Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Beautiful Struggles

Photo credit to my amazing sixteen year old
And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose. 
Romans 8:28

There are just moments in life when, in the middle of what feels like chaos, you can see God’s hand at work.  That’s where I am right now.  This family has been under attack from every which direction over the past year and it has made life crazy.  The moment we get a glimpse of sunlight, another storm hits and we’re running for cover once again. 

I’ve often overwhelmed by God’s goodness, in a good way, when we’re dealing with storms.  Especially when it comes to my kids.  My oldest son and daughter have been dealing with a lot lately.  Going through some really tough stuff and as a mom watching, it makes me want to fight someone ;-)  However, I’ve been through enough of my own hard stuff to know that this is an amazing opportunity to walk through it with them.  To speak truth and attempt to live it out with them. 

Several years ago, I walked through my own personal storm and my kids were forced to walk with me.  They were placed in the middle of a battle which could have destroyed them, however, God has used that time to prepare them for such a time as this.  I’m not saying they are having an easy time dealing with the hurt right now, but it makes the hurt a little more bearable when you know God is there and He is working through the situation.

Lately, I have had the incredible privilege of sitting with my eighteen year old and having some truly amazing conversations. Throughout his storms, he has turned to me, confided in me, listened to me and trusted me.  He knows that no matter what he is dealing with, I am here, I will listen and will walk with him.  

One of the greatest moments through these storms has been sharing scripture with my kiddos.  Especially two of my favorites, Romans 12:17 (Do not repay evil with evil but live in a way which honors God) and Exodus 14:14 (Be still and allow God to fight for you).  The ability to speak scripture into their life is amazing!  But to be able to speak some of my favorite passages while sharing the way in which those passages got me through my own tough stuff….too good for words.

They are having to learn to “turn the other cheek” and stay silent when they just want to scream the truth of a situation.  They are having to learn that God isn’t doing these things but instead, broken people. They are having to learn that there are consequences to the bad choices we make and often times, the enemy will use those choices to try and destroy us through other people.  BUT they are learning that God’s grace and love is so much greater than anything they have said or done and because of His love and grace, they are children of a King and are forgiven and redeemed!!

As hard as my own stuff was I wouldn’t trade a moment of it for the world.  It has given me ability to parent my kids the way they need in times of heartache and trouble.  I love being able to look back on my past and see the way God used it to prepare and shape me.  He used a lot of what I went through to help me walk the hard road of parenting teens.  I’m not saying I have all the answers but I have the most important, God’s word.  And with those words, it has made navigating this road a bit easier.  Even through the storms….

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

The Struggle: Teach a Child to Follow the Right Way

Teach a child how to follow the right way;even when he is old, he will stay on course

Proverbs 22:6

Parenting can be a gut wrenching, painful process leaving us to feel as if we are headed to an early grave.  However, for me, it is by far my most favorite parenting season.

Currently, I am the mom of three teenagers.  Three teenagers at three very different stages of the teenage years, but teenagers nevertheless.

Parenting teenagers is quite the undertaking.  It is the stage of life in which our kids begin to truly explore the boundaries of their own independence and begin to figure out their place within the world around them.  It becomes the stage where they begin to identify the many aspects which lie within the realm of relationships helping them to understand how they will relate to the world and the people around them.  It is a grueling time because it becomes a time when they really begin to develop the essence of what healthy and loving relationships look like and this time sets them up for the way in which they will function in future relationships.

There are so many aspects of parenting and each play an important role in who your child will become as they mature into adulthood.  The way we interact with our children through our own words and actions will play a part in the way they view the world. 

As parents, we watch our children, our teens, experience the joys and heartache of love, the pain of betrayal, the sorrow which comes with loss, and on and on it goes. Some of the moments we experience with them bring happiness and others extreme pain, but in the end, they look to us for direction and to see the way in which we will handle those moments.

I’ve come to realize over the course of my teenage parenting days that Proverbs 22:6 is a quite interesting passage. It can be looked at from several different perspectives and throughout my teenage parenting journey, I’ve realized that there is quite a bit of really good stuff in the ever so small verse.

As an adult, I have made mistakes and bad choices.  I have messed up more often that gotten it right or so it feels sometimes. As a teenager, I screwed up even more.  The messes I made as a teen set me up for the issues I have had to face as an adult. I have required a lot of grace throughout my forty-one years and this realization has helped me to face the challenges of raising my teens in a different way.

Proverbs 22:6 says, “teach your child how to follow the right way” which I think is an interesting choice of words.  The word teach means to show or explain how to do something.  Knowing the meaning of the word allows me to see that verse in a different light.  If I want my children “to follow the right way,” then I must “show” them exactly what that looks like which means, I must live it out myself.  I can’t just spew out rules and make a list of the way they should live but instead, my life should be a living breathing example of the way in which God has called us to live. 

If I want my children to do good, to live well, to be people full of integrity, then they should see that lived out in me.  Through by words and actions, they should see a parent who extends love, grace, forgiveness and patience to not just them but to those who God places within our lives.  If I want them to walk in obedience and to have a personal relationship with Jesus that is authentic, then they need to see me live out that obedience and demonstrate a relationship with Jesus that is real in every aspect of  my life. 

Writing it all out makes it look so simple.  But living it out can be so frustrating. 

Matthew 22:37-38 says we are to first love God and to second love our neighbors. Those two verses are the starting point for the foundation which becomes the example we live out and “teach” our kids, our teens. Now what exactly does that look like?  Flip on over to 1 Corinthians and the definition for love is broken down beautifully for us.

Love is patient; love is kind.  Love isn’t envious, doesn’t boast, brag, or strut about.  There’s no arrogance in love; it’s never rude, crude or indecent-it’s not self-absorbed.  Love isn’t easily upset.  Love doesn’t tally wrongs or celebrate injustice; but truth-yes, truth-is love’s delight! Love puts up with anything and everything that comes along; it trusts, hopes and endures no matter what. Love will never become obsolete.

1 Corinthians 13:4-8

What a list! A list which feels impossible to live up to!  Nonetheless, we are called to love.  So the question becomes; are we living in such a way that we are showing, teaching our kids, our teens how "to follow the right way?"

It’s a lot to think about and ultimately calls for an evaluation of our own hearts and lives. But if we are able to admit our own inconsistencies and struggles, we will become healthier parents and in the end, our kids will be better for it. 

*This is a condensed version of a paper I wrote for a psychology class on exactly this day last year.  Thought is was worth sharing!

Friday, September 2, 2016

Our Advocate

There are many names we can list when we think of the name of Jesus, but have you ever considered that He was an advocate of women?  One who respected and cherished women and their place in this world. Be encouraged <3

Visit Enveloped by grace for more insight.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

The Notebook, some Letters and a Small Used Book Store

Our souls were one, if you must know
And never shall they be apart;
With splendid dawn, your face aglow
I reach for you and find my heart.

-Nicholas Sparks, The Notebook

In 2004, I sat in a theater with a friend and watched as the story of The Notebook played out before me. I watched as a choice was made, a choice which would bring pain in one form or another. As the credits rolled, I sobbed. My friend sobbed. We left in tears both laughing at ourselves for being so corny. So silly.

Love like that doesn't exist. That kind of magic, that spark of romance, that kind of passion and love can only be found in the imaginations of truly great writers....

After seeing The Notebook, I set out to read every book ever written by Nicholas Sparks. As I read each book, unable to put them down, I was continuously overwhelmed by his stories. Each story oozing with love but dripping with some form of heartache. Each story left me baffled. How could such stories be written if this type of love didn't exist.

As I finished each book, I couldn't muster the courage to read The Notebook. I had fallen in love with the movie, that story, and I forever wanted it to stay the way I held it in my memory.

Fast forward twelve years....just four days ago I walked into a small used book store just minutes from home in search of a few books to read over my vacation. As I searched the shelves, there still in it's book jacket looking brand new, was the book I spent twelve years avoiding. As I pulled the book from the shelf, I knew it was time to read the words of the story I loved so much.
It took less than a day for me to finish. The story, the one I knew so well, drew me in and revealed itself in a whole new way. The story had new meaning. My perspective has changed.

As I read each word, I recognized my own story. I recognized the love described on every page. I understood the passion, the friendship, the commitment, and love that existed between two people so beautifully described.

As I read the words found in that story, I recognized the love of my husband for me. The familiar resemblance of his devotion, affection, commitment and selflessness. I couldn't restrain my tears but this time the sobs came from a different place. This time the tears that poured surfaced from a place of understanding and gratefulness as I realized that though Hollywood romance doesn't exist, God's love is most definitely real and it is amazing.

I went through hell for many years. I experienced hurt in a way that I'm not ever sure I've experienced before but I have now been given a gift.

I have been given a gift, a love that I never truly believe existed. I am the wife of a man who loves me well. I am his priority. I am his best friend. I am his confidant. I am his lover and, in his words, his soul mate.

For many years I believed the lie that this kind of love didn't exist. I was cynical and bought into the hype that love fades or becomes "more like a friendship" but now I know differently.

This week I've been away from my love, my other half 😉 Something that rarely happens because truthfully there is nothing I hate more than being away from him. But he loves me well. He left letters with one of his secret agents (I assume one of my children but no one will confess) which have been delivered to me each day reminding me of his love. I'm constantly overwhelmed by this gift I've been given.

My mom pointed out to me that he is setting the bar awfully high for my girls. I agree. And thankfully so. For me, my hope and my prayer for my daughters (and my sons) is that they see how well their mom is loved and never settle for anything less. I often remind them that if they are willing to wait for a man (or woman) who loves Jesus more than themselves....this kind of love does exist.

Love is patient; love is kind. Love isn’t envious, doesn’t boast, brag, or strut about. There’s no arrogance in love;  it’s never rude, crude, or indecent—it’s not self-absorbed. Love isn’t easily upset. Love doesn’t tally wrongs  or celebrate injustice; but truth—yes, truth—is love’s delight!  Love puts up with anything and everything that comes along; it trusts, hopes, and endures no matter what. 

- 1 Corinthians 13:4-7

There is no greater way to love than to give your life for your friends.

-John 15:13

Friday, July 22, 2016

Bingo, the Senior Center and an attitude change....

Tomorrow is the fourth Saturday of the month.  To you, that might not mean anything, to me it means Saturday morning at the Senior Center playing Bingo. 

Every month, we head on over to the little downtown close by and play several, many, games of Bingo with a group of people who have a hard time seeing, hearing and oftentimes communicating.  It is sometimes exhausting and other times frustrating, but I know it is where I am supposed to be.

I am not going to sit here and lie by pretending that on the fourth Saturday of every month, I jump from my bed when the alarm sounds, with a huge smile on my face because...I don't. I typically let out a frustrated sigh as truthfully, I just want to stay snuggled up to my husband and sleep a little longer.  I want my morning to be mine. 

Last month was a bit of a game changer though.  Last month, we went alone.  There was no one to join in this time and we were left to handle the game and the dozen seniors waiting to play.  I woke up frustrated and annoyed that we had to go and were having to go alone.  

But then my attitude began to change.  My husband and I walked through the doors and were greeted with so many smiles.  So many happy to see us.  Thankful we were there. And suddenly, I felt small. Selfish. Frustrated with myself for only thinking of myself.

As we began to play, I looked around the room at the dozen or so people intently listening for the next number to be called and wondered, who shows them love?  Who visits them? What is their story?  I wanted to know. Then I looked over at my husband as he sat beside one of the older women and watched as he talked with her.  My heart exploded with love.  

I realized that morning that there is nothing greater than loving on those who need to be loved. I also realized that walking along side of my husband in ministry is one of the greatest blessings I have ever known in my life.  It isn't always easy but the way it allows our relationship to grow and blossom is worth more than any Saturday morning spent in bed.

This past Sunday, our pastor talked about service and worship. One of the things he said was this, "Worship should always precede the work, not the other way around."

Those words were powerful.  I have such a strong desire to love on people. I want those around me to experience the love and presence of Jesus the way I have.  I want those around me to know Him the way I do and desire to sit at His feet and worship. 

However, the people I want to love on are those who are hurting the way in which I once hurt. Women and children who have suffered at the hands of abuse or those trudging through the throes of divorce wounded and scared. I want to show them the hope and love that comes from walking with Jesus and allowing Him to lead through the dark times.  That kind of worship, that kind of love comes easy for me.

Sitting there playing Bingo last month I was overcome by the question: "How could God allow me the privilege of serving and ministering to those women and children hurting if I couldn't do something as simple as playing Bingo once a month with those who are lonely?"

Then a passage from Luke jumped out at me....

"If you are faithful in small-scale matters, you'll be faithful with far bigger responsibilities.  If you're crooked in small responsibilities, you'll be no different in bigger things."

I have great plans for myself but I recognize that the plans God has for me are so much greater than anything I could put together on my own.  So for now, I will continue to linger at His feet, allowing His love to consume me so that His love will flow through my life and into the lives of those who need love.  And with that, I will choose to love on those He places in my path because there is truly nothing greater than loving those who need to be loved and being loved by the ONE who loves without condition. 

So worshiping at His feet, I choose to stay.