Thursday, May 19, 2016

The Light at the End of the Snot-Nosed Tunnel


For the past two weeks, we've had a nasty virus and strep go through the house. Mama needs a break! The above is me, at least in my head...I'm actually running around like a crazy person trying to catch up.

Luckily, my boys are healthy again. But I kept wondering during that time why they'd gotten so sick. I had given them supplements, gotten them to bed as early as possible, and feed them healthy food (which can sometimes be a battle, right?). Why did they get so slammed?

It got me thinking about difficulties in life in general. Sometimes we can be doing EVERYTHING as close to right as we can, and they still pop up unexpectedly - and often, at the worst possible time.

It gave me solace to think that once my boys had fought off this sickness, their immune systems would be stronger. They could never get this virus again. Their body in amazing and unseen ways was fighting AND learning. Their immune system, though taxed, was simultaneously bolstering.

We can grow through difficulties too. We've all heard the adage, "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger." But isn't this a huge, often overlooked upside of challenge when we patiently and faithfully work our way through it?

Faith, like immunity, is a muscle that can grow inside of us. We will come out on the other side of things stronger. Things that once bothered us will not the next time around because we'll have greater peace, greater trust, greater comfort from God. Sometimes the only way to learn this is to go - and grow - through difficulty.

The Bible makes this promise clear in James: "Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don't try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way" (The Message, James 1:2-4).

While we're growing, there's an additional promise for us too: God's love is always surrounding us. I would have done anything to help my children feel better. Every hand hold, every snuggle, and even every clean up effort (you get the picture), reminded me of how much more attentive the God who made us is of us.

So whatever you're facing today, take heart. God is with you, and this too is temporary...So let's see those muscles!

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If you appreciate this post, you might also like Runny Noses and Providential Care4 Life-Saving Lessons When Adversity Strikes, and What To Do In A Storm

Monday, May 2, 2016

Warning: Learning Curve Ahead!

This post is in response to the TODAY Parenting Team's question, "How did life change when you became a parent?" We all have stories - what follows is one of our humorous ones. To show your support, please take a minute to click "VOTE UP" on the TODAY Parenting Team site - thank you in advance!

How is it that parenting can be both exhilarating and exhausting, rewarding and costly, and empowering yet unnerving all at once? Somehow it easily can. My husband and I quickly realized that parenting would involve a learning curve before we had even left the hospital with our first child. We had bought all of the supplies. We had taken all of the classes. But we soon discovered that we had made a simple yet important oversight. 

An attendant was wheeling me downstairs to the lobby to leave the hospital. My husband puffed with pride as he pulled our car up to the lobby door and brought in our carefully selected, extra-safe car seat. He walked over to me, set it down at my feet, and took our newborn son in his arms. Then something comical happened: We both realized we had no idea how to adjust the straps.


As he gently placed our son in the car seat, the straps were too tight in their original position. As he tried repetitively to make the ends fasten, I got more and more concerned.

“You’re going to crush him!” I panicked. It was that bad.

So he handed me our son and set to work turning the car seat upside down, to the side, and everything in between in hopes of finding something that could save us from our embarrassment. Our college degrees meant nothing. Handfuls of people were walking by in the lobby, watching the spectacle. 

Finally, a man in his fifties came up to us laughing. In one quick swoop, he pressed the lever, loosened the strap, and muttered, “I’ve been there before!” A wave of relief swept over my husband and me, and then a sense of urgency to get in the car as fast as possible.

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Home from the hospital...finally!

This experience taught me three important parenting lessons that still hold true today:

1. Parenting means entering a brave new world. No matter how much we prepare, there are always curve balls. Being willing to learn on the job is a necessity, for we’re all really feeling it out as we go along.

2. Securing support is essential. The grace that stranger showed my husband and me that day in the hospital was simply a precursor to the support we’d need as parents. Sharing advice, resources, and babysitters has been vital to our success – I mean, survival!

3. Parenting will involve expertise with foreign supplies. Baby equipment, for one, requires its own safe-cracking code. But as a mother of boys, I’m also realizing this principle as my children grow. For one, my oldest likes a sport that I previously knew nothing about – now I can lace skates with the best of them.

Elizabeth Stone once wrote, “Making the decision to have a child – it’s momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.” Even with parenting’s ups and downs, it has inarguably been the most rewarding adventure of my life. And given my experience so far, I quite expect there are even better surprises ahead…

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Put Down the Watch, Regain Your Trust


Last month, our seven-year-old bought his first watch. It was thrilling as a parent to see this milestone...until it wasn't.

Initially, he was so proud that he could tell time, and I was happy to see him grow in this new responsibility. He was mesmerized by the watch's features, like how it lit up in the dark and how he could operate its alarm and timer. His giddiness took me back to my first Timex Indiglo watch and how much I loved it.

Soon the problems started creeping in, however. He mistakenly set the alarm for 2 am and woke his brother, who was sharing a bed with him on vacation. He started coming down in the morning groggy because he had been up late looking at baseball cards with his watch light.

Most unfortunately, in his enthusiasm to keep track of time, he began to worry about it. He was constantly concerned about being punctual, and our family generally runs on time. He was preoccupied, asking scheduling questions rather than fulfilling his present responsibilities.

When our schedule for the next day was in flux, I would say, "Honey, Mom and Dad are still thinking through the schedule. We'll make sure you get up at the right time." But my already early-riser would bolt out of bed extra early the next day. I wanted him to trust me, but that trust conflicted with his new sense of control.

I could feel God nudging me as I stood reassuring my son one day. How many times have I been frustrated when I didn't understand God's timetable? How often do I want the things that I can control to bleed over into the things I cannot? Am I always willing to surrender that same kind of trust to God that I am asking my son to do for me? 

I also felt the ache of a parent who's conflicted. Just as I wanted my child to develop, I also wanted him to know rest. I wanted him to know the rest that can come from trusting a parent who has loved him since before he was even born - a parent who only wants what's best for him. That's a promise he could always depend on, even when he was frustrated or didn't understand. This gave me a valuable glimpse into God's very heart.

My husband and I decided to start taking away our son's watch at night. We explained that it was still his watch, but that most people do not sleep in theirs. There is a time to focus on our schedule, and there is a time to relax and trust. Somehow, things slowly went back to normal.

Yet the incident makes me wonder: Have you put your watch on the shelf recently? Are you content trusting God's timing around something you might really, really want? Scripture reassures us, "The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the person who seeks him. It is good that he waits silently for the salvation of the Lord" (Lamentations 3:25-6). True rest, my friends, awaits.

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Are you waiting? Here is an article you might appreciate too: 5 Reasons God Makes Us Wait from Relevant Magazine.

In my last post, I mentioned that I would be attending the Festival of Faith and Writing in Grand Rapids, MI. I had an amazing time! I highly recommend the conference if you are pursuing faith-based writing. Check out my Twitter feed for highlights! Here I am at the festival with two fellow bloggers from iBelieve.com, Kate Motaung and Bronwyn Lea:


Wednesday, April 13, 2016

5 Essential Prayers as You Parent


Have you taken time to think about your wildest dreams for your child? Have you spent time listening to the Holy Spirit about God's plan for their life with an open mind? Have you picked up on their seeds of greatness and wanted to be the water and sun for those seeds through prayer?

Or is your heart hurting today? Do you find that you have exhausted every avenue of potential action and are left standing frustrated and alone? You know that your child is journeying down a different path, a dangerous path than the one you want for them, and the only tool you have left is the power of prayer.

Or maybe your child is struggling with a challenge. It might be too big for them to handle by themselves, or maybe it is an opportunity to test their wings. You waiver between holding on and letting go, and pray that the Holy Spirit will give you wisdom to counsel and support them in just the right way so that they can take flight.

Moms, whether you are dreaming, standing before God in scary vulnerability, or just trying to listen and get it right, we have a powerful tool at our disposal: prayer. Prayer is not a trite quick-fix answer, but a conversation with God that unlocks the power of possibility. {Tweet that.} Listen to how Paul describes God in scripture, "Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever..." (Ephesians 3:20-21). We pray to a God "who is able to do immeasurable more than all we ask or imagine," but it is still up to us to do the asking and imagining.

As a pastor who has prayed at hospital bedsides, with prayer partners, and in front of congregations, I have given a lot of thought to how I want to pray with and for my children. Time and time again I have heard stories about mothers whose prayer life God has used to change the course of their child's trajectory or plant seeds of greatness in them.

I was moved and convicted by a recent quote written by a mom about the power of prayer. In her devotional Out of the Spin Cycle: Devotions to Lighten Your Mother Load, Jen Hatmaker writes, "Perhaps no service rendered to our children is more important than our intercession. A mother's job is to pray for her children while they don't have the words, understanding, or insight to pray for themselves. We stand in the gap, praying for their salvation, gifts, and lives, much like the Spirit prays for us" (p. 25). As moms, we do a lot to serve our children. But the greatest service we can offer them is a powerful tool whose reach is far beyond our own. {Tweet that.}

There is no correct formula to follow when praying for our children, for children are different. They have different gifts, needs, and challenges. Further, there is no best way to offer our petitions, for we are promised that the Holy Spirit will intercede for us when we struggle for words (Romans 8:26). So there is no need for us to feel intimidated - no! We have the Holy Spirit as our prayer partner. We can confidently approach the throne with the desires of our heart and a willingness to be used in God's service.

Whatever you are looking to petition God for, I offer these five bench markers as you formulate your words:

1.  God, I ask you to show my child your love so that they would know it beyond a shadow of a doubt. This is the beginning of a faith relationship (1 John 4:19).  

2.  God, I ask you to protect my child. Some mothers envision a band of angels surrounding their children. King David describes God's favor like a shield (Psalm 5:12).  

3.  God, I ask you to guide their steps according to your ways and will. Scripture promises rich blessings to those who pursue righteousness (Psalm 19:7-11).

4.  God, I ask that your plan for their life would involve using them in a tremendous way. This is our opportunity to dream big for their lives. Our goal is not to impose our own plans upon our children, but to help fuel their God-given destinies (Proverbs 16:9).

5.  God, I ask you to equip me to be the absolute best parent that I can be. This prayer will certainly involve growing pains of our own. But when God is growing us, it means that there is more good work for us to do! We will not only emerge better moms, but better people (Job 23:10).

As you work to combine these bench markers with your own unique petitions, remember that you are doing important work. I am convinced that the prayer of a mother has a special place in the heart of God. Remember Christ's love for his earthly mother, Mary. Remember their unique bond. THIS is the Son who is approaching the Father for you. THIS is the Son who said,  "And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father" (John 14:13). Have confidence. Take heart. Your prayers matter. And your Heavenly Father is waiting to listen to YOU.

If this post encouraged you, please pass it on!  You might also like A Mom's Ultimate Blessing: A Prayer for Armor

If you are interested in reading further, I found these posts to be rich in scriptural insight: 10 Prayers for Your Son and 10 Prayers for Your Daughter.

{Photo from iStock/GJohnstonPhoto}

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I hope you enjoyed this post, also titled The Power of a Praying Mom, once again. I shared it this week, as it's one many continue coming back to - thanks for your support!

I am excited to announce that my recent post for the TODAY Show Parenting Team went viral, and authors like Max Lucado, Sally Lloyd-Jones, and Mary Pope Osborne have either tweeted or retweeted it in the past couple of weeks - SUCH an honor! The post has had around 40,000 views. If you haven't done so already, please click the "VOTE UP" button on the post to show your support. Your voting allows for its longevity on the site. :-)

This week, I'm off to the Festival of Faith and Writing for the first time...I can't wait to experience it! More soon.

TODAY Video Clip