Rising to the challenge

We had a heck of an evening.  One of those disaster after disaster days when you question whether or not you have done anything right as a mother.   

After several minor sibling problems and other behavior issues brewing amongst several of our children.  Our daughter especially presented us with quite the challenge as her preteen attitiude took rude and disrespectful to an entirely new level.  There have been moments of this attitude here and there but this evening her attitude exploded and crossed many lines.

I will not go into all of the details but reached a point a line was crossed and enough was enough.  It was not quite 6 pm when this situation peaked.  As an immediate consequence her youth activities at church were taken away and she was sent to bed without dinner.  And to bed without being allowed to complete her homework for the evening.  If you know Emily you know that not being allowed to do her homework is devastating.  

All this being done with discussion and further consequences to be given tomorrow.  These are the moments when parenting is at its hardest and most challenging.  Respond don’t react.  Don’t overreact.  I am human, I struggle in the heat of the moment with this concept, but today this situation I kept it together.  Calm face, no raised voices. Success, no yelling or arguing she put herself to bed.  Deep breath and I have time to collect my thoughts and prepare to sit down and discuss this with her tomorrow.  

Several hours later after I chopped up some fresh veggies for salad I slipped into Emily’s room to slip the carrot peels and lettuce heads to her bunnies.  I startled her out of her sleep as I was slipping back out of the room.  Half asleep, eyes closed and she says quietly to me “Mom I love you”.  That’s it, drifts back off to sleep.  

No pleading for getting up out of bed, no justifying her behavior, no apologizing, begging, arguing, just a sweet simple ‘mom I love you’.  

This is the first thought she had when she woke up.  Not angry with me for holding her accountable.  Not trying to get out of consequences.  Just that she loves me.  Oh despite her many flaws I love this girl’s heart.  This sweet heart melting moment does not change her consequences the following day.  She is still held accountable for her words, actions and behaviors.  


But as I lay drifting off to sleep I wonder what if that’s how I responded to God.  When I am dealing with the consequences of my own sin, facing the mess I have created trying to do things in my own strength and not turning to God.  Instead of rationalizing, justifying, complaining and worrying about the discussions of tomorrow.   To just stop and rest and tell the Lord I love Him.  Laying in bed after a day of trials and storms and just say “God I love You.”  How peaceful, simple.  

“And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.”  ‭‭1 John‬ ‭4:16‬ ‭


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Capturing the WINS!

Being a mother is one of life’s greatest blessings and I am so grateful to be on this journey. However some days are harder than others, some moments bring heavier challenges. There are days as a parent it feels like one defeat after another with an overwhelming blanket of failure closing in. The day when everything little thing seems to be going wrong, all of the kids are having a rough day and it all bubbles into one disaster filled day. The day that you know the sun is there hiding behind the clouds but you cannot see it or feel it. I don’t think I am alone, I am pretty sure that any parent can relate to what kind of day this is, thankfully these days are few and far between.

‘Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds.’ James 1:2

Sometimes it may not be the whole day but just parts of a day that weigh down and burden you with feeling like you have failed in some way and it feels like the sunshine is a million miles away instead of just behind the clouds.

‘He will yet fill your mouth with laughter and your lips with shouts of joy.’ Job 8:21

To help stay focused on the positive and keep me to be more aware and sensitive to God’s blessing in my life I have been capturing the wins each day. This has helped to break through the clouds and see the sunshine even on the more difficult challenging days. Some days I am not as good with this, I fall to the negative feelings of defeat.

But overall capturing the wins has really been encouraging and quite rewarding.  For several months in my journal I have a space everyday for writing down my ‘WINS’. So as I go through my day I am making a conscious effort of looking for the positive things and then writing them down. Some days I am able to find more wins than others. Some days I struggle to find the wins however I am always able  find something positive to write down.  This has helped keep my heart and mind focused on seeing God’s blessings in my life, small and big.

Some days my wins are as simple as ‘5 minutes of uninterrupted bathroom time’.

A beautiful sunrise on the way in the morning.  

The way our youngest snuggles in my lap to play.

God’s forgiveness.

Sweet note from my loving husband.

As I have been capturing these positive moments and details of my life it has been most rewarding to go back and read the wins from weeks and months ago. My heart and mind are filled with these precious moments in time. Capturing my wins as turned out to be wonderful rays of sunshine in the stormy days.

‘Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.’ Psalm 100:1

‘You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy.’ Psalm 30:11

‘When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy.’ Psalm 94:19

Heavenly Father,

I pray to keep my eyes focused on You.  I pray our marriage, our family, our home will keep You in the center of everything.  I pray for your will to be done in our lives, I pray to glorify You especially in our trials and struggles.  Help me to focus on the big and the small blessings in our lives.  I pray to keep my eyes and my heart open to Your blessings and the good being built within our family and home and to not dwell on the negatives or the struggles.  I am human and I make mistakes and fall short all the time, I pray to learn from my mistakes to grow stronger because of them.  I pray for direction and guidance.  Please Father give me courage and strength to be the wife and mother You have created me to be.  Thank you for my family, for blessing me with an amazing husband, for blessing me with the awesome adventure of being a mother.  ~~~In Jesus name, AMEN

Rising up to take ACTION!

Pushing forward in our Christian blended family and parenting adventures.

My husband and I along the way have consistently been incorporating some form of family devotional, typically during one of our family meals.  We are not successful in doing a devotional every night but typically at least once a week.  Which has been good but we feel God leading us to take this devotional time in a new direction.

         —>Plan of action!<—

My husband and I are going to intentionally direct our family devotions to teaching, modeling, and instilling God’s law in the hearts of our children. I have recently read an amazing book by Ray Comfort, “How to bring your children to Christ and keep them there.” He offers some great advice and tools. This really opened my eyes on how important and crucial it is to teach our children about sin.

I think it is so easy to shy away from the focusing on the affliction of sin to stay more focused on God’s love and forgiveness. Especially with children, your instinct is to protect them from anything that may be scary or harmful. Sin and hell are scary and harmful! But we need to do exactly the opposite. Our children can never be truly appreciate the sacrifice of Christ on the cross if they do not fully recognize and understand the entity of sin.  They need to be taught God’s law, what sin is, they need to see themselves as a sinner or they will never truly repent and turn to Jesus.

I can see how this family journey through the commandments, magnifying God’s Moral Law is going to not only be transforming for our children but will also be at work in my own heart. This has already provoked my husband and I to truly reflect on our own sin and obedience to the Lord (or lack thereof 😉  )

JIt is so easy to deep inside try and justify or rationalize our own sin.  We so easily see sin as big or little, we try and attribute our sin as not as severe.  For example, we tell ‘a little white lie’ which we chalk up as harmless, but in God’s eyes lying is the same as murder and adultery.  Our sinful nature pulls us to downplay the seriousness of our sin.

So my husband and I are dedicated to use our family devotional to open the eyes of our children to exactly what sin is, so they can see sin in their own hearts and lives and recognize why they need to be saved. I know our kids know what the 10 commandments are but do they really understand them? They can recite them from memory but do they know what it means to truly follow them? We are going to slowly week by week take on a commandment and discuss it and study it and model it as a family.

Last week we had an in depth discussion about the first commandment.

““I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.”  Exodus‬ ‭20:2‬ ‭

God comes first.  It seems simple at first but trying to explain this to a child in terms they can truly comprehend is not as simple.  Before we can take this to our young audience we need to reflect on our own lives and actions; ‘am I living with God coming first?’, unfortunately not like I should or could be.  It is in trying to teach our children this that I can see where my sin has been shadowed, shining the light on it so I can repent and turn toward being obedient and putting God first.

We tried to shine light on what it means to not put God first, to put His blessings in our life before Him.  We used Ray Comfort’s  example and demonstrated what it looks like to love the gift and not the giver.

How often to we do this, value and honor our life, our family, our jobs, our things over the One who blessed us with these things.  We are all guilty, we are all sinners, we all desperately need Christ.  We are also ensuring that our kids are aware that my husband and I are just as guilty, we are not perfect or sinless, we make mistakes and need to repent from our sins and turn to Christ.

This week’s devotional we took on the second commandment.

““You shall have no other gods before me. “You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.”  Exodus‬ ‭20:3-6‬

It is very easy to fall guilty to having idols, we do it all the time and don’t even realize this is what we are doing.  We idolize God as this loving forgiving God who won’t punish us for our sins.  We pray our wish lists to Him.  Idolatry is dangerous because it is so easy to fall into.  But breaking God’s law has severe consequences, if He punished us the way we truly deserved it would be unimaginable.

So with this weeks devotional in trying to teach and show the kids that God’s law is God’s law whether you believe or follow it we used the law of gravity as an example.  God of course is the Creator of natural laws, the natural lof of gravity.  My husband got to drop a raw egg and this definately got their attention, intentionally drop and break an egg!  He did it to show them it does not matter what we do we cannot defy the law of gravity because, it is indisputable that if you jump off of a cliff you will fall to a traumatic result of the law of gravity.  

The goal of having them visualize the consequence of defying one of God’s natural laws so we could impress on them on the power and consequence of defying God’s moral law.  We minimize our sins because we don’t see the immediate consequence of our sin.  However just because  we don’t receive immediate punishment we deserve does not mean that God’s law is not being disobeyed.  How quickly we turn to idolatry to justify and downplay our sin.  We need to have a healthy fear and respect of God and his law to truly be saved.  We can not repent of our sins if we are unable to reconize sin as sin.

 

My husband has done an amazing job leading our family devotional.  Not an easy task, with multiple children at varying ages and learning abilities at times it’s like herding cats to keep them on track.  Overall these have gone over really well and the cherry on top is that the all actually are participating and enjoying it 🙂

So to follow up and follow through with our new direction of devotional I have been working with them in the car on our ride to and from school.  We have been talking about the first and second commandments daily, reviewing what it means to follow them, and what it means to break them.  

In an effort to establish starting our day with the Lord and focused on Him we have established a blessing time in the mornings.  I ask one of the kids to lead us in a blessing for all of us to start our day.  They have been enjoying this as well, one morning I didn’t initiate blessing quick enough at the typical point in our drive when I would initiate and I was reminded by our daughter that we need to do our blessing.  

Another area that we been trying to encourage them in is having a servants heart and actively be seeking ways to be kind to others.  Every morning I discuss with them trying to find a way to show someone kindness during their day.  I encourage them to be on the lookout to help someone that needs it.  To look for ways they can serve others, even if it is a small way. I have challenged them to find a way to be kind or help someone anonymously.  So far none have them found a way but it’s only been a couple of weeks.

“Dear children let us love not with words or speech but with actions and in truth.” 1John3:18

Then on the way home we have discussion and learn who found a way to be kind.  One at a time I ask them about their day and if they found a way.  Some days are more successful than others but I feel like this we are making progress.  I also take time to tell them if I had found a way to show kindness to someone in my day.  We certainly cannot expect them to live to standards we as parents are not modeling and being the example of.

 The goal is encourage them to start their day in prayer and actively be looking for ways to serve, be kind and honoring to the Lord.

With the Lord leading us Matt and I will continue with this part of our parenting journey and continue to teach our children about God’s law, the severity of sinning against God and in turn showing them their own sin and this will lead them to a true conversion as a follow of Christ.  

These few weeks I know I am feeling more convicted, my heart is transforming and growing in my relationship with the Lord.  I can already see some small but positive changes in the kids, our family and home.

Heavenly Father,

Thank You so much for blessing us as parents!  What an awesome and challenging responsibility you have given us.  Please continue to lead guide and direct my husband and I in raising, teaching, discipling, encouraging, correcting and loving our children.  They each are a blessing from You.  I pray that we rise to be the parents You have called us to be, to teach and show our children how to love You, serve You and live their lives to glorify You.  I pray for strength, courage, wisdom and patience in this incredible journey.  I pray that my husband and I can be godly and humble examples for our children to look to us and see Your love.  I pray that our family devotional time continues to capture their attention and convicts their hearts and that they can see their sin for sin and truly repent and come to Christ.   Lord thank You so much for my husband and our children and blessing us so abundantly.  

In Jesus name, Amen. 

The adventures of PAC time

My husband and I from the beginning of our marriage and blended family becoming one have made it a point to be sure the children were able to have some one on one time with each of us.  There was no rhyme or reason to how we did this we would just kind of on a whim one of us would take one of the kids out for a meal or movie or something special that provided our undivided attention.  While this was good we felt like we could be doing better, more focused and intentional on making this special parent and child time a priority.

So we came up with PAC time, Parent Child Time.  At first I tried using ‘Power Hour’ but this was not well received and the name was changed right away.  Apparently the boys and girls club has power hour for getting homework done.  

‘They are always generous and lend freely; their children will be a blessing.’ Psalm 37:26

This is a set schedule we have, my PAC time is Tuesday evening after dinner and Matt’s is Thursday evening after dinner.  We have an ongoing rotation with the kids so they each have some intentional one on one time.  We rotate the kids through in a way that if one child is with me for their PAC time the next time it’s their turn it will be with Matt.  

‘Children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from him.’ Psalm 127:3

We do various things during our PAC times.  However they typically involve some form of sweet for dessert 🙂
-milkshakes and Yahtzee at cookout

-sweet drink and playing cards at Starbucks

-peeps from dollar tree and putting together a puzzle

-sneaking off to new port news to indulge in warm Krispy Kreme donuts

-sweet frog and Walmart

-milkshake in the car while watching the light show outside Franktronics 

– dessert at cookout and working on bible study for community group 

These are a few of the fun times we have had and look forward to many more.

We have made this parent child time a priority. I think this is important for the kids to feel like we value our time with them and sacrificing this time each week with them is a reflection of this priority. Now there has been an occasional event scheduled on one of PAC time evenings so in that case we adjust and do the PAC time another night that same week. PAC time is not taken away as a punishment, it is a constant and not conditional.


The kids were a little skeptical of this whole PAC time idea at first.  I think they waited for it to fall off as a temporary phase.  But we are holding strong and have stuck with this for nearly 6 months now with every intention to keep this up.  The kids have really come to look forward to this time.  They save some important questions and topics to bring up and discuss during this time.  They get excited and very much look forward to this time.  It essentially breaks down to each of the kids getting PAC time twice a month.  Even Richard who is five has really gotten excited about this, last week the first thing he said Thursday morning was” “yes PAC time tonight with Matt!.”  


Now this I not always an easy task to accomplish each week.  After a long day of getting everyone out of the door by 7am, a full workday, time at the gym or free clinic hours, dinner prep, baths and clean up it is next to impossible to muster up the extra energy to sneak out of the house with a child at 8pm and being deliberate and focused on them.  But we do it, we with the Lord’s strength pull ourselves together and make this very purposeful and meaningful time with our children a priority.  There have been evenings when it is next to impossible and painful to go back out in the cold, but in the end we are always very thankful we did.  

‘Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.’ 1John 3:18

While we know that they truly enjoy this time now my prayer is that one day when they look back and reflect on their childhood they truly appreciate this.   That this will be one of the things they remember well.  That the time, energy and love we are pouring into these precious hours will have lasting impact on their tender hearts growing spirits.  

‘Come, my children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of he Lord.’ Psalm 34:11

As we continue with our adventures of PAC time there are some minor ways we can expand on this purposeful time we are dedicating to our children.  We can infuse more prayer and devotional time reflecting on and studying God’s word while we are enjoying our sweets and our time together.  We do incorporate this on a smaller level but as I reflect on this time well spent I can see there is great potentional to expand on this and making and even more eternally lasting impression on our children’s minds hearts and souls through this time when we have their undivided focus and attention.  We have successfully established this intentional time with our children we will continue with this and utilize this valuable time to teach God’s word, law and love through our PAC time.  

Ready or NOT

Ready or not as this upcoming school year is on the brink of beginning and there are many big things happening this year and I am SO NOT READY!!!  But ready or not it is happening. 

In a way I feel like I have blinked my eyes and the last 13 years have flown by. 

 Our oldest is 13 years old and starting this school year as an 8th grader.  I can close my eyes and see him as a sweet fresh born baby, it was with him I entered this incredible journey of motherhood and my life was forever better.    Such bittersweet desires as part of me longs to keep them babies, small, cuddly and needy while the other part is so happy and excited to see these wonderful and unique people they are each growing into.  My heart aches and smiles at the same time.  

This evening sitting on the floor with our youngest who is 14 months and requires very close attention as he cruises and crawls into all kinds of potentially dangerous situations, I caught and stopped myself from being a little frustrated that I couldn’t be working on my to do this exactly at this moment.  My mind is going a million miles a minute of all the last minute things I need to do to be ready for everyone’s 1st day of school and another very busy week but then I realized I’m going to blink my eyes and this one is going to be heading off to 8th before I am ready.


Only one more year until our oldest is going into high school, less than 3 years until he drives and five more to college!  This year we also have one taking another big step and going into kindergarten.  Feels like yesterday he was crab crawling along the floor and tomorrow he is putting on his first real book bag and walking into his kindergarten class to start the next part of his journey.

I am SO NOT READY!!

There is some good news though, I don’t have to be ready.  Because God’s ready, He is in control and all this is under His power and will.  He will prepare me, lead me and guide me.  When I need strength He will strengthen me, when I need wisdom He will give me knowledge.  I do not have enough strength on my own, I am certainly not wise or courageous enough on my own, I need God to equip me and lead me as a mother, woman and wife.  

“You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.”

‭‭Psalm‬ ‭16:11‬ ‭

I must trust God as I let go of each child off to start their new school year.  He is big and mighty and He will protect them and surround them.  I must cover them in prayer-daily.  I must lead by example and show them what it looks like to live a christian, imperfect making mistakes trusting in our Savior and fully relying God life.  God is big, sovereign, mighty and wonderful.  As hard as it is to believe He loves our children more than we do and He is in control and He is ready when I am not!

“And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”

‭‭Colossians‬ ‭3:17‬ ‭

Heavenly Father,

Thank You so so so much for the privilege, blessing and honor of being a mother.  This is the single most challenging and most rewarding job I will ever have and I am so grateful that You created me to be a mother.  Some moments and some days are harder(borderline impossible) but worth every bit of it.  God please surround each one of our children this school year.  I pray that their influences are good and godly but if they do encounter a difficult or ungodly friend or situation that they are equipped and strong enough to do what is right and honor You.  I pray that they are successful academically.  Please give them courage, strength and motivation to study and persevere into the young people You desire and created them to be.  I pray that they can be a light in this dark world and that in their own way they can shine Your light and love to those around them.  

Father please continue to equip in my motherhood journey.  I pray I continue to treasure each moment and stage as they grow into these incredibly and wonderfully made young people.  Give me discernment, courage, strength, humility and wisdom to show our children Your love and that they grow to serve You and love You.  Father thank You for each child as they are each a gift and blessing from You.

In Jesus name Amen.

—>It’s complicated <—

Being a parent is basically hard, challenging and just out right impossible at times.  Being tasked with the responsibility of being a mom is quite possibly the most difficult task I will be given in this life.  Children unfortunately don’t come with step by step instruction manuals.  There’s parenting advice galore out there especially these days with all of our social media, good advice and bad advice everywhere you turn and filtering this advice that comes at you from all directions.

 

As I sit back and look at how much goes into being a parent and just how much responsibility lays in our role it is quite overwhelming.  Then top off all the basic parenting tasks and add on the extra element of being part of a blended family or single parent role to the mix and you have taken complicated to a whole new level!  Co-parenting is difficult and intense with a cooperative parent that has the same belief and values.  Unfortunately more times than not the co-parent will not being any of those things and makes being a parent 10 times more complicated and challenging.


 

I feel like my husband and I are constantly scrambling and searching for this fine line to walk—-> raising them in this world and teaching them how to not be part of this world.   As much as I long to put my kids in a bubble and protect and shelter them from everything, it is just not possible to shelter them completely and protect them from all the evil and ungodly influences of this world.  And even if it were possible that would place them at a huge disadvantage to be sheltered in that way.  So you need to allow them to be in the world at the same time keeping them from becoming part of the world at the same time you are leading them to know Christ.

 

I was deep in thought pondering this daily dilemma earlier while running away taking out my frustrations on the treadmill at the gym.  This happened to be a family gym day and we had our crew of kids with is at the gym today.  Today is one of those days it was a struggle to get some of them to come to the gym. A little bit of whining about not wanting to go, questioned on why do they have to be dragged to the gym to exercise.  I find this battle quite frustrating and feel like it’s a losing battle most of the time. We have our good days when they come to the gym willingly and put forth good effort and leave the gym smiling after enjoying their workout asking when we are coming back.  But then we have the bad days when it’s struggle, and it is on those bad days that I am so tempted to give up and tell them fine just to stay home while my husband I get in a good uninterrupted work out without distraction.  But giving up is not the answer.

We certainly cannot force them to want to exercise and most definitely cannot force them to enjoy it.    This really leaves us with one option; what we can do is continue to bring them and set the example, lead them and teach them by showing them how it’s done.  We can simply show them that we enjoy exercising and being healthy and let them see the positive results from this. Then praying that the example you set takes hold and one day they can recognize the importance of exercise and maintaining the health of their body.

We can face our children’s salvation in the same manner.  The best we can do is be a good witness, to set the example for them, show them how to live a life for Christ, pray for them to be saved and LET GO, get out of the way and allow God to handle the rest.  Put down on paper it sounds so stinking simple…

Not so simple though, not for me anyway.  I struggle each and everyday and fail in many ways in my witness to our children.  I get so frustrated when I fail, I have really good intentions but am human and frequently fall short.  One of my biggest downfalls is not being joyful in all circumstances, letting my emotions and circumstances of the moment control my words, actions, facial expressions and moods.  I am working at this, slowly giving it over completely to the Lord and I am His work in progress, some days I do better, but each day a step in the right direction.


 

“Come follow me” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people”  At once they left their nets and followed him. —Matthew 4:19-20


  
I don’t want our kids to make the same mistakes I made.  I don’t want them to know God in their mind but not truly know Him in their heart, I don’t want them to be consumed by this fallen world and slipping into the darkness before living in the Lord’s light.  So with each day I will continue working on allowing God to strengthen and mold me into the mother and wife He created me to be and let my witness and example be what our children need to come to know Jesus. And I will fight for them on my knees in PRAYER…..


 

Heavenly Father above, please guide me and give me strength and courage at a mother and a stepmother.  I pray my witness will be true and bold.  I pray that our children will be able to look to me and see You, that I will let Your love shine in all areas of our life, I pray for a joyful heart even on the trying days when I want to be short tempered and rude, please soften my heart and strengthen my spirit to let go and let You take over.  Lord You know my heart and the areas that I truly need to surrender and allow You to take over, please God take all of me and let me be the woman, mother and wife You intended me to be, I pray to have the courage to chose Your way over everything else in this fallen world.  God thank You for the honor, privilege and responsibility of being a mother, our children are truly a blessing directly from You, let me never take this for granted and always treasure being a parent even during the difficult moments, let me praise You and bring You Glory.

In Jesus Name- AMEN


Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstance, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus   1Thessalonians 5:16-18