Posts tagged family
New Year Resolutions

As we enter a new calendar year, this often compels us to an eager anticipation for a sense of newness—a fresh start.  Whether it is driven by an urgency for change or a comfort in new beginnings, many people use January as a way of re-setting lifestyle choices or patterns they want to implement. The calendar gives us a natural transition into new beginnings. 

I love the distinction I recently heard Senator Ben Sasse offer between habits and addictions. The only difference between habits and addictions is that if it’s something good that we want or desire it’s a habit, but if it is something we don’t want or is bad for us then it is an addiction.

Many of us begin a new year with good intentions for a fresh start with a bold determination for building new muscles of habits we intend to keep, but often we fall back into old patterns and addictions.

The word resolution (n) is a firm decision to do or not to do something; the quality of being determined or resolute. The word resolute (adj) is a firm determination to do something or (v) decide firmly on a course of action. Both words come from the same meaning with a resolve to take a new course of action. But in order for us to build the muscle of “habit” we must be resolved to follow through with a resolution.  Resolutions technically are more than just goals, it is a resolve for action. 

Moms, what does this look like practically in our lives, in our homes, and for our children?

The Bible uses the word resolved on three occasions. All three references refer to a resolve to know Jesus and walk in purity and obedience. 

Psalm 17:3 “Though you probe my heart and examine me at night, though you test me, you will find nothing; I have resolved that my mouth will not sin.”

Daniel 1:8 “But Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine, and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself this way.”

1 Corinthians 2:2 “For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.”

David resolves to keep his mouth from sin. “Out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks” which tells us this is more than just watching the words that come from our mouth, this is a heart transformation of a life that seeks to know God and reflect the image of God.  Daniel resolved to not defile himself although his place of life and work provided him essentially anything he could have wanted.  He created space and boundaries to look different from the world and honor God. And finally, Paul is resolved to know Jesus fully. He dedicated his life to bask in the presence of the Almighty to know God and make Him known. He was resolved to not let distractions (although probably good things) get in the way of knowing Jesus. 

Moms, I think there is a lot we can learn when it comes to resolutions and how we teach our children about resolutions in life. While healthy eating habits and exercise or ridding our life of addictions is good and keeps us in balance, where we put our resolve each year (each day) should be like the examples set before us.  If I resolve to do anything in life, my resolve is to know the Father heart of God so that my heart and mind are transformed into His likeness. My deepest desire for my daughters is that they are resolved to know God and make Him known living out their purpose in being created. 

As we begin a new year, may we challenge one another to be resolved to know a Father God who loves us and sent His Son to die for our salvation. When this becomes our primary focus in life, and we like Paul, are determined and resolved to know Jesus and make Him known, this allows us to maintain boundaries, protect our homes, and our time as we point our children to Jesus. 

Forced Rest

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.

Take my yoke on you and learn from me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.   Matthew 11:28-29 (NET)

I’m learning a lot about rest lately.  

Rest:  repose, freedom from activity or labor.  Peace of mind or spirit.  A place for resting or lodging.  Something used for support. 

In July the Lord moved our little family to North Dallas, Texas.  This after seven years in the Northern, Virginia/Washington DC area.  It was a massive change for all of us.  We were fully “over-programed” in our big city life.  My hubs was driving a 3 hour round trip commute plus an 11 hour work day.  I was driving the kids 3 hours a day to and from their special school that could help teach them Jesus and accommodate their learning needs.  Our sweet kiddos had some activities, but not as many as most of the children of the land in which we lived.  Mine are kids whose time is spent in therapy and with special doctors, typically a city away.  I was a busy Bible study teacher in our church. It was the joy of my heart, but our life had outgrown us.  As a family we were weary and burdened. 

There was no doubt God called us to Texas.  To a softer life.  A life with a smaller geographical radius, with closer grandparents and helpful schools for our kiddos. And, without notice, He called us to a serious season of rest.   Some stuff we were happy to let go of…we skipped away.  Others we released slowly, sadly.  

To leave my Bible study teaching felt like leaving a piece of my heart in Virginia.  We knew, really deeply knew, God had said, “it’s time to go.”  But it wasn’t easy.  I also knew God was calling me to wait before I jumped into ministry here in Texas.   “One year…”  Kept reverberating in my spirit.  “One year…”  And then, like an exclamation point, I broke my ankle.  

I broke my ankle in two places in November 2017 and it took nearly a year for complete healing.   I started out with a non-walking cast for four weeks, then a boot for six more weeks, followed by three months of physical therapy.   At first, I was in a respectable amount of pain so I didn’t do a lot of moving around.  I thank Jesus profoundly for my bathtub.  And for my husband who did EVERYTHING while I was laid up.  Oh, and my sweet neighbors.  Y’all, Texans line up to bring the food.  Bless them. 

I expected to “work” while I was forced to sit.  I expected to write my Opus Maximus.  Friends said, “I can’t wait to see what God does with this time!”  And I felt the pressure to do something important…at least at first.  But to tell you the truth, after a while I settled into it.  I grew to like certain aspects of my forced rest.  My days were smaller, simpler, cleaner and quieter.  My pain distracted my mind and required a lot of actual physical downtime.  If I were standing up for more than 10 minutes my foot would swell and the toes peeking out of my cast would turn purple.  I had no choice but to sit, foot up, ice on.  I read a lot.  I listened to audio books.  I colored in my daughters “adult” coloring book.  I ordered all of our Christmas presents and most of our groceries online.  I was a late adaptor to Downton Abbey so I caught the first two seasons.  I learned binge watching could be delicious!  Did I mention my bathtub?  

During this season Jesus was speaking to me, asking me to reframe how I see my life.  I see life as a full plate.  Busy, loaded.  If something new comes, I just shuffle things around so everything can fit.  I bet you do too.  I see rest taking up a very small space on that plate.  Like an olive.  Or a pickle.  It’s a garnish, not a main component of my day.  And when I indulge in it, I tend to feel a little extravagant, wasteful even guilty.  

My full plate got tipped over.  During my recuperation life was not a full plate with moments of rest.  Life was full rest with moments of activity.  It flipped.  I lived the inverse of my previous existence.  Of course it was situational, temporary.  We can’t live on the couch and we aren’t called to.  But it taught me something.  I am not the sum of my activities.  I simply am.  To Jesus that is enough.  It’s enough.  This is the starting point.  Add to your life carefully from here. 

In Matthew 11:28-29 Jesus is talking to the crowds.  Folks who were burdened with guilt and laboring hard under pharisaical laws.  Many laws, requiring strict observance, and impossible to follow.  These people were hamstrung, trapped.  There was no real path to rest for them.  In Jesus’ time the oxen’s yoke had become a metaphor for Jewish law.  It was heavy hard work to carry this yoke.  Everyone knew what you meant when you talked about the yoke of the law. In Bible times, it was the chief work of a carpenter to craft yokes.  Jesus knew about yokes.  And here He is, the gentle carpenter, with a message of rest.  

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Matthew 11:28

The words spoken here are ours to claim.  He beckons us to come to Him.  That is the initial action we must take.  To come means to put our trust in him.  To give Him our strained and swollen lives.  To open our hands and drop our burdens at his feet and trust him for what’s next.  

What’s next? He gives rest.  Physical rest?  Maybe.  Most of us need that.  Spiritual rest?  Definitely.   We trust - Jesus gives.  It’s His eternal exchange.  Don’t you love Him for it? 

Take my yoke on you and learn from me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  Matthew 11:29

First we come, next we take His yoke.  His will for our lives.  His path for our days.  After our initial moment of trust we pursue Him through life.  Yoked to Him, seeking him, letting Him guide the easy days and the hard ones.  Life with Christ becomes, not easy, but easier than doing life on our own.  Now, our rest isn’t given…it’s found.  We find rest in living a life close to Jesus.  Why?  Because a life close to Jesus is a life covered in grace.  Trust and grace lived out, that’s rest.  That’s peace.  

In Expositions of Holy Scripture, Alexander Maclaren phrases it this way, “The 'coming' is an initial act which makes a man Christ's companion. And the 'Take My yoke upon you, and learn of Me,' is the continuous act by which that companionship is manifested and preserved.” 

Initial then continual. A friendship holy, intimate, and blessed. 

Let’s not miss this, Jesus makes Himself gentle and humble in heart voluntarily.  He bends low to share this yoke of life with us.  It’s not his divine nature to be lowly.  He does it for us.  

So what does this look like practically?  To live a life yoked with Jesus?  To find pockets of rest and grace among the clatter of our lives?  How do we get there?  

We go to Him. 

Here’s an idea.  Spend some time alone with the Lord in prayer.  

“Lord, I come to you trusting.  I’m tired.  I need rest.  Your rest.  I long for the assurance that you are with me, guiding my days.  I take your yoke upon me.  Teach me how to be gentle and humble like you.  Show me the path of grace.  Help me find rest for my soul.”

Now sit in silence. (Keep a notepad and pen handy to write down and dismiss all distracting thoughts that come your way.  Use shorthand.  Ex: swch laundry,  p.u. kids)   

Ask the Lord:

1) Where do I need to trust you more?
2) What is my heart longing to do for you?  
3) What is one next step I can take? 

That’s it my sister.  Put time in your schedule and come back to this often.  Block it off in your smart phone.   

Amy Carmichael, the amazing missionary to India in the 1900s, said, “Blessed are the single-hearted, for they shall enjoy much peace. If you refuse to be hurried and pressed, if you stay your soul on God, nothing can keep you from that clearness of spirit, which is life and peace. In that stillness you will know what His will is.”

Know that great things come from resting.  You are not wasting your time.  God uses rest to prime our hearts for the next good thing.  Those things left on your plate, some of them won’t be so important anymore, they’ll fall off.  Others will get the time and attention they need.  

Yesterday, I had a hard day.  My ankle hurt and so did everything else.  I felt sore and stiff.  It’s ok.  It’s what comes from months of limping.  So, I took a rest day.  I stayed home.  Took a slow walk.  Got back in my bath.  And Jesus, my yokefellow, was there saying, “Remember what you learned on the couch.  Come to me.  Trust me.  I’ve got this.” 

*Forced Rest first appeared on Daughters of the Deep

Guest Contributor:

Julianna Mathers.jpg

Julianna Mathers is a writer, speaker and ladies Bible study teacher who is passionate about encouraging women.  She has instructed little girls, teens, and adult women for the past 20 years through discipleship, Sunday school, and in-depth ladies Bible study. Along with her husband, she has co-taught couples and hosted a life group in her home for years. She's had the privilege of sharing her miracle adoption and mothering stories with hundreds of women through speaking events. 

With her relatable, poignant and funny style, she loves to challenge, dream with and draw women into a deeper knowledge of scripture and a more intimate relationship with the Lord.   

Julianna graduated from the University of Virginia and spent 11 years working in corporate America before becoming a wife and mom.  She is married to Dwight Mathers, a retired U.S. Coast Guard Captain and is the mother of two wonderful adopted children.  In her free time she loves decorating and re-decorating her home, cooking big messy meals, writing about God’s lavish grace, and exploring blogging.  Julianna and her family have recently relocated to Dallas, TX from the Northern Virginia area.  They are members of Prestonwood Baptist Church.  Julianna and her husband Dwight are both active in Bible studies with Riverstone Ministries, a ministry centered in her neighborhood.   

Reflections on Father’s Day: 40 Years as a Child of God

Everyone is called by a name, but few get the honor to call someone by such a personal, intimate name like father or daddy.  It does not require a personal relationship to call a man by their given name such as David, Paul, or Michael. But calling someone father or daddy, this is personal. This is reserved for a special relationship, a unique privilege for a son or daughter. 

Contributing to “the act” of a baby coming into this world can be relatively easy, fun, and enjoyable. It doesn’t take necessarily a strong man to make this kind of contribution. But fathering a baby is not being a father. Fatherhood is an honor. Fatherhood is a responsibility that requires great sacrifice. 

This year, Father’s Day is particularly meaningful and personal for me. Today, I celebrate 40 years of calling God my Father—having a personal relationship with God as my Father and being His child. As a young six year old girl on a Father’s Day Sunday afternoon, I knelt beside my parent’s bed with my parents on either side of me, and gave Jesus my life and entered into the family of God. Calling God, the Creator of heaven and earth, father or daddy is extremely personal for me. It is not a formal relationship, but rather a father/daughter relationship with on-going conversation that is 24/7. A lot of people refer to God as God, but they do not have a personal relationship to call Him Father or Daddy.

Father’s Day can illicit a plethora of emotions ranging from an extraordinary appreciation or deep love to an indescribable pain or hurt. One’s relationship with their father in many ways has a direct impact on who we are today. The father/child relationship influences all relationships we have in life. The significance of this relationship colors the world we live in and how we see life and others. Whether you were deeply hurt by your father or were held by loving arms of a father, we see the world through the lens of this relationship. Over the last 25 years of doing ministry, one thing I have observed is the fact that many men “father” children, but not all are committed to the sacrifice and honor that fatherhood requires.  

Our society does not value the family. And fathers walking out on their families is rampant. While it doesn’t take a strong man to contribute to birthing a child, it take an extraordinary strong man to stay and embrace the sacrifice of fatherhood and commitment to one’s family. My heart is broken to watch men walk away from the commitment of fatherhood. 

Fatherhood provides a tangible visual for us to embrace the father-heart of God. Although imperfect in our humanity, there are distinct ways we can get a glimpse of God’s love in the gift of fatherhood. Fatherhood is an honor. It is a sacred relationship that has the potential to reflect the image of God as Father. While there are many qualities that fatherhood embodies, there are 5 that I think are essential and allow us to see God as a Father: Unconditional Love, Protection, Discipline, Faithfulness, and Forgiveness.

Each and everyone of us long to be loved with an unconditional love. We will never measure up by our actions or behaviors. We will all make mistakes. A good father will love us when we mess up. His love will never be conditional. It won’t matter what kind of grades we make, how we perform on the field, or how successful we are in our profession. A father that loves unconditionally gives the gift of loving us because of who we are, not what we have to offer. Unconditional love celebrates who we have been created to be loving us no matter what—regardless of our failures. 

We live in a world of good vs evil, strong vs weak. A father that provides protection and defends his sons and daughters teaches his children that there is safety at home. There is safety in a father’s loving arms. That protection and security a father can provide allows his children the carefree freedom to explore and thrive knowing their father will rescue, defend, and protect them at all cost.

Love provides discipline. Discipline is a gift given to those we love and want to see successful in life. It is nurturing correction that allows a child to learn right from wrong. It is a way for a child to feel safe and loved because there are boundaries in place to keep them from harm. Discipline is not done in anger, but rather love. No correction is enjoyable at the time, but a child that has been provided loving discipline will thrive and be confident able to discern right from wrong. A child that is disciplined is blessed. 

Faithfulness is the gift given to a family of not giving up or walking out when times are hard. Faithfulness provides a stability and safety for children to experience in the home. Faithfulness is a picture of a love that never ends. All families will experience hardships. In a broken world, it is impossible to live together as a family and not experience pain, brokenness, and heartache. But a father who never leaves and withstands the storms of life holding hands with his bride and children by his side is a man of courage.  A man of strength never leaves or abandons those he has been entrusted to keep safe in the midst of life’s storms. A good father never leaves. 

Life is riddled with choices from the moment our eyes open in a sun-lit room to the time we drift off in slumber at night. With every decision there are consequences. When we make wise decisions, there are blessings that fill our lives. And likewise, when we make the wrong decision, we have to live with the consequences of our choices. A father that navigates and helps guide his children with wisdom, but is there to hold and comfort, teach and correct a child when poor choices have been made is the epitome of forgiveness. There is not a person who is alive and breathing that does not need the gift of forgiveness. We all are desperate for forgiveness because we all mess up. A father who can calmly teach and correct a child through their painful mistakes is a father who loves deeply. Forgiveness does not eliminate consequences or discipline. Forgiveness is a beautiful gift a father can give recognizing that we all are in need of grace. 

It is in our humanity that we are all reminded that the best of us struggle with providing any of these five qualities with excellence. Our selfishness and pride often stand in the way of articulating and executing any of these qualities successfully. There are many who read through a list like this and are reminded of all the ways their father has failed them. Walking out on their mother and siblings, remind them of the hurt they can’t seem to move past. Estranged relationships leave so many in pain due to abuse and mis-management of the role of fatherhood. However, many of us do have fathers that have loved us well and modeled many of these traits with excellence. There are fathers, while not perfect, who do strive to provide these qualities to their families. 

And there is hope. Regardless of the kind of experience you had with your father, there is one thing for certain—no father is perfect. That is, all but one. God’s love is unconditional. He has given us the ultimate gift of love by giving His Son, Jesus, as the sacrifice for our sin which separates us from His perfection. He is a Father that loves us as sons and daughters. He is our protection. He is our defender. He is our shield. He is there to pick us up when we fall down. He is there to hold us tight as the Father who lovingly embraces and holds as His child. He is perfect, without sin, and yet it is His loving discipline that calls us to repentances and relationship with Him. God’s faithfulness is the promise of never leaving us or forsaking us. He never walks out or abandons us. It is His faithfulness that is always standing with open arms to receive us, welcome us, and hold us despite our shortcomings. 

And because of His great love for us, it is His forgiveness that creates the bridge of reconciliation from our humanity to the family of God. It is the sacrifice God offered by giving His one and only Son to become sin and the sacrifice for mankind to enter into the loving family of God. That kind of sacrifice can only be offered by a true, loving, and perfect Father. This is the gift of fatherhood that only God Himself has the power or authority to offer. 

It is the chasm of selfishness and pride that we find ourselves, which prevents us from receiving this gift of true Fatherhood He offers. Regardless of the relationship we have had with our earthly father, we are all offered the gift of a perfect Father that offers unconditional love, protection, discipline, faithfulness, and forgiveness. Today, I celebrate Father’s Day honoring my earthly father, and father of my daughters, but most of all 40 years as a daughter of the King. A Father’s Day that provides us a home in eternity offering us unconditional love and forgiveness because of the gift of His Son, Jesus. The gift of calling our Creator, Father, is the ultimate celebration of Father’s Day. This is Fatherhood. 

Miracle Red Cowboy Boots

When the Lord first moved our family to Dallas we lived on my husband’s military pension while he looked for the job that would launch his second career.  We were so blessed to have the resources that permitted us to move, plant ourselves in a wonderful neighborhood close to family, and provide our kids with a private school that accommodates their different learning styles.  Our needs were fully met, but we had to watch our pennies.  We had to put little luxuries on hold, just for a season.  Our discretionary abilities were on restriction.  Life became smaller, and in some ways sweeter. 

In my daily prayers for my husband, one of the things I would ask for was peace and confidence in his provision of our family.   Looking for a job is hard on a man and I didn’t want to knowingly add stress to his burden to provide.  So I prayed, and God helped me imperfectly live out my intensions.  This season was hard for me.  My friends who know me well could tell you why.  I want stuff.  I know, we all want stuff, but some of us are better at putting our desires on the back burner.  I’m not so good at it.  We had a new home and I’m one of those who loves to fuss – a little coat of paint, a few new light fixtures, maybe a rug here, maybe a lamp there.  Curtailed, for a season.  In prayer the Lord said, “this phase seems like a test for your husband but it is also a discipline for you, to prune away unnecessary desires that won’t satisfy you…can’t satisfy you.”  

The words of 1 Timothy 6 reverberated in my spirit, But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it.  But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.”

Red Cowboy Boots_Julianna Mathers.jpeg

And so we set our minds on contentment.  Our kids had to grow in this area too.  I have a tween daughter.  She’s a very tweeny tween.  She has had a very nice life.  And because she is a child, she has no idea how nice it has been.  So when we chose to curtail expenditures, well, it was a bummer for her.  One afternoon we were playing tourists in our own town during a “staycation” Spring Break.  It was a Western sort of day at the Fort Worth Stockyards.  I don’t know why I did this, but I let my daughter amble into a cowboy boot store.  Real cowboy boots, not the ones from Target.  Beautifully stitched, butter soft leather, expensive cowboy boots.  And, I don’t know what I was thinking, but I let her try some on.  I have to admit they were cool - red, with elaborate stitching.  She looked cool, she felt cool…and then she looked at me in anticipation.  “No, not today.”  The answer was predictable of course.  But it didn’t sit well with her.  She proceeded to have what we lovingly call “a hissy fit” in our family.  And it was a loud one.   She was hoping to embarrass me into buying boots that were too expensive for most of us, including me.  What she actually did was embarrass herself.  I took her outside as fast as I could get those pretty boots off her feet and we had a little talk.   She was so certain those boots were vital to her happiness.  And here I was denying her the key that would unlock the answer to all her fashion problems.  

“Look,” I said, “you are not the first young woman who decided the only thing she needed was the one thing she lacked.  Eve with her apple was the first.  We will let these boots go and you will survive the disappointment…be better for it.”  But the lesson couldn’t stop there.  I told her about my prayer for her daddy, who was working hard daily, building his network, and searching out a new way to provide for us.  I told her my prayer was peace and confidence for her daddy.  Was her ingratitude fostering that?  Was she helping?   “Oh no, mom.  I didn’t think about that.  I don’t need those boots.  Never mind…”  

My girl and I love garage sales, thrift stores, and antique barns.  We love the hunt.  God is so faithful. Wouldn’t you know the very next day we were passing one of our favorite resale shops and decided to stop.  Can you guess what was right up front, displayed and waiting for her?  Yep, an almost new pair of butter soft red leather cowboy boots…in her size…at a small fraction of the price of the originals!   At first I wasn’t sure why the Lord had decided to answer my daughter’s “hissy fit” with the very thing she was longing for, but I do not pretend to understand all His ways.  His sweetness in response to our sourness continues to astound me.  I can’t be sure, but I think He was showing my daughter that God meets our needs…and sometimes our wants…if we open our hands and bend our will to His choices.  I think He was showing all of us…

Read with me in First John Chapter 2: 

Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them.  For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world.  The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.

This sounds like an order or a command, and a tough one at that.  How do I not love the world?  The lust of the flesh, our physical cravings.  The lust of the eyes, our longing for things.  The pride of life, our confidence in earthly resources.  These things seem to rule me. How to I resist?  

The answer is simple and complex all at once.  I think maybe this isn’t a command at all.  Maybe it’s really it’s an explanation.  Do not love the world…because the world will not satisfy. It cannot satisfy.  Sure we can buy the new boots and we can over-extend our finances to do so.  But you know what that leaves us with?  Fancy feet and the same old sick soul.  Nothing changes.  Boots wear out.  But when we trust the Lord for our salvation, our provision, our direction on this journey, then everything changes. 

“But godliness with contentment is great gain.”  This, friends, is the secret to a happy life.  It’s like a code.  That thing you want, that thing you can’t live without? Eve’s apple, my daughter’s boots, or my new lamps…it’s not the fix we’re hoping for.  Jesus is the fix.  Only Jesus. 

“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”  Matthew 6:33

*Miracle Red Cowboy Boots first appeared on Daughters of the Deep

Guest Contributor:

Julianna Mathers.jpg

Julianna Mathers is a writer, speaker and ladies Bible study teacher who is passionate about encouraging women.  She has instructed little girls, teens, and adult women for the past 20 years through discipleship, Sunday school, and in-depth ladies Bible study. Along with her husband, she has co-taught couples and hosted a life group in her home for years. She's had the privilege of sharing her miracle adoption and mothering stories with hundreds of women through speaking events. 

With her relatable, poignant and funny style, she loves to challenge, dream with and draw women into a deeper knowledge of scripture and a more intimate relationship with the Lord.   

Julianna graduated from the University of Virginia and spent 11 years working in corporate America before becoming a wife and mom.  She is married to Dwight Mathers, a retired U.S. Coast Guard Captain and is the mother of two wonderful adopted children.  In her free time she loves decorating and re-decorating her home, cooking big messy meals, writing about God’s lavish grace, and exploring blogging.  Julianna and her family have recently relocated to Dallas, TX from the Northern Virginia area.  They are members of Prestonwood Baptist Church.  Julianna and her husband Dwight are both active in Bible studies with Riverstone Ministries, a ministry centered in her neighborhood.   

Am I Distracting my Child from Their Purpose?

Sitting in church on a cold February morning, the Pastor was making his way through the book of Ecclesiastes.  And then it hit me. As I was listening to a message on things that distract us from the meaning of life, I was convicted.  Before I share with you what specifically I was challenged with in my life, let me first be honest. 

I am enamored with "things." I struggle with wanting a bigger house, more furniture, more clothes, more jewelry. In fact, these are things I deeply desire and even can justify why I should have.  Maybe you can relate? And "things" aren't bad. Living a lavish lifestyle and having plenty, in and of itself, is not bad. Abraham, one of the most prominent men in the Bible, was just one of many whom God blessed with "stuff." Wealth is not bad. God Himself pours out His blessings and provides not only essentials, but abundance for His children.

But something struck me in a new and fresh way that wintry Sunday morning.

pirate ship toys.jpg

As the snow softly fell outside the window, I heard an ungodly statistic fall on my ears. The amount of excess that is disposed of and thrown away by American families is insane. American children have more toys than all of the other children in the world, and yet we don't even value the surplus and abundance we have. So not only is there a gratefulness issue of not appreciating and valuing what God blesses us with, there is a distraction issue. Again, let me be honest. Truth be told, my children have abundance when it comes to things. Their toy room has looked like a freaking toy store at times. Each one of my girls has always had a heart of gratitude and they appreciate and value what they have been blessed with. They go to great lengths to take care of and not destroy the toys they have been given.

Toys serve a great purpose. Independent play and imaginary play are born with dolls, action figures, or stuffed animals.  Sensory skills, coordination, and manipulation, as well as creativity, are mastered when playing with Legos or play-doh. My conviction has less to do with the abundance and more to do with the heart. 

The first challenge is obvious. Are we giving our children an abundance out of our desire for them to live lavish lifestyles to the point that we are not teaching them gratitude? Are we filling their rooms and closets with so much stuff that we neglect to teach them to be grateful and to be stewards of what they have been entrusted with. Do we teach them to take care of their belongings and to have hearts that are thankful, recognizing that they are not entitled to a plethora of toys, books, clothes, or electronics?  We have a generation that is demanding because our children have been taught to be entitled since birth.  We feed their sense of self and then wonder why they are so entitled, selfish, and ungrateful. This leads to my bigger concern as a mother. 

Am I distracting and hindering my children from their intended purpose? Am I contributing to their demise? You see, if I actually believe that my children (and myself) have been created for a purpose, then I must know what that purpose is. I believe the Bible clearly states that God has created each and every one of us with a purpose.  And while each of our individual skill sets look differently and our gifts vary, our purpose is the same. The Bible tells us that ALL of creation was created for the glory of God. God's desire in creating mankind was to bring Him glory and for us to have fellowship with Him. My purpose, and my children's purpose, is to know God and to make Him known--to bring Him glory. That is when it hit me. 

At what point am I contributing to distracting my children from their intended purpose in being created?  Am I giving my children so much that I am feeding their desire to serve self? Am I giving my children in abundance to the point that they are not lacking, but are instead feeding pride, and a sense of entitlement that they deserve what they have? Do I keep my kids so busy, so distracted, surrounded by so much "stuff" that I am actually contributing to their demanding that self is put on the throne of their lives instead of God?  By giving them abundance, am I teaching them that the world revolves around them? 

We are all at war. We are at war and in constant battle to fight for who will win control of our heart. Where is our affection? Satan would love nothing more than for us to stay distracted. Because when we are distracted and are feeding self, we are not making room for God.  We are placing ourselves on the throne of our lives, serving self, and making ourselves gods. But we cannot serve two masters. As a mother, I am challenged to make sure I am feeding what I want to actually want to grow.  I am convicted in areas where I am contributing to teaching my children to feed self, rather than living out their purpose for which they have been created.