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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lessons from my ‘ugly’ house

lessons

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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Raising Daughters Who Are Worthy of a Good Man

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I’m raising five boys.  Three of them are already journeying through the teen years, but that part doesn’t scare me.  You know what does, though?

The fact that we’re inching ever nearer to the day they will be ready to consider marriage.

I’m not afraid of them marrying, exactly, but it’s a bit concerning when I look around and see a world full of young women who are terrifyingly bold and assertive.  Even more so, however, is the fact that girls are no longer being taught to respect themselves as the treasures they were created to be but are being encouraged to seek full and complete liberation from Biblical roles.

And this is not simply a “worldly” epidemic.  It is totally infiltrating the church from every corner.

I’m not impressed by the flesh-baring, egocentric, selfie-obsessed society I find myself raising children in.  Not impressed, yet it is my reality and it does me no good to sit and complain about what is or pining for what isn’t.  My time is much better spent helping my children navigate their way carefully toward what will be.

My hope and my prayer is that each of their will be’s include Jesus every step of the way.  Even the step that leads toward marriage, if one is in His respective plan for them.  But what kind of girl will be suited to walk beside my guys as they continue on in their faith experience?  As the mother of boys who is also raising girls, this is something I have thought about often.  Here are some critical components to their “princess” training we are striving for…

 

Join me over at Raising Homemakers for the rest of the article.

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week FOUR: r.y.b. fitness challenge

week4

The completion of this week marks the halfway point of our challenge.  I don’t know about you, but I find it exciting that we’re still plugging away!

In a strange, almost unrelated twist, my mind goes to Peter when I think of the challenges and failures many of us are facing as we work at hanging in there.  He set his heart fully on Jesus with the best of intentions but then things got hard.  He panicked and gave up.  It was no longer easy so he took the path of least resistance and denied his Christ.

But guess what?  When he heard that crow indicating his betrayal, his heart burned with guilt, shame and grief.  He could have laid down, a failure.  But he was made of better stuff than that, and so are you.

He picked himself up, repented, and recommitted himself.  And he was once again good enough, by the grace of God.

The same goes for us, friends.  We’re human.  We succumb to temptation and we stumble.  But that doesn’t mean we need to lay sprawled out on the ground.  A living relationship with Christ is one in which you repeatedly find strength after failure.  Adversity doesn’t define you; how you choose to walk through it does.  But more importantly, with whom you walk determines how far you make it.

The first part of the spiritual challenge this week is to write out James 1:2-4 every day.

My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience.   But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.

Because it’s a battleground we’re wandering through and the enemies greatest weapon is temptation.  Cling to and claim this promise!

The second part of the spiritual challenge is to intentionally do something outward that validates your faith in Christ.  Sometimes we quietly live out our lives and those around us never even know of our relationship with Jesus.  This week ask Him to show you a way you can reach out, beyond your comfort zone maybe, with a helping hand, kind word or spiritual encouragement to someone outside your home.  The more we are willing to publicly proclaim Him, the easier it gets to do so without all the awkwardness and fear.

And if you allow Him to hone this “skill” you won’t be nearly as likely to deny Him when things get tough.

And by the way, the door is still open if you’re looking for a little extra support.  We have a closed Facebook group where we can meet during the week for accountability and encouragement.  ”Closed” means your comments there stay within the group and don’t show anywhere else on FB.  Just click here and ask to join and we’ll get you added.  Note:  The official weekly check-in is still on the blog.

The weekly prize incentive winner was never announced last week.  I’ve been every kind of busy trying to prepare for our move this coming weekend and somehow it just slipped my mind.  But the winner is Victoria C. and she will be receiving a 1 month trial membership to Fit2B once I hear back from her.  The prize winner this week will win a BicBand which is an excellent hair accessory for a tough workout!

Alright, it’s your turn to check-in!  I can’t wait to hear how it’s going for you!

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week THREE: r.y.b. fitness challenge

How many of you have been tempted to quit?  Or maybe you have half quit only to feel that little niggling of guilt because you know He wants you to exert your will toward improving your physical and spiritual health?

It’s okay.  You’re not the only one.  But a month or a year from now you’ll wish you had stuck with it.  Doing is a whole lot better than wishing.  If you have legs to move you, you need to move.  If you have a heart beating within you, you need Jesus.

The end.

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Because, in life, it isn’t really about getting in 20 minutes of exercise or only being able to squeak out 15.  It isn’t about missing a day (or 4) because you were stretched so thin, it’s about jumping back in as soon as you can.  No score card, no demerits.  Only giving Him your absolute best every single day.  Even on those days when your best seems pretty crummy.

We chatted last week about some people who were feeling discouraged.  They were bowing out and giving up because they weren’t meeting the requirements.  So here’s what we did:  we offered grace.  Because this isn’t a competition with anybody else.  It’s about being a better you today than you were yesterday.  If you’re still here and giving it your best, even if you’re falling short sometimes, you’re still in.

Keep checking in.  Keep reaching.

The first part of the spiritual challenge this week is to write out James 1:12 every day.

Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him.

Because your temptation right now is likely to give up.  To retreat and make excuses.  But blessed is the man that enduredth temptation…he shall receive the crown of life.  Do you want that crown?  Then you have to want it more than you want that extra 30 minutes of sleep.  And you have to choose spending time with Him over your favorite tv show.

The second part of the spiritual challenge is to take that note you made last week about an area of your life you feel God calling you to work on.  Take it out of hiding and place it somewhere you will see it often.  It doesn’t have to be made public but put it in a spot where your eyes will take it in throughout the day.  Every time you see it, or think of it, pray.  Ask Him to help you be aware of ways you can change or improve.  Ask Him to clearly show you opportunities to grow.

Pray, pray and pray again.

Don’t dig in your heels…pray.  Don’t exhaust yourself with the repetition of failure that comes from waking up and declaring you will be more patient (if that’s the area you want to improve on) today.  Pray and ask Him to show you the times when you aren’t and how you can handle them differently.  He isn’t impressed with our superhuman strength.  He is, however, impressed by our weakness when it causes us to cling to His strength.

And by the way, the door is still open if you are looking for a little extra support.  We have a closed Facebook group where we can meet during the week for accountability and encouragement.  ”Closed” means your comments there stay within the group and don’t show anywhere else on FB.  Just click here and ask to join and we’ll get you added.  Note:  The official weekly check-in is still on the blog.

PS.  The weekly prize incentive winner last week, randomly generated from those checked-in, was Heather W.  She has claimed her winnings and will be receiving her skinny wrap this week.  Next up in the prize line-up is a one-month trial membership to Fit2b studio.

 

Sponsor Shout-out

Have you ever moseyed over to The Pleated Poppy and had a look around.  It’ll just make you happy.  There is such a variety of items and prints and colors all prettied up in their handmade glory.  Lindsey has a gift and it’s evident in her handiwork.

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3 ways to avoid raising youth who toss Christianity

The statistics are staggering.  The reality, heartbreaking.

Well-loved youth, brought up in the faith, are fleeing Christianity without so much as a backward glance.  And the parents who raised them with such expectancy are left to pick up the scattered pieces of hope and vision they once held tight to for their children.

Why?  Why does this happen?  These kids were brought up in youth group.  They were raised on communion bread .  They were baptized, fraternized and sermonized.  So why?

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I won’t pretend to have all the answers or that I don’t harbor a deep-seated fear that my own children will pack up their memories and walk off, shaking the dust from their boots as they go.  Because yes, I feel that, too.  But, there are tangible things we can do while raising our kids that drastically reduce the chances of them seeing our faith as an ill-fitting garment of hypocrisy.

Focus on raising God-fearing children, rather than good kids

Seems like the two might go hand-in-hand, right?  Wrong.  We, as parents, need to be shaken from our complacency.  We aren’t assigned the role of raising good kids.  Good kids grow up to be good adults who hold a steady job with a solid income to provide for their wife and the next generation of good kids.  

Godly kids grow up to change the world, one moment at a time.  

The difference is in how they were raised.  Parents raising good kids make excuses, allowances.  They offer indulgences such as, “Oh Johnny really shouldn’t have done that, but he’s young and impulsive.  He’ll grow out of it.”  However, parents of Godly kids seek after the heart, desiring to channel Johnny’s impulsive spirit into a finely tuned asset which ultimately advances the spread of the gospel.

Parents need to stop meeting over coffee to talk about their good kids.  We need to stop viewing our children’s willingness to attend church, youth group, mission trips, and the soup kitchen as sign enough that it is well with their souls.  We need to get serious about wearing out our knees for them, pleading with God for a life-changing transformation to catch hold of their hearts.  

They need conversion, plain and simple.  All that “good kid” jabber is meaningless if Christ isn’t planted firmly in the center of their being.  When conversion takes place, we won’t be left to sit and wonder.  We’ll see it and feel it and know it.  And it’ll change us, too.

 

That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.  Ephesians 4:22-24

 

God isn’t interested in lip service.  He wants whole-heart service.  He wants to see the old man thrown off.  Completely off.  This isn’t going to happen while soft-hearted parents are enabling their youth to cling to the fringes of that old man.  

 

Empower them to live for Christ

This means serious changes for most of us.  It means rejecting the notion that kids need to be coddled and pampered and stroked.  It means loving with the kind of love that isn’t about feel-good moments but rather chasing down the demons in their lives and evicting them.  Sometimes this kind of love hurts.  And it may well be the hardest thing you’ll ever be asked to do.

Because parenting isn’t about petting the sins of our children, treating them as though they’re an unwanted guest we hope will leave without ever taking offense.  Honestly, it’s okay to offend sin.  It’s not okay to offend God.  

Don’t mistake me here.  I’m not talking about becoming some Bible bruiser who steamrolls your kid into submission.  I’m talking about bathing them in the Word and pursuing their hearts with an unquenchable voracity.  It means discipling and disciplining with a firmness that’s generously laced with kindness.

There is no room for parental bullying here.  But there’s also no room for parental cowardice.

 

Equip them to make good decisions in a not-so-good world

Our kids will not be prepared for the onslaught of temptation if they have been flying on the coattails of our faith.  They need their own.  There will be no piggy-backing into eternity, and this includes children trying to gain entrance on the merits of their parents.

We paralyze our youth when we live their Christian experience for them.  When we allow them to go through the motions and consider it success that they do not rebel.  Rebellion can be silent, and that’s the deadliest kind.

As young people grow, they need to be equipped with decision-making skills.  They need to learn to snuff out the truth from the Bible, for themselves, and apply what they find there to their own lives.  This can get uncomfortable, though, and many parents see it as weakness to give a child some measure of control over their life.

But when we intentionally and prayerfully release them little by little, rather than letting them fly abruptly from the nest with unpracticed wings, we help them strengthen their own faith.  They find their own convictions while still safely within our fold.  

They learn to own their spiritual walk as dependency gradually shifts from the parents to the Creator.

This is as it should be.

There is no place for extremes if we’re seeking to raise God-fearing children into God-serving adults.  There is only balance, weighed perfectly by He who can set the scales even when we can’t.

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