Living to Represent

Our little guy has become quite good at reacting to key words. For example if we say “train” he responds with “choo-choo”, or the word dog always receives a hearty “woof-woof”. Lately the word “pray” has resulted in him stopping in his tracks to fold his hands and bow his head. The funny thing is we aren’t really strict on this, we just more taught it as a sign so he understood what we were doing.

Today there were a couple of examples. I received a message from a friend relating a heartbreaking prayer request that I then read out loud to my husband. When I said we need to remember to pray, Caleb put down his fork and folded his hands. He was absolutely right. This was a perfect time to lift this up to God. 

Early this morning Caleb turned on some worship music on the IPad (it feels funny writing that, but it is a daily occurrence). He started “singing” along to it, and swaying back and forth, then when he really got into it he jumped off the couch and started dancing, raising his hands. (You can hear the powerful song below).

 

My heart was really stirred. Honestly, my little boy was lost in worship. I started to say to him “God loves your worship”, but all I got out was “God” and he froze, folded his hands and bowed his head!

I instantly hurried to tell him, no what you’re doing is good, you don’t have to stop! And he carried on. I was a little concerned that he was associating the name of God to stopping what you’re doing and performing an action.

As we have gone along with our day and I prayed about it, I am not as concerned. Instead, I have been wondering how I am representing the Lord to my son daily here.

A couple questions I asked myself:

  • Do the words “God”, “Jesus” or “Prayer” seem to trigger simply a mechanical response?
  • Would my child know that Jesus loves them deeply, for who they are, regardless of what they do?

Obviously my son is too young to know the answers to these and to tell me himself, they were simply more for my introspective self.

As we were reading in the last chapter of Job, God reprimands Job’s friends because they did not represent him accurately to Job in his time of need.

“I am angry with you and your two friends, for you have not spoken accurately about me” Job 42:7b

The Lord forgives them and blesses Job, but an important truth is still hidden there. We are representing the Lord to someone all the time. Are we reflecting him accurately?

I hope and pray that as time goes on I will be able to portray an example of the Lord’s love and faithfulness, righteousness and holiness in a balanced way to my son and kids to come.

I think we can take away a lot from what Jesus says to the man he healed from possession by many demons in Mark 5:19

But Jesus said, “No, go home to your family, and tell them everything the Lord has done for you and how merciful he has been.”

I know in my life God has done many things, some I have written down, others that I have probably forgotten. These testimonies will be wonderful stories to share with my family and a great legacy to leave to build faith in future generations.

 

Joyful in Hope

Ah, the first snow of the year. Depending on what month it is it can bring some different feelings. For me waking up to the wet, white stuff this morning was a mixed feeling of my excitement for the impending holidays (which are still a ways away), and dread of the housebound winter season coming.

At our moms group this morning we were talking about joy. We are reading a wonderful book called Naked Fruit, a MOPS book by Elisa Morgan. It’s about the fruits of the spirit.

Anyway we were talking about joy and how children can exhibit a lot more joy than we can at times, and it got me thinking about today’s first snow.

When my son woke up this morning and I took him over to the window, he saw this beautiful white snow through eyes of innocence. He didn’t remember it from last year, as he was only a little baby, and by next year it might be a new revelation all over again. He was completely captivated by it. There was lots of pointing, “ooing” and “awwing” as he looked at our street, our vehicles and the branches covered in snow.

His joy over the weather, made me quite excited and most of my fears of long, cold wet winter vanished for a moment (until I walked outside to start my car). My joy was found in his excitement.

I haven’t always been actively pursuing joy, but it is suddenly a theme in my life. Since our move I feel like I have been tested a lot. I have had to choose between looking for the positive in a new city, new church and new adventure, or looking at the negative of missing my friends, family and old city.

My circumstances have made me unsettled. I have shifted blame to those things, and missed the fact that my joy is usually found in feeling that I have a purpose.

I have made a lot of snappy comments lately in the midst of sleepless nights, where I have said to my husband “well I have no purpose anyway” or “all I’m here for is to take care of everyone”.

The truth is, I don’t believe that. Nor do I hate taking care of my family. Honestly, I enjoy it (when I have had enough, or at least a decent fraction, of sleep).

Elisa Morgan wrote this passage in her book, which put words to my feelings. I read it to my husband the other night as a way to express my restlessness of late. Perhaps you can identify with her, and me.

“What I’m talking about is our deep desire to live a life with meaning and to share the meaningful life with others in a way that makes a difference in their days. We want to be more than girls, more than wives, more than moms, even more than women. We want to matter, and we want what we do each day to matter as well. We want our days to be about more than the next meal, the next deadline completed, the next errand to the grocery store, the next sale, or even the next girlfriend-time-get-together with our friends. And while it’s totally thrilling to watch our child move through each developmental stage – sitting, crawling, walking, talking! – we long for the day when she reads, when she makes her first real friend, when she uncovers her desire to learn, and when she falls in love.
We look past today and want to know that what we’ve invested our time in now will matter tomorrow.”
– 
Elisa Morgan, Naked Fruit

As I look towards April 14th, 2013 (my due date), I know that sometime in that vicinity our lives will be changed again by another miracle baby, and that I’ll experience, again the flood of overwhelming love. At the same time, I know I will again experience the flood of overwhelming responsibility. Again, for a time, my days will mostly be about the next diaper, next feeding, next meal for the rest of my family, and next time I get to close my eyes. It’s inevitable.

Thankfully what I am doing now DOES MATTER, even when it doesn’t feel like it.

Joy is rooted in hope, and my purpose is also rooted in the hope that the Lord has called me to do great things on his behalf, and that his plans for me are for good and not for evil.

Be joyful because you have hope. Be patient when trouble comes, and pray at all times.

Romans 12:12

 

 

Protecting A Child

Today I was going to write about my eye-opening class that I took last night, listing many statistics about child abuse. On our way though, my husband ended up telling me all about the horrifying news report regarding the child pornography ring that has been slowly being broken up.

And then tonight, I finally watched the video that everyone has been talking about. The one where Amanda Todd (the girl who committed suicide after extensive bullying) tells her story. Yes, I had been avoiding it. Not because I don’t care. Because these things sometimes wreck me too much. However, since this was something so current to our world, and especially our youth, I decided I needed to be brave and see what it was about.

Let me just say between those three things, I am pretty much rendered speechless. The cruelty that is within our world is devastating.  It is too much for one person to bear.

A child’s innocence is so precious, to any human being with a normal level of care and compassion. I have had the words of Jesus swimming in my mind over and over.

“If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.”

Matthew 18:6

Jesus love and compassion on children is verbalized in violent passion through these words. His hatred for the abuse of children, and his desire for them to experience love, joy and peace is clearly displayed.

But here is my raw and transparent fear. 

Have I contributed to abuse? Bullying? Have I ever left someone feeling isolated and unappreciated?

No, I have not done anything so blatant, but if I knew Amanda Todd would she have felt love or needed by me? Would I have been paying enough attention?

Have I let my anger get out of control and yelled at my son, when he has very little understanding of what’s going on? YES! I have. And it breaks my heart to think that I have planted seeds of distrust in him at such a young age.

I’m not trying to be unrealistic, I’m just asking myself some questions. I’m horrified by the actions of others, and my inner mother wants to destroy anyone who could harm my child.

But am I as diligent to make sure that I don’t become the one that causes emotional damage? Do I have boundaries in place to make sure that I never let my anger spiral so out of control that I am led into doing something that I will seriously regret? I have been forewarned about the potential to hurt my child. Not many plan on allowing it to happen. And I am now making a plan to ensure that it doesn’t ever.

I can’t even touch on the child pornography issue, because it breaks me too deeply to think of it. But I renewed my commitment to praying protection over my son, and doing my part to make sure that he is protected while under my care.

We can’t be everything to everyone, but we need to do everything we possibly can when it comes to our own children. I am making a commitment to God, my husband, and my son that I will pursue ways to handle frustration and anger BEFORE my son can talk back to me! And I will have other moms hold me accountable to parenting with patience.

I will do everything possible to protect my kids, screen their caregivers, and ask God daily for wisdom.

I will do everything I can to not ostracize  belittle, or isolate a person. We do not have to be friends with everyone, but we cannot be enemies with anyone.

But to you who are willing to listen, I say, love your enemies! Do good to those who hate you.

Luke 6:27

Jesus, oh Jesus…Protect our babies, our kids, YOUR children. May no one lay a finger on them that is not meant in love. Use us to bind up the brokenhearted and extend love to the children who are hurting.

 

Leadership Lenses

The art of looking at the world through a lens of leadership is one that I have been developing myself in for a few years. I attended a post-secondary bible school with a very strong emphasis on leadership. The normal world around suddenly became alive as I noticed conversations, promotions, events and church services in a new light.

Suddenly seeing a “good mom” wasn’t just a heart warming thing, it made me switch to my leadership lenses and examine why she is a good mom. What does she do differently? What characteristics does she possess that are different?

Walking into a church, feeling welcomed and appreciated was no longer a thing to be taken for granted. I visitws Lakewood church in Dallas, Texas (home of Joel & Victoria Osteen) and qA completely overwhelmed by the number of clapping, dancing greeters. I was instantly filled with joy. 

When you look through a telescope you see details very closely. This can either reveal unseen beauty or magnified mistakes. It is up to the viewer to decide what they will focus on. As you look through the telescope of leadership it is easy to become jaded and judgemental. It is important to look at the positives and negatives in balance. Ask yourself a couple of questions.

1. What can I learn from what they are doing well?

2. What can I learn from things I see need improving?

If you find the bible boring, put on your leadership glasses before reading. I had continuous revelation the other morning as I was reading in Nehemiah, chapter 6.

Nehemiah had his heart completely broken for the task for rebuilding the wall that guarded Jerusalem after it had been destroyed by their enemies. This was a great task. If you are not familiar with the whole story, start reading it here.

Soon into the reconstruction of the wall, Nehemiah came against some heavy opposition. I love how Nehemiah pulled together his leadership strength, motivated his people, and kept going. Let’s read Nehemiah 6:6-7, where a servant is bringing Nehemiah a message from the people trying to stop him.

“There is a rumor among the surrounding nations, and Geshem tells me it is true, that you and the Jews are planning to rebel and that is why you are building the wall. According to his reports, you plan to be their king. He also reports that you have appointed prophets in Jerusalem to proclaim about you, ‘Look! There is a king in Judah!’

First note these words: there is a rumour.

There was no truth to this necessarily, it was simply a rumour. How often do we as parents, family members, pastors, managers or other types of leaders run around putting out little fires that detain us from doing what is important? Have you noticed that just when God is really starting to move, or you are really beginning to accomplish something the enemy starts to stir up drama? Drama sucks the life out of us, and absolutely pulls us away from what is important.

But here is Nehemiah’s brilliant reply.

I replied, “There is no truth in any part of your story. You are making up the whole thing.” They were just trying to intimidate us, imagining that they could discourage us and stop the work. So I continued the work with even greater determination.
(Nehemiah 6:8-9)

I love it! I laughed out when I read it the first time. Way to go Nehemiah! He just simply discredits it, tells them they are making it all up and sends the guy on his way.

  • He is not motivated by fear.
  • He does not stop to go make sure that everyone clearly understands this is simply a rumour.
  • He refuses to let them steal time and energy from him.
  • He tells his people what their enemies are trying to do to them.
  • He models hard work and determination to see their vision of a rebuilt wall come to pass.

If you keep reading you will later find out that as they just focused on their work, the Lord was their defender and in time everyone saw that it was HIS hand at work, and their enemies were afraid.

So what can I learn from Nehemiah’s great leadership? Well in my everyday life I am going to be more on guard for the enemy stirring up drama. When drama starts to arise, or accusations, or rumours, I won’t give them my energy. I will remember wise Nehemiah and discredit statements, but work with greater determination at what God has called me to do.

 

May you see something new through your leadership lenses today!

 

Walking in His Will

I guess you could say that I am a dreamer. I dream when I am asleep. I dream when I am awake. Sometimes God speaks to me through my dreams, other times I wonder what could be speaking to me to concoct such a strange one!

A reoccurring pattern in my dreams for the past couples years is where I am doing something that I know I shouldn’t. It is never something terrible, in fact at first it might look like something good. For example, I might be about to marry this great Christian guy, but I know that he is not the one that God has for me. Another one is that I am about to go to a Bible school after graduating high school,  it appears to be the “right” decision, but in my heart I know I haven’t followed the Lord to the place he is calling.

These dreams always stem back to a fear of not being in God’s  will. I have these flashes to what might have been – and they are not good.

As the Lord has brought me through many important decisions, I am so thankful for three steps He has shown me for making sure I’m in his will. These principles continue to guide us daily.

1. Knowing His Word. Reading his word regularly and knowing the Word, is so important. All decisions need to be tested against scripture. If what you are feeling goes against God’s word, than it is not in God’s will. How can you know God’s stance on the issue unless you know the scriptures?

Hebrews 4:12 says

For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires.

The word of God can help us discern between what is our fleshly desires and what is something he is placing on our heart. His word is also a lamp to our feet and a light to our path (Psalm 119:105).

2. Pray For Peace. As I pray about a decision, I ask that the Lord would give me peace regarding the direction he is asking me to take. It is incredible the times that God spoken to me this way. This past March my husband told me he felt that we needed to leave our 11-month old son for four days and go to a conference in California. In the natural I was completely freaked out! I had never been away from my son that long, nor been that far a distance away from him. I was still breastfeeding, and has many concerns about the time for which we would be away.

As we prayed about it, and I objectively laid it before the Lord, he gave me a supernatural peace that went beyond what I could understand. I knew that God was leading us to this conference and that he would take care of my boy.

Philippians 4:6-7 encourages us that the Lord will lead us with his peace when he offer our concerns to him.

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.

3. Seek Godly Counsel. Whether this be from a mentor, spouse or godly friend, receiving wise counsel is very important, and Proverbs is full of reasons why. For me the person I receive counsel from has changed over the years. Now, I do receive a lot of counsel from my husband, knowing that he is praying for me and seeking the Lord. Before I started dating my husband, I was praying for confirmation, since marriage is one of the most important decisions you will ever make.

People who despise advice are asking for trouble; those who respect a command will succeed.
(Proverbs 13:13)

I needed to receive godly counsel so that my heart and my own desires didn’t completely cloud out what God was saying. Being able to take some straight talk from a mentor was important. Perhaps you’ve heard the saying “the right thing at the wrong time is still the wrong thing.” Even though I felt in my heart that this was who God was leading me towards, I needed to get some wise counsel as to the timing of the relationship, and how to go about it.
These are some safe guards for me, and I’m thankful that i don’t have to live in fear of not being in the centre of God’s will. He desires to make the path clear to me.

 

The Least of These

In older times, a servant was considered to be a very low position. Duties of a servant may include cleaning, cooking, and doing all the jobs that no one else in the house wants to do. Not many people have servants anymore, perhaps it’s just a mom’s job now. Cooking, cleaning, missing events to take care of sick kids, or healthy kids depending on your situation. It can seem humbling. I have heard many mothers say that they feel like they have lost their lives. They have misplaced there identity. Somehow the majority of their time has been donated to an ungrateful child, who continues to make more mess, and sometimes it seems like, listens less and less with each day.

Is this a negative perception on parenthood? Perhaps. However, I was reading some of the words of Jesus today, and I was struck by the similarity in serving Jesus, as in serving our families.

Perhaps, mothers actually have been given a great gift to learn firsthand to lay down their lives for their families. Just maybe, we have been given an advantage over the rest of society, for a time. Could it be that feeling likes the “least of these” will actually lead us on a path to becoming a “great one” in the Kingdom of God?

And note this: Some who seem least important now will be the greatest then, and some who are the greatest now will be least important then. (Luke 13:30)

Do you ever feel like your role isn’t important? Or maybe you realize the importance of what you do, but you don’t feel that it holds the same significance as someone in full time ministry, or someone pursuing their career.

There are days that don’t feel glamorous, and it is a choice to continue “humbling” myself, when I want to run off and pursue my own desires.

For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted. (Luke 14:11)

It is in the valleys, the low places, the serving opportunities that we often learn the most about ourselves and our creator. It is in the moments of weakness that we cry out and Jesus touches us so we are never the same.

Jesus said that if we try to keep our life, we will lose it. And if we lose our life we will gain everything. Maybe us losing ourselves in motherhood, is a chance to practice giving up our own desires for Jesus. Then when we are released from our current duties, we will be willing to go wherever Jesus asks, and do whatever he says.

In the midst of holding on to a dream of vision that the Lord has given you for your life, embrace the chances we have to be molded and shaped now. We may just have been given a special gift to learn humility and servanthood in a way others can never understand. Don’t miss what the Lord wants to say TODAY, because you’re so focused on tomorrow.

 

Preparing for Thanksgiving

All right everyone, it is just about Thanksgiving weekend here in Canada! I am concerned about getting caught up in all the details of cooking for, and entertaining family and friends. I want to go into this weekend with my heart open to truly thanking the Lord for all of His goodness. This has been a phenomenal year.

I remember dreading the moment every Thanksgiving where we would have to go around the table and say one thing we were thankful for. For some reason it just felt so empty. I’d mumble out something about being thankful for family, and we’d move on.

As time has gone on my heart seems to overflow with the mercies God gives us – when I take the time to remember them!

So that is was this post is about. Here are ten things, I am extremely thankful for. Feel free to then share yours in the blog comment post below, on Facebook, on Twitter or in an email message. Let’s give God some glory for the awesome things in our life.

10 things I am incredibly, indescribably thankful for…

1. A husband who serves the Lord wholeheartedly, and loves us (his family) and takes care of us.

2. A healthy little boy who is full of fun, energy and endless excitement.

3. The ability to carry a second baby and have the Lord knit them together within me.

4. Being blessed with a second vehicle just when things were starting to get complicated.

5. An abundance of food. I never have to worry about my family going hungry.

6. A warm house.

7. Limitless resources for being a good mom, wife and lover of Jesus. Between the bible and the awesome books people are writing, we are richly blessed when it comes to being equipped for life!

8. Supportive and empowering church leadership. I have always felt free to be who God has called me to be in the various churches I have found myself in.

9. The gift of music. Whether it is silly songs with my son in the car, or moments of intimate worship at home, music is a wonderful gift.

10. A heavenly Father who loves me unconditionally. I may let him down, but he will always love me. My recent experiences have made me more thankful for this than ever before.

11. (yep, I’m adding one more on) An avenue of getting some creative energy out: I’m thankful for blogging and for people who take the time to read what I write!

 

Wow, I feel like I’m just getting started. I may have to share some more before Thanksgiving hits!

What are you thankful for?

Twitter @myredpurplelife

Email monica@myredandpurplelife.com

or comment below, or on my Facebook page!

 

Blessings,