Monday, May 31, 2010

The Battle Field

Do you ever feel like you’re walking across a battlefield? That for whatever reason, all of a sudden, a bunch of arrows start shooting your way? I have. I’m not sure why – but it seems as if trouble never comes single handedly. It’s always ready to come at you from multiple directions. It’s like those arrows have just been waiting until they were all in sync so they could shoot off at the same time!

Have you heard the expression – “Satan loves to get you while you’re down?” This is the only reasoning I have for why it seems that multiple arrows are aimed at us all at once instead of one here, and one there, in small doses and spread out sessions which we can handle. No, Satan loves to hit us all at once so we’re vulnerable, stressed, and overwhelmed. So we’re weaker and less immune to his attacks.

The last time I felt like I wandered onto a battlefield, I quickly woke up. It became apparent not that far into it that this was going to be “one of those times” where I’d be hit from multiple directions and that it would challenge my character. After letting all my anger and feelings out, I decided that I was going to call a spade a spade. I wasn’t going to pretend that I wasn’t being challenged or attacked. Instead, I decided to face those arrows head on. For maybe the first time in my life, I decided to “suck it up” and muster all the faith, courage, and strength that God would lend me. I decided that I was going to be proactive and walk through that minefield with the faith that I would come out on the other side. Yes, I might get hurt along the way. Yes, I might be uncomfortable or scared – but I wasn’t going to run away. I was going to stand up straight and tall and walk through.

The interesting thing was that I felt stronger as soon as this decision was made. It wasn’t that I wanted to enter into the battle – on the contrary, I dreaded it. But it was simply that I made the choice to see what God had in mind for me on the other side. I KNEW He had something in mind for me on the other side of it! My desire to get there was stronger than my desire to stay back. I knew God’s hand was reaching out to me asking me to trust Him and let Him take over. I knew that I might bend, but I wouldn’t break because it was His very intention that I reach the other side of the battlefield. He didn’t intend for me to perish in it. That helped so much, just knowing that.

Our battles are very personal. I’ve learned that. The battles that I wage and walk through are not the same battles someone else would go through. For they are intended for my benefit alone. They are intended to whittle away my pride, bolster my courage, strip my fear, and restore my soul. They may be meant by Satan to harm me, but God is using them for my good. And I love that He does that. I don’t want them to go to waste! I want to learn what I can from them so that I don’t have to wage that same war again.

As for Satan, I want him to understand that my battle gear is close by my side now. I can reach for it quickly (if I’m not already wearing it) and that I’m ready to wield it. I don’t want to be an “easy pick” for him. I want him to start thinking twice before he engages me or my family in a battle. I want him to be dismayed, frustrated, and fearful because he chose to attack me. I want to grow into a mighty warrior with a gentle spirit and a faith that can’t be dented.

I hate battle fields. There is so much loss there. But I’m learning that sometimes that loss is needed to have any kind of a great gain. If I want to move forward in my faith, I need to lose some things too. I may be stubborn about it at times, but hopefully, I’m slowly learning – one battle at a time. May this last battle show me enough to never have to wage this particular war again.

Friday, May 28, 2010

In the Moment

The other night as I was laying in bed ready to go to sleep; I paused for a moment. My mind had been racing with thoughts of things from the day, things to do for the next day, etc.

It started to rain. And I just paused and listened to the rain, enjoying the sound as I was snug in my bed. I looked around my room and felt comforted by the familiar and the loved things surrounding me. I smiled softly at the Christian music playing lowly from the radio on my bedside table. The thought just struck me – how often do we take in the moment? It seems like so often we are so busy with our thoughts, to-do’s, prayer requests, regrets, replays in our head…that we just overlook what is happening right then – right where we are.

I hear often of people soaking in the bigger moments in life. I think we often overlook taking in the smaller moments. So wherever you are right now – stop. Listen to the sounds around you. Whether it’s the hum of your dishwasher or washing machine or the sound of kids playing and laughing in the next room. Listen for the things you often overlook. Is a bird chirping outside your house? Do you hear the hum of a lawnmower or the sound of sprinklers?

What do you see? Don’t just look at it, but really look and reflect upon it. Look at that picture that hangs on your wall and remember the time it was purchased or taken. Let the feelings and moods of that moment come over you. Look at the plants, the candles, or the view out your window.

What do you smell? Is it an aroma from the last meal cooked in your kitchen? Your husband’s cologne? Do you smell a yummy candle given to you from a friend or your child? When was the last time you closed your eyes and simply enjoyed those smells?

What do you feel? Do you feel boosted from the sunshine coming in your window? Do you feel warm and cozy or are you experiencing a heart in turmoil? Take it in – embrace it for a moment. Let it envelop you.

We can get into such a rut of overlooking beauty that exists right where we are. We forget that softly playing music in a moonlit bedroom is beautiful because we’re so busy planning for the next day or reliving the one we just had. We can forget to soak in the beauty of our kitchen because we are so focused on the duty it brings us instead of the nourishment.

Let the familiar be enjoyable not overlooked. Take time once in awhile to just take in the moment. It will truly enhance your daily experiences and make them feel more alive and vibrant…which of course they were anyway – we’d just forgotten.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Living a Me Focused Life

Are you living a “me” focused life? A lot of people are these days.

“It’s all about me.”

“You deserve it.”

“To each his own.”

There are so many slogans and mottos thrown at us telling us to put ourselves first. I think somewhere along the way things shifted from simply reminding ourselves to not neglect ourselves to instead putting ourselves first.

God says ‘The first shall be last and the last shall be first.” I don’t think He wants me to put myself first – but rather, others.

Yes, there are times where you need to focus on your health. There are moments where you need to tell someone, “No, I can’t do that; I’m sorry.” And there are boundaries that one must put up in their life in order to not be taken advantage of or victimized by someone who is cold, uncaring, or downright evil. But I’m mainly talking about normal day-to-day life here.

We have so much to give. Each one of us. It may not feel that way at times, but we do. We have so much to give our children. Not gifts, but time, love, and values. We have so much we can give our spouses and our friends. We have so much to give our communities! If you think about it, look inside of your garage. How much “Stuff” resides there? Do you really need it all? Do you really use it all? Do you save things in order to make money by selling them or do you give them away to someone you know could really use them? You see – there is an inner motivation and purpose that resides in us and often…it’s “me” focused.

Try doing something where you will get no reward, no benefit back at all. Try doing something simply for someone else out of the goodness of your heart. Don’t expect a “thank you” – don’t expect a response. Just do it because you see a need and you know you can fill it. I bet you anything that you will get more out of that than you will ever get from filling some temporary selfish need for yourself.

I challenge you to begin a journey for yourself and for your family of making conscious choices and decisions that aren’t “me” focused. Do them because you want to. Do them because it’s right.

And watch your life change. As well as your heart.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Are We All Just Like Sheep?

Being online a lot adds a whole new dimension to “people watching” for me. It is fascinating how I can observe trends going on in the human life. I hear one person say something, then another, and another and it seems to spread like wildfire. Not just rumors – but attitudes and actions.

I get this feeling that we are raising kids to desire to be “one of the pack.” To fit in and belong is what they want. What happened to raising kids to be people who have an independent thought and mind? What happened to individuality or being unique? I’m sure it’s out there, but it doesn’t seem to be very predominant.

Even as adults, I see a common feeling or desire to belong. Of course, we all want to belong. We all want to be loved and feel valued and worthwhile. But I think we’re missing something. We all have certain personalities and characteristics that are God-given. Some of us love to be outdoors while others are more quiet-time indoor kind of people. Some of us love to be on the move while others putter along through life. Neither is wrong. I think they are both God-given. So when a “trend” comes along that I see everyone start to participate in, I just have to question and wonder – “why?” What’s the real purpose behind this. Is it honestly that 100 people or so in my social circle HONESTLY all have the same interest? Or is there a hidden factor in there somewhere that people are jumping on board something in the quest to feel accepted and like they fit in?

God says “we are all like sheep who have gone astray.” I’ve always tried to fight that mentality. I’ve never wanted to be simply like a blind sheep that follows everyone else around not knowing why or where I’m headed. I don’t want to go somewhere or do something simply because everyone else is. Maybe that’s why I don’t fit in sometimes. But I have to tell you, that I do have an independent mind and streak. I like that about myself. I like that I don’t just jump on board something without my own personal desire to accomplish or get involved in it. I like that I can ponder and think things through to see if something is really a benefit in my life or really meant for me, my schedule, my demands, and my personality.

There are so many good endeavors and causes in life. But God says, “Just because it’s permissible doesn’t mean it’s beneficial.” Even if something isn’t bad, that still doesn’t mean God intends it for you. Everything takes time and we need to evaluate if our time is God-blessed or not. Otherwise, we are all simply just like sheep.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Oh How Often We Complain!

I’ve realized lately that we complain a lot. A lot! We have become a society of whiners. Our kids probably caught it from us. What great examples we are! Seriously.

You don’t whine or complain much? Think about it. When was the last time you uttered some choice words because you were in a long car line or traffic on the freeway? How about getting impatient at that elderly woman in line in front of you at the store or the young mom maneuvering the huge shopping cart with riding space for the kids attached? Can you relax at a restaurant and calmly wait for your food or do you find yourself irritated that it doesn’t get to you quicker? How about waiting for your bill?

Here are some tougher ones.

Do you gripe often about injustices, stupid policies, and incompetent teachers at your child’s school? Do you verbally talk about your child’s friends (or enemies?) How about your community leaders? Your nation’s leaders? What your husband does or doesn’t do around the house? How slow your kid’s are to obey or follow through with a task?

Hey – I’m right there with you. I can answer “yes” to many of the above questions and I’m not proud of it. I HAVE been working on my attitude though – internally and verbally expressing it. I’ve been trying to become more patient, give people the benefit of the doubt, and pray for them more often instead of simply griping about them.

Life is not about me. I may have to wait. I may not get my fair due at times. I may not like what’s going on around me. But I can do something in a positive, respectful way instead of merely complaining about it. I don’t think I “wear” complaining very well. No one does. And I want my children to learn how to take steps to make a change when possible – and how to submit the things that they can’t control to God in prayer.

We really have become quite self-indulgent and “me” focused. My desire is to change that – at least for myself and within my family unit. I want to learn to take things better in stride, relax more, let things “go” if they don’t really matter in the bigger picture of life, and just roll with life a little better.

I think I will learn more that way.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

A Lesson Made Fun For the Whole Family

I have found that things that would otherwise be boring, dreaded, or hard can often be fun, rewarding and something that I look forward to…simply by sharing it with my family.

I’ll give you an example…

In the summer of 2009 we committed to going to Panama as a family with a small group from our church. None of us spoke Spanish and we decided to download some Spanish lessons from Itunes to learn a little bit of it. Now, my husband had already been undertaking this endeavor for a few months so he was a little bit ahead of us. But the girls and I knew just a few words.

It was amazing to me, how hard it was as an adult to try and teach my brain to grasp a different language. Let me just clarify and say that I in no way, have learned Spanish! HA HA But I HAVE learned a few more words and that’s a step in the right direction. Regardless of what I did or didn’t learn, the neatest memory for me is just being in the car as a family and reciting and laughing over Spanish words and expressions together. My girls picked up on some of the words much easier than my husband or I did. (That’s youth for ya!) And they laughed and giggled at how we tried to master the intonation and expressions.

It was more about doing something together, being in it together than it really was about learning Spanish. We were sharing an event, a milestone in life together. We were looking forward to something together, heading into it together, and learning TOGETHER.

I think Spanish words and expressions will always bond the four of us together. We will forever be double-checking with one another on a word or simply relishing the time that we tried to undertake something new together as a family. In fact, this experience has encouraged my oldest daughter to take a Spanish class at school – something that she never even considered prior to us listening to the lessons together in the car.

You never know just what will create a bonding memory as a family. So let your ideas be limitless! I never would have predicted that trying to learn a language would end up becoming fun family time. But it did.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

We Need To Do Better

Kids need good examples and role models. Not just in today’s world but in ANY world. I think maybe parents were better examples of living up to these qualities in years past than we do today, though. I think we often fall short of being the kind of leaders and examples as adults that our kids truly need.

We need to show our kids how to apologize. We need to model humility and respect for others. We should be the first ones to show our children how to forgive. We can show them what true joy feels like and how to cry and feel the burdens of a friend. We need to be present and engaged in their lives to show them how to show someone they are valued. How else will our children learn to put down the texting, stick up for a friend who is being bullied, respect their neighbor’s property, or forgive someone who has hurt them deeply? How will our children understand that life can change in a heartbeat and if you can “suffer well,” you WILL get through it stronger, wiser, and better?

We are dropping the ball. We are defending and bailing our children out too much when we should be teaching them to shoulder responsibility. We are letting them slough off discipline in their life whether it’s chores, homework, or personal attention to family. We are raising entitled people.

I stay fairly up-to-date on the news. Children are murdering children. They are raping children. They are bullying and pushing other children to the point where they kill themselves. Children are sexting. Children are disrespectful and uncontrollable in our schools. Why – do you think? Why does this generation of children seem to be so out of control?

It starts in the home. It starts with us as parents. It starts with sacrifice, belief, time, and love. We are dropping the ball and we need to do better. We need to BE better. No more yelling at the coach on the field. No more griping or gossiping about others in front of our children. No more false building up of our children if they are not gifted in certain areas. No more rewarding our children for everything they do – try complimenting them and letting that be their reward instead! No more letting our children rule the roost in our homes. No more neglecting our children for our own social status and circles. There are so many “no more’s…” that could be said!

Our children need us. You are valuable, important, crucial, and relied upon! Show your children how to be honest, moral, and respectful. Teach your children how to be wise, discerning, and humble. Model for them how to be forgiving, compassionate, and kind. If you don’t – you can’t expect your child’s teacher, church, or club to do it for you. They won’t learn it, they won’t model it, and they certainly won’t BE it.

We need to do better. We have the chance to truly be a leader… for our children. But with that label comes great responsibility. Let’s rise to the challenge and start changing the next generation…one child at a time.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

My Baby Turns 11

Today my baby turns 11 years old. Where has time gone? There is a part of me that wants to hold onto those years with everything in me. Yet the other part embraces each year I get with you, my sweet Kayla. All the moments of joy you've brought my heart and the dreams that I get to share with you of a future. You are so wanted. So loved.

You kept me on my toes from the beginning. From being born with two small holes in your heart, to throwing up your formula and hearing my doctor tell me of the possiblity of "failure to thrive." Oh how my heart has leapt so many times fearing for your life.

You were curious from the beginning. Bright. And always loving to use those big words. Who needs to say "Ok" when you can say "Exactly?" Who needs to say "I fell" when you can say "I took a tumble?" It endears you to my heart all the more and it only showcases your creative heart and mind to everyone else.

I know you're a daddy's girl. I'm so blessed and thankful you have such a wonderful daddy to bond with. I love that you have someone to adore and look up to. It is a gift and I'm happy to give it to you.

I love how you're ready to see the world and take it on. When your daddy wants to travel to the ends of the earth and asks you " Kayla - are you "in?" You wholeheartedly say, "I'm IN!"

You still scare the living daylights out of me. From passing out at school, to getting hit in the eye with a rock, to falling off the feeding center in Panama, to almost slipping down under bars into a definitely keep me hopping. But from the beginning I've known God has his special hand on you - always watching out for you and protecting you. I could trust you to no one else other than to my God with His great, big loving, wise, and gentle hands.

Thank you for loving me. Thank you for having such a huge heart full of compassion, tenderness, creativity, joy, and love. I love your notes and special creations that you make just for me. I love seeing "Make mom happy" on your white board. I love when you won't let my neck go at bedtime when I come to say goodnight. I love YOU. You are perfect just the way you are.

I love how you adore animals and nature. I can see the peace in your heart when you're on a nature hike or in the outdoors. I can feel your happiness and it makes ME happy.

The sky is the limit for you. You are so gifted and I just pray that you will always keep God close to your heart. Let Him guide your paths and He will bring more happiness to your heart than you could ever dream.
Today is not only a day that you celebrate - but I celebrate it too. For my life changed forever when you were born. I changed forever. And I'm so glad.
I love you more than you could ever imagine. You're the best Kayla I could ever have.
I love you all the way to God. ~ Mama

Dear Jesus, thank you so much for giving me Kayla. Thank you for trusting me to raise her. Thank you for completing our family with her presence in our lives and for teaching me so much through her. I am honored to be her mother and I don't take this gift lightly. I am eternally grateful.
I will always treasure her.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Compromise In the Christian Life

I feel I need to be careful as I begin this column. I don’t want to offend anyone or make it seem like I have my life all together. That is certainly not the case. I do falter and need to get my own priorities straight from time to time. But there is just something that has been nagging at me for awhile and my goal is that some believers will be convicted to take positive action – never feeling shamed but feeling motivated to make a change.

You see, for a long time now I’ve seen an ever-increasing trend in the lives of “Christians.” That trend seems to be the trend of compromise.

I grew up in Christian circles. I grew up going to church and being around believers. I’ve never seen or felt what I do today within the church and amongst the social circles of born-again Christians. I feel that our lives have become so enmeshed with society that we don’t stand out anymore (on the whole.) We have lost the desire to set ourselves apart. In fact, that may be the last thing a lot of us want…to stand out and feel set apart. Yet that is exactly what God has called us to do.

I’ve seen compromise take root in our lives more and more. You can say that each person needs to judge what is right or wrong. I say we need to hold everything by the Bible’s standards.

The Bible says in “1 Timothy 2:9 "I want women to be modest in their appearance. They should wear decent and appropriate clothing and not draw attention to themselves."

So there should be a lot of clothing choices that we abstain from. There should be styles and trends that we don’t partake in. And for women, if you are showing off what should only be shown in a bedroom – I think that makes the Lord sad. Our bodies are very beautiful but there are some things that should only be enjoyed in the privacy of a husband and wife’s bedroom.

In Ephesians 5:4 "Obscene stories, foolish talk, and coarse jokes - these are not for you. Instead, let there be thankfulness to God."

How are we using our mouths? Do we take our most Holy God’s name in vain? Does it bother us when we hear others do that? Do we toss words around in our mouth that we know are ugly?

Philippians 2:15 "You are to live clean, innocent lives as children of God in a dark world full of crooked and perverse people. Let your lives shine brightly before them."

Romans 13:13 "We should be decent and true in everything we do, so that everyone can approve of our behavior. Don't participate in wild parties and getting drunk, or in adultery and immoral living, or in fighting and jealousy."

Proverbs 21:2 "People may think they are doing what is right, but the Lord examines the heart."

We can rationalize all we want. Whether it’s drinking, smoking, immodest clothing, our selection in movies or books, or even the company we keep – but it all comes down to our hearts. Who is Lord of our hearts? Would someone else know that by watching me? If they saw me hanging out at the local bar and grill on a Friday night with friends – would they know my life is devoted to the Lord simply by watching how I speak, how I eat and drink, how I act????

We can say all we want about who we believe in and where our hearts lie. But our actions show much more. If we don’t prioritize church and being a part of a body of believers, if we don’t prioritize living clean lives before Him, then we are at great risk of compromising ourselves out of not only our calling from God, but out of a great blessing of walking out a life with Him on our side.

James 4:17 "Remember, it is sin to know what you ought to do and then not do it."

Living a life for the Lord is not about “rules.” It’s about discovering how intimate our relationship with God can get. It’s about learning, growing, and ministering to others with all that we are. It’s about surrendering ourselves to His plan for our lives and denying things that we’d want at times in order to receiver the greater blessing and benefit.

We have compromised all over ourselves as believers and Christians. We have put ourselves, our image, and our wants first making them more important. Yet God says –

Exodus 20:3 "Do not worship any other gods besides me."

Anything we place more importance on than God Himself, has become like a god in our lives.

If we are not willing to give up something, then that’s a huge red flag as to how important it has become to us. Believe me – God can ask us to give up anything. He can ask us to give up our friends, our house, our lifestyle – anything. Are you willing to let it go for Him?

Where have you allowed compromise to enter into your life? Where have you given over some ground to Satan? It’s time to let the Lord reclaim it and discover that only when you live in Him are you truly free. And how good it feels.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

What Makes a Good Mentor?

I have discovered that a lot of women feel that they are inept to become a mentor. Do you know what makes a good mentor?

1. A woman who visibly lives her life for Christ

2. A woman who has a continual reliance on Christ

3. A woman who shows an openness about her weaknesses and failures

4. A woman who desires to give God the glory for her successess

5. A woman who hungers to share with others what the Lord has taught her.

God commands us to help each other.

Hebrews 10:24, 25 "And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another - and all the more as you see the Day approaching."

1 Thessalonians 5:11 "Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing."

-- Wouldn't you want a mentor - someone who was willing to help you through a challenging or emotional time in your life? Be willing to be that someone for someone else. Everyone needs someone. That someone could just be you.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Be Careful What You Pray For

You’ve probably heard that expression – “Be careful what you wish for.” Well, I think there is wisdom in that statement when it comes to our heartfelt prayers.

We mean well. We may even have the right intentions. But we don’t always gage the when-where-how-and-why of the response God may choose to give us.

We ask to be more patient. We seek to love our enemies. We ask God to help us forgive. And we want to grow our faith. All very noble prayers. Yet we often make these requests when we are feeling stronger, more at peace with our situations and surroundings. We fail to think that God could choose to test those very requests or to simply honor them in a time and place that will test us – greatly.

When that challenging situation arises that we beg God to take out of our lives – maybe we should pause first, and try to see that He’s simply answering our prayer to grow our faith and trust in Him. When we are hurt deeply and the tears stain our heart and faces and we tilt our head upward questioning God – “Why?” – maybe we should remember how we wanted to be people who could easily forgive. And when we are forced to endure a circumstance or situation for what seems like the “nth” time….maybe we need to recall the time we asked God to give us more patience as we waited on Him.

I think some of the very things we ask God to take out of our lives may be there because He’s put them there to answer our own prayer requests. They are there for our good. It doesn’t feel that way when we are uncomfortable or hurting, but it’s true. And often when we are on the other side of “it” we can see just how much we gained through the experience.

I really don’t like dealing with my fears and insecurities. But I know that I’ve told God that I want to trust Him. I want to grow my faith and I’m tired of being afraid. I’ve asked Him to give me strength and courage and to help me become a warrior so that Satan will flee from me. How better to do that than to put me in the battle? How can my strength or courage grow if it’s not tested?

I’d rather go through tough stuff and become a stronger, better person than not go through anything at all. It’s hard to say that during the moment of pressure when it’s upon me, but that’s truly how I feel when I come out the other side of those times. I just hope that instead of lashing out at God and asking Him, “Why?” that I will remember that He may simply just be placing something in my life because of my own earlier request.


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