When the kids were all sick with strep and RSV, one of the favorite things to do was play with the faces on Snapchat.  Many giggles were had over puppies, crowns, and superheros.  Each day was a new chance to open the app and see what kind of new face, mask, or animation we could find.  The tradition continues in the quiet(er) moments; nothing here is every truly quiet.  This morning I found this mask...
I sure got a laugh out of how I suddenly was glittery and gold.  I had this big crown and epic face!  Totally out of the norm for me, considering I rarely even wear make up.  Then I got to thinking about the woman behind that mask.  This is what was hiding behind it:

Behind the glitz in glam is bad skin and messed up hair.  My glasses are crooked from being knocked off my face too many times.  My face is puffy from having cleaned up seven different messes.  There's nothing to hide my multiple chins.  Are the women in these pictures different?  No, they're all me.  Do they invoke different feelings?  Sure! 

I've been involved in may conversations about the facades we put forward on social media to each other.  Even discussions about how we can become addicted to looking at, and comparing ourselves to, our connections.  The truth is, no one puts a terrible selfie on social media.  Even "bad selfies" are often staged to minimize flaws and accentuate our good side.  We use filters and makeup to hide our blemishes, dark circles, bags, fine lines, gray hairs, etc.

God sees everything behind our mask.  Everything you've buried deep within you.  Things you'd never tell your best friend or even your greatest love.  The things you think you'll take to your grave are still exposed in the Light of Christ.

I mentioned on Facebook that I have been working on the church blog.  I love the opportunity to present to people via the internet. As I was transcribing Preacher's Embrace Grace sermon, this thought continued to echo in my mind for the days that have followed: 

I don't understand the thought of me sitting down with King David in heaven, men like Hudson Taylor (who we've been reading about as a church), Peter, Paul, and James, when I can be such a coward, flawed, when I don't feel like I've done much of anything for Jesus like I should.  That thought BOGGLES the mind until you realize they aren't there because of how good and beautiful they were.  The ONLY way you sit at that table is through Jesus; the blood of [God's] son.  God will pull up a seat for you at that table.  He will cover everything you have ever done. Everything you are struggling with, doubts you have.  Every pain from your past. 
From Pastor Brian Loveless' Sermon "Embrace Grace" on March 27, 2011 at Calvary Baptist Church Grand Prairie, Texas on Friend Day.

With God we are UNMASKED and that's OK because he loves us flaws and all.  Jesus has already offered to stand in our place so we can sit at the table with our Father God.  We need only be willing to accept it.  Are you?
God has called me to put this in writing so many times and I haven't wanted to.  It's too risqué, I don't know where I stand, I don't have the power to write these kinds of words.  This morning, in response to a social media conversation, I wrote the following words.  They came fluidly and that means something to me.  Then I felt led to share them, felt the pull of this is what you are supposed to say.  So here they are... I'll lay my beliefs bare and pray they do God's will and not my own.

Since I identify as a born-again, Jesus following Christian, I want to clarify my position on the whole transgender thing [and really most of the hot-button issues in today's society]. I believe that the bible is the Word of God. I also believe that Jesus is the Son of God in fulfillment of the Old Testament scriptures. I do not believe that Jesus rescinds the Old Testament law, but fulfills the penalties for them; meaning we no longer have to offer sacrifices and burnt offerings to atone for our sins and do not require a priest to intercede on our behalf with God. Jesus Christ, the Word that breathed the world into creation and knit us in our mother's wombs, submitted Himself to God the Father, and lived 33 perfect years on Earth.  He was persecuted and crucified at the hands of the people as the ultimate sacrifice for every sin we ever have and ever will commit.  I believe Jesus rose from the dead in His same human body after three days to demonstrate His deity and triumph over death.  Jesus then ascended into Heaven to prepare for all those who believe in Him as Savior a place in Heaven.  He will return, once again triumphant, and bring with Him new Heaven and New earth.  Conquering Satan, the beautiful fallen angel who's laid claim to this world, once and for all.  This is the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

The bible that I believe contains the inspired Word of God has set forth laws; among which include stipulations about not identifying as a member of the opposite sex. (I just got scandalous, I know, lol). Having said that, I also know that the people who do identify as being transgender are not that much different from myself; they are a soul within a human vessel purposefully designed by our Creator. I do not understand their struggle, but I do recognize it is a deep struggle for them. I choose to look beyond the choices a person makes and focus on the soul beyond that. I know members of the transgender community and none of them pose a risk; in fact they are in fear of the repercussion of their personal choices - among which include being attacked/harmed for their choices.

I don't know if the laws being passed are good or bad in the eyes of God; but I do know that he told me that I still need to abide by them. I also know that my job is to share the Gospel of Jesus with the world. I cannot change hearts and minds, that is not within my power. What I can do is love unconditionally no matter who/what/where/when/how/why someone identifies they way that they do. I will not live my life in fear because of all the things my bible tells me to do - it's not to fear because God has already figured out all the details. Plus, it also says things are going to get worse before they get better, and that's OK because Jesus and I have already figured things out.

I know that my opinions are not popular to either side of the coin. I only know what I've searched out in the scriptures. At times, I feel as though I'm not doing my God due diligence. Others, I feel I am not doing this loving people thing due diligence. I tune myself to the call of the Holy Spirit, because honestly I have no clue 99% of the time.

I am just bursting to write and I've been so consumed lately!  In my continuing endeavor to be wholly "there" wherever and whatever I'm doing, I don't always get a moment to collect my thoughts enough to write.  The other side of that is a re-prioritization of things in my life (say that 3x fast).  How about a quick, what's she up to now?

Home life is never boring here.  After Baby R's burn healed, Grandma stayed a while longer before heading back home.  At least we got to do some fun things together like the museum!

Almost as soon as she got on the plane, one of our dogs ended up tearing the ligament in his knee, requiring surgery. That was fun to save up for!  I mentioned in my last post that #1 son and I were going to start training for a 5k in October in memory of our babies.  We got through nearly two weeks of training before life happened and we had to pause things, but we're about to get back on track. God willing, I'm going to run that 5k in the fall!

What put training on pause?  All three boys ended up sick.  Son #1 got strep first.  While we took him to the doctor, sons #2 and #3 picked up the RSV virus.  Not to be outdone, #2 managed to have RSV and strep at the same time!  There were a lot of antibiotics to be taken, some steroids, copious hours of movie watching around here.  Plus the inordinate amount of extra laundry and cleaning.  How I have wished some days my sweet Momma could teleport back and help me.  :)  God's grace was sufficient and He helped me endure it.  It was during this time I started living 15 minutes at a time.  For these 15 minutes I will _______, then we'll tackle whatever comes next 15 minute at a time.

I have been making the weekly updates for the church blog which means the time I would usually spend posting here, I have been uploading the submissions for Faith | Hope | Love.  Out of the desire to have weekly girlfriend time, a small group of us are now meeting together on Wednesday evenings and working through a bible study called Designing a Woman's Life: Discovering Your Unique Purpose and Passion by Judith Couchman.  Our kids have a chance to play together (because you know mine go with me everywhere) and we can fellowship with each other and work through the tough questions about who God designed us to be! A wonderful lady at our church also felt moved to do a bible study based on the movie War Room - you know I signed up for that!  Our first session was last night and let me tell you, between the hard hitting questions from our Wednesday night study and the hard hitting questions from the War Room study, God and Jodi are going to be getting lots of things answered.

I've also felt led to write about some topics I've been holding back on sharing. Not holding back because I'm afraid of the backlash (which I'm sure may be part of it) but because I'm not 100% sure where I stand on some of these topics myself.  I don't feel like I can come on God Still Speaks and spill my heart without fully knowing where I stand on the matter, but God is telling me that it's not about me, it's about Him.  I agree 100%.  Not sure how I'm going to do it all, but as I said, I am living life 15 minutes at a time.  These 15 minutes were devoted to this blog and saying hello.  The next will be focused on War Room's Day One homework.  The next 15 minutes?  Well, we'll see who needs what when we get there.

If you've spent any time at all on this blog, you've noticed I have a huge heart for an organization called Hope Mommies.  If you grieve a small life, this organization is incredible and I encourage you to hook up with them.  Like them on Facebook, join the community, read the blog, hang out at the website and so much more!

Last year, the Dallas Chapter of Hope Mommies organized the first annual 5k in memory of our precious children in glory.  I wanted so badly to attend, but had a scheduling conflict.  Just this week, the Dallas Chapter posted the details for this year's run!  I was jumping out of my skin with excitement.  

The Facebook event page can be found by clicking: HERE 
You can register online by clicking: HERE

"Jodi - are you seriously going to attempt a 5k?"

YES!!  With every fiber of my being yes!!  I am already doing Couch to 5K (c25k) training with my oldest son.  He's so excited to be running in memory of his siblings and I'm loving the Mother-Son time we get doing it.  If you are interested in training for a 5k (or simply getting into the habit of exercising for FREE) here are some links for you:

  • Training program overview: The Couch to 5K ® Running Plan
    • Only eight weeks to go from couch potato to runner. It's an easy program to follow that builds you up gradually.  I plan to add weights to my run so I am always at the weight I am now, even when my body starts loosing it's own bulk.
  • Trainer app I'm using: C25K®
    • Turn it on, take off.  The voice prompts tell you everything to do as you go.  I never even have to look at my phone except to start/end my training session.  How simple is that!?
  • Christian themed workout playlists: Christian + Workout radio stations 
    • Everybody needs some tunes.  These may not be your style, but I'm really enjoying them.

Race, Sponsor, Donate

I would really like to have a group of 20+ people to love and support each other and Hope Mommies from all over not just Dallas-Fort Worth, but the whole state of Texas, and maybe even the country too!  You can run the actual race (which is what #1 and I are doing) or participate in a 1-mile walk (which is what Hubs is considering doing with #2&3).  #1 son and I are also willing to train with anyone who's interested.  There's nothing quite as motivating as doing something like this as a family.

I love that there are still ways to contribute to the event by donating for the silent auction or becoming a race sponsor.  Interested donors can send an email to monicakhirallah@gmail.com.  Interested sponsors should email dallas@hopemommies.org.

Race Details - 2nd Annual Hope Mommies 5k and 1 Mile Fun Run

Saturday, October 15 at 7 AM - 11 AM
University of Dallas
1845 E Northgate Dr, Irving, Texas 75062

Race Day Schedule:

  • 7:00 AM Walk-up Registration Opens
  • 8:00 AM Registration closes
  • 8:00 AM Opening Ceremony/Announcements
  • 8:15 AM 5K Runners start
  • 8:20 AM 1 Mile Walkers/Runners start
  • 9:15 AM Winners announced
    • Pending city permit approval, we will have a balloon release.
    • Alternatively, we will have a prayer and song honoring our babies.
  • 10:00 AM Silent Auction ends
  • 10:30 AM Silent Auction winners announced
  • Clean up to follow
The Facebook event page can be found by clicking: HERE 
You can register online by clicking: HERE
Count it all joy, my brothers,[a] when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. James 1:2-4

I've always tried to be genuine, open, and honest.  There is no joy counting here; none.  I'm not running around thanking God for the challenges we've faced this last week.  I have seen God move in our lives though and it always leads me back to this one quote:

“I have learned to kiss the waves that throw me up against the Rock of Ages” 
― Charles Haddon Spurgeon

On Friday evening Baby R managed to grab a little kettle of near-boiling hot water restaurants give you for tea and dump it in his lap.  The next 16 hours were all a blur of activity!  After three emergency rooms, two ambulance rides, and a whole lot of prayer warriors we ended up being admitted to hospital with a cutting edge burn center.  Baby R had 2nd degree burns over 8% of his body (read that as the front of his leg, thigh to ankle). We were discharged by the burn center on Saturday afternoon and looked forward to recuperating at home.  Sunday we missed church (obviously) but Baby R played and was his usual self all day long.

Then early Monday morning, Baby R started throwing up.  He couldn't hold down anything, including his pain meds.  Once we hit 12+ hours without Baby R being able to take in any fluids, his burn surgeon suggested we bring him back to the ER because dehydration is a major issue.  Not just for little guys but also for burn victims.  We spent 16 more hours in an ER on Monday, but Baby R was able to get re-hydrated and some medicine to help him keep food and medicine down.  The medical staff assumed it was a virus, likely picked up in one of the ERs so we would just have to let it run it's course.

As soon as he got some fluids, Baby R perked right back up!
Tuesday, our Preschooler J started vomiting.  It was frustrating because we were still exhausted, but also a slight relief because it confirmed that the burn injury had not caused Baby R's vomiting. Whew, I'm putting even the smallest blessings in the win column!  By Wednesday, Baby R and Preschooler J were over the vomiting.  However, Tween T woke up throwing up.  At that point, I started to wonder if we were all destined to succumb to whatever virus Baby R brought home. 

Baby R was trying his best to make Preschooler J feel better.
So what now? What could I possibly take away from this whole ordeal.  First, I have a strange sense of being fulfilled; sustained.  I am tired and overwhelmed, but my soul is filled to brimming.  I started to write out all that I have seen God doing, but the list was getting so long and Baby R is about to wake up.  Maybe one day soon, when I'm rested, I can reflect back and stitch together all God is doing. 

In the meantime, if I don't post much.... you know why.

A minute ago, I was sitting here trying to think of a blog topic.  In my mind I said "God, what am I supposed to write about today?  What would you inspire me with?" then as I scrolled through Facebook this verse appeared:

Philippians 4:6 is my all-time favorite.  Why?  Because it's actionable.  It's something I can do RIGHT NOW to commune with my God. When you regularly practice verse six you'll find that verse seven begins to take root in your life.  

This morning alone, I've prayed over my friends for many things - unspoken requests, health issues, anxiety over upcoming situations, pregnancies, losses, God winks, blessings fulfilled, and restorations in progress.  Sweet reader, I want to take a moment to pray over you.  Where you are, in this very moment:

Thank you for another day I can use to do work for your glory.  Thank you for the time and technology.  Thank you for the individual reading these words today.  I may not know their story or struggle, but you do.  I pray that in this moment, they see and feel the peace you promise in verse seven.  I am asking you God, boldly, without fear, because of Jesus, to intervene on their behalf in this situation.  Our moments on earth seem so unsure, our steps unsteady.  Please meet these fears and concerns with abundant peace and confidence in you.  Pull back the veil and allow us, even if only for a moment, to see that you are sovereign and working.  Even through all of this chaos.  

It is in Jesus' name I pray these things, 
"A church is not a museum for saints, it is a hospital for sinners."

I have no idea who originally said that, but in my head I hear my Mother's voice; she said it often.  For a long time, I thought it was just one of those Christian-y things people said.  Now, I wonder if it helped her to maintain perspective when times got hard, feelings got hurt, and people forgot how to act.  That statement helps me keep my priorities focused on reflecting Christ and not my own agenda when times get tough.

We are supposed to love the sinner and hate the sin.  God used a recent situation to show me how to behave when things hit the fan and the whole situation just stinks.  I originally reacted in much the same way anyone would.  Then I listened to a Sunday School lesson where I was reminded that my goal should FIRST AND FOREMOST be to point people to Christ.  Often, when life seems to crumble we are always quick to place blame and condemn.  I was reminded that all too often, sin comes from a place of deep brokenness.  There's only one person I know who can fix those kinds of hurts.

Romans 12:20-21 ESV
To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

My initial reaction(s) did not point anyone toward Christ. He would be the only person who could forgive, restore, and heal.  From that point forward, I purposed to use each opportunity to point people to God and reflect His love.  Is it easy?  Not always, but when you see people through God's eyes, it's easier.  When people make bad decisions, I try to look beyond what I see with my plank-filled eye, and see the soul God placed in that body.

Jude 1:22-23 ESV 
And have mercy on those who doubt; save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh.

Our value, our God-given gifts and purpose, are not diminished by our sin.  No more than a diamond's shine is diminished.  We need someone to clean us off and polish us off.  Next time you are sitting with the elephant in the room, remind them that God loves them no differently than He did when they were a minute old.  Point them toward Christ.  Guide them to a hospital for sinners.  Help tend to the wounds on the outside as God works on healing from the inside.  

1 John 1:8-9 ESV 
If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

John 8:7 ESV 
And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.”

I was talking with #1 son over the weekend.  He was telling me about the latest discussion in youth; comparing ourselves to others.  Ah yes, I know that topic well, as I'm sure most of us do.  We look at the people in our world, on our social media avenues, and consider all the ways we seem to be failing by comparison.  As we chatted, I told him that most people see life as a line of people all racing toward the same finish line.  Some started sooner than us, others later than us, but inevitably we all are headed in the same direction.  Running headlong into our future regardless of how long or short it may be.  Deciding who is ahead and behind along the way.

I told my son that in reality, life is more like a chess board.  Each piece can do something a little different because of who it is, where it resides on the board, what point you are at in the game and the player's strategy.  We are like chess pieces on a board being moved into, and out of position, as needed.  At times a piece may be active, moving often, covering great distances.  Other pieces may appear stagnant or forgotten, moving only a few times during a game.

We cannot compare ourselves to each other.  We do not have the same qualities.  We cannot move through life in exactly the same way. We need to learn about who we are, what makes our position on the board unique.  Although we see things moving around us all the time, we have to trust that we are moved skillfully by the One who can see the whole board and knows how to use our strengths to fulfill the strategy.

Proverbs 18:16 - A man's gift makes room for him     and brings him before the great.

1 Corinthians 12:7-11
7 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. 8 For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 10 to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. 11 All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills.

Just think about it.

This week starts my painfully slow breakdown of all our Christmas decorations.  I know I won't even get started on that project today since I have errands to run all morning (once #3 wakes up) and appointments this evening.  I'm five days behind on my YouVersion daily bible reading plan.  Both sides of my sink are full of soaking dishes that need loading into the dishwasher.  There are at least three piles of laundry to do, not counting the sheets still on all the beds.  My #1 son headed back to school today and will no doubt come home with plenty of homework.  When I took stock of my day over a hot cup of coffee, I had to make a choice - be overwhelmed or do my best.  Then it hit me...

I have been telling my eldest since Kindergarten, "I want you to always do the best you can do,"  I never wanted my kids to be worried about making a certain grade or achieving a certain milestone.  I purpose to allow my children to grow into the men God has designed them to be.  My prayer is that I won't impose my idea of who they should be on them.  Hubby and I work hard to give them the room to try new things, like AND not like those things, and make mistakes to learn from.  Yes, sometimes #1 comes home with a bad grade. Each time I ask him, "did you do the best you could at that moment?"  Occasionally he admits he didn't, to which I simply reply, "well then you earned that grade".  When he's done his best, I don't shame him for what he earned.  I asked him if there's anything I can do to help him out.  

I often see God from the perspective of a loving parent.  He loves us beyond measure, sets rules and boundaries to keep us safe, disciplines us when we get too big for our britches, and celebrates with us when we really have done our best.  I could feel like a failure as a mom, housekeeper, wife, friend, blogger, and just about any other title I carry.  Today, I choose to do the best that I can.  God has already handled this day for me.  All the details are worked out.  I need only to walk in faith and do my best.

Deuteronomy 31:8 "The LORD is the one who goes ahead of you; He will be with you He will not fail you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed."

We started our blessings list yesterday.  I'm so excited about doing this because it has really been a huge blessing to some folks I hold near and dear to my heart.  You simple take a sheet of paper and each day jot down your blessings.  If you skip a day or two, that's OK.  Maybe you only want to write down the big ones.  It's your blessings list, you can keep it however you want to.  Personally, I'm striving for at least one blessing for each day!

New Years Day ushers in New Year resolutions for most of us.  I haven't made a resolution in several years because things change so quickly around here over the course of 12 months.  I don't know if I consider this a resolution, but I am striving to focus in more directly on Jesus filling my life.  I have said before that when I'm striving toward Jesus, everything else falls into place.  When the devil attacks, I know I'm on the right path.  During those attacks I have to buckle down, intentionally choose joy, and seek out how God would have me respond.

A member of my extended family told me about a bible she recently started reading.  It was NIV translation in chronological order with historical commentary.  She new I'd be a fan.  I haven't been able to grab the bible yet, but it did inspire to me seek out a bible study in my YouVersion App. If you are interested in which one it is, check out "Reading God's Story: One-Year Chronological Plan". I firmly believe that if I purpose to get closer to Jesus, I need to be reading my bible intentionally, praying intentionally, and reacting to the world around me intentionally.  In a half sleep state one night, I was thinking about how nice it would be to just sit with Jesus and have a conversation.  Get His perspective on everything I have going on and get some answers to a few questions.  Then I realized, that's what our bibles are for.  I believe that it is the living Word of God and if I read it with a prayerful heart, the Holy Spirit will illuminate those answers for me.

Will you join me in a purposeful chase after Jesus this year?  What reading plans or devotionals do you love and recommend?  What does your blessings list look like?