I need them. They need me. We need Jesus.​

The world tells me that I am entitled to my emotions and how they play out as long as I don’t hurt anyone else.

I sat in my room. Anger and frustration piled high behind an avalanche of unkind thoughts. Even in this heated moment, The Lord revealed the lie feeding my emotions. God does not invite me to linger in sinful self-pity.

My focus must be on honoring the Lord in difficult moments rather than indulging in an emotional release. But how? How do I move from frustrated and angry toward worshipful thanksgiving and praise? How do I move from dutiful obedience to heart-driven joyful action?

I pulled out my journal and started writing.

Why God? Why is it so hard? Why is it so difficult to parent? To teach? To reach? I’m trying, but I just keep hitting this same wall. I can’t seem to break through this barrier.

As I wrote out my thoughts, my heart started to soften. I remembered the day we adopted each one of our children. I remembered the day we realized how God had crafted each one individually and that each one would face their own specific challenges in working out their faith and growing up. I thanked God.

Thank you, Lord, for trusting my children to me. You could have given them to any family in this entire world, and you chose us. Why? I know I am weak. I am easily frustrated. Yet, you chose me. Maybe because you knew the very thing that might drive some others into resentment and tempt them to lash out would drop me to my knees. Maybe because you knew these kids needed these kinds of prayers. Maybe, because out of all the people in the entire world, you knew I needed them to sand off my rough edges and putting us together would sanctify us and stir us to pursue more of You. 

I need them, they need me, and we need Jesus.

difficult people

Just like that, the anger was gone. The avalanche of unkindness had melted into a river of love. It is impossible to stay angry with the person for whom you are praying.

Pray. Pray hard. Pray long. Pray faithfully until God changes YOUR heart. He will as He aligns it with His.


*Image by Ian Schneider. Used with permission. Unsplash.com 

Mean what you pray

Lord, cause my children’s actions to reflect the true state of their hearts so I know how to pray for them. Lord, open their eyes to their need for you. Cause them to grieve their sin and lead them to repentance. Lord, do whatever necessary to save them. Lord, give me patience and wisdom. Create in me an urgency to pray for my children. Do not let me fall into a slumber of false security.

Pray what you mean and mean what you pray

I meant these prayers. I meant every word. But I was in no way prepared for God’s answer. I wanted the victory without the conflict. I wanted parenthood to be a party when it’s actually a war. Raising children in the ways of the Lord is an all-in, no-holds-barred, the enemy-fights-dirty battle and eternity is at stake. Sometimes, even after suiting up in the armor, we get speared right through the heart.

raising children is an

Parenting gets HARD. Not every day. But some days. Sometimes days and days and days strung together. And you’ll have to decide what you’re going to do when God’s answers to your prayers don’t line up with your expectations.

“God’s answers frequently do not look at first like answers. They look like problems. They look like trouble. They look like loss, disappointment, affliction, conflict, sorrow, and increased selfishness. They cause deep soul wrestling and expose sins and doubts and fears. They are not what we expect, and we often do not see how they correspond to our prayers.” ~ Jon Bloom, The Unexpected Answers of God | Desiring God

Am I really ready for God to do whatever is necessary to save my child’s soul? That is a scary prayer – yet it is the one that matters more than many others that slip into its place. It matters more than health, more than physical protection, and more than happiness. It’s the kind of prayer that only God can answer. Only God can transform a heart of stone into a heart of repentance. Only God can put back together a heart broken by sin. But before the heart can be rebuilt, it has to be broken. Nothing grieves a parent more than watching her child break.

The urgency to pray for my children increases as I see the battle escalate in intensity. This too is an answered prayer. There is no false security as swords clash in the spiritual realm and the kingdom takes ground in my child’s heart.

“We can feel like we’re going backward because we are not clearly moving forward. We cry out in painful confusion and exasperation (Psalm 13:1; Job 30:20) when what’s really happening is that God is answering our prayers. We just expected the answer to look and feel different… With regard to God’s answers to prayer, expect the unexpected. Most of the greatest gifts and deepest joys that God gives us come wrapped in painful packages.” ~ Jon Bloom, The Unexpected Answers of God | Desiring God

So, tonight, I choose to praise the Lord for answered prayer. I choose to believe He is moving mightily, and as I fix my eyes on Him and redirect my child toward Him, He will have his way in our family and in our home.

I’m am praying with GREAT expectation.

 

*from the archives

Maybe I don’t have to parent perfectly

I remember when I thought my parents could do anything, and when my Dad was the strongest and smartest man alive. I remember when my mom’s word was law and how she never stopped moving, always cooking and cleaning. I grew up happy, safe, warm and loved. (That’s me on the far left.)

us as kids

Now, I’m a mom. I have kids that look at me with trusting eyes. They, like I did, believe that money grows on trees, the cupboards will always be full, and that they could never, ever, hurt my feelings.

Oh, the blissful ignorance of youth.

I’m not the strongest or the smartest. I struggle every day to gather the energy to wipe clean the messes, feed their bellies, and to smile through the tears as their sometimes hurtful words pierce my heart.

Just like my parents did.

I battle feelings of guilt, sure that I’m on the cusp of some irreparable mistake that will scar them for life. I work to exhaustion because there is never enough time, energy, or answers. I must lack what they need because, if I’m honest, I’ll admit that I have no idea what their real physical needs are. Not really.

Do they need to be homeschooled? Public schooled? Private schooled? Do they need more time with mom and dad? Less?

Do they need more social times with friends their age? More opportunities to shine outside the family unit?

Do they need firmer boundaries? Fewer boundaries? Consequences? Grace? I don’t know, and neither did my parents.

Maybe that’s okay.

Maybe it’s okay that this mom doesn’t have all the answers. Maybe what I really need is to spend more time praying, more time examining my own heart, actions, and choices. Maybe it’s less about what my kids are (or are not) doing, and more about how I am reacting to it. Maybe, what God is trying to teach me at this moment, is not how to be a better mom to my children, but how to be a more obedient and loving daughter to Him.

Maybe this season isn’t just about shaping them, but it’s also about shaping me.

My parents made mistakes. Their parents made mistakes. I’m going to make mistakes. But I serve a God who can take the ashes of my mistakes and create something beautiful.

 

*from the archives

Challenging Children

Parenting challenging children grows my compassion toward others parenting challenging children

If you parent a challenging child, you’ve likely smiled through unrequested advice, bit your tongue when publicly corrected, and pinched back tears against feelings of failure. You know what it means to give endlessly, sacrificially, and entirely to a child and STILL know your best efforts are inadequate.

This grows your compassion. You have less judgment and more patience than your pre-child self. You have less advice and more empathy. You offer less correction and more grace because you know how desperately you need to hear that grace spoken to you. You do not deceive yourself. You know you need the Lord to parent every day, and you shamelessly share this with other moms, praying they will also turn to Him for their strength.

You learn to celebrate the small victories and know they belong to the Lord

I am not up to the task of parenting a challenging child. Perhaps, that is exactly why God gifted me with one. Every milestone is a victory because that milestone once felt impossible. I’ve learned the important lesson that prayer doesn’t always change my circumstances or change my child, but it will always change me. I’ve accepted this struggle is just as much about my sanctification as it is about rearing my child in the ways of the Lord. I know God desires to do a work in me as I pray for His work in my child.

Slide1

There is a blessing inside the struggle.

There is a great blessing in the stripping off of independence and the putting on of dependence. Parenting a challenging child is a humbling reminder that all my talents and capabilities are nothing without God. Struggles turn my eyes toward Him, recognizing my complete dependence upon Him to do what only He can replace stubborn hearts with obedient ones—in my children and in me.

  • from the archives, May 12, 2016

Why parenting a challenging child is a blessing

Parenting challenging children grows my compassion toward others parenting challenging children

If you parent a challenging child, you’ve likely smiled through unrequested advice, bit your tongue when publicly corrected, and pinched back tears against feelings of failure. You know what it means to give endlessly, sacrificially, and entirely to a child and STILL know your best efforts are inadequate.

This grows your compassion. You have less judgment and more patience than your pre-child self. You have less advice and more empathy. You offer less correction and more grace because you know how desperately you need to hear that grace spoken to you. You do not deceive yourself. You know you need the Lord to parent every day, and you shamelessly share this with other moms, praying they will also turn to Him for their strength.

You learn to celebrate the small victories and know they belong to the Lord

I am not up to the task of parenting a challenging child. Perhaps, that is exactly why God gifted me with one. Every milestone is a victory because that milestone once felt impossible. I’ve learned the important lesson that prayer doesn’t always change my circumstances or change my child, but it will always change me. I’ve accepted this struggle is just as much about my sanctification as it is about rearing my child in the ways of the Lord. I know God desires to do a work in me as I pray for His work in my child.

Slide1

There is a blessing inside the struggle.

There is a great blessing in the stripping off of independence and the putting on of dependence. Parenting a challenging child is a humbling reminder that all my talents and capabilities are nothing without God. Struggles turn my eyes toward Him, recognizing my complete dependence upon Him to do what only He can replace stubborn hearts with obedient ones—in my children and in me.

 

A parent doesn’t get sick days

I’m on my third pot of soup.

This dry, raw throat craves salty chicken broth, and my pre-teen hasn’t yet mastered the soup cooking skill. So, I’m up, stirring soup.

I’m tempted to tuck myself back into bed and forget my responsibilities. I’m tempted to cozy up to Netflix and waste the day, popping pain pills. But, instead, I stir soup.

And the kids crawl out of bed and open their school books (we still homeschool when Mom’s sick). And my husband presses a kiss on my forehead and asks if I need anything else before he leaves. I need so much, but it has nothing to do with the pain in my throat.

I need to press pause. My little ones have become big kids. They no longer fit on my lap or tug at my skirt. They’ve grown into thoughtful children who work hard, play quietly, and try their very best to behave when their mamma is ill. I have husband who loves the Lord, who works hard to provide for his family, who spends his entire day off running the house so I can rest and still asks what more he can do to ease my load. I need to press pause and be thankful.

So, instead of feeling overwhelmed at the laundry, the dishes, the long grocery list, I’ll thank God for the gift wrapped in a raw throat. Because one day, I’ll wish for just one more day. One day, I’ll want to turn back the clock, I’ll wish I had taken a day to be fully present.

So today, I’ll cozy up to my pre-teen with a cup of hot soup and we’ll work the math together. I’ll whisper-read with Irish twins and cherish the slower paced day spent in our jammies. Maybe we’ll get that Netflix movie, but it won’t be me alone in the room. It’ll be us, piled high on the bed, cozy together.

I won’t wish away the gift that is today. The gift that slowed down a busy household to embrace the joy of just being together.

A Soft Word

“A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” Proverbs 15:1

We work hard to keep the tone in our home gentle and encouraging, even in the midst of discipline. God’s Word is truth and it applies to both our children and to us as parents.

But, it’s not easy. It’s not easy to keep a gentle tone when one squirms on the floor refusing to put on his shoes when the others are late for appointments. It’s not easy after the fifth warning to quiet down and go to sleep. It’s not easy in the midst of temper tantrums and tears.

But, who said parenting was easy?

So much is at stake.

Their whole outlook on life, how they grow up and treat others, how they relate to people in authority, and what they believe about God is shaped during these early years at home. There is too much at stake to miss the target.

Strength comes from God. He will give me what I need to parent in wisdom, gentleness and love. I know that. I believe it. What scares me, is that I also know myself – my tendency to move ahead of Him, to try it on my own strength first, to rush into my day full of my own plans, trying to control the outcome of, well, everything.

I cannot control the choices my children make. They are ultimately accountable to God. But, by the power of the Spirit, I can control how I speak to them, what I teach them, and the example I set. For this, I am accountable to God.

“Let your gentleness be evident to all. (Philippians 4:5a)”

*From the archives

Sleepy Smiles, Growling Anger, and Love

Such a beautiful day to end dark.

Sleepy smiles and warm hugs. Family prayer. Snacks and play. But like a cloud slipping over the sun, darkness creeps over little hearts. Gentle correction produces tempers and tears. The easy becomes hard.

Love is patient

Harsh words. Wounded hearts. Growling anger.

Love is kind

Love responds with another hug, even when little arms beat against my chest. Love softens the tone, even when my insides twist in frustration. Because Love never fails.

Never.

Love is patient with the crying child.

Love is kind amid the battle.

Love keeps no record of wrong.

Never.

Oh, how these children keep me humble. Driving me to me knees, where I meet Perfect Love.

And He meets me there, bent low, confessing my sins, my lack, my need.

He is patient. He is kind. He holds me tight, even when I beat against His chest in anger. He speaks truth into my soul. He sheds light into the darkest corners of my heart.

I yield, almost as begrudgingly as my child. Exhausted from the struggle. Ready to listen and repent. He threads His Spirit through me, and by His strength, I respond in love.

*from the archives

Always a student

My niece just moved in with our family. Here she is unpacking her life.

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She had dedicated the next year to her studies. She is spending the next year learning. Learning her craft. Preparing for the future.

When was the last time that I spent a huge block of time solely dedicated to learning? Learning what’s important? Preparing myself for eternity?

What am I learning?

Right here, right now God is teaching me about grace. I am learning about forgiveness. I am learning that things are not always black and white.

I’m learning I don’t need all the answers, I just need to trust God has them and that He’s got my back. That leads to my next lesson. I’m learning about trust.

I’m learning that motherhood is both the most important and hardest role I’ll ever have.  And that leads me back to grace.

Did I mention I am learning more about grace?

I’m learning I’m wrong far more than I like to admit. I’m learning that attitude counts for a lot. I’m learning more about the hugeness of my sin and the constant battle between my own sinful nature and the Holy Spirit.

I’m learning I have a lot to learn.

Just when I think I have a handle on it all, God peels back another layer and I see my smallness in contrast to His greatness with fresh eyes again.

I’m learning that I have barely scratched the surface of who God is and what His plan is for my life.

I’m learning even more about grace.

What are you learning?

365 Possibilities

100_1710A new year stretches before me. 365 days of opportunity. The blank page full of possibilities. Will this be the year my agent circulates my book among publishing houses? Will my one year contract with the MB Herald be renewed for another year? Will we install new windows in our drafty home?

God willing, it will be a year of hugs, kisses, smiles and laughter.

On days like this, as I ponder the joy of maybe, the awesome responsibility of the absolutes hit home.

I am blessed to have three soft and pliable souls under my care. I don’t wonder if I will mother this year – I know. But the catch is, these kids don’t really belong to me. They are on loan from God. And He really cares about how I raise His kids.

That thought overwhelms. My knees buckle. No knows better than I how unworthy and ill-equipped I am for this task.

God entrusts five additional children to me as their parents work. Five more souls shaped by my responses. My tone of voice. My ability extend grace and love.

My knees ache but I remain. Bowed at His feet. Confessing my need. My lack. Dependent on Him.

This year, this blank page waiting to be written doesn’t need a book, a contract, or windows to be a success. It won’t be limited to kisses, hugs and happiness. There will be tears.

But hopefully, when I sit here next year writing a post at the beginning of 2014, I will not think in terms of achievement. I will think in terms of relationship.  Am I closer to God? Do I trust Him more fully? Did I praise Him in the good and bad? Did my example illustrate to my children what it looks like to walk with Him?

You might remember my Thanksliving list – 1000 reasons to be thankful. This year my list is about possibilities. 365 positive choices I can make that God might use to change me or to change those around me. Today is the 3rd day of the year so we start with the top three:

  1. Instead of housework, I spent some time with my youngest playing trains. I pray this time together enforces how much I love him, cherish him and value these short but precious days.
  2. I responded with gentleness. I pray this is how my children remember their childhood. Gentle tones. Loving looks. Peaceful home. Patience. Fruit I desire for them.
  3. We turned off the T.V. and invented. Marble runs. Lego. Snow forts. Snacks. We engaged our imaginations where anything is possible. I pray for the energy to remain involved with my children in a joyful and encouraging way.100_1707100_1708100_1711