What I Learned in July

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_0018Beautiful July in the Pacific Northwest. Hikes, the beach, overnight camp, parks, swimming, reading in the backyard. Love, love, love!

Our Reading

Admittedly, we haven’t been reading as much as I’d like. Both of my girls are participating in a writing contest and it seems like any spare time we’ve had has been spent working on their writing. I am so excited, as they are both doing a fabulous job and will have really nice historical fiction masterpieces when finished.

We have two ocean beach trips planned this summer so we decided on a read aloud with a setting at the beach:

  • Pagoo by Holling C. Holling

And, we have continued our Old Testament reading through:

  • The Child’s Story by Catherine Vos

My Reading

I have continued my reading with our women’s group at church in the book titled:

  • Taming the Giants: Stripping the Power from Overwhelming Emotions by Cathy Dickinson

Audiobooks I thoroughly enjoyed this month are:

  • When God Doesn’t Fix It by Laura Story
  • No More Faking Fine by Esther Fleece

My Learning

My learning this month originated with my children. How did I ever learn anything before they came along? The growing, refining, stripping away, changing, and learning that happens in parenthood is exhausting but, oh, so good.

Never Say Never

My youngest daughter went to overnight camp. 4 nights away at overnight camp. This doesn’t sound amazing, but let me tell you, it was. Years ago when we brought my oldest daughter to camp, Abby, our youngest looked at me and said, “I never want to do this.”

“You never want to do what?” I naively asked.

“This. I never want you to leave me here overnight,” she replied with a straight face, looking me in the eye.

“Okay. Camp isn’t something you have to do. If you don’t want to go, you don’t have to go. But, you may change your mind when you are older.”

“No. I will never change my mind.”

Okey dokey. Count her out!

But, about 6 months ago, out of the blue, Abby began talking about camp. “I want to go to camp this year.” This same statement or some variation was repeated weekly up until the day she finally got to go to camp.

She did suffer some homesickness while she was away at camp. But, she made friends, had fun, and learned to rely on God while away from the comforts of her home!

This process for my sweet Abby, reminded me of myself with God. “I will never have peace in situations like that, God.” “I will never speak in public, God.” “God, I will never make it through this trial.”

He says to me, “Today is not the day. But, one day, with my love, refinement and Spirit, YOU WILL!”

Interruptions are Ministry Moments

Our church, Calvary Chapel Marysville, has been going through a parenting video series by Paul Tripp on Wednesday nights. I have had so many take aways in the 4 episodes we have watched so far. But, the biggest, life changing take away so far has been viewing interruptions from our kids in a different light. 

Paul Tripp told about the importance of seeing our children’s interruptions as ministry moments rather than interruptions. When our plans are interrupted by our children, rather than being annoyed and angry, we can see it as a God appointed opportunity to listen to, possibly counsel, and love our children.

Immediately after learning this new thought process, I was put to the test. During my quiet time, no less! My sweet child knows not to interrupt my quiet time, but nonetheless, the knock came.

The words were on my lips to say, “Not right now. Just wait!” But, then the message from the night before flashed in my mind, and I asked, “What is it?”

She entered my prayer closet and told me of her need for which I couldn’t meet. Then she said the sweetest words, “That’s okay, mom. But, will you pray for me?”

Yes! Yes, sweet girl. Take your every need to Jesus. Let that be your first thought…pray for me.

Can you view changes in your plans today as “ministry moments”? Can you look for what God is doing in the interruptions? Can you open your heart and mind to the possibility that you are not to be annoyed but instead interested in what God is doing?

Lord, you are King and Creator. Help us today. Help us to have your eyes and heart during the interruptions. Soften our hearts and minds to look deeper at the people you place in our lives. Amen. 

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

Piano Praise Beauty

 

Something about the piano praise medley on Pandora brought much needed inspiration this morning. There were no words playing from my speakers, but the words played in my heart. The words echoed,

beauty

beauty

beauty

On a dark, dank, wet day, there is beauty.

The melody repeated and the Lord highlighted the beauty all around. Temptation to go looking for His beauty filled me, until He pointed out that I didn’t need to move from the spot where I was perched at our paint stained kitchen table.

The words from Philippians 4 flooded my heart,

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.  Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

My pen began to slide along my journal, pouring out beauty.

Beauty in the sounds.

Beauty in the breath.

Beauty in the light.

Beauty in the soul.

Beauty in the raindrops.

Beauty in the squirrel discovering the feed.

Beauty in the shine off the wind chime.

Beauty in the Easter garden awaiting the sun and warmth to aid the grass in growing.

Beauty in the empty cross and tomb reminding me death has no sting.

Beauty in the mound of soil ready for it’s plants.

Beauty in the Easter egg project my 9-year-old left strewn about the table waiting to bless her cousins.

Beauty in the school posters hung on the wall signifying learning happening within these walls.

Beauty in the stack of books laying horizontally longing to be read.

Beauty in the mud covered boots reminding me of the tromping my 11-year-old did the day before.

Beauty in the signs of life all around.

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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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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.

snowy-hill

  • 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.