Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Watch Out!

Laundry & Netflix. Any Mommas (or Dads) out there ever make use of that combo? Well that was me last weekend! An ever-growing mountain of laundry and the final message in a series by Steven Furtick called "Death to Selfie" consumed most of my Friday morning. I posted something I got from that message on SM, and it said this, "Your tears today can water the seed of your harvest tomorrow. #trustGod

You know so often, we either become consumed by our troubling or difficult situation or we go all "macho man" on it and push it away because we just don't want to have to deal with it. But it's okay to have tears; it's okay to have rain in our lives... Last night, Trenton had a football game and as I sat in the pouring rain, waiting to see my little guy run out on that field for a final play, my initial thoughts softened and changed. It was just rain, something we need. Nothing about that rain hurt me or altered my life physically, {although an umbrella would have been ideal} in fact it will bring good to the things around me...similarly, tears, can bring good, if we allow them. Instead of drowning in your tears or shutting them down completely, allow your heart to feel the entirety of a situation and through God's loving arms, gentle guidance or even strength to carry you, water some things in your life that He will use in your future! 

That message changed some perspectives in my life for the better, but I realized that there's another application of that statement, and it has to do with our children. In parenting we often want to take the tears out of life for our kids. Always, yelling watch out or trying to prevent every bike fall, friend disagreement, disciplinary action and on and on. I'm guilty and I've begun making the change to not remove all the tears. 

This morning, *Disclaimer: my Whitaker crew (big & little) isn't into mornings AT ALL...but I  really want a peaceful, smooth start to each day. Talk about THE STRUGGLE IS REAL!*  while getting ready for school, Kamdyn disobeyed. I even reminded her of the consequence (having her mouth washed out with soap) to continuing to choose that action ... aka in Parent Speak: please don't make me follow through or have to change this consequence. She did it anyway. I've been guilty of making excuses and "having" to change the consequence (i.e. we'll be late). Not today. I let go of my fear of starting her day off in tears and stuck to the action/consequence.

Now before you start throwing rotten tomatoes or begin thinking my mom skills have been flushed down the toilet, hear my heart. I love my kids with a fierce love. A love that will fight for them to no ends. A love that wants the very best for them and will be their advocate and protector without hesitation. Tim Elmore has a great study on parenting and he made a statement that has sunk deep into my heart... "We've done a better job of protecting than preparing". Wow. So true. How often have I tried to protect my kids from tears that could actually be watering a harvest in their life in the future?? 

Those tears brought about a lesson that will help her today, tomorrow and on into the future. They weren't the tears of simply not getting her way, they were actual tears of a consequence to her own action that she chose. Obviously, we have different parenting styles and that's okay. God knew the temperament of our children and He matched them up perfectly with our personalities and life experiences. You may discipline differently, but the truth is still the same. If you prepare your children, even if it means bringing out the tears, they will be more protected from whatever may come at them. Don't protect from the tears, prepare them so that if/when the tears come, they can water seeds in the future of your child's life or your own life!

  

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

A True Hero

What makes a person a hero? The official definition is: a person who is admired for great or brave acts or fine qualities; a person who is greatly admired; the chief male character in a story, play, movie, etc. Because of movies, novels & media, I think we often think of a hero as someone with a super power or the perfect life...you know, physically fit, prepared for anything, with money in hand & time to "meet the need"... they just easily do what needs to be done and are seen as a hero that did what was impossible for us commoners. ;) Reality, as we all really know, is that heroes rarely fit that sensationalized definition, but are humble, gracious men and women that care more about others than themselves. 

One of my main heroes as a child was Mother Teresa. Her life of selflessness, captured my heart. Just this week I came across a book about her life that it's time to reread, then I saw this quote - you may have seen it too. "If you want to change the world, go home and love your family." How simple, yet profound. Mother Teresa, embodied true, Godly love. At 8 years old, her father died. At 12, she knew God's hand was on her life and ministry was her life calling. At 18 she left home to study and prepare herself for what she knew was God's plan for her life - she never saw her mother or sister again. That's love. That's a genuine, deep love for God. To forsake your own desires, for a plan that will take you to unknown places with unknown people...This life will give you more than you could ever dream of, yet often in ways we may not have chosen. In my opinion, that's where the greatest heroes begin, with a reckless, abandon to God. 

Mother Teresa had a grasp on real love that many never come to understand. She reached and still affects more people than I will probably ever even meet. She understood love. Love is sacrificing. Love is quiet. Love is humble. Love is gentle. Love is giving of yourself, not giving stuff. She didn't face these challenges like we do today, but it's not a FB post, an opinion or a petition. The root of all those things, is ourself - our wishes, what we want to see happen, what we feel is best. Love is about others. Love is about doing. Love is more in the mundane, everyday life than the lights of life or likes of FB. 

How can you and I be heroes? We can love our families. We can put them first. We can choose to love the life we're living. We can be the greatest expression of God's love, when we teach our families how to love God by the way we live our lives. I REALLY hate cliches, but this one absolutely fits and it's that "talk is cheap". Go change your world by putting your family first, loving them, not just by talk and certainly not by giving them stuff, or running your kids all over so they can be a part of every event and activity...to the ball field, music lessons, dance, study club, etc...all that is good. My son plays football and we're headed to a game an hour away this afternoon - nothing wrong with that.  The point though is this, love has to be the starting point and the ending point of it all, and providing those things doesn't translate into love. Love is a sacrifice. A sacrifice of you, connecting with your spouse, your children. It's desiring to be a hero to your family and your family only, and often times, you then become a hero to many others around you!

"If you want to change the world, go home and love your family" - Mother Teresa

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Is that a tattoo?

Tattoos... lots of folks have them. I mean lots! I have seen the cute, the cool & the interesting ones and then there are those "others"......you've seen them too. The ones that make you look at the person and just say, "why" or "bless your heart". The thing about them, is that they're ALL permanent. Not a huge shocker, I know? Ha! Seriously though, I was reading a few facts about tattoos as I was thinking through this blog and I read some things that actually are a little mind-blowing - 1. To get a tattoo, the skin is pierced between 50 and 3,000 times a minute by a tattoo machine.  2. Modern ink may contain pigments from ground plastics, such as Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS), which creates extremely vivid tattooing with clearer, longer-lasting lines  3. Early tattoo methods included using chisels, rakes, or picks. Soot-covered thread was also used. The thread would be sewn through the skin. [From www.facts.randomhistory.com]

You may feel differently, but I'm not loving any of those facts. A tattoo is way too permanent for me. I'm left AND right-brained and sometimes it really messes me up...for instance, today, I may be a total science nerd - reading medical journals for fun and watching documentaries on surgical procedure, googling hyperplasia or pseudopseudohypoparathyroidism (yep, it's a real thing)
 and such. But tomorrow, I may be feeling my artistic side and baking, painting or creating something completely abstract. So, aside from not really being a fan of self-inflicted pain, and my nerd side being totally bugged out about the risks (hello, plastic, meet my insides...ahhh!) I'd never be able to decide on a design! ;)

There is another way that we can tattoo ourselves that doesn't require a needle, tube, motor & foot pedal or chisels, picks or soot-covered thread (BLEH!)...it's a tattoo that permanently changes the way we see ourselves. It's almost always self-applied, invisible to others, but the effects of it can be seen by all. It's actually just a bruise, but we see it as a tattoo. It's a little word called, failure. 

Failure, like a tattoo, doesn't have to be taboo, ugly or awful. Yet, so many people view their failures as [permanent] tattoos that never go away; they put a mark on their life that no one can remove without scars & pain. Yet, Isaiah 61:3 says, "To all who mourn in Israel, He will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair. In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks that the Lord has planted for His own glory." That tells me that failure is NEVER a tattoo!  Bruises can be nasty, slow you down, incite a barrage of questions that will force you to talk about what happened, but as you protect the area for a time, yet keep moving, healing takes place. The bruise becomes a distant memory. 

Failures can be the same. If we choose to see them as bruises instead of tattoos, we learn and grow from those experiences. God's mercy is able to freely work in our lives and we keep moving forward, rather that get stuck in the permanency of the tattoo of failure. Psalm 130:7 says - "O Israel, hope in the Lord; for with the Lord there is unfailing love. His redemption overflows." Redemption gives every failure the potential for greatness. Not all failures will set us on the path of immeasurable success, but the correct view and actions on our part in response to our failures will always bring successful growth in our lives. 

My husband's group, Higher Ground, just released an album and I couldn't help but think about the lyrics in one of the songs. It's titled, "Made For Greatness" and the line that stood out says, "failure is not in the fabric of our lives". We are human, our nature is tainted with sin, we aren't perfect, therefore there will be decisions made, words spoken, thoughts appearing that won't line up with who we should be in Christ. Those can quickly, turn into failures, huge ones. We're fallen people, we are born with a sinful nature. BUT, God made us for greatness and we are not meant to remain in our failure. Admit whatever failure you may have made and allow God to bring you back to a place of greatness in Him!

That subject line though...haha!  

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

All About Choices...

Well, that's a subject line you've probably read many times before. This may not be life-changing for many, because been said before...but then again, if there's just one person that looks at their life after reading this and says, I'm not going to be the victim any more or I'm going to choose my thoughts differently.  Well, it's worth sharing my heart for that one. 

The 23rd Psalm is familiar to most. In fact, many folks who don't even claim to have a relationship with Jesus are familiar with this scripture. Pause and go read it. Well, let me just lay it out for you right here...

 1The Lord is my shepherd. He gives me everything I need.
    He lets me lie down in fields of green grass.
He leads me beside quiet waters.
    He gives me new strength.
He guides me in the right paths
    for the honor of his name.
Even though I walk
    through the darkest valley,
I will not be afraid.
    You are with me.
Your shepherd’s rod and staff
    comfort me.
You prepare a feast for me
    right in front of my enemies.
You pour oil on my head.
    My cup runs over.
I am sure that your goodness and love will follow me
    all the days of my life.
And I will live in the house of the Lord
    forever.


What stands out to you? To me, all the "Blessings" stand out. Every time. As I shared last week, this moment of my life is more challenging than well, most others that I've lived through so far. But even in what could be called a "valley" of life, the "good stuff" still stands out. You know, the still waters, laying down in fields of green grass, a feast in front of me (maybe b/c I haven't had lunch yet ;) and all the goodness and love for every day of my life - all that!  But there are the valleys. We all go through them. Sometimes they feel more like fires! Valleys aren't easy, but a fire...no thanks!  Let me walk through the valley a hundred times before walking through fire. Yet, we all face them, at some point in our lives. 

I want to share something I read last week. I wish I could give credit to whom it's due, but since I can't, just know, I didn't come up with it.  Here it is: "Some people are lost in their fires; others are forged in them."  Let's think about the fires we've faced and the choices we've made because of that fire... I like to think I'm strong, resilient and all those other things, but how many fires have actually FORGED something new, incredible or unforeseen in my life?  What about you? 

What "fire" are you facing right now? Funny thing about fires is, no matter how big or small, they can burn up an consume whatever goes into them, unless it's protected from the heat. When you know you're facing a fire, CHOOSE to cover & protect yourself with Jesus. Don't just let it consume you, you have the choice!! Choose to go through it and be forged into a stronger, more determined individual. In doing it, you'll fall more in love & dependent on Jesus and more prepared for the next fire, you may face! Make the choice to be forged, my Friend!

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

The Secret Place

I'm not always an open book...okay, I'm often not an open book. My husband and I are total opposites in that area. As with most everything in life, balance is what is needed and in my attempt to be more balanced, I'm being more transparent today. 

Life can be hard. Especially when the hard, goes on and on...You know we often go through a "hard time" but as we glance back, we see that time but can see before that time and remember that it was really such a small part of our life - just a moment in time. But, when you look back over the past months, even years and you see mostly hard times, life becomes more challenging. Trust me, I don't believe in living in the past, or even focusing on the past, but the past can, does & should shape us; for the good. The only way it can shape us for the good, is if we pull the good from it,  yet it will shape up for the bad if we focus on the wrong parts or just focus too much on the past altogether. So for me, this looking back is really like glancing in the rearview mirror.  I'm a mirror checker, though y'all!  I'm always checking my side & rear view mirrors when I'm driving and I live my life that way too. I want to be aware of my surroundings so I can learn from them, grow from them and be thankful for the things God spares me from & brings me through!

So I've been doing a lot of assessing of my life lately. Our family has been facing some challenging situations - really since the beginning of 2016. So not only have I been assessing these situations, but also, my heart, my relationship with God my Father, my response to Him & to these situations. I've discovered something about myself that is not what I hoped would be, yet provides opportunity for change and growth. 

You see, I have BIG FAITH. I have some of the best roles models. Men and women that have built an amazingly strong, Godly, faith-filled heritage for me to walk in. So when I look at the challenges that my family has been walking through, my faith is strong. It doesn't waiver. Do I have moments where I ask God, why? Yep! Do I have moments where I ask Him for just a little understanding? You bet! Do I have moments where I plead with Him for a brief reprieve from these things that feel so heavy? Absolutely! But through it all, I am confident that He knows the "why", that His ways are higher so it may not be humanly possible for me to understand and that He will bring reprieve, although He may bring it in a different way than I expect, because He knows what's best. 

Here's what I've got to change...the secret place. The place I run to when life gets overwhelming. When the waves are crashing over me so fast, that I fall again, before I ever make it to fully standing...when the quarters of the game are without a halftime or even a water break. The secret place is not a place to run to initially, then just stand out in the rain hoping that the prayers I prayed back "there" will sustain me in the downpour. The secret place is always there. It's the break my heart so desperately desires, even if for just a moment. It's the rest my mind needs when I've taken on more than I should. It's the answer to every question I may ask of God. It's the peace, the peace that most certainly passes my limited, understanding. It's the secret place, just me & my Heavenly Father. It's more than quiet time. It's more than my daily scripture or devotion reading. It's deep. It's refreshing. And it's not a place that I should visit only at the onset of a challenge. 

It is quite possible that in my walk with Christ, I have not fully-developed this practice yet, but for me, I have not been able to make it to the secret place each day. In fact, with the very best intentions & even a strong desire, I set my heart and mind to get there last night and the next thing I knew, I woke up and it was 3am!  But as I make the time to go there, more and more frequently, the path becomes clearer. When you walk through an untouched field for the first time, you path quickly becomes unrecognizable, but as you commit to walk that path more and more, the weeds and grasses in that path begin to lay down to your footsteps and you can reach the secret place with more ease & confidence. 

I pray that if you need answers, healing, hope or faith restored, that you'll make a path to the secret place with God, and go there often. I'll be there too!

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Hit the Pause!


My kids love the pause button on the remote! I think it's their favorite -
I'll hear, "Where's the remote??" . . . and the next thing out of their mouth is, I wanna get a snack, or I need to go to the bathroom, or I wanna go get a toy... honestly, it dries me crazy. I always feel a hint of the entitlement mentality that is eroding our society, but that's another topic for another day. ;) It did lead me down a thought process that so many moms & dads need to put into practice though, me being the first to jump in that line!

How often do you pause to asses why your son or daughter is misbehaving? How often do you pause to ask God for guidance in disciplining your little ones? How often do you pause to ask yourself if this battle, be it with your kids, your spouse or co-workers, is really worth it? I have to insert a little disclaimer here...I'm not a huge "pick your battles" kind of Momma - if it is a rule in our house, you gotta follow it! If I've given my child direction about what to wear or what to eat or how to handle something, I'm not one to just "pick the battle" and allow them to do whatever they please if the battle seems to big or might make us late or whatever. (We do work towards compromise though, if the situation allows.) So what I'm really referring to, in bringing up battles, is this, am I simply fighting the problem or the actual source of the problem?

This past Sunday, we taught on fighting the good fight (1 Tim. 6:12). Learning to choose the "good fight" takes work and moments of pause. The Holy Spirit is always at work in my life, but it's often in a moment of pause that I truly receive the clarity I need from His guidance. Often, I, and maybe you, begin a moment of pause but as soon as we feel guidance is being given, we jump into action and use it at our discretion instead of in the timing and way He intended. In reality, there is the guidance, hope, peace or word that we need being given, but immediately following is the wisdom to walk it out! IF, we take the time to hear it. 

This past Sunday we had a situation where we thought we "lost" a child during children's church. I take this very seriously, and have conveyed to volunteers to seriousness of their responsibility to make sure our kiddos are safe. In a moment {void of pause} a panicked search party formed and a bit of chaos ensued. Reality was, the child left church with his family and was on his way home for a relaxing Sunday afternoon, while folks frantically searched for someone that wasn't even lost. A lot of lessons were learned and a huge moment of pause was taken to reflect on what we should have done differently. I'm certain though, that we do this in our personal lives far more than we want to admit. We miss times of rest, times of peace, times of guidance, times of learning, times of growth because we don't take time to pause. 

When something happens in my house that turns things upside down (anger, a bad attitude or wrong decision, running late, etc) and we then realize things need to change, we say, "let's press the reset button".  We're adding another button to our family remote...PAUSE!
What do you think, do you need to begin intentionally take moments of pause? Join us in taking time to "press the pause button" in our lives!
This is one of my favorite places to "pause"!  Orange Beach, AL

Monday, August 15, 2016

Time to revive the blog!  Today has been a whirlwind of a day; actually it's been a whirlwind week. My little loves started school today and the only one that cried was me. I'd call that a success for sure. "T" began 3rd grade and "K" began kindergarten...WHAT? Time for baby #3 - if I can just get the husband on board... ;)

I've been reading a book that is so apropos for this moment in time, it is titled, "Praying Circles Around Your Children" by Mark Batterson. If you've ever read any of his books, you know how impactful they can be and this one is no exception to that. I keep going back to the very first few paragraphs in the book where he mentions the good and the bad about parenting & prayer for our children. The bad news, as we all have experienced, is that we make a lot of mistakes. If you're like me, it's easy to allow those mistakes to consume your mind, to fill you with guilt, to cause you to walk in shame or to promote parenting that never follows through. If you fall into any of those categories, then we have to change our mindset, because as Batterson puts it, the good is that "our worst mistakes double as our greatest opportunities"!

Did that grip your heart like it did mine? If we're wrapped up in the mistake we've made, we miss the greatest opportunity for modeling behaviors we want to see in our children - repentance, sorrow, forgiveness, kindness, humility... Being "human" in front of our kiddos also opens up moments for deep, meaningful connections. It takes choosing to look past the mistake and see that we made a mistake, but we aren't mistakes. That isn't always easy, but making that choice positions us to grow in Christ, as parents & in relationship with our Littles. 

Another huge opportunity for connection is actually praying your prayers for your children, with them. Letting them hear your heart for them and hear how you call their name to our Father, leaves an imprint other life that doesn't quickly fade. Speaking of prayer, I have to share some great news that we received today. My little guy has been begging to play football for years now and we thought the time had finally come; until, the sports physical stopped us. After some testing on his heart, we received the call late this afternoon with great results, and he has been cleared to play! The other beautiful part of this is that although it revealed some ongoing issues, we can now deal with them medically, but also speak directly to God about them. This is amazing news and we are so thankful for the many friends and family that called his name out to our Father!

If you aren't praying daily for and with your children, make it a point to start.  I fully agree with Batterson that "Spiritual disciplines take sheer determination". Determine that you are going to take your prayer life up to a higher place!

Didn't Know How to LOVE

What a downer title, I KNOW...  Especially 2 flippin' days before Valentine's Day, right?   I am completely undone tonight thou...