Friday, August 26, 2016

When the Mom-Seasons Change

For over twelve years, I have a had at least one child at my side for all waking hours. The kids and I have graduated from diapers and baby food to bicycles and musical instruments. Suddenly this week, I have experienced the odd silence that happens when all of the kids go to school. It was sad. It was freeing. It was lonely. It was empowering.

Other moms are changing seasons, too. Some are taking children to college for the first time. Some are transitioning to home-school. Some are transitioning to public school. No matter what the change of season brings, these transitions can be hard for us moms.

Our children are born moving away from us. First they breathe on their own; then they walk, eat, run, and play on their own. Each year of their lives moves them further and further away from their dependence on their mommies. Yes, it brings us tears, but this process of separation is a good thing designed by God.

I am just beginning this new stage of motherhood. Like many moms, I am just starting to figure out what this new season might bring. Here are some thoughts that have gotten me through this first stage of the new season.

1. Although the role has changed, my children still need me.

They need me to listen to them at bedtime. They still need to reconnect with me. They need to know that the new season doesn't change my love for them.

Most of all, they need me to pray for them. They need me to speak God's Word over their lives, their challenges, their fears, and their successes. They need me to ask God for wisdom so that I can be the mother they need right now.
"And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, 'This is the way, walk in it,' when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left."   --Isaiah 30:21 ESV

2. I am still a daughter of God

It is easy to let the demands of motherhood overwhelm other parts of our identities. I must remember that my usefulness to God goes beyond my mothering role. As the children move beyond their dependence on me, I must stand on my own two feet to be the woman God has called me to be.

"Trust in the LORD with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take."  --Proverbs 3:5-6 NLT

3. I must let God guide my steps.

Only God knows where this next chapter will take us. I don't have to figure it out right this minute. I don't have to have a ten-year plan. It is OK to feel a little unsure of the next stage. After all, God has promised to guide us step-by-step, not a decade at at time.

"Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path."  --Psalm 110:105 NLT

4. The God who guides you will also guide your children. 

"We will not hide these truths from our children; we will tell the next generation about the glorious deeds of the LORD, about his power and his mighty wonders. For he issued his laws to Jacob; he gave his instructions to Israel. He commanded our ancestors to teach them to their children, so the next generation might know them— even the children not yet born— and they in turn will teach their own children. So each generation should set its hope anew on God, not forgetting his glorious miracles and obeying his commands." --Psalm 78:4-7 NLT


--Carol

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Those days...



Those days…

You know the ones—when it feels like situation after situation it feels like you get pounded by the onslaught of living life in a fallen world. Maybe I just didn’t get enough sleep…maybe it was just my perspective…maybe it was a bit of both—I just felt worn out.

It was an early morning and already I felt as I was trying to stand under a massive waterfall.


Constant pressure was pounding on my back and it was difficult to breathe. I felt alone and as I struggled to stand—I was unsure of my footing. I was exhausted by the effort of trying to fight what felt like a losing battle. Slowly, the realization came that it was too overwhelming and should I keep trying to do this on my own I’m going to be crushed.

Ok, God, I’m at the end of me—Dear God, why does it take me so long to give up my own will—my own desire to fight on my own?

As I took a step back, somewhat in shock of just the sheer volume of the goings on around me, I couldn’t help but feel as if I was going to be thrown off my feet.

In almost a daze, I prayed in wide-eyed shock—“God, I’m relying on you to be my strength—I have nothing left…I need you to be my shield and my defender—I don’t need to be the one to justify or defend myself because I know that every step I take is by prayerful consideration and with a heart that is for looking to do your will in the choices I make…”

Psalm 28:7 “The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in Him, and I am helped; therefore my heart exults, and with my song I shall thank Him.”
Instead of choosing to stand on my own, I reached out and grabbed a hold of my Jesus who was already there with His hand out—

Through the words of close friends and through people I didn’t even know, God used people around me to be Jesus to me—to pour out love and to encourage me to keep walking forward. I love that there were words of comfort and edification by loving friends. And in the same manner I was loved on by people who I had never met before! I am amazed that as I had conversations with these people they encouraged me with the words that I had prayed to my Father God, earlier! I was so seen and heard that it was undeniable that God was listening!

2 Thessalonians 2:16-17 “May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who has loved us and given us eternal comfort and good hope, by grace, comfort and strengthen your hearts in every good work and word.”

I find myself being so thankful for those moments when I cry out (or in this case I muttered out) those truths that helps me to get through my daily battles.

Thank you God for your faithfulness.

Help me to seek You in all I do and to stand on Your word…first…

Joyfully His,

Jewel

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

A love letter to my daughter on her first day of 6th grade

Dear number one baby girl,

It might seem strange to you, that I'm writing you a note on the internet rather than on paper, but the note on paper will probably get lost sometime over the course of your life. The Internet however, is forever. (Let that be lesson number one my love.) I'll write to you here, so someday we can look back, and remember all that you've taught me, since you were a little girl only 11 years old. 

As you started your first day of 6th grade (which is your last year of elementary school) I found myself struggling more now, that I did the day you started kindergarten.



 How did the time go so fast?! It seems like it wasn't all that long ago, I waddled my VERY pregnant self down the hallway to your kindergarten classroom, and your journey of elementary school began. 



You were still an only child back then...that week is when God gave you, your first sister. What a big week that was! You have been the best big sister I have ever seen, and the way you love and care for your sisters makes me love you that much more. Your heart is so full of compassion, and love for all 3 of your sisters, that I find myself at a loss for words at times. You love them so selflessly, and I pray that part of you never changes, even as you grow up. Being a big sister is really hard sometimes, but you do it so well.  



It seems like I merely yawned (I've been exhausted since I found out I was pregnant with you) and then with a long blink I found myself here. We are at a time in your life that will be one of many big milestones for you, and for me. It's going to go fast, your life already has for me, but I pray you find joy in every day of your last year of elementary school. Make sure to make the most of recess, swing, play, chase your friends around the playground, because you'll never get recess again. (Unless you're in court, but that's a lesson for another time.) Your teacher is one of the best teachers I have ever known, and when he tells you he loves you, believe him. My 6th grade teacher still keeps in touch with me, and it's been MANY years since I was in her class. She came and saw me in the hospital last year after my accident, and that told me a lot about how much she cared for me when I was a little girl. 

I know this year is a big year for you, but it's a big one for me too, as your momma! My emotions might seem crazy to you now, but I pray that someday you will have children of your own and will understand. Hopefully when that day comes, you'll still live close enough that I can take you to coffee to celebrate (or grieve) however you will feel when that time comes for you. 

This week is a big one for me, because this week I taught you how to shave your legs. As we sat on the edge of the tub together, it took everything I had in me to not cry, as we lathered that shaving cream together. Why didn't you tell me I was using daddy's razor on my legs by accident? You could have saved me so much agony these last few days! My legs itch with all of the world's itchiness...but I did it out of my love for your delicate knees and ankles, as I taught you how to PROPERLY shave your own legs. 




Now, I know this isn't the first time you've shaved your legs... I clearly remember when you were 6 years old and dry shaved yor legs in the downstairs bathroom. The chunk of skin missing from your knee was still on the blade of the razor when I found the razor next to the sink. I still cringe at the thought of that, but there was no sense in being angry at you for shaving without permission...Dry shaving is a life lesson all of it's own. 1) Dry shaving your legs is NEVER a good idea. It's better to spend the rest of your life looking like chewbacca's twin sister than to dry shave your legs. It's going to itch and burn in ways you have never known, and my love, pain and itch like that, is horrid 2) if you have to sneak something, it's probably not worth it. 

In all seriousness, teaching you how to shave taught me a lot about myself. 

You are so much more patient than I am. 

You asked me over a year ago, if I would let you shave your legs, but I told you no at the time. My heart wasn't ready for that big step. One of my biggest struggles is to know when it's ok to let you grow up a little. The world wants you to rush though everything, but you're still my little girl, and I want to keep you a little girl as long as possible. This time is precious and we'll never get it back.  Also, I couldn't reach my own legs to even show you how, because my belly was so big and round, carrying your baby sister. I told you that day, that you were brave enough to ask, "If you wait until I'm not pregnant anymore, I will show you how to do it." And you did. You waited for me. 

Your newest sister was born and life got busy. In the midst of all of the chaos of the day to day things, you have been such an amazing helper to me. I don't know what I would ever do without you some days. I know sometimes I get frustrated with you, as you follow me around the house, trying to hand the baby to me while I'm doing things like brushing my teeth or trying to use the bathroom, but I truly am thankful for you, even if I don't always show it. 

Sometimes I think back to the days when it was just you and me because daddy was at work, and I don't know how I managed to survive. You weren't the easiest of babies to say the least, and I think I just cried right along with you most days. Here you are now, 11 years old, my biggest helper, and all the while patiently waiting on me to keep my promise. I think this age you are right now, is my favorite so far. You are seriously the coolest kid, and I am so proud to be your momma. 

"Mom you said you will show me." You say, as patiently as you know how... And in return I say "I will honey, just not right now." 

You see, you waiting to shave your legs seems like a huge deal to you, but I don't think you realize how huge of a deal it is to me. It took you your whole life to grow that hair. (I probably should have had more vitamins and less happy meals when I was pregnant with you) but truly, all silliness aside, you showed me your character is far greater than my own. Your patience and willingness to wait on me, has made me see myself and the Lord in a way I never have before.

You were brave enough to ask permission, and risk that I might say no. 

You were patient, and willing to wait until I said ok, even if you didn't want to. 

You didn't rush ahead or get frustrated and try to do it on your own. You just waited. 

The times you felt like I had forgotten, you asked me again "Mom, remember, you promised...?" And you're right, I did promise. When I asked you to wait just a little bit longer you obeyed, even if you didn't agree. 

Your obedience to me, made me see my obedience to the Lord so differently. 

So many times I get impatient with God. I never want to wait for Him to show me how to do things His way. When He's taking longer than I want him to, I get flustered, impatient, and sometimes I try to "dry shave" my way though life...but not you my sweet girl. You waited. I want to be more like you. 

I always thought my job as your mom was to teach you about life, but sweet girl, you have taught me far more than I ever imagined.

I hope you know how much I love you, and how grateful I am for this life that God has given me to share with you. You are an answer to many of my prayers. I look forward to all that this year has in store for you, your last year in elementary school. I could say a million more things, but I don't want to break the Internet. 

Thank you for being patient with me, and for waiting for me to teach you how to shave when I felt the time was right. God must have known there was more to this experience than just shaving.

Ps. I'm sorry if I missed a few spots. 




“whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away.” James 4:14 NKJV


In His Love, 
Mom



Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Who Are You Cheering For?


"God develops the character to match the calling." Lysa TerKeurst 

Have you ever felt ill-equipped?

Like when God leads you to a certain place, but you're scared out of your mind because you don't feel spiritual enough or skilled enough?

When God gives us a task, there is always a certain amount of preparation involved. He doesn't just hand us a passion and send us on our way. We have to develop the necessary skills and grow in maturity in order to take on the mission.

And sometimes, it can feel pretty lonely out there.

For the past several years I had been wanting to attend the Proverbs 31 She Speaks conference but I just didn't have the funds to travel all the way to the East Coast. So I was thrilled when God opened the door for me to attend the 2016 conference last month!

I met with approximately 700 women in Concord, North Carolina, all hoping to become either a published author or a public speaker.


In the past, I had been in various groups of ladies, Christian sisters and daughters of the King of Kings, where the atmosphere is uncomfortable instead of laden with love. We were divided because of:
  • jealousy over someone who had a role or quality that others didn't possess
  • insecurity that some women couldn't measure up with others who appeared somehow superior
  • animosity because the women all wanted the same thing and saw each other as competition

I have one friend who refuses to attend Bible studies because the ones in which she has participated consisted of ladies who gossiped, judged, and tried to one-up each other with stories. This is so sad! And yet I have seen it too many times. I have been that girl.

One of the most amazing things about She Speaks was the attitude of cheering for each other. Not once did I feel any negativity from the other attendees - we were all excited to see each other succeed.

This loving attitude was initiated by the Proverbs 31 leadership. Many of the presenters mentioned that we must never be in competition with each other, but consistently supportive, celebrating accomplishments and cheering each other on in our different callings.

I was impressed that so many women could come together without letting jealousy, insecurity, or competition crowd into our hearts and interfere with relationships. I enjoyed it so much that I determined to take it home with me.

Since I've returned to Alaska, I keep asking God where I can help my sisters achieve their goals and fulfill their callings. Because it's not about who gets there first, who receives the most attention, or who is the best at what God called them to do. 

We need each other. We have ALL felt ill-equipped and insecure in our calling. Since we know what it feels like, let's have compassion on each other and be an encouragement. We are all on the same team. God wants us to work together, to serve each other, to be united.

So I ask you, sisters, who are you cheering for?



Blessings, Jen


Monday, August 22, 2016

Value of Investment

Here is another great video from Renee Duncan.  This video was filmed in Singapore.  Renee is interviewing two more women, Katryn and Antoinette, from the Women of Strategic Leadership Ministry regarding the value of mentor-ship.  Watch this insightful video where these women answer the question of how their own mentors have impacted their lives and how their mentors have changed over time.  They also discuss how they mentor to others and the struggles and blessings that come from that form of mentor-ship.  You can watch the video below, or follow this link.


Saturday, August 20, 2016

The Secret to the Proverbs 31 Woman


Proverbs 31:17-18 (Amplified Bible translation) – “She girds herself with strength [spiritual, mental, and physical fitness for her God-given task] and makes her arms strong and firm. She tastes and sees that her gain from work [with and for God] is good; her lamp goes not out, but it burns on continually through the nigh [of trouble, privation, or sorrow, warning away fear, doubt, and distrust].”
In many conversations I have had with women of all ages, when reading and discussing Proverbs 31:10-31, I have found a common thread: “HOW?! HOW does she do all of that?! I can’t do all of that! I’ll NEVER be able to achieve the Proverbs 31 woman profile!” I’m included in such thoughts at times as I search out the best method to begin my pursuit of the character traits listed in Proverbs 31, but I discovered a secret amidst my search. Are you interested in the secret? I sure was!

As I prayed and prayed about the traits of a Proverbs 31 woman, I sought out Scripture further. For those learning how to navigate the Scriptures, when you read something from the Old Testament, it is important and beneficial to search the New Testament for similar themes and challenges. This is called “cross referencing” and allows you to dig deeper and gain an even greater understanding of God’s Word across the entire canon of Scripture. This also helps you see the connections between the Old and New Testaments and the common themes across the Bible and invites you into an intimate view of God’s heart for His children throughout all time, from beginning to end.

“Okay, okay,” you say, “that’s great stuff, but let’s get to the secret already, will ya’?” Hang tight! We’re getting there, I promise!

The importance of the passage that I have pulled refers to a woman’s readiness and her strength. Luke 12:35 strongly encourages us to “be dressed in readiness, and keep [our] lamps lit.” This correlates to the Proverbs 31 woman because she “keeps her lamp lit and it burns continually through the night.” This is not a literal lamp, but a spiritual lamp! Almost every woman I’ve talked to, at some point, has awakened in the middle of the night and has begun praying for someone or something by name. She may not fully understand this, but I believe this is a special gift the Lord has given women – a deep look into His Spirit’s cries for others. This is called intercession – an intricate part of the deep connection of the body of Christ. Spiritual readiness comes in many forms. We are warriors! (We, (women) are also worriers, don’t get me wrong, so let’s not get that confused!) So, next time you wake up in the middle of the night and you have no understanding as to why, search your heart, ask God to share a person or thing with you and begin praying fervently for them or it!

“The secret, Sarah! The secret!!” Almost there ladies, I promise! Chug along, we’re nearing our final destination!

The first part of Proverbs 31:17 denotes a woman strengthening herself spiritually, mentally, physically. Ephesians 6:10 and 14 challenge God’s children, “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness.” These verses mention two parts of the armor of the Lord – the belt of truth and the breastplate of righteousness. Where are two of the most vulnerable parts of your body? Your heart and your femoral artery area! Interesting that the belt is where truth lies. In a suit of armor, the belt is what holds everything in place. If a soldier didn’t have a belt, he could not wear his armor, nor properly be outfitted for war. So how do we equate this to today’s woman? We must keep our hearts and minds focused on the Lord and His Word - the TRUTH! We must maintain a firm foundation upon Scripture and His heart for us, which leads me to my final point before the big reveal.

1 Peter 1:13, “Therefore, prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” If we will keep our lamps lit, being ever ready to intercede for others and maintain standing upon a firm foundation, we will keep sober in spirit, fixing our hope on the promise of Christ’s return!

So, what’s the secret?? It’s really quite simple, ladies! STOP WORRYING and START WARRING! Gird yourself with your sword - God’s Word, His truth – to keep your armor on, and His righteousness – to protect your heart from the devil’s wiles. When we rest upon the Lord, we will, in turn, grow in God’s character and strength, but NOT OF OUR OWN ACCORD, but rather that OF THE HOLY SPIRIT. The beauty of the Proverbs 31 woman is not that she’s got it all together, but rather, that she seeks the Lord with all her heart, and allows Him to lead and guide her, she “considers a field and buys it”(Proverbs 31:16) but first she CONSIDERS it. Spiritually, this means surrendering to the Lord and allowing Him to give the wisdom and strength to make the right decisions.

So, ladies, to recap: The secret to the Proverbs 31 woman is simple; STOP WORRYING and START WARRING!

Blessings and love,

Sarah O.

Friday, August 19, 2016

The Lie of Easy Grace

Four cabins' worth of kids and counselors.
Four compasses.
Four different sets of instructions.
One destination.

We were given brief instructions on reading our compasses before we were given our first clue.

"And you shall receive power after the Holy Ghost is come upon you."
45 degrees. 20 paces."

We figured out that our starting place was at the electrical box. The compass was hard to read. It took a long time to find North. It wobbled like crazy. From the electrical box, we made an educated guess on our direction and tried to imitate a grown man's steps to find our 20 paces. From that point, we found another clue. At one stop, we inadvertently found another cabin's clue instead of our own. We were only off by a few points on the compass and a few paces, but it led us into a circle instead of to our final destination. If we hadn't gotten off track, we could have won the challenge!
Many Christians are following a defective compass. After years of hearing Gospel presentations that tell them to just "ask Jesus into your heart," they are wandering in circles. They have no victory over sin. They don't know how to fix their deepest problems. They are bound by the chains of addiction. They are stuck in unhealthy patterns that are robbing them of abundant living.

They have believed the lie of easy grace. It is a consumer version of Christianity. Ask Jesus into your heart. Tell others about Jesus. Go to church. God will help you. But there is a key ingredient they are missing. 

Repentance. 

Jesus told people to repent.
"But unless you repent, you too will all perish."--Luke 13:3 NIV

Peter said it.
"Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit."--Acts 2:38 NIV

Paul said it.
"First to those in Damascus, then to those in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and then to the Gentiles, I preached that they should repent and turn to God and demonstrate their repentance by their deeds."--Acts 26:20 NIV

What is repentance?
It is from the Greek word metanoeo, meaning to think differently afterwards, with the connotation of feeling sorrow for one's actions. 

Without repentance, our compasses spin wildly. We have no victory over sin. We have no strength from the Holy Spirit. We are stuck in miserable pits of our own making. 

Until we want Jesus more than we want the comfort of our sins, we will get nowhere. 
Until we lay down our pride and humbly bow at the feet of our Creator, we are still lost in our sins.
Until we confess the rottenness of our selfishness, our words are meaningless. 
Until we beg God to forgive the wretchedness of our souls, we are without hope.

But once we have laid our ugliness out before God and repented of our sin, we receive complete, healing, freeing forgiveness. We receive the presence of the Holy Spirit, God Himself, as he fills our hearts. 

This is freedom. This is healing. This is victory. This is life like you've never known, so much better than your pet sins.

If you haven't embraced it yet, I beg you to spill everything at Jesus feet. The freedom is like nothing you have ever known.


--Carol