September 25, 2014

"Why Isn't God Answering My Prayer?"

That's the question my 5 year-old son has been asking for months. Just before summer he started having bad dreams and stopped wanting to sleep in his room alone. Then he stopped wanting to be anywhere alone. Of course, we began to be very intentional about praying with him for good dreams and peace and for him to be able to trust God and turn to Him anytime he is scared.

I will never forget the morning he woke up, came to me with tears in his eyes, and asked, "Mommy, why isn't God answering my prayers? I had another bad dream last night." My heart just broke. I felt like a horrible parent because I really had no comforting words for him, either. In fact, I felt like I was sitting in the same place myself. There are two big things that I've been crying out in prayer for the last several months, and there's seemingly no answer. I wanted to just sit and cry with him. I just wanted to shout and ask God what I was doing wrong, where my faith was lacking, and why He just wouldn't do something. I knew none of these would help my son. I know it took me longer to answer than it should have, and I still really had nothing deep or spiritual. All I could really tell him was that he just had to keep praying and keep trusting God's word when it says He is our protector and that He loves us and wants the best for us. I reminded him of the parable we had studied during Sophie's first year of homeschooling where the widow continued to go to the judge over and over again. She was persistent in her request and took it to him daily. I reminded him that our prayers are like that, we can continually take our fears, wants, questions, anything to God at all times.

I have to admit, at the time, I didn't feel like that answer was enough for me. I still don't know that it was really the right answer. But, I do know that in this time that I have been on my face, pouring out my heart to my Almighty God, He has taught me to trust and rely on Him, even when I have no idea what He is up to. When no answer comes, or at least the answer that you are wanting, that is the time your faith can really be strengthened. It hasn't been easy or fun, for sure. There have been a lot of struggles and ups and downs as I have had to struggle with what I want verses being willing to trust and follow God and being OK with His will over mine. There are a lot of questions still unanswered. There are still a lot of things that I desire to see happen, but have no idea if they will ever come to be. One of the hardest things in this is continuing to go to Him in prayer. When my prayers aren't answered, I just want to throw in the towel and be done. I want it to be my way or no way. I don't want to keep bringing certain situations or dreams or desires to Him when it feels like He's ignoring anything that has to do with those things.

 I am also, very slowly, learning to trust and let go of my own control. And isn't that a huge part of what this Christian life is all about? Letting go of our control and giving it over to God? I mean, He's the creator of the universe. He holds all things together. In Him, all things live and move and have their being. Isn't He much better suited to being in control, anyway?

I must be honest, I really want God to answer Ethan's prayer. To make all the bad dreams stop so that Ethan can declare to me one morning, "Mommy! God answered my prayer! No bad dreams!" In my limited human mind I can't help but think it would be so cool for Ethan to see his prayers answered. How could that not be what brings God the most glory? What rejoicing would go on in this house! Surely that would be what would draw Ethan to Christ and show him how much God cares for him. But, I'm not God. I don't see the whole picture. I don't know what will draw Ethan. I don't know just how things will work out and what E needs most for God to be most real to him. If continuing to have the dreams will draw Ethan to pray more fervently and spend more time with God (I have noticed him wanting to read more Bible stories where people are in scary situations; Daniel, the fiery furnace, etc), then I need to be OK that God's answer isn't my answer. Sometimes, if we got the answer we wanted, we'd simply say "thank You" and then move on, leaving God and the praying behind, never giving it another thought. So many times, at least in my life, it's when things are rough and not going my way, that I get on my knees and get really honest with myself and God. Those are the times that I grow and get deep with God and His word. Many times, at least for me, that doesn't happen when things are going well. I so wish it weren't this way!

Oh, Lord, give me wisdom and discernment to answer my children's questions, always speaking Truth and pointing them to You. Give me the strength to be honest with You in prayer, but to always have the heart of "Your will be done." Don't allow me to ever tire of coming to You in prayer, whether for praise and thanks, or in desperate pleas. Oh, Lord, move in ways that can only be You that Your name may be known and praised by many!

September 22, 2014

Choosing To Dance in the Chaos

This last week was..well..I'm just glad it's over. I was warned that 3rd grade would suddenly be harder, but, oh my. I was not prepared! We pretty much got nothing done but math last week as my sweet girl hit her first struggle in that subject. Two digit multiplication with regrouping. I thought it would be the death of us. Both of us. Possibly all four of us. Saying it was a long week was an understatement.

Plus, I was also teaching Ethan, trying (and failing) to keep the house clean, working on our homeschool group stuff, church stuff, and just not feeling well. Which all lead to the serious meltdown that hit me on Saturday. I just couldn't move or breathe or do anything but sit and cry. And I didn't really feel like I had a reason for it, I couldn't put it into words, it was just happening. My sweet husband talked me down from the ledge, sent me out for a walk, and he and the kids cleaned the house. I mean really cleaned the house. I was only gone for about an hour, but I can home and the house was spotless. I was torn between being grateful and feeling guilty that my husband was better at managing the house than I am (I chose to be grateful, by the way.) We spent the rest of the day doing nothing and letting my heart slow down. It was great!

I wasn't really sure I was ready to face this week. I was afraid it would be no different than last week. Seriously, I don't know that I can survive another week like that. Neither would my house. Or my family. I am so grateful the Lord gave me a slow, yet productive day. We got all of our school work done, He helped me to redefine my idea of what needed to be done in a day, and I just enjoyed my kids and school.

One of the best parts of the day was just listening to music and doing a little jig while I made dinner (we'll ignore the fact that it meant my kids spent an hour watching TV during that time...but part of it was Jelly Telly so that makes it OK, right?) I had such a great time just dancing and praising God for fun music. I think I need to incorporate this at the start of each day. I'm pretty sure that if every day started with prayer, Bible study, and dancing, each day would be brighter!

So, if you need to dance a little, crank up some of these songs (admittedly, I didn't choose these songs for deep lyrics or theology, but because the tempo and sound was upbeat, but the lyrics were also at least intended to bring glory to God):
Greater by Mercy Me
My Lighthouse by The Rend Collective Experiment
In the End by Natalie Grant
Live Out Loud Steven Curtis Chapman
See the Glory by Steven Curtis Chapman
Shake by Mercy Me

So, if you're in a funk, click a song title above, crank up the speakers, and dance. Praise God for the joy and power of music to change your mood and turn you to Him at the same time!

Lord, help me to always find You, despite the circumstance. And Lord, because I want to see Your hand in last week's struggle, I praise You for the following that I saw in the midst of the crazy: my son asked to read to me for the first time ever, Sophie and I got to sit and read a book just the two of us, we got to watch our Afterschool kids enjoy themselves at the park, I enjoyed an hour long walk ALL BY MYSELF, the house is clean and I didn't have to do it, there was a sink full of dirty dishes used to feed my healthy family, my husband is still here after the crazy he witnessed this weekend, I was able to worship my almighty God with no threat to me or my family.

September 10, 2014

So, I'm Turning 36 This Year

And I couldn't be more excited to share with you how I am celebrating this year!

Earlier this summer I had the opportunity to travel to Nashville and visit with several members of the B and H Kids team (a division of Lifeway) to talk about the possibility of some new things with Bibleman. Nothing is set in stone as far as that goes, but while I was there they showed me a new Bible they have called The Big Picture Interactive Bible. (My children both have one! In fact, I even use it during our worship service each week.) It has so many cool features. There's an app so you can scan pictures and learn more about the Bible and even some background information. Throughout the Bible, there are 100 scriptures highlighted to memorize, Big Questions are answered, Big Words are defined, and there are Christ Connections that show us how we see Christ in different books and passages of the Bible. It's great for kids and parents to use together, but also really great for kids to use on their own in their personal quiet time.

Then the Lord put something on my heart that just wouldn't go away. How amazing would it be to be able to put this Bible in the hands of children, right here in our own community, who most likely have no Bible of their own and no parent willing to read it to them? In fact, there may not even be a Bible in the home at all. Of course, if you know me, you know that I am thinking of our precious Afterschool Adventures kids. But, I knew that I couldn't afford to put this Bible in each of their hands myself, so I set the idea aside.

Then, I remembered my birthday. It was perfect! So, here's the plan:

I want to use my birthday to raise the funds to purchase these Bibles for each of our Afterschool Adventures kids. I am hoping that I can get 36 people to donate $36 each in order to purchase 36 Bibles. That is a few more than the number of students we currently have, but, that would allow us to have extra Bibles for any new students or any parents who may decide they want their own Bible, too. (And, it helps keep the "36" theme!) Even more exciting, I have a sweet friend who is going to donate 1 Bible for every 2 we raise funds for during this time. So, we really have the possibility of buying over 40 Bibles to be used right here in Hannibal! (The price of the Bibles may end up being a little less than $36 as I am working with the Lifeway store in Bridgeton, MO to purchase them there. So, I will purchase as many Bibles as the money we receive will purchase, even if it's more than 36, and any extra money once the Bibles are purchased will go into the Afterschool Adventures fund to help us purchase supplies needed to continue to minister to the students and their families.)

Through my time with Bibleman, and also many times since becoming a parent, the Lord has reminded me of His promise that His word will not return void. I know these kiddos may not understand every word they read, but I also know I serve a mighty God who has given us His Holy Spirit to instruct, guide, and convict, often times using His word. Just think what He could do with His word and these kiddos! I just. I can't even! I was really struck with the thought the other day that not only might this be the first Bible these kids own, it may be the only one they ever have. That made me even more anxious to get this fundraiser started.

So, from now until Oct. 20, I am hoping to raise enough money to buy at least 36 Bibles. Then, on my birthday, Oct. 29,  I'll be able to gather some friends and pray over these Bibles that will go to our sweet Afterschool kiddos. I know that's a lot of money and I know many people reading this probably don't know me or the kids who will get these Bibles, but I pray you will still be moved to help me reach the "least of these" here in my community with His word.

If you want to donate, but don't live in Hannibal, please contact me via Facebook for PayPal or mailing address information.