Buckets, Lists and Filling Summer

15921573_sThere’s a lot of talk about buckets lately.

Top 10 and even top 200 itemized lists of fun-filled activities and freeing ways to spend meaningful time together with our child(ren) are popping up in an effort to generate laughter, a sense of wonder, adventure and best of all, memories in the unstructured season of summer under its sunny, iconic umbrella.

When I read though the lists of ideas they sound tranquil. Breezy. So Zip-a-dee-doo-dah. Oh summer, please come so we can wear flip flops 24/7,  pick blueberries and stay up late without a school schedule hovering overhead.

I have my list, of course. We all do, right? Granted, nobody else might care about taking their kids to see a Red Sox game, drawing on the driveway with chubby chalk sticks or reading picture books aloud on the sofa even though your kids might be elementary age but that’s okay. We all have those things we will do regardless of what our kids think.

Until of course, something gets in its way.

Or someone.

I’m more than capable of emptying my kids’ emotional buckets. At times, resenting the bucket. Even taking the gift of the bucket for granted.

At that time, it’s time for a humility check.

A God check.

A trip out to the pastures to get my bucket in smoother shape.

Which, when am convicted to my core, takes place on my knees. Prayer is there where I am reminded of all the things that I don’t want on my bucket list nor in my children’s internal emotional bucket that I can be guilty of pouring in. It’s time to confess it all and bring my muck to the feet of the One who can clean it up so that I can have a clean bucket.

What does God have to do with buckets and being filled?

Everything.

He the mighty bucket filler. He is Peaceful. Gentle. Loving. Kind. Joyful. Good. Faithful. (Gal 5:22). He fills me each day with the opportunity to develop these attributes so I can have just a smidgeon, a spec, of Christlike character. How can I not turn around and fill my children’s bucket with the same attributes and attitude Jesus has shown me?

Who am I to empty when He has filled?

That filling began at the cross, when Jesus emptied Himself until there was nothing but a submissive spirit left in His beaten, broken, weakened body. That submission, even though He had asked “…take this cup from me,” (Luke 22:42), led Him to the unthinkable. The horrific. The no-turning-back from what we each would have been desperate to flee and escape from as fast as our legs would move. Yet, as ugly as Jesus’ temporary death was and the events leading up to his death, is as beautiful and permanent as His eternal Godship is, including His heavenly home and the home He has for each of us who accept His gift of salvation from sin, who believe he died and rose again, defeating death.

Jesus’ obedience to do His Father’s will in going to the cross so that I and the world could have freedom from the condemnation we deserve from our own sin, and having and being an imperfect person day after day, is a fill I don’t think I will ever truly comprehend, and admittedly, on some days treat too casually. I have a life free of eternal judgment and consequence because of the price Jesus paid on my behalf. I am not going where I should.  I am not getting what I deserve and that’s a fill right there to be thankful about. A life merciful and graciously forgiven is another fill we experience when we believe that God sent his Son Jesus to redeem us with His blood, shed in our place, and set us apart for Himself to live a life empowered by His righteousness instead of my old icky nature.

Which can still rear its head but He helps me keep things in check. Daily.

How?

He convicts me. Corrects me gently. Reminds me to be in His word. Strengthens me.

So this summer, as I try and hit those items on my bucket list (and perhaps you as well), may I/we remember and never forget, the true bucket filler of all. With Jesus as our guide, we can be strong and loving fillers to our children who need a fun bucket list for sure, but even more so, who need strong bucket fillers.

My girls have Jesus, the ultimate bucket filler, and God willing, a mom who can pour into them with Him as her guide.

His bucket fills mine.

All summer and always.

 

When I Don’t Want to Forgive

Push-back.

Nothin’-doin’.

No way, no-how.

Alternatively, smooth sailing. As easy as  1-2-3.

The choice is ours.

To forgive another. 

Ouch. I’m sure someone comes to mind for you as it does for me.

A friend.

A colleague.

The parent of your child’s friend.

Even in our own trustworthy circles where offenses ideally, shouldn’t take place, they do, and we may find ourselves needing to extend forgiveness. Perhaps we’re holding a long-standing grudge over a conflict that has gone A-wall and left unresolved. Maybe it’s frustration at the driver who cut you off or the teacher who gave an unfair response to your child at school.

Sometimes I hold on to anger, especially when it is rooted in unfairness, betrayal or inconsideration because honestly, in some strange, crazy way, being steamed feels better than cooling off.  I guess I feel justified, after all, I was wronged! What’s there to forgive? What’s there to feel good about?

Jesus.

He sacrificed His life so I would not have to pay the price for my sins nor suffer through deserving judgment for all the days of my life, including, eternity.

Hanging on to anger is not God’s way. His way is opposite, based on right action, not poor-me, pity-party inaction.

A forgiven sinner forgives others–a truth not always convenient  to be reminded of because that means we have to be accountable and that’s not always easy but yet what the Prince of Peace calls those who have received and accepted His gift of peace and forgiveness to do.  In order to experience full freedom and model Christ-centered behavior as moms and as women, we have to give out in obedience what we have received in acceptance.

Forgiveness. Grace. Mercy.

It was given to us as quickly as 1-2-3.

God’s act of forgiveness to us by dying on the cross for our sins and mistakes is enough for us to act with the same kind of unselfish love. Even when it’s hard. I have to remind myself that my feelings about the person or situation will just have to catch up with my taking that  step of obedience to forgive and allow the offense to fall wayside not stay afloat in my spirit. I can’t wait for my feelings before I act  because truthfully, I may never act…those feelings may never develop and then I am following myself, not the LORD.

Jesus forgave so why do I have to? asks the child deep down in my spirit. That same one who finds it easier to hold on to anger as if it were melting ice cream that I needed to devour before gone.

We forgive so we can  live and benefit from the affects of forgiveness and be released from the power  that anger, bitterness and resentment holds in our spirits, hearts, minds and relationships.

We forgive to eliminate having divisiveness in our relationships. Jesus died to bring peace between Him and mankind. How can I act any differently? I am His child and that means irritation and anger have no lasting nor permanent place in my heart.

“If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” (Romans 12:18)

We forgive to be connected to God, not separated from Him, for it is HE who commands us to forgive others and live a life where our relationships are rooted in love, mercy, calmness and grace.

“And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” (Matthew 6:12)

Not always easy to do. Jesus knows that.  What He endured was surely no picnic nor anything related to easy.

God will deal with all people accordingly and hold each person accountable for their actions.  Let’s leave the judgment of peoples’ hurtful actions to God and the choice to move forward, to us. God will equip and enable us to overcome the sorrow of anger when we invite Him into our angry mess that only He can clean up and restore to a right and beautiful condition.

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you…” (Acts 1:8) We receive the power to forgive others through Jesus and only Jesus. His power to do so can be in your spirit as quickly as 1-2-3 when you call upon Him.

Who might God be calling you to forgive this week?  Can you make the process as quick as 1-2-3?

 

 

Seeking a Straight Path

Who doesn’t like a smooth, straight path? Who doesn’t want the very best road for themselves and for their children? We can be prideful. Unwilling to let go of control. But let’s try. Let’s let God, who knows the perfect way and the BEST way, be in control of where we are heading…with everything! Our goals, our children, our instruction, our energy….all of it.  Let’s trust in His perfect will for our lives and the lives of our children. It doesn’t mean our paths will be bump-free but they will be what they are suppose to be.  “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; In all all your ways submit to him and He will make your paths straight.” (Proverbs 3:5)

Handling Nellie Olesons

Those of you might remember Nellie Oleson, the sassy, outspoken classmate of Laura Ingalls in the book and television series, Little House on the Prairie. She was ruthless, heartless, self righteous, lacked compassion and never hesitated to put down another. We’ve all had face to face tine with Nellies.

Talked with them.

Been in relationship with them.

Hurt by them.

Their names may not be Nellie, they may not have blonde hair nor the snootiness that went along with an ungrateful upper-class lifestyle,  but their spirit, demeanor and attributes might bear a close resemblance.

It’s one thing to deal with the pains from people in our own lives as grown adults, or be challenged in putting to rest the unwanted hurts that came from the Nellies of yesterday, but when it comes to helping our children handle the Nellie Olesons in their lives, how do we best encourage and direct them to be God-centered when dealing those difficult people?

Our teaching must first start with our own clean and solid foundation. Perhaps we need to ask, “What are my responses in dealing with difficult people? What are my children seeing and overhearing as they observe my reaction when it comes to dealing with the offenses from others? What am I carrying or what filter am I projecting a possible negative attitude through from my past?”

Ouch!

You mean FIRST take the plank out from my own eye before removing the speck from someone else’s? (Matthew 7:3-5)

Yes.

Do I have to?

Yes, mama.

God calls us to do that. First.

When we can clean up our personal grudges, bitterness, and hurts and release the Nellies from our lives into God’s hands, including the hurt and frustration or perhaps sin we have committed from those pains, we can better equip our children to take the same approach and action. Do we really want them to hang onto those hurts others have caused or allow the affects of painful acts from people to tear down their beautiful spirits and all that God has for them and created in them?

No.

But over time, that pain of rejection can tear down spirits and cause discouragement and despair. Time brings healing but it can also be the catalyst for a snowball of bitterness and resentment that leads to all sorts of negative voices that speak into our minds.  You don’t want your children to have that kind of echo playing nor the kind of life that has harbored anger from years gone by.

Neither does God.

If we have tension, anger, are reactive and angry, we may very well parent and coach our kids from the same foundation and our children will take our cues. If we haven’t released  our resentment, our instruction might very well be tainted with the emotional charge that comes from our personal pain. We may subtly be teaching our children that holding a grudge and hanging onto resentment is the way to react and the direction to go. Ultimately, their relationships could greatly suffer later in life, and their ability to resolve conflict, never attained.

So let’s move them and ourselves in another direction.

Easier said than done, I know.

But God enables us. His strength, not ours.

I had a few Nellie Olesons as a child who definitely left scars. I wish I had then, known a God who could help me process that pain and to show me who I truly was by His design. Better late than never, and thankfully, my children will have a different view of themselves other than the perspective of their own vision and the vision of others. As long as I point them to God, I pray that their identity and self esteem will be founded on who He is, not determined by someone else’s opinion.

How about you? If you take that past hurt or problem and process it with God, you may very well be surprised as to how He can empower you through those spots where you feel vulnerable, release you from victimhood and replenish you with His perspective on who you are and who He has called you to be. You are no less of a Godly person because someone mistreats you. Your identity is in His care…not the care of others. People, bosses, friends, colleagues didn’t design you. God did. How you handle that mistreatment may very well be make the difference between healing and suffering and taking in love while releasing hatred. You might teach someone about the person of God through yoru ability to forgive and you (and your child), just might be the light somone needs in their lives.

So now that we have you taken care, how about your children? Like I said, when you start with yourself, that’s the first great step because now you are a source of credibility in knowing and understanding their pain. The difference is, while being empathetic when your child shares with you his/her pain, you are going to take the high road in your speech and not react as much as it might be hard to resist.

How?

You are going to first, understand. When they start expressing their emotions, you will of course listen with empathy, compassion and understanding. “Tell me about that.” “That must have been really hard.” I would be so frustrated and angry, too!” Be real with them. They are humans. This is human, yucky stuff. Being a child of God does not mean we don’t experience emotions.

And then help move them forward.

You might:

Pray with your child about their feelings and ask God for His direction and counsel–together.

Offer to pray with your child for that person who has hurt them (a hard one but nonetheless that person needs the power of God in their lives, yes?) Your child’s prayers might be the best thing that ever happened to that Nellie.

Decide to read through God’s promises together as a reminder of who God is (He is “an ever present help in times of trouble,” for example, Psalm 46:1). In situations like these, we have to study the character of God and give Him the focus in our troubles.   In return, He gives us His promises of strength, power and wisdom. He gives us peace. God needs to receive just as much attention and focus from us if not more, than the Nellies in our lives. Afterall, He is worthy of our praise and focus. Nellie is not.

Read about God’s people who experienced suffering at the hand of others (age appropriate, of course.) There are people in scripture who are encouraging examples of how God used their pain for something greater and how He empowered them to overcome their hardships (for example, Joseph, Gideon, Moses, Mary, Jesus Himself and so many more who were ridiculed, hurt, ostracized or met with opposition from an unfriendly foe.) But God took care of them. He also took care of their enemies. He is the ultimate judge…and in His time, He will act justly and accordingly with all of us. Everyone gives an account. (Romans 14:10-12)

Pray and ask God to give you and your child insight and wisdom. A level-headed response and a pure heart are the ways of the Lord and ultimately, the ways that make YOU and more like HIM. And you are not a Nellie. (“Create in me a clean heart Oh Lord and renew a right spirit within me.” Psalm 51:10)

Hopefully, our children will have more Lauras in their lives than Nellies, but when those Nellies do show up, they don’t have to tear down our souls. If they do, we need to ask God for His power and over our abilities and where we feel weak. He will equip us and strengthen us.

And that truth you can take to any prairie.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Focus High

Have-tos. Unresolved matters. The to-do list. Our children’s cares. Unfinished work. Interruptions. Lots going on that can feel like a brick has been put upon our spirits.

When your heart is heavy, keep plugging away at your prayer lives, moms. Keep talking to God, keep focused on Him, all the way.

When disappointment and frustration come on the scene, it is so easy for our eyes to stare at what’s before us and remain fixated on the problem…and as moms, we have a lot of concerns, questions, decisions, pulls and tugs—fix your eyes up above, pray and know that God will see you through the situation even better when your eyes are set on Him. For it is in that focus, dependence and trust where you will receive the strength, wisdom and encouragement you need instead of the discouragement and worry that comes from focusing on the parts of our problems.

Get on your knees.

Pray.

Talk to God.

He has a plan.

And it doesn’t include worry, fear or anxiety but peace, dependence and trust in Him.

If our circumstances create that greater dependence and submission, let’s thank Him. That’s a good thing because it is in those empty places of our soul where He fills us and where we experience His hand at work.

Real work.

True work.

Perfect work.

When you seek Him, the things above, you’ll experience His mighty power that will put those doubts and fears into a smaller place—where they belong, Mom.

“Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.” Col 3:2

focus

A “Quick to Listen” Call Out

“My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.” (James 1:19) What a great truth to start off our days embracing…God, may each mom reading be quick to listen to the people in her life, especially her children, slow to speak and slow to anger today. We know that you tell us, ‘in your anger, do not sin.’ Help us not to hurt, over-react agitate nor bring about discouragement in another, particularly our kids. Help us to have patience, self control and to not be led by our feelings but by your truths. Let your principles dictate our behavior and the instruction we are giving out to our children. Have a great day moms!

Monday Start Up

It’s Monday Moms…again. How did it get here so fast?! Okay,  we talked about the morning launch off….how we are sending our kids off into their day (homeschool moms, this is you, too!) Here you are again. New day. New week. New opportunities. New moments to approach in a different way. Let’s try again, even if you are rushed, to read just one verse and pray for our day. If you don’t know what to read, head to the Psalms, a great place to pour out your heart. “Father God, help every mom reading to  smile at her children this morning and to be calm, encouraging, affectionate and present. Help us not make them crazy with our own anxiety….give us your peace, your patience and the strength and power to remain self controlled, to not get rattled despite what may take place, and to stretch our time as the minutes go quickly. Help us to fill their hearts and minds by praying for them so they know you are in control of all things and that they feel our love for them, not our stress. Thank you that you are God and we are not. You do things much better than we ever could and you equip us with your goodness and power…thank you for our children and for instructing us to encourage them in the way they should go. They are our heart’s desire. Our greatest blessing. Amen.”  Okay moms, have a good morning. “The LORD himself goes before you.” (Deuteronomy 31) You are good to go!

Your Soldier’s Story

During the military battles that King David was engaged in, much dependence was placed on the strength and speed of the chariots and horses that helped secure or weaken a soldier’s mobility during war. Ultimately, it was the strength of God and His resources that could be fully trusted and counted on as well as God’s plans for Israel. King David knew the size of a soldier and  number of enemies didn’t equal destruction. He knew that it was the size of His God that would weigh om favorably.  (And just a footnote, God’s plans for Israel always prevailed.) That didn’t mean that being prepared and suiting up for battle wasn’t necessary on a soldier’s part, it just meant that at the end of the day, God would overcome injury or death on the battlefield (much like the way He did on the day of His own battle, but that’s another story, isn’t it?)

What battlefield are you on today, mom? What is the chariot you are putting your faith in? The enemy of what you are up against may seem like its ruling the ground you are standing on, but it is God who will strike successfully and rise up. Like King David, when we put our trust in God over the chariots in our lives, we will experience His will and victory in unexpected ways.

Let go of your reigns mom, and trust God. Your chariots will be there, but God is the One you’ll be able to fully count on.

A truth worth riding.

“Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.” (Psalm 20:7)

 

The Ultimate Quick Fix

Where do we place our comfort and trust? Quick-fix, feel good outlets? Been there, done that. Friends, parents, colleagues, bosses? Yup. Don’t forget coffee…how can anyone truly get going without it?!  But humans aren’t perfect, “things” are temporary. God is immortal, trustworthy and a safe haven who can outlast, outnumber, outcomfort and outdeliver anything and anyone. When times dish out discouragement, disheartening news, or we’re in a tough or trying situation, we need to remember the true place where permanent trust and lasting comfort can be found. “The LORD Almighty is the one you are to regard as holy, he is the one you are to fear, he is the one you are to dread and he will be a sanctuary.” (Isaiah 8:13) Mama, I hope today, you find lasting peace….not temporal.

Your safe haven awaits and it’s more than a quick fix.

Where are you looking for lasting peace?

Your Steps Today

the_wisdom_path1

One step at a time, moms. Much awaits our children but we don’t accomplish teaching them everything they need to know in a day nor even a week but over time. Lots of time.

Through do-overs.

Repetition.

Mistakes and mishaps.

Lots of repeats in this business, huh?

And….through joys and fun times, laugh-outloud comments and silliness….let’s not forget those. God works the same way in us. There are hundreds of steps we are climbing in the course of a lifetime….we don’t climb the whole staircase ourselves. If we were to, we’d be overwhelmed and probably run back down…to the basement! There are days I am sure we all feel like doing that, just like there are days when it’s hard for a kid to be a kid (even in Australia, right?!) but we hold our children’s hands through those days just like God holds ours. And He doesn’t ask us to endure those days alone. He is with us and provides support.

Through His presence.

Through His Word.

Through the Company of others.

He brings back-up. Support. Faithful friends and family. He is God and can do all things. And wants to do those things for you.

Where is God bringing you as you parent in this season of mothering? What small step is He asking you to make?

A step of trusting in Him?

Waiting on Him?

Changing?

Getting rid of something undesirable?

Stepping out of your comfort zone?

A step of change?

A step of attitude or adjustment (or an attitude adjustment?!)

Whatever staircase you are climbing and stepping on (and even if you are stopping for a bit before having to take the next step), God can be trusted on the way up, the way down (if need be), and even on the landing if you are between steps. He is our faithful guide and protector who won’t let us fall. He has has a plan, remember?

Of all the steps you are taking, be sure not to lose sight of that one, mom.

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

Keep climbing, mom. You are doing great!