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*

file000801198286

 

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?

 

DIY Spring Bird’s Nest Tutorial

Even though we still have two feet of snow on the ground, I’m working on decorating my house for spring. Today my goal was to finish decorating my mantle.

I made this bird’s nest for the mantle and thought I’d share how I made it. It’s kind of a no-brainer, but if you are not crafty, maybe this will help you to try your own. I just LOVE bird’s nests in general, so this is one of the sweetest crafts in my opinion.

DIY bird's nest

IMG_4004

You need two grapevine wreaths, one bigger and one smaller. The smaller one should fit inside the larger one. I found these at the Dollar Tree.

Using the larger grapevine wreath as the top of the nest and the smaller one as the bottom, wire the two wreaths together. Then form a bottom of the nest by weaving the wire like a basket. It’s okay if it’s a mess. It will all be covered. You want the basic shape of a nest or a bowl. Wire it to death if you have to to get the rounded shape.

IMG_3972
Next, I used a glue gun to add moss to the outside. I found the moss ribbon at Jo-Ann’s Fabric for $3.99. I pulled the moss so that it looked loose and sparse and not “ribbonny.” I wanted it to look natural.

IMG_3988
IMG_3991
IMG_3995
After I line the outside with green moss, I added some to the inside of the nest. I then stuffed the bottom with a good sized handful of Spanish Moss, also from the Dollar Tree.
IMG_3999
IMG_4001
After the basic nest is done, you can pretty it up by hot gluing small flowers, berries, or leaves around the perimeter.

Finished DIY Grapevine Birds Nest

Finished DIY Grapevine Birds Nest

I filled mine with five little eggs (for my 5 kids). The eggs were also at Jo-Ann’s. Other years, I’ve used the nest as a candy dish, placing a shallow dish inside and filling it with Cadbury Mini Eggs, which look adorable. I’ve also filled them with yellow Peeps for Easter.
IMG_4030
IMG_4033
Here’s the finished mantle. I used things I had around the house: an old Ball Jar filled with moss, one of my favorite antiques, a signed Wallace Nutting print entitled “The Coming Out of Rose”, some galvanized buckets filled with greens and a few natural elements from some potpourri I had around the house. I hope this inspires you to try your own nest. Send me pics if you make one!
IMG_4037

IMG_4041

Interview with Christine Hoover and a From Good to Grace Giveaway

Really excited to share this interview with Christine Hoover with you today and offer a giveaway of her new book, From Good to Grace for you and a friend!  If you aren’t familiar with her book, I semi-reviewed it here after I disagreed with the Gospel Coalition’s review which basically said that this dependence on grace and the Holy Spirit was not enough to lead to holiness and change. Many of you wrote that this was your faulty understanding as well, years ago, and that God had brought you through trials to bring you to the end of yourself and show you that dependence on the law for salvation or sanctification was futile. The law was meant to be a schoolmaster, holding our hand, leading us to the Savior.

I had a few questions for Christine after reading her book and wanted to share them with you.

Sarah: What causes us to get the “gospel” so wrong?  Especially those of us who have been brought up in solid gospel preaching churches?

Christine: The gospel is not innate to us. It’s an announcement of good news that we must hear and proclaim to ourselves over and over again. We must let it consistently sink down deeper into every crevice of life. We get it wrong so often because what I term the goodness gospel–spiritual growth through self-effort–is innate. We tend to innately believe that external behaviors can change internal realities, so self-effort has an appearance of wisdom to us. We must, as Paul says in Galatians 5:1, “stand firm in the liberty for which Christ has set us free”.

So there’s this fight to live in the grace Christ has won for us, but I think in our churches we often focus on what the gospel says about salvation, but we aren’t always talking about how the gospel applies to our sanctification. How do we grow? How does the Holy Spirit work in our daily lives? What does it mean to walk by faith? Without understanding these concepts, we naturally revert back to the goodness gospel.

Sarah: On a practical level, what does preaching the “grace gospel” look like on a daily basis? You talked in the book about what you dubbed “Autism Days” and how those emotionally hard days were when you needed to remember God’s love. Can you talk us through your thought process. What verses do you cling to? How do you prepare yourself for the highs and lows of emotion that we women experience throughout life?

Christine: My emotionally difficult days usually circle around discouragement regarding my children, self-doubt regarding writing, and struggles with being a pastor’s wife. My thoughts tell me that I’m not good enough or that I’m not doing enough. When I’m thinking along those lines, I typically go back to two anchors.

One is, “What has God asked of me in this?” Almost 100% of the time, I am condemning myself rather than experiencing the conviction of the Holy Spirit. God has asked me to be faithful in my roles, but I am putting additional standards on myself, such as having perfectly behaved children and people at church who are perpetually pleased with me. I know God’s conviction when it is biblical, specific, and hopeful, not condemning. There is no condemnation ever for those who are in Christ (Romans 8:1).

The second anchor is adding “But God” to my thoughts. Am I good enough? No, but God has made me righteous in His eyes through Christ. Am I going to disappoint people? Yes, but God has given me His unchangeable approval in Christ.

I’m not saying that my emotions immediately change, but going to these anchors leads me to ask the Lord for help in believing what is true and help in being faithful to Him in my roles.

Sarah: Parenting is one place where I think we can unknowingly train our kids to a behavioral gospel. We praise good behavior and scold negative behavior. We use phrases like “Good girl” and get excited when our kids act and behave in appropriate ways that make us look like the “good mom.” Do you think we are ingraining the goodness gospel in our kids?

Christine: This is a good and important question. In parenting my kids according to the gospel of grace, it helps me to think about the role of the Law. According to Galatians 3:19-25, the Law teaches us that we need something beyond ourselves and our own abilities and behaviors in order to be righteous. In other words, I look at the law and I see my inability to be good and it leads me to Christ.

This is so applicable to parenting. I want to teach my children what God says is right and wrong and to obey Him (the Law), but I can’t stop there. I have to help them understand that they are unable in and of themselves to fully obey and “be good”. This leads to the gospel: Jesus was perfect on their behalf and they are given the opportunity to accept it by faith.

After salvation, I want to teach them that faithfulness to God is the most important pursuit. I am leading them to Jesus and teaching them to walk with Him, not just to obey me. I want them to go to Him in Scripture, know Him through Scripture, ask Him for help and leadership, and learn to obey His voice. Of course, I am going to be a primary voice in their life, but the question is who is leading me as I lead my children? Myself and my own desires, understanding, and effort? Or am I trusting that God will speak to my children and help them grow? I must pray toward that end, otherwise I am tempted to be their Law and Holy Spirit.

Sarah: How has writing this book impacted the way you parent? How are you intentionally training your kids to understand the love and grace of God?

Christine: What God has taught me about grace has greatly impacted my parenting. The most helpful thing I’ve learned about grace is that I am not an orphan (John 14:18). I don’t have to take care of myself. I have a Father who loves me, cares for me, and nurtures me. He delights in me and sings over me. Knowing that lights me up with joy, but it also compels me to lay down my life for the One who has sacrificed so much for me.

 

This has everything to do with parenting. I want my kids to see me delight in God and enjoy Him and serve Him, because kids really do love what their parents love. I want them to see me so confident in God’s love for me and that He loves them the same way. Because God’s love toward them will compel them to faithful obedience (2 Cor. 5:14). I know that’s not super practical, but the old adage is true: you can’t give away what you don’t have.

Thanks, so much, Christine, for joining us here today and sharing what the Lord is teaching you.

If you’d like to enter a contest to win a copy of From Good to Grace for you and a friend, you can enter whichever way is easiest for you:

1. Comment on our Instagram pic and tag your friend on IG.

2. Tweet about this giveaway and tag your friend and @joyfilleddays on Twitter.

3. Share this on FB and tag your friend and @joyfilleddays.

Make sure you tag @joyfilleddays and make your post public so I can count your entry on the social media outlet of your choice. You can enter once on each social media platform for a total of 3 entries.

Contest ends midnight, Friday, 3/13/2015, EST.  Physical book mailings for the US only. Outside the US, you’ll win a Kindle version of the book. Giveaway courtesy of Baker Books and Joyfilleddays.com. 

Book Review: From Good to Grace

I was going to wait until next week to review From Good to Grace: Letting Go of the Goodness Gospel because I have a giveaway and a special interview with Christine to share with you.10943725_1021483634548490_2479008169173859976_n

 

But after I highly recommended the book last week, a reader brought The Gospel Coalition’s review of it to my attention, and wondered at the question made by the reviewer, “Doesn’t grace lead to goodness?” The question asserts that the book failed to point its reader to a pursuit of good works. So, I decided to share my thoughts today and vanquish any fears that this book is a call to heavy handed grace which leads to licentiousness and away from true goodness.

So, let’s look at TGC’s question.

“Doesn’t Grace Lead to Goodness? This was the one question that stuck with me after reading From Good to Grace. When believers are forgiven and liberated from their bondage to sin and death, aren’t we supposed to become slaves to righteousness… It seemed to me that much of the book equated the pursuit of goodness with legalism…Peter tells us we’re called to be holy as God is holy. Paul exhorts us to imitate God (who is the definition of goodness) as beloved children. I’m assuming this means God intends us to strive for goodness in some regard. Unfortunately, Hoover does little to address the ways in which these two realities—grace and the pursuit of holiness—interact. She isn’t the first to step foot into this gray zone. ”

I’m not sure how she missed one of the central messages that walking in the Spirit is the way to goodness (a little ironic given the topic of the book.)

In essence, she’s asking, “Don’t we need to strive for holiness?” And the answer is beautifully answered, a resounding “YES” we do, absolutely,  but in the strength of the Holy Spirit. (excerpts below) You see, why we do what we do is the point of the book. We can do all the right things for the wrong reasons.

good to grace

In this book, Christine contrasts the beliefs of a woman who believes the goodness gospel and how those core beliefs play out in her daily life vs. the freedom and reality of the true gospel  which is freedom to good works via the Spirit led life.

Many Christian women are joyless and in bondage to another gospel, and although this is a partial list, here are some of the reasons we live this way:

  • it’s easier to walk in the flesh, than in the Spirit, so having begun in the Spirit, they’re now being perfected in the “flesh” (Gal. 3:3)
  • when we walk in the flesh, we feel more in control. Walking in the Spirit is foreign to many Christians, unfortunately, and it shows in our lack of fruit (love, joy, peace)
  • we care more about self-image and how we are perceived by others
  • we fail to understand the love and goodness of God

The goodness gospel preaches that we must do more, be more, attain more, and never drop any of the roles we juggle. It’s all about our performance. On the days when we are performing well by our own standards, and everyone is applauding us, we feel validated and good. On the days when we fail, and people criticize us, we feel condemnation. This is not the good news. The good news is that we are not enough, and we don’t have to be enough, because Jesus is enough on our behalf.

For those worried that From Good to Grace: Letting Go of the Goodness Gospelis a call to licentiousness, or as TGC article infers, a call to abandon good works, I’ll leave you with a few quotes from the book and let Christine speak for herself:

“As we receive his love, our responses will include daily dying
so that we might awaken to righteousness. We will make no provision for the
flesh because we desire to live according to the Spirit. That’s the heart’s
desire of the redeemed.” Pg. 85

“The Spirit enables us to pursue righteousness and do all that
God asks of His followers. “I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not
fulfill the lust of the flesh….” Pg 94

“We can trust that it is the Holy Spirit who is leading us when
he aligns our hearts with Scripture and convicts us of truth. This conviction ….leads
to godly sorrow and repentance. “ pg. 101

“As he convinces us of both our need and our reception of
imputed righteousness, we recognize a growing love and desire for obedience in
our lives. He leads us away from the lusts of the flesh.” Pg 101

“ but we have another responsibility, and that is to obey when
he leads. It’s not enough to receive the Holy Spirit’s conviction, direction,
counsel, and leadership; we must then fall in step with him by following and obeying.” Pg. 106

Christine’s heart is to want to do right so badly and be good in all her roles, that it eventually brought her into bondage. If you can relate with this struggle, you’ll be blessed by her gracious, clear, gospel solid writing.

A six word question that has saved me many times.

At the end of our lives, we want to say that we lived our life well. I don’t want to look back with regret, or realize that I majored on minors, spending my precious energy on things that didn’t matter or things I couldn’t change.

20140625-224355-81835698.jpg

The fact is, we only have one life and we only get to live it once. It’s non-refundable. Once it’s gone, you can’t get it back.

This means that our decisions are important. I know you agree on the big things of life, like where to move, what job to pursue, etc…but it’s even more important in the little things of life.

“The way we live our hours is the way we live our days. And the way we live our days is the way we live our lives.

I have a question I ask myself whenever I am at a crossroad. Six little words that have helped me choose wisely: What is most important right now?

20140625-224823-82103494.jpg

When the house is a mess and the kids are in creative mode in every.room.of.the.house and drill Sargent mom starts to surface demanding that they clean up in short order, and frustration is mounting: What is most important right now?

IMG_4862

When you’ve got a million things to do, and nobody else seems to have two arms or two legs that day: What is most important right now?

20140513-191928.jpg

When you’re frustrated by people who don’t seem to have a clue about the basics of common courtesy: What is most important right now?

20140506-092806.jpg

When you’re dealing with that woman who just can’t seem to control her tongue, and you’re tempted to give her a piece of your mind and put her in her place once and for all: What is most important right now?

IMG_5704

When you’re overwhelmed with life, and you are asked to cram more into your schedule: What is most important right now.

IMG_3982

When ministry opportunities are abundant and more requests are coming your way: What is most important right now?

IMG_0184

Asking the simple question takes you out of the arena of the “immediate”–I’ve got to say something, or do something—and gives you a chance to make a wise decision.

Many times, prayer, time, and checking with your spouse adds clarity, too, and keeps you from prioritizing your life so you won’t be sorry.

The answers to “What is most important right now” may vary: God’s glory, devotional life, time for kids to be creative, teaching our kids to be kind with our words, practicing imperfect hospitality, stewarding well our spiritual gifts, being there for a friend, the laundry (!!!), being with a loved one in their need, encouraging a friend, getting this meal on the table.

It’s simple, admittedly. But it has helped me more times than I can recall.

Do you talk to yourself? What questions do you ask?

 

 

A watercolor printable for you, and a new, must-read book

So teach us

My site has been quiet this past week, partly due to technical reasons which I ended up ignoring, because honestly, life is busy in a good way.

In case I haven’t mentioned it, we’ve got snow here, people. Six feet. And with it—rain in my kitchen. Insurance adjusters are coming our way soon and we’re thinking that we’ll need to replace ceilings in two rooms.

IMG_3913

IMG_3915

The storm has afforded me extra time to read, paint, and have friends over.

IMG_3919IMG_3921

I told you I’d post the watercolor I designed on my way home from A.I. DuPont after Addy’s first surgery. I’m posting it here so you can print it out and enjoy it. Please consider it a thank you for praying for my niece.

I’ve entitled it “Teach us to number our days.” It’s a picture of a primitive style cabinet in my kitchen.

This is the cabinet this past Christmas.

This is the cabinet this past Christmas.

I filled it with all of the things of a woman’s life: quilts to represent security, rest, and hospitality; dishes to represent the important task of feeding bodies and carrying on family traditions; books for the imparting of wisdom. There are other “life”” things tucked in the cabinet, including baby shoes, flowers, tea cups, photos, needle and thread, etc. Yellow beeswax tapers hang on the side to represent light. Now we see darkly, as by candle light, but some days we’ll behold our Savior and see Him as he is. Amazing thought.

IMG_3920

These things are all crude and necessary, but imagine heaven some day. No need of blankets for warmth or security, because we’ll be in the presence of the holy, triune God.

No need of books. We’ll be with the Word itself.

Even our best china dishes will pale in comparison to the table the Lord sets before us.

Until then, we’ll rejoice that we are strangers and pilgrims here, and use our time to worship the Lord through our work.

When you see all of life as worship, the job you’ve been given to do no longer matters. Faithfulness matters. Sometimes we get this wrong. We pour our energy into “big” things to the neglect of the everyday things. This is a serious mistake. Our lives are lived in the mundane moments, and most of our opportunities to serve come in micro-events, not mountaintop moments.

We can serve pancakes and tea to our family behind closed doors and God sees it as service to Him. Don’t make your kids fend for themselves, but then kill yourself for a church ministry. That’s backwards, and honestly, not uncommon. We can embrace washing sheets and dishes with as much gratitude as standing on a stage speaking to hundreds for the cause of Christ. If our heart is worshiping God, we’ll happily serve whether on the stage or in the sick room cleaning up after children.

So teach us 8X10
One book that I want to make sure you know about that releases today on Kindle is From Good to Grace: Letting Go of the Goodness Gospel.

10943725_1021483634548490_2479008169173859976_n
This book is not a loosey-goosey feel good book. It’s not a call to let your hair down and live as you want.

It’s the secret to a powerful Christian walk. It’s letting go of the try hard life and forgetting self all together, so that you can depend on the Holy Spirit to get a hold of you and change you.

For those of you who live with self-condemnation which keeps you from really loving and serving others, this book is for you.

For those who feel like no one appreciates all that they do, this one if for you.

For those who feel like a failure as a Christian, you are so close…because you are… and that’s exactly where you need to be to grasp the grace that God provides for you.

For those of you who are doing good things for all the wrong reasons…trying to get God to like you or trying to get others to think you are a good person, this book is for you.

If you’ve spent your entire Christian walk worrying about what other people think of you, pick up  From Good to Grace: Letting Go of the Goodness Gospel.

This is one of my favorite reads of 2015 so far. (Disclosure: I received it free from the publisher. I’m purchasing it for several friends–it was that good, and it’s out today in Kindle format. Paperback is available March 3.)

Have a great week, ladies!

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.

conversation hearts 1

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.

 

You Delivered Us, And We Will Honor You

I want to take a moment to thank you all for praying for our sweet Addy. Her surgery is over, and we’re still in awe of God’s answers to our prayers. He alone is to be praised and we give Him all the glory. This is one of those stories that we’ll repeat to our children and grandchildren.

Addy’s surgery updates are here, for those of you who didn’t see it.

Psalm 5015

Monday was a blur. We were attached to our phone and computer for updates all day. I drank some tea and ate a few bites, but for the most part, I had no appetite and time just stood still.

My day can basically be summed up in two words: fervent prayer. I begged God for mercy for Addy and my sister. I couldn’t stand the thought of Addy being paralyzed after she’d come so far by learning to walk and run with all the cousins. I wanted to see her running on Rye Beach with us this summer. And I certainly could not stand the thought of my sister losing another child. It was something I couldn’t accept.

At some point in the day I remember wrestling inside: “What is it that makes prayer effective? Is it the fervency? The faith behind it? The consistency? And what makes me think that God will grant this prayer of mine? I’m such a wretched being. He knows my weakness. I’m afraid to ask and be disappointed, so I am basically double minded.”

Then I had this picture in my mind. It was of one of my children asking Peter for something they wanted. One child was begging. It was pretty annoying. It was an insistent begging. A will-filled, I want it my way demand. I thought of those mentioned in scripture who thought they would be heard for their “vain repetitions.” I knew that wasn’t right.

Then I though of a lisping child, who went to a father because He knew the father was good and kind. The request was spoken imperfectly. The words weren’t right, but he knew where to turn for help. THIS was right. I’m praying to God because I know that He is my Good Father. My prayers have little to do with me or my ability at all. My prayers are directed to Him because of who He is. My faith in His goodness and steadfast loves drives me to Him for help.

After this, I pretty much was at peace. The wild emotions stopped, and I was able to rest in God’s goodness, no matter the outcome.

Happily, the answer coming back “Granted in Full” and we were brought to our knees again, this time in thanksgiving and joy. I’m so happy that our sweet Addy will walk and run and live. God is good and we’re certainly rejoicing in Him.

God is good even when life is hard. I mentioned to a friend that trials make us sane. They re calibrate our hearts and minds. They pull away the blinders and distractions that hinder us from realizing how truly dependent we are for everything on God. When we go throughout our day, barely giving a thought to the God who sustains, that is the definition of insanity. Reality is this: We need God. We depend on Him for life, breath, and being whether we know it or not. Trials are a great gift, causing us to see clearly who we are and Who God is.

Moms, You are the Difference Makers

Do you feel like your life counts and is making a difference? Does the fact that you are a young mom with kids at home make you feel side-lined?

A shot of hope: You’re making a beautiful difference right where you are.

Have you heard this prayer? It’s one of the most beautiful prayers of all time.

In it, St. Francis of Assisi speaks to the longing in our human hearts for noble service and difference-making a world so full of hate, prejudice, war, and hurt.

peace

Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace;
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is discord, harmony;
Where there is error, truth;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
And where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master, Grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console;
To be understood as to understand;
To be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

I gravitate toward difference makers and I want to spend time with people who are bettering the world around them.

I want my life to count and you do, too.

But we think everyone else is making a difference. Me? I’m here at home, doing my thing, making meals, schooling kids, changing diapers, tidying toys.

So who are the actual world changers? Are they the people who have a confederation named after them? A conference? Do they have a newsletter or blog? A nationally syndicated TV show?

St. Francis of Assisi gives us clues. At first glance, the prayer sounds like it’s for the lofty worldwide-peace-global movers and shakers.

But upon further examination, it’s small. It’s local, even right down under the roof of your own home.

It’s all about one-on-one human interaction, because isn’t our theology lived out in our human interactions?

So, who is nearest to you right now? That’s where you make the difference.

Moms, you can answer this prayer without ever leaving your house.

You can and will make a difference for the Kingdom of God by caring right where you are. 

Who needs your comfort? Your love? Your care? Who needs you to be a voice for justice in their lives? Who could use your encouragement? Who needs a meal? Who needs a listening ear?

My friend Joy is using her gifts alongside her husband in Uganda. It’s easy to admire here because she’s rocking babies on the other side of the world. But, what if you could make a difference here by rocking babies in a church nursery or by welcoming a younger mom into your home for refreshment and a needed break?

Why do we overlook the local, while glamorizing the distant and global?

Who is hiding deep hurt? Who doesn’t know where to go for help, like the son of this woman who lives a town over from me, who didn’t feel as though anyone cared, so he killed himself.

We are the difference makers if we’ll open our eyes and allow the Holy Spirit to  direct us. Christ through you. A conduit of hope and peace.

Yesterday, was a perfectly normal day, but I prayed that God would take my day and use it for the good of others and His glory, as I pray each morning.

The “others” came in the form of my kids first as I taught them. I checked cursive handwriting for neatness and served leftovers for lunch. I tidied the house.

I noticed an ambulance outside my window through the falling snow. It was my elderly neighbor in need of help. God prompted me to go out and stand with the son as he waited for his dad. “There’s nothing I can do,” I reasoned. “It’s snowing and I would just be in the way.” But the Holy Spirit prompted me to go out. So I did. I stood in the snow with my neighbors worried son, and told him we’d watch the house and pray. I have no idea how that helped, but I showed up.

We had kids over for some snowmobiling fun, came home, and ate dinner. An hour later we had 12 teen girls in for Winter Bible Study. We talked, laughed, and I served more food. I had a table full of women after the event, so we sat, ate, shared life, and prayed for the needs represented at the table. My college daughters want to chat late at night, so I did that.

Was my day remarkable? No. There was absolutely nothing radical in it.  But the Spirit prompted me to go and help and pray and serve and I did. That’s the radical part. 

We’re not living a soliloquy. It’s not all about our story. We are part of God’s bigger story, a Kingdom building story, and the radical part is showing up in the small.

 

Where are you today? What is God prompting you to do? Who can you serve? Chime in and tell me what He’s called you to today.

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?)

IMG_6873.JPG IMG_6871.JPG

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!!