Idols and Weeds

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I know I haven’t posted in a while, I just haven’t felt led to share anything.  I’ve been thinking and praying, and plenty is going on in my life to write about, but I just didn’t feel led to write about any of it.  At least, not yet!  I was sitting in church Sunday, and our pastor started talking about idols.  My mind just starts going, and I knew what I would blog about.

Idols are one of those things that aren’t really seen any more.  In the Old Testament, there were statues, large and small.  It’s easy to write off the whole idol thing as a Christian, because we don’t pysically bow down, or burn incense to an actual statue.  We can just write that whole idol thing off.  Or can we?  I feel like in my experience, the idols that we can’t see are even trickier.  The things that are good things in life, but can become consuming.  It would almost be easier if it were a physical idol, that we could actually destroy with a hammer.  We could destroy it once and for all.  Many things in our lives, we have to keep at bay, always keeping those boundaries, that those good things stay in their right place.

As I was listening on Sunday, I of course, started to become convicted about some things in my life that I have let become overgrown.  These little weeds growing here and there, and new growth has begun.  It’s not the kind of growing I want in my life though.  These weeds need to be pulled, and I need to get some weed killer on these things!  I’ve done quite a bit of weeding this Summer, and it looks so much better once the weeding is done!  The weeds cover so much of the beauty of the flowers, and start to take away life from the flowers as well.  It’s one of those things that you have to stay on top of.  You can’t just weed once, and never do it again.  I’m super sad about that.  But, it’s the same in our walk with Christ.  We have to stay on top of those weeds, and pull our those roots as soon as they start.  Otherwise, we all know what happens when these weeds take over our faith.  It’s a very ugly thing, and it takes so long to get them cleaned out.

I don’t want these ugly idols in control of my life, choking out the growth Christ is doing in my heart.  I’m guessing you don’t either.  One of the questions our pastor asked to help identify idols was “What are you most disappointed with?”. Well, that’s a lot to think about, isn’t it?  For me, it seems it depends on the day.  I realized while listening to him, that I have a bunch of starts of idols growing.  God has given me victory over food, but it tempts me at times, even still.  Also, I use to bow to the idol of entertainment, which that can still tug on me as well.  But, when I answered that question, I realized that what usually disappointed me was the behavior of my children, and the unrealistic expectations I put on my husband.  So, my family.  Ouch.  I wasn’t expecting that.  I think that happens to a lot of us as moms.  My happiness depends on everyone else at times.  That seems pretty silly, especially since my kids are so inconsistent, and well, not even rational!  I’m glad to know that I have something to ask myself, though, to kind of see where I’m at in this idol thing.  What dissappoints YOU the most?

The next question was “Where do you turn when it hurts?”.  Hmm, that took a bit to think about, but it’s not usually food anymore.  I’ve noticed a new pattern now.  I tend to buy things.  That’s frustrating, because I thought that idol was dead and buried in my youth.  Well, it’s trying to grow again, and I’m so glad God has been opening my eyes to it!  I don’t want to run my family’s finances in the ground for something that never satisfies.  Where do YOU turn when it hurts?

The next one was “What do your dream of/are passionate about?”.   I can be passionate about many things.  The thing lately though, that I’ve really been enjoying is cooking.  I just enjoy trying new recipes, and finding really great ones.  I love looking at cooking magazines, and of course Pinterest.  These things are not bad, but God reminds me, well, to keep them in their place.  It’s hard when that’s part of your job when you are raising a family, but God wants to do the work for me.  He always is reminding me to just do my part.  My part is to keep things in their place, and to completely surrender to Him every moment of every day.  What are YOU passionate about that has maybe gotten out of hand?

Finally, the last question was “What do you think will make you truly happy?”.  In other parts of my life, I would have said, “to be thin”, “to get out of debt”, “to have great kids”.  At this point of my life, and coming to the end of myself so many times, I can honestly say, I know the only thing that can make me truly happy, is to be completely surrendered to my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  He is the only master worth serving. I can tell you that, because I have served so many other masters.  They only bring death, but Christ, well, He brings us life:

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.  John 10:10

I don’t know about you, but I want that full life!  I don’t want emptiness, that’s what these idols bring.  They only take, and they will take until there is nothing left of you.  That’s how Satan works, he wants to destroy us, and to try to destroy our relationship with Christ.  What’s the thing that messes with our relationship with Christ the most?  Idols.  Let’s not give in to them!  When you see a root starting, yank it out with me!  Let’s keep our eyes open, stay alert, and keep pulling those weeds!  I know it’s tiring, but like we have talked about so many times, God does not says it’s going to be easy.  We need Him, and without Him, we’d be covered in weeds.

But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives:  love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.  There is no law against these things!    Gal. 5:22-23

To the Moms of Little Ones

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But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles;  they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.  Isaiah 40:31

That is such an encouraging verse, isn’t it?  How many times in mothering these little ones do we feel like we are just going to collapse from how exhausted we are?  Mothering little ones is a never ending task, and it takes all we have to keep going.  Here’s what I’ve learned though.  I don’t have what it takes to be an awesome mom.  I can’t do it all.  I can’t teach my kids how to follow Jesus.  I can’t do this mom thing…apart from Christ.  He has to be my strength, my all.  I have to keep surrendering fully to Him every moment of every day, for His word reminds us:

I am the vine;  you are the branches.  If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit;  apart from me you can do nothing.  John 15:5

Boy, is it hard, though.  When your temper reaches to the point of no return.  When you are trying to write something to encourage other moms, and your three year old WILL NOT nap.  WILL NOT!  When you look at their face of pure exhaustion, but they just sit in their room and play, but then cry over every little thing.  Oh my word.  Olivia is in that phase right now, she is completely exhausting.  Many times, I just don’t know what to do with her.  When I try to teach her or correct her, it’s like talking to a wall many times.  She really doesn’t seem to get it.  It’s like talking to someone who has the hearing aids off.  I know it will be better in a while.  She will develop, she will grow, she will change.  How do I know?  Because I’ve seen it with my oldest Jacob, who’s five now.

Jacob was awful at three.  He bit other kids, hit them for no reason.  He hit and bit Olivia as a little baby, it was so awful.  I would just cry out to God at nap time, because I literally had no idea how to parent him.  No idea what to do next.  But God would show me moment by moment, day by day, and now I have quite a son.  He obeys most of the time, and most importantly has quite a passion for Jesus.  He’s sensitive to the Holy Spirit, and the stuff he says sometimes can only come from God, in its wisdom.  He truly astounds me sometimes.  He still has his moments, but he is so much more fun to be around.

I share these two examples, especially for those of you that may have one, and you might not be that far on your parenting journey.  Your just not sure that it could ever get better.  Being a mom is hard, it is the hardest job I’ve ever done, and I’ve worked in many different areas.  It’s mind numbing and overwhelming, but, it’s gets easier.  I promise.  It’s still not easy, but easier.  I’m only to five, so I can only share wisdom from that viewpoint.  I’m out of the baby stage with both kids, so I’m not so foggy anymore.  I can usually think clearly, and I get to sleep through the night most of the time.  That’s how I know.  That’s why I want to encourage you to keep going.  Cling to Christ with all your might.  Cry in the bathroom for a bit, lock the door.  Take the deep breath you need and ignore the fingers under the door.  Let it go.  Pray.  God’s got you, like you have those kiddos.  Keep trusting.  Pray through that tantrum, put that kid in their room, or just walk away, and talk to them when they are calm.  Sing in that fussy baby’s ear songs about Jesus to calm the both of you.  You are doing it, you just keep clinging, this bad moment won’t last forever, He is there with you, and He won’t leave you to deal with it alone.

Something else I’d like to talk about is this mom guilt thing.  My friend Mandy helped me with some ideas for this post, and the mom guilt thing was on her list.  Man, guilt is ugly, ugly as sin.  Don’t listen to the mom guilt!  It’s Satan whispering in your ears telling you straight up lies.  Like you are a horrible mother, and you can never get it right.  You and I have NEVER been horrible mothers.  That would be pretty hard to accomplish.  Even if it were true, God’s grace is there to help you change, and to forgive you.  Also, the not getting it right thing.  I’ve learned that there is not really very many black and white things about parenting, so it’s pretty hard to get it wrong.  Satan and lies work in extremes, so most of these lies, if we can see them for what they are, are certainly ridiculous.  We need to fight back with truth always.  Fight back with the word of God.  Satan hates to hear God’s word.  When you feel like you are failing as a mother, think of all that you HAVE done in a day, not what you haven’t.  You got your kid up, fed them, dressed them, and talked to them.  You got yourself up, dressed, and tried to look somewhat presentable.  You got out of bed, lady!!  You made some coffee, and maybe ate something.  These are great achievements in the world of motherhood, and if you managed to go somewhere with the kids, well, hallelujah, that is truly a miracle.  These things all count!  If you have a newborn, and you fed them, and took care of them, and did nothing else.  Well, that’s enough, that is a beautiful, wonderful thing.  You are all doing it, the kids are all alive, and so are you!!

I know being a mom is so full of discouragement, and dare I say, hopelessness at times.  It’s almost suffocating.  You can’t always eat your dinner warm, as a friend and I were discussing the other night.  You just eat after they are in bed, because, well, it’s easier.  That’s normal.  That’s okay.  It’s a season, this too shall pass.  I know you are tired of all the dishes and the cleaning.  Try to use this mess as a reminder of the beautiful blessings we have in our homes.  Pray over their places at the table as you wipe them down.  Pray at the sink as you fill the dishwasher or scrub those pans.  This is the beautiful work God has given you at this time, and when He watches you, He is pleased.  Pour out all of yourself, and watch as Jesus lovingly fills you back up again, so that you can take care of all of those around you.  In ways you never thought you could.  This is where God is growing us.  He is stretching us, and pulling that selfishness right out.  It’s painful, it hurts.  It’s infuriating, and at times, too much to bear.  This is where our faith becomes real.  This is where we see how much we need Jesus.  If we want to show others how much we love Jesus, it’s by being the mothers He has called us to be.

Living out your faith is hard as a mom, the kids take almost everything, we feel there’s nothing left.  I know that there’s that little mustard seed inside you.  Keep watering it and growing it as you walk this bumpy road.  Don’t let it die.  Get a bible or bible study app, something you can do in a few minutes.  You can read it while nursing or when your kid is playing.  Fit it in where you can, keep filling your heart with His beautiful word.  He will take it and grow it!  He is so faithful, even when we give Him so little.  Write in your journal as you can, just jot things down.  Get those crazy thoughts out of that head of yours.  Lay all of those emotions and thoughts at His feet.  He is waiting to take your burden, He’s waiting to fill you up again.  Our kids need us, and the thing we must remember is that THEY are our ministry.  They are our work, and it is so rewarding.  There could never be more important work, making disciples.  You are doing it, momma.  Keep going, surrender all to Him, and He will sustain you for the work ahead.

Trust in the Lord with all of your heart and lean not on your own understanding;  in all your ways submit to Him, and He will make your paths straight.  Proverbs 3:5-6

 

Do You Want to Be Holy or Happy?

imageWell, that’s quite a question, isn’t it?  Sometimes, I think I’d say happy instead.  Sometimes I get tired of this hard road that God calls me to, as I have been honest about in many of my posts.  Sorry, if I seem whiny.  I’m just sharing those feelings because I know I’m not the only one who’s tired, and who feels like giving up.  Sometimes, it’s just all too much, and we want to settle for second best, for happy.  Happy is so much easier, but it’s so short-sighted.  I’ve settled for happy so many times, and boy have I missed out.  We are so used to being comfortable, and having those little things that make us happy, that when those things are taken away, we just think we can’t cope with life.  Things like Facebook, coffee, nap time, me-time, a clean house, a schedule, a nice routine, fill in the blank.  Please notice the finger is pointed at me here, but just thought I’d throw out some examples, I’m sure you are thinking of your own.

Our pastor spoke about this on Sunday, and this is where most of my post stems from.  I’d been struggling with those feelings recently.  Just feeling overwhelmed and lost in life, and not sure if I was doing anything right, it sure didn’t feel like it.  (We all know where feelings get us).  I realized as I was listening to our pastor that somewhere along the way, I had traded happy for holy.  Holiness is something I really want, and I pray, asking God for it.  Well, I think He’s been answering, but not in the way I’d go about it!  I realized that because the things that I thought I needed to make me happy were mostly unattainable lately, that I allowed myself to lose my joy.  I lost my contentment, because normally this and that happened, but now no more.  Another life shift, routine shift, and I got lost in it, and also got lost in a bad attitude.  Sitting in church, God showed me the problem.  I started seeking happiness instead of holiness without even noticing when it shifted.  How sad.  How unbelievably frustrated I am with myself that here I am again.  I know I’m not perfect, none of us are, but I hate getting caught up in those same cycles.  Putting self on the throne instead staying in constant surrender.  I guess that’s just how it goes.  Now, God seems to show me sooner, and we are further down the journey of this Christian life.  I should be thankful for that, and just get back up and keep going. Let’s not wallow, let’s not dwell.  God tells us:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles.  And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.  Hebrews 12:1-2

Did you catch that?  Keep our eyes on Jesus, that’s the key isn’t it?  He’s our goal, He’s what we get, more of Him.  That’s what I want, I may not always live that way, but I know for sure He is worth it.  I’ve already chased after most things this world has offered, and it’s left me feeling dry and empty.  When we keep our eyes on Jesus, we can live above our circumstances.  I can NOT lose it when my three year old does (which is constantly, by the way), because I’m fully surrendered to Him.  That’s the idea, that we are so focused on Him, we have tunnel vision, and holiness is the end result.  He is, after all, perfecting our faith.  The Bible is clear about perfecting and how God changes us and molds us, it’s painful.  The Bible tells us that this road will not be easy and “in this world you will have trouble.”  He then goes on to say, “But take heart!  I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

I am so glad that God never leaves it there, there is always a “but”, followed by some much needed encouragement.  He is refining us, He uses our relationships, especially kids, I can attest to that!  Becoming a mother, and being on this journey has been one of the most trying and stretching parts of my life.  We ALL have these trying and stretching things in life.  They are there for a reason, for our good.  For those of us who are following Christ, they are pushing us towards holiness.  Are you ready to throw away the myth of happy with me?  Let’s trade it for contentment and joy, let’s trade it for holiness, but most of all let’s trade it for more Jesus.

Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord.        Hebrews 12:14

 

A Time for Everything

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There is a time for everything and a season for every activity under the heavens…   Ecclesiastes 4:12

I was trying to figure out what to write about this week, and I had so many pieces of thoughts, and so many starting points, but no complete ideas.  I’m sure your shocked, because I’m well a bit distracted most of the time.  There’s enough going on with just trying to take care of my own kids and trying to keep my house in order, and all that goes along with that.  You know how it is, though, you know there’s even more responsibility on top of my own.  We all have those things we do above and beyond, whether it’s a full time job and career, or just doing things to serve our friends, and the church.  There’s so much to do, and it seems that there are not enough workers to do it.  I can see that everyone is busy this month, and I’m not alone in that.  I wish I could do something to slow us all down, to just take a breath!   Sometimes I want my slower paced life back.  When I tell God that, this is what I hear:

Whoever tries to keep their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life will preserve it.      Luke 17:33

So, that’s something God has been reminding me.  This is not my life.  I gave it to Him many years ago, and told Him I was serious, and here we are.  We have hard seasons and easier ones, that’s the ebb and flow of life.  As I was reading to the kids last night before bed, God reminded me of this as I read a kids version of Ecclesiastes 3.  That’s when it hit me, this is what God wants me to share!  I wasn’t sure when I was supposed to write about this, but the kids are actually napping today, and I get to be home today, so I am doing my best to obey.

So, this is simple, but it gave me such peace, as God reminded me of this truth from His word, that there IS a time for everything.  A time to be busy, maybe busier than you’re comfortable with, because He is pushing you past your limits, so it’s Him people see serving.  A time to be sleep deprived, well, because you’re baby or three year old needs you in the middle of the night.  A time to rest, and just breathe, to just soak in God’s truth and His awesome presence.  A time to teach, a time to learn.  A time to tell your friends all about something, a time to listen to a friend’s grief and struggles.  A time to laugh as your child does a silly dance, and a time to cry in the bathroom, because don’t know how to parent your child.  A time to rejoice for all the Lord has done, and a time to get down on your knees and cry out to God.  A time to work your tail off, and a time to get down and play with your kids.  A time to love, and a time to let someone love you.  A time to give, a time to take. A time to serve, and a time to be served.  A time to clean, and a time to live life fully in the mess.  There is a time for everything God tells us!  I love that, it gives me such peace to remember that, to rest in the time I’m in.

So, remember that, as you pass through all of these times.  Each time is special, and I feel is God-appointed.  These times of growth, and times of just pure enjoyment.  These times all serve a purpose in our life, and in our relationship with Christ.  We can go through all of these times in a day, or they may be weekly or monthly.  Find ways to rest in your time, to just be in that moment with God, and see what He is saying to you, what’s He teaching you now?  The longer I’m alive, I’m finding there is not always balance to life, sometimes things are just more busy or more slow.  I think that’s because God wants us to completely rely on Him, to not put Him in a box, so He is always showing us that we need Him.  Trust Him with me with our “times”.

There is a time for everything and a season for every activity under the heavens…         Ecclesiastes 3:1

The Insecurity Struggle is Real!

imageI’ve been struggling with insecurity lately, how about you?  I mean, does it just ever seem like a dark cloud looming over your head?  You just don’t feel like yourself, like its sapping your joy.  I hate it, I hate those times when it happens.  I don’t like not feeling like myself, and it makes me look more at myself, then my focus is off of Christ.  That is an ugly thing, people.  I miss so much of what God wants me to do, when I’m so worried about what others think of me, what they think of my kids, or if people even really like me in the first place.  I can’t be the only one, I know I’m not.  That’s why I’m writing about this.  I’m hoping by bringing some light onto a dark place for me, God will shine His light on it, and it can be used for His glory.

Ever notice how those insecure thoughts pop into your head?  They always start with something sort of true about you, maybe a flaw that you have.  Then, you accept that thought, and the next one is kind of true, but a bit more exaggerated.  Each thought that you dwell on feeds the next, and by the end of this thought process, I’m thinking that no one likes me or that I’m a horrible mother.  These are exaggerations, because at least my husband likes me, so that’s not “no one”, and I’m not a horrible mother, my kids are well taken care of and loved even on our worst days.  It all seems so obvious when I type it out here, we can see it, we can touch these thoughts that pass through our minds.  With these thoughts described above, the problem is, they don’t come one at a time, there are usually so many, that we can barely keep up!  It’s just so much negative noise, that our brains can barely even think, or even think many logical thoughts.  I was at a moms conference this weekend, and it was wonderful and encouraging.  I was waiting for my lunch the second day, and watched the lady hand them out.  There was a bag and a salad.  I was like, “I wonder if there’s a fork, or dressing.  What if I don’t have everything I need to eat my lunch?”.  Then I thought, “They know what they are doing, I’m sure it’s all in there.” and I didn’t ask the lady handing out our lunches.  Could you imagine if all 5,000 ladies at the conference asked her their questions, worrying about their lunches?  That’s what all of that noise feels like to me, with all of those insecure thoughts, just simply overwhelming.  I know the example may seem a little silly, but I overheard another woman in front of me with the same worry about her lunch.  As women, we just have so many passing thoughts going through our heads, fearful and sometimes just things we need to get done.  I would hate it if we could hear each other’s thoughts!  I’m already stressed out by my own!

So, I was thinking, then, as I was once again trapped in this insecure thought cycle, how did I get here?  I was feeling like a pretty awful person, wondering how I went from my normally focused on God self, to worrying about everything and everyone around me.  Well, I’m pretty sure it happened with one little thought that knocked on my mind’s door.  I’m not sure which one it was at this point.  Probably something I felt like I messed up, and then became overly critical of myself for it.  Any of you out there like that?  Do you just beat yourself up over something you missed, or just didn’t think about doing.  Well, you are not alone, I’m right here with you sister.  Even if there’s just one other out there like me, well, we are together!

Here is my mistake, which I bet you smart people already know.  I let that first thought in, and before you knew it, I was thinking all kinds of crazy thoughts that were essentially believing lies.  I needed to “…take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” (2 Cor. 10:5).  I’m not sure why I didn’t, I’m not sure why that wasn’t my first response.  I’m sad that it wasn’t, I know better.  What’s next then?  Should I wallow in guilt and shame, and fall into another cycle of insecure thoughts?  No.  God does not work in guilt and shame, that is from Satan.  How does God speak to our hearts?  Conviction.  Good, simple, honest conviction.  It’s a quiet knowledge that you strayed from Him, that you let things get between you two.  It’s feeling sorry about that, but having the faith and hope that God will help you move forward, while asking His forgiveness. That you do not have to go back, ever, just forward.  I want to go forward with you, let’s do it together.

When you hear one of those thoughts that starts to make you feel insecure, pray and ask God to take it captive.  Quote the verse above from 2 Corinthians, pray it.  There is so much power in praying God’s word!  I have learned that over and over again, so many times He brings it to my mind, even when I may not even have it memorized.  That’s how amazing the Holy Spirit is!

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness.  We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.  Romans 8:26

God is so truly amazing!  He gives us everything we need to fight against thoughts of insecurity.  We start with handing those thoughts over to Christ as soon as they come.  We state the truth of God’s word, and who we are in Christ.  I have an earlier post about this, here is the link: http://www.thisshannonlife.com/uncategorized/knowing-who-you-are/  

We pray that God would be in complete control of our thoughts and lives, that we allow Christ to live in us.  We pray against the foothold we have given Satan, so that he can not have a place to speak to us.  Pray that we hear God’s voice louder than any others, that His truth will be obvious to us at all times.  Will you pray these things with me, the next time an ugly, insecure thought comes your way?  Will you remember the steps we talked about here?  I pray we both will, and we will be better prepared for the next attack on our thought lives so that we “can take your (our) stand against the devil’s schemes.” (Eph. 6:11).

 

 

Parenting (I don’t know what I’m doing either)

imageThis parenting thing is tough.  I mean, as if you didn’t already know that.  Just when my kids seem to settle down, and I feel we are moving on  to a new, more mature stage, they bust out acting like a bunch of crazy people.  Olivia was just straight up mean tonight.  Destroying all of Jacob’s toy set ups like a boss.  She’d just knock his stuff on the floor.  No matter what I did to discipline her, she just kept on.  She didn’t settle down until just before bed, and now in the beautiful silence of bedtime, it seems so long ago.  It’s funny how things don’t seem so bad when the kids are in bed.   You get to feel human again, and like there are other things going on other than your kids acting insane.

I’ve been thinking about this parenting thing a lot lately.  It’s just so hard sometimes, painful.  It seems impossible, like the kids will always be throwing fits in the store when you say no, then crawl like a baby, because they can’t walk in their emotional state.  Or, your son, will always lash out in anger at his sister because she screams right in his face.  He just states to me, just like a Pharisee, “well, she deserved it!”.  Well, maybe she did, but of course, I have to once again tell him that he can not punch her in the face.  We talk about how to walk away from her, and I remind him that she is the crazy one.  That she is three.  For me, that’s all the explanation I need, but for him, I explain what he was like at that age.  He seems to understand a little then, and tries to be more patient with her.  We all try.  Sometimes we all fail.

But you know, God never, ever, ever fails with us.  He never yells, loses His holy temper, or punishes us out of anger.  He deals with our ugly selfishness, even when we scream right in His face.  He is so very consistent, no matter how inconsistent we are.  I’m always reminded that when my kids act the ugliest, that’s what my sin nature looked like to God, before I accepted Christ.  Before I had Him to stand in my place.  Now God sees Christ, not my ugly old self, praise God for that!  There are times, though when I pick up that old self, and carry it around again, with its ugliness. I probably look just like a screaming, selfish toddler just trying to get her way.  God is always so gentle though.  Just convicting, never condemning.  That grace is there, He is there, waiting for me to calm down and, ahem, “use my words”.

Im learning, and have so much to learn from this whole parenting thing.  I have come so far, and would not change who I am becoming as my selfishness is slowly eroded by these waves of raising two little ones with my own flaws.  I’m so much more compassionate, and can see more fruits of the spirit, as I have no choice but to cling to my Savior, as I ask Him how to be the kind of mom my kids need.  I don’t know what I’m doing.  I can admit that here, I can tell you that.  I wish I had the answers, I like to share things that I know, I like to help others with things that I’ve learned in this life.  But this parenting thing, it’s ever changing, there’s no bow you can tie on the end of the story.  It will never be over.  Olivia and Jacob will always be my kids, and I will always be their mom.  That’s never over, and my job will not be done, until I take my last breath.

I know, though, that it’s okay.  My work for Christ isn’t ever over either.  I mean, we all always trying to do everything for His glory.  There is no vacation from being a follower of Christ.  We do it everywhere, and in everything.  At least, we should be.  It’s tiring, it’s overwhelming, sometimes it’s just seems unbearable.  God always reminds me that it’s not me doing it all.  It’s Him.  My job is to abide, to rest in Him.  None of this is up to me, thank you Jesus!  If it was, we’d all be in trouble.  Did I mention I have no idea what I’m doing?  God does.  He knows it all.  He sees it all.  All I need to do is just keep walking in His ways.  I just need to trust, and trust my kids to Him.  They are His anyway.  

Lord, please help us to get out of the way, and let you use us.  Please live in us, and be in complete control of our lives.  We are nothing without you, and we need you more than anything.  

That is my prayer for you and me.  That we stop trying , and just give all control to Him.  We will be so much better off, and so will our kids.  Who else can help us be the consistent, loving parents our kids need?

…Instead, give yourselves completely to God, for you were dead, but now you have new life.  So use your whole body as an instrument to do what is right for the glory of God.  Sin is no longer your master, for you no longer live under the requirements of the law.  Instead, you live under the freedom of God’s grace.    Romans 6:13-14

For the Tired and Weary

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Then Jesus said, ‘Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest…For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.  Matt. 11:28-30

I don’t know about you, but I’m tired.  Just plain ol’ bone tired.  I feel dry and empty, almost numb.  I know this isn’t how I want to feel, I know I don’t want to stay in this dry and dusty place.  It’s kind of ironic too, that I would feel this way now, of all times.  My busy season is starting to wrap up.  A lot of things are ending for the year, and I know there will be some things I will not pick back up in the Fall.  This should be a time of relief, finishing well, except I want to throw in the towel.  Then God reminds me:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up.  And let us run the race God has set before us.  Hebrews 12:1

Such a sweet and wonderful reminder to keep our eyes on the goal, on our Father!  We have to at all times, but we sometimes lose our focus don’t we?  The things of this world can be so distracting, I feel like I have ADD sometimes!  I want to focus, I want to not trip on my sin.  I love how God tells us to throw off those weights, especially that sin.  Wow.

Sometimes I just get tired of doing things for people, and constantly pouring out everything I have onto my husband and kids.  It feels like many times I just get attitude, complaints and just plain ingratitude thrown back in my face.  But then, again, I hear God say:

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.  Gal. 6:9

Have you ever not seen that to be true?  God always comes through!  He never gives up on us, but I’m such a whiny baby when it comes to running the race.  He is so faithful, but I can be so wishy washy, and easily distracted, I’m ashamed to admit it.  Why do I get so tired of doing good, and often fall short of the finish line?  I think some of it for me, is that I’m trying to do some of it in my own strength.  I’m not completely relying and abiding in Him.  I know how wonderful it is when I do abide, when I stop trying, and simply obey Him.  Why do I end up tired, and wanting to give up right before it’s over?

It hit me, as I was talking myself into going downstairs to work out.  I didn’t want to go.  I wanted to sit on the couch with Netflix and chips, and maybe even a diet soda.  It has been a rough morning with the kids, and a busy couple of days (it’s only Tuesday!).  After all, I deserve it, right?  I just need to escape for a bit, right?  The problem is, I have escaped a lot in my 36 years, and it’s never gotten me anywhere, because at the end of it, you have to return to reality.  Returning to reality without filling your soul, well, that just keeps us in this cycle.  That’s my point, (I know, finally!) we need to break the cycle of escaping or zoning out.  We need to go to Jesus, He is the only one that can renew us when we are in this state.  In case you are wondering, I broke the cycle, I worked out the last two days, even though I wanted with every fiber of my being to stay on this couch!  I didn’t eat chips or a diet soda.  I moved past my cravings, and moved forward instead of back.  It doesn’t feel that great, but it feels like the discipline God has been trying to instill in me this past year.  I have been ruled by food cravings in the past, and by escaping.  God has been reminding me that He has given me victory there, and I am 35 pounds lighter to prove it!  Why go back to that bondage?  Why not run the race, moving forward?  Why would I want to run in circles?

The example of my issues of escaping are unique to me, please don’t put on any guilt if you eat the things I mentioned or have the things I don’t.  Also, don’t feel bad if you don’t exercise, all of these things are between you and God.  They are just an example of the cycle I needed to break.  Other times, I can watch Netflix without guilt, because I’m not trying to escape, it just depends on the heart behind your actions.  I don’t know what God wants to clear your heart of, but by giving you examples in my own life, you can be there with me, knowing you are not alone in your struggles.  We are so much the same, but of course we differ in our areas of struggle.  What is it that God is asking you to break the cycle on?  I promise you the first time you break it, it will be so hard, so remember, it’s not by our power, but by Christ’s.  The next time you break it, it will be a bit easier, then before you know it, God has gained another victory in your life over bondage.  Just know, that Satan will be back with more temptations, but as we gain victories through Christ, it’s so much easier to say no.  There was a quote from Mother Teresa that was such a good reminder to me, and just spoke to what following Christ is all about:

God does not require that we be successful only that we be faithful.

Let’s be faithful together, in His power we can be.  It isn’t always pretty, but the outcome of the faithfulness God is asking of us will reap a wonderful harvest.

Encouragement

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Without even realizing it, the enemy twists our opinions and preferences into some form of counterfeit truth, causing us to believe that if a mom doesn’t do things the ‘right’ way (our way), she’s wrong, ‘less than’, or misguided in some way.  –Jill Savage

Woah!  When I read that, I was so convicted.  I’ve done that to other moms.  I’ve had other moms do it to me.  Let me say I’m sorry if I’ve done that to you, my friends.  I don’t think that is what our intentions are, but we can sure get caught up in our preferences can’t we ?  It’s okay to have them, it’s healthy, and a part of our personality.  Let’s just try to remember that it may not be necessarily wrong, just different.

When you think of yourself and your daily responsibilities, and trying to raise these children to the best of your ability, what’s the thing you seem to need the most?  I think of encouragement.  I think of how many critical comments I get in a day, and it’s a lot.  Whether it’s someone at the store commenting on my parenting, (your kids NEVER misbehave at the store, right?) or the many critical comments my children have on dinner or having to do things they are told.  We live in a pretty negative world, and I too, get worn down and burnt out by it all.  I love that Jill says “encouragement gives courage”.

I can’t say enough, how true that is.  I’ve seen someone completely change in demeanor when I’ve yelled out that I love their hair or purse.  I feel amazing when someone says something like that to me.  Most women feel the same, and welcome encouragement whether they know how to handle it or not.  How can we encourage each other?  Maybe it’s just a smile, or telling another mom how cute her kids are.  I feel good when others tell me the good qualities they see in my children.  It’s so encouraging to know that what we are working on with them, is showing.  We can find ways to help other moms whose hands may be more full than ours at the moment.  When our hands ARE full, maybe it’s just that shared look of “yep this is so hard, and my kids are insane!”.  We can help our friends with things they need done around the house, bring a small gift, or just simply text or call to let her know you are thinking of her.  We moms don’t need much encouragement, but it sure goes a long way!  We can also just be real and honest in our friendships.  Maybe leave your house a little messy, so your friend knows it’s the same at their house!  Those “me too” moments really bond us in a way that so many things can’t. This was the final chapter of Better Together, and it was such a fitting one.  We really can’t be encouraging without the other things we’ve learned about first.  That encouragement can only come from the overflow of love that Jesus puts in us.  We have to be connected to Him, to the vine, then that encouragement to ourselves and others flows freely!

Forgiveness


I can’t believe this is my second to last post on Better Together!  One of the many difficult aspects of friendships is we sometimes let each other down.  It’s bound to happen.  I let you down, you let me down, one of us says something rude, it’s normal.  It’s what’s going to happen as we grow closer together, there will be those awkward and sometimes hurtful moments.  We have to remember to watch and clarify our expectations, and be very forgiving.

With friends, it so important to let each other off of the hook.  It’s also important to be clear of your expectations, if you have them.  I tend to not have many, I just don’t want to put expectations on friends.  Every time I’ve had them, I’m the one who ended up disappointed, and I don’t like when unfair expectations are put on me either!  I do think it’s fair and healthy to kind of talk through needs you may have or even in some relationships define what kind of relationship it is.  Some friendships will be “I’ll see ya when I see ya”, and others will have more commitment.  It just depends on the people you are dealing with, and the season of life they are in.  Even when we give our friends forgiveness and grace, there are going to be things that may need discussed.

When there is an issue in our friendships, Jill has some good tips:

-check your heart

-talk only to her (Matt. 18:15)

-talk soon

-keep the big picture

-be empathetic

-be loving

-bring resolution to the table, own what you need to

I love these tips that are so practical, and are so helpful in figuring out things in time of conflict.  There are times though, when there are more serious problems in the friendship, and it can be toxic.  Those are the times when we may need to pray about ending a friendship.  The signs of a toxic friendship is that the person is either emotionally unhealthy or emotionally immature, according to Jill.

There are also going to be times when a friend may need to bring up something that we are wrong about.  Jill gives tips about handling this as well.  This is so hard.  It’s hard when a friend has something critical to say, but if it’s said in love, she is a true and devoted friend for sure!  Proverbs 27:6 says:

Wounds from a sincere friend are better than many kisses from an enemy.

So true!  Criticism is so hard to hear, I think because we beat ourselves up so much already.  But, we all have blind spots, and sometimes hard things need to be said.  One tip that Jill gives that really opened my eyes was to not be defensive when the criticism is delivered.  That’s just automatic almost.  I think out loud, so that one is something I want to work on doin better with.  Another point that Anne points out at the end of chapter 9 is that we can pick up and own what is ours about the criticism, and leave the rest on the table.  I love that.  What is God teaching us in that moment?  What is it that maybe He’s not?

Being a good friend is not easy, and there are so many challenging things about relationships.  Having them, and investing in them is worth every ounce of effort we put into them!  Don’t let conflict or rough patches rob you of beautiful and meaningful friendships!!

Testimony and Prayer

  In the next two chapters of Better Together, Jill covers sharing your story and praying together.  I’ve really enjoyed these two chapters, they really have some great practical tips on both of these topics.  Both of these subjects are very important to friendships, and I definitely think we can overlook their importance.

Jill gives some tips on getting to know people, and how you just share the highlights of your life, then have the other person do the same.  It’s such a great way to start, and a great way to see what you have in common.  It seems like there are always at least a few things you have in common with others.  Jill points out how our appearance does not usually let others know our past or our story.  How we need to be careful when comparing, we have no idea what their back story is.  Trust me, we ALL have one.  It’s easy to get caught up in believing that our story is not as exciting as someone else’s, or maybe our past is a little TOO exciting.  We need to remember this, from Jill:

Our life may be the sum of our experiences, but our value is determined by the totality of our God.

It’s so easy for some of us to share our stories or testimonies, but others, it’s just plain hard.  You may not know when to interject, especially if someone seems to really have a great one!  For me, I just want to share what God wants.  I have a lot of stories about how God has done great things, but is it the right time or place to share?  Maybe not.  As a friend of mine always says, ” your testimony isn’t for everyone.”  I think that’s true sometimes, it’s just not your time to share.  We really have to be listening to the Holy Spirit as we share and listen.  It takes time to learn that, and it’s something I’m still working on.  I only want to say what God wants me to, and know when to really listen.  I love this from Jill about our stories:

More than anything, it’s important to remember that, as Christians, our stories are really not about us at all.  They’re about our God and what He’s done in us through our story.  That’s always the right motive for sharing.

So, how do we listen to the Holy Spirit?  Through prayer, of course!  We also need to be daily reading His word, so that we can know what the truth is.  Lies can come at us so often, and if we are not closely connected with Jesus, then we are going to believe those lies.  I know, because it’s happened to me, and I don’t want to get stuck there any more.  What I’ve learned is that prayer and reading my Bible are vital tools we have in our walk with Jesus.  Through both, God shows things to me, and brings scripture to my mind when I need it most.

Prayer is so important to our lives, but how often do we pray together?  Not enough.  It’s so important, because it’s our way to battle for our families and marriages.  Satan will so often distract us to keep us from praying.  He knows how many of us struggle with it.  Many of us are just uncomfortable doing it, but the more we pray together, the more we realize how important it is to our own lives, and in our friendships.  We walk away from that time in prayer encouraged.  I think we all have stories of how God has answered prayer in our lives.

Jill gives some great practical ways to pray, she mentions that we should pray right then, when someone is asking for prayer.  This way we don’t forget.  A pastor and his wife at our church use this method, and it’s truly a blessing!  It’s something I’d like to do more with people in my life as well.  It should be our first response, but I know for me that’s not always the case.  I’m asking God to make me more that way, and to help me to be courageous enough to boldly pray when He asks, even when it’s uncomfortable.  She also mentions how she would pray with her kids about things out loud.  To just stop right then, and pray.  Her daughter, Anne, who is now a mother says that through her mom doing that, it made her so comfortable with praying out loud in her own life.  It’s just something that feels natural.  That’s what I’m striving for with my kids as well.  I’ve had to learn so much about prayer, I didn’t grow up with that, so what I know now is what God has shown me.  I just pray that it can become something we make a priority in our family, so that our kids don’t struggle with this powerful tool.

Sharing your story with someone can be so simple, just be ready to share what God has on your heart.  He will give you the words.  He’s always so faithful.  As we pray, we will get more comfortable with the practice.  Just keep doing it, it doesn’t have to be perfect, we just need to talk to God.  He just wants us to come to Him, and spend that time talking and listening to Him.  We always walk away from that time filled up, and ready to do what He asks of us.  Why not add prayer more in our relationships as well?  Can you imagine the kind of friendships we can have as we pray for our kids, our families, our church?  They would be the kind of friendships God is calling us to have.