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Body Image, Family, God, Identity, Relationships

My Digital Friend is Taking Over

May 29, 2014

I consider myself to be a pretty well rounded mother of three. I do the laundry, cook the food, clean the messes, bandage the boo-boos, read stories and kiss little cheeks. I’m a multi-tasker to the max and I take pride in getting many things done at once.

I also consider myself an excellent phone consumer. I can scroll through Instagram, check my email, search the weather, pick through Pinterest and text my friends and family all at once.

What’s truly impressive, however, is my ability to be a mother and a phone consumer at the same time. Although impressive, this “talent” you could say has led me down a path of habit, addiction and absence.

My i-phone has become another member of the family. I catch myself constantly saying “hold on a minute, wait one sec, let me just finish this sentence, I’ll be right there, etc.” as I hold my phone in my hands typing away as my child pulls on my pant leg and as my husband waits for my full attention to say something. I hear the bing of an incoming text and I’m answering its call as if it has trained me to come like a dog by its master. Somehow everything seems urgent on the phone. My friend asked an important question, this person needs something from me, I need to get back in touch with this person right away…. Or else what? What will happen if I just wait to answer? What would happen if instead I gave my attention to those who are right in front of me? -The ones looking at my face waiting for me to make eye contact with them. The ones who are wanting to know if they are more important than the machine in my hand.

According to Catherine Steiner-Adair, author of The Big Disconnect: Protecting Family and Childhood Relationships in the Digital Age- she says that I am not alone. “ Kids suffer as a result. After interviewing hundreds of kids and adults, I have found that what kids feel the most is sad, isolated and alone. They feel like it’s impossible to get their parents’ attention. Walking into a room to talk to a parent and being told brusquely “in a minute, hold on,” makes the kids feel deflated and bad about themselves.”

This breaks my heart. And it’s not just kids who are reaping the consequences. It’s relationships period! The husband and wife who sit next to each other and instead of looking at one another in conversation they are looking at the screen. The friend who is sharing something important while the one across the table is reminded to look at a picture or an email instead of being fully present. We cant even watch a movie all together without the majority of us looking up facts about the movie, where else did we see that actor, and when was this movie made all leading us back to our phone.

It has become a crutch to lean on when we find ourselves in awkward situations, when we find ourselves alone while waiting for someone to show up, when we are wanting the world to think that we have it all together when really we don’t. My husband just said the other day….. “Do we ever do anything anymore to just do them? Or are we living our lives to make for a good picture on our social media?”

In the film “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” there is a scene where a photographer has traveled across the world to take a picture of a snow leopard that rarely makes an appearance. As he sits there gazing upon the animal as it emerges from the caves… he doesn’t take the picture. His friend asks if he plans to capture this moment and his response is so profound. He answers by saying there are moments so good he wants to remain in them fully present rather than interrupting it with a push of a button.

Our lives are filled with precious moments and we can certainly miss them.

In Deuteronomy 6:6-9 it says “ …. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”

Sounds like all the times we’re on our phone. Right? And yet its talking about verse 5- “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.”

Phew.  The majority of my day is spent with my mind on the phone rather than on loving God with my whole heart.

Before you even read this post, I’m sure you were already aware of the digital problem we face. You know this, but have you done anything about it? Of course it isn’t realistic to throw away your phone or stop emailing and answering texts all together! I mean the phone allows me to see my husband when he’s gone.  The phone allows me to connect with people.  But we definitely can learn to manage better. This is about boundaries. This is about what our minds and hearts are constantly stayed on as we go about our day. We can learn to check our phones when we want, not when it wants. Set your boundaries, walk outside and be fully present where you are.

Faith, Family, Forgiveness, God, Identity, Relationships, Spiritual Life

Who’s Your Daddy?

November 19, 2013

If someone were to ask of you what your definition of a father was, would you have an answer? Would your answer change if the perspective altered from an earthly father to a heavenly father?

I want to share a story with you.

Over the last several months I have had the privilege of mentoring a young woman from my church. Within the context of what we have been working on, the lead topic by far has been the rationale of what a father truly is. This young woman has grown up in the church, leads worship, and her grandfather is the head pastor. This young woman fits the typical church family. When we walk into a church we all (myself included) tend to judge without hesitation when it comes to perfection. There are those times we have all said “I wish I had a family like that” or “What makes that family so different, how they seem so perfect.” This young woman fit into that category. It was not until she reached out for help that I knew anything to be different. You see, little did anybody else know that the life she lived at home was far different from the life in which she was daily being judged for.

Through her heavy heart I learned that what was being portrayed on the outside, was far different than what she was feeling on the inside. As we sat leading an all-night worship and prayer set I closely watched as this young woman’s heart began to shatter into a million pieces. What I was oblivious to was that on the inside she was desperate for a fathers love. Little did I know, her entire life was consumed with negative comments, feedback, condescending lies and overall disgust by her father. She was never good enough, never smart enough, and never well off enough to live up to his PERFECT perception of what a daughter should be.

As I began to pray with her and for her; spirit led, I began to ask her some very tough questions. I realized that through every answer she gave me, she was responding through a lens. What lens might you ask? Allow me to elaborate. Despite having a loving God who accepts her as his own and calls her by name as his daughter, this young woman’s perception of God has been dramatically altered due to the hurt she has seen and experienced by her earthly father. As I began to ask her questions regarding God has her ABBA FATHER, she began to answer with a lens. Her entire life she has viewed God not as her heavenly father but as her earthly father. This lens she has placed over her eyes has caused her to see God as everything but good. Her judgments, reactions, feelings, emotions and thoughts towards God have all been viewed as if God was in the same category as her earthly father.

Fast forward now to a few weeks ago. This young woman through prayer and time spent in the word has had her world drastically changed by a living God. I asked something of her (and she has given me permission to share such knowledge with you wonderful ladies) and the results astounded me. I asked her three questions. Question one was “what are your defining characteristics of a good earthly father?” question two was “what are your defining characteristics of a bad earthly father?” and question three was “what are your defining characteristics of God as father?”

Her responses were as follows:

Good earthly father- A man who is secure in who he is; this would be due to the fact that he has a good self-esteem. This also includes a man who builds up his children, encourages them in their walk with God. A man who is supportive. A man who is not looking for his child to make himself look good, but rather simply looking out for his children’s well-being. A man that forgives easily and is quick to ask for forgiveness. A man that acknowledges his imperfections and prays to God for wisdom. Finally, a man who gives his children a home of peace.

Bad earthly father- A man who is so insecure in who he is and so hurting inside that he hurts his children. A man whose hurt spills out upon his children. A man who is selfish and just wants his children to make him good. A man that may tell his children that he loves them, but his actions don’t ever seem to back up his words. A man that doesn’t see when he is in the wrong, and if he does he would never admit it. A man who creates chaos, tension, and anxiety. A man that is not emotionally available, but rather is cold and stoic. Finally, a man that does not show emotions other than anger.

God as a father- A father that tells me I am worthy of the best. A father that is proud to have me as his child. A father who is always love. A father who is not looking for me to perform. A father who is not looking for me to be good enough, for he says I am enough. A father who gives peace. A father who is tender and compassionate. Finally, a father who is a lot of FUN.

After realizing the growth that she has gained in the last few months, I asked her one final question. I asked of her “where did you perception of God as a father arise from?” Her answer was so beautiful.

She simply stated God is a Luke 15 type of Father. In Luke 15:11-31 it talks about the parable of the lost son. She began to explain to me, Heather I am the lost son. I have sinned against my Father in heaven. I have been angry with him, I have hurt him, and I have run in every which direction solely to avoid him. She continued with saying, despite my disobedience he calls me his beloved, despite my ignorance he calls me his daughter. He runs to me with open arms waiting to treasure me for my worth.

This young woman explained to me that all too often we as children of a Godly father feel as if we need to prepare what we are going to say, practice how we are going to present the information, and essentially have everything perfect before we come to God for forgiveness. She states that we feel we are already in the wrong, therefor when we come for redemption, we must come in with perfection. When in fact God calls quite the opposite. He calls the broken of heart so that in him, he is perfection is made piece.

I share this story with you wonderful ladies for no other reason than to say often times we are so hurt by the people around us that we often times look at God through this imperfect lens.

I want to bring back my original question for you ladies. “If someone were to ask of you what your definition of a father was, would you have an answer? Would your answer change if the perspective altered from an earthly father to a heavenly father?”

I ladies am just like you, I am just like this young women. I have been deeply wounded by people in my life. These people have caused my perception of God to be altered. I too have looked through a lens of something other than God. I am here to tell you ladies that it does not matter what has been done to you, WE serve a PERFECT GOD. WE serve a PERFECT FATHER.

I have not a clue writing this who has hurt you in your past or present, or who will hurt you in the future. I am here to tell you however that you are a treasure in the kingdom of heaven. You are never too far gone for a PERFECT GOD to pick up the pieces that have wounded you. I encourage each one of you to look at how you view God, are your views altered because of the wounds that you still carry? Drop them at the foot of the cross and allow a perfect FATHER to hold you tight, and say “YOU ARE WORTHY, YOU ARE MY DAUGHTER, and I LOVE YOU UNCONDITIONALLY.”

HeatherHeather lives in a teeny town in North Dakota where she works with women who have been victims of domestic violence and rape. She loves softball, dogs, music and working with youth. Heather is a general, all around, amazing gal & a special friend to the girls of AGLM.

Family, Forgiveness, God, Relationships

Forgiving a Broken Soul

September 24, 2013

I’m going to be honest. I know that I am not the best person to write about forgiveness, so that’s why I want to introduce you to my friend Taylar. She has been and is walking through one of the most challenging stories on forgiveness I have ever heard. She is a college student and I am incredibly blessed to mentor her and live life with her. Taylar radiates Jesus’ love and joy to all around her and I think you will see why when you read her story.  So here it is:

Who has been the hardest person in your life to forgive?

My stepdad of 10 years. Over the past 10 years he has physically, emotionally, financially, and verbally abused my family. I was almost 10 years old when I first saw him beat my mom. That night, because he was drunk, he punched holes in our walls, kicked my bedroom door down, threw my mom in the bathtub, pinned her against the mirror, bit her on the back, threw glass at her, and continued to hit her. My baby sister woke up during all of this and I remember trying to sing Amazing Grace to help her fall back asleep but the screams were too loud. This was the first and not the last time I would have to experience nights like this.

How did you forgive him? What has led you to be able to forgive him?

Over the years, my bitterness and hatred for my stepdad grew. I would be angry that all he did at home was sit on the couch and watch TV while I helped my mom raise my 3 younger siblings who are now only 11, 9, and 7. I was angry that he would curse my mom out, beat her, and then yell at me about how worthless I am and how no one would ever love me. I was angry that he would act like a man of God at church and then come home and revert back to his old, abusive ways. I was angry with him for keeping my mom from money. One day my mom, siblings, and I were in line with two carts of groceries and the card decline, making us walk out of the store with no food because my stepdad cancelled the credit card. This man who caused so much anger in me made it seem impossible to even look at him.

Being through all of this has made forgiveness my biggest struggle in life. In fourth grade I sought Christian counseling on how to deal with abuse in my family but no one really wanted to help. In high school I was afraid to talk about my home situation to anyone because no one ever really believed me that my home situation was that bad. College came and I finally got out of the house. I assumed moving out would help my heart, but still that anger resided in my heart only keeping me further from God. When I was 19 years old, God really convicted me on the sinful feelings that I was choosing to have in my heart towards my stepdad. My pastor JD Greear said that when we don’t forgive someone then we are saying that their actions towards us are greater than our sin towards the Lord. That really put into perspective how I had been living my life. I never fully allowed the Lord to take control of the situation and really heal my heart.

I was 19 years old when I finally allowed God to fully heal my heart. I let go by surrendering to God all of the anger that was bottled up inside. I finally realized that I am loved by the Lord. When I hurt, He hurts. I was holding a small grudge towards a man for what he had done to me when God has loved me despite of what I do to Him every day. I quit holding up the walls in my life and finally allowed the Lord to break them down and consume every part of me.

How have you seen God work through your obedience to forgive him?

Once I made the decision to allow God to take control of my heart and pray that He helps me forgive my stepdad, a weight lifted off my shoulders and I no longer felt trapped. I can look at my stepdad with a compassionate heart rather than a heart of hatred. I see him as an empty soul who desperately needs to accept the love of Jesus Christ. Before I forgave him, I wanted him out of my life and didn’t care where he ended up for eternity. I was skeptical that anything could change and that we were far better off without him. The Lord has helped me to pray over his broken soul and his healing rather than just my own despite of his actions towards my family and me. I have hope that God will heal my family and I am willing to be used in any way by Him to help this happen.

What would you want other girls and women in a similar place to know about forgiveness from what you have learned?

Know that the Lord is greater than any circumstance we go through. We are loved despite what any man says or does to us. The Lord is in the midst of our suffering and wants to heal our heartache. He hears us when we cry out to Him. He never leaves our side. Continue to turn to scripture and consume your heart with the promises of God.

 Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory that He will reveal to us later. Romans 8:18

Allow the love Jesus has given to flow out of you! The more you understand his unconditional love for you, the more you can love unconditionally! This is so hard and challenging to do but our love and obedience to Jesus allows others to see Him through us. When anger builds up it hardens your heart and you become miserable. Let the anger go because it’s not worth holding on to!  The Lord nailed that burden with Him on the cross. He carried that burden for us so we wouldn’t have to.

 Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you. Psalm 55:22

The Lord is good and perfect and pleasing. Lean on Him daily and let Him consume your heart. Forgiving others is then just a response to what He has done for us.

Faith, Family, Relationships

Love and Marriage

March 12, 2013

I was the little girl who grew up wanting to get married.  From the moment I laid eyes on Cinderella i wanted to be her.  I wanted to be this special secret that no one really new about.  This flower that was still a bud but growing into something amazing and every boy would desire me!  I wanted to be a diamond in the rough… a prize to be fought over and of course be swept off my feet and live happily ever after.  In all my years of searching and dating I was looking for Mr. Right.  The right person who would complement me in every way.  The right person who would enjoy all the same things I did.  He would love me and make me happy.  He would “complete me” and make me feel like Cinderella.  Some of you can relate and are currently dreaming of the guy you will one day marry.  However, There may be some of you who don’t desire to marry at all because of negative experiences you may have witnessed. Your parent’s terrible divorce or other couples you know who are miserable in their marriage but just stay in it because they “have” to.  You’ve only seen people who get married and then live the rest of their lives in regret and with feelings of suffocation.  To you marriage is terrifying and only blocking you from your dreams.  Which ever way you look at it, I hope to shed some light on the truth about marriage and maybe bring you to a place that not only is hopeful and encouraging, but also prepared and realistic.

The day I married Mike, I was at peace.  I was calm, certain, and excited.  We were surrounded by so many people who loved us and celebrated us!  It felt like the best thing that could have ever happened to me.  And then the next morning came, our loved ones went home, and we were left to each other with high expectations and the smack of reality.  In all honesty, doubt began to creep into the back of my mind.  What if I made a mistake?  What if this wasn’t the right guy?  What if there was something better for me and I just ruined the rest of my life?  Our honeymoon was somewhat awkward, our walls were partially up, and we were standing there just the two of us wondering what on earth we had just done.  Not so blissful right?  I look back at that time in our marriage and we had no clue!!  We really didn’t know what marriage was like.  We didn’t know what to expect.  All we knew is that we both felt led by the Lord to do it and we had some sort of love developing and attracting us together.  So I come to you as a wife after 5 years of marriage- ( I know, not that long) but with some better idea of what this union I had desired for so long was really all about.  The fact is- It wasn’t about me at all.

I feel as though dating can lead you to believe that marriage is a lot like it.  We have this view of our relationship that we’ll just go on dating as long as we still have feelings of love towards that person and as long as we’re happy.  The minute that we become unhappy or unattracted to each other we can just split and go find the right person who will be a better compliment of yourself.  The problem with this is that marriage is not at all like dating and yet very much the same in regards to feelings.  There will be times that you don’t feel loved by him.  There will be times that you don’t have mushy feelings for one another.  There will be times that you are unhappy and disappointed.  There will be times that you run out of things to talk about and just sit there awkwardly staring into your food, and there will be times you wonder if there is something better.  But the difference is that there now lies a covenant.  A covenant that is to protect and keep the relationship regardless of feelings and incompatibility.  And when that covenant is kept and the both of you work towards loving one another regardless of feelings, you come to find that you will experience a love so much deeper and so much more exciting than any love you can experience in a dating relationship.  I am more in love with my husband today than I ever was.  And it’s because we have had to face our struggles and our lack of feelings at times and bring it to the light.  It’s been an adventure and I highly recommend it!

Legal scholar John Witte Jr. says something along the lines of this- “What once was a marriage of permanent union designed for the sake of mutual love, procreation, and protection is slowly giving way to a new reality of marriage as a terminal sexual contract designed for the gratification of the individual parties.”

Marriage used to be about ‘us.’  Now it’s about ‘me’.  Our culture today says that you need to find the person that will meet all your needs and bring you happiness.   Heres the deal, if your view resembles this than I have news for you- you will always marry the wrong person.  No two people are perfect for each other.  What?!    “We never know whom we marry; we just think we do.  Or even if we first marry the right person, just give it a while and they will change.”- Stanley Hauerwas  The minute you marry someone – that person begins to change and you can’t know ahead of time what those changes will be.  The key is to change with that person.  If the reasons I married Mike were because he was funny, good looking, made me happy, loved people…. than the minute those things begin to falter and fade my feelings for him would change and become conditional.  Marriage is about embracing the differences and putting our own desires aside to serve the other whom we love.  “We do not see marriage as two flawed people coming together to create a space of stability, love, and consolation-a haven in a heartless world” – Christopher Lasch.

“We were made for marriage.  However if our views of marriage are too romantic and idealistic, we underestimate the influence of sin on human life.  If they are too pessimistic and cynical, we misunderstand marriage’s divine origin.”- Keller  Marriage is a great mystery.  One that we can only understand with the Spirit’s help.  Ephesians 5: 25- ” Husbands, love your wives just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her…”  The secret of marriage is the message of what Jesus did for us in order to bring us into union with himself.  And what was that?  Jesus gave himself up for us!  Though equal with the Father He gave up his glory and took on human nature.  He went to the cross and paid of your sins removing our guilt and condemnation so that we could be united with him.  He gave up his glory and power to become a servant.  He died to his own interests and looked to our needs and interests instead.  He is in union with us and we with him.  And that is not only the key to understanding marriage but to LOVING it.  One of God’s greatest purposes of marriage was to show the relationship between Christ and His redeemed people forever!”- Keller

Wherever you stand in your views of marriage today, I pray that you would come to find the beauty of the covenant.  It not only protects and invites you to experience love in ways you never thought possible, but it also brings you into a better light of the Love God has for us.  It is most definitely a union that will bring out those messy places within yourself that need to be refined, and although difficult at moments, beautiful as a whole.  Thoughts?

Faith, Family, God, Suffering

Free to Suffer

June 19, 2012

It’s funny to me how just when I feel like I can finally type a post and not turn into a ball of emotional mush, God decides to throw me another curveball and send me right back to that place. So here I am again, about to share a very tender part of my heart with all of you. Today, I am sharing about my father.

For those of you who haven’t read my background, I grew up with a sick father. Between two permanent physical disabilities and the domino effect of ailments that followed, he was never what you would call “well.” We lived our lives going to and from doctors appointments and hospital stays. Even to this day, the odd smells inside a hospital bring me a sense of comfort and familiarity. My dad ached for healing, and then towards the end, he just ached for his heavenly home. And after thirty years of suffering, he was finally granted his desire and was sent home to Jesus.

For many years I was angry with God over allowing my father to remain sick. I mean, if God is the ultimate healer, why couldn’t He just reach out His hand and heal my dad? My dad was a godly man who sought after Christ with his whole heart. In my mind he was the perfect candidate for miraculous healing. So when another year passed and my dad only got sicker, my frustration with the Lord’s lack of action was gaining. It is only now, four years after my dad’s passing that I can fully understand why God chose to do what he did.

Many people have theories on why God allows suffering and sickness into our lives. Some will say it is because we lack faith. Some say it is punishment for being sinful. Some will say it is because we have unconfessed sin. And some like to chuck the blame off on to good ol’ Satan and say God had nothing to do with the suffering in the first place. I, however, am choosing to take another stance. One that I feel gives a bit more hope to the matter.

In John 9 the disciples come across a man who has been blind since birth. They ask the Lord what kind of sin has he or his parents done to deserve such a punishment as blindness. You know how Jesus responds? He tells them it has nothing to do with the man or his parents sinning, the man is blind so that God’s works can be displayed through him. This is the position I am choosing to take and this is the position I feel God most exemplifies to us throughout scripture.

Jacob back in Genesis wrestled with God all night, and as a sign that he prevailed, God gave him a limp. To show how faithful He is and how faithful his servants can be, God took everything Job had away from him. And Paul, God gave him a permanent “thorn in the flesh” to keep him humble and remind him and others just how much we need Christ. Do you see a pattern here? All these men, they were godly men. Men, a lot like my dad, who had their faults, but sought God fervently with their whole lives. They were not perfect by any means, but they were not the kind of men deserving of the calamity that befell them. So why then did God “punish” them like He did? He did it so that HIS works may be displayed. THAT is why I believe God allows us to suffer.

Through my dad’s life of sickness, he encountered numerous nurses, doctors, patients and the like. Each and everyone knew my dad loved Jesus, and none were immune to hearing him tell them about Christ. Because of my dad’s sickness, he could comfort and weep with those who suffered in sickness. He could be an understanding ear when no one else had one. Because my father was ill he could be at home day in and day out to be available to my brother and I in a world where absent fathers are so prevalent. Because my dad was sick…Jesus was able to be made known.

Sweet friends, God is not in the business of punishing us. What He is in the business of is bringing people unto himself. When Paul says that he prayed three times to be relieved of his ailment, the Lord told him that His grace was sufficient enough for Paul. Why? Because His power is made to be most perfect when we are weak. Whether that is a means to bring us back into closeness with Him, or to be used to draw others to the heart of Jesus, suffering is always meant to show Christ. It is always meant to show us that He can take even the most dire of circumstances and use it to bring about his glory towards others. And if that is His purpose, one could say the suffering is totally worth it then.

Look at this blog, for instance. It took many painful life lessons to bring Kelly and I to the place we are at now. But because we suffered, we can show the forgiveness and grace and love of Jesus to you. And just like us, Jesus is doing the same in each of you. I know the suffering is hard, and more often than not you are just wanting to know why. But the answer is already there: He is using your suffering so that He can be made known to you and to the world. So the question to ask ourselves then is not why does God allow us to suffer, but what are we doing in our suffering to show others God? My dad figured it out- now it’s our turns.

Points of reflection: John 9:2-4 2 Corinthians 12:7-10