Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The New, Old and In Between....

There is a lot I wish I had known when I first became a Mama.

But the truth is, even if someone had told me, I might not have been in a place to hear. It's strange how the Lord brings the wisdom we need in the moments we need them. It's strange, yet refreshing and freeing in a sense.

I have three little people that I interact with all day long and you would think that by now I would have things under control and I would be a wonderful problem solver, patient in all our daily endeavors, and knowledgeable of all my treasure's needs.

That's simply not the case.

I can't even count how many times a day I find myself looking up and muttering, "What the Heck am I supposed to do now??" {And on the really humbling days, I find myself using stronger words than "heck".}

Motherhood is hard. 

Let's just lay that one simple truth on the table. If we know that, we can breath a little easier and find friendship where the enemy wants us to find loneliness.

There is a lot about motherhood that I know nothing about.

And today I just needed a little reminder. My heart needed a place to breath, a place to remember that motherhood is a lifelong venture that rarely ever comes in contact with instant gratification. 

Today, I needed to remember these things...

They're the things that others have taught me along the way...

They're the things that the new, the old, and the in between, could always take a refreshing dip in...

So here it is, a note to myself on a snowy morning in March...

1. Never forget the extent of your purpose... Mama, your job is irreplaceable. You are a magnificent woman, chosen by the King of Kings, to raise souls for the pleasure and glory of the most high God. Your calling is anything but small. When done well, the effects of your life spent pouring into souls, will last for ETERNITY. You have great purpose! On the hard days... remember your purpose.

2. There is tremendous blessing (on both sides) when you take the time to train them well... Each child's training will look different. Some will need a steady flow of consequences, while others will respond quickly to gentle reminders. Don't be afraid to give to each his own need. It might seem hard at first, the figuring out of individual needs, but God is faithful to show you and strengthen you. Don't grow weary of repeating, repeating, repeating. Give your children the gift of meaning what you say and saying only what you mean. Empty threats bring forth disobedient children but the following through of a mother against her willful child develops trust between the two of them, and eventually, a willing obedience in the child. If we quit after the first, of even the fiftieth try, we will miss out on the triumph that comes with perseverance and our children will miss out on the joy-filled life that comes with obedience. Take the time to train, even on the days that it feels like it's not working.

3. Pray... Prayer is your greatest tool. When in doubt, or at a total loss, PRAY.

4. Back up all your choices with scripture... Education, discipline, friendships, family rules, priorities...The Bible really does have something to say about pretty much everything. We may not always like what it says, but His Word is unfailing, trustworthy, and full of the best kind of wisdom. {The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom}. If we can't back our decisions up with the scriptures, then maybe we should be making different decisions?

5. Flood your home with grace... Grace for the treasures and grace for the Mama. If at first you fall on your face, get back up on your knees, and try try again. Forgive and ask forgiveness, as often as needed. Maybe that means several times a day during certain seasons? Pride tears a family apart. Humility knits a family tightly together. It begins with Mamas. What we exemplify is what our kids will grow up to live out in their own lives.

6. Never let your treasures doubt how in love you truly are with their Papa... Kiss that man of yours, hug him, tell him the things you like about him in front of your children! My two oldest giggle every time they come into the kitchen and see their Mama wrapped up in their Papa's arms. But as they grow, we want their memories to always hold their parents love and affection towards one another.

7. You WILL learn as you go... You don't need to know everything there is to know about parenting, today. He is faithful to reveal in His perfect timing, everything necessary for you to know. He'll give you wisdom for each child, each day... no need to run ahead. Stay in the moments, and soak them up. They truly are fleeting!

And isn't that motherhood? 

A constant running into Jesus? 

A humble letting go of ourselves that we might see and know more of Him? 

I guess it doesn't really matter how old or how new we are to mothering, we all need Jesus. :) 

Sunday, February 10, 2013

The Season of Lent....

“Lent begins with this realization. That we are a people in exile. That we are wandering far from our true home.
And thus the beginning of  repentance isn’t merely the terror that one finds in wandering in a strange land; the beginning of repentance is homesickness.
Lent teaches us to fess up to how often  we settle down in the land of our exile as though it were our true home; attempting to still the yearning the Spirit has created by throwing at it physical or    psychological pleasure, and how it never works.”
courtesy of Pastor Will Weedon
Lent is a 40 day period leading up to Easter that is characterized by prayer, reflection, repentance and often fasting, then culminating in the celebration of the resurrection and the feasting of Easter. It roughly mimics the 40 days Christ retreated to the wilderness and wrestled with the devil.
It’s a methodical way of proceeding through the scriptures and it prevents such things as quickly glossing over the celebration of Christ’s resurrection without spending time in quiet reflection of His death on the cross, the mental anguish and suffering which took place while He was in the wilderness, and the details of the events of His life during Holy Week. It’s like walking in ‘real time’ with Him during the last weeks of His life.
Lenten discipline  is not commanded or mentioned in the scriptures but we are admonished to fast and pray and forsake the flesh.  We all practice degrees of discipline already. Lent is the spiritual equivalent of physical exercise for the body. The body gets stronger when we demand much from it—not when we always ‘give in’ to what it wants. The same is true in disciplining our children. Because we love them so much, we demand what is best for them—which is often not what they, in their immaturity, want for themselves.
In C.S. Lewis’ The Problem of Pain, he puts it this way:
“It is for people whom we care nothing about that we demand happiness on any terms; with our friends, our lovers, our children, we are exacting and would rather see them suffer much than be happy in contemptible and estranging circumstances. God has paid us the intolerable compliment of loving us, in the deepest, most tragic, most inexorable sense………The Church is the Lord’s bride whom He so loves that in her no spot or blemish is endurable.”
Though the analogy breaks down when taken to extremes, God compares our relationship to Him to that between a parent/child. And Lewis, in his book, compares our being brought into God’s family to a very ‘badly brought up boy’ being introduced into a decent family. When they see traits in this child that are detestable, Lewis says ‘they not only hate it, but they ought to hate it. They cannot love him for what he is, they can only try to turn him into what he is not’.
…we are at present, creatures whose character must be, in some respects, a horror to God, and as it is, when we really see it, a horror to ourselves.”
God our Father, despite our unloveliness, has given us everything we need and has clothed us with the righteousness of Christ, but we, like Adam, want to ‘clothe’ ourselves. Lent is a time to strip down; to take off the filthy clothes of our own righteousness and to let our Father give us from His hand what He knows we need.
We learn from our Father by spending time with Him. There is much He wants to teach us and much that needs to be changed in us. But more than all that, He wants to give us Himself—-knowing that we were created for relationship with Him. And  nothing will satisfy the deepest longings of our soul save Our Father’s perfect love.   Lent is time to retreat with Our Father. To confess to Him that we have wandered so far from home and that we have become far too ‘comfortable’ in the pleasures of this life. To confess to Him how utterly dependent we have become on everything, but Him. And He will gladly ‘receive’ us back with open arms:  not because we demonstrate to Him our growing discipline and holiness,  but for the sake of Christ and Him alone.
A few stray thoughts:
1. Lent is a time for penitence and reflection and the practicing of christian discipline. It does not make God ‘more pleased with me’ and is not a ‘good work’. God is pleased with Christ alone and good works are those things which I do in service to my neighbor.
2. If I purpose to ‘give something up’ for Lent and then two weeks later find that I fail and can’t keep my lenten discipline, God is not disappointed in me. God is pleased with Christ and thus pleased with me when I have faith in Christ. I am a sinner who fails and sins constantly. And my failing is not a surprise to God.
3. If I keep my lenten discipline to the ‘tee’, I must be careful not to try and convince myself that I’m ‘more spiritual’ or holy than before. I have been freely clothed with the righteousness of Christ and am only learning to ‘fit’ into clothes that were given me by God.
4. We must also be careful not to view our discipline as ‘suffering’ and remember that Christ suffered on the cross for our redemption and we do not get to choose our own suffering (by giving up, say diet pepsi for a month).
5. It is a good exercise to occasionally deprive our bodies, to not give in to every fleshly desire. We are so often slaves to our own bodies and teaching ourselves discipline in any area is often met with resistance.
I leave you with another quote from Pastor Will Weedon who kept me from seeing Lent as a season where ‘I work hard to become more holy’;
The holiness into which you seek to grow has already been given to you, whole and entire! It’s yours in Jesus Christ, the gift of His righteousness  fully bequeathed you in Baptism, and constantly renewed in you by absolution and the Holy Eucharist. Through these wonderful gifts, we get to GROW  in the apprehension of that which is already our own, learning to live more and more from it, more and more from union with Christ and less and less  from the old self. So it is not that holiness grows in you; it is that you grow in holiness! Getting used to whom God has made you to be in His Son.   There’s real effort here, of course, but the effort is working at resting in Him who works all things through us. I don’t overcome sin by my willpower (ha!),  but by the strength of Him who has united Himself to me.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Introducing..... Anastasija


"He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow"

God has put it on our hearts to share our lives with Orphaned children.
Project 143, Finding homes for 143 Million Orphans, has made this an option for us.
The world is full of people in need. Children are the most vulnerable of all, and God has a very special place in his heart for each of these children.. In his word, he tells us to look after the Widowed and the Orphaned.
Through Project 143, we have the opportunity to share our home and an awesome Maine summer with a teenage girl. We will give her much love!
Your efforts will go directly to fund the her travel expenses . All Donations are Tax Deductible and a receipt will be sent directly to your e-mail
Project 143 is an incredible organization that is making a difference in finding homes for orphaned children through there host program.
For more information

Monday, January 28, 2013

Sticky Identity (Sticky Faith part 3)

Identity formation is affected by brain development.  

For us as parents, our high school graduation was the opportunity to put into practice our emerging self- our ideas, dreams, and plans.  In comparison, many of today's mid-twenties college graduates have a hard time deciding what they want to do, much less who they are. In terms of identity and adult independence, today's 23yr old is often the developmental equivalent of a 17yr old in 1980.  Few scholars debate this point from the impact of technology to rapidly diminishing sense of meaningful community, but as human development change so quickly researchers scramble to keep up. Parents need to keep in mind that the world in which our kids are growing up in is far different from the world in which we grew up in and that changes everything for them.

In early adolescence, because thinking is still childlike and concrete, 
your child will not spend much time reflecting on her personal identity. 
 Your middle schooler might, by his behavior and attitudes, ask
 "Who am I?", but is not yet aware that this is what he is doing.  
At this stage, your child's biggest needs are to be affirmed 
and surrounded by safe and loving parents AND 
to have his choices and life protected by appropriate boundaries.

Right around 9th grade, as the brain shifts from concrete to abstract thinking and awareness,
 your child will show expressions of adult commitment 
and fleshed-out identity, 
however be warned that you will likely also 
see plenty of immature behavior. This might be the most confusing 
time for parents; sometimes your kid will astound 
you with adult like maturity, and simultaneously he will surprise 
you with an attitude or behavior that demonstrates the exact opposite.

As parents, our job is to know that all of this conflicting, inconsistent,
 and confusing behavior is ACTUALLY our kids' way of discovering 
who they are and making the commitments towards who they want to be.

Often time children shelf  their faith for a time

Some children become overwhelmed by what we call daily life management, managing school and social networks, that they tend to put their faith in hold for a time ( especially in college, when life is simply a series of disconnected events).  Because we are looking for consistency and growth, if and when we see our kids shelving their faith, we can feel like we are losing them.  But we have to remember that identity and faith formations a messy process of" 2 steps forward, 1 step back"

Okay so what does identity development have to do with Sticky Faith?
 EVERYTHING, because who we are as people,
 and how we grow up acting based on our sense of who we are, 
is directly connected to our faith journey.  To help our children develop Sticky Faith, 
it is our job first to understand their process of trying to discover who they are,
 and then to create the environment that supports this discovery and commitment process.

People are hounded by a single question throughout their live:"Who am I?" 
Most answer that question...
I am what I do, I am what I control, and I am what others say about me...

But the answer to the single most important question affecting all of humanity, "Who am I?" is the message of Jesus and the Bible.
 Our children have been created, redeemed, 
and called to live as God's precious and beloved children. 

So, do your best to remind yourself and your kids that each one of them is a profound gift from God, and we are His somewhat flawed dispensers of grace to them.
Remembering to treat each child as an individual.

The concept of identity includes both a personal dimension (who I see myself to be as distinct from others) and a communal dimension (who am I as connected to others).  Our culture too often focuses only on our own sense of self (who I want to be), but a rich sustainable faith recognizes that as I walk in community with God's people, I ultimately discover who I am. You can build a Christian community around your kids a in a number of ways, the point is to build a network of caring believers who will pray for, mentor, and bless your children with their presence over the course of their lives.  Also, do your children a favor and explore with them how their family has shaped them (both its environment and its genetics).

-Help your children grow through hardship.
-Use extracurricular activities to explore identity (treat each sport or any other activity as an opportunity to use our gifts, passions, talents, and relationships for God's Kingdom purposes)
-Affirm Character growth more than academic achievement.
-Model  a relationship with God

Some questions to answer....

What are some ways you define yourself growing up? How were they helpful to you as you grew older? How where they hurtful?

How hard is it for you to see yourself as the beloved child of God?  How easy is it for your child?

Name some ways you can emphasize who your child is (beloved by God) rather than what your child does.  How would this emphasis change your approach to your child's extracurricular activites or academic achievement?

Monday, January 21, 2013

Sticky Gospel (Sticky Faith part 2)

Many kids are unable to define Christianity when you ask what would you say being a Christian is all about?
When our children are taught what it means to live as a Christian, typically they receive a list of what to do and what not to do. Philosopher Dallas Willard coined a phrase that sums up the way too many of us think of faith, calling it the "gospel of sin management". History has brought us to the point where the Christian message is thought to be essentially concerned with only how to deal with sin: with wrong doing or wrong being and its effects. Remember kids are not learning this concept in a vacuum. They are learning this from us, from the gospel we believe, talk about, and most of all, model to them everyday. Our kids are mirrors of our attitudes and beliefs.

Kids need to discover what it means to trust Christ. At the heart of Sticky Faith is a faith trusts in God and understands that obedience is a response to that trust in EVERYTHING. As we guide our kids to understand Sticky Faith, every decision, every thought, every action comes down to one simple question: In whom do I place my trust?

The Sticky Gospel reminds us that our focus is to trust, and God promises to work within us at every stage of process- by strengthening our trust, by giving us peace and patience as we wait for our lives to be transformed and by actually changing us from the inside out.

The theme of focusing first on internal transformation instead of external behavior is echoed by Paul in Philippians 3:1-14.  Paul calls his circumcision and his zealous pursuit of righteousness based on law "garbage" compared with knowing Christ.  In Philippians 3:12, Paul write that he will "press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me"

The outcome of a faith that is more concerned with working than trusting, or doing rather than freely living, is dangerous to young disciples. ( A performance-based Christianity can last only so long).  When Kids reach the awareness that they do not have the power or interest to keep the faith treadmill going, they will put their faith aside, this happens through failure, pain, insecurity, or inner wrestling with who is owner of their faith.
To help our kids discover and grab hold of a sustainable long-term, and vibrant Sticky Faith, we must stay true to the words of Jesus and heed the council of Paul: trust in the one the Father has sent, and live convinced that the only that counts is faith expressing itself through love.

In some of us, trusting this process in our kids can be hard.  We tend to want outcomes that are immediate and measurable.  When our kids don't seem to get what we think they ought to know or do or be, we can easily fall into a "because I told you to, that's why!" mentality.

Our jobs as parents throughout this process is twofold:
* First we help our kids learn to trust God and create the kind of environment where they are able to explore faith and trust while practicing their freedom to respond in love.

* Second, we model an unconditional, nonjudgmental, and ever-embracing love in which our kids can do nothing that jeopardizes or even lessens that love.


So the all-important question, then that puts wheels on the Biblical call to trust God to change us from the inside out is, "What does it mean to trust God?" or "How do we put this into practice every day?"

Three ways to help foster this kind of faith:

-Teach your kids that obedience is our response to trusting God
 -Frame all family discussions and activities as opportunities to know and trust Christ

                 *For many Family devotions are genuine, sincere, and enjoyable times to focus on God together, especially when kids are younger.  As kids get older, family devotions can sometimes become exercises that are more about getting through the ritual than a way to encourage our kids to talk about God as a family.  When kids reach middle school or so, the MOST PRODUCTIVE kinds of family devotions are often those that are less rigid and scheduled, and more organic and even spontaneous.

-Respond with grace when your child misbehaves
        *Default with compassion, whatever the offense your child is not doing this to get at you.  Even in the most egregious of situations, remember that they are, at the core, suffering, and they need you to care. As Jesus cares for us in all we go through, so we too are dispensers of His grace.
        *Don't Panic, there are very few issues you will face as parents that are irredeemable, even the BIGGIES.  Regardless of the circumstance, becoming overly distraught or emotional, especially within earshot of your child, only heightens your child's sense of dread, fear and shame. Remember Paul's words in Philippians 4:6-7

Some Reflection Questions:

What is the biggest obstacle to helping your child understand that the primary call of the Christian is to trust Christ? Describe where this is a difficult concept for you, and where it lines up with what you already believe and practice.

As stated obedience is the response to trust, why is it bettter to begin with trust and than respond through obedeince? Is it ever good to go the other direction: obey first and hope that trust follows?

How do you see your child's faith in light of this overview?  Where do you see them growing in what it means to trust Christ, and where do you see them living out of the do's and don'ts of Christianity?

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Sticky Faith Part 1

Well I started reading this book, to help assist me in building lasting faith in my children. While many of my friends are involved in a study around this book, I thought we could do some note exchange.  There are only so many hours in a day so I figure if I can get someone else to read a book for me and highlight the most important concepts she got out of it in exchange for some of my notes, BY GOLLY I WILL!!

Anyways, think you as a read of the blog also get to benefit right?

The 1st chapter is full of statistics of why kids faith isn't sticking, by this they mean why do 40-50 % of kids who graduate from church or youth group will fail to stick with their faith in college. Yup that's right, get all your kids together with their friends and start counting off, one, two, one, two, one ,two..... you get look at all the ones, they will not stick with their faith YIKES!

The authors Kara Powell, PhD and Chap Clark, PhD help define "sticky faith".

1. Stick Faith is both internal and external. Sticky Faith is part of a student's inner thoughts and emotions and is also externalized in choices and actions that reflect that faith commitment.

2.Sticky Faith is both personal and communal.  Sticky Faith celebrates God's specific care for each person while always locating faith in the global and local community of the church.

3.Sticky Faith is both mature and maturing. Sticky Faith shows marks of spiritual maturity but is also in process of growth.

 They wrote more about the influences that our children have growing up in the church and concluded that the way we, as parents, express and live out our faith may have a greater impact on our children than ANYTHING else. Well, if that shook you like it did me, keep reading! 


 It's never too late or too early to make a lasting impression of strong faith on our children.  Remember Sticky Faith is maturing, so like you my faith is still developing and will continue for my lifetime, therefore it is never too late to be more intentional in your parenting and the faith you model and discuss with your kids.

As for too early, the reality is that your kids' faith trajectories are formed long before 12th grade, so why not start young.

Some questions to think about:

- How does it make you feel to think that you are the most important influence on your child's faith?


- As you think about parenting thus far, what have you done that has contributed to your kids' faith? What do you wish you had done differently?


- What do you think of the suggestion that parents trust the Lord with their kids and beg the Lord to build Sticky Faith?