Friendships…

“And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith.”
‭‭Galatians‬ ‭6:9-10 NKJV

I had an amazing time visiting my sweet friends in Washington state this past weekend and being with them made me think a lot about friendship, what is means to be a good friend, and different types of friendship.

Not all friendships are the same. Some friends will be life long kindred-spirit types of friends. The friends that you may not see for years and years or talk to very often, but when you are together with them again, it is as if you never left them and you just pick up where you left off.

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These are the friends that know you deeply and love you anyway! You laugh with them about certain things that only they understand. You have inside jokes with them, you have wept with them through the hardest trials, and cried tears of joy with them through the most momentous moments of your life. They have been with you while you birthed your babies, brought you soup when you were sick, watched your children numerous times, and prayed with and for you over the years. These are the friends that you can call at 4 a.m. when tradgedy strikes, or send a certain song to, to make them smile and laugh.

These types of friendships are rare and they take time to develop. You have to go through things together, get smacked in the face by trials and life together. These friendships are not instant, but take years and years to mature and solidify. I am so blessed and thankful for these friendships in my life. They are so sweet and precious to me and uplift my soul!

There are also one-sided friendships. These are the friendships where one person puts in most of the effort to keep the friendship going. These are the friends that you enjoy being with, have fun with, laugh with, and maybe even cry with, but if you or the other person don’t make the effort to reach out, you may rarely spend time with this friend. These types of friendships can get annoying if you are the one who is always calling, texting, and inviting. I have friendships like this and I get tired of reaching out, tired of this friend not being available, tired of them not reaching out to me. My friend Regina once told me that I am a “pursuer of friendship.” She said that I “reach out to others and keep reaching out, initiating get-togethers and fellowship.” I have never forgotten those words. She also encouraged me to never stop being a pursuer of friendship. That this was a wonderful quality to have.

I agree with Regina, pursuing friendship is a wonderful quality, but there have been times when I have grown weary of the pursuit. When you keep pouring out, reaching out, trying to meet up for coffee or a play date with her and her children, and she is never available, or has a schedule so full of activities that you wonder if she ever has time to have close friendships, you want to give up. You want to say, “Forget it! It’s not worth it to keep on trying.” But here’s the thing that the Lord often reminds me, when I am in this rotten attitude place, this place of giving up: God never gives up on me. He never stops pursuing me, reaching out to me, loving me, seeking to spend time with me. Why should I be any different?

I’m not saying that if someone has told you to leave them alone and that they no longer want to be friends, that you should continue to contact them leading them to block your phone number and call the police for harassment. What I am saying is, don’t give up. Especially if the Lord tells you to reach out to that person; don’t give up. Keep trying, because in doing so, you are showing the love of Christ to them. You are showing them God’s heart. Our God is a pursuing God, a faithful God, a God who never quits. We need to be the same way.

The final type of friendship that I have experienced are seasonal friendships.  Sometimes friendships don’t last, but are for a certain season of life.  You may be friends with someone for a few years and then move to another state and never hear from or see this friend again. It’s not that you parted on bad terms, it’s just that you lost touch with one another and went on with your life in your new location. This may sound depressing, but it’s not, it’s just life. God puts us in different people’s lives for a reason and sometimes those friendships last all of our lives, sometimes they don’t. But, during those friendships He is still using us to sharpen one another and help each other. Using us to bless one another and draw us closer to Himself, regardless of how long the friendship lasts.

I wanted to write this blog post to encourage you to reach out, to make friends, and to pursue friendship. I’m not going to tell you that you won’t get hurt at times, or that you won’t grow weary trying to reach out and make friends, but I will tell you that you will honor God in it and that it will be worth all of the effort.

“A man who has friends must himself be friendly, But there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.”
‭‭Proverbs‬ ‭18:24‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

“As iron sharpens iron, So a man sharpens the countenance of his friend.” Proverbs‬ ‭27:17‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

 

Criticism….

“Before you go and criticize the younger generation, just remember who raised them.”
– Unknown

“Don’t criticize them; they are just what we would be under similar circumstances.”
– Abraham Lincoln

“When we judge or criticize another person, it says nothing about that person; it merely says something about our own need to be critical.”
– Unknown

“Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.”
‭‭1 Thessalonians‬ ‭5:11‬ ‭ESV‬‬

I have been a soccer mom for 4 years now and in all of my time spent on the soccer field watching our girls play and observing other parents, I have seen the good, the bad, and the ugly. I wanted to share the three types of parents that I have come across during my soccer mom career:

The Squirrel Parent

The squirrel parent is the one who sits quietly on the sidelines eating their nuts or other snacks. They make very little comments, if any at all. They are content watching their children play and doing so in relative silence.

The Bulldog Parent

The Bulldog Parent is the one who is constantly barking out orders to their child, telling them where to stand, how to kick the ball, where to kick the ball, and making comments like, “Come on! I can’t believe you missed that!”, “What are you doing!”, and “Get your head in the game!” They sound like a bullhorn, rarely have anything nice to say to their child, and belittle them in front of others.

The Elephant Parent

The Elephant Parent is a nurturing parent who cheers for their child on the field and applauds their efforts. If they do not agree with how their child is playing, they may encourage them in the way they should go, in a kind way, or talk to them after the game about it. They may even practice with their child to improve on the areas that need work. The Elephant Parent’s main purpose is to encourage and build up their child, not to tear them down.

I am guilty of being a Bulldog Parent, but I want to be an Elephant Parent and I am working on this at each game. If I see my child make a mistake on the soccer field I try to not say anything or to say something like, “Nice try!”, “Don’t give up, keep going, you got this!”, “Keep working hard, you’re doing great!” etc.

If we want to see changes in our children, they are not going to come through belittling and insulting them. I often wonder how some of the parents  I encounter on a weekly basis would fair at their jobs, if their employers treated them, the way they treat their children? Could you imagine a boss yelling at you, “WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!!” “WAKE UP!”, “I CAN’T BELIEVE YOU JUST DID THAT!” Would those types of reactions cause you to work harder, try to do better, and improve? Or would they just make you feel more tense, feel more stressed, and feel more like a total loser. Would they cause you to become bitter or better? I think for most of us, they would cause us to stress out and want to quit! It is the same way with our children. Yelling at them and insulting them from the sidelines steals any kind of joy that they may have in the game. The sport is no longer fun, but a dreaded event, where they are forced to endure their parents’ constant criticisms.

We as parents need to change the way that we “encourage” our children from the sidelines. We need to put ourselves in their place and think about how we would feel if the roles were reversed. We need to set a good example for them and for the other parents around us. We need to encourage and not discourage by our comments and behavior.

I know that most of these critical parents were probably raised by critical parents and they may think to themselves, “Hey, I turned out alright! My parents criticized me all of my life and look at me now! Those criticisms made me who I am today!” These things may be true, but can you imagine what they would have become if their parents had been Elephant Parents instead of Bulldog Parents?!

One more thing I would like to say about criticism and then I will get back to my homeschooling, laundry, dishes, and sticky floors. Please don’t criticize your child’s coach. They may be the worst coach in the world, have no idea what they are doing, show up late for practices, and be a horrible communicator, but at least they volunteered! I hear so many parents making negative comments about the VOLUNTEER coaches and when I suggest to them that they should coach, I receive a myriad of excuses as to why they can’t, “I work third shift, I have too many kids in soccer, or I just can’t commit to one more thing.” That is fine, I totally get it. I am not coaching because we have 5 girls playing soccer and I am barely hanging on some days! I may not like our girls’ coaches, or agree with their practicing schedules, or coaching methods, but I keep that to myself, because at least they are there. At least this parent or those parents took the time out of their crazy to coach my child. They should be commended for that, not gossiped about on the sidelines.

There is my soap box about critical parents and criticizing. I pray that we would do a better job out on the field and that I will hear more encouragement and less criticism. I love this quote by Charles Schwab:

“I have yet to find the man, however exalted his station, who did not do better work and put forth greater effort under a spirit of approval than under a spirit of criticism.”

Let’s live our lives as encouragers rather than critics and let’s be Elephant Parents rather than Bulldog Parents.

 

 

 

It’s Been a Rough Few Weeks…

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“Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.”
‭‭Philippians‬ ‭2:3-4‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

“Let no one seek his own, but each one the other’s well-being.”
‭‭I Corinthians‬ ‭10:24‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

“And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave— just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.””
‭‭Matthew‬ ‭20:27-28‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

What ever possessed me to allow all 5 of our kids to play soccer at the same time? Maybe I was temporarily insane when I signed them all up? I thought it would be sweet watching our almost 5 year old kicking the ball on the field. What I wasn’t prepared for was the crying, the inability to find soccer socks, the drama from other kids who spit in my child’s face, or don’t listen to their parents and are little undisciplined brats. I wasn’t prepared for multiple games, all at the same time, whining children who don’t want to sit through yet another practice watching their sisters kick the ball, and children who want to visit every port-a-potty at every field during every game! How much pee can one bladder hold?!

I think I had some vision of everyone loving me, of cheering, when having to get up at 7 a.m. on a Saturday for games, and of thanking me profusely for allowing them this opportunity to play soccer. I was seriously disillusioned, and now I can’t go back. I can’t start over. I am stuck with my choice.

Added to our crazy schedule are the attitudes of myself and our children, which have been truly ghastly of late. No one seems to have a kind word to say to one another. Everyone is overreacting to minuscule, inconsequential things. I have been feeling overwhelmed and discouraged. Feeling like I am having to repent more and more each day. I dislike myself for feeling the way that I do, for not being thankful, for grumbling, and complaining. I know that the fruit doesn’t fall far from the tree, and lately I have been a grumpy, tired, overwhelmed, bitter, and angry tree, which is producing the same kind of fruit.

Another thing that has bothered me of late is having to miss so many get togethers, birthday parties, time with friends, and field trips, all due to soccer practices and games. Life is about sacrifice, and many times we don’t enjoy making those sacrifices. We don’t enjoy giving up our wants, our time, and our schedule for somebody else’s.

But when I look at the life of Jesus and what He taught, this is what we, as followers of Christ, were called to do. His life was not His own. Why should we believe that our life belongs to us? He laid down his life for us and taught us to serve, not to be served. Why should we think that our lives should be any different? So in all of the hard, the ugly crying, the yelling, the frustration, the repentance, that I have been doing these past few weeks, God has been showing me what it means to sacrifice. And teaching me that He wants me to be poured out for our girls, to die to myself, to find life in the dying. This isn’t easy. I wish that I could say that it was, but honestly it is a day by day, moment by moment, battle. My flesh vs the Spirit or God. My wants vs. God’s desires. My “Where are my Mary Janes?” (This is a quote from the movie, “The Family Man,” starring Nicolas Cage. He wants to buy a really expensive suit and points out that his daughter was allowed to buy a $20 pair of shoes. He doesn’t understand why he can’t purchase the suit he wants, when she was allowed to get new shoes. So he says, “What about me? Where are my Mary Janes?”)  vs. putting others before myself and joyfully doing so. That is the true evidence of God working in my life, doing these things with joy. Self sacrifice with joy. Listening to one more complaint about dinner with joy. That kind of joy only comes from the Holy Spirit and if I am not spending time with Jesus, in my Bible, and in prayer, I cannot expect to have a joy-filled response to anyone.

A close friend of mine once said, “If you want to know how selfish you are, get married and if you want to know how REALLY selfish you are, have children.” Over the years, I have seen ever more clearly, how true her statement is. I have also realized that the more I die, to myself, my wants, my needs, and put others first, the less having to do so, bothers me. It is when I get my focus off of Christ and off of His mercy, grace, and sacrifice for me and put my eyes on myself, that this “woe is me” attitude develops and I become resentful and bitter at my lot in life, instead of thankful and blessed by what God has done and is doing in it!

 

 

Mom Tanks…

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I recently read a book entitled, “How to Really Love Your Child” by Dr. Ross Campbell. In this book Dr. Campbell talks about making sure that our children’s love tanks are full. These tanks are filled by spending time with our children, telling them that we love and appreciate them, and encouraging them in life. Dr. Campbell hypothesizes that if our children’s love tanks are full, then they are less likely to act out in negative ways, in order to get our attention.

I struggle, as a mom of 5, to have one-on-one time with our girls each day, in order to keep their love tanks full and help them to know that I value them. If you are anything like me, making meals, cleaning, homeschooling, kids’ sports, laundry, and drama control and consume most of your time. When I come to the end of the day, I usually just want to read a book or watch a show on television and relax.

What I am coming to realize is that I have a mom tank that needs to be filled as well!  I get so caught up in taking care of everyone else that I don’t take time for myself. When my mom tank is on empty, I am frustrated, easily irritated, and unkind.

How do we fill up our mom tanks, you may wonder? The most important thing we need to do to fill up our mom tanks is to spend time with God! If I am not spending time reading God’s Word, meditating upon it, applying it to my life, praying, and being still before Him, I am a wreck! I am a wreck as a mom, as a wife, and as a friend. I am this way, because I have nothing to pour out to others when I haven’t taken the time to be filled myself! It is God who fills my mom tank. It is God who gives me the ability to clean up one more spill, wipe another bottom, do another load of laundry, and respond in kindness when my daughter loses it over not getting her way, again. I can’t do this mom thing alone, I actually can’t do it at all; without divine intervention on a daily basis!

Some other ways to fill our mom tanks are by spending one-on-one time with other mom friends, going out for coffee, getting a pedicure, getting a haircut, going out with a group or friends, taking a trip by yourself to visit friends or just to regroup, and even grocery shopping by yourself. These things can bring much needed laughter, rest, and joy back to your life!

There is something about being with other moms and being able to share your burdens that comforts you and makes you laugh. There is something about being able to hear how other moms are struggling too, that makes you feel connected, makes you feel like you are not alone on the journey. It is a blessing to be able to glean wisdom from mothers who have older children and have been through the season that you are in. It is equally a blessing to be able to share your heart and stories with another mom who is currently in the season that you have been through. The Bible says that we are to “…encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” 1 Thessalonians‬ ‭5:11‬ ‭NIV‬‬

We need to take time out of our busy schedules to be with other moms and to encourage eachother. We need to take time to make sure our mom tanks are full in order to fill up the love tanks of our family members. So spend some time in God’s Word and prayer each day and schedule some time to spend with your mom friends! Get your mom tanks filled, so you can pour that love out to your family and to all of those people around you!

My Personal Testimony…

 

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My husband and I have been attending Membership Class at our church and part of this class involves writing our testimony of how we came to believe and follow Jesus Christ. All of us who are Christians have a personal testimony, but not all of us have ever actually taken the time to write it out. If you are anything like me, you forget the details of what led you to Christ. You forget what God has brought you from and what He has brought you to. It was a blessing to be able to remember God’s faithfulness to me. The Bible says that, “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.” John 6:44. Looking back, I could see how God had been drawing me to Himself. He uses circumstances, people, trials, and other things to help us come to know Him. I wanted to share my testimony with all of you in this blog post, and I encourage you to write down your own testimony as well. You should, “…always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear;” 1 Peter 3:15, I should too. Having to do this, to write all of this down, has really helped me and encouraged me to see God’s faithfulness and love. I pray that it does the same for you.

My Testimony

I grew up in a home where we believed in God, but we didn’t go to church or practice those beliefs. I was baptized as a baby in the Catholic Church, because that was what my mom was brought up to do, but we never went to church on Sundays and didn’t pray for meals. As far as I remember, the only time that we prayed was when something bad had happened or when I prayed a prayer that I had on a little plaque on my wall. The plaque had a little child kneeling next to their bed and read:

“Now I lay me, down to sleep,
I pray the Lord, my soul to keep,
If I should die, before I wake,
I pray the Lord, my soul to take.”

I didn’t understand what this meant, but I prayed it anyway, because I thought that it was a good thing to do. In 1987, when I was 12 years old, a horrible thing happened, that God used to help draw me to Himself. My brother was shot and killed by being in the wrong place at the wrong time during a drug deal gone bad. Up until this point, I had not been close to anyone who had died and I didn’t really think about death. When we went to his open casket funeral, I touched my brother’s face, feeling how cold his skin was. It was an eerie experience to see my dead brother, all made up to look like he was still alive, to feel how cold he was, and to know that he was not there. This was the first time that I truly thought, “What happens after you die?” After Bobby’s funeral, I thought about death and cried a lot because I thought that once you died there was nothing, just blackness, just the end. I was so grieved that my brother Bobby was in darkness now, in nothingness. This tragedy was the beginning of my search for God. God uses people and events in our lives to draw us to Himself. Before Bobby’s death, I remember a woman named Donna, who watched me after school until my mom got off work, giving me a Bible and inviting me to church with her and her family. I went with her a few times to church but other than that, I really didn’t have a lot of exposure to God. When I look back, I see how God was trying to help me to know Him, through my child care lady, my plaque on my wall, and my brother’s death, but it would be a long time before all of it sunk in.

I grew up in a single parent home. I saw my dad every other weekend and due to not having him around, sought attention from boys. I was always seeking to be liked by different boys and didn’t realize that the love I was missing was Christ’s love. In high school, my junior year, I met a young man named Steve, who I really liked. He was a devout Christian and a very sweet guy. I really wanted him to like me so I started attending church things with him and pretending that I believed as he did. I learned during these times at church that there is life after death, that Christ died for my sins, and that through repenting and believing in the Lord Jesus Christ, I could be saved from hell and have eternal life with Him. I did believe in God and I did believe that Jesus was His Son, who died on the cross to take my punishment and was risen from the dead. I believed that God was in control and that repentance, asking for forgiveness for my sins and turning away from sin, as well as accepting Christ’s sacrifice and free gift of salvation and asking Him to be in control of my life; to be the Lord and Savior of my life, was what I needed to do. The Bible says in Acts 16:31, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved.” I did believe that this was true, but I wanted to drink alcohol and I wanted to party with my friends. I wanted to live in both worlds, to go to church and be a good Christian with Steve and also to have “fun” and party with my friends. In 1 John 2:15-17, the Bible says, “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world – the desires of the flesh, and the desires of the eyes, and the pride in possessions – is not from the Father, but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.” I didn’t want to do God’s will at that time and I was in love with the world. I didn’t realize at this time how empty loving the world and the things of it, truly is. I thought that if I followed Jesus fully, I wouldn’t be able to have fun. Fun, at this time in my life, meant, going to parties, drinking, dancing, and doing whatever I wanted to do. I was deceived and didn’t see that, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is death.” Proverbs 14:12. I was on the path leading to death and eternal separation from God, but at that time, I didn’t see this. I just saw all of my friends partying and laughing and wanted to be with them. I didn’t realize that Christians had a great deal of fun, and that their fun didn’t come with vomiting from consuming too much alcohol, or regret from doing things I shouldn’t have done when I was drunk. In the end, I lied to Steve about who I was and eventually we broke up. I was trying to be something that I wasn’t.

That was a really hard break up for me and I started to realize that the only person who could fill the void in my life, the void of wanting to be loved, the void of wanting to have a dad around, the void of wanting to be liked by my friends, was Christ. I struggled with wanting to give my life wholly to God and wanting to be worldly for the rest of my teen years. Then while I was in college, a friend invited me to a College/Career Bible Study in Seal Beach, CA. When I went there, I could sense God’s presence! The leader of the group, Wayne Goranson, spoke about how I needed to fully commit my life to Christ. How I couldn’t live in two worlds. He said, “Do you not know, that friendship with the world, is enmity with God? Therefore, whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself and enemy of God. Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, ‘He yearns jealously over the spirit that He has made to dwell in us?’ But He gives more grace. Therefore, it says, ‘God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.’ Submit yourselves to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.” James 4:4-8. I realized that I had been loving the world and that this made me an enemy of God. I realized that I needed to resist the devil, who had been trying to deceive me and make me think that Christians were boring and the world was exciting and fun. I realized that I needed to repent from my sins, believe in Jesus to help me live my life the way that He wanted me to, and that I needed to receive Him as my personal Lord and Savior, and so I did. I asked Jesus to save me and to be in charge of my life! I continued to attend this college study every week and continued to grow in my faith in Jesus Christ. Wayne spoke about how, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Romans 3:23. He shared that “God shows His love for us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8. He explained that, “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life, in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 6:23. He told me that, “If you confess with your mouth, that Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” Romans 10:9 and that “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord, will be saved.” Romans 10:13 I loved verses like these and I continued to read God’s Word and study it as much as I could. I went to different Bible studies throughout the week and heard amazing pastors like Jon Courson, Chuck Smith, Joey Buran, and others who explained the Bible and made it come alive to me! I was eventually baptized in 1995 and my life has never been the same since.

Following this life changing decision, the Lord took away my desire to seek approval from men, my desire to party and drink, and my desire to seek to please people. Instead, He gave me peace, peace in who He created me to be, peace in resting in Him, peace that He is in total control of everything, so I don’t need to be, peace in new godly friendships and relationships, and peace in knowing that all I need is Him. He blessed me to be able to be a missionary for 3 years in Romania working with orphanage children, he blessed me with an amazing, godly, loving, kind, generous, hilarious husband, and He blessed me with 5 awesome daughters! He has always taken care of me and my family. Life has not always been easy, I have had two friends die of cancer and had to watch them go through this horrendous disease, we have moved to new places in our marriage 4 times, and I have not known anyone and needed to start over making new friends and finding a new church in each new place, I had three babies at home, after having two c-sections and was sent letters telling me that my baby was going to die if I didn’t have her in the hospital, and many other struggles, but He has enabled me to have His peace and joy in all of them. Jesus, is my strength, my song, my Redeemer, and my best friend, and I can’t imagine living life without Him!

Why Do We Lie?

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This is a picture I took last Friday when I was lying on the floor, homeschooling our girls because I couldn’t walk without being in serious pain. It’s my grin and bear it face! 

“Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.”
‭‭James‬ ‭5:16‬ ‭NKJV‬

“Therefore comfort each other and edify one another, just as you also are doing.”
‭‭I Thessalonians‬ ‭5:11‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

“And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.”
‭‭Hebrews‬ ‭10:24-25‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

I have been in a lot of pain lately, due to a back/sciatica issue. I spent a few days last week unable to move and homeschooled my children while lying on my back, one of those days. It was really hard and I cried a lot. More from the fact that I felt totally useless and guilty for not being able to contribute to my family, than from the pain. I ended up finally giving in last Sunday and going to the ER, because I couldn’t take living life from the ground and needed relief from my pain. Those of you who know me, know that I am not a fan of doctors, and I rarely visit them, unless absolutely necessary.

When I was finally called back into the hospital, after waiting in the lobby for 3 1/2 hours, the doctor on staff asked me what I did? I explained to him that I have what I like to call, “Over 40 Syndrome” and that I had no idea how I hurt myself. When you turn 40 it feels like your body starts to abandon you. Parts of yourself that functioned quite wonderfully before, decide to go on strike at various times when you are reaching for a toy that your child left in the middle of the living room, or when you turn in bed to grab a tissue off of your night stand. My point is, once you reach your 40’s things don’t always run as smoothly as they used to. I was given a steroid shot to decrease the inflammation and oral steroids as well as pain medication. I do not like to be on any type of pharmaceutical medicine so I was not a happy camper to say the least. I only took the pain meds at night before bed to help me sleep and weaned myself off of them quickly and then took the 6 days of oral steroids. I am moving now, but I am still in pain, and it is annoying. I am learning to deal with it, but of course I would rather be pain free, and I would rather be able to get back into my workout routine, that I was enjoying on a fairly consistent schedule, before I was struck down with my syndrome’s nasty side effects.

I write all of this to say, that today at church when people asked me, “How are you doing?” Do you know what I said? I said, “Good. How are you?” And do you know what everyone I talked to said? They said, “Great!” or “Good!’ Do you think that all of those people were doing well? I certainly don’t. I actually probed one friend of ours who told us initially that he was doing great. I asked him, “So everything is running smoothly at work and home?” He proceeded to tell me that life was crazy and that things were stressful. Now why didn’t he just say that in the first place? Then I started thinking about all of the times that I tell others that I am good, or great, when really I am struggling and hurting either physically or emotionally. I started to wonder, “What if we all just told people the truth? What if we didn’t lie? What if when I asked someone how they were doing, they actually explained what was going on and I could pray with them.?”

Here is the thing, we all struggle. We all have hard things that we are walking through, and yet we pretend that we don’t. And I understand that we don’t want to air our dirty laundry out to someone we are meeting for the first time at church, but what if we did? What if we were real with everyone about what we are struggling with and we could pray for and encourage one another, without fear of gossip, or fear of judgement? The people that I LOVE to hang around the most, are the ones who are REAL! They are the ones who share their failures, who tell me about their struggles, who don’t try to put on this mask of perfection. Don’t you love real people and real conversations about real life issues? I’m not talking about those conversations about some deal you got on jeans, or what new restaurant you tried and loved. I’m talking about conversations where you say, “Hey, how are you really? What are you struggling with? What’s God been showing you? How can I pray for you?” Those are my all time favorite kinds of conversations!

Those types of conversations only happen when we decide to stop putting on our own masks, and when we choose to share real things about ourselves. When we are authentic, it will breed authenticity in others. So let’s stop lying. We shouldn’t do that anyway as followers of Christ, because lying is a sin. Yet, every Sunday at church there are many people who are lying to one another and not showing their true selves. Let’s stop this and let’s be real with one another. Let’s ask people things like, “How are you really doing?” “What are you struggling with in your life?” or a really great question, “How can I pray for you?” Then stop right then, and pray with that person. Let’s stop the lies and start being real. I don’t think that real change will happen in ourselves or in others until we do.

Dying to My Flesh…

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“For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find.”
‭‭Romans‬ ‭7:18‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

“‘Call to Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know.’”
‭‭Jeremiah‬ ‭33:3‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

“I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.”
‭‭Galatians‬ ‭5:16-26‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

I have been struggling a great deal with my flesh lately. I used to think that I was a very kind, loving, and giving person…but since I have had children, I have learned that I am none of those things. God give us children to refine us, to show us areas that need work in our hearts, to show us what is inside of our hearts, and to show us what needs to change in our lives. For most of my Christian life, I have been trying to change myself and do things in my own strength. I have been trying to be patient, loving, long-suffering, and faithful. What I have learned is that those qualities are not in me, they are not in my flesh. I am not naturally inclined to be any of those things. It is only Christ in me that allows me to be the things He wants me to be.

So instead of striving and trying my hardest in my human efforts to be kind to my daughter who just broke our light, or just spilled juice all over the floor, or just got blood on my new comforter because she had to pick her scab (it was itchy), I am learning to cry out to God in that moment and ask Him to help me. I am learning to pray, “Lord, I am so angry and frustrated right now, because I feel like our girls are destroying our house. I really want to lash out in anger and spank them. Please help me to be kind, have grace, and respond in love to this situation,” instead of yelling at my child and complaining that they break everything!

It is a moment, by moment, incident by incident choice that I have to make. React in the flesh, which is my natural inclination, or cry out to God for help, and ask Him to be love, kindness, gentleness, and self-control in me; ask Him to help me to love and represent Him well.

I am done with myself. I’m tired of freaking out over stupid things, that truly don’t matter. Our girls left their socks all over the floor, they didn’t clean up the kitchen, and they are jumping on the furniture like it’s a trampoline! I don’t want to lose my temper over these things, because that isn’t how Christ wants me to react! The things they are doing are not that horrible, and I will just feel sad and guilty afterwards for overreacting.

Here is something else I’m learning, most of the time when I get frustrated with our girls it’s because they are infringing on my time, on what I want to get done, on my agenda for the day. I’m not frustrated over the condition of their hearts or seeking to help them to see their heart condition and repent. I’m frustrated because we are going to be late for church and all because she can’t find the socks she likes. She has 40 pairs of socks, but only ONE pair will fit her. Since she can’t find that pair, her life is ruined, she is crying on the floor, and yelling at everyone in frustration who seeks to offer her an alternative to the “Sunday Morning Sock Crisis!!” I get enraged, not because she is being selfish, unkind, and stubborn, but because I just want to get out the door and I have to deal with this same drama AGAIN! What I should do is stop and pray. I should invite God into this situation and seek His wisdom as to what to do. I should hold my daughter’s hand and pray for the Lord to help her, because this Sock Crisis is currently ruining her life! When I do seek God, when I do die to myself, when I do seek His council, He is faithful and He always calms me down, calms my daughter down, and provides a solution. When I don’t ask for His help, I start yelling and venting my frustrations about how we always have to go through this, how last time she wore the socks that I am offering her and they were perfectly fine, and how I can’t believe it is THIS hard to pick out a pair of STINKING SOCKS!

I am learning to choose to stop and pray, to invite God into my mess. He is already there, willing and waiting to help. I just need to ask Him and seek Him, instead of allowing my flesh to take over and go on a rampage! It isn’t easy to do. In those moments when everything seems to be falling apart, everyone seems to hate each other, the mood of my house feels very depressing, irritating, and angry; in those times, it is easy to complain and vent my frustrations to our girls, but that just makes things worse. When I stop and gather everyone around to pray, the whole mood of our household shifts and the dark cloud lifts. I may have to pray multiple times a day or multiple times an hour, but that is where my power lies. That is where all of our power lies, in Christ, the only One who can bring true peace to the situation and the only One who can change our hearts and the hearts of our children. So the next time your child does something, like clog the toilet with an entire roll of toilet paper, or slam a door in anger when asked to go to their room, or spill an entire bowl of cereal and milk all over the floor, stop and pray! Before you talk to them, before you lose it, before you say things you will later regret, stop and pray!! Ask God to help you, to be the grace that you need for this moment, to be kindness and love for this child, to give you the words to speak. Pray and pray some more, and keep on praying! You will be amazed at what God can and will do, when you seek Him first!

Pay-it-Forward and Reverse it…

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I am loving the snow here! It isn’t fun to shovel, but beautiful to look at and play in! God is blessing us with the gift of snow and beauty! 

I have heard stories of people paying for other people’s meals at drive-thru windows of fast food restaurants. A kind person tells the McDonald’s crew member that they would like to pay for their own food and also for the food of the person behind them. Then the person in the car who received the gift of a free meal is supposed to pay for the meal of the vehicle behind them. I read an article about a McDonald’s in Indiana who continued a pay-it-forward drive-thru chain 167 times! It was Father’s Day in 2017 and one woman saw a dad behind her with four children and decided to pay for the man’s food as a way to bless him and wish him a Happy Father’s Day. Well that man was so touched by her generosity that he paid for the food of a few cars behind him and it just kept going and going 167 times!!

Things like that amaze me, because it only takes one person. One person being kind, doing a kind deed, giving of their time, talents, or money, can have a tremendous impact on so many other people! I love that!!

I have never paid-it-forward in my 43 years of life and now that I think about this fact, it saddens me. I truly had not thought of paying-it-forward until something happened to my family and I after church at a restaurant a few weeks ago. We were having a sweet time together, eating lunch, and making about 4 trips to the bathroom. I have 5 children and when we go to any restaurant, someone has to pee at least 2-5 times. I have learned that it is best to order a salad when dining with young children, because then your frequent flyer bathroom card getting punched multiple times does not cause your food to become cold. Well, at this particular meal everyone had been great! There had been no whining or drama! It was a wonderful, fun, time! Toward the end of the meal, our youngest eventually got tired of sitting and wanted to leave, but I was still finishing up my salad, due to the bathroom trips. So my husband and 3 of our girls went out to our van while I stayed behind with my mom and our older girls to finish and pay.

After receiving the check, and giving our waitress our bank card to pay for it, she walked away to finalize our payment. About a minute later, she returned and told me that someone had paid for our meal! I couldn’t believe it!! Our waitress pointed out who it was and I tried to say thank you, but the generous woman was covering her face and not wanting recognition, so I stopped trying to show her our appreciation. I got a little teary-eyed and sat there at the table and said, “Wow, thank you Lord! That was so awesome!!”

I then proceeded to give our waitress a generous tip, because I had more money now that I didn’t have to pay for our meal and we stayed there a little longer waiting for my mom’s slice of pie to take home. As we waited for the pie, about two minutes later, another waitress walked up to us and said that there had been a mistake. She informed us that the woman had intended to pay for the meal of the table directly behind our table and not our meal. She then handed me back the check and apologized!

At first I was a little bummed, because the pay-it-forward had been reversed, but then I started thinking about this lady and how generous she was being to pay for another family’s meal. Though I wasn’t the recipient of her generosity, it made me think of how great it would be to be able to do what she had done for another family.

After this experience, I got in our van, explained the events that had unfolded to my husband, and talked to my him about how wonderful it would be to save up money so that when we are at a restaurant or drive-thru, we could pay-it-forward for someone else.

At our house, we have different envelopes that we use to save up for things. We have a Christmas envelope, a homeschooling envelope, an entertainment envelope, a birthdays envelope, etc. We try to save a little money in these envelopes each month so that we have it available when a need comes up. When we arrived at home that afternoon, I made a new envelope marked “Blessings.” We want to use it to save up money to be able to do what that kind woman in the restaurant did. Though it wasn’t for us, that experience taught me a lesson in generosity and made me aware of a way that I could bless other families, like that women did! It also made me aware that when someone does that for you, you should not stick around to get a slice of pie, but leave immediately. That way when the restaurant learns of its mistake, you have already left with a free meal! I’m totally joking!! I teased my mom about that though! “We would have gotten away with it too, if you had not gotten your pie!” So the moral of this tale of paying-it-forward and reversing it, is to be generous and do kind things for others. You may end up starting a ripple effect and blessing more that just one person at a drive-thru or restaurant!

“In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”
‭‭Acts‬ ‭20:35‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Article sited:

Foxnews.com, June 22, 2017

Missing my Mom…

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“just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.””
‭‭Matthew‬ ‭20:28‬ ‭NKJV‬‬
“But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.”
‭‭Ephesians‬ ‭2:4-7‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

My mom flew home to California this past Thursday and I already miss her. She usually comes and stays with us twice a year for two to three months at a time and when she leaves it takes our family a few weeks to readjust to her absense. I have been kind of woebegone (sad or miserable in appearance, I love learning new words and need to use this more in conversations. “You look rather woebegone today, sister!” 😊) the past few days because our house seems like it is missing something without her.

I keep trying to convince her to move here, but when I look at our forecast of 14 degrees for the low and her forecast of 77 degrees and sunny, I understand why she wants to stay in California! My mom is an amazing woman and I don’t think that I fully realized that until I was a mother myself! I didn’t understand how much she sacrificed for me and how hard she worked to take care of me as a single mom. She may have felt guilty while I was growing up, because she couldn’t be home when I got home from school and she couldn’t make me homemade meals, but had to resort to fast food or Hamburger Helper more times than she would have liked. She has no reason to feel this way, because she did the best that she could with the hand that she was dealt. I wasn’t the sweetest child, actually I was a spoiled brat at times, and didn’t show my mom the love and respect that she deserved; especially in my teenage years, but she loved me and kept on loving me through it all!

I am blessed to be able to stay home with our girls and blessed that they have an amazing dad who comes home every night, works hard to support us, loves us, makes us laugh, and cherishes the time we have together as a family. I’m so thankful for that and I get teary-eyed when I think about it at times, because God is so good and He has blessed our girls so much by giving them a wonderful dad, who is here with them and is my partner in raising them!

He has also blessed our girls with my mom! She is the most amazing grandmother to them and they love her so very much! There are a myriad of reasons why our girls are so close to my mom, but one of the main ones is that she invests time in their lives. She writes them, calls them, and comes to see them. When she is here, she colors with them, plays games with them, laughs with them, listens to their stories, reads to them, watches movies with them, and dances with them! If the Lord tarries and allows me to have grandchildren someday, I pray that I am just like my mom!

If you have grandchildren, please take time to invest in their lives. They don’t need presents sent in the mail. Those are sweet and thoughtful of you to send, but what they really want and need is time spent with you! They want to get to know you and who you are; what you were like when you were their age. They want to color with you, listen to you read them a story, and laugh with you. They want to bake cookies with you or eat massive amounts of teaas-n-cheese (what we call corn tortillas with cheddar cheese, fried in oil. These are my mom’s specialty!) They want your presence over presents.

I know someday my mom will go home to be with Jesus, I know that she will be deeply missed, and I know that I will be a wreck and so will our girls. We will grieve and it will be excruciating, because we are so close to her and she has been such a huge part of our lives! That is how I want to be with our girls and their families. I want to attend our grandchildren’s soccer games and have them spend weekends with us, if we live close to them. But if we don’t, I want to do whatever I can to visit them and know them. I want them to dance with me, laugh with me, and eat the cookies we bake together! I want to be like G-ma Claudia. I hope you do too! ❤️

Tourists or Soldiers…

”Therefore, since Christ suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same mind, for he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, that he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh for the lusts of men, but for the will of God. For we have spent enough of our past lifetime in doing the will of the Gentiles—when we walked in lewdness, lusts, drunkenness, revelries, drinking parties, and abominable idolatries. In regard to these, they think it strange that you do not run with them in the same flood of dissipation, speaking evil of you. They will give an account to Him who is ready to judge the living and the dead.”
‭‭I Peter‬ ‭4:1-5‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

This past Sunday, our pastor preached a sermon on 1 Peter 4:1-6. It was a very convicting sermon in many ways, but the thing that stuck with me the most was when he explained that most Christians live life like they are tourists. Tourists want the best of everything, they want to relax and take it easy, and they want to be treated like someone special. In reality though, as believers, he shared, we are supposed to live as soldiers, because that is what Christ called us to be!

“You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier.”
‭‭II Timothy‬ ‭2:3-4‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

We don’t like to think this way. We like to choose the easy road, not the road with hardship and suffering. We do not see trials as blessings, or sufferings as things to rejoice over. I know personally that I fear praying things like “Lord Jesus do whatever it takes to refine me, to make me more like you! Whatever it takes to help me to die to myself, that others will only see You in me!” I’m afraid to pray that because I’m afraid of what God will allow into my life, if I do! I’m fearful of the trials that will come in order to break my stubbornness and my selfishness!

But then I think, “Do you believe that God is good?” “Do you believe that God wants what is best for you?” “Do you believe that He is in total control of everything?” “Do you believe that He is sovereign, has numbered your days, and knows what you need before you even think it?” And in my mind, I answer, “Yes, Lord, I believe all of those things!” But in my actions, in my thoughts, in the way I worry about silly things, I show my unbelief, and how much I still need to learn.

My flesh wants the easy way. My flesh wants to sit on a beach in the Caribbean, sipping a Virgin Pina Coloda, whilst eating Natural White Cheddar Cheese Puffs (which are on sale right now at Kroger for 2 for $5!!), and reading a book while soaking up the sunshine and listening to the ocean waves dance onto the shore.  This is what my flesh wants, but God’s Spirit in me wants me to reach out to those around me, to minister to the poor and needy, to share my testimony with others, to have people over for dinner, to pray with and for people, to be bold with my faith, to trust Him wholeheartedly, to not be afraid to pray for God to make me more like Him! He wants me to die to myself so that He is what people see when they look at me.

I don’t want to live a relaxing life where my greatest accomplishment is being comfortable and lazy. I want to be a good soldier for Christ. When Christ sees me in Heaven, I want Him to say:

“Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.’”
‭‭Matthew‬ ‭25:23‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

The longer I live, the more and more I observe Christian tourists and not Christian soldiers fighting the good fight of faith. Satan wants us to be content with our comfortable, easy lives, because then we are ineffective. We spend our days with other tourists, enjoying our dinners together, seeing new sights, talking about our clothes, houses, jobs, vacations, etc. We avoid serving anyone but ourselves and our selfish interests. We do not make advancements for the kingdom of God because that might lead to hardship, to suffering, and to having to deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow Christ. I am saying this to myself as well as to you who are reading this. Let’s stop being tourists and start fighting this spiritual battle that is raging around us for the souls of our friends, our neighbors, the checker at the grocery store, the woman next to you at the soccer field, the man at the bank. There are lost people everywhere, what are we doing to bring the light of God’s Word to them? How are we having an impact on their lives, if we look and act like all of the other Christian tourists? The days are only going to get worse, the persecution of us as believers is only going to increase. Will we fight against it, or will we sit in the audience and watch, like tourists at a Broadway show in New York? We only get one life. We need to redeem the time God gives us and stop seeking the easy road!

Here is a clip of part of a teaching by Frances Chan about taking the easy road; about being a tourist. Let us not end up like this when we stand before God in Heaven: