Friday, August 26, 2016

Relationships

"When it matters most, the quality of your relationship with your children will determine the weight of your influence."

The weight of parenting feels heavy some days. There are days when keeping them safe and healthy feels like it's all I can manage. And I'm called to so much more.

As I finished listening to the parenting series this week, it kept circling back to this big idea of RELATIONSHIPS.

With a tween and a teen, we are in transition here at the Tkill Manor. Most of the early years, we are focused on remaining "in control." Teaching the importance of obedience. With Peanut, I need to her to understand what it means to obey. So one day, she can understand being obedient to God. And so she stays safe (of course the 3rd is the one who likes to run in parking lots and wander off in stores). But I'm also pouring into her - love, respect, choices.

Now, my goal is nurture our relationship with our teen/tween so that I maintain INFLUENCE.
I can no longer control them. I'm not with them every moment. I can't micromanage their choices. I can provide structure and boundaries, limits and consequences. I'm not aiming to be their best friend. But I am aiming to be important to them.

But I have to trust that the INVESTMENT I've made in them will guide them. You see, all the big decisions are yet to come. I hope they will come to me for wisdom.

Fathers,[a] do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord. Ephesians 6:4

I've been praying over this verse this week. I've been searching for ways to reach out to our teen/tween. I've been looking for ways to REALLY serve them. I think the way to mend or strengthen a relationship is serving with no expectation. Waiting for God to work.

I cleaned the Princess's bathroom and organized it for her. I took the Xman to breakfast this morning and really sat with him and listened. I'm praying for God to give me opportunities to nurture my relationships with each of them.

Mama Warriors, my devotion study said this "mom" thing is a title. It's not a description of a relationship. That's powerful when you think about it. Just being their "mom" has no guarantees. It doesn't mean that when they are grown and gone they will answer when you call. Or better, call you for no reason. Just because they want to. I want my kids to want to talk to me. Want to see me.
This doesn't mean I think the next season is going to be easy with them. I can't be their best friend because I'm the rule maker. I also have to keep them safe and continue to provide tough love. But along the way, I'm mindfully also working on our relationship. Staying engaged. Making sure that I'm not just "mom" in title but in action.


"Suffering will change you or it will crush you."

"What if the darkest moments of your life God intended for good?"

One of my children's favorite Bible stories is the story of Joseph. That story is soaked in sibling rivalry. The most horrible moment in Joseph's life was actually the beginning of the greatness God intended him for. I'm pretty sure as Joseph was being sold by his very own brothers, he wasn't thinking "Wow - suffering - I bet something good is coming!"

"The messiest waste of our lives becomes the most fertile soil."

I've often heard that you will find your gift - your purpose, among your biggest struggle.

3 Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. Romans 5:3

I'm telling you there is something I'm supposed to get out of this verse that I haven't yet. I can't tell you the number of times I have been given this verse through reading, devotions, sermons.

We need to WANT Jesus. And He's best known in suffering.

"Suffering will change you or it will crush you."

Sometimes I think it crushes you before it changes you? In times of suffering, I think we have to have a faith God can move through. It doesn't have to be the strongest faith. Or the deepest faith. But we can't have built a wall that shuts God out. We always have to leave a window open for Him.

27 God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. Acts 17:27

I'm coming upon the 3 year anniversary (do we really mark time from the beginning of a trial?) of my great gastro madness. I will confess - I still struggle with the idea that God wanted me to go through this. That He wanted my children to make the sacrifices they've had to make. That He wanted me to walk an un-diagnosable madness. And because it hasn't fully disappeared, I keep wondering - what am I missing? What am I supposed to learn from this that I haven't? How am I supposed to serve BECAUSE of this that I'm missing?

Have I been CHANGED by the suffering?

Mama Warriors, where you are today, be ALL there. If it's in trial, be ALL there. Soak it in and ask Him to draw you closer. I tell my children all the time our home school mission statement is to "Know God and make Him known." I have to ask myself constantly, is this moment drawing me closer to God? Am I making Him known to others through this? Have I reached a point in my character where I am secure in HOPE?

"God's economy makes beautiful exchanges; as we give, we grow."

Mama Warriors, love DEEP today. Be ALL there. Find the joys within your limits.



Intentional

"We are raising kids who are EXPERIENCE rich but RELATIONSHIP poor."

I started a parenting sermon series by Andy Stanley this week. He suggests that our kids are a mix of 3 things - relationships, choices and experiences.

And of those 3, it's their relationships that mold them into the people they become. Relationships with parents, relationships with God, and relationships with people outside your home.

We wear busy as a badge of honor in America. I think that comes with extreme sacrifices. We lose deep relationships in exchange for the breadth of relationships. We "know folks" - we have ballpark moms, school moms, employees we see regularly. We know folks. But, we have lost the front porch lingering that our country was built upon.

This high school gig has become so real this week. This having 4 more years of the Princess in our home, under our guidance is weighing heavily on me. I'm trying to be INTENTIONAL with her.

I'm asking myself - What can I do to solidify my relationship with her?

I desire to INFLUENCE her, not control her. And that's a tough line in the teen years I think. Yesterday I sat with a mom/daughter journal and I wrote openly to her. How I desire for her to grow, be challenged, change. But how I also struggle with providing her good boundaries, fair limits and the right support.

I'm asking myself - What can I do to advance her relationship with God?

She's going to encounter lots of choices in the next 4 years. I need her to feel accountable to God. I need her to know what He would have her do when offered drugs or alcohol. When put in tough positions. When asked to go or do things she's not ready for. I want her to be held accountable to Him, not me. I want her to know the comfort of knowing she's loved by Him. Please let her skip the bad boys phase - I swear I endured enough for us both. I want her to fully surrender to what He would have for her life.

I'm asking myself - What can I do to influence her relationship with friends?

Stanley says " Your friends will determine the direction and quality of your life."

That's so true in the teen years. But it's not just about protecting our kids from the ones who we know might lead them astray. It's praying for God to show us who we need to draw closer to our kids. It's about nurturing them. Loving them AND loving the people God brings into their lives.

Mama Warriors, we have to be INTENTIONAL with our kids. And it's hard. Because being intentional means we have to put RELATIONSHIPS above experiences. And that's not how our society runs. Spending time with our kids, really spending time with them, has to trump being their full time taxi driver.


Surrendered People

"Great people do not do great things. God does great things through SURRENDERED people."

So it seems this high school thing is real. I went this morning to a "Transcript Meeting" to learn all about what the Princess needs to graduate from high school and get into college. I looked around at one point to all the moms frantically taking notes (for the record, I did write a few things down) and thought someone should say "Just take a deep breath."

As we walk these next 4 years with the Princess, I want us to be knowledgeable and prepared. I want to understand all the T's that need to be crossed, and the I's that need to be dotted. I want her to have OPTIONS. Education provides options and opportunities.

BUT I never want to loose sight of putting first prayerfully considering what God has in store for her. I want us to explore her strengths and weaknesses, her gifts and talents, her interests and aspirations.
"No unique purpose for your life will fill your soul. The only thing that will fulfill and settle your soul is God himself."

As we take these college prep classes, I don't want to be so focused on what she *might* choose 4 years from now that she misses how God can use her HERE and NOW. I want to leave room for shelving books at the library, for loving on preschoolers at church, for building relationships with friends and family.

1 Corinthians 2: 9
It is written that
“no eye has seen,
no ear has heard,
and no human mind has known.” (Isaiah 64:4)

God has prepared these things for those who love him.


I think this area of high school is one where us parents have the opportunity to get a wee bit crazy. We compare what we see other families doing, classes their kids are taking, opportunities. We push our kids, or support decisions they make, that may not be in their best interest as a KID.

Comparison robs us of the joy of obedience.

What God has called me to do with each of my children may not be what God has called you to do. If I give my kids the impression that there is ANYTHING more important than knowing Him and following Him, I'm wrong.

Mama Warriors, THIS is where it gets real. Those of us with teenagers. This is when we really model how we stop in prayer before we make all these big decisions. Are Honors classes the right fit? Should we add an extra curricular? How is our time best spent? NOW is when we model how we go to Him in prayer and we WAIT for the spirit to move in us. We WAIT for answers.

We can't possibly know it all. Right now, my Princess wants to be a mental health therapist. Psychology and all things of the brain fascinate her. She reads scholarly articles for pleasure on those topics. I don't know for sure what God will call her to in 4 years.

My part isn't to know - it's to TRUST that He has a great plan for her IF I just guide her with the wisdom to WAIT on Him.

I challenge you to not get caught up in making the perfect plan for high school (or middle school or elementary school or preschool). I challenge you to stop and ask Him in prayer. Surrender the details of your life to Him. It will be worth it.



Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Love Yourself



"Jesus would love for us to see ourselves as a package deal of unique qualities."
Parenting a 3 year old is good for the soul folks. I tell you. Especially if you are also parenting tween/teens. 3 year old people tell you that you are fabulous. That you are pretty. That you are loved. They are genuinely excited to see you. You know, even at 1 AM.
Each morning when I dress the Peanut she runs to the full length mirror in my master bath and proclaims "I look AWESOME."
How many of us wake up and look in the mirror and proclaim we look awesome? That we are awesome?
In the wake of the self-esteem generation, we spend a lot of time praising our kids for the values we think are important. For being hard workers. For putting forth effort. For having good character. Praising actions. I'm hoping that helps them internalize them. I'm hoping that helps them weather bumpy times. I don't just tell them I think they are beautiful (you have a great smile when you are helping out a friend) - I tell them why. I don't just tell them I think they are smart - I point out specifics (you pushed through and read that whole chapter even though it was hard).
Because the thing is. It's hard to love YOURSELF.
It's interesting to me - at 3 years old, you think you are fabulous. At 12 and 14, I'm finding there is some realistic balancing - beginning to notice strengths versus weaknesses, their unique quirks or traits. In my 20s and 30s, I was so hard on myself. And in your 40's - I think I may be returning to my 3 year old self. Slowly. VERY slowly. Beware, at the rate I'm going, by my 70s I'm going to be the old lady with no filter 
As mom people, I think we are naturally our own toughest critics. We lay in bed at night replaying those moments, those conversations when we should have said or done something different. We are occasionally bit by the green eyed monster and rethink our pony tail and yoga pants. We alternate dusting off and hiding the bathroom scale.
39 And the second is like it. ‘Love your neighbor as you love yourself.’ Matthew 22:39
See that verse ASSUMES you love YOURSELF.
I think many of us are out there trying to love others but we've neglected the very core of that verse. Love YOURSELF.
Having a poor self image HINDERS what He has planned for us.
Mama Warriors as you wake this morning, and muddle through your cup of caffeine, I encourage you to love YOURSELF. Acknowledge that you are perfectly and wonderfully made. You are not defined by the number on the scale, the bad hair day moments, the fashion challenges. You are defined by HIM. IN HIM. Our focus has to be following Him. And to hold His commandments, we have to begin by loving ourselves. Just as we tell our kids how awesome they are, we have to embrace our own awesomeness.
The children sing "Jesus loves the little children" - that's all of them. You too. Me too. We should walk around embracing the idea that we are worthy of love. Just the way we are. And think of how much more you can love others when you begin with a full well?


Waiting

"God please let me experience the goodness of your glory."
I occasionally am in the right frame of mind to find God just a wee bit funny. A good sense of humor He has (that sounds yoda-sh?).
The Peanut has slept even less than usual the last two nights. She woke this morning (I use the term "woke" very loosely). She asked me what today is and I told her "Sunday."
"Mama - it's MY church day."
You see a few days a week we drop the big kids off at the church for a variety of things - youth functions, academic classes, etc. Sunday is "MY church day" - she knows it's the day that her class meets.
I did NOT feel like going today. The big kids always go so I knew there would be some sort of taxi duty needed. Peanut was insistent - "Mama - It's MY church day." Cue mom guilt, and quick mom shower and I hauled us to church.
By the time Xman and I made to the sanctuary, we had to be seated by the usher. And guess where the two available seats were? You got it - right up front. You know -where you feel like the preacher is talking to you? Directly.
He opened service today with a time of prayer - asking us to just be still for a moment and ask the Holy Spirit to be with us. I did. I repeated the same prayer I've been praying for a while now - I need to HEAR Him speak to me. I know I shouldn't. But I do. I need to hear words about healing. I'd like an email, snail mail, sky writing - something. I desperately prayed that He would speak to me.
Cue sense of humor - today's message was on being patient. WAITING.
Seriously? I pray for words of wisdom and there they are. Be patient. Wait. I heard them loud and clear (remember, I'm on row two today). He spoke to them to ME. I know it.
Because I asked. You have not, because you ask not.
It doesn't say in the Bible, you get what you want. (That's a good song though right, you can't always get what you want.....) It does say, you have not because you ask not.
The preacher talked today about the difficulty of God's timing. How His timing is not our timing. And really, that's the crux of my problem right? There's no date on my google calendar marked for when the madness will really be gone. No calendar alert for all the other big things I'm praying about. For me. And for you.
But He reminded me this morning- you don't move until you hear the Holy Spirit. Because, if you move first -it's your will. And we want His will. Or, some days, we want to want His will (just keeping it real).
When we wait on His timing, sometimes He forces us to become dependent upon Him.
The other nugget I almost missed this morning (anytime I can see the interpreter, I will confess, I have a hard time paying attention - she's down right fascinating) is this:
"The whole of Christian life is becoming what God already declared you to be."
While we wait, He's still moving. And if we aren't careful, we will be so busy waiting on this one thing that we will miss it. We will miss the journey.
Mama Warriors, as you prepare for another busy week (aren't they all lately?) - don't miss the journey. I know it's cliche for mama folks to say "it goes by so fast" but it does. And I know it's impossible to truly enjoy and soak up every moment, but I do think we should try. Give ourselves grace for the moments we don't, but our goal shouldn't be to survive the day while we wait for a season to pass. It should be to SAVOR the days before the season passes to quickly.
Don't be so busy doing right with your kids that you miss the journey of enjoying them. He's moving in the waiting. You just have to look.


Expect to Experience Him

"I ask God to help me live in expectation of experiencing Him; therefore I do."
I've been thinking a lot lately about prayer. I'm diligently praying a huge list of prayers every day, and I feel like they are all evaporating.
I realized that I stay in 9-1-1 prayer mode. I'm in it daily. Desperate pleas for help. Fix this. Change this. Restore this.
Turns out prayer doesn't work like a vending machine. God is not a vending machine. You can't put your problem in and expect the answer to quickly drop down, ready for you to embrace. Often, I bet you are like me, we put the problem in, and then stand there like a crazy person beating on the machine, crying out - "Why is nothing coming out?" I'm doing all the right things.
My devotion this morning compared our relationship with God not as a vending machine one, but rather like an old friend. When we tell an old friend our problem, they talk through it with us. They walk through the trial with us. They offer wisdom. Guidance. But a good friend just doesn't fix it for you.
You see I'm finding that I hover in this dangerous place where my prayers are becoming what I WANT from God, rather than asking God for more of himself.
9 “So here is what I say to you. Ask, and it will be given to you. Search, and you will find. Knock, and the door will be opened to you. 10 Everyone who asks will receive. The one who searches will find. And the door will be opened to the one who knocks." Luke 11:9- 10
That's a deceiving read for many.
"But asking, seeking, and knocking aren't secret formulas for getting what we want FROM God; they're ways to get more OF God."
If healing doesn't come, if restoration doesn't come, if the chaos continues, His presence is enough. His purpose is enough.
I should be begging, pleading, asking, seeking and knocking for MORE of Him.
One of my many 9-1-1 prayers over the last few months is for the salvation of our Princess. In my desperate beating the vending machine days, I've realized that I've prayed for Him to draw her closer. I've prayed for her to accept Him and be brave enough to take that next step. But I've not prayed for her to EXPERIENCE Him.
And isn't that what it's truly going to take? Her being slowly drawn to Him. Her realizing that the little hurdles in her day, or the big hills, are reminders to draw nearer to Him.
Mama Warriors, I think we are all waiting on God for something. Maybe it's a tiny prayer, maybe it's a huge 9-1-1 prayer. We have to be cautious. We have to pray that even IF the vending machine never spits out our prayer answers, that He is enough. Even if healing or restoration or wisdom doesn't come - His presence is enough. His purpose is enough.
I challenge you today to live in expectation of experiencing Him. Expect Him to show up today. Expect it. And, you will experience Him.