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.

Surrendered

"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.


Friday, August 19, 2016

Chosen

"God is close, and if I choose to be close back, He'll rearrange my feelings."
As the mom of a middle and high schooler this year, we are journeying that season of finding yourself. Experimenting with clothes, hair styles, make up.
I vaguely remember my high school days. I spent most of my time trying to be one of the "CHOSEN." Oddly enough, I wanted to be chosen by those who were different. And spent a lot of time trying to become different. Look different. Act different. Be different. The funny thing about teenagers trying to be different is you end up with a large crowd of people who look the same - thrift store jeans, statement t-shirts, flannel shirts tied around their waist, combat boots from the army surplus store (I couldn't find a picture of me in my "normal" wear).
I think most of us keep a piece of wanting to be "chosen" throughout our life. I've seen some ugly mama discussions over who became room mom or team mom. Some vague-booking over who wasn't invited to this or that. We all want to feel wanted.
We've already been CHOSEN. Each of us. All of us.
12 You are God’s chosen people. You are holy and dearly loved. So put on tender mercy and kindness as if they were your clothes. Don’t be proud. Be gentle and patient. Col 3:12
He's already picked me. I'm one of the cool kids. The cool moms. I'm in the "in crowd." And being chosen by Him should be the ONLY concern of mine.
But so are you. You are chosen by Him too. Because unlike the terrorizing PE days of my youth, he's not exclusive. He's not limiting.
And sometimes that makes being "chosen" here on earth tough. Honestly, the church is one of the places with severe clique problems. The church can cause more ugly "I want to be picked" behavior than anywhere else. We attend a huge church. And thus it is inevitable that there are smaller cliques within it. I don't at all think these people are trying to be excluding or ugly. But I think if you aren't mature in your faith, in your relationship with Him, that you can most certainly think that being in the clique is important.
19 If you belonged to the world, it would love you like one of its own. But you do not belong to the world. I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. John 15:19
Sometimes we feel like maybe He has chosen us but not for the fun carousel ride, but rather the terrible roller coaster. In these moments we have to be intentional - we have chose with our minds to draw ourselves closer to Him. Our emotions will follow.
You see the thing is emotions can betray reality. Wanting to be chosen so bad that you get your feelings hurt, can alter the way you see what is really happening. This is true in all relationships - including ours with Jesus.
Mama Warriors, that first quote is so powerful "God is close, and if I CHOOSE to be close back, He'll rearrange my feelings."
You are one of his CHOSEN.
"Who are the people who have respect for the Lord?
God will teach them the ways they should choose." Psalm 25:12
CHOOSE Him back.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Welcome to my Mess

"I am not equipped to handle what they have - both bad and good."
There is nothing like a weekend pity party and down time to scroll facebook to cause the green eyed monster to begin to roar.
As I sat at home this weekend, in gastro madness, I got to "watch" how *everyone* else was out. Eating things that look fabulous- things I haven't even considered eating in years. Adventuring with their family. Taking adorable group selfies of all the "fun" they were having.
I stepped away from that world to watch Big Bang Theory. Guaranteed to cheer up the nerd dork that I am. As we watched, the Princess and I decided we adored Howard and Bernadette's living room. Pretty grey walls. Beautiful couch with adorable colorful throw pillows. A coffee table. It is precious. Seriously.

You see once the green eyed monster of comparison has risen her ugly head, she's hard to extinguish.
I woke this morning and looked around my own living room. There are blankets strewn all over our partially hand me down, partially bought on clearance mismatched couches. Those couches hold my family. Those blankets are a sign that we like to snuggle in, all together. There is no coffee table - that left when we had our first crawler and it became a source of more "boo boos" than pleasure. Now, we have a soft, rounded edge ottoman that can be used for board games but mostly stays tucked to the side so Peanut has plenty of room to build tall castles with Daddy each night. There is usually laundry on my couch - mostly folded. For my big kids know that folding a load of laundry means they get to pick what is on the TV. I'm not above bribery. A huge piece of drawing paper stays out - a place for everyone to doodle. And toys, well, what's a living room floor without emergency princess supplies - we usually have wings, a wand and a tiara at minimum.
I'm not equipped to handle a fancy living room. Trust me. I've met me. We LIVE in our home. Everything about our home says we live here - we school here, we fellowship here, we rest here. We use it. To it's fullest. 24/7/365. I don't fuss about sippy cups on my couches or crumbs on my floor. It's not in me (if you've met my mother, it should be - but it's not  - her domestic goddess skills just skipped me).
My devotion read this morning challenged me to say to myself "I am not equipped to handle what they have- both bad and good."
I don't know the back stories of every awesome fb picture I see. I don't see the struggles behind the happy date night picture. I don't see the past - just a glimpse of a posed moment.
I am only equipped to carry MY good, MY bad, My victories, MY burdens.
I'm only equipped to be ME.
28 “Come to me, all you who are tired and are carrying heavy loads. I will give you rest. 29 Become my servants and learn from me. I am gentle and free of pride. You will find rest for your souls. 30 Serving me is easy, and my load is light.” Matthew 11:28-30
"My load is light" - I've been pondering that this morning because let's face it, some days my load feels anything BUT light.
I'm thinking if it feels heavy, I'm not carrying it right. I didn't lay it down at the cross in prayer - I'm toting it around. Dragging it. Or often just being swallowed by it while sitting on my mismatched, blanket covered couches.
Mama Warriors, the world of comparison is so easy for us. It's right there. It's me in my wrong size yoga pants, messy pony tail (and not that cute purposeful kind) standing in the Kroger wearing a fake smile trying to figure out how everyone else can throw on leggings and look WAY better than I do? It's me in my house trying to figure out why our home looks so..........lived in while everyone else seems to have had Chip and Joanna over recently? It's me feeding my kids the store bought rotissiere chicken and trying to figure out how everyone else has time to actually make Pinterest meals AND their kids eat them willingly?
It's so easy to berate ourselves. Because truth is hard to believe when you've lived years with the green eyed monster. You are equipped to be YOU. You were chosen to be you. Hand picked, fearfully and wonderfully made. You are equipped to carry your good, your bad, your victories, your burdens. They are YOURS. You want what HE wants you to have - you want what you are equipped for. Messy living room and all! 


Saturday, August 13, 2016

Savor

"Seeking with all of your heart requires more than just the routine Christian good girl checklist."
Enough.
I think moms spend the majority of the early mom years chasing this elusive "enough." It's always just out of reach.
I would be happier, more fulfilled if only ______________.
The answer to that blank is our elusive enough.
I think what you fill in that blank with is your idol. If you would be happier with more money, your idol is materialism. If you would be happier if your relationships were better, your idol is what others think of you.
We have to replace that blank with His truth.
Our "enough" has to be our relationship with Jesus. Has to be.
"Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience." Col 3:12
"I must continue to pursue truth that keeps me grounded and God's love that keeps me filled."
Truth that keeps me grounded. Love that keeps me filled.
We have to CHOOSE to live in the moment WITH God. Here and now. Now waiting for our elusive enough.
My word for 2016 is "Savor." I'm choosing to be grateful every day for my enough. For my here and now.
Mama Warriors, We are just a few weeks into the school year here, and just starting to really kick into the depth of our curriculum. And I'm already feeling the stress of that. The need to be "enough" for my kids - as their mom, their teacher, their taxi driver. If my "enough" lies in my kids, we are going to always have a rough time. So much pressure for a kid to be my "enough." My enough must come from Him. My well must be filled from Him. I must model for my kids that they are enough IN Him.

Waiting Like David

"It was in the fields of everyday life that David's character was developed to match his calling."
I've been thinking a lot lately about this WAITING. Waiting on God.
My devotion this morning recounted the story of David. It's funny to me how you can think you know a bible story really well, and still find new truth speak to you.
God CHOSE David. He hand picked him. But, he sent him back to his sheep to WAIT.
I'm thinking - "Hey, you are going to be king. I'm not going to give you any special training. Just go on back to your sheep and do your thing. I'll tell you when it's time."
I think I'd be frustrated? I'd want to be king NOW - or at least be sent to some kind of "learn to be king in 180 days school."
God equips us for His calling IN our circumstances. In the fields of everyday life.
" I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit[a] of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better." Ephesians 1:17
The Peanut's bible verse this week is "Nothing can separate us from God's love." Romans 8:38 .........She came home with this hand out from church with motions for each word in her verse. As I've practiced it with her every day this week, I've re-thought the way I study my own bible verses. I should really be reflecting on each phrase/word. Breaking it down.
"I keep asking" - like a persistent pre-schooler deep in the questioning phase. While I wait, I keep asking. I keep asking Him to draw me closer. I keep asking Him to show me the way. I keep asking Him to be with me.
The message translation says "I want you to know God better" - I keep asking, so that I may know God better.
Mama Warriors, somewhere in the diaper changing, the potty training, the laundry, dishes, meal preparing. Somewhere in there, in your everyday field of life, God is equipping YOU for the great plans He has for you.
My devotion read challenges me to "separate your circumstances from your identity and let Jesus be the only measure of your worth."
If God has you, like me, waiting - just think we are David in the field tending to our sheep. What an honor to be given such an amazing field to tend while we WAIT.


Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Fairy Tales

"The extraordinary things happen nowhere else but in the everyday and today can always be the beginning"
I take my Sunday sermon notes in my Bible. I will confess, Sweet Daddy gave me money to buy a new Bible for my birthday and I just can't bring myself to do it. When I open my Bible during service to the passage, I'm having trouble finding places to write the current notes. Today I wrote in the front cover because most of my pages in Acts were already written on in the margins.
I've been thinking a lot this week about where I am in my journey - my health, my family, my spiritual adventure.
I think I'm waiting to hear His voice. On all accords.
Which makes me wonder - what am I doing while I'm waiting?
Each night after I tuck in the wee one, I scroll Timehop. Timehop and I have a bitter sweet relationship. I'm reminded of all the beautiful moments- and I'm also reminded of what isn't in my timehop. The moments I've missed.
I was thinking today - the best can't be in the past.
"Because God’s writing your story and He never leaves you alone in your story, and His perfect love absorbs all your fear and His perfect grace carries all your burdens, and your story is a happily ever after because Christ bought your happily ever after so you always know how this story ends:
You’re going to be okay."
But maybe I'm waiting for Him to say it?
I'm doing BIG things every day but they seem small. They are small by the world's standards. But they feel big for me.
Mama Warriors - those small things you are doing- they are the BIG things. Some days all we can ask of ourselves is to ask God to help us believe that He is at work.
The Peanut is big into fairy tales right now - I like the idea that we are all getting our happily ever after. Our fairy tale may look more like one of those scary Disney rewrites some days, but I like to believe it's ending old school style. Living forever with our King.


Just because you HAVE Jesus, doesn't mean you don't need JESUS

"Because we are deeply, passionately, unequivocally, and unconditionally adored by the Lover of our souls, we can stop this approval seeking, gotta have more likes madness."
There is nothing more authentic about family life I think than trying to get out the door on a Sunday morning for church. Not only does everyone need to be fed, be clean, be dressed appropriately, but they also should be carrying their bible (or their backpack in Peanut's case). There is never a time a mother regularly needs a dose of Jesus than on a Sunday morning.
We are in this beautiful season right now with two different ends of the spectrum. I have one tween and one teen - both who spend countless hours in the shower, in front of the mirror. There is always one last "check" before I get them out the door. Every hair should be in place. The Princess is in this red lipstick phase (in case you're wondering, not a battle I'm fighting - I figure if you are young enough to think that looks great all the time, enjoy it). And we have the preschooler. She thinks as long as she has on a princess dress, some costume jewelry and clunky dress up shoes - she looks great.
The difference there is interesting. My big two care what OTHERS think of how they look. How they present themselves. The wee one, only cares what SHE thinks.
I'm afraid the age of social media is only making the teen years harder around here. Now we can track how many people "like" our new outfit, new hairdo, new whatever.
"Do you think I am trying to get the favor of men, or of God? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant owned by Christ." Gal 1:10
It's hard to grow the confidence to live an authentic life. I've come to this place in my 40s where I don't have the time or energy to present myself in any other way than who I really am. I'd like to think some of that is spiritual growth. I want you to know I'm far from perfect. Those fb picture moments you see - those are the picture worthy moments of my day. I don't take pictures of the snarky teen, the anxious tween, the tantruming preschool (okay so occasionally I do take a picture of that because it is just downright funny). I want people to know that just because you have Jesus - doesn't mean you don't NEED Jesus.
"People pleasing can cause us to loose our voices."
The hardest part of being authentic to me is speaking truth to those I love. Because honestly, when we need truth - we don't want to hear it. I feel like we are called to not just share of His great grace, but the "cost" of that grace. There are standards. There are convictions. There are callings. We can't just smile and dole out grace like a get out of jail free card. Truth and grace, a balancing act.
"See, You want truth deep within the heart. And You will make me know wisdom in the hidden part." Psalm 51:6
Mama Warriors, we have to CHOOSE to live in the confidence of His love rather than the fleeting approval of man. We have to be so careful that we are modeling whose approval is important for our kids. "Be careful little eyes what you see" - I think about that a lot. Are my kids watching me care about what the world thinks of me? Am I a "people pleaser" or a "faithful follower?" "Be careful little ears what you hear" - are my kids hearing me speak hard truths? Are they hearing me balance truth with grace?
The preacher said yesterday that Godly kids don't happen by accident. We have to be INTENTIONAL. Mama warriors, be intentional today.

Hands Free Living

"I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God." Ephesians 3:16 - 19
The Peanut is currently entrenched in the "Mommy watch this phase." If you've had a preschooler, you remember it. It's incessant. Constant.
My devotion read talked about the messages we send our children by our actions. I've been really pondering this the last few days. Peanut is being raised in a much different technology house than her siblings before her. When the Princess was a baby, we had a landline phone (I've never been a telephone girl), and a bulky desktop in our basement. When Xman was a baby, I got a job working from home for the DOE and a laptop came with that. Sweet Daddy and I have had smart phones for a little over a year now. Before that we had no contract flip phones.
Now, my house has 4 smart phones, 4 laptops, 2 television, 2 video games systems, ipad, the list goes on.
All of Peanut's people have to CHOOSE to stop what they are doing and "watch this."
When we choose to look at our phones, ipads, computer screens instead of "watching this" - we are sending a VERY loud message.
We are telling our kids YOU are NOT as important as my screen.
That's convicting for me.
I'm responsible for providing my kids with the gift of security. Not just knowing they are important and loved unconditionally by me, but also making sure they know that they are "rooted and established in love" of Christ.
Our world sends so many messages - and often shouts louder than we do. Our world is telling our daughters they are need to be thin, that outwardly appearance trumps all. Our world is telling our sons that they need not have emotions. Our world is telling our children that performance matters, achievement trumps all, and people pleasing is the way to go.
It is our responsibility to make sure our children deeply know this love that surpasses all understanding.
How will they ever know His love, if our attention is distracted? If we are shouting to them - you are NOT as important as my device? How will they know that they can be more important than anything to someone?
Mama Warriors, we have the amazing opportunity to INFLUENCE our children with our actions, for their good. For our good really. We must send them the message that they are important. So they may become deeply rooted in Him.
My challenge this week for myself (and maybe you need it to?) is to not speak to my children with a screen. If someone says "watch this" or begins to tell me something - I either STOP what I'm doing and make eye to eye contact, or I ask them to WAIT just a moment while I close out what I'm working on (I work from home - so sometimes shutting down mid email is hard for me, so I ask them to wait while I finish that one). My main goal is to let my children know that I WANT to stop what I'm doing and give them my undivided attention.
Because, let's face it - those of us with teens, there are some hard years coming. And I don't want the Princess or the Xman to ever not tell me something because they didn't have my attention when they tried. Hands free living................

Yarn Idols

"That which dominates our imaginations and our thoughts will determine our lives, and our character." Ralph Waldo Emerson
The Princess had a tiny pink baby doll that she would not sleep without. "Baby Kaelee" went everywhere we went. Everywhere. The Xman had a blue stuffed elephant - "Ele." Both big kids were incredibly attached to their security object.
Peanut has no security object. I've bought several over the last few years in hopes of helping her learn to sleep longer stretches. She goes to bed every night with something different. Last night it was a tiny plastic cow she got as a prize at the dentist. This week she is carrying around a long piece of yarn. Everywhere we go. Since her security item/object changes every few days, we typically try to just ride it out. But I will confess dragging 5 feet of yarn around Aldi yesterday was a bit trying.


As we grow up, we tend to navigate from security objects to idols.
"When we become more enamored with the CREATED rather than the CREATOR, we are at risk of creating our own golden calves."
As mothers, I think our biggest risk is our children becoming our golden calves.
An idol is anything that becomes more important than God.
It's tough in a season of young children to keep those priorities in order - God, husband, children.
We have to be careful that enjoying, or serving, doesn't turn to worship.
There's a fine there isn't there? We all love our kids. We are all immensely proud of our kids. We all want our kids to have an extraordinary life. And let's face it, those kids are noisy. They are always needing something. Always. Like they want to eat 6 times a day? And never know where their favorite shirt is.
We have to create blank space on our calendar and PLAN to spend time with God. We have to put our spiritual growth first. Our relationship with Him first.
We have to model for our children that our security blanket/doll/item is Him.
Mama Warriors, "Until God's love is enough, nothing else will be." It's a lot of pressure for your children to be your "all." They feel it. If your worth is found in the kind of student, athlete, or kid you are raising - they feel it. Your worth has to be found in Him.
It's a hard switch to letting Him dominate your thoughts when your day is run by mom taxi duties, mom house duties, mom work duties. But I promise you, if you keep praying "Draw me closer to You." He will. And it will change the way you parent. It will change your marriage. When you line those 3 up in the right order, it will change your life.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Embrace your Ramona-ness



Beezus: Ramona, you're your own person. You don't care about coloring inside the lines.

Ramona Quimby: It really depends on the picture.

The Ramona books are definitely some of my favorites from my childhood. I can still remember curling up in the Princess's bed and reading them to her. The sound of her tiny giggle when Ramona would do something.............so Ramona.
For some reason the Peanut couldn't sleep last night. I don't know why I'm always so caught off guard. We all have nights now and then where we just can't sleep? Or don't sleep well? Can't get comfortable? Our minds can't settle? For some reason, we think children should be exempt from this phenomenon as they tend to require a grown up to sit up with them.
As we sat last night and pondered all things crazy...........I was reminded that Peanut is our own little Ramona. She takes things very literally. She speaks truth - she doesn't know any other way. She's curious, inquisitive, and busy. Did I mention busy? She wears a tiara and and carries a magic wand the majority of the time. But is also usually covered with marker or paint from her latest creation.
I think about how when people meet us - how clear her baggage is. She is visibly a mess . And my own baggage, it's a bit more hidden I guess. It's hard to see the suitcase of guilt, sins, transgressions, worries.
I'm so thankful He meets me where I'm at. In the midst of my mess. In my truth.


"When we fail to reflect back on the power of the cross in our own lives, we cease to be effective when it comes to pointing others to the cross."
We've got to unpack that suitcase, show our Ramona-ness. Be transparent. Be truth.
16 Tell your sins to each other. And pray for each other so you may be healed. The prayer from the heart of a man right with God has much power. James 5:16
Mama Warriors, we can't live in the past. We can't lug it around, hidden in a suitcase. We can't live defined by our sins. We must be defined by God's grace in the present. We've got to be real - show people how He will meet you where are. Right in the middle of your Ramona style mess.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Irv - We were NEVER on aisle 7! Honest!

"Heartbreaks and hurdles are meant to become trophies of His grace rather than secrets to be buried."
I love 80s movies. The soundtracks, the themes, I love them. One of my favorites is Mr. Mom. In the movie, the dad looses his job. It works out best for the mom to go back to work full time and him to take over the household and the children. What follows is comical as he tries to find his footing being "Mr. Mom." In my favorite scene, he's attempting to grocery shop. With children.
All of us mom people have been there right? You went to the store WAY too close to nap time. Or lunch time. The children are into everything, you can't find what you are looking for, and the madness seems to spiral. After making a mess on almost every aisle (to which the store makes announcements "Irv, Clean up on Aisle...."), they call for a clean up on aisle 7 and Mr. Mom feels relief - "Irv - We were NEVER in aisle 7. Honest."


For once, the mess isn't his.
Life is messy.
"We are redeemed creatures not perfect creations."
If we are authentic, if we are real - we would be leaving messes for Irv to clean up on every aisle. But, we hide our messes. We say "fine" and smile when someone asks how we are. We present ourselves as perfect. Or worse, we show a minimal flaw and say it's our worst, and apologize for it. We are plastic people in Walmart.
We have to give ourselves permission to be a work in progress. We have to give ourselves permission to not be okay.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation
and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me. Psalm 51:12
Grant me a willing spirit - a spirit willing to admit you need grace. To ask to be sustained.
We are walking some tough challenges with our Xman and anxiety. And I'm physically and emotionally leaving messes for Irv everywhere we go. In the walls of our house, we're stretched. But in public, we're overwhelmed. It's messy.
Our family should be safe haven for our mess. But sometimes it's a lot to ask of people to be patient. To be encouraging. To be supportive. To be empathetic with something they can't understand.
I'm struggling with the balance between sheltering him from people knowing, and teaching him to live an authentic life. To admit his struggles. To know when he needs help. To share his testimony, his walk, His story.
Mama Warriors, we want to be Mama Bear - we want to shelter them from hurt, protect them from trials. But sometimes He calls us to walk the trial with them. To push through. To show our kids that it's okay to be a mess. To be a work in progress. To show them how to lean on Him.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Multi-Tasking

"The faculty of bringing back a wandering attention, over and over again, is the very root of judgement, character, and will." (William James)
Multi-tasking seems to be a badge of motherhood. We seem to take pride in being able to do the most things at the same amount of time. I think it begins as a necessity. Laundry will never get done if we don't do it while bouncing a baby in a sling. Food will never get prepared if we don't learn to open the plastic storage cabinet and talk through their own cooking while we busy ourselves.

This morning I read that multi-tasking "reduces quality, creates skimmers, and wastes time."

As I began a new school year here this morning, I tried to focus my time on the task at hand. Less jumping from task to task. Less multi-tasking.

"Careful planning puts you ahead in the long run;
hurry and scurry puts you further behind." Proverbs 21:5

The funny thing about motherhood is you can be present all the time and still miss it. You have to be INTENTIONAL about the moments. Careful planning.

"Concentrate all your thoughts upon the work at hand. The sun's rays do not burn until brought to a focus." (Alexander Graham Bell)

Mama Warriors - as we return to school this week, it's easy to become "busy" multi-tasking. Be intentional with your time. Don't skim over the moments. Don't reduce the quality of the time you spend with your children. Don't waste the gift you've been given.