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For This I Pray

 

Raising children is an enormous responsibility.

There are books a million on how to raise them, methods that may or may not work, milestones that must be achieved, and activities we feel are necessities in the hopes that we have done everything we can to give our kids the best childhood experience.

Yet so many times we forget the one thing that will do the most good. The one thing that doesn’t cost a dime, but the investment brings back a huge return. The one thing we are all capable of doing regardless of income or status.

Prayer.

I can remember my mother taking her Bible with her into her bedroom in the middle of the day, locking the door behind her, and hearing her pray for her marriage, daughters, family, and situations in her life. She would spend time crying before the Lord, pouring herself out before him, and then emerge with a confidence that her Lord had all of her most loved people and her deepest concerns in His hands.

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Between homeschooling us, helping our father in his ministry at the church, assisting him in counseling others, leading a weekly women’s Bible study, discipling women individually in our home, and being a wife and mother, one would wonder how she had the time to stop in the midst of the busyness to pray.

“If you are too busy to pray, you are busier than God wants you to be.” -Wanda E. Brunstetter

But prayer, communication with God, was a priority to her. In retrospect, I doubt she would have been able to accomplish all she did in her days if she didn’t take the time to stop and pray. And I am so eternally thankful that she did.

She prayed for us.

She prayed for our future husbands when we were single.

She prayed for my marriage after my wedding, and she continued to pray for my husband.

She prayed for God’s direction in my life.

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I cannot say that I stop in the middle of my day like she did, but because of her example, I find myself in constant communication with the Lord.

While I’m hanging or folding laundry, washing dishes, cooking dinner, cleaning a bathroom, or ever showering, I tell God everything about my day, children, husband, responsibilities and life. He already knows about all of it, but verbally talking to Him takes the heaviness of responsibility off of my shoulders and places them into His more than capable hands.

As I pray for my children specifically, this has become the prayer of my heart. I don’t want to leave their futures to chance. Instead, I prayerfully lay their futures at His feet as I take them to Him daily.

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For this I pray…

I pray that you grow to follow the Lord… and that I am a good example to you both.

I pray that you come to know the Lord personally and that you ask Jesus into your heart at an early age.

I pray that God always pours His blessings upon you and grants you favor in everything you do.

I pray that you become like Joseph, full of integrity and everything you touch will be blessed.

I pray that you are like Abraham and are considered a friend of God.

I pray that you are like Daniel, displaying wisdom and courage in every situation.

I pray that you are like David, and become a woman and man after God’s own heart.

I pray that you are like Esther and find favor with those in authority over you and that you do great things one day.

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I pray that you are like Moses, great leaders and yet known as the humblest of all.

I pray that you can make a request like Jabez and that God will grant you what you request.

I pray that God covers you with His hand, hedge, and shield of protection at all times.

I pray that your hearts always be softened to the Lord and that you are always able to hear His voice.

I pray that the voices of God and your parents are heard louder than the voices of those around you who may speak negatively in your direction.

I pray that you grow up to be like Jesus- kind, compassionate, wise, gentle, ready to give an answer, pure, in a deep relationship with our Heavenly Father- and that you grow in wisdom, stature, and in favor with God and man.

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Living wiith Sincerity

“This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.  If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.” 1 John 1:5-7 (KJV)

A W-Y-S-I-W-Y-G life is the kind of life I believe the Lord wants us to live.

“What does that even mean?” you ask.

Simply this. “What you see is what you get.”

So, often it can be easy to show one face in public and another at home. One face in front of others and then another when we walk away.

We all want to look good… Don’t get me wrong. Putting one’s best foot forward is always a good thing.

In fact, we should all strive for that.

The only problem is… Sometimes, I think we feel that once we are no longer in the presence of others, we have the freedom to be different from how we just represented ourselves to be.

Of course there are always going to be people we just simply don’t mesh with and situations where it takes God’s grace to wear a smile when inside we feel just the opposite.

And yet, I believe the Lord is calling us to live above that… To be a W-Y-S-I-W-Y-G kind of person.

As I look back, I remember a day when I knew I was going to be having someone over our home that I really struggled internally with. In times like these, the tendency is to build up all kinds of scenarios of what might happen during your time together. Or you find yourself focusing on all of the things that you don’t like in the other person. (Can I be real for a minute?)

But you know what….  I remember that on this one particular day, before the guest arrived, God spoke a verse into my heart. I absolutely know without a doubt it was from God because it came to my mind in a translated version of the Bible I don’t normally used in my personal Bible time.

The verse that came to mind was from Romans 12:9, and it said, “Let love be without hypocrisy.”

(As I said before, believe me, it had to be the Holy Spirit speaking that into my heart because I don’t usually use the NASB (New American Standard Bible) version, which is where the verse is translated that way.)

Another version, the New International Version (NIV) translates the same verse as “Love must be sincere.” (NIV)

And that’s what W-Y-S-I-W-Y-G living is… Sincerity. Genuineness.

As followers of Jesus, God wants our lives to be true reflections of Him, reflecting his heart and His attitudes towards others in our interactions with them…not only when we are in their presence, but also when we walk away.

No…He doesn’t expect us to put on a face that we wouldn’t normally wear. But what He does want is to so transform our hearts and lives so that who He is and His kinds of responses are what supernaturally flows out of us by His power.

How is this possible? You ask.

Well, if you reflect on the verses shared at the beginning of this post, it’s vital that as Christians we live in the Light.

While it’s true that others may only be able to see one side when we are in their presence, God wants our lives to be the same everywhere we go.

Everywhere we go our lives are open books.

And while we may be able to hide some things from others…

Nothing is hidden from our Heavenly Father.

And anything we do want to hide must be brought out into the open for God to clean away and change.

Because, you know what…. Those hidden things… At some point, they’ll come out anyway. (Luke 8:17) And on top of that, it is those hidden things that bring us the most bondage.

And God has called us to Freedom.

Am I still a work in progress in living a W-Y-S-I-W-Y-G life? You bet I am.

But the more I allow the Lord to work in my heart, and realize the freedom living in the Light brings, the more joy I will experience and the more I will live the kind of sincere and genuine life Jesus has called me to….

…The kind of life that pleases God and is a genuine blessing to others.

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Dear Mom: Don’t Give Up

“So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.” Galatians 6:9

Mom, sometimes you may feel that what you are doing does not make much of a difference.

But don’t give up.

You may feel that you are constantly repeating the same thing to your child without seeing any results.

But don’t give up.

You may get tired of teaching your child what God’s Word says because it doesn’t seem that anything you are saying is sticking.

But don’t give up.

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Why?

Because when you least expect it, when you are in the middle of something completely unrelated to the lesson you have been trying to teach, when you are in a place where you cannot even fully appreciate the moment…..

it will happen.

At the moment of decision, your child will repeat verbatim the truths you have been teaching him.

Your child will recognize a lie and rebuff it with the truths you have shared.

Your child will stand up for what they know is right when you are not around, and you will only know because someone else will tell you.

God knows when we need those breakthrough moments. Those are the moments that keep us going. He uses those moments to remind us that we are more than the grocery shopper, launderer, housekeeper, and cook on top of other responsibilities and titles we may hold. He uses those moments to remind us that we have an important roll in molding the hearts of our children.

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These moments do not happen in an instant. They happen after Mom has repeated herself so many times, she can say the lines in her sleep. And when Mom thinks there is no point in repeating herself one more time, her moment happens.

And that moment is the shot in the arm she needs to say the words one more time, to speak truth to her children again, and to remind them of what God says in His word. That moment fills her tank with hope that her words are not in vain and her efforts are not for naught. That moment opens her eyes to the realization that her actions have not gone unnoticed. Her labors of love have been received for what they were.

You moment will happen, Mom….

Just don’t give up.

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Tactics to Thwart the Cheerleader in Us All

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Insecurity, comparison, jealousy, pride, gossip, judgement…

Oh….It’s an ugly band of bullies, each one with its own strategy to keep us locked away in our own little boxes… away from genunine friendship and true confidence.

We were created by God for relationship. And aside from the most important relationships we have as women- with God, our husband, our children, and our families…

We also desperately need good friends in our lives who will be there to pray for us, to give us good advice, a kind word, a listening ear, someone to identify with, and a cheerleader to encourage us along life’s journey.

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But have you ever stopped and wondered why it is that women seem to have so much conflict with each other? (Okay, well… Maybe you’re not one of these women… But just think about women in general and how they can respond to each other at times.)

Unfortunately, we all have the ability at one time or another to allow ourselves to be badgered by insecurity, comparison, jealousy, pride, gossip, and judgement when it comes to others.

But if you really stop and think about it…Perhaps, it’s for the very reasons listed above- showing how beautifully good relationships can affect our lives- that this happens…

Yes, insecurity, comparison, jealousy, pride, gossip, judgement are tactics from the devil to thwart the good that God wants to give us through relationships with others.

Yes, friends, healthy relationships with others- if left without threat- could actually help us become stronger and more encouraged in our roles as wives, mothers, and followers of Jesus.

And while those feelings may not always be visible above the surface in our words or actions, they can be seen in more subtle ways in our lives via our thoughts and attitudes.

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For example, when we see someone else who looks the way we wished we looked, achieves something we wished we could, or acquires something we wished we had- although we may not say anything outright against her- have you ever found yourself either feeling badly about yourself or maybe envious of her?

I know I have. (Gasp!!!)

I know…Shocking, isn’t it? Lol. But, rest easy… God’s working on me, and He’s helping  me to learn more and more how to line up my heart and feelings with His…one reason why I’m writing this post.

You see, something I’m learning is that, instead of allowing those ugly feelings to go unchecked, God wants my heart to be filled with His love towards others.

He wants me to reflect who He is to those around me. That’s what a “Christ-ian” is afterall, isn’t it? A follower of Christ!

So it just makes sense that our heart and our thoughts towards each other should ilne up with His, right?

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I think the following Bible verse sums this up pretty well…

“In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:”                       Philippians 2:5 NIV

Would Jesus be jealous of someone else’s success? Resentful? Absolutely NOT! And that’s how we are supposed to be as well, if we truly belong to Him and wear His name.

No, it’s just not “okay” to allow those ugly feelings to remain and fester in our hearts. Rather, they must be brought back to God in repentance, and we need to ask His help to move forward with the right kinds of attitudes that He wants us to have.

God created each of us and loves us all so much, and what He wants is for us to be a blessing, support, and cheerleader for others… to be a tangible demonstration of His love in the world.

And when we choose to follow His heart and have His mindset… not only are we doing others good, but we’re doing ourselves a whole lot of good as well….

…Because instead of beating ourselves up for not being where others have arrived, allowing seeds of resentment to grow, or allowing a sour attitude to ruin us on the inside, we’re instead choosing to focus on someone else’s good and trusting God to make all things beautiful in our very own lives as well in His perfect timing. (Ecclesiastes 3:11)

Just think about it. What if we lived in a world where we didn’t envy each other?

A world where we didn’t feel as if we were “less than” everytime we saw someone who had a little more sparkle than us?

Or, on the other hand, what if we didn’t look down on others who maybe didn’t have as much as we do?

In that kind of world, we would all be there for each other. We would all be cheerleaders on the bleachers of life spurring each other on rather than jeering because we found some flaw or were resentful of the other’s success.

The Bible sums this idea up well when it tells us:

“Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” Philippians 2:4 ESV

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That’s the kind of world God wants us to live in…And those are the kind of women He wants us to be…

Not selfish or self-seeking, but expressions of God’s love, grace, and encouragement toward each other.

Which is why we should continue to pray to our Father in Heaven, “May YOUR kingdom come. May YOUR will be done…On Earth as it is in Heaven.” (Matthew 6:10)

Life should never be about any of us building a kingdom for ourselves, where we become the focus.

Our lives and any successes we have should be pointing everyone to the One Who loves us all more than anyone ever could, Who gave us more than anyone ever could, and Who can do above and beyond what we could ever ask or think in EVERY life that is yielded to Him. (Ephesians 3:20)

So, Sisters! Let’s pick up our pompoms and totally disarm the devil of those tactics in our lives with God’s power, His love, and His Word.

We’re not in a competition against each other.

We were meant to be each other’s cheerleaders in life…women of impact and influence for the glory of God and the good of each other.

So, let’s cheer loud and strong, not allowing one negative feeling from the band of bullies to have any place in our lives.

“Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.” Romans 12:15 ESV

“Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.”                         1 Thessalonians 5:11 ESV

“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” Hebrews 10:24-25 ESV

 

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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.

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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.

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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

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The Perfect Bedtime Book for Little Ones

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I began reading to my children from the time I brought them home from the hospital. I looked for as many Bible story board books as I could find, and rotated through them. I loved the board books that were gifted to us as well that taught my children about colors, animals, and first words. I grew to love my collection of board books, and I was thankful that the pages were strong enough to survive my two children

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My son will be five next week, and recently I discovered that he prefers board books over “paper” books. During our silent reading times, he gravitates to the board books I pull out. At the library, he ignores the rows of brightly illustrated picture books and sits in front of the board book shelf.

When I received my copy of Snuggle Time Psalms by Glenys Nellist in the mail, I’m not sure who was more excited- Ian or me.

I asked Ian what his favorite things about Snuggle Time Psalms were- “the pictures and hard pages.”

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My favorites about Snuggle Time Psalms are:

  1. The message– As the title suggests, each page begins with one verse from a Psalm. After the verse is a rhyme that perfectly explains to a child what the verse means. The rhymes are written using terms that speak to children where they are. Words like teddy bear and airplanes make the meaning of the Psalms relevant to toddlers and preschoolers and puts the verse in terms they can understand.
  2. The author– Glenys Nellist has quickly become one of my favorite authors. Her writing style has such a gentleness that I have found the way I read her books to my son affected by it. When you pick up any one of Glenys’s books, you’ll find that you cannot  read them quickly. They cause you to pause time, to slow down, and savor the moment with your little one. I have even been known to pick up her books and read them to myself when I need a pause in my day. As a mom, I love that my son always asks for “one more” as we read through Snuggle Time Psalms.
  3. The illustrations– I have always been a huge fan of great illustrations. For little ones who can’t read or are still learning how, illustrations are how they “read” a book. Cee Biscoe has a gift. She can make her illustrations come alive while giving them a gentleness to match the words on the page. They are calming, beautiful, and endearing.

If you are looking for a board book that will survive your toddler/preschooler’s love for reading and will also give them a solid Biblical foundation, Snuggle Time Psalms is a perfect book to bring your children into the presence of the Lord from the comfort of their mother’s lap.

Publisher: Zonderkidz Year: 2016 Pages: 30 pages ISBN: 978-0310749257 Retail Price: $9.99

You can read my reviews of Glenys Nellist’s other bookstall these locations: Snuggle Time Prayers and Love Letters From God.

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A Letter to My Little One

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Dear Little Treasure of Mine,

You are so very young and have so much to learn. And we are so excited to have been given the privilege of guiding you along in your journey.

As your parents we’ll teach you so many things to help you get a good start in life.

You’ll learn your first words in our home… You’ll learn the right ways to speak and behave. You’ll learn how to use proper manners. And, hey, we’ll even teach you how to use the potty! (A lesson we’re currently working on now that you’re two…and one that I hope you will learn very soon.)

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Most importantly though, as Christian parents, we are excited to teach you the most important thing you’ll ever need to know… And that is teaching you about God…

Who He is.

What He has done.

What He says.

And most importantly how you can know Him as your Heavenly Father…

I want you to know I am praying for you as you grow…

As I rock you before bedtime, I pray for you… My heart’s truest desire is for you to see and know God as He really is…I want you to know that He really  does exist and that He is good… Always.

His finger prints are on everything.. so many of which we take for granted…

The vegetables, fruits, and herbs that grow and hold the perfect nutrients our bodies need…

The way our bodies repair themselves after an injury.

The way a baby grows inside its mother’s womb and is equipped with a food supply from its mom immediately after it is born.

The amount of hours we have at night, giving us rest to prepare for a new day.

The way our earth rotates and the seasons change giving us a variety of fruits and vegetables in their perfect time.

The air we breathe and the exact distance of our planet from the sun, giving us an ideal  environment in which to live.

I could go on and on forever describing all of the amazing things God has done and yet which so few give Him credit for….

Yes, Dear One, God did all of these things.

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Unfortunately, though, many people only give God credit….when things go wrong.

“Why did God let this or that happen….?” They ask.

But, you know what…. Really… None of it is ever His fault.

He designed everything to work in its perfect order.

He called everything He made at creation “good”. (Genesis 1)

He did not invent evil. Evil is the choice to go against God’s way of doing things, resisting His order and authority.

It was sin entering the world through man’s choice that caused things to go awry.

Never forget that.

God did not make us robots, but instead gave us a free will. And the first man’s choice to listen to the devil and go against God’s direction gave entrance to all of the things that go wrong in the perfect world God originally designed for us to live in. And it continues that way to this day.

No, we may never understand everything that we go through in life. We may never understand all of the reasons why tragedies take place and pain and suffering come into our lives.

But one thing I want you to remember in all of this is….God is always good.

He went to great lengths to restore us to a relationship with Him after “we” were the ones to cause the separation. Man’s choice to sin is what separated us from Him…and it is also what tainted this beautiful world.

And yet, God still extends His love, His hope, and His peace to us…

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He knew we could never be good enough to earn back what we lost by our sin. We could never make ourselves right or earn a place as His children on our own.

And so, He sent Jesus…His Only Son…to die in our place. To take our punishment.

He got what we deserved… The punishment, the shame, and separation from God.

Jesus felt all of that on the cross.

In fact He cried out “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46)

And you know what….He went through all that because of His great love for you and me… So that we wouldn’t have to cry out that same question ourselves…And so that we could know we have a Father in Heaven who hears us and will never forsake us.

In dying for us and rising again, Jesus gave us what we could never earn ourselves….the privilege of being able to call God our Heavenly Father.

Because of what He did for us, and by faith in Him, His death and His resurrection, we can now call the God of the Universe Our Father too! What an amazing privilege that is….

I don’t want you to simply go through this life just knowing about God…but actually knowing Him personally as your Heavenly Father for yourself.

And you will.

I have dedicated you to God. I know He has your heart and life in His hands, and I have been praying that He will reveal the reality of His existence in your life just like He did for Samuel in the Bible. (1 Samuel 3) He will draw you to Himself.

Yes, you will know Him…because it will be God who opens your spiritual eyes to really know that He exists, that He is real, that He is ever present, and that He is your everything in this life… just like He has done in Mommy and Daddy’s lives.

If there’s anything I want you to know, Dear One, it’s that you have a Heavenly Father who is waiting with open arms.

He loves you so much…. Way more than Mommy or Daddy ever could…

And He wants you to know that you can come to Him freely anytime you want because Jesus made it all possible.

This is something worth celebrating…and definitely good news worth sharing with the  whole world!

And I’m so glad I have the privilege of sharing this news with you.

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.)

If Mama Ain’t Happy, Ain’t Nobody Happy – Guest Post

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Today, I am guest posting on StrongandCourageousWomen.com. It is such a blessing for PurposefulMoms to be a part of the Strong and Courageous team of writers, as we are given opportunities to share what God has placed in our hearts regarding motherhood via the online blog as well as in the upcoming holiday issue of the Strong and Courageous Women’s magazine! Please be sure to check out today’s post below by clicking on the title!

“If Mama Ain’t Happy, Ain’t Nobody Happy”

And remember to “Like” Strong and Courageous Women on Facebook to stay current with encouraging and upifting messages in your feed from the magazine’s President, Francis Fernandez, and a variety of amazing female writers!

Balancing High Expectations with Love This School Year

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As a new school year begins, kids are excited to return to their classrooms, meet their new teachers and begin another season of learning.

Yes, “new” is always fun and exciting! Well…. for most children at the start of the school year at least.

But what do we do as parents when the excitement or “newness” wears off, like it so often does with most things?

When homework becomes drudgery and begins to interfere with the things our children would rather be doing instead?

When excellence in effort begins to diminish and work returns home disorganized and messy?

When an hour’s worth of homework becomes a never ending evening of pain that feels more like a root canal than spelling practice?

Where tears are spilt and impatience flares?

What do you do?

Might I suggest….

Balance it all with love.

Balancing high expectations with love this school year post for parents

As a third grade teacher for a little over ten years, I remember one year feeling quite frustrated with a particular class I had… And although I had been enthusatic and passionate about my career in education, this particular year I was  beginning to lose my joy in teaching.

I had a few chatty kids and- at the time- I just didn’t feel as if they were giving the attention, focus, and behavior I felt was needed to have a “good year”. It was- I guess- a bit overwhelming to me as well, because my focus on these students gave me a sense that the “whole” class was just a mess.

As a teacher you can begin to feel somewhat justified in feeling frustrated during times like these because of the way your students are acting, despite your efforts. Oh… And you can certainly feel justified in handing out consequences pretty quickly in times like these as well.

But you know what… That’s not how God wanted me to respond…

And I remember one day, He totally shifted my perspective…

Yes, He certainly did!

And it was a much needed shift that totally remade my year.

So, what happened so drastically to reshift my perspective and give me a great year?

Well…. The Lord began to open my eyes to the students who actually “were” paying attention, and He inspired me to begin majorly highlighting them verbally in front of the class when I needed the class to “come back” to me.

When things began to get chatty, I would all of a sudden start naming the students I saw behaving appropriately, and it was totally amazing!!! You could see how everyone else started to follow suit so that they could get recognized as well. Yes, friends, love and a positive outlook took over as opposed to stress, pressure and a focus on negativity.

It was a miracle!!!! 

Furthermore, something God also opened my eyes to was the fact that I also needed to change my preferred style of teaching a bit to accomodate the students who enjoyed talking more… So, it actually helped me grow as a teacher too! (Yes, many times it’s not simply about changing others’ attitudes or actions, but it’s about God changing us in the process as well…. Something we don’t often like to hear, but it’s so true.)

Balancing High Expectations with Love this school year

No, our children are not going to always give us the responses we want from them…and so often it’s so easy to fall into the trap of highlighting the negative…

“Stop acting  that way… Sit down… You’re not doing your work. Pay attention! Why don’t you ever clean your room or your desk?”

We often highlight the negative things our kids do with our words… Don’t we.

And while it may at times produce the result we want… I’d like to suggest a more effective way of achieving the responses we would like to see while still holding high expectations for our children.

It’s something God has helped me learn over the years and something I can always continue working on, as I raise my own little one.

Balance your high expectations with love, highlighting your child’s positive behaviors and alllowing the Lord to use your words and actions to inspire them to continue following the path you want them to be on.

Instead of saying, “Johnny, you’ve been sitting at the table all night doing your homework. You have to get your work done, or your teacher won’t be happy!” (Or whatever other phrase you normally use….)

Why not instead say something like… “Johnny, I know this is hard work, and sometimes it’s not all that fun. But I want you to know I am SO proud of you for working so hard. Remember when you did that paper last year and we thought you’d never get through it… You did it, right? I’m SO proud of you! And I know you can do this too! How about we step away from it for fifteen minutes? Then, we’ll come back to it and get it done together.”

Try it out and see!

Afterall, there’s no reason why you need to add to the chaos of the moment by pulling your hair out when there’s something positive you can do to redirect your child in following through with the task.
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Our children are still little people with hearts that can be wounded by our harsh words spoken “in the moment”, hardened by stubborness because they’re tired and just not motivated to follow through, and yet softened and encouraged to press on when they see your patience, love and admiration.

Children truly want the caring adults in their lives to be proud of them and will do what they can to reach the expectations we set for them. And yet it is our repsonsibilty to continually give them positive reasons for striving to meet our expectations… Expectations that will ultimately have long term benefits in their lives.

(Hey, and as adults, we don’t simply go to work everyday just because we’re always just so excited to get up and go, right? We have reasons for going beyond just a passion for our career. Don’t we? And the same is true for our kids…)

So, yes! Go ahead and throw in some tangible rewards for your kids during the year for them to work towards and to celebrate their success!

Put their good work on display for all to see. Take them out for a celebratory meal or fun day after a hard test or project that they worked hard on. Give them opportunities to share their successes and their excellent work with you and others. Tuck little notes into their lunchboxes to let them know you are proud of them.

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…Because we understand our children are not learning robots, simply storing and computing information just for the sake of it. They are little human beings with beating hearts longing for our approval and a reason to give their personal best.

And whether it’s sitting behind a desk answering phones in the workplace as adults or studying for a spelling test as a second grader, we all need daily reasons to strive for our personal best.

Let’s all give our children good reasons to pursue excellence and give their personal best throughout the year… setting high expectations that are motivated and inspired by the love they see in our eyes and the words and tones they hear in our voices.

“A gentle response turns away anger, but a harsh word stirs up wrath.” Proverbs 15:1 NET