"Blessed is she, who has believed, that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished." Luke 1:45

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Struggle


I haven't wanted to talk about this... telling you what one of my biggest struggles is.

Every time I try, all I can think is, this is stupid, it's vain, and shallow and in the face of other struggles, it is so insignificant as to be laughable. But in talking to a friend, I realized, I needed to share this because so many women struggle with weight issues, and pretend they don't because they feel like it isn't a valid thing to struggle with.

But the truth is, anything that you are struggling with is something that is keeping you from growing closer to God, as that this is the struggle that he is going to use to show himself to you in a new way. So, I decided to talk about my weight struggles with you.

If you have ever, or if you are are struggling with your weight, you know, you KNOW that it really isn't about your weight at all.

One of the reasons I hate that I struggle with my weight is because it is a very visible sign that I have some issues with being obedient to God. I can't hide it. Every time I look in the mirror I see it. So, for the past year or two, after I dress for the day and look in the mirror to make sure my outfit is OK, I don't look in the mirror again. I make a point not to. I don't want to see myself. I don't want to see that I have something that isn't right with me, and... to be honest, I don't want to see myself looking this way. There are many days where I just wear some yoga pants or sweats and a baggy tee and don't even bother to look in the mirror at all.

Now, let me clarify something. I LOVE Jesus. There are not enough words or ways for me to tell you how much I love him. He picked me up out of the mess I had made of my life seven years ago, and I truly want to live my life for him in every way. That is one of the things that is so painful about this. I trust that God can do amazing things in every area of my life. But this one. For some reason, I just can't get myself to believe the truth that I know.

There are some amazing Scriptures regarding my struggle with weight.

1 Cor 10:23 says: Everything is permissible”—but not everything is beneficial. “Everything is permissible”—but not everything is constructive.”

1 Cor 6:19 says “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own.”

Hebrews 4:15-16 says “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

and there are many, many more. when I am really on my game, and trying really hard, and even seeing some progress, these Scriptures encourage me and keep me going.

The thing is, I am not always on my game. In my down times, in the times that I am really struggling they don't just convict me, they make me feel guilty and defeated, and ashamed. (By the way, those are NOT thoughts from God. Only Satan deals in guilt, defeat and shame. But I listen anyway.) My body is supposed to be a temple and look at it...Jesus was tempted in every way and didn't sin, but I can't figure this one thing out.

I have avoided situations and people because of it. I have “fat friend” syndrome. I feel like the fat friend so I therefore think that my friends think that too. I asked one of my friends once if this was the case. She said no, of course not, that I was being ridiculous. But I still feel that way some days. I have to tell myself that that isn't true. That my friends don't think like that. And come on, if they did, what kind of friend would they be, really? My friends are better than that, and my struggle is leading me to do a huge disservice to them.

I truly live in the truth of Philippians 4:8-9 “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.” and also Philippians 4:13 “I can do everything through him who gives me strength.”

I struggled in a different area four years ago, and these verses were a lifeline to me. There were days where I walked around saying “Whatever is true, whatever is true” over and over. And I won that battle. But I have only recently begun to apply the truths of these Scriptures to this struggle. For some reason that I don't understand, I wasn't applying the truths that I know and believe.... to my eating.

Just like with the way I projected my struggle onto my friends, I need to start projecting Jesus onto my struggle.

I recently read a book that catagorized eating struggles and I really feel like I fit into one of the categorizes.

I am an “unconvicted eater”. I hate the struggle, hate how I feel and look, and hate that I am not being obedient to God, but for some reason, I am unconvicted before I start eating those cookies. Or chips. Or extra helping. Or two.

It is only afterward that the conviction comes. And shame. And the negative things I say to myself.

And it is a bad cycle that continues to spin. I eat when I am bored. When I am depressed and when I am insecure. Food is my security blanket in these areas.

As you can see, I am still struggling. But I have some hope for this situation that I didn't before. I have some idea of what my struggle truly is, and am even trying to apply Scriptural truth to it. One of my biggest needs in this right now is accountability. I don't have it with another sister in Christ right now and that is a huge thing. It is easy to ignore God's nudging of the spirit, it is much harder to ignore someone standing right in front of you holding you accountable. So that is the next step on my journey.

This isn't one of those amazing ending testimonies. I guess I just brought you in on the ground floor of my amazing testimony in the making. But I think more than that, God wanted me to share that if you are struggling with this, then you are not alone. Yes, I am struggling with it too, but more importantly, no matter how many times you fail at a diet or exercise program, see the numbers on the scale stay the same, or even go up, God is right there. He wants us to remember that we can do ALL things through him who gives us strength, and that includes starting over. 

God's plans for us are good, and he does have a plan for me through this. And he has a plan for you, too. And that is a thought that lovely, praiseworthy, and true.


Wednesday, November 16, 2011

A little looking back

I have been busy. Whoever said that being a stay-at-home mom involved staying home was joking.

Literally.

I have so many ideas running around in my head, but I can't get the time to get them written out.

I hate that I don't post regularly. Thanks so much for sticking with me.

I have three links for you. Three of my offerings from several years ago. it was fun to go back and read them. I hope you enjoy it.

And if its your first time reading them well, I hope you enjoy them too!

Have you ever heard a promise laugh?

Focused on Service

Joy found at the well

Friday, October 21, 2011

In His Arms

I recently realized I was so disconnected from God I hadn't even noticed it had happened. I had been praying my list, trusting him to be in my day, but I couldn't remember the last time I had spent any time with him to just be near him, just us two in the quiet.

Last weekend I went to a wonderful conference called RefresHER. It is a one day conference that is to do just that. Refresh us. Renee Swope was the speaker. She spoke on confidence and allowing ourselves to be seen, built and established through the love and redemption of God's plan for us. I taught a workshop on praying for your children. It was a wonderful day and I felt very refreshed and re-purposed to focus my vision on God, so I would remember to see myself as he does.

Then I realized, I hadn't focused my eyes upwards in quite some time.

God had been speaking to me, blessing me, guiding me, and I hadn't taken any time to just rest with God and be in his presence. To be thankful for all he has given me.

Has that ever happened to you? You realized you were living in the blessing, soaking it in, and giving nothing back? I don't know about you, but when I realized it, I felt like a spoiled, ungrateful brat. Not so much as a "thank you" had been sent heaven-ward in who knows how long.

Wednesday, I got my daughter off to pre-school, came home, turned off everything but my laptop and settled into my favorite chair. I turned on my praise and prayer playlist, grabbed my Bible, my Priscilla Shirer study on Jonah, and my favorite devotion book. I spent the whole afternoon singing, lifting my hands, reading my Bible, and doing my study. I had, in essence, curled up in my Daddy's lap to spend the afternoon cuddling. When I closed my Bible and shut off my music, I felt like a completely different person.

Can I encourage you to do the same? It might not be a whole afternoon. it might be an hour, thirty minutes, or 10 minutes waiting in the carpool lane at school. You will not regret the time you give God to just love him.

One of the songs I listened to, and that really helped me to feel close to my Jesus, was a song I heard at the conference. It is called "In Your Arms" by Meredith Andrews.

For the next four minutes and thirty-one seconds, would you turn off everything but your speakers, close your eyes, and just sit in God's lap? I guarantee it will be time well-spent.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Making Your Home a Haven - 31 Day Challenge

You are going to love this!

As you may (or may not!) know, Autumn is my absolutely favorite season. I just love everything about it, even those dreary, chilly, rainy days. I love watching the farmers in the fields harvesting their crops. I love watching the world turn colors as it prepares to sleep away the winter cold. I love the warmth of a bonfire as we toast marshmallows and cook hot dogs while sipping hot chocolate and laughing. I love the sound of leaves crunching under our feet as we take the dog for walks. I love getting my trunk ready for Trunk or Treat at our church every Halloween. I love the baking and decorating and cooking that seems to only come around during the autumn months.

You get the idea. I LOVE AUTUMN!

And now, I have one more thing to love.



check out this amazing challenge over at Women Living Well Ministries.  This is a do-able challenge for anyone and I can't wait for it to get started!


Monday, September 26, 2011

To share with you...

Sometimes there are things that are just too good not to share. I am posting some things that have inspired, encouraged or otherwise made my day in some way.

10 Points of Joyful Parenting sits on my fridge door. I look at it as often as I need to (to re-adjust my attitude) or want to find a way to focus back in on what this parenting thing is all about. While you are there, take the time to savor the writing of Ann Voskamp. You will be blessed indeed.

A friend and I recently had a conversation about hearing from God. What's it like? How do I know? Is it a voice? A feeling? This I ran across this wonderful gift on Lysa TerKeurst's website.

I was reading Karen Ehman's blog (so wonderfully titled Live Your Priorities, Love Your Life) today and she shared what has become my number one favorite song. Chris Tomlin's All My Fountains. I have listened to it about 20 times today. LOVE. IT.

My ladies ministry at church has started Priscilla Shirer's Jonah: Navigating a Life Interrupted Bible study. I'm already hooked. Get it? Hooked.

LeAnn Rice over at She Cooks has a recipe that makes all the other recipes jealous. Try this Marble Cheesecake with Dark Chocolate Ganache.

I will be creating these cute little pumpkin people for my front porch this weekend.

And finally...

Football season is winding down, and that makes my heart sad, but my very handsome guard made my Momma Heart very very proud!


And how could we leave out one very cute Jr. Cheerleader sister?


My babies.


Monday, September 12, 2011

Called to do the work

You might notice that the tone of my posts will be different now and again. I generally share something that God has shown me, or that I am in the process of being "refined" through. 

But another aspect of my life has taken center-stage and you will be hearing more on it from time to time.

Being a full time stay at home mom.

This is a huge step for me. We have gone into this season knowing that it will have to develop and flesh out in God's way and in his time. Pretty much the only thing I know for sure right now is that I am where I am supposed to be.

I know this because I am nervous. I am only nervous when I am not in control. I guess this being nervous is a good thing. It means I am on a path that God has for me. 

It is exciting too. Knowing I am doing what God wants from me. I know there will be some amazing blessings on this path. I know I will get to see God move and do things that I can't even imagine right now.

God has been really working on me to release control, to push myself to become more disciplined, and to seek out what he has for me in this season. 

I have been memorizing a verse that I want to pray for my son regularly as he moves from his pre-teen to his teen years. It really is what my decision to stay home is all about. David said it for Solomon as he built the temple. I pray it for my son as he grows. But God has shown me that it also applies to my work as a mother. 
“Be strong and courageous, and do the work. Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the LORD God, my God, is with you. He will not fail you or forsake you until all the work for the service of the temple of the LORD is finished."
1 Chronicles 28:20

Our bodies house our soul. They house our spirit. They are now the temple that we are to prepare for God to dwell in.
"Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst?"1 Corinthians 3:16
 "Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own."
1 Corinthians 6:19
God has given me specific duties to build these two little "houses" to prepare for his Holy Spirit. My job as a mother is to pour in as much truth, love, encouragement and hope in Jesus that I can; so that as God works on them, an amazing temple- their testimony that will be lived out with that body - will be built. Through God's work, their lives will bring Him glory and the Light of Jesus to the world. 

This is no small order. But wow. 

He is no small God.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Shhhhh...He's speaking

" ....our days are meant to tilt and we are meant to spin and He holds us perfectly on this axis of rotating glory." ~ Ann Voskamp

What with becoming a stay at home mom (most of the time) part-time Special Events Coordinator for my old employer - a crisis pregnancy center, a Pre-K princess who didn't go to Pre-K and now needs to be entertained/challenged/educated/encouraged toward a little more independence by Mommy, a Jr. High football and basketball playing all-boy who is testing the limits of well, everything, a new dog, writing my first teaching workshop and working in children's ministry teaching kids how much you can learn from the greedy kid in the pig pen and how amazing it feels to throw a little hip-hop into your worship time... I sometimes feel a little dried up in the inspiration department.

OK, here lately, not sometimes....it's been a drought.

Then rain.

Drops to refresh and inspire.

To remind.

To encourage.

To incite to create.


Yes, life should be. 
          
                                      Can be. 
    
                                                           Is.  

                                                                          Will be.

This blog posting from Ann Voskamp moved me in ways I don't really understand, and yet were so profound.  Her simple, quiet, faith-talk that makes you wonder how anything could be as complicated as we make it. I haven't been able to remove that talking from my mind.

 I don't think I am meant to. 

I think I was meant to find this offering, this day, for this reason.

To remember how intimate and personal and amazing God is. 

I do believe I had completely forgotten.

I can't explain why what Ann wrote has made me feel like God was talking to me, but it did. And does.

It feels lite as a feather...

and full of Light. 

Airy.

Welcoming.

Fall-ish in it's anticipation of beautiful, colors-bursting-forth change.

Yes, a one-piece faith and experiences and fragrances spoke to me today. 

God got me all quiet, and in the quiet...He spoke.

Go let it speak to you, too.






Sunday, August 21, 2011

Trusting in the silence


"Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see."
Hebrews 11:11

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding."
Proverbs 3:5

We all go through times when God appears silent. It seems as if He hasn't anything comforting to share.  No guidance. Not even a suggestion or a preference is shared. It is just silent.

After a few weeks, we start to get snippy with the kids. Little things that used to mean nothing now grate along our last good, but raw, nerve.

Our spouse can’t manage to get a single thing right, no matter how hard they try, because their ESP isn’t working correctly and that just annoys us to no end.

We start to compare our friends walk with God to ours, and find ours lacking. And a little envy begins.

God is silent and then we get angry that He is letting this happen.

But is he?

God’s Word never changes. It is a Living Word. He shares it with us every time we choose to open it. He speaks it every time we seek to apply it. He encourages and comforts through it.

Sometimes we forget that and allow the world to speak a little louder than God’s silence. Food starts to offer the comfort we seek. That flirty comment from the man at the gas station begins to feed our need to feel special and noticed. The guard comes off our mouth, our thoughts and our actions. Nothing is our fault and no one understands.

We use the term silent, but God never stops speaking to us. We may just not be listening in the right place. We might not feel that warm-fuzzy that we seek. All to often we say that God is silent and want him to speak, when really we just want him to make us feel better, take away the work of the struggle, or make life easier. But sometimes God speaks by saying: You say you have faith in me. Let’s try it out a little. What will you do if you have to trust me to be there, instead of knowing I am there.

Knowing and trusting are two different things. And if we always know God is there, we can’t trust him to be. That might seem to not make sense because we know that God is always there, right?

But do we really act like it? He is there even when things aren’t going our way. When we are struggling with something. When our feelings get hurt. When we get sick. When our spouse hurts us and our kids walk away. But if God isn’t loudly speaking to our heart, do we begin to doubt that he is really there this time? It is those times when God “goes silent” that he is watching to see if we will continue to stretch and search for him, even when it seems he isn’t there.

If you feel like God isn’t speaking to you right now, consider what you are listening for.  God might be asking you to grow your faith while you are asking him to hand you comfort wrapped in a pretty bow. If this is the case, search him out.  Trust that He will continue to guide and lead you through his Word; through those prayers that seem to bounce off the ceiling (they don’t by the way. He hears every word.) He will be found in the praise music you sing a little louder, and the friend that says she stopped by just to chat.

God isn’t silent. God is growing you. Trust him enough to have a little faith.


Thursday, August 18, 2011

Enough when it wasn't obvious

Many, many hours of my thought life and prayer life are taken up with the fear that I am not doing all I should to show my children how to love Christ. I always replay the day and see about a hundred ways I could have been more compassionate, showed patience, been generous, been a better spiritual leader. And on and on and on….

I tend to focus on what I have or haven’t done, and therefore completely miss what God is doing right in front of me.

As the Mom of a pre-teen boy, I understand that there are layers to him that I will never see; but for some reason I never thought one of those layers would be his relationship with God. If it hasn’t been obvious, I have assumed it wasn’t present at all.

Until dinner.

Recently I had talked to our son about praying more varied prayers, instead of the same words over and over. We talked about  sharing a concern or praise for God that had happened that day, that way he wouldn’t be stuck in a prayer routine that was more habit than anything else. Following this conversation I have noticed him making an effort to have something new every night at dinner.  This has been great as he would pray for things I didn’t know were especially concerning for him, which helps me know how to better pray for him.
A few days ago, he prayed for help in a specific area. One he has struggled with for years but this was the first time I had heard him petitioning God for strength and guidance in that area.

That’s when it hit me.

My son’s prayer life is growing right in front of me. A little more each day he shares new things with God.
In that moment I realized God wanted me to see that. He was giving me a glimpse of what He was doing in my son’s life, and he was using me to encourage and guide it. It wasn’t something big, or extravagant, but something vital. Something in the quiet of my son’s heart.  Something he was using me to help my son understand. Through God I had been enough even when it wasn't obvious. Thank God!!

I haven’t been focusing so many hours on my fear anymore. Those few little words prayed at dinner helped me to remember that God is much more concerned with my son’s spiritual growth, and he is working all the time to make sure my son is getting what he needs to grow into a wonderful man of faith.

If you struggle with feeling like you just haven’t been enough when it comes to modeling and teaching a spiritual life, I would like to encourage you to be intentional about observing your children. By looking for them, you might find some small, quiet qualities that have escaped your notice.  And if you happen to see something that you feel you need to address, well, that is God working through you too. Don't miss the opportunity God shows you.

Be confident in God’s working;   As the following verses tell us, God gives strength and power to all of His children, including yours and mine today. Even when we miss it.

“Praise be to you, LORD,
   the God of our father Israel,
   from everlasting to everlasting.
 Yours, LORD, is the greatness and the power
   and the glory and the majesty and the splendor,
   for everything in heaven and earth is yours.
Yours, LORD, is the kingdom;
   you are exalted as head over all.
 Wealth and honor come from you;
   you are the ruler of all things.
In your hands are strength and power
   to exalt and give strength to all.
Now, our God, we give you thanks,
   and praise your glorious name.”
1 Chronicles 29:10-13

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Perspective in the desert

It doesn’t take long to forget where we come from, does it? The first time we come up against struggle, or things don’t work in our time frame, then we instantly start finding excuses to go back, to grumble about our present, to lose faith in what we know to be true.


“The whole Israelite community set out from Elim and came to the Desert of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after they had come out of Egypt. In the desert the whole community grumbled against Moses and Aaron. The Israelites said to them, “If only we had died by the LORD’s hand in Egypt! There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death.”
Exodus 16:1-3

The Israelites had seen, felt, heard and experienced God’s divine hand in their lives in a very intimate way. They not only had faith, but they were lucky enough to have seen God’s working in amazing ways. I mean, they crossed in-between the Red Sea! They watched God roll it back, they travelled through it, they watched the waters come back together and destroy every last man in the enemy army that chased them.

The Lord even appeared before them as a pillar of cloud or column of flame. He left no doubt where they were supposed to go and when. He literally was walking them through the desert to the Promised Land.

But God wasn’t working in the way they decided he should, or in the time frame that was most convenient for them. They let his wonders and provisions take a back seat to their desires and plans.

And their ability to see the trust got twisted.

Instead of having an attitude of praise and a heart of worship, they focused instead on the things that they wanted. All of a sudden, God’s way seemed too hard.  The Israelites began to Long for the “good ‘ol days” of slavery. Not even two months into their journey and they wanted to go back! From: "We don’t like slavery, get us out"! to: "Uh oh, this desert is hot and there is lots of walking. We don’t like journeying in the desert; we wish to be slaves again"!

We can read these verses and laugh in disbelief at the craziness of the Israelites thinking. We can mutter about the foolishness of these chosen people; rescued, led, provided for and loved by God. But do we stop to find the meaning of what God has for us?

How many times have we started a ministry only to turn around a few months later and complain about the time, energy and difficulties we face?

How often do we pray for an answer to a struggle or doubt, and then give up when we don’t get our answer in 48 hours or less?

Have you ever prayed for a change in your situation, and then complained when it happened?

It is easy to wish for what was. Sometimes we even want to go back to a situation that isn’t for our best-simply because we don’t like the new challenges or struggles. Better the evil we know…. But that isn’t true.  That is one of Satan’s best tools.  And sometimes we just want to sit down in the middle of the desert and give up on pressing on. “What’s the point?” we ask.

God would never put us in a situation that wouldn’t grow us, teach us, strengthen us and encourage us. He never asks us to go back, but he also never promises that things will be easy. Or fair. Or happy.  But he does promise to show us the way he wants us to go, to provide for us, and even in the middle of the worst of it all, we will know joy because we know Him.

“You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.”
Psalm 16:11

If you feel you are in the desert, and that it would just be better to give up and go back, don’t let Satan fool you! What was behind isn’t nearly as amazing as what God has planned for you! The incomparable Apostle Paul said it much better than I ever could:

“I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”
Philippians 3:10-14


Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Chasing Connection


I twitter. Or Tweet. Or whatever.

I post to my wall.

I update my blog.

I text.

I email.

That is about all I am willing to do. Sometimes that seems to be way too much.

How much time should we spend chasing connection via digital communication? What is it about a little flag, or envelope, or whatever, that has a number next to it to indicate we have a message that gives us a thrill that genuine face-to-face, flesh-to-flesh connection doesn't seem to have anymore?

I have a friend whom I used to send little hand-noted cards and letters written in long-hand. Now we blip away via digital communication. We used to say the highlight of our week was getting some non-bill mail. You know, the kind of mail that isn't asking for money?

I can't remember the last time I sent her something personal.

Could our need to chase connection through digital means also be a reflection of our general lack of manners and consideration nowadays?

We don't have to have to be polite anymore. Most texts don't start:

Dear Barbara,
How are you? It's been too long since I heard from you! How are the girls?

No, now when we need to talk to someone, we can text them:

u get ur copy of meeting notes? Txt me outline pt #2? missed it. THX!

What?? What is that?

And we don't call people anymore. No time for that. We shoot them an email that looks like this:

Hey!Gonna have a get-together at my house on the 22nd. Prolly around 5:30 or so. You in? Bring the kiddos and your YUM brownies!

Yeah, that feels really personal and warm.

And yet, with all the lightening fast connection why do we tend to feel more alone than ever?

I actually saw a post on Facebook that said they wished real life were more like Facebook. It was so much friendlier there.

That is just sad my friends.

Now, before you point out the obvious, yes I am posting this in a blog.

Ah hum.

I realize the irony. But I also have always committed to writing about things that I see, things that influence me and things that make me think. Do I get my booty kicked right alongside those of you who read my little bloggy thoughts and agree? Sure I do. I can't write about what I haven't experienced!

So, how do we quit chasing connection and actually connect?

Go to the store. Buy a datebook and some really cute cards or stationary. Disconnect from all the electronics and start connecting again. Call a friend and schedule an actual date. Meet for coffee. Get ice cream and sit at the park watching the kids play while you catch up. Go on a double date with another couple you haven't seen in awhile. Send a card of encouragement and a long handwritten letter to your friend who lives a state away but knows you like no other.

Connect.

Loneliness is a plague these days. In a digital age that makes us think we are connected, It sits inside our computers and phones and masquerades as relationships, but as soon as we click the log-off button, we are as lonely as ever. Take some steps today to get back to real relationships.

And if you are like me, then you can blog about your experience. Or post. Or tweet. Or whatever.  

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

A quick observation

I was in Nashville over the weekend and I observed something quite interesting.

Tucked all around where I was were little bits and pieces of beauty. Quiet little spots to look at nature and relax in the shade while you could sit and watch the world. Little spaces dedicated to green, to nature, to beauty.

No one was there.

Broadway is a busy rush of humanity. Pushing, shopping, partying. There was loud music blaring every twenty feet, bright lights flashing, overpriced food, overpriced drinks, cheap items selling high.

All those people on vacation, in a hurry to cram as much “relaxation” in as they could; hurried past those quiet little spots of rest.

When did we decide that relaxing meant shopping? That vacation meant the hustle and bustle of loud, bright and garish?

Isn't that how we spend our lives anymore? Hurrying from one thing we think we want to another, going so fast we miss all the little bits of beauty that are designed to inspire us along the way?

These observations have flowed over into my day-to-day life as well. How often do I get up with a list of things to get done, and completely miss all those little moments that could have been memories?

The hustle and bustle of laundry and cleaning, the hurrying from one errand to the next, the frustrations of customer service calls. I walk right past the pile of crayons and paper, the swing hanging under the tree, the pretty note cards I bought to send to friends, the pile of blankets that can instantly become a fort.

My little vacation was restful and enjoyable. I made a point for it to be so. But it also re-affirmed to me that I create more stress for myself than I think I do. I can also make a point for my normal day-to-day to be enjoyable as well. It takes only a little bit of intentionality, and a whole lot of slowing down.

What is one thing that you wish you had time to do? One thing that you want to take from a missed moment to a cherished memory?

Find a way to make it happen. Let the quiet spots become something you seek with purpose. Be intentional about enjoying the day you are given.

Friday, July 22, 2011

You don't have to learn it the hard way

One of my main motivators that moved me into the realm of full-time Mom is my son's education and soon, my daughter's.

Learning disabilities come in all shapes, sizes, and degrees. My son's issues are not major, but because he has more than one, it makes reading and sequencing very difficult, and because his issues ARE different, it means we have to come up with more than one way to work out any one thing. Intellectually he is just like everyone else his age, but formal learning and reading are harder for him than anyone really realizes. It can be overwhelming and frustrating. And that's just for us as his parents. For him it is a constant struggle. It's a de-motivator. It's sometimes embarrassing. It's not something that we can see an end to, so sometimes the "what's the point?" attitude rears it's ugly head.

Trust in the LORD with all your heart 
and lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways
submit to him and he will make your paths straight.
Proverbs 3:5,6

I have recently admitted that I am pretty angry with God that he has not seen fit move Kevin past this issue, that he is allowing the struggle to continue. God is OK with that. He has shown me that part of his plan for Kevin is for me to be more a presence in Kevin's education. This is outside my comfort zone in a huge way. Learning, especially reading, has always come very easily for me, so I sometimes can't understand how Kevin can't get it. But he really can't. And God needs me to learn to be on his side and learning accommodations for him so that he can feel safe not getting it, and not be embarrassed in the process of learning it.

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.
Jeremiah 29:11-13

God is also working out in me that this is Kevin's struggle to grow through, I am on the sidelines. My struggle is to let him go through this, grow through it and let him and God work it out. As a Mom, I want to fix the problem. God wants me to step out of the way and let them work this thing out. I am only playing a supporting role in this one. God knows my babies. More than I ever will. He loves my children. More than I will ever comprehend. To want the best for my children is to want them to turn to God and know Him as intimately as possible. To give the best to my children is to sometimes step back and let them stumble through on their own. After all, they are never, never alone, are they?

I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being,so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.
Ephesians 3:16-21

Finally, God is showing me that it is my job to equip myself to support and help Kevin as needed, but the most important thing I can do is seek God's will. How often do I focus in and pray for specific things to get us through this project or that paper, when I need to broaden my prayer? God wants us to pray the big prayers. Ask for things that seem impossible to us. Ask God to move in ways that aren't only impossible for us to believe, but to move even beyond that and do something so huge, so amazing, that we are left standing with our mouths hanging open, hands raised and tears streaming over the fact that God is THAT BIG.

Below are a few resources that are very encouraging. Education and knowing how to learn are so important, but we need to use these things as a secondary line of attack. Turning to God first will ultimately be what helps our children succeed. And if you have kids that need extra help, don't go it alone! Find support!

Equipping Kids for Life-Long Learning (The article contains great practical reminders. I haven't read the book yet, but it is on my to-buy list!)

The Way They Learn ( I had several of Kevin's teachers read this book. They loved it and it truly opened my eyes to how amazing my kid is. And completely opposite of me!)

Every Child Can Succeed (sometimes just reading the title was enough to make me get back in the fight. Yes, he CAN succeed.)

Apples 4 the Teacher (this sight is a gold-mine of things to help those that are struggling to read!!)

Your church.

And if you have teachers or resource/special ed teachers anywhere in your circle, USE THEM! I would have been lost without the vital inside knowledge I got about IEPs, questions to ask and key words to use in conversations. I also have gotten amazing support and encouragement from parents that have traveled the road ahead of me. They smoothed out some bumps, filled in some pot-holes and generally ran along side me cheering me on and reminding me that in the school system, I HAVE to fight for him. And I plan on keeping my cheerleaders until Abby is through school. 

Nurture

To feed and protect; to support and encourage, 
as during the period of training or development; 
foster; to bring up; train; educate

These definitions of nurture might, at first glance, seem to be ordinary words that are held together by the strings of information and development. They seem to be good applications and suggestions on how to develop something into its fullness.

When placed in the context of raising up the next generation, the definitions become almost overwhelmingly terrifying in their weight.

The decision to become a stay at home mom was not made lightly. My main goal was to become more of a presence and influence in my children's lives. But when you really dig into the meaning of what a mother does, it becomes a scary weight that can become overwhelming when you look at it as a whole. Panic can set in if your focus is off, even the tiniest little bit.

Nurture. The definition is there in black and white. But how do I do it?

"Now if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives to all generously and without criticizing, and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith without doubting. For the doubter is like the surging sea, driven and tossed by the wind."
James 3:5-6

There is so much that my children need to know, to learn, to experience. If I forget, even for a moment, where my strengths, abilities and passions come from, I will not be able to do this thing. This thing of mothering. Every time I forget to turn to my Father for guidance, I will have dropped the ball.

God will never make fun of me for anything. No matter what it is, he will never think me stupid, or ill-equipped. He will never tell me to figure it out myself, although he may make me work it out myself. But, he will still be there every step of the way. He wants to help me and lead me through everything. He just wants me to be humble enough to ask. And have faith in Him to answer, every time.

Somehow the idea of blundering along, going my own way, loses its appeal when I consider what I am doing this for.

My children.

That makes this life-and-death serious. Eternity serious.

I will get enough things wrong along the way; my prayer is that pride will not add to the list because I didn't humble myself to ask for help and guidance first.

These are my first steps on a new journey.





Tuesday, May 10, 2011

I don't like your gift

How would you feel if someone opened your gift and made a face, made fun of it, ignored it or rejected it? 

You spent hours working on this gift.

You created it from your heart specifically for the person that was to receive it.

You customized it to fit them perfectly and to show them to their best advantage. After all that the gift is rejected for one reason or another. They politely said either directly or indirectly: "It's not really me. No thank you."

And in your heart, you felt you were rejected too.

Lest we climb up on our wounded-heart soapbox and look down upon those who would do such a thing, let's look at some of the gifts we have received with, shall we say less-than gracious thanksgiving...

How does God feel when we do the same with the spiritual gifts he has - with great consideration, given us?

Recently, I agreed to do my first dramatic presentation. I was to perform in front of my church on a day when there would be many visitors. While initially I was excited to explore this opportunity, the closer the day came, the more I started refusing the gift that God has given me.

"I can't do this. I am too scared. I am going to forget all my lines and mess it all up. I am going to look silly. I think I over-act."

My list was as long as my arm as to why I couldn't do it. Finally the night came. I was terrified. One of the kids in our church was also giving her first dramatic presentation and right before she was to go on, she was overcome with her fear. While I was encouraging her that she was going to do great, had nailed it in practice and that God was right there with her, I was led to say "It is when we are terrified, and do it anyway, that God is most pleased with us. He blesses that." As soon as I said it, I realized God wanted me to hear that too.

I was rejecting his gift. I was telling Him it didn't fit me and that I didn't want it.

when I realized what I had been telling God I was embarrassed. I was rejecting a gift he had already given me because I was too scared to use it.

Then I simply told God I wanted to do it, but couldn't without Him. I needed His words. I accepted the gift of speaking and dramatic presentation and went for it.

As I was on that stage, I have never felt the presence of Jesus as strongly or as real as I did that night. I felt if I looked up, I would look right at him, he was that real to me. Afterward, several people came up to me to tell me how touched they were by what I had said. Only working in the power of God's gifting, in the place he has called us to be, will bring that closeness to him and the ability to minister to others hearts.

All callings are based on a gift that God has given. A gift specifically designed and created for use to not only glorify Himself, but to bring the bearer of the gift closer to God's heart.

"6Having gifts (faculties, talents, qualities) that differ according to the grace given us, let us use them: [He whose gift is] prophecy, [let him prophesy] according to the proportion of his faith; 7[He whose gift is] practical service, let him give himself to serving; he who teaches, to his teaching; 8He who exhorts (encourages), to his exhortation; he who contributes, let him do it in simplicity and liberality; he who gives aid and superintends, with zeal and singleness of mind; he who does acts of mercy, with genuine cheerfulness and joyful eagerness."
Romans 12:6-8, Amplified

We can't all be the worship leader, or the creative artist, or the eloquent speaker. Not everyone is equipped to be a bold and ready street evangelist. Not everyone can give a dramatic presentation that touches hearts.

But we also can't all be the one who can organize a funeral dinner in under 24 hours. Or the person that sees that one flower or shrub that would bring balance and warmth to the entrance of the sanctuary. We can't all be the one that sees the details and leaves a shine on the floor, full paper towel dispensers and spotless glass in all the entrance doors. There has to be someone to design and print the bulletins and someone to run the sound and media. There has to be someone to be silly and crazy and share the love of Jesus with a bunch of kids.

When we search out a job or task that is outside of our calling  not only are we taking the place of someone who is called to that task but we are telling God "No thanks. You picked the wrong gift for me."

Don't you think he might feel a little rejected?

I have done my fair share of explaining why I can't, or won't, or shouldn't. I have spent too much time in areas that were not mine to serve in and running from the ones that I am called to.

No one else can do what we are gifted to do. When we aren't using our gifts, something is missing. Not acting in our gifts leaves a hole in your church's ministry to others. No matter what your gifting is. What would the Body of Christ look like if we embraced our gifts and used them? How many people would we reach? How much closer to God would we be?

Be encouraged. Even if you feel you have lost the opportunity to use a gift in the past, God will bring more ways to use it if you ask Him. Be open, be willing to say "yes" when you are invited outside your comfort zone and "no" when you are offered something where you are not called.  

Amazingly, the places we are most meant to be are usually the places that stretch us the most, bring the most fear, and take the most from us. And after we have given all the emotion, energy, thought and faith we can, we see that God did something totally amazing through us and it brought glory to His name.

And remember what your mom taught you: "No matter what, don't forget to say thank you for whatever you get."