Embrace Change

Well, I think it’s officially fall in Missouri! One day it was over 70 degrees, then a cold front came through, and now it’s 40. The cool crisp temperatures have been anticipated, but when they finally arrived it shocked us all.

This morning my kids wanted to go outside after breakfast. One of my children came to the door in shorts and a T-shirt. “Honey, you need pants to go outside. It’s a little chilly out there.”

She reluctantly went to change. Seconds later, the older children were asking for hats and gloves. Within a few minutes, my child who was dressed for summer suddenly looked as if it had snowed outside. She was bundled in her winter coat, hat, gloves, and a scarf. Though I thought it may be overkill, I let them go outside dressed for the snow.

While I know my child still needs to learn the appropriate clothing to wear for the weather, I realize that change, even when expected, takes some time to adjust.

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Now I will admit, I have struggled with change. Especially when it came to my Walk with Christ.

I grew up in a very traditional church. I held onto those traditions, without fully understanding the reasons behind those traditions. They were habits, not time set aside to grow closer to God.

Attending a different type of church felt all kinds of wrong. I was used to a certain order. I was used to certain songs. I knew exactly what to say and do and when to do it. It was comfortable.

However, these new churches we were attending, were not. First off, they gave us coffee when we entered and offered a time to talk to each other before service started. I was used to just blending in, coming and going without having to talk to a bunch of people.

They usually started service off with a band or a group of people jamming out and worshiping Jesus. I was used to traditional songs at set times throughout the service.

Then the pastor would give a sermon. These sermons were usually very good, biblical, and practical. However, it didn’t feel like Church. It felt like Bible study.

Finally, there would be some sort of closing, usually with a song. That was exactly what I was used to.  However, sometimes we would have communion in the middle of service, sometimes we wouldn’t. Sometimes they would take tithes and offering at the beginning, sometimes at the end.  Sometimes there would be a Baptism in the middle of service. Sometimes they would ask us to get up and find a group of people to pray with. It was unpredictable.

In my old church I knew what to expect. I knew what to do. Yes, maybe most of the time I was just going through the motions, but I didn’t have to experience that unknown. Nine times out of ten I couldn’t even tell you what songs we sang or what the message was about, but I was there.

I struggled with the change at first. See all my family and friends still attended the traditional Churches. I felt like I was doing something wrong. In fact, for almost a year I didn’t tell any of those people that we were no longer attending that type of service.

As I started seeing a growth in my walk and understanding what it meant to Walk with Christ, I slowly let my guard down. I began to share that we were now attending a non-denominational Church. I began to share the changes that were happening in my life. Surprisingly, no one really cared that I no longer attended the traditional Church.  They only cared that I was going to Church.

I slowly began to recognize the Holy Spirit and His prompting in my life. I became more and more open with my faith and much more willing to share my faith.  Though I knew a change was needed and anticipated that change, it was still uncomfortable. It still took me some time to adjust and share. But as I look back, each change, no matter how long it took me to adjust, has completely impacted my Walk with Christ.

Please know, I am in no way telling you to stop going to a traditional church. Each person is on their own spiritual journey. For some people, they can grow closer to God through traditions. My stumbling block was not the Church or the traditions, but the way I approached Church. I had the problem of just going through the motions that needed a radical change. I needed to step out of my comfort zone and trust God to lead me.

Something I have learned is that God does not call us to be comfortable. I have heard many people say that they believe God wants us to be happy (implying that we should just overlook our sin that makes us happy). But that’s not really true. God doesn’t call us to be happy, but He calls us to be holy. The process of becoming holy, being like Christ, is a life-long journey full of uncomfortable moments and changes.

By embracing a radical change, I found myself experiencing God in a way I never knew was possible. Each day I am growing in relationship with Him, learning more of what it means to be His child, and striving share this with others.

Change may not feel good in the moment, even if you are anticipating it.  But God is faithful.

Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

Philippians 1:6

It Takes Some Practice

This morning I was working with my first grader on his math assignment. I looked at the problem and said, “What’s six plus six?”

Within a matter of seconds, he spewed out, “Twelve.”

I read the next problem, and just as quickly he answered it. Suddenly his eyes widened, and he said, “Hey- I know this! Mom, how do I know this?”

“You’ve been practicing. Remember all those games I made you play that you didn’t want to play.”

“Ohhh!” He grabbed his workbook and went back to the table to finish his assignment.

The situation had me laughing, because just a couple weeks ago he didn’t want to play all those games I opened up on the internet. He didn’t feel like he needed to practice his facts. He was perfectly content with counting on his fingers. And now he knows those facts a little better, he can recall the information a little bit faster. Now math assignments are a little bit easier.

Maybe next time I open those games up for practice, he will happily practice- knowing that they are helping him grow… maybe… but my son is stubborn just like his momma. He will probably forget, drag his feet, and reluctantly play the games I am “forcing him to play.”

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This is very much like spiritual discipline. Praying, mediating, reading scripture, fellowship, fasting, stewardship, all these things sometimes feel like things I HAVE to do. But through obedience, practice, and time I grow to appreciate these disciplines and see the results because God meets me there.

For example, when I first became a Christian, I didn’t have a problem consulting Google for Bible verses. But after spending time in prayer, reading my Bible, and even memorizing verses- I have seen these verses come to me in unexpected ways.

Sometimes this happens to me at Church. Someone I am sitting next to may ask for prayer. As I start to pray over this person and I open my mouth outcome the words of scripture that I had locked away in my heart. Timely words. Placed into practice. Prayers I offered up, but were 100% inspired by the Holy Spirit prompting me to say what I had been studying.

Other times those words I have been studying come to me as conviction. One time I was having an argument with my husband. I grabbed my blankets and decided to sleep on the couch. As I went out to the couch I started praying, “God, please convict my husband of what a jerk he is being. He did this, that, and this…”

As I sat there listing my wrongs, I felt this stir in my heart, “Love keeps no record of right and wrong.” Convicted!

Had I not spent time studying, meditating, and memorizing scripture, I am not sure that the Holy Spirit could have worked in me the same way.

Much like my son was shocked that he suddenly knew his addition facts, I tend me be shocked that the words I have been studying come to me when needed.

Don’t be content counting on your fingers. Learn your facts.

Don’t be content looking up verses online. Read them. Memorize them. Mediate on the word. Lock those words away in your heart.

“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,”

2 Timothy 3:16

The Indication Light

Last Friday my kids had a doctor’s appointment. Since my morning was a little out of routine, it really didn’t surprise me that I forgot my cell phone at home. Oh well, I figured. I will be home in an hour, and I probably won’t even miss a call.

I really didn’t even notice the missing cell phone until I was driving home. Suddenly, I heard my dash beep at me. My natural response was- gas light. But as I looked down I was surprised to see not the gas light, and not the check engine light, but an indication light that I was unsure of. I glanced at my dash and read- Service Stability. What was that!?!

Clueless, I held the wheel a little tighter and decided to take a more direct route home. Usually I take a route that includes 3 interstate exchanges from South County to North County. The way I chose to go only had one interstate change. As I changed interstates, my dash light went off… Odd…

I got home and googled it. It really is no big deal- Service Stability just means that the traction control is disabled, and my anti-lock brakes wouldn’t have worked.

But unaware of that, I was extra cautious and chose a different direction.

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There have definitely been times in my life that the Holy Spirit has worked in similar ways. Little warnings that I do not fully understand. Routes changed, plans altered for reasons I cannot understand. However, I trust these changes are in my best interest.

The most obvious example of this came about 5 years ago. I was reading a book called You Were Made for God Sized Dreams by Holley ­­­Gerth.  I honestly cannot tell you what that book was about or how far I made it into the book. As I read the book I kept thinking, “I want to stay at home with my kids,” and, “I want more kids.” I had to put the book down.

Those thoughts made no sense. Five years ago, we had just had a surprise baby #3. My husband and I had planned on having two children- that’s it. But then God gently showed us His plans are far better than ours by giving us Grace (baby #3.)

Now here I was reading this book, wanting to have more kids, and wanting to stay at home with them. At the time I was teaching in a private school near our home. Our oldest was getting ready to start kindergarten, and we would finally be able to take advantage of the benefit of free tuition to this school. Quitting my job would mean losing an income and not being able to afford private school while we lived in a failing public school district. I had to be out of my mind. But I couldn’t shake it.

I picked up that book to read a few more times, and every time I had the exact same thoughts. Finally, I put the book on the shelf and told my husband I can’t read it. He inquired as to why and I explained, “All I can think when I read this is I want another child, and I want to stay at home with the kids.”

To my surprise when he asked why, all I could say was, “I don’t know. Maybe to get more souls into heaven.”

He looked at me and said, “Ok. I don’t know how we will do it, but let’s do it.” He recognized that God was speaking to me and placing this dream in my heart. Even though I still thought it was nuts! We were soon pregnant with baby #4 and trying to figure out how it would be possible for me to stay at home with the kids.

God made a way for this God given dream to come true. As we started this journey, we realized the obstacles in our way of education pointed to a path I had never really considered- homeschooling. As we started homeschooling, I quickly realized what a good fit it was for our family.

Somehow our finances stretched. We learned how to budget, and our income seemed to reach even further. Honestly, somehow making less money seemed like we had more. We were paying attention to how we were spending and using the money we had wisely. I never felt like we were going without. God provided work for my husband and the resources to help us be smart with our money.

It was like God was saying to me, “Your plans may be good, but my plans are better.” For reasons I cannot explain I picked up a book at a book store that I didn’t even finish, but the Holy Spirit used it as an indication light on the dashboard. This light made me consider going down a path I never would have considered otherwise. But now that I am on this path, I wouldn’t want it any other way.

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*As I was rereading this post to edit, the VeggieTales movie “Josh and The Big Wall” came to mind. So I pulled out my kids’ VeggieTales comic book in order to quote this properly.

Now this is Junior talking to the Israelites who are debating whether or not to follow Joshua and march around the city of Jericho.  “I know God’s directions don’t always make sense to us. It didn’t make sense when God told us to walk through the Red Sea. But He brought us across safely. There was no food to eat in the desert, but God gave us Manna to eat. Sometimes God asks us to do things that don’t make sense to us. But His way is the best way.”

The Bible is full of characters obeying the call that most likely made no sense to them.  Can you even imagine being Noah’s wife? Sure, honey a big flood is coming. What about Sarah? Yes God, I believe you will give me a son when I am way beyond my child-bearing age. (I hope you can sense the sarcasm I am typing.) What’s great about these women is they didn’t know the big picture, they couldn’t see it, but they followed their husbands and were obedient to the call.

Ultimately, we are His workmanship. He started a good work in us and is faithful to see it out to completion. Even though we cannot see it, we can trust that God’s way is the best way!

So if there’s an indication light going off for you, pray about it! Talk to a godly person you trust. Take the steps in obedience. Trust God’s plan! His plans are the best plans!

“As for God, his way is perfect: The LORD’s word is flawless; he shields all who take refuge in him.” (Psalm 18:30) (2 Samuel 22:31)

It’s More Than Dishes

Recently our dishwasher decided to stop draining water properly. As a result, I needed to start hand-washing all our dishes. I do not love dishes. When I realized this, I may have given a little huff and reluctantly agreed to hand wash the dishes until the dishwasher was fixed.

Within minutes of this interaction, my husband took the initiative to teach our daughters to hand-wash and dry the dishes. My girls are currently 3 and 5. They have helped me load and unload the dishwasher, but it has never really been assigned as a chore.

My husband pulled our five-year-old up to the sink. He started explaining that God gave us these wonderful blessings- food, dishes, water- and it was our job to take care of these blessings. Our five-year old hung onto every word and watched carefully. Meanwhile our 3-year-old was listening closely, though she was not part of the conversation.

My husband then told my daughters that from now on it was their chore, their responsibility, to take care of the dishes after every meal.

You would have thought my daughter had been given a pony. She was so excited to have a chore… so excited to wash and dry the dishes. As soon as she is finished with her meal, she happily gets everything ready to wash the dishes.

Me… I have NEVER been excited to wash dishes. NEVER! I mean growing up it was a chore… chores for me pretty much meant- something I HAD to do because NO ONE ELSE would.

Actually, that’s not entirely true. My grandparents lived on a farm. They’re farmhouse did not have a dishwasher… wait let me take that back… the dishwasher at the farmhouse was all the ladies in the house. It was like a right of passage. After you were 10, you got to help do dishes. But it wasn’t bad at all. Literally every girl and lady at the farm gathered in the kitchen to wash, dry, and put away dishes. It was just expected. And we did it with no fuss or kick-back. Grandma took care of us by cooking, we would take care of her by cleaning up afterwards.

Other than dishes at the farm, I have always had a distaste for dishes. I always thought of dishes, cooking, laundry, and the list of chores as something I had to do… Then as I grew to know God, I realized it was my opportunity to serve others. Little did I know that by listening to my husband teach my daughter how to do dishes, I too would learn an important lesson. It’s much more than just dishes.

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Doing the dishes was an opportunity to honor God. God gave us these blessings, it is our job to take care of these blessings. Stewardship. Doing chores is stewardship. How did I never see this before?

I guess I thought of stewardship in relation to tithing. God gave us a job, so we give back our first fruits. God gave us our Church family, so we take care of the church with our time, talent, and treasures.

But I am clearly seeing the tithing is only part of stewardship. God has blessed me with so much! Anytime I take care of these blessings, I am serving God. Anytime I clean my house, do the dishes, clean the laundry, wash my van, pay my bills on time- I am being a good steward.

So while this has all the sudden hit me, I had to do a quick Google to make sure I am correct. The definition of stewardship is: “the job of supervising or taking care of something, such as an organization or property.” Sounds pretty spot on to me. Anytime we take care of our blessings- material things, kids, money, etc.… we are acting as good stewards.

God created Adam and gave him the task of stewardship. (Gen 2:15) “The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.” He also created Eve as Adam’s helper (Gen 2:18). It is in our bones to do work. Though we all know how the story of Adam and Eve ends… they fall… they give into temptation… work becomes cursed, toilsome… The very things we were created to do have now become burdensome… and we do not want to do them.

But by doing these chores, by doing our work, we are honoring God. Everything we have is a blessing from God. Taking care of those blessings shows our appreciation and love to the Creator!

Though I know I probably should have been the one teaching my daughter to do dishes, I am so grateful that I was the one listening and learning a simple lesson on stewardship. God works in amazing ways.

 

Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.

Colossians 3:23-24

 

NAILED IT!!!

Last week was my oldest son’s birthday. Every year on their birthdays I let the birthday child plan their birthday meal- including the cake (of course!!!) My kids seem to spend all year planning their birthday dinners. Every time they tell me what they want, it seems to change too…

This year, my son wanted a banana cake with yellow icing and red on top. Knowing that my son is a huge Flash fan, I decided to go all out. I bought the cake mix and ingredients needed. I also bought fondant for the decorating. I thought I had picked up a white container of fondant and gel dyes.

As I was making this awesome banana cake, I opened up the fondant… it was black… no big deal… We will just pick up white fondant at the store in the morning.

As I started decorating this cake, I quickly realized that fondant isn’t exactly easy to work with. Just adding the colors to the fondant had it sticky as can be. After several trips back and forth to the refrigerator, I almost had a decent red and yellow base. I printed off a Flash logo, rolled out my fondant, cut out the shapes, and laid it on the cake. NAILED IT!!!

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In my mind it looked horrible. I took a picture and sent it to my husband who was working in a basement. (So, he didn’t receive it right away.) I seriously felt like I could have been a contestant on the show “Nailed It.”

If you haven’t seen the Netflix show, it’s a show where ordinary people are given a ridiculous task of recreating a professional cake with not nearly enough time or guidance. I love the show… I may have been guilty of binge watching both seasons in a couple of days.

Suddenly it dawned on me, that accidental black fondant I bought may come in handy. I used it to outline the shapes. Much better. Then I used it to cover up some messed-up spots. It still looked very amateurish, but it looked like the intended design.

Literally as soon as I finished my husband calls and says, “Renee- nothing’s wrong the cake. It looks good.” A few minutes later, both boys come running in excited about how awesome the cake looks. Here I am, still telling myself- “Nailed It”- in a completely sarcastic way.

I was holding myself to an extremely unrealistic expectation. Everyone around me thought it was great- but here I was expecting my non-baking self to produce a professional product the very first time I tried using fondant. Just because I watched some cooking shows and a few You-tube tutorials, I thought I would be a pro. I didn’t give myself a chance to practice. I didn’t give myself any grace at all. I expected perfection the first time.

How many times do I do this in my daily walk? How many times do I just expect to get it right the first time… and then when I don’t, make fun of myself… feel bad for myself…make excuses…

I mean I am following all these Godly famous women on Facebook. I listen to nothing but Christian music. I’m even in the middle of reading three Christian books… why do I fall so easily to the traps laid before me by the enemy?

Why can’t I get myself up before my third alarm to spend time with God? Why can’t I find interest in my Bible reading? Why do I feel like I have to get everything right on my own?

My kids are struggling with dealing with disappointment- all of them… Why is my first thought- What can I do? Why am I not sending up an immediate prayer for strength, wisdom, and guidance? Why am I not immediately praying with my kids?

I mean that’s what I assume all those women from Church and famous Christian women I follow on social media do…

The answer- spiritual warfare… The enemy doesn’t want me growing closer to God. And he knows all the little stumbling blocks to throw my way. Before I know it, I am in my own way of my spiritual growth.

I am holding myself to too high of a standard. I am trying to do everything on my own. I am trying to be like these women I only know on the surface. I am trying to figure out how to handle and deal with my kids. I… I… I… I…  Seems like I am trying to me more than I should. I may just… maybe… have a pride problem.

Just because I am a Christian doesn’t mean I get it right. It doesn’t mean my problems magically go away. It doesn’t mean I will never struggle with sin… pride… It means I know where to turn when I struggle. It means I know where to lay my hope.

Sadly, I forget that sometimes. Sometimes I get on my “me bandwagon” and forget this is a process led by the Holy Spirit. The process of becoming more like Christ is a life-long journey. I will never feel like I have it right- and that’s ok. I am growing.

Maybe those women I am talking about do have it together. But here’s something I think everyone forgets- they are on a journey too. They’re faith journey is in a different spot than mine. I don’t need to compare myself to them; I need to look at them for wisdom and guidance. Sometimes I may feel like they totally NAILED IT! And they are looking at it, wondering where they can improve.  These women don’t share their stories to look like saints. Quite the opposite- they share their stories to encourage us.

I also think it is important to remember that while our actions are an overflow of our hearts, only God knows what is truly in our hearts. Motive matters. Looks can be deceiving. Actions can be forced. Or as the Bible says in Proverbs 31:30, “Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.”

When we compare ourselves to others or set too high of a standard for ourselves, we have taken our eyes off the prize- life with God. The women who seem to have it together should inspire us, not make us feel unworthy. When we have our eyes on the prize, the temptation to compare, the temptation to hold ourselves to an unrealistic standard, lessens.  It lessens because we are not concerned with the ways of the world, only with growing in relation to the Father.

Praise God that no matter how many times I fall into the traps of comparison and the traps of pride- He is right there leading me back to the light. The light never left me, I just took my eyes off it for a brief moment. There’s no reason to make fun of myself and saying I “Nailed It” when really I am still learning. I have to learn to give myself grace. After all, God already has.

“No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.”

1 Cor. 10:13

 

 

 

****Keep an eye out for the next blog. My husband is going to give a more in dept, theological view on spiritual warfare.

 

 

Living Without Training Wheels

“Mom! Mom! Mom!” I see my five-year-old happily running towards me. “I rode Gabriel’s bike! WITHOUT training wheels!!!”

“Good job! That’s awesome!”

“Can I call dad and ask him to take off my training wheels? Please mom! Please!!!”

Wow! My little girl is ready to ride her bike without training wheels. Not that I didn’t see this day coming, but I didn’t realize she would be the one telling me she was ready before I was ready for her to do it.

Just a few weeks ago, she brought me the only pair of tennis shoes she owns that contain laces. “Mom, I’m ready to learn how to tie shoes. Please teach me.”

WHAT! No! You don’t even wear those shoes. Put them back. Put on your flip-flops.

But why would I hold my daughter back from growing when she is so clearly interested and ready?

The answer- because I don’t want to do it right now. Sometimes it’s easier just to keep things the way they are. Let her use her bike with training wheels. Then I know she’s not going to fall. Make her keep wearing shoes without laces, then I don’t have to take the time to teach her a task that doesn’t exactly come naturally. Then getting ready to leave will only take 1 minute instead of 5 while she tries to tie her shoes.

But by doing this, what am I accomplishing? Nothing. I get to be lazy for a few more days. Luckily for me, (or not so luckily…) she’s persistent. She wants to learn to tie her shoes, she’s going to remind me to practice with her every day. She wants to ride her bike without training wheels, she will just ride her brother’s bike.

My daughter is fearless, determined, persistent… and she’s five. She’s never expressed concern about what if I fail, or what if I can’t? She keeps trying. She keeps practicing. And when she falls, she gets up and does it again.

No matter how much I want to, how hard I try- life will happen. She will grow. She will strive to move forward. Who am I to force her to keep those training wheels on?

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How many times in my life have I let the fear of failure, fear of the unknown, fear of being unable affect me? Too many?  I like comfortable. I like knowing what’s going on. I like control. But my own desires for comfort and control can actually prevent me (and my children) from growing.

Let’s just take praying out loud for example. I grew up in a religion that was a lot of memorized prayers. When we prayed over the meal, everyone said the exact same prayer. When it was time for bed, we had a selection of about 4 prayers to choose from. Sadly, I never learned anything past saying these memorized prayers. They were comfortable. They were easy. They were a check off the list, now-go-about-your-day prayer.

When my husband suggested praying together, it was scary. Seriously, I didn’t know what to do. I pretty much just let him pray and said “Amen.”

The enemy tried to get in my head. He tried to convince me it was unnecessary to grow. My prayer life was just fine the way it was. He tried to cause me to stumble.

Learning to open up and pray out loud was so uncomfortable… no one would ever notice if I didn’t do it… it’s personal… All the reasons not to do, but I could still feel God pulling me in this direction.

Praise God that He put opportunities in front of me to grow in prayer! He surrounded me with people who were willing to teach me and guide me. He provided the resources to help me learn and become comfortable. Once I was willing to pray out-loud, my relationship with God truly grew in a whole new and beautiful direction.

My flesh wanted to rely on my training wheel, but when those training wheels came off I was free.

If I had chosen to stay in my comfort zone, I would not be willing to pray out loud at all. I would not walk up to a hurting person and offer to pray for them. I would not be willing to pray over my husband and my children. I would have not grown towards God. I would have been stuck.

We all have stumbling blocks. The enemy- he’s sneaky.  Maybe your stumbling block- like mine- is prayer. Maybe it’s attending church regularly, or maybe it’s participating and not just going through the motions. Maybe it’s fellowship. Whatever your stumbling block-lean into God, and let go of your training wheels.

There’s going to be stumbling blocks. The enemy does not want us growing towards God. But God is consistent, persistent, and faithful. When we have our eyes on Him, we will grow towards Him. We will get past these stumbling blocks. We will not rely on our training wheels.

When we take off the training wheels, we learn to let the Holy Spirit take the handle bars. We learn to trust and obey God. Instead of relying on what we know, we are willing to step out in faith, help another, pray for the stranger, witness to the man on the street, show love to others.

Life is going to happen. Don’t be the reason someone else stumbles. Take off your training wheels and allow your daughter to do the same!

 

 

Everyone who lives on milk is still an infant, inexperienced in the message of righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained their sensibilities to distinguish good from evil.

Hebrews 5:14