Sunday, July 16, 2017

Realizing (Again) That It's Not About Me

The righteous man who walks in integrity 
and lives life in accord with his [godly] beliefs--
How blessed [happy and spiritually secure] 
are his children after him [who have his example to follow].
Proverbs 20:7 AMP

What is my life displaying to my kids?  What is my heart attitude teaching them?  Is it only joyful and trusting in times of ease, on the mountaintop, when all is well?
What about when plans don't work out? When the unexpected happens? When dreams get shelved or desires disintegrate right out of your hands and you can no longer grasp them? 
How do I as a person, but also as a parent, respond to suffering and trials when all that is in me wants to throw a temper tantrum and scream, "It's not fair, God!!!"?  Not only am I working through my own feelings, trying to respond the way God has been teaching me to respond; I have three precious sets of eyes observing and learning how to walk this Christian life partially through watching how their mother responds to God. No longer are these the eyes of little toddlers- they are the eyes of teens/young adults who are getting ready to venture out on their own and experience this Grand Story that God created them for...and I'm scared and excited and nervous for them.

The past several days the words, "The Story" or "His Story" have come up in things I've read, or that others have shared.  It has stopped me in my tracks (tracks of whining and self-pity) and God has reminded me that none of this is about me.  It's not about how I look to other people, how secure our jobs or finances are, or what happens to my dreams and plans.  God wrote His Story before the foundation of the world; He placed me in it and has a specific purpose for me for HIS GLORY.  As I have been letting that sink deeply into my spirit, I have begun to release the white-knuckled grasp I've had on my life.  Very gently, He is pulling back one finger at a time from the "thing" I am holding most tightly to- my dreams.  I don't like it. At the moment it feels like when that last finger is pulled away all that I have hoped for will disappear.  When did I allow this perspective to creep in?  Where is the faith that God has grown in my heart over the years, to trust Him fully, to embrace all that He allows in my life?

Then I realize that my children are watching their mom respond.  It is sobering. What are they learning about God and all of His absolute Sovereignty and Goodness and Love?  Am I living out what I know to be true about Him: that He never does anything to harm us; that we can ALWAYS trust what He is doing; and that the purpose is His Glory? Then I read this morning that according to Proverbs 20:7 my children reap the blessing of my godly example!

Once again, I am reminded that it's not about me. My prayer is becoming, "Not my will, but YOURS be done."  I am asking God for a humble spirit- a submissive heart. I want my children to see Jesus when they look at me, and I want them to want Jesus more than anything.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Parenting Goals

“Our goal in parenting is not ultimately for our kids to get a great education or to be great athletes or to find a great husband or get a great career.
Our goal is for them to love a great God.” ~ David Platt

This quote came up in my FB memories a few days ago, and I once again was stopped in my tracks by the truth of this statement. It caused such an urgency in my heart to expound on it that I decided to “come out of hiding” regarding my two-year absence from blogging.  
Having three teenagers, two of whom are now young adults, is bringing the reality of this statement to life! It has been the goal that Jarrod and I have set before us as we have been raising our three children these past 19 years.  To the end of this statement I would add, “and to glorify Him in everything we do.
It can be a real struggle in this culture to keep our PRIMARY GOAL in front of us.  As our kids were growing up in the early years, it did not seem as contradictory to be training them to follow whatever God teaches through His Word.  We have taught each of our children that their job is to ask God what HE has purposed for them to do in life, knowing that God created each of them with unique abilities, spiritual giftings, desires, and a specific purpose for His glory.
Jarrod and I are well aware that we have been extremely blessed with three children who are unique in their callings and abilities.  Learning to navigate through the past 19 years with a son who is extremely tall, talented and passionate about sports has proven a joy and a challenge. He has excelled at virtually every sport he has taken on.  With these attributes comes a plethora of opinions and advice from countless people who love him and/or see what could be.  Raising a daughter over the past 18 years who is very artistic, an honor student throughout her life, and literally told all the time that she should be a model makes my heart swell with pride!  Who doesn’t love being the mother of such a wonderful daughter??  Training up a 16-year-old son who is full of athletic talent, is the life of the party, and a super-smart student is sometimes more than my heart can handle.  
Although they each have these amazing attributes about them, we believe that ultimately, above any talent or ability they have, God created them to love Him and bring Him glory.  If they can dunk a basketball, or earn a Doctorate, or play for the NFL, but do not obey the calling of God on their lives, all is in vain.
I want to address four problems that truly plague our culture, and from what I am observing, the lives of so many American Christians.  
-College has become a god.  If you do not get a college degree you are wrong, wasting your life, will never have a good job.  This is proclaimed throughout schools as well as among Christians.

-We have come to believe the lie that our goal is to have the best paying job available (which apparently comes only as a result of a college degree).
-Investing, retirement, and vacations are the ultimate goal to make life complete.

-If you have great athletic ability, it is obviously for the purpose of pursuing an athletic career, at least for the purpose of going to college for free. However, the fame of a professional career in athletics adds to one’s sense of worth.

-The goal in life is to be as happy and comfortable as possible.  If you will do all of the above, you are ensuring that you get the most out of life.

In the past year, we have been through the graduation of two of our three children. I have to tell you, we have endured a lot of well-meaning, albeit secular, advice regarding the paths our kids are supposed to take. Here are just a few of the things others (each of these Christians) have told us- or our child, directly- that we had to hold up against the Bible and politely ignore.

  1. “Well, you can’t be a missionary forever…”
  2. “It doesn’t matter where she goes; the important thing is that she GOES!”
  3. “You HAVE to have a college education if you want to ever have a good job.”

To each statement I have a Biblically-based answer:
  1. Yes, you can.- Matthew 28:19, Matthew 4:19, Acts 1:8, and many more
  2. Yes, it does/No, it isn't.- Ephesians 5:15-16, Proverbs 3:5-6, James 1:5,  Romans 12:2, and many more
  3. No, you don’t.- Colossians 3:23-24, Deuteronomy 24:14(meaning: God does not call every believer to a “good” job), Proverbs 12:11, 1 Corinthians 7:17, and many more.

You see, if the Bible is our standard for living, statements such as those above simply do not line up with God’s Word.  

Nowhere in Scripture does God command us to have a formal education. While I am not against education,  I certainly am against how our society (and yes, our Christian society) has made a god of college.  I am against the lie that without a degree one is not able to have a good job.  I am against the belief that the “acceptable” path is college after high school.

As a Christ-follower, if the Bible is our standard (I say that again because so many Christians really don’t live with the Bible as their standard), then we look at the whole of Scripture, ask for the Holy Spirit to reveal His purposes for revealing His glory through us during our lifetime, and from there make decisions as to what He has for each of us to do.  It will not be the same for everyone; it may come in the form of abandoning our dreams for His glory, or it may flow naturally from our giftings right into a career or ministry that we have always hoped for.  

My goal is not to pick on Christians. What I am seeing, however, is how we as Christ-followers have begun to conform to the pattern of this world. Our American culture has so infiltrated our thinking that we now act and think just like the world.  Our sights have become set on financial ease, respectful jobs, college degrees, investments and retirement plans, etc.  What has become of living by faith?  Is that solely for missionaries who raise support?  Why is it no longer acceptable for us to grow up with little means, but serve God wholeheartedly? The life that Jesus talked about is not a life of luxury but one of denial, cross-bearing, and abandonment. Because we live in an environment of ease our eyes and our hearts are set on things of this earth, and anything different from the norm becomes absurd.   

I will end with this:
If my children grow up and give their lives to Jesus to serve Him in some far-off remote village for the rest of their days, I will consider myself to be the most blessed parent alive!  If my children grow up with a passion for Jesus that translates into being a witness for Him as a lawyer, an actor, a businessman/woman I will praise God!  If my children never go to college (or never finish their degree), but marry a man/woman who is sold out to Jesus, and are themselves, sold out to Jesus, God is glorified and I am truly the most blessed mother on this planet!

The things of this world mean very little.  Abandoning your life to Christ means everything.  Whatever form that may take on- it is from Him and to Him and through Him. That is my prayer for my family.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Strength for Today

The past 2 Sundays have been full of encouragement.  My heart is full.  It's making my weekdays endurable.  I don't have a bad job, but the sudden changes have made it "not like-able".  When you don't look forward to being at work it makes for a long week.  So I will focus on what God is doing in our family.

Last Sunday (Jan. 4th) our pastor and his wife invited us to their house after church to have lunch with a missionary couple from Belize who were visiting over Christmas.  We were glad to go, yet had no idea how God would use that afternoon to build up our joy, faith, encouragement, etc.!!  This couple just "happened" to have moved their 2 teenagers across the ocean to Russia 10 years ago when God called them into missions.  They just "happened" to grow up in the same town/area as Jarrod!!  On and on I could go.  But the point I am making is that God knew how much we needed the words of encouragement, the laughter, the "you can do this" and "you WILL do this!" that we received from Tom and Alida Sharp.   TEARS OF JOY came over me as I realized that God is so true to His promises!  We needed those hours of laughter, tears, smiles, understanding. And in the end, we have 2 new friends!!

As we are witnessing God at work in our family this verse comes vividly into mind:

"For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him." Phillipians 2:13

Then this past Sunday (Jan. 11th) we went to church as usual.  I had been praying for God to just give me some encouragement.  This whole Preview Trip we are taking to Swaziland in July had me a bit down because we need to raise around $15k, PLUS we are preparing to raise our support for actually moving over there.  I've known all along that it is God who will provide, yet in my humanness I still struggle with what I cannot see.  Our church has been taking up an ongoing love offering to help us with our preview trip.  It was announced yesterday that they have raised $2100 to this point!!  Wow!  I audibly gasped when this number was announced!  WOW!  Thank you, God!

We invited our church to come with us last night to see the African Children's Choir.  They were performing in Albuquerque and because we have seen them and the Watoto Children's Choir we knew what a blessing it would be.  Around 20 of us sat together and of course, I cried through most of the concert because my heart is so there!!  I love those children and cannot WAIT until I step foot on African soil again.  Anyway, before the concert our pastor came and sat with us and told us, "Your support is now at $10,000"!!  WHAT?!?!?!  We have been blessed with an additional $8000 towards our trip!

God is never late, rarely early, but ALWAYS on time!!  There are plane tickets to be purchased now and we feel like we now have the encouragement (that I prayed for) and the momentum to move forward with the millions of details that lie ahead!  Thank You, God!  You are so good to us!! 

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

I'm Back!

Time to start fresh.  It's almost 2015, and I have taken leave from blogging for 2 years; not intentionally, but because I wrestle with fear and intimidation.  But as we are taking a bold leap of faith as a family this year I believe it time for me to cast off this fear of man and do what I love to do: write- honestly, candidly, from the heart.  Lord Jesus, I need Your boldness.

If I could sum up 2014 in one word it would be "COMMITMENT".  This is the year that we have heard Him speak clearly to both of us regarding our calling.  It is the year that we pursued His calling to the point of commitment; a commitment that placed us on the path back to Africa!  There are so many unknowns, but there are also many affirmations that help us to continue stepping forward, even if it is with baby steps.
So this "commitment" that I speak can read all about it here.  The word "missionary" can cause some distance, if you will.  On this page I want to just share as a real mom, wife, friend who goes through everyday stuff and depends on Jesus to walk me through it all.

I have experienced so many things this year, but for today I'll limit it to one: Working full-time.  This has been a big blessing for our family and has given me the opportunity to work alongside women who are in need of Jesus. Even though it means I am not at home as much as I would love to be I know that God is using this to grow my dependence on Him and to prepare me for where He is taking us.  My husband and kids are so good to understand that working means a messier house, laundry at 11pm, do-it-yourself breakfast/lunch, and frequent "turn off ALL the lights before you leave" reminders.
I am not one of those women who feel so empowered because she now has a job and therefore has meaning.  Really, I'm not.  Where I love to be is in my home, keeping things going for my family.  However, this work thing is a "season" for me, and it is teaching me:
 *multi-tasking (on a whole new level)
*control-release (one simply cannot keep a perfect house when one is working)
*delegation (children are learning that "mom" is not a synonym for "maid")
*days off make me as giddy as a school-girl
*one really can survive on 5-6 hours of sleep on a regular basis

As I am realizing that this is the last day of 2014, my heart is so full of gratefulness for ALL of the big and small things that God has brought me through.  I've experienced extreme heartbreak, exhilarating joy, and quiet peace in my spirit as we've walked a crazy-fun path over these past 12 months.  My children are growing older (and taller), my relationship with Jarrod is growing deeper and sweeter, and my love and dependence on Jesus is unexplainable- cannot find words to tell you how much I love Him.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Can't think of a title

Just when you think you've got a great "game plan"...
I'm not complaining. Really, I'm not.
This simply is not how I saw things playing out in my mind.

Update from last post:
(Transmission fluid leaking all over garage floor.)
All went well for a couple of weeks.
Added more T-fluid and no problems all through Christmas.
Last week- more leakage.
More T-fluid.
This time the squealing began.

This morning I woke up with fear.
"Can I even make it to take the kids to school??"
"What are we going to do with one vehicle??"

But this morning, the Lord spoke to me:
"Melissa, trust Me.  I am already there.  Do you trust Me?"

"Yes, God.  I trust You.  It's Your van, anyway, and worrying won't make it work any better than it did yesterday...but just keep it going until next month when we can hopefully get a new car.  pleeeeease?"

But this morning, on the way to school, the transmission had enough.
 As I crept down Rt. 66 to drop the kids off, I felt myself saying,
"This is NOT the way it was supposed to happen!!
Just get us to the school , Lord.  Please, just get me home, Lord."
The van did not agree with me.  No gears means no driving.

I called Jarrod, who was half-way to Albuquerque, and he turned around.
He picked me up on Rt. 66 (thankfully in an Elem. school parking lot).

We had our "PLAN"...
Tax refund + trade-in= NEWER CAR...
Next month.

Seems good.  Seems wise.  Seems "right".

On the way to Albuquerque to take Jarrod to work God brought this verse to my mind:

Proverbs 19:21
21 You can make many plans,
but the Lord’s purpose will prevail."

I have no idea what His purpose is in the timing of this.
We made plans that seemed good and right, what we ought to do.
Yet He is proving Himself true today.
He does have His purpose.

And I trust Him.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Never means NEVER

Just last night on the way home from school/basketball one of my kids brought up the story about the rich man that Jesus talked to about surrendering his life to God.  The kids were puzzled by the statement He made to His disciples,

"I’ll say it again—it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God!” Matthew 19:24

And what I just noticed is that Jesus said it twice!  In verse 23 He said, 

"Then Jesus said to his disciples, “I tell you the truth, it is very hard for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of Heaven."

We talked about what that meant.  In our own family we have walked through numerous times of need, and rather a few times of plenty, monetarily speaking.  We all had to agree that in the times when we have "plenty" our focus all too quickly can turn to our money, our fun, and our own abilities.  How quickly we can lose our desperate need for God and His provision in all areas of life.

Yet in the the many times we have lived on so little, our talks with Jesus are open, constant, and real.  We know that every penny we have is His, that our needs must be met by Him alone, not a paycheck.  It flows over into all areas, not just money.

This morning I had an opportunity to claim another verse related to money. (Thanks, hubby dear, for this reminder):

 "Don’t love money; be satisfied with what you have.  For God has said,
'I will never fail you.  I will never abandon you.' ”   ~Hebrews 13:5                                         

As I went to start the van this morning I saw red transmission fluid leaking out all over the carport.  I had no time to deal with this as I was taking all three kiddos to school, and Jake, especially had to be there on time as his team is leaving for a 3 day tournament in Artesia, NM.  

I backed out, and was mad.

"God, this van is 15 yrs. old, has nearly 248,000 miles on it, and we've pleaded for years...YEARS, for You to provide a newer vehicle.  We have waited, prayed, looked, waited and prayed some more!! WHEN ARE YOU GOING TO LISTEN AND ANSWER?!?!"

He was so patient with my ranting and raving.  
That old purple van got all three kids to school and me back to the house.  

Along the way as I talked to Jarrod (in Santa Fe for the week), among many things he reminded me,"Melissa, remember what God says to us?.. 'I will never leave you, nor forsake you.' "  

Stop.  Stop right there.  
That is true, therefore my anger needs to stop, my fears need to stop.

I told Jarrod that sometimes I get so mad at having 2 old cars that I just want to trade them in and who CARES if we have car payments??  I just want better cars!  Yet...

Yet, we've asked GOD to provide this need.  He knows what we need before we even ask (Matthew 6:8).  
Several years ago we committed to not having car payments, knowing full well that it means waiting on HIS timing to provide the cash or the vehicle itself.
So, if I were to go out, trade in this old clunker and get a spiffy newer car complete with monthly payments and God didn't tell me to...He will not bless that decision, and we will regret not waiting on Him.

It's the age-old truth:  Obedience brings Blessing, Disobedience brings Conflict.

I want His blessing.  I want to obey Him because He's in charge-not me.

Lesson for today:
I have all that I need right now.  He will provide for us when it is time.  
I need to thank Him for always taking good care of us and never leaving us abandoned. 

Never means NEVER.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Take Time to Get Into Their Lives

Last night Jarrod and I took time to deal with a couple of issues with our youngest. 

It had to do with this "in-between" stage of one minute being a kid, the next minute being a teen, emotions, etc.

We had not even seen a glimpse of the trouble in his little heart. 
He's such a fun-loving, care-free kid.

We sat him down and gently asked some questions.  
As tears were welling up in his eyes I could see the hurt feelings, and the complete confusion about life and how to handle it.
He doesn't know why he's feeling this way, acting this way, or why kids have to be so cruel.

He didn't shy away from us, and was honest when he couldn't explain his actions or feelings.
We realized that he needed us to sit him down and just CARE.  
It isn't that we don't; not at all!  
But when you have older children and busy schedules, sometimes the youngest gets lost in the shuffle.

After our talk, the difference in his countenance was amazing.  
In fact, the rest of the night he wouldn't leave us alone.

We sat with another child for a few minutes to "get into their life", and the same result: this one kept following us, too!

They plopped on our bed and just wanted to talk...about nothing big.
In fact, most of what they said was just goofy.  
But they felt safe with us.
They knew we loved them and cared.
Eventually, we had to make them "scram" so we could have our bed back. 

Have you sat down one on one with your kids lately and just asked them how they're doing with friends, the boy/girl thing, school work?
They are in a world we know so little about. 
Do it!!
There is so little time, and even your teenagers are dying to know that you CARE.

It won't be long before you're kicking them off your bed, too!