Archive for Christian Parenting

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 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.

Why the Internet Seems Silent about Raising Christian Teens

There have been quite a few articles floating around about the lack of articles and support for middle aged moms who are raising teens. Information for young moms is abundant, but for the mom raising Christian teens? *crickets*crickets*

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The vacuum is real.

I think I know why.

Parents of teens realize they don’t know it all. Parenting check lists are out the window. Parents of teens have been there, done that. We listen with patient tolerance as younger moms offer unwarranted “expertise.”

We’re holding on to grace and God’s promises with both hands.

We know what it means to have faith and to watch in anticipation as you take off the training wheels and let your kids ride away for themselves. It’s wobbly and hopeful and wonderful and frightening all at the same time.

Parents of teens know how to pray hard. We pray hard because we know we’ve made mistakes and haven’t been the perfect parent. We pray hard because we know how rough the world is and what our kids are up against. We know how sin messes up lives and how Satan would like to sift our kids like wheat.

By the time you have a teen you’ve grown up yourself. You wish you hadn’t felt so free to write off the mom that struggled here, or so quick to comment about the issues we saw over there. In short, humility begins to be a virtue in your own life and judgement takes a back seat.

By the time you have teens, the sanctification process is in full swing and you see yourself in your teen’s struggles.

You’re less apt to comment on the drama, apathy, tears, hormones, sin, and failures of your almost adult teen who is caught in the flux and flow of trying to get wisdom.

Our teens are not born wise. They are in and out of varying states (depending on the child, day, time of month, etc….) of what the Proverbs categorizes as wise, simple, foolish, and full blown scorners.

This should not be a shock to you because this is your story, too. Every day you wake up a sinner and go to bed a sinner. Hopefully you are fighting the spiritual battle and leaning in to God’s word every day a little more. Reliance and submissiveness are becoming the norms. Like mountain climbing, we go before them, and reach down with a helping hand to pull them up when needed. We point out the glorious scenery, give them support, tell them where the rocks are loose and where the ledges are. We encourage them to keep climbing.

This past week, my husband and I attended a conference where the topic was on discipleship. Discipleship was defined as “leveraging all that you are and have to help someone else become more like Christ.” Discipleship does life “as you go” and models how to live.

The truth is that our teens have been watching our “model” of life for years. They’ve picked up what we really believe by watching us.

Our kids watch us to learn how to live. Our teens already know how we live.

Hopefully, you’ve modeled a life of integrity. Hopefully you are the same person at home as you are in church. Hopefully you build others up in front of their faces and behind their backs as well. Hopefully you are magnifying Christ in the little choices, the secret choices. Hopefully our character is like Daniel who, when nobody else was watching, would not defile himself with the king’s meat. Daniel’s private choices, prepared him for the BIG stuff later on. Choosing death over false worship and facing the lion’s den was not a hard choice because he had made right choices all along.

But because we are not perfect, our kids need to see repentance modeled. They need to see repentance from a parent before they know how to repent themselves. Saving face with your teens or others by smoothing things over, blame shifting, quasi-telling someone you are “sorry they were hurt”, is not modeling Biblical repentance. Repentance is a turning away, an agreeing with God about your sin which you now see as wicked.

Raising teens means dealing with their sin with humility and grace, restoring ‘in the spirit of meekness, watching yourself, lest you be tempted.” There are no shortcuts and dealing with sin is a life long process. If you had a quick fix for sin, you would have ceased from being a sinner yourself.

Don’t condemn their brand of sin while excusing your own.

I once overheard a mom giving her daughter an angry verbal tongue lashing over her “sin.” In public. In front of her friends. She talked to this girl worse than she would talk to a dog. She was out of control but felt righteous in her judgement. This mom did more damage than good. She used her tongue inappropriately to point out the “sin” in her kid. This is blindness and madness.

Accusations close the heart. Angry words build walls. “The kindness of the Lord leads to repentance.” Romans 2:4

Our teens may be tempted to sin in ways that don’t tempt us. Younger people seem to be more tempted in the areas of immoral desires, pride, cravings for wealth or power, jealousy, envy, apathy, laziness, or an argumentative spirit.

Maybe our pet sins are different, but they are still an affront to the face of a good and holy God. The most important lesson we can teach a child is that God is good and wants us to repent when we mess up.

As Grace-receivers ourselves, we point to the Grace-Giver.

Dealing with the struggles of an adult child can really be like a mirror, reminding us of the idolatrous struggles we recognize in our own life every day.

Have you ever failed to love the Lord with all your heart? This is at the root of all our struggles. When we get this right, our vision changes, our heart aligns to what God wants and we go to Him for “rest.” We repent and turn back.

Christians who have received grace extend grace. Christians who have received forgiveness extend forgiveness.

The alternative to asking forgiveness and finding grace is to cover up our sin. We ignore it, excuse it, or justify it. This leads us away from the cross, deeper into isolation, away from help, and vulnerable to spiritual attack. The mom (or teen) who covers up their sin will not prosper.

When your teen is sinful, bring them to the foot of the cross where they find forgiveness.

If we really believe that Jesus is the answer and that grace is for sinners, we won’t pretend that we don’t need help with our sin or grace and forgiveness. And we won’t isolate our kids when they come to us for help.

I told you it gets messy, and that is the very reason I believe that few people write about raising teens– which is a shame. The grace and hope that is available for sinful men and women is available for teens as well.

And as a mom of four teens, I’m thankful for grace and strength and for the Word of God that points us all to the cross and to the goodness of our God.

Your turn: What do you think? Do you agree? Why do you think the internet is quiet when it comes to raising teens?

 

What My Daughters Need to Know This Valentines Day

Ask your daughter this question: “Who are you? Describe you.”

I work with teen girls and I’ve asked this very question. They nervously and giggly begin telling me what they excel at and enjoy.

I’m so and so’s girl friend. I play the piano. I draw and paint. I write stories. I am a dreamer, runner, friend, singer, student, soccer player, Spanish speaker, etc.  

They describe attainments and roles.

What answers pop into your mind when you think about who you are? I find that we self-define in similar ways: I am a wife, mother, teacher, grandmother, speaker, artist, author, secretary, ministry wife. I homeschool, knit, grow organic food, vaccinate, don’t vaccinate, etc.

Although we play many roles in life, but this is not who we are. We are first and foremost a PERSON in a personal relationship with Christ.

Why does knowing this matter?

Because it’s a fundamental. Knowing who I am in Christ keeps me grounded and secure in His love and Word no matter what happens to me in life.

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Ephesians is one of my favorite go-to Scriptures for spiritual identity. It tells us that in Christ we are

  • blessed (1:3)
  • chosen (1:3)
  • adopted into God’s family as a son/heir (1:5)
  • redeemed by the precious blood of Christ (1:7)
  • forgiven of all my sin (1:7)
  • lavishly given God’s grace (1:8)
  • sealed and secure through the Holy Spirit (1:13, 14)

I am who God says I am in scripture. I am not the sum total of my roles.

  • My husband is a blessing, but if he leaves, I am not diminished or loved any less by God.
  • When my children leave home my job may change, but my purpose in life is the same: to live to the praise and glory of God no matter what I am doing.
  • If we lose our house, or friends, or ministry, we will not be shaken because our standing in Christ can never be taken away.

I fear that we confuse roles for true identity and look for significance in what we do and how others relate to us in our roles.

Girls, you are a person first and your God wants a personal relationship with you.

You may never have a husband. Or maybe you will and he will walk away. At your core, you are still a person living in the presence of God. He wants a personal relationship with you first, before all of your other relationships. He wants your satisfaction to come from Him alone, not in your roles, your abilities, or your achievements. Keeping Christ central is essential to fulfilling your other roles in a godly manner.

We live in a world that is no friend to my daughters. It screams and promotes worldliness which is contrary to Scripture. The world peddles its goods to my girls, promising them satisfaction in everything and anything apart from God.

You have to flaunt it to be noticed. You’ll never be anything if you don’t look like this. Follow your heart, forget the rest. To be popular, you need to _____, and the more popular you are the better. “Likes” matter. You need to be extraordinary. The pretty girls are the thin ones. You need Botox. You need this brand to be popular. You need, you need, you need.

At its root, of course, the world promotes worldliness. It’s usually a self-centered, grasping, covetousness message meant to make you unhappy with what you don’t have and ready to do what it takes to get it. Covetousness is the very essence of worldliness. (James 4:4)

James 4 tells us that we crave, and strive, and war because our worldly passions are driving us to seek satisfaction in all the wrong places. “You desire and do not have, so you…war.” (James 4:4)

War is one response. When we sin to get what we want, we know we are acting on covetous desires. What lengths will you go to get what you believe will satisfy you?

James also tells us that our satisfaction is elusive. “You covet and cannot obtain so you fight and quarrel.” (4:2)

And mercifully, God is not willing to give you your covetous desires. “You ask and do not receive,  because you ask wrongly to spend it on your passions.” James 4:3 (envy, covetous motives.)

Why? Because God is jealous for your heart and wants to dwell in it exclusively. “Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us.” James 4:5,

It all comes back to you and God. God wants your wholehearted devotion. He doesn’t want you to do great things for Him or be great things for Him. He wants you to love Him.

That’s what I want my girls to know this Valentine’s Day, because all of life and love starts there. If Jesus Christ doesn’t satisfy you, nothing ever will. When you are satisfied in Christ, your circumstances almost don’t matter.

 

God-Mandated Curriculum for your Kids

Do you ever wonder what you are supposed to teach your kids?

With a market flooded with how-to manuals for parenting, it’s nearly impossible to keep up with the latest, greatest manual for raising kids.

IMG_6862.JPGWhen you are a believer, you have the Holy Spirit who guides your heart and mind and leads you to the help you need when you need it.

And in my experience with my five kids, what works for one doesn’t necessarily work with another, so we really need to depend on the Lord in our parenting. (Obviously–WHY do I even have to state such an obvious, but isn’t it true that we run to manuals more than the Lord?)

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Good news, today. I have a one size fits all parental concrete to share with you. A God-given mandatory.

We must share the mighty acts of God.

Ps 78: 4-8 (selected parts)

The things that we have seen and known, that our father’s have told us (oral, 1st hand history lesson)

We will not hide them from their children,

But tell to this coming generation, the glorious deeds of the Lord, and his might, and the wonders that he has done.

That the next generation might know them, the children yet unborn,

Here comes the why:

so that they should set their hope in God,

and not forget the works of God,

but keep his commandments,

and that they should not be like their fathers, a stubborn and rebellious generation, whose heart was not steadfast, whose spirit was not faithful to God.

The Israelites were famous for forgetting God. They were famous for being in bondage because of their sin and idolatry. God is warning us NOT to be like the Israelites in this passage,  but to remember all of the blessings of God and to tell them to our children.

This means that we tell stories. Stories of how God intervened in our lives.

For me, on top of the Biblical stories of God’s faithfulness through the generations,  I’d tell my kids

  • about the time we broke down in the dead of winter in Vermont, and we prayed as a family and a man walked up the driveway of our cottage and asked if we needed help
  • about the time we couldn’t afford violin lessons and had to opt out of lessons for a semester, until a complete stranger paid the kids conservatory tuition bill
  • about the time when God brought a man to build a room for us as a ministry to us when we needed a bedroom for Matthew. He build a family room/ministry room to suit our hospitality needs
  • about how God IS providing money every month to pay college tuition for TWO kids
  • about how God restored my mother in laws health after a serious brain hemorrhage and how people all across the country prayed
  • about  the every day answered prayers, for little things like grocery money, shoes, gas money and so much more

Has God done something wonderful for you? Tell it to your kids. It’s part of their heritage. Their God has done this! Don’ t forget!

This is a really intentional practice. It’s easier to complain and pass along our poor me stories, isn’t it? If you tell about your trials, tell of the Redeemer who brought you through.

Charles Spurgeon once said that we are all to prone to engrave our trials in marble and our blessings in the sand. 

We don’t want this to be our legacy. We need to share our blessings.

 

How has God acted on your behalf? Share in the comments, then share with your kids!!

 

 

 

Hey, What Are You Looking At?

It’s that time of year.

We began our homeschool year this week and as I evaluate where each child is, the old tendency to compare surprises my heart yet again. Comparison is always a cruel tormentor:

Maybe we should have done that curriculum all along. Why is she struggling with these math facts? Did I use the wrong method? Did I not spend enough time with this child laying foundations? 

Panic creeps in as we compare our “right now” to some dreamed up version of what life must be like in the Joneses house.

The snare of compare. (pdf here)

Sometimes I wonder if the Lord feels like calling to me, HEY, What are you looking at?! Get your eyes back on Me!

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Where He Leads me, I will follow.

Do you ever feel this way? Maybe you don’t homeschool, but do you wonder if you should perhaps be feeding your kids all organic food, or decorating your home like so and so, or maybe you should try the child raising techniques that the Joneses seem so enthusiastic about?

It’s easier to follow other people’s methods than to follow the Lord.

It’s easier to take our cues from flesh and blood, from what can be seen and measured, from the confident homeschooling mom who seems to know just what she’s doing, than it is to walk by faith.

There are no glaring advertisements when you walk by faith. No printed confirmation tickets to where this ride is going to take you. No money back guarantees if you didn’t enjoy the ride.

But the just shall live by faith. Even in matters of child raising and education.

When we look to Him and set our gaze on His Word, peace ensues.

The comparison ceases as we step-step-step gently in the path He’s provided for us.

The glorious truth is that Jesus will lead us if we are willing to follow.

And although it’s fine to ask for help and wisdom from seasoned women who have had great results, we have the promise of generously, “liberally” given wisdom, to anyone who asks in faith.

If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.

I know from experience that it’s easier to hop on Google than it is to sit and pray.

I know it’s easier to talk to a friend than to pray.

It’s easier to try to do more and be more in the pursuit of excellence, but what God wants is your faith, and with that faith, He’ll perform for you. Do you believe this? Do you believe that God can take your humble efforts offered up in faith and multiply them and make them powerful for His kingdom?

When our eyes are gazing on Jesus, we can be confident that He’ll guide us through prayer and His Word.

I will let you in on a little secret: Jesus can answer your child raising questions. I can testify to this many times over. I can remember needing practical life wisdom for several issues with our kids. I would pray and ask the Lord to make His will clear and let us know how to deal with this child. I remember kneeling by the side of my sleeping stubborn toddler’s bed. I was to the point of a near break down after a particularly bad day, and I begged God to send me answers. I can tell you that He always did either through a book, or wisdom from an older woman. And once I prayed about it and left it with the Lord, I was in “wait and see” mode. I was expecting answers, and He never disappointed. We have an open ended invitation to ask God for wisdom any time we lack it. It’s one of our BEST resources. God loves your kids more than you do, after all!

My encouragement for you is to follow God on the path He has prepared for you. Keep your eyes on Him. Your life, home, ministry, and family dynamics may look totally different than mine. God has made us all unique, and He’s leading us, by His grace, to the end He has planned for us. Our job is to trust Him, obey His word, live a life of holiness and FOLLOW.

Don’t try to make your path match the Joneses. Follow Jesus.

 

 

In Praise of the Pensive Child

One of the best ways to validate your children is to accept them for who they are.

There is a huge tendency to push our kids into what we love or what is currently pushed by society. Peter has often said that “what you praise, you produce.” For instance, a school that is constantly praising and showcasing sports and promoting their athletes will produce more athletes, because children want to please and mankind grasps for mutual admiration.

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In the Christian home, if we praise virtues like thankfulness and faithfulness, versus “outcomes” like straight A’s, we’d be more apt to have hard workers and less apt to produce kids who’ll obsess or even cheat for the A.

Although this post is not theological, I believe that God has given us gifts and talents–we were fearfully and wonderfully made by a Creator– and to stifle that gift in a child defies the God who gave it and is extremely cruel.

The world needs a variety of personalities to make it interesting. Imagine a world where everyone was a visionary, a conqueror, a leader, an entrepreneur, a pusher-to-the-topper, a warrior. Certainly we need these, but we also need the beauty created by poets, writers, painters, philosophers, and musicians. We need to value those who stop to think really long and hard about a topic and research it rather than just spouting off the first thing that comes into their head, because we need more depth and truth seeking in a world stretched thin with information.

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The world needs the pensive child.

In a blaring, media-filled, message- saturated, lights blazing, get-your-moment- in-the-spotlight-and-be-famous Kardashian world, we need to encourage the pensive child.

They’re not seeking spotlights. They may even avoid crowds. They don’t want attention drawn to them and they don’t appreciate being forced to perform by pushy parents.

And please don’t mislabel them as directionless or lazy because they haven’t started the college application process by age 10.

The pensive child is an evaluator of life. She considers her place in this moment of time. She thinks before she speaks, if she ever does.

You see, she’s learned that not everyone appreciates this beauty that she sees, so she stifles her sharing, fearing the labels: “out there” or “weird” or “space-y.”

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In truth, she doesn’t mind quietly enjoying beauty alone or with a special friend, because appreciating beauty and living with eyes wide open has its own rewards: inner contentment and happiness. She may secretly feel badly for those who choose not to see. Those who’ve been consumed by the tyranny of the urgent and of electronic worlds.

She’ll lumber on, steady, intentionally, writing, drawing, observing, painting, composing, practicing.

So moms of the pensive child, readjust your expectations and encourage your child. Don’t equate thoughtful and slow to unmotivated or air-headed. And for heaven’s sake, don’t assume that because your child is not a born “goal maker” or “go getter” that he’ll never amount to anything.

While you may be caught up in the busyness of life, they are busy studying the shapes of clouds and noticing how most of the colors of the spectrum can be seen in a sunset. They are wondering how to translate that exact green of that spring leaf into their painting. They noticed the ripples on the water and wondered how to paint them. They noticed how one ripple affects the entire pond, though only seen for a moment.

They live life differently than you, maybe,

but they feel deeply and appreciate much and stop long enough to wonder. And to wonder is where real education begins. Self- education. 

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Boys, especially, are encouraged away from quiet pursuits. Poetry is seen as effeminate and painting isn’t as manly somehow as sacking someone in football.

Imagine a world without the great painters and musicians of the past. Imagine if Bach’s mother told him to head outside and play with the real boys and discouraged her son from what he was clearly born to do. Just imagine no Bach.

Whatever your child’s bent, when you embrace it, you’re loving that child where he or she is. Not trying to change to fit your ideals. Just loving and nurturing and encouraging.

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That is one of the best ways to really reach the heart of your child. It’s not hard. It’s loving them—not loving who you want them to be or who you think they should be to make you feel validated– but truly loving them.

The pensive child is relational and as a parent, you must, must, must enter their world and relate to them where they are. Show them by listening that  you love their music, that you appreciate that insight or poem. They’re sharing a piece of themselves with you.

If you don’t completely understand your pensive child, ASK them questions about what they are thinking and then just listen. Then appreciate their little insights and tell them so.

 

 

Taking Time for Little Things

Have you ever been surprised by what makes your kids happy?

They’re excited by little things.

Soap bubbles galore while doing dishes.

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Animal sightings in the yard.

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$2 glow in the dark star stickers for the bedroom ceiling

Picking wildflowers.

Skipping rocks.

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Riding bikes, playing in the yard.

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Eating lunch on the back porch.

Swinging, climbing trees.

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Motherhood isn’t as hard as we make it. It we’d just maximize our own enthusiasm for life, our kids would surely follow suit, because they’re easy to please and enthralled by life.

Children catch your enthusiasm for life, mom. (Or they catch your complaining about life. They’re great mimickers.)

When did we get so busy that we no longer notice the sunset? When did we become so enthralled in the here and now that we miss little things, like bubbles, stars and people. How did life become so heavy that we fail to smile and choose joy?

“In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God…” is an attitude adjustment verse for me.

Being fully engaged with the little people all around you is a privilege. It’s no accident. You’re here to point them to Him. And if you’re too busy to notice them, their little interests, and enjoy life with them, then your job is going to be impossible.

If you are living life like you’re carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders, relax! God’s in control. He’s spinning the planets and holding us all together.

Today, take time for little things. Give thanks. Make your thankfulness and enthusiasm for life contagious. Laughter begets laughter. Wonder begets wonder. And while you’re enjoying the little things with your little ones, remember to point them to the good and gracious God who gave us a the little things freely to enjoy. Everyday talk about God is often the most effective way to train hearts.

Have a great day!

Motherhood Does Not Negate Your Other God-Given Roles

Peter is teaching a series to our teen youth group about loving others well by working well. He presented an interesting concept about life vocations that I immediately thought would benefit moms of little ones. He was warning the teens not to be all consumed by their future paid vocation because we are called to wear many hats in this life.

And, of course, for moms, it’s easy to be all consumed and defined by motherhood.

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Motherhood is a noble calling, to be sure. Teaching moms to love their children well is part of the mandatory Titus 2 “curriculum.” But I wonder if we’ve become child-centered to a fault. Yes, if you have kids, motherhood is where you’ll put a lot of effort. That’s good, but it can also be bad if it trumps all other relationships–like if we are more a mom than we are a wife, for instance.

We are all multi-vocational.

I am not just a mother. I am also a daughter, a wife, a sister, a friend, a neighbor, an employee, a church member, a citizen of this country.

We shouldn’t define ourselves by one role.

We get all weird when we define ourself by one role. It’s like we find our security there, but that’s not healthy.

Peter gave his example to our teens: The workaholic husband.

God’s not going to say to him, “You did such a great job building your career that I don’t care that you weren’t a good father.” A husband who climbs the corporate ladder and neglects his family is neglecting God given responsibilities.

Likewise, a pastor who cares well for his church but neglects his wife and kids is not going to get a pass because his ministry was spectacular. When church life overtakes everything else, something is amiss.

And young mother who is so wrapped up in her children to the neglect of her husband, parents, siblings or church family is not loving her neighbors well. God appoints our “borders.” He puts us in families and churches and neighborhoods for a purpose. We can’t neglect those roles.

Remember, our roles have limits, meaning they stop somewhere to give way to other roles.

Don’t let one calling in life rob you of other callings.

If we aren’t careful, we can make idols of our children. They can morph into becoming the center of our world, instead of the welcome addition and blessing that they are.

Don’t get me wrong, you should love your kids! But if you can’t even go away with your husband over night because you can’t bear to leave the kids, that’s out of whack. If you won’t leave the kids to go to lunch with a friend, you’re missing out on friendships that you should cherish…not to mention some good food. If you don’t even give a thought to your husband during the day, so that he receives your “left-overs” because you’ve solely invested in the kids all day, that’s out of balance.

Balancing life is always tricky, no doubt about it. But we’ll value our other relationships rightly when we realize that God has given us these roles to play, and has given us these people to love for a reason.

Don’t neglect other roles because you are a mom. It’s not healthy for you, it’s not loving your neighbors well, and it’s abdicating a God given sphere of influence that you’re responsible to steward well. Motherhood doesn’t negate our other God-given roles.

Pray for wisdom, jot down your roles and see if you’ve neglected any major vocations in your life. Then, start planning ways to adjust if need be.

Invest in a friendship by going out for lunch or stopping by for coffee, visit a shut in, say hello to your neighbor, visit a grandparent, love your husband well.

Does one vocation tend to consume and define you? What can you do to adjust and nurture all the relationships God’s ordained in your life? Let me know what you’re planning. :)

 

 

 

Your Parenting Struggles Are Opportunities to Choose

Frustrations and disappointments have a way of taking on a life of their own and overwhelming us. They distort our perspective and can even cause despair or depression.

Take being a mom, for example.

It never dawned on me before I had my first child that I wouldn’t have a clue about seemingly simple mommy tasks.

Enter Rebekah, my first born.

I quickly realized that I had no idea:

  • How sick I would be in pregnancy. I mean sick. Constant vomiting. Like in and out of the hospital for dehydration sick. Like drink sips of Coke if I even want to get out of this bed sick.
  • How to breast feed a baby. I love, love my babies and still do, but breast feeding was just miserable for me–all five times. I know, it’s horrible to say, but it’s true. I’ve never been so sick or uncomfortable in my life. AND yes, I had LLL help.
  • How to establish a sleep/wake cycle. Don’t they just sleep at night?
  • How to discipline a child. Need an adjective? Clueless. That was me. I had no idea how hard this aspect of training would be. Like full-time job hard.
  • How to communicate in marriage about parenting. Peter and I had two different communicating styles (artist/accountant) We loved each other but had many frustrating discussions! We were also on two different pages when it came to parenting. We had to figure out how we were going to raise these kids.

Looking back, these little thing, these road bumps and discouragements, were not the end of the world, but instead were opportunities for me to grow in grace. They were opportunities to choose. Would I trust or worry? Would I freak out or pray? Parenting is sanctifying work. God wants to conform us into the image of His Son through these hardships, but we have to agree to the work.

And, younger mom, disappointments are not without purpose. A God-ordained purpose.

They should make you look up and ask yourself Where is Jesus in all of this? He’s here, in our everyday stuff. In fact, He has allowed these little things to shape you. He’s using today to mold you. Your decisions today make you the person you’ll be tomorrow. Will you respond with humility and trust, or with  anger and self-reliance?

One lesson I’ve learned in the past 10 years is that trust does not just happen. You have to do some ugly work. You must confront worry and fear and call it what it is: unbelief and doubt in God’s supremacy.

A fitful, worrisome 20-something woman becomes a fretful, anxious 30-something if she doesn’t change course. She must submit her emotions and mind to the clear teaching and truths of God’s word.

Joanna Weaver in Having a Mary Spirit says it this way:

“We have a choice. We always have a choice. Either we can trust the Spirit’s leading, or we can insist on going our own way. But let me tell you, only one choice leads to life. The other marks a gradual descent toward spiritual death, for no one can refuse God’s will and prosper.”

Trusting God will draw you closer to Him each time you trust. Step by step, laying down your rights one decision at a time. Fear and insolence may raise up it’s ugly head, but you put it under the Lordship of Christ and tell it no. You are walking in the Spirit and abiding in His word.

Each instance of trust and obedience to God and His word helps loosen the self-made chains of bondage. Each expression of “Yes, Lord–You run my life!”, each act of brokenness before the One who made you yields more of the peaceable fruit of righteousness. It changes us. It’s when we hang on to the Vine we really live. Apart from the Vine is death, dryness, futility,because we know that apart from Him we can do absolutely nothing but fail and fall.

So, where are you a failure right now?

Can I just encourage you to see your failure as an entrance for the grace of God? A catalyst God uses to draw you into deeper dependence on Him and to open the floodgates of blessing in your life? Limitations help you to cling to Christ.

It’s sink or swim. And the scary part is that you get to choose your “savior.”

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You can choose the floatation devices of this world if you want. They’re fun, bright and readily available. They’re inexpensive and they have popular characters emblazoned on them. Everyone at the pool is using them.

But blow up toys were never meant to be used as life preservers. They even came with that that warning. They last for about a week before losing air and buoyancy.

If you are a Christian, God is not going to let you exist for long on your toy float. He’s not accustomed to giving us toys that are unsafe and unsteady. He knows that they are ultimately patch-jobs, and He is the Ultimate Life Preserver that you need.

Trust is something that comes hard for us. We say we trust God but our actions betray our words. A trusting heart is one at rest and motherhood was a catalyst for so many fears that peace was constantly elusive to me.

In my tired, frustrated, anxious mind, I had little room for trust. I had to get this thing right. I only had one shot at these kids. I have to train them in the way they should go. I, I, I.

I sometimes forgot that these kids were souls that God loved more than I ever could. He could use me, yes, but this was never about me. On my good days, my thought process was His Word will not return void. He is able to make all grace abound to me. He is my Shepherd, and my kids Shepherd today and every day and He’ll lead us! He is able to do all that He promised to do. Him, Him, Him. I should have clung to my Life Preserver and dropped the toys.

Raising kids is about God’s glory.

It is. Every work we do is for His glory. We can do years of motherhood for the wrong reasons and many of us have. We mother out of fear instead of faith. We mother to get approval from others and other twisted reasons.

I have this quote from a Thabiti Anyabwile sermon written in my Bible as a reminder when I find my motives for life falling short of God’s glory. Read it slowly, because it’s a good one:

To care more about anything less than the supreme glory and honor of God is in itself cosmic treason. It is to abandon God’s own agenda for Himself, namely, to be glorified among the nations, and to choose some lesser ends than what God Himself has appointed.

Disappointments and trials are ministry opportunities.

2 Corinthians 1:3-9

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.

For just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ.

For we do not want you to be unaware, brethren, or our affliction…

we were burdened excessively so that we despaired even of life, indeed we had the sentence of death within ourselves in order that we should not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead, who delivereth us from so great a peril of death, and will deliver us, He on whom we have set our hope. And He will yet deliver us.

God will use your trial so that you can help someone else. And that is a beautiful thing. God doesn’t waste your pain and frustration, but remakes it into something useful and helpful.

Are you feeling like a failure today in some area? Where are you going for help? Can you find an older Christian mom who can help you navigate the waters a little more clearly while you are feeling discouraged? What can you do today to make sure you’re clinging to the right savior? Tell me, if you want, in the comments. I’ll be sure to reply. :)