Month: October 2010

Sticks and Stones

I am rarely at a loss for words, this should surprise no one who knows me, and for the most part I think this is a plus for me. On the other hand, as I look back at raising my children there are times when I wish I had been at a loss for words. As young mothers, the task can quickly overwhelm us, and we come to a place some days where we throw good sense out the window, and words fly from our mouths that should never have taken flight.

Now that my kids are older, I am happy that they seem to have survived those early years. Many nights I went to bed praying that the Lord would fix what I messed up that day in the hearts and minds of my kids. Young hearts are tender and little spirits are fragile. I believe it is our duty to raise children in the fear and admonition of the Lord, but sometimes we mistake that to mean we are to raise them in the fear and admonition of us!

I can remember telling my husband when my two oldest boys were still small, that I had to make them afraid of me while I was still bigger than they were because one day those boys were going to be bigger than me, and I had to get control on the front end! Well, those two boys are now bigger than me, and I have learned my mistake.

They are not afraid of me at all. Go figure… They do show me great love and respect, and it is out of that they honor me (most of the time) rather than out of any fear they may have of me.
Thank goodness.

Yes, I do still hold the power to make their lives miserable. I can take phones away, turn of the TV, computer, and their ipods if need be. I can park my oldest son’s car and send him walking. I’m not saying that I have removed completely the fear factor in our relationship, but I have tried to temper the words that come from my mouth. I can love and sacrifice for them all day, and destroy it all in a thoughtless moment when hurtful words leave my mouth.

It’s true, isn’t it? Just think back to your own childhood. You probably have trouble exactly quoting your parent with regard to something encouraging they said, but I’ll
bet you can perfectly quote a careless phrase spoken to you in anger or frustration.

I’d like to say that I no longer ever say thoughtless things to my kids… I’d like to say that. While the stresses of having four little kids have gone away, new stresses come upon me as they grow up and out from under my care and protection. Still I have learned some things, and I do watch my mouth better.

I love to laugh and joke with my children. As they get older, it gets more fun as they understand humor, sarcasm, irony and they can enjoy a good laugh with me.

I was reminded recently that even humor can do damage.

Dinner at our house is usually a fun time to relax and share about our day. We laugh a lot at dinner, and I love it. But even laughter can get out of hand. I can’t remember the context of the conversation, but my daughter was talking about something being “lame” (a.k.a. “uncool”), and that’s when I did it. I turned my attention to my second son and said, “Oh, you mean like Ryan?”

Now my Ryan is a lot of things, but he is not lame. He’s cute, smart, conscientious, and funny. I would never have called him lame if he were really lame. (THAT would be lame) What mother would do that? But I saw instantly in his eyes that I had crossed the line. He smiled and laughed, but I knew my mistake. I immediately reassured him that I was completely joking, but I so wished I had not said it.

These things happen. Sometimes it’s hard to see the line we shouldn’t cross.

That same week, my daughter was eating a Popsicle and suddenly screamed “brain freeze!” to which I replied, “Honey you have to HAVE a brain to have brain freeze.” It was funny. She laughed, really laughed, and we moved on. No harm done there. No line crossed.

It’s no mistake that the Bible emphasizes the power of the spoken word. The world itself was created with a word spoken. The two-word phrase, “Crucify him!” brought death to Jesus.

Death and life are in the power of the tongue…
Proverbs 18:21



Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body. Proverbs 16:24

We can play fast and loose with our words, but our children, and others, will pay the price here, now, and for years to come. One day we, too, will pay a price.

I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak…
Matthew 12:36

We can’t underestimate the power of our words to give life or to take it away. As mothers we gave our children life as they grew in our wombs for those nine… long… months.

Now that we hold them in our arms, or wish we still could, we are no less responsible for nurturing them and helping them become all God intends them to be. We can feed them healthy foods, make sure they have the best education, enroll them in every passing opportunity. But it could be all for naught if we do not speak holy words to them from our lips.

Yes we must correct and discipline our children, but even those words must be spoken from a heart of love. I know it’s a tall order. I know we will fail some days. But thankfully at the end of the day we can pray for the Father to fix what we screwed up, and we can try again tomorrow.

Whistling in the Dark

I used to be afraid of the dark. When I was a kid I can remember being afraid as I would lie in my bed at night, and listen to the nighttime sounds in my house. My mind would fashion all kinds of monsters and bad guys that were the authors of those creepy sounds. I would sleep with my covers pulled up over my head to hide from these imaginary villains. I would lie there and decide there had to be one under my bed waiting for me to fall asleep.

No way could there have been someone under there. I had too much junk under my bed for anyone to squeeze in under there, but that’s what Fear does to you. It makes impossible (or unlikely) things seem possible.

At other times when I found myself in dark places, I would whistle. I’m not sure what I thought whistling in the dark would do for me, but for some reason it brought me a little measure of comfort. I guess I thought if I whistled I could fool Fear into thinking I was not really afraid of him.

I’m not afraid of the dark anymore. At some point in my life I let go of that fear. Or it let go of me. That’s not to say I haven’t picked up new Fears along the way. Fear feels like a great hand that comes up behind you, reaching it’s fingers over you, squeezing you and then weighing you down with it’s worries. When you walk in fear you carry that burden with you everywhere. It’s heavy, and it’s constricting.

I hate the palpable feeling of it coming upon me. When I feel the grip of Fear taking hold in my life I reason with myself. I know full well this feeling is not coming from the Lord. The Bible says that,
God did not give us a spirit of fear, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.” (2 Timothy 1:7)
So if this feeling is not coming from God then it has only a couple of other possible sources. I’m manufacturing it on my own, or it is from the enemy. Either way, the enemy is laughing at me. I don’t know about you, but I’ve never liked being laughed at. I love to laugh with people, even at my own follies, but I’m not a real fan of laughter at my expense. I don’t think anyone likes that. It makes us feel small and insignificant.
When we allow Fear to take hold of us it robs us of the gift of Peace. The letter to the Galatian church (Galatians 5:22-23) teaches that the Spirit gives each of us the gift of Peace. So if the Spirit is in us, if we are followers of Christ it is, then why do we offer up our gift of Peace so easily? Why is it not stronger than the grip of Fear?
Jesus said,
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”(John 14:27)

The world offers up much for us to fear. We fear the loss of those we love, loss of our health, loss of jobs, homes and possessions. We fear humiliation, failure, and shame. As mothers we fear for our children. I’m not sure I have the time or space to list all the things I fear for my children. I have to constantly cast those fears away. If I let those fears take hold of me, I’d never be able to let my kids out of the house.
It frustrates me to no end that even though I do my best to walk in the Peace of God, I still allow Fear to get a grip on me sometimes. So what’s the solution to this dilemma? Maybe we can find it in Isaiah. Isaiah 41:10 is ironically one of my favorite verses…go figure.
“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
So I suppose the answer to Fear is trust. God says, “Hey, I’ve got this. I am right beside you, let me help. Let me hold you up.” What if we could do that whenever Fear tries to gets it’s grip on us… you know, trust God? Then we could walk in Peace no matter our circumstances. I don’t know about you, but it beats the heck out of whistling in the dark.

Treasures in Heaven

Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. It’s true, you know. Jesus said this, (right there in Matthew 6:21) so it must be true. But what does that mean, really? When I take inventory of my stuff, my treasures, it shows where my heart is. My time. My money. My talent. My treasures. You can learn a lot about a person based on where they invest themselves.

I am happy to say that in so far as “stuff” goes, I am mostly unattached. Mostly. I mean, I like things. For instance… shoes. I like shoes. And fun jewelry. I often want more of both. But for the most part I can live without most things. My children know that there are really only a few things that I possess that I would be sick over should I lose them or should they get broken.

Recently a couple of things that do matter to me have been broken at the hands of my kids. Sometimes kids break things. I had a set of three bowls that once belonged to my grandmother. They are mixing bowls. Now I have a set of two.

My son accidentally broke the middle sized one. Momma bear no longer has a bowl. He was cleaning up the kitchen, unloading the dishwasher, and broke it. I was not home at the time, but he tried to call me to tell me what had happened. I was unable to take his call, so he texted me the sad news. In that moment I was heartbroken. I don’t have a lot of things that were my Granny’s, she didn’t possess a lot of things.

Perhaps if I had placed them high on a shelf and never used them, I would still have all three. My Granny would have thought that was ridiculous.

“They are bowls. Use them”, she’d say.

And using them always makes me think of her. I could hear her say something else as I sat there searching for something to say to my son. I could hear her say, “It’s just a bowl, Stacey.” So that’s what I told my son. “It’s just a bowl. It’s okay.”

My youngest son had the great misfortune to break another one of my prized treasures recently. When I was nineteen I took a trip with my mother to Hong Kong. It was purely for fun. How great is that? We had a wonderful time of adventure, and we brought back some neat oriental type souvenirs from our trip. One of those items was a beautiful vase. I have enjoyed having the vase in my home for all these years since.

Twenty-four years to be exact.

This vase survived the trip back to America, and over a dozen other moves. It did not survive the Nerf gun dart game in my den.

I was in my bedroom when I heard the crash. Then I heard my daughter’s dismay at what was apparently broken.

Then there was silence.

I figured the guilty party or parties were busy planning their escape to undisclosed locations. Apprehensively, I opened the door to my room, and walked down the hall to the den. And there it was. My vase… in pieces on the floor. My youngest son stood over it, powerless to do anything, but wishing he had the power to reverse time.

As I picked up the pieces of my vase, I searched for something to say to my son. My heart was broken. I wanted him to understand that what he had done could not be undone. I told him that the vase could not be replaced, but I did also manage to say, “It’s just a vase. It’s okay.” (Thanks, Granny) My husband dismissed my son to take a shower, and we cleaned up the mess.

An hour or so later I was tucking my little son into bed, and I could tell he was still upset over what he had done. He handed me a letter he had written to me. As I read my son’s words to me my heart swelled in my chest.

“I am so sorry mom. You have given me so much and how do I thank you? I don’t. I hurt your heart instead.”

I went on to read the rest of the most precious letter I have ever received. I gathered him up in my arms, and told him that he means more to me than any thing ever could. In that moment it was most important to me for him to know that he, along with his brothers and sister, are my greatest treasure. I was reminded that they are where my heart is. Matthew and I have been given many nice things, but none greater than our family.

God never tells us it’s a bad thing to have or want things. He gives us great things to enjoy. (Shoes, remember? Thank you, Lord, for shoes.) But we are not to treasure those things above the things of God. People, relationships with people, and our relationship with Him are to be prized most of all. I was just listening to a message from Andy Stanley in which he talked about this very thing. He shared that he never purchases anything he would be unwilling to loan out to someone. Then there is no chance that he would ever value some thing over someone. Not a bad idea, really…

Where is your heart? The Bible says it’s where ever your treasure is. I guess that’s the real kicker. Where is your treasure? Where are you pouring yourself? Are you investing in eternal treasure or treasure that will one day turn to dust…

After the Fact Wisdom

I’m tired of after-the-fact wisdom, aren’t you? I mean, don’t you hate it when the perfect comeback comes to mind after the opportunity to use it has passed you by? Well, that’s actually probably a good thing. But what about when the logical solution to a problem seems obvious once you’ve already made the wrong decision?

This last one happened to me this last week. I had the opportunity to help someone, and while I didn’t exactly not help, I passed them on to someone else who I thought at the time could help them “better”. I realized moments later that God had wanted ME to help. Great. I went back to find the person to do what I knew I should have done to begin with, but the person was gone. I never did know if he got the help he needed or not. I suffered once again from after-the-fact wisdom.

I often ask God for wisdom that I need for the decisions I have to make.
Our lives are full of choices to be made. We need Wisdom on our side. Sometimes. Sometimes our day-to-day decisions just don’t require a lot of high-level brain function.

We are faced with choices all day long every day. I think we make most choices during most days without much thought. We just float through our day choosing left or right, stairs or elevator, paper or plastic, heels or flats.

Yet every now and then we are faced with a decision that gives us pause. We stop, sit, and ponder the ramifications of a particular decision. We weigh the options, look at the choices from every conceivable angle, and mull it all over again.

Sometimes there just doesn’t seem to be an easy answer. Having Wisdom to make good choices needs to come on the front end of a situation. After-the-fact wisdom is really useless in a present situation.

Sometimes the decisions we have to make will have far reaching implications on our lives and the lives of those we care about. I am thankful that those kinds of choices don’t come along every day. I just don’t want to have to think that hard on a regular basis.

When those kinds of situations come along, we need to be smart.

We need Godly wisdom.

Unfortunately we don’t usually come by that kind of Wisdom automatically. I mean, that would be helpful, but we have to invest in Wisdom ahead of time. It’s when we don’t that after-the-fact wisdom happens, if it happens at all. However, if we have been seeking Wisdom all along, when a situation requires it, we can call on it to lead us.

But what if I have been cultivating Wisdom? Can things still go wrong? Well, yes.

The problem then comes when I just don’t heed what Wisdom says. Wisdom tells me to have character in my decisions. But sometimes doing the right thing won’t always give me what I think I want. Yet the Bible tells us that living a righteous life will bring protection. (Proverbs 2:7) I definitely want that. It’s when I compromise on what Wisdom tells me that I fall into paths that lead me places I shouldn’t go, and lose the protection that Wisdom can provide. I can talk myself into lots of things I shouldn’t. I bend, excuse, and bargain with myself to justify what I do.

There is a path to follow. Wisdom is there, waving to us. Calling us down that path. It’s the path that leads to God’s protection, and the right outcome.

Take a look at what Proverbs 2 has to say about seeking Godly wisdom in your life:


  “…if you accept my words and store up my commands within you, turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding, and if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God. For the LORD gives wisdom, 
and from his mouth come knowledge and understanding. He holds victory in store for the upright, he is a shield to those whose walk is blameless, for he guards the course of the just and protects the way of his faithful ones. Then you will understand what is right and just 
and fair—every good path. For wisdom will enter your heart, 
and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul. Discretion will protect you, and understanding will guard you.” Proverbs 2: 1-11.

We are supposed to look for wisdom as if it were a hidden treasure of great value. Like it’s the golden egg in the Easter egg hunts of our childhood. We are to search the scriptures and take it’s knowledge into our hearts. Then, if we walk blameless, not compromising what is right to get what we want, we will receive the protection God promises. And with that will come the understanding we are looking for.

If I am honest, I wanted to eat lunch more than I wanted to help that guy out. I saw a quick easy solution to both of our problems when I passed him off to someone else. But I failed to use Godly wisdom. Did I turn my back on the guy? Not really. Technically, I didn’t. But had I used Godly wisdom I would have known for sure that he was helped, and I would have received that pleasantness in my soul the writer of Proverbs is talking about.

The Reluctant Hiker

I’ve just arrived home from a long weekend in the mountains of Georgia.

We discovered a great little place over there called Big Canoe about an hour or so north of Atlanta last spring. We liked it well enough to go back for the great autumn leaf display. I wasn’t aware that Georgia had such tall mountains. Big Canoe is great for folks who like hiking, fishing, boating, and well, more hiking. It’s in my husband’s blood to do all those things. He grew up in Tennessee like his father before him, and will always have a sweet spot in his heart for all things mountainy.

I did not grow up in Tennessee and have had to acquire a taste for these mountainy things. It was either that or get left behind. I do really like the scenery, and our little mountain cabin was just big enough to hold us and just nice enough that I didn’t feel like I was really roughing it.

We motored around a huge man-made lake the first day in a pontoon boat trying to catch our supper. We marveled that a lake that large and beautiful could be man-made. We couldn’t help but look with envy upon the beautiful homes that had been built there by folks who do who knows what for a living. Some of those homes were four stories high, built into the side of the mountain, overlooking the lake. More than once was I guilty of coveting those homes. We saw many things, but no fish that day. I was glad for the chili I had made and brought with us!

Day two was the kicker.

It was the day they decided to go

hiking

I say, “they” because I would never on my own make that decision. I am a reluctant hiker. The very word itself implies blood, sweat, and tears. Not to mention, dirt, bugs, and aching feet. But I wanted to be a good sport, so I agreed to go. It really wasn’t too bad. At first. It wasn’t too hot, or too cold. No mosquitoes in sight. Just beautiful leaves and the quietness of nature.

Then the trail turned upward, I found myself at the rear end of our party, and in real need of oxygen and an escalator. Our goal was a waterfall at the top of the trail, and with each step my desire to reach that goal lessened. But I looked up and suddenly my husband was in front of me cheering me on, that, and making fun of me. Both worked to get me to the top of the trail, and to some much needed water.

The way back down the mountain was much easier. I kept up with the group better, and could hear my father-in-law teaching us lessons about our surroundings and all the things along the trail.

He showed us how you can use the stem of a sweet gum tree for a toothbrush. He showed us a half eaten nut, and how the squirrel that had left half had known that it was poisoned and to leave it be. He pealed an acorn, had us taste its bitterness, shared how the Indians used to grind up the acorns and used them in cooking.

I started gathering up acorns then. Not to grind up and eat, they were bitter, and that sounds like way too much work anyway. No, the acorns were really pretty colors. All the colors of the fall leaves around me. Some were brown, but some were yellow, green, or red. I thought, these would be great in a bowl at home. But as I packed my pockets full like a chipmunk, it occurred to me that everything needed to make a huge tree was in those little nuts. I know that’s not a new revelation, but as I walked among huge trees with beautiful foliage it was hard to deny the wonder of God’s creation.

The man-made things we had enjoyed the day before were certainly nice, but paled in comparison to what I was seeing on the trail.

God had made these huge trees from tiny acorns like the ones in my pockets. Each one unique. No two the same. They stretched up to the sky, pulling water up from the ground, soaking in sunlight for energy. Turning carbon dioxide into oxygen for me to breathe as I ambled past. I hiked along in the overwhelming quiet of the forest, the only sound was the sound of my feet hitting the trail, and I appreciated all over again the power and majesty of my God.

Send Anxiety Packing

Anxiety is not my friend, but I seem to spend more time with it than I spend with friends sometimes. When asked to describe myself, I’ll usually say that I am a pretty easy going, laid back sort of person. I don’t usually take leaps off into the deep end of “nutsy-coo-coo” at a moment’s notice. But this week I look down and see that I am stepping right up to the edge of

“totally stressed out”

Do you know what that feels like? For those of you who say, “Nope, have no idea”, you’re either not being honest, or you’re living a much too banal life.

(Ba-nal: So lacking in originality as to be obvious and boring.)

I have friends who are much different from me. They live a very ordered life. A predictable life. They are great planners and live by schedules and lists. But, should anything mess up the plan, they are thrown into a tailspin. I joke with those friends, and tell them that people like me who tend to fly by the seat of their pants have a much more exciting life. It’s a sort of take it as it comes lifestyle. It’s never boring and certainly not BANAL.

But whether you are a planner or a fly-by-the-seater, anxiety can really get you all twisted up inside. I happen to have a good bit on my plate this week. Lots of activities and plans. Things that need my attention. I am so pressed this week that I have resorted to making lists. When a fly-by-the-seater takes to making lists, it’s got to be bad.

So how do we meet this Anxiety head on? How do we sweep it right out of our lives? I think what we must do first is recognize it for what it is. It’s an idol, and it loves to take control of our lives.

When we look at all we have to do, and feel the stress levels going up its time to recheck where our focus is. More often than not, if we do, we will see that our focus has shifted away from God and onto our circumstances.

Probably my favorite Bible personality is Peter.
Peter made friends with Anxiety, too, from time to time. My favorite part of Peter’s story is when he stepped out of that boat to meet Jesus on the water. Peter had great faith. He never would have set one foot out of that boat if he had not believed full well that Jesus could meet his need and hold him up out of the water. And of course, he was right. It wasn’t until Anxiety took him over that Peter freaked out over his circumstances.

It wasn’t until Anxiety overwhelmed him that he began to sink. Peter lost his focus. But Peter wasn’t completely sunk. He remembered his great faith, and in the midst of his anxiety shifted his focus back to Jesus, crying out to the only one who could help.

I have so much to do today. More, really, than I can accomplish in the hours I have to do it. But those are my plans. And those are stressing me out. I think what I am going to do is what Peter did. I’m going to shift my focus back, and let Jesus help me. I’m giving Him my day, my plans, and I am going to leave it all there.

How about you?

I’m going to tell Him to look at all I have to do today, but then I am going to tell Him that my day belongs to Him. I’m going to let Him order my day. I’m going to follow His plan for my day. And you know what?

I think I just heard Anxiety hit the road….

Hello to Almost-Adulthood

My daughter turned thirteen last week. Turning thirteen is a big deal. It’s an official wave goodbye to childhood and a great big-

hello

-to almost-adulthood. We don’t place a lot of fanfare around birthdays generally in our family. However, as each of our children has turned thirteen in turn, we celebrate this passage into teen-dom with a special trip designed just for them and their interests. The fun thing is, they don’t get any details about their trip until they are on the plane. Their destination is a closely guarded secret until that time.

Because my husband is a much more adventurous traveler, we have designated him as trip parent. Oh, I could do it, I guess, but I do believe the kids would generally have more fun with him. He’s so much better at navigating airports, securing rental cars, and finding the hotels. Not to mention chasing after adventure.

He has found that traveling with a new teen can be challenging.

Regardless of gender, thirteen-year-olds tend to be temperamentally unpredictable. They are also easily embarrassed, and often self absorbed, all of which serve to frustrate the travel parent.

Yet as we venture into teen-dom for the third time, we know that all of this is temporary and shall, too, pass. Thank goodness. It’s hard not to wish it all away right now. Just like I wished away those early sleepless nights full of feedings and diaper changes, or the temper tantrums of the preschool era. Then came the elementary school years full of science projects, spelling tests, and fractions. I couldn’t wait for middle school, until it came. Middle school gives new meaning to social awkwardness.

Now that three of my four kids are surfing through their teen years, I am holding ever tighter to my last child. I find that while I still don’t enjoy spelling tests or fractions, I don’t want to wish the time away. I want to savor every moment.

Each stage of parenting and child-rearing has it own frustrations, but they also hold their own joys. As parents we have to learn to live in the moment and realize that one day we’ll be empty nesters shuffling around an empty house looking for someone’s meat to cut up.

Motherhood has been my greatest blessing. My children are my most prized gifts. Yet I know that they have been given to me for only a short time. One day soon, they’ll fly away to pursue the path God has laid out for them. I can almost hear that clock ticking. On the one hand it saddens me, but on the other hand I am excited to see them soar and be all that God intends for them to be.

So whether our children are riding a bouncy seat, tricycle, bicycle or driving a car, we must relish every moment we are given as parents.

Let us pray for wisdom as we carry out this most precious assignment. Pray that God fixes all that we’ve managed to mess up today (He certainly can!), and that He gives us the ability to do better tomorrow. (He can do that, too…)