Anxiety and Trust Can’t Coexist

When I was eight years old I remember laying in my bed at night and crying over all the possible things that could go wrong. I cried for every person I knew that smoked because what if they died of emphysema? I’d stay up worrying about if my baby brother would grow up to like me, and I’d fret about mosquitos giving me AIDS (no joke, I was terrified!). I was never a risk taker in my teen years, too many things could go wrong. My biggest risky behavior was to drive a tad over the speed limit… and I got busted for it WAY too many times!

Fast forward to becoming a mother, and this anxiety hits in the deepest depths of my mind. I’ll never forget that moment that I first had the overwhelmingly panicky, fearful moment. My oldest child (only child at the time) was only about 7mo old and we were driving along Mammoth Mountain in California. The snow had piled so high along the sides of the road that the road was narrow and the cliff was right there! It was beautiful… to some… to me it was our death trap! The higher we drove on the mountain, the more I glanced back at my baby, and the more scared I became until finally I blurted out, “TAKE ME HOME!!! I WANT TO GET OUT OF HERE, NOW!” I shocked my husband and myself.

I do not have anxiety at a clinical level. But I have moments of complete fear, to the point of tears, and I begin to lose sleep over all of the what ifs. Last night was one of those nights. In about 3 weeks we’re returning to one of my kids’ favorite places, and one of my biggest fears. Wisconsin Dells. You see, for people like me, large crowds and 4 kids spark anxiety. Swimming pools spark anxiety. Add those things together and you’ve got it, I’m up at night with anxiety filled dreams, and a list of what ifs a mile long.

But, this isn’t our first time to Wisconsin Dells’ crowd filled, death traps upon death traps of water slides and pools (sorry… ), and it most likely won’t be my last. I made a decision a long time ago, as I’ve been dealing with this for 13 years now, not to allow this issue of mine to rob me of the wonderful fun my family has. It isn’t easy. My dreams are vivid, life-like, and scare me to the point of tears almost every single night leading up to this trip… but they won’t overcome me.

Anxiety and trust cannot coexist. If I want to honor God by trusting him with the things most valuable to me, my kids, I have to take captive every single anxious thought. Trusting God is not as easy as typing that out. It takes practice, discipline, and constant attention to the destructive thoughts that come in order to push anxiety like mine aside and choose to trust God.

Many people do not like this idea. They don’t believe they have control over the thoughts that come in their minds. They take the motto of “It’s too hard” instead of “Be anxious for nothing”. And to be honest, it offends them to read something like what I am typing. When we struggle to overcome something, the last thing we want to hear is that our trust in God is wavering. But there is the truth, and that’s what we have to look at. Anxiety and Trust cannot coexist. And in the midst of a late night battle with anxiety I have to make the choice to either dwell there, give into the thoughts, and feed the anxiety or to trust God to care for and protect my mind, and ultimately me and my children.

“But it’s so hard! The thoughts are so strong, and constant. HOW can I possibly drive them out!?”

We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. -2 Corinthians 10:5

So, First, read the Word of God and BELIEVE it when it says “Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.” (Philippians 4:6-8 MSG)

You have to replace the anxious thoughts with God trusting thoughts. Believe me there may be days where this is ALL you do in your mind. It’s gruelling, but SO worth it. In the NLT it says, ” Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.” Part of this process is to remember ways God has protected you, cared for you, and met your needs.

When my 2nd daughter was born I had a hard time laying her in her bed and leaving the room for the night. I was going through a really rough time, we had moved from CA to WI and had no jobs to support us. I was having some trust issues with God and one night when I simply could not pull myself away from her bedside I sat on the floor and cried. I said, “God! How can I trust you when we have no car, we have no jobs, and now two kids, what are you doing here!?” and right there on the floor of my infants room I hashed it out with God. He won of course reminding me of every time he’s met my needs. He reminded me that when I don’t trust, I pull away. And when I pull away, I put an unsafe distance between me and God. God never moved, but I took steps away. And once I began to thank Him for all He’s done, that peace surrounded me and I could trust my daughter in His hands.

I prayed that if something truly warranted my attention that I’d know the difference between anxiety and a call to action. That has proven itself many times over now and I know the difference in the feelings.

After two miscarriages and finally a very difficult pregnancy and an even more difficult birth of our 3rd child,  I found out I was pregnant with my 4th. Fear began to creep in. And I chose to not live in fear. So I took this verse in Philippians and put it to practice. Every fear that came up, every what if that tried to steal my joy, I turned into prayer. For example: When I did not feel sick one morning after having severe morning sickness the day before, instead of freaking out because my experience told me that meant miscarriage, I prayed, “I’m so thankful that I feel so good today, Lord. Thank you for the reprieve, but I’m scared. I’m scared that this is a sign of miscarriage, please take care of my baby. I give this baby to you for you hold his future in your hands. I TRUST you and will choose to trust instead of fret.” I did this many times a day. My delivery was so horrible with baby #3 and I’d fret the delivery of # 4 almost every day of the pregnancy, but I turned them into prayer EVERY.SINGLE.TIME until that peace came over me… and that delivery was the easiest of all 4. It was so good!

So I think of those times and I remind myself that God has taken care of our family from the very beginning and he will not stop now. When I wake up at 4am riddled with dream after dream of my children drowning or getting lost, or kidnapped while at the Dells, I get myself up and pray myself through immediately, even if that means missed sleep tonight… tomorrow will be better.

I also pray the scriptures. I believe the Word of God is true. And so I pull out a few scriptures and I pray out loud the TRUTH over my fear. I put my kids’ names in the spots where it makes sense…

Lord, I look up to the mountains—
For my help comes from there. 
My help comes from the Lord,
who made heaven and earth!
 
He will not let My children stumble;
the one who watches over them will not slumber.
Indeed, he who watches over my children
never slumbers or sleeps.
 
The Lord himself watches over them!
The Lord stands beside them as their protective shade.
 sun will not harm my children by day,
nor the moon at night.
 
The Lord keeps them from all harm
and watches over their lives.
The Lord keeps watch over them as they come and go,
both now and forever. (Psalm 121, bold print = changes)
I fill my mind with prayers of trust until there is no room left for thoughts of anxiety. And to be honest, this took me 90 or so minutes last night. It’s NOT easy… but the more you do it, the easier it gets.
God is a sympathetic God. None of us are perfect, and we’re all given our own set of struggles to overcome. God does not leave us to do this alone! He’ll walk each step with is.
For some anxiety isn’t an issue, for others, it can be a cancer. And just like cancer treatments can be aggressive, so must our course of action to overcome fear and anxiety. For some it’s not the safety of their children, but their checkbook, they fear and fret every time it’s time to pay the bills. They lose sleep over how they will put food on the table. For others it may be the drive to be perfect in all they do. They fear making mistakes and they live in this constant pull between the impossibility to be perfect, and their anxiety over beating that impossibility. Although the symptoms are different, the cancer is the same… and the treatment will always be to CHOOSE to be anxious about nothing and pray about it all.
I suspect this won’t be my only night where I have nightmares. I have 3 weeks before we have the time of our lives at the Waterpark Capital of the World. And I’ll need to up my prayer time each day we are there, but I’m committed to choose peace and trust. It’s what the Word says to do.
Below are a FEW scriptures you can turn to prayer as you choose to overcome your anxiety. I got this set from a bible.com (youversion App) reading plan called, “Praying through the Scriptures: Anxiety” I keep this plan on my phone at all times so if I’m struggling I know where I can find some good solid scriptural prayers. I know there’s more out there, feel free to share them in a comment!
I’m praying for YOU, too. Anxiety can be debilitating. Don’t dwell in it (it’ll grow!) instead, choose trust. And remember Trust and Anxiety cannot coexist.
  • Matthew 6:25-34
  • 1 Peter 5:7-11
  • Philippians 4:4-7
  • Proverbs 3:5-8
  • Psalm 46
  • 2 Corinthians 12:8-10

 

And if you think about me during the week of June 17th-20th, lift me up in prayer. I would never want to ruin this week of fun for my family because of my lack of trust. I have always enjoyed myself in years past, and I plan to do it again this time.

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This Mother’s Day… Remember

In the past few days I’ve packed up all clothing and toys that my kids have outgrown and laid them out for a garage sale. The process went something like this…

Step 1: Start in the basement and begin pouring over all the bags and boxes that have begun to accumulate. Pull out every piece of clothing, check the tag for size so you can organize… but hug each piece in memory of the time your child ____________. Cry here and there; laugh over something that reminds you of their cute little 3-year-old voice; cry some more, and then place in the box marked with the appropriate size.

Step 2: Repeat step one, but with every single toy in the house. Get your kids involved. Be proud of them for downsizing, but question them when they want to sell their most prized toy. Then cry when they say, “I’m done with that.” Try talking them into just a few My Little Ponies, or just one tiny collection of the “Super Heroes”. But ultimately box them up, tears and all. (Maybe sneak a few out of the box for future grandkids).

Step 3: Take your boxes to the garage where the sale will be held. Get a friend to join in your misery. As you take each piece of clothing out, tell your friend about the memory that each and every piece of clothing and toy brings to your mind. Cry. Listen to her memories. Cry some more. Tears with friends is acceptable!

Step 4: Begin to sell all your sweetest momentos one by one, 50 cents at a time. Tell the buyers all the cute stories each item brings to mind. Hold back tears. Tears with customers seems less than acceptable.

Step 5: Relive the experience, regret selling some things, and steal back a few items that did not sell… but most importantly close your eyes, have yourself an ugly cry (this is MOST acceptable!) and remember just how amazing this journey of Motherhood is.

Every memory, every feeling, every emotion those clothes and toys bring will STILL be there even when the items belong to someone else… because you never sell the memories.

Being a mother is such a crazy thing. We can love so strongly, get frustrated so easily, forgive instantaneously, and somehow manage to retain a lifetime of memories (x4 in my case).  These memories we have of our children may blend once in a while, “One of them use to say ‘Frog’ in the cutest way!” but others are so vivid in our minds, like how my son had his very own “Baby Spot” where he’d lay next to me in the middle of the night. He’d crawl into our bed, curl up in the curve of my body, and tell me that’s where he used to live, it was his “baby spot”.

We can relive panic moments like they happened yesterday, like when my son crashed into the wall at age 3 and exposed skull, and TONS of blood. I panicked. But then something kicked in and I immediately went calm and said, “I got this, I’m a mom!” And 13 stitches later, I felt that God had equipped me for motherhood.

We may not always remember each kid’s exact birth minute (sorry, I just can’t remember after baby 3… poor 4th born!), but we’ll remember the crazy giggles to the silliest things, like how funny my daughter thought she was at age 2 when she stole my cell phone and took pictures of the floor. Each click sound she heard brought a wave of mischievous laughter (which was contagious!)

We may choose to forget the mounds of laundry, although they may be a nightmare that haunts us for the rest of our lives… but we’ll never forget the sweet night-time smiles our babies give us in those wee hours of the night. My sweet daughter gave me many many smiles in the 18 times a night that she’d wake.

These memories, whether heart-warming, lesson-learning, self-encouraging, or life-giving will hold us in times of panic, frustration, exhaustion, and discouragement. They are God’s way of reminding us that these babies of ours, no matter how old they get, were given to us as a blessing for us. We become better humans because of them. We grow in patience, wisdom, endurance, and calmness. God helps us remember how He brought us through the sleepless nights of babyhood, so we can endure the sleepless nights of the teen years. God helps us recall the tantrum throwing 2-year-old emerging into a sweet and adorable 3-year-old so we can have hope as we battle with our 13 year olds. God brings to our minds the struggles and fruits of our sacrifices to remind us that He can get us through the remaining years of these precious gems in our care.

But ultimately God give mamas a special place to carry memories so we can be reminded of how completely amazing, and wonderful, and precious, and glorious, and abundant this life of a mother truly is. It is the sweetest blessing!

Happy Mother’s Day!

To the Overwhelmed Mama

It’s Mother’s Day week. This either brings excitement to your mind, or dread. You may be looking forward to an amazing day planned in your honor, or you’re preparing for unmet expectations… yet again. Well, I’d like to spend a few days this week encouraging Moms with some things I’ve learned  I’m learning on this journey. I’ve only been here for 13 years, and I know there’s this entire teen-mom thing just waiting for me (x4). But for now, let me share my heart at this stage.

Being a Mom of 4 (with an extra baby 10hrs of the day), I’m a tad overwhelmed. I may make it to church in time, and have most of the kids’ hair brushed and dressed semi presentable… but the chaos that gets us there is pretty overwhelming. There’s just so much to do. Laundry, cleaning, grooming, laundry, teaching, loving, encouraging, laundry, sports, shopping, feeding, laundry, breaking up fights, cultivating family bonding, laundry… and have I mentioned the never-ending loads of laundry? Even if I have the kids do their own, our schedule does not always allow for them to finish it all in one day, so the mounds begin to form, and the digging to find clothes adds to the frustration, then Sunday comes and no one has anything decent to wear… see, I’m getting overwhelmed just talking about it. But, the Laundry isn’t the only thing on the never ending list!

We are gearing up for a garage sale. And to be honest that was all because we’re really gearing up for family to come and stay for a couple of days in our home. So that means I want the bedrooms to be “guest-ready”. The problem is that My room and bathroom is downstairs, the Fab Four sleep and have a bathroom upstairs. Do you know the destruction that goes on when there is no parent living on the 2nd floor, just room after room of unorganized, hoarding, slime making kids!? If you don’t know… you don’t want to! It can get bad!

But I have to be honest, checking 4 bedrooms (oh how I’m blessed that each kid has their own room!!– But it can appear to be a curse!), 4 closets, a bathroom, a hallway, and the stairs EVERY DAY on top of everything else can be a tad overwhelming for me. I know that sounds lazy, and seem silly, but I also check 4 maths, 4 englishes, 4 sciences, 4 handwritings… I oversee 4 completely individualized curriculums, a baby who is here 40-50hours a week, sports schedules, doctor appointments, dentists appointments, and I’m married to the Pastor. And I don’t even have the energy to go into the work of the church.

Please hear me out, I LOVE this role as Mother (and wife, and pastor-wife). I really do! But, it can get so overwhelming. And so at the end of the day, there are days I’m just glad we made it. I’m just so thankful we all have smiles on our faces as I drag myself to the bottom step, cuddle them all, pray over them all, and send them to their beds. And as I lounge on that bottom step thanking God for those amazing little blessings, I snarl my upper lip, let out a sigh of exhaustion, and say, “Oh MAN, I forgot to check their rooms!”

So, day after day of that, when I FINALLY do check rooms, they are such a mess! And I drop my shoulders in despair as emotions of failure, inadequacy, incompetence and overwhelming unworthiness sweep over me. I can not mange bedrooms, I must be a failure as a mother! Lie number one!!!

Boy, did that escalate fast! But it’s true. We somehow equate being a good mother with how well we manage all the things that are piled on us day in and day out. We let messy playrooms, bedrooms, faces, and bottoms determine our self-worth. And just when we conquer managing the bedrooms, we notice those pesky stairs! HOW in the WORLD do stairs get so incredibly messy!?

But, that’s a LIE. Our success in motherhood has nothing to do with getting our kids to sports on time. It isn’t found in the cleanliness of our kids ears, or thank heavens the amount of times we’ve actually scrubbed that kids’ toilet!

You are a great mom because you love your kids. You are a great mom because you are pursuing a good life for your children. You are a good mom because you protect them, encourage them, love on them, and nurture them. You are their mother! Not their maid! And God has given you these blessings, not to overwhelm you, but to draw you closer to Him. My prayer life has increased exponentially since having children… even more so the more kids I’ve had.

Motherhood isn’t the most glamorous job in the world, but there is no better calling on this earth! And God never expected you to do this alone. I wake each morning and hit snooze on my alarm. It’s only 5 min, but I bombard heaven in those 5 minutes. I ask for patience, endurance, and a measure of Grace. I pray against the urge to be perfect, and for a peace to calm my overwhelming tasks throughout the day. I pray for my kids, and their walk with God that day, and I ask God to help them help me. It’s not a lengthy prayer, but it’s my way of reminding myself that it’s not my responsibility to walk this day alone. It puts before me the fact that God is on my side, desires for me to walk in His will, and will help me to do so. This doesn’t mean I don’t pray throughout the day as well… believe me, I am doing it often. “HELP, GOD!” “Protect this child!” “Oh God, I’m glad you love them! Remind them that I do, too!” and many many “Please forgive me, Lord” prayers! But nothing rejuvenated me more than that 5min prayer before I put my feet on the floor each morning.

Mama, be encouraged today! Know that God wants you to raise your kids in His love, and if you have to skip room checks in order to do that, then so be it… Just know even in the midst of the many sports trips, doctor visits, late night feedings, and all the ever-loving trash that comes along with motherhood, Jesus is walking this path alongside of you. He desires your company, and relishes in leading you as you raise these precious blessings He gave you. He chose this calling for you, He won’t fail to equip you to do it.

Praying for each of you lovely mamas this Mother’s Day. mothers-day

For those in the St. James, MN area, Crossroads Church will be starting up a Parent support gathering. These nights will be laid back nights for parents to come and meet other parents. If you are in the area, we’d love for you to join us. We will all be in different stages of parenthood… but we’ll share the same overwhelming feelings that come with the journey. June 10th at 6:00p will be our first gathering. If you’d like more information, please like our Facebook page so you can receive updates as the date comes closer.  Feel free to call the church office for more details as well. 507-375-5920 (leave a message if you want a call back)

Tenacious Tuesday: We Have ALL the Answers

I once spoke to a woman in her late 30s about her wavering faith in God. She was raised in a Christian home, and even though things were rough in her life, when it came right down to it what she had learned was carved on her heart. With every statement she said against the faith she grew up with, she was very quick to remember how real what she had learned was.

Was she brainwashed by her parents? Was the Word of God ingrained in her brain?
Brainwashed? No, but she was taught! And she was taught with such consistency that should could no longer deny the truth behind what she was taught. (per definition, you could say she was “ingrained”).

We teach our kids the Word of God on a daily basis. We read it, we point out how it applies to our lives, and we use it as a guide to parent.

But, to be honest there are times when these tenacious kiddos push every button and make us doubt everything we’re doing. To be completely and totally honest, even as a pastor’s wife… There are moments I tell God, “I’m not seeing this scriptures come to life!” However, without doubt, it’s because I’m not looking or because I’m not actually being consistent in living that scripture out.

The truth of the matter is that when you train up a child in the way they should go, when they are old they will not depart from it. The reality is that we’re supposed to teach the Word of God to our kids. Jesus specifically tells us to let the children come to Him. And as these kids’ parents, it’s our responsibility to introduce our kids to Him.

First, let me tell you how NOT to do this. DO NOT look at your tenacious child moments after the peak of their fit and say yell, “The BIBLE SAYS…” and then fill the blank with some mortal sin your kid has committed. The Bible is not a weapon. The Bible isn’t a tool for shaming your child. When the Holy Spirit convicts us with the Word of God, He does it gently, loving us into correction. And He never forces it upon us. We can not beat our kids up, using guilt, shame, and condemnation and think we’re teaching the Bible. Remember parents can guide, but they can not convict!

So HOW do you use the Bible for teaching the correct behavior?

1. Deuteronomy 4:9-10 tells us to pass what we know down to our children. Share testimony of what God is doing in your life, and what He’s done throughout your life. Share how you got saved, and what an impact the Bible has been on your kids.

It may look like this: “When I’ve been very angry before, I’ve noticed that if I sit quietly and pray that God helps me calm down. Once I asked Jesus to be the leader of my life, I started turning to Him to calm me. I may be calm now, but I wasn’t always.” Share stories of when God helped you through times of stress and anxiety. Focus on what God has done in YOU… not what you are currently seeing in your child.

2. 1 Timothy 4:10-11 Reminds us that we labor and strive because we’ve put our hope in THE Living God, who is the Savior of all people. And that we are to teach this. Be disciplined to read your Bible with your child every day. There are children’s Bibles, and children’s devotionals, and there is nothing wrong with those, but might I suggest reading strictly from the Bible. The NLT is very easy to understand, and you can pause and explain as you go along.

3. Deuteronomy 6:5-9 and 11:19 tells us to Teach the Word to your children. Talk about it wherever you are, sitting at home or walking in the street; talk about it from the time you get up in the morning until you fall into bed at night. Basically look for teachable moments where you can apply the Bible to life. You can use your own experiences or even things you see on TV, the news, or things you see in the lives of friends. Talk about it as often as you can. Remember what I said NOT to do. We aren’t using the Bible to condemn. We aren’t pointing out sins in their friends and shaming their friends. But we can show what the Bible says about certain topics that come up.

Although I do not own these products, I’ve heard amazing things about them. These products help find scripture that would line up with topics of everyday life. Check out Parenting with Scripture  by Kara Durbin or head over to www.virtuetrainingbible.com and build your own topical Bible. And of course you can always Google “What does the Bible say about ________”. (or ask Siri, or Alexa, or whatever electronic that answers your random questions). I teach this tool to my kids and now they can find scripture for whatever they are looking for.

4. Lastly, Scriptural instruction isn’t enough. Galatians 5:1 tells us to be imitators of God. Role modeling the Christian life, and your willingness to read and DO what the Bible says will go a long way! We all make mistakes, and we all know that God forgives, redirects, and guides us time and time again. Be real with that Tenacious Child of yours, be patient as God is patient (and even remind them of that). You can model this with simple scripts “I’m trying really hard to glorify God today, so I’m going to leave you to your fit while I go cool down.” or When things are stressful for you and good for them, you can say, “Will you please pray for Mama? I’m really struggling using my fruit of the Spirit. Will you pray that I can be strong in Jesus and use self-control during this stressful moment I’m having?”

If you do not already have a personal Bible Reading practice, now is the time to start. It’s powerful. I’m not a morning person, but I’ve been getting up early and getting into the Word more and more lately and it’s doing wonders in my life. Waiting until things are in full swing then reaching for my Bible hasn’t been working! But getting up just 30 minutes early was a great thing in my life. Search for plans on the app Youversion… or on Bible.com (they are the same!). But ultimately, just READ the Word. For more in-depth study, I HIGHLY suggest David Guzik’s commentary on Enduringword.com.   The Word of God is a living breathing lifeline! I challenge you to start reading today. Please email if you need help getting started! And let someone know you’re starting! Accountability is an amazing thing!

thepastorswifeslife@gmail.com

Join us on The Tenacious Child support Group on Facebook.

Read more about the Tenacious Child here.

Tenacious Tuesday: All over the Place

I have a lot on my plate today (and yesterday). I’ll be the first to admit, I need my man! When he is out-of-town, I notice, and lament! He left yesterday and we have covered 310 miles in two days dealing with all things unplanned. From broken bones to broken vehicle to surprise Tuesday Night plans, the past 48 hours have been a blur. And most of that time was spent in a car with bored children as I toted them to 5 different towns.

Life doesn’t always go as planned. Sometimes things are all in place and you can sit back and breathe deeply and feel just so content with the ways things are going. And other times life throws us so many curve balls we don’t even know where to aim to hit them!

So I sit here, in the quietness of my house munching on candy corn and sipping some McDonald’s coffee… 22050824_10155853326664430_1950326624_oat 9pm reflecting  on this day  these days.

Despite waking early, doing some school work with my older two, jetting off to finish school in a Tires Plus store, getting home just in time to get some much needed chores done, then running off to another activity where I got extremely lost (which just heaps mounds of anxiety on me) and getting home just in time for kids’ bedtime… I think I can say we had a good day. So I shocked myself and I sit here and wonder what did I do? My kids were cooped up the car almost all day… and most of yesterday, too as we tracked down an arm brace for a broken arm… and yet… we did pretty good!

Please don’t think I’m bragging. Well, I am… but not about myself and how great I did (I really felt the day was out of control!), but I’m bragging on my God, and the power of His Word.

I titled today’s Tenacious Tuesday “All over the place” because I feel that’s been my week, and my mind lately. As I was trying to come up with a theme for posting this week I just couldn’t decide between posting about the power of prayer or the power of the Word. And although I’d like to dive deeper into each one of those, today my mind just can’t narrow it down… and I don’t have to. They go hand in hand.

My weekly verse is Philippians 4:8. I can’t believe how often this verse has come up this week and it’s only Tuesday!

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.

The previous verses talk about prayer… another main theme in my life right now… but I read this verse and think, “How can I do this? How can I think of these things when so much takes up my thoughts.”
How can we fix our thoughts on things that are true and noble and right and pure when the world is so opposite? How can we think of things that are lovely and admirable when we are lost in a town we don’t know and kids are screaming and giggling shrill giggles in the back of the van? What if our plans are changed into things that aren’t excellent or praiseworthy? HOW are to we think about such things?

Well, we worry about nothing but pray about everything. We look for the peace that comes only from Him, and we dwell in it. We turn our negatives into positives just by going to the Lord in prayer. We stop dwelling on how our day didn’t go as planned… and we start dwelling in the one who has our steps ordered!

We pray… and we read His Word. The next verse says,

 Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

Whatever you have learned… So you go back to the Word, and you go over what you’ve learned… and you put it into practice.

I homeschool and multiple times a day I hear, “But that’s hard!” as if that should be a valid excuse for not doing long division, or spelling the challenge words, or perfecting cursive writing (yes, we still teach it!). Well, since when does something being difficult mean we stop trying? Sometimes we just DO IT!

It’s hard to put the things we’ve learned into practice. Perhaps you haven’t actually learned it, perhaps you haven’t “by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, presented your requests to God”. And because you haven’t, you feel all over the place.

This morning I had a 10a appointment to get my tire fixed… we had 45 min to get there, but when I got to the van, the tire was flat. I drove slow to the gas station and spent 15 minutes airing up that tire. I wanted to cry. I needed my man, he wasn’t there! I whined, I got frustrated, and by the time I was done, I was in pain from gripping that stupid air hose! But I got in the van, 15 min later than we needed to leave for the appointment and said, “Dear Jesus, thank you for this van! Thank you that airing up this tire will get us to our appointment. Now, Jesus, please take this worry from me, get us there safely, prompt me if I’m being unsafe, and guide the rest of our day.”

I made a choice. I stopped whining. I let go of the frustration. I gave my anxiety of being late over to God and when we got there, my van went straight in to be worked on! *It was even done in 30 min!

When I drove aimlessly around an unfamiliar town searching for the place I was supposed to be I was FULL of anxiety. I yelled “WHERE AM I!” one too many times. I felt frustrated at the lack of direction I was given, and I felt overwhelmed by the possibility of missing an event. And I pulled over, bowed my head and asked God, “Will you give me peace?” It was a simple prayer, but my aim was to think of something praiseworthy. And I looked up and could see my destination in the distance. It took me 2 tries to get to it… but I made it (and the event was wonderful!).

I may feel all over the place, but I know God is still on the throne, there to give me peace that surpasses all understanding.

So, what does this have to do with our tenacious kids? Well, I guess I just started writing, and I left it to God to take this blog post where it needed to go… and I suppose I never mentioned these tenacious ones… but, I can see where it still applies. We can set the example. We can calm their storm by showing them to fix their thoughts on things that won’t bring stress and anxiety.

And parents of tenacious children feel “all over the place” often. So, what will you choose? May I suggest something true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, or praiseworthy?

If you’d like to join us on our journey with The Tenacious Child… find out what it’s all about here or send me a request to join our Facebook group here. We don’t have to do this life alone. A New Design (2)

Tenacious Tuesday: Who Do You Listen To?

Recently, I had to send my tenacious child to her room to finish cleaning up (one day I’ll have to do an entire post on “bedroom cleaning”… but that’s not today!). She just did not want to do this. And so, of course, a fit manifested. Things were being thrown (and taken away), things were kicked (and removed from her room). And eventually, I just shut the door and sat at the top of the stairs about 5 feet from her room.

To be completely honest, sometimes remaining calm and methodical as we deal with these outbursts is SO exhausting. It breaks my heart, it forces me to keep my anger in check, and it makes me disappointed that my calmness didn’t “work”. She is STILL raging.

So I sat at the top of the stairs and cried, and prayed. And I listened to what she was saying.

“No one cares about me!”
“I’m NEVER going to get this room clean enough!”
“I’m stupid! I’m a horrible girl!”
“I don’t want to live here anymore!”
“I don’t think I even want to LIVE at ALL!!!”

**Now, it’s possible with kids like this that they are doing everything they can to hurt someone. She feels so big, and is such a loving child… but that also means with the huge capacity to love, she knows how to hurt. So it’s possible that when she says these things, she’s aware that I’m listening, and knows that it’ll hurt me to the core to hear her talk this way. We tell her we love her and care for her all the time. We never treat her as if she’s stupid, or horrible. I oftentimes say, “You’re an amazing girl. God created you to be that awesome! NOW act like it! Let your behavior reflect who you are… AMAZING!”

Also, many kids this age do not understand “suicidal thoughts” and they may say things for the shock value… however, I do not take these things lightly… So I called my husband up and told him what I had heard and we went in to talk to her and pray over her.

We told her that what we were hearing her say did not sound like things God would say to her.

And here’s the thing… I think this truth is not just for these kids like ours. This is for all of us. It’s easy to get down on ourselves. It’s the words we say to ourselves (either aloud or in our heads) that are so destructive.

“I’m such an idiot!”
“I’ll never get this down, I’m such a failure.”
“What’s the point? Why do I even care!?”
“Life is so horrible for me! No one cares, I’m all alone”
“I don’t want to do this anymore! I don’t even want to live….”

We think these thoughts, we mull over the words, until we feel so bad we just want to give up.

Is this the voice you’re listening to?

These things do not sound like things God would say to you. They are not things God would EVER say to you! And so you must choose to listen to the right voice. Just as we told our tenacious child, I am telling you, today. Things are not always easy. Emotions can flood our hearts and minds, but we are NOT slaves to them! We do NOT have to listen to them. Instead, we CHOOSE to listen to God’s voice.

God’s voice says,
“Do not be dismayed, for I am with you.”
“I have a purpose for you, a prosperous purpose.”
“I care, give me your burdens.”
“You may be a sinner, but I LOVE YOU!”
“You were worth dying for!”

We can get so discouraged by the actions of our children. We can carry that burden for too long, and take every fit, act of disobedience, or disrespectful tone to heart. We can see our children as our report card instead of our blessings. And we can beat ourselves up. But each time we do this, we are doing no better than that little 7-year-old girl sitting in her room listening to the wrong voice!

2 Corinthians 10:5 talks about taking every thought captive and bringing it into submission to God. It’s a discipline we must take seriously, and change right away. When those negative thoughts come across, stop them in their tracks. Do NOT linger on them. Do NOT agree with them, and DO NOT add to them. Correct your thinking. Search the Word of God and find the TRUTH.

You are not an idiot… you are learning as fast as you can. You are Jesus’ disciple, and you are learning.

You are NOT a failure. You are making progress everyday. Not every tiny step is noticed… but sooner or later you’ll begin to see the difference. Learn to rejoice in the journey.

The point is, this is your child, (s)he matters. God gave her/him to you, and He will equip you to raise this gift He gave you.

You are not alone! God will never leave you or forsake you. He sees the trial, and is already working with you to solve it.

Dear Mommas and Pappas,  when troubles of these kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy.  For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow.  So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing. (James 1:2-4)

Let God speak loud and clear in your life. If you begin to listen to yourself, or the enemy, you won’t hear the TRUTH that God is speaking to you. His desire is for you to have life, and life more abundantly.

Ask yourself, “Whose voice am I listening to?” If the voice isn’t saying what God would say, you know you’re listening to the wrong voice. Help your child to recognize when that voice isn’t God… be the example.

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If you’d like to learn more about the Tenacious Child… or to read the first tenacious Tuesday post, click hereA New Design (2)

Or Join our support group on Facebook.

The Tenacious Child

I would like to introduce you to “Tenacious Tuesday”. I’m fully aware that today is Wednesday, but when you have THAT child, and you don’t always get to do exactly what you want to do.

First… let me explain THAT child. My goal is never to speak to ill of ANYONE  or cause you to think less of them. I do not share this information without the consent of my child that I speak of. I also hate the term THAT child. I feel that if I were to speak to her in this way, she would lose hope that she can conquer this difficult time… so, again, with her permission, we’ll use that phrase until I get to the point where I’ve fully explained who THAT child is. **Just beware that there will be many disclosures within these posts.

Ok… back to THAT child. THAT child is the child that you struggle with the most. It may be your only child, it may be your oldest, or youngest, or like us, one of the middle. But it’s the kid that takes what you know about child rearing and throws it out the window… but not before ripping it to shreds, stomping on it and screaming at you for believing you knew anything at all. It’s the kid that has days, or unfortunately even weeks, where the only peace you get is when they sleep.

Don’t get me wrong, these kids are amazing. Mine is smart, SO caring, hilarious, and I can honestly tell she has a huge desire to please God. She loves church, she loves worship, she reads her Bible and I can visually see how she tries to put it in action. But she struggles. Her temper gets the best of her and her rage goes out of control.

I have 4 kids. My first was strong-willed. I read James Dobson’s Strong Willed Child at least 4 times by the time the kid was 5. So I was pretty convinced I knew what I was doing, and how to handle the “strongest of strong-willed” children. My 2nd child is strong willed, but it’s so  minute in comparison.

And just when a mom thinks she’s got it, #3 comes along to prove you wrong. She was such a sweet and loving and quiet baby. She was the perfect fit to our lives. Her brother started Kindergarten (homeschooled) the year she came, and she just melded into the “classroom” with ease. So naturally I felt like I could handle more kids, and by the time #4 came, my beautiful calm baby became the most energetic, high maintenance, and stubborn child I had. She loves just as hard! Basically she does everything at a much higher volume than we had ever seen. What a thrill!

It’s just such a struggle for her to have such huge emotions… she loves big, she angers big. And it’s such a struggle as her parents to parent THAT child. I love her, I want her to excel. I want to foster those super sweet, super loving, super smart, and super hilarious moments… but have to learn how to first maneuver around the super tantrums, super hurt feelings, super monster anger, and it’s just.SO.HARD!

So… back to this phrase, “THAT CHILD”. She told me she didn’t like being THAT child. And I squeezed her tight and told her that with God’s help she was going to no longer see herself as (wish you could hear my tone of voice here) “THAT CHILD” (said in a negative way… “THAT angry child, THAT naughty child, THAT tiresome child”) but she’d see herself as I see her…  “THAT child” (said in a positive, cheerful  voice… “That amazing little girl! That sweet friend. That loving child!”). And so, I want to change THAT child to TENACIOUS Child. Hence the “Tenacious Tuesday”.

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I’ve been searching for near 7 years for the correct phrase to describe a child like mine. Strong willed was not quite strong enough. And many other words or phrases sounded so negative. You see, we do struggle. We have a lot of hard days. I cry and pray A.LOT as I try to figure out how to parent her, how to remain sane, and how to show her I won’t give up on her. And to find this word, to study its meaning, brings me to my knees before God. I can TOTALLY see this in her.

Synonyms for Tenacious:
Determined, persistent, spunky (AMEN!!), steadfast, strong-willed, unswerving, iron, obstinate, persevering, purposeful, solid, unforgettable (YES!), UN.SHAKEABLE (Please, God!)

I found myself shouting, Yep! Yes! This is SO HER!!! Then I had to look up “Obstinate”. stubbornly refusing to change one’s opinion or chosen course of action, despite attempts to persuade one to do so… very difficult to change or overcome.

I stopped. I prayed. “Lord, is this ever so true! Guide me, teach me, and help me be creative in overcoming.” And within the very second of finishing my prayer I saw how positive this could be in her walk with God. I could see how strong her will has to be to make it in this ever darkening world. And I added, “Lord, please let her not be overcome. Let her stand on her course of action, YOU, and YOUR WILL despite the world’s attempts to persuade her any other way.

And so… here we are. I’d like to take time each week to share her with the world. She wants to help with this portion of this blog. She’d like to share some of her thoughts on here. She knows this is a struggle, and she prays daily for the fruits of the spirit to be evident in her life. (This girl… she can rattle off all 9 fruits and what they mean! She has studied them on her own, and even knows which one she needs more of as she faces issues that causes her big emotions to come out… folks, she’s SEVEN!!! What a TENACIOUS one I have!!).

Please come back on Tuesdays, see how we handle these Big emotions with a Big God, and join in on the conversation on Facebook. Click here to request to be in our new group called “The Tenacious Child”.

I look forward to seeing what God will be doing in and through us!

Raising Arrows

Arrows come in all kinds of shapes and sizes. They can be different, look different, have various purposes. They can have plastic vanes, actual feathers. They can have an arrow head made of stone, metal. Arrows can vary in length. They can even have completely different designs specific for target shooting, competitions, or hunting…. And even then more specific to WHAT kind of hunting. Fish aren’t going to need the same arrow makeup of that arrow used to hunt say a bear.

However, they are all alike in their basic design. Each one has been crafted and carefully fashioned, molded and balanced. They ALL are intended for flight, that ALL are created to hit a target and they ALL are intended for maximum impact on that target.

This Father’s Day I want to talk to you about arrows every dad has in his life.

The Bible says, 

Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb is a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children on one’s youth. Happy is the man who has his quiver full of them,” Psalm 127:3-5

 

Each and every father, and each mother pulling double duty in dad’s place has an arrow or two (or 3, or 4, or 5…) they are all different from one another. They all have different looks, different personalities, but they are also very similar in the way that each of them were fashioned and crafted by God and each of them should be molded and balanced and readied for flight from our home.

Children, like arrows, are meant to be handcrafted and eventually released. If they aren’t’ crafted well, they won’t shoot straight. And if they aren’t released they’ll never hit their target. Dads with kids at home, it’s reality– one day these kids of yours will be aimed and released out into the world. I spoke to a friend about this earlier last week and she told me she wasn’t coming to hear my message when I preached this to our church if I was going to insist on reminding her that her little girl would one day leave the house and move on… Well, I searched for the right words to soften the blow.. But when it comes down to it, we just can’t stop the inevitable, so in the meantime, we need to equip them for that moment they head out to find their target! We have to choose now to be intentional in order to equip them for that journey.

There’s a broad spectrum here. You have some parents who lack intention. They have a full quiver but the arrows are just a bunch of sticks. They are un-carved arrows with knots of bad habits, and rough attitudes. They are crooked and unpolished. So when they are shot out, they waver and falter and fall short of their intended target.

Then you have some parents who are so intentional. They correct grammar and politeness, and posture, and habits and attitudes. They have such sharp pointy straight and smooth arrows. Oh, they have it all together… perfect little mommies and daddies!!! But they have no intention of shooting them out of the quiver. 30 year old Bobby still gets all his meals home-cooked from mommy. Sally dear is still grabbing her allowance from daddy as she goes shopping with her 28 year old friends… This just doesn’t work.  These arrows, like children, need to be shot out into society as sharpened arrows, ready to take on the world and hit the mark…
But who am I kidding, this is a FATHER’S DAY message… Father’s ALWAYS want to shoot the kids out! I have to remind my husband that our son isn’t quite ready at 12 years old!

But in all seriousness if your kids are still at home. The day is coming and we must get them ready. But, don’t fret, if you’ve already shot your kids out of the quiver, praise God you get to sit back and watch them hit their target… but don’t tune me out just yet. You still have a job to do… and we’ll get to that.

When this verse that I read to you earlier was written, men didn’t go to the ammo store and purchase their bullets they were going to use for protection or war or hunting, no they had to fashion their bow and arrows themselves. They had to select a good branch, sand it down until the stick was straight and smooth. Then they found rocks to sharpen to fashion the arrow head. There were no shortcuts. If they wanted to hit the target, they HAD to spend the time to fashion the equipment. These arrows were important, they HAD to be straight, they HAD to be smooth, and they HAD to fly the distance. In the same way that archers fashioned their arrows, parents must equip their children with the skills and disciplines to be effective in life.

Looking at an arrow, you have 4 major parts.

 The Shaft, the Fletching, the Arrow Head, and the Nock. Looking at your child, there are 4 major things it needs to make it into this world and to hit it’s mark. Discipline, Encouragement, God’s Word, and YOU! 

Let’s explore further…

The shaft of an arrow is the long part of the arrow. Every arrow shaft has a degree of stiffness and resistance. So you have to craft it in such a way that will allow it to bend when it needs to bend (as it thrusts out of the bow) and when to bear it’s weight (when it hits it’s target). If they arrow shaft is too thin or too light weight, they can bend in an extreme way resulting in missing the mark.

 Your child needs discipline. Time and time again in the Bible, God speaks through the writers to extend the message to us that we MUST discipline our children. Here’s just a few..

Proverbs 29:15- The rod and reproof give wisdom, but a child left to himself brings shame to his mother.

Proverbs 29:17-Discipline your children, and they will give you peace; they will bring you the delights you desire.-
Disciplining is just as much for you as it is for them… a disciplined child is a peaceful child… come on. We’ve all seen undisciplined children… they’ll have you reaching for the excedrin immediately!

Proverbs 23:13,-Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you punish him with the rod, he will not die. **See, it’s right there in the Bible… spanking your kids won’t kill them! HA!

Proverbs 13:24-Whoever spares the rod hates their children, but the one who loves their children is careful to discipline them.

Do you love your kids? Then you need to discipline them… look at this last one

Proverbs 19:18- Discipline your children, for in that there is hope; do not be a willing party to their death.

I keep saying that you’ll shoot your kids out to hit the mark. What is that mark? Eternal life. That mark is a life with Jesus! Discipline is the first step to getting there. Discipline your children for it’s the way to show them salvation, and eternal life.

We often tell our children that they need to be obedient to Pastor and me, that being under our roof, and learning to listen and obey is their practice for listening and obeying God. Parents, that means there’s a big job for us! We’re teaching them a skill that will bring ETERNAL LIFE! We must discipline our children.

If the shaft is too weak and too light, it won’t fly straight. Our discipline towards our children need not be too light. Discipline is the practice of training people to obey rules or a code of behavior, using punishment to correct disobedience. It does NOT mean ignoring bad behavior… it means CORRECTING IT! It does NOT mean doling out punishments every single time you’re annoyed… it means TRAINING! It’s no easy task, but it’s the one God gave us as parents, and even more specifically gave to fathers.

The fletching on an arrow is the feathers or vanes. This part  creates drag and can help the arrow spin as it soars through the air. It provides the arrow with stability and accuracy in flight. This little part of the arrow can give it a little extra jump out of the bow.

When we discipline our kids we have to do it without provoking them. Ephesians 6:4 says  Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.

Colossians 3:21 says Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged.

To exasperate means to irritate, to provoke, to pick pick pick pick pick pick. Guys… I love my kids… I love your kids… but man oh man, kids can be SO annoying sometimes! But, that’s in the DNA makeup of kids. Kids will be Kids. yes, we have to discipline, but we must not provoke them in the process. We need to encourage them in the way to go. Tell them you love them, tell them you think they are amazing! Did you notice that both of these verses are to Fathers. Most mothers tend to coddle, to protect their kids feelings. They are more likely to think every little thing is just so cute… Dads… not so much! They have a bigger tendency to be short, and harsh, and say things like, “Suck it up, rub some dirt on it, quit cher belly achin!”
Daddies, your words of encouragement provide stability and accuracy, giving kids a head start as they jump from the “bow” of life. Fathers need to encourage, and not provoke. They need to be loving and involved. Do not embitter your children. Do not push them out with a long list of things to be bitter about.

James Dobson says that Dads are the ones that encourage their kids to try that high dive at the pool. They are the ones that instill in their kids the courage that it takes to venture out and try new things. They are the ones that increase the arrows longevity and help it to go further, The more encouragement they can get, the more umph they receive leaving the bow, just like those feathers… Fathers, encourage your children.

Okay, so what if your husband isn’t reading this, and won’t. What if they don’t do these things? What if they are short and harsh, and abrupt more than they are encouraging? I’ll get into that a bit more in a minute, but let me encourage you now… pray! Pray for your husband to start doing this, and in the meantime, model this behavior for him. Moms can provoke their children, too… Unfortunately I know this first hand!

Next the arrow has an arrow head. Whether it be a craftsman’s arrow head, or a rock carved to a point, these are placed at the end of an arrow shaft and secured in place to penetrate its target. Without this, the arrow may shoot far, it may spin and soar beautifully, but once it gets to the target, it will bounce right off and fall dead to the ground.

You can raise your children to climb the professional ladder, to obtain the highest education with the top of their class. You can raise them to be caring and charitable helping every person they come in contact with…  but if they are not taught the ways of God, His salvation, His word, they will miss the mark.

Speaking about God’s word, Deut 6:7 says,  Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.
Isaiah 54:13 All your children will be taught by the Lord, and great will be their peace.

Psalm 78:5-7 talks about God telling Jacob to teach his children the word so that the next generation would know it, and then the next. It even talks about reading it to the unborn child! By doing this, the children would put their trust in God and would not forget His ways but would follow the Word.

We must be teaching our children God’s word. We began reading to our kids at a very young age. They’d play on the floor with cars, or dolls. All we asked was that they stay quiet so they could hear the Bible. They may not understand it all the first time, but keep reading and start over when your done and you’ll get through it multiple times as it settles into their hearts. Pause within the reading to explain, ask questions, answer and dig deeper if they want. And remember… ALL scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, (2 Timothy 3:16). So as you discipline… use the Word of God. As you encourage… use the Word of God, and as you teach God’s way… use the Word of God, it’s all in here!

Lastly, there is a tiny little spot on the back end of the arrow called the nock. It goes unnoticed many times, but it’s a plastic tip on the rear that holds the arrow in position. It’s the part that allows the bow string to rest inside steadying the arrow just before it launches. All the pent-up power in a bow is of no value if it can not be effectively transferred. That’s why every arrow has this small little groove. (Slide 7: Dads, Our kids need YOU) Dads, our kids need the strength, comfort, encouragement, discipline that only a daddy can give. Many moms are forced into that role but in reality, backed by study after study after study they need that anchoring point from their fathers. A review of studies by the Father Involvement Research Alliance shows that babies with more involved fathers are more likely to be emotionally secure, confident in new situations, and eager to explore their surroundings. As they grow, they are more sociable. Toddlers with involved fathers are better problem-solvers and have higher IQs by age 3. They are more ready to start school and can deal with the stress of being away from home all day better than children with less involved fathers . Moms who are doing it for dad, good job! But every chance you get to encourage Dad to step up, do it. And every time Dad does step up… back off. Let him set the rules and enforce the rules. Ask his input, involve him as much and as often as you can. And Dads who have been there, help those still at target practice. Titus 2 speaks of older men teaching the younger men. Share your experiences, check up on dads in the trenches and encourage them to do these things for their kids. And yes, Titus 2 also speaks to young men and tells them to listen to those who have gone before! Pastor Dave is an amazing Guy… but even he will admit that he’s not perfect, he is still learning, and would gladly take advice from a dad who has done this before. I do not preach this message because I’ve perfected all things parenting! I have great kids, but their parents fail A LOT!!! We are all still pushing through trying to do the best we can.

But the point of my message today, the reason we have these arrows, why we discipline, why we encourage, why we teach them God’s ways can be perfectly summed up in the Message’s version of Proverbs 22:6

Point your kids in the right direction– when they’re old they won’t be lost.

Letting your kids go can be scary, not just for us, but for them. But if you can equip them, train them, and release them to hit the mark, when they are out on their own they won’t be lost. They’ll know whose they are. They belong to the Lord and will continue following Him.

This verse ends speaking of these children being a man’s protection. Imagine walking this life with all your arrows equipped with the armor of God around you. When you are in trouble, they will be your protection. They’ll cover you in prayer, they’ll bombard heaven on your behalf… the more you send out, the better the prayer protection.

I’m praying for you, Dads! I pray you step up to the plate and prepare your arrows. I pray you steady them, aim them, and shoot them out with eternal life in their path.

Happy Father’s Day!

Can They See Jesus in You? Lesson 4 of 5

Speaking of lessons… I have learned mine… writing 5 blog posts in a week just isn’t my THANG! We’ve already jumped into the summer schedule here and that means I am taxi-Mom! This gives me about 30 min of unscheduled time a day! But, oh what fun we are having!!! So, onto the 5 biggest lessons I’ve learned over the past 5 years of ministry.

Lesson 1: Grow where you’re planted. Don’t wait for a big change in your life to start making positive changes, start now! You can read more here.

Lesson 2: Invite people to YOUR church! This is not only the Pastor’s responsibility. Help us grow the church! You can read more about this here.

Lesson 3: Follow God’s instructions. When someone does something hurtful against you, God has a specific way to handle that… if you want to know what that is, read here. (So far this post has quite the most feedback! I’m assuming because it happens to us all, and it can hurt us to the core! But there is a solution!)

Lesson 4: Understand the importance of pointing people to Jesus!

About 3 years ago I started really studying how Paul did ministry in the early churches. If you really want to change your outlook on the people around you, and all the PRE-believers you come in contact with, study how Paul loved, how he stretched himself in order to present the gospel to as many as he could. Then start implementing some of these ways into your ways… It’ll change your heart like no other.

One thing Paul did, and did well, was to give Jesus. He would meet people where they were without ever bending on his beliefs. He believed so strongly in Jesus and his life backed that up. Paul had such boldness because he so boldly believed in who he preached. He believed that Jesus was the answer for every problem we could ever face.

So I began to pray that. I prayed (and still pray, and hope to always pray) that everything I say and do will point others to Jesus. HE is the answer to every situation!

When I’m disciplining my kids, I should be doing it in a way that would never make them question things I’ve told them about Jesus. If I say that Jesus forgives, I should forgive. If I teach them that as we grow in Christ, we begin to produce good fruit, then I should show them what Jesus has produced in me and if I lack those, I now know where I need to grow! (Parents, we NEED Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, and SELF-CONTROL!!! but that’s another lesson altogether).

When I’m on facebook, I need my every status, my every comment, even my every page followed, to represent the Jesus in me. I can not invite people to church using “church jargon” and with the same mouth (typing hands) spew hate in a comment towards someone on facebook (or twitter, or instagram… or whatever other form you may use).

When my husband and are at the local restaurant, even when the conversation is just between the two of us, our conversation needs to be pointing others towards Jesus. How can my husband preach from the pulpit about grace and peace and wholesome teachings if when he is outside he pulpit he is cutting people down, stirring up strife, and carrying on unwholesome conversations at the restaurant table? He can’t! And neither can any of us!

Now I’m not talking about every single encounter I have talking strictly about Jesus. “Paper of plastic?” “Well… let me tell you about Jesus!!!” That would leave the grocery clerk annoyed… and probably all the people behind me waiting to get through annoyed, too.  No, I’m talking about our conduct, our words, our LOVE for one another. The way we interact with every single person we come in contact with (kids, husbands, parents, co-workers, grocery clerks, librarian, car mechanic… you see where I’m going) should not contradict the Jesus you say you serve.

Imagine this scenario: It’s Monday, the weekend was action packed, and instead of getting enough sleep, you accomplished a LONG to-do list. The alarm awakens you about 8 hours too soon. You grumpily get up, drag yourself to the shower and complain about how horrible work is going to be. You do this too long, making yourself run behind. By the time you race yourself into work (whether it be raising the kids for one more day, or a high pressure position in town), you are already ready for bed. You grumble and complain, even if just in your head, over every task you have to do that day! By the end of the work day, you’ve had it! You begin rushing to get home, already grumbling about dinner. Suddenly someone crosses your path, too close to comfort. You lash out. You yell. Maybe it’s your kid. You’ve told them one too many times to pick up his baseball glove. Maybe it’s your neighbor who borrowed your  hose without asking, maybe it’s a complete stranger who was in a hurry of their own. You lose it. You begin yelling, screaming, belittling, just throwing the perfect adult fit (which, by the way, looks just as ridiculous as the kids form of a fit… just sayin’!) In that instance, if God prompted you to, could you effectively witness to the person you just lashed out at? With a good conscience, could you tell them how great Jesus is, and what a difference He’s made in your life? And if you could… would they believe you?????

When I started thinking this way, I chose not to comment as often on facebook when I was upset. I chose not to respond to a negative situation until I had prayed. And sometimes I prayed for days… and then chose not to respond at all. When I started thinking, “What will THIS action say about the Jesus I’m trying to show?” I truly started to change the way I behave. Don’t get me wrong, we do not behave in such a way to please men… at all costs, we please God. But in that process, we need to be able to point others that direction as well.

Myth: As a Christian trying to point others towards Christ, we must come down to a level that no longer addresses sin. 

Paul never shied away from correcting sinful behavior. But he reminds Timothy (and ultimately us, as the Word of God is written for us as well) to be prepared in season and out of season to correct, rebuke and encourage–with great patience and careful instruction. (2 Tim 4:2) You can approach sinful behavior in love. You can conduct yourself in a way that expresses love and patience instead of judgment and condemnation. But you must be prepared in season and out of season. You have to live with such a conduct that you can point someone to Jesus no matter what season you are in.

Pray for that idea to penetrate your heart. Ask yourself the hard question, “Am I living in such a way that others see the Jesus I serve?” Before you hit enter read your comment, ask yourself, “Does this show Jesus in me?” (***Even if you are responding to a complete stranger***). Before you let out a loud annoyed sigh at your child for spilling ANOTHER cup of water at the dinner table, ask yourself, “How can I show her Jesus right now in the midst of this mistake?” I’m telling you… this will change your life… and change your ministry!

Myth #2: You have to be perfect in order to point people to a perfect God!

Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh! NO! We will make mistakes, we will have bad days… we WILL inevitably scream at our kids with all the windows open so the entire neighborhood can hear (of course I’VE never done that… but…. ), or honk extra long at the car who wasn’t moving fast enough at the green light, or give someone at work an earful because we failed to get enough sleep the night before. It will happen, because, despite what we may think at times, WE ARE NOT PERFECT! Seek forgiveness (from God AND the person you’ve wronged) and start anew. Then do that again the next day, and the next… it won’t ever stop, we’ll mess up a lot. But the harder we try, the better we get, and sometimes, we even point people to Jesus through our mistakes (if we seek that forgiveness). Don’t give up, POINT up!

 

We aren’t perfect at Crossroads Church, but we definately strive to point people to Jesus. Please join us! Follow us on Facebook for more details!

The Distracted Worshiper

It happened on Sunday. I could feel myself in deep deep worship. I knew from practice that we were going to sing one of my favorite songs and I had already made a commitment to press in. The first song was in full swing but as I tried to read along with the words on the screen (that I actually don’t NEED to read, I know the song) I notice that the words are lagging, or missing, and I gently leave my seat and head back to my lovely 11-year-old who is eagerly serving in church as the computer guy. He shrugs (whatever that means) and the words miraculously seem to be on time and correct.

Then the 2nd song comes on. I close my eyes, focus on God, and BAM… I can hear my 7 and 5 year olds singing with all their hearts. I keep my eyes close but I stop singing, I HAD to listen to their sweet sweet voices. Seriously, ya’all… there is nothing so near to a mama’s heart than when you hear your kids worshiping! NOTHING!

Then my song was on. I was determined to be zoned out focusing on nothing but my God. I was planning on entering into the holy of holies singing my heart out. “Singing as one.. Hallelujah… holy holy, God almighty, the GREAT I AM”… I was belting it! I didn’t care that my friend was standing next to me. I didn’t care if the front row could hear me although I was sitting in the back row. I just sang. At times I just laughed, I smiled so big there was no room for words. I let my emotions go and I WORSHIPED!

I’m a mom of 4. Worship hasn’t come easily to me since having my first child almost 12 years ago. I was raised in a church that valued worship. We served in churches that exalted worship to amazing levels. Then I had children. There’s something built into a mother that doesn’t allow her to close both eyes at once unless her children are sleeping safe in their beds. Since our kids have always been in the worship (songs) portion of the service with us, worship changed for me. *side note… I’m a HUGE advocate of families worshiping together in the same room at church. Kids can go for their own lesson, but if they can stay with their parents during worship… ohh, mama… amazing things can happen!*

Worship with a baby can be touching, but that baby may not feel as into the atmosphere as you are, and may just mess their pants right as you try to enter in. And sometimes the smell overrides your desire for uninterrupted worship. Sometimes a 2-year-old HAS to go potty just at the perfect song. Sometimes the 3 and 4-year-old who chose to dance (awww, how sweet) are now rolling down the aisle in an all out WWF Wrestling match. And sometimes, right when you think your kids are at the right age (almost 12, 10, 7, and 5) you can close your eyes and experience an amazing time of corporate worship.

Here’s the thing: during my amazing time of corporate worship, my mama eye would not stay closed, so I peeked to make sure my 5-year-old was still standing close by. He was, and his eyes were closed and he was worshiping… I think. His little eyes were squeezed shut, his head was swaying from side to side, his hands were waving… oh, it was so adorable… then… then… HE.LICKED.THE.PEW! Yes, HE.LICKED.THE.PEW! I don’t know about your church, but this is not a normal worship practice at our church.

But I had a choice. Would I let that take me completely out of my time of worship. It was quite the struggle, but I just closed my eyes, lifted my hands said, “Lord protect him from whatever disease could be resting there” and continued singing “Who is worthy, none beside Thee…God Almighty, the great I am”

You see the only perfect worship atmosphere is the one in which hearts are willing to shut out all around them and truly decide to enter in. I’m going through a learning process right now where my key word is “Choice”. I’m learning that if I want it (and God wants it) I must make choices to get me that thing that I want (IF God wants it). A lot depends on our choices, more than we want to admit.

If we want to draw near, we must say yes to Him, and that means that we say no to everything else. Even if that does mean we let our 5-year-old lick germ-infested pews in an effort to get more from God.

Happy Worshiping, Friends!