Monday, June 29, 2015

Managing Meltdowns like a Wise Woman

Does anyone else just lose it? Does anyone else feel like the grip you have on control sometimes slowly (or sometimes quickly) just slips away?

My daughter is now three. What a joyous, delightful age while at the same time being a totally horrendous, difficult age!

We (my kids and I) were eating lunch at an Arby's on our way back from Kansas. Everyone was tired from our fun weekend with family. I was trying to hurry the kids, making them eat quickly so we could get back on the road and finish the last leg of our trip. My daughter was upset by the fact that I was sitting by her brother instead of her. It was, after all, his turn. This did not matter to her. She let a shrill scream fly out of her mouth, expressing just how she felt about this unfair situation.

The lady in the booth next to us actually gasped. I heard it over the scream. Needless to say, I was a little embarrassed.

I also have something embarrassing to admit. At some moments, I am just a snap of the fingers away from a reaction similar to that of a tantrum by a three year old.

Can you relate? I hope you can. Not because that would be funny, but because it sure would make me feel better!

I'm on a quest to live life abundantly. Meltdowns and tantrums do not equal abundance in my mind. So, what's a girl to do? It's so easy to get frustrated, especially when we let our circumstances determine our reaction.

In Proverbs 14:1, I found a verse to ponder. It says:
"A wise woman builds her home, but a foolish woman tears it down with her own hands."

I want to be a wise woman. Of this I am sure. So what does this verse mean? To me, it states that a woman can intentionally build up the people in her home. She can encourage and support her children and her spouse. When we do theses things, we build our homes to withstand meltdowns. We build our homes to be strong units, able to weather any storm.

At the same time, we can be foolish. A foolish woman can destroy her home with her own two hands. She can let her attitude get out of control. She can let feelings and emotions rule her words, instead of  peace and truth. When we allow ourselves to come unglued and to have a meltdown, we destroy the peace of our household that we work so hard to build. We destroy the peace in our marriages, and the example we want to set for our children. (Man, I am totally preaching to myself today!)

What can we do to be a woman who builds her home? We can...
  •  Work for peace. In 1 Peter 3:11, Peter writes, "Turn away from evil and do good. Search for peace, and work to maintain it." Did you catch that? Peace is not something that just happens. Life is often busy and chaotic. Children are unpredictable. We must work to find a peace that works for our households, and we must intentionally maintain it. We must protect it if we want to build up our homes.
  • Harness our feelings. Even though it is hard, we must keep our feelings in check. Proverbs 29:11 says, "Fools vent their anger, but the wise quietly hold it back." I'm not saying we should keep all of our feelings inside. That is not healthy. But think about it. When we foolishly vent our anger and frustration, who is the recipient of it? In my case, it is usually my children or my husband, the people that I love the most. This is not what I want. We must stay in control. We have help! In 1 John 3:20 it says, "God is greater than our feelings, and he knows everything." God knows our struggles, but he is bigger than our emotions. Any emotion. We can go to him and vent to him. He can handle it!
  • Know when to take a break. We were not made to handle everything that life throws at us on our own. Everyone needs a break from life sometimes. Acts 3:20 says, "Then times of refreshment will come from the presence of the Lord." We have to get away and get with God! Psalm 23 echoes this same sentiment. "He lets me rest in green meadows; he leads me beside peaceful streams. He renews my strength" (verse 2, emphasis added). Psalm 119:50 also explains that "Your promise [God's Word] revives me; it comforts me in all my troubles." Let's face it, our families can give us trouble. We must take time to be refreshed by God and His Word. A woman cannot build her house if she is running on empty.
With God's help, we can all get ourselves in the category of "a wise woman." Feelings and frustrations can be controlled and redirected. Meltdowns can be prevented. Peace can be maintained. Let's set our aim high. Let's set our focus on God and go for it! Be a wise woman!

Linking up this week at: #soulsurvival, #intentionalTuesday, #RaRalinkup, #threewordWednesday, #livefreeThursday, #belovedbrews, #fellowshipFriday, #dancewithJesus,

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Midweek Attitude Check

I ventured out to Wal-Mart today with my two kids. That was already a negative. The fridge was getting bare, so we had to go. No way around it. Our Wal-Mart recently did some remodeling. They rearranged the produce area to make more room for carts to pass through. Sounds like a great idea, right? It probably was, but on this particular day, my kids chose to use the extra space to play "run around and hit each other with a DVD case." I broke up this activity by putting my daughter in the cart basket. She chose to stomp her feet and refuse to sit down.

Great. As if enough old folks weren't staring at me already.

I felt my attitude going from calm and happy to furious and snippy. Guess what else? My kids' attitudes were turning south as well. I recently read something in The Best Yes by Lysa Terkeurst that played in my mind. "Whatever attitude we bring into a situation will be multiplied."

How true is that?

What started out as a regular grocery shopping trip was rapidly turning into a nightmare, for me, my kids, and all of the other shoppers. I needed an attitude adjustment, and quick!

What do we do when we need a quick change? The Bible says, in Philippians 2:5, that "You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had."

Yikes! Talk about convicting!

That passage goes on to say a lot about the attitude of Jesus.
"Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being" (Phil. 2:6-7).
Can you imagine? Jesus freely gave up his privileges as God. I have trouble giving up my privileges during naptime! One of my kids refuses to sleep, and my bad attitude creeps up. But Jesus willingly let go of his God-stature. He became a servant to all without complaining, whining, or having a bad attitude.

And the Bible says that I am to strive to do the same. When my patience runs thin I must remember what Jesus went through. That because I am his child, I need to become more like him.

I know I will never achieve perfection on this side of Heaven. God knows it too, and that is ok with him. It's the attitude that counts. Are we working to have the attitude of Christ Jesus? Or are we giving in to the grouchiness that comes when things don't go our way?

Guess what? Here's the good news: we don't have to strive and strain on our own. We have a helper! The Holy Spirit! Later in Philippians chapter 2, Paul says, "For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him" (verse 13, emphasis added). We are not alone. God helps us want to have a good attitude. God gives us the power to have a good attitude. We just have to ask him to help us.

I don't know about you, but I really needed this midweek attitude check. At the store today, I quickly decided that I had to turn it around if I was going to make it back out to my car with all of my groceries and my children in one piece. I changed my snippiness into sweetness. My tone and demeanor relaxed. And just like that, my kids' attitudes changed too. We made it! May we always remember the attitude of Christ!

Linking up this week at:

Monday, June 15, 2015

Way Beyond Me

As babies we are totally dependent.

As toddlers we battle our parents for control over the things we can actually do independently.

From preschool to graduation, we fight and struggle to become more and more independent. Frankly, as parents, this is the goal. We all want to raise independent children. Adults who can make it successfully in the real world.

As adults we set up our families, households, careers, friends, etc. as we so choose. Gaining independence from our parents allows us to create life as we like it. We seek to control our world, and our success is measured by how well we handle everything we are thrown.

As a young married, my husband and I had this down. We each had a job in the career we had chosen. We were feeling productive and successful. I was happy teaching high school English, and even though some days were challenging, (have you ever encountered a freshmen boy? Yikes!) I felt pretty good about how I handled classroom management and teaching the content.

But then, I willingly gave up this career to start another one. Motherhood.

No training in the world can prepare you to be a mother. Sure, we can be trained in child development, CPR, nutrition, first aid, teaching, and house keeping, but we are never fully prepared the day that baby arrives. My husband and I still joke about the whirlwind we experienced when our first child was born. Two days after delivery, they just send you home with the baby. You receive no textbook to follow. They just send you home with one more person than you came in with. It's weird and terrifying at the same time.

I have said it so many times. Motherhood is WAY harder than teaching. And I dealt with some tough kids. I was not prepared to deal with the demanding hours, the behavioral issues, and just the sheer amount of gross stuff you have to handle as a mom.

As I have grown in my faith, I have realized something. There is no way I can do it by myself. Motherhood is totally beyond me. It's beyond my patience, my training, and my abilities.

I have been hearing a song on the radio lately. It's "Way Beyond Me" by Toby Mac. If you have never heard it, click here to see the YouTube video. I love it! The chorus says:
That You gave me the stars, put them out of my reach
Called me to waters a little too deep
Oh, I've never been so aware of my need
You keep on making me see
It's way beyond me
This song may have well been written about being a mother. It seems daily that God makes me see that it is all way beyond me. I'm always aware of my need for Him!

In 2 Corinthians 12, Paul reveals his struggles too. He had something that he struggled with as well. He asked God to take it away three different times, but each time God said same thing. It's the secret to being a better mom. Here it is:
"My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness" (v.9)
Did you catch it? God's grace is all we need when we are struggling. And here's the kicker: when we admit our weaknesses, our inabilities, our gaps, our struggles, God's power can work best in us.

It is kind of backwards, if you think about it. But it is the secret to becoming better. Paul says it best in v. 9b-10. "So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That's why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong" (emphasis added).

And friends, if ever we needed the power of Christ to work through us, isn't it when we are being a mother? Isn't it when we are trying to teach and to disciple our children? Yes, friends, we are working for Christ. We are raising up children to go into the world and teach people about Him. He wants to work in us.

So what do we do? How do we get the power of Christ? We admit our weaknesses. Paul says he had many as well, so we are not alone in that. We admit our weaknesses, and we ask Jesus to work through us. We ask to be filled with His Spirit. Sometimes, if you are like me, you have to ask Him several times a day. But, I know that's ok.

The bridge in this Toby Mac song is perfect for us to remember as moms, as women, as wives, and as friends. It simply says that "You take me to the place where I know I need You." God wants us to be completely dependent on Him. It's backwards again. We must be dependent on Him even though we have fought for independence our whole lives. The more mature we our in our faith, the more we understand this. He will lead us to a place where we have to rely fully on Him. We are not alone when we go with Him. He is always with us. His grace is enough.

Linking up with these great blogs: #soulsurvival, #intentionalTuesday, #RaRalinkup, #tellHisstory, #coffeeforyourheart, #threewordWednesday, #dancewithJesus, #fellowshipFridays, #graceandtruth

Monday, June 8, 2015

Shamelessly Persistent

My 3 year old daughter has been doing this thing lately. She likes to repeat "Mama" over and over again, even if I acknowledge that I hear her. I really think she just likes to hear herself say it. When I say, "What?" to her, she keeps it up. Sometimes she throws in a, "But, Mama." She says it fast, too, and on repeat.

I remember a commercial that used to air on TBS. I think it was for Family Guy. I never watched the show, but I can remember this commercial. The little baby, the one with the English accent, is trying to get the attention of his resting mother. He says, "Mama, Mama, Mom, Mama, Mama, Mom..." and so on until she finally yells, "What?!?!" Then all he has to say, is, "Hi." That's what this is like to me. Cute, but annoying.

And why is it that kids will keep asking the same thing over and over? It's as if they think we don't hear them until they say it 20 times. Even after you answer, they sometimes keep asking. As if the asking again will change your mind.

You know what, sometimes the repeated asking does change my mind. Sometimes, it's easier to give in than to keep saying no. I find that I often say "No" too quickly. Then, as they keep asking, I think, "Well, I guess that would be ok." And I change my mind. I give in. I know this is not great parenting. I am trying to weigh my response before I give it. But that's not what this is all about. It's about the asking.

Jesus taught about a similar situation. He paints the picture in Luke chapter 11. He is teaching his disciples about prayer by telling them a story about a couple of friends. The first friend approaches the other friend's house late at night and asks for some bread to feed a surprise visitor. The friend first says, "No. We are all in bed for the night!" But the first friend keeps asking and asking. He probably caused quite a ruckus.

Finally, Jesus said the second friend got up to give his friend what he wanted. He did this not because they were such great friends. No, he did this because of the "shameless persistence" of his friend (v. 8). In other words, he was annoyed and knew the man would not give up.

Then Jesus brings it full circle for the disciples and for us.
"And so I tell you, keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened (Luke 11:9-10).
Now, let me just say that this verse does not guarantee that we will receive everything we pray for. Nope, no matter what we pray, God is still Sovereign. He still reigns over all the earth. I sometimes wish it could be different. But God knows the future, so He chooses to withhold some answers to prayer because He has a different plan. That's hard. For someone like me who likes to be in charge, it is often hard to not have my prayers answered when I want them to be answered.

But we can be encouraged from this scripture. If we keep on asking, we will receive. If we keep on seeking, we will find. If we keep on knocking, the door will eventually be opened.

You know what I have learned? That God uses what we pray for to change our hearts. The more we
pray and talk to Him, the more in tune we become with His will. Gradually, our prayers change. Something we so fervently prayed for can seem less important. We are guided to pray in a different
way, in a way that is in line with His plan. When we pray those prayers, it is only a matter of God's
timing. They will be answered if they are part of His will. We can believe that and claim that.

So keep on praying. God really wants to give us those good things that we pray for. Those things that line up with His plan for our lives. In Matthew 7:11 it says, "So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask Him."

Be like my daughter. Keep calling on His name. He hears. He doesn't get annoyed. He answers in His own time. He wants to give you good gifts. Be shamelessly persistent.

Linking up with these encouraging blogs: #soulsurvival, #intentionalTuesday, #RaRaLinkup, #unite, #graceandtruth, #dancewithJesus, #TellHisStory, #coffeeforyourheart, #threewordWednesday, #belovedbrews

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Anybody Need a Rest?

I really like sleep. I try to get about 8 hours of sleep a night, and I'm very protective of that. If my kids wake up before 7, I really have to struggle to get out of bed. Any time before 7 is just a little too early for me!

So sleep I like, but why do I have trouble allowing myself rest? Does anyone else? Specifically to rest in the Lord. I find I have to be totally intentional about making time to have a rest period with God. I am also very protective of this time with Him. And here's why: I have figured out yet another amazing twist about God's kingdom. Like God uses the weak instead of the strong and the last instead of the first, there is something else about Him I'm discovering.

When I take time with God, the rest of my time is just better. I use my time more efficiently. I get more done. I have a better attitude for the rest of the stuff on my to-do list. It's just amazing! When we give God our time, He blesses us throughout the rest of the day.

Like I said, I'm really protective of my time with God. And frankly, I get really sad when I hear my friends are missing out on their time with God. I get it. I know it is hard with newborns and multiple kids and schedules. But friend, let me just say, make the time anyway. 

I put my kids off in the morning so I can have my time. I let it be their time to watch a TV show or play a game on the iPad. Because seriously, we are ALL better off if I can rest a while with God.

God Himself chose to rest. He ordained rest. He made it a priority. In Genesis 2:3 it says, "And God blessed the seventh day and declared it holy, because it was the day when he rested from all his work of creation."

Can I just say that God didn't need to rest? He's God. He operates outside of space and time. He is not bound by a human body. He did not need to rest. But He did. And, He declared the time of rest to be holy. Anytime God says something is holy, we can "rest" assured that it is part of God's best for us. When we don't take time to rest with God, we miss out on the good that God has for us.

I know everyone is busy. But if we cannot take a few minutes a day with God, to listen, read His word, and pray, we are  going to miss out on the blessings He has for us. In this world, with all of its chaos and disaster and problems, it's a little scary for me to think that we don't have time to rest with God. If Christians aren't allowing time to rest with God and hear from Him, how can we be the good to the rest of the world?

When we do rest with God, we are guaranteed blessings.
  • There is joy in His presence. "You will show me the way of life, granting me the joy of your presence and the pleasures of living with you forever" (Psalm 16:11).
  • There is refreshment in His Word. "The instructions of the Lord are perfect, reviving the soul" (Psalm 19:7).
  • There is guidance and light. "Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path" (Psalm 119:105).
I could continue on and on with this list! My encouragement for us all today, (yes, for myself too!) is to make the time to rest with God. Taste and see that He is good. Take a rest with God; try it out! I know we will all see the blessings if we do. Allow yourself a good rest.

Linking up with these great blogs: #livefreeThursday, #belovedbrews, #fellowshipFriday, #graceandtruth

Monday, June 1, 2015

The Rock Phenomenon

There is this phenomenon in Minnesota. I was never aware of it before I married a farmer and moved here. I lived my whole life in ignorance up till the day I learned it and my eyes were opened.

Rocks. Lots of rocks. You see, in Minnesota, you have to pick rocks. Every spring, after the ground thaws, rocks rise to the surface of the field. Farmers can't just leave them or their equipment would be wrecked. So, much of May and June is spent picking the rocks out of the field and hauling them away. These aren't just pebbles either. No, the little rocks are left in the field. These are rocks ranging from the size of a football to the size of a piano. Seriously. And each year, you have to go over the same exact fields picking up new rocks. They just keep coming.

It really is one of the most annoying things I've ever seen come from nature. Yep, rocks sure are a persistent, never-ending issue in the life of a Minnesotan farmer.

Besides being annoying, these rocks have made me think about God and the way He designs and works in this world. Yes, besides rocks, God reveals something persistent and never-ending about Himself too.

God's love revealed in Jesus.

We read about this in Romans 8.
"And I am convinced that nothing can separate us from God's love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow--not even the powers of hell can separate us from God's love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below--indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Rom. 8:38-39, emphasis added).
The words I italicized really jumped out at me today. Sometimes, I just let so many rocks get in the way. I am really good at worrying and over-analyzing. The unknown often gives me anxiety. I allow these things to block out the love of God.

It's really silly. These rocks make life harder for me. The love that God has for me is always there. Sometimes, the rocks in our own heart need to be picked. I need to get rid of my worry and anxiety so I can enjoy the benefits of God's love. God's love gives me freedom from worry. God's love is perfect and good. I can rest in that truth and know that everything will be ok.

It's a process that needs to be repeated. Like a Minnesotan corn field, the rocks just keep appearing. If we are not careful, if we do not allow God to keep pruning and picking up the rocks in our hearts, they will keep accumulating. They will block out the love that is flowing from God.

We have to be diligent, like these farmers up here. They know that in order to have the best production, they must get rid of those rocks. It is much the same for our hearts.

God is good. Allow Him to show you the rocks that have surfaced so you can both receive His love and give it out to others. I pray He will do the same for me.

Linking up with the following encouraging blogs: #IntentionalTuesday, #RaRaLinkup, #threewordWednesday, #TellHisStory, #coffeeforyourheart