Friday, November 4, 2011

Sibling Rivarly

My children are 9, 7, 6, and 4. My two oldest are nearly 10 and 8. You know when your kids are small - that the years seem to create huge gaps in their physical and emotional maturity and capabilities? It seems like somewhere between 3 and 6 we just sort of lumped them all together. Having our kids so close together in age has it's challenges and it's benefits. For many years it was easy to lump them together with what they could do - especially the oldest 3 who are all within 3 years of each other. Chores, discipline, rewards, expectations.... were generally the same. Mostly out of sanity for my husband and myself. Sometimes there were moments where I felt my oldest was getting the shaft - feeling as if he deserved more rewards than he was getting. But then I often felt that my 3rd born was getting the shaft as my expectations of him where equal to that of his brother - 3 years older.

All this to say - it's been a song and dance and time of adjusting and pondering lately.

It seems that as our kids age - I am seeing the age difference be more pronounced. I anticipate this for a season and then I anticipate it falling back into the older pattern where they catch up with each other (perhaps in the teen years).

As a Mom, I find myself flustered and frustrated when watching and listening to my kids. I think they feel frustrated with the status quo right now as well. There is a lack of consistency from the parents and lack of follow through all the time. My oldest wants to have the extra privileges without the extra responsibility. My younger ones want to have equal rights to the big brother. The "That's not fair" line is thrown around a LOT. I mean A LOT. It doesn't seem to matter how much I acknowledge and encourage them to buy into the fact that life isn't fair; they think it should be.

Mornings seem to be the witching hour at our house. Getting ready for school, showers, breakfast, back packs, coats.... all of that is interrupted with flares of tempers and words that are less than building in nature. "He made me". "It's all her fault." and "I am so angry right now", are heard regularly. I frequently have to remind them that it takes 2 to fight. That no one can MAKE you feel a certain way or MAKE you choose a poor choice. I also remind them that anger is okay but it has to be handled in an okay way. That in their anger they can not sin. Practical ways they shouldn't sin right now is in hitting, rude words, glaring, sticking their tongues out, hitting walls, throwing things, or any sort of violence.

I wish I could get a glimpse into their little hearts and see what was going on in there. Maybe then I could understand better how to parent.

Right now, it's just tough.

This feels like a disjointed flailing post .... but it did help to just get a few thoughts out.

How do you deal with sibling rivalry?

Saturday, October 29, 2011

The Body of Christ

Earlier this month my daughter, Carissa, became very sick. We eventually figured out that she had a kidney infection and that was the cause of her pain and high fevers. It was a scary couple days as we went to the Dr. and eventually to the ER when she spiked 105.4 F! As we were in the ER we had our small group praying. Soon, there was a group of folks at church aware of what was going on and the body of Christ went into action. There was spiritual action in the form of prayer and supplication to God. There was emotional support - friends asking if we were okay. There was the practical support - in the form of asking how the kids needed help, whether we'd eaten dinner (which we hadn't so dinner was brought to us in the ER!) and there was FRIENDSHIP offered and followed through with action. We had friends stop by the ER to see how we were and to let us know that they were "there". We felt rallied around in that moment in a very tangible way.

We saw the body of Christ work in a very real and tangible way that week. It was such a beautiful thing. I was so encouraged by our church family and felt apart of something so much bigger than I had felt before. People cared about my daughter. People cared about my family. People cared about ME. What a blessed thing.

It hasn't always felt that way though. There have been seasons in our life and marriage where sometimes we've felt alone. We've gone through the motions of attending church and functions and we have silently been hurting. Perhaps we've never been brave enough to show the truth of hearts - or perhaps others haven't taken the time to see it, acknowledge it and then follow through. Regardless - the body of Christ wasn't able to function as it was meant to b/c we allowed fear, insecurities, pride, or lies to get in the way.

When will we as a church and as the family of God - remove the mask and let people see us as we really are? Once the insecurities and lies are brought into the light and we share our "deep dark secrets" we usually see that others have so many of their own. When will we stop feeling the judgement of others before we ever give them a chance to show mercy?

Don't we usually appreciate the candor and honesty when others share with us their pain and angst? We don't leave an encounter with a sister in Christ and scoff and her weakness, blame her for the pain she's in, or tell her that if she just had more faith she'd be a better woman, wife, mother, friend, employee, or daughter of Christ. And yet, don't we silently tell ourselves those very words when we are in the place of darkness? Don't we say to ourselves, "If I was more submissive to my husband", or "If I didn't yell at my kids and speak harshly to them", or "If I'd called that friend this week I could have.....", or "I don't deserve the mercy of my boss because I wasn't on 100% this week....", or "I'm worth nothing." Lies, lies, lies, lies.

God is the source of our strength. Without him, we are weak. We are shells of bodies, walking the earth for OURSELVES. When we have him and we call on his name, he fills us, bouy's our spirits and enables us to do things so far beyond our human capacities. He enables us to take another step, forgive, confront, obey, place boundaries, speak, be silent, move, stand still, WAIT, listen and in the process give him all the glory. In our weakness He makes us strong - not so that we can show the world OUR strength but so that we can SHOW his STRENGTH in such obvious ways. There will be no doubt that He is at work in me. And may my pride be in you and not in myself. EVER.

I'm finding that what we WANT out of the body of Christ - we have to be first in GIVING to the body of Christ. If we want accountability, if we want friendship, if we want compassion, if we want mercy, if we want forgiveness..... all those things are products of giving. We can't take accountability with out vulnerability. Friendship isn't true friendship if it's not 2 sided. Compassion when taken but not given isn't fair to the giver. Mercy when not given and only taken is undeserved and when we don't forgive others God has no reason to forgive us. In fact he says in the word of God that if can't and don't forgive our brother that he can't forgive us either.

Father, give me boldness to be real. Boldness to be vulnerable. I ask that you help erase the fears of insecurity, worrying what others will think of me, fear of rejection, and that you will give me words and a heart that conveys the power of you in my life. That I would be a giver of accountability, friendship, compassion, mercy, and forgiveness. May I be a limb in the body of Christ - hands that give life - and don't destroy, a mouth that encourages and doesn't condemn, and a heart that beats in time with Yours.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Saturday nights

It's Saturday night. If you're anything like me (Which, you might consider yourself lucky if you aren't) you might be finding yourself getting prepared for Sunday. Tomorrow I have the privilege and honor of joining some fellow musicians and together, we get to lead our brothers, sisters, and friends in Christ to the feet of Jesus in worship. It's not a small responsibility and it can sit heavy with me some days. Often I can feel the weight of my own personal and even spiritual inadequacies and I can question whether I should even be a used vessel of God.

Often, those visible in leadership, ie, on the stage - can seem to those sitting in the pews as being individuals that have some how gotten it together better. Somehow they have figured out how to conquer sin, resist temptation, tame bad habits, turn from poor choices, choose the right words, turn the other cheek, and on top of that ... they might even have on an outfit that matches, hair that looks in place and a smile that is plastered on to their face........ while on stage anyway. How many times have I listened to a speaker, whether at church or a conference or retreat and just based on WATCHING them, walked away defeated? Hmm... probably too many times to recall or count.

As a woman, comparing myself to another person is as second nature as breathing. It's that ever present "Sizing-up" that we fall so victim to. It's where we rate ourselves and either end of feeling "Better" or "Worse" - both of which dishonor God and ourselves.

My biggest fear when leading my friends in worship is that we as a band will somehow get in the way of their opportunity to see Jesus. I fear that we will be a distraction and that their hearts will be drawn away from the wonder of Jesus and that a moment of intimacy with Jesus will be missed. You can trust, my church family, that Saturday nights and Sunday mornings are full of short one sentence prayers petitioned to the Father ... that you might come and worship. That you might come and feel peace. That you might come and feel WHOLE. That you might come and REST. That you might come and MEET Jesus face to face, heart to heart, and in a way you have never encountered His love.

Saturday nights are also a time when I tend to evaluate my week. I still get into the trap of not wanting to start Sunday out "on the wrong foot". I still want to walk into church feeling like "I'm good with God" and all is well. I find it sad, and even embarrassing to admit - because aren't we called to evaluate our EVERY day? God desires our BEST at all times - not just when we prepare to "enter his courts". I'm personally working to not keep a ledger book during the week. You know, where you mentally jot down the wrongs you might have done during the week. Then, at some moment just do a large sweeping prayer such as, "Oh Lord, I'm sorry for the bad things I did this week. Please forgive me and help me to do better. Thank you. Amen"

Surely I am not the only one that's done that?? :)

I'm working to be intentional and listen to the spirit's nudge. When I recognize a sin in action I am trying to first, stop the sinning, and then repent immediately to the Lord. This keeps me in constant communication with the Father and it doesn't allow for the guilt to pile as perhaps that little wrong here and the little wrong there seem to accumulate and distract me. I don't have to feel that poking and prodding. I am freed to spend my thoughts and energies on the positive things in my day - blessing someone, calling someone, serving my family, and just being with God.

I'm not perfect. I'm a sinner - just like you. I have short comings and failings. I play games with God. I act like he doesn't know everything, when I know he does. I dismiss the Holy Spirit and his nudges sometimes. I get angry. I roll my eyes at my kids. I model poor behavior. I throw temper tantrums. I gossip. I lie. I disrespect my husband. And I dishonor my God with my thoughts and attitudes. (And trust me, there's plenty more)

Even after all of that - He's eager to hear me come to him.

So, it's Saturday night. Tomorrow is Sunday. I'm preparing in my usual ways. I've thought through the songs and what I might say. I've had the kids pick out their outfits tonight so that it's easier for my hubby to get them around. I'll be doing inventory in my heart - and this time not because I want to give off the false impression that "I've got it figured out". No, this time it's because I want my full capacity to serve Jesus to be used. I don't want there to be any corner, nook, cranny, or crawl space where sin can lurk.

I can't wait to see how God will be praised tomorrow!!!!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Blessed through Obedience

Have you ever felt that nudge from the Holy Spirit? That voice that seems to whisper and echo in your mind and heart as if to say, "You know what to do, now do it." And that thing you feel you're being asked to do is something you're kind of dreading. Well, that happened to me this week.

A couple days ago a neighbor mentioned to me over the fence that she had found another small handful of rocks over her fence. The guilty party, not just once but now twice over, was Josiah (aka, JJ). She handed me the bag and expressed her concern for rocks coming over the fence. I apologized (tho I felt myself lacking sincerity) and told her I'd address the issue again. After another minute I walked away feeling irritated that she'd make such a big deal of it. "Boys are boys and boys will throw. It's not his fault we live in the city. Yes, I understand the hazard but did it really need to be a big deal??"

As I evaluated my frustrations and fumed further I realized it was mostly out of embarrassment and pride that my feelings were originating. I was embarrassed that I was being called out on the behavior of my kid. My pride had taken a hit. No longer would she think of me as the mom with great kids who shared her back fence. I'd be the Mom who couldn't control her kids who shared the back fence with her.

It wasn't long before the thought of apologizing came to mind. I knew in my heart I'd been defensive and abrupt with her. I knew in my heart, I'd been disrespectful and that my heart had not pleased God. I began to think through how I could apologize with it hurting the least. Sort of like a half "you know what" kind of apology. Again, I knew this wouldn't be the answer.

I decided to use a painting that JJ made as an apology card from JJ. He signed his name to the note that said, " I am sorry for throwing rocks over the fence.".

Secretly I was hoping I could find her in the back yard - perhaps see her working in her yard and just holler over the fence, hand her the note, apologize quickly and get it over with. I decided to work in the yard and found myself saying to the Lord, "Give me an opportunity Lord. I will be sincere and heart felt. I really am sorry for my behavior and my attitude now and I do want to please you and I do want to apologize. Send her out into the yard so I can do this." As quickly as the thought and prayer was off my "tongue/mind" it was as if I felt God saying to me, "Why should I have to send her out? You know where she lives. Go. And go NOW."

I had a choice. I knew God wanted me to go. I knew it'd be hard to swallow my pride. I knew face to face would feel different than a stretch over the fence and a quick laugh as we both moved on. I knew it would take vulnerability and honesty. I also knew the feeling and need to apologize wasn't going to fade. It'd stuck with me for several days and it had not budged.

So I grabbed the card and I grabbed a container of strawberry freezer jam and hopped in the car. I drove around the block to her house and parked. "Okay Lord... here I go."

I knocked on her door and when she opened the door I told her, "Hi, I'm your neighbor from the back yard." She eagerly said hello and asked me into her home. (Okay, surprise #1). She seemed a little puzzled at my coming but was immediately gracious and welcoming into her home. I went on to explain, "I just wanted to apologize for the conversation we had last week over the fence. I really felt like I was rude and abrupt with you and I know I was wrong. I have felt very convicted of my actions and I wanted to say that I am sorry. JJ made you a card and here is some strawberry freezer jam....".

Her face lit up and she said, "THANK you so much!" She acknowledged that the timing of the conversation wasn't good. She had rushed it as she knew she had a pot on the stove and she knew I was just grabbing something quick off the back porch. She said she'd hesitated before saying something but did it anyway. (And I'm glad she did). After a few more minutes of chatting she asked me if I'd like to join her for a glass of ice tea. (Surprise #2). I said, "YES! Let me go grab my purse out of the car." I was smiling to myself already as I walked to the car to get my purse and come back inside. My obedience was already being blessed.

She poured us ice tea in beautiful crystal glasses that almost looked similar to ice cream parfait glasses. We started to talk and we talked for at least an hour and a half! We covered topics of parenting, church, work, going back to school, moving, adapting, houses, peaches, and dogs. No kidding!! She went on to tell me how she loves to hear Carissa sing in the backyard and hear the boys playing. She said she finds Hooper to be such a regal looking dog and doesn't mind him at all. But the best thing she said the whole conversation was this. She said, "I want to thank you for being a mom that doesn't yell and scream at her kids. You are a mom that talks to them when you discipline. I can hear you and I really respect that in you." I was astonished. I thanked her and brushed it aside. But later in our chat I came back to her comment and told her how much it meant to me. I expressed to her how much her comment had touched my heart. Often as a mom I feel frazzled and I know I have resorted to anger, manipulation, bribery, or just pure yelling to communicate. And knowing that I've done that before has often left me feeling ashamed and embarrassed, knowing full well it's wrong. It's an area where I have been consciously working to do better - asking God for His help.

I left my house feeling anxious of the conversation to come. Not knowing how it would end up but knowing it was a conversation that needed to be had.

But I went.

I left her home feeling full and encouraged. Feeling blessed not only by God but by my new found friend. I left feeling validated by a veteran mom and grandma. I left feeling hopeful for what is yet to be in our friendship. She opened her home and her heart to me. We exchanged numbers and I plan to stop in and visit her again. Perhaps next time I'll take the guilty party with me. She told me she planned to put his picture (card) on the fridge.

I sense that God could use her in my life for good things. And perhaps God could use me and even a rock throwing boy, in her life. We need each other so much more than we often think.

God will always bless us when we choose to walk in obedience. It isn't always in blessings seen immediately. It isn't always presented with a bow wrapped around it and a big balloon attached. But it was for me today. Today I was given the gift of friendship.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Grace Spot of the Day

I've started couponing. Yes, I've become "one of those"... you know the one you regret getting behind at the grocery store line, especially when you realize that someone has come behind you in line and you are now trapped... unable to escape. Actually, can I tell you - that might be true of SOME crazy couponers... but not me. Oh no, I'm organized. I have my coupons in order, stacked tidily on top of whatever given item is being purchased. I place dividers between my orders and smile sweetly. Oh sure, my 3 inch binder is in the front of the cart - coupons spilling out the top and my cash is poking out of the "envelope system" we use for cash purchases... but it's all good my friends... because I am saving getting more bang for my buck... and who wouldn't want THAT?!

So I started this a few weeks ago. This last week there were some great deals and I eagerly took advantage of them. I mean, GOOD deals! Anyway - come to find out though, I spent a lil more than I anticipated for the week on groceries and felt a slight sinking feeling in my gut... wondering if I'd made some sort of fiscal mistake... Ever done that? Course you have. You're human. Just like me.

Anyway, today is Sunday, and as is customary a couple papers are purchased and I sit down with scissors in hand - ready to clip and organize my handy dandy Krazycouponlady binder.

Secretly I was hoping the deals wouldn't be great so that I didn't feel the pull and angst of wanting to spend and buy and feeling like I shouldn't spend and buy. As I closed the last ad and flipped the last page of the ONLY insert in the paper (redplum this week) I happily realized I hadn't seen one deal I "had to have", nor clipped ONE coupon that needed to be used for my family.

Now see, on any other given date - I'd have perhaps felt disappointed or annoyed. But, not today. Nope. Today I smiled. It was like God's little gift to me. It was his way of keeping me from obsessing about coupons, trips to the store, organizing my transactions to get the best value, and hours of scouring the internet for more coupons and deals and the like. It's like he gave me the week off. Well, until the Wednesday paper comes out and I get a peek at the local grocery ads that don't run in the Sunday. But by then, I'll have been nearly a week w/o spending on groceries and I'll have a green light to go....

God is gracious to me. He gives me what I need, when I need it. How do I become blind to it so easily??

This month is one of sacrifice in many areas. We just started the DAVE RAMSEY Financial Peace class at our church and the budget that we used before is needing some tweakage (yup, new word). Wouldn't you know it - our heater motor is wacked out and not working? Wouldn't you know it - all the big bills are due this month so we're unable to adopt the new budget yet. Wouldn't it happen that my dryer squeals so badly you can hear it when you drive into the driveway? Yup... it's true.

And I spent a good part of the morning in a pity party. But Eric took me into our room, closed the door, and prayed. Prayed for our hearts. Prayed for our money. Prayed for our lack of money. Prayed that we would stay focused on God and on the blessings He gives daily (and in such abundance).

Was I instantly cured of my wallowing? No - even flippantly said I wasn't convinced ... I'm such a dork, I know. But as the day went by - God showed up and grinned down on me and it was as if he teasingly said, "Now, whatever you do... don't smile daughter.... nope, no, don't do it...."

And whatya know? I ended up grinning back.... just like daughters do to their Daddy's all the time.