Where Do I Begin?

A Christian Mama has boundless opportunities to use her gifts and abilities. But how is she to know what God wants her to do with all the opportunities to serve Jesus and others in our busy and fast-paced world?

Right now our busy world has come to an abrupt full on stop. The virus has us indoors and away from the busyness of life. Though it’s frustrating, think about the gift hidden in the hardship. It’s the gift of TIME. How often have we been able to stop the clock? Never in my lifetime. I purpose we not waste these moments in worry and what-ifs. Instead, let’s embrace this shut down as an opportunity to reflect.

A God given pause.

Don’t waste the pause.

Allow me to share a bit of my own reflections with you today. As I think back on my parenting years, I longed to be the best Mom and to serve Jesus. But in serving, I allowed myself to be pulled in every direction imaginable. I was a wife, mom, teacher, counselor, pastor’s wife, friend, employee, leader, and more.

I remember feeling confused about how to order my life. My home of origin had lacked order and been dysfunctional, and as a result, I often felt aimless as an adult, like a boat without a rudder.

I look back and think, Girl! What were you thinking? You didn’t have a clue.

Head on over to The Glorious Table to read the rest of my article. I pray that you will find help as you juggle the responsibilities and opportunities in your life…

Covid-19 God is in Control

The threat of CoVid-19 is real. What are your children learning as they observe you?   

The thing about parenting is, when we start out, we have so little experience in life. We haven’t been knocked down enough to be challenged in our faith. So, how do we lead our children to process such a time as this? Years of walking with Jesus through the good, bad and ugly times of life is what builds our faith. Years of clinging to Him prepares us for such a time as this.   

Many of us are feeling out of control. As the ‘older’ woman to many of you, I’d like to share some out-of-control situations from my life. Situation to helpless situation, God built (and continues to build) my trust in who He is! Situation to situation, God will build your faith too – right in the midst of your scariest days.

We are living through unprecedented days with Covid-19. Anxiety is lurking in the air. Fear welcomes all who breathe it in. Dread threatens, “You have absolutely NO control!” And we shudder.

COVID-19

Covid-19 hit our world, and it’s gone silent

As we sit in our homes, some in complete isolation, God is on His throne.

Our human frailty quakes at the loss of control

Our imagination takes us to places that chill us to the bones

Will we die?

Will our family die?

Will our friends die?

What about our children?

Is the government taking over?

Will we soon be living under Marshall law?

PREFACE

Would you join me for a brief walk through some of my life experiences? Come, take a peak as I open a sliver of the past. I’m inviting you to witness how God meets me on the other side of fear. This is where He waits to teach me. In Him I am safe. He is the Blessed Controller of all things.

As long as I can remember I have had this underlying wish to be in control of my circumstances. I grew up in dysfunction and chaos. My life felt out of control. When I left home to attend a Christian college, I encountered a sense of order and control. It was a wonderful respite from my past.

Looking back, I realize that I have lived an out-of-control life through various circumstances. I’ve lived it over, and over, and over again.

SIX SITUATIONS when GOD SHOWED ME HE is IN CONTROL – I am NOT!

Situation #1

Soon after I married the love of my life, a church called Gary to be their Youth and Music Pastor. It was our first ministry, and in was brutal. Though we loved the congregation fiercely, our Pastor demanded control. When a friend addressed my husband as Pastor Gary, (which was his title) the senior Pastor growled, “I am the only Pastor of this Church, you will not address him as Pastor!” Then there was the Pastor’s wife. She sneered my way when the women at Church surrounded me for a glimpse of my newborn. One night, the Pastor’s wife chewed me out because I confronted her teenaged daughter on her bad attitude. I was nine months pregnant, yet she railed on me and then walked me to the Pastor’s office where he joined her in demeaning me. I sobbed all the way home. Once home, I tripped up the stairs, blinded by my tears. I had no control! As a new Pastor’s wife, I looked forward to learning from our Pastor and his wife. They shattered my hope. I was at the mercy of mean-spirited, supposed, ‘Christian’ leadership. When I relayed this story to a college professor friend, she said,

“Susie, you have just been in school to learn a lesson in ‘how NOT to be.'” She continued, “And don’t you ever treat a person the way she treated you!”

Her words were as a healing balm to my broken heart. There was something I could do with this. There was a lesson to learn. God never wastes a Hurt!

situation #2

After the birth of my baby girl, my hormones went wacky. I was a mess and couldn’t pull myself up by the bootstraps. I shamed myself for not trusting God enough. My emotions were utterly and helplessly out of control. My heart raced. I imagined my experience to be like sticking my finger in a light socket and not being able to pull it out! Merciless electrical shocks ravaged through my body. Any noise, music, talking, laughing had to be silenced because noise sent my nerves flying off the charts. I cried out to God over and over, but He was silent. I was a goner, helplessly at the mercy of endocrine dysfunction.

A goner, that is, until Jesus did what he always does

He reached out his strong arm and pulled me out of the pit. He sent help through my friend Annie. Annie called, “Susie, tell me all your symptom’s, Tom’s calling Mayo Clinic for you.” Tom contacted the head of endocrinology. And wonder upon wonder, this high level doctor called me at home that night. The first words out of her mouth were, “Who was that man?” My friend’s husband possesses a commanding nature, and when he speaks, people listen! (God’s provision.) The specialist from Mayo got my hormones back to normal. I embraced life with all of its joys once again.

While I was still sick, I met my friend Tracey through a local physician. The doctor didn’t know how to help us, but he put us together for support. Eventually, when we were well, we determined to reach women who were suffering as we had suffered. We held conferences at a local college. We taught women about hormonal imbalance and the disruptive symptoms that come with it. We shared resources and pointed them toward treatments. Women and their guys came in droves, there was a huge need! We featured Christian Physicians to discuss the condition, offer hope and provide solutions.

If I had not experienced this out-of-control situation, I might have judged those suffering from illnesses hard to diagnose. If I had not suffered, I’d have no clue how to help these women. God never wastes a Hurt!

situation #3

Another Church called Gary to serve as Christian Ed. Director, Youth and Music Pastor. In this Church, a close-knit group of friends surrounded us. One night, at a business meeting, the members learned the Churches funds were desperately low. It stunned us! After the meeting, Gary felt the only right thing to do was to step down from his position. He resigned, and suddenly we were without a paycheck. Though I wholeheartedly agreed with Gary’s decision, I had no control over what lay ahead. There was no plan. We had three children and no provision. The spirit whispered, “Susie, I am in control and you are my child, trust me with your life – Trust me.” It wasn’t long before one of our Church friends hired Gary as a carpenter. Also, a sister Church in the area took us under their wings and showered us with love and the largest amount of Christmas presents our family has ever experienced! God never wastes a Hurt!

Situation #4

My son was just 12 years old when passive-aggressive behaviors peeked out of his personality. This was just the beginning of a downward spiral into full-blown rebellion. I thought I could fix him. I read everything I could get my hands on regarding Christian parenting. I spent countless hours trying to reach my son’s heart. We employed the best Christian counseling available. As he continued to plummet, I prayed and prayed and prayed, asking God to fix him.

Years later, I lay shattered on my kitchen floor, “God, you are the Potter and I am the clay; I understand you have me in the furnace of refinement, but have you forgotten about me? Soon, there will be nothing left but ashes.” Even as I cried out, God sent one of his teenaged servants to minister to my boy. It took me countless years and tears to give up control. God kept whispering, “This boy, you call your son, He is my son, give him to me.” God kept chipping away at the concrete barrier around my heart until at last, He got through. When I released Daniel to God’s control, I watched as the Hound of Heaven relentlessly pursued my boy. I have never witnessed love like this before – or since. Daniel is God’s child, and God loves him more than I am capable of loving. God never wastes a Hurt!

Situation #5

We went through a traumatic season when our last Church split. God saved the Church and its testimony, but in the process my heart got shattered. I developed several autoimmune diseases. My doctor put me on medical leave and never released me. The wealthy of the Church attacked my husband’s character – the betrayal left deep wounds. The tensions built, even as the Church met several times a day for prayer. But peace reigned in that tiny room as we invited God to search our hearts. We plead with Him to keep the testimony of His Church alive. Eventually, there was a mass exodus – the wealthy of the Church left. God answered our prayers and cleaned house, but their exit meant Gary’s paycheck got cut in half. I had lost my job. My paycheck and the insurance I carried was gone. We tried to stay to build the Church back up but financially; we were in big trouble. Gary knew he must step down, this time as Senior Pastor of our beloved Church. Once again we had no paycheck. Many years into scarcity, I began calling out to Jehovah-jireh (God provides.) Our phone began ringing. Then the phone wouldn’t stop ringing. People called for Gary’s services. God was providing the money we needed. Every time the phone rang, I lifted my hands and cried out, Jehovah Jirah – You are my provider. I danced and felt real JoY right in the midst of poverty. We didn’t lose our house, as we feared. He met our basic needs and since has gone beyond. God never wastes a Hurt!

Situation #6

Last year my husband experienced a deadly reaction to the drug Flagyl. We almost lost him. He is recovering but as a result, is experiencing many complex health issues. When he first fell ill, I found myself in the same place – no control whatsoever. But this time, it was different. All of my experiences taught me that Jesus is present in the storm’s midst. He was calling me with outstretched arms saying, “Come unto me all ye that are weak and heavy laden and I will give you rest.” My daughters were as ministering angels during this time. We cared for Gary around the clock. He felt like his body was on fire. He was in torturous pain, and couldn’t sleep. The girls and I took shifts. We carried him when he couldn’t walk, we got him in and out of the bathtub day and night, we played music to soothe his suffering, we fed him, we comforted him in whatever way possible. One day he put his arms around all three of us and cried, “I have the best family on earth! Who does this?” Tears were streaming down his face. God’s manifest presence was palpable. God surrounded us with Himself as songs of peace enveloped us. God never wastes a Hurt!

There are many other situations I could share, but I think you get the picture. I wrote these remembrances and opened these vulnerable spaces of my heart to say,

God is patient and loving and He’ll do whatever it takes to teach us He is in control.

He is God, and we are not. I was never in control, not ever!

Many years ago, (during my fearful ‘Susie’ years) my friend, Sally said, “Susie, don’t cross that bridge before it’s time – God is not in this moment to save you from what you imagine is on the other side. BUT He will be on the other side should you need to cross that bridge.” Her words comforted me, and I’ve never forgotten the wisdom held in her analogy.

So, dear friends, have confidence! God will not waste this CoVid-19 experience in your life. He is the Potter we are the clay. He is working in the midst of this storm. When we get to the other side, when our Redeemer reaches his strong arm to rescue us, our faith, in who He is, will be stronger.

ONLY GOD

Only God has authority to calm the raging storms

Only God has the power to reach into a heart and change it

Only God is able to meet our needs

You see, after we walk with the Lord through:

out-of-control real-life situations

hearing His voice instructing, “I am God – you are not!”

experiencing betrayal from people you trusted

He waits on the other side. There are lessons to learn. This a time to grow.

If we don’t go through the storm, how can we know He is on the other side? How do we learn He is in control of everything? God allows bad things to happen to good people to grow our roots of trust deeper. They grow deeper with each storm.

THE REMEDY

The only remedy for a fearful heart is trust in God and God alone. We all have an opportunity, right now, to see God in all His glory take care of His kids. God walks with us through the storms of life to grow us.

GOD IS

our security

our rescuer

our creator

our provider

our redeemer

the lover of our souls.

May God continue to grow us as we face this unprecedented time with Covid-19.

God is deserving of all of our hope, all of our trust, and all of our praise.

I LOVE this song and it’s the perfect summation of this writing. “As I look back on this road I’ve traveled, I see so many times he’s carried me through, and if there’s one thing, I’ve learned in my life, My Redeemer is Faithful and true.” Steven Curtis Chapman.

My Redeemer is Faithful and True by Steven Curtis Chapman

Parenting in Love

Parenting is not as simple as I thought it would be.  It’s not like kids come with instructions. To complicate things, each child is unique and has her/his own set of strengths and weaknesses. How does a parent raise up a child who is confident and humble at the same time? 

This writing does not originate from a perfect parent. Believe me, I learned tons through the messes of my parenting years.

This message springs from a little girl who wondered why no one had rescued her. The brutality of her father loomed as it squeezed every ounce of security from her world.

This article is written by a mother who begged God for wisdom as she raised her children. My deepest desire was to love them as God loved me. His love changed my life. His boundless grace healed the brokenness of abandonment.

We as parents are the first example of authority to our children. A child’s father or mother paints a picture of authority the child will carry throughout his/her lifetime. A parent’s challenge is to use their authority to love unconditionally, discipline for the child’s good, impart value, create security, and plant hope in a child’s heart.  

What happens when your child disobeys? Is your focus to meet your child’s needs? Are you embarrassed at his/her behavior, thinking more about your reputation than your role in your child’s life? Do you reign in your emotions to exhibit true humility (power under control)? A parent who is self-controlled will gain the respect of her/his child.

We as parents hold the power to diminish, devalue, humiliate, crush, destabilize and throw a child’s entire world into chaos. Yes, we have the power to control our kid’s outward actions. But if that is our main goal, we’ve already lost the battle. Parents, we have a choice; We may exploit our child or responsibly use our position to shepherd his/her heart.

Imagine this scenario. You are at a gathering with your friends. Your friend, Becky, is ready to leave. She turns to her six-year-old son and says, “It’s time to go Billy, pick up your toys.” Billy stretches to his 4 foot little self and yells, “No! I am not going!” He stomps his foot, “I’m playing!” “Billy, you get off your butt and put those toys away NOW!” Billy yells back, “You’re just stupid!” Becky grabs her little boy’s small arm and growls, “You listen to me young man, you pick up those toys or I will spank you, right here, right now!”

Tell me, do you think Becky is justified? When your child is defiant, how do you respond? Do you have a meltdown and act like an unbridled juvenile? Do you grab your child’s tiny arm, tower over him, and scream in his little face?

Consider these questions. Do you see how this mother reflects the same behavior as her child? What effect will bullying and humiliation have on her child? Do you think her child will respect her? Do you suppose this rant will bring good results? 

What behaviors will authoritarian parenting create in a kid?  I can think of a few; lack of respect for authority, resentment, distrust, anger, discouragement, depression, cruelty, revenge, even hatred. How does a child emotionally process downgrading treatment?

Let’s take this same scenario and play it out as a responsible, loving parent. Your six-year-old defies you in public. As his caretaker, your role is to parent him/her. As the adult, you keep your emotions in check and send up a prayer for self-control. You understand that allowing your child to defy you leads to nothing good. As the guardian over your child’s life, you lead your charge away from the eyes of the crowd. 

You have this conversation, “Son, when I told you to pick up your toys, you defied me and called me stupid.” Pause – “This is unacceptable. Defiance always gets a consequence.” Pause –  “As your mom, I cannot allow you to disrespect me.” During pauses you pray your emotions do not impede a teachable moment. “Son, look at Mommy.” As your child dares to look into your eyes he reads concern, disappointment, but mostly love. “What were you thinking when you challenged me?” The child may say, “I was mad,” or “I didn’t want to leave.” You respond, “Did defying me get you what you wanted?” Allow your child to process. “Did refusing to do what I asked help you in any way?” Pause again. “Son, this behavior will have stiff consequences.” You determine what is stiff to that child.” Open your arms as an invitation to hug. He/she will either hug or not. It doesn’t matter, the child knows you love him.

As a wise parent, you take a disturbing moment and use it to help the child think about his behavior and the consequences that follow. You contribute to shaping his character.

If you have a tendency to abuse authority as a parent, please go to God. Ask Him to help you see your child through His eyes. See your child as God’s creation ready to soak up your love, direction, and discipline bathed in love. If you cannot control your actions, if you rage before you think, seek help before it is too late to reverse the damaging results of unbridled anger.  

Learn Your Childs Unique Bent

God hasn’t just sent you to do his work in the lives of your children; He will use the lives of your children to advance his work in you.” – Paul David Tripp

Do you ever say, “I wish I could go back?” I do! There is a steep learning curve in parenting. If you didn’t have great role models, the learning curve is even greater. My writing will expose my journey, the good, the bad, and the ugly events of parenthood. God held the answers and when I sought Him, He showed up and grew me as a Mom.

As I raised my wild, rambunctious first-born son, my quiet and content daughter and my happy-go-lucky baby girl, there were times I felt clueless. I mean, there were no instructions attached. Each child was unique, and I spent countless hours learning who these little people were. As I grew to understand the way God created them, I fell madly in love with each child and had a better understanding of how to raise each one.

Through God’s word I learned He purposefully created each child with his/her own set of strengths and weaknesses. “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.” Psalm 139:13 – 14. I did not birth cookie cutter kids. Each one is different. “Train up a child in the way he should go; (uniqueness – or according to his bent) even when he is old, he will not depart from it.” Prov. 22:6

Would you like to know more about raising unique kids? Head on over to The Glorious Table to read an article I wrote and explore this topic further. Parenting Your Unique Children With Grace.

God Bless you, dear parent for seeking to raise kids who shine for Jesus and further his kingdom. I encourage you to spend much time in God’s word, for in those God breathed pages, you will receive counsel and wisdom from your creator, and the lover of your soul.