1.10.2017

A Gut-Honest Look at Love

“It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” 1 Corinthians 13:7-8a (NIV)

Today I’m feeling so challenged to look at love a little differently. Sometimes in the gut-honest quietness of my heart, I look at love through the eyes of what it will offer me.

I hold out the little cup of my heart to the people I love, “Will you fill my empty spaces? Today will you do that one really thoughtful thing and make me feel like I’m the most noticed and special woman in the world?”

Then I hold it out to my children, “Will you fill up my empty spaces? Will you do something today that makes me look really good as a mom so I’ll feel a little more validated?”

Then I hold it out to my ministry, “Will you fill up my empty spaces? Will you provide something today that makes me feel more significant?”

Maybe today seems like an odd time to consider such things.

But as we start a new year I actually think today is the perfect time to hit the reset button on my sometimes frail heart. Love is a tricky thing. Our hearts were created to crave it. God proclaims that love is greater than hope and greater than faith.

Amazing.

God also proclaims that love never fails. And in the quietness of my heart that verse from 1 Corinthians 13 makes me squirm a bit. I see love failing all the time. Or do I?

If my only view of love is what it will give me, love from others will fail me every time. It’s not that love fails. It’s that other people were never meant to be my God. Even a wonderful family and a thriving ministry can never truly fill me up, right all my wrongs and soothe those deep insecurities.

No, I can’t read 1 Corinthians chapter 13 with eyes hungry to see what love should give me, and then demand it from those around me. I should read those steadfast Scriptures with the realization: This is the kind of love I can choose to give.

I can choose that my love will be patient. My love will be kind. My love won’t keep a record of wrongs. (Ouch — that’s a hard one, right?)

I can choose that my love will protect and persevere.

And I can choose to lay the cup of my heart at Jesus’ feet and stop twirling, twirling, twirling, hoping — no, demanding — that those around me do things for me they were never meant to do.

Love isn’t what I have the opportunity to get from this world. Love is what I have the opportunity to give.

Sweet friend… if you’re trying to figure out how to let God provide the love your heart is aching for, I want to invite you to check out my new Bible study, Finding I Am. With this study, you’ll learn to:

• Trade feelings of emptiness and depletion for a more personal fulfillment from knowing who Jesus is.
• Stop living like a slave to your circumstances by training your heart to embrace the life-giving freedom God wants for you.
• Gain a better understanding of how Jesus’ words 2,000 years ago are so very applicable to the answers we are searching for today.

On January 23, we’re starting a FREE online Bible study of Finding I Am through Proverbs 31 Ministries. And I want you to join in. To find out more information and to sign up, click here!

5.4.2016

Overcoming the Overwhelming for Mother’s Day

With Mother’s Day just around the corner, I’m reminded that this holiday doesn’t always feel so ‘happy’ for each of us. I’m grateful my friend Rachel Wojo understands this and is guest posting on the blog today to point us to Jesus in the moments that might be difficult this time of year.

Some days I would pick up the phone to call her, only to realize that I couldn’t. Since Mom had graduated to Heaven, one of my favorite months of the year became the most difficult.

May 10 is Mom’s birthday and Mother’s Day is always close to that date. Going to church on Mother’s Day became bittersweet after her death. I wanted to celebrate my children and the joys of motherhood; but I also ached to see my mama. A roller coaster of emotions resulted.

After Mom’s death, my daughter, Taylor was diagnosed with MPS at age 4. The diagnosis of a rare, terminal disease was tough enough, but to watch the gradual decline as neurological degeneration occurred was more than I could bear. With the loss of my mother still very fresh, watching my daughter lose her quality of life little by little consumed my heart and soul.

At age 6, the loss of cognitive discernment grew more evident. TayTay didn’t sleep well, and when she woke up in the night, she’d play quietly in her room. Some nights, I placed her back in bed so many times that I couldn’t hold my eyes open long enough to walk to her room one more time. So I’d sleep on the floor in the hallway to ensure that she didn’t leave the room or injure herself. Our family worked to make everything as childproof as we could. We moved the light switch to the outer hallway so she wouldn’t play with it. To keep her from harming herself by swinging on hangers and climbing on closet shelves, we placed locks on the closet doors.

Then Taylor developed a habit of placing her hands in her diaper. During the day, we kept a close eye on her diapering needs, but at night, it became more challenging.

One Sunday morning, I awoke early to prepare for church and before I hopped in the shower, I peeked into Taylor’s room. In spite of my early rising, Taylor had been awake for a while. She had taken on an art project of the worst kind. Because I had been unable to care for her diapering needs instantly, she had plastered the room with poop. The curtains, the walls, the bedding, the carpet, the doorknob, her toys. Everything.

I could hardly pull myself together enough emotionally to take her to the bathtub and wash her clean. I opened her bedroom window, closed the door, and took her to my bed to watch TV so I could take a speed shower. All the while, I sobbed and asked God why.

Why did we have to go through this? Why did she have to lose her mind? Why did I have to spend the afternoon after church scrubbing down her entire room?

And why did all this have to happen… on Mother’s Day?

I couldn’t do it. I was overwhelmed on every level and struggled to understand. Why does life have to be so difficult?

How did I begin to overcome the overwhelming?

How did I begin to work through those hard questions? I discovered that I needed to run to God’s Word when discouragement strikes. If Psalm 18 were written today, it might be known as “David’s Survival Guide for the Overwhelmed.” Take a look at the psalmist’s 6 tips for overcoming the overwhelming.

• Recognize that God is your strength.
I love you, O Lord, my strength. (Psalm 18:1) Can you repeat David’s praise as your own?

• Realize that prayer is your lifeline.
What does your prayer life look like right now?

• Remember the victories God gave in the past.
What has God brought you through so far?

• Refuse to focus on personal limitations and believe God will do His redemptive work in you.
What personal fears are holding you back from believing God will empower you for His work?

• Recall the details of God’s moment by moment provisions.
How has God provided protection for you, even in your overwhelming circumstance?

• Renew your perspective of the situation.
Is your vision limited by failing to recognize his never-ending supply of strength?

My perspective of being an overwhelmed mama has changed drastically since that dreadful Mother’s Day afternoon I spent cleaning up poop. I’ve learned that God is my total source of strength and that by continually talking to my Heavenly Father about everything, I will naturally take my burdens to Him as well. When I think about the victories God has given me by providing patience and understanding, I’m stunned by His provisions. I stopped focusing on my lack of abilities to care for a child with special needs and began comprehending that God chose me to be Taylor’s mother. I am the mom He trusts with her unique and precious life.

Years after the poopy art incident occurred, more heartache consumed our family when we lost a sweet baby to Heaven just a few months after conception. Like David, we found ourselves in a state of being completely overwhelmed. But that’s why it’s called a survival guide. We’re likely going to need the reminders again and again, right?

Two years later, another Mother’s Day arrived and in place of feeling despair, our family experienced delight. This day, May 10, 2009, was not only Mother’s Day, and not only my mom’s birthday, but also a special redemption day. We had prayed and God answered beyond our request or imagination. He ushered a baby girl into our lives on this very day, not only to answer our prayers, but to reveal His incredible power and attention to detail. He redeemed a significant date for our family by allowing Tarah to be born on her grandma’s birthday and Mother’s Day, the very day that I thought I could never be fit to be a mom.

We only share the poopy art days to reveal the glory of how He takes the worst mess and creates the best message. How He takes the hard days of loss and balances them with happy days of love. How He loves to take the overwhelmed and transform them into overjoyed. He did it for us; He’ll do it for you too!

——

If you enjoyed today’s post, you’ll love Rachel’s latest book, One More Step: Finding Strength When You Feel Like Giving Up. We’ve got 3 copies to give away today! Just leave a comment below to be entered to win.

4.7.2016

Connecting our Kids with God’s Truth

As a mom of five, my greatest desire has always been to connect the hearts of my kids with the reality of God’s Truth. But sometimes it’s just plain challenging. Can I get an amen? That’s why my friend Courtney DeFeo is guest posting today – to show us a practical way to get our kids into God’s Word so God’s Word can get into them.

I have to be honest, some of my parenting decisions are made with the wrong motive. I just want my kids to make me look good on some days. Isn’t that sad?  I do care what other people think and say. I do care how my children behave, because it reflects on their mother dearest. I’ve also recognized this is a dangerous pattern for parenting and quite defeating if you try it for long.

It’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of biblical virtues. You can find me writing, ranting or speaking about the topic on any given day. I LOVE watching virtues like generosity and service and responsibility come to life in my kids. And in the core of my heart, I have the right motives for these virtues. I want them to know Jesus personally and discover the fruit of following Him. However, it’s so easy to get caught up in focusing on these virtuous things so that our kids behave like good little Christian kids.

What happens though when a real life issue creeps up into their life? Will they know the motions to the song and the definitions in their head? But stand frozen in fear because their heart has never engaged personally with God? 

Let me illustrate…

My daughter Ella is 9 years old and she has been biting her nails for a while. We have tried every tactic to get this habit to stop. And, I’m not really proud of all the tactics we used, from bribing to demanding she stop. We were getting concerned and frustrated.

One day, Ella decided she really was tired of hurting and was embarrassed by her fingers. She wanted our help to stop. Although we had tried so many things, I could tell her heart was in a different place.

We pulled out this self-control virtue card and talked about the idea of self-control.

It hit me – here was that tension! I really wanted Ella to stop because her short nails reflected on me as a parent. And I am so glad God nudged me to see a bigger lesson was at play. I could get visibly frustrated with her and just make her memorize this self-control card. Or, I could encourage her that she could do it. Because she loves Jesus and he lives in her, she has the fruit of the Spirit – and one of those is self-control.

I reminded her of the definition: Showing restraint even when desires are strong.

I reminded her of a key verse we’ve discussed many times: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13)

I reminded her what she was doing was hard but not impossible and that I was cheering for her.

I reminded her that Jesus does care about struggles like this.

We did offer an incentive and we put some gloves on at night, but the difference was my attitude with my girl. I was her chief encourager, not her most frustrated coach. And her attitude went from “I can’t” to “I can.”

We didn’t talk about it much more, but something clicked in Ella. And I do think God cares about our struggles – even biting nails. And she did it.

I’m so so thankful God used this little (but huge) moment to remind Ella that He is alive in her and working. That self-control is something she will need in her life for many years to come. And the next time she needs restraint? She can look back on this time. When she called on her Savior and together they won.

Lord, I want the heart of my kids. I want them to know You. Please guide my days to show them You are real. Help me to let go of looking like a great mom. Let me be more concerned with my children and their hearts than any outside appearance or performance.

This story is exactly why I created the Virtue Memory Cards. My heart’s desire is that families will grow closer to God and experience Him. I would never want a family to pick them up and use them to look good or score points. They were designed to impact the heart.

You can help your child begin to tie everyday character qualities to Scripture verses by getting your Virtue Memory Cards today! Click here for more information.