Perspective

Thanksgiving.

“Because a thankful heart is a happy heart. I’m glad for what I’ve have, that’s an easy way to start…”

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Does anyone else hear that VeggieTales song ringing in their ears this time of year? I seem to start humming that little tune every November…#momlife. Leftovers from the toddler years.

Such a simple phrase but so true. A thankful heart is a happy heart.

Thankfulness is the remedy to discontentment, and gratitude will fight off self-pity every time. 

As parents, we have the beautiful responsibility of teaching our children what it means to overflow with thankfulness. We get to help them see the world through a lens of gratitude. Yet, as usual, it has to start with us. (Oh, joy.)

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Are we looking for opportunities to be full of thanks? Do we live thankful? Are we daring enough to manage a “thank you” not only in times of joy but through the tears and in the midst of pain?

If we aren’t challenging ourselves to live a life of gratitude, we certainly won’t raise  children who learn to live a life of thanks.

We must both practice and teach thanksgiving. 

Let “thank you” flow easily and quickly from your lips. Look for the unexpected…in both the little joys throughout the day and the unexpected gifts that come through hardships.

Thanksgiving – it’s giving thanks. It takes effort. It’s a lifestyle. It’s about our perspective. 

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I have had many opportunities in the last few weeks to challenge my daughter’s perspective…chances to help her see the other side.

There are nights when our youngest will lay in bed and begin to replay all the “lows” from her day. I am there to tuck her in, pray over her, and assure her that she is a gift to our family. But she’s got her mental list ready, and before I can do any of those things, she’s already berating herself for things she got wrong that day.

I have two choices. Coddle her and tell her how sorry I am for the hard parts of her day. Or, tell her how I saw the day…give her my perspective.

I found myself saying, “Yes, you’re right. Those things did happen today. But do you realize what also happened today?” I proceeded to go through the scenarios but through my filter.

She saw failure. I saw perseverance as I watched her get up and try again.

She saw selfishness. I saw growth as I watched her repent and then prefer her sister.

She saw fear. I saw courage as she stepped out to do it anyway.

She saw careless. I saw responsibility as she cleaned up the broken pieces.

Perspective changes everything.

In order to give her a different perspective, I had to have a different perspective. (Truthfully, if my perspective isn’t in the right place, there are nights I might be inclined to agree with her list and could even add to it.) I had to be looking at the day through the right lens in order to guide her to do the same.

How many times is the Lord there to comfort us, to speak words of life over us, to assure us of His love and we’re sitting there with our mental list ready to go. We start spouting off our opinions and how we see things, convinced that our perspective is the accurate one…and He’s waiting on us to just zip it so He can give us His.

Thanksgiving changes our perspective, and changing our perspective produces thanksgiving. 

Let’s be faithful to ask the Father for His perspective. Let gratitude cleanse our souls and clear our filter so that we can see our lives from His vantage point.

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Change…

I’ve actually always disliked that word … “change”.

I have vivid memories of being a child, teenager, and young adult experiencing great unsettledness when there was change. I appreciated consistency, routines, and schedules. (In fact, that’s still fairly accurate.)

If life is going a long just fine, why do things have to change anyway? Maybe things can stay the same if I hold on tightly enough?

I’ve been thinking a lot about change this past week. Seasons are about to change. We’re in those last few weeks of summer, and fall is just around the corner. It’s time for change. The weather will change. The leaves with change.

This morning I was reflecting on how the Lord is gracious to give us seasons. Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter. Like a merry-go-round … over and over we repeat the seasons. Round and round we go. The earth continually spinning, the days coming and going, and we cycle through the seasons we’ve come to know so well.

If I’m honest, the seasons are bit like a security blanket. I’ve come to rely on them.

Spring … the fragrant blooms, the color of green canvasing the skyline again, the sound of birds chirping, the warmer days and new life.

Summer … longer daylight hours, the sound of the girls’ giggles when they swim, afternoon storms, the break from school, the sense of adventure.

Fall … the vibrant colors of the leaves, the cool air, opening the windows and feeling the breeze, sweaters and boots, the consistency of routine.

Winter … bundling up, cozy evenings by a fire, hot chocolate and good books, game nights inside as a family, snow days, the joy of celebrating Christmas.

The truth is, each season is beautifully unique. Each season brings with it features and characteristics that we don’t experience unless we are in that season.

I could just as easily list off several things I dislike about each season as well. With every season, we are certain to experience both likes and dislikes. There are things about it that we take joy in and things we wish weren’t a reality.

The seasons mark change. They mark transition.

The dictionary defines season as: “each of the four divisions of the year (spring, summer, autumn, and winter) marked by particular weather patterns and daylight hours, resulting from the earth’s changing position with regard to the sun.”
Just as we experience the change of seasons throughout the year, we also experience the changing seasons in our lives.
We will go through seasons marked by particular patterns resulting from our changing position with regard to Jesus, the Son.
Just as the earth revolves around the sun, our lives should revolve around the Son.
We can’t stay in Spring forever. We don’t get to hang on to Summer. For our own good and health, we need the seasons. We don’t get the choice of staying where we are, but the beautiful thing about it is this: the Son is unchanging and unwavering. In every season and through every change, He is our fixed point.
The changing seasons of our life are, in fact, extremely beautiful. Let’s have a perspective that can see the joy in the season we’re in.
Don’t wish for more Summer when it’s time to move on to Fall. When the last of the leaves have hit the ground and Winter is creeping in, be ready to embrace it.
If you are in the season of babies, bottles, sleepless nights, and endless diapers … be in that season.
If you’re chasing toddlers, fixing lunches, wiping noses, and answering the question, “why” a million times over right now … be in that season.
Or perhaps your kiddos are older and you’ve realized that you haven’t had to make lunches in quite some time. In fact, the kids are helping cook, and they are driving themselves to activities, and suddenly you have kids who are quickly becoming your friends … be in that season.
Maybe you’re marriage is thriving … maybe you’re fighting for your marriage … whatever season you are in … be in that season.
Just as there are likes and dislikes that accompany each season of the year, there will be both great joy and pain that comes with each season in life. Somehow that’s what makes it so beautiful.
We will miss the beauty of our current season if we’re mourning the loss of the last season, or filled with anxiety over the season that’s just around the corner.
No matter how much I disliked change, it seemed to happen anyway. We will grow through the change if we learn to embrace it and not fear it. If we learn to stay fixed on the Son along the way, we will become more aware of the strengths He’s instilling in us through each and every season of life.
We must open our hands. When we hold our hands open, we cannot only let go, but we can also receive.
Life moves in seasons. Know your season. Be in your season.
Let your favorite season be the one you’re in right now.

The Process of Parenting …

Eleven years ago yesterday I was “nesting.” I remember folding laundry, cleaning up around   the house, and organizing baby clothes. I spent all day wondering when we would finally be holding Victoria in our arms.

Seems like those last few weeks of pregnancy that’s what I was always wondering! I would walk in and out of her nursery a million times … trying to imagine what life would look like when we brought our little miss home.

How would it feel? What would it be like? What would she be like?

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I dreamt of all the perfect moments with our sweet girl, and I asked the Lord to give us wisdom and knowledge so that we would raise our daughter to love Him with her whole heart. I wanted to raise a daughter who would stand with Christ at all costs.

Casey and I often joke that we knew the most about parenting before we had children! On that day eleven years ago we knew a lot …

Little did I know that the very next day, on August 27, 2007 Victoria Marie would finally be in our arms. That’s the day when the journey really began.

 

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We could never have predicted what the years would hold … the joys or the challenges, the amazingly beautiful moments, or the incredibly desperate ones.

In some ways, this journey of parenting has been what I thought it would be … in other ways, its absolutely nothing like I expected. It’s amazing how life works like that isn’t it?

Today, I am thankful for the many lessons learned along the way. I’m thankful for good ideas and theories that got turned upside down and flipped inside out. I’m thankful for a journey that taught us lessons we didn’t know we needed to learn.

While I am thankful for the lessons of the past eleven years, I am also preparing my heart for the many more to come.

God will use our children to shape and teach us. He will use the gift of raising our children to create, in us, a dependence on Him.

We can choose to be refined in the process, or we can choose to resent the process. No matter how we choose to go through it, the process is happening.

Refinement or resentment? It’s up to us. 

With the right attitude and perspective, the Father can, and will, use this journey of parenting to make us more like Him … which, in the end, is what we all really need.

I need to be more like Him. My kids need me to be more like Him. And so do yours.

We need to stop wishing for a perfect parenting journey and, instead, let the journey of parenting perfect us. 

This morning that’s what I’m thankful for. I am thankful for a journey that didn’t let us stay where we were. A journey that caused us to lean into Jesus more and more each day.

Parents, let’s embrace what God is doing in our hearts as we raise the children He’s entrusted to us.

May we have the patience and the discipline to choose refinement over resentment as we allow the process of parenting to do a perfecting work in us.

I’m thankful that this journey is still leading us straight to the feet of Jesus … because, ultimately, that’s where I pray our daughter’s journey will continually lead her as well. 

 

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Who am I …

I have not been able to stop thinking about how incredibly amazing it is that our Father in heaven truly knows us. He is the creator of heaven and earth, and “He upholds the universe by the word of his power…” yet He knows me.

He knows you. He knows your children.

It’s stunning.

We recently took a trip to the Ark Encounter and Creation Museum. We’d been wanting to visit for a while, and we finally carved out the time to go. While we were there, we sat through a musical show where at one point the singer began to talk about woodpeckers.

He talked about the many unique features of a woodpecker, and while this post isn’t really about the woodpecker, just look at these facts for a second…

Most woodpeckers have stiffened feathers because they use them to counter balance when they are pecking on a tree. Brilliant!

They have a sticky glue-like substance on their extra-long tongues that allow them to get to the insects inside the tree. Clever.

While most birds have one toe pointing back and three pointing forward on each foot, woodpeckers have two sharply clawed toes pointing in each direction to help them grasp the sides of trees and balance while they hammer away. Genius. 

Woodpeckers have a special skull structure that cushions and protects their brains from the repeated impact of pecking on trees. So smart! 

The more he rattled off these details about woodpeckers, the more enamored with the Creator I was becoming. I mean, seriously? It’s beautiful, incredible, and genius.

Honestly, we could pick any animal and begin to study its lifestyle and habits and see how it, too, was uniquely designed so that it could function and live as needed.

I walked out of that show and instantly thought, “Who am I that you are mindful of me?” 

The day after we got home from our visit to the Ark Encounter and Creation Museum, we spent the evening with some friends watching meteors. We sat on their back deck counting the number of meteors we saw streak across the night sky.

It was the first time I had ever seen a meteor … it was magical!

We drove home that night, and I was filled with the same thought, “Who am I that you are mindful of me?” 

The God of all … the Creator … the Master Designer and Artists of all that is on earth and in the heavens … He knows me. He knows YOU. He knows our children.

“When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?” Psalm 8:3-4

Who are we that He would even give us a second glance? Yet, He watches over us. (Psalm 121:8)

Who are we that He would think about us? Yet, his thoughts towards us are precious and vast and if we tried to count them, they are more than the sand. (Psalm 139:17

Who are we? We are God’s masterpiece. (Ephesians 2:10)

If you’re feeling unseen, unknown, or unloved … it’s not true. 

“Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows.” Luke 12:7

I began to think about how humbling and beautiful it is that we are known by the creator of the heavens of the earth. He has made us with the specific characteristics and unique features to live the life He’s called us to live.

How silly of the woodpecker to wish it didn’t have stiff feathers. Or, how ridiculous it would be if the woodpecker wished it didn’t have that glue on its tongue. It would not be able to survive or do what it was made to do.

Let us not devalue the unique way our Maker has fashioned us. You are uniquely made, and it’s by design. 

As parents, let’s ask the Maker to show us the unique features He’s given our children. Perhaps what we see as “stubborn” is a strength that will serve them well in the future. What we see as “emotional” is a tender and compassionate heart that will one day serve others.

God has designed and created each of our children for a purpose, and He’s given them the unique features they need to live out that purpose.

We must shift our perspective.

Slow down long enough to realize that the very breathe you just took is a miracle.

Look in the eyes of your children and marvel at what you see.

Listen to your children talk and see if you can discover something new about the unique way they have been fashioned by their Creator.

You are fearfully and wonderfully made. You are valued. You are loved. You are seen.

Anyone who says otherwise to you is just lying – even if it’s yourself. 

As parents, let us walk in the truth and speak that truth over our children.

If you struggle to believe the truth … take a timeout and go read Psalm 139, or watch video about the woodpecker, or take a walk and simply look around at the handiwork of our Creator and let HIM reveal to you how you are loved and valued so much more than those things. (Matthew 6:26)

Wonder at the amazing and brilliant design of creation – and know that you, too, are amazingly and brilliantly designed.

Back to School

It’s that time of the year already….time for school to start back.

In our community, many schools have already started, and most of the rest are starting back this week. It’s an exciting time, and we are praying for you and your children as the new school year adventures begin.

Whether your children attend a public school, private school, home school, co-op or some mix of them all,  I want you to know that God has a plan for your kids this school year that goes beyond their learning reading, writing and math.

Education is very important, and a love of learning is one of the greatest gifts we can give to our children. As important as it is, however, let us not forget the command of Ephesians 6:4 to “bring them (our children) up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” 

Your children will be receiving a lot of instruction from many different books. This year, make sure the Bible has a prominent place in your family and in your children’s education.

It has been said that the Bible is simple enough to be understood by a child and complex enough to confound a scholar. We are never too young or too old, and it’s never too late to start. 

Remember, the Bible is so much more than another book.  Literally, “The word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” Hebrews 4:12

Kara recently did a two part teaching about the Sword of the Spirit.  I think you’ll find both Part 1( Video / Audio) and Part 2 (Video / Audio) to be enlightening, encouraging, and challenging as we all seek to impart The Truth into our kids. 

Know the Word so you can sow the Word into the hearts of your Children!