Thursday, February 16, 2012

Journal with Your Kids and the Generations to Come

Dear Ladies,

         I have had the blessing of seeing the heart of my girls through our time in Journals.  Some people have prayer journals, and some have journals they take notes in from sermons they have heard, and or the famously wonderful journals that records all the funny things that happened along the way to our families (my favorite to read aloud on long road trips).

         When I was young, I had a diary.  Oh the pity parties I threw between the covers of that book.    It makes me sad to think my children and grandchildren would read my unchecked jealous, covetousness thoughts.

          I did struggle when I was younger and writing it down didn't solve anything.  I had no way of gaining understanding and wisdom on how to handle all sorts of situations through this one sided entry.  Being in a non Christian home, a diary was a secret thing.  Something you did under your covers, late a night and maybe when you were upset.

           Now that I am a Christian,  Isaiah 55:8 comes to mind which says,

 “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, 

Nor are your ways My ways,” declares the LORD.

        We need God and His word. So do my children.  So in hopes of giving the best to my children, I started to journal with them.  First with my daughter, Emma.  We started awhile ago.  I bought a journal type book from Barnes and Noble.  I opened it up with an invitation to join me in this correspondence.  That we could talk about all sorts of things and that she could be assured I would share what God's word says.

         Since then, I have shared hymns (xeroxed them and glued them in), things that God is teaching me as a wife and mother, and asking questions that  would help fuel her thinking about Jesus.  As time has pasted, I have read some amazing things that God is showing her.  It helps her to be watchful in her life for God's timing, search her heart on a regular basis, and to seek God's word to respond to my questions.  Sometimes, she is just telling me how God's word has wrought deep into her heart and thinking because she realizes His Word is true.

        Each journal passes back and forth about every 3 to 5 days.  This gives both parties time to respond.  Also, it causes us to be patient for an answer.  We can 'learn to wait on the Lord' or we can 'be forced to wait on the Lord'.  Learning to wait should be developed when you are young.  When my girls are waiting for counsel from the journal entry, I can remind them that waiting on the Lord is best.  Then I will make a great effort to make time to seek God's word for my response to their question.

         Joanna has just started  to Journal with me.  She is 11 now.  She can write well and she is thinking about so many things.  I just thought it was a great time to start.

         This has been a rich blessing for us all.  I know these Journals will be opened in generations to come and we will have no regrets.  This time, God's word is teaching us. And maybe God will use it on a future family member who needs to be reminded...We need God and His Word.

         So start today.  Just Journal It!



Friday, January 27, 2012

The Goldfish Smell...Like sin!

Dear Ladies,

Remember in the last post, I mentioned those goldfish I was dreading.   Well, they have proved me wrong once again!

To refresh your memory:

  • You know how I was hesitant to have them, but Joanna had her heart set on them.
  • My cheerfully, wonderful hubby was glad to get them for her.
  • Upon their arrival, Joanna gave them names that reminded me of what God has done in our family. Led to some wonderful conversations (see last post for full details).

So, I walked into her room to day and gagged.  It smells so bad in there.  My hubby is going to remedy the cloudy, stinky water with a filter system, but in the mean time I would like to borrow a gas mask.

I ask Joanna if she could smell it.  She confirmed that I was not crazy.

I told her that the smell reminded me of sin.  It is stinky.  

Then we talked about God's word and how God used smells to show us many things about worshiping Him, sin in our lives, and being restored to Him.
Our sin is smelly.

“I sent a plague among you after the manner of Egypt; I slew your young men by the sword along with your captured horses, And I made the stench of your camp rise up in your nostrils; Yet you have not returned to Me,” declares the LORD.

Noah offered a sacrifice to the Lord after getting off the Ark.  The Lord responded by blessing future generations even though they were sinners.

The LORD smelled the soothing aroma; and the LORD said to Himself, “I will never again curse the ground on account of man, for the intent of man’s heart is evil from his youth; and I will never again destroy every living thing, as I have done.

For the forgiveness of sins a sacrificial system was set up by God Himself.  He described what the priestly tribe should do to minister to the people before the Lord.  Notice how God describe the smell as soothing.

You shall take them from their hands, and offer them up in smoke on the altar on the burnt offering for a soothing aroma before the LORD; it is an offering by fire to the LORD.

when they enter the tent of meeting, they shall wash with water, so that they will not die; or when they approach the altar to minister, by offering up in smoke a fire sacrifice to the LORD.

then make an offering by fire to the LORD, a burnt offering or a sacrifice to fulfill a special vow, or as a freewill offering or in your appointed times, to make a soothing aroma to the LORD, from the herd or from the flock.


If people sin against God the smell is not soothing.
I will lay waste your cities as well and will make your sanctuaries desolate, and I will not smell your soothing aromas.

Sin can cause God to have to chasten us.  God gives earthly consequences for our sinfulness.  He loves us enough to do it and bring us back to Him.

I don't think her room is on God's hit list, but sinfulness is directly related to our access to God.   For those God has redeemed, called His own, a child of God, He will never leave us nor forsake us.  The Bible does talk about our prayers being hindered.  We may even feel far from Him.  Practicing any kind of sin has a way of doing that.  It quenches the Holy Spirits work in our lives.  

But God continues to mold us before Him.
As a soothing aroma I will accept you when I bring you out from the peoples and gather you from the lands where you are scattered; and I will prove Myself holy among you in the sight of the nations.

Creating a thanksgiving in our heart because of what Jesus has done.
But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place.

and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma.

Today, when we smell her room it reminds us that we are sinners, redeemed by God and that we can be a sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place.

If you have a smell animal, feel free to use this.

PS  Joanna just walked up with a fist full of coins and say, "This is enough for 16 more Goldfish!"

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Christ is Faithful

Dear Ladies,

Do you ever look back at something you did with the kids that worked out really well?  Their little faces lite up when you showed them something about God.  You revealed something about their little hearts and it clicked.  Moments to live for.  Hope to repeat.

Maybe it was the way you taught them about selflessness or having a tender heart towards someone?  Was it the visit to a sick or lonely friend?  Was it the witnessing to the check out lady that started a conversation on the car ride home that you will never forget?

You think to yourself, I have to remember to do that again.  Then the timeline of history ticks by and you forgot all about it.  You forget to keep enjoying more of the same.

I think I forget that I am on assignment from God.  I move along life and forget it is for Him that I live.  I am wrapped up in the busyness of life because I am not looking for opportunities with my kids. I am not actively taking advantage of the God moments I am given.

How can I create moments with my children that I will remember?  That they will remember?

Recently, in a magazine article, there was a picture of this Mason jar with a decorative label that plainly stated the year 2012.  The idea was cute.  You write down on a piece of paper a special memory you had that year and when it happened.  You fold it up and place it in a Mason jar.  The article goes on to bring it out on rainy days, Thanksgiving time and read them to the kids.

That got me thinking.  How many times have I drawn a blank when asked to remember what I am grateful for in the last year, last month, or the last hour? Especially, if I am surrounded by chaos.  Dirty dishes, laundry up to my waist, kids taking each other down in the next room, my reaction in my heart to the kids taking each other down in the next room, the list could go on.

Now, it is all good and wonderful to remember what happened in our family during the year.  My mind just kept thinking about how I wanted to use that jar.  I could record the birthday parties, grandma's visit, or our lost dog was safely returned to us.  I think those are good.

I just keep hearing. . . Good, Better, Best, Never let it rest, until your Good is Better, and your Better is Best!

I want to remember the things done for Christ, by Christ and in Christ.

If I had a jar right now, I could put this in it from just this week:
  • Emma is faithfully reading her Bible in a Year.  Each night that I tuck her in, she is sitting up with her little light above her head, bible on her lap, smile on her face. What a beautiful image to go to bed with in my mind.  I will treasure this nightly sight in my heart.
  • Joanna named her three (.27 cent each) goldfishes. . . Miracle, Faith, and Promise.  When asked why, she simple stated that God produces Miracles in our lives, we need a lot of faith (the biggest fish received this honor), and God always keeps His promises. Precious. .27 fish received this.  This reminded me of the gospel.  I am a .27 cent goldfish swimming in the earthly world, then God gives me a name, believer, child of God.  He gives me a miracle, His son.  Jesus, who is worshiped day and night in Heaven, willing steps off His throne and becomes a sacrifice for sinners (such as I),  and provides a way for me to spend eternity with God.  Now, He looks at me as worthy to display His image, say His name, give Him glory.  
  • I prayed one morning that God would give my husband and I time to pray...Next thing I knew, Bob was asking if I wanted to pray.  I could only praise the Lord for His faithfulness to Himself.  He desires us to be before Him and enjoying Him, trusting Him, and surrendering to Him.
  • Emma played a hymn on the piano today that was so beautiful.  It made me think of the verse. . . make a joyful noise unto the Lord (which made me remember when she was born and upon her first cry, I recited that verse out loud).
I would have to be actively looking to see these things.  Slow down and take in the view.  With the busyness of life, I could have missed it.

I am to be reminded that only what is done for Christ will last.
These things could have easily gone by me especially the one about the goldfish.  I really didn't want another animal in the house. I was kind of dreading the idea.  My wonderful husband cheerfully helped our daughter, Ms. Joanna Doolittle (age 11) spend her birthday money on these goldfish.  Then these fish arrived home in their little airtight bag.  I was not as thrilled but this was all in motion.  You see, if I exercised some patience, God always shows me wonderful things.   Like their names, the conversation and the memory of it all. The goldfish could have been placed in the tank and that would have been all she wrote. Thank you Lord for so much more than that.

I know if I read just a few of these in the future, I will remember God is faithful.  Israel forgot that time and time again.  So do I.  You can even teach this to your children.  Help them see what God is doing in them and with those around them.  We know gratitude(Thanksgiving) and trust are two super nature things.  They don't just happen.  God makes them happen in hearts surrendered to Him. He gives us eyes to see and ears to hear.   Let us walk in His promises. Proverb 3:5-6, Colossians 3:15-16, Philippians 4:4-7.  We can believe His promises!

Now, where is an empty Mason jar?

"Hey children, someone make a label!  'Christ is Faithful'"

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

New Year Resolutions Need to be Spiritually Rooted

Dear Ladies,

When the New Year rings in, there is this little voice in my mind saying you can start reading your Bible in a Year, start a healthy diet plan, and stay on your weekly grocery budget.  Why do I wait until the New Year?  

Then after awhile, I am too far behind to catch up in my Bible in a Year, I have had two or three doughnuts and I am 50.00 into next weeks food budget.  

What has happened to me?  Am I not committed enough?  Too discouraged to continue once I get behind?  Do I believe I need to wait until next year and get a better start? 

That is my list of excuses.  Sound familiar?  Maybe different resolutions but the outcome is the same.

What I need to do is put on my Jesus glasses and have a look around.  First, if I can apply God's word and principles to everything maybe I can look at it differently.  

Maybe I need to look at it differently!

Maybe reading God's word has become rigid and joyless.  Just like taking a car from point A to point B.  It serves it's purpose but it has become routine.

I need to pray about it first and asking for my joy back.   God loves to spend time with me in His Word but not if I am just doing it out of my duty.  He wants my heart involved.  If I were to give this a scriptural back drop, I could point to Martha and Mary.  Oh the Martha in me, sits me down, and gets it done.  If the Mary in me would stop and reflect on the wonder of my salvation, I would drop at Jesus' feet and hear every word He utters even in my Bible in a Year.

Maybe having a doughnut once in a while is not bad in itself.  I just want to make sure I am taking the time to give my family the advantages of good health.  I have the opportunity to teach my children the responsibility of eating healthy.  We all know someone who has Diabetes or Heart Disease.  The Bible says, 'Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own?'
(1 Corinthians 6:19)

God has come to live in us.  In earthly terms, if we had an important person coming to our home to stay, we would fix up the guest room!  Clean sheets, fluffed pillows, maybe fresh water in a pitcher with a fancy glass on a tray near their bed.  You would plan and prepare some healthy meals while they were around.  Funny, the minute they leave, we order hamburgers and fries.  We don't eat like we did when our guest were with us.  At least that is what happens to me.

We do all that for our human guest, but for the Lord?  Lets face it.  We would not show the guest to the bed we put in the garage, heat up the oven and pop in frozen pizza and give used towels for their bath.  Sometimes, I treat my body with bad hospitality.  I guess I could improve in this area.  

Now, living within my means!  Lately, our finances have strapped us tight.  We are budgeting everything.  The other day, I was out with my girls.  Emma, my 13 year old, had the coupon binder that she has been maintaining for the last 6 months sitting on her lap.  She was going through the coupons one last time reviewing all our options.  

I could easily be worried and full of anxiety about being on a budget.  Having gone over  budget the last two weeks, I felt more compelled to make ends meet this time.  What I am sharing with my girls has been priceless.  They are learning to live with the challenges in creative ways.  I am so glad to see them trying to make the budget.  We are about $50.00 over  for the month.  I need to thank them and encourage them to continue in their faithfulness towards their earthly father.  

New Year Resolutions need to be renewed regularly making sure they are filtered through scripture.  They are more likely to become a habit if they are grounded in the principles God has given us.   If I had stopped and waited another year,  I would not be able to share any of this with my kids.  Just another opportunity to show my kids the real me.  Not perfect, but God still loves me.  All things are possible with God. 

Monday, July 25, 2011

Because I said so???

Dear Ladies,

       NO!  NO!  No!  We have all heard the word and have had many reactions to its very mention.  When I was a little girl, I would hear that word and rebel.  I wish I had handled it differently, but I did not see the wisdom in doing so.  In fact, I missed that NO was mostly for my protection, provision and education.

        This is the typical reaction of our children too!  I have been training my children to accept the No without question.  This was my way of having them obey me, but maybe not with wisdom.  When they are teenagers and becoming adults, what will govern them?  Certainly not "Because I said so!"  There has to be a way to do both.

       Recently during a retreat I hosted in my backyard for about 25 girls between the ages 10-17.  I had a discussion with them about that word NO.  We know it is a word that sends the little attitude mongrels marching in the hearts of their hearers.  I wanted the girls to start looking for the wisdom behind the NO.  So I boldly proclaimed a plan.

       I told them the next time they were told NO in regards to something...I asked them to take it with strength and dignity.  Obey it!  Accept it!  Do NOT  challenge it whatsoever.  Take it immediately in prayer and ask God to have you accept it fully.  Once you have accepted the next few days, go to your parent who issued the NO and say this first.  "I accept the NO.  I am not here to change your mind, get my way or make a case...I am here to understand the wisdom behind the NO." 

        Do we desire that our children would one day answer for themselves with wisdom?   I think the evidence of their lack of wisdom is when they say something like..."My parents won't let me do that."  OR  My dad is too strict." OR "My mom doesn't understand."  These comments tell me that they are lacking wisdom and in fact complaining publicly.  Young ladies should not be about the business of complaining...let alone publicly. 

       I am just beginning to see the wisdom of teaching them the wisdom behind the NO.  My rule is...not at the time that I am asking for your obedience.  Seek me later, while we can sit down alone and speak about the day together in the cool of the evening under the stars.  Teach them to come with a heart looking to discern and understand.  Encourage it and foster it in patience and love.

       If  I sense the motive is to change my mind, I will hold the conversation over for another time.  I still want to teach the wisdom but when the heart is burning with curiosity not animosity. 

       There is no better wisdom than God's Word and I want all the opportunities I can to give our children application for His Word in their everyday lives.  There is unmeasurable joy in seeing a child's life governed by the blessed assurances of His promises and the precepts of His law that keep them from harm.   Oh, that we might save them from a thousand hurts by such talks in the cool evenings under the stars.

        God wants us to explain Him to our children (Deut. 6, Eph. 6).  Hence,  I can no longer live with..."because I said so". 

Friday, June 10, 2011

It is More Than a Dishwasher

Dear Ladies,

When I was a little girl, I did the dishes by hand with my sisters.  We didn't have a dishwasher.  I can still remember my attitude toward this duty in my home.  Let's just say, I wasn't skipping to the chore with joy in my heart.  My view of this chore was way to narrow to give it any credence or relevance in my life.  It just had to get done!

That is an awful excuse to hear when you are growing up trying to become a young woman in a home full of sinners...who are your family!  It just seems to make the chore more meaningless than ever.

Since my children were three years old, they have always helped unload a dishwasher.  As they grew older they would handle this task with out any help.  I have always been the loader of the dirty dishes except for when they were teenagers and they could do it when asked.

Some things were lost with the modern convenience of a dishwasher.  There was this memory of the social aspects of doing the dishes by hand.  Though my sisters and I were not always kind to each other, we did manage to have some great times around the dishes.  I can remember the soap bubble fights and the laughter.  Some times are discussion would turn to a more tender nature, but we did not have the vision for the reason for the chores set before us.

The other day, I saw in my daughters countenance when she approached the all too familiar chore...the dishwasher.  She pulled open the tin box and reluctantly dropped its door open.  It may have been the early hour of the day or just an overall lack of my ability to communicate a bigger message.  Yes, I may not have been communicating this vision for her correctly...or at all!

You noticed I didn't blame her in this circumstance.  I could have.  I could have address this behavior as I have a thousand times before.  But something was missing from this picture and I had just see the light bulb go on in a rather unlit place as it had stood moments before. Thank you Lord!

She, like I, had no big picture.

I took my sweet girl and we stood over those dishes that extended out on the tray before us.  I looked at her and I remember thinking, I love when God gives me these moments.  I am without words sometimes as to what I want to convey.  So I pray.  Sometimes with my child and sometimes just in my little head.  I pray to be gentle, to be heard, and to have a hearts response from this child that belongs ultimately to Him.

Then I launched in...

"Those dishes,  they will teach you something about life and family you need to know." 

By her bewildered look, I knew I had not shared this before.

"Those are clean dishes that sit there waiting for someone to put them back where they belong.  But they are, believe me, my dear daughter, more than clean dishes.  They are a training ground to something greater.  Your character is being formed by these dishes.  This simple chore has the ability to take you from lazy to faithful and diligent.   Yes they are just dishes, but because you come every day to tend to them, one day you will have a greater gift.  This will train you for a wide sphere of influence and role model.  When you have your own family you will be faithful and diligent.  You will have many other tasks to do and you will stand, possibly one day, over your own dishwasher and share with your child what this little contraption can produce in you if you let it."

I went on to form questions for her future use...

"It is more than a dishwasher.  It can form your character.  Can you be counted on?  Can you be consistent?  Can you take all your thoughts captive to Christ, when the feeling of grumbling appears to destroy that which you are reaching for...your character?  How willing are you to be serving this family on a daily bases?  What does God say about serving one another?  Because a family that have streaks of independence will run a muck in our homes causing discord and unhappiness."

All these questions will become tools for her to study her own heart and its desire for independence.  Is independence the chief goal of man?  I shall be talking about that more later.  I think the Bible is quite clear on this subject.

I am pleased to say I am praising God for His work in my daughters heart in the area of the dishwasher.  Maybe the bigger picture helped her.  Seeing  how God intended for families to work together forms character and christian attitudes towards one another for His glory.

I guess I should mention, that I took the conversation to even a wider view and let my daughter know that if she saw that I was busy and tending to other tasks for our home, she should take the ownership necessary and load the dishes as well.  She is serving her dad and helping his family function by serving her mom in this way.

It is more than a dishwasher.  It is about belonging to a family.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Teaching What Matters...Trans-parently!

Dear Ladies,

Who knows our children better?  Why do I forget that I do? I am their mom. My children are not toddlers anymore.  The communication between my children and I can be deep and infinite.

When I look at my children I can see their character and some of it is not good.  They learn that from me...after all I am with them 24/7.   If there are areas of Diligence, Charitableness, Loyalty, Usefulness, Purposefulness, Faithfulness, Truthfulness, or Selfless and Sacrificial hearts, these are wonderful qualities for a family to rejoice in.

If Christ is the reason for these characteristics, then we will grow deep in our realtuonships and the result is glory to our King.

If the reason is not for our dear Savior, it should be.

We are not to malign the word of God with wrong behavior.  We do!  I know I do.  For self pride still longs to live in my members and have its way at all cost at times.

All this to say...Can't I help my children in this area?  Yes!   I have God's wonderful and effective word.

If there is an area in my child's life I want to help them with, I must examine myself first.  So as not to be a hypocrite to the watching eyes and ears of my precious children,  I must confess my weak areas to my children and set an example of setting a course for victory with scripture in one hand and my heart for Christ in the other.  How else will they know what is happening in my mind and heart if I am not willing to be transparent about my weakness in the first place.

Then I can ask for prayer.  This is a wonderful and humble process to allow my children to pray for me.

In all this, I am setting an example.  One they can follow when I take great care in approaching them with an area they may need to consider in their lives. There are so many role models but few that live so dramatically different and humble enough to admit it.  We need to be the kind of heroes of the faith our children can see in living color outside of the Bible.  Ephesians 4:29 states "Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, that it may give grace to those who hear.

Our children say and do things in our midst that can make us upset, angry or even unjust.  I am convicted the whole time I am upset.  Frustrated with a child and there the Holy Spirit is gently  convicting me over my method or tongue.  I come to the conclusion that self still lives and has not died and trusted God to grow my children.  I can only plant and water, but God does the growing! If I do my part, do I trust Him with the outcome...what ever that will be.  My frustration is clearly a sign that at that moment I don't.

The truth of Ephesians 4:30-32 dwell richly in my mind and bridle my tongue. It says "And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.  Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.  And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you."

Convicting!!  But as a mother, I want to reach the heart of my children  the way God would like me to do it!   Then, they can see how great a God we have.  Our God loves us with a passionate love.  I want to show my children that kind of love for His name sake.

Does this mean there are no consequences?  No, may it never be...Consequences have there place when grace is cheapened and taken for granted.  But if we are full of the grace of God, will find the hearts of our children sooner than punishment can even achieve.  The principals of the New Testament are loaded with grace, love and mercy.  The power of love and mercy is like placing coals on the head of someone who knows their due punishment. A pardon is what we received from our Savior on the Cross.

If I know my kids.  Really see their weakness and strengths, I can help them.  I can purpose to teach a matter diligently in a way that pleases the Lord.  This may take time.  Weeks of instruction on a single purpose to help the child understand the principals found in the situation.  God is that patient with us when we are lazy and weak to change or cut something out of our lives.  And when they or even I fail....we have Christ!

But for the grace of God go I...