Just swing

And he awoke and rebuked the wind and the raging waves, and they ceased, and there was a calm. He said to them, “Where is your faith?” ~Luke 8:24-25

“Stop panicking and trust, Momma. God knows. Your job is to trust Him. He’s got this.” Those words from my daughter. They draw me up sharp and take my breath away.

We have one child who has a serious aversion to movement, just cannot take the swinging motion of being thrown up by her daddy. You can forget any bikes, swings, or roller coasters. She will completely panic if she feels movement-wise out of control, and you cannot convince her that you have her and will hold her safe. She’s in full out panic mode protecting herself in that moment, wildly flailing about, screaming, crying. Inconsolable if she feels as if someone bigger just took advantage of her and threw her around.

And this is me so often with God. In the last 3-4 years of life, we have had alot of crazy – illnesses, deaths, changes, births, new cities, new schools, injuries. And I feel like I have somehow gotten on a roller coaster that I never wanted to ride, and I can’t get off. I may swing high and enjoy a moment of exhilaration but the plummeting back down can fill me with such panic or fear, wondering if I will crash.

We see it in the story of the disciples out on the lake with Jesus. The storm comes that pounds and rocks the boat with such ferocity that the disciples panic. Several of these men are well seasoned fishermen who have seen storms like this before, yet they see the waters flowing into the boat, recognize the power of the storm, and are scared. The Bible recounts this story in 3 different places (Matthew 8:23-27, Mark 4:35-41 and Luke 8:22-25) and in each recounting Jesus is asleep. The disciples begin to realize the boat could sink or capsize, and they wake him frantically asking him to save them. In Mark 4:38, they say, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” and in the other two passages they cry out that they are perishing and ask for salvation. They are panicking!

Yet they have just spent days with Jesus watching him heal the sick, cast out demons, and raise the dead. They have listened to his teaching and marveled at the truths he taught. They have seen evidence of his power, authority, and might. But in the storm that night, I think these men absolutely thought they were going to die and then looked over and saw the peace Jesus had in his sleep and it may have just bugged them completely. They desperately wanted safety and knew the power they had seen displayed earlier was their only hope. Often when I am in full freak out mode, not trusting or believing, I want everyone else with me to feel my panic and join me in despair. But the wisdom my child offered parallels what Jesus asked his disciples. “Where is your faith?” Now my daughter can’t change anything but what she is able to do is speak words of life, reminders to redirect thought patterns to the One who is able to handle all storms, obstacles, and catastrophes. I love that Jesus in His great mercy and grace calms the storm with a word. Then He challenges the disciples’ degree of faith.

Trust – to be confident, sure or bold; refuge. Psalm 9:9-10 declares, “The Lord is a stronghold for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble. And those who know your name put their trust in you, for you, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek you.” and Psalm 13:5, “But I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation. I will sing to the Lord because he has dealt bountifully with me.” David wasn’t confused – his heart in Ps 13 was aching, throbbing with the longing of being somewhere other than where he was. He wanted the sorrow and pain to end and joyful communion with God to be his daily walk. But then he actually stops and sees God.

I think that is the key posture I forget. In the midst of my freakout, can I calm enough to consider the One who can calm this storm, stop the madness, or do I just keep spinning? Inherent to any mother is the understanding that when your child is completely unglued, if you can just get them to look at you and listen to your quiet, calm voice, they can focus, stabilize. What do we often say to a child in tremendous angst? Sshh, listen to me, quiet, calm down, focus.  Isn’t that what our Father in heaven says to us over and over? “Abide in me,” “Take my yoke and learn from me, for I am gently and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls,” “Set your minds on things above and not on earthly things” Scripture tells us over and over that our God cares for us like a bird cares for her young, compassionately loves us, remembers our frailties, delights in our seeking Him. And even in the boat, Jesus doesn’t give a lecture to the disciples first while they are so frightened. He calms the storm first.

The truth for David and for me is that His steadfast love offers salvation, intimacy and relationship, and hope for eternity. He has declared Himself Lord over every circumstance of my life. The question becomes do I allow Him the rightful place as Lord? Or do I seek to self-protect, denying His perfect protection? Am I like my flailing, panicked child, so fearful of the movements and changes that life brings that I lose sight of the Great Almighty, the One in whose shelter I am invited to abide? Or do I swing, trusting that He is able to control the movement? Do I remember that He has dealt bountifully with me?

Wisdom

“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; all those who practice it have a good understanding. His praise endures forever!” ~Psalm 111:10

We are raising, engaging, and actively discipling 4 teenagers currently in our home. This is such a sweet season full of laughter and craziness. I so thoroughly enjoy being with my teens, listening to their hearts, hearing their adventures, and learning more about them. But it is also filled with raw emotions – so many nights with the Lord pleading on their behalf that they will grow in their love for the Lord, that they will seek Him with all their heart, and that they will choose Him over all the distractions and temptations of this world.

Many friends ask me how we engage our kids in the process of discipline as they mature into their teens. I must say first that we don’t have a method that has been proven, we don’t have a magical 1,2,3 process that works for each kid in a month. But we have the Master, the source of all wisdom who is the perfect Parent. He must be all we need in this. And we certainly don’t have perfect kids – there have been many moments when I have reeled from choices they have made.

But as our children have grown into the early teen years, discipline has had to change. No longer is it appropriate to just say “No” as it was in the early years or even give a brief reason why for your answer. These are the years of questioning, of debate, of wrestling. Someone once shared with me that as infants and young children our little ones allow us to hold their hearts, and we have the amazing opportunity to caress and care for them. But as our children mature they naturally begin to pull their heart back and decide who will hold their heart.

And I still want to be the one they choose.

Somewhere between 8-12 years, my kids have all begun that painful pulling away from the sweet surrender of childhood where mommy is the best ever to a questioning and critical eye of mom. And finally in the teen years, they can see most of my faults, shortcomings, and complete uncoolness. So for them to expose their hearts now is great vulnerability and yet so necessary in order to be a voice that can speak over the voice of the world and speak Truth into their lives at a time when the decisions they make are big.

So how do I do that? How do I win the right to still hold their heart? I don’t know, I think many times I have had them take their hurt heart away from me because I have mishandled it. I have wounded them with harsh words or criticism. But I can testify to the healing that comes with repentance, with apology and humility, when I come to them, owning my sin and seeking their forgiveness.

When we consider the goal with our children, what we want for them long term, I know my heart’s desire is that Christ would dwell in their hearts through faith. So we have begun to convert the conversation from a dictation of behavior to a conversation about wisdom with our teenagers. Challenging them to line up what they desire to do or have with the wisdom of God and His word independent of me has been key to their growth. My youth pastor used to say a phrase “There’s good and there’s bad but that’s not our cue but rather what is the wise thing to do.” And that phrase lives in our home. The conversation around decisions, whether big or small, has to become centered on the question, “what is the wise thing for you to do according to God’s word?” Often our kids want us to make the decision for them or they don’t want any limitations placed on them, and many times I have wanted to just make the choice for them because it was obvious to me what was wise to do! But that never teaches them to engage with God and pursue wisdom for themselves.

To challenge our teens to pursue the wisdom of God — that is our goal. To line up their lives with what God says in His word takes away any arguments they may make regarding our invalid opinions and instead puts them in front of God himself and His Word. Then they need to make decisions about who they will follow in that moment.

Wisdom takes practice, it takes seeking, it isn’t natural to us. Proverbs 2 is a great passage that shows the blessings for the wise ~ the ones who choose to pursue wisdom and incline their heart to Him.

So as they move into life, my role as protector changes to intercessor and encourager asking, “What is the wise thing to do?”

Who do I know?

“Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.” ~Phil. 3:8

If I seek to know Him and follow Him, I must immediately realize that the intimacy He offers is for RIGHT where I am. So my 8 children and my husband are the areas where God will grow my intimacy with Him the most. He doesn’t want me just “surviving” even 1 hour. He wants me intimately and fully dependent on Him. How practically does this play out for me?

~when my children are fussing, He wants me depending on His patience

~when my teen wants to be disrespectful, I am to seek His face before I respond

~when I don’t understand the little one’s potty choices, He has the wisdom for the crisis

~when the infant won’t sleep, He has the answers for sleep and the strength to walk the day out completely exhausted

~when I have more laundry, cooking, cleaning, errands than I can imagine, I am to rest in Him and set my my eyes on Him

~when my husband hurts my feelings or exasperates me, I am to run to the One who always meets my expectations

He alone knows all things, He alone has dealt with all sin, He alone commands respect. So either I survive doing my “best,” or I grasp hold of His righteousness and consider all my efforts loss and rubbish. Paul said it so clearly in Philippians 3:4-11- His Lordship, knowing Him is so great, gaining Him as a mother is true power, true righteousness, and therefore true faith. Can faith really grow apart from this decision that all I do must be nothing?
verse 7- “whatever was to my profit” — what do I attribute to my profit? my intelligence, my skills, my personality, my wallet, my husband, my children — all which I very easily can declare as pointing to my pedigree of goodness or worthiness just like Paul references in verses 4-6. But all of this is loss for Jesus. In fact everything about me is a loss compared to the greatness of knowing Christ Jesus. Either I spend my day seeking to summon up whatever skill set is needed, or I remember the cross. For at the cross all expectations for my behavior and all that I have to offer was proven insufficient and worthy of destruction. Jesus alone offers everything I need for life and so therefore He alone offers all I need for today.

The surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord – Do I get how far above everything else it is to know you, Jesus? Do I stop just on the other side of the cross, knowing you for salvation and knowing me for the day to day challenges? For you, Lord, I want to lose all things. Lord, show me how to do this, how to change my perspective that I may gain more of You. I so want to know You more intimately, to follow you and be your light here.

https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/the-cross-has-the-final-word/id1207122501?i=1207122505

Call to Me

Thus says the LORD who made the earth, the LORD who formed it to establish it –the LORD is his name: Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known.” ~ Jeremiah 33:3

How many times have I stood in a situation or walked away from some interaction with one of my children and thought, “I have no idea what to do?” I have no idea how to discipline, encourage, love or shepherd that child right now in this moment. And most of the time then my next thoughts will begin to list all the problems that child has, all the ways he or she needs to change or be different that would help me parent them. “He needs to be more kind; she is so focused on herself; he needs to be more organized, more obedient, more helpful, more truthful,” the list can go on and on in my head. Or sometimes I have no idea why that child is behaving – I promise you, there have been many potty trained toddlers who suddenly were no longer trained and many sleeping babies who stopped sleeping for no apparent reason and many moody older kids! But God issues an invitation to pray – To come before Him, seek Him for the truth of my next step.

Praying is not an easy step for me. I just want to have the solution and be done. So often I have scrambled for methods, solutions, steps to take to fix this or help that. Until God showed me His heart in His word.

He issues an invitation to Call unto Him, to cry out before Him about what is going on in my family, my day, my children. And He follows this invitation with a promise – He will answer me and tell me the great and hidden things I don’t know.

And what I have learned through the years is that God is in the potty training! He cares about the sleepless baby (and you!) He knows why your toddler throws such fits, and He understands the depths of turmoil and angst in your preteen or teenager’s hearts. He knows these great and hidden things! He wants to show us how to love our children with His perfect love. He wants to reveal the deepest parts of them to us, so that we may gently with His love shape and shepherd their hearts, and one day they will walk with Him.

Hebrews 4:16 states, “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” As believers we are welcomed into the throne room of God! I pray that you understand the Gospel: that we were once lost in sin (Rom. 3:9) but Jesus came and took your sin and mine that we could be justified and saved by Him from the wrath of God (Rom 5:9) and set free (Rom 8:1-2). If this is not something you understand or would like more information about, you can contact me.

God has set a great task before you and me – to care for, lead and introduce His children to Him as we walk with them every day. At times it feels daunting. But He invites us to seek Him in this – His wisdom, His insight and His grace. I need his grace for myself because I make so many mistakes when it comes to parenting, and I need His grace to flow through me to these precious kids who need to see Him.

He Leads Me

He will tend his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms; he will carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young.” ~Is. 40:11

Being a mom is hard work. It really doesn’t matter if you have 1 child, 3 children or 8, in my experience the hard things of parenthood are there. Because the hardest parts aren’t juggling schedules, feeding kids, or putting them to bed at night.

The really hardest part of caring for my children is the battle in my mind that I am really NOT doing this well. The fear that I won’t or don’t know what to do in a given situation, the concern that I didn’t say the right thing to a child or lost my temper when I should have been patient, the replay of different scenes from the day can overwhelm me with thoughts that I messed up. That I fell short. That my children need something more than what I offer. That if I could just do better…

Women all the time want to be impressed with how many children we have and somehow then believe that whatever they are walking through with their 2 shouldn’t be as difficult as they were thinking because in comparison they have it easy and could never imagine life with 8. But I promise you I was thinking all these thoughts with my first little one so many years ago when all he did was nurse, sleep (not much) and cry (a lot!)

God will gently lead you with your young. There have been so many times through the last 18 years of mommyhood that I have cried out to the Lord. And this verse has become a bedrock for me – He cares for me with my young and is gentle towards me. He leads, so I can follow Him. When the way seems unsteady or scary or when I feel like I am royally messing it up, He gathers the lamb and gently leads me.

Context is so important in scripture and Isaiah 40 is one of my favorite places to run when I am discouraged, weary, questioning, or longing for answers. This verse 11 sits in the midst of the declaration of who God is in his omniscience and omnipotence. Verse 18 asks, “To whom then will you liken God, or what likeness compare with him?” He is the great I AM, the mighty Creator, the Mighty King, the Holy One. As you read through this passage you see Isaiah listing off all God has done, everything He holds together, the power He wields, and His declaration that He is beyond comparison.

And I cannot help but realize that my problem teenager, temper tantrum throwing two year old, rowdy preschooler, or moody middle schooler is not a problem for Him. And He promises to gently lead me.

The last part of Isaiah 40 speaks to our discouragement: “Why do you say, O Jacob, and speak, O Israel, ‘My way is hidden from the Lord, and my right is disregarded by my God’?” (v.27) How often have I felt this way and believed the lie that I am all alone in this struggle? If I could just convince other moms of this one thing – you are not alone. He is with you. He is committed to you. He is carrying you as you tend the little flock you have been entrusted with. And when you feel weary and at the end of your strength, confused and at a loss, or just wanting to quit, “He does not faint or grow weary; His understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might He increases strength. Even youth (or moms) shall faint and be weary, and young men (mommies with babies!) shall fall exhausted; BUT they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.

You can walk out today with your precious little ones because the greatest parent of all gently leads you and gives you strength for the task.