When Dreams For My Kids Fall Short

“The hand that rocks the cradle is the hand that rules the world.” That quote used to bring me comfort, on the days when I didn’t feel like much, rocking babies in my comfy pants and t-shirt. The idea of influencing a generation and changing the world for the better took the sting out of the late night feedings and spit up on my shoulder.

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In the early years of motherhood, despite exhaustion and repetition, I had dreams for my kids. I wanted them to be better than I was. I wanted them to be well rounded, happy, healthy, and I wanted to give them the tools and education they needed to change their own little corner of the world for better.

All good things, but my dreams were shallow and fell short and missed the grand goal of them savoring and cherishing Christ.

Oh, I wanted them to know Christ. I taught them to fold their little hands and say grace, we learned portions of scripture together, prayed for missionaries, sang songs, and went to all the church services. From the outside looking in, you would have called me ultra-faithful in the training department, but when Christ is not the “end all” in your own life, the truth is He’s just an “add on” –and that is always a confusing, strange, unstable mix. (You’ll know He’s an “add on” when your true god is rivaled or taken away. You still have Christ, but you’re pining away after the reigning god at the moment.)

Thank God that dreams change. When Christ is all-in-all, everything else is a nice add on, but not mandatory.

Now, I just want them to be whole in Christ.

I want them to be happy in the present, no matter where life that finds them. I want them to be able to look through the hardship and see the Source and count it a blessing.

I no longer try to keep things neat and safe for them, because I’ve learned that I can’t pass my faith on to them through my experiences or via a sterile environment. I can point them to Christ and trust the Holy Spirit to do a work in them. They have to walk the life of faith on their own, and without adversity, hardships, temptations, and trials, there would be no need for faith.

I want them to be content in the midst of crisis, because our happiness is not dependent on our circumstances and I want them to know first hand that God is more than enough comfort when trials come.

I want them to cultivate confidence in their own relationship with God, and I want them to recognize the voice of the Holy Spirit when He prompts them to pray or abstain from sin, or to evangelize.

When life is unmanageable and uncontrollable, I want them to grasp God’s promises with their own two hands and never let go. And they can’t do that void of trouble.

I’m not wishing hardship on them, don’t get me wrong. But if hardship is necessary to bring them closer and nearer to Christ, then that is okay, because this world is not the end all.

Christ is the end all, and He desires for His kids to see and know Him more than I do.

What can a mom do? You can faithfully teach and look for opportunities to point them to the good news of the gospel.

And you can pray along with Jesus for them–

John 17:9,15,17::  I pray for them… for they are thine. I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil. Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.

 “God is the highest good of the reasonable creature. The enjoyment of him is our proper; and is the only happiness with which our souls can be satisfied. To go to heaven, fully to enjoy God, is infinitely better than the most pleasant accommodations here. Better than fathers and mothers, husbands, wives, or children, or the company of any, or all earthly friends. These are but shadows; but the enjoyment of God is the substance. These are but scattered beams; but God is the sun. These are but streams; but God is the fountain. These are but drops, but God is the ocean.” 
― Jonathan Edwards,

 

Five Ways Teens Are Like Toddlers

I’m caring for a 16-month-old a few days a week, (the sweetest little guy ever!) and I’ve been ushered back to the world of sippy cups, toys, nap times, cutting up food into small pieces, answering “what’s that” questions, exploring, and the “everything-is-new-and-wonderful” stage that the toddler years bring. “Little B” already knows the ropes around the house and has pretty much used it to lasso our hearts.

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My children are mostly teens and adults (ages 12 to 21) and somewhere along the way I’ve forgotten a few basic truths that should inform everything I do in this house. Caring for Little B has reminded me of several of these things.

1. Children watch everything. They’re learning by their environment. Little B watches Holly and Hope to see their facial expressions and he responds. When they clap, he is elated. When they do their school work, he observes. When I fold my hands to thank God for the food, he folds his. It’s true of toddlers and it’s true of teens–they learn how to do life from watching you. God help us if we lead these kids astray.

2. Children want to please. Kids are easily motivated by praise. I see it so clearly with this little guy. He flashes the most adorable smile whenever we clap or say “Good boy!!” He gives me a toy because he knows I’ll give him a huge “Thank you!!” and it becomes a game to see how many times I’ll smile and say it.

Teens want to please you as well. Somewhere along the line, maybe they stopped trying because they got more negative feedback than positive or could never make their parent happy. Maybe you criticized more than praised. Maybe you used your words to injure instead of build up, causing the teen to conclude that building walls and keeping you out was safest and most peaceful route. If so, make that right and ask forgiveness. Teens are almost adults and just like all of us they want love and acceptance.

3. Children mimic. They say what you say and copy what you do. You see it more in toddlers, but it’s true of the teen years as well.

I’ve sat with mothers of teens who can’t figure out WHY on earth their teen is so sneaky, moody, rebellious, or just plain disrespectful and I honestly have to hold my tongue because it’s so obvious to me that the teen gets that behavior from one of the parents. We are often blind to our own sin, and yet we see it clearly in our kids.

Maybe the issue are different,

but if the parent lives their life as though they are above the rules

or they make exceptions or excuses–always the easy way for them– how can they complain when their kids break house rules like curfew, or sneak media, or plain disregard the instruction of the parent?

If the mom is moody (or mouthy!) saying whatever pops into her head without thought for righteousness, how can she be surprised when her child uses her mouth disrespectfully or cruelly?

A mom of a passively/outwardly rebellious child has to ask herself if she’s been joyfully submitting to the authorities in her life or if she’s taught her daughter unwittingly how to manipulate life to make it work for her.

The truth is that our kids tend to copy our own sins–the ones they grew up seeing us commit.

4. Children value what we value. When I make a big deal of going in the car, Little B catches that excitement. When my eyes light up and I ask “Do you want an ice cream?” he can’t get to the car fast enough. Our teens are the same way and learn what we value by our enthusiasm. They know when we expend energy, and know where we cut corners or make excuses. They hear it in our language about “getting to go” here or “having to go” there.

5. Children want to be loved. Toddlers come running for hugs or want to give kisses to the puppy. They snuggle when they are tired and want to sit on your lap to read a book. Closeness matters.

Teens may outgrow much of that but they still want to know that you love them more than anything else. Make sure they know it. If they doubt your love, they’ll go searching for it wherever they can get it.

The teen years are the letting go years, and independence is the goal, but one thing we should never let go of is the pursuit of our teens heart.

Do you have teens and toddlers? What similarities do you see?

2 Minute Ways to Feel Productive

If you are caring for young children, you know that your time is not your own. Many days you don’t have five minutes to yourself. You try to unload the dishwasher and someone needs you. You come back later to the job half done and it’s frustrating.

Instead of getting frustrated, settle for doing things in small chunks of time as you can. If you feel like you’re not accomplishing much, think of your days in small chunks of time and attempt life that way. The small chunks certainly can add up and you’ll find you are not as frustrated and are much more productive.

Something is better than nothing.

What can be done in two minutes? Here are a few ideas.

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  • Glance down at your Bible on the counter for a word of encouragement or instruction.
  • Write out a verse on a card for your fridge.
  • Text a friend, “I’m thinking of you.”
  • Rotate the laundry.
  • Write a thank you.
  • Water the plants.
  • Make a bed.
  • Clean a toilet.
  • Wipe down a counter or Windex an appliance.
  • Wash a glass door that is full of hand prints.
  • Braid your daughter’s hair.
  • Pull out meat from the freezer for dinner.
  • Straighten the pillows on a couch and fold a blanket artfully.
  • Sweep the porch or deck.
  • Check the mail.
  • Tidy up the shoes by the door.

What are some other ways you find to be productive with little snatches of time?

 

Straight Talk About Renewing Your Mind

Maybe you assume that because my blog is named Joy-Filled Days, that I am naturally a half-glass full, Pollyanna type who always sees the good in everyone and everything. That is not true. You know from reading here that choosing joy is a choice I have to make, and by God’s grace I have.

Maybe you didn’t know that I sometimes struggle with my thought life. Discouragement lurks in the corners of my heart, and I’m not alone in this struggle, and neither are you.

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We see many examples in scripture of godly men like Job and David who struggled with low thoughts as well, prompting Job to write “Why did I not perish at birth, and die as I came from the womb?” and David to write “”Be merciful to me, Lord, for I am faint; O Lord, heal me, for my bones are in agony. My soul is in anguish. How long, O Lord, how long? I am worn out from groaning; all night long I flood my bed with weeping and drench my couch with tears” (Psalm 6:2-3, 6). 

{This post is about temporary depression or discouragement, not clinical depression.}

I’ve had to learn to examine my thoughts, especially when it comes to my children. I can be washing the dishes, and in ten seconds in the theater of my mind I will have played out a worst case scenario: a child drowning or being abducted. I’ve parented from a place of fear because of these tendencies, believing the lie that I could somehow shield my kids from all evil if I were vigilant enough. Of course, this is a burden reserved for God alone and one that I was never meant to carry.

I’ve learned that what I dwell upon greatly helps or hinders my emotional and spiritual well-being.

God, in His mercy, has taught me a few things about the importance of renewing my mind and that’s what I intend to share with you today. I’ll warn you, I have to be hard with myself. It is a battle, so if these things seem harsh, I apologize. I’m usually hard on myself and easier on others and don’t intend to burden you at all. If this helps you, great. If it doesn’t, and maybe you’d benefit from another approach to renewing your mind, feel free to do what works for you! The end goal is renewing your mind, not following my steps  Whatever approach you take, the battle can only be won through the help of the Holy Spirit, Word-saturation, and prayer. And remember, God will daily give you the grace you need.

1. Transformation comes about by renewal.

This talk is hard because it’s about submission.

Our culture hates the idea of submission to any person, group, religion or organization, and if I am honest, my flesh hates it as well, because my flesh loves to do what it wants to with no consequences.

But as a believer,  “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Gal. 2:20 This means that my “flesh” is in a casket somewhere and that God is living within me helping me to believe and live by faith.

“Biblical” thinking is scorned by society, and submission to biblical teachings is deemed primitive, backwards, enslavement, or akin to having rocks in your head.

Culture teaches that I am the greatest god, and if it’s right for me, then that’s all that matters. There’s no higher authority than self.

But no matter what our culture says, as women who are bought with a price and want to serve God, we line our lives up under His Word. (Or at least we try!) God is our authority and we voluntarily and happily submit to God’s word as revealed in the Bible. When culture contradicts scripture, God’s word is what we follow. And when our flesh rises up against scripture, it’s time to “put off” the old man, “put on” the new man, both of which take effort and will on our part.

Romans 12:2 teaches us that instead of conformity to the world, what we really need is transformation through renewing our minds.

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

In Christ, we are new creatures. I’m not how I used to be.  So when my thoughts start returning to the old way of thinking, I need help. It comes by renewing my mind by knowing God, His glory, and His word. The word transformed in this verse means metamorphosis.

How does this happen? Where do you turn?

And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.

2 Cor. 3:18

 

The triune God is the only thing large enough and interesting enough to bear the weight of glory, and ultimately worship. Anything else will break your heart…We were created by God and for God and until we understand that, we are restless, brokenhearted glory chaser, always seeking something more.

Matt Papa

2. We are not alone. He have a Helper.

The Holy Spirit prompts you to change as you behold God’s glory.

Your job is respond.

Thankfully, the Holy Spirit is always with us to encourage us to pursue godliness and to remind us of all we have and are in Christ Jesus. He reminds us that we are one with God, and that our ultimate happiness comes when we live in that place of oneness.

3. The Bible encourages us to check our thoughts.

Just because we think it, doesn’t mean it is true, and just because we dwell on it, doesn’t make it right.

One of the most valuable actions you can take when a thought comes to your mind is to evaluate it before you believe it.

Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ; 

2 Cor. 10:5

Think of a toy-sieve that your child uses at the beach. They pour all the sand through the plastic grid, and as it slides through, the rocks, seaweed, glass, and sticks are more clearly seen and separated. Little hands pull out the junk and unwanted pieces and toss them aside.

Although hard to swallow, our thought life is our responsibility. We are responsible to discard the junk, and the Bible is our sieve.

As thoughts come in, think:

  • Where did this thought come from?
  • Where will it lead me if I follow it?
  • Does this thought agree with scripture?
  • Is is true, honest, just?
  • It is pure, lovely, of good report, virtuous, or praise worthy?
  • It is judgmental, proud, expedient?
  • Does it promote unity?
  • Does this thought show the character of Christ?
  • Does it lead me to love this person or despise them?
  • Does it lead me to hope in God or believe that He has abandoned me?
  • Is this thought self-centered and therefore proud?

Our emotions are like smoke from the fire of the alter of the true god we worship. ~Matt Papa

 

4. We reap what we sow in our thought life. We get what we plant and our thoughts have consequences.

When we think too much about ourselves and how all the people around us are not living up to our expectations, when we dwell on our problems and make big of them, or we indulge in self-condemning thoughts about how we’ve messed up our lives and how nothing will ever turn out right, we are planting a crop that will grow and bear fruit. 

When you plant unloving thoughts about another person, you will reap broken relationships and hate in your own heart.

When you second guess everyone’s motives, you’ll reap walls built up by your lack of love.

When you dwell in self-condemnation {when in Christ you have no condemnation!}, you’ll surely end up discouraged or depressed.

When you think too much about how others relate to you, or too much how others have wronged you, or too much how you’ve let everyone around you down including yourself, you have thought too much about SELF.

Self focus sends me spiraling, friends.

When I make big of problems, or dream up the worst, and think too little about God, and forget His glory and goodness, or neglect my Bible, I’m setting a course and choosing a path.

I need truth to wash over me and renew my mind so I can see truth as it really is and arm myself against Satan’s lies.

This is the truth right now:

  • God loves me and took extreme measures to have a relationship with me.
  • Nothing can separate me from the love of God–not a wayward child, a financial crisis, a broken marriage, nothing.
  • God gave me His Holy Spirit so I wouldn’t be bogged down by the broken thoughts of this world. Although I am in a broken world, I don’t lose hope because God is greater.
  • Hard truth:: I deserved hell for my sin, not only in my future when I die, but I deserved hell today, but I didn’t get what I deserved. This is all due to God’s goodness. That means that no matter how hard today may seem, it is FAR better than what I deserve and with eyes of gratitude I can thank God for the day before me.

5. Fight back.

I’ve learned that renewing my mind means putting scripture before me in an intentional way.

I post verses because I need to see them.

I post Bible based art because it’s beneficial for my mind and soul.

I fight back because I sometimes desire social media over my bible reading.

I keep an open Bible on my counter because I need every little glance on the days when my phone is ringing off the hook and problems are piling and kids are in chaos and my soul is crumbling under the weight of it all.

I put God’s word on my fridge and my mirrors, smack dab in front our faces because as John Piper said, “I wake up in the morning with Satan sitting on my face.”

The struggle is real, and I want you to know you are not alone. I hope this helps you and encourages you to be intentional to renew your mind, read God’s word, fight to see Him in a world where everything is vying for your attention.

What do you do to renew your mind? Share your helps in the comments or on FB. Thanks, friends.

The Good Stuff for Your Weekend

Some family news:

Matthew is a high school senior and is graduating this May. He takes his ACT this Saturday. He’s working quite a bit to pay for college and is still applying. Pray for him?

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Rebekah is graduating from Bob Jones University this May. We’re so thankful for the experiences she’s had there. She can’t wait to come home for the summer because who doesn’t love New England, ;) but she’s also been offered a job on campus for next year as she continues her education. She also has a boy down there that she thinks is pretty great, so…

Emily is getting ready to travel this summer with the Musical Missions Team!

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She’ll be singing and playing her violin in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and Slovakia. We’re having a fund raising yard sale and a pie bake sale the last Saturday of April. We’ve already got pie orders galore and my mom and I will be elbow deep in rolling crusts for apple pies. So fun to be helping support my Emmy! Emmy also has a boy who she thinks is pretty great who just got an internship to do cancer research this summer, so they’ll both be busy as they are apart for the summer. :) 

Hope you all have a wonderful weekend. Here are a few good things for you. Enjoy!

Good Articles::

To the Well-Intentioned but Ignorant Parent of Teens.  You need to know and care about these social media outlets that you have no idea your teens are using. #livebroadcastingyourwholelife. Yeah, that.

A Clean House and A Wasted Life. We’re artsy over here and we like projects. Projects=temporary messes, so yeah, I loved this article.

Good Food::

Best Pound Cake Ever. Made this for Easter and will be making it again this week. Recipe via Southern Living.

You have to try this delish Lemon Blueberry Layer Cake that my friend Janelle made for Easter. I ate every morsel. Yum.

This is my favorite ever coffee. Prepared in the French Press, it’s like heaven.

Books I loved::

I read a lot and publishers send me advanced copies to read and review. Honestly, not many make the “raving” department. These did.

Everyday Grace: Infusing All Your Relationships With the Love of Jesus written by Jessica Thompson, Elyse Fitzpatrick’s daughter, so…

There is so much to love about this book. I shared quite a few quotes on FB. It is great for wherever you are right now because relationships are all around us. Our relationships with our husband, kids, and friends can either be healthy or idolatrous. This book helps you sort that out. Run thee to get it!

Fear and Faith: Finding the Peace Your Heart Craves by Trillia Newbell addresses all of the ways fear creeps in and paralyzes our hearts and how trusting Christ implicitly helps replace fear.

Look and Live: Behold the Soul-Thrilling, Sin-Destroying Glory of Christ. This is a book that was life changing for me. It’s about the glory of God. I’m still processing it and Matt is now reading it, but basically, if you feel that your worship is anemic, or that your love for God is sub-par, perhaps it’s because you don’t have a full grasp of the majesty and glory of God. As with many current books, I can’t recommend this one without reservation, because we are coming from different philosophies, but if you are a discerning reader you’ll benefit immensely from it. I really appreciated this book!

A Thousand Miles to Freedom: My Escape from North Korea. Peter read this to us all at bed time and it was a riveting and eye opening story about the oppression of the North Korean people and the desperation that drives them to flee the dictatorship. We couldn’t wait for the next chapter. (caveat: it needed very mild editing in our estimation for our youngest.)

 Good Products::

 

We have two cats and we love them both dearly. But we don’t love when they have accidents. This “Pet Odor Eliminator & Pet Urine Cleaner” works. Not at all glamorous, but you have to keep your home clean and fresh.

You all know how much I love my Ninja chopper. My girls use it daily to make smoothies and I use it for everything. The last time I made my Chai Tea Mix I scratched the plastic bowl all up and it looks horrible. We tried this Black & Decker PS1000B 3-Cup Ergo Chopper  and it seems like it’s comparable. It is less expensive than the Ninja and so far so good on the chopping. (For all of you kitchen tool connoisseurs out there, be warned that I am not one to spend big money on kitchen stuff. If I were going to spend money in the kitchen it would be on nice pans, but that’s about it. Apart from my KitchenAid  Mixer which I couldn’t live without, I don’t really need expensive kitchen stuff. That said, I make most of my stuff from scratch, and cook several meals a day and it all comes out okay in the end. ;) )

I’m in the market for a small, cross-body purse that will hold just a few things: keys, phone, iPod, wallet, lipstick. I am considering a Vera Bradley or a Bagallini, but wanted to ask if you had any favorites you could recommend.

Have a great weekend.

(*Post contains affiliate links. )

 

 

Facing Worry and Breaking the Cycle

The last three weeks feel like the rug of life has been pulled out from under us. We’ve had our share of trials to say the least. We are still waiting for things to right themselves.

We’ve experienced run of the mill trials, we’ve hurt with friends who’ve had life altering trials, we’ve experienced our own heart aches, and we’ve seen God orchestrating our lives in an unexpected manner.

God has brought a situations into our lives out of the blue and we are anticipating the outcome. All we can do is wait and try not to freak out. The Lord seems to be placing an opportunity into our laps that we’d never considered or sought. The situation is so overwhelming that I had no appetite for a week. (I lost 3 lbs.)

Then I realize that my old friend fear has surfaced.

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Worry has a way of making me feel at home and productive in a deceptive way  and choosing faith is one of those basics of the Christian life that I find I am having to go back and address all over again.

I was recently asked to write an article for Trillia Newbell’s new book launch Fear and Faith: Finding the Peace Your Heart Craves (available April 1st!).  I recounted the many fears I had as a new mother. I felt like a crazy lady submitting it because writing down irrational fears and submitting it for the world to read is terrifying and humbling, and in hindsight, I think fear was the controlling motivator in my life FOR YEARS.

But writing the article had two other benefits. I saw the grace of God, from where I used to be to what He’s done in my life to date. But it was also a rebuke to myself for today, because I realized that old habits die hard and though I’ve made progress over the 22 years I’ve been a mom in the “worry department”, fighting for faith is a life long pursuit. Isn’t God so patient and kind with us?

One thing that has helped me over the years is reading the Psalms. I’ve always noticed “patterns” and reading David helped me see his thought patterns and helped me get a grip on my own worry.

When you read the Psalms you notice that David::

  • gets his eyes off the Lord and onto problems>>
  • which leads him to fear, despair, hide, complain, compare>>
  • and then he remembers God and his faithfulness and covenants (read:: meditates on the right things)> >
  • and then David rejoices and hopes.

I’m preaching to my own heart a lot lately in the midst of all this uncertainty about where I’ve set my gaze. And the Lord was so good to me to send me Trillia’s book free of charge to encourage me to keep trusting Him.

Worry needs to be faced head on, friends. It’s not something to toy with or ignore. It can’t grow unchallenged deep in the recessed of your mind because it’s an assault on the goodness of God. At its core, it’s unbelief. Unbelief!

It’s doubt. It’s a control issue. It’s all bad things–really bad things–and it’s an assault on our faith from within ourselves that needs to be challenged.

Sometimes to live a life of faith, you have to do battle with your own mind. You realign your rogue thoughts. You take captive the God-offending, God-accusing junk of your own mind and call it what it is: unbelief. I’m not believing God’s word today. Sometimes admitting the problem is the first step to fixing it.

If I continue to focus on my problems, they GROW to larger than life. If I mediated on the FUTURE and don’t see God in the picture anywhere, fear freezes and paralyzes me. I’m living like God doesn’t exist when my thinking goes off like that.

It’s only as I set my hope in God and understand that

  • he leads
  • he protects
  • he knows
  • he sees
  • he ordains
  • he loves
  • he cares
  • he is there in my future

that I find confidence to drop the worry and run to Jesus for rest.

When I forget God, I’m pretty much relying on my own reserves which are piddly at best.

Today, my encouragement is for you to look away from your problems to your God who is bigger than any of them. Then “Cast your burden upon the Lord and He will sustain you.” And no backsies. If you find yourself worrying, give it back to the Lord again. He’s faithful and by faith, you can trust Him!

 

Monday Morning Worries

It’s Monday morning. I’ve already hit the ground running.

Before 7 am, I’ve washed my sheets, cleaned the bathroom, had my devotions and coffee. Last week was crazy busy and I’m not expecting this week to be any different, so I plan and economize and…in truth, I worry.

Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.

Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.

I don’t know if I’ll have all the strength, energy, wisdom, resources, or will-power to complete this week according to my ideals.

When it’s all about me and my resources, it’s deflating, friends.

It’s easy for me to get bogged down before I even start the day. I’ve scribble down our to-do list, a grocery list, a remember list. I have to remember to get this child to skating and this child to work. I like checking things off my lists, declaring them “done.”

And our check lists don’t end on paper. Oh no, we also have these mental check lists as well, a sort of running commentary of all the things that could ever go wrong and threaten to overwhelm us. Am I right? There’s no check box for that list. It’s always there, never done.

We think about all that is before us in the future, all the health and emotional needs around us, the unknowns, the looming bills that need to be paid, that problem in our own life that is still unresolved, that problem in our friend’s life that we feel helpless to counsel never mind fix, that problem in our church, that deficiency in our own life, and how all of these things will affect our kids.

In short, we worry and borrow trouble and it weighs us down.

Jesus knew this tendency in humans and tells us to stop living as though we have no Heavenly Father.

Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 

Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?

And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, 

yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 

But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 

Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.

Matthew 6:25-32

Of course, this is just one passage that reminds (actually commands us) not to worry. To worry is to question God’s goodness to His own children.

Earlier in Matthew 6 we see there are other things people worry about:

  • some religious people worried about getting the praise of men, so they used religion as a tool to get what they wanted. They played a role for applause, and God saw it and saw through it and declared them hypocrites. To desire the praise of men is to be a glory-thief. Nobody is worthy of praise but our God.
  • We worry about saving money and amassing wealth and luxury, but God tells us that all earthly treasures will eventually rot. The only treasure that last is what we lay up in heaven by serving the Lord here.

I tend to worry when I forget that God takes care of me and is in control. Matthew 6 tells me that God has not forgotten me and He knows everything I need.

This is a comfort! I don’t need to carry these burdens. “Cast your burdens upon the Lord.” Worrying does nothing but weigh me down and keep me focused on the wrong things.

My focus should be–>”Your Heavenly Father.” (Matt. 6:32)

He knows what I need. He knows what my family needs. He knows what my friends need. He sees that problem and can handle it.

He’s faithful.

When I worry, I’ve forgotten my Heavenly Father.Problems are big and He is small in my mind. I’ve dwarfed Him and minimized Him and I doubt He’s amused.

I’m living like an orphan when I have the best Father possible.

He gently reminds me, “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things shall be added unto you.” (vs. 33) Stop living for the lesser things (like praise or money). It’s never-satisfying.

Worry is living for the here and now instead of remembering that I’m not made for this world, and I am just a pilgrim here, and my Heavenly Father has called me to a higher calling and to a Kingdom mindset that takes the focus off of self and places it on the majesty and glory of the Lord!

And with that mindset, worry vanishes, just like that.

The symptoms of a dissatisfied soul

My youngest daughter loves making bubbles. Not the blow-through-the-wand variety–those are too mainstream. She makes huge bubbles with her hands and some dish washing foam. She calls me over, “Quick! Look how big this one is!” It’s fun to see them expand, until POP– they are gone. Nothing left.

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Vanity. Vapor. Really big for a moment and then gone. All form and no substance.

That’s what I was reminded of today in my reading of Ecclesiastes. And Hope’s bubbles remind me that our life cannot be lived for things that don’t last.

We all chase and blow bubbles that we believe will give us fulfillment. They’re oh so big and captivating at the moment.

The bubbles we chase vary: entertainment, experiences, prestige, acceptance, recognition, understanding, excess, power, success, control.

We carefully craft life to make it work according to our desires.

Some try to find fulfillment in ministry or social work.

Sometimes we work for the wrong reasons and to the detriment of those we love.

Some seek happiness by law keeping and others by law breaking.

Some seek elicit s*x, mind numbing drugs or anything else that will fill the void that is DISSATISFACTION.

Dissatisfaction.

It’s that aching sense that you’re missing out, that there’s got to be something more. It’s looking for wholeness in broken things that can only ever deliver brokenness and were never meant to hold any real place in our hearts.

As I look around at our culture, we’re seeking a personalized happiness and will do whatever it takes to get it. Nobody will stand in our way. We’re self sufficient people. My happiness trumps yours. Happiness and self are twin gods that we idolize, worship, and recklessly chase. 

In this pursuit, we chase the “latest and greatest.” We are enthralled by electronic gadgets. We spend much of our discretionary money on the here and now as if the Kingdom of Heaven did not exist.

We spend hours scouring social media. We’re like the Athenians in Acts 17 who were always seeking some new teaching or philosophy and  “would spend their time in nothing except telling or hearing something new.” Dissatisfied, distracted, and seeking the next new.

The Bible calls the pursuit of things that won’t last vanity.

And Ecclesiastes tells us why none of these fillers will satisfy:”He has put eternity into man’s heart…” (Eccl. 3:11)

Solomon was the wisest and richest King to ever live and he tried it all and wrote about it for our instruction in Ecclesiastes.

By his own words, he says that he tried pleasure, laughter, escapism, wine, women, work, making a name for himself by building the grandest of buildings and vineyards, entertainment, wealth, seeking power over people so much so that he had become “so great and surpassed all who were before me in Jerusalem.” He “kept his heart from no pleasure.” And yet, he comes to the conclusion that life that is lived outside of the knowledge and enjoyment of Christ is worthless.

If you remember English Grammar in elementary school, you remember prepositions. They tell you where something is in relationship to something else.

Solomon tells us that there is something above man, this God of the Bible who controls all things. And that this knowledge of God and eternity is within the man. He also reminds us that death is ahead of each of us and that dying is one of the realities of living.

We were not made for the here and now, we were created as eternal souls and nothing on this earth will bring us fulfillment until we are fulfilled in Christ. It is madness to live as though this life is all there is.

As Christians, we know this, but do we live it?

How much time did we spend last week in our Bibles getting to know the only One who can bring us satisfaction?

Or how many times did we live like self was of supreme importance last week?

Seeking satisfaction in self-stuff or in Christ. Those are the options.

Obviously, selfishness is the antithesis of Christianity. We know this and we know better.

And yet, we continue to blow bubble for ourselves, then cry when they pop. We get mad when they disappear or irritated when people bump into our bubbles and pop them. We pout when people don’t appreciate our bubbles like we think they should. We get offended when our bubbles are not recognized or applauded, or become discouraged or discontent when others have more bubbles than we do.

We need to see through our bubbles for clarity. And we need to pop them if they are idols. See, bubbles can be good things that become bad things when we love them too much.

God does give us good things, but they were never meant to replace Him in our hearts.

God does lavish us with gifts, but we can not live for them and forget the Giver.

When we see through the gifts to the Giver, on the outside our life may not look like it has changed, but we have changed inside.

We find fulfillment in whatever work we do, whether private or public, whether praised or criticized.  The work will no longer be about you. If the work is taken away or given to someone else, we won’t despair.

Our entertainment will no longer be about us, but about God’s will and ways even as we enjoy it. We’ll seek to build godly character in our entertainment and free time activities.

We’ll begin to live “mindful of God.”

We’ll work “as unto the Lord.”

We’ll serve “to the praise of His glorious grace.”

It’s amazing how perspective changes everything and informs and changes our motives.

It’s amazing how the bubbles that we once chased and demanded can pop into oblivion and we’re okay with that when our trust and hope are in the Lord. It’s exciting that the things that once allured us have no control over us any longer and we can just enjoy the creation BECAUSE of the Creator, reflecting back praise to Him who gives us all good gifts.

Video: DIY twiggy front door cross {from my beautiful sister! Woot!}

So many of you loved and asked for a tutorial for my sister’s front door cross, that I asked Amy to make a video for us and she agreed! Woot. I love her and her lovely front door decor. Enjoy!

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Top 10 Favorite Recipes for Youth Group Activities

If you work in youth ministries, you’ve probably prepared a lot of food.

Of course, youth ministries is more than food.  It’s about encouraging hearts who are often trying to navigate the turbulent waters of adolescence, affirming the love of God to kids who often don’t feel good enough or accepted.

It’s about loving kids when they are unlovable and teaching truth at appropriate times, gauging when your listener if ready and able to receive it. And it’s about enjoying life together as joint heirs and members of the same body of Christ.

It’s about encouraging moms (and dads) to persevere in truth, and being a listener and friend when they struggle in this fallen flesh as we all do.

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But, no doubt, food for teens is huge. I’ve had several friends ask me to share some of my go-to recipes for feeding our youth group, so here you go.

1. Pizza. 

My dough recipe: (makes one crust)

1 cup warm water

1 pkg. yeast

1 T. sugar

Dissolve these three together. Allow to sit until surface looks “bubbly” so you know the yeast activated.

Stir in 3 cups flour, 2 T olive oil, 1 T. salt. Knead until smooth. Place in greased bowl to rise, about an hour.

Spread into pizza pan that has been heavily greased with Crisco. Add toppings: sauce, cheese, garlic powder, oregano.

Pizza sauce (this is enough for two pizzas)

I make my own pizza sauce by draining the water out of a can of crushed tomatoes. Then I saute 2 cloves or garlic in olive oil, add the tomatoes, 2 bay leaves, and 1 T sugar. Cook until thick and dark, about 10 minutes. I throw in some chopped parsley at the last minute and add some black pepper if I feel like it.

I bake at 450 degrees for 12-15 minutes or until cheese is slightly bubbly and browning.

2. Cranberry Meatballs

In a crock pot, mix 2 bags frozen Swedish meatballs, 2 cans Ocean Spray whole berry cranberry sauce, 2 jars Heinz chili sauce (NOT cocktail sauce which looks similar.)

Cook several hours on high in crock pot, stirring to cover the meatballs occasionally.

3. Cranberry Kielbasa

Slice 2 pkg Hillshire Farms Polska Kielbasa into 1/2 inch slices. Fry in a large frying pan until mostly cooked. Add a can of Ocean Spray cranberry sauce and 2 T. brown sugar.

Easy and delish.

 

4. Taco Salad with Doritos 

1 1/2 lb. ground beef
1 sm. onion, diced
1 pkg. taco seasoning mix
1 lg. bottle Catalina salad dressing (16 oz.)
8 oz. grated cheddar cheese
1 med. size bag Doritos, crushed
3 med. tomatoes
Large bag of iceberg lettuce salad
Brown ground beef and drain. Add taco seasoning mix according to package directions. After cooking, drain excess liquid.
In a large bowl combine meat, chopped onion, cheese, tomatoes and lettuce. Add crushed corn chips. Toss to coat together with Catalina salad dressing. 
5. White Chocolate Covered Chex Mix :: this recipe is just like mine but I don’t use Cheerios. I double the Chex Mix. And I never measure, so… :)
6. Ice Cream Pie. Easy. Chocolate cookie graham cracker crusts, filled with softened ice cream. Freeze. You can drizzle with with hot fudge and garnish with whipped cream and crushed candy before serving.
7. Chocolate Chip cookies.  This is the recipe I use.
8. Buffalo Chicken Dip. An all time favorite with our teens. I don’t use canned chicken. I just boil a few chicken breasts and shred them myself.
9. Soda floats. Root beer, coke,  or orange soda, over ice and with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Yum. 
10. Just like Sonic Cherry Limeade. We make these by using a bottle of Sprite, 1/4 c grenadine syrup, the juice of 4 freshly squeezed limes, and small jar of maraschino cherries, juice and all.