now knows new and grisly details about the state of my heart, is enough to keep me from committing that same sin possibly forever. It is easy to continue sinning when you hide (and thus, cherish) that sin in your heart. Making sin known, on the other hand, illuminates its true ugliness and helps you to hate it in the way you are intended to.

confession is good for everyone. It benefits no one for us to put on a façade of perfection, but when we confess our failings, it allows us to share love and forgiveness with our brothers and sisters, to grow in our relationships, to help one another along in the faith, and to build a firm foundation of obedience on the rock that is Jesus Christ. It is amazing what happens when Christians start being real with one another – we find that we are FAR from alone in our depravity, and we can then truly spur one another on to love and good works. This is exactly what my husband did for me, and it was life-changing.

and finally, confession is an exercise. Why was it so hard for me to confess that sin to my husband? Mainly, this: I have had very little practice. Confessing this type of sin out loud (er…on facebook) rather than just dealing with it inwardly, was a new thing for me, and I was as rusty at performing it as I would be doing curls at the gym. I have a feeling, however, that no matter how much I will probably always dread this exercise, it will grow easier and easier the more I employ it in my life…and maybe someday, I’ll be able to do it face-to-face rather than through a silly computer screen! Disciplining ourselves to do hard things is never fun, really, but my, it brings about the most glorious changes…

Obviously it was a big moment for me.

Fast forward a couple of months to yesterday morning…

I was having a really crummy day.

I was grouchy. Self-absorbed. Entitled. Unloving.

I was just being a real jerk.

Really.

And I knew it.

But the saddest thing was, I couldn’t scrape up enough care to even want to combat this sinfulness. I just wanted to wallow in it.

Lay in it like a pot-bellied pig.

I was being mean and sour on the outside, lazy on the inside, taking out whoever happened to cross my path, and even failing to smile at the people I passed at Wal-Mart. Usually I can at least be nice to strangers…

But I was especially hateful to my family.

And I hated every second of it.

Finally, by the sweet grace of God that never fails me, I was drawn out of this attitude, at least enough to start trying to beat it, even though the inward battle was still raging, and by late afternoon, I was privately talking to God about my failings and my desperate need for patience with the little children He has entrusted to me.

Phooey on it!” I thought, as I washed white paint off of Gideon and Rebekah in my bathtub (deja vu, anyone?), “just be honest with them. Confess your sins, woman!”

“You guys…” I blurted out, “I am really, really grouchy today, and I am so sorry about that. Will you forgive me?”

“Yes,” Gideon matter-of-factly replied, “how could we not forgive our Mom?”

“Yeah…” said Rebekah, as I lifted her out of the tub and wrapped her in a bathtowel, “how could we not forgive our Mom? We love you!!”

And with those words, she threw her soft, damp arms around my neck and covered my face with kisses.

Heart bubbling over with love and gratitude, I returned her embrace and we rocked back and forth on the wet bathroom tile, my sin forgiven and forgotten, my weary soul drinking deeply of the healing power of confession as the open wounds of my struggling heart were closed up by the exuberant love and forgiveness of my family.

That’s some heartbreakingly beautiful stuff right there.

Of course, my prayer is to continually sin less and less, but as we make this pilgrimage together, I also pray that our home will continue to grow into a place of honesty and transparency, where we can lay our souls bare, knowing that forgiveness and reconciliation are just a confession away.

Mrs. Gore Says Y-Y-Y-Y-Yes to No-No-Stress VBS

We are returning back to earth after a week of Vacation Bible School, and while it is fresh on my mind, I wanted to share a quick word with my fellow brethren and sisterns about this most important week on the church calendar…

What gives you the authority to speak on any subject, let alone one as important and all-encompassing as Vacation Bible School? you ask?

Well, two things…

1. I am Mrs. Gore, first lady of my church.

2. I happen to attend (BY THE AMAZING GRACE OF GOD) a church body that is super laidback and kind, one that a) has the most non-stressful VBS I’ve ever heard of and b) has no problem with their pastor’s wife addressing herself as “the first lady”. (or if they do, they keep it on the down low).

To prove my point, let me show you a picture of our VBS decoration.

That’s right, I said decoration.

Not decorations, plural.

Decoration. Singular.

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I got so tickled everytime I saw this inflatable car. To promote our Bible School, our director (and my truly incredible friend), Chrissy, had it hanging from a string in the foyer (and my kids were obsessed with it…).

And then when it was time for VBS, she moved it on the stage of the sanctuary in front of the promotional VBS poster that came with our curriculum (after she cut the Sharpie-written dates and times off the bottom of the poster).

And I knew things had completely gotten out of hand when I noticed my 2-year old daughter sitting on that car, rocking it back and forth, and saying “Wheeeeee!”

Who knew a VBS decoration could bring such joy and multi-faceted entertainment to the children of our church? It’s a ceiling fixture. It’s a centerpiece. It’s a ride. Our inflatable car knew no bounds, really.

Okay, okay, I might be exaggerating a little bit. It wasn’t our only decoration. There was also some crepe paper and some posters and some sheets and tablecloths draped over stuff. Between Sunday and Monday, while I was at home chasing after the chaos that is my family, several very sweet and hard-working ladies (including Chrissy) gave up their time  and energy to turn our church into a welcoming, festive and kid-friendly atmosphere.

But my point is – and what that car represented to me all week – Vacation Bible School, a week that can sadly be known for its drama and stress and division and expense, can…and SHOULD…and MUST…be a week of simplicity, fun, unity, togetherness, and most importantly, gospel love.

And if it is not all of the above, then my, my, MY, are we missing the forest for the trees…

And this past Sunday night, as I watched the children of our church (and several from the community) cluster around my husband on the stage, answering impromptu questions about what they had learned this week, singing a few great hymns and a few fun songs, feeling comfortable and happy and doted upon in their church home, I was so pleased at what God has done among us.

The tension that can sometimes surround weeks like VBS and church camp and every single extra-biblical event just doesn’t exist.

And the stiffness of a stilted and nervous performance at the end of the week is not necessary.

But most importantly, more and more with each passing week, church feels as warm and cozy as…home.

Such was the atmosphere of our entire week together, and even though we were dead on our feet by 8:30 p.m. each night, it was glorious and the kind of stuff from which the sweetest memories are made.

And get this…aside from the nightly meals we shared together, the entire week cost us about $200. Get out, Jack!

And so I simply wanted to encourage you today. If you have the time and talent, if it brings you joy and peace, and if it helps you to meditate on the coming week of ministry, feel free to completely trick-out your VBS rooms with the coolest decorations you can dream of.

Likewise, when you are planning the format of your VBS – night or morning, 3 hours or 4 hours, meals or no meals – maintaining a spirit of love and unity, feel free to continue to do things as you’ve always done them or completely change the way you’ve done things before.

But if you find yourself getting edgy…

getting snippy…

sharing unkind and unnecessary opinions…

growing bitter at everyone else for not doing what you do…

feeling annoyed in any way at your church family…

fighting for your way more than you are working toward grace and unity…

take a step back and remember what weeks like VBS are supposed to be about: having fun, sharing the gospel, teaching young hearts, enjoying the brotherhood, and, mostly, saving young mothers like me from going off-the-charts insane in the midst of long summer days of heat and boredom.

Simple as that.

Regardless of what curriculum you use, let these things be the ANNUAL theme of your Vacation Bible School, and I promise you, it will be a roaring and happy success.

For, true to John 13:35, the children you are ministering to will be won to Christ FAR more by your love for one another than by the impressive and grandiose whirligigs you built in the church foyer or the tick-tock-timely manner in which your schedule runs. You can have all of the above, but never, ever sacrifice the former for the latter.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to conclude this happy ending by riding off into the sunset in my inflatable VBS car.

~

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The June Bride Rejoices

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I didn’t realize it until this past week, but it sometimes causes me great trepidation that what I share here at Mrs. Gore’s Diary will cause a reader, perhaps walking through suffering or experiencing a life very different than mine, to experience discontentment or frustration with their own life…

And my trepidation is so great that I often hold back for fear of wounding a soul in distress who happens upon my words.

Will the single woman be saddened by my glowing endorsement of marriage?

Will the childless woman feel pain when I describe the more glorious aspects of motherhood?

Will someone mistake my blessings as luck, or worse, God being nicer to me than He is to them?

It pains me to even think of it.

And as a result, I sometimes filter my happiest moments, for fear of adding to the potential hardships of my sisters in the faith.

But the thought came upon me this past week that, while my heart is pure in those thoughts, I might be doing a disservice to the path God has set my feet upon and that, in a world that is ever attacking the family, and marriage, and motherhood, and femininity, I should speak more honestly and comprehensively about my life, even on my very best days. As much as I strive to remain transparent in my struggles as a wife and mother, so I should strive to remain transparent in my joys and triumphs.

If I am going to consider honesty one of the most important aspects of my writing, then…I must be honest through and through, yes?

It was good – or more likely, supernatural – timing, for my heart is extremely full tonight, and for good reason…

Mr. Gore.

Our days with little ones are hectic. Distracting. Busy.

During our courtship, we had little more to do than see every movie that was released and work really hard at not fornicating. But these days…well, we’re wiping kids and looking for missing shoes and strapping babies and toddlers into carseats and peeling and slicing apples and running up and down and up and down and up and down the stairs and breaking up fights and, basically, working around the clock, not only to keep our 3 little ones alive and healthy, but to train them in the fear and knowledge of God and to lead them in the ways of Christ.

Exhausting.

Bringing up children is without a doubt the hardest work I have ever done, and Mr. Gore is right there alongside me, working as hard as I am.

Therefore, on most nights, after finally tucking our ragamuffins into bed, we quite literally collapse into two separate heaps in the living room, me on our old antique settee (with springs that poke me in the bottom), him in our favorite leather chair, and, aided by our favorite sitcom of the moment, we allow ourselves to just relax and melt into the deliciously quiet evening.

And it just happens. The days are so full and the nights become so habitual that…sometimes I forget to think about him.

Oh, I kiss him goodbye and I welcome him home and I laugh at his jokes and I work by his side and I cuddle up next to him at night, but somehow, in the midst of living, I can fail to ponder and relish the gift of…him.

But the other night, I had this dream. I was contractually bound to another man in an old-fashioned betrothal, but I was madly in love with Mr. Gore. And he was in love with me. Separated from him in my dream, and intent on being with him forever, my heart – the real one, not the dream one – must have quickened within me, and as I continued to sleep and eventually view our happy and triumphant ending, my eyes were miraculously pulled out of the fog of our daily routine, and I woke up with an incredibly happy heart, one that was focused and fixated on this man who has stood faithfully beside me through nearly 8 years of marriage.

I woke up in love.

And my, it felt so good to go about my regular duties with a lovesong in my heart, one that saw beyond the work I was doing and was intentionally and singularly focused on one of the greatest gifts God has given me.

My husband.

My partner.

My best friend.

He knows more about the ugliest parts of my heart than anyone else on the planet, and he loves me anyway. He has seen me at my most raw and vulnerable and he doesn’t scorn me the next day. He has heard my grittiest confessions, and he freely forgives, every time.

And, though human and as prone to failure as the rest of us, he strives to love me as Christ loves the church.

And that is my favorite part of our love story, and one that I am now committed to proclaiming, not that we’ve stumbled into some kind of Disney-prince-and-princess-happily-ever-after, but that our faithfulness to one another and our enjoyment of our married state points to something far more beautiful than the fleeting and emotional love that this world seeks so doggedly after and always fails to find…

it points to something higher. Something truer. And something very, very lovely.

Redemption.

Salvation.

Sanctification.

Grace.

Because, without the grace of God, and built on anything other than the truth of Scripture, our marriage would be nothing more than a roll of the dice, hinging on how we woke up feeling that day and whether or not we had a good dream during the night.

It is that great grace, undeservedly given, that enables us to choose to love each other. For life.

I don’t know about you, but I think that makes the story of Aladdin and Jasmine seem kind of lame in comparison. Magic carpet ride…meh.

That lovesong in my heart only continues to increase as our 8th wedding anniversary draws nigh.

A couple of days ago, I watched my favorite movie with my kids, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, and the “June Bride” song that our entire wedding was built around brought back so many cherished memories that I was practically a puddle of sentimentality by the time the movie was over.

And so if you don’t mind, I’d like to revisit some of those memories here in the weeks to come.

Not to make you gag.

Not to make you pine.

Not to make it seem like my life is all sunshine and flowers and roses…

but to recount how faithful God has been to two people who were conceived in sin and came into this world hating the Light.

Let us all start cherishing and celebrating our marriages, not because we are “lucky in love”, but because they can be one of the most beautiful tools used to point a dying world to a very living Savior.

Especially those of us who married in June…