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.

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Restoration

Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. Galatians 6:1.

…restore him gently

While reading chapter 6 of Galatians, the first words draw me back over and over.

…restore him gently

My heart softens and peace fills me as I allow the words to fill my mind. This filling only happens when I am still and quiet before the Lord.

Restore: to bring back into existence; to bring back to a former, original or normal condition; to bring back to a state of health, soundness or vigor. 

Gently: kindly; gradually; not severe.

Paul was giving instruction to the Galatians who had strayed from their original teaching on faith. But, this morning, it was instruction for me. During my quiet, undistracted time in my prayer closet, something beautiful happens.  The Spirit opens up my mind to the truth.

The leading, guidance, correction…restoration I read about in the Lord’s Word, brings me back to the restoration of my heart.

My step-dad restores cars. The cars enter into the driveway, rusted, gutted, shells of past greatness. My mom sees the pile of metal approaching their lives and wonders what they have gotten themselves into. But, Jan, my step-dad envisions the masterpiece it will be. No wheels, little paint, no windows, no mirrors, no steering wheel, no seats. But, Jan is able to see the potential. He sees what it once was and is confident it will shine once more.

For months, Jan spends tireless hours, carefully modifying the chassis to accept the new style engine. Months are spent making the body structurally sound and preparing the body for the new paint. There are times when we go visit that we are not to enter the garage because it is set at just the right temperature for paint to dry or some other critical transformation to take place.

before-restoration

The instruction for gentle restoration to the Galatians is for every believer. We are to restore our brothers and sisters gently. Much like a fragile old car is to be brought back to life, this restoration brings life to the believer.

If you are like me, you may struggle with the gentle part. Especially in parenting.  I can point out the flaws…got that one down. I can teach the correct way…yep. I can discipline when the sin just continues over and over…uh huh. But, add in the gentle restoration? How Lord? Will they listen? Will it make an impact?

Rereading the verse once more, I am reminded of the Holy Spirit as my teacher, granting wisdom and understanding. Whenever I ask, “How”, the Spirit reminds me that I am not alone.

But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. John 14:26

If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. James 1:5

The Lord graciously shows me how He “restores me gently” each morning when I come to Him.

I come to Him broken, rusty, and needing repair. I come to Him with a focused, quiet mind, I am open to His restoration. He lovingly shows me what He has for me that day.  Through His word, He reveals to me what needs cutting away or building up.

Just like my step-dad, so carefully and gently restoring his cars in just the right conditions, the Spirit works on restoring my heart in the quiet of my prayer closet…just the right conditions for growth.

Also, like the effective restoration of a car, one area is restored at a time. Jan doesn’t paint, install the seats, and rebuild the engine all in one day. And, the Spirit doesn’t overwhelm me with the restoration He has for me. He reveals one or maybe two areas that need restoring. Or, He may call to mind something He worked to restore months ago which needs attention once more. There are times, I mistakenly think an area of sin is behind me, just for it to creep up once more. Just like when the car engine once more needs rebuilding. It was working well last year, but now, alas, it needs attention once more.

I am so incredibly grateful for this gentle, loving restoration. It’s all for my good. He never leaves me the same. And, He never overwhelms me.

When I come seeking, gradually, the Spirit brings renewal.

after-restoration

 

Free to Listen

I am on a journey to live with more focus. My journey began with repeated prompting from the Lord. Again and again, He revealed to me all of the distractions I allowed into my life. Again and again, I heard Him, yet continued in disobedience.

The Lord is using Hands Free Mama to guide me along practical steps to decrease the distractions and increase my focus.

My family and I just returned from a long trip. 11 days away from home. 11 days of no regular routine. 11 days of no time to myself. 11 days to quickly turn my back on the work the Lord is doing in my life to refocus me.

It started on the airplane we took across the country, traveling to Orlando.

“WHAT? There’s a movie screen in the back of EVERY seat? We can watch movies ALL the way to Florida? Best day ever!” my screen deprived children exclaimed.

After seeing our children snuggle into their movie comas, without a word, my husband settled back to watch a “shoot ’em up” movie, the likes of which he hasn’t seen ever since Veggie Tales, Barbie movies, and America’s Funniest Videos overtook our TV screen.

I looked around and noticed every single person within my vision glued to a screen. Some focused on the screen on the seat in front of them. Some on a hand held screen. Some with both screens flashing. Nothing left for me to do but listen to the audio version of Hands Free Mama and play a mindless game on my phone. Sucked into my own screen without thought of the miniature sized games or read aloud books we had packed with plans of connecting with our children during the long flight. Everyone was content with their choice of activity. But, no one was interacting.

Not only were we not interacting, we were not listening.

“Would you like a snack? WOULD YOU LIKE A SNACK?” the flight attendant repeats her question to my children a little louder.

My girls were unable to hear the flight attendant talking to them without physically removing the headphones from their ears. In fact, they completely missed the first time she spoke directly to them. There was no chance of them even noticing her coming down the aisle with her oversize cart, asking all the other passengers the same question.

It wasn’t until days after returning from our trip that I realized that was exactly what I suffered from during my 11 days away. The inability to listen.

Due to my distracted state, I was unable to hear the Lord’s still small voice. 

2 Corinthians 10:5 in the Amplified Bible states, We are destroying sophisticated arguments and every exalted and proud thing that sets itself up against the [true] knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought and purpose captive to the obedience of Christ.

Your word, Lord, tells me to take every thought captive, every purpose captive…in obedience to you.

But, how can my thoughts be dominated by Christ, when my eyes and mind are bound to what displays on a screen?

The answer, the only answer is that they cannot. My thoughts cannot be bound to Christ when they are already bound to what ever my eyes see on the screen.

take-every-thoughtI cannot hear the Spirit whispering to me. I do not notice the Spirit nudging me. I am blind and deaf to the Spirit’s leading.

Thank the Lord for His mercy.

We are home from our trip and I am right back to hearing the Lord instruct me. He never left me. He will not allow me to go down in my disobedience. He remained with me. It’s just that now I am back to having my eyes, ears, and mind unbound from what the enemy uses to distract me. Instead I am wide open to hear the Lord.

I am free to listen once more.

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My journey to focus: 

Lessons Learned at 3:00 am

New Beginnings

Are you on this journey as well? I have heard from several lately that God has them on a similar path. Please share your story in the comments. Your stories encourage me. 

Treasure Hunts

“Today, you are going to learn about Treasure Hunts,” our interpreter, Eduardo continues on, “Ask Holy Spirit to show you an image or a word…what He has for you on this outreach.” My mind ponders that statement, Ask Holy Spirit… That must be the Spanish way of phrasing that statement, leaving out the word THE before Holy Spirit. I get beyond the linguistic difference and consider what I was asked to do. Eduardo called this a Treasure Hunt and encouraged us to be alert, looking for what Holy Spirit revealed to us during our prayer.

scavenger-hunt-image

“Oh, Lord, as we go out on this garbage ministry mission, please show me an image or a word…something you want me to see when we are in the neighborhood in Tijuana. Clear my mind of my own agenda and help me to be open and responsive to your agenda, Lord.” 

Clapping his hands together, Eduardo, asks, “Now, what did Holy Spirit show you?”

Mikayla, with all her unfiltered faith, certain of what she saw, exclaims “KITTENS!”

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Others, “A red truck”, “Old van”, “Broken broom”.

Me, quietly “I saw a yellow flag, I think.” In my mind, I know it’s not a flag. It was a yellow, flag-like shape. Oh, well. Not sure what that means, Lord.

Loading up onto the old, broken down, barely running school bus, we head out to a poverty stricken area of Tijuana. I am looking out the window the entire time, not wanting to miss my yellow flag.

bus-image

After a 45 minute drive, the bus stops, our group of 8 grab our work gloves, water, and garbage bags and unload onto the dusty road. The neighborhood smells like garbage, but there’s a certain charm there. It must be the precious kids playing ball by one of the houses. Or, maybe the quiet of the afternoon.

Our task is to collect garbage from the households, as there is no garbage service for the people. After we have provided a much needed physical service, we offer to pray for any needs they may have. Be Bold

Some are unaware that their Spiritual need is far greater than their physical need of having their trash removed. Did they know that Jesus paid the price to give them Spiritual cleansing? Did they know that we are no different than them…in desperate need of cleansing from our Heavenly Father?

We start at the beginning of the street. Some of my group has the opportunity to pray with some of the beloved people we came to serve and we all the had the opportunity to pick through garbage and drop it into our garbage bags.

How quickly my mind wanders from my task. I had completely forgotten about our “Treasure Hunt”. I was hot, distracted and focused on the needs at hand.

“Mom, mom, mom, look at all the kittens!”

“Yes, yes, Mikayla. I see them, but that’s not what we are…” Kittens? Kittens? Oh, my goodness, look at all the kittens.

Oh, Lord, you are too much! Mikayla’s image was kittens. My distracted brain had forgotten! But, oh, Lord, you got my attention. There was an old truck, with about ten kittens surrounding it!

The 8 of us gush over the dirty, albeit, adorable kittens for a few minutes, when from next door, we hear a voice. The houses are all right next to each other, with little or no privacy. It’s easy for her to notice the 8 Americans right outside her door.

Before she speaks, we see her emotion. She begins in Spanish, shaking and with tears running down her cheeks. Eduardo explains to us that she is saying she knew we were coming! She had a vision that Americans came to her house and prayed for her. Several in my group begin praying for her, for healing, provision, peace…she’s trembling, feeling warmth flood her soul.

Eduardo explains to her our “Treasure Hunt”, again stating how Holy Spirit led us here through the image Mikayla saw.

Oh, I get it, Lord…the term Holy Spirit, without the word THE first, is intentional. When one is so close to the Spirit that they are friends, receiving constant counsel and direction, the word THE gets dropped. No distance there. Eduardo is guided by Holy Spirit. He trusts Holy Spirit. He loves Holy Spirit.

4 Truths I am Learning to Trust about Holy Spirit:

Holy Spirit, our counselor, John 14:16

Holy Spirit, our guide John 16:13

Holy Spirit, out fruit harvester Galatians 5:22-23

Holy Spirit, our teacher, John 14:26

Our beautiful time with the lady was coming to an end. I was in awe of the Lord’s work, planning, guidance, timing. Taking one last look at our surroundings before heading back out to the street, I notice a brightly colored towel hanging on the woman’s clothesline. It’s covered with yellow triangles.

Monday Morning Meltdown

Confession time…I once told my husband I wanted to go to counseling to learn how to get out the door in the morning with my children without becoming a complete crazy person.

Some seek marriage counseling or advice on how to deal with a painful past, but I was desperate for someone to tell me how to accomplish this morning task without yelling, screaming, frantically throwing stuff together, shouting orders, and an overall tense body.

God began a work in me. I wanted a different way. He opened my heart to homeschooling which drastically changed our mornings.

But, what I discovered is that even with homeschooling, Monday morning still comes. In fact, Sunday evening still happens as well. Sunday evening, I begin hearing in a pitiful voice, “Oh no. It’s Sunday night. That means tomorrow is Monday. School tomorrow. I don’t want to do school. Do we have to do school tomorrow?”

alarm-clock-ringing

Following Sunday evening, comes the dreaded Monday morning. Sleeping through their alarms, acting like zombies, wandering around in a daze uttering complaints under their breath. Tell me I am not alone in this?

Operating in my flesh, I become “drill sergeant mom”, barking orders, dismissing complaints, rushing around in my frantic state.

Operating in the Spirit, the Lord whispers to me, My way is better. I am your counselor. Try My way.

Here is how the Holy Spirit is counseling me on how to avoid the Monday Morning Meltdown:

1. Quiet time in God’s word each morning. Not only on Monday mornings like a band-aid, but each morning to receive the instruction and guidance needed to change old patterns.

bible-and-coffee

2. Memory verse. Commit a verse to memory so that when Monday Morning Meltdown begins, God’s word will already be in your mind and heart. My current verse is, “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Ephesians 4:31-32.

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3. Seek the Spirit through prayer. Ask the Spirit to fill you. Empty your mind and heart of your own way and seek the way of Jesus.

being-filled-with-the-holy-spirit

4. Firm but calm. For years, I confused harsh with firm. Whatever the Spirit reveals to you, stick with. In practical terms for my family, this meant to ask the child to take their school work to their room to complete until they had a question or were ready to work in the presence of the rest of us. This request was made in a normal tone of voice, the same way I would say, “Please pass the butter.” Child sulked upstairs, completed work in solitude, came back down later with no love lost.

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Romans 12: 2 says, “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”

The Spirit is renewing my mind, giving me fresh ways to have peace in my heart and peace in our home. What is the Lord doing in your home? I would love to hear!