Summer Project Challenge

Teachable Moments

Memorial day has come and gone.  Another school year has come to an end.  The temperatures are starting to rise, pools are now open, and no alarm will be required for two whole months.  It is summer!  Let the fun begin!

Last week, Joy wrote a post about making the most of this time with our children.  We all want to have fun and let our kids be kids, but we also want to use this time wisely to share God’s Word, develop good spiritual habits, and encourage their spiritual gifts.  This is quality time that we are able to invest in the eternal future of our children.

The contributors at Raising the Light would like to take on the challenge to be intentional about our summer plan to each create a project or study for our kids to do during the school break.

Below are our plans for our families.  As moms with kids that vary in age, interests, and giftings, we have each chosen projects specific to our  children or family.

Brianne: (5 year old boy, 3 year old twins- 1 boy and 1 girl)

The Summer Story Series- Each week we are going to read a bible story, do an activity, craft and snack that correspond to the story.   Check out the lesson plan for the weeks ahead here!

Summer:  (8 year old boy, 5 year old girl)

Memorizing Scripture- Each week, we are committed to memorizing one verse of scripture.  I am praying that the Lord will somehow connect the scripture with our memories for that week…and I know He will.

Nicole: (9 year old boy)

Praying for the Unreached- Each week we will choose an unreached people group and we will learn about them, pray for them, and find scripture that relates to their situation.  The Joshua Project has a great website to help us do this!

Joy: (11 year old girl, 8 year old girl, and 5 year old boy)

Subject Study- Each child will be studying and memorizing scripture based on their current stage of life.  Check out what each child will be learning here!

Now, it’s your turn!  We are challenging you to do the same- to create a project plan for the summer.  Are you up for the challenge?  Feel free to use one of our projects for your family, or create your own.

Tell us how you plan to invest into your kids this summer.

We look forward to hearing about how God moves through this intentional time with your children!

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. (Galatians 6:9)

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Do as I Say, AND as I Do

Motherhood

My daughter recently has had to be on antibiotics. She had to take them 3x’s a day. That would mean taking a pill at school. Luckily in her 5 years in school, we have never had to take medicine.  Little did I know about the hoops you have to jump through to allow your child to take medicine while at school.

Well  I sent her off with the pill and a little note.  I quickly realized that was not the protocol.  I received an email and a call from the nurse stating the proper procedure for taking medicines at school.  Sheesh.  Let’s just say its a lengthy process.

In the process of filling out and dealing with the forms, a thought popped in my head- Why not just send the pill with her in her lunch and she can take it without anyone knowing it? Forget all these forms, right!!  Before the thought even left my brain I was convicted.  That would be dishonest! I would be asking this child that I’m trying to plant character and conviction into to LIE!  Yikes! In that moment I was willing to trade CHARACTER for CONVENIENCE.

I love how parenting reveals the sinful caverns in our hearts. I saw mine that day.

Psalm 119:9 How can a young person keep his life pure? [He can do it] by holding on to your word. The Amplified version says “conforming his life to it.”

His Word, I must conform my life to it. Everything must line up with his Word; my thoughts, words, actions, motives, everything.  Even when its not convenient. How can I hold a standard up to my child that I myself do not live by. Telling them one thing and yet I do another. I want my mom motto to be  “do as I say, AND as I do.” A lofty standard for sure.

Found an article on building character in your kids. It said, “Building Christian character is activity motivated by a desire to pursue holiness, and to be conformed to God’s standards. It chooses the smile of the immortal God over the smiles of mortals, and works to win that smile.”

I’m asking my kids to “pursue holiness.”  To pursue “the smile of God.”  I love that.

Knowing there will be failures and grace along the way, but a pursuit nonetheless. I want to pursue holiness, but its those little things that stump us.  Those “little white lies” that jeopardize our example to our kids.  I almost blew it, and thankfully that time, conviction came before I followed through with my plan.  A straight and narrow path.  A path that stretches and challenges me. Holiness.

Easton’s bible dictionary says this about it. “Personal holiness is a work of gradual development. It is carried on under many hindrances, hence the frequent admonitions to watchfulness, prayer, and perseverance.”  Pursue it, run after it.  It is the standard!

Psalm 119:9-16 How can a young person live a clean life?
    By carefully reading the map of your Word.
I’m single-minded in pursuit of you;
    don’t let me miss the road signs you’ve posted.
I’ve banked your promises in the vault of my heart
    so I won’t sin myself bankrupt.
Be blessed, God;
    train me in your ways of wise living.
I’ll transfer to my lips
    all the counsel that comes from your mouth;
I delight far more in what you tell me about living
    than in gathering a pile of riches.
I ponder every morsel of wisdom from you,
    I attentively watch how you’ve done it.
I relish everything you’ve told me of life, I won’t forget a word of it.

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Sticks and Stones

Motherhood

As a Kindergarten teacher, I have always loved All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten by Robert Fulghum.  In the poem, he suggests that serenity and a quiet spirit are very much needed in our noisy world.  Fulghum tells of villagers in the Solomon Islands who destroyed a tree by screaming at it for 30 days.  The tree died, confirming the Islanders’ theory that yelling kills a living thing’s spirit.

Consider all of the things we yell at in our lives: our spouse, our children, the customer service rep, strangers who cut us off in traffic, the telemarketer, umpires and refs, even our lawn equipment. Robert Fulghum says, “don’t know what good it does.  The lawn equipment just sits there.  Even kicking doesn’t always help.  As for people, the Solomon Islanders may have a point.  Yelling at living things does tend to kill the spirit in them.  Sticks and stones may break our bones, but words will break our hearts.”

As a parent, Fulghum’s words pierce my heart.   Ecclesiastes 9:17 reminds us, “The quiet words of the wise are more to be heeded than the shouts of the ruler of fools.”

Let me be honest.  I often feel as though I rule three little fools.  My children ages 5 and twins 3 often behave foolishly.  In turn, I am disciplining constantly.  It’s exhausting.  It’s frustrating.  It’s maddening.  I must confess, I do yell at them.  Sometimes even in public…yes, I have been THAT mom!

In the book, Instructing a Child’s Heart, Ted Tripp states, “There is a power to quiet words that is not present in shouts or screams.  Shouting trivializes words.  Shouting puts emotions in the foreground and meaning in the background.”

I must remember these words each time I want to overpower my children with a loud voice.  Oh how much better it would be if I were the serenity and quiet spirit that is very much need in my noisy world!

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Obedient Parent

Motherhood

I do not like to be told what to do.  A lot of the time, I think I know best.  Unfortunately, everyone in my house thinks that they know best, which at times can create a little friction. Thank goodness God has given us a couple of guidelines to live by as a family unit- a hierarchy- that calls us each to submit to a certain authority.   We are all called to be obedient to someone.

Children are called to be obedient to us as parents.  We are the authority in our homes. (Sometimes it may not seem like that as a stubborn three year old stares you down in utter defiance.  Believe me, I have been there. Just remember that you are bigger than they are!)

Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother”—which is the first commandment with a promise— “so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.” (Ephesians 6:1-3)

We want our children to be heed our instruction because we know better.  We see the end result at the beginning and therefore know which decision leads to the best outcome.  For example, I know that even though my son wants to stay up until midnight, that will NOT lead to a happy child come six o’clock the next morning.  And I know that even though he wants to blow off his homework to play outside, that kind of choice will not benefit him in the end.  Or when he wants candy for dinner, that his body will not feel great without the nutrients it needs.

In our house, these rules are not up for discussion or negotiation.  They do not change based on what the other kids are doing or on what my son thinks they ought to be.  And if he does not obey, there are consequences.

My son may not understand the choices that we make or rules that we establish.  Many times, he thinks that we are just being mean.  But we make those rules for his best interest.  We make those guidelines so that the end result is a good one.  We set certain standards because we LOVE him.

In much the same way and for the same reasons, we are called to be obedient to God and the rules that He has established.  The Father wants the best for us and He calls us to trust that He knows better.

We have truly been adopted into God’s family!  He has CHOSEN us to be His children!

The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.   (Romans 8:15-16)

How awesome it is that we serve a God, a Father, that knows the end and can direct us down the best path.

I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.. (Psalm 32:8)

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;in all your ways submit to him,and he will make your paths straight.. (Proverbs 3:5-6)

So, I may not understand why He always wants me to forgive those who have hurt me or why I should pray for my enemies.  I may not understand why I am called to submit to my husband.  I may not see the reason behind dying to self and putting me last. But He does.  And He has called me to be obedient.  He sees the end result.

We must set the example of obedience for our kids.  We must show our children just how great it is to serve a God that loves us so much that His rules and guidance lead us to our best ending.

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Seize the Summer!

Motherhood

As the school year comes to a close and summer is within reach, I’m sure we all say yippee! The pool is beckoning us. We are ready to leave behind, schedules, agendas, homework, and car line. Some of us love the summers; others are more apprehensive about how to fill the time.  The days can at times get very long.  I would like to offer a challenge to us moms- a goal of sorts.

Summer, for most of us is approximately 8 short weeks. I remember when I was in school we had at least 12 weeks. Summers are definitely shorter now. Not a lot of time. Add camps, VBS and vacations, and the time is gone. My challenge to you is to not fill up your days only with the pool, play dates and sleeping in. Let us purpose in our hearts to seize some part of the day to intentionally pour something eternal into our kids. Taking a little bit more time to till and plow their hearts. Taking advantage of not having to rush out the door or rush to bed.

Now, there are so many fantastic tools that can help you do this. Just visit your local Christian bookstore to find shelves stocked full.  You can be creative. Have your kid/kids go through a Proverb a day and have some discussion time. Maybe you make the focus this summer on the fruits of the spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). My kids have spent the summer learning the various names of God. I made each one do a creative poster board at the end. Last summer with  we walked through the 23rd Psalm and put it to memory. There are so many ideas. I’m sure most of you are way more creative than me. The point is not WHAT you do, but that you DO something. Even if you work outside the home, you can take advantage of the nighttime. Remember God is in the business of making MUCH of our LITTLE.

In his book Revolutionary Parenting, George Barna says “There will never come a time when I can satisfy God by saying, ‘Look, my church community did a great job leading my kids to embrace You and Your principles.’ As we have seen both the scriptures and experience of successful parents show that this is the job of the parents. Not that this is something I’d shy away from-I welcome the privilege- but it does require intentionality that has not been central on my calendar or my mind.”

The definition for intentional is ~done ON PURPOSE, intended.

The summer is a perfect time to be ON PURPOSE in shepherding your child’s heart.  An exercise in futility some days for sure, but a promise to bring forth eternal fruit!

So let’s not allow ourselves to get fatigued doing good. At the right time we will harvest a good crop if we don’t give up, or quit. Right now, therefore, every time we get the chance, let us work for the benefit of all, starting with the people closest to us in the community of faith. (Galatians 6:9)

Moms our mission field is not OUT THERE,  it is those little ones under our feet, and tugging on our pants. Don’t grow weary.  Seize the summer!!!!!!!  Your “tan” can wait:)

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Listening in the Spaces

Christian Life

A few quick goodbyes, kisses & hugs as my daughter and sweet husband walk out the door to preschool.  Hands shaking, I scurry over to the computer, flying thoughts ready to burst forth…and…nothing.  I am not without thoughts.  I am without words.  What would you have me say, Lord?  I want to share.  I want to encourage.  But, I have nothing.

A conversation with my son flashed before me…months prior, he stood at the kitchen table telling me a story about a seed.  A seed, in order to grow, needs sunlight, water, wind, space, and adequate soil.  In the same way, we need the Lord’s ‘light’ to see, water to prepare our thirsty hearts for His plowing, a sweet breeze of the Holy Spirit (wind) to move us, His presence to fill the empty ‘margins’ of our time (space), and a heart that is ready to receive (healthy soil).

That day, the Lord took my ‘nothing,’ and gave me something.

Like a fresh flower after a spring rain, a clear message sprang forth…this may or may not speak to your heart, but either way, I ask that you please listen, as the Lord has asked me to…

With all the confidence one person can possess, I can assure you, sweet mom that God does speak.  Do you think He loved you enough to die for you, but not enough to speak to you?  Of course not! Open your spiritual ears!

“As you enter the house of God, keep your ears open and your mouth shut…After all, God is in heaven, and you are here on earth.  So let your words be few.” Ecclesiastes 5:1-2 (NLT)

The question…how do we hear His voice?  How do we listen effectively? I read a few stories this week.  I want to share them with you…

“In the stillness of the morning, I begin my quiet time – to those moments I purposely set aside for Bible reading, prayer, meditation, listening – and I lean my elbows on heaven’s windowsill, eager to commune with the Lord.  But first, to satisfy my curiosity, I check to see if I’ve gotten any new e-mails since last night.  

When I finally come back, I’m a little more distracted, a little less focused and clearheaded.  Suddenly, the phone rings.  Caller ID beckons my eyes, and I feel compelled to pick up the receiver.  The anticipation is too much.  I answer it.

Oh, never mind…I’ll just have my quiet time tonight before I go to bed.  

Ten p.m. The kids are finally in bed, dinner dishes washed, and the bills finally paid online.  I’ve given preference to everything else over my quiet time all day long, one thing after another.  Now I’m worn out and exhausted.  I plop myself under the covers, my Bible on my lap.  Within five minutes I’m asleep.  My good intentions go out with my night-light.

The enemy smirks.

Some of us are here.  Coming to the Lord with little expectation.  Little excitement.  With an overcommitted heart to ‘other’ things.  Obligations.  With a sense of urgency.  Feeling hurried.  Listening…passively.

Read on, my friend…

“So the next morning, I’m at it again, intent on not letting another day start without spending time with God.  What happened to me yesterday WILL NOT happen to me again.  I wake up early enough, grab a cup of tea, and get going.  I spend thirty whole minutes in the word-fifteen minutes scouring a few chapters of the Bible, and another fifteen going through a list of prayer needs I keep written in my notebook.  When the time is over, I can’t believe how fast it’s gone.  I pop up and get on with my day.  I feel proud not having let the opportunity pass me by again.”

I’ve walked through both of these days…in these moments.  I’ve tried, with honest intentions, on many occasions, over the course of my journey with the Lord, to commit to spending time with Him.  And, with the utmost conviction, I can tell you for certain…in either instance, I did not leave a bit of space for the Lord to speak to me.  I did not feel His presence, & I left little room for His Spirit’s conviction.

“In one case I was too busy to come to God at all.  In the other I was too busy (even while I was with Him) for Him to come to me.”  (Priscilla Shirer).  

If you think listening to God is a chore, so do I.  I really do.  It takes time…and, although He can (if He desires) speak to us while we’re cutting coupons, feeding the baby, dusting furniture, or checking Twitter updates, we will not be acquainted with His voice in the ‘regular rhythms’ of life, if we do not, at some point, be still in His presence to learn the ‘sound’ of His voice.

As the Lord summoned me to the hidden, secret place of divine fellowship with Him this past week, here is what I feel He is telling me to share with you…Stop hurrying, Stop fidgeting, Close your eyes, Enter into worship with Me, Think about Me, Meditate on my word, Adjust your ‘listening posture’, & Wait.

We wait in hope for the Lord; he is our help and our shield – Psalm 33:20

Wherever you are in your spiritual walk, I believe the Lord will speak to you in a language, in a way that is personal to you…because He loves you, not because you are putting in extra effort or pressing the right button.

My prayer is that a new desire and expectancy for His voice will begin to stir.  As He draws you near, may you feel the ‘undercurrent of His ongoing activity beneath the surface of your everyday happenings’ (Priscilla Shirer)…as you listen in the spaces of your time with Him.
In your growth & realization of how He speaks, ‘take into your heart all of His words which He will speak to you, and listen closely…’ (Ezekiel 3:10)…and, ‘let your words be few…’ (Ecc. 5:2)

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Sandcastles

Christian Life

Angie Smith, wife, mother and speaker for Women of Faith was at the beach with her family when God spoke these words to her heart, “You’ve been making sandcastles your whole life from the safety of the shore, but love is in the deep.  You can’t follow me from the seashore you have to move away from what safe and step out into the deep”.

The shore and shallows are safe.  You can stand there, feet firmly planted on ground, having conversations with others.  You look good standing there on the shore; posing and taking pictures next to your glorious sandcastles with your children gathered around.  From the shore you can maintain your cute ponytail and even avoid smudging your makeup.  You can spend a lifetime there on the shore; in the sand, looking good, comfortable with where you stand.  Never really learning to swim.  Never enjoying the waves or the water.

The water is quite different.  Out in the deep you keep moving, you keep swimming.  There is very little time for conversation.  You concentrate on breathing.  The deep is scary.  It’s the unknown place where we can no longer depend on ourselves.  Swimming out in the deep is hard work and you spend most of your time there alone, or with brave souls who dare to step out with you.  You work diligently to keep your head above water all the while being saturated with water – your hair and makeup a complete mess. There is no solid footing, you simply trust that the water will hold you.

Faith is a lot like the deep.  It’s unknown and based on absolutely trust.  Hebrews 11:1 says, “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.”  When you are out in the deep, you cannot see the bottom but you trust that it’s there.

When I quit my full time teaching job and decided to stay home with my children, I feel like I jumped off a cliff and into the deep. I can honestly say that on paper the numbers didn’t add up financially for us, but I know without a doubt that being at home more with my children is exactly what God wanted me to do. I know I’ve spent a long time on the shore making Sandcastles financially with a safe and secure paycheck every month, and I know that I’m going to find Him out here in the deep…trusting Him to provide for my family’s needs. Not our wants, or desires, but our needs.  He will hold us up.  We can trust Him.  Step off the shore…

Go swim in the deep.

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Choosing to Celebrate!

Christian Life

I have been a little reluctant to say this out loud, but my life is great right now. Full of blessings.  I have very little to complain about in this season of my life. Sure, I have days here and there where I may get upset about something, but overall I am good!  But I have hesitated to say this because women (mothers especially) seem to have a very hard time celebrating each others blessings.  We seem to like hearing the stories of strife from one another better.

I have seen multiple Facebook posts, twitter messages, and blogs that focus on (or criticize) women who post all rosy photos and picture perfect stories about their life.  The common theme in these writings is that we should be more real with one another- share what life really looks like for us.

But what if life really is that rosy right now? Why should I have to seek the small amount of trouble in my life to be able to feel like I fit in? Or, why should I feel that my day has to be hard to get through if I am doing it right? Why can’t I just be in a place where my family is happy?

I love being a mom.  And most other mothers that I know do too in their hearts.  Why shouldn’t we all focus on the joys of motherhood more; the good days, the moments of laughter, the days where the kids are happy and smiling, the recipe that finally turned out right, a house that is clean, a husband that is happy, children that behave. It does happen.  Life can be that good.  Maybe not in every single moment, but in a lot of them.  And don’t you think that our good times should serve as a reminder of hope on the days when we don’t see those things in a particular circumstance?

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.(Philippians 4:8)

My blessings have nothing to do with my own strength or ability to create a good life for myself.  I am not being full of pride if I post on facebook that I had a good day.  I don’t claim that my life is perfect or that I have never struggled (in fact, much of my life has been a struggle).  And just because I tend to post more pictures and stories of my family when all is well, does not mean that we have it together all of the time.  My blessings are exactly that- gifts from The Lord in this current season of life.  And I want to celebrate all of them!

The Lord calls us to be joyful!  To do everything without grumbling and complaining.  To be content in every situation.

Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.(Philippians 4:11-12)

I know that it can be hard not to compare my life on the hard days with those individuals that are doing well, but it is up to me to make sure that I am looking at it through the correct lens.  To see hope and faith in the blessings of others and to not covet the bounty of another person.

“‘And you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife. And you shall not desire your neighbor’s house, his field, or his male servant, or his female servant, his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s.’ (Deuteronomy 5:21)

The verse does not say that if I covet what my neighbor has, my neighbor needs to struggle more (or share her struggles more) so that I feel better about it. He says “you shall not covet”. If I covet the lives of my friends and neighbors because they are experiencing blessings that I do not have, I need to ask The Lord to work on that within me.   If I am feeling inadequate because my friend has major crafting skills or the ability to cook a gourmet meal (and I can tell you from trial and error that neither of those things are within my gifting), I need to sort through those feelings with God.

He has the ability to change my perspective.  All I have to do is ask.

None of our lives are perfect, but some seasons of life are better than others.  And as we shift perspective to focus on Him- His goodness, His faithfulness, His Power, His strength- our own personal season of life gets better, wherever that may be.

I want to be glad in this day and every day, even when it is hard.  I don’t want to focus on the negative things that may come up throughout my week.  I want to love my life and I want to be able to share that with people.  I want my friends to share more good stories than bad.  I want to delight in the accomplishments of those around me, regardless of my personal experience that day.  And I want us, as women, to be able to celebrate each other- our talents, our gifts, our successes, and our blessings!

You have put more joy in my heart than they have when their grain and wine abound. (Psalm 4:7)

Heavenly Father, thank you for our joy; we know that it comes directly from you. Help us to share that joy with each other today.  Let us lift each other up and savor the precious gift of motherhood.  God, we know that there are going to be hard days, but we are choosing to focus on the blessings.   We are choosing to celebrate!

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Not Ours

Motherhood

Columbine, Sandy Hook, Virginia Tech. Horrific, senseless tragedies. Innocent children slain at the hands of evil. Hundreds of parents receiving the call we pray we NEVER have to answer. All forming the simple question on their lips, why?

Now I dare not speak as if I know anything about the unexplainable loss of a child. I cannot fathom the depth of a loss that deep.  I want to speak on a hope I have found in the midst of these despicable crimes. A nugget of truth in the midst of the sadness.

I’m sure like me, after any tragedy   you tend to turn to “over protect” mode.  You scoop them up, lock your doors and keep them in.  You take a little more time tucking them in at night, you steal a few more kisses, you aren’t so “put off” by the spilt milk or the 2 am feedings. You cling. You lay claim on those little lives entrusted to you. Holding them a bit tighter. Its just what we mothers do. “We must protect our children.” Yet, I believe when tragedies like these happen ; God is asking us not to tighten our grip, but to actually let go.

1 Samuel chapter 1 is a beautiful, yet challenging view of motherhood. Hannah wanted a child, a son. Day after day she would go to the tabernacle and pour her complaint out before The Lord. She made a vow in verse 11, that if The Lord would look down on her and give her a son, she would give him back to The Lord. On down in verse 22, The Lord indeed answered her prayer and gave her a son, and when he was weaned she took him to the temple and gave him back to The Lord. Gave him back. Walked away from.

I have to believe she cherished every moment she was given with him. She savored everyone of her today’s she had with him.  In chapter 2, she prays a prayer of PRAISE, then in chap 2:11, it says she returned home WITHOUT Samuel. She relinquished her hold. Gave him back to the God who had given him to her.

Our little ones, our sons, our daughters are not for US. They are for Him. For His greater purpose.

We too must release them, and trust that he is able to keep them far better than we ever could. He wants us to send them out, not shut them in. As they go we can stand on Psalm 139:5 “You are all around me-in front of me and in back of me. You lay your hand on me.” One version says “you hem me in.” Oh I love that. He’s got them. The great I Am is with them.  Too often, especially in tragedy, we stand paralyzed in fear of tomorrow, and miss the reality of the NOW, the MOMENT,the TODAY. Cherishing, grateful, living for TODAY.  Praying for their protection….yes, praying for their safe return…yes, but releasing them to him. Loosening when we want to grip, sending out when we want to hold tight. Resting  in his always watchful eye. Hannah knew to whom she was releasing Samuel to. Her prayer of praise in 1 Samuel chapter 2, speaks of her God who is trustworthy! Verse 2:”No one is holy like The Lord! There is no one besides you; there is no Rock like our God

Tragedies happen everyday. We mothers send them on their way and breathe a prayer of “God protect them.” Let us live in the today we’ve been given. Every moment we are granted the gift to be their mother. Making every game of hide n seek count, every ~the wheels on the bus~ song count, every letter you help them trace, every bible story you plant in their heart-make it count for TODAY.

God is in our today, trust him with their tomorrows.

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If Only…

Motherhood

If only I had a larger house…
If only I could be a stay at home mom…
If only we had a basement or playroom…
If only my children were closer in age…
If only my children weren’t so close in age…
If only my husband made more money…
If only my husband didn’t have to travel…
If only my children obeyed me…

In Lies Women Believe, Nancy Leigh DeMoss says, “At one point or another, we have all believed that if our circumstances were different, then we would be different.  The truth is that if we are not content within our present circumstances, then we are not likely to be happy in any other set of circumstances.”

The truth is that we know “all things work together for our good” Romans 8:28. I have always thought of this verse like a giant jigsaw puzzle. Our Heavenly Father sees the entire picture while we see only one piece or one section at a time.

I too have believed the “if only” about my children.  My oldest son is a brilliant and creative child, full of energy, animation, and adventure.  He is quick witted and very loving.  He is generous and genuinely concerned for others.  He is also impulsive, emotional, and stubborn.  My oldest is my most challenging to discipline and parent.  I have often said to my husband,  “if only he were more calm and obedient, things would be easier.”

After a long, difficult day with our children, I was particularly frustrated with my oldest’s behavior.  Some days seem hopeless as a parent, as if nothing you are doing in terms of discipline and love are working.  None of the pieces of the puzzle are fitting together.  My husband, Justin, and I were discussing our son’s behavior and my feeling of hopelessness when God spoke through him and straight to me.  My husband asked me, “even if he never changes, if his behavior never get better, would I be able to accept WHO he is and move forward.”  I was struck by this question.  The answer was obvious – of course!  Of course I would accept him as he is currently.  Of course I would love him, even if he never changes.  In that moment, I realized, WOW – that is how God, our Heavenly Father feels about us!  He parents us, corrects us, and disciplines us and has given us Jesus as our example to become more like Him.  He desires for us to be Christ-like and yet He accepts us exactly as we are with all of our faults and difficulties.  God has given us His son to teach us that the greater part of our happiness or misery depends on our attitude, and not on our circumstance.

Paul writes in Philippians 4:11, I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.

Paul understood that we may not be able to control our circumstances, but we do not have to let our circumstances control us.  We believe that our circumstances make us who we are.  I believed that my son made me frustrated.  I believed that ordinarily I was a calm, quiet, peaceful mom filled with love, patience, and self-control until my son changed the circumstance.  I was saying that HE made me angry, that a five year old controlled my emotions.  Nothing was further from the truth.  He didn’t make me angry or frustrated.  I allowed myself to become frustrated by the circumstance.  It controlled me.  Only through Christ living in me will I learn to be content in my circumstances and not allow them to control me.  John 3:30 says “He must become greater, I must become less.” When I am in communication with Him, I become more like Him.  It’s like our parents told us, we are who we hang around. When we hang out with Christ we become more like Him and we see His personality in our own lives – “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control” Gal 5:22-23.

I am not there yet.  My life is still being put together like those pieces of the puzzle.
Puzzles grow piece by piece, section by section, until you get to the end and are staring at a beautiful masterpiece.  It’s satisfying. It’s exquisite. It’s complete.  I believe this is also true of parenting.  So I will choose to be content in my present circumstances, knowing each day the pieces of this puzzle are coming together and when it is complete, it will be a beautiful masterpiece!

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