Parenting

I’m Hitting The Open Seas in 2016 – Plus a Giveaway

I’m Hitting The Open Seas in 2016

Plus a Giveaway

I am so excited to announce that I will be speaking on a cruise in October 2016!  It will be an amazing time at sea of worship, prayer, encouragement and of course fun and games.  This cruise is for ALL women – single, married, mothers, homeschoolers – to come together and encourage each other to keep coming to our knees to Christ.  I would love for you to join me.

CruiseChics.com is going to giveaway a spot on this cruise to just one lucky winner – but you need to register by November 12th.  Registration is just $100 and monthly payments start at just $58.  I’d love to see on this beautiful time together to the Bahamas!

Join me on a Cruise with CruiseChics.com

Did you miss the launch party and prizes last week? No worries – check out the details at www.facebook.com/cruisechics

They are giving away a cruise!!! Who will be the blessed winner?

Rachael Carman

Character Quality: Thoughtful

 

Character Quality: Thoughtful with {free} coloring page

Character Quality: Thoughtful

There are several examples in Scripture of gift-giving. Elijah wanted to thank the Shunamite woman after she blessed him by adding a room for the prophet. Mary brought an alabaster jar of expensive nard to anoint the Lord Jesus. She gave Him her best, to honor him.

Gold, frankincense, and myrrh are probably the three most well-known gifts in the Bible. And they are part of the central story of the Bible when God gives mankind the greatest gift of all time, His Son. The whole story is full of miracles, full of grace, full of love. The story is for the whole world.

Here’s a recap. In the fullness of time, the God who exists outside of time interjected Himself into time. An angel appeared to Mary who, even as a young girl, had found favor in the sight of God. He extended her an opportunity to carry His Son, to be the mother of Jesus. She asked a logistical question and then responded humbly, “May it be unto me as you have said.”

Mary was found to be with child, which was a disgrace since she and Joseph were only betrothed, not actually married. As the whispers around town multiplied, the Roman government issued a decree that all the people should be taxed. Imagine that, God used taxation for His glorious plan.

Joseph and Mary left their hometown, their families, everything familiar, and the whispers to begin their journey to the city of David. Along the way God bonded them as they depended on each other during the arduous journey.

They arrived in Bethlehem just in time for Jesus’ birth. With no reservations and no rooms available at the local inns, they welcomed the Savior of the world in a humble stable. God sent an affirmation of His blessing on them and His Son by way of a star, which shinned brightly over the small town and the place of His birth.

Just as the Angel had visited Mary and then Joseph, Angels announced Jesus’ birth in the countryside to the shepherds. In the darkness of night, they heralded His arrival and invited the shepherds to visit the baby King. The shepherds didn’t have anything tangible to bring to the child or His parents, but they worshipped Him on bended knee.

Far away in the East, there were Magi who studied the stars and noticed a new one. Seeking to understand, to make sense of the new star, they sought answers. Through study they found prophecies from the Old Testament that the Messiah, a King would be announced by a star. Convinced that the star they had noticed was the star, they traveled to see the King.

But they didn’t come empty handed. They came bearing gifts, expensive gifts, practical gifts, thoughtful gifts. They brought gold, frankincense, and myrrh. These gifts have a variety of implications and uses. Some of them are medical. Frankincense for example is used for arthritis, but I don’t think that was a concern in this situation. Myrrh was traditionally used in preparation for burial. Gold of course has a variety of uses and high value. We don’t know why each of these three gifts were chosen, but we do know that they were gifts that would traditionally be given to royalty. These gifts were an acknowledgement and affirmation of who Jesus is, the King of kings.

It is important to train our children to be thoughtful and to give thoughtfully. This means that we model our giving as we tithe and as we give to others. We should give as unto the same King as the Magi gave, giving our best. We shouldn’t give in a stingy way or in a resentful way or in a reluctant way. We should give generously as unto the Lord. When our children have opportunities to share and give we should help them to think of the other person. What might they enjoy? How would it honor God? All of our gift giving should honor Him who alone is Worthy.

(Tradition has numbered the ‘wise men’ based on the three gifts, but we don’t actually know how many of them there were. We know more than one, but there could have been only two but certainly more than three is also possible. Additionally, there is debate on when the Magi arrived with their gifts. Timing is thought to be anywhere from almost immediately to a time which would have made Jesus two years of age. Neither of these issues is of eternal significance, but are important to know.)

{Simply click the image below to download your free coloring page.}

Character Quality: Thoughtful with {free} coloring page

Character Quality: Considerate

Character Quality: Considerate with {free} coloring page.

Character Quality: Considerate

Unnamed. Unknown. Unidentified. But not unimportant.

In II Kings 4:8-37 her story is recounted. Yes, her story. It is significant to note that women play a key role in God’s story. Women are not mere bystanders or extras, but rather strong, courageous, determined, and pivotal characters. They make decisions, choose sides, stand up, speak up, and lead. Women as wives, sisters, daughters, and friends influence at best, manipulate at worst.

The Shunammite woman is an example, though unnamed, of a strong woman at her best. She was married but childless. However she had clearly chosen against bitterness and had put her energies into serving others. It is evident in the story that she wasn’t self-centered. She had not allowed the fact that she had no children to drag her down into the pit of despair. She had moved on and chosen to go forward.

The biblical account says that the prophet Elisha and his servant Gehazi came through her area regularly. In response she, a ‘prominent women’, invited them to eat at her house. After some time she had an idea. Scripture simply states: “She said to her husband, ‘I perceive that this is a holy man of God passing by us continually. Please let us make a walled upper chamber…when he comes to us, he can turn in there.’”

Wow. She invited him in, recognized an ongoing need, formulated a solution, presented it to her husband who consented and then carried out her plan. The Shunammite woman was considerate of those around her. In this story she not only considered the needs of the prophet Elisha, but also the authority of her husband. She didn’t run ahead of him, but rather came under him as she boldly laid out her suggestion.

This is a powerful example of a woman who had tremendous influence and effect on her situation. Her act of consideration is a clear indication of her outward and even upward focus. She wasn’t thinking of herself, she wasn’t selfishly motivated. She was simply, purely responding to the prophet’s need of a place to rest. A simple need, a simple solution.

Often our ability to recognize the needs of others and respond to them is impeded by our own selfishness. We focus on what we want and we are unable to see the needs of others. Or we allow a past hurt or loss or disappointment cloud our view, we can’t see past our own pain. We lean into self, into loneliness, into despair. We miss opportunities to see and respond to others needs, opportunities that would bring healing to our own souls.

So, what is obstructing your view? What is it that you can’t seem to see past? What wounding or failure or let down? What is holding you hostage? We are all surrounded by needs. God has given us each other to meet them. Whether they are financial, emotional, material, or social. God has given us each other. Our needs go unmet when we choose to be inwardly focused instead of upwardly focused.

Being considerate is a deliberate choice to live with your eyes wide open to the need of others determined to respond. It means that we choose against allowing our enemy to discourage us into believing that we don’t matter, that we can’t make a difference. We do and we can and others are depending on us.

Let us be courageously considerate. Let us look around us for opportunities to honor God as we serve those He has put in our path.

{Simply click the image below to download your free coloring page.}

Character Quality: Considerate with {free} coloring page.

Character Quality: Sensitive

Character Quality: Sensitive with {free} download

Character Quality: Sensitive

All character qualities are interdependent. To pursue any of them requires the pursuit of all of them.

Being kind, gentle, selfless, attentive, prayerful, and respectful, as well as humble, flexible, generous, confident, nurturing, and genuine all contribute to a person’s ability to be sensitive. Since being sensitive is all about paying attention to others, it begins with being selfless. Selfishness is often the obtuse barrier to sensitivity. Wanting something our own way inhibits our ability to be sensitive to others around us. We spend so much time taking care of ourselves that we don’t even notice any one around us.

A sensitive person walks into a room fully aware of others. They pay attention to others and consider their needs. They enter wanting to encourage someone, to listen to someone, to help someone. When they are with others, their focus is the other person. They realize the importance of active engagement with those who are left out, criticized, or shy. A sensitive person isn’t insistent on their way, their opinion, or their interests. Rather, they are genuinely interested in what others have to say.

Sensitivity is work. It is much easier to be insensitive, to be brash, domineering, and thoughtless. Sometimes the call to be sensitive can be confused with being passive or even a push over, possibly weak. In fact, being sensitive isn’t for wimps. It takes strength to be sensitive and to lay aside what I want to do or say because of someone else.

As a Christian we have daily opportunities to practice sensitivity. These are moments to listen to and submit to the Holy Spirit of God who is alive in us. When it comes to our interactions with others, this means that we don’t think of ourselves first. Instead, we think of others before ourselves. When it comes to the Holy Spirit, it means that we allow Him to lead us, that we don’t ignore that still, small, voice and His promptings, His guidance, and His direction. When we choose to be sensitive to Him, it affects our every thoughts, words, and actions. Being sensitive to the Holy Spirit changes everything.

Jeremiah was sensitive to the needs of God’s people. He didn’t insist on his way or his comfort or his position. He was concerned about others. This required that he be selfless, intentional, kind, confident, strong, and dependable. You can read more about Jeremiah in the Old Testament book by the same name. Jeremiah was sensitive not only to the people around him, but also to God. When we practice being sensitive to God, then being sensitive to others comes more naturally.

{Simply click the image below to download your free coloring page.}

Character Quality: Sensitive with {free} download

Character Quality: Selflessness

Character Quality: Selflessness with free coloring page.

Character Quality: Selflessness

Jesus is the embodiment of selflessness. His whole life here on earth was lived wholly and completely to the honor and glory of His Father. At no time is there evidence that Jesus thought of Himself. His focus was clear, His motives pure, His resolve determined.

Time and time again Jesus said, “I have not come to do my own will, but the will of my Father who sent Me.” Throughout His time in ministry He deferred to His Father in Heaven. Jesus lived and died completely under the authority of His Father. He lived to glorify the Father in all things.

Paul wrote about His selflessness beautifully and clearly in Philippians 2:

“If there is any encouragement from being united to Christ, if any comfort from His love, if any tenderness or compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, being one is spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to his own interest, but also to the interest of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus who being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God a thing to be grasped, but He made Himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being found in human likeness, He humbled Himself and became obedient to death, even death on the cross! Therefore God exalted Him to the highest place and gave Him the name that is above every name that at the name of Jesus every knew should bow in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.”

Here we have the perfect example of that we are called to be, how we are called to live. Notice the imperatives:

Be like-minded

Be one in spirit and purpose

Do nothing with selfish ambition or vain conceit

Consider others better than yourself

Look to the interests of others

Have the same attitude of Christ

Then in the example of Christ we see:

He made Himself nothing

He took the nature of a servant

He humbled Himself

He became obedient to death

These examples of Christ’s selflessness are taken directly from His last 24 hours in the culmination of His ministry and life: His death on the cross. The night before His crucifixion, at the last supper where He instituted the Lord’s Supper, He first washed His disciples’ feet. This represented an extraordinary act of selflessness as the job was usually relegated to the lowest of servants. Foot washing was the job no one wanted. It was stinky, messy and humiliating. Though appreciated and necessary, it was also assumed and taken for granted. Foot washers weren’t especially respected and revered. No one thanked them. No one tipped them. No one wanted to be them.

But Jesus seeing that there wasn’t’ a servant assigned to the task and that none of the disciples were volunteering for the task decided to do it Himself. The rest were taken back to see the Master having taken off His outer robe-His superiority, girded Himself with a towel representing His service and pouring water into a basin, representing Him pouring out His life for us.

As if those things were not enough what He did next must have truly astounded them, it did Peter. Jesus knelt, without announcement, probably more naturally than anyone would have expected and began doing the unexpected. Their conversations must have turned to hushed whispers. He seemed very comfortable in the position, not hesitant or aggravated, not resentful or bitter. He was just doing what needed to be done.

Strange thing though, as Jesus started out around the room, no one volunteered to take over. No one insisted that it wasn’t necessary. Peter came the closest when he protested; he seems to have been put out at the idea. But Jesus’ explanation assured Peter of the importance of the act and he consented, but perhaps more contemplatively than the rest. He certainly had them thinking.

Then Jesus came to Judas. And He began to cry. It didn’t go unnoticed, but it did cause some confusion. Judas wasn’t exactly endearing, not exactly sweet, not exactly generous. Not exactly. They had seen Jesus’ tears before, several times, but those times made sense. This didn’t. Judas seemed uncomfortable. He fidgeted. He fumbled. He resisted making eye contact, though Jesus looked up at him several times, tears dripping off His chin.

Selflessness does what the moment, the situation, the circumstance, the relationship, the challenge demands. It doesn’t consider it’s own comfort or desire. It doesn’t demand attention or credit or reward. It responds to need, to serving, to washing, cleaning, working, and giving. Selflessness does. It acts.

As moms we can best teach our children selflessness by being selfless. It means we live it out every day. It means we joyfully embrace our roles as nurturers and teachers and care givers of our families. It means we take our cue from the Lord Jesus and seek to glorify Him in all things. Folding laundry, cooking dinner, ironing, sorting socks, changing diapers, driving the family taxi, staying up late to talk. It means we lay aside our expectation and our schedules and choose to serve with our whole hearts.

The world says that that means we allow others to take advantage of us, to abuse us, to treat us with disrespect. They say that we have to put ourselves first. But I don’t find that in Scripture. It doesn’t say “Seek first your own desires and dreams”. No, it doesn’t. It says, “Seek first the kingdom of Heaven and all these things will be added”. There is an admonishment with a promised reward. When we seek Him first it benefits us and gives us all we need to confidently and selflessly serve others. It was Christ’s habit of going ‘early in the morning’ to spend time with His Father that granted Him the strength to wash the disciples feet as an example to us to do likewise.

It glorified the Father for the Son to die and pay the sin penalty as the perfect Lamb of God. It glorifies the Father for the name of Jesus Christ to be confessed as Lord.

{Simply click the image below to download your free coloring page.}

Character Quality: Selflessness with free coloring page.

 

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How Many Times Do I Have To Tell You? {Survey}

How Many Times Do I Have to Tell You? What are the things you find yourself saying over and over to your kids? {A quick Survey} www.HisSunflower.com by Rachael Carman

How Many Times do I Have to Tell You??

Pick up your socks.
Make up your bed.
Look at me when I am talking to you!
Don’t take that tone with me.
Share
I love you
What are the things you find yourself saying over and over to your kids? You know, the phrases that if you were paid every time you uttered them, you could retire today. These are the things that drive you crazy because you feel like a recording stuck on “repeat.” Often I wonder if I’m being heard at all, or maybe I’m speaking in a different language that cannot be understood by my kids. They fool me into believing they are listening, I think they comprehend, I believe they “got it.” I keep falling for it only to find that they either didn’t hear or are willfully ignoring. Neither option is good or encouraging.
Nine years ago I wrote my first book with Focus on the Family entitled Soundbites From Heaven. It was an exhilarating experience. At the time, I had just given birth to Benjamin — our seventh child. God’s timing is not my timing. I had pitched the book proposal for three consecutive years with no interest. On the third attempt Mark Maddox at Focus caught the vision and delivered a contract.
The premise for the book is that God wants our attention. He wants us to listen to His voice because He wants to speak to us. I believe that as parents we are often so busy and exhausted that we aren’t paying attention and don’t listen to Him like we should. Our lives are a whirlwind of activity everyday. We fall into bed after long days hoping to get some rest so we can prop ourselves up to do it again the next day. Most of us are just hoping to survive the infants, toddlers, or preschoolers in our home. We just want to keep our heads above the water and retain some of our sanity. The standards we had from the first days of parenting begin to lower by our own hands as the challenges and difficulties increase each day. All the while, God our heavenly Father longs to be heard, to encourage, and to admonish.
What I found during this time when all of the kids were young (seven who were thirteen years old and under) was that when I continued to put off and ignore God’s whispers, the very things He longed to say to my heart and soul were the words I found myself saying to my children. I had a heart for my kids. My heart ached to help them, to encourage them, to correct them. My need for Him showed up in my kids. They needed me in ways similar to how I needed my heavenly Father. But I was neglecting the perfect one who loved me. I found it easy to put off my relationship with God until later. It was something I was intending to get back to, just later, when I had more time. But God wanted a relationship with me now, in the middle of my parenting. He knew I needed Him. My kids needed me to listen to Him too. Their mom was not who she needed to be.
Anyway, I found that as I listened to what I was saying to them, I heard my Father’s voice speaking to me. Just like I wanted them to take out the trash, He wants me to take out the trash in my life — the junk that piles up, the stuff I would rather just step over and ignore. He wants me to take it out and get rid of it.
When I ask my kids to trust and obey, my patient heavenly Father asks the same of me. He longs for me to take Him at His word. He has proven Himself Faithful and True over and over. When life is confusing and things don’t make sense, He asks me to just trust and obey Him to work it all out. My youngest two sons have the benefit of older siblings, which has resulted in a pile of LEGO bricks. They have much to share and my heart pleads with them to share what they have been given. He has blessed me abundantly too and just as the boys need to hold their LEGOs with an open hand, willing to share with their sibling and friends, so do I. God’s blessings are meant to be shared.
When I wrote the book nine years ago, my oldest had just become a teenager. In the original book, I listed 52 phrases that I was saying to preschool and preteen children. Some of the sayings I wrote about back then are still relevant to teenagers, but I found out that I am saying new expressions with teenagers and twenty-somethings in the house. Guess what? God is still speaking to me when I am speaking to them. He is so good. I have been struck at how often an issue in my own heart parallels an issue that shows up in the heart of one of the children. His grace is new every morning.
So what about you? What are you saying to your teenagers? I would love to hear from you. When I wrote the book all those years ago I had over 250 parents and children participate in a completely non-scientific survey. Those responses, along with my own list, were some of the input I used for the book. Now I am asking you. Here are the questions:
  • What do you find yourself saying over and over again to your teenagers/young adults?
  • What do you remember your parents saying to you when you were a teenager?
  • If you dare, ask your teenagers what they are hearing you say. I asked mine to tell me just off the top of their head. What were the top five things they hear me saying to them? Then I asked them to think about it and give me up to ten. It was interesting to compare the two lists!
  • Another dare: Ask your spouse what they hear you saying to the teenagers.
  • Finally consider this: What do you want your kids to remember you having said to them when they leave home?  What do you want to echo in their minds? Related, what do you hope they forget that you said?
Would you like to join me in this quick survey?
  Thanks so much!
Rachael Carman

Porch Livin’

Porch Livin'

Porch Livin’

 

There was a time in American history when the porch was arguably a neighborhood community center. Porches were one place where good friends, good food, and good conversation came together. A little sweet ice tea, and all of life’s problems were solved. Everyone was welcomed. Faith was shared, and laughter and tears were visited regularly.

Porch Livin' - For me it is a place of quiet rest. It is a place where I can “be still and know that He is God.” HisSunflower.com by Rachael Carman

 

Dads read their newspapers on their porches. Mothers mended dresses on their porches. Boys traded baseball cars. Girls played dolls. True recreation took place on porches. People relaxed there. They rested. 

My definition of a porch is a place where you can sit when it rains and not get wet. I love a good porch. To me a porch represents a safe place, a quiet place where I can think things over, a place where I can hear from God.

 

Porch Livin' - For me it is a place of quiet rest. It is a place where I can “be still and know that He is God.” HisSunflower.com by Rachael Carman

 

Five things I love to do on my porch:

#1: READ. I believe the porch to be the ideal place to read a good book as the birds sing and the wind blows. Peace resides on porches. Porches make the perfect setting to explore new ideas and literary worlds allowing me to engage my mind and grow in my understanding and creativity.

#2: NAP. Who doesn’t like to snooze on the porch? In fact, it is probable that a nap will easily be incorporated into the reading of point number one. I like to sneak out on the porch for a short power nap. The warm summer air has a natural lulling affect. It doesn’t take long before I am examining the back of my eyelids.

#3: JOURNAL. Writing in a journal documents what is going on in my life. I think it might be interesting to read later. Additionally, journaling helps me to work through the challenges I am facing. When I take my journal to the porch and write, the words flow more clearly and free compared to anywhere else. 

#4: EAT. Here at the Carman house, this is the season for eating on the porch. We like to eat outside on the gazebo side of the porch as much as possible. I’m talking breakfast, lunch, dinner, and every snack in between. Why not? The porch is the perfect dining room. The ambiance is unsurpassed. 

#5: TEACH. As a homeschool mom, I love to take school outside on the porch. At one time or another, we have done every subject out on our porch — reading, writing, and arithmetic, Bible, science, and more. Talk about a schoolroom. Often we are interrupted or distraction by a beautiful butterfly, a hunting hawk, or an ordinary opossum. I can deal with those kinds of disruptions. 

My porch. I just cannot seem to be out there enough. I think it is because I love the peace and quiet. Nothing flashes or beeps or vibrates. For me it is a place of quiet rest. It is a place where I can “be still and know that He is God.”

 Rachael Carman

School Planning

School Planning

School Planning

I admit it, I don’t have much time to write a post this week. All of the kids are gone this week, and I get to plan for our school year. What I would have given to have this in years past. But I didn’t. 

This week the two oldest boys are in Texas, all three girls are at a service camp, and the two youngest boys are at a Taekwondo camp (They will be home by 2:30). So the house is quiet, and I don’t have anyone to feed lunch or anyone who is asking me questions or needing to talk. I actually miss all of the activity, but I am grateful for this week to be able to think. 

We actually have been blessed with a room we call the school room. It is nothing fancy, just a room with books and tables and my beloved chalkboard (a real blackboard). There are many projects who call the room home, too. Art supplies including glitter, construction paper, and a multitude of crayons, colored pencils, and markers also reside there.

When we first decided to designate the room the official ‘school room’, optimism reigned. I thought having a school room meant that all things pertaining to school would stay in there and when I wanted to, I could close the door. But it has not worked out that way.

School Planning - I want to encourage you to take some time this summer to do some planning, to set some goals, and to consider what God might do. Dare to imagine great things in His mighty name. He is Able! HisSunflower.com by Rachael Carman

Our school continues to spread throughout our house, onto the porch, into the yard, and of course into the car. We school everywhere. We cannot contain it. And I am finally all right with that. As the kids have gotten older they have created their own spaces for their main study area. Additionally they independently adopt places they like to do some specific subjects or projects.

For example, Savannah Anne likes to do her Mandrin Chinese at the bar in our kitchen, Molly likes to read on our gold sofas, and Lilly loves to take her reading outside. Ben and Joseph like to do as much as possible on the porch when the weather is nice. Otherwise they like a variety of places including the kitchen table, the sofa, and their desk.

So this week, with everyone gone, I get to do a reboot. The school room often become a ‘catch all’, a ‘holding room’, a disorganized pile of important I’ll-get-to-it-later stuff. This week I sort what I need to sort and make piles for each of the kids to sort through later.

I have found the top of my desk, which is encouraging. Now I will be scheduling and laying out our year in my fresh new Ultimate Homeschool Planner by Deb Bell. I enjoy filling in my new planner. The whole year looks like the pages: fresh and clean and open to great possibilities.

I love taking the time to consider all that God has done this past year as I list each child’s name and the goals for each one. This year I will technically only have two students. Clearly, I am working my way out of a job. Ben and Joseph are the only two that need help with their weekly planning. The girls will get their own planners (The Ultimate Teen planners) and lay out their studies. Next year Joseph will be doing that and I will only have Ben, but something tells me that he will want to be doing what his brother does. So, goodness, this might be my last year planning like this. Snuck up on me.

We are members of a co-op and I will begin working on the syllabus this week, too. Our group focuses on Bible and we also do worldview, history, and science. We have students K-12.

It is a great privilege to work with other families as we seek to honor God in our homeschooling journey. I will be teaching the whole group New Testament books as we begin each week. Then we break out into ‘grades’ to tackle history and science. Everyone is studying world history.  And in high school we are doing several different Apologia books. This year we will be using the new Exploring Creation with Chemistry and Physics textbook as well as the new title in the What We Believe series: What On Earth Can I Do?

I want to encourage you to take some time this summer to do some planning, to set some goals, and to consider what God might do. Dare to imagine great things in His mighty name. He is Able!

Back to it.

www.RachaelCarman.com

Roller Coaster Lessons

Roller Coaster Lessons

Roller Coaster Lessons

So, if you are following me on Facebook, you know that my daughter and I spent a couple of days last week at an amusement park. This particular park was a roller coaster riders dream. Eleven coasters: two seaters, water rides, wood ones for the purists, loops, steep, fast, jerky, smooth, high — something for everyone. 

When we first arrived, Molly got a map. I told her that she was in charge. I would ride whatever and whenever. She quickly announced that she was not interested in riding certain coasters. Okay, fair enough. It was her weekend, and she was in control of the activities. She mapped our course, and we took our time and started out slowly.

Someone had ranked the coasters on a 5-point scale: one being a kiddie coaster and five being the most ‘thrilling.’

“No 5’s,” Molly announced as we set out on our adventure. Sure enough, on our first night there, no fives, but we did ride a couple of 3’s to which Molly remarked, “That wasn’t so bad.”

The next day she was feeling more daring having discovered that she could handle more “thrill” than she thought she could.  First we went for fast. Check. Then we went for tall. Check. Then we went for steep. Check. 

Finally she announced that she wanted to do one that had a loop in it. I smiled. I love coasters. As we stood in line she was apprehensive, but she stayed the course. She kept telling herself, “I am doing this willingly,” as she laughed nervously. 

At the end of the looping coaster she stood taller. She had faced a fear and conquered it. She was so proud of herself for doing it. Now she wanted to ride all of the fives. Because of the long lines and a flight to catch, we didn’t get them all, but we did catch a couple. It was great.

We ate funnel cake to end our day at the park. Heading to the shuttle, Molly asked me why I love coasters. I paused. Why do I love coasters? “Well,” I said, “it is the thrill of it I guess. I like how they take my breath away — the speed, the rush, the wind, the sudden drop. I love it all.”

Another pause. I like roller coaster rides at a park better than in life. At the park you get to choose to go on one or not. You know the ride is limited. But in life you don’t get those choices. In life you can find yourself on a coaster that you never chose to get on, you don’t know what it’s rated, and you don’t know how long it is going to last. 

In fact, some of the coasters I’ve been on in life have been in the dark. I couldn’t see my hand in front of my face. But it’s been on those coasters where I have learned to trust Him. I know that no matter how crazy the twists and turns are, no matter how long it lasts, no matter how high the drop or how steep, I know He has got it. I know He has got me. He is holding me. When it all feels like I can’t take it any more, He knows. When I feel all alone He’s there.

I told Molly to remember this: no matter how crazy life gets, God has it all. You can trust Him. There are going to be twists and turns that you didn’t and wouldn’t choose. There are going to be loops that make you dizzy or make you feel like you are upside down. You are going to want the ride to slow down. You are going to want it to stop. You are going to cry, to scream, and you are going to wonder if anyone can hear you. 

Know now, that He does care. Know now that you cannot choose your life’s course but you can choose to grow in your trust in Him. Anticipate His faithfulness. Anticipate His arms around you, comforting you, holding you. God has big plans for you Molly. Those plans are going to take you on some coasters. 

I wouldn’t stand in line again for the coasters I’ve ridden in real life. But yet, they have been such rich times growing in Him. Some of my most meaningful times have been in the dark where I couldn’t see, but I chose to remember He could. In fact, I would often close my eyes, even in the dark, and rest in Him.

“Molly, no matter what, He’s got you. No matter what.”

I hadn’t planned that little discussion, but I trust that God will use it. Here is a summary of lessons I have learned from roller coasters in parks and in life.

1. In parks, coasters are often rated. You can get an idea of just how ‘thrilling’ the ride is going to be and make an informed decision of whether or not to ride. Life’s coasters aren’t rated. There is not ‘map’ or ‘legend’ or ‘rating’. You just end up on one, not having chosen, and not knowing how ‘thrilling’ it is going to be. Holding on is the name of the game.

2. I like the anticipation of a coaster at the park. I like the maps that show me what I am in for. I like to walk by and take a look-see. But I don’t get that opportunity in life. That is probably why Paul admonishes all of us “don’t be surprised when…” I love how he puts that. Not “if” but “when.” In life we should take heed that we are being renewed day-by-day, twist-by-twist, loop-by-loop, drop-by-drop.

3. The restraints on the coasters at the parks vary greatly. Some of the safety belts and bars are reassuring while others seem insufficient. I am happy to buckle them on and apparently I trust them. How much more can I trust the restraining hand of God who holds me in His mighty right hand. Psalms 91 says that “ten thousand may fall by my right hand, but it will not come near me.” He is my Refuge and my Strength, my Shield and Rampart, my Rock and my Salvation.

4. “Remain seated at all times,” the coaster ride attendant announces to all of the riders. Stand up? Are you kidding me? Would people actually try to do that? Apparently so or they wouldn’t have to announce it. Yes, sitting down for the ride is the best advice. I would argue that our life’s coaster rides would be best on our knees, certainly not standing. There have been a couple of times that I have tried standing in defiance. Believe me, that’s a bad idea. Sitting at His feet is the better position no matter how out of control it gets.

5. If a coaster lasts more than two minutes, then it is considered a long ride. Just for the record, two minutes isn’t a long time. In fact most of us stand in line much longer than the time for the ride itself. Over and over in the Psalms the author writes, “How long?” Apparently the ride the writer was on seemed to be going into overtime. I have been there. I have been on coasters in real life that seemed indefinite. All I could think was whether or not it would ever end. “Yes” is the answer, but not usually when we want them to.  It’s another issue of trust.

6. “Yzma, put your hands in the air!” Kronk yells in the movie Kronk’s New Groove (A Carman family favorite). You see it all the time when people ride coasters — they stick their hands in the air as they take the initial plunge and then through the rest of the ride. Riders are essentially saying, “Look, no hands!” So why do I try and white-knuckle it through the coasters in my life? I need to throw up my empty hands in submission and worship, praising Him Who is in control. I need to let it go to Him and stop trying to hold on to anything but Him. He is Able.

7. One of the best things about riding a coaster is riding with a friend. Molly and I had a great time. We talked about each turn and spin and dip. It was great to experience them together and especially to laugh together. Life’s coasters are also better with a friend. God is good to give us each other. I have had some exhilarating coaster rides. Sometimes I have had friends on them with me. Sometimes my friends weren’t on the ride, but they did cheer me on while they watch and prayed. Whether riding or not, Jesus is always with us. We are never alone. 

8. The point of all coasters is the same: a thrill. They are supposed to me fun and amusing. All of those drops and spins and twists and loops are supposed to make you enjoy yourself. Usually on the ride it works, but in life, not so much. In life when we are hurled headlong into a tight turn or the proverbial bottom drops out, joy is not usually how we would describe the experience. But Paul encourages us to “count it all joy” to “rejoice in all circumstances” and to “rejoice always.” This takes a determination and a resolve to accomplish.

At the park this last weekend there were two roller coasters that Molly and I rode twice back-to-back. Yes, that is right. We rode them and had so much fun that we got right back in line to ride them again. Funny, I have never wanted to get right back in line for a coaster from my real life. I have been on some doozies, and God had been faithful, but get back in line, are you crazy? 

On this real-life journey, I have a goal, which is to conform me into the image of the Son of God. I am perpetually in line. I don’t know when I will get on the next coaster. It could be any minute. But as I set my eyes on things above and purpose to glorify Him in all things and submit to Him my life, I know there will be other coaster rides for me. 

I know there will be other opportunities for me to lean into the curves, to close my eyes in the dark, to lift my hands in praise, to bow in humility, to smile joyfully, and to hold on only to Him. I know because I can hear the click, click, click of the gears. I can sense it in the air, the anticipation of the ‘next time.’

Part of me wishes I could run away from it all and hide. That part of me remembers the tears and the pain and the hurt. That part of me is focused on the wrong part of the ride. 

Another part of me wants to find a way to get to the front of the line, in the front car — the part that remembers the rush of His presence last time, how close He was, how real He was, that part of me. Another part of me is anxious to feel the wind in my face, the free fall, the darkness all around, the pressure of the turning. 

As I grow closer to Him, that part of me grows. What about you? Ready for your next roller coaster ride?

 Rachael Carman

7 Kids 49 Lessons

There are always articles out there about parenting. Magazines are dedicated to the topic. Tips and tricks. Things that work, “How NOT to Mess-up Your Kids”. “What My Parents Did Wrong” or “How to Avoid Being Your Mother to Your Kids”. As parents we are constantly second-guessing ourselves, doubting our instincts, needing affirmation.

7 Kids - 49 Lessons

7 Kids 49 Lessons

I have sought out and read my share of these parenting articles while sitting in a waiting room. Usually I am disappointed or frustrated by the advice. It seems today’s mainstream parenting advice is typically over simplistic and/or cheesy. Often it is clear that I disagree with several of the main points.

We have seven kids ranging in age from 9 to 22 years old. I cannot believe it. When we started having children and began our parenting journey I thought I had it all figured out. Boy was I wrong. So in a type of response to the other lists, here are some of the parenting lessons God has taught me over the years.

  1. This job is bigger than me. I need God every day, every hour, every minute, all the time.
  2. Less is more. That is, less of me and more of Him. (John 3:30)
  3. I have the opportunity to teach my children to worship by my example. Sometimes I have not realized what I was worshipping until I saw my children bow down to the same thing in my horror.
  4. All TV needs monitoring. And living without it is not only possible, it is liberating!
  5. There is a real, usually invisible, but sometimes clearly visible, spiritual battle for the heart of my children. (Ephesians 6:12)
  6. In my weakness He is strong!
  7. I will never again be well rested, but He will sustain me. (Psalms 55:22)
  8. Pride, anger, and selfishness are ugly when I see them in my children. But uglier still in my own mirror.
  9. My husband is the most handsome when he is holding a newborn, changing a diaper, drying tears, washing the dishes, or on his knees for his family.
  10. There is real power in the truth of God’s word — Much more than in my sermonette. (Hebrews 4:12)
  11. Laundry multiplies in the laundry room even though socks always come out as singles.
  12. A well-appointed home is over rated, well-used is far better.
  13. God’s sacrifice of His only son for my sin is beyond my comprehension. Amazing grace!
  14. My parents did a good job.
  15. The beauty of  “I’m sorry.” The power of  “I was wrong.” The necessity of “I love you!”
  16. Bible references with book, chapter, and verse is invaluable in the discipleship of my children. “It’s in there” just doesn’t cut it.
  17. Prayer is powerful, calming, bonding, encouraging, necessary, continuous, sustaining, and joyful.
  18. Even a king-sized bed is small on Saturday morning.
  19. Lightening bugs, lady bugs, worms, and frogs are still fun to catch and amazing to watch.
  20. My kids love to hear me laugh. I should do it more often.
  21. Spontaneous adventures are often more fun and less expensive that pre-planned ones.
  22. I do not always have to answer the phone; it will not blow up.
  23. It’s exciting when someone accepts Christ as Savior.
  24. A song sung together makes chores go faster.
  25. The more the merrier.
  26. Sheltering my children is a good thing. (Psalms 27:5 and 91:1)
  27. Candlelight at dinner time is fun, even with the kids.
  28. Time spent with my children is never wasted — NEVER.
  29. I cannot have lost opportunities back. Neither can I allow guilt to steal my hope of going forward. (Philippians 3:13-14)
  30. A popsicle is a popsicle is a popsicle. Sticky, cold and sweet.
  31. You are never too young or old to learn something new.
  32. Love never fails. (1 Corinthians 13:8)
  33. My children are watching, listening, and imitating me all the time — yikes!
  34. Never interrupt a child who is happily playing unless it is an emergency. Everything else can wait.
  35. God answers prayers, especially those of children.
  36. The gospel message is really simple; adults make it complicated.
  37. One hour playing LEGOs equals a lifetime bond.
  38. It hurts when people are mean and it’s hard to be nice back.
  39. It is fun to consider “Why?”
  40. Children are actually quite easily and inexpensively amused. Playdough, bubbles, sidewalk chalk, and new crayons are just a few examples.
  41. At the end of the day, I cannot choose for my kids.
  42. I will always have a reason to be on my knees.
  43. It is invaluable to have family jokes that strangers don’t understand and you cannot explain.
  44. God got this under control. Really, He does.
  45. I love cooking in the kitchen with my kids. It’s worth the mess.
  46. Kids are never too old for reading time.
  47. This is the best job in the world!
  48. Cheering for each other builds self-esteem.
  49. Someday (when everything is in it’s place and it is quiet around here) will come too fast.

In His Grace,

Rachael Carman