Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Go Ahead...Embrace it!

I have to blog about Meredith's birthday party. It was her first boy/girl party. She turned 12. This is such a fun age. I see who she is becoming and I love it. Do you want to know one of my greatest pet peeves? I hate it when people say, boys are so easy to raise...Girls are so difficult. Give me a boy any day. Or rather, I dread the teenage years with my there anyway to skip it. When I hear things like that, I have to bite my tongue. It just makes my blood boil. You're probably saying, man Gina, tell us how you really feel? It just gets all over me. As I watched Meredith the other night with her friends, I had the most incredible joy in my heart. The kids weren't acting weird (well maybe for the first 30 minutes). They settled down and begin interacting with each other in a precious sort of way. Lots of chitter chatter. They loved getting their pictures made, except for Rebekah. Not a fan of posing for pics. We just had a fabulous time. Meredith decided she wanted to attempt a party game. We googled "party games" and found a game called Balloon Tower. You divide your group into 4 teams, give them 4 bags of balloons and a roll of packing tape. When you say go, they are to construct a balloon tower that stands on its own. The team with the tallest tower wins. It was so much fun. The kids had an absolute blast. I am going to try and put pics up of the event. We had the party at Mad Pizza in the upstairs room. It was a private party until the game was over and twenty 6Th graders started popping balloons. Thus no longer making it private, because everyone in the restaurant knew we were there. It was so loud and so crazy. Ed and I just looked at each and said, "what should we do?" We were horrified. We tried to yell, but the kids could not hear us. Have you ever felt completely out of control? I looked over the loft's edge, down to the people below (who were all out for a peaceful family dinner) all 80 plus of them were looking back at me. All I could say was...I'm so sorry. Then the manager came up. How embarrassing. We chalked that one up as a memory we will never forget. The night was awesome. In Meredith's own words...."I loved it mom. I had so much fun."
Back to raising daughters. I choose to look at it like this. Every moment is a gift. Every stage of development is one to be cherished. I loved telling Meredith about the birds and the bees and I love the fact that she feels so comfortable asking be about anything. I have loved every stage and I am going to embrace this awkward pre-teen, emotional stage just the same. The goal is to raise an exceptional young woman who loves God, and who is a spiritual leader. A woman who is confident, strong and prepared to face life's greatest challenges. Character doesn't just happen, it develops over time. The pre-teen and teen years are the years I choose to embrace more than any other. They are critical, character-building, life changing years. I can't afford to sit back and dread each day, or put my head under the covers and come out when it is all over. Daughters need their mommas. Especially during these years. They need them to love them unconditionally, tell them they are beautiful a million times and most importantly to make sure they are equipped for life. It's not easy, not always fun. But always, always embraced. My friend, embrace life. Wherever you are today...embrace it. That is the only way you can successfully get through it. Life will embrace you back. I promise. That's just the way it works. God says..."Give and it will be given to you, pressed down, shaken together and running over." Now that 's a promise you can stand on today as you do one more load of laundry, drive one more child to a sporting event, clean up one more mess or buy one more pair of shoes (again) It just never ends. We can praise God today that His mercies, His love and His faithfulness never end. Running on empty? Then get yourself filled up. He's there, He's waiting.
This is all part of my journey today.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Putting Away the "Poor Little Me's"

I consider myself to be a news junkie. I guess you can say I just want to be in the "know." I was devastated from hearing the news this morning of a private plane that crashed in Montana. All 14 on board were killed, 7 of them were children. When a tragedy like this occurs, my first thought is for the families who are suffering loss today. How absolutely heartbreaking! Then I begin to wonder if they knew Jesus, and if they did, what was it like to see Him appear in the cabin of that plane, grab them up in His arms and carry them home. Do you ever think about death in that way. I sure do. What a moment that will be!! However, on this side of heaven there are people who are devastated, hurting, maybe even angry from their loss. I know I would feel all of that and more.
I have a dear friend who lost her husband and all three of her boys in a plane crash just ten years ago. Can you fathom in your wildest dreams what it would be like to bury 3 of your 4 children and your husband on the same day? I can not wrap my mind around that. You moms must know this is something you would never get over. Every birthday, every holiday, every milestone that they should have been crossing would not be celebrated. Could not be celebrated. Instead, with each of these events, the pain and the raw emotion is brought back to the surface again and again. It is relentless. Never ending.
You know, when I look at my life, I have to say that I have suffered very little. Yes, I have walked through some dark days, some difficult times. I have worried, cried a lot of tears and wasted a lot of time living in fear. But in the grand scheme of things I have to step back, take a look and realize how blessed I have been. Whenever I get the "poor little me's," and shame on me when I do, I think of Kicia. I then have to remind myself that I really have nothing to cry about. My problems are so small, so trite. And yes, sometimes they are meaningless. There are so many people walking around on this planet carrying pain that is so unbearable, I am sure they have to remind themselves to breathe. I know God promises that He will not give us more than we can handle. I have seen some horrific things that people have had to endure and you know, I don't always agree with Him on this. That's just my human flesh speaking out. I do know this, there is nothing so terrible that could happen to us, that He would not be with us every step of the way. Life brings change, but praise God, His character never changes. He is always good, always loving, and always faithful. He has promised He will never leave us or forsake us. His presence is such a gift. A gift that will never be taken away from us. Remember the story of Job. Thank you God for letting Job's story be a part of your holy word, so we can know for sure you can get us through anything. I believe as Kicia began to discover these truths for herself, that God began to empower her to get up, take steps and move toward His complete purpose for her life.
Kicia is my hero. I love her with all my heart. May we all strive to put away the "poor little me's." Let's ask God, who in my world is really suffering today? Then may we be His hands, His feet, His arms of love. May we be His ears that listen, His heart that forgives. May we worry less, and smile more. May our lives be all that He has purposed them to be. This my friends is all part of my journey today.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Warrior Princess

"the Lord was not in the noise and confusion, but in the still, small voice." 1 Kings 19:11
I love me some early morning. I really do. There is just something about being up before everyone else. The quiet, early morning is my favorite time of day. I used to struggle so much with getting out of bed and having a time alone with God. It got so bad at one point in my life that I lived every day in total guilt. I thought, I can not call myself a Christ-follower if I can't get up to meet with Him in the mornings. I call it the years when I lost my quiet time. It started in college I might add. I prayed over and over to ask God to give me the discipline to get up. Then it occurred to me one day. Everyday, that I do not get up and read His Word and cover my family in prayer, is a day when I am sending my family out into this world, completely naked and without the armor of God. They are then vulnerable to the firey darts of the enemy. Wow. That will give you a new perspective. So, I play this little game in the morning. I set my main alarm for 4:50 am. I need about 20 minutes to wake up. I turn it off and grab my cell phone which is on vibrate. The reason for this - my husband kindly asked me to quit hitting snooze 10 times each morning. So alarm is off, cell phone is laying upon my chest. I let it go off two times. I am usually up by 5:15. I like a full hour with God before I get my kids up at 6:15. On the mornings when it is particularly tough, I pretend that I am a warrior princess who has to get up and fight for my family. Think that is weird. I do too, but it works. It's like I am rising up to go into battle for my children, my family. My sweet friend Jeana Floyd has taught me that most parenting should be done on your knees. Boy, am I learning that she is right. We as parents have got to get it - WE ARE IN A WAR. The battle is constantly raging and it is our duty and privilege to get up in the morning and fight for our children. Every day I tell God, my kids are yours. They do not belong to the enemy. They are yours. So protect them spiritually and physically today. Guard over their hearts and minds. And may they grow to love you, love your Word and love your church with all their hearts. And God, please bring godly men into their lives that will love you, love your Word, your church with all their hearts. And my they adore my daughters as well.
One of my greatest desires and passions in life is that I become a true prayer warrior. I am nowhere near that now....but well on my way. So I'm calling all Warrior Princesses and Warrior Princes to get up, strap on your armor and get thyself into the battle. It rages on. This is all part of my journey today.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Lessons I've Learned in Parenting

Tonight we will be celebrating Meredith's 12th birthday. She is so excited and could hardly settle down to go to sleep last night. When I went to wake her this morning I saw a beautiful young woman lying there. Where has the time gone? 6 more years at home. It just doesn't seem possible. I am constantly taking evaluation of my "mothering" skills. I question myself quite often, just wondering if I have done enough, if I am doing enough...where I am messing up, where I am flourishing? Believe me, I have messed up a lot with my kids. For one, they have way too much stuff. But don't we all. One day I said to my mom, "kids are expensive." Her reply was, "you're expensive." Jab well taken and received. Still in the midst of it all, I have to smile inside because I know we have done many things right. We take the lead from some dear friends of ours, Tom and Robin Joseph. They have great kids. Ever so often I will take notice of exceptional kids. Then I start asking questions of the parents of those exceptional kids. That is when I get answers, real answers on how to raise great kids. Ask and you shall receive. The Joseph's, for years, had a little, tiny television set in their home office. It wasn't even located in the main family room. It was just not the center of their lives as it is to most of us. And, are you sitting down, they did not have cable. Many days we would pop in and the kids would be hovered around the TV watching the Andy Griffith Show. You have to love that. I love that they had the fortitude to do this. Did we follow this completely? NO. But we did follow it in part. Lesson 1 learned, it is up to us as parents to guard over the hearts and minds of our children. We don't ever watch something on TV that is not appropriate for our kids and then tell them.....Go play. It's like, leave us alone so we can watch our "inappropriateness." Most nights there is nothing good on. A few favorites at our house are...Discovery Chanel, 18 and Counting, Planet Earth, Treasure Quest, The Waltons. (We just finished season 2) We have learned to turn off the TV and spend time with our kids. And thus, we are protecting their little hearts and minds. Kids are exposed to so much today. Books, Movies, and Magazines are the worst. We don't need to add fuel to the fire by being too tired to tell them to turn off that trash and come sit and talk or play a game. It takes time, energy and creativity to make sure our kids are protected. Good parents can't afford to be lazy. They understand that parenting is just good old fashioned hard work. If you are saying, you know I really don't think what my kids watch or what I watch or read for that matter affects me or them in anyway. Rethink that, please. There are actually people who have said that to me. God's word says to guard over our hearts with all diligence and that as a man thinks in his heart so is he. What is in our hearts does matter. It matters greatly. Guard their hearts with fervor.
Lesson 2. Be consistent...even when it is inconvenient. Consistency is huge. Do what you say you will do? Be the example. If you want your kids to be kind, respectful, and loving to others. Then you first must be that and especially in the home. That is when our children see us for who we are. I hate it when I blow it on this one. And I have blown it many times. You know those times when you just can't take it anymore and things start coming out of your mouth that make you look and sound like a scary 3 headed monster. Will someone say I am with you girl? Oh the pain of those moments. I know we all have them. But you know what, I always, and I mean always go back to my girls and say, I'm sorry. Momma messed up big time and I want you to forgive me. How precious those moments are!! And even more when the tables are turned and they come to me and say, momma, will you please forgive me. That is always a victory in my house. Always!!
Yep, time sure is flying by. May I remember that this day is a gift. May I love and cherish the people God has given me. May I strive to better myself as a mother and may my children reap the benefits. This my friends is part of my journey today.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Is my relationship with God a chore?

I am reading this amazing book called "Crazy Love," by Pastor Francis Chan. This book has radically changed the way I look at my life. I was reading this morning and came across a quote that completely gripped the very depth of my soul. He says, "When I look at my relationship with God as a chore, a sacrifice, then I am getting the glory - not God. I keep saying, "look what I have sacrificed for God..." or listen to what I do for God." Whoa!! Jump back, let me read that again. I know I have been guilty of this. Especially after serving in the ministry for almost 17 years now. I have thought to myself many times....look what I have given up for the sake of the ministry and oh how I have sacrificed. Those who are close to me have probably heard me even say some of these pathetic things from time to time. Pastor Chan has rattled me to the core. How can I ever look at ministry the same way again? How can I ever look at my life the same way again? Everything I have is a gift from God...everything. How can I not wake up everyday and say, I get to live this day, I get to worship God with my life today. No matter how tough it gets, no matter how frustrated I become, how tired, how weary.... it is a privilege. A privilege. I just have to keep saying that word so it will sink in. To live my life everyday is a privilege, not a chore, not a sacrifice. My prayer is that I will truly get this. I mean, I want to so get it that it radically changes my life, my children, my family, and others that I am blessed to know.
I dare you to read this book. It's o.k. to get a little uncomfortable, so that in our discomfort we can become transformed into the image of God. And that my friend in a very good thing. This was all part of my journey today.