When it’s not suppose to be this way..

It’s not suppose to be this way.

This has been a thought that I have found crossing my mind over the past few months. A thought I have a feeling many have also experienced the past few weeks.

When we returned from serving in Nepal after 5 years, I looked forward to many things. I looked forward to spending time with my mom and dad. I looked forward to our teenage sons going on youth trips with our sending church and enjoying some of the normal experiences they had missed out on while living overseas. I anticipated celebrating the holidays back in the USA. I wanted to take the kids on trips to see the sights of America, I looked forward to my middle son having the chance to run track and rooting him on at his track meets, etc.

But then, life did not turn out the way I had expected, and I found myself saying, “it is not suppose to be this way!!.”

See, two months after arriving back in the States, my dad whose cancer was in remission, suddenly began having seizures and we found out the cancer had metastasized to the brain. It was not suppose to be this way.

The holidays I had looked so forward to experiencing back in the USA were interrupted with back and forth trips to the hospital. It was not suppose to be this way.

Then in February, we brought my dad home with hospice and he passed away 2 weeks later. My heart cried out to God in anguish, why now, why God, this is not how I envisioned it. It definitely was not suppose to be this way.

My middle son began track practice in February and was awaiting his first track meet on April 6th, when suddenly the Coronavirus shut everything down, and then the whole season was canceled. It was not suppose to be this way.

The youth events I had looked forward to the kids being apart of, canceled. As pretty much all of life was put on hold and continues to be on hold even now. It was not suppose to be this way.

Road trips to take the kids to the American sites, put on hold, as the stay at home policy continues in most states. It was not suppose to be this way.

And I know my stories, my experiences are similar to many others world wide.

Seniors who missed their last semester of high school and college. It wasn’t suppose to be this way.

Friends whose wedding plans have been canceled. It was definitely not suppose to be this way.

And others who have lost loved ones, and could not have a funeral service or be with them in their final hours. This was not the way it was suppose to be.

Life as we all have known it has been abruptly changed. Things have not gone as planned. Things have been canceled and rescheduled. It was not suppose to be this way.

But God..

Was not taken by surprise.

He knew all of these things would take place, and He remains in control even when life seems out of control.

Life disappoints, but God never fails.

Things don’t according to “our” plans, but God’s ways and His thoughts are always higher than our own.

When we see only the here and the now, He sees into eternity, and knows the full picture.

I have surely questioned the Lord during this time, in fact, I have grown quite frustrated at times.

Yet, He remains the same, faithful and true. And His love for me and for you doesn’t change.

I’m finding comfort in the midst of these trying times knowing that God can and will bring good out of all of these seemingly difficult circumstances and days.

Because He is God, He is all powerful, and He can turn all of our disappointments and hurts into something beautiful if we let Him.

Or we can remain bitter, angry, and frustrated because things have not turned out the way we envisioned. We can let this weigh us down, steal our joy, and make us negative.

It is a choice we have to make, sometimes daily.

So though a lot of things have not turned out the way I wanted. Although a lot of the plans I had, have changed or been put on hold.

I take comfort knowing that my God never changes, and that because He is faithful I can trust Him even when it isn’t easy and when life doesn’t make sense.

Now, I’m not saying the choice is easy, nevertheless, it is a choice we make.

Will we choose joy and peace in Him in the midst of our difficulties or will we choose anger and frustration.

I encourage you as the Lord has encouraged me, to choose joy. Choose hope, which does not disappoint. Choose peace, that comes from time spent with Him. Choose to give thanks for the good you do have, rather than complain about what you don’t.

Let’s choose joy!

He is still on His throne, He is still in control, and His love continues to be demonstrated to us day after day!

Pressing On

It seems that life should just stop, and yet it keeps moving.

Simply put life does go on, and yet for those of us left behind it is a struggle.

A few weeks ago as I sat with my dad, holding his hand. He said to me, “I want you to live.”

At the time I thought he was referring to right then, right now, and so I told him I was living.

Yet, now two weeks later I sit thinking on these words, and I realize he meant after he was gone.

It is hard to keep moving on. Some parts of my day seem normal, and then I’m hit afresh with the grief that he is gone, and all I can do is cry.

I miss him, oh how I miss him.

Yet, I know he would want me to go on, and not to mourn as one with no hope.

After the doctors came in and explained that the cancer had spread and that they were sending him home with hospice. He looked at my “aunt” Dana and said, “for me it is a win-win.” He could say this because he knew that to live is Christ, and that to die is gain.

And because of this I have hope. Hope knowing I will see him again someday, and knowing that until then, he would want me to live life to the fullest.

So though I mourn the great loss of my dad, I do not mourn as one without hope. For I know one day I will see him again, and until that day I can live in a way that would make him proud and that honors the Lord.

He ran his race and finished well. And I know this is what he would want of me as well.

 

 

Raising our kids to love God.

easter 2019We have all heard it said, “God is more interested in our holiness than our happiness.” And personally I have indeed found this to be true. So often God allows difficult times, trials and problems to arise in our lives. Not because He doesn’t love us, not because He wants to be mean and just cause us problems. But because He is more interested in us becoming more like Christ, than in us being happy right now.

As I thought about this concept and applied it to parenting, the Lord showed me some similar guidelines and truths.

  1. I love my kids and want what is best for them, just as God loves me and wants what is best for me. However, my best for them  may not be their idea of “best.” Just as God’s idea of “best” is often different from my idea. And though they may get angry when their idea is not mine, in the long run they will understand. Just as we eventually we can look back and see what God was doing in our lives.
  2. I want my kids to understand that anything worth having in life takes work and is often not easy. But that God desires that in everything we do whether in word or deed, we do it as unto Him. God has given us every spiritual gift in Christ, and we have access to His throne of grace daily. Yet, God isn’t a genie who just gives us what we want, we have to work and do our part in seeking Him, in walking with Him and in being filled with the Spirit.
  3. I want my kids to be happy, but even more I want them to right with God. Nowadays there is a common phenomenon of giving our kids our very best, making sure they are keeping up with their friends so they aren’t left out, and being concerned that they are happy. Yet, I’m convinced that a child who grows up this way will be confronted with the real world one day too soon and will not know how to handle the obstacles thrown their way. Sure, I can make it easy for my kids, and make sure they are happy. But will they be holy?
  4. I want my kids to look to God. I’m like any typical mom and don’t want to see my kids hurt. In fact if I’m not careful I want to fight their battles for them, I want to fix their problems. Yet, if I do these things, they learn nothing of dependence upon God. Sometimes God will lead me to step in and do this, but first and foremost I want my kids to look to Him.
  5. I want my kids to desire Christ and love Him most. There is a real battle going on in our kids lives. A battle between what they have been taught is right and what the world says is best. If we are not careful the world will be their desire and they will love this world more than God. So I must find the balance by limiting what they can and cant’ do, what they can and can’t watch. Why? Because the enemy is just waiting to steer them away from God.

The list could go on, and yet I’m learning that this is what is most important that my kids know and learn. This doesn’t mean it is easy or that my kids are always happy with me. In fact, many times they aren’t happy. Like today, my kids envisioned a day of rest and relaxation, but this was interrupted when they found out that before playing, before relaxation, homework and studying was to take place. My husband and I’s idea of best collided with their idea of best… but even now that the work is done and free time is being enjoyed, they can see what we saw.

I have a looong way to go from being parent of the year, and by the world’s standards, I’m positive I would never receive such award. Yet, it is my desire that my kids grow up loving God with all their hearts, soul, mind and strength and loving others as they love themselves.

Why Leviticus Matters in Kid’s Ministry

teaching-children-about-christFor the past few weeks I have been teaching, yes, you guessed it Leviticus in my children’s Bible Fellowship Class.

I warned the kids going in, that the book we were about to study was considered boring by most, and confusing by others.

I explained that it was a book filled with laws, (do this, don’t do that.) A book about sacrifices and offerings, with all the specifics of such things.

They looked at me like I was a bit crazy.

Then I asked them does this book apply to us today? Is it important for us to know and understand?

When they didn’t answer, I held up my Bible and asked, is the Bible important? Does it apply to us today? Yes, they answered. I asked is Leviticus in the Bible? To which they smiled and said yes.

See we can not pick and choose what parts of the Bible are important, and which parts are not. Because they are all the inspired Word of God.

Likewise in kid’s ministry, we should not pick and choose the exciting Bible stories, and leave out the others.

Far too many Children’s Bible Study curriculum materials are limited to creation, Noah’s Ark, David and Goliath, the story of Daniel, and so forth, leaving out way too much our kids need to hear and understand.

So why is Leviticus important to kid’s ministry?

I believe Leviticus is important because it allows us to teach our children what holiness is, and that God requires this of each of us.

It allows us to explain that just as God chose Israel to be set apart and different from all the other nations, He calls us to be set apart and different as followers of Christ. Which impacts what we do, what we say, how we dress, and how we act.

Leviticus teaches our kids about offerings made to God, and how they were required to give the Lord the best. Teaching our kids that God desires our best in all things as well.

Ultimately it allows us to teach our kids how impossible it is to keep all the laws, and that only Jesus could keep them perfectly on our behalf.

The laws are there to reveal to us all our sinfulness. Something our kids need to understand.

They are there to show us we could never earn our salvation, no matter how hard we tried. We could never be good enough. Another thing that must be instilled within our kids minds.

Way too many teens and adults have the mindset that they are pretty good because they compare themselves to others. I have met many who believe they will go to Heaven because they are good people.

Leviticus makes it clear, as do the teaching of Christ, that being a good person will not get us into Heaven.

Our best works are as filthy rags to the Lord.

Kid’s ministry teachers, our kids get enough self help and self motivation from the world and their teachers at school. They get awarded often for just showing up. The world we live in tells them they deserve.

We must be the voice of truth that shows them what the Scriptures says, and that truthfully they deserve nothing, rather all they have that is good, comes from the mercy and grace of our God.

Teachers, God has given us a high calling. May we not take it lightly, but may we teach God’s Word in it’s fullness to those children He has given to us.

 

 

The Importance of Children’s Ministry

In my 18 years of ministry, I have served as Children’s director and teacher in various churches, and ministry locations. Yet, I have found no matter the location (Arkansas, Tennessee, S. Korea, or Nepal) children’s ministry is a much needed and important ministry of the church.

Far too often parents place the Spiritual growth of their child upon the pastor, and or children’s minister. Many times falsely believing that once their child has recited a prayer and been baptized, that he or she is good to go.

Yet, in my years of ministry, I have found this is far from true.

Being a Bible believing Baptist, I do believe that once saved, always saved. Yet, many times children whom we assumed to be saved based upon a date written in their Bibles, are in fact lost.

Praying a prayer, being baptized, attending kids/youth functions, and being in church on a regular basis, do not save.

Jesus and Jesus alone saves. Not based upon what we have done or not done. But entirely based upon His own accomplishments.

I can’t tell you the number of kids I have taught over the years, who are now teens or college age who are no longer in church.

I also know this because it was true of me.

Growing up, I prayed a prayer, I was baptized, I rededicated my life at least twice. I was at church whenever the church doors were open. I went on all the kid’s camp trips, and youth retreats.

Yet, it wasn’t until I was in college, that I realized for the first time that God desired a personal relationship with me. It was then when I saw the sinner that I was, and that I was truly saved.

Up until this time it had all been pretense. I knew the lingo, I knew what was expected, but to me it was a sense of knowing and obeying the rules. Not a relationship with the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

Too many kids have a similar story and understanding. Believing that church is something you “do” or a place you “go”. And they miss the relationship the Lord desires to have with them.

I know now that having our children pray a prayer and be baptized is not the ending point. It is only the beginning.

Paul tells us to be sure of our salvation. Our lives should display fruits and evidence that we belong to Jesus. And if they do not, then we are wise to question our salvation or the salvation of our children.

I have three children, all of whom have prayed asking Jesus to forgive their sins, and be their Lord and Savior. One is almost 17, one is 15, and one is 11. From the time of their prayers for salvation, and baptism. My husband and I have told them clearly, that if we see that their lives do not reflect the fruits of a Christian we would call them upon it.

And there have been such times, we have done so. Admonishing them as Paul admonishes the believers in his epistles, to make sure of their salvation.

This is why children’s ministry and family devotion is of utmost importance in the lives of our children. This is why we seek to establish a pattern of church attendance, daily devotion, and prayer in the lives of our kids.

So that eventually, these rules or things they do because their parents and teachers instruct them to do so become things they desire to do, out of their overwhelming love for their Savior.

One of my daily prayers for own kids and the children God allows me to lead, is that the Lord would become real and personal to them. I pray daily that the Lord would declare to them how vast His love is for them, so that they will be overwhelmed by His grace. Therefore, desiring to live for and follow after Him, not because they have to, but because they want to.

Yet, as children’s teacher and ministers, it begins often with us. Far too many children receive little to no instruction in the home. And though I do believe it is the priority of the parents to train their children in the Scriptures, we can not assume this of the kids in our ministries.

Children’s ministry is far more than babysitting. It is so much more than entertainment. It is the God given opportunity to teach and train the future generations.

Why is it that so many teen and college aged leave the church?

I’m learning that it is because they lack that firm foundation of God’s Word, and a personal relationship with the Lord Jesus.

Fun kids and youth events certainly have their place, but they must not be our emphasis.

Our ministry to children must be Gospel focused, with its aim being life transformation.

It is also more than head knowledge. Many kids are good at Bible trivia. They know the stories, they have heard them a hundred times. Yet, even the demons believe and tremble.

Head knowledge is not enough.

Transformation must be our goal, seeking to see those we minister to changed into the likeness of Christ.

Obviously only the Lord can do such a work, yet He allows us to be His hands and His feet in this process.

Which is why Children’s ministry is of such importance.

May we see it as such, and teach in such ways to transform the lives of the children in our midst to reflect the life of Christ.

Praying for your Teens

I don’t know how it happened. My little boys who use to make mud pies, drive cars through the dirt, and wear cowboy hats and boots, have become teenagers. These boys who use to love being wherever I was, now long to go hang out with their friends.

It is the natural way of life. Yet, I have found that the older they get, the harder I pray. For when they are young, they depended so much on me and their dad. Yet, as they grow older they must learn all the more how to depend upon the Lord.

So I pray regularly for them, not that they’d be a success in the eyes of this “world”, but that they would be pleasing in the eyes of the Lord.

10 things to pray for your teens:

1. Pray that they will have their own “real and personal” relationship with the Lord.  One that is not based upon what they have been told, but rather what they have experienced in their own lives with the Lord.

2. Pray that they will desire the things of the Lord more than their own way, and be willing to follow hard after Him. 

3. Pray that they would seek the Lord and His wisdom first before making decisions. Being willing to wait upon the Lord and His perfect timing.

4. Pray that they would seek and desire after a godly mate, and that God would bless them with a wonderful marriage.

5. Pray that they will remain pure until they are married.

6. Pray that no matter what God ask, no matter how big or how small, they will walk in obedience to His leading in their lives.

7. Pray that their lives will reflect their walk with the Lord, that others will see Jesus when they look at them.

8. Pray that they will never become so successful that they depend upon themselves rather than the Lord.

9. Pray that they will raise up their children and your future grandchildren in the ways of the Lord.

10. Pray that they will always know how much they are loved, how special they are, and that “in Christ”, they are perfect.

As a mom we want our kids safe, we want them successful, we want them to have friends, to experience love, to enjoy life….but I’m realizing that more than all of that, our greatest desire should be that they truly love the Lord their God with all of their hearts, mind, and strength.

I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.

3 John 1:4

A Thankful Heart…

images (2)Last year this time, our whole family was gathered at the beach in Destin for Thanksgiving. We made lots of memories, enjoyed the sun, and swam in the heated pool, and ocean (even though it was cold).

This year we are back in Nepal for Thanksgiving, celebrating on our own.

In comparing the two, certainly last year wins out, hands down.

Yet, I’m reminded that being thankful is a choice.

So as I sat outside enjoying the sun today, I made a list of the things I have to be thankful for here.

  1. Faithful friends and family back home who pray for us and support us, here.
  2. The beautiful snow cap mountains of the Himalayas.
  3. The chance to be His hands and feet.
  4. Experiencing life abroad.
  5. Memories made with my family unlike any other.
  6. Knowing and loving the generous people here.
  7. Pottery class I get to take for our visa.
  8. Kid’s ministry at our local church.
  9. Teaching others God’s Word.
  10. The rich blessing of God’s faithfulness that is present both here and there

No, this Thanksgiving won’t be like the ones we celebrate back in the States, but it will still be a day to give thanks to the Lord for all He has done.

His everlasting love, marvelous mercy, glorious grace, and faithfulness are reasons enough to give thanks, and yet, He has blessed us with oh so much more!

How about you? What things are you thankful for this Thanksgiving?

We always have reason to be thankful!

Created by Him, through Him and for Him

created for Him“In the beginning God…(Genesis 1:1)”

In the beginning God was there  because God had always been there. There was not a time He did not exist.

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth (Genesis 1:1).”

In the beginning all that was created was created by God.

“For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created (Col. 1:16).”

And all was created not only by Him, but through Him, and for Him.

You and I were created by God, through God, and for God.

I listened to a message earlier by JD Greear, and he said this about creation.

  1. The story is about Him, He is the major character, not us! God’s Word begins and ends with Him.
  2. We were created for God, not for our pleasure. We thrive only when our lives revolve upon Him.
  3. We were created in the image of God, to do that which He created us for.
  4. Only the One who brought life out of nothing can bring life back from the dead.

As I listened I was challenged by the reality that far too often I make myself the main character. I make myself the focus, or my kids, or other things. Rather than remembering the story is about Him. His life lived out through me, for His glory.

I was reminded that God created me and called me from before the foundation of the world to do the good works He created me for. My life is not my own, it belongs to Him. And I am most joyful and content when my life revolves around Him.

As my kids grow older and begin to think and dream about tomorrow, one of my greatest desires is that they know that they were created by Him, through Him, and for Him. And that whatever He calls them to do, they do it to bring much glory to Him, their Creator. That they do not loose sight of the fact that He must be the Center, and that their lives revolve around Him. For only then, will they find true joy, true contentment, and true peace.

Is He the center of your life? Satan desires to get us to put other things at the center. He lies and tells us that we will never be truly happy until we _(fill in the blank)__.

Yet it is a lie! For God did not create us, save us, and call us unto Himself to lives our lives for ourselves. He did this so that we might live our lives on passion for Christ. Making Him known, wherever He leads us, calls us, and places us.

May we not loose sight of these simple truths, and may our lives be motivated by our great and merciful Savior!

 

Raising World Changers….

downloadRecently I was picked along with a group of others to help Kristen Welch launch her newest book, “Raising World Changers in a Changing World.”

I was super excited to read this new book, and the insights I knew would be there. See, Kristen and her husband began a non-profit organization back in 2010 called Mercy House Global (http://mercyhouseglobal.org/about-us/), which exists to engage, empower and disciple women around the globe in Jesus’ name. Engage those with resources to say yes to the plight of women in poverty. Empower women and teenage mothers around the world through partnerships and sustainable fair trade product development. Disciple women to be lifelong followers of Jesus Christ. 

Knowing that she and her family were indeed seeking to make a difference in this world, and after having read all of her other books, Rhinestone Jesus, Raising Grateful Kids in an Entitled World, and Don’t Make me Come up There, I knew this new book would be inspirational as well.

This past week, I began reading the book, you can pre-order yours here http://bit.ly/raisingworldchangers  now. Each chapter gives some question/answer, which she asked, and her children answered, and which she encourages us to ask our children.

So I finished chapter one, and began the question/answer time with my own. With the first question being, “What does it mean to be a world changer?” I gave mine the day to think it through, and then excitedly gathered their response.

My oldest said, “A World changer is someone who allows God to work through them, and goes out of their way to help others.” My middle son said, “A world changer is someone who helps others, and who tells others about Jesus.” And my youngest replied, “To be a world changer is to be a light that points others who are in the dark to Jesus. It means to be different than others.”

And I suppose I couldn’t have answered it better than that. You see, being a world changer does not mean you have to be someone special, you have to do something huge, you don’t have to start a non-profit, or move overseas.

To be a world changer begins right where you are, it begins when you change the lives of those you come in contact daily, rather than allowing this dark world to change you. As my daughter said, it is being a light in the darkness, and being different than this world.

I am excited to continue reading this book, and for the impact I know it will make.

We live in a dark world, a world whose news is full of tragedy, heartbreak, and strife. A world so far from the Lord and His teachings it is scary. Yet, we do not have to allow this world to change us into fearful, angry people. We don’t have to allow this world to change our kids or draw our kids away from the Lord. We can rather seek to change this world, by being His hands and feet. By being that light on top of the hill that shines ever so bright, that points the lost to Him.

See, we can’t change the world, only Jesus can.

Yet, He allows us to be His hands and His feet, He allows us to be apart of what He is doing.

And it begins with our own. We can’t expect to change the world unless we are first and foremost changing the lives of those most precious to us, our families.

May we join together and seek to raise up the next generation of people who will say “yes Lord, here am I send me, use me, and use my life for your glory!”

A Letter to my Daughter

Today my daughter turned 9.How different it is to raise a girl than boys. They think, feel, and learn differently. So to my 9 year old going on 20, there are a few things I want you to know.

  1.  Your beauty is not found in your dress or jean size. Your significance is not found in the length of your hair or the amount of jewelry you wear.You beauty is found according to the Scriptures, in a gentle and quiet spirit. It is found in what is in the inside, not in what is found on the outside..“your adornment must not be merely external– braiding the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or putting on dresses; but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God (I Peter 3:3-4)”

    2. You are your beloved’s and He is yours.He is enthralled with your beauty and longs for you to come away with Him.

    The One who loves you the most, loves you just as you are. He made you that way. He loves the freckles on your nose, the color of your hair, the shape of your face. And He desires for you to care more about what He thinks of you than what anyone else says. He invites you to come away with Him and find your joy in Him.

    “I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine,”( Song of Solomon 6:3)

    “his banner over me is love.” (Song of Solomon 2;4)

    3. You should clothe yourself with the things that matter.

    All too often we pick out our clothes, we dress a certain way to draw attention to ourselves. We want to be noticed. We want to fit in, look the part.Yet, the label on our clothes and the length of our skirt, is not the issue. All over the world, women dress certain ways to fit their culture. But, God says, what we wear on the outside is not what matters. It’s the things we clothe ourselves with on the inside.

    ” clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity (Col. 3:12-14).”

    4. You are never alone, you have a friend who is closer than a brother…

    When others hurt you and you feel alone. Don’t believe that lie. You are never alone. The One who loves you most, the One who cares for you the most, He is always with you. Though others will let you down, He never will.

    “there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother (Prov. 18:24).”

    5. You are holy, righteous, justified, forgiven, chosen of God.

    Though the enemy will lie to you and try to tell you that you have no worth. Your worth is great in the eyes of God. Because of what Jesus has done, you are perfect. Don’t listen to the lies of the enemy, instead fill your mind with the truth of God’s Word.

    “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things (Phil. 4:8).”

    You my darling daughter are a daughter of the King of Kings. He loves you just as you are. He delights in you, and made you just as you are for His glory and for His purposes. When He looks at you, He see’s His creation and He says it is very good!