Romans 8:35-39 “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” “Mom, since you and dad are getting divorced, does that mean when we grow up and get married we will get divorced too?” My ten year old rarely asks questions about the fact that his father and I are separated. However, his innocent, and slightly fearful question, shows much going on beneath the surface. “No. It does not necessarily mean that. Your Gran and Papa and your Maw Maw and Paw Paw have all been married more than 30 years. Every couple is different. But you know what? Even if you do grow up and get divorced, you will be okay. If you are a child of God you will always be okay.” Mothers are we teaching our children that they will be okay? Are you teaching them that within the hand of a Holy, all powerful God “all things work together for good?” Or are we instilling in them a sense of dread and fear in hopes that if they are careful enough they will walk a straight line that will not bring us shame? Our children need to know that life is messy, even for Christians. There is no magic wand or secret formula that is going to give them “happily ever after.” They will be happy, joyful and content when they trust their life to their Father, circumstances have nothing to do with. The peace of God has nothing to do with our circumstances. Children who grow up in fear become adults which base their choices on fear and outward appearance. Do I want my children to find wonderful spouses with whom they can spend a lifetime? Absolutely. They have many great examples of couples who stay together and thrive. But I want them to know that if that does not happen they will be just fine. If they never marry, then can be joyful Christians. If their spouse dies, they can be joyful Christians, if they get divorced they can be joyful Christians. If they have a houseful of babies they can be joyful Christians, if they have no children they can be joyful Christians. If God gives them a sick and crippled baby they can be joyful Christians. If they are rich they can be joyful Christians, if they are poor they can be joyful Christians. “Live today in such a way that your children know we will all be okay”
My six year old son sat on my bed, his shirt pulled up staring at his belly button, deep in thought.
“Mommy, why do I have a belly button?”
“It’s where you and I were hooked up to each other when you were in my belly,” I explain.
“Why were we hooked up?”
“It’s where you got your blood and your oxygen from me. It’s how I fed you.”
He smiled, “Now you feed me in the kitchen.”
The cord may have been cut between me and my boy six years ago, but like he pointed out, not much has changed. I’m still the one feeding him, washing him, holding him, talking to him, helping him, healing him (even if it’s just a kiss on a hurt.) I am still irrevocably tethered to this comical, blonde haired boy. The same is true for my other two sons, and my little daughter.
Invisible cords of connection stretch out from me to them nourishing them, feeling them, probing them to detect problems. I thought when I was pregnant that I would be so relieved to have them out here in the world free of the threat of miscarriage or of harming them somehow with what I was eating or what I was doing. I was terrified of falling and somehow harming the little child inside of me. Once they were born, though, the weight of responsibility intensified. Because now, not only are these children at the mercy of my possible clumsiness, they are at the mercy of every word I speak to them, every choice I make for them. Their spiritual survival now depends on these invisible cords tethering them to me as they watch my life, listen to my words and (help me God) follow my footsteps.
“Present your bodies a living sacrifice.” We mothers are a living, breathing source of energy that our children are feeding off of every day. Yes we cook for them, and wash them, and care for them when they are sick, and do everything in our power to keep them safe and alive. But remember today that our words, our compassion and our empathy is what will keep them alive emotionally and spiritually. You will forever be tethered to each of your children. Nourish them well.
When Mom Gets Homeschooled
In my last article I looked at our cycles of self-doubt that will often hinder us. I wrote that article over two months ago, and God saw fit to make sure I had learned the lesson well. As He has often done in the last nine years (since I’ve become a parent) he used my children to teach me.
Through certain events, and sermons, and admonitions from concerned individuals (my husband), it was becoming increasingly obvious that there were some serious gaps in my parenting style and disciplinary practices with my kids. Some very bad habits were taking root in the hearts of my children and it was a direct result of my disciplinary style. My disciplinary style was based on emotion. If I was angry I might discipline you, but if I was in a really good mood you can get away with murder. As a result of it being based on emotion it was very inconsistent, because as we all know our emotions are very inconsistent.
The reason I had never set consistent rules with consistent consequences for my kids was ENTIRELY because of self-doubt. (If you have not read the article on self-doubt please do.) I doubted my ability to make the right choices for my kids, to set the right rules, to point them in the right path. That self-doubt led to a complete sense of apathy and helplessness resulting often in no discipline or threats.
There are a lot of details involved in parenting and those details confuse and scare me, because I am often convinced that one wrong move will turn them into Charles Manson. So as a result of that fear I would do nothing. However, through the encouraging words of good friends, I finally got a hold of a truth and that is this: Even if I cannot figure EVERYTHING out today I must pinpoint a few standards that I can confidently cling to. I was trying to look at the entire parenting experience as one giant mountain that I must conquer. That is not how parenting works. It is one moment at a time, one child at a time, one experience at a time, but there must be some underlying standards that never change and hopefully can be used to help direct the detailed decisions of the moment.
I know this may all seem very elementary to any of the “super moms” out there, who always stick your carefully outlined rules and schedules and who don’t have to make multiple ER visits in one week ;o) But I realized a long time ago, that I am not a super mom. I’m a very confused, nervous mom who wants to do this thing right so badly that sometimes the weight of that responsibility knocks me right on my butt, and I lock myself in the bathroom and cry for an hour. You see my kids are not accessories to me. My kids are not playthings. My kids are not consequences of a “no birth control policy.” My kids are not obstacles that stand in the way of what I am REALLY wanting to do. My kids are really, literally, completely my life and career. And I really, literally and completely feel responsible for what kind of people they turn out to be. And that is a huge frightening job if you are really taking it seriously.
So, after a very educational conversation the other night with several folks I love and admire and who know how to balance criticism with sincere edification, the Lord helped me outline four very simple little standards that I have begun using to guide my disciplinary action. Consistency being the key. The other morning my children woke up and each of them found a copy of this pinned beside their bed:
- I will respect my mother
- I will always obey quickly
- I will be kind and loving to everyone in my family
- I will not jump on the furniture
Now that fourth one may seem odd, but if you know my kids you understand that this is a HUGE issue for us, so don’t judge.
The consistency of consequences is showing an effect as well. I was very encouraged yesterday when my three year old began to stick her tongue out at me and then quickly covered her mouth with her own hand left the room! My husband pointed out to me yesterday as well that all the kids were answering me with “yes ma’am” when I gave an instruction, rather than a high pitched, whiny “WHY?” which had been the default response to everything I say to them.
So I am feeling really encouraged and confident this morning and desire your sincere prayers that I will simply be consistent and fight my own evil laziness (this article was supposed to be about laziness, hopefully next time.)
What Stands Against Us? (continued)
The Cycle of Self-Doubt
I have written on this topic before, but because I continue to struggle with it, and because many people close to me struggle with it, I will write on it some more. We are very literally our own worst enemies when it comes to doubting ourselves and holding ourselves back. Self-doubt works in a cycle and can completely shut down any potential for growth and productivity in our practical and spiritual lives. It is important to understand the cycle, so that you can identify it when it begins and stop it. The origins of the self-doubt can be endless and very personal. Because they are so individualized it’s impossible to cover that here, but we each have a pretty good idea where our own self-doubt stems from. Keep in mind, though, that just because the origin of the doubt is real, does not mean the doubt itself is valid or legitimate. If your father mocked you as a child for being chubby, it does not mean you really are less worthy as an individual. If your boss constantly berates you for incompetence, does it really mean you are in fact incompetent? Your true self is defined by your relationship with Christ. If you want to see your true self, you find it in prayer and in scripture. 1 Corinthians 3:18 But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.
The scripture is literally a mirror that will reflect back our true self. If there are changes that need to be made you will be informed of those in prayer, in meditation, in scripture, not in hateful criticism from your boss, spouse, parent, child, sibling, friend, co- worker or neighbor.
The cycle of self-doubt happens in four parts.
- Failure- Failure can be either real or projected. You need to know the difference. Real failure is when you attempt something and fall short of your goal. This is crushing and can begin the cycle of self-doubt. But real failure is good for us because it is a learning opportunity. You do not wallow in your failure, you learn from it. Therefore, it becomes a blessing. Projected failure is NOT a blessing. Projected failure is when SOMEONE ELSE makes you FEEL like a failure over something that you have no control over. But this criticism, this unfounded, misinformed, ridiculous criticism can still make a person spend years doubting themselves. The same goes for all kinds of issues that are perhaps out of your control such as your size, physical appearance, the family you come from, physical limitations, illness. You absolutely must learn to discern between a real failure and failure that someone is projecting onto you. Learn a lesson from real failure. Dismiss projected failure as a character flaw in the person who is projecting it onto you.
- Defeat- When we begin to sense failure (whether real or projected) we begin to feel defeat. Defeat is disappointment that we do not plan to get over. We will not learn a lesson from this real failure. We will believe in the projected failure that others are slinging at us. Defeat is irrational and un-realistic. When you enter this state of mind you begin to believe things about yourself that have no scriptural basis. You begin to believe unrealistically negative things about yourself and the world in general.
- Apathy- After defeat comes a sense of apathy. Apathy means, “Absence or suppression of passion, emotion, or excitement.” You simply do not care. Apathy leads to an attitude of doing the bare minimum, because a bare minimum of effort equals a bare minimum of failure and defeat. The less you attempt the less you can fail at.
- Continued Failure- The less you attempt the more you will feel and perceive yourself as a failure.
The cycle of self-doubt can be stopped at any level when we use the word of God to halt it in its tracks. If you have actually failed at something: learn a lesson from it and try again. If someone is projecting failure on you, declare as the apostle Paul did, “By the grace of God I am what I am.” Do not let anyone belittle God’s marvelous creation in you. Dismiss unfounded projected failure. If you have become apathetic, release it in repentance before God, because it is sin. With God all things are still possible.
Next time we’ll look at the curse of modern man that stands against all of us in one form or another: laziness! Think you don’t have a problem with laziness? You’ll be surprised the different forms laziness can manifest itself.
What Stands Against Us?
Colossians 2:14 Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to His cross.
This will be the first of a series of articles entitled, “The Order.” Specifically, these articles will be dealing with “the order” for our lives; how to order all the different elements of our daily lives into a seamless pattern of service and worship that glorifies our Father and ministers unto others. How can we keep our minds and activities from running in twenty directions at once? Are we really accomplishing anything worthwhile, when we try to “do it all”? Are we even capable of doing everything? Who decides what “everything” is anyway? Was it God or man that has created the list of obligations we all feel hanging over our heads each morning? And while we are running around trying to be everything to everyone, are we being the important things to the important people? I in no way consider myself an expert on this topic. If anything, I am a stumbling student like everyone else. I just want to share the few things the Lord began showing me back in November. Keep in mind, though, that even the few rays of light I have seen on this subject, still allude me on most days. And I find myself still running in circles, working very hard and accomplishing very little that can be counted worthy at the end of the day.
I want to begin by looking at Col 2:14 and trying to understand what lies against us. We all have an idea of who we want to be and then the reality of who we really are. For me, the two people are hardly similar. What is it that prevents us from being that person we dream of being? What stands against us? What holds us back? Part of the answer is in Col 2:14 and specifically in the word “ordinance.”
Many years ago, I learned an important rule: never assume you know the true meaning of a word before you’ve looked it up. Preferably, before you’ve looked it up in the Webster’s 1828. Often we assume a word means whatever the contaminated usage is for it in our own decade. But for an author’s writing to ring true in our minds, we need to understand what words meant to the author. If an author is not of our own time, it can sometimes be difficult to fully understand and appreciate their meaning. This is most true with the writers of the Bible, and the translators of the King James Version. Now admittedly, there was over 200 years between the authorization of the King James Bible and Webster’s 1828 masterpiece, but sometimes we just have to get as close as we can. Closer is always better.
So, when I read Col 2:14 back in November, the word that jumped out at me was ordinance. “Ordinance- a rule established by authority, a permanent rule of action.” A permanent rule of action. A permanent rule of action. And one more time, a permanent rule of action. Sometimes to help myself better understand a verse, I will paraphrase word meanings to clarify it to myself. “Blotting out the handwriting of permanent rules of action that were against us, which were contrary to us and took them out of the way nailing them to His cross.” Permanent rules of action are simply the things we do, the negative things we do, and do, and do and then do again that hinder the Spirit of God from molding us into our true self. Are there permanent rules of action in your life that hold you back from becoming your true self? Your true self is you in the perfect will of God. You completely centered and aligned to the leading of the Holy Spirit. You, wasting no time or energy on tasks, people, hobbies or careers that lie outside of God’s plan for you. You, gushing forth the love of God toward others, and soaking up and receiving the love of God from others. You, boldly pursuing the dreams that God put in your heart! Do you live life as your true self? If not, what “ordinances” what permanent rules of action, negative action, do you allow to stand against you?
In the next article we will look at some of the most common ordinances that stand against us.
Priorities Matthew 6:33 But seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things shall be added unto you.
My life has a funny way of changing from really slow and boring to entirely overloaded and crazy in the blink of an eye. And I usually cannot pinpoint exactly where the change took place. All I know is one day I’m spending long days on the porch reading while my kids play outside, all the housework is getting done, all the lessons are completed each day, writing goals get accomplished, I’m even working out regularly. Then wham! Next thing I know, I zipping and zooming to places where lay obligations to things. Every day of the week holds some “destination” that I must arrive at by a certain time “or else.” I come home to a messy house, grumpy kids, the school work lags, and I lag as well.
It is so difficult to prioritize life. To neatly lay it all out for yourself and say, “This is important. This is where the bulk of my attention will go, regardless of the so called obligations that beckon me from beyond my driveway.” Back in November, the Lord began to help me lay my life out in such a way, to begin to place things in “The Order” in which He would have me place them. It changed the way I looked at my job and myself. I can feel, though, recently that I am letting “The Order” slip. So as a reminder to myself, and hopefully as a help to you as well, I will be posting (in four or five parts) “The Order” as the Lord showed it to me. Life is all about priorities. We all want to be the best at everything, but what if the Lord’s will is for us is to simply be the best at one thing or two things. Is it really possible to devote that much attention to “everything” at the same time? Why can’t we just be “good” or “acceptable” in some areas? Do we put so much pressure on ourselves in so many different areas, that at the end of the day none of those areas really received our genuine attention and creativity?
Look for the upcoming articles on this topic beginning with, “What Lies Against Me?” a look at Col 2:14 and the self-defeating mindsets we put ourselves in which result in failure before we’ve even attempted something!
Today I want to share a book with you that had a huge impact on me as a new mother. “Susanna Mother of The Wesleys” by Rebecca Lamar Harmon. I can’t remember exactly where I got this book, I believe my dad ordered it for me when he owned a Christian book business. Many Christians are familiar with John and Charles Wesley, but few are as familiar with their amazing mother Susanna. This book explores Susanna’s life and the tremendous impact she had on her HUGE brood of children, most significantly on John and Charles who were so instrumental in the great revivals of England and colonial America. Harmon has used a lot of personal letters between Susanna and her famous sons to illustrate how influential she was in their walk with Christ. I was especially touched with how strong Susanna was in the face of tremendous tragedy throughout her life. A great lesson in being a “joyful mother of children.”