Looking for Heroes

We all love a good story with a hero we can stand behind.

Our sons love heroes, too. That’s why my son has a fireman dress up suit and masks of Captain America, Ironman, and Spiderman.

Having a boy, I am always looking for real-life heroes to introduce him to- policemen, soldiers, first responders. I want him to see these men and women as the true heroes in our world. Yet, there are other heroes I want him to become familiar with. Those heroes are found in the pages of the Bible.

In our devotions he has “met” Moses, Samson, Elijah, and David. But there are so many more men and women in God’s Word that I want him to meet.

And I’m not the only parent who feels this way. Shannon Otwell is the father of a little boy named Nate. He also wanted to introduce his son to Bible heroes, so he wrote a book, The Treehouse Adventures of Nate-Nate & Maxie Dog: Gideon, making Nate and his dog Maxie characters in an imaginative story, taking them back in time to meet Gideon, one of Israel’s judges and a Bible hero.

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Nate-Nate and Maxie have a treehouse. Using their imagination, their treehouse becomes a pirate ship sailing them back in time. During their trip, they hear the amazing story of how God took Gideon’s 30,000 soldiers and sent home all but 300 of them. They participate in a reenactment of the breaking of the clay jars and blowing of the trumpets, and they get to meet Gideon.

This book is filled with bright, colorful, well-illustrated pages. Upon opening a page, one side contains a full page illustration and the other side contains the story. Each illustration perfectly represents the story being told. I loved that as we were reading the story and following along with the illustrations, one character would show up quite often. We enjoyed finding out that this particular character was Gideon.

The story is well told and attention grabbing. My son (5 years old) sat quietly, listening intently to the story and pointing out parts of the illustrations that matched what he was hearing. As a homeschooling mom, I like the fact that my son will have a book in his personal library that he will be able to read on his own in a couple of years that will help build his faith. (I think a 2nd grader would have no trouble reading this on their own.)

The Treehouse Adventures of Nate-Nate & Maxie Dog: Gideon is the first book in what the author hopes will become a well-loved series. I personally am looking forward to seeing which adventure will come next.

Publisher: HIS Publishing Group; ISBN: 978-0578187082; Age Range: 2-10 years old; Grade Level: Kindergarten- 4th grade. 

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faith

Faith the Size of a Tie

I was 26. And single.

All of the people in my circle were in a relationship, engaged, or married with children on the way.

And then there was me.

The oldest in our Sunday school class.

Single.

I would go home from church, saddened because, as wonderful as my family was, I felt that empty feeling that comes when you know you are missing your other half, but you don’t even know who that other half is. I didn’t have that special someone that was made just for me.

Then one day as I was shopping at Bealls (a Florida only franchise), I happened to walk past the men’s ties.

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And that is when God put a thought in my heart.

Buy one.

I questioned the thought.

“For who?”

And I felt God tell my heart, Buy one, have it gift wrapped at the back counter, and put it in your closet until the right time.

As far as I knew, there was no one that I currently knew who the tie could possibly be for (I did know this guy named Brian… my friend… the one I practiced talking to guys with since I knew nothing about talking to guys… but I never imagined the tie would be for him…).

But I obeyed.

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I had faith the size of a tie that one day there would be a man made just for me who would wear that tie.

I had faith the size of a tie that God had not forgotten about me. Faith that He was ready with pen in hand to write my love story.

I had faith the size of a tie that my turn would come, and I would have my very own love story to tell.

When we feel that we have been forgotten…

When we are saddened that we are the only ones in our circle who have not reached a particular milestone…

When we see those around us enjoying the gifts we are so fervently praying for…

We need to have faith.

We only have to have faith the size of a mustard seed.

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It doesn’t have to be big faith. A mustard seed is small. A mustard seed is 2-3 millimeters in diameter, but Jesus tells us that faith the size of a mustard seed can move a mountain (Matthew 17:20).

The contrast in size is so great. A tiny seed. A giant mountain. Yet God does not require the size of our faith to match the challenge. Sometimes our faith is only the size of a mustard seed. But as we see God move each mountain we encounter, the size of our faith grows.

What are you needing faith for?

Faith that one day God will bring the right man into your life.

Faith that one day your arms will hold the baby your heart has dreamed of.

Faith that one day your entire family will worship together- at home and in God’s house.

Faith that one day you will turn the key and open the front door to a home you can call your own.

Your faith may be the size of onesie, a hymnal, or a set of brand new kitchen towels.

In my case, faith was the size of a tie.

A maroon and gold colored tie that I pulled down from the top shelf in my closet one beautiful day in October of 2003- the day after Brian asked my parents for my hand.

What size is your faith?

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Potty Training and Weight Loss

“If you are faithful in little things, you will be faithful in large ones.” Luke 16:10a NLT

Don’t let the title of this post confuse you. I don’t have a new formula for weight loss that’s connected to the task of potty training  your child…

Yes, I know there are many weight loss fads out there… But, believe me, this is not one of them.

What I have found, however, is a connection between the two that I thought might be of some encouragement to you all.

Potty training was once described to me by another mom I met as “one of the hardest things” she’d ever done. And while it may seem like an exaggerated statement, it’s amazing how many things in life that we can view that way…

I know when it came to the idea of potty training, I could only imagine how difficult it would be.

And so……What did I do?

I. PUT. IT. OFF.

While it was encouraging to know that other moms agreed that boys often take longer to learn to go potty than girls, at a certain point I realized….

It was finally time to stop putting off this responsibility and actually begin intentionally working on it with my son.

“Stay home with your son for three days straight, work on it intensely, and it will be a done deal.”

It’s a strategy that’s worked for many moms and one I’ve heard from some of my amazing mom friends that I respect and admire.

Um…. But there was just one problem…

I’m not the kind of mom who “can” stay at home three days straight and work on it.

I like to go to the gym and run errands most days. It’s just not in my nature to hunker down three days back-to-back for potty training “boot camp”.

So, then… What’s a mom like me to do?

Hm…. I needed a different approach.

But what?

Although we may not always hear an audible voice of God telling us what to do, you want to know something… He does speak to our hearts if we’re listening.

And what I felt He was saying to me was this…

“Just begin working on it when you can. Work on it when you ARE home.” (Basically, “do the possible”.)

Hmmmm….. That I could do!

With this approach, I didn’t have to rearrange my life to mimic someone else’s success story in potty training. I could simply do what was possible for me!

And, you know what! That’s the case with many things in life as well.

Yes, at first glance many things may seem like they will be “the hardest things we’ve ever done.” The tasks ahead seem so BIG and daunting…

And yet, I believe all that the Lord wants from us is a willing heart and for us to simply do what IS POSSIBLE.

Around 2007, I weighed close to 160 pounds…. And oh… how I hate looking at pictures of myself from that time.

But you know, what? I didn’t stay that way.

Why not….?

Because I decided to take the small steps toward seeing change in my life…

I chose to do the possible.

And guess what… I was able to lose about 40 of those pounds by my wedding in 2010. (Maybe, at some point I’ll share a blog post with before and after photos, but not today…You’ll just have to keep reading the blog and stay tuned for that..)

Did the weight drop off suddenly?

It was a process. But little steps led to bigger ones.

I simply started by running around the house for exercise and eating healthier.

Over time, I added in more exericse, and then finally joined a gym where I was able to get some advice and a helpful plan from a trainer.

Yes, it took time and effort to drop the weight I wanted to lose, but little by little the pounds came off.

God gave me the will power and a path for success. Success fed on itself, and seeing my transformation and my dreams become a reality propelled me to continue on.

Oh… We all want the end results. We want our kids to be able to go potty independently, and we would all love to be the best version of ourselves that we know is possible.

But it all has to start somewhere.

No, you don’t have to copy someone else’s path to success…although sometimes, those paths can be of help.

You simply need to have the willingness to say “yes” to the vision God gives you and do what is possible for you day by day.

Will it take time? Yes.

Will it require more intention and dedication? Yes and yes.

But if the change you desire means that much to you… You will take the necessary steps- however small they may be- to achieve the goals and dreams you want to reach.

Yes, friends…. “The hardest things in life” really are possible to achieve.

And it’s following God’s leading, taking those small steps, and remaining faithful in the process that is the best place to begin.

year of purposeful woman

Year of the Purposeful Woman: Personal Devotions

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We’re ten days into the New Year. Our toes have touched the waters of 2017, and we are slowly adjusting to the temperature and feel of this brand new year. We’ve made our plans and written down our goals.  As I began to wade further into the year, I thought of sharing with you a kind of blueprint to make this the Year of the Purposeful Woman.

The foundation for any project is the most important part. Yes, decorating is fun, and designing is a blast, but without a firm foundation, any project will collapse.

The foundation of a Purposeful Woman is her daily time with the Lord.

My foundation is my devotional time. It’s my time to talk to God, to hear from Him through his Word, and to hear Him in the quietness of my heart.

year of purposeful woman

Growing up, we were taught to have our devotions every morning before we got up from bed. Our Bibles had places on our night stands that would allow this to actually happen for us. I remember going to kiss my mother in the morning and having her ask, “Have you had your devotions yet?”

Morning devotions were a natural part of our morning routine.

That taught me a great lesson. I needed to put my time with the Lord before everything else… before tackling the day, before that first cup of coffee, before putting my first load of laundry in the washer, or before my first bite of breakfast.

Now as a wife and mother, I start my day with a devotional time. For me, giving the first part of my day to Him means I am giving Him the best of who I am. There has been no time for me to get unnerved or put anything before Him.

I see the first part of my day as my first fruits.

Exodus 34:26a says, “The first of the firstfruits of thy land thou shalt bring unto the house of the Lord thy God.”

year of purposeful woman

God’s Word brings peace. When I let myself get so busy doing other things I feel overwhelmed and stressed. When I am in the Word, reading it daily, and really being open to what God is trying to tell me, I am at perfect peace. And what a sweet place that is to be.

Are you unsure where to start?

We live in a wonderful time where there are options galore. I like to alternate among several options to keep my devotion time fresh.

Pick up the Bible and just read– No matter what you read or where you start, God’s Word will always have something for us to learn, glean from, or apply to our lives. If you’re still not sure, John is a great place to start.

Proverbs- There are 31 chapters in the book of Proverbs. Try reading one chapter every day for a month. It is a great place to start since Proverbs is a book of wisdom. As you are reading, ask God to give you wisdom. He will. (James 1:5)

year of purposeful woman

Bible.com offers plans in every topic imaginable. At the end of 2016, I went through the plans and saved all of the plans dealing with “Joy“- my favorite being this one by C. S. Lewis.  Are you looking for something on marriage, parenting, singleness, faith, prayer, forgiveness, or worship? There is a plan for that.

Good Morning Girls– Are you looking for a devotional that you can do in the quiet of your home yet offers the accountability we often need to get into the habit of daily time with God? This is a devotional that is offered as a small, closed Facebook group. A daily application question is asked about the passage read that day, and each member of the group answers the question in a thread. The group I have been with for a few years now has reached the point where this is the first group of ladies we turn to when prayer is needed in personal situations. You just have to be willing to be real.

First 5 app– For a time, life got really busy. This became my go-to devotional. Because may of us keep our phones right by our bed, grabbing it in the morning, opening this app and giving God the first 5 minutes of our day, can make all the difference.

Devotional books– There are a whole host of devotional books on the market. Although this was not written to be a devotional, Simply Tuesday by Emily P. Freeman was one book that really drew me into a quiet place in my heart and brought me to the feet of Jesus many times.

One thing I know for a fact, no matter which method you choose, you will not regret starting your day with the Lord.

Take this month to work on building a personal devotion time into your routine. It’s the first step towards being a Purposeful Woman.

To read more in this series:

year of purpose

words hard say

When the Words Are Hard to Say

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There are moments in our lives that create opportunities for us to grow. Sometimes those opportunities are beautiful and bring a rush of joy and excitement… but most of the time, those moments are hard.

It’s the hard moments that either grow our faith or uproot us. We either choose to dig in and stay strong, or we give up and let our circumstances blow us around leaving us battered, bruised, and lifeless at the end of our storm.

We can either learn the lesson of the storm, or we experience another storm similar the previous one in order to finally learn the lesson God is trying to teach us.

These storms come in many forms- a broken or strained marriage, a financial crisis, the sudden loss of a loved one, a physical illness, children who have strayed from the faith, or an unexpected diagnosis.

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But remember, dear friends, we are not alone.

God has included the account of Job in His Word for our benefit, as our reminder that we are not the only ones to experience storms. It is a reminder that we are not the only ones who have walked this path. Job is God’s gentle reminder that someone else has had it worse.

Job experienced the great losses of his riches, family, and health. Everything he owned was taken away from him stripping him of his wealth. His children were all killed when the home they were in fell on top of them, crushing them. Job himself was struck with a disease which caused his body to break out in boils. He was in such pain he wished he had never been born. Yet, in his storm, instead of cursing God, he chose to say, “The Lord gives and the Lord takes away, blessed be the name of the Lord.”

And those are not easy words to say…

My storm

I began thinking about Job soon after Mom went home to be with the Lord. She was no longer here, but, as I thought of my loss, I felt the ever-present movement of a little person who would be making an appearance exactly two weeks after her passing.

My storm was struggling with the whys of my mother’s passing. Mom was still in her 50’s. She was going to be a grandmother for the first time. My mom was one of the most faithful followers of Christ that I knew. She was the kind of woman who would change her plans if we needed her. I couldn’t understand why God would allow her die at the time when I needed her the most.

This was my time to either stand firm in my faith in God and His sovereignty or let the storm beat me down and shred my faith.

After our daughter, Addie, was born, the thought that “He gives and takes away” kept going through my mind. My mother was gone, yet I had been given the beautiful gift of a baby girl.

words hard say

My cousin, Lisa, had given us a DVD from the Praise Baby Collection (highly recommend!). One of the songs on the DVD was the praise chorus “Blessed Be the Name of the Lord”. I would sit with my baby, move her hands to the music, and sing along… until it came to the lines “He gives and takes away, He gives and takes away, My heart will choose to say, Lord blessed be your name.”

Then I would stop.

Until one day as I was washing out bottles at the kitchen sink and the DVD was playing. I stopped washing, and I forced myself to sing those lines.

Yes, it was a struggle, and, yes, I cried the whole time I sang. But after that first time of forcing myself to verbally acknowledge God’s sovereignty in my situation, I was able to sing those lines without crying. Now when I hear that song, those lines remind me of my response to the storm. It has become “our song”- a song with a special meaning between my Heavenly Father and me.

God does give, and He does take away, but we have to choose in our hearts to bless His name in the storm, regardless of our agreement with His decisions. God is sovereign and all-knowing. He understands the “whys” so much better than we do. Eventually, He allows us to see glimpses of His purposes and reasons, but He is not required to.

He is God, and I am not.

And my heart does choose to say, Lord, blessed be your name.

words hard say

Comparison: A Recipe for Unrest

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There are days when I feel so joyful and proud of the job I’ve been doing, with God’s help, as a mom….

And then there are days when I stumble across an impressive video on social media of young elementary school aged prodigies playing violins and woodwind instruments like miniature professional musicians and begin second guessing myself on how well I’m doing compared to these children’s moms.

Oh… Days before this, I was so proud of the fact that I had taken my son for a fun time of play at a local bounce house, that we had enjoyed a great time together on the playground, that he had helped me make muffins one afternoon, and that he had even helped me make a veggie-fruit “juice” one morning…

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But now….?

No.

Instead of celebrating all we have been able to do together, I begin doubting myself and the job I’m doing as a mom…

And all this because I set my eyes on someone else’s level of parenting.

So now in this moment I allow myself to believe that who I am and what I’ve been doing as a mom just simply isn’t “good enough” compared to these other parents…

(Okay…So, my little guy’s only two and a half, but still…. You know where I’m coming from.)

Whether it’s things like these that drive you to comparison or not, I’m almost 100% sure there are things in your life that have a way of pushing your own comparison buttons as well.

And it can happen across so many spectrums… Not just in mothering.

For example… Have you ever found yourself so joyful in one moment- content with your possessions, your home, and your way of life….

And then your joy suddenly comes to an abrupt halt after visiting the newest community of model homes?

You return to your own home later that afternoon wondering, “How long were we planning on living in this house, again?”

Oh, if only things were bigger…more elaborate, more spacious, and new… Right?  (Hmmm….)

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Joy goes out the window along with contentment as we allow comparison and discontent to set in.

On another specturm, perhaps you’re a working mom. You feel proud of all you’ve accomplished and are doing to help your family make ends meet. God gave you a great job, and things are going well. You’re able to contribute to the family’s needs and help put food on the table.

But… Any time you scroll through social media and see your stay-at-home mommy friend, you find yourself comparing yourself to her, feeling as though your life should in some way mirror hers. “Maybe I’m not doing that good of a job as a mom…compared to her,” you think to yourself.

Oh, how comparison beats us down.

Or put the shoe on the other foot. Perhaps you’re the stay-at-home mom, viewing the working mom and her family. You see all that she’s accomplished outside of the home, all her family can afford, and all of the places they can go because both parents are working.

So you also begin to doubt yourself, wondering whether you’re doing a “good enough” job staying home with your children and daily managing the chores in your home. Am I as successful as  her?

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Yes, you often feel fulfilled in your role as a stay-at-home mom, but  every so often when you catch a glimpse of the grass “on the other side”, comparing what she’s accomplished in the workplace  or what she is able to afford compared to you and your family, those “happy and contented feelings” begin to evade you.

Comparison will always leave you feeling “down” and “discontent” or “less than”.

I could go on and on…

Moms of public school children doubting themselves as they compare themselves to homeschooling moms…

Moms who wish to lose a few pounds comparing themselves to women who are more fit…

The opportunities for comparison are endless…

And yet, this was never the kind of life God intended for us to have as moms- always looking at some other woman as the standard and either seeing how little we measured up or defending ourselves to prove we were “enough” or “better” in some way compared to “her”.

No, my Friends. Comparison is the enemy of contentment, peace, and rest.

And if you want to know the truth… God wants you to stop comparing yourself to others.

A great Bible verse that reminds us of this fact is 2 Corinthians 10:12 which states, “We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves. When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise.”

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Comparison is a losing battle.

It will either cause you to lose heart or feel “beneath” someone else, or it will cause you to feel prideful and “better” than someone else.

Comparison does not in any way foster comradery but competition. (And unless you are looking to win a legitimate prize, it would be best to avoid it at all costs.)

Don’t get me wrong, I do believe it is important to learn from those we admire and desire to emulate. I’m not suggesting we plateau and fail to make efforts for improvement or positive change. We most certainly should work towards goals in our lives that will help us, our children, and our families find success.

However, the important thing to remember is that comparison should never be the driving force.

Instead, when desiring success and positive change, we should be willing to ask God for the wisdom and help to accomplish and be everything He intended and planned for us to do and be in this life. 

What if my son was never intended to be a professional instrumentalist like the children in the video? What if he was meant to be a professional tennis player? A coach? A businessman? Or a pastor?

If my eyes are on someone else’s parenting, I may end up steering my son in the wrong direction.

But if my eyes are on the One who created me, my husband, and my son…

The One who has the best in store for us and who knows the best ways to help us reach the goals He has in store for us…

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Then I can rest in the assurance that He will give us the wisdom and direction we need in life…and as parents. And I wil also be able to live in confidence knowing He will direct us to those instrumental individuals that can come along side to offer the wise counsel and advice that will help us in our journey.

This is the kind of life, I’d rather live…

My eyes confidently looking to the  One who holds my future rather than comparing myself to others who are also learning and still growing in their journey through this life as well.

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when God speaks

When God Speaks to Our Children

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One morning a couple of years ago, my kids were in Addie’s room. She was reading her devotional for the morning, Born Again! (I Can Read God’s Word), and Ian was sitting beside her listening.

I thought it was so sweet! I grabbed my camera to take a picture, but what I heard next touched me even more than what I saw.

when God speaks

“Ian, when we disobey that is called sin.”

I was stunned.

No where in the story she was reading did those words appear together. God had shown my daughter (5 years old at the time) a fundamental truth based on what she had been reading.

As a parent, my natural instinct was to swoop in and elaborate on the moment, over talk the lesson learned, and make sure my daughter “heard right.” After all, we are called to teach our children about the Lord.

But…

I chose not to.

I chose to step out of God’s way.

I chose not to interrupt their moment.

I chose not to somehow come across as if God needed me to clarify what He had clearly shown my daughter.

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She obviously understood Him.

She didn’t need my “help.”

She didn’t need me to show by my actions that I thought God could only speak to parents.

She doesn’t need me to make her feel that God cannot speak to her because she is only a child.

He can!

He has!

Samuel is a great example of a time when God spoke to a child…. very clearly. (1 Samuel 3)

when God speaks

As a rule of thumb, we need to make Deuteronomy 6: 6-9 our way of life. We need to instruct our children throughout the day in the ways of the Lord.

There are times, though, when we need to give our children the space to have a real visit, conversation, encounter with God. It will cause their faith to grow by leaps and bounds.

Let them tell you what God has shown them, and fight back the need to expound, elaborate, and explain further- unless your child “figured” something out on their own and are way off base. Stepping back reinforces to your child that God really can speak to them- not just Mom and Dad.

This post was originally posted on The Joy of Homemaking.

when God speaks

a great boy

Make Him a Great Boy

This week has been all about this little boy. He turned five, which made me realize that he is one step further from being that roly-poly baby and one step closer to one day being a man.

As most mothers do, I want my son to grow up to be a great man. I want him to do great things. I want him to influence many. I want him to live his faith out loud. But then one day I came across this quote by an unknown author.

“Don’t wait to make your son a great man- make him great boy.”

I don’t have to wait for someday to come along. I can start now in the midst of 5T clothes that are getting to be too small and Ninja Turtle action figures to help him grow into a great boy who will in turn grow into a great man.

raising a great boy

As daunting as growing a great boy into a man sounds, it is possible. Although I am a mother who is knee deep in raising children and am by no means an expert on how to raise children, there is one thing I do know. If I follow God’s Word in bringing up my children, I cannot go wrong. 

While trying to raise a great boy, I decided to look to what God said about the one Boy who grew up perfectly- His own Son.

Luke 2: 52 says, “And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.”

If you think about it, those are the four areas we as parents should focus on when bringing up great boys (and girls).

Wisdom- “Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding.” Proverbs 4:7  

Wisdom is knowledge of what is true or right coupled with just judgment as to action. I want to raise a little boy who knows the difference between right and wrong according to God’s Word (not society’s definition) and then allows his actions to be dictated by just judgment.

I don’t what him thinking that “smarts” equal wisdom. Wisdom and knowledge are two entirely different areas of growth. Before knowledge comes into play, I want my son to be wise. Wisdom comes from a heart that seeks after God, knowledge comes from the head.

raising a great boy

Stature- “But the Lord said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7

As important as it is for my son to grow physically, one thing I want him to remember for himself and for others is that what we look like on the outside is not what matters most. I want him to learn to view others and himself the way God does- by looking at the heart.

I don’t want him to value people based on the brand of clothes they wear. I want him to value their hearts. I don’t want him to like others solely by their looks. I want him to like them for their personalities. I don’t want him to be wowed by the pretty girl that shows up in youth group (Lord help me!). I want him to see her for the young woman that she is based on how she treats those around her. I don’t want him basing his self-worth on what he sees in the mirror. I want him to know he is “fearfully and wonderfully made.” (Psalm 139:14)

Favor with God- “For whoso findeth me (wisdom) findeth life, and shall obtain favour of the Lord.” Proverbs 8:35

We receive wisdom from reading God’s Word, but when our boys are small (before they can read), they can only hear God’s Word if we are willing to read it to them. Daily Bible reading and teaching is something we value in our home. My son will only know how to please God by learning it directly from His Word, and I have the privilege of bringing him into the presence of God each time we stop what we are doing to read God’s Word.

Right now, since my son is small, we are learning how God wants us to behave, act in faith, and show courage by reading about the great heroes in the Bible. He was amazed when God sent ravens to bring Elijah meat at the brook, he smiled from ear to ear as God answered Elijah’s prayer with fire from Heaven, and he loved hearing how David brought down Goliath with a small stone.

Our sons will learn wisdom by learning the lessons from the men and women they read about in the Bible. And as they learn wisdom, they will please God when their actions line up with his Word.

raising a great boy

In favor with man- “When a man’s ways please the Lord, he maketh even his enemies to be at peace with him.” Proverbs 16:7

We all want children that others want to be around. When people see my children, I want their instinctive reaction to be joy, not dread.

What qualities are found in children we all want to be around?

Behaviors such as being kind (Eph. 4:32), obeying and honoring parents (Eph. 6:1), and respecting authority (Romans 13) are all qualities that will endear our sons to others. Being a hard worker (Exodus 20:9), honest (Eph. 4:25), and a man of integrity (Proverbs 11:3) will bring him favor with his future employers.

My 5 year old is growing into a great boy. One day, that great boy will be a great man. But for now, I’ll enjoy every bit of the boy stage with all of the dinosaurs, cars, transformers, and legos that come with it. And as I wake up day after day to raise my great children, I will cling to Proverbs 22:6 which says, “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”

raising a great boy

When a Mama’s Bootstraps Can’t Help Her Stand

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Pick yourself up by your own bootstraps? Is that even scientifically possible?

Ok, so I really do understand the gist of what is meant by the familiar phrase. Usually it’s referring to someone working really hard to get somewhere in life… They were in a place where things were tough, and with determination and a lot of effort, they pulled themselves up and had a breakthrough.

Yes, I do understand… We all need to put forth the effort, with God’s help, to get out of hard times, financial slumps,  or whatever challenges we’re facing, and purpose within ourselves that we’re going to reach our goals and achieve our dreams…Nothing will stand in our way.

However, what happens when you find yourself in an “emotional” slump, and it seems that no amount of self-effort can help you boost your mood? Um…Let’s say your “arms” just don’t have the energy to pull on the bootstraps.

Perhaps, you’ve received some startling or disappointing news that knocked you over… Maybe you’re missing someone you had in your life, and you just find it hard to smile because of the pain from their loss.

Or perhaps it’s something else.

Maybe you’re still in the process of striving to attain a goal that just seems to be taking forever to reach… Or maybe on a day like today, your eyes fall on what you lack rather than what you have.

Whatever the case, it’s times like these that you simply find it difficult to pull yourself up by your own efforts. You just don’t have the energy or the desire to switch gears and sing a happy tune.

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The “bootstraps” just aren’t working on a day like this…And so you think. Ok, I’ll just go to bed and wake up tomorrow with a new attitude.

Sleep will be my “refresh” button and everything will be different in the morning.

But…when morning comes and as the new day progresses, you find much hasn’t changed. Your mind wanders back to those same concerns and the pep just isn’t in your step the way it normally is.

What is a woman to do?

Well, dear ladies, I was there the other day. And it just seemed for some odd reason that, although I have everything in the world to be thankful for- I have God, my health, a wonderful husband, a beautiful family, a nice home, food, clothes, etc- I just flat out lost my joy.

And when you lose your joy…you lose your momentum.

I hate feeling that way. That’s just not how I like to be.

I’m the kind of person who loves having a smile and something good to say. I don’t like feeling “bummed”…and what’s more… for no good reason at all.

And to be perfectly honest, I really didn’t have the “want to” to pick myself up.

It started pretty much on Thursday afternoon and went on into the next day. It was a feeling I didn’t like. And I definitely needed a boost…But it wasn’t going to come from me pulling on my own bootstraps.

So, I decided to ask God for help. I didn’t know how long it would take before my feelings changed, but shortly after as I sat on the floor with my toddler who was playing with Playdoh, God gave me the answer. And it was simple: Put on one of my favorite songs by Jesus Culture called “In the River”. And so, I did…

And you know what… Shortly into the song, my mood began to change. Although I wasn’t actually singing along, it was like the atmosphere of worship and praise hit the refresh button on my spirit, returning my joy and my thankfulness.

And I’m not making this up…Trust me, I’m the last person that really likes sharing about when my mood isn’t the perkiest. I like to always be full of joy and love… Let’s just say, I prefer to share my “happier” days with others rather than these kinds…

And yet, at the same time, I thought it was equally important to share this kind too… because I know I’m not the only one who experiences days like this from time to time.

The wonderful sense of joy and renewal returning was just too good not to share.

Yes, it’s true… “He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.” 2 Corinthians 1:4 Hence, why I’m sharing.

Yes, friends, God inhabits our praise. (Psalm 22:3) And Jesus gives us “a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.” Isaiah 61:3

As followers of Jesus, I’m here to testify that we don’t have to wallow in those yucky feelings that try to steal our joy and our momentum in life. We can simply turn to our loving Heavenly Father for the help and strength we need and allow Him to give us the strategy that will shift our atmosphere and return us to a spirit of praise and joy.

Trust me, I know. And it was such a tremendous feeling of relief in having my joy return that day that I thought it was worthy of writing about this week.

So, the next time, you feel in a funky mood…Just remember.. God’s got your answer. And it can all change in a moment.

 

Don’t Wait for Others to Include You- Take the Initiative

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Regardless of our current stage in life, we all want acceptance. We see others we’d like to associate with and wish for someone to include us…for someone to draw us in…for someone to simply invite us to be part of “the group”.

Oh… We may be a few years older and wiser at this stage in life. And although we’re no longer in elementary school or high school- just the same- those feelings we experienced during our younger years have sure enough carried over into adulthood.

“Pick me to be on your team!” You inwardly yearn, like the last child picked for the kickball game, as you see a group of moms in your church (or at the park) chatting and laughing together like the close knit bunch they are.

Perhaps, you are somewhat shy, though. Or perhaps you’re just a little concerned that you don’t have all the qualities you need to fit in with the group.

Maybe you lack confidence… Or maybe you just don’t see yourself having as much to offer the group as they do…

Whatever the case, to sum it all up, you simply feel insecure in comparison to them, and so you find continual excuses to remain in your own little box… just waiting… hoping… one day they’ll extend the olive branch of friendship your way.

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Oh dear Mama… May I encourage you?

You are so much more than what all of those misperceptions and feelings of insecurity are telling you.

No, maybe, you don’t see yourself as having all of the outward qualities you so admire in these other moms.

Perhaps their style and what they can afford is slightly better than what you feel you have. Maybe they are in better physical shape than you right now. Maybe a few of them even carry themselves with a little more confidence than you do…

But you know what?! You’ve got things going  for you too…And in ways they could also benefit from!

You have the ability to be sincere and kind… You are hospitable and caring… You are compassionate and considerate… All qualities that would make any person an excellent candidate for friendship.

No, you may never be a carbon copy of these other moms, even if you tried…

But then again, God never intended you to be that way anyway. He equipped you with talents, grace, wisdom, and a beautiful personality that is unique to you…and for the benefit of others as well.

And although we are different, we can all learn from each other.

“As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” Proverbs 27:17 NIV

Yes, we can all benefit from each other’s strengths, gaining more strength ourselves as we work together and learn from those who are more skilled in areas where we are weak.

We are beautifully different, and that’s what helps us grow! We all have something to contribute…as we each serve each other as “iron sharpening iron” in our own unique ways.

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Something I’ve learned over the years, both during my high school years as well as during my adult life is this…

Don’t wait for others to include you. Take the initiative! Be the one to make others feel comfortable in their own skin, and in the process you will be a blessing and make many friends as well.

Does it make us feel validated when others do include us? Oh yes. Absolutely!

But the danger in always waiting for others to draw us in is that we limit ourselves, failing to capitalize on great friendships we could have had if only we had taken the steps to reach out and had simply been a friend ourselves.

John 5:1-18 is an account in the Bible that actually reminds me of this scenario. While it is actually the story of Jesus healing a paralytic who was waiting beside a pool for many years, wanting someone to help him get in the pool at the right time for his healing, I believe we can see a parallel in it with regards to our current topic.

You see, the man in the story (who was a paralytic for 38 years) never received help year after year from others… which is where it seems he thought everyone else found their success in getting healed.

“Sir,” the invalid replied,“I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.” John 5:7

Like the paralytic, you may sometimes think to yourself… “I just wish someone would invite me into their group. The reason I don’t have great friends is because no one has ever included me. So, here I am on the outside looking in… Just waiting for an invitation. Maybe one day they’ll invite me out for lunch.”

Um… May I encourage you again?

It’s time to allow Jesus to heal the wounds you have on the inside from perhaps past disappointments and unmet expectations, and “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” John 5:8

Unfortunately, like the paralytic, you may never get the “invitation” you’re waiting for….from people.

But honestly, you shouldn’t be waiting on them to “carry” you into and through a friendship anyway.

What we all really need is a healing touch in our hearts from Jesus, where He causes us to stand up on the inside- giving us the inner confidence and validation we need- and where He also gives us the strength to take the initiative for ourselves.

“A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly…” Proverbs 18:24a KJV

When I was growing up, something I remember my mom teaching me which is in line with the above Bible verse was the following statement: “Kindness is always in style.” Such a simple idea but a totally awesome nugget of truth.

Be friendly. Be approachable. Be humble and kind. None of us has arrived and we’re all looking for genuine friends that we can bless and that will be a blessing in our lives as well.

We may come in all shapes and sizes, but each of us comes equipped with a unique personality, talents, experiences, and a life that is created to be a blessing… if we allow the Lord to use our lives such a way.

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No, Dear Friends… Don’t allow inferiority to hold you back from all that God has for you, and especially don’t allow it to keep you from initiating those relationships with others that will end up being a blessing to all involved.

You’re an amazing treasure that God wants to bless and use as a blessing to others….And you- Yes, you- are so worth friending.

So, dare to be bold and take the initiative in forming new friendships.

…It can all start by you simply saying “Hello”.

(P.S. And by the way, dear Mamas…Be sure to teach this to your kids now, so that they don’t wait all of their lives for others to choose them either. Encourage them to also begin taking the initiative in friendships. Being friendly, showing kindness and displaying a genuine interest in others is a great starting point.)