Category Archives: God Stuff

day four

It’s been a hectic week here in Oklahoma. Here I am, thinking about 90% of my life right now:

  
And that’s the second best strategy I’ve got. No one ever accused me of having a big bag of tricks.

But hey. God is good. He is so good.

When I’m laying awake at 2 a.m. and thunder is violently rattling the windows, God is good.

When I can’t move my legs or find the strength to get of bed, God is good.

When watching the news scares me and war rages and people hurt each other, God is still good.

When Arbor gut-screams for no reason at all except for to break me down, God is good.

When Caleb and I fight and thrash and rage, God is good.

When I’m ugly crying in my closet, He is good.

When unimaginably horrible circumstances surround me and cloud my thoughts and threaten to physically consume me and when there is nothing about the foreseeable future that doesn’t look hopeless and bleak: God is good.

Also when the sun comes up so gloriously after a long night, He is good.

When I pick my cuddly adorable smiling baby girl out of bed every morning God is good.

When I can finally see a glimpse of my smile and my spunk in Mia’s freckled, grinning face, God is good.

When three year old angels come to me and lavish me with hugs just because and they pet my hair and tell me “You’re so pretty Miss Toni,” God is good.

When my son sneaks up and takes my hand while I’m silently crying in the bathroom and says “I want to say a prayer with you,” with tears in his own eyes, God is good.

When Caleb and I sit out and connect under a zillion sparkly stars and I know that we are being watched after, God is good.

When a friend holds me up in everything sense of the phrase, God is good, good, good.

When I can feel peace and strength from the prayers going up for me, God is amazing.

When I remember His promises–and the bible is full of wonderful promises from God–and I remember “this is not a dead God who can’t hear me and can’t see me“.

This is a living God who plays an active role in every minute of every day, through every gentle happy moment and through every wretched hot tear that falls down my cheeks. He is alive and He works all things for the good of those who love Him. (Romans 8:28) He is alive and though we may not see or understand the way He works, we know that He is working, and His ways are higher than our ways and His thoughts are higher than our thoughts. (Isaiah 55:8). He is alive and he will not let us go through pain without something beautiful new being born from it. (Isaiah 66:9) He is alive and He died for this pain and He experienced complete and utter anguish because of evil and He blew it out of the water which He walked on top of with His own two feet. (THE NEW FREAKING TESTAMENT: ALL OF IT.)

He is God and He is good.


A day in the life

I had a minor break down last night. It was mainly caused by a fever but tears were involved and I can’t say those tears came from me being sick.
They came from me being overtired. I’m like a small child that way and dangit I don’t like when my tummy hurts.

Days like yesterday leave me drained and beaten. You’ve had these days too: up with a bang at 6 a.m. Searing hot sun already, red mud and gnats, ducks practically cooking in the oklahoma heat. Fill up pond with cool fresh water, wasps take notice. Dogs gag, scratch, poop. I clean and clean and clean and I could do this all day without stopping and the house would still be covered in dirt and doghair.

A million errands to run, a million things to accomplish. Bills to pay, checkbooks to balance. Headaches.

Lugging around my 80 pound baby who refuses to sit in strollers, in buggy seats. She can’t be caged; it’s like holding onto a rabid, death-rolling full-grown alligator. My body is breaking and my arms are going to snap off at the end of the day. 95 degrees. Sweat. In and out of the carseat #shootmeinthefacenow. All she wants to do is crawl toward the nearest electrical outlet and I am a total fun sponge. She fights me, screaming, pinching pulling and biting; she hates me, and I’m aggravated. My neck, my back; my neck and my back.

My older kids whine, complain–before the first stop is even over. Where are the lollipops, can we get drinks? Can we buy a toy? Can we can we can we money money money? Sulky faces in the backseat. They’re disappointed and I’m aggravated, mainly at myself for raising such ungrateful children. 

 

The house I worked so hard to keep tidy all day is now an upside-down disaster area, again. The clutter I managed to contain has inexplicably exploded back onto every surface, and into areas it hadn’t previously been and I’m on visual overload and my heart races in a bad way.

Husband works, new job, high stress, long hours. Doesn’t want to come home to frowns and chaos, a pissy wife or fussy babies or sassy kids or barfy dogs or a messy house and no dinner. Showers, talks about his day, piddles around in the yard. I do not shower. I do not talk about my day. I don’t piddle.

Is his shirt clean? Have I seen his keys? Did I remember to pick up hotdogs/Gatorade/toilet paper at the store? Why does the laundry room stink? Did I know the puppy peed by the front door? What’s wrong? You look tired. You should take better care of yourself. What did you eat today? Why don’t you get up at 5:30 in the morning and go for a run?

I am tired. I want to be drunk drunk drunk.

Exhausted.

Covered in baby drool, baby spit-up, baby snot, baby food. I’ve been mopping up poop and pee all day. My legs are splattered in mud, my feet are dusty. I am sweaty. It’s been 3 days since I’ve worn make up. Uneven skin tone. Red cheeks. Itchy dry scalp. Unintentionally messy ponytail in my hair. 

Hot. Dehydrated. My eyes are tired and dry but I am still crying somehow. My hair is thinning and it is no longer any real color except a steadily graying brown. My lips are tight and unnatural when I smile, plus it makes my face feel fat and I can’t have my husband see me with a fat face. My fat face. Burning tears ooze down my fat cheeks. Why am I going going going more than ever before in my life and yet not losing any weight?

I have actual wrinkles that I always swore I’d be proud of when the day came, but for now I only feel old and haggard and bloated and empty; not at all like the woman my husband would want to come home to; not at all like the mother my kids would want to cuddle up with at the end of the day.

I can’t physically take another minute. I cannot be clawed at, tugged on, pushed against; I cannot lift one more human being, I cannot answer one more question about grasshoppers or stuffed owls or oil rigs. I can’t tell one more story or watch one more movie or make one more peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

I have nothing left for my husband and he has nothing left for me.

I am tired.

Not a day goes by that I don’t feel like I’ve failed. I don’t extreme coupon or homeschool and I don’t run 20 miles a week for that smokin’ hot body I know Caleb wants to crawl into bed with at the end of his long day. I’ve failed at being a loving, patient mother. A cheerful, beautiful, wife. A thoughtful, helpful daughter, a supportive sister. I’ve failed at being Christian simply by admitting all of this in writing and telling you fine people that I love Jesus but I am a little crazy.

I look in the mirror and I’m not enough.

I share this day in such bleak detail to make this point: we will not always be happy. My kids cannot be my world. My husband will not meet all my emotional needs. Marriage and family don’t guarantee me a “happily ever after”. And I can’t call my mom every time I feel upset.

Where is my strength and my joy? I’m not going to find it while scraping the bottom of the barrel; I am facing the wrong direction. I will not find my satisfaction in anything on this temporary earthly level. Life is hard. Being a person is hard–and my experience as a human is as easy as it gets, yet I am challenged regularly, and on every level of my being.

A Christian life is not one of ease or comfort, or happiness or wealth and success, or of moral superiority. A Christian life is one that tries hard and loves hard, plain and simple; it’s days like this that keep me humble.

There are a million articles and blog posts about how Christians should act, how they should think and feel in certain situations and about certain events; but I am nothing but a flaming human, a soul confused and aching for a world that is unreachable in this flawed body.

  
I turn to Jesus because I am not worthy, because I sin, because I struggle. Praise praise PRAISE God for sending a savior because without Him, my dark days would end with the promise of more exhaustion and more failure.
Instead, there is hope. And help and rest and love, grace and forgiveness. And I am encouraged by the examples in the Bible–Moses, David, Paul, for instance–how many times did they mess up so utterly and God still used them and spoke through them and guided them?

This is where, for me, continuing to fight the good fight gets real. Continuing to read my Bible, continuing to pray, to reach above myself and to remember that though my circumstances change, there is joy to be had at all times and in any situation. In America there so many loud things to distract us from God’s solid, quiet truth; so many things vying for our attention. I’ll never have peace by focusing on and worshipping any of it.

So if you’re a stay-at-home mom, or a working mom, or a parent, or a child, or a person and you’re struggling in your head to get through one single day, don’t give up on God. Keep fighting the good fight. He will hold you like no one else can, He will take those slumped shoulders and stand you up straight, and He will look at you when you’re feeling your scummiest and He will raise your chin.

Go now and rock on with your bad self, you strong and beautiful child of God.


God to you

Struggling.

I feel like I’m always doing it. Mainly because my lungs are temperamental and my body craves alcohol and caffeine alternately throughout the days. I have enjoyed some success in battling the booze, but I am a slave to the bean y’all.

Sometimes I struggle with my faith. Not in a “does God even exist?” kind of way, but in a “God, why u no get rid of all my problems?” kind of way. Funny story: our pastor touched on this no less than twelve hours ago, and I have to wonder if God has given him the ability to communicate with me telepathically. That, or the government has somehow microchipped my brain and randomly sends out personal thought information to local church leaders for reasons unbeknownst to me but probably involving aliens and contaminated cherry coke.

Fact: Christians should expect to endure for real hardships. Character building and such, revealing the glory of God. It’s our thing. We get sick. We lose friends. We don’t all drive BMWs or live in brick mansions or make loads of money. There are people who would really like it if we couldn’t worship, talk, think, or live in a way consistent with what we believe. There are people who would kill our bodies.

It’s not okay, but it will be.

In the dead center of this free country, in what is perhaps the most biblely state in the U.S., I grow in my faith and I try to raise my children in a way Jesus would want. The building where we live is made of wood and glass and cement. The cars we drive get us from here to there. The jobs we do provide us with money for food, shelter, and clothing. Nothing we have defines us. Nothing we have we got on our own. Nothing we have belongs to us.

But everything we are is from God and because of God. We are not spontaneously-generated ants on a sphere in a black hole of space and time. God designed us and has given us tools and a purpose while we are here on Earth.

If I woke up tomorrow and a volcano boiled my house up with red hot lava (a recurring nightmare of Merrick’s), God would provide me and my family with a place(s) to lay our heads. If my car was like, say, a green, four-door, ’97 Saturn and it wouldn’t start worth a flip? God would send a ride if He thought I needed to be somewhere. God will use me and He will use the talents and the resources He gave to me no matter where I am or what I am doing. If I burn my thumb on a hot poptart (shut up), He will help me relate it to my walk with Him and give me the words to tell you fine people about it.

God wants to use us, all the times and all the places. This can be hard to do when we’re physically hurting or mentally exhausted, or scared or confused or sad or really, just human.

I’ve been hesitant to talk about all the million hundred hot-button issues of the past few weeks but one thing I cannot shake–and obviously it’s the people who were murdered in cold heartless blood while praying and worshipping peacefully in their own church. What the actual heck.

I’m not going to say anything new on this. It’s racism. It’s murder. It’s evil. It’s satan, buck-naked on a trampoline with a megaphone. 

I like my satan obvious and predictable. But what about the satan who rolls up in a practical, eco-friendly ride, all decked out in his Target best, stroking my ego and affirming every awesome thing I ever thought about myself? That guy is out there too, and he is a sneaky mcsneakerton.

Christians Christians Christians.

You guys.

Get ready. Crap has hit the fan and no one’s climbing up there to clean it off. This world, this place, is not going to get any better. Things are not going to be easier. People are not going to to be nicer. I’m not even sure the number of people who call themselves Christians is going to grow. But we still have us a Divine to-do list:

  • To see the preciousness in every beautiful person on the planet.
  • To see the face of God in every person He created–and He created them all.
  • To tell people the truth about Jesus: not to jazz Him up and make a bunch of promises we can’t back up, like “believe in Jesus and your life on Earth will be straight kick-ass and then you’ll die and go straight to even more awesome Heaven.”
  • To love one another as He loves us; to show people the love of Christ first and foremost before addressing their personal shortcomings. If we’re all about spreading the Gospel then our priority número uno should be making people feel heard and cared about. If we’re hoping to build lasting relationships with the people in our towns and schools and jobs, we can’t stomp all over everything they’ve ever believed to be true about themselves.
  • Me going off on a tangent: this is something that’s been on my heart about the LGBT community specifically: they’re not going to pick up on our Jesus if we’re constantly slamming the church door in their faces. If we have friends who are blatant alcoholics and we’ve never given them unsolicited advice about their sin yet we eagerly invite them to church week after week, why would we treat people in a homosexual lifestyle any different? If a hefty chunk of any one church population is not only overweight/obese but embraces and celebrates gluttony, why, then, are we telling gay people that there’s no place for them in Christianity? Sorrynotsorry but we need to love us some ALL PEOPLE.

  

  • That said, we are also called to tell the truth about God’s Word. And about sin. And salvation. The fact that I commit a certain sin does not cancel out another person’s sin. The biblical definition of marriage between a husband and a wife is pretty freakin’ clear. The Bible also spells out how utterly evil the sins of pride, wrath, envy, greed, gluttony, and lust truly are–sins that I need to beg God for forgiveness from pretty much on the daily.

“My sheep hear my voice; I know them and they follow me. I will give them eternal life, and they will never perish, ever! No one will snatch them out of my hand.” –John 10:27

I love this verse I think more than any other verse in the Bible. To me it serves as a comfort but also as a warning and I occassionally find myself going over a gut-checklist of questions:

  • Would you recognize the voice of your shepherd? Do you listen for Him and do you go to Him when He calls you? Will your shepherd know you?
  • Are you a Christian-lite? Do you say you believe in Jesus but what you mean by that is you go to church twice a month at best and live the way you feel like the rest of the time? Do you take time to pray and read the bible and study it and understand it? Do you love God or do you love the idea of God (but still not as much as you love your sleep/free time/cusswords/wine/job/live-in boyfriend/girlfriend/designer shoes/yourself)?
  • When was the last time you prayed in private on your knees? If someone asked your kids if you loved God with all your heart, what would be their likely honest response? If you died tomorrow would you regret not taking your family to church for the past six months? If you were the poster child for Christianity, would there be renewed interest in Jesus or would people walk away from the church, and everything it should represent, in disgust?
  • Have you ever given any real thought to these questions? Do any of them make you feel more than a little uncomfortable? Does your walk with God need some fine-tuning or a complete overhaul? Because we all–often–need one or the other. And there’s always room for growth. I’ve got so so so far to go.

prep time

Up with the sun and also dog wretching early on a Monday morning.

We close on the new house today. So there’s a two-ton monkey off our backs.

I’m obsessed with the music of Emmanuel Jal. It’s like Nelson Mandela and Lecrae had a baby and he became a child soldier of the Sudan, escaped, grew up and started rapping about world peace and the King of Kings. Every song I’ve ever listened to up until this point is a meaningless dead opossum head on my doorstep by comparison. (I’m waiting for it y’all.) Well, maybe not Hillsong or Lynyrd Skynyrd, but definitely Ke$ha and Kenny Chesney. Eesh. Sorry for that reference. So. Emmanuel Jal: look him up. You’re welcome.

Got back from Florida a couple days ago. It was as glorious as you think it was. We saw every family member God ever gave us and ate all the shrimp in the gulf.

Side note: people go to Africa and South America all the time to preach the gospel and help the poor and needy, but has anyone ever looked into backwoods south Alabama? Holy nuts there’s some real poverty and lostness and brokenness in that area if I’ve ever seen it–and I have, I just never noticed up until now.

I’ve been thinking a lot about God and loving others. I feel like God is doing some serious fine-tuning in this area especially since the last several months have been so stressful and angry; either it was all a test and I failed miserably, or God is getting me ready for some really cool stuff. I’m gonna have to go with the latter.

I feel obligated to mention that we are ALL called to do cool stuff, we are all designed with a great purpose in mind, and if you let Him, God will use you and your individual strengths in incredible ways that you can’t even imagine. My gosh I can’t even think of how different the world would be if we all stopped wallowing, got off our asses, and went out and loved one another for real.

So here’s a challenge for you on this day: if there’s some good you’ve been meaning to do, if there’s someone you can help, whether you’ve been thinking about it for a while or it just pops up, small or big, GO DO IT. Today. Put it on your list at the top. We are capable. We are called.

For me this minute though, I’ll just be sitting on my front porch with my endlessly-vomitting dog, reading, praying, and drinking coffee. Getting ready.

(I usually never ask cheesy “post it in the comment section!” favors but today I’m totes curious: what have you been meaning to that you are going to do?)


Spiritual warfare.

I know nothing about it.

Nah I’m just kidding, I totally do. And I think it’s happening to all people on a daily basis whether they know it or not. Sometimes it’s less obvious, but sometimes the devil is, without a doubt, all up in your actual koolaid, and you can see him and recognize him and he is one scary mother.

Y’all.

Everyday be ready. The devil sees you rollin’, and he is hatin‘.

Everyday, fight the good fight, knowing that it is a fight, like, literally. Be comforted and strengthened knowing that God is on it.

My sheep listen to my voice; I know them and they follow me. I will give them eternal life and they will never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. –John 10:27-28


Gut check.

Been thinking about God a lot and mind-boggling questions concerning Him and the universe, and the laws for living here on Earth and about the history of mankind, you know, since I am deep. Everyone seems to have it all figured out except for me and maybe one of my dogs. (The stupid one. I’ll let you decide which one that is.)

Here is some stuff I know: God created us special. God loves us hard. God sent His Son to die in our place. God has power over creation. God has power over evil stuff. God is good. God wants us to love and serve each other. God is the bomb diggity.

This is what I try to teach 2 and 3 year olds every Sunday. This is what I try to teach my own kids every single day. This is what I try to remember in my own brain all the minutes of my life.

Are there other important things to know and study? Of course. I don’t think you can really grasp the necessity of the New Testament unless you’ve read and understood the Old Testament. But until one has the basics down, one will only sound like a complete moron haggling over details that theoretically don’t even pertain to him (yet or ever.)

If I don’t love God deep down in my heart, then what does it matter to me what God says about _____? If I don’t love God, why should anyone care what I think about Him?

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. –1 Corinthians 13:1

Basically put: I can talk about God and religious philosophy all day long, and I might actually be knowledgable in that area, but if I go around being a total dick, then all my talk is just loud, annoying sounds.

We all struggle with doubts from time to time. We all have our questions. Issues that might be up for discussion:

•”Can I not drink a beer with my donuts?”

•”Are women supposed to wear calf-length dresses and over-hairsprayed bangs-n-buns?”

•”Should I use an actual rod to beat my children?”

•”How many donuts can I have with my beer?”

But there are truths about God that everyone will be asked to deal with in his or her own time. It boils down to either acceptance or rejection–there’s not really a middle ground with the big stuff.

When your heart is right, your actions should follow suit. Attitude yields behavior. It does not work the other way around.

“The fruit that the spirit produces in a person’s life is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”–Galatians 5:22

And you can’t add stuff to God’s grace, because it wouldn’t be grace; i.e. “I believe Jesus died for me plus also thank goodness I’m like, a really good person.”

“If you try to be made right with God through the law, your life with Christ is finished–you have left God’s grace. I say this because our hope of being right with God comes through faith. And the spirit helps us feel sure as we wait for that hope. When someone belongs to Christ Jesus, it is not important if they are circumcised or not. The important thing is faith–the kind of faith that works through love.”–Galatians 5:4-6

Do you let the details bring you down? Is your faith in the big stuff shaken when faced with differing opinions on the little stuff? Have you put your trust in a person or group of people here in this world only to be let down when they neglect to speak, act, think, and breathe like Jesus Christ, son of God?

The important thing is faith–the kind of faith that works through love. I can’t say it any better. If this is something that is true to us, it will be clear through our attitudes and actions and most importantly, our relationships with all people.

2015/01/img_15751.jpg

I’m not sure why I find trolling delicious desserts so funny. But yes, beautiful lady. God has plans for all of us. And hopefully flans, too.


Good News

So. We can all stop picturing Obama as a mustache-twirling evil overlord laughing maniacally at his desk in the White House, toasting to the end of the world with a nice glass of courvoisier.

IMG_1059.GIF

He’s not the greatest president in the history of our country but I’m 98% certain he’s not the anti-Christ. The next guy in office will screw things up in his own special way too. Don’t put your faith in men, y’all. Jesus wins.

I know not what it’s like to be a black man, because I’m a white girl from a fully-intact home. If I could trade places with someone else for a day to get a better understanding of how the world is through their eyes, I would. Really. But I can’t. Racism is real and it is nasty. But Jesus beats that, too.

I can’t give an informed opinion on Ferguson because there are a million different stories in the news and also, I wasn’t there. It hurts me to think a system really exists that keeps people of one color at an advantage above another. But I do know that systems–good and bad–break. Jesus trumps them all.

Miley Cyrus twerks and the Kardashians are real, and everywhere I turn my head, there’s drunkenness and debauchery and nakedness, and really, really terrible music. Jesus will make it all stop.

ISIS chops off heads. Politicians lie. Ebola rages. Droughts ravage. Authority figures abuse power. The devil has his grimy hands all over everything. But God be like:

IMG_1060.GIF

God has a plan–it was put into motion before any of us were born. We must use our brains and speak out and fight against evil–but we can rest easy knowing that God has it covered.

And everywhere I turn my head, there are good things. I hike around in nature and junk. I get to watch children create art. I see the power of prayer in action.

A 90-year old man feeds the homeless in Florida no matter how many times it gets him arrested. Last week, 8 babies were dedicated to the Lord in my church alone. Today my baby hardcore belly-laughed for the first time. I saw a 20-mile long line of birds flying out of a gorgeous Oklahoma sunrise. It was freakin’ amazing.

It’s Christmas. We have hope. That child bringing us goodness and light? He is God’s one and only satan-trampling son. And we don’t have to trash talk or constantly worry or be afraid.

IMG_1061.JPG


%d bloggers like this: