The Day God Revealed to me the Huge Log in My Eye

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My kids will never grow up with the idea that their mother is perfect.

Take today for example.

I had to take my crew to the post office to mail off a package.
It was raining and we were enjoying the drive to the post office with sweet conversations about this and that. Since it was raining, today, we all moved a little quicker getting out of the van to get under some shelter before we were drenched.

We got inside and waited in the always-too-long line. The boys played quietly with each other and the baby smiled and waved at the other customers. I may have, for a moment, felt pretty darn good about my parenting skills.

Ha!

After a decent wait-time, I got my package mailed off and we headed back through the double doors into the parking lot. As soon as the door opened in front of me I stopped in my tracks. There was our van with the passenger door wide open and rain pouring inside our van. Now this particular door is the door the boys use to exit the van while I am getting the baby out of the opposite side.

I looked at my children and I didn’t yell. Don’t get me wrong, I wanted to. You see, this was just one incident in a stream of incidents all related to one particular child’s inability to pay attention to his surroundings. He, much like his mother, is a space cadet. We half-joke that he lives in his own reality. This child has run in front of moving vehicles, walked into inanimate objects, bitten his whole hand while eating a sandwich, and once, he was driving a go-kart, and he ran into every. single. wall. because he wouldn’t look at the road. Heaven help me when this boy turns sixteen. He does not pay attention to his surroundings. And it’s something we have been working on with him for a long time.

Seeing that door open with the rain pouring into the car and knowing that it had been like that for probably 30 minutes, near about pushed me over the edge. But I didn’t yell.

Instead I lectured. Oh I went on and on about how he needs to pay attention. Let’s forget the fact that he’s four and, you know, I’m the mother who should have checked the door. I just kept going on and on. I couldn’t stop. It was verbal diarrhea. I even had one of those slow-motion moments like from the movies where my mouth was moving and I was thinking “Girlfriend, give it a rest. This is just about the most ineffective form of parenting ever!”

Then it happened. The words “You know, someone could have stolen our car!” came out of my mouth. And BAM, the Holy Spirit convicted me right on the spot.

Because 3 years ago, we were on vacation and I left the keys in the car door and our car DID get stolen. I blogged all about it here. And you know what? My husband handled it with such grace. He didn’t lecture me. He didn’t yell. I made a terrible mistake because I wasn’t paying attention and there was a pretty big consequence for that action. Thankfully we got the car back, but as the Lord brought this reminder to my head, a little four-year-old voice peeped from the back of the car “I’m sorry I made a bad choice mommy.”

I nearly pulled the car over.

Oh my heart.

“Sweet child, you didn’t make a bad choice. Mommy did.”

I told him the story of how I got our car stolen and I asked him for forgiveness for not being more patient.
And now I sit here. The house is quiet because the boys are at Awana. A fan is humming in the background and the air is still sticky-humid from the rain that has been constant throughout the day.

The desert rain.

It’s so rare and oh so refreshing. It washes the dust out of the sky and feeds the hungry plants. When we wake up in the morning the air will be brisk and the mountains will be crisper in the purified sky, and it will be a new day. A day I can be more patient with a few more hugs and a few less lectures.  A day I can ask the Holy Spirit to be a little more like Him.

Oh how I love Lamentations 3:22-23.

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
    his mercies never come to an end;
 they are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.

Thank you Lord for new mornings and never-ending mercies.  Oh that my children will be able to see You in me despite myself.  And thank you that our car was not stolen.

And amen.

The Day God Reminded Me that My Work At Home Matters

One day I realized there is purpose in the monotony of parenthood, and that changed everything!

The Lord has been working on my heart lately.  I needed an attitude adjustment.

I’m sure most parents of young children have been there at some point.  You are constantly needed at all hours of the day and night.  Things are messy. There’s monotony with doing the same thing all day long. You love your children with every fiber of your being, but you feel … I don’t know… unsatisfied? unstimulated? like you could be doing so much more? I can’t quite place a word on the feeling that was nagging at my soul, but it was there.  And I hated it.  I tried to will it away, but like most unwelcome visitors, it stayed.

Now don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t depressed.  I wasn’t unhappy.  I just had a longing for something more – a creeping discontentment. I had thoughts like “I’m a pastor’s wife, I should be doing more than just being a mom”. I will say that during this time I had also become inconsistent in my quiet times with God, and boy does that make a big difference.  I am still learning these lessons.

I recently wrote about our busy summer of youth ministry.  This period of discontentment reached a peak one day at summer camp as my husband and the other youth leaders were out with all the teenagers, riding zip lines and pouring into their lives, and I was alone in the cabin as my three babies took a nap.  I actually started feeling guilty that my husband had used money from the youth budget so that we could go on this trip.  We were having fun, but my heart longed for ministry.

I was mulling these feelings over on the ride home with God.  I was driving a van (which my husband reminds me was much needed, so I did have a needed role at camp), and a sweet middle school girl in the back of the car nonchalantly said “You are such a good mom and a good wife, I hope someday I can have a marriage and family like yours.”

What?!

They were watching.

All this time I thought I was just along for the ride, but they were watching.  And they saw Christ in my everyday. They saw Christ in how I treated my kids.  They saw Christ in how I loved my husband.

And tears welled up in my eyes because I finally understood what God has been trying to tell me.

This job of being a wife and raising children is not easy, but it is MY ministry.  My family, my home, my marriage, these are all a part of my ministry that God has given me.  Sure I’m not on the front lines, right now, but Christ is still able to shine in those little mundane areas of my life.

Thank you Jesus.

What a renewed hope that realization brought me.  I am making a difference right here at home! I want to create an atmosphere in my home that is so tangibly full of love and joy and the peace of God that the neighbors will be knocking down our doors asking what is different.

I’ve been thinking and praying on this since that day we were driving home from camp, and I see my ministry for what it is now.  It’s an important, God-given job. The 7 breakfasts, and 7 lunches, and 7 dinners and endless nursing sessions that will happen this week – that’s me showing my family love.  The laundry and the dirty diapers – pure love baby.  I can see it for what it is, and I can do it with joy.

How about you?  Is this a lesson the Lord has taught you as well or something you still struggle with?

 

What I Hope Working Out Will Teach My Kids About Salvation

What I hope working out will teach my kids about salvation. This month I started working out.

For the first time in 8 years.

If you’re counting, that means I haven’t worked out since getting married.

There’s just something about purposeless movement that I loathe.  I know the purpose of the movement is to get in shape, but running on a machine, or dancing to a video, or whatever other exercise you can think of just bore the living daylights out of me.

I know it’s a self-discipline issue so I finally buckled down and committed myself to exercise.

It’s been painful.  And embarrassing. And invigorating. My husband has been doing it with me and that has made it fun and did I say embarrassing? Let’s just say I have a lot more jiggly parts than I dared to admit.

Imagine a fish out of water- flailing about, limbs flying, gasping for air, and making unearthly grunting noises – that’s a good visual of what I have looked/sounded like this past week.  And to make matters worse, my kids are watching so I can’t quit.

And that got me thinking.

It is my prayer that my children grow up to be lovers of Jesus.  But that’s not an easy life.  There is nothing easy about swimming upstream in a downstream culture.

And I stay up late way too many nights wondering how I can train my children to not runaway from things that are hard, but to embrace them.  Because we are in youth ministry and we’ve seen it more than once; kids that try to float through life on easy street, flinching away from anything that resembles hard work.  And I think to myself, if my children avoid “hard”, my children will avoid Christ.  

What I hope working out will teach my children about salvation.

I need my children to understand that with “hard” comes reward.  And so as I was sweating and grunting and flailing about, wanting to quit or die or at least regain the use of my arms and legs and abs – it hit me.  Maybe, just maybe, if my kids see me persevere, and work so hard at this thing that I hate, and not quit, maybe they will see that “hard” is worth it.

The Bible tells us to work out our salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12). Work.  Work is hard.  Fear and trembling does not sound like fun.  How will I know my children have the fortitude to embrace this process, this life, this calling, if they are scared of “hard”.

I read a quote on Facebook this past week:

“There are many who believe they are saved and thoroughly Christian because they once prayed a prayer and asked Jesus to come into their hearts. However, they did not continue on in the faith. They never came out of the world, or if they did, they quickly returned. They possess no practical reality of the fear of the Lord. There is no fragrance of divine grace in their lives. They show no outward evidence of inward transformation. There is not even a hint of the divine discipline that God provides to all His children. Yet they stand assured of their salvation because of one decision in their past and their belief that their prayer was truly sincere. No matter how popular such a belief may be, it has no biblical grounds.” Paul Washer

Thankfully we don’t have to do this parenting gig alone.  The salvation of my children does not rest on me.  But my attitudes and example in life can sure influence their attitudes. And you can sure believe that if I live a struggle-free, inward-focused life, my children will learn to do the same.

So I sweat and I flail and I do this thing that I hate because my children need to see me struggle.  They need to see me persevere.  They need to see me embrace “hard”.

Because they will need to do that themselves someday.  Their lives depends on it.

 

 

Focusing on Jesus at Easter – A Family Tradition

Make your own banner to focus on Jesus at Easter.  Who knows? Maybe it will become a new family tradition!
Looking for a hands-on way to focus your family on Jesus at Easter time?  Try making this banner with individual devotions leading up to the day of resurrection.  He is risen indeed!  This will quickly become a cherished family tradition.

Easter is probably my favorite holiday.  I mean, without it, nothing else really matters.

I knew when we started having kids that it was going to be difficult to wade through the bunny rabbits and candy and egg hunts, and really focus on the resurrection of our Lord.  I wanted something intentional and Christ-centered that we could do together every year as our own family tradition and to prepare our hearts to celebrate our risen Savior.

I heard about this banner from a family friend who grew up doing this with their family and we have been doing it ever since.
Looking for a hands-on way to focus your family on Jesus at Easter time?  Try making this banner with individual devotions leading up to the day of resurrection.  He is risen indeed!  This will quickly become a cherished family tradition.

This devotional comes from the book Family Celebrations by Ann Hibard.  This book is no longer in print, but it is pretty easy to find a used copy online.  The book contains the directions for making the banner and lays out all of the devotionals, so this blog post will not be a tutorial, just an explanation for how it all works.

Looking for a hands-on way to focus your family on Jesus at Easter time?  Try making this banner with individual devotions leading up to the day of resurrection.  He is risen indeed!  This will quickly become a cherished family tradition.

The book suggests starting the devotional 7 weeks before Easter.  We aren’t that organized and usually do the whole thing in one week before Easter.

Focusing on Jesus At Easter – A Family Tradition

How it works:

You make a bunch of stepping stones out of felt with pictures on them that represent different parts of the resurrection story. (I recommend using the felt that has a sticky back to it like these.)

  • A tree to represent the first sin and our need for a savior.
  • An altar and flame to represent the sacrifice that God asked from Abraham.
  • A lamb to represent the perfect sacrifice.
  • A snake on a pole to represent the snake that Moses lifted up for the people to see (like Jesus on the cross).
  • A bunch of grapes  with a drop of blood.  This reminds us of the vineyard in Matthew 21 where the evil farmers killed the landowner’s son.  The drop of blood represents Jesus’ blood given for us.
  • A bottle of perfume like the perfume Mary poured on the feet of Jesus.
  • A palm branch for the triumphal entry.
  • A loaf of bread and cup to remind us of the Lord’s Last Supper.
  • A praying hand to represent Jesus’ time in the garden of Gethsemane.
  • A rooster for the bird that crowed after Peter denied Jesus.
  • A crown of thorns like that placed on Jesus’ head.
  • A cross.
  • And a cave to represent the tomb Jesus was buried in.

Each stone has a short devotional and is placed on the banner leading up the hill.Looking for a hands-on way to focus your family on Jesus at Easter time?  Try making this banner with individual devotions leading up to the day of resurrection.  He is risen indeed!  This will quickly become a cherished family tradition.

When the kids go to bed on the night before Easter, you flip the banner around so that the first thing when they see when they wake up is a beautiful gold banner declaring the good news!Looking for a hands-on way to focus your family on Jesus at Easter time?  Try making this banner with individual devotions leading up to the day of resurrection.  He is risen indeed!  This will quickly become a cherished family tradition.

Now that’s something worth looking forward too!

What does your family do to keep the focus on Jesus at Easter?

Everything You Need to Know to Make Your Own Operation Christmas Child Shoe Box

Have you participated in Operation Christmas Child?  Find out how to send Christmas gifts to children all over the world.  This is a beautiful way to share the love of Jesus in a tangible way.

Every year as pumpkins are ripening on the vine and the morning air makes you snuggle a little deeper into the blankets, our family revs up to participate in one of our favorite ministry projects – Operation Christmas Child.

If you are unfamiliar with operation Christmas Child, watch this clip for a short introduction:

Operation Christmas Child brings shoe boxes filled with gifts and the love of Jesus to kids all over the world who live in poverty.  It is so easy to participate in Operation Christmas Child and I want this post to be a resource for anyone interested in participating.  These shoe boxes change lives.

Testimonies

My husband and I had the pleasure of listening to a young man speak at one of the Youth Worker’s Conventions we attended.  This young man had, himself, received a box when he was growing up. He received a candy cane in his box and had never tasted anything like it before. He spoke of how that simple shoe box introduced him to Jesus and changed his life forever. You can read his full testimony below: Alex and the Candy Cane

First-hand testimonies:

Have you participated in Operation Christmas Child?  Find out how to send Christmas gifts to children all over the world.  This is a beautiful way to share the love of Jesus in a tangible way.

Bethel Healing Center in Masaka, Uganda.

How to Get Involved:

  1. Find a shoebox.  If you don’t have a shoebox, you can also use a plastic shoebox-sized container with a lid.  Make sure the plastic is strong enough that it will not crush during shipping. If you are organizing this for a large group, you can order pre-printed boxes in packages of 100.  Our church orders these boxes, so these are the ones we use each year.
  2. Pray for the child who will receive your box. I even pray that God will help us pick the right items at the store that this child wants/needs.
  3. Fill the box. See below for lots of helpful links on how to fill the shoeboxes.  Basically you want to provide one quality toy, hygiene items, school items, clothing items, and anything else you can squeeze into every nook and cranny.  We’ve developed many tricks over the year that I will share with you below.
  4. Write a note. Write a note to the child who will receive your box.  Tell them Jesus loves them and send a picture of your family!
  5. Print your label.  Go online to the Samaritan’s Purse Website to print your label so you can track where your box ends up.  They request we donate $7 for each box to help cover the cost of shipping.  If you are old fashioned or unable to print a label online, no worries.  Just write a check for $7 and put it with your box and proceed to the next step.
  6. Find a Drop-off Location.  There are over 4,000 drop-off locations around the U.S.  You can find the closest one to you by entering your zip code here. Boxes are usually do mid-November.  Check the website for the particular date each year.
Have you participated in Operation Christmas Child?  Find out how to send Christmas gifts to children all over the world.  This is a beautiful way to share the love of Jesus in a tangible way.

OCC – Philippines

What to Pack

So you’ve got your shoebox, and you’ve prayed for the child who will receive it.  Now for the fun part! Shopping! I find just as much joy, if not more, in shopping for these shoe boxes as I do in shopping for my own children.  This year was especially fun because my kids are now old enough to really participate in the experience.  We have a big talk before heading out that these gifts are for other kids, not us (something we struggled with in the past).  We watch some You Tube videos first so my kids can have a better perspective of what is going on. Some videos we like:



We have two boys aged 5 and 3.5, so we filled two boxes this year for two boys of similar ages.  Next year we will add a third box for a baby girl.  I think this really helps my children understand that there are little children out there just like them who may be receiving their first Christmas present and hearing about Jesus for the first time.

In preparing for our shopping trip this year, I read some really great articles from people who have gone and helped distribute these boxes.  They suggested items that are good to pack and items that are not so good to pack.  I’m guilty of packing pretty much every item on the no-list in the past (play-doh, stickers, etc.), but I just do the best I can with the information I’m given.

Have you participated in Operation Christmas Child?  Find out how to send Christmas gifts to children all over the world.  This is a beautiful way to share the love of Jesus in a tangible way.

Here’s a great article to refer to on the best things to pack/not pack:

You will want to include one WOW item in your box.  These can include:

  • deflated soccer ball with pump
  • doll (not porcelain)
  • a nice toy
  • musical instrument (harmonica, recorder, etc.)
  • shoes
  • outfit (source)

Then you will want to fill it up with other items such as:

School supplies (Did you read the testimony above about the child who was able to attend school because of the supplies she received in her box?)

  • crayons
  • pens
  • pencils
  • pencil sharpener
  • eraser
  • paper
  • markers
  • solar-powered calculator
  • chalk
  • coloring book
  • tape
  • post-it notes

Toys/Crafts

  • jump rope
  • marbles
  • Legos
  • battery-operated toys with extra batteries
  • beads and string (to make necklaces)
  • water color paints
  • travel-sized games (that are easy to figure out if they can’t read the language of the instructions)
  • bouncy balls
  • deck of cards
  • trains
  • cars

Hygiene Items (cannot be liquid)

  • bar of soap
  • soap holder
  • toothbrush
  • toothbrush holder
  • toothpaste
  • washcloth
  • hairbrush
  • band-aids
  • first aid kit
  • dental floss
  • hair clips
  • shampoo bar
  • deodorant
  • chapstick
  • bobby pins
  • small hand mirror
  • nail clippers
  • wet wipes

Other

  • hard candy (probably not chocolate since it could melt in transit)
  • flashlight with batteries (many kids live with no electricity, so this is a really useful and practical gift.  I’ve even seen hand-crank flashlights on Amazon that may be an even better idea.)
  • cup and plate/bowl
  • plain t-shirt
  • socks
  • sunglasses
  • solar-powered watch
  • jewelry
  • duct-tape
  • tools (measuring tape/screw driver)
  • fishing supplies
  • sewing kit

Have you participated in Operation Christmas Child?  Find out how to send Christmas gifts to children all over the world.  This is a beautiful way to share the love of Jesus in a tangible way.

Tips and Tricks for Fitting it All in:

Over the years I have honed my skill of stuffing these shoe boxes.  Some tricks for fitting it all in:

  • Open the packaging.  I have found that by taking the toy truck (or whatever) out of the packaging, I have more flexibility with how to fit it in the box.  Obviously some things, like tooth brushes, should stay in the packaging.
  • Fit things inside of things.  Because I don’t open the toothbrush packaging, it won’t fit inside the toothbrush holder. Therefore I have the empty space inside of the toothbrush holder that is perfect for fitting in pencils or pens!
  • I always like to buy paper to go with the crayons and pencils. However, I learned a long time ago that paper is really hard to fit into a shoebox without folding.  However, in the office supply area of most stores you can find tiny pads of white paper for taking notes that fit perfectly.
  • For clothes, it’s all about how you fold/roll the items.  Check out the Konmari method for folding clothes, you’d be amazed how little space a whole outfit can take up!
  • Buy small hard candies that you can fit into any unused nook or cranny.  Now usually I’m a real food kind of gal, and I don’t believe in giving things to others that I wouldn’t give to my own kids, however I have read so many testimonies of kids who received their first taste of candy from these boxes and I would hate for the recipients of our boxes to be the only kids not to receive candy.  That’s just my two cents on the candy issue.

For even more resources from around the web, check out my Operation Christmas Child Pinterest board.

Have you participated in Operation Christmas Child?  What is your favorite thing to pack?