Monday, September 26, 2016

Living Authentic: The Reality of the Day-to-Day

Authentic.

The word means real or genuine.

And that's what I want to be here on the blog.


I write from a place of wanting to encourage others and sharing what I've found works for me and truths I see illuminated in the Bible and wise words from those who have walked before me.

But our home is very ordinary.  Blessed by God because we have each other, and hopefully peopled by those who are striving to serve Him, but so far from perfect and un-messy.

In other words, if you think we all slip quietly into our seats around the dining room table promptly at 6pm every night and calmly chat through a leisurely meal, all sweet and laughing and connecting at a deep level, you're a little off the mark.  There are a few nights like that...except it's more like 6:30ish...and maybe only two or three have the "sweet" part down...and I'm likely one who doesn't.

We cherish the nights when we laugh over stories from the girls' school days and discuss a Bible truth that applies to us all and no one is in a rush to leave the table.  But we're also realistic enough to know that not every meal will follow that pattern.

Nor does everyone wake up smiling every morning, eager to embrace the day.  Our children aren't always speaking those kind words of encouragement to each other or graciously surrendering the bathroom so their sister can have a turn to get ready.

Attitude???  Shows up at some point from someone (usually a female ;) almost daily. 

So why am I sharing this?  Because I want you to know that we're all a work in progress.  There's always a behind-the-scenes, and while we seek to honor God as a family, I have the same (more or less) number of rough days that you do.

My dad is one of my greatest heroes, and one of the main reasons is because he's never been a hypocrite.  That's saying a lot, considering all the sermons he's preached from the pulpit in over 40 years of ministry.  But he's always been at home exactly what he was in public. 

I would love to have that same testimony, before my children and before others.

This doesn't mean I need to share every detail of our failings on social media, and I certainly don't seek to have more of those messy moments just so I can be relatable!  But I always want to be real, because God knows our hearts, and part of humility is recognizing that I have plenty more growing to do.

I write posts with names like Living Grateful and Have a More Peaceful Summer with Your Kids not because I've mastered these ideals, but because I know that these years are for training our children and myself as we go through this maturing process. I set goals for our family not so that we can be "perfect" to outsiders, but so that we can make our relationships more pleasing to Christ.

So let's be encouraged today to love other moms and other families right where they are, to encourage each other, and to come alongside to help as we can.  Nobody is perfect, which means God's still working on each of us. He gently comes alongside, teaching us lessons as we allow, so that we can grow more into His image as moms, dads, teenagers, and kids.  Let's extend mercy and grace to others, all the while accepting it for ourselves as we go through each day.

"But the mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting upon them that fear him, and his righteousness unto children's children;  To such as keep his covenant, and to those that remember his commandments to do them."  ~Psalm 103:17, 18

Related posts:
7 Bible Verses to Remember When You Feel Discouraged as a Parent
A Prayer for Wisdom in Parenting My Children
3 Parenting Truths for Those Tough Days

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Saturday, September 24, 2016

Saturday Salutes

I enjoyed Erin's perspective in 5 Reasons Why You Shouldn't Make Life Choices Based on What Someone Else Does.

Kathryn lists 3 Essential Components of a Prayer Journal.

Ann writes I Promise It's OK|Reflections from a 50-Something Woman.

Kathryn gives 10 Ways to Get More Out of Your Devotional Time.

I made this Cole Slaw Recipe as I was trying to use up the rest of a bag of coleslaw mix.  It was yummy - reminded me of KFC's cole slaw, kind of sweet, not too vinegary.

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Hope you have a wonderful weekend!

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Living Grateful: Making a Daily Choice to Give Thanks

I recently read Nancy Leigh Demoss' book Choosing Gratitude. 

Because while I write in my gratitude journal almost daily and tend to think of myself as a mostly thankful person, it's so easy to slip into complaining and negative thinking while ignoring all the blessings around me.


Since reading Demoss' book, Bible verses related to gratefulness and praise have been jumping out at me everywhere.  From Psalms (I try to read at least a portion of a psalm each day) to Colossians (the epistle I'm studying this month), I keep encountering verses that command or remind me to praise the Lord and be thankful to Him.
 
Which leads me to I Thessalonians 5:18.
"In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you."
Many times we have these big questions about God's will.  What is God's will for my life?  How can I find out exactly what He wants me to do? 

Well, with this verse before us, we're not left to guess.  We're specifically told God's will in this area.

Sounds simple enough - It's God's will for me to be thankful in every thing in life.

But sometimes that's a tall order.

It's easier when life seems good; not so much when times are hard.  When the car's running smoothly and the kids aren't fighting and we got an unexpected refund from the insurance company, blessings may just roll off our tongues.  Though sometimes I might be tempted to think I'm just living right and deserve these gifts, rather than recognize that every good and perfect gift comes from God. [James 1:17]

Then there are the trying times when the car's in the shop for the second time this month and a child is in trouble at school and the bill for car repairs is higher than expected.  Then the search for blessings to list takes a little bit longer and I have to dig a bit more deeply to find those words of praise.

I think one sign of spiritual maturity is to look around in the midst of the hard and recognize a sign of God's grace or a blessing here or a kindness there, and to thank God for those little rays of light in the midst of our darkness.

Beyond that is thanking God for what we're facing in the midst of it, when we can't even see a way out.  To sit, as Job did, surrounded by the ashes of our losses, and look to God and bless His name. [Job 1:20-21] 

After all, the verse above says "in" every thing, which indicates to me that it's while we're going through the trial that we give thanks for it.  And while the giving thanks in the moment won't magically make things better, it can thoroughly change our perspective and allow us to accept the peace and grace God has to offer.

How can I teach this principle of gratitude to my children? Modeling it is certainly the first step.  Actually naming my blessings for them, sharing what I'm grateful for, perhaps even gently pointing out an answer to prayer or a victory in their own life for which they can be thankful can get them thinking about their own blessings. Songs of praise and Bible verses that focus on God's gifts to us can encourage them to have a more grateful spirit.

So do you want to do the will of God for you today?  Easy day or difficult one, sunshine or rain, health or sickness, smiles or frowns from those around you - we can choose to give thanks.

Related posts:
Giving Thanks in Every Thing
Giving Thanks on the Normal Days
10 Simple Ways to Show Thanks

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Monday, September 19, 2016

10 Bible Verses for Teens to Memorize

Teenagers.

I have two of them.  I've found that they're everything I'd expected, yet more and less at the same time.  We're all learning and growing together these days.  I've recognized that they're wanna-be adults with enough kid in them to still need plenty of attention, heaps of patience, and lots of love.

My teenagers are growing up in a time so far removed from my teenage years.  Computers, cell phones, social media, the world wide web - yes, I know I'm old and sound like it! - but none of that was around in our home when I was growing up.

The challenges our young people face are real, yet God's Word is timeless in how it applies to their lives - as much as it did when I graced the '80's with my Farrah Fawcett hair and jelly shoes and leg warmers (just hopefully not all on the same day! :)

As I thought about issues that I know my girls are dealing with on a regular basis, I came up with this list of Scripture verses that can encourage and challenge them.  Hope you'll find the list helpful, too!

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1.  "I will set no wicked thing before mine eyes: I hate the work of them that turn aside; it shall not cleave to me." ~Psalm 101:3  Surely the teen years hold countless opportunities for our children to be tempted to view things that are wicked.  Sometimes it's just natural curiosity that leads them down a wrong path, so we need to be wise in training our children about situations to avoid.  We want them to learn to hate that which taints their mind with images that can never be totally erased.

2.  "He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty; and he that ruleth his spirit than he that taketh a city." ~Proverbs 16:32  Let's agree that the teen years are full of all kinds of emotions!  Learning to control those emotions is a big part of their maturing process.  This verse encourages them to be slow to get angry and to value self control.

3.  "A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly: and there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother." ~Proverbs 18:24  Girls (who grow up to be women who may still struggle in this area) often have friend issues at some point during their teen years.  I encourage my daughters to look for someone who is lonely that they can befriend.  Getting their focus off of themselves and reaching out to others is vital.  If they can first see themselves as loved and valued by God and understand that He is able to meet all their needs, they'll more easily navigate this particular struggle.

4. "Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the LORD thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest." ~Joshua 1:9  Our children are going to need courage in these days - to say yes to right and no to wrong.  Feelings of fear and even dismay can tempt them to be discouraged, but God has promised to be with them through every trial.

5.  "Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things." ~Philippians 4:8  This is a longer verse to memorize, but if our children can let these truths guide their thinking, they'll be set up for success now and in the future.

6.  "Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.  In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths." ~Proverbs 3:5, 6  The older our teens get, the more life-impacting their decisions become.  Whether it's for guidance in class choices, extracurricular activities, what college to attend, or what major they'll pursue, trusting God and acknowledging Him along the way will lead to His direction in these decisions.

7.  "The fear of man bringeth a snare: but whoso putteth his trust in the Lord shall be safe." ~Proverbs 29:25  It's natural to focus on what other people think (no matter what our age and stage of life), but this verse warns our teen as well as us that worrying about what other people think of us can trap us into going against what we know is right.

8.  "While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal." ~2 Corinthians 4:18  Young people often feel invincible, like nothing bad could ever happen to them.  This verse reminds us all that living for eternity and valuing things that will last forever keeps us on the right track.

9.  "And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men;" ~Colossians 3:23  In other words, work hard!  Do your best.  Even when studying is hard and sports practice requires a lot of effort, don't slack off. Use the challenge as a way to honor the Lord.

10. "Casting all your care upon Him; for He careth for you." ~I Peter 5:7  God loves and cares about you.  Sometimes our teens can feel lost, overlooked, unimportant, or just plain overwhelmed with all that life is throwing at them.  God cares and He will carry those burdens for them.

What other verses might be helpful for teens to memorize?  Have any of these verses helped you through a hard time or transition?

Related posts:
7 Ways to Help Your Teenage Daughter
Three "L's" for Parenting Teens
13 Things I Want My 13-Year-Old Daughter to Know

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Saturday, September 17, 2016

Saturday Salutes

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Sharla shares Two Words That Will Transform Your Family.

Lisa lists 100 Best Boy Books.  I like how she breaks the list down by age group.  We've read some of these books, and many of the other titles sound interesting.  Lisa also writes about How to Instill Vision in Your Son.

Tara has a Fall Fun Bingo Game for Kids.

I love the cabinet and table in Jamie's Simplified Cottage-Style Homeschool Room.

My favorite podcast from the past week was Dr. Meg Meeker's Conversation with Dr. Henry Cloud - especially appropriate for parents of teenagers.

And the recipe I want to make soon??  This Pumpkin Upside Down Cake with Cream Cheese Glaze.

Hope you have a wonderful weekend!

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Am I a "Good-Enough" Mom?

Remember my recent post on the lack of perfect parents?  We all recognize, no matter how much we want to do everything right, that we make mistakes.

Yet none of us get up in the morning hoping we can add to the list of mistakes we've already made!  We still strive to be the best mom we can be.

And if nothing else, we at least want to be "good enough."

What exactly does "good enough" mean?  As good a parent as your mom was?  As good as the mom whose children arrive early at the church nursery, clean and neatly dressed, while you straggle in at the last minute with things falling out of the diaper bag and your kid wearing a wrinkled shirt?

Or does good enough mean that you hosted the most awesome birthday party ever or took the coolest vacation or have kids who always win an award for memorizing the most Bible verses?


God has given you the job of mothering your kids.  He has entrusted to you those precious souls - whether they are aged 3 or 13 (and whether you have 3 or 13 of them!) - that He wants you to guide into loving Him.

As a mom, I have come to realize that I am never enough.  Not good enough or consistent enough or wise enough or loving enough.  But God, He is enough.

When I parent in His power and strength, I can be just what He wants me to be as a mom.

Since I have children, I can know that I'm called to be a mom!  Therefore, I can claim I Thessalonians 5:24, "Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it."  He has called me; HE will do it.  Through me, as I yield to Him, He will fulfill my calling to love and train these children.

And He's faithful to do it.  Not like me - sometimes faithful to parent well, sometimes not.  He is faithful, He's called me, He will do it.

So when the struggle is real and you don't know how to handle it and you just want five minutes of peace in the house...remember that God is faithful, and He can equip you to be more than a "good-enough" mom to those kids.

Related posts:
7 Bible Verses to Remember When You Feel Discouraged as a Parent
3 Parenting Truths for Those Tough Days
10 Ways You Can Tell She's a Mom

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Monday, September 12, 2016

A Letter to My Teenage Daughter: Hold Onto Your Heart

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Dear Daughter,

You have been given a very precious gift. 

In the beginning, it belonged exclusively to your dad and I.  Your world was totally intertwined with ours; you needed nearly nothing we couldn't provide.  Your heart rested safely in our hands.

As the years passed, your world expanded.  You now have sweet relationships with peers and other adults, people who have earned your friendship and your trust.

Yet your heart and the special love inside it - that love for another that will bring you one day, if it's God's will, to a marriage altar - remains your own.

This love we talk of, this forever love, is a unique treasure.  Don't give it away lightly. 

It's tempting to want to loan your heart out on a regular basis.  It's often the way of the teenage culture - a relationship with this one and then that one, a few dates followed by a cheap "I love you."

And while I know it's not easy to see other friends pairing up and coupling off, remember to take a long-term view, recognize what a gift it will be to save your whole heart for the one God has for you forever.

I know you'll notice guys...actually, I'm sure you already do.  By all means, be friends with them.  Get to know them in group settings.  Figure out what's important to you in a future husband. 

You'll want to know more about those who cross your path who are kind and good and trustworthy.  Study a young man's character rather than just listen to his words.

And just like teenage girls, teenage boys still have a lot of growing up to do.  So don't look for perfection, but for a heart that sincerely seeks to do right.  And while you're looking, remember to be developing into that Godly young woman that a worthy man would desire.

In the midst of all this growing and changing, hold onto your heart.  I don't want you to look back one day and remember all those guys in whom you invested time and emotional energy, only to yield hurt feelings and lost friendships.

Keep your heart whole for him, the one who will be your life partner.  Let it not be divided or left behind you in little pieces along the way.  Save him all your love for a lifetime and, when the time comes, give it all wholeheartedly 

But for now, keep it close.  Learn what marks true love.  Observe those older couples who still hold hands, still sit close in church, and find out what they know.  Understand that love is not about you, it's about unselfishly loving another person.

One day, in God's will and in His time, that young man will come along who will see the treasure that you are and you'll want to have a whole heart to give him, one that can love him fully and fiercely.  So until that day, when love comes for a lifetime, hold onto your heart.

Love,

Mom

Saturday, September 10, 2016

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