Choose Life

During the month of January, we will be reposting some of the top posts from 2018. We hope these will encourage you and connect to your heart. Stay tuned for all new posts coming in February 2018!

I’m not certain how it happened, but one day I woke up and my kids were BIG. Big enough to see me. The real me. Not the me that could fix their boo boo’s and not the me that could give them a big ol’ mama hug. It had happened. I had been EXPOSED. They had somehow gotten big enough to see MY sin. They could see that I was over-worked, spread thin, wore out and had, over a period of time, become distant and disconnected from them. And while we’re being honest, I was also bitter, short-tempered, selfish and let’s just say it: SINFUL. I had been deceived and Satan had been robbing me from my children.

(INSERT SCREECHING RECORD SOUND HERE.)

Hang with me! I promise that this story ends well! You see, it’s at these pivotal life moments that we can choose to continue to be deceived and believe the lies,

You’re a terrible mom.”

“Look at that mom; her kids adore her.”

“Look at that mom. She can do way more, way better than you.”

 OR 

we can simply choose life.

Life, which is the Hidden Word of God in our hearts. It was an AH HA! moment for me. Repentance was easy and so was the change. I knew exactly what God’s Word said about me.

Ladies, His Word says that He doesn’t call the equipped, but that He equips the called. We are ‘called’ to be wives and mothers; CREATED to do such!  I remember a sermon that Pastor Paul preached where he said, “Parents, LOVE the SNOT out of ’em and let the Holy Spirit do the rest!”

God has equipped us with LOVE!  There is something spectacularly supernatural about LOVE. After sowing it, you reap a harvest VERY quickly. I began sowing and pouring intentional LOVE into my children, each so very different. I told Jeremy just recently that I could literally feel God changing me and the atmosphere of our home. I could see fruit everywhere.

There’s more good news. God maps it out for us in His Word. Titus 2 is fantastically plain and simple about the direction we must take in our homes as mothers and in our communities. Hide these truths in your hearts ladies, so that when the enemy comes against you with lies, you can combat him with truth. Titus 2:11-12 says, ‘For the GRACE of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It TEACHES us to say “NO” to ungodliness and worldly passions and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this PRESENT age” (emphasis mine). We can literally be taught to say NO to wrongful, sinful behaviors. We can choose life and truth.

So, it is by His abundant grace that I can continue to grow and press forward in this life and journey as a mother. A life that will be ESTABLISHED in and full of His grace and LOVE! Let’s remember to do as Pastor Paul said, “Love the snot out of ’em and let the Holy Spirit do the rest!”

We would like to thank Kaci Searsy for contributing this post.

Am I Setting My Child Up For Success?

Editor’s Note: We truly are surrounded by a host of women who are living lives of faith. What’s even more amazing is that we are surrounded by Christ himself who is cheering us on to victory. Our stories are as different as the characters in the “Hall of Faith” in Hebrews 11, yet each one of us is running a race that requires faith. This semester women have read Hebrews 12:1-2 and shared what God placed on their heart. We are cheering you on in your journey of faith in Christ!

As mamas, it is really easy to look at other people’s children and decide that our children are not being as successful as everyone else’s kids.

Their kids always make A honor roll, have perfect manners, never throw a fit in the grocery store, do their chores without complaining, insert the thing that your child needs help in here _________________.

This comparison can very quickly lead us to put unrealistic expectations on our kids and cause unnecessary disappointment for everyone involved.

This game can even happen between our own kids if there are multiple children in the family. God has been opening my eyes to the uniqueness that He has put into each of my boys. Jeremiah 1:5 “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.” If I try to force them into a certain mold that I myself have created, I could take away qualities that God is growing in them that will be important to the future men He has called them to be. Now don’t get me wrong, I have high expectations for all my kids, but I also have to be realistic of their individual abilities. I must keep their individualities in mind as I guide them through life. For example, one of my kids can be given a list of morning routines and accomplish them with minimal supervision, while another child needs one step at a time with more supervision.

I need to meet my kids where they are and help them grow to the next level in their own time. This isn’t always easy to remember, and I am constantly praying for patience in this journey as a mama.

“Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6

At school, I spend weeks training my classes on how I want things to work, and I have to do the same thing at home. If we assume our kids know how to do something or that they should be able to do something without really training them, we are setting them up for failure and ourselves up for frustration.

In our home, when I catch myself being repeatedly upset over something that I expect of my children, it is time for me to reassess my part in the process. Did I train them how I should have? Did I give them the tools that they needed to be successful in what was asked of them?

There is not a one size fits all mentality when it comes to raising kids, but there can be some things that work for someone else’s kids that does work for mine too.

Find a group of mothers that you can steal ideas from and modify them to fit your family’s needs. These mothers can also be your biggest encouragement, and you can be theirs in this difficult, but rewarding season of raising children.

Mamas, let’s have grace for our kids and ourselves as we train them to do amazing things!

We would like to thank Sara Marquez for writing this post!

A Daughter’s Heart

Editor’s Note: We truly are surrounded by a host of women who are living lives of faith. What’s even more amazing is that we are surrounded by Christ himself who is cheering us on to victory. Our stories are as different as the characters in the “Hall of Faith” in Hebrews 11, yet each one of us is running a race that requires faith. This semester women have read Hebrews 12:1-2 and shared what God placed on their heart. We are cheering you on in your journey of faith in Christ!

We’ve all heard of a Mother’s heart, how about a daughter’s heart for her mother? When my dad died in January 1999, little did I know that my life was going to take a drastic change of course. I was single and in my 5th year of teaching. Sure I had dreams for my life, but my heart knew that being my mom’s only child, that my priorities were going to have to change. I was a daughter, teacher and now caregiver. It’s a season of life that requires grace and strength that can only come directly from God.

God designed parent-child relationships to be among the most vital of all human relationships. 1 Timothy 5:3-4 says “ Support widows who are genuinely in need. But if any widow has children or grandchildren, let them learn to practice godliness toward their own family first and repay their parents for this pleases God.” We also find in John 19 that Jesus provided for his mother at His death. Jesus’ example reminds us that honoring our parents isn’t a reward for how well they parented us. Care for your parents is a reflection of what we believe about the gospel.

Caring for a parent, particularly later in years, is difficult, grueling and sometimes overwhelming. You become nurse, case worker, chauffeur, meal planner and psychologist. My mom just turned 90. Sometimes she sees herself as a burden, but despite the challenges, I see her as a blessing. Family is a place to practice giving and accepting grace.

It’s easy to weigh yourself down with all the responsibilities life brings on a daily basis. So, what do you do when things become overwhelming?

Look beyond the challenges to the God who cares for you. You can experience joy even in the middle of tough situations.

It’s ok to admit that you have limited time and energy, God promises to give you the strength you need for each day. Remember to rely on His power to work through you instead of your own efforts. (Philippians 4:13 I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.)

Trust God to help you to do what you can’t do on your own and leave it in His hands.

Lastly, recognize when you need breaks or need help. Be willing to ask others for assistance. He not only surrounds us with His presence but with the presence of others.

The greatest reward is that as you honor aging parents, you also deepen your personal relationship with Christ along the way.

We wold like to thank Kathy Jones for writing this post.

The Most Important Work

“Children are not a distraction from more important work, they are the most important work.” – C.S. Lewis

This quote has been speaking to me for months. We have a screen saver on our TV, and this quote scrolls by periodically, gently whispering to me. Most of the time it feels encouraging, but one day a few weeks ago, it didn’t. I was feeling very frustrated as a mother. I felt like all the time and energy that I have put into “mothering” – the cooking, the cleaning, the diaper changing, the laundry…oh the laundry, the discipline, the reading of books (the list goes on and on) – wasn’t worth a single penny. I was frustrated that my kids don’t listen the first time every single time. I was frustrated that they still need me all the time for everything. I was frustrated that my kids had stopped me from getting everything done that day that I wanted to get done, all the things that I am supposed to get done as THEIR mother. Didn’t they understand I was just trying to do all these things for them?

And then God spoke, “Sometimes parenting doesn’t feel efficient, but it is productive.” 

That one sentence stopped me dead in my tracks. I decided to look up the definitions of a couple of those words:

Efficient: achieving maximum productivity with minimum wasted effort or expense. Productive: producing or able to produce large amounts of goods, crops, or other commodities

Efficiency was exactly what I had been looking for – MAXIMUM productivity, with MINIMUM wasted effort. And I was feeling like all my effort had been wasted. 

I was broken. My kids will be fine without a chef, a nanny, a maid. What God made me to be is their MOTHER. They aren’t bothered by the toys on the floor, chicken nuggets for every meal (they would actually prefer this to most of my cooking), or the fact that they are on their last pair of underwear. They need my heart. They need me to be able to see the moments where God is working, where I can speak truth and life into them. They want me to be with them, to love them, to choose them. Children are the very reason for motherhood. Yes, they bring about many tasks, many to-do items, and many days, I end the day feeling like I am not efficient enough. I didn’t get enough done. But, did I take moments to sow into my children? Did I use the moments I was given to speak something into their hearts that will bring about fruit in their lives? Because that is the definition of productive: to produce a good crop of fruit.

Maybe I won’t see them choose respect today. Maybe it will be years before that seed sprouts into something I see as a seed that I planted. But planting that seed is a thousand times more valuable than getting an extra load of laundry folded and put away.

Be encouraged mammas. Offer your heart to your children. Let’s not see them as a distraction to the tasks and to-do lists that they bring with them. Let’s see loving and raising our children as the most important work that we do.

We would like to thank Brooke Kellum for writing this post!

Persistent Prayer

What does persistent prayer look like?

Well, I would like to share about my dad and how he came to Christ. It is a much longer story than can be told here, but I will attempt to give you the abridged version. I also would like to honor my dad and his memory while telling the honest truth. Admittedly, that creates some tension or conflict inside of me.

I believed in God as a very young child, but I would say that I surrendered my life to Him as Lord around twelve years old. At that point, I became very aware of the reality that my dad didn’t know Jesus or His love. During this time in his life, my dad drank too much, invoked fear in his kids to attempt to maintain order (and the fear was not unsubstantiated), and was in general a person living in pain separated from God. My dad fit the description of a hard-headed, hard-hearted man. Regardless, I loved my dad and certainly didn’t want to be separated from him for all of eternity.

So, at twelve I began to pray for his salvation. I was deeply burdened to pray for him. I am certain that many in my family were also burdened to pray for him, but we never really talked about it. I prayed that God would soften his heart and that he would receive Christ. God doesn’t ever remove a person’s freewill, and therefore the wooing of a hard-hearted person’s soul can take long time. As a matter of fact, it is never guaranteed that a person will receive Christ by their own choosing. But, persistent prayer and faith in God’s ability certainly can move mountains and the hearts of men, and God’s choice is always to seek and save those that are lost.

After two and half decades of persistent prayer for my dad, my life had changed significantly. I left home and married my husband, Andy, at nineteen. I shared this burden for my dad with him and he began to pray for my dad also. We began our family when I was twenty-two. We had two boys by the time I was twenty-four and we had moved eight hours away from our immediate families. My dad had already begun to have heart issues including a heart attack, bypass surgery, and beginning stages of congestive heart failure. The heart attack and surgeries that followed increased the urgency I felt for him. I knew, logically, he wouldn’t live forever.

It is easy to become discouraged when you can’t see God moving. But just like when you plant a seed underground, it sometimes takes time before you can see any evidence of anything happening.

God was moving. He was inviting my dad into a relationship with Him.

I would like to tell you that I got to witness my dad receiving Christ, but I didn’t. I would also like to tell you that I heard his testimony about receiving Christ, but once again, I didn’t. So how do I know my dad received Christ? Well, Christ began to grow inside of him. My dad changed in such a way that is only the work of the Holy Spirit. He started attending a church with my mom and sister. He became a giver. He operated out of love instead of fear and pain. I did get to see him humble himself on his knees in prayer at the front of that church that showed him Christ’s love, and Christ gave me a peace about my dad’s salvation. My dad passed away two years ago. I can confidently and joyfully say that we will be reunited again in heaven. So, I would like to encourage you. If your burden hasn’t been lifted yet, pray on. Our God is on the move.

We would like to thank Racheal Kasner for writing this post!

Simple Beauty

Almost six years ago we were house hunting.  We came across this 100-year-old house with amazing character, but I just didn’t love it. Nope, it was not for us.  I mean friends, it didn’t even have a bathtub!!  My HOME would need a bathtub.  The house search continued.  Every now and then, my husband Bret would drive by the house.  Probably the fourth time we looked at the house (bless our sweet realtor), I saw this house a little differently.  I envisioned a huge table full of people having great fellowship.  The porch wasn’t just a porch; it was a place where my family and friends could step on our porch and feel comfort and beauty. The steps led to our fortress.  Our safe place.

Those moments were where I realized the power of a home.  Our homes have much potential, we just have to envision it.  I want our home to be a place where my husband can recharge.  A place that my kids have a sense of belonging and know that no matter what else happens outside our walls, they have a place to be themselves.

So how do I make a place for my family and others full of beauty and peace?

Purge all of the unwanted things

            Purge all of the things that you don’t love, I mean LOVE, LOVE.  Purging, although tedious, can make room for the things that reflect you and the people in your home.  I love what Nancy Kelly says about purging, “Keep cutting back ‘til there is PEACE in your home.”

Make a place for your people

            Making a corner for each person in your home can help cultivate an atmosphere of peace and belonging.  My two older kids have a tea corner set up with everything they would need to make “a hug in a cup”.  An art table, with markers and paper, and a coffee station for mom and dad.  All of these spaces are created in various spots of the home so that each of us can explore creativity, solitude, and prayer.

Add elements of beauty

Beauty can be found in some of the smallest things and the most ordinary moments.  Potted plants, old books, or family photos.  One of my favorite things recently has been bees wax candles.  Lighting them as the kids get ready for bed brings such a peaceful renewal as they end their day.  We have a family full of cold natured people, so blankets strategically placed around the house offer a cozy feeling in our down time.  Smells can have such a connection to memory.  Fresh flowers from the supermarket, tree clippings in a vase, favorite scented soaps, or even an aromatic cleaning spray can make the smallest moment a memory.

Sally Clarkson puts it so well, “Instead of creating us to live in a house of weariness and colorlessness, God has made us to live in a home of full of soul beautiful elements.”

I encourage you, friends, to find what your beauty looks like in your home for your family and start reaping the benefits of a life-giving home.

We would like to thank Kendra Huey for writing this post!

 

Balancing Game

Albert Einstein said, “Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.”

I was asked to share how I learned to balance life and my kids’ sports in this new era of idolizing kid’s sports.  When I saw these two statements “how to balance life” and “idolizing my kids’ sports”, I had to smile because I didn’t think I was balancing life or idolizing my kids’ sports.  I was raising, supporting, and caring for my children to the best of my ability.  I supported my kids in everything they wanted to do: FHA, Prom, Football, Basketball, Track, Band, Harvest Festival, etc.  My kids and I would travel in rain and snow to be there to support each other. 

I was a single mom for a lot of years and raised my three oldest children alone.  I had to work a lot of overtime, which meant they spent a lot of time home alone.  My parents lived a half a block away and that was a big blessing.  I am thankful for my parents who helped me balance my life and my kids’ life, and for the City of Hale Center, and for Jimmy and Carolyn Curry. I had people I trusted to help me along the way.

The first and most important thing is to make God the Center of your life.  If not, everything will eventually fall apart. 

Secondly, my children were very disciplined.  They knew to come straight home from school, get their homework done, and then they could go outside.  They also knew to be in the house before dark.  I would leave every day before they got up for school.  They would get up when the alarm clock went off, make their beds, take turns in the bathroom, get dressed, eat breakfast (cereal) and walk to school.  If they had after school practice, the coaches would bring them home.

I leave you with this quote from Brian Dyson, Coca-Cola’s Former CEO:

Imagine life as a game in which you are juggling some 5 balls in the air.  You name them-work, family, health, friends and spirit.  And you are keeping all of these in the air.”

“You will soon understand that work is a rubber ball.  If you drop it, it will bounce back.  But the other four balls- family, friends, health, and spirit are made of glass.  If you drop one of these, they will be irrevocably scuffed or damaged or even shattered.  They will never be the same.  You must understand that and strive for balance in your life.

Raise, support, and care for your children to the best of your ability and God will do the rest.

We would like to thank Georgia Wall for writing this post!