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.

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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!

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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!

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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.

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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.

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The Power of a Listening Ear

The little classroom of preschoolers delighted in the enchanting game we played. “Fingers! Let’s count our fingers!” Little freckle-faced, Isaac called out. “1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8! 8 fingers!”

The kids and I giggled as we noticed how he continually skipped counting his thumbs and was certain he had 8 fingers.

We continued our counting game by counting our toes, arms, legs, eyes, and finally our ears, and mouth.

“God gave us 2 ears and only 1 mouth,” I state, pausing to think about God’s planning and purpose.

2 ears for listening, but only 1 mouth for talking. Why, then, am I not using my 2 ears twice as much as the 1 mouth I was given?

My own children’s eyes glaze over mid-way through my explanations. They nod compliantly as I drone on, but their minds are clearly on to the next thing.

During our Talk Time sessions, our pace is slow and relaxed. There is no hidden agenda. No plan to accomplish. I listen. They talk. I look at them. I hear them. They know they are heard. We connect.

Talk Time seemed to be a precursor to further learning the Lord had for me. It became obvious that conflict resolution was a desperate need for our girls. Our girls are “spirited”. Spirited: having or showing mettle, courage, vigor, liveliness. Attempting to solve a problem without raising voices, shedding tears, wide eyes, and flailing hands proves to be a huge challenge.

Enter me: clueless referee, confused coach, seeker of the peace.

Surveying the scene in front of me causes my heart to quicken, my shoulders to rise, teeth to clench. Scary mom rises up.

How did we get here? And, how, dear God, do I make it stop?

Reading The Explosive Child by Ross Greene this month has proven to be a tool God is using to provide peace in our home. The book I purchased 4 years ago, which has been sitting on my shelf ever since, is just the book I needed to help an ongoing problem in our house.

We are learning to solve problems with collaboration.

The first component of the plan in the book  proved to be like a breath of fresh air.

Step 1: Empathy, including reflective listening.

Wooosh…from 60 to 1 in one brief statement.

“I hear your concern. Your concern is you want to play Just Dance.”

“I hear your concern. Your concern is you want to finish your Adventure in Odyssey episode before bed.”

“I hear your concern. Your concern is you want pizza from Little Caesers.”

In order for me to state the concern, I must first hear the concern. Amidst the intense emotion, I have to hear the concern.

I cannot be emotional myself. And, I definitely cannot be thinking of the solution. I must use the two ears the Lord gave me.

Proverbs 18:13 To answer before listening— that is folly and shame.
Proverbs 1:5 Let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance.

I quiet my mind.

Listen to the words being said.

Restate the concern I hear.

And, then, I exhale as my eyes and my dear ones eyes meet in the middle.

I am hearing.

And, she is being heard.

And, we are finally getting some where.

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Faith Becomes Their Own

2 Timothy 3:14-15, But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.

In my early 20’s, as a new Christian, I remember being in a Bible study group of women, each giving a brief recount of our testimony. The Lord had graciously given each woman a testimony. A story of grace, forgiveness, redemption, healing…beauty. I distinctly remember one woman starting her testimony with a bit of an apology.

“Oh, you guys all have amazing stories. Wow. I could listen to you all day,” she gushed. “I am afraid my story isn’t as exciting. There isn’t really any drama. No real high point, but no low point. I just grew up always knowing the Lord.”

She may have continued on a bit longer, but I am not sure. I was stuck on those last words uttered from her mouth, “I just always knew the Lord.”

As a new Christian, I was elated about knowing the Lord. I couldn’t believe I had lived so much of my life without the peace and joy He was bringing to my life. And to think that this woman “always knew the Lord” just blew my mind. And, to hear her tell her story as if it was some kind of let down, was beyond me.

What a blessing. What a privilege. What a story she had.

From that day on, I took special note of the people God brought into my life who could not remember a time of not having the Lord. I often asked them many questions.

What I really wanted to know was what did their parents do to instill that knowledge of the Lord?

Most often what I heard came down to this…Jesus was at the center of everything. They talked about Jesus. They studied Jesus. They went to a church that taught about Jesus.

Okay, I can do that. I can tell my children about Jesus. We can learn about Jesus together. And, for sure, we will search for a church that teaches about Jesus.

I made this decision years before becoming a mom. Our daughters came and life became busy, distracted, loud, and messy. But, the decision to include Jesus in all that we did remained.

Our girls are almost 12 and 9 1/2. I don’t know what the future holds for them. But, I am holding onto these promises:

Deuteronomy 6:7, You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.

Proverbs 22:6, Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.

I see my girls sharing their faith and testimony with others and I know the Lord’s truth has penetrated their hearts.

The following 3 ideas are helping to give our girls their “own faith”:

  • Tell them stories about God’s presence in their life, from the earliest time you can.

The first “God story” I shared with my girls was their adoption stories. Both of our girls have unique, God-orchestrated stories of how God chose them specifically for our family. Our oldest loves hearing about our meeting her birth mom and biological sister a week before she was born and how her biological sister was the one to choose us to be her parents! And, our youngest loves to hear about how if the doctor hadn’t made a “mistake” and said she was going to be a boy, she may have gone to another family. That family only wanted to adopt a girl. Oh, God, you do have a sense of humor!

Another story my girls love to tell about God’s amazing, incredible power and provision took place in the snow. Our oldest was 3 and our youngest was 1. We encountered a sudden snow storm when we were driving home one night. We lived up a very steep, long hill. My husband pulled over to help a lady that was stuck in the ditch. When he got back in the car to continue up the hill, we just began sliding backwards down the hill. I began praying out loud, “Help us, Jesus. Help us, Jesus.” The girls began repeating the words in their sweet little girl voices. We came to a sudden halt. Certain we had backed right in to something causing probable damage, my husband got out to inspect the car. He got back in a minute later looking a little pale. He explained that there was no damage because there was nothing behind us to explain the sudden stop. We know, without a doubt, the Lord heard our prayers, and saved us.

My girls tell those stories to others, to anyone who will listen. They tell others about God’s presence and activity in their lives. I encourage them  by reminding them that those stories are theirs to tell. God gave them those stories not only to remind them of His faithfulness, but to tell others so that they may come to believe in the same power.

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  • Share what God has done in your own life.

Tell your children your testimony. Don’t try to paint a perfect picture of your life. Tell them about how you have limped through life at times, and leaned on God for your strength, healing, and power. Show your children that you know the God of the word not just the word of God. “People may profess with their mouth’s, yet deny him with their lifestyle. True righteousness is evident in the heart of the life that has been reborn, renewed by the power of God. The outward behavior reflects the inward transformation that has taken place.” Quote from Virtue Harvest women Bible study series.

  • Share God’s word and what He says about His love, authority and provision for them.

First, you must be in the word.

Next, share with your children what you are reading and how God is using that in your life.

Next, teach your children the word. There are many different ways to do this. We have used devotionals, Bible reading plans, independent Bible reading assignments, and Bible studies. Also, be sure your children are learning the word at church. Talk about what you each learned at church on the way home in the car.

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Our families are surrounded by evil in this world, constantly trying to deceive us, whispering lies in our ear. We can combat that by allowing God to be God and to shine all over our lives.

Dear Lord, thank you for giving us each a story. It doesn’t matter how young or how old we are, because we were created by You, we have a story. Help us to share our story and the works of your hands with our children. Amen.

 

Talk Time

Throughout my time listening to Hands Free Mama by Rachel Macy Stafford, I heard about the idea of “Talk Time”.

Talk Time: 10 minutes of uninterrupted, focused time with each child at a regular time each day.

From early on in the book, Stafford told about her precious time with her two daughters and the way it cultivated an atmosphere of peace and love in their home. Her two children looked forward to “Talk Time” and began to count on it as one of their favorite times of the day.

Not a time to teach, nag, remind, instruct, change behavior, or give a lesson.

Just a time to talk. Connect. Love.

Listening to Stafford describe times of laying in bed with her girls, smelling their scent, noticing their growth, and hearing them talk, took me back to the earlier years when this was a regular night-time occurrence for our family. Reading books, singing songs, praying, talking about whatever their little minds thought up.

What happened to this sacred time? At what point did I decide my children didn’t need a time to connect at the end of the day? When did it become easier just to read one book to both girls at the same time, forgoing their unique interests and need for one on one time? And, what confused my mind into thinking scrolling Facebook at night was a better use of my time than focusing on my loved ones?

As I neared the end of listening to Hands Free Mama, I heard it again. One last punch about “Talk Time”. My mind didn’t wander this time. I heard it loud and clear. This 10 minutes of focused one on one time can change your family.

Due to multi-tasking while listening and overload of information input at times, I will need to listen to or read the book again. There are valuable tips that have already escaped my mind. But, due to the Spirit intervening and engaging my mind at just the right moment, I have not missed the importance of “Talk Time”.

John 14:26 describes how the Holy Spirit intervenes to help us learn, understand and remember what is necessary for us to live the life the Lord wants us to live, “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.”

Because the Holy Spirit led my learning, no longer will I tell myself, “Tomorrow”…

  • “Tomorrow, I will have the energy at the end of the day to focus on my kids”
  • “Tomorrow, I will make them a priority”
  • “Tomorrow, I won’t be too distracted”
  • “Tomorrow, I will encourage an earlier bed time so we can enjoy that special time”

Nope, today is the day.

  • Today is the day to look into the eyes of my girls and surprise them with my time.
  • Today is the day to lay down next to them just like when they were toddlers.
  • Today is the day to hear the thoughts they end the day with.
  • Today is the day they will go to sleep knowing their mom wanted just a little more time with them.john-14-26

    Today is the day our regular adventure with Talk Time begins.

Back to the Basics

“I am just overwhelmed with how to get it all in…” my homeschooling mom friend and I commiserate about our schedules and determining what to teach. “My son worked on algebra all morning yesterday! He never once picked up his history or literature books!”

“We overslept and then had a cooking project we worked on all morning, ” I fire back.

“What science curriculum do you use?” another friend inquires, “I haven’t even touched on science with my kids,” she continues.

I am hearing a theme lately among my homeschool mom friends. It’s a theme I heard throughout my time as a teacher as well. “There’s just so much to cover and so little time. How do we get it all in?”

Refinement. I have heard it said our greatest refining comes through marriage and parenting. In order to have any peace as a spouse or parent, we have to allow the Lord to refine us, remake us, soften us, mold us into the instrument He can use. But, I have found another area in my life in which the Lord is greatly using to refine, cleanse, and change me: homeschooling.

She came to me, sobbing, rightly confessing her wrong doing. Genuine in spirit, no prompting, no guilt, no pressure from any source. Broken hearted over her sin. Broken. An opportunity for God’s love to better reach into her brokenness…my brokenness. 

Continuing on, my daughter explains the distant feeling she has had lately from God. Hesitantly letting the words slip out about wondering if God will hear her if she does go to Him. Her eyes shyly reach up to mine, fearful of what I may say. Fearful of what she may see in my eyes.

I am quiet. For I know of what she speaks. Small repeated sin, creeping in. Slithering between her and the God she does love. The God she does know. The God she has come to trust in dark hours.

Oh, dear one, I know this distance. I know the guilt and shame. I know the space between you and the Lord growing ever bigger and darker. And, I know that it is not the Lord that moves.

Dear one, I also know the Lord’s voice when He continues to call to you, even when you silence that voice. I know, because I have been doing it for weeks.

My turn to receive His cleansing. Dear one, the Lord has been calling me to refocus our days. He’s been telling me to go back to what He first told me about homeschooling. He’s been prompting me to see that it doesn’t matter my children’s age, they still need teaching from the Word and prayer to focus our hearts each day. He’s been reminding me of what He showed me last school year…a child with a deep knowledge of history, science, and math, without a deeper knowledge of Him and love for His Word, will be lost in this world.

Dear one, I have put math facts above the God-breathed instructional manual.

I see it in your eyes. I hear it in your voice. Your heart is heavy. And, I can no longer ignore the Voice that has been calling to me for weeks.

I am sorry, dear one. Your soul is more important to me than any academic learning.

Dear one, I have been neglecting my part in instructing and preparing you for the spiritual warfare on this Earth.

Jesus’ words in Matthew 6 ring in my heart:

Matthew 18:6 “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were drowned in the depth of the sea.

Although I didn’t model the sin, I didn’t encourage it, and I didn’t endorse it, I wasn’t doing the last thing the Lord told me to do in order to equip my children against the evil in this world. I must take responsibility for my part in my daughter’s broken heart over her sin and separation from the God she loves.

I  remember our times of closeness with the Father. The times my daughters uttered beautiful heart-felt words in prayer. The times when their Bible journals overflowed with art capturing the glory of the Word we read.

I cannot change their hearts. Only the Holy Spirit can do that. But, I will be obedient in teaching the Word and allowing time for my dear ones to hear from the Lord.

Math can wait. Instruction from the Almighty can not. 

I will return to the Lord I love.

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Proverbs 22:6 Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.

Deuteronomy 6:6-7 And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.