A Song for a Season

What a Friend we have in Jesus,
  All our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry
  Everything to God in prayer!
O what peace we often forfeit,
  O what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry
  Everything to God in prayer!

I've listened to him strum his guitar and whisper these lyrics over the last few days. Sometimes there are no words to be said. No formal prayers to be spoken. Sometimes there are only lyrics and a melody that soothe and heal.

Songs matter. They move us.

That's why you can find a teenage girl crying over the lyrics of a song after a break up.
That's why couples find the perfect song that personifies their relationship to have their first dance to at their wedding.
That's why you can be transported back to your childhood when you hear a song that triggers a memory.

We all have different songs for different seasons. And in a season of pain, distress and growth a song can become a prayer. A prayer you sing that you long for your heart to believe. A song that can begin to heal your heart. An offering to God when you can't find your own words.

After 3 relatively easy pregnancies, I was stunned when we found out there was several complications in my 4th pregnancy. Life-changing complications. I had no words. I would sit trying to find the "right"  words to pray. I would open my journal, but the words to write would never come. I was trapped in a state of fear.

As I was driving one day in the midst of the chaos of loud children, a song came on. A song that became my anthem, my prayer through this season. These were the words I couldn't find on my own.

Lord I have see your goodness
And I know the way you are
Give me eyes to see you in the dark
And your face shines of glory
That I only know in part
And there is still a longing
A longing in my heart

You revive me
you revive me Lord
And all my deserts are rivers of joy
You are the treasure, I could not afford
So I'll spend myself till' I'm empty and poor
All for you, you revive me lord

It was the reminder I needed that no matter what may happen, He is the one who revives me. He is the one who is still good even when I am in the dark. 

Often times while driving by myself during that season, I would get in the car all alone and let the song play. I would turn up it loud and sing those words and the tears would stream down my cheeks. Many days I would play the song 5 times in a row - determined for it to play until I could believe what I was singing.

I'm alive, I'm alive
You breathe on me
You revive me

I inhaled His grace and exhaled my prayers and praises - a mom in a minivan with a song to sing and a prayer to give to her Creator. And He heard me. He revived me.

What song has God given you to sing during your season?

 

 

 

Because of I AM

Because of I AM

I am not defined as just a woman,
but as a child of God, daughter of the King and a sister in Christ.

I am not defined by my spouse,
but by how well I can die to myself to love him well.

I am not defined by the number of children I have,
but by how well I love all of God’s children.

I am not defined by my past,
but by how well I step into the person God has created me to be.

I am not not defined by the size of my body,
but by my the size of my heart.

I am not defined by the size of my house,
but by the way I make my house feel like a home.

I am not defined by the money I have,
but by how much I give away.

I am not defined by the number of friends I have,
but by the authenticity I show in my friendships.

I am not defined by the job I have,
but by who I am to the people God has given me life long influence over.

I am not defined by the number of books I read,
but by how close I hold the Greatest Book to my heart and prays it changes me.

I am not defined by how many people I lead,
but by how selflessly I lead people.

I am not defined by the number of tasks I get done,
but by what I can trust God to do despite my shortcomings.

I am not defined by my failures,
but by how well I listen to what God is teaching me through them.

I am not defined by my pain,
but by how I respond and allow my pain to refine me.

I am not defined by how many people esteem me,
but by how much the Giver of Life esteems me.

I am not defined by those who may look down upon me,
but by the God Who Sees Me.

I am not defined by what someone says about me,
but by what the Creator of the Universe whispers to me.

I am only because of I AM.

 

 

 

Technology Habits for Parents

In the course of one minute...
YouTube users upload over 48 hours of new video content.
Facebook users share over 680,000 pieces of content.
More than 2 million Google searches will occur.
Over 200 million email messages will happen.

Technology is all around us. We can’t escape it. Like anything, balance, moderation and healthy habits are the key. As parents, it makes it extremely difficult for us to instill in our kids healthy habits and boundaries when we as parents have a hard time practicing what we’re preaching to our kids. Here's 3 healthy habits for parents to practice when it comes to technology in their home.

1. Focus on the Why not the What
Family rules and values are not a one size fit all. You have to do what’s best for you and your family.  You and your spouse need to sit down and discuss some guidelines and boundaries for technology and openly communicate those to your kids.

But, remember, if you only communicate the what and never the why…then all you're doing is putting legalistic rules in front of your kids and it will never work.

My husband and I had to deal with a situation where our oldest child was wanting certain social media platforms and devices. We consistently told her "no". Then, she had what she thought was the ultimate leverage with us - if she had friends the same age as her that have it, why couldn’t she?

We had to explain to her the why beyond our rule - that technology while wonderful is a huge responsibility. And it can be a burden - we love her and we want to protect her mind and her heart. You can’t simply unsee something.

That being said, there are some things we let our children do that others may not. We let our kids get on YouTube and watch videos from certain channels. The deal we have with them is they can watch certain videos/channels that we have approved. If they have something they are interested in watching, we need to see it first to give permission. We still look on their history and check up on them. On a couple of occasions they have watched something they were not supposed to. We’ve had to give them a consequence/punishment.

Parenting can be easy if the parental controls do all the policing. It's harder when we start to let some of our control go, and let our kids learn to police themselves. Where real parenting comes in is when you let them dip into the gray area and make their own choices, and they have to begin to police themselves. My hope is they recall the “why” we don’t want them to do/have certain things in regards to technology.

Proverbs 4:23 Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. (NIV)

2. Model Good Behavior Yourselves with Technology
We have a saying in First Steps, our parent/child dedication event. “You cannot give your children what’s not in you. Be what you want to see in your children.” Meaning, if you want your children to have certain values, you have to model those same values. This can be applied to technology.

Researchers are just now beginning to study how parents’ screen time affects their kids. A Boston Medical Center study of how families at a restaurant interacted with each other when they used cell phones demonstrated that caregivers who were highly absorbed in their devices responded harshly to their kids' bid for attention.

Ever happen to you? I know it's happened to me. The more I am absorbed in social media, email or whatever on my device, the more annoyed I can be when I am interrupted by my kids. It causes me to be short and impatient with them. And for what? To read a status update of someone I knew from high school that I haven’t seen in 14 years? To check out that funny video of cats doing flips?

Our kids have to see us putting down our technology and fully engaging with the family.  With our kids, many of us give them a certain amount of time allotted each day to be on their devices. But whose setting our time limits? Whose deciding when we use our devices?

So decide when and where you WON’T use your devices.

My husband and I made the decision that all electronics would be turned off from 6-8 Monday through Friday - all TVs, phones, iPads, Kindles. It’s amazing how turning off, tunes you into your family. Something else I do is turning off my notifications for email and apps on my phone. The only time my phone notifies me of something is when I receive a text message or phone call.

And you yourself must be an example to them by doing good works of every kind. Let everything you do reflect the integrity and seriousness of your teaching. Titus 2:7 (NLT)

3. Disconnect to Reconnect.
In the culture we live in, almost every hour, every minute is filled. We constantly complain about “not having enough time”. How many times have you or your friends said, “If only I had another hour in the day?” What would you really do with that one hour? Most of the time if any of us have a minute we tend to fill it with meaningless things.

According to Nielsen's Total Audience Report, Americans aged 18 and older spend more than 11 hours a day watching TV, listening to the radio or using smartphones and other electronic devices.

If we were to get honest in our own lives, how much of our time is spent on social media? email? TV?

We use the excuse with our kids, “This email is for work!”  I have news for us parents - kids do not distinguish between working or playing on devices. What they see is a parent who is not engaged, a parent who is distracted. 

Our kids need to see us choose them. We only have a limited time with them in our homes. Time is one thing you can’t get back. Once you spend it, it’s gone. 

 AW Tozer, said “When you kill time, remember it has no resurrection.”

We’ve got to create space for our kids. We’ve got to create space to hear from them, for them to know they are valued. We have to create space for fun, for pure undistracted play time with out kids and our teenagers, too. Because it’s in those spaces, that kids and teenagers speak. They tell you their stories, they tell you what’s going on in their lives. It’s in that space where you find out their struggles, their likes and dislikes. It’s in that space where kids feel like you see them, you hear them.

Technology can be and is a good thing. But too many good things can quickly overwhelm the most important things in life. Our time together is important.

Psalm 90:12 says… "Teach me to number my days that I may gain a heart of wisdom."

Parents, what are the boundaries you have set for yourself when it comes to technology?

For the Mom with a Tattered Soul

You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body
    and knit me together in my mother’s womb.

Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex!
Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it.

You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion,
    as I was woven together in the dark of the womb.

You saw me before I was born.
Every day of my life was recorded in your book.
Every moment was laid out
    before a single day had passed.

How precious are your thoughts about me, O God.
They cannot be numbered!

I can’t even count them;
    they outnumber the grains of sand!
And when I wake up,
    you are still with me!

There’s nothing that God doesn’t know. No thought or action of ours can be hidden from God. We cannot escape God. 

He sees us. He sees us in our moments of joy, and He sees us in our moments of desperation. He sees us in our sin, in our brokenness. He sees us in our failings and our struggles. He is El Roi - The God Who Sees.

And yet…

He never leaves us. He goes with us. In our highest of highs and in our lowest of lows, He goes with us. Why? Because he loves us. He created us, knowing us even before we were knitted together in our mother’s womb. His word says that His workmanship is marvelous.

You are marvelous.

You are a marvelous workmanship. You are a beautiful woman. God gave you your splendid body that carries your very soul, the magnificent core of who you are. Why are beautiful? Because God created you and His workmanship is marvelous. 

But life beats at us, tears us, tatters us and wears us down. Where is His marvelous workmanship? We look in the mirror and all we can see is the scars on our bodies and on our hearts. Where is His marvelous workmanship?

But that’s the beauty of our God, The God Who Sees. He sees past the scars on our tattered heart. And loves us right where we are. He loves us for us. He loves what others deem unlovely. 

He doesn’t just love us. He is jealous for us - jealous to have our whole heart. Not jealous as a man possessing a woman as a prize, but jealous for us because of the pure love He has for us, desiring for us to have the same for Him.

And when we feel like no one listens to us, not the men in our lives, not the children we created, not our bosses or our friends, He wants us to talk to Him - to tell Him the intimate details of our thoughts and desires. He wants us to lay our problems and our dreams at His feet, knowing that He cares for them and He will take care with them. 

As a mother and a woman, there are many, many thoughts in our minds. So many worries. So many desires for our families. God wants us to give those to Him. God wants to give those to us.

Give your desires to Him. 
Your God cares for them.
Your God sees you.

The Lord is close to all who call on him,
    yes, to all who call on him in truth. 

He grants the desires of those who fear him;
    he hears their cries for help and rescues them. 
Psalm 145:18-19 (NLT)

 

The Power of a Meal

Mealtime.

Sometimes just the thought of that word can bring dread into a parent’s heart. After all, dining with young ones is never quite the relaxed experience. Spills and noise can often fill a young family’s mealtime.

But, what if we chose to utilize mealtime in a way that got our kids talking and interacting with us? What if we used the time to have faith talks with our children? You do have a somewhat “captive” audience during mealtime.

Studies have shown that sitting down and having meals as a family help children to do well in school and avoid risky behaviors. As author Miriam Weinstein explains, “Sitting down to a meal together draws a line around us for a brief time and strengthens family bonds by shutting out the rest of the world as a powerful ritual against the many forces pulling us apart.”

So how can we get our kids talking during mealtimes?

1. Start off by praying for your meal. Have you and your children take turns praying before your meals. This is a great way to model prayer for your children and also to encourage them to begin the habit of praying.

2. One informal way to start conversations with your kids is to play the high/low game. Go around the table having members of your family tell what their high and low of their day was. Another way our family asks this is to say, “What was the best thing about your day, and what was the worst thing about your day?” This is a great way to find out about everyone’s day.

3. Find a simple devotion book. This is a great time to lead your family in a small, simple devotion before, during or after your meal. Mealtimes and bedtimes are great, practical times to have faith talks with your children.

4. To learn more about what is going on in your children’s lives, put some questions together for your family to ask each other. Conversation starter questions like, “What is your favorite color?” and “What is something that makes you happy?” are great questions to get conversation started during mealtimes. Pinterest has great ideas on how to make your own conversation starter kits.

To further explore some mealtime ideas, check out these resources!

The Surprising Power of Family Meals by Miriam Weinstein
150 Quick Questions to Get Your Kids Talking by Mary E. DeMuth
The Hours that Matter Most by Les & Leslie Parrot
Dinner Table Devotions by Nancy Guthrie

Website:  TABLE GAMES

 

Grace for the Working Mom

“I don’t see how you do it.”

That’s the statement I get told so often. Juggling 4 kids and working, is a daunting, busy task.

My response? “Most of the time, I don’t do it well.”

So many times people see the end result. They see an event I was working on go well. They see my house looking nice and tidy when they come over. They see the kids all decked out in their church clothes, giving off the illusion that we are all put together when we arrive on a Sunday morning.

What they don’t see is that I was racing against the clock to get my event done… that meant that my husband and kids didn’t get the time or attention they deserved for the week. They did not see that we ate fast food 3 nights in a row, because I couldn’t remember to set out any meet from the freezer. They did not see that I hired someone to come clean the house and I consciously scheduled it right before I knew I would have company because I was so embarrassed by the state of my house. What they did not see was me yelling at my kids before we left for church because they were not moving fast enough for me, and that I had to ask my kids for forgiveness on the way to church.

The word that keeps playing in my mind in this busy season is…grace.

Grace for me. Grace for my husband. Grace for my kids. And grace for all the other mommas out there that are just trying to make it.

“Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:12).

This verse has been been on replay in my mind. Our days are short on this earth. I love my family, and I love the work that God has called me to do. So, how do I reconcile all the priorities I have with the little time that I have?

Sometimes, it means that my family does get the short-end of the stick, because for a couple of weeks the load at work is a lot to bear. But maybe, grace abounds from my family to me because they know that before and after this “season”, I’m actively present with them. Maybe grace abounds to my husband when he has the same struggle with busyness with work and he has to be gone several nights, because I know “this too shall pass”, and we’ll all be reunited again. Maybe grace is shown to my kids…because my busyness affects them too. Because perhaps I am mistaking their outbursts for defiance when maybe it’s a cry for attention in the moment. And maybe some grace can flow through our whole home, because being present in each other lives trumped a clean and tidy house this week.

In Andy Stanley’s Book Choosing to Cheat he says that everyday we make the decision “to give up one thing in order to gain something else. This is something we do every day. We don’t think of it as cheating. Especially when we are making what most people would consider a good trade.” Andy Stanley goes on to illustrate that he chooses to “cheat” his work sometimes when there is something at home that requires him to be there, and then other times he has to make the choice to “cheat” his family when a big initiative is going on at church and he has to work longer hours.

We all want to be the best spouse, parent, friend, co-worker, homemaker we can be. But maybe we can’t be all those things at exactly the same moment. Things have to give, things have to ebb and flow. Priorities and hats have to change sometimes hour to hour. Grace has to flow.

And, I’ll make you a deal…if we are to be at each other homes in the near future, I’ll look past the spilled milk on the floor if you ignore the tumbleweed of dog hair rolling past your foot.