FIRE WARNINGS!

September 11, 2015 at 8:02 pm (More than Mediocre) (, , , , , , , , , )

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As most of you know, parenting can be crazy-scary at times. We often coast from undesirable incident to undesirable incident just trying to survive. Any “fight” that we had planned to bring to the parenting battle has long fizzled away…replaced with fear, doubt, and often hopelessness.   We all want our kids to turn out good…or at least okay, right? But sometimes it’s just SO. VERY. HARD to fight for them. So we drop our guard and relax a little bit. No big deal, right? Last Sunday night, BJ and I learned the lesson of a lifetime when it comes to warring for our kids….

After church let out, we spent the rest of the day celebrating family birthdays. Despite it being a school night, we let the kids stay up late to enjoy a card game with their Granna and Aunt and Uncle that were visiting from out of town. The game ended around ten o’clock and we began the nighttime routine of getting kids and teeth clean, prepared for school, and prayed over. BJ and I were exceptionally tired and soooooo ready to climb into bed when our 16 year-old son, Josiah, came to us wanting to talk. He had been prayed over by all of our church members earlier that morning and we immediately knew that the prayers and declarations over him had caused some things to begin to break off of him. After a few hours of sharing and counsel, confession and repentance, prayer and “spiritual house cleaning,” BJ stated that he felt that we needed to burn a particular reminder of Josiah’s past. Well, this is nothing out of the ordinary for our family. Any time we sense that something is not of the Lord or that something might be opening doors in our lives spiritually that do not need to be opened, we throw it out in the yard and burn it. So, sometime around 1:30 am, BJ rolled his bar-b-q grill over to the driveway, doused the object with diesel, lit it up, and Josiah spoke strongly to the enemy of God ( Satan). Josiah cried out to the Lord in repentance and prayed for God’s forgiveness. We were absolutely exhausted physically and spiritually, but it was so very worth it to see God delivering our precious son from sin. The fire began to die down after some time and BJ reached for the diesel again. I immediately “nagged” that there was no need to do any more. We had already destroyed the reminder of past sin and we needed to go to bed. (BJ gets up very early for work and I was very concerned about how late it was.) BJ responded, “It’s just DIESEL Julie. It’s fine.” (I had already been worried and uncomfortable about him using a fire accelerant-AS I ALWAYS AM- and he had already assured me many times that it was “JUST DIESEL.”) My face was turned away from the grill but I instantly knew that something had gone very wrong. I could hear a roar and I could feel that the flames and heat were much different than the first time he put the diesel on the fire. I turned my head to see that not only was the grill on fire, but also the stream of fuel pouring out of the can, and also the can in BJ’s hand. Confused, BJ cried out, “That shouldn’t have happened!” and he threw the burning can a short distance away. He then got a water hose and began to run it over the fiery areas on the ground closest to me and Josiah and then headed over to put out the flames on the actual can. The flames obliged, and we all started to breathe again! I immediately went in to “mom mode” and started lecturing Josiah (and BJ, too!) on fire safety. I think it was then that Josiah looked down and realized that there were TWO gas cans. Our normal gas can with gasoline in it had been sitting in its usual spot near the garage door. We were not even aware it was nearby due to it being pitch dark outside. BJ had brought the gas can with diesel in it from his storage building when he started the fire. Apparently, he unknowingly sat it down near the other one. In the darkness he grabbed the wrong can the second time. It finally made sense to him why the fire responded the way it did when he poured the fuel the second time and he told Josiah it was like a literal bomb that should have gone off on all of us. At that point, I still don’t think any of us were aware of how deadly that flaming gas can could have been.  We thanked the Lord, came in and prayed over the girls, and went to bed.

It wasn’t until I googled gas can explosions the next day that I began to realize the miracle God did for us Sunday night. I’m including the following link to a youtube video that shows what I’m talking about. As you watch it, remember that BJ poured gasoline on OPEN flames, threw the can, went and turned on a water hose, put out a few grass fires, and then stood and put out the fire on the flaming gas can.   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jS8gueTBags

We have prayed protection over ourselves, our family, friends, and countless others my entire life. And I KNOW that God answers those prayers. However, I have NEVER experienced the reality of God’s palpable hand of protection over us like I did Sunday night. It was as if He literally lowered His hand from the heavens and shielded the three of us. As I see the tragic damage to the man in the video’s body and the immense amount of pain he had to go through when his gas can exploded with NO FLAMES present, I stand in utter amazement that NOT A HAIR was singed on my BJ’s body. (He was convinced that at least his eyebrows were missing but they were all there! )

But it doesn’t end there! I went out to look at the gas can in the daylight the next day. The tip of the pouring spot that had been in flames the night before was stuffed full of earth as if dirt jammed up in it when it hit the ground in flames. The barrier of the earth between the open flames on and surrounding the can and the actual gasoline IN the can is what kept the can from exploding like a bomb next to us and two of our vehicles. The can itself appears to be untouched. No melting. No soot. No nothing. But if you look closely at the clod of dirt in the tip of the spout you will see that the flames did not even engulf the straw -like grass attached to the dirt. Yet, the very tips of the grass have the slightest bit of singe on them. Try and explain that! I SAW the fire THERE with my own eyes! The can was ablaze long before it made contact with earth to plug the spout and even then it lay on the ground in flames before BJ put the fire out. But even the grass in the blaze was singed only at its ends?!?! I cannot even find words to express how acutely aware God is of our circumstances and how intimately He is involved in our lives and how incredible undeniably perfect His timing is in all things! Even when we don’t have a clue what we’re up against, He is working behind the scenes for those that love Him and obey His commands and choose righteousness.

Satan tries to lure each and every one of us down to the fiery pits of hell by making sin enticing. His goal is to steal, kill, and destroy anyone and everyone he can. But we exposed his wicked plan for Josiah Sunday and God called Josiah out of that darkness and into the light. And it infuriated the enemy. There’s no doubt in my mind that he was throwing a big fiery fit on my driveway when he heard God’s wayward child call out to Him in the darkness, turn away from his sin, and choose to be reconciled to God. Satan sent a message to us loud and clear that night. Perhaps he intended to literally destroy our bodies in the flames since he’s not getting our souls. Maybe he simply planned to terrorize us in hopes that we’d give up in fear that the battle against him is too hard and too scary. Either way, the God of the Universe cared enough to show up and speak an even clearer, louder message:

“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they will not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched, Nor will the flame burn you. Isaiah 43:2

So what can we learn from all of this? Everything that plays out here on earth in the physical realm is a direct manifestation of what is happening in the unseen spiritual realm. Just as real as the physical destruction awaiting our family Sunday night is spiritual destruction waiting for each and every one of us at every decision before us. Though you may not realize it, a battle is being fought for YOUR soul right now. The Bible makes it very clear which side wins in the end. Which side will you align yourself with? Which side will you help your children align with?

A warning to those of you who have already chosen the winning side and are walking in a relationship with God through acceptance of Jesus Christ as your Savior: the loser can’t take you to hell but he can certainly make life on earth hell for you.

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.  Ephesians 6:12

Friends, parents, it is CRUCIAL that we realize that this battle is REAL! The enemy is out to destroy us and he’s out to take our kiddos down, too. Now, more than ever, we MUST press in and spend time in the word of God to strengthen ourselves against the enemy. He is targeting our families! We must spend time in prayer warring for our spouses and our children who are forced to live in a confusing world that calls right wrong and wrong right. We must teach our children the ways of God so that the only fire they’ll ever pass through is God’s refining fire.

A warning to those of you who haven’t chosen a side yet: By being “undecided,” you automatically default to the losing side. Time is so, so short. Don’t put your eternity off. The Bible makes it clear that like a thief in the night a time will come when all of eternity is “set.” The righteous will forever remain righteous and the unrighteous forever unrighteous. No one will be able to switch sides.

If you want to be on the winning side but don’t know how, it’s really not that complicated. It all boils down to this.

Each and every one of us FALL SHORT of God’s holy standard.  Our shortcomings, or sins, separate us from God.  Romans 3:10-12, and 23

As the Scriptures say, “No one is righteous—not even one. No one is truly wise; no one is seeking God. All have turned away; all have become useless. No one does good, not a single one.” … For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.

The price (or consequence) of our sin is death.

Romans 6:23

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.

Jesus died on the cross to pay the price for our sins and bridge our separation from God.

Romans 5:8

But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.

We receive salvation and everlasting life through our faith in Jesus.  A literal heart change and a turning away from our sins is the ONLY way to escape what we truly deserve (eternal damnation separated from God)

Romans 10:9-10, 13

If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by confessing with your mouth that you are saved …  “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

Turning from sin and receiving Jesus’ forgiveness brings us into a relationship of peace with God.  When we do this, we not only gain everlasting life with God after our physical death here on earth, but we also gain all of the “right now” earthly benefits He promises to those who are in covenant with Him.  The key is not religion but a RELATIONSHIP with the Creator.  It’s taking one day at a time, SPENDING TIME with the One who is holy, and becoming more pure, ourselves, in that process. 

Romans 5:1

Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us.

Romans 8:1

So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.

Romans 8:38-39

And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.

  • Admit that you are a sinner.
  • Understand that as a sinner, you deserve death.
  • Believe that Jesus Christ died on the cross to save you from your sin and from death.
  • Repent by turning from your old life as a slave to sin to a new life submitted to God.
  • Receive, through faith in Jesus Christ, God’s free gift of salvation.
  • Spend time reading the Bible and building a relationship with God.  Find a Bible believing church to get involved with so you can grow as a Christian.

To close, I’d like to share a portion of a letter I wrote to our church family, The Remnant Church. I’m including it to share what “the church” is truly meant to be. It’s not  “THE social place to be” or an obligation we must fulfil. It’s not a place of judgement to look down on others. It’s a group of believers that gather together not only to praise and worship God, learn His ways, and hear a relevant, timely message from Him, but also a place to lift and build each other up. It’s supposed to be a safe place. A place where everyone works together and uses the spiritual gifts God has given them to help those who are struggling. If you don’t have a church home that you can say this about, please know that you are always welcome at Remnant!

Remnant family,

BJ and I would like to express our extreme heartfelt gratitude for the prayers lifted up and agreement you gave for Josiah Sunday morning. We often take our Remnant “family” for granted but Sunday showed us just how invaluable being plugged in to the whole body of Christ truly is. Jim and Gay, thank you for loving our family unconditionally and always making yourself available for wise counsel. Shane, thank you so much for your sensitivity to the holy spirit’s leading. The prayer time that you initiated on Josiah’s behalf was no doubt God’s divine intervention in his life. It was truly life-changing. Mom, thank you for your humility and your deep desire to see Josiah set free. Donna, thank you for being a safe place for Josiah and for earning his trust. Cari, thank you for capturing a special moment in life for me as you know there is nothing I treasure more than being able to look back in time and remember. Remnant, the prayers you prayed that morning probably seemed pretty “normal” (or normal according to Remnant standards!) but know that God moved MIGHTILY at your request. You truly ARE his beloved and HAVE HIS EAR.

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Remnant Church praying over Josiah Sunday morning

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repenting and calling out to the Lord for forgiveness

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so happy to finally give it up to God

(This photo was actually taken before the mixup with the gas cans.

After the fact, we see that the camera’s flash actually captured the two cans side by side.)

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flames not yet put out

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earth lodged in the pouring spout

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only singed on the ends????

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The t-shirt that Josiah happened to be wearing that night proved to be very fitting!

 

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BCS: Brazoria County’s “Counter Culture”

May 3, 2012 at 10:07 pm (More than Mediocre, Uncategorized) (, , , )

Call me what you want. Spiritual. Religious. Christian. Fanatic. I’m one that stands up for right no matter the cost. I still value hard work, honesty, and good morals and character. I teach my kids to be kind, to have self-control, to be patient and peaceful and to build others up instead of tearing them down. I actually hold them accountable for their behavior. (Gasp!) Call me old-fashioned, but I simply refuse to blend in and accept the philosophies and values of a culture that says that right is wrong and wrong is right. I refuse to teach my kids that compromise is okay. I refuse to exchange the incredible calling that God has on each of their young lives for…well, truly NOTHING in return.

 

In the 8 months that my 12-year-old son has been enrolled in a really great local public school, he’s been bullied mercilessly. He’s been exposed to pornography repeatedly and he’s had to deal with male classmates continuously revealing themselves to him and expressing their desire to rape other boys. He’s been approached by a young girl (can’t quite use the term “lady” here) about sex, and he’s learned how to hack into computer systems. He’s gained an entire new vocabulary of vulgar and offensive terms. He’s been exposed to liars, cheaters, thieves, and the most rude, disrespectful children I’ve ever encountered in my life. Much to my surprise, we haven’t personally encountered drugs yet, but it’s just a matter of time…because they certainly are there. For those of you who don’t think your kids are facing these issues in the public school system, they are. They just aren’t telling you about it.

 

These issues have nothing to do with the particular SCHOOL that my son is enrolled in. The administration of the school is wonderful. The teachers are incredible and are truly working to make a difference in these kids’ lives. The problem lies in the CULTURE that my son is stuck growing up in. You see, we live in a culture of increasing darkness and depravity.  Good morals and values are rare finds these days. Our kids are constantly bombarded with worldly influences that lure them into compromise.  Now more than ever, our children are being distracted from seeking out and embracing what’s good, and right, and pure, and true. And we as parents are simply standing by and watching rather than actively making change for the better in our kids’ lives.

 

 I am always stunned when another Christian parent rolls their eyes or raises their eyebrows at my concern, saying “Oh well, kids will be kids” or “We’re going to let them sow their wild oats now and they’ll straighten out later.” Seriously? Open your eyes parents! If you allow your children to tolerate, or worse, to embrace, their peers’ bad behaviors now-they BECOME these things themselves later in life. The lazy, disrespectful, selfish, immoral attitudes and actions that most parents seem to think are “harmless”now don’t change over the years. They produce lazy, disrespectful, selfish immoral adults.

 

Now, as Christian adults, we generally keep our distance from situations and influences that can damage our own character. Yet, we don’t give that option to our kids. We say, “They are going to run into the bad stuff at some point in life so it might as well be now so they can go to this school with great electives.” Or maybe it’s the sports opportunities that we’re after. Or maybe it’s simply the fact that it’s free education. We don’t realize that free education actually comes with a very high price. And guess what? We aren’t the ones paying it. Our kids are.

 

If you confine an alcoholic to a bar, will it be possible for him to resist the temptation to drink? Can he maintain his sobriety surrounded by his weakness? Yes, it’s absolutely possible. And it’s also absolutely VERY unlikely. Our precious children, as wonderful as they are, are born with a sin nature-a pre-disposition to do the wrong thing. How can we as loving and supportive parents raise them within a culture that constantly pressures them to do the wrong thing and expect them to do the right thing? Is it possible that they’ll make it through fine and dandy and turn out to be amazing moral adults full of integrity and wisdom and capable of making right decisions? Sure it is. But how likely is that- when they’ve been taught (directly or indirectly) the exact opposite by those around them seven hours a day, five days a week? I don’t know about you but I’m not willing to roll the dice.

 

We could argue all day long about whether or not it is good to “shelter” children and at what point they are strong enough to make good decisions when the majority of their peers are making bad ones, but ultimately, as parents, we are accountable to God for what our children are taught. My kids and their futures are entirely too important to me to be molded by a morally deteriorating culture. A better football program and more electives to choose from just aren’t worth the price my kids will have to pay. I’ll take my chances on sheltering them in order to raise the bar.

 

While there is no perfect solution to the problem (because there will never be a culture of “perfect” kids,) there is an excellent alternative in our area. There is a counter culture right here in the Brazosport area that most people don’t even know exists. Located in Lake Jackson, the Brazosport Christian School has served our community for the past 32 years as an independent and non-denominational private school representing over 40 different area churches. BCS produces people like me: intelligent, strong, competent risk-takers that desire to impact our world. People that know that they have a God-given purpose on this earth and that set their mind to fulfill it. People who are bold enough to live out their faith without shame and without compromise.

 

Years ago, in the early days of BCS, the loving Christian environment and the fact that any child that wanted to participate in sports or cheerleading was included in the program were the school’s main advantages. However, as BCS has grown and advanced over the past three decades, there is little left to be desired in this school. The administration, staff, and teachers at BCS are amazing, pouring their time and energy into the students and loving them as their own. They are virtuous and truly lead by example. They don’t show up to work to collect a paycheck. They show up because God has called them to help build a generation that seeks the truth. A generation that seeks righteousness and godliness. A generation that seeks to know Him.

 

As far as academics go at BCS, my child in the PK-4 program started reading little readers at 4 years of age and just 3 months later is now reading “real” books from the library! On the other hand, I have an older child who struggles academically and her teachers have gone above and beyond to help her keep up with the rest of the class. In addition to superior academic excellence, individualized attention, and much smaller student-to-teacher ratios, BCS offers advanced level high school courses, national honor society, student council, and various clubs to enhance student learning. College scholarship opportunities are readily available and are more attainable as the seniors are not competing against ten times as many students to earn them.

 

BCS is well-known throughout the state for its excellence in athletics including 6 man football, girls and boys basketball, volleyball, softball, baseball, track, golf, tennis, and cheerleading. Furthermore, the coaches and student-athletes are gracious competitors who embrace challenge, enjoy the sport, win with humility, handle defeat with dignity, advocate for their sport and are positive role models within the community.

 

Due to the school’s zero –tolerance policy on bullying, I don’t have to worry about my children being teased or taunted for being overweight or underweight or too ugly or too nerdy or too poor or too silly or too quirky or just not “cool” enough. My brainiac can just be himself and that’s okay. My social butterfly can take on all the friends she can manage and my more introverted child is treated kindly by everyone and can make friends if and when she feels the need. The children in each grade level form deep friendships at BCS and they genuinely love each other and respect the diversity within the school. Is every kid at BCS always on the right track? Of course not. But a child that is consistently making wrong choices at BCS is by far the exception rather than the rule. And I can guarantee you that the exact opposite is true elsewhere- the kid on the right track being the rare jewel of the bunch.

 

With all its benefits, private education does not come without a price. Curriculum and equipment are expensive. Teachers and bills must be paid and expenses add up quickly when the state isn’t contributing any assistance. However, I can assure you that in the long run, you will reap much more in the individual that your child grows into than you sowed into the tuition. Sending us kids to BCS was a huge sacrifice for my own parents. We drove an old clunker of a car and never had designer jeans because of the expense, but I couldn’t be more grateful today that they invested in ME rather than in accumulating more worldly goods. Because of the difference that BCS has made in my life, I too am willing to make the necessary sacrifices for my children to attend.

 

Maybe it’s the fact that everyone at BCS is there for a reason –because their parents want them in the best possible Christian learning environment outside of the home- that I love this school so much. Maybe it’s that my son can choose any book he wants to from the school library and not have to worry about offensive content. Maybe it’s that right doing rather than wrong doing is applauded and that the majority of the kids honor their parents, respect them, and are even a blessing to them. (Gasp!) It could be that my son doesn’t have to compromise his values and personal beliefs just to be accepted by his peers. Perhaps it’s that my girls will have the option of godly, respectful boyfriends that know better than to pressure them for sex and godly friends that will help them stay accountable if that day ever comes. Whatever the reason, I drop my kids off every morning with tremendous peace in my heart, knowing that they are safe, loved and genuinely valued for who they are, academically and spiritually challenged, and truly…happy. What a privilege!

 

So I urge you Christian parents out there to stop compromising. You owe it to yourself and you owe it to your kids. Boldly take a stand for what’s right. What your kids are being exposed to day in and day out is not acceptable. Raise the bar. Grandparents, stand up for your grandkids’right to actually have a safe and enjoyable childhood without constant exposure to drugs, alcohol, sex, hate, and discrimination. Alumni, take a moment to reflect on how BCS affected your own life and where you would be today without it. Consider giving your own children the opportunity that your parents were willing to give you. Let’s invest in our children-for they are surely worth it!

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“Why Do People Yawn?” and Other Really Important Questions

April 19, 2011 at 6:06 pm (More than Mediocre) (, , , , , )

At some point in time, most of you have engaged in conversation or activity with my husband, BJ. You’re familiar with him, his charming personality, and his seemingly never-ending perfectly timed wisecracks. But, I bet you don’t know that he won’t leave for work a single morning without kissing each of our four children in their sleep. He hides chocolate all over our house to have on hand for me when I’m close to a stress meltdown. It would not be unusual to find him with me in a dark coop or closet candling chicken eggs, fascinated (or at least pretending to be) by the glowing wiggly silhouettes of pre-born baby chicks that look just like the ones from the week before. Oh and he actually likes our little dog and can on occasion be caught petting her. You know the one that he acts like he doesn’t like? You’d never guess it, but he’s actually a little OCD about certain things. He falls asleep almost every single night in his chair. (just like his dad did when we were dating) And here’s a shocker -he lets our three girls comb, style, and decorate his hair to their heart’s content and when he’s in a good mood, they might even get to paint his toenails!

You see, there’s knowing somebody and then there’s knowing somebody. There’s an “our paths cross on occasion” knowing and a “we’ve spent years getting to know each other” knowing. We can be familiar with someone, even know a whole lot about them, and not truly know the deep down nitty gritty.

One of my duties as a parent is to pass on what I know to my children. My days are filled with, “What is this? What is that? What are diseases? What’s a rainbow made of? Why do people yawn? Did Adam and Eve have belly buttons? Do boys have one less rib than girls? Where is Heaven?” …

Perhaps the most challenging of all questions that my kids await the answer to is “Who exactly is God?”

 I’ve spent most of my term as a mother spouting off the obvious. “Well, He’s God! He’s good. He loves you. He made you. He’s the boss, that’s for sure.”

 “But who is He? What does He like? What does He hate? What can He do? What has He done in the past? What is He going to do in the future? What does He think about this? What does He think about that? How does He communicate with us? What does He expect from us?” The questions go on and on.

In the past, I’ve attempted to call out a handful of names that I’ve heard somewhere along the road in church. But recently, I’ve come to the point in life where I can just admit, “You know, I really don’t know exactly who He is.  I don’t know what all He’s done.  And I’m not sure what He’d think about that.”

 Like many others, I’ve grown up knowing that God is great and awesome and mighty, yet I haven’t been able to conceptualize exactly who He is. I know what I’ve heard. I know a little from what I’ve read. But I don’t know the deep down nitty gritty because our paths only cross on occasion. I haven’t ever really taken the time to actually get to know Him.

Because I can’t pass on knowledge that I don’t have, I set out to find those answers for myself and for my kids. For me, that journey began with two books put out by Streams Ministries entitled, “I AM: Inheriting the Fullness of God’s Names” and “I AM: 365 Names of God.”  One is a compilation of many of the names of God given in the Bible and the other examines the names, their purpose, and how they apply to our lives.

Why start with the names of God? Well, each name of God found in scripture tells us a little bit about Him. Each name unveils a facet of God’s character and His relationship with us. Each reveals His glory and His reputation. Each name is an answer to one of those questions that each of our hearts cry out. God shared His names with us in the Bible for a specific purpose –so that we can relate to Him, love Him, and truly know Him.

 The kids and I now try to spend a few moments each day reflecting on one of the names of God. Using the books mentioned above as a guide, we talk about the name, find it in the Bible, and ask God to give us a mental picture related to the particular name, character trait, or glorious act we’re studying. The kids keep journals of the revelation that God gives them as He unveils the mystery of who He truly is -the nitty gritty- one detail at a time.

 Seeing who God is through the eyes of my children brings so much joy to my heart that I thought I’d share their drawings every now and then to encourage you!

Won’t you join us on a quest to know Him?

 

Click on the photos to enlarge them. 

Alyssa Joy’s interpretation of  “I am the giver of all revelation” 

I just love the little “wavelengths” of revelation that go from God’s mouth to the person’s ear!  Alyssa Joy is alot like me and her artwork always makes me smile!

 

Josiah’s interpretation of  “I am omniscient” (all-knowing)

The boy chooses to lie, but God knows the truth!  Josiah’s art is often simple but always has a message!

Glory’s interpretation of “I am the Lord, and My voice is powerful and full of majesty”

Though she’s only four, Glory loves to draw the pictures God gives her.  We are always amazed at how different each of her journal entries looks!

Grace’s interpretation of “I am the Door”

Grace has a passion for art!  I love her boldness and the intensity of her art.

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Trash or Treasure?

January 1, 2011 at 8:42 pm (More than Mediocre) (, , , , , , )

 

Since we discussed perception in my last post, (It’s been so long, you may have to go back and re-read it!) I thought it fitting to share the following encounter with someone who forever changed the way I view my seven-year-old daughter, Grace.

For those of you who do not know, Grace is an artist.  Hidden or not, if there’s a blank paper plate, paper towel, or piece of paper in our home, she’ll find it.  She loves markers and glue, paints, and glitter –and any other MESSY thing that she can get her busy little hands on.  She creates and creates and creates to her heart’s content, leaving her “mark” on everything she touches.  That new perfectly cute purse she got for her birthday, now unrecognizable, lies deep below icky layers of lace and beads, rhinestones, and glue.  And that adorable new Bible she got for Easter has been forever “upgraded” with a fresh pen outlining. 

Give a “creative” child like this to a perfection-seeking clean freak mother…and you’ve got problems!  I can’t deny that my heart rate elevates every single morning when I walk into her room and see the permanent blue stains on my beautiful mocha carpet.  I cringe every time I walk past the bathroom door and see the streak of red fingernail polish that taunts me, “I’m still here and there’s nothing you can do about it!”  But perhaps the thing that has always gotten to me the most is the…trash.  Yep, I’m afraid you heard me right, the T-R-A-S-H.  My child loves trash!  There, I said it!  She even brings home other kids’ trash in her lunchbox!  Pringles containers, juice box straws, candy wrappers!  She views each individual piece of junk as sacred…a treasure….the perfect addition to her latest work of art.  From ski slopes made of plastic shoe inserts to bug houses made from slim jim cans to toilet paper roll binoculars, this child takes great pride in…well, trash!  Now, you have to understand that my personal motto is, “When in doubt, throw it out!”  If there is not a specific place for something in our house, then to the curb it goes!  So, you can only imagine the conflict this oxymoronic  “trash art” has created between the two of us.

Well, I learned to choose my battles over the years.  I’d let her “do her thing” and then secretly sneak her precious “creations” into the trash when she was in bed.  I’m ashamed to admit that I’ve actually been caught a time, or two, or three or four!  “MOMM-A!”  She’d wail.   Her tearful eyes full of angry betrayal, she’d dramatically scold me,  “How COULD you throw this away?”  After carefully removing soggy noodles and smoothing leftover spaghetti sauce off of her masterpiece, she’d march back to her room and slam the door.

Though I never meant to really hurt her, I thought her little projects were worthless junk.  While I didn’t even realize what I was doing at the time, SHE knew that Mom did not value her abilities.

As only He can do, God used a completely unrelated set of circumstances to bring someone new into my life.  Through an email to Streams Ministries, I began to develop a relationship with a wonderful, encouraging, godly woman who I knew only as “Kari.”  Soon, when we went to The Art of Hearing God training by John Paul Jackson, BJ and I had the opportunity to meet this “email stranger” that I had already grown to love.  As we spent time together sharing, I felt a connection with her like never before.  Perhaps it’s because the love of God literally oozes right out of her.  Perhaps because there is not a judgmental bone in her body.  Whatever the reason, I was profoundly impressed with her- -her attitude, her character, her heart.  I genuinely valued and respected her as a person.  During a ten minute break from our class I overheard a gentlemen asking her about her art.  My heart quickened!  She’s an artist!  Instantly, I was filled with an overwhelming desire for her to teach my Grace how “real art”  is to be done.  We had been searching for someone willing to teach Grace for quite a while.  I was so excited about the possibility that I had practically sold our house and packed us up to move to the Dallas area in my mind.  After class ended that night, I went to her and asked about her art.  I shared with her about how creative Grace is but also expressed my embarrassment of her “trash art.”  I’ll never forget her words.  She leaned over to her husband and called out in her amazing New York accent, “She cawlls her dawghter a trash awtist!  Who does that remind you of?”  She began to share how she, too, is a trash artist!  We laughed as she shared about collecting old windows and various items from the curb, how it sometimes embarrasses her husband when she’s searching for trash, and how much joy she finds in taking things that others view to be worthless and creating something lovely from them.  As we toured the offices and she pointed out her art, each piece so meticulously and joyfully crafted, I was absolutely overwhelmed.  This amazing person-this amazing artist-with such love and passion for her work and for her Maker- was a grown up version of  my “Grace.”  I cried and cried that night at the realization of how I had not valued anything about my precious daughter’s gifting.  Sure, I loved her with my whole heart.  But I did not see value in who she is and what she loves.  I did not recognize the joy that transforming trash into treasure brings her. 

When we returned home, my sweet friend Kari sent me the following message regarding Grace’s spiritual gift:

” Not only creatively, but in the natural, it is the ability to see those broken and in need ( those that have been left on the side of life’s road) and pour into them and bring healing and show them the true value they are.  This is a gift I believe Grace may possess.”

Again, my heart broke.  I wept as the spiritual truth washed over me.  God made this child this way for a reason.  She’s not like me and that’s a GOOD thing!  She was never meant to be like me!  God has an incredible plan for her.  She will change lives, perhaps even more than those of us who are not willing to look past the dirty, the broken, and the unlovely.  Her creations are beautiful, valuable expressions of who she is inside and of who God made her to be to others.  From now on, I will treasure every single one of them.

Today as we start this new year, I urge you to take a few moments to view those God has put in your life differently.  Your child is not a brat.  Your spouse is not a mistake.  God put specific people into your life to mold and sharpen and perfect you!  It may take some work, but I promise you, it’ll be life changing.  Give up your old mindsets and see others with “God vision.”   And remember, just because someone is not your idea of perfect doesn’t mean they’re worthless.  Take time to find the valuable treasure in the midst of the trash!

Thank you so much Kari for letting God use you so powerfully in my life. 

You are precious and I love you!

 

                                                                       

 

 

 

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The Rise and Fall of SUPERmom

November 12, 2010 at 8:18 pm (More than Mediocre) (, , , , )

 

By the time I finished high school and started college, all I really wanted in life was to get married and become a mother.  A perfectionist by nature, I didn’t plan on being just another frazzled mom out there trying to survive another day.  If I was going to do the parenting thing, I was going to do it right!  I was going to be…SUPERmom!  And that’s exactly what I was…at first.

Second to meeting my husband, the birth of my first child, Josiah, was the best thing that ever happened to me.  He was a great baby with a great temperament – laid back and easy-going.  Flexible.  Happy.  And the most precious thing I had ever seen!  I’d gaze at him for hours in awe of a God who could create such perfection!  As he grew, so did our relationship.  We were best buds.  I adored him and he adored me.  My days were 100% his.  If he wanted to play, we played.  If he wanted to read, we read.  And every night, we spent time -just the two of us- cuddling and talking together before bed.  I absolutely LOVED being a mother and gladly sacrificed every moment I could for my child.

Because our son brought so much joy to our lives, we decided to bring another child into the world to love.  Alyssa Joy’s arrival was just as we’d hoped.  Another beautiful blessing from God.  A precious baby girl to join our happy little family.  She, too, was an excellent baby.  The perfect addition to our life. 

Everything was going as planned when the unexpected happened.  Another bundle of joy was on the way…a WHOLE lot sooner than we had planned!  Though we knew without a doubt that this third child was God’s will for our lives (for He had definitely overridden our will to wait awhile to expand the family) I have to admit that I was not pleased with the “new” plan.  I was tired.  My body was tired.  I had a baby already.  And my perfect little boy was proving to be not quite so perfect anymore…

So we brought our precious baby Grace home just twelve days after Alyssa Joy’s first birthday.  And though she was another wonderful baby, our life suddenly became mass chaos.  The battle of the babies began.  Every last moment was spent trying to manage and care for the two baby girls.  “The good life” that Josiah knew no longer existed.  There was no time to read or play or cuddle.  Consequently, Josiah’s behavior took an ugly turn for the worse.  Our once peaceful home was now filled with crying, crying, and more crying.  (And that was just ME!)   Staying home with three kids under the age of four, my worst fear was realized.  I truly had become another frazzled mom just trying to survive another day.  “Only a year until Josiah starts school.  Then a third of my troubles will be over,” I used to encourage myself.  Little did I know!  School was just the beginning of my troubles with Josiah.  But that’s another story altogether…

Determined to conquer motherhood, I pulled out my cape and spent the next few years racing through school plays, doctor appointments, pep rallies, soccer practices, and parent/teacher conferences as SUPERmom, two nap needing toddlers and a mile long to-do list in tow.  Operating in my own strength alone, I was overwhelmed, exhausted, and just plain empty.  But I was SUPER!

Just when I thought I had perfected the art of being SUPER…when life had actually become almost manageable…surprise, surprise!  Our sweet Glory made her glorious entrance into our crazy world, gracing this SUPERmom with overtime in the day and demanding that I take on a night shift as well!  BUT… the Lord in His goodness blessed and multiplied my time with our new baby girl.  Delighting in the little things again for the first time in almost six years-the precious moments in time that can never be recaptured- I began to realize just how much of my two older daughters’ lives “the race of life” had robbed me of.  I had not really gotten to enjoy either one of them in their first few years of life.  We did not play.  We did not read.  We did not cuddle.  We didn’t have much of a relationship at all.  We were just doing good to survive!  I realized that in the kids’ eyes, I wasn’t really SUPER at all.  I desperately wanted to start fresh but there just wasn’t enough time in the day to change anything.  I raced the clock all day long and once the kids were in bed, I had to “start” MY day with endless piles of dishes and laundry.  “Busy-ness” had once again taken over every aspect of my life.  Multi-tasking became such an established pattern in my day that I was literally unable to stop it.  I could not slow down for fear of getting behind.  In a desperate attempt for order in the midst of the chaos, I consumed myself with housework.  And when the chores were all done I poured myself into anything else that might give me a sense of accomplishment.  A job well done.  Anything to offset the failure of not spending quality time with my kids. 

I pressed on, tackling every spelling list, field trip, class party, and dirty diaper with full force.  On the outside I was the picture perfect mom but on the inside I was…decaying.  Tired of giving every ounce of myself to “takers” who gave nothing back…ever…and surrounded by a culture that exalts self rather than others, my heart changed.  I began to resent anything and everything that took away from “me.”  After all, it was MY life and I deserved to get to live it.  Right?

Instead of enjoying my kids, pursuing a close relationship with them, teaching them about the Lord, and celebrating who He made them to be, I completely distanced myself, merely tolerating them at best.   Though I went through all of the motions of parenting, I had checked out…and my kids could tell.  I’ll never forget the day my little Josiah looked me in the face and said, “Mom, you know I can tell when you and Dad are just acting like you’re listening to me.”

 I genuinely loved my children, but I honestly had no desire to spend time with them.  In my eyes, any rare moments of extra time were too valuable to waste on playing or talking or being silly.  I had more important things to do.  Like be SUPER!  Or be alone!  Oh how I wanted to just sit in silence –without a single little voice repeating itself a thousand times!  I wanted to be anywhere but home…

Over the years, my attitude and actions continued to slowly spiral downward.  I became harsh and short-tempered with the kids.  With our crazy busy schedule I didn’t have time to be patient, so I began to correct and discipline the children differently.  I demanded obedience and would go to whatever length it took to get it.  And I justified it all in the name of keeping peace in our home.  No longer was I a gentle and loving parent looking for a teachable moment.  Truth be told, I cared more about “appearing” to be in control of the kids than I did about instilling character in them.   I was a drill sergeant forcing results and perfection.  When my children didn’t meet the standard, all hell broke loose!  My emotions were all over the place so the kids never knew what to expect, nice mom, mean mom, really mean mom.  At times, I was overcome with uncontrollable rage when I encountered defiance or disobedience.  My children would literally flinch at the sight of me coming towards them and it broke my heart, but I could not seem to gain control of my emotions.  After correcting them in anger, I was filled with remorse and disgust at myself and my behavior.  What had happened to me over the years?  How had I become so impatient?  So harsh?  So hurtful?  So selfish?  Time after time, I resolved to be a better parent.  A better teacher.  A better example for my kids.  But no matter how hard I tried, I could not bring myself to sit down and do a puzzle.  Or watch a cartoon.  What a waste of time!  Instead of lovingly tending to body boo-boos, heart owies, and bruises of the spirit, I barked orders for them to quit complaining and dry it up!  Instead of encouraging them and building their self-worth, I constantly harped on their shortcomings.  My mouth had become a weapon of mass destruction and I couldn’t control it.

Maybe only those of you who, like me, have experienced the constant power struggles that arise when you’re parenting a son who thinks he’s ten times smarter than you (and really is!) can understand how a mom could reach such a low point.  And maybe only those of us who parent a daughter who exited the womb with fire in her eyes and a sassy attitude the size of Texas can understand “losing it” and lashing out in uncontrollable anger at a precious child.  Believe it or not, understand it or not, I was there at rock bottom.  Lower than low. 

I finally realized that there was absolutely no way to “fix” things in my own strength.  I cried out to the Lord for change and handed over my terribly warped and broken heart for an overhaul.  He met me right where I was, in the midst of my filth, and began wiping away the muck to restore my perspective on parenting.  The first thing that had to go was the selfishness.  He gently reminded me that my life is not my own.  It’s His.  Bought with the blood of Jesus and therefore at His disposal.  HE is the one who calls the shots on how my time is to be spent, not me.  So, He took my precious time, withheld a little for Himself and my husband, and handed the rest (all of it!) to my children.  And I spent the next five months homeschooling, learning to build and grow what I had stifled and crushed.  It was through that homeschooling process, that he removed “the race” entirely.  He broke the housework compulsion because there seriously were not enough hours in the day AND night to get it all done.  (Believe me, I tried!)  He defeated this SUPERmom’s selfish agenda and set me on a path to fulfill HIS perfect plan.  He, the all-knowing, all-powerful God of the Universe, chose to entrust four very specific children to me –that I would raise them to know, love, and serve Him.  Everyone is created to influence someone.  Maybe not the president or anybody famous but a friend, a co-worker, a neighbor.  As for me, I was created to daily influence four little lives.  To live a life before them that models Jesus.  To lovingly train my know-it-all son to submit to authority and gently teach my smart alec daughter to respect others.  Every choice I make and every word I speak alters their future.  And if I fail at my job of raising them, then they fail, too.  So, with the grace and strength of God, this mom is dusting off her cape one last time and embarking on a new mission –to really become SUPER.  Not in the eyes of the world, but in the eyes of my Creator and in the eyes of my children.

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Halloween: Being a Light in a Dark World

October 29, 2010 at 2:07 pm (More than Mediocre) (, , )

 

To be completely honest, I’ve been avoiding blogging about Halloween at all costs.  It’s an extremely controversial subject – especially within Christian circles!  I have precious friends and family members that fully embrace the celebration and others that strongly stand against it.  And both sides offer a convincing argument.  Being the un-confrontational peacekeeper that I am, I thought I’d just plead the fifth regarding the celebration.  HOWEVER, the Lord did not find that to be fitting for me.  He asked that I stop fearing what people might think and just write.  So, today the floors will remain unswept.  The pile of clean laundry on the couch will not be folded.  And this sweaty body (elliptical and ab day) will have to wait on a shower. 

To those of you who want nothing to do with this evil day, I’m going to ask that you stop for just a moment and entertain the idea of participating in the world’s celebration of Halloween-but in an entirely different way.  Before you get upset and ‘x out of my blog, please keep reading and give me a chance to explain!

 Just as most Christians have at some point or another, we’ve struggled with whether or not to let our kids wear costumes, carve up pumpkins, and trick or treat.  We personally choose not to “celebrate” Halloween in the traditional ways, including letting our kids choose “nice” costumes that aren’t scary.  That doesn’t in any way mean we FEAR the day or the symbols that have been connected with it for years.  And we certainly don’t attribute any power to them.  We do not judge anyone who celebrates the holiday and teach our children that those who embrace it either do so by choice or have not been educated as to what they are actually exalting. 

As far as going to church festivals or Halloween alternatives, there is a huge difference between actually getting out there yourself and making an effort to shine God’s light in the midst of darkness and just showing up somewhere “Christian” for the candy and fun.  Unlike the few churches and organizations that work so hard to use the Halloween holiday as a ministry opportunity to change lives, most Christians silently camouflage in amongst the evil because they don’t want their kids to miss out on loads of candy and a cute photo op.  Instead of being set apart and getting out there and sharing God with those who don’t know Him,  they’re out celebrating this pagan holiday in their “nice” costumes along with the rest of the world and are therefore not in a position to allow God to work through them (and their children) to overcome the darkness.

I believe that Jesus, himself, would be out and about on this evil night.  He definitely would not be in costume joining in on a celebration that by and large celebrates evil – for He is HOLY.  But He would be walking the dark streets.  He’d most likely be doing non-stop deliverance along His way, setting people free from the sin and deception that has enslaved them for years.  He’d be healing various afflictions and diseases, loving on the unlovely, and drawing everyone within sight near because of the unconditional love that radiates from Him. 

Halloween is a HUGE opportunity for Christians to plant seeds of truth and bring the Kingdom of God to those that need it most.  There is NO OTHER night of the year that people just show up at your doorstep SEEKING.  Why not give them a real treat?  Share the light of the world with them! 

I’ll end by sharing one last thought.  Our family has had the opportunity to help with church festivals over the years but we’ve also sat at home many Halloween nights to avoid the holiday altogether.  This morning as I worked out and debated back and forth whether or not we should keep the kids out late the night before school, the Lord brought to mind the scripture passage that speaks of the stoning of Stephen.  The Bible tells us that Saul himself did not participate in the evil.  Yet, he stood near, the coats of the killers at his feet, and said nothing.  The Amplified Bible notes that Saul not only consented to Stephen’s death through his lack of action, but he also was pleased and entirely approving of it.  I don’t know about you, but I certainly do not want to be a “coat holder” who doesn’t stand up for what’s right and is just as guilty as the others.  I’m not asking you to throw out the expensive costumes you’ve already purchased or break your little ones’ hearts by cancelling the trick or treating that they’ve looked so forward to (Though the Lord may!) 

I AM  asking that you allow the Lord to use YOU to share His light with others.

  At the very least, PRAY for the people you encounter throughout the night.

If anyone’s looking for an opportunity to minister to others on Halloween night, we’d love to have you join up with Remnant.  We plan to light up the night at Shane and Cari’s house in Freeport!  We’ll be serving free nachos, praying over trick or treaters, doing “Psalm” Readings, worshipping, and whatever else the Lord has planned for us!  We’d love to have you!

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“Not So Dreamy” DREAMS

October 1, 2010 at 8:36 pm (More than Mediocre) (, , , , , )

 

So today is October 1st, the release date of the October 2010 In Touch Magazine.  A day that I WAS really looking forward to.  I’ve decided to abandon my blog idea for today and rant and rave a little…if you don’t mind.

Back in December, I thought I’d try my hand at writing magazine articles for Christian publications.  I sent my first attempt out to MANY different editors and was genuinely shocked to receive the same response over and over.  Your message is too “Christian.”  We serve a “cross over” market.  You can’t say anything that might make someone feel bad.  We’re looking for “soft” evangelism.  We’re not looking for anything “preachy.” 

Oh, I’m sorry…I thought I was submitting to the Christian market.  When did we cheapen the truth?  When did we water down the Gospel?    How in the world can anything I write affect anybody if I take out the one thing that has the power to actually affect them?

After I settled down, dropped my defensive attitude, and reasoned that maybe, just maybe, people might be able to learn something from a “not too Christian, cross over piece that doesn’t make anyone feel bad and isn’t too preachy but has some soft evangelism in it,” I drafted a new manuscript-one with a whole lot less of God in it and a whole lot more of  ME in it.  A practical, humorous piece about surviving motherhood.  I sent it to only a handful of publications this time and quickly received interest from three of them.  Shortly afterward, I signed first rights over to In Touch Magazine, a ministry of Dr. Charles Stanley that still promotes Biblical truth.  After a little happy dance, I thanked the Lord for opening a door for me to change lives for Him.

A month passed.  Two.  Three.  Four.  No published article.  Five months.  Six.  So much time passed that I began to believe that they dumped my manuscript and decided not to publish it after all. 

About two weeks ago, I received an envelope in the mail from In Touch containing two copies of their magazine.  Realizing just how special these little books were, I excitedly flipped open the front cover to reveal the table of contents.  And sure enough, there it was on page 26!  “Mothering Without Incident” by J U L I E   H I G G I N S.  And it was even spelled correctly!  I could barely believe my eyes!  Better yet, someone had written a clever little attention grabbing intro for it! 

Getting tantrums under control is of vital importance-especially when it’s the parent who’s having them!

Could it possibly get any better???

I flipped through the pages as fast as I could and came face to face with a screaming woman sporting  green skin.  “They gave me artwork!”  I squealed to my husband, dancing around the kitchen.

And then it happened.  A large yellow text box caught my eye.  I scanned its contents and was instantly overcome with panic.  “I didn’t write that.”

“What?”  My husband walked over to take a look.

“Those words in the box.  I didn’t write them.”  I continued to scan the small print.  “I didn’t write that word either.  Verdant.  What does that even mean?”

I got out my original manuscript and noted all of the things that had been edited out of the copy due to space limitations.  (What can I say…I’m wordy!) 

Perhaps the most upsetting thing of all, the one little bit about God-the most important part of the piece-was cut and spliced with an entirely different section, changing the entire message I was hoping to speak.

“Or better yet, if I would have started the day with fresh inspiration and strength from the word of God, how much differently I might have handled the situation altogether. 

My only complaint as a mother is that there simply is not enough time to get it all done.  I would love to spend time reading devotionals and inspirational stories every day to help me on this motherhood journey.  Those of you who have toddlers know that every minute wasted on yourself is equal to about five minutes of “damage control” later when you find out what your small child was up to during that stolen moment! “

was changed to read, “I USED TO THINK that if I could start the day with fresh inspiration and strength from the Word of God, I would handle these situation more calmly.  I’d love to spend time reading devotionals and inspiring stories to help me on this motherhood journey.  But then I reasoned, every minute wasted on myself equals five minutes of “damage control” later when I find out what my small child was up to during that stolen moment!

While it might not seem like that big of a change, it entirely changes the meaning of my words and leads others to believe that I’ve “tried that and it didn’t work”  instead of “this is what I should have really done.”

“How can they do that!”  My husband was now irritated, also.

“Because I signed a contract that said they could ‘edit’ my work.”  I sighed.  I did not realize that ‘edit’ meant  re-word and add their own thoughts to it.

I’ll admit that it was a pretty hard lesson for me to learn, but it could have been much, much worse.  From this experience, I’ve learned that maybe the dream of being published in the largest circulating Christian magazine isn’t quite so dreamy after all.  If a million people read my words, but they don’t glorify God -and don’t challenge people to become more like Him-  have I really accomplished anything at all? 

I’ve decided that I’m just not really the “soft” evangelism type.  Perhaps I’ve spent too many years under a pastor with a passion for speaking the truth at any cost.  Perhaps it’s just another lesson in becoming more than mediocre.  I’ll still submit my work to Christian magazines, but I refuse to compromise my message just to get published.  It’s just really not worth it.  I’d rather speak the truth  to a single blog reader than to have thousands read a message that does not stir a hunger for God in them.

You can check out my professionally “edited” article posted on the In Touch website at this link  http://www.intouch.org/magazine/content/topic/mothering_without_incident

OR…you can read the original version right here on my blog at  www.hiddenjewels.wordpress.com  Just scroll down until you see the picture of the Incredible Hulk!

 

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Good LOVE-er Gone Bad

September 26, 2010 at 6:17 pm (More than Mediocre) (, , , , , , )

If you read my last post you shouldn’t be at all surprised to find that I’m still stuck on the book of 1 John.  (And I probably will be tomorrow and a week from now and ten years from now until I KNOW that I’ve mastered it!)  If you’ve followed this blog from the beginning, then you know that I’m a rule follower.  Just tell me the right thing to do so I can do it, PLEASE! 

1 John does exactly that for me.  When I read it, I see arrows pointing to a huge sign with blinking lights that says, “So you want to follow Christ?  This is what a Christian looks like.   Do YOU look like this?”  Well, the problem is…I DON’T.  Not yet anyway.  Because 1 John isn’t just about choosing not to sin.  It also focuses on LOVING OTHERS. 

 Today I’ve decided to let you in on a dirty little secret of mine.  I’m a good LOVE-er gone bad.  Yep, you heard me right.  Now, before you start to defend me, I’ll tell you that I’ve already been there and had that argument with the LORD…and I lost!  So don’t bother.  But don’t worry, I’m working on it and hopefully I’ll cross back over soon.

There’s probably a hundred things that I can blame it on…a broken heart, trust issues, an introverted personality, a short temper….the list goes on.  But before a Holy God, no excuse stands.  So, I’ve had no other choice than to go ahead and face the ugly truth. 

 And it is UGGGG-LY!  

  I used not to have a problem loving others because I surrounded myself with only those that were lovable.  Whenever I came into contact with a “sand paper” person that rubbed me the wrong way or grated on my nerves, I’d think,   “I don’t have to put up with that.”  And I didn’t put up with it!  I closed them out of my life and went on my merry way.

About five years and three children into mothering, things weren’t very merry anymore.  To my dismay, two of my three precious children  had become “sand paper” people themselves.  The really, really coarse kind!  Only a mom can understand this next statement, so the rest of you…just ignore it! 

I loved them, but I was really beginning to not like them! 

 Though I truly loved them…deeply…with every ounce of my being- I was finding it extremely difficult to express any love to them at all because I just wasn’t “feeling” it.  They were taking up too much of my time, my energy, my space, my peace, my sleep, even my food!  MY EVERYTHING!  On top of that, they were so, so, SO very difficult to manage!  I found their behavior to be absolutely “un-lovable” and I honestly didn’t want to be around them.   I was frazzled, frustrated, and exhausted day in and day out and I just didn’t want to put up with it.  It was too hard.  So, I began to close them out and focus on ME.  How did I feel?  What was I going to do today?  What did I want in life?  What were they keeping me from?   How could I get more time to myself?  (Hey, I warned you that it was pretty ugly!)

I’m ashamed to say that this went on for a number of years.  My actions continued to spiral downward until I didn’t recognize myself anymore -for I was exactly the opposite of loving.  Who was this selfish, unloving person that I had become?   I’ll spare you the details, but I will tell you that I hit rock bottom.  I realized that the quality of my parenting could not get any lower.  I knew I had a real problem that needed a very real solution-right away before I did any more damage to my children or anyone else!  I needed to stop the pity party, choose to put others above myself, and learn how to truly LOVE because real love does not close people out.  It does not give up on them.  Genuine love is patient and kind.  It is never  jealous, boastful, proud, rude, selfish, or easily angered.  It does not act unbecomingly.  It does not insist on its own rights or its own way for it is not self-seeking.  It is not resentful and it does not pay attention to wrongs that have been done.  Love is always ready to believe the best of every person and it endures everything without weakening.    Love always trusts.  Always hopes.  Love never fails.

In 1 John 4:7-8 the Bible tells us that we are to love one another  because love is from God and everyone who loves has God as his Father and knows Him.  Those who do not love do not know God because GOD IS LOVE. 

That verse alone creates a  problem for those who aren’t actively choosing to love others but want to be in a healthy relationship with God.

As for me, I did the only thing I knew to do.   I went straight to the most loving person I know, our pastor’s wife.  She and I went to the Lord together and asked that He place His love in my heart. 

How do I know it’s there?  Because I’m having little tiny “love victories”  one “sand paper” person’s action at a time. 

Do I still fail?  Absolutely.  In fact, my kids told me the other day that they didn’t think the prayer worked!  But when I fail, I get right back up and try again.  Because that’s what love is all about.

How about you?  Is there a “sand paper” person in your life?  Are you a good LOVE-er?

 Let us love not with words and talk, but with actions and in reality!

~1 John 3:18

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To Force…or Not To Force

September 14, 2010 at 7:11 am (Magazine Assignments, More than Mediocre) (, , )

Spiritual Disciplines in Children

Most of us are somewhat familiar with the Bible story of young Samuel.  Unable to have children, his mother, Hannah, begged the Lord for a son and promised to commit that child back to the Lord’s service for his whole life.   This morning as I re-read the story that I’ve heard so many times over the years, I was pleasantly surprised to find an ‘answer’ to an inner struggle I’ve been dealing with lately. 

 Two of our three older children have come to the point in life where they understand that they are a sinner and need God’s forgiveness.  They’ve turned away from their sinful ways, accepted Jesus into their hearts as the atonement for that sin, and have given their lives to Him as Lord.  Our third child knows the truth and appears to understand but has stated that she is not ready to enter into relationship with her Creator.  While it is heart-breaking to watch our child turn away from God, this must be her choice.  It is not ours to make.  We can only pray that the Lord will begin to tug at her heart and that she will one day be ready to respond to His unfailing and unconditional love.  Scary?  Yes!  What if that day never comes?     

 Despite all the ‘what if’s’ that swirl around in my head, I know that if we force her…if we scare her… if we guilt her into saying a sinner’s prayer, she’ll never experience God the way He intended her to.  If it’s not one hundred percent her choice to turn away from sin, die to self, and commit everything that she is to Him, then she’ll never truly know Him and will be commanded to depart from Him for all of eternity.

 As Christian parents we really struggle with how to approach this kind of situation.  Where do we draw the line?  Do we force our children to attend church?  To pray with us?  To worship?  To read and memorize the Bible?  To use the obvious giftings the Lord has given them?  If we do, will it actually work…or will it backfire?  Will they defiantly go the opposite direction when they get out on their own?  Will they leave the church altogether as soon as they have the opportunity?  Should we just back off entirely and let them find their own way to God?

 The story of Samuel holds great truth for parents searching for the right balance.  Just like many physical disciplines, spiritual disciplines are not an option but an absolute necessity in our children’s lives.  We don’t give them an option when it comes to brushing their teeth or taking a bath.  Like it or not, it’s going to happen…for their own good.  Good parents train (by force if necessary) their children in proper hygiene to ensure a healthy lifestyle.  With time and understanding, these habits that we instill will no longer be approached reluctantly.  They will be embraced.  Christian disciplines are the same.  While kids may not like sitting through a church service, it IS for their own good.  It WILL prove to be beneficial in their future.  How do I know?  It’s right there in our instruction manual for life.   The Bible tells us that Samuel’s mother weaned him and then took him to the temple and presented him to the Lord  – for life.  She didn’t drop him off now and then for a quick lesson.  She didn’t even ask if he wanted to go to the temple or if he might enjoy learning the duties of the priests.  He had no choice in the matter – for his mother had wisely resolved that he was to be raised entirely under the Lord’s instruction and influence. 

 In doing this, did Hannah ‘force’ her child to trust in the Lord and come into relationship with Him?  That’s the best part!  She didn’t have to!  Samuel chose to enter into relationship with the Lord all by himself. 

 1 Samuel 3:1 tells us that the boy Samuel ministered to the Lord under the priest Eli’s direction.  As a very young child, Samuel was set apart and trained in the ways of the Lord.  He learned by example and did exactly as the priests did.  When we read down a little further, verse 7 says, “Now Samuel did not yet know the LORD, nor had the word of the LORD yet been revealed to him.”   Though he did not even know the Lord, he was already doing the work of God.  Before a relationship even existed, the child was submissive and obediently serving his Maker.  And when the time was right…the Lord revealed Himself to Samuel and SPOKE to him!  Samuel then responded in obedience and scripture tells us that the Lord God Himself was with Samuel as he grew up.

 This brings me great comfort!  If Samuel’s parents had let him have a say in his upbringing -if they had raised him at home under worldly influences and away from the presence of the Lord -would he have heard from the Lord at such a young age?  Would he have even heard the voice of God in his lifetime?  Maybe.  Maybe not.  But his parents weren’t willing to take that chance.  They chose to get Him as close as they possibly could to the manifest presence of God.  Samuel slept in the Sanctuary where the holy ark of God was!  How much easier it must have been for the child to hear God’s voice being so close to Him.  This child knew and understood the way man was to relate to God.  He observed it every day as a youngster and it became a lifestyle that cultivated a heart ready to receive the Lord followed by a lifetime commitment to doing His work.

 No longer will I worry about whether or not to ‘force’ my daughter to do what is right.  As for me and my house, we WILL serve the Lord.  God has a plan and a purpose for this precious child.  And my job as her parent is to get her as close as I possibly can to His presence at any cost- for it is there in the midst of the spiritual training that she will one day hear His voice and won’t think twice about moving forward into relationship and ministry with Him.

Train up a child in the way he should go, Even when he is old he will not depart from it.

~Proverbs 22:6

 

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Mothering “Without Incident”

April 13, 2010 at 5:41 am (Magazine Assignments, More than Mediocre) (, , )

 I must admit, I’m a chick flick girl.  I like my movies steady and predictable.  I can’t follow the complicated plots of the action adventure movies.  A few minutes and 10 questions into the movie, my husband throws up his hands in frustration with me, “I don’t KNOW why he did that!” or “I don’t know who she is!”  We spend the entire movie repeating that whole scenario and I usually still don’t understand when it’s over!

 Not too long ago, my husband convinced me to watch the Blockbuster release, “The Incredible Hulk.”  I never saw the original version and really had better things to do than watch an angry green man run around hurting people.  I had about twelve loads of laundry to do that had been accumulating on the couch all week.  “Your dad says you might like it.” He said.  “It’s kind of a love story.”  I reluctantly agreed and eventually found myself somewhat entertained.  One thing about this horrible green villain particularly interested me.  He was a good man.  A man who cared about others.  A man who truly had no intention of hurting others.  When provoked, his temper would flare, causing him to instantly transform into this huge, angry, uncontrollable creature.  The director of the movie chose to mark time by printing the “number of days without incident” in the bottom corner of the screen.  Throughout the movie, the viewer would know that only 38 days had passed since the Hulk’s rage had last become activated.  The clock was constantly turning back to zero as the Hulk continued to have episodes. 

As I lay in bed that night after we watched the movie, I couldn’t help but notice how my own actions as a frazzled mom of four parallel those of this unpredictable green monster.  I’m no super mom, but I like to think I do a pretty decent job-all things considered!  Anyone that knows me can definitely tell you that I am absolutely crazy about my kids.  They are my greatest treasures.  I wouldn’t trade them for anything in this world.  I am a stay at home mom, frazzled to the core six days a week on average.  Like every other mom, I’m on duty 24/7 like it or not.  I’m a short order cook, a maid, a chauffeur, a homework checker, etc. etc.  I don’t get sick leave. Using the restroom alone is a thing of the past.   Showers are a luxury. 

I can be trudging through the highs and lows of motherhood just fine and then BOOM!  All of a sudden, the stress of it all sends me into one of these horrific “incidents.”  Lack of sleep. Bickering kids.  Increased heart rate.  Endless laundry.  Picky eaters.  Bulging Skin.  Discipline slips from school.  Unflushed toilets!  Ripping clothes!  Cleaning boogies off walls.  Toddler on the loose with an inkpen.  Tear!   Tattling.  Whining!  Fits!  Sassy comments!  Defiant attitudes!   The pressure builds until it happens.  The all out transformation from mother to monster.    Of course I’m exaggerating, but I’m sure you can identify with me.  I wonder what my poor children must think when they see mom’s face all gnarled up!  Am I scary?  Do I really look like a monster to them?  Do they actually listen because my voice is raised?  Do they really even care? 

After it’s all said and done, when the green drains out of my skin and my body shrinks to normal size, I realize how unnecessary the entire scene really was.  So what if the cat is sporting hairspray for a couple of weeks.  He’s alive!  Who cares that my socks are literally stuck to the spot where apple juice spilled from the table two days ago and never got cleaned up.  I have another pair!  I often find that if I just would have stepped back for one second and separated the bad behavior from the person that my child really is, I never would have “lost it” in the first place.   Or better yet, if I would have started the day with fresh inspiration and strength from the word of God, how much differently I might have handled the situation altogether.

My only complaint as a mother is that there simply is not enough time to get it all done.  I would love to spend time reading devotionals and inspirational stories every day to help me on this motherhood journey.  Those of you who have toddlers know that every minute wasted on yourself is equal to about five minutes of “damage control” later when you find out what your small child was up to during that stolen moment!  If you’re like me and you desperately want to live each day “without incident,” take a moment before you even get out of the bed in the morning and ask the Holy Spirit to control your actions.  That’s right, just give it all over to him because you can not-I repeat, you can NOT do it on your own.  Just face it and move on.  If you blow it one day, start over!  Negative experiences impact our children more than positive ones.  While you may create 99 wonderful images in your child’s mind, he’ll remember the one horrible one long after the others have faded.  Celebrate your children; don’t just tolerate them.   Remember that your children are a direct reflection of you.  If you don’t like what you see in them, then change what they see in you.  Enjoy them now before they’re gone!

Julie Higgins (14 days without incident)

08-31-2010  (33 days without incident)

09-12-2010    (2 days without incident)

How about you?  How many days “without incident” are you up to?

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