Friday, December 15, 2017

Finding my identity

Identity is a big issue for many people. Who am I? A question asked by many. Identity seems so fluid and changes depending on the people we are surrounded by, the circumstances we find ourselves in, and our emotions at that very moment. 

If you were to ask me, "Faith, where do you find your identity?" 
My "good Christian" answer would be that I find my identity in the Lord. I know what He says about me. I know that He loves me. I know that I am fearfully and wonderfully made. I know that I am made in His image. I know that He loves me enough to send His son Jesus to die for me. That would be my "good Christian" answer... not the reality.

I find my identity in the way my children behave or misbehave. I find myself feeling a deep sense of shame when they sin and fall short. I also find myself feeling shame when they are very behaved and yet I am still feeling short tempered with them. 

I find my identity in my lack of ability to keep my home clean. What kind of wife, mother, person am I that I am not able to keep up  with things? My sink always has dishes in it. When waking up in the middle of the night, my room more closely resembles an obstacle course in which in need to slide past my bed then climb over the clothes stacked on the end of my bed. 

I find my identity in the way see myself in pictures or the way my stomach expands out when I sit down. Disgust is the feeling I would describe when seeing myself. 

Today I struggle with finding my identity in my grades. I have a 3.57 GPA... I mostly get all straight "A"s, but this semester I got a "D" in my calculus class. It hurts because to me it shouts "see how stupid you are?" I am anxious and overwhelmed at the very thought that I did so poorly in the one subject that I love and am strongest in. This one D somehow wipes away every good grade, every accomplishment over the last 10 years. It erases everything. I am no longer worthy of others to be proud in me. It hurts. 


I know in my head the truth about how God sees me. I know that I am a child of the most high. I know that God's love for me is not based on earthly things. I know the truth, but my heart does not feel that way. 

That is the problem with finding identity in things of the world. They are fleeting and changing. God alone is unchanging. 

Jeremiah 1:5 “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.”

1 John 3:1-2 "
See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. 
 Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is."

Ephesians 2:10 " For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works,which God prepared in advance for us to do."

1 Corinthians 15:10 "But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me"



Sunday, July 16, 2017

Anxiety attack

I let myself cry last night. I hate crying. When I cry I feel weak and embarrassed. I feel as if I am not holding it together. I feel broken. I especially hate crying in front of my children. I don't want to break their spirits or concern them. I don't want them to see mommy out of control. When I cry in front of them I feel as if I am failing to show them God's light, love, and hope.

I tell them all the time that it is ok to cry. I tell them that it is ok to feel overwhelmed. I tell them that I love them and I pray with them, but when it comes to myself I act differently. If the person in this situation was a friend of mine or just a stranger, I would love them and support them. I don't allow myself the same grace. 

Let me give you a little background on what lead to this crash and burn. Our van is in the shop until next week. My loving parents are going to cover the cost; it is a huge blessing but I feel an overwhelming amount of guilt. I feel unworthy of them to spend even $30 on me, but this amount (which just hearing the amount throws me into a panic) I feel as if I am not good enough to accept a gift this big. My loving amazing hubby is out of town for the week on a Missions trip. I am so proud of him, but I also battle feelings of guilt for being selfish and bothering him with the troubles and wanting him here with me. 

So here I am with all three girls. It is their bedtimes and I feel an anxiety attack coming on, so I tell them to go to bed. Elizabeth, with her loving heart, brings me water. Charlie comes to say good night to me and knocks the entire cup on the floor. Suddenly everything goes into slow motion in my head. The cup of water has fallen on the ground next to all of my hidden and special things from my recently deceased grandma. I see water getting onto the boxes where documents, pictures, and other items are. I try to get it up, I scream at Abbie to get towels, I scream at Charlie to get out of the way, and it seems that are not moving. I suddenly feeling an wave of grief over my grandma hit as the anxiety attack takes over. My chest is tight and I can not breathe. I get all of her stuff up and dry, thankfully there is no damage. As the adrenaline wears off, I feel out of control but hold on by a thin string. Elizabeth with her loving heart thinks I am upset because the water she brought me has spilled and she has gone to get me a new cup. When she walks into my door way with the cup, the string breaks.

"Mommy, it's ok. I am sorry Charlie spilled your water. I brought you a new one." 

I break down and begin scream pleading with her to please go pour it out. No water please please take it out. As she walks away, I realize that Charlie is crying and apologizing for spilling the water. Elizabeth is crying and apologizing for bringing me water. Abbie is trying to calm them and keep them away from me. I want to comfort them and tell them that it is ok, but I am crippled with anxiety.  I begin shaking, rubbing my ear to calm myself down, and rocking. I am doing everything I can to keep myself from crying. I am unable to talk or make eye contact with them. I am able to message a friend and my hubby. My world felt like it was crumbling and I was unable to hold it together. Elizabeth with her loving heart brings me a cup of her colored pencils as a gift. Even though it felt like everything was mumbled and I couldn't process all the noises around me, I hear her voice to Abbie. "I want to do anything I can to make her happy again. I don't want mommy to be sad." Abbie tries to physically remove Elizabeth from the room as tears begin to stream down my cheeks and all I can see is the blurry image of them falling and leaving streaks on my shirt.

I look up, still unable to stop the tears, and tell Abbie to leave Elizabeth alone. I set her gift down and lay down on my bed. I have her lay next to me. I breakdown in tears. I cuddle her. She asks me questions. Why am I sad? Do I miss daddy? Do I miss my grandma? Why am I crying? Will I be ok? 
I am still unable to speak. I just nod in response. I let myself cry, and I let myself cry in front of my girls.

Can I say how good God is? He is so good. I am so thankful for what he does and how He brings me peace in ways I couldn't imagine. 

I hear Elizabeth and Abbie talking about what they should do. They both agree that they should pray over me. Elizabeth is cuddling with me, Abbie sits behind me and puts her hand on my back and they pray. I can feel the anxiety subside, but tears still continue to stream down my face. I am finally able to speak to them.

Elizabeth asks what is wrong and I, remembering her struggling earlier in the weak to communicate her negative feelings, say "a bunch of bad feelings". I tell her that I miss daddy. That it has been a long day. That I miss my grandma. I tell her that I am just feeling sad and was feeling frustrated. I tell her that I feel sad and guilty for making them sad and cry. I tell her that I am also happy to have them. I tell her that I hate crying, especially in front of people. "I am that way too mommy". Elizabeth offers to bring me a new cup of water and I chuckle.

Feeling completely drained, I have them call Charlie into the room. I apologize to Charlie for getting upset about the water. I tell her that I know it was an accident. I tell her that I love her and always will. I love all my girls.

The three girls agree that they need to take care of mommy. They decide to give mommy a relaxing (not relaxing to me but sweet) back rub and massage my feet. All three girls karate chop my back. Elizabeth and Abbie see how dirty my feet are from walking around and they literally clean my feet. I am reminded of how Jesus cleaned the feet of the disciples.

I am in awe of God and His infinite grace and love. He sent my loving amazing children to not only love me in my mess, but to pray over me and literally was my feet. (it was with a squirt bottle, paper towels, and lotion lol).

I know that this week will not be easy. I might be anxious, I  might be overwhelmed, I might be tired, I might be frustrated, and I might be lonely. God will still be good. He will still be in control. He will still hold me. 





Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Tuning Out The World

Have you ever had times when you were so overcome with the woes of the world and life that you came before God's throne only to struggle with focus? Do your struggles keep interrupting your time with God?

Even as I write this, I find myself  distracted and drawn to other situations and problems that seem to need my attention, but they really don't. Not everything, actually most things, are not as emergent as we tend to think or feel. We get wrapped up in the now. I have to get the van fixed now! I have to clean the house now! I have to deal with this situation now! What would really happen if we stepped back and even for an hour said, "OK God, I don't know what to do. I a, so tired, so frustrated, so done with this. God show me what to do. Help me to focus on you." 

Would the world fall apart? Would all come to a crashing halt?  Or would you find yourself more in alignment with God's will and His peace?

We live in a "now " world. We can order food, transportation, leggings, and so much more from our smart devices. We can get two day shipping and we can usually get to a store within minutes. We can video conference with friends and we can get a message to a person before even taking the time to think about what we wrote. We live in a "now" world, and that can be a blessing in many ways. I have access to my Bible right now. I can tell others about God's love now. 

This can also be a huge hindrance to our walk with God. God does not have to fit into our expectations and boxes. We tend to waver in faith as any amount of time passes.  Say this not with judgement, but as one who struggles with it as well. I want to tell God what I want and need and I want to either see a difference or hear His voice immediately. He has always been my strength and my provider in the past, yet I tend to fear as soon as troubles arise. 

I discovered at 6 am that my day was already ruined. Continued vehicle troubles combined with appointments and finding transportation for my husband to and from work, put me over the edge. My head was immediately filled with anxieties and strife. What seemed like a thousand questions in need of what I though was immediate attention came streaming into my brain. I was blinded to the love and support my hubby needed after a long day at work. I was actually making things harder on him by becoming overwhelmed. I also had immediately taken my eyes off of God. I hopped on the computer and started researching pricing, parts, and transportation. I needed to find answers and felt like I would be in unrest until I did, only to make things worse for myself. 

What I really needed to do was go and seek out God. I needed to pray, but even more so I needed to humble myself in His presence. I went upstairs and began to listen to worship music and pray. I prayed for the situation. I prayed for my family. I prayed that I would be able to leave things at His throne. My prayer time was bombarded by distractions. The phone, the children, the cars passing by, the strange itch on the back of my right calf, and most of all the thoughts. Although I tried to lay the situation down and give it to God, I kept picking it right back up. I kept trying to think my way through the situation instead of just spending the time with my Father. Over and over I layer it down, but almost as quickly I continued to think about it. I was struggling to stay focused on Him who gives me strength. I wanted to just quit praying and quit worshiping. What do you do when you can't tune out the world? 

When you give something to God, as many times as you pick it back up and try to take it on yourself, place it back down. Even if it takes 100 times or more, just keep giving it to Him and repent of trying to do it yourself. Pray that God would increase your faith in Him to handle it. Then praise God, not for what he is doing to do but for who He is. He is the creator. He is the King above all kings. He is the God of the Israel and He still reigns. He sent His son to die for your sins and mine. He is worthy of all glory and honor, no matter the situation we find ourselves in. 

Prayer:

Father God, I thank you for Your love and grace. God, You are the creator of all. You are King above all and You reign with love and justice. You know what is on our hearts and You already have a plan for us. Father God, I pray that our my eyes would be set on You alone. God help me to not be distracted by other things. Help me to become less so that I can remember that You are more. I thank you for your love. I thank you that while you are a mighty ruler, you are also a loving personal God who cares about me and my struggles. I pray that You would be glorified through this. Help me to be a light even in the tough times. Help me to grow in faith, to know that You alone are my strength and You are my provider. Thank you Lord, Amen 

Scripture:
 
John 3:30 "He must become greater; I must become less."

Romans 12:2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Philippians 4:6-7 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
 

Thursday, June 29, 2017

When will this be enough?

Hello Friends,

It feels like it has been forever. I have missed writing so much but haven't felt like I could. I haven't felt like I have had enough to say.

Have you ever felt like you weren't enough? Is your life enough? Are your relationships enough? Is your job enough? What is enough?

Merriam Webster defines enough as "occurring in such quantity, quality, or scope as to fully meet demands, needs, or expectations. I would define enough as the unobtainable bar that continues to only move further from me. It is the state of living a life full of regret, guilt, and sadness.

In my life there are several areas where I would consider I am falling behind in the enough category. Here are just a few:
  • I am not smart enough
  • I am not strong enough
  • I am not fit enough
  • I am not brave enough
  • I am not good enough as a wife
  • I am not good enough as a mother
  • I do not have enough financial stability
  • I do not have enough faith
Where are you falling short in the enough categories? Who set that unobtainable bar of which you feel you can never reach? Was it God, others, or yourself?

I have recently returned to seeing a counselor. I speak with her pretty regularly because I have struggled for a very long time with self hate. While one should not become big headed and proud, I do not think that self hate is the same as humility. My self hate still robs God of His deserved praise and glory. It keeps me from looking to Him and instead keeps the focus on where I am lacking. God has done so much in my life that I can not run out of things to thank Him for, but I still sit in my sadness and fail to be content in my life. Has God not created me? Has God not grown me over the years? Even if I am not enough, isn't He enough? When did my faith in Him become based on my abilities and fears?

I so want to get to the place where I define enough as being where ever God has me and who God has created me to be. I will never be content in wanting to live the life of someone else. I need to remember where ever I fall short Gods grace and love is shown. He is enough!

2 Corinthians 3: 4-6 Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, who has made us sufficient to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. 

When speaking of the thorn in his flesh... 
2 Corinthians 12:9-10 But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." There for I will boast all more gladly from my weakness, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 

Ephesians 2:10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared before hand, that we should walk in them. 

Friends, if you are not feeling like you are enough, please know that you are not alone. Know that we are only enough through Christ Jesus. God loves us so much that He sent His son to die for us.. not because we are enough, but because he loves us enough. Seek out God's word to see what he sees when he looks at you. Know how to give God even the insufficient bits and let Him transform your world through His abilities not your own. 

You are loved! 
-Faith  

Monday, September 12, 2016

A Letter to Those Who Are Growing Weary

Dear Friend,

Often the weight of the situation becomes too heavy to bear and it becomes easy to lose hope. It feels like an never ending up hill battle. Soon it feels like the mind, body, and spirit are all worn down.

If you are in this place right now, know that you are not alone. My heart is heavy for those who feel like they are just trudging along.

Your situation might be health, finances, children, homeschooling, work, classes, frustration with the government, family, depression, or so much more. Often it is even a combination of many things.

My friend, don't lose hope. Even if it feels like you are making very little progress, keep pushing forward. You are not alone and you do not have to share your burden alone.

Perseverance... I love that word. It do not require me to be strong, smart, or talented. Perseverance is like the wind. While mountains are solid and strong, the wind breaks them down. Not by the mighty forces of the wind but rather by persistence. It might not look like anything is happening, but after time the shape of the mountains and rocks can be seen.



Friday, September 9, 2016

Why are God's People Afraid to be Real?

In the past I thought being a good Christian meant wearing a mask. Projecting an image of happiness and wholeness to all those around me. I thought the mask would help others to see Jesus through me. It would keep my brokenness from becoming a distraction to others. I would wear this mask that I created and when the mask would slip, I would become overcome with guilt for failing as a Christian.

Through the last several years, I have found that sometimes people can see God most shining through the cracks of my brokenness. I was doing God no favors by being artificial. God wanted to use my brokenness. He wanted to heal my brokenness. He wanted to love me in my brokenness.

As a society we have things that are stigmatized. Things that go unspoken for fear of rejection and judgement. Sadly, this is not much more different in our Christian walk.There are some subjects that are uncomfortable and can make us feel vulnerable.

Top Three Things Christians Hide: (Some of these overlap)

1. Mental Illness- Depression, Anxiety, Postpartum, Bipolar, PTSD, Schizophrenia, ect.

As I struggle with depression I find times when I feel the need to fake a smile, even when I am feeling shattered. Sometimes it is to hide my struggle. Sometimes it is to not make someone else uncomfortable. Also, sometimes it is because it makes me feel like I can just make it through. I am one of those personalities where if I am on the verge of crying and a friend tries to comfort me through kind words or through even just a touch, I fall apart and have a hard time gaining composure again.

In our society, mental illnesses are seen as weakness. They are often misunderstood. As Christians we are one body. So why can't we be vulnerable with our brothers and sisters in Christ? How is our pride getting in the way of allowing us to seek support and prayer? Are our expectations of others and attitudes keeping others from reaching out to us?

2. Addictions- Drugs, Alcohol, Food, Pornography, ect.

As I struggle with overeating I feel a deep sense of shame and guilt. I will have a nagging thought that seems to get louder and louder as I entertain it. I seek it for comfort. It makes me feel better, but the feeling is so short lived and I end up feeling defeated and worse than before. It is an idol that I have given myself to and that I felt could take away the pain. Food is not the only addiction I have had in my life, but at this time it is the one that I struggle with day by day, hour by hour, sometimes moment by moment.

If so many with addictions find help with support groups, how many more Christians could if we could be open about our struggles? If we could listen, support, and pray for them? Unfortunately, judgmental attitudes get in the way of showing love to each other. Imagine a brother or sister in Christ came to you and said, "Please pray for me. I am addicted to pain pills." How easy would it be to judge that person? It can be so easy to compare ourselves to others, when really we should be comparing ourselves to Jesus.

3. Sexual Immorality- Lust, Adultery, Pornography, ect.

A little over ten years ago, I had an emotional affair that turned into physical affair. It had started as a friendship. Someone who I felt understood me and who made me feel better about myself, when at the time I felt I was in a loveless marriage. I quickly became emotionally attached to the person. My heart would start racing when I saw their number on the caller id. I would find reasons to go and talk. After having a fight with my husband, I went to my friend for comfort. The emotional affair became physical and I had committed adultery. I was so attached to this person that I was willing to break apart my family. My life quickly fell apart. It was soon after that I allowed Jesus to be the Lord of my life.Thankfully, God has worked so many miracles in my life and has brought healing and restoration into my marriage.

In the church sex and sexual immorality is often a topic that is brushed aside. We feel uncomfortable talking about it and it has become faux pas. So many families are or have been impacted by sexual sins. It seems almost like we believe if we ignore it, it will go away. Sexual sins are embarrassing, but they wont just go away. Jesus was a great example with the Samaritan woman at the well. 


John 4:15-19 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.”
 He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.”
“I have no husband,” she replied.
Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.”
 “Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet.
John 4:39-41 Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I ever did.”  So when the Samaritans came to him, they urged him to stay with them, and he stayed two days.  And because of his words many more became believers.

Why should we get real?

*Not only are mental illnesses, addictions, and sexual immorality similar in the way they are stigmatized, they are all very isolating struggles. They lead to others withdrawing and trying to handle it on their own. If we as a body can start communicating about them, it will remove some of the power of them. We can then lift each other up and encourage each other. 

Ecclesiastes 4:12 Though one may be overpowered,
    two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.


1 Thessalonians 5:11 Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.


*We are a light, even in our brokenness. The world is filled with fallen broken people. If we can be real with others, they can see that God loves us in our brokenness. We are unable to do good on our own, but God still uses us to bring Him glory. How cool to have a God that can use the very things that we struggle with, to help others. 

1 Timothy 1:15-17 Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst.But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life. Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen.

Brothers and Sisters, 
If you are struggling and you feel all alone, you are not! It may feel like the world is caving in on you and like you are just trying to survive. Even then, God is still there. He loves you so much and you are precious to Him. Please reach out to a friend, family member, a doctor, or a pastor. We are stronger with others at our side. Please let me know if there is any way I can pray for you! 
God Bless, 
Faith

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Spiritual Object Permanence

Why is playing peek-a-boo with a little baby so much fun? 

It would have to be the true look of shock and joy when your face is no longer hidden. 

When babies are little they will think that something that they can not see, touch, or sense is gone. For example placing a toy behind their back. Suddenly the toy has vanished and is gone. I have heard this is true also to why many babies begin to cry when their parent is out of view. The baby seeks their mother or father for comfort but since they can not see or hear them, the parent must be gone. 

As babies get a little older and grow cognitively, they begin to develop object permanence.  They start to look for the toy behind their back instead of thinking it has disappeared forever. 

I struggle with my spiritual object permanence (s.o.p). There will be times when I see God clearly moving and working in my life to protect and provide for me. I feel His love and I do not feel afraid or alone. God has proven Himself to be faithful and true. Yet, when something suddenly happens I seem to feel as if He has disappeared and that I am alone. I become like that frightened baby that thinks her Heavenly Father has vanished. 

I often then try to handle the situation out of my own flesh, which usually gets me into more trouble. I assume that I have to fix it. I have to act in some way. Sure, I might call out to my Father, but I will not be patient in waiting or I will be overcome with anxiety. 

This often makes me so frustrated with myself. It is a battle of flesh and spirit. In my spirit I know that God is good. God is in control. God loves me and provides for me. God protects me. ...

Then my flesh says something so different. Oh, no what am I going to do? How can we afford this? I can't handle this right now. I feel so alone. Will this darkness go away? 

Not only am I left feeling torn and overwhelmed, I usually feel an overwhelming amount of guilt. I should know better. Why do I doubt so quickly? I am a bad daughter. I have no faith. 

What to do when you struggle with spiritual object permanence:

1. Cry out to your Heavenly Father

2. Put His word in your heart

3. Thank God for all the times He provided and protected

4. Remember that faith isn't the lack of doubt, it is choosing to believe even in doubt. 

5. Pray that God would increase your faith

6. Remember that God loves you

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. -1 Peter 5:7 

How can a young person stay on the path of purity? 
        By living according to your word. 
I seek you with all my heart;
        do not let me stray from your commands.
I have hidden your word in my heart
        that I might not sin against you. -Psalm 119:9-11

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. - Philippians 4:6-7

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable -- if anything is excellent or praiseworthy -- think about such things. Philippians 4:8

Immediately the boy's father exclaimed, "I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!" - Mark 9:24

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. - Romans 5:8


Thursday, June 23, 2016

Unsolicited Parental Advice

Can we be real for a moment? Being a parent is tough. It seems like there are never ending choices each day and many of the choices lead to more choices... all of which someone else will end up judging my ability to parent over. 

Do I let her pick out her own socks or do I do it for her? Am I taking away her independence and individuality to get them for her? ... OK I will let her pick them out. 

{Five minutes later}

Why is she wearing two different socks? Is that one her sisters sock? Do I make her go change them? Is it worth the fight? ..... At least they are clean, I hope. I will just have her roll that one down and maybe no one will notice. 

It is a constant balancing act and a draining one at that... and this was just over socks. 

I have found that while I can't even manage to handle the stress of socks on my own child, I still go an offer unsolicited advice to other parents. Even worse sometimes I judge their parenting skills based on what I see in a glance. 

While I am very thankful for technology and for the wealth of information at my fingertips, it has one big downfall. Information overload. It seems that each person can be an expert and have advice an information that they believe I should follow, and most of them don't agree. This leads to so many feeling they have a better way, a right way, and they feel the need to tell each person who does not comply. 

Common areas of unsolicited parental advice: 
breast/bottle
cloth/disposable diapers
vaccinations
nap schedules
disciplining
car seat arrangements
cell phones
electronics
circumcisions
bedtimes
family diet
clothing choices
dating
footwear
behavior in public
hair styles
roles of a step parent
homeschooling/public/private school
chores/allowance
access to vehicle
ect.
Whether you are a parent of a small one or a parent of a teen, we have all been offered unsolicited parental advice. Some of it might have changed your view on a subject and some may have made you feel uncomfortable. 

Which is more important, the message or the delivery? 

While the message is the heart of the issue and the thing being conveyed, it is the delivery of the message that make all the difference to me. One thing that drives my hubby crazy is that I will end up stopping and having an extended chat with strangers in Target. I love sharing the information I have, whether it is on free kids activities, an amazing product, or on what God has done in my life. I love sharing with others. I am not against sharing unsolicited advice, in the right circumstance and in the right way. 

So here is my unsolicited advice on giving unsolicited advice. 

1. Speak/Write in "I" and "my", not in "You" and "your"s. 

Often a person can hear advice better when it is spoken in a specific way. I have found that when people say "you" or "your" it automatically makes me feel defensive. I feel like I need to defend my choice and my family. Not only do I feel judged, I also feel self conscious. I begin to doubt myself and my choices as a parent and that makes me disconnect even more from the person offering the advice. 

Example: 
Good: Did you know that you should spend at least an hour a day reading to your child? 

Better: Even though time gets really tight, I try to spend at least an hour a day reading to my child. I heard it was really important for her reading skills. 

2. Speak from inexperience more than experience. 

While I appreciate the experience someone may have in a topic/situation, speaking from their inexperience also brings a mutual understanding. I am more likely to listen to a friend who understands my struggles and does not expect perfection from me because she herself is imperfect. 

Example: 
Good: I have done so much research and find that it is best for children to have no artificial preservatives in their food. 

Better: Some nights I am so exhausted from all the running around that I just run through McDonald's for dinner, but in general I am trying to cut out all of the artificial preservatives in my kids diets. 

3. Ask if the person would like advice. 

This might sound simple, but it makes all the difference. Asking if someone would like advice is a great way to build the trust and respect that will make the person receive the advice better. If the person says no then let it go. 

Example: 
Good: Why isn't your baby wearing any socks? You should have socks on her or she will get cold. 

Better: I hated when my baby would pull off her socks each time we got in the car. Can I tell you what helped us? 

4. Take a moment to evaluate and empathize.

Instead of jumping in with advice, it is important to evaluate the situation. Maybe it is not a good moment to be offering advice. Maybe the person usually does what I am suggesting but there are things I might not know playing a role at the moment. Maybe she needs support and encouragement instead. If my children are acting up in a store, I have had a long day of toddler tantrums, my a/c unit is out in my van, our paycheck was short this week; the last thing I need is a person coming up to offer me advice. If a juggler is juggling five sticks that are on fire, it is not the time to interrupt and offer my advice on how he/she could be doing it better or more effectively. Sometimes I need to remember when approaching a situation to (pardon the language) back the hell up and keep my mouth shut. If anything I can offer a kind word, a compliment, or encouragement. 

I have actually seen my friend Jennifer do this. When we see a child in a store throwing a tantrum and a parent disciplining or correcting the child, my reaction is to look away and to mind my own business. In certain circumstances my friend will acknowledge the parent and tell them that they are doing a great job. 

Example:
Good: {silence  and no judgmental glance}

Better: Keep it up! You are doing great! I love your (blank).

5. Don't use fear as a way to get the message across. 

While I do try to protect my children and do what is best for them, I do not like to live in fear. I do not want to be unaware of risks, but when a person leads with risks and dangers I automatically shut down. I am going to make a lot of mistakes. The world is a scary and dangerous place. I do my best to protect my children, but then I rely on God for protection and strength. 

Example:
Good:Little children should not be around magnets. If they accidentally swallow some they can choke, or worse they can perforate through their intestines. They can end up with internal bleeding, infection, and death. 

Better: Little children shouldn't have access to magnets because they are a chocking hazard and can hurt them if swallowed. 

6. Be aware how things are perceived.

Sometimes when someone is very passionate about the advice they are trying to give, it comes off as if they think they love their child more than I love mine. The person is just trying to help and is acting out of love, but instead it reads as something very hurtful. Phrases such as, "I love my baby, so I..." make it sounds as if the person who does not do whatever it is doesn't love their child. It is assumed that the majority of choices a person makes is in their child's best interest and out of love. 

As parents we have enough pressure on us in general, without adding the judgment of other parents. While sharing advice is a wonderful and helpful thing, it is important to make sure we are doing it in a supportive loving way. 

Proverbs 15:1 A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.

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

Philippians 2:1-4 Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit,if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

Friday, April 22, 2016

The Prayer of the Doubter

God, You are good. You are have always had your hand of protection and provision upon me and my family. I have seen You do miracles that would be considered great to many and in some that would be considered tiny. You have shown me great mercy and love, even in times when I was least deserving. You reign Most High over all. 

Yet God, I still struggle to see You at time. I struggle to remember Your goodness and faithfulness. I struggle to understand that You are bigger than my circumstances. I struggle to know that You love me in my weaknesses. I struggle to look to You first, instead of trying to carry the burden alone. 

God, I am sorry for my lack of faith. I am sorry for taking my eyes off of You. I am sorry for allowing the things around me to consume me with anxiety. I am sorry for failing to give You the glory and honor You always deserve. 

God, my God, I need Your help. Help me to set my eyes on You, Lord. Help me narrow the gap between my head and my heart. Help me to rest in Your promises. Help me to have more self control when it comes to my emotions. Help me to hide Your word in my heart. Help me to set aside the things in this world and of my flesh and become more like Jesus. Help me to remember to place my concerns at the foot of the cross and to leave them there. Most of all, Lord, help me in my unbelief. 

Amen

There is a great sermon from Pastor Rob Schneider titled The Struggle of Faith on 9/7/2014 on the website http://www.calvarysbc.com/media.php?pageID=6

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Like Mother, Like Daughter

I remember staring at the ultrasound pictures trying to see if she had my nose. I wanted to see in what way she resembled me. When she was little I would stare into her big brown eyes and wonder who she would grow up to be. Once she laughed so hard she snorted a little... just like her mommy. We use terms such as "carbon copy", "mini me", and "Faith Jr." 

Over the last eleven years we have expanded from one baby girl to three. Each one so different from each other and yet so much like us in their own ways. Abbie has my goofy sense of humor. Our Elizabeth is strong willed and fiercely independent. Last but definitely not least, Charlie is affectionate and a social butterfly. Each one is so precious and fits perfectly into our family. When I would look at my daughters I would think of how each one is like me, but tonight I realized that while they take on the good characteristics they might also take on the tough ones. 

While there are a lot of traits that I love about myself, some of my traits are a little more difficult. The most difficult trait would be that I am an over-eater. I have an addiction to food and I use it in unhealthy ways. I'm bored... I need something to eat. I'm angry... I need something to eat. I'm happy ... I need something to eat. I sad... I need a lot to eat. I use food to pacify myself and it is an addiction I have had for a very long time. Thankfully the last year and a half I have gotten a lot of help and am beginning to find ways to let God change me. I am still not where I need to be, but I have more control over food now than I have ever had before. I knew food had become a problem when I was willing to lie, steal, and hide my behavior. I felt an unquenchable hunger literally and figuratively. 

I know my daughters will each have their trials and temptations. I know that they will sin and only God will be able to help them. I know these things, but seeing them struggle still hurts. It especially hurts when I see the same struggle and behavior that I struggle with. Part of me feels guilty... is she doing this because of my bad example. Has my sins and struggles passed down to her? How can I teach her how to do something that I am still not able to do? 

Tonight I discovered that one of my precious girls has a problem with food. Her every thought seems to be around food. She is constantly seeking food. Tonight we discovered that she had been stealing food and eating it secretly in her room and had made holes in her mattress and in her sisters to hide the evidence. The amount of evidence we found was shocking and disheartening. I so wish I could take this away from her. 

What to do when children are sinning... 
To be honest, I have no idea. 

I am going to seek God's wisdom in this situation. We are going to try as a family to take the focus away from food by having scheduled eating times and no sweets, limiting temptation. I am going to be transparent about my own struggles and try to help her as much as I can. 

I can't change her heart and I can't keep her from sinning. I can keep pointing the way back to God and help her seek her identity and comfort in Him alone. 

Please pray for us as we seek out God's wisdom in all the aspects of parenting. 


Monday, November 30, 2015

Family and Funerals


This morning my husband asked me if I had ever been to a "black funeral". At first, I was confused by the question. I began to quietly ponder on what might be different between funerals I had been to before with my family and a funeral with his family. 


A week ago my husband had lost a beloved cousin, Glenn Strong, to violence. The news was shocking and devastating. I saw my news feed fill up with the outcry of his family and friends. Part of me thinks the violence aspect caused even more pain and confusion than other situations. As the week progressed, I watched as my strong loving husband went from shock to brokenness masked only by keeping busy. Even in the midst of everything he remained strong and steadfast for his girls. My heart ached in empathy for him and his family and I felt completely helpless and unable to comfort. The only thing I could do was to follow his lead and stand by him to support and love him. 

So this morning we were planning the events of the day and the timeline,when he asked if I had ever been to a "black funeral". 

While we were at the funeral there were some minor differences, but that might even be just differences in churches. Most all of what I experienced was exactly the same. 

We heard the mournful wails of the brokenhearted sister. We saw the husband holding up his wife as she said goodbye to her baby boy. We saw the cousins who were both broken-hearted at the loss of someone so dear, while also so thankful to be reunited with other family members. We heard the gentle crinkle of the candy wrappers from the elderly lady who passed them out to restless children. We smelled the food that had been lovingly prepared for the family. We heard the lyrics to "His Eye On The Sparrow". We saw the room overfilled with all those whose lives were touched by Glenn. We heard the words of the pastors who pointed the glory back to God. The thing that was exactly the same was the feeling of love that poured from the family. 

From the first time I met my husband's family, I have felt loved and welcome and the very first person I met was Glenn. It is one of my favorite stories and I even told it less than a week before Glenn's passing. 

When I first met my husbands family, they were having a reunion in a park and we had arrived after it was already dark. There was very little lighting and I only knew his dad and brothers who had arrived with us. When the hubby was speaking to some family members I went to walk around and introduce myself. I walked up to the first picnic table and introduced myself to a kind man. He said, "It's nice to meet you. I'm Little Glenn." We spoke briefly and then I went to another table. Again I introduced myself, or reintroduced myself. He said, "Hi Faith, I just met you. I'm Glenn." I was slightly embarrassed but it could have happened to anyone. I went to another group and yet again reintroduced myself. (Now remember it is very dark and they are all family..) Again he kindly responded, "Hi Faith. I am Glenn. Why don't I walk you around and introduce you to everyone?" He walked and talked with me as I got to meet all of my husband's family. 

Through the funeral and the reception Abbie, our oldest, kept mentioning that she loved her daddy's family. She also mentioned how loving his family was. I reminded her several times that they are all her family not just her dad's. She was a part of this amazing loving family. 

After spending more time with his family I came to a realization. Just like Abbie, I had continued to refer to them as his family. The reality is they are MY family. Eleven years ago they welcomed me in and have made me feel so incredibly loved. We see them far too little and I hope to change that. I love my family and will be lifting them up as they face the loss of Glenn, the first one to welcome me again and again and again. 



Thursday, October 22, 2015

Preparing for the Turbulence

The plane arrived at its gate with no delay. All the passengers quickly and quietly boarded the plane, placed their bags in the overhead compartment, and buckled themselves into their seats. I looked out the window looking at the fluffy white clouds. The clouds seemed so soft and the blue sky extended into the horizon. Looking about the plane I could see people playing on their devices, chatting, and even napping. Then I heard the voice of the pilot saying, "We are going to be flying into some turbulence. Please remain seated and buckle up." The stewardesses walked back to their seats, checking each row they passed. The skies still looked peaceful, but I knew that I didn't have a good view of the upcoming storm. As we continued to fly the sky became dark and the clouds became thick and grey. The once bustling and energized passengers were  now silent and stiff. It was just a matter of time before we would feel the turbulence. 

There are times in life when you can see the storm as it approaches and all you can do is prepare for the turbulence. Life can feel overwhelming and chaotic. Anxieties can build and often it feels like you should be doing something to help the circumstances, when there is actually nothing you can do but to take your seat, put on your seat buckle, and trust the pilot. 

Right now, my family is in this very spot. God is taking us in a new direction and we are just trying to seek His will in all we do. In a couple months I will be transferring to UMSL and at the same time the hubby will be doing a training for eight weeks, in which his income will almost become obsolete. The training has the possibility of giving us more financial stability for the long run. While we are trying to walk in faith, it is tough. Sometimes I wish I could just have a glimpse of the outcome, just to know if we are going in the right direction. We are following His voice, but it seems so many things are trying to distract us. While at moments it can be difficult, we KNOW that God is good. We know that if we walk in His will, He will provide a way. We know that God has never left us or forsaken us. We know that God is in control and knows the plans He has for us. 

I place my anxieties and fears down at His feet, but then keep picking them back up. When I try to carry the load on my own, it is so heavy and I feel the crushing weight of it all. Thankfully, I just have to cry out to Him and place it back down at His feet and He takes it and carries me through it. 

I have so many questions. Will I get the scholarship? Will we find financial stability? Will we be homeschooling next year? Will we be able to get her into the private school? 

While they are good questions, I cannot choose to be obedient in my timing. I have to walk in faith, knowing that in time all the questions will be answered. 

God is my pilot. He is in control of where this plane will go. I have to trust Him to protect and provide for us. I have to stop trying to do things on my own terms because instead of helping, it only makes things more difficult. I need to be obedient and I need to prepare my heart and mind for the turbulence that is to come over the next several months. 

I will keep trusting in my pilot. I will keep giving Him the control. I will also praise Him for all He has done and all He is about to do. I will praise Him for the places He is directing us toward and I will praise Him for the turbulence. 



Jeremiah 29:1 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 hope and a future.

1 Peter 5:7-11

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.
Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.
 And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen.

John 10:27-30

My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.  I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand.  I and the Father are one.”