Tomorrow We Fight

Our moms’ group has heartbreakingly seen two mamas lose their precious children to brain cancer in the last 6 years. When the second child died, our pastor gave a timely, encouraging sermon on Judges 20. The story in that chapter is how the Israelites fought against the Benjamites, lost many men in the fight, and asked God if they should fight a second time. God said yes, and they lost more men. So the men wept, fasted, worshiped, and enquired of the Lord if they should fight a third time. God said, “Go, for tomorrow I will give them into your hands.”

Our pastor reasurred us that though we lost the battle, we would one day win. He encouraged us to weep, fast, worship, and pray today, so tomorrow we could stand up and fight again.

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Now, a dear mom from that same moms’ group is fighting brain cancer for the second time, after being miraculously healed. She is now in a medical induced coma in hopes that her body can rest while she fights septic shock as well as some infections. We have seen her decline rather quickly, and it’s disheartening.

I’m writing this post, first to give a charge to the moms’ group and other friends of this family to keep fighting. Let’s follow the example of the Israelites in Judges 20. My second reason is to give encouragement to anyone going through something rough for the second or third (or fourth!) time. Take God at his word (as Ginger reminded us), study his promises, and keep fighting no matter how many battles you lose. We will win the war!

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Building Your Home

Right up there with coffee, chocolate, and new baby smell is the scent of freshly cut wood as my favorite. I just love walking into new construction or a project, seeing what isn’t yet complete, but imagining the finished work.

Proverbs 14:1 says,

Every wise woman builds her house, but the foolish one tears it down with her own hands.

My house, my home and family, is my domain, my place of influence from where all else flows. Even though I desire to be wise in the building, many times I find myself tearing it down brick by painful brick.

How do I, desiring to be that woman of wisdom, build my house?

I build when I take time to spend with the Lord in worship and prayer. I read His word and study it for living a life out of a security that rests in His unfailing love for me. This is my FOUNDATION for all else.

I build when I set boundaries and make margin in my life, taking the time I need with my husband and family. I use this margin to rest and focus on the most important things in my life. These are my WALLS that protect me from burning out and turning into a stressed out nightmare for my family. This keeps a peaceful tone in my home.

I build when I make the effort in relationships with other women, allowing myself to be real and vulnerable. These are the WINDOWS that allow others to see me and keeps me from feeling isolated and alone in my motherhood journey.

I build when I receive counsel, letting people into our lives, letting go of misconceived ideals of perfection. I build when I get rid of negative influences that harm my family. These are the DOORS to my life, doors that open my family up to good things and doors that close, protecting us when necessary.

I build when I cry out to God in prayer, praising Him, and entering into thanksgiving for all I have. This is my ROOF, my covering, my atmosphere changer. It keeps me from complaining, comparing, and despairing. It opens up my life to the power of God and an atmosphere of joy and gratefulness in my home and family.

I build when I invest my time in things that matter, when I am present with my family. I am truly listening and seeing the heart needs of my husband and children, loving them the way I want because I have built my house on the correct foundation. I build when I teach them to be present in things that really matter as well, taking the atmosphere in our home to the world outside us. This is the INSIDE of my house, the features and beautiful touches I build into our lives for my family, treasuring them and my calling as a wife and mother for all that it is.

Pretty Pumpkin

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Here it is!  Fall is in the air already!  The season for pumpkin lattes, pumpkin pie creamer, leaf decorations, sweaters, homecoming, and then…Thanksgiving.  The excitement is already brewing for that beautiful holiday that leads into our Christmas celebrations.  Time flies!  It’s enough to make us either stressed, hungry, or embracing all the memories.  One of my favorite memories is being called “Pretty Pumpkin” by my Dad. Whenever we would drive by Pumpkin Lane, he would chant “Pumpkin Lane” and give my leg or arm or whatever was within reach a tickle.  Pumpkins take on special meaning now as I think back to how special that made me feel.  My Dad made me feel special by complimenting me.  He made me feel “pretty” by calling me a pet name.  What things make you feel special?  It may have nothing to do with pumpkin!  What memories do you have that remind you that you are special to your Heavenly Father? Not everyone has an earthly father to give them compliments and provide for all their needs.  But we have our precious Heavenly Father who calls us “chosen” (Colossians 3:12), “beloved” (Deuteronomy 33:12), “treasured possession” (Deuteronomy 7:6), and the “apple of his eye” (Psalm 17:18.)  Let’s ponder some special memories and toast our pumpkin dishes to our Father who meets all our needs and calls us His own.

Now try this yummy, healthy pumpkin smoothie recipe!  Thank you Women’s Day magazine!

Pumpkin Smoothie

Blend 1 banana, 1/2 cup nonfat Greek yogurt (vanilla or plain), 1/2 cups milk (regular, almond or soy), 1/2 cups pumpkin purée, 1 and 1/2 tsp maple syrup, 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon and 3-5 ice cubes until smooth and frothy.  Makes two servings.

stickers that won’t stick

“The stickers only stick if they matter to you.”imag0517315235

I sat down to read Max Lucado’s book You Are Special to my two youngest boys. In the story the townspeople go around giving each other these stickers, either plain ones or stars, depending on how pretty or talented they were or what they could do. We finished the book, and they ran off to conquer the newest foe in the battle. I sat there, reminded of how recently I had seen a comment on facebook that was directed at me. Immediately following that, I could feel the pull of that rejection tainting my other interactions with thoughts of that “sticker” that was put on me. Oh, how we hurt one another with stickers that we put on each other. Labels that stick and cause us to believe lies about ourselves, our children, or our marriages. Even labels we put on ourselves when we compare ourselves to other people.

John 8:31-32 says, “If you abide in My word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.”

The little guy in the story sees that the stickers don’t stick on his friend, and he wants what she has. So she sends him to his maker. And the truth of HIS words set him free from the stickers put on him.

“The stickers only stick if they matter to you.

The more you trust my love,

the less you care about their stickers.”

His love, His words, His truth- it’s what sets us free from the labels given to us, free from the lies we believe. 1 John 4:18 says, “There is no fear in love because perfect love casts out all fear.”

Fear of not being enough

Fear of not being able to change

Fear of not being accepted…

Because of HIS love we are enough; we are becoming more and more like Him; we are accepted exactly the way we are. And as we become more sure in His love, we find the stickers don’t stick as much. We don’t believe the lies. We are free from the labels as we trust in His love for us.

 

/thrive/

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Claire is a guest writer at Raising Generations Today. Here’s an excerpt from her post:

Have you ever heard the phrase “going from strength to strength?”  I found it in the definition of the word thrive.
I hear that word a lot in my circles. We want to thrive in our lives. We don’t want to just get through our days feeling like they are passing us by. In our lives as wives, mothers, in our jobs, in our ministries, and in our relationships, we want to thrive….read more here

 

Learning to Become Who I Am

I am an angry, miserable, not fun mom. I yell, I have a tone when I shouldn’t, I don’t laugh enough, and I see my children mirroring all of my shortcomings.

God says that if we are followers of Christ, we are a new creation. Paul often wrote about the difference between living in sinful nature and living in the spirit. The person I described above most often lives in the flesh, or in her sinful nature. I’m supposed to be dead to that nature, dead to me, and alive in Christ. Hmm.

Ok girls, I know I’m not alone here in this quandary. I want to live in the spirit as a new creation. The Bible says a whole lot about who I am in Christ; I just don’t see her very often. How do I get from point A to point B?

I think the biggest step is getting what my brain knows into my heart. I know so many verses and have declared many times who God says I am. Sometimes things just become so familiar that we don’t take time to really chew on the meaning or the reality of those verses. If God said it about me, he’s describing the real me, the me he made me to be! When I describe myself, the person I am day in and day out, it looks different, because the truth isn’t getting into my heart in order for me to continue to transform into that new creation.

Not very long ago, I blew up at my daughter’s behavior, realized I wasn’t calm enough to handle the situation, so I yelled to my husband, “I can’t do this right now!” After he spoke with her about her behavior, he confronted me. He told me that there are things that I do each day that make me less approachable and that is why we are seeing certain behaviors in our children. He wanted me to work on me, and I wanted his help to come up with consequences so in the future I could discipline without blowing my top. He told me working on me was more important than what I wanted. Ouch.

So, I started reading the book, Triggers: : Exchanging Parents’ Angry Reactions for Gentle Biblical Responses. It is a daily devotional to help moms react and respond biblically  instead of with anger toward their children. The book has two parts. Part one gives ideas for handling our children’s behavior that pushes us over the edge, and part two talks about internal triggers, what’s really going on inside of us that makes us react angrily. I started reading part two first, because I knew I had to fix me. I’m not done with the book, and I will go through it a number of times, I’m sure, before I can implement many of the suggestions. But that first day I picked it up, I found hope.

One of the authors was encouraging us moms that we don’t have to worry about how our kids will turn out or if they will run to therapy because of the way we have been parenting. Instead, we can have hope, because if we let God transform us, our kids will get a front row seat in seeing the power of God make us and change us into who he says we already are.

So between working on me and getting help with some parenting strategies, this summer is “Operation Mommy Transformation.” My kids, by the grace of God, are going to start to see me bloom into who I was created to be.

A few weeks before I picked up the book Triggers, we sang a song in church called “Ever Be.” Please take a listen. 

 

The chorus says, “Your praise will ever be on my lips.” As we were singing, my prayer was that those words would be true even when I am home parenting my children. I want my words to be seasoned with love and grace toward my children so every word and tone I speak can be an offering of praise to God.

Remember Claire’s post, Broken With Him? The “Motherhood is my worship” quote she posted with it is now my motto. Lord, let each part of my mothering be a form of worship to you.
I have hope, because God says I’m a new creation. I’m becoming who I am.

Triggers: : Exchanging Parents’ Angry Reactions for Gentle Biblical Responses

Graduation Speech

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What’s the latest graduation speech you’ve heard?  Something about “be yourself,” “life is a journey,” and “live your dreams?”  Or maybe a little deeper like “dare to dream the impossible” or be a “world changer.”  I find myself considering what I would say if I were ever asked to do a commencement speech.  It seems that the likes of Michelle Obama and Bill Clinton are MUCH more likely than me to get asked to speak at a graduation, but hey, you never know.  I’ve felt a certain pull to consider what I would tell 100+ young people on the brink of a big change in their life.

I would like to read them a story.   Something along the lines of “The Spooky Old Tree” by Jan and Stan Berenstain.  The Berenstain Bears were favorites of myself and all my siblings growing up.  We enjoyed their tales of adventure and mystery with simple plots and rhyming words.  They usually had mama bear getting the last word about doing chores or telling the truth.  It was a practical way for kids to gain wisdom and enjoy learning morals.  The Berenstains have even written a Christian series with books such as “The Berenstain Bears: God Made You Special” and “Easter Story.”   But I think “The Spooky Old Tree” would be my top choice because it fascinated me as a kid.  My Dad would sit us down at night to read stories, and he would often be sleepy.  We would have to nudge him or eventually read it ourselves when our frustration mounted at his nodding off.  But I remember his heartfelt emphasis on the last five words of the book: “Home again, safe at last.”  This set a peacefulness in our souls that our Dad would be there for us, that home WAS a safe place so that when life took ugly turns we could come home and be safe.

As graduates of all ages walk across the stage this June, I pray that they may know the God of peace and mercy who provides a safe home for us.  May our home, a place that is not of this world, be in the presence of our Lord and Savior, and may it feel safe.  As we reach for the beauty of Jesus’ presence, the joy of his salvation, and his everlasting arms, may we say we are “home again, safe at last.”  And as we glimpse this place here in the natural how can our faith not be strengthened on this journey?

“For this world is not our permanent home; we are looking forward to a home yet to come.” Hebrews 13:14 NLT

Broken with Him

FB_IMG_1463492294094It’s been a long day. I know my hubby had an equally long day, so I’m sure he was ecstatic to receive my texts as he was heading home.

“I am so done with your children. I know you’re tired too, but please be prepared to do all the interacting with them.”

“When are you going to be here???”   (Yeah, I’m sure he was rushing home to encounter me in all my loveliness at this point.)

“They have nothing. Nothing. Don’t even think of letting them look at a screen forever.”   (Nothing like being a bit overdramatic in my discipline.)

“One person. That is all I am.”  ( At this point, I’m sure he’s trying to think of somewhere he needs to go.)

You see, I forget so easily and I get so mad at myself for doing it. I forget that this is my calling, actually all of our callings. We are servants, called to pour out our lives for others, and in motherhood, those others are our children. When I let myself forget that, then I become the victim in my own eyes, offended that my children are children. Somehow distraught that this thing called mothering is training for a lifetime.

I was pondering this a couple months ago during communion at our church. We take communion every Sunday and it is something that I have grown to love. This remembering what Christ did for us keeps it on the forefront of my heart during the week. His brokenness, not only in His death, but also how He lived His life, is our example. If I am truly His, then I am joining myself with Him in this, taking up my cross, dying to myself and my own needs, and living for others. Now, I am not talking about putting yourself last and burning out so that you can’t even do what you need to. I will be the first one to tell any mama to take care of herself first so that she can be there for her family. I’m talking about in our hearts and souls. Seeing all the things that we do for our families, all of the needs pulling us in different directions, as gifts of sacrifice to our Lord. We are serving Him when we serve our family. We are loving Him when we love them.

We are dying to ourselves when we:

choose kindness instead of harshness

choose patience instead of frustration

choose love instead of negativity

choose a heavenly perspective instead of only seeing the here and now

choose to follow Jesus as an example, digging deep even from brokenness, to bring life to those around us

 

I was just finishing this up as my littlest one came running down the stairs…yet again…this time throwing himself into my arms.

“One more kiss…I love you, Mama.” Oh, so worth it, right?  Hopefully I’ll remember earlier tomorrow…

 

 

The Gift

As December is almost here, Christmas shopping is well under way, my inbox and mailbox are overflowing with deals and coupons, my bins of decorations are begging to be unpacked, and my children are chatting about all the things we love to do in this season. We bake, make abstract gingerbread houses, decorate, buy gifts…..these are all good and wonderful things, but every year my husband and I try to remind and show our children that we celebrate Christmas because of the hope and promise Jesus brought to the world when He became fully human.

In the past we have done advent calendars that incorporated some special family time and ways to serve others. This year we have chosen to go through Ann Voskamp’s devotion for families, Unwrapping the Greatest Gift, A Family Celebration of Christmas.    You can find it here:

The devotional consists of a daily reading for every day in December leading up to Christmas. There are also introspective questions and suggestions for family activities.  It contains printable ornaments that are hung on a Jesse Tree branch. The readings trace the amazing miracle of Jesus’ earthly lineage and the loving  way that God the Father gave us this gift of His only Son. He gave this broken world a perfect and redeeming gift of love. We do not deserve, nor can we do anything to earn, this gift.  In spite of all our brutal mistakes Jesus still came to save and deliver.

I am so excited about learning alongside my whole family, and I am praying that it will become a tangible way my children will come to see and acknowledge how much God loves us in the magnitude of Jesus’ birth, death, and resurrection.

I hope your family will be encouraged to find some simple ways to remember and celebrate Jesus. Do not think you need anything fancy or complicated; strive for connection. You can simply read passages from the Bible, spend time with each other, and serve the people around you. Don’t miss getting to unwrap the most precious gift anyone could ever receive and accept.

4 a.m. Hope

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It is 4 a.m. and I am awake. Is it normal for a mom to be up at 4 a.m. on the day before Thanksgiving?  I am praying. Praying for my friend who graduated her daughter to heaven in February.  These will be hard days  and difficult months for her.  I am praying for my friend diagnosed with breast cancer in May.  She is bald, yellow (chemo) and a little burnt (radiation.)  Do they have hope?  I am also thinking of my “to do” list. Can I get it all done?  Is there enough time in the day?

“But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” I Corinthians 15:57

Here is a new life verse.  God is an ever present help in trouble, and His word sustains us.  He has the victory in the face of hopelessness, despite abuse, with regard to cancer, and in the midst of brokenness.  We have hope because HE IS HOPE!  His death and resurrection have made it possible to THRIVE, despite circumstances.

This has been a rough year.  There have been several family members who have graduated to heaven, family members experiencing the sudden loss of a job, and more negative reports from doctors than I can describe.  It seems like the holidays can make us extra sad since we miss those family members and long to be with them.  But despite the sadness, we have hope.  We CHOOSE hope because we have faith.  Will you choose faith today?  If, suddenly, your world is turned upside down by illness, fear, doubt, or pain…will you choose faith?  Will you choose hope?  We can only choose hope by the power of the Holy Spirit, even at 4 a.m.  Thanks be to God!!