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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The Big Shadow

Prayer

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It was a Monday morning (I know…need I say more?).  The alarm went off at 6 a.m.  I woke up confused…what day was it?  Was it a school morning?  Why didn’t I wake up a few minutes before the clock, as I always seemed to do?  Then came the realization of ‘oh, it’s Monday.’  I whispered a few complaints as I dragged myself out of bed, sleepily walked through the house to the staircase, and then up to my son’s room to wake him for breakfast.  I know…sounds like an occupational hazard, right?   That morning, as I watched my son board the bus from the dining room window, I sensed a heavy tension in my heart…it was all too familiar.

Slowly, over the course of the next few hours, it occurred to me (I now know the Lord stepped in), that through all of my plotting, preparing, planning…through all of the day-to-day categorizing, compartmentalizing, and prioritizing the reason I had been robbed…of joy, of peace, of perspective.  The ‘quiet tension’ lurking in my heart that Monday morning was not tension of faith, but a compression of anxiety…worry.  It was the culmination of thoughts and emotions of days & weeks prior that had become lodged…thoughts I had failed to take captive, & emotions I had failed to hand over to the Lord.  In all of the comfort seeking activities I called ‘routine,’ I had become seemingly unguarded…and overwhelmed.

Upon facing my restlessness, I was slightly annoyed…and disappointed.  I just didn’t understand why I had anxiety…why I was worrying again, why I felt so incredibly anxious…and why I had allowed the ‘little things’ to hang such a big shadow over me.  Isn’t it so like us to ask why?

Grace stepped in…

Every day the sun rises by God’s permission.  He’s never had a wink of sleep, yet nothing has been hidden from His sight (He sees). God has been God through every single day of our heritage (We change; He stays the same).  When we deal with the ruins of our lives, he knows exactly how they crumbled.  He knows exactly how we’ve been affected (our thoughts, emotions, feelings), and His expertise is reconstruction (God has come to redeem us; Satan has come to blind us).  How easily we can return to a yoke of bondage (worry & anxiety)…Galatians 5:1.

Reflection ::
Have you ever had a morning like this?  Have you allowed the little things in your life to cast a shadow over you?  I’ve been in that boat.  Sailed those seas.

In all of the busyness…the conversations, decisions, wake-up calls, homework, lunch-packing, to-do lists, meetings, meal planning, putting out fires…and so much more…we are overcome.  In the ebb & flow of our days come waves of emotion, the movement of our feelings. I am convinced that only a mother can be happy, sad, angry, resentful, frustrated, shameful, tearful, & hopeful…all in the course of one day.

As I flipped through a past devotion that night, I came across this, “If Jesus Christ faced you squarely with the question, ‘What is it you want?’–What would you ask Him to do for you?”  This was my answer…”I would want a guarantee that we’d be happy and at peace.”

The Lord responded…He IS our guarantee.  And, although there are many, MANY important & pressing issues/requests/demands on us each and every day…NONE are more pressing than prayer.

Prayer helps us reclaim joy, peace, perspective.  Prayer casts out shadows.  It is an active force against the lurking enemy.
You are probably familiar with Philippians 4:6-7, which says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”  

In my personal study of the obstacle of prayerlessness, Beth Moore turned this verse around, to create a prescription for anxiety.  Here’s what she wrote…”Do not be calm about anything, but in everything, by dwelling on it constantly and feeling picked on by God, with thoughts like ‘and this is the thanks I get,’ present your aggravations to everyone you know but Him.  And the acid in your stomach, which transcends all milk products, will cause you an ulcer, and the doctor bills will cause you a heart attack and you will lose your mind.”

I am convinced that no matter how pure, authentic, and genuine our motives are as moms, if the enemy can somehow, in his camouflage & subtle ways, dilute our prayer life, he has WON.  He knows that understanding, power, and vision comes through prayer.  He also knows that a fruitful, meaty prayer turns chaos into calm & extinguishes the heavy fog of worry & anxiety.

Let us NOT let him win.  

As we strive to walk in step with the ‘knower of our needs,’ let us refuse the enemy a single inch of the ground we are taking back.  Moms, we have Christ’s endorsement, to raise a godly seed…to roll away the stone of worry.  Let us begin in prayer…

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See and Tend

Teachable Moments

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Prideful, selfish, angry, controlling, dishonest….these are words I think none of us would  want said of us.  Words that we don’t like to see IN us, and yet at times are true OF us.

Those words are hard to see in ourselves,  but what about your children, your precious babies. Do you see them in your child? Let me ask it a different way. Do you WANT to see them in your child? I believe whether we want to or not, WE MUST!

Our children, just like us,are sinners.  A newborn doesn’t have to be taught, if I cry I will get fed or picked up; it’s natural for them to want their way.  A 2 year old doesn’t have to be taught what the word “MINE” is. They just know anything and everything they want is THEIRS! It progresses from there.

Now my husband and I are pretty strict.  We have a very short rope, as we like to say.  From the time our first born was little we adapted the “3 D’s”; disrespect, dishonesty and disobedience.  These are immediate grounds for swift consequences.  As I’ve been parenting longer; I would say that God  has shown me, if I only get at the behavior I am missing the mark; I must get to the heart that is behind the behavior.  That’s where it gets tricky.  It’s much easier to look at the behavior and dismiss it as “age”, “hormones”, or “that’s just the way he/she is”.  If I have to look at the motive behind the behavior,that calls for a much deeper action and FORCES me to see the “ugly” places of my “precious” child’s heart. Tedd Tripp says in his book Instructing A Childs Heart, “Without the vision for heart change, your instruction, correction, motivation and consequences will become a desperate attempt to get your children in line. You will be satisfied with external change in behavior rather than training the hearts of your children.”

I know firsthand this is a hard task.  A demanding task.  I don’t like to recognize those “ugly words” when they rise up in ME, let alone my child.   wholeheartedly believe the heart drives the behavior, so I’m called to act. Lord help me to not be a Pharisaical parent.  Making sure the exterior of my child is dressed well, good mannered, well rounded, says all the right things, and yet their neglected heart is full of jealousy, malice, discontentment, anger and pride.

Proverbs 4:23 “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.”

Moms; we MUST go after the HEART.  I want to share a very personal story that the Lord used to confirm his word to me about the heart.

Last summer we were at the beach. Our oldest daughter is a very intense, competitive fast pitch travel softball player.  We LOVE softball in our house. Our team was playing in Florida.  (Softball is the only thing that could get us to the beach. My husband and I are the weird people that do not like the beach. Nothing about it appeals to us.) I must admit; it was a very fun trip and I found out that all 3 of my children, despite my feelings, love the beach and the ocean!!  Hello.. Shark week?!?!?

While on this trip I had a mom on our team approach me and tell me something Sydney had told her daughter. The information she shared wasn’t necessarily bad, but it was enough to have me in full on “defense of my child” mode.  Any mom knows what I’m talking about. Not my Sydney! I couldn’t believe that she would have shared with her daughter what she told me she had shared. No way. I thanked this mom for telling me ( in my head I’m still thinking NO WAY) and assured her I would talk to Todd and Sydney about it.  I explained the situation to Todd and he agreed with me, Sydney?? No!  At dinner that night we knew we needed to get to the bottom of it.  We started asking Sydney lots of questions. She was very adamant that she didn’t share this information with her friend, and we were very satisfied in believing her.

Through the course of dinner the story started changing. Guilt and the conviction of the Holy Spirit finally overtook her and she remorsefully admitted that she did indeed share that information with her friend. Todd and I were in complete shock. Not only did we wholeheartedly believe she would never have shared the information, but we were both very adamant in defending her to this mom. No way!!! Sydney had sinned and we were in utter shock.

Needless to say huge consequences followed, and a very humble apology was made by me to my friend. I began to grasp, that God had allowed me the gift to see my sweet,  blonde headed, beautiful child’s…..sinful heart.  Not only her heart, but mine as well.  A revelation that my daughters heart, like mine, must at times receive the pruning shears.  Mark 7:21-23 “And  then he added, ‘It is what comes from inside that defiles you. For from within, out of a person’s heart, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, wickedness, deceit, lustful desires, envy, slander, pride, and foolishness. All these vile things come from within; they are what defile you.”

From within. It had come from within.  I had to be willing to see and tend to those “ugly” things in her heart in order to give her the tools to find a way of escape.  I seized my moment.  Applying the truth of God’s Word and watching it transform the ugliness into beauty.  Offering her the cup of grace to wash  those areas.  Assuring her that we all sin and fall short, but have a God who is for us and wants to transform us from the inside out.

Equipping Sydney that in those moments of weakness, and failure, to run to Jesus who is able to forgive and cleanse. 1John 1:9 If we [freely] admit that we have sinned and confess our sins, He is faithful and just (true to His own nature and promises) and will forgive our sins [dismiss our lawlessness] and [continuously] cleanse us from all unrighteousness [everything not in conformity to His will in purpose, thought, and action].

Mommas…our goal is an internal change.  Our God is concerned with the heart.  We must be willing to tend it.

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Raising the Bar

Big Picture Parenting

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The “self-fulfilling prophecy” is an expectation about the future that ensures its own validity. The 20th century sociologist Robert Merton is credited with coining the expression in which the expectation directly or indirectly causes itself to become true, due to the connection between belief and behavior.

I have experienced this in my own life. I distinctly remember being in sixth grade and sitting in my classroom while the teacher handed out report cards at the end of the day. As she walked around the room handing out the envelopes, she waved an envelope in the air and announced with delight to the entire room that “the person who receives this report card has earned straight A’s!” then she walked over and laid it on my desk. I sat in disbelief. Staring at the report card, I remember feeling every eye on me. I had not set out to earn straight A’s, nor was I naturally gifted in any way. But in that moment, my life changed. Every classmate knew me as the “smart” girl. They believed that I was the “straight A student” and I began to believe it myself. I became the straight A student. I had an expectation to fulfill. I had a standard to achieve. The bar had been raised and I was going to do everything possible to reach it every time. And I did. Every report card. Every year.

Over the five years I have been a mother, I have heard God speak through other mom’s directly to me regarding this very topic. Let’s face it – motherhood is no easy task. It can be very trying at times. While working one day, I met a woman and mother of six for the first time and she was asking about how long I had been teaching, if I had children, and making small talk. I told her I had three children within eighteen months and explained that at the time, my oldest was four and my twins were two and a half. Most people respond with, “you sure have your hands full.” To which I always reply, “oh yes, they can make me crazy!” Then we usually chuckle and walk away. But not this day. And not so with this woman.

As I began to laugh she looked at me very seriously and said, “do not speak those words about you or your children.” Then she gracefully spoke God’s word over me in encouragement and said, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” (2 Tim. 1:7) She told me that God gave me a sound mind and that I am not crazy and neither are my children, for crazy is NOT of God. It was a powerful message delivered straight from The Lord through an absolute stranger and I have never forgotten it.

A month ago I was at another work event with Premier Designs, my jewelry business, and I was positioned next to a husband and wife team who represented their own business. As it always happens, small talk began and we started getting to know one another. Through our conversation, the wife began talking about her nearly grown up children and reminiscing about the days when they were little, like mine are now. She told me that she and her husband decided when their children were young, they would only speak positively about their children, even if, in the midst of their circumstances they felt differently. For example, she said they always told people, “we have great kids!” or “our children are amazing!” She mentioned that she never spoke aloud the phrase “terrible two’s” or “troubling teens”. She explained that whatever they were told about themselves, they would believe. Proverbs 23:7 says, “For as he thinks in his heart, so is he.” Wow! Once again, a message God spoke to me through a stranger.

This is as valid for me today as a mother as it was many years ago as a student. After hearing this message repeated from these seasoned mothers, I began to realize that my children just might be fulfilling the expectations I have spoken over them. Could this be the reason they are running around and acting so…crazy!?! I have set that standard. I have spoken those words over them. I have set the bar and they are reaching for it. Ephesians 4:29 says, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” If we tell our children they are “wild”, then they believe they are wild and will become a wild child. If we tell our children they are “wonderful”, then they believe they are wonderful and will become wonderful.

A friend and I recently spoke about her son, Liam. She was expressing her frustration regarding his laziness. She couldn’t get him to do anything around the house because he was so lazy. He never puts away his clothes, he never does his homework, and he never helps do chores. She mentioned that he had a nick-name in their family, and that everyone calls him “Lazy Liam.” I guarantee you Liam is only fulfilling the expectations of the words spoken to him. The bar has been set for Liam to be lazy and he is fulfilling it.

Our words and our expectations greatly influence our children.

“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up.” (1 Thessalonians 5:11)

We set the standard.

Let’s raise the bar!

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Cinnamon Toast, a Lunchbox, and a Door

Big Picture Parenting / Christian Life

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Its been 5 years since my precious momma went home to be with Jesus. Boy do I miss her. So many moments I wish I could share with her. Wishing I could tell her just one more time what a good mom she was. Upon her diagnosis she looked at me and said, “I will never see you have children.” My mother was a woman of deep, rooted faith.  Don’t you know the sweet Lord allowed her to see all 3 of my babies. My little John William, who is my last,  was born in October, and she passed away in December.

Now ask anyone that knew her,and they will tell you my mom loved being a mom. I never remember a time when I felt we were a burden to her. The sacrifices of motherhood were never met with dread or annoyance. No, they were met with sheer joy. She viewed this calling of motherhood as her greatest gift and most precious treasure. Now she wasn’t perfect.  She lost it sometimes. She had a life outside of us. She was a wife, sister, daughter, friend, but we came FIRST, and knew it.

My sister, brother and I love to talk about our memories of her. We all have distinct memories that marked each one of us. Allow me to tell you a few of my favorites. Cinnamon toast. Every morning on my way downstairs to catch the bus,  that heavenly aroma of heavily sugared bread filled the kitchen. Notes  in my lunchbox. Any of you moms write those?   I had a Holly Hobbie lunchbox.  Man, I loved that lunchbox.  I can remember sitting down at the Fair Oaks Elementary lunch table, and pulling out one of those little treasures. “Just reminding you I love you.”  “Have a great day” it would read.  Another was my mom standing behind our glass storm door every afternoon as I got off the bus.  Every day she anxiously awaited my arrival.  I knew she wanted me home.

We love sharing our memories of her. Laughing and crying recalling each one. They are all different, but there is a common thread that runs through them. She found great JOY in being our mom.

What about you? Do take joy in being your children’s mom? Do you delight in the fact that to your babies you simply are their momma. Do they know that mothering them is not something you have to do, but something you want to do? That all of the sacrifices required, messes to clean up, fires to put out…. are done not out of obligation, but joy.

Doing a word study on joy…man there is a ton of joy in the bible. One of my favorite definitions I found was :

~Joy- The emotion of great delight or happiness caused by something exceptionally good or satisfying; keen pleasure; elation.~

Isn’t that awesome. Looking further into scripture Psalm 43:4  “Then let me go to the altar of God, to God my [highest] joy, and I will give thanks to you on the lyre, O God, my God. He is the source of all joy. He is Joy.”

Psalm 16:11 “You make the path of life known to me. Complete joy is in your presence. Pleasures are by your side forever.” 

That was my mother’s secret. Her joy for mothering was a direct result of finding her COMPLETE joy in Jesus. He was her highest joy.

Moms, our joy must be found in him first.  He alone is the source of joy.  Oh that our children know even in all our “mess up moments” the absolute honor it is to be their mother.

Lord allow us to look at mothering through the lens of great delight, knowing that mothering is an exceptionally good and satisfying call.

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Hide and Seek

Christian Life / Teachable Moments

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My 5 year old has an obsession with hide and seek.  He constantly is asking, usually when I’m really needing to fold laundry or unload the dishwasher, to come find him.

On this particular day I caved and walked away from the mound of clothes on my bed to go count.  1,2,3,4…..insert lots of giggles….5,6,7,8..ready or not here I come.  More giggles erupt from behind a chair in my bedroom.  “I found you,” I yelled. “Oh man!!” Count again. A reluctant okay. 1,2,3… More giggles.  This repeated itself for about 5 more times.

I quickly realized he was hiding in the same place EVERY time, and yet every time he is shocked when I find him.

After the 5th time I felt the Holy Spirit speak. He has a way of breaking into normal, mundane moments and totally rocking your world.  I felt Him say, Joy, I am always in the same place.  I never leave, I just ask you to make time to seek me out.

Wow. Oh the joy that awaits us when we walk away from the never ending tasks at hand and find Him.  Jeremiah 29:13-14 says ” If you look for me in earnest, you will find me when you seek me.  I will be found by you,” says the Lord. Every time, all the time.  He’s waiting on us to seek Him out.  No counting required.

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