You Never Know the Burden Someone Else is Carrying

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For the past two years the first Saturday after Thanksgiving, we have sat on bleachers and cheered as high school bands passed by & giant balloons shaped like famous characters crowded the sky. Just when we had perfected the plan for where to park & sit, the parade coordinators changed the route.

Street closures and traffic caused a little strain in our marital communication. Finally we found a parking garage which appeared to be relatively close to our seats. Just like last year I brought blankets to lay down on the bleachers. And just like last year  I packed snacks and water for hungry kiddos waiting for the parade to start.

Strapping the Baby Bjorn on Bruce, I awkwardly slipped in Knox. Then in sherpa-like style I carried the diaper bag, snack backpack and three blankets. The boys’ appropriate excitement led them to run ahead of us and get too close to the street. Yelling out “STOP! Boys stay on the sidewalk. Slow down!” as blankets slipped from my arms. With each block we walked I felt my attitude slipping. It didn’t take much. I was already in a grumpy place, remember?

We arrived at our bleachers a few minutes before the parade started. This was good news considering we had little boys to keep entertained every moment until the first float arrived. But the flip side of arriving so late…packed bleachers. Finding room for a group of 6 adults and 8 children proved to be difficult.

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So we spread ourselves out among a section of seats. Price and his buddy chose to sit together. Unfortunately sitting together meant pulling santa hats over their eyes and kicking their legs with excitement. The worst part of their choice…the couple sitting in front of them repeatedly getting kicked in the bottom by two silly, squirmy boys.

In apologizing for the boys and moving them down a few rows (with more “leg” room), I started chatting with the “kicking” victim. One conversational topic led to another. That’s when she pointed out the people in the bleachers across the street from us. In my flustered state I hadn’t yet noticed they were all wearing the same shirt, just in different colors.

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“They are with the Snowball Express program. Children (and their parents) who lost a loved one in military service were flown here for free by American Airlines for fun weekend…Six Flags Amusement Park, Fort Worth Stockyards, and the parade.”

My mouth gaped open in disbelief…All those people lost a family member in military action?”

I found this news story:

“The Snowball Express is in the air, making the holidays brighter for military families who have lost loved ones in the War on Terror. 1700 children and spouses of fallen military heroes are being flown to Dallas/Fort Worth. …American Airlines flight crews are donating their time to make the trip possible.”

While complaining about inconvenient parking, over-crowded bleachers, sweating from the blankets I had carried in 80 degree weather, I looked across at the sea of faces who have a legitimate right to complain. In that moment the parade took on a whole new meaning.

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I stood with them saluting the flag. A symbol of what their loved one died to protect. Freedom to attend a parade in Dallas, Texas in the United States of America.

I cheered when they cheered for balloon carriers to spin the balloons. I wanted a good show more badly than ever…for them. Thank you Dallas Tap Dazzlers in sparkling costumes & cowboy hats for kicking your 65-year-old legs and amazing us with your energy & joy.

The biggest cheers came not for the Nickelodeon superstar or Batman, but for the Navy Seals marching with the “Carry the Load” organization. Created by two Navy Seals as a way to remember our veterans in a tangible way on Memorial Day. “It’s a life-changing journey for participants as they walk or run as long as they can in the 20-hour period (carrying heavy backpacks) . . . Like the service members they honor, they carry more than they have to, longer than they think they can.” 

Watching these bleachers full of those left behind, I see the joy on their faces as the “Carry the Load” banner passes. The salutes. The honor.

I had a high school teacher who once told me, “You never know the burden someone else is carrying.”

Focused on my comfort & convenience I never would have considered such enormous pain & suffering could exist in those sitting just across the street from me at a Christmas parade. Someone pointed it out to me. It was an intentional choice to see them. 

This Christmas season I have the opportunity to “bump” into a lot of new people/strangers. At the post office. Toys ‘R Us. The craft store. The grocery store. Visiting Santa. I want to try to stop and consider life from their perspective.

“Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” Galatians 6:2

If the Starbucks barista doesn’t give me eye contact & seems to need a strong cup of coffee, I don’t want to take it personally. I hope to pray for her (in the quiet of my mind). While checking out at the grocery store, I don’t want to just scroll through Facebook on my phone. But to look at the face of the cashier and ask him/her about a favorite Christmas memory or how he/she will spend the holidays.

In replacing “me” with “He”, I must consider the burdens of others. To see them the way God sees them.

What burden are you carrying today? Share below so I can pray for you (or feel free to email me: GodCenteredMom@gmail.com)

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Check out the “Light ’em Up” website. 100 ideas for random acts of kindness this holiday season. love it!

How Christmas Transforms the Mundane {Advent Ideas}

Last week we celebrated Christmas with my husband’s family. Matching Christmas pjs. Visiting Santa with cousins. Waking early to open stockings. Exchanging presents by the lit tree. Finishing with a wonderful steak & potato Christmas dinner.

Every activity just as it should be on Christmas day. But it didn’t feel like “Christmas”. There was no build-up. No counting days from turkey to a candlelit service.

Because Christmas is more than a day. It’s a season. More than giving gifts and eating good food. It’s a period of time to adjust hearts. Redirecting my focus from self to God. Reminding me there is more to living this life than the day-to-day tasks. 

What makes Christmas entrancing is how the ordinary transforms into the extra-ordinary. Lights on trees. Trees situated in living rooms. Sprinkles on cookies. Sparkles on  clothes. Parties on weeknights. Normal gets turned on its head.

The changes shake me from the mode of the mundane. 

Even conversation changes. Time around the table pouring over His story. Sweet questions during car rides about the words, “King of Kings”. Discussing whether lyrics say, “the Lord has come” or “the world has come.”


When I start to feel the stress of all the expectations of the season, it’s good to remember I need the change. I need to break from my rhythm. Just like I need to wake up each morning and proclaim, “You are king of my life.” I need to end my year with the proclamation, “You are King of Kings…who came to earth in the form of newborn babe.”

Advent, which means “coming” prepares me for the coming of Christmas, Gives perspective for His future coming. But it takes intention to do advent activities.

Last year I shared 5 tips for enjoying Christmas with young kids. Including two different ways we focused our hearts on the true meaning of Christmas. One, we crafted adorable ornaments from Truth in Tinsel. I loved having a fun craft to do while dinner was cooking. Each day discussing a new detail of the New Testament story of Christ’s birth.

The other way was “The Family Promise Tree” (based on the Jesse Tree), a set of felt ornaments my sister sewed. With each ornament there is a little devotional, starting with Genesis, directing us through God’s promise to send His Son to deliver us from sin. Each day tells a story from the Bible (Abraham, Moses, Joshua, Ruth, David, Isaiah, John the Baptist) leading to the arrival of Jesus…the Promised Child. It’s a simple advent and it works for us.

Unfortunately, “The Family Promise Tree”, is no longer available. But my church friend, Jacki Rucksdashel, felt a calling from God to create an updated Jesse Tree Devotional for families. Here is what she shared with me:

“As we started looking at what we would choose as a family to focus on what Christmas was really about, we had a hard time finding something specifically for young children.  Our kids relate so much to the power of narrative…a story.  That is when the idea for this devotional was born.  After two years of trying this and trying that, my husband and I decided to sit down and with the Lord’s help, create a devotional book for our kids in this stage of life.  Thus, The Jesse Tree Project was born.  We are so happy to share it with you for free.”

Did you catch that last line? For FREE! The devotionals are awesome they include:

  • Verse of the Day
  • Bible Reading for THE STORY-for adults to read or for older children.
  • THE STORY– the Biblical account written in narrative form for young children.
  • Questions —to check for understanding.
  • Prayer — feel free to pray your own prayer!
  • Worship–songs, poems, videos or books to inspire praising Him.
  • Extended Activity–Extra activities to do with children to help solidify what they learned.  (All optional of course!)

If you don’t want to have to make the ornaments for each day, Jacki & her husband have created printable ornaments.

I haven’t put up our tree yet. I haven’t printed out ornaments. I haven’t hung up the felt Christmas tree. But there is still time. It isn’t even December yet.

I will make time this weekend to decorate my home. To print off ornaments. To hang up a felt Christmas tree. Because it’s in celebrating the “coming” of Christmas that my heart turns from self to God & I replace “me” with “He”. 

How to have God-centered {humble} Holidays

The real-deal holidays are here. It’s time to get serious about this God-centered thing. Choosing to replace ‘me’ with ‘He’ sounds nice when I sitting in my leather chair, in the comfort of my home. Add in the stress of traveling with children, sharing small spaces with extended family, being off my routine, AND trying to be God-centered. Oi vay!

I’ve spent time thinking about how to stay humble this holiday season. There are a few things I’m going to put in my tool box for handling the crazy with grace & love. Here we go:

1. Pep talk phrases

Sometimes I just need a little perspective. I get caught up in the chaos of the moment and my blood begins to boil and then I blow it.  So I’m going to keep a list of pep-talk phrases handy in my mind (or maybe even written down) to keep me on track. Some of these came from the book, “Unglued” by Lysa Terkeurst (highly recommend it):

  • “It’s only ____ days. I can do anything for ______ days” (insert length of time…”It’s only 4 days”)
  • “The relationship is more important than being right.” (this comes from Lysa’s statement: “Am I trying to prove that I’m right, or improve the relationship?”)
  • “Does this matter to God?” (looking down at my life from 24 miles up helps give perspective on whether I’m making a mountain out of a molehill.)
  • Say it to her/his face. (don’t talk about another family member unless he/she is present).
  • Pray more, say less. (Lysa says, “The one who holds the tongue holds the power.”)

2. Memorize & Dwell on Truth

A few years ago I decided to memorize the passage Philippians 4:4-7 during Christmas break:

“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Anytime I started to get sassy or frustrated I went back to those words, “let your gentleness be evident to ALL” or “do not be anxious about ANYTHING” or “by prayer and petition, with THANKSGIVING”. The holidays were much more joy-filled when I went back to His word and meditated on His truth.

This year I want to memorize & think about these words:

Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” Ephesians 4:2-3

3. Have an escape plan

Even with pep-talk phrases & Scripture, it’s unrealistic to think I will never be overwhelmed or frustrated  during the holidays. When I start to feel the tingling in my toes and my mouth filter thinning, I need to:

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I’ve decided in those moments where I may say or do something I regret, I need to just slip out of situation and go to the bathroom…with my iPhone. Sit on the toilet (lid open or lowered…your call. ;). Turn on Pandora and listen to one worship song (examples: Hillsong, Christa Wells, All Sons & Daughters, Christ Tomlin). When the song ends, say this simple prayer, “Lord, help me to stay focused on You. To love others as You love me. Help me be a minister of Your grace. Amen.”

4. Start the day in His Word

I may not have my leather chair & quiet time of #hellomornings while traveling. I’m hoping before my feet hit the floor in the morning, I can open the YouVersion app on my phone. There is a reading plan women around the world are reading together. The plan is called, “She Reads Truth”. Here is the link for the Thanksgiving plan: http://bible.us/r/6N

5. List a gift

For me Thanksgiving isn’t the only day for expressing gratitude. Since reading “One Thousand Gifts” (Ann Voskamp), gratitude has become a spiritual discipline. A daily turning my eyes towards what God has given me in times I want to complain about what I don’t have.

During the holidays when my grumbly voice begins, I want to stop & think of one gift. Right then. Stop & be grateful for at least one thing. Thank God for the gift. Give Thanks. Receive the gift and receive joy.

Okay Chicas, what ideas can you share for staying God-centered (humble) this holiday season? 

When you keep “working” on the same issue…

A few weeks ago I found old prayer journals from my college days. It was discouraging to see prayers for the same areas of sin I’m praying for now. Have I really not grown spiritually in the last 13 years of pursuing Christ?

I heard an author recently say, “spiritual maturity comes after emotional maturity.” Her testimony was actually one of the motivators for seeing a counselor. Because how can I expect to grow in my faith if I’m stuck on past hurts?

How can I grasp God’s grace for me, if I don’t understand grace? If I can’t grasp His grace for me, how can I give grace to others?

When I brought up these ideas to “Sally” (the counselor) she gave me a wonderful visual example. Here is my attempt at bringing her idea to life (an iPhone pic of a Word doc…nothing but the best around here):

There is a spiral with a plank through one side. The spiral is your life. As you grow and travel up the spiral you eventually hit the plank. The plank represents your “issue”. Whether it’s insecurity, doubt, inability to love, difficulty understanding grace…that’s the plank.

Each time you hit the plank you think, “not this again! Haven’t I dealt with this issue before?” 

Yes, the truth is you have. But in reality you are higher up the plank than you were last time you hit it. As you climb the spiral you climb higher and higher on the plank. The progress may not be perfect, but it’s progress (Lysa TerKeurst calls it “imperfect progress” in her book “Unglued”).

In order to achieve spiritual maturity I must obtain emotional maturity. But maturity doesn’t happen in a moment, it happens over time.

“Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me.  Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me.” 2 Corinthians 12:7-8

God gives me a “thorn in my flesh” so I remain close and stay humble. Everyone has a “thorn” or “plank”. Each day is another day of progress. Theologians call it progressive sanctification: “process in a Christian’s life in which he/she is progressively made more holy (set-apart).”

“The process of progressive sanctification is described in Galatians 5:19-23. Progressive sanctification is the journey of producing less and less of the acts of the sinful nature (Galatians 5:19-21) and more and more of the fruit of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). Progressive sanctification is a process empowered by the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 5:18) and enabled through prayer and the study of God’s Word.”- all about following Jesus

So, do not be discouraged if you keep bumping up against “that issue” in your life. Whatever keeps you clinging to the Cross was given to you for a purpose. You are growing, maturing, being sanctified to become more like Christ.

Lord, 

As I desire to be more of a God-centered mom than a self-centered one, give me patience in the process. Continue to fill me with your Spirit. May  Facebook & Twitter not replace prayer and Your Word in my day. May I lean into You as I make imperfect progress. 

Amen

Three Ways to Be Still

It appears (from the comments on my last post) that it’s not just me who desires to sit at God’s feet. It’s not just me who struggles to find time to “be still” in the midst of full schedules & endless demands. So I’d like to dedicate this post to brainstorming ways to “be still”. Here are a few of my ideas and I’d love for you to share yours in the comments.

First Thing

In college I took a personal finance course (random I know, but there is a good point here). Our professor, who retired by the age of 35, told us one way to save & gain financial freedom is to: “PAY YOURSELF FIRST” (after tithing of course…).

What he meant was before you pay bills, mortgage, buy groceries, you should set aside money from your pay check and save it in the bank. He drew the picture of a line of people at your door needing/wanting your money. There will always be places and ways to spend money. If you don’t pay yourself first you will spend all your money before you save a dime.

I picture the same is true with time with God. There are a line of people, needs,  & demands waiting for me each day. It’s not like after I’ve fed my children, done all the laundry, checked email, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, watched all my shows on the DVR…I’m going to say, “Now that all that’s done I feel like sitting down with my Bible and praying.” Not going to happen.

Extrapolating from his “pay yourself first” motto, I would use the motto, “BE STILL FIRST.”

I don’t want to be legalistic or strict… but if you want to know God & you have a life full of distractions…perhaps in order to be still you have to sit at His feet before life starts barging in.

I don’t think God needs an hour-long, 10 page, in-depth Bible study to connect with your heart. I do think some time is better than no time. Try getting up 5 minutes earlier than you usually do. Just 5 minutes.

In those 5 minutes begin with this prayer:

“Lord your servant is listening”

Then open your Bible and read one verse. Read it 5x. Ask God to show you through His spirit what He wants you to hear for today. Perhaps that little sip of living water will drive you to wake up again the next morning 5 minutes earlier…

John 4:13-14 “Jesus answered, ‘Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.'”

Midst of the Mayhem

I have four children. I know being still is the farthest thing from my reality once they all wake up. But it’s when they are awake I need to know God is my ever present help. It’s in the daily activities when I react in anger, get overwhelmed and anxious.

You may have heard me share about Susanna Wesley who threw her apron over her head in times of prayer. I think it’s a fabulous idea.

A friend shared with me a modern-day version of praying in the midst of the mayhem. She found there were two “trigger” times in her day: 7-10 am & 4-7 pm.

During those three-hour chunks of time she set alarms on her phone to go off every twenty minutes. When she sets the alarm she also types in the label portion (which normally reads “alarm”)…the words, “Rest in God”. Love. it.

Every twenty minutes a little chime went off reminding her to rest in God & pray. Apparently her children quickly picked up on these chimes and the effect they had on their mom. What a great model for her kids?

Personal Retreat

Not only should I start each day being still in His presence before demands come in or attempt to be still in the midst of the mayhem…ideally, once a week, I’d like to spend a large chunk of time in prayer and the Word.

Another friend of mine stays home and homeschools her three children. Since she doesn’t get a “break” during the week, she has set up a little personal retreat for herself every Friday night.

She has dinner ready and on the table. When her husband walks in the door after work on Friday, she walks out. Then she heads to La Madeline or Cafe Express (or some other fun little restaurant) by herself. Sometimes she may stare at her water glass for the first 20 minutes. But eventually she spends time planning, reflecting and being still with her Creator God.

What ways have you found to “be still” in the midst of busy lives & schedules? I would love to learn from one another in this space. Click here to comment. 

Linking up over at:

holy experience

Be Still by Lisa Chan {A Giveaway}

Summer is over. The school year has begun. I spent 30 minutes the other day entering activities, snack schedules, meetings, programs into my Outlook calendar. Even with a concerted effort to be “less” busy this year…only one sport for the family this fall…no music lessons…only one Bible study for me...life is full.

There is a constant pull to “do” and “be” more. Text messages I need respond to and phone calls to return. Thank you notes to write and emails needing replies. Even the good things take time. When I wrote about “re-charging” my battery a few weeks ago I shared my desire to do life-giving activities…crocheting (have yet to do that), reading, hanging out with friends.

Yet, the only place I’ve found true restoration and life is in His presence. Taking the time to BE STILL. To quiet all the voices requiring something of me and just sit with God who requires nothing. I’ve found the only way to be close to the mom I want to be is making time in stillness with my Heavenly Father.

Given my own realization of the importance of keeping God center & spending time in His presence, I was thrilled to share this resource with you.  Lisa Chan, ,wife of pastor Francis Chan (“Crazy Love”), released a new video series this month entitled, True Beauty: Finding Your Identity in Jesus. The first video in this series is called, “Be Still”:

Lisa Chan believes that in our quest to do it all, women are missing God. “Be Still” addresses the issues that confront women when they forget to spend time with Jesus—something that, like most women, Chan struggled with herself.

As a mother of five children, Lisa knows firsthand what
it means to be overwhelmed, overcommitted, and out of time. It was an unplanned, extended time alone with God that fueled her desire to encourage every woman to see the beauty of coming before the Lord in stillness. She has seen firsthand that women in the church are suffering from depression, anxiety, and stress at alarming rates—and recognizes that women need to make the choice to find hope and healing and truth from God’s presence and through His Word.

This video is beautifully created by the Flannel production team. Lisa gently & honestly share her own struggle to know what it means to “love God.” Intermingled throughout the video, Susan shares the story of how God met her in the midst of a broken marriage. How reading one verse over and over gave her the “glimmer of hope” and strength she needed.

Do you get caught up in all the busyness and distractions that you miss sitting at the feet of Jesus each day? Do you think watching a T.V. show, scanning the Facebook newsfeed, or scrapbooking to perfection will fill your deep spiritual needs? (this one stings a little) Do you know what it feels like to really love God & desire more time with Him?

Here is a video clip with more about Lisa’s heart for women to know true beauty:

Great news! Lisa is offering a copy of this video to one special GodCenteredMom reader. This would be a wonderful resource to give to a friend who is struggling or to watch with a small group or Bible study. To be entered to win, please leave a comment below, or click here if you are reading in your email.

{The giveaway will be open until September 13th. The giveaway is officially over. Thank you to all who entered! Hope you are able to watch a copy for $1, download for $7 and currently get the DVD for $9…click this link–>Be Still video

“God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble…

He says, ‘Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth.'” Psalm 46:1 & 10

God Reigns Supreme…even in the details

God is good.

I know He is good, but often miss seeing His goodness. And I miss them…the details He carefully takes care of.

There were so many details to think of before boarding the plane to Indy with Knox…Make sure the sitter knew Quade needed to wear a tie on Fridays for chapel. Put a note in his backpack to go home with a friend after school. Fill up the fridge with enough food.  Leave the key for the house.

It hit me when I arrived at the airport. Oh yeah, I’m traveling with a baby. This is typically a “not so easy” job to do by oneself. Security alone can make your head spin.

When I settled into my middle seat and the first large man sat down in the window seat next to me, I started to feel anxious. Please Knox, please don’t start screaming. Did I wear the right shirt to nurse the baby discretely?

Then the second man sat down in the aisle seat. I become even more nervous. How long is this flight? Can I reach everything I need in case of emergency? Hooter Hider?…check.  Extra pacifier?…check.  Burp cloth?…check.

But God was in the details. These men were angels. Merciful and mild. Enjoying my son and offering assistance. When Knox happened to kick his little leg out and knock an arm, a genuine “Oh he’s fine” was given by the man.

More grace in the details…the water bottle I happened to purchase on the way to our gate became entertainment for thirty minutes. The hum of the engines lulled Knox to sleep for another thirty.

My favorite story from our trip happened at the graveside service. My mom had one sister who passed away years ago and has two brothers who live out in California. My uncles decided there would be no official funeral service, just a graveside service. (With some convincing my mother requested a private viewing for family…grateful for closure.)

My mother did not grow up in a Christian home. In fact, her uncle (my grandmother’s brother) was a humanist. His beliefs centered on humankind, without attention to any notions of the divine. My uncle Lee wanted to read from his uncle’s humanist writings.

My father opened the service in prayer. Then my uncle said a few words about nature (the trees, sky, flowers), the plight of man (generation after generation came to the same end), and the inevitability of death (dust to dust). Then my father read these words:

“In this vast universe

There is but one supreme truth—

That God is our Father.

By that truth meaning is given

To the remote stars, and the numberless centuries.

O my soul, dare to trust this truth

Dare to rest in God’s kindly arms.

Dare to look confidently in his face,

Then launch thyself into life unafraid,

Knowing that thou art within thy Father’s house

That thou art surrounded by His love.

Thou wilt then become master of fear,

Lord of life, conqueror even of death. “

              -James Gordon Gilkey

This poem came from a little leather bound book. A page carefully typed out by my grandfather, my mom’s father. In the 1950s he was a pastor in San Angelo, Texas. Little did he know these words would be read at his wife’s funeral more than a half a century later.

Little did he know his son-in-law would quote this poem to layer Truth on top of the humanist observations. To bring meaning to the universe. Truth given to the death of generation after generation. Faith in the midst of sadness.

Interestingly my dad wasn’t even aware how God used these words. As we walked away from the grave site he asked me what my uncle had even said. Apparently my dad wasn’t listening for fear of being distracted from the Spirit’s leading.

I stopped in my tracks. “Dad! Every time Uncle Lee said something about the earth or humanity, you read something which added God’s truth to his statements. Every. single. time. I thought you did it on purpose!” Simply amazed.

There’s more God goodness…

As I sat down facing the casket checking my phone for the Scripture I was to read, a text appeared from my mentor saying she was praying for me. Then checking Facebook later that day I found a message from a dear online friend calling for prayer for me and my family….posted the exact moment the graveside service began.

There is a big God who gives meaning to the universe. Who gives hope in the midst of death and loss. Who placed each star in it’s place. Who has a BIG plan for you and me. But He is also supreme over the details…deciding who I sat next to on a plane, when a text message was sent, what readings would be shared to give Him glory.

I stand in awe. Complete awe of His work, His hand. My grandmother’s life was honored, but God was glorified. Hallelujah!!

Will you have eyes to see His goodness today…in the vastness & smallness?

“He heals the brokenhearted
and binds up their wounds.
He determines the number of the stars;
he gives to all of them their names.
Great is our Lord, and abundant in power;
his understanding is beyond measure.”

Psalm 147:3-5

fighting the voices like she did

Her name is Amy.

Or “Ame”. Depends on which personality attacks addresses her, the deep voiced rapist or the high school friend.

Amy and I were never formally introduced. Her messiness spilled out to anyone within a five-foot radius…which included me.

My plan to find a quiet secluded corner proved to be a challenge in a Panera full of patrons finishing up lunch. Instead of settling down in one of my normal two-chair tables along the front windows (already taken), I headed toward the comfy chairs with the attached trays.

Balancing my cinnamon crunch bagel on its plate while setting my computer bag on the floor I heard her giggle out loud. My free hand immediately checked the back hem of my dress. Had I been wearing my computer bag in such a way as to “flash” the entire Panera restaurant on my search for the perfect spot?

Well. If I just flashed everyone, all I could do now was act as “normal” as possible and pray I would never see any of those people EVER again.

She giggled once more. Okay it couldn’t be that funny. Then I noticed she stared intently into her laptop. Perhaps watching an episode of “How I met your mother” had led to the sudden outbursts of laughter?

My phone rang with an anticipated call and I soon dismissed the giggles.

Ending my call and opening up my computer, the giggling neighbor now began to carry on a very loud conversation. But she wasn’t holding a phone.

I reached into my bag hoping to find ear buds. The last thing I needed was a distracting conversation during this rare moment alone with my computer.

Her protests

Listening to my new favorite “All Sons & Daughters” Pandora station was not enough to drowned out her loud “protest”. I pulled out one ear bud just as she held her hand out to her side and declared, “Stop bothering me!”

Out of curiosity I slowly removed the second ear bud. Who was bothering her? Following her gaze, I landed on a sweet dad enjoying lunch with his two little boys.

Then came more pleas, louder, stronger and more frequent:

“I’m not listening to you.”

“I’m not interested in you.”

“Get away.”

“No thanks.”

A moment later it became clear to whom she was speaking…in a low voice she replied, “See how gross and ugly that man is. That ugly man is going to come over here and hurt you.”

Then back to her normal voice, “I don’t like you. No thanks. Get away.”

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Back came the deep voice with more violent threats. Specific threats. She responded, “Stop looking at me you stupid, yucky rapist.”

Her false reality became apparent. With each personality she assumed, my heart broke a little more.  For the next hour and a half, every time a man entered her line of vision another “personality” voiced concern over his intent to harm her in some way. 

Little by little her past was shared with me, an uninvited “friend.” I became her protector. When strangers sat down nearby and tossed “weirdo” looks her way, I wanted to explain, “She is broken. Her past includes: torture, angst, loss of a child, abuse, sadness, and deep fear. Don’t look annoyed like I used to be. Show compassion.”

Fear & Brokenness

We all have brokenness. Hopefully nowhere near the level of Amy. Unlike Amy, most of our hurts aren’t expressed “out loud” for bystanders to witness. We bury our yuckiness deep.

Here is my brokenness…For the past year I’ve felt negativity looming. I’ve longed for joy. I’ve tried to “choose joy”. I’ve prayed for joy. This quote helped explained my nagging negativity:

“Thoughts create your moods.
When you experience a fear-based emotion you will feel depressed and your thoughts will be characterized by negativity.” Dr. Caroline Leaf

If I take Dr. Leaf’s logic backward…my negativity is based in depression which is rooted in fear.

Thinking of Dr. Leaf’s quote it makes sense why just praying for joy isn’t going to remove gloom. The root cause is fear. My prayers needed to focus on trusting God and removing fear. I cried out:

“Lord, what am I afraid of?”

The list began to form:

I’m afraid one child will get hurt while I’m busy taking care of another child (which has happened). I’m afraid a stranger or friend will criticize the way I handle my brood while in public. I’m afraid my harshness will ruin my boys’ future selves. I’m afraid my poor home management disappoints my husband.

Persistent Defense

Even though it wasn’t my battle, Amy’s persistance exhausted me.  Repeating defensive phrases: “I’m not talking to you.” “Get away.” “No thanks.” “I’m not talking to you.” “Get away.” “No thanks.” “I’m not talking to you.” “Get away.” “No thanks.”

Her relentless determination to combat her inner fears and outer demons also inspired me.

I know truth deep down. But when fears appear and lies flood my mind, what phrase can I repeat in defense? What is my “go-to” truth available to combat the lies? I can’t wait until my next quiet time to find an applicable verse. Truth should be locked and loaded for the next attack.

Here are my new defense phrases against the “voices” in my head:

  • “Be still.”
  • “I know that you are God.”
  • “You knit them together.”
  • “Give thanks.”

Repeat.

“For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” Ephesians 6:12

Do you struggle with fear? Negativity? What phrases can you repeat when those lies begin to surface?

**The entire time I “sat” with Amy I prayed for God to put her soul at rest. I prayed for healing. I approached two girls, who were wearing t-shirts quoting Scripture, and asked if they wanted to pray over Amy with me. They didn’t feel comfortable with my idea. So I continued to pray quietly at a distance. As the restaurant cleared her voices quieted. 

Create an Over-Reaction Action Plan

**Thank y’all for your kind words & comments on my one year blogoversary post. The winner of the autographed copy of “One Thousand Gifts” is Kandace from www.hisidahorose.wordpress.com. Congratulations Kandace!**

I had help with the boys for two weeks straight! Amazing. Yet, as crazy as it sounds, I was looking forward to it being just me & the boys. The week started off well. My two weeks of ‘rest” carried me through the first few days. Then the exhaustion and frustration starting creeping back in. By Friday I wasn’t responding to the boys like I wanted to.

They weren’t being any different from Monday. I knew I was being unreasonable and overreacting.  With one more mess to clean up I screamed, “Stop it! Go to your room. Seriously!”

Fortunately this time I realized the issue was my own. After barking out my order I stopped and said, “I’m sorry guys, mommy actually needs to go take a break.”

I headed straight for my leather chair. Buried my head in my hands and started praying. “Lord, I don’t want to speak harshly with the boys. He only spilled water on the floor. Please give me strength and patience. Allow me to give them grace. Help me to see them as you see them.”

Then I picked up my Bible and flipped it open. Furiously reading the first page my eyes fell on. James 1...

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”

Yes. Even in my failings. Pure joy. Reaching my limits. Discovering I am not “super mom” leads to spiritual maturity. Relying on God for my strength. I read on…more from James 1...

“When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed.”

I was tempted by my evil desire to use anger to control a situation (a symptom of my pride). I long for calm, convenience, and comfort. However, God does not call us to those things. He definitely doesn’t want me to sin in order to receive them. James continues…

“My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry,  because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.”

Woah. There it is. Bringing me back to truth. Anger is not going to bring about the kind of godly life I desire for myself or our family. when I stood up from my chair the boys greeted me with apologies. Thanking them for saying sorry, I told them how mommy reacted poorly. How spilling water is not a big deal. How I overreacted. How much I love them.

Susanna Wesley, a God-centered mom of John & Charles Wesley, birthed 19 children, 10 of who lived to adulthood. When she needed a moment to “center” herself in the midst of mothering, it’s rumored she threw an apron over her head for a time of prayer. She used an apron. I ran to my leather chair. What is your action plan when you aren’t being the mommy you want to be?

Creating an Over-Reaction Action Plan:

1. Look for a trigger

  • Is there a theme for when you get the most frustrated?
  • Time of day? Activity (trying to get out the door on time)? Child?

2. Where will you go?

  • If you have young children, you may not be able to leave them unattended. Perhaps you sit on the floor with your head bowed.
  • Maybe sit on the couch. Do you have a rocking chair or chair your children can associate as “the place you meet with God?”
  • Perhaps you can step into the bathroom. Maybe even lock the door (luxury!). Keep some verses handy in the medicine cabinet or a pretty looking basket.
  • Your bedroom may be a safe place to retreat.

3. What will you do?

  • Does prayer come easily for you? Then spend a few moments telling God why you are frustrated and asking Him to give you what you need.
  • List 3 things you are grateful for in that moment.
  • If you struggle with a consistent trigger, spend time finding Scripture  related to your struggle. Keep them written on notecards stuck in a dollar store photo album…easy access and review.
  • Simply open the Bible and allow the Spirit to speak to you through His Word.

We can’t expect a few moments reading the Bible in the morning to carry us through the entire day. Particularly if your mothering instinct is opposite of the mother you want to be. We have to have a plan.

Where will you go & what will you do when you find yourself over-reacting to your children? 

When you think you can’t handle one. more. thing.

You know what sounds easy now? Taking care of 4 boys.

A little over four months ago taking care of 3 boys while pregnant was my limit.

Then meeting the needs of 3 boys while caring for a newborn became my challenge.

Then I asked for help from friends while my husband travelled and I cared for 4 boys.

THEN a stress fracture while caring for 4 boys. And my husband travelled. Seriously God?

When my 2 1/2-year-old got a stomach bug the morning I was trying to get the boys off to school, with a stress fracture and my husband out-of-town, I snapped. “I SURRENDER!”

Only three days before my foot x-ray I had written in my journal, “Just when I feel comfortable parenting 4 kids something happens to bring me back down.”

Then I read in “Jesus Calling”:

“Thank me for difficulties in your life since they provide protection from the idolatry of self-reliance.”

Some encouraged me & said, “I can’t wait to see what God will teach you through all this.”

Honestly learning a lesson was the farthest thing from my mind. Obviously I had not learned the “humility” lesson yet. I continued to “relentlessly replace ‘me’ with ‘He'”. (Remember I am NOT the God-Centered Mom. I am the self-centered mom. Being God-centered is an aspiration, not a reality.)

My mind was consumed with survival, not growth. How was I going to be the mom I want to be when I couldn’t even walk? How was I going to manage the behavior of my boys when I couldn’t administer consequences?

Since others said God taught them big things when they went through trials, my eyes slowly turned outward from me & began to look for the lesson. Here are a few things I learned:

-I am a “doer”. I do. I act. If something seems wrong, I fix it. Not being able to jump up and fix things right away, I was forced to be patient & allow them to fix themselves. What I learned…I don’t have to “do” everything.

-My way is not the “right way”. If someone else is willing to help, then their way is the right way. Otherwise it wouldn’t get done. Learning to let go of the frustration when things aren’t done “my way” was a huge relief.

-My boys need me to sit with them. In doing things my way I miss spending time with my boys. Just sitting. Realistically food has to be cooked, clothes cleaned, dishes washed, but souls need to be filled. Bodies need to be hugged. Moments need to be shared. I have been only meeting physical not emotional needs.

-Even when I could literally not survive on my own efforts. God provided. Even when I was determined to remain self-centered in the midst of this trial. He pursued my heart.

He repeated, “I’ve got this. What are you so upset about? The things you view as sooo important…they do not matter. See my gifts in this:”

  • A generous, helpful mother-in-law and time to bond with her
  • Quiet moments with each son
  • Focused time in the Word
  • A week of breakfasts in bed
  • A day connecting with my sister
  • Boys taking on more responsibility

I opened the mail.

Those boys mirror the ages of my boys. I imagine their mom’s thoughts read: “You think you have reached your limit? I’m living in a cave with my 4 children. My ‘home’ is being bombed. I have no clue where my next meal will come from.”

*if you want to learn more about this woman & her boys in South Sudan read here at Samaritan’s Purse.*

It was as if my heavenly Father sent a version of the cliché message, “There are children starving in Africa.”

He said, “Eat of this life. Others are starving. Eat of my body which was broken. Drink the living water. Yes, you have challenges, but you have so, so many blessings! Even if everything in this life was stripped from you. You have me. What matters most.”

When you think you can’t handle one. more. thing., He whispers, “You CAN’T…but I can. Trust me!”

“…We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead.” 2 Corinthians 1:8-9

And…

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” John 14:27