Giving up is Not an Option!

 grace

I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because He considered me faithful, putting me into service, even though I was formerly a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent aggressor. Yet I was shown mercy because I acted ignorantly in unbelief; and the grace of our Lord was more than abundant, with the faith and love which are found in Christ Jesus. (1 Tim. 1:12-14 NASB)

I’ve been painting Jonah’s room over the last few days. He’s had the same design since he was three and last year, around his birthday, I told him I’d redo his room. I redid his sister’s so now it’s his turn. I’ve found myself, looking in at his room as I walk by. I flip on the light and look around at the drastic change. It was reminiscent of the many, many nights I would enter his room after he was asleep making sure he was breathing.

Jonah’s asthma has resulted in a couple of intense hospital stays and too many sleepless nights. I have been told he could die (a mother’s worse nightmare). I’ve heard the heart wrenching cries of my boy as the hospital staff removed mucus from his lung so it would start working again. I’ve sat quietly, reading my Bible only to jump when the alarms from the heart monitors rang. It’s been traumatic at times to say the least. Although his asthma has been under control for years, this morning I was right back there again.

Jonah also has to deal with eczema. Apparently, it’s common in asthmatics. Day after day I remind him to slather up and most days he ignores me. This morning he was complaining his eczema was burning and when I looked at his legs I became upset. It’s infected. He isn’t doing what I tell him. He’s not putting cream on. He’s not doing wet wraps. And now it’s a mess. So, this morning, my boy, who I love so very much, got an earful from his mother. My final comment was, do you realize if you do not take care of this, your infection could get so bad that you could die? I was angry and so was he. He didn’t say a word when I dropped him off at school.

I know my anger came from the fear he would have to suffer again. I’m trying to help him. We have all the tools. We have the education but he just won’t do what he’s supposed to and it upsets me. It hurts my heart because he will have to face the consequences and I will have to watch. I wonder if that feeling is something God possesses when we mess up. He gives us His Word for inspiration. He speaks to us through His Holy Spirit to encourage and warn us. He offers so many signs and yet, we walk right back into the same old sin over and over again. Then He sits with us while we endure the struggle we have perpetuated. Oh how our Father loves us!

Once again, I will take over; making sure Jonah is following his regiment. And after a while, I will hand the responsibility over to him again. I don’t know if he will rise to the occasion, but I will offer him a chance again. I won’t give up on him because God had never given up on me!!

Parenting ~ Summer Reading

Our summer began a month ago. We all looked forward to a rest from our busy schedule. One of my goals for the summer was to have us all rejuvenate spiritually. I wanted us to work on something together but I didn’t want to do a Bible study. I didn’t want to do scripture memorization or workbooks. My desire was to have my children think, learn and understand God and how He works without it seeming like schoolwork. I was inspired to have a book club. I would choose a book written about a Christian. We would read and discuss the happenings of the book.

The first book I chose was Rebel with a Cause. For years we have filled shoeboxes for Samaritan’s Purse and sent them off to places unknown. I thought it would be interesting for them to read about the President of a ministry they were familiar with. In the beginning, my kids complained. They didn’t want to read the book. It was boring unlike the adventure books they normally read. But we pushed through and quickly their attitudes changed. The stories of Franklin’s youth were humorous and engaging. They learned he was normal kid, just like any other.

I finished the book this past weekend and loved it. I loved how he showed the progression of where he was as a boy and God’s gentle movement in his life. He took Franklin’s loves and gifts and uses them in his ministry. I think the thing I like most about the book is Ruth Graham. She was a mom who prayed. She didn’t lecture him or expect him to be anything other than what God wanted. She prayed for him and let God work in his heart. She maintained a good relationship with him working to understand God’s plan rather than encouraging her own. Ultimately, it wasn’t the punishments or restrictions that changed Franklin’s heart; it was the mighty hand of God. He used godly people as inspiration even though Franklin wasn’t looking for any.

I chose this book as a teaching tool for my kids but I am also learning valuable lessons. If I don’t allow my kids to struggle, they will never learn to rely on God. He loves them more than I do. I have to step back and allow Him in to mold and make them. Even if it looks like the battle is lost, I know God is fighting for them. He has a plan. He has a purpose. He made them. And He will lead them.

Parenting ~ Pointing out Selfishness

speck

“Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?” (Matthew 7:3 ESV)

“I’m still kind of mad at him for going on all of the rides without me,” Jonah admitted. His friend had invited us to an evening at a water park. Jonah’s cast was still on and he knew he might not be able to go on the rides. We wrapped it up, making it waterproof and he wore a shirt to cover. He was allowed to ride some of the rides but others required him to go shirtless. This was a bit disappointing, but a little is better than nothing, right?

Jonah rode the rides he was allowed and after a couple of hours was ready to go home. But he had this nagging resentment toward his friend. His friend rode all of the rides leaving Jonah behind. He reasoned, “If it were me, I would have stayed with him.” I know he probably would have. He’s thoughtful like that. Although a couple of weeks had passed, Jonah still struggled to forgive.

Jonah and I had a long talk. We talked about friendship, forgiveness and selfishness. We talked about what he expected from his friend and how unreasonable it was. And I pointed out he was being selfish. You see, Jonah considered his friend the selfish one. Jonah wanted his friend to forgo his desires and only think of him. After I explained it, Jonah got the picture. He was so consumed with his hurt feelings, he didn’t think of his friend.

No matter how old you get, the same feelings rise up in us. It goes against our grain to think of others before ourselves. It’s natural to want what we want and become angry when we don’t get it. It can turn into a pity party if we’re not careful. Self examination is important. The only one we should be comparing ourselves to is Jesus. He proved to be the ultimate Unselfish Servant. That’s what we should be striving for. If we focus on Him, we won’t have time to reach for the specks in another’s eye.

Parenting~Letting Go

Angels Unseen by: Ron DiCianni

Angels Unseen by: Ron DiCianni

The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.” (John 11:44 ESV)

Today is the last day of school for two of my children. My son that attends public school will be finished next week. It’s a time of celebration and a time to look back over the last year. As always, we have had our ups and downs and we have survived another year.

This week in particular has been a busy week. One child had an awards ceremony and concert. Another had orientation because he’s taking college classes next semester. And the third had tryouts for soccer. We have been running all week and I am exhausted. But it’s a good kind of exhaustion. This year in particular, my kids have thrived where they were. Oh don’t get me wrong, they have had their struggles. We have had our conflicts. I have had to be the “mean mom” and push them but I have to admit, I’m proud of their accomplishments.

Parenting kids at this age can be tricky. You want them to become more independent, but are afraid they will make poor choices. Let’s be honest here, they will make stupid decisions. But that isn’t the end of the world. You see, God takes those bad choices and teaches them. We don’t like to see our kids suffer the consequences. We take it as a reflection of our parenting skills. Our greatest fear is for our children to fail miserably for the whole world to see. This fear propels us to control every situation that touches their lives. We are afraid, so we hold them back.

I was reminded this week of God’s love for my children. We walked through difficult circumstances but God led us. He didn’t leave us hanging. He offered wisdom, guidance and a whole lot of grace. I am letting go of control a little at a time. Sure, I still have to push them. Yes, I hold them accountable. But mostly, I work to encourage them. They are going to fail but I don’t want them to quit. I want them to endure. I want them to pick themselves up when they fall and move on with their new found wisdom.

Keep praying for your children and let them go into God’s hands. He will take good care of them.

Aside

The Green-eyed Monster

green

“If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.” (1 Cor. 12:26 ESV)

Young or mature, we all have bouts with that ugly thing called jealousy. Every time we think we have it conquered, it creeps in once again. We pray, we read, we do all we can to protect our hearts and yet we find ourselves wishing we had this blessing or that blessing. I’m watching Jonah deal with the green-eyed monster these days.

He was excited about his field trip to a local theme park. He and his best buddy determined to ride the fiercest roller coasters and live to tell about them. It would certainly be the main discussion at the lunch table for an entire week. However, when I picked him up at school, after his epic field trip, he looked like he was about to cry. “It was the worst trip ever,” he said. He could not ride most of the rides because of his broken arm. My heart broke.

He shared his story and deflated expectations as we drove home. You see, there is one coaster he wanted to ride. He’s waited a full year to ride that thing. He went to the same theme park last year but was placed in a group with girls who were afraid to ride that coaster. So this year, he was determined and excited. He and his man friends were going to conquer this death defying coaster. Instead, he had to sit and watch as his friends rode the coaster, not once, but four times.

We talked about how he felt. We talked about his expectations of his friend. He agreed he didn’t want his friend to sit out because he did. He wanted him to have fun. It was just hard to watch. He wanted to be right there sharing the experience.

Even as adults, it’s sometimes difficult to be happy when our friends are blessed. This is something we have to work at but it can be done. Sadly, there are times I find it hard to be happy when God blesses others. And I’ve also been on the receiving end of sarcastic remarks when God has chosen to bless me. It’s human nature. When I’m feeling less than gracious, I try to remember we’re in this together. We should want the best for each other. We should rejoice when others rejoice just as we would mourn alongside them.

Jealousy is the green-eyed monster that has broken up many relationships. We have to be diligent to check our hearts because it’s much too easy to feel slighted because of another’s abundance.

Lord, help us look at all you give us with grateful hearts. Thank you for allowing us so many blessings. Give us love for others and hearts of honest congratulations when they are honored with your blessings. Amen!

Parenting ~ Sin and Grace

jonah & Karoline

My favorite picture of them!

“Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went.” (Acts 8:4 NIV)

Parenting teens and preteens is not an easy task. You have to be on your toes, understand your children and pray for the patience of Job. It can be filled with hormonal driven drama. As much as I hate to admit it, this is reluctantly becoming my favorite time in parenting. All of my kids are at the point where we can have deep discussions about things and they actually understand. They are beginning to connect the dots between God and their lives and circumstances around them. This is a time in their lives when they don’t just talk about God, they experience Him.

A few weeks ago, the twins committed the same sin in the same week. My daughter first, then my son cheated. For some, this is no big deal, but for me it’s not acceptable. Cheating, as with any sin, becomes easier and easier to commit if left unresolved. So, in both cases, I made them own up to their mistake. I made them both write apology letters to their teachers explaining their actions, why they were wrong and ask for forgiveness. I wanted them to understand that sin can have far-reaching effects.

In both cases, their teachers responded with grace. My daughter’s teacher (she attends a private Christian school) took her aside and talked about what happened. She didn’t have to, but she used the opportunity to minister to my daughter. Karoline still had to accept the consequences, but her relationship with her teacher is different. The act of asking for forgiveness and offering it changes our perspective. Although Jonah’s experience was not the same, his teacher was thankful for the apology and offered forgiveness as well. My hope was for Jonah and Karoline to become sensitive to their sin and confess it rather than let it fester. In the end, they learned a priceless lesson on grace.

The scripture this week talked about the persecuted church which scattered and shared the gospel “wherever they went”. This story about my children, sin and forgiveness is the gospel. We are all sinners, Jesus forgives and we are reconciled. Preparing preteens and teens for the world is challenging. My desire is not for them to be perfectly behaved individuals; rather godly young adults. I am learning this takes a tremendous amount of patience, forgiveness and grace. I am thankful for the people God placed in our lives to help us instill these values in our children.

Parenting~As The Lord Loves…

graceThe Lord said to me, “Go, show your love to your wife again, though she is loved by another man and is an adulteress. Love her as the Lord loves the Israelites, though they turn to other gods and love the sacred raisin cakes.” So I bought her for fifteen shekels of silver and about a homer and a lethek of barley. Then I told her, “You are to live with me many days; you must not be a prostitute or be intimate with any man, and I will behave the same way toward you.” (Hosea 3:1-3NIV)

“…as the Lord loves…” Those are hard words to obey especially when dealing with preteens and teens. Their mood changes with the wind and their attitudes can be less than respectful. For me, this is the hardest time to love them. But I also think this is the time in their lives they move away from just following their parent’s faith to searching on their own. I think this is a very crucial time in their lives. This is when they develop a personal and real relationship with God.

Part of understanding God and relating to Him is accepting our imperfections. I don’t believe being holy and being perfect are the same things. Holiness relies on God’s grace while perfection is self-imposed excellence. I want my children to strive for holiness. I don’t want them to think they have to be perfect to be loved by me or by God.

I confess I’m not the perfect Mom. In fact, I have said ugly things to my kids when I was angry. I have stayed mad at them even when I said I forgave them. I have lost my temper on more occasions than I like to admit. Yes, I have made mistakes. My goal is to teach my kids to love as the Lord does. That means seeing other’s as God sees them. It means understanding everyone has bad days. It means forgiving even when you don’t want to. My mistakes, as much as I hate to admit it, show my children I am not perfect. I am a sinner in need of forgiveness. I am in the same boat with them, trying to love God and love others. I fail as they do.

Accepting our shortcomings helps us to see others in the same light. It helps us become more compassionate and less judgmental. Showing our kids mercy and asking for the same in return is a good habit. It teaches them to have a gracious attitude. It also shows them to look beyond actions to the heart. I believe it is one of the ways we can love “…as the Lord loves…”.