Posts tagged heart
Parenting: Roots of Sin

As I was puling weeds on the gorgeous sunny clear morning, the cool 70 degree breeze made the job a little more bearable. With the hardened and dry ground, pulling each weed and overgrown grass was a struggle. I came across a root that was buried just below the surface, but extended several inches into the grass. As I bent over to pull the root seeing just how far it would extend, I was able to bend it just enough to begin breaking it.

But then…

It wasn’t easy to twist in order to fully break and destroy. Rather, what once bent a little, was now a wrestling match twisting round and round but the root too strong and deep from growth that it would not easily be broken. It was then instantly God gave me a picture of how the sin in our lives, when given a place to grow (in darkness) has the opportunity to grow and thrive growing stronger buried in the ground of our lives. I thought of the many parents that I know who are struggling watching sin in the lives of their children taking root and growing deeper and deeper. In secret, what began as small choices and mental decisions now taking root and becoming stronger and deeper having more control over other life choices.

As I wrestled, with every twist in hopes the root would break, my heart began to break for the mothers whose hearts are broken, whose eyes can no longer shed another tear, who hides in fear of being exposed, who pleads to God for her child.

When we give place for sin to take root in our lives, Satan has access into our lives. We must confess and repent of our sin daily recognizing our need for Jesus, our Savior.

As sin is given a place to grow, often in secret and darkness, it becomes stronger and can take over all areas of our lives mentally, physically, emotionally, making life choices based on sin and not on God’s Truth.

I sat there thinking about how I weep for the broken hearts and how I long to come alongside each weeping mother fighting for her child. There is power in prayer. As I pulled with all my might the root that would not fully give, I thought about the power of fighting together…if only I had a friend here to pull and fight this root with me!

As mothers, when we come alongside those who are hurting, we don’t need the details…we just need to commit to pray. Details quickly turn to judgement and gossip. As we fight for our children, committing to storm the gates of Heaven on our knees, this is the best gift of friendship that can be shared.

I began to think about this root now exposed. There is safety when it was still buried and it could not be seen. But now, in the shadows of strong beautiful budding trees full of flowers and fresh blooms, the exposure of a root that is being fought to be destroyed can be embarrassing. When we fight the sins of our lives, we see those who may be in a strong season and place of thriving in their relationship with our Lord and we want to hide. We don’t want to be exposed.

And yet…that big tree that is flourishing once began small, once struggled, once had battles of its own before it could thrive and blossom.

To every parent who is fighting and pleading for their child’s heart to be changed and turned to repentance, don’t give up. Our battles are not of flesh and blood, they are not of this world. Satan and the demonic are active and alive deceiving the hearts and minds of many. We are in warfare—there is a Spiritual battle being fought daily. Our battle is on our knees in prayer and by the power and blood of Jesus.

  1. Fight for your children with the power of prayer. Pray Scripture over them daily. Douse them with the Word as you pray over their mind, heart, eyes, ears, actions.

  2. Allow others to commit to pray with you and for you. Anyone who really cares to pray doesn’t need details.

  3. Humility-remember with every tree (life) that is strong, they have had their own struggles that have made them stronger. Choosing to not be intimated by strength around you, but allowing those who are stronger to pull you up is a gift—not a sign of weakness.

  4. Confess your sin and repent daily, not giving access or entry to the enemy. Unconfessed sin can take root and grow. But when we confess our sin, our good good Father is faithful to forgive us…every.single.day!

We can’t help fight the roots of sin in our children’s lives, if we are bound by the roots of sin in our own lives.

As Easter is upon us and we reflect upon the sacrifice of the cross, let’s not forget the POWER of the resurrection. We don’t just celebrate and rejoice that Jesus, our Savior, sacrificed and gave His life for our salvation, we rejoice in the resurrection. Because of the resurrection, there is power in the blood of Jesus. Sin is defeated. As children of God, we have authority in the name of Jesus!

I am Loved

And when I realize this, that the greatest part of my being is that I am deeply and unconditionally loved, it makes me desperate to share the realness and the ability to feel this with those whose greatest feeling in their being right now is a lack of love.

Because this person that I am now, this loved and accepted and grace covered person, is not who I once was.

I spent many days and nights feeling
unloved.
unwanted.
not enough.
overwhelmed.
under qualified.
cast aside.
never good enough.

So to be here, resting in love…it’s surprising.
And yet, so natural. Because I was designed to love and to be loved.
My flaw was in looking to people to fulfill this design.

When I sit at the feet of my Father, I am not at all concerned with who or what Iam.
Because I am HIS.
And He is perfection.
And that is enough.
And I am so caught up in every beautiful thing that He is, that my earthly thoughts of myself fade into the shadow of His wings.
I. am. loved.

I was loved before I realized it.

I had only to open my soul to it.

And now I want nothing more than to pour it out on you.

You. are. loved.

You need only realize it.

Cast your burdens into the shadow of His wings and allow your soul to be enveloped in His love. Find rest. Find healing. Find joy. Find overflow. Find love.

Find LIFE.

Guest Contributor:

Andie Fair.jpg

Andie Fair is the starry-eyed wife of her high school sweetheart, Executive Creative Director of Chaos to their kiddos, a quirky, open-door homemaker with a soul wired to explore the unknown, a heart crafted to lead with love, and a second mug of coffee forever in the microwave. She’s a certified health coach, aiming to make healthy living easier for families and a volunteer disciple maker who gets her thrills guiding others to engage in an active relationship with their Redeemer. She writes randomly and strives to live intentionally. 

A New Creation

There are so many facets to this small but meaningful piece of my story I’m about to try to share, that I say try because I don’t even know where to start.

A little over a year ago, God led my husband and I to a new town, in a new state, just a few hours away from the place we had spent much of our childhood and called home for the past 7 years.

So many things were at play with this move, which I will begin to share more of later…I started to write them out but they’re not all directly relevant to the point I’m trying to get to here so, I copy/pasted them into a different draft for a different time — you’re welcome 😉

One of the biggest things God pressed on me in this new season was to really study the Bible, independently, {meaning not as part of a devotional or a sermon series, but just for the sake of reading His Word, with fluidity, and seeing what He had to speak to me personally}, and to begin to discern for myself what true faith looked like, what being a follower of Jesus really meant, and what He intended for the church to be about.

You see, I grew up in church, with all of the traditional stories and hymns, and I thought I knew what my faith was based on, thought I knew the Bible, thought I was “doing it right”… {you can read more of my testimony here}. I had faithfully attended and served the church since college {there was an interesting familial turn of events in my high school years that resulted in me getting a weekend job rather than attending church, thus the gap until college}, and I was even on staff for a few years at the church we moved away from last year. It was at that church that I began to face some of my demons, that my perspective was shifted on some important issues, that I worked through some fresh wounds, that I was for the first time a part of true biblical community, and that I grew exponentially in my faith and in my understanding of both biblical truths and church design. As a result, I believed that *this* was what church was supposed to look like.

Church — literally, a movement of God.

As if you can put God in a box labeled {name of church} and determine this is how He moves best, anywhere and everywhere. Naive I know — but I think there are many who have struggled with this misunderstanding, coming to and falling away from their relationship with God in direct correlation to their perceptions of a particular Local Church — a group of people meeting in a building, under the leadership of a smaller group of people.

I had a large amount of trust for the leadership of our home church, and I still do, despite some hiccups in our journey. They are laser focused on reaching people far from God, have a heart to really hear from Him and to be fully obedient, and they’re not lacking in wisdom and discernment. However, they’re still people. Not Jesus. Not God. Not perfect.

As God’s humor would have it, we ended up finding a church here in our new home state that was basically the exact opposite of the church we came from — not in their quality but in their strengths and weaknesses as an organization. They are still laser focused on reaching people far from God, have a heart to really hear from Him and to be fully obedient, and they’re not lacking in wisdom and discernment. They just have a much different method for accomplishing the same goals. As they should — they’re in a different community, with different needs. However, the needs of ours that had been met in our previous church were left wanting here, while the needs that had been left wanting in our previous church, are being met here. And I certainly think that’s intentional on God’s part because He’s teaching us to lean into Him more than we lean into a church. Ouch. But we were {at least I was} absolutely guilty of that previously. I leaned harder into the work of/for God than I did into God Himself.

So here — He challenged me to really get to know HIM. Not just His church. Not just the perspectives of the teachers and shepherds He’s appointed. But first and foremost, HIM.

I’m sure I’ll also be sharing more about that journey {that’s lifelong and has really only just begun} but the primary, and I know obvious, ways of going about this were through reading His Word and surrounding that, and other facets of my life, in prayer, while staying active in our local church.

He speaks.
I just have to be an active listener.

I also read a couple of books {namely Radical and The Explicit Gospel} that really rattled what I thought I knew — and I found them {sometimes to my disappointment} to be backed soundly by scripture as I continued to study God’s Word.

And so I found myself faced with this question — do I really want to be a follower of Jesus?
When I really begin to understand what that looks like, when I dig into scripture while also expanding my world view beyond American Christianity, it’s astounding how much more there was to what I thought I knew, and how much heavier it weighed.

To be completely honest, for a moment in time, I really wasn’t sure.
I wrestled with the whys and the hows and the what ifs of it all. I struggled with feeling like I really didn’t understand what I was getting myself into when I declared myself a Christian however many years ago and I wasn’t sure I wanted everything that actually came with it.

But through the grace of God, I realized that even if somehow it ended up being all wrong, if at the end of the day, at the end of the universe, we really are just one big cosmic accident and all of the miracles and life change and beautiful design we see as evidence of a living and loving God are fabricated in our coincidental minds, the effort and the sacrifice and the fulfillment of trying to honor Him and display His glory is all worth it. That this is what I want from my life, more than anything else I could dream up. That I’m willing to trade in a feel-good, self-centered, ego-driven, culturally-relevant worldview for what I believe to be a universal truth — regardless of what anyone around me believes or supports. That I don’t have to have all the answers. That I don’t want to serve a God I can understand. And that the risk is worth the potential reward. Yes, even just the possibility of one day kneeling before this God I have come to love and know that I am loved by, Who has shown Himself true so many times in my beautiful mess of a life, is worth giving up all other ground for.

Once upon a time, I thought I knew what I was doing. As a  seven year old seeking approval and “fire insurance” {and I’m pretty sure church membership}, I went before a congregation and was baptized in a white robe signifying a choice to believe in Jesus. And that experience told me that I had made the decision to be a Christ follower. Not that being baptized had saved me but that in a way, if I followed through with baptism, then God must believe that I really meant that prayer I desperately prayed over and over again as a child — that prayer that was supposed to save me.
That’s what I held onto until it unraveled. That’s what I stumbled over as it fell apart.

A few weeks ago, after having spent several years falling in love with the character of God, and several months questioning and studying it, I surrendered to the redesign of what had formerly unraveled and allowed Him to pick up the pieces and begin weaving a new tapestry that’s beyond what I can imagine. I reconciled in my heart being okay with not knowing what He’s doing but just wanting to be a part of it, and went out into the bay with my husband, before just our 2 daughters, to be baptized in murky, cold water, solidifying my decision to strive daily to die to myself and rise in Him. For Him.
This time, the experience was the result of having made a fully aware decision to follow Jesus, no holding back, no turning back. This was the snapshot in time when I declared that I really believe in the God I pray to over and over again as His child — that He has done so much more than save me,  that He continues to redeem me, and that He is what I will choose to hold onto, no matter what unravels around me, no matter how I stumble or what falls apart. He alone is worthy.

I always considered baptism to be like a wedding band, an outward symbol of an inward decision, meant to show the world that we’re bold enough to display what we believe. But in this decision, I called forth the example of the Ethiopian Eunuch in Acts 8, who didn’t have a congregation to stand before or a camera crew there to record his symbolism, send photos to his loved ones, and upload this evidence of life change to Facebook.
This moment wasn’t for anyone else.
{Though, yes, I do hope that our daughters can look back on it and it will help them on some level in their own walk to know Jesus, and I do pray that sharing my story somehow helps others along their journey}.
But this moment.

This was a declaration before the Lord that I am willing to forsake all else. That I choose Him. That I was drawing a line in the sand of my own personal shore. That I don’t desire the option to turn back. I have fully activated my free will and determined I don’t need worldly balance. That my greatest joy comes from belonging to Him. That He is greater than all of my fears. That He is greater than all of my blessings. That He is my beginning and that my end is safe with Him, and but a beautiful new beginning. ❤

Hear me — I don’t believe that this baptism {or my first} saved me — any more than I believe that there’s a magical prayer one can pray to secure eternity. I don’t even consider this a ‘rededication’ of my life, as I have been seeking to follow Christ, and growing in my relationship with Him, for many years now. But there is a world of difference between that little girl in a baptist church, and the woman who today proclaims Jesus as her Savior. My understanding of what it means to be a Christian has completely shifted, over the course of several new revelations from college through this year. And though I know I’ll continue to grow and learn and struggle and overcome, I also realized that what I thought I knew when I was baptized as a child was nothing of the Jesus I know now, the one I have surrendered my life to — and I want to be obedient to the call of the gospel in being baptized as a result of choosing to follow Him, now that I truly know Him.
Then, I was checking a box. Now, I’ve stepped outside of the box. ❤

If I’ve stirred up questions in you with what I’ve written, I would love to talk to you about it. I don’t have all the answers but I also know it’s so hard to put into one post every bit of what I mean, and the last thing I want to do is leave someone confused. I’m also lucky enough to be connected to a lot of people with more wisdom and knowledge than myself if you have complex questions I’m not able to answer personally 🙂

xoxo

Guest Contributor:

Andie Fair.jpg

Andie Fair is the starry-eyed wife of her high school sweetheart, Executive Creative Director of Chaos to their kiddos, a quirky, open-door homemaker with a soul wired to explore the unknown, a heart crafted to lead with love, and a second mug of coffee forever in the microwave. She’s a certified health coach, aiming to make healthy living easier for families and a volunteer disciple maker who gets her thrills guiding others to engage in an active relationship with their Redeemer. She writes randomly and strives to live intentionally. 

Once Upon a Time

Back then, I didn’t know Jesus.

I knew *of* Him…

I was real scared of hell and a big fan of Jesus.

But I hadn’t actually encountered Him yet.

I had no idea what it looked like to follow Him outside of the checkboxes of religion — and y’all, I really like checkboxes. As much as I can rebel against being told what to do, I love to know what to do and get to cross it off my list!

But I really only had one checkbox that connected to my emotional being at the time — so I prayed that “magical” prayer over and over again, terrified that I hadn’t “meant it” enough the time before.

I think if I had understood the relational side of being a Christian — you know, the only side that really matters — then all of the rest of it would have come alive for me. But until I could get there, God really had me stuck on that prayer. Because in my soul, I had to know that it wasn’t about the specific words to a single prayer, and how desperately I prayed them because it was what I was supposed to do or it was my ticket out of this messy complicated life. That it was about so much more — that the change I was seeking would literally alter my life, on this side of heaven. That I would never be the same again. That I would never have to feel alone again. That I would desire to live for something and someone other than myself. And that I wouldn’t just be okay with that but I could find joy in it. That I could have a life beyond being ‘fine’ — that it would be hard but life is hard anyway and it could also be so amazingly beautiful.

So for me, it wasn’t a ‘lightbulb moment’ that just clicked on one day and I’ll remember it forever — apparently I’m a slow learner 😉

It was a gradual development of learning more and more about the character of our great God — much like falling in love…only the distance between enamored and invested took more time than I’d really like to admit 😛

And for me at least, I really think the key that unlocked my relationship was getting around other people who already had one and discovering what it could look like — and then committing to my own spiritual awakening, allowing my unique perspective to feed into establishing that connection so I could really let the Holy Spirit engage my soul and begin the ever growing process of being rooted and established in His life changing love.

That’s the beginning of my story — for a twenty-something church girl, it seemed to take a lifetime to find my lifeline.

Guest Contributor:

Andie Fair.jpg

Andie Fair is the starry-eyed wife of her high school sweetheart, Executive Creative Director of Chaos to their kiddos, a quirky, open-door homemaker with a soul wired to explore the unknown, a heart crafted to lead with love, and a second mug of coffee forever in the microwave. She’s a certified health coach, aiming to make healthy living easier for families and a volunteer disciple maker who gets her thrills guiding others to engage in an active relationship with their Redeemer. She writes randomly and strives to live intentionally. 

Desiring God's Presence

Exodus 33: 15 ‘If Your presence does not go with us, do not lead us up from here.’”

Having moved 2000 miles from VA to TX, I dove into the study of Moses and I assumed the Lord would ask me to stop my complaining.  I just survived a hot Houston summer, bugs the size of small rodents, and a record flood and hurricane season, but hey who is complaining? Of course the passages on the grumbling Israelites would put me in my place.  Much to my surprise, the Lord had a bigger issue in my heart, which needed tending to.

Week after week, I was continually drawn to Moses himself as so many aspects of his life and his walk I admired and desired to strive towards.  I spent many hours thinking about how desperately Moses desired the Lord’s presence above all and it was this very thing, his intimate face-to-face relationship with the Lord, which made the difference in his life.  The Lord promised Moses victory over his enemies, promised him land flowing with milk and honey BUT Moses knew the better choice. Moses was willing to give up all those things and stay camped in the desert if the Lord refused to go on with them.  Moses wanted the Lord’s presence!

This made me really think about where my heart truly was.  If I was promised victory over my battles or promised days filled with peace, joy, contentment, self-control, comfort, and security; however, I was given the caveat that the Lord’s presence would not be with me.  How would I respond?  Do I truly want Christ and only Christ?  Is He truly where my complete satisfaction lies?  Or deep in my heart do I desire more…  

The year started off very smoothly and I was feeling quite proud of myself, and how quickly I seemed to have settled into this new life as a Texan.   Then I encountered some rough waters and began to struggle, as I faced a depression, which seemed to come out of nowhere.  The Lord began showing me that in my impatience for the Lord to bring healing to my heart, I began to build my own boat to set sail in.  Needless to say, I’m not very good at building boats.  I was trying to re-create what I had before. Signing up for everything and anything where maybe I could meet a friend and hoping to try to fit in and feel apart of something.  I found myself decorating and re-decorating my house but with no one to entertain, working out until my knees gave way, serving my family beyond what I should and in all of this trying to feel purposeful once again.  One by one idols where being created, attempting to fill the void only God should fill.  So one by one God began taking apart this boat that I had built leaving me floating on the water with Him alone.  That’s exactly where He wanted me.

Like Moses desperately desiring the Lord’s presence, Christ wants me to desperately seek after Him.  He desires that I find my purpose and fulfillment in Him alone. Christ wants to be the boat that I climb into each day.  He will enable me to ride the tossing waves of adversity, to be still while floating on the tranquil waters of patiently waiting, to not fear when the storms clouds of uncertainty roll in and to be anchored firmly when my doubts want to pull me away.  Unlike all those other boats I try to construct, Christ is the only one who fills my heart with true satisfaction.  My circumstances will change but when I am finding fulfillment and purpose in my perfect redeemer, Jesus Christ, I am able to remain anchored securely.

What boat are you setting sail in today?

Guest Contributor:

Mary Fahenstock headshot.JPG

Mary and her college sweetheart, Matt, have been married 27 years, have lived in WI, VA, TX, and they currently live in Ann Arbor, MI.  She is learning to embrace the “empty nest” years along with the travel which goes along with having her three grown children on both the east and west coasts. Mary enjoys spending time with her family, wherever and whenever they can gather, as well as reading, studying the Word, and spending time soaking in the beauty of God’s creation.

 

ps... I Love You!

She crawled up into the seat next to me and looked up into my eyes with a sparkle in hers. I brushed a whisp of hair off her face, over her cheek, and something about that moment overwhelmed me with the need to tell her I loved her. She hadn’t done anything special, it was as ordinary a moment as any, an in-between moment even, but with her attention fixated on me it welled up inside me just the same and I felt compelled to make sure she knew.

As a parent, I think there are few things we want more than for our children to rest securely in our love.

And as a child of God, I couldn’t help but wonder if those little things He does for us, the things that might seem trivial or insignificant to others but remind us of His presence, are His way of brushing the hair out of our face and whispering “I love you”…

I know that she knows. But the more I can remind her in the simple but genuine moments we share together, the more she’ll remember when she’s walking a difficult path and she feels alone, discouraged, or overwhelmed — and the less room there’ll be for doubt.

Maybe the more we draw close to God and seek His face with eyes of wonder and adoration, the more we’ll hear Him assuring us in moments He carves out just for us — the ordinary moments that He makes special with His touch — and we’ll be better able to hang onto that still small voice amidst the crashing waves to come.

Guest Contributor:

Andie Fair.jpg

Andie Fair is the starry-eyed wife of her high school sweetheart, Executive Creative Director of Chaos to their kiddos, a quirky, open-door homemaker with a soul wired to explore the unknown, a heart crafted to lead with love, and a second mug of coffee forever in the microwave. She’s a certified health coach, aiming to make healthy living easier for families and a volunteer disciple maker who gets her thrills guiding others to engage in an active relationship with their Redeemer. She writes randomly and strives to live intentionally. 

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. 

A Mother's Christmas Gift

Christmas season is now under way and excitement is in the air. Homes begin to light up the night with all the beautiful decorations.  With tummies still full from turkey, stuffing and pumpkin pie, the shopping begins.  It is gift giving season and the search is on for the perfect gifts for those we love.  If you are like me, I enjoy thinking about and planning for the perfect gift for all on my list, especially my children.  What would excite them?  Surprise them?  Wow them?  What have they been keeping their eye on that would make their face light up when they unwrap it from under the tree?  Oh, it is so fun to give! 

Material gifts are fun to think about, shop for and give, but have you given any thought to what eternal gifts you might give your children this Christmas, gifts for the heart?  If we only spent as much time investing in eternal gifts as we do shopping for material gifts, our homes would be calmer and more meaningful at Christmas time.  Jesus tells us not to store up treasures on earth but in heaven, because where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.  (Matthew 6:19,20)  One eternal gift is spending time with kiddos; baking cookies, retelling the story of Jesus' birth, sharing stories of your childhood Christmas memories, celebrating Advent together and other similar Christmas activities.  I think as moms we do tend to make time to give these special “gifts” to our kids at Christmas time, no matter how busy the season.  But could there be a gift that will give over and over, day after day this Christmas season that could impact them for eternity?

I'm glad you asked.  What about giving the gift to your children of a mom spending daily, intentional time with the Lord Jesus this entire Christmas season?  I believe that is one of the greatest gifts we can give our children.  Amidst the hustle and bustle, the hanging of decorations and Christmas lights, the shopping and wrapping...give your kids devoted time of their mom sitting at the feet of Jesus.  This December, make it the top priority of each day to make time for Him.  It will change your stress level, your shopping, your heart, your own Christmas experience this year, and it will overflow into a gift for your children.  

One of my favorite things to do each December day is get up before anyone in the family is awake, go downstairs and in the dark, turn on only the lights of the Christmas tree.  While sipping coffee and my Bible in my lap, with just the twinkling of the Christmas lights, I spend time with my Savior.   It is such a sweet time.  I look forward to it all year long.  There is just something about staring at the lights of the tree and pondering the God of the universe who chose to come down from heaven Himself, in human flesh, to show us how much He loves us.  Morning after morning, this renews my focus.  This intentional and special time with Jesus fixes my eyes on Him, encourages me to lean in to Him, fills me with His Spirit and helps me keep this season about Jesus and not what the world has made it to be.  This time with Jesus overflows into the rest of my day and becomes a gift to my family.  My heart is full.  My focus is clear.  My joy is real.

My family gets to experience this gift of me spending time with Jesus because what He has taught me that morning often spills into my conversations with them that day.  Taking the time to study the Christmas story from different perspectives teaches us new things and then we want to share.  For example, two years ago a friend of mine gave me the Christmas devotional The Greatest Gift by Ann Voskamp. It was a fresh way of reading and studying the lineage of Jesus through the Advent tradition of the Jesse Tree.  Walking through Old Testament passages and being reminded of truths each morning from scripture and Ann's devotional made me want to share these Christmas treasures with my kids.  Continuing to point our own hearts and our children's hearts to Jesus during the season of Christmas is a gift that truly is eternal.  It changes how we live each day.  Maybe you want to find a new way to spend time with Jesus in His word this December and allow God to fill your heart, so you can pour into your family the peace and light of Christ.  Psalm 119:130 reminds us "The unfolding of Thy words gives light; It gives understanding to the simple."

Time with Jesus is life giving.  A mom walking with the Lord daily is a mom filled with the Spirit and being led by the Spirit.  A mom spending time with Jesus is ready to give to her family.  Why not give this gift to your kids this Christmas season?  Oh, they may not be able to physically grab it out from under the tree and unwrap it on Christmas morning, but they will unknowingly experience the eternal gift you are giving them...a mom who has put Jesus at the top of her own Christmas list and gives of herself out of the overflow of Jesus, Immanuel, God with us.

 

Heart of Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving, it conjures up images of pilgrims, pumpkin pie, football, and maybe even family you only see a few times a year. Whether you are looking forward to Thursday, or attempting to wish it away, I want to pose a challenge. Is it possible to view Thanksgiving, not as only a holiday, but as a choice of our will that directs our attitude? It is easy to forget that thanksgiving is mandated in Scripture. In Philippians 2:6-7 Paul writes, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” Colossians 3:15 reads, “And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful.

Some of you may be thinking, “that is easy to recite or type, but you have no idea how difficult my situation is!” No, I don’t, but He does. He knows all of our situations and needs, and He wants to be invited into them. At times, we can be so overwhelmed by our circumstances the thought of being thankful for them, knowing that He sees the end from the beginning, when we can’t, is repugnant to us. I challenge you; I challenge me, to start by bringing our needs to Him. If you can’t yet see anything to be grateful or thankful for in your circumstances, start with transparency and honesty before the One who knows all anyway. He says in Matthew 7:7, “Ask and it shall be given unto you; seek and you shall find…” So, this Thanksgiving, ask. Ask to be shown things in your life to be grateful for, ask for Him to bring good out of situations where you have yet to see any good, and ask for strength and faith to trust Him more.

One of the definitions of thankfulness is to be conscious of benefits received. Let’s ask Him in prayer this Thanksgiving season, whether things are going great or you are in the hardest season of your life, for a greater awareness of things for which to thank Him. Then do it; thank Him, remembering also that with thankfulness comes the peace of God. Reread those verses from above. God’s own peace will guard our hearts and minds through Christ Jesus when we come before Him and ask for what we need with a posture of Thanksgiving. 

May you enjoy the Thanksgiving season all year long, from your friends at Passion4Moms.

Growing Pains

One lazy Sunday morning I walked into my son’s bedroom and noticed he wasn’t there.  When I entered my daughter’s room, the scene that I saw would touch any parent’s heart. Emma was gently cuddling her brother so that he could fall back asleep, as he was still sleepy. My husband and I later commented on how sweet our children were with each other and how we were so blessed that they got along so well.  We may have spoken too soon that day as later that morning they had a huge fight that led to many tears and hurt feelings. When I heard the fight begin I did what I usually do which is to try to let them figure it out on their own before I intervene. However, this time the feelings and voices were escalating pretty quickly with no nearsighted resolution.  One child was red with anger and the other was crying inconsolably. I decided everyone needed a “time out” to process their feelings and calm down. After everyone had some alone time, we came back together to talk about what had happened. Elam’s feeling were hurt because he felt that Emma had blamed him and judged him for not building the right roof in Minecraft. Emma was mad because she felt that Elam was blaming her for the fight. 

After I dealt with the children and we came to a resolution, I realized something about the situation. I saw my own actions in the root of this fight, which is being quick to judge.  My sweet children were replicating what they see in me. Ouch!  I reflected back on times in which my first response is often a judgment statement instead of a question to clarify behavior. If I’m talking to my daughter about something and I see her make a face, I will say, “Change your bad attitude” without first inquiring what she is experiencing. On many occasions it is not a bad attitude it might be that she is feeling bad about what she did. 

One of the many challenges of parenting is observing your children replicate your faults and weaknesses. It’s so hard to witness that.  So what is a parent to do when this happens? Well, the first step is admitting and acknowledging that there is an area for growth and even confess it to your children.  During our talk after the big fight, I confessed to the children that I had been so guilty of judging their behavior on many occasions and they had learned that from me. I strongly believe that being a perfect parent is not attainable and being a parent who admits when he/she fails it is far more impacting on a child’s life that the ideal of unattainable perfection. Admitting our need for growth in a certain area is an essential point in growing into a better parent and a godly person. It is amazing how God can use parenting to help us see areas in our lives that don’t honor him. Admittance is an important step to growth.

When I observe an incident with my children and see my own behavior in theirs, I often feel guilty. I feel so bad and often think that I have scarred my children for the rest of their lives. How could I let this happen? Those are often my initial thoughts, but then I am reminded how God’s grace is always sufficient. An important step in growing as a parent is allowing you to feel God’s grace and to forgive yourself. Being hard on yourself will not promote change like the way grace does. Grace prompts us and empowers us to change. Guilt helps us realize there needs to be a change but the guilt itself will not change anything. When I am too hard on myself or am constantly apologizing to my children for the same offense, I am essentially teaching them to be hard on themselves. It is another behavior that I am emulating to them. I don’t want my children to grow up being hard on themselves so I need to show them to have grace on themselves by showing grace to myself. The feeling of guilt itself will not lead to growth, but it can prompt us to want to change. Ultimately, it is through God’s grace that we can find everything we need to be able to change.

I have learned I am more apt to change when I have a game plan. When I see my children behaving like I do, I realized I need an action plan so that I don’t commit the same mistakes. That day my kids and I memorized James 1: 19 that reminds us to “be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger.” Reminding myself to listen first before placing judgment on one’s actions would help me in growing in that area.  I went back to God’s word. What does God say about this issue and what honors Him? These are the questions we need to ask ourselves when we are seeking to grow in a certain area. I now ask questions before I make statements.  For example, when my daughter is making faces when I am talking to her, instead of stating you have a bad attitude, I ask, “Can you tell me what you are feeling?” or “ You are making a face and I am not sure what it means.” My action plan has helped me in taking the right steps to change and grow into a better person that honors God.  You may also find it helpful to do some research by asking other parents on how they handle certain issues or behaviors. Your area of growth may be the same as mine or it may be different. Whatever that area is, determine an action plan so that when you are in trigger situations you will react differently.  

Ultimately, growth comes from God. It is through His grace and His word that we can change. Ask God to help you grow. Ask Him to help you listen to His gentle reminder when we aren’t honoring Him. Remind yourself that you will make mistakes along the way but with the help of God you can become the mother that God has destined you to be.