The Brevity of Life

Recently I was talking with a guy whose child has stage 4 cancer. He made a comment that stuck with me: “Sometimes you don’t realize that you are living in the ‘good-old-days’ until your life takes a bad turn. Looking back, I wish I had enjoyed life more and savored the moments, not realizing what the future held.”

I’ve thought about his comments many times over the last few weeks. I’m working to savor the little things.

Here are a few daily practices I’m trying to incorporate into my life to keep focused on what matters most.

  1. Sitting quietly for five minutes a day without distractions and reflecting on the blessing in my life. No TV. No phone.  Just me and Jesus.
  2. Gratitude Journal: In my regular S.O.A.P. journal I’m including a daily gratitude sentence or paragraph. I have so much to be grateful for and I need to recognize it and give thanks.
  3. Pray for God to help me realize the brevity of life, so that I may grow in wisdom. (Psalm 90:12) #DailyBibleReading #BibleReadingPlan

Have you found any practices that help you to enjoy, remember, or savor the little things in life?

I am more aware of the how quickly the times of hand are ticking. I see the almost overnight changes in my daughters as they start and go through puberty. The summer has flown by and another school year is right around the corner.

I have one life to live.

And this life is short.

I am so grateful for this time in my life when I am able to work less and enjoy my kids more. I wouldn’t trade it for the world. #BecomingMary

Psalms 90-12 NLT

Teach us to realize the brevity of life, so that we may grow in wisdom.

Psalms 90:12 NLT

 

Passport to Purity

#PassportToPurity #Passport2Purity @DennisRainey @FamilyLifeToday

I’ve been offline for several days . . . creating memories, bonding, and having important talks with my almost 12-year-old daughter. We had a Passport2Purity Getaway.  I highly recommend for parents of 10-13 year old kids.

travel guide

Passport2Purity is a product created and sold by Family Life.  The package includes CDs, a parent guide and a student journal. In the CDs, Dennis and Barbara Rainey cover topics like peer pressure, the importance of a personal relationship with Jesus, making wise decisions in dating, and puberty and sex. All from a biblical perspective.

My daughter was very apprehensive of the trip. She absolutely did not want to talk to me about sex. Before we left she told me “this trip is going to be worse than my 7th grade shots.”  But on the last CD she said “Oh no, this is like being on the last chapter of a great book.”

Not only is the information on the CDs great and presented in a fun, age-appropriate style; but the way they have the getaway organized makes for a very memorable trip.

Here is our itinerary and my recommendations:

  • I reserved a cabin at a state park about two hours away. This length of drive worked well for us, though I recommend finding a place to stop part way through the drive to complete Project One (you’ll need a flat table to do puzzles). Then you can finish more of the CD on the drive.
  • We left on Wednesday afternoon. I didn’t start my shopping, preparing my projects, etc. until Wednesday morning. I DON’T recommend that! Read over the to-do and to-pack list at least a week in advance and start preparing.
  • For the puzzle project, instead of 100 piece puzzles (which I couldn’t find at Wal-Mart in my frazzled, last-minute shopping trip) I bought her a 1,000 piece puzzle. It got the point of the lesson across, but it also had pictures of dolphins, which she loves. We worked on the puzzle during some of the downtime. I did bring the puzzle box . . . I just kept it hidden until after the project was complete. Going forward, my plan is to take the puzzle out each summer and do it with her . . . and reminisce about the Passport2Purity Getaway. Or maybe we will finish the puzzle and I’ll frame it for her.
  • We didn’t eat out as there weren’t any restaurants nearby, but I packed foods that I knew she would like. (My healthy diet went completed out of the window as I gorged on powdered donuts and strawberry shortcake the entire time).
  • Thursday morning we listened to a CD – took a short hike – and listened to the next CD. Then we had lunch and headed to the pool. After an afternoon of swimming we went back to the cabin for more CDs, dinner and relaxing in front of the campfire.
  • I bought her a special gift to commemorate the weekend – a (lab created) ruby necklace and earring set. I found it for $49 at the Kay Jewelers Outlet. She hasn’t taken the necklace off since the trip and it looks beautiful on her.
  • I recently read The Five Love Languages of Teenagers by Gary Chapman. Her top love languages are “Acts of Service” (by far), followed by “Words of Affirmation” and “Receiving Gifts”. I tried to incorporate all of these into every day of the getaway. I am also hoping to be more intentional about incorporating these into my daily life. If you are interested, you can have your teen take the quiz here to determine the best way to express love to him or her.
  • The Passport2Purity getaway is good for either boys or girls – there are different CDs and sections to listen to, depending on the sex.

I need to remember that my job as a mom is to:

  1. Love my daughter
  2. Pray for her
  3. Model a Christ-led life
  4. Equip her with knowledge and tools to make good decisions
  5. Encourage her in her walk with Jesus

I am not responsible for the decisions that she makes. She may choose to follow the advice of Dennis and Barbara Rainey and make good decisions about choosing friends, setting boundaries and dating. Or she may not. She may choose to love the Lord with all her heart and soul and seek his will, or she may treat God like a spare tire – only calling on him when she is in trouble and needs help (which is exactly how I treated him for 30+ years). I can’t control her decisions. I can’t control her heart.

But I can love her with all my heart, forgive her when she messes up, and keep pointing her toward Jesus.

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Unequally Yoked

Married . . . but walking on different spiritual paths

I am unequally yoked.

When I met my husband we were at similar places spiritually – we had both grown up in church, though in different denominations. He was raised Catholic and I was raised in non-denominational and evangelical churches. While we both considered ourselves “Christians” and believed in God, we weren’t living like it. I went to church occasionally, but didn’t live like it the other 6.5 days of the week.

We got married and had babies. We went to church on an irregular basis. We had our kids baptized in a church where neither of us really felt like we belonged, but it was a middle ground between a Catholic church and evangelical church.

And then our marriage hit a very rough patch. I talked to a divorce attorney. I went to counselors. I read marriage advice books. I went to meetings. My heart was breaking for my kids and myself. I couldn’t find a way out.

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And then I found Jesus.

Not the Jesus who I had “known” as a kid or the Jesus I wanted to hide from while in high school and college, but the Jesus who said this:

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” Matthew 11:28‭-‬30 MSG

I started keeping company with Jesus. I’m learning how to live in His grace.

My husband is in a very different place spiritually. I don’t know for sure where he is. We don’t talk about it much. He comes to church with me. He prays with my kids occasionally. He questions God. A lot.

I understand why Paul said: “A wife is bound to her husband as long as she lives. If her husband dies, she is free to marry anyone she wishes, but only if he loves the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 7:39) I know the discomfort of walking through life with a partner who isn’t at the same place spiritually. Maybe not even on the same path.

But I also know my calling. I know why God has me here. I know that I have a mission field just as important as if God called me to Africa or China as a missionary. My missions field is in a house that I call home.

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I am a missionary with three beautiful people watching my every stumble. Listening to what I say. They are seeing how I forgive. How I pray. Every day they see how I walk with Jesus.

Reading yesterday and today in 1 Corinthians there were several encouraging verses for my walk:

For the believing wife brings holiness to her marriage, and the believing husband brings holiness to his marriage. Otherwise, your children would not be holy, but now they are holy.

1 Corinthians 7:14 NLT http://bible.com/116/1co.7.14.NLT

Don’t you wives realize that your husbands might be saved because of you? And don’t you husbands realize that your wives might be saved because of you?

1 Corinthians 7:16 NLT http://bible.com/116/1co.7.16.NLT

Each of you should continue to live in whatever situation the Lord has placed you, and remain as you were when God first called you. This is my rule for all the churches.
1 Corinthians 7:17 NLT http://bible.com/116/1co.7.17.NLT

 

For any of you “unequally yoked” spouses out there – whether your spouse is another religion, is an unbeliever or just in a very different place in their walk with God . . . don’t give up. Keep praying and keep loving. And above all else, keep walking with Jesus.

P.S. If you are looking for a Bible reading plan to keep you focused on keeping daily company with Jesus, I highly recommend YouVersion app – found here.  I am currently using the Skövde Pingst plan and love it!

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Stumbling (Motherhood: A Tough Job Part #2)

I don’t ever feel like I’ve got this motherhood thing down, but some days are worse than others.  I have moments when I pat myself on the back for handling a situation well . . . but then there are mornings like this morning when I wonder how much counseling my kids are going to need someday. Seriously.

I try to put safeguards in place. I try to have rules and consequences. I try to make sure they know I love them. I read plenty of parenting books. I pray for them. I read the Bible to them. I take them to church. I search for the balance between mercy and consequences.

There are many a days when life gets in the way of attentive and intentional parenting: Housework. Work work. Errands. Reality. A migraine. Emotions. I lose my temper. I don’t give my kids the time or attention they need. I am human.mother and daugther-863050_1920.jpg

Then there are other days when I feel like I am really on my A-game, yet still I watch my child making bad decisions. I catch her disobeying. And sometimes it isn’t just a little thing. Sometimes it is a big sin.

And I feel sick to my stomach.

But I have to remind myself: God is in control. He loves this kid more than I do. I will answer to God for my job as a parent and a wife . . . but she will answer to God for her own sin. I can shepherd her and guide her, but I can’t control her. She will make her own choices. I don’t answer to God for her choices.

I stumble. I fall. But if I keep my eyes on Jesus, I get back up.

She will stumble. She will fall.

And just like I am sure my heavenly Father aches for me when he watches me screw up; my heart breaks when my daughter makes bad choices.

My job is to be there for her; encouraging her to get back up. And reminding her to keep her eyes on Jesus.

 

 

 

Motherhood: A Tough Job Part #1

A Call for Advice from Experienced Moms

I love my kids, but there are days when being a mom is a punch in the gut. Parenting shows me how little I know. How can I set a good example when I struggle with the very things I need to teach my kids?

Other moms, do you feel the same way? Especially for those who now have grown kids . . . any words of wisdom to share? Any secrets of success? This is a call for advice from moms who have successfully navigated the tween and teen years.  Any moms of grown children want to chime in?

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Here is what I am struggling with right now.  And I know there will be many more decisions and dilemmas as my kids get older.

The Infamous Cell Phone Dilemma 

  • 6th grader wanted a cell phone.  She begged for one for about a year.  Cried many tears.  She wasn’t “cool” and was the only kid in her class without a phone.  She made lots of promises, including doing chores to help pay for it.
  • I read all the arguments for and against, but my husband and I ended up getting her a cell phone and gave her some basic rules on usage.
  • I snoop on her phone.  I know there are probably parents who disagree, but I paid for the phone and she is my kid in my house and I need to know what she is viewing and doing on the phone.
  • I added NetNanny . . . not sure if that is the best tool, but I wanted something on the phone to restrict her ability to get on inappropriate sites.
  • Last night I found out she was texting boys.  Ugh!  Nothing inappropriate, but one of the boys told her he wasn’t allowed to text girls and she has continued to text him. Double Ugh!
  • She hasn’t been completely obedient with the rules my husband and I set (she is only supposed to use it for games or texting after she has done her homework and cleaned her room), but we haven’t been consistent with making sure she follows the rules.  We’ve never really grounded her from the phone or taken it away.

So now my husband and I need to come up with a new game plan for the phone usage and rules.

Moms, I’m not looking for specific pros and cons on cell phones (I’ve read a million arguments for and against), but more high-level suggestions. I especially long for suggestions and encouragement from moms who have already raised preteens and teens.

  • What is the best parenting advice you ever received?
  • How did you guide your preteens and teens through relationships with the opposite sex?
  • What is the best parenting advice you can give?
  • Any suggestions on communicating with kids ages 12-18?
  • How did you teach your kids to be wise in choosing friends in middle school and high school?

Moms, we need each other.  For you moms with more experience, your wisdom is much-needed for us moms now entering the preteen years.  It is daunting . . . and any insight you can share would be much appreciated!

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Finding My Mission

I’ve been married for 13 years this August.  I’ve been a mom for over 11 years.  These are very important roles for me – loving my husband and children, taking care of them, providing for them, etc.  But sadly, they have often taken a back seat to my career and the busyness of life.  Several years ago God started to put on my heart that they are more than just my family.  They are my mission field.

In August 2014 I was sitting in a Bible study on Gideon (by Priscilla Shirer) at the Gretna United Methodist Church and I was praying for God to reveal his grand purpose for my life (and I was convinced it was grand) and it suddenly hit me:  My purpose was to be a missionary.  In my house.  To the man I married and the two children I love.

And I’m embarrassed to say, since then I’ve had a million excuses not take that mission seriously.  But God keeps bringing me back.  I keep looking for my grand purpose in my career.  Or a grand purpose through other “mission” work – service projects, church volunteering, humanitarian organizations, christian ministries, etc.  And while all that is important and good, God keeps bringing me back to that calling I heard several years ago.  He closed the door to my old life as a political fundraiser, so I took another full-time job in a non-profit organization.  He closed that door.  He is telling me over and over that my mission field is right here.  In this house.

My number one priority is to spend time with him every day and follow him.

My number two priority is to minister to my husband and children.

I get it.  I finally get it and accept it, but it is still a struggle.  I’m learning what it means to be a missionary; usually by way more trial and error than success.  I’m learning to resist the daily temptation to start chasing a “mission” that looks a lot more exciting than Mom/Wife.  But I feel at peace that I am finally in the place God wants me.  And I know he’ll give me the strength to run this race and will guide me to the end.

P.S. I’m reading through the Bible in a Year – using the YouVersion or Bible.com app.    My reading today was a good reminder on my keeping my priorities straight, following God’s direction, and the importance of observing the greatness of God and passing on that message to the next generation.  Psalm 48:12-14:  Walk around Zion, go around her, count her towers, consider well her ramparts, view her citadels, that you may tell of them to the next generation.  For this God is our God for ever and ever; he will be our guide even to the end.   (NIV)

copy-of-becoming-mary

 

Top Five Devotional Books for Tween Girls

This blog post is for all the moms of tween girls who are hoping to instill a habit of daily time with Jesus.  I have two girls ages 9 and 11.  I’ll be honest with you; most of the time I feel like I am barely pulling off this “mom” thing.

  • We rarely eat a meal at the kitchen table.  Usually we’re eating Taco Bell in the car or processed chicken nuggets on the couch while watching The Middle re-runs on the Hallmark channel.
  • After I’ve asked  my youngest to clean her room 50 times without a response I end up yelling at her and threatening to ground her from screen time for a month.  #MomFail
  • I put up job charts and forget about them.
  • I read lots of parenting books and blogs and the concepts sound great, but usually my implementation falls flat.
  • While I completely believe in the importance of consistent discipline, I don’t do it.  Half the time I don’t discipline and half the time I’m overly strict.  So I guess I am consistently 50/50.  Does that count?

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But there is one thing I think I have done a good job of and that is having a pretty consistent nightly devotional time with my girls.  (And “pretty consistent” in my house is about 70% of the time.  I call that a huge accomplishment!)  I started with they were little and some months we’ve done it almost every night.  Some stages of life I’ve been lazy and had my priorities out of whack and we’d go months without reading and praying before bed.  But we always come back to it.  My girls are the ones who usually remind me when I’ve fallen into bed exhausted.

Here are my top recommendations on devotional books for girls ages 7-12, in no particular order:

  1. The One Year Mother Daughter Devo by Dannah Gresh and Janet Mylin
  2. 3-Minute Devotions for Girls by Janice Hannah Thompson
  3. You’re God’s Girl by Wynter Pitts
  4. A Girl After God’s Own Heart Devotional by Elizabeth George
  5. The One Year Be-Tween You & God Devotions for Girls by Sandra Byrd

When my girls were a little younger sometimes I’d run across a topic that I thought was too mature, and we’d go to a different devotion, but most of them have been great for their ages.  Some examples of topics:

  • Happiness vs. Joy (A Girl After God’s Own Heart)
  • How Do I Speak Love? (You’re God’s Girl)
  • Me?  Stuck up? (3-Minute Devotions for Girls)
  • The Beatitudes:  Peacemakers (The One Year Mother Daughter Devo)
  • I’m Not Popular at School (Be-Tween You & God)

This devotional time has not only been a great opportunity to build a habit of daily time with God, but it has also opened up opportunities for discussion about what my girls are dealing with in their lives.  And when it comes down to it, that is what is the most important thing to me: teaching my girls to be more like “Mary” by spending time on what matters most.

Even if they don’t always eat healthy, have messy rooms, and unfinished job charts . . . if they are spending daily time with Jesus everything else pales in comparison.