Building Each Other Up

The morning was going pretty well until about 10 minutes before we had to leave for school.

You see, my 6th grader was taking his time with his shower and getting ready for the morning. Ten minutes before we had to leave, he still had not come down to eat his breakfast, so when I yelled up the steps to tell him he had to hurry it up, I realized he was in his room playing. Ugh…that started to make me upset. When he came down, he walked into the kitchen, suddenly stopped in his tracks, put his finger over his lips and said, “Ummm, I will be right back.” He ran upstairs and a minute later came back down. He went and grabbed the Bible, sat down, and started to frantically go through it. It took me like 3 seconds to realize that he obviously forgot to do something.

I was right.

He was supposed to give a devotional presentation during his 1st period Bible class and forgot to prepare anything. We had 8 minutes left now before we had to leave for school and I still was not completely ready nor had he eaten his breakfast. When I asked him what he was going to do, he tells me that his idea was to take some Legos and use them as a demonstration on how to build each other up. Good idea, but he had NOTHING prepared and was aimlessly searching through the Bible.

Instantly, I got really upset. I said some things that were not good, angrily grabbed a piece of paper and pen, told him to start eating, and whipped out a few Bible verses on building each other up and ways that we can do that. I stuck those notes in the front of his Bible, closed the cover way to hard, and ran upstairs to finish getting ready. He inhaled about half of his breakfast and then ran to brush his teeth. By this time, we were running late and as we left home, the tone of my voice was still harsh and my blood was boiling.

As we started driving, I told him he better take a look at my notes and get a plan in place. In a bitter tone, I gave him an idea of how he can pull this off and unlike me; he stays very quiet and calm through it all. I got mad at the lady driving in front of us for going too slow and not taking off the second the left arrow on the traffic light turns green. When Noah asked me to turn the radio up, I snapped and told him “No.” He didn’t say another word the rest of the way. We pull up to school at the last second and Ethan jumped out.

Ephesians 4:29, “Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.” (NLT)

Needless to say, as I sat and reflected on the morning, guilt filled me up. For one, I should have just stayed calm and had reality be the discipline and let Ethan go into the class completely unprepared. I am a firm believer that there are great lessons to be learned with reality discipline, but sometimes I step in and help when I shouldn’t.

However, it didn’t take me long to realize that in trying to help my son develop a devotional on building each other up, I was doing the complete opposite to him at that moment. I was verbally tearing him down. As he jumped out of the van needing to speak a few minutes later about how to encourage and uplift one another, I had just crushed and deflated his spirit.

Not a good mother moment. It’s regretfully embarrassing. This week holds some things that have been making me feel a bit stressed and on the edge and I guess his irresponsibility pushed me over. Honestly, I am a very patient and loving person and actually feel that those are some of my gifts. Maybe this is just a pitiful attempt to try to convince you that I am a good mom, but truthfully, my behavior yesterday morning was out of character for me. Clearly however, I am far from perfect.

In wishing I would of just let Ethan suffer the natural consequences of not being prepared, I quickly realized that the Lord was having me search the Bible in those frantic minutes not for him – but for a reminder of myself. As a result, it is what I spent the rest of the day thinking about.

Later in the afternoon, after we were all home from school, I took a moment to sit Ethan down and talk about the morning. In a loving and calm voice this time, I asked him how the presentation went, and he said, “Actually, very well.” I told him I was happy it went well and we proceeded to talk about the lessons we both learned. He admitted his fault and I admitted mine. Apologies were exchanged and at the end of the conversation, we both walked away with raised spirits.

Before we ended our conversation he shared with me what he said and did during the presentation and I want to share that with you. While he used some of the Bible verses I found for him, the demonstration part was completely his idea.

He explained to me that he took a bigger Lego piece and used that as the foundation, representing love. While speaking of ways that we can build each other up – showing respect, kindness, praising others while staying humble, refraining from speaking gossip or spreading rumors, being sensitive to other people’s needs, praying for each other, being understanding and quick to forgive – he used a Lego piece for each example and built a cross with them. He explained that using words in love is how the Bible teaches to encourage each other and when we do that; we represent Jesus. Then, in a quick instant, he took that cross of Lego’s, threw it to the ground and it smashed all over the floor. He said that is what it is like when we use our words to tear people down; no longer representing Jesus.

I think Ethan’s demonstration pretty much sums it up.

Just like I needed to do with my son, if you need to take a moment to apologize for the misuse of your words, the tone of your voice, or in giving the silent treatment to another individual (that speaks just as loud and is just as damaging) – then go and do that. Relationships can be mended instead of ripped apart.

Hebrews 10:24-25, “Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.” (NLT)

It doesn’t matter who you are – Christian or non-Christian, the color of your skin, or what age you are – we ALL need and desire for someone to take a moment and speak love and life to us.

Friends, let’s go and look for someone to build up in loving encouragement. People are hungry for it and we do not do it enough.

1 Corinthians 14:26, “Well, my brothers, let’s add up what I am saying. When you meet together some will sing, another will teach, or tell some special information God has given him, or speak in an unknown language, or tell what someone else is saying who is speaking in the unknown language, but everything that is done must be useful to all, and build them up in the Lord.” (TLB)

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Linked at: Missional Women

Were You There?

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Were you there?

Were you there when they yelled, “Crucify him”?

Were you there when they beat him with whips, tearing flesh away from his body with each striking blow?

Were you there when they stripped him, put a scarlet robe on his body and a staff in his hand?

Were you there when they pushed down a crown of thorns on his head?

Were you there the day they spit on him, mocked with their mouths and hatred in their hearts?

Were you there when they took that staff out of his hand and beat him over and over again on the head; pushing that crown of thorns even deeper into his skull?

Were you there when they took that robe off of him and put his own clothes back on?

Were you there when they led him to “The Place of the Skull”?

Were you there when they nailed his hands and feet to the cross?

Were you there when they stripped him naked, and then sat at the foot of the cross casting lots for those bloody strips of linen?

I was.

I was there. So were you.

While hanging on the cross, Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” You see, the FIRST words out of Jesus mouth after he got nailed to the cross was “Father, forgive them…” He had just been beaten beyond recognition and hung on a cross, and he prayed to His Father, not for himself, but for the ones who were killing him and for us as well.

I was there because He was thinking about me while He was praying that prayer. I was there because every sinful moment of my life was present that day. While He was hanging by his own body weight with nails through his flesh, He took the weight of all of my sins upon him as well. Yours too.

Every hateful, deceiving, or envious thought; every lustful eye; every unkind and angry words to murder a spirit, or because of pride – words held silent when they should have been spoken; every misuse of the Lords name; every false testimony against our neighbor; every disrespectful and rebellious act; every blow with the fists and strikes with the heels; every gluttonous indulgence; every workaholic or slothful beings; every lack of faith, hope, love, trust, belief; every idol served – especially the idol of self – EVERY SINGLE act of SIN…He died for. He took the weight of all if it while hanging on the cross.

He experienced hell.

I’ve watched on the National Geographic Channel regarding certain tribes and cultures with whom men volunteer themselves to experience crucifixion, not to the death, but in the act of being nailed to a cross. They hang there for mere minutes, until they cannot handle it anymore, to which they are then brought down. They do this in an attempt to draw themselves closer to Jesus and are left with nail holes in their hands.

Many times, movies and shows have tried to recreate that day at the Place of the Skull where Jesus hung. Honestly, I can barely watch some of them due to the graphic nature, yet I know that these re-creations don’t even come close to what the reality was. I believe the real act is more than what we would be able to bear to see.

He came to earth so that He could be a human sacrifice for us. In a recent sermon, my Pastor quoted a person who stated something like this: “He was murdered a perfect man, yet while hanging on the cross became the worst of sinners…taking all our sins upon himself.” It was this act of love, a sacrifice of himself that our sins can be forgiven.

I feel so undeserving.

If we are honest, how many times have we been to a Good Friday service and went through the motions without truly being present in our thoughts and hearts of what Jesus did? How many times did you partake of a Communion and your mind was thinking about something else? Could it be that this story is just so familiar, too comfortable within us, that we find ourselves going through the motions with no feelings attached? What a tragedy! I can’t help but wonder if this could be one of the greatest tragedies of all. Lord, forgive us!

Here is the good news. Friday afternoon’s darkness leads to Sunday morning’s light. Even non-church going humans come to church on Easter to celebrate what comes next. Sin and death is not the end of the story.

Sunday, there will be a gathering together to celebrate the promise and fulfillment of His Resurrection – so that all those who believe and place their trust in Him – the one who died and rose again – may experience ETERNAL life.

“Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting? The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 15:55 -57)

Hope is not dead. “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.” Hebrews 7:19 Hope goes way beyond the dirt we are buried in and the stone that marks our earthly existence.

No matter your past or the storm of life that you are currently experiencing, you have an anchor to hang on to that is firm and secure. There is no wave of sin, guilt, or grief strong enough to displace that.

I am sure there will be lots of bloggers writing about these events in their own creative way over the next few days. This post will be just one of them. There will be many podcasts telling stories relating to this Holy Week. There will be many Pastors preaching the Good News this weekend. While all this is good, it doesn’t matter how many blogs you read, podcasts or preachers you hear if there is no internal response.

As we go into this weekend – remembering the sacrifice of the Lamb and then rejoicing in His resurrected life – let us not just go through the motions! Let’s be fully present in mind, heart, and spirit and humble ourselves before the Lord. We don’t even need to nail our hands to a cross in order to do so.

What we need to do is to find a quiet spot to be alone, and have a moment before the Lord repenting, believing and having true faith in what He has done.

We, our sins, were present the day He died and we need to respond by surrendering our all today. We are forgiven! Let’s praise Him for what He accomplished!

There is no greater story of a beautiful love and grace than this:

God is NOT DEAD. He is SURELY ALIVE!

Picture drawn by Noah, March 2015

Picture drawn by Noah, March 2015

Linked at: #TellHisStory

Joy Cometh

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It was the dead of winter with the wind fiercely blowing the freezing cold air around. I ran upstairs to my bedroom, opened the window, and let the air hit my face while I slowly breathed it in.

As much as I dislike the winter and the cold, it was the first time in a couple weeks that I sucked in fresh air and I was desperate for it.

You see, for the first several years after Noah was born, due to his prematurity and his fragile medical condition, we lived in isolation with him. The only time we took him out of the house was for doctor appointments. Randy was working l-o-n-g hours, early in the morning to late at night, trying to get his medical practice established, so that meant I was at home.

Alone with the kids. In isolation.

Being a lover of social interaction, I now felt trapped inside of my own home. I went from working 80% time in a hospital setting caring for others, getting paid and getting thanked, to finding myself alone with a medically fragile son and no adult to talk to.

I knew that Randy was working hard caring for sick people all day, listening to their complaints and trying to make things better for them. I knew he was extremely stressed at work getting his practice established. Then, exhausted, he would have to come home to us, another situation of complaints and sickness. I knew that his job was hard, and I was proud of him, yet I found myself jealous because HE COULD LEAVE. He could leave the house, speak with other peers, and get out each day.

I felt so stuck. It was completely against my outgoing personality to be alone for so long. I actually looked forward to taking Noah to the doctors’ office because it allowed us to get out and I could TALK TO ANOTHER PERSON.

Randy and I found ourselves in a never-ending cycle of medical crisis…his at work and mine at home…with no relief in sight.

When Noah got his trach placed at 9 months old, he was also on oxygen 24 hours a day. We turned our formal dining room into his “hospital room bedroom”, which is still like that today. Since he was hooked to oxygen, a pulse oximeter, and humidity, we were confined to our main floor. So, when I was home with the boys alone, I was unable to even run upstairs to get something.

I could not leave him out of my sight for even 30 seconds. So many times he would plug his trach with secretions and I would have about 30 seconds to do an emergency trach change or suction out the plug before he went unconscious. Before Noah got discharged from the hospital in Minneapolis after receiving his trach, the doctor sat me down. With a very serious tone in his voice and looking at me straight in the eyes, he told me that in no condition what so ever could I let Noah out of my sight. Just prior to that conversation, the doctor had two patients, both babies with trachs who died because one mother went to answer the doorbell and the other mother walked away from her child to answer the phone. Both babies died because their mothers were not there to suction them when they needed it. When a doctor tells you that, you don’t forget it.

Reality hit home quickly.

Countless times, my husband and I found ourselves literally saving his life in a respiratory crisis. The first of those times happened within 30 minutes of coming home after leaving the hospital with his trach. You never knew when you would go from being OK to being in complete crisis mode on any given day. Often, it would happen in the middle of the night and we would go from half way sleeping to performing life saving measures on him in a matter of seconds. Numerous days when he was sick in the early years, he would require suctioning every 5 minutes, and that is ALL I would get done during the day. Essentially saving his life every 5 minutes.

Not going to lie. That was hard.

My mother would come from time to time so I could leave the house and drive to the grocery store or run other errands. There were times when I would leave and come home; park the van in the garage and the next time I got in it would be a couple weeks later.

There were others that came to sit with him from time to time while I was at home. They would be there to watch him and yell for me if he was having difficulty in anyway. Having them there allowed me to at least go upstairs to do some cleaning, or gather a load of laundry. It was during those times when I would find myself at the window, breathing in the freezing cold air…as if trying to perform my own life saving measures from losing my mind.

There were others that came to bring us meals, sent us cards, signed Noah’s Caring Bridge site with encouraging and uplifting words, visited us in the hospital, and I appreciated every single thing that was done. Often times, people would ask me what we needed, and to be completely honest, I had no clue. I wasn’t used to asking for help or even knowing what I needed. I just knew that when people stepped up and did a kind act, I was extremely grateful for it.

But you know what I found over the years that truly brought me joy? It was when I took a moment to do something for somebody else. Despite what we were going through, when I took time to see someone else in need, to write someone else an encouraging card, to sign someone else’s Caring Bridge guestbook, to visit someone else in the hospital, to bring someone else a meal…I was always left with a feeling of joy.

That was a feeling I desperately needed during those hard times and the way I received it was by giving of myself to help others. I also found that it immensely changed my perspective on what our family was dealing with and it prevented me from drowning in my own self-pity.

For those of you who find yourself in a situation of overwhelming sorrow – tears that fall easily and freely – and you just cannot imagine ever experiencing joy again, the Bible has many verses that offers promises of renewed joy. One of the places to turn to is Psalm 126. It tells us, “Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy.”   Even in your trials, if you remain in Christ…being a witness and allowing Him to work through you and your tears…joy will come.

Proverbs 11:25 says, “The one who blesses others is abundantly blessed; those who help others are helped.” (The Message)

You see – joy is different than happiness. Happiness is circumstantial, but joy is a matter of the heart. When we do things for others regardless of what is going on in our own lives, the fruit of that – a gift from the Holy Spirit – is joy.

Next time you find yourself needing a little joy, pray to God. Ask Him to open your eyes to the needs of those around you and then take a moment to give of yourself to bless that person or family. Volunteer at your church, your local homeless shelter or food pantry. It doesn’t have to be much…even the smallest act of kindness will be rewarded if it is done with the right heart-attitude.

It is a win-win.

The person on the receiving end will be truly grateful. You might never know how much of an impact your small act will have had on their life. Your gift in return will be something that only God can provide – true lasting joy.

Ordinary, Under Qualified, and Most Unlikely

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For a couple weeks, I have wanted to write on a few different topics, but I feel as if my words have come up short.

The honest truth is that the fear of failure is sneaking back up within me and I have greatly doubted my abilities in this blog. I am pretty sure I am under a spiritual attack and my mind is getting hit the hardest. I am going to just lay it out there today and I am praying that God does a work within me through it.

One of the more difficult aspects about writing is that it feels like you are being split open…it allows everyone to see what is inside and honestly, that is a bit scary. That risk worth taking lays within the fact that maybe one of you will be able to relate with how I am feeling today and that is where I have to trust in God to take over and do His thing.

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 Do you ever feel like you are doing a task that you are under qualified for?

Over the past couple weeks that is how I have felt with this blog.

Once I decided to go ahead with it and felt like it was the right time, I was eager to start. “Lord, if this is what you want from me, give me the affirmation to let me know.” He responded to that. I prayed for God to use me in this way and to give me the words to say. My heart and mind were excited and I wanted to please God with everything in me. That hasn’t changed. I still do.

I felt like Peter stepping out of the boat onto the water and thinking I could just walk right on top of it like it was no big deal. “Lord, I will obey and walk into this unknown territory, even though it is something that I have never done before or feel like I can do well.” My faith in Him and His work suddenly drove out the fear that had previously grounded me.

Now…I am feeling like Peter where he realizes what he is doing and becomes afraid and starts to sink. I am scared, doubtful and wondering, “What in the world did I get myself into?” In a mistake of comparing myself to others – a total joy killer – I am quick to feel that they have a much more artistic way with words than I will ever dream of. I just feel so ordinary and unqualified for this.

What if I misjudged the Holy Spirits’ speaking to me? What if I misread those signs of affirmation that I asked for? What if everyone sees me fail? Who am I to think I could actually do this and people would be interested?

I often read that writers are those who love words so much that they can hardly put a book down. I have never been an avid reader. The older I am getting, the more I desire and enjoy reading, but I was never that child who always had a book in her hand. Nope…I was an outdoors girl who didn’t mind getting dirty. I was more interested in wanting to see whom I could go off and play with than spending my time alone with a book in her hand.

So I think, “I am the most unlikely person to have a blog it isn’t even funny.”

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As I sit here now, the Spirit is reminding me about the past 6 years and how I have lead our First Kids Christmas Program, an average of 110 children in K-3rd Grade.

One summer day, I was reading in our church newsletter and noticed that they were looking for a director for the Children’s Christmas program for that year. I quickly felt the Holy Spirit speak to me that I needed to do it. But logically it didn’t make any sense.

For starters, I have a really undesirable singing voice. Like seriously. The thought of even singing in front of children made me cringe. Even my own children ask me to stop singing to the radio in the car sometimes. 🙂 (If we turn up the radio loud enough though, it is OK). I admire people who can sing and really wish God would of given me that talent. As much as I love music, when He created me, He choose to leave that one gift out.

Secondly, my plate was very full. Ethan was in 1st grade at that time and Noah was a busy 24-hour care. He was constantly sick and we spent many days in and out of the hospital. So, I tried to shrug it off and put the idea completely out of my mind. Besides, I had heard from previous people who have done it how much time it takes and how much work it was. I wasn’t scared of the work, but I certainly didn’t feel like I had the time.

However, in true God fashion, He wouldn’t let it go. As much as I tried to talk Him out of it, I still had the feeling that I needed to at least stop at church and just put my name in. So, I made a final deal with the Lord and said something like this, “Ok. I will stop and ask about it, and if the Children’s church leader is there, I will let her know that I am willing to consider it. If she isn’t, then I am not going to try again. OK, Lord? Got it?”

One sunny afternoon a few days later, I pulled into the church office parking lot. I know the good Lord was watching me and I imagine with a big smile on His face for He knew what was coming. As He would have it, she was there working that day. I asked if they filled that position yet, and she told me “No”, and I let her know that if nobody else came to ask about it, then I would do it.

A while later, she contacted me and shared that no one else came to offer to lead it for that year, so I accepted. I knew that the Lord would have to help me find the time and to let everything fall into place, and you know what, He did. And 6 years later, here I am…still the most unlikely person to do the job.

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Through it all however, I have learned a few things. The most important being that God can use the ordinary, under qualified, and most unlikely person to do His work.

No, He didn’t miraculously give me a desirable singing voice, but we can play a CD, crank up the volume, and teach the music that way. I realized how much I love working with the children and using my creativity in other ways to tell the story of Jesus’ birth again and again. I love watching the excitement of the children when they learn the songs and seeing their confidence build as they get in front of the audience to act or sing a solo and realize that yes, they can do this!

It does require much time and dedication, but He has taken care of that as well. Even in the midst of great stress at home over the past 6 years with a sick child who still requires 24-hour medical care, months of hospital stays – many in the ICU, many sleepless nights from lack of nursing help, countless days of doctors appointments and therapy schedules, death of close extended family members, long work hours for my husband, and I starting at school full time to care for Noah, among other responsibilities, He has allowed bits of time to open up for me to work on the programs. To my delight, He has blessed each and every one.

Then, in the quiet of the night, when the kids and parents have all gone home, the decorations and set all torn down and packed away, I am filled with thankfulness and joy, which is my great reward.

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Sitting here, I feel the Lord telling me that as long as I keep going in obedience, then I am doing the right thing. Even if I feel ordinary and under qualified, if I am true to myself and do the best that I can, then that is all that matters. It is OK if my words aren’t as artistic as the others. I am being real and trying to be the best me that I can be. I want you to know that if I can do this, you too can do whatever it is that the Lord is asking of you!

In Matthew 14, which tells the story of Jesus walking on the water, Peter yells out to Jesus, “Lord, save me!” Jesus responds, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” With a convicted heart, I feel that He is asking me this very question today.

Friends, I don’t want to be one of little faith. I don’t want to be the one who always has to second-guess herself or to be my own worst critic. I don’t want to have to wonder if this blog is going to be approved by those reading it. I shouldn’t worry about that, but I do. The thing is; the one who knows this area of weakness in me tries to make me believe that the doubts are fears are real. This is where the battle begins. Thankfully, we all have a great weapon at our disposal, and that is the Word of God and the power of prayer!

Dear Jesus,

I don’t know why I do it Lord, but I am sorry for my lack of faith, the second-guessing, and the doubt that fills me. Please forgive me. Thank you for reminding me today that even though I am under qualified for this, that is exactly where you want me. Help me to trust and obey! For as I wrote in my first entry, it is not through me but through you that beautiful things can happen. I know Lord that there is no way that I can produce anything that people can relate with unless you have your hand in it. Forgive me for wanting to believe the lies and help me to believe your voice of truth. After you and Peter got back into the boat and the winds calmed down, the disciples proclaimed, “Truly you are the Son of God”, so Lord I proclaim that as well. Use this site to draw me closer to you, to build up my faith, to do a new work in my areas of weakness, and place your blessing upon it. Thank you Jesus! I love you too.

Amen.

Linked at #FaithFilledFriday

Finding Love

This is written for all the single girls and women who are ready to begin or are in the midst of their dating days:

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Did you watch farmer Chris and his search for love? Were you super excited each week to find out what happened next? Did you find yourself dreaming about what it will be like the day you get proposed too?

I’ll be honest. Much to my husbands dismay, I enjoyed watching it too! Other than seeing what they did on their dates, I found myself more interested in watching how everyone conducted him or herself and would often think, “Do they not realize how they are acting is going to affect their entire reputation?” I always find it very interesting. And each girl who gets sent home essentially says the same thing through her tears, “I thought I was worthy of love. I thought he was the right one. It always ends up the same way for me…”

In the aftermath of that final rose, it got me thinking about my dating days and all of you single girls/women in search of Mr. Right.

I was in your shoes once. And as I walked the path of dating – discovering and losing love, I learned a few important things along the way that I would like to pass along and share with you.

Before we start, I think it goes without saying that dating one boy at a time is just the best way to go. Unlike “The Bachelor or Bachelorette”, where dating multiple people at once is part of the process, sticking to one boy at a time will allow you to focus and put your heart into that one person to find out if he is the one for you. In the end, it will cause much less confusion and stress. Besides, your reputation depends on it!

1. Treat each boy you date with the upmost respect.

Growing up, showing respect was one of the top things my father wanted to teach us kids, and to this day, I think it is one of the top things I try to teach my boys as well. Respect is so important and I literally cringe when I see disrespect being shown around me. Take notice of the qualities and abilities of the boy you are dating and let him know that you admire those things. Be considerate, encourage him, and treat him in a proper way. I don’t know a man on earth who wouldn’t want that. BUT just as important, if the boy you are dating doesn’t show respect in return – end the relationship. Seriously. You are worth so much more than to be treated with disrespect.

2. If you love him, let him go.

Girls, this one is tough and heartbreaking, but so important. If at any point during your relationship you can tell that something isn’t quite right, or that your boyfriend is trying to get out – even if you love him you need to let him go. If you sense this, then you need to love him enough so he can be free to find the one who is meant for him. In the end if you are meant for each other, then eventually he will return and it will all work out!

I’ll give you one example. One time while I was dating, during a particular weekend, my boyfriend ended up being very unhappy with me. In fact he told me, “I thought you were somebody special, but I guess you are just like every other girl out there.” Yeah, that hurt. However, instead of begging him to stay and trying to prove to him that I really was someone special, I quietly let him walk out and leave. I knew he needed to figure out on his own if he thought I was worth returning to or not. And there was no way that I was going to sit and beg for him to come back. I needed and wanted him to decide ON HIS OWN. I honestly didn’t know what he would decide and the thought of having my heart broken again about did me in. However, after spending the weekend alone thinking things through, he came back to me and decided I was worth it enough to continue dating. I was glad he did.

3. If the relationship is coming to an end, make sure you end it as graciously as possible.

I’m not saying that you can’t cry, but whatever you do; try your very best to not make a big dramatic scene! Truly listen to what he has to say as it might help you learn for the next relationship. Whether it is you who is breaking it off or the boy, always take a moment to thank him for the time and money that he invested into you. My father gave me this advice in my early years of dating and I tried very hard to stick to it. He told me to try to hold it together as much as I could during the moment, and then when I was on my own, I could cry as much as I needed too. 🙂  I can tell you that more than once, when a boy was breaking up with me and I used this tact, it was actually the boy who ended up crying instead of me! It will make him think twice if he is doing the right thing or not. Other times, you might find that you both are crying but you know that ending things is what needs to happen. It hurts. But even so, being gracious will allow the relationship to end on a respectful note.

4. Make a list of things you absolutely cannot compromise with and stick to that.

Most likely you will end up dating guys of all kinds. Which is great because it will allow you to see what you find most attractive and what kind of qualities you really desire in someone. If you take some time to think about it and know the things that are most important to you and that you cannot compromise on, it will be your guide as you are searching for that special someone. (Some examples include things like your religious beliefs and practices, if you want to have kids or not, how they treat you in public and private, etc.) If you find that the boy you are dating does not match those things on your “absolutely cannot compromise list”, then you need to let him go. It will save you much pain and stress in the future.

5. Be honest, real, and true to yourself!

Just be the best YOU that you can be. Don’t turn into someone else just for the sake of trying to be with a certain boy. That will never last. If the boy doesn’t enjoy you or love you for who you are, then there is someone else that will. God made you just the way you are for a reason, so embrace that! You have just the right qualities that someone is looking for.

I have to say that I really enjoyed my dating years and am grateful for each and every experience. I’m not going to lie; it can be a wild ride! It will bring you some major highs but it will also bring you some major lows. After all, it is either going to work out or it isn’t. But that is all part of the process, and with each ended relationship, you can learn from it which can benefit the next one that comes along.

I also just want to say that if you watch “The Bachelor/Bachelorette”, do you notice that most often, the final two people left to choose from are so very different from each other and yet, the Bachelor/Bachelorette are “falling in love” with them both? I had a counselor who told me once, “Rachel, I think you could fall in love and marry several different types of boys and end up living a very happy life.” What he was trying to say is that instead of worrying so much about finding that one soul mate person, trying to find a “perfect” match, what you need to focus on is finding that one person who you just can’t live without. The one person who respects you the greatest, loves you for who you are the most, and selflessly focuses on encouraging you to develop the gifts that God has given you.

Sometimes, you might end up thinking you found him- the one you can’t live without, but unfortunately, he might be thinking otherwise. I want you to remember a couple things my dad told me in those situations: (1) “Rach, if he leaves, it is his loss” and (2) “Just think how much you loved him, but the boy that is meant for you, you will love even more!” Good advice, right? 🙂 At least I appreciated him trying to make me feel better.

Every once and a while, there are those people who only date that one person and know he is the one. I personally know of a few amazing people who only ever dated their spouse. If that is you – wonderful! What a great story to tell!

But girls, we live in a broken world and it hurts sometimes. Boys will disappoint and they might walk away. You can’t control what they say or how they act. You can however control yourself, but the truth is, we all make mistakes. You too, will end up doing things that disappoint him. Just like the popular song says – God can indeed bless the broken road. Not only myself, but I have a few best friends who can testify to that as well.

All this advice is just that – advice. You are free to take it or leave it. However, I want you to remember that you are worthy of love! You may not be “perfect”, but there is someone out there who thinks you are to die for, and his name is Jesus. No other human being can love us like Him. If you try to find that kind of love in someone else, you will be disappointed every single time.

Our human love requires a lot patience, forgiveness, grace, and perseverance. When that kind of love is both given and received, it will blossom and flourish!

In the meantime, have fun! Put your seatbelt on and enjoy the wild ride! The highs are worth the lows, and the memories made can never be taken away.

Then one day, Lord willing, you might just find yourself at the end of an aisle, looking directly into your husbands eyes, and you will realize that it was all worth it!

A Way Out

Hello.

My name is Rachel and I am the daughter of a drug addict.

Let me back up a little bit.

In my early Elementary years, my mother was severely addicted to prescription drugs. In the early 1980’s, being from a small town community, attending a Christian Reformed Church, and Christian School, I discovered that being addicted to drugs is not something that goes over very well. Back then, it wasn’t something that was common or maybe even known about as well as it is today.

I fully admit that my memories as a 3rd grader do not fulfill the whole story, and much of this post is from my little girl perspective. However, the things I do remember are as clear as if they happened yesterday.

I remember my mother sitting at the kitchen table with her leg moving up and down so fast that you wondered how long she could keep it up…but it never stopped. I remember that she was so skinny, that she had developed fine downy hair covering her whole body trying to keep her warm. I remember that she was very irritable, cried a lot, and there was a lot of stress in the home. I remember the comments the girls at school would come and tell me of things they over heard their parents talking about at their home. Things on how my mom was a bad person. I would then sit in class and wonder if that were true. I knew that at my age, I started to have more responsibilities in the home to pick up the slack that my friends didn’t have to deal with yet. I remember standing in the back of church and seeing little huddles of people standing, talking, and pointing at us with their eyes while doing so. The judgment was so palpable; that as a little girl, it is something I will never forget.

My mother lost almost all of her friends during that time. And to not place blame, but I am sure that as a drug addict, she did things that were not appropriate or well received. I know that she did not follow through with certain responsibilities that placed a lot of pressure and stress on others as well. But regardless, most of the church people in her life at that time didn’t know how to deal with it and walked away.

Making a wise and brave decision, despite all the pressure from extended family to keep this a secret, my father decided to take my mother away to a treatment facility several hours from home. This meant that our pretend “perfect” family life would be exposed, but he never cared much about that –besides at this point my mother’s life depended on getting the help.

My father had to continue working to provide for our family during the weeks my mother was gone in-patient, so us 4 children had to be split up since he was unable to stay at home to care for us. My sister and I were left with one set of grandparents, and I remember that they put us to bed by 7:00pm, before the sun yet went down. We would lay in our beds still wide-awake, but didn’t dare talk for fear of getting in trouble. So I would spend a long time lying there just thinking – knowing that life was not how it should be and wondering how it was all going to turn out.

It was during those weeks away that my mother fought to get rid of the stronghold that the drugs had on her life. From my understanding, the doctors had to wean her slowly and let her actually take the drugs while in-patient for fear that if they cut them off cold turkey they thought she would die. She was also anorexic, suicidal, and suffered from severe depression so she had to deal with those issues as well.

After a period of time, she was moved to a hospital closer to home, which was nice for my father to not have to drive so far to visit her. Sometimes, he would take my sister Sara and I along. During one of those visits, a specific memory hangs with me regarding when it was time to leave for back home. My younger sister and I were crying so hard, that my mother will tell you that even after the elevator door closed, she could hear us crying the several floors down, all the way to the lobby floor. As a parent now, I can’t even imagine how hard that was on both my mom and my dad. For my mom with having to stay behind, and my dad for having to deal with two heartbroken little girls, when he was dealing with his own feelings as well.

There is another memory however, a good one, that also sticks out in my mind on those trips to visit my mom. We would take the back roads into the city, and those roads were so up and down it made our stomachs flip. As we were riding a literal rollercoaster of life, we would pretend we would be on a real rollercoaster ride on that stretch of road, and dad would temporarily join in on the fun.

My mother did what she had to do and came out of treatment drug free with a little more meat on her bones and a better will to live. The days, months, years that followed still proved hard however. It is sad to say, and I almost dare not write it, but the truth is, going to church was the hardest thing for me. I still felt the judgment and I worried so much of what people were saying or thinking of our family.

I especially HATED the Sundays that we had Communion. You see, in our church at that time, they served red wine. My mother with an addictive personality and just going through treatment, knew that she had to avoid any type of alcohol for fear of it putting her right back into the place that she just came out of. I knew that my parents tried many times talking with the Pastor and church council and asked if they could please just serve a little grape juice along with the wine, so my mother could partake, but for reasons beyond my understanding, they refused. So for years, every time we had Communion, my mother would let the tray pass her by and she would sit and cry. I truly hated being there during communion. It made me embarrassed, frustrated, but also very confused. I just didn’t understand.

Everyone else sat there partaking of the very thing that allowed us to remember the sacrifice that Jesus did for OUR SINS, the death of his body on the cross, so that we no longer had to fear condemnation from our Heavenly Father. To a little girl at that time, it appeared to me that by the church not allowing one single swallow of grape juice to be placed in the tray for my mom, that they were saying her sin was not worth forgiving. I felt like it was their way of prolonging the shame and guilt, and I wondered if maybe some sins truly were unforgivable. Was this one of them? Do we really need to live perfect lives in order to be saved? Is it really all about the rules?

When they say children are like sponges soaking everything in, I can definitely say that it was true for me. I have always been very socially aware. I watched and took in everything going on around me and most of the time was left with more questions than answers, but one thing I gathered, I better be a good girl or I might not be forgiven or get into heaven. I believe that same pressure boiled up inside of my mother as well. Looking back, I think that in my mom’s heart, she wanted us to be as “perfect” as possible while in public, so she could show the church and the people around us that despite her addictions she was a good mom after all. As I grew, I had a hunch that this thinking was not the way it was supposed to be. This led to feelings of further anger, frustrations, and confusions inside of me. I can say that I did not see eye-to-eye with my mother for many years after that, which led to a very rocky relationship between the two of us.

Eventually over time, new friends joined my mom’s life and the church started to serve grape juice so I no longer needed to dread the Sundays when we remembered what Jesus did for us.

I don’t feel that life necessarily got easier after all that as the dysfunctional thinking and lack of grace remained in our household. The struggles were real and relationships were strained. It wasn’t until many years later that my parents got the counseling they needed to deal with what I believe was the underlying issue to begin with. And it wasn’t until my early 20’s and moving down to another state and a new church, where I started to learn about grace and what it truly means.

Why do I share this with you? For a few reasons that expose hope and forgiveness:

1 Corinthians 10:11-13: These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the fulfillment to the ages has come. So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.

One of the biggest misinterpretations of the Bible that people use is this phrase: “God doesn’t give you more than you can handle.” I say that because almost always, when people refer to this phrase, they are talking about the circumstances and hardships in life. People – I fully believe that we ARE faced with situations and hardships beyond what we can bear! What Paul is referring to in this passage is talking specifically about the TEMPTATIONS that life brings. And guess what? Sinful desires and temptations affect every one of us, but God promises that when faced with those things, HE WILL GIVE YOU A WAY OUT. If we turn to Him during those times, pray for His help where we are weak, choose to do what is right, run away from the temptation, find friends to help and encourage us, we will be able to overcome the thing that has or wants to become a stronghold.

One thing that I am so incredibly proud of with my mom, is that through it all, she turned to the Lord, did what was right, and never allowed that temptation of drugs or alcohol to have a stronghold of her life again. The Lord truly provided a way out for her and that was through Him alone. Today, she has been sober for almost 30 years.

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Ephesians 2:4-5: But because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions – it is by grace you have been saved.

Guess what? It truly is because of what Jesus did for us on the cross, taking the penalty of our sins and the power of those sins over us, that we are saved. By faith, we can come before our God, knowing and believing that even though we are dead in our sins, we are alive in Christ. It doesn’t matter what your past holds or what kind of mistakes you have made. It is by His LOVE, MERCY, and GRACE that we can have hope of eternal life.

You do not have to let the past dictate who are you now. You do not have to try to live a perfect life! Or for what I think is even more damaging, pretend that you are! Like I mentioned earlier, for many years, I think we fell into that trap of believing we had to prove that our family had it all together, when the truth is, we didn’t.

Over the years since going through treatment, my mother has been very open, and has given talks regarding her addictions and depression providing hope to those who will listen. Most recently, she has found herself mentoring a couple women who are dealing with the same issues she once found herself in.

In just the past few years alone, I feel like I have seen a transformation in my parents’ lives that I am incredibly proud of. They are now living a grace-filled life. Last Easter, I saw my dad stand in front of his current church, letting the people know that he used to live knowing about Christ, but now he lives KNOWING CHRIST. That same Sunday, I saw my mom stand in front of the church, letting the people know that at one point she used to be addicted to drugs, but now she is ADDICTED TO CHRIST.

And as for me? Well, turns out that God had his hand on my life (and my siblings!) this whole time as well. I was unable to live up to the perfect child persona, an expectation that I ultimately put upon myself, and made mistakes along the way. I guess that just proves that I am like every one else! I admit that I still struggle with placing unnecessary expectations upon myself; I am a people pleaser, and still very much worry about what people think about me. But I am thankful, that as an adult, God placed people and situations into my life to gradually show and teach me what grace truly is. He was preparing me for circumstances that were to come, and is still teaching me now with the areas that I struggle in.

Despite the anger and resentment that I secretly held onto for along time regarding the church in general, the Lord has now taken those feelings away. For where I felt the church had brought additional pain and disappointment in this situation, the church is also the place I ultimately discovered healing. I now look forward to the Sundays that serve Communion, for I truly know that without the death of Jesus, I would have nothing. I have come to choose and believe that at the time, they, along with my parents, did the best that they knew and thought what was right. Despite the rocky relationships that my mother and I had over those several years, I know that we never fully stopped loving each other. Today, our relationship has greatly improved and she has turned out to be an amazing grandma to all of her grandchildren, loving and treating them (and us) in a very Christ like way.

I don’t want you to think that we no longer have our struggles in life, but we now know Who and where we can turn to for that help and hope. We admit we are still a work in progress, but that is OK. We no longer have to pretend – we let that go a long time ago. Which I think is why I dare to write about these stories today.

If you find yourself with temptations that have a hold on you, I want you to know there is hope and there is a way out. Look to Jesus. He is the only way and can provide for you just what you need. Nothing you have done can turn his love away from you; after all he died for YOU. Turn to Him, not only for yourself, but also for your spouse, children, and those in your life that love you.

As in the song “Unredeemed” by Selah, which I want to share with you below, remember this: “When anything that’s shattered is laid before the Lord, just watch and see, it will not be unredeemed.”

I love you mom and dad! I am incredibly proud of you for what you have overcome through the power of Jesus Christ, and that you are now choosing to live lives of grace!

Hello.

My name is Rachel and I am the daughter of a grace redeemed drug addict.

And as your daughter, thank you mom for not allowing the stronghold of drugs and alcohol to overtake you again.

Thank you Jesus for providing a way out.

(Please take a moment to listen to this beautiful song, which I feel sums up the entire post.)

Linked at #FaithFilledFriday

Cloud of Complaints vs. Shining like Stars

“Mom, what’s for supper?” he asked as he sat down at the table. When he took a look at the plate in front of him he responded, “Ewww. I’m not eating that.”

“Well, this is what I made. You can choose to not eat it, but you need to stay at the table”, as I try to respond calmly but the truth is, the whining makes me intensely frustrated and angry on the inside.

This is a frequent short conversation at our house. Ethan, having sensory issues that results in him to be an extremely picky eater, will then sit at the table with an unpleasant look on his face. He often then follows up by pushing the plate away from him and saying, “It smells bad.” Let me just say, it doesn’t make the mealtime all that delightful.

In all honesty, my boys are typically joyful and complain very little, but when it comes to meal times, it seems to happen a lot. I understand the whole sensory thing and we tried sensory therapy for over a year to get past that but it was without much success. Still my efforts remain with the same goal in mind: not to force them to eat what is on the plate, but then to also not complain about what they are being served.

Are you a complainer? If we are honest, we can all find ourselves complaining over the little annoyances of life or what we are dissatisfied with. I am not talking about simply stating an undesirable fact about life, we all have those, but complaining is all about the heart and attitude behind stating those facts.

In the last week alone, I heard complaining about the weather, traffic, a spouse, busy schedules, how much something cost, a job, co-workers, the food that was prepared, and someone’s own child. The list can go on and on though, can’t it?

I’m not about to point fingers. I’ll admit that the cold weather, feeling tired and the alarm going off in the mornings are grumblings that have come out of my mouth in this past week as well.

I just want to take a moment to help us stand back and have an honest evaluation of what our complaining can do and ourselves. A little “food for thought” if you will.

Maybe you find yourself in a season of life with your plate being full of things that stink. You don’t seem to find much that makes you happy and you just want to push it all away. You try complaining about it to whoever may listen, and there might be some loving and patient people out there who will stand there and tolerate what you have to say.

And then there are those people who seem to compete about complaining regarding who has it worse. You know what I am talking about. As if that is going to accomplish anything! But to these people, it does seem to make them feel better if they can try to prove how their lives are worse off. However, if you stand back and observe, all you see is an unpleasant look across their face.

I was recently reading in Numbers about the Israelites getting ready to finally enter the Promised Land. It was the land that God describes as “flowing with milk and honey.” Shortly before they were ready to enter in, they sent spies to explore and see what was in store for them. They indeed found that it was green and lush, full of trees covered in figs, dates, and nuts. It had big beautiful fruits, grapes and pomegranates, that they took back to show the people.

However, amid the beauty, they also found it had large fortified cities and the people living there were just as big. Scary.

Instantly, the people start complaining. Everyone joined in. They started to question God and completely lost their perspective of everything that He has supplied, the miracles performed, and what He brought them through for the past 40 years.

This made God very angry. As a result of their complaining, being a just God, He withheld from them the very thing that they wanted…a life with a plate full of good things for them to enjoy.

It has really got me thinking. What do you think the Lord is withholding from you each time you complain?

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Seriously, let’s stop and think about that for a moment. What is your complaining costing you? Joy? Peace? Contentment? Your reputation? Friendships? The very thing you desire?

Each time we grumble, we are speaking against the Lord, and I think it often stems from ungratefulness, lack of trust, jealousy and pride. Each time we complain, we are typically thinking only of ourselves, right? We are not thinking about how God has been faithful and all that He has already supplied and given us. It can damage not only our relationship with God, but with others as well.

Maybe your plate in life really isn’t great right now and it is full of distasteful things. You very well might be facing some big and scary events. It is OK to have emotions of sadness, discouragement, frustrations, and disappointment. However, it is what we do with those feelings that matter.

What if we took them straight to God instead of those around us?

Philippians 3:14-16: “Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life – in order that I may boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor for nothing.”

Do not let your complaints cloud the light that could be shining through you! Rather than grumbling and whining, let’s respond with a heart focused on gratitude and truth. Instead of withholding His gifts, I believe having an attitude of gratitude will result with God rewarding us and blessing us in ways that are wonderful!

Speak the language of the Lord – praise and thanksgiving. Let us not forget about all that He has already provided for us, the gifts of the past and also the ones currently in the present. Not only will having a genuinely grateful heart affect you and your situation, but it will affect everyone around you as well.

Your light will be noticed. Guaranteed.

This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it!