Saturday, March 31, 2012

Worth It

This past week my husband and I ventured out to a discipleship conference in Pawleys Island, SC. It was a much-needed and amazingly refreshing time. We stayed on the beach and enjoyed just being a couple. God was continually speaking and we were listening as He gave direction for the next steps in ministry for our family.  I had no idea the revelation that the Lord was going to throw my way.

As each speaker finished we were challenged, in small groups, to share how the Lord spoke to us personally through the message. As we went around the circle and everyone began to share I really thought I knew my "AHA" moment. My heart strings were tugged on as the message spoke on inviting others into our life and opening wide the doors of our home to build up and send out disciples. Or so I thought. Our insightful and wise leader prodded me to share.

The Holy Spirit used her to explain that my main issue wasn't opening up my home, with fear of my children running wild, but that it was fear of man and what his thoughts were of me as my children were running wild! I have struggled with this for a while and am SO thankful the Lord brought it to my attention through this exercise.

My leader, Elizabeth, encouraged me that my worth or value doesn't come from my position or identity as a mom but to acknowledge and rest in how HE sees me. That even in the struggle, the Father sees me through the lens of His son Jesus. I wept, in our small group, as I realized I was allowing others opinions of me to form how I thought God saw me too. This fear was stifling the ministry I could be doing in our home as we could be inviting others over. What a lie Satan places in the mind of moms. It is so freeing to find my worth and identity in how my creator, Father, and friend sees me.

Do you struggle with that too? Ask someone to pray for you and your situation.

God loves you and wants you to be set free from the fear of others and start relying on His word for reassurance :)He loves you and is well-pleased because Jesus in living within you..


 When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too. And as he was praying, heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”-Luke 3:21-22

Friday, March 30, 2012

Wisdom from my Sister in Law!

At Parakaleo Jill Bryant is considered a guest blogger.  To me, she is a precious God-loving, God-fearing amazing lady!! She also happens to be married to my brother, so I am blessed to have her as my sister.  I am challenging her to write her thoughts and experiences as she beautifully parents my three nephews and niece.  Following is what God lead her to capture with pen and paper.  May you be blessed.

Psalm 91:1-2;4 Those who live in the shelter of the Most High will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty. This I declare about the LORD: He alone is my Refuge, my place of Safety; He is my God, and I trust Him…He will cover you with His feathers. He will shelter you with His wings. His faithful Promises are your Armor and Protection. 
THE REAL THING
This is not an inspirational message about finding strength, or about being successful. It’s all about brokenness…weakness…failure…fear…and vulnerability.  Admit it out loud or not, we’ve all been there and know those painful words too well, and maybe you have a few more to add to the list.  And so, we have a choice to make. 
We can wither and die in our circumstances, being of NO earthly good to the Lord. (If this is the option you’ve chosen, there is good news to come.)
We can be a fake and put on a great show when others are around, continuously running from things. (This option seems to be the majority choice in our world today.)
OR, we can rise up on God’s wings and let Him USE US in all of our pain as we allow Him to heal us. (Sadly, this is the road less traveled.) 
Nothing fake here – I’m talking about EACH of our lives right now. They are very real and probably very difficult for each of us in very different ways. What if, in the midst of it all, we all would CHOOSE to trust God, stop hiding behind our busy lives or title/position. What if we take off the mask of fakeness that we present to the world (pretending that we are just fine, there is nothing wrong, and we struggle with nothing), and just start being honest with ourselves, God, and others.
What is it that we need to face?  And what have we got to lose?  Our pride?  Well, guess what – that’s one step closer to being the humble one He wants & needs us to be IF we are going to be effective & genuine messengers of Christ to the world!! 
Remember, this life isn’t about US, it’s about HIM.  We are to love and serve Him by sharing His love and serving others.  And how can we effectively do that if we’re busy being a fake or duplicitous person?  We really can’t.
That’s one way the enemy wins in our lives. If he can’t make us stumble, he will just poke us in our weak spots, stealing our confidence and creating doubt so that we don’t have the guts to be honest with others, making us feel the need to put on an act and keep running from dealing with the very things that inhibit us from fully being who God intended for us to be.  If we truly want to live for GOD, then we need to rise up on His Wings and simply remember that our confidence should be IN HIM alone, our Creator (and NOT in what others think.)  
And then we can ask ourselves, why did He create us?  We know this answer…to proclaim His name & love and serve.  Now is the time for all of us to stop serving up a big ol’ plate full of FAKE, regain OR find our confidence in HIM, and realize it does NOT matter what anyone thinks except Him; we are here to please only Him!  And then, we can sincerely and effectively reach out and serve others in our REALness.  Did you know that Christ allows us to go through our hurts, trials and tribulations to give us a passion for something, maybe even the very thing that CAUSED our brokenness?  So don’t try to hide from it, face it and let God use it…for HIS glory, not your own.  
God knows when we’re genuine. And being vulnerable in HIS name will prove that genuineness to others!  What have you got to lose that Christ already doesn’t WANT you to lose?  You have everything to gain when you do!  He is the One who made you with a purpose (Jer. 1:5 “I knew you before I formed you in your mother’s womb…”) so don’t miss it by letting pride get in the way.  Don’t let the enemy distract you OR intimidate you from fulfilling that purpose or the passion He gave you in life.
Maybe you chose the first option, and you’re withered and bitter, or you resent where you are in life. Maybe you feel so overwhelmed, and you wonder why God is entrusting YOU with all of this. Or you feel like you are smothered by all of the pressures and expectations. You feel defeated, deflated, or even debilitated.  It’s time for you to have a talk with HIM and tell Him how you feel. Admit to Him what He already knows…and then ask Him to HELP you LOVE His will for you!
Wow, is that a turning point perspective or what?  KEEP ASKING HIM TO HELP YOU LOVE HIS WILL FOR YOU - AND WHERE HE HAS YOU RIGHT NOW!!  And watch what happens.  
He will take your defeat and make you Incontestable, He won’t deflate you, but He will Inflate you, He will transform your debilitation into Invigoration. It’s Inevitable because He is the GREAT I AM, and that’s INCONTROVERTIBLE!!  And my friend in Christ, please put on your FULL armor daily, because the enemy WILL try to stop you, taunt you, distract you, or get you in a tailspin, because the last thing he wants to see happen is a success for Christ. Remember – the enemy has NO power over us! The VICTORY is already ours when we asked Christ into our hearts and lives!! All we have to do is claim it, cling to it, and LIVE it sincerely with NO compromise!  We have nothing to lose and everything to gain!  Allow Christ to SHINE through you. He can only shine in us when WE are weak…and genuine. Be the real thing to others, because HE is THE REAL THING to us.
Lord, Your Word is Truth, and it is proclaimed all the way from Genesis to Revelation that YOU ARE the great “I AM!!” You are all we need, You are our everything, so does anything else really matter?  Lord, help us to cling to that Truth, to trust Your will, to face what needs to be healed in us, to be genuine, and to shine to the world as we proclaim Your Name and SHOW them who You are because You are in us…and You ARE REAL!!    

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Who I Am In Christ

Shannon Ethridge in her book Every Women's Battle has this great section titled, Who I Am In Christ. I wanted to share it with you. I found encouragement in God's word and I also thought it may be a handy little print out to hang-up or tuck somewhere to pull out on a day when you need a little pick-me-up. Enjoy! I pray that you will be blessed.

I Am Accepted In Christ
  • I am God's child (John 1:12)
  • I am Christ's friend (John 15:15)
  • I have been justified (Romans 5:1)
  • I am united with the Lord and one with him in spirit (1 Corinthians 6:17)
  • I have been bought at a price; I belong to God (1 Corinthians 6:20)
  • I am a member of Christ's body (1 Corinthians 12:27)
  • I am a saint (Ephesians 1:1)
  • I have been adopted as God's child (Ephesians 1:5)
  • I have direct access to God through the Holy Spirit (Ephesians (2:18)
  • I have been redeemed and forgiven of all my sins (Colossians 1:14)
  • I am complete in Christ (Colossians 2:10)

I Am Secure In Christ

  • I am free forever from condemnation (Romans 8:1-2)
  • I am assured that all things work together for good (Romans 8:28)
  • I am free from any condemning charges against me (Romans8:33-34)
  • I cannot be separated from the love of God (Romans 8:35, 38-39)
  • I have been established, anointed, and sealed by God (2 Corinthians 1:21-22)
  • I am confident that the good work God has begun in me will be perfected (Philippians 1:6)
  • I am a citizen of heaven (Philippians 3:20)
  • I am hidden with Christ in God (Colossians 3:3)
  • I have not been given a spirit of fear, but of power, love, and self-discipline (2 Timothy 1:7)
  • I can find grace and mercy to help me in time of need (Hebrews 4:16)
  • I am born of God, and the evil one cannot touch me (1 John 5:18)

I Am Significant In Christ

  • I am the salt and light of the earth (Matthew 5:13-14)
  • I am a branch of the true vine, a channel of his life (John 15:1,5)
  • I have been chosen and appointed to bear fruit (John 15:16)
  • I am a personal witness of Christ (Acts 1:8)
  • I am God's temple (1 Corinthians 3:16)
  • I am a minister of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:17-20)
  • I am God's coworker (2 Corinthians 6:1)
  • I am seated with Christ in the heavenly realms (Ephesians 2:6)
  • I am God's workmanship (Ephesians 2:10)
  • I may approach God with freedom and confidence (Ephesians 3:12)
  • I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength (Philippians 4:13)

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Cast Your Cares

What are your cares today? Are you anxious about something? Worried that you'll make a wrong decision? This past week I've been anxious to figure out schooling for Cooper this fall. And it has gotten to a point where I can't focus on much else. I hope the following will help you as it has encouraged me to keep seeking Him in all our decisions.

An exerpt from When I'm Praising God by Anita Corrine Donihue:

You have quickened my spirit once again, Lord. Thank You for keeping me alert and helping me watch and pray.

Repeatedly, I hear You come to me, warning, Don't stop praying.

Thank You for helping me cast all my cares on You, for watching over me. As I pray, You assure me of my salvation and how You have forgiven my sins. As I focus on You, Lord, You help me think clearly and assure me You have control over what lies ahead, not only for me but for my loved ones as well. Satan prowls about like a wild, hungry animal, seeking whom he can destroy. But when I pray, You stand before me, my Defender and Shield.

Thank You for your guidance. Thank You for comfort when I'm tempted to worry. You are my dearest friend. You care about me with an understanding love. You listen to me pour out my concerns and joys. I treasure Your answers when they come.

While I watch and pray, the cares of life roll off my shoulders and I feel an indescribable peace--a peace that comes from You.

I lift my praise to You, Lord. My thoughts focus on You. You, my Lord, dwell within me and I in You.

Now, as I go about my duties, I will continue to pray. I don't say "amen" for good-bye, but "amen" for so be it. With You, my precious Lord, our conversation goes on day and night.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.

And the peace of God, which trascends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Phillipians 4:6-7 (NIV)

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Home Base

“Worship the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful songs.” Psalm 100:2

This past week at church as we were going through the book of Joshua, the pastor emphasized that in a time of transition (or at any time) we all need a home base in order to experience spiritual victory in the midst of hardship. He shared that his home-base was the church because it was a support network for him, and he is continuously blessed by both the staff and members of the church.

As my husband and I reflected on this portion of the sermon, we agreed that each person needs a church where they are connected to a fellowship of believers. However, more than that we concluded that our ultimate home-base is our quiet time with the Lord, and then after that our home should be a home-base for us and our children.

As we reflected on that principle, we decided to have a family worship time last night. We broke out the computer and found two of our favorite contemporary Christian songs on youtube.com and then we worshipped the Lord as a family. After that we prayed, read a devotional from Mikey’s devotional book, sang another song, and prayed again. I want to establish our home as a place where our kids feel safe, where they can feel connected to the Lord, where they can experience fellowship, and learn about and worship our heavenly Father in complete security.

We realize that security for our kids must come from an understanding of who God is and who they are in Him. This notion of security came up because just a couple of days ago when someone broke into our SUV and stole my wallet, purse, and camcorder. Worse than that, they tried to get in our front door as well—all while we were sleeping! The crazy thing is that I thought I heard something, so I had walked around the house to check all the doors and windows. When I went to back to bed, again I thought I heard something so I prayed, “Dear God, you are our greatest security. You are our best line of defense. If someone tries to get into our house, may you stop them in their tracks as they encounter ‘The Lord of Heaven’s Armies and that He is watching over us.” The next morning, we all woke up safely…but our front door was completely unlocked. The burglar had managed to work the lock with some type of sharp device, but he did not open the door. Our conclusion: the Lord of Heaven’s Armies showed up.

So, as we worshipped as a family we thanked God that our security is in Him alone. Even though we are now taking several extra precautions to protect ourselves and our home, may we always remember that our security is in Him alone and that He alone is worthy of our absolute worship. He is home-base!

Prayer:

Heavenly Father,
Thank you for watching over us at all times. Thank you for being our home-base, our protector, our Savior. May we worship you individually and as a family. May we delight in your goodness and stay connected to you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Challenge: How can you better create a home-base for you and your family? What time during the week can you carve out for a family worship time?

Monday, March 26, 2012

Easter Treats

Thinking ahead to Easter, here are 2 great activities you can do with the kids to bring to life the glorious event we are celebrating and enjoy a delicious treat as well. Though I have not made the cookies, I will be making them this year. I have a tradition of making the sweet bread every Easter morning upon our return from sunrise service. It is sooooo yummy!

Empty Tomb Bread
  • crescent roll dough or any bread dough will do
  • large marshmallows
  • butter, 1 stick melted
  • cinnamon sugar
Preheat oven to 375. Unroll dough and separate into sections (or use bread dough separated into small handfuls). Take one large marshmallow and dip it in butter; then roll it around the cinnamon sugar mixture. Wrap the marshmallow completely in the dough, taking care to seal it in. Place into greased muffin tins. Repeat until you have reached the desired amount of rolls. Brush the tops of the rolls with butter and sprinkle with remaining cinnamon sugar. Bake 10-12 minutes. The marshmallow melts, leaving an empty tomb filled with a sweet gooey sauce inside!


Resurrection Cookies

  • 1 cup whole pecans
  • 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  • 3 egg whites
  • pinch salt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • Plastic baggie
  • Wooden spoon, rolling pin
  • Tape
  • Bible

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. (Do this before doing anything else.)

  • Place nuts in baggie and beat them with a wooden spoon to break into small pieces. Explain that after Jesus was arrested, He was beaten by the Roman soldiers. Read John 19:1-3
  • Open the vinegar and let everyone smell it. Put 1 teaspoon into the mixing bowl. Explain that when Jesus was thirsty on the cross, all He was given to drink was vinegar. Read John 19:28-30
  • Add egg whites to vinegar. Eggs represent life. Explain that Jesus gave His life to give us life. Read John 10:10-11
  • Sprinkle a little salt into each person’s hand. Let them taste it, then brush the rest into the bowl. Explain that this represents the salty tears shed by Jesus’ followers, and the bitterness of our own sin. Read Luke 23:27
  • So far the ingredients are not very appetizing. Sprinkle a little sugar into each person’s hand. Let them taste it, then brush the rest into the bowl. Explain that the sweetest part of the story is that Jesus died because He loves us. He wants us to know and belong to Him. Read Psalm 34:8 and John 3:16
  • Beat with mixer on high speed for 15 minutes until stiff peaks are formed. Explain that the color white represents our purity in God’s eyes because our sins are cleansed by Jesus. Read Isaiah 1:18
  • Fold in nuts. Drop by teaspoons onto cookie sheets lined with parchment paper. Explain that each mound represents the rocky tomb where Jesus’ body was laid. Read Matthew 27:57-60
  • Put the cookie sheet in the oven, close the door and TURN THE OVEN OFF. Give each child a piece of tape and seal the oven door shut. Explain that Jesus’ tomb was sealed. Read Matthew 27:65-66
  • You’re done! Explain that you cannot eat the cookies tonight, but that you have to leave the cookies in the oven overnight. Explain that Jesus’ followers were in despair when the tomb was sealed. Read John 16:20 and 22
  • The next morning, open the oven and give everyone a cookie. Notice the cracked surface and take a bite. The cookies are hollow! On the third day, Jesus followers were amazed to find the tomb open and empty. Read Matthew 28:1-9
    (courtesy of http://realfoodliving.com/recipes/resurrection-cookies)

Sunday, March 25, 2012

My Lesson

This seems to be my area of struggle because God keeps on giving me the same lesson over and over again. I start out so peaceful, tranquil, hopeful and ministry minded, only to eventually hit a wall of despair. This time the endeavor was baseball for both our boys, ages 3 and 5. Everything is so exciting, practice is fun, the boys have a great outlet and Tanner actually makes contact 95% of the time when he hits! His cousin is on the team as well and they love it! I’m getting to know the parents and am really prayerful about opportunities for good conversation.

It’s amazing how a good idea can quickly turn into an absolute stress disaster when you are running late for the first game, have four kids in the car with one overtired 3 yr old and its pouring out with no one around to help to carry bags and helmets plus one cranky 3 yr old. Then there’s entertainment of my cranky one while the others are playing so I miss half the game while teaching sharing toys with other children around. And on it goes.

It does not matter whose fault it is in any stressful situation (although we like to camp there), but what choice am I going to make? Be on time for a game by yelling at the kids and misrepresenting God to them or choosing the way of love and possibly being late. Blaming others and complaining to people or honoring God by holding my tongue.

The end result, no matter how good or godly, does not justify the ugly way we got there. It is so much like the world today. I saw a coach slap his son across the face at the game because the 5 yr old was so exhausted after playing 3 games in a row, he didn't want to get back out on the field. We won all three games but "what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and is himself destroyed or lost?” (Luke 9:25)
It's a lot more subtle for us Christians, but we do it too. I confess, it happens even on our way to church sometimes! We are so close to getting there on time, we can make it if I can only allow my flesh to help by yelling or threatening kids into obedience.
Even the enemy tried to tempt Jesus to take a shortcut to glory to gain what the Father had promised would be His eventually.
"Then the devil, taking Him up on a high mountain, showed Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. And the devil said to Him, “All this authority I will give You, and their glory; for this has been delivered to me, and I give it to whomever I wish. Therefore, if You will worship before me, all will be Yours.”(Luke 4:5)
But that's not the way of obedience to the One we say we love.

I’m beginning to believe God always has a lesson for me in the middle of the one I’m thinking I’m teaching my boys. When kids don’t cooperate, I have a choice to make and my lesson begins. “What comes out of a man, that defiles a man."(Mark7:20) It shows me and others around where I live; in the flesh or in the Spirit. God already knows, He just wants me to see where I am and come to Him for help. “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.”(Matt 7:7)
If I blow it by misrepresenting God in my reaction to the situation, it is wiser to focus my attention on my issue and deal with it than blaming the kids. Why? Because the word says “ first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye” (Matt.7:5) I must understand that I am a fellow believer walking and learning alongside of them. And if our children are not saved yet, even greater reason not to misrepresent our loving and merciful God! One day we want them to receive Him.

Today I’m really grateful for the trials the Lord allows through my children. He wants us to see how we are getting where we are going or even if we are still on a journey with Him or simply doing our own thing. It will quickly be evident in our families.

So what is your reoccurring struggle? What keeps coming up and are you still making excuses or blaming other things? It's your lesson God wants to help you with. I want to encourage you to scratch any parenting formulas pertaining to your area of struggle and just walk with Jesus! Daily and in close communion because those who do don’t need formulas but are naturally filled with Gods Spirit that makes us aware. We are so blinded to our own sins that unless we allow the Spirit to search us daily and show us, we cannot see it, let alone be free. Just be with Him daily and we will continue to be transformed, from glory to glory until He returns or takes us home. Amen

“If we live, it’s to honor the Lord.” (Rom 14:8)

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Take the Time

Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.  - James 4:14




                                  Take the Time  

It's nine-fifteen, and bedtime took too long, once again --
Another drink, another glass of water, and then
The questions come, the hands hold tight, and the eyes are opened wide,
And something in me whispers, "Now's the time."

"Mommy, why did Muffy die? Daddy, where's the sun?"
"Are there cats in heaven? And why did Jesus come?"
And though a whole day's dishes wait, and bills are piled high,
Something in me whispers, "Take the time."

Take the time, while they're right here by your side,
Take the time, while their arms are opened wide.
Teach them how to love the Lord with all their heart and mind.
Oh, they're only home a season, take the time.

Riding off to Narnia upon a lion's back,
Chubby fingers close the book and add it to the stack.
"Aslan didn't kill the witch- oh Dad, why did he die?"
And something in me whispers, "Now's the time."

Her baseball game's tomorrow, but so's my interview.
How can I play Scrabble, when there's so much to do?
Little faces plead with me to put my work aside,
And something in me whispers, "Take the time."

Take the time, while they're right here by your side,
Take the time, while their arms are opened wide.
Teach them how to love the Lord with all their heart and mind.
Oh, they're only home a season, take the time.

For one day they'll want to spend time alone.
One day they'll need to be on their own.
Next week their hugs may not seem quite the same -
Oh Lord, may they honor Your name.

It's nine-fifteen, and bedtime took too long, once again -
Another drink, another glass of water, and then
The questions come, the hands hold tight, and they eyes are opened wide,
And something in me whispers, "Now's the time."

Take the time, while they're right here by your side,
Take the time, while their arms are opened wide.
Teach them how to love the Lord with all their heart and mind.
Oh, they're only home a season, take the time.

-1985 song by Paul & Teri Reisser 

Taken as an excerpt from the book 
"Complete Book of Baby & Child Care
From pre-birth through teen years"
by Focus on the Family

Friday, March 23, 2012

Your Best Friend!


The prevailing theme the Lord has placed in my life since the first weekend in March has to do with our marriage.  I truly believe the best gift we can give our children apart from a strong spiritual foundation is that we love our spouse.

Some of the thoughts or questions I have been dealing with include:

1.    What am I “making light of” that is important to Greg?  For instance: he wants me to go with him when he is playing basketball and watch from the stands.  My knee-jerk response is to roll my eyes and shake my head. Responding with, “who does that?”  And, “why would he care?” Those questions don’t deserve my attention or an answer.  The answer is: this is important to Greg, so I need to make it important to me.
2.    He needs a companion.  For the very reason Adam needed Eve.  Genesis 2: 18 says "Then the Lord God said, It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him." Greg needs me.  The reality is we all need companionship.  What a blessing to be wanted!
3.    We seem quick to look for ways to make others lives easier, I need to look for ways to make Greg’s life easier.
4.    What does humility look like in our marriage?  Am I truly acting on serving Greg?  Do I consider what is better for him before myself?
5.    As we heard in the Real Marriage Conference, Am I being the friend Greg needs?  Would he say I was trying to be his friend? Or more specifically, Am I trying to be his best friend?
6.    Am I praying for Greg, seeing him as a brother in the Lord? Praying for him to love the Lord with all his heart, to seek the Lord, to obey the Lord and to stand firm in the face of temptation?

Girls, instead of focusing on our parenting this week, lets try focusing on our marriage!  Pray and ask the Lord how you can be a better wife and friend to your husband.  Lets really evaluate at the weeks end if parenting seems more smooth when our marriage is attended to.

Enjoy your Best Friend this week!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Prayer

I remember when I really got serious about following Christ, I felt like such a failure when it came to prayer. I would hear about prayer services, or long prayers in bible study and think, “Good gracious, how do people pray that long?” “Who has that much to say to God?” Now several years into my own journey I know how people pray that long and why they have so much to say to God.

“If we don’t know that we need help, prayer will always be peripheral to our lives, a matter of mood and good manners. But the moment we know we are in trouble, prayer is life-or-death matter.” (Lifeguide OT 8, Psalms)

This was from my bible study this week and when I read it I knew that one reason God gave me children was to teach me how to REALLY pray. Not prayers of “mood and good manners” but prayers of need. There is something about being a mother that allows us to really see the ugliness of our own hearts and just how badly we need God.

Psalm 3

A psalm of David. When he fled from his son Absalom.

1O LORD, how many are my foes!
How many rise up against me!
2Many are saying of me,
“God will not deliver him.” Selaha
3But you are a shield around me, O LORD;
you bestow glory on me and liftb up my head.
4To the LORD I cry aloud,
and he answers me from his holy hill. Selah
5I lie down and sleep;
I wake again, because the LORD sustains me.
6I will not fear the tens of thousands
drawn up against me on every side.
7Arise, O LORD!
Deliver me, O my God!
Strike all my enemies on the jaw;
break the teeth of the wicked.
8From the LORD comes deliverance.
May your blessing be on your people. Selah



This Psalm written by David shows his progression from need to the confidence he has in the Lord for deliverance. It is a progression that we need to have in our own prayers. There have been so many times that I have thrown up an “O Lord, help me with my children” prayer but I definitely didn’t progress to the confidence in the Lord part.

God uses our children to remind us just how much we do need Him. In our prayers lets also remember to progress from need to confidence in the Lord like David.

Lord, there are some days I question my ability to be the mother my kids need. But you have used my children in a way to show me that I really don’t have the ability with out You. I need your help Lord, each and every day. I need it to love my children, to have enough energy to take cake of them and some days just to put a smile on my face. I desperately need your comfort in our bad days and your encouragement on our better days. I pray Lord, that you would help me to be more like David. Help me to not only bring my needs to you but to follow my needs with confidence and praise to You. You have given me the blessing of raising up the next generation and I pray Lord that I would be able to be the example that they need so that they can grow up with a deep and sincere confidence in You.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Vacation

"There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven." (Ecclesiastes 3:1)

Pull-ups? Check. Swim suits? Check. Sunscreen SPF 15, 30, and 50? Check, check, check. Blankies? Pool toys? Snacks? DVD player? Water bottles? More snacks? More toys? Oh honey, did you remember the camera?

Sound familiar?

This was our last weekend on our way out the door to spend some time in the Keys with my sister and her young family. SO much fun with little guys (together we have 4 boys ages 1, 3, 4 and 5), but so different than the vacations we used to take pre-kiddos. :)

Our last trip before starting our families was in Costa Rica backpacking all the way down to the southern tip and then flying back to the capital in a tiny little airplane with about 10 other passengers. As we landed, the tears in my eyes dried up but my heart was still pounding from the turbulence caused by air currents over the mountains.

This weekend we spent a lot of time by the pool and though our boys did great in the water, there is never a moment where a mother feels completely comfortable around water. I especially took note of my sister (who never appears to be burdened) and my littlest nephew who has no reservation about diving right in. He was so fun to watch as he was thrilled to splash and play and do belly flops in 6 inches of water (beach entrance pool), but there is never a time that you can take your eyes off of them and feel at ease. They need constant supervision. And for that reason, whether you are by the pool, the beach, the hotel stairs and balcony, etc, vacation takes on a whole new meaning for the parents.

I have a friend who clearly defined vacation as a time that you are without the kids and anything else is a "family" vacation. :) I understand that now.

They are both incredibly fun, but distinctly different.

I know several friends and aquaintances that have made it a priority to vacation without their dear children. Some do it every winter, some do it when they can afford it. Others are just good about doing a date night regularly.

How about you? Is this something that you and your husband have talked about/would love to do? Maybe you already take a weekend here or there? Maybe it hasn't happened yet?

Rob and I have yet to take a vacation on our own since having kids, but our 10 year anniversary is coming up this year and it may be time. I don't know that it would involve a backpack or risky transportation, but any time away to regroup as a couple and to focus on just the two of us would be time well spent.

I encourage you to pray (along with myself) about how God might be leading you and your spouse in this area--it's going to look different for everyone. It's when we open our hearts that He most surprises us!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

3 Common Traits of Youth Who Don't Leave the Church

Okay, this is lengthier than my usual posts, but a friend posted this article written by a youth pastor, and it really is insightful. He contemplates the difference in Christian youths who leave the faith versus those who stand strong through the college years and beyond. Hope it speaks to you as it did me.

"What do we do about our kids?” The group of parents sat together in my office, wiping their eyes. I’m a high school pastor, but for once, they weren’t talking about 16-year-olds drinking and partying. Each had a story to tell about a “good Christian” child, raised in their home and in our church, who had walked away from the faith during the college years. These children had come through our church’s youth program, gone on short-term mission trips, and served in several different ministries during their teenage years. Now they didn’t want anything to do with it anymore. And, somehow, these mothers’ ideas for our church to send college students “care packages” during their freshman year to help them feel connected to the church didn’t strike me as a solution with quite enough depth.

The daunting statistics about churchgoing youth keep rolling in. Panic ensues. What are we doing wrong in our churches? In our youth ministries?

It’s hard to sort through the various reports and find the real story. And there is no one easy solution for bringing all of those “lost” kids back into the church, other than continuing to pray for them and speaking the gospel into their lives. However, we can all look at the 20-somethings in our churches who are engaged and involved in ministry. What is it that sets apart the kids who stay in the church? Here are just a few observations I have made about such kids, with a few applications for those of us serving in youth ministry.

1. They are converted.

The apostle Paul, interestingly enough, doesn’t use phrases like “nominal Christian” or “pretty good kid.” The Bible doesn’t seem to mess around with platitudes like: “Yeah, it’s a shame he did that, but he’s got a good heart.” When we listen to the witness of Scripture, particularly on the topic of conversion, we find that there is very little wiggle room. Listen to these words: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Cor. 5:17). We youth pastors need to get back to understanding salvation as what it really is: a miracle that comes from the glorious power of God through the working of the Holy Spirit.

We need to stop talking about “good kids.” We need to stop being pleased with attendance at youth group and fun retreats. We need to start getting on our knees and praying that the Holy Spirit will do miraculous saving work in the hearts of our students as the Word of God speaks to them. In short, we need to get back to a focus on conversion. How many of us are preaching to “unconverted evangelicals”? Youth pastors, we need to preach, teach, and talk—all the while praying fervently for the miraculous work of regeneration to occur in the hearts and souls of our students by the power of the Holy Spirit! When that happens—when the “old goes” and the “new comes”—it will not be iffy. We will not be dealing with a group of “nominal Christians.” We will be ready to teach, disciple, and equip a generation of future church leaders—“new creations”!—who are hungry to know and speak God’s Word. It is converted students who go on to love Jesus and serve the church.

2. They have been equipped, not entertained.

Recently we had “man day” with some of the guys in our youth group. We began with an hour of basketball at the local park, moved to an intense game of 16” (“Chicago Style”) softball, and finished the afternoon by gorging ourselves on meaty pizzas and 2-liters of soda. I am not against fun (or gross, depending on your opinion of the afternoon I just described) things in youth ministry. But youth pastors especially need to keep repeating the words of Ephesians 4:11-12 to themselves: “[Christ] gave . . . the teachers to equip the saints for the work of the ministry, for building up the body of Christ.” Christ gives us—teachers—to the church, not for entertainment, encouragement, examples, or even friendship primarily. He gives us to the church to “equip” the saints to do gospel ministry, in order that the church of Christ may be built up.

If I have not equipped the students in my ministry to share the gospel, disciple a younger believer, and lead a Bible study, then I have not fulfilled my calling to them, no matter how good my sermons have been. We pray for conversion; that is all we can do, for it is entirely a gracious gift of God. But after conversion, it is our Christ-given duty to help fan into flame a faith that serves, leads, teaches, and grows. If our students leave high school without Bible-reading habits, Bible-study skills, and strong examples of discipleship and prayer, we have lost them. We have entertained, not equipped them . . . and it may indeed be time to panic!

Forget your youth programs for a second. Are we sending out from our ministries the kind of students who will show up to college in a different state, join a church, and begin doing the work of gospel ministry there without ever being asked? Are we equipping them to that end, or are we merely giving them a good time while they’re with us? We don't need youth group junkies; we need to be growing churchmen and churchwomen who are equipped to teach, lead, and serve. Put your youth ministry strategies aside as you look at that 16-year-old young man and ask: “How can I spend four years with this kid, helping him become the best church deacon and sixth-grade Sunday school class teacher he can be, ten years down the road?”

3. Their parents preached the gospel to them.

As a youth pastor, I can’t do all this. All this equipping that I’m talking about is utterly beyond my limited capabilities. It is impossible for me to bring conversion, of course, but it is also impossible for me to have an equipping ministry that sends out vibrant churchmen and churchwomen if my ministry is not being reinforced tenfold in the students’ homes. The common thread that binds together almost every ministry-minded 20-something that I know is abundantly clear: a home where the gospel was not peripheral but absolutely central. The 20-somethings who are serving, leading, and driving the ministries at our church were kids whose parents made them go to church. They are kids whose parents punished them and held them accountable when they were rebellious. They are kids whose parents read the Bible around the dinner table every night. And they are kids whose parents were tough, but who ultimately operated from a framework of grace that held up the cross of Jesus as the basis for peace with God and forgiveness toward one another.

This is not a formula! Kids from wonderful gospel-centered homes leave the church; people from messed-up family backgrounds find eternal life in Jesus and have beautiful marriages and families. But it’s also not a crap-shoot. In general, children who are led in their faith during their growing-up years by parents who love Jesus vibrantly, serve their church actively, and saturate their home with the gospel completely, grow up to love Jesus and the church. The words of Proverbs 22:6 do not constitute a formula that is true 100 percent of the time, but they do provide us with a principle that comes from the gracious plan of God, the God who delights to see his gracious Word passed from generation to generation: “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.”

Youth pastors, pray with all your might for true conversion; that is God’s work. Equip the saints for the work of the ministry; that is your work. Parents, preach the gospel and live the gospel for your children; our work depends on you.

http://www.churchleaders.com/youth/youth-leaders-articles/159175-3-common-traits-of-youth-who-don-t-leave-the-church.html

Monday, March 19, 2012

Who Cares?

At our Mom to Mom meeting last week, one of the Titus 2 moms spoke briefly about a Christian psyhchologist named John Rosemond and his views on parenting. I found some of his ideas intriguing and later did some research of my own. Here is in article I found, and I thought it more than worthy to pass on. It may sound odd at first, but keep reading to the end, and I am sure you will see the heart of the message. Enjoy! :)

Who cares?
By John Rosemond (taken from his February 21st column)
Parents tell me their daughter is intelligent and did well in school up until the seventh grade, at which time she stopped doing the required work and her grades, consequently, went down the proverbial tube.

My response: “Who cares?”

Parents tell me their 8-year-old son still has four or five “accidents” per week in his clothing. The child’s pediatrician has determined that there is no physical problem (in which case, these stinky events are more accurately called “on purposes” or “lazies”).

My response: “Who cares?”

The parents of a 15-year-old want to know what to do about his refusal to keep his bedroom and bathroom neat and clean. His possessions are strewn everywhere, he doesn’t hang up his towels, he disposes of food by shoving it under his bed, and so on.

My response: “Who cares?”

Don’t mistake my meaning here. I am not trivializing these problems. In each case, the parents have a legitimate complaint. I am simply asking these parents to identify the person or persons who is/are upset by the problem in question, because it is a simple fact that the person or persons who is/are upset by the problem will try to solve it. And therein lies the possible reason why these problems aren’t being solved, because in each case the problem can only be solved by the child in question.

So, who cares that a seventh-grade girl is not accepting her academic responsibilities? Who cares that an 8-year-old is having frequent “lazies” in his clothing? Who cares that a teenager refuses to keep his living space orderly and clean?

In each case, I discover, it’s the parents who care. They are upset. They are pulling their hair out. And in each case, the child does not care. The girl does not seem to care about her grades. The boy does not seem to care that he soils himself. The teen is oblivious to the mess that is his room and bathroom.
The fact is, that the wrong people care. The wrong people are upset. Therefore, the only people who can solve the problems have no reason to solve them. The simple fact is that not until these children are forced to become upset about these problems—not until they begin to care more than their parents care—will they solve them.

So, the girl’s parents confiscate her most prized possession: her cell phone. She will get it back when her grades come back up to par and stay there for one entire grading period. When she is informed of this, she throws a tantrum like she hasn’t thrown since she was a toddler. Good. Now she cares. If any sense at all remains, she will solve HER problem.

The boy’s parents tell him that his doctor says he’s having “lazies” because he’s not getting enough sleep. Until they have stopped for a continuous period of 28 days, the doctor says he has to go to bed right after supper—even if that means cancelling activities—seven days a week. He is very upset by this sudden turn of events. Good. Now he cares.

And the teen comes home one day to discover that his parents have thoroughly cleaned his room. In the process, they threw away whatever they felt like throwing away and have stored his most coveted possessions in a storage locker to which only they have the code. They tell him to take a close look at the job they did because he must keep his room and bathroom to that standard for two straight months before they will return his stuff. And if he doesn’t clean his room, they will. At first, he is angry. When that doesn’t move his parents, he asks their forgiveness and promises to keep his room clean if they will return his stuff. They refuse. He gets angry again, then apologizes again, then begins to beg. His parents stand firm. He goes to his room and won’t come out for dinner. Good. Now he cares.

In each case, the child quickly solves the problem. Amazing! Or not.

Verse to consider:
"No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” Hebrews 12:11 (NIV)

Prayer:
Heavenly Father, your word instructs us to teach and train up our children in the way they should go so that they will not depart from you. Lord, there is so much advice out there about parenting these days. May we screen everything through your Word and the filter of the Holy Spirit you have placed within us. Help us to parent to the heart of the matter and to make our children accountable for their actions. May you give us the wisdom and patience to not lose heart and become frustrated with our children, but may we teach them to care about how their actions affect themselves and others. May we also teach them that love is constant and that our love for them requires us to disciple and discipline them in a way that truly pleases you. Help us stay the course and find wisdom and strength in you. In Jesus’ name Amen.

Challenge: Next time your child decides to test the boundaries of your authority, stop and pray for wisdom. Ask God to help you discipline in such a way that their behavior (and the consequences it brings) upsets them too, so they can be moved to repent, seek forgiveness, and change their behavior.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Celebrating God's Creation


So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. - Genesis 1:27


This afternoon I snuggled on the couch with Jack Jack as we read about animals. It was out of a magazine, "Big Backyard" that a friend had subscribed to for us. Our afternoon reads have become a cherished time.  As we began looking at God's creation, Jack was in awe of the picture with the red-billed oxpecker sitting atop the impala. The inset of the picture told how this bird eats ticks and other bugs that live on the impala's skin. WOW! We serve a smart God with a purpose and plan for all of creation. The Lord knew as He molded and shaped that bird... the part he would play in the life of the impala.



This got me thinking about my boys and the big picture: His plan and purpose for each of them.  We get entangled in our thoughts of what they are NOT that we miss out on the amazing attributes that God HAS given them. We are so caught up in the thorns on the stem that we forget to notice the beauty in the rose itself.

God has a purpose and plan for the oxpecker and impala just like he does for each child He has entrusted us with.



Take 5 minutes and praise the Lord for the unique and awesome attributes of your child today.  Allow this to be a daily habit you incorporate into your prayer life. It will open your eyes to the beauty in His creation :)

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Comfort Received Comfort Given

Today was a tough day. Went to ladies Bible study this morning where I was called out early because my child was misbehaving. I was sad and embarrassed as I left realizing how challenging my son can be with obeying authority. As I drove home teary-eyed I remembered my son's struggle in children's ministry the previous year. It was a full year of angst before we saw how Christ would answer our prayers. It was the day our son moved up into a new class, the four year old room, that we met two wonderful teachers hand-picked by the Lord just for our family.

I can still remember our first day with Miss Edi and Mr. Jerry. I was hesitant and afraid of what we would hear at pick up since we had more bad reports than good in our class prior. I shared my heart with them about my son's previous struggles. After service Miss Edi explained that my son did struggle but told me that she would pray for him and see us next week. Those words gave such comfort ....to a mom who was broken and weary.... and a son needing to know his teacher's loved him.



"...those who refresh others will themselves be refreshed." - Proverbs 11:25


The next week Miss Edi and Mr. Jerry were thrilled to see my son! How refreshing for the mom of a challenging child. Miss Edi told us she had been praying for him that week and I could sense it as she was genuinely excited to see him. I was so touched by her words of comfort and concern. I walked away with tears in my eyes and watched my son go to class with joy in his heart.


Each week I watched my son run to class instead of fearing it. All because his teachers had faith in him and a mighty God who is powerful to answer prayer. It allowed me to see that if a child sees others believe in him, then he will as well. I am so grateful for Miss Edi and Mr. Jerry and the tangible lesson they taught my family about the love of Jesus. They stepped in the gap for a mom who needed it.

Anyone out there have an active child with tons of energy that can drain you emotionally and physically somedays making you want to give up?  I think sometimes in our Christian walk we are so afraid of what others think that we fail to share our hurts. Our pride gets in the way and in doing this we rob friends of a great task.....the ability to pray for and with us bringing comfort through the trial.

As I look back, I am so grateful my son's teachers listened to my concerns and brought it to our heavenly father in prayer. What a gift and I pray that as I see others struggling I can do the same. I want to be like Miss Edi, a bright light for Jesus with an open heart to the needs of others.


Are you afraid to share your struggles with others? Ask friends to pray for you and watch Him work.


Do you reach out, like Miss Edi, with a heart to listen and lift up the hurts of others in prayer?


A simple text message ,"How can I be praying for you today friend?" means the world to a struggling mommy.


This week pray that the Lord opens your eyes to the needs of others and praise Him for the gift of prayer.


Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. - Isaiah 40:1

Friday, March 16, 2012

A Yellow Refrigerator and an Ole' Screen Door

         Greg and I had the joy of living 11 years in a home that was built the year I was born.  So it was well into its 30th year when we moved in.

         It didn’t look like all the new homes it had its own character.  In fact we often heard the comment from those who would visit, “this looks just like the house I grew up in!”  We didn’t take these comments as a jab, rather we found them endearing.

         The house had beautiful original hardwood floors.  There was crown molding in every room (even in our closets.)  We lived five homes from the beach, so what would a beach house be without a paneled room. The two favorite characteristics of our 1960’s beach cottage were; the yellow refrigerator and the screen door on the carport entrance.

         Moms some of what we do every day is building character into our children.  Character is described as: The peculiar quality, or the sum of qualities, by which a person or a thing is distinguished from others. We teach them values that are important to us. We show them how to shake hands and look others in the eye.  We encourage them to be kind to their siblings and share their toys.  We teach them God’s Word and model how to apply it.

         That yellow refrigerator had character.  It didn’t look like the new sleek stainless steel side by side refrigerators.  Our yellow GE never needed to be serviced the entire time we lived there.  It had two big pull out drawers on the bottom for the freezer and swivel-armed shelves in the refrigerator.  The shelves were glass and the parts were all steel.

         Moms the character we are building in our children won’t look like every other family.  It will be unique and distinct to your household.

         The screen door with the spring closure always let me know someone was coming and going.  It made us smile to hear the spring pull.  It was familiar. It was dependable.  Just like the character we build in our babes.

         The character we are building in a Christian home should look a lot like our Savior, our Heavenly Father.  Your child has character just like our yellow refrigerator or our screen door. The point is not that others will feel less than. Rather, they will desire the character of Christ you have instilled in your little ones.
2 Peter 1:5 "...for this very reason--adding, on your part, all earnestness-- along with your faith, manifest also a noble character..."(WEY)

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Women of Strength

“The king is enthralled by your beauty; honor him, for he is your lord.” Psalm 45:11

I was recently blessed with a vacation where I got to leave my kids at home and just hang out with a group of friends for a few days. There were late nights, lots of food, sleeping in, great quiet times with the Lord, and sunshine at the beach. It was GREAT and very much needed.

What I most enjoyed about this vacation was the time with friends. But these were not just any friends; they were friends who are as beautiful on the inside as they are on the outside. They are the kind of women that you know God looks down on and just smiles.

“God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at break of day.” Psalm 46:5

They are women of strength. They are not the strong, independent, “I can do it all” women of the world…though I am sure there is a couple that could do it all. They are women full of the Holy Spirit who depend upon their God for their strength. They know that in their weakness God is made strong. They are the kind of women that when you are around them you want to be better. They are a blessing.

“As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” Proverbs 27:17

“I’m telling you, I not only want God’s presence in me; I want His presence on me. There’s a difference, you know. I want more than realizing He is merely in me; I want my life to be a living witness and window to His grace and glory – without even saying a word. I want people to sense the peace of God when I walk into a room. When they enter my home, I want them to be immediately aware that this is a place where God hangs out. When you and I just roll with His plans for us, we can expect to be the simple instrument His Spirit uses to do all kinds of marvelous things, including drawing others to Himself.”
(Priscilla Shirer – Life Interrupted)

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Grace & Understanding

Friday mornings have become playdate mornings for us because of one mom's cause to unite women and their kiddos for a time of fun and fellowship. Thanks, Kate. Anyone and everyone is invited to join in. There is no pressure to be there everytime, but anytime you can make you're welcome by some of the sweetest girls you'll ever meet.

I was reminded of this, again, last week Friday. I had my parents in town for the previous two Fridays, so I hadn't been able to join in as usual. And on my way to the park where everyone was meeting, I had some hesitation. A little insecurity was creeping in about not seeing these girls for the last few weeks. Had they all been meeting while I was busy? If so, what did I miss? I was feeling out of the loop.

After a few minutes of talking with some of the other moms there, I realized my worries were in vain. One friend, in particular, set my heart at ease while she shared that her family had just been sick and she, too, was feeling a bit disconnected. She didn't know it, but just sharing her heart and being open about the struggle of being with sick kiddos for the last week gave me new perspective. One that I think we should all take to heart. That even at our best, we will never be able to catch every phone call, return every phone call, meet every friend or attend every playdate. But if we allow ourselves to be honest with each other (like this friend did) we assure each other that this is normal in the life of a mom.

As I left the park, I thanked God for friends...especially those that give us the grace and understanding we need in this mommy season of life. What a breath of fresh air! I pray that I am this to other moms, as well.

God,
Thank you for friends, for sisters, for moms who give us the support we need and the understanding we crave in this season of life. It is through relationships like these that we more fully understand the grace that you give us. I pray for all the moms on here that they may feel the love of Christ through other women and that we all might be able to give it away this week.
In Your Name,
Amen.