Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Plans to prosper you, not to harm you

About a year ago, the four of us (me, Jon, and our two sons) were playing in the living room. Brandon was doing something nutty (I wish I could remember what it was exactly) and Jon asked him to stop. Brandon was fairly upset about it, and as Jon was trying to explain to him that he could get hurt, the first thing that sprang to my lips, albeit sort of jokingly, was, "Oh, Brandon... Daddy has plans to prosper you, not to harm you!"

Now, Jeremiah 29:11 has long been a favorite verse of mine...
"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future."
...but I'd never put it in such a context... and suddenly I could really visualize God asking me to do or not do something out of the heart of a loving Father who knows what's best for His child!

Parenting can really give you some awesome insights into God's love! ☺

Thursday, June 24, 2010

A sabbatical of sorts

No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.
Hebrews 12:11 (NIV)

This morning God put these verses on my heart. I am viewing them from the standpoint of a parent needing to discipline my children. It is unpleasant for everyone involved. BUT, it will "produce a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it"! I want that for my sons!!

My oldest son's attitude seems to slip a little further south every day. It's hard to put a finger on it, but I know that I factor into it [not being self-deprecating]. I feel silly admitting it, but somehow I don't always see clearly when I need to discipline—I can be lulled into a state of dullness—and my natural tendency is to lean more toward the side of grace [in the form of giving a zillion reminders and warnings] when it comes to disobedience... but a four-year-old does not understand the concept of grace... only that he's gotten away with something.

So anyway, I've gotta get focused. I have a big job on my hands. An important one. An eternal one. My kids need more focused training. It's not a "me thing"—where I'm wanting perfection or an easier life, like I mentioned in my last post—it's a "righteousness and peace thing". Somehow even the simplest things distract my thoughts, my mission—even the most basic things. And my time is so limited. The only "me time" I'm really allotted is from 1:00 to 2:00 while my sons are having roomtime—and I am desperately needing that time to realign my focus, my heart with the Lord's.

So I have to choose—how will I use my time? Choosing is hard. But I am determined to fill my head with the Word and prayer as much as I can, so I can be at my best for training and nurturing my kids.

I'm telling you this in case you wonder about my silence! :) I am still here and things are OK, I just won't be on the computer much during the week. On the weekend I should have a little more time to catch up on things, though! I am energized by the fellowship I have with you, my dear fellow bloggers! Your friendships mean more to me than you could ever know! I will be thinking of you during the week, and hoping to make a few connections perhaps in the evenings or on the weekends.

I am comforted by the words of Hebrews 4:15,16...
This High Priest of ours [Jesus] understands our weaknesses, for He faced all of the same testings we do, yet He did not sin. So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive His mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.

Thank you, Jesus.

Monday, June 21, 2010

What's the motive?

I was inspired last Friday. I sat down with a pen and paper while my kids were playing and started assessing my role as a mom as well as my sons' progress. I wrote down some areas in which I felt the boys were needing improvement... some new rules (such as, no jumping off the arms of the couch) ...things I want to pray more diligently about (that my boys would be lovers of God more than lovers of pleasure) ...and exhortations to myself, like, "You're in this season with the boys—like it or not—don't miss these great opportunities to train them!" I also recognized that the chore chart of a 4-year-old boy is more indicative of my diligence in requiring his help than his desire/ability. And I started drafting a loose schedule for these summer days, seeing that large quantities of unplanned time land the boys in trouble (you know what they say about idle hands!).

So I was feeling pretty good about all that, even though it was just a brainstorming session for me. But as I was discussing it with my husband on Saturday, I realized that, while these things are all good, I need to be careful that my hope isn't just to create an easier life for myself! That sneaky motive of the “easy life” was creeping in again!

I'm so glad that came to light! While I still intend to somehow implement my ideas, I want to do so without my goal (or my hope) being in an easier, more pain-free life. I want my heart to be centered on God's leading and His will for my life—and focusing on my faithfulness as a parent, not fruit! God's ways are good and perfect, and I know I will never be disappointed if I seek His heart on the way I should live!

Have you ever started making plans...but then felt God remind you to check your motives? Are you willing to wait on God's timing and be content with His processes, purposes, and plans for your life? (I am asking myself the same question!) I'm so glad God is so loving—never accusing or demeaning—in His manner toward us!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Extreme mercy

I've had a break-through! Praise the Lord!! This is what happened during my time with God today:

I read 2 Chronicles 33:1-20, which tells of Manasseh's reign as king of Judah. Manasseh did terribly wicked things:

* he built pagan altars in the Temple of the Lord
* he set up an idol in God's Temple
* he sacrificed his own sons in the fire
* he led the people of Judah & Jerusalem to do even more evil than the pagan nations God had destroyed when the people of Israel entered the land

The Bible says he aroused the Lord's anger! Verse 10 says the Lord spoke to Manasseh and his people, but they ignored all His warnings! So the Lord allowed Assyria to take Manasseh prisoner.

But while in deep distress, Manasseh sought the Lord his God and sincerely humbled himself before the God of his ancestors. And when he prayed, the Lord listened to him and was moved by his request.
(2 Chronicles 33:12-13)

Can you believe that?! After all the wicked things Manasseh had done, when he humbled himself before the Lord, God heard his prayer and rescued him, restoring him to his role as king! God's mercy is incredible!!

So after reading that, I started feeling this peace settling into my soul... that if God could forgive Manasseh, He could surely forgive an imperfect parent like me... when almost immediately the words of those parenting books came back to me, like hands around my throat, in judgement. "You can win with your kids!" they said. Yet I saw only failures; so this is what completely robs me of being able to enjoy my kids or my role as a mom.

My heart cried out, "How do I break these chains?!" I could almost feel the freedom... it was so close... like I could see Jesus' open arms, and I was moving toward Him with my arms outstretched... almost had my hands in His hands... but it was just beyond my grasp... and the enemy soldiers snatched me away and escorted me back to the POW camp.

"Help me, Jesus! What can I do?" I cried out to the Lord (instead of calling a friend or emailing a pastor).

Then He spoke to my heart: So, what are you going to believe, Sara? The books, or Me?

"You, Lord, of course," I responded. And right then, I realized that those authors weren't trying to set an impossible standard for parenting; rather, they were trying to encourage by saying, "Don't give up when the going gets tough, or when the world says your efforts won't matter. God will help you 'win' if you seek Him." [They didn't clarify that 'winning' doesn't mean your kids are perfectly behaved, or that they have 'arrived' by age 6 or 10 or 15 (or ever).]

Anyway.... God did it! He slayed that big dragon!! No more condemnation! My heart feels so light, and I have been in sweet communion with the Lord all evening. It feels wonderful! Lord, help me continue to take in Your tender mercy more and more!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Question about books

Can I ask y'all.... what is your rule of thumb with regard to buying books?

My mom is a huge book lover and owns many books, and my husband and I both love reading as well..... we have tons of books around the house (my husband even built a bookshelf above our closet doors to accommodate our burgeoning book collection—his ingenious design is pictured below—and we have another big bookcase in the living room).

So as I search for books for my sons, or find ones they like at the library, it is very tempting for me to buy them! (Especially when I can find a good price on eBay or Amazon.)

So I thought I'd poll my blogging pals—how do you decide, especially with kids books, what to buy and what to simply check out at the library?

Henry and Mudge

I found a book series that Brandon (who is almost 5) really enjoys, called Henry and Mudge—about a young boy, Henry, and his canine companion, Mudge, an English Mastiff.

This one, called Henry and Mudge and the Best Day of All, is Brandon's new favorite. (Is it any wonder why, since his 5th birthday is on the horizon?)

There are 28 books in the Henry and Mudge series, which Cynthia Rylant has written over a 20 year period starting in 1987.

In doing a little digging, it appears that this book series might be commonly found in 2nd or 3rd grade curriculums—but for now, my son thoroughly enjoys having them read to him... over and over again! ☺

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Boys, trucks, and dirt

Here's what we've been up to lately: enjoying the great outdoors in suburbia! Here are a few pics of my boys in their usual spot... in the dirt. In this case, that would be the dirt around our bushes. We're too cheap to spring for a sandbox. Kidding! We just haven't gotten around to it. (You know, gotta find one—or make one—with a cover so the neighborhood cat doesn't claim it as his new litter box. Ew.) In this picture, Brandon looked up just in time to say "cheeeese."

Notice how dirty Ryan's legs and socks are? He's down in it...

...on his tummy... in a white t-shirt, of course... having a good ol' time. (What was his mother thinking??) I am starting to accept that he may need a bath daily.

I love it when they play together nicely like this! My heart's desire is for them to be best friends. ☺