How Many Times Do I Have To Tell You?
From the throne: an invitation
Peter do you love Me?
I love you-
Things said in triplicate.
Thought question – name some consistently repeated messages in the Bible. You know, ideas or themes that run through all 66 books. Take your time and consider it.
What was creation all about? Who was Job? What about Noah and the ark? Abraham? Isaac? Joseph’s rise to power in Egypt? Moses’ last message to the Israelites? What about the lives of Jeremiah, Isaiah and Daniel? And Ruth, Esther and Bathsheba? The prophets, miracles, 10 commandments, plagues?
Why Mary and Joseph? Elizabeth and Zachariah? Who were the disciples? Why did Jesus come to earth? Who was Nicodemus? The blind man? The woman at the well? Why do their stories matter? What about Mary, Martha and Lazarus? What are miracles and what do they mean? Why did Jesus have to die? When did He rise again? When is He coming back? Who was Saul-Paul? Virgin birth, sacrificial death, resurrection? Justification, salvation, sanctification? Grace and mercy?
Don’t panic if you don’t know all these people or their stories or the events. Even some of the words can be confusing, but they can be understood. That’s not the point here. (That’s just an opportunity for further study!) The point here is that all of the people and events, the miracles and the trials are all part of one big story: His story.
Throughout the Bible God is repeating His message of love to His people, to us. All of the 66 books of the Bible share the same overarching theme: God loves. This is a message He repeats over and over again. He is intent on driving home the point.
Before the disciples went with Jesus to the Garden of Gethsemane, Peter told his master that He was willing to die with Him. Jesus then predicted Peter’s denial. Peter, passionate, rash Peter.
Upon the initial threat of Jesus’ arrest, Peter draws his sword in an effort to defend Jesus, but instead of decapitating Malchus, Peter only manages to remove the man’s ear. Jesus asks Peter to sheath his sword, then proceeds to miraculously restore Malchus’ ear.
As the evening progresses, Jesus is tortured and questioned. Peter loiters in the courtyard just outside. And just as Jesus predicted Peter, strangers confronted him three time with questioning Peter’s association with Jesus. Peter flatly denies Him. In fact his denials become more and more vehement and indignant.
The rooster’s crow reverberated through the cool, stillness of the early morning.
Three times asked. Three times denied.
Peter wasn’t at the foot of the cross, only John and Jesus’ mother. Where was Peter?
At dawn on the third day, the glorious day of our Lord’s resurrection, we get to see Peter again. This time we see him running to see the empty tomb for himself. In the days that followed, Jesus made a point of restoring Peter, communicating love and forgiveness.
Jesus began, “Peter, do you love Me more than these?”
“Yes Lord; You know I love You.”
“Tend my lambs.”
“Peter, do you love Me?”
“Yes Lord; You know that I love You.”
“Shepherd My sheep.”
“Peter, do you love Me?
“Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.”
“Tend My sheep.”
Listen to the grace here. Jesus is driving home a point. His question is the same each time, but He wants to make sure that Peter gets the point. The question is simple enough and it seems Peter answers casually, flippantly merely glancing Jesus’ way at first. In response, the disciple’s tone of voice communicates more than his words. His tone says, “Yeah, yeah, of course I love you.” But then Jesus asks again.
The second time Peter again answers emphatically, almost agitated, impatient, but the Lord seems to want Peter to be less passive with his answer. Jesus wants Peter’s total attention. Peter after being asked the same question and given two different, but similar answers, turns to the Lord, facing Him, eyes locked. By the time the Lord Jesus asks the third time He has Peter’s total attention. Jesus is charging Peter with leading, pastoring, and caring for the flock.
Jesus could have said, “How many times do I have to tell you Peter? Feed My sheep!” But He didn’t. He could have grown impatient with Peter’s disinterest. He could have become frustrated with Peter’s thoughtlessness, with his apathy. But He didn’t. Jesus had a message he wanted to communicate with Peter directly and clearly. He didn’t want Peter to miss it. Jesus knew that He was going to have to say what needed to be said more than one time.
This isn’t the only place in the Bible where the same phrase is said over and over. There are several themes and one overarching messages. In His grace our God knows the power of telling us over and over. God is constantly displaying His glory in creation. His message from Genesis through Revelation is the same: “I love you!”
And He patiently says it over and over.
Several years ago I had a friend who shared this story. She and her son were having another rough day. He wasn’t listening. With a desire to vent, she called her husband and recounted the frustrations of the day. As she was wrapping us her story she asked her husband, “I keep telling him over and over!” Calmly her husband responded, “That’s your job.” He’s right.
Here are a few of the phrases worth studying further which are throughout scripture: stand firm, do not be afraid, take courage, love one another, but God and remember. These are admonitions that God wants to make sure we hear, take seriously and act on. How many times does He have to tell us? Lots. To be honest these are things we simply cannot hear too many times. Our ears, our hearts need the comfort and confidence these words offer. I’m glad He tells me over and over aren’t you?
God grants us the opportunity to patiently repeat ourselves to our children every day. May we choose wisely those phrases and words which echo in our homes. May they be words of life, encouragement and hope. May we reiterate with love and patience. And may we never grow weary of our Father’s voice telling us about Himself, His grace, mercy and love many, many times!
They were distracted.
I get distracted too.
Even though their every need had been met from the very hand of God. They missed it. Forgot. Their eyes wandered from His face to His hands. He wasn’t doing enough because He wasn’t enough.
Even though He has met my every need – not to be confused with want – I miss Him. I forget. I allow my eyes to wander from His face, to His hands. Sometimes I feel like He isn’t doing enough. I forget that He is enough.
They wanted more from Him. More things they could see, taste, touch.
I want more from Him. Lots more. Tangible things.
When His people were wandering in the desert, God wanted their hearts. He wanted them to look to Him. He provided for them even though they had disobeyed. They had chosen against trusting Him. Instead of striking them all dead, He had given manna in the desert.
As I’m going through life, God wants my heart. He wants me to look to Him. He continues to provide for my every need even though I disobey Him. I sometime choose against trusting Him and yet, He sustains me.
The price of whining and complaining is high. The cost of discontentment is staggering – dissatisfaction, malcontent, displeasure. Attitudes reflective of a heart condition, a deadly heart condition. These attitudes are the result of our taking a stroll on the dark side, of ourselves. These attitudes cannot be the result of walking in the Light as He is in the Light. These attitudes come from the pit of our own selfishness. These attitudes grow when we are distracted from His face by our own.
Ingratitude means we don’t get what He’s done. We think we have done it. We think we don’t need Him. His provision, His blessing, His grace, somehow we have come to believe we deserve them. That entitlement attitude equals ingratitude. Instead of praising Him for who He is, instead of thanking Him for what He’s done, ingratitude ignores and even criticizes both.
The Old Testament symbol of the bronze serpent in the desert, was a foreshadowing of Christ on the cross. God instructed Moses to fashion the symbol for the people to look at and be saved. When Jesus hung on the cross, God extended salvation to all mankind. Look to Jesus and be saved. “Look at Me!” Jesus says.
God’s desire is our hearts. His invitation – our attention. He wants us to look at Him, to seek Him, to depend on Him. He longs for us to run to Him in good times and in bad. Running to Him when we’re in a spot, when we can’t see a way out, when consequences overtake us, that’s when we wonder where He is, that’s when we call out, that’s when we tend to questions His faithfulness.
When we look at Him we are reminded of His sacrifice, His love. When we look at Him all fear is gone. Looking at Him puts all of our problems and issues and struggles in perspective. When we look at Him we gain strength and confidence, not in ourselves but in Him.
Focusing on Him makes all the difference. Looking at Him, and His glory, His faithfulness, His holiness, His truth makes all the difference. It doesn’t make everything make sense, but it grants us peace to know that He holds it all. He is in the process of redeeming it all, bringing it all together for His supreme purposes.
Nothing is an accident, nothing wasted. He uses everything our faith and our failures, our dreams and discouragements, our hopes and our hurts. Nothing wasted. Everything redeemed. In the worst situation, the most painful, the most overwhelming, the most hurtful, we can know that He knows, that He cares, that He is working it for our good and His glory.
Look at Me and be healed, gain strength, renew hope.
Looking at Him reminds us of the hope we have in heaven, in His immanent return. Looking at Him with tear-stained faces, when tired eyes and weary smiles.
He is trustworthy, He is faithful.
Look at Me when things are crazy.
Look at Me when the world is spinning.
Look at Me when you don’t know which way is up.
Look at Me whenever you need Me, whenever you have a question, a frustration, a hope, a dream, a loss, a wound.
Look at Me when you’re tired.
Look at Me when you’re lost, under attack, feeling alone, blindsided, confused, broken, bruised, outcast.
Look at Me!
Not him or her or them. Look at Me! Not that or that. Look at Me! Not the problem. Not the storm. Not the crowd. Not the enemy. Not your friends or family.
Look at Me.
Though tears blur your vision and stain your face.
Look at Me.
I am. Your Hope. Your Answer. Your Peace. Your Joy. Your Defender. Your Healer. Your Redeemer. Your Savior. Your Lord. Your Master. Your returning King.
Look at Me. I Am.
Look at Me.
I know. I get it. All the details, I understand them. The subtly, the nuance, the implication. I see you. I see them. I see through it all. I’ve got it.
Look at Me, just Me.
Let the cross be your focus. Nothing else.
Look at Me. Don’t get distracted.
I Remember the Day You were Born
Balloons. Cake. Candles. Presents. Decorations. Smiles and songs. Family and friends. And pictures—lots of pictures.
Celebrating a birthday brings back memories of the day someone came into the world. As a mom, all of the details come rushing back. The nursery. The shower. Choosing their name. Packing the hospital bag. The doctor’s visits (or the midwife). The predictions. The kicks, the hiccups, the nausea, the nesting.
I’m grateful that the memories of the labor pains really do fade with time—at least until it’s time to do it again. The emotional rush of the birth is exhilarating and exhausting at the same time. Smiling with tears dripping off my chin was standard.
Have you ever considered how God responded to your birth? Have you ever thought about His lordship over it? Ever think about it as part of His sovereign plan? Ever picture Him smiling with tears dripping off His chin?
Psalms 139 gives us insight. In the first twelve verses David acknowledges God’s omnipresence and omniscience. Those are just two big words that mean that God is everywhere and knows everything. Clearly these are words of both assurance and encouragement. David writes, “You have searched me and know me.” Pause just a minute. God knows you. He knows me.
Continuing, David states that not only does God know, He also understands, scrutinizes, and is intimately acquainted with all our ways. “You know it all, You have enclosed me behind and before.” Then, God “laid His hand upon me.” Then further on the writer asks, “Where can I go from Your Spirit?” Here again David is emphasizing God’s omnipresence and omniscience.
God cares about your birthday. And He cares about mine. He was there. As the psalmist writes, “You knit me together in my mother’s womb; I am fearfully and wonderfully made.”
Here are some Bible birth stories worth thinking about. What about Cain? After all, he was the first child born. Adam and Eve had no reference point, no What to Expect When Your Expecting books, no parties and yet, what a moment. Read little further on. What about the day that Isaac was born to a 90-year old Mom and a 100-year old Dad? Sarah and Abraham with smiles and tears dripping down their chins. Think for a moment about the day Rachel finally gave birth to her long-awaited son—Joseph. Similarly, think of Hannah when Samuel arrived after Eli promised that her prayer would be answered. Smiles and tears.
In the book of Ruth, Boaz accepted his role as kinsman-redeemer. Through their marriage, Obed was born. That was accompanied by great celebration! Obed became the father of Jessie who became the father of David. David was the youngest with six brothers and two sisters. His family already had a calendar full of birthdays! What about the child born to David and Bathsheba as a result of his adultery with her and murder of her husband? What heartbreak. Then came Solomon. Bitter sweet. Still, smiles and tears dripping.
Move forward now into the New Testament. Of course it begins with the birth of John the Baptist. After years of infertility, God chose Elizabeth and Zacharias to be the parents of the forerunner to Christ. John’s birth was greatly celebrated by his parents and community. Not long after the miracle of John’s birth, Mary and Joseph were alone and far from home when they welcomed Jesus, the Christ, and held Him for the first time. Smiles and tears had to be dripping off their chins. I wonder if the same thing was happening with God the Father’s too.
These are all physical births. And while God is present at each one, there’s another birth that He also attends. Spiritual birth. Nicodemus came to visit Jesus, at night. As a Pharisee he had some questions for Jesus. The whole issue of these two births (physical and spiritual) fueled their discussion. Jesus explained the importance of being “born again.” The idea thoroughly confused Nicodemus. All he could think about was the physical, but Jesus was talking about the most important birth—the spiritual one.
Jesus goes on to explain. This is the context of the best-known Bible verse found in John 3:16. The verse contains the words of Jesus laying out the Father’s plan and His role. God’s plan: send His Son as the Savior of the world. The Father knew that only a perfect sacrifice could pay the debt required by the sin of the world. Jesus’ sacrifice extended grace to all who would believe in Him and trust that His death was payment for their sins. Placing personal faith in Jesus signifies spiritual birth.
Do you remember yours? Do you remember the day you decided to place your faith and trust in Jesus as your Lord and Savior? What was it like? What promises did you make? What assurances?
Now let’s consider one primary biblical example: Saul (aka Paul). Saul was born into a family of prominence. Intelligent and passionate, he trained and excelled in the Law and the Prophets. He was a Hebrew of Hebrews Gamaliel taught him, trained him. Saul was passionate about his role among the Jews. And when God got ahold of him, he was just as zealous about bringing others into the family of God.
Not every birth story is ideal. Some elicit painful memories, unanswered questions and deeps wounds. Some of us weren’t anticipated or possibly not celebrated.
Do you remember a favorite birthday of your childhood? What stories have you been told about your birth? No matter what, God fondly remembers the day you were born both physically and spiritually, complete with smiles and tears dripping.
Join the How Many Times Book Club
Hi friends! I’m launching a summer book club and I want you to be a part of it! Dare to hear the still small voice of our Father while letting his words flow through you to soften your heart and your words. We’re in this parenting thing together, friends! It’s exhausting, noisy, precious, frustrating, and so very important.
Because you’re in my inner circle I’m looking forward to spending a little more time together via Facebook chats and videos. We’ll be able to experience the book together, talk about ways we can apply it and cheer each other on as we put it into practice. My prayer is that this book encourages and inspires parents everywhere – will you be one of them?
I’m excited to offer everyone who joins me several fun things:
- A complimentary ebook: How Many Times do I Have to Tell You?.
- A complimentary ebook of interactive journal and coloring activities that you can complete with your kids and tuck away as a keepsake.
- Exclusive access to a private Facebook group where I’ll help you work through some of your questions about hearing God’s words as you read the book. Where we, as a community, will interact, strategize, and share ideas about parenthood and how to overcome some of our challenges.
As a member of the book club you’ll have the opportunity to encourage other parents by:
- Bringing a friend into the book club! That’s right! Once you are activated into the private Facebook group, you’ll be able to add a friend who you want to dive deeper with!
- Providing feedback and engage with us via Facebook.
- Sharing thoughts and insights from the book that you’ve found particularly encouraging. (We have some fun, interactive ideas that we hope you’ll find meaningful)
- Writing a brief book review on Amazon and/or other retailer site.
- Spreading the word about the book and how it is impacting your family.
Ready to dive in?! First, make sure you sign up here.
Next, on Friday, May 20th, we’ll select 250 applicants. We’ll notify you via email on Friday if you were one of the 250 applicants.
C.H.I.L.L. O.U.T. – Unleash Your Laughter
“…a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance.”
Quick – give me your mad mom face. Yeah, that one.
The one that says, “You’ve really done it now,”
“You’re in big trouble,”
“You’ve done it again.”
The one that evokes shame in some of your kids, fear in others, and repentance in still others. That face. You wouldn’t want to receive the look, but you have developed it over the years and yeah, it’s pretty effective.
Every mom has one. We think we have to. We think that it is just part of our repertoire of tools in our mom tool boxes. We know how to pull out a glance, a nod, a tap, an eyebrow and use it like a professional carpenter. We’ve got it going on.
But would you like a secret? Our mad mom face is probably over used. Terrifying isn’t it? To think that you might be without it. But before you think I am going to jump off into the abyss that is the current rage, that of being a ‘yes’ mom, I am not. I will not. I cannot advocate for that. (Commentary on that is forth coming-stay tuned to my blog. Title: Say ‘No’ to Being a Yes Mom.)
I am just suggesting that smiling at your kids, at ‘that’ kid might very well do more good that your best mean mom look. Yep. Don’t believe me? Here’s my reason: your kids, especially ‘that’ kid, needs to know that you are on their side, that you’ve got their back, that you love them. Yes, that’s it, that you love them. That’s what the smile on mom’s face communicates, “I love you!”
My mean face is really good at shaming my kids, at making them feel like all they can do is what I’ve asked them not to do, at making them feel like all I care about are their actions. It is really good at communicating that I’ve got it all together, that I don’t ever mess up, that I’m perfect. But none of that is true. I don’t have it all together. I mess up daily. And I am far from perfect.
The fact is that when I dare to smile at my kids-often-I am communicating to them that I do get it. I get that it’s hard to do the right thing all the time. I get that it is hard to sit still. I get that it’s hard to pay attention. I get that it’s easy to get distracted. I get that sometimes I don’t know why I’m sad or mad or frustrated or grumpy. I get it.
Smiling communicates to my kids that we are on the same team. We are all living in a fallen world and we need each other to fight temptation, to encourage each other, to celebrate victories.
Similarly, laughing with your kids is like glue. My Dad has a great laugh, very distinctive and frankly, loud. I love my Dad’s laugh. To me it represents security, acceptance and comfort. I know that when Dad laughs everything might not be alright, but we are going to make it through together.
Laughter is like a safety valve for stress. When you don’t have it in place, stress can be overwhelming, even debilitating. But when the valve exists and is characteristically wide open, stress dissipates even when circumstances don’t change.
Our guiding verse for this point is Ecclesiastes 3:4, “a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance….” And in Proverbs 17:22 it says “a cheerful heart is good medicine.”
As I study the life of Jesus, the only people He became angry with were the one who should have known better. With the Pharisees He responded with righteous anger and frustration. We are not Jesus. And generally, even though we might want them to know better, they are in process. They forget. They don’t learn the first time. They don’t understand. And they, like me, like you, mess up.
Our kids need to see our smiles. They need to hear our laughter. They can spot a fake from a mile off. But as we cultivate our own joy, the joy of our salvation, we can “laugh at the days to come” (Proverbs 31:25). How is that possible? Because we know that God is on the throne. We can live with confident hope knowing that He’s got this!
For further consideration and study download your free study guide for Week 7 – dare to dig deeper!
C.H.I.L.L. O.U.T. – Listen To Your Kids
“Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.”
As we seek to tune the world out and tune in to God, we begin to experience the peace He promises. We don’t have to listen to the shouts of the culture or be distracted by its values. We can seek to listen to God’s voice, His purposes and promises. God wants our attention, our complete attention. When we spend time with Him worshiping, praying, and reading His word, His voice seems clear, His confidence is ours.
When we don’t listen, when we don’t practice Psalm 46:10, “Be still and know that I am God,” then His voice seems distant and maybe even silent. God desires a relationship with us such that He is able to use other means to communicate to us. He may reveal His glory through His creation, through some personal provision, or through a friend. As a mother, I have experienced God’s pursuit of my heart’s attention through my children. We need to listen to our kids
When they were younger, I did most of the talking to my children. I spoke and I expected them to listen and do what I said. I especially liked that part. When they didn’t pay attention or listen, I would get discouraged because I had something that I wanted to communicate to them that they couldn’t hear unless they listened.
As the children have grown up, it has become necessary for me to invite them into the discussion, to consider them. This is part of the maturing process for both of us. Parents need not be dictators. Parents should be the authorities, and there should be lots of conversations about life with its various choices and decisions. Really listen to your kids.
God sovereignly knits our families together. The perfect Father places us with just the right parents, the right siblings, the right extended family. And it’s not in an effort to drive us crazy, but rather to drive us toward Him. It’s all about His molding us into the image of His Son Jesus.
This means we have to start listening to Him and to each other. Not simply nod our heads, but actually engage in the exchange of ideas and thoughts and insights. It’s through these talks, these debates, that we learn more about each other. As parents, these are opportunities wherein we can assess our child’s spiritual growth and maturity.
These conversations, when we dare to have them, when we dare to ask the hard questions, when we dare to listen and not panic, these conversations are connection points and teaching moments. When we dare to listen, really listen, we are being the mothers that our children need for us to be. They need us to care. They need us to pray. They need us to listen. They need to be heard. If we don’t listen to them, they will find someone who will. Let’s be the one who looks them in the eyes and listens.
What about listening is hard for me? Looking in the eyes? Stopping what I’m doing? Engaging? Listening and not talking? Knowing a weakness is the first step toward improving on it. Pray that the Lord will help you learn and practice better listening.
We have the opportunity to serve our families. Look to their needs before your own. Our principle need is to honor and glorify our heavenly Father. When we serve others with pure hearts, when we submit our will to His, others’ needs are met and we are a good reflection of His love. May we choose the joy of the Lord to be our strength as we serve our families.
For further consideration and study download your free study guide for Week 5 – dare to dig deeper!
C.H.I.L.L. O.U.T. – Listen To God
With all of the world constantly screaming at us, listening to any one voice is a challenge. Advertisements visually assault us, televisions blare from their perches, our phones ring, vibrate, and chirp. The chaos drowns the bird’s song, the child’s laughter, the buzz of the bee. And the still small voice of the Master goes unheard.
Listening. Before we listen to anyone or any thing else, we must listen to God. I’m not talking about an audible voice, but rather the affirmation through Bible study, the prompting in your spirit, the words from a friend. He still speaks. God is in the business of communicating with His children. But like our own children we are often distracted, not paying attention.
What might He say if we turned the world off and tuned in to Him?
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight.” – Proverbs 3:5-6
The path that God marks out for each of us will take us straight to Him if we follow Him. It’s directness to the Father is only apparent on the other side of this life.
For further consideration and study download your free study guide for Week 4 – dare to dig deeper!
In His Grace,
It’s Happening Again
A Page From My Journal
I had just changed Ben. It had been a doozie. And with it packaged and disposed of, I just wanted to hold my little boy. I just wanted to remember back to when he was just a little wad, less than ten pounds. Back to when we would snuggle and nurse. Back to when sleep was allusive, but the midnight feeding was more precious even than rest. Back to when he lived on my breast or hip, when he totally depended on me, when I was his world.
That is no longer true. No, now he weighs twenty-five pounds and gaining. He loves to run and jump and play. He drinks from a cup, feeds himself and sleeps through the night. And I miss his dependency on me.
So as strange as it might sound, I am not too anxious for him to be out of diapers. I mean I am but I’m not. I am for the obvious reasons, but I’m not because I love talking with him in the process and hug that follows.
Just a couple of days ago, when I had finished changing him, I picked him up and turned out the light in the laundry room. I wanted to hug him just wanted to snuggle with him for a minute.
But he was squirming. “I want some orange juice,” he said.
“Okay,” I replied, “Lets just cuddle for a moment.” And I pulled him close.
But he wasn’t interested. He put both hands on my chest and said, “I want some orange juice!”
“In a minute, let’s just be quiet for a moment.”
Reluctantly, he put his head on my shoulder and then popped it back up. Thoughtfully he told me, “It’s in the frigerator,” as if I did not know.
“I know,” I said as I slowly rocked him back and forth to the Mozart in the background. But he wasn’t falling for it. He was singularly focused on orange juice. He did not want to snuggle, didn’t appreciate my memories of his infancy, and couldn’t imagine the depth of my love for him. He just couldn’t. He didn’t even try.
As I stood there hurt by this realization, that my moment with my little boy, inhaling his scent, rubbing his head, enveloping his little body in my arms, was going to be interrupted by something as trivial as physical thirst and a desire for orange juice over a hug with me, I got it. Do you see it?
I am Benjamin. I want God to take care of my stinkies, but then I want to run off and play. I want Him to get me some OJ, without the hug. I want to tell Him where what I want is and I want Him to get it for me now. I don’t want to wait, not even to pause. I am not particularly interested in waiting even a little bit for Him to fulfill my request.
Snuggle? In the darkness? Couldn’t we do that later, like after He gets me the OJ? And the part about being quiet together-why? Listen to what? The dyer run? The birds sing? The train in the distance? His heart beat?
-Yes, His heart beat.
I am convinced that far too often we know what we want, where it is and we know Who can get it for us. And we are more interested in getting it, than getting Him. We even sometimes rudely tell Him what He can do for us, as if He hasn’t already done enough. I mean after all, wasn’t the sacrifice of His Son enough? Forgiveness of sin, debt paid, mercy extended enough? And then there is more-Grace. The gift of heaven, forever with Him.
And here is where we miss it. Where at least, I miss it. We want to put off those hugs with our heavenly Father until eternity; He wants to start now. Why wait? He wants to hold us in His arms and rock, just the two of us. He wants us to be so quiet that we can hear His heart beat as our head rests on His chest. But we put Him off, content for someday when He wants to get started today.
I had to sit Benjamin down on the island of the kitchen to retrieve his juice from the refrigerator, right where he said it was. And He was grateful complete with a juicy ‘thank you’. But I had wanted to give Ben more than something, I had wanted to linger with him, just to be with him, unencumbered by any thing.
And so does my heavenly Father. He wants more from our relationship than to merely act as my personal cosmic genie, who grants my every wish or whim. He wants for me to be satisfied with just being with Him, resting in Him, trusting Him completely. He wants me to be more interested in the love in His eyes than the gift in His hand. He wants me to listen for and hear the beat of His heart and ultimately for our hearts to beat as one.
Does this all mean that He is uninterested in hearing about what we want or need? No, of course not. Just like I appreciate it when Benjamin or any of my kids makes me aware of their desires, God likes to hear from me too. That is the kind of relationship He wants to have with us, the kind of relationship where we are in constant communication with Him about everything.
But here is the catch. Just like I didn’t mind knowing or even fulfilling (as appropriate) Benjamin’s desire for some OJ, I would hope that as he grows up and matures, he would come to appreciate relationships more than stuff. So does my heavenly Father. I believe that too often I am asking Him for things that I should have out grown, the stuff instead of requesting the character qualities first exemplified in His Son, the One to whom I am to be conformed.
Right now my husband Davis needs a job. We have bills to pay like everyone else. We need health insurance. We need have some money to put away for college. And the good news is that our heavenly Father knows all of that, even before we ask, He knows. In fact He knew all of this would go down and we would be here. Our taking our needs to Him is not calling His attention to them but rather submitting them to His good and perfect will. And I know that what He wants from us now is that we would linger in His arms, head on His chest, listening for His heart. He wants us to relax and not panic knowing that He knows, cares and is in control. He wants us to focus on getting to know Him more intimately, to gaze into His eyes,
The orange juice will keep….
C.H.I.L.L. O.U.T. – C: Change The Way You Think
The challenge to CHILL OUT doesn’t have a soft start. This isn’t an easy change to make so the things we need to change to turn the boat around aren’t easy either. For the first point on the acrostic, we must focus on changing the way we think. In Proverbs it says, “As a man thinks, so he is.” Those things that we choose to allow our minds to ponder and even ruminate on define who we are. Do we constantly think about the things of the world or the things of God? It’s really that simple. It’s not complicated, what we think about matters. In fact it charts our life’s course.
Our enemy is the master of distraction. He knows that our thoughts impact our behavior, our decisions. He knows. He knows that when we think on the Truth of God’s word, His faithfulness, goodness and grace, we walk in peace and love. In contrast, when we think on the worries of the world, the priorities of the world, the temptations of the world, he knows that we are vulnerable and open to stress and anxiety, bitterness, resentment and even hatred.
Here in Romans 12, the apostle Paul admonishes us to change the way we think. Remember the Romans outline, its author’s challenge comes in light of the his earlier discussion of sin, salvation, and sanctification. Here in the last part of the book, Paul is offering us the opportunity to respond to God’s mercy and grace, not with an attitude of ‘have to’ but ‘get to’.
Join me in this 10 Week study as we prepare ourselves to C.H.I.L.L. O.U.T.! Download your free study guide for Week 1 – dare to dig deeper!
In His Grace,
When The Going Gets Tough
Some days are bad. Some weeks are bad. Some months. Some years. Life is hard. Sometimes it’s just one thing, while other times trouble seems to come at you from all directions. Sometimes everyone knows, and sometimes no one even suspects. There are times in life that can only be compared to a wilderness experience, a lion’s den, or a fiery furnace. These are situations that challenge, if not shake, the core of your belief system. They demand your attention, your emotions, and your energy.
I have faced occasions like this before, but this time it was different. This time I wasn’t single. This time I wasn’t childless. This time it wasn’t private.
To say that unemployment can be tough is a gross understatement. When Davis lost his engineering job in April 2006, we tried to look upon it as an opportunity, an adventure. We couldn’t have been more right.
We thought we would land on our feet in a matter of months, certainly within a year. We thought that we might have to move—but hey, we homeschool, so no problem!
We thought we had the situation under control. More accurately, we hoped that it would be short lived. Friends who had walked this path before told us of long, arduous journeys that exacted a high cost, and we prayed that our experience would be different.
Our adventure turned into an odyssey, without an end in sight, but with plenty of mirages that tricked us into believing our destination was near. We seemed to be collecting broken promises and meaningless deadlines. We were constantly encountering incompetence and inaccuracy, but our inexperience was unable to identify it as such, which cost us dearly in money and time and opportunities and emotion.
Now, the point is not to compare our difficulties with those of others—that would be meaningless. When it comes to tough times, no one benefits when we enter into a competition of “My story is worse than your story.” Instead, we need to encourage those who are presently walking through tough times.
As we started to realize that our situation was not going to quickly resolve itself as we had hoped, we had to start finding ways to deal with the “temporary insanity” of it all.
When things are tough you start thinking, This won’t last forever. It’s just for a period of time, right? But what do you do when the sand runs out of the hourglass? What about when your financial, emotional, intellectual, and physical resources are depleted? What about when the questions significantly outnumber the answers?
Here are five invaluable actions we did together as a family that made all the difference.
At the beginning of a tough time, it’s easier to just keep on keeping on, holding it together and maintaining a stiff upper lip with squared shoulders. But time wears on everyone’s resolve, and determination dissolves into numbness.
The emotions started to build up as the roller coaster ride continued without a break. Our situation was overwhelming on several fronts. As circumstances became increasingly difficult, with needs we were unable to meet, my emotions came out to play.
I tried to hold it all in for Davis’s sake, for the kids’ sake, but finally the dam broke. I had to cry, and it had to be okay. And you know what? It was. It was more than okay.
There were days when I was just a puddle from the time I woke up. And there were other days when a silly thing would bring on a flash flood of tears. At first I felt guilty about crying. But you know what? My kids were feeling it too, and my crying in front of them allowed them to cry and acknowledge the stress of it all.
We would all just have a good cry together and admit how lousy the situation was and how we were not in control, though we knew that God was. Our tears and the freedom to share them not only began to heal our hearts, but we bonded over them as well.
Too often as moms we try to fake-it-till-we-make-it, but no one is fooled. Our kids deserve a safe place to admit what they’re feeling, and we must give them permission to do so by expressing our own emotions.
I grew up in a house characterized by laughter, but for a long time I didn’t realize that my childhood experience was not typical of most homes. As an adult I am so grateful for the abundant heritage of laughter my parents gave me.
Consequently, the Carman house has been a house of laughter. I believe that laughter is so valuable that I serve it up many times a day. But somewhere in the midst of our trials, I no longer granted myself permission to laugh. The situation was too serious, the stakes too high, the investment too extreme.
But once I stopped laughing, so did everyone else. The kids stopped out of respect for me and the seriousness of our circumstances. Our house became something it had never been before—way too serious. Big mistake.
It seemed to me that nothing was funny anymore. Nothing. My mother saw the danger and suggested some funny movies, classics like Bugs Bunny—my favorite! We sat down with some videos, and I started by allowing myself a smile. Then a giggle and an occasional belly laugh, before I burst out in a take-your-breath-away, eyes-teared-up laugh.
Talk about a good investment! Just like seeing Mom cry gave my children permission to acknowledge their own stress, seeing Mom laugh gave them permission to live again, to enjoy the day-to-day again.
Live Life Together
Bottom line: We were all in this together. The great thing about homeschooling is that you do so much of life together. You do things together that other families rarely do.
You eat three meals together. You do your grocery shopping and meal preparation together. You clean house together. You do school together—including going to the principle’s office. You go on field trips together. You go on business trips together. You exercise together. You are sick together. You see each other at your best and at your worst. You celebrate and you grieve together.
And when the going gets tough, it shouldn’t change the “togetherness” aspect of your life.
During Davis’s unemployment, we did things together that we had never done before. We cut costs together. We shopped clearance racks together. We did without together. We watched God provide together. We anticipated His faithfulness together. And we celebrated His goodness together.
Davis showed wisdom as he led us into the unknown of unemployment. He led us boldly before the throne of grace and continued to have regular Bible studies with us. We started in James and ended up memorizing part of Colossians. This time in God’s Word became invaluable to joyful enduring and faithful perseverance through our trial.
Davis and I also read several books together, including Heaven by Randy Alcorn and Joseph by Chuck Swindoll. These served to help us sustain focus in an ever-more-blurry situation. These times of Bible reading, memorization, and reading grounded us together in the truth that we needed as the enemy assaulted us with fiery arrows.
The children and I continued to read together, too. It was important to imagine faraway places with heroes and heroines, mystery, and intrigue. We devoured several biographies and some classics. These served as an escape from the everyday stress of the unknown we were facing.
In John 8 we are told that the enemy comes to kill, steal, and destroy. And I believe his number one target is the family. The devil will stop at nothing to divide families, as he knows they are the foundational building blocks for churches and communities.
During our journey through unemployment, the enemy worked overtime to wreak havoc in our family relationships. Immaturity ran rampant as our circumstances worsened and emotions fluxuated. The storm raged around us, and panic began to set in.
The answer to panic is fervent prayer. When we respond with prayer instead of doubt or entertaining notions of to jumping overboard, we can know that the Prince of Peace hears and answers. Sometimes He calms the storm, as the song goes, and sometimes He calms His child.
Praying together as a family through the ordeal of unemployment was both the greatest and sometimes hardest thing we did together. Prayer is humbling. It levels the playing field. It lays the soul bare and exposes vulerabilities.
Just when I thought I might hold it together for the day, we would kneel as a family to pray and the tears would start.
Please understand that I am not talking about doubting, questioning, or blaming God. I am talking about openly admitting that the situation is tough and stressful. Simply put, I am talking about taking the mask off and being real before our children and the Lord. My kids have known for a long time that I’m not perfect. During this time they got to see Mom desperate for God, and it was a good thing.
Stress has a way of paralyzing us. It can sometimes inhibit reasonable thought processes. But God, in His infinite wisdom, has equipped His children to perservere through tough times.
Remember, overwhelming situations often bring tears, but it’s okay to cry together. Find something to laugh about together. Enjoy and embrace your life together. Read a good book together, especially the Good Book. And don’t stop praying together.
God is on the throne, and He will see you through.