Thursday, February 28, 2013

The Story of Our Son, Luke

Last year I wrote a post when I was going through a difficult time with our son, Luke, entitled "I Don't Prefer This {Part 2}"

I recently shared a little about this strenuous season at my church home.  The reason I shared was to give God the glory for how He brought us through the struggle and led us in the battle.

Last year, my son's teacher was convinced Luke had ADHD.  He received "bad" notes at school several times a week, every week.  He would twirl around while walking in line.  He constantly would put his feet up on the desk.  He would disrupt class with outbursts of whatever was on his mind at the time.  He would get up and dance in any given moment without notice.  He wouldn't listen or focus.  In short, he had a very hard time with self-control.

I have to tell you, Luke is not a bad kid, and never was a "bad" kid.  However, his behavior began to make him think he was "bad".  And as we know...."As he thinks in his heart, so is he" (Prov 23:7).   It is dangerous for kids to begin to think they are bad. 

My heart ached.  I prayed and prayed and believed and prayed some more and cried and cried and cried, and prayed.  Nothing.  No answer.  Just silence.  It was heart wrenching.

While Luke was struggling with "self-control",  I had to realize my "self" could not control what was happening with my son.  As much I wanted to change this situation and help my son, this situation was out of my control.    

Yes, I did what I could.  I prayed.  I believed.  I found scripture and spoke it over him.  I took him to the doctor, signed him up for Karate (suppose to help with self-control and discipline), and even took him for psychological testing (then did not go through with the testing because I felt the Lord close that door).

The doctor said he did not have ADHD.  The doctor did mention that sensory issues can often look like ADHD and recommended occupational therapy.  However, we did not pursue OT at that time. 

Well, about three more months passed and we had just about come to our wits end.  It is very grievous to watch all the kids in children's church from behind and see that yours is the only one getting up and spinning around during service.  The bad notes kept coming home.  Luke was saying he didn't like himself and he didn't know why he acted the way he did.  My heart was broken over it all and I felt powerless to change it.

However, I had been holding onto a promise in Psalms during the whole process..."I will instruct you and teach you in the way that you should go.  I will guide you with my loving eye on you."  Psalm32:8

We may not be able to control some circumstances, but we can look to the One in control to guide us. I was believing the Lord would show us what to do.  Sometimes we have to move for God to move us.

In an attempt to fix it and DO SOMETHING, I made an appointment with the doctor to talk about medication.  Oh, how I did not want to have to put my child on medication.  Please don't misunderstand.  I am not against medication and I would gladly have my child on it if it was needed and best for him.  I only wanted what was best for him.  The same is true of our God.  He only wants what is best for us. 

As the days drew nearer to the appointment, my heart grew heavier.  "Lord, I don't want to do this.  Show me if there is another way."  That Sunday, the Lord led me to give a special offering.  As I was handing it to our pastor, the pastor told me that this offering was a seed for the "desires of my heart."  When I gave it, it never crossed my mind that the Lord would use this offering as a seed for my heart's desires!  My son!!

I am telling you the truth (I promise I am not being flaky!) , that day I noticed a difference!  He was better!  I kept watching him.  That week, he was better!  I told my husband, "I am canceling the doctor appointment for medication!  He doesn't need it!"

God led us, instead, to have him go to occupational therapy as the doctor had recommended.  He was diagnosed with motor apraxia and other neurological symptoms. Apparently, he had never outgrown two basic reflexes we outgrow as infants and those were the source of the issues! 

He is much better today than he was a year ago.  He is a sweet boy and only gets "bad" notes occasionally now (I think he has gotten only about 5 all year!).

I have to tell you, I did not prefer having to go through this situation.  It was hard and I could not fix it.

"In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ."  1 Peter 1:7
Maybe God will reveal Jesus to others through your trial, or it may be that He will reveal more of Himself to you through it.  Or both.  If we never went through any fire, how would we become refined?  Gold becomes refined through fire.  We become more like Jesus through situations beyond our control that force us to depend on the One who is always dependable.

So, how did God work through this situation with my son?

1.  He revealed more of Himself, His love, and how involved He is in the details of our lives. He kept saying to me over and over again, "I hold your son in the palm of my hands."

2. He answered my prayer and provided an answer to help my son.

3.  I am more patient.

4.  I am more empathetic and compassionate for mothers with special needs kids or kids with any kind of health issue. 

 5.  Praise, glory and honor were brought to Jesus Christ!

When situations are out of your control, do what you can as you are led.  Many times God will instruct us to do something.  Other times, He may instruct us to be still.  Stay in His Word, look for His promises, believe and pray.  Trust.

The Lord is my strength and my shield; My heart trusts in Him and I am helped;  Therefore my heart greatly rejoices, and with my song I will praise Him.  Psalms 28:7

Monday, February 25, 2013

"Man up" or "Man-up-ulate"

Many times I find myself sharing how God spoke to me through my failures.  Today, I am excited to share a victory!

When I was a little girl, like most kids, I did not want to be in trouble.  If I messed up, I would often try to hide it or manipulate (lie) to get out of trouble.   It didn't always work, but it worked enough that I kept trying to hide my mistakes.

"When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man (or woman), I put away childish things."  1 Corinthians 13:11

As I grew into an adult, I continued in this childish behavior.  I would make excuses for why was late for work or why I did not do something expected of me.

I would disguise my delinquency with a mask of justification. 

Justification for wrong actions is as old as Adam and Eve.  Adam was the first to justify his wrong action, blaming Eve and God (Genesis 3:12).

After I become a Christian and starting living for the Lord, sadly, I cannot say this character flaw changed immediately.  I continued to justify wrong behavior, making rationalizations for errors in judgement.

I wish I could say I always make the right decision now.  However, this side of heaven, that statement would be nothing short of a lie, no matter who was saying it.

Now, as a Christian, often my mistakes are just that, "mistakes" or oversights.  With three kids, a husband, ministry service, a job, kid's activities, a home, and a 105 pound dog, there is a lot of room for error or forgetfulness.  Whenever I blunder in a responsibility, my first instinct is to shout for "GRACE".  Afterall, we all mess up from time to time.  Can't a girl get a break?!
Grace is important and I am very thankful for it, but we are not entitled to it.  There is something about entitlements that cause us to lack gratefulness.  Oh Lord, let us never be lacking in gratefulness for grace!

Sometimes when we mess up, we just need to face the consequences or, as my husband would say, we need to "Man up".   There have been plenty of times I have attempted to manipulate the consequences while concealing manipulation with shouts of grace.

We need to "man up" and not "man-up-ulate"!

Last week, God decided to call me out on this.  I wasn't aware I did it until He revealed it to me.  Sin is deceptive and often we don't know something is sin until God shows us.

I messed up at work and forgot to turn in a report.  I caught the error in plenty of time.  However, my boss has implemented a monetary "penalty" for late reports.  This penalty would cost me dearly.  I didn't think the penalty was fair and I didn't really want to pay it.  I hadn't been late before, my supervisor had overlooked it, and I had caught the mistake in plenty of time before it would cost my employer.  So, I decided to play the "grace card" with my boss. 

My employer did point out that if she gave me grace it wouldn't be fair to the other employees.  However, my "grace card" appeared to be working and she pretty much said she would give me grace this time, but not to expect it in the future.  Then, God began dealing with me.

"Tell your boss she is right and you will pay the penalty."  

Ouch!  Really?!  But Lord....Ok.

"Sue, don't look at it as she is taking something from you.  Instead, give it to her and I will bless you."

The Lord showed me that if I would willingly give her the fine instead of begrudgingly feel as if she was taking from me, He would honor my choice.  I could have paid it with a wrong attitude and missed out on a blessing from the Lord.
Jesus gave us the freedom of grace.  The price Jesus freely paid on the cross gave us the grace of eternal salvation.  The grace poured out on the cross doesn't negate the physical consequences sometimes inevitable by our earthly actions.

May we never use grace again as a means of manipulation.  Let's "Man up" and not "man-up-ulate!"

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Yield or Yell

Right now as I am writing this, there is a pile of stuffed animals on the floor of our toy room.  By pile, I mean five square feet of stuff animals covering every inch of the carpet.  Clutter and I don't get along well.

In the past, a pile of clutter like mentioned above would have sent me into a frenzy of frustration with my three little ones, followed by threats of giving away every single toy they own. 

This week I am in the middle of a wonderful Bible study with Proverbs 31 Online Bible Studies with Melissa Taylor.  We are reading the book, Let. It. Go by Karen Ehman.

The wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands the foolish ones tears her down.  Proverbs 14:1  
God wants us to parent with grace.  

Karen points out, "Learning to walk the fine line between being controlling and conscientious is a constant yet sanctifying struggle.  It keeps you going to God for direction.  It will find you asking for forgiveness for the times you blow it (there will be many). It will force you out of a stance of selfishness and into a posture of grace."   (pg 124-125)

To parent with grace is not possible without yielding to the One who freely gives grace.  Parenting with grace requires yielding to the Holy Spirit. 

In the above scenario with the stuffed animals, I could let my sinful flesh control me and lose my temper with the kids. (It would not be the first time.)   It is interesting how when we are letting our flesh control us that we desire more control over others.  Perhaps it is because we feel out of control that we attempt to control our kids by losing our temper and yelling at them.  However, when we react that way, it doesn't breathe life into our home.  It destroys our homes.

Which woman will we choose to be?  Will we choose to be the wise woman who builds her home with words of kindness, love and grace?  Or will we choose to be the foolish woman who tears down her home with words of criticism, anger, and control.

Today I have a choice to make.  Everyday I have a choice to make.

“For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. 6. For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. “ Romans 8:5-6

Jesus says in John 6:63, "It is the Spirit who gives life, the flesh profits nothing.  The words that I speak to you are spirit and they are life."  

The Holy Spirit gives life and peace. Yielding to the Holy Spirit when you would rather yell will bring life.  The words we speak are so important.  They can bring life or death. 

Words can build up or destroy a home. Words can bring death to relationships.  Words can cut the self-worth of a child with wounds that may take years or a lifetime to heal without God's divine intervention. 

Whether it is clutter, chaos, cleanliness, or compliance in our homes that causes us to seek control, we need let it go and to cling to Jesus.  Nothing is worth the price of destroying our relationships with our children.  Their little spirits need nurturing not knocked down by the piercing of our know-it-all intonation.

The Holy Spirit alone brings life.  Only by His grace can we be the wise woman who builds up her home.  His grace is sufficient.  With all the grace He has given us, how could we not extend it to others, especially the precious ones He has entrusted in our care.

Which will it be, yield or yell?  Today, I choose to yield.  

Dear Father,  I pray for your help.  Help me to let go where I need to in my parenting.  Help me to yield to Your Holy Spirit and not give into my sinful flesh.  Father, help me to be loving and kind to my children and to remember they are only children.  God, I need you.  Help me to yield instead of yell.  Give me wisdom to be the mother who builds up her home and her children.  In Jesus' name, Amen.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The Good Mom Rules

Last week was Valentine's Day, a day of celebrating those we love.  As I was tucking in my sweet seven year old boy on Valentine's Day, he hesitantly informed me that all the other kids in his class received a ring pop or M&M's candy gram from their parents.  He politely inquired as to why he did not receive one.

Just to clarify, we did give him a Valentine at home, a heart with assorted chocolates and a Snickers bar.   He was very appreciative.  He was only wondering why he was the only one in his class that did not receive a candy gram at school. 

My heart sank as I assured him,  "You were the only one?  I'm so sorry, Luke.  I did not know about the candy grams.  We gave you the candy bar and heart full of chocolates. We love you so much."  (As if any amount of candy would be an indicator or measuring meter of our love for him.)

At that moment I felt I had somehow failed the "Good Mom" test.  You know, the standards put out there by the world that desire to dictate who is and who is not a "Good Mom". 

Seriously, who writes these rules and how are we suppose to know the "Good Mom Rules"? 

These unwritten rules of society try to paint a picture of the "Good Mom".  The problem is the canvas is too heavy for any of us to bear.

Pinterest is pandering to our desire to be the "good mom".  I don't think there is anything wrong with Pinterest.  It hosts many good ideas and it can be a good tool.  However, it should only be a tool and not a place where we pin our parenting skills up for comparison. 

There is nothing wrong with wanting to be the best mom we can be to our kids.  However, God made us all unique.  He placed gifts in you knowing the kids He would give you. 

He knows what your kids need and it is not a one size fits all when it comes to being a "good mom".

Just because you don't do crafts daily or weekly with your kids doesn't mean you are stifling your kid's creativity. Just because you work outside the home doesn't mean you love your kids any less than someone who stays at home. Just because you aren't able to volunteer at your kid's school doesn't mean you aren't engaged in their learning.  And just because you didn't know about Valentine's Day candy grams does not mean you are a bad mom. 

There is, thankfully, no "Good Mom Rule Book".  We have but only two rules to live by:

"And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.' This [is] the first commandment."  Mark 12:30

"And the second, like [it, is] this: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no other commandment greater than these."  Mark 12:31

John 13:34 says it this way:
"A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another."

When we get these two rules down, we will be following the "Good Mom Rules". 

It does not matter what other parents do or don't do.  We have but one requirement as moms...Love the Lord your God with all our heart and love our children (and others). 

Doesn't that make you just sigh a breath of relief?  We don't have to be like "Suzy Homemaker" or "Betty Crocker."  

When we love the Lord our God with all our hearts and love others, we are walking in the Spirit.  The Spirit will show you what is needed for you to be a "good mom" to your children.  Parenting by walking in the Spirit is truly sweeter than any candy gram you could ever send. 


Thursday, February 14, 2013

Be My Valentine

Happy Valentine's Day Living Free in Him readers!  It is such an honor to get to share God's Word with you.

Your God is so crazy in love with you!

"Many waters cannot quench love; rivers cannot wash it away." Song of Songs 8:7 

He longs to be with you!

"Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away!
Oh, my dove, in the clefts of the rock, in the secret places of the cliff,
let me see your face, let me hear your voice;
For your voice is sweet and your face is lovely. "  Song of Soloman 2: 13-14

 He rejoices over you!  

"The LORD your God in your midst, The Mighty One, will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet [you] with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing."  Zephaniah 3:17

 He is head over heels for you!  

"And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ.." Ephesians 3: 17-18

I pray this for you today my friends.  I pray that you would KNOW the depths of His love.  Hear the Lord asking you today, "Beloved, be my valentine."

Thursday, February 7, 2013

The Approval Trap

This week I started the Bible study Let. It. Go. by Karen Ehman.  I am an online Bible study leader with Proverbs 31 Ministries with Melissa Taylor and this is the study we are currently doing.

As I mentioned in my previous posts, I didn't really think I needed this book.  Control  Not a problem...or so I thought.  God is opening my eyes (as I had prayed at the end of the last Bible study, Greater by Pastor Steven Furtick).  When God starts to show you areas in your heart that need changed, it can be hard.  God loves me just the way I am, but I am forever thankful that He loves me too much to let me stay that way.   

Whenever I thought of Collosians 3:23 in the past, I would think of working hard at something, doing it with excellence and to the best of your ability as unto the Lord. 

This week, God is giving me another perspective. This perspective is about MOTIVE.

We can do all kinds of good works and ministry, but WHY are we doing it?  Why am I doing it?

Am I writing this blog today to see how many comments or "likes" it will get or am I writing it out of obedience, to help others, and bring glory to God?

Am I leading Bible studies so others will think I am spiritual and hold me up as a leader or am I doing it to help women become free and bring glory to God?
Whenever I do anything, am I doing it for recognition and praise?  Am I doing it for God's glory or am I doing it for mine?

These are hard questions.  I need to be sure my motives are right and pure.  I think most of the time they are, but are they always? It is easy to get caught in the trap of seeking approval.

Approval is a trap because it is an unending abyss.  The more approval one receives from man, the more one craves.  Nothing satisfies and nothing can fill it. The only way out is filling the hole with the assurance of the approval we have from the Lord.  We don't need the world's approval when we know we have His.

We all need to remember that God ALREADY approves of us.  We don't need others to approve us, He does!

Now when I look at Colossians 3:23, I see that in whatever we do, we need to be sure we are doing it FOR the Lord and not for ourselves and not for the approval of man. 

I am taking a hard look at my inner self this week to see why I do what I do.  Lord, I pray it would only be for Your glory and never for mine.

Father, I pray for a pure heart before you and man.  I pray I would not do things for the approval of man, but rather for Your glory.  Father, forgive me to the times I have sought the approval of man and even longed for it.  Father, thank you for opening my eyes and helping me see areas You want to change.  Change me Lord.  Help me know I am approved of by You.  Help me know I don't need to seek approval anywhere else.  I love you.  In Jesus' name, Amen. 

Monday, February 4, 2013

Honking or Humility

"Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself.  Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others."  Philippians 2:3-4

This morning was not much different than other mornings.  Getting three kids ready for school and out the door with teeth and hair brushed and backpacks with lunches all make for some hectic mornings.  We left a little later than usual due to some last minute homework I realized I forgot to do with my kindergartener.  We rushed through the homework and raced to the van.  Off we went, a little late, but we were on target to still make it on time!  Then....the bus.

A small bus stops on our street everyday.  The bus driver must be very friendly because she stops and talks to the parents for what seems like long periods of time.  There have been many times I have patiently waited for them to finish up the conversation and the red sign to disappear allowing passage.  

I am embarrassed to say, not this morning.  

Again, the parent was outside talking to the driver and the red sign was out.  No kids to be seen anywhere.  All were on the bus!  Why is the red sign out?  Doesn't she realize I need to get through?  What about me and where I need to go?!  Doesn't she know I am running late?   Wow, there were a lot of I 's in those thoughts.  

So this morning, I crept up behind the bus.  Surely this will send her a hint.  Instead, it backfired. She gave me an irritated look and firmly put her hand out the window indicating that I needed to stop.  So, I did what I though best and gave my horn a good honk and pointed that she need to move (like I was from New York or something.)  I seriously cannot believe I am sharing this with you!  Will y'all still love me?

She finally did move, but I knew I shouldn't have honked at the small bus.  What kind of small person honks at a small bus?  

There is only one reason why I honked at the bus.  Pride.  Nasty, ugly pride.  I guess pride is the reason God is having me share this story.  I need humility.  I need to think of others as higher than myself.  The reason I got irritated this morning (other than that we were running late), was I was putting my needs ahead of others.  
Maybe the kids weren't seated yet and she had to wait.  Maybe the parent is going through a difficult time and she was offering words of encouragement.  Maybe she is going through something hard and the parent was sharing God's Word with her.  I don't know and who am I to think me passing through is more important.  

I wrote the other day that I didn't think I had control issues.  However, this morning I wanted control.  I wanted my own way instead of trusting God. The delay could have been the Lord protecting me from an accident.  There could be something greater at work than just a bus stopping traffic.  

When we seek to control. Pride. 
We want our own way.  Pride.  
When we feel others are inconveniencing us. Pride.

"Let us not only look out for our own interests, but for the interests of others."   Putting others first.  This is a lesson I want to teach my children.  I need to live it for them to learn it.  Unfortunately, I let pride get the better of me today and chose honking over humility.  

I think this will make a good devotional tonight for them.  Hopefully, they can learn from mommy's mistakes.  I pray next time I will choose humility over honking.