September 30, 2013

The Winds of Change

Well, my 35th birthday just a few weeks away.  How did this happen?  Where has the time gone? (I am sure my parents are thinking the same thing!)

Lots of new things coming up this month!  Not only am I turning another year older, I am taking on the challenge of spending the next 40 days focusing on the poor.  I have no idea what God will do with this time, but I am praying that He will change the hearts and lives of my little family.  This will be hard for me, not just because I love food, but also because I tend to become very legalistic about things.  It will be hard for me not to do this with this challenge.  I am praying that God uses this time to help me cherish meal times, the amazing variety He has given us in food, the clean water that I take for granted, and the opportunity to help others out of our abundance.  I pray that through this our children see what an amazing Creator we have and how much He has blessed us.

Another new thing that has recently started is that I have temporarily stepped out of band and choir.  This was a very difficult decision reached through months of prayer and tears with Kevin and close friends.  There are two main reasons for this: 1) I really felt the need to sit with my children during worship.  I have been feeling the need to do this for some time, but just wasn't quite ready to make the step.  2) Our Sunday mornings have been so hectic that by the time we get to church it is nearly impossible to worship.  This also made it harder for the kids to focus.  Now that the kids and I don't have to be at church as early we have plenty of time for breakfast and even to read the Bible together before we go.  A pleasant by-product of this is the opportunity to do more drama at church, which I have really been missing.  God is blessing this decision so far and I look forward to seeing how God will use this new season of life. (Of course, I do miss band and choir!)

Lord, take this new season of life and use it to transform my family.  Change my heart and the heart of my children.  Mold us to be more like You each day!

September 21, 2013

A Prayer for Change That Lasts

We just finished celebrating our dear friend's daughter's birthday party.  I was so blessed as they chose to use her birthday as an opportunity to give to those in need.  Each child there was able to make a shoebox for Operation Christmas Child.  Rather than presents, everyone brought gifts that could be put in shoeboxes.  It was hard not to cry because I was just so touched, mainly because her sweet daughter seemed so excited to use her birthday for others.

I so want my children to be that way.  I want my children to want to use what they have to encourage others, help them to be able to live, and to share the Gospel with them.  Some days, it just seems like that will never happen.  When we were talking about this birthday party and what we would be doing, E's response was, "What are we going to do for my birthday?  What presents do you think I will get."  He just missed it.  Sophie is much the same way.  They both seem so stuck in thinking more of themselves than they think of others.  Oh, how I want to pass it off on their ages or just that it's a phase and when they'll get older they'll "get it".  I just can't really believe that's true.  They can know better now.  They can choose better now.  They can love others better now.

So, where's the block?  What's holding them back from loving others more than themselves?  I know that a huge part of it is that they are lost and I can't expect them to act like they aren't.  But, I have seen plenty of children who aren't saved put others first time and time again.  I have seen them love the least of these more than many adults who claim to be Christians.  I can only come to the humiliating and humbling conclusion that a big part of the problem is that they aren't seeing me model this for them enough.  I must find a way to make it more real for me so that it can be more real for them.  Right now I just want to pack them up take them around the world to see how people really live, to see the physical need that is just missing here in the US.  I know this is not feasible right now. So, what do I do?  I am choosing to battle through prayer for the hearts and souls of my children.

Starting in Oct. (on a small scale) we'll be doing 40 Days of Solidarity with the Poor as we seek to better understand the way people live here in the US and around the world.  It will also help us to see the many blessings the Lord has lavished upon us.  I am praying that as we do this, God will show us other ways that we can pouring out more of ourselves in order to serve others and share Christ with them...including ways that I can do more of that for my children and husband. 

In Oct. I will be fasting from lunch and using that time to pray for my children (which is not what was originally planned), specifically that God will soften their hearts to their need for Him and need to put self last.  Selfishness is a huge battle in our house, and not just for the kids (yeah, it's a pretty big battle for me, too!)  I want it to leave and not return!  Only Christ in us can make it happen!  So, if you think of us in Oct., say a prayer that God will make some lasting changes in us and in our house!

Lord, use the month of October to show our family how much we need You.  Use this time to show us that You are worthy to be praised simply because You are God.  Open our eyes and our hearts to our need for You in our lives, every day, in every area.  Pour Your spirit of conviction on us in areas where we are not yielding to You, even Sophie and Ethan.  Show them their need for Your salvation and redemption in their young lives.  Use the scriptures we are memorizing from James to show all 4 of us that we can turn to You for anything and You will give generously that Your name might be known.  Use those verses to remind us that if we love You and want to follow You, then we will leave our comfort zone and love on those You have created, whether physically, financially, or spiritually.  We will love others sacrificially so that they may see Your love for them through Your death on the cross.  Break the fear that so often catches me in its grip.  Help me to be Your hands and feet to my children and husband that our family might be Your hands and feet to our community and world.  Lord, make permanent changes in all of us over the next month that we might trust You more, love You more, declare You more, and look more like You to all who see us.

September 18, 2013

Guilt, Insecurity, Comparison

Not sure about you, but those three things can just demolish a person.  And in a week like this, when headaches are strong, sleep escapes me, and my emotions run high, it is so easy for these three things to rule and reign in my mind.  When I am tired and emotional I put up little to no fight against the things Satan throws my way, these three being some of the worst.  (Please know that the following post is not written to incite pity or compliments or anything like that, just to share my heart and my struggles this week in hopes of encouraging others.)

Too often I just let guilt eat at me.  Most of the time it's not even over things that make any sense or should even affect me.  I can't even being to calculate the amount of time in a day I spend feeling guilty about things,  Then of course, there are those things that seem right to feel guilty about, but you just don't know how to change or do things differently: guilty that I spent 45 minutes folding laundry when I could have been outside enjoying the beautiful fall weather with the kids, guilty that I cleaned out the dishwasher instead of eating breakfast with the kids to start our day.  Both things need to be done, so how do I make it all happen?  I must remember to daily lay it all down at His feet and allow Him to lead and guide all I do.  I must remember not to just react and do things purely based on feelings, which are so often misleading and confusing. 

Another thing I really struggle with is insecurity.  That annoying little junior high girl just never goes away, does she?  She's always feeling left out, alone, and not good enough, no matter what.  Why is she so hard to get rid of?  Why doesn't she just go away when we move past junior high?  Why must I always give in to that feeling of not being good enough, feeling like I am not wanted for who I am but what I can do, that so many just see me as the one that comes along with Kevin or Sophie or Ethan?  Why must I always feel like others are hanging out and becoming best friends without me?  Why must I always feel like my identity comes from what I do and those around me rather than from the One who created me and gave His life up for me?  Lord, help me focus!  Help me to have clear eyes that focus on you, not me.  Lord, help me to see how this insecurity affects not only me, but my husband and children.  Help me to let go of this need and desire to be something special or particular to please this world, but to chase after the things of God with a passion and desire that draws others to You, as well.  Help me to lay aside this insecurity so that I can be the wife and mother that You desire me to be so that my family can run after You radically and wholeheartedly.

I must agree with Theodore Roosevelt that comparison is the thief of joy!  I find myself constantly comparing everything in my life with the lives of others.  Yet, when I do this, I have no idea what is really happening in someone else's life or home.  I have no idea if things are even as they seem on the other end.  Why do I consistently do this?  I know it only ends in sorrow and hurt, yet I do it time and time again.  I compare my home, my children, my cleaning skills, my schooling, everything!  Lord, help me to see that comparison is of no use in the Kingdom!  The only comparison that brings about anything good is my sin to Your holiness, which leads to acknowledging all that You've done to save and redeem me and leads me to praise You for all You are.  Lord, draw me to You.  Lord, help conquer and control my mind and emotions that I may be Yours alone, devoted to the things of You and seeking to lead others to You in all I say and do. 

September 11, 2013

40 Days of Solidarity With The Poor

As part of my month of giving in October, we'll be doing 40 days of solidarity with the poor (on a slightly smaller scale than the book suggests) in order to spend less on food and give the extra money to a group that helps feed or provide clean water to those in need around the world.  I am thinking we'll go with Compassion International.  We toured there this summer and we were just blown away by all the amazing work they do in so many countries.

We won't be going down to one meal a day, as many of the poor are forced to do, mainly because that's not all that healthy, especially for the kids.  We will be doing our best to eat like the poor, both in the US and around the world.  Some nights we'll be doing $5 meals (huge thanks to Jessica Bonvillian for coming up with those for me) and some nights we'll pick a country and eat some of the things the poor in that country would eat.  I am going eat just breakfast and dinner and fast for lunch to pray for those in need and how our family can be part of the solution for the many, both in the US and around the world, who suffer from lack of food and clean water.  I will be drinking only water for the whole month (so, those of you who see me, you may have to remind me of this!)

Every Sunday is a celebration day.  This is to remind us that, as Christians, each Sunday is to be a taste of the greatest day on our calendar: Easter.  We are called to live lives of joy, not merely constant sorrow.  These feasting days are a reminder of that.  I was also challenged to invite someone to lunch each Sunday of the month (mainly because she knew that would be WAY out of my comfort zone.)  I am trying to embrace that challenge and face it head on, but I'll admit, it's not easy for me!

Here are some quotes from Chris Seay's book A Place at the Table: 40 Days of Solidarity with the Poor that really hit home with me. I can't wait to embark on this challenge.  There is a short devotion and story of some one's life, along with a way to pray, for each day to help get us through and see the truth of what those living in poverty around the world go through each day.  Lord, mold us and change us as we see the truth of poverty.  Make us more joyful and aware of even the smallest blessings each day.  Open our eyes and hearts to how we can help and give more of ourselves to those in need, both across the street and on the other side of the globe!

"God changes the world through humility and service."
"As we learn to march in step with our Savior, we find that our swagger gives way to a lowly and humble way of walking."
"We have allowed our love of freedom to become and excuse to live a life marked by self-absorbed consumerism."
"We often see ourselves most clearly in our children."  (Can I get a resounding AMEN?!?!?)
"The fact that God sustains our lives by a gift from His hand should cause us to stop everything and offer a sincere thanks, but so often we do not."
"The time has come to see the food set before us as manna--our miraculous provision for the day.  Certainly, if you haven't grown it, gathered it, transported it, frozen it, or packaged it, it is a miracle that it makes it to your table.  Avocados from Mexico become guacamole on a table in Minnesota in December?  Amazing."
"Feast days are a time for us to relax our fast and enjoy the extravagant grace of our Father."
"Ask God to transform your character in ways that lead you to be a person of humble strength like Jesus."
"Our goal is that our desires no longer drive our lives."
"Prepare for the unexpected."
"As we step into the wilderness, we will have to face many fears.  The world's economy drives people by fear.  God's way is to bring people comfort in grace and love.  May we lay down our desires and seek the heart of God...May He use this time to start and complete wholeness in our mind, body, and spirit...Be courageous, step out in faith, lay yourself down for 40 days, and see what rises in your life."

September 05, 2013

James-Week 1

We finished our first week of James!  We took this week off to learn and study the month's Family Quest verse, which we will do every month, so this will take us awhile!  I am excited to say that we all memorized the verse!!!  I'll admit that I am not sure any of us will be able to quote the whole book at one time when we're done, but I pray that God will bless the time and effort we put into studying and memorizing His word.  I pray that as my children grow older they will remember these words and put them into practice.  More than anything, I pray that God will use the scriptures they memorize to reveal to them their need for a relationship with Him!

I am so thankful this week for a sovereign God who reveals just how sovereign He is in even the smallest ways.  I was so blessed this week as our family got to see God weaving His scripture and history together as part of what we were learning in James was laid out in our history lessons.  In James, we saw that the Jews were persecuted for their beliefs and scattered by that persecution.  In history, we looked at both those doing the persecuting and those being persecuted.  We were able to see just what it meant and cost those early believers for their faith in Christ.  It was a joy to spend time in prayer for those Christians still persecuted today. 

Lord, thank You for leading and guiding.  This is not an easy road (and we've already lost the first page of one of our memory "books"), but You were evident in each day's learning, both in scripture and other areas.  Thank You for confirming not just the James study, but the decision to homeschool this week, as well.  Thank You for calling me to hard things so that You might be honored, glorified, and known deeper.

September 04, 2013

....And the Mother of the Year Award Goes to....

NOT ME! 

Yeah, so in case you thought our house was nothing but roses and sunshine, let me assure, friend, it is not!  Today was just one of those days!!!!  E, who was sick the first part of the week, was just so whiny and fussy about e-ver-y-thing today.  Seriously.  If something was said or done that wasn't exactly the way he wanted it, out came the tears and whining.  I think he got more spankings today than he's ever had in one day in his whole life.  I just couldn't deal with it. 

On Wednesdays I help out (and I use that term loosely) with a new ministry our church has started at an apartment complex across the street.  The kids go with me and get to enjoy some time with friends, make new friends, and play fun games.  Today, however, E's whininess (is that even a word?) was at a whole new level!  I had to spank him there twice and set him apart from the rest of the group...then a spider (daddy long legs) came within a 100 feet of him and he wouldn't stop screaming...I was prepared to just let him stay there and let the spider have him, but Mr. Jeremy was nice enough to move the spider. 

Church tonight was no different.  We've been working on his Family Quest memory verse all week.  He said it to me perfectly more than once today.  We get to church and...nothing.  He just doesn't want to say it...but he wants the candy...which he can't have without saying the verse.  Thaaaaat's right, another meltdown.  When Kevin walked in I am pretty sure my words to him were, "I am done with him today.  He's yours now."  Yeah, I was that mom.

Sophie had a pretty good day....until after church.  Mind you, it was after 9 p.m. (we have choir/orchestra and band practice on Wednesday nights, so it's a pretty late night for us), so I know she was tired.  And she is growing, so I know the pain she is having is totally real.  But, seriously people, I wish I had video of the drama queen crying going on.  Only Justin, Jill, and Mikayla were able to witness it in it's full glory.  Y'all, she came over to me JUST FINE...no tears, no sad face, JUST FINE.  Then her she screwed up her face and the loudest, most dramatic, ugly cry I have ever heard or seen came out of my sweet little girl, "MY LEGS!!!!!"  I couldn't do anything but stand there and laugh...and laugh...and laugh.  Seriously, I just couldn't stop.  And the more I laughed, the louder and uglier she cried.  I wasn't sure I was going to be able to compose myself to even speak to her.  Those three non-child having adults in the room must have thought I was horrible.  But, after a day of whining and it was so late, that's all I could do. I really did feel bad for her, but, I just couldn't help it.

So, if you see my FB posts and blogs and think that all is well and great and peachy keen because I keep listing thanks or whatever, just know, life in my house gets crazy and frustrating and loud and messy and much like life in your house (I obviously paid no attention to the comma lesson Sophie had yesterday).  It's days like these I praise the Lord that I have children with the ability to whine.  I praise Him that my children are healthy enough to have growing pains.  I praise Him that I have the ability to have the hubby take the kids for awhile so I can just breathe and be away from the noise.  I must force myself to see the blessings in all these frustrations.  Or, as Ann Voskamp says, I must see these moments as the ugly beautiful.  Lord, thank You for the ugly beautiful!