Welcome to the Sisterhood

I’m linking this up with Lisa Jo for Five Minute Friday today (even though I wrote it this afternoon) because she chose the word Grace, which I obviously had already written on today! :)  Funny how that works out sometimes.  I considered writing another post, but I just feel like this is fitting.  So, I hope my Five Minute Friday friends don’t mind too much. :)  It took way more than 5 minutes, but shouldn’t take much longer than that to read!

When this blog first began, I mentioned that God created all of us sisters in Christ unique from one another, and that He did so with a purpose!  Lately, I’ve been reminded of that fact.  Not only are we unique as individuals, but our walks with the Lord will be unique from one another, as well.  Thus, the ways in which we live out our faith will vary from person to person.

Paul describes it well in Romans 14:

 1 Accept the one whose faith is weak, without quarreling over disputable matters…

 4 Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To their own master, servants stand or fall.

And they will stand, for the Lord is able to make them stand.

My weaknesses and strengths will not be the same as your weaknesses and strengths, amen?!  Unfortunately, because they are different, I’ll be tempted to compare myself to you, my sisters in Christ, and you to me.  As a work-in-progress woman, I’m still learning how to have confidence in the woman God has created me to be.

However, as much as I loathe this tendency to compare, I see another, more destructive risk to this comparison game, the risk of self-righteousness.  You see, sometimes I compare myself to another sister in Christ and find her lacking, instead. (Gasp!  Shock and Awe!  Let’s be honest – it happens more often than we like to admit.)

Of course, it’s not always quite that blatant; sin rarely is.  But these thoughts that I don’t even want to acknowledge slowly creep in.  I’m so thankful my children are well-behaved (….because so-and-so certainly needs to get a handle on hers).  Or perhaps you hide it more cleverly in thoughts like this – I’ve studied the scriptures, so my position is biblical (which would make any opposing position unbiblical by default).  When we start thinking we have the corner on the market in knowledge, wisdom, or understanding, look out!  We are due for a major fall

Self-righteousness – thinking we can somehow make ourselves right.

How I wish I fell prey to it less often!

Self-righteousness centers around actions and outward appearances rather than the heart itself.   Oh, how we like to focus on the outward rather than the inward, sisters.  I know because I struggle with it, too!

And that right there is the problem: the tendency to quantify and qualify that which we cannot!  The truth is, we’re all on equal footing, all saved by grace alone and not by works, so that we might not boast.  But how often do we find ourselves boasting in our minds and hearts? I readily admit; I’m just as guilty.  God’s grace cannot be qualified.  We cannot and dare not attach strings to something He gives freely!  And oh, is His grace big, my sisters!  It’s so much more than what I can imagine.

Grace, sisters in Christ, freedom in Christ

You may parent differently, dress differently, celebrate differently, eat differently, educate differently, and on and on.  And the truth is – that’s okay.   Part of finding confidence in Christ, learning to be who He created us to be, is also learning to extend that same grace and freedom to others.  Can I not rejoice in the freedom to be me, yet still celebrate your freedom to be you?

More truth from Romans 14:

13 Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister. 14 I am convinced, being fully persuaded in the Lord Jesus, that nothing is unclean in itself. But if anyone regards something as unclean, then for that person it is unclean. 15 If your brother or sister is distressed because of what you eat, you are no longer acting in love. Do not by your eating destroy someone for whom Christ died. 16 Therefore do not let what you know is good be spoken of as evil. 17 For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, 18 because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and receives human approval. (emphasis mine)

What is the pleasing way?  It is not “a matter of eating and drinking,” not a matter of the details, rather it is a matter of “righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit,” choosing to live by the Spirit.  That choice brings to mind 1 Cor. 10:3:1

“So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”

In the scope of eternity, the “whatever” doesn’t matter, sisters!  The “glory of God” is what matters.  Do you see it?! :)

I want to shout for joy because our God is so good and gracious!  He knows our tendencies to get caught up in frivolous arguments.  He spells it out for us – whatever you do – whichever choice you make - if God’s glory is truly the motivation, then go for it, sister!

sisters in Christ, freedom and grace, not judgement, unity, Body of Christ

If we, fellow sisters in Christ, cannot celebrate each other’s choices to follow hard after the Lord, then who can we celebrate with?  This world certainly won’t be encouraging and celebrating us in our efforts to live worthy of the calling we have received.  Such self-destructive behavior can only be celebrated by the enemy, that twister of truth, creator of lies.  And I, for one, do not wish to give him any cause for celebration!

 “Beloved, let us love one another,” 1 John 4:7

We are sisters in Christ.

Let’s build each other up in love, lest we all fall prey to the enemy who seeks to devour.

 “Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.”

Romans 14:19

United in Christ,

united in Love.

Welcome to the sisterhood,

and let the celebrations begin!

Jen :)

I’m linking up with any of these lovely blogs.

Co-hosting the Get Inspired with Us Pinning Party!

I have been invited to co-host my first blogging linky party this week!  So, if you have any pin-worthy posts to share, join in the fun!  Just follow the directions below and remember to link up your pin’s url and not your post’s url.  Enjoy! :)

Here we go! Week #13… and it’s time to link up your fabulous pins!!

Get Inspired Pinterest Link Party

Here’s the rundown…

  1. You can link-up ANY pins that you’d like with the exception of Giveaways.
  2. This hop will now be featured on 6 blogs! We have 3 WEEKLY co-host spots and YOU could be next weeks co-host!
  3. The weekly co-hosts will be selecting the FEATURED PINS at each week’s party.
  4. Every week, each FEATURED PINNER will be given the option to co-host the FOLLOWING week’s party! :)

Our Featured PIN”s will be a REQUIRED re-pin in order to link-up the following week! That means, if you are Featured, and we have 60 link-up’s that weekend, your PIN will be RE-PINNED 66 times including the hosts & co-hosts. The number of times your Featured Pin will get re-pinned depends on the amount of link-ups we have that week.

Yes, we’re making it MORE FUN to Link-up with us :)

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The Pumpkin Gospel

A few days ago, I shared about how our views on Halloween have changed over the years from complete avoidance to an attempt at redemption. So, for today’s Mama Monday, I thought I would share a fun fall activity for redeeming a traditional Halloween object. You can teach a bible lesson, a science lesson, and be a purposeful parent at the same time! :)

Two years ago during the harvest season, I was searching for a good object lesson for our group of AWANA kids. I wanted something fall-themed and something that they could remember year after year. I found a lot of great Thanksgiving craft ideas and even Halloween ideas, but nothing that really struck me, until I ran across the Pumpkin Gospel, also known as the Pumpkin Parable.

I realize that carving pumpkins is traditionally a Halloween activity, one some Christ-followers might not deem very “Christian.” And it’s okay with me if we agree to disagree on that. :) But as I read the story of the pumpkin gospel, I knew the parable made sense and would really stick with children.  And I’m learning that even pagan holidays like Halloween can be redeemed!
Use this pumpkin carving technique and story as a powerful object lesson on the gospel! The Pumpkin Gospel works for AWANA, homeschool, children's church...

 

Kids love holidays.  They love pumpkins and carving pumpkins.  They also love stories.  Additionally, they need to be exposed to ideas over and over again for information to take root.  The Pumpkin Gospel was a perfect fit!

Preparations:  

You will need a table to stand at and a medium to large sized, prepared pumpkin.  To prepare the pumpkin:

  • cut out a hole in the top and clean out the majority of the goo, but save it.
  •  Next, cut out a face with eyes, nose and a smiling mouth, but save the pieces you remove.
  • Then, put the removed pieces back into place so that the pumpkin looks uncut.
  • Set aside a few of the cleaner seeds to use at the beginning.
  • Then, put the rest of the gooey seeds and pulp back in the middle of the pumpkin and replace the top.

The idea is to have the majority of the work done ahead of time so that you don’t have long pauses in your story/object lesson.  You will also need a cookie sheet or tablecloth to contain the pumpkin mess during your story, and a candle and matches.

Story:

Once there was a Gardener who planted seeds in His garden (show pumpkin seeds).  Each day the Gardener cared for the seeds.  He watered them, pulled weeds from around them, and sheltered them from the heat of the sun.  The seeds grew into seedlings, which developed into plants, until one day, they produced fruit – pumpkins!  The pleased Gardener looked out at His garden and said, “It is good!”

Use this pumpkin carving technique and story as a powerful object lesson on the gospel! The Pumpkin Gospel works for AWANA, homeschool, children's church...

One day, the Gardener went out into his field and picked a special pumpkin (place pumpkin on the table – on top of a cookie sheet or tablecloth, etc. with the uncarved side facing the audience).  It was a bit dirty from laying in the garden, so he brought it inside and gently wiped it off (wipe off exterior of pumpkin).  Now the pumpkin looked clean on the outside, but what about the inside?

The Gardener took a knife and cut open the top of the pumpkin (pretend to cut open the top again and take it off).  And what did He find?  A bunch of slimy, yucky goo! (show kids the goop – maybe even let them touch it if you have a small enough group).  The Gardener wanted His special pumpkin to be beautiful, so He carefully scraped out all of the goo inside until the pumpkin was as clean inside as it was on the outside! (Remove goo and throw away. Show children the clean interior)

But the Gardener still wasn’t satisfied with the pumpkin.  He decided it needed a face!  So, He carefully cut out two eyes, a nose, and a big smiling mouth (Turn the carved side of the pumpkin to face the audience. Poke out the eyes, nose and mouth you carved out previously).  Now the Gardener’s special pumpkin looked clean AND happy.

But the Gardener still wasn’t satisfied with the pumpkin.  So, He put a light inside of it (insert candle and light it).  The pumpkin glowed so beautifully!  The Gardener’s special project was complete.

When friends and neighbors saw the Gardeners special pumpkin, they marveled at how He took something ordinary from His garden, cleaned it inside and out, put His light inside, and made it something extraordinary!

Explanation:

We are like pumpkins and God is  the Gardener.  God creates us and cares for us. He “chooses” us from all of the other pumpkins, but inside we all have the yucky goo – sin. (Read Rom. 3:23 and Rom. 6:23)

Just like the Gardener cleaned out his pumpkin’s goo, God wants to clean out all our sin, too. So, He sent his Son Jesus to die for our sins, to take the punishment we deserved. (Read Rom. 5:8, John 3:16, and 1 John 1:9)

Just like the Gardener gave the pumpkin a new face, God makes us a new creation! (Read 2 Cor. 5:17)

Just like the Gardener put His light into the pumpkin to make it shine, so God gives us His light to shine through us!  (Read 2 Cor. 4:6 and Mt. 5:16)

So, when we let God clean out  our sin, by believing that Jesus died to pay the punishment that we deserve, He turns us into new creations that can shine for Him!  And when others see our light, then they might want to learn how to have a light of their own, too!

Use this pumpkin carving technique and story as a powerful object lesson on the gospel! The Pumpkin Gospel works for AWANA, homeschool, children's church...

In an alternate version, you can also demonstrate the difference between being saved by grace and trying to “earn” salvation through works.  All you will need is a second pumpkin with a face that is painted on (rather than cut out).  The story about this pumpkin is along the lines of wanting to be “chosen” but not allowing the Gardener to clean out the inside.

So, the pumpkin wears a painted face (tries to make itself acceptable on the outside), but inside, it’s still full of yucky goo.  Without removing the goo, there’s no room for the Gardener’s light, so the pumpkin cannot shine.

Many people try to make themselves acceptable to God in their own way ( just like Adam and Eve in the Garden).  They might go to church and act like Christians, and they might even believe in God.  But unless they trust that Jesus paid the price for their sins, then the sin remains on the inside.  They cannot become new creatures without allowing Christ to remove their sin.  So, the light of Christ cannot be in them.   (Read Eph. 2:8-10) This lesson would work especially well with older children, perhaps even youth age.

Note: I have recently learned that there are a variety of books available to help with this object lesson. This one seems closest:

And Here is one for little hands:

 

So, if you’re looking for a fall family activity or even an object lesson for your church or homeschool group, consider redeeming a little bit of Halloween and using the Pumpkin Gospel.  Year after year when children see pumpkins lit up, they can remember the story of Who put the light inside of them!

If you have other ideas or stories for redeeming Halloween, I’d love to hear them in the comments!

Jen :)

Also sharing this post with: The Mommy Club at Crystal and Co.

*This post makes use of affiliate links. For more information please visit the About page for Being Confident of This. Thank you for helping to support this blog!

Halloween Redemption?

I’ve seen it in the gentle coloring of the trees outside of our home, that yearly reminder that Fall is here. Right along with Fall comes the harvest season: cornstalks and hay bales and apples and pumpkins… and the “holiday” of Halloween, possibly one of the most controversial holidays for those who are in Christ.

I’m not sure about you, but the Halloween issue is something I’ve always struggled with as a Christ-follower (it’s right up there with what to do with Santa, the Easter Bunny, etc.).  What to do with Halloween is one of those be-in-the-world-but-not-of-the-world gray areas that seems to so often divide Christians.

Halloween and Christians

 

Yes, I’ve researched both the pagan roots for the holiday and it’s Catholic counterpart, All Saint’s Day. And I’ve read a few articles lately about what Christians should or should not do in regards to this day.  I’m just not sure I agree anymore.

When I was growing up, my family did not dress-up or trick-or-treat, but we did hand out candy from our house during the years that we were not in missionary training (before we went overseas). However, my husband (who also grew up in a Bible believing home) and his siblings donned costumes and went door-to-door up through their teenage years! :)

So, when our firstborn came along, we weren’t sure which path to choose.  We had the desire to please the Lord in our parenting choices, but we honestly weren’t really sure where to draw the line between freedom in Christ and being “set apart” in this area.

At first, we decided to participate only in our church’s fall festival, a Halloween alternative which was held on the same evening as Halloween, without costumes, but with games and candy.  It was so much fun for the whole family!

However,  my philosophical brain rejected the idea that it would be somehow “acceptable” to participate in a candy-oriented event on the same night as Halloween as long as we called it by another name and held it at a church yet  “unacceptable” to dress in a costume and go trick-or-treating.  Weren’t we still celebrating the holiday, just in a different way?

And what about our other “Christian” holidays, like Christmas and Easter.  Weren’t those dates  and even  many of our traditions borrowed from pagan holidays as well? (I know I was shocked when I researched the origins of Christmas in particular.)  Yet, over the centuries, we’ve managed to bring Christ into the center of those holidays.

Furthermore, what exactly does the Bible have to say about such celebrations?  In the Old Testament we find many yearly festivals celebrated that always served as reminders to God’s chosen people, such as Passover, etc.  But after Christ, the only command to repeat any such “celebration” for the purpose of remembering was that of what we now call communion – “do this in remembrance of me.”

In Galatians 5, Paul advises:

 “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.

Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”

He’s talking to the Galatians specifically about circumcision and how futile it is now that Christ has come.  In fact, in verse 2 he warns that if they allow themselves to be circumcised, then Christ will not be “of value” to them.  Why?  Because they are trusting in the Law rather than a Savior.  Then, in verse 6, he offers this truth:

“For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value.

The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.”

The outward acts that made up so much of the OT Law no longer matter!  What matters is that faith relationship we have because of Jesus.  When we read even further on in this chapter, we find once again that the only thing that matters is love:

13 You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free.

 But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love.

14 For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

15 If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.

It seems to me that in gray areas that the Bible doesn’t specifically address, there is grace.  Because of Christ, we have freedom from human regulation.  The most important thing is not what we “do” in that regards, but in how we love, through faith – each other, as well as the lost.

Since the Bible does not take a crystal clear stance on the celebrating of specific holidays such as Halloween, Christmas, Easter, and so forth we finally decided to err on the side of grace in this gray area.

So, for a few years, we allowed our children to trick-or-treat at select locations, usually church events around town (for safety reasons).

We took the opportunity to discuss why Halloween can be an evil day, depending on how it is celebrated.  We talked a lot about good vs. evil and how the spiritual realm is real and present, but that we need not fear it because “God is bigger than the boogeyman” (to steal a line from the Veggietales tune).

Then, a few years ago, my husband decided to return to full-time ministry as the pastor of a small, country church.

And one of the things we decided to do as an outreach event in our new-to-us, small-town community was to host a trunk-r-treat event. If you haven’t heard of trunk-r-treats, people line up their opened car trunks, decorated in various themes, in a parking lot or downtown, and  hand out candy from their trunks instead of from their homes.  For our small church, it was a big deal!

The big night arrived, cold and wet.

We drove to the downtown parking lot we had chosen for the event, spirits high in spite of the bad weather.  The sprinkling slowed a bit to a slight mist and trunks began to open as we set up our decorations.  We had Star Wars themed trunks, farm trunks, and even one trunk that looked like a giant mouth with razor-sharp teeth!

Trunk-or-treat, Christians and Halloween

Then the costumed families began to arrive, and for an hour and a half, we had a steady stream of trick-or-treaters.  We smiled at them.  We gave them candy.  We served hot drinks in the unseasonably cold weather.

We told parents about our children’s program and youth group.  We laughed at inventive costumes. We invited them to fellowship with us.  We handed out gospel literature. And eventually, we actually ran out of candy!

In the weeks that followed, we saw very little tangible results from our first trunk-r-treat.  No new families stopped by our church to visit.  Some might even call it a failed outreach event.

But that event marked the beginning of a slow change in that church, a willingness to start thinking outside of the “church” box.  They began to see, with fresh eyes, the lost in our community.  They realized that even small churches can serve in big ways!

This year will be our second attempt at the trunk-r-treat event.  I hope we will reach even more of our community. We plan to utilize the Pumpkin Gospel object lesson to demonstrate the gospel in visual form (kids love stories!).  Whether or not it’s the best way to deal with a historically evil holiday, I know the Lord sees past the exterior to the desires and the motives of our hearts.  I hope what our children take away from this in the future is that Halloween is a day to remember that we live in a fallen world.  Evil is real, but so is God.  We have a light to shine in the darkness!

So, maybe, just maybe, making the right choice for Halloween is not so much about the details of how we “celebrate” but the why behind it.  And any day with Jesus as the focus is a good day, in my opinion.

I just have to wonder what satan thinks about a bunch of Christ-loving people hijacking his evil day in an attempt to demonstrate the gospel to an entire community?

If sinners can be redeemed, and Christmas can be redeemed, and Easter can be redeemed…..

then maybe Halloween can, too?

And if the best way for you to overcome evil is to follow convictions about abstaining, then by all means, follow your own convictions!  It’s okay for the Body of Christ to disagree on how to best glorify the Lord on this one day, really it is. :)

Perhaps the best way to be a light in the darkness is to quit biting and devouring one another and focus on loving each other instead.

Romans 12:21

“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

Jen :)

 

Ordinary People, Extraordinary Children

Child of the King

It’s one of those days when I feel so plain.

A tad, well, ordinary.

And I know, I know, I know the truth.  That I am.  Ordinary.

Except I’m not.  To Him, I’m not.

Why is it such a struggle to be okay with the ordinary when surrendering to that makes us so completely extraordinary?  Why do I look for the praise of man, the love of others, when I know the unfailing love of the King and the pride of Big Brother Jesus?

It’s like this fever within us, the desire to be more.  More than ordinary.  And it creeps up when we least expect it, even when we’re in the midst of reveling in the extraordinary that He reveals to us.

At first, it’s just a quiet whisper.

We shove it aside, hoping it will go away on its own.  But it doesn’t.  It grows stronger still, this whisper that we are ordinary, plain, nothing special.  And gaining strength, the whisper goes even deeper. You are weak. Your faith is weak. You are worthless.

With a groan, we turn to it, not wanting the whisper to be true, but fearing all the while that it is.   Why do we turn to it before turning away, my sisters?

Why do we listen to that whisperer, the Father of Lies?

Why don’t we turn instead to that Voice of Truth?

The Voice that calls us Beloved, Chosen, My People, Redeemed Saints,

Vessels, Lights in a dark world,

Worthy of a one and only Son, Brides of Christ.

Is there anything ordinary about being a bride?  I think those of us who are married would say it’s the day in our lives when we felt most special, most beautiful, most beloved.

There is nothing ordinary about bearing the names He gives us!

Be still, whispers.

Roar aloud, Voice of Truth!

Because Satan is defeated.  And we…we are new creations.  He no longer has dominion over us.

So, be gone foul whisperer!

We.

Are.

Children.

Of the One True King.

Ordinary people, extraordinary children.

We can be confident of that.

1 Peter 2:9

“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood,

a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession,

so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light…”

Jen :)

It’s Five Minute Friday, and I’m linking up with Lisa Jo again.  You can join in, too!  Five minutes of raw, uneditted, stress-free writing on a word prompt she gives us.

I might also be linking this post up with any of these lovely blogs.

Like a Proud Big Brother: Your Identity in Christ

One day after our seven-year-old’s soccer game, he waited in line at the concession stand.  The rest of the family waited a few feet away, arms full of camping chairs and water bottles, ready to head back to our trusty minivan.

I watched as our son’s easy grin lit up his face while he talked animatedly with a teammate behind him.  His team had remained undefeated, and he was on cloud nine!

He called out to his younger brother to join him.

As the four-year-old brother bounced closer to him, our middle son’s smile widened and his eyes crinkled.  He bent down to the younger’s level

“This is my brother, ” he told his teammate.

“Say, hi!” he encouraged the four-year-old.

Pride shone forth from his face as he talked about how he teaches his younger brother and sister how to “do sports” and how they listen to him and do what he says.

This conversation totally changed my perspective on Christ and how He feels about people like me!  He's like a proud big brother who just can't wait to show us off. Such encouragement for those days when we feel utterly worthless.      identity in Christ, Christian women, women of faith, devotional thought, our relationship with Christ, Christian encouragement

 

He put his arm around the four-year-old in a protective and possessive way, completely pleased to be the big brother.  “Gimme five,” he instructed.  The younger brother gladly obliged and bounced back to where the rest of the family waited.

Then, he called over his younger sister, also four, and the scenario played out all over again. She giggling and he smiling in her face.  Her quick wave to the teammate was cute and girly.  She, too, gave a five and then pranced back to join us.

I listened as our son and his teammate continued to converse. “So, they’re like your minions?!” the teammate asked, impressed.

“Yeah, pretty much. They’re my minions.” Our seven-year-old nodded his head.

As I laughed quietly, I realized how true it is.  They are his minions.

They trust him.

They listen to him.

And most of the time, they do his bidding.

But he also cares for them.

He helps them.  He plays with them.  He loves on them.  He gives things to them.

And when his friends are around, he introduces them with such beaming pride that you would think he birthed those two four-year-olds himself!

I didn’t think much more of that overheard conversation until later that week when I attended a Beth Moore simulcast.  She spoke on grace and law, how we often trust grace for salvation, but we fail to trust it in our everyday lives.

 Instead, we walk as if still under the law, guilty and defeated, when we could be living free and victorious!  We so often neglect to embrace our identity in Christ.

At the end of the day, Beth brought our attention to the fact that we, who are in Christ, are fully accepted by God; there is nothing more or less we can do to “please” Him.  Then, she ended with a speech given to us, one phrase at a time, to repeat to a partner.

It was a speech of words about who we are in Christ, and a speech about how Jesus would present us, His sisters of inheritance.

As I spoke the words aloud to my partner, I suddenly recalled my seven-year-old’s beaming face.

And I. was. undone.

Because that’s exactly how Jesus feels about each one of us, my friends!  

He’s the proud big brother; in His eyes, we are something to be joyful about.  

That’s our identity in Christ - that Someone is proud to have us in His family, proud to call us His own!

Jesus, our brother

Just imagine it with me now:

With a smile on His face, He calls you to His side, slings His arm around your shoulder, and proclaims for all to hear

Father, this is my sister.  Isn’t she great?

Look how beautiful she is!  I love her so much that I willingly gave my life for her, covered her sins in my blood.

She is infinitely precious to me, a daughter of the King.

The Father smiles back at Him and nods in agreement.

The Christ-brother holds out His hand for a celebratory five.

And the angels rejoice!

Let’s live from that identity in Christ, friends.

Because we have a proud big brother.

And His name is Jesus!

Jen :)

To read Beth’s commissioning prayer (and other goodies from the simulcast – like the Grace Poem), click here.

Work-in-Progress Parenting: The Angry Child

Last night, our second-born, strong-willed, ball-of-energy-and-strength-and-passion son was showing me a few of his latest “tricks.” I watched somewhat half-heartedly and made the typical distracted mom comments.

“Wow!”

“That’s crazy!”

“How do you DO that?”

When suddenly he made this horrible grimace.

He effectively described it as “putting pressure” on his face. To me it looked an awful lot like his angry child face.

Curious, I asked him why he would put pressure on his face. He matter-of-factly explained that it helps him get his anger out when he’s frustrated or feeling angry.

Then he showed me another of his typical angry child poses (fisted hands clenched tightly at his sides) and told me that putting pressure on his body helps him get anger out, too.

Once he was done with the demonstration, he sauntered away, like it was no big deal for a seven-year-old to have such knowledge of his own emotions and body.

I sat there stunned.

If you have a child with BIG emotions, you probably struggle with some parenting discouragement. What I learned from my angry child changed my perspective and helped me focus on the work in progress!  Work-in-progress Parenting: The Angry Child

Not because our son is so intelligent, although he truly is, but because a posture that I tend to “read” as angry disrespect  or rebellion was, in fact, the complete opposite.

His tense posture was actually an attempt at self-control!  And here I had been scolding him to “have a better attitude” whenever the “pressure” face and those “pressure” hands appeared, whenever I saw evidence of an angry child.

Hope for the Angry Child

It turns out my angry child understood his own emotions (and boy, does he have b-i-g ones) better than I sometimes understand my own.In fact, he was learning self-control methods that work for him, without any help from me!

Our conversation reminded me that even though I have now logged over thirteen years of parenting experience, I don’t know it all.  In fact, I never will!

Each child is created uniquely and requires unique parenting, a truth I tend to forget.

What I perceived as defiance or disrespect was actually the most self-controlled, respectful act my son was capable of in his angry moments.

If you have a child with BIG emotions, you probably struggle with some parenting discouragement. What I learned from my angry child changed my perspective and helped me focus on the work in progress.!

I hope I remember to exercise caution when I see the angry child come out.  I hope I remember that he’s making a greater effort than I ever realized and applaud him for maintaining a measure of self-control in the face of anger.

He has come so far in the area of emotions and self-control in the last few years, and I’m so quick to forget that in a heated moment!

I’m so quick to forget that my child is a work-in-progress, too, just like his siblings, just like his parents, just like every other sinful human on the face of the earth.

It wasn’t a proud moment for me, rather it was a thank-you-Lord moment.  I couldn’t take credit for my angry child’s heart changes; in fact, I was unintentionally discouraging some of the progress he was making.

Only God can take credit.

Because our little boy who is so quickly growing into a young man accepted the free gift of salvation a year or so ago.  And in a week, he’ll publicly proclaim his son-ship in Christ before family and friends as he wades into the baptismal waters.

I see the work the Lord is doing in his young heart and mind already.

Even though our son’s passion and energy often cause trouble for him, I have faith that someday he will use those gifts to be a great leader and a bold truth-teller.

What faithfulness on the Lord’s behalf!

My friends, when you’re parenting progress seems to have stalled, take heart.  

Continue to follow the Lord in your parenting, and wait to see what happens. Pray for their little hearts and minds to open to the Father’s touch.

If your emotional, angry child is old enough, ask about his or her actions during a low-stress time rather than in the heat of the moment. You’ll likely gain some surprising insights!

Look for progress in the little things, the still, small moments.

If you have a child with BIG emotions, you probably struggle with some parenting discouragement. What I learned from my angry child changed my perspective and helped me focus on the work in progress.!

Remember who your child has been created to be.  He’s created to be different than your other children and different even than you.

Take every opportunity to rejoice over the slightest step forward.

Because God knows what He’s doing.

He created these children, these gifts, purposefully just as he created you and me purposefully.

Only He can see where that purpose might lead them.

Jen :)

Sharing this post with: Grace and Truth

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When God Says, “Write.”

Often the Lord asks those who are in Christ to do things we aren’t comfortable doing on our own.  Maybe He asks us to talk to someone we don’t really know, invite a neighbor into our home, teach a Sunday School class, or use a gift that He has given in a public setting.  When He asks us to do those things that make us a little afraid, we’re always tempted to say no, at least I am. :)

No, Lord, I don’t want to go to Nineveh.

No, Lord, I’m not a good speaker; you should ask someone else to lead your people in exiting Egypt, like my brother.

No, Lord, we cannot take the Promised Land; it’s full of giants and we are small.

promised land

Over and over again in Scripture we find evidence of people just like us, lacking confidence in their God-given, spiritual gifts, or not wanting the responsibility that comes along with using a gift for the Lord’s glory. They feel inadequate or unworthy of the task.

We can look back on their completed lives and marvel at how the Lord worked through them.  We may even call them Heroes of the Bible, but in the moment, they were just ordinary people, afraid of the unkown, afraid of not being “enough.”

I often feel that way, especially about writing.  I’d rather leave it to someone else, after all, others can turn a phrase so much more effectively than I can.  What do I have to offer?

 I’m just an ordinary person.  And I’d rather keep those weaknesses of mine hidden, than be open and vulnerable.  I’d rather not put myself out there for the world to see, and maybe even criticize.  I’d rather avoid, be safe, fly under the radar.

But He commands, “Write.”

A funny thing happens when I obey that still small voice.  (Let’s be honest, sometimes when we don’t listen right away, it becomes a resounding gong that keeps us up ’til 4am!)  I’m the one who benefits.  Me!

It’s exactly the opposite of what I expected when I first started blogging months ago.  I thought He wanted me to share truth with others (and I do think that’s part of it), but I didn’t realize He wanted to share those truths with me, first.

And so I write. I pour it all out, sometimes on pages with pen in hand, sometimes on the keyboard, fingers flying, sometimes in bits and pieces, here and there in my notebook.

On occasion, I try to hold back, tone it down.  I mean, does anyone really need to see ALL of my ugly? :)  But He won’t let me.  He requires truth, full disclosure.

“Write, Jen.”

“But this is personal and painful and embarrassing, Father.  I’m so ashamed.  People will know! What will they think?!”

“I said write, Jen.”

“Okay, Father, but are you sure about this part here about my weight issues. Should I really be telling this to the public? I mean, is it really necessary to include? And can I really say this, Lord?  Am I really qualified to write such words?

I will give you the words, just write.”

“Okay, Father, I’m still not sure about this, but I’ll try.”

And the words pour out. And sometimes the tears do, too.  Because every time He asks me to write, whether about the ugly or the beautiful, He shows me more of Himself, more of myself, and more of who I am becoming in Him.

He teaches me that the best things come when I have nothing to give because then I am an empty vessel for Him.   And I’m the one who is blessed!  Not because the words are so great, but because

the message.

is.

Great.

Not because my gift is so grand but because writing is the gift, and it’s for me and it’s for Him and it’s for all of us.

More than pretty phrases or clever constructions, the message is what matters.

His message.

So my sisters in Christ, write,

or sing,

or teach,

or garden,

or paint,

or mother,

or serve,

or bake,

or whatever the task He lays before you, whether great or small.

Because the blessing is first for you.

Jen :)

Join us for Five Minute Fridays over at Lisa-Jo’s place.  We write on a one-word prompt for five minutes – no planning, editing, or stressing. :)

I may also be linking up with any of these lovely blogs.

Also sharing with: A Little R &R, Grace and Truth

How to Love When You Feel Unloved

In the spirit of truth-sharing, I’ll tell you that being the wife I am called to be is my weak area, my Achilles heel. I never feel so much like Paul in Romans 7, battling with the flesh, as when marital issues arise. How can I love my husband when I myself feel unloved?

Often Satan and sin have me so ensnared that I even become confused as to what “right” really is.

Like many married couples, we tend to get caught up in the cycle of an argument that’s been played out time and time again.  And that can be so frustrating!

Revisiting those same issues makes us feel like failures, trapped by the past, stalled in our progress.

But I’m not satisfied with a marriage that’s merely okay, and I mean that in the best of ways, I really do.  I desperately want to grow ever closer to the type of intimacy God intended for us  to experience as man and wife.

I don’t want to be fatalistic or resigned in my outlook, even though I may feel that way at times.  Because if I settle for “this is as good as it gets,” then where is my hope in the God who transforms souls, including my own?

Marriage is hard work, just like parenting is hard work.  If it were easy, we would not be challenged to grow!

Marriage teaches me things about myself that I loathe: how selfish I am, how easily offended, how weak and needy.  But unless I see the truth of where I stand, what chance do I have to move on from that spot?

By far the most difficult times in our marriage occur when we are both bearing unusual burdens that slowly wear us down, burdens like extended illness, or financial stress, or parenting issues, or major decisions, or unpredictable catastrophes.

We’re both weak.

We’re both worn and frayed.

We’re both longing for rest.

Love between a husband and wife needs to be sacrificial in nature, but the world tells us to put "me" first. How can we love when we feel so unloved ourselves? How can we keep going when it seems easier to give up? A little advice from a wife who understands such struggles yet believes in Hope.

Hope for marriages in hard times

You’ve been there before, I’m sure – those times in life when you both feel like you need a good long vacation from reality.

As much as I’d like to blame our marital strife on my husband’s inadequacies, I know the issues at hand aren’t his alone.  We’re called to be sacrificial in our love for one another, but when I’m already at the end of my rope, I often feel there is nothing left to give.

I become selfish;

I withhold kindness.

I justify: how can I love when I feel unloved?

How can I lift my husband up when I can barely lift myself up, Father?

How can I?

I’m certain I’m not alone in this desire we wives have to be rescued by our husbands when the going gets tough.

Love between a husband and wife needs to be sacrificial in nature, but the world tells us to put "me" first. How can we love when we feel so unloved ourselves? How can we keep going when it seems easier to give up? A little advice from a wife who understands such struggles yet believes in Hope.

 

This desire to have men of strength come charging in to save the day. This desire to let ourselves be the weak ones for once.  This desire to feel protected and cherished and cared for.

Because for all of our outward strength, we women often harbor needs that remain hidden.

The problem is that in wishing my husband would take on that role of Rescuer, I’m asking him to fill a space only our Father God can truly fill.

When I ask my husband to fill up that empty space, I’m asking to be disappointed.

My husband is imperfect.  Sometimes he lets me down, as I do him. Sometimes he needs a Rescuer just as I do.  Sometimes he is weak.  He is only human after all.  My desire for him to be what even I cannot is quite unfair, isn’t it?

I’ll be honest. As a busy mom of four, I wrestle with this idea that God should be my sole supply. After all, God cannot help with the bedtime routine or sweep the kitchen or sign permissions slips or pay the bills, at least not in a physical sense.

I wrestle, too, with feelings of disappointment and unkind thoughts toward a husband whom I truly wish to respect.

So, how can I love my husband                                                           when I feel unloved?

How can I be so filled with the Spirit, so filled with the Father’s love for my husband, that I have a constant and abundant supply to give?

Love between a husband and wife needs to be sacrificial in nature, but the world tells us to put "me" first. How can we love when we feel so unloved ourselves? How can we keep going when it seems easier to give up? A little advice from a wife who understands such struggles yet believes in Hope.

Honestly, I have no clear answers.

I have only ideas, inklings of what it takes.

Prayer would be a good start - telling God where I’m really at, even if it’s ugly.  Letting Him know how unfair it feels, how I feel unloved, how hurt I am, how afraid.  Asking Him to bring light to the Enemy’s lies, lies about how it will never change, about how it never has changed, about how you’re stuck.

They are Satan’s favorite lies. You’re trapped in this loveless marriage forever! He’s unfair!  He doesn’t appreciate you!  You shouldn’t have to put up with this!

Praying for supernatural intervention certainly helps!  God can change my husband’s heart, as well as my own, quicker than an hours-long “discussion.”  He can give me a supernatural love for my man, something that is not naturally “in me,” especially when I feel unloved.

The Father can melt my stubbornness, soothe my anger, hold my hurt, and forgive my sin, too.

He can also help me see the truth in the situation and  who my husband is in the Father’s eyes, a dearly beloved son. He can remind me of how big my husband’s shoes are, how broad his shoulders.  He can help me see clearly the load that often sits there and understand why my man sometimes stumbles beneath it.

When I see that truth, who my husband really, truly is at heart, I’m overwhelmed by compassion and ashamed by my traitorous thoughts.

I may not feel any stronger. I may still desperately need rescuing.  I may even carry wounds from the wrestling.

But at last I see that we two are the same: lonely, weary hearts in search of love and acceptance and a Rescuer.

You’re tired?  Me, too.  

You want to escape from life right now?  Me, too.  

You feel inadequate?  Me, too.

You hurt?  Me, too.

Instead of being angry with my hubby for failing to rescue me, we can turn hand in hand to the Father, the One who rescues us both.

 

Love between a husband and wife needs to be sacrificial in nature, but the world tells us to put "me" first. How can we love when we feel so unloved ourselves? How can we keep going when it seems easier to give up? A little advice from a wife who understands such struggles yet believes in Hope.

This is how we love, friends,

                                           by gazing into the face of Love Himself.

I’m not trying to make it sound simple or easy because I know how difficult it is to choose love when the world tells us it’s easier to give up and call it quits.

We can choose to love even when we feel unloved because Jesus did.

Greater Love has no man than this…

And so we stand, my husband and I, in the face of Perfect Love.

Side by side.

Fear washed away.

Compassion in our eyes.

Forgiveness on our faces.

Wearing our Grace-colored glasses because we serve the God of all Hope!

We’re merely works in progress here on Earth.

But we are not alone.

And this is not our home.

Jen :)

 

When do you feel strain in your marriage the most?

How do you take it to the Lord?

You can find more great posts on marriage here:

 

for-the-wife-who-doesnt-feel-like-celebrating-love, feeling-unloved-on-Valentines-Day, not celebrating Valentine's Day, painful Valentine's Day, troubled marriage, difficult marriage, a wife who feels unloved   6-ways-to-stir-up-love-in-a-difficult-marriage, helping a hurting marriage, struggling wife, difficult marriage, how to feel love, how to fall in love again, how to love a difficult spouse     Failing to trust your husband is really failing to trust God. It's a hard pill to swallow sometimes, I know! Read here to learn how to trust God with your marriage!

 

Hope for the Hurting Wife: 30 Days of Practical Encouragement for Your Marriage. Coming Soon! marriage book|difficult marriage|husband|wife|hard times in marriage|marriage encouragement

Also – Life in Grace

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