Category Archives: Life Stories

A Good Helper is a Good Listener

My older kids are 7 and 4, so they are in the prime age to be little helpers. They LOVE to help! But as anyone knows who has been helped by a young child, “help” is a relative term. Even though sometimes allowing my children to help me means the job will be slower for me, I want to honor their desire to help and to learn. So I find ways to allow them into the process of whatever I’m doing.

Because we believe in teaching personal responsibility and family teamwork at a young age, our children have weekly chores. (I could write an entire post on the benefits of chores!) One of Sophie’s jobs that she loves to do is to be the dinner helper. When I’m getting ready to put dinner on the table, Sophie’s job is to make sure the table is cleaned off of all toys and craft supplies, and then she can begin helping me with getting dinner on the table. She’s usually very eager to do the second part of this process, but very resistant to doing the first part. She doesn’t want to clear off the table and put away her toys. This week, this conundrum resulted in a meltdown. She didn’t get to help with putting dinner on the table, because she was still engaged in the first task of putting toys away, because she didn’t get to it when I asked her to. Sophie was devastated that she didn’t get to help in the way she wanted.

Again the next day she was eager to help me with a load of laundry I was folding and putting away. I gave her a task to do, but she didn’t want to do that particular part of the job (putting away the clothes which were hers from the load). Instead, she wanted to take one bath towel to put away. Given that she can’t reach where the bath towels are kept, and that there were several other linen closet items, I resisted her request to do this task. While I continued folding the remainder of the laundry, she argued with me about how she was going to help.

“But I want to put the towel away” she whined.

“I asked you to put your items away” I reminded her.

“But I want to put this towel away too” she replied.

“Ok, thats fine, but you haven’t done the first thing I asked you to do yet.”

“But I want to help with this towel” she persisted.

I’m sure you can see how this played out. She argued with me so long that again, she didn’t get to help at all. I finished folding and gathered up all the other items and put them away. This really set her off. And since it was almost time to leave for school, the conversation continued into the car.

“Why didn’t I get to help with the laundry this morning?”

“Because Sophie, when you are a helper, you do what the boss asks you to do. Helping isn’t done through doing whatever it is that you want to do. It’s done by doing what you’re asked to do. Sometimes what you want to do isn’t the most helpful thing or even the thing that needs done or even something that you are able to do. If you truly want to help someone, you have to do whatever it is that they need you to do.”

And I finished with a line that my children probably could say in their sleep: “A good helper is a good listener.”

Since I was already on my soapbox, and since the Holy Spirit was nudging me yet again through my own words, I carried on in our morning prayer. “Lord, help us to be good helpers to you today. Help us to do not just whatever it is that we may want to do, but help us to listen so that we can know what it is that you need us to do. Help us to be good helpers who listen and do what you’re asking instead of just what we want.”

This conversation really impacted me. How many times do I ask God what he needs and then just charge ahead with whatever I want to do anyways? This is exactly what my children, particularly Sophie, like to do when helping. I love that they have the desire to help, and I want to include them, but it would actually be helpful if they were listening to me and aiding me, instead of just doing their own thing.

If we’re honest, we all could probably improve upon our listening. If we took a closer look, I’m sure we would all find instances where we asked God how we could help, but then we did what we wanted instead. And maybe that wasn’t the thing that He needed done the most. Maybe we missed out on truly helping because we were too busy throwing a fit about what we wanted to do when he asked us to do something else. Like children who want to help a parent, we all need to remember that a good helper is a good listener.

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A Thanksgiving Story: Chutes and Ladders

One of my favorite times with my son Micah these days is our afternoon time when Hannah is napping and Sophie is still at school. It’s our special time of day where we get to be together just the two of us. As the middle child, he really needs that time. Sometimes we bake together. He loves to help. And sometimes we’ll play cars, or blocks, or hide and seek. But most often Micah will ask me to play a game. He’s just getting to the age where he understands games well, and I think he perceives that I enjoy games, too.

Recently, I decided he was ready for Chutes and Ladders. It’s a bit more complex than Candy Land or Memory, but he picked it up quickly. He also quickly picked up how to cheat. If he could see a ladder ahead, he would jump two squares while only counting one number so that he could get ahead. Or, he’d count a square twice if he realized he was going to end up going down a chute. The only problem is that all his attempts to control the game didn’t always lead to him succeeding overall, or even in the very next turn. He’d try to manipulate one turn to avoid a chute or gain a ladder, only to end up at another chute on the next turn, because of the square he jumped on the previous turn. Micah quickly became so focused on controlling the game — avoiding the chutes and finding the ladders in the game — that he ceased to enjoy the play. We stopped in the middle of one of our games to talk about this. I explained how his attempts to control his game weren’t really helping, and they were just causing him to not enjoy playing. When he quit worrying about controlling his every move on the board, he was able to return to enjoying it, even if he did have to go down a few chutes. He learned that those few chutes didn’t determine the outcome of the game, nor how much he enjoyed the game.

Isn’t that just like life? Maybe it’s just me. I know that I have spent large amounts of time trying to control each detail of my life to work out “just right,” or worrying about each detail that feels out of control. But then the next turn, despite my careful efforts to control it all, I just ended up going down that darn chute. We can waste a lot of energy and thought worrying about things we can’t control anyways so much that we don’t enjoy life. Those things don’t control the outcome for us either. But we are quick to lose sight of that. In the face of a job loss, a diagnosis, an addiction, an illness, a death, we can sometimes lose sight of the fact that it will all be ok in the end. I’m not saying that we must enjoy always the chutes of life. There are moments of deep grief and pain that must be endured. But we can’t allow those to rob us of our foresight of the outcome, or of our joy at playing the game either.

Sophie’s autism diagnosis has been hard for me. Really hard. But I’m learning that I can’t let that steal my joy. There’s still a whole lot to enjoy about this game, even though it looks different than I anticipated. This week in response to my pastor’s message on giving thanks, I recounted the different things I had to be thankful for specifically because of autism, that I would never have been blessed by without this diagnosis.

There are people I have gotten to know who I would never have known. Many of them. And I am so thankful for each one. Multiple speech therapists whom I will always tear up when I think of, because they literally gave my child her voice. Patient, kind and gracious educational aides who have helped Sophie with tasks that no one but her mother should have to do. Teachers who have loved my little girl like their own, who have rejoiced at each hurdle she overcame. Little friends who taught this grown up about true friendship. I tried to imagine what my life would be like if I didn’t know these people or hold these memories of them. It felt barren. These people have brought a richness to my life that I would otherwise not know.

And there are also so many lessons I have learned, ways that my faith has grown, because of this diagnosis. I have learned to live in today, and not the future. I have learned to trust in a deeper way. I have overcome fears. I have developed faith-filled friendships, some where I have walked before another mama going through this, and some where I have walked behind another wiser mama. I have learned to lighten up, and learned to be more patient. So while I may continue to rage at the brokenness of our world, I find that I can also be thankful to my God who is always “working all things for the good of those who love him who are called according to his purpose.” Even for autism.

Whatever your chute is, can you trust Him enough to say thank you and trust anyways? Can you grab ahold of your blessings and your joy in spite of the bitterness of the slide? Thankfulness is a choice. It is an exercise in faith. It is a very good place to begin if you’ve lost your joy of the game for the chutes you’ve tried to control but had to slide anyways.

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A Love Song

Life has been heavy lately.

I don’t have much wisdom to share about dealing with grief and loss. It’s been two months since I lost my friend, and I still sometimes feel at a loss as to how to move forward, or to process that she’s gone. I still wonder daily, “will I always feel sad?” The answer is probably, yes, I will always feel sad when I think of the loss of my dear friend. But, as another friend reminded me, to not feel sad over such a loss would be far worse. Grief and loss are just hard. Plain and simple. The only way I know to move through seasons like this is just one step at a time, one day at a time.

My hydrangea, in honor and memory of Chris. The plant I bought her for her birthday, one week before her accident.

Aside from the season I am currently experiencing, there was one other season in my life fraught with tragedy, loss, and grief. Three of my high school students drowned while on a missions trip. I think I cried every single day for at least a month. And I know that the loss I experienced then, and what I am experiencing now, don’t hold a candle to what some have lost. The tears go on for years, decades.

Our world is broken. And it sucks. Dementia, cancer, drownings, autism, car accidents, heart attacks. They were never part of the plan. It is because I believe that they were never part of the plan that I can continue to draw breath and walk through these seasons of loss. It is because I see a loving God as the lens for my circumstances, and not my circumstances to form a broken view of God, that I can continue to trust and walk forward in faith.

During this season of grief in my life, God has spoken one word over and over to me, and I realized that the word is the same this time as it was last time. And it is this: I love you.

In the midst of long sleepless nights waiting for my friend to take her final breath, I heard it over and over and over again: “the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God. Oh, it chases me down, fights til I’m found, leaves the 99.” As I tossed and turned in the bed, it was there, in. my. face. Seven years ago, I heard it in the words of my students’ favorite song (all were singers and musicians), “Oh, how he loves us so. Oh, how he loves us. How he loves us so.” I could not get this song out of my head. The Holy Spirit was insistent and relentless in his message of love to me, both then and now.

Why in times of loss is God reminding me of his love? The only conclusion that I can draw is that, like any good father, my Heavenly Father is comforting his dear child as she cries. When my children are afraid, or sad, or hurting, I often reassure them of my love. And when they have to go through scary things like shots or doctor appointments, I tell them that it’s ok, it’s for their good, even though it hurts for a bit. It’s because they know I love them that they can trust me and walk it out. Because I know my Father loves me, I know he’s working for good and for his glory. In my loss and hurt, he just wants me to know, “I love you.”

As I processed the similarities in these two seasons of grief, I was reminded of Zephaniah 3:17 where the prophet writes, “he will rejoice over you with singing; he will quiet you with his love.” I have felt his insistent love song in these seasons of sadness. My Father is there, singing over me, quieting me with his love.

If you are grieving today, friend, I pray that you will feel his love singing over you and quieting your soul as well. I pray that you will receive his love song, and that it will carry you through your loss. I pray that his loving presence will be all around you, through the sleepless nights, through the long sad days. And I pray that you and I both can keep heaven in our view, remembering that all our losses are temporary, and one day, all will be set right.

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Bitter Water

About a month ago I accepted a new job as the director of youth and children’s ministry at my church. I was (and am) humbled and delighted to be offered this job! I could say a lot about the process, because it could not have been more clear that this was what God had for me. But if I get off on that, it will totally hijack this other post I need to write…

My first week on the job, I contracted a wicked stomach virus that just would not leave me. So I was sick for the majority of my first week of work. The next Monday morning, I was excited to be feeling well and back at it. But when Tuesday rolled around, my world turned upside down.

My dear friend, neighbor, and my kids’ “granny” was in a bad car accident. She was taken to our major trauma hospital in the area and admitted to ICU with kidney failure, irregular heart rhythms, and numerous broken bones. Friends, in that moment when I heard that news, my world just stopped. I was overwhelmed with grief at the thought of losing this dear loved one. And, of course, after thoughts of her well-being, quickly followed thoughts of how in the world I was supposed to do my new job with Granny, my babysitter, laying in the hospital. For four long days, I did not know if she was going to live or die. Some of the worst moments of my life.

I remember waking up the morning after her accident, with everything feeling upside down, praying for her, asking God what in the world he was up to, and specifically praying, “God, I know you have something in mind here, so I need you to show me your thoughts. I know you have a thought about this, a direction that I should go. This didn’t surprise you. So reveal your thoughts to me.”

So we’ve been functioning now for two weeks without Granny. The first two weeks in six years that she hasn’t been by the watch the kids for a few hours, even if to just give mommy a much needed minute for sanity. It has been a strange two weeks. It has intensified the adjustment period for me, having added new job responsibilities, while losing a huge part of my support system. I cannot say that it has been the smoothest two weeks of my life. While I’m really enjoying the job, life has gotten crazy busy, and my children are with me 24/7. So all the mamas know what that’s like…. A special kind of blessing, honestly, it is.

And so this week I’m working away on all my Sunday school lessons, and the lesson for the junior high and high school is just the hottest mess. I use a curriculum, and I just tailor it to our needs, and usually it’s pretty spot on. But this lesson was just making me scratch my head and say “Wuuuttt?” And it was really frustrating. So I put it away and prayed for divine inspiration. And woldn’t you know, when I took it out today, that Holy Ghost just opened up my eyes.

The story we are studying is of the Israelites at Marah, where the water is bitter. In spite of all the miracles they’ve seen God do in the past few weeks of their lives, the Israelites begin to whine and complain that God isn’t providing for them. I read that, and I’m like, “Wuuuttt? Come on, guys! You just walked through the Red Sea on dry ground! I think God can help you with your water situation.” But they didn’t see it. So Moses, bless his soul, cries out to God for help. And God says, “ok, throw this tree into the water.” Say what now? How is that going to solve this problem? Good ol’ Moses doesn’t question, or if he does, he made the editorial choice to leave that part out when he wrote the book of Exodus. He just puts the tree into the water, and BOOM! sweet water!

So here’s how God hits me between the eyes with this: “What are you going to do, Catherine, when I serve up bitter water for you? Are you going to complain and gripe and be frustrated that your life is less convenient now? Or are you going to choose to obey, whatever craziness that may look like? Are you EXPECTING me to move or not?”

See, I started out pretty good right after the accident, asking God for his thoughts and all, but the living it out, that is the tough part. Even though my church family and friends have come together in amazing and beautiful ways to support my family, the fact that my friend and my babysitter is laying in the hospital with a very long long road to recovery still stinks. We miss her. Our lives are actually less without her, if you know what I mean. She added to our lives in a very sweet and unique way. This loss, however temporary, is a firsthand taste of some bitter water.

The brokenness of this world stinks. It meets us every day in the ways we sin and fall short and in the ways that others sin against us. Our friendships break down. Our families break down. Our health breaks down. And eventually, our hearts break down along with these things. Bitter water. It’s everywhere in this life. So the question is, what are we going to do with our bitter water? Are we looking for God, expecting him to move? Or are we wallowing in self-pity and frustration?

I think I’m going to look back on the faithfulness of my God and trust and remember that he has still got a plan, and he is still good. Even in the bitterness of this loss, I will look for sweetness. I will look for the miraculous. I know it’s there. I see it in the ways others are stepping up to care for us. I see it in Granny’s slow but steady healing. And I know I’ll see it in other ways as I continue to look.

 

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Green Beans on Cake

It is 10:30 AM. Today they are giving me a run for my money. (Let’s be honest, every day they give me a run for my money.) I have already lost count of the meltdowns and timeouts we’ve had this morning. It’s a green beans on cake kind of season around here with my older two children.

Micah precociously tells Sophie, “No, you’re not allowed to do that.”

Sophie shouts, “Micah! Go AWAY!” swinging her arms (and her toys) around wildly trying to remove his presence from her space.

… And the yelling continues ….

OR

Sophie tells Micah, “You’re going to wear this shirt today.”

Micah dissolves into a puddle of angry tears on the floor because he wanted to pick his own shirt.

Can somebody please just take a chill pill? Yikes.

These are the cringe-worthy moments that my days are made of right now! They’re just kids being kids, but I happen to believe it’s my job to train them up in the way they should go, and green beans on cake is NOT the way to go…

So we use this saying on a daily basis. “Don’t put green beans on your cake.”

Here’s how it began —

One day when Micah was spouting off some kind of attitude towards me and his sister Sophie, I exclaimed, “Micah, stop that, it’s just ugly!”

He was very offended, because already at three he wants to look good. “Mom, don’t call me ugly. That’s not nice.” He was truly hurt when he thought I was calling him ugly.

So I explained, “Micah, you are not ugly at all. You are a wonderful boy with so many good qualities, but when you have this bad attitude, it looks ugly on you. It ruins the good you. It’s like putting green beans on cake!”

That really got his attention! “Green beans on cake, Mom?! That’s disgusting!”

“Yes, it is. That would be so gross! It would mess the cake all up. And that’s what your attitude does to you. God made you to be a wonderful little boy who is kind and funny and smart! But when you have this attitude, you’re putting green beans on your cake.”

Suddenly it was crystal clear to him what I was saying. He realized to some degree that his sinful choices are not a reflection of who he truly is, but they are a distortion of who God created him to be. This vivid, disgusting image helps my children understand what their sin does to their souls.

And it helps me too. Sometimes they’ll even say it to me, “Mom, that’s green beans on cake when you say that.” And sometimes they’re right. We all put green beans on our cake now and then. But now all we need to do is lovingly remind each other when we’re starting to load the cake up with beans and it helps diffuse the situation, remind us that we’re not being the best version of ourselves, the one we were created to be.

So we soldier on, through these years when the children are each other’s best friend and worst enemy from moment to moment. I know I’m going to blink and it will be in the past. I won’t mind if I forget the fighting and the meltdowns, but I hope I remember our phrase, green beans on cake, because I don’t want to lose sight of what my sin does to my soul. I want to be the best version of myself that I can possibly be on this earth.

And  I hope that my kids will remember it too as they grow, so that when they are teenagers walking through school hallways, they will be kind, they will reach out to the lonely. When they start their first job, they’ll be a light for Jesus because their lives look different. When they go out into this broken world, they’ll have something to offer, something sweet like cake, that leaves others feeling uplifted instead of grossed out.

At the center of my job as a mother is the responsibility to teach my kids to know and to be like Jesus. Many days that feels like the impossible dream. But I know it’s not. Because we have the good moments too, where we’re talking at breakfast about Easter and they’re talking about how Jesus died on the cross for them, and rose again, and is coming back to take them to heaven because they have Jesus in their hearts. Some moments it’s just pure sweet cake.

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Two Moms Sat in a Parking Lot

Two moms sat in grocery store parking lots. A few miles separated them. But as they sat in their minivans talking on the phone, their hearts were close. These moms were having terrible mornings. One mom was awakened at 4:45 by the baby, who was grouchy all morning. Her other two kids fought like cats and dogs. She dropped an egg on the floor, her makeup in the wet sink, and a laundry basket, which took part of her thumb with it. The other mom was tired of being sassed by her pre-teen son, while being told, “I hate you,” by her little girl. She was weary of arguing, weary of disrespect. Both of these moms felt like they were sinking. Both of these moms felt powerless to change their homes. And both of these moms felt like failures, like it was somehow all their fault that their children were so screwed up.

But as these moms talked and shared their hearts with each other, they could hear the nonsense in each other’s heartbreak of “What did I do to screw this all up?” and “I feel like such a failure.” Because these moms knew that their dear sweet sister in Christ had done nothing to screw up her children, and that she was not a failure.

And as they talked, the settled on the real source of the problem: The Enemy of their souls.

He was the one messing with their families. He was the one making them blame themselves for everything. He was the one heaping guilt on their mama’s hearts. He was the one shooting fiery darts at their children. He was the one who wanted to destroy their souls and the souls of their children.

And they decided they were done.

Done listening to the lies of the enemy.

Done giving themselves too much credit, thinking that their shortcomings could literally outweigh the grace of God to sustain their children.

Done feeling powerless.

Done tolerating destruction.

Done feeling like their children were slipping through their fingers and on the highway to hell.

Done.

And they decided their best and only weapon was prayer. Their war plan and their war path was through prayer.

Every day they will pray Scripture over their children.

Every day they will pray for a wall of fire around their children and legions of angels to go with them.

Every day they will pray for Jesus to capture the hearts of their children.

Every day they will pray for wisdom.

Every day they will pray that they can be the mamas God wants them to be, even when they make mistakes.

And every day they will look for change. They will take ground with their prayers. They will take their children back from the enemy’s reaching. They will take back their homes. They will take back their marriages. They will war for the souls of those they love.

I am convinced that I am who I am because of my mama’s prayers. May it be so with my children also because of me.

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The Arrow

In the past six months, my husband and I have had to grapple with some real-life big decisions. Adult decisions. Risky decisions. Uncertain decisions. Should we continue to carry our private health insurance which is so expensive it is literally sucking us dry? Should we sell our home and move closer to his job? What do we want to do for school for Sophie next year? Should I get a job outside the home, or a work-from-home job? I’ve felt a keen lack of direction in many of these areas. What I have wanted in each situation just does not seem to be lining up with reality, in any way. It’s been a frustrating and unsettling season of waiting. I’ve been seeking direction, figuratively and literally, as there are several “where’s” among my questions. But I feel like I’ve been casting about quite a bit in my search.

Today clarity settled on me as my eyes landed upon yet another arrow while I was browsing the card aisle. The arrow. They’ve been everywhere since November, on my purse, on a new scarf I received for Christmas, on home decor I’ve seen in stores, on cards and more.

As a new year opens, some people search for a word for the year. The past three years, I have received an image for the year instead, although a word tends to emerge in tandem. Two years ago it was the lighthouse. They were everywhere. And as I dwelt upon that image, the word beacon emerged. Jesus was (and is) my beacon, shining his light on my life, and through my life on to others. Last year the image was the bloom on my morning glory, and the word bloom accompanied it. It didn’t bloom until November the previous fall, right after we discovered we were expecting our much longed-for third child. In 2017, I bloomed as her life came to be. And for 2018, the image is that of an arrow. Each arrow I’ve seen over the past three months has drawn me in and captivated my attention in a surprising fashion. But today as I pondered our finances and our move on a more serious level, the significance of the arrow bounded to the forefront of my mind.

I think God has been placing these arrows on my path as a reminder that he is my direction. Yes, God gives us direction, but that’s not what I mean. He is the direction. Whether we move or remain, wherever we go or don’t go, he is both what we aim for, the direction we point, and also the way we move forward. Our journey needs to be less about seeking the answers, and more about seeking him, and him alone. As I press in to him, I hear again his call — just do what’s in front of you. Instead of searching out what to do or where to go, if I just do what’s in front of me, I can trust that it’s all happening because he brings it across my path. There’s plenty to do if I just focus on what’s in front of me.

I want to say that I’m done seeking answers, but I know my nature will fight hard against that. So what I’ll say is that I’m keeping the arrow in the front of my mind, letting that image direct my sight onto my loving Father, pointing me to him, and allowing him to direct my path and all that crosses it.

“Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul.”           Psalm 143:8

“Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, ‘This is the way, walk in it.’”              Isaiah 30:21

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.”            Proverbs 3:5-6

“Let your eyes look straight ahead; fix your gaze directly before you. Give careful thought to the paths for your feet and be steadfast in all your ways. Do not turn to the right or the left; keep your foot from evil.”             Proverbs 4:25-27

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Micah’s Story: My Mini-Me

My son 3 year old Micah is given to fearfulness. In the summertime, it’s bees. With the warmer weather we’ve had recently, he asks me every morning and every time we go outside, “Are the bees alive yet, Mom?” In the colder months, it’s fears of ghosts, wolves, or the toilet jumping up to get him while he’s peeing. It’s easy to chuckle and reassure him, but as his mom, I see what havoc fear wreaks in his little life. And I see in this some profound spiritual lessons on a bigger scale in my own life.

Even though most of his fears seem irrational, I can relate 100% to Micah’s feelings in these situations. I have a long-standing battle with fear in my own life. God helped me chip away at some of it when he gave me Sophie. Something happens to your fear when you face one of your worst fears and survive, even grow stronger because of it. That’s another tale for another day… As time has passed, I have seen the enemy begin to try and manipulate me again through fear. Sometimes I think God gave me Micah and made him so much like me just so that I could relearn all the life lessons. We are two peas in a pod, Micah and I. In almost all of his battles, I see myself. His little life is like a mirror for all my own faults! And so it has been in his battle with fear. I have seen my own battle. But it’s eye-opening to see someone else fighting your same battle. Things snap quickly into perspective. As Micah deals with fear, I can quickly pick out the ways that fear is negatively impacting him and also myself.

Fear immobilizes. My son won’t go anywhere without me, or without his big sissy as my stand-in. Our home is small, but he won’t go from one room to the next, even if he can clearly see me in a different room. And forget about going upstairs to the bathroom or to his bedroom. He can’t move forward when he’s afraid. How often have I allowed fear to immobilize me? How many times has my journey halted simply because I’m too afraid to take the next steps? For me this is most often the fear that I’m going to make the wrong choice, so I just don’t make any choice at all. I’m immobilized. Just sitting there are the crossroads, doing nothin.

Fear controls. Not only can Micah not move freely when he’s fearful, but his activities are also determined by his fears. Many of his choices are based upon his fears. He won’t go into the dining room, where the wood floors are bare, to race his cars, because I’m in the living room, on the carpet. He won’t obey or be my helper because he’s too afraid of what I might ask him to do, or what might happen to him along the way. How have I allowed fear to control me? I’m too afraid of what God might ask me to do if I agree to obey and be his helper. I’m too afraid of what might happen to me along the way. I’m too afraid that I might fail, if I try. And I’m too afraid of the judgment that others might assign to me if I don’t measure up in their eyes.

Fear creates misery. If Micah even thinks I’m leaving the room, he begins to get upset instantly. We’re talking zero to sixty in 1.5 seconds. I can hear panic rise in his voice as he hurries to avoid being left behind, even if I’m just stepping into the next room for a moment. And in the event that he is left somewhere alone in our home, he comes undone. He doesn’t enjoy his day because he’s so fearful. This is the big one for my life: How have I allowed fear to strip away my joy? Instead of rejoicing in the blessings of my life, my mind is running rampant with fears and what-ifs. If I even catch whiff of something going amiss, I can feel my own panic rising.

Although this battle is not what it used to be for me, and, praise God, I am not nearly as controlled by fear as I used to be, I still see in myself the battle that Micah is beginning at just three years old. What I see in Micah has helped me to realize again that fear is a tool of the enemy intended to immobilize us, control us, and make us miserable. Our enemy doesn’t want us moving forward in our faith or in our ministry. He doesn’t want us to move freely, to enjoy our activities, to live our lives in abandon, secure in our Father’s love.

Something that I often say to Micah resonates in my spirit as well: “Why are you so afraid? Mommy is taking care of you. You are safe in our home,” I know God would say the same to me: Why is she so afraid? Doesn’t she know that I’m taking care of her? She is safe in my love. I John 4:18 promises that perfect love drives out fear. I think that’s the key. If we could really grasp how much God loves us, then we would be able to trust completely that no matter what happens, it’s going to be ok. And we don’t need to be frozen at the crossroads, or fearful of what he may ask us to do, or running in anxious circles mentally. If we really understood how deeply and how perfectly the Father loves us, we would recognize that we don’t need to be afraid. We are secure in his care. That doesn’t mean that bad things won’t happen, unfortunately, but it does mean that his goodness will prevail even in the bad things, and that we are always, always, always secure in his love.

I remember when Sophie’s journey first began, one of the things her pediatrician said to me that was so simple, yet has stuck with me all the way was this: “It will all be ok.” At the time that was rather maddening because how could anything be ok when my baby girl could have some life-altering or life-threatening disease or disorder? How could it be ok?! But, six years later, I have seen that truly, it is ok. As I referenced earlier, I faced that fear, and I walked head on into it. I had no choice in the matter. Face like flint is the expression that comes to mind as I recall my journey into fearful territory with Sophie. “Welcome to motherhood, please step directly into the fire, Catherine.” But as in Sophie’s journey, I cannot assure you more, no matter what your journey looks like right now, it will all be ok. I know that I know that I know my Father loves me and he loves Sophie. So no matter the things in life that most assuredly do go very wrong, will go very wrong, God remains constant, faithful, good. His deep and perfect love holds us. So we can set our faces like flint, and we can step directly into the fire if we have to. Because he is there, he will be there. And he will keep us secure in his perfect love. In this we can walk free from fear.

“Fear not, for I have redeemed you. I have summoned you by name. You are mine.”

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Battling for Transformation

Motherhood is not for the faint at heart. It presses upon a woman in a way that few things do. My days are not my own. They are run by three tiny bosses who think they own the joint. And these bosses, my children, threaten my sanity on a daily basis. On one particularly rough tear-filled, attitude-riddled day when Hannie was less than two months old, I sat down to a lovely fresh salad at noon, my stomach growling in anticipation. Four poops (a contribution from each and every child of mine) and a nursing session later, I sat back down to a slightly wilty salad at one o’clock. On top of fighting the hanger, there is, of course, also the sleep deprivation, as well as everyone’s adjustment to our new little baby joining the family. And, of course, it’s also summer break.

As much as everyone is all “oh yeah! it’s summer break!” and I’m cheering that school is out too, there’s this other component of my life that just goes to shambles without the structure of school.

It’s named Sophie.

I hardly recognize my daughter right now. If you know Sophie, you know her as the sweet and inquisitive little girl who will take your hand and be your friend, the helper, the complier. Not so this summer. She is now the foot-stomper, the door-slammer, the “NO” shouter. With the intensity of a new baby and summer break falling together, Sophie has just spiraled into chaos. I told my husband one morning as we talked about how to discipline her, “I’m just worried that her behaviors are getting out of control. We’ve got to do something to get her under control.” I felt in my spirit that day the urge to pray about this concern (yes, I should have been doing so all along). And so I began to pray and ask God for wisdom in how to parent Sophie, how to be a better parent to all of my children, really.

So this is motherhood for me right now. High pressure. I’ve been pushed to the max at times with a new baby and sleep deprivation and Sophie’s changes and a three year old. I’ve lost my temper. I’ve yelled. I’ve spoken to my children in ways that are embarrassing and ugly. And I’ve asked God to help me with this. I want to parent my children, especially Sophie, whose needs require infinitely more patience most days, in a way that reflects Jesus to them, rather than a crazed woman teetering on the edge of insanity. So I’ve reinvested in my journey of transformation as a mother and also just as a follower of Christ. Our journey as Christians is mean to be transformative, but sometimes we forget that. We forget that we have to work at it.

Part of my reinvestment in this journey is a commitment to God’s Word and to spending more time in it. God has been leading me in a study of the book of Colossians which has been rich and deep, eye-opening and soul-refreshing.

So, I’m praying for wisdom about how to transform my parenting, particularly for Sophie (and how to survive this season with my sanity in tact and all my children alive) when the words of Colossians suddenly come screaming back to me:

“Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.”

This admonition comes after Paul teaches for two chapters about the power of Jesus and how it sets us free. He says, “While you were dead in your sins… God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the written code with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, naming it to the cross.” Wow. That gives me pause every time I read it. So, because of what Jesus did for us, we are free from the curse of sin. And that’s where transformation comes in. Because of what Jesus did, we can be free to “set our minds on things above.” But what does that mean? How do we do that in real time?

Paul goes into detail about what our former nature, the sin nature, would produce in us — things like rage, anger, malice, filthy language, lust, etc. And he says that we should put those things to death. Pretty intense.

And then he explains what it looks like to “set your minds on things above.” He says we must “clothe ourselves” with things like compassion, kindness, gentleness, patience, humility, forgiveness, and above all, love. Clothing ourselves calls to mind the realization that we must put these things on, like our clothes. They are not just part of who we naturally are, unfortunately. But we have access to them because of Jesus, because of his Spirit in us.

So all these words come screaming back to me as I’m praying for wisdom about transforming my parenting. And it all just clicks. This is what it looks like in real time. To be transformed as a mother, I need to set my mind on higher things, not just on my emotions telling me to fly off the handle. I need to clothe myself with the traits that the Spirit gives me access to as I’m dealing with my children. I had the realization this day that I’m not enslaved to my anger or to the filthy words that might try cross my lips when I’m pushed to the breaking point with my children. As a woman set free by the death of Christ who nailed the written code opposing me to the cross, I can instead choose patience, gentleness, kindness, and so on, as I deal with my children. Not an easy choice, no. But a good one. I have to make the choice to take my mind off of my feelings, off of my anger and impatience, and to instead put on compassion, kindness, patience, love. This is wisdom to parent my children.

And it’s also wisdom for a whole variety of other life circumstances you might be going through. Whatever you scenario is, it fits there too. Trouble with coworkers? Set your mind on things above when dealing with that coworker. Trouble with your marriage? Set your mind on things above. You, too, having trouble with your kids? I know you’re out there… many of us have vented together this summer about our battle with insanity during summer break. Join me. Set your mind on things above. Don’t be enslaved to your feelings, to the voice of your sin nature telling you how to act. Choose to clothe yourself instead with all the gifts we have because of Jesus.

 

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Overwhelmed

Life with a newborn baby is busy. Newborns are so demanding, unable to meet any of their own needs. Add to that the typical daily demands of wife and mother of three and you find yourself exactly where I am most days: Overwhelmed.

There are dishes. There is laundry. There is usually at least one crying child, sometimes all three gang up on me at once. There’s food to fix, diapers to change, bottles to wash, children to dress, and a house to maintain. And can I please have a minute just to go to the bathroom alone?? The list is never-ending.

Sometimes I can cope, but other times my soul cries out, “Lord, I’m overwhelmed!” I know I’m not the only one who feels this way, although your circumstances overwhelming you may look different than mine. This morning in my state of overwhelmed, God’s gentle whisper reminded me of his truth. Maybe others need to hear these things today, too.

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Cor 12:8

“I call as my heart grows faint; lead me to a rock that is higher than I.” Ps 61:2

“Come, all who are thirsty, come to the waters… Listen to me and eat what is good and your soul will delight in the richest of fare. Give ear and come to me that your soul may live.” Isaiah 55:1-3

These three passages came to my soul as I prayed for help. They all direct me back to the source of my life. Thank you, God, for your sustaining grace. May you find all that you stand in need of today in the Source of Life, our Father God.

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