New Seasons

Yesterday marked the beginning of a new church year, and with it found our family sitting in a new church.  Yesterday marked the beginning of Advent, and as we lit the first candle I was reminded that a new season has begun, not just in our year, but in our family's life.  I once posted here that if I post often life is going smoothly, if I go silent, something is up, and indeed something has been up over the last few months.  Thanks for bearing with my silence.

Has God ever thrown a scripture at you?  Literally thrown it in your face? Painted in on the billboard near your house?  Plastered it across every blog, devotion, and book you read until you have to throw up your hands and say, "Okay I hear you!"

For the last nine months the Lord has done this with a couple of scriptures for me.

"Be alert, be present.  I'm about to do something brand new.  It's bursting out.  Don't you see it?"  
~  Isaiah 43: 19  ( The Message)

"The Lord will fight for you; you only need to be still."  
~  Exodus 14:14  (NIV)

"Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.  Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.  Commit your way to the Lord; trust in Him and He will do this: He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun.  Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him." 
~ Psalm 37: 3-7a  (NIV) 

For months I heard what seemed like conflicting messages to me:  change was coming and I was to be still and do nothing about it.  

Ugh.  Can I tell you how much I stink at being quiet and doing nothing!  But I did.  I was still.  I have been very quiet in multiple ways.  I have waited on the Lord and leaned not on my own understanding.  In the last two months the Lord has unfurled something new for our family, something new for me professionally.  It is something I would not have sought on my own,  He has clearly delivered it.  

So last Sunday, on the last Sunday in the church calendar, we said our goodbyes to our Bay Leaf Church family.  We are not moving, but we have been called to move on.  Yesterday we worshipped with our new congregation with hearts full of a mixture of anticipation for the new, and loss over the old, and the supreme knowledge that God is God over all of it.  

As we enter into this new season of Advent, and also draw 2014 to a close, what is the Lord whispering (or shouting) to you?   Is He calling you to lean close to Him this season of Immanuel?  Is He asking you to leave something behind with 2014 so you can move unburdened into a new year?  Perhaps in the hectic-ness of life, your quiet time with the Lord has been pushed aside and squeezed out so that you haven't felt that you've heard anything for the Lord in a long time.  May I invite you to join me this month and lean in to the story of the season?  May I challenge you to take time on these dark December nights to quietly listen for the Lord, to read and reread His Word, to be still in a season of busy long enough to hear His voice and to allow His plans for you to unfurl.  They are good plans my friends, so let's not miss any of them.  

I look forward to sharing soon with you our "something new."  

But Everyone Else Is Doing It



It wasn’t a convenient day to get stopped for speeding.

I was driving home from the pharmacy with a fussy toddler in the back seat. Beside me sat a small paper sack containing bubble-gum flavored amoxicillin—that sweet elixir of hope.

My daughter’s first ear infection was painful for her and exhausting for me. Thankfully the doctor had a clear diagnosis and a promising fix. I just wanted to get home and let the healing begin.

Which is why I wasn’t paying attention to my speedometer. Smokey clocked me cruising 35 in a 25 just three blocks from my house.

I must’ve looked frazzled—as moms of sick kids do—because the officer let me off with a warning. But did you know warnings take just as long to write up as tickets? And my passenger wasn’t getting any happier the longer she sat rear-facing, blinded by flashing lights.

I’m not making excuses. But it’s important to note that my car was flowing with traffic (downhill, just saying) and the other cars were surely driving as fast as I was. What’s the harm in going with the flow? Everybody’s doing it!

Whoa. Hold on a second. If my kids uttered those words, I’d pounce with my mommy claws drawn.

I don’t care if everybody else is doing it! You are a Kopitzke—you are not everybody else! We do things different in this family!

Oh, really.

How about that wildly popular but, admit it, totally raunchy TV show hubby and I watched last night? No harm done. I had my filter on. Mm, hmm.

“…whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things,” (Philippians 4:8).

I really want that new dress. It’s not in this month’s budget, but I can charge it and worry about the bill later. Hey, all of America is in debt! Overspending is practically patriotic. I’m boosting the economy!

“Then he said to them, ‘Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions,’” (Luke 12:15).

That fellow mom at swimming lessons is super nice. I could invite her to my church moms group, but that might be awkward. I mean, people don’t want to talk about God at the pool, do they? I’ll stick with safer subjects—like sippy cups and hair salons.

“Do you not say, ‘Four months more, and then the harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest,” (John 4:35).

Maybe I’m not so different after all. But I should be.

“. . . Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don't become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You'll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you,” (Romans 12:1–2, MSG, emphasis mine).

We’re Christians in a messed-up world. We should stick out a little. Not in a weird, look-at-me-I’m-a-nut-job kind of way. Jesus was not a freak. He was magnetic. People were drawn to him. Just imagine—if the world can see his love, compassion, and integrity in us, maybe they’ll want it, too. That’s no insignificant side-effect of living for Christ. Dare I say, it should be our purpose.

That evening, my toddler and I drove (slowly) home with our heads hanging low—hers from the earache and mine from embarrassment. When my husband greeted us in the kitchen and I confessed my brush with the law, I waited for a scolding or a joke. He spoke neither.

“Don’t feel bad, honey.” He took our weary daughter from my arms. “I’ve driven 35 on that street before, too. I guess from now on we’ll both pay better attention.”

Mercy. God gives it to us, and in that moment, my husband chose to pass it along to me. Perhaps that’s the simplest definition of acting like a Christian. I spooned out my daughter’s medicine and thanked God for my family, for amoxicillin, and for teaching me a lesson. No more going with the flow.

Oh, and Lord, speaking of mercy, thanks for dodging that speeding ticket. Who knows? Maybe the cop was a Christian, too.

___________________________________ 


Becky Kopitzke is a freelance writer, speaker, singer, dreamer, lunch packer, snowman builder and recovering perfectionist. She lives with her handsome husband and their two young daughters in northeast Wisconsin, where a pink indoor trampoline fills half the once formal living room.

Becky believes parenting is one of God’s greatest tools for building our faith, character, and strength—and it’s not always pretty. Join her on her blog, Time Out with Becky Kopitzke, where she offers weekly encouragement for fellow imperfect moms, pointing our weaknesses, blessings, and victories to God.


Waving the White Flag


My Voices of Friends Series continues today with Amy Carroll.  I love this women!  If you don't already follow her blog, hop over and subscribe.  Amy is a speaker with Proverbs 31, and is releasing her first book this summer!  



I dreamed my whole life of becoming a mom, so why was the reality so hard?

As a little girl, I loved on my doll babies and swept out the housekeeping center. Practicing feeding my “family” with mud pies made from the sandy soil and pine needles of eastern NC was my summer pastime. As I grew, helping in the church nursery was my favorite activity, and I made all my extra money with babysitting. Eventually, education became my chosen profession. Becoming an elementary school teacher just fed my love for small children ….

And then I had one of my very own.

Anson Gray Carroll, my rolly polly infant, was born on February 20, 1994 after almost a year of trying without success to have a baby. Just as we were considering fertility treatments, a simple test confirmed the joy of conception. Anson was longed for, and he was deeply loved. I remember looking into his beautiful baby face that first day of being a mom and thinking, “Everything has changed. All my priorities have fallen into place. I’ll never feel needy for anything again.”

But that wasn’t true, because none of the satisfying aspects of being “mom” quenched the struggle in my soul.

Suddenly, a list-making-girl couldn’t complete a task as simple as a shower. My schedule-loving-soul resented my husband’s ability to set his own work agenda while mine was set by a person who couldn’t even feed himself.

I was no longer called “teacher”, a job description that had defined much of my identity. What was my purpose now? The world around me didn’t seem to think “mom” was a worthy title. I remember visiting my mother-in-law’s school for lunch one day with Anson only to have the principal shake his head and mutter, “What a waste,” as I walked by.

While I longed to feel the overwhelming feelings of peace and nurture, I increasingly felt like I was losing myself and what I perceived as purpose. So I fought.

I wrestled.

I resented.


I chaffed against motherhood.

Until one day, when God used the title of a secular book from the mouth of an unbelieving friend to set me free from the struggle.
As we stood in the preschool line to pick up Anson, now 3, and her twin boys, my friend started telling me about a revolutionary book she had just finished. The title of the book was Surrendering to Motherhood.

I remember that conversation and the title of that book as crystal clearly as if it was spoken yesterday. It was 17 years ago, but that one phrase…Surrendering to Motherhood…changed my perspective in a moment and has changed my mothering ever since.

It sounds strange, I know, and you may wonder how that translated into my everyday life. Here are 3 lessons I learned as I waved the white flag:

  1. Take a deep breath and relax your grip. My control freak tendencies took a choke-hold grip on me when Anson was born. So much became beyond my power that I tilted toward anxiously grasping for control and micromanaging the joy out of life. When I started relaxing into the crazy ride, letting the schedule flex, and intentionally enjoying the rising and falling pace of my own child, the benefits of surrender began to be evident.

  1. Stretch open your hands. Clenching my hands, trying to control everything, God’s showered blessings fell to the ground uncaught. As I began to release the idea of perfection and my controlling ways, my hands were open wide to receive God’s blessings for the day—like a slow walk around the block admiring every bug on the sidewalk along the way. It also allowed me to receive grace for my imperfections and take joy in the mom journey created uniquely for my children and me.

  1. Fling your arms wide. Celebrate the mom God created when He created you! As Jill Churchill says, “There is no way to be a perfect mother and a million ways to be a good one.” Here’s what I want to urgently whisper to you today. You are perfectly made. Really. God has uniquely created you to be the just-right-mom for your children. Being your truest self is not only a gift to you, it’s your greatest gift to your children. As they see you follow God in pure contentment with how you’re made, they will then be free to pursue their truest, God-created self as they grow.

Things subtly but powerfully shifted for our whole family when God changed my mind, and I surrendered to motherhood. You try it now.

Raise the white flag.

Breathe.

Unclench your hands, and open them to God’s blessings.

_____________

Amy Carroll’s passion is living the untied life.  She loves to see women freed into the matchless pleasure of deep relationship with God and others.  Amy is a member of the Proverbs 31 Ministries’ speaker team and the blissful director of Next Step Speaker Services.  She lives in NC with her 3 favorite guys and a little, red dachshund.  You can find her on any given day typing at her computer, reading a book or trying to figure out one more alternative to cooking dinner.  Visit Amy at www.amycarroll.org and find out more about her speaker coaching at www.nextstepspeakerservices.org.