Like Whispers Between Bunk Beds

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It’s an hour past their bedtime and I hear giggling from outside the door. These two boys of mine are sharing a bedroom for the third night as we await the arrival of baby sister, and they are loving it.

I marvel at how they can be yelling at each other one moment and hugging necks the next. And as much as little brother drives firstborn crazy, he is always there to pick him up when he falls.

They disagree on many things. Their personalities are as different as night and day.

One likes chocolate ice cream; the other is a fan of vanilla. One follows the rules and instructions, and the other likes to make up his own.

Will you continue reading with me? Today I’m sharing over at Malleable Heart as part of Jessica Galan’s That’s Amore series. You can read the rest of my post here.

The Most Important Ministry of All

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Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. James 4:14 (NIV)

I knew what God was asking me to do, but I didn’t like it.

Slow down. Take a breath. Focus on your family.

For months, I’d been saying “yes” to every ministry opportunity that came my way. I knew I was overextending myself, but saying “no” felt like torture. I didn’t want to disappoint anyone, so I ended up saying “no” to the people who mattered most of all: my family. Complaints were few, but I knew my priorities were skewed.

I believe most times God uses that still, small voice to speak to us, but when we ignore it, the still becomes more like a two-by-four to the head. With one swift turn of the earth on its axis, I entered a season of “no.” But I wasn’t the one saying it. Doors that were open became closed, and again I knew what God was asking me to do.

Slow down. Take a breath. Focus on your family.

Will you continue reading with me? Today I’m honored to be sharing over at Remade Ministries. You can read the rest of my post here.

 

GIVEAWAY:

Congratulations Mandy Hughes! You are the winner of a copy of The Broken Way. I am so excited to share this book with you. Thanks for reading.

Stop the Cycle of Mom Guilt: What Our Kids Crave the Most

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My kids never cease to amaze me. I love how even at a young age, they can pinpoint what’s important.

The other day I was taking my oldest son to piano and as we stopped at a red light, he piped up from the back seat.

“You know, Mama. When little Elise gets here, I’m going to hold her, and hug her, and kiss her…. And… well, that’s about it.”

I laughed out loud, knowing what he meant but utterly enjoying his cuteness. He told me about the various stages his sister would go through and how one day she will be able to chase him and his brother through the house.

He knows during the first few months of her life, cuddles and plenty of love will be the main things baby sister needs. Play will come later. Fights over toys, hopefully much later.

Aside from feeding, diaper changes, and plenty of rest, he had Elise’s needs pinned down to a tee.

It made me wonder. At what stage as parents do we forget the basics and start shaming ourselves?

The other day, I had a near panic attack because baby girl’s room wasn’t ready. I was still seven weeks from my due date, but my nesting instinct was in high gear. I scoured quilts and wall decals on Etsy, trying to find the perfect combination to create a warm, welcoming environment.

When I couldn’t match up shades of turquoise I was irritable. Then, God reminded me of scene from a few nights ago. I was getting ready for bed, and as I walked by the nursery I saw my son helping his dad convert the toddler bed back into a crib.

She will have a place to sleep. She will have food to eat and arms to hold her and comfort her when she cries. Will she care if her room isn’t perfect?

I think our guilt often stems from a misconception that our kids should have trouble-free, pain-free lives with little to no boredom and a schedule filled with activities. If we’re not carting them from one place to another and living vicariously through every victory, win and trophy, we feel empty.

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But as Jen Hatmaker so aptly states in her book, For the Love, our kids’ lives are not a Nickelodeon set. Nor should they be.

There comes a point where we have to stop the cycle of shame and settle for good enough. Because when it comes to parenting, perfect doesn’t exist.

A few weeks ago I was listening to a Christian radio station and during a Focus on the Family segment, they talked about the things kids remember about growing up. Much to my surprise, it wasn’t the mistakes their parents make, the times we lose our cool or the boo-boos they got when they were two.

They remembered the bedtime stories. The time spent cuddling on the couch. The prayers and the moments just being together.

My eyes were wet with tears at the sheer simplicity of it. When did I forget?

Friends, our kids know what’s important. So when today is over and you’re sitting on the couch, shaming yourself because you were late to the practice, ask yourself this: Did I love my kid today?

It’s time we stop worrying about perfection and give them what they crave the most: ourselves.

 

Linking up with these communities: #RaRaLinkup

Do My Kids See Jesus in Me?

do my kids see Jesus in me

Screams outside the bathroom door interrupted thoughts of our beach trip that was coming up in a few short weeks. At first, I thought the boys were just fighting again but then I heard the word “blood.”

I didn’t hear the calm, take-charge voice of my oldest son who was comforting his brother. All I knew was that little one was hurting, and mama had to fix it.

I shifted my speed into high gear and rushed out the door to see my four-year-old standing there with tears running down his face. He held his hurt finger carefully and lifted it up for me to see. I could tell he’d poked himself with something sharp but had no idea what had happened.

That is, until my oldest son brought the weapon of destruction to me. His Epi-Pen, fully ejected and empty. The sight of it sent me into full panic mode.

The next couple of hours raced by in a blur of the car ride to the ER and the patient room where they examined my son. I felt calm slowly creep back into my frame when I realized he was okay. But it wasn’t until later, when the kids were in bed and quiet filled our home, that God brought the words of our firstborn to mind.

In the wake of panic, I’d ignored them, but He knew I needed to remember.

do my kids see jesus

“Don’t worry, Gabe. It will be okay. Here, I’ll get you a band-aid.”

It was only a few sentences uttered outside our bathroom door, but they showed me what I desperately needed to see. They showed love.

In the weeks leading up to this traumatic event, I was on my knees with the fatigues of motherhood. I wondered if my two boys would ever get along, and news of third baby coming left me feeling both elated and worried at the same time.

Would we be able to handle a third child? I wondered if anything we taught our boys was sinking in to their little hearts and minds, and now our attention would be pulled elsewhere. I tried to trust in the strength I knew God would provide, but I needed reassurance. And in an instant, God provided it.

Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth. Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them! 

Psalm 127:4 ESV

As I recalled the words of big brother, they were like arrows, firing against the worries filling my head. They shot down the lies of the enemy and reminded me of God’s faithfulness.

Sometimes it’s in those moments of chaos and panic when we see what people are truly made of. They either crumble under the pressure or rise. They run away or with God’s help, they will rise like arrows.

Though I hope the event will never repeat itself, God used this moment of panic to show me the strength of my children. He used it to show me the answer to many prayers, and the answer to hours spent wondering if they saw his love in us.

The answer was “yes.” Our labor was not in vain. Our arrows were sharp, and getting sharper each day.

When You Second-Guess Yourself As A Mom

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My mastery of second-guessing myself didn’t end when I became a mom. If anything, it became worse.

I second-guess what the kids ate for lunch. I wonder if my three-year-old should be writing his name by now, like some other children his age. When the endless sibling rivalry turns physical I think, “Didn’t I teach them better than this? Will they ever get along?”

Sometimes the worst critics are the ones running on repeat inside our heads.

We teach our kids to share, to love their neighbor and show respect. But when we don’t see the fruits of our labor we question whether anything we say is sinking in. We’re told in Proverbs to “train up a child in the way he should go” but when we don’t see visible results, we wonder what we’re doing wrong.

Instead of living in the present, we second-guess the past.

A couple of weeks ago, God gave me a push of encouragement along with a wake-up call. My husband and I had tucked the kids in for the night and were settled into our comfy spots in the family room. With the soft orange glow from the table lamp we read our devotional app and talked about its subject, prayer.

The teaching gave a blueprint. Begin with thanks and repentance, then present your requests to God in Jesus’ name.

As we sat there talking my mind went to our kids. Were we teaching them enough about prayer? My husband, as if reading my inner thoughts, said,

“Do you know what our son did tonight?”

“No.” And I secretly wondered if I wanted to.

“He thanked God for a good day at school and time playing at home. Then he asked God to place his hand on Coco and heal her.”

Coco, our dog, had been struggling to walk for last couple of days. At fourteen years and counting, she wasn’t as limber as she used to be.

Listening to my husband describe our son’s prayer, eyes welled up with tears. Here was our seven-year-old, modeling the exact form of prayer Jesus used with his disciples. And he wasn’t thinking of himself. He wasn’t asking for a new Lego set or a video game.

He was petitioning on behalf of our dog.

Even through all my doubt and questioning, God was working in the heart of our son. We were doing what we could do, but God was moving this little seven-year-old’s heart in ways only he could.

When we second-guess the past, we often miss what God is doing in the present.

Parenting is a tough road. There are days when we wonder if anything we are saying or doing is making a difference. In moments of frustration it’s easy to play the past on repeat.

That night, God gave me an invitation to live in the now. To be present with my son as he prayed and grew and loved.

No matter what the future held, I didn’t want to miss it.

 

*Linking up with Suzie Eller’s #LiveFreeThursday and Grace & Truth. Come join us and be inspired.

Why We Don’t Need to Fix People

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The realization came as a blow to both my pride and my false sense of control. He did not want me to fix it. He wanted me to let it go.

For months I’d offered opinions as much as I’d offered up prayers.

For months I’d judged behavior more than I’d offered love and support.

Sleepless nights left me seeking apologies from those closest to me. I knew they were not the source of the problem, but often our wailing falls on whatever ears will listen.

In the midst of my utter lack of control, I tried to keep a spotless home. One day in early fall a friend stopped by for an impromptu visit and remarked on how immaculate my home was. It the middle of the day, but everything was tidy and in its place.

She had no idea how chaotic my life felt. She didn’t know how in my current season, this house was the only place I felt peace.

There are few valleys more brutal than watching a loved one self-destruct. And while you desire nothing more than to offer a permanent solution, the only Fixer is not of this world.

True soul mending comes from above and within, not pat answers and easy formulas.

The best answer we can offer? Unconditional love. Though we draw a boundary to protect ourselves and our families, we let our brothers and sisters know we will love them no matter what.

We will be here when they come home. We will be here when they decide to call on the Name of the only one who can heal even the deepest hurt.

Jesus came to heal the sick so we could share his gift with others, not judge others.

On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.”

Matthew 9:12 NIV

I think of how far he’s brought me far from the pit I was in, I know it is only by his divine grace that I am here. It is by his mercy that I am not still wallowing in my depression, my anger and resentment.

The only trait which distinguishes me is that I called on the name of Jesus when I was at my worst. And he transformed me into someone who could bring Light and life to those who don’t know whose name to call.

I want to be a Light-bearer, not a control-freak. Lord knows the world is much safer in his hands than mine. So today, I’m giving it to him.

I’m giving him the weight of the world. I can’t handle it on these frail shoulders anymore.

I’m trading my clenched fists for hands extended in praise. Because I know in his sovereign power and grace he can transform any heart and exalt it, in his time.

And time is something I don’t want to waste.

 

*Photo credit

*Linking up with #LiveFreeThursday and #GraceAndTruth. Come join us and be inspired.

Do I Let Them Fall?

graphic for lisa brown blog

The longer we sat, the more frustrated my son became. My tiredness came through in my tone and I fought my desire to take the book away from him and finish the reading myself.

“Sound it out, buddy. You can do this.”

He slowly mouthed each consonant and vowel of the next word. Then he came to a more difficult sentence and his impatience mounted again.

“What’s this word, Mama?” he asked with his long eyelashes batting up toward me. He knew exactly how to break me.

“No, you can read it. We’ve gone through this.”

He grunted and turned his face back toward the book. I wondered how long we’d been sitting there.

Every night since my oldest son was an infant, we’d engaged in this ritual. The bedtime story. Only recently, the role of reading had gone from Daddy and me to child.

Today I’m sharing what I learned from story time at Me Too Moments for Moms. You can read the rest of my post here.

 

*Picture courtesy of Derek & Diane Photography (text added)

*Linking up with Kelly Balarie, Jennifer Dukes Lee, and Holley Gerth to encourage and be encouraged. Come join us.

When Christmas Renews a Burden for Someone You Love

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“How is your family doing?”

I ponder the question and wonder which version to give her. Does she really want to know? Or is she just making small talk?

With a half smile, I tell her they are fine. We talk about my parents’ physical health and my brother’s whereabouts, leaving the conversation short and not going into any detail.

To be honest, small talk exhausts me. It is a skill I developed over the years, but I would much rather dive into the deep things, the spiritual things, than talk about the weather.

But sometimes the truth is too much for short conversation, the heart of the matter too intense. Brevity and pat answers just seem easier, don’t they?

We are in a season that is defined by family. And our families define us too. We see picture perfect poses of siblings and cousins on Facebook and some of them actually exude love through the screen. You can feel it.

But there is another emotion that no one talks about this time of year. It is the heart that is burdened, hurting, and perhaps losing hope for a family member.

If you don’t have one in yours, I guarantee you know someone who does. You may not know it, but they sit beside you at church, at the kids’ basketball game, and at the Christmas play.

They wonder if their loved one will ever break the chains of that addiction. If they’ll ever come home once and for all. They question whether they’ll ever see the Light that can penetrate the deepest darkness.

For the person with the burdened heart, coming home is a reminder that all isn’t well. While the time and the absence away from family may have changed her, it hasn’t changed the one she loves.

I know because I’ve been there. I know because I live it.

Sometimes the enemy plants a seed of doubt in my mind. I question all the intercessory prayers I sent up. I wonder how many prayers it takes to change a life.

Perhaps you’ve been there? You’re walking through a dark valley and you’re losing hope. Can I take your hand and share a little glimmer of light with you?

In the gospel of Luke, chapter 11 opens with Jesus praying. When he is finished, his disciples come to him and say,

“Teach us to pray.” Luke 11:1 NIV

They don’t ask how to raise the dead or heal people. They don’t want to know how to obtain earthly wealth or skill. After all, they left everything they owned to follow him. No, they asked him for instruction in one thing: prayer.

Would it suffice to say they thought it was important?

In a following passage, Jesus tells an interesting story. A man has a visitor in town but nothing to feed him, so he bangs on a friend’s door in the middle of the night to ask for food. The friend, not surprisingly, doesn’t want to let him in.

It’s inconvenient. It’s late. He’s tired and cranky. But the man is persistent. He doesn’t give up, and eventually the friend lets him in and gives him food.

The story serves to illustrate an important point: God loves persistent prayer. Not only that, he answers such prayers. It is like a chorus of praise to his ears. He doesn’t get tired of hearing the same requests repeated over and over. On the contrary, he delights in it.

Jesus concludes the story by saying,

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” Luke 11:9 NIV

Persistent prayer shows immovable faith. Even though we don’t see the answer, we trust the God who does.

Can I ask you not to give up hope this season? If you’ve abandoned the altar of prayer, can I encourage you to come before the throne of grace again? I promise to join you in a renewed vigor to keep asking, to keep seeking, to keep believing in a God who can do all things.

He’s waiting for you to come to him. He lives to intercede.

Never stop asking him to.

 

“I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them.” 1 Timothy 2:1 NLT

For the One Who Doesn’t Feel Prepared

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If there was an award given for procrastination, I would be a top contender.

When people ask me, “Are you ready for Christmas?” the answer is, “No.” Not even close.

My kids received a Christmas card in the mail from Santa yesterday. It has no return address. It says he heard they’ve been very good this year.

How did he hear this? I have no idea.

Perhaps he is real and will be delivering all of their gifts down the chimney on Christmas Eve, saving me from the last minute hustle. One can hope, right?

In the midst of all the unmet expectations I place on myself, I know one thing is true. My kids have all they need this Christmas. They have the unconditional love of two parents who are loved unconditionally by our Savior. 

I asked my six-year-old what he wanted for Christmas and he didn’t give me a long list. He named one toy. A transformer named Chase, like his friend Dawson’s. I think I can handle that.

This year, whether you’re way ahead on your list of to-dos or far behind, like me, remember this: a pile of presents will never replace utter fulfillment in Immanuel: God with us. When we prepare our hearts for him, everything else will fall into place.

The good news already came. Let’s not forget it.

 

*Linking up for Five Minute Friday. A beautiful group of writers who free-write for five minutes each Friday on one word. Today’s word was: prepare.

Why Can’t They Just Be Grateful?

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“Why is this taking so long?”

My six-year-old’s words caught me off guard. I was working feverishly to get dinner on the table and my two sons were already sitting down, waiting.

Almost instantly, I could feel my blood pressure rising. Who did this kid think he was? I had spent the past half hour assembling this meal and he wasn’t showing an inkling of gratitude. Did he know how hard I worked each and every day for this family?

Of course he didn’t. He was six.

Fortunately, before a torrent of anger came spewing out of my mouth, my husband addressed the situation. He told our son to apologize. Over dinner, we had conversation about being thankful and informed him he would be helping with the dishes, a chore usually done by an adult. But I couldn’t get my son’s words out of my mind.

My heart’s desire is to raise children who have grateful hearts, not children who think they are entitled to everything without having to work for it. We could delegate more work around the house, but what that it? I sensed I was missing something.

Out of curiosity, I conducted a survey asking some of my readers how they instilled gratitude in their children. I received a single response: Be grateful. The reply left me asking myself the question: Am I thankful?

There are certainly some days when I grumble. A lot. Like the other day when I lost my temper while trying to get the kids out the door in time for school. Often, my body language is enough to do all of my talking for me. It says, “I’m tired and irritable so leave me alone.”

When I take stock of my attitude toward life, I know I am grateful, but do my kids? Our children model what they see, so the best teacher on gratitude is their parents.

Colossians 3:17 says, “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”

Whenever I see that word “all” in the Bible, I have to admit it makes me cringe a little bit. After all, who can search for missing socks and clean up endless messes to the name of Jesus, all while giving thanks? 

No one. Not without the help of the Spirit living in us.

When my desire is to become more like Jesus, the best place to start is at the foot of the cross.

Fully aware of my need for guidance, I went before the Lord in prayer. I bared my soul to him and admitted my weaknesses. And right there in the midst of my shortcomings, I found his strength.

As I awoke the next morning, I knew the day was brimming with possibilities. My kids and I made it out the door on time and as we pulled out of the driveway, I saw hint of rainbow in the middle of a huge, dark cloud.

It was getting more vivid with each moment.

Excitedly, I pointed it out to my son.

“Do you see it, buddy, do you see it?” I asked.

“Yes, Mama! And look, it’s following us!” he said with a grin.

As we made our way down the road, I felt giddy with anticipation of what the day held in store. And I thanked God for providing us with a step in the right direction.

 

*Linking up with Jennifer Dukes Lee and Holley Gerth