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The “One”

And the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” — Mark 10:8-9 (NIV)

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Uncle Steve & Aunt Cindy

How do you know when a person is the “One?” one of my kids recently asked me. I told them some things to look for, and that it would also come as a feeling deep in your soul.

 

But… feelings can be tricky and deceptive, so maybe I should’ve started with this advice instead. (I’m a list person, so bear with me.) Also, some things may be a little different for guys and girls.

 

Seven things to look for BEFORE you get too caught up with your feeeeeeelings:

 

  1. Both: Shares the same faith as you! Some people may think this is insignificant, but in reality this cannot be emphasized enough. Relationships are hard! When you get married, two self-centered people are learning to live together. It seems romantic at first, but that fades when disagreements come to the surface. You don’t need to add disunity in your faith as well! You need to be on the same page where this is concerned! Present and future problems arise when this is not the case.

 

  1. Both:             This relationship will MAKE YOU A BETTER PERSON, and that goes for him/her as well. YOU WILL BE GOOD FOR EACH OTHER, pushing each other towards better things. If you find yourself unhappy with who you are most of the time, lying about things, spiraling downward, or changing for the worse, that person is NOT the one for you.

Girls:              He makes you feel amazing… beautiful… smart… treasured… the list goes on. If he makes you feel terrible much of the time, he’s NOT the one for you.

Guys:              She accepts you for who you are, with all of your idiosyncrasies. If she immediately wants to change you, she’s NOT the one for you.

 

  1. Both:             We are selfish people by nature, but “love” will cause us to constantly put the other person first. If this person steadfastly displays selfish behavior early on, they are NOT the one for you.

Girls:              Guys sometimes take a little longer to see the bigger picture; it’s a huge windfall if he is already putting you first.

Guys:              Most girls are naturally nurturing. She might already be putting you first. Watch out for unhealthy behavior though, such as her losing her identity or becoming too controlling.

 

  1. Both:             Faithfulness, loyalty, and dependableness are important qualities. If you feel like you can’t trust or rely on this person, they are NOT the one for you.

 

  1. Both: You are treated as their equal. If they look down on you, make you feel small and not up to their level, they are NOT the one for you.

 

  1. Both:             You can BE YOURSELF around this person. You don’t have to put on a show for them or try to be someone you are not.

 

  1. Both:             Unless you live in a crazy home, your families will fall in love with this person too. Remember, your family loves you and knows you like no one else on the planet, so if they see warning signs PLEASE LISTEN.

 

 

Remember this:

The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? — Jeremiah 17:9

 

How can we trust our hearts when it comes to dating? We can’t! That’s why it’s good to look for these seven things.

 

Singles, maybe in addition to this, you should make up your own list? Of course, no one is perfect, but you should at least have a starting point before letting your emotions get the best of you. Then maybe you won’t get hurt as often or end up in the wrong relationship.

 

The best advice is: “Why not be careful and choosy when making one of THE MOST IMPORTANT DECISIONS OF YOUR LIFE?” It is more important than picking a college (you may end up hating your school)… It is more important than choosing your career (the average person will change careers 5-7 times throughout their life)… It is more important than just about any decision you make on a daily basis.

 

God loves you and truly wants the best for you, just like I want the best for my children. Don’t ever forget that!

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Grampa (in heaven now) & Grammy Grover

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Dear Alex,

2015080495174831 (1)As I spent the day washing and preparing all of your new sheets and other things for your dorm room I could not stop thinking of how familiar this all felt. I gently folded every towel & washcloth, comforter & mattress cover, sheet & pillowcase, while my heart clenched tightly as I thought of you in your dorm making your bed and finding the perfect spot to store the towels. When I packed them all carefully back in the large box I thought of the last time I washed and dried and folded and carefully stored your things… in preparation for your arrival into our world a little more than 18 ½ years ago… that’s when the tears really began to fall.

Al&Me (15)I remember it like it was yesterday! We were so excited to meet you. From the ultrasound, we already knew we were having a girl, so we were already calling you by name. I liked to say that we picked out your name from the Bible, the great city, Alexandria and the Jordan River. Your dad loved to tease me that your middle name was after his favorite basketball player, Michael Jordan (that’s really what he always told everyone, but I know the truth).

AlBaby (4)

Anyway… a couple of months before you arrived I had your room all set up. Your crib and changing table were ready along with other things. I bought special baby detergent to lovingly wash all of your baby clothes and washcloths and hooded towels and soft little blankets. Then they were folded and put away or hung up in the closet. Of course I arranged, then rearranged to try to make things ordered the best way possible. You were our first-born and we wanted everything perfect! I read lots of books on what to expect and tried to soak it all in and learn as much as I could (of course that all went out the window the moment you were placed in my arms, the “manuals” didn’t help with a real, live child).

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Now, here I am again, with an 18 year-old getting ready for college in what seems like a blink of an eye. Looking at your dorm stuff, my mind takes me back to your nursery. I imagine you studying in your room at night & I flash back to the days we read books to you by your bed before goodnight hugs & kisses. I picture you alone, walking the campus & meeting new people & I remember how shy you were, always hiding behind me when someone said hi to you. I think of you on the school soccer field & I remember when I took you to your first practices up the street, while waiting at the picnic tables with your brother & sister (your brother would hit the bushes with a stick for 1 ½ hours while your sister would hold my hands, learning how to walk around the pavilion with her wobbly baby steps).

DSC_0856With all of this nostalgia out of my system, I want you to know that I am very proud of the young woman you have become. You have always been such an amazing gift from God to me, I appreciate you so much… everything you do and the person you are. You always help out around the house and care so much about all of us in the family. Your tender heart and concern for your loved ones is so special. It is what draws people to you. You are intelligent, kind, hard working, and truly beautiful.

There are things I want to tell you, advice I wish people had told me when I was a teen or before I went to college. You are old enough and smart enough to handle it, so here it goes:

  • Don’t get discouraged when you feel like life is unfair and people have things handed to them that you struggle so hard for. Of course, LIFE IS UNFAIR, get used to it! There will always be those people that SEEM to coast by with ease and get everything handed to them on a silver platter, but don’t focus on this because it doesn’t really matter overall. You don’t know what is going on behind their smiling faces anyway. You work hard for everything you have and that’s OK!!! You will appreciate it more and it will teach you the right work ethic to survive in this world.

 

  • Helping others become their best self really helps you become your best self. Whether it’s a roommate or a campus acquaintance or a teammate or a friend, push that other person to greatness! I know this is in direct contradiction to our self-obsessed society, but it is more important than you think. Your legacy starts now! Consistently building people up makes you a better person. Don’t let anyone speak ill of or tear others down around you either, you can always turn it around into something positive! Be that one that always finds something amazing to point out about someone else and make a difference in a life.

 

  • Continue to work hard, your strengths will only get stronger and your weaknesses will improve. Don’t be afraid to ask for help (or prayer, or to call home hehe).

 

  • Learn from others mistakes as well as your own. You don’t want to lose something you can’t get back or live with a regret that you can never change. Use wisdom and caution and think things through. “Adult” mistakes hold a lot more consequences (and sometimes danger) than childish mistakes. Yikes! Remember that!

 

  • Don’t be too hard on yourself. I know you can be a perfectionist sometimes. Everything is not going to be perfect. Sometimes you will make mistakes. Sometimes you will need to ask for help. (See #’s 3 & 4 J) Please don’t be afraid to talk to a close friend or to your parents, who love you more than anyone on this planet. We will always be here for you NO MATTER WHAT!

 

  • Enjoy these last few carefree years with your family and friends before you start a family of your own. Spend time with us too!

 

  • Last but not least, and probably most important, always make time for God. Consult Him with your decision-making. Even if you are extremely tired or super busy, fit talking to Him and reading His words into your schedule. He loves you and knows you like no one else.

DSC_0475SCAN0100Me and Alex

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MOMS, HOW IN THE WORLD???

Snowmen ShrineSeen above is a picture of my shame…   It’s the third week of March and my snowmen are still up! I meant to take them down by Valentine’s Day!

Working Moms, HOW IN THE WORLD DO YOU DO IT?

It’s my third year of being back out there in the working world, and I still can’t figure it out! I used to work from home with stay-at-home-mom activities and responsibilities, homeschooling, church work, and other things that kept my days pretty full of craziness.

Now that I’m working a paid job, nothing else has really slowed down… There are still dishes & laundry & bathrooms to clean, along with a million other chores… The kids still have sports activities on nights and weekends… There are still church events & activities & services & small groups to teach… You get the picture!

How in the world DO YOU DO IT? How do you keep your house clean? How do you keep your sanity when running in different directions all the time? How do you get a little space in your life for alone time? How do you relax? How do you get up in the morning and start all over again?

For me, I haven’t figured it out yet! My house seems like it is always messy, my snowmen are still up in March, I have like 15 loads of laundry piling up and can never seem to put a dent in it! I dread Mondays (which never happened before) because I have to get into the office and my weekend is gone.

I used to be so organized… I used to have a little time to myself occasionally… I used to be baking & helping my kids create amazing school projects… I used to have extensive chore lists for the kids printed nicely from the computer with stickers and everything… I used to grocery shop every week…

Now I’m, well, let’s just say… None of those things! Except maybe helping with the school projects, we always make time for that, right?!

OH DEAR, I gotta go bring my son to work now… Did I mention I’m teaching him how to drive?  YIKES!

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This is a trustworthy saying, and everyone should accept it: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” – and I am the worst of them all. – 1 Timothy 1:15

 
I may not be the worst, but I’m no saint! Although, sometimes my guilt and shame gets to me and I feel like the worst of sinners. I make mistakes on a daily basis and have enough issues to fill a house full of magazines, but thank you, God, I’m changing every day.
There are hundreds of examples in the Bible of how Christ treats sinners, but one BEAUTIFUL story stands out this morning, the woman tossed on the ground in front of Jesus, ready to be condemned to death for her sin.

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The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” — John 8:3b-5

 
As they forced her to stand before a large group of holy men what must she have felt? (These are things that always run through my mind when I read the Bible.) Embarrassment over being “caught in the act”? Shame over what she had done to violate the marriage? Fear that she was about to die painfully? Disgrace over having brought dishonor to her loved ones and deep sorrow that she would never see them again? Repentence or Rebelliousness? Feelings of unworthiness for anything but death? Unforgiveness? Unloved – hated by those who shouted her sin for all to hear?

 
How awful it is to have your sin out there for everyone to see! To have people judging you and pointing fingers in anger, ready to condemn you to death. My heart is heavy for anyone who has ever been in a situation like this; it is a lonely place to be! You or I may not have the exact sin as this woman, but if your sin has ever been out in the open, you KNOW what it is like to go through this incredible pain. We may not be in fear for our lives as she was, but sometimes it might feel that way… like we can’t go on… the sense of lonesomeness… like no one understands… the hopelessness.

 
They were using this as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him. But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground. At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. — John 8:6b-9

 
The worst part of being brought before all of the holier-than-thou Pharisees was surely being used as a human trap on display before Jesus! How humiliating! There was probably not a person for miles of cities around who didn’t know of Jesus and how amazing this “Rabbi” was, who went around teaching the law with more authority than anyone had ever heard, working miracles of which no one had ever seen! Yet here she is, in front of the most famous, holy man of her time, covered in shame and wretchedness. I can imagine the sickening feeling in her gut over what HE must think of her. What would happen? But then HE DEFENDS HER! What???

 
Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”
“No one, sir,” she said.
“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin. — John:10b-11

 
This is amazing grace! I know sometimes people like to point out that Jesus tells her to go and leave her life of sin, but that’s another story. Anyway, it’s not our job to follow up with people to make sure they leave a particular sin behind. Some people might always struggle with certain things, who are we to judge? Did Jesus follow her around after to make sure she behaved herself? I think she reacted to His unconditional love and forgiveness with a changed heart and a changed life, but who knows?

 
My point is this: I will never be the one to cast the first stone, the last stone, or any stone in between! I am not perfect, and am certainly not without sin!

 
I have a lot of regrets in my life, some of them from years ago, and some of them from yesterday. There are more times than I can count when I wish I could be like Marty McFly in Back to the Future and go back and change the past somehow. Unfortunately I can’t, none of us can. I CAN be grateful for forgiveness, and for Jesus, who “wrote in the sand” for me.

 

I won’t be pointing any fingers at anyone else, because I’m a rotten scoundrel myself! I definitely live under the constant scrutiny of others, subject to a lot of judgment, criticism, and sometimes the condemnation of people, but I know of One who doesn’t condemn me. Thank you, God!

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Forgiveness“But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” Luke 6:27-28 (NIV)

What?!?! No way!!! Is this even possible???

It is possible. I speak from experience. It is truly the hardest choice you will ever have to make… to forgive someone… even when everything within you screams for vengeance. You would rather see them suffer than forgive them. You would rather see them get what’s coming to them than forgive them. You would rather crawl across a floor of broken glass than forgive them. Am I being dramatic? Maybe. I just know what it’s like to be hurt so badly that the last thing I wanted to do is forgive.

Yet, God says this:

For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.Matthew 6:14

How can you argue with that? I know I need to be forgiven… often. So, how can I not forgive others?

Here are three things to keep in mind:

1. Notice it doesn’t say anything about them ASKING for forgiveness. It doesn’t say that they are sorry or repentant. We have to forgive, even if the person could not care less about who they have hurt or about what they have done.

2. It also doesn’t say anything about whether or not they DESERVE forgiveness. No matter what kind of low-life slimeball they are, forgive them!

3. The fact that they have sinned against you isn’t in question, your reaction to their sin is what matters. Forgiveness isn’t giving them a free pass for what they have done, that is between them & their maker. It’s not saying that what they did was okay, because it wasn’t! It was SIN and it hurt you! Forgiveness is for YOU’RE healing.

Forgiveness is an easy word to throw around, but a hard action to follow through with. It allows you to move on with your life and grow as a Christian. Unforgiveness imprisons you in your pain. It causes physical, emotional, and spiritual sickness. Why live in misery when forgiveness can set you free?!

As parents we struggle with this as well. The worst kind of pain comes when someone tries to hurt or slander one of our children. We go into Papa Bear, Mama Bear mode and want to tear them to pieces! This is not God’s way though. We know that we also must choose to forgive. I can’t even begin to explain how difficult that is! Yet, it is so liberating.

Wallowing in unforgiveness is like this huge, heavy cloud that looms over you. It weighs you down, affects your thinking, and causes deep despair. Don’t ever allow this to take over your life!

What’s the first step in forgiving someone? Pray for them! What?! That’s crazy! Yes, it is. In our natural being we don’t want to pray for them or bless those who have cursed us, but that’s what God wants. God knows that this will free us from the hatred that could destroy us.

There’s this song by Matthew West that gets me in the gut every time I hear it. It perfectly describes the subject of forgiveness:

It’s the hardest thing to give away
And the last thing on your mind today
It always goes to those that don’t deserve

It’s the opposite of how you feel
When the pain they caused is just too real
It takes everything you have just to say the word…

Forgiveness,
Forgiveness

It flies in the face of all your pride
It moves away the mad inside
It’s always anger’s own worst enemy
Even when the jury and the judge
Say you gotta right to hold a grudge
It’s the whisper in your ear saying ‘Set It Free’

Forgiveness, Forgiveness
Forgiveness, Forgiveness

Show me how to love the unlovable
Show me how to reach the unreachable
Help me now to do the impossible

Forgiveness, Forgiveness

Help me now to do the impossible
Forgiveness

It’ll clear the bitterness away
It can even set a prisoner free
There is no end to what it’s power can do
So, let it go and be amazed
By what you see through eyes of grace
The prisoner that it really frees is you

Forgiveness, Forgiveness
Forgiveness, Forgiveness

Show me how to love the unlovable
Show me how to reach the unreachable
Help me now to do the impossible
Forgiveness

I want to finally set it free
So show me how to see what Your mercy sees
Help me now to give what You gave to me
Forgiveness, Forgiveness

Do you want to hear something amazing? I wrote this devo to help me conquer the pain of unforgiveness. While I sat here typing, the song by Chris August, 7×70 came on the DirecTv radio station I’m listening to. It also talks about forgiveness. Look up the lyrics to that one too. God is speaking… He is saying that it’s time to forgive.

INTERACTION:

1. Parent: What advice can you give about forgiveness? How does it help?

2. Teen: I know it seems impossible, but you have to forgive. Close your eyes and think of someone who has hurt you. Now say, “I forgive them.” If that is not an issue in your life right now, remember this devo for the future.

PARENTS:

Here are some additional scriptures for you & your teen to look up & discuss throughout the rest of the week: Luke 6:36-37; Matthew 5:7; James 3:13; Mark 11:25; 2 Corinthians 2:10-11; Luke 11:4

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AM-I-RIGHT?  Or AM-I-CRAZY?  Read this and tell me what you think!  I really want to know!

Are our brains and bodies wired for the kind of constant “connection” this technological “information age” has us participating in?

I thought I was doing a pretty good job of keeping up with the latest thing, but now I’m slipping and can’t wrap my head around all the things out there:   Iphones, Ipods, Ipads, Tablets, Netbooks, Notebooks, Laptops, E-Readers with WiFi…  all equipped with Facebook, Facetime, Twitter, Tagged, Texting, Talkbox, Instagram, Viddy, Vimeo, Oovoo, Skype, Spotify, and many other things – too many to keep track of!  It gives me a headache just to think about!

It’s like this:  Every parent tries to teach their kid not to talk to strangers, knowing you’re either scaring the POO out of your kid or fighting a losing battle!  (I recently saw a promotional video for a show called “My Kid Would Never Do That!” where diligent parents watched in shock as their young kids got into an ice cream truck with a stranger, lured by how cool it was to see the inside and of course, to get free ice cream.  It happened over & over & over…)   SOMETIMES THE TEMPTATION IS JUST TOO GREAT for their little minds to comprehend, and they fall into the trap of the very thing you have always warned them against!

That’s how I feel right now!  You teach your child/preteen/teen how to handle technology responsibly, the things that are right and wrong, how to protect themselves or to just plain behave, but SOMETIMES THE TEMPTATION IS JUST TOO GREAT for them to handle.  Hey, as adults we can get sucked in, so why not them?  Can they handle technology any better?

Not only that, but in this person’s opinion (right or wrong)… don’t we need to give our minds a rest every now and then?  Probably more often than we think!  TEENS & ADULTS:  How many times has your night been ruined by a text or a post that you read from someone else?  It used to be that we would go to school or work and come home and be able to relax… NOW, everyone from school and work comes home with you!!!!!

Are we bringing up a generation that will be burdened with excessive anxiousness, nervousness, narcissism, insecurities (like we need help on that one!), insomnia, fear, worry, and who knows what else?!  Is there such a thing as being TOO connected or having TOO MUCH information?  How do we rest?  How do we teach our children to rest?  Can we spend one day of the week “UNPLUGGED” to stay sane and get our feet back on the ground?  Emotionally, mentally, spiritually, and even physically we might need to start doing this, right?

There is even the good old-fashioned television lure where we are getting our minds sucked into a box where we become oblivious to our loved ones sitting right next to us.  Isn’t this also damaging to real-life relationships?

Please comment, like I said at the beginning… I’m dying to know what you think & how everyone else is handling this overwhelming issue with their children (and themselves)…  AM-I-RIGHT?  Or AM-I-CRAZY?

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I’ll never forget the first time I laid eyes upon you.  It was like my world suddenly stopped, like time was frozen for an instant.  I touched your tiny fingers and toes with my big hands and kissed your little face.  I couldn’t believe you were a part of me, and the weight of responsibility of raising you settled on my shoulders.

The love a parent has for a child is indescribable.  I would give you the world if I could.  As you grew and I looked at your expectant face, I wanted to say “Yes” to everything.  Saying “No” had to be a part of my vocabulary for your safety, health, growth, and instruction, but it was never easy.  The older you get the harder it gets… because I love you.

No matter what you do or say or how many times you mess up I will still love you.  When you hurt, I hurt.   When you are angry, my heart breaks.  When you are happy, my heart soars.  I love you so much that it is hard to put into words.

Still, this is nothing compared to how much God loves you and takes care of you.  After all, He knew you even before I did…

Psalm 139:15-16

My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.

God knows EVERYTHING about you.  He knows your thoughts, He knows what you do in secret, He knows every sin and every mistake, yet He still loves you.  He also sees all the wonderful things you do – the kindness, the compassion, the caring, the sensitivity to others – and I think it makes Him smile.  He knows how fun you are and what you like or dislike.

Psalm 139:7-10

Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?  If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.  If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me; your right hand will hold me fast.

It’s hard to explain how amazing God’s love is for us and that all He wants from us is to love Him in return.  What you need to know is that He will always love you no matter what.  It isn’t a human kind of love, it never ends.

We all hear the word “love” thrown around all the time.  We have a hard time really grasping its meaning.  People talk about things that they love and it plays down the true meaning of love.  As a teenager, you might even toss the word, “love” out there like it is nothing.  When this happens, it becomes meaningless.  Save this expression for the one who truly captures your love.

The result of living in this kind of a society is that we don’t understand the concept of love… so how can we believe it when someone tells us that God loves us?  What does that truly mean?  Well, it means that even in our sin He was willing to come to earth to save us.  It also means that Jesus was willing to suffer and die for us.  It means that even though we hurt Him all the time by turning our backs on Him, He still cares about us and wants the best for us.

The purpose of this devotional is for you to ALWAYS remember that kind of love.  It is more than what a parent has for a child, but is what a CREATOR has for his creation.

INTERACTION:

  1. Parent:  Tell your teen how you first felt when seeing them for the first time.
  2. Teen:  What do you think the word love means?  How do you know that someone loves you?

PARENTS:  Here are some additional scriptures for you & your teen to look up & discuss throughout the week:

Jeremiah 1:5; Psalm 119:73; Romans 8:38-39; Romans 5:7-8; John 15:13; John 3:16; John 10:11

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