Sunday, February 2, 2014

Focusing on Love

Every year, for as long as I can remember, I have tried (emphasis on tried) to read the Bible through in a year.  And I am not sure I can remember accomplishing that goal even one time--a fact that has left me riddled with guilt -- day after day, year after year.  Even when I am faithfully reading my Bible, I'm not really spending time with my Maker because of one of two reasons:

1.  I'm feeling guilty about not being "caught up" and am madly rushing through the required reading.  OR
2.  I am "caught up" and feels so good about myself (aka "self righteous") that I don't get anything out of it because of all the pride swelling up inside me.

Maybe I'm the only one who has ever felt this way, but it is something that I have wrestled and struggled with for quite some time.  So after another year in 2013 of said failure, I started rethinking my approach to this quiet time with my God.  Does He require me to read through the Bible each year?  Is that the only way He will truly be happy and well-pleased with me?  I certainly hope not!

You see, I have been the mother of small children for more than 16 years now.  Time is a precious commodity in the realm of Motherhood.  Then factor in sick or fussy children, sleepless nights rendering you a barely functioning modicum of a person, piles of dishes, mountains of laundry, cooking three meals per day, cleaning those toilets and sinks and floors, kissing boo boos, reading books, doctor's appointments, dentist appointments, bike rides, walks, trips to the library and the park and the grocery store, and now this precious commodity becomes a rare and priceless gem.  Something akin to a diamond really.  At least it sometimes (okay, most times :) seems to be that elusive.

So I find myself thinking that all of the people who have ever told me indirectly through preaching or whatever that I'm not "right with God" if I don't read my Bible through every year might not have it right.  Perhaps they didn't mean the words as my mind interpreted them.  Perhaps the blame lies with me.  I don't know.

Since Jesus left His home in Heaven to dwell among men, the Christian life is no longer simply a set of rules as it was in the Old Testament.  I am not against rules.  I think they are necessary and even important, as they establish boundaries and guidelines.  With the birth, life, death, burial, and resurrection of Christ came the ability and freedom to have a relationship with Christ.  Relationships must have boundaries, but the relationship is not defined by those boundaries.  Truth be told, if the relationship is a strong and healthy one, the boundaries will never be needed.  If my relationship with Jesus is what it should be, I will be drawn to Him.  Demanding of myself to "read through the Bible in a year" has not produced a strong, healthy relationship with Christ, which is what I am seeking.

Maybe a pastor or someone in full-time Christian service has several hours a day to devote to Bible reading and can read through the four required chapters plus have extra time to follow "rabbit trails".  As a mother of many little people, I don't have that luxury.  Most days, I'm trying to cram a few minutes in my Bible while I'm hiding in the bathroom!  That's my reality.

So this year, I am following my heart and what I think God is telling me to do.  There are so many specific areas of my life that I need to work on, not to mention areas that I am prompted to teach my children.  So I have started this year with a word study on love.  I have spent years focusing on my bad character traits and qualities and trying to eradicate them by dwelling on them all of the time.  This year, God has changed my focus from MY bad qualities to HIS good qualities.  I am also reading through Psalms and Proverbs and the New Testament as I have time.

And do you know what?  I am LOVING IT!!!  I am having the time of my life.  God is speaking to me and showing me things because I have slowed down a little.  It's not a race.  It's a relationship.  Let God guide you in your relationship with Him.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Faith vs. Fear

We recently had a ladies conference at our church.  And to just be real transparent, I didn't want to go.  The reason I didn't want to go isn't spiritual at all, it's really quite fleshly, but I'll still let you in on the secret:  I didn't want to go because I didn't have anybody to BE with!  (My 16 year old daughter was attending, but, of course, she wanted to be with her friends.  And I didn't want to "guilt" her into being with mom.) Finally, after much internal struggling with God, I decided He wanted me to not only go but to ask a newer lady in our church to sit with me.  She had decided (unbeknownst to me) that she wasn't going to go either!  But when I asked her to sit with me, she decided to go as well.  

Anyway, our special speaker this year was Amy Vassak, from Northeast Baptist Church in Danbury, CT, where her husband is the pastor.

She spoke twice to all the ladies and then during some split sessions. Her session on marriage dealt with Faith vs. Fear, something I had already been dealing with in my own life.

Faith vs. Fear is my new "self talk."  Do you talk to yourself?  I unashamedly talk to myself.  Maybe it's an only child thing, I'm not sure.  But I talk to myself quite often.  Now I don't stand in front of the mirror talking to myself like I did when I was a child, and I very seldom answer myself, but I make a habit of talking to myself.  Especially when my thinking is all messed up, which is quite often.

I have been married now for 17 years, and our marriage has not been without its difficulties.  I can choose to worry about where my husband is, what he's doing, who he's with.  OR I can choose to have faith that God will take care of Him, and I can PRAY for my husband.


I am the mother of 9 children ranging in age from 16 to 7 months.  I can choose to worry about my children when they are away from me.  I can worry that they will make wrong choices.  I can worry about what they are doing, who they are with, what they are thinking, whether or not they are safe, etc. OR I can choose to have faith that God will take care of them, and I can PRAY for my children.


Maybe you come from a "model family," but I don't, and I'm not one bit sorry about that because I have learned so many life lessons as a result. Sometimes in my mixed-up, crazy life one or several relationships will get "out-of-sorts."  It's been happening for as long as I can remember.  And usually these relationship struggles get resolved at some point or another.  I have allowed myself to fret and worry about these relationships at different points in my life.  I have lamented the fact that they were not what they should be.  But I am learning that there is only so much one person can do in repairing broken relationships. Relationships take two people. When I have finally given my broken relationships to God, He has taken them and made them into something that I could never have imagined.  I have seen Him do it firsthand!  Why do I worry? Who do I fear?


This is something I struggle with on a daily, if not hourly, basis!  I find my "self talk" times being characterized by Faith or Fear.

FAITH = Praying
FEAR = Worrying

Why don't you start talking to yourself? (Most of us do anyways!) Tell yourself to have Faith and not Fear! Post signs around your house that say "Faith OVER Fear."  Your mind can only think one thought at a time, so make that thought one of Faith and not one of Fear!

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Oh, Be Careful!

Oh, be careful little eyes what you see.
Oh, be careful little eyes what you see.
For the Father up above
Is looking down in love.
So be careful little eyes what you see.

There are other verses to that quite familiar children's Sunday school song that involve the ears hearing, hands touching, and feet walking.  After reading an article this morning about teen girls posting sensual pictures of themselves on Facebook, I have been thinking about online media in general all day.  I can't get it out of my mind.

As the mother of 4 sons, one of whom is now nearly 15, I am constantly walking guard around things like internet access, magazines that make their way into our home, television viewing and the like (even sale papers).  It's a battle.  A battle that I am willing to fight for the sake of my boys.

But, what about me?  What do I allow my own self to view via internet, television, books, magazines, etc.? Isn't it just as important that I guard my own eye and ear gate?  

But, it's not just what I allow myself to look at or read.  It's also what I allow myself to type or say.  As a mother of three teenagers and six more coming behind them, I am well aware of some certain facts. Teenagers like to communicate with each other all of the time.  More so now than when I was a teenager, I think.  I didn't even want to talk much on the phone to my friends.  Whatever I needed to say to them could usually wait until I saw them the next day at school or church or an activity.  But nowadays, our teens want to be constantly connected to one another.  And I really don't like it all that much.

There's something about not being face to face with someone that empowers us.  We get  bold.  We say things on the phone we would never say in person.  And we TYPE things in text messages and on the computer that we would never dream of saying over the phone, let alone face to face.  It's frightening to me.

I have a Facebook account, but my children do not.  Neither does my husband.  Anyone they want to be friends with will be added to my account.  And we keep strict guidelines around our Facebook Newsfeed. We have hundreds of friends, but many of them are hidden.  If someone is constantly critical, we hide them. If someone shares opinions that my children are not ready to see or that are simply depressing, we hide them.  If someone uses foul language, we hide them.  If someone posts an inappropriate picture, we hide them.  Do you get the idea? My Facebook feed is largely coupons, blogs, family and a few friends.  That's it. Everyone else is hidden!

I have seen wives openly criticize their husbands on Facebook.  I have seen people defame someone else's character.  I have seen vulgarity.  Why do we allow ourselves to be an open book for the entire world to see?  Where is our sense of decency as a nation? What has happened to us?  We live in an "everybody-needs-to-know-everything" society, and I think things have gotten out of control.  But it's our own faults.  It starts with me.  

If I'm having a bad day, no posting unless it's positive.  If'I hear that somebody did something unthinkable, no posting about it.  Maybe I did have a fight with my husband.  Maybe my kids are being rotten.  Maybe so-and-so did something terrible.  Maybe my church has a flaw.  Maybe my neighbor did this or that.  Some things should still be private.  Somebody needs to teach our children what is public and what is private.  Just because we CAN, doesn't mean we SHOULD.

Since my children are getting older, I have really begun to analyze what I do, why I do it, and if it would make me proud to see my children doing it as well.

 First Day of School
Grades:  11th, 10th, 8th, 6th, 4th, 2nd, K5


Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Just Say Yes!

I grew up in the 70's and 80's.  I remember when Nike came out with the "Just say no" slogan.  I took it to heart.  I said no to the drugs and the drinking and all the bad things.  And I continue to practice that idea now in my parenting, but "Just say no" isn't a great parenting slogan to live by!

As a mother of 9, I find that I say "no".  A lot.  All the time.  Then I saw this quote posted on Facebook by a friend, and I started thinking about it.  Quite a bit.  

Why, exactly, do I say no so often? 

I have discovered that I often say no because I am being selfish. 

I don't want to deal with the mess.  
I don't want to be embarrassed.  
I don't want to be inconvenienced.  
I want my life to be stress- and hassle-free.  

Well, as much as that's possible with 9 children, a dog, 6 snakes, a lizard, 7 hamsters, a turtle, several frogs....You get the idea!

Of course, there are things that we have to say no to sometimes.  For their well-being, for their safety, because they're wrong, etc.

But I want to say YES!

Yes to...

Mommy, can I wear my church shoes in the house?
Can you play a game with me?
Can I paint?
Can we go for a walk?
Can I help you make dinner?
Do you want to sit on the swing?
Can I wear my rain boots {on a 90 degree day to the store with shorts.  oh, and they have paint splattered on them}
Can I go out to eat with my friends?
Can I water your flowers?
Can I go to the store with you?


I want them to grow up feeling loved, don't I?  

Just say YES!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

New Beginnings

Do you ever wake up one morning and just decide that you want things to be different than they are?  Right now?!  That's how I felt yesterday morning. When I woke up, I knew a change needed to happen and happen quickly. For me.  A change in my head and in my heart.

So, I hopped out of bed, threw on some workout clothes, put on the headphones, and walked out the door.  I started running again.  Oh, mind you, I am not at the point of doing much actual running, I usually do more walking.  But I started it up again.  I'm using the Couch to 5K phone app. 

And when I got home, I felt great.  So I decided to go a step further and stop eating grains.  All grains.  I did that a year ago and felt so good.  My body just seemed to function better overall.  So I made the change.  Without much forethought or premeditation.  I just did it. And today I added 50 crunches to the mix. And I feel really great about pushing myself.

Change can be scary, but we live in a world of change, especially if we have children.  I have 3 teenagers now, and I know that big changes are just around the corner for our family. While it frightens me a bit, I'm excited as well.  Excited for them.  They have their whole lives ahead of them, and it's my job to make sure they're ready!  Wow!  What an awesome responsibility.

So I'm changing.  For today and for the future.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Light In The Tunnel

I have had what I consider to be a pretty "normal" week.  I haven't had one of those in a long time.  I mean that I felt like me.  Maybe you can't understand that, but I'm ecstatic about it!  I'm beginning to see the light.  I have had an extremely tough year.  It started in about June of last year.  But if I'm going to be honest, it started quite a few years prior to that and came to a head in June.  I've struggled.  I've been depressed.  I've been angry.  I just haven't felt like me.  But I didn't give up.  That's the important thing.

And I didn't try to fake it, either.  During my college years, I often heard the teaching, "Fake it 'til you make it!"  And I, like probably most of the other girls, thought it sounded like a good idea.  Now I'm not so sure that it IS a good idea.  If I fake it, am I trying to tell myself that there really isn't a problem when there clearly is?  Am I trying to look to others like there isn't a problem and I don't need help, when I clearly do?  I'm not sure what the point or purpose of faking it is, but even if I thought it was a good idea, I couldn't have done it.  Not this time.  This time the problems were just too big.  

You see, sometimes we just need the support of others.  They don't have to know the specifics of anything, but our vulnerability allows others to love us in a way that they couldn't if we were pretending, or faking.  It's okay to show our weaknesses sometimes.  We just shouldn't wallow in them.  We shouldn't allow our weaknesses and trials to define who we are.  We should turn to God and allow Him to grow us through our trial.  That's what I did.

I listened to music almost non-stop for months on end.  I read my Bible constantly.  I read a book over and over that helped me.  And I prayed.  I prayed for the situation.  I'm still praying for the situation.  It's a problem that won't be just disappearing.  But that's okay because God is helping me through it.  And I am growing.  And this week, I finally felt like myself again.

The Best Week Ever!

We have had one of the best weeks that I can ever remember as a family!  It was hot here.  Well, hot for Northern  Michigan, anyway.  We had several days in the high 80's.  We have no air conditioning in the house and no pool, so we met Daddy and the boys at the lake 3 days in a row.  What fun!  We played and rode the jet ski and just had loads of fun.

Then, our little town has a festival every year downtown.  Our kids wanted to go, but we have never taken them because of the sheer cost of paying for so many children to ride rides, so we told the girls we didn't have the money to go.  Next thing I know, they are out on the corner selling lemonade and water bottles to passersby.  And they made $80.  Enough money to pay for 5 children to get wrist bands and ride rides for 5 hours at Alpenfest.  Boy did they have fun!  I love their determined attitude that says, "I can figure out a way to make this happen!"

The wind blew or something, and that elephant ear attacked him!