A Christian’s response to current events

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If you turn on the news or even just read your Facebook news feed these days you’ll find reason after reason to feel uneasy or perhaps downright afraid. We are living in unsettling times with ISIS nearing the border of Bagdad in a mighty attempt to take down another middle-eastern city. A Houston, TX mayor is also attacking church leaders who didn’t like her “non-descrimination ordinance”, which in part allowed trans-gender people to use any bathroom they like…try sending your 12-year-old into a bathroom in that city. No thanks! And, Ebola is ravaging much of West Africa and has entered our beloved U.S. in a city that I love and used to live in.

When does the tragedy end?

I think we all know the real answer, which is that it won’t until the Lord returns and every knee bows to him. I can’t tell you how often I remind myself that one day every ISIS member, every killer, every atheist, and every one else will bow their knee and confess that Jesus is Lord (Philippians 2:10, Romans 14:11). It doesn’t change today’s crisis, but it screams that one day justice will prevail.

So, what is a Christian to do? How should we respond? As a mother caring for her children at home, what can you do?

First, I think it’s worth saying that we shouldn’t just stick our heads in the sand and ignore what’s happening around the world, because it scares you. Not only does this seem like an irresponsible response for a Christian, but it also shows a lack of concern for the rest of the world; a world that God dearly loves and sent his Son for.

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16

Because God loves the world, this means that I should as well. I desire to love the things he loves; sometimes I just need him to open my eyes to see this world as he does. That changes my response to the horrors on the news. It necessitates a response.

God is using his word to remind me over and over that this world is not my home. There is a future hope and this vapor of a life is to be lived for his glory. As a Christian, we are to carry hope to those we meet and as a Christian mother, we are to disciple our children so that they too, may know him.

Here are a few ways I choose to respond to the current events:

  1. Be aware: Times are quickly changing and we should be listening. As we saw in Houston just this past week, freedom of speech is becoming less “free” and those with agendas clearly against the Lord are hitting “below the belt” by attacking our churches. Pray for those making these audacious decisions. They need Jesus. They need his love. They need to repent and they need his forgiveness. As a Christian, you don’t have to take this lying down. Dr. Russell Moore makes a fantastic point in a recent article where he tells us to follow Paul’s example in Acts 16:37 where Paul and Silas had been unfairly beaten and placed in jail. After realizing what they had done to Roman citizens, the police were going to send them away silently. Paul said, “No.. we’ve been unfairly treated, they need to come and walk us out!” (paraphrased) In other words, they need to own up to what they’ve done wrong. As a Christian, we have a responsibility to vote for and call Senators and leaders who will petition for values that honor the Lord. We know that not everyone is going to honor and obey God, but when human rights are being taken away or liberty attacked, we should fight for them. Once it’s gone, it may never return.
  2. Be prayerful: I shouldn’t be, but I am so often amazed at how God answers the prayers of his people. Prayer is not only unifying to Christians as a group, but it also causes each individual to seek the heart of their Lord. When we pray “in Jesus’ name”, we are praying what he would pray for us if he were here. That truth has revolutionized my selfish prayers and caused me to seek the face of God for what HE actually wants to be done…. “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven”. Just understand that God’s will and your will are probably two different things. As you surrender your heart to his will, you can more readily accept his answer.
  3. Care for Christians around the world: This will look different for each of us. If you are a new mom or have a house full of kids, you may not be able to do anything more than pray like crazy for the refugees, the pastors, and the many other Christians who face daily persecution. Make it a priority during this season of life to do just that! If you are more able to move about, perhaps collect clothes, money, shoes, or books to send to displaced people groups. Pray for our military and send them notes of thanks. Write notes of encouragement to those God places on your heart-Israeli Christians, Syrian refugees, Houston pastors just to name a few. Even another step is to go and serve those people.

In those times that fear creeps in, claim the truth of scripture! The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing. Zephaniah 3:17

 

 

Pastor Appreciation: Let’s flourish together!

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Last year around this time, I wrote a blog called “5 Things you should know about your Pastor”. It was by far the most widely read blog of the year, making it to countries all around the world. I was most surprised however, at how many pastor’s wives wrote me just to say, “thank you!” Some felt I had said what is so difficult for most people to say and others were just thankful for being understood. It’s a unique position that bears tremendous spiritual battle and sometimes, we just need to hear someone else say, “You’re not alone.”

My husband and I started our church 7 years ago with a few friends and a dream to reach a city for Christ. We worked tirelessly as others joined our efforts and we watched God build his church in Raleigh, North Carolina. Over the years of our church plant, we’ve learned a few things about how to not only survive “life in ministry”, but how to flourish.

  1. Take care of your family. One thing we consistently talk about in our home is that your faith has to become your own. My husband and I diligently teach our kids, pray with and for them, answer questions that they have about God and do our best to prepare them for this difficult world, but before long, they have to choose for themselves if they want to know God intimately as their Savior. I’m always sad to hear of pastor’s kids who have walked away from the faith, wondering if they had ever really known the God I know. You must cultivate a gracious environment so that your kids can ask you any and everything-even when they aren’t so sure about God. We’ve had some really good conversations after one of our kids has said, “How do I really know God is real?” or “What if I’m not sure I want to obey Him?” I’m glad they are asking “real” questions. This is a great opportunity to show them scripture and explain how our belief in God ultimately comes down to faith in what Jesus Christ did on the cross…and then we pray like crazy! (Hebrews 11:1) How sad if pastors spend more time equipping those in his church than in his own family.
  2. Take care of your physical health. How many pulpits are filled with overweight, unfit, and sedentary pastors? The answer is pretty obvious. If you’re going to lead others spiritually, you must set a good example by being a good steward with your own body. “The Biggest Loser” recently reported that 80% of America is obese. Our diets lack real nutrition and we live sedentary lifestyles. That’s a staggering statistic! Most of us have struggled with weight at one time or another, but let’s just be honest and admit that you can’t eat out 8 times a week (even for pastoral counseling or mentorship meetings) and expect to stay in shape, unless you make some healthy and intentional food choices while you’re there. My husband and I decided to challenge ourselves this Fall with our first full marathon. This was after he looked at a picture of himself with what he calls “a tire” hanging over his belt and decided he was “fat”. Now, we’re not only running together, we’re also dropping pounds together and it has been so much fun!
  3. Take care of your mental health. The more leaders I talk to, the more I realize how important caring for your mental health is. How can you lead well if you are discouraged, have pent-up anger, or anxiety consuming you? My husband is very open about discussing how anxiety nearly consumed him several years ago. It was a difficult time for us as a couple, but with the help of a few trusted friends and a counselor who will surely receive extra rewards in heaven, he is healthier than I’ve ever known him to be. Before we made it to Raleigh, some mentors told my husband, “Find a good counselor as soon as you hit town. If you don’t need them now, you will soon.” They were right!! My only regret is that we didn’t find him sooner! You can’t put a price tag on living in freedom!
  4. Take care of your soul. Many pastors and their families are notorious for being servant-hearted souls. But they get tired and simply can’t always give out. In order for a pastor and his family to be truly healthy, they need time away, time to decompress the stresses and frustrations of ministry life, and also time to be “fed” spiritually themselves. Besides a night or two here and there to nurture our own relationship, my husband and I try to get to some sort of leadership conference (together) every 18 months or so. I’d love for it to be more often, but we have young children. Those times away fuel us for months as other pastors speak into our lives from God’s word.  I was so touched the last time we sat at a conference when a pastor named Ryan Gold from Denver, Colorado prayed passionately for us and for our ministry. I could barely stop the tears flowing down my cheeks as he said, “Amen”, because I couldn’t remember the last time someone had prayed for us in that way. We often pray with others, but to feel “pastored” ourselves was unforgettable! Wouldn’t it be wonderful if a few people in every church made it their priority to humbly serve the pastors and their families by praying for them?

I am so grateful for the many pastors who are humbly serving the local church, God’s “Plan A” to reach this world for Christ. Please encourage your pastor and his wife by sharing this with them!

 

 

Intentional Family: Running and family time

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Last week, my friend Kelly, from “Redhead on the Run”, asked me to guest blog about running and our busy family. This is a different type of post than my usual, but I thought I’d let the friends of “Flourish” in on one of the challenges my husband and I are taking on this Fall. We’re running a marathon together in 49 days!! If you’ve read this blog for very long, you know that I really enjoy running and always have, but with a busy church and a growing family, some of my interests have gone by the wayside. I feel like I’m finally in a place to be able to pick up running more seriously now and the challenge has been so life-giving to me. It’s easy at this stage of life to steer away from doing hard things, but doing so has invigorated me and caused me to rely on the Lord for “new” kinds of strength.

As a little 8-year-old girl, I started running road races. My dad, who was in the Army and very skilled in running longer distances, says that I didn’t train like I should have, but could hold my own among the other girls. So, when I think of running, I have fond memories of listening to my dad’s footsteps along side mine as he sang Army cadences to keep me motivated and focused. It worked. I still sing those same songs today as I run!  20140917_150609

(Gotta love those 80’s feathered bangs!!)

Now, I’m a mom of four little girls who are 3, 5, 7, and almost 9. I home school the first three and run tirelessly after the baby! Our house is busy at all times of the day except for sometime after 8:30 pm when they are tucked into their beds.

In between babies, which as you can tell wasn’t much time, I would try to get back into shape. I even ran through my pregnancies until my belly could no longer handle the jolting. But, I’ll be honest, I wasn’t breaking any PR’s nor were these quality workouts. Over the past 10 years or so, I have simply been a mom-one of my highest callings.

But, this past May, we took our two oldest girls to NYC to see the sights and enjoy an end of the school year field trip. During our visit, many pictures were taken. One of which, changed a lot for our family. My husband saw himself and decided that he needed to quickly lose weight and so he was going to run a marathon this year. My husband is one of those “all or none” kind of guys. There is no middle ground, so leaping from “I’m fat” to “I’m going to run a marathon” from a guy who only ran a couple of times a week, but was a sprinter in high school, was a true leap.

When he told me about the idea and invited me to join the “fun”, I immediately resisted. So many questions surfaced, like “How in the world would we have time for this? What about the time spent away from our girls?” And just, “why?!?”

I counted the cost ad nauseam and finally came to a point where I felt I could actually attempt such a goal as my first full marathon. In November, my husband and I intend to make this big dream a reality. But, I’m not going to lie. It’s been a real sacrifice and has taken a lot of planning. Here are a few things I would recommend when trying to juggle marriage, family, and racing:

  1. Develop a workable schedule. Seems simple enough, but with work schedules, early morning meetings, schooling children, and children’s sports, it’s no small feat to work around. My husband and I try to run opposite each other, whether that’s one of us running as the sun comes up and the other in the evening or on opposite days of each other when that is applicable.
  2. Run together whenever possible. This is extremely difficult for couples with young children, but it’s wonderful if your speed and effort match each other in any way. “What do you do with your children?” has been a common question from friends. Well, I’m pretty sure that I’ll be chanting, “It takes a village to run a marathon” by the time this is all over with! We have hired babysitters and asked family and friends to watch our girls so that we could run together. It has taken a lot of coordination and outside help, but it’s worth it! My husband and I have loved the times we’ve gotten to run together simply for the moral support and the joy of watching each other fiercely accomplish a goal. It has brought us together in a new way that after 14 years of marriage has been really fun to experience.
  3. Keep traditions a priority. If you have kids then you know that there are certain elements of family time that are just non-negotiable to them. Sitting down for meals together is so healthy and tucking them in for bed for a few minutes of valuable one-on-one time is necessary to their little hearts. Before attempting a marathon or some other intense training, I’d encourage you to talk it over with your kids and explain that Mom and Dad are working hard towards a goal and will have to miss a few things during this “season”.
  4. Celebrate the finish. Since the whole family has sacrificed, be sure that they also get to celebrate with you! There’s nothing quite like a child cheering you on and tucking the truth into their hearts that they too, can work hard and accomplish a goal. During our training, I’ve talked to my girls about my hard runs or how I persevered through the heat, so letting them celebrate the finish will be as satisfying for them as it is for me….well, almost!

I hope this encourages you to get out and run or exercise! Encourage healthy habits in your own family by setting the example yourself. Set a goal. Work hard. Finish!

 

It’s Monday y’all!

I know it’s Monday and for many of you this day comes with dread and a little fear. It’s a new week and the fun of the weekend doesn’t hit for 5 more days. Ugh. Here in North Carolina, we’ve received an early Fall treat better than any pumpkin bread or pumpkin spiced latte: Cooler weather!! I ran in it early this morning and thought for just a moment that I might have even felt “chilly”, but then that quickly passed as my feet hit the pavement mile after mile.

When I got back to my house, it was time to get breakfast ready and start school with my girls. They awoke with the usual case of “the Mondays”, which tends to bring a little moaning and groaning about their school work and a less than exuberant attitude about starting the day. I get it girls, I really do, but let’s just not do this today. Still being on a “high” from my run, I eagerly sat down to the table and opened my Bible to a familiar passage that I knew we all needed to hear today:
“So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”1 Corinthians 10:31

This applies to Math too!

I wonder if you need to hear this scripture today? Are you tired? Tired of working hard? Have sick kids…still? Working for a company or boss that doesn’t seem to appreciate you? Well, here’s the good news: You aren’t working for them! You are working for the Lord with the purpose of bringing glory to HIM!

If you woke tired, ornery, and not ready for this day, it’s time to refocus. Fix your eyes on the Lord and work hard for Him today at whatever He has called you to do! Wipe little noses for His glory! Teach your children for His glory! Fill out that report for His glory! Answer with kindness for His glory! Love someone difficult for His glory! And if you’re my kids, do your Math homework for His glory!

Let’s not just survive, but flourish as we bring glory to our Father in heaven!

Bent beneath your load

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Ever overwhelmed? Me too.

The culprit is different for all of us. Maybe it is health concerns for you or someone you love or relationship issues that leave you unsure. For others, it’s the weight of caring for children or another responsibility that leave you feeling desperate and less than adequate. We’ve all been there. We’ve all been overwhelmed. Perhaps you are there right now.

As I said, “me too”. I know the feeling and at times could “write the book”. Over the last several years our family has met “Anxiety” in many ways. I’d like to share a few steps I take when anxiety over situations rears its ugly head…you know, on a good day, when I’m fixing my eyes on the Lord, which of course, is the goal.

1. Take a step back and look at the facts. Sometimes we just need to “sort” through the details. As in, is it really “a million things” or is it actually a few manageable items that need some tending? Is the “sky really falling” or is your inadequacy or control over the situation the real issue? This seems simple, but it’s good to identify.

2. Pray. The other night as I was feeling frustrated with my situation, all I really wanted to do was call my husband and cry. I felt like the Lord instructed me to just stop and pray, so that’s what I did. What followed, was the next step.

3. Read scripture. Don’t cross this one off the list or minimize how meaningful it is. There is a treasure of truth awaiting you if you’ll simply dig in. Here are a few scriptures that have encouraged me:

“I cry out to the Lord; I plead for the Lord’s mercy. I pour out my complaints before him and tell him all my troubles. For I am overwhelmed, and you alone know the way I should turn.” Psalm 142:1-4

I’ve told you all this before, but I love King David-the man who penned these words. This man fought lions and bears, dodged a blood-thirsty King, dealt with seriously consequential sin, and even had to run from his own son who was trying to kill him. Overwhelmed? Yes. He knew overwhelmed. Depressed? Yes. He knew that too! Relationship issues? Yes. Job loss? Disobedient children? Yes and yes.

I kept reading and found this golden nugget…

“The Lord helps the fallen and lifts up those bent beneath their loads.” Psalm 145:14

As I continued reading, I found this same verse again in the next chapter: “The Lord lifts the burdens of those bent beneath their loads. The Lord loves the righteous.” Psalm 146:8b

Oh that spoke to my heart right there in my kitchen. I realized right then that I was “bent beneath a load”. It felt too heavy to carry and I had simply fallen and felt “crushed” by it. I wanted to cry or call someone. I wanted to call for help, but the Lord was showing me that I just needed Him. He answered, as He often does, with His Word.

While my overwhelmed might be different from your overwhelmed, we all have times of it. Scripture shows us that there is freedom to say, “I’m overwhelmed! And I need some help, Lord!” It’s once you’re there seeking him, that he guides you to the words he planned out long ago. Words that would comfort not only my heart, but also yours and the many generations before us.

“The Lord lifts the burdens of those bent beneath their loads.” Will you trust Him to be faithful to do it?

 

 

You thrill me!

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I love when I read scripture that feels like the author is “speaking my language”. We all have phrases are that are common to us and this particular one, caught my attention today. “You thrill me, Lord, with all you have done for me!”

*The author is not stated, but some believe it is David, so I will refer to him.

I feel David’s passion in this verse. You know that bubbling-over, almost could cry, about to burst kind of feeling? He had it. I hope you’ve had these moments where you’ve sensed the Lord’s presence so fully that it was palpable. Where you recalled his faithfulness to you or just felt His love so completely that you almost felt wrapped in a big warm hug.

Psalm 92 is a lavish praise Psalm. Read over these words and let yourself praise the One to whom they were written:

It is good to give thanks to the Lord, to sing praises to the Most High. It is good to proclaim your unfailing love in the morning, your faithfulness in the evening, accompanied by the harp and lute and the harmony of the lyre. You thrill me, Lord, with all you have done for me! I sing for joy because of what you have done. vs.1-4

I also love that David sings this praise to God because he feels loved first thing in the morning. Wouldn’t it make a difference in our days if we acknowledged how much the Lord loves us and set truths about Him in front of our eyes first thing in the morning? I imagine that victory rather than defeat would be the anthem of our day.

Some of you don’t “feel loved”, because you don’t truly understand the gospel. I invite you to dig further into God’s word so that you begin to have a greater understanding of the One who loves you, not because of how you perform, but because you are His CHILD.

In the evening, David is still recounting the Lord’s faithfulness, as though the day were now done and he takes a moment to just thank the Lord for being present. First thing in the morning and then again in the evening. I have to believe that David really just thought about the Lord all day long.

I’m going to make it a priority this week to praise the Lord and acknowledge His love first thing in the morning and then recount His faithfulness over my day in the evening. While we have little control over what happens during the day, we certainly can control who we turn to in the midst of our circumstances. I choose to go to the One who thrills me! Would you want to join me this week? Let me know you were here!

 

“Camp Virtue”

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Do you have little girls like I do? Ever wish there was a camp for young girls that would focus on biblically based character qualities, while pointing them to God’s Word in a fun and active environment? I sure do!

As I began looking over our summer and planning fun events for my kids and our family, I began longing for a camp like that, that also didn’t cost hundreds of dollars. Well, I didn’t find it. I began praying about what God would have me do with my girls this summer that would point them to him as well as focus on some of the qualities that we desire to see them develop. As has become typical in my life when I pray, I didn’t get something I could send my kids off to, but instead, God showed me ways that I could create this fun and equipping camp for my kids…. right here in our home! I know it sounds crazy, but just trust me, if you asked my kids what their favorite week of the summer was, they would be sure to tell you about “Camp Virtue”.

Camp Virtue is what I chose to call it. We held “camp” for 3 days in mid-July right here in our home. It took planning and “Pinteresting”, and prayer and study, but it was definitely worth it. My kids came out with a greater understanding of several stories from scripture as well as how they relate to our every-day lives. I never want them to think that the Bible is boring as some disenfranchised folks would have them believe. It’s just not true! And this Mama will spend her last bits of energy pointing her children to Christ so that they will truly know him.

Here’s a peek at “Camp Virtue 2014″:

One of the first things I did was raid our local Dollar Store like Southerners raid the grocery store before it snows. This didn’t cost a lot to do, but the impacts were profound. I put together a whole Hawaiian theme, complete with hula skirts for the girls, because what game isn’t more fun with a hula skirt on??!

We started each morning in our living room, which we nicknamed the “Cozy Room” for the week. I would tell my “campers” the agenda for that day and go over our theme verses for the week. We would play games to remember the verses and by the end of the week, even the baby was trying to say it! For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love.” 2 Peter 1:5-7

20140715_084837Then we’d move “fireside” where I’d tell our first Bible story, which had to do with the virtue we were studying that day. While those verses are jam-packed with amazing virtues, there was only so much time, so for our camp week we focused on goodness, self-control, and perseverance. Each story showed someone learning or exhibiting these virtues. Now, when I say one of those words around the house, their little ears perk up and I can tell they are recalling the lessons they learned from Camp Virtue. 20140717_092158Games are an essential part of any camp, so we played many. They were a mix of games I read about on-line or played with my own sisters growing up. My Mom rarely let us watch t.v. so we were always coming up with something to entertain ourselves. Thanks Mom! Your perseverance paid off!

We did several games blind-folded (because it’s fun) and because one of the verses that follow our key passage says: “But whoever does not have them (the virtues) is nearsighted and blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins.” So, I tried to keep reminding the girls that we are to put these virtues on in increasing measure and not forget what God has done for us in forgiving us of our sins.20140715_092329

Snack time was a highlight of each day. I bought some simple Hawaiian themed toothpicks to poke into fruit or cheese some days, but our favorite was this little gem, which a friend had posted on Facebook and I knew I had to use. It’s called “Bear on the Beach”. Isn’t it cute??! This “honey graham bear” is laying on a fruit Roll-up towel. Adorable.20140715_103909Other game-times included going outside and using balloons or playing “pin the beach ball on the Flamingo” inside. While most games went according to plan, I did learn that water balloons look a whole lot easier to fill than they actually are and unfortunately never got to use those wretched things! I was disappointed about that one! 20140716_105838

Craft time was probably the girls favorite part of camp. We had so much fun painting sea shells, making Sand Art, and modge-podging (for the first time ever!) I don’t consider myself crafty, so this part was a stretch for me, but the girls love it, so I figure it’s time to embrace craftiness and just go for it!

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20140715_104407This hot air balloon craft followed one of our Bible stories, where some men brought their friend to Jesus to be healed (Mark 2). Jesus didn’t only heal the man, he also saved him! Our theme that day was “Carry goodness to all you meet”. These now hang in the girls’ bedrooms as a constant reminder. 20140717_110541

 

On our last day, we made bookmarks with our theme verses on them. I wanted the girls to be reminded of our fun week of camp all year-long as they read or just look at it. More importantly, I want them to hide God’s word in their heart, so this was a fun way to help them to do it. We laminated the bookmarks and used paper from our other crafts.

20140717_112107So there you have it…”Camp Virtue 2014″! If you ever wanted to do something like this or were inspired by reading this, do it!! You’ll be glad you did. It won’t be perfect, but you’ll learn a lot and your kids will too! Next year, we hope to invite a few friends as my prayer for our little girls (and myself) is that they would grow to be more and more like Christ.

What will you teach your kids today?

What will you teach your kids today?

We will all teach something: attitudes, responses, opinions, truth. These things flow naturally from our actions and lips. Our children are picking up on our views of the world, our views of God, and whether or not we really love Him-by watching the way we live.

So, what will you teach your kids today?

Deuteronomy 6 is an encouraging passage of scripture for parents, written specifically to the people of Israel, which encouraged them not to forget what the Lord had done for them. They had been enslaved in Egypt, making bricks with little supplies and they wanted out! They had witnessed intense plagues and saw death fly over the doors of those who didn’t really follow God. There was no “gray line” in regards to those who were God’s people and those who weren’t. The Israelites had an amazing testimony of the faithfulness of the Lord.

But once they had crossed the Red Sea on dry land after Pharoah’s army was obliterated before their eyes, they were given some instructions to obey:

“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” Deuteronomy 6:4-9

As you consider “what you’re teaching your kids today”, you might start with family devotions or simply reading a few verses together as you work through a book in the Bible at breakfast time. If your family is too busy to ever do this, then you’re too busy and you’re missing a key opportunity to grow your children’s understanding and love for the Lord. I don’t pass this responsibility only to my husband. While he is working 50 hours a week, my kids are with me. I have grown to take this responsibility seriously.

Parents were given a very specific command in this scripture. We are to diligently teach our kids to love the Lord with all their heart. That means very simply: teach them faithfully and with effort. He even tells us how and when to do it: when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. I love this so much, because I feel like God is speaking right into the very season of life that I’m in. We are home fixing meals, schooling, hanging out and tucking kids into bed much of the time. We drive in the car together, go on walks together, and enjoy a community of friends together. He’s not asking for something we’re incapable of doing; He’s instructing us to include him in every part of our day.

But how do you practically disciple your kids, you might ask?

Let me count the ways….

  1. Share what you’re learning. Start by simply talking to your kids about what you’re gleaning from your time with the Lord. If you’re not spending time with the Lord, that’s a great place to start. Ask Him to be faithful to speak to you through His word as you are faithful to show up. Then, share what you’re learning with your children. If they are small, keep it short, but remind them often. Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. 2 Timothy 2:15
  2. Learn Bible verses together and talk about what they mean. Kids are sponges just waiting for information to be thrown into their brains. And, they are fact-mongers. Give them scriptures and they can learn it. I’m not even opposed to a treat or privilege as a reward. Keep it fun and light-hearted and learn passages along with them. All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. 2 Timothy 3:16
  3. As you drive in the car, talk about the Lord’s faithfulness to you. You spend more time in the car with your kids than your church will spend with them all year. Just.in.the.car. Let that soak in. If you are a child of God, then, you have a story of God’s faithfulness to you. Not only your own salvation story, but what’s God done lately to show himself strong to you? Share that with your kids! Big stuff and little stuff. Just share it! My guess is that you’ll be blessed by recounting the ways. For the eyes of the LORD range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him. 2 Chronicles 16:9a
  4. Talk about song/media/book choices. Discuss how you can honor the Lord by thinking about things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, and admirable like Philippians 4:8 says. If that means you first need to purge, then so be it! And quit worrying about what all the other kids/parents are doing. You weren’t put on this earth to glorify them. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things. Philippians 4:8
  5. Be the example that you want your kids to follow. There are plenty of people that your children may want to be like, from movie starts to flavor-of-the-year musicians. But like Paul told the church at Corinth, “follow me, as I follow Christ”. Show your kids what a vibrant follower of Jesus looks like and seek other believers that they can emulate as well. Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ. 1 Corinthians 11:1
  6. Pray like crazy! My husband and I pray over our girls most nights before we go to bed. They are tucked sweetly in their beds and honestly, there couldn’t be a more lovely sight! It is often during these quiet moments that tears have fallen as I petition the Lord for the specific needs of each child. My favorite verse for my girls is: May you experience the love of Christ, though it is so great you may never fully understand it. Then you will be filled with the fullness of life and power that comes from God. Ephesians 3:19

And of course, there are so many other ways! Be intentional and diligent. Understand that just as you are on a journey, so are your kids. Just because they learn some verses doesn’t mean all the attitudes and selfishness go away. They aren’t even necessarily going to stop fighting with their siblings. Oh, but wouldn’t that be amazing?! Just be diligent. In time, I believe you will see the fruit of your labor. And regardless of the outcome, you will have been obedient to what God has asked you to do and that in itself is a victory!

 

Ice cream bowls

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Who doesn’t love ice cream on a hot sunny day? Our family sure does, especially with a warm cookie at the bottom of the bowl. The other day as I scooped vanilla ice cream for my girls, I asked one of my daughters if she remembered the story of the bowls I was serving them in. She didn’t, so I gladly told it to her. It’s such a sweet memory, that I thought I’d share it with you!

Back in 2005, my husband and I moved from our home in Plano, Texas to Little Rock, Arkansas for a 10-month church-planting training program. We had a heart to start a church in North Carolina that would “connect people to Jesus for life change”. There were so many details that would be worked out over the course of the almost year that we were there, but the decision to leave was very difficult. It left us quitting really good jobs, selling our home, saying good-bye to friends and moving to a place we had never lived. Oh, and I was 7 months pregnant with our first child when we arrived. We’ve always had a thing about multi-tasking!

We were beginning to raise support (like missionaries) for our early church-planting years, so our budget was much different from when I was working. One Fall morning, I went to the grocery store to buy a few things and spotted the most adorable ice cream dishes. They looked like waffle cones dipped in chocolate with sprinkles on top. It was probably my maternal instinct kicking in, but I immediately wanted those little dishes. I could imagine my children giggling and eating out of them on some future day (when I actually had children of my own) and it was a glorious sight, right there in the middle of Kroger.

icecreamA moment later, reality set in… I didn’t have the budget to buy these little “bowls of joy” and even though I might be able to squeeze them in, we didn’t “need” to buy anything else since we’d be moving again in about 9 months. I put them back on the shelf and walked away. I told myself that “someday” I would buy little waffle ice cream bowls for my children.

Fast-forward about 3 months.

I was sitting at a Christmas party with a bunch of the staff from Fellowship Little Rock and all the church planters and their wives. We ate some good food, laughed and talked, and then there was a gift exchange. As these exchanges typically go, some gifts are complete junk and others are like hitting the jackpot!

Well on that day, I hit the jackpot. After lots of stealing trading of gifts, as I recall the rule was each gift could be traded twice, my husband and I left with the very bowls I had held in my hands that day in Kroger!! I was ecstatic!

Now, this probably seems silly to some, but when you’re stepping out into the great unknown and asking God to do big things that only He can do, you take note when He does even the littlest things to catch your attention. To me, it felt like He was saying, I love you. I know the hairs on your head. I know that what you’re doing is scary to you and I care. I even care about the ice cream bowls you wanted for your future children. He had my attention and He’s had my allegiance for much of my life, because you see, He does care and He does love intimately and He does know the heart’s of His children. And each time I scoop a little ice cream for my four little girls, I look at those four waffle cone ice cream bowls and I’m reminded again.

End of the year field trip: New York City

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After starting the school year with a trip to Europe..I mean North Carolina’s version of Europe, we thought we’d end the year with a real trip to New York City. We took just our two oldest daughters with the intent of peering into some American history, seeing some of the art they had studied this year, and having some “big girl” fun. Honestly, I can’t imagine taking anyone under the age of 6 to the city. It is loud, filled with exhaust and smoke, and crowded with people. It was hard at times for my two suburban girls! But, it made coming home so much sweeter!

I planned an itinerary months ahead of time, made reservations, and planned peaceful moments to be sprinkled throughout a busy 4 day trip to the city. My husband thanked me over and over for making reservations and doing so much planning. It really made a difference when we could walk right into places, while others were waiting.

This is how we arrived. God bless my husband for strapping a “princess” back-pack to himself and walking through the busy streets with all this luggage.

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The morning after our arrival, we enjoyed a harbor cruise to Ellis Island to learn about where the first immigrants entered the U.S. and climbed the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty. The first “torch” that Lady Liberty held is on the bottom floor of the pedestal, so we were able to get an idea of how grand this statue actually is. From the base of the pedestal to the top of her torch is 305 feet and it takes 154 steps to get from the pedestal to the top! She symbolized freedom for so many, which we felt by visiting the museum on Ellis Island.

20140522_112444A German woman actually laid on the ground to get the above shot. Now that’s commitment!

20140522_112209We loved the museum around the Statue. We explored, complete with an audio-tour on our head sets. My second grader remembers freakish amounts of details, so this was a blast for her. She couldn’t move on until she had listened to every word. My first grader? Not so much!

20140521_190001Here are our girls in Rockefeller Plaza, where you’ll find the large Christmas tree in December. They have a summer-time bar and grill right by the water falls, which provided a really nice and peaceful meal. See Prometheus in the background? We loved this place!!

20140523_162718We visited the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) on Friday evening, because on Friday’s after 4pm, it’s FREE! Yes, that’s right and it’s probably the only free thing you’ll find in the city besides walking around Central Park. Our Classical Conversations program does an excellent job of focusing our attention on the Fine Arts, so my girls have studied these artists and painted renditions..ahem..”loose” renditions of their art. Seeing the real thing, was honestly such a treat! The above painting is Vincent Van Gogh’s “A Starry Night”.

20140523_165529Oh, and there’s that painting from the “Olivia” book! You remember, right??! Anyone?

20140523_164527By far, the coolest moment for me, was when we walked into the Impressionist gallery and my first grader said with a gasp, “Oh Mom….Monet’s “Water Lilies”!” I wasn’t sure if I should laugh or cry. This has long been one of my favorite paintings and Monet is certainly one of my favorite artists. Even the guard at the door looked down in surprise.

20140522_180515If you ever go to NYC, you must visit the Chelsea Market. Above is a photo of a spice shop called “Spices and Tease”. It’s a really cute place, as are most of the shops in Chelsea. I stocked up on a few spices and enjoyed leisurely adoring the unique blends. If you’ve read this blog for very long, you know that I love to cook, so pretty much, the trip could have been complete right here! But, while there, we dined at the Green Table (Farm to table deliciousness) and had gelato after dinner, and to top it all off we walked on the coolest “park in the sky” called the “High Line”. It used to be a railroad track, that has been turned into a sustainable, eco-friendly mile and a half-long park. After all the hustle and bustle of the city, we loved the quiet and unhurried pace of the High Line.

20140522_203857A trip to NYC wouldn’t have been complete without visiting the site of 9/11. Since our history timeline for Classical Conversations includes this date, our girls have learned a lot about what happened that day. They know where their Daddy and I both were, how we felt, and how this day changed America. The last time my husband and I were in the city, these memorials were still being built. They turned out incredibly! It takes your breath away to see thousands of names surrounding a waterfall of memories. In the first picture below, you’ll see the name of Todd Beamer, who we all remember from Flight 93. Not all men go down in history as a hero, but we will all remember him as one. I often think of his wife and kids and pray they are well. Around the memorials were the names of fire fighters, police officers, office workers, and women, some even listed as dying with their “unborn child”. My heart just broke as I remembered.

20140522_14163620140522_140801On a lighter note, we visited Dylan’s candy shop and ate dinner at Serendipity, which is THE quirkiest restaurant, made famous by a movie with the same name. It was a wonderful trip and a great learning experience. We saved one surprise for our girls until we were on our way to NYC….tickets to the Broadway production of Cinderella!! The show was a little (and big) girl’s dream come true with lovely gowns, in front of your eyes costume changes, and a fun storyline. Carly Rae Jepsen was Cinderella and Fran Drescher was the Step-Mother. Remember the Nanny??

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Hope you enjoyed a little peek into our NYC trip! Come back again!!

 

 

 

 

 

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