A Few Simple (and Freeing) Truths I’ve Realized in Raising Young Children

10341519_902198183138904_4226605190141266055_nThere’s a lot of stuff flowing around in my newsfeed about what you should and shouldn’t be doing with your children. Articles about how much screen time your child should have, what they should or shouldn’t be eating, when they should or shouldn’t be potty trained, who they should or shouldn’t be hanging out with and more.

I don’t know about you but sometimes I feel intense pressure and fear that I’m not getting it right. I’m screwing up because I’m not doing “this” or “that.” Half the time, I’m just trying to make it to the next day.

As someone who already struggles at times toward legalism, I gravitate toward the do’s and don’ts. And sometimes I sadly take pride in it.

After having my fourth child however my views have changed a lot. I’ve become more laid back realizing that my “list” isn’t always God’s agenda. I can say now that my daughter Rebekah is fully potty trained (at 3 1/2). Praise the Lord as it’s been a long journey. And it was never on my timetable no matter how much I prodded. My son John took until just before he was 4.

Some times my kids eat macaroni, hot dogs, and non-organic popsicles. Sometimes they play with kids at our local park that live in the affordable housing near it. Yep, and sometimes they hear cuss words from them too.

I get it though. I want to protect them as much as I can. I want them to be healthy. I want them to be on time developmentally. Contributors not burdens to society. Lights in this world of darkness. I don’t want them to follow the broad path that leads to destruction and death. I really want them behaving well and for their hearts to know right from wrong. I want to be present with them and enjoy them as young babies. And most of all, I want them to follow Jesus and all his ways.

I’ve found so much freedom though in letting go of control, my do’s and don’ts, and letting God guide our family. I’ve found freedom in flexibility and moderation. I confess that we do watch Netflix when I’m cooking meals. Otherwise my house would burn down. I know the news and writers out there mean well in the parenting articles. I’ve probably written a well-meaning article and I’m sure a reader has felt he or she hasn’t measured up in some way. Most of the time those articles are written to help us be better parents and I think that’s great.

But my point is to encourage you as a parent to live in freedom, not chained to the do’s and don’ts regarding the smaller things. To live in moderation because it is possible. To not feel guilty because you’re doing a great job and the best you know how. If you’re a Christ follower, rest assured that the Holy Spirit will convict you when you’ve been on the iPhone too long, when that video should be turned off, or when you feel the nudge to have your son say goodbye to his rough-on-the-edges friend at the park.

The Holy Spirit will convict you when you’re not leading well as a parent. And He can change you in that struggle toward anger, control, or whatever it may be. Be patient with yourself.

God is molding all our families in different ways and He is the One who is sovereign over all the details. I know I’ll read another article where I won’t feel like I measure up, but I hope to remember the truth that I only need to look to the Lord first for help and direction.

And I really do have the ability to live freely as I love and disciple my children. I can rest in the truth that they know I love them.

Yes, free indeed: Overcoming Our Deepest Fears

“Get dressed. We’re going to the lake,” my husband Jeremiah says on the other end of the line as he’s driving home from work on Monday. I was already dressed in my workout clothes and I was loving his spontaneity because it had been a hard day at home and I needed some fresh air.

We arrived at the lake an hour before sun set. My toddler John ran through the leaves and down the hills. I pushed Rebekah in the stroller and inhaled the cool breeze. We then walked on the paved trail that led to a long bridge where ducks swam underneath. We parked ourselves there for a while and watched our son in such delight. It was like the world stood still and all that existed was our little family.

Then out of nowhere… a cyclist comes riding across the bridge and before we could even think to hold his hand, John darts out in front of him. I scream: “John!” and the cyclist screams “Whoa, Whoa, Whoa!” and slams on his breaks in a panic, coming to a screeching stop. Not quite understanding, John hurried back to our side and the cyclist rode off.

On our way home, I started crying. Jeremiah was still in shock too. That experience showed me that I have a whole new set of fears I didn’t know I had. God has told us in His Word that He’s not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, love, and a sound mind. But now what? What does that mean? What does it mean to live by faith, this faith I’ve been called to?

Being responsible…When I was crying, the fears flooding through my mind made God’s word seem stale. Could I trust God to protect John in the future…and me and my family? I mean, shouldn’t I help God out and do what is responsible? My heart wrestled. What seems most responsible is to not return to the lake. It is too dangerous! My insides were being seized by fear, and I was doing everything that I could to muster up some sort of faith that would set me free. I felt compelled to act, but if I did, would I even know what was best? I needed to be free.

Yes, free. It is for freedom that Christ has set us free! Monday taught me that nothing will deflate our spirit faster than fear. Faith in God’s promises gives us the confidence and courage to experience the freedom and joy of the fullness of life. We were created to go to the lake with our family. I was made to watch John sprint down the grassy knoll, laughing with joy as he kicked up the leaves in the air.

Yes, I want that joy that comes with such faith- the faith of a child. John’s life became to me a vivid picture of faith. He lives by faith. Questions about how his needs will be met don’t go through his head. He doesn’t wonder if he will be safe. John’s faith allows him to be free.  John had such delight because he ran freely without inhibitions and fears that would keep him from running. John’s faith doesn’t know such fear. That is why he could laugh and smile when he shuffled his feet through the leaves.

Today, God is helping me to run again. Monday’s experience was tough, but I’m looking forward to going back to the lake again with my family. I haven’t figured it all out, but I know that I’m a weak vessel and I must trust God. There is an “abundance of life” that we were created to enjoy. In fact, I’m learning to enjoy it in a whole new way that I did not know before. Jesus said, “If the Son has set you free, you will be free indeed.” Our faith in Christ is our very freedom. I am free. Yes, I am free, indeed.

* This article was a team effort. Thank you, Jeremiah, for helping me write and edit the story.

Finances, Debt, & Freedom

piggy20bank1It’s been far too long since I’ve posted on finances. Can you tell the very word makes me nervous? Maybe it does for you too especially in our economy’s present condition. Well the good thing is that for us, right now, things are going really well.

Jeremiah and I are down to $1,000 left on his school loan and around $10,000 towards our car. A year and a half ago, we were about 30-40K in debt. Now, we’re $11,000! Jeremiah has mentioned how simple it would be to pay the whole car off in a matter of months but with the season of life we’re in (with him in school, internship, ministry, etc.), it’s best to wait and chisel away at the debt as we can.

We would not be where we are without the help of Dave Ramsey and my Mom spurring us to take his 12 week class- Financial Peace University. Finances is just one of those things, like sex, that not too many people discuss and many families don’t talk about growing up. So the result: ignorance. And it’s bliss. I’ve been there.

I’ll never forget a few months ago when our community group at church sat down and we went through each couple’s budget- every detail from car maintenance to cosmetic allowances. I hadn’t done that with anyone, ever in my life. But something about it was so freeing. There was accountability there and we knew we had each other’s best interest in mind. Our goal was to steward whatever resources God had given us the best we knew how.

Even now, I admit the struggle to constantly be aware of what I’m spending. What I’m saving, etc. It’s not easy or always black and white to know what God would do in this or that situation. But I do know for sure, that plummeting away at this debt is bringing him glory. It’s getting us farther away from bondage and closer to freedom.

We can’t wait for the day to call Dave Ramsey’s radio show to say, “WE’RE DEBT FREE!”

To Get on My Knees

Today is a special day because it’s the National Day of Prayer. It is designated by the U.S. Congress as a day when Americans come together in prayer. This morning, I’ve been reflecting on the meaning of prayer. The greatest definition I’ve heard of on prayer comes from Oswald Chambers: Prayer is to Know God.

Prayer aligns my selfish will to God’s will. It focuses my heart and attention upon my Savior. I believe prayer changes things. It changes me. Prayer is humbling ourselves and saying we are not in control. Prayer leads us away from sin and closer to the cross. Prayer is the only way I know how to live this Christian life, but I definitely have a long way to go in being the woman of prayer I long to be. Most of all, prayer needs to be about others and not just myself.

In thinking of a person of prayer. My mom is the godliest woman I know. She is a woman of prayer and it’s all behind the scenes. I only hope to have the discipline to be in prayer as she does.

For the next 24 hours, we are reminded to pray for our families, country, nation, military, missionaries, church, schools, work-place, government, the President, and people and things that are near to our heart. What a privilege to live in a country with this freedom.

Here are some must see videos on prayer:

Joshua- Fighting on their Knees with teaching by Todd Phillips (inspiring true story, patriotic)

Prayer: Live Richly (an off-the-wall parady on prayer)

The Star Spangled Banner (explains itself)

Stormie O’Martian- The Power of Prayer (encouraging)

Stormie O’Martian- Struggling to Pray (a reality we all face)

Amena Brown- You (just plain powerful)

Amena Brown- Psalm 139 (a reminder of God’s love for us)

 

 

 

Sex & Money- Taboo?

  Thoughts on Financial Peace University… I am in my twenties. I’ve talked to many wise people who are beyond my years who said that when they were growing up the two words never talked about were Sex & Money. In this category, I’m not going to talk about the sex part (I’ll save that one for later). But, it is interesting that many people are raised having never been taught how to handle money- let alone how to create a budget. They or their parents never made it a priority.

I know many people are in that category. I am one of them. I was handed many wonderful things growing up which I am so appreciative of, but I never had the desire to learn about money when my parents wanted to sit me down. I was stubborn. Besides we had everything so what was there for me to learn? I wasn’t looking into the future.

If you feel you’re in the same boat of never having learned much about finances. You are not alone. Don’t feel stupid or mad at yourself that you never took the initiative to learn. Learn from that careless decision and move on. It is never too late to start the journey now- no matter if you’re in your 50’s, 30’s, or 20’s.

Break the curse of money being taboo… and begin to talk about it with your friends and family.

On the Road to Financial Peace…

Jeremiah and I just graduated from Financial Peace University, Dave Ramsey’s 12 week financial course. Our lives have been changed forever from the course. Everything he speaks on regarding finances is so contrary to our culture today. Saving is a word people hate because it requires discipline and thinking ahead rather than just spending whatever in the here and now.

As a gradudate of the course, I feel it’s my duty to let others know how greatly it has impacted our life, marriage, peace, future, etc. We have paid off $8,000 in credit card debt in 12 weeks and we are on the road to becoming debt free by Christmas 2008 (including car payment and student loans).

In February, we found a little one is on the way. We feel so much peace towards that knowing that we’re on the path toward wisdom now, and not foolishness. We will be able to teach our baby that one day too. We have (for the first time ever) our $1,000 emergency fund and we’re continuing to build 3-6 months of income towards savings.

In this category on my blog, I will be writing sporadic posts about the 12 week journey and what I learned. Feel free to commment or ask any questions. We want you to be inspired to delve into this course so that your life can be radically changed- forever. As Dave says: “Live like no one else so that you can really live like no one else.”

Continuing on the road…

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