Say what?

The other day I came across a title of a book written by a pastor that made me literally laugh out loud, “Stupid shit people say at church”. I mean can’t we all relate? I certainly can. Usually this happens when you are going through something hard. It’s things like, after you lose your loved one, “God just needed another angel in heaven”, or “It was God’s will”. Or when you are going through a hard time, “God will never give you more than you can handle”. None of that is biblical by the way. We have all heard people say stuff that is meant to be helpful, but is hurtful instead. I’ve learned that people are uncomfortable with pain and silence and so they speak to try to say something to make the pain go away or minimize it without realizing they are maximizing the hurt.

Sometimes people say stuff in good times too. Stuff like, when you are announcing the birth of your fifth child, “When are you gonna stop having kids?’, or asking someone without kids when they will be having them as if it’s any of their business. People can also speak badly about others who have gotten something they wanted like a new job or a bigger house or new relationship. So many times envy and jealousy sneak into the happiest moments.

Sometimes though the hardest things to hear are from people you expected to be your friends. When people gossip about you under the guise of sharing a “prayer request”. “Oh, we have to pray for Sue, did you hear she’s getting a divorce because her husband cheated on her?” “Oh, we have to pray for Dave, he’s attending AA meetings now! (Gasp!)”

Sometimes people speak directly to you and say hurtful things under the guise of confessing what they have done or said about you that you weren’t aware of. And sometimes they say things under the guise of admonishment or improving your character that are hurtful. Most of the time those things are true but we have to ask ourselves two questions when considering what we will say, “will this further my relationship with this person or am I just trying to make my shame go away?” And “do I have the type of relationship with this person where I am being invited into their lives to speak to them about character flaws and blind spots?” If you are just trying to make yourself feel better by getting something off your chest then that’s not a good reason to then drop that burden on someone else. There is a verse about confessing our sins to our brother and we should do that in certain contexts but only if we are then going to provide a strategy for changing our behavior so as to not hurt that person again. Words are cheap, actions matter. As I often say in my house with my kids, “sorry doesn’t cut it, you have to change your behavior” I think there are few relationships that can withstand telling another person about their character flaws without serious damage occurring. You have to ask yourself if you would accept that type of admonition from this person for yourself? And what is your motivation behind doing so? If it’s not true sacrificial love, then it won’t be productive. Sometimes I think we use difficult conversations as a way to protect ourselves and subconsciously push others away.

It really comes down to empathy and really trying to see a situation from the other person’s perspective. Ask yourself how might this person be feeling or thinking in this situation, and how could what I’m about to say affect them? If what you are about to say has any motive other than building the other person up then don’t say it. We are especially bad in the church community of shooting our wounded and it’s got to stop. Why would anyone want to come to a place where people are hurting one another even if unknowingly? We are so quick to judge others and their situations and make rash statements and we just don’t stop long enough to think through the implications of our statements.

“If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless.” James 1:26

Posted in God

Sabbath Rest

Glenn and I have been studying about Sabbath recently. Growing up I saw the Sabbath commandment in the Bible as a mandate to attend church regularly and to have absolutely zero fun on Sunday. It was a day we didn’t really do much and I had to take a nap. I certainly didn’t understand what it was for and didn’t plan to observe that as a adult. But then when I became an adult I hit a wall and I didn’t know why. Our society says we must go, go, go all the time and the Christian community is no better, we just do different things with our time. It’s a badge of honor to wear yourself out for the sake of ministry.

The past ten years have been tough for us. We’ve lost my mom, our daughter, had two miscarriages and a still birth, moved, changed jobs and dealt with other crisis’ in our family. It has left us feeling drained and emotionally unstable. What is the solution? We realized we needed to do something different so we started reading and examining ourselves and our life. One book that was very influential was “The emotionally health leader”. In it the author talks about his own ministry as a pastor where he too hit a wall and had to make some changes. He did many things in his life but one very important change was observing Sabbath. So, we decided we should learn more about Sabbath and try to make some changes to observe it better.

If you look at the Bible passages on Sabbath, there is of course the ten commandments where it is mandated that we keep the Sabbath. Then there are lots and lots of laws in the following books about how one should do that, very nit picky stuff. But in the new testament Jesus addresses the Sabbath again when he is caught doing things on the Sabbath that the church leaders disagreed with. “Then he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” Sabbath was made for us to rest and not for legalism. It’s not about rules but about relationship. It’s about stopping to acknowledge God’s place in our lives and to rest in the knowledge HE is in control of everything. It’s a mindset shift more than a list of things to not do.

So, we decided to make some small changes to honor the Sabbath in our house. We decided that our Sabbath would be Saturday night at 6pm till Sunday at 6pm. We start with a family dinner and dessert and a time of sharing a Bible verse and discussion. Then the next morning we go to church. Come home, lunch, naps and rest that afternoon. No chores if possible. No social media. No checking email or work things. It’s our first attempt at this and it’s going pretty well. It’s a work in progress and we will slowly make steps and changes as time goes on and our situations change. Right now we have small kids which is less than restful most of the time, but it’s a process. Our Sabbath now will look very different than 10 years from now. What I find interesting is it has caused me to slow down in all areas of my life. I am less concerned with getting things done and stressing out about perfection or performance. We are contemplating how to life a life of rest, instead of busyness.

Posted in God

Suffering

I was reading a book by Joni Eareckson Tata this morning. There was an interesting statement in the book that I totally agreed with I just hadn’t put it into words. The paraphrase is that in our lives we seek to put an end to our suffering or mask it in some way. We hate suffering. But she was saying that suffering is what leads us to understand that we cannot do this life alone. We need God and we need those around us. When we have physical suffering we seek pain relief, medical science has come to the place where we, for the most part, don’t have to suffer. If we are suffering mentally or emotionally we have pills for that too. We medicate even positive suffering like childbirth. No one has natural childbirth anymore, why would you want to?

With my last child I decided to go to a birth center and have a natural child birth. I did it. I survived natural child birth and lived to tell about it. I also learned something. I appreciate my birth and those moments after birth so much more with that baby than with my medicated childbirths. The suffering brought me great satisfaction and peacefulness after it was over. I had a sense of accomplishment and now I know I can handle a great deal and survive it. I think in our efforts to numb any suffering in our lives, we cheat ourselves. We never experience all we are meant to experience in our suffering. We need suffering to experience true joy and dependence on God. We walk around thinking we have it all together and we can do things on our own. If we allowed ourselves to experience suffering in our lives we would have no illusions that we can handle everything on our own. We need suffering.

There are times in our lives when we cannot numb the suffering. Times when we try everything we can and it still doesn’t work, the suffering continues. My children will always have special needs, we cannot change that. I would like to, I would love for them to be “normal”, but they cannot be. Not here on this earth anyway. And I have asked many times why God would allow them to have these limitations, and why he would give them to us to raise? It’s not easy. It’s suffering, at times. We hate their disabilities sometimes, we never hate the child, but we do hate the limitations that their disabilities impose on them. I would give anything to not deal with that some days. But God has allowed this. I realize that He is working something in us through this suffering. I have prayed and hoped that this suffering might be relieved, but I won’t anymore. God has a reason for this and if I cut it short prematurely whatever he is working will not be fully realized.

If you are suffering today, know that God is working something in your life. Don’t try to get away from the suffering, don’t try to numb it away. Let it work in you and lean fully on God and those around you. You will be better for it.

 

 

Perfect Parents

When did we all decide that we have to be perfect parents? I was sitting quietly, a rare thing indeed, the other day and pondering why I feel the need to be a perfect parent. I don’t mean I shouldn’t try hard to be a parent, but I can never be perfect and yet I expect myself to be. I think we as parents put way too much pressure on ourselves to be perfect. We have this idea that if we do everything right our kids will turn out wonderfully. That isn’t always the case, I know of many parents who did a bang up job of being parents yet they have messed up kids and the opposite is also true. There are children who are doing really well and yet have terrible parents.

I was thinking about “back in the old days”, like the colonial period. I really like that time period and I am just crazy enough to think that it would have been cool to live back then. I am sure that would last maybe a day, when I had to do laundry by hand outside in the cold or kill my own dinner. But I daydream about what it would have been like to live then. I was thinking about the parents back then. They usually had a lot more children than most of us today do and yet I would bet you they didn’t worry about being perfect parents. One reason, time. They didn’t have time to worry about such things. There wasn’t time to worry about whether or not to get little Johnny a cell phone or not, or whether to let Suzie date yet. People didn’t have time to worry about such things, they were just worried about survival. I think maybe we have too much time on our hands these days and that brings about worry.

I have been worried lately about the amount of time I get to spend with my oldest son, Samuel. He, unlike the others, is at school most of the day and then when he comes home there is homework, dinner, baths and bed. I don’t really get to spend much time with him except on the weekends and then it seems the younger ones take the majority of that time. He is turning 8 soon and I can’t believe our parenting journey with him is almost halfway over. Time just slips away when you are not looking. I worry about how my lack of time is effecting him. I am sure that people in the old days didn’t even think about such things. And, for the most part, their kids turned out way better than ours do today. There are many reason for that, but I think that one thing that messes up our parenting is that we spend way too much time thinking about it. There are millions of books sold each year on the subject of parenting and I have read most of them. In fact, Glenn and I lead a small group on parenting. I do think it’s a worthwhile subject, obviously, but sometimes we can get too caught up in doing things just right that we put unnecessary pressure on ourselves. You have to learn, as a parent, that there are things worth trying to do your best job at and other things not worth even bothering with. I have decided that one of the things not worth bothering with is my oldest son wearing dress shoes to church. We have battled over this issue, but I decided I can either force him to wear the shoes and he is uncomfortable and grows to hate church because of it, or I can let him wear more comfortable shoes. Does it really matter? That is a very personal question for each parent, but I have decided that that issue does not really matter to us. Each parent has to think about what things are really important to them and those things will change in each family. The point is that you cannot make issues out of everything or you will wear yourself out.

Worrying about the future does not help you make any progress. It’s like rocking in a rocking chair, you are expending energy but not going anywhere. I can worry all day about things in the future, even important things that might be worth worrying about, but it will not change those things. Joshua, my third son, is about to turn 2 years old. He isn’t talking yet. I have spent a lot of time worrying about that and if he will ever talk, but it has not changed him talking at all. It does affect me though, negatively. I cannot change Joshua, he is getting speech therapy and we are hopeful that someday soon he will talk, but until then I have to leave it in God’s hands.

I feel like there are a lot of parents out there who need to put less pressure on themselves about parenting and they would be a lot happier. There is no such thing as a perfect parent, so don’t worry yourself so much about being one. Do your very best as a parent, but if you mess up, as we all do, remember that there is always tomorrow and allow God to forgive you and move on.

 

Plans

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11 NIV

This is the verse I read this morning in my quiet time. I have learned in reading the Bible that while single verses are great it is also really helpful to read the verses around a single verse and also to get an idea of what was happening at the time the verse was written. This verse was surrounded by other verses admonishing the Israelites to live where they were at the time. They were in exile from Jerusalem under Nebuchadnezzar, an evil king. They didn’t want to be where they were and they were all hoping to go home. But the Lord was admonishing them to live their lives as they normally would and that when the time was right, He would send them home as He had promised.

Yeah, so that really has nothing to do with anything going on in my life right now, does it? 🙂 I got the message load and clear Lord, I need to just go about my life and realize that You have this whole adoption thing handled and You will move things forward in Your time. (Easier said then done). I have a hard time doing this, as I am sure most people do. I am a driven person and I like things to be done yesterday. It’s a good trait in some ways, but bad in others, like when I don’t have control of things or I have to wait on someone else to do something. But ultimately I have to trust that God has His hand on this situation with the doctor and He will get this note written when He wants it done. I really can do nothing to change it. So, I prayed about it and changed my attitude about it. I realized the whole thing was stealing my joy and I needed to get ahold of that.

I did call this morning just to check on the progress of the doctor’s office and the nurse said hopefully by Monday they would get it done. But even so, I will trust the Lord that He has good plans for me and He will get this thing done in the right time.

“I know what I’m doing. I have it all planned out—plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for. ” Jeremiah 29:11- the message

Posted in God

Courage

Last night we saw the movie Courageous at our church. It was excellent and I would highly recommend it to anyone who hasn’t seen it yet. It’s a Christian movie made by the same people who made Fireproof. The essential message of the movie is to have the courage to be a better father and husband in a world that doesn’t place high value on those titles. The movie talked about how detrimental it is for children to not have a father in their lives growing up and I can attest to that fact in my own life.  Statistics show that 85% of all youths in prison come from fatherless homes, 90% of homeless and runaways come from fatherless homes, and 63% of youth suicides come from fatherless homes. That would suggest that having a father around is very important to the overall well-being of the child. Of course there is a difference between just having a father present in your life and that father being there for you. My biological father and I have a relationship; he is in my life, but is he a father figure to me? No. I would venture to say I do more parenting of him then he does of me. That is a sad fact of a lot of fathers today.

What children need is a father to be involved in their lives. Ephesians 6:4 states, “4 Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” The Bible commands fathers to not be passive, but active in the training and instruction of their children. Fathers need to step up and be present in their children’s lives.

Personally, I have to say that Glenn does a great job of being a father to our children. But it takes effort. I know there are times when he is doing stuff with the kids when he would rather be doing something else. And I know he is aware that the kids are watching him and he is trying to be a good example. He is not just present in the kids lives, he is there for them and that is intentional. Parenting has to be intentional, you can’t just be in the same house with your kids and think you are parenting them.

Glenn and I were watching that movie last night and some of the scenes were about fathers parenting little girls, and young women. We both commented on how foreign that seems to us and how it makes us a little nervous to think about parenting a girl. But I know Glenn will do a great job at it, because he will be intentional about parenting her.

One theme in the movie is about stopping the chain of destructive parenting in your life and doing things differently with your children. I did not have a good father, and I have to be intentional about stopping that bad parenting chain with me and my children and being there for my boys in a way my father wasn’t. I am not a father, but I am supporting and encouraging Glenn in his fatherhood with our boys and making sure it is better than the experience I had as a child. That is one thing I am looking forward to about having a little girl someday, changing the pattern of fatherlessness in my past and creating new habits and parenting in our children.

Standing Tall

 

This post is a little of a departure from my adoption posts lately. My youngest son Elijah has a new skill, standing. He is 11 months old and just started pulling up the other day. I know some of you know many kids who are 11 months old and walking but my kids are always a little late with that, most likely due to their increased chubbiness, it’s a lot to get off the ground. lol Elijah is so proud of himself now that he can stand up like everyone else. Before now he could crawl, but that doesn’t get you where you want to go all the time. Now he can reach things he couldn’t reach before and I am sure the world looks different from standing then it does from sitting.

Seeing him show off his new talent makes me think about our Christian walk. It sure is easy to crawl, standing is hard work, but we cannot crawl forever. It seems as though some Christians become Christians and then are stuck in the “baby” stage of Christianity forever. They don’t seem to push themselves to grow in Christ at all. They are content to sit back and watch others walk instead. Walking is hard! Actually the walking isn’t so hard, it’s the falling that’s hard. Elijah has fallen a few times now that he is standing and it hurts! I am sure he would rather not do it again, but he gets up and tries again. There is something driving him to stand up and walk. I think it’s that we are all cheering for him. Maybe those Christians that spend their lives in the “baby” phase of crawling have never had anyone to cheer them on to do anything more than crawl.  The Bible says in I Thessalonians 5:11  “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. ” We are to encourage each other to grow in Christ.

How do we grow in Christ? We grow in our relationship with Him by knowing Him better. You cannot know someone unless you spend time with them. We do that by praying and reading God’s word. We also can know Christ better by spending time with other Christians. Maybe there are people in your life who need some spiritual encouragement to grow, what can you do to help them? You can pray for them, you can talk with them about spiritual things, or you can invite them to a Bible study. Be aware that you are being watched. Other Christians and non-Christians are watching you and you will either encourage them to grow or not through your actions. Do your actions encourage others to know Christ more deeply? Do your actions encourage others to strengthen their faith? Or are they discouraged by watching how you live? There is a song on the radio right now that I really like it says:

“It’s your life

What you gonna do?

The world is watching you

Every day the choices you make

Say what you are and who Your heart beats for

It’s an open door It’s your life ”

It’s your life by Francesca Battistelli

Your life makes a statement to others, what is it saying?

Posted in God