Prayer: Not a Last Resort!

DUH, right?

About a month ago I stood in a small room as my son was getting his blood drawn.  He was anxious.  Defiant, but quietly, as is his pattern in public.  But there was no more I could do to help him through it.

All I had left was prayer over the situation.  And as I lifted up some prayers, I realized.

My typical operating mode in day-to-day life is to look at prayer as a last resort.

In my head, I know it shouldn’t be.  And I do (nearly daily) have some prayer time set aside in the mornings.  But I had gotten to the point where I prayed, checked that off my to-do list, and then slipped into the rest of my day focused on what I had planned for the day.  And only when I got myself in a situation where I felt like there was nothing else I could do about it was I prompted to pray.

I had forgotten 1 Thessalonians 5:17 – “pray continually.”

Do you ever find yourself praying only as a last resort?

I just know God was whispering to me in that moment – “don’t rely on your own ability.   Rely on me.”  And the lesson is that I need to rely on Him even when I feel capable!!!

So my goal in the immediate future – pray continually (and especially in the many mundane moments of the day), and get in the habit of relying on Him alone, always.

So I’ll leave you with this – a quote I heard on the radio early this year and which hasn’t left me.  (Forgive me, I’ll have to paraphrase and I don’t remember who said it!  If I find out, I’ll let you know!)

“In order to fully follow God, we need to give up the thought that we know anything.”

December 2014!

Christmas is two days away!

Today we are finishing up our preparations… wrapping the last of the gifts, making the last of the cookies (peanut butter balls), and all that good stuff.

Here’s what we’ve been up to this month:

We’ve had a rough December in terms of busy-ness and sicknesses, so we’re also doing a lot of resting, too!  This weekend we took it easy and pretty much watched Christmas movies all weekend.

It was a good weekend – probably because I had zero expectations of it.

Unlike last weekend.  One of our advent activities was to pick out a child to sponsor through ICCM.  We’ve been wanting to do this for a while and I thought it would be a great way to celebrate Christ’s birth.  It didn’t go at all like I’d planned.  (ooh – those expectations we have in our heads are so sneaky!)  I guess I thought it would be a truly meaningful family moment – and it was anything but.  We still did it, but the kids were being silly and totally not taking it seriously.  It made me angry and one of them was in time-out before it was over.

And today the littlest had a doctor’s appointment – diagnosis cold with a side of ear infection.  Not exactly how I’d expected to spend today.  But more snuggling and resting is okay, too.

In the midst of all this I thought of the Christmas devotion I’d done at MOPS a couple of years ago.  And realized I needed to hear it again.

Maybe you do, too.  Here’s the good part:

 Are you trying for the perfect Christmas? And don’t get me wrong – I get caught up in it, too! But God keeps reminding me that the only perfection I’ll find on Earth – the only perfection that you’ll find – is in Jesus. He was, and still is, the perfect gift and the reason we celebrate!

Jesus was referred to in the Bible as “Immanuel”, which means “God with us”. God gave us His son as a gift – the gift of His presence in human form. He is present (no pun intended) with us at all times.

Jesus, the Messiah, was born in a dirty stable when people were expecting a King with all the trappings.

But God is more concerned about what people need rather than what they expect. And He is not afraid to come into the mess of our lives – our dirty stables.

Despite your efforts to create the perfect Christmas, what kind of messes do you have in your life?

The good news is that God’s perfect gift is still available to you. Immanuel – God with us. Isn’t it amazing? The God of the universe is willing to give up the majesty of heaven to be with us in our dirty stable. And he is big enough to deal with whatever mess we’ve made – but not too big to care about it!!

So what do you need this Christmas? Instead of chasing after the perfect Christmas, I challenge you to chase after the “perfect gift” – Jesus. He is, in fact, regardless of his birth in a dirty stable, all the things that Isaiah prophesied.

Do you need guidance on how to get out of your mess? Well, Jesus is the wonderful counselor.

Do you need peace to get through? Jesus is the Prince of Peace

Do you need the impossible to happen? Jesus is the mighty God.

Do you need hope? Well, Jesus is also the Savior and light of this world. He is the way, the truth, and the life.

All you need to do is not miss it.

(here’s the original post, if you want to read all of it)

Merry Christmas, friends!  Praying for all of us that we don’t miss Jesus this Christmas.  

 

 

what’s been happening around here

I totally feel like I have to rewind here.  I haven’t posted in a while – we have been so busy!

So let’s start with some summer stuff…

We started a fairy garden, just for fun.  It looked pretty pathetic for most of the summer, but by September, the ground cover we added had grown and now I’m thinking it looks pretty cute.  It’s a fun summer activity for little ones – even more fun if you make an event of searching your backyard for things to use in it (pebbles, rocks, wood pieces, bark, moss, ground cover, etc.).  Search fairy garden on pinterest – you’ll be amazed!  Here’s a pic of ours:

Fairy Garden

I also bought this secretary at Goodwill in August… and finally painted it the first week the kids were in school.  I’m loving how it looks in the kitchen.  I had hoped that it would solve the problem of papers piling up on the kitchen table, but apparently you have to actually put things in it for that to work.  ha.

Secretary

Then school started.  So far, so good.  Kids have been doing well, with the slight exception of one phone call home regarding a 10-year-old boy who talked too much.  I guess that’s normal boy stuff – but definitely a first for me.  I hope it’s the last.

Let’s see, what else?

This seems to be the year where I have officially become the mom taxi.  Kids have activities three nights a week.  Then you add in my activities and my husband’s… and we are running around a lot.  But they are all good things – Bible quizzing, irish dance, MOPS, etc.

One of my oldest daughter’s activities are advanced math and science classes (for which she is actually getting college credit!) at the local community college.  I must say it felt weird to drop my 7th grader off at a college campus!  She has started rolling her eyes at me when I remind her not to talk to strangers or go anywhere alone every time I drop her off.  But I still do it – ha ha!  After all, she IS only 12!  But I’m finding a fabulous side effect of all this growing up she’s doing – she no longer has to be woken up!  she gets up on her own!  and showers every day without reminders!  Let’s just say I’m a little happy about that.

Then in October came MOMcon (previously known as the MOPS Convention) in Kansas City.  As always, it was amazing.  I got to see/hear Beth Moore, Jen Hatmaker, Lysa Terkeurst, Ken Davis, and more.  It is always a spiritually refreshing few days away for me.  The challenge is letting what I heard sink in and change me.

Halloween came and went, and my littlest was just the cutest thing ever – Madeline:

Madeline

She thought no one would know who she was – but so many people commented and loved her costume.

Then our computer hard drive crashed and all our files were unrecoverable (is that a word?).  Sad day, people.  Because even though you KNOW you should back stuff up, like all those precious photos of your little ones, do you really do it regularly?  Well, we did not.  Over the years I’ve been pretty good at actually printing our photos, which I am thanking God for.  I hadn’t gotten any 2013 pics printed, though, so I’m pretty bummed about that.  Not to mention all our other files besides photos!

My P.S.A. for today – back up your files, you never know.  

 And so November is here now, with Thanksgiving right around the corner.  I love this holiday and everything about it!!

The kiddos and I will be doing this week-long “giving thanks” activity from Ann Voskamp.  I think this is great for older children who can write – it stretches out the thanksgiving for all week!

http://www.aholyexperience.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/7Gifts.pdf

And a nice little video how-to for folding it into a little booklet are here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sQGf3y6nFww

So now your turn – what’s been happening in your neck of the woods?

crying is good sometimes

I saw this video floating around facebook but I have this weird thing – I rarely click on video links because I have media trust issues. Seriously, I feel like you never know what you’re gonna get.

Anyhow, a real-life friend suggested that I watch it. So I did. And I cried.

There is this crazy mom-pressure to get this parenting thing right. I feel it every.single.day. This video is just beautiful and reminds me that although parenting is a precious, sacred, and important responsibility, sometimes I just need to breathe deep and know that God’s grace is sufficient.

So if you haven’t watched it yet, please do. Watch, cry, and breathe deep…

Tips for Reviving Your Prayer Life

Just over a year ago, I wrote this post.  

At the time, I was struggling with being consistent in prayer and also with remaining focused in prayer.  

And because I knew that God had given me three special gifts – that can also be distractions – I knew that He certainly had an answer for me as to how to have a vibrant prayer life even in the midst of mothering.  

As I mentioned in that post, I tried writing out my prayers in a journal.  It was just what I needed.  I also contrived to have my prayer time whilst my three distractions were distracted themselves (which during the summer meant morning cartoons).  I would go out to my screened-in porch, drink in the morning air and my coffee, and begin to write.  

Journaling my prayers has stuck with me since then.  I do love looking back, remembering what I was praying about, and then realizing that God answered prayers – and in sometimes really unexpected ways.  The discipline of writing the prayers down also gave me better focus.

I thought today I’d share a few ideas about prayer that I’ve used over the years to keep my prayer life from wilting .

  1. Journaling my prayers – enough said!
  2. Changing the scenery.  Try praying in a new place – a different room, in the car, outdoors, in the shower.  
  3. Pray while walking.  I have also been trying to walk at a local park three times a week after I drop my kids off at school.  While I walk, I pray.  Something about the early morning, being outdoors, and movement has made these prayer times really powerful.
  4. Change the time.  You’ve probably heard plenty of times to get up before your kids to pray.  But the reality is that for some people, and for some seasons in life, this is nearly impossible.  When my oldest two were preschoolers I was always amazed that they would sleep through my husband getting up and getting ready for work – but if I tried to get up before them?  forget it – somehow they sensed it and they’d be up bouncing around as soon as I got out of bed.  So my advice is don’t get stuck in thinking it has to be a certain way.  Do it when it works for you.  And when it stops working, try something different.  Now that my kids are in school, I am able to get up before them to pray.  
  5. Pray when the Holy Spirit prompts you.  Don’t have 5 minutes alone during the day?  That’s ok – God will still hear one prayer at a time.  One word, one sentence prayed in the middle of your daily tasks works.  
  6. Memorize a prayer or a verse from the Bible and pray it (or write it on a 3×5 card and stick it on your fridge).

I want to hear from you!  How do you keep your prayer life consistent and fresh?  Do you have any tips or ideas you would add to the list?

Learning to Trust

ah, this life of faith, this walking with Jesus…

for me it always comes down to learning each day how to trust Him a little more.

Have you ever been in a situation where you clearly hear God telling you to do something, you obey, and you don’t get the result you wanted or expected?  Maybe you get a “no” when you were thinking you’d get a “yes”.  Maybe a door closed instead of opened.

I had recent experience with this.  I was in a situation where I was very prayerful about each step I was taking.  I heard God and I obeyed.  And I got “no”s.  Twice.

And just about this time I started putting my hands on my hips (ok, just figuratively) and asking God what He was doing.  Why would he have me do that if he knew it wasn’t going to work?  Did I not hear Him correctly?  Surely it would have been easier and better to do it a different way, God!

As I was telling God just what I thought of His plan (yes, I have some control issues), He gently reminded me of another situation that had happened at the beginning of this year – and the lesson He taught me at that time.  Again I was in a situation where I felt I had obeyed but a door closed when I thought it would be opened.  At the same time, my son and I were doing some Bible reading together.  Part of Moses’ story –  in Exodus chapters 7 -11 if you want to check it out.  God sent Moses to Pharaoh to demand the release of the Israelites, not one, but eleven times.  Eleven times Moses obeyed, and eleven times Pharaoh refused!  When I read it with my son I had wondered if Moses ever questioned why God had him go to Pharaoh and ask each time, even when God told Him Pharaoh would refuse.  In other words, why do it – why go through all that- if it wasn’t going to work?

Sound familiar?

I love how God is so personal – reminding us of the very thing we need to hear right when we need to hear it!!

This story has given me the gift of perspective in both situations, and I’m sure many more to come.  There is no reason to be disappointed when things don’t go the way I think they should – because God always has a better plan and in the midst of His plan rolling out, His glory can be displayed!

Exodus 11:9, …so that my wonders will be multiplied…”

I trust God.  I trust that His plans are better.  I trust that He can use what looks like a bump in the road or the end of a road to display His glory in some way.

In this latest situation, I had to get two “no”s before I got a “yes”.  And the “yes” was a good one.  A perfect one!

Why did He make me go through the “no”s?  Maybe it was for me to learn more how to trust.  Maybe it was for the others involved in some way.  I don’t know for sure and I may never know.

But He does, and that’s enough.

MOPS: Lonely No More

Very often when my family and I are out and about, we run into women I know but my family doesn’t.

Next from my kids comes the questions, “Who is that?  How do you know her?”

 

Last week this happened again.  I chatted with the woman for a few minutes and shortly after we parted, the questions came.

This time, however, before I answered, my oldest said, “Nevermind.  MOPS, right?”

I had to laugh.  Because she was right.  Nine times out of ten I know the person because of MOPS.

 

MOPS is short for Mothers of Preschoolers.  Not familiar with MOPS?  Go here to find out more.

 

Seriously, if you are a mom of a preschooler (a child that hasn’t started kindergarten yet), and you’re feeling lonely, find a MOPS group.  It’s funny how as a new mom especially, you are with that little person 24 hours a day, but you can feel painfully lonely.

 

The link above takes you to the MOPS home page and then click on “find a group” near the bottom of the page to search for a group near you.  You’ll meet lots of other moms in the same season of life as you.

 

And it may take one meeting or ten.  But I promise you, you will make lifelong friendships that will enrich your life and leave you lonely no more!

Back-to-school Teacher Gift

I’ve got a quick, cute back-to-school teacher gift for you!

back-to-school teacher gift

Get yourself some school-themed scrapbooking paper, some white cardstock, ribbon, and a frame.

Go to this awesome blog to print out the art for FREE!  (Thank you, bitsycreations!)

Put it in the frame and dress it up however you like, and there you have it – another quick & easy gift!

But, Jesus, I’ve only got…

Two of the kids had been arguing for at least a half hour over what to watch on TV.

The oldest had been arguing with me about why we didn’t have anything she liked for breakfast.  (mind you, we had no less than 7 breakfast choices, all of which were perfectly acceptable the day before.  But I digress…)

It was 8:30 in the morning and I was asking myself how I was going to make it through the day.

I don’t have ENOUGH.

Enough patience.

Enough quiet to complete a thought.

Enough creativity to figure out how to make these kids get along!

 

And so went the last couple of weeks of summer.

 

This past Sunday the sermon touched on Jesus feeding the five thousand.  And it made me think about the account in John’s gospel (John 6:1-15) where the small boy offered his 5 loaves and 2 fish.  Verses 8 and 9 read, “Another of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up, “Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?”

 

I often feel that way.

Lord, I’ve only got one ounce of patience left.

I’ve only got one minute left of hearing all this noise before I go crazy.

I feel like I’ve only got one volume to my voice left, and it’s not mute.

I can only listen to one child, I can only do one thing, at a time!

 

How far will that go among so many?  (I know many of you have MORE than 3 children, but to me, three is exactly “so many”.)

 

That small boy humbly offered to Jesus his 5 loaves and 2 fish.  Which in human terms were sorely lacking in terms of feeding upwards of five thousand people.  But miraculously, in the hands of Jesus, they all had enough to eat.

 

What mattered was not the amount the small boy had, but who he gave them to.  Jesus Christ.  The one who makes all things possible (Mark 10:27).

 

So instead of thinking “I’ve only got”…

I need to simply offer what I’ve got to Him.  He will make it enough.