Archive for the 'Parenting' Category

03
Mar
14

why Lent?

Growing up in a Baptist church, I don’t even think Lent was on the radar, at least not on my radar. Christmas and Easter were what we celebrated or at least what I remember anyway. We’d come to church on Easter wearing pastels and singing songs about Jesus being risen from the dead. But Lent? I didn’t even know what Lent meant.

I only started hearing about Lent a dozen or so years ago. We attended a church where people talked about what they were giving up for Lent. At first, I didn’t know what in the world they were talking about. After I learned a little more, Lent became a fun and interesting topic for discussion about what to give up. There was the usual giving up of broccoli or Brussel sprouts or something that you didn’t like or wouldn’t eat anyway. But some more serious Lent challenges, for some of us, were to give up chocolate or sugar or coffee. One year, I made my kids give up something. I used Lent as a bad parenting technique; it didn’t work out.  (Lent in My Belly Button)

I think rituals are important, but for a long time, I failed to realize what the real purpose of Lent was. It became about some kind of willpower, rather than any kind of Jesus significance.

But why give up anything for Lent? What actually is the significance? Why deprive myself for one minute when I don’t really have to? For me, it has become about the waiting, the anticipation of Jesus. I’ve noticed when I have fasted in the past, it’s at that moment when I don’t think I can stand it for one minute longer that that’s the moment when Jesus steps in, and He becomes my strength. All my self-reliance and thinking I have it figured out go out the window. And I lean in hard because I feel like my stomach will eat itself, and it’s at this point that I realize I have nothing in myself. I am physically and spiritually weak, and I really need Jesus. So that’s why I participate in Lent. It makes me realize my utter frailty, my utter lack of patience and self-control, and it makes me realize my need, my absolute dependence on God for food, for life, for everything.

About mid-February I start to think about Lent; I start thinking about what my give-up will be, not just to do something because that’s what you do. But how will I fast in anticipation of Jesus? What will help me see Him clearly and reveal my need for Him the most?

Last year, I cannot even remember what I gave up or even if I did in fact give up anything, but a friend challenged Jeff and me  to read the entire Bible during Lent. So that’s what I did. At first it was a challenge, but then it became something much, much more than that. Not to be overly dramatic, but it was life-changing for me. I felt like I ate His Word, and it became life and breath.  I absolutely could not wait to dig in and read each day, and I would go to bed in anticipation of what I would read and “see” the next day. I couldn’t wait to see how the Holy Spirit revealed Himself and how often He surprised me with His truth and love and hope in crazy kind of places (like Leviticus, and I kind of fell in love with Isaiah).

When I read in Psalm 19 how God’s Word renews our lives, makes the inexperienced wise, makes our hearts glad, makes our eyes light up, is more desirable than gold and sweeter than honey, I can say a resounding, “Yes, Yes, YES!” When I read the Bible like I would any other novel, I feel like I absorb it into the interior parts of my soul, my head, my heart. I feel it in my bones, and  it becomes a part of me.

I read somewhere (the internet) that Lent is 40 days long and used for prayer and fasting in the time before Easter, but the period between Ash Wednesday, which happens to be on Jeff’s birthday this year (March 5), and Easter (April 20) is 46 days long. So I’m excited to once again have the opportunity to read the Bible from Ash Wednesday to Easter.  This sounds daunting and overwhelming, and it is at times. But I believe the Holy Spirit teaches us all things, and I’m excited to not just know more but see Him and hear from Him in ways that I haven’t yet heard. So I’m almost a little giddy and ready to start today, but I wait. The waiting, the anticipation is good.

I’m not necessarily giving up anything for Lent, except maybe reading other books and giving up watching more DVDs than I really need to. But no matter what I do or don’t do for Lent or any other time, the focus must be Christ. (Heb. 12)

Because of the year that I tried to make my kids give up stuff, I decided that every one should choose their own Lent give-up. It just really works better that way. The stirrings of my heart or whatever you want to call them don’t seem to apply to others the same way they do to me, and I’ve come to realize that the Holy Spirit’s not usually talking to other people in the same way that He’s talking to me. And so I don’t get caught up with pushing my own stuff on people. Not anymore. I trust God to lead me, as well as the people around me, in the places that He wants each of us to go. And that makes it so much more exciting to hear all the different ways that God wakes each one of us up to Him. 🙂

20
Nov
13

taking it all in

We recently went to the church that is in our neighborhood for Sunday morning. As I was preparing everything the night before and making sure my younger children took baths, I began noticing the sacredness of it all, even down to ironing clothes. And in my preparation, I felt like I was standing on holy ground. I had this lightness in my soul, my spirit. I felt open to receiving whatever God has for me and for my family.

And the next morning, everyone got up early, which is unusual in our house. We all hung out for a while around our dining room table with the gas logs flaming in the background.  I noticed it all: my laughing, talking teenage boys dressed in their clean jeans and polo shirts; my youngest Jeremiah just enjoying being part of it all,  and cool Julia dressed in her khaki cargo pants and white shirt with the pink lace around the bottom and her older brother’s shoes that we had found in the attic for her to wear for Halloween (she dressed as a gangster) that she has now adopted as her own. It was all good.

I took in all the joking and the excited talking and light-heartedness and breathed in deeply, holding it within my heart. It was a sacred, holy moment for me in the midst of our family.  It felt like my insides were smiling, and contentment just passed over me in waves.  We all wanted to be together in that moment.

After a while, I realized we needed to eat, so I began making biscuits and eggs, and as I rolled out dough, my fingers and hands sticky with it; that, too, felt lovely and divine. Loving my family by fixing food with my hands felt like standing in God’s presence. It was beautiful. I could taste the excitement for what is and what will be. And even as the morning rolled on, it had a sweetness to it. It wasn’t the craziness that usually goes along with Sunday mornings trying to get everyone out the door (you know what I’m talking about).

For me, noticing the sacred means slowing down and paying attention. It means being fully present, even in all the tiny moments in between the big change of life ones. It’s being fully alive and fully engaged in the life that I’ve been given. And being grateful for every part of it. Eugene Peterson says that “to eyes that see, every bush is a burning bush.”

Right now, as I stand in the present, I’m not worrying about the next hour, the next day, the next month, the next year. I’m enjoying the now and seeing the sacred in it all.

29
Aug
13

different kinds of happy

I believe there are different kinds of happy. The one I’ve known for most of my life is the kind that depends on circumstances going my way and on other people meeting my needs or seeing things my way. It’s the kind of happy that is fleeting, beyond my control, based on outside circumstances.  So how do we “keep” happy around in a more lasting, satisfying way?

We as people want to be happy; we want our kids to be happy and live happy, fulfilled lives. It’s even written in The Declaration of Independence  that we have “the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” But many of the things that I myself have pursued have not brought any kind of lasting happiness. Maybe the word pursuit is what makes the word happy not really work. Because it seems that when I pursue it, it always seems to elude my grasp. And I know you can’t buy happy. So maybe happy isn’t something you pursue or something you buy but rather a state of being, something a person learns or even receives.

I looked up the word happy in the dictionary, and most of the definitions described happy as “something based on one’s circumstances or having good fortune,” but the one definition that stood out to me said “happy” formerly meant “blessed.” I have a hard time grasping the word blessed even though I’ve read it hundreds of times in the Bible. But there’s one Bible translation that translates the word blessed as happy. And that’s something I think I can begin to understand.

For me, I want to go deep into happy, the kind of happy that maybe could even be described as joy or peace within, the kind that doesn’t change even when the things or the people around me do. Deep contentment, not dependent on outside things to sustain or fulfill me.  Blessed.

So, God in His gracious kindness used one of my kids to show me a different kind of happy. Jesse, who is 17, went to camp for the first time at the beginning of the summer. I was so excited for him. Jeff and I both grew up going to camp, so I hoped that he would have the time of his life.  The camp where he went posts picture online daily, so parents are able to catch a glimpse of their kids enjoying camp life at its best.  I kept checking online, picturing in my head my son having such a great time. They posted cabin pictures online Tuesday night. All the campers in Jesse’s cabin had these big smiles on their faces; some made funny faces, but my son stood at the back behind everyone else with closed lips and a sad expression in his eyes. My heart dropped because all I wanted was for my kid to be happy.

I didn’t even tell Jeff about the picture. My heart hurt for Jesse. So I began praying for him like crazy. I prayed for him to have a good time, for him to find someone he connected with, for him to be happy. And then, in the middle of the night, God changed my prayers for Jesse. I began praying that he would find ways to serve others, to find those outsider kids who had no one else to talk to, and that he would love them instead of focusing on himself. I prayed that he would open himself up to what God had for him in this experience, that he would be happy, but that happy would look different from what I had formerly thought.

Jeff and I went to pick Jesse up from camp on that Friday, and he seemed settled and somehow more mature than the week before, happy even.  I told him about the picture I had seen online and about the two very different prayers I had prayed. And he told me stories of where he had listened and talked with some very lonely kids. Camp had not been what I had originally wanted for him, but God answered my prayers in the way that God wanted and knew that was best for Jesse.

As the summer went on, Jesse went back to work at the same camp as a junior cabin leader for twelve rambunctious 10-year-old boys. The first week he worked was a really hard week, but Jesse came home talking about what he had learned and how he would do it differently when he went back to camp to work later on in the summer. He seems to be learning happy, but not in the traditional sense of the word, where he pursues it or relies on other people or circumstances to make him happy. And as a mom, I’m content to know that God takes care of my kid and knows how to do so far better than I can even imagine.

A couple of months ago, I found the “happy” chapter in my Bible and shared it with almost everyone I talked with. Psalm 84 reveals the life-changing happy that circumstances and tragedies and fear and even other people cannot touch. It’s the kind of happy that sinks into your soul and allows you to breathe in and live all that God intended. It’s the abundant life that Jesus talked about in the New Testament. It’s the happy that tastes and sees that God is good. It’s what it means to be truly blessed.

How happy are those who reside in Your house, (Christ in me, Christ in you)
who praise You continually.

Happy are the people whose strength is in You,
whose hearts are set on pilgrimage.

Happy is the person who trusts in You,
Lord of Hosts!

20
Mar
13

You Cannot Lose My Love

Recently, I had a couple of episodes with my second son, my 15-year-old. This son is amazing in so many ways. He has high relational intelligence, and he is very persistent, two great qualities if used for good. If used against others, he can bug the snot out of a person with just his facial expressions or his constant noises. His ten-year old sister is a very easy target, and he knows that.

Second son said something to his sister; she went nuts; I stepped in, and he mouthed off at me. But I know his heart toward me, and even though he tried to push my buttons, God gave me the wisdom to answer in gentleness and love after I first apologized to him for calling him a smart ass. (And, yes, I called him that.) But God, in His goodness, quickly convicted me and brought me humbly around before it escalated and became too big, too huge, too stupid. God brought me back to what He’s been teaching me for months now…gentleness.

After my apology, I spoke truth to second son about who he is and told him that my all-time favorite moment for the day had been when I saw him walk toward the house with his sister, his arm slung over her shoulder. Because that’s who this kid is.  He wants to be loved, and he wants to love.

A few days later, this same kid just out-and-out defied me. Something happened with his brother that he didn’t like; I stepped in, and second son made some snotty remark toward me. As I tried to talk to him, he continued walking away from me as I told him to stop. I felt God’s presence and love for that teenage boy even in that moment. I sent second son to his room and said he could come down when he apologized to me.

Four hours later, second son came down and gave me a very insincere apology. I hugged him anyway. I acted as if his apology meant something because I know his heart, and he wants to be loved; they all do, even when it might not look like it.

I’m pretty sure the thing that brought second son downstairs was that I had made one of his favorite foods the night before, and he had gotten hungry. But sadly, the food he came looking for had just been finished off.  Even though it was after 9 o’clock at night and I was tired and was not interested in being in the kitchen for one more second, I offered to re-make this same favorite food for him, and he admitted that he wanted it. As we made it together, we talked. And as we waited for the food to bake, I rubbed his back and gently spoke truth to him. It’s amazing where favorite foods and back rubs and gentleness can take a mom.

The truth that God gave me that night and that I was able to share with second son is that I am for him, not against him. Teenage world is hard enough, but he doesn’t have to do it alone.  And, even when he’s dead wrong and angry and frustrated and even defiant, I am still for him.

I now have three teenage boys, and this is my favorite age so far. God is for them, not against them. And, above all else, I want to reflect God’s love and gentleness to each one of my five children. Because no matter how old they get or where they end up or even what they do…they cannot lose His love…

He gathers the lambs in His arms…
He gently leads those that are nursing. (the immature, the inexperienced) Isaiah 40

16
Mar
13

Not the Path I Would Have Chosen

When Jeff and I moved to Nashville almost six years ago, we came here to help a struggling school. When that school closed down four years ago, we had no idea what to do with our five children (ages 4-12 at the time) who attended that school. It was sad to see so many families struggle with where they would send their kids to school, as well.

Feeling like we had no other options, we went ahead and homeschooled. We had homeschooled several years earlier when our older boys were younger, so I knew we could do it, but I didn’t really want to, to be perfectly honest.

After the school closed down, my plan was to home school our kids for a couple of years and then find a  private school our kids could attend. So, for me, homeschooling was a very temporary thing, to say the least. I love my kids, but I didn’t want to hang with them every day, all day long.

We survived homeschooling for two years, and then that next summer I begged God to release me from homeschooling my kids. I was done. When I realized He was not answering my prayers for release, I realized I might be in this for the long haul, and instead of fighting it, I chose to embrace it.

I had a decent relationship with my kids. I was physically present and took care of them, but I struggled with being emotionally present a good deal of the time. For years, I struggled with emotional affairs, always looking for greener grass elsewhere and not satisfied with God or what He had given me.

But a few years ago, God really began doing His healing work in me, and I began to have victory in an area that I thought I would struggle with for the rest of my life. As a result of His healing, I now had the time and the emotional energy to invest in my kids and began being in real relationship with them, not just passing them in the hall or cleaning up after them or even teaching them school.

We began talking and haven’t stopped yet…real conversations about God, about the stuff that they feel and what they’re going through on a daily basis. We laugh; we joke; we play games; we talk. Jeff and I love sitting in our dining room in front of the fire talking and hanging out with our kids. It is truly one of the best parts of my life.

I’m not a creative home school mom who comes up with fun activities for my kids to do, and my kids would probably say homeschooling is pretty boring for the most part. But what I’ve found in being around my kids all day long and them being around each other is that I would not exchange the relationships I now have with them and the ones they have with each other for anything in the world. It’s a gift from God. And I am just so incredibly grateful.

I would not have chosen this path for myself, but I’m thankful for my loving Abba who chose it for me and gently pushed me down it. He really does know what best for me, for all of us.

And those years the locusts ate…they’ve been reclaimed and restored many times more than I could possibly have imagined.

I will lead the blind by a way they did not know;
I will guide them on paths they have not known.
I will turn darkness to light in front of them
and rough places into level ground. (Isaiah 42)

17
Jan
13

the heart of the matter

My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord…For the Lord disciplines the one he loves…

Hebrews 12 goes on to say that a parent who loves his child disciplines them, just like God disciplines us. It’s a painful process, but it is designed to teach us submission to Him in all things. When we let go of the control that we think we have and submit to the things He’s called us to then that’s when we find life, real life. He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share his holiness.

Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live?

I’ve noticed something in myself recently. When I’m willing to submit to God in humility, then I’m much more willing to submit to those around me in service and love and learn the things God’s trying to teach me. There’s something in us that wants to be in control of our lives, to not be told what to do, to not submit to anyone, even God.

When it comes to parenting my children, I want everyone to be in harmony and get along and just do what they’re supposed to do. I love my kids; they know that, and I want them to do what I’ve asked them to do out of love and respect, and not out of fear. I think God wants us to obey Him because we love Him and not because we’re fearful that there might be consequences when we don’t obey.

But I’m not God, and in being pretty laid back in this area and just wanting everyone to get along, I have failed to discipline as I should have at times. And as a result, one of my kids gets really angry when told to do stuff she doesn’t like or doesn’t want to do, especially her school work. And to maintain peace, I have let things slide. I haven’t dealt with her lack of obedience as I should have. And of course, her anger usually takes over because clear boundaries have not been set, and because I’ve sometimes responded to her anger and lack of obedience with anger myself.

But the biggest wake-up call for me the other day was when it occurred to me that if this child is not willing to submit to my authority, then she won’t submit to God’s authority later. She won’t one day magically wake up and submit to Him. It starts now. I had to repent and apologize to her for my lack of obedience to God in this. Because the biggest mission of my life and my greatest calling is that my children walk in truth and for them to do what God calls them to do in submitting their lives to Him.

There’s a documentary/movie called Buck. Buck is the ultimate horse whisperer, and he has an incredible story. That man can do amazing things with horses.  He says he doesn’t help people with horse problems. He helps horses with people problems. Horses are a reflection of their masters. They just do what they’ve seen done. Same as kids. My kids aren’t me, but they are definitely a reflection. If I’m an angry and unforgiving or manipulative person, my kids will more than likely reflect my behavior as well.

In the movie, Buck shows that if you jerk the reins of a horse, the horse will automatically jerk its head back in response. If we lash out in anger toward those around us trying to get them to do what we want them to do, chances are the anger will be reciprocated, and fear not love will be the result. But if you hold the reins firmly, the horse will come around and eventually do what you want it to do in submission. I’m in the process of learning to hold the reins firmly but also gently.

Because, really,  the point is not behavior modification. The point is my children’s hearts. Who cares if I can make my children do what I want them to do by behaving perfectly in front of the world or even in my home, but yet have failed to address their heart issues of sin and lack of repentance? Unless there is brokenness in my life, brokenness in their lives, we will never yield to God’s authority and discipline. Discipline is a good thing. It doesn’t really seem like it at the time, but God claims us as sons and daughters if we’re willing to submit to it. He actually loves those He disciplines, and the fruit of it becomes rather obvious, especially in teenagers and children.

Discipline from God produces the fruit of peace and righteousness to those who are willing to be trained by it. (Hebrews 12)





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