Video The Gift That Changed My Life

I have decided to follow Jesus.

That is the gift that changed my life when I was a child.  A gift in the form of a baby born in the town of Bethlehem. A gift that was freely given, not by man, but by God.  A gift that I decided to accept and receive when I was 12 years old.

I even marked that day in my Bible:  October 23, 1988.  I didn’t want to ever forget the day I gave my life to Jesus.  I didn’t want to forget the day that I chose to accept this gift from God.

Making a decision to follow Christ was easy as a child.  I grew up with parents and grandparents who raised me in a Christian home.  I knew God loved me and I knew that Jesus died for my sins so that everyone who believed in Him would live forever with Him in heaven. I went to church, read my Bible, prayed, went to church camp, was a devout member of my youth group, and loved God with everything I had.

Little did I know that on that day in October of 1988, God would be calling me to live a life of complete surrender, a life of radical obedience, a life devoted to Him, a life where my eyes are focused on Him, a life where I have to let go of control, a life of ulitmate trust in Him, a life committed to serving Him by sharing Jesus with others, a life of putting the cross before me and the world behind me.

Would I change my mind if I knew all that back then?

No way.

As a 39-year old woman who has seen happiness and heartache, I would NOT choose to live my life any other way. Jesus is my everything.  He is enough for me.

As we celebrate the birth of Christ, I pray that you will accept the gift of Jesus; that you will give your life to Him.  I pray that you will surrender everything to Him; that you will give up all that you hold so tightly.  Christ is all you need.  May you realize that the only gift you need this Christmas comes wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.

 

This song “Christ is Enough” by Hillsong is one of my favorites.  I know it’s not a Christmas song, but it reminded me tonight of the gift God gave us in Jesus.  It reminded me of the day I decided to accept this gift and follow Jesus.  May you give your life to Jesus and know that He will richly bless those who follow Him.

Let Go of the Guilt: A Spiritual Game Plan for Working Moms

“You’re going to another meeting again, Mom?  Why do you always have to go to the church?  I wish you weren’t the Children’s Minister so you could stay with us.”

Those words cut deep.  They went straight to the core of my heart and cut it open.  And in flooded the feelings of guilt.  The guilt of being a working mom.

If any of you women out there work outside the home, then I’m sure at one point or another you have experienced the guilt that comes with being a working mom.  And we all know that the guilt is real.  So real that sometimes we just want to quit our jobs and love on our babies all the time.

Being a working mom has not been an easy road, either.  Working full-time, raising 2 girls, being a wife to a wonderful husband, keeping up with laundry, housework, school work, soccer practices and games, gymnastics, and the many other duties of a mom is overwhelming at times.  Sometimes I just want to blow the whistle and call for a time out.  I need a breather.  I need a minute to rest, to reassess my game plan, for the coach to encourage me, to get focused and not be bogged down with all the million details that encompass my life as a working mom. Some days we get that break and other days we don’t.  But we keep working and providing for our family, even when those feelings of guilt hit us hard.

So how can working moms be rid of that terrible guilt that likes to lurk inside our hearts?

Here is a Spiritual Game Plan for the next time those guilty feelings hit:

Spiritual Game Plan for Working Moms

  1. Start the day with Jesus          As soon as you rise, think about Jesus.  Praise Him.  Then get ready, grab your coffee and your Bible and start your day with Him.  Spend time in His Word.  Be still.  Listen.  Pray.  Enjoy being in His Presence.

  2. Seek wisdom from the Lord          As a parent, we need to seek wisdom from the Lord.  We cannot do this parenting thing on our own.  We need God to provide us with wisdom so we can know how to handle each moment in our lives.  And we know that God will give it to us because it says in James 1:5:  “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.”  Don’t pass up the wisdom God freely provides!

  3. Stay focused on your family when at home          Leave your work at the office.  I know this is a hard one, especially if you work at a church.  But somehow, find a way to keep your family the center of your attention when you are at home.  Help them with their homework.  Watch a tv show with them.  Go outside and play with them.  Let them help you cook supper.  Listen to them.  Just be the mom who is present with them when you’re at home.

  4. Have family devotion time          We started a family devotion time this school year with our kids.  As we sit around the dinner table, we do a devotion together.  I picked out a family devotional from a Christian bookstore and we read it while we are eating.  It asks questions for the kids to answer, provides Scripture, a short devotion, and prayer time.  I am amazed at the good conversations we have with our kids about God while we eat dinner.  Talking with your children about God is so important and what a better a time to do it then we you are all eating dinner.

  5. Go to church as a family          My mother always said that Sundays are a day for us to go to church and worship God.  We were always there unless we were out of town or one of us was sick.  Unfortunately, in today’s world, there are many activities that keep us from making church a priority.  I understand the pull of the world because I am a parent with kids who are involved in sports.  I know it’s hard, but I believe that church is important for my family and the spiritual health of all of us.  We all need to be a part of the body of Christ.

  6. Pray with your kids          Carve out a time or two in your day to pray with your kids.  Talk with them about what is going on in their lives.  Ask them what they need prayer for.  I always pray with my kids in the car on our way to school and then at bedtime as I tuck them in.  And let me tell you, if I forget, then one of them is quick to remind me.  Prayer time can be a special moment you share with your children.

  7. Remember your kids will always love you, whether you work or not             There will be moments in your life when your kids will make you feel guilty for working.  They will be sad you aren’t there for their game or practice or aren’t home when they go to bed.  But, those are brief moments.  Your kids will not harbor any ill feelings toward you for missing one of their important activities.  They will forget all about it by the next day.  They are going to love you no matter what because you are their mom.

Being a working mom is tough.  You love your family so much and feel torn between your job and staying at home with them.  I encourage you to let go of those guilty feelings.  Know that you are a good mother.  Know that your husband and kids love you. Stick to the spiritual game plan.  Remember that God is your guide and He loves you very much.  Put your total trust in Him.  God will never leave you.

Let go of that working mom guilt.  Replace it with the assurance and peace of God’s eternal love for you.  Remember to ask God to:
“Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.”   Psalm 25:5

 

Losing My Cool With My Kids

Being a parent is the hardest job I have ever done.  Straight up, the hardest.  Forget all the craziness of ministry life.  Parenting trumps all jobs.  Hands down.

I strive to be the best parent ever.  I work so hard to make sure my kids are provided for, that they are cared for, and most importantly, that they know they are loved.  But what I’m finding out is that it’s very difficult to achieve this honor.  I’m not even close to any “Mom of the Year” award.  I can forget hanging that plaque on my wall.

I’m not a perfect parent.  I don’t know how to handle every situation that is thrown at me.  I don’t always give the best advice to my girls. I worry too much about them.  I find it hard to keep my cool at times.  And that’s why sometimes I think I’m a bad parent.  And I don’t want to be.  I want to be a good parent, but I have this fear that I’m being a bad one.

In Jen Hatmaker’s book, For the Love, she says:

“I heard recently, ‘If you are worried about being a bad parent, you are probably a good one.'”

That is so true.  I don’t think I’m alone in feeling like I’m a bad parent.  I believe there are many of you out there that feel the same way.  And I want to let you know that I’m with you and we are going to get through this fear and our way of thinking that we are bad parents.

Each post I write this month will focus on a reason why we think we are bad parents.  The list is long, people, so let’s kick it off with one that I know we all do:

YELL AT OUR KIDS!

If you say you don’t yell at your kids, then I know you’re not telling the truth!

All parents yell at their kids, for one reason or another.  And most of the time we end up regretting it and feeling guilty about it because it was for the dumbest reason ever.  We lose our cool and we snap.  It’s hard to remain calm at some moments in our parenting career.

I am going to be open and honest and share with you one of my “losing my cool” moments.  So…don’t judge me.

If you ever want to see me yell at my children then just come to my house in the early morning when it’s time to wake them up for school.  Nothing drives me crazy more than people who won’t get out of the bed!

I’m an early morning person.  When the alarm clock goes off I am up.  The shower helps to wake me and then I get ready.  I am a pretty happy person in the morning….that is, until it’s time to get my kids out of bed.

Every morning I am happy when I walk up those stairs to their bedrooms.  I turn on the lights and in my most cheery voice say:  “Rise and shine pretty girls!”  (All you non-morning people are hating me right about now).  I give them all hugs while their eyes are still closed and that’s usually met with grumpy groans and screams.  Sometimes I might even dance and sing, which is usually followed by loud yells from them to stop it.  I very kindly tell them to get up and do their morning routine. Then I walk back downstairs and continue getting ready.

I give them a grace period…usually 10 minutes then I yell again to get up.  After another 5 minutes…another yell.  And then, if they still aren’t up then that’s when I snap completely.  I scream and yell and tell them they won’t earn their ice cream for the week (yes, i do bribe my kids).  It’s not pretty, people.  If my sweet neighbors aren’t up yet, then they probably are now because of all the yelling.

We get out the door and into the car and that’s when the guilt slaps me in the face.  I feel terrible about yelling at them about waking up and getting ready.  It’s stupid.  I feel silly.  That’s when I have to apologize.  I know I can handle their inability to rise out of their beds in a timely manner in a better way somehow.  And then we pray in the car and we all agree to start the day over.  (And amazingly we make it to school on time every day…which I believe is by the grace of God).

Do you remember your parents yelling at you when you were a kid?

I’ll preface this by saying, I asked my mom if she was ok with me writing about this moment.  And she said yes.  It’s our big family joke now and we all think it’s a great story of love and forgiveness.

One moment that sticks out for me happened when I was in the 2nd grade.  At school we made pilgrim boys and girls out of construction paper.  They were so cute with their pilgrim hats and collars.  They were even displayed at the art show at the mall (why don’t they do those anymore?).  After the art show, my pilgrim girl came home, she became the centerpiece on our kitchen table for the month of November.

And then one night, that pilgrim girl saw her demise.

While we sat around the table at dinner, I accidentally spilled my milk.  And that’s when I saw my mom snap.  It was scary.  She yelled at me so loud and then she grabbed my pilgrim girl.  I stared at her with eyes full of tears and screamed for my pilgrim girl.  But my mom had already lost her cool and she ripped my pilgrim girl into tiny pieces.  I was devastated, to say the least.

A little while later, my mom came to me with tears in her eyes and apologized for what she did.  She said she just had a bad day and snapped when the milk was spilled.   It was like the final straw in a day of stress and craziness.  She was so very sorry and wanted to help me make another pilgrim girl.  I forgave her and we hugged.  Then together we re-created that beautiful pilgrim girl, which still sits on my mom’s kitchen table at Thanksgiving every year.  And we all joke about that story.

When I was talking to my mom the other day about this, I asked her if she remembered what happened that night to make her snap. She couldn’t remember, but obviously said it had been a rough day for her.  If you know my mom, then you know how kind-hearted and sweet she is.  Not a crazy mom.

But what I told her the other day, is that I understood NOW how she must have felt that night.

No one knows what it’s like to be a parent until you are a parent.

As a child, I couldn’t comprehend why me spilling milk would make my mom yell and scream like that.  I had no idea why…until I became a parent.

Does yelling at my kids make me a bad parent?

Not at all.

Will my kids think that I’m a bad parent when I yell at them?

I don’t think so.

Just the other night I asked my girls if they remembered times when I yelled at them.  They both said ” in the mornings”, and we all laughed.  No ill feelings toward me for those crazy morning yellings.

We all must realize that there will be times in our parenting lives when we will have to yell.  But sometimes they will be for the dumbest reasons ever.  Don’t beat yourself up over those moments.  Don’t feel like you are the worst parent ever.  Know that those moments are going to happen and remember and be thankful that there is a God who forgives us.  And children that forgive us, too.

One way to work on those “crazy parent” moments, is by remembering Scripture.  Here are some helpful Scriptures for you:

“Do not be quick to anger, for anger lodges in the bosom of fools”  Ecclesiastes 7:9

How many times do we feel like fools after letting harsh, loud words spew from our mouths toward our children?

“Do not let the sun go down on your anger.”   Ephesians 4:26

Go to your children and ask for forgiveness after your moment of craziness.  Do this before you go to bed.

 

 “And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you.”  Ephesians 4:32

This is what I pray over my girls every morning, that they be kind to everyone.  Even in those scary, yelling parent moments, may we remember this verse and be kind (and firm if needed) to our kids.  And may we forgive each other, too.

Colossians 4:6“Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer everyone.”  Colossians 4:6

 Now isn’t this an important one to remember in those brief moments before you snap?  I needed to hear that one!

Parenting is labor-intensive.  It’s hard work.  It’s tiring.  It’s crazy.  But we are not bad parents if we yell.

And remember…

“If we worry about being a bad parent, then that probably means we are a good one.”  -Jen Hatmaker

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Squirrel!

One of my favorite Disney movies is Up.  You know, the one with the grumpy old man, Mr. Fredrickson, who goes on an incredible journey to visit Paradise Falls.  He ends up taking this journey with Russell, a Junior Wilderness Explorer, who simply would not go away.

Their adventures bring them to meet a talking dog named Dug.  Dug is your typical dog and loves to run, fetch, jump, and obey his master (although he can talk and of course that is not typical). However, Dug is easily distracted from his tasks by those eye-catching squirrels. No matter what he’s doing, if he sees a squirrel he immediately forgets everything and dashes off to chase it.  The squirrels are seen as a fun game to him. With no thought needed, he trades in his small task for a quick game of squirrel chasing.  What dog wouldn’t want to chase those animals?

Do you find that you are easily distracted from spending time in God’s Word?

I will be honest and say that I sure am!

Just this morning, distractions came flying out of every direction.  I woke up at my usual time and got ready, but never made it to my quiet time with God.  The first distraction came when I walked into the kitchen and saw a light on.  My youngest daughter (8 years old) was awake and sitting in my writing room on the sofa, reading a book. Why is this a distraction for me?  Well, it was 6:15 am and she is the child that I am usually dragging out of bed at the last minute to get ready for school.  She wanted to finish reading her book so she could take an AR test today so that she could meet her AR goal by Friday.

She was sitting in my spot reading her book.

My spot…

My spot…

My spot…

Can you tell I’m a creature of habit?

But, instead of telling her to get out of my spot so I could read the Bible, I let her sit there and read.  I mean, the child was up reading a book at the crack of dawn so there’s no way I’m going to make her stop just so I can have “my spot” where I normally spend with God. So, I got my Bible, devotionals, and journal off the shelf and walked out.

Those things only made it as far as the kitchen where I left them on the counter when I remembered something else.  The washing machine had just stopped and I needed to put the clothes into the dryer.  Yes, I wash clothes at 5:30 in the morning, especially when I need to wash my sheets because my mom and cousin are coming today to stay a few nights and they need clean sheets to sleep on.  I wanted to get them washed and dried before I left the house this morning so I made sure to pay attention to when the washer went off.

When that was finished, I went back to the kitchen and opened my Bible.  I started reading a chapter in Proverbs.  However, I didn’t get very far when I glanced up and the dishwasher caught my eye.  Oh yeah, I forgot the dishes were clean and I needed to unload them before I left the house.  I forgot to do it last night and I hate when they just sit there all clean in the dishwasher.  I like things put away.  So, I left my Bible open and moved over to unload those clean dishes.

I finished that and started to move back to my open Bible when I looked over at the clock on the stove.  6:30 am.  It was time to wake up my oldest daughter.  So, I take off up the stairs to conquer the task of trying to wake a sleeping child. (Never a fun task in my household.  Glad it’s only one today and not two!)

When that was finished, I came back to the kitchen, read a verse, and then remembered something else:  I need to make sure my bedroom and bathroom are clean since I’ve got visitors coming today.  So, I quickly walk in there and begin picking up clothes and shoes and tidying up the bathroom sink area.

By this time, it’s 7:00 am and we need to eat breakfast and get out the door.  No time for God this morning.

And just like that, my morning time with God had vanished.

Gone.

All because I saw several squirrels of distraction and began chasing after them.

Do you know who loves distractions more than anything?

Satan.

He is the one who LOVES to distract you.  He throws those squirrels at you because he knows you will go chasing after them.  He makes them look appealing, like you must do it right then or else you won’t remember.  He will do absolutely anything to keep you from spending time with God.  That’s his job.  That’s what he thrives off doing.  He is evil and does not like God and does not want any of God’s children spending time with Him.  He is one big, sneaky squirrel.  And I don’t like him.  AT ALL.

How do we keep Satan from distracting us?

We must pray.

Pray for a strong mind     Satan attacks your thoughts more often that you think.  Ask God to give you a strong mind so you can resist Satan when he strikes and wants to distract you.  Ask God to help you in giving every thought to Him.  Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 10:5

captive thoughts

We desire to be obedient to God, so we must commit to giving each and every thought over to God.  Let Christ rule your mind and thoughts, and not Satan.

Pray for a renewed mind    When we feel Satan attacking and distracting us, ask God to renew and transform your mind so that you can stand up against Satan, and so you can know and understand the will of God.  A helpful Scripture to pray is Romans 12:2:

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Pray for focus     Ask God to keep you from getting led astray, but to remain focused on Him.  Paul was afraid that the Corinthians would be easily distracted and he wrote this to them in 2 Corinthians 11:3

But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ.

Don’t you want to have a sincere and pure devotion to Christ?

Then prepare yourself by praying.  Make sure you are ready for the distractions that Satan sends your way.  Preparing your mind and thoughts for this battle is necessary.  Don’t let Satan easily take you away from the Lord.  When Satan sends those squirrels in, get out your broom and swat them away.  Send those squirrels away from you so that you can focus on THE one and only thing that desires your attention:

The Lord.