life

If you ask God to give you His peace…

If you ask God to give you His peace…

He’s going to ask you if you’re sure, when you say, “Yes, Lord! I need to write a blog about it, show me peace!” He’s going to do just that, and it doesn’t look or feel anything like yoga. As a matter of fact, it’s more like falling through the ceiling, and thankfully God has His grip on you and you’re going to be okay.

his peace

Life is Messy, so is My Kitchen

The last few months have been filled with excitement and lots of busy activities – isn’t that always the case? I’ve had the privilege of representing my company at homeschool conferences around the country this year. I, the one that does not like road trips, have been a road-trip warrior for the past four months; and while at the end of each trip I’m ready for a long nap, I love serving those whom He calls me to serve.

For this month’s blog, it was time to write about peace. During my prayer time, I “knew” that God’s peace didn’t look like a Buddhist monk at rest; rather it is a deep sense of trusting and resting in Him, but how do you write about that, how does one describe it? As always, God answered and in the spirit of, “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie” I bring you, “If you ask God to give you His peace, you may just fall through your ceiling.”

If you ask God to show you His peace, you may find yourself traveling every weekend. While you’re traveling, you will be amid a kitchen remodel (more like demolition). During said kitchen demo, you are going to be thrown off your budget (even more than you had already anticipated) because you’ll find out that you need a new subfloor. While installing the sub-floor, your contractor falls through the ceiling (praise God no injuries!). As you are trying to wrap your head around how the contractor fell through the ceiling, you fall through the exact same spot. Lesson learned and you thank God that the only thing that suffered any damage was your ego. Thinking that you’ve learned your “peace lesson” and with a spring in your step, albeit bruised from the fall, you are ready to commence writing.

And God says, “Wait! There’s more!”

As you prepare for your last conference of the season, you need to fly into a different airport so that upon your return you are home in time to take your kids to camp; so you ask if the change of airport is an option, it is! Yay! Peace! When printing out your boarding pass you learn that the flight is booked solid and you end up in the middle seat. You pray. Thankfully you end up with nice neighbors and while you are squeezed in like a sardine, you are a comfortable sardine. You praise God for a safe flight and you meet up with your team mate. While waiting for your other team member, whose flight is significantly late, you make the best of it by getting coffee at Dunkin Donuts and sharing multiple laughs together over your respective journeys to this conference.

Peace for the win.

The next day, your team is ready to rumble and so are you, except the coffee tastes like dirty water, but you are a survivor and like a hound dog searching out its prey, it’s just a matter of time before you find real dark roast coffee and tragedy is evaded. Throughout the conference there were a couple of mishaps; but you are writing a blog this month about peace and you are on a roll, a peaceful roll to boot!

You enjoy sweet fellowship with friends you haven’t seen in a while, the fellowship is sweet, transparent and raw, just what real friendships are made of. There are tears, laughter and together we experience a peace that passes all understanding, knowing that we are all messy people and life is indeed messy, but our God has not left His throne and we are going to be okay.

Go peace!

Now, you know it was just a matter of time before God threw an unsettling moment in my post about peace. He wanted to make sure I kept things real. Leave it to air travel. As I was boarding the plane for the return flight home, as I approached my (middle) seat I could tell from the look the woman gave me that this may just be an extra-long flight. The gentleman who was behind me would be in the window seat, so I let him pass and with a smile from ear-to-ear I say, “yay! We’re all here!” She was not amused, he smiled. The sordid details merit a blog post of their own but suffice it to say, I did not become a YouTube sensation despite her ill will and ugliness aimed at my person. At one point of the flight I closed my eyes and cried begging God for mercy towards me and peace that passes all understanding since I could not understand how a human being could be so rude. What God did show me was that she had no peace and He was merciful because our flight landed 20 minutes early!

Yay, peace!

Then, it was off to connect with my family. It was a sweet and short reunion as we dropped off the girls at their respective camps for the week. While I’d like to say that all is peaceful on the home front and bring this post to a close with flowers and bows neatly put together, I’d be lying. Life is messy and so is my kitchen. As a matter of fact, it is really messy. Even though I placed tarps all over the furniture and tried to contain the dust to one place, the dust has made its way on all three levels of my house. I’m not going to lie, I may have shed a tear or two, at the thought that it will be another two weeks before the kitchen is complete.

Peaceful tears.

As I reflect on the last three weeks, the Lord has given me peace and joy, did I mention the two are inseparable? In His perfect timing, He provides everything I need. I realize that you can’t have peace without God and (His) peace involves trusting Him with the results, regardless of what situation you find yourself in and when you trust Him with the results, you’re living in hope, and where hope abounds there is always joy! Even when you’re falling through ceilings, sitting next to an angry human who needs Jesus, or coming home for the third week in a row to an incomplete kitchen.

peace

But wait, what is peace?

Peace entails joy, hope, and trust. Paul talks about this in Romans 15:13, when he says,

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.”

I’ve had peace throughout all of this because I was intentional about it. I was doing Isaiah 26:3,

“You keep him [her] in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because (s)he trusts in you.”

I was trusting God to give me peace, mind you it all began with a prayer asking Him to show me peace. As chaos unraveled around me, because my mind was fixed on God showing me peace, I remained at peace.

Trust (believe) that God will give you joy and peace in all circumstances. Be intentional about seeking His peace. No matter how messy life gets, when we allow God to fill us with His peace, we can fall through ceilings, take on angry humans and live in the messes that we don’t understand knowing that the peace that passes all understanding gives us hope.

That Child and the Nature of Sin

 

I want to talk a little about that darned sin nature that rears its ugly head and often (as least we think) we see it more often in “that child.” It’s often accompanied by some real defiance and an attitude. Even what may be the most terrifying for most of us, is this response to having lied or sinned in any way. This attitude of “So? Who cares?” That is very disconcerting and it should be. 

that child

It’s NOT a phase

I have heard before people talk about children and their behavior and different things, and they’ll say things like, “Eh, it’s just a phase. It’ll pass.”

My friends, it’s not just a phase that will pass! It’s sin which is a serious issue. So, if you are in a circumstance with a sinful behavior with your “that child”, or one of your other kids or even in yourself, it needs to be taken seriously. We cannot blow it off. We cannot even have a “deal with it later” mentality.

The first sign of sinful behavior should arrest us. We should deal with it immediately, in ourselves and in our children.

Before we can talk about the whole issue of behavior, though, I want to back up the bus. I think too often we settle for dealing with behavior and we totally leave out the heart issues

I want to double dog dare you. Don’t reduce the bar of behavior. Don’t settle for the bar of “do it because I told you so”. We are in a world now that is sending a really mixed message to this generation. They are really confused about what it means to be a man or a woman of integrity. 

While most of our culture says it’s OK to do just about anything as long as you don’t get caught, I’m fairly certain that’s not the standard in which you want to raise your children. I’m going to challenge you today to raise that bar and elevate it to be, “We obey because God said so.” 

We might have compliant kids that will fall in line and they’ll have integrity, and they’ll be honest, at least they’ll try to, but without the power and the might of the Holy Spirit within them to strengthen them, to be all those things, they’re not ever going to achieve and be the young men and women that they need to be to, to be the young men and women that God’s planned for them to be, to be part of the generation that’s going to change the world. 

So we must elevate that standard. We’ve got to give them a why. The why can’t just be, “Because I told you so.” It cannot be, “Because you make me look good when you obey.” It’s got to be more than that. It’s got to be deeper than that. 

We must teach our children that the importance of obeying is because it glorifies and honors a mighty, living God, the sovereign of the universe. 

We hold them up

Where do we start with these issues of sin in the lives of our children? We start the way that Ted Tripp talks about starting in his seminars and that is, we hold up before our children every day a holy, mighty, awesome God, the God of the universe, and we say, “Oh, my children, that you would know God. That you would KNOW God.”

When we introduce our children to God it makes all the difference! If we are just going to be about trying to formulate their behavior…do this don’t, do this, do this, don’t do this…we aren’t reaching their heart and we are short-selling ourselves and them.

We are not giving them the motive that they need. So, we must start by introducing them to the God of the universe. 

When they get who He is, when you and I get who He is, it makes all the difference. It changes how we behave from the inside out, which is what real change is.

I’m sure you’ve heard the one about the little boy who was sitting in his high chair who was 18, maybe 24 months old, and his mother kept telling him to sit down. She says, “Johnny, sit down.” And he won’t sit down. She goes over and sits him down. She turns around and he stands up. She says, “Johnny, sit down!” She goes over and helps him to sit down. She turns around and she notices that Johnny’s sitting down. She says, “Johnny, thanks for sitting down!’ He says, “I’m standing in my mind.”

Look, Johnny wasn’t changed from the inside out. It was a game to him. I don’t want my children to be in a game of behavior. I don’t want them to only do what I want them to do when I’m looking. I want them to do what they ought to do because the God of the universe is on the throne. 

I want to invite you, get to know this God of the universe. The bottom line is you and I are not without sin either and our kids know that. As you and I come into a deeper, richer, more abiding relationship with the King of the Universe, guess what? Our kids witness our being changed from the inside out, in subtle and not so subtle ways.

One of my best tools is “Knowledge of the Holy” by A.W. Tozer. This is a very readable book by a man who was sold out to the cause of Christ and to God, the Father, all about having a higher view of God.

We have reduced God in our culture, and I’m going to dare to say it, in our churches, we have reduced God to merely being our bell boy who is supposed to do whatever we ask Him to do, in faith. 

Look, God doesn’t owe us anything. He has already given us the ultimate gift, His only begotten, not made, Son who died on the cross to pay the penalty for our sin. He doesn’t owe us anything! 

It’s all about Him.

We have an opportunity to glorify Him. This life that we are living here is not about us. It’s all about Him. As we look to Him, as we point our children to Him, as we embrace His sovereignty when nothing makes sense, as we appreciate and give Him glory when we’re confused and when we’re tired and when we’re overwhelmed, when we seek to serve Him in all we say and do, we honor His holy name, and our behavior is like incense to those around us and they’re drawn to Him. 

The first step in affecting, for God’s glory, this sin nature of your child, is first you have to acknowledge that they have one. They’re all born with one. If you doubt that visit a friend with an infant. They all came that way.

Selfishness and pride are at the core of our being. We are sons of Adam and we have a sin nature.

But if we want to remedy that, we cannot reduce this to “do what I say”; we must first hold up before them a Holy and Mighty God and get to know Him together. Get to know Him through singing praise worship songs, through singing the old hymns.

Get to know Him in a nature walk, the beauty and the majesty of His creation, get to know Him by reading about him in books like A.W. Tozer, and get to worshipping Him. 

Introduce your kids to the God who not only deserves their obedience but is worthy of their praise. 

Next, after we’ve had an introduction to the God of the universe, we need to start talking to our kids about what sin is. Again, we have failed in this way, not just in our families to discuss what sin is, we have failed in our churches. 

Some churches, in fact, pride themselves in not using the sin word in their services for fear that it might make some people uncomfortable.

The reality is we have a massive, deadly, lethal self-sin issue. If we don’t talk about sin then there’s no need for a savior.

We must talk about sin to our kids. We must acknowledge sin in ourselves and sin in them. There’s no sense in talking about it being a phase. It is an offense to the Holy, mighty God of the universe when we sin. Sin means when we fall short of the glory of God.

In Leviticus 19:2 we are told, “Be holy as I, the Lord your god, am holy.” That’s the standard. We are to emulate Him. We are to be and live as daughters and sons of the king of kings, His ambassadors. 

Live a life that’s worthy

We are to live a life, worthy. When we don’t do that, when we fall into sin, we offend the Holy, Mighty God.

So, what’s His response to the sin? Here’s the deal, His response to sin is His wrath. It is a just response. The Holy God of the universe cannot exist where sin exists. It is not possible for Him to be where sin is.

But, God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son. That whoever believes in Him shall not perish but will have everlasting life. 

Not only does God have just wrath upon our sin but He offered us freely a solution in the gift of His son, who was the holy lamb of God. 

Remember when John the Baptist saw Jesus coming and he said, “Behold, the lamb of God who takes away the sin, whole, of the world.” 

That lamb of God lived a perfect, sinless life as he walked on this earth. He laid down His life. 

They didn’t take it from Him. He laid it down as he outstretched his arms on the cross of Cavalry and paid our sin price.

Only a perfect, spotless, lamb of God can pay our sin price. That’s what Jesus Christ did. 

These are the truths that we discuss with our children. We talk to them about how holy and mighty, and sovereign, and glorious God is. We talk about the issue of sin and the real penalty. Then we talk about the beautiful solution that God has given in the gift of His son.

Because He loves us

As we are having these conversations in an ongoing manner, around our house, as we drive, as we are having these ongoing conversations about God’s glory and His goodness, about our sinfulness, about His goodness and His grace, His everlasting forgiveness, His loving kindness that endures forever, the psalmist writes, we talk about the sin.

john316

As they come into fellowship, as they come to acknowledge and know who God is, there is a natural brokenness that comes when sin comes.

Look, our culture tells us that we don’t need God. Our culture tells us that our sin isn’t so bad. Our culture tells us that we are going to be OK. The reality is that God’s word says that we’ve got a problem. But because of His glorious love for us and His grace, He’s given us a way to come into a relationship with Him. That’s through the gift of His son.

When we frame behavior away around “have to”, we don’t do the right things because we might get in trouble doing the wrong things, we don’t do the right things because we are terrified of the consequences. Our motivation is not coming from a relationship with the Father. 

We must do the right thing because it honors God. Not because we have to but because we get to.

We elevate the motive for being honest and good. and kind. and generous. and selfless. and self-controlled. That’s why we do it. 

We do it because we have an opportunity every day to give Him glory and praise as we worship Him in all we say and do.

As we live a life worthy of that to which we’ve been called. 

 

Finding Peace In God

And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:7

finding peace

Have you ever had one of those days where everything you do, fills you with panic and anxiety. You may find yourself worrying over finances, work, family issues, or something similar. You just sit and stare off into space, worrying over the obstacle at hand, and feel your heart racing, and your hands getting clammy!

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God
Philippians 4:6

I find I get more anxious and worry when the night comes. It is like you are alone, and everyone else is sleeping, and you are wide awake battling the thoughts in your mind. Sometimes I feel that Satan attacks the hardest at nights, when he knows you are alone.

When we find ourselves being consumed by our thoughts and worries, we have to turn it over to God. Give him our fears, doubts, struggles, and let him take care of the matters at hand.

Worrying is a tool Satan uses to take our focus off God, and cause angst and stress in our life. When we worry, we are consumed by thing; rather if we hand these over to God, he can take control, and in that we will find peace.

His Promises

We need to remember God’s promises he has made to each of us, to protect us, and forever have unconditional love. That no matter what we go through in our life, God is always there, he will never leave nor forsake us (Hebrews 13:5).

I find that when I spend time praying to God, listening to worship music, or reading a devotional, I gain more peace in my everyday life. When the world around me feels like it is closing in, I can simply close my eyes and say, “Jesus” over and over, and begin to feel that peace come flooding in.

I find that if I am struggling getting something out of my mind, just thanking God for being alive, the trees around me, the air I breathe, simple things like that can detour those heavy thoughts. If you feel like you are struggling with what to be thanking him for, just think small. Food, clothes, a home, and you will begin to see all the amazing things you have been blessed to have. Give thanks to God. As you are thanking him, you will begin to forget your struggles, and peace will flow in. You won’t feel as anxious as you might have felt before.

find peace

When I spend more time putting God first, the world around me, seems a lot less scary. God, will give you the strength and the courage to overcome anything in your path. We just have to turn to him, for peace. When you turn to him in prayer, he will be there to help you through any issue.

Just finding time to read the word (Isaiah 26:3) , or pray to God is a great way to gain a stronger relationship with God, find peace in your life, and grow in your faith. Learn to cast your cares on the Lord, so he can handle them, and take the burden off of you. In return we will find peace, and that is a beautiful thing.

Prayer:
Lord God, I thank you for your unconditional love, and for always being there when I need you. That in those moments when I feel like my life is stressful or becoming to much, you are right there with me, carrying me through it. That you are the peace maker, that I can call on you to find strength, peace, and hope in all things. Thank you Lord, for your amazing love.

In Awe,

Find Peace in Letting Go

I never imagined I would find peace in letting go of almost everything I hold dear. If you told me I would learn that this past year, I would have smiled and walked away thinking you really had no idea what you were talking about.

But, I have learned just that.

finding peace

Peace

I have read about peace, and I have met many people who just seem to live in a peaceful state.  I’ve always wanted to have peace – one that surpasses all understanding, but I never really knew how to ‘get it.’

It’s easy to read the Bible and the many verses about peace but to receive peace and know it has always seemed beyond my reach. It’s easy to get lost in this world that seems bent on chaos and confusion while trying to hold on tight to Jesus’ hem. The world can be so loud and pull a mom in dozens of directions with information and insight on how we should be living.

Maybe I’ve had it wrong all of these years.

It’s easy to think that I am wrong. All I have to do is read one post on one website, then another on a different site and go back to Jesus’ words in the Bible and see three different thoughts on peace.

Or are they? Could they merely be different people experiencing life from their point of view and speaking the truth as they have learned it?

Truth

Unless you open your eyes and ears to hear and Jesus has poured into you, truth can not be known. And in truth, there is peace.

Truth gives a heart the path it needs to stay on when everything else is falling apart due to heartache, lies, deception, war, famine, starvation, death, sickness…. you name it. Unless you seek truth for you by the heart experiencing the hardships of this life, you can not find peace.

And when you look for it in the midst of life’s most difficult times, peace can not only be found but be experienced in a way that can not be explained or understood by one who has never experienced it.

Life

A peace gained through hardships gives the heart that has found it – the ability to sit down at the feet of Jesus and say “It is what it is. This life has been harsh for me, as it was for you. So be it. Let me carry this torch for you, let me experience this life for you…. and grant me the peace that you give that goes beyond understanding.”finding peace

Trust

You find peace when life has only one meaning and that the truth about who is Lord over my life in all circumstances. Peace is found when I stop comparing who I am or what I have with other people around me.  I find peace when I say “Lord, take me and all that I am and use me for the purpose of which you created me.” And when I say those words I know that the Lord can use me in ways that can make me shine on earth or not.

 

It’s funny, isn’t it? When we reflect on how we want peace, we think about beautiful homes, cars, clothes and security on earth. But, when we read God’s word, when we read about people whose lives were full of peace and gave peace to others, we know the exact opposite.  Those lives were like the life of our Savior: who had no home to call his own after he began his ministry.

So, I sit here with no home to call my own, and I have found peace.

 

Isaiah 26:3 “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.”

Accepting His Peace

It can be hard to have peace when you’re in the middle of difficult circumstances! I know for myself it’s hard to have peace when life is chaotic and uncertain. I’m a planner, and I like to know what’s going to happen and when. I like for things to go according to my plans. When that doesn’t happen, I don’t feel peace.

accepting his peace

I’ve realized, though, that if I really believe God makes all things work together for my good, I should be able to have peace in my heart regardless of my circumstances. I should have peace knowing that God will take care of my family and me and that He loves us. Of course that doesn’t mean I have to like what’s going on or be happy about my circumstances! But I should still be able to trust God and His plan and therefore have peace.

A young woman from my church recently wrote about how God used a quilting lesson to teach her about peace. Her grandmother was giving her a quilting lesson. The grandmother explained how there are many choices a person must make when she’s creating a quilt. She must decide on the fabrics, the thread, how to put it together, what kind and weight of batting to use, how to bind it, whether to hand- or machine-quilt it, and so on. Even if a person is using a pattern, there are still choices to make. There will still be differences in the finished quilt that’s made by one person or another. The finished product has to do with the choices that are made by the person who is making the quilt.

Just as the quilter must make decisions about each fabric and each stitch as she sews her quilt, we must each make decisions in our day-to-day lives. We can decide to be afraid or hurt or anxious. We can worry and doubt or feel hurt or angry. Or we can choose to move forward with confidence even when we aren’t particularly happy about our circumstances. We can choose to trust God, to love Him, to allow Him to love us. We can choose to move forward knowing that God knows the outcome even when we don’t.

We can choose to accept His peace.

You see, God knows that the hard things we go through will contribute to who He wants us to be just like the wonderful things will! God sees the finished work even when we only see the pieces. He knows how they will eventually all work together to make each of us into exactly the person He wants each of us to be.

peace

Will you allow God to take the pieces of your life and create a beautiful quilt out of them? Will you allow Him to take the mistakes and the victories, the good choices and the ones you wish you could change and make your life into what only He knows it can be? Will you accept His peace as he pieces together your life?

John 14:27

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

“That Child” : What they aren’t and what they are

 

I want you to think for a moment of the little precious face that is your “that child”.

When I am speaking at a women’s event on the topic of “that child”, I’ve started sending around a sheet so that all the moms can put the name of their “that child” on the piece of paper. Then I pray over all those names because I figure we are in this battle together for the hearts and minds of these little ones. At one conference recently, one of the mothers wrote six names. I think she was thinking all of them were her “that child”. I’m here to tell you, I pray for that mom!

that child

Whomever in your family is your “that child” I want you to keep that face at the front and center of your mind today as we discuss “What they aren’t and what they are.”

 

Before I start my list, I want to remind you that my “that child” journey has been a long one. My oldest son is actually my original “that child” and I have one that I am currently working with. Some days are better than others just like probably in your home; if you’ve got a “that child” you know exactly what I mean. They’re unpredictable. You don’t know what’s going to happen next. They might be in a fabulous mood and when they’re in a great mood you wouldn’t sell them for anything. But when they’re in “that mood” you might just give them away!

Three things to remember about “That Child”

I was just confident that some of these things are not true. I was sure that they were true. I want to help you get over these lies faster than I did and reframe “that child” for you. 

  1. First of all, I want to assure you that your “that child” (whether you have one, or six), I want to assure you that “that child” is not divine payback for your childhood.The God of the Universe loves you, and me, enough not to leave us where he finds us. He is constantly in the process of glorifying himself and growing us. Often, he will allow things to show up in our children to get our attention. If you have a “that child” they have your attention! God should have your attention. That ought not mean they have your frustration and your resentment.
  2. Number two, they are not broken. When I first had my oldest son, Charles, I was confident that he was messed up and he was broken. God loved Charles enough to send him to me because I could fix him. Do you hear the arrogance and the pride in that? Yes, I thought that he was broken and he needed to be fixed.We talked about last week the issue of the sin nature in “that child” which sometimes is far more evident than in the other children we have that might be more compliant. Those children might be more prone to apologize, or repent, if you just look in their direction. They’re convicted by the Holy Spirit and they respond to that. “That child” however, their defiant rebellion, makes the sin nature often more visible and vile to us.

    “That child” isn’t broken but they a are sinner just like you and me and we need to treat it like that.

    Remember, the way we deal with the sin nature in “that child” is the way we need to deal with it within our own lives. That is, we need to make sure we are getting to know who God is every day. My dear friend talks about this as a high view of God. When we get who God is, we are broken by our sin because we realize that our sin separates us from a loving, holy mighty God in who’s presence sin cannot co-exist. But because of his great love for us, He sent his son.

  3. Finally, your “that child” is not THE problem at your house. When we were first parenting Charles, and as we had six more children come along, I often felt that pain of not spending time with one of the other children because I was having to deal with him!I just want to say to you something none of us want to verbalize, but there were moments when I thought, “What if…” That’s raw and that’s ugly, because in those moments I thought the whole problem was HIM!

    Look, your “that child” is not the problem in your home. They’re just NOT!

    I know a lot of people who would say, “If it weren’t for “that child…” But, I promise you, they’re not the problem. We need to keep that in mind.

Look, if you’re thinking that your child is divine payback, if you’re thinking “that child” is broken, if you’re thinking that your “that child” is the problem at your house, you may think that you’re hiding it from them but they know. They know how we feel about them. Even if we think that we are hiding it, even if we are telling them we love them…. Because, look, there was a point in my parenting my oldest, my original “that child”, that I loved him… Because I had to, I was his mom. But let be honest. I didn’t like him too much. The reality is, you can’t hide that, Mom. You can’t hide that! 

that child

We’ve got to deal with these lies that we’ve chosen to believe about “that child”, we’ve got to acknowledge them as lies, and they are not true! These are not true about “that child”.  

Here are three things that are true about “that child”. Three things that I want challenge you to embrace. 

  1. Your “that child” is a divine invitation to draw closer to God.If my original “that child”, my first born, had been compliant and obedient, cooperative and calm, and all the things I thought I wanted my kids to be, I wouldn’t have needed God. I would have thought I was doing it. I would have thought that I was the most amazing parent on the planet.

    I have a friend who had three compliant children. THREE! She told me that she used to criticize and judge from across the room other parents with “that kid”. She didn’t even realize what she was doing. Her first three children we so cooperative and so obedient. She would look at other people whose children who would throw fits and not behave she would think, “Oh my goodness! If you would just know how to parent. If you would just this… If you would just that…”

    If you’ve got a “that child” you’ve heard that kind of criticism! You’ve encountered that kind of judgment.Then my friend had baby number four. Guess what? She gave birth to the most consummate “that child” I have even known! He would give my oldest a run for his money. All that judgment, and all that criticism, she had been so happy to dole out to everybody else? She had a lot of repentance and work to do with God. This is a story she shared with me. She is now so grateful to have had her own “that child” and to walk in the grace that she’s been given.

    That’s the divine invitation; is to draw nearer to God! Your “that child” gives you a front row seat to your own sin. An invitation to walk in the grace that you’ve been given, and to continue to live a life of repentance and conviction, and let His grace, and forgiveness, and mercy wash over you. Embrace the patience that He has with you and me. I am overwhelmed with the patience that God has with me when I deal with my “that child”.

    The reality is it’s an opportunity for us to look in the mirror and own our issues that sometimes we’ve not dealt with. God divinely allows it to show up in one of our children. Know what? Our sin is usually a lot more hideous when it shows up in somebody else’s face. But it’s just as hideous to God.

  2. Your “that child” is a blessing not a curse. A gift from the hand of God. Do you remember Psalm 139 when it talks about the Master of creation is weaving inside of you a unique person? This child is a gift from the hand of God. That’s one of my favorite things about being pregnant, feeling that child move within me and just imagining God weaving this person together. A gift from the hand of God.It’s not a curse, not a curse!

    We often will think of “that child” as “THAT child”. If we could just do something with THAT one. Right? No!

    They’re a blessing. Your “that child” is a blessing from the hand of God. Not a menace but a blessing. Given for your happiness and your well-being. God loved you enough to give you “that child” to you to draw you closer to him and to show you the marvelous works of His mercy and His grace.

  3. Finally, your “that child” is a unique person for God’s glory. Your “that child” is going to have questions about things that none of the rest of your other children even think about. They are going to just connect dots when no one else in the room can. They are going to see dots that no one else even sees, and connect them in unique ways.Your “that child” is out of the box. They’re not a round peg that fits in any hole at all. They’re never going to be able to be characterized by a formula. Your “that child” is totally unique! God has a plan for “that child”, uniquely gifted, uniquely talented, unique perspective, unique solutions! Your “that child” is totally unique for the specific purposes that God has made “that child”.

He Has a Plan

We know that the overriding purpose for each one of our lives is to glorify God. God has a plan to use those unique perspectives, those questions that are probably driving you crazy, those answers that you have never thought, or those questions that you have never even thought of, God has a plan to use all of that.

blessed-that child

Let us not be the ones that just berate them and allow our exasperations to characterize our relationship with them. Let’s hug that child as the unique gift that they are from God. Let’s cradle their face in our hands and say to them, “I’m so glad that God sent you to this family. I’m so glad that you’re here.” 

Mom, I want to give this as an invitation to you not just because you love that child because you have to, but to like that child, and be grateful for that child, because you are blessed to be raising “that child”.

“That child” is a world changer.

Go give him a hug!

Attitude not Platitudes

This month’s topic is holiness and humility. Each month that I am tasked to write on a given subject, I meditate on the topic at hand, then I reflect on the experiences that God has and continues to use in my life to refine me in that area. When it comes to humility, we tend to associate it with words like “shy and quiet” and while one can be shy and quiet, that is not what humility encompasses.

humility

Humility is an inside job (heart attitude), not merely an outward demeanor. One may put on an outward show of humility but still have a heart full of pride and arrogance. When Jesus talks about only those who are “meek” (power under control) and “poor in spirit” (spiritually bankrupt) will inherit the kingdom, He is talking about the “inside job” that needs to happen in each one of our lives. There’s a significant difference between “admitting that you are wrong” and “confessing the crime.” God says that when we confess our sin and believe, then we will be saved. Being (holy) humble is not a “shy person” quality, it’s an attitude of our hearts.

How has God taught me humility? Oh! Let me count the ways, but for the sake of brevity I’ll have to limit my storytelling. Don’t worry there’s always next month!

I tend to keep God busy.

Being a teenager and idealistic, I was waiting to take my chance at bat and change the world so to speak. Except I didn’t understand the game nor did I know how to play. After years of self-loathing and self-destructive decisions somehow God shook His head at this desperately lost sheep and brought me into the fold.

When I became aware of that amazing Grace He had bestowed on me, I was so overwhelmed. I was so glad to “make it,” albeit by the hair on my chinny-chin-chin, I thought it best to keep a low profile just in case someone would take notice and scream, “she doesn’t belong here!” Regrettably, I went from being in bondage to my sin, to being in bondage to a (false) idea of what I thought Christianity looked like and to people’s ideas of how I should behave, because, you know, I’m a Christian now.

In frustration, because truth be told, I just wanted to please God. I wanted to “fit in” into this new life He called me to. I didn’t have a clue how to “act like a Christian.” What did that mean anyway? Coming from the country I came from, all I wanted was Jesus, for real! I wanted to get as close as I could to the hem of His garment. As I stumbled along, I pleaded for God to show me how to live this life that He called me to and then God gave me a husband and followed it up with children. Just when I thought I was an accomplished human, these two gifts rocked my world. We’ll talk about the “taming of this shrew” on another blog entry, for now we’ll leave it to motherhood to humble me in immeasurable ways.

Love at First Sight

I like to refer to motherhood as “love at first sight” because the moment you see your child you are instantly smitten. After spending countless hours losing sleep, diapering and feeding this little human, we want to see that we have amounted to something other than a chicken-nugget chef, boo-boo kissing, nursery rhyme rock star, and toy picker-upper extraordinaire! Cue the epic background music and roll out the red carpet. Mommas are in the house!

After years of this routine, we are seeking the accolades from the crowd that we have the smartest child, and if lil’ Susie (or Johnny) can’t read by the time s/he’s four, then we’ll move on the next trophy: “godliest.” After all, check out the Awana vest, all badges are accounted for! Or, how about the wittiest, the sweetest, the bravest, and so on until we find a “label” for our precious bundle that meets the criteria that screams from the rooftops, “I produced a super human, how about that!?”

Then there’s a reprieve if you will, and we go from “vipers in diapers” to “taller toddlers” (teenagers) and they are equally as challenging to navigate, which is why we need Jesus. It’s not a cliché, it’s the Truth. During this season, our kids are amid an identity crisis and desperately seeking a trophy to call their own. The struggle is real. The competition is fierce, and parents who are already exhausted from the toddler years enter puberty with both exhilaration and exasperation.

How many times do I find myself looking at my children trying to explain to them that I really did go through puberty, even though I look ancient to them? I dedicate all my gray hairs to them. I understand the awkwardness of what it is to grow up. Echoing my Father’s sentiment (Proverbs 23:26), I remind them to trust me and stay close to my heart and above all, to remain in Him.

They need to see

“My son, give me your heart, and let your eyes observe my ways.”

How do we teach our children that holiness, not a mate nor the latest trend making its debut, is what they need and what they should strive for when the culture is unapologetically trying to swallow them whole? Somewhere along the way we lost sight of God. We lost sight that holiness is what our heart should desire above all else. We’ve been bamboozled to believe that “holiness” is boring. Did we forget we are to be in the world, not of the world? How can we effectively sharpen iron when our standard is to look at what everyone else is doing rather than what the Scriptures say? Clearly, I have more questions than answers.

While my answer may seem over-simplistic, I will say that in my experience it has been eye-opening. One thing has not changed from the toddler years to the taller years – and that is, my children have not stopped imitating me. This is both good and bad. Being a homeschool parent, I don’t even get a six-hour reprieve during the day to act like a fool sans any witnesses. My every move is being watched. It is a humbling, and at times a humiliating reality that I face on a regular basis, knowing that my children are watching every – move – I – make.

pursue humility

We (parents) lead by example whether we like it or not. If we want our children to seek God daily, guess what? We need to seek God daily. We want our children to be humble, love mercy and walk justly with their God. They need to see it modeled in their homes. As we pursue righteousness, they will see us being challenged, refined and restored. They’re watching that process and in it they are learning how to hold steadfast to their faith during the storms that await them. How we deal with our struggles speaks volumes to them. It’s not enough to tell them to pursue holiness, they need to see how we pursue it.

It’s not called a “daily” walk for naught. It must be sought out and pursued. Unlike chasing rabbit trails with no end in sight, our pursuit of God allows us to run our race with excellence. We come to the well and not only do we quench our thirst, we grow up, we mature, we become better humans. True humility produces godliness, contentment, and security. What more can we ask for ourselves and our children? There may not be a single applause from the crowd, but who needs the accolades when the end goal is to hear, “Well done good and faithful servant!” from the only person that matters.

The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.  Psalm 51:17

How to bend “That” Child

It is my heart’s passion to encourage you in raising that child. As the mother of at least two, probably more like two or three or four of “Those Children” myself, they really do have my heart. I know how challenging they can be but I also know what a joy and what a privilege it is to be their mom. I’m here to encourage you.

Today I want to look at something very near and dear to my heart. That is the issue of how to bend “That Child” without breaking “That Child”.

raising that child

I know what it’s like to have a day with “That Child” where you just want to yell and scream. You just want to tie them in a knot. You’re just at the end of your rope. Whether it’s the incessant questions or it’s the confronting your authority, or the belligerence, or the inability to focus….I remember one time sending my “That Child” who is now much older to the mailbox to get the mail. I was distracted by all the other children in the house and didn’t realize how long he had been gone. When he came back in, about 30 minutes later (p.s. It’s only about a minute walk to and from our mailbox!) he had done everything but what? Get the mail!

Yes, I know about those long days when focus flies out the window.

Another time I sent him downstairs to get a roll of paper towels. He came back with…. A hammer! It can be very frustrating. I get it, my friend.

I get the frustration that can just build. I know that you do, too. I don’t know if it’s been that day at your house. I want to talk to you about how do we bend these kids and not break them? We are not called to break them. 

My two youngest sons that are now 14 and 13 have recently gotten really kind of deep into entomology. That’s the study of bugs. They procured a beetle for this unit of study. This beetle was very, very, very stiff. There was no way that they could spread out the legs of this beetle, or his antennae. They couldn’t do anything. In fact, this beetle actually had wings underneath this hard shell; but there’s no way that they could expose those wings in order to see the beauty of this beetle. Enter the softening chamber. This is just a piece of Tupperware with an airtight seal, some damp paper towels, and a moth ball so that this little beetle becomes movable.

He had to sit in that in that airtight chamber for 3 or 4 days. The boys could just wait for this beetle to soften up and be malleable, to be movable, so that they can go in and manipulate the parts and study this beetle.

What does that process have to do with bending and not breaking “That Child”? I want to suggest to you, a whole lot! Very often our kids are a lot like that atrophied beetle…really hard and really stuck in a single position. We want to come in and just force this beetle to do what we want it to do. In fact, the boys have had an experience or two where they didn’t wait long enough. Apparently, the anticipation of studying this beetle really builds. They would get impatient! (Sound familiar?!)

They would just jump right in and start opening wings, moving a leg or antennae. And guess what…wings broke off, legs broke off, antenna broke off and the boys would end up really frustrated. Because it probably only needed another 24 hours.

I think this speaks directly to us as moms because all too often, just like my boys see in these little beetles, we can see in our children what they could be. We can see the beauty of what God’s created and the position that God has formed them for in this universe and we have a vision for what they could do in God’s kingdom.

But then we go and we don’t wait for them to grow into that position on their own. We want to cut to the chase instead of enjoying the journey. We end up, breaking that child, just like my boys would break a beetle that simply wasn’t ready to be handled yet. Now, I don’t think we mean to do this, but we are capable, of breaking “That Child”.

What I want you to know is this: they’re a lot more sensitive than you might think they are. I know with my original “That Child”, I was confident that he was behaving the way he was behaving just to get at me. I was confident that he knew exactly what he was doing. But all this time later I can tell you this, let me just tell you, young mom of a “That Child” who has driven you crazy today… they are not doing it on purpose. They really are unaware of what they are doing in most instances.

Look, I get that there are times when they push every one of our buttons at the same time. I know what that’s like. But I also know that there’s a lot of time when they are just wrestling through being them. They’re really not trying to push all your buttons. They really kind of accidentally rubbed up against them.

Three keys to raising that child

  • Humility is key. In order for us to mold these children into the young men and women, the warriors for the Kingdom, that God intends for them to be, we ourselves must come to this task broken. Humble. We cannot come to this task of molding our children, and discipling our children, if we have not dealt with our own brokenness. If we have not yet come to terms with how desperate we are for a Savior, if we are not aware of how much forgiveness, and grace, and mercy has already been bestowed upon us, then we are not in a position to bend anyone.We must first bend our own knees before we can invite our children to bend their knees. Guess what? They know. We might be able to fool everyone else in our lives but we can not fool “That Child”. The key is for us to come humble, for us to come submitted. Look, your kids get to see how you live this every day of your life. If Mom is submitted to God, does she worship Him? Does she sing praise to Him? Does she point others to Him? Does she have the joy of the Lord and the confidence, and the hope of salvation every day?

    Mom, before we can begin this task we must deal with our own hearts.

  • Build that relationship. Next, I want to suggest to you that we need to focus on making our kids malleable and moldable. How do we that? We do it by loving them.  

    Remember in the Bible when Paul wrote, “Christ loved us while we were unlovable?” That’s true! God didn’t wait until you and I had it all together and all figured out. I’ve known people in my past who were waiting to get it all together before they came to Christ. But it says in the Bible that He loved us while we were yet sinners. He loved us!That love, as we start to embrace that love, and learn about that love, it makes our hearts malleable towards Him. It’s the same with our children. 

We must first point our children, as we’re seeking to mold them, and to bend them, and not break them, we must first point them to God. The wonder of His creation, His majesty, all of His  attributes… I’ve recommended to you before A. W. Tozer’s “Knowledge of the Holy” and I commend it to you once again. Introduce your kids to the God of the universe after you’ve dealt with your own need for him.

Just love on your kids!

When my boys put this beetle into that chamber, the whole point is to make it moist so that it can move. The best way for our kids to want to respond to our bending is that they know how loved they are by God, how wonderfully he has planned a life for them, given them hope of salvation through the gift of His son, and placed him, this child, in your family, and how much you love them. It is the light of that love that we can bend them.

In the Bible we are commended not to exasperate our kids. That happens when we are just on them all the time without engaging in a conversation. It’s easier to exasperate because exasperation doesn’t take any time at all. It doesn’t take any self-control. It doesn’t take any patience. It doesn’t take any wisdom or insight. It’s just as responding in our frustration. It’s really easy to exasperate.

Engagement takes time. It means that right when we want to explode we exhale and we get a hold of ourselves. We do what we want them to do. We allow the spirit of the Holy, Mighty God to come and grant us patience, and wisdom, and insight. Let us not exasperate our children. Let’s engage, especially with “That kid”.

Rules without relationship lead to breaking. When you are just going to insist on them doing x, y, and z without having a relationship… Look, it’s just like that the key to our relationship with God. It’s not that we have to obey Him, it’s that we get to. We get to this place when we understand the love that He’s given in His son’s dying on the cross to pay a sin penalty that we can never pay. The more that we know this truth, the more than we accept that love, and embrace that love, the more love we have to give to others.

I have a policy that now that I have four out of the house anytime any of those four call, I’m answering the phone. I don’t care what time of night it is or what time of the morning it is.

  • Demands without discipleship make for breaking. Let’s not just demand that our children do what we want them to do. I know that early on as a mom, the number one thing I wanted was for my kids to make me look good. I am pretty confident that I am not the only one who has had that as a priority.But I am so grateful to be liberated from that one. My priority for my children now is that they would be disciples of Jesus Christ. That in everything they do and say He will receive all of the glory. That they would grow their sanctification in him every single day. That takes discipleship!

Do you see the trend here? Exasperation, rules, and demands don’t take any time. They’re quick, and they are easy, and they are a result of our impatience and our frustration. But engagement, relationship, and discipleship are the three things, through love, that make our kids moldable and helps us not break their little hearts. Not break their little wills, but bend them.

raising that child

Look, mom, if you have been given the trust of a “That Child” in your house, I want to tell you boldly and with great confidence today, your God does not need the will of “That Child” broken. This world needs more strong-willed women and men of God who will stand boldly on the truth of Jesus Christ. We just need to make sure that their will is not broken but bent to the things of God. The enemy comes to kill, steal, and destroy. He knows that one of the strengths of your “That Child” is their strong will. He seeks to steal it, to destroy it, to kill it.

It is our job, it is our joy, it is our opportunity, it is our delight to bend their will towards the things of God so that can use that strong will that He gave them to glorify Him and point others to Him. My friends, raising that child is difficult. It’s frustrating. It is also an incredible journey. Embrace it, don’t fight it.

My Faith Grew

It’s been two months since I sat in that hospital bed and my faith grew.

Over the time-span of one year our family had been turned upside down and inside out. My health had declined due to pain and medication (for the pain I had been enduring). At the same time, a financial hardship had fallen on us.

It did not make sense (financially) for me to be in a hospital bed. It did not make sense that I had surgery on my spine by a neurosurgeon I had just met.

My faith grew

Faith

But, it did make sense that God had orchestrated the 24 hours that changed my entire perspective on life and my faith grew.

  • While I had spent the past year praying for God to
    • take my pain away, he had not done so
    • end our financial problems, he had not done so
  • While I had attempted to return to work and help resolve our problems, I had been unable to…

Every path we had taken seemed to lead to a dead end. But Faith woke us up every morning to a new day.

Persevere

God… gave me faith to persevere, just as he had given it to Jesus the night he fell to his face three times and begged for the cup to be taken…

And in his weakest most difficult moment, Jesus said “Not my will, but yours be done.”

For so long, I have wanted to really show my children what it’s like to live in this world without being of it. I’ve wanted to give them an example of a Mother who holds onto the faith given to her by a loving Father.  I’ve wanted to show them that everything around them is only here for us to use for His glory…

That is what I wanted and that is exactly what the Lord has provided.

He gave me the gift of faith. The gift of faith has given me the ability to persevere through some dark moments. It is easy to say “you’ll make it through and God is with you…” But you really can’t say that until you have walked a road that is similar to one another person has travelled on.

grow faith

Faith Grew

God has given me this journey, to grow my faith for his glory. I know that.  I also know he has given me this beautiful gift because you might need someone to sit and say:

“Mama, you are NOT alone. My road is similar. There will be days when you just can’t stand or walk because the pain (physical or emotional) is too much… but you are NOT alone and God is with you. He has not abandoned you, nor has HE forsaken you. Just hold on and let go. Hold on to his hand and let go of the idea that you can control this.  Just let him love you and give you an amazing gift of faith that He can’t give you in any other way….”

 

Faith as a Mustard Seed

I’m #NotAFan of processed mustard. In fact, I hate the stuff. I can’t even stand it if it’s on my plate or near anything that I’m about to consume and I cringe when I serve it to my husband and my boys. For years, I had a hard time processing the parable of the mustard seed because of my distaste of the processed condiment.

But in the many verses where Jesus talks about a mustard seed, he’s giving us so much more than a condiment. His words are delivering some of the meatiest bread of life through scripture! Because of my dislike of mustard- yellow, Dijon, brown, honey, spicy, any kind you can imagine- Jesus’ choice of seed description has always fascinated me. Why mustard seeds, Lord, why not marigold, dill, orchid, or even carrot for that matter?

“Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”  Matthew 17:20  NIV

faith mustard seed

When I was a little girl, my mom gave me a little necklace that had a little round mustard seed inside of a square glass casing. It was kind of like a locket that was always visible in a window but didn’t open. I never really thought about that necklace again until this month, when my nine-year-old miracle son Luke started helping in the garden.

Luke loves being out there with daddy, elbow deep in the dirt, sowing tiny seeds and collecting the fruits and flowers of his labor. He also wants to take after mom and big brother and have a website. He’s decided he wants to sell his garden herbs, flowers and seeds to give the money to kids in need. The thought, feel, sounds and scents and work to get to the abundance of a garden and these heirloom seeds have led me to contemplate that mustard seed story again. (We have a ton of beautiful dill growing in the garden. Not a fan of dill, either, but wow are the dill plants gorgeous- and HUGE!)

Deeper roots of faith are becoming deeper rooted in my heart through the work of a nine-year-old sower and my husband. The thought that one plant, and all of its collective one seeds- can produce thousands of new plants, even without work from us at times, it quite frankly miraculous.

“If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it will obey you.” Luke 17:6 NIV

But, Jesus, why mustard? I did some digging. In Bible times, the Palestinian farmers whom Jesus was surely addressing when He talked about mustard would have highly valued this crop. They likely sowed it in their fields for its edible green leaves (kind of like chard) and it also propagated itself by the winds. Its flowers would have been key for pollenating and attracting bees, which then produced sweet honey.

Have you ever seen a field of mustard growing? It’s astonishing. On one of our adventures to Napa Valley, one of the premier wine regions in the world, I had a life-changing encounter with mustard.  Another reason for this crop’s immense value was revealed to me.

Mustard growing in Napa Valley

I could hardly breathe the pollen from the mustard was so intense. I don’t typically suffer from allergies but the pollen was so intense I was sneezing, itching with burning eyes. Yet I spent hours just thinking, sitting and praying in fields of mustard. I couldn’t bring myself to leave the scene, even beyond my sneezing itchy watery eyes.

You see, in the vineyards, mustard is a crucial part of growing a great crop. The farmers are so thankful for the mustard that  acts as a cover crop to protect the grounds in between their main crop to produce the years best fruit. We know ancient farmers also grew grapes. Could it be that part of Jesus’ reference to mustard was also because it abides in the vine?

It really hit me – if Jesus is the vine and we are the branches,  abiding in him to bear fruit – the mustard is also a literal representation of that. The mustard (our mountain-moving faith) is alive while abiding in the vines, between the branches! The branches of the vines thrive with these fields of mustard. The best fruit of the valuable grape harvest is produced by having a symbiotic relationship with essentially, the mustard weed. Our faith.

Isn’t that just like our faith sometimes – full of so many weeds – things that we can’t even stand the taste of, like my dislike of the mustard. If we’re honest, don’t we have bitter places in our faith? But yet, even with a tiny seed of faith,  we are hanging out as covering for others, even if we may not know it, allowing our surroundings to produce the best fruit. That’s radical grace. And oh, Jesus, I’m so grateful!

Then Jesus asked, “What is the kingdom of God like? What shall I compare it to? It is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his garden. It grew and became a tree, and the birds perched in its branches.” Luke 13:18-19, NIV  & also Matthew 13: 31-32 & Mark 4: 30-31

I think that’s why Jesus use the illustration of the mustard and our faith. Come on, friends. The mustard seed parable is in the Word THREE times, so it will really sink in! Let’s continue to grow deeper roots that abide in Him and even blossom between Him, ultimately producing the best fruit.

faith mustard seed

It even makes me wonder why we all have such different tastes, and how vast our God is to create even our preferences differently. We don’t all like the same things, whether that’s food, music, art, nature scenes or even versions of the translated Word of God. Maybe, just maybe, things that seem bitter, or so tiny, to us may in fact become huge blessings to ourselves and to others through this amazing Kingdom of God where we reside when we abide.

There’s so much depth in comparisons to nature in the Bible, including the mustard seed. The deeper we dig, the more rooted in faith we become. I pray your journey takes you to new and profound depths, perhaps even to a field of mustard, and allows you to be a covering to many by your mountain-moving faith.