A Girl and Her Purple Guitar

She’s relentless.

“Can I just look on Craigslist? Please, mom?”

“Yes, you may LOOOOK. Did I say we are buying? No. We are looking. Your sister just turned 12 and she just got a guitar. You are learning piano and that keeps you busy. You may look and see what’s on Craigslist, but we are NOT buying a guitar for you right now.” My long, drawn out explanation was in one ear, and you know the rest.

Our 9-year-old, Abby, was already entranced in the beautiful instruments she saw flash on the computer screen. “Oh, mom! Look at this one! It’s so beautiful!” Her eyes lit up and she clapped her hands together with excitement.

“Yes, that is really nice,” I say while passing by on the way back to the oven to check on dinner. “But, again, we are not buying one.”

After dinner the daunting topic returns. “When can I get one, you guys? I have enough money. I want a guitar so bad! There’s this one that has numbers on the top. It’s for a little kid. I don’t want that one. But, there’s this other one. It’s purple and really shiny. I would love to have a purple guitar.”

“Let’s just wait. You just started talking about guitars a few days ago. I am sure your sister will let you borrow hers when she’s not using it. Besides, I know you don’t believe this, but it’s actually really good for us to have to wait for things.”

Again, my words were tuned out while the daydreaming began.

Abby big guitar

Days passed and this pattern continued. It seemed that an hour couldn’t pass without the word, guitar, entering into the conversation. No longer was it just guitar. Now, she was very specific, purple guitar. She was set on getting a purple guitar.

She’s relentless.

And, I am exasperated.

Finally, it got to where we had to ban the word, guitar.

“No more. We will tell you when we think it’s time to buy one of those, those, those instruments. But, until then, no more talk about gui…those instruments!”

She walked away defeated and I walked away feeling uncertain.

Hasn’t my prayer every day this week been for my girls to draw closer to the Lord? Haven’t I been praying for them to find their own ways to connect with God, apart from me or anyone else? Haven’t I played a large part in instilling a love for music in my girls? Constantly having music playing? Taking them to music class weekly? Insisting they practice the piano?

The next day, in my prayer closet, I realize, I have not even prayed about this purple guitar. It’s been a daily topic. A regular source of contention in our home, but not once did I seek God for wisdom. I answered, “no” before ever bringing it before the Father.

“Lord, you know her desire. But, Lord, I don’t want to spoil my kids. I want them to know how to wait. But, Lord, she loves music. She loves to worship and talk about your love. Please, Lord, give us your wisdom. Give us your heart and your eyes to see what this desire of hers is really all about. And, Lord, if it’s your will that she gets a guitar, please make it clear to us.”

Finally, the peace I needed, rather than the constant irritation around the subject. I still didn’t have an answer but I knew that I was open to what the Lord wanted and wasn’t going into this decision alone.

Towards the end of her piano lesson, I hear the topic come up again.

“Do you know how to play the guitar? I really want a guitar. Mikayla got one. But, my mom won’t let me get one.” I hear her spill it all out to her beloved piano teacher, Lindsey.

Talking from the other room continues, until Abby runs into where I am, breathless and wide eyed. “Can I mom? Please, mom? Come on, mom, please?”

Lindsey, seeing my confusion, explains, “I was just telling Abby about my guitar. I just got a new one last week. I have my old guitar at home. If my sister doesn’t want it, it’s all yours!”

“Really? You just happen to have a guitar at home? Well, it sounds like you need to check with your sister. And, I will need to check with my husband. But, it sounds like it may be a possibility.”

“Oh, just out of curiosity, what color is the guitar?”

“Oh yeah, it’s purple.”

Really, God? I just prayed this morning. I finally just handed this one over to you. Here you are bringing the answer right here to us. We didn’t have to search online and wonder what your plan was. No, you walked that purple guitar right on into our house!

Abby guitar

Now, of course I have no idea if Abby will ever really learn to play the guitar. I don’t know if this is a phase or if she’ll be a lifelong guitarists. I don’t know. And, I don’t have to figure that out. What I do know is that when left on my own, I had anxiety in my heart regarding what to do. I handed it over to the Lord, was flooded with peace, and He provided His answer.

A purple guitar brought right to our doorstep.

Once again, He proved to me:

He knows and cares about every detail of my life.

He desires for me to come to Him with everything.

He loves me.

 But the very hairs of your head are all numbered.  Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.

Matthew 10:30-31

 

New Patterns of Grace

Mother’s Day. An opportunity to remember the effort, love, and sacrifices my own mom made for me. A chance to be thankful for the brave birth mothers who helped make me a mother. A day to look on my children with love and awe and marvel at the reasons I am allowed to partake in this day.

me and the girls

Looking upon the year leading up to this day, reflecting on the changes, the growth, the disappointments, the trials, and the joy; my heart feels both heavy and lighter at the same time.

A day to reflect. How am I doing as a mother? The most important role I will ever fill. Am I still stuck in some of the patterns of the year before? Or, am I moving toward what the Lord has for me? Am I pushing past old destructive ways? Am I looking for patterns which lead to life for my family?

lake padden

These questions fill my mind and to be honest, they’ve been keeping me awake at night.

As moms, we are so hard on ourselves. Second guessing decisions. Replaying scenarios in our minds. Beating ourselves up for our shortcomings. Allowing guilt and sometimes even condemnation to steal our days. Comparing ourselves to others or to some ideal we hold in our mind. Seeing our children’s behavior as a reflection of our own failures.

These are patterns which lead to death for ourselves and our families.

The Lord is revealing a different way to me.

It begins with grace.

Grace: Favor or goodwill. A manifestation of favor. Mercy. Pardon. Unmerited favor and love of God. The influence or Spirit of God operating in humans to regenerate or strengthen them.

Ahh..Just reading the word grace, followed by the definition is like a deep breath. My body loosens. My shoulders drop. My breathing slows.

But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God,  not of works, lest anyone should boast.  For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2: 4-10

Oh those words, the Lord’s words to us, well up in me like an everlasting flowing river. A river of grace and mercy. His love for me was alive and well when I was dead in my trespasses. 

On your worst day. He loved you.

On my worst day. He loved me.

Am I loving that way? Am I loving my family when they behave well? Am I loving them when they are acting in an undesirable way?

Are my facial expressions conveying love and grace?

Is my tone showing love despite their behavior?

Are my words leading to life for my family regardless of how they are acting?

Through His grace and love pouring into me, He is showing me how to extend grace to my family. He is reminding me to be patient with myself. He is showing me when I just need to breathe. He is showing me how to love my children and care deeply for them, while still separating myself from their choices. He is opening my eyes to what a heartfelt apology can bring to my loved ones. He is lowering my shoulders and filling me with His breath, His grace, His love.

3 grace-filled statements for mom’s this Mother’s day, taken right from the Ephesians 2 verses above:

  1. We are no longer dead to our sin. We are made alive by Christ. I can breathe easier and become unstuck because He has freed me from my sin.
  2. We are saved by faith, not by our works. I am not saved based on anything I have done or anything I will do. I am saved based on who He is and what He has already done on the cross.
  3. We were created by God to the good works He prepared for us to do. No longer do I need to strive in my own power, my own wisdom and knowledge. He has gone before me and prepared the way.

This good, good news of the cross and His love and grace over me, frees me to rest. Rest in Him.

by the lake

Dear momma, find your rest in  Him. Allow Him to reveal His grace to you. Be filled with His unconditional love. Rest in His everlasting river of mercy. He loves you so much. This year, begin your new patterns of grace.

Caught Between

She’s caught between being a teen and being a kid. Truly a tween. And, truly unknown territory in our life as a family. She’s caught between fierce independence and seeking shelter by way of a hug from her mommy. She’s right in the middle of knowing all the answers and seeking prayer about a recent bad dream.

During this trying, growing, in-between stage, I am seeking the Lord and all He has for us  in a new stage in our life as a family.

color family standing

As is God’s way, I received an email just days before my daughter’s 12th birthday. The title read, 10 Verses to Pray for Your Daughter. The mom who wrote the article expressed her desire to be a prayer warrior.

Yes, Lord, make ME a prayer warrior. I long to fervently pray for my family. Diligently wearing and utilizing the armor God has given me: truth, righteousness, peace, faith, salvation and the Word. Never ceasing to thank God for all He has provided and always remembering my deep need for Him. 

The author of the article categorized her prayers for her daughter in the following way:

Her Salvation

To Find Her Identity in Christ

To Walk in a Manner Worthy of Her Calling

To Have a Love for God and His Word

Use and Cultivate Her Spiritual Gifts for God’s Glory

To Have a Desire for Wisdom

Healthy and Godly Relationships with Family and Friends

Her Future Husband and Marriage

To Value Her Role in the Home and Family

To Train Her Own Children to Love the Lord

Sitting down to my strong coffee and overflowing journal, I begin mediating on the prayer from the above list that is stirring in my heart this morning. Healthy and Godly relationships with family and friends. The verse which follows reads, Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.  Ephesians 4:2-3

I attempt to focus on my in-between daughter, the one seeking independence, discovering her place in our family and the world, still in need of parental guidance, the one whose power sometimes seems to frighten even her. The Lord, then, redirects my thinking right back to me. The Ephesians 4 verse is staring me in the face, transforming itself into questions. During this trying in-between phase which we are embarking on, am I humble? Gentle? Patient? Bearing with my tween in love? Making every effort to keep unity?

In all honesty, the answers to my questions are all no. Of course, I will fail. God knows I am human. But, when time and time again, I am forging ahead, making my own path into this unchartered territory, I am sure to fail.

When I humbly seek the Lord for gentleness, patience, love, and unity, I am moving forward His way.

When I clear my mind and see how He deals with me in my stubborn independence, power house manner, know-it-all way, I see His gentleness, His loving redirection, and His patient whispers. Thank you, Lord.

Another author, I recently read discussed mirror neurons. Cells in the brain that cause us to mimic the behavior of those around us. These neurons aid in learning new skills by imitation. The science behind that intrigued me, God’s incredible planning and creation captivated me, but mostly, this concept caused me once again to return to the Ephesians 4 passage and examine my own heart.

I desire for my tween daughter, who is figuring out her place as a young woman, to be humble, gentle, patient, loving, and peaceful. When I turn those traits back towards myself, I am aware of improvement in those areas, but am also very aware of the need to seek more through the Lord.

While reading about Jesus in the book of Mark, I see His heart. I love to come back to the gospels and read directly about the one I aim to mirror.

Oh, Lord, that I would mirror your actions of love, kindness, and long-suffering. 

Are you in an in-between stage with a loved one? Are you, yourself, in an in-between stage? Caught between where you are currently at and where you know the Lord longs for you to be? Dear one, let’s look to Jesus and mirror His love. Let’s allow Him to examine our hearts and to reveal His heart to us. As Christians, we are “little Christs”. Ask Him. Seek Him. You will find Him.

What I Learned in April

Psalm 25:4-5, Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long.

April Path

A few months ago, I began blogging about my monthly learning. I hope to be a life-long learner and I find it helps to solidify my learning if I take some time to reflect and write about it. I would love to hear about your learning in the comments below. This month, I will begin listing books I am reading or listening to as well as books I am reading with my daughters, ages 9 and 11.

  • Headstands are hard! I used to be able to do headstands  anytime I wanted. They required little effort. Out of nowhere, I began to wonder if I could still do a headstand. The answer is a big fat NO! But, I am working at it. There are YouTube videos with tips to help build up the muscle and balance needed. And, just attempting a headstand is hard work!
  • “Crooked” talk vs. “Straight” talk. “Crooked” talk is saying things or asking things in a sideways way, uses guilt and manipulation rather than just talking “straight”. “Straight” talk is saying exactly what you mean or what you are requesting. Example: “I wish I had some ketchup to put on this dinner.” (Insert whiny voice) Me, “So, think about what you need and what you want to ask me.” “Straight” talk example: “Mom, can you please get me some ketchup?” It may seem like a small change, but I think it can have a large impact. I had noticed a lot of whining and complaining in our house. When I learned about “crooked” talk and “straight” talk, I realized how much  of this complaining could be eliminated by simply stating our requests directly to the person we’d like to ask.
  • Rereading the same passage or chapter of the Bible, over and over again for a month, is an excellent way to gain meaning from the passage. Scripture is truly a living book! My girls and I read chapter 4 of Philippians almost every weekday this month and gained something new each time we read it. Now, I am looking for which chapter we should focus on in the month of May. What is your favorite chapter of the Bible and why?
  • At 9 1/2 and almost 12, my girls are not too old for read alouds! This month, I began reading aloud to my girls during school time for about an hour each day. I am reading science books, fictional books, biographies, and historical picture books. Suddenly, learning came alive! Now when my husband gets home from work, the girls are able and excited to tell about some of our learning from the day. A favorite topic this month has been Ruby Bridges.
  • Spring is a beautiful time for “Nature Walks”. My girls have thoroughly enjoyed checking out books from the library about birds, plants and animals in our area and then looking for them when we are out in nature.
    nature walk abby
  • Books I Have Been Enjoying this Month:
    • 1 Timothy
    • Titus
    • 2 Timothy
    • John
    • Desperate: Hope for the Mom Who Needs to Breathe by Sarah Mae and Sally Clarkson
    • Teaching from Rest: A Homeschoolers Guide to Unshakable Peace by Sarah Mackenzie
    • The Lifegiving Home by Sally Clarkson
  • Books We Have Been Enjoying this Month as Read Alouds:
    • Philippians
    • Among the Farmyard People by Clara Dillingham Pierson
    • The Mouse and the Motorcycle by Beverly Cleary
    • Discovering Evidence for Creation and the Biblical Flood by Michael J. Oard, Tara Wolfe, and Chris Turbuck
    • The Story of Ruby Bridges by Robert Coles
    • The Young Birder’s Guide to Birds of North America
    • National Audubon Society First Field Guide Mammals
    • Common Wildflowers of Washington and Oregon

IMG_0427

To Be Counted Among the Immovable

Will I let the moods of others dictate how I feel and act today?

This has been my guiding question over the last couple of weeks.

How does it work, to not be moved? Do I plaster a smile on my face? Go about my day as if nothing is happening around me? Humming peaceful songs under my breath as chaos erupts around me?

To not be moved. Not to be swayed. Not to fall away. Not to change course.

To accomplish that kind of stability, will I need to just have my head in the clouds, oblivious to what is happening around me?

No.

When I think about Jesus, that’s not what I imagine and that is not what I read in the pages of scripture.

He was real. He wasn’t floating around like a hovering angel, above the pain, needs and dysfunction around Him.

He saw the pain, the hurt, the need, and nothing kept Him from doing the will of the Father.

When people lacked belief. When people rejected Him. When people flogged and beat Him down. He didn’t stop doing the Father’s will. He continued in the trial set before Him. And, He continued to love those around Him. Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.

His purpose didn’t change based on the actions, feelings, or behavior of those around Him.

He was not moved.

Jesus’ command to me and to you in John 13:34, is to love one another. Although I search for a footnote explaining the times when I am not required to love, it is not found. I am to love. I am to love and not to be moved to do otherwise.

No matter how those around me are behaving. Rejecting my words. Arguing. Acting in an unpleasant manner.

The call to love remains.

When Paul was about to face certain danger by traveling to Jerusalem, he told of his immovability. He would not be moved or led away from the calling Jesus placed on his life.

But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. Acts 20:24.

Oh, to be counted among the immovable. The saints in the Bible who remained firm in their call to love. Remained firm in their call to share the gospel. Remained firm in their devotion to Christ at all times.

The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer…Psalm 18:2

Today, I will not be moved.

I will not be moved by the behavior of those around me.

I will not be shaken.

I will not waiver from the path the Lord has for me.

I will not turn from love.

Today, I am not moved.

Not because of my strength.

Not because of my righteousness.

Today, I am not moved.

I am not moved because of His abundant love living in me.

I am not moved because of His unchanging ways.

I am not moved because of His Spirit powerfully filling me.tree

What I Learned in March

Psalm 25:4-5, Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long.

IMG_0184

Last month, I decided to begin summarizing my monthly learning. It’s almost like I am testing myself to see what learning took place and how the Lord led me. Maybe something will resonate with you. Or, maybe you will share your learning with me in the comments. In my learning, you may read spiritual lessons, cooking tips, homeschooling tips… you just never know. Feel free to share your learning in any area below.

This month I learned:

The power in setting a timer: I set a timer for Talk Time with my kids. And it works for exercise, keeping track of how long I’m exercising. Why not try it in other areas of my life? This month I began setting a timer for 5 minutes to simply be in the presence of God. Not talking, praying, or reading. But just being with God. It’s such a beautiful, sacred time. The timer helps keep me on track and also keeps me from talking myself out of it with such ridiculousness as, “I don’t have time.”

Juicing lesson: Beets taste earthy and sweet when juiced. And they make my juice a beautiful, vibrant, bright color!

Beet juice

Listening to my children can solve so much: Much of my reading this month has been focused on parenting. The Lord has revealed to me that I have not been listening to my children and it’s time to make it a priority. At first, I thought, “No, no, Lord. You have this all wrong. My children, they talk all the time. I homeschool them. We are together all the time. Lord, I listen to them.” Until I started focusing on verses such as, Proverbs 18:13, To answer before listening— that is folly and shame. And, Proverbs 1:5, let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance.  And, reading books such as The Explosive Child, Parenting Your Spirited Child and Sibling Rivalry, and I realized I wasn’t really listening to them. I was allowing them to talk just long enough and then rushing to a solution that would work for me. In my listening to my children, I have discovered:

They are able to solve problems collaboratively with a little coaching.

When I repeat what I hear them say, they diffuse quite quickly.

When I acknowledge their frustration, even when it’s about their sibling, they don’t become more frustrated and actually act less negative toward their sister.

They notice I smile more now! My oldest daughter had to change my icon on our Wii, “because you smile more now, mom.” Praise God! And, I am so thankful I heard her say that!

Sometimes rather than teaching manners it helps to work on listening to your child. The healing that can come results in greater respect from your child and thus genuine manners. A heartfelt, “thank you”, goes so much further than a taught, “thank you”. 

Riding a bike really is just like a riding bike:

My husband and I had a rare afternoon all to ourselves and it wasn’t raining! On a whim, we decided to get our cobwebbed covered bikes down from their hanging spot in our garage, pump up the old tires, and head out for a 15 mile bike ride. “I hope my bike doesn’t disintegrate underneath me!” I declared as we headed out of our neighborhood. Riding a bike, feeling the wind blow against our faces, and breathing in the fresh air, made us feel like little kids again. I highly recommend going out for a bike ride as soon as possible! And, don’t worry, you haven’t forgotten how to ride a bike!

IMG_0181

One on one time with each child during homeschooling is invaluable:

One of my children explained their desire to spend one on one learning time with me, just as I spend time with the students I tutor. This particular child had been struggling emotionally, so I was ready for a change. We loaded our arms with school books, pencils, and notebooks, and headed for the quiet of her room. Again, we set a timer. We would spend one hour just the two of us plugging away at her school work. Sometimes I was just there. Other times, we woud pray together. And, still other times, we had discussions about her work. Still considering myself new to homeschooling (Overcoming School) (this is year 2 for us), I am still relaxing and learning how to teach without creating a classroom feel. It’s tough. But, the fruit came when my daughter, often agitated during school work, was pleasant and engaged all throughout the morning.

Now, it’s your turn. I would love to hear what you are learning. Please take a minute and share with me in the comments below.

Finding Unity in the Trials

And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you. Ephesians 4: 30-32

 

In Raising Your Spirited Child, author Mary Sheedy Kurcinka, writes, “Throw out messages that divide you such as, she’s manipulating me, she’s testing me, she’s being defiant, she’s out of control.” 

I am guilty of listening to and focusing on my inner voice say these types of statements whenever my children are acting out.

Kurcinka discusses the importance of not pitting yourselves against each other in your mind. Act as a team. The divisive self-talk, criticizing my children in my mind causes bitterness. The underlying root of this negativity is bitterness.

This behavior, my acting out this negativity,  is grieving the Holy Spirit.

When I look at my child, listen to my child with the intent to listen, understand and sympathize, then I am acting as Christ does toward me with kindness, a tender heart and forgiveness. No longer am I grieving the Spirit, but rather I am teaming with the Spirit. The Spirit as the lead and me following. I am also teaming with my child, not working against her or viewing us as working against each other. We are partnering.

unity

With this renewed mind, I am filled with peace. No longer does my child’s behavior or my behavior feel out of control. And since out of control equates to hopeless, no longer does our situation feel hopeless.

No longer do I view our parent/child interactions as being apart from God.

I see His hand in our interactions.

I see Him allowing trials for our benefit.

The heightened emotions, the lacking skills, the quick outbursts, the rapidly shifting moods, the intensity, the exact temperament of my children…all part of God’s purpose and design to refine me.

Whether your children are adopted, as mine are, or they entered your family naturally, the Lord placed them there. His plan was for you to be their parent and them to be your child. You may experience a great mismatch in temperament, personality, style, and habits, but unity comes when we stop grieving the Spirit.

Oh, Lord, forgive me for my bitterness, anger, clamor, evil-speaking. Forgive me for grieving your Spirit. Thank you for your kindness, tender heart, and forgiveness. Lord, continue to soften our hearts to the refinement that comes from the trials you allow. Please bring refinement so we can better love one another, the way you love us. Amen.

color class pic