Thursday, March 11, 2010

Discipline

Yo Yo My Mommy Friends!


Ahhhh, Wednesday (pretend at least, it’s yesterday!!). How brilliant is it that we're 1/2 done with the week? Brilliant! I KNOW!!



So, Monday I wrote my weekly to-do list, and realized the one thing I was missing on it was "pray for my hubby." I actually had "pray for my friends" on it...but not Cliff. And yesterday I was so convicted by that omission, that I had to spend a good hour just ponder all the reasons I don't take him to the Lord in prayer. For more reasons than I can count, I didn't. Most were selfish, hard-hearted excuses.


How many of us love our friends better than our hubbies? And I don't mean married love...but show love to our friends quicker than we show it to our hubbies, let alone our kids. In my Bible Study's small group class we had a people scavenger hunt and one of the things we had to find was "Who listens better to their girlfriends than their husbands." Let's just say I volunteered my name for that one to everyone in the class.


But that was just another step of the Lord opening my eyes to the fact this is an area of weakness for me. Someday I'll dive into this with you, I'm sure there is some Proverb that will match this scenario. Until that fateful day, today, pray for your hubby. Pray for his protection, his heart, his mind, his success, his walk with the Lord. For when you surrender him at the Lord's feet, then God can move mountains in His life as well.


Get out of God's way. You were not appointed by Him to be your hubby's intercessory. You are not his conscious (like Jiminy Cricket). Instead, you are to have a gentle, quiet spirit that doesn't overshadow and boss around her hubby, but is instead taking those words straight to the Lord in prayer. He'll change your hubby. I promise.


I see this more and more each time I actually do this, and then I have a "duh" moment (which I think is opposite than an "aha" moment)! A "duh" moment is "I knew this, but didn't trust it...so I took things into my own hands, and then when that didn't work, I finally did what I knew in the first place, and that actually worked. DUH!" Trust me...I have a lot of "DUH" moments!! :) But that's part of growing! It's coming to grips that God knows better than I! Again, DUH!


Pray for your hubby. Right now. Take a deep breath and pray for HIM. Don't pray for you and him...just him!


Sidenote: When Cliff and I were first married, we used to go back and forth saying what we loved about each other (remember...newlyweds, haaa!). I would say, "I love the way you love me. The way you protect me. The way you make me laugh." He would look at me weird and say, "Okay, but what do you love about ME?" I was totally missing the mark, but didn't have the maturity to realize what the true mark was. "You're loving, you're strong, you're funny/witty." Those things are about him! So, when you take your hubby to pray don't say, "Help him to be nice to me." Pray: "God soften his heart as he relates to people today." Get out of your perspective, and pray for that heart of your hubby! He will be blessed!


Proverbs 10


17 People who accept discipline are on the pathway to life,
but those who ignore correction will go astray.



Yesterday at Bible study, we were finishing up the "7 Things Christian Moms are Called to Do for their Children Straight from the Word." I love this topic because we moms can get so clouded, confused, confounded, and crazy when it comes to our kids!


We do not have the same delusions when it comes to our hubbies; in fact, we swing to the opposite side of the spectrum and tend to be so critical about everything with our "loves of our lives." But when it comes to our babies, well, we would defend, save, go to battle even if it is wrong, for them. We are mama bears. And the enemies that threaten our cubs can even be our hubbies. Oh, we are funny! (And when I say "funny" I'm rolling my eyes and really want to say "lame, backwards, stunted.")



Our teacher dove head first into discipline and spent time comparing it to punishment, explaining the differences between the two. It was amazing! I loved every moment. I came home a much more balanced mother of two kids who I love dearly already...but then realized I am CALLED to do this for them.


Discipline leads "to the pathway of life." The root of discipline is "disciple." The definition our teacher gave yesterday was "the teaching fear of the Lord, drawing the line consistently, lovingly, firmly." For discipline is not punishment. Discipline is done with an end goal in mind, based on the principle, done without personal emotion (if you're breathing hard and rolling your eyes, walk away for whatever you do in this state will be punishment not discipline), and is always after the HEART of your child. You are looking at the ROOT OF THE BEHAVIOR and basing your discipline upon what the Lord calls you, as a mom, to instill in your child.



Punishment is "punitive, goal is to put down, comes from a place of unrighteous anger that mostly stems from a personal hurt/offense, that will destroy a child's spirit and ignore his heart." Punishment is "I'm angry and you're going to get it." Often when punishing, the punishment will not fit the crime but it will be over-the-top. It will be you yelling, screaming, and then finally giving in because your child has worn you down. And don't pretend they don't know how to get to you...don't underestimate how SMART your children are! They know exactly what your buttons are so they can get out of discipline.



Here's a quick synopsis of the points. (As a former teacher, I’ve added a little behind each):



1. Discipline shows respect for both you and your child. You will handle the situation with respect for your child (no name calling, no "pulling back the rope" on ALL the things they've ever done wrong, like you do with your hubby, no threatening, no crazy threats). Punishment will cause your child to lose respect for you...and you will lose respect for yourself.



2. Discipline always fits the behavior and is determined without emotion even before the event occurs. When teaching we used to call this being "black and white." It's a simple cause-effect, input-output. "You chose to do this, and now I have to enforce this." It's not about me as the parent being offended. You can say, "It makes me sad that you don't make the right choices," but do not take it as a personal slap in the face or a sign of parenting failure. When you do, you become emotionally involved and your discipline will turn into punishment.



Punishment is based on the emotion that the parent feels (anger, sadness, etc.). It's irrational, it's loud, it's harsh (probably too harsh for the crime), and you will never be able to enforce it (which then makes your words null and void. Make sure when you're parenting that your yes be yes and your no be no. If your children do not see you follow through, they will no longer take you seriously and you will lose their respect.)


I once had a parent ground her oldest child (6th grade) from all TV for 6 months. It was crazy! 6 months is impossible and is too long to be motivating for the child. She didn't care about TV by month 2 and didn't care what she wasn't watching, because now she was on the phone, computer, in her room with her door closed as the family watched TV. The punishment actually drover her further from the family isolated in her room (that happened to be downstairs right next to the family room where everyone was hanging out watching TV.) And rarely anything good comes from you kid being behind closed doors. The mom created a bigger problem than she had in the beginning.


3. Discipline focuses on the bad choices of the CHILD. Punishment focuses on the bad kid. Discipline sees the event as just that, an event. Punishment starts adding up all the bad events and punishing the child every time for ALL the bad behavior they’ve ever done.



Now, discipline does become more harsh or severe with each infraction within the day. For example, you child hit her sibling (speaking from experience). The first discipline measure is a time out, the second is a longer time out and loss of dessert (Makena LOVES dessert), the third is…and you set these steps in your head with your hubby BEFORE the action happens. I say before because when your child chooses their behavior, you are not emotionally responding to them. The consequence is simply black and white. This is discipline.



But it is important to start fresh in the morning. New mercies ladies! Love on them. Sometimes they act out because their not getting enough good attention from you and they just want general attention…and at that point they’ll even take bad attention. It’s sad, but true.



Let me interject super quick: I just did a seminar for children’s ministries directors on classroom management and so much of this was wrapped up in my hour with them. But when you discipline (time-out, etc.), you need to sum it up in the end with a little talk…and if you are desiring to restore their heart, then the talk will look a little something like this:



1.Reaffirm your love for them first thing. “Makena, Mommy loves you with all her heart.” You do this because you want her to see your genuine care and it keeps their heart OPEN to hear your correction.
2.Tell her what she SHOULDN”T do…”We do not hit Keegan.”
3.Why she shouldn’t do it…”It is not kind or respectful, and God calls us to love one another. Hitting does not show love.”
4.Then what she SHOULD do instead…”When you are frustrated with Keegan, you need to use your words. If he doesn’t respond you need to leave the room and go do something else.” You have to replace the bad programmed behavior with something they SHOULD choose instead.
5.Then you need to have her apologize to you as the parent, “Sorry Mommy for not obeying” (because you’ve told her a thousand times not to hit).
6.And she needs to ask for forgiveness!!! “Please forgive me.” Do not skip this step!!! In our society we do not teach our kids the act of asking for forgiveness, and to me that is detrimental. How are they going to understand the need of asking God’s forgiveness if they can’t ask it of their mommy/daddy/sibling??
7.End with a hug. (Then because she harmed Keegan, I would make her go and apologize to him and ask for his forgiveness as well, and hug him.) You need the affection to reinforce the “I LOVE YOU” at the beginning of the talk!
8.This IS KEY: Never again mention this event again, unless they repeat it that day and you have to ratchet up the discipline. When you forgive, it’s DONE. Don’t say, “Do you remember when…” “I can’t believe you did…” etc. God doesn’t do that with us, so don’t do it with your child. If I ever brought it up, it would be said during the talk about infraction #2 that says, “I’m disappointed that we’re having a hard time today keeping hands to ourselves. Because this is the second time, you’ll be in time out for 8 minutes instead of 4.” But don’t rehash the past. The younger they are, the more they won’t even remember that they did it an hour prior.


You may say, “But I only have a 15 month old.” And I would first ask, “Does your 15-month-old need discipline?” (And then I would be begging you inside my head to answer, “YES!!”) And if so through time-outs (or whatever), you can still do this process. I taught Makena to sign “I’m sorry” and then her hug at the end was “please forgive me.” This will set them up to understand HOW to restore a relationship that their actions have broken!!





4. Discipline is current. Punishment for today pulls back everything they’ve ever done (which means you haven’t forgiven them!!) As a mom you are called to give hope for the home! So give that hope in-between the discipline.



NOW, this does not mean we indulge, cater, keep our kids from hard work, because we want to give them hope. Nope. Our kids need to learn responsibility, hard work, what it means to work for something because that’s what they will need to be successful in life.



If you have a hard time determining what behaviors to discipline for, just put your child’s action into the context of an adult. Ex: My 25-year-old hit his coworker in the head = Assault/battery = Jail. Okay, discipline for that. My 25-year-old just told his boss to shove it for no reason = fired from his job = moving back in with mom and dad. My 25-year-old got so angry he threw his chair across the room = damage to the chair/room = reputation is now ruined. My 25-year-old purposely disobeyed his boss = disciplined at work (loss of hours, etc.), but throws a fit because the boss took away his “right” to work (which is a privilege not a right, but we’ve taught them through not disciplining that they have a RIGHT…this is known as entitlement. I’m entitled to “this” because I “am”, not because I deserve or earned it.) = fired.



If you find the 25-year-old behavior ridiculous, then start disciplining your 2-year-old. Set the standards. Raise the bar. Children are soooo smart and sooooo capable. We, as adults, do NOT give them enough credit. Makena knows at 4 when she has a bad attitude and gets a time-out for it. She knows what it means to soften her heart. Do not underestimate their ability to learn and understand the social contexts of discipline. The early you start, the easier it will be to mold them. If you do nothing for the first 3 years, and then want to pick up with discipline in their 4th year of life, you will fight a LOOOONG hard battle. (And if you don’t discipline in the elementary years, kiss the whole, “I’ll then discipline in junior and senior high.” Your kids will balk at you and rebel. Promise!!)



On a total sidenote…there is a whole other side of parenting that will help you keep your kids from needing a ton of discipline. But that’s a whole other email. It’s all about preventative parenting. Discipline is reactive. They’ve done something, now you react. Let me know if you want those tid-bits. Maybe we’ll meet at my house?? J



5. Discipline is about teaching responsibility through choices. We have to allow our children age appropriate choices. We are not going to show up at their college dorm and ask what they’re wearing the next day and why they’re room is decorated a certain way. It’s not happening. Your whole goal of raising up these children is to mold them into independent, healthy, grounded, Christ-following, adults who understand the difference between right and wrong and the consequences of their actions. Period. If you talk with your hubby, I’m not sure he’d be on board with “well, my kids are co-dependent and I’d like them to live with us for the rest of our lives.” Ummm, NOOOOO!!! Right??? (Please say “Right!”)



This is what God calls us to do as mommies. No matter how cute, cuddly, funny, charming…or mean, intimidating, loud, tantruming they can be…we are called to be level-headed, to call it as it is, and to hold them to the standards that God has set for us in His Word.



The secret to parenting is this: whatever you want from them, be consistent in reinforcing it. Consistency is the key to change!!!



And then Ladies, we need to adhere ourselves to God’s discipline as well. We need to look at what God requires of us and actually do it. If there is an area we’re fighting Him on, we need to stop, give-up our “right” that we’re fighting for, surrender our heart and mind to Him, and allow Him to direct us.



Listen, we suffer enough natural consequences here on earth from our actions that I’m sure God is quite pleased that we keep feeling His squeeze through the natural cause-effect He set up in the first place! Haa! (See, she slammed the cupboard and the can of soup fell out and hit her toe…yeah for gravity!!)



But how does God discipline? In the manners described above. He is forgiving; He holds us accountable; He disciplines FOR OUR GOOD; He is impartial; He is unyielding; He understands but does not save us from the consequences; He is always after our good and our hearts; He is encouraging-redeeming-loving; and He is our Father.



Some verses to dig into: Ephesians 6:4, Hebrews 12:5-11, Proverbs 13:24, Proverbs 19:18, Proverbs 22:15, Proverbs 23:12-14, Proverbs 29:15-17. (Thanks Kim!)



So, today, try something new with your kids. Try breathing deep. Try loving them a tad more. Try holding them accountable. Try holding yourself accountable. I’m telling you, it is SOOOO worth every moment invested in this process. PROMISE!!!



If you have any random parenting questions, I’d love to answer them from my past experiences with my own kids…and with the 300 students I taught and tutored! I’ve seen it all…which I’m so grateful for because it has molded me into a better parent! (Again, I’m not the expert!! Just a fellow-mommy who has figured some things out…most of the time!! Hee!!)



Proverbs 10:17 People who accept discipline are on the pathway to life,
but those who ignore correction will go astray.



Go and give your kids life.



Lots of love!!!!



Rebecca

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Blessed Assurance

Good Morning Sunshines!

Greetings from the Land of the Still Sleeping! I love getting up before everyone else (Cliff's already gone for work...call time was 6am!), sitting here with Pandora set on Matt Redman (last night it was Jeremy Camp), hearing the heater pop on (the best!!), and anticipating my coffee to finish brewing. There is silence. There is peace. There is wonder despite sitting here in pjs with hair going everywhere! And I love that!

For to have Him as the first and last thoughts of my day is truly amazing! The peace that puts you to sleep, and the peace that you wake up to is undeniable. And it's the peace that transcends the muck of your life. It's the peace that tells you to be patient, He is working. It's the peace that tells you to stop worrying, He is in control. It's the peace that tells you to stop manipulating, He will see to it that your heart is redeemed and along the way, those hearts closest to you.

I was really convicted last night as I was thinking about the junk in my life, and some difficult people whom I love with all my heart but who make life really difficult for themselves because they are not grounded in His worth and love. I can sit and think and try to figure them out and analyze the why behind their behavior. But what does any of that matter? If I'm not on my knees in prayer and handing them straight over to the Lord, then how do I expect to get out of the way and allow Him to work? No wonder the problems are on-going!

And let me offer a slight warning: just because we lay people of the feet of Him who can save all things, it does not mean they will change. But He will change your heart and your perspective in dealing with those people. Do not expect God to change other people, think of that as a bonus gift for coming to Him! But expect Him to change YOU. Come expectant!

The kids and I watched "Evan Almighty,” which I find really funny and cute. Morgan Freeman’s character “God” ends up waiting on Evan’s wife in a restaurant and says this little tid-bit that caused me to wonder: “If you pray and ask God for more patience, does He give you more patience or does He give you more circumstances that will test your patience? If you pray for more courage, does He give you more courage or does He give you circumstances that need courage?”

I thought about that for a long time. Psalm 138:3 “In the day when I cried out, You answered me, And made me bold with strength in my soul.” God doesn’t rescue us from all problems. He doesn’t wave His magic wand and declare all pain and suffering gone. Instead He carries us through. Think of the “Footprints” poem about Jesus carrying the author in the times where only one set of footprints is seen in the sand. (And the author was convinced that he was alone, and God had abandoned him.) He grants us the strength to endure (Is. 40:31) and the more we abide IN Him, the more our hearts are blessed (John 15:7). An answer to prayer may be slow (Luke 18:7, Ps 40:1); it may be different than we expected (2 Cor. 12:8-9); and it may not fix the problem, but fix you (James 5:16). But you knew that when you put Him in charge of your life, that you released all your control, reservations, and needs into His omniscient being.

Jeremiah 29:12-13 “Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. 13 And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.”

Just a rabbit trail I went down.


Proverbs 9
Proverbs 9:10 “Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. Knowledge of the Holy One results in understanding.”


I love this verse because the more we dig ourselves into His Word, the more we understand His wisdom, His infinite love, His enduring strength, and His desire to bring us closer to Him. When we give our hearts to the Lord for the first time and receive salvation, it is just the beginning of our faith journey navigated by Him.



Let me compare our faith walk to marriage. When you said your “I do’s,” you became “wife.” You were “saved” from the single life, filled with frozen dinners, messy beds, and endless bad dates! You head home with your “hubby” (who was just awarded his title as well), and forget to work on your marriage. You ARE married, why do you need to continue to work on it? You reached and achieved “Happily Ever After.” For all love stories in fairy tales or the movies end when the people fall in love, or get married. Some of them will jump ahead to when the couple has kids…causing all us women folk to “oohhhh” and “ahhhh” as tears well up in our eyes.



But the reality of a marriage and the true meaning of that marriage relationship is realized days, months, years after the vows are exchanged. If a movie actually devled into a marriage, how many would be considered a “love story”? Probably not many. We call those “real” stories dramas! (Sidenote: If you want to see a real story of marriage, rent The Story of Us with Bruce Willis and Michelle Pfieffer.)



For ladies, without work, our marriage is just a functional, practical union between two consenting people who are only looking to own the title…not BE the title. We will clinically cohabitate, and probably do so not so happily. And in the end, our marriage will be an empty shell of what could be.



As part of the journey of marriage that begins at the exchanging of vows and rings comes the understanding that the wedding is just the tip of the iceberg. For it's truly about getting to know your hubby, and walking the walk of the relationship. And the more you invest in understanding your hubby- what makes him tick, what ticks him off, what goes on in that busy head of his- the more accurate you will see him and his actions. You will be able to respond to him on the basis of what is REAL, not what you perceive, because you KNOW him. You are in conversation with him. You are real with him. And he knows you intimately.



Not unlike our faith walk with the Lord.



We can give our hearts to the Lord, but then forget in the busy-ness of life to work out our faith in our daily doings. In the end, our faith will be a shell. "Christian" will be a title we hold, but the fruit of a true growing faith will not be ours.



For if accepting Him is only about being granted eternity in heaven, then we’re missing the intense journey where He will mold us, fill us, and use us beyond our wildest dreams. Yes, eternal life is the result of salvation. It is the sweet gift from His heart to ours. But working out faith on earth, sanctifying our hearts and minds in His love and time requires a constant surrendering of our own understanding and will to His.



The more we cling to His character and learn His knowledge daily, the more wisdom and understanding we will gain in our own lives. We will see reality though His reality. We will be open to the wild and crazy things He calls us to do. We will be teachable, moldable, willing, and gentle. And despite the storms that swirl around us, we KNOW His character, His truth, His Word which will ground us to His truth.



Sometime today consider having a conversation with the Lord. Be real. Be honest. Be YOU. (PS…He already knows you, so you can drop the fa├žade! Promise!) But begin that relationship with the Lord. You’ve taken the first step and are a believer, but every day keep taking steps towards Him. For this is how we grow…how we become better…wives, moms, friends, servants of the King of Kings to whom all eternity belongs.



As I was writing this, my Pandora station divinely picked the following Third Day version of “Blessed Assurance.” I loved it, and wanted to copy the lyrics below:



Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine

Oh, what a foretaste of glory divine

Heir of salvation, Purchase of God

Born of His Spirit, washed in His blood.



This is my story, this is my song.

Praising my Savior all the day long.

This is my story, this is my song.

Praising my Savior all the day long.



Perfect submission, all is at rest

I in my Savior am happy and blessed

Watching and waiting, looking above

Filled with His goodness, lost in His love.



Amen!!



Love you mamas! I hope you had an amazing weekend!

Here’s to digging deep and not being satisfied in our walk with Him.

Rebecca

Monday, March 8, 2010

My Oscar

Good Afternoon Girls!

Happy Monday, Happy March, Happy Moms!


Here's to living a better week than last week!


I got sucked in last night watching the Oscars. I normally don't give in, but somehow, this year, I did. Sometimes I find the awards shows (and I do mean show(s) for how many awards did Sandra Bullock get in the past 2 months??) full of pomp and circumstance, full of gloating and self-toting, and it's just exhausting to see everyone dressed to the nines and to look down and "admire" my leggings.



I totally understand that above all awards, this is the big kahuna to win. This basically secures your position in Hollywood history, and gives job security (unless you're Mickey Rourke) until your death. You will be interviewed by Oprah. You will get a star on Hollywood Blvd. You will be mourned with candlelight vigils near every location that meant something in your life after you pass. And most importantly, that little statue sitting on your mantle will stare back at you for as long as you shall live. (PS...Oscars collect dust just as quickly as anything else in your home.)



As much as I would love to be awarded the Oscar by the votes of mommywood, wifewood, or housewood, I understand that those awards are for a moment in time...not for ALL time.


But wisdom- a wise heart...now, that's an award I'd love to win daily. Let's just call it the Wise Heart!



In Proverbs 8, Wisdom speaks to us:

Proverbs 8:18-21 Riches (wealth) and honor (glory, dignity) are with me; yea, durable (handed-forward, enduring, valuable, surpassing) riches (substance) and righteousness. 19 My fruit is better than gold, yea, than fine gold; and my revenue (gain) than choice silver. 20 I lead in the way of righteousness, in the midst of the paths of judgment: 21 That I may cause those that love me to inherit (acquire, possess) substance (existence); and I will fill their treasures (storehouses).


(The words in parentheses are synonyms from the Hebrew roots of each of the words in the KJV version.)



So, Sandra Bullock may have an Oscar, but I have my Wise Heart, and this is why I win in the end.


1. Oscars are won by a person pretending they are someone else. It is their interpretation of who someone else is. They are not themselves. They are the epitome of someone wearing a facade, sometimes so deeply as to not leave that fake persona for the entire length of filming (method actors). In fact, it seems that the more submersed they are in a character, the better they are.



My Wise Heart is "won" by living out my life authentically as me. I am in the trenches with my heart and soul...my mind, my thoughts. There is nowhere to run from who I am, whether good or bad. I can put on a facade, but in the end, in the silence, when I'm alone, I am me. And in that authenticity, God can mold ME into the daughter of His that He wants me to be. For He has this amazing plan for my life that fits perfectly in His big picture. I may think it’s fleeting, like a movie that ends abruptly, but He thinks my life is a masterpiece…and my performance is for Him.



2. An Oscar is won for one performance. All actors start somewhere (remember George Clooney on Facts of Life??), and to be finally acknowledged is like finding that needle in a haystack. Nobody can predict that when they pick up a script that someday that ONE performance in that ONE film with that ONE director telling that ONE story would be the “best.” The odds are more against you winning an Oscar than scoring big in Vegas. And yet, by a “fluke” you MAY win an Oscar.


However, my Wise Heart is a culmination of a life-long performance where nothing goes unnoticed by the King of Kings. Every performance, every role, every day, every moment, every relationship is an opportunity for my wise heart to burst forth and grow. It’s not like finding a needle in a haystack; it’s like finding the sun in a clear, blue sky. It is guaranteed when we turn our face to His. We are guaranteed to grow in His wisdom as we cultivate the garden of our heart. Our wise heart is not the result of a chance happening; it is a gift from Him and the direct result of digging deep in His Word and applying it throughout our lives.


3. Once you are awarded an Oscar, is there anything really that will top that in your profession? Is the only way from there, down? Can you get any better than best? Well, I suppose Meryl Streep has answered that over and over again, but I am just curious. If you’ve “arrived,” then where do you go from there? For in Hollywood, when you think you’ve arrived, you become complacent and wake up 5 years later broke and on Celebrity Rehab or Celebrity Apprentice. (Okay, yes, I’m intrigued by reality shows.) And you can never, ever become comfortable, even though you’re the best…at least for that year. (And what if all the movies that year stunk, and you were actually the best of the worst?? Just a thought.)



However, my Wise Heart will never "arrive." It will never reach the “best” and I happen to love that. For when we think we’ve arrived and sit in our self-proclaimed "bestness", is when we turn our back on our Lord, and rely on our own strength…and wake up 5 days, 5 weeks, 5 months, 5 years later with a mess on our hands. The severity depends on the length we’ve been away from Him. My success, my existence, my "substance" (v.21) is due to Him! And that is what causes me to continue to strive, reach, stretch, and grow, for His approval and blessings. Ladies, when your teachers preached the good in being "life-long learners," this is what they were talking about. Most likely they were not referring to faith, but in what better area to be life-long learners than at the feet of our Lord?



4. An Oscar guarantees the winner glory for the night, maybe for the month, maybe for the next year…but after a year has past and they have to announce the next winner, their reign of “bestness” is over. For someone has replaced them. The glory fades as the newest, more trendy, more artsy, more gutsy, more bizarre roles are played. Soon you will be known as “that actress who won some award years ago for some role that can’t be recalled.” Try to remember the best actress from 5 years ago, let alone supporting actress. It just doesn’t happen. For the Oscar has no bearing on life itself.



And yet, my Wise Heart gives glory to Him for my entire existence. It's not just glory on the night I was saved, in the nights my marriage was saved, in the nights He rescues me from the pit of despair, but in all the nights, mornings, noons, evenings in-between. Forever my heart will be what defines me…not what I once earned or achieved, but what I am earning and achieving in the present. For He has my future held tightly in His hands. The glory, honor, dignity (v.18) of my Wise Heart is based on Him and due to Him, not on what is most trendy or most moving. It’s not due to how far out of my comfort zone I venture, but due to Him stretching me to places never imagined before! This glory, mamas, lasts a lifetime…and will go and on and on and on as we influence the generation that proceeds us, in our children, and their children.



5. And P.S., the Oscar is just an object. I know the recipients carry it around the first night as if it were their fifth appendage...an extension of their body...a new accessory...a new member of the family! HAA!! I watched Jeff Bridges’ backstage address to the press, waiving his arms in excitement, one hand holding the Oscar, and the other holding loosely to a tall glass of champagne. The only thing I focused on was the glass wondering at which point some liquid would bounce out of it! Forget what he was saying...the anticipation of the liquid in the glass was much more entertaining. But all of a sudden, the Oscar made him important. It made him an expert. It made his career. It made his wife's career spent indulging his endless travels, horrendous schedules, and lack of time with the family. That Oscar gave him validity.



But in the end of time, it will be my Wise Heart that will give my life validity. It is the object that proves throughout my life, who I stand for, what I stand for, and why I stand for Him. My heart, never away from my body (and without it, I would be clinically dead), defines me. I have the opportunity to develop my heart, to ground it in Him, and yet to allow it to soar on the wings of eagles. It is not about the verbal cacophony that I spout on and on, for it's my walk that proves my Wise Heart. So my worth is wrapped up in the wisdom that is greater than gold, silver (v.19), and will fill my existence and my treasures (v.21).



Ladies, how amazing is that? I would much rather win a Wise Heart. For in the end, when we stand before the Lord, we won’t have anything EXCEPT our hearts.



Here’s to living every day as if a performance for one, the One who created you to be exactly where He has you.



Lots of love!!



Rebecca

Thursday, March 4, 2010

In Pursuit

**Prologue: Pretend this is Thursday. Do it just for me…because you love me and know that if everything went according to plan that it would have been sent on Thursday! J



Hey Mamas!



Happy Thursday! We're almost there...almost to the weekend. And what a lovely thought that is!



I always feel some sort of relief when we pass Wednesday...like "it's all downhill from here." Just coast to the finish line. It's not true, 48 hours requires a lot more than coasting, but maybe it's just the mental reprieve that the end is near that sends joyous shivers down my spine! Let's just say I'd be a HORRIBLE marathon runner, for endurance is not my thing!



I figured out the other day why I feel so scattered throughout the day: we, moms, work split shifts.



Back in my lifeguarding days pre-Cliff, I used to hate getting split shifts...come in the morning, go home for a little while, come back in the afternoon, then finally go home. It was mentally exhausting for me because I love to get everything done in ONE FELL SWOOP. I'm the girl talking on the phone, folding laundry, silently scolding a child, running to grab the coffee from the beeping microwave (because I didn't have time to drink it hot from the coffee maker), and taking food out of the freezer for dinner all in a 5 minute period.



But as moms, our time is split, isn't it? Here's my schedule:



7-8:30am kids up, fed, out the door (if school aged),

8:30-11:15 FREE ("Ahhhh," sing the angels)...or if your kiddos take a morning nap (or have room time...and if you don't know what that is, well, let me introduce you to a concept that will save your sanity!! Email me and I'll be specific.)

11:15-4:00 Lunch, chores, playdates, play, pick-up again, homework, snacks, discipline, etc.

4-5:30 FREE Kids in rooms for naps/book time

5:30-8:15 Dinner, clean up, baths, books, bed

8:15 FREE! Kids in bed!



See? A split shift! On, then off, on, then off again, on, then die. And in those time constraints it's hard to keep your endurance going! Your routine (and even if you think you don't have a routine, you do. We humans are creatures of habit!) may vary. Your free time maybe less...or more depending on the ages of your children, but the concept is the same. It takes more energy to start after you've stopped (the law of inertia for those 8th grade science students!!). And it is exhausting, admittedly!



But it's much like the spiritual journey that we're on as women. Close to God, pull away, draw near to Him, stumble and sin, humbly present self before Him, forget He's there, and on and on it goes. I think at certain points, if we're really dialed into our hearts and souls, it becomes exhausting...to work so hard to be grounded in Him, and then to lose it...get back on your feet and cling to the cross, and then fall away again. The more we know of Him and what He requires, the more sensitive our hearts become to the failure of our behavior and thoughts.



I would challenge you, however, to not see split shifts in our walk as a bad thing whatsoever, just as I've switched my thinking about split shifts in my daily routine. For spiritual sanity is gained in the moments spent alone. Our saving grace, our point of balance comes in those moments when we are relieved from our earthly duties and can dive into Him and His word. Those "free" shifts, when we can stop doing and start hearing Him, is worth the extra effort is takes to begin again. For it is in those free moments that He refreshes, restores, rejuvenates, and re-centers us in His will. And the more we check in with Him throughout our day, the less damage we do in the time that we're "on." (Ex: after 5 days, I'd have a lot of repenting to do...after 3 hours not so much...and I can probably right some relationships that were wronged without letting it go on and on.)



Proverbs 4


7 Getting wisdom is the most important thing you can do!
And whatever else you do, get good judgment.


There’s a part of me that laughs as I’ve gone to the grocery store for the third time this week that wisdom was definitely on my list to buy. My infamous weekly to-do list I email myself every Sunday night does not include “get wisdom.” Sure it has “daily devotions, be kind, go to Bible study” on it, but how many times do I purposefully seek out wisdom and then actually apply it? Not enough.



Let’s get real just for a minute.



Thanks to Chris Allen (and I suppose I should thank American Idol), who sings the song “Live Like You’re Dying,” we are reminded that there are 86,400 seconds in a day. In that massive amount of time, we can choose to fill our mind with our own understanding, our own emotions, our own motives…or we can turn our back on what has always been, and turn our face, our mind, heart, and soul towards the One who calls us to be so much more than we are.



For, ladies, we are dying. We are in the process of dying from the moment we’re birthed. The time on this earth is finite. It is fleeting. It is but a speck of dust flying through the winds of eternal time. When you embrace your mortality, that race for wisdom becomes more and more desperate and driving. For we are called to live for Him.



Ladies…we have a family to change, a marriage to change, children to change, a home to change, and a world to change…for Him. He will enable you to do things on His account that you would never imagine possible. You will achieve things, impact people, and endure circumstances unimaginable because you posses a peace you’ve never experienced before. For the wisdom that comes from Him is truth. It’s not the wisdom for the time, or the culture. It just is.



And that wisdom is readily available in His Word. Everything in life becomes clearer, your perspective of yourself changes, and He will open your eyes to things He wants you to change. View everything, through the Word of God. Use it as your measuring stick for your behavior, your words, and your thoughts. Use it as the filter for what is truth in this world.



As I write this at Panera Bread, I am watching a women read The Secret, that infamous book toted by Oprah as her epiphany to the “unleashing” the power of the universe. The bottom line of the book is this: if you think something, the universe will bring it back to you tenfold. If you think negative, then you will receive negative. If you think great, positive things, then the universe will bring those back to you. All about the “energy” you put out, being echoed back on you and your circumstances. This lady, was reading, and then writing frantically in her little notebook, I can only assume about the energy she’s putting out there in the universe. For she’s seeking a wisdom that will explain her existence, her purpose, and her future.



Across the way, I am sitting with my Bible in my lap and find it so completely ironic that here we are both seeking for wisdom, but hers will be fleeting, just as her life is. It will come and go as her thoughts do, and will not explain why bad things will happen to her despite her positive energy. I serve a God that loves me despite myself and what kind of energy I have (listen, in my world it’s not even positive or negative…it’s exhaustive or coffee-driven!! Haa!). I serve a God who is seeking after me, even when I may turn my back on Him. I serve a God not because I’m going to get something in return, but because my soul is filled by His glory. It’s not about me and my life here on earth, what I’m going to get, what I’m going to be spared from, what I’m going to be blessed by. It’s about Him and the eternal life that He so freely gives.



And I prayed for her because the secret is that God loves her…and is waiting for her to turn to Him.



And so, in the split shifts of our day, our lives, our emotions, pause to fill up with wisdom. Drink in that wisdom straight from His Word…straight from the source. Seek after it as you would if your child was suddenly lost. For wisdom is faith in internal application and then demonstrated in our active thoughts, words, and actions which shows the fruit of His transforming power over our hearts.



Here’s to our pursuit of Him and His wisdom!!



Lots of love, ladies!



Rebecca

Monday, March 1, 2010

Tending The Garden

March 1st!



Can you believe it? Where did February go??



In my life, February passed by under an abnormally large amount of major events. To look at my calendar is to notice my pen bled during February. So, it flew!



Many of you had major events happen in February...babies born, pregnancies discovered, marriages strengthened, marriages weakened, jobs earned, jobs lost, kids honored, kids disciplined, health issues, parent issues, and the list goes on and on.



And yet, we persevere. No matter how our life changes, our God is unchangeable. What we knew about Him yesterday is what He is today and will be tomorrow. In a world that is changing at a rapid pace, I find the knowledge that I base my life on a God who is NOT changing, very comforting. For the God I read about every day, is the God you are reading about,...He is the same God I worship daily, who sustains me, who calls me to live my life faithful each day, and who is faithful to complete my being day in and day out. We do not stand on sifting sands...but on a rock of Him. Ladies! Rejoice! For everything around us can be shifting and send us into shock, but if He is the rock beneath our feet, nothing can rattle us.



So, here we are embarking on a whole new month! Time to do an inventory! How are you doing on your New Year's Resolutions? Do they need revising? Maybe touch them up?



Refresh in your mind what your long-term goals are this year, and then get specific and write 3 steps on how you are going to achieve each one. I think our own personal growth can get lost in the shuffle of our families and our duties as wife, mom, homemaker, friend, etc. But I want you to look back on 2010 as a year of growth. A year that changed your life forever...not based on circumstances, but based on what God has taught you along the way and what you were able to conquer through His strength.



If you didn't write any resolutions, it's never, ever too late! Take 5 minutes today and explore what you would love to accomplish in the next 10 months! If you want more accountability, email me your resolutions, and every month I will forward back the same email to check-in with what you said 30 days prior. Totally confidential. If you don't want me to read it, just put DO NOT READ in the subject of the email, and I will let it sit in a folder until April 1st. No problem!



So, here we go!



Proverbs 1:



Solomon begins writing Proverbs with general advice to young people. The first few chapters are his attempts at selling people on why proverbs are so important; why proverbs must sink through our hearts and minds to transform us from the inside out. He introduces the purpose in the following verses:



2 Their purpose is to teach people wisdom and discipline,
to help them understand the insights of the wise.
3 Their purpose is to teach people to live disciplined and successful lives,
to help them do what is right, just, and fair.
4 These proverbs will give insight to the simple,
knowledge and discernment to the young.



As someone who loves an outline, Solomon is giving it to us. Not only does he begin with the purpose of Proverbs (v. 1-7), but he continues with the importance of gaining wisdom (v. 8-19), and introduces the personification of wisdom (v. 20-33). It's a perfect succession...it flows, it makes sense, and it hits us smack in the middle of our hearts. We know what we will hear if we read Proverbs. The overview of Proverbs readies our heart for the specifics.



But as we've been looking closely at Proverbs, I loved these next two verses, because, girls, this is what we have been doing during the past two months!


Proverbs 1:5-6 Let those who are wise listen to these proverbs and become even wiser.
And let those who understand receive guidance
6 by exploring the depth of meaning in these proverbs, parables,
the wise sayings, and riddles.



It is one thing to simply read Proverbs, say "that's nice," and put the Bible away and continue on your simple way. It is another to look at them inside and out, digging deep at what they look like and what they don't look like, allowing your head to wrap around the tiny nugget that is amazing in the life that it gives, and truly adding it to your heart. It's the difference between eating empty calories, those that don't mean anything to your body, except adding fat...and eating filling calories, those that will fill you up, keep your organs functioning, your heart pumping, and oxygen to your brain. Vital versus excessive. Necessary versus fluff. "I want" versus "I need."



What keeps us from exploring Proverbs deeper? What stops us from getting down and dirty with the Word of God? What keeps us from pulling those weeds, laying down the fertilizer, and planting new seeds on fresh soil?


The work: Ladies, it is work. Reading about changing your life is so much easier than actually changing your life. Filtering your thoughts is so much easier to think about and wish for than actually pausing and filtering. I'm one that weighs everything against the energy output for the result that's going to come from my efforts. Blame it on my desire to be super efficient, or to take multi-tasking to the next level...neurotic insanity! But the work it takes to dedicate every thought, word, deed, motive, intention is exhausting.


You can even own every book about how to make a beautiful garden, but never do the work...well, you will NOT have a beautiful garden!


And likewise, we must see work as a vital piece of our growth as a Christ-follower. And who's afraid of work? We all get down and dirty with our kids, our homes, our friends and their hearts, so why not our own hearts and our own spiritual walks with the Lord? For nothing worthwhile is gained without work.


The dirt: It's messy. Thinking about going into my backyard and getting in the dirt is so unappealing. I hate getting dirt caked in my fingernails (and freak out slightly when I think about what's in the soil). I hate choosing clothes and shoes that I don't mind getting dirty, almost like choosing which clothes and shoes I'm marching to the guillotine. And I would much rather have the beautiful garden without getting in the dirt. But we all know that's impossible unless I hire gardeners to do the job for me. And that's just NOT in the budget.



Beauty without getting dirty is not possible. Tending to the weed and the vitality of our hearts is a dirty job. Sin is mucky and dirty. It's not pretty, our nails will get dirty, but in the end, the clean slate is beautiful. The refining, the weeding out, the pruning, the watering, the getting dirty is what God calls us to do in the process of sanctification. This is the "by exploring the depth of meaning" (v. 6a) that God calls us to do. To get down and dirty, with His Word and our hearts.



The time: I am famous for overestimating my ability to finish a task in a certain amount of time. I think I can whip up dinner, and an hour later with a sink full of dishes, I finish. I think I can "throw" together a workshop I'm presenting, and finally at 3:45am give up, let go of my perfectionist tendencies, and go to bed. I want the body I had at 25 years old, but really don't have time to work that out. I want the beautiful garden, but I don't have (and truthfully don't want) the time to devote to the hideous project. And, the weighing of effort versus the outcome always plays in the back of my head.



However, growing our hearts into a beautiful garden for Him and through Him is time-consuming. It is all encompassing. It requires time to dig into His Word, analyze it, look at it forward and backward, and then meditate on it, and allow it to seep through every fiber of your mind and heart. It is time consuming, but it is life-giving. Is it worth it to find 15 minutes in your busy day? Is it worth it to miss the first monologue of Live with Kelly and Regis? Is it worth more than gold and silver? For ladies, our hearts determine everything we do...and when we change them, it affects all we do! It IS worth it! Promise!


The endless tending and caring of it: Let's face it...give your manicured garden 3 weeks and you'll need to be back out there weeding and tending to your garden. You'll need to water daily and pay attention to the grass's absorption rate and reevaluate if you're watering too much or not enough. You'll need to inspect it. You'll need to get dirty again and again. You'll need to sacrifice more clothes, more shoes, more time to maintain the beauty of your garden. However, the catch is the more frequently you tend to your garden the less you will have to do each time.



This is the same as our "heart care." We must tend to it daily. We must constantly reevaluate our growth, our intake (or lack thereof), our growth, our weeds. And we must then work to gain a balance, to prune, to dig up the roots of the weeds. Left unattended, no matter how well-meaning, your heart will have weeds in it. If we do not allow the Word of God transform our hearts and cut out the bad seeds, then we are just dreaming of a pretty heart and will never achieve it.



Sidenote: we will never have a weed-free heart. That is the curse of sin in a fallen world. However, working towards sanctification brings light and life to those around us. You will find after some intense weeding for periods of time, you will become a natural at it. You will spot the weeds from yards away, and you will spot them early because your eye is now trained. And you will know exactly what you need from Him (which He already knows for you...it's that little detail of being omniscient!!) when circumstances arise. So, perfection is NOT the goal. It's just not possible. However, being more aware today than yesterday is the goal the Lord has set before you: "...those who are wise listen to these proverbs and become even wiser." (v.5)


The Thanklessness: If I was being totally honest with you, if I spent 8 hours in my garden and it finally was looking decent, I would want to invite my whole neighborhood into my backyard to admire my work and give me accolades. It's a sick validation that I thrive on, but I am motivated at times by what others think of my work, and therefore think of me.



And yet, tending to our backyard...like our hearts...is a private matter. It is a matter between the Lord and myself. The changes that come about are monumental to me, but small or even unnoticeable in what other's can see. But again, whose approval matters in this journey of sanctification? The Lord's. Faith is a private relationship between you and the Lord...and all the ins and outs of that relationship are only known to you and Him. And that is precious!



(Please note I'm NOT saying live your faith in isolation, or never get outside opinions or guidance in HOW to live out your faith in this world. God has placed people and circumstances in our paths to continue to mold us and sanctify us for His glory.)

****************



So look back over your March goals. What weeds do you need to get rid of? What work do you need to do? What do you need to sacrifice for the sake of the process? What's worth getting dirty for?


For ladies, dirt always washes off! It's a temporary state that is easily remedied. For He cleanses us with His blood, with His love, and in His glory!


One last tid-bit: I was reading in my Study Bible's notes as part of the introduction to Proverbs, and it says this: "What the book of Psalms is to prayer and devotional life, the book of Proverbs is to everyday life. Proverbs gives practical advice for effective living. This book is not just a collection of homey sayings; it contains deep spiritual insights drawn from experience. A proverb is a short, wise, easy-to-remember saying that calls a person to action. It doesn't argue about basic spiritual and moral beliefs; it assumes we already hold them. The book of Proverbs focuses on God- His character, works, and blessings- and it tells how we can live in close relationship to Him."


That's where we are. We know the Lord. We know what He requires. Now we must DO it! We must work. We must get dirty. We must commit ourselves day in and day out. We must concentrate on ourselves and no one else. And then, our hearts will bloom.


Love ladies!!

Monday, February 22, 2010

True Friendships

Good early morning, ladies!

I hope you slept well, your kiddos slept well, and you woke up with a renewed sense of being!

Sometimes I hate sleep, only because I can get so much more done if I limit my time snoozing in bed! I'll admit that I see sleep as a necessary evil! Haaa! My sister-in-law however would argue that there is nothing better in the world than to sleep a good 12 to 14 hours. In her defense, she doesn't have any children, so I'll let her believe that sleep's her best friend. Hee! But I couldn't do that if I tried. I was never ever like that, even as a teen. (go back and make parallel to the paragraph below)

In the same token, I know that I have to spend time alone in the Word and with my Lord to feel equally refreshed! Sometimes its done out of a task that needs to be crossed off the list...and that's when I end my time with the Lord and immediately whip around and yell at my kids. For true devotions are spent when you devote your whole mind, heart, soul to be RENEWED by Him. Much like sleep is necessary for our bodies, so His Word is necessary for our hearts, minds, and souls.

Sometime today, curl up in the couch with a blanket, a cup of coffee, for a little uninterrupted time (notice I didn't say quiet, because in most of our homes, quiet is not possible) to dig deep in His Word. Take out the Proverbs of the day, read it, underline things that stand out to you, choose a verse to memorize, and pray over it as you commit it to memory. The fruit of that 10-15 minutes spent in His Word will amaze you.

I think so many of us reach the end of our day and wonder what we have to show for it except a string of blow-ups (whether aggressively or passive aggressively) creating emotional havoc. But more times than not, when we rest in His Word first, the atmosphere in our home is markedly more calm, peaceful, patient. For me, His Word has made more difference than a cup of coffee (how many of us make it a point to stop every morning at Starbucks but can't crack open our Bibles?), than a shower (I can yell equally as loud with clean hair as with dirty), than a clean home (this is just a facade that makes me feel as though I'm in control), than happy, compliant children (they're probably not happy nor compliant because I have crushed their spirits along the way); because the Word of God changes us from the inside out. It's not a supplemental vitamin we try to take daily, but instead we should see it as the main meal in order for our heart to find balance and His perspective.

Try it. And see what happens. See if your hubby notices. See if your home is more peaceful. See if your heart notices things that it never noticed before. See if you're more aware of His hand during your day. Dare to see things from His perspective; to breathe; breathe deep; let go of your human frailty; and to rise again in His strength. For we are to put off what is old, and put on what is new. (Scripture) That's my challenge for you and me today!

Proverbs 22

24 Don't befriend angry people
or associate with hot-tempered people,
25 or you will learn to be like them
and endanger your soul.


I used to teach 6th grade in a private school in my pre-kids life, and I loved every moment of it! Some of you dread the time when you're kiddos are pre-teens, but let me assure you that sixth graders are a blast! Not only are the hilariously funny, but their brains are actually learning to think...not just because you told them to, but because they are genuinely trying to get a grasp on the world that is around them and their place in that world. I owe much of my wisdom to the parents' of my students, all of my parenting style to them (because I knew what children I wanted my kids to be like, and then peppered the mom with parenting questions...let's call it the "Schaumloeffel Institute of Parenting Research!" HAA!), and much of my sanity to those who have walked before me. (As a bit of a rabbit trail, let me say that I learned because my heart was open and I wanted the end result.)

One of the things I learned was the importance of friends and the parents' understanding of the influence of friends' in their children's lives. Some of my students were moving to public schools after 6th grade and parents would ask me how to keep their "little" ones from getting sucked into the vortex of worldliness. One of the most important things I would tell them was to know who were their child's friends.

Why? Because those friends have the ability to encourage your child on the right path or to derail them faster than anything.

As this verse 24-25 says, "if you hang out with corrupt people, you too will become corrupt, and it will ruin your soul" (paraphrased by me to take it to a broader concept). It's not just the angry, but the defiant, rebellious, depressed, withdrawn, self-labeled "social outcasts," arrogant, unyielding, disrespectful, unkind, and the unloving. Any of those can rub off on our babies, whatever their age, and it is our job to be the defender of our babies' hearts.

But what about our own friendships? What about the people we allow into the inner-courts of our hearts? What are they encouraging us to do? What traits of theirs are rubbing off on us? Is the friendship supporting your life's purpose? Are your choices encouraged by the friendship? Are you uplifted when you leave your friend? Or are you even more crabby, cranky, dissatisfied, negative, critical when you return home?

We may not be pre-teen sixth graders, but as women, our hearts are just as vulnerable to those we spend the most time with. For they are the ones who can keep us on track or derail us!

Proverbs 13:20 Walk with the wise and become wise;
associate with fools and get in trouble.

Let's look closely at the typical "friends" we may have that suck the life we truly desire right out of us:

1. The Crab:

For this poor gal, everything is interpreted through the negative "glass is 1/2 empty" view. She gripes, complains, whines, and even throws tantrums because her life is not what she ever wanted. She's more busy pointing the finger at others in self-righteous blame, than to realize she can change everything.

You become friends with her because her sarcasm, at first, is funny and revealing. But the more you get to know her you realize the unhappiness and unrest is deep-seeded and toxic. You find yourself absorbing her cynicism, going home and being critical, noticing things that never bothered you before, being vocal when you know it is not productive, causing the strife in your home to be on the rise, which is directly counter-productive to what the Lord calls you to do.

If you think you will change her, you won't. But she will cloud your vision.

Ecclesiastes 7:9 Do not be quickly provoked in your spirit,
for anger resides in the lap of fools.


2. The Flirt:

This the woman, that if married, is quite unsatisfied and finds the attention with other men and in social circles that put her fidelity at risk falsely fulfilling. If not married, then she is constantly out and about, flirting, hooking-up, collecting men on her journey. She is most likely attractive, fun, and effervescent. You are drawn to her, just like everyone else, because of this, but what you soon realize is that all this bubbly flirtation is hiding a lonely heart. A heart that is not loved by anyone, not even herself.

To be with her, you must join her escapades. If you're not fun, she doesn't want to be with you. You'll be a downer to her state of euphoria. She will avoid having coffee with you in an intimate, get-down-to-the-heart conversation because she doesn't want to get down to the bottom of anything. She avoids as a defense mechanism.

But to put yourself in her world is dangerous. It can be exciting, thrilling, and even titillating, especially if you are living in your sweats, talking to 3-year-olds all day long, and then at war with your hubby when he gets home. The unhappiness can breed contempt for the life you are called to lead, and if you find yourself in a compromising situation in mixed company it can be too tempting to resist.

If you want to change her, you won't. But she will cause you to question your morals.

Proverbs 6:23-24 For their (father's instructions) command is a lamp
and their instruction a light;
their corrective discipline
is the way to life.
24It will keep you from the immoral woman,
from the smooth tongue of a wayward wife.


3. The Self-Absorbed:

This "friend" is really not a friend at all. She probably doesn't know what a true friend acts like or says, so she keeps it all about her. You will probably find yourself in the middle of a conversation you've said nothing but, "uh-huh" in response to everything she says. She doesn't care to know your heart, so she doesn't ask. This is a one-sided friendship, which by definition, isn't much of a friendship.

To continue the friendship, you must assume the role of listener, and not expect much else in response. In theory you will be her friend, but she will not be yours. For a friend listens, loves, and laughs with the other. If you want more of a reciprocal friendship, you will not find it here. And if you do want to say anything, be prepared to just interject any time she takes a breath...but don't expect her to respond to it.

In the end, this friendship will only remain on the surface. Nothing deep will be shared from her to you. You are simply her therapist; the kind of therapist that just listens and nods until the hour is up. Instead of being vitamin rich, this friendship is filled with empty calories. Time will be spent, but nothing will be gained.

If you think you will change her, you won't. Instead she will waste your time.

Proverbs 18:21 The tongue can bring death or life;
those who love to talk will reap the consequences.


4. The Depressed:

We are not talking about the depression, we may find ourselves in when we all go through sadness making our whole world blue. Temporary depression is part of the human condition when the trials of this world weighing heavily on our hearts. I'm also not talking about those clinically diagnosed with depression due to an imbalance of hormones in your body. This depression is very real.

Instead, the depressed friend is the one who is always depressed, no matter the joy and blessings occurring around her. She has allowed a temporary depression define her, for she is getting fed by how others are responding to her, and this gives her enough reason to CHOOSE to remain trapped. Everything is cause for a pity party, the "poor me...I have it so bad." Compare it to Eeyore from Winnie The Pooh, who goes through his whole life eating thistles and wagging his tail unenthusiastically only to swat away flies.

You will try to help this friend. We all do. We feel her pain; we think we're carrying her through, but in the end, she must come to grips with herself and the Lord. Ultimately, she will exhaust the string of sympathizing friends and end up alone, which is where her "come-to-Jesus" meeting is actually going to happen.

This person is craving answers for her problems that she is not willing to work out in her heart, mind, actions. So, really, she does not want to move out of the depression because the attention, sympathy, and love she receives in this state is fulfilling enough to her hurting heart.

I was given this advice from an older, wiser person: if a person comes to you for advice, then walks away without really grappling with it (thinking about it, trying it, refuting it...which will lead to the exposure of root issues), and then comes back for the same advice, do not waste your time. Redirect her to the previous conversation. Do not rehash. And do not continue to give her advice, for she is now manipulating you (and keeping the attention on herself).

If you think you will change her, you won't. Instead she will drain you.

Proverbs 13:4 Lazy people want much but get little,
but those who work hard will prosper.

Proverbs 14:23 Work brings profit,
but mere talk leads to poverty!

5. The Self-Indulgent:

This friend is able to indulge in everything life has to offer...a mani/pedi, dinners out, vacations, gifts, cars, clothes, and the list goes on. She doesn't have the normal perspective nor constraints on life, nor does she understand the limitations others must live under. She gets a babysitter when her hubby is hard at work, just so she can go out with her friends. She spends hours invested in molding and shaping her body, but no time creating deep relationships with anyone around her (hubby, kiddos, friends) except maybe with her personal trainer.

The truth is that in the self-indulgence, she's running away from pain and loneliness. A quick shopping fix will cure the heartache. If she refuses to cultivate deep friendships around her, then there is something she has to hide. All in all, this person is curing an aliment with temporary happiness caused by the things she does.

You will be her friend because she's fun and exciting. She may live the life you envy, spending without thinking about it because she's rich and able. But let me say that in the end richness does not come from money, but from the relationships we have with people.
This friendship will be shallow...but will cause you to look at your own life with disdain and a critical eye. You will become envious, dissatisfied, crabby at home, critical of your hubby, and convinced that money will be the answer to all your problems.

If you think you will change her, you won't. Instead she will monopolize you.

Proverbs 12:12 Thieves are jealous of each other's loot,
but the godly are well rooted and bear their own fruit.


6. The Perfect:

Sometimes I think this friend is one of the most appealing to us, especially if we are running around in Christian circles. Somehow we internalize the notion that if the Lord is the true Lord of our lives, then nothing bad will happen. We will marry the perfect man, who will provide the perfect salary to give us the perfect home to birth the perfect babies to be able to do all the perfect things you're "supposed to" with your perfect children. Everything is perfect. So, let's pop that bubble right now.

There is no such thing as perfect. Perfect does not exist on this side of heaven. Not even remotely close. The perfect friend who pretends she's living the perfect life is either naive to what is truly going on around her or so insecure about the imperfection that lies behind closed doors that the perfection is her facade.

You will be drawn to her because she's happy, go-lucky. She's fun...and perfect. And who doesn't want a perfect friend? But you will leave dissatisfied once again with your own life. You will convince yourself that the grass is truly greener on the other side. You will be the "what if" game...what if I didn't marry him, what if I didn't quit work, what if i didn't...and on and on the regret piles up.

Galatians 3:3 How foolish can you be? After starting your Christian lives in the Spirit, why are you now trying to become perfect by your own human effort?

7. The Gossip:

This gal's purpose is to spread truths, half-truths, and non-truths about everyone else but herself. Do you realize gossips don't spread gossip about themselves? That would be against her whole reason behind gossiping. If you're talking about others, then you can't talk about yourself. And you can hide behind everyone else's indiscretions.

You will be friends with her because "inquiring minds want to know," right? Somehow, we women are drawn to know the inside track. We justify it as a "concern, prayer request, lesson learned from someone else's actions," but we can surround ourselves with it. We lose sight of our home, of our integrity, of the truth, of His truth. Gossip can destroy friendships, lives, reputations, futures, and faiths.

Proverbs 11:12-13 It is foolish to belittle one's neighbor;
a sensible person keeps quiet.

13 A gossip goes around telling secrets,
but those who are trustworthy can keep a confidence.

***************

Now, please do not hear me say "surround yourself with Christian friends who shouldn't do these things to you," for we are called to this world to be His light. We are called to invest, love, reach, influence non-believers for His kingdom.

However, we need to be aware. We need to be prayerful. And we need to constantly be evaluating our hearts, for our priority is not to save our "friend" (that's God's job), but to keep ourselves from becoming our "friend."

I would also contest that the stereotypical "friends" listed above are probably not true friends. For friendship is a reciprocal relationship, filled with encouragement, giving and taking, honesty, and always acts in the best interest of the other person.

At the end of the day, your priority as a Christ-follower, wife, mom, homemaker is to put those things above all others. If you find your life being monopolized by being outside the home, you need to have a heart-to-heart with God and ask Him to reveal what you're running away from. Friends are the sweetest things to happen to life...but family trumps friends, for that's how God intended it.

Here's to true friendships! I am grateful for you!!

Lots of love mamas!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

L.O.V.E.

Good morning, my friends!

I hope you were blessed this weekend by your family for Valentine's Day! I don't "love' this holiday because of the gifts or romantic expectations, but I love having one day that celebrates the heart behind all we do. For everything we do, as wives and moms, all starts with the heart...whether laundry, cooking, pep talks on the way to school, helping with homework, changing diapers, ironing shirts, running to the bank, buying the groceries, etc...this is all done because we LOVE.

Have you ever thought about that? How every little thing you do is all because of your heart for the people in your home? Today, go about the mundane tasks of mommyhood, wifehood, and livelihood, and do it with a heart of love. Let this be an amazing living experiment and see if you experience anything different. Not in the response of others, but in the state of your own heart and attitude.

Proverbs 17

3 Fire tests the purity of silver and gold,
but the Lord tests the heart.


Today, this verse popped out at me, because I love the wording...fire tests purity, but the Lord tests the heart.

Fire is one of those things in life that can be strangely beautiful and mesmerizing, or threatening and destructive depending on the situation. The warmth and comfort from a fire roaring in your family room fire place has a very different feel from the fire barreling down the canyon behind your home with unpredictable wind speeds and direction. One you cuddle up in front of with the ones you love to feel the warmth on a cold night, and the other you shove everything of value (real or sentimental) and your loved ones in your car and run as fast as you can away from.

The only thing that differentiates the two is the control we have over the fire. In the fire place, bar-be-cue, stove burner, heater pilot light, or backyard fit pit, the fire is beautiful, even necessary for our lives. For it provides warmth and heat enabling us to cook, stay warm, have hot water, dry clothes, even dry hair (okay...I know your hair dryer doesn't have fire, but have you ever lit your hair on fire because it gets too hot?? Let's just say, I've have a few mishaps!!). Fire is good. It is for our good.

The wildfires we have witnessed, especially in Southern California, are just the opposite: wild, out-of-control, unpredictable, life-threatening, willing to eat any fuel in its way indiscriminately, rapid, has no boundaries, and potentially no end. We have no control over these fires, and it's the very opposite: we are controlled by these fires.

But the purpose of the fire is the same: burn what is dead, and strengthen what remains alive.

A forest fire is a necessary event in the cycle of nature created to clear away the dead, allow room for the new growth, even popping open some seeds that are only broken open by extreme heat. Have you ever seen a cut tree ring that has the scar of a fire on it? It looks marred and yet, that new bark grew right over it and the tree continued on in its glory and splendor.

This is was the Lord does with His fire. From the beginning of time, God created the world to withstand and endure fire. It is a natural element with a purpose. And yet, it's destructive, frightening, and hurtful.

Have you ever sung that song, "Refiner's Fire"? When in college, we sang it every Friday in chapel: "Refiner's Fire...my heart's one desire...is to be...holy...set apart for you Lord...it is to be...holy...set apart for you Lord...ready to do Your will." I love it! Because our ONE desire is to BE holy and therefore giving glory to Him. Amazing!

So let's look at a few things that the Lord would love to burn out of our lives and replace with attributes that are from Him:

1. Faithfulness replaces doubt and fear:

Usually we fear and have doubt in what we cannot see. We're convinced that it's the out-of-control fire that we're sure rages in our future that throws us into a tizzy today and wastes today's opportunities of their potential. And yet, we are called to put our faith in Him, not because of what we see, but because of WHO He is!

2 Corinthians 5:7 We live by faith, not by sight.

Hebrews 11:1 Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.

2. Trust replaces worry:

We like to know how the story is going to end, don't we? I have friends who will not read a book unless they read the last 5 pages and know how it's going to end. They have to know that their time spent reading will be worth it in the end. Have you ever endured a crazy movie and then nothing is solved at the end, and you walk away hating the movie, especially if I've paid full price for the ticket? ME TOO! But we judge the worth of the story based upon whether it ends how WE want it to end.

Sometimes we treat the Lord the same way. We'll follow if we are guaranteed that the outcome is easy, comfortable, and we come out better. But sometimes it's not that way...but it's still for our good, our growth, His glory.

Proverbs 3:5-6 Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;

6 in all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make your paths straight.


Hebrews 10:21-24 ...and since we have a great priest over the house of God,22 let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.23 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for He who promised is faithful.24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.

3. Wisdom replaces foolishness:

I love this, because it all begins with our thoughts. Refining our thoughts, our motives, our interpretation of reality through HIS filter breeds wisdom. How amazing is it that we're not destined to remain clueless and foolish? How amazing is it that we can LEARN and GROW? Can you imagine if we never grew? A world full of mental toddlers would be disastrous!

Proverbs 1:2-6 To know wisdom and instruction, To perceive the words of understanding,

3 To receive the instruction of wisdom, Justice, judgment, and equity;

4 To give prudence to the simple, To the young man knowledge and discretion—

5 A wise man will hear and increase learning, And a man of understanding will attain wise counsel—

6 To understand a proverb and an enigma, The words of the wise and their riddles.

James 3:17 But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace‑loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.

4. Repentance replaces sin:

Repentance and forsaking is when we are set free from our sin. Set free when we CHOOSE to let go of that sin that is rotting the inners of our soul. Whatever you are harboring, whatever you are holding on to, whatever you are hiding...let it go. He will free you.

Proverbs 28:13 He who conceals his sins does not prosper,
but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy.

2 Corinthians 7:9-11 (Paul writes...) yet now I am happy, not because you were made sorry, but because your sorrow led you to repentance. For you became sorrowful as God intended and so were not harmed in any way by us.10 Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.11 See what this godly sorrow has produced in you: what earnestness, what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what alarm, what longing, what concern, what readiness to see justice done. At every point you have proved yourselves to be innocent in this matter.
5. Forgiveness replaces guilt:

I think women can be their own worst enemies. Forgiving ourselves of the mistakes in the past is so so hard. But after repentance, forgiveness is the last step that allows you to move on. For to grow, you have to move on. A tree doesn't hold onto the scar as a badge of courage, for the new bark grows around it. The new bark might look different and not be perfect, but it allows the tree to forgive the past, learn from it, and then eventually forget it. We have to let things go.

Ladies, we are NOT perfect. We will never be perfect...for it's not even in our DNA. (And if we were, then we would NOT need the Lord. We'd be able to save ourselves, right?) So, stop holding yourself to perfection, and hold yourself to the Lord. What a concept, huh? I have to digest that one too!

1 John 1:9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

Ephesians 4:32 Be kind and compassionate to one another**, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. **(including yourself)

6. Endurance replaces weakness:

I lack so much endurance, it's really not even funny. I always start out strong, but then wane as time goes by. Let's safely assume I'm the hare, not the turtle.

But enduring the fire requires endurance. For we are made weak through trials and tribulations, but it is through His strength that we are able to endure WITH endurance. And He hangs in there with us because He loves us with all His heart.

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



Hebrews 12:1-2 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.2 Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.



7. Patience replaces anger and frustration:

What's the first thing to fly out the window when you're angry? And why are you angry in the first place? My bet would be you lose your patience...and you lose it because something has not gone as you have planned. I only know because I live this daily!

Be still...take a deep breath, blow out slowly, eyes closed, say a quick prayer, and reorient your mind to Him, and start over. For when we experience trials, do you ever realize that you'd love to run through them instead of waiting patiently for the Lord to work you through it? I know! I love to push things through, but we I do, I injure people along the way! I'm learning!

Psalm 46:10a “Be still, and know that I am God;"

James 1:2-6 Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds,3 because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.4 Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.5 If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.6 But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.7 That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord;

Fires, trials, tribulations are NOT fun; they are not comfortable, easy, nor desired. But they are meant to refine, to purify, to restart, to freshen, to prune, to clear out, to clean our hearts, and to ultimately be prepared for the purpose He has us on earth to do.

Ladies, His fire is just part of the journey. And our hearts, carrying that scar will heal, will look back and know its there, but also be a testimony of the strength of the Lord that carried us through times that we may want to forget. It is all for our good and His glory.

Romans 15:13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Lots of LOVE, girls. LOVE LOVE LOVE like you've never LOVED before. For HE IS LOVE! And isn't that amazing?

Have a lovely weekend! (I'm off to San Francisco for a business meeting tomorrow morning! Pray for safe travels, for Cliff's sanity with the kids, and that I stay awake in probably the most boring meetings of my life! HEWE!)