Thursday, April 27, 2017

When Wills Collide.

I thought about opening with a cute story about my kids being rebellious...  Lord knows I have a million, but I decided instead to share my struggle with God's will.   It started about 8 years ago. 

I grew up a typical American girl, with big dreams.  I knew what I wanted out of life.  I spent hours daydreaming about what my life would be like, when I was an adult and could make my own decisions.  I lived for the time that I could make my own way and do what I wanted, believing that doing what you wanted, was the key to happiness. 

I remember when I was in the 6th grade and my best and only real friend, made a book out of construction paper with pictures cut from magazines... her idea of what my life might look like.  Cute, successful, professional husband, adorable children (2 of course), nice fancy car and obviously a gorgeous house, lavishly decorated.  The American Dream clipped out of fashion mags.  That was all I wanted out of life.  Those pics represented true happiness. 

After becoming a Christian at 19, I just transferred my American Dream to my Christian life.  Wouldn't God want me to have all that?  Wouldn't he want me to be HAPPY?  So, I went about making that Christian-American Dream happen.  In the beginning, it all worked flawlessly.  God answered my prayers and brought a wonderful man into my life, who happened to be handsome, professional and successful.  Check.  God and I were on the same page.  Next up...  We bought a house and new cars and started filling them up with children...check.  The Lord out did himself there... we had to get a bigger house and bigger cars to fit all those little blessings. 

The glorious future stretched out in front of us and I was blissfully happy.  Life only became more satisfying when my husband was asked to be the leader of the Youth Group at our church.  We were overwhelmed that God would honor us with the position since we had no experience.  That position did something for this mess of a girl.  I wanted more than anything in this world to be "somebody" and this was the chance.  I could be married to one of the leaders of our church.  I could be important.  I could be seen.  This was proof that I had left that messy, teenage girl behind.  I wasn't her anymore.

I didn't recognize any of this until many years later, but the day we were no longer in that position I began a decade long war against the will of God.  If this was the will of God, he could mind his own business.   This was the beginning of a season of taking.  He began to take things from me, that I thought I couldn't live without.  He took my importance (in my mind), he took the position, he took my validation.  Not long after, he took my mom, who died of cancer at 52.  He took lifelong friendships, he took family members and moved them far away.  The more he took the less I trusted.  To be honest, there were times that if he would have let me go, I would have left and not looked back.  Like a rebellious teenager, who runs away from home, I wanted out from under his oppressive will.  I wanted freedom to make my own way.  Instead, I pretended.  I didn't run away, I stayed.  I pouted.  I cried.  I raged against God for being unfair.  I silently rebelled and rejected his authority. 

Like my preteen daughter, who obeys just enough, with her barely concealed anger and thoughts about how little her parents really know.  I thought that I knew better and longed for God to submit to my will, but He's God...  He doesn't bend. 

I didn't get God.  In my mind, God was a genie in a bottle, who granted all my wishes.  I had forsaken the true God at some point and constructed a god in my own image.  A god who would bow to my will, a god, who would give me what I wanted.  There was no place in my Christian-American dream for a God, who had his own ideas. 

It wasn't until a few weeks ago that I began to see the truth of the situation.  I was at a women's conference at our church and I had been struggling against God for so long and I couldn't figure out why I had no joy, no peace.  Why?  I had so much to be happy about.  IF happiness came through having what you want...  I should be happy.  I have the husband, I have the kids, I have the house, I have the car.  WHY, can't I be happy. 

How convenient the topic of the day was about joy! Woot woot...  another lesson on something I knew deep down I would NEVER experience.  I have been a Christian for 20 years and I've been deliriously happy and in the valleys of depression and every other emotion in between, but never have I experienced JOY. 

As the speaker preached her heart out that day, I realized that my thinking had been jacked up for a very looooooooooong time.  As she expounded on words I had read a million times the truth became clear for the first time. 

I had always wondered how Paul, who basically endured hell on earth for Jesus, could say things like "Rejoice, in the Lord. Again I say Rejoice."  He must be a special kind of crazy, because I just haven't been able to get there.  If you look at Paul's life before and after Christ you can plainly see how deciding to follow Jesus had been a demotion.  His life was filled with trouble... and all because He couldn't shut up about how great Jesus was.   Stoning, beating, jail, prison... nothing would keep this guy from telling anyone he came in contact with about the Savior and what did he get in return...  more abuse. 

What did Paul get that I don't???  Well, first of all, he got Jesus.

"Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who existing in the very form of God, did not consider equality with God as something to be exploited. Instead he emptied himself by assuming the form of a servant, taking on the likeness of humanity.  And when he had come as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death- even death on the cross." Phil. 2:5-8

Jesus, who was God, left glory behind to be a man... not just any man, but servant (WHICH IS REALLY MEANS SLAVE).   Being obedient to the Father, submitting to God's will, UNTO DEATH.

We don't really understand this concept, but let me tell you a little of what I have learned in the last few weeks...  Slaves HAD NO RIGHTS.  The were purchased by the owner of an estate, who was the Father.  The slave assumed the name of the Father/Owner and became his property.  Slaves did not speak to the master unless they were spoken to and their standard response would have been, "Yes, Lord, your will be done."

Sounds familiar.  Isn't that exactly what Jesus said in the garden?  Didn't he plead for this cup to be removed.  Didn't he beg the Father for another way, but then submit to the will of the Father and say "Not my will, but thine be done."

Paul, said this is the example that we should follow.  Paul, in every letter, written in the Bible, calls himself the servant (slave) of the Lord, Jesus Christ.  The reason that Paul could have joy is because he understood that He was a slave.  He was a servant.  Wherever and whatever situation he found himself was the will of God for his life.  He submitted to the sovereignty of God.  Sovereign is just a fancy word to say that God is in control.  Paul said the craziest things like, I am content in whatever state I'm in or I can do all things through Christ.  He KNEW that God was in control and he need not worry himself with details.  He knew that God was going to supply all of his needs.  He knew that he was a slave and the only right response was "Yes, Lord, your will be done."

Paul also knew that He had been working his whole life to achieve righteousness (a right standing with God) and that He couldn't.  He was OVERWHELMED to learn that Jesus had done for him, what he could never do for himself. 

Paul had spent his life trying to keep those 633 laws and failing everyday.   I know for myself I can't even keep the first one.  He had to continue to make sacrifices for sin that he could never conquer.  He KNEW the value of the price that had been paid for him.  He knew with every fiber of his being how good being truly forgiven by God's GRACE had set him free. 

Paul could not keep his mouth shut about what Jesus had accomplished on the cross and he knew that every place that God took him was an opportunity to share that Good News with whoever would listen.  NOTHING could get him down.  He recognized that God was worthy to have his will in Paul's life. 

Not only did Paul get Jesus and understand his right standing as a slave to Christ, Paul rejoiced in his position.  He was adopted into the family of God.  He was heir with Jesus of all the promises of the Father.

In Jesus day, the Father of the family or the Patriarch, was the leader of his clan.  Everyone in the family was under the authority of the Patriarch, even grown sons.  This was not an arbitrary position...  The Father had all the responsibility for the family.  He made all the decisions, but he was also expected to provide and protect his family.  The Father was expected to do what was best for the family.  As we all know that did not always happen, but when Jesus spoke of his Father in heaven, this is what he had in mind, a perfect Father, who put his families best interest first. 

When Jesus talked to the people about God, he always referred to God as, the Father.  Paul understood that Jesus was telling us that we could trust our Heavenly Father to do what is best for us.  Paul need not worry about anything... that was his Father's job. 

We live in very different times, but God has not changed.  He is the same, yesterday, today and forever.  His ways are not our ways.  His thoughts are not our thoughts.  This side of heaven we may never understand the WHYS of God, but we can trust the will of God, because we know that as our Father, he has our best interest at heart.  As Master of our lives our only response can be "Not my will, but thine." 

When wills collide, whose will do you choose?

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Soul Food.

Each one of them had their own unique reaction to the food in the pot.  My 8 year old  laid out in the middle of the kitchen floor, hands over his tear-filled eyes, devastated because I made roast for dinner.  The 11 year old walked in picked up the lid, looked in, looked around to see if there was another option and then just walked out of the kitchen.  The 6 year old sat at the table whining and forcing a couple of spoonfuls in his mouth, knowing that if he made it through a couple bites he would be able to fill up on his usual before bed yogurt.  The 3 year old just looks in his bowl and says, "This looks bisgusting." 

Funny, Two hours before they had nothing but praise for me when I stopped at Sonic to surprise them with Ice Cream Sundaes.  Oh, yeah then it was all "you're the best mom ever". 

Maybe if it had just been one of them complaining I wouldn't have lost my cool.  I've never in my life cleaned a kitchen so fast.  I put up every bit of evidence that there had ever been food.  Slamming doors and dishes and hiding the pot of roast, where they wouldn't think to look for it.  Knowing full well those two ungrateful boys would come in starving in an hour, looking for the very thing they had disdained earlier.  Guess what...  Exactly one hour later, when all friends had gone in for the night, they bust through the door looking for... roast.  What they found instead was a spotless kitchen.  Kitchen CLOSED.  That's right!  Nothing. 

I've never seen more despondent children.  The man-child was hurting the most.  He knew there was no way he could make it til morning without food.  Did he apologize?  NO.  He just sat there with his private thoughts.  To full of pride to admit that he was wrong and sorry and hungry. 

I was angry with him...  but ready to forgive.  I didn't like the way he acted, but I didn't really want him to suffer.  I wanted to give him a good, nutritious dinner.  I always want to give him good things.  I love him. 

There are times that we must suffer.  There are times that we don't know how good we have it, until we lose it.  You don't know what you've got til it's gone.  
Well, Dad gave them a good lecture and told them they needed to apologize.  He reminded them that they should NEVER treat the person, who does everything for them like that.  And they did.  And ecause, I couldn't bear the thought of them going to bed without eating, I offered them that still warm roast. 

From the living room I could hear the sounds of contentment, of boys enjoying good food.  All the sudden, what looked terrible before was now amazing.  

I know you know where I'm going with this...  I am just like my kids.  Give me the "good" stuff Lord.  Make me happy.  Give me ice cream and candy, but you can keep the roast. 

My perspective of "good" stuff is skewed though.  Like my kids who think of junk food as good and roast as bad...  I think of the things that I want, as good.  I have no desire for things that might be good for me, if it looks anything like roast and carrots and potatoes. 

Food that will make me grow and become strong, has no value to me.  Take my new favorite verse for example:

"It is GOOD for me that I have been afflicted; that I might learn your statutes." Psalm 119:71

Affliction is suffering and we don't want that.  We want as far away from affliction as we can get, but maybe our perspective is all wrong.  David said it was GOOD that God had afflicted him. 

Look at Moses perspective "By faith Moses, when he came of age, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter; CHOOSING rather to SUFFER affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season. 

Moses left the riches and majesty and glory of being royalty in the Egyptian court, to be afflicted with the people of God. 

Paul, who suffered much for Jesus, wrote frequently in his letters to the churches about his sufferings had this to say, "That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the FELLOWSHIP OF HIS SUFFERINGS, being made conformable unto his death." Phil 3:10

Paul knew that the only way he was going to be made more like Jesus was through suffering.  Every thing He once counted gain, he now counted as loss.  He knew that the only truly "good" thing in his life was JESUS. 

I'm not there.  I look in the pot and I look around, to see if there is a better option and then I walk out.  Sometimes, I throw myself down on the floor, put my hands over my tear-filled eyes and refuse to eat.  Sometimes, I just eat enough...  hoping that the little I've done will please God and he will then give me some dessert.  Sometimes, I flat out say, "This is bisgusting."

That's when I need an attitude adjustment.  My perspective needs a little altering... 

Jesus, in the garden, before his death, pleaded with God to allow this cup of suffering to pass from him and yet he said, "Not my will, but thine."  He understands that there are things you don't want to go through.  He's been there.  He endured "Good Friday" for us.  He drank from the cup of suffering for us.   He is our example...  Not my will, but thine.

Today, if you are suffering, believe it's for the good.  There is purpose in your pain.  Read your Bible.  Believe the promises that God is working ALL things for good.  Trust that Jesus has not forsaken you. 
Paul was sitting in jail, not knowing what was going to happen to him, singing praise to God.  The earth quakes and the chains break.   He could escape if he wanted to.  The jailor, who was in charge, thought that everyone had escaped and was ready to kill himself.  Paul calls out to him that everyone was there and accounted for and because of that act of surrender, to the sovereign will of God in his life, he was able to lead the jailor and all of his household to Christ.

Paul realized that wherever God had him, it was for the GLORY of God and the furtherance of the gospel...  The same is true for you today.  Whatever you are facing today.  Every storm, every trial, every hurt is all an opportunity to reveal Christ in your life. 

Friday, April 21, 2017

Hurts so good.

This has been a tough season.  Soccer that is.  Nothing hurts worse than playing your heart out and losing another game.   No doubt to his 8 year old brain, he's convinced he will never win another game.   He has natural talent and for the last four years his team has won more games than they have lost.  He's flown around the field like an airplane after scoring many goals.  He's pumped his fist and he has high-fived his team, feeling the glory of victory many times in his short soccer history. 

This year it's different.  Not many goals.  Far less fist pumps and high fives.  Much more disappointment.  Much more soul searching.  Less confidence in his ability.  Less joy in the game.  It hurts to lose again and again.

Last night, in the first few minutes of the game, it was obvious this would be another defeat.  I sent up a silent prayer, asking for wisdom.  How do I encourage my little boy after another sound defeat?  When there's not a whole lot of good to speak off... what do you say? 

As we walked to the car, side by side, I knew the important thing was not winning, not scored goals...  but that he has learned something this year that's far more valuable...  This year has taught him to keep fighting, no matter how far down you are.  This year has taught him to keep kicking, no matter how many goals you miss.  It's taught him that life doesn't always feel good.  You don't always win.

Sometimes, you have long, sucky seasons, but you don't give up.  You play hard the whole game.  You don't hang your head when you get down a few goals.  You keep trying.  Most importantly, LOSING WON'T KILL YOU.

David in Psalms says, "I KNOW, O LORD, that your judgments are right, and that you in FAITHFULNESS have afflicted me."  Psalm 119:75

"It is GOOD that I have been afflicted; that I might learn your statutes." Psalm 119:71

affliction- to distress with mental or bodily pain; trouble greatly.  to overthrow, to humble.,

Good to be in pain?  Good to hurt.  How could this be? 

Like my soccer player, I was used to winning.  Life came pretty easy to me.  I had everything I could ever want...  My Husband, my love.  My children.  Family.  Friends.  In the beginning, it all came so freely, I never had to work for anything.  I knew that the face of God was shining down on me. However, one day that changed.  I still had all the good things in my life, but I didn't feel like I was winning anymore.  Life was hard.  My relationships brought me no joy.   I was lonely.  An intense loneliness that ate away at my soul.  No matter how hard I tried I couldn't find in any human what I so desperately longed for.  This season lasted a few years and I thought I was just destined to be filled with this lonely ache forever.  I cried.  I was depressed.  I was hopeless. 

Finally, one day I started praying.  Instead of blaming God for ruining my life, I started asking Why?  What was the purpose.  What was he trying to show me.  What was I missing.  Instead of believing myself unworthy, I decided to trust that God had a plan. 

That's when things started to change...  He began to speak softly to my soul about how much I was truly loved- by HIM.  How valuable I am- to HIM.  Others can never, ever truly love me the way God can.  Even the love of a cherished spouse can not fulfill the aching longing in my soul for connection with God. 

He had to get me alone to speak softly to my soul and heal my deepest hurts.  When others didn't want me... He did.  When I was lonely...  He was by side.  When I was hurting... He was there to comfort me.  When I could share my secret thoughts with no one...  He already knew them. 

I NEEDED to be completely alone with God.  I needed to know that my worth and value was not in what other people thought about me.  I needed to know that no matter who forsakes me...  Jesus never will. 

I had gone hard after other lovers...  I cared more about what people thought about me, than what He said in His word about me.  I wanted human affection, validation, and love, more than my Creator's, but they could never satisfy my soul. 

I LOVE these verses in Hosea, because they speak perfectly to my season of loneliness...

"Therefore, behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak comfort to her heart." Hosea 2:14

He called me to the wilderness to speak comfort to my soul.  He afflicted me with loneliness, not to destroy me, but to heal me.  His words of peace and love have soothed the old wounds.  The feelings of being unworthy, replaced by the sure knowledge that the One who created me desires me.  He is my beloved and I am His.

These words were spoken by the prophet Isaiah to Israel, but I claim them as my own...

"But now this is what the Lord who created you says...He that formed you,...'Fear not: for I have redeemed you, I have called you by your name; YOU ARE MINE." 

"Since you were precious in my sight, you have been honored, and I have loved you..." Isaiah 43:4

There is no love that can compare to the love of God.  I'm thankful for this season in my life.  I have peace that I didn't have before.  I know now that no matter what happens in my life...  Jesus is with me.  Nothing can separate me from His love.  I am his and he is mine.

I don't know what kind of season you are in, but I know that there is purpose for our pain.  Sometimes, we need to be broken to be healed.  Sometimes we need to have a losing season to learn valuable lessons you don't learn from victory. 

We need to know that it's not how many goals we score that makes us important.  It's not winning that gives us worth.  When your name isn't being shouted.  When your head hangs low in defeat.... you can learn the most important lessons.  You are loved because He is good.  You are valuable because He created you.  You can press on and give all you have, even if you are losing.  You will NOT die... no matter how much it hurts.

I'm thankful for this losing season...  It hurts so good.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Call my name.

Mom.  Moomm.  MOOOMMMMMMM!!!! 
I want you.

Mom.  Momm. MOMMMMMMM!!!
I need you.

Standing at the kitchen sink with dishes piled high, hands up to my elbows in suds, mind lost in thoughts of a day that has already worn me out and it's only 8 am.  The dishes from the night before are crusted over with dried food, because I had no energy left last night to wash them...  The day stretches out in front of me like Mt. Everest.   Before I can start today, I have to finish yesterday.  I'm tired and overwhelmed. 

In the backdrop I hear his little voice calling my name.  Sweetly at first and then more persistent.  He stands at my feet and pulls on my pants leg.  He used to having to call me over and over again.  Still lost in my own thoughts, but aware that someone wants something from me, I haven't made the connection yet that I need to respond.  That's when the inevitable happens...  he screams my name.  That does it.  That pulls me completely out of my thoughts and right into anger...  WHY are you screaming my name????  He just looks at me with the sweetest face and says, "I want you." 

To be honest...  I don't want to be wanted.  I'm tired of being wanted.  In fact I've been tired for 13 years.  I'm busy.  I need to get stuff done.  I'm angry and frustrated...  always.  I don't want to hold you.  I don't want to listen to one more story about super-heros.  You know what I want????  I want a self-cleaning house.  I want kids who don't whine.  I want a dog who requires absolutely no attention.  I want to be left alone.  I want to read all day.  I want to sit on the patio and not have someone ask me for another thing.  That's what I want.  But, he wants me and he needs me and so do the other 4 children that God has so graciously blessed me with.

I dried my wet hands, bent down and wrapped my arms around him, soaking up his beautiful love.  In that moment I could see just how deep and wide the difference from my response to my children and the Father's response to his. 

My favorite person in the Bible is David.  He was a shepherd boy, who was chosen by God to become King of Israel.  God himself called David a man after God's own heart.  David's most beautiful quality was that no matter what was going on in his life his first response was to call upon the name of the Lord.  David was a good man and a bad man.  We was a good king, but he was also incredibly selfish and self-centered at times.  David is famous for many things, adultery and murder being two of them.

David knew one thing...  He needed the Lord.  In the good times, he praised God. In the bad times, he sought God's wisdom.  He prayed for forgiveness for his sins, rescue from his enemies, and most of all comfort.  He wrote a good portion of the book of Psalms, which is filled with beautiful imagery of a man in close communion with his God. 

Look what he said about calling to the Lord:

"Because he (God) has turned his ear to me, I will call out to him as long as I live." Psalm 116:2

"For you, Lord, are kind and ready to forgive, abounding in faithful love to all who call upon you. Lord, hear my prayer; listen to my plea for mercy.  I will call on you in the day of distress, FOR YOU WILL ANSWER ME." Psalm 86:5-7

"Call on me in the day of trouble; I will rescue you, and you will honor me." Psalm 50:15

and this promise spoken through the prophet Isaiah:

"And it shall come to pass that before they call, I will answer; and while they are yet speaking, I will hear."  Isaiah 65:24

Before they call I will answer them. 

Jesus said, "Come unto me, all who are heavy laden and I will give you rest."

If you are like me these verses feel a little foreign, meant for someone else, not you.  Meant for someone important, like David.  The problem is we compare an invisible God with people we can see.  Like busy, tired mothers, who dread our call, instead of relish in it.  But, God says He is not like us.  His ways are not our ways.  He is passed our understanding and we can't compare God to imperfect flawed humanity. 

God delights in our call.  In the beginning of the Bible we see the true heart of the Father, as he came in the cool of the day, to walk the length and depth of the beautiful garden, with the cherished man and woman he had created.  He delighted in Adam and Eve.  He delights in you. 

The Father draws near to all those who call on him, in truth.  He bends his ear.  He stops whatever he is doing.  He is never too busy.  He is never far away.  He doesn't grow weary. 

My heart goes out to many of my friends who are in painful seasons right now.  Some are hanging on to hope with the tiniest thread.  They don't feel worthy to call out to God.  They feel like my little guy felt... like God isn't listening.  God is not like us. 

One last incredible promise from God's word...  "I AM sought by those who did not ask; I was found by those who did not seek me.  I said, 'Here I am, Here I am..." Isaiah 65:1

Today, call out to him, "I need you".  Call his name and he will say, "Here I am."

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

You can do it.

Learning to read is HARD.  Teaching someone to learn to read is hard, especially if your student needs everything to be phonetically correct.  Rules that are only rules sometimes boggle little minds.   Sitting at the table watching my little guy struggle and give in to defeat is hard.  I wish is wasn't so hard for him, but it is just that.. HARD.  It's been a real challenge for this particular child.  I'm not sure why.  I'm sure I could have him diagnosed with something, but that would just solidify in his mind that he can't do it.  He would be even more aware that he is a little bit... different. 

The words on the page look totally unfamiliar.  There's no memory recall of having read them before, so he must go through all the rules he knows until he has the right one and then begin to sound out the word again.  He's read them all before, but for him it's just a little harder. 

His little eyes fill with tears and his head hangs real low.  "I can't do it, it's just too hard."  Around this mountain we go again.  Him defeated and mom trying to encourage him.  I know something he doesn't remember right now...  He's read them all before.  He can do this. 

Most days he will keep pressing forward.  I love that about him.  He never gives up, but today he is tired.  We stayed up on a school night, watching a movie together and he woke up extra early.  He's weary and he's whiny.  He really believes he can't do this.

I know how he feels.  I tell him so.  I know that he feels like it's too hard and he wants to give up.  I feel that way some days too.  I tell him that school makes me cry a lot.  But then I tell him I know he can do it.  I tell him how proud I am that he keeps trying even when he wants to give up.  I tell him I know it's hard, but he's improving every day. 

Soon his eyes dry up and his smile returns and he sounds out that word that he got stuck on and he laughs because he really has read that one before.  He presses on and after that book is finished he feels so good about what he accomplished.  He feels happy that he didn't give up and really happy about that little reward he earned for persevering.   Most of all, he's learning that you don't have to listen to your doubts and fears.

I see Paul sitting in prison, writing a letter of encouragement to the church of Philippi...  Paul who has served the Lord with all of his strength.  Paul who has given his whole life to the cause of Christ, sitting in prison awaiting an uncertain fate, writing to the church and telling them to keep on going.  Paul who has experienced MANY hard and  unfair trials and temptations...  stoning, snake bite, ship wreck, just to name a few, and yet telling them that He fixes his eyes on Jesus.  Telling them that he has learned that "I can do all things through Christ, who gives me strength."  Telling them to "REJOICE IN THE LORD."  To meditate on things that are true, lovely and praiseworthy.

How could Paul say all of that?  I would be saying:

"Lord, what are you doing?"
"Why are you making me go through this?"
"This is toooooo hard."
"I can't do this."

Yet, Paul claims he can do all things with God's strength.  I'm sure that didn't come naturally...  Look at verses 11 "... for I have LEARNED, in whatever state I'm in to be content."  After many times of seeing God work through hard situations he had learned to trust God.  Paul had seen the hand of God in so many impossible situations and He knew that God was working everything out for His glory.  Everything, good and bad.  EVERYTHING.  He had figured out that with Jesus, he could do it.  He could face Rome and death.  He could face hardship.  He could face loss.  Nothing was too hard for him to go through with Jesus by his side.

I don't know what you are going through today.  Some of my friends are going through fierce storms and they see no end in sight, worse still, the storm is obscuring their view of God...  but you can do this.  He is still there.  He is bigger than all the pain, hurt, confusion, and agony of your current situation.  He will bring you through this and when he does you will be a little stronger than before.  You will marvel at what you were able to overcome with Jesus. 

Don't give up...  You can do this.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Just Be Quiet.

We're on our way to an Easter get together at the lake with family.  The kids are excited.  They know they are going to have fun and get candy, but unfortunately we made a wrong turn and it took us exactly 7 minutes longer to get to our destination.  7 minutes of whining.  7 minutes of when are we going to get there!? 7 minutes of "who's fault is it that we took a wrong turn?"  7 minutes of parent torture.  It's enough to make you turn around and yell the "sh" word at your kids.   I would never do that...  Well.

Ever been there?  Of course you have.  It's the form of torture that makes you never want to go on a trip again.  Imagine 40 years of that.  40 years of complaining, whining, moaning, grumbling...  Oh my gosh how draining. 

It's no small wonder to me that God, after enduring this for 40 years, while his children roamed in the desert, would immediately tell them to "zip it" as they came into the Promised Land.  

After crossing over the Jordan, God instructed Joshua to besiege the city of Jericho.  Jericho was an ancient city with a impenetrable wall, so thick in fact that houses and shops were built into the wall.  The people of Jericho had long trusted in the security of their defenses, believing no enemy could ever overcome that wall.  The wall of Jericho had a reputation in the whole region of being totally indestructible. 

The children of Israel were desert wanderers.  They were not skilled and trained in the art of warfare.  The stories of them defeating fierce enemies on the other side of Jericho were confounding all the inhabitants of Canaan.  How were they conquering, vanquishing and defeating such strong enemies.  Of all the people who thought them inferior none were more convinced than the children of Israel themselves.  In fact the previous generation had all died in the wilderness, never seeing the Promised Land because of their lack of faith.

As Joshua shares the plan laid out to him by God I can imagine the shocked murmur that spread through crowd.  As men and women looked around and shook their heads at the insanity of what Joshua was commanding them to do. 

"We shall march around the city, all the men of war; you shall go around the city once.  This you will do for 6 days.  And the seven priests will bear 7 trumpets of rams horns before the ark.  On the seventh day you will march around the city 7 times, and the priests shall blow the trumpets." Joshua6:3-4

Now Joshua commanded the people, saying, "You shall not shout or make any noise with your voice, nor shall a word proceed out of your mouth, UNTIL the day I say to you, 'SHOUT!", then you shall shout."  Joshua 6:10

I'm not a real smart person or super spiritual so my theory on this is that after one round of marching around the city someone would have started in about how stupid this plan is.  Then someone else would say, "this isn't the way I would do it."  Then another person would chime in about "Who does this Joshua think he is anyway."  You would definitely have heard, "Are we there yet?"  and "He touched me." 

Before all that complaining could take place God through Joshua nipped that right in the bud...  "Do not make a sound."  OH man I wish that would work for my kids. 

Really though I want that to work for me.  I want to stop second guessing God.  I want to stop thinking I have a better way.  I want to just be quiet and know that God is God and I am not.  I'm not the all powerful, all knowing, all wise God of the universe so what do I know really?

Sometimes, my life seems impossible to me.  Sometimes being mom and wife and teacher feels impossible.  Sometimes when I look at my life I see massive walls that seem like they will never come down.  I see obstacles that seem too big to overcome.  I see giants to numerous to defeat.  I forget that I have seen water's parted.  I forget about water out of a rock and manna from heaven.  I forget about all the other miraculous things I've see God do and I get discouraged.  I lose my faith.  I give up hope and then I complain.  I complain to a friend or 10.  I convince myself that all this is too hard for me.  Instead of sharing my faith in a God who is able, I share my doubt and my fear and that spreads like wildfire. 

That day the Israelites were commanded to keep their mouths shut and march.  Do what you were told to do and WATCH YOUR GOD WORK.  

Just Show up.  Show up and march.  Just do it. 

It's not about how big you are.  It's about how big God is.  It's not about what you are capable of.  It's about what the God who formed the Universe is capable of.  Thick walls are nothing before the Creator.  Giants are like ants to God.  There is nothing that is impossible with God. 

I love that He told them to do 2 things they were capable of doing...  Being quiet and marching.  The task before them was impossible, but they were asked to do 2 things.   Trust God enough to do the impossible.  Imagine the shock and wonder of all the people that day...  The children of Israel outside the wall and the people of Jericho inside the wall as brick by brick it began to tumble to the ground. 

I don't know what you are facing today...  It may seem like a impenetrable wall in your life.  You may be facing giants, but if this story is true, what does it speak to your walls and giants? 

Be still and know.  Be quiet.  Keep marching.  Wait in silence for God to topple those walls.  Watch and see what the God of limitless power can do.  All of this was for one purpose...  To display the glory and power of the One True God.  What is God going to use in your life to reveal himself? 

Let's stop looking at our mountains and start looking above them to the One who is able to do exceedingly more than we could ever have imagined on our own... and all without our help!

Thursday, February 23, 2017

A walk in my shoes.

I made my 12 year old daughter sweep the kitchen floor yesterday.  She hates to sweep.  Honestly there are not many chores that she likes to do.  Welcome to my world kid.  She swept up a nasty pile of crumbs, dirt, dead grass and who knows what else and asked, "How does this happen everyday?"  That was just from lunch...  It has to be done every meal or you won't be able to take a step without squishing cold, soggy oat meal between your toes.   Before children I may have swept my kitchen once every three months... I had no idea how good I had it.

This afternoon after school was over and it was time to do chores, with dishes piled in the sink, toys all over the floor and laundry to wash, dry and put away that same 12 year old girl surprised me by saying, "Ugh, the floor's a mess again... you want me to sweep?"  Not instead of other chores, but along with what she was already going to do.  After she was done she said, "Man, this floor could use a mop."  She didn't offer to do that, butttttt she noticed. 

I know you know the feeling of never being done with housework and wondering IF anyone notices what you have done OR what still needs to be done, because one thing is for certain it is NEVER done.  She noticed.  She offered help.  WHY?  Because yesterday after sweeping the floor and thinking about what a great job she had done, she experienced the frustration of seeing that very same job needing to be done AGAIN.  She felt empathy for mom...  She took a walk in my shoes, she experienced what I have to go through and it moved her to want to help. 

There have been many times in my life that I have been asked to do something I didn't want to do.  I have pouted and whined... to no avail.  My Heavenly Father is always teaching me new lessons in this life.  Some for training.  Some lessons to teach me empathy.  None that I actually willingly agree to...  just being honest.

For instance, my recent past history with anxiety and depression.  I didn't want to go through that.  I have always been a happy person, who wakes up everyday with fresh perspective, but I couldn't seem to make myself be that person.  In the past I couldn't care less what people thought about me, but suddenly I didn't want to leave my house, because I was consumed with anxiety about people.  I hated that.  Thankfully, God's faithful hand is leading me through that murky place and on the other side I have much more empathy and compassion for people who are in that place...  sometimes you can't just snap out of it.  I didn't know that until I had been there.

Right now I'm in another place I really didn't want to be.  My 6 year old has to go on a gluten-free diet.  Yep, I've joined that fad.  I'm not sure what I will learn yet, but I already feel compassion for people who can't eat everything that they want, all the time without adverse reactions in their body...  I never even thought about how that would be for my friends who were struggling with family members that have food allergies, but here we are.  I'd rather not.

Or a struggling marriage, finances, wayward children...  When we go through these things we learn, we grow, we become more compassionate.  For every hard thing we experience we add one more layer of walking in another's shoes.  We grow.  We look around and say, "how can I help you?" 

I'm watching this happen in my older children.   The things they don't want to do, the chores that I require of them are developing in them empathy and compassion, the sense that this life is not all about them.  There are other people and those other people have a lot on their plate and these kids have a desire to help where they can.

Last week when my husband was away on a business trip the two oldest children took it upon themselves to clean the backyard and the patio.  They cleaned out the flower beds and filled 3 huge, black trash bags with old, dead bushes.  They moved patio furniture and swept, cleaned tables and put it all back together nicely.  I didn't ask them to do any of this.  They are learning to look around and offer a hand.  That's a lesson a person can only learn from experience.

So, right now I don't know what you are going through...  IF you are like me there are things that you wish you didn't have to do.  You may wish everything could be different right now, but God knows what we need.  He knows that we would never willingly grow or change or even care what the people around us are going through, therefore He provides opportunities to learn and tough situations to teach us how best to love the people around us.

"Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; Who comforts us in our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort that we ourselves are comforted of God."  2 Cor. 1:3-4

From now on that girl can no longer be oblivious to smashed scrambles eggs on the floor.  She may not always choose to lend a hand, but she will know a little bit more about what is means to walk in my shoes... 

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Happy Sappy Birthday.

So, it's my man's bday.  You know that has me thinking about him.  How great he is and how much I love him.  He's pretty darn terrific...  I like him, I think he likes me.  I made it official by posting about him on FB.  He is my #1, my best bud and I am so thankful that he is my baby daddy...  but that's just part of the story... How can I still be happy with this guy after 14 years? 

Is it because he's perfect?  Nah.  Is it because I'm perfect?  Well, maybe.   HAHA.  Is it because we just have flawless chemistry that keeps us madly in love?  Does he do things that make me crazy?  Yes.  Do I do things that drive him nutty?  Of course.  Is he prince charming?  Am I Cinderella?  Has this been "happy ever after"?  No.

It's been good, it's been bad.  It's been easy, it's been hard.  It's been close, it's been lonely...  and that was all this week.  There are times we have strayed apart, there have been times when I've been bitter.  There has been hurt, but there has been healing.  There has been disillusionment and then there was light. 

We have been students, not teachers.  We don't have it all together.  I don't profess to be a marriage scholar, but I would like to share a few truths I've picked up along the way...  Lasting love is not about feelings.  Lasting love is about making a choice to put the other person first.

Focus on the positive.  Keep at the forefront of your mind why you married this person.  The world will remind you every day that your spouse doesn't measure up.  The world is offering a mirage of perfection that can never be attained.  There is no perfect person, no perfect relationship.  There are two imperfectly flawed humans merging into ONE. 

"But from the beginning of creation God made them male and female.  For this cause shall a man leave his Father and Mother, and cleave to his wife; And then they are no more two, but ONE flesh." Jesus, Mark 10:6-8

My husband and I are opposites in most everything, but crazily after 14 years we are starting to understand each other more and more.  In the beginning I could only see my way...  My way was always best.  If only I could make him see how much better my way was.  I didn't take into consideration that his thoughts and insights could help me see a situation more fully and completely.  Take discipline for example...  I am a control freak.  I want things done the way I want them done, when I want them done... or there is hell to pay.  My man on the other hand is more merciful.  He wants to get to the heart of the situation and is willing to give second chances.  I'm learning from him that I can chill out and give my kids a break and everything is going to be ok.  There are times that we must discipline, but now we can do it together and both feel like we are making the right decision. 

I've come to appreciate our differences and consider them more valuable than the things we have in common.  He has offered me a new way of seeing the world, and I'm a better person for that.   Two=One.

What about the times when we don't see eye to eye and I cannot bend?  I pray.  God listens.  He speaks to the heart without motive or condemnation.  When my heart is burdened by something that needs to be said or done, I am...

"Anxious for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication WITH thanksgiving let your requests be known unto God.  And the peace that passes understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus."  Phil. 4:6-7

You see sometimes the way we see things is blurred by things we can't see.  It's so much easier to see what another person is doing wrong and sometimes we are blinded by our own sinful heart.  I am learning to never confront my husband in the moment.  I know I need to take my heart and hurt to God, allow him to search my heart and make it right before I bring my heart to my man. 

We have to communicate in our relationships, but I try to apply this verse before I do...

"A soft answer turns away wrath: BUT harsh words stir up anger." Prov. 15:1

I know in this day and time what I'm about to say is backwards and outdated, but it's my favorite verse in the Bible pertaining to the marriage relationship and I claim this promise in my life and I have seen miracles in times that I thought were hopeless. 

"Wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if they obey not the word, they may without a word (from us) be won by the conduct of their wives;..... But let the hidden (woman of your heart),... the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price."  I Peter 3:1-4

Look I know what you're thinking...  I just took us back 100 years.  Listen to me before you fire that shot.  I'm just as much a modern woman as you.   I'm NOT saying get in the kitchen and be barefoot and pregnant and let the king rule the castle.  I'm just like you...  I'm a woman with a lot of opinions.  I'm NOT quiet.  In fact I'm the loudest person in this house.  What I'm talking about here is that God made men with a certain quality that can not be ignored...  They need R.E.S.P.E.C.T... 

Having a meek and quiet spirit means that I trust God so completely that nothing my husband can do or not do can make me afraid.  I can trust that God has this.   When I know that God is in control I can let go of control.  I can talk and walk and treat my husband with respect.  I don't have to belittle or condemn or judge.  I don't have to worry or be anxious about the decisions he makes, because I have a relationship with the One who can change his mind, if that's what needs to be changed.  Because sometimes it's not him that needs a change and if I leave room for God to work in our marriage then I don't have to clean up the messes that I might otherwise make. 

Is any of this easy?  You know the answer to that.  I believe that lasting love is best accomplished when you first fall in love with the One who never changes, never fails, never leaves or forsakes.  When we are loved by and in love with a perfect, grace-filled, mercy-full God, then we can love like he loves and we can trust Him with the rest. 

So, Happy Sappy bday to my best friend, my road dog, my baby daddy...  The FB pics tell a story of lasting love and friendship, but the back drop is the real focus...  A good, good Father put two very different people together and made them One...  What God has put together, let no man put asunder. 

Let our marriages reflect this verse:

"This is a great mystery: but I am speaking concerning Christ and the church."  Eph.5:32

Husband and Wife is supposed to paint a glorious picture of Christ and his bride... What lessons have you picked up along the way that help the world see our Savior through your marriage?

Monday, January 30, 2017

Control Freak

Hi, my name is Angela and I like control.  I want everything my way.  I think my way is best and I will stop at nothing to have things my way.  I am in DA...  Dictator's Anonymous.   I had to seek out help because I was ruining my kids. 

My one goal in life was to raise some really great kids.  My strategy was to control every aspect of their lives.  When they slipped out of my control the consequence was punishment, guilt trips and condemnation. 

A few years ago I started to notice how this was beginning to take a real toll on my daughter.  She had no confidence and felt like she could do nothing right.  She began to lie about little things that meant nothing.  She was plucking her eye lashes and eye brows.  My beautiful flower was wilting under the hot sun of my scrutiny.  She didn't measure up. 

I was devastated to see what I had done to my child.  I started to see how she wasn't the only who was showing signs of living with too much stress, but in all honesty I didn't know how to change the situation.  I thought I was right.  I thought being hard on them would bring about my desired results.  I started reading every parenting book I could find and there were so many conflicting theories out there.  I was really confused.  One week I would try this method and another day I would try that method.  My children were confused as well.  There was no consistency and with my moody nature it was impossible for them to predict what I would do in any given situation.

Finally, I started praying for some wisdom, because God has always answered my prayers before and in James it says, "ask for wisdom and He will give it to us liberally." 

I'm not going to say I have figured anything out or that I have become the perfect parent, but God did begin to show me a few things from His Word.  It was like he had shone a little light on all the places his Father heart was revealed to us in scripture.   I could see from His Word how different He is from me.  I could see the contrast between how He treats his children and how I treat mine. 

"The Lord is gracious, and FULL of compassion (he feels what we feel); SLOW TO ANGER, and of great mercy.  The Lord is good to all and his TENDER MERCIES are over all his works." Psalms 145:8-9

As a dictator I was none of these things.  I was often angry and cruel.  My anger was like a light switch...  but in this verse I could see that God was slow to anger and had great mercy.  Well, I knew that He had been that way with me (his child), why couldn't I be that way with my children?  There is a real answer to that question.  Fear.  Fear controlled me and I used it to control my children.   I feared that if I didn't control everything, then they would do something that would make me look bad as a parent.   Oh and tender, yeah right.  I didn't know how to be tender.  

I LOVE this definition of tender- easily moved to sympathy or compassion...  God understands that we are weak and therefore he is tender with us. 

Mercy- compassionate or kindly forbearance shown toward an OFFENDER, an enemy, or other person in one's power. 

IF God is tender and merciful toward us...  WHY should we be any different with our children and notice that these words are used WHEN we do something wrong or we are enemies.

Look at John 3:17 "For God did not send His son into the world to condemn the world, but that through him the world might be saved."

What does condemn mean- to express an unfavorable or adverse judgment on; INDICATE STRONG DISAPPROVAL of.

Don't get me wrong.  The Bible says that God disciplines those he loves and He will correct our behavior, but HE NEVER CONDEMNS. 

Another definition for condemn- to declare incurable.

I believe that I was declaring my children incurable.  I was speaking death into their lives.  Let me give you an example between discipline and condemnation.

This morning one of my sons whirled around in the kitchen, arms swinging wide, and knocked over a glass of orange juice.

I wanted to scream and cry and say "NOT AGAIN, WHY DO YOU ALWAYS DO THAT." and then maybe tell him his punishment was to NEVER COME IN THE KITCHEN AGAIN.  Kidding/not kidding.   That is condemnation.   That makes kids discouraged.  Discouragement is losing courage.  Losing life.  This is how a dictator would respond.

Instead, I turned away and cried inside, opened a drawer and handed him a towel to clean up his mess.  His discipline was to clean up after himself.  He felt badly enough that he had spilled the orange juice.  I didn't need to beat him down about it. 

Discipline is a word that we associate with punishment, but discipline is really training. 

Discipline - activity, exercise, or a regimen that develops or improves a skill; training.

Training our children is a must.  God trains us.  He teaches us his ways.  Sometimes the consequences for our actions or for theirs is painful and pain is a good instructor, but our treatment should always be in love and never in condemnation. 

"Or do you despise the riches of His goodness and forbearance and LONG-SUFFERING; not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?" Rom. 2:4

It is in fact the goodness of God that makes me want to do the right thing.  My nature LOVES to do the wrong thing.  I'm not going to lie.  I am not pure in heart.  I can identify strongly with the lyrics of the One Republic song "Counting Stars":

I feel something so right
Doing the wrong thing
I couldn't lie, couldn't lie, couldn't lie
Everything that kills me makes me feel alive.

I have a couple children who are just like me.  They love to do the wrong thing.   I have to remember that God's goodness and forbearance and patience with me  keep me coming back to him.  It's His mercy that makes me love him and want to follow him.  How I would benefit from dealing with my own children the way He deals with me.

Listen to what Paul says,

"If I speak in the tongues of men and angels, BUT HAVE NOT LOVE, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.  And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to move mountains, but DO NOT HAVE LOVE, I AM NOTING." I Cor 13:1-1-2

Love is patient
Love is kind
Love does not envy
Love does not boast
Love is not rude
It does not insist on it's own way
It is not irritable or resentful;

Being a parent like my heavenly Father does not come naturally to me.   I have to die to myself, to my nature.  To truly love my children I have to let go of my need to control everything.  This is not easy.  That's why it's called death...  It hurts.

I'm not an authority on anything, especially parenting, but I do have an inside track on learning about Amazing Grace...  I've done it all wrong and I've have had to learn more from mistakes than anything else, but God has always been good to me.  He's always drawn me back in his arms with tender mercy and understanding and acceptance!  That's the kind of parent I want to be.

Hello, my name is Angela and I'm letting go of the control. 

Friday, January 27, 2017

If God had Facebook.

This post is meant to be tongue in cheek... Hope it's not blasphemous, but I think it needs to be said.

I have a love/hate relationship with Facebook.  I love it because it's a fun way to connect with people.  To keep in touch with people you don't get to see much, see how their kids have grown and what is going on in everybody's life.  I like to post my own pics and sadly yes I want to see how many likes I get.  I like to rant on the homeschool page about how crazy school is.  I like to share these little posts on FB, hoping that they will encourage someone out there.   I like to laugh at memes and roll my eyes as political post that I disagree with and pump my fist with those I do agree with.   I like to share funny poop stories or crazy things my kids say.  I like to post date night pics with my boo, laughing hysterically with him cuz we tried 75 times to get the perfect selfie and people are now staring at us.  I really do love FB.

I also HATE Facebook.  I hate the way it makes me envy other people who look more glamorous than I do.  I hate seeing someone else's success and feeling like my life is less than.  Seeing a friend post pics with other friends leaves me jealous and confused.  Reading about others children's success when my kid has been struggling with learning to read and another struggles with math.  I hate seeing happy family pics, but knowing the back story and feeling sad that it's really not so happy.  I hate how those political posts from both sides just seem to divide us so much that we forget that we have more in common than not.  I feel envious when I see my friends on vacation again and I haven't had a real vacation in 13 years...  I really do hate FB sometimes. 

We put our best "face" on FB.  We take a 100 pics to get the best one.  We tell our accomplishments and achievements and relish in the applause.  I say "WE", because I very much include myself in this.  We take those date night selfies, but we don't post about that fight we had last night.  We show our kids with a trophy, but we don't tell the world that they are failing math.  We take those happy family photos, but we never share how hard we are trying to keep it all together.  It feels like we are all telling half truths, just part of the story and it's hard to remember that the happy, glamour, and achievements are only half of the story. 

I have to tell you FB does not leave me feeling very happy or full of hope, but you know what does?  The Bible.  I started thinking...  If God had a FB what would he post??? 

From the beginning God has told us the whole ugly story of his family.   His pictures don't just show the big happy family.  Chapter 3 starts out with a man, a women, and a serpent making some really bad choices.  God lets us know from the beginning that his family is far from perfect.  He's not like us who hide the fact that our kid is in jail again.  He tells the whole story and you know what, it makes me feel better about myself.  If God's children are dysfunctional and he still loves them, then I guess he really can love me too.  That gives me hope.

A few posts later on God's FB he posts a pic of a flood a rebellious, violent generation of people who were bent on nothing but wickedness.  He even says "every imagination of their heart is wickedness"...  I wouldn't be too proud of that.  I definitely wouldn't share it with the world.

Not too long into God's story line we see He's chosen this man and wants to use him to bless the world through the future generations of his family...  I'm totally thinking this guy has to be one special person, but when I read about him I'm not so impressed.  He's just an average guy and God tells mostly about his mistakes and how He (God) keeps coming to his rescue and working things out for him.  You wouldn't find that on your newsfeed today.

Abraham has some of the most dysfunctional offspring I have read about...  Brothers trying to kill brothers, sons killing a whole town of people to get revenge, brothers selling a brother into slavery and lying to their father for 20 years saying that he was killed by wild animals.  Then Judah (whom God has chosen to send the messiah through) has 2 sons that are so wicked that they are killed before they can pass on their seed...  Judah's promised seed comes through his daughter inlaw, who plays the harlot, to trick Judah into sleeping with her.  These are not the stories we would put on our FB.

I could go on and on.  There's David, the man after God's own heart, the one who committed adultery, got her pregnant, and had her husband killed.   There is Aaron the priest, who erects a golden cow for the Israelites to worship.   There is Samson the hero of Israel, who allows his lust for beautiful women to destroy him.    When I read the Bible and see the whole ugly truth my hope is restored, my joy renewed.   I'm so thankful that God is not like me...  If he were he would have left out all the bad stuff and then I would ever be striving for perfection in my own life. 

If God had a FB I think he would share the good, the bad, and the ugly.  I think he would leave me SMH at the antics of his children.  I think I would like his posts because they were real and they wouldn't make me feel bad about my life.  I would follow God's page because I would see how amazing his grace is and know that he totally gets all my problems... He's seen them before.  I would know that I don't have it all together and that my life is a mess, but so is everyone else's!!!

God doesn't have a FB, but he does have a love letter that we should get into, like and share with others.  God's word brings hope to the hopeless, strength to the weak, courage to the fearful.  God's word is the light in the darkness.  The Bible is God's FB...  like, follow, share!

Thursday, January 26, 2017

It will get better!

Every day at 2 o'clock I look around and think "not again".   The house is a mess.  Dishes piled high and every square inch of counter space is covered.  We have been doing school all day and keeping up with house work just doesn't fit in.  The floors need a good sweep and there's at least 3 loads of laundry waiting for me.  The washer and dryer are both full and there are clothes piled up on the dining room table that have to be hung, folded and put away.  There are toys in every room of the house and the kitchen table is covered in books, papers, pencils and other school paraphernalia.  A mom could get crushed under the weight of the to-do's that await. 

It's 2:30... the kitchen counters are cleaned, the dishwasher emptied and dishes reloaded, the breakfast table cleared of all the school supplies and the floors swept and now only sticky and needing a mop (another day).   The washing machine is running with another load, the dryer has been emptied and two loads of clothes have been hung, folded and put away, the dining room table is bare.  The school supplies put away, the trash taken out, the recycle box emptied, the living room straightened.  The upstairs bedrooms have been cleaned and beds made, bathrooms spot checked and  toys picked up and put away.  Mom is sitting down at the computer and drinking some hot tea. 

How much of that did I do?  I helped here and there.  I checked to make sure everything was done and that's it.  As I watched them get all of those things done I thought about how much easier my life is now with 5 children than it was with 2.  I thought about how teaching them to do chores has transformed my life.  I thought about my friends who are in the trenches right now and I wanted to offer some encouragement.  It will get better! It will get better!  I promise it will get better!

Every Sunday morning my 12 year old daughter gets 2 little brothers ready for church because she enjoys dressing them up.  I stay in my bathroom and peacefully shower, do my hair, put on make-up and dress and come out to a house full of children dressed and ready to go. 

Every night after dinner I stand at the kitchen sink and wash dishes as all 5 children clean off the table, wipe down the counters, dry the dishes and put them away.  The job gets done faster and I can relax along with the rest of the family... when we all pitch in. 

Teaching my children to do chores has been a blessing for me but it's also been a blessing for them.  Teaching them to do chores has been an effective way to teach them empathy.  I will never forget the time that my 11 year son was folding a load of towels and he said, "How is there so much laundry, I just did this yesterday."  or the times that my daughter has taken it upon herself to clean the kitchen when I have been sick and she says, "Mom, please get better quick, we can't do this without you." 

The bible says that work is "good".  We should teach our children at a young age to have a good attitude about working around the house.  We should teach them that life is not about them and we are not their servants.  It's not an easy job, but you will be glad you did.  You will feel more appreciated and you will be happier in your home and as a mother if you teach you children to work around the home. 

This post is in NO WAY trying to brag about my children or myself...  It's a plea to my mommy friends to begin now to teach your children to do chores for your sake and theirs.  It is a tremendous blessing when you look around and see all the work that they have done around the house.

So where do you start?  How young and what jobs can each age group perform? 

I will give a list of my children's daily chores according to age and the occasional chores I expect them to do when extra things need to be done, but you know what needs to be done in your home and what your children are capable of doing.  I will say that my children are much more willing to do the work with a good attitude when mommy is consistent and it's a daily thing that is just a part of the routine.

My 3 yr old- helps unload the dishwasher and put silverware and other low things that he can reach away, he puts his clothes in the hamper and takes his folded clothes upstairs to his drawers, he helps pick up his toys and put them away (he needs encouragement to get the job done).  He helps big brother clean up the bed room.  He is also helpful at putting away groceries and taking out the recycle.

My 6 yr old- unloads one of the racks of the dishwasher, helps clean off the table, dries dishes and puts them away, he puts his folded and hang up clothes away, brings his laundry basket down to wash, picks up the upstairs and puts his toys away.  His occasional chores are cleaning baseboards, the stair case.

My 8 yr old- unloads one of the rack of the dishwasher, helps clean up after dinner, puts dishes away, cleans his room, makes his bed, brings down his laundry basket/hangers, cleans the upstairs, putting away blankets and straightening pillows.  Takes out trash and recycle, unload groceries, puts away his laundry.  His occasional chores are anything mom or dad need him to do.

My 11 yr old- straightens up the downstairs, sweeps or vacuums the downstairs once or twice a week.  He is responsible for washing, drying, and putting away one load of laundry a day as well as putting away his little brothers clothes.  He helps do anything that needs to be done... trash, recycle, vacuum, dishes, laundry.  His occasional chores are to help mom or dad with whatever is asked of him.

My 12 yr old- Anything that mom needs done.  She is a little mom herself and anticipates things that need to be done.  Her job is to help me not go crazy and she is really good at that.  She helps clean the kitchen, do the laundry, get little boys dressed and ready to go places.  She makes sure that everyone else gets their chores done... because she knows that I will ask her to do it if they don't. 

The Bible says that children are a blessing from the Lord and for many years I would have argued with that.  For a long time life was hard, a struggle and I felt like I was on a sinking ship.  I did start teaching my children young to do chores, but even that was more work for me.  I never dreamed that I would reap the blessings that the Bible talked about... but it's happening.

Today as I watched them transform this house in less than 30 minutes, I knew I had to encourage my mom friends who feel like they are drowning under the weight of raising small children.  Children are a blessing from the Lord and my life is easier now with 5 children than when I had only 2.  The key is teaching them work is a part of life.  Teach them from little bitty to do small jobs and expect them to clean up after themselves.  Be consistent and make chores a daily routine.  You will not regret putting in the effort and in the end you will reap exponential rewards!!!

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

With all my heart.

The things he has taught me, you can not place a price on.  This is a tribute to my Dad.  We just celebrated his 60th birthday last night.  He cried after we left for a long time, as he reflected on his life and all that 60 years have held and where his life is now.  A father of 5, grandfather to 8 his home was full of laughter and love last night.  The rowdy chaos, just a reflection of children who are comfortable and excited to be at Papaw's house and with each other.

If you are within 2 feet of my Dad you will get wrapped up in a hug and told how much you are loved.  Eyes that shed tears at the drop of a hat.  A heart that is worn on a sleeve.   What makes a man so affectionate and so vulnerable? 

From a very early age my father found out  that you have to love people while you have them.  He lost his mother at the age of 9... the first of many losses.  At the age of seventeen my father was in a accident that nearly took his life and after being electrocuted, he had to have his arm amputated.  Two years later his father died.  Around this time he met my mom and they were married and had me...  We lost my mother when I was only 1 and my father all to familiar with loss experienced another tragedy at the tender age of 21. 

Through the years many have had there opinions about how my father has lived his life, but when I think of all the heartache he has endured and can still smile and face each new day with joy, I admire him.  What would destroy most and make them cold and bitter has done the opposite for my Dad.  Now that I'm an adult I can see that every time he draws me into his arms and every time his heart pours out of his eyes and every time he says "I love you with all of my heart",  he's remembering how precious life is, how you never know when you could lose someone, and you need to tell them every single time you have a chance. 

I grew up knowing that I was deeply loved.  What a precious gift.  He has no idea how that has affected my life.  Showing affection and loving my children, a learned behavior, I picked up from my dad.

He taught me that you can get back up again.  Life can be more tragic that a person can imagine, but we can endure.  We can keep going.   We can turn tragedy into perspective...  We can decide to treat life as precious and to focus on what really matters...  the people you love. 

He taught me to turn the music up, to grab somebody and whirl them around the kitchen floor, to sing at the top your lungs and to laugh until you cry... to love with all my heart. 

I've watched him open doors, smile and talk to everyone 8 to 80, he's going to notice you.  You will be his new best friend.  You will feel like you were somebody special. 

I remember when I was in high school and my girl friends would want to come over and hang out with my Dad.  I thought how crazy, until one night my friend said, "I wish my Dad loved me like your Dad does."  In that moment I realized not every one has what I have.  Not everyone has a person in their life who loves them, the way my dad has loves me and I realized how blessed I am to have him.

Dad, thanks for teaching me how to love.  It is life's greatest gift.  A person can endure anything if they know they are truly loved by someone.  Thank you for allowing life's hardships to soften you and thank you for loving all of us with all your heart.  Thank you for making sure we all know that we are precious and loved. 

I love you with all my heart.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Just taste it!

"I DON'T WANT THAT!!!", screams the 3 year old, as he's walking away from me to go pout at the table.  I guess he chose the table in hopes that I would change my mind and give him what he wanted.  He was hungry.  It was after 3 in the afternoon and he went down for a nap without lunch.  He woke up in a mood and wanted to eat, so I pulled out the leftovers from the fridge and popped them in the microwave.  Meatballs, roast, and carrots, that only yesterday he had scarfed down and raved about how good it was.  So, naturally I made the mom mistake of thinking he would want to eat it again.  I'm committed though.  I know he hasn't had anything to eat of real nutritional value, so I have to overrule his desire for junk, with my knowledge of what is best for him.  

I tried everything to get him to eat.  I ate a few bites myself, I threatened, pleaded...  nothing worked.  We were having a standoff.  I wasn't giving in and neither was he.  My father inlaw was watching this whole thing and decided to apply his favorite saying to the situation...  "Well, hun, an old man once told me...  if you leave it there long enough they will eat."  He starts out all his profound thoughts with "Well, an old man once told me..."   I'm not sure who the old man was, but he had a lot to say about everything and often he was right.

I left the room for a minute and when I came back the little squirt was walking into the kitchen carrying his bowl of leftovers to the table, where I guess he had decided to eat "BY MYSELF".  Fine with me.  All I want you do is eat.   He ate up all that bowl and wanted another.  He decided this food was awesome and afterward was again his charming little self. 

As usual it's in that little situation that the Lord decides to use my stubborn 3 yr old to teach me something about myself.  I hunger for the things of this world.  I want ___________.  It really doesn't matter what you put in that blank.  I just want.   My Father knows what I need, but I am stubborn, I keep going after the things that I want, but do not fill me up. 

"So He humbled you, ALLOWED you to hunger, and fed you with manna which you did not know nor did your fathers know, that He might make you to know that man shall not live by bread alone; but man lives by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of the Lord." Deuteronomy 8:3

God allows us to hunger.  Then he feeds us what we need.  

"When you have eaten and are FULL, THEN you will bless the Lord your God for the good land which He has given you." vs 10

God led the children of Israel out of Egypt and into the wilderness.  They suffered hunger and wanted to go back to Egypt.  To the land of bondage.  They longed for all the plentiful food that they were accustomed to, but God was trying to teach them to hunger for more than food.  He wanted them to see that He could provide so much better for them, but they didn't even know what to hunger for.  He allowed them to hunger so he could feed them and satisfy them.

"O, taste and see that the Lord is good: blessed (happy) is the man that trust in Him." Psalms 34:8

"You will show me the path of life: IN YOUR PRESENCE is the fullness of joy, at your right hand are pleasures evermore." Psalms 16:11

"Who satisfies your mouth with GOOD things; so that your youth will be renewed like the eagles." Psalms 103:5

There have been times in my life when I wanted something so bad and the Lord withheld that thing from me.  I pouted, begged and pleaded and when those things didn't work, I stalked away from God and ignored all that he offered in place of the things I wanted.  I craved the junk of life, but God had what would truly satisfy me... or I should say He is Himself all that will ever satisfy me. 

He allowed me to hunger, but always held out his hand, and when I was hungry enough to come back to Him, he would feed me.  He feeds me and I realize those other things I was longing for could never satisfy me.

This is a cycle that repeats more than I care to admit.  Like my 3 yr old wants cookies, chips and candy.  I want.  Like my 3 yr old doesn't know the difference between what he wants and what he needs.  I want and really could care less about what I need.  I easily forget. 

We can hungry for all kinds of things.  Sometimes those things are good things.  I have friends who have desired to have a child and not been able too.  Single friends who have desired marriage and remained single.  Those unmet desires may be the very thing that God is using to draw a broken heart to him and the place that God wants to feed a hungry soul.  Sometimes it's a lonely marriage and the desire for romance.  You may be suffering financial trouble or a wayward child.  If God would only give you want you wanted you could be happy. 

I know how you feel.  When you want something so bad it's hard to see how anything other than that thing could be the answer.  How could it be true that God could satisfy all your needs?  How could an invisible God fill you?  Go back to Psalms 34:8 "Taste and see." 

Just like the little boy who snuck over and took a bite from that bowl and found out how good it was that he took the whole thing and devoured it.  Like the little boy who realized that he wanted more and finished off a second bowl.  Afterwards he walked away satisfied and no longer wanted the junk food he had been asking for. 

How do we taste and see.  Look at what Jesus said.

"Then Jesus, being filled with the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, being tempted for forty days by the devil.  And in those days He ate nothing, and afterward, when he was hungry.  The devil said, 'If you are the Son of God command these stones to become bread.' But Jesus answered him, saying, 'It is written, 'Man shall not live by bread alone, BUT by every word of God."  Luke 4:1-4

Jesus was hungry, but he knew that looking for food anywhere else but God wasn't what he needed.  Jesus answer to earthly hunger was the Word of God.  The Word (the Bible) is where God speaks to us and gives us manna from heaven, daily bread.  When we read his word, sing his word and meditate on his word, he begins to fill up the empty places and we lose our taste for the things of the world. 

Like Jesus, when we fill up daily with the Holy Spirit and feed ourselves from the Word, we are able to face our temptations and overcome.  Overcome depression, anxiety, hunger, thirst and even attacks from the enemy.  In Him we will find all that we need.  Taste and See today. 

Saturday, January 7, 2017

It's my turn.

"He had a lot of turns already, it's my turn.", screams the three year old voice, that I hear before I even see him.  He's running in my room to tell me he's been wronged.  They were supposed to take turns watching YouTube videos on my phone, but big brother had taken over and little brother felt wronged.  He came looking to me for justice.  Big brother has a different take on the situation...  He was holding the phone so they could both see and picking videos he thought they would both like.  He didn't see that he had done anything wrong and really he's right, but little brother is right too. 

This reminds me of a similar situation I'm working through in my own life.  I see it one way and the other person in my life sees the situation totally differently.   How could we both be right?  How could we both be wrong?

There is no reasoning with the 3 year old.  He can't see how things could actually work out better if he lets his big brother hold the phone.  He just wants what he wants.  There is no amount of common sense that you can talk into a 3 yr old, who's got their mind made up.  He throws himself down in the floor and has a fit when  I won't force his big brother to give up the phone mid-video.  He thinks me cruel and unjust.

I do the same thing.  Whether it's with my husband or a friend, all I see is my side and from where I'm pouting... I'm right.  I'm right and they are wrong.  The whole situation would be resolved if they could just see things the way I do.  

The thing is I understand why I see things my way.  Like my 3 yr old I feel very justified in my position.  It is my turn to hold the phone.  We are supposed to take turns.  That's all there is to it.  But from the other person perspective when the 3 yr old holds the phone he holds it in a way that no one else can see the screen.  So, to his practical minded older brother it's an easy fix, he will hold the phone and they can both see,  but his solution violates the fairness of taking turns. 

The older brother is no saint in this situation...  he's just coming up with a solution that works best for him and really that's all that matters.  I get him too.   He just wants to watch a video or 10.  He really could care less whether little bro watches with him or not.  In fact it would be easier if his little brother found something else to do, then he could have the phone all to himself.  If someone else is going to cause drama in my life I would rather just go on without them.  Looking at the situation from their point of view is not my top priority.

Sadly, with this kind of conflict resolution I can look behind me and see many broken relationships.  There will be a point in every relationship where misunderstanding and lack of communication cause tension.  We are all unique and we see the world from very different perspectives.  I feel justified about the way I think or I wouldn't think that way, but so does the other person in my life.  I see life through  the lens of my experiences, but my experience may be a very different one from the friend I'm struggling to understand. 

What do we do when we can't seem to understand.  When we are tempted to walk away from this person because our differences make it seem impossible to resolve a situation?   We do what God does with us. 

We extend grace.  The word grace means "unmerited favor".  We give favor.  This takes humility on our parts. 

Humility - modest opinion or estimate of one's own importance, rank, etc.

We humble ourselves, lower our opinion of ourselves.  We can do this...  Christ was our example.

"But made himself of no reputation and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of man: and being found in the fashion of a man, HE HUMBLED HIMSELF, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross." Phil 2:7-8

Even though He was God, he humbled himself out of LOVE for us.  He proved his love for us in that while we were yet sinners he died for us.  The Righteous One for the wrong ones.

We humble ourselves and give grace. 

I love what David says in Psalms 103:14 "For he knows our frame; and he remembers that we are just dust." 

He knows means- He understands our constitution...  and because he understands he gives grace.  In our relationships a little understanding would go a long way.  If we could look from the other person's perspective.  If we would lower ourselves like Jesus did and repair the relationship at any cost to our own selves then we would truly be in the right. 

When I truly love someone above myself I will look for ways to understand where they are coming from.  I won't hold on to being right at the expense of the relationship.  I will humble myself and try to see the situation from their perspective and if I can't do that I will show them grace (favor) just because I love them...  Like God the Father showed me favor by giving His Son as a ransom for my life.  No personal price was too great for God to pay in order to restore a right relationship with me.  How could I then withhold grace and mercy from those I claim to love?

PS....  I'm not there yet...  probably never will be.  It's a process I have to work through.  Sometimes it takes a very long time for me to get there, but I know it's the right way!