Thursday, December 31, 2009

Reflections on 2009

We are embarking on a new year. It’s kind of exciting to think about that. I like the whole idea of starting over, of beginning again. Not only do I look at the New Year as something to look forward to but I also like to use this as a time of reflection. It’s a time to also look back and recount the many ways that God has blessed me and my family. I like to remember the things He did in 2009 and discover what can be learned from all of it.

You see, to move forward I believe we need to also look back. In looking back, we are able to see what changes still need to be made…what relationships need more work…which priorities need to be revamped…habits that need breaking…steps in obedience that need to be taken and the list goes on.

Some people like to leave the past so far behind all they see is the dust. But we must never fail to see the lessons that can be learned from even the painful and difficult moments.

Being on Facebook, I have been noticing over the past couple of days a lot of different status messages about the past year and hope for the new one. I have read some statuses where 2009 was a very painful year. My prayer is that the pain of this past year will be used as a guide for the future. Everything that happens in our lives is for a reason. There is a purpose and a plan behind everything. It may have been a rough year but God was with us. You might have learned more about grace, appreciating life, and just who your real friends are. There is a lesson, even if it is a small nugget of one, found in every circumstance in life.

Use this time to reflect, recall and remember what God has done. For our family, I would definitely have to say that the highlight of 2009 was when we became foster parents. There were so many lessons learned through that experience. It would be a shame to consider the challenges of that time and dismiss them as just being something that happened, something that I can now tuck away and forget about. God doesn’t want us to forget! He wants us to take what we learned, what He has shown us, what He has done for us and use that to move forward in the greater things that are before us.

As you look forward to the New Year, take some time to also do some reflecting. Then be sure to thank God for all that He has done in the year 2009.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

You Are the Reason for the Season

Well Christmas is behind us. Or is it? Personally, I would like to keep the spirit that is part of Christmas going. There is something very sentimental, joyous and uplifting about this time of year. I love the whole idea of giving and showing love to others. I love time spent with family and friends. I love celebrating the birth of Christ. The feel of it all is something that we should carry with us throughout the entire year.

This Christmas I felt like God was showing me something new and it all started with a song. Music is very inspiring to me. I appreciate how God uses music to speak to our hearts.

The song is by Avalon and it’s called “We Are the Reason.” Apparently this isn’t a new song. A friend mentioned that Amy Grant sang a version of this but I don’t know it. I only recently heard this for the first time. Some of the lyrics are:

As little children
We would dream of Christmas morn'
Of all the gifts and toys
We knew we'd find
But we never realized
A baby born one blessed night
Gave us the greatest gift of our lives

We were the reason
That He gave His life
We were the reason
That He suffered and died
To a world that was lost
He gave all He could give
To show us the reason to live

We often hear during this time of year that “Jesus is the reason for the season.” Although that is very true, that we celebrate His birth this time of year, I felt like God was showing me through this song that WE are the reason for the season.

We must never forget that in celebrating the birth of Jesus, we have another reason to celebrate. You see, if there was never a need for us to be saved, Jesus would never have had to come to this earth. There would have been no reason for Him to leave His place in heaven and come to this earth, born as a baby in a manger.

The greatest gift that we ever received was Jesus Christ—His birth, His life, His death, His resurrection—it was all for us! But not only did He give us the gift of Him, He gives us other gifts. Sometimes these gifts are beautifully wrapped and when we open them, we squeal with delight. Other times our gifts come in plainly wrapped paper and when we open them, there is a sense of disappointment. We may be let down. This wasn’t what I asked for! This wasn’t what I wanted!

What gifts have you received this past year? Were you blessed in some way? Those are the gifts we joyfully open up. But did you receive other gifts, such as illness, death, or some type of loss whether it was in a job or in a relationship? Perhaps something you have been wanting for a long time still hasn’t come. Those are gifts we don’t ask for. But all the same, they are gifts from Jesus.

You see, sometimes we believe that gifts are supposed to be all good, the things we want. We become like children (or teens) at Christmastime that have this long list. They want everything on that list and if they don’t get it, they are going to be very disappointed!

Did you ever receive something you didn’t ask for but the truth was you really needed it? Those are some of the gifts that we receive from Jesus. God knows what we have need of. It is not always about what we want. The key is how we receive that gift. Are you going to stomp your feet, pout and proclaim, “This isn’t what I wanted!” Or will you obediently and joyfully accept what has been given you?

James 1:2 says to Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds… Sometimes our gifts are trials. Sometimes we receive many gifts of this kind. Are we going to try and exchange those gifts? Are we going to sulk about it? Are we going to become angry? Or will we joyfully accept and receive those gifts?

It’s the day after Christmas and many will be out exchanging their gifts. What are you going to do with the gifts that God has given you this season? What are you going to do about the greatest gift that you have ever received? For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 6:23). YOU are the reason for this season. YOU are the reason that Jesus came to this earth. YOU are the reason we celebrate His birth. YOU are the recipient of the greatest gift of all.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Exchanging One Problem For More!

Abnormal behaviors may include:

• Aggressiveness
• Agitation
• Hallucinations
• Confusion
• In depressed patients, worsening of depression including risk of suicide may occur

Allergic reactions such as:

• Tongue or throat swelling occur rarely and may be fatal

Side affects may include:

• Unpleasant taste
• Headache
• Dizziness
• Morning drowsiness

These are actual conditions that could be associated with taking a certain product. I was watching television one day and this commercial came on. I was stunned by the lengthy list of possible side affects and behaviors that could occur upon taking this medication. The crazy thing about it is that this medicine was to help you sleep! All of this risk just to so you can get a good night’s sleep?! You mean there isn’t an easier way?

It sounded a bit crazy to me. After listing all of these possible affects the commercial offers a free 7-night trial. Oh yeah, sign me up for that!

I have often been amazed at some of the commercials I have seen for medication. If you want to cure your sleep problem, then you have to possibly create another problem. Doesn’t make much sense, does it?

Strangely enough, it made me think about marriage. You see, we have this “problem.” It may be that our marriage wasn’t quite what we thought it was going to be. We are pretty sure that we may have married the wrong one. We rationalize that we weren’t saved when we got married so surely there must an out. Or we think that God wouldn’t want us to be so unhappy. He surely must see the way our spouse is treating us! God would understand, right? So we take care of the problem by ending the marriage—or we stray from it. Yet, in our attempts to “cure” our problem, we have just created a whole list of new problems. The side affects are an endless long list of possibilities that just don’t seem worth it.

The problem is, it’s too late. We take the sleep medicine without reading the label and now we have gone from having trouble sleeping to some serious health problems. We bail on our marriage and now we have more than just a troubled or less than ideal marriage to contend with. We have some serious problems and consequences to deal with!

As a personal testimony, I was not saved when I married my husband. In fact, the biggest thing that drew me to him was the fact that my parents weren’t thrilled about my marrying him. I was always a bit rebellious so the more they pushed for it not to happen, the more I pushed to make it happen. Now don’t get me wrong, I did love him. But the foundation to our marriage was not based on “godly” love, it was on worldly love. It was pretty messed up from the day we said, “I do.”

For the first five years of marriage, we went through some pretty trying times. Everyone who knew us was convinced we were destined to divorce. In fact, I’m sure we both thought the same thing—there was absolutely no way we could make it. But then a year after our oldest son was born, I had an encounter with the Lord Jesus Christ and about a year later, my husband did, too. End of problems, right? Not on your life! In face, it seemed new problems erupted. Just because we had changed the course of our life did not mean everything was easy street.

We still had a lot of that old baggage to deal with. You see, it didn’t just go away. Some of it still creeps up even after the 18 years we have been married. But now we know how to deal with it. In fact, a couple of years ago we sought some marriage coaching because of some old issues that had never been dealt with. You see, marriage takes work. There will NEVER be a point in a marriage when you can sit back and say, “Whew! Glad all that’s over with…finally time to enjoy a problem-free marriage.” Life happens. Disappointments come. Circumstances arise. Problems rise up. New seasons in marriage only bring new problems. The great thing, however, is that we don’t have to deal with it by taking a path that is going to lead to other problems. We deal with it by remembering that A cord of three strands is not quickly broken (Ecclesiastes 4:12). Husband, wife, and the Lord Jesus Christ…with these three working together, it becomes a cord that CANNOT be broken! And guess what? NO SIDE AFFECTS!

Friday, December 11, 2009


It is very hard to swallow your pride,
to stay silent when you want to speak,
to walk with your head held high when all you feel is shame,
to not defend yourself,
to find the good in difficult and painful situations,
to forgive when you have been wronged,
to love the unlovable,
to trust in uncertain situations,
to hope when nothing is going right,
to believe when it seems impossible,
to be content when you are not where you want to be.

But the hardest thing of all is to go through all of this without the grace and love of the Lord Jesus Christ!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

How Do You Greet God?

Not that long ago I got home from work earlier than usual. Shortly after I said hi to the dogs and walked past my daughter’s bedroom, where I saw our cat lying in her bed, something really struck me. I thought about the different greetings I had received.

At the door, eagerly waiting for me was our Golden Retriever, Clover. She was so happy to see me. At times we literally think she is smiling, she is so happy. She was bouncing up and down, so anxious to get my attention and let me know that she was happy to see me home.

Then there was Coco, our pug. She was unable to greet me at the door because she had gotten herself into a little predicament. Every once-in-a-while this happens to her, where she ends up falling behind our couch and is stuck. She sits on top of our couch looking out the window but either she gets worked up seeing someone outside and loses her balance or she literally has fallen asleep on top of the couch and fallen off.

So there she was, stuck behind the couch and so I had to rescue her. She was very happy to see me but I think it was more about getting her unstuck. I have no idea how long she had been back there. But at that moment, I was her rescuer.

Then there was Scamper, the cat who was snoozing away on my daughter’s bed. She never bothers to greet any of us at the door. She comes to us when she has a need (food, water, a rub). She was just content to be where she was at.

So what does any of this have to do anything? Well the thought that struck me was how much we are like my pets when it comes to our relationship with God.
How do we “greet” God? Are we eager, ready to receive Him? Are we joyous about being in His presence? Or are we like my pug, just needing someone to rescue us, to get us out of our predicaments? Worse yet…do we not bother with God? But only when we feel it’s in our best interest or at our most convenient time?

I don’t know about you…but I would rather be like my dog Clover when it comes to greeting God. When I go to church tomorrow, when I open the Word, the next time I pray…I want it to be that I am so overcome with joy about God, that I can hardly contain myself. I don’t want to get myself so worked up about things that I fall away from God and then call on Him to rescue me. I don’t want to get sleepy in my walk with God and then when the going gets tough, I call on Him. And I most certainly don’t want to sit in a comfortable spot where I could care less about His presence.

How do you want to greet your God?

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Appreciating Our Differences

I really enjoy the fact that God has made every one of us unique. I think sometimes people don’t really appreciate that. We mistakenly think that our passions and desires should be the same for everyone else. If we aren’t jumping on their bandwagon, then something must be wrong with us.

Think about the fact that God has created each and every one of us. Adam and Eve weren’t some sort of cookie cutter mold to be copied over and over again. They were made for a purpose and a plan that was unique to them. The same is true for us. Not only do we sometimes not appreciate that individuality in others, we don’t even appreciate it in ourselves.

For many years I didn’t like a certain aspect of my personality. I thought I needed a lot of softening in my character and granted, to some degree that has definitely been true. But I was never meant to be someone else. I have learned that God can take the fiery side of me and use it for His good and His glory. Can it also be used for the opposite? If I don’t watch it, then definitely! You may have even been a victim of it at one time or another. But my point is that I needed to learn how to appreciate the traits and bents that were placed in me and learn how to use them in a way that is honoring to God.

Part of the tenacity that I have has helped me in many ways. It gave me the drive to begin a college education just about four years ago, at the ripe “old” (just using a cliché, don’t mean it literally) age of 37. It also helped me break into some new fields of work after being a stay-at-home-mom for many years. Lately it has been giving me the drive to plug ahead and pursue that writing career that has been a dream of mine for almost 20 years!

Sometimes you literally have to dig to find the good in yourself. But there is good to be found! You can pick yourself apart and only see the negative things, the things that you feel need to be changed. But guess what? God sees beyond that. He sees the potential and He sees the person He has created you to be…who you are meant to be. I have quoted this often (probably because it’s one of my favorite statements) but our music pastor has said that the world is desperate for us to be who God created us to be. You see, who we are meant to be is not just for our benefit—it’s for the world around us, for those we connect with, those who we sometimes just “happen” to run into.

Through Facebook I have gotten to know quite a few people. It is amazing what you can learn about others through this ingenious social network. Granted, I don’t know most of them intimately but I am allowed a peak into their world that I would not otherwise have. You learn how different others are, what their desires and passions are…what makes them tick.

Some things may surprise you—in fact; some might be surprised to know that I am very much into politics. Probably the only people to really know this about me are my family. They know my passion to watch Bill O’Reilly and Glenn Beck, to read their books and other books that speak about the country and how we were founded. They hear me talk about politics. I believe very strongly in some things about our country and how it is going. This is one of my passions.

Others have passions that are just as meaningful to them. A wonderful dear Facebook friend of mine caters some of the most delicious meals you could ever have. She has a passion for food! Me…sometimes my family is lucky if I throw in a frozen pizza. Is my passion for politics better than her passion for food or vice versa? God put those desires and passions inside each of us. I have another Facebook friend whose statuses are almost always about professional ice skating. I think I have skated one time in my life and I will never do it again—have absolutely no coordination!

Just to throw some other interesting tidbits out there, here are some other passions/desires I have learned through various Facebook friends—you might recognize yourself in one of these descriptions (smile). I have Facebook friends (keep in mind I use the term “friends” loosely as again, Facebook is not about intimately connecting with everyone) who have these passions/desires:

• Sewing
• Knits/Crochets hats and hair accessories
• Reaching Muslims for Christ
• Dog/Puppy Training/Obedience
• Writing
• Politics
• Sharing scripture
• Singing
• Grandchildren
• Farmville (okay, just had to throw that one in there—Facebook people will know what I mean)
• Organic/Home-cooked meals
• Homeschooling
• Painting

My point in sharing this list is to simply show you a small picture of a much bigger one. God created a big world with a lot of little people to fill it. That means each of us may play a small—but an important role—in making up this world. As I look over this list, most of them don’t apply to me at all. I can’t sew a button. The closest to knitting or crocheting I have ever come is cross-stitching. I have only been in contact with one Muslim person. My Golden Retriever failed puppy kindergarten. I can’t carry a tune to save my life. Thankfully I don’t have any grandchildren! I have yet to get addicted to Farmville. I will probably never cook a “real” home-cooked meal. I have no desire to ever homeschool again and I would be lucky to do well at a paint-by-number set. But instead of just dismissing them, instead of just casting them to the side and saying, “Well it’s not my passion or desire,” I need to appreciate the unique role that these individuals play.

I kind of compare this to the scripture verse found in 2 Timothy 2:20: In a large house there are articles not only of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay; some are for noble purposes and some for ignoble. Whether you are gold or silver, wood or clay, there is a purpose—no matter how big or small—learn to appreciate it in others and learn to appreciate it in yourself!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Give Thanks

Psalm 107 tells us five times to give thanks to the Lord. Throughout other portions of God’s Word we are told again to give thanks to the Lord. Some of the reasons cited to give Him thanks include:

• He is good
• His love endures forever
• His righteousness
• His Name is near
• His unfailing love
• His wonderful deeds

Notice that the focus is solely on Him. It has absolutely nothing to do with us. It is so easy to get wrapped up in the circumstances and situations in our lives. It is so easy to become so focused on our problems that we lose sight of God. Even if God never does another thing for us, He still deserves our thanks.

I Thessalonians 5:18 is a good reminder of this: …give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. The focus needs to be on the word ALL. In ALL circumstances—poor health, death, loss of a job, financial struggles, relationship problems—it does not matter…His will is that even in the most difficult circumstances of life, we give Him thanks.

Does this make your problems go away? Does this change anything? Chances are that you can spend the next five minutes praising and thanking God but when it’s done, your circumstances will remain the same. Giving God thanks is not about changing your circumstances. It is about glorifying Him through those circumstances. Oftentimes you will find a new inner peace, a deep appreciation for all the good things in your life, or a new perspective on things.

Take time today to give Him thanks. However, this should not be a once-a-year event, where Thanksgiving we spend more time than usual focusing on Him. We need to daily give Him thanks. Part of my prayer time each day is giving Him thanks…even if I have been hit hard by sour moments in life, there is always something to thank Him for. Life may not always be good, but God always is!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Authority In His Name

“Can I tell Jacob that you said to go away?” My daughter asked me these words one day when she had been outside on the swing, listening to her IPod. Apparently her younger brother was nearby in the hammock but he was “annoying” her because he was staring at her.

It was a seemingly insignificant conversation yet it caught my attention. She had come to me with a request. But more than that, she knew that there was authority in using my name. It wouldn’t have been enough to say to Jacob, “Go away!” No, she would need to interject my name in this…”MOM said!” The command would mean nothing unless there was some authority in it. If mom said it, then it must be done (or at least that’s what one would hope for…smile).

It reminded me of the authority we have in the name of Christ. There is power in the name of Jesus. In fact, evil spirits know of the name of Jesus. They even know the authority we hold in Jesus as believers. In Acts 19 there is the story of some Jews who were going around trying to drive out evil spirits in the name of Jesus. It wasn’t that Jesus didn’t have the power to rid those spirits but those evil spirits recognized that those attempting to drive them out had no authority. One day the evil spirit answered them, “Jesus I know, and I know about Paul, but who are you?” (Acts 19:15).

Have you ever been embarrassed to call out someone’s name that you thought you knew or go up to someone and begin to have a conversation and it turns out that you don’t know the person? It’s a little embarrassing. Well it is more than embarrassing for an evil spirit to not know who you are because you have no authority to use the authority of Jesus’ name. It is spiritually dangerous.

Jesus’ authority extends too many things. He has authority over:

• His teaching (Matt. 7:29)
• Forgiveness of sins (Matt. 9:6)
• Healing (Matt. 9:4-8)
• Calling of disciples (Matt. 10:1)
• Heaven and earth (Matt. 28:18)
• Overcoming the evil one (Luke 10:19)
• Judgment (John 5:27)

The ultimate authority He demonstrated was when He went to the cross. No one takes it [life] from Me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again (John 10:18). He had and has all authority. Of His own accord He laid down His life for us. Now that is power!

One of my favorite songs we sing in church is “Overcome.” The chorus sings out:

All authority, every victory is Yours
All authority, every victory is Yours

I could sing those words over and over again. It builds up my faith in the power of His name. It is a reminder that He holds ALL authority. And through that authority, every victory belongs to Him. There is another verse in this song that I really like:

Savior, worthy of honor and glory
Worthy of all Your praise, You overcame
Jesus, awesome in power forever
Awesome and great is Your name, You overcame

This song speaks so much about the authority and power found in the name of Jesus Christ. And because there is so much power in the name of Jesus, we need to take special care when we use that name. We must never become careless in the use of His name. It’s not just a name to throw around, to impress someone. It’s not just a name we should use to get what we want (like my daughter was going for when she wanted to use my name).

The name of Jesus truly is powerful but as believers we need to use that authority in the right manner. Truly the greatest day to come in using His name is when at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth (Philippians 2:10).

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Proof Is Found In the Way We Live!

I recently finished reading a book that someone had recommended to me. It was interesting and about a topic I had never heard of. It was about a journalist who covers the story of a snake-handling preacher accused of attempted murder. At gun point he forced his wife to stick her arm in a box filled with rattlesnakes. As this journalist covers the story, he finds himself immersed in a whole new world…believers in Christ who not only handle poisonous snakes but who drink strychnine, which is a toxic alkaloid.

Snake handling is a real thing. It’s a ritual performed amongst a small number of Pentecostal churches in the United States. As I read this book, the thought that kept nagging at me was “Why?” What was the point? Sure, they quoted scripture to try and back up their reasoning: And these signs should follow them that believe: In My name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues. They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them. They shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover (Mark 16:17-18). However, what was the motivation behind it?

Throughout this story as you read about their gatherings at church, it sounded more and more like it was nothing more than a show. It was a dangerous ritual obviously and many have lost their lives to it. In fact, this journalist finds himself so caught up in it that he ends up handling a snake in the midst of a pretty wild church service. Toward the end of the book, although the journalist has become friends with many of the snake-handlers, he begins to also question their reasons for doing what they do. They claim it is to confirm the Word. In fact, they say that someone has to do it or the Word is found to be a lie.

This journalist also began to question why he took up a snake. He examined his own heart and discovered that it was about partaking in “ecstatic worship.” It was all about the experience and the addiction to danger. In the end, he leaves that world behind, discovering his own faith. So here’s the question that probes my mind as I think about this story. Is what we do in the name of the Lord for a show, something we do just for an experience?

Any time we are at the altar, during a moment in prayer, or any time we are before God should be more than just an experience. It should cause something in us to change or grow. Experience with God is not just for the sake of experience…its not to make us feel good or to get something out of it. Anytime we meet with God in any way, it should cause a change inside us.

These changes are not for our own good. They should always affect those around us. Anything within you that changes, will impact the lives of those around you…unless you are a hermit or something. Maybe God is working in you to grow the fruit of the Spirit or maybe He shows you something in your life that needs to end. It may be time to work on a nasty habit you have had or it could be to increase your faith. No matter what it is, time spent with God, an experience with God doesn’t end there. It reaches out and impacts others! And if it doesn’t, then maybe we need to examine our motives and reasons behind what we do.

The other thing I was thinking about after reading this book was how the snake-handlers thought that if they didn’t handle the snakes and drink the poison it would make the Word to be a lie. Do we as believers really have to go around proving the Word to be true? I don’t think so. In fact, I think others will see the Word is truth by the way we live our lives. We can prove the Word through our lifestyle, our choices, our words and our actions. If we claim to know Christ, I guarantee you that you are being watched! Some are watching just to see you slip and fall. They want to show that you are not who you say you are. They want your imperfections to come shining through. But others are watching because they want to see what it is that you have that makes you so different.

We don’t have to prove the Word. All the proof needed is in the world around us. God’s creation is proof. Our job is to live our lives in such a way that others can see Him through us. So you want to prove that God exists? Let Him be revealed through everything you say and do!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Love - Strong As Death

A recent conversation with my 15 year old son struck a chord in my heart. We were discussing what the Bible says about love in Song of Solomon. It says more than once to not awaken or arouse love before it’s time. Although we didn’t discuss it at the time, I went back and read through that book of the Bible and discovered in 8:6 that it says: For love is as strong as death. When I read that, I thought to myself, this is the key to teaching my children about relationships! You see, we can tell our children that love should not be awakened or aroused before its time but when they ask why, what will our answer be?

My children are getting to that age when interest in the opposite sex is starting. Going back to the conversation I was having with my 15 year old, he said the sweetest thing I can remember ever hearing him say. I was explaining to him why you don’t want to put yourself in a position of believing that you love someone before it’s time. He responded with, “I know” (typical teenager response…but then followed it up with): “I only love you and dad and Jesus.” Yes, my mommy heart did melt!

Now lest you think I have it easy, that coming from a 15 year old, I have to say that I also have a 10 year old who declared to me during a drive we were taking together to pick up a pizza that when he turns 15 he is going to have a girlfriend. He couldn’t seem to understand why his big brother doesn’t and isn’t allowed to have a girlfriend right now. At the time, my only answer was what my 15 year old and I had been talking about, how you don’t awaken love before it’s time. Now we need to have a second conversation and I need to provide him with the reason why. Simply telling my children you can’t do something because I said so isn’t really enough. But now I have a clear-cut reason…love is as strong as death.

Think about that. Love can feel so strong that you can literally feel like you will die without the one you love. Do you remember that feeling the first time you had it? I was in middle school when I felt that. I was absolutely convinced that I was in love with “C.” He was convinced of the same and I will never forget my first Valentine’s Day gift. He came to school and presented me with two gifts. One was a necklace where the trinket is half a heart. He wears the other half of the heart. The other gift was in the shape of a plastic fan. You know those fans you open to fan yourself when you’re feeling hot? Well it was red, in the shape of a fan and when you opened it, there was this waxy perfume inside. My parents made me give the gifts back to him and I remember feeling hatred toward them. Then they decided we could no longer have anything to do with each other so our phone calls stopped.

I was absolutely devastated and like I said, convinced that we were in love and would be together forever. Of course, now I can chuckle about that but I have never forgotten the power of that feeling and so I don’t take it lightly when my children indicate any type of interest in another. I understand very well what that feeling can do to you and what it can bring out.

The Bible tells us that we need to guard our hearts. Well, I also believe that we need to help guard the hearts of our children. There will come a point in time when we will have absolutely no control over our children’s lives. In fact, even now, I cannot control what my children do when I am not around. I cannot control what happens when they are at school or hanging out with friends. I can only pray that what I instill in them will make a different that impacts their lives.

Maybe it’s time you had a conversation with your son or daughter about love. Not just about the fact that we shouldn’t awaken or arouse love before it’s time but also to explain the powerful emotions involved in love. Death is a blow to anyone and love can be a blow just as strong. It can be unquenchable as we also read in 8:7: Many waters cannot quench love

May the first love, the very first love of our children be the unquenchable love of Jesus Christ!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Bring on the Discipline!

Woo hoo! Bring it on! Bring on the discipline! Can you imagine thinking that way? Who asks to be disciplined? Well as believers, we really should be thankful when we are disciplined!

I don’t know about you but my children have never asked for punishment. In fact, they have run from it or in other ways tried their best to avoid it. I do have a friend with little ones and she recently told me that every so often they will give themselves a time-out. Couldn’t we learn from that?

I was thinking about my beginning relationship with the Lord, when it was fresh and new and how everything just seemed to come together. My prayers were answered; I could see God moving in my life. Then as I became comfortable in my walk with God, I began to see something else happen. He began to discipline me. I found it very uncomfortable and unwanted. I fought against it at times. I used to think that because He was disciplining me, I had done something really wrong and made Him so frustrated that I had stepped out of His grace. I didn’t see His discipline as something to welcome.

Looking back now, I recall those times He was disciplining me and can now understand that it was all about refining me. Discipline is training that corrects, molds, or perfects the mental faculties or moral character, as defined by Merriam Webster Dictionary. It is a process that we must go through in order to grow in Christ.

I like the Message version of Hebrews 12:11: At the time, discipline isn’t much fun. It always feels like it’s going against the grain. Later, of course, it pays off handsomely, for it’s the well-trained who find themselves mature in their relationship with God.

Let’s pick this verse apart. First, At the time, discipline isn’t much fun. During the moments of discipline, it is certainly NOT fun! Think of the times you have had to discipline your child. Did they whoop it up as they received that spanking, reprimand, or loss of a privilege? Did they thank you and ask for more? I seriously doubt it. No, they probably either cried or became angry. When God is disciplining us, we don’t look at it as a fun part of our life. We don’t ask for more of it. We don’t say, “God, that was so much fun that I would like to ask for more!” Instead, we may do the same thing as our child…we cry or we may even become angry at the moment. “God, why are You doing this to me?” is a question we may ask.

Then it says It always feels like it’s going against the grain. When you go against the grain, you are facing some resistance. I’m not into carpentry but the best example I can give is when I am using my Steam Shark Mop. To get rid of scuffs or dirt, it takes less effort when I am going with the grain. If I try to use it against the grain, I have to put a lot more effort into it.

So there is resistance involved in discipline. Have you ever had to spank a child that resisted so much you had to practically wrestle them down? Resistance is a common reaction to any form of discipline. We do the same with God. It feels like His discipline is going against the grain and so we try to resist it.

Now we get into some good stuff. Later, of course, it pays off handsomely, for it’s the well-trained who find themselves mature in their relationship with God. LATER! Later is the first thing I want us to focus on. At the moment, at that very instant of discipline we don’t see anything good in it but later, at another time, sometimes not much later and other times it is years later, we see the good in what God has done.

It pays off! Discipline pays off! As my children get older, I can see how some of my earlier disciplining has been paying off. It is worth the effort and whether or not they realize it, the discipline has brought about some good. I can look back on the many times that God has disciplined me in the past and I see the payoff. I see the good it has all brought about in my life.

Let’s remember again what discipline is, according to Merriam Webster Dictionary: training that corrects, molds, or perfects the mental faculties or moral character. This is what produces a well-trained person. If you are into sports, you know that disciplining your body is what prepares a well-trained athlete. If you don’t discipline yourself to practice, to study or whatever it is, you won’t be well-trained for the task that is before you.

We cannot be “well-trained believers” unless we first go through discipline. Think of someone you may know who was never disciplined as a child. What type of adult do they usually grow up to be? Selfish, demanding, out-of-control and without any moral fiber in their beings…this is what is produced. So if we are not disciplined in our relationship with the Lord, we will not grow in the character and fruit that God has called us to.

So to bring it home, what are we being well-trained for? We are being trained for maturity in our relationship with God. Let’s recap that last sentence: Later, of course, it pays off handsomely, for it’s the well-trained who find themselves mature in their relationship with God.

If you have ever thought that your relationship with the Lord is stagnant, not going anywhere, not what you would like it to be…then you’ve missed out on something in the discipline process. Perhaps you have fought against it. Or you may have gone through the discipline but then went right back to doing wrong. As you resist God’s refining in your life, you are preventing yourself from receiving a “handsome” payoff.

Is it fun to be disciplined? No! We don’t have to pretend that it is. We don’t have to whoop it up. But we do have to embrace it and realize that while the process may hurt, the end result will be worth it. Here are some verses to help you out during those times of discipline:

Know then in your heart that as a man disciplines his son, so the Lord your God disciplines you (Deuteronomy 8:5)

Blessed is the man whom God corrects; so do not despise the discipline of the Almighty (Job 5:17)

Blessed is the man You discipline, O Lord, the man You teach from your law (Psalm 94:12)

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline (Proverbs 1:7)

My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline and do not resent His rebuke (Proverbs 3:11)

Because the Lord disciplines those He loves, as a father the son he delights in (Proverbs 3:12)

Saturday, October 17, 2009

I Want What I Want!

I want what I want, when I want it!

Although we could easily say this sounds like most other people, the truth is, I believe that we all battle with this at one point or another. In fact, for some people this could be a constant daily battle. Discontentment and selfishness can rear its ugly head within the best of us. I know that this past week I was struggling a lot with it.

How does this happen? Although the easiest answer would be that it’s because we are just unthankful people, I think there is more to it. It always starts with a desire. You want something. That something doesn’t even necessarily have to be something bad. You could want something that is very good. You could have the very best intentions. Yet something that is good or has good intentions doesn’t necessarily make it the right thing.

I Corinthians 10:23 talks about the freedom we have as believers. “Everything is permissible”—but not everything is beneficial. “Everything is permissible”—but not everything is constructive. These are words to live by! They can apply to every single area of our life. Although you can feel free to want whatever you want, it does not mean it is what God has for you. That can be a hard truth to swallow.

So it starts with wanting something. Well, on the other hand it could be that we very well do want something that is not good for us. I Timothy 6:9 talks specifically about money, the whole idea of wanting to “get rich” and how that causes many to fall into temptation and into a trap, having harmful desires. Harmful desires are lurking at every corner—a desire to covet; to want someone else’s spouse, job, or children; to gain power or to get control over someone. We need to put checks in our life besides those things that we clearly know are harmful desires.

Now here is where confusion can sometimes come in. So if we want something that we know is good, how can we be sure it’s not our own fleshly desire or if it’s really what God has in mind for us? We have to be tuned into His voice. We have to be willing to hear His voice. We have to sometimes not jump into things…instead; we need to wait on Him. Unfortunately, there is not a model we can follow, a formula that will work to figure this all out. Most often it requires patience and learning how to be content where you are at.

Discontentment creeps in when things aren’t happening the way we would like or as fast as we would like. I think we put up a blockade with God’s plans when we try to speed things up or make them happen in our way. Remember the story of Abraham? Instead of waiting for his promised son, he and Sarah went another path that created a huge mess that still exists to this day! We can get our way, sure, but at what price?

Remember, In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps (Proverbs 16:9).

Saturday, October 10, 2009


Changes have been made! Yes, I made some changes to my blog. It has been stirring in my heart for a time to go somewhat in a different direction. My heart and passion is to share the heart and passion of Christ and I want to make that available to many others, not just those who are moms.

Of course, you can expect that many of my blogs will still contain bits of my life as a mom but I want the freedom to also share beyond that. I am so thankful for those who have been encouraging and supporting me in this. It means so much to me.

So I have changed the look of my blog page and added some elements that help you to understand what this blog is really all about. I agonized over a title for the blog but could not come up with anything, so I decided that a title wasn't really necessary. However, it did require changing my web address so you will no longer be able to find this blog at my old web address. The new address is: I invite you to subscribe to my blog or you can visit the blog page itself.

The heart of my blog is the new headline that runs across my blog page: PRAYER IS THE MEANS OF SENDING A MESSAGE BUT FAITH IS THE SUBSTANCE OF THE MESSAGE. This came to me one day when I was journaling in my "Streams in the Desert" Journal. That day's message was about Luke 22:32 I have prayed that your own faith may not fail. I read the small devotional and began to write and that is what came out. I realized that when we pray, we are sending a message to God. But it's really just an empty message unless it is also accompanied with faith. Faith is the substance of that message. In fact, when I looked up the word substance online, I read something powerful. In the definition it read: ultimate reality that underlies all outward manifestations and change. Faith is the ultimate reality underlying all outward manifestations of not only prayer but the way we choose to live each day.

With that, I look forward to continuing this blog and hope that you will enjoy the changes.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Beauty for Ashes

One of my favorite verses in the Bible is Isaiah 61:3: …to give them beauty for ashes. The entire verse describes how God can take something that is ugly, painful, troublesome and difficult and turn it into something truly wonderful. Not only can we exchange an ugly pile of ashes for something beautiful but we can also experience joy in place of mourning and praise instead of heaviness (liken that to depression).

I recently shared my testimony with someone that was a reminder of what God has done in my life. Over the years I have shared many different parts to my story, however, the very beginning…that moment in time where I experienced salvation; it has been a while since I shared that. There is something powerful about hearing the story of redemption and even recounting my own story was faith building for myself, let alone for the person who I told it to.

Now my past…that part of my life that was so messed up, a big pile of dirty, sooty ashes has become something very beautiful. Not that my life is trouble-free or that I have been perfected in character—far from it! The beauty is found in my relationship with the Lord. My life was a pile of ashes…one day I was living for myself, living for the next drink, the next party…the next day I was living for the Lord. Now that is what makes my life beautiful!

This seems as good a time as any to also share with you that beginning experience of salvation. I don’t have to tell you all that my past was…I can simply say it was just that, a pile of ashes. But then my next-door-neighbor was invited to church by her friend. She was afraid to go alone and asked if I wanted to come with. My attitude was, “What the heck? I might as well try it...” I figured I couldn’t lose out trying to find something else to fill the hole in my life. After all, I had tried virtually everything else. I was a new mom, my oldest son Daniel was only a year old and my marriage was on the brink of disaster. I figured it was worth a shot.

Now let me tell you that I have NO religious upbringing. I might have been to a church maybe two times and that was with my grandma. So I didn’t really have any expectations—which I think can be a good thing. But the first time I stepped through the doors of Oak Creek Assembly of God and experienced the joy of others around me, my guard went up. I didn’t see it as joy; instead I saw it as fakeness. All the smiles, hugs and shaking of the hands, it didn’t sit well with me. I don’t remember what the sermon was about because I spent the entire service wanting to disappear. I felt incredibly uncomfortable and was so relieved when it was finally over with. I declared to my friend, who lived next door—who by the way had been touched by God and was all teary-eyed—to never ask me to go again. I would never, I said, step through those doors again.

I remember going home and telling my husband about the service and how these people were brainwashed. I didn’t know it at the time but God was doing a work that was so deep within me, I couldn’t see it. So I stop right here in the story to ask you about someone in your life that maybe God is doing a work so deep inside them, that you can’t see. How many times do we get frustrated with loves ones, friends or co-workers because we don’t see anything coming of our prayers for them? We think they are a hopeless case. We don’t see how it’s possible for them to ever surrender their lives to Christ. Don’t give up! We only see what is happening on the outside…but God knows what is going on within.

Now granted, for many people who reject God, it usually takes time for them to realize their need for a Savior. Sometimes it can take years and that may sound very frustrating for you to hear. We don’t know what someone has to go through before they get to experience that surrendering of their lives to Him. But every moment in time is not a loss, it all counts for something and even the years I spent running, God was still doing a work. I can look back on the time without Him (not that He wasn’t there but I just didn’t see it) and see how He is able to use all that to help others.

So back to my story…I had absolutely no intentions of going back to that church. My friend, however, wanted to go back. I told her to have fun. Now it’s hard to explain how this happened but I will just tell you how it unfolded. The following Sunday, without any real thought being given to it—and by that, I mean, I don’t remember consciously making the decision to do this—I got up, got dressed, called my friend and asked if she was going to church. She said yes and I said I was coming with.

What happened? I can’t explain it. I can only say that the Holy Spirit was drawing me to that place. It wasn’t me. My flesh had no intentions of going. But something so deep within me knew it needed to go.

This time, when I walked through the doors of Oak Creek Assembly of God I didn’t see fakeness. I saw joy and it was something I wanted. I knew I didn’t have it. I wanted to be able to smile like that, to feel such joy within. As I sat through the sermon, I thought to myself, “Who in the world told this pastor about me?” My pastor, Pastor Brooks, preached a message that I was convinced was for me alone. I was also convinced he had somehow found out personal things about me.

About a month ago those same thoughts were conveyed to me when the foster kids’ mom came to church and after sitting through a sermon about the prodigal son, she asked, “Did you tell your pastor about me?” She was experiencing exactly what I had experienced--God speaking through a man. Sometimes it won’t be our words that make the difference. We can get wrapped up in thinking that we have to be the one. If you are trying to reach someone for Christ and your words haven’t done the “convincing” then maybe it’s time to release them into the hands of someone else. You can begin to pray that the Lord would bring someone into their life that can minister to them.

So when the sermon ended, the one thing that stood out to me was that I had been on a path of destruction—not just in the sense of living a party life but that I truly was on the path to destruction, in that my destination was not heaven, it was hell. The reality of that, the reality of the emptiness of my life hit me like a cannonball. I went to the altar and cried like I had never done before. It was a releasing of all the pain, all the hurts, all the wrongs in my life. It was an emptying of me, my past was being poured out and the Lord would begin to fill me with new things.

Some people experience a radical conversion. Mine was pretty radical. I lost all desire for that party life. I began to walk a new path and here I am now, 15 years later, living a beautiful life. The ash pile is gone. Now don’t get me wrong, there may be remnants of my past…little pieces of dust particles floating around that still need to be dealt with but the progress is going forth.

Because of my past, because of the pile of ashes that was once my life…I have a very deep desire to see very single woman released from that type of life. I absolutely hate seeing the devil have his mangy hands all over the life of a woman who is meant to experience so much more. God has recently put two women into my life that I am ministering to and even in the past week, a co-worker has begun to seek me out for answers to why my life is so different. You see, that is the key to living a life for Christ. You don’t want others around you to see nothing more than a pile of ashes…you want others to see beauty. If you have been saved, you have a beautiful story to tell. No two stories will be alike but they are all powerful and are meant to encourage and inspire others. My challenge is for you to get out there and share with others what God has done.

I also want to end this blog with this…please, please, please, allow yourself to see past the pile of ashes that so many women are living. It’s almost in our nature, as a woman, to size a woman up. Many women feel threatened or inclined to compete with other women. Sometimes it’s all about the outer beauty of a woman. Sometimes it’s the house she lives in, the type of job she has. We almost instinctively start comparing ourselves to other women and then judgment sets in.

I have a friend that a couple of years ago, I confessed to her how when she first started attending our church, I was very judgmental. I was appalled by her dress, her mannerisms and thought she had no place at that altar when she was looking and acting that way. I can bet that many of you reading this now have felt the same way. You have seen nothing but a pile of ashes. So in turn you chose to look away, to walk away. You didn’t see the opportunity that was before you.

If someone had told me back then that I would one day become friends with this woman, I would have laughed in their face. But God took a pile of ashes and created a beautiful woman of God. It’s too bad I missed out on seeing the transformation take place…but no more. I will not allow that opportunity to pass me by any longer. Now when I see a woman whose life is a pile of ashes, I see the potential beauty within.

It is time that we declare to others what God has in store for them: to console those who mourn in Zion, to give them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they may be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified. (Isaiah 61:3 NKJV)

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Praying for Your Children

There is something very powerful and faith building when your children have been enlightened. As a parent you invest so much into your children that even when you receive just a nugget of your investment bringing something forth, it gives you hope and increased faith.

It can be easy to get discouraged when as a parent you are pouring and pouring into your children’s’ lives but nothing seems to be coming of it. You wonder if your prayers are bouncing off the walls of heaven. You wonder if your example has been for nothing. There are seasons as a parent when you may go through times of hopelessness. Your children may be making choices that grieve you. Your children may have lost that passion and fire for God. Your children may be on the fence and you are so fearful that one wrong move and they will end up on the wrong side.

Recently I began something new. Being a writer one of my favorite things to do is journal. I went out and bought three nice journals for each of my children. I began to write daily prayers in them. One day I would pray for their health, another day for their friendships and then another day I might pray for a specific situation they are going through. What I like about this method of prayer for my children is that I can cover so many different things. They are also written in ink, permanent memories of the things that I have brought before God so that I can look back and see how God faithfully answered those prayers.

I seem to be going through a season of answered prayer—not that God doesn’t answer our prayers mind you, but there just seems to be this immediate moving of mountains lately that have really boosted my faith. It has also been an opportunity to show me that God cares not just about the spiritual things in our children’s lives but even the everyday things we may take for granted.

For instance, my oldest son has always struggled to get good grades. Not because he doesn’t understand the material. In fact, it has consistently been that he gets A’s and B’s on his tests but he fails to turn in work. He just doesn’t see the importance of getting his work done. I had more control over that in his earlier years of school; however, now that he is in high school, I have a lot less control.

I have never been able to understand how he could let the potential final grade of an A or B drop to a C or D, simply because he didn’t feel like taking the time to turn in an assignment. So this has been a huge frustration for me as a parent. How do you motivate a child who doesn’t care? We have tried everything—punishments and rewards but the truth was that it needed to come from within. He needed to make the decision that turning in his work is important.

So this summer in his prayer journal, I began to ask for God to change his heart with regard to this. When school started I didn’t lecture him. In fact only one time did I say anything to him about his grades and that was something along the lines of “You have a fresh start this year.” I left it all to God. I didn’t nag or scold him. Now I’m seeing the fruit of my prayers get answered. He is striving for A’s in all his classes and is doing that…if not, at least getting B’s. He suddenly cares about turning his work in. You see, it wasn’t me lecturing him. It wasn’t me warning him. It was God being allowed to move because I moved out of the way!

Here is another example. Throughout the time we were fostering the two little ones, my daughter had grew to really resent the situation at times. She couldn’t see the good in what we were doing…she was too wrapped up in judging the mom, seeing the negative side of things and how our family had to give up so much. I knew it was selfishness oozing out of her soul but she didn’t it. So again, in her prayer journal I began to ask God to change her heart. I stopped trying to convince her that what we were doing was the right thing because I knew she had to come to that conclusion on her own.

It wasn’t until last Wednesday, after all these months of being in the situation, that she was enlightened. Not only has the children’s mother begun to have a relationship with the Lord and faithfully coming to church but she brought her friend with last Wednesday who has four daughters. Her friend is living in a battered woman’s shelter and the whole story is a very sad one. We are now able to be an example and an influence to yet another family.

Well after I shared with my family all that God was doing, my daughter made the comment that maybe this was why we had become a foster family and how God wanted to save their mom and now her friend. Do you think I didn’t try to express this to my daughter through the course of our journey? But she couldn’t hear it; she couldn’t receive it because her heart was closed off to the idea. God had moved in her heart and opened it up to the truth.

Her whole attitude toward the mom, the situation and the little ones has completely changed. She is seeing God work and I know this will be a huge impact on her life forever.

Finally, I have to share a story about my youngest son. I’m not sure what my husband and I were thinking when we named him Jacob but let’s just say he has lived up to the reputation of that name. Don’t get me wrong…he is not a bad kid. But he is definitely the one child of ours that is more drawn to do the wrong thing. He is the child that keeps me praying much more. I see in him that he has the potential to do great things for God if he can just stay on the right path.

So of course, I pray about this frequently in his prayer journal. Just last week I got that nugget of my investment in prayer bringing forth something tangible. He was telling me this story about how at recess he was with his best friend Victor, who attends our church and another boy from school. Now keep in mind these are 10 year old boys. This school friend of theirs was saying how he thought a particular girl was “hot.” My boys are well aware of what I think about that phrase. It is a very demeaning way to describe any female.

So this boy asked my son and Victor who they think is hot and my son said no one. This school friend then asked him if he was gay and he said no, that he doesn’t think those things about girls and then his friend Victor said they were too young for that. These boys stood up for their beliefs and risked the ridicule that would be received. I was so proud of my son and saw that my prayers are not in vain. He can stay on the right path and it won’t be me taking him by the hand and forcing him to stay on that path. It will be God working through my prayers.

I don’t know what situations you are facing with your children. I don’t know what struggles are in your relationship with them or the poor choices that they may be making. It could be that your children are young yet and you have only begun to really think about how your prayers can make a difference. Know this…God can and does move on behalf of your prayers! They may not be immediate but they will happen. It may not always be in the way we like or in the method that we would choose. God’s ways are higher than our ways. His plan is always a good one.

Take the time to really lift up those prayers to the One who created, formed and shaped your children. I do recommend prayer journals as being a way to keep track of the times you have brought these things before God and then be able to look back and see how God answered them. I think it’s a wonderful legacy to leave to your children. Every single notebook or journal that I have written in for my children, I will one day give to them. What a treasure that will be for them.

Meanwhile, we have a treasure of written words from God. We have the Word of God to stand on. This is the legacy that He has given to us and not only must it be something we read but it must be something we treasure. Use the Word as your sword to combat the things in your children’s lives that would try to destroy them. You cannot go wrong with the Word!

Every word of God is tested; He is a shield to those who take refuge in Him. Proverbs 30:5

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Whose Report Will You Believe?

So I have a question for you…whose report are you going to believe? I can still remember years ago when we would sing the lines to this song frequently in church:

Whose report will you believe?
I will believe the report of the Lord!

Well not that long ago one morning I was reading the account of the 12 spies who were sent by Moses to check out the Promised Land. The story is a riveting account full of all kinds of good lessons to be learned.

During this particular time of reading the account, what stood out to me was the name of the land…it was the Promised Land. Especially in biblical times, names carried a lot of meaning. There is a lot of meaning behind the naming of a land with the word promise—that means what God says is going to happen, is going to happen! The Israelites were told ahead of time that it was the Promised Land; it wasn’t like a surprise to them.

So we know the story, that 10 spies…10 out of 12 (bad odds!) came back with a negative report. How do you come back with a negative report when God has already promised you good things? The problem is that the spies only saw the things that looked impossible. Their eyes were fixed on the difficulties.

But two of the spies, Caleb and Joshua, came back with an entirely different report. See, it’s all about perspective. They didn’t see the difficulties and impossibilities…they saw what God could do. They saw beyond the circumstances and believed that God’s word was true.

But isn’t that just like us, most of the time? We become so fixed on the way we see things that we fail to put on God’s eyes. Wouldn’t you love to have a pair of “God goggles?” These would be goggles that we could slip on at any time and suddenly see things through His eyes. How differently we would live each day!

However, I think that’s exactly what God expects of us. We may not have a literal pair of goggles to put on but we can certainly choose to view things through the eyes of faith. Faith really is a choice. We either choose to believe or we choose not to.

Recently my daughter came back from a friend’s house where she has spent many a time in their pool. Several months ago she had taken my husband’s goggles with her and came back empty-handed. She had no idea what happened to them. After all these months, on this last visit to her friend’s house she very happily pulled out my husband’s goggles declaring that they had been found. We asked where she found them. They had apparently gotten stuck in the filter.

Think about it. We often get our goggles stuck in filters. We see things very dimly or we see things with a very cloudy perspective. Then we take that and run with it. We make choices based on that or worse yet, we try to tell others what they should do as we are looking through those cloudy lenses.

You know, over the course of these last several years, I have run across a lot of “regulating” from other Christians. These are believers who are trying to “look after” other believers. Yet they fail to see how critical, judgmental and cloudy their vision is. I come from a background of homeschooling my children. My reasons for doing so were directed by God. It was the right choice at that time for our family. Then we entered into a new season when the right choice was to put my children in school. At each season, whether I was homeschooling or my children were in school, I was following the direction for our family for that time.

I can look back and see why we were in those seasons. I have never regretted any decisions because I knew we were doing what was right for us. Yet often I have been told by other believers that my choice was wrong—whether it was a non-homeschooling family criticizing my choice to homeschool or a homeschooling family criticizing my choice not to.

Whose report are you going to believe? Where has God sent you? Where is He leading you right now? Are you going to look through the eyes of your flesh? Or are you going to look through the eyes of faith? It might be time to dig around and see if you got your goggles stuck somewhere. Wipe them off and be amazed at how clearly you can suddenly see when you have God’s perspective.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Lessons in Life and Death

Last night I attended one of the most impacting funeral services of my entire life. Over 1,000 people were in attendance for the funeral of a beautiful woman, Lori Dykstra. At 40 years of age, her battle with cancer was finally over with and the victory was hers as she is now with her Lord and Savior. She left behind a husband and four children, whose faith seems to be only stronger with her passing. Her life has truly made a difference!

This funeral service was more than just one of those times when you think to yourself, “What would others say about me at my funeral service?” It went beyond that. Instead of thinking about what others would say at your death, it prompted you to think about what others would say of your life. What are you doing now? What difference, what impact are you making in the lives of those around you and those you may not even know?

I guarantee you there were people in attendance last night who never personally knew her, but her impact was so far reaching. I am so thankful to have been one who did know her. We met many years ago in our Tuesday morning mom groups at church, Heart to Heart and Moms in Touch. What I most remember about her is in Moms in Touch, which is a group that meets to pray for their children and families. I remember her prayers, how she was especially praying for a particular family member. Her prayers were sweet and I can still hear her soft-spoken voice uttering them.

As I was journaling this morning, I asked God that what He stirred up within me last night would cause the woman of God that He has called me to be to begin to rise to the very surface…that my life could be so impacting. I can only imagine the hundreds of others who feel the same. It was just one of those experiences in life that you couldn’t possibly be the same afterwards.

Of course, I realize that there are many reading this blog who may not have ever heard of Lori, who weren’t able to attend her funeral…but let me reassure you, there is much that can be learned without having that firsthand knowledge of her and the incredibly beautiful life that she led.

Think for a moment about what you are doing with your life. What kind of a wife are you? Could your husband stand before others, as her husband did, and share how she truly lived as the Proverbs 31 wife? Would your son or daughter be able to declare to the world that you truly are the greatest mother they could ever wish for?

There were moments in the service last night that I felt almost like I was being disciplined. There are areas in my life that God was showing me needed some work. For those whom the Lord loves He disciplines… (Hebrews 12:6). He loves me enough to point out those areas. What areas in your life has God been trying to get your attention with?

A song came into my head this morning as I was typing this blog. The lyrics are a testament to the life of Lori but should also be a testament to each and every one of our lives. It’s called The Blessing by John Waller:

Verse 1
Let it be said of us while we walked among the living
Let it be said of us by the ones we leave behind
Let it be said of us that we lived to be a blessing for life

Verse 2
And let it be said of us that we gave to reach the dying
Let it be said of us by the fruit we leave behind
Let it be said of us that our legacy is blessing for life

This day, You set life, You set death right before us
This day, every blessing and curse is a choice now
And we will choose to be a blessing for life

Verse 3
Let it be said of us that our hearts belong to Jesus
Let it be said of us that we spoke the words of life
Let is be said of us that our heritage is blessing for life

'Cause blessings and curses are choices
Will we build up, tear down? The moment of truth is now

For your kingdom, for our children
For the sake of every nation
For your kingdom, for our children
For the sake of every nation
We will choose to be a blessing for life

I am so thankful for how God used her life and death to make a difference in my life and in turn, a difference for eternity!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

When Things Get Difficult

Do you easily walk away from difficulties? When the heat gets turned up, do you run away? In the midst of battles, difficulties and problems in life, we can get the wrong perspective about things. Unfortunately sometimes we are duped into thinking that if it doesn’t feel right, it must not be right.

When our family first entered into this journey of becoming foster parents, one of the warnings I received was to guard my family. It was a fair statement. However, the logistics of that, what that exactly means could be questioned. Does it mean that if things get uncomfortable, it’s time to bail out? That question plagued me after a conversation with someone concerning the difficulties we were experiencing.

I was expressing to someone who was close to the situation, that we were feeling overwhelmed. It was not easy to take in two children who were not our own. It was not easy suddenly caring for little ones when we had already gone through that stage. There was an invasion of our space, our time, our finances and our hearts. The truth was that it was more difficult than we had ever imagined it would be.

The response from the person I was talking to? Then maybe we need to rethink what we are doing. If it is disrupting your family so much, then it isn’t worth it. You have no idea how easy it would be to feed into that! My flesh would love to say, “Absolutely! This is too much for my family. I need to guard my family so it’s time we bail.”

It’s interesting how believers will use what appears to be a good and logical reason for getting out of a difficult situation. It sounds so holy to say your family needs to come first, that they shouldn’t have to suffer. But aren’t we called to suffer? Aren’t we all called to carry our crosses? Who are we to say that just because something is difficult, or uncomfortable, or maybe inconvenient, that it isn’t meant to be. If everything in life came so easily, we wouldn’t need to trust in and rely on God.

Believe me…I have had to preach that to myself almost daily. I have gone into this situation with my heels digging in the dirt. Although my flesh has fought it, I have not given into it. I have chosen to follow the Lord. If I were to act on my feelings, to say that this is too hard for our family, I know in my heart of hearts that I would be disobeying the Lord….that we would all be disobeying the Lord.

Think about some situations in your own life. As a mom, our job is to protect, nurture, love and care for our husbands and children. We are to guard our families, no argument there! But guarding our family doesn’t always mean we try to fix what’s broken or what is difficult. It’s in those broken and difficult situations that we find growth and deeper trust in God.

If everything goes to plan, in just five days our foster children will be returning home. Many have asked us about how we are going to feel. We went into this knowing it was temporary. It was never a question as to whether or not these children would be returned…it was when they would be returned home. We never had it in our hearts to keep them. We knew this was for a season and for a reason.

God has done so much through this situation. At another time, when I feel its right, I will be sharing about this journey through possibly a blog or something. For now, we are quietly waiting for Wednesday, to hear the word that yes, they are going home.

We will continue to trust, even if our saying goodbye to them does turn out to be more difficult than expected…He has carried us through so much…He will continue to. God is faithful and no matter if you walk through the fire, the rain, the floods or the valleys…He is there.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Strengthened in the Lord

It’s said that before you can win the war, you have to win the battle…or something like that. All I know is that a war is something much bigger and it lasts longer. The outcome doesn’t happen in a day. Many battles, however, have been fought in a day. Battles are almost like smaller nuisances of a much bigger problem.

This past week it was all about the battles of life. Nothing major happened, no large scale conflict that you could compare to a war. No, it was one small thing after another that when put together…well, it felt like a war!

Believe me…I do try very hard to keep things in perspective. There are others around me dealing with some real hard hitting situations in life. They are those punch-in-the-guts without warning type of situations…cancer, death, divorce and the list goes on. No, my life is not that difficult but it has certainly been more than a little bit uncomfortable.

As challenging as I found the summer to be with taking in two young children and the struggles to become their foster parents, the lifestyle changes we have had to make and the schedule we have had to maintain…I had no idea what I was in store for when I went back to work this week. It was not just going back to work but it was also my children returning to school and our foster children returning to daycare. It was quite an adjustment for all of us. Of course, I tried my hardest to make it as smooth as possible for my family, which unfortunately meant that I took on the brunt of the stress.

Going into this week, I tried my hardest to alleviate the stress. I am an organizer by nature so it was nothing to get my house ready and in shape, to have the school supplies where they needed to be, to put together a schedule, to get all of the kids’ clothes organized, and whatever else was necessary to face the week.

I was not prepared, however, for the little battles that would creep up during the week—the chaos at my work, at one point not even knowing if there was a position for me as a preschool teacher, new co-workers as four of them left over the summer, new children—getting up so early again—waking five children up at 6 am and trying to get them all out the door within an hour—carpooling—figuring out how I was going to get the foster kids to their mom’s house—trying to keep on top of laundry—just one thing after another.

My first day back at work I got a headache that later turned into a migraine and throughout the remainder of the week, I was either dealing with headaches, migraines or just having that feeling of the edge of a headache. I was worn out, frustrated and discouraged. I thought to myself that there was no way I could do this.

Then one morning I was reading in I Samuel 29-30 about David. One small verse jumped out at me that really hit me. David wanted to help the Philistines fight their enemies but the Philistine rulers didn’t trust him. He and his men were sent back home. Unfortunately, while they had been gone, the Amalekites had raided their homes. They found their city burned by fire and all of their wives and children taken captive. Not only had David experienced great loss but so had the men in his company. They were so upset about it, that they were ready to stone David.

David wasn’t in a war…but he was facing some real battles. He had been rejected and distrusted. He lost his home and his family was no where to be found. The men he was leading had lost all they had, as well. I am quite sure he felt a tremendous amount of responsibility for that. Then to top it off, his followers were ready to kill him. Everything seemed pretty hopeless. Yet…I Samuel 30:6 says But David found strength in the Lord His God.

I had a sneaking suspicion that my headaches all week were because I had not found my strength in the Lord. I was trying to do battle on my own. I don’t know how it works for you but I know when I have allowed stress to take over me I experience headaches. That is almost always the way my body reacts. When I have been strengthened in the Lord, the battles don’t go away. Oh no, they are still there but suddenly I find ways to face my enemies. David found strength in the Lord and went to action. He didn’t give up.

I cannot tell you the number of times I have wanted over the summer to give up. It was at times a daily battle to not call up the caseworker and say, “That’s it! We are done!” When I went back to work this week, I wanted to give up. I wanted to say it wasn’t worth it, that I needed to quit. I would beat myself up often over the way I felt…that it was wrong to feel such a desire to quit. I told a friend one time that everyone thought our family was a hero for stepping in and taking in these children. I didn’t feel like a hero because I knew the attitudes of my heart and the thoughts that swam in my head. Yet…God began to show me that even though the desire to quit was there…I didn’t.

I know there are battles out there that you are all facing…in fact; you might even be in the midst of an all out war. DON’T QUIT! Don’t give up! Don’t retreat! Don’t turn tail and run! Face the battle but do as David did, find your strength in the Lord!

Saturday, August 29, 2009

It's Not Our Job to Judge!

I was standing in line at the grocery store today and the man behind me asked what happened to the lady who was bagging groceries. I laughed and said it always seems to happen to me. I get in the line I see a grocery bagger in and sure enough, when it’s my turn, they disappear. Well he didn’t find it as humorous as I did and went on to complain how ridiculous it was. However, he used a lot of expletives as he shared his opinion with me. I just smiled and reached down to get my milk from the bottom of the cart and then he bent down and got the second one for me. For the next few seconds, we had idle chit chat and of course I thanked him for getting my milk for me.

For some reason this insignificant incident sparked a thought in me. What if I had said to him, “Um, sir, could you please not use that kind of language around me? I find it, well, a bit offensive.” Do you think he would have bent down and grabbed my other milk for me? Do you think we could have continued to have friendly chit chat? In fact, I don’t know for sure but I would bet that by the time it was his turn and I was long gone, he had calmed down…simply because I had engaged in a friendly exchange with him. Do you know that your simple acts of kindness and friendly demeanor can really change a situation?

Now compare that to this. My daughter has a Christian friend who attends the same school as her. At one time this friend would go around correcting other students about their language. She would tell them how wrong they were to be using that language. After some time, this friend began to really turn off other children. They not only stopped listening to her but they stopped being her friend. What kind of a difference do you think she is going to make as a believer when no one will even talk to her?

I don’t want to get hung up on the whole issue of cursing. That really isn’t what this is about, although those were the two best examples I had. It extends beyond that to other things we see people in the world doing—smoking, living with someone they aren’t married to, drinking and the list could go on. Is it our job to go around pointing out the sins of others?

If you think it is, I want to challenge you on that. You see, one of the things I have tried very hard to teach my children is that we are not to judge others. People who don’t know Jesus are going to sin! It really shouldn’t come as a surprise when we see sinners sinning. They are only doing what they know to do. If they don’t know Jesus, how can we possibly expect otherwise from them? And if we want them to know Jesus, in most cases the way to do that is not to point out everything they are doing wrong.

The greatest example of this that my children have seen has been with our foster care children and their mother. In the beginning I battled with a lot of judgmental thoughts toward the children’s mom. I didn’t want to see her through my judgmental eyes because I knew it would keep me from seeing her through the eyes of Jesus. So I did ask for prayer from others about that. Through the course of time, I was able to see her in a new way. I was able to see that not only was she in need of a Savior but that I very well could have been in her situation if I had never come to know the Lord.

What ended up happening, I never would have imagined could…we started to talk. We started to share. I got to know her in a new way. And through the course of time, along with the example that my family has set for her, she began to seek what we had.

One Saturday when I went to pick her children up after a visit with them, she asked about coming to church. Now think about this…if instead of getting to know her and talking with her, I had spent the last few weeks berating her, do you think she would have ever asked to come to church? If I had pointed out to her everything she was doing wrong, instead of pointing out to her everything she was doing right (and believe me sometimes that took a lot of creativity to come up with), do you think she would have been interested in pursuing the path our family was on?

Not only did she end up coming to church but she had an experience that has changed her life completely. She is now serving the Lord, has made incredible changes in her life, loves our church and wants to see her children living for the Lord. Now we talk on a daily basis and we talk about prayer, the kids, church, what God has done—it is just incredible to me.

In just over a month, the children will no longer be living with us. They are slowly starting to get weaned back home. She now gets two nights a week where they stay over. We continue to build a friendship. I am able to share with her things that at one time I couldn’t have—because there was something standing in the way. It was my self-righteousness.

We can’t win people to Christ by pointing out everything in their life that is wrong. That isn’t our job. It’s not the job of our children, either. So if you want your children to be a light, they need to be sure that they don’t snuff it out before it ever has a chance to glow. These are reminders that I will be giving to my children as we begin to start a new year of school. I want them to be people that are others are drawn to, not put off by.

Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you (Matthew 7:1-2)

Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven (Luke 6:37)

What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? (I Corinthians 5:12)

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Children Need to Experience Difficulties

I think every child/teen should get to experience what my 15 year old did last week. He was able to experience something that most of us will never have the opportunity to—and frankly, knowing the details, would probably choose not to.

The truth is we are a spoiled people. We are so used to convenience; instant cash, coffee, food, and the list goes on; and being handed things, that we hardly know what it is to go without. After all, if we have to wait more than 3 minutes for our fries, how many of us are quick to complain? Or if our beloved gadget breaks, how many of us have almost a nervous breakdown?

My son had to go through eight days without his modern conveniences. He was without his Xbox, guitar, cell phone and access to his family and friends. He didn’t get to sleep in until his usual time of Noon. Instead, he was woken every morning at 5 a.m. And it wasn’t by his sweet mother (yes, that’s me) delivering him a bowl of cereal. No, it was it to lights being turned on and shouts of having 10 minutes to brush your teeth and get dressed.

In case you don’t know, my son belongs to an organization called Civil Air Patrol, which is the official civilian auxiliary of the United States Air Force. The cadet program provides opportunity for growth in leadership, promotions and education in aviation. He has learned about integrity, respect and obedience to those in authority. It has made a real difference in his character.

On Friday, August 21st he graduated from Civil Air Patrol’s summer encampment. It was a nine day (for him only eight days since we got an early release for him) introduction to the structure and mission of both the U.S. Air Force and CAP within a military atmosphere. Part of the learning experience was hands-on activities that were designed to promote teamwork, along with developing their social and leadership skills.

My husband and I had driven the 8 ½ hours it took to get to Little Falls, Minnesota so we could enjoy the graduation ceremonies. My first glimpse of him, after a long eight days without any word from him, was as he was in formation. His “flight” marched in preparation for the Pass & Review parade. I took one look at his face and I was shocked to see utter exhaustion. I had never seen him look so incredibly tired.

Later that night, when he returned to our hotel with us after the awards banquet, he shared what he called the longest eight days of his life. Not only was he awoken early each morning, but the day was filled with activities, most especially things like drill, learning how to make hospital corners, how to take care of your uniform (which includes pressing the shirt and pants and polishing the shoes), marching in formation, classroom, and other hands-on activities. It was go, go, go. He said that one day felt like two. He would eat lunch and think it was dinner, only to realize he had only gotten through half the day.

They would go non-stop until lights out at 10 p.m. Then for two nights he had to serve guard duty—one night from 10 p.m. to Midnight and another night from 2 a.m. to 4 a.m. He missed quite a bit of sleep on those nights and said that during classroom time, he was falling asleep. So he would have to stand at the side of the classroom to keep from falling asleep. He was given a real work over!

Now lest you think it was only a week of torture, he had some great moments, too. He was able to fly a 172 Cessna (and that meant taking over the controls completely), use a tank simulator that the soldiers on base actually use for practice, participate in a confidence course and witness other memorable things such as a tank driving by while he was eating. He also made some new friends. He loved the activities during the week but hated the lack of sleep.

I think he learned a lot about himself that week…that he can do more than he thought he was capable of. And even if he doesn’t realize it, I believe he also learned to appreciate his life. Who wouldn’t after an experience like that? In fact, Saturday afternoon when we finally made it back home, he stepped out of our van and said, “If I didn’t hate dirt, I would kiss the ground right now.”

As I have had opportunity to think about everything he went through, it has made me feel so incredibly proud of him. I have also come to realize that he experienced something that will stick with him for a long time. If he does decide to join the Air Force, he knows better what to expect. If he doesn’t join, he has still learned valuable lessons that I think all children could benefit from.

How quick are we to try and make our children’s lives so comfortable that we fail to see the need for them to experience discomfort and yes, sometimes even pain. I am definitely one of those moms that would much prefer to rescue my child from any sort of pain. I would love to solve all of their problems. But as they have gotten older, I have come to realize more and more the importance of them going through the rough times.

It is during the difficult moments in life that we learn the greatest lessons. It is when our faith is tested, our character is molded and we discover how very much we cannot make it on our own. To miss all of that is to miss some of the greatest blessings that our children could ever receive. Life is not handed to us on a silver platter. It has highs and lows, mountaintop experiences and moments in the valley. We have to learn how to make our way through all of it.

Next week my oldest will be going into 10th grade. He only has three years of high school left—a short amount of time to begin planning and preparing for his future. These are crucial years for him. My middle child will be entering 7th grade…in the midst of those sometimes turbulent middle school years, there will be opportunity for a lot of growing, change and difficulties. My youngest is at the end of his elementary school years, going into 5th grade. This is a time of where there is that pull between still being a little child and wanting to become more independent.

Like it or not, they are probably all three going to experience some difficulties this upcoming school year. I have no idea what they could be but I do know that anything that comes their way is for their good, and not their harm. And guess what? I know that I need to stand to the side. I need to let them work through it. I can’t rescue them or solve their problems. But what I can do is be there for them…to encourage and support them. I can offer my wisdom when and if it’s called for. But most important of all, I can pray for them.

Mom, it is okay for your child to experience pain, difficulties and challenges. Remember all the things that you have gained from the same troubles in your own life. But most of all, remember that your child is not alone. He/she has the greatest Helper, Counselor, Advocate, Friend that they could ever hope for—the Lord Jesus Christ.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Letting Go and Letting God

One of my favorite songs by Matt Redman is "You Never Let Go." The chorus goes this way:
Oh no, You never let go
Through the calm and through the storm
Oh no, You never let go
In every high and every low
Oh no, You never let go
Lord, You never let go of me

I am so glad that He never lets go of me! But I am also glad that He never lets go of my children! Yesterday morning I left my 15 year old at his Civil Air Patrol unit, where he would be traveling with cadets from his unit and other units to Ripley, Minnesota. He is going to be spending eight days there, on an active military base.

My son has never been away from home for more than a couple of days. And even then, it was only by his cousin's house. Still, I would find myself really missing him when he was gone for even a couple of days. I knew letting him go to this encampment was going to be very difficult for me.

For those who know my family well, you also know the history of my son and the many struggles and challenges we went through with him. At 7 years old he was diagnosed with Tourette Syndrome. The next few years proved to be very difficult as he battled with this condition and in turn, a sleeping disturbance that eventually required medication. The result of his sleeping disturbance was anxiety and irrational behavior. Throughout those years I homeschooled him and it wasn't until he entered the 5th grade that I put him into public school.

By the time he entered his middle school years, the tics had disappeared, the sleeping problems ended, he was off medication and his behavior began to calm down. From that point on, I watched a brand new child and now, young man emerge.

Civil Air Patrol has been the best thing that could ever happen to him. He has always been very patriotic (at 9 years old one Memorial Day he walked along the gravesites of veterans at the cemetery brushing dirt off every single little flag he passed), a WWII enthusiast, and intent on having a career in aviation. This has been since he was in the 1st grade. His love for the military has only grown.

It has been a pleasure and joy to see him take part in this program. When he earned his first promotion and I had the privilege to take part in the ceremony by placing his pins on his uniform, it made me so thankful for how far he has come.

To leave him yesterday morning was to leave behind a part of him in a way. I know he cannot possibly come back the same after an experience like he will have. He is going to participate in drills, classes, tank simulators, helicopter simulators, small-arms marksmanship simulators, land navigation courses, orientation flights, marching everywhere he goes, living in the barracks, and the list goes on.

He is really growing up! I cannot believe this is the same young man who at one time would sing "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star" over and over and over again (smile).

Leaving him yesterday wasn't as hard as I thought it would be. I knew crying would do him no good. It would only embarrass him. When we got there, the cadets who had already arrived were lined up in formation. My son suddenly looked very serious and I knew this was not the place to bemoan the fact that I was going to miss him very, very much.

It wasn't until later in the day, toward evening when I began to feel sad. I missed him. I wondered if he was going to be able to sleep. I wondered if he had regretted going or thought it was the best thing in the whole world. No cell phones, so no way to contact him. All I have is the hope that he actually uses the calling card I provided him whenever he gets free time. So it took a while for me to fall asleep.

When I woke up this morning, I wondered what he was doing. I knew he was up at the crack of dawn and had probably already accomplished more than I could even imagine. The sadness set in again.

Letting go is very hard. No matter what stage of life or what event in your child's life, it can be very difficult to let go. I am so thankful that even as I face those times of letting go, I can know that at the same time, I am also letting God. I am letting God have his way in my child's life. I am letting God take control. I am letting God work and move and form and shape my child's life. I don't have to fear (although that can be a battle) for if my God is for him, than who can be against him?

For me, at this moment in time, I am letting go to not only the experience my son is going through but to the possibility that this could turn into a career move for him. He could end up joining the Air Force. That both excites and frightens me. But I have never, nor will I ever, stand in the way of my child's dreams if they are what God has for him.

I don't know what you are facing today. You may be a young mom who is watching your baby suddenly emerge into a more independent toddler. It can be hard to let go of the baby stage. It may be your child is starting middle or high school for the first time. This is a brand new and sometimes worrisome time for parents. It could be that your child is making some choices that you don't agree with or know are bad for your child. Wow...that is really hard to let go of!

No matter your situation or circumstance, remember that as you let go, you also need to let God work. Loosening the reigns, entrusting your children entirely into His plans, watching your child is all part of letting go. But remember that as you let go, God has His hold on your child. And as Matt Redman reminds us, He will never let go!