Raising Children Who Reveal Christ

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I had a very difficult pregnancy, one characterized by the constant fear that I would lose the precious child I’d prayed for, that I’d grown to love so deeply, from the moment I knew she existed. One night in particular, everyone–myself, my husband, our doctor–was certain I had. I was awakened in the middle of the night by a strong, rapid, and continual trembling and rolling in my abdomen followed by significant bleeding, and my husband rushed me to the hospital. As I lay on that cold, hard table, all I could  pray was, “No. Please Lord, no.”

I went home that night with my sweet Ashley, still very much alive, but my prayers took on a desperation after that. A bit of bargaining*. “Lord, if you’ll just help me keep this baby to term, I’ll give her back to you.”

I remembered that promise often in the days and years ahead: When I was tired and table-rock-943215_1920-1tempted to forgo our nightly Bible reading. When I was frustrated and tempted to take the easy road, parenting wise. When my heart was breaking over something she’d endured and I was tempted to focus on fixing the situation rather than helping her grow in Christ.

All I can say is, 19 years later, as I see the young woman God’s molded our girl into, I’m oh-so-grateful for that promise and how God used it to help me raise a child who does her best to reveal Christ.

This is our focus this week in our For the Love Bible study, and my special guest author Candee Fick talks about what this looked like for John the Baptist’s parents and how we can follow their example.

Raising Children Who Reveal Christ
by Candee Fick

It’s not everyone who gets a supernatural birth announcement or a miraculous baby after years of infertility. Personally, I think Zechariah and Elizabeth might have needed the baby-179378_640overly-dramatic beginning to give them the stamina and dedication to prepare their child for his destiny—to prepare the way for the Messiah. Every day they saw John’s face they had to remember that God was intimately involved in their lives, and then remember that John was born to tell others about the coming Christ.

Can you imagine the stories shared around the fire? John must have grown up surrounded by village tales of a heavenly voice in the Temple and a temporarily-speechless father not to mention an entire hill country wondering what he would grow up to become.

John’s life was the stuff of legends and the angel even said he would be great. Being told he would be filled with the Holy Spirit and go before the Lord in the power of Elijah could have led him to believe that he was something special.

And he was.

Except he wasn’t the greatest. Somewhere along the way, his parents not only raised John with the skills he would need to fulfill his personal mission of bringing the people of Israel desert-1197972_640back to God, they had to teach him to deflect the attention toward God. Huge crowds gathered to listen to John’s message of repentance, then one day John looked up from baptizing folks on the banks of the Jordan River and knew the time had come for his audience to follow Someone else instead. Between the Holy Spirit and the training he received from his parents, John obviously recognized the pivotal moment for what it was and transferred the crowd’s fickle attention with his announcement for them to “Behold, the Lamb of God.”

How did John’s parents raise a child who pointed others to Christ?

  • First, Zechariah and Elizabeth lived a personal example of faith. Between their priestly lineage and the gift of prophecy at critical moments, John couldn’t help but be raised with a solid foundation of truth and the knowledge of God’s power through history.
  • Second, they obviously also set up some behavioral boundaries to keep him on the right path and not derail his future. The angel told them to keep him away from the wine and fermented drinks (a cultural sign that he was set apart for God’s work) while later in the first chapter of Luke it states that John lived in the wilderness before he began his public life.
  • Third, I have to believe that every time John did something great or had some amazing insight thanks to the Holy Spirit in his life, his parents pointed out how that was an example of God working in and through him. Always pointing John back to person-371015_640God so that he could in turn point others to God.

I’ve got a son who is gifted with some serious athletic talent. In fact, he lettered in four sports his senior year of high school and is now in college with a basketball scholarship. All that to say, it would have been very easy for him to get a big head and strut his stuff down the hallways.

While this isn’t on the scale of a John the Baptist, as a mother I have tried to constantly remind my son of the Gift-Giver and his responsibility to use those gifts in a way that points people back to God. I strive to keep the presence of God in the middle of our family through prayer, devotions, and natural testimonies of what God is doing in my own life. To identify examples of God’s hand at work in the lives of others. Ultimately, my hope is that my oldest son will use his platform as an athlete to be the right kind of example for younger boys to model as he deflects attention heavenward.

Consistently pointing back to Christ is a difficult lesson to learn and even harder to live. Yet aren’t we all called to do the same, to use our gifts for God’s glory and then become less so that God’s message can become more? Thanks to the influence of his parents, John learned to to do just that.

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danceoverme-500x750-1Danielle Lefontaine, a fledgling actress raised to the lullaby of Broadway, searches for her long-lost brother and her place on the stage, but a jealous cast member and numerous fruitless leads threaten to drop the curtain on her dreams and shine a spotlight on her longing for a place to belong. Meanwhile, Alex Sheridan is living his dream except for someone to share it with. When Dani dances into his life, he hopes he’s found the missing piece to his heart but fears the bright lights of a bigger stage could steal her away.

Will the rhythm of dancing feet usher in their deepest desires or leave them stranded in the wings?

Find Dance Over Me on Amazon in ebook and paperback.

And for a funny, more lighthearted post by Candee, visit my alter ego’s blog to read how she lives in continual weather-confusion. (You can read that HERE.)

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candee-fick_headshotCandee Fick is the wife of a high school football coach and the mother of three children, including a daughter with a rare genetic syndrome. When not busy with her day job or writing, she can be found cheering on the home team at football, basketball, baseball, and Special Olympics games. In what little free time remains, she enjoys exploring the great Colorado outdoors, indulging in dark chocolate, and savoring happily-ever-after endings through a good book.

Connect with Candee on her web site, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Goodreads, and Google+.

Let’s talk about this! If you’re parenting now, what are some ways you try to raise your children to point to and reveal Christ? What makes this hard? If your children are grown, what were some ways you did this while they were growing up? Can you see the results of your efforts now that they’re adults? Share your thoughts with us here in the comments below on Facebook at Living by Grace, or join our Facebook Bible study group For the Love to discuss this further. Because we can all learn from and encourage one another!

john12-24versejpgAnd for those following our Bible study, here’s this week’s memory verse, one God intends for each of us to live out, daily, and to teach our children to do the same.

*Note: God’s will cannot be “bargained” nor does this post intend to support that or encourage one to even try. Rather, it shares a moment of heartache and terror and my human response, and how God later used that, because He truly can use it all–our successes and failures, our steps of obedience and our regrets and weaknesses.

Making Marriage Work

divorce-908743_1920How can a couple go from googly-eyed in love to utter hatred within a few years? Why is it so many adults who once pledged to love and cherish their spouse “till death do we part” stomp on their vows, toss in their wedding ring, and walk away?

Maybe the better question is, what does it take to make a marriage work? Today, my guest Mary Hamilton shares her experience in doing just that when her son comes home from college. Read on and be blessed and encouraged.

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What Makes a Marriage Work?
by Mary Hamilton

Upon his graduation from college, our son noticed how many friends from both high school and college were getting married. But considering the number of troubled marriages he’d seen and the number of friends who came from homes scarred by divorce, writing-1209700_640he wondered how many of these relationships would succeed.

So, he gave his dad and me an assignment. Based on our 34 years of experience, we were to prepare a list of 5-10 bullet points on what makes a marriage work. While the following are not necessarily in order of importance, here’s the list we came up with.

    • A common faith, and a similar maturity in that faith. Without our personal faith in God, our marriage might not have stood the test many years ago. Faith provides accountability to a higher authority. It humbles us when pride gets in the way, provides hope in troubling times, and deepens the joy of victory over self.

     

    • Agreement on money—both spending it and saving it. Like most couples, one of us likes to save every penny and one likes to spend them. We need each other for balance so that the spender learns to save for a rainy day (and retirement) and the saver learns to enjoy the benefits money provides. Appreciate each other’s “bent” and cooperate to achieve maximum benefit from your finances.

     

    • Communication skills. Are you willing and able to talk with each other about anything and everything, revealing your deepest, darkest secrets? Can you broach a touchy subject withoutnails-1420329_640 fear of rejection, ridicule or punishment? Can you argue without making personal attacks on each other? Communication involves listening as well as speaking. Marriage requires both skills.

     

    • Some common interests. Couples should have activities they enjoy doing together. But allow room for differences as well. Varied ideas and interests keeps both partners growing in ways they wouldn’t achieve on their own.

     

    • A strong sense of humor. Laughing together is fun and builds the relationship in positive ways. When used properly, it can also defuse tension whether pressures come from outside the relationship or within.

     

    • Commitment to each other and the marriage. Make your spouse and your relationship a priority over other family, friends, work, etc. Keep complaints and disagreements between the two of you, speaking only good things about each other to friends and relatives and guarding your spouse’s reputation and integrity in front of others.

     

    • Respect each other. Show gratefulness and treat each other with kindness—even when you’re tired and grumpy, even when you’re disappointed with your partner, even when you’re angry and arguing. (Yes, this will happen!) Attack the problem, not each other.

 

All of these might be summed up in the word “Attitude.” Are both partners in this marriage more interested in having their own needs met or meeting the needs of the other? Are both willing to humble themselves in order to lift up their mate? Are both willing to compromise for the good of the relationship? An attitude that says, “We’re in this together and divorce is not an option,” lays a solid foundation on which to build a strong and vibrant marriage.

Would you add any suggestions to our list?

***

HNEmodifiedcoverHere No Evil:

A mother’s rejection. A bully’s taunts. Summer camp isn’t supposed to be like this.

Thirteen-year-old Brady is stunned when his mother drops him off for a week of camp and says she doesn’t want him living with her anymore. His pain only deepens with the cruel taunts and teasing of the camp bully. But is it possible his mother’s rejection was for his own protection?

Find out when you read Hear No Evil, Book 1 Rustic Knoll Bible Camp series, available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Christianbook.

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Alt. headshotMary L. Hamilton grew up at a youth camp similar to the setting for her Rustic Knoll Bible Camp series. Her experiences during twenty years of living at the camp, as well as people she knew there, inspired many of the events and situations in her novels.

Two of those novels have been named Selah Award Finalists.

Mary also enjoys knitting, reading and evenings spent bird-watching from their back patio with her best friend and marriage partner for 34 years. She and her husband make their home in Texas.

Connect with Mary on her website, Facebook, and Pinterest.

***

livingbygracepic-jpLet’s talk about this: Marriage should never be entered into without prayer and great thought. Mary’s son was wise to ask those with strong marriages for guidance! What are some suggestions you would add to Mary and her husband’s list? Share your thoughts in the comments below or over on Living by Grace.

 

Learning Through a Child

Photo by David Castillo taken from freedigitalphotos.net

Photo by David Castillo taken from freedigitalphotos.net

I admit it, I’m a needy Christian. I crave need and crave constant attention from my heavenly Father, especially when He’s nudging me into a new area. I want to be reminded of things He’s told me a thousand times, and more than anything, I need to know He’s always there, to feel His presence walking beside me.

Yes, I’m a needy child, but I don’t think God minds.  Today my guest  Teresa Tysinger, shares what she recently learned through her daughter about fear, insecurity, and divine reassurance. Read on and be encouraged.

“And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.” – Matthew 28.20

What My Daughter Taught Me about Being a Child of God
by Teresa Tysinger

Labor with my daughter, Emma, took over thirty-two hours. She began walking at only nine months old, learned to cook herself scrambled eggs at four years, and was only five when she took the dog out for her morning walk down the street while my husband and I were still sleeping. Now half way to eight years old, she reminds us that soon she’ll be mailbox-959299_640driving. She’s independent, determined, helpful, and maybe a just tad stubborn. It’s easy to forget she’s still a young child.

We recently moved into a new home. As night descended for our first night sleeping in the new place, Emma whined about bedtime as I tucked her in. The following conversation tugged at my heart in unexpected ways.

“Mama, can I sleep with you and daddy, just for tonight?” Her big brown eyes pleaded with me.

“Aren’t you excited about sleeping in your new room?”

“No. What if I wake up in the middle of the night and forget where you are?” Her little hand reached out and held mine tightly, as if afraid I’d be lost if she let go.

“We’ll leave a light on so you can find your way to our room if you wake up, okay?”

“But…Mama…” she whined.

“Emma…” Prickles of frustration marched up my arm. Boxes waited to be unpacked. You aremySunshineLaundry needed to put away. So much to do. It would be a big help if this bedtime process sped up.

“Will you at least sing me a lullaby so I can hear your voice in my head while I sleep? That’ll remind me where I am.”

Her eyes closed, waiting for me to sing. I swallowed past the lump formed in my throat and crooned out You Are My Sunshine. As the last word hung in the air, her breathing was calm and rhythmic, face relaxed. Bless her.

When I made my way back to the living room full of boxes and bubble wrap, it dawned on me how similar we must seem to God as his weary children. We need constant reassurance that he’s there. We need to be reminded of his promises. And we need just to go to his Word to let his promises ring true in our hearts so we remember where (and whose) we are.

“And behold, I am with you always,
until the end of the age.” – Matthew 28.20

Parenting is so hard. The demands are constant, challenges plenty, and rewards child-praying-hands-1510773_640sometimes seem too subtle to recognize. I struggle with patience and selflessness. While Emma needed a simple reminder of her security in our new home—a reminder of her parents’ presence—she taught me about being a child of God through her ability and gumption to ask for what she needed.

Don’t miss these lessons parenting provides. I’m so thankful for my fiercely independent, yet still young and vulnerable, seven year old.

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teresatysinger_bioTeresa Tysinger is a wife and mother transplanted from North Carolina to North Texas. When not working as the Director of Communications for a large downtown church, she writes charming southern romances, inspired by grace. As a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, Religious Communicators’ Council, and the Association for Women in Communications, Teresa has spent over a decade committed to telling stories of faith through written word. She loves coffee, caramel, and stories with happy endings.

Connect with Teresa at:
Facebook – Teresa Tysinger, Author
Twitter – @TMTysinger
Website & Blog – http://teresatysinger.com

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livingbygracepic-jpLet’s talk about it: Emma asked Teresa to sing her a lullaby so she’ll hear her mama’s voice while she’s sleeping and remember where she is. Have you ever experienced that deep need, whether with another person or with the Lord? How did you fill that need? Share your experiences and thoughts in the comments below or over on Living by Grace.

 Before you go, some fun book news! Two of my novels are currently available from Amazon at significant discounts!

Intertwined is on sale (paperback version!) for $6.78! That’s 58% off the e0d5a-intertwined_n154121regular price! Get it HERE and read the first 2 chapters for free HERE. Aaaaannnnnd, my latest release, Breaking Free, is on sale (paperback version) for $4.21! Get it HERE!

Little Ones

toddler-1312853_1920Imagine what the world must look like, feel like, smell like, to an infant experiencing wind, sunshine, and the melodious chirping of birds for the first time. What must be going through the mind of a toddler the first time they taste ice cream? What drives them to push onto their tiny, fat feet, again and again, undaunted by the countless times they’ve fallen?

Every giggle, every growth spurt, and adorable toddle forward is a glimpse into the heart and mind of the Heavenly Father who created them. Today my guest, Ada Brownell, reminds us to look for the special and amazing in our little ones.

-Children are a gift from the Lord; they are a reward from him.-Psalm 127-3, NLT

Children: Amazing Little People
by Ada Brownell

Busyness filled my days when our five children came into the world, and although I thought about how cute and wonderful each are, I didn’t grasp the whole picture about the wonder of a child.

My husband and I walk in the mall frequently. Lately I’m struck by the amazing little people everywhere. The mall has a play area and yesterday a little fellow, probably about 18 months old, climbed up and considered going down the slide head first.

kids-635473_640A sister, about age 3 or 4, went around him and showed him how to go down on his bottom. He watched, sat his back side on the slide and slid down, grinning. He figured it out himself by watching.

One of our grandchildren had baby lingo no one could understand, but when our son told, with a laugh, about some of the child’s ornery antics, the child grinned. He understood every word. That ended sharing the boy’s mischief, even if it was cute, when he was present.

What struck me recently is how wonderful God’s creation and design is, and it shows up most amazingly in children.

How they got here in the first place is more than our minds can fathom.

I’ve watched our grandchildren look their mommies and daddies over shortly after birth, and they’re not very old when they can recognize them across the room.

New brains are like a blank sheet of paper, although fantastic stored data governing our neurological systems and instincts operate even while we’re still in the womb. What God “programmed” into us commanded our arms, legs, fingers, toes to move even before birth. Instincts God installed in our DNA prompted us to suck, swallow, cry, and feel hunger, as well as caused the various inner parts of our body to function.

baby-20339_640Babies arrive with a brain download to literally cry for love, care, and being held, and they won’t thrive without these things.

When we were a few months of age, we learned to coordinate movements so we could reach for things because our muscles and brains developed that capacity. Nevertheless, we needed outside stimuli to use the potential from the brain. Children given no attention often don’t learn to sit, walk, or talk.

We learned language skills by imitating. If Mom kept saying “Mama” over and over to us, soon we worked our mouths and tongues around, using our vocal cords so we could come up with a fairly good imitation. Sometimes the child says “Dada” first, and “no” comes soon after.

If the parents speak Chinese, the child obviously learns Chinese instead of English, and children of Spanish-speaking parents communicate in Spanish or whatever language is spoken in the home.

All through childhood, children imitate what they see and hear. We imitate others all our lives. For instance, we imitate experts on everything from sports to dancing, to gardening, to playing or singing music, to doing tricks on a bicycle or skateboard. But imitation isn’t all there is. At some point we think for ourselves. Nevertheless, the decisions we make are based on input we receive around us.child-945422_640

As a parent I exposed our children to godly teaching, wonderful Christian people, and challenges of learning things that matter. Too bad I wasn’t a perfect parent, but none of us are. Yet God gives wisdom if we ask, and ask I did. I’m so thankful all of our five children love God with all their hearts and live for Him. But the other wonderful people who invested their time and energy in our children deserve much of the credit and to God the glory.

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The Peach Blossom Rancher, Sequel to The Lady Fugitive

 

John Lincoln Parks’ works to rebuild his deceased father’s peach and horse ranch, thrown into ruin by a wicked uncle, murdered in the last book.

Amazon Fugitive Cover

The prequel to The Peach Blossom Rancher

John yearns for a wife to help him make the ranch all it should be. He has his eye on his sister’s elegant matron of honor, Valerie MacDougal, a young widow. But Valerie, a law school graduate, returns to Boston to live with her parents since her little son was born. John and Valerie write, he’s kissed her a few times, but while in Boston Valerie and one of her father’s law partners try to get three patients wrongfully judged as insane, out of the Boston asylum and they spend a lot time together.

Will John marry Valerie or Edwina Jorgenson, the feisty rancher-neighbor who has been in love with John since they were in grade school? Edwina’s father is in a wheelchair and she’s taking care of their ranch. John tries to help and protect this neighbor who has a Peeping Tom whose bootprints are like the person’s who dumped a body in John’s barn. But John and Edwina fuss at one another constantly. Will John even marry, or be hanged for the murder?

Tentative Release Date June 1, 2016

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ada brownell (1)When Ada Brownell sat down to write The Peach Blossom Rancher, the sequel to The Lady Fugitive, she drew from her experience growing up in Colorado’s Peach Country near Grand  Junction, picking peaches and working in a packing shed.

In addition, she uses some of what she learned about early 1900s misdiagnosis of insanity. Ada covered the Colorado Mental Health Institute at Pueblo on her beat as a journalist for The Pueblo Chieftain.

Ada Brownell blogs and writes with Stick-to-Your-Soul Encouragement. She is the author of six other books, and more than 350 stories and articles in Christian publications. She now lives in Missouri, a beautiful state except for tornadoes and chiggers.

Find Ada on iTunes, Amazon, Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, Barnes & Noble, and her website.

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Let’s talk about this: We often get carried away by the day-to-day job of parenting and don’t take time to really think about God’s amazing creation of children. What aspect of your children amazes you? Do you have any favorite memories or stories? Share them in the comments below. I’d love to learn a bit about you and your kids!

When God Calls Your Child to the Hard

Seeing our children make decisions that can bring about pain is hard for any parent. But remembering those sweet moments of motherhood can help ease that pain.

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Painful Parenting
by Gail Kittleson

The biblical Elizabeth, Zachariah’s wife, reminds us how precious a child is. Having waited decades to bear a child, Elizabeth had no choice but to give up.pregnant-422982_640

She did her best to keep honoring God. But then, the miracle—Gabriel appeared to Zachariah, who failed to believe and lost his voice until the birth.

But not Elizabeth. She went off and spent five months “relishing her pregnancy.” Her overflowing praise song encouraged Mary, Jesus’ mother, in her early pregnancy.

We can only imagine Elizabeth’s overwhelming joy at birthing a baby boy. Long past the age of mothering, she cherished every moment.

I wonder if her joints ached, and if she cried tears of relief when little Johnny finally went to sleep at night? And yet, even then that original joy laced her exhaustion.

But John’s headstrong nature led him down uncommon paths—some would say bizarre. When he butted heads with the Pharisees, did Elizabeth reflect on those early, malleable days of her good little boy?

Parenting can become a pain, yet the potential of growing right along with our offspring beckons us. Growing often hurts, but as we allow our children to walk—even if they foot-509723_640stumble—life’s up and down road, we’re guided back to our own road. Still plenty of challenges waiting for us . . . always room to grow in character.

Like every mother, Elizabeth wanted the best for her son, but did she live to observe him become John the Baptist, the Messiah’s forerunner? If so, she suffered great pain, for his was no easy road. His ignominious death would break any mother’s heart.

Sometimes, focusing on our memories of that first unique moment of motherhood is the best we can do.

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Pearl Harbor attacked! The United States is at war.

51W0Exm3+CL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_But Addie fights her own battles on the Iowa home front. Her controlling husband Harold vents his rage on her when his father’s stoke prevents him from joining the military. He degrades Addie, ridicules her productive victory garden, and even labels her childlessness as God’s punishment.

When he manipulates his way into a military unit bound for Normandy, Addie learns that her best friend Kate’s pilot husband has died on a mission, leaving her stranded in London in desperate straits.

Will Addie be able to help Kate, and find courage to trust God with her future?

Find In Times Like These on Amazon.

***

Gail KittlesonGail lives in northern Iowa with her husband of thirty-eight years. They enjoy family and the Arizona Ponderosa pine forest in winter. Gail’s all about words—she loves to read, write, edit for other authors, and facilitate writing workshops.

In her latest release, In Times Like These, a young World War II farm wife longs to become a parent, but her husband blames her for their childlessness. Readers resonate to Addie’s home front made-do attitude and cheer her on to find her voice while the war ignites battles all over the world.

Find Gail on her web site, Facebook, and Amazon.

Let’s talk about this. When our children our young, our primary aim is to raise them to be fully devoted Christ followers, or at least, it should be. But what happens when those children who were raised to seek after Christ and His will begin to put feet to their faith? How would you respond if your child said they wanted to serve Christ in the Middle East? Or Northern Korea? Or in another dangerous and difficult way? Our daughter has shared some potential God-nudges with us, and as I listened, there were times the Mama Bear in me rose up, and I longed to redirect her. To protect her–from all the unknowns she might face. But I realized doing so would encourage her to live a partial faith and would send the message: “I want you to obey God fully–when it’s easy, safe, and convenient.” And I couldn’t do that. I hope my resolve to continually point her to surrender lasts when it comes time for her to step out in whatever direction God leads, even if He leads her in a way I find unsettling. Because I know, deep in my protective Mama’s heart, true joy and fulfillment come from full surrender.

When has God nudged your children in a direction that felt uncomfortable for you, and how did you respond? Did God use anything–a verse, song, maybe note from a friend, to encourage you during that time? Share your thoughts here in the comments below or on Facebook, because we can all learn from each other.

Before I go, to those who prayed for my trip to Des Moines, thank you! God showed up in such a mighty way. I should maybe write a blog post about it, so you can celebrate His awesome mercy with me. Stay tuned! 🙂

From There to Here

Being a parent can teach us so much. Not just about parenting, but about our relationship with God and how He forgives us. As parents, this is a crucial quality to develop. Our kids will never feel secure in our love if we hold on to anger, bitterness, and grudges. So what does God do with a woman who struggles with forgiveness, for others and herself? Read on to find out.

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Learning to Live in Grace
by Joi Copeland

From there…                                         …to here.

Life is full of changes, isn’t it? As the saying goes, “The only two things we expect will never change are taxes and change itself.” Of course, God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. So perhaps there are three things that will never change!

Over the last eleven years (my youngest is eleven), as a mom of three boys, I’ve heard many phrases. Phrases like, “Oh bless your heart! You have your hands full!”

“Are you trying for a girl?”

“How do you get anything done?”

But in all actuality, I’ve prayed to be a mom of boys. I love being a “boy’s mom!” I grew up smack dab in the middle of four sisters. I know girls. I know the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Don’t get me wrong. Raising boys isn’t easy. There have been days when I’ve wanted to pick up a glass of wine, and I don’t even drink! Then there are days when I am so brothers-835141_640thankful I have my boys.

Yes, they fight. And it drives me batty. What they taught me, however, is they forgive and move on fairly quickly. I don’t know about you, but as a woman, it’s tough to let go of my anger and move on. I hold on to grudges, I bring up the past. Even if I say I forgive someone, it takes me a bit of time to get back to normal.

Not so with the men in my life! They fight and argue (we don’t tolerate punching fights…never ok to solve a problem using your fists). Yet, I find that more often than not, within ten minutes, they are fine and all is forgiven. Seriously, ALL is FORGIVEN.

Over the last fourteen years of raising my oldest, I’ve learned to let things go. We’ve had hard days, no doubt. Yet, when apologies are spoken, it is up to me to move on. Holding their sin against them isn’t healthy. Bringing up the past isn’t healthy.

And it’s not how God treats me, either. My sins are as far as the east is from the west. God doesn’t tell me what I do wrong over and over again. I come, apologize, and He forgives. Seriously, ALL is FORGIVEN. Why do I insist on holding on to my guilt? When I yell at my kids, (I know. It’s shocking that I do, but it happens). When I snap at my boys person-1352040_640because I’ve had a tough day. When I gripe at my husband when he doesn’t deserve it, or when I gripe at him period.

My boys have taught me a lot about letting go. I encourage you, as well–let it go. The bad that happened today, let it go. The guilt we feel as moms when we don’t do something correctly, let it go. Being a mom has taken me from there (the place of holding grudges and sins against others) to here (the place of letting go). It’s a wild ride, isn’t it? But life is an adventure, and I love the adventure I’m on with my husband and three boys!

***

COPELAND-HopeForTheJourney_cover.inddHope for the Journey:

Kayla Musso has been married to her husband, Brad, for several years. Having just had a baby, Kayla feels her life couldn’t be more perfect. Then one day, Brad drops a bomb shell on her that threatens to destroy everything they have worked so hard for in their marriage. Suddenly she is faced with a choice to forgive or let go of the life she loves so much.

Emily Sorenson had always been the picture of health, but when a trip to the doctor becomes the shock of her life, she is faced with a decision, like Kayla, to either fight the battle before her or give up the life she loves. In addition, her husband Jake has to come to grips with the struggle before them as well. As he does, he begins to question God. How could He let Emily go through such pain? As he wrestles with his questions, he faces his own dilemma. Would he be willing to seek God in his time of despair or will he walk away from everything so dear to him?

***

CopelandphotoJoi Copeland is married to a wonderful man, Chris, and has three amazing boys, Garrison, Gage, and Gavin. She lives in Denver, Colorado, but within the year, hopes to be living in Galway, Ireland. Joi’s love of writing began at a young age. She wrote short stories for several years, and in 2009, she began writing her first novel, Hope for Tomorrow.

Joi’s books include: Hope for Tomorrow, book 1Hope for the Journey, book 2Hope from the Past, book 3Letters of LoveChristmas Rayne, a novellaand Sheriff Bride Rob’s Story, a novella.

Find Joi on Facebook, Amazon, and her web site.

Let’s talk about this: Forgiving can be hard, but letting go and never bringing up the past during an argument can be even harder. Has someone ever brought up your past sins to you? How did that make you feel? How have you learned to let go? Share your thoughts in the comments below. We can all learn from one another!

 

When Mama Needs a Time Out

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Photo by stock images taken from freedigitalphotos.net

Photo by stock images taken from freedigitalphotos.net

We’ve all done it–lashed out at those we love most. When we’re overtired, stressed, pressed for time, or simply having a pull-your-hair-out kind of day, it can be incredibly hard to maintain self-control. That’s why we need to be alert to our emotions when we first sense them rising. 

How is it our children can be playing quietly by themselves, completely oblivious to the world around them one moment, then in dire need of us when we slip off to make a phone call?

Why is that one shirt of five hundred favorites suddenly the only one our child will wear when we’re running late for the most important appointment all month?

And how, oh how, can we maintain self-control when little ones are wailing and clinging to our legs while we attempt to mop grape juice from the carpet?

There are some days our kids need a time out, and there are other days when we do. 

Doesn’t that sound lovely? A time when, regardless of what you have going on, of where you absolutely woman-71735_1280need to be, you simply press pause? You’ll be amazed what five minutes–just five!–locked in your bedroom with your Savior can do. 

“But I don’t have time!” you say. “It’s Monday, the kids have to be at school, and I need to get to work.”

To which I’d say, when it comes to our kids, we absolutely have to make the time, not just for their activities and one-on-ones, but to do what we need to do to build them up rather than tearing them down. That doesn’t mean we’ll ever reach the perfect parenting stage, but by learning to pull away when we feel our temperatures rising, we’ll greatly reduce our hurtful mess ups.

Because let’s be honest–anger, frustration, snappy comments, and eye rolls hurt. Our children see it all. They’re amazingly adept at reading body language but incredibly inept at understanding the why. When we’re stressed and running around frazzled and irritated, they don’t human-753172_1920think, “Wow, Mommy must be having a bad day.” Nope. Their world is centered around one thing–themselves. (Developmentally, that’s just where they are.) Which means, they believe they’re the cause for every sigh, huff, and scowl.

And with every scowl or smile, they’re forming their view of the world and their perception of self. They’re determining whether they’re cherished or a nuisance, a blessing or a trouble-maker. A source of joy or frustration. 

When I remember that, suddenly arriving at my appointment five minutes late doesn’t feel like the most important part of my day. And besides, if I’m running late and caught up in a mess of vomit (or traffic), getting upset won’t get me there any faster. To the contrary–it’ll probably delay me further as I’m much less efficient when I allow my emotions to take control.

I also like to think of worst case scenarios. For example, when our daughter was young, school mornings were crazy stressful, and there were many mornings the stressful turned to arguing. I hated sending my daughter off to school after a mother-daughter fight. So I began to ask myself, “What happens if she’s late?” 

She’d get written up, maybe. But if her behavior was causing our delay, then it seemed that’d be a good thing, a natural consequence for her actions. Certainly better than allowing frustration to build to arguments that created constant tension between us.

Our relationship was more important, I felt, than her avoiding a tardy slip.

But let’s pull it back a little. What if, knowing I get stressed, flustered and overwhelmed when time is short day-planner-828611_1920and pressure is high, what if I started creating margins in my day? What if I planned for the unexpected milk spill and temper tantrum? 

What if I simply slowed down so I could take a time out, pulling away to listen to praise music or to pray, when things grew stressful? 

And what if I began to pay more attention to my emotions and became aware when that first spark of frustration arose? Rather than waiting until it grew to overwhelming proportions?

And what if I learned how to speak to myself in the middle of the chaos, reminding myself that God’s still in control, even in traffic jams. What if I chose to use that moment, every moment, as frustrating or hectic as it may be, as training and an opportunity to learn–to grow in character, in perseverance, and surrender?

What might I be able to model for my kids? (Because self-control is caught as much as it’s taught.)

What if, stuck at a red light, with kids bickering in the backseat, rather than allowing my thoughts to run amuck as I thought of how late I’m going to be and how little patience I have for sibling fighting, I began to pray. And surrendered that moment and all that lay ahead to Christ.

Knowing He’s working out His plan, for me, for my kids, and for my family, even in the muck, the mundane, the manic, and the mess.

Let’s talk about this! Have you ever given yourself a time out, and if so, what were the results? How does our self talk in the middle of the gunk and frantic affect our patience level and hence our words and actions? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below or on Facebook, because we can all learn from each other.