Wednesday, March 27, 2013

A Not-So-Holy Heart on Holy Week

Here I am in the middle of Easter week...holy week...and I'm not feeling so holy.  I've spent so much energy trying to make this week about the Lord, and yet my heart feels far from Him.  As much as I've tried to be kind and patient in my dealings with the kids, I have become unkind and impatient.  As much as I've tried to help them set their minds and hearts on Him, encouraging them through His word to practice loving each other, as they have been loved, they seem to be fighting all the more this week.  We are failing...and flailing.  

Oh Lord, I am so aware of my wretched state...of my weakness.  Is this just your way of reminding me of my need for the cross?  In these moments, I often feel so guilty, so unworthy, even condemned.  And then you show me the cross...and my Savior Jesus...who was condemned on my behalf.  He took my guilt and was condemned in my place.  

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.  Rom. 8:1

By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. Rom 8:3-4

My sin was condemned once and for all....and the righteous requirement of the law, that I cannot keep, has been fulfilled once and for all.

He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?  Who shall bring any charge against God's elect?  It is God who justifies.  Who is to condemn?  Christ Jesus is the one who died- more than that, who was raised- who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.  Rom 8:31-34

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?  Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? Rom. 8:35

For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Rom. 8:38-39

Oh, thank you Jesus!  Even with all my weakness, my failures, my flailings, I am secure in your love.  I am not condemned.  Those whispers of guilt in my ear, those condemning thoughts...they are lies from the devil.  You do not condemn me.  You have made me holy...yes, holy and acceptable to God (Romans 12:1).  This thought reminds me of what I celebrate this week.  My heart rejoices in God my Savior!  It's overwhelming what God has done for me... it makes me want to fall on my knees and cry, and stand with arms raised and sing... all at the same time.  

And this is the song I sing...

How Deep the Father's Love (click link to listen)
by Stuart Townsend

How deep the Father's love for us,
How vast beyond all measure
That He should give His only Son
To make a wretch His treasure

How great the pain of searing loss,
The Father turns His face away
As wounds which mar the chosen One,
Bring many sons to glory

Behold the Man upon a cross,
My sin upon His shoulders
Ashamed I hear my mocking voice,
Call out among the scoffers

It was my sin that left Him there
Until it was accomplished
His dying breath has brought me life
I know that it is finished

I will not boast in anything
No gifts, no power, no wisdom
But I will boast in Jesus Christ
His death and resurrection

Why should I gain from His reward?
I cannot give an answer
But this I know with all my heart
His wounds have paid my ransom

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Discipline & Anger- A Destructive Combination....There IS A Better Way

I know I'm not alone in my struggle in this area.  It seems all of us want to be that patient parent, always speaking in a sweet, gentle voice and never losing our cool.  Well, as much as I've tried, I seem to fail more times than I care to say.  Yet, God is always so patient with me and continues to give me gentle reminders of the HIS way of know, the way He is with us.  It's the perfect picture of the way we ought to be with our own them a tangible picture of what God is like.

One of the gentle ways God recently encouraged me was through a chapter I read called Never Punish a Child in Anger out of the book Hints on Child Training by H. Clay Trumbull.  The book was written over 100 years ago, yet is filled with wonderful truth which is still applicable today.  I highly recommend it!

"No punishment ought to be administered by a parent at any time that would not be administered by that parent when he was cool and calm and deliberate, and after he had had a full and free talk on the subject with the child, in the child's best state of mind." p. 123

"...punishment is a judicial act, calling for a clear mind, and a cool head, and a fair considering of every side of the case at hand.  Anger is inconsistent with the exercise of judicial faculty; therefore no person is competent to judge fairly while angry." p. 121-122

I have always known that I should not discipline my children in anger.  But this is easier said than done.  And I'm afraid that the anger I see in my children's hearts is a direct result of my own anger and the injustice I have done to them time and time again when I have administered discipline while still filled with hot passion, whether the act they have committed warranted it or not.

Sometimes they even turn to me and point out my own sin. Of course they do it in their own weak way, as only a child can.  They cry and say, "Mommy, I don't like it when you talk mean to me"...or, more often than not, because they don't know how to handle their emotions, they just get even more angry.  It seems so unjust at the time...that after such outrageous misbehavior that they have done, that the focus then shifts on my reaction to it.  It often makes me even more angry! 

"Don't you know what you've done? Don't you know that for hours I have held my cool, being patient and loving while you've tempted and provoked me like a bully shoving his finger into my chest over and over and over again?  And now you're upset that I've finally lost it?" 

What makes me angry in the moment, breaks my heart later as I realized how I have failed them.  

My child knows he is wrong for what he has done, but he also expects that I, as his mother, will do what is right, even in the face of his outrageous behavior.  And when I get angry, he knows I have failed.  His security is lost and he feels like things are out of control.  And from these experiences, his view of me is shaped.  He will either gain respect and confidence, or disrespect and an uncertainty about how I will react to any given situation...this can even lead to fear. 

There is no fear in love.  This really cuts to the heart.  I want my children to KNOW that I love them, with a steady, unshakable love.  I want them to have a quiet confidence in my love and in my commitment to do what's right no matter how "bad" they are.  This is exactly what I want from my heavenly Father.  I want to know that no matter how badly I mess us, His love is steady, unshakable, and his discipline is always just and for my good.

"A child who had been told by her father, that if she did a certain thing he must punish her for it, came to him, on his return home, and informed him that she had transgressed in the thing forbidden.  He expressed sincere regret for this.  "But you said, papa, that you would punish me for it," she added.  "Yes, my dear child, and I must keep my word," was his answer.  Then, as he drew her lovingly to him, he told her just why he must punish her.  Looking up into his face with tearful trust, she said: "You don't like to punish me- do you, papa?"  "Indeed I don't, my darling," he said, in earnestness.  "It hurts you more than it hurts me- doesn't it, papa?" was her sympathetic question, as if she were more troubled for her father than for herself.  "Yes, indeed it does, my darling child," was his loving rejoinder.  The punishment which that father gave and that daughter received under circumstances like these, was a cause of no chafing between the two even for the moment, while it brought its gain to both, as no act of punishment in anger, however just in itself, could ever bring, in such a case."  p. 126

What a beautiful picture of the love of a father for his child....the way of our Father is with us.  And there is no doubt our God is provoked time and time again by the sinful rebellion and outrageous wickedness of his people (us!), yet still He LOVES.  Remember the Israelites in the wilderness?

They refused to obey and were not mindful of the wonders that you performed among them, but they stiffened their neck and appointed a leader to return to their slavery in Egypt.  But you are a God ready to forgive, gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and did not forsake them.  Nehemiah 9:17

So, will you join me in making a renewed commitment to never never discipline our children in anger?  To be a picture of the Father's love for them? Even if it means that we put off the discipline for a later time, when our minds are clear and our hearts are calm...we all will be better for it.  

Breathe.....step back....take time....pray.  Where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, maker of heaven and earth.  Ps. 121:1-2  Think of it....the One who made the heavens and the earth is the same One who rushes to our aid when we need help.  In fact, He is there all along, offering help moment by moment.

My son, give me your heart, and let your eyes observe my ways. Proverbs 23:26

My child will only give me his heart if he can trust me to hold it tenderly.  And oh how I desire to invite them to observe my ways, and follow my I follow Christ.


Scriptures to chew on:

A hot-tempered man stirs up strife, but he who is slow to anger quiets contention. Proverbs 15:18

Whoever is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who has a hasty temper exalts folly. Proverbs 14:29

A man of quick temper acts foolishly, and a man of evil devices is hated. Proverbs 14:17

Whoever is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city. Proverbs 16:32

Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense. Proverbs 19:11

...let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God." James 1:19

For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.  Hebrews 12:11

Check out these scriptures that show how God is slow to anger (SO THANKFUL!!).  He is our perfect example, and we are called to be a picture of him to our children.

Exodus 34:6; Numbers 14:18; Nehemiah 9:17; Psalms 86:15, 103:8, 145:8; Joel 2:13; Jonah 4:2; Nahum 1:3

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Ideas to Make Easter as Memorable as Christmas

It never fails... at Christmas time one of the kids inevitably asks why we don't celebrate Easter in the same way, when Easter is "more important".  Though I try to explain the equally important significance of our Creator God taking on human flesh, I'm thankful they understand that the point of Him becoming man was the cross...and the resurrection!  

This same question has been on my own mind many times as well.  So, I have tried to make Easter a time we really anticipate, with lots of time for reflection and celebration!  I thought I would share some of the things that we have done over the years, including new ideas that we hope to incorporate.

A few weeks before Easter we make an Easter garden, planting the grass seed in enough time for it to grow by Easter (last year was actually our first time doing this and we didn't do it early enough and the grass didn't grow in time). It's a wonderful centerpiece on the table throughout the season, watching new life appear!

I was just introduced to a book called Amon's Adventure: A Family Story for Easter.  It's a fictional book following the adventures of a Jewish boy in Jerusalem in the weeks leading up to Passover, making the real historical events come alive.  It's meant to be read aloud as a family, with short devotionals included, to help make Easter a time of reflection and worship.  We plan to start reading it right away, in hopes of finishing by Easter.  What a great way to spend the weeks before Easter, with time to reflect and gain a greater understanding of the upcoming events.

Another way to spend the weeks before Easter preparing our hearts is to practice Lent. I still have much to learn about this, since I didn't grow up with this tradition, but here is a link that gives some ideas, including a Jesus Easter Tree.  I hope to incorporate this next year.  I think it's important to have tangible that our eyes can remind our hearts.

Here are some of the things we do during the week of Easter.  Some of these things will be new to us this year and most often we don't get to everything, but I hope it gives you some ideas that are helpful as you prepare to celebrate Christ's resurrection with your family.

Palm Sunday 
1. Do a re-enactment! - Read the story from John 12:12-13 from the Bible. Make palm branches out of construction paper or find real branches with green leaves from the yard to use instead. Act out the story, getting the whole family involved. Then use the palm branches to decorate the dinner table.
2. Read an Easter book to give the whole picture of what we are celebrating this week (see the link at the end for a list of Easter books).  It's a good idea to have a basket in a prominent area where you can keep all the Easter-related books and videos,

Watch the Gospel of John movie (this movie is wonderfully done, amazingly word-for-word from the Gospel of John) outside in the "garden" if the weather permits....otherwise inside.

Make a stained glass cross or make a "He is Risen" banner to hang on Easter morning.

Dye Easter eggs.  Discuss how eggs represent new life!  Jesus rose from the dead and gave us new life!

Celebrate the Passover.  Here are a few ideas: 

1.  Have a real Passover (Seder) meal, sharing the significance of each part of the meal and how it points to Christ.  This can be done with friends.  

2.  Make a lamb craft or paint your door post red -by painting paper red and covering the door frame of the house (or just use red construction paper).  Read Exodus 12:1-42. 

3.  Wash each other's feet as Jesus washed the disciples feet, as an example for them to follow (read John 13:1-12, 34-35).  Last year was our first year doing this and Steven ended up washing each of our feet, one by one, sharing with each of us why he was thankful for us and praying for us.  It was very special.

After the kids are in bed, we get the big cross down from the attic (the kids made the cross themselves) and set it up in the family room with a black cloth draped on it, and a crown of thorns hung on the top (this is actually just a wreath made with sticks that I bought at a craft store).  We also place a black cloth on the table as a tablecloth.  

Good Friday
When the kids wake up and come into the family room they see the cross and the black tablecloth.  It really helps to impress on them the reality of Christ's death on that day many years ago.  

1. Read the story of Christ's death and talk about how He died so that we can be forgiven of our sins.  

2. Nail our sins to the cross.  We each write down our sins on a piece of paper (we help the little ones) and then nail them on the cross.  We read Colossians 2:13-14, talking about how on the cross Christ canceled the debt that was set against us, nailing it to the cross.

Keep the black cloth on the cross and on the table and talk about how the disciples must have felt on that day knowing that Jesus was dead (we take the sins down off the cross).  This is a day of waiting.

Make Easter story cookies in the evening.  Put them in the oven and turn the oven off before you go to bed and tape the oven door closed.  In the morning when they open the oven door and take a bite of their cookies, they will be empty on the inside! (I haven't tried this one yet...hopefully this year.)

After the kids go to bed, take the black cloth and crown of thorns off of the cross and drape it with a white cloth.  Place a beautiful white tablecloth on the table with flowers and the Easter garden in the center - with the stone rolled away, in preparation for the resurrection breakfast! (The kids also like to make a little Jesus wrapped in linen cloth..usually toilet paper, and put it in the grave on Friday. On Easter morning the stone is rolled away and Jesus isn't there!)

Resurrection Sunday
When the kids wake up and come into the family room they will see the the cross draped with a white cloth and the table set beautifully with white...and of course they run to see if the grave is empty!  This is also when they can run to the oven and take a bite out of their easter cookies.

1. Eat a resurrection breakfast! We have enjoyed making a special breakfast of eggs, sausage and pancakes.  What makes this a unique resurrection breakfast is that we pretend the pancake is the tomb and cut an opening and then we use the patty sausage as the stone in front of the opening...and then roll it away!  The tomb is empty! The eggs are just for protein :-)...and we like eggs!

2. Gather with the church to worship and celebrate with our brothers and sisters in Christ!  He is risen! He is risen indeed!

3. Share the Good News with someone.  We started this tradition at Christmas time a couple years ago.  After church we take some kind of little gift (usually pumpkin bread), and deliver it to people who have to work that day.  We go to a nearby hotel front desk, or the gas station worker (the thankless jobs), giving them our little gift and telling them that we wanted to share God's love with them since they have to work on this special day...sharing why this day is special (the gospel!).

4. Resurrection Treasure Hunt/ Easter Egg Hunt-  We do our own version of this resurrection treasure hunt, using our homemade Resurrection Eggs (we don't use the specific one from this link...there are lots to choose from online).  You can buy pre-made Resurrection Eggs at your local Christian bookstore as well. As the kids find each of the resurrection eggs, they open it and find a scripture and an object which goes along with the scripture that tells the story of Easter.  We underline a word in the scripture that is a clue as to where they will find the next egg. We also include a hunt for chocolate eggs and other yummy treats.  We just have fun!

Sounds like a busy week??  You can add, subtract, substitute...whatever!  You may like to pick just 2-3 things to incorporate this year, or maybe try to do some of them over a 2 week period.  It doesn't really matter, as long as we keep Christ at the center of our celebration.  

I'd love to hear any ideas that you have, things that you have done with your family, or if you have been inspired to add something new to your traditions this year!  So please write a comment below!

Happy Resurrection Day!!

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!  According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
1 Peter 1:3-5


*Here is a link for some more ideas as well as a list of Easter books that you may want to look into (some of my ideas came from here).

Another book I highly recommend is called Treasuring God in Our Traditions by Noel Piper.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Words That Give Wings

This morning the Lord gave me a beautiful reminder. He gave me a renewed focus and vision for not only today but for the years to come.  The years seems to slip past me like sand through my fingers.  My kids are growing up right before my eyes.  How can maximize the time I have with them? How can I be God's tool to make them into something great?

The years seem like a huge mass, but when you break it down, the years are made up of days, and the days are made up of moments like this one. The words that I speak to my children in these everyday moments are words that they will carry with them for the rest of their lives.  They are either words that give them wings or words that cripple them., this morning...this moment...I want to focus on speaking life-giving words to my children.  Words that empower them, that change those frustrated pursed lips into a smile....words that lift their spirits and give them confident assurance that they can do it, they are special, they are prized.  

Will you join me today in my quest to fill the hearts of my children with encouraging, life-giving words...words that I want my children to carry in their hearts for the rest of their lives?  

Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body. Proverbs 16:24

A gentle tongue is a tree of life, but perverseness in it breaks the spirit. Proverbs 15:4

Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.  Ephesians 4:29


These truths can be applied to all of our relationships!  Think about how you can change someone's day (or year...or life!) by your words today!  The cashier with a bad attitude- see it as a challenge to put a smile on her face before you leave. You never know what she's going through and how your words can lift her spirit. This can have a ripple effect as she goes home with a soaring spirit and gives her son a hug.  You never know what God can do when we follow Him in loving others as He has loved us.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Maybelle & Her Kids

So I thought you might like an update on our two baby goats & their milk stealing mama.

The kids are doing great. After a day of helping them nurse every couple hours, Maybelle's motherly instincts kicked in and she let them nurse without us holding her still. They quickly gained their strength enough to make their way over to her and nurse anytime they wanted. Yay!

Now to just keep Maybelle from stealing their milk.  
After scrapping our first attempt to keep Maybelle from nursing off of herself (crazy goat!), 
we finally tried this contraption.

I'm still not sure it's working. I actually haven't seen her try to drink her milk since she's had it on, 
which seems like a good sign to me.
But the kids say they've seen her do it and it doesn't work. 
So, we'll just have to watch the kids (speaking of the goats now...lots of kids around here :-)
to make sure they are getting enough and doing well.
So far, so good!

I wish you could have seen Abel when he first met the little goats...
He was happier than a tornado in a trailer park (practicing my redneck sayings...they crack me up! I'll still never forget when I asked the man down the road how he was doing and he said, "Fine as frog hair." I'm definitely going to be using that one).  Anyway, back to Abel...
We had to keep close tabs on him since he would grab them, pick them up and then throw them down in excitement. 

Last year Maybelle had her first kid and we named him Mayson (he was born in May like his mama). 
This is Mayson the other day...taking a comfy little snooze.

 Not sure what to name Maybelle's new little boy & girl.  Uh...Marchbelle & Marchson?  Just kidding.
Need suggestions!

Oh, and I was obviously off in my estimation that we'd be having another goat birth right away.  After the kids and I spent what felt like an entire day watching Freedom, expecting her to kid any minute (and playing with the little goats), I decided it was time to get back to normal life...she obviously isn't in any hurry.

We'll keep ya posted...

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

How to Find Peace When Life Falls Apart

Trust is a heart thing.  It's a head thing too.

It's dependent upon what our hearts and minds are focused on, what they are looking to for hope, for peace, for answers.

When we are looking to our circumstances and things make sense and they are going as we think they should, we have a false security.  As soon as the circumstances change, the false footing we were standing on crumbles under our feet.

How do we remain standing when everything crumbles?...when nothing makes just doesn't seem right.

I know what it's like... 

     I lost my dad to cancer just a month before my 17th birthday...and I loved him more than I can say. 

     God asked me to give up the love of my life as a sacrifice to Him in order to pursue His calling on my life...this was harder than you can imagine (as you can see He graciously gave him back to me). 

     After spending my life (our lives) pursuing His calling to serve on the mission field, He changed the course. 

     I've watched while friends have lost babies or can not conceive while I have had 8 healthy pregnancies. 

...Sometimes, things just don't make sense.

And then there are the everyday hardships... when the kids won't stop fighting, the carefully planned schedule for the day falls apart, the house is a wreck, and I don't like the mom I'm being.  

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

The heart and the mind...trusting and leaning on Him, not on what makes sense to us.

Our minds must be intensely focused on Him in every circumstance,  

- In all your ways acknowledge Him...(Prov. 3:7) -

recognizing Him in everything that happens.  Believing in every. single. circumstance. that...

     He is all wise.
     He is all knowing.
     He is in complete control.
     He is working all of this for my good.
     He is here with me.

....and with this comes a promise -

And he will make straight your paths. (Prov. 3:6)

He will make it all work out....He will make the crooked things straight.  It all makes sense to Him because He sees what we cannot see.  It is all part of His perfect work everything out for His glory and our good.

And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. Romans 8:28

Trust = Peace

Yes, trust is a heart thing, and a mind thing too.

Philippians 4:6 describes it like this-

Do not be anxious about anything (mind), but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving (heart & mind) let your requests be made known to God.  (parenthesis added)

This is what TRUST looks like.  It's what trust DOES.
     Chooses not to worry.
     Prays instead.
     Gives thanks for it all.

And the result....

And the PEACE of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:7)

Wow!  When we practice TRUST with all our hearts and our minds, our loving Father then wraps our hearts and minds with his PEACE - which is His protection... from falling when everything around us crumbles.

We are safe in the embrace of His PEACE, our eyes locked with His.

"Yes, Jesus, I trust you," is all our hearts can say...finally at rest in His arms.

Such LOVE is ours to experience!  Such PEACE!

And it's not just for special moments.  No, it's for every moment.

You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord God is an everlasting rock.  Isaiah 26:3

Do you know this kind of peace? Do you know this kind of trust? Simply look to Jesus, my friend.  This is not something we can produce ourselves.  It comes from an intimate relationship with Him.  Run to Him, fall on your face before Him...get to know Him.  He's wonderful...and He loves you.

If you've experienced this kind of peace and trust, please share your experience with the rest of us (in the comments) so that we can all be encouraged by what God has done for you! 

Monday, March 4, 2013

Goat Surprise

When the winter months drag on, with it's cold rainy days, it's nice when God throws in an early springtime surprise...a warm sunny day, and two little goats.

Yesterday, as we were outside enjoying the Sunday afternoon weather and playing some baseball with the kids in the backyard, Steven happened to notice something looked different about Maybelle.  He told me I should go check it out, that she looked like she may have given birth.

We had been wondering if she was pregnant, since we thought she was "accidentally" bred by one of the male goats that was born last year.  Just a head's up...better to castrate right away. Yeah, I'm sure that's just what you thought I was going to say. :-)  Well, goats are funny cause it's often hard to tell if they're pregnant or just fat.  They tend to have round bellies...and in this cold weather their hair gets really fluffy and they look even bigger. 

So, it was a surprise, but not completely. This was the first of the four goat births we've had on our little farm that I've missed. When I walked into the goat barn the two little goats were huddled in separate corners, cold and dirty. We just couldn't leave them like that. they came.  

After a nice warm bath and some comfy time by the heater,
 they were dry and clean and ready to go back to their mama.  
So back to the little barn they went...

Unfortunately, their mama doesn't get the Goat Mama of the Year Award.
 In fact, she's a little bit of a goat "freak."
  She nurses off of herself.  Yep, she bends her head all the way back and drinks her own milk.  
And she won't stand still to let her babies nurse.  So that means some extra work for us... 
every couple hours we go out and help the babies nurse.  

And we are working on a contraption to keep Maybelle from stealing their milk!

Yeah, this attempt didn't last long. She had it off in no time.
 I think it's time to break down and buy a dog cone.

And if Maybelle was pregnant then Freedom probably is too. 
 In fact,by the way things look, my guess is we'll have another goat birth adventure tomorrow.