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Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Making Room for our Kids (and others in general)

How quickly the days go by... they say the days are long and the years are short. This has definitely felt very true for our household as of late. I am sure you can relate! Does it seems like you just started that job a few days ago but in reality it has been a few years? Perhaps it seems like only yesterday you brought home that little bundle of joy from the hospital, but now you find yourself preparing them for kindergarten, middle school or even college.

James 4:14 says...

"Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away."

There are often times when it feels that our "time" in our relationships is unending... but just as James 4:14 says... seasons so quickly vanish away.

The past couple of weeks Pastor Brian has been encouraging us as a church to MAKE ROOM in our lives for the vision and mission that God has called us to. When it comes to our children it often feels like we don't have any more space to possibly squeeze in... Family Devotions before bed sound like a great idea in theory until the medlum that is the after dinner, get your pjs on, brush your teeth, please JUST GET IN YOUR BED ALREADY... ensues!

Do you ever lay in bed at night and question whether you did enough, whether you loved enough? The Chatterbox of "NOT ENOUGHT" is loud! One of the ways to silence those negative thoughts is to define what are wins in your home... for YOU!

We will not win every battle (and I don't know that we really want to)... but wins come in all shapes and sizes.

Every family dynamic is different... but I am so often encouraged by others so I thought I would share a little of our list with you. These principles not only work in the home, they apply to leadership and relationships in general.

And of course... JESUS FIRST! Acts 17:28 says that in Him we live and move our have our being... everything that we do is all about living out our purpose and call that God has on our lives, pursuing Him and aligning our lives with the Word of God.

Here are some practical things that we try to make a priority in our home. WAYS THAT WE TRY TO MAKE ROOM. We certainly don't do these things right in our home every day, every time... but we have found if we don't have a goal in mind we certainly won't get where we intended to be. These are in no particular order and certainly not exhaustive of all the things we hold as values but its certainly a good starting point. I encourage you to define your own family values... perhaps you can add some of your own to this list.

1. Answer the question when its hot! They come at the most inconvenient times (Like when the pot is over-boiling or the car is over-heating)... natural questions that may seem insignificant or too big to tackle at the moment. However it is in these natural moments that we can talk through so many of life's biggest "topics" when our little ones are all ears because it was their natural thought pattern that led them to the question...

2. Every challenging moment is an opportunity to grow. We lose it, they lose it... if you live in a house of humans, you are all likely to blow it at some point. (And I Don't mean just your children.) Every time you have the guts to say you are sorry to your children, you earn their respect for a lifetime. When they learn the value of apologizing to you, they will learn a most valuable lesson of fighting that pride that wants to rise inside of us all!

3. Clearly define Values. If we aren't sure of our values... chances are our children are unsure as well.

4. Memorize Scripture. (Yes I know that homework is taxing enough but this is not as hard as it sounds.) Pick a scripture for the month and post it up on your refrigerator. Maybe start with John 3:16, Philippians 4:13, Hebrews 11:1. You might be shocked at how much you will reference these scriptures in daily life and these will be tools that your kids will carry for the rest of their lives.

5. Pray Often about all things Big and small. Prayer is simply a conversation, a natural relationship between a Father and His Children. We can teach this by praying for the big things like a family member who is sick or a big project we are nervous about and the little things like for the ambulance that passes on the street, thanking God for our meals and that person that we passed who seemed so sad. Prayer is an all the time conversation that just picks up where it left off earlier in the day.

6. Truth and Honesty Always Triumph. We always say that if you tell the truth, the consequences will be much less severe. Teaching this value at a young age gets kids learning to talk honest when they are young so when they are older and the honesty is a little harder to let out, they will be well practiced.

7. Always Play Our Part. Everyone in the house contributes. I want our kids to know that in whatever environment we are in, our job is to be a part! If someone spills their crayon box, we all jump to help. If someone is still doing a chore and everyone else is finished, we all help the last finish up so we can all relax together. There is never a time to sit down and watch others work, we can all play a part. Four hands are better than two. Many call this current generation a lazy one... I don't think that is true, I just think they may literally be at a loss for how to jump in.

8. Always Teach. Kids are sponges and I am tired. I don't think there is a meal that comes that one of the kiddos is not asking to "help" and having "help" is well, exhausting. We are all shaped this way in life in general... it is often easier to just do the job ourselves knowing it will get done correctly than to take the extra time to teach someone else to do the job. But we can leave such an amazing legacy with all those around us if we can learn the art of always including others.

9. Be Consistent and Follow Through. THIS IS SO HARD. I know that as a kid, I was the QUEEN of wearing my mom down until I got the answer I had hoped for. As much as I hate to admit it, I learned that I could press those buttons and sometimes get what I wanted. Often times, consequences are harder for the parent than the child because we have to follow through with the discipline. Children thrive in boundaries and when they push the boundaries and are brought back to center, they feel safe!

10. Love always! This is not always as easy as it sounds. I make my children often practice speaking words of love to each other by asking them to tell each other five things they love about each other. No matter our personality type or how we naturally express love, we can always practice love... Practice makes perfect! Brian and I practice this with each other as well... because sometimes what we think is "the given" needs to be spoken in tangible words.

11. BE ALL IN THE MOMENT! If you ask a kid what their favorite memory is, often times it isn't the BIG Stuff where we spent the most money, it was the small stuff. Our kids always reference their favorite part of Christmas is sleeping under the Christmas tree... that costs $0 but it is what they remember. The big stuff is important but all the little moments in between are when their world view is really shaped and the values that they will carry in to their families one day.

12. HAVE FUN! Chances are if you are having fun, so is everyone around you!

You are doing an awesome job! Keep up the good work. Together we get to shape the next generation!

Friday, December 5, 2014

Circumstances that Leave us Blinded...

Have you ever gotten to a place where you begin to doubt that God is still working on your behalf or is involved in your circumstances? I love reading the story of the Israelites standing at the Red Sea. We often highlight the Hollywood abbreviated version of the story... God delivered the people from Israel, Pharoah's heart was hardened and begin to pursue them and Moses hits the sea with his staff and the sea is parted. Yes, all of these things happened... but the true grit of the story comes in all the in-between moments.

God was not taken aback from the sudden "change" of Pharoah's heart. He actually planned it that way.

He planned their exact location, predicament and set of circumstances...

Exodus 14 Now the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Tell the sons of Israel to turn back and camp before Pi-hahiroth, between Migdol and the sea; you shall camp in front of Baal-zephon, opposite it, by the sea. For Pharaoh will say of the sons of Israel, ‘They are wandering aimlessly in the land; the wilderness has shut them in.’ Thus I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and he will chase after them; and I will be honored through Pharaoh and all his army, and the Egyptians will know that I am the Lord.” And they did so.

Just as a reminder of the events that have taken place thus far... thousands upon thousands of Israelites had just been miraculously delivered from a 430 year period of slavery under the Egyptians, the Israelites were currently being led by a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night...

But... when the circumstances reached a pivotal point where there seemed no way out (Pharoah pursuing on one side and the Red Sea on the other) this was the response of the Israelites...

11 Then they said to Moses, “Is it because there were no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness? Why have you dealt with us in this way, bringing us out of Egypt? 12 Is this not the word that we spoke to you in Egypt, saying, Leave us alone that we may serve the Egyptians’? For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness.”

There are times that we, just like the Israelites, find ourselves going through personal fires in our lives and the flames and circumstances will begin to blind us from the truth... our memory begins to fail. We get so hung in the moment that we begin to look back, but our view of the past becomes inaccurate. I love a song written by Sara Groves, Painting Pictures of Egypt. One of my favorite lines is, "I've been painting pictures of Egypt leaving out what it lacks, the future feels so hard and I want to go back."

It seemed the Israelites had forgotten the oppression they had to endure on a daily basis, the physical pain their bodies endured as they were beaten for not reaching their daily quota, the daily cries to God to deliver them... All of this just a few short chapters back.

Exodus 5 13 The taskmasters pressed them, saying, “Complete your work quota, your daily amount, just as when you had straw.” 14 Moreover, the foremen of the sons of Israel, whom Pharaoh’s taskmasters had set over them, were beaten... 

The Isrealites found themselves in a situation that seemed impossible, a set of circumstances that were too heavy for them to bear so they wanted to quit.

If you continue to read through Chapter 14, you can get a front row perspective of God's plan. God intended all along to create the perfect plot that would bring Himself the greatest amount of glory. God knew that in the future that these people would look back on this moment and remember His faithfulness. God was creating a track record with the people of Israel that He was a God that could be trusted. Even when the Israelites doubted, God was still doing the miraculous. 

God is not taken aback by the circumstances that we are facing today. God already has provisions in mind for our deliverance... but the only way out is by moving forward!

He is for You and He is with You and He will make a way out! HE IS A GOD THAT CAN BE TRUSTED!

Sunday, September 14, 2014

A Five Day Challenge

Slide up, slide sideways and scroll... Words that were not even in our vocabulary even five years ago. I am the first to say that I love technology! I was always that kid at Summer youth camp with my 15 rolls of film taking pictures of every thing that I experienced and trying to capture every moment. Technology has definitely allowed me to capture even more of those moments and spend a lot less money on terrible pictures. 

Living far away from so many that I love, technology has made the distance much more bearable. It has also allowed for us to be connected with many more people in general and many fun ideas have been shared thanks to social media. 

We have the news, our Bible, coupons, emails, music and games to pass the time especially for our little ones right at our fingertips. We even have a timehop app that reminds us what we were doing this day five years ago which have led to many reminiscent conversations. 

Technology has been an incredible tool for ministry as well... allowing for faster communication and a great marketing tool. I love how quickly people can get in touch with me and how I can interact and be a part of people's everyday lives.

Lately, however, I have noticed that I have become unbalanced... Every time my phone is near and there is a down moment I find myself sliding sideways, sliding up, and scrolling. It has become a habit... Missing the moments right in front of me. Whether it's just watching the baby sleep in my arms while I rock her or not missing a moment when I am "watching" my daughter do gymnastics, being all in a moment even as simple as laughing together with my husband while watching a funny commercial or driving down the road (I can't even count how many times he has said... Did you see that... No I didn't... I was scrolling.)

This morning it was 6:30 in the morning and my son comes in our room having just woke up... and he asks me, why are you looking at your phone so early? I didn't have a great answer, because I don't want to raise a generation that stares at a screen all day, but my actions will most definitely speak louder than my words.

So I am seeking a technology detox... to realign and be at a place where I choose my technology time instead of technology controlling me. They say it takes 21 days to make a new habit, but I am going to try for 5... Five days with no scrolling. Five days with no texting, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Bible app, or anything in between. Five days to open a real Bible book, call people on the phone if we need to chat, five days to be all in all the moments and find balance again... And if nothing else give my fingers a break and fix my eyes on those around me... Not attempting to fill the quiet spaces with more noise but to be still! 

Psalm 46:10... Be still... I am going to do just that!

I look forward to being back on my phone... But hopefully a new balanced version of me! I invite you to join me for my five day challenge!

JZ

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Jesus according to Wikipedia

Have you ever just googled the word "Jesus"? Perhaps looked up "Jesus" on Wikipedia?

All the facts are there... His birth, death, parents, family lineage, how he is viewed according to the different religions... Prophet, priest, king, saint... 

As I was reading through these facts, my mind kept going back to the verses in Mark 8. 

27Jesus and his disciples went on to the villages around Caesarea Philippi. On the way he asked them, “Who do people say I am?”

28They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.”

29“But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”

The truth is that words are just that, words... facts, figures, statistics that calculate in to a religion of some form or shape, but what is Jesus to you?

Jesus came to build a bridge between us and God. We can have a personal relationship with Him! When we encounter that Jesus personally, you will never be the same! Those words will suddenly spring to life off of a page.

So where do you start? The Bible lays it out so simply! The only way to God is through Jesus. Believe that He is real, Confess your need for Him, and Trust Him with your life. (Romans 10:9)

Jesus came to earth for You so that you could have life and life abundantly (John 10:10)... That can't be described in a Wikipedia article but with a personal encounter! Will you trust Him with your life today?



Friday, August 22, 2014

The Why Behind the What - When Your Child is a Tattletale

Why, why, why... from as early as two years old, kids have that word down in spades! And it never fails that as soon as you take the time to give kids an elaborate answer "why" they follow up with, "but why?"

Don't get weary in the why's! Every time you take the time to answer the why behind the what, you are shaping your child's worldview! The reality is that if parents do not take the time to shape that world view and answer the why's, children and teens will get their "why" from somewhere else.

God knew that being a parent would be a hard journey at times, that is why He gave us Scripture to back up our answer to the "why!" When we present the Word of God to our children, it gives kids such a better ammunition for good actions that can fuel them throughout their lives versus the proverbial "Because I told you so."

If you have siblings in your home or your children go to school or are involved in any other activity that involves other children, odds are you will have to have the conversation with your child about being a tattletale! The definition of a tattletale is a person, especially a child, who reveals secrets or informs on others; a telltale. Does that sound familiar in your home?

I have been so guilty of statements such as "nobody likes a tattletale" and "you will never have friends if you are always being a tattletale". But why...

It might be just as much our fault as parents, teachers and leaders that kids do not have "friends" because perhaps not only is their response wrong but our response is wrong as well. Kids tattle because they've developed a strong sense of right and wrong and they start policing other people. Tattletales suffer from an overdose of conscience. It has always been amazing to me though when my kids will tell on their brother or sister and then be upset when the result of their tattletale was that their brother or sister had to be punished. Kids won't say, 'I need you to listen to this and be outraged on my behalf and then do absolutely nothing, but 90 percent of the time that is what they want.

There is so much parenting and teaching that comes with the topic of being a tattletale. Children are learning to problem solve, learning the difference between good and bad judgment calls, looking for security and figuring out what they have the authority over versus what needs a parent involvement. Kids want to be validated!

There are so many Scriptures that can be ammunition for you when you are trying to teach on the topic of being a telltale!

For the constant conflict of I am cleaning or doing my part but so and so is not doing theirs, we can encourage them that they are responsible for their own actions and to do their job with excellence and to not worry with the standard that others do theirs... Scriptures to back this up... 2nd Thessalonians 3:11-12, "For we hear that some among you walk in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies. Now such persons we command and encourage in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living." 2nd Timothy 2:15, "Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth."

For the times when your child feels he has been wronged by another child, Matthew 18:15-17 “If a fellow believer hurts you, go and tell him—work it out between the two of you. If he listens, you’ve made a friend. If he won’t listen, take one or two others along so that the presence of witnesses will keep things honest, and try again. If he still won’t listen, tell the church. If he won’t listen to the church, you’ll have to start over from scratch, confront him with the need for repentance, and offer again God’s forgiving love."(The Message)

When your child has developed a bad habit of always being a telltale, teach about being a a trustworthy friend. "He who goes about as a talebearer reveals secrets, But he who is trustworthy conceals a matter."(Proverbs 11:13 NASB)

We get the privilege of raising up the next generation of world changers! You are doing a great job and no one can be a better parent for your child than guess who, YOU! I encourage you to find your own Scriptures that can be fuel for your "why" conversations! The best is yet to come!