Wednesday, October 23, 2013

unless I say no...

As I'm typing and banging away on my ancient desktop and sipping away on my [tepid] coffee I have the glorious sound of worship music and toddler tantrum playing in the background.

It has been a long night. A long week really, but specifically a long night... and morning. Like I said, a long week and it's only Wednesday.  My now 16 month old son has taken to screaming his head off to nap, sleep, anything really. Cue in amazing toddler season.  Yeah, he is now screaming in the middle of the night for no real reason other than wanting what he wants-- which is to not be in bed, to not be sleeping and to be held all.the.time.

I mean... how could you not snuggle with this face?
:)
Listen. I'm all about snuggles.  I have no problem holding my babies and loving on them and snuggling them.  I by no means deprive my children of being held, loved on, snuggled on, etc.  You're talking to the Mom who wore her 3 year old. That's right... Me, my daughter in our Moby.  And I loved it. And so did she.  My prescription to a bad day is forgetting everything and snuggling on the couch and watching a movie, listening to music, reading a book, etc. So, clearly, I don't have any problems holding or snuggling my children.
So when my son wakes up at 2am to be held, it sure in heck is not because he lacked it during the day.  I mean, and that's the only reasonable reason why my child would scream to be held in the middle of the night.  I thought it was teething at some point. But no.  Our teething remedies do nothing for this screaming toddler.  And he doesn't scream like that at any other time of the day...

Unless I say no.

"Justice, no! Don't climb the shelf. Not safe." [enter screams]
"Please get down from the toilet!" [enter screams]
"Hey bud, let's have chicken instead of cereal for lunch" [enter screams]
"Justice, share with your sister please. Nice." [enter screams]
[enter Mommy's internal scream]

I'm no professional on parenting. That's no secret.  But my suspicion is that this little boy is bent on getting his way and he has a Jesus lovin' Mama who loves him to much to let him get away with that.  So, he screams.  And he throws whatever he has in his hands in anger just to drive the point home. And then he's still screaming. And even after Mama has written a full five paragraphs, he keeps screaming.

Sigh.

And then the thought occurs to me as I try to bury myself in the Word of Jesus, frantically searching for some form of encouragement and reinforcement that I'm not the World's Worst Mother and that He values my very very weak and fragile efforts, that we are just like my 16 month old son who screams and throws because he has to be put down to nap instead of running around like he wants.

I wonder how many times my Perfect Father has sat next to me, listening to me scream and rant in my heart because I wanted what I wanted and I thought I knew best. Of course my son needs rest. It's the right and healthy thing.  He needs rest more than he needs happiness.  And so does my heart, Beloved. 

As the Perfect Father, my God knows overwhelmingly more than I do (both as the mother and the daughter) what my heart needs to grow roots and flourish.  He knows the lessons I must learn to master obedience and perfect love. He knows.  And sometimes (okay, let's face it, all the time) those lessons and His perfect execution of those lessons go against the grain of what we want.  And sometimes (or if you're me, most of the time) our hearts throw tantrums. Much like my 16 month old son.  And in His patience, the Lord listens and speaks encouragement to our hearts-- whether through silence or Word, He is a continual being of encouragement, patience and mercy.

I am unbelievably thankful for His perfect example and His Grace. He has yet to abandon me and I love Him for that.  I am blessed that through the brokenness of this season, He whispers nuggets of mercy throughout, molding and shaping me to be His Bride. A Shulamite Mom indeed.

I think I'll go finish my cold coffee now and bask in His mercies...
while my son continues to scream in the background.

Agape,


Monday, August 12, 2013

Trusting Jesus with our children

The same sentence had been whispered in my heart over and over and over again.


"Trust Me with you children Nicole. Hand them over to me. Give them to me. Trust Me with them."

It struck me as odd because I feel like I do. At least I felt like I did. Now, I'm not so sure. I mean, I dedicated my children to the Lord when they were newborns.  Our entire Church Family has been witness to both. I meant it then.  I still do.  But somewhere along the line of parenting, as my love grows for them, I've also allowed fear to grip my heart.


Haven Justice being dedicated to Jesus. 
"It's amazing how we think we trust God in an area, and then He's like... 'Yah, no kiddo. Sorry.' Haha. I love it though! Praise God that He loves me enough to call my bluff."
-- text sent to a friend of mine, confessing my lack of trust. 

Aaliya Liberty being dedicated to Jesus. 
We live in dark, dark world and I never want anything to happen to my children.  My mother's heart wants to shield them from all pain, suffering.  I want to create the perfect circumstance so that my children will come to know Jesus... without pain. I want to be there every second of every day.

Truth is, I believe in homeschooling and staying home and being my children's main teacher in life. I believe that 100%.  I know my most important ministry (besides to the Lord and to my husband) is tending the hearts of my children.  But I believe that, in part*, it is because fear reigns my heart when it comes to my children.  I am depending on my own efforts to raise my children and protect them. I am depending on my own efforts to bring them to the foot of the cross.  I am fearful that if I let them out of my sight, the world will swallow them whole and they will be ruined forever.

But what a silly notion! I am not the author of protection. God is!

"Yes, our protection comes from the LORD, and he, the Holy One of Israel, has given us our king." 

--Psalms 89:18


Did I not give them to the Lord? Do they not belong to the Almighty God who makes Heaven His throne and earth His footstool? Do they not belong to the God who promises that if God is for us (and I am convinced He is for my children) then who or what can stand against us?  It doesn't matter if I homeschool or send them to private or public school. Truth is, my job as a parent is not to choose the schooling I feel most comfortable with.  It isn't to keep them in a bubble tightly wrapped, it isn't even to stay home so they can see me more and I can see them more. It isn't even to bring them to the foot of the cross. My job is to pray and ask Him what method of schooling is best for my children and trust that He knows best.  My job as a parent is to show them the way to the cross and pray the Holy Spirit leads them there.  My job as a parent is to demonstrate obeying Jesus, whatever that may look like.  And my job as a parent is to hold on to them, with open hands, remembering they do not belong to me. Jesus has reign over my children, however He sees fit. He knows their heart even better than I.  He knows the circumstances and the events that must take place in their life to prepare their hearts to receive Him.  I cannot and must not stand in the way of that by allowing fear to reign.  Our God has their days numbered and we should make the most of their days by trusting Him with them every single minute of the day. Our God is a good God, a merciful God who causes all things to come together for the good of those who love Him.  I know my babies love Him.  I know by the way they want to worship Him without fully understanding what it is they're doing.  I know my babies love Him by the way they hunger for Bible Stories at dinner time and devotional time.  They always want to know more.  I know my babies love Jesus because the first response to a boo-boo isn't a kiss from Mommy's lips (though a very integral part of our making the boo-boo better routine), it is prayer.  I know they love Him because they are seeking to know Him more and obey. So I know that God will cause all things to work together for the good of my babies. More than I ever could.  My resources are limited, His are unlimited.  He is the author and created of the resources.

I am writing this, not as though I've achieved the fullness of this.  But as one who is wrestling with God, begging Him to give her grace to fully trust without doubt or fear.  I know I haven't achieved it, but I want to. I know my God is good and He loves my babies beyond what I ever could (and that's a whole lot, trust me). And my prayer for you is that you would wrestle with Him the same way I am. We cannot afford NOT to have this conversation and wrestle match with God. The days are short and getting darker by the moment.  And we ourselves will not be able to keep our children, only He will be able to sustain and protect them in the face of whatever comes...

Agape Friends,




* for me-- this is my journey ya'll, I'm not saying everyone who home schools is gripped with fear or that all stay at home mommies fear for their children. I am only wanting to exhort us all to full faith, even as mothers. I encourage every mommy, homeschooling or not, stay at home or not, to ask Jesus the condition of their hearts-- whether gripped by fear or not.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

for when we want to complain

I am not a happy pregnant person. Never. I've been pregnant twice and twice I have been jipped of that "glow and joy" women feel when they're pregnant.  I mean, halfway through my pregnancy, I am done being pregnant.  Really, really done. Shoot, by the time 36 weeks come I am bribing the doctor to just move the C-Section date up a week or three. I hate the nausea, and the hormone insanity that rushes through my body.  I hate the discomfort and the aches and pains. I hate blowing up like a balloon and always feeling tired. It's just not my favorite season of life.  Some women love being pregnant and others, like me, hate it.

But then....

Then I remember my amazing friend who wants a baby so so bad but has miscarried three times.  She would give anything to *not* complain about her pregnancy. Then, I find that an old friend DID have her baby halfway through her pregnancy and he went to be with Jesus an hour after being born.  Suddenly, I am reminded of a dear friend who tried and tried and tried to get pregnant for four years.  They were years filled with tears, a fight to keep the faith and hope deferred.

And suddenly, complaining about cankles and some weight gain, just seems super silly. Actually, complaining about any of the hard parts of mothering seem silly in comparison to the pain some women feel when they are unable (even if for a season) to conceive, carry and deliver babies.

I am not pregnant. And I have no plans of becoming pregnant anytime soon. And this post isn't about a desire or anything of the sort.  But it is a post that I pray will raise awareness. Mommies, we know this job is hard work.  I mean, really hard work. And it is so very easy to fall into the trap of complaining about how very hard our job is.  But I am begging you Mommy, in that moment when you want to give in to complaining, to think about my friend who wants a baby but has miscarried three times. I dare you to think about my friend who can no longer hold her son because he was born so incredibly premature and think about the four long years of trying my other friend endured.  Seriously.  Pregnancy, mothering. It's all hard.  But I am now convinced, after walking the path with several friends of mine, that harder is the path of hope deferred than the path we walk on dear Mommy Friends. 

Let's make a deal that we won't complain about our toddlers' tantrums or sleepless nights or achy backs. Let's instead walk gratefully at the gifts we've been given and marvel in their little hearts and little feet.  Let's pray for our sisters who ache for children they once had but didn't get to hold.  Let's pray for our sisters who ache for children they will one day have... or not.  Let's just walk in thankfulness and bear our sisters' burdens.



Agape,


Thursday, July 25, 2013

Psalms 61:2

I think I finally understand what that verse means...

I was tucking away our djembe and just asking God for help.  I knew I needed it.  It had been one of those days where I wasn't fully engaging with anything or anyone because I felt I had failed once again.  I'd expected to take the kids for a park, play in the rain, deep clean my house and sip on a cup of coffee during their nice long nap... [Yeah, I know. No wonder I failed.] Nevertheless I'd screamed at my children one too many times on this particular rainy icky day and everything they did was cumbersome to me in some way or form. Maybe it was the weather, or the fact that I knew I didn't have a car all day and I desperately wanted to avoid the house.  Maybe it was that the house was destroyed (again) or that I felt not good enough as a mom (again).  Maybe it was that I hadn't spent purposeful time with the Lord or that it was just a Thursday. Who knows.

But at that very moment, my heart screamed wildly; "Lead me to the rock that is higher than I."  It's no secret that I make buckets and buckets of mistakes, specifically for our purposes, in parenting (though trust me, my severe mistake-making is clear across the board).  I yell more than I should.  I have to work really hard at disciplining without anger and most of the time, I lay my kids down 15 minutes earlier than I should to simply savor a little bit of uninterrupted time.  But I think the worst part is that I tend to be overwhelmed most days. The burden of this God-given responsibility to train up children in the way they should go is overwhelming enough, add to that missions, housework, personal and internal battles, marriage, a side couple of side businesses and my heart is beyond overwhelmed.  I am a wreck day in and day out.  I am not one of the moms that sail throughout the day with a smile on her face and her cape safely tucked under her gourmet apron.  I struggle through this thing all the time. And most of the time I feel overwhelmed.  I still can't get over the fact that God trusted me with two lives to lead in the way they should go.

Nevertheless, in that overwhelm, my heart cries out.. "Lead me to the rock that is higher than I." I've said it once, twice, three times.  Motherhood, I'm convinced, is designed to lead us to the truth of the Gospel and the foot of the cross.  Every bit of weakness and overwhelm on our part gets to scream out and demonstrate who Jesus is.  He is the rock that is higher than I.  He is the standard and the truth. In my overwhelmed state, I get to meet the God Who is strong, the God I build my life upon and therefore need not worry about the coming storms.  In my overwhelm, I get to meet the God is sure and keeps me and my children safe. In my overwhelm I get the opportunity to be led by Jesus to pastures besides still waters. I am truly terrified at how people do this without Jesus.  We cannot mother without Him. If your heart is overwhelmed today friend, be led to the sturdy, stead, trustworthy rock who is Jesus.

Agape,

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The illusion of the well-oiled machine

I may or may have mentioned the last few posts how we have transitioned into a new season of life and how I may or may not be having a hard time adjusting.

I started my evening's conversation with the Lord something like this;

"I'm so weak in parenting Lord. I lack follow through and then I'm too strict. I yell and lose my patience. I can't get it right... God please-- how do I do this? How do I get it together and do it all?"

There are so many things wrong with that sentence, I'll go ahead and let you dissect it. Nevertheless, God interrupted me mid-sentence and really began to talk to me about this. 

See, as you may or may not know, I have been in a season of sitting since my daughter was born. Sitting is a relative term, but God had our family focused on our family for those first two years of full time parenting. They have been a magnificent season because through it we have been purged and brought low and I am so thankful. Seriously. 

But then, now... we have transitioned.  And we're back to serving and ministering on a consistent basis (still being purged and still being brought low-- trust me. That will never change by the grace of Jesus.)  And truthfully... I don't know how to do this. I don't know how to work part-time from home and keep a tidy house and parent my children properly and date my husband regularly and spend time in prayer and the Word and somehow in there remember to take care of myself. I just don't. 

And right before God interrupted me I was asking Him to show me a formula for how the heck to get it all done. Surely, He must know.

This was His response; 

"Nicole, you're looking to live in a well-oiled machine that gives you a sense of independence and satisfaction in your own organized efforts.  It leans on me, but minimally. I don't work like that. Your mess and chaos screams My Glory.  The order you're looking for won't come, because it's based on managing yourself rather than trusting me."

Ouch

Got it Jesus. Loud and clear. 

Our God is a God of order, but His order is not of this world.  It doesn't make sense to those without the indwelling Holy Spirit and that's okay.  It shouldn't.  I'm not vouching for a messy house in the name of ministry and I'm not vouching for an immaculate house and unhappy babies.  
I'm saying life will probably never be the well-oiled machine I think it should be.  And that's okay.  If life was a well-oiled machine, I wouldn't have very much room to allow the grace and glory of Jesus Christ to sustain me and shine on to the world. And at the end of the day, the glory of God is all we really live for.  It's all we really should live for and all we can really count on being eternal. 

So be encouraged today friend.  If it seems like life is not totally and completely making sense, and if it seems like that routine you're looking for doesn't set well and like you're always having to ask Jesus to come help you, know that you are exactly where God wants you to be.  Totally relying on His mercy to get you through.  When you're having to beg God to sustain you every second of the day, You are fulfilling Matthew 5 and are shining the light of Christ on to the world.  

Just, don't forget to do the laundry while you're at it. 

Agape,


Thursday, March 28, 2013

A rare-type of birth advocate


Today, we have a guest blogger! So excited for this one! 

I had an unusual birth.  I got two for one. No, not twins and not babies. I got two births for the price of one... 
Daddy holding sweet baby boy
When I found out I was pregnant, I started off going to an OB. It wasn’t that I didn’t like my doctor, it’s just that the more I researched and read (and the more my hormones started to affect my brain cells,) the more I realized what I wanted out of my birth. In my third trimester, I decided to petition my insurance to cover care at a local birthing center where I could have an intervention-free water birth. They agreed and so I began my unexpected journey into the world of natural birth. 
I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I just knew I wanted it bad enough. I would keep my eye on the prize no matter how bad the pain got. 
Then, the big day finally arrived. My labor started at a little before 8 pm on Friday night and I labored well into the morning. I finally felt the urge to push around 10 am. I pushed for a while, but I had a “cervical lip” that was working against me, making it very difficult for my son’s head to descend. He was also in the posterior position and I was experiencing terrible back labor. At that point, my midwife told me to stop pushing and breathe through the urge to push. I did this for several loooooooong and painful hours. I was fully dilated and finally allowed to start pushing again sometime that evening. After several hours of that, I started giving up. (*editor's note: gee, Cat... After almost 24 hours of labor several of which you had to resist your body's natural and very powerful urges THEN you *start* to give up? Gosh. Weak one!! ;))  It gets to the point where you don’t even remember that you’re trying to have a baby. You’re just trying to make it through the next minute. And you do. Those minutes turn into hours and your body just takes over. My mind wasn’t always in control of what my body was doing, but it did what it needed to do. Like a birthing beast. All that work, though, didn’t end in the birth I had envisioned for myself. 
The baby was just not coming. My midwife agreed that I was no longer progressing in my labor and the ambulance was called. I was told that the hospital would most likely give me an epidural and Pitocin to keep things moving, but that I could potentially have another 10 hours of labor ahead of me. I thought I was going to dieSo, these circumstances that were out of my control landed me in an ambulance with a B-line to the hospital. The ambulance couldn’t get there fast enough. Not just for me, but for the EMT’s. They were pleading with me not to have the baby in the ambulance. If I knew where my arm was at the time, I promise you that I would have punched one of them in the face for saying something so incredibly stupid. But, I digress.
After the agonizing ride to the hospital, however, it was determined upon arrival that the baby needed out right away. His heart rate was dropping and I had spiked a fever (which we later found out was due to an infection in my placenta.) The doctor tried to deliver the baby during two more pushes (the most painful because the doctor actually tried to maneuver the baby WITH HIS HANDS). My son was right there, but he just wouldn't budge. There was panic and chaos all around me as they prepped me for an emergency C-Section, but I was completely at peace. I had somehow known hours before that this was coming and I felt that we were both going to be alright. I know now that God was present in those dark moments and He gave me peace in a situation that would have normally sent me into a panic for sure. Fine by me at that point, anyway! I just wanted him out. All I could think about was making the pain stop. And then… it did. Oh, Sweet Jesus, it did. A little [BIG] needle called a Spinal. I didn’t even feel it go in, but all the sudden I was numb from the belly down. That was the sweetest relief I’ve ever felt and you better believe I was thanking Jesus for that little modern miracle.
So, here's where the rubber meets the road.
Cat and Judah in the NICU
Because of the C-Section, I didn’t get to have a rush of Oxytocin (the love hormone that is released after a woman gives birth without medical intervention.) when I met my son, I was laying on an operating table, not sure if I was right side up or upside down. I remember gathering up the strength to be excited to finally meet him. I was happy to see that he was ok and hear his cry as he took his first breath, but truth be told, I was concerned about the vomit that was burning my throat due to all the tugging they were doing on my abdomen. I remember thinking, “I went through all that and now I might die from choking on my own vomit.” Yes, irrational, I know. But I’m telling you, I had no functioning brain left. None. Meeting my son was not the emotional, joyful rush I was anticipating it to be for so many weeks and I remember feeling guilty about that.
And that's where it started. The guilt. 
I had read and watched all these things about what a birth should be. And maybe it is supposed to be like dying a painful death and then opening your eyes to the glories of heaven, but it wasn’t for me. I was just thankful to Jesus he was ok. And I was EXHAUSTED. So incredibly exhausted. 
I thought "That's it. This is going to be the anti-climactic end to my birth journey… How disappointing." 
It was a bond with my son formed in a way that I was not expecting. You see, I didn’t get to hold my son when he was born. I didn’t even get to kiss him because I was too busy puking! Then, my son was taken to the NICU because of his elevated white blood cell count due to the infection that was in my body and I was told I wouldn’t even get to see him for 24 hours because of my fever. So, there went my chance at forming a special bond with him. Everything I had worked so hard for… I had played the moment in my head over and over again… That moment when I would deliver my son with my own two hands and pull him to my chest with a rush of love. None of that happened.
However, God blessed me in a way I was not expecting. 
The next day I felt like I had been hit by a bus. I was in an incredible amount of pain and still exhausted out of my mind. I had spent the evening dozing in and out of consciousness, waking to panic attacks in between. I cried and cried and cried. I didn’t know where I was or what had happened. I didn’t know what day it was or when any of what happened occurred. In fact, I’m pretty sure there were moments I completely forgot that I had a newborn baby. The baby that I had been waiting for for months was in another wing of the hospital. I kept asking for people to tell me what happened. I really thought I had lost my mind. It wasn’t supposed to go this way in my head. I was supposed to have my baby, in the water, and then four hours later walk out of the birth center with my little bundle of joy in tow. As reality set in, it was the worst I’d ever felt physically (aside from actually being in labor) and mentally. That was until they wheeled me across the hospital to the NICU to nurse my son.
The only time during that first week while my son and I were in the hospital that I did not feel any pain was when I was with him. If I was touching him, I was completely pain free. I felt like I could get up and run through the hospital (mind you, I had just had major abdominal surgery and my toes were so swollen, they looked like Jimmy Dean sausage links!) When I was nursing him or holding him in my arms, I felt like I could “tune” into him. That’s the only way I can explain it. I felt like Judah and I were one person. I could feel what he was thinking and what he was needing. It was incredible. I had never heard of anyone experiencing that after a C-Section and I knew it was a special gift from God. Sometimes I wish I could go back to that time just so I can feel that oneness with my son again. However, that kind of experience was meant for a special time and place in both of our lives. I know that he will not remember it, but I will never forget it as long as I live. A brief moment in time that was so beautiful, so powerful, and so spiritual. They were the hardest days of my life, but they were also some of the most wonderful. It made my incredibly crazy and dramatic birth journey worth it. It was a gift that my broken spirit needed and God provided. I wouldn’t trade it for the world.
Cat feeling energized while nursing Judah! :)
If you’re still reading, I promise you that I’m not here to tell you that I think every woman should try for a natural birth. I used to think "those people" were nuts. 
Then I became one of them. 
The older I get, the more I realize that’s how life usually goes. I’m also not here to tell you to flee from your seemingly “crazy” desire to have a natural birth run to the nearest hospital. I did both, all in one go. For the price of my son Judah, I could have had two children. He’s totally worth it so I’m ok with that.
Here’s what I would like to do though. I’d like to clear up a misconception and bring the two sides together. You know the sides I’m talking about… Whatever side of the fence you fall on, you probably refer to your counter parts as “those people.” There are the people who are part of a group that I identified with in the beginning of my pregnancy. These are the people who cannot fathom going through childbirth anywhere but in a hospital. And if you’re like I was, ready to battle out childbirth with a powerful weapon known as the epidural. I was all about the epidural. No, I take that back. I was all about going through childbirth pain-free The needle in my spine part really freaked me out. You may be a planner and schedule your C-Section. Or perhaps you were advised to have a C-Section by your doctor for a number of reasons and felt it best to follow that advice. These are the women that are ok with all that medicine has to offer.  The thought of giving birth in a hospital doesn't produce images of scenes from a horror movie in their minds. 
 Maybe you like the idea of natural birth, but would prefer to do it in a hospital setting just in case something were to go wrong. All of these are valid because they are part of each individual’s journey to motherhood
And then, there's the other side. The people who I used to think were hippies. I mean, why would you want to go through the pain of child birth when you don’t have to? How primitive. Like having a root canal without so much as that numbing gel they give you before the shot of Novocain. Again, those were my thoughts prior to my own birth journey. I told you-- no bashing either side and I’m sticking to that. Anyway, these people would probably do anything not to have their baby in the hospital. They are more granola and believe that natural childbirth is an empowering experience. And it is. It absolutely is. Having gone through it, I can tell you that I had no idea the kind of pain I was capable of handling. I am the person who normally whines over a paper cut, and I endured twenty-six hours of the most agonizing pain I’ve ever felt in my life [times a thousand!]. I’m actually shocked I didn’t try to run outside and throw myself in front of a bus just to end the pain. 

I've said all that to say this: No matter how you choose to give birth or how you end up giving birth, it is a powerful and unique experience. Child birth is not a formula that will get you the exact same outcome every time (except the baby, hehe!). That’s what I had led myself to believe and I was wrong. I thought I had to do certain things in order to have an amazing birth experience. 
Cat holding Judah in the NICU
The fact that I didn’t even get to hold my son when he was born does not affect our relationship today like I feared that it might. When I walk in the room, he gets a smile on his face that is just oozing with drool and love for me. I don’t think it would be any different no matter what happened on that day eight months ago. In fact, I know that if everything had gone according to MY plan, I wouldn’t have had the life-changing experience that I did. It would have been life changing for sure, but it would have been different. This experience was meant to teach me something and it did. 
So no matter how you end up giving birth, know that you are strong and powerful. You have been blessed with the great responsibility of raising your child. You have been called. You have been ordained. You are the best mom for your baby because you were chosen for him/her. So, trust your instincts. Believe in yourself and do not try to measure another woman’s birth journey by your own. Each journey is unique. Each is powerful. Each is special. Each is a gift. And we’re all just doing the best we can.
That is, afterall, the outcome for us all no matter what birthing path we choose. Sometimes we may end up going down a path that we didn’t choose, but we still end up with the same outcome… the big picture--
A healthy baby and mama. 

Catherine is a mother to one beautiful, happy, silly, bouncy, miraculous, heaven-sent little boy. He was bo
orn 8 (almost 9) months ago and has taken her world by storm. "I try to be a conscious parent, but if it stresses me out, then I just do my best. I cloth diaper because I don’t mind poop or laundry, but I buy baby food because I don’t like to cook. I think I’m a pretty average wife and mom who has been blessed with an extraordinary life."


Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Married First: Eye Candy


Last Week's Challenge
Write out a list of 5 ways that you can be intentional about serving, honoring, respecting and loving your husband. Then, pick one and do it this week!

Here's my list of five things (as promised).  I don't know about you, but for whatever reason, this list was not as easy to make as I would've expected.  Looks like I'm rusty in preferring my husband. Not. Cool. 
  1. Ask about the business he's investing in and get involved!
  2. Stop waiting for him to make the effort for a date. He's busy Nicole, and sometimes, he wants to be romanced too. Make a date-night in sometime this week 
  3. Give him a back massage (my husband *loves* this. It's his love language)
  4. Write him a note that tells him how much you respect him
  5. Don't nag about the thing you want to nag about (I won't be sharing details because I don't want to expose anyone negatively)
I actually attempted to do a little bit of them all this week... Let me share about my efforts. 

I asked about the business he/we are involved and invested in, but... [*you guessed it*!] the kids were having a hay-day and we got distracted.  Then, after bedtime we were both tired and not feeling so hot... I have a date-night in planned but I haven't executed it yet. He's been working a lot and we've been recovering from colds. (I'm going to skip three-- because that's where it's at this week, so we'll talk about it in a bit).  Aaliya and I spent time making Daddy cards yesterday that show him how much we love him.  He got them late last night (the household was sleeping) but I hope it brought a smile to his face.  And boo-yah, would you believe I didn't nag this week! Well, except for a text earlier today that told him I was trying NOT to nag, BUT... Never a good idea.  And then, my moment of boo-yahness (furreal).

I *totally* gave him a back massage. This one's worth expanding on. [and the segway into next week's challenge]. 

One of the pitfalls we as mommies tend to fall into is the "exhausted" bit after the wee-ones go down to sleep.  Now, don't get me wrong. I completely get that caring for children full time (or going to work, to then manage a home and caring for children and serving our husbands) is totally exhausting.  Trust me, I do. But God has given us grace for today and that includes serving our husbands as help-meets in whatever way is needed. So... it is absolutely important that as wives and mommies, take care of ourselves to ensure we can serve to the fullest of our capabilities.  

What does this mean?

How about eating a balanced diet so our bodies can produce the energy it needs to cope with day-to-day stress?
How about exercise? 
How about getting out of our pajamas and making sure we look presentable and adorable for when our hubbies get home (Eye candy ladies! Eye candy!)
How about resting?  Letting go of the housework for a little bit and really resting so that we can focus our efforts on what's important.

Just some thoughts. Start taking care of yourself Mommy.  That way, you can serve your man the right way. :) 

This Week's Challenge 
Make an effort to get out of your pajamas every day and look adorable for your hubby everyday. If you go to work, instead of climbing into pajamas when you get home-- change into a comfy dress or skirt that also makes you look *extra* cute. Men are created visual... so, let's meet them there. :) 

Agape, 



Monday, March 25, 2013

changing our nation... one neighborhood at a time

You may call me Africa.

Or at least, you could have called me Africa. During the time I wasn't married.  I live, breathed, ate Africa.  I spent countless amounts of hours pleading with the Lord on behalf of that beautiful continent. I begged God to break in and to send me as a missionary overseas. I was missionary waiting for my call.

Fast forward five years.  I am in the United States, while my husband works a 9-5 living a dangerously stereotypical outward lifestyle.  Some think I sold out (yepp, I know who you are) and gave it up, others applaud my bravery of choosing to stay home instead.  Truth? I am a missionary who has received her call.  Not to say this call will be forever, but in this season of life-- I have been given a mandate.  I am a local missionary. Yes. Those exist.  And let me tell you they are just as legitimate as those who go overseas to share the Gospel.

Let me explain...

Husband and I began looking into a non-profit organization some four/five months ago.  We were intrigued but without a full burden or call to it (or so we thought).  We applied, followed the process, slowly learning about the mission and its purpose.  We were accepted and now we're in.  Here's the thing... Somewhere along the line, and I wish I could tell you the exact moment, God broke into our routine and our comfort and placed a burden for this nation, for this state, for this city, and even more personally... for our community upon our hearts.  So much so, that we have said yes in the simplest, most extravagant way to His desires for them.

Our family is a family of missionaries.  We are still fumbling our way through this process.  We are still figuring out what it looks like to be a family of missionaries and to give up our spare time for this community and this city and lay it at the feet of Jesus and for the lost.  And we are still learning how to practically serve and meet the needs of our neighbors and share the Gospel boldly and full of love.  We are still learning.  We fail daily and we forget sometimes, but God has called, and we have said yes.

[speaking of Christians in other nations during the rise of the missions movement in late 1800's early 1900's.]
"They [Christians] labored to bring an understanding of Scripture and glory to God, who had changed their own lives and nations during the many waves of revival."

That. That is my mission statement here. And Mommy friend, it should be yours.  I want to challenge you, Mommy, to look around your community and ask Jesus to show you how He feels about it.  Ask Him to show you His heart for each of your neighbors (yes, even the one with the annoying dog and the one who leaves their trash out for way longer than is kosher).  And then, I dare you to start living missionally to your neighborhood.  Why do you have to be commissioned overseas to do the work of a missionary? Why do you have to be "in-full-time-ministry" to minister the Gospel? Aren't we Moms already full time ministers?  Do we not minister to the needs of our children and our husbands, and sometimes even to the needs of the  Church by bringing dinner to a new mom or bringing a dish to the potluck?  What if we took our efforts outside of the Church and focused on our neighborhoods?  What would our nation look like in a six months, in a year or two if we began to minister to our neighbors and their families, if we stepped outside of ourselves for the sake of the Gospel?  It takes time.  It takes effort, but is it not effort well-spent if it adds sons to the Father's Kingdom?  Remember, He who wins souls is wise; and I'm pretty sure, he is also a friend of the Bridegroom (Jesus!).  Live missionally.  America needs Jesus! We don't need to be overseas to be missionaries (yes, REAL missionaries who suffer for the sake of the Gospel).  This nation is infoltrated with darkness, and humanism, self-love and idolatry.  These same sins that have overtaken other nations are here, in our land.  And we can should minister light brighter even than having been sent overseas.  You don't need to be in a special organization or group-- you can choose to ask Jesus for the burden and by the power of the Holy Spirit walk it out yourself.

Live Missionally. Let's change this nation.
Who knows... it can start with the stay-at-home "nobody" moms. :) 

Agape, 


Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Introduction to the Married First Series


I realized today I haven't posted much up on marriage recently.

Hmm. Odd.

And then the Holy Spirit gently nudges me. Hmm.

There are incredibly difficult, trying and busy seasons in life.  Mothering three littles, including one toddler and a very very active almost toddler definitely count as one of those busy seasons. Add full time work for Daddy, a business that needs cultivating, a community ministry we have committed to, and it seems we lose track of doing anything else except the task of molding those babies and meeting our committments.

And this is good and right.
Mostly.

I realized (also today) that I have been caught up in the business of mothering and not enough wivering (again, it's my word. Not in the English dictionary, nevertheless I shall use it [enter copyright here]).  My heart's posture is set on training my children, but somewhere along the line I forgot I was married first, and then I had children. I forgot that Jesus has established order in my home and in that God-given order, my husband comes before my children.

And this is good and right.
Period.

I give kudos to an old friend of mine Alexia who is insanely good at this. She always reminds me that I was married first and then I had children. You can tell from her lifestyle she makes it a priority to be a wife first, a mother second, and a woman third.  So today I remember that my ministry is first to the Lord, then to my husband and out of the overflow of those two, unto my children.

This post isn't filled with deep truth or mighty revelation.  It's just a reality check.  I'm openly admitting to fault, just in case you ever thought about considering about maybe thinking of me as a Supermom (which I am not... just in case you didn't know), and vowing I will change it.

I am going to actively minister to my husband on a day to day basis... Intentionally. And I'm gonna challenge you to do the same.

Every week, I will post up a new challenge on loving, serving and honoring our husbands. It's all about being intentional with them. And respecting them. And loving them.

Leave a comment and let me know if you'll be joining in! I'd love to hear from you!

This Week's Challenge
Write out a list of 5 ways that you can be intentional about serving, honoring, respecting and loving your husband. Then, pick one and do it this week!

I'll be sharing my list next week. So, stay tuned! :)

Agape,

Friday, March 15, 2013

Book Review: "A Cry for Justice"

"Overcome anger, reject bitterness, and trust in JESUS who will fight for you."
by Shelley Hundley
A Former Atheist


This book has completely wrecked me.

I picked up this book at our yearly One Thing Regional Conference here in Orlando. I found the book and it was one of the few I didn't already own from the product table (confessions of a book-aholic Mom, much?).  The title caught my eye and even though the by-line should have given away that this was NOT a book works-minded (as in, Jesus-- demonstrate your justice in the ministry to the poor, the widow and the orphan) but rather a book totally and completely focused on the attribute of God as the man, Justice.

Once again, this book has completely wrecked me. I just don't even know where to start.

The author of this book spends a good portion of the book sharing her testimony with the reader.  She fully writes out the Scripture that declares "... and they overcame him, by the blood of the Lamb and the word of their testimony." (see Revelation 12:11)  Shelley Hundley has been forgiven much and therefore she loves much! I don't want to ruin it for you (because I'm telling you, you should read this book) but as a sneak peak into it, Shelley grew up in South America as a missionary with her parents meanwhile she experienced traumatic abuse and witnessed violence all around her. As a result of the trauma and abuse, she forsook everything that had to with God and Christianity. She became an atheist surrounded by depression, suicidal thoughts and etc.  After experiencing a miraculous salvation, the Lord began to deal with the trauma, anger and unforgiveness in her heart (from the abuse) by revealing the way He works His purposes through pain.

"Without pain, we would remain fascinated by one vanity after another.  Pain reveals to us the inadequacy of what we are beholding and unlocks our ache for a greater beauty to fulfill our need.  Pain and suffering, therefore, are useful not because they have redemptive or transforming power, but because of what they tear down in our lives and the One to whom they can lead us.  Pain directs us to the place where God is waiting, ready to change us.

"Somehow the places of our hearts that are blind to beauty are within the reach of pain."

Out of that understanding, she begins to know God as Judge and receives immense healing and a great measure of faith through it all!

"One day during a time of prayer, the Lord whispered a phrase to me that opened up an entirely new revelation of Jesus. I had no idea at the time, but the truth that the Holy Spirit was about to reveal would bring me more healing than I could have possibly imagined... The words were, 'You need a judge.' "

"I am convinced that this generation needs more faith for personal holiness than for the miraculous demonstration of God's power."

"Without recognizing Jesus Christ as the ultimate Judge, the comfort we offer those withering under the weight of a wicked and perverse world is reduced to offering them a sympathetic pat on the back and the shallow encouragement, 'You will make it through somehow.' "

"When we truly learn to look for the 'day of His appearing,' we will find our hearts steadied in suffering and sharpened in holiness.

And on, and on, and on it goes. 

At the end of the book, Shelley leaves us with an encounter she had with the Lord.  She, through her testimony, is beckoning us, the readers, to lay it all down and become the friend of Jesus. To sit with Him as a friend and weep and partner with Him through every execution of His heart. I think this bit wrecked me most. I want to be found a faithful friend of the Bridegroom!

"I don't want my heart to be too cold or my mind too cluttered that He can't share His heart with me."

"You think your brokeness can compete with the Son of God's prayers that you would be with Him where He is? Your weakness is nothing in comparison to the desire that burns in God's heart to be known."

Go get this book and get to know God as Judge. It will transform you.

Agape, 
 

Monday, March 11, 2013

Motherhood is a gift

I was reading my latest read (HIGHLY recommend it) this afternoon during nap time. I'd decided the dishes and laundry could wait. I was craving the eternal and I wanted to just sit at His feet.

"Those who desire to be great must become servants. (see Matt 20:20-28)" she wrote.

And as if my heart wasn't getting wrecked enough (I have so much revelation making my heart soar right now that I can hardly contain myself), it hit me like a ton of bricks. This phrase wasn't even in the 10 mile radius of the main point of the chapter, it was just a gentle reminder thrown in there that awakened me to a beautiful perspective on my mundane life of diapers and dishes and everything else I disdain.

Motherhood is a gift from Jesus to work inside of us eternal greatness and rewards.  Jesus has given me this very daunting, very difficult and sometimes very discouraging role of motherhood as a means to draw me nearer to Himself.  Jesus Christ wants this mama to spend eternity with Him... in very close proximity.  He desires to reward me forever with good and perfect gifts that I can in turn cast at His feet forever.  So, He gives me Grace, Liberty and Justice.  He whispers of the possibility for more, and He tells me that for my heart to be fulfilled in being great, I must become a servant of them and the man He has chosen to yoke me with forever.


I don't have to fear that I'm not going to change the world or do something mighty.  I don't have to worry that I'm losing myself in these kiddos.  I don't have to be concerned that no one sees me anymore because I'm knee-deep in laundry and hiding out in the nursing room with Justice, or that no one thinks I'm oober spiritual because I'm serving my family at home instead of somewhere else*. I know that Jesus delights in this secret, hidden, broken service I offer to my family. He gifted it to me for the purpose of eternity.

Motherhood is a natural escort to servanthood.  We cannot be good or even average mothers without an element of service for our children.  Becoming a mother naturally demonstrates the face of Jesus' service.  He nurtures and cleanses us.  He speaks tender mercies and practices discipline for our disobedience.  He feeds us the eternal bread of life and He comforts us when our fears seem greater than we can carry.  He serves us through love as we serve our babes through love.  Our way is incredibly broken, His is significantly higher and most definitely perfect.  Nevertheless He has gifted us with motherhood as a means to draw out His virtues and grace in our hearts so that we may be His friends and close to Him forever!


So today, I want to challenge you Mama.  When you are changing your toddler's poopy diapers again and are flooded in the laundry list your husband left you with (no pun intended-- though add the pile of laundry you have yet to fold and tuck away), remember that Jesus is using this to build meekness and lowliness through service in you.  And He's doing it, not because He's a cruel God who doesn't care, but because He's a good, loving God who wants you near Him, forever!

Agape,





*Please note: I believe every family is different, so I am not saying that my story will mesh with yours in that staying home is the only way.  I am saying that this is my calling and that regardless of how you serve your family, the point is, that we serve.



Friday, March 8, 2013

good and best, trials and tribulations

"Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me.
--Psalms 23:4a


I have been meditating and chewing on Psalm 23 for almost a week. Wait, maybe a little over a week. Oh, I don't know, seems like a very very long time.

I was sitting in the car on the way home and began to spontaneously sing that verse over and over again. From there, God began to bring to remembrance other Scriptures that have the same connotation and meaning.  He began to remind me that though a thousand fall at my right side and 10,000 at my left, God is always with me.  He began to confirm and remind my heart that nothing can separate me from His love.  I'm telling you, that Scripture became alive in my heart and I began to believe it.

Then I stopped, and wondered. Umm, God, why are You telling me this now?  Actually, I began to really worry about what He was preparing my heart for when that song by ____ came on the radio. "What if Your blessings come through raindrops..."

I saw a pattern and stopped to wonder. That "umm God" thought came back to my mind and to my heart and I momentarily forgot the truths that had been so alive in my heart a minute or two ago.  But then, I paused again and refocused. 

I started thinking about the circumstances in my life.  I am not currently under persecution and I have been blessed beyond measure.  Christ has been so faithful to my wretched, undeserving heart. I have much to be thankful for and zero to gripe about. I have never lived under such a light yoke (Matthew 11:30) and such dependency on Jesus Christ for sustenance. Indeed, He has been good to me.  Even then, I had been telling the Lord earlier how sick my heart was.  Scripture says "Hope deferred makes the heart sick" and there's been just one thing my heart's been hoping for a very, very long time. And truthfully my heart can become sick over it.  It is not a bad thing, it is a very good thing.  It is a God thing, but it may not be the best (God) thing right now.

Nevertheless, I have seen that in this pattern of waiting for Him, I have sought Him harder and longer, and deeper and stronger than probably anything else could do.  See, I have learned that Jesus knows me best and that He allows the circumstances surrounding my life for the sake of His purpose. He knows what pain will draw us to Him and which will draw us away from Him and He allows it to draw us near (see Hosea 2:6,14). I am seeing my heart's desire as good, He is seeing my heart's sickness in waiting best. Why?  Because it draws me to Him.  My heart longs for Him because of the blatant sickness of my heart over this matter. And deep down inside, my heart knows only He can satisfy (see Ecclesiastes 3:11).

I don't know the entirety of what God was telling me tonight on the car ride home. I don't know if He was referring to the very thing that afflicts my heart, or whether He is telling me I will be walking in the valley of the shadow of death soon, but I know that no matter what, the Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want. He leads me besides quiet waters, He restores my soul; He guides me in the path of righteousness. I know His staff and His rod (discipline) comfort me. And yeah, even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil for my God, my rock, my refuge and my Christ is with me.

Agape,


Thursday, March 7, 2013

The "dinner" table

Yesterday was clearly a rough day (in the afternoon).

I did something I never do.

I ate my (quite yummy actually!) dinner on the couch, in front of the television while my sweet girl ate (or rather, didn't) at the table. By herself.  My amazing husband followed my lead (God, forgive me!) and sat in front of the computer.

It was so not a blog-worthy night of success.

While I was unloading yesterday's dishes from the dishwasher today, I began to think about last night's lack of dinner conversation, and I was ashamed.

Recently, I have vowed to sit with my children for every single meal. Breakfast, snack, lunch, snack, dinner (and a few snuggled before bed).  Since being intentional about that, something interesting has taken place.  I have to sweep and mop at night after the kiddos go to bed (because three full meals and two snacks is a lot of time at the table) but my daughter is *actually* eating (picky picky eater!).  I get less time to sit in front of the TV for "me" time, but her behavior is so much better.  My house is a little less perfect, but I can say that I know my daughter. 

There's something about sitting and eating and talking and sharing life around the table that connects us to our children in a way few other things can.  How many of Jesus' teachings were taught around a table (figuratively speaking, rather, at a meal)?  How many great conversations can be had around the dinner table?

The dinner table has been a subject of focus for many people for a long time, and praise Jesus, that is a perfect place to start.  But I want to encourage and challenge you Mamas to sit with your children at the table for every meal.  Not just to feed them.  Not in a hustle and bustle trying to get them fed while your food gets cold. Pre-plan, make something more than simple and then sit, eat with them, alongside them and talk.  Talk about Jesus.  Talk about the weather, the day's plans.  Talk about the food, their favorite color. Whatever comes to your heart, just talk.  It will seem like a lot of time sitting at the table, but it is time well spent. 

How can you spend more time with your littles around the table daily?


Agape,


Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Why I think I'm really an introvert

I think to anyone who has spent their fare share of time with me, the thought or proposal that I am actually an introvert may seem about as absurd as snow in the middle of July.  I am, after all, a not so quiet, quite lively, love to entertain and have people over sorta Mama. My house has been *full* for the bulk of my married life and I don't see it emptying out anytime soon.

So, why the introvertedness? (I think I just made up a new word!)

Even though I am a complete people person, and totally love being surrounded by people I can serve, minister to and enjoy life with, I have come to a point in life where I have found that time alone, in the midst of silence is truly where I am recharged.

Someone once told me that being an introvert or extrovert has nothing to do with being the life of the party (as an extrovert) or a complete wallflower (as an introvert).  It has everything to do with how we find ourselves re-energized for another day/task/etc. With that definition in tow, I have decided I most certainly an introvert.

I love hosting and having my home busting with life, laughter and a lot of noise.

But I love even more the stillness that comes after the last guest leaves our home and I am once again in the solitude and peace our home is founded on.

I love being with closest friends, arranging play dates for my wee ones and running around like a madwoman while I play duck, duck goose or Freeze Tag with the kids around the neighborhood.

But I love even more the silence found after the kids have gone to sleep, and there is nothing speaking besides the candle I light daily to remind me that we are the light of the world.

I love snuggling and watching movies.  And I love jumping up and down with musical instruments in tow during our praise and devotional time.

But my favorite time of the day is when I get to shut everything off and be still.

I love Church and fellow-shipping with the saints.

But I love even more spending quiet, focused time with my Savior.  I find I connect more with Him there than I do in large gatherings.

I never thought my soul would delight in stillness, silence and solitude.  But is there friend where I have learned I find my rest and peace.  It is in the stillness and solitude I have truly met my Bridegroom King and can deeply connect with His goodness.

That being said, it is quite obvious I am introvert.
Loud. Crazy. Opinionated. Always making you come over Nicole is actually an introvert.
HA! Who woulda thunk?

Agape,

Thursday, February 28, 2013

the cure to burnout

I wanted to take a little bit to update you all on life. Our life.

The last nine months have been quite the blur and stressful. It seems I was incapable of adjusting to life with one more.  The storm is passing though and I can see things from a different perspective.

Life is still hectic.  Liberty is still feisty and very much a toddler. Justice is mobile, curious little babe and my days are still filled with dirty diapers, snot, occasional spit up and overall insanity.

But, I have finally realized that life is also filled with sweet slobbery kisses and baby's breath.  Snuggles and giggles. Moments that pass us by entirely too quickly. I can attest to the grace of God in this season and His merciful work in my life and in my heart.  The burn-out I found was suffocating me is slowly lifting and I am enjoying my calling as a Mommy and a wife once again.

One thing struck my heart throughout this season though.

Part of my burnout was the fact that I didn't know how to spend time with God in this new, busier season. I attempted to make it look like it did when I mothered one, or when I was newly married or even when I was single, and every single time, I came up short, disillusioned and frustrated (seems I get frustrated a lot, huh?). 

I believe part of having a Mary Heart in our Martha seasons is remembering that God has ordained this season and that time spent with Him will look differently based on our season.  Comparing ourselves to other moms is not helpful in any measure, and comparing ourselves to ourselves in different seasons will only bring disillusionment.

Mommy, be encouraged! Jesus designed you to mother your little arrows at this very moment and He has given you enough grace to draw nearer to Him even during this craziness!  Remember that your quiet time and seeking of His face has no formula.  It doesn't have to be in the morning for an hour, following a Bible reading plan on YouVersion (though praise Jesus for those!).  It can be throughout the days, moments quietly "stolen" between you and your Heavenly Father who desires you.  Connecting with the Lord during these busy seasons has nothing to do with a formula or checklist and everything to do with the posture of our hearts.

Don't get lost in the tools that are meant to usher you to our Father.  Don't get lost in the "have to" and "shoulda, coulda, wouldas" that you forget we love a Merciful God who delights in taking our weakness and demonstrating His strength.  Please Mommy, be encouraged! Jesus is in the midst of your mothering, your dirty diapers and toddler tantrums.  He is in the midst, longing for one single heart glance in His direction.  That is all He needs to draw you near. 

Draw nearer to Him today Mama, and draw strength from a Heavenly God who gives you grace for present trouble and glory for eternity!

Agape,

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Salvation, Parenting and some thoughts in between

I love our Titus 2 Moms group.

I'm a part of a community of women who long to see God's best fulfilled in their marriages, their parenting and their children's lives. We are intense about this stuff. Our "Mama Yoda" (as I so fondly call her, because she's a *wealth* of knowledge) gets inundated with questions, scenarios and about a million messages and texts daily (I'm sure). And the funny ha-ha of it all is that a good majority revolve around that ever present, ever touchy subject of discipline. 

Toddlers are hard to parent. And even harder to discipline. I have yet to parent or discipline a teen, but I'm sure they're no cup of tea either. Discipline is one of those parenting subjects that no matter how much you think you know, you always have to adjust and grow as you continue to learn and get to know God's little (or grown) gift to us as parents. 

I sat thinking earlier today on the Scripture that exhorts our parents not to embitter or exasperate our children. I read a post our Mission Base's Executive Director posted up about John Newton (writer of "Amazing Grace") and his testimony.  He was beat, bruised, and "disciplined" by his parents, yet it caused more rebellion to grow inside of him rather than a deep loyalty and love for Jesus.


"Fathers, do not exasperate your children, so that they will not lose heart."

-Col 3:21


In good old nerd curious fashion, I looked up the definition of exasperate in the dictionary. Here's what came up.

ex·as·per·ate


verb (used with object)
1.
to irritate or provoke to a high degree; annoy extremely: He was exasperated by the senseless delays.
2.
Archaic. to increase the intensity or violence of (disease, pain,feelings, etc.).
adjective
3.
Botany rough; covered with hard, projecting points, as a leaf.

"Liberty, STOP!" 
"Justice, don't even think about it." 
"Grace, that's enough." 
"Liberty, Mommy said NO." 
"Ya'll, come on! Ughhh."

Those sound pretty much like the definition of exasperate. There has to be a better way to discipline that doesn't exasperate and embitter my children (or me!).

And then, I realized that without Christ I am incapable of obedience and incapable of any good thing. Suddenly, my parenting focus shifted. 

My first goal as a parent is not to shape the outward mannerism, but rather to bring them to the foot of the cross and saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.  My original prayer should never be to mold the exterior of the cup, but rather that my children would be awakened at a young age, to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. Then, we can get to the heart of the matter and parent and discipline, according to Scripture. 

As a mother, I am the first picture of Jesus my children see.  I really should be imitating Christ and living by the Spirit every moment of every day. I will always lack and will never be perfect, yet I must be aware to paint a true picture of Jesus, so that my children can accurately see Jesus. I want to be an instrument God uses in their lives. And I have to strive, in prayer and through grace to be a picture of Jesus' love for them. 

How are you showing your children the Cross and the love of Christ in the way you parent and love them?

Agape,