What part of the Armor of God keeps bugs out of my face?

As I posted recently, I’ve taken a challenge to bike my town. You can see that post here.

As I bike I run into more and more ways God is speaking to me about my ministry. I am not a pastor. But I definitely feel I am in ministry. So for further reference, let me explain what “ministry” is. It can be a full-time, educated, paid position. But it doesn’t HAVE to be. To do ministry is a day-to-day act of pointing towards Jesus. To make a conscious effort to tell others about Jesus, through your speech, demeanor, love, and wisdom.
I am a pastor’s wife, and I see the full-time, educated, paid ministry on a day-to-day basis. So although I feel God is speaking to me about the ministry my husband and I do, I also feel it can be used in any ministry.

I’m biking in July now. And awesome enough it’s been fairly cool out, so I figured I could get out without being eaten alive by bugs… and as I’m riding through SWARMS of various bugs, I’m reminded of the many “bugs” I’ve encountered in this ministry journey. I am very thankful that I face far more warm-hearted, encouraging, loving people… but unfortunately the bugs seem to stand out.

The weather was great out. There was a cool breeze, not too hot, not too cold. I knew I could get a good ride in before dark so I set out. Without realizing what I was doing I headed for the lake. I paused thinking, Won’t the mosquitos be heavy by the lake? But the wind was pretty steady, so I went for it anyway. As soon as I made it far enough for it to make no sense to turn back I hit the SWARMS of bugs. I think we learned in science last year that they are called “noseeums”. No-SEE- ums. The pastor takes a church based on where they feel called, where the doors open, and how the spirit moves as they “interview” at the church. Of course the bugs don’t come out, they lay low, they are the no see ums. When you move into your new home, and dream of showing Christ to your neighbor you don’t realize just who your neighbors might be. They are the no see ums. The gnatty side doesn’t come out until after the honeymoon phase.

These bugs (people) could care less that you’re soaring along, wind in your hair, feeling ministry is just so easy. They fly right into your eyes. They cloud your vision. Telling you you’re not making changes fast enough, or WAY too fast (for pastors), or they start complaining that your kid left their bike out in the yard. They cause you to squint, glare, and close your eyes. They could care less that you can no longer see where your going. Will you let your vision be clouded?

Just as you pick up speed, a huge moth flies right into your face. You’d think you’d be able to dodge it, but moths look so gentle… until they smack you upside your head! Nothing hurts worse in ministry than those you love, the ones you feel God put in your path to minister to (whether it’s your congregation, the youth, your sunday school class, or your coworkers) would rather smack you around instead of following you. Here you thought white angelic, soft little moth was “cute”. They wreak havoc on your life, and your ministry.

So as you’re pedaling along on the path of this ministry, you hit some hills (be sure to see what I think about these angry hills, by reading my previous post mentioned above), and if you’re like me, you crank up the music and sing along. My feet pedal faster as my spirit lifts higher… so I do the obvious, I open my mouth and sing. I’d bet you can tell where this is going.  If you open your mouth, the bugs fly in! You hack, you cough, you spit… but the taste is still there. The bugs in your life, and ultimately in your ministry leave a bad taste in your mouth. 50% of the ministers starting out will not last 5 years. 1 out of every 10 ministers will actually retire as a minister in some form. And 4,000 new churches begin each year while 7,000 churches close. Bugs can leave such a nasty taste in your mouth, that some stop ministering completely.

And right when you learn your lesson, and decide to breath through your nose, you begin to inhale the pesky bugs. Without some type of protection, bugs will take your breath away. I’m not sure that these swarms of bugs set out to make my ride miserable. I’m not sure they had me in mind when they got all buggy, but their actions still affected me. And I realized I needed protection. I need a nice bike helmet with a shield. Like I was a motorcyclist. But what if you’re not on a bike, but just trying to follow what you feel God has called you to do?

Wear protection… maybe I should reword that. Protect yourself and keep ministering.

Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world (maybe they are called “noseeums”), against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.

 Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm.  Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness.  For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared.  In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil. Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

 Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere. (Ephesians 6:11-18) **italicized words were added by me**

The ministry will always have them. But with our full armor, I think we can save our vision, our faces, our breath, and save us from eating bugs!

Oh, and let’s not forget the beginning verse of this passage. Verse 10 says

A final word: Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.

Keep biking/ministering… it will make you stronger! Be STRONG in the Lord! His mighty power is worth it!

THIS IS WHAT I NEED!!!

THIS IS WHAT I NEED!!!

 

**Disclosure… We are so very blessed in our current ministry, and I am in no way, shape or form implying that our church is full of bugs. But I also know that as we grow, and continue to teach, our church, as with most churches are not immune from such bugs. I do not have specific names for my bugs, but over the past 15 years, I’ve seen enough to understand the analogy God showed me as I was fighting off the swarms on a July evening bike ride.

 

THIS is my town!

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This is my town, the town I feel God called us to be in. These are the streets to my town, the streets we’ve been called to minister to.

We can preach, teach, and entertain. We can speak, shake hands, and advertise. We can connect, wave to  passersby, smile big. But without prayer, these things are useless. Prayer changes things.

About 6 weeks ago I attended a retreat for ministers’ wives. The speaker spoke of her passion for her town, and her passion for fitness. She combined the two by running the streets of her town and praying over every house. This struck a chord with me. Although I don’t believe every idea works for every person, I felt this one was being spoken directly to me. I can’t run. But I have a bike! My town may not be a metropolis, but for an overweight lady with a standard bike (no gears for those uphill battles) my small town was a challenge just for me.

I set out to bike every street in my town, to pray over every house within the city limits of my town. I set my Pandora station to a collection of worship stations, and went to town on prayer for my city. The time and distance were VERY enlightening.Image

3 weeks, 75.2 Miles, 15:59 hours, and 10,736 calories later I learned so much about how God wants to use Crossroads Church in this community. Although some of those things are still in the works and I’ll update the successes as they come, let me share with you some general insights I gained.

I was so gung-ho about tackling my challenge, but finding the time to fit into my current life was a struggle. I had to make sacrifices. I had to ask my husband to understand my desires and ask him for help. He would often (ok, almost always) clean up after dinner so I could go out and bike. Or he’d put the kids to bed for me. And often times I missed my favorite tv show to be out praying over my town. Ministry takes sacrifices at times. We may miss things from time to time. I’m not saying we should neglect the important things in our lives (family), but to make sacrifices to our comfort, our routine… to prioritize. And I had to ask for help in order to do it. I had to realize I couldn’t do it all. I couldn’t take my kids along, I couldn’t leave them home alone. I couldn’t neglect my responsibilities, but I could ask for help.

I set a goal to complete this challenge. But it rained… a lot! I learned to leave God in charge and to do what I could do, and let Him take care of the rest. The purpose for ministry isn’t to get OUR results, but to get HIS. To wait out the storms, and keep praying.

When I dawdled, I’d leave my house late. Even though I had a clear path set out for me, when I hesitated (tried to get more done before leaving), I’d be biking in the dark. Small town or not, cars speeding by a slow biker in the dark is scary. STAY IN THE LIGHT! don’t wander from His light. Ministry is safer in the light. *by this I mean, following His will for your ministry. When we veer, we lose His light, and that is a scary place to be!

There are HILLS! For every down hill, wind blowing in my hair, experience, there is a hill to climb. Sometimes I thought I’d have to get off my bike and walk it up a hill. I am so thankful I didn’t have to do that (*tip: count. I’d count my pedaling to get myself up those steep hills… with no gears on my bike!). Ministry has some STEEP hills. and although the fast pace, joyful wind in my face downhill ride was more relaxing, fun, and easier… the hills were going to come. It’s not always easy. Ministry can be hard! Pedal fast (pray hard) during the downhill times, and you’ll find yourself half way up the hill before the pain sets in… and do it often enough and those hills won’t seem so big anymore.

Speaking of hills. There were times when I could have grumbled that I didn’t have a bike with the neat-o gears that would help me up those hills. But I was reminded that God doesn’t call us based on the equipment we have. He equips us where we are. Our church is small, our resources are limited. But we won’t let that hold us back! Ministry can be just as effective regardless of the equipment you have. God is all you NEED. So thankful for the bike (given to me), I’ll use what I have and keep trekking forward.

In order to reach EVERY house within the city, I found myself doing a complete 5 mile ride for ONE house. Image

Ministry is worth it even if we only reach ONE! I prayed I’d go the distance for ONE family… For ONE mother… for ONE child… for ONE lost soul. This particular route led me to switch directions and I found 5 more homes to pray over. They may not have met the “inside the city limits” , but they were houses that I just couldn’t pass up. ONE may eventually lead to many… go the distance!

 

I completed this task about 10 days ago. And my first couple of bike rides following felt meaningless. I didn’t know which way to turn, what path to take, or if I was motivated enough to finish out a worthy workout. I pray that is the case with our ministry. That without a purpose, I feel lost. That that will motivate me to stay focused on what God’s purpose is for the ministry. Doing church for the sake of doing church is meaningless.  We can preach, teach, and entertain. We can speak, shake hands, and advertise. We can connect, wave to a passerby, smile big. But without purpose, these things are useless. Prayer changes things, it gives us purpose. What is God’s purpose for your ministry. You don’t have to be a pastor (or pastor’s wife) to have a ministry. What is God calling you to do?

I pray we see something big come from saturating this town in prayer. We plan on hitting the streets soon, and I pray I can share some wonderful praise reports soon. Until then… pedal on, ministers!

 

My evolution of Worship

When I made the decision to follow God, to live for Him, to allow Him to guide me, I learned right away that worship was a powerful thing. At the age of 13, I could feel that wonderful, yet very powerful, Holy Spirit at work during the worship aspect of Church. Sometimes it was warm and comforting, other times it was a heavy weight on my shoulders. I learned very quickly to enter in, or get out!

At age 13, worship was a learning process for me. I was learning how to listen to God. I was learning to follow His prompting. I was learning what to do with all the emotions that ran through me during that time. (When we youth pastored, we often saw teens that suddenly had to use the restroom in the heaviest part of worship. This was their physical bodies being uncomfortable with what their spiritual bodies were encountering. They were learning.) I either worshipped, or I would walk out.

At age 16, I became a worshipper. I no longer counted down the minutes until the song service was over, instead I was free to raise my hands, or lower my head, or fall on my knees, however the spirit led. I loved every note, I loved singing and truly worshiping. I would grow with each church service as I really listened to God speak to me. I felt called into ministry not during a sermon, but during the worship time.

At age 20, I attended a Christian College. I loved chapel services. I set my work schedule around the chapel services each day. The service was 40 minutes long. That left about 15 minutes designated to worship. I learned at this time to enter in quickly. I learned that if I wanted to gain the benefits of true worship, I could not wait for the perfect song sung by my favorite worship leader. I had to walk in, begin to sing to God and enter in. I never felt like it was enough, but I learned quickly to get as much as I could out of worship in the little time I had. It was at this time in my life that in the midst of worship God spoke to me and shone a supernatural light on a gorgeous man pacing at the altar in prayer. The lifeline that God had established between me and Him during worship was used to show me the man I would marry. (unbelievable, yet SO amazing!)

By age 24, I had allowed myself to get too dependent on songs, great singers,  and “the right atmosphere” in order to enter into worship. I got bogged down with ministry, busy with work, weighted down with the things that come with life. I still worshipped, but it wasn’t the same. I walked through the motions, had few breakthroughs, and didn’t anticipate it as much as the 10 years prior.  I would have never known this was where I had allowed myself to fall had it not been for a church that loved worship. Pastor and I had taken a new youth pastorate and the church was a church of worship. I felt myself starting all over. I had to relearn to worship. I had to learn how to let go and surrender and allow God to take over. I had to learn that worship wasn’t just about me. It was about us! About God and me! I had to relearn the convicting power the Holy Spirit holds. I had to relearn how to deal with that conviction. I had to learn again how to enter in no matter what the circumstances. Oh, how I praise God for teaching a forgetful student. I believe that church, and their obedience to God, and their openness to worship SAVED MY LIFE!

At age 26 I found myself and my worship loving church under attack. Our worship was being threatened. It was a time in my life where I fought for my worship time. I moved my physical body away from those who would not allow my spiritual bodies to be moved. I pressed forward even when the circumstances were purposefully attempting to hold me back. Worship became a lifeline, a sacred time, something I NEEDED to fight for.

At age 29, I had a 2-year-old and an infant and worship was not an undivided event any longer. Our church at the time kept the kids in the worship service. So Pastor would be on the stage leading worship, and I’d be cuddling a baby while chasing a 2-year-old. Life wasn’t easy, church wasn’t easy, and worship wasn’t easy. I had to worship differently. I had to find time at home, in my car, late at night, or in the few minutes where my son was building with bibles beside me and my daughter was fast asleep in her carseat. It wasn’t ideal, but I craved worship.

Now, at a (VERY) young age of 35, I find myself at our very own church, where my FOUR children are now sitting beside me as we worship. I’m a seasoned worshipper. I’m an educated worshipper. I am a lover of worship… yet, I am a distracted worshipper. To put into perspective of what I mean, this is how my worship experience went today… First song, I was snapping fingers on one hand with another hand raised in worship. I was shushing in between my words of affirmation to God. The 2nd song, I had my 2-year-old entertained, my (soon to be) 4-year-old looking for ‘Rs’ in the Old testament, my 7-year-old sitting at the end of the pew, and my 8-year-old beside me and I got one whole song to myself. I cried for it had been so long. I closed my eyes (with an occasional one eye opened ), asked God to speak, and reminded Him how much I love and adore Him, His presence, and the life He’s blessed me with. I was able to raise both hands, let loose and sing my heart out (oh, I’ve learned by now that if I want to sing loud, I should! God loves it, and worship is for Him, not the people in the pew in front of me!). It was heavenly. By the 3rd song I was giddy (it’s amazing what a 3 minute uninterrupted corporate worship time can do to a person). I was on such a “super”natural high that I continued worshipping as my 4-year-old applied fake fingernail polish on each of my fingers, blew them dry, then proceeded to put on tons of pretend makeup all over my face (which she also blew dry with her mouth). But oh, how heavenly it was to close my eyes, give God my attention in church. I loved it. My fake makeover and my spiritual one! By song 4, my 2-year-old was screaming because the 4-year-old walked in his row and touched a car. The 4-year-old was upset that she couldn’t play with his cars and my worship experience was over.

Worship evolves. It won’t always be the perfect scene, the number one song, sung in the perfect pitch. But it’s always available. I worship while loading the dishwasher. I worship in my shower, where kids can not come in. I worship in my bed that last 5 minutes before I drag my tired body out of bed. I let the vacuum stand alone for a bit while I step back, raise my hands, and pour out my worship on an almighty God. I worship in my living room with my 4 tiny worshippers. We dance, hold hands and shout the lyrics. We worship.

Don’t let life get in the way. Don’t let circumstances keep you away. Even if you have to worship with one eye open… just worship.
We love that our kids get to be a part of worship. I’m watching my 8-year-old enter in in his own special way. I get to see my daughter when she feels that spirit lead her. They are beginning their worshipping journey. And I pray they will write their own worship story, for worship is a lifeline. So, find some time, a quiet corner, or just set out to worship even through your distractions. Just Worship!

Simply_Worship

For the purposes of this post, I am using “Worship” with the meaning of the song related part of a church service. Yes, I believe that worship comes in many forms. When we read our Bible, when we pray, when we tithe, when we listen to a sermon we are worshipping, but I am specifically speaking about the song portion of a service.

Believe in the Magic

This is the most wonderful time of the year. I love the decorations, the parties, the full shopping malls (yes, I love a crowd). I love the family time, the excitement that comes with the anticipation and ultimately I love the meaning for this holiday, Christmas. We see in the Bible that Jesus has always been. He wasn’t merely born into existence. He has always been. And the idea that he left his eternal home, heaven, to dwell among us here on earth is such a sign of love to me.

I am so saddened when this sacred holiday is treated with such idolatry. Get ready to be offended… then take a deep breath and hear me out as I promise I speak in love (or type…), But the hype with Santa is, indeed, idolatry. Many people replace the true meaning of Christmas with the idol worship of Santa.

Idolatry:

  1. idol worship: the worship of idols or false gods
  2. extreme admiration: excessive admiration or love shown for somebody or something

(according to the Bing Dictionary)

Many people think idolatry is when you bow down to a statue, or rub a fat man’s belly before eating chinese food… but God defines it throughout the Bible.

I liked what this website said about idolatry (http://www.ucg.org/bible-faq/what-idolatry)

 In the King James Version of the Bible, there are three different words translated as “idolatry.” Each one ( teraphiym ,  kateidolos  and  eidololatria ) has at its core the concept of serving or worshipping something other than the one true God. 

So idolatry is not just venerating a statue, carving or painting. Idolatry occurs when we begin to value anything more than we value God. If we spend more time thinking about our hero than God, that’s idolatry. If our every thought is about the latest gadget or our personal appearance, that’s idolatry. If the first priority in our lives is our family, even that’s idolatry.

When God said, “You shall have no other gods before Me” (Exodus 20:3),  He wasn’t just talking about the imaginary deities that seem so ridiculous to us today. He was talking about  anything  that usurps His place as number one in our hearts”

I couldn’t have said it better. I’m not saying that these behaviors aren’t prevalent all year round. But it really roars it’s ugly head around this most wonderful, godly, and pure season.

Jesus came to earth to bring light. To be truth in physical form. He came representing truth, promoting truth, and proclaiming truth.(John 14:6). To celebrate His birth, parents lie to their children and promote Santa. Santa becomes the reason for the season. And without trying to sound like the cliché… this is a lie… Jesus is the reason for the season.

Our emphasis on Santa goes against so many concepts Jesus’ life represented.

  1.  Naughty or Nice… If your nice, you get a nice and wonderful gift from Santa… if you’re naughty, you get coal. Jesus says salvation is a gift and can not be earned. We were all sinners, we all fell short, and yet, we gave the biggest gift of all. His life. (Rom6:23) Santa promotes that we can someway earn gifts… and really, how many parents really withhold gifts when their kids are naughty? That’s just not following through on your threats, and basically that’s poor parenting. :(

**And with this goes the faulty idea that good kids get gifts, bad ones don’t… but what if a family can’t afford gifts, but their kids are very well behaved? How does that play in? Are they being punished for the salary of their parents? Are wealthier families who are able to buy their kids bigger and more gifts families who have “better” kids than the family who can only afford a small toy car?

2.  Being “Nice”… Many have a little elf that reports back to Santa the behavior of the household (lies always breed more lies). We teach our kids to think about everything they do and be sure their actions, thoughts, and emotions are pleasing to God. We emphasize that we do all things for His glory, not to please men… yet Santa promotes (only at THIS time of year) to be good so you can make it to his Nice list. During the celebration of Jesus, and His life, children are asked to behave in a manner to please some lie.

3. anti santa

If this isn’t idolatry, I must know nothing. It seems at this time of year (again, I remind you is supposed to be a time to celebrate Jesus’ birth, His life. ) so many people want to give credit to Santa. Sorry, Charlie Brown, but Santa had nothing to do with your blessings. He did not come to die for your sins, to give you the gift of salvation, and make a way for you to have a home in heaven. Santa broke into your home, ate your cookies, and left material gifts…  James 1:17 reminds us that “Every good and perfect gift is from above”  No one NEEDS Santa. But everyone needs JESUS!
Credit is given where credit is not due. My husband works hard all year round. Mommy cuts coupons, buys second hand, and does without so we can bless our kids at Christmas time with a gift. Santa had nothing to do with it. Jesus blessed us financially to be able to afford to buy a gift for all 4 of our children (and each other most years), and we give HIM glory for that provision. Santa had nothing to do with it. We worship idols when we give Santa credit for what God clearly provides.

4. Lists a mile long. Children are encouraged to make lists of what they want. Commercials are increases so we can add to our never ending lists of what we want. me me me, more more more. Colossians 3:5 lists covetousness and greed as idolatry. I’m not saying it’s wrong to say you want this or that on occasion. What I’m focusing on the emphasis we put on this covetousness this time of year. Christmas has become so much about the gifts, and less and less about WHO THE GIFT IS.

Idolatry is when we put anything above God. When something has taken the place of God, it crosses over into idolatry. When we change the meaning of Christmas to mean something outside of the celebration of Jesus’ birth, we’ve made an idol. I’m aware not everyone is a Jesus lover, and for you, you have a different meaning for “Christmas Magic”. And to you, this entire message was not written. But for those of us who strive to live for Jesus. Let’s be very cautious of not making Santa above Jesus.

I am totally against lying to my children. I remember when I learned the truth about Santa. I sat and brought up all the different lies I was told about him, and I was devastated that so many adults lied to me, and some told some mighty elaborate lies.  Then I questioned what else they had lied about. If I had never seen Santa, but those I trusted told me he was real… how do I know they are telling the truth when they tell me that I need to just “believe” that Jesus is real?

My husband began to ponder the “lies” as acceptable. If adults were allowed to lie, surely he was allowed. If it was okay as long as no one got hurt, then he could begin to tell others lies… as long as no one got hurt. And basically neither of these scenarios  are what we’d choose to teach our children.  But even beyond the lie… Santa has become an idol. Many say it’s a fun game… I say it’s inconsistent to what we choose to teach our kids all year round.

We teach our kids about the Christmas magic.

Magic: the power of apparently influencing the course of events by using mysterious or supernatural forces.

The birth of our Savior;  the one who came to save a flawed people was a supernatural experience. His power changed the course of events. When Mary brought forth life, that life extended into our lives today .He came to proclaim good news to the poor. He was sent to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness  the prisoners. THAT IS MAGIC!

The world’s Christmas slogan is to “Believe”. When we believe in the falsities of Santa, we are worshipping idols. Use this season to teach your kids to believe in the true Magic. The birth and life of a sinless savior who gives what we do not deserve, who is the giver of all good and perfect things, and who gives us all we need, and many things we even want.  Don’t let the season get wrapped up in make believe, but instead be sure the light shines brighter on the Light. (the Way, and the Truth).

And Merry Christmas to you, I pray it’s the most joyous time of year for you all. I pray you all feel His Magic during this sacred season.jesus-the-true-light-of-christmas

 Feel free to leave me a comment, just know I speak in love, and would appreciate you do the same. :)

Just Do IT!

My girls recently asked for “Little House on the Prairie” dresses. We searched and searched for dresses, knowing that I was not a good seamstress. After realizing I could not make the “Laura Ingalls” collars, or the perfect Pinafore (which I looked up the technical term for those, so I wouldn’t call it an apron), I started looking for something simpler. I googled “easy to make girls dresses” and I read read and read some more. I spent a full week in research. I read every blog, pattern, and comments section. Finally, I took the girls to pick out their fabric. I found a pattern in one of the books, however, it was $14!!! So we passed on that and decided to research more.

The fabric was bought, it sat in the Hobby Lobby bag. And it sat. And it sat some more. I stared at it as I read more and more blogs on how to sew. It sat while I watched youtube videos learning how to do a basting stitch. It sat while I googled what pinking sheers were. It sat while I compared what was best, pinking shears, serger, or a zigzag stitch. (I don’t have ANY clue about serging!!!) The bag of beautiful prints and colors just sat while I stared at my sewing machine and contemplated my plan of action. FOR DAYS!

There comes a point in life when we can’t just research, plan, and ponder without DOING IT! We do Bible studies on how to find God’s will for our lives. We ask other’s opinions, we weigh our hopes, dreams, and gifts all while they sit in a bag unused. We have a huge desire. Our heart aches, but yet we hold back because we don’t think we know what we are doing. We don’t feel we have the resources, the history, the know-how to carry out this calling God’s given.

The great thing is… if He calls you, He also equips you! And that is just awesome! If He calls you to be a preacher, he’ll equip you with the sermons to preach. If He calls you to be a teacher, He will give you skills to teach. If He calls you to adopt, He’ll provide the stamina it takes to go through the endeavor. But you have to JUST DO IT! You’re sermons will not come out of your mouth if you do not open it. Your classroom will not appear when you do not do the work to obtain a job with a classroom.  Adoption paper will not be signed if you do not actually sign them! God allows some things to done on our part. He can line things up just right for the path to go smoothly, but if we just sit and stare at the path, we will go no where… We must JUST DO IT! Then watch how God uses us! Watch and see the wonderful benefits from taking that leap of faith. Move as He leads and dwell in the fact that you are taking every step toward a beautiful masterpiece.

James 1:22 Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. (emphasis mine).

So, I sewed. I followed this bloggers instructions to a tee.  I dove right in. I took my time. I read and reread my instructions, and I trusted even when I didn’t understand what it said.  (read into that… The Bible is our instruction manual. Dive right in. Take your time. Read, reread and trust when you don’t understand.)

I made mistakes. But the fabric (and design) was forgiving. (read as, we all make mistakes, but God is gracious and forgives. His love covers over a magnitude of sin)

And at the end the mistakes were only evident to the creator, the dress blessed my daughter. Her ooohs and ahhhs were beautiful. There are times we make mistakes. God works on us all individually. But when we set out to serve, to do God’s will, we can bless others beautifully. As we learn and grow our mistakes become less and less. But the blessings grow in their beauty.

Just as I should, I needed to learn to do this project. I needed that research. I needed to define terms I didn’t know. I needed to know how to use what I learned… that is a given. But there comes a point where we need to start doing what we’ve learned. Listen carefully for the green light!

So… It’s time to DO. What’s in your heart? What has God been nudging you to try? Is now the time to dive in? JUST DO IT!!

There is a long list of things I did wrong... but I did just enough right to create the awesome dress for my awesome 3 year old!

There is a long list of things I did wrong… but I did just enough right to create the awesome dress for my awesome 3 year old!

  • I didn’t plan for it to be a halter dress. It was supposed to have cute little buttons on the front, but I sewed the straps right in forgetting my original plan. It is super cute without the white shirt under… but well, it’s winter already here! So long sleeves and leggings for now!
  • I also measured for the bodice, not remembering that my cutie patutie has a much curvier bum than I think the original model had. So we had to tear some stitching and redo to get it on her… once over that curvy bum, it was adorable.
  • I also did not buy quite enough fabric, so it’s a tad smaller around than the original plan. However, I am not sure I would really notice a few inches.
  • Once it was on her, we noticed that there were two straight pins in the bodice that were sewn in. I had to cut tiny holes to free them. Silly me.. just proves how much more I need to learn!
  • I already had the thread, and the ribbon. So my total for this dress came to $8.09 (look for Hobby Lobby sales, and use your coupons!)
  • Thank you to Scattered Thoughts of a Crafty Mom for a set of instructions and pictures I felt I could really follow. I learned so much doing this project and I couldn’t be happier! Please visit her awesome blog and try a few crafts of your own.

I have one more to make for Lil. I’m hoping it will be easier and with even fewer mistakes. I can’t wait… neither can she!

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Think about such things

The world tells us to think positive. It tells us to keep our heads held high; to dwell on the good things. And on this, I’d like to agree.

Not always do we wake up with perfect hair, blemish free, and fresh roses to smell. We often times wake before our bodies want, to a mess we didn’t have time to clean up, and sometimes to kids who didn’t want to get up either. Our days don’t go as we planned, and the further we head into the day, the worse it seems to get. But think positive, right? Why is that so hard to do?

I recently listened to a great author speak about comparisons and how as women and as mothers we tend to compare ourselves to others to the point that we feel insecure and down about our actual lives. It’s true. We base our happiness on whether we measure up to others. We stay up late, get up early, set ourselves up for a tired sleepy day because we have to be busy like all the other moms in our circle.

if Sally says she crossed off twelve items on her to-do list when we only crossed off 3, we go to bed thinking of the complete loser we must be.

When we visit Nancy’s for a playdate and notice how clean and orderly her house is, we wake up the next morning thinking about the huge slacker we are for not getting to our messes the night before.

When June serves her kids a perfectly balanced meal, we cringe at the non-organic chicken noodle soup we are slopping up for our brood.

Instead of focusing on the fact that we crossed 3 major tasks off our to-do list while potty training, dealing with night terrors, and a sick husband, we dwell on the effects of the comparison on our lives. Instead of realizing that a clean home ready for company is not the same as a home a family lives in, we park our focus on the pile of laundry we have verses the hidden one they had. Instead of praising our children for behaving at a delicious dinner, we harp on the meal we could have made had we read more recipes.

However, the Bible tells us in Philippians 4:8, “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right,
 whatever is pure, whatever is  lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”

Think about what is true. Are your circumstances different? Probably!  Think about what is noble. Are you doing righteous things? Being virtuous? Are you a good person? Honorable? Upright? Are you a decent person? Focus on making yourself who God wants you to be. Not who God wants Sally, Nancy, or June to be. Think about what changes you may need to make in order to be the best YOU.

Think about what is right. Are you doing what is right FOR YOUR FAMILY? Then who cares what that family does? Think about what is pure and lovely. Ask God to make your heart pure, to seek Him with the heart He has given you. Make your own home lovely… to you. Are you comfortable? Then you have something to be happy about. If there is anything excellent or praiseworthy, think about these things.

You can praise God that Sally was able to accomplish so much, and that Nancy was able to have you to her wonderful home. Praise God that June’s family was blessed with a wonderful meal. But don’t take that to mean that you are unable to praise God for the things you were able to do as well.

It is said that social media is the  number one problem in this area. But it doesn’t have to be. It is OKAY to find the positives in your day (the true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent and praiseworthy things) and to focus on that. You don’t have to snap a picture of your messy living room and post it for all to see… but you can snap a shot of that awesome marked up to do list to remember the day THREE THINGS WERE MARKED OFF! Thinking of the positive things in your life is not “being fake”. I never look at a cute kid in a minion costume and think, “That mom is SO fake! As if her kid is ALWAYS this cute!” No, I smile, maybe I hit “like”, and I move on.

If you’re mantle looks awesome for fall, take a pic… who cares if your floor under the mantle is covered in Legos. Focus on the positives. Look for the good. If you need to write “Wake up, Shower, eat breakfast” on your to do list just to see them crossed off, DO IT! Train your mind to focus on the bests of the day.  (2 Cor 10:5). God gives you joy. Don’t let comparisons take that away. Focus on who you are in Christ… even if that means you aren’t the best housekeeper.

Stay off Facebook if it is tempting you to be downcast because you compare yourself to everyone else. Stop cruising pintrest if you feel “less than” because you don’t feel you measure up to the Pintrest Goddesses. Or choose to find your inner genius in what you ARE good at, and praise God for blessing you with that talent. And if you must… snap away, share, and smile at your accomplishments.
God made you YOU. Not me, or her, or her over there! YOU. And he loves you. That is something that has no comparison!

With that, I share my fall decor. It may not be YOUR style… but it’s mine. And I love looking at it. I love how it makes my home feel, and how it sets a warm tone for my day. And THIS particular time, there is no littlest pet shop animals littering the floor below… THIS time! But even if there were, I’m happy about THIS part of that room! What are you loving about your home? Your life? Your blessings? Think about such things!

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A Visitor in the Classroom

I do not come from a homeschooling family. In fact when I decided to do it I got a few “Are you really going to do that?” and “Well, you won’t do it forever will you?” I believe the more family know, the more they see that it is a reasonable decision. (well, at least that’s what I tell myself). So I know that the unknown was uneasy to some. And the idea seemed ludicrous at times. But I stood confident in knowing that these were MY kids and ultimately OUR decision. And each day I see them achieve, learn, and rise above I am confirmed in that decision. As each year passes I learn to dismiss those comments that disagree based on their lack of knowledge, and continue to press on.

However, there are days when my mother comes to visit and she is sitting in my living room the entire time my kids act up, run around crazy, refuse to listen, and I begin pulling my hair out in the middle of a math lesson. I try with all my might to teach simple predicates (on no sleep, mind you) while trying to calm a screaming toddler, while jostling a sleepy baby, all while being very self conscious about my mother watching it all. What is she thinking? Is she questioning my decision? Is she wondering if my kids ever learn anything? Is she concerned for my health? Does she sit wondering if this is how every day goes (which it doesn’t… but so far this year, every Friday is the same scenario). These days are the days where I stress myself out with the worry of what THEY think.

My mother does not judge my parenting. She sees my kids as they are… kids. She knows they are smart. She knows how it is to parent 4 children. My stress and self-conscious behavior is not HER fault. She has never accused me of being a poor parent, A lousy teacher, or a horrible disciplinarian. She may wonder how any work gets done in a home full of such chaos, but she’s not judging my methods. (at least I am almost 100% sure she’s not!) But still I sit there and pray that the kids would be perfect, that they will have all the right answers. That the younger babies will behave so I can show off my master teaching skills. I secretly want my mother to sit back and think, “WOW! She is the BEST mother EVER! She is so patient, and creative, and her kids are the best students I’ve ever seen!” But instead she sees me throw a stuffed dog across the room in frustration. She sees my kids goof off, scream, and misunderstand every word I say. She sees us skip art and social studies because well, I was just too tired to do it. And I finish thinking, “I’m pretty sure if my mother did not approve of homeschooling before now… “

So, today as I finish up my weekly progress reports, I see that my kids are right on track. They are learning all that we have covered. They play catch up better than anyone I know! I make notes on the previous week, what works and doesn’t work. How we may need to tweak the schedule, and how I feel I did as a teacher. And as I finish up, I pray over my newly set goals and I realize that those goals are not to please my family. They do not need to be set to please my husband, sisters, or mother. My goals are to follow a calling God has called me to.

Just as I sat and stressed over a visitor seeing the realities of homeschooling, I need to sit and focus on the one we invite in each morning. “Jesus, please be present in all we do. Teach us what we need to learn today, guide us to make right choices, lead me as I teach, comfort us when we make mistakes.” 

Seeing my mom in the room helped me to not scream and give up. Fridays are our hardest days. And they have been my worst day as mother and teacher. Yet having someone in my room observing, keeps me on track. But isn’t Jesus present at all times? Shouldn’t my behavior, motives, and mind be set on pleasing HIM. To run my day in such a way that if I saw it through HIS eyes, I’d feel I did well? So easy to forget, but we have a permanent resident in our hearts that guides us. He is watching. Are we who we want HIM to see? And when we don’t know the answer… just as my mom looked up “compound subject” for us when we drew a blank (talk about EMBARRASSING!) We can always stop, drop to our knees, and ask.  Is there really any other way to parent?

Thank you, Mom for not judging us. Thank you for not reprimanding me when I lost my patience. Thank you for being gracious with my unruly children. For loving us no matter how big of a headache we must have given. I appreciate your love despite my downfalls as a parent. And Jesus… DITTO!!! You judge our hearts, but guide us when we make mistakes. Thank you for the little patience I did have, and for your grace when I lacked. Thank you for loving my unruly children, and leading them even when they give ME a headache!

You’re presence is highly desired in all we do! You are ALWAYS invited! (Mom, you, too!)

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Lessons learned in Christian Life Academy

Well, first things… we named our homeschool. I’ve been praying about it all summer. To have a missions statement, and to sum it up in the name of our school. Naming your school isn’t always SUPER important when the kids are all 3rd grade and below. But I’ve read it can be important for highschool transcripts and college admission… Anywho, we named it. Christian Life Academy. It sums up everything we want for our school. Although academics are important, it is not the MOST important to us. Raising children who follow heart and soul after God is THE most important. Seek first the kingdom of God and all these things will be added unto you. To teach how to praise God while pushing through difficult math problems is more important than figuring out how to divide. The division will come with practice… and so will the self control.

So… what did we learn our first week of classes?

1. That schedules will not always work. Sometimes things take longer, sometimes things are caught quickly. Sometimes I just need to let school go until dinner time, take breaks when appropriate and move on when allowed. When pressed for time, stress triggers yelling. Yelling does not portray love. Love is the point! Glorifying God is my goal!

2. Not every topic is as easy to comprehend as I think it should be! Sometimes I need to reword, use an illustration, act it out, or give up. It is more important to come back to a problem, to allow the student to figure it out on their own, or to try again later than it is to push to the point of yelling. Yelling does not portray love. Love is the point! Glorifying God is my goal!

3. Silliness occurs. Sometimes it occurs in the middle of trying to explain the concept that is not easily comprehended! Although these moments need to be addressed, they need to be addressed in a proper way. Yelling is not that proper way. Yelling does not portray Love. Love is the point! Glorifying God is my goal!

4. Messes are made. The academy part of our name is to show our love for education. It does not come ahead of seeking God, but it is the 2nd most important part of why we homeschool.  So it’s important for the teaching to be done, and when momentum and motivation FINALLY comes to my students, I need to take their lead. If that means the babies dump foam pieces all over, then so be it. I need to let that go. Although messes make my temper rise, it is MY  issue, not my students. Teaching my children to clean up their messes is also my responsibility… yelling does not teach. Yelling does not portray love. Love is the point. Glorifying God is my goal.

5. Homeschooling is a privilege. It may not always present itself as fun as public school to my kids. The decision to homeschool was solely the decision of my husband and me. It is not fair to my students to learn under my frustrations, my lack of self control, my temper. Love is the point! Glorifying God is my goal. NOTHING ELSE!

I glorify God when math is too hard. I glorify God when I allow Him to work outside of my schedule. I glorify God when I am able to creatively teach my children things they do not understand. I glorify God when I deal with disciplines in a godly manner. I glorify God when I think more about the purpose of the day than get side tracked with my own over extended expectations. I glorify God by obeying him in homeschooling my children. This means I love. I portray LOVE. I practice love. I demonstrate love. i personify Love.

So although alphabets were learned. Alphabetical order was learned, math was reviewed, and history was taught… I learned the biggest lesson of them all.

So honored to have this right. I enjoy it immensely. It is the hardest thing in my life right now. But also the most rewarding! God gave them to me. I want them to see the love I have for them, the love of teaching them, and the love I have for God. Lord, help me to portray that in all I do!

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The time has come…

Well, it’s happening. I didn’t think it would, but it has. I feel I’m doing pretty good, but then there are times when I shed a tear or two. I covered my decision in prayer, I felt 100% sure. I STILL cover it in prayer and I STILL feel 100% sure, but it saddens me. I’m sure it’s masked by another issue I’m noticing, but it is coming out in this particular form…

I am getting the baby itch! I don’t want to HAVE another baby… but I want to have another baby! I don’t want to be pregnant, or deal with a newborn again, but I’m itching to hold a tiny adorable little baby in my arms again. To cuddle in the rocking chair, to smell newborn hair. To kiss tiny toes, to hear tiny little snores.

But in reality, the issue isn’t that I want another baby… because honestly I don’t. The issue is that I don’t want my existing babies to grow up! It’s odd, really. I love that Z-man is growing to a young man. That he is so close to running to the store for me (and when I say close I mean maybe in the next 2 years). I love that my Lil’ Jewel is turning into a young lady with her own ideas and creative mind. I love that my Rainbow is growing away from the terrible threes and into the Fabulous fours! But then there’s the “issue” of the baby. He’s daily outgrowing the name “baby”… and I’m struggling big time.

When Z was 1, I was expecting Lil. When Lil was 2, we were planning on #3. When my Rainbow baby finally came along, we only waited a year again before the baby came… so we are approaching a new path in our lives. Once baby turns 2 (which I am giving up the idea that I can keep him from doing that), there are no plans for another. There will be no plans for another, and there will not be another. This is our family… now we grow up, not grow out.

Baby clothes will be sold. Baby toys are sorted out into garage sale piles. Diaper-free home has a count-down (this is VERY exciting!). And although I DO look forward to our lives together as we grow older. I still want my baby back. My current baby talks in full sentences. He undresses himself. He has opinions, attitudes, and a great sense of humor. The child he is morphing into (right before my very eyes) is amazing. But he’s big. And he’s independent (although he is still pretty attached to mama… and I love it!), and he isn’t stopping. He’s still growing, maturing, and getting further from the stage.

Heidi St. John over at thebusymom.com said it perfectly, and it really has been burned into my mind this week… “It’s impossible to grasp the brevity of the life we live.  I wonder, if we knew how fast the time goes, if we would stop longer, linger more.”

And as busy as life can get with a boy growing into a young man (I’m not ready yet to admit he’ll someday be a man), a girl growing into a bright young lady, a toddler emerging into a budding preschooler, and a “I-uncha-mama” kinda baby it is easy to rush through thinking, “I’ll take time to enjoy them this weekend, or over the summer, or when they have christmas break”. But instead, I want to stop and linger. Lay with a child and listen to their dreams. Ask a few more questions. tickle a few more ribs. Munch a few more cheeks. I can’t miss this. I can’t spend my time wishing they were still babies while I miss them growing into the person God created them to be. There are so many important “in-between” moments.

And, I’m with you Heidi St. John… She closes her “Move On” blog post (you can find it here) by saying, “I want to soak up the seasons of my life in such a way that it pains me to see them pass.” I’m moving on. No more babies. I’m okay with that… but I’m having a little growing pains in the process, and I’m okay with that as well.

Now, for my fab four… it’s okay to slow down a bit… help a mamma out!

Jump right in!

My kids are unique. Not just from other kids, but from one another. I am unique. I parent in ways that are not the “norm”. I can be labeled as a hover mom, helicopter mom, an over protective mom, or down right ridiculous. But what I most certainly am, is a praying mom. And I do the best I can.

Nothing makes a mother feel worse than seeing their child struggling and wondering if all the things people said about her is true, and have aided in the current struggle their children are facing. NOTHING!

I have made many sacrifices to stay at home with my family. One of those is, of course, money. I don’t make any. So when it came time to sign our kids up for swim lessons the money wasn’t there. It was important to me, but something I could not do. I thought I could teach them, but for whatever reason, the fear of drowning outweighed the trust the had that I would not drown them! And so My Lil’ Jewel would cling to the side and scream if we pushed her to get in the water. She would scream and cry and dig her nails into my skin until I relinquished and put her back on her shallow step. My First Born is a tad more daring, but only after he has tried it a LONG time.

So when we moved here we found that swimming lessons were about 1/4 the cost of the ones before we moved. So we signed them up! Last year they fell sick the week of lessons, so it brings us to this year. At age 8 and 6, they are taking their first swimming lesson. They are the oldest in their class, they have not noticed, praise God. I sat to watch only to see the oldest two in class were the only ones too scared to swim. Lil’ Jewel watched as all the other kids dunked their faces in the water and she began to shrink back and let her fear build. I watched from 50 feet away helpless. There was nothing I could do. Nothing I should do. Nothing I thought I should do. But I wondered, “Did I cause this?” “Did I foster some fear in her?” “Did my over cautious parenting plant a seed of fear in my children?” I couldn’t help but sit and cry at the thought that I may not be doing what was best for my kids. First Born wasn’t as scared, but still wouldn’t jump in, attempt to tread water, or allow the instructor to let go. I was not at all disappointed, but saddened that their fear was keeping them from the life they were intended to live… a life of abundance, a life of fun, a life free from worry.

We left swimming (we did make it through the entire lesson) I hugged them, encouraged them, and made sure they knew they were safe. We were able to talk about the fear, rationalize through it. Knowing that no one else in class drown, gave them some relief. They came home and  set goals for the next day. Lil’ Jewel was going to try to swim with the boogie board without clawing the instructor to death. First Born was going to try to dive in from a kneeled position instead of being pulled in. And I came home and cried… and cried… and cried. I prayed that God would guide me as I parent my kids through their fears. I stayed up late and prayed for their lessons the next day, that they would learn a valuable lesson in confidence.

The next day there were NO tears (from my kids at least!). My Lil’ Jewel jumped right in. She bobbed 10 times. She floated on her back with the instructor only holding her head. She was relaxed, she kicked perfectly, she got all her hair wet… and she swam with the boogie board!  First Born upped his game as well. He not only dove in, but kicked butt at all his skills. They were new kids. I was beaming with pride as they showed fear who was boss! I couldn’t help but to sit and bawl my eyes out at how God had cared for my babies.

When my Lil’ Jewel jumped in the water (without tears mind you) and back floated the length of the pool my First Born stood to his feet and began shouting, “You’re doing it, “Lil Jewel” (he called her by name, of course!)! Keep going. You’re doing SO great! You are the BOMB!” He clapped and cheered, and was genuinely proud of her! I was standing to my feet as I wiped my tears seeing her conquer a long-standing fear of hers. She did it… and He cheered her on. Parents all over the stands giggled, laughed, ooohhed, and awwwwed at how adorable he was, and how brave she was. When she was all done, they all clapped for her.

By the end of the week, she was jumping in the deep end, he was swimming with no assistance (front and back). He dove from the diving board, she was swimming on her belly with minimal support!

Who would have known that 5 days of swimming lessons could teach so many lessons in confidence.

Without going into a full-fledged post on my style of parenting, whether I over protect, or not… Ciske family_0117I have some awesome kids (and cute ones, too… do you see them!). They fight their fears, they have each other’s back, and they learn in record time. Their confidence to jump in the pool translated into no more “I’m scared of ______” trips down the stairs. It has transformed my First Born’s confidence to ride his bike full speed over the make shift bike ramp the neighborhood kids made. Their confidence to conquer their fears showed me that as I pray, God leads me to raise my kids the way HE wants me to raise them. That He is the only one I need to fear. I am not above making mistakes, but I have a gracious God. And what these kids taught me this week was to pray instead of fret, To be confident instead of fearful, and to give my kids more credit. They are made by Him, they love Him, and will be guided by Him. And, man o man do these kids ROCK!

Best week of homeschooling EVER!!! (but maybe I learned more than anyone else!)

Check in with other homeschoolers here, where I link up each week.homeschool journal