Sunday, August 24, 2014

Beauty Between the Valley and the Mountain Top

Life has it's mountain tops and it's valleys and it's monotonous lonely desert highways...  Lately I feel like I am set on cruise control down a very straight and not so scenic road.  On one hand that is good - no tragic circumstances...but in these times I don't recognize my God much, which makes me feel sad and lonely.  I keep dealing with the same issues, failing in the same places and vowing to do something different which doesn't last long.  It's comfortable here...not exactly exciting, but comfortable.  If I make some changes it will disrupt my flow and cause me to have to pay attention - turning off the cruise control - adding discomfort to my life.  But, oh how much prettier it is on those mountain tops and down in those valleys!  How I stop at both of these places and just acknowledge the Creator and His awesomeness!

Last weekend we went on a tubing trip on the Green River in the foothills of North Carolina.  We turned off
From Wilderness Cove's Website 
the interstate and then turned onto a road that had eight or more hairpin turns straight down, down, down, into the valley, into the gorge, into the cove where this mountain river babbled along.  We did NOT have our cruise control on going down this road and I was definitely in discomfort as Jeff was going a wee bit faster than I would have liked as I looked over the edges.  Once we got our inner tubes, walked out into the freezing water and plopped down, the current carried us along.  I imagined a leisurely 'lazy river' float but realized very quickly that the many rocks, downed trees, and shallow areas in the river would give us quite a work out.  There was no 'lazy' about this trip!  Four days later my arm and stomach muscles were still telling me that they were used more than usual!  During the parts of the three hours that we did float slowly and peacefully I admired the canopy cover of the trees, the wildflowers along the banks, the way the water rushed along the rocks...beautiful.  Leading me to immediately acknowledge the Creator -- in this valley we were in.  I wish I would have been able to take pictures, but considering I started out with a plastic bottle of water and realized two minutes into the trek that it was gone - I'm glad I didn't have anything with me!

During our mountain top highs in life we turn and thank God - we reflect on how He has gotten us there - and we enjoy His presence.  During our valley lows in life we cling to God and rely on Him and commune with Him more than any time - and we enjoy that close presence.

How...on the straight, day-in-day-out, 'normal' roads with our cruise set do we find that closeness to God?  I'm writing this for me right now, because I need to know.  How?  How God?  Where did You go?  First of all, He went no where.  He is always with us.  I am the one who has changed since He is unchanging.  Sigh...  So, what has changed?

I have realized over the past few weeks that I have become lazy in so many areas of my life this summer. (Maybe that is why I wanted a 'lazy river' ride on the river??)  Undisciplined.  I offer the excuse that, "I just have no self-control."  But that is a lie that Satan would like me to believe and feel defeated by.  Guess what?  The Fruit of the Spirit includes self control.  And the Spirit lives inside of me.  His power is available to me.  Laziness in my eating habits, my quiet time and prayer time, my exercise (non-existent), making dinner for the family, being consistent in discipline with the kids has also made me feel rather much like a failure lately.  Overwhelmed by the extent of things I've let slide I feel powerless to make changes.

So timely this morning, Pastor Shane said, "The presence of unconfessed sin disrupts our prayer life."  A light bulb went off this morning as I asked, 'God, is that why my relationship with you has seemed so blah?'  I see a lot of sin admitted in the paragraph above.  And it has been unconfessed.  I've complained about it, seen myself doing/not doing the stuff...been aware of it and hated it.  I've tried to make changes with my own strength which have lasted at longest two days.  I've not confessed it with a repentant heart.  The sin of believing lies about myself is present too - I'm a 'failure' and I'm 'powerless to change' and I'm 'defeated.'  Those are lies that make Satan smile and make me not much good as a witness to the power of Christ living inside of me!

I've continued getting up early this summer to have my daily quiet time with God, but it has been anything but satisfying.  I've grappled with what I've been doing wrong.  I pray and feel like there is a ceiling that my prayers hit and fall back down on top of me.  I feel so far from Him and I miss that close relationship that I have when I'm on the mountain tops and in the valleys.  And as I miss that sweet communion with Him, the long, boring, dry, straight road I'm taking seems very lonely and non-colorful as I travel along.  I just set the cruise control, become as comfortable as I can, and cruise on...not doing anything about my behaviors...just complaining about them every so often.

Beauty in between the valley and the mountain top.  Just our backyard.
So, right now, I am going to brighten up my path because God gave me the tools to do this.  I just needed to be reminded of them this morning during the sermon. I can't control the circumstances that would put me on a path on a mountain top or a valley.  But I can control how I view this straight road I'm on right now.  First things first...the sin that is in my life is disrupting my relationship with God.

 Father God, please forgive me.  Help me to grieve over things that grieve You.  I'm sorry that I've eaten the bread of idleness for months and allowed myself to believe the lies that I have no self control.  I'm sorry that my time with You has been short and boring and dead almost.  Ugh.  I miss you!  I'm sorry that I've treated my body poorly by giving it anything that it sees and moving it rarely for exercise and health.  I'm sorry that I've not been what my family needs by providing them with good meals in the evening and by wasting a lot of time on the internet.  I'm sorry that I have let the kids do a lot of whatever they want, just so I didn't have to deal with discipline and consistency.  Lord, I feel like a failure in so many ways.  I know that it is a step in the right direction to confess my sins to you and turn away from them.  Help me to draw from the strength of the Spirit living inside of me.  I'm thankful for 1 John 1:9 that says "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."  I'm standing before you cleansed and free from the weight of my sin because of your Son and I'm so thankful.  Please let this open my eyes to the color and beauty on this road I'm on, whether it be the same day-to-day-to-day stuff or not, because it is still Your creation and Your creation (even the stuff between the mountains and the valleys) is amazing!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Rich or Poor, God I Want You More

I absolutely love it when God speaks to me through every sermon, lesson, song, scripture, cute facebook captioned picture, and so on -- all having the same message!  He knows it takes that much for me to slow down, quiet down and see what He's trying to tell me.  I'm so thankful, however, that He doesn't give up on me, because what He's telling me right now is not something new... He's told me this same thing over and over.  I often wonder why Jeff and I have to tell our kids every single day to hang up their towels and put their dirty clothes in the hamper, but other things we tell them once and they remember, obey and do it??  But, we don't disown them or give up on them because of it...although at times it irritates me to no end.  God doesn't give up on me even though He's having to remind me of the same things yet again.

My women's bible study group is doing Beth Moore's study on Daniel right now.  I've learned a lot about Babylonia and how it was a me-centered society with a lot of glitz and glitter and must-haves.  Sounds a lot like today, huh?  Yup.  One of the last times my parents visited us they said something that included 'you guys live in a very rich area.'  Just stating a fact in a passing statement.  But, I honestly hadn't looked at it that way.  Now, I'm not saying this to brag so stick with me!  I wondered at times since we've been here how we exactly 'fit in' in this area - we aren't rich!  (With money anyway)  As I look back I know I've always struggled with always has looked better 'over there.'  And, now I'm saturated in it.  As I drive to the store I pass house after house that I would have considered mansions a few years ago.  I look at their perfect manicured lawn and pine needle garden, all brick home and sigh.  I walk into the grocery and notice her name brand clothes and purse.  I hear about the private lessons this son or daughter is taking and the third vacation of the year at the beach house.  I try in my own strength to be okay with that and accepting of the place we are in.  Because oh my goodness, how we are blessed!!!  We are SO blessed.  The truth is, there will always be someone who has more.  But to be perfectly takes more than my own strength.  It takes the Spirit's - He's inside me and He is my Helper and wants me to rise above any circumstance I'm in - taking my eyes off of my surroundings and keeping them focused on the One who blesses.  

In the book, "Let. It. Go.: How to Stop Running the Show and Start Walking in Faith" by Karen Ehman, which I just read for our book group, Karen says this:   "No two ways about it.  True godly contentment is unavailable in microwave form; it needs to be patiently and purposefully cultivated.  We must cease making comparisons and instead embrace our current lot in life - our past, present, and future - welcoming all that God will teach us through it.  Only then we will discover the secret Paul knew -- that true contentment isn't merely having what we want; it's wanting nothing more than what we already have."

Last night a friend from cold snowy Michigan posted this on facebook: 
Sitting on the beach, enjoying it all. Thinking "Gosh, if only we lived here."
Chatting with a local who visited an area of snow. She said "my poor children. I feel like they are missing out on life."
Reality is....we must choose to be happy wherever we are. Or the grass will always seem greener ( or the snow. Or the sand....)
There's some wisdom there, huh?

Today my devotion was centered on the parables that Jesus taught in Matthew 13.  Verse 22 is Jesus telling us what He meant in verse 7 about the seeds that fell among thorns that choked them.  He says, "As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful."  I, of course, have never noticed this and know it was saved for me for this moment this morning.  I hear the word of God but I also care about the world and what is in it and what I have or don't have.  Riches are deceitful - you think they will bring you happiness, but it doesn't last and so then you move on to your next purchase or want.  And worst of all...I'm unfruitful, unable to be used by God, while I'm tangled up in this longing, chasing of happiness through the world.  

Sunday we sang a song at church called "All We Need" by Charlie Hall.   Wow, thank you Lord.  I will declare moment by moment this is a daily, conscious choice to be content, keeping You at the center of my focus and desire.  Thank You for all of these little whispers from You lately....

Rich or poor
Rich or poor God I want You more
Than anything that glitters in this world
Be my all, all consuming fire

You can have it all
You can have all my hands can hold
My heart, mind, strength and soul
Be my all, all consuming fire

Because we have all we need in You
And all we need is You
All we need is You

Image courtesy of stockimages /

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Just Bein' a Pest!

I'm still here!  Oh my word has it been awhile since I've written.  I just wanted to share something that Emily and I wrote and shared at a Mother-Daughter Picnic at church on Mother's Day weekend.  It was truly a blessing to be able to do this with Emily and to learn so much while preparing. (I took a lot of this from my last blog post in March)

Southbrook Moms & Daughters
Hello fellow moms!  My name is Amy Kissel and this is my daughter Emily – she is 12 and in the sixth grade. This is the first time that I’ve been a mom to a daughter who is 12 and in the sixth grade!  I sit before you not as an expert in mother-daughter relationships, but as a fellow mom, leaning on God and you lovely ladies as we forge on!  When Kathy called me about a month ago and asked me if I’d like to talk at this picnic about being intentional and purposeful in building our relationships with our daughters – I immediately thought that this would be a great opportunity – I had just recently become very aware of the dangers of the ‘real world’ that Emily is growing up in and how I needed to be praying more for her, educating myself and spending intentional time with her.  I feel as though I may have taken a ‘mom break’ for a few years…I’ve kinda been coasting.  We got through the toddler years, past preschool and into elementary.  Once we got to elementary - for the most part the kids were pleasant to be around and becoming more and more independent by the moment. Woohoo! Mom relaxes, kicks back, starts taking some time for herself….only to have my eyes opened completely wide this year and a kick in the pants to action…wake up!  I have got some important work to do.  So back to Kathy’s question of speaking, ‘yes, yes, I’d like to do that.’  Then…the enemy got a hold of me… ‘What information do you possibly have to convey to these moms??  Some of them seasoned moms – some of them pros at this??’ ‘There are plenty of ladies who have been there, done that and their girls are well-adjusted, pleasant, Jesus-lovin young women ---- those ladies should be up here tellin’ us all what works and what don’t…what in the world do I know about this??!!   Yikes!  What have I done?

But…I continued to pray and asked God to give me some words for this…and in the process realized that this actually was going to be a huge blessing to both Emily and I as I took the time to learn some things, open my eyes and prepare a bit.  You see, Em and I don’t always see eye to eye.  We butt heads, we both take things too personally, and we make each other angry.  I wouldn’t say that our relationship is one that just naturally ‘happens’ and brings joy to each other on a regular basis…but oh how I long for that!  So, I read some books, some articles, talked to some wise moms I am blessed to know and then I asked the question to my facebook friends and family, “moms of tween and teen girls:  what do you do to be purposeful and intentional in your relationship with your daughter/s?”  I got several private messages of encouragement, an invitation to coffee, an ‘oh girl!!’ and a ‘we’ll get through it’ pat on the back…but every time someone replied I got tears in my eyes.  We’re all in this together.  Look around the room…you have a network of support right here – there is so much wisdom...

Being intentional means living with purpose.  Having a goal or specific outcome in mind.

So, if we’re talking about being intentional in nurturing our relationships with our daughters, what would be our goal or specific outcome?  Maintaining closeness and open communication and a healthy relationship –that way when the bumps come, we can work on things together.

We may be quite similar or complete opposites of our daughters..but we must learn to work together, embrace differences and understand them.  Ultimately women want love, understanding and acceptance – we want that…and our daughters want that too.

So, from my talks with other moms, books read and prayers said, I determined this:  In order to build into my daughter’s life it will take: Prayer, Education, Selflessness and Time.

Prayer:  This is our most important step.  Remembering that God loves our daughters even more than we do – I should be talking to Him constantly about her.  She is more important to Him than she is to me!   I admit very ashamedly that I have not been praying for my children very often at all…like I said, I’ve been coasting.   Prayer will bring power to us through the Holy Spirit but it will also alleviate our fears and anxieties!!  Perfect!  We need that, right??!!  Praying with our daughters create a closer bond and allow them to see how much you take to God in prayer.  There are books and lists on things to pray for for her, but just praying simple prayers are good too!  I prayed a ‘help me.  I can’t do this’ prayer recently concerning my parenting and He was quite quick to send me some help.

Education:  I laugh a lot that I 'live in a little Christian-bubble' with a perfect little life and am so naive to what goes on in the world - I look at people 'around here' and think they're all good - that there is nothing really evil going on.  I will not laugh about this anymore.  It isn't funny nor cute that I've been 'sheltered.'  This is the point in my life that I need to educate myself to what kids are into.  What slang word is what, what social media is what, what girls do on Friday nights…What they will face so I can talk to her about it before she faces it. I sat her down before 6th grade sex ed to tell her the Biblical version like many of you did/will because she will learn it – I’d rather she hear it and hear it correctly from me first.  I want to know what’s going on ‘out there’ so when she does need to come to me I don’t have a complete breakdown cause I’m so unaware of what is out there – does that make sense?   I feel like I can easily educate myself on some parenting skills by talking to other moms who are further along on the journey whom I trust.  As I was telling a friend who’s daughter is 5 years further along on her journey about a situation the other day – she quickly pointed out what I could do – I welcomed it.  Yes, please give me some of that wisdom!  Education – A perfect place to look for it would be in the Bible.   What does God say about raising our kids?  Are there other reliable resources out there that I can turn to?  Recently I’ve read some great information about the differences in the world we were raised in vs. what our daughters are facing today.  I need to expect that how I was raised and what worked then is going to be different than what is going to work now.

Selflessness/ Humility:  Jeff just talked to the kids about how he was experiencing some peer pressure with his friends recently and what he did to resolve that.  And I just told Emily how grumpy I was because I was tired last night.  Our kids seeing that we make mistakes, we have to deal with stuff…and how we do it…and sometimes fail at doing it.  Hopefully they are learning a little by example – weaving life lessons into our own stories of experiences.  Daring to be real and allowing them to see that we are not perfect.  Apologies when we need them and asking her to forgive me…  God is helping me with the ability to not take it personal when Emily is in a mood and lashes out at me.  The ability to practice self-control and not lose control and become a 12 year old girl too.  I don’t really need to get the last word in.  He’s teaching me to bite that tongue.  Selflessness – putting others before self --  focus on her and her interests and loves…learn about them and become interested and want to know all about it.  Take the focus off of myself – selflessness.  Listen.  Really listen…not the toddler mom type of listening ‘the half listen’ where the toddler is saying mom mom mom mom and then a bunch of syllables of a sentence you don’t understand and you just smile and nod and say ‘oh…yes, absolutely’ but you have NO idea what they said…  Or the half-listening that I sometimes do when she launches into a story about something that I’m not quite interested in or I don’t really understand.  These are the moments I need to drop what I’m doing and learn all about what I don’t understand and become interested in it because SHE is interested in it – because SHE is important and I love her.  THIS is what is important right now.  God has given my daughter to me to parent…to love…to pour into for this time..and we are only here for a moment.  Ok – remember my facebook question?  Moms of tween and teen girls – what do you do to be purposeful and intentional in your relationship with your daughter/s?   One of my cousins answered my question with this:  “I really think it's the little things that matter most. I purposely read the types of books she loves so we have those to talk about. Add a special touch to her lunch or a special treat in the car when I pick her up at school if she is having a rough week. In addition to right after school, I know the time she is most likely to be talkative is right before bed. Thus even though now with high school soccer she is often up late at night doing homework, I stay up with her so we have that time together when she is most likely to open up.” That is filled with thinking about another more than yourself.  Another slant to Selflessness and Humility – not trying to change her.  Not trying to steer her towards things that I’d love her to do or wear or be more like.  Probably my favorite comment to my facebook question – “Remember she is not you.”  Ouch!   Embrace who she is becoming and what her passions are…even though they aren’t mine – she is different than me!!  I admit I've tried to steer my kids toward things I'd love to see them succeed in...mainly so I can be validated (which is selfish instead of selfless). ..’look what my kid can do’.  I'd love to live through them and have them succeed at things I couldn't.   Emily tried out for volleyball this past year.  I was so proud and so excited that she was doing it.  When she didn’t make the team – guess who cried about it?  It was an eye-opener to me that that particular activity was MY dream and I needed to check myself and my intentions…

Time:  Emily and I don't have a lot in common that we love to talk about.  But, she just read the Divergent book series and she loves to talk about what she's reading.  So, I started reading them too.  It gave us a nice way to talk through some of the books.  Every relationship we have requires effort and intentionality.  Intentionally schedule some time to do something that she enjoys together.  One facebook friend mentioned that she has started watching her daughter’s favorite show with her.  Another says that they do dinner and a movie together once a month.  One says : “Grace and I share a circle journal. She writes a prompt and I respond to it then I write a new prompt and she responds to it. Sometimes it's a doodle, sometimes it's recalling a family memory, sometimes it's a Q &A, We aren't consistent with getting it back and forth, but I always love when it shows up on my bedside table or in my purse. Fun!”  I know that might stress some of you out to have to write in a journal – but others might really benefit from it.  Expressing yourself with writing is a lot easier for some…like me.  I remember when I was a preteen…I wrote my mom a note and left it on the laundry basket “I’m thinking I need a training bra, don’t you think?  They’re starting to get bigger.”  I could NOT utter those words to my mom during that time.  It was awkward and embarrassing.  To this day – I feel like I can communicate so much more eloquently with writing than with speech – so – maybe some of you might want to give it a try!  Other ideas for time together:  Walks, painting toenails, seeing a movie, a weekly breakfast, going to a certain restaurant that the rest of the family hates…  A year ago when I noticed that there were some hormones going on in the house.  I walked into Emily’s room to tuck her in and I told her that I am here…you can talk to me about anything and everything.  You can ask me anything.  This is your time.  Every night.  I will come in your room and tuck you in and if you want to spend time talking…it’s yours.  I’m yours.  It’s been good.  I’ve also realized lately that even though my girl looks more and more like an adult – she still wants hugs, hand holding and cuddles at times – of course if we’re in public I will let HER initiate this so not to embarrass her!  I’d much rather give this to her than her wanting it from someone else.  Emily and I are going to do our first mother-daughter Bible Study this summer with another mom and daughter.

So, to be purposeful takes Prayer, it takes Education, it takes Selflessness and it takes Time.  Oddly enough that spells out “PEST” and oddly enough – this is what Emily and I both have pinpointed as the one characteristic that is most harmful in how I’m relating to her.  I tend to be a nag, a pest…always pointing out what needs to change, what needs to be done.  Yes, I have major control issues – God is helping me with it!  When Pastor Shane spoke a few weeks back about our “Whatever” – our one thing that we need to surrender to God  - I was awakened when Colossians 3:21 hit me over the head.  “Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.”  I realized that the majority of my interactions with Emily were me being a nag.  I’ve just realized as I’m embarking on this new phase of life that I need to change my parenting – I am not parenting a baby, toddler, or elementary school daughter.  I need to trust how we parented her/what we have taught her up to this point that Emily does know deep down right and wrong... but now realize that it's going to require a different type of parenting – one where she needs to make some decisions on her own, that we don't give advice and correct and teach at every single opportunity but make sure she does know she can ask for advice.  That not every battle (the little things) needs to be fought.  She needs my relationship more than my instruction at this stage of life and to know that we are here and we want to be here. We are now her guide instead of her driver.  We’re still her parent, not her peer, but I am here…I’m present…I’m engaged…I’m available.   I’m slowly relinquishing control a bit at a time while trusting God because He has good things planned for my daughter.  In my absence, He is there.

Emily's Part:

To be purposeful/intentional in our relationships with mom – daughters need to remember to be a PEST too!
P- Pray
Pray with and for her and your relationship.  Spend some time with her to just talk to the Lord.  Have that special time of 1, 2, 5, 10 minutes or however long you feel like praying.
E – Education (remember she can be a source)
Remember that mom went through so much of the things we do…hormones, body changes, friend troubles, being made fun of, crushes, dating, hard choices…she understands a bit of it!!  She knows how to deal with some of the things you are going through.
Ask for help when you need it.  She is always there for you.  You don’t have to face this world alone, she has gone through it and understands what you are feeling and might have some advice if you want it.
S – Selflessness/Humility – part of being selfless is doing stuff when I don’t really feel like it – because it is good for me and our relationship.  It’s also thinking about her feelings, too.
Share your feelings as much as you can.  Don’t keep them curled up in a tiny ball and push them to the back of your mind.  You will end up exploding at someone.  I mean, you saw what happened with Elsa right? Your mom can help you unpack your emotional backpack.  I mean, I know sometimes I am not the best example for this because I am not good at sharing my feelings but, I am trying to get better.
Be kind to her.  Try not to let hormones get the better of you.  Try not yell at her to get out of your room. Remember parents have feelings too!  Realize it is hard at times for mom to see you growing up and not needing her as much.  Sometime she may think that you are still her baby girl and need to be taught when you don’t.  Remind her from time to time that you are not a baby.  Remember that mom does want what’s best for you.  She is not out there to get you, she wants to see you succeed.
Whew!  We're glad to be done - hanging out at the picnic now!
T – Time 
Suggest time together when you feel like you need it.  I usually ask for this when I am emotionally unstable and need answers to my questions.
She will be there…she’s my mom.  She’ll be there even when friends change.  It’s a permanent relationship. And God hand-picked her to be mine.  God knows there is no other mom that would be better fitted to raise you than the one you have now.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Confessions of a Tween's Mom - Eyes are Opened

Over the past couple of months I've been enlightened...well, a bit.  I've learned the definitions of 'fangirling' and 'bronies' and what it means to be 'friendzoned.'  So, I'm now super cool to my now 12 year old daughter...well, not really.

What I've really been clued in to is the crazy, crazy time that our kids are growing up in.  Emily's church youth group leaders had a brunch for moms of sixth grade girls a few weeks ago.  While there I learned that our girls are faced with bad language used by fellow classmates and friends.  The 'F' word, along with all the others, is being said around my Emily every day.  I am proud of her that she's made the decision for now that those words don't need to be said because they're nasty, but she still has to hear them come out of the mouths of most of the kids around her on a daily basis.  It was also shared that the seventh grade girls are dealing mostly with their friends and classmates being anxious, depressed, cutting themselves, and threatening suicide.  It seriously made me scared to hear this.  I left this get-together with my eyes beginning to be opened, but more was to come.  I recently was the 'adult' presence during an activity with Emily and a few other 12 year old girls.  One of them talked very freely about her friends who cut and want to die.  She also brought up the recent news about facebook adding more gender choices than just male and female - to which Emily said, "well that is silly, there are only two."  Right on, girl!  The concern for me continued as I had coffee with a friend who told me how her seventh grade son is dealing with friends who have shown him pornography and how there are sixth grade girls having babies.  Pick me up off the floor and fan me please....this mom has wide-open eyes now.

So, what do we do with this?  Like I said, my immediate response was to be scared for what our children are going to have to come up against.  I truly believe that they are going out into a war zone every day and we have GOT to equip them with the tools to fight well - instead of just being a P-E-S-T.

Pray:  I admit very ashamedly that I have not been praying for my children very often at all.  Prayer will bring  power to them through the Holy Spirit but it will also alleviate our fears and anxieties!  I pulled the book, "Power of a Praying Parent" by Stormie Omartian, off of my shelf and dusted it off since I hadn't opened it since I received it when Evan was born.
"When we don't pray, it's like sitting on the side-lines watching our children in a war zone getting shot at from every angle.  When we do pray, we're in the battle alongside them, appropriating God's power on their behalf.  If we also declare the Word of God in our prayers, then we wield a powerful weapon against which no enemy can prevail."  (page 21)
Educate ourselves:  I laugh a lot that I 'live in a little Christian-bubble' with a perfect little life and am so naive to what goes on in the world - I look at people 'around here' and think they're all good - that there is nothing really evil going on.  I will not laugh about this any more.  It isn't funny nor cute that I'm 'sheltered.'  This is the point in my life that I need to educate myself to what kids are into.  What slang is what.  What they will face so I can talk to them before they face it.

Spend time together/be intentionally involved:  I just recently have told a few friends how Emily and I don't have a lot in common that we love to talk about.  But, she just read the Divergent book series and she loves to talk about what she's reading.  So, I started reading them too.  It gave us a nice way to talk through some of the books and a fun way to connect as the movie comes out later this month.  I am super-glad I did this.  Sometimes opportunities do not just pop up but we have to be intentional to be involved and to work at our relationships.  In some relationships this happens naturally, but in some it doesn't - especially with a hormone-raging, roller-coaster-of-emotions, highly-sensitive tween.  Intentionally schedule some time to do something that she enjoys together.

Talk with our kids:  After we came home from the event where I overheard the talk about cutting and suicide and genders, etc., I talked to her about it.  I asked her what she thought.  I asked her if any of her friends talked like that.  I assured her that she needs to tell me if any of her friends ever talked about hurting themselves.  Jeff has taken her out recently and asked her what her friends are into and who is doing what? We got that idea from a friend in our Lifegroup!  Jeff just talked to the kids about how he was experiencing some peer pressure with his friends recently and what he did to resolve that.  And I just told Emily how grumpy I was because I was tired last night.  Hopefully they are learning a little by example.  We have to keep that dialogue going.  I also had to have 'the talk' with Emily recently before sixth grade health class beat me to it.  I wanted her to hear it from us first and about what God says on the topic.  I knew if she didn't hear it from us it wasn't going to be taught to her at school!

I'm sure that those of you with older kids are way past this stage of eye-opening and have all kinds of ideas on how to keep our kids on the right track.  Please share your experiences with us embarking on this stage!  It definitely helps to talk to others and get ideas and counsel.  And I know that the Wednesday night youth group at our church has been so great for Emily this year - it's a confusing time for middle and high schoolers.  If you have a teen who would like to go, please let me know!  Jeff and I are definitely thankful that Emily has two extremely godly women leading her group at church who are available and invested in Emily's life.  I'm glad that Emily has another choice of someone to talk to...sometimes parents aren't quite enough.

The fear has been replaced for the moment with thankfulness that we have so many tools available to help in raising our children in this world.  2 Timothy 1:7 says, 'For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.'  My fear was/is not from God.  I know that with Him, we can rest in the truth in Proverbs 22:6, 'Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.'  And when the anxiety creeps in again:  'Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.' (Philippians 4:6)

He gave us our children for a reason.  He obviously thought we could do it.  We want to do a good job and I know you do, too!  We're far from perfect but we are learning and I'm so thankful that God is equipping us through His word and His people!

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Target Practice

In December as I was having lunch with a friend, she threw out a question,  "Would nursing be what you would do if you could work and do anything?"  I feel like the correct answer should be "absolutely" - I mean, I went to school for it and have kept my license current and had just finished the continuing education hours.  I take a lot of pride in saying that I'm an RN.  It took a lot of work.  I enjoyed it while I did it.  I feel like I'm important when I tell people I'm a nurse (that's probably a whole other issue!)  But to be honest - it scares me now.  I have forgotten everything.  Except how to care.  Seriously, I was asked a simple question during a girl scout meeting the other night about head wounds and I wasn't sure of the about embarrassing.  Luckily Emily wasn't embarrassed.  Whew!  Back to the question my friend posed:  I answered her honestly and said, "I'm not sure that it would be.  If I could do anything for work - it would be to have a little shabby chic boutique store and make my little painted signs."  But I really felt like that was a far-fetched idea.

I interviewed for another nursing job in December and I still haven't ever heard anything back - which is fine.  Yet, it makes me kind of sad.  I know that every year I don't work is one more year removed from the skills and makes it more likely that I'll have to take some kind of refresher courses in order to ever get back into it.  Yes, the money would be good.  But is that what I'm being called to do right now??  I'm not so sure.  I feel like being available to my family is THE single most important thing I can do.  And if I'm gone 8-9 hours a day I don't know that I can be what I need to be for them. Every nursing position door that I've managed to get my foot in since we've been here has been shut.  Not sure it is the answer.  And it doesn't make me excited to think about going back.

So, this month I've looked into the prices of renting booths to sell my handiwork.  There aren't many openings even though there are lots of shops and the rent is pricey.  I didn't even know if my stuff was cute - I'd only given it as gifts and you never know if people actually like it or are just being nice!   I decided to put pictures on my facebook page <---(click on that to see them) a week ago showing what I make and I started selling them and taking orders immediately!  I didn't even have it completely thought out and people were asking how much and whether I took orders!  Joy just flooded me.  I truly enjoy painting and making these little signs.  Yay!

Now...I wasn't able to start selling these signs without being intentional.  I've wanted to do it for a long time but hadn't done anything about it.  I finally took some steps and got it done after the conversation with my friend when I actually voiced my desire.

Last February I read a book by Anne Ortlund called "Disciplines of the Beautiful Woman."  It wasn't my favorite book ever.  But, I was very much challenged by the author to write down my LIFE PURPOSES, my LIFE GOALS, and my YEAR GOALS.  She pointed out the importance of writing them down.  There's something powerful about it.  It's intentional.  Once it's on paper I can review and revisit them and see them.  I can pray over them and ask God if it is still what He wants of me.  I made my life purposes more general like: Give generously, Trust blindly, Grow continually, etc.  My life goals are more specific like: go on a mission trip, write a Christian women's book, etc.  My year goals are very specific and are more of baby-steps to getting to my life goals at times: Continue blogging and praying about what to write, make daily time with God non-negotiable, etc.  I've loved having these written down so I have direction.  I re-wrote them in January this year and tweaked them a bit.  I pray over them often.

Seems like once God speaks to you about something, it comes up everywhere, right?  "If you aim at nothing, you will hit it every time."  I've heard this quote a lot, but I was really convicted the last time I heard it said by Pastor Kevin.  SO true.  What am I aiming for?  What is life about?  Is it just getting up, going through the motions, hopefully having a few good moments, going to bed, doing it all over and over and over?  What am I trying to accomplish?  Mine and yours main life purposes should be to glorify God in all we do and to become more like Him.  If I haven't thought about it or written it down - been intentional  -- am I going to 'hit the mark?'

I am reading "A Confident Heart" by Renee Swope for my women's Bible Study right now.  Renee says, "When we don't know what our heart's desires are, we tend to spend our lives fulfilling the desires of others."  Ugh...what a waste!  I want to do what God wants me to do.  And what brings me joy too!  She adds, "But just as a target is designed to narrow the aim of an arrow, God uses the desires of our hearts to narrow the focus of where He wants our lives to make a mark for eternity."  I want my arrows to leave marks not just whiz around hitting nothing.  But if I don't have anything to aim at - what do I expect is going to happen?  If I don't know what the desires of my heart are??  Well, start by asking God.  He will reveal it.  It made me smile so big when my heart desire came to fruition with painting my signs and selling them!  My heart desire of writing my thoughts and feelings out became something I could do just by sitting down and doing it.  My heart desire of encouraging became something I could do just by taking the time (intentionally) to write a text, email or card out to a sister.

Our new lead pastor, Pastor Shane, (yay!!!!) talked about the importance of  family values a couple weekends ago.  He reminded us, "If we are not intentional to set our values then others around us will do it for us."  It was a great sermon showing us how powerful culture can be on our households.  If we do not talk about what our values are with our children - then the world will tell our children what their values should be.  That. is. scary.  He closed his sermon with a challenge to each of us to go home and establish our values as a family - beliefs that guide us as we seek to glorify God.  Some hints - be specific/not generic, support each value with a Bible verse (God's authority), and write the values out and hang them up (as a reminder and for accountability).

Sunday night the four of us sat down and discussed what we'd like to have as our family values.  We came up with six "We will..." statements that we supported with scripture and hung on a decorative tree thing in our hallway.  We decided on these values together and agreed that we all need to help each other stick to these values.  It had never even crossed my mind to do something like this.

So, this has been a lengthy post, one I've been wanting to write all month.  I've meditated on these subjects for weeks now and it has flowed out through my fingers so quickly.  A lot of times I still feel like I'm wandering around aimlessly in this life - wondering what I'm going to be when I grow up; wondering if I'm really doing what I'm supposed to be doing.  I'm so thankful that God has shown me over the past year how important knowing and claiming and writing down what my purposes, goals, heart desires, and family values are.  And when I'm feeling like I'm not quite hitting the mark or feeling doesn't really come down to whether I'm a nurse or I clean houses and make I glorifying Him and making Him greater?

John 3:30  "He must become greater; I must become less."


Thursday, January 9, 2014

Taking a Break from the What-If's

I was reflecting yesterday about howI used to spend large amounts of time worrying about things that had already happened. I could have reacted differently in situations.  Or I replayed hurtful words from others over and over in my mind.  I was stuck in the past and was wasting time and energy on things that I could not change.  Over the past years I've gotten a handle on this with God's help, not to say I don't find myself dwelling on the past at times, but I'm not wasting away my years by obsessing about the past.  I'm moving on, confident of the hope in Jesus, forgiveness and grace lavished by Him...

So why did I start thinking about what I used to do?  Because I found it kind of weird that now I'm doing the opposite - I'm worrying about the future instead of the past.  Recently I've found myself throwing large amounts of time toward thinking about and planning out future scenarios - how things are going to play out...I'm not exactly obsessing or myself sick on it, but I'm spending a lot of time thinking about it..and worrying about how things will work out and all the details it will ensue - being the planner (aka control freak) that I am!
“You can’t worship two gods at once. Loving one god, you’ll end up hating the other. Adoration of one feeds contempt for the other. You can’t worship God and Money both.
“If you decide for God, living a life of God-worship, it follows that you don’t fuss about what’s on the table at mealtimes or whether the clothes in your closet are in fashion. There is far more to your life than the food you put in your stomach, more to your outer appearance than the clothes you hang on your body. Look at the birds, free and unfettered, not tied down to a job description, careless in the care of God. And you count far more to him than birds. 

“Has anyone by fussing in front of the mirror ever gotten taller by so much as an inch? All this time and money wasted on fashion—do you think it makes that much difference? Instead of looking at the fashions, walk out into the fields and look at the wildflowers. They never primp or shop, but have you ever seen color and design quite like it? The ten best-dressed men and women in the country look shabby alongside them.
“If God gives such attention to the appearance of wildflowers—most of which are never even seen—don’t you think he’ll attend to you, take pride in you, do his best for you? What I’m trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God’s giving. People who don’t know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met.
“Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.  (Matthew 6:24-34, The Message)
This passage (I know, it's long, but it's SO good in The Message version!  Don't you agree?)  I've read many times and it just came to mind.   Well, the last verse is actually what came to mind - and I had to google it because I couldn't remember where it was.  But the first verse about not being able to serve two masters/gods is mentions money but you can replace it with anything - in this certain case -- 'my own control' must be my god...  Ouch.  Jeff and I both had job interviews in December and we've not heard anything yet.  I have planned out/played out every scenario in my head of what happens if and when or if not and is it right or wrong?  Yet, we've not been offered anything yet.  And just this week there has been a buzz about school redistricting.  We moved into this particular neighborhood because of the schools that our children would attend.  We are on the line of moving to a different school - which would still be a good school, but not nearly as acclaimed as where we are.  This also could cause our house value to plummet.  The school board has not revealed which neighborhoods will be affected - this will happen next week.  But, of course, I'm scouring the numbers that they have released, researching the potential schools we may end up at and thinking through all of the things this might mean for us.  So...much of my last week or so has been useless.  Useless in the sense that all those thoughts I've had could have been filled with prayer for us or others or praise for what God has done or is doing.  I can not do a thing by getting worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow.  None of us are even promised tomorrow.

The part in the above scriptures "What I'm trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God's giving."  I need to hear that!  Relax!  I can look to the future and be prepared and see if there is any action I can take, but beyond that - the thinking and worrying -- it's useless.  I'm worshiping 'my own control' instead of turning these situations over to God who has complete control and knows my future.  Do I trust Him with it?  I know I sure do make a mess out of things often when on my own.  And so many times my knee-jerk reaction of what I think we need is not really the best for us.  He promises to be there to help me when hard things come.  I trust Him, but I need help with my unbelief, Jesus!!  So, what am I doing with today?  Am I wasting it by dwelling on the 'what if's' or the past?  If so, then I'm unavailable to be used by Him.  Today I choose to fill my mind with praise that God has me in the palm of His hand, He has good plans for us and He will be there in hard times.  I choose to fill my mind with prayers of 'how do you want to use me today for your purposes, God?  I choose right now...this moment...not yesterday or tomorrow...and I relax.

Image courtesy of dan /