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Archive for August, 2012

“Is any pleasure on earth as great as a circle of Christian friends by a good fire?”(C.S. Lewis).

Ever been looking forward to an exciting adventure, only to have it derailed at the last minute, due to an illness or injury which forced you to change your plans?  What about working hard on your resume and job searching for months, only to be rejected time after time?

Sometimes life doesn’t go the way we planned.  Sometimes we have to completely rearrange our schedules, start over from scratch, or keep plugging away when we are bone-weary tired.

There are many reasons that happens.  Sometimes God is trying to get our attention, nudging us gently to go in the right direction when we’ve veered off course.  Sometimes we need to stay the course, developing perseverance instead of expecting instant gratification.  Other times, we have done nothing wrong and it’s just the result of living in a sinful world, dealing with little annoyances that everyone faces from time to time.

I have found that after giving my worries over a particular situation to God, asking Him to show me His will for my life, I sometimes still feel sad.  There is still sometimes that disappointment, hopelessness, and maybe even a little anger over my situation.

I’m going to be on the lookout for those in my life who might need a little extra encouragement.  You never know, maybe if I offer a hug and a little brownie therapy, I might just be able to raise their spirits.

Who in your life might need a little extra encouragement lately?  What can you do to help ease their burden and let them know you care?

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Proverbs 1:8: “Listen, my son, to your father’s instruction and do not forsake your mother’s teaching.”

Last time we talked about how important it is to teach our kids to obey our authority which teaches them to obey God’s ultimate authority.  Today I want to talk about the other side of the story.

Yes, I firmly agree that there are times when our children need to just obey – without arguing, whining, debating, manipulating.  However, there are other times when listening to their opinions and asking them how to solve an issue might grow their independence, reasoning skills, and learning responsibility.

I’m talking about the non-life-and-death situations.  There are certain nonnegotiable items in life, but there are also lots of gray areas.  As a parent, I’m learning that it’s important to distinguish between the two while our kids are still young, so that when they hit middle and high school and their independence really needs to blossom, these skills will already be in place.  For a “semi-control freak” like myself, this is sometimes a hard lesson to teach.

It’s important to look at the big picture.  As the parent, you want certain things done in a certain timeframe.  For instance, chores need to be completed before your kids participate in a fun activity, they need to be relatively clean and presentable (including shower, appropriate clothes, hair and teeth brushed), and they need to learn how to make appropriate decisions in a variety of situations.  But…can’t the end result look different for each family and possibly even for each family member?

Taking into consideration that each child is an individual, isn’t it acceptable to allow one child to do his chores in the morning because he wakes up fresh and ready to tackle the day but give the other child a chance to slowly greet the morning and still have hers done by lunchtime?  Is it super important to take a shower at night, or can one child take their shower in the morning as long as there is enough time to catch the bus?  Yes, there are certain clothes for certain situations, but within that boundary, isn’t it more important that your child work on his or her own sense of style while still living under your roof, and give time for a child to experiment with individual taste before that all important job interview?  And isn’t it more important that your child came up a solution, unique to him and his situation, that you agree with, when dealing with the bully, the awkward social situation, or the problem with friends?

If really listened to, and encouraged to sometimes think outside the box (which means we, as parents, need to be willing to step outside the box too), our kids can come up with some creative solutions to their own situations and maybe some of our sticky situations too.

I encourage you today to really listen and ask your child once in a while to solve a particular challenge.  I am learning in my own family that there is more than one way to stack groceries, clean a house, or cook dinner.  And you know what…I’m enjoying the change as well as seeing the pride in my kids when they realize they are listened to and their ideas are considered worthwhile.  That, in all honestly, is the main reward.

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II John 1:6: “And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands…”

Argue…debate…rationalize…manipulate.  I think we could agree that most families are made up of at least one child (if not more) than does this a little bit better than the rest.  When given a direction, instead of just saying, “Yes, mom,” and fulfilling the request, a long list of reasons why it should be done later, shouldn’t be done at all, or how it could be done better follows.

One of the characteristics my husband and I stress in our household is that by obeying your parents, you are in reality learning how to obey God, our ultimate authority.  One of the reasons we stress that rule is so that I have the assurance in an emergency and my children needed to stop or be quiet when I tell them to, they will obey first, ask questions later.  By obeying my authority right then, it could very well mean my children avert a disaster instead of getting hurt or even worse.

Isn’t it like that sometimes in our relationship with God?  He gives us clear guidelines in the Bible for our own good.  The rules in the Bible aren’t there because He was bored one day and needed something to do.  No, the rules are there to help us live a purposeful, fulfilling, and at least as much as possible, peaceful life here on Earth.  He put them there for our own good.  It is our responsibility to obey first, ask questions later.

But how many of us actually do that?  How many of us, in reality, are willing to step out in faith and just obey God?  Yes, it’s easy to follow the Big rules:  Don’t murder, Don’t steal, Don’t commit adultery.  What about the little rules?  Are we really following those when we are jealous of our friend’s 3000 square foot house compared to our 1500 square foot house?  What about when we rationalize that taking office supplies from work and using them at home for your kid’s school project really isn’t stealing – it’s owed to you?  Lastly, what about when we fudge on the time sheet a little bit, since “no one will notice anyway.”

My challenge today is twofold.  First of all, as parents, we need to teach our children how to obey our authority, so that in turn they get lots of practice to obey God, their ultimate authority.  And second, how about examining your life and asking God to show you one area where you need to maybe say, “Yes, God, I will obey” more instead of rationalizing, manipulating, debating, or arguing the situation.  You just might find that you feel more peace as a result of that decision.  Try it and then let me know.

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Everybody’s Different

Romans 12:6-8: “We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.”

We have a saying in our household, “Everyone’s different.”  That helps in many different situations – From explaining why dad is great at listening and mom doesn’t seem to stop talking, why some people like to play sports and others are more musically inclined, and why some use their inside voice consistently and others are so loud earplugs are needed 24/7.

My husband and I fit into that mold too.  There are many ways in which we are similar, but in other ways our differences complement each other.  He is rational and thinks things through before making an informed, responsible decision.  I am emotional and led by my heart.  He grounds me and helps me see the big picture while I am caught up in the feelings and emotions of a situation.

That got me thinking about our unique approach to life and how I feel that men and women respond quite differently.  I think for the most part, (not true for everyone), that women are great at multitasking.  I know for myself that if I don’t have at least two or three things going at the same time, I can get bored.  My brain was made to juggle multiple things.  There is such a thing as sensory overload even for me, but overall, I can handle multiple crisis without breaking too much of a sweat.  And, when I have a looming project to do, I would rather push through and get it all completed, and then I truly relax.  If I quit in the middle, I continue to think about what’s left and worry until I have it completely finished.

In my opinion, men approach things differently.  They work better focusing on one job at a time.  And, they seem more able to take breaks in between, even stopping for the night, picking up where they left off the next day.

I think there are advantages to both ways of living life.  I can handle the day-to-day little crises that naturally come up with children in the home.  For me, balancing working from home, laundry, cooking, cleaning, grocery shopping all with children helping or underfoot comes naturally.  My husband, on the other hand, tackles a job and I have confidence that it has his undivided attention and will be completed well.  It doesn’t take rocket science to fold laundry while listening to my daughter tell me about her day, but when constructing the fence for the garden, if the measurements are off, well…you get the picture.

We can both still learn from each other.  My husband is teaching me that it’s okay to take breaks occasionally, starting again after I have renewed my batteries.  And, I’m a good example to our kids about pushing through and finishing something before enjoying the reward.

What’s your style and how can you positively influence someone else?

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Why Now?

Jeremiah 29:12-13: “Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you.  You will seek Me and find Me when you seek Me with all your heart.”  (NIV)

 We have a saying in our house that is used quite regularly, “Everybody has issues.”  Usually this reminder is needed when someone has just received a consequence for a particular action and is feeling down on him or herself.  The reminder is given that just because he or she is dealing with a particular “issue” at that point in time doesn’t mean that he or she is singled out.  Wait a few minutes and I’m sure someone else’s “issue” will rear its ugly head, needing to be dealt with.

Whether married or single, childless or with a household of children, everyone has issues.  Because we live in a sinful world, we can’t escape that fact.  Some of us try to hide our issues, some succeed for a period of time before they reappear, sometimes bigger and worse than the original “issue.”  Some people add to their “issues” by creating more “issues,” adding addictions to try and forget about the “issues.”  Either way, until the “issues” are dealt with head on, they will remain “issues” and will continue to wreak havoc in your life.

Do you ever get frustrated when you think you have positively dealt with your “issues” and life has returned to normal only to discover that there is another level, another layer of the original “issue” that needs to be dealt with?  Do you ever feel helpless that it will never be fully resolved?

In my opinion, the only way to effectively deal with the “issues” that we all have in one form or another is to bring them to God and ask Him to show us how He wants the “issue” dealt with.  You may think you have the perfect solution, but in actuality, unless He is involved in the solution, it will probably keep coming back in new and different ways.

Another perspective to think about is this:  Did you ever think about praising God for the “issue” that you are dealing with?  Has anything positive come out of having to deal with your particular “issue” in life?    God tells us in I Thessalonians 5:18, “…give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”  (NIV)  There is a reason for that.  God wants us to praise Him so that we can see the good in all things.  Even bad situations can have good components.  When viewed correctly, our “issues” can bring us closer to God because He is always available, just waiting for us to reach out to Him, asking for His strength instead of relying on our own.  Sometimes having “issues” to deal with allows us to be more compassionate to others when we see them struggling with their own “issues.”  Other times the very “issues” that God brings us through are exactly what He then uses in us to help others struggling with the same “issues.”  We may always carry a little bit of the “issue” with us, but that serves as a good reminder for the journey we were on, another reason to thank God for bringing us through.

So…since everyone has “issues,” I invite you to hand yours over to God and see what wonderful things He can do in your particular situation.  Just watch – He will!

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Back in December I posted two blogs talking about Stretching Without Breaking – how to help your children grow and stretch while journeying into adulthood.  Since then, I have realized that there is a third element to that growing and stretching process.

Just as it is important to show your children compassion and encouragement during their journey, all while striving to preserve their emotional well-being, the third aspect is to show, by example, some stretching and growing yourself.  As adults, we still are being stretched and challenged, sometimes on a daily basis.  It’s easy to stay in our comfort zones as adults – using excuses like lack of time or denying ourselves opportunities so that our children can experience richer and more meaningful childhood experiences, etc.  However, I think it’s vital to our children to see that we as adults are still willing to take chances, step out of comfort zones and try new things, and be challenged as opportunities arise.

I have been challenging myself in different areas lately and it’s fun to watch the reactions my children have.  One thinks it’s exciting, one is surprised I would try it, and the other is too young to realize I haven’t done it my whole life.  It’s a great learning opportunity for our kids to see us push ourselves in ways they didn’t think we could, doing things we thought we wouldn’t like, and maybe figuring out we still don’t like some of those things or finding something new we absolutely love.

Sometimes the stretching can involve the whole family:  Trying something new on vacation like going to a new place and experiencing new sites and sound or mixing the familiar and comfortable with one new and exciting element.  All of these things can help show our kids that there is excitement, adventure, and fun if we just look for it.

Time constraints and lack of getting into shape this year caused me to miss out on one opportunity I really want to challenge myself with.  However, I’m planning and taking steps to make that a reality next year instead.  But even this missed opportunity shows my kids that sometimes stretching requires a little more planning, a lot of hard work, and some training in order to achieve or reach whatever area you are stretching toward.

So my challenge to you today is this:  What is one area of your life where you can stretch a little bit, either involving the entire family or an individual goal that you have put off, a “bucket list” of sorts?  Whatever activity, goal, or interest you pursue, it will be a great example for your kids knowing that stretching can continue well into adulthood and beyond and that half the fun of living is to continually challenge yourself to be the best you can be all while having fun in the process.

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In Him

I Kings 3:9: “So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong.”

When I realize the truth that every day is a blessing from God and being allowed to enjoy the simple pleasures in life such as family, friends, health, and a job are also blessings directly from my Heavenly Father, it allows me a different perspective.  I find my days go a lot better when I first give them to God, asking Him to show me what He wants me to do and how He wants me to do it.  I seem to get a lot more accomplished and I’m more peaceful during the process.

Little annoyances don’t bother me as much as they would normally.  If my plans are changed, instead of having the attitude of, “Seriously?,” I think, “Okay, what disaster did you help me avoid?” or “How do you want to use me in this situation?”

I find that I’m more tuned in to others feelings and needs instead of trying to fulfill my own.  I have more energy, more joy, and overall am just more relaxed.  I definitely use more of the “nice voice” with my kids instead of the “mean voice,” and I’m quicker to laugh at myself and my mistakes and slower to get angry at “perceived wrongs.”

I’m not saying that just by starting my day with God in meaningful quiet time that my days go perfectly, I never have disappointments, and stress no longer exists.  No, that will only occur when I finally make it to Heaven someday.  But, when the little annoyances of life try to sabotage my peace, by looking at life through God’s perspective and trusting that He will equip me with whatever I need brings about a peace that is so deep that it could only come from my Heavenly Father, the One who loves me more than anyone else.

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