Monday, June 16, 2014

So, how popular are you??

So, when you were in high school, were you part of the "in" crowd? Did you play all the popular sports, date the popular guys or gals, wear the trendiest cloths, and have the nicest, fanciest car? If you didn't---did you want to have those things, and be that person?

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Perhaps I'm different than some, but I honestly, never really wanted those things. Perhaps sometime in the late elementary years, or early middle school years I had brief bouts of wanting to be popular---but overall, I honestly could have cared less. Why? Well----not to pat myself on the back here, but I think I was honestly smart enough to realize that popularity is just plain stupid. Why do I need a bunch of people telling me who I need to be, how I need to dress, and what I need to do?!?!  I mean sure, I wanted to be liked---we all want that. But I had friends, so that wasn't the issue.

Perhaps it has to do with being an only child? No one to follow, and always being independent? I really don't know. But, having matured significantly since high school, I am so thankful, and honestly proud of myself that I didn't fall into that pit of "everyone look at me because I'm so popular". I'm convinced it's saved me lots of heartache, wasted time, and would have robbed me from much joy that I have otherwise experienced. I am so thankful that early on I discovered that being me was all that I needed to be---regardless of what anyone else thought.  I have found many true friends who have stuck by me to love me for who I am----not some popular facade.

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{Those of you reading this who are actively in the midst of your middle school or high school years---be smart, and take it from someone who has been there that 4 years of high school are NOTHING compared to the life you will lead thereafter. It doesn't matter what anyone thinks of you--- dance crazy, laugh loud, and be who God made you to be! Because those that are laughing at you now---mark my words--- 5-8 years out of high school you will be the one laughing. Trust me on this one!}

I've been out of high school 9 years, and the things that have transpired have amazed me. In those 9 years I have spent 4 years at college and obtained a bachelor's degree, married my best friend, bought a farm, had two beautiful children, added onto our house, tripled our flock of sheep, and the list goes on and on. The decisions made in the last 9 years---specifically those post-college--- have really defined my life, and who I am.

I suppose that's no big surprise. We all graduate high school with well-wishes, and great hopes of things to come. Perhaps some of us are disappointed in the outcome---but I must say, I am very very thankful for the road I have chosen. I can't take credit for any of it. God has truly led my every step.  However choosing, by faith, God's way rather than my own (not usually the popular choice) has really made life A LOT easier. I have avoided much heartache that I have seen many of my peers face. As I have said many times before---God's ways are the best. Why? Well, perhaps the one that is the author of all things, and the very one who knit you together knows a thing or two more than we do.

Easier to say than to do---and much harder to teach. I certainly haven't made all of the correct decisions in my life, but I have desired to follow God though it all. However, now, with two little kiddos, I have the great honor, privileged, and task ahead of me of teaching them to follow the straight and narrow. To me, that's SO much more difficult. Especially today, when there always seems to be more and more things to "derail" you from God's path.

The media wants you to think that you aren't pretty enough, or skinny enough. They tell you that unless you are a size "0" and look like the models plastered across the magazines at the grocery check-out, you aren't valuable. They want you to think that unless you hair is perfectly straight, your teeth are bleach white, and you have the most expensive, trendiest cloths out that you could never amount to anything. That unless you work out 7 days a week, go on an all vegan (which doesn't exist by the way---another topic for another day lol) organic, juicing diet that you are out of shape and killing your body with harmful chemicals that will give you cancer by age 40.

I'm not saying all of these things are bad---however, the concepts in which the media (popular bandwagon) tries to appeal, are indeed harmful. Contrary to popular belief, you can wear a size 8 or even 10 (heaven forbid) jeans and still be healthy, if your teeth aren't the shade of your printer paper you won't be shunned from society, and if you eat a hamburger every once and a while you won't get cancer from MSG's and die next week. {GASP!!!}

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My point is that the popular "norm" isn't usually the best. I think God has a lot more things in mind for us to be concerned with than being "popular". Even Matthew 10:22 states, "You will be hated by all because of my name..." To me, the "all" inevitably stands for the majority of people who don't choose the less popular, Biblical option that God has written in his word.

Yes yes....homosexuality. This is a very good example of this verse. Those speaking out today for traditional marriage are literally hated. Don't believe me? Go on an open forum online, put your name and e-mail address down, and simply state, "homosexuality is sin", and watch your inbox light up with disrespectful, vicious messages, and even death threats---seriously!!! Tolerance at its best----LOL.

God's word gives us clear instructions for life, and it isn't typically a popular route.  

Now, with our world today, I have even a greater challenge to equipment my kids not just with a sense of doing what is right, just, and the will of God---but now needing to teach them that in order to stand up for the less popular opinion, they must endure an onslaught of hate, criticism, threats, verbal abuse, and downright awful behavior from others. I have to teach them that they will be hated, and somehow instill in their hearts the love of Christ which will endure through it all. Matthew 5:11 says, "Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you who people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you."

If my kids know their true treasure in heaven, and the love of Christ, standing up for the word of God isn't nearly as difficult.

Matthew 6:19-22 states, "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heave, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."

So---regardless of your belief system---atheist, agnostic, Christian, Jew, Muslim....we all agree on one thing. One day...we will die. Yep. It's gonna happen! Face it, every day we live is one day closer to our death. We may die at 25 in a car accident, at 50 from cancer, or 85 from old age.....but it will happen. So...let's say you get that size "0" body you want, perfectly white teeth, and never eat meat again. How much good is that going to do you in a coffin? Really? Or at age 75, do you really think you're going to still match the standard of beauty you did at age 25? You're fighting a loosing battle.

Proverbs 31:30 says, "Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised."

Back in Matthew 6:19-22, when God talks about storing up treasures in heaven, I definitely don't think He had "obtaining a perfect body" or "the whitest teeth" or "the fanciest house" in mind. Sure we're to take care of ourselves, and the things God has given us, but being obsessed with our popular cultures idea of the perfect house, the perfect diet, the perfect outfit, the perfect hair, the perfect _____ (fill in the blank) is very damaging to our souls and wastes much needed efforts in doing what we need to be doing to further God's kingdom.

How much more valuable is cooking a meal for someone in need, praying for those weighing on your heart, or spending time with your kids? I'm not saying I do it all right. I slip up, I fail daily, and by no means do my desires match up with what God wants for me all the time. I desire worldly things at times to. Does it matter that my house is perfectly organized, clean, and well-kept in the grand scheme of things? NO! But, I still stress about it, and desire for the best kept house I can have. I'm not perfect---and even though I desire God, that doesn't mean I always do the things I know I should do---or even want to do. Paul said in Romans 7:18-20 "For I know the good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do no do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do-- this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it."

It's a struggle that's existed from the beginning of time since Adam and Eve first sinned in the garden of Eden.

Equipping my kids with the tools necessary to deal with our corrupt world is a huge task at hand. One in which I could not do alone without the help of God.

 Thankfully, I have that promise. 

"Be confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus." Philippians 1:6

God bless everyone! Have a great week, and keep fighting the good fight!

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Learning how to be the blessing

Learning how to be a blessing to others isn't the easiest task, that's for sure. Teaching others to be the blessing is even more difficult. Why? We are selfish beings. Our thoughts are (typically) consumed with "I" thoughts. What would I like to eat for lunch? How can I save myself money? What kind of new dining room table would I like? What kind of vacation would I like to take this year? What kind of new car would I like to drive? Etc....the list goes on! 

There's not really anything wrong with thinking about ourselves.  God has blessed us with the provisions we have, the jobs we work at to earn income,  and even our homes. Those things are all good. However, dare I say, I think as a society our thoughts are too frequently consumed with ourselves, and not nearly enough for our struggling "neighbor". 
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Romans 15:2 says, "We should help others, do what is right, and build them up in the Lord"

Luke 6:30 states, "Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back."

This is definitely my own inference here, but to me this is as if God is saying, "If they need it that bad, then let them take it!" At least that's been my own attitude towards circumstances when I was wronged. However, the message is clear that Christ wants us to help our fellow brothers who are in need.

Christ raises the bar even further,  by challenging us not to just give to those in need, and help a struggling brother---but to pray for, help, and give to our enemies and those that hurt us.

Luke 6:32-36 says, "If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit it that to you? Even sinners do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back."

Now....teaching this to your kids is a whole new ball game. Why? Your kids are sinners. That sweet little, innocent looking, adorable child that is your own blood and flesh is really quite sinful, and ugly inside. Don't believe me? Check out Psalm 51:5. It says, "Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me." Yup. There it is. Our sweet little "innocent' children aren't so innocent. They don't have to be taught to deceive. Just ask that 2-year old who took the veggies on her plate and hid them from mom, so she could have dessert. Or, that 8 month old that is now mobile helping himself to anything around the house that he might like--- and throwing a tantrum when you won't let him chew on electrical chords because they are "his". 

Kids are selfish. By nature we are all selfish. We spend the rest of our lives trying to learn how to be unselfish and giving. We perhaps sponsor a child in need, or tithe at church. Maybe we spend part of our valuable time visiting the elderly or sick, or maybe cook a meal for a family in need. They are all little things---but, I can tell you from experience it's not easy. Which is funny---because giving is actually enjoyable! I truly get joy from giving to others, and seeing them reap the benefits. So, why is it so hard?  It all goes back to the sin. Its easier to go plop down on the couch after work and relax watching a movie rather than cooking a meal for someone in need. It's easy to say, "I'm just too busy" with my kids, to take time and visit with the elderly folks who don't have any family. We make up all kinds of excuses in our minds! I do it too---goodness knows I'm not immune to this!

Paul says in Romans 7:15, "I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do" 

Even Paul realized the struggle that exists within us because of our sin nature. He had good intentions---but didn't always do good. He continues on in verses 18 and 19 to say, "For I know that good itself does not swell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do--- this I keep on doing."

But, to teach our kids how to give and help others---we have to model it. I'm convinced the old saying, "Do as I say, not as I do" is terribly incorrect. Kids DO as their parent's DO. If you want your kids to learn how to give, model it. You can tell them all day long, and it won't have the impact on them like physically doing it yourself. If you make a habit of it, your kids will pick up on that.  Just like if you use foul language, your kids will pick up on that too.  Especially when they are little, they are learning so much from you! 

I have tried modeling giving to those in need to my kids. My daughter is particularly at the age where she is beginning to realize the world doesn't revolve around her. This past winter I hit a major bargain----I found 58 packages of Pampers diapers marked 75% off! Those of you who know me, know I LOVE me some good bargain shopping--- and this was an amazing deal. I think I ended up paying around $100 for over 1,500 diapers. Those of you who dont have kids reading this might think that's a crazy amount of diapers----it's not. LOL Especially with 2 in diapers! :) Anyways-- 2 days after my big buy, I heard on the radio that locally our town was collecting diapers to give to families in need. My first reaction? I'm embarrassed to say this, but it was, "But I need these diapers for MY kids....why should I give them away when I just scored a HUGE sale that will save us hundreds of dollars???" After some thinking, I realized these diapers were an unexpected blessing from God, and God was now showing me a need. So....I need to fill it. I prayed about it, and God did change my heart. We decided to give away 1/3 of all of the diapers I was able to find that day. We were still abundantly blessed---but now several families would be blessed by our giving. In fact, when my daughter went with me to the drop-off location, I was so filled with joy as she helped me carry in a couple dozen packages of diapers. It may not have been much, but we were able to do a little good for some families in need. We were blessed---and we were then able to be a blessing to others. How awesome is that?!

I tell you this story not to boast on my behalf.  Goodness knows there are plenty of other times when my sin and selfishness have influenced me to make poor decisions. But giving is much like exercising. You feel better after you do it, but it takes some effort, pain, and training to get yourself in shape to where giving becomes easier, more natural, and eventually second nature!

If you a reading this, I have a challenge for you. Let's try and make the world a little better place this week by helping someone in need. Maybe do the grocery shopping for an elderly couple, or mow the yard for a widow in need. Visit the cancer center of a hospital, and read to those receiving treatments. Bless someone underprivileged with a gift card to a grocery store, or babysit the kids of a couple you know so they can have a nice private dinner together. If you don't know of a need, pray for one. I am convinced God will show you a need you can fulfill without searching far and wide. There are people around us every day that need help, so let's make a difference this week in someone's life. Let us be a blessing to others! Have a great week everyone!

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

My most unpopular post, I guarantee it!!!!!

Yup. I'm going there. Homosexuality.

I'll preface this article with a disclaimer: If you don't like what I have to say, feel free to stop reading it. No one is holding your eyelids open forcing you to look at this screen of text. In fact, you clicked on the link to get to this page in the first place by your own choice. This is my personal blog, and I'm here to speak freely about issues that weigh on my heart. I'm NOT here to be politically correct. I welcome any and all to view what I have to say---but I will not tolerate foul language, or belittling and rude comments. If you desire to start a debate with me you must know this: if you're trying to change my mind, you're wasting your time. However, if you {sinlessly} die for my sins, and rise from the dead---I'd be inclined follow you anywhere.

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The main reasons I'm addressing this issue--1) It's weighing on my heart to speak the truth of God's word. 2) This issues (as you know) is most certainly at the forefront of today's "hot button issues" and is worth discussion. 3.) (MOST important in my opinion) This issue attacks the very idea of the core family unit, and I am most certainly in the business of families.  I feel that this issue very much applies directly to my children and how they will grow and mature into functional adults within the society we live.

So, where to begin on such a large, controversial topic? Let's start with the very popular term these days of tolerance. When I "Googled" this word (Google is a very liberal organization mind you) the #1 definition that came up was,"The ability or willingness to tolerate something, in particular to the existence of opinions or behavior that one does not necessarily agree with." Gotcha. Right there in the definition, it says, "to the existence or opinions or behavior that one does not necessarily agree with" In other words, if I tolerate it, that doesn't mean I have to agree with it, or even like it---but I acknowledge that it does indeed exist, and that I'm fine with other people making different decisions (or in this case different lifestyle choices) than my own.

Fine by me. My opinions are mine, and I'm free to express them in this country. Do I expect everyone to agree with me. No. Do I want everyone to agree with me. No. I'm a flawed human being, and there is no way I'm going to tell someone that all of my ideas and perceptions are absolutely 100% correct. However, the Bible {life of Christ} IS the only thing that is 100% correct, unflawed, and perfect. So, I will follow that to the best of my ability, and encourage others to do the same.

So, when it comes to other individuals opinions--they can (and should) have them. Should they expect everyone to follow their ideas and jump on their bandwagon of "being homosexual" is right and correct? No. Are they entitled to their opinion---yes, of course. That my friend, is tolerance.

Now, the next part I'd like to address is the misrepresentation of the Bible and God's Holy word. God gave us brains---that means we're to use them. Perhaps some of our brains don't work quite as well as others---and I'd have to put myself into that category some days. But never-the-less we're given common sense to use it.  Too many people that do misquote or misrepresent the Bible are those that have not read it themselves.  They are taking bits and pieces of scripture and making it say what they want it to say to fit their own agenda---not God's.  Goodness knows, my agenda isn't God's agenda most of the time---but that's the tough part about being a Christian and being dedicated to following God's word; sometimes we have to go back and study what God says to really apply it correctly to our lives.

Those that feebly attempt to quote things like, "Judge not, lest ye be judged" Matthew 7:1 and use that as their rock to stand on in promoting the homosexual lifestyle are terribly miss-informed, and haven't done their homework in knowing what God's word really says.

Think about this. Voltaire, a French enlightenment writer, is famously known for the quote, "I disprove of what you say, but will defend to the death your right to say it." However, the actual quote he wrote was, "Think for yourselves, and let others enjoy the privilege to do so too" directly from Voltaire's essay on TOLERANCE....imagine that! The first quote gives the impression that somehow Voltaire will defend and promote the opposition; while the second quote is simply stating that everyone is entitled to their own opinion---free to think for themselves! That doesn't mean we have to agree with each other. Context is truly everything. I could take a common classic book, misquote it, and convince someone who has never read the text that it is about and stands for something completely different than what is actually written.

This whole argument of "not judging" others is quite humorous to me.  It's like saying, "Don't think for yourselves!" Really. I proposed this question to an individual a few weeks ago and I think it bears repeating.  If a man decides to go out on a mass murdering rampage because he's simply angry with someone, does that make it okay to kill them? Absolutely not. If I tell that murderer that he shouldn't murder, that's not hate speech, it's good judgement. I think most of us would agree that murder is wrong. Why do we feel this way? Because of common sense---and in doing so we're making a judgement. Whether you believe it or not, that inclination within you knowing that murder is wrong, was put there by God Himself. He made you, He created every fiber of your being, and He gave you a conscience. Use it.

I also chuckle when I see others using the oh-so-popular name-calling argument of "homophobia". Some might call me homophobic because of my views.  However, I have friends, good friends, who have chosen the homosexual lifestyle---and we're still good friends. Why---because we both know what the definition of tolerance means! Now, the last time I checked, to be "phobic" of something you have to be scared of it. I assure you I'm not afraid of my friends. lol The notion makes me smile actually. I may not agree with their views, but that doesn't mean I treat them with any less love or kindness. I still respect them as human beings---after all I'm a sinner just like them! Who says my sins are any better?! They aren't! In fact, I'm on the same level as the murderer! I am deserving of hell---but because I have been saved by grace through faith in Jesus, I will not get what I deserve, but will undeservingly sit next to my savior in heaven. Now that is awesome news!

Now, the last and most important issue I feel compelled to speak about. The family unit. God loves the family---he created it! He made the first two humans---one male, one female, and instructed them to fill the earth and multiply.  Here's where common sense comes into play again. Male + male or female + female can never = a baby in any natural setting.  God also created males and females to be very different from one another (not just anatomically). In a very broad sense, women are emotional, great helpers/ nurturers and they crave conversation, support, and love/ protection. Men crave respect, assurance, and are task oriented; making women helpers a perfect fit for their needs. Likewise, the woman craves the support, protection and love of her husband. A homosexual couple is never actually able to have the same level of emotional, physical, and spiritual connectedness a heterosexual couple can. Period. We're just made that way! Men and women are uniquely, and carefully made so that we complement each other. We're also wired very differently in the area of raising kids. I could literally fill hundreds of paragraphs with the information in gender-specific hormones which make us 'wired' the way we are. Bonding hormones, the release of estrogen or testosterone within the system etc. But without delving into endocrinology, in the most over-simplistic way, a child absolutely needs, with no question, a mother and a father to develop a healthy, God-desired sense of well being and maturity.  There are just some things women can't specifically offer, and certain things men can't specifically offer.We're different beings made to do two different, but equally important jobs! God created the family unit to exist-- and created needs within the child for BOTH a mother and a father; and created Adam and Eve as the first two humans to demonstrate that exact fact.

If you need further Biblical examples Leviticus 20:13 states, "If there is a man who lies with another male as those who lie with a woman, both of them have committed the detestable act; they shall surely be put to death." Of course this is old-testament preaching, which is before Christ died Himself for such detestable sins---but the point should be clear now, if it was punishable by death in these old-testament times.

In the new testament, 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 also supports this same notion by stating,"Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God." That is a pretty clear warning. Now---as stated per context, this is addressing an un-saved individual. One who is not saved by grace through faith in Christ. The last part of this verse, "But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God." Shows the transition of these people. Their old ways have passed away, and through the renewal of the mind, and infiltration of the spirit, Christ has given them new life. Yes! There is hope for anyone! However, there has to be a willingness to change, or we shall all be "stuck" in the first half of this verse.

Romans 1:26-28 also supports this same idea by stating, "For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing the shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves due penalty for their error. And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done." This, for me is a very sobering notion. This verse states (more than once!) the phrase, "God gave them up to..." indicating, God does have limits. We as a nation, by encouraging the homosexual lifestyle, are hurting our children in more than one way. We are literally nurturing the corrupt thinking of this world, with twisted ideas of the "family unit", that will ultimately fail with much turmoil, pain, and suffering for our children and grandchildren to come. God will not tolerate ungodly, immoral, dishonorable behavior forever. His rath will eventually come.

One thing to keep in mind in reading these commands, is that God is not a bully. His commandments are put there for good reasons. He knows what is best for us, and the limitations he has set for us (his children) are because he doesn't want to see us hurt. He made the world we live in, so don't you think he knows how it works best? We already live in a world of sin, a world which we brought upon ourselves by the fall of the human race in the garden of Eden. We are all born into this sin, driven apart from God, and need Christ's blood to purify us. Despite our disobedience in Eden, God STILL loves us, and wants to see us come back to him--- and these commands are put in place because he LOVES and doesn't want to see us hurt.

Think about this fact for a moment. The God of the universe--- the one who made everything you see--- every leaf, insect, giraffe, electron, planet, cloud, and hair on your very head THINKS about you, and LOVES you.  Really!! He MADE you. Psalm 139 17-18 states, "How precious are your thoughts to me, oh God! How vast is the sum of them! If I should count them, they would outnumber the sand. When I awake, I am still with you."

He is our father, and He truly knows what is best for us. Just like our own children---we have rules set to keep them safe and healthy because we want the best for them. We have "been there done that" before our kids, and we would like to try and help them avoid some of the poor decisions that we made. My 2-year old doesn't know why I make her brush her teeth, or eat her vegetables. She doesn't understand why she can't run outside in shorts with 6 inches of snow on the ground, or why she has to sit in a car seat.  Her capacity to think and understand consequences hasn't developed yet. She needs a parent to make the right decisions for her, and set rules to follow for her benefit.

The rules that God sets for us are not for his benefit, but for ours. He doesn't want us to deal with the heartache of divorce, so he made the marriage covenant permanent and in Malachi 2:16 he even states, "For I hate divorce". He doesn't want us to kill and murder (Matthew 5:21), because he knows the pain, anguish, and sadness it will cause to the lives involved. He forbids the homosexual lifestyle, because he knows it breaks down the basic family unit, and have lasting impacts for generations to come.  It isn't that you can't do these things; it's that you shouldn't. God is very clear.

So, do I think I'm going to change the world with this blog entry? Of course not. Loose a few friends over it? Maybe. But that's truly okay. I was raised with morals, values, and God's holy word, and if I must sacrifice a few "friends" because they cannot be tolerant of my view, that's fine. I will not change my opinion to the more popular world view to gain popularity or friendships. I'm not here to be popular, I'm here to be me and to speak the truth. This subject heavily weighs upon my heart, because I truly desire the lost to see their fulfillment in Christ. I have met so many individuals (even homosexual individuals) who are hurting because of past and current decisions they have made which go against the words of God. No one is EVER too far gone for Christ to save them, and pull them out of the depths of their suffering. In Him there is peace and rest.

Matthew 7:7 
"Ask and it will be given to you, seek and you will find, knock and the door will be opened to you."

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Children: The ultimate teachers

I'm learning a lot from my kids. Some of the lessons are good, and some are more humbling---but either way I'm learning. I think many parents underestimate how much they have to learn from their growing kiddos. In the simplest form, they teach us to remember how simple the world can be. How much fun, and thrilling it can be when your only worries are what game to play next; and the most troubling issue of the day is laying still for a nap. They bring out the pureness of life and give us a glimpse back at what it was like before all of the world's issues, demands, and corruption coated our hearts and souls. I believe that children are indeed a blessing from the Lord. Psalm 127:3 states, "Behold, children are a gift of the Lord, the fruit of the womb is a reward" (NASB) They bless us in ways that we don't recognize, and I think many of  the times those instances of "blessing" are viewed more a trials, and frustrations--- but the fruit those experiences produce in our lives proves otherwise. "He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful." John 15:2

My daughter is two and a half. Those of you who have experience with two and a half year-olds know full well the challenges they present. They are becoming aware that they are their own little person, and enjoy exercising their free will----even when it doesn't agree with mom and dad! My daughter loves to push my buttons! :) However, I could view that as a frustration (and many times in the moment I do!) or I could view that as a learning experience. I can better myself and my child through this challenge presented to me, or I can choose to simply be frustrated.

Many parents have shared with me that in parenting, the days are long, but the months are short. I couldn't agree more!!! They day-to-day challenges with kiddos can be overwhelming sometimes.  But at the end of the month---or sometimes even the end of the week--- I look back at those times of struggle, and I see the fruits of how my daughter is learning, growing and maturing.  Because I didn't give-in and let my daughter eat dessert before finishing her vegetables (despite her fit), she's learned to not even ask for dessert before her plate is clean. Because I've requested again, and again, and again (and again!) for her to pick up her dirty cloths and put them in the cloths hamper---she now does it willingly on her own without being told. Because I've made her say "please" and "thank you" every time she asks for, or receives something--- she now does it automatically, even when interacting with someone she doesn't know. Because we pray together, every single time, before we eat---she won't even take a taste of food before praying first. These are just a few very simple examples---but my point is there.  The fruit of my efforts is slowly being seen.  I am being blessed by her each day. I am actually shaping the views, morals, values, and knowledge of this littler person God entrusted me with. How awesome is that!!! 
Goodness knows I'm not perfect-- and neither is my daughter.  She has her bad days and so do I! We're human, it's to be expected.  But choosing to persevere and take that extra moment to read "Green Eggs and Ham" literally for the 8th time that day to show my daughter she's important to me, and that she is valuable enough to have my time and attention, WILL payoff. 

Now---what am I learning by reading "Green Eggs and Ham" 8 times a day other than memorizing the book, and learning to speak in rhymes quite well? Well, patience for one!! I have gained A LOT of patience overall since having kids. Self-sacrifice is another good one. How many times have I put off a shower, or even lunch for myself to make sure my kiddos are attended to---too many to count! I've most certainly learned to be more organized! How to organize my own time (every minute counts!), how to organize my house, how to organize our bills, and financial paperwork. Adding kiddos to any situation helps you get organized really fast, or you're in over your head in no time! Multitasking is another life skill I've mastered.  The other day I made an entire corn casserole while holding my 7-month old, and fixing lunch for my daughter. 

The more humbling things I've learned? That I'm not a very nice person some days---and that despite it all, I am still a very selfish, self-seeking human being. I love my kids---but there are some days I'd rather take a nap then play "horsey" with Deborah, or entertain Eli with funny faces. There are some days when I'd literally give someone $100 to sleep for 2 hours, or to take a shower---or better yet a bath! There are some days when my sweet innocent little girl, in all her cuteness, makes googly eyes and asks to go to the park---but I just can't muster up the energy to pack up two kiddos and go. Maybe it's the thought of the 8 loads of laundry waiting on me, or the sink full of dishes that discourage me. Either way, I don't always prioritize how I should. 

Yet, when I do, I see the fruits of my labor. I see a little girl growing up with respect for her family, love for her brother, and a desire to understand more about God.  It's a marathon, not a sprint. I will see the benefits slowly over the many years to come.

 All of the momma's reading this---don't give up! Keep fighting the good fight, and go that extra mile for your kids. Persevere through difficult times and circumstances, guiding your children all the way. God will bless you for your efforts, and over time, you will see the fruits of your labor. There is nothing sweeter than when your kids not only bless you, but become a blessing to others! 

Monday, April 14, 2014

Try and reason with a 2-year old, I dare ya! *wink wink*

Have you ever tried to reason with a 2-year old---particularly a strong willed one? One that is completely, totally, and absolutely convinced she is correct in her 2-year old reasoning skills? If you haven't, please find a nearby 2-year old, and for the sake of experimentation, give it a try.  I guarantee you will emerge from the experience not only amazed at the fortitude and boldness that little one presents, but will probably find a bit of humor in the situation.

Last week my darling little girl begged to go outside as the weather was warming up. I happily agreed, as some fresh air sounded pretty good. I had a bouncy seat out in the barn ready for Eli, and Deborah was ready to help me with some afternoon chores. It sounded like a great plan. I told Deborah to go put her boots on, so we could head outside.  As I'm preparing Eli for our outdoor adventure, Deborah comes in with both socks and both boots carefully on her hands, smiling at her accomplishment. In fact I was pretty amazed she was capable of getting both socks and shoes carefully over her hands without help. I laughed, and said, "Sweetie, your shoes need to go on your feet." I was quickly met with an very objectionable, "NO!" I knew this was about to become a meltdown trigger. Why? She had worn shoes on her feet hundreds of times before and knew this was a requirement for walking out of the house---especially when going to the barn. But she was absolutely convinced, in this moment, her shoes looked much better on her hands. Never mind the fact that she couldn't do anything with her hands occupied, and there stood a gravel driveway in between the front door and the barn. I'm certain if I had let her walk outside with those boots on her hands, she would have painfully walked over the entirety of the gravel driveway without fuss--- but as I tried removing her boots from her hands, she had an absolute fit. Tears welled up in her eyes and streamed down her face, and she threw herself onto the floor in a dramatic display of injustice. Oh, how awful I must be, LOL ;)

Photo Credit:
I honestly laughed. I mean think about it----how completely ridiculous is this notion? It makes no sense. This is, however, one of the many moments that we are called to correct our child as parents. She is two---she doesn't think 10 seconds ahead of where she currently exists in time. She didn't think about the gravel driveway, or the many different hazards that exist in a barn that can hurt little feet. It never occurred to her that she wouldn't be able to accomplish anything with boots covering her hands. Perhaps the average child in this circumstance (if allowed to go outside without boots on) would realize after walking barefoot on painful rocks, that this probably wasn't a good idea and change her mind.  My child----nope.  She is very assuredly, a strong-willed child. I'm convinced she would walk across a pile of broken glass barefoot, and look me straight in the eye, just to convince me she is right.  Yes----at 2! Some might say---'Oh my, watch out for those teenage years!' Perhaps in some ways they are right, but one thing about strong willed kids (I know, I am one) is that they stick to what they were raised to believe.  I'm convinced if I instill values in her now, she will STRONGLY stick to those as she gets older.  Goodness knows we will have our share of struggles, I'm certain, but I absolutely know that if Nick and I instill our values in her now, she will stick with it---and no one in this wide world will be able to tell her different.

Yet, the point I'm making is that 2-year olds are very confident. They think they know what is best, and want to do things their way.  It's part of the great adventure of becoming independent, and I believe is just part of the usual maturing cycle of growth.  Even though she's two and a half, there are moments when I see a little young lady emerging. This maturing takes a lifetime, and takes different forms. At 27 I'm convinced I'm far from "mature".  I know better than my 2-year old, but I still don't make every correct decision in this world.

Now, think about this.  We are God's children. We call him Father. He created us, cares for us, gently leads us, and helps us throughout the day. Much like we help our own children. Perhaps this is a picture of how God sees us. We may think we 'have it all together' and 'know it all', but in the end we really aren't that different than that unreasonable 2-year old.  We don't know what God knows---he is sovereign. We don't understand why things happen the way they do sometimes---and we throw fits. Maybe we didn't get that raise at work we've worked so hard for, or hired for a job we specifically spent 4 years in school to get? Maybe you've lost a baby in miscarriage, and you have no good explanation why, or find out you've been diagnosed with a terminal illness? Maybe you're 30 and single, desiring for a spouse and family but find yourself still single? I don't have answers to these difficult situations. Why? Because I'm not God. I'm in the same boat you all are in---we are God's children, and sometimes we just simply don't know why our Father allows us grief, pain, loss, or illness. However, I do KNOW God has a purpose for that pain. Romans 8:28 says, "And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose."  There is a reason why he leads us through the storms he does.  Perhaps it's the testimony we're supposed to give, or maybe someone else is weathering a storm like ours that we can help them face together.  In some cases I don't think we'll know the answer to "why" until we see God face to face one day. Part of maturing as Christians is accepting this, and simply asking God to lead us, protect us, and that HIS will be done in these painful circumstances---and trusting God with the outcome. That doesn't mean we won't have times of hurt, anguish, or even question God. It means that we learn to continually turn towards God no matter what road we're asked to walk. Each of our life stories are different, but we all certainly have had different difficult paths presented to us.  The difference in those that triumph through trials, and those that fall? God. Yep, plain and simple.  There are circumstances in this life that we cannot handle alone as humans.  Some turn to alcohol or drugs to numb the pain, others turn to additions like pornography, or are obsessive about having the best car, the most up-to-date smart phone, the fanciest house, or the greatest new trendy wardrobe. And still others wallow in self pity; distraught, depressed, and upset questioning why this happened to them, and still choosing not to follow God.

God can renew all things, and if you call upon him, he will bring you through any storm, AND good will come from it. I know there are some I have faced that the Lord has brought me through that I probably wouldn't be here if it weren't for my faith in him. I see such a need and aching  in our culture and our world to stop trying to fill that need with "stuff" and start filling it with God. Because when we begin to act like that unreasonable 2-year old sometimes, we need to remember Father always knows best!

Psalm 28:7
"The Lord is my strength and my shield; in him my heart trusts, and I am helped; my heart exults, and with my song I give thanks to him"

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Remodeling is not for the faint of heart.....(sigh)

Remodeling and contruction.....(groan). I really do love it, but it feels as though between the new addition to our home, and now finishing out a bathroom the process will never end!!!

The last 8 months have been pretty hectic for our family.  Many many amazing things have come in that time, but it's been crazy busy too. On August 26, 2013 we signed the papers to "officially" own our home (in the form of a mortgage rather than land contract), September 2, 2013 construction began on a new addition which added about 900 sq feet (top and bottom floors) to our existing home, September 4, 2013 our son Eli was born, and finally the day before Thanksgiving our carpet was installed and the new addition was finally done. We made it through the holidays, and this insane winter weather, and now we're tackling a bathroom.

I'm not terribly excited.  I'm excited to have it done, but I am SO over having the house torn up
and destroyed with tools, 2X4s, and paint cans laying about. I suppose it never ends, does it? Once we complete this project, we'll likely move onto another. Yet, I must admit, this will greatly improve the ease of use of our home as this will be the KIDS bathroom. It's just off of their bedrooms, and will make the process of the usual bedtime bath MUCH easier. For now....the only thing I can think about it the mess that will first consume the house.

Isn't it interesting that first, during construction of anything really, it must be totally torn-up, destroyed, with the near appearance of mass chaos and disorder before the new, ordered, complete, better-than-before work can first be observed? Certainly we would all agree this applies to road construction! Nick and I use the term "road destruction" anytime construction crews are out working on the roads.  Why? Because it's a total mess! The roads are torn up, traffic is backed up, construction equipment is loudly buzzing, pieces of roadway are usually lying about, rebar is typically sticking out of large pieces of looks far from ordered, or better! However, we know the results will be worth the disorganized chaos, as in the end the pot holes are fixed, roadways are repaved, another lane is added to speed the flow of traffic is actually better in the END.  Getting there, however, is pretty messy.

Giving our lives to, and following Christ is much the same way. There's no clear cut, clean, easy way of doing it, and there's a lot of messy work to be done in between. To the unbeliever, I'm sure we look crazy for taking such a difficult route---because the true peace and joy cannot be seen on the outside. The joys and treasures of this world are not on that difficult route.  There are plenty of holes to stumble in along the way, and in some cases half the road is missing! (I know some days I feel like half my road is missing!!) However, if we endure the hardship of following Him, it is well worth anything we could imagine. Matthew 6:19-21 states, "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure it, there your heart will be also."

Our time on this planet is that rough, messy road.. It's abrasive, going in an absolute opposite direction. The world wants us to take the 'easy' way out and follow the crowds, constantly enticing us with promises that tell of fulfilling our own desires.  Sure, it might be easier in the short run, and you may even find enjoyment temporarily along those paths---but I guarantee trouble will follow, the enjoyment will be short lived, and you will be searching for the next greatest thing the world has to offer to fill that gap. A gap Christ Himself can only fill.

Sticking to Biblical principles and Christs' true word are NOT easy in this crazy world we live in. We are quickly becoming a society, and world in which open opinions are not allowed, unless they are the more popular worldview. And if you choose to stand up for what you believe in your heart to be the truth, though it be the minority, you will be verbally attacked, discarded, and told that you are literally a horrible person for having your own opinion. Sound crazy?! It's happened to me......multiple times. However, the Bible says to take joy in persecution, and that we are blessed---so I can only assume I must be doing something right! :) Matthew 5:11 is pretty clear, "Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me."  So, even though standing up for God's sovereign word isn't always the easiest route, Christ reminds us persecution will happen, and we're blessed when it does! Think about Christs' persecution on the cross.....I'd say that was a pretty rough road to pick.  Certainly not the easiest by worldly standards, and how easy he could have denied being "King of the Jews" and avoided the cross. But Christ chose the route that led to God---and thankfully, for the rest of us, was a choice that has saved us---literally, from the depths of hell.

I know in my heart what I believe to be true, and no one can tell me different.  Those with differing opinions than myself I do encourage to express their opinion.  However, when I am told that I cannot express my worldview just because it's different, just because the world thinks it's not politically correct---sorry, I'm going to do it anyways. The evidence of what Christ endured for me is enough for me to be convinced his words are absolute fact. Christ is my rock, and I will stand upon His words---even the less popular ones by worldly opinion. I have chosen to take the less traveled road, the more difficult one by far, but I know in the midst of this messy construction on my soul, my treasure is stored up with Christ. One day I long to hear the words, "Well done, good and faithful servant"

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Investment, not just for the stock market

Rest is good for the soul. Thankfully, Nick and I were able to recently get away for a night. We chose to stay at Sybaris, in Indianapolis. I must say---this place was TOP notch. I don't think I've stayed anywhere else EVER that was this clean, well kept, private, quiet, and relaxing with the highest quality rooms, furnishings and even staff. It was a bit on the pricey side---but truthfully, if we had stayed at a Hampton or Drury Inn where the same cleanliness guidelines are followed, we'd pay (within $50) of the same price.

The big plus....we had our own private pool....YES! In it's own room, heated to a comfortable 93*, with fresh, extra soft and large cozy white towels sitting on nearby chairs, delicately tied with decorative twine. Above the pool, hung a large artificial fern, from which a waterfall of warm water flowed into the pool. 2 walls had mirrors covering them, to create a large, open feel. Another wall was painted with a beach scene, complete with palm trees and flowers. There were potted plants, and ferns in pretty much every corner of the room which really added a "homey" feel. An awesome plus in my opinion is that they had a sound system hooked into the pool area, so you could listen to the radio, or even watch a movie right from the pool. Your bedroom and TV were located behind a wall of glass (to keep out excess moisture from the pool area) but the flat screen TV was visible from the pool. It's also noteworthy that they had separate thermostats for each room to control the climate in each room separately---and even a dehumidifier to take the moisture out of the pool area. They also had a sauna/steam room located off of the pool area with two 'beach' style chairs that recline---but when you have a pool, who needs a steam room?!

If the pool isn't enough to entice you, there is also an extra large 4-person hot tub with jets located just off of the bedroom. A wicker basket held fresh bath towels and washcloths, once again decoratively tied with twine. The sinks were just outside of the bathroom---all new and modern--- and you had a mini refrigerator, coffee pot, and microwave set within new wooden cabinets and granite counter top. They literally had ice pre-made for you in a gallon ziplock bag within the mini freezer.  They also provided two wine glasses, and a corkscrew if needed.

The bed was super comfy. Not just clean, well kept and organized, but comfy. Above the bed was a sea of lighted specs to resemble stars----awesome to sleep under.  The top platform of the bed also had the sound system throughout which made for great movie watching. There were outlets for charging your phone, iPad, etc directly out of the side of the bed/headboard area, in addition to switches for the lights---super convenient. Atop the bed when you walk in are two sterilized cozy bathrobes for use while you're staying, and to right of the bed is a massage chair facing the flat screen TV and fireplace. The carpet was very new, plush and thick---unlike many of the typical hotel rooms. The room also smelled clean and inviting when you walked in---it was VERY obvious care was taken to every detail in cleaning and upkeep.  Each unit was its own building---which gave utmost privacy, comfort, and quietness. It was AWESOME!

Believe it or not, this was the "lower end" of the rooms that were available! Seriously! They have some that are 2-story and come with their own water slides! However, we felt this was more than adequate. It was wonderful.

Now, onto the point of all of this bragging on Sybaris. It's not only important (in my opinion) but absolutely vital to the health of a marriage to take some time away, relax, reconnect as a couple, and INVEST in your marriage. Whether you do this in a fancy place like Sybaris, in a basic Motel 8, or a local bed and breakfast---it's important to give your marriage the time it deserves.

I'm no marriage pro for sure, but it's pretty obvious to me, especially after having children, how vital it is to allot time for you and your spouse away from the hectic day-to-day. My kids mean the world to me, but what kind of a mommy am I if I'm not rested? What kind of parents are Nick and I if we do not take time away to work on "us".

The night we spent away we went out to Olive Garden (just us), had great conversation, and even had dessert! Then we checked into our room, swam, soaked in the hot tub, swam some more, watched a movie, munched on snacks, swam some more and even played some Super Nintendo! The point is we were together---with no distractions---no dirty diapers---no 2-year old meltdowns---just us. We talked about the kids of course---how much we love them, and all of the cute things they do. It's impossible to forget that! But we also talked about "us", prayed, and took time to tackle any surfacing issues. I can say with confidence, we emerged rested, more relaxed, better connected, and with an overall better vision of our family and the goals we have for ourselves and our kids. Yes, less than 24 hours did that!! You don't need to take a week long vacation. Sure they're nice--- but they are also expensive, and with kiddos, it's much more difficult finding a babysitter for that length of time.  Fortunately we are blessed with parents that have offered to watch the kids over night in our own home so that we could have a night away. How awesome is that?! It truly is a blessing knowing my little ones are well cared for and safely in the hands of family.

While I know everyone doesn't necessarily have parents to watch their kiddos for a night away---I'm certain everyone could find someone out there that they trust to watch them for one night away a year.  A friend, a co-worker, a brother or sister, your kid's best friend's parents....someone. As I have said before----where there is a will, there is a way. That is how I lived on the campus of Ball State University my entire life but managed to be enrolled in 4-H and show beef cattle, chickens, rabbits,  and sheep. In the summers I drove over 100 miles a day to feed, water, exercise, clean, and care for my animals----over 20 of them. People called me crazy---but I was determined. It was what I loved doing, and it was the only means by which I was able to do it.  So---I did! And....I won grand champion with many of those animals. Now, I am happily married with a family, and a flock of sheep that I am quite proud of that are located only about 40 feet from my front door.

My point is, if you're married, make it the priority. Matthew 6:21 says, "Therefore, wherever your treasure is, there your heart will be also." Is your heart in your marriage? Do you sincerely treasure your spouse? Perhaps you haven't treated it as the treasure it is. Once again---I'm not here to point fingers.  Certainly every marriage can be better, and we haven't done everything perfectly. No human being is perfect, therefore there are no perfect marriages. But that is exactly WHY we must continually be working at making our marriages the very best, or the enemy will certainly try and tear you apart.

Nick and I recently hosted a marriage seminar, and while there were HUNDREDS of great, awesome take-aways, one that stuck with me is that, "Your spouse is a gift from God." It wasn't that I didn't believe that before this seminar, but re-thinking every action you take and thinking of your spouse as a hand-crafted, uniquely made, gift from God Himself really makes you act and think differently about your significant other. It drives you to serve them, care for them, and cherish them all the more----because God himself has given you a precious gift. If we're entrusted with this great gift, shouldn't we care for it, nurture it, and help our marriages to flourish despite the sacrifices we may need to make?

Another awesome quote from this marriage series that hit home for me is this: "The greatest gift you can give the next generation is commitment and fidelity in marriage." Our marriage is a picture for our kids.  They will grow up with their own perceptions of how marriage is supposed to be by looking at us! Yes!! How's that for humbling....and kinda scary too! My personal opinion is that a large portion of the reason why we're having such trouble with kids these days (trust me, my husband is a high school teacher--- there are serious issues with some kids these days!) is because so many of them didn't grow up in a home with both a loving father, and loving mother.  They never saw the whole picture. They grew up being raised by one parent or the other, when God uniquely made kids with the need for the dynamics of a mother-father household. There is nothing that can replace that. Ever.

Now, if you're reading this and you're divorced, or perhaps you're a single parent for one reason or another.  Not all is lost---by far.  God's grace can overcome any obstacle, and it is with Him and Him alone that all things can be made new. I have some wonderful, amazing friends that have come from single-parent/ divorced homes.  In fact, my own mother passed when I was 11, so from 11 years on I was raised in a single parent home.  I'm not any worse for the wear! Why? Because God can fill any void.  The problem is so many parents do not depend on, and lean on God in such circumstances. It is through these difficulties that we need to reflect God's all-powerful love, and trust that despite our circumstances, God has entrusted us with these kids because we alone are the best parent on this earth that they could have.  How is that for confidence! Yep---God has given you the children you have because YOU are the BEST possible person to raise that specific child.
Now----if that's all true, those of us that are married, let's make our marriages a priority.  All those single parent's out there----keep fighting the good fight for your kids, and know that you too need time away to re-charge and reconnect with God. We all need quiet time with God, and it's an important to make that a priority. If we truly have a perpetually "open-line" with the God that made the universe, why don't we take advantage of that more often? Ahhh, but that is another topic for another day.  For now, remember to take rest in God, and nurture your marriages. While it may not be the easiest thing to leave your kiddos at home for a night to devote all your energy to reconnecting with your spouse and God; I guarantee your families will be tighter, you will cherish each other more, and your greater focus on the Lord will translate into an unwavering foundation for your marriage for years to come.