Posts tagged #encouragement

Thankfulness in everything: from Christmas poems to college papers

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When I ask my 7-year-old what she wants to be when she grows up, she says she wants to be a DJ, an artist, and a mom. When I ask my 6-year-old, she says she wants to be a police officer on Mondays and Tuesdays, an astronaut on Wednesdays and Thursdays, and a dentist on Fridays in addition to being a mom all days. When I ask my 4-year-old, he asks if he can have a granola bar. Maybe he wants to be a chef or food critic?

I knew from an early age that I wanted to be a mom, a teacher, and a writer. My third-grade teacher was one of my favorites in elementary school and watching her made me want to teach too. Then I had a teacher in eighth grade who encouraged me in my writing and that fueled me to write lots of poems and short stories. I did internships with preschool and fifth grade to see what age I preferred to teach. I started college working towards a degree in Education, but the more I continued in the degree, the more I knew I didn’t want to teach – at least not young kids. At that point, I had no idea what I wanted to do so I stuck with the education field but shifted gears towards the administrative side.

 When I graduated from Moody Bible Institute in 1999, I found a job at a small company that produced continuing education materials for adults. I was thankful to have found a niche to use my degree. I also got to do some writing. Five years later I had finished my Masters and was hired at Awana Clubs Int’l where I began as an editor and later became a program designer. In that role, I got to write lessons and resources for teachers as well as contribute to developing materials for kids.

Since then I’ve been able to work from home, writing, editing, and, since 2013, teaching. I’m an online professor for Moody Distance Learning where I teach Research Writing and College Writing. And for years now, I’ve been freelancing as a writer and editor.  

My parents were cleaning out their attic in December and sent me a picture of a poem they found. It was a week when I was grading a slew of papers and trying to get final grades posted. Stress was high and I struggled to find the energy to keep going. But the picture drew immediate happy tears. My dad found a poem I had written around Christmas in second grade and while the poem won’t win any awards, it was an affirmation. I’m doing exactly what I should be doing.

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I smile when I think about where I am as a 41-yr-old. I’m doing what my second-grade young self wanted to do. First, I’m a mom to three precious kids and I get to be home (even though there are days where a quiet office to work in sounds glorious). Second, I’m very fortunate that I can work from home because we still need my income. Third, I can’t believe that I get to do work that I love! I’m a teacher but instead of teaching younger kids, I teach college students. And I get to write articles, blogs, and curriculum.

But between third grade and now, there have also been maaaaaany struggles and difficult times. Maybe you’re doing what you dreamed about doing when you were a kid. Maybe you’re discouraged with where you are. Either way, 1 Thessalonians tells us to give thanks: “In everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” Notice it doesn’t say to give thanks FOR everything. It says IN everything. I need to remember to be thankful during the frustrating times and the exciting times. I need to be thankful regardless of my circumstances. But that’s not always easy. I’ve had frustrating jobs and fertility struggles and I haven’t always been gracious or the first to give thanks in those situations. But during a rough week of grading, God encouraged me – the poem my parents found was a reminder to give thanks in everything. Will I always be thankful in everything now? Nope. But I’m going to frame that poem so I’ll have something tangible to look at when I need to be reminded to be thankful!

Posted on February 8, 2019 and filed under Building Your Faith.

Her Life Looks Great: Turning Social Media Envy Into Gratitude

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We have several options of how to utilize and respond to social media. This post is not going to tell you what you should be doing or posting. Rather, I want to encourage a perspective shift you may need--like me--as you scroll. I promise, I have no agenda here. I’m not on a soap box trying to get you to change any habits. I’m hoping to offer freedom if you also struggle with envy at times.


One night as I looked at my Facebook feed, I noticed how discouraged I felt about the trials my family was going through. It seemed like we were the only ones being hit by the storms of life. Abruptly, I opened up my camera roll and, instead of focusing on everyone else’s highlights, I looked at my own. Pictures of my baby girl, surrounded by three adoring brothers. No one even looks like they are sick. A kitchen that is gorgeous and just how I wanted it--and you can’t even tell it’s still not finished. A baby sitting atop her sweet pink play kitchen (given to us by a dear friend)… and I didn’t think about how much attention it takes to keep her safe right now. Boys that destroy playrooms because a desire for construction overtakes them… and all I saw was their precious, joyful smiles. A selfie with my boys was delightful if I didn’t focus on the fact that their dad was too exhausted to join in on the family adventure day. A children’s author we got to go see for free because our local library sponsored the event… and you can’t even tell my son’s stomach was upset due to food allergies.  Three boys teaching their sister how to sing “Jesus Loves Me” while sitting in a box. A box someone (we still can’t find out who!!!) sent us with a giant, stuffed golden retriever. And it doesn’t matter that my son is severely allergic to dogs because someone made it happen with this gift. Three mighty men walking through a nature preserve and pretending it is Narnia and Aslan is on the move. No one would know we didn’t get through as much homeschool as I wanted that day, and I spent way more time than I wanted removing the mud from their shoes when we arrived home. Boys surrounded by blankets and couch cushions and a destroyed living room that led to us hopping on lily pads to 100. Amazing Lego displays at the library. No evidence we had to rush out because a screaming little girl had had it. Eggs yolks that naturally formed a smile. The whole family in coordinating costumes. PIctures of my little girl finding the dark chocolate stash… and then her daddy’s coffee pot! A half-finished boys bedroom that will be exactly what I was hoping for when it’s finished. Boys covered in mud because they can make anything fun… and this picture holds no evidence of my needing to scrub the four rooms they tracked the mud in through the house. A video of my kids singing worship at the top of their lungs  through a locked bathroom door.

Life is a gift.

When I slow down to look at my life through these snapshots, I am overtaken by gratitude. The moments of my day strung together are breathtaking. Forget the pain. Forget the sorrow. I am abundantly blessed. No more “Her life looks great.” My life looks great.

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So I took a break from social media. Instead of taking a few minutes to scroll, I started looking through my own photos at night. Praise filled my thoughts as I meditated on God’s goodness toward my family. Honestly I was hooked. Meditating on the good moments refreshed me. Study after study confirms what God’s Word has told us--thankfulness is key. Gratitude produces joy in us.

 So, my Sweet Sister, do you struggle with envy at times? Do you need to look at your own blessings and stand in awe of how God is working in your own life? I pray you find the joy and strength there to do well another day....Or to start fresh another day. As Betsy reminds us, “Every day counts”, and you have what you need to do it joyfully dear Mama.

Posted on December 14, 2018 and filed under Building Your Faith.

Tips for Success: Potty Training Little Ones

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After I had several children I realized something. When one of my children struggles with something, it is possibly a reflection on my parenting. When a few of my kids struggle with an issue, it is probably due to my lack of training or consistency. Right now my boys are really struggling with picking up toys right after they play with them… yep, I have not been consistent enough there, and I need to be more intentional.

The same rule is true for positive traits. All of my kids LOVE to read and look at books. This is something I took great effort to foster in them. I can take a little credit for that in my kids. Another area my kids have done amazing at is the potty training phase. I have potty trained three boys… all by 27 months.

My oldest son began potty training at 26 months. He nailed it. Finally--his strong will was helping me in an area! He was motivated, and it was a breeze.

I assumed my second son would be more challenging. He has always been the one that likes to drag his feet a little on milestones. He is just more laid-back and doesn’t usually feel the need to prove himself. However, he was showing some interest at 25 months, so we gave it a try. I was blown away at how quickly he picked it up.

My third son was 23 months when we tried to potty train him. He exited the womb wanting to be like his big brothers, so it was a quick process.

And I’m not just talking day-trained, they were set for nights pretty quick too. Have they all had instances that they get their underwear wet at playdates because they are having too much fun to stop and use the restroom? Yes, but for the most part, my work was done early on. (Releasing that fact into the blogosphere makes me a little nervous that my fourth will give me a run for my money…. :) )

*This is not a “How To Potty Train” post, but rather a resource as you are compiling ideas. I don’t know exactly why this was so successful for me, but I can tell you what I consistently did that seemed to help my kids.

Just as with many parenting phases, you have to decide whose will is stronger and if you will buckle when it gets hard. When parents say “I just don’t think he’s ready yet,” sometimes they are saying they aren’t ready to do what it takes. I’m not saying that’s wrong; it’s good to know yourself and what you are ready for. And just as with other parenting decisions, you and your spouse need to be a united front. When it gets hard, you don’t want your husband saying, “Do we really have to do this now?” You’ve started. It is confusing for your child if you stop. (Although I know there are rare circumstances that you may need to turn back because of a medical issue. For example, my pediatrician told me that occasionally when children with normal development have an unusual amount of difficulty potty-training, it can be because of an ENT issue. This is just something to consider if you face this challenge.)

Tips:

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  1. Start “potty training” way before they are ready.  One way I prepared my kids was unintentional, but extremely effective. I used cloth diapers. If you’re reading this, it’s probably too late for you to jump on that train, but it worked really well for us! Cloth diapers don’t stay as dry as disposable diapers, so these kids love the feel of the dry underwear. It makes them very motivated to stay dry! This next tip will sound weird…. but for awhile before I started potty training my oldest, I would “encourage” my husband when he went to the bathroom. He would leave the room, and I’d say things like “Good job listening to your body, Daddy!” Then Lincoln was really excited to be like his daddy in this way.
     
  2. Set proper expectations. This will be hard. Even if it’s only hard for 3 days, it will most likely be a hard three days. There will be stain treating, accidents, and you’ll probably question yourself. With that said, don’t add any chaos to that recipe. Clear your calendar for the week as much as you can. Put your phone away. Be all there. You will be more successful if you aren’t distracted by other commitments. If possible, ask for help with your other kiddos.
     
  3.  Be ready for lots of quality time! Be prepared with activities. Gather age-appropriate puzzles and games, and play dough. You may be thinking--Ewwww! Play dough in the bathroom?!?!?!?  Some people prefer to camp out in the bathroom for a time. I actually got a large tarp to cover my living room floor so we could do life while my little guy was learning. This was largely due to the fact that I did not have a bathroom on my main floor… so you take your pick. I did really like that we had plenty of room for playtime while he was sitting on his little potty. Maybe you’re still thinking I’m gross, but I stand by my choice… and my essential oil disinfectants! Also consider renting some potty training videos from the library. I allowed a lot more screen time than I usually did to make sure my son stayed on that potty!
     
  4. Water, snacks, water, juice, and more water! You will be pumping that kiddo full of fluids so they can be successful. The more they drink, the more they need to go, and the quicker they understand the connection.
     
  5. Have a reward system in place. I bought fun underwear for my boys to start the process, but I also started a sticker chart. They needed something tangible to see their progress. I discovered a tricky part right away with this, however. Do I give a sticker for staying dry for a certain amount of time, or for going in the potty? Both are reward-worthy. My middle son can hold his bladder much longer than my other kids. I didn’t want to punish him for it. I decided I would reward him for every half hour that he stayed dry as well. To be honest, I can’t remember what my kids got when they filled up the sticker chart…. I think they were pretty excited about the stickers themselves! Whatever it is, you don’t want to make it too amazing because you want them to be intrinsically motivated to keep up the pattern.
     
  6. Foster an atmosphere of family encouragement. If you have older children, make sure they are supportive. Let them share how why they like being a “big kid” now. Also, commit to staying positive. It is important that you don’t shame your child when they aren’t successful. Be ready to explain something that was hard for you to master right away.
     
  7. Have a Scripture to meditate upon. Ephesians 4:1-3 says, “I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3 eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” Sometimes this is my challenge to myself when I’m in a tense parenting moment. If I can allow the Holy Spirit to reign in my flesh, and walk with humility, gentleness, patience and love, I know I have been successful. Write your verse where you can see it so you remember to be gracious even when you are exhausted or frustrated.

I encourage you to ask friends and family for tips before you begin. You want to start out well-informed so you can be faithful! Godspeed, Mamas! You got this!

Posted on May 30, 2018 and filed under Building Your Family.

When it's Hard to Forgive: I’m Only Hurting Myself

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We teach our kids that it’s the right thing to do. We encourage others to do it so they can heal. We know the Bible tells us to do it and we’re only hurting ourselves if we don’t. So why do I backtrack when I’m faced with the fact that I need to extend forgiveness?

 

 

There are some situations where it’s relatively easy to forgive another person, like when my five-year-old tells me she’s sorry for being sassy. I forgive her immediately. It helps that she has red hair and is beyond adorable.

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But then there are situations that leave me so wounded that the act of forgiveness is beyond comprehension and even repulsive.

I spent most of my life in one church. It was my home. I knew most everyone and they knew me. At one point both my parents were on staff. My husband and I were married there, dedicated our three babies there, and spent countless hours serving in various ministries. There were high points and low points – just like with any church.

During a very low point, some things happened that grieved me very deeply. There were situations along the way that signaled something wasn’t right but I didn’t put the pieces together until much later. When I did finally learn the truth, I crumbled. And that’s when my husband and I felt released from the church. We didn’t want to leave if God wanted us there because it wasn’t our choice. It was His. But He let us know that He was releasing us.

For those of us who are really invested in our churches, this is a big deal. It’s painful. It’s like breaking up with someone you’ve been dating for thirty years – which was how long I had been there. There were some nights I lay on the bathroom floor, trying to stifle my sobs so I wouldn’t wake the family. I was sad and felt hopeless. I was really angry and for many reasons, reconciliation was not possible at that point.

It’s been two and a half years since we left that church but I’ve been recently hit with a 2x4 regarding everything that happened: I still haven’t extended forgiveness. I still harbor anger and bitterness toward those who hurt me. Sometimes I think I’ve moved on, but then something triggers a memory and the bitterness that I thought was gone rears its head again.

Here’s what I’m learning: For many reasons, there’s a good chance I will never be able to reconcile with those who hurt me, but I cannot continue to live with bitterness and anger. It’s strangling my heart and mind, affecting my eating habits, and I’m so very weary.

But I still don’t want to forgive because that feels like I’m letting them off the hook. I’ve been asking myself why I have to forgive at all. Why can’t I just keep living like I am – not forgiving isn’t really doing any harm, is it? “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” (ESV Eph 4:32). There’s my answer. I am to forgive because Christ forgave me. It’s the right answer, but I still struggle to accept it.

My parents have a small garden on the side of their house. My mom plants cucumbers, tomatoes, and pumpkins. I love the free cucumbers. The tomatoes? I’m not a raw tomato fan so my husband eats his fill of those.

One year my mom noticed a vine growing in the garden. It had white flowers and crawled and weaved its way through the growing plants. What she didn’t realize is that while this vine was pretty, it was a killer. It was a Bindweed. It wound itself around the other vegetable plants until it strangled and killed them. What appeared to be harmless was deadly.

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The bitterness of an unforgiving heart is like this vine – deadly. I’ve known it was there, but I didn’t think it was doing any harm because as time has passed, I’m not as angry or bitter. But it’s still there, under the surface, slowly strangling my heart and the only way to kill the vine is to forgive and cut off its supply. I need to forgive even when those who hurt me haven’t apologized. I’m not responsible for them. I’m responsible for me and having an unforgiving spirit is not biblical or Christlike. It’s not what I want my kids to emulate and it’s not the example I want to set for others.

“Bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive” (Col 3:13). The ESV says I MUST forgive. It doesn’t give me a loophole. There isn’t a clause attached to it that says I must forgive only if the other person has apologized.

I haven’t been able to completely release my anger and bitterness. It’s something I have to work on daily. But now I’m more keenly aware of it and its effect on my life – family, work, service, health. Even if I never hear a sincere apology, I will answer to God regarding my part – have I forgiven? If I don’t forgive, I’m not getting even with those who hurt me. If I don’t forgive, I’m only hurting myself.

Posted on May 24, 2018 and filed under Building Your Faith.

Wishing Life Away

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I’ve been very fortunate to have gone through the Entrusted Bible Study three times now. Two of the three years, I’ve learned from Betsy in-person as she’s taught moms at a church in the Chicago suburbs.

Each week I come away from the study with a phrase that sticks out above everything else.

I’m not always quick to put the lightbulb phrase into practice like I should, but some weeks I can’t help but ponder and act on it.

One phrase that convicted me deeply is “Wishing my life away.”

For most of my life, I’ve been wishing for the next phase:

I wished to get my masters

I wished to be married

I wished for kids

I wished to stay home with kids

I wished for more kids

I wished for kids to sleep through the night

I wished for more freelance work

I wished for less freelance work

I wished for all the kids to be in school

I’ve learned something about myself in the past couple months between the Entrusted Bible study and a sermon series at our church: I feel like I continually need something big happening in my life or I need to be planning and preparing for something big to happen – I need to have a focus. I can’t enjoy where I am. I need to do something like rearrange the house, go back to school for a second masters, or make an out-of-state move. I spend so much time longing and wishing for something new that I don’t stop to appreciate where God has me right now. And when I think about it at a deeper level, I’m convicted even more because the place I am now is the place I’ve been wishing to be!

Case in point: My husband and I prayed earnestly for children, especially after we had three back-to-back miscarriages. Now we have three kids and I’ve spent more time than I should have anticipating when they’ll all be in school. Our youngest is three and has a speech delay. Because of his speech delay, he qualifies for preschool through our district where he receives speech therapy. He’s now in school five mornings a week. Our oldest is in first grade and our middle is in pre-kindergarten three full days a week. I now have three mornings each week that I’m kid free. I didn’t think it would happen this soon and while I enjoy having these mornings to myself, I do regret spending more energy and time wishing for this phase than I should have.

In Ephesians 5:15-16, Paul warns the people of Ephesus to “be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil” (NASB). Am I making the most of my time? In short, no, I’m not. I spend too much time wishing for the next phase or challenge instead of cultivating a grateful heart and appreciating where I am – even in the mundane things like driving all three kids to school, picking up the youngest three hours later, and then picking up the two oldest three hours after that. That can feel like a rut really fast. But you know what? When I was single, I wished for the time when I would get to drop off and pick up my kids from school. And now I get to do that. Even the monotony of my weekdays are fulfilling the longing my heart had so many years ago.

James 1:14-17 says, “But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death. Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.”

Is it wrong to wish for a new phase of life? No. Is it wrong to plan and work towards something? No. The problem occurs when that wishing or planning becomes the focus and obsession. When I allow myself to become obsessed with and carried away by my lusts – my plans, my wishing for something new – I am sinning.

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For the sake of my husband, kids, family, employers, and most importantly, for the sake of my relationship with God, I am determined (though I know I will fail at times) to be grateful. I look at my list of wishes from the past fifteen years and marvel at how God has worked to bring about His will in my life. Not all my wishes have come to fruition or have happened how I had hoped, but many of them have come about and the phase of life I’m in right now is one that I prayed for earnestly for many years.

I’ll still have fun thinking of how I can rearrange the house and I’ll enjoy the increasing freedom I have on weekday mornings, but I’m not going to focus so much on wishing for a new phase or focusing on a big life change in place of appreciating the phase God has me today. I’ll never find contentment and rest doing that.

Posted on April 25, 2018 and filed under Building Your Faith.

Trusting God with my miscarriage: Comforting Thoughts for those who grieve

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In May 2008, my husband and I bought our first home and had fun (well, I had fun) painting every room, replacing flooring, and installing new light fixtures, curtains, and blinds. Our new home had a small bedroom next to the master that was the perfect size for a nursery. But we had debt to get rid of so the plan was for me to keep working so that one day I could stay home when we had kids. So, while we knew we had the space, having a baby was on the back burner – way back on the back burner. The small bedroom became my home office.

In March 2009, I realized I was a bit late in my cycle. When I took the pregnancy test and it was positive, I felt fear instead of joy. I didn’t feel ready for kids. I had finally started losing some weight and still needed to work because our monthly budget was really tight. Even as I looked at the positive test I hoped that it was a false positive or that if not, it would somehow go away. I’m ashamed, mortified, and angry about that thought now. I had no idea what I was hoping for.

Our first appointment at the OB led us to a trip to the hospital to get a better ultrasound. Things didn’t look good. And they weren’t good. That was our first miscarriage. It wasn’t until we lost the baby that I realized how much I wanted the baby.

Then we had another miscarriage. And another. The third happened the week before Christmas in 2009. By then I was in a deep, dark well. I didn’t know how to come out of it and I didn’t want to come out of it.

I spent months crying in my car before and after work. I still went to church but couldn’t sing in service because every song made me cry. I didn’t go to church on Mother’s Day. I did what I had to in order to get through each day. I stayed home a lot. I rejoiced with friends who announced their pregnancies and then drove home and sobbed into my pillow. I went to baby showers and made frequent trips to the bathroom to cry. It truly was a dark and hopeless time.

In the midst of this grief, there were a few things that managed to keep me going. They didn’t take away the pain, but they helped me navigate and survive the dark waters of grief.

First, my faith in God carried me through. I fully believe I would have done something drastic (there were times I prayed and asked God to let me die) had it not been for the fact that I knew God loved me and hurt with me. I did ask Him a lot of questions though, like: Why do people who don’t want to have a baby deliver healthy babies? Why me? Romans 8:26 accurately depicts my prayer life in that time. More often than not, the Holy Spirit needed to intercede for me with groans too deep for words because I didn’t know how to pray. I also clung to Psalm 30:5b because it assured me that while the days and nights were dark, there would come a time when I would experience joy again.

Second, I found a group of women who had also experienced the loss of one or more babies. We met on a baby-focused website and after some time, a dozen of us formed a private group in Facebook where we shared, vented, encouraged, and rejoiced with each other. We’re spread across the country but I’ve been able to meet several of them over the nine years we’ve been connected. I had friends who lived near me, but at that point none of them had experienced a miscarriage and while they loved me, they couldn’t truly grasp my grief. I was so achingly lonely in that time of sorrow because I thought no one knew what I was feeling. Once I figured out that I needed to bond with women who understood what I was going through and I found the group, my loneliness eased. That group has been a huge source of healing for me.

Third, I decided to focus on something I could control. I couldn’t control my body and make it keep a baby safe, but I could control what I put in it and how I took care of it. I was overweight and decided to use that time to take control of my weight. I tracked what I ate and exercised and as I saw the number on the scale drop and felt the clothes loosen, I felt renewed and hopeful. I still had many moments of tears and despair, but being in control in just one area of life was a respite to the grief.

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I’ll never have a satisfying answer as to why I lost my babies. I don’t think there is one, but I choose to trust in God. I’ve also come to a realization: we live in a fallen world and tragic things happen as a result of living in a fallen world. Does that take away the pain? No. But it gives me some semblance of peace and closure now that I have distance from the rawness of the miscarriages.

If you’ve experienced a miscarriage, go to God. Cling to Him. Ask Him questions. We may never receive an answer that completely satisfies, but we can trust in His character when we look at the cross and meditate on Scripture. For example, Psalm 34:18 says, “The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” He can shoulder your pain. He wants to comfort you in your sorrow.

If you’ve experienced a miscarriage, know that you are not alone. Find a group online or that’s part of a church’s care ministry. My church has a care night where various groups meet and address specific needs and hurts. I wish I had that when I was in the middle of the pain.

And lastly, if you’ve experienced a miscarriage, find something healthy to focus on so you can have some sense of control when you feel like there isn’t anything you can control. Maybe it’s exercise or education. Dedicate yourself to a hobby you’ve been meaning to take up. It won’t take away the pain but it can distract you in a good way.

Posted on February 28, 2018 and filed under Building Your Faith.

Stand Before Him With Your Little Ones

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The living and active Word of God never ceases to amaze me. A passage I’ve known for years breathes new life into my current situation, and I walk away ready to face the day. As my circumstances threatened to overtake me this month, God flooded my heart with hope and direction through 2 Chronicles 20. I’d like to share it with you for when you face the overwhelming. It is a long passage, but it’s so worth it, so please stick with me!

After this the Moabites and Ammonites, and with them some of the Meunites, came against Jehoshaphat for battle. 2 Some men came and told Jehoshaphat, “A great multitude is coming against you from Edom, from beyond the sea; and, behold, they are in Hazazon-tamar” (that is, Engedi). 3 Then Jehoshaphat was afraid and set his face to seek the Lord, and proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah. 4 And Judah assembled to seek help from the Lord; from all the cities of Judah they came to seek the Lord.

5 And Jehoshaphat stood in the assembly of Judah and Jerusalem, in the house of the Lord, before the new court, 6 and said, “O Lord, God of our fathers, are you not God in heaven? You rule over all the kingdoms of the nations. In your hand are power and might, so that none is able to withstand you. 7 Did you not, our God, drive out the inhabitants of this land before your people Israel, and give it forever to the descendants of Abraham your friend? 8 And they have lived in it and have built for you in it a sanctuary for your name, saying, 9 ‘If disaster comes upon us, the sword, judgment, or pestilence, or famine, we will stand before this house and before you—for your name is in this house—and cry out to you in our affliction, and you will hear and save.’ 10 And now behold, the men of Ammon and Moab and Mount Seir, whom you would not let Israel invade when they came from the land of Egypt, and whom they avoided and did not destroy— 11 behold, they reward us by coming to drive us out of your possession, which you have given us to inherit. 12 O our God, will you not execute judgment on them? For we are powerless against this great horde that is coming against us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.

13 Meanwhile all Judah stood before the Lord, with their little ones, their wives, and their children. 14 And the Spirit of the Lord came upon Jahaziel the son of Zechariah, son of Benaiah, son of Jeiel, son of Mattaniah, a Levite of the sons of Asaph, in the midst of the assembly.15 And he said, “Listen, all Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem and King Jehoshaphat: Thus says the Lord to you, ‘Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed at this great horde, for the battle is not yours but God's.16 Tomorrow go down against them. Behold, they will come up by the ascent of Ziz. You will find them at the end of the valley, east of the wilderness of Jeruel. 17 You will not need to fight in this battle. Stand firm, hold your position, and see the salvation of the Lord on your behalf, O Judah and Jerusalem.’ Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed. Tomorrow go out against them, and the Lord will be with you.

18 Then Jehoshaphat bowed his head with his face to the ground, and all Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem fell down before the Lord, worshiping the Lord. 19 And the Levites, of the Kohathites and the Korahites, stood up to praise the Lord, the God of Israel, with a very loud voice.

20 And they rose early in the morning and went out into the wilderness of Tekoa. And when they went out, Jehoshaphat stood and said, “Hear me, Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem! Believe in the Lord your God, and you will be established; believe his prophets, and you will succeed.”21 And when he had taken counsel with the people, he appointed those who were to sing to the Lord and praise him in holy attire, as they went before the army, and say,

“Give thanks to the Lord,
for his steadfast love endures forever.”

22 And when they began to sing and praise, the Lord set an ambush against the men of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir, who had come against Judah, so that they were routed. 23 For the men of Ammon and Moab rose against the inhabitants of Mount Seir, devoting them to destruction, and when they had made an end of the inhabitants of Seir, they all helped to destroy one another.

WOW. So much to encourage us, isn’t there? What captivated me most was verse 13, Meanwhile all Judah stood before the Lord, with their little ones, their wives, and their children.” Three sets of enemies are on their way to attack them. Instead of running away with their families--their little ones--they stood. They stood before the Lord. I think it is significant that the verse separates children and little ones. Of course children were not expected to fight in the battle. Surely, it was commonplace to flee with little ones. Yet this is not what the nation did. They stood with their babies and they waited to see how God would respond. SIx times in the passage the word “stood” or “stand” is used. Here it describes their posture, but it also reveals the trust in their hearts.

I’m not sure this is my natural response…. When trials come, I often want to scoop up my babies and work my hardest to protect them from the pain of the world. Sometimes that’s what the Lord calls us to do as mothers. Still other times, our Savior is ready to rescue mightily--for our children to see. Stand firm! See the salvation of the Lord! If we try to protect our children every time a hardship comes, they will indeed miss out on the good, gracious, powerful hand of the Lord. He has limitless resources and abundant creativity to rescue us. His means of protection and provision far exceed our greatest imaginations.

I can’t tell you when to protect your children and when to let them watch; that distinction is for you to work out with Jesus on your own. Perhaps when our knuckles are most white, grasping the hardest for an escape is when we need to let go the most. When the tugging of the Lord on your heart makes the tears about to fall, He’s got you. Be still, and know. (Ps. 46:10) Sometimes the power to “stand” comes from being on our knees, and it isn’t a physical change, but a resoluteness with which we go forward.

That was encouragement enough, but God had more to show me. I had to reread the chapter three times to ensure I wasn’t missing something. The Lord didn’t tell them to worship. They worshipped out of expectation and urgency. Faith and hope collided into the perfect, deserved response of devotion.

No matter how great the battle, how daunting the circumstance, how necessary the preparations, the correct response will always be to worship. Not only is it what the Lord deserves, it can actually lead to our victory. “And when they began to sing and praise, the Lord sent an ambush” (v. 22)

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The best motion pictures have nothing on this! Multitudes are coming against these people. Can you sense the impending rumblings of the enemy vibrating on the ground? Can you see the dust rolling up from the coming attack? Do you feel your heart beating within your chest? Now do you hear the worship of God’s children louder than all of it?

They choose to stand.

They choose to worship.

Many people select a word or phrase to meditate upon or strive for in the new year, sometimes in place of a resolution, sometimes to go along with one. This January I chose “Worship” to be my word for the year. I didn’t necessarily understand why God was laying this word, this choice, on my heart, but as 2018 has unfolded, it is becoming quite clear.

Recently I shared that we were in the ER right before Christmas because my husband was having some concerning neurological symptoms. A CT scan ensured us that he had not had a stroke or a brain tumor, and we were incredibly thankful. More testing needed to be done, however, and the MRI revealed lesions on his brain. We have just learned he has Multiple Sclerosis. As we await more clarity on this unpredictable condition, I have a picture in my mind of my little family. The six of us are holding hands, and standing together in hope and faith.

 I clearly see my two choices. I will stand with my children, with my little ones, watching to see how God works on our behalf. And I will worship.

My sweet sister, I pray that the Lord gives you the strength to stand and worship as you mother--today and every day.

Posted on February 21, 2018 and filed under Building Your Faith.