Remind Me

Do you ever feel blindsided in parenting? The only reason I know that term is because of the movie. I think it is fair to say that it feels like an unexpected tackle when it hits. That is exactly what happened just the other day in our home. We had all the “right plays” in place and felt prepared. Then bam we were hit and taken to the ground. Heartbreak and defeat were shouting loudly after the surprise. What had gone wrong? How did this happen? Does this child not know their worth and love? How had they been so deceived by satan?

IMG_9435One sinful decision made can lead to a web not easily escaped from. This I know to be true. However, I also know the power of what Jesus’ death and resurrection did to defeat sinful decisions we all make. The enemy would love nothing more than have us stay in this web thinking and believing that we are too far gone. How could a holy God ever want to have anything to do with us now? Does that sound familiar? Yeah, I have heard those lies before and kept my distance from God.

There was no way I wanted this child to stay entrapped, but that was their decision. Yes, punishment was given, but a new idea came to me. I cannot remember where I read this account, but I will sum it up. There is a tribe that uses the most unique approach to members that fail. They place this person in the middle of the tribe and speak words that remind them of who they are. They do not cast stones of failure at them, but words of worth. I wanted to follow this example with our child. It also very much reminded me of Jesus’ approach to the woman caught in adultery, ready to be stoned.

So I wrote note after note of scripture for this child. I picked up their favorite after school snack. I bought bath stuff to give a physical reminder of being washed clean. I opened up an age appropriate devotional and it “happened” to land on the topic of forgiveness. That was left open for repetitive eyes to read. I told this precious child that they are a masterpiece and loved. I told them that if they felt whispered lies of accusation in their ear from satan, remind him of the truth in God’s word. I wish you could see the physical relief in this child. I wish you could see their peaceful sleep and feel their constant hugs. Repentance, forgiveness and restoration are very evident in the lightness of this one.

Today if you need reminding that it is not too late to be and live forgiven, I hope you hear me and make an eternal decision. May you live a life of freedom only found in truth. And if you think you cannot possibly be found worthy of Jesus’ death on the cross, I want you read these words that I copied for my daughter. They are straight out of God’s word so they are true and can be trusted.

“He has taken our sins away from us as far as the east is from the west.” Psalm 103:12

“Lord my God, I called to you for help and you healed me.” Psalm 30:2

“O my people, trust in Him at all times. Pour out your heart to Him, for God is our refuge.” Psalm 62:8

“God’s peace will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. The peace that God gives is so great that we cannot understand it.” Philippians 4:7

“I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.” Psalm 139:4

“For God so loved the whole world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him. Whoever believes in Him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.” John 3:16-18

Friends

Seems like here lately friendships have been a major topic in our home. Trying to navigate this daily interaction with others, has suddenly gotten very complicated. If we would have received a notice, then we could have prepared a bit. With each child being made unique, the way they go about friendship and the place of importance it holds to them, really does vary.  My normal go to ideas have not been working and I am seeing hearts in pain. Yes, I am thankful this is shaping them to look more like Christ, but I felt like we needed an action plan. I laid our hurts in front of the Lord in prayer and asked for help.

The help came in the book of Job. Not a very uplifting read, but you see God’s faithfulness and a man who knew this to be true. Job’s life was turned upside down and friends did not help his situation. They offered bad advice and the Lord points this out. “After the Lord had finished speaking to Job, he said to Eliphaz the Temanite; ‘I am angry with you and your two friends, for you have not spoken the truth about me, as my servant Job has. Now take seven bulls and seven rams, go to my servant Job, and offer a burnt offering for yourselves. Then my servant Job will pray for you. I will surely accept his prayer and not deal with you as your folly deserves.” (Job 42:7-8). Skip a few verses and we read, “After Job had prayed for his friends, the Lord restored…” (Job 42:10).

What I saw here was the importance of praying for our friends. We might be Job or we might be like Eliphaz, but we need to pray for each other. It was after Job had prayed for his friends that he was restored and they were forgiven. I immediately made a list of my kids friends and began to pray for them. Some were easy and some were hard. But I know that, just like my children, their friends are “…fearfully and wonderfully made and your works are wonderful…” (Psalm 139:14). I cannot control anyone else’s response to my children, but I can pray for them and have eyes that see them like God made them. I will continue to pass this on to my children, but I will set an example too.

I will be honest, this is going to take practice. Daily I will go back to my list and pray for children that are not mine. We will also continue to ask the Lord if we have sinned against our friends. If we have, then we need to confess this to Him, repent and apologize. Again, we cannot control their response, but we will have done our part.

I love how the book of Job wraps up. “Job lived 140 years after this and saw his children and their children to the forth generation. Then Job died, old and full of days.” (Job 42:16-17). May we all live days that are full and be able to say back to the Lord like Job, “I had heard reports about you, but now my eyes have seen you.” (Job 42:5). May we see each other as “fearfully, wonderfully made” by God. We sometimes do not choose to act like it towards one another, but you know what? Tomorrow is a new day and we can be a better friend.

P.S. I just looked at Pinterest and I did not scroll down at all, but saw these words – “Nothing proves that you love someone more than mentioning them in your prayers.”

 

 

Shine

The most interesting thing happened while answering my questions for Bible study. We are studying the book of Numbers and as much as I love the Old Testament, Numbers is not an easy read. Questions were answered and honestly I was not getting much out of it. I skipped ahead to the last question, which is to write out your prayer request to share with the group. Sometimes just writing out words in your heart, that need prayer, helps to lift your burden just a bit for me and I could focus better too. Back to my questions I went and landed in Numbers 8:1-4.

IMG_8909I began to read and the answer to my prayer request was found! This part of scripture is telling us the conversation between the Lord and Moses regarding the seven lamps and lamp stand. Not a likely answer at first glance, but hear me out. “And this was the workmanship of the lamp stand, hammered work of gold. From its base to its flowers, it was hammered work; according to the pattern that the Lord had shown Moses, so he made the lamp stand.” (Numbers 8:4). You see, I struggle with some hurts that I just could not seem to wrap my head or heart around. Yes, forgiveness has been given, but comprehending just has not come. It was getting quite heavy and that was part of my prayer request. Then I read about this lamp stand and how it was made from a pattern the Lord himself designed. It was made of pure gold and hammered. The hammering part is mentioned twice.

Stay with me here and I will explain. Gold must be refined and that is exactly what the Lord has done with me. So much stuff needed to be burned off to be of any use to the Lord. I can name a few for you like pride, lack of humility, worth found in outward appearance and the list could go on.  As for the hammering part of the verse, this is what made the gold into the beautiful shape of a lamp stand. For me, all these things that I just could not understand, I now see as what has shaped the gold in me. Each painful blow by the hammer of the skilled craftsmen now has a purpose. All the Lord has allowed is now seen as part of His pattern for my life. This gave me peace and joy like I have never known!

Want to hear something else that just about undid me? “Now the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, ‘Speak to Aaron and say to him, When you set up the lamps, the seven lamps shall give light in front of the lamp stand.” (Numbers 8:1-2). This brings tears to my eyes. If I see myself as the gold, hammered lamp stand and my children as the seven lamps that give light, well the process was worth it all. My children can shine brightly for the Lord and I can stand behind them encouraging them in every way. I will use all the refining and hammering that has shaped me to bring the Lord glory by raising seven lamps that bear much light.

I will have to say that the book of Numbers is now one of my favorites. Thank you Lord for lifting words off of the page and sending them flying into my heart. Shine on little lamps!

 

Keep Asking

To let an event pass by without sharing the obvious work of God, would be a missed opportunity to give Him glory. Since that is not happening on my watch, you have got to keep reading. This past weekend was the homecoming dance at our high school. It is a big deal and the expectations tend to run high. To be asked and have a date would be nice or to go with a group of friends, can be equally fun. However, to go alone has got to be difficult, but that is exactly what we were gearing up for. We began to pray and asked my dearest friend to join in, asking God to give our daughter plans.

IMG_9297This may seem like a small thing to ask of God, but it has been my experience that He cares. It is in the small things that I have seen Him be faithful. Oh, I have seen His faithfulness in the big things as well, but I never want to miss the small. It is where I see best. My part is to ask, stay in His word and be obedient to what it says. At times I know I need to ask others to pray with me. This was one of those times. When one of my children’s hearts is on the line, you can bet this mama is praying a lot!

As the week progressed, plans were not happening and we continued to pray. The dress was bought and hairstyles were being tried. On Wednesday my girl “happened” to run into some older friends and plans were discussed and her lack was known. These precious people asked her to join them! Plans were a bit up in the air and on the day of, looked like they would all fall apart. We continued to pray.

I need to back up a minute. Earlier that day when dinner was being talked about, I wanted chili. My homecoming child wanted something else, so I got that going and it made an abundance. Plans were still not ironed out and we prayed. Then a text comes in and she asks if we would host these friends for dinner. YES!!!!!! We all worked together and got the house ready for our guests. Our back porch is screened in and was ready for a dinner party. With the amount of food I had made, this was easy and we were all excited for our girl!

A dear, longtime friend came over and they did hair and makeup together before she left to meet her date. This was an answer to prayer to have company to get ready with. Then the group arrived and in walked more answered prayers. As I was getting the last minute stuff together, one of the guys asks if he can play our piano. Seconds later our home was filled with the most peaceful music you have ever heard. Really?! Then they all gather up and Damon prays over them. There is no way I could have gotten a single word out without crying tears of joy. The kids ate dinner and laughed a lot around the table. One was overheard saying “all other plans pale in comparison to this”. My God is faithful.

Pictures were taken and the group left for the dance. Our girl had a blast and so did we! This we know for certain, God hears our prayers and nothing is too small to Him. I think of it this way as a parent and you have heard this parallel I am sure. Do you not love to give your children gifts? Do you not love to help them when they ask for it? Sometimes we do not ask for help because we do not trust the one we are asking. Being rejected or having strings attached does not seem worth asking again. Lesson learned. However, our God is not like that. He tells us in His word, “…which of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” (Matthew 7:9-11). He wants us to ask! He can be trusted.

I am so thankful for how God worked the dance out for our child. It was more than we could have planned on our own. This I know for certain, our God hears our prayers and gives good gifts. Also, asking a trusted friend to pray gives them a chance to see God demonstrate His faithfulness alongside you.  And the next time someone asks you for something or a big event is taking place, keep this in mind. “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them…” (Matthew 7:12).

Being an answer to another persons prayer looked absolutely stunning around our table!

 

Protected

On Tuesday the kids got home from school and hurried to jump into the pool. This happens every afternoon and I think it is great. Helps them burn off the energy that has been contained in a desk all day. The kids had been in for less that a minute, when movement caught my husbands eye. He quickly got the kids out of the pool because a copperhead snake was extremely close to our 8 year old! He killed the snake by cutting its head right off and then threw it in the trash outside. We were all shaken up and to play the “what if” game in my head was not going to happen. I sincerely hope your Tuesday was much calmer.

IMG_9244This whole event got me to thinking. I stayed teary eyed over it the next morning. Made putting on my eye makeup pretty difficult and I finally gave up. You see, my husband is an incredible protector of our family. Not only does he look out for the physical things that could harm us, he pays careful attention to the spiritual things too. You will find him up early in the morning reading scripture and praying for our family. He speaks words of truth to us all because he has spent time in God’s word and therefore knows truth. He loves our kids well and invests time with each one. He takes me out on dates and we laugh a lot. We have learned so much in the past almost 19 years of marriage and it has not always been easy. When you bring pride and selfishness in like I did, well circumstances and conviction come to work that out. Not easy.

So today I encourage you to always be mindful of the “snakes” of this world that slitter around and want to harm your family. Take time to eat together often and listen to each other. Encourage each other and let each one know they matter. Give your kids, especially the older ones, plenty of hugs. Do thoughtful things that do not have strings attached. Say “just because” more often as the reason not based on performance. Be a place of help and someone they can trust when the world seems against them. And when the snakes come close, do not let them linger. Deal with the words or actions quickly, so they do not bite and spread poison to hearts. If the bite has already happened, take healing steps today to remove the poison. I am convinced that the longer it stays, the more life it removes. Need help doing that? Go straight to your Bible and spend time praying. Ask God to help forgive and heal. Repent and ask God to give you courage, if you have been the cause of the poison, to ask someone for forgiveness. I do not know what the outcome will be, but I do know true repentance brings life.

May your eyes be opened this week to “snakes” and your hearts and minds be guarded with truth!

 

 

You Know Me

I read words today that very much spoke to my heart. It was the answer to a question asked, “Anything else you would like me to know about you?” The response was, “You know me.” Three simple words to an easy question. How many of us can say these words now, but remember years of wanting to be known? Do middle school flashbacks quickly come to mind? Maybe it has been a lifetime struggle. For me, it has been an on and off battle. It is very hard to let someone know you when you do not know yourself. Thankfully, I now know who I am because I have heard God through the Bible tell me who I am. What a difference truth makes!

IMG_8962A parenting conviction of mine is to continually remind the kids of who God says they are too. I will not put them in a box of my own making. Oh, make no mistake about it, I tried when the older two were little. A nice, very matching and well behaved box. This was a bit sustainable with two children, but the more we added, the harder it was to pull off. For this I am so thankful! Another way God has used my children to remove that which does not belong.

How about you? Do you know who you are and can others say they know you? Do you reach out and try to get to know others or do you stay in closed off circles, refusing to let anyone new in? Because we moved a lot growing up and as a married couple, there have been plenty of times that I have been the new girl. This has given me a very sensitive heart to new people, if I am not focused on myself. When someone opens up the circle and invites you in, everything changes. As the one doing the welcoming, you get to meet someone new. Maybe they are a sister in Christ. That means you have now met another family member! If you are the new girl, your fears are relieved and you can relax a bit and enjoy getting to know others.

How about we start this week looking for ways to be known and to get to know others? May each of us be able to say, “You know me” to more new people in the years ahead.

 

 

Everyday Lessons

I know that I am being taught something each and everyday by God. What He teaches me in His word each morning is incredible. It is life to me! Then all throughout the day, so much can be used as a teaching tool if I have my eyes and heart open. You know, that is a big part of how we parent here. We bring the kids along to whatever it is we are doing and invite them to be apart. They do the same with us. They learn to count at the grocery store, as we put fruit and vegetables in a bag. They learn colors by helping me sort and fold laundry. They learn about Jesus by the daily reading of His word, praying, watching and listening to those of us at home that already love Him. The list could go on.

IMG_9107This past week has held many lessons. Our youngest started preschool and it is the first time in almost 17 years that a child has not been home during the day. It is the quietest sound I have ever heard, but good. Her outfit had been picked out since meet the teacher day and was carefully laid out. She was adamant that I get the papers filled out as soon as we got them. And she forgot to shower one night because she was too busy smiling in anticipation. She had a great day at school and loved every minute! I am learning to enjoying the sound of quiet more throughout the day. I only get one day because that is all she goes to school:).

An older daughter taught a good lesson. My hair needed a trim and since it is straight and I am cheap, I usually get Anna Kate to cut it. Well, she was not awake yet, so another beauty volunteered. I asked for half an inch trim, but was given at least a three inch bonus. A choice had to be made – freak out or own my mistake. I am the one that asked a precious 10 year old to do something most go to school for and receive training. If I lost it with letting words of condemnation fly, I would communicate to her that my outward appearance matters more to me than her feelings for starters. I would drive home that the risk of trying something new is not worth trying because you might make a mistake. Making a mistake is not acceptable and she did not meet my high expectations, would be a seed planted in her heart. Guess what happens when you train a child up this way? They stop trying because they will never be granted approval. It might have cost me months of letting my hair grow, but her heart is in tact. Lesson learned.

Another lesson was that being asked and genuinely wanting to know the response of, “How are you?” is a big deal. This question was asked several times this past week and I gave honest answers because the ones asking cared. A simple fine or quick answer was not what they were looking for. I wonder how many other people are just waiting to be asked this question and really heard? This needs to be asked more and given time to be answered. So simple, but forgotten in our busy days.

I read this line on Instagram today from Bob Goff. He says, “When I say I don’t have time, what I really lack is compassion. People own watches; love owns time.” Isn’t that good?! The lesson to be learned is we make time for what we love. Take a look at what you spend your time on and you will probably see what you love most. I will be taking a careful look over my paper calendar and making sure my time is spent on love. My hair might be a bit shorter than I would like and I might have a smiling, non showered girl, but we love and learn well in our home. I pray all that enter our home leave feeling loved and they are worth every minute of our time.

 

 

 

New Wine

Sometimes we sing a new song at church and I feel like I have finally been given the words my heart could not find. This happened a few weeks ago when we had New Wine, by Hillsong, sung over us. We have sung it since and it has been on constant play here. The words are powerful and real. If I had confidence in my waterproof mascara that day, I would have let myself weep. That would come early the next morning.

IMG_9015The song begins describing the season we seem to have been in since early December. “In the crushing, in the pressing, You are making new wine out of me. In the soil I now surrender. You are breaking new ground.” It describes pain, but the promise of something new. I am pretty certain none of us would sign up for anything that would press and crush us, but it happens whether we enroll or not. However, keep reading and in the surrender, new ground and wine are the result. The key is surrender.

What comes next has been the words that describe my hearts response in this season. “So I yield to You and to Your careful hand. When I trust You, I don’t need to understand.” This part I learned in the last time of “wine making”. The theme song for the last time was, “Thy Will” by Hillary Scott. The line I clung to was, “Remember You are God and I am not”. Over and over I repeated that in my head and heart. It seemed to be the only way. In the yielding, trust grew because I knew whose hands I was placing my heart in again.

Keep going and hear my prayer. “Make me Your vessel. Make me an offering. Make me whatever You want me to be. I came here with nothing, but all You have given me. Jesus bring new wine out of me.” I really do not want any of my old self in this new vessel. If you have tasted even a sip of bitterness, selfishness, anger and pride you can understand. Also, all we have belongs to God. Trying to control and hoard what He has given us, tastes like spoiled wine when withheld from others. What a waste of good grapes. Just think what could have been enjoyed…

“Where there is new wine, there is new power. There is new freedom. The Kingdom is here. I lay down my old flames to carry Your new fire today.” So, if we have surrendered in the pressing and crushing, then new power, freedom and His Kingdom is what is available. And if that were not enough, our small flames we have clung to can be ungraded to a new fire! The picture of the light from a tiny match compared to a beautiful fire pit comes to mind. Now, gathered around that and a good glass of wine sounds pretty inviting.

I do not know where each of you are today, but I have given you a glimpse of where I am. Knowing this, think how fun it was to go into my favorite store, Simple Things, and see a beautiful display of grapevines bearing grapes! The owner told me he found them across the street, wrapped around a telephone pole. I took it as the Lord communicating to me that He does see me. In seeing me, I am reminded of His love for me. He is trustworthy and a good God, especially in this season of making new wine.

 

The Longest Day

I am in the midst of the longest day of the year. The time between dropping the kids off on their first day of school and the hours until pick up, seem to go so slow. The minutes tick by, as I wait to see their faces right out of the school doors. It is that first expression that tells me everything. All the details will follow and I love to listen. Some of the kids give more than others, but I know them well and can hear what is not said. Who did they sit by at lunch? Did they actually get a locker this year? Did you find a good parking place? How was athletics? Did you make new friends? These questions and a million more are just waiting to be asked.

IMG_8975My heart and head have a difficult time trusting the Lord completely today. Yes, they are completely His and He has all their days planned, even today. I just have not read all these plans and my heart and head are being asked to trust Him. So the question that I ask Him today is, “Are you trustworthy”? Another one that comes to mind is, “Do you really love my children as much as I do”? Guess what I get as the answer? Right away my mind flashes a picture of Jesus dying on the cross. Words do not need to be spoken here, I know Him well. This picture is very familiar to me. Because when I catch a glimpse of the cross, I see just how much He loves me and my children.

Days may not go as planned or they might exceed my dreams, but with each one I know He is trustworthy. Today I will repeat Psalm 56:4 that says, “In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can flesh do to me?” The teacher that is difficult or the kid that seems to have it out for one of my kids is not to be feared. Our trust will be placed in God today. And as Eli reminded me the other day, “we need to have shields of confidence and confidence is trust”. That kid had his shield firmly in place as he walked into kindergarten today! I will keep mine in place too and go do some laundry to pass the time.

*The picture is Vivian making Eli’s lunch for him:)

 

The Door

The most unexpected thing happened today. Our oldest daughter has been practicing to tryout for the high school worship team at church. She loves music and singing is one way she gives her worship to our Lord. Oh, I wish you could have been in our home last IMG_8949night during her last practice time! My husband is gifted in music and so are many of our kids. Our kitchen became filled with praise and voices were acoustically mixed together. The sound was beautiful! At one point, Maggie and I had to just stop because trying to sing or in my case chop up a salad, is near impossible when your eyes are filled with tears of joy. This moment served as yet another reminder that worship is so much apart of our everyday life, especially in our home. How can we live any other way? How can we not respond to the love of our God?

This morning I offered to drive her to the audition and Vivian tagged along. She claimed it was her day, but Maggie could come too. I had not planned on going inside, but we saw a dear friend in the parking lot so in we went. A young worship leader spotted Maggie waiting and came out to visit. Such simple encouragement was spoken, but it hit me big time. He said, “At some point you just have to decide not to be nervous.” What? Could it really be that simple? So, you just decide to not let fear control you and you step out and try? And here I thought it was Maggie’s audition and I was just along for the ride.

If that would have been the end of the conversation, enough would have been said and I would have walked away blessed. However, my stomach was in a knot and my nerves were a mess. Watching Maggie walk through the door to go tryout sent me back to when I was about 10 years old. I spent hours practicing and singing along with Amy Grant to audition for a musical at my church. My dad worked with me and I felt ready. My mom drove me to the audition and I was extremely nervous. I hopped out of the car, walked into church and right up to the closed door. All I had to do was open the door and sing for a chance at a part in the musical. I walked up to the door, but chose not to open it. I  turned and walked away – defeated.

Fast forward thirty three years later and I watched my daughter open the door. Yes, she was still nervous and afraid of messing up, but she did not let fear stop her from trying. (Ironically, one of the songs she sang today is by Hillsong called “Who You Say I Am” and you need to listen to it.)While I could turn this back on me and wonder what would have happened if I had walked through my audition door, I choose not too. Instead, what I celebrate is fear not having the final word. Not today and not any other day.

We read in 1 John 4:18, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.” My daughter does not let fear rule her and it is because she knows she is loved. She is loved by us, but more importantly by her Heavenly Father. I have said it before and I will say it again, knowing and believing you are loved, makes all the difference. Only His love is perfect and has the power to cast out all fear.

Home is where our children hear and are shown that they are loved by God. It might be around our table or standing in the kitchen, but our home will be a place where love is lived out daily. We make lots of mistakes and forget that we are loved. In the forgetting, we say hurtful things and act selfishly. In the forgetting, we let fear rule our hearts and we live accordingly. I say not in this home. Love is deeply rooted and lived as a response to God’s abundant love for us here.

Doors will continue to stand before each of my children. Some doors will open and some will not. As their mom, one of my prayers for them is that they will trust their loving God in the walking through the door or onto the next one. I pray they remain fearless and brave because they know they are loved. His love is perfect, so walk in it kids and never let fear tell you otherwise.

*The picture is Vivian watching Maggie audition today.