Rational -vs- Irrational Fear

The other night I had all the kids tucked into bed and was getting ready for bed myself, trying to make it an early night as I’d had lots of really late ones recently. And then I heard a little voice call, “Mom?”

I went in to the girls’ room, and A said, “Mom, see that pile of clothes over there?” … (points to a few folded items on their built-in dresser shelf that I hadn’t hung up yet) … “It’s scary! It looks like a scary pumpkin face carved out and I don’t like it.”

Now. Here’s the thing: I would categorize myself as a ‘tough love’ kind of mom. I don’t tend to indulge my kids’ rants, fits, or complaints if they are about something petty. Sometimes, especially if it’s a repetitive issue, I would even venture to say I’m dismissive. That doesn’t mean I don’t comfort them when they’re hurt, or get down to their level to help calm them, but I’m sorry, the fact that your show is over and I’m putting on another one is not a valid reason for tears. (You read that right. I’ve had a child cry when it’s over, and then cry when I go to put another one on. Really?? I’m confused. I thought I just solved the problem.)

My point is, I had a choice here. This had come up before – though it had been awhile – so I was really close to just saying, “Aubrey, we’ve talked about this before. You know there’s nothing to be afraid of. Now go to sleep.” (kiss, leave the room)

But for some reason I paused an extra beat and words started tumbling out – not in a rushed way, but in a calm and instructive way. I’m going to try to recreate what I said, because I cannot take credit for it (it was completely the Holy Spirit calling to mind the things I’ve studied in the past according to John 14:26), but I do want to remember it in hopes I can use it again for my other kids. (I’ve inserted the exact bible verses for reference, though I didn’t necessarily quote the location originally. Just so you don’t think I’m some amazing, verse-spouting and remembering person. ūüôā ) I hope this may be of some help to you.

So here we go:

Some fears are rational. Rational means there’s a good reason for it. Like right now, if a burglar came into our house with a gun, that would be a RATIONAL fear. You would be right to be afraid. But irrational fears are ones that you have for no good reason. A pile of clothes cannot hurt you. Right? Even if it looks like a scary Jack-o-Lantern, a Jack-o-Lantern can’t hurt you, right? So that is an IRrational fear. A burglar with a gun COULD hurt you – do you understand how that’s a¬†rational fear?

But the cool thing is, even if we have a rational fear, like the burglar, God tells us we still don’t have to be afraid, because He will help us in those situations. He sends His¬†angels that guard us and watch over us and fight for us (Psalm 91:11). Remember 2 Timothy 1:7? God did not give us a spirit of FEAR, but of power, love, and a sound mind. The thing is, sometimes there’s more going on than what¬†you can see. There are lots of reasons why a burglar might be doing what he’s doing. People that do bad or scary things aren’t always bad themselves. Sometimes people didn’t¬†grow up knowing God, and so they don’t¬†know what’s right or wrong. Sometimes people are hurt really badly by people they loved and trusted, and they have lots of anger, hurt, and sadness inside that leads them to make bad choices. Sometimes it’s just that the devil is a really good liar, and he’s good at convincing people they should do bad things. So even when those people are doing things that make you afraid, you can know that Jesus gave us authority over all the power the enemy possesses (Luke 10:19). We can use¬†our Sword of the Spirit which is the Word from Ephesians 6¬†because our bible verses are our weapons – we pray them, and¬†God’s angels can go to work in the spiritual realm¬†and¬†fight the enemy’s demons for us. That’s why it says the Word is our Sword – our weapon.

So God did not give us a spirit of fear, but of
POWER – over the enemy: the devil and his demons;
LOVE – to love people even when they do hurtful things to us;
and a SOUND MIND – to help us determine whether our fear is rational or irrational, and to discern what might be going on in the spiritual realm so we know what to pray. This also helps us know what to do if we have a rational fear because of a real situation.

Does that help?

Even as an adult, I have irrational fears sometimes. But when I focus on God’s love instead of whatever silly thing is scaring me, I feel so at peace. The devil can’t touch me, because I’m bought and paid for by the blood of Christ.

 

*DISCLAIMER: if it comes as a shock to you, yes, I do mention the devil and his demons to my kids, in whatever way I feel is appropriate for their age, understanding, and maturity level, as I feel led to. He is far more of a real threat to us than any other pretend boogey man, so I use my discretion when mentioning it. But I do want my kids to be aware that there is a force out there that wants them to fail and wants them to make bad choices (1 Peter 5:8). The bible tells us to be vigilant and sober-minded, and I don’t see anything wrong with teaching this from as young an age as they can understand. Because even though we have an enemy, we also have a Savior who has conquered the enemy for us and deprived him of power to harm us (John 16:33). We have an answer to the problem! How can you fight something if you don’t know what you’re fighting against? Even more, how can you know the solution if you don’t know the problem? I want my kids to be equipped to understand the truth and that most times, there is more going on than meets the natural eye. And in case you’re wondering, A (who really is the only one old and mature enough for me to have explained anything to) has never vocalized a fear of the devil, or complained of bad dreams about the devil or his demons. ūüėČ

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Free Peace

Reading this verse with new eyes tonight:

But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. 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 14:26, 27 NIV)

1. The Father sends the Holy Spirit.
2. It is through the Holy Spirit that we glean applicable wisdom from the Word.
3. We don’t have worry about¬†remembering EVERYTHING, because the Holy Spirit will remind us when we need it most.
4. So do not fret, but instead be at peace knowing the Holy Spirit has “GOT THIS.”
5. It is Jesus’ peace, not a worldly peace, He is giving us. It lasts as long as we’re willing to receive it, and it is not based on things or circumstances.
6. He does not give His peace to us as the world gives: based on what we’ve done, how hard we’ve worked, what we have, our salary, our degree, our relational status, our family background, our economic history. He gives freely out of His love for us.
7. So don’t allow your heart to be troubled; and do not fear anything… He freely gives us all we need to overcome… He has overcome for us; we are more than conquerors (Romans 8:37)!

A few things I’ve been learning in this current season:
1. How to see people the way God sees them
2. How to love the way God loves
3. Because He is a loving God, He is a GIVING God.

Lord, bless us with the resources to be able to give freely the way you give Рout of love for your people. Let no need go unfilled. See your church act as your hands and feet as you designed it to. We are willing. Thank you for giving to us so freely without requiring anything from us in return. Thank you that you love everyone regardless of their past mistakes, and you still give freely. Let those who see us see You and Your love.

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“Love” Parenting

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This perfectly describes what I was writing about: Parenting from love, not fear.  I have to remind myself of this difference daily!

God’s Plan for Community

When I first came to the church I now call home, it was with uncertainty and a little unease. I was there alone, my only daughter checked into Promiseland, the children’s ministry. I found a section on the ground floor in the back, because it was easy to slip in and out of without really being noticed. And then, once it officially became our home, I stayed, because that’s where I’d always sat. Then, during the fall a couple years ago, I learned that we were creating Section Communities, and that ‘my’ section was – OH. NO. For Creatives. This is not a word I have ever used to describe myself. I am not a Pinterest-worthy mom. I do not make home decor or children’s crafts from random rubble I find lying around my house. So when it became the creative section, I wasn’t sure if I’d stay, or if¬†there’d be a place for me.

I figured I better find out more of what this was about. I met our Section Leader, Christine, and explained that I was NOT creative – but could I stay? She said of course, and that she still needed people with other gifts. In fact, she was desperately in need of an administrative gift! Now this I could do. I was, after all, a former Administrative Assistant. I was so happy to have found a way to volunteer and contribute – because now with 3 kids, there wasn’t a whole lot of volunteer opportunities that worked for me. This was something I could do from home! In whatever time I had. And without a babysitter!

But I was not counting on Camille being such an over-achiever. She walked at 8 1/2 months, ran at 9, never ate baby food, and is speaking 4 word sentences clear as day, and she’s still a few months from turning two. Administrative duties were all fine and good when she still qualified as an infant – ¬†because you know they don’t do much but sleep, eat, and – well, you know. I started feeling like I was continually making excuses. (I hate excuses.) I just couldn’t complete all the tasks Christine needed from me and still take care of my kids, the hubs, and our home (and work, even if it’s only 3 nights a week). With a heavy heart I regretfully withdrew from the supportive administrative role. I took this¬†time off to refocus on my family, and wondered if I should be in a section that ‘made more sense’ for me — one of the young family sections, or the Promiseland section. People that were going through similar stages of life. Because there was just this little thing, the difficulty of socializing and meeting people and trying to be hospitable and remember 5 new people’s names and get their contact information when you’re also trying to care for 3 very needy children, all clamoring for your attention and trying to go in 3 different directions. No matter how prepared I thought I was, armed with my Mommy’s Bag of Tricks, there was awhile that I just felt like I was failing at this whole community thing.

So I did wonder if there was a ‘better’ place for us. But Aubrey did get a¬†creative gene that I didn’t. I figured if I couldn’t really foster her gift, at least I could get her around people who could.¬†And, I believe in “Grow where you’re Planted” because the grass isn’t greener on the other side, it’s¬†greenest where you water it. I didn’t hear God tell me to go anywhere else, so I stayed.

And then Christine¬†asked me to be the Prayer & Pastoral person. I accepted, but I was nervous ¬†– I didn’t know how to do this. I wondered if I should’ve prayed more about this first. Aren’t there books that are specifically devoted to saying ‘no’ gracefully? I didn’t¬†know the people I was praying for, or what their situation was, or what they needed to hear. I was afraid I was again taking on something that would mess up the delicate balance I worked so hard to restore, and in which I would fail. But okay, I wanted to help, and I could do this from home. I’ll try.

There was a bit of a grace period, where I was getting my feet wet and trying to learn what exactly I was supposed to be doing. But then something happened: It became a beautiful merging of realizing that my gift is useful, and important, and REAL; and actually being able to make a little bit of a difference to His people in our community Рall through His power.

And now, instead of feeling ashamed that I couldn’t remember people’s names or faces, I live in a community in which there are so many people I love. And we are growing these Affinity Groups – for photographers, and gardeners, and writers. And not only are we able to do and appreciate art, but we are able to celebrate the unique gifts of every individual. Ina, with¬†her amazing cooking and baking, and willingness to do so even when it might be challenging. Christie, and her ability to just pray Word-filled, specific prayers for people, on the spot. Apryl, who is such a selfless and hospitable evangelist. Christine N, who despite being a working mother of 3 very active children, a supportive loving daughter, and a dedicated, supportive wife to a husband finishing school, still finds time to do all the administrative tasks and social media for our community (this sentence does not do her justice). Kathleen, who is a newer believer¬†but still so willing and so giving of her time and talents. Grace, who lives up to her name; such a graceful, mature, polite, helpful young lady. Sisters Irene & Beverly, who come up with the cutest ways to add a little extra touch to every gathering, and make beautiful cards for the people in our section. I could go on and on. But the point isn’t to glorify any one of us, but to celebrate that we are all using our gifts for one another – to uplift, encourage, and love on one another the way God created us to. All these people not only share their own gifts, but by knowing mine, and knowing me and my children, free me up to use my gift – to converse and minister and listen and pray.

Today, It was as evident as it has ever been. The artists brought in their paintings of flowers and gardens. All the gardeners brought in plants that we were invited to bring home. We had guitar playing and singing. We had a spread of tacos, fruit, and desserts. We had a craft – WHO thinks of these things?? I am continually amazed at these kinds of crafts, because my brain just does not work this way – pipe cleaners and beads and yarn and silk flower petals, put together to make a little figure.

This was Aubrey's

Aubrey’s tropical girl

And then we had Happy. Happy Happy the Clown!¬†When we first arrived I saw him making the balloon animals and shapes (flowers, to go with the garden theme!). Who doesn’t love balloon animals?!
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But then as I sat there eating lunch, I overheard what he was saying to the children. He was using a necklace and a bracelet, and all of a sudden he was speaking scripture, and talking about how when we have Jesus in our hearts, He will always catch us when we fall.
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Let’s just say this made me a bit emotional, so instead of disintegrating into a puddle of tears I quickly took a few pictures to remember the moment. Before I left I thanked him for sharing his gift with our kids – and learned so much more about his life and history and heart. I’m not sure there is a satisfactory way to thank the people that sow into our kids’ spiritual life. It’s a gift, like grace. All you can do is receive it with a grateful heart, and do your best¬†not to waste it.

Because these are the important things. WE are the important things. Learning about one another. Just what the message was about this morning – asking one or two more questions; probing deeper, because every person matters. Each and every person matters to God, so if we’re going to be his ambassadors on this earth, each and every person should matter to us.

And I’m starting to understand, through our ‘little’ section community, what that really means. Love is understanding that God MEANT for us all to have different gifts so that we can use them to build one another up. It goes a little bit like this:¬†I applaud¬†your gift, because it is not my gift, and I am in awe of it. You use your gift to help me. I appreciate your gift all the more, and use my gift to now help you.

Everyone has a role to play, and in our community, we are all learning to do it well. To know¬†one another well, to encourage one another well, to love one another well.¬†So, it doesn’t matter if I am not a “Creative” in the traditional sense of the word… because the truth is, we are all creating a beautiful community with God at the head.

Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other. -Romans 12:10

As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace… 1 Peter 4:10

Disciplining in Love …and not from fear

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Do you know what fear leads to? Anger.

When it comes to discipline, anger is selfish. It comes from embarrassment, impatience, and a desire to correct wrongs that have been done to US. It’s immature. And it’s a thin line: you can spank your child if it’s the expected punishment for bad behavior; but spanking your child because you are caught up in a moment of raging anger is not helpful for anyone. You will feel guilty later, making it difficult for you to be consistent, and your child, instead of learning, is just fearful of you and feeling unloved. When you lash out in anger born of fear, you make it about YOUR behavior;¬†instead of being focused on their behavior and how to correct it, they are experiencing the results of your inability to control your emotions.

Awhile back,¬†I realized I had made¬†most of my discipline decisions out of fear. If I don’t hurry up and pick a discipline method and stay unerringly consistent, I thought, my daughter will be rambunctious, never listen, and grow into a disrespectful and disobedient child/troubled teen/worthless adult. And then, if we were around anyone else, I’d be so aware of their presence and imagine that they were judging every word I said and every move I made while disciplining my child. Let’s be honest: it is exceedingly difficult not to think about other people’s opinions when you’re disciplining in front of them.

I don’t know if it’s a stage of life I’ve grown into, more life experience, or if having 3 kids close together just made me too busy to care, but at some point I stopped worrying. I didn’t have time or energy to be concerned¬†about what other people thought of my ‘parenting style’. I did, however, go through a dark period in which I was very unpleasant to be around – at least to my immediate family anyway. I was angry a lot, and yelled a lot, and didn’t show very much love at all. Thankfully those are the kind of seasons (difficult ones) that we learn the most from, if we’re smart.

So now, when a situation represents itself (and when I can keep my head clear enough), I examine my motives: Am I reacting out of fear of something? Or am I acting to teach my children desirable behaviors and attitudes? If it’s the latter, I am in the guilt-free clear zone. But if it’s the former, I do my best to correct my response, and even apologize if my behavior was really bad. (Side note: Yes, I apologize to my kids if/when I’m wrong. Our kids need to know that we aren’t perfect. Otherwise, they will not only be jaded about us,¬†but also¬†feel the need to live up to that same perfection.)

So what changed? Here are a few specific things that have helped me:
1. Stop fearing what other people will think of your parenting based on your child(ren)’s behavior. Children are unpredictable in a lot of ways. They act differently at home than they do away from home. Sometimes that’s good, sometimes it’s bad. But one episode does not define your child, so stop acting like it does. “They’re embarrassing me” is not a good reason to lash out in anger born of fear.
2. Stop fearing they’ll never ‘get it‘. I’ve noticed that I don’t have to be violently angry or even super strict for them to understand a concept. I come down to their level, speak in a clear calm voice, and explain why their behavior was wrong. If possible I quote¬†scripture. They apologize and make amends where necessary. And you know what? They get it. But if you’re afraid they’ll never get it, you’ll react out of hopelessness, despair, frustration. Why keep trying if you doubt they’ll get it? Like anything, it sometimes takes several corrections, but they DO get it. Even if I’m not spanking or giving time outs. Which leads me to…
3. Stop fearing if you don’t discipline a certain way (consistent, firm hand, time outs, spankings, etc) it won’t work.¬†Because you know what? Our God is about grace. He knows we are not perfect, and that’s why He sent His only Son to redeem us. That is how we can be in relationship with Him in the first place. So wherever we are imperfect, He fills in the gaps through the power of Jesus Christ. (2 Cor 12:9 – “My power is made perfect in weakness.”) Tell me that’s not comforting and freeing!!! (Even if you do, I won’t believe you; my mind’s made up.) So stop fearing that you’re doing it wrong, or your lack of consistency¬†will breed¬†a wild child. Give yourself room to mess up. If you are consistent MOST of the time, and parent out of love, God will¬†do the rest. Remember too that each situation is different. Take the time to know your children individually. Sometimes a spanking might be the best way to teach. Sometimes taking a beloved toy or lovey gets the point across better. You don’t necessarily have to be consistent with your METHOD – just with your love and correction. God is not a God of rules… He’s a God of Grace.
4. Stop fearing what kind of kids they’ll be when they grow up if you don’t ‘succeed’. Hand them over to God. They are not yours anyway. We have merely been given the privilege of raising them to adults. They never really belong to us. Our job is to “train them in the way they should go” (Prov 22:6), pray unceasingly for their hearts to know Jesus, pray for their future, and TRUST OUR GOD that He loves them more than we do. Isn’t that reassuring, refreshing, and… easier?¬†
When you trust God to reinforce¬†what you are doing your best to teach, you will be SO much less stressed… and happier. Therefore your children will be happier… and more obedient too.

Also remember these two points:
1. Imperfect is normal.
2. Our kids learn right and wrong from us. They really have no idea what is okay or not until we teach them. Instead of being frustrated they don’t already KNOW, calm down and realize it is your job to TEACH them.

Ever heard that phrase People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care?

Parenting out of love is kind of like WWJD – more like What DID Jesus do? How has he loved you in the past? How has he loved you into desiring to change? Sometimes, for me,¬†it’s been when I’m in the midst of loud, chaotic, raging messes and coming to Him completely honest and ugly. And imperfect.
IMPERFECT, that’s the key. When we stop being so afraid of messing up, God is able to teach us the next step. When we admit we’re wrong or angry or ignorant, He gently and lovingly whispers what to do next. He’ll point out a flaw. Or illuminate a wrong attitude. He’ll show you exactly what thoughts need to be changed and how to adjust them. Scripture says if we “humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God” He will “heal our land”. He will fix what’s broken. Which is the whole point, because when our kids mess up, they’re being imperfect too. If God can meet us in our imperfections, we should be able to meet our kids in theirs. That’s what love is about – not being afraid of facing the ugly, scary, unknown, uncertain, imperfect, messy stuff. When they are in their raging messes, and we meet them there, they are loved into learning how better to love. Teach them love through your actions, and they will copy your actions and love better too. That’s why your method doesn’t have to be consistent; we’re teaching them to love, and love always wins.

I want to parent like God parents me:
– with a quiet voice

– never in a place of fear
– always with their best interests at heart – based on what you know is right for them. God knows what’s in our future. Even though we don’t know what’s in our kids’ future, we can pull from past experiences and trust God with the rest.
– with love casting out their fear and mine, inviting them to a place where they can come higher and choose God’s love over any fear.

In this video on parenting, Mark Hall puts it perfectly: “Love earns the right to speak truth… That’s how Jesus could say hard core stuff to you and you’d sit there and listen to it – because you knew He loved you.”
2 Tim 1 7

Click here for another message by Executive Pastor Steve Carter detailing how we act from love or fear.

A Mother’s Take on Intimacy

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1 Corinthians 7:2,3
each man should have sexual relations with his own wife, and each woman with her own husband. The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband.

1 Corinthians 7:5 –¬†Do not deprive each other except perhaps by mutual consent and for a time…

On the sixth day of creation, God created us:
So God created mankind in his own image,
    in the image of God he created them;
    male and female he created them. 
– Genesis 1:27

God created Male…. and Female. Different, for different purposes.

He knew that men would desire physical intimacy more than women. This is not a surprise to Him, or an accident. He gave men a physical desire, and women an emotional desire.

We’ve all heard stories or statistics about how physical intimacy effects men and women differently – usually as a warning to non-married adolescents. But this was not an accident. God did it on purpose.

He created each of us individually ON purpose, FOR a purpose. Is it so hard to believe that he also created male and female tendencies on purpose and for a purpose? He had a plan.

He knew – in fact planned – that we women will be Proverbs 31 women.

Have you read Proverbs 31??? That woman did it all!

And while we may not necessarily check all the exact same boxes she did, or complete the same exact activities, or possess the exact same gifts she did, it is in our nature to do our best to give our best in every area of our lives Рour relationships (building and maintaining them), our finances, our talents, our homes, to support our churches, families, friends, and communities. And God created us this way because He knew the world would need us to be this way.

But I think God knew we would be so easily tied up in these things, and so preoccupied taking care of others that we might forget to take care of and enjoy ourselves. (Sound like anyone you know?)

So he created male and female… “male and female He created them.”

There are times when if it were up to me, I would not take time for or spend money on a date night if my hubby did not suggest or assure me that we should and can. It’s not because I dislike¬†his company. I just feel a responsibility to other things.¬†You see, my natural instinct is to sacrifice my desires for someone or something else. And if I feel that way, I assume my husband will too.

But God did not create man this way – and that was the best thing He could’ve done. (If you know the God of the Universe, you will not be surprised at this.)

God created us women to be organizers, list-makers, Do-ers, Feel-ers, Listeners, Care-takers. He knew we would zero in on those roles that cause us to put others first, so He created man with a strong physical desire to help remind us to enjoy our husbands.

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights… – James 1:17
Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy.
– 1 Timothy 6:17

And God gave us a desire to be a mother. When asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”, my desired occupation fluctuated throughout the years. But what never changed was the desire, above all, to be a mom. In fact, the older I got, the more my occupation was viewed through a filter: Can I be a mom and make this work, and how? Back then, of course, I had no idea what being a mother really meant or what it would entail. But even now that I know the challenges it presents and the patience it takes, it is the best, most enjoyable and rewarding ‘occupation’ I could ever have. I have a heart of¬†a mother.

I can learn a new skill quickly. I can perform it efficiently. I can analyze it and decide if there is a better, quicker way. I can complete necessary tasks and excel above what is expected. I can even do all these things while simultaneously enjoying my work. I really do enjoy my job. In fact, I have found joy in every job I’ve held.

But I am not passionate about any job I’ve had – NONE of them – like I am about being my kids’ mom. I am truly honored to be their mom. I marvel every day at how blessed I am to have such amazing kids. Really – I don’t think I could ask for better ones. And it’s not because they’re perfect (they’re not). It’s in the unexpected talents. The funny phrases. The sudden, keen observations. The reactions when they learn something new. I wonder how I was chosen to be the mother to such marvelous little creatures. God could have chosen ANYONE to be their mother and to prepare them for entering the world as grown-ups, and He chose me. (ME!)

But most of all, being their mom is about LOVE. The instant love when you see and hold your baby for the first time. The pride that bubbles up, barely containable, every time they hit a milestone or extend a kind gesture. The growth that occurs in your own heart when you see siblings playing, helping, and loving one another. The decisions made not out of fear, but of confidence in His perfect love.

…And so God gave females the desire to have children and be a mother.

In case you weren’t aware, it just so happens that the only way to become a mother is through physical intimacy – the very thing our husbands most desire, not from an unhealthy or dirty intention our society has sometimes made it to be, but as a way of expressing the love between one another.¬†(I suppose in this day and age you could argue we have science that can help us, but I’m referring to the first and most natural way, before the science existed.)

After we had our first I thought, “there is not ONE thing in the world more intimate than having a child together.”
A whole PERSON is created and literally birthed out of the love you have for one another.

Children = love.  In so many ways.

And so God created male and female… male and female He created them.

He gave man the physical desire to express love, and woman the desire for emotional love that creates, grows, and nurtures relationships.
He knew that neither of us on our own would be able to do both roles successfully. But each of our strengths, when they come together, complete the other.

male and female

And Adam said: ‚ÄúThis is now bone of my bones And flesh of my flesh…”
– Genesis 2:23
Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, The fruit of the womb is a reward. 
– Psalm 127:3

A big shout out to my hubby, who always reminds me to slow down and enjoy life. ‚̧

Date Nights, Love Languages, & Doing things that Energize you

A few days ago I sent an email to a few of my closest friends. It started out like this:
“I have a confession to make.
I am not happy.
And on top of that, I feel guilty for not being happy.”

After sending the email I realized the source of the discontent was probably that my love tank was empty. Have you read Gary Chapman’s “The 5 Love Languages“? It kind of revolutionized the way the hubs & I did things for each other. Another thing we learned early on in our relationship was that MAKING time for date nights was very important. No matter how busy we are, or how opposite our schedules were, we needed to make date nights (time together) a priority. While there have been times that we’ve skipped them, we generally have 1 night a week designated for ‘date night’ – the night we both have off. Usually this is an at-home experience due to budgetary and scheduling reasons, although we do try to have a date night OUT at least once every month or two.

Well, what I realized after my melt down the night I sent that email was although we had been having date nights which seemed okay to me, we had not had a REAL, QUALITY date night in some time. My top love language is quality time, which means I want to have meaningful conversation and a person’s undivided attention, i.e.: if you are distracted while I’m talking, it makes me feel like I am unimportant, and that other activity is more important than my thoughts and feelings. Our date nights for probably at least 3 months were sitting in the family room with a meal watching a TV series. This was great because I did WANT to do those things with my husband, I did enjoy the uninterrupted relaxation time, and because I knew HE wanted to do them. Then it became a habit, and I guess I just fell into a trap of complacency. Then (seemingly) suddenly, I had this empty love tank which in turn caused a short temper and lashing out at my kids and husband for no reason.

I did recognize this ugly attitude and was mortified by it. But I felt powerless to change it. Even when I made a concentrated effort to change the way I was disciplining and treating my kids, I would find myself reverting to bad attitudes half way through the day when the better, patient reactions didn’t bear immediate fruit.

Here’s what was happening to add to the chaos: my love tank was empty, so I tried to fill it with so many things throughout the day to satisfy myself, which led to me having less time to do chores and spend with the kids, which caused me more frustration because I was not completing the tasks I should’ve been, and even more frustration to top it off because I hate feeling like I’m behind on housework – especially when my house is messy.

Then I was so stressed about the housework that I was neglecting focused time with the kids, which probably caused THEIR love tanks to be empty, and for THEM to act out! What a terrible cycle.

So, what conclusions did I come to?
Two important ones:
1. I need to be honest with myself and with my husband about what my needs are. Which means I have to be in tune with my needs, which can only be done – for me at least – through quiet alone time, usually in bible study, prayer, journaling, and reflection.
2. I need to quit feeling guilty about what makes me happy. Among other things, looking pretty and shopping (for myself AND others) make me happy . I’ve practiced delayed gratification out of necessity for so long that I do sort of feel guilty about these things. I think that’s why I surprised myself with how much I enjoyed Black Friday shopping with my mother in law when we started that tradition. It’s the one day every year where I literally SHOP TILL I DROP. Coming home with bags and bags¬†of gifts for people and things for our home really does make me¬†happy!

Sure is! Love me some shopping for sparkly things.

 
Sure is! Love me some shopping for sparkly things.

So – I’ve decided I have to be more self-aware of how I’m feeling and what my needs are. Because if my needs are not met, I am unable to meet my family’s needs. What do I want to give to my family? The same things I need myself: love, peace, joy, affirmation. When these needs are met we can work towards higher goals like building character, patience, acts of kindness, etc.

Now I’m not completely superficial. I do enjoy cooking for others, writing meaningful cards when someone is going through a tough time, bible study, good music, worship, writing and reading, good conversation with a girlfriend over coffee or tea. In particular, our bible study group of ladies which met every week for a few months was REALLY a refueling time for me every week. I was not distracted by the kids, could focus on learning more about my friends, and could just be ME, not necessarily MOMMY-me.

So I’m going to stop feeling selfish about requesting ME time¬†and just be sure my emotional/relational¬†needs are met first.

This saying rings true: You can’t give away what you don’t have ‚̧

Words – Using them at Home to Create a Positive Atmosphere

I heard this song called “Words” by Hawk Nelson on my way home from dropping Aubrey at school today. Something about this resonates with me – maybe because one of my spiritual gifts is encouragement. Maybe because I’ve really been trying not to complain lately. Maybe because I’ve been really trying to give ATTENTION to my kids, and respond with love in every situation as best I can. In any case, here are some of¬†the lyrics:

They’ve made me feel like a prisoner
They’ve made me feel set free
They’ve made me feel like a criminal
Made me feel like a king

They’ve lifted my heart
To places I’d never been
And they’ve dragged me down
Back to where I began

Words can build you up
Words can break you down
Start a fire in your heart or
Put it out

Let my words be life
Let my words be truth
I don’t wanna say a word
Unless it points the world back to You

You can heal the heartache
Speak over the fear
(Speak over the fear)
God, Your voice is the only thing
We need to hear
(We need to hear)

 Let the words I say
(Let the words I say)
Be the sound of Your grace
(Sound like Your grace)
I don’t wanna say a word
Unless it points the world back to You

I wanna speak Your love
Not just another noise
Oh, I wanna be Your light
I wanna be Your voice

¬†I don’t wanna say a word
Unless it points the world back to You

Something about that phrase… “I wanna speak Your Love, Not just another noise.” That about sums it up right? I want the words I say to be meaningful. It’s like in 1 Corinthians 13 where it talks about how you can speak in tongues of men and angels, but without love, you’re just a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. It’s just NOISE. Meaningless. The words we speak are seeds – and we can choose to sew good or bad ones. Deuteronomy 30:19 says, “This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before¬†you life and death, blessing and curses. Now choose life, that you and your descendants may live.” I LOVE THIS! It puts the ball back in our court. I want to sew words of blessing, all the time, but especially at home around my husband and my children, so that we might live a life “in abundance, to the full, until it overflows” (John 10:10 AMP).

So I said a little prayer that today, my words would be rooted in love, especially when speaking to my kids. Because at some point in the last several weeks, I realized that I wasn’t always responding in love. Yes, when they disobey there need to be consequences so that they learn what’s right and wrong. But it shouldn’t be about a power struggle – and this is the HARDEST THING as a parent! We just want them to do what we say because we SAID so. And when they’re not listening, it’s so easy to get frustrated and react out of anger. But Proverbs 15:1¬†says, “A soft answer turns away wrath.” I used to think of this only in regards to a response. As in, that person’s yelling and angry, but I’m going to keep calm and keep my voice quiet to counteract their anger. But I think also, when we are in that moment where there is a struggle raging in us, and it feels SO LOUD, we have a choice. And when we choose to speak a soft answer instead of shouting in anger, I think it shuts our wrath out like a light switch.

We just have to CHOOSE blessing and avoid the curse.