Monday, February 27, 2017

Permissible, but not Beneficial

The concept of "permissible but not beneficial" is one that I have struggled to get from my head to my actions for a long time. It's one of those things I know, have known, get reminded of on occasion, but doesn't always affect my decisions. I'm grateful for the opportunity to once again work on good choices. Better choices. Best choices.

As a Type 1 diabetic, many people say to me: "Oh, you can't eat that, can you?"

The truth is, I can eat anything I want. I simply have to adjust the amount of insulin I take. I can also make wise decisions about how much of that anything I choose to ingest. However, I still struggle to make those wise decisions, too.

When I look at a piece of fruit and a handful of chocolate chips and know that they'll each have the same affect on my blood sugar - sorry gals, fruit has sugar - I'm going to pick the chocolate. Almost every time. It doesn't matter that the apple or orange or grapes also come with vitamins and minerals.

It also doesn't help that there are the days I eat right and my blood sugar still soars. It could be I didn't sleep well the night before, had a particularly stressful day, have a cold, or a fluctuation in my hormones (which you know is almost always happening to us.) Then I throw in the proverbial towel and figure I might as well eat what I want if eating healthy and balanced isn't giving me the positive results I'm seeking.

It's all a mental thing. I admit that. Well, actually it's sometimes an emotional thing, too. I want to get my head, heart, stomach, and mouth all working together toward the same goal: to get and stay healthy.

I do eat healthy. Sometimes. But I also eat junk and I also eat too much. And I need to remember (consistently) that neither of those habits are beneficial to me. Or my family.

I want to be around to see my grandchildren grow up. Considering my oldest child is currently thirteen, that's a major long-term goal. But not only do I want to be here for my children and their children, I want to be healthy. I want to be a role model for them by being active in ministry and living my life on fire to share the gospel.

I can't do that if I lose my eyesight, my feeling and possibly the reality of having legs. I can't do that if I have major kidney disease. All real risks in my life that increase with my decreased ability to control my blood sugars.

And so much of it boils down to this: what is permissible is not necessarily beneficial. God wants the best for me, and I have to find my want for my best, too. 

The verse God gave me for the beginning of the year is 2 Corinthians 10:5 - "...take every thought captive to obey Christ."

That means taking every thought captive - including those about food.

That's what I'm working diligently on through this study. That's what I'm becoming #empowered to do as I learn, step by step, brick by brick, to #CraveGod above and beyond and before anything else.

There are so many things that are allowed in this life, but I want to want what is best, what is going to draw me closer to the Lord, what is going to help me sow and reap a part of the harvest as I work the works God prepared for me before He spoke the earth into being. 

When I look at it from my perspective, I think why not? It's not that bad. It's permissible. 

When I look at it from the perspective of who God is and who He wants me to be, I want the best.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

God uses Steadfast Obedience

Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain. 1 Corinthians 15:58

Today's post is a blessing from our guest blogger, Angie Seal.

What an amazing God we serve. All throughout the bible God used obedience.

We forget these days that God cares more about obedience than perfection and think "I'm a good person" or "I''m a good church goer," but we aren't committed to being obedient. 
I learned about being committed to obedience about 4 years ago and it has changed my life forever. 
My mom and my mother in law both passed away within a 4 month span. I was devastated to say the least. My sister became very angry at everyone including God. Despite my own pain, or maybe because of it, God put it on my heart to start sending her encouraging text messages. So every night I sent her a text with a scripture, a thought on how to apply it in today's world, and a prayer. 
4 years later the nightly text to her has grown to 65 people, 1 email list, and 3 Facebook pages, EVERY NIGHT. It has also led to a daily devotional book. By the grace of God, I haven't missed one night. 
Through those text God has revealed to me soo many things, but one of the most important things I needed to learn was to be committed to obedience. I stand firm knowing that "today is the day of salvation" (2 Corinthians 6:2) and my "Hope is in His word." (Psalm 130:5) 
I choose to seek Him on purpose in my daily life and I desire to live a life that glorifies God's holy name and I invite you to do the same. You'll be blessed more than you could ever imagine.

Angie Seal

Tuesday, February 21, 2017


I've been called stubborn before. Once or twice. And in the last few years especially I've come to appreciate my stubbornness. You see, I was given not one, but two strong-willed children. If I hadn't been given such steadfast spirit, my sweet young girls would be completely spoiled rotten at this point - because they got tenaciousness in spades.

I must give an example here. When one of these sweet girls was three, she would come to the kitchen every morning and ask for candy. Somewhere between three and ten times. Every morning. For about six months. Despite getting the same answer every time she asked. And by the grace of God I did give her the same answer each time she asked (We don't have candy for breakfast.)

Now, as a child and young woman my stubbornness often was to my detriment and got me in trouble. I won't put you through the misery (or entertainment, okay - my misery at having to recount the times I fell) of those stories.

It's in my growing closer to God and experiencing the benefit of determination as a mom that I've become to appreciate this dogged spirit He instilled - and has grown - in me. 

When I put my mind to do something, I generally follow through. It's why I published four books last hear and plan to publish eight this year. It's why I'm able to homeschool for seven years through changing circumstances. It's what got me up between five and five-thirty in the morning to exercise (when I was doing so.) It's what keeps me picking up after my family, feeding my family, and loving my family - even on days I don't feel like doing any of it. It's what made me lose 2 pounds during my third trimester of my first pregnancy.

I can be stubborn, tenacious, and determined. When I choose to be.

Which makes me wonder about the times I simply give in. When I fall back into bad habits, when I ignore what needs to be done, when I let go of my goals. Part of it, I believe, is due to the intensity I attack tasks with. Sometimes I simply get tired.

But that can't be the whole answer.

Being a part of a group of women who go through the same struggles, who have a desire to grow in their faith and be the best wife, mother, daughter, sister, and friend they can be reminds me I am always battling the flesh and my spiritual enemy.

Be serious! Be alert! Your adversary the Devil is prowling around 
like a roaring lion, looking for anyone he can devour. Resist him 
and be firm in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are 
being experienced by your fellow believers throughout the world.
1 Peter 5:8-9

I must be alert and aware. It's easier to be self-focused and give into what doesn't take much effort and energy. But I know God made me for more than that. I have to do more than know it, though. I have to cling to it and to Him.

It helps to know my sisters struggle with the same things. And I'm so grateful for the opportunity to spur each other on and encourage each other in our faith walk

To be reminded that my stubbornness can be used for good - for me and for others. And that's why I'm #determined!

Thursday, February 16, 2017

The Lord is Always Working

Look among the nations, and see; wonder and be astounded.
For I am doing a work in your days that you would not believe if told.

Habakkuk 1:5

I have been living in a holding pattern for almost two yeasr now. The details are unimportant, because they change from month to month, year to year, and person to person. What doesn't change is God.

The Lord continues to use the situation I'm in to lean into my faith in Him, His goodness, and His plans.

One morning when I woke up, I heard the Lord direct me to the book of Habakkuk. As I lay in bed starting to wake up I listened to the words of this prophet and the Lord's response. And He spoke to me.

My situation is not one of violence, iniquity, and destruction, but it is one of things not getting done as they should (or as I'd like them). The similarity is others are not doing what they should and I'm being affected.

As Habakkuk did, I have cried out to the Lord. I have begged, pleaded, and quite frankly, whined. 

In His great graciousness He has not chastised me. Neither, however, has He given me what I want when I want it. What He has done is say almost the same thing He said to Habakkuk:

"Look among the nations, and see; wonder and be astounded.

For I am doing a work in your days that you would not believe if told."

It is a reminder that the Lord is always working. Even when things don't go our way. Even when they don't seem just or fair. Even when we can't see Him working. He is. Always.

And I am so grateful. Because He knows so much more than me. And is so much more good and righteous than me.

I may get frustrated and impatient at times, but then I will choose to trust in the Lord and His plan. That is true surrendered living.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Who's in Charge?

It never fails to surprise me when I hear parents say, "He didn't want to," or "She didn't feel like it." Not that I'm cold and uncaring about my children's feelings, but often I hear these words about children following through on a commitment or a chore or even schoolwork. And I think: Who's in charge here?

Too often, it's the child, not the parent.

I sometimes even catch myself doing it. Letting my child dictate his or her own actions when really, I should push back more. I should stick to my word better. I know this, and still I fall short.

However, I often wonder if other parents are aware of this (not all parents, of course, just some who seem to get run over by their children.

As a family counselor of troubled teens, I saw this constantly. Parents who let children dictate their own lives (and sometimes the parents' too!). Then the parent would generally throw their hands up in the air in wonder when things went haywire or their child rebelled.

Now, it was a whole lot easier for me to dole out parenting advice before I actually became one. I had no idea how my emotions would become so entangled in my parenting. That even though I know the right thing to do most of the time (certainly not all the time!), I don't always do it because I'm tired or frustrated or distracted or just plain weak.

Nevertheless, I try to keep in the forefront of my mind that I am the one ultimately in charge. I have authority over my child and his/her life. This doesn't mean that I dictate every decision my child makes. There has to be balance and children have to be able to make decisions to become responsible, independent adults. They learn to make small decisions when they are small and best handle bigger decisions as they grow bigger. Yet still, they are not in control of their lives. They should be in control of some decisions, but not their entire lives. Not until they're ready to be fully responsible for their entire lives.

Yet many parents don't embrace their rightful place as having authority. We have swung the pendulum of parenting from authoritarian (rules rule the roost) to permissive (rules?), neither which is best for a child or the family as a whole. Instead, authoritative parenting has proven to be the most effective time and time again. That means the parent is in charge (i.e. holds the authority), but engages the child in love, life, and some autonomy in decisions.

So how do we put this into practice? 

First, we as parents must recognize that we are in charge, and we are in charge for a reason. Think how much more you know about life than you did when you were five or ten or fifteen. You have life, experience, and a wealth of information to pull from. Your child has very little of each of these.

Second, we have to realize that discipline is a form of love and children grow up much more healthier with balanced boundaries. Letting them have their way or tell you what they are or are not going to do (not little things, but bigger things like follow through on a commitment, go to a family function, follow family rules, etc.) creates a self-centered, selfish, and often very immature adult.

Third, we should remember that most battles are short lived. Now, I have two strong-willed children, so I know what it means to say no to the same questions a dozen times a day for months on end. But they eventually get it. I also have seen that most times a child gets upset with boundaries being set and held to, they will recover pretty quickly. Even if it's a day or two, it will be much better in the long run to hold on to your word. Even if it's a week or two, or a month or two (the times seem to often get longer as they get older). All we have to do is outlast them - most of the time. (None of us are capable of holding on ALL the time!)

So, the next time your child tells you "no" to something that really matters or something that they committed to or something that you need to stick to just because you already let it fly out of your mouth, remember that you are in charge for a reason - and that reason is because you know best for your child, love them, and want them to grow up to be healthy, balanced, caring individuals. 

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Oh give thanks to the LORDcall upon his name; make known his deeds among the peoples!
This is a verse and concept I have worked on memorizing it, meditated on it, and prayed it, God has used it to do some amazing things.
The list could go on and on. The problem is, I don't always focus on the blessings in my life. God is teaching me to do so more often.
The next part of this verse reminds us to call on the Lord when we're in need. When we have struggles or challenges. When we simply need perseverance to do the same thing today that we did yesterday. When we need strength to make changes for the better. He is always there and always available for us to sit at His feet.
Lastly, because God is always good and providing for our needs, there is always something of His goodness we can share with others. First, how He saved us by His grace, bringing us from death to life. How He's provided time and time again in difficult situations and trials. If we are walking consistently with the Lord, He is always doing a new work in us we can share.
These are the lessons God's teaching me, along with a few others. All from focusing on one verse and listening to His voice through it. And I am so grateful for what He's doing in and leading me to through these lessons.

Psalm 105:1

Most of those things are within me. He is using the simple aspect of being obedient in reading His word and planting it in my heart to transform me and teach me to surrender some of the little things - specifically my thoughts.
There are always things to give thanks to God for. My short list for today is:
* A place to live
* Plenty of food to eat
* A walking buddy
* A Bible-teaching, -living pastor
* A house with heat
* The sun shining
* Friends who pray for me
* The opportunity to share what God's doing in my life
* My husband
* My children
* The ability to homeschool
* Our homeschool coop
* My laptop

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

The Little Things

I have always liked little things. I played with dolls as a young girl, but it was more the tiny clothes, furniture, and accessories I was most fascinated with. If I'd been able, I'd have had a whole miniature house set up. As an adult, I discovered tiny cups you could get printed with names. My mother-in-law has a set, she received as gifts from me years ago.

Almost fourteen years ago I began getting a whole new set a little things in my life. The first born of our family arrived a couple weeks early and weighed just over 6 pounds. My goodness did I love that little body! Even though I was stressed and exhausted and hormonal beyond comprehension.

Two years later came our only baby boy at exactly 6 pounds. I had a little experience at this point, so even though I struggled with hormones, depression, and fatigue again, I could not have loved him more.

Our cycle seemed to be two years as precious gifts number 3 and 4 came at the same intervals. Motherhood was becoming more familiar to me by this point and each one seemed to get easier (in what I knew to do, if not in personality - but that's a whole other post!)

Now we are at what I like to call the "Golden Stage." No teenagers yet - the oldest is 12 - and everyone's way past diapers and total dependence - the youngest just turned 6.

But there are also moments I miss the tininess of a baby. The little toes. The fingers that are smaller than a caterpillar. The minuscule mouth that seems to be gifted in making unlimited expressions and noises. I take any chance I can get to hold, love, and cuddle with a little bitty.

However, I also know very well that just as my kiddos have grown into these great children who are fairly capable, they will before I know it grow into great, very capable adults. 

That's why I'm making sure I'm focusing on the little things. The song that's sung during play. The moments they are all getting along. Being read to. Reading with. Random snuggles and kisses. The question I have no idea how to answer. The question I answer easily - which prompts me to say, "You have more questions like that? Shoot them my way!" The quiet moments. The noisy moments. The teachable moments. The laughter. The tears. The celebrations. the sharing of - anything.

These are the moments that are the greatest treasure of my life. I read a book recently that reminded me I am not promised these moments tomorrow. I must treasure them today. Hopefully I will get more tomorrow, and next week, and next year, and for the rest of my life, but I can't count on that. 

Therefore, I will take snapshots with my camera and with my mind. I will close a book, shut off the computer, not turn the TV back on. I will hide these things in my heart. I will not let them slip away unnoticed.

And no one will ever be able to take away these most precious, most invaluable, most important little things.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Scheduling Rest

I had a great conversation with an acquaintance one day. She and I have very different daily lives - I have 4 children under 14, she has 1 step-daughter in college; I am home full time, she works part time - but we found that we also have a lot in common. We are both very busy women with a high regard for taking care of our families, serving others, and working hard at whatever we do.

Maybe that's why our conversation moved to the subject of taking care of ourselves and resting once in a while. I think this is a concern/issue for most women in our society. Whether your children are young or older, whether you work outside the home, work from home, or home is your main work, whether your children participate in a dozen activities, a few activities, or just keep their heads above water keeping up with school, life challenges, and special situations - no matter what our daily lives look like - it seems we all struggle with staying balanced in taking care of ourselves and our families.

In a culture that says, "If it feels good, do it" and "You deserve....{just about anything and everything you want}, but also says "You must perform, be perfect, and please everyone (including yourself), it's no wonder we get stuck, have excessively high levels of stress and depression, and don't feel like we can ever rest.

Yet, our bodies were made to rest. Studies have proven that sleep is essential for health and optimal functioning. Our brains need to catch up and recharge. Our bodies need to recharge. But what about our spirits? Don't they need to recharge?

Yes, of course they do!

Sleep is essential and beneficial (and something I'm a big fan of), but it's not the only kind of rest we need. We also need down time. Time to reflect. Time to ponder. Time to ground ourselves. Time to stop the craziness and busyness of life and smell the roses, as the old saying goes.

The conversation yesterday brought the forefront that doing this often brings guilt on women. Because we tend to focus on, stress about, and heap guilt on ourselves about what we're not getting done at that moment. We forget that by taking care of ourselves (in a balanced, healthy way), we are benefiting our families. When we rest, relax, and recharge we can serve our families better. We can do our jobs better. Our moods are better. We are modeling health and balance. It is not just for us, but it is for them, too.

However, we shouldn't expect that it will just happen. Nor should we wait until we're sick to take a day off.

When I worked as a counselor, we were encouraged to take "Mental Health" days. We didn't have to wait to be sick to take sick leave. My wise supervisors knew that it was better to schedule days off to rest, relax, and recharge, than to be slammed with unexpected, often much longer and not beneficial, illness forcing one to take sick leave.

We as moms should recognize our needs for a mental health day on a regular basis. Now, I'm not talking about every week. Maybe every month, but definitely every couple of months. No, we don't ever "get a day off" of being mom, but we can take a break and take it down a few notches.

My kids still get fed on my "days off", but not much else. And guess what: they survive. Sometimes they even crawl in bed with me to snuggle when I'm half-way through a novel and still in my pajamas in the middle of the afternoon. Life goes on. The world keeps turning. Nothing comes crashing down. And we simply continue our routines and busyness the next day.

Rest is not a luxury. It is essential for well-being and health. It's not easy as a mom to get it, but it is so worth it. So, when will you schedule your next mental health day?

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Journey to Surrender

It seems as if every time I reach a point of surrender, there is very little time to rest before God calls to my attention another area of my life that I'm clinging onto desperately. An area, item, relationship, dream, or goal that I would be better off laying at His feet.

Currently, that item is my living situation. Almost exactly two years ago, my husband and I had a contract accepted to purchase a piece of property. We put our house for sale and prayed it would sell quickly so we wouldn't be bogged down with two payments for long. God answered that prayer. A short two months after putting our house on the market, we moved out and closed on the sale. It had gone faster than we ever dreamed. And I thought this was a great start to the journey we were embarking on - the building of our forever house on the water where we'd desired to live for years. (For my husband, it's a life-long dream.)

Having things moves so fast, I was full of enthusiasm and optimism, hoping to have our new house ready to at least host our annual Christmas family dinner in December. But day by day, week by week, month by month, time slipped away without anything being done. Now here we are 22 months out of our own home and we're still in the middle of the building process. There are various reasons, but at this point, the reasons don't matter. They don't change the fact that I've been without my own home, living at my in-laws house (8 people in less square footage than we had for just our family of 6 previously).

This is not where I wanted to be. God and I have had some serious talks about this situation. While I have some legitimate complaints about people not doing what they need to do in a timely manner, making those complaints doesn't change anything. We still are where we are.

And through that, God is teaching me to surrender. Surrender my own timeline. Surrender the details of how I thought my dreams would be realized. Surrender my concept of control over anything. And surrender other people.

None of this is hard. There are days I'm very frustrated with the complete lack of progress and road blocks that keep cropping up. 

But God.

He is using even this to mold me, shape me, and grow me. His desire is that in everything I trust in Him, grow in Him, and glorify Him. He is working greatly in me and I know it will turn out for my good, as He promises.

That doesn't change reality, but prayerfully it will change my thoughts and heart and teach me to surrender even the most difficult things to Him.