Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Just Listen to Me!

“Listen to Mommy!” I said to my 3½ year old son, Andrew…AGAIN. Andrew had a rough day; things just didn’t go his way, he was testing the waters (testing me) and I didn’t like it. We had a little heart to heart talk, several times throughout the day. I heard myself saying things like…

“Andrew, if you would just listen to me things would go a lot better for both of us.”

“Andrew, please just listen to me. Mommy doesn’t like getting after you, but it’s my job to teach you right from wrong.”

“Andrew, why aren’t you listening? Who’s the boss, me or you?”

That night as I tucked my little blondie into bed, his piercing blue eyes staring into mine, I said, “Andrew, I love you so much, that’s why I want to teach you right. I want us to enjoy each other and have good days together. Please listen to me. Let’s have a better day tomorrow, okay?!” He said, “Alright, Mommy. I love you too.” Which was followed by a big hug and kiss that simply melted my heart.

Just look at this cheesy, mischievous grin!

The next day was much better. Andrew listened (for the most part) and our home was peaceful. 

I dislike correcting my son, it doesn’t make me feel good. At the same time, I know I must correct him when he doesn’t listen. It is my job to teach him and if I don’t do it, he will never grow to be the man God created him to be. God gave me (and my husband as well) this authority and responsibility. The growing process can be hard, but it is necessary. Because I love him, I will teach him right from wrong.

It hit me hard…this must be how God feels about me! Sometimes I’m outright defiant. I want to do it my own way. Things don’t go so well, and then I wonder why.

It’s as if he’s saying to me, “Why don’t you listen? Things would go a lot better for both of us if you would just listen. Please just listen, I don’t like correcting you, but because I love you I want to teach you my ways so that you can grow. Who’s the boss, me or you?!” YIKES!

My child, don’t make light of the Lord’s discipline,
and don’t give up when he corrects you.
For the Lord disciplines those he loves…”
Hebrews 12:5-6

Who’s the authority…who’s in charge? Our loving Father corrects us, the growing process can be difficult, but it must take place if we ever want to grow to full maturity. We do things our own way, and then wonder why things aren’t going so well for us. He says, “Follow me!”

How about you? Do you feel convicted in any areas in your life? Is your loving Father correcting you? Will you listen and learn? His way is the best way! Is He gently and lovingly correcting you. He’s saying, “Just listen to me.” He’s helping you grow into the person He designed you to be.

It is a new day. Repent of (turn away from) your sin (whatever it is) now! Be forgiven by your loving Father…and go forward! His mercies are new EVERY morning!

Oh, and if we keep on listening, there will be much better days ahead!  :)

“The faithful love of the LORD never ends!
His mercies never cease.
Great is his faithfulness;
his mercies begin afresh each morning.”
Lamentations 3:22-23

Friday, September 24, 2010

Everyday Moments

Lately I have been praying to see God, to be used by God, to be aware of His presence in those ordinary, everyday moments of my life.

In Sunday school this week, I shared the story of baby Moses with my kindergarten girls. As I shared, I thought of all the ordinary moments that led to some very extraordinary events in God’s big plan.  You probably know the story...

A mother, trying to save her baby takes a basket lined with tar down to the river. She put him in the basket and into the water believing and trusting that God would protect and preserve her baby’s life somehow (but not knowing how!). I believe Moses’ mother must have prayed for guidance on what to do. Otherwise, what would possess you to do this?

The mother leaves Moses’older sister, a young girl named Miriam, in charge of watching him from the reeds. Miriam didn’t know she would be used by God that day, she was simply obeying her mother’s wishes to watch her baby brother. But, when the time was right, God impressed upon her young heart, just the right thing to do and say…and without fear she stepped up to the challenge. She spoke up and made a request of the princess who found him.

Even the princess didn’t know that anything out of the ordinary would take place on that very ordinary day. She went about her normal activities…this time going to the river to take a bath. But, what happened next changed the course of history. I have no idea what the princess’ relationship was or was not with God, regardless He must have impressed something upon her heart, causing her to feel love for this baby as she opened the basket. You know she could have ordered her maidservants to deliver him to her father, the king, who ordered that all of the Israelite baby boys be put to death, she didn’t!

God was watching over baby Moses, his mother, his whole family…and an entire nation of people! As you probably know, Moses became a mighty man of God and he lead the Israelites out of slavery…and towards the Promised Land. God had a plan for Moses’ life and he used many others to get him there.

God still works like this today! Psalm 33:15 describes God’s watchful care, “He has made their hearts and closely watches everything they do.” He isn’t some distant, far off God. He is a personal, loving Father.

The other day I sent an e-mail to a dear friend who is going through a tough time. I told her that I would pray for her, added a scripture for some encouragement and closed the note. At the end, I wrote out the prayer that was in my mind and heart at that moment. I didn’t intend to, I just did. A few days later I saw my friend. She hugged me tightly and declared that my e-mail was just what she needed…especially the prayer at the end. She told me that she printed out the e-mail so she could look at it again and again. She even showed it to some of her friends and they were blessed. I thought, “Wow, what did I write?!” I had forgotten all about writing out the prayer at the end. I still don’t remember exactly what I wrote, but that’s okay. God knew just the words she needed at that moment!

One day this week I was in Mc Donald’s play place with my sons. There was another mom there who seemed lonely and I felt led to talk to her. I prayed in my mind for guidance and words. Before I knew it, she struck up a conversation. We talked…and I’ve been praying for her ever since. I think it’s just what she needed.

Yesterday evening, I sat down on the floor in my living room near where my boys were playing, to read a Christian book about parenting. As I read the book this question crossed my mind and heart, “What do my kids learn by watching me?” I was praying about this in my mind, telling God that I often feel like I fail in this area. Within a couple of minutes Andrew, my 3 year old, ran into the other room, grabbed his preschool devotional book and said, “Mommy, we need to read my devotions!” I asked, “What made you think about that right now?” He said, “That’s what you’re doing.” Wow, God, you are good!! Thank you for the reassurance that sometimes with your help I do “get it right.” That’s just what I needed to hear at that moment!

I am not telling you this to brag on myself!! I am telling you this to brag on God!! Many times I fail. It is by God’s grace that I “got it right” in these moments. I’m flawed and sinful; I get wrapped up in myself many days. Yet, it’s amazing to me how He can use me, a VERY ordinary woman, to speak His words to a broken heart, to live His message out loud in everyday moment…that is: when I’m obedient to His prompting.

The remarkable thing is not that I sin, but that, in spite of my sin, I am capable of having fellowship with God and being used by Him for His purposes in the world.” Ibid., 102

God works in our very real lives…whether we’re working on some big ministry project or sharing encouragement with a friend via e-mail, facebook or on the phone. Planning a missionary trip to some far off country or simply (which is not so simple at all!!) being a missionary to those in our lives right where we are, every day (starting #1 with our family!!). God is THERE…in the big things and the small. He’s with us in the everyday moments of life. He is interested in EVERY detail of our days. That’s why he tells us to “pray about everything” in Phil 4:6! It’s amazing and humbling to watch Him work through us when we follow His lead.

How are you seeking Him daily? Do you believe He cares about every detail of your life? How are you being watchful of and prayerful about what He wants to do in, through and around you today?

O Lord, you have examined my heart and know everything about me…you know when I sit down or stand up. You know my thoughts…you see me when I travel and when I rest at home…everything I do…know what I’m going to say before I say it…you go before me and follow me. You place your hand of blessing on my head. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too great for me to understand. Psalm 139:1-6

Yes, it’s too great for us to really understand, but it’s TRUE! Thank you, Lord, for caring about every detail of our lives…knowing just what we and others need at every moment! Please help us to be more sensitive to Your promptings in these everyday moments of life, living to serve and honor You rather than focusing on ourselves. Thank you for loving us and working through us despite our failures and flaws. We love you, Lord! Amen.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Looking Too Far Ahead...

One of my earliest memories involves my teenage brother, a gravel road, a little red wagon, a big red dog and an irrational fear.

I’m not sure exactly how old I was. What I do know is we still lived on a gravel road out in the country, we moved to town a month before I turned 3 years old. I was young! My big brother, Josh, was taking me on a walk, pulling me in a little red wagon. We looked down the road a ways…where we were headed, there was what looked like a BIG BLACK CREATURE heading our way. My brother pointed it out to me, I was immediately scared to tears.

What could it be?! Josh wanted the two of us to go see, but I cried, “No!” He said, “Stay here…and I’ll go see what it is.” I was so scared! What if this vicious creature devoured my beloved brother. What if it came to eat me?! My little heart and mind was full of fear!

I watched at Josh walked…finally reaching the “creature”. To my surprise he started walking back my way WITH the creature at his side. Was he crazy?! As they approached the creature’s form started to take shape. My fear changed to delight…a BIG RED DOG!!

Note: I sure didn’t trust Josh much, did I? I should have trusted him more. He was trustworthy. It wasn’t at all what I thought!!

I hopped out of the wagon to meet my new friendly dog friend. He was obviously a young dog, full of spunk and energy. I remember him licking my face as I giggled. What a pleasant surprise!  I liked him so much and wanted to keep him. We fed him bologna (a nutritious meal for a dog, don’t ya think?!).

This 30 something old memory is very vivid. But, when I think of it, I am reminded that things aren’t always what they seem. Sometimes we look too far ahead in the future! Sometimes we project what we think might be, when we have no idea what really will be! We spend so much time looking ahead, worrying, trying to figure it all out.  Wanting to know how it will all play out. 

Jesus said, “So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring it’s own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.” Matthew 6:34

We don’t know what tomorrow will bring. What we do know is WHO has our future in His hands!

"For I now the plans I have for you,” says the LORD. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11

We don’t have to be consumed with irrational fears. We don’t have to have it all figured out. We just have to TRUST. Read what Jesus said just before he said, “Don’t worry about tomorrow.”

“Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.” Matthew 6:33

Take it one day at a time! It’s okay to make our plans and have goals, but really it’s most important that we follow Him day by day, moment by moment. Looking too far ahead can be overwhelming. However, today we can seek Him and His righteousness above all else. We can find peace, hope and purpose in the daily routine of our lives. We have no idea what tomorrow holds, so why not live life to the fullest…obeying, trusting, loving, and serving today.

“We can make our plans, but the LORD determines our steps.”  Proverbs 16:9

I’m not saying we should just sit where we’re comfy looking ahead at the “big creature,” never getting out of the wagon. No, I’m saying, trust the puller of the wagon! Don’t look too far ahead, trust Him just for today, just for this moment…and you may be surprised what good thing comes out of it. It’s probably not going to turn out the way you thought! But, you can bet He has a plan and you can TRUST Him…one day at a time!

Lord, I will serve you just for today...not looking too far ahead, trying to figure it all out.  I know You have a plan for my life and that I can trust You and Your plan.  Thank you for loving me, giving me a future and a hope.  Give me the strength, wisdom and revelation to follow You closely each day because that's what this life is really all about.  Amen

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

But God...

Last Friday Alan and I celebrated our anniversary. It’s been six years since we said, “I do.”

Just look at us all bright eyed and bushy tailed...

The wedding ceremony had just ended, I laid my head down on
his shoulder. We were so happy (and Alan was thrilled to get 'er done). 
This is my favorite wedding picture.

We hadn’t known each other very long. We met on the internet, on a “Christian” website. Alan and I aren’t necessarily big advocates for internet dating, but in our case, it was simply the tool God used to bring us together. It was my first week on the website and Alan’s last. I only paid for one month. I often joke that, that was the best $9.99 I ever spent! :)

We met face to face at the end of April, got engaged at the end of June and married at the end of August. What a whirlwind romance! Yet, I was never more sure of anything in my life! Alan felt the same way, the first time we met he told a friend that he had just met the girl he was going to marry. It all seemed so crazy, but I knew God had brought Alan into my life. I knew, I just knew he was the answer to my prayers (and yes, I had been praying them)!

Some people couldn’t believe it when we said we were engaged…and getting married in 2 months. For me, marrying Alan would mean moving from Indiana where I was born and raised, to Iowa, 8 hours away. It would mean moving from town to a farm…being a farmer’s wife, something I knew very little about. I’m not normally one to make rash decisions, but I knew, I just knew, this was where God was directing me.

We were married on August 27, 2004. We had “Only God Could Love You More” sung. Although I believed those words to be true that day, it seems strange how much more true those words are today. I stood there looking at Alan as my brother sang the words of that song, thinking of the wild turn of events that had brought us to that day. It seemed like a dream, but I knew God had made it my reality.

We went to Cancun on our honeymoon. We learned a lot about one another and a bit about conflict resolution on that trip. He ended up with “Montezuma’s Revenge.” I lost one of the lenses from my prescription glasses (the ones I’m as blind as a bat without!!) in the Gulf of Mexico. Oh, the memories! :) Actually, it was a great trip with only a couple minor (okay slightly major) obstacles to overcome.  It was just the beginning of challenges that face all married couples, but God gave us the grace and wisdom we needed!

The months to follow were sometimes challenging and often very fun as we learned what married life was really all about. Sometimes the growth process can be hard, and we did a lot of growing, adjusting and changing as those first couple of years passed. We have faced some bumps in the road, but God continues to bless us, stretch us, and grow us…closer to one another and closer to Him! We have learned a lot about true love, sacrifice and patience. I can even drive a tractor now when I need to.  ;)

Six years…time flies when you’re having fun, sharing life with your best friend! Our images have changed a bit, we’ve matured in more ways than one. :) We’ve even added a couple of children to the mix, our two precious boys. Another abundant blessing! Ironically, Alan and I both feared that we wouldn’t be able to have children, but God had a different plan.

Andrew's busy learning new things...

Noah's showing off his first two teeth...

We are thankful because we know God brought us together, no doubt! We are thankful for all of God’s blessings as we’ve continued to seek Him! We are thankful because we know He holds our tomorrow as well! None of it would have been possible “…but nothing is impossible with God.” Luke 1:37

HAPPY 6th Anniversary, honey! It’s more true today than it was then, only God could love you more!! Here’s to 60 more!!  I love you!
What are you beliving God for right now?  What are you praying?  Let me tell you, meeting Alan didn't happen "fast enough" for me.  In the mean time, I tried taking things into my own hands...and made a big mess for myself.  When I stopped trying to do things on my own, and surrendered my life to Him, things changed for me!  Perhaps you know what you want your life to look like, but are you surrending it to God?  I'm a witness here to tell you, His plans are way better than ours!!