The one parenting question you need to answer

A few weeks ago I learned why we don’t often visit Bruce at work. Taking all four boys to eat lunch with Bruce to celebrate Quade’s 7 1/2 birthday and Knox’s 1st birthday was two bananas shy of a fruit basket.

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Watts greeted Bruce’s employees by lifting up his shirt. Price proceeded to pour salt & pepper out on to the table. Knox celebrated his birthday rightly by dropping his glass bottle on the floor and smashing it to pieces (like a Greek wedding celebration…opah!).

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had a ticket to attend dotMOM, a mom conference, that weekend. The conference actually started around the same time my boys were running circles around a lunchroom table. But I chose to skip the first keynote session with Angie Smith (one of my faves) and fulfill my motherly birthday duties. 

Later that night I finally arrived at dotMOM just as Travis Cottrell began leading worship (one of my highlights by the way). Unlike Angie Smith, a name I was quite familiar with, I had never heard of the evening keynote speaker before.

Apparently, John Croyle, used to play football at Alabama. The first question in my head was, “What could an ex-football player teach me about motherhood?” (arrogant much, Heather?).

Then as Big Mama & Boo Mama introduced John and gave his bio, I had the following inner monologue: “How could his oldest child be 57, when that’s about how old he looks? Did I just hear him say he has 26 children in college? And excuse me, how many total children does he have? over 1800?”

Then John Croyle explained he owns a ranch in Alabama for children who have been orphaned, neglected or abused (ohhhh). A ranch he started instead of pursuing a professional football career (maybe I judged him a little prematurely). He shows these children a love they’ve never known and gives them a hand up to a better life. When they arrive at the ranch John tells them four simple truths:

  1. I love you.
  2. I will never lie to you.
  3. I will stick with you till you are grown.
  4. There are boundaries. Don’t cross them.

How awesome are those?

This ex-football player really knocked this momma over the head with truth when he shared the ONE question he believes shapes every parent’s actions.

You ready? Here it is: 

“What are you afraid of for your children?”

Stop and think about it. What are you afraid of?

While I sat in the large conference room my immediate answer was:  I’m afraid of what people think about my boys. I’m afraid of them getting permanently hurt. I’m afraid of messing them up. I’m afraid they won’t pursue God as adults.

John Croyle argues, “If you don’t get control of your fear, your fear will conquer you. If you are afraid of your children not measuring up. Let that go because it’s not your line to draw. God’s got His line of what He wants your kids to be.”

powerful stuff.

John’s words lingered in my mind for days after…”What am I afraid of for my children?”. Taking note of my behavior, in light of my fears, I realized my actions often didn’t show my true desire to love, cherish and nurture my boys…for instance:

  • Getting upset that toys were left out–>fearful they will become adult slobs & fearful I’m not a good wife if I don’t keep the house clean.
  • Losing my temper because one brother hurts another brother (again)–> fearful there is more evil than good in their hearts.
  • Becoming Impatient when I have to keep nagging them to get ready to go–> fearful of how it looks when we are consistently late.
  • Embarrassed and then controlling when the boys act a little “wild” in public–> fearful others will think I’m a bad mom.

Yes, I want to train my boys to have good habits…but training in grace (not fear). Yes, I want to help them love one another…but by showing them gentle love. Yes, we need to be on time to commitments…but not because we need to impress others. Yes, we need to have self-control out in public…but not because we are consumed with man’s approval.

John’s right. “Guilt & fear are Satan’s biggest weapons.” Fear is robbing me the joy of mothering these precious boys. Because when I look back at the pictures above I see their smiles and realize they weren’t being “bad”… just being boys…in an office cafeteria.

Over and over in the Bible we read, “Do not fear”. Do. not. fear. “There is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus.” It all comes down to John’s last bold statement:

“You are a daughter of a King. Act like it!” -John Croyle

I’m already loved by the King of the Universe. Time to put on that big girl tiara and start believing it.

How do you manage your fears? Do you have Scripture memorized? Do you rationalize why your fear is unrealistic? Do you realize how much you are loved already?

Let’s tackle our fears ladies! for the children.

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Whether it’s 70 years or just one…

This past week I’ve found myself pouring over the book of Jeremiah. I know it’s an odd book from the Bible to “pour over”. I’ll explain.

Have you ever written out this verse in a graduation card or given it to a friend going through a hard time:

“‘For I know the plans I have for you’, declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11

Did you ever consider who God was talking to when Jeremiah wrote these words?

(I’m going to tell you no matter how you answered that questions…).

Way back in 605 B.C. God allowed Nebuchadnezzar (remember him from the book of Daniel?) to attack Jerusalem and take many Jews (including Daniel & his friends) to the foreign land of Babylon.

Even though I had a rough 2012, it greatly pales in comparison to what was going on back in 605 B.C. First of all, I stayed in my house. No one forced me to move to Mexico. Even though I felt captive by motherhood, there were glimpses of freedom. I have the hope of children growing and eventually become independent adults (bittersweet truth).

But the Jews lived in a strange place for eight years before they received these words from God via Jeremiah in chapter 29. What was God’s message?

  • “Build houses”
  • “Settle down”
  • “Plant gardens”
  • “Marry”
  • “Have sons & daughters”
  • “Find wives for your sons” (vs 5& 6).

Basically, make a new life in this place. He encouraged them to “seek the peace and prosperity fo the city to which I have carried you into exile.

Then the kicker…

“When the SEVENTY YEARS are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my gracious promise to bring you back to this place.” (vs 10).

(And THEN follows the famous “for I know the plans I have for you…” verse)

Did you catch how long they would be held captive?

70 years.

This may have come as quite a blow. In those eight years they may have held the hope that “Any day we may get to go back to Jerusalem”. Then they hear the news that captivity is going to last a wee bit longer.

Imagine you are one of the older Jews taken to Babylon. Your age + 70 years in captivity = never seeing the promised land again.

BUT God did promise restoration.

Even if they had to wait 70 years rescue was going to happen. God would make things right again. 

Many years later, Jeremiah while imprisoned in Jerusalem wrote more words of encouragement from God:

“Nevertheless, I will bring health and healing to it (Jerusalem); I will heal my people and will let them enjoy abundant peace and security.  I will bring Judah and Israel back from captivity and will rebuild them as they were before.” (Jer 33:6-7)

No matter how long they had to wait, God was going to bring healing. He would rebuild Jerusalem. They just needed to stay connected to Him in the time of waiting.

“‘You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you’, declares the Lord, ‘and I will bring you back from captivity.'” (Jer 29:13-14a)

I don’t know if you feel like you are in a season of captivity. Maybe life isn’t going the way you had hoped. Perhaps your husband is out of work. Or you are living in an unfamiliar town. Or maybe a loved one was just diagnosed with a sickness.

You are living in unfamiliar “land”. You long for the comforts of home. 

In my case, last year, I waited to feel like myself again. My mind was trapped in negative thoughts. Held captive.

But just like He promised the Jews, He has brought me out of that place. I am amazed out His provision to deliver me.

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The other day at lunch with the boys I turned on my favorite “Les Miserables” Pandora station. I just couldn’t sit and listen. So I began to show off my middle school ballet moves. Then, the boys fought over who would get to dance with me next (best kind of fight). As each song came on they listened with intense attention as I shared the amazing story of redemption of Jean Valjean. It was glorious.

“Yet in the towns of Judah and the streets of Jerusalem that are deserted, inhabited by neither men nor animals, there will be heard once more the sounds of joy and gladness, the voices of bride and bridegroom, and the voices of those who bring thank offerings to the house of the LORD.” (Jeremiah 33:10b-11).

Hold on dear friend. He promised to restore the Jews. If you seek Him, you will find Him. Seek Him with all your heart. He will bring the sounds of joy back in your home. He will bring thankfulness back to your voice. You will one day dance in the streets of the promised land.

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Unveiled {removing the lies & trusting truth}

*This is a post written by my dear friend Amber Lee (also an L&D nurse who helped me realize  when I was pregnant with my first that my water could break “a little”). She and I have been in community for 7 years and she is a TREASURE! Please read what God has taught her lately.*

For 33 years I’ve lived life veiled. Just like a horse with blinders on, like someone who has lost their glasses. I have not been able to see clearly, Satan has literally covered my eyes so I can see just enough, but not completely. 

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I’ve had glimpses of a true walk with God, despite the distractions the enemy has so cleverly placed before me. And it seems most often I fall head first into his trap and dwell.

Overall, I see I have chosen to believe Satan’s lies. Why? Because he is so subtle, and so good at his job.  I see how he has been in control of my prayer life. I’ve prayed fervently for certain situations or people or circumstances to change. Claiming James 5:16, “the prayers of the righteous are powerful & effective”.

Now, through unveiled eyes, I see that the prayers of the righteous are for internal change. For an open heart before the Lord, for my life to be pleasing and glorifying to him; for me to change not my circumstances or those around me.  That He will give me a heart of gratitude & joy amidst complete CHAOS!

Friend, let me tell you James 5:16 is TRUE. He will and can change your heart.  Your prayers are powerful and effective. He will unveil your eyes when you ask Him.  And, when He does what you see is AMAZING. What you are looking at is the same, but what you see is completely different. Its so much more.  You are able to see the absolute bondage Satan has you in and you see the complete FREEDOM that is found in Christ!

There is a story in 2nd Kings 6, where Elisha and his servant find themselves under siege by an army.  The servant says to Elisha, “What are we going to do; there are only two of us against then entire army”?  Elisha says (v. 16) “Don’t be afraid, there are more of us than those who are with them”.  Then, Elisha prays, “OPEN HIS EYES “(unveil him).  The scripture says that the servant sees hills full of horses and chariots of fire!  He saw the Lord’s army a complete other realm!  I want to see that, to be unveiled!  To be able to see what’s really going on around me, to take my head out of the sand.

The author of Hebrews in chapter 12 tells us to throw off the sin that so easily (and subtly) entangles us and FIX our EYES on Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith, and run with perseverance the race marked before us.

Paul tells us in Ephesians 6 to put on the full armor of God.  That the battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the powers of this dark world.  To me he is saying _(blank)__ is not the enemy, Satan is.  He just has you fooled.  Stop fixating on __blank__ and start fixing your eyes on JESUS.  Look just above the chaos, He’s there.

Realistically what does this look like?

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1) Remove the veil:

I’m learning that first I have to ask him to remove the veil.  Show me where Satan is telling me lies and I believe them.  Psalm 119:18 says open the eyes of my heart.   In Psalm 139: 23-24 David ask God to search him and know him to find the anxious thoughts. And lead him to the way of the everlasting.

2) Take thoughts captive

Secondly I am learning to take my thoughts captive. 2 Corinthians 10:4-5, again says the weapons we fight with are not of this world. That we should take our thoughts captive and compare them to the TRUTH.  Once we really compare what we are thinking to the Truth of God’s word, Satan’s lies become obvious.

3) Fix my eyes on Jesus

Last, what I am working on is fixing my eyes on Jesus (Hebrews 12:2). I’m learning that if I’m fixated on __blank__, then I’m not fixed on Jesus.  Philippians 3:8 tells us whatever is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, praiseworthy, we should think about these things.

One of the enemy’s most powerful lies is that you don’t have power over him or that he’s not there.  This is a LIE.  Even the weakest believer is more powerful than Satan.  James 4:7 says resist the devil and he will flee from you.  Don’t let Satan continue to keep your eyes closed.  Let the Holy Spirit unveil your eyes so that you can see what life is really all about.

John 10 says that you can live life to the full when you open your eyes and see Jesus.  Ask the Lord to unveil you and show you the absolute bondage you are in and how Satan has you completely paralyzed.  Ask him to really allow you to experience the unexpected joy (and complete freedom) of desperate dependence on Jesus.  Galatians 5:7 says it is for freedom that you have been set free!

Grace for Your Reality, not Your Imagination

In searching through some old journals God continued to speak to my fear.

Eight years ago I attended a women’s retreat at our church. A godly women, Vickie Kraft** was our speaker.

On my notes I scribbled the words: “What does God expect from us in crisis”…

The first thing: DO NOT BE AFRAID!

To “actively resist fear”, just as I had learned from Amy fighting her voices.

“When I am afraid,

I put my trust in you.

In God, whose word I praise,

in God I trust; I shall not be afraid.

What can flesh do to me?” Psalm 56:3-4

As I read this familiar Scripture I notice the repeated words: “trust” sandwiched between “fear”. When I am afraid, I will trust. And when I trust, I will not be afraid. I overcome fear with the decision to trust.

Fear doesn’t have to be big to be a problem…

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Fear can begin in its smallest form: worry. Vickie paints a picture in the quote above, of the path I create for other emotions and thoughts to travel when I worry. Even my smallest fears, invading my mundane as worry, require trust. 

 “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Matthew 6:34

Again this familiar verse involves repeated words: worry & tomorrow. Sandwiched between worry is tomorrow. Don’t worry about tomorrow, tomorrow will worry about itself. Just do today. Don’t allow even a trickle of fear for tomorrow to enter your mind.

I absolutely LOVE what Vickie shared with us next,

There is no grace for your imagination.

There is grace for your reality.

When I worry about tomorrow, I am imagining what could happen. But I have NO idea what will occur 24 hours from now. Any thought I have about tomorrow’s concerns is imagined. Any feeling of fear I have comes from ignoring my reality. Not being fully present.

Next time I start to worry about the boy’s future selves–> STOP. That’s imagined. No grace.

Start to worry about what other’s think–> STOP. That’s imagined. No grace.

Start to worry about how a child could get hurt–> STOP. That’s imagined. No grace.

Instead be fully present. This moment, right now, is a gift. A gift of grace. It’s not imagined. It’s reality.

Do you struggle with worry or fear? Today when your mind starts to project and imagine what “could” happen, stop yourself, and repeat, “no grace for my imagination”. 

**Our women’s conference speaker was Vickie Kraft, a mother of five grown children. She obtained a seminary degree from Dallas Theological Seminary after her children left home (I think one of the oldest graduates). Began Titus 2:4 ministries, wrote three books (including “Women mentoring Women”) and for 14 years was our church’s women’s minister.

Your “Get out of jail free” Card

Friday evening I had another crazy-lady meltdown, listing the following failures…

  • failing at taking care of our home
  • failing at helping our boys get along
  • failing at loving them well
  • failing at teaching respect/obedience
  • failing…failing…failing

I looked at my husband. Knowing he was just as sick as I was hearing this familiar rant. I asked him to tell me everything he thought I’m doing wrong as a mom. I told him I REALLY wanted to know. Because, in my mind, I assumed he was thinking all these things and just not telling me. So I’d rather he told me everything he was frustrated about and I could just start working harder on those things (I told you…”crazy lady rant”!).

He said, “Why should I tell you? You aren’t going to believe me?”

I promised him I could handle it. I’d believe him.

He simply responded, “First you tell me 10 things you do well.”

I stared at him blankly. I couldn’t. I couldn’t come up with even one good thing.

He says, “That’s what I think is wrong. You are too hard on yourself. You are a wonderful mom. You work soooo hard to get it right.”

(at this point I was in tears, mind you)

Heather, NO ONE has it right. No matter what you read or what you think. There isn’t some magical formula out there. You aren’t going to ever get it right. So just relax. Chill out.”

Chill out.

I bluntly replied, “I don’t know how. I don’t know how not to care. Not to try. Not to expect to pursue doing everything the best way possible. I don’t know how to be okay with ‘okay’.”

Do you struggle with thinking one day you will have this parenting thing all figured out? Assuming you will finally learn the secret to keeping your home in exquisite order, while engaging your children in educational activities, training them to love & respect others, and enjoy the entire process?

If you are the type of woman who totally understands exactly what I just described, I want to give you a “get out of jail free” card. Because those expectations of perfection have imprisoned me and you.

Every day that I assume perfection in each area of my life is attainable, I am believing a lie. I’m trapped in an unattainable goal. I’m locked in a cell of my own creation. Frustrated. Desiring what everyone else has.
For today, take the “get out of jail free” card. Attempt to “chill out” with me. Instead of trying to do & be what you think every other mom is able to do and be, just rest in being the mom God created you to be. For today.
While reading “Practicing the Presence of God” by Brother Lawrence, I thought of being a God-centered mom. Brother Lawrence discovered joy in the mundane by focusing on enjoying God’s presence. It was him and God. Just him and God.
When my mind starts to create that jail cell and think of all the things I “should” be doing if I was a good mom and picturing other moms doing it perfectly, I want to stop myself. Instead I want to picture just me & God. Just be in His presence. Realize being fully present with God is all that matters.

In His presence is fullness of joy. In His presence I am free to love my children with His love. In His presence what other’s think of me does not matter. In His presence I am perfect and free just as He intended me to be. Free.

“For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” Galatians 5:1

As part of your “freedom” today, I give you full permission to sit on the couch with your kiddos (if they are over 2 years old) and watch the movie “Cars”. To take away any “mommy guilt”…here is a discussion guide I wrote over at The MOB Society: “Cars” Discussion Guide (pride & humility of Lightning McQueen).

***note: after writing this post, we were at a pool and my 4-year-old son was playing on a railing. He fell on to the concrete hitting the back of his head. My husband took him to our new favorite emergency room, Highland Park ER, and checked him out. Seeing a picture of my son in a CT Scanner will shake you and bring you to your knees. 

Fortunately the scan was normal. He was diagnosed with a concussion. He is hopefully going to be fine. In this moment, perfection seems so unimportant. Life. Being fully present in life and kisses those sweet babies. That’s all that matters to me tonight. 

Faith at a Fish Funeral

It was the lunchtime rush. Preparing food while tummies grumbled & mouths whined. I glance at the Betta fish tank sitting on our counter. Something seemed wrong. But I continued assembling sandwiches while comforting the newborn. Once the food was placed on the table and the boys were occupied I returned to check out Rojo Red (“the fish”). He wasn’t floating to the top, but he wasn’t moving. At. All.

Upon further investigation I noticed the gray coating on his scales and the absent look in his eyes. I wasn’t 100% that he had left this earth…he had fooled us before (floated on his side for over an hour then made a full recovery). So I transferred him into a cup. His stiff body confirmed my assumption: our first pet death.

Rojo Red’s days were numbered. He was nearing his 2nd birthday and for a Betta Fish that is a long life (particularly a Betta fish whose owners have 4 young boys).

My middle sons were quite curious to check out the “corpse”. My eldest son (the most sensitive of the clan) hung back. Finally I convinced him it would be a good idea to see Rojo really was “gone”.

Nervously he stammered, “You know what cute thing some kids do? They bury their fish in the backyard. Can we do that?”. I responded: “We could do that. Or some people flush the fish down the toilet.”

Before the words were out of my mouth the two middle boys were chanting, “Toilet! Toilet! Let’s flush him down the toilet!!!”

The only way to calm them down was by saying, “Rojo Red was actually your brother’s fish from his 5th birthday. So he decides what happens to Rojo. If he wants to bury him, that’s what we’ll do.”

I prepared the body…wrapping him in paper towel. The coffin of choice was a small contact lens solution box (a free sample from my recent eye appointment…in my busyness I had let my prescription expire & ran out of contact lenses).

We headed outside. I grabbed gloves and a small shovel. My eldest found a piece of wood from a previous Taekwondo board breaking. He began to write down his sentiments… 

After the box was placed in its hole and gently covered with dirt, the eulogy began. I asked if anyone wanted to pray…silence. 

Then my 4-year-old closed his eyes & simply prayed:

“Dear Lord, thank you for our fish. Pray that he will come alive someday. Amen”

Paul wrote: “In prayer, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God…” On that day, I saw my son’s childlike faith. He demonstrated gratitude and made his request. A request that he wholeheartedly believed God could fulfill.

Until his older brother giggled and said, “Only Jesus can come back alive from death. Remember the Yancy song, ‘1,2,3, Jesus is Alive’. The fish won’t come back to life. Right, mom?”

I wanted to believe that with God “all things are possible”.  However, my years of experience and science background, would not allow me to believe in a fish resurrection.

I watched my 4-year-old’s face transform from hopeful to enlightened. “Oh yeah, that’s true. He can’t come back to life.” I saw the change, the tiny step away from childish ways. When too much knowledge is a bad thing. When we stop believing in miracles. When faith is bound by science.

He said to them…” if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.” Matthew 17:20

What struck me most is my lack of faith for this child. I was convinced he was averse to all things of God. Yet here he demonstrated pure faith. He believed God’s power could not be contained. He knew his heart’s desire could be innocently expressed to a big God who cared.

How often I say “I believe in God”, yet my actions communicate, “I don’t believe God”. If I truly believed God, then I would not worry about the future. My hands should be open to what He has for my family & my boys. Instead I strangle joy, white-knuckled out of fear.

The boy that I worried would not claim a faith of his own, demonstrated simple faith in a simple moment. His prayer was heard throughout the heavens. Although God may not bring Rojo Red back to life, God was glorified in the asking.

 Jesus. We loved him. He was 7 years old when he died. He loved God.

Do you believe God? Do you believe He is in absolute control over your life? Do you trust Him with the details? Do you believe He is capable of miracles, big & small? 

The Crazy Comes in Waves

The first question everyone asks me, a new mom of 4 boys, is: “How is it going?”

For the first couple weeks on my own, I couldn’t even formulate an answer to that question. My response became, “We’re doing it.”

If you have been reading this blog the last 7 weeks since Knox arrived you may think “I have it all together”. You may think I’m ridiculous when I say, “I’m struggling” or “I feel I’ve ruined my children.” Perhaps you think I need to give myself grace, lighten up, relax.

You may be right.

But in first few months of adding a life to your family…it feels overwhelming. No matter how it looks to bystanders. A new mom’s heart is anxious.

My theory is God designed new moms’ senses to be heightened. Sense of sound…to hear the slightest whimper. Sense of sight…to watch for potential dangers. Sense of touch…to bond with a new soul. Sense of smell…to know when a diaper needs changing. 😉

Heightened senses are great when you only have one newborn. Problems arise and stress appears when more children are added to the situation.  The increase in sensory sensitivity plus additional sensory input…can lead to sensory overload!

Everyone is loud. Everyone is running around. Everyone is spilling things. Everyone is touching me. Everyone is calling my name. AAHHHH!!

At the end of the day, I would describe my day as “crazy.” (particularly the days involving tornado warnings with a toddler attempting to potty train himself while the newborn has a “colic tantrum”).

Last week I came up for a little air. And a little perspective. I realized my ENTIRE day wasn’t crazy. It really only came in waves.

The most challenging moments were when the newborn was awake. Which was every 2 to 3 hours. So it couldn’t be crazy the whole day because he wasn’t awake ALL DAY.

Recognizing that there were only a handful of truly “crazy” moments in my day helped me handle those moments when they came. Instead of screaming or crying when all the boys were screaming and crying, I could breathe and know this moment would pass. The calm (or somewhat calm) would come soon.

Not only would calm come soon, but perhaps even joy. When I painted a picture of the entire day as “bad” or “crazy” I robbed the day of those waves of joy & laughter.

Studying Psalm 139 last week (Run to Him study), His Words brought me comfort in the waves of “crazy”:


Wings of dawn (early morning newborn feedings). Far side of the sea (waves of craziness). Each wave of emotion and stress, He’s there. He’s not going to let me falter. Even more amazing, He knew I would have hard moments on those days:

“all my days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” (vs. 16)

He is not surprised by what I considered “bad days.” He is not even shocked when I use harsh words and criticize the boys…

“Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O Lord.” (vs. 4).

When I feel darkness closing in & negative thoughts filling my mind, I cling to His right hand holding me fast (vs 10).

“even the darkness will not be dark to you;

the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.” (vs 12).

May you be encouraged in your craziness. Consider that the “crazy” may come in waves  and not encompass the entire day.When a moment comes, stop, breath and realize it will pass. 

Be comforted by God’s complete knowledge of you.  He knew how your day would unfold before you were even born. He even knew what words you would use that day. If you cling to Him, in those dark moments you can see light/hope because there is no darkness in Him. And through His eyes you may glimpse your own waves of joy. 

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