Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Full Schedules, Thin Souls

Have you been living under the weight of parenting as a competitive sport?  

As a parent of a kindergartner, I am just beginning to get a real-time sense of the pressures on parents and children in school.  It's so easy to spend our days rushing our children from one enriching activity to the next in an effort to keep up with society's staggering pace. Tensions are rife as parents sense the need to stay on schedule and children wane in enthusiasm to keep up.  All this "enrichment" brings squabbles, tension and exhaustion.

What are the outcomes of this pace on our families?

Our children

  • Our children become more easily stressed as they do not see their parents come down nor learn to individually foster that peace themselves.  Being stripped of this essential skill may be manageable now, but it could foster burnout later in life when pressures will only mount.
  • They can develop the need to be constantly entertained rather than an inkling for creative play and the opportunity to naturally gravitate toward what attracts them through casual exploration.  In other words, they sidestep an essential phase of God-ordained self-discovery.
  • Most importantly, they may benefit from advancements in a particular skill from an instructor, but they miss the monumental benefit of extensive time with parents for the instruction that is meant to shape their whole life.

Parents
  • Afraid our children will miss out, we set the bar high for our children - and ourselves.  We live days of constant scrambling and exhaustion.
  • We may masterfully keep many small balls in the air, but in doing so, we lose hands for the big ones.  In other words, our children may be expertly scheduled, but our own self-care, faith practice, and even marriages can suffer.
  • We lose a sense of fulfillment.  It's easier to run mindlessly from one activity to the next than to employ introspection.  Yet God created each child and each family as unique with different rhythms.  When we neglect his creation plan, we only serve to undermine the very thing we are looking to build.


In effect, our schedules are full but our souls are thin.  

Are you feeling this way, weary mama?  Do you know what our faith can do?

First, we can look to Christ.  In modeling the way we were meant to live as Christians, Christ was unafraid to buck the trend while teaching us the path to true life.  He valued introspection and intentionally removed himself from the crowd to seek the Father's direction.  He sometimes made decisions that differed from people's expectations to remain faithful to a larger truth.  He often operated on the periphery of society and proved to be the most powerful there.  These are principles that we can apply in our parenting too when facing societal pressure.*

Second, we can draw strength from an insightful metaphor.  The other day I heard a pastor describe two kinds of birds.  There are birds who flock together, who travel in groups.  But there are also eagles who travel alone, soaring high above the fray.  As Christians, God ordained us to be eagles.  It is only then that we can reap the full benefits of our faith.  In this case, those benefits are a happier home life and the increased emotional health and stability of our children in a culture that can inadvertently undermine these things. 

We can cast off any insecurity and anxiety as parents and appeal to a higher standard - the call of God in our lives.  Only then can we find freedom rooted in a larger purpose, and the kind of renewal for our weariness that society cannot offer.  That freedom comes with a promise too:

"But those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint."  Isaiah 40:31



*For scriptural examples regarding my points about the life of Christ above, see Luke 5:16, John 8:2-11, and Matthew 9:10 respectively.

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If you liked this post, please check out my iBelieve article that explores this topic too. Click here to read "3 Common Mistakes Every Parent Should Avoid."

If you're interested in making God's promises a part of your daily living, don't miss the free printable that I'm giving away on my blog to new email subscribers.  This professionally designed printable lists scripture's "5 Promises to Live By."  It's emailed to you so that you can print out as many copies as you'd like to hang up as reminders! 

Monday, February 9, 2015

How to Counter the Lies in Our Heart

Have you ever felt:
  • Excluded
  • Flawed
  • Under-qualified
  • Unlovable
  • Or even, unworthy of your blessings?
These emotions are treacherous.  They're treacherous because we can all feel them. They're treacherous because they can persistently whisper down deep below the surface. On the outside, we may look fine.  But these insecurities can secretly chip away at our souls.

It's one thing to know God's promises, but it's another to really believe them.  How do we take what we read on the pages of scripture and make them a part of how we esteem ourselves?  How do we replace lies with God's truth?  I am not talking about composing a sound belief structure.  I am talking about rewriting the very personal voices in our head and heart.

The other day my son brought home a jelly bracelet in the shape of an airplane.  He was really proud of it.  It was a reward from one of his teachers for his helpfulness at school. Well, little boys seldom sit still with things they treasure.  It didn't take long before he was pulling and twisting his bracelet until it resembled one thing - a hot mess.  It looked nothing like a bracelet or airplane at all.


That's when he said, "Mommy, would you like to see a magic trick?"

Enticed, I replied yes.  

He marched over to his dresser, strung the bracelet around one of its knobs, and pulled the bracelet in a particular way.  "This is how you have to do it," he said.  I had no idea what he was talking about until he walked back over to me and showed me the bracelet in his hand: It was a perfectly formed airplane again.


Later that day while I was brushing his teeth, he turned to me and asked, "How does my bracelet go back to being an airplane again, Mommy?"

I described how it was formed:  The plastic was heated up really hot and put into a mold. The bracelet has memory from that initial molding.

I was struck by the similarities between the bracelet and us.  We too have been molded into a particular shape or destiny by our Creator.  God fashioned us and knew us in the deep before we had even come into existence.  We can never erase his initial molding.

Just like my son and his jelly bracelet, we can make make a mess of things sometimes. That mess may be the actions we take, or it may be the lies we allow to whisper to our heart.  The great news is that although that mess may distort our reality, God promises that it can never undo the mark that he's put on us.  We may feel pulled and twisted, but God knows how to restore us and make things right.  

So if you're feeling excluded, remember that God is for you - who can be against you? Romans 8:31

If you're feeling flawed, remember that you were created by God with purpose and intention.  Psalm 139:13-14

If you're feeling under-qualified, remember that you can do all things through Christ who gives you strength.  Philippians 4:13

If you're feeling unlovable, remember that absolutely nothing can separate you from God's love in Jesus Christ.  Romans 8:38-39

If you're feeling unworthy of your blessings, remember that God has good plans to prosper you and not to harm you.  Jeremiah 29:11

Our Creator who formed us is close at hand.  The words on the pages of our scripture weren't written simply for faithful people in times past, but God is uttering them to each of us right now.  He has formed us in his image as a people whom he wants to bless with his promises.  It's how we're made.  It's his gift through faith.  And to receive it, we simply need to fully rest in our Creator's hands...an MARVEL at his mark and workmanship.

If you're interested in making God's promises a part of your daily living, don't miss the free printable that I'm giving away on my blog to new email subscribers.  This professionally designed printable lists scripture's "5 Promises to Live By."  It's emailed to you so that you can print out as many copies as you'd like to hang up as reminders! 

Monday, January 26, 2015

3 Steps to Empower Our Children against Bullying

3 Steps to Empower Our Children against Bullying

We were at a playground packed with children.  The kids were engaged in a variety of activities, often congregating in pockets together.  My younger son, who is three, stayed close to his older brother, who is five.  He knew the majority of the children were his older brother's age.

I watched my boys race down the slide, then chase each other back up the stairs and along the platform to do it all over again.  They were happily making loop after loop as I watched close by, chatting with a collection of moms who were looking on as well.

At one point, I realized that it had been a couple of minutes since I had seen my littler one. His brother was going down the slide, but where was he?  I walked around a corner of the playground and saw him backed up against a landing.  An older boy was pretending to throw punches at his stomach.  Although his punches were soft and I suspect in play, my younger son was afraid.

"Is he bothering you?" I asked.

My younger son stuck out his bottom lip and nodded.  He was not in pain, but he was intimidated.

Although bullying peaks in middle school, children are never too young to learn how to handle its early signs.  If they are old enough to play with others and communicate appropriately, there are lessons we can teach them...

Continue reading this article on iBelieve.com by clicking here.  You'll discover an award-winning children's book, selected scripture, and three expert tips on empowering children against bullying.  We can help them accomplish victories that only they can do!

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I hope you enjoyed these tips on keeping our children safe and empowering them to make a difference.  You might also enjoy other safety articles that have appeared on this blog on child abuse prevention and healthy stranger danger.  Make sure you won't miss future posts by subscribing by email to my blog right on the homepage.  You'll get a professionally designed printable for doing so!

Monday, January 19, 2015

How God Speaks through a Sniffle


Has sickness swept through your house recently?  Read on and find out:

* What hope-filled lesson can you learn about God when your children are sick?
* As you wipe runny noses and tend to others, who is caring for you?

Recently both kids were sick.  The doctor said that it was viral, so all I could do was address the symptoms and wait for them to get better.  Inevitably, they would both be crying for something at the same time.  Both looked so helpless with fevers and runny noses.  I wanted to scoop them into my arms all of the time.  But the reality is that I was constantly prioritizing.  I had to rate who had the most pressing need, help that child first, and then go to the other.  I found myself explaining to each what I had to do for the other while they were waiting.  I am not sure how much my littler one understood my explanations, but I noticed that he did calm to the sound of my voice.

I couldn't help but wonder about the resonances of this experience in our own faith lives.  How often do we come to God with pressing needs, waiting for God to answer them.  Sometimes we do not get what we want right away; sometimes we have to wait.  We can listen to God's words in scripture to know his promises, and the sound of God's voice through the Spirit may calm us a while.  But we really have no idea what God is juggling.  I had my hands full with two children.  God holds all of creation in his hands as he seeks to tend and nurture it.  And you can bet that God desires to wipe every tear from our eyes too.

I have a new appreciation for God's love.  And an awe, really, for we know that all things work for good for those who love God.  The fact that every single believer can rest upon that promise, that God can juggle all of our lives for our good, is incredible.  I know how much I wanted to comfort my children and bring them back to health; we are children of a Heavenly Father who wants to bring us wholeness and blessing too.  I know how much I wanted my children to trust in my good care; we are children of a Heavenly Father who invites us to trust too.  My understanding of God's providence has grown, which allows me to rest more fully in the loving arms of God myself.

Prayer:  Dear God, Thank you for your providential care.  Please deepen my trust in you.  In Jesus' name, Amen.

"We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose" (Romans 8:28, NRSV).

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I hope you enjoyed this encouragement from the archives.  Be sure to check back soon for a new and important article on bullying prevention.  I team up with a local guidance counselor to bring you valuable advice for empowering young children!  You can make sure you won't miss it by subscribing by email to my blog right on the homepage.  You'll get a professionally designed printable for doing so too!

Thursday, January 1, 2015

When the Clearest Way Forward Is Foggy


"Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely."  
- 1 Corinthians 13:12, New Living Translation

Blind trust in God is powerful.  Jesus applauded it.  When Thomas needed to see the crucified marks on his hands to know that he was the risen Lord, Jesus showed him.  But he added, "You believe because you have seen me. Blessed are those who believe without seeing me"(John 20:29).

I've increasingly noticed the Christian life is fraught with paradoxes.  This is another one. How can we gain more power in life by recognizing our own limitations?  But that is precisely the case with faith.  When we recognize our own limitations, when we turn to God in trust and rely on his strength, we become far more than we could ever be otherwise.

Trust means that we may not be able to explain things in the moment.  Maybe your mirror is a puzzling reflection right now.  Paul knew that's often the case in life as he recorded the scripture above.  But scripture also holds promises for you.  Not only does Paul acknowledge that confusion is temporary, but Jesus himself uttered blessing for those who will trust with blind faith.

I love how Max Lucado attempts to explain this principle to children - I think there's a lesson in there for us too.  In his book Grace for the Moment: 365 Devotions for Kids, he explains:

"Look out a window.  You can see clearly, right?  Now breathe on it so that the glass fogs up.  It's hard to see through the fog, but you know everything is still there.  When the fog melts away, you'll see clearly again.  It's the same with God.  Sometimes we must wait for the fog (our troubles) to melt away.  Then we can clearly see how God has been there the whole time."

As we go into the New Year, my prayer is that this message finds a home in your heart.  For those who are sitting in confusion and darkness, know that God is present with you through the fog.  Believe.  Trust.  One day you will look back and see how his light was a guiding force for you when you remain faithful.

For those who are called to make a step beyond their own understanding, recognize the incredible gift of our faith:  It is only through God that we can become all whom he has called us to be.  True strength lies in the chasm between our best effort and the further, glorious place where he wants us to be.  {Click to Tweet.}  It's not about your own strength or understanding.  Just take his hand and show up!

The quote above is from Max Lucado, Grace for the Moment: 365 Devotions for Kids (Nashville: Tommy Nelson, 2012), 309.

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Happy New Year, friends!  I am delighted to begin this new year in ministry with you.  As moms, we can be a conduit of blessings from God to our families!  If you are new to this blog, don't miss your chance to sign up to receive my posts via email.  You will receive a free printable and will not have to worry about lots of emails.  My plan is to blog every other week this year, so that I can be working on some *exciting* plans for you!

And did this post resonate with you?  Share your comments below.  In addition, you might also appreciate the posts Warning: Peaks AheadRisky BusinessWhat to Do in a Storm4 Life-Saving Lessons When Adversity Strikes and What I Learned from a Staircase.