Thursday, December 23, 2010

Merry Christmas to All Moms

In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to their own town to register.

So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

“Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise the child, he was named Jesus, the name the angel had given him before he was conceived.

Luke 2:1-21

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Treasured Moments

But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. Luke 2:19

In the hustle-bustle, always-something-to-do environment of being a mom there are scant moments to sit and treasure. I can barely imagine the wonder, excitement, and astonishment that Mary felt as she held the newborn Jesus. The child who had been conceived in her womb by the Holy Spirit. The promised Savior.

Shephards came. Angels sang. Animals (most likely) brayed and whinnied close by.

Mary treasured and pondered.

It makes me ask the question of myself - how often do I treasure moments with my children? How often do I ponder them and lock them away in my heart?

Not as often as I'd like, but more than none. Just the other day I played, kissed, and tickled my 1-year-old as we walked downstairs for a snack. I laid down and read next to my 7-year-old reading also. I stole sugars from my 3-year-old and I held my 5-year-old for an extra long hug. These are the moments I treasure.

Even though I've been steeped in diapers and runny noses for almost 8 years, I know this time will slip away in the blink of an eye. Especially if I allow myself to be too distracted by other things. I'm grateful, most gratefully during the holiday season, to be reminded to stop, treasure, and ponder.

Friday, December 17, 2010

More on the Wise Men

And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route. Matthew 2:12

Does God every change your planned course? He's done it to me more times than I can count. When I was nineteen, He pulled the rug out from under my plans on who I intended to marry and the college I planned to go to attend until graduation. He moved me across the country, within a year also changed what degree I aimed for, and introduced me to a wonderful man about a week after I swore off dating(who, by the way, is now my husband of almost 9 years.)

He had me wait way longer to get married than I desired, called me to stay at home full time after having my second child (after having earned a Master's Degree and starting my career, which I never planned to leave,) and gave me a whole new career path just before I turned thirty.

Those are only a sampling of the big things in which God's changed my planned course. There have been many small things along the way, also.

The wise men listened to God about changing their planned course. Having found and honored the Christ child, they packed up to head home. However, God had made it clear to them in a dream that Herod wasn't the trustworthy, honoring God type of guy and they needed to avoid him like the plague. It's like the wasp's nest that makes me go around the fort outside, instead of underneath it.

We don't know exactly how long the Wise Men's journey was, but most think it took them quite a while. Surely they had come the most direct route and, to avoid Herod, had to take a much longer route home. Sometimes, that's how God has me do things, too.

I'd much rather accomplish things the quick and easy way, but He knows me best and has greater rewards in store for me when I take His route. I learn more along the way. I appreciate the hard work and challenges that others face. And, I'm sure, a time or two, I've avoided a situation that could have been detrimental to me or someone else.

I don't always like to change course. I used to dig my heels in and resist change with all my might. God has taught me (you tell me whether I'm a fast or slow learner from the many examples above) that if I'm leaving Him in the driver's seat, the destination will be well worth the trip getting there. Now, I only get my feathers ruffled temporarily before moving on. I hope one day, I can fully submit, and be completely willing to travel whatever route God calls me to. Even if it's different than the one I had planned.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

What the Wise Men can tell us

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from teh east came to Jerusalem and asked, "Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him." Matthew 2:1-2

Do you ever think about the wise men (Magi) in the story of Jesus' birth? As adults we learn that, first, we don't know that there were three of them. All we know is that there was more than one and that however many of them there were, they brought three gifts. Then we learn that they did not come to Jesus in the manger, but he had most likely grown to a toddler before they arrived.

Given all the "ideas" about the Wise Men and what we actually know, what is important about their part of the story?

First, they recognized that he was born the King of the Jews. Second, they came to worship Him. These are two distinct actions. There are many people who recognize Jesus as God's Son, the King of the Jews, but they do not worship Him. The Wise Men came to bring Him gifts. To honor Him. These gifts are the basis for why we give gifts today for Christmas. But do we bring Him worship also?

I know I struggle to remember to set aside special time to worship Christ during the holidays. There are more family functions, cards to write, and presents to buy, wrap and make. It's business on top of every day Mommy business, and it's easy to get lost. But, if I'm still, I hear God calling me to bring the most important gifts to His Son. The gift of my love, obedience, and service. Even during this busy time.

Then, I will capture the true purpose of Christmas in a wise way.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Preparing for Christmas

Because of God's tender mercy, the morning light from heaven is about to break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, and to guide us to the path of peace. Luke 1:78-79

This is how Zechariah, John the Baptist's father, prepared for the birth of Jesus the Messiah. He, in his old age, and long convinced that he would die childless, celebrates the birth of his own son by looking towards the Christ child.

How am I preparing for Christmas? Am I preparing to celebrate the birth of the Christ child? I'm working diligently on Christmas cards, preparing for a family Christmas party, checking my list to make sure I haven't forgotten anyone, and have decorated. How much time am I focusing on the miracle God performed when He brought His eternal Son into this world through the humble birth of a baby? Not much.

But, thankfully, He gave me this reminder, along with many celebrations at church to remind me.

Jesus came because of God's tender mercy. That makes me want to lean back in His arms, look up lovingly and say, "thank You" over and over again. I am truly the worst of sinners and nowhere close to deserve His mercy, yet He gives it freely. When God said "I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy," He didn't mean He'd withhold it from those who deserved it. No. He meant He'd offer it to those who don't deserve it. He'd even offer it to those we don't think deserve it. His mercy truly is tender.

If I'm sitting in darkness and chaos, He tells me that He offers peace. That includes during the Christmas season, which is an even more difficult time for those who've recently lost loved ones, don't have a positive support network, or struggle with discouragement, depression, and distraction. The answer to all of these is to sit at the feet of Jesus, who's birth we are to remember and celebrate during this time, and allow Him to supply for all our needs. He knows our needs, and we simply have to let Him fulfill them. In the form of a baby - born humbly, completely man and completely God. And He will guide us to the path of peace.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Creating a Worry-Free Home

Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value. Proverbs 31:11

Before you cringe at the fact that I've gone to the awe-inspiring Proverbs 31 woman, know that I have studied, struggled with, submitted to the meaning behind these verses. While this woman looks perfect, she is not. How do I know? Because she is human. I also know that this section of verses is not a snapshot glance at her life, it is a look into her overall life, evidenced by verse 28. Most likely, if her children arise and called her blessed, they are grown.

Okay, so now we can look at todays verse. This woman's husband has full confidence in her. Where do you suppose that confidence comes from? To me, it comes from his experience that she takes care of her duties and household with integrity. She does what she says she's going to do and backs her words up with actions. She looks after the household in such a way that her husband doesn't have to worry that things are falling apart while he's at home.

We, also have this opportunity today. Whether we work outside the home or only in it, we can manage our homes in a way that instills our husbands with confidence. This can be done by:

* greeting him with kind words and enthusiasm
* taking care of chores with a positive attitude
* doing something extra that he'll notice once in a while
* do what you say you'll do
* keep your focus on God and fulfilling the work He's called you to do.

In no way would I ever imply that the above is easy. It's something I work on daily. When I want to get lazy (not relax, relaxation and down time are important to maintain balance), I ask myself, am I living with integrity? Have I given God my best today? If not, I pray for His strength to help me persevere through one more task - and I sometimes remember to turn my praise music on while I'm doing so.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Sing a New Song, Old Song, Any Song

Sing to him; yes, sing his praises. Psalm 105:2a

I love praise music! It can turn my mood around and get me moving around the house like nothing else. Last year, after being resistant to move from my radio and CD player, I received and ipod for my birthday. I never could have imagined how much I would rely on it. But, I’ve put dozens of praise and worship songs on it, it has become a lifeline. Even washing dishes and dusting can become joyful activities when you’re praising the Lord.

As an added bonus to getting to praise God and shift my not-always-great attitude, my children are learning to praise God as a normal part of life.

The wealth of music available today to praise God is truly unlimited. And access is also. I can listen to Klove online, buy CD’s and download songs from the computer. As I go through my daily chores and do the same thing day after day, being able to connect to God through music helps me keep my focus on Him and remember that everything I do (including changing diapers, scrubbing toilets, and taking out the trash) are part of the job God’s called me to do. And since He’s called me to be a wife, mother, and homemaker, I’m to do it as if I were doing it for Him, and not for anyone else.

So, regardless of what’s going on – what losses you face, what disappointments you’ve experienced, what discouragement you feel, what distractions life throws your way – make time to sing God’s praises and open yourself to what work He wants to do in you through it.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Out of My Mouth

Give thanks to the Lord and proclaim his greatness. Let the whole world know what he has done. Psalm 105:1

Do your children hear you talk about God? Is He such a part of your daily life that they hear you tell others the things He’s doing in your life? Do you direct them to turn to God with they challenges and praises?

This past month, I took the Thanksgiving Challenge on FaceBook and posted something I was thankful for each day. It was a wonderful exercise! I didn’t have a hard time coming up with things to be grateful for – not because I’m such a wonderful, thankful person, but because when we open ourselves up to recognizing God’s blessings, He shows us the bounty He has given us. And as I focused on His gifts, I was able to more clearly see other things He’s given me. The new social networks available only allowed me to proclaim His greatness to the whole world.

But I need to remember to do this every day, and not just online. But to my children and to those I come across in my circle. I don’t want to only quietly praise God and give Him thanks personally, I want to be the person who proclaims the Lord’s greatness.

As moms, we may not think we have many opportunities to let the whole world know what He’s done, but our children are the most important to tell. Then, we can guide them in seeking God and recognizing the work He does in their lives. Then they will learn the most important lesson of all – to love Him with all their minds, hearts, spirits and strength, because He is always there no matter what.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

A Disciplined Body

I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified. 1 Corinthians 9:27

Have you ever though about the fact that self-discipline doesn’t happen on its own? That to do the right thing consistently isn’t natural in the flesh? God knows this about us, and has given us the answer to submit to His will. Part of that answer is to discipline our bodies.

Discipline and training take practice. I means making the right choice over and over and over again. It means doing what needs to be done instead of what we feel like doing. It means not giving up when we mess up. And it means continuing to do it and being willing to step up to an even higher level of discipline once we’ve completed another. That’s what athletes do – they train consistently and are always moving to another lever.

Sound daunting? To me it does. To know that I have hard work ahead of me, and when I complete that, I’ll be faced with even harder work. As busy moms, that can make us tired just thinking about it. But, it’s what we’re called to do. But why? The second part of the verse answers that question. We don’t want to be disqualified. As moms, that means we don’t want to be disqualified from receiving respect, love, and the obedience of our children.

While it’s difficult to do what we know we should do (laundry, cleaning, quiet time with the Lord, straightening up – again) instead of what we want to do (read a book, check email, sit with a quiet cup of coffee and a chick flick), the rewards for doing the right things are endless. When our actions match up with our priorities, peace and joy will follow. One of those benefits is having our children see us as genuine. If they know that we mean what we say and say what we mean, they will love us, have respect for us, and be more likely to obey us.

But, most of all, they will give credibility to what we teach them about God – then we will not be disqualified after preaching the gospel to them.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Receiving Nothing From God

That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do. James 1:7-8

The first verse is scary to me. When I recognize everything God has given me, I abhor the idea of Him removing His favor and gifts. I'm not talking material things, although He also provides those, but the times He's moved in my life and brought me to places I couldn't have imagined. The peace, the joy of His presence, small (in my sight,they're all small to the creator of the world) miracles. If I got to a place where I didn't expect to receive anything from God, I'd be hopeless indeed.

This verse comes on the heals of "when you ask, believe and do not doubt." It's doubt that often keeps us from receiving the things God has in store for us. The already gift-wrapped packages we refuse when we don't believe Him.

Recently, I experienced a moment of doubt. Not in God, but in what He was going to do. I said I trusted Him, I encouraged others to trust Him, but I still tried to work out a few details on my own. Fortunately, God showed me very quickly that He is in charge and would take care of things His way. He might even have a better plan than mine. I stepped out of the way. I'd rather have what He has in store.

My desire is to be the opposite of double-minded and unstable. I want to believe God and walk on the firm footing of the path He's prepared for me. Sometimes I stumble, but I refocus my eyes on Him and pray for Him to help my unbelief, and He gently nudges me back on His path.

Thursday, October 28, 2010


But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.
James 1:6

When we ask God for something, do we really believe? Or do I doubt?

Want the blatant truth? If you are worried about your children, you are not believing God. If you worry about your spouse, you are not believing God. If you worry about your finances, you are not believing God. And if you worry, you will be blown and tossed like a wave in the wind. Not too comfortable, huh?

"But, I'm in charge of my kids! My husband is out in the world everyday where anything could happen! The numbers don't add up! It's my job to worry. It's my nature to worry. I can't help it."

I've heard these statements numerous times, but they are lies. We do not have to worry. As a matter of fact, worrying (and unfounded fear, which is generally the root of worry) is a sin. Why? Because it's unbelief. Worry means we don't trust God to work things out for the best. It means that if He allows something bad to happen, we don't believe He know better than we do.

I know we're not supposed to worry, because God's word tells us not to. He also tells us that "everything that does not come from faith is sin." {Romans 14:23}

So, how do we have faith about everything? How do we continually believe God to do best when there's so much out of our control.

First, we study, meditate on, and believe God's Word. Fill your mind with His promises. Replace your worry thoughts with scripture.

Second, we ask God for wisdom. James 1:5 says that God will give us wisdom, if we ask. We parent according to His guidelines and seek Him for what we dont' know. He may answer directly, or give us resources to help, but He will always answer.

Third, we make sure we're doing our job. I'm not going to worry about my children if they're in my fenced in back yard, but I'm not sending them to cruise around the neighborhood by themselves at their young ages. I'm not going to worry about their safety when they're at a friend's house whose parents I know well, but I'm not going to send them to a house sight unseen and parents unheard from. I'm going to place appropriate boundaries around them, and believe God to protect them from outside harm.

Fourth and Finally, we believe God. He is always faithful and promises never to leave us. If we seek Him, listen to Him, and obey Him He will hold us tightly in His hands. That doesn't mean that everything will be perfect or nothing bad will happen, but that He will be with us and carry us through anything that comes our way.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Wisdom for Moms

If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. James 1:5

If there were any one verse that offered comfort to moms, this is it. Since we constantly face new challenges and situations that are unique to us, we are in great need of wisdom. The world offers us unlimited information and advice, but it's easy to see that it offers us very little in the way of wisdom.

Parenting books and programs are available in abundance, and being an avid reader and researcher, I've read my fair share. However, very few of them have I found to make a positive impact. There are two reasons for this.

First, many of them are based on a feel-good or sloppy approach to parenting. They are child-centered instead of God-centered. They may have some good recommendations (and usually some bad ones, too), but the premise and philosophy are off base.

How do I know that? Because they're not Biblical. And because I've seen them fail time and time again.

There are also some great books out there for parents. Parenting by the Book, by John Rosemond. Dare to Discipline, by Dr. James Dobson. Shepherding a Child's Heart, by Tedd Tripp. So why aren't this more effective?

Because wisdom means putting the good things you learn into practice. And doing what's wise is a lot harder than knowing what's wise. It's hard to discipline children. It hurts a mom's heart to make her child uncomfortable or hurt (even emotionally.) We don't want them to do without (or scream about it for half an hour, or half a minute, for that matter.) But, wisdom knows that paying in the short term is often best for positive long term results.

God offers that wisdom (and limitless parenting advice in His Word) freely. All we need to do is ask. That doesn't mean that we ask and then sit and wait for the answers to fall on us and take effect. It means that we seek Him, read His Word, and obey His instructions. Isn't that what we want our children to do?

He is faithful. And if we ask, He will provide everything we need according to the glorious riches in Christ Jesus.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Being Complete

Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. James 1:4

This verse comes on the heals of James telling us to shout with joy when difficulties come (my paraphrase.) None of us wishes to go through difficult times. As a matter of fact, most of us don't like to see someone else go through difficulties.

Right now, I am witnessing great pain and trials in the lives of several people around me. It is painful to watch, but no where near as painful as it is for them to be going through it. These people are on my prayer list, they're on many prayer lists, as well as others who are dealing with illnesses, surgeries, job losses, separations, etc. My tendency, as is I hear with others, is to pray away these trials.

However, James is telling us to pray through them. In 2 Corinthians, Paul gives us a glimpse of a thorn in his life: To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." (vs. 12:7-9a)

There are four reasons trials come - our own sin, someone else's sin, being a part of a fallen world, and God doing a work in us. Our response, though, should always be the same - to seek Him. Whether we need to receive forgiveness, give forgiveness, or learn a lesson, it will come from Him. Keeping on trusting and believing Him helps us to persevere. The result is that He guides us to a more mature faith and completes in us what is lacking in our natural self. If we look to God and His will in everything, then we will recognize that we have everything we could ever need.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Growing Perseverance

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.” James 1:2-3

We all want perseverance, but none of us want trials and testing of our faith. What James is giving us here is the second part of the reason behind why we can remain joyful during trials. One of the results of walking through trials while holding the hand of God is perseverance.
Some synonyms to perseverance are: firmness, insistency, resolve and determination. When we are standing on the right foundation, these qualities are of great benefit. When we become firm in our faith, refusing to move in what we know is the Truth, we become a vessel for the Word of God. When we are insistent in our obedience to that Word, we live a life that shows others the love of God. When we resolve not to give up when our flesh feels like it, we learn the peace of living in obedience to God.

What does it mean to test our faith? It could mean facing difficulties that we don’t understand. It could mean not getting the answer we want. It could mean watching someone we love suffer.

The Bible says that God does not tempt us, but that He does bring and allow trials in our lives. Job is the most famous example of God allowing trials to let him stand as an example of perseverance to faith. Job questioned God and put of with discouraging friends and family, but he never lost faith.

Most likely, none of us will go through the losses and illness that Job did, and if we had our druthers we’d choose an easy, worry-free life. However, we live in a sinful world and self-pleasing flesh. We are going to face difficult times. It’s a given. We are going to be tested in our faith. Those difficulties and tests will either crush us (when we attempt to stand on our own) or they will allow us to learn to be joyful in all circumstances and develop perseverance (when we rely on, trust in, and lean on God.)

Monday, September 27, 2010

Consider Joy

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds,” James 1:2

How would you feel if you called a friend to lament the trials you were dealing with in your life and she responded this way: ‘consider it pure joy’? I’m not sure I’d respond to well. My reaction would me something like this: (yelling in a frustrated tone) “Have you heard a word I said? Things suck right now. I’m in pain. Nothing is going right. I’m lonely/hurt/angry/poor/wronged/troubled/depressed/emotional/etc. Can’t you just sympathize with me?”

After all, in our culture we have come to believe that the world and it’s other inhabitants were put here to make our lives comfortable/peaceful/fun/financially prosperous/wanted/etc. We have come to enjoy more comforts and ease in life than any previous society or generation. We are spoiled. So, when the trials come (and it says when they come, not if) we feel slighted. We want relief. We want the thorn removed. However, sometimes it’s in our best interest to learn to be joyful despite our circumstances.

Actually, this scripture tells us to consider it a joy when we face trials. Be joyful because you are in a trial. To us it sounds like craziness. But from God’s perspective, it is exactly what we need, or He wouldn’t allow it.

Think back to previous trials you’ve been through. When you held fast to God and walked through it with Him in trust and obedience did you come out on the other side somehow better? Did He use that trial to work out something in you or bring you to greater things in life? Those memories and His promises are what He wants us to hold on to when we go through trials. It is one thing that will help us consider our trials as a joyful event. Not an easy thing, but possible with God.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Secret to Prosperity

The LORD commanded us to obey all these decrees and to fear the LORD our God, so that we might always prosper and be kept alive, as is the case today. And if we are careful to obey all this law before the LORD our God, as he has commanded us, that will be our righteousness. Deuteronomy 6:24-25

The secret to prosperity is obedience. No, I'm not talking about financial prosperity, I'm talking about being prosperous in the truly important things in life: mindset, relationships, contentment, joy, Holy Spirit power, God's presence - all the riches according to Christ Jesus. God has promised to supply all of our needs according to the glory of His Son, but we often are looking for our wants. We tend to compare ourselves to others and what they have that we don't. I know that I'm guilty of this.

However, when I turn my eyes away from the flesh and look upwards, I am reminded of the multitude of blessings that God has already poured out on me. This reminds me to be obedient in this: "in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God" (Philippians 4:6)

God doesn't tell us to do things, does not give us laws and boundaries for His good, but for our own. To approach everything with thanksgiving is a gift to us. It helps open us to the joy, contentment and positive relationships that God desires to give us. The things we often seek, thinking they will give us these things always disappoint.

This is a lesson - the importance of obedience - is one I am constantly trying to teach my children. I'll admit, even though I know how important it is, I often fall short in reinforcing immediate, respectful, cheerful obedience in my children. I also resist being completely obedient to God, making myself a good role model, despite my prayer to be radically obedient.

Lately, I have recommitted to reinforcing obedience in my children. They, like me, will not simply choose to be obedient because it's the best path. While some are naturally more obedient than others, none of them will choose it all the time. Therefore, it is my job to teach them through modeling, verbalizing, and consequencing. When I don't, I sell them short. I rob them of a life that will lead to the prosperity God has offered them.

We all want the best for our children, but the secret is not to give them everything they want, but to teach them to joyfully obey God's law, the first of which for our children is to "Obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. Honor thy father and mother, which is the first commandment with a promise." Ephesians 6:1-2

Friday, September 10, 2010

Raising Your Voice

My voice rises to God, and I will cry aloud;My voice rises to God, and He will hear me. Psalm 77:1

God is amazing! Let me start by saying that. As I looked for a verse to start this morning's devotion with, He had me open my large multi-version Bible to Psalm 77. The NAS version of this verse (above) uses the words "My voice rises" where others use the word cry. Cry didn't do it for me, but talking about rising my voice struck me in the heart.

Yesterday I did plenty of raising my voice, but it wasn't to God. It wasn't for him to hear me and help me. It was at my children. I'm not sure why I was struggling so much to keep my flesh under control yesterday. Could be I didn't have my morning meditation and Bible reading. Could be I was trying to do laundry, homeschool, catch up on housework and was distracted by a new book. Could be because I didn't have my praise music on, helping me keep focus. Could be because instead of raising my voice to God, I was trying to do it all on my own strength.

I know I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me, but I often step out into it on my own. You'd think I would learn, but sometimes we spend "40 years making an 11 day trip" (Joyce Meyer) and I have to be reminded to rely on God EVERY day for EVERY thing.

I also need reminding to actually lift my voice up to Him. (Psalm 142:1, Isaiah 40:9, Isaiah 52:8) This is something I am not very well practiced at. For me, prayer is a very private, silent activity between me and God. However, as God is teaching me, in the Bible prayer is never seen as silent. It is open, verbal communication with God.

* Psalm 54:2Hear my prayer, O God; listen to the words of my mouth.
* John 17
*Acts 4:24When they heard this, they raised their voices together in prayer to God. "Sovereign Lord," they said, "you made the heaven and the earth and the sea, and everything in them.

There is a reason Jesus told His disciples to go close themselves in a room to pray (Matthew 6:5-6.) It was because the expectation was that they'd be praying aloud. Yes, God hears us when we pray silently, but the devil hears us when we pray aloud. It is spiritual battle, and the Word is our sword. {Ephesians 6:17 - Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.}

I've convicted to pray more aloud, and when I do feel more filled with the Spirit. However, I don't do it often. My kids are almost always around. Will they think I'm crazy (more so than they probably already do)? Should I care? No. I should care more about them hearing me talk to God. I should also care more about letting them hear me raise my voice to God, instead of at them. That will make more difference in their lives than any lesson I could teach them on prayer.

Friday, September 3, 2010

An Imperfect Mom

I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Romans 7:18-19

I find this is one of my biggest struggles as a mom. I know all the right things to do, for goodness' sake I've taught parenting classes before! I've studied parenting, read countless books, and am a trained group leader. But I still mess up in my parenting, almost daily.

Most certainly, some days are better than others, but at least once a day I lose my temper, don't pay as much attention to my children as they need, or flake out in the area of making sure the simplist of chores are done (like having them brush their hair and teeth before playdates.) I mean to do better. I pray to do better. I commit to do better. But, before I know it, there I am messing up again.

I truly think Paul says it best. "I have the desire to do what is good, but cannot carry it out." And why is that? The reason is found in the previous sentence: "I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature." I am sinful. Totally and completely. I can do some good some of the time on my own, but I always fall on my face when I rely on myself. I know to rely on God, but sometimes it seems like too much effort. If I relied on Him for parenting, I'd have to rely on Him for what came out of my mouth, what goes in my mouth, what I do with my time. I don't want to be that accountable, because, quite frankly, my flesh enjoys me giving in to it.

I know that I'll pay for giving in to it, but for the moment, I still make the wrong choice. I know I need to submit to God. I know that He will provide everything I need. I've even prayed about being radically obedient. Now I simply have to make the choice each time a choice comes up to submit instead of going according the the flesh. Then I will have peace and prosperity (the kind that comes as a result from making the right choices.)

"Submit to God and be at peace with him; in this way prosperity will come to you. Job 22:21

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Should Mom Lie?

keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking lies. Psalm 34:13

Are you ever tempted to tell little lies to your children? Or do you do it without thinking? I have found that this is fairly universal. We think, 'he doesn't need to know that' or 'it will just cause more questions/confusion' or 'I'm not sure I'm ready to deal with this' or, simply, 'I'm too tired right now.'

The questions from children and situations we face where we have to come up with answers to things in the spur of the moment. Sometimes we do well. Sometimes we don't. Sometimes I simply don't want to get into whatever it is their asking about.

Yet, we have made conscious decisions not to lie to our children. These are the easy things for us. Our children know the truth about Santa Clause and the Tooth Fairy and Easter Bunny. We chose, in part, not to feed these fantasies so that our children will not be able to come back to us one day and say, "but you lied to me!" We don't have a problem with families who continue these traditions, it is fun and everyone enjoys it. It's a choice we've made that works for us.

When our children ask us direct questions about the world around them, often the answers are easy and straight forward. Other times they are not. How do we handle these? Do we tell the truth and nothing but the truth? The whole truth? Or tell them it's something they don't need to know at this point in their young life? Or, do we tell a partial truth or a "little white lie" to survive the moment? I can answer "E." All of the above.

However, God calls us to be truthful. We are not to give false testimony. We are to keep lying from our lips. This is not easy, but God would not call us to do so if it weren't important. He also willingly gives us the ability to do so if He calls us to do so. This is where "praying without ceasing" and "pray about everything" come in handy. Nothing we face is a surprise or new to God. He has a perfect will for us in everything, including how we handle difficult questions from our five or seven or thirteen year olds. If we seek Him in our quiet times and in our questioning times, "... God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:19

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

A Day to Sing

Sing joyfully to the LORD, you righteous; it is fitting for the upright to praise him. Psalm 33:1

I am a big music lover, always have been. There are untold hours I wasted in my childhood recording songs on the radio, trying to cut out commercials and make just the right mix on my audio tapes (you know, before CD's, MP3's and the like.) I remember trying to catch the top 40 every weekend. I remember playing songs over and over until I had every single word memorized. I often annoyed my sister by blaring my stereo and singing at the top of my lungs the songs she hated most.

As I grew older and began to mature in my relationship with Christ, He consistently put people in my life that introduced me to a world I had previously been unaware of: contemporary Christian music. Gradually over time, I began to make this what I listen to almost exclusively. I have found that on almost every other radio station/CD I listen to, there is a risk for things that are not holy to be introduced into my thinking.

To me, there is never a debate of whether songs should be traditional or contemporary. As long as the words are geared towards praising God, I'm okay with it. Someone wise once said, "The old hymns speak great gospel truths and the new contemporary songs sing great praise to Him." In other words, they either make His character known, or praise Him for His character. Some do both.

I'll have to admit, I don't have the radio on quite as much as I did before kids. I now have an ipod, which I was hesitant with at first but now use constantly, on which I listen to some music and some teaching. I also have several children's praise and worship CD's which we put in on occasion. However, once in a while I realize that it's been too long since we put some joyful music on and spend time doing nothing put singing to the Lord. Some days I don't feel like it. Some days seem too busy. But, I need to remember, singing and praising God shouldn't be something I do based on my feelings or circumstances, it should be something I do simply because He is the I am.

Sing to the LORD, you saints of his; praise his holy name. Psalm 30:4

Friday, August 13, 2010

A Women with Solid Walls

Like a city whose walls are broken down is a man who lacks self-control. Proverbs 25:28

Do you ever feel like the walls that maintain order in your house are broken down? I think we've all been there. I know for sure that I have. And what I have found is at the root of the problem is not my children. It's me.

Children will be children. They will push boundaries. They will disobey. They will have bad attitudes. Okay. Children will be human. And when they tend to be more human (i.e. more controlled by the flesh than by self-control) I generally find that it is because I have been that way myself. When I have not been submitting to the Holy Spirit and exercising self-control in the way I act, speak and react I see that reflected in my children.

I used to think that I was a very self-controlled person, until I had children. Then I learned that they were capable of pushing buttons that I never knew I had. One of those buttons is defiance. It will drive me crazy quicker than anything else. (Ever felt that red-heat anger in your belly? I hope I'm not the only one.) If I allow that feeling and anger at being disobeyed in how I handle that disobedience, I am myself stepping into disobedience against God.

This is a practice that takes practice. It is a skill that takes submission to the Holy Spirit and a recognition of how sinful I am myself. Because I have learned that consequences of losing it (I never feel good after having acting without self-control) are, I pay very close attention to myself when I'm dealing with my children when they are acting up. I'm no where near perfect, but I continue to work on developing the skill of self-control. (1 Thessalonians 5:6)

And when I do, I see improvements in my children's behavior. They are still human (as am I) and they are still children, but they exhibit more positive behaviors the more I exhibit positive behaviors. I don't have any regret about losing my temper or yelling at anyone. The walls of my city stay intact and are not broken down, opening up the way for more sin to creep in.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Today's Forums

You can also find me on FaceBook. Search for the Mommy Answer Page and like me! It's another great place to have discussions and share.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

God is in the Details

And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Matthew 10:30

Have you ever wondered if God is really in the details of your life? I mean all the nitty gritty, little, seemingly inconsequential details of your life? I used to not even give this a consideration. I thought that God probably cared about where I lived, worked and who I married, but that was about it. Other than making sure I didn't sin, He was uninvolved in my life. He has been teaching me otherwise for years now, and this morning He gave me a small reminder.

I never realized when I was 13 and decided to place my faith in Jesus as my Savior that He wanted more than just for me to make it through this life to spend eternity with Him. I lived a long time in that ignorance. I have learned in the last decade or so that He wants so much more - He wants ALL of me. He wants me to obey Him, and love Him, and submit to Him in everything. In return, He will work out my circumstances to that I will have everything I need to be a blessing to others and bring glory to Him. And, as if that weren't enough, He also works out blessings in the details of my life.

Our local Chick-fil-A has begun having a Mommy and Me time (or maybe they've been having it and I just found out about it) and we decided to go. We invited a friend who met us with her five kids (I'm thinking, it's going to be really crowded with just us there) and planned on having a good time, maybe pass out a few Women's Conference brochures. Well, God had so much more in store.

There were two ladies there whom I have been emailing about completely different things. On any other given day, we wouldn't have known that we were each other, but during Mommy and Me time you where name tags, so we were able to connect. It was so divine, it was unmistakable.

And it reminded me, God can even make things happen when I go out to play time with my children. He truly is in the details.

I know this may sound frivolous, but nothing that we do is unimportant to God. Not the meals we fix for our families, not the booboos we kiss and bandage, not the baths we give, play dates we make, laundry we wash, or beds we make. You never know what God is working out behind the scenes on in your heart while you go about the minute tasks of every day. But if you learn to trust Him in the small things, when the big things happen your faith and trust in His ultimate concern, love, and control will get you through.

For another example, we can always look to David. He learned to trust God in the small things (of a shephard) and was able to believe Him in the big things (when he faced a giant and was being pursued by an army.)

God cares for the sparrows, and how much more important are you to Him than they are? Infinitely more. Enough more to send His Son to die for you.

O LORD, you have searched me and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O LORD.
You hem me in—behind and before; you have laid your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.
Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.
Psalm 139:1-10

Monday, August 9, 2010

Getting Your Children To Respect Your Parenting

Above all, my brothers, do not swear—not by heaven or by earth or by anything else. Let your "Yes" be yes, and your "No," no, or you will be condemned. James 5:12
A friend of mine shared this verse a while back for a totally different reason, but ever since then it's been on my mind as to how important this is to us as moms.

As a family counselor, one of the main things we encouraged parents to do to be effective was to set boundaries and maintain them. To say what you mean and mean what you say. Otherwise, your children will run right over you - begging, pleading, whining, and conjolling until you finally give in and let them have their way. Or, they will simply ignore you and do what they want knowing that there won't be any negative consequences.

Even having full knowledge of the importance of this, I struggle with it. It's especially difficult when you don't have a specific reason and so do give in eventually. However, I've found this gets me into deep parenting poopy. The next time I say "do this" or "no" my answer is not respected. It becomes a battle, of which there never should be. As parents, God has given us authority over our children and we are to teach them to respect that authority. Note: they need to be taught to respect our authority.

I have one particular child who is famous for pushing the envelop. This particular child will ask for the same thing a million times after I've given my answer. Even though I very seldom change my answer, and often state that I've already answered and am not going to change my mind, this particular child will keep on and keep on and keep on and keep on and keep on and keep on and keep on... (I think you get the idea.)

Lately, I've begun to stop this process. I will make it clear that I've answered the question, that is the final say on the matter and there will be negative consequences if the question is asked one more time. It has only taken a few times for the consequence to come with the words for me to get the process to stop mid stream.

"So harsh!" you may be thinking. But, I am reinforcing my God-given authority (which is ultimately important when they take the inevitable risk that puts them in major harms way - like walking out in the street, disappearing from our sight in a crowded area, just trying one joint, having unprotected sex - it is all connected) that puts safe boundaries around them until they are able to make greater and greater decisions on their own. If I don't establish that authority in the small things like respecting my answer on a requested activity, I won't have authority on the larger things as they get older.

So, as hard as it is to draw the line in the sand and maintain it, it is vital to effective, loving parenting. And if God has given us this authority, commanded us to let our words stand as they're said, then He will provide us with everything we need to do so.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Mommy Perseverance Part 2

Hebrews 12:1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.

The hard part of remembering the cloud of witnesses, throwing off what hinders us and the sin that entangles us is the perseverance part. We get tired. Or, at least, I do. I think that this is one quality of motherhood that is grossly overlooked and neglected. What we do every day - the race that is marked out for us - is not glorified and can be very tiresome. I know some moms who thrive on certain aspects of motherhood, but each of us faces our own challenges. Those are the areas we struggle to persevere in.

But, this race is marked out for us and it is of utmost importance. We are raising other human beings. We are to guide and direct them to become Christ-centered adults. It doesn't really matter to me what career my children choose, or what hobbies they take up, yet we spend the majority of our parenting time in these areas - education and entertainment through hobbies. For me, the ultimate goal is that my children live a life of obedience to Christ. I realize that this may mean sacrifice on my part and will most definitely mean sacrifice on their part, but it comes with the only rewards that matter: those that are eternal.

It's hard to see how changing diapers, cooking meals, washing clothes, cleaning house, and disciplining our children even when they disobey in the smallest of matters can make an eternal difference, but it does. It's how we do those things that makes the greatest impact on our children. If we have a heart for God and do everything unto Him, that will show. If we are diligent in the tasks we are given, the character traits we display will be more easily learned by our children.

So, when you get tired, when you get frustrated, when you get discouraged and are ready to give up, remember: God marked out this race for you and will equip you with everything you need to run it with perseverance. You simply have to trust in, rely on, and look to Him in and for everything.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Mommy Perseverance Part 1

Hebrews 12:1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.

This is one of those scriptures that I look at and think, "boy, that looks simple." But when I try to apply it to my life every day, day in and day out, I fail miserably. I forget what others have gone through despite times of strong faith. I get entagled - easily. And I get tired of running the race. Fortunately, I've learned never to give up. I may take some time to recover after falling off the provervial horse, but I do eventually get back up on it.

In this verse, it is pointed out that we as Christians are surrounded by witnesses to God's promises and faithfulness (I recently finished the book based on this verse by John Maxwell: Running with the Giants.) This statement comes after a listing of many of the prominent figures of faith in the old testament. A review of these individuals lives is encouraging, not only because of what God did in their lives and the testimony their stories are to His awesome character, but also because they are very much imperfect - just like me. When my tendency is to beat myself up, or mull over the most recent mistake I've made (in parenting or in life in general), the great cloud of witnesses remind me to return my focus to God, ask for His mercy, and get back on track.

Sin and other things do easily entangle us. The moment we're not on alert, they sneak up from behind and act like our friend. I think especially for us women who have hormones to deal with, we are vulnurable to letting the flesh take over. "I'm hormonal! Leave me alone!" we yell in one way or another. But this is not the Spirit of God talking, it is us allowing the flesh to take over and rule our lives. And no, thank you!! My hormones are too unstable. I do not want them to be in charge. Therefore, I must remind myself constantly to throw them off before they entangle me and cause me to fall into a trap of sin. That doesn't mean I don't feel my feelings. It simply means that I ask the Holy Spirit to take over and help me not to act on those feelings.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Every Mommy Question Answered

“This is what the LORD says, he who made the earth, the LORD who formed it and established it—the LORD is his name: 'Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.”- Jeremiah 33:2-3

Questions about being a mom and the right things to do start from about the moment we become pregnant. These questions are big and small, can be unsettling, and often send us to the internet or the bookstore to look for answers. Our greatest resource for motherhood, however is God and the wonderful resource He's given us in the Bible. While you can find tips on breastfeeding and helping your child sleep better from these resources (and from good mommy friends), but the basis for how we parent our children and conduct ourselves is and should be God.

He made the earth. He form it. He established it - and everything in it. If you sit back and think about those truths for a few moments the awesomeness of God will envelop you. If He could form the earth and everything in it (think of how amazing a simple seahorse or ant or heart are), then couldn't He guide us through motherhood and give us all the answers we're looking for?

I'll be honest. God has not always been my foundation for motherhood. Still, I sometimes look other places for my answers rather than coming to Him first. But, I have learned that taking every single question and parenting challenge I have to Him is the best course of action. He has promised that if we call to Him, He will reveal to us "great and unsearchable things" we do not know.

It's not bad to use the resources that He sometimes provides to us in other ways, however, we should ALWAYS measure it up against His Word and His character. If something I read or am being told doesn't sound right, I should see if it is in agreement with scripture. I should pray about it. He will provide the right answer.

God is faithful to His promises: And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, "The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, Exodus 34:6. If we will seek Him first and foremost, He will give us everything we need to be godly, effective, successful mothers "according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 4:19)

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Your Labor is Not in Vain

But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 15:57)

We're starting today with the final words of yesterday. Motherhood is a challenge that lasts day in and day out, week in and week out, year in and year out. It is no different for Christian mothers than it is for secular mothers. We all face challenges. The strategies are the same for dealing with those challenges, but there is a distinct difference. Christian mothers have victory through Jesus! When we parent our children with this knowledge, we will not fail. It is not a guarantee against sin in their lives (after all, look back at what we've done,) but it is a guarantee that if we keep our eyes on Jesus, we will be victorious.

The words that follow this verse are a great place to go next. They are:
Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.

Stand firm. This is definately something we mothers have to do. Especially if we've been blessed with a strong-willed child (or two.) The first thing we need to do, is make sure that we are standing firm on the right things. We need to let nothing move us from our faith in Jesus and the truths of His Word. And we are always to give ourselves fully to the work of the Lord. That work includes being a mother. It includes changing diapers. It includes wiping runny noses. It includes calmly disciplining a screaming three-year-old. It includes cooking and cleaning and laundry. These tasks are not respected and revered in our society, but I can promise that God reveres them when we give ourselves fully to these tasks to best take care of our family and home.

I feel like I could write for days on this verse alone. It is fully rich. Let nothing move you means, don't let laziness move you (to the sofa), don't let emotions move you (to grumpiness) and don't let selfishness move you (to whatever it is you want despite what your family needs.) That doesn't mean you don't ever take a break (for more see my other blog, where right now I'm talking about the importance of taking care of moms.) It instead means that we do everything we do as unto the Lord. Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, (Colossians 3:23) When God calls us to be mothers, He calls us to many tasks we will never be thanked for. But each one of those tasks add up to the culmination of raising children. When we do it with all our hearts, when we do it with joy, when we give ourselves fully to it, our labor is not in vain.

Monday, August 2, 2010

The Key to Patience

The first lesson I'll share is not the first parenting lesson God taught me, but one that has become essential to me. That lesson is how to have patience in parenting my children, the key to which is understanding my place as a fellow sinner.

Over the last several months I have prayed continually for God to show me how to love better and more effectively. What I thought I was asking for was for God to show me ways to love others - what gifts to give them, when to send a word of encouragement, etc. What He has been teaching me instead is that when I have an appropriate view of my self, as a sinner and as being completely forgiven, I will change the way I percieve and respond to others, becoming more loving in my thoughts and actions.

In 1 Timothy, Paul, the greatest New Testament missionary and evangelist, calls himself the chief of sinners. I never understood that, until I began to grow closer to God. It's like having a flashlight in a dark room. In a room with no other light, the flashlight looks bright and illuminates some things. But if you take that flashlight outside on a sunny day, the only light you see from it is by looking at the bulb itself. When you begin to see yourself in the light of God's holiness, the light you thought you had on your own fades into almost non-existence.

So what does this have to do with patient parenting? As I began to see myself as a "chief of sinners," I became more and more grateful for the grace and forgiveness God has poured out on me. And I began to see my children as fellow sinners. They weren't doing anything to intentionally antagonize me or hurt my feelings, they were simply behaving in the way any human does in a fallen world with fleshly desires. Just like me. So, if they're not doing anything I haven't done (all sin is rooted in disobedience, and I've been that plenty), then why should I not deal with them with patience? That doesn't mean that I don't consequence them, after all, God consequences us for our sins, but it changes the manner in which I do so.

Ephesians 4:25-27 says: Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body. "In your anger do not sin"[a]: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold. What this means for me as a mom is that I am not to discipline my children in anger (no yelling, no mad face, no acting while the fire of being disobeyed is still in my belly), then I sin.

I believe this is one of the most difficult challenges for parents: to remove emotions from the disciplining process. But, it is essential for effective parenting. Especially if we want to raise our children to have faith in the one true God. We are the role model for God as parent. What they see in us, they will relate to God (especially if we claim faith in Him.) Therefore, I must ask myself every day whether I am being a good ambassador for Christ in the way I am parenting. I am not perfect, and I do not always do it the way I know I should. But, thanks be to God! He gives us victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 15:57)

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Everything for Moms

I have been blessed to learn a great deal about motherhood from experience, other wise moms, reading, and Bible Study. I believe that all these components are helpful in becoming the best mom I can be, but the most important is getting closer to God and walking in the path He has designed for me. As I learn more about His nature, who He desires me to be, and become obedient to Him, the better mom I become. This blog is about looking at motherhood with the lens of scripture and the focus on growing in our relationships with God. I desire to be a good and godly mother, but through 7 1/2 years of birthing and parenting 4 children I have learned the truth of Romans 7:18 - "I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out." Only through the grace of God can I be the mother my children need me to be. This blog will help keep me focused on Him and share that journey with other mothers who have the same heart's desire.