on raising world changers

Her little heart is soft.  So very, very soft.  And it’s not because of me, that I know for certain.  I can only surmise it has happened because God is walking next to her, whispering into her heart, and she’s choosing to listen.

Because when we listen…really listen…the voice grows louder.

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Last night we were driving the few quick miles to the small mountain church where 5 of our children will be taking part in a Christmas pageant.  Earlier, my husband and I had escaped with just the baby for a rare date that consisted of shopping for some simple gifts to slip under the tree.  We arrived home just in time to gather the children and usher them over to practice.  In a teasing mood as he so often is, my husband made mention of the presents we had spent the day purchasing when her sweet voice piped up, “You didn’t need to get us presents.  We could use that money to send to people who don’t have much.  There are even people who don’t have water they can use.”

We live on a modest budget and extras are typically only handed out on gift-giving occasions.  I know that and I know she knows that.  And yet she feels compelled to go without because she already has plenty.  The reality of her plenty is speaking louder than the desire for that new dress she asked for.

And she’s listening, so she hears.

Sometimes I am so humbled by these children He’s given me to raise that I plain forget He’s using them to raise me.  To show me the simplicity of simply doing the next right thing.

Because we don’t need to do great, big things.  We just need to do everyday small things with a great, big God.

Small things like she did the other day when she read and re-read a Christmas card we had received.  It certainly wasn’t the only one we’ve gotten and I had no clue why she was so drawn to it.  Even when she shyly came to me later with a letter she had written to the sender of that card and asked if she could have a stamp to mail it, I didn’t understand.  And after her little envelope had been secured with the proper postage and I saw her grab her coat and a flashlight, I still didn’t get it.

She was determined to get that letter in the mailbox, now.  That very night.   Not about to let her make the trip, in the dark, all the way down to the end of our driveway on her own, I joined her on the porch and she slipped her hand in mine.  Happy.  Because she was about His work and Mama was in on it with her.

And that’s when it hit me.  She’d heard Him again.  It wasn’t about the letter, or the stamp or the dark.  It was about obedience.  It was about changing her own little world one small action at a time.  That’s what it’s always about.

That’s what it’s only about.

I’m wondering now how many times I’ve rushed my kids passed true obedience because it didn’t look the way I wanted it to.  Maybe it was inconvenient or time consuming when I felt I had no time.  He’s working to grow me so He can use me to grow them.

And then, sometimes He grows them in spite of me.

Because I’m not raising world changers.  He is.  And He does it one next right thing at a time.

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because fear

becausefear

 

I’ll be honest.  My human nature–my natural tendency–is to worry.  And if I run out of things to worry about (as if!) just give me a minute…I’ll dream something up.  Yet I know it’s not only a waste of time but it’s also flat wrong.

Because you see, it truly is a human tendency to worry over that which we feel bound by responsibility to control.  By the grace of God, we’ve been equipped with a desire to provide for the basic needs of ourselves and our families.  And that’s a good thing.  A very, very good thing–but under one condition:  We must never lose sight of the fact that we can only protect and provide for those things He enables us to.  Anything and everything we accomplish is purely and simply because He allowed us to.

It’s a collaboration of our human will being willing to persevere with His infinite wisdom tempering our efforts for our very best good.  We certainly play a part but only because that’s how He designed it.

The wrongness of worry isn’t with the fear itself but what we do with that fear when faced with it.  Our response makes all the difference.  Take a quick drive through the sludge of current events and you’ll find yourself tempted to park where your thoughts are constantly feeding the meter of anxiety.

Consider it, instead, a no parking zone.  You have no business hanging out there and neither do I.

 

Ebola can’t take anything from me that He can’t redeem.

The enterovirus has no power of its own.  The body can become sick even while the spirit is gaining in strength.

The president–even of the United States–cannot take down a people or a nation unless it’s all part of the greater plan.

Terrorists cannot force us to succumb to terror unless we open the door and allow them in.  They can destroy buildings and shorten the days of our temporal lives but they cannot keep us from Jesus.

 

I’m inclined to believe satan (am I the only one who has trouble capitalizing the first letter of his name?) is in panic mode.  If we can sense and urgency and shortness of time, surely he can.  He seems to be working furiously to abduct as many souls as possible and his greatest and most effective weapon is fear.  If he can immobilize us and paralyze us and confuse us, he can control our minds and distract our hearts.

Our defense is simple:  Don’t be still long enough for him to capture you.

Matthew 6:25-34 tells us exactly where our focus should be and it isn’t on the preservation of this life.  It’s all about the next life.  The better life.  The life that will make all the trials, temptations and tears we face here fade away.

But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.  Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.         {Matt. 6:33-34 KJV}

Our focus should be on Him.  On eternity.  As we move through this life, we can and should do what we’re capable of to maintain health and well-being.  We’re to use the wisdom He imparts to us as we care for our families.  We ought to be taking measures to safeguard against illness and disease but even more so against moral and spiritual decay.  It’s insanity to battle a virus or bacteria with fear and trembling while giving little thought to what is going into our minds or those of our children.  THAT should have us shaking in our boots.

One of my very favorite quotations I’ve ever come across was one I found just this week.

“He gives most who gives with joy.  If in your work (for me, that’s motherhood) you have difficulties accept them with joy, with a big smile.  The best way to show your gratitude to God and people is to accept everything with joy.”

You know what I love about it so much?  That it gives me something practical to do.  Give with joy.  Accept with joy.  Show gratitude with joy.  Because a life well-lived is one lived with Jesus and with joy.

Purpose to show your children joy today.  Dig deep until you find it.  Hit your knees and ask Him for it.  Seek it out and share it well.  Do not live with a spirit of fear.  You’re only stealing your own joy and that of your family while denying God entrance to your heart.  Embrace each moment.  Savor the beautiful people you’ve been given.  Do not sit over them in fear you may lose them…determine to extract the joy from every moment you’re granted with them.

No more excuses.  No more validating your anxiety by saying it’s just your genetic makeup.  No more wasting today by worrying over tomorrow.

Smile–and seek Jesus with me.

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because making home beautiful matters…a $50 giveaway

As many of you know, we are currently between homes.  Drifters.  Gypsies.  A well-loved “homeless” family.  But once upon a time, I was a modern-day homemaker with walls to decorate and shelves to fill and cupboards to stock.  Lord willing, one day soon we will find the home He has waiting for us and I will once again take up my favorite role.

In the meantime, I’m learning many lessons and unlearning many bad habits such as lack of patience, selfish desire, wanting my way (and wanting it now!!) among others.  I do so hope and pray I’m a quick learner.

A few weeks before the move that led to the last move (if you’re confused, don’t worry…so are we) I was contacted by a sweetheart from WiseDecor.  She asked if I’d be willing to review their product and then share it with my readers.  I was more than happy to oblige, having no idea what was just over the horizon.  The poor lady doubtless regrets ever contacting me as I’ve been nothing but a headache and my review is months late.  But I will say this…

The products this company produces are top-rate!  And they WILL be gracing the walls of my soon-to-be-by-the-grace-of-God-home.

The following are some samples from the website:

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The customer service is terrific.  The design options are seemingly endless.  The quality is impeccable.  The finished products are gorgeous!!  And no, she didn’t bribe me to say so.  She simply waited patiently for me to get around to sharing the truth.  Here are a few more samples…

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And now WiseDecor is offering a $50 credit to the randomly generated winner of the giveaway you’ll find below.  Just click to enter…no catch and no gimmicks.

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let me tell you a story about a very stubborn woman (that would be me!)

stubborn

I haven’t had much to say around here lately.  I’d like to claim it’s because I’ve been otherwise occupied, but it would be a lie.  Actually, maybe it wouldn’t.  I have been fully occupied by bitterness.

I’ll start at the beginning.  Don’t worry, I’ll edit so it doesn’t get too long.

We moved about 3 1/2 months ago into a house just a town over from the Walton’s Mountain home.  The house wasn’t aesthetically pleasing but it was on a well, could be heated by wood and sat on 15 acres.  This added up to a huge savings in utility expense and a great outdoor space for our active kiddos.

Only we quickly learned the well water was a wreck.  It stunk (let me be clear, it still stinks!!), tasted horrible and discolored our belongings.  It was a dream come true.  I know, I know.  Sarcasm-liness is not next to godliness.  It’s something I’ve been begging the Lord to help me work on.

We asked the landlord if something might be done about the water situation.  We were (and still are) having to buy bottled water for drinking and cooking purposes.  And apparently our children are a very rare, pale and skinny breed of water buffalo.  Who knew?  The expense was adding up.

The landlord came by with a sandwich baggie and collected a sample from the sink.  She assured me while she was there, that she believed the water to be just fine and that all it likely needed was bleach poured into the well.  This is called a shock.  Believe me, I was shocked.

After two weeks and no word on the sample, we called and asked about it.  She wouldn’t disclose the findings but instructed that we needed to shock the well.  We have our flaws but we’re generally obedient and so we did.

The stink changed to a different kind of stink and our belongings weren’t being as badly discolored.  However, our kids started getting a rash when exposed to the water for more than a few minutes.  This, by the way, is an excellent excuse for a child looking to get out of doing kitchen duty or looking to avoid bathing. We have children of both kinds.

However, being slow to connect the dots between the bleach and the rashes, we shocked the well again two weeks later after being instructed to do so, since the effects of the first had worn off.  I believe I failed to mention that each shock process leaves us without water for 24 hours or more.  I don’t have to tell you how much fun that is with 9 people living here.

Anyway, after the second time we finally made the connection to the bleach being added to the well causing the rashes.  I’m not even going to lie…I was pretty much livid.  I’d struggled through 3 months of dealing with gross water that we weren’t warned about and now this?

Skipping over some details that would bring no glory to God, I’ll just say we received a very unfavorable response to our written request for something to be done about the undisclosed water situation or for our rent to be adjusted to make provision for the additional expense and hardship of dealing with it .  Things swiftly spun out of control as the landlord became more volatile by the day and within little more than a week we were informed we were being evicted

We were being evicted for asking for clean, usable water in our rental house.  Unbelievable.

After our attempts to talk through our differences was met with flat denial, we finally contracted legal counsel in order to protect ourselves from an unjust lawsuit.  That meeting was on Monday of this week.  We’d been beaten (figuratively speaking), badgered, bullied and threatened.  We were exhausted, stressed and angry.

Did I mention we were angry?  Because we were.  But that brings me to this morning.

I woke around 4 am, just before my husband had to leave for his shift at the station.  We’d been dealt another blow last night and we’d had enough.  After talking briefly and saying goodbye, I sat down to my Bible study.  Comfortable with the knowledge that in just a few hours we were contacting our attorney to let her know we would not be caving to the landlord’s demands and that we’d be filing a countersuit if she chose to pursue it, I opened my Bible.

As God would have it, though it wasn’t in the study plan for today, I read 1 Peter 3:9.

Not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise blessing; knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing. (KJV)

I began to waver.  Was it possible we were wrong?

We weren’t wrong about the water, of that I was certain.  Whether it was considered a health hazard or not, it was not clean or usable and that is a basic right of a tenant.  At the very least we had the right to be warned of those conditions before being bound by a lease.  What could we be wrong about?

Determined to assure myself of our rightness, I dared to type into the google search bar the following:  is it ever right for a Christian to sue?

And up popped good ol’ John Piper with a video, not just on lawsuits, but offering an example of people who had bought a house with undisclosed issues.  I’m not even terribly familiar with Piper but I nearly cried watching the video because it was so very much like God was speaking directly to me.  Wait a minute, let me rephrase that.  God was speaking to me as He lead my morning study into areas I hadn’t intended.  And I felt Him asking, “Why aren’t you willing to be wronged?”

My husband called when he reached work and we talked about it. He agreed that we needed to proceed as Christ would have us rather than as our emotions were beginning to lead.

We will not be having this go through the courts.  We will pack our belongings and move all 9 plus 1 of us out of here.  We will leave the house in excellent, better than we found it condition.  We won’t stand and fight for a home that can’t meet our needs anyway.  We surrender.  We’re over here waving the white flag.  Not because we’re weak but because He is strong.

He’s strong enough to find us a new home and provide us with the money we need to secure it.  He’s strong enough to help us through a separation as the children and I likely head to another state to stay with family as my husband remains here for work.  He’s strong enough to get me through the rest of this pregnancy even under such circumstances.

But mostly, He’s strong enough to use this situation to work for good in the life of a woman who may not know Him.  And He’s strong enough to help us walk away, pride in check and heads held high as we extend forgiveness and trust that He has a plan.  A really, really good one.

This is the prayer I wrote in my journal this morning.  I share in case any of you are needing to be emptied of pride or bitterness.

Dear Lord,

I am a prideful, sinful woman.  I am filled with a bitterness I don’t even recognize.  I anger easily and want my way.  Subdue me.  Save me from myself.  Give me a desire to be more, better.  Equip me with a heart for that which is right and empty me of this darkness that has me chasing down my rights.  Help me learn to be willing to be wronged and teach me to be able to return evil with kindness.  Thank you for not discarding me, as I do others when I can’t find the good in them.  Amen.

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probably we should be bored a little more often

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Don’t worry, I’m not going to thump you over the head with all the reasons you should get rid of (or use drastically less of) the television, computer, iPod, iPad, iPhone, etc.  Okay, so maybe I am.  A little.

I’m not anti-electronics and I’m not going to climb onto my roof and start screaming about the evils of technology.  Because technology is not inherently evil.  It would be ridiculous for me to pretend I thought it was considering I’m tapping out this post on my laptop and will publish it through an electronic transmission at the touch of a button.  Pretty cool, if you ask me.

That said, abuse of any kind is not good and we, as a society, absolutely and totally abuse technology.  Period. The end.

Well, it’s not really the end, I guess, because I’m just getting started.

I’m going to be honest and to be honest, I’d have to admit that sometimes honesty isn’t my favorite thing.  Like when I’m having to rat myself out.  Like I’m about to do.  Here goes.

In our home we have 2 laptops, 1 desktop, 5 iPad minis, 1 iPad, 2 iPods and 3 cell phones.  Oy, I think I need a minute after throwing that out there.  Even I think that sounds ridiculous.  In my defense, however:

  • The iPad mini’s were gifted to our 5 oldest children as a means to enhance their homeschool experience.  They are able to download books and other learning tools using this electronic resource.
  • The iPad (of regular size) belongs to my hard-working husband who uses it for his schooling.  He’s a career firefighter but he’s also working toward his Fire Science degree.
  • The desktop is my husband’s and it actually doesn’t really work too well.
  • One of the laptops belongs to me and the other belongs to our oldest son who uses it for his online academy.
  • The iPods were gifts several years ago from doting grandparents because our teenagers had not yet been permitted to have phones.   It was a nice compromise.
  • The cell phones belong to my husband, myself and our oldest, who is nearing 17.

Now that I’ve so nicely defended myself allow me to throw myself under the bus.  There is no question that electronics abuse is an ongoing struggle in our home.  No matter what the intended use of each one of those gadgets mentioned might have been, there is temptation lying right outside the realm of intended use.  Lots and lots of temptation.

Here are some guidelines we are implementing:

  • No electronics between the hours of 9am and 3:30pm, which are our school hours.
  • If schoolwork is completed before 3:30pm, as it is for many of the children, you still may not use the electronics.
  • If you are bored during the hours of the electronics ban, find something creative to do.  Read, craft, climb a tree, ride a bike, make a fort, be a kid.
  • Electronics are to be shut down at 9pm if you are one of the children still up at that hour.  This does NOT mean we will expect or allow their faces to be glued to the screen between the hours of 3:30-9pm.  Moderation.
  • All electronics are to be placed on the office desk for overnight storage.

Frankly, I’d love for my kids not to own a single device.  If we could go back, we’d do things differently.  But since the horse is already out of the gate, we’ve decided the best path is to train them (and ourselves) to practice self-control.  One day they will be on their own with full access to all the technology they want.  We want them to be prepared for that onslaught so we’re walking this path with them while they are yet in the fold.

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When I think back on my own childhood, I remember scraped knees and dirty fingernails.  I have fond memories of my favorite doll and my make-believe family, of which I was the matriarch.  I remember playing ball and riding bikes and laughing.

But mostly I remember that I didn’t spend time staring at a screen.

My imagination was fully engaged and if I lacked for something to play, I could always find something to read.  That is what I want for my kids.  For them to know how to work hard, play well and live life.

I want them to know reality from the photoshopped lies and glossed-over deceptions fed to them from most every online portal.  I want them to know boredom so they can hear that sweet voice of Jesus that often calls in a whisper.

And for the record, that’s exactly what I want for myself, too!  How about you?

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Join me on Thursday when I’ll share the online and social media parameters we have for our children at various ages.

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lessons from my ‘ugly’ house

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The day was sunny and bright.  Just the thing after a long, snow-filled winter and a disastrous move from one home to another.  I stretched myself out in the hammock my husband had taken the time to so carefully string between two trees for me.  Closing my eyes I found my mind filled with the past few months.

And even more than the warm sunshine on my face, I felt shame.

I had met with trials in the previous weeks and, lying there under that blue sky, I realized just how miserably I had failed.  Shame and remorse coursed through me.

I shifted in the hammock so I could see the place from which the happy voices of my children floated in the air as they played in the field.  The field adjacent to the house I didn’t want to be living in.  The house with wood floors that needed to be refinished, the dining room that had once been a carport and the great room that just never managed to feel great to me.  And don’t even get me started on the iron-laced water.  Truly, you don’t want to get me started on that.  The rental house we had moved into in an effort to save money was draining us in more ways than could be counted in dollars and cents.

Oh, how I’ve hated this house.  And oh, how that hatred has seeped into every corner of my life without my realizing it.

I felt hot tears sting my eyes and roll down my cheeks as the full impact of my attitude hit me.

A house is just walls. Bricks and mortar erected to offer shelter from the seasons.  Houses don’t define us and we do ourselves an injustice to allow them to dictate our joy.  Ask me how I know.

I looked around me again and saw some of the kids playing ball while a few others jumped on the trampoline.  I had watched just the day before as my littlest boys chattered excitedly to each other as they explored the edge of the woods lining the 15 acre property.  I saw happiness in those sweet faces.  I saw an eagerness to accept this new adventure with wide open arms rather than a critic’s eye.

I saw Jesus walking through that field waiting for me to realize He’s right here.  Not in that house or those woods, but in this moment.  Every moment.  Even the ones we wish away.

I didn’t leave my swinging oasis that day in love with my house.  But I did leave in love with my life.  Again.

I don’t know what season of life you are in.  I don’t know what you’re struggling with or how difficult it is to capture the contentment He is calling you to.  What I do know is this:  Jesus is there.  Right there with you.  And that, my friends, is the only thing that really matters!

 

Note:  I am fully aware that my battle with contentment in regards to my new home sounds ridiculous compared to the struggles many face daily.  I am not trying to compare my situation to one that is truly serious.  But no matter what, or where we find ourselves, the answer is the same.  Jesus.

 

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