Sunday, August 26, 2012

Sawyer is Four!

Sweet baby boy!  See, how I still call you that even though you are four?  You are my only son, so I get to do that.  Son, it has been so fun to watch you grow from a toddler to a little boy this year.  Your sense of humor is in full swing now, taking these pictures was evidence of that you little stinker.  Your language grows more every day, but secretly I want you to always say "prain pracks" for train tracks and "wishin" for fishin.  You smile with your whole face prince, everyone who meets you tells me you're going to have the girls lined up.  I try not to think about it, but it's so true my handsome man cub!  You learned to ride a two wheel bike this year, earlier than anyone in the neighborhood.  You're leaning out and shooting up, it's happening way too fast.  I treasure these years with you home with me full time.  Preschool will come soon enough, so please just stay this size for awhile.  I love you Sawyer Michael, as much as any mother could ever love her only son.  You bring joy to my life in ways you'll never know.  I pray every day for your future, for the ways I hope God will get a hold of your heart and life and use you in big ways, for the wife and family I hope he will provide you, that in some small way, every day, I am pointing you to Jesus, that He is the only true fulfillment you'll find.  The hat in these pictures we got for you when Daddy and I went to Ireland this summer.  You look so cute in it I can hardly stand it!  May your fifth year be full of all things a little boy longs for, plenty of adventures and the love of those of us who get to call you ours.
Love, Mommy

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Sending Them Out- Back to School

I am a regular contributor here.  My most recent post:

A lot of thought and prayer and seeking the Word went into our decision to send our children out of our home to school.  I know that most of you who read this blog made similarly agonized over decisions about how to academically educate your children, some landing on homeschool, others on different types of school outside the home.  Before I say another word, I think it’s important to remind us all that pride has no place as we talk about these personal decisions of Christian freedom.  I hope that we can keep an atmosphere of love, humility, and bodily unity on this blog.  I’m sure that what we can agree on is God’s call to us as parents to model and teach Biblical truth and the power of the Gospel to our children whenever we are with them.
Deuteronomy 6:4-9- “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.”
Each year, when the air gets cooler and a fresh start to a school year is upon us, when the smell of new school supplies intoxicates me (yes, I love that smell!), my heart goes back to the callings and promises of God when it comes to my precious children.  It’s at this time of year that we get ready to send them out each day, which means a huge part of my heart is not in my physical presence each day, a small taste of the launching that will eventually take place when they’re older.  As we’re mapping out the year and making fresh goals for our family, I’m tempted to fear, tempted to doubt God’s ability to give me the wisdom and insight to do this well… but as I pray, the assurance comes, that these are not MY children, they are HIS.  His love for them is far more than I could ever give, His care of them far more complete than any sheltering tactics I could employ.  He has called me to love them, to care for them, to lead them, to teach them, to train them, to steward them well, but ultimately He has called me to trust Him with them.
Proverbs 22:6- “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.”
I hold to this promise and hold to the promise that God has plans for each of my children according to His sovereign will.  It is my job to be an overflowing cup of HIS love, HIS grace, HIS presence, HIS word, to be craving after Him for the filling up that only He can do so that I can be used by Him and for Him in the lives of my children.  I am so thankful for the blood of Jesus, that His power is made perfect in my weakness, that it is not up to me to attain perfection in my parenting by trying hard enough, but rather to lay flat on my face before a perfect God, begging Him for wisdom, begging Him to do His work in my children through me and through whatever means necessary to give Him the most glory.
Philippians 4:6-9- “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.”
This Philippians passage is not only a huge encouragement to my own heart, but a passage I read to my kids often, truths I want them to hide in their hearts for the times they’re not with me.  Because the One who is always with them, even when I am not, He is the one I want them to turn to, I want them to know what a personal walk with God looks like, a relationship that is their own.  And hiding these truths of God’s Word in their hearts, I think this is one of the best ways we can send them out prepared to face a world full of lies, because it is God’s Word that has power, not our “superior” parenting.  It is the Holy Spirit who convicts and inspires right choices, not our constant lecturing.  Here are some verses we’re going to hide in our hearts this year:
Romans 12:9-21- “Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.
Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary:
“If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”
Proverbs 4:23- Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.”
Colossians 3:23-24- “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.”
2 Timothy 3:16-17- “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”
James 1:19-27- “My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires. Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.
Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it—he will be blessed in what he does.
If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless. Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”
James 5:16- “Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.”
Philippians 4:11-13- “I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength.”
Psalm 18:2- “The LORD is my rock, my fortress, and my savior; my God is my rock, in whom I find protection. He is my shield, the power that saves me, and my place of safety.”
2 Corinthians 1:3-4- “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.”
Isaiah 41:10- “Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.”
I know God’s Word is full of beautiful truths to hide in our hearts, so please share some of your favorite scripture memory verses for kids with the rest of us.  I think one of the most important ways we can prepare our kids to be sent out is to teach them the very reason we are to go out into the world at all.  We are called to let our lights shine in a world full of darkness, and that call is not just for grown-ups, it is a call to every child of God, every person saved by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ into the family of God.  In fact, this is one of the foundational scriptures that God used to lead us to our decision to send our children to school.
Matthew 5:13-16- “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men. “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.”
And so we pray for our children, every single day, all throughout the day, that God will protect and lead and comfort and strengthen them, and that most importantly He will use them.  We pray that His light, shining through them, shining through our family, will permeate the classrooms and halls, the hearts of lost children and families, that He might use our family in the mission field of our school, to demonstrate God’s love and mercy and power to give new life.  And when I let this charge ring true in my heart, all fear melts away.  And I take a deep breath and smile as I face this new year.  And this prayer that Paul prays for the Ephesians gives me new courage:
Ephesians 4:14-21- For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.”
Practical Ideas:
- Love notes and scriptures written on their lunch napkins
- Verses on pretty note cards to tape inside their desks
- Praise songs in the car to get hearts in the right place as we start the day
- On the way home, when they’re sharing about their days, take the time to pray for situations and people that come up.
- Surprise them by having lunch with them some days
- Organize some play get togethers with other families in the kid’s classes
- Arrange to trade off childcare of your younger children with another family in the school so you can volunteer in your child’s class regularly
- Have regular date nights with each of your kids so you can get that precious one on one time
- Set regular times each day to pray specifically for each of your children
- Make a special after school snack and spend time sharing it with them while you have a good chat
- Don’t fill their after school schedule up too full, less is more even though our busy culture would tell us otherwise.
Please share your ideas too!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Chloe Turns Six!

Oh sweet "Snooie"!  This post is much later getting written than I had hoped, but darling, it is no reflection on our HUGE love for you, just a reflection on the fullness of our lives at the moment.  We had such a fun birthday party for you this year!  We meet Tayden and Milo, Auntie Amber and Nana at Lakeside Amusement Park for the day.  We had a picnic lunch and I made you homemade carrot cupcakes with cream cheese frosting.  You were a little dare devil on all the rides and I will never forget riding the Spider with you and all our uncontrolled giggles. You started first grade this year big girl, that really doesn't seem possible.  I'm certain it was just last week that you were my rolly polly, pigtailed two year old saying, "hogeyou me mommy!" or calling the phone a "whone".  But now before our eyes is a beautiful little girl of six with a smile and laugh that are truly infectious.  Something that hasn't changed, much to my delight, is that amazing and beautiful imagination of yours.  The day you stop gathering random household items to create barns for your animals (plastic ones or your little brother making horse noises) will be a sad day in my book.  At this rate, you will be the next bestselling author and I just can't wait to read your stories!  Kindergarten was a harder transition for you, missing mommy, just getting used to the school scene.  But this year, Chloe, you have taken to school with ease.  I get to come into your class every Wednesday this year to be a guest reader, which is truly one of the highlights of my week!  You are so proud to show me off to your classmates and I just love having you sit on my lap while I read to you and your friends.  And you've found a strong subject this year, sweet girl, you are quite the math wiz!  Knock on wood, homework time is a breeze for you and your reading gets stronger every day it seems.  Wow, I'm sure going to miss the days of having you home all the time, I have some precious memories of that time we had together.  But at the same time, it gives me such joy to see you thriving as a little student, getting to hear all about your day in the car on the way home, the friendship ups and downs, the exciting things you're learning in science.  Don't ever stop talking Rooie, telling me everything, the ups and the downs, the good and the bad.  You are such a gift to your dad and I, sweet Chloe Paige!  We are so blessed and lucky to get to love you as our own as we raise you up, pointing you towards Jesus and His perfect love and plan for you.  Happy sixth birthday baby girl!  You are beautiful, inside and out!

Monday, August 06, 2012

Making Sense of the Desert Places

Perhaps you’re like me and received Jesus as a child, or maybe it was just a few years ago. Regardless, you remember the moment, maybe it was over the course of weeks or months, but you remember the joy, the butterflies as the Holy Spirit took up residence in your heart and made you a new creation. Everything was new and you hungered for God and His Word like no craving you’ve ever known. As Thumper from Bambi would say, you were twitterpated! And then life kept moving forward, and for one reason or another, the spark faded a bit. You watched the flame dwindle and despite your best efforts and desires, you couldn’t get it roaring again. Fast forward in time and a really hard life transition was upon you. Once again, you found yourself clinging to Jesus with white knuckle grip. He wooed you to Himself, showing you the emptiness of all the world has to offer , your desperate need for Him, and you were head over heals yet again.
I could go on and on, couldn’t I? I mean I really don’t think I’ve ever met another Christian who hasn’t described these waves of closeness and distance when they talk about their walk, have you? So what can we make of these peaks and valleys, of these dry desert places and abundant gardens? What purposes is God working in this pattern, a pattern the saints have walked for all of history? First let me say that I am writing these words from a desert place. With parched lips and a growling tummy, I’m processing these questions with you. I am begging God to give me insight. After all, if you’re like me, it can bury you further in discouragement to hear from someone who only USED to be where you are. Fear creeps in that we may never get out of here, that we may never know the taste again of a deep and vibrant walk. I think the following passage explains our struggle well,
Romans 7:15-25-
“I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.
So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!”
It seems like a pretty hopeless picture if we stop reading before the last sentence… but then there IS that last sentence and in it we find our answer! So who will rescue us from this body of death? Jesus! Yes, the Sunday school answer. But maybe we over complicate things in our minds so that we can’t see the simple answer. Because of Jesus, we are new creatures, the old has gone and the new has come. I think the thought process that keeps us down is the false belief that because we are new creations, we should be perfect, that if we don’t have that blissful, awe inspiring quiet time every day that we have failed and can never really be good enough so why try. We wonder what’s wrong with us. Surely everyone else is having these said quiet times and we must be missing something profound. Oh how Satan would love for us to wallow defeated in this vicious cycle. But maybe, just maybe, these dry places, while never meant to be places we stay and linger comfortably, do have a good purpose. When you think about the picture of a desert and someone staggering to find the end of it, what’s the one thing on their mind? Water! And how good does the water taste when they finally find it? REALLY good! So perhaps, just as trials serve the purpose of showing us our deep need for Jesus and of pushing us to stop seeking things that will never satisfy, dry spells can serve the same purpose. Being hungry for Him, thirsty for His presence means that eating and drinking will be all the sweeter.
So what if, as the Romans passage explains, though the thirst and the hunger and the desire is there, we can’t seem to pick up our feet to walk in the direction of the water (FYI, this feels like me at the moment)? I’m drawn back to the answer in that last sentence of the passage, “through Jesus Christ our Lord!” Am I understanding this correctly? Jesus is going to help me pick up my feet and walk towards the water? Maybe my prayer needs to be even simpler, “Father, help me to lift up my feet and walk to your Word, to open my mouth to pray.” And maybe those staggering, baby steps need to be small enough that I can take them on an empty tank. One verse a day could grow into one chapter a day and praying every time I use the bathroom could grow into prayer without ceasing… but only by His strength. And perhaps the lush gardens are fewer and further between than the desert places by design. As we crave towards more intimacy with the Lord, as we stagger and sway in weakness towards the only One who can quench our thirst we are also staggering towards the ultimate lush garden that we’ll never have to leave, heaven. We have the promise of such sweet communion with our God, it will make those first butterflies seem like dusty moths in comparison!
So let’s link arms, sisters, when we find ourselves in these uncomfortable desert places, and spur one another on towards the water of His Word and the banquet of His presence. “Father, we pray a simple prayer in weakness. We ask that you would help us lift our weak and failing legs to walk towards your Word, towards YOU, oh precious living water. Let us not wallow in defeat, but rather help us see these parched times as times that draw us towards you! Amen”

Psalms 63:1 -"O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water."