Will you believe me? What about Him?

The Christmas banquet you attended with a boy…and your best girl friend. When the 3 of you arrived, you quickly learned you were 1 of 3 girls wearing that dress.

Dear 15-year-old me,

Let me jump right in with a question. Will you believe me when I say, “It all works out”?

Really. All your worries & fears about the unknowns. All your plans for the future…they may not turn out the way you imagined, but in most cases they’ll turn out even better.

Let’s start with your shallow biggest concerns.

Acne. Those zits that keep you insecure. Hiding behind lots of permed hair. Experimenting with toothpaste as a nighttime-miracle-acne treatment.  I have awesome news! Your skin clears up when you take the medicine, Accutane, in college. (FYI, those zits did serve a purpose…they helped keep away “those” boys and save you for the perfect one.)

Speaking of boys, I know it feels nice to have someone appreciate you, listen to you and laugh with you, but what you feel is friendship, not “true love”. Your need for love & approval will continue to drive your thoughts and decisions. Because you care so much about what people think, you tend to get your feelings hurt easily (fortunately you ‘toughen up’ some over the next 20 years).

Sometimes you get hurt unintentionally. But if a boy continues to treat you as “less than” or purposefully makes you upset…walk away! Because there is an amazing man waiting for you. The love you feel for him…it’s the real deal…worth the wait. He will make you very happy and appreciate your sensitive side. (And that “people pleasing” thing…oh sister,  someday, with God’s help, we will conquer it.)

Not only will God bring a handsome, tall, loyal, genuine, charming, positive, enthusiastic Texan (yep a TEXAN!) into your life. He’s got LOTS of adoring boys in your future (all Texans!).

FOUR sons who think you hung the moon. Who ask for kisses, squeezes and hugs every night before bed. Who cry if they miss the chance to get a kiss on the neck. Who fight over who gets to sit on your lap. They pour this unconditional love on you every day (sometimes in the middle of the night you get special “dates” with a particularly adorable 6 month old one).

The biggest thing I want you to know, God gifted you (not just as the fastest typer of the Sophomore class). Maybe not athletically (nothing wrong with a Senior on the JV tennis team), but He is laying a foundation now to use you in the future for His glory.

Again, you are striving in your efforts for approval. You think the more you do, the better you do it, the more you will be loved and accepted. I totally get it. But if you keep meeting with Him. Praying. Following His leading you will get to be a part of His hand in the lives of the hurting. You will be fully loved and accepted by Him.

Oh how I wish I had gotten this letter when I was 15.

To tell you the truth, I would love for a 55-year-old me to send a letter right about now. Letting me know my boys all “turn out” okay. That it was worth the twenty years of pouring pieces of me into their lives. That they all love Jesus & serve Him. That they are dating or married each to women who loves God first and them second (and all those daughter-in-laws love each other). Maybe a grandchild is due any day…

I wish hearing a “good report” from a future me would keep me from worry. Yet the reality is, I probably wouldn’t believe me, just like you probably don’t believe me right now (am I confusing yet? time travel stuff is complicated).

Here’s the good news. Someone, who created the world, who is outside of time, wrote you a Letter. In it He tells you over and over, “It will all be okay…really.”

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28

But you forget. I forget. And we try to handle things our way. We worry about the unknowns, even when we know the One who knows it all.

So you and I don’t need reports from future selves to keep our worry “in check”. Really we need to keep looking at His letter. Keep reading His words, “it will all be okay.” Not because of anything we do, but because He has done it all!**

Love ya (a little self-love),
*h

**That is the essence of grace. Unmerited favor. He loves us even though we don’t deserve it. Even “good girls” struggle to believe they deserve His love. Emily Freeman, author of “Grace for the Good Girl” just released a book for teenage girls to help them understand true grace, called “Graceful“. Wish I would have had her guidance 20 years ago!

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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.

My “Bump Into Grace” Friends

*disclaimer: I received permission before including any of the following stories for this post. 

80% of our interactions are accidental. I should rephrase that. We didn’t plan on seeing each other, but God always had our “accidents” written in His planner.

Monday morning I felt like a metal ball in a never-ending pinball game, bouncing from need to need. The crazy wave never seemed to die down. When the sitter arrived I announced, “I’m ready!!” Unfortunately, there were still 45 more minutes of ‘crowd control’ (a.k.a. disciplinary measures and tantrums) to deal with before I walked out the door.

Driving away from the house, tears brimming, I said out loud, “I don’t want this life.” Just as quickly as the words slipped out, my mind filled with all the logical reasons why I really did want my life. Included in my gratitude list were boys who said “goodbye” with big kisses and hugs (and blows on necks…it’s a tradition). Despite the nuttiness of a morning, they still wanted to give me hugs. They live big and love big and forgive big.

My main goal for the afternoon was to mail out Quade & Price’s birthday party invites.  But the first step was to find envelopes large enough for the invites I created on my computer. I knew there was a Michael’s near the post office. So my half-aware brain headed towards Michael’s.

As soon as I walked into the store I bumped into a friend…a “bump into grace” friend. Since Quade was a toddler we’ve consistently bumped into each other at stores, museums, parks, restaurants… I leave our conversations refreshed. We go deeply quickly. We breathe grace in each other’s presence.

On this particular day I was super impressed to find her three kiddos perfectly behaved standing next to her, all quietly holding on to the cart. I encouraged them, saying “Wow! Y’all are doing such a wonderful job patiently waiting in line with your mommy.”

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My “bump into grace” friend, through smiling, gritted teeth, said, “You have NO idea.” I shared with her some of my morning. Including my theory that challenging behavior may have been due to a late bedtime from the previous evening’s VBS. She agreed. We exchanged goodbyes and I was off in search of envelopes.

I walked out of Michael’s empty-handed, just as my phone showed a text message from my “bump into grace” friend. Her text explained how a moment before I walked into Michael’s her oldest and youngest were playing an angry tug-of-war in with a Brave coloring book. Right before I saw them behaving perfectly, she had given the “mommy look” and insisted they both put their hands on the cart. Her middle child was just scared quiet. She ended the text, “nice to see your smiling face.”

As I looked up from reading the text I saw my friend driving through the parking lot. I held up my phone to show I got the text. We shared knowing glances. We get each other. I felt encouraged because I’m not the only one struggling through the challenges of motherhood. It helped pull me up from my belly gazing and “woe is me.”

She shared how it encouraged her to see me and know God is kind. Seeing me had re-colored her day. Instead of remembering the horrible “tug-of-war” incident she remembered my perfectly timed entrance.

You know what’s even crazier? As I walked away from her car I asked if she could think of any office supply stores nearby to get envelopes. She pointed me to the Office Depot. RIGHT NEXT to the post office. Um, yeah.

Why didn’t it cross my mind to go to the very conveniently located office supply store for envelopes?

I believe God directed my steps.

“A person plans his course, but the Lord directs his steps.” Proverbs 16:9

He is kind. If we are willing to see His hand in our day we can see how He orchestrates “bump into grace” incidents.

Not just friends. Perhaps grace comes from bumping into a stranger (<—click to read). Or even through the world-wide web…

This week I received a Facebook message from a college friend I have not seen in over 13 years. She took time to tell me I have been on her mind. The night before she dreamed about my husband Bruce and I meeting her at a conference. When she woke up from her dream she prayed for us.

Do you know where my husband was when she messaged me? In Boston at a conference. I hadn’t posted it on Facebook. But I needed prayer while he was away. God had been kind. She had been available. She took the time to stop and pray.

Do you have friends you frequently “bump into” and God uses to speak to your soul and show you grace?

If you don’t have a real-life grace community, have you experienced “bump into” moments through online community? God speaking through the words of a blog post when you were at a breaking point? Scripture shared through Twitter or Instagram?

Ask God through His Holy Spirit to open your eyes to “bump into grace” moments. They are happening. My prayer is you don’t miss them!

What does Noah’s Ark have to do with your children’s salvation?

To quickly review the past “Wisdom from Murray” posts…

My man Murray sure has a lot of wisdom, huh?

To be honest the first time I read this next chapter I wasn’t sure if Murray made correct conclusions. I’m open to your thoughts/discussion in the comments section. 

“Then the Lord said to Noah, “Go into the ark, you and all your household, for I have seen that you are righteous before me in this generation.” Genesis 7:1

In the last chapter we discussed how sin originated in Adam and has been transferred from fathers to sons for generations. By the time of Noah, the world was corrupt. Sooooo corrupt that everyone but Noah and his family would be destroyed. 

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In this horrific, epic event, I could focus on the wrath of God and the death of so many people. Instead Murray draws my attention to recognizing God’s grace and mercy in saving Noah & his family.

“It was the first act of redeeming grace on a sinful world…great principles of the economy of grace:

  • mercy in judgment
  • life through death
  • faith as a means to deliverance

Murray suggests not only was sin nature handed down from parents to children, but grace was passed down as well. Noah’s son Ham was worthy of perishing with the rest of the wicked world. Yet in the verse above (Gen.7:1) God calls for Noah and ALL his house/family into the ark. Ham was saved from the flood because of his father’s righteousness. 

In God’s sight, the family is one unit. The parents and children are one in sin and in grace. The original “Grace-Based Parenting” started at the ark.

“The parental relation has a nobler destiny: for the eternal life, too, with its blessings, the believing father is to regard himself as the appointed channel & steward of the grace of God“-Murray

No pressure, right? Parents are the givers of God’s grace. Murray goes further to suggest if the parent’s faith is secure, the child will be blessed by the parent’s righteousness. Not only is Noah saved by being in the ark…so are his children, even his sinful, unrighteous children. Undeserved favor (aka “grace”).

Compare God protecting Noah and his family in the ark, to my family. Murray implies, my “ark” (faith) in which I am to be saved is meant for my children too. The saving “ark” is for my children as much as for me. 

Not only is salvation not just to me, but also for my children. He commanded Noah to bring his family into the ark. He commands us to bring our children “into the ark”.

“By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household.” Hebrews 11:7

Noah believed God would save his family. So much so he gave his entire life for the construction of this gigantic boat. “God always gives grace proportionate to the duty He requires.”(Murray)

The application is this:

  • live, act, pray for children’s salvation
  • make their salvation my one aim & joy in life
  • be assured my children are to be saved with me
  • let me confidently trust God for the salvation of every child!

We don’t just “hope” are children are saved. According to Murray we need to accept it in faith. Act in obedience. Bring them into the ark. 

Love these words:

“Your house will be to the child the ark where Christ is known and found.” Andrew Murray

What are your thoughts about Murray’s conclusions from the Noah account?

“Was I good today?”

He looks up at me with eager eyes, longing to hear my answer:

“Was I good today, Mommy?”

His simple question breaks my heart.

The truth is: “No child, you weren’t ‘good’ today. Remember when you hit your brother when he had done no wrong? Didn’t you say ‘no’ when I asked you to wash your hands? Weren’t you the one to steal my Diet Dr.Pepper & drink it secretly in the dining room?”

But I don’t list off his offenses. Instead I respond with, “What do you think?”

Cautiously he admits “I was medium good.”

After he is tucked in bed & dishes are washed, I sit on the couch and replay our conversation. I’m convicted by my unintended messages.

In my longing for some semblance of peace & order with our “new family”, I have given the impression that everyone needs to be “good”. That love is given only to the “good”. That perfection is attainable.

I’m giving this message because it’s the message I believe for myself.

At the end of each day as I crumble from the list of failures, I cry out to God, “Was I good today?” How can I be deserving of Your love with the mess I made today?

Through my study of Psalm 103 He answers:

 “The LORD is compassionate and gracious,
slow to anger, abounding in love.” (Ps 103:8)

I may not have been “good” today, yesterday, or tomorrow.

YET, the Creator is abounding in love for me…a sinner, a failure. He shows me compassion & doesn’t react to my mistakes in anger. He goes beyond that…

 “He does not treat us as our sins deserve
or repay us according to our iniquities.
For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his love for those who fear him;
as far as the east is from the west,
so far has he removed our transgressions from us.”

(Ps 103:10-12)

My sins deserve severe consequences…death, in fact. He doesn’t treat my sin with death. He removes my sin from me as far as is possible.

When He looks on me, He not only sees “good”, He sees Christ’s perfection.

When I cry out, “Was I good today?”, He loving answers, “You were perfect!”

I want my unintentional message to my sons to be: “You are loved child no matter what choices you make.” To say it in my actions, not just my words.

My prayer is the same as Andrew Murray’s:

“O Father, open the eyes of all Thy people that with each little babe Thou givest them, their faith may see a goodly child…so the eye of faith sees in each little one a divine goodliness.” (How to Raise Your Children for Christ)

(that’s not a typo…goodliness not godliness)

There will be bad behavior, but with prayer and the strength of the Holy Spirit, I want to see my boys the way God sees them. Divinely good. Made perfect through Christ’s sacrifice.

Yes there will be training in truth & discipline. But I desire to balance truth with grace. To exchange my bad habit of responding in anger & frustration with patience & calm reproach.

I want them to know they are loved, so they don’t have to ask “Was I good today?” Because it won’t matter.

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How do we let go of unrealistic expectations? {your thoughts}

Yesterday I wrote about my struggle with thinking my children and myself will be perfect. I have these standards in my head: THAT kid & THAT mom.

It’s one thing to realize I have these unrealistic expectations, but it’s another to stop expecting perfection.

I shared that one way to combat these thoughts is to see us as God sees us. To realize that He will give me the grace & ability to complete the calling He has given me. He has called me to be the mom of my kids…not THAT mom of THAT kid.

I had a reader ask me the following question on Facebook & I thought I would ask my blog readers their thoughts:

“I have such unrealistic expectations for myself, and my kids. How do i put those aside? How do I break the destructive patterns of thought? My solution is to hide His words in my heart, as much as I can. Any other suggestions?”

If you struggle with expecting perfection, how do you break that pattern of thought?

I thought I would also share a quote from Ann Voskamp’s “One Thousand Gifts” on her approach to changing her mindset:

“That heavy beat of failure, a pounding bass of disappointment, it has pulsed through my days and I’ve mouthed the words, singing it to myself, memorizing the ugly lines by heart. For years, I tried medication, blade, work, escape, all attempts to drown out that incessant, reverberating drum of self-rejection…the only thing to rip out the tape echoing of self-rejection is the song of His serenade. One thousand gifts tuned me to the beat. It is really like C.S. Lewis argued: that the most fundamental thing is not how we think of God but rather what God thinks of me…practicing eucharisteo was the very first I had really considered at length what God thought of me…He chooses His children to fully live! Fully live the fullest life: the astonished gratitude, the awed joy, the flying & the free.”

Ann’s solution to those unrealistic expectations & feelings of failure is to count God’s gifts. To see how deeply we are loved. To live fully right where we are…not trying to attain another life. To find joy in thanking God for what He has given us.

PLEASE share with our “God-centered mom” community your thoughts on this topic. Let’s help each other break out of the chains of perfection we have placed on ourselves.

THAT kid of THAT mom

There is a kid that I have in my head as the perfect standard. THAT kid.

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He obeys right away with a good attitude. He is kind to those around him. He is responsible…cleaning up his own messes. He treats his brothers gently and honors them. He never uses offensive words or a harsh tone. He washes his hands before meals. He calmly sits and listens to stories. He desires to learn and play outside more than television or video games. He laughs freely. He is generous. He is content. He does not whine, complain or argue.

Who is THAT kid? Have I ever actually met him? Have I ever seen a 2-year-old or 4-year-old version of him?

Then why do I start each day with the expectation that my boys will be exactly like THAT kid?

Why do I get so frustrated when they don’t behave just like THAT kid?

I expect perfect. When they fall short I am disappointed.

The same goes for myself. I have THAT mom in my head.

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She has a voice of honey, calm & soothing. She handles chaos with patience and gentleness. She models Christ’s love in each interaction. She plans perfect devotions for her family during breakfast. She leads her children in lessons that engage and educate each day. She reads aloud to them for hours on the couch while she strokes her children’s hair. Somehow she cooks every meal, keeps the house clean, does the laundry (and puts it away) while meeting all the emotional and physical needs of her children.

Who is this mom? Do I really know anyone like her?

Again I start each day with an impossible expectation. I expect to be the perfect mom.

Most likely within 10 minutes I fail. Within 30 minutes they fail.

This standard of THAT kid and THAT mom keep me from the joy of my day. Instead of seeing the tender moments, I’m still reeling from the fact that I missed the mark.

BUT what if my standard was to see each of my children and myself for who God made us to be? The positive and negative.

What if my expectations started with who WE are not who THEY are?

Expect my 2-year-old to be a 2-year-old.  Expect my persistent 4-year-old to push every boundary. Expect my 6-year-old to ask for one more thing he doesn’t have. Expect myself to get frustrated and tired.

To give us grace to be us. To have eyes to see the good. Instead of looking for the ways we don’t measure up.

Expect my 2-year-old to be cuddly and cute. Expect my 4-year-old to have a kind heart and help without being asked. Expect my 6-year-old to gently guide his younger brothers. Expect myself to manage our day with consistency and order.

To count the gifts instead of focusing on the challenges.

To love us for us. To forget THAT kid and THAT mom.

I wasn’t created by God to parent THAT kid. My boys weren’t given THAT mom.

I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love,
(Ephesians 4:1-2 ESV)

He called me to be the mom of THESE boys. He uniquely gifted me and is growing me closer to Him by the struggles I face growing up THESE boys into men.

He is drawing my boys to Him through my imperfections. Allowing them to see that I can’t meet all their needs but He can.

But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift.
(Ephesians 4:7 ESV)

He has given you grace to cover the calling and the giftedness to be the mom to your kids. Not grace for these crazy standards we keep in our heads.

Let’s be free today of THAT kid and THAT mom. Expect imperfections. Have eyes for the positive ways we differ from THEM. See how God sees us and our kids…perfectly imperfect. 

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