Family Life

Love Lessons

It was one of those days, where I felt like no matter which way I turned, I was hitting a wall. There seemed to be obstacles everywhere that kept me from going where I wanted to go and doing what I wanted to do. There were challenges with my children: it seemed my voice could not be heard, my directives could not be understood, and my efforts could not be appreciated. So, our homeschool day ended on a sour note. The pity party began.

I give, give, give to this family and get nothing in return.

So, here is where The Lord took me in the midst of my complaining.

“… train the young women to love their husbands and children” (Titus 2:4)

But I do love them, my heart would protest. It is apparent in the time, energy, efforts, and sleep that I sacrifice for them. I am practicing sacrificial (agape) love for them. And, I know I’m not alone in this. Without a doubt, many wives and mothers love their families in this way.

But the Titus verse is a command for women, not to agape love, but to phileo love, meaning to love with affection.

I have been so busy loving my family with sacrifice, I have failed to love them with affection.

My love falls short.

On his way home from work, my husband called, “Let’s take the kids to the park.” My first thought was to respond, “You can take them. I have other things to do.” I looked at the kids, and they were playing happily together on the floor. They don’t have to go to the park; they’re just fine over there. How could I possibly take any time to go out and play with them when the sink was full of dishes, dinner had to be prepared, and the tower of laundry was about to topple over? Thank The Lord for holding my tongue.

We went to the park. I pushed my 2-year-old on the swing while we sang one of his favorite nursery rhymes together. I watched with delight at my 5-year-old boy climb up the hill, diligently looking for the best rocks for his collection. I hugged and kissed my only daughter after she fell and scraped her knee and then ran off to play again. And, I supported Gabriel’s legs as he excitedly swung his arms across the monkey bars.

Before this day, I was missing out on a lot by not phileo loving my children. Praise The Lord that in His kindness, He didn’t let me miss out this time.

Family Life, Savoring Simple Moments, Trusting God

The Day He Rode Without Training Wheels

“Mommy, I did it! I rode my bike!” Though I could not see his face, the enthusiasm in my son’s voice came through loud and clear over the phone. Doctors had told us early on that delays in Gabriel’s speech development could also mean delays in other areas, such as motor skills. Play dates at the park confirmed this, as I watched my son struggle to climb the jungle gym, while his younger sister whizzed passed him. Eventually, he improved, and he could climb as well as any 8-year-old. But, one thing that he was still not able to do was ride his bike without training wheels.

Even as a preschooler, he had a difficult time riding his tricycle, preferring to move that thing around with his feet, like the Flintstones. Graduating to a bicycle was another huge hurdle for Gabriel to overcome, but training wheels gave him confidence. He had the biggest bike with training wheels at the park, and I wondered if we would ever be able to remove them.

DSC_0010.JPGYesterday, my husband took him out to go bike riding. By God’s providence, one of the training wheels came off as he was riding. My husband decided to leave it off and encouraged our son to keep riding. When he could tell that Gabriel’s confidence was growing, my husband told him, “Son, I’m going to remove the other wheel. Just give it a try.” After a few minor falls, Gabriel was riding around the parking lot with no training wheels. A couple of bystanders watched and cheered on both father and son. One of them, an older gentleman, said to my husband, “Now that’s something to remember!” And after that parking lot ride, I received the phone call from Gabriel. I wish I could’ve recorded his voice and play it back for you all to hear. He was gushing with excitement. I could not contain the tears of joy, for Gabriel’s accomplishment reached deep into my heart.

I’m just like Gabriel. Timid, anxious, and afraid to fall. I want my training wheels because they keep me steady, but God knows when to remove them. He will keep me steady. And as I entrust myself to Him, I will discover that all along, He has always been holding me up.

 

(Photo credit 1: Lotus Carroll)
(Photo credit 2: billjank)

Trusting God

On Cliff’s Edge

edge of cliff aheadIn your pilgrim’s journey, do you sometimes sense you are constantly walking on a path that will lead to your end? Do you feel helpless, hopeless, and alone? And you wonder, why is God leading me here?

I read some encouraging verses the other day, and God comforted my heart. It is too good not to share. We are all going through something, aren’t we? A difficult marriage, rebellious children, a friend’s betrayal, failing health, financial problems, and the list goes on.

On the Edge of a Tafoni Cliff

Whatever your circumstances may be, do you feel like your toes are hanging over the edge of the cliff that even the slightest breeze can bring you down? What is holding you up? Or rather, who is holding you up?

“When I thought, ‘My foot slips,’
your steadfast love, O LORD, held me up.
When the cares of my heart are many,
your consolations cheer my soul.”
(Psalm 94:18-19)

 

Photo credit 1: tbone_sandwich
Photo credit 2: Orin Zebest

Heaven, Prayer & Devotion

Raised Imperishable

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About a year and a half ago, my dear aunt ended her battle with cancer and walked in victory with her Savior in heaven. I still think of her often. At family gatherings, her presence is surely missed. Even when the cancer and the treatments left her physically weak, she would still show up at those gatherings, usually laying down on the couch, but greeting everyone with her sweet smile. I remember one particular day, we spent hours talking about many things … about how she wants to spend every day given to her for the glory of God … about facing her fears when she went in for treatment … about how The Lord has comforted her through this trial … about the opportunities she was given to testify of Jesus Christ to the nurses who took care of her. She also expressed her desire to witness her only son get married, but she fought back the tears, realizing this dream would likely not come to be.

Recently, my son Gabriel asked my uncle about her, “Where’s Grandma?” “She’s in heaven,” my uncle replied. Gabriel continued, “Do you have her glasses? Does she need her glasses?”

“No, she doesn’t need her glasses there. She’s perfect.”

Towards the end of her earthly life, the cancer drained her of the outward brightness she always displayed to others. During what was our last visit with her, she no longer had a smile outwardly, but that sweetness that could only come from the love of Jesus, was still there. She couldn’t talk and could barely move, but she still managed to have enough strength to reach for a small box of crackers next to her bed so that she could offer a snack to our kids.

When she finally went home to be with The Lord, there was sadness, of course. But joy filled my heart at the thought of her, sitting at the feet of Jesus and worshipping Him, completely cancer-free!

“Somewhere in my broken, paralyzed body is the seed of what I shall become. The paralysis makes what I am to become all the more grand when you contrast atrophied, useless legs against splendorous resurrected legs. I’m convinced that if there are mirrors in heaven (and why not?), the image I’ll see will be unmistakably ‘Joni,’ although a much better, brighter Joni.” ~ Joni Eareckson Tada, who was paralyzed after a diving accident over 45 years ago [Heaven: Your Real Home (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1995), p. 39.]

Prayer & Devotion

Let Your Words Be Few

Word Balloon Frame 01: Cut UpIn my last post, I shared about the need to be watchful in how we use our words towards others. Words uttered in carelessness serve only to hurt and divide.

But I have noticed something else about myself. Negligence in my speech towards other people eventually flows down to my communication with The Lord. When I pray, I am less inclined to praise and adore Him and more prone to doubt and complaint. I don’t know about you but when I have a complaining heart, my words multiply.

“Be not rash with your mouth, nor let your heart be hasty to utter a word before God, for God is in heaven and you are on earth. Therefore let your words be few.” (Ecclesiastes 5:2)

Even before The Lord, we must be slow to speak. Pause and consider who you are and who He is. Our sinful heart would keep us from approaching Him if not for the righteousness of Christ imputed to us. This ready access which we have been graciously given ought not to be taken for granted. Precious blood marks the path through the Holy Place, past the torn veil, and into the Holy of Holies before God Himself. What will you say to Him?

Look at Isaiah’s response when he received a vision of The Lord sitting on His throne.

“Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!” (Isaiah 6:5)

I’m afraid that I sometimes take too lightly my sinfulness and think even less of His holiness. I have certainly regretted many words spoken out of anger or bitterness to my husband and children. But, my heart is grieved even more at the words of doubt and unbelief that I have spoken to God Himself. The only thing that keeps me from being paralyzed by my past sins is His amazing gift of forgiveness.

May we learn to sit in silence before rushing into prayer. May we relish the quiet meditations of our hearts before beginning to speak. May we be still with reflections of His character before uttering one word.

Then, we can proclaim, “O Lord, how great Thou art!”

 

(Photo credit: heath_bar)

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Coping with the Challenges, Family Life

Guard My Mouth

Since he was a toddler, Gabriel’s world consisted of a great deal of repetition. When he was diagnosed at 3 years old with a speech and language disorder, one of the most common manifestations was what professionals called echolalia. If you greeted him with “Hi, Gabriel, how are you today?”, my little parrot would reply, “Hi, Gabriel, how are you today?” Many children engage in this sort of behavior, but they soon grow out of it once they are able to get a handle on communicating more independently. Advised by the speech therapist not to discourage the echolalia, we allowed the repeating to help Gabriel process information before he was ready to respond appropriately.

Though there were still significant delays in his development, he progressed. As predicted, he gained some proficiency in everyday conversation, and the echolalia began to disappear. Well, not completely.

Today he will still repeat, but not during conversations. He is selective and will focus on a certain sound or phrase he hears and repeat it, almost without thinking. His choice, however, seems to almost always be his sister. Is this intentional? I don’t know. But, imagine the child who plays that cruel game of repeating-everything-she-says. “Stop copying me.” “Stop copying me.” “I’m going to tell Mommy.” “I’m going to tell Mommy.” But in this case, Gabriel is not trying to play a game.

silenceAs you can imagine, homeschool has been quite challenging for both of them because he is mimicking every word and sound his sister makes. But I could tell this is just as frustrating for him. One day, he came up to me and said, “Mommy, could you just put tape on my mouth and I will stop copying my sister?”

How many times have I approached God the Father with a similar request? “God, please put a guard over my mouth. Let my words be a blessing, not a curse, to others.” We have been warned that the tongue is more difficult to tame than the fiercest animal. Oh, how true that is!

There have been so many careless words that have spewed from my mouth, mostly directed towards those dearest to me … my husband and children. No amount of remorse can give me back that time and allow me to take back those hurtful words. And many of us know how much deeper the cuts of unkind words are because we have both inflicted and received them.

“When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent.” (Proverbs 10:19)

“Could you just put tape on my mouth?” Oh, I wish it was that easy both for me and my son. With our mouths, God has given us an amazing privilege of blessing, encouraging, and edifying others. Tight lips would forfeit that privilege. So, our wise Father gives us some very practical instruction concerning godly speech. Less is more. With fewer words, we can be more intentional with them … only speaking when there is real purpose and only saying what is truly needed.

Let us exercise great care in choosing our words. May our words leave behind, not an intolerable stench, but a lasting, fragrant aroma of blessing.

 

(Photo credit: RebeccaBarray)

Coping with the Challenges, Trusting God

The Fight to Worship

SooMee and AndyWe sat down during worship service, and Gabriel was fidgety as usual. With a song sheet in hand, his dad tried to get him to focus on something by inviting him to follow along the lyrics during the congregational singing. This worked last week. This Sunday was a different story. He didn’t want to sing, but he sat there quietly enough that we let him be. When the sermon began, he decided he wanted to sing after all. This didn’t surprise us. Often, Gabriel will do this. He will want to go back to something he had originally turned down long after the activity had already passed. Do-over’s aren’t always possible, as in this situation, and it can sometimes be extremely difficult to help Gabriel move on.

So, for the first 15 minutes of the sermon, my husband tried to explain to Gabriel that he needed to proceed to the next thing. I bowed my head in prayer, painfully aware that my son’s anxiety was beginning to rise to a level that could very well explode. I tried not think of the people sitting around us, who I’m sure could tell of the conflict that was taking place. My mind was spinning, and try as I may, I could not understand a word my pastor was saying. Why did this have to happen now? I thought. Spiritual battles don’t necessarily happen in the dark, secret corners of your house. For me, it was happening right in the middle of a worship service.

Then, all of a sudden, as if The Lord flicked a switch in my son’s mind, he stopped completely, opened his notebook and started doodling as if the quiet argument never happened. Eventually, The Lord calmed my heart and began draw me into His Word.

Before the service ended, we sang one last song.

And right now
In the good times and bad
You are on Your throne
You are God alone

Drowning in an ocean of despair, God displayed a bright ray of hope to me. He is there sitting on His throne. He is still in control. I cannot begin to go the depths of all of God’s purposes for allowing that small battle to occur. Could He not keep Gabriel’s mind from going back and forth? Why did He not give us complete, undistracted time from the beginning? We were, after all, there to worship. I can’t tell you all the reasons why God presented us with this obstacle. But, I will tell you this … in the end, He brought me to worship. And, when I closed my eyes to sing that last song, my heart wrapped around every word.

“You are on Your throne.”

 

(Photo credit: quinn.anya)

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Heaven, Prayer & Devotion

The Believer’s New Clothes

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Last week, when we had barely begun school, my son Gabriel began to complain that his stomach hurts. I thought, Sure, it hurts. It didn’t hurt a few minutes ago before we cracked open our books. Now I don’t want you to think I’m an insensitive mother. Any parent can testify that children can get pretty creative with their complaints if it means getting out of something like school. I pressed him to continue his work, while, at the same time, observing his behavior concerning his alleged pain. Well, it wasn’t long before the complaining intensified, so I excused Gabriel from the rest of his school work. For the remainder of the day, he was planted on the couch, with a cup of water and a vomit bowl next to him.

The next day, I didn’t want to take any chances. The thought of him throwing up all over his school books was enough for me to announce a non-student day. Gabriel was certainly happy about not having to do school, but though he still felt weak, he wanted to change out of his pajamas. Thinking he would be more comfortable in his PJ’s, I told him to wait. I know when I’m sick, I want to live in my pajamas and curl up under my blanket. But Gabriel insisted because for him, pajamas are for night time only. It was a new day, and it was time to change into new clothes.

Princess Diana's Wedding dress, 1981One day, we will awaken to a new day, when we will forever cast off our old clothes of flesh completely. No more fight with sin. No more war waging within. Free at long last from this body of death. Our filthy rags of this life will be no more, and we will be arrayed in white robes, not made with hands. The finest clothes worn by kings and queens cannot compare with our new garments in heaven. Fellow believers, one fine day, we will be royally dressed because of the sacrifice of Christ.

“They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” (Revelation 7:14)

But as we wait, we need not despair. For even now, if you have received Jesus as your Lord and Savior, you are already covered with His righteousness. We may battle with our flesh day in and day out, but we can be confident that the work to redeem us from our slavery to sin was finished on the cross. And when we finally see Him face to face, our transformation will be complete.

“Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.” (1 John 3:2)

 

(Photo credit: thefoxling)

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Savoring Simple Moments

Strum

Ukulele 102About 6 years ago, my in-laws came back from a vacation in Hawaii with a special gift for Gabriel, a deep brown, shiny ukulele. At the time, Gabriel was only 2 years old, but it was his grandpa’s desire that he would, one day, learn how to play that beautiful instrument. Of course, at the peak of his Terrible Two’s stage, he was interested in playing with the uke but not exactly as it was intended to be handled. Today, he still likes this stringed instrument but may not be ready to sit through lessons. He prefers to rock out his own way. 🙂

Thanks to those fine people who post tutorials on You Tube, my husband has learned to play the ukulele a bit. Perhaps, after watching his dad play, it may capture Gabriel’s interest enough to want to learn how to play.

Here’s a video that features two of Gabriel’s favorites: the ukulele and Steven Curtis Chapman. Happy Friday and remember to savor the simple moments in life!

 

 

(Photo credit: Edwin M Escobar)

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Prayer & Devotion, Trusting God

Don’t Just Pray … Pray Believing

cold prayerThis past Sunday, my pastor exhorted us to trust God to provide for our needs and to pray in faith. Sometimes, my prayers are weak and feeble, filled with doubt. Do I pray, believing that God can truly answer, even when my circumstances seem bleak and hopeless?

A year and a half ago, my husband and I were given an opportunity to trust God more and pray in faith. He accepted a job, where he worked from home, which seemed to be a good thing at first. But, we soon came to realize that this job required him to be at his computer 20 hours a day, and the remaining 4 hours was spent getting some needed sleep. Time with family and ministry suffered. And, we knew something had to be done. In faith, my husband quit his job. During those months without any income, we still ate and paid all our bills. The numbers didn’t add up, of course, and at the end of the day, our stomachs and hearts were fully satisfied. The Lord still miraculously multiplies loaves and fish today.

So, why is it still hard for me sometimes to pray big when I have a big God who will answer beyond what I can even ask or think? He has done it before for my family during our time of unemployment. He has not changed. He is still faithful.

20140304-215019.jpgSunday’s sermon was exactly what I needed to hear. My pastor shared a story of faithful, courageous prayer … a story that is worth hearing over and over again. It is of George Müller. He had been entrusted by The Lord to run an orphanage in England in the 1800s. During his lifetime, he cared for over 10,000 children.

One particular morning, the children gathered together in the dining room as usual for breakfast, and George Müller thanked God for the food that He will provide. You see, on that morning, when he prayed, the children stared at empty plates. There was no food. But George Müller prayed, believing in God, his Provider.

Only minutes after he finished praying, there was a knock on the door. It was the baker. “Mr. Müller,” he said, “last night I could not sleep. Somehow I knew that you would need bread this morning. I got up and baked three batches for you. I will bring it in.”

Soon after, another knock on the door, and this time, it was the milkman with a broken cart right in front of the orphanage. Unable to fix his cart and not wanting all the milk to spoil, he asked George Müller if he could use some free milk.

That day, about 300 children were fed. That day, God answered prayer. And He still does it today.

“Faith does not operate in the realm of the possible. There is no glory for God in that which is humanly possible. Faith begins where man’s power ends.” –George Müller

 

(Photo credit 1: Keith Riley-Whittingham)
(Photo credit 2: Wikimedia Commons)

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