Monday, October 31, 2011

Confidence...In What?

In this self-confident boasting I am not talking as the Lord would, but as a fool.
Galatians 5:10

Runny, gooey egg casserole…Not exactly appetizing, but it was my contribution to the breakfast at my Tuesday Mom to Mom meeting. You see, I pride myself on being a good cook. I like food. I like to eat it, and I like to cook it. In fact, I have a few signature dishes. My egg casserole is one of them; it typically includes ground Italian chicken sausage, farm fresh eggs, cheddar jack cheese, and croissant crust (on the top and bottom). I was both excited to make and eat this casserole for my girlfriends. I woke up early to make the dish, get the kids ready, pack lunches for the little guys, and leave my house by 9:00 a.m. Seeing that I am usually late (I know, shame on me), I was quite proud of not being late this particular morning. On top of that, two of my good friends met me at the elevator to take my dish to the buffet area where it would be placed alongside the other morning delicacies.

I eagerly dropped the kids off, took the elevator to the 6th floor, joined my girlfriends at the table, and then they dropped the news on me: my egg casserole was undercooked! Ahhhhh!…the frustration and the embarrassment! Not my egg casserole! Didn’t I say I was a good cook?

Needless to say, I was embarrassed and disappointed. I wanted to participate in the breakfast buffet. But, maybe somewhere deep inside I wanted more than that. Maybe I wanted people to tell me how good my casserole was, maybe even ask me how I made the croissant crust. Maybe I wanted to be the talk of the morning. Maybe I wanted everyone to know that I am a good cook. Maybe I got it all wrong! Maybe the morning was never supposed to be about me or my egg casserole. Maybe each moment of every day I should find my self-confidence in Christ rather than in myself and my own abilities.

If we are honest, aren’t we all like that to some extent? We find our confidence in earthly titles or God-given abilities, and we forget that we are so much more than the things we do and the titles we possess. Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines confidence as follows:

a. feeling of consciousness of one’s powers or of reliance on one’s circumstances
b. faith or belief that one will act in a right, proper, or effective way

When I think about that definition, I realize that we cannot put complete confidence in anything on this earth. The only one who is able to live up to that definition without disappointing us is the Lord. God lovingly admonishes us not to put that kind of confidence in ourselves, our bodies, our husband, our kids, or our talents. He knows that these were all intended to be good gifts from Him; they were never meant to replace Him. Eventually all the things and people I mentioned above will disappoint us at some point…even if they try very hard not to.

This past Tuesday at Mom to Mom, the teaching was about confidence, and there is a little treasure that I want to share with you today. God approved and appointed David as king, but he rejected Saul. Why? David’s sins seem so much graver: adultery, murder, lying to cover it all up. Whereas Saul, he just seemed: impatient, insecure, and rash. To tell the truth, I think we can all relate (at least a little bit) to Saul’s sins. But there was an essential difference in these two men:

1. David found his confidence in the Lord, and when he was confronted about his sin, he ran back to the Lord and asked for forgiveness.
2. Saul found his confidence in the people, and when he was confronted about his sin, he ran away from the Lord and asked that God would still make him look good in the eyes of the people.
3. David knew he was leading God’s people, not his own.
4. Saul acted as though he was leading his own people, not God’s.

These truths lead me to conclude three things about my life as a wife and a mom:

1. My confidence needs to be rooted in the Lord, and I need to teach my kids to do the same.
2. All my talents and abilities are God-given, so any ability I have is not self-made, but a gift from God.
3. My children are not my own; they are God’s. How cool is it that we are in a sense like David…leading God’s people! 

I am sure that there are many reasons why God said that King David was a man “after his own heart”, but I firmly believe that one of those reasons is because he found his confidence in God alone…and not in himself or his wealth.

So, what happened to my casserole? Well, they nuked it in the microwave, and it turned out “OK”. Half of it was eaten, and the other half went into the trash. There were no rave reviews, but it didn’t matter. My confidence does not lie in an egg casserole. I am Teresa, a child of God…and I am good at cooking…most of the time. 

Dear Father,
Thank you for loving us and making each of us so wonderfully unique. Please help us to use all of our gifts and abilities to glorify you and not ourselves. You alone are worthy of all praise. When I am tempted to look inside myself for self-worth and confidence, please help me to get into your Word and look up to you instead. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Passages to read:

1. Luke 18:9-14
2. Proverbs 3: 25-26

Application:
What gifts and talents do you have? Are you ever prideful about your gifts? How can you offer these talents back to the Lord so that He gets the glory?

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Sowing the seed

Yesterday my boys and I had a great day in the beautiful downtown Chattanooga. We did just a little bit of schoolwork in the morning, then headed out to our favorite spot. We had our lunch on the blanket overlooking the Tennessee river and I spent the next hour watching them throw rocks in the river with great excitement. With my husband out of town, we didn't need to hurry home so I decided we would explore a different spot across the river and just spend the whole day in town. Not having my mind on anything in particular, I just strolled around following the boys wherever they wanted to go.
My 5 yr old started picking up different leaves and bringing them to me to keep. We’d walk a little further and he’d find more and bring them over for me to carry. I wondered if I was supposed to keep them for him or if he wouldn’t care that I tossed a few as we walked on.
Later on as I drove home I realized what he was doing. About two weeks ago our lesson for the week was learning about leaves. Projects included coloring, learning to recognize, etc. I asked them to go outside and collect 5 different leaves in a bag and bring it to me. I remember vividly getting really frustrated because they wouldn't complete this simple assignment. I tried 3 different times during that week and finally let it go. Now two weeks later, my son was completing his assignment, and being serious about it.

I then realized what God was teaching me. It takes time to see the fruit of our labor with our children as well as with ourselves. How many times can we hear the same message until finally we are "walking it". The principle of sowing and reaping is so true and we have to remember there is a gap of time in between so we can be patient. I’m called to simply sow into my boys but the results are left up to God. The timeframe when something is internalized in them and bears fruit, is up to God. It’s not my place to force it (just because next week we are starting another topic and I want them to get “this thing down”)
This really is teaching me when it comes to obiedience and discipline too. When one of the boys disobeys, I'd like instant repentance so we can be restored to God and eachother right away. Yet how long does it sometimes take me to realize I've sinned against someone and need to go to them and ask forgiveness. I can pout and wrestle with it for a day before I make it right. I need to have this awareness so my children don't just go through motions and complete a process mechanically without really being sorry and learning.
This cannot be hurried. Whether it's achademics or more importantly, spiritual matters. It's really freeing to me because if I look at them as individuals in the process of learning just like I am, I can give the results to God and not fret. He entrusted them to me for a time and He will bring the work in them to completion. All we are called to do is to be faithful to sow the seeds, water with reminders and patiently wait. God will make them into the people He desires.
“What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose, and they will each be rewarded according to their own labor. For we are co-workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building.” I Cor.3:5-9

Knowing God, it will not be long before you do see results of your hard work in your children.
As an encouragement to yourself today, make a list of things you are thankful for in your children. Things that are a direct result of something you taught, enforced and reminded them often of. And be blessed, seeing them so very different from the world and more like Gods offspring. Know that your reward is coming.


Saturday, October 29, 2011

Pray for Me




"If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking." - James 1:5

Last Saturday was a busy chaotic day, and it began in the wee hours of the morning as I awoke to my son having a nightmare. After praying with him and laying down in his bed until he fell asleep (@ 4:40 am) it seemed the morning came so quickly. Then it was off to watch our son, James, take to the field for his second soccer game. After lunch we ran lots of errands, had no nap and were so tired by the time the afternoon came. With my boys, dressed as Bob the Tomato and Larry the Cucumber, we ventured out to the annual "Harvest Gathering" at my mom's preschool. Once there, we experienced tons of fun and LOTS of candy. My boys LOVE candy but it affects their behavior...almost instantaneously!

I drove home emotionally exhausted and physically drained from our busy day. The boys were hyper on their sugar "high" and screaming in the back seat,and our ride home seemed like eternity. I turned around and not-so-lovingly "shared' that they needed to stop trying to frustrate Mommy by screaming and settle down. After turning around I happen to notice, while smoke was exiting my ears, the woman in the mini van next to me deliberately waiting to make eye contact with me. Once our eyes connected, she nonchalantly gave me a "Get over it, it's not that big of a deal...just enjoy it" kind of a look followed by a shrug.


Driving away, my eyes teared up because she had no idea the kind of day I had experienced. I wish she would have rolled her window down and offered to pray for me. OK so I know that is far-fetched but it got my mind thinking of how often we think we know a situation, just from how it looks on the outside, and are quick to give our opinion before knowing all the details. It's so easy to judge isn't it? Frequently, as moms, we feel deflated only to turn our heads and see friends or family "lovingly" sharing their opinion with us on our struggles, how they would do it, and the idea that if I just followed their path it would all be better.

I LOVE how in times of frustration the Lord lovingly whispers, "Kate, you do that too." It is humbling because so often I can think I am outside of doing "that" until the Holy Spirit shows me otherwise :) It is so not fun having someone watch and judge you without knowing the whole story. Yet I so often find myself doing that to others. Instead of having compassion and praying for those I see struggling, I will choose to complain to another or allow it to bug me for a while. Why don't I bring it before Christ immediately and seek the One who can truly change the situation. Last year I had a sticky note on my dresser that read "Assume the Best." I need to re-post it back up there. I need a change in my perspective. I need to encourage instead of cut down. I need to pray instead of judge. I need to be reminded that there is only One who knows it all. I need to seek His face daily.



Challenge:

Would people characterize me as an encourager or one who tends to have a judgmental bent?

In times of difficulty I need to be quick to encourage rather than allow my tongue to cut down. How are you doing in this area? What changes need to be made in your life so you can "Assume the Best" in others?

This week ask HIM for more compassion. Pause to pray for those HE puts in your path who are struggling.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Need I say more?

Image found here /325278258_w94iwuG9_c.jpg


So when will I learn?  I don’t know how many times in parenting I will have to be taught the same lesson!

Again, I am guilty.  Hearing only the first words of a childs explanation to what they did, and immediately start dispensing consequences to behaviors I “think” need correcting.

It happened again.  One of our girls started telling me about something she did, and before she got to the end of the situation, I start in with a reprimand.  As my reprimand was dispensed, she began her attempt to explain what I didn’t know. Before I heard all she was saying I proceeded with even more consequences.

Why can’t I just listen?  James 1: 19 says, “…be swift to listen and slow to speak, slow to become angry.”

This most recent episode of my own lack of self-control has lead me to search God’s Word on what my words should be.  Here are a few of the verses God has been using to correct my listening skills and my words.

Proverbs 18 :13 "He who answers before listening—that is his folly and his shame."

Proverbs 25: 11 "A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver."

A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.

New Living Translation 
Timely advice is lovely, like golden apples in a silver basket.
New American Standard Bible 
Like apples of gold in settings of silver Is a word spoken in right circumstances.


Proverbs 16: 23 …and her lips promote instruction. 24 Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.


Need this Momma say more?




Thursday, October 27, 2011

Hold On Loosely

I like to plan things and control things. I like things to go my way. I have the occasional bad mood simply because something did not go exactly the way I planned or expected. We got home this week from a two week vacation to our hot water heater busted and leaking all over the basement for who knows how long. That was definitely not in any plan I had. I along with the rest of my family enjoy the convenience of immediate hot water and I was not looking forward to boiling it.

I like to be prepared. I journal different things that God puts on my heart and there was a series of things that He had put on my heart that went very nicely together. So I started to write on those things. I felt all nice and cozy and comfortable about blogging because I was all prepared. Well it turns out the last two weeks God has had a plan different than mine. When I would sit down to prepare my blog, I read it over and just knew it was not what God had planned for that week. So I set it aside, prayed some more and went with what He gave me.

In those moments He is stretching me, taking me out of that comfy cozy place and teaching me to lean more on Him and less on “the plan.” As frustrating as those moments can be I actually like them. I find peace and comfort there. It reminds me that I don’t have to be in control, I don’t always have to have a plan. It reminds me of who God is and that I am here on this earth to do His will and not mine. It puts me in a spot where I am forced to be quite and just listen; a place where I find rest instead of stress.

When I first got married God used my husband to teach me to loosen up a bit. He has used my children to do the same thing. There is something about having four babies in four and a half years that makes a girl stop and say, “you know things are not going the way I planned”; there are toys everywhere, kids everywhere, life is crazy and disorganized. It makes you realize that you either loosen up or loose your mind.

Organize and plan what you can but don’t freak out when it doesn’t go your way. A 38 Special song is playing in my head right now, “Hold on loosely, but don’t let go. If you cling to tightly your gonna loose control.” That song has nothing to do with plans and expectations but those words most certainly do. I need to hold on loosely because when I cling to my plans and expectations I certainly do loose control when things don’t go my way. There is one 'mad-as-a-hornet-mama' when I cling to tightly. I don’t know about you but I sure do not like myself when that happens and I am pretty sure that no one around me likes me either.

It is our human nature to want things are own way, to control. I need those reminders that I am here to do God’s will and not my own. In my own strength, in my own understanding, in my own ways, I don’t always see what God sees or know what He knows. I have to be willing to hold loosely to what ever my plan is and trust in God. Be flexible and go with the flow of God.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your path straight.” Proverbs 3:5-6

As I write my husband is gone and my kids have turned out every light in the house and are running around in the dark looking for a little ball that one of them hid. They are having a ton of fun, giggling being loud and crazy. Occasionally I hear a little cry and they all stop to comfort the injured one. Every once in awhile one of them runs into my room to give me a kiss or cuddle for a minute. It’s nice. If my crazy control freak mamma were coming out right now my kids would not be giggling and I would have missed out on some really nice hugs, kisses and cuddles. I hate to think of the things that I would miss or have missed because I have held to tightly to my own ideas, plans and expectations.

Lord, I pray that you would help me to always trust in you. Give me the strength each day to let go and give my plans to you and to be ready to change my plans for you instead of wanting you to change yours for me. I thank you Lord for the times that you remind me that you are in control and that I don’t have to be. I thank you for the strength, the peace and rest that you offer up into my life. You are my strong tower.

I encourage you today to do a little self-examination. What are you holding on to too tightly? Do you need that reminder that God is in control or that you are here to do His will, not your own? I also want to encourage you to just slow down and enjoy your children even if it is not in the plan, especially if it is not in the plan. Life is not about plans, preparation, clean houses or dirty ones, but about relationship.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Sticky Mess

"If clouds are full of water, they pour rain upon the earth." --Ecclesiastes 11:3

Last week, the boys and I started a little project--making a fall tree--because in Florida it's hard to imagine in 80 degree weather that autumn has even begun. A few weeks ago I had pulled out a box of little pumpkins, a scarecrow and other orange and red things, but we miss the leaves turning. So, I thought it'd be fun to create a tree out of some construction paper and glue.

The boys were excited and as I explained to the boys how gravity pulls the leaves down and not up, we decided leaves shouldn't be pasted above the tree. And maybe to show that the leaves were falling to make a pile of them on the ground.

As we began, I reminded my youngest son that using too much glue was a waste and that he should only use a drop at a time. I also reminded myself that I was going to step back and allow them to be creative without jumping in to help. But as with any activity (that involves glue especially), it started out ok on their own, but by the end I had to jump in. There were little piles of glue that needed to be thinned out, the leaves that were falling fell in a straight line and the pile below the tree was hovering above the ground. It also seemed there were more leaves on the trunk of the tree than on any of the branches. It was all I could do not to try and "fix" everything that looked wrong. But I tried really hard and by the end, with glue filled fingers and success behind them, my two boys went to the bathroom to wash their hands as I started cleaning up another sticky mess.

On a much greater scale, I began to wonder how many times God has looked down on my life and it was everything He could do to let me make my own decisions...good or bad. How many times has He had the patience to let me make my own mistakes and learn from them in the long run? How many times has He had to take the mess I've made and help me clean it up? Wash it clean?

It takes a lot of patience to be a parent. It would be so easy to always say no to, "May I pour my own juice, Mom?" or "Let me put the toothpaste on." or "Can I stir it this time?" But we know that in the process they will learn. And through the mess, they will come through it and know something more than they did before.

Isn't there comfort in that? As parents? That God might be looking down on us knowing what is ahead of us and gladly allowing those teachable moments? It's comforting to me, b/c in our darkest moments we can rest assured that He is with us. Not against us. And that our tears are never in vain. He is orchestrating even the tiniest details that will draw us closer to Him.

Streams illustrates this so beautifully:

"Stand firmly in the place where your dear Lord has put you, and do your best there. God sends us trials or tests, and places life before us as a face-to-face opponent. It is through the pounding of a serious conflict that He expects us to grow strong. The tree planted where the fierce winds twist its branches and bend its trunk, often nearly to the point of breaking, is commonly more firmly rooted than a tree growing in a secluded valley where storms never bring any stress or strain."

As parents we could complete every project for our children with perfection and ease, but oh--the lessons that would be missed along the way.


Dear Heavenly Father,
Give us wisdom as parents to know when to let go and to allow our children to make messes. We praise you for allowing us the same grace. Send your sweet spirit into our lives today and whisper Your truths. Give us assurance that every trial is another opportunity to draw us closer to You.
In Jesus' Name,
Amen.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Unite and Conquer


The other day my husband and I had caught a bit of an interview with actor and war hero JR Martinez. In 2003, this man sustained severe burns to over 40 percent of his body while serving in the US Army in Iraq. At some point following this event, this man made a choice to not let his circumstances define him. He chose to rise above and rather than hide to avoid being judged by his 'different' appearance; he chose instead to put himself out there in the public view as an actor. Wow- in a society obsessed with outward appearances, this was such a brave and bold move.

As I pause to reflect on hardships and trials in my life, I realize that as Christians, we can at times not necessarily forget God's grace and goodness, but we certainly choose to focus on what we don't yet have or what we wish God would change in our lives. In a Bible study I recently attended, the speaker said this, "Your circumstances don't define you, your reaction to them does." Such a sobering thought. This man reacted in such a way that said he decidedly was not going to take this lying down. He would live his life as a victor rather than a victim. While I cannot speak to his relationship with the Lord, I do believe that this is what the Lord is calling us to do. He tells us we are more than conquerors.

Romans 8:31-39
What, then, shall we say in response 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, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written:

“For your sake we face death all day long;
we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.


We need to live as conquerors through our faith in Christ and teach this to our children. They watch every action, word, and reaction as they are developing their own character. Let's set our minds to be the kind of moms that model what it is like to live a life convinced that nothing can separate us from the love of God, and the kind of moms who act and react to trials as more than conquerors through Him who loves us.

This isn't to say that our children should never see us cry. On the contrary, we are also responsible to teach them how to deal with emotions in a healthy way and that to everything there is a season and there is, in fact, a time to cry. (Ecclesiastes 3) We need to be sure our actions, thoughts, and words are also bathed in humility because taking this 'conqueror mentality' to extreme can produce pride, which is not God's heart for us. It is not in our own strength, but in His that we have the victory.

In light of this, let's ask ourselves: Am I facing a trial or hardship right now? Is my reaction to this situation honoring the Lord? Have I allowed my circumstances, past or present, to define me? Is my character such that I would want my children to model it in their own trials in life? If not, the time is now to ask God to help us grow and mature in our faith and handle these trials and hardships with His grace.

Another quote from a wise teacher- "Every moment has a beginning and an end." This too shall pass, and you will eventually come out on the other side of it. These matters are temporal, but our God is not.

We need to also keep in mind that the outcome may not always be what we want it to be. That should not change our reaction. I once heard a story of a woman with terminal cancer who, though she eventually passed away, chose to not let her illness define and defeat her. Cancer was just the carriage God used to drive her home. And though the ride was bumpy at times, she decided to sit back and enjoy it, living each day she had left with enthusiasm, joy, faith, and appreciation. God could have taken her suddenly, instead He gave her precious time with her loved ones. She chose to put her trust in the Author of her life and live out a happy ending and new beginning. That could not have been easy, but nothing worth doing usually is.

As sisters in Christ, we need to unite and conquer by reaching out to each other and being a source of support, encouragement, and wisdom. We also need to be sure to spend less time talking about the problem, and more time praying through our reaction and for God's wisdom. You may not be able to change your circumstances, nor can you change the people around you, (ref Proverbs 12:3) but you are the only one responsible for deciding what your reaction will be. Remember, little eyes and little hearts are watching you, taking everything in, and learning how to behave as modeled by you.

It's not enough just to read the Word of God. We need to start living like we believe that every word is true. The Word of God is alive and active. It is sharper than any double-edged sword. (Hebrews 4) Ladies, let's pick up our swords, hold firmly to the faith we profess, and not let our circumstances define us. Instead, let our reactions to them be such that our children arise and call us blessed. (Prov. 31) Let our battle cry be "If God is for us, who can be against!"

Prayer: Great and Mighty God, I believe in You and Your Word. Please help me to see this situation I am faced with as a light and temporary trial. Please help me to recognize that not only is my own character being shaped and molded through this trial, but also those of my children. May my reaction be pleasing to You and a model to them. May I be a source of strength and support to my husband as we face this together. May it draw our family closer to you and each other. Please help me to daily pick up my sword and hold firmly to my faith in you. May we be more than conquerors through You, Jesus. Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. In Jesus' name I pray, Amen.

For Meditation and Action: Take a close look at the way you have personally handled past trials and hardships. Do not condemn yourself, but rather look to God's character as a model for how He would have you react. Start today to allow the Lord to change you from the inside. Allow Him to mold you and shape you as the Potter (Isaiah 64:8) molds the clay, placing it into the fire to make it stronger. Use each trial as an opportunity to teach your children grace, self-control, firm faith, and wisdom to see beyond the moment. Set your mind and heart to live your life as more than a conqueror and teach your children to do the same.

Say to yourself "I will not let _________ define and defeat me. My hope and faith is in You Lord. We will conquer this together." Believe it and live it! Remember it every time you feel like throwing yourself a pity party, and instead make plans for your victory celebration!

Monday, October 24, 2011

The Gentle Touch

Hi! My name is Sheila and I will be guest blogging today for Teresa. I am a mommy of 3 amazing kids. Aliyah (11y/o) my joyful spirit. Arianna (3y/o) my intellectual actress, and Devin Jr. (2y/o) my gentle giant. I am a nurse and beloved wife to my husband Devin who is a firefighter/paramedic. God has taken us on an incredible journey! My journey parenting started as a single mom in college. This wasn't how I had envisioned my future, but Jesus helped me see what I had longed for for so long. Even more, He graced me with His love to be a wife to an incredible, God fearing man when my daughter was 6. My God amazes me everyday the way He pays attention to every detail of our lives. I know the journey of parenting is tough and am so thankful I don't have to be a mommy in my own strength. 2 Chronicles 16:9, "For the eyes of the LORD range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him." (NIV) My prayer is that we all become more dependent on God and our faith is strengthened as we encourage one another to answer the call of "mother."

Philippians 4:5
“Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.”

Have you ever just lost it with your kids? I mean just yelled with no self control expecting them to react in pure obedience? I have. One morning after repeatedly trying to discipline my 3 year old gently, I decided that since gentleness wasn’t working I would scare the obedience into her. Needless to say it worked but I felt horrible. I saw the fear in her face and though she sat in time out and apologized for her wrongdoings I was totally convicted of the way I had handled her.
God spoke to me that day. He lovingly and gently said, ”When you were caught up in the worst of your sin did I yell at you and scare you. That would have pushed you further away from me. To bring you closer in obedience you were humbled but not by harsh scolding but by loving conviction” God was again gently nudging me to do the right thing. Though I know He has nudged me over and over for the same sin I am again humbled by the love of my heavenly Father, not His pain.
How are you teaching your kids? Are you continually yelling at them trying to get results and then coming up short and frustrated or are you gently nudging them in the right direction? I saw a group of ducks walking in a park and though most of the babies followed the mama there was one baby that kept straying in the wrong direction. This mama duck did not quack loud or nip at the little duckling but she would walk behind and gently nudge this baby duck in the right direction. This gave me such a vivid picture of what parenting is. We are commanded to train up our children. Ephesians 6:4 says:

“Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord”
The definition of train is: Organized activity aimed at imparting information and/or instructions to improve the recipient's performance or to help him or her attain a required level of knowledge or skill. This is not something done in one try. It takes effort, time, and most of all patience. I am learning this as a mom and want to encourage other moms to continue to run the good race!

Today’s prayer:
Lord,
I thank you for being a loving Father, for training me with love and understanding. Your patience with me inspires me to be patient with my children. Father clothe me this and every day with the fruit of your Spirit so I can be an example to my children of the loving God you are.
In Jesus name I pray!
Amen

Verses to live by:
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control” –Galations 5:22-23

“Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.” – Philippians 4:5
“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience” – Colossians 3:12

Application:
Think of times when you could have been a stronger influence to your children by being gentle and patient in your discipline. Ask the Lord to help you and give you strength to teach and train in gentleness today.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Choose your battles


Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” Efesians 6:4

During school hours the other day, my 5 year old son decided that he was going to teach his younger brother number recognition. He would write his first number then ask importantly; what number is this, Tyler? When receiving the wrong answer, he would get impatient and then write another number. But the more he got frustrated, the more crooked the numbers got, the less chance Tyler had to get it right. I finally walked over and seeing all the crooked numbers, I smiled and lovingly assured my 5 yr old that he too is just learning.
In times of great frustration with my boys, I wonder if sometimes God looks down at me and lovingly says "relax, you too are just learning".
How many times am I a little crooked in my example to them, yet I expect perfect results. For example, I want them to have good manners so I’m on them constantly; “Don’t run around, be quiet, sit still, eat all your food, use your napkin!” A sweet friend and babysitter once told me, “children are no statues, you know, especially boys”. Sometimes I make my preferences more important than training them in the weightier things of God. Of course, manners are important and a well behaved child is something to be desired but should it be more important than developing a godly character? Have you ever met an adult with impeccable manners and tact, very social and agreeable, than later found out the person had a moral failure of some sort. How much did that persons great manners on the outside matter then? It was an issue of the heart.
I suggest we choose our battles carefully with our children when they are in the early ages. Focus on the things that train their hearts to fear God and escape evil. Don’t make them (and ourselves) weary with continual exhortations to “keep quiet”, “say hello”, “be good” and a hundred other man made rules that make the outside nice and presentable but doesn’t profit the heart much. It’s the heart we want to shepherd and train in the fear of the Lord because that is the beginning of ALL wisdom.
Don’t misunderstand, I definitely desire great manners in my boys but I don’t want to put my emphasis on things that will come with age. I don't want to bark out constant commands, creating nervousness in my home instead of peace or hinder their happy yet sometimes loud childhood because of my preference for a quiet house.
The healthiest thing for a child to see is a parent who is relaxed and at peace with God. Sow Gods word into them by your example and leave the results up to God. When I’m “on” my boys too much, it’s usually due to an agenda I have for that day. I’d like to get somewhere by 11 so everyone has to get ready NOW and if they don’t, watch out! Instead of insisting on the things of God; peace, love, joy in the house, I try to make my agenda happen at all cost.
In those moments I found that putting myself in “time-out” for a while, does the trick. Gives me time to soak in Gods love to realign myself with His mission (receiving Gods love and giving it away) and it spares my family from me acting in the flesh.
And when I do fail, instead of beating myself up about my mess ups, I trust that this too can serve my children if I can be honest and humble about it. It shows them that mommy too is in need of forgiveness, a fellow sojourner just learning to walk close to God.

So lets choose our battles carefully with our children and if we are going to insist on anything, lets insist on being filled with God ourselves, giving them greater chance to "get it right" by our clear example of peace and calm in God.
Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged.” Colossians 3:21



Saturday, October 22, 2011

Don't Get Stung!


He replied, "Because you have so little faith. I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there' and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you." - Matthew 17:20

Wasps are everywhere these days! Just a few weeks ago my friend and her son got stung while playing outside at a park. Since then, we have noticed a wasp problem outside our front porch too. They are nesting all over...in my potted plant, in my shutters and even underneath my car. A few days ago, my kids and I were having fun in our front yard, when out came some wasps to visit us. I feared my kids would get stung and felt the need to take some action. Yep got the roach/bug spray, backed my kids away, and sprayed like crazy the moment they went back into their "nesting area." As soon as I took my preventative steps, they immediately flew out and hovered around us again.

Last Saturday on my post, I questioned how our day may look different if we thought it could be our last. Did the Lord tug at your heart with any areas mentioned? Serving? Forgiving? Loving the unlovable? Did Jesus convince you to take steps forward in your faith after reading it? If so, you may have faced some problems in your path along the way. Satan is the "wasp" of our spiritual life. He tries to sting us when we are in the midst of serving Jesus. God will show us something that needs changing/renewing in our life, and almost immediately there is a challenge placed before us as we try to achieve it. Satan doesn't want us to follow Jesus or grow spiritually, so he will often try to frustrate, detour, and distract us. Sometimes we get so deflated through this process that we give up. Oh don't let Satan win!

Often I am going to Bible study, church, serve, text a scripture verse or do something that will grow/stretch me spiritually when Satan sends out his wasps. They "hover" around hoping to discourage and scare me away. Being aware of this tactic, he so frequently tries, my goal now is to press on, with confidence, knowing Jesus has a purpose for the task HE has given me. I tell myself I will not let Satan win. Yep I may have had the hardest day with my boys, fought with my husband (he is wonderful but all marriages have fights due to the mere fact we are two SINNERS living under one roof!), gone through stressful trafffic ect...but I persevere and reap the benefits because of it.

While on the internet the other night, I came across some interesting information about wasps and reasons they sting. It explained they only sting when they feel threatened. This was profound as I paralleled this concept to my spiritual walk with Christ. As the Lord prompts me to take steps of faith, Satan feels threatened and goes on the defense hoping I will flee in fear of being stung. The enemy does not want us to follow through because he knows the end result will be a deeper relationship with Christ. As we tell others (both believers and the lost) about the amazing things Christ is doing in our life, the shackles Satan holds will be broken. Definitely a threat to him, don't you think?

So what is it for you? What do you have fear or reservation about that Jesus has asked you to do? Remember Christ will not call you to do something and then leave you there to do it on your own. As the Lord prompts...He provides. We just have to ask Him for help. Praise God we have the Holy Spirit to help guide our words and actions. We sometimes expect spiritual ventures to be this blissful experience and totally forget that taking that next step of faith... means our feet are that much closer to the front lines of battle. What is the "wasp" that is holding you back from fully serving God? Pray and ask the Lord for eyes to see the need and the courage to say yes to it.


Remember that perseverance produces character which produces hope. Don't give up. Stand firm. Get out that Holy Spirit wasp spray and move forward with boldness. Have faith. Move mountains. The Lord has great things in store for you.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

A Tent of Thankfulness


Psalm 63: 6 " I will remember you while I'm lying in bed; I think about you through the night."

About a year ago, Greg (being the most wonderful Daddy in the world) set up our youngest daughter’s tent in the backyard.  Now he did this with every intent to have a Daddy daughter sleepover.  However, between work and wet weather, the poor tent just sat empty night after night.

image found here

Due to his work schedule, I realized the opportunity was quickly being reduced.  Although, Hope is very understanding, and really had enough awareness to know it looked like a “camping trip” wasn’t going to happen this particular set up, I felt the need to be the “available and fun” mom and offer to sleep in the tent with her.

Hope was ecstatic with my offer.  She began to “pack” for our trip.  Everything from sleeping bags, flashlights, food and water bottles, to books and games to play.  Somehow, the more she packed the more I asked myself, what was I thinking?

I mean, I really didn’t want to do this thing.  Besides, I am not a "night person" and fall asleep anytime I sit down after 8:30pm. I was also a little scared.  I mean we have a tall privacy fence, but one of the gates was very near where the tent was set up.

All that said, we finally made our way to the tent for the night.  We have one blow up mattress that Hope insisted I use.  She was content with a couple of quilts and her sleeping bag on top.  I thought we would be up all night playing games, eating, and talking.

I spent the first half an hour trying to rig up a way to hang a flashlight from the center of the tent.  After I finally attached a small rope to go through one of the rods holding up the tent, the flashlight was in place.  What I hadn’t considered was due to the fact it was hanging, it never stop swinging.    The light in our tent became a disco ball.

image found here

My idea of having a good time will usually involve words and sweets.  So I broke out our snacks and began reading a great children’s classic out loud.  I hardly had begun to “have a good time” when I realized my partner was fast asleep!

While my air mattress became flatter and flatter, and the neighbor’s house alarm went off (they must have been out of town, because it went on for over an hour) and the longest train of the night rumbled through, I laid there thinking, “Now why am I doing this?”

So I laid in the tent, unable to sleep, listening to my child sleeping through all the noise.  I began to pray, actually praise the Lord for this moment.  The quiet of her, surrounded by the noise of my world.  In those moments, I was flooded with a heart of praise of precious memories of being Hope’s mom.

Praise rolled from my heart.  We had prayed for another child.  God had blessed us with her.  I had prayed specifically for a girl, and God had chosen Hope.  I thanked the Lord for helping me to watch her mature, and allowing me to see her understand Christ.

It was a pleasure laying wide awake in the tent, rubbing her arm and telling God how blessed I felt to be her mom. As I lay on the flattened mattress, with a flashlight dressed as a disco light, even with the possibility that I was filling Hope’s memory box of an outing with her mom was overshadowed by an opportunity to thank the Lord for the gift of mothering.

Moms, lets not miss a single opportunity to tell the Lord thanks for our calling!  We can get so wrapped up in our own lives, ministries, even attempting to do motherhood so right, we don’t stop to say thank you to our Heavenly Father.  Thank Him for the honor of being moms.  Of loving the moment we are in.  Let’s stop and praise Him for calling us to be moms. 




Proverbs 23: 25 "...may she who gave you birth rejoice!"

Seasons

When was the last time you held a baby only hours old? I was blessed with the opportunity just this last week as I was able to be with my sister and brother-in-law for the birth of their new baby. Having four of my own children and having been with my sister for the birth of both her children, the awesomeness of these events just becomes more breathtaking each time. It doesn’t diminish in any way...I am only left in awe of God’s creation and His love.




I don’t know if this is true for every mother but for me it was most difficult to go from one baby to two. With the first one there was time to sleep when they slept, time to sit and enjoy feeding them and rock them to sleep. With baby number one you thought you knew what exhaustion was but now with number two you really get to find out. You are awake all day with your older child counting down the hours until naptime where you are praying that the new baby will be sleeping so that you can catch a few minutes of rest. You are awake all night with that precious new baby who hasn’t yet figured out that nighttime is for sleeping. There are dishes and laundry piling up and a bathroom that…well…maybe we shouldn’t even go there.

My point is that I was there and when I was there I would think about all those books that I used to have time to read. All those books that told me to have a quiet time every morning, study my bible, pray, to be a good wife and mom. AHHHHHH………… It just all made me wanna cry or scream or do both. I remember telling my husband once, “you know what would be nice, is if a women who actually has babies could tell me how to fit all this in.” It wasn’t that all these other women had never had babies because they did, they too had been where I was, but when you are in the forest all you see are the trees.

I look back on those days and what I did was cope and adjust. My mornings were no longer quiet they were feeding babies, crying babies, changing diapers and wondering if I was going to get to shower and if I did would I have to skip washing my hair or shaving my legs. There was no way I was getting up earlier than my kids because I was exhausted and lucky if I got 3 hours of sleep in a row.

Oswald Chambers said, “Never make a principle out of your experiences, let God be as original with other people as He is with you.” And that is what I did… I let God be original with me. I took the principles that I had learned; that it is important to spend time with God in quiet, study my Bible and pray and well…I had to get creative. When I nursed I would read, give the other children a book or have them watch a short video. Occasionally, they would lose interest and loving that mommy was preoccupied do something like play in the toilet. I also started writing scripture on index cards and putting them everywhere in my house or in my pockets. I was then able to memorize and meditate on scripture while doing dishes, showering, or putting on makeup. Laundry time became my designated prayer time. I could fold and pray and eventually that just flowed over into everything I did, I prayed all the time. And as far as quiet time goes… I took it when I could get it everyday was different.





photo found here


My reason for sharing this is because life has many seasons, babies is just one of them and the important thing is that we do come to Jesus, that we learn about Him, that our faith grows and that our relationship with Him strengthens in each of those seasons. The principles of spending time in quiet with God, reading His word and praying aren’t going to change but our methods of how we do them may change. And you know… that’s okay. It took me awhile to get that. I was putting myself under a law that I had created, not God. Beating myself up for not doing things the way I thought they should be done. I was making the method the principle.

I watch my sister, I listen to her tell me about her struggles but I know she will make it out all right to the other side of the forest. It is just that sometimes those trees are redwoods; we are exhausted and the thought of there being another side is at times inconceivable.

I want to encourage you this week to let God be original with you. Get creative if you are struggling to get time with God. This blog is to encourage moms, you have access to seven moms for sure...in addition to anyone else reading. If you could use some help getting creative, share your struggle in the comments and ask for some creative solutions. You are not alone, let other moms come alongside you to encourage and help you in your journey to a better relationship with Christ.




" Therefore encourage one another and build each other up..."




1 Thessalonians 5:11












Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Can You Handle It?

"Look at the nations and watch--and be utterly amazed. For I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe, even if you were told."--Habakkuk 2:5





I love this verse.






I like it because there's a sense of wonder in it. Not a sense of wondering "if" He can do it, but a sense of "when" and "how". It shows the power of our Creator. It shows that He is in complete control. And that even if we imagined what the future might hold for us, in the end He is the only one who knows. He's got it in his hands. There is comfort in that for me. A comfort knowing that He is master and Lord and the things of this world cannot touch Him. How about you?





Sometimes, I can get bogged down by what is going on in our world far away and near our home that I really need a verse like this to help me refocus. It's scary--with foreclosures and unemployment, high gas prices, turmoil oversees--it makes me wonder what our world will be like when our kids are trying to raise a family of their own. How will things get better? Will they? What will they face that we can't forsee at this point? For a mom, it can be a little overwhelming to think about.






"...be utterly amazed, for I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe even if you were told." (Habakkuk 2:5)






When I first read this verse, I was at a Young Life retreat in the mountains of Colorado. Before that, I barely knew where Habakkuk was in the Bible. It was early fall and walking to the leader station there was a tiny trace of snow that the night had left behind. Serene and quiet and still...hmmm. And then one of the leaders spoke a few words from Habakkuk before we were to head to our cabins and rustle up a bunch of sleeping middle schoolers. There we were, every leader joining in prayer and song and reflecting on His word before heading out for the day. You don't know how very precious that time was. And too, how precious those steps up to the cabin were. Just a few more seconds in the stillness of the morning and you knew what was to come...blowdryers and hairspray, squealing and laughter, more lip gloss, more eyeshadow, more hairspray, "Mrs. Crane, Can we go to the boy's cabin?". Can you hear it? Ahhh...those few sweet moments walking in the early morning with God. Awesome.






But isn't that how it is in life, too? We get a few precious moments with Him before the chaos of the world starts in. The questions, the noise, the distractions, the news that we're bombarded with daily start as soon as we wake it seems and the time spent in the quietness of the morning is the only thing that is grounding us, the only peace we have to carry us through our day.






God IS in control. He has our best in mind and He promises He will never leave us or forsake us. Some days I get overwhelmed by what's going on around us, but I need to remember that His peace "which transcends all understanding, will guard [our] hearts and minds in Christ Jesus." -Phil 4:7 We need to claim that as mothers. The peace that transcends all understanding. And do it everyday.






I really believe this is a special generation of moms. I think we're facing new challenges that previous generations have not had to deal with and I believe God is going to test our faith and our ability to face those challenges with a pure commitment to serve and honor Him. Can we handle it? Will you listen to His call knowing that He is anxious to show us what He is going to do? Will you be brave and courageous knowing that, "...in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to His purpose." (Romans 8:28) We may not fully understand what will come, but we know Who goes ahead of us even now.






Reflection: Do you feel overwhelmed at times by what is happening around you? Are you spending those moments of quiet with Him before the noise sets in? Are you facing a challenge right now? Are you ready to be a part of a generation of moms that will glorify Him in the midst of trials?






Dear Lord, I pray for this generation of moms. Give each of us peace knowing that You are in control. Help us to know our role in Your big picture. We are not here to fix everything, but to put our faith in You and to love those around us who are in need. Help us to do that. Lay your hand on our world, Lord, and draw us closer to You.
Amen.

























Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Stolen Moments




What a beautiful picture of a calm and peaceful place. There was a time when I could lay back and go there in my mind as I sat in prayer and worship. Though life was busy, it seemed I had all the time in the world to get alone with God, daydream, or just do whatever, whenever. When I became a wife and then a mother, I had to quickly learn to be unselfish and give up much of what I was used to in the way of how my time and energy were spent. Getting ready to leave the house used to take me about 15 minutes as I just had to make myself presentable, grab my purse and keys, and I was out the door. Now, it's diaper changes, filling juice cups, grabbing snacks and toys, and making sure the diaper back is packed with every possible item we may need on our trip out. Then, inevitably, there is a diaper emergency or some sort of spill and we need to go back and change clothes. Just as we are ready to walk out the door, I realize I have to go to the bathroom, and I actually contemplate how long I can 'hold it' just so we can get a move on... until I consider the alternative is figuring out the logistics of using a public restroom with 2 small children in tow. What used to take 15 minutes now takes at least double that, and more often than not, my personal primping is limited to light make-up and the ever-fashionable ponytail. Can anyone else relate?






But it doesn't end there. As all mommies know, there is always someone or something demanding your focus and attention. If it isn't your kids, it's mount laundry, a phone call, dishes piling up in the sink, grocery shopping, doctor visits, making time to be alone with your spouse, etc. The bottom line is there is very little time in the day to get alone and be still before the Lord. Even in my thought life I am usually limited to those quiet few moments I have in the shower and devotional time just before going to sleep when I lay in bed and read the Bible. And I thought being a stay at home mother would give me all the time in the world, right? ... but such is the life of a busy mommy and wife, and I honestly would not have it any other way. It's my life, and I love it and thank God for it. It's just crazy busy!



This particular day was much like any other. Up with Susie's wake up 'feed me' call at 6:30 a.m., quick sip of coffee while I check e-mail and read the daily e-mail devotional, take the kids for a walk and to the gym, shower, and get in a quick run to the grocery store before heading home for lunches, naps, and housework. As we were heading home from our trip, I switched the radio from our usual Wiggles CD to some of 'mommy's music', my mind running through what was to be done as soon as we walked in the door. I turned on the local Christian station and began listening to the words of a beautiful song that started out "Be still, there is a healer. His love is deeper than the sea..." I was drawn in to the beautiful melody and wanted to hear more when the song suddenly turned to static as I was stopped at a red light behind a huge truck. I began to slowly inch my car up to try and get the station back, getting way too close to the truck in front of me. It was pointless, all I got was more static.





So, I started up a mental conversation with God. He often uses music to speak to our hearts, and I felt He was telling me to be still at this moment, however short it would be, and focus and reflect on His healing touch in my life. I thought about sinful choices I have made in the past, the moments I thought I would never experience the joy of a loving, Christ-centered marriage or being a mommy, and how much the Lord has given me in such a short time in my life. I began to tear up and just thanked God for my husband, my children, and for His mercy and healing. In this moment Psalm 103:2 was brought to life, in my car, at a random stoplight.






Right about that time the light turned green, and the song kicked back in to the chorus "As I pour out my heart these things I remember. You are faithful God, forever. Let faith arise." (Chris Tomlin is an incredible singer/writer!) I sang along unashamed of what drivers next to me thought as they looked through my window and saw me in full on worship as I drove. (I must have looked pretty strange judging from their sideways glances.) In just those few brief moments of prayer and worship, I was filled.



When my kids are old enough to be alone for a few moments safely, I fully plan on taking wisdom from Courtney's previous blog and putting 'closet time' into action. Until then, I will take advantage of these brief moments to be still before God, listening and praising. He created time, and He exists outside of it. Sometimes we only have a few moments here and there to be still before our God, but He is not confined by the same time limits that we are, and He can pour more into us in those few moments of complete surrender than we realize. I encourage you to do the same. Set aside time in your schedule to read the Bible and pray, but also take advantage of those 'stolen moments' to reflect and thank Him and ask Him to fill and re-energize you.


Here is a link to the song I spoke of called "I Lift My Hands"by Chris Tomlin. If you have a few moments now, I pray it will touch your heart and lift you up.




Prayer- Dear Jesus, I thank you for all of the wonderful gifts you have so graciously given me. I thank you for a life that is filled with so many blessings that keep me busy, and I pray that you will fill me up with your Spirit that I may surrender myself completely to you. May my every thought, word, and action be guided by you. Please help me to set aside time each day to read your Word and be filled. Please help me to take advantage of those opportunities to be still, reflect, and praise you, however brief they may be. May I make time spent with you top priority in my life. In Jesus' name I pray, Amen.

For Reflection and Meditation-

Knowing that God exists outside of time and space, make every effort to make the most out of the time He has given you (because each moment is a gift!) and offer some of this time as a daily sacrifice to the Lord by setting all else aside and spending it with Him. Every second spent with Him counts; remember, 'all the time in the world' was created by His design! Every moment your mind is spent in worry or anxious thoughts is one less moment spent in prayer and conversation with the One who loves you the most. Lift your hands, pour out your heart, and remember His faithfulness.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Persnikety Perfectionism


“Obviously, I’m not trying to win the approval of people, but of God. If pleasing people were my goal, I would not be Christ’s servant.” Galatians 1:10

1…2…3…I blew in his face and dunked him under the water, and he tried his best to swim to the wall. He emerged somewhat confident, but mostly exasperated because he hated swim lessons. Yet, we went two times a week, and each time he would mostly cry and swim a little. One day, I noticed that his tummy looked a little swollen after swim lessons, so I pushed it and…blah, water came spewing out of his mouth! Oh my goodness! My little Mikey had been swallowing the water instead of holding his breath. So, we decided to take a little break from swim lessons.

Yet, I still felt the pressure. Mikey was only two at the time, but everyone (or what felt like everyone) insisted that he needed to know how to swim. Forget that most of our generation didn’t know how to swim until school age or later—this new little generation needed to swim before they could walk…or so it seemed. The truth is, our culture insists that kids do a lot of things on their own from a very early age: go to sleep on their own, become potty trained, learn to swim. Yes, all of these things are good things, but we must ask ourselves “why” and “how”. Do we want our kids to be whole and strive for excellence in all they do, or are we raising a new generation of stressed out, perfectionist kids?

The truth is that the dangers of perfectionism are far too costly and the rewards far too shallow. So, how do you know if you are a perfectionist? If you are constantly comparing yourself to, competing with, and criticizing (outwardly or inwardly) the other women in your life, you may be a perfectionist. If you are constantly focusing on what is wrong with yourself and others, you may be a perfectionist. If your husband can never do anything right, you may be a perfectionist. If you are not okay with your son or daughter NOT being good at something that YOU think they should be good at, you might be a perfectionist.

If you are panicking because this may be you, don’t worry! As a recovering perfectionist with occasional relapses, let me lovingly say that there is hope…more than that: there is GRACE.

But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." 2 Corinthians 12:9

The answer to our perfectionist tendencies is almost so simple that it is hard to accept: we were never meant to be good at everything. Our kids are not called to be good at everything. We are not called to be just like the other moms we know. We are not called to be just like our own moms. We were made to be the wife and mom of the husband and kids God gave us. So, given these precious and challenging responsibilities, God calls us to do our best, knowing that we would not be the best at everything.

However, God knew we would struggle with the feeling of not being good enough, so that is why he told us that his grace would be sufficient. We were always meant to walk in His strength and not our own. We are called to listen to His voice, and block out the traffic of noise around us—each book or person telling us we should be parenting our kids some other way.

So how do we drown out the conflicting voices around us and jump out of the race to be the best mom with the best kids? Practically speaking, here are a few things we can do to maintain a sense of calm and balance:

1. Accept that you, your husband, your kids, your friends, and your neighbors all have weaknesses. Know that God’s grace is sufficient and then give them and yourself the grace to grow up and become more mature. Recognize that maturity is a process, not an overnight thing.
2. Accept God’s forgiveness and extend that forgiveness to others. What a humbling thing it is to have to apologize to our kids when we make a mistake! But God uses that to show them that we all fall short of his glory and that forgiveness is available to all.
3. Be transparent. We do not have to know the answer to everything. We may have some practical parenting advice of things that worked for our family, but we should also be transparent enough to let others know that we have made mistakes.
4. Speak the truth in love, and realize that advice and/or opinions are not necessarily truths…they may just be your personal convictions. If the Bible doesn’t directly speak to the issue, then it is OK if you and your family disciple your children differently than the other couples you know.
5. Pursue Excellence, not Perfectionism: Give it everything you’ve got, and then let it go. Don’t dwell on what you could have done better. Learn from it and keep moving forward. Stop looking back!

So ladies, let us test and examine ourselves, give it our best, and release it all to God. For His grace is sufficient and His power is made perfect in our weakness. Because Christ’s love is perfect and I find my strength in him, I don’t have to be perfect and neither do you.

As for my oldest Doodlebug, he is now almost 6, and he loves to swim! He became comfortable with the water in his own time. :)

Dear God,
Thank you for loving me and accepting me. Please help me to rely on your strength and not my own. Thank you for making me unique. Please help me to stop comparing, criticizing, and competing with the other moms around me. Help me to accept my husband, kids, and myself just as we are, and may we all have your grace to grow. In Jesus’ name.
Amen.

Verses to Consider:

"As for God, his way is perfect; the word of the LORD is flawless. He is a shield for all who take refuge in him.” 2 Samuel 22:31

“You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you.” Isaiah 26:3

“Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Romans 12:2

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Gods order

“Behold, how good and how pleasant it is
For brethren to dwell together in unity!”
Ps. 133:1


Today was a beautiful and warm fall day. There is so much color all around our house in the woods; I decided to take the boys for a walk. We didn’t get too far before they had their own agenda and voiced it to me. They wanted to go to the swing on the hill by our next-door neighbors house. But as we started walking there, a fight broke out about who was going to get on the swing first. My 5 yr old started running thinking that if he just got there first, he’d have the first turn. My younger son just sat down on the trail and cried because he wanted to swing first. Here we go again, I thought. I have to be the judge again. Then I thought of something. I declared loud enough for both of them to hear; “Unless you two are in agreement I cannot push either one of you on the swing”. Now my 5 yr old still needs my help getting up on that high swing so I knew even when he gets there first, he’d still have wait for me to help him. And this time I refused.
When we all stood around the swing, I simply waited for them to make a decision. Somebody had to put the other one first for me to start pushing. I didn’t care who it would be. I didn’t try to make the older one give up or the younger one to submit. I didn’t take sides. As far as I could see, they were both selfish and they both needed the same lesson. So many times before I simply made the decision for them to keep things moving and let them enjoy the blessing faster, but not this time.
After 5 minutes they were still whining and by that time God knocks on my heart and it just dawns on me. It’s just like we are with God, who desires to energize and push us forward in something but we hinder Him because we are not in agreement with each other. I’m the first one to confess how hard it can be in marriage to have a united front in a matter before your children, especially when you are the one spending the most time with them. I’m tempted to think I’m more qualified. But God has established a clear structure of authority by which He grants the blessings. He wants us women to be our husbands helper in leading the family, yet we feel many times we can skip the rules established by God and still receive the blessing. He just can’t move us forward until we are in agreement.
I read recently that it’s not a question of whether you can do a better job than your man by being in control; it’s a matter of doing what you were “designed” to do. It is far more rewarding to honor God’s order than fight for your own. The process and the authority established by God have to be honored before He can “push” us forward.
My sons need to see that I am in agreement and in support of my husband so they understand to honor authority in their own life (obedience to mom and dad). My younger son needs it to see that he has to respect his older brother and the older one needs the example of my humility to have compassion for his younger brother.

So today, focus on being subject to Gods mission and authority in your life one day at a time and leave the end results to Him. Guaranteed your children will benefit and the end result will be more than you think, can dream and imagine.

The boys finally got to enjoy their blessing of swinging by one of them reluctantly putting the other one first. It was a joy for a mom to see and later I rewarded him for it. God wishes to bless you like that.
Encouragement:
Who in your closest circle of family and friends can you be in unity with to see God move in greater ways?

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Gotta Live Like We're Dying

      "We only got 86,400 seconds in a day to
       Turn it all around or to throw it all away

       We gotta tell them that we love them
       While we got the chance to say
       Gotta live like we're dying
"
      -Lyrics from Kris' Allen's song "Live Like We're Dying" 
 



What if today was my last day here on earth? 
 
This thought came across my mind yesterday as I drove home from the grocery store with my boys. I absolutely love the remake by Kris Allen, "Live Like We're Dying" because each time I hear it I ponder my life and ask myself the question, "Am I living my life like it could be my last day?" As I turned around I saw my kids rockin' to the music (The boys & I are known to bop our heads to songs I LOVE and jam out with our windows down!!) and then my son noticed a rainbow in the sky. As we drove on we seemed to be getting closer to it while the colors became even more vibrant. At the next stop light I glanced a few lanes over only to see a person with their smart phone taking a picture of it. Then another car pulled up with the driver, looking straight ahead, completely missing the beautiful creation of God right in front of them.  Isn't that how we are with life sometimes? Missing the true beauty right before us because we are so focused on what lies a head or behind us. We are so busy planning tomorrow that we miss today.  In James 4:14 it says, "How do you know what will happen tomorrow? For your life is like the morning fog - it's here a little while, then it's gone." It has been mentioned from the pulpit, that as we leave church there is no guarantee we will be back the next week. What a thought, huh? 

How would my life change?


What would your day look like? What task would you be sure to do or complete? What friend would you treat to a coffee and try to reconnect with?  How would you respond in conflict and who would you forgive? What wounded relationship would you be sure to mend? Would you serve Christ more knowing you would be seeing him face to face sooner than expected? Would you write a note of encouragement to that person struggling with life? Would you give some food/cash to the man always asking at that light you pass each day? Would you judge less and assume the best? Would you have more patience with your kids? Would you go back in their room tonight with extra hugs & kisses to tell them how much you love them? Would you be sure to praise them for all the amazing attributes God placed within them? Would you smile at that neighbor with the stinky attitude who doesn't really deserve it? Would you tell someone who is lost about the love of Christ and eternal life? Would you....you fill in the blank.


The Somber Reality is...

Each time I rock out to that song there is a somber reality as I am reminded there is no guarantee for my tomorrow. It makes me think about my life and ponder how I'm living it. It makes me hunger that same Holy Spirit boldness to serve and pray with a complete stranger, in need of a friend, as Tammy shared. I want to be one who listens to the prompting of the Lord's still small voice as Teresa talked about. I want to be the mom who sees the amazing God-given qualities my kids possess, that stretch and challenge my faith some days, and trust HE is going to do great things with them like Joannie spoke of. I want to ask God what my main focus should be in this season of my life and hunker down and follow it as Maggie touched on. I want to prioritize and invite the Lord into my day, and agree to set aside some daily "closet time" like Courtney mentioned.  I want to have patience for His will to unfold for my life, and trust Him through the process knowing He has my best interest in mind like Tracey explained. I want to share with the lost, who hunger to fill "their void with temporal things", about the One who will fill every need until their cup runs over. As I write this I am realizing there is still so much I want to do before I go home to be with Jesus. At the end of my life I want to hear Him say, "Well done, good and faithful servant!" I am a work in progress and I am grateful He continues to teach me, with love, in the areas I struggle in, while providing GRACE as I learn. I've got a long way to go but I am so thankful for songs that convict and compel us to grow in our walk with Christ....especially if we can rock out to it in the process!


"Yeah, we gotta start
Looking at the hands of the time we've been given
If this is all we got and we gotta start thinking
If every second counts on a clock that's ticking
Gotta live like we're dying"


Challenge:

 
(1)Grab two note cards/ sticky notes and jot these down......
    (a) "Live Like I am Dying"  and post it on your bathroom mirror :)
    (b)  James 4:14- "How do you know what will happen tomorrow? 

          For your life is like the morning fog, it's here a little while, then it's gone." 
          Put this card somewhere you will see throughout your day...
          maybe on your car dash board (Not covering the gas gauge!) 
          or work desk, as a daily reminder that life is short...and the 
          Lord wants to do great things
          in and through you until He calls you home!
(2) Watch and see how your life becomes vibrant like the rainbow where others stare in wonder at the amazing gift in His creation...you!

Click the video below, or this link http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YbfeSImDntw, and enjoy the song that inspired this post and... decide today to "live like you're dying"....