On obedience

When she speaks you listen.

This woman is filled with wisdom, thanksgiving and a strong will to live. She’s in her nineties and still going strong. Today she gave Mitchell and Sophie some excellent advice.

“Timely advice is lovely, like golden apples in a silver basket.” Proverbs 25:11

And you just have no idea how timely this advice was. There’s a back story to this story and I won’t share it here but we almost missed our visit today because of an obedience issue. So her words were like freaky timely. God’s timing amazes me.

Oh and I love how she decided to “wear” the card we made her. So cute!

 

TED Talks – just another tool to help us learn

I love TED Talks! There have been some really fascinating ones lately.
“TED is a nonprofit devoted to spreading ideas, usually in the form of short, powerful talks (18 minutes or less). TED began in 1984 as a conference where Technology, Entertainment and Design converged, and today covers almost all topics — from science to business to global issues — in more than 100 languages.”

Occasionally I’ll refer to a TED talk when trying to teach a concept to the kids. A few weeks ago it became apparent to me that we were lacking greatly – as in Grand Canyon gaping hole – in conversation skills. So I began searching TED talks and found this talk on How to Have a Better Conversation.

The kids and I watched it together and talked about which points were easier for us and which ones we needed to work on. And then we did some practicing of what to do and what not to do. It was revealing to all of us.

Happy Honing of your Conversation Skills!

Summer is almost here – don’t ditch your Bible!

For some of us Summer IS here already – like for our kids. Graduation was Friday night and we’re saying Goodbye to the school year. But I know some of you still have a few more weeks of school. And I solemnly pray for your soul as you enter the insane zone or as Jenn Hatmaker affectionally calls it: “The end of the year screw-its.”

I don’t know about you but Summer scheduling is just so totally different than the school year schedule and sometimes personal Bible reading can slip pretty quickly. I want to challenge us to stay in God’s Word this Summer.

A great place to start is to look at Psalm 119. It’s that really really super long chapter in the Bible. So maybe you don’t have time to sit down and read the entire thing in one sitting but work your way through Psalm 119 and ask yourself this one question with pen and paper nearby. What impact does reading and loving God’s word have on a person? And jot down what you see. It’s astounding. The benefits and the power of God’s word (law, precepts, statutes, words, commands – all words you can substitute for God’s word in Ps. 119) has a profound effect on our lives. Why would we ever stop reading it? Well, I can answer that. It’s because we have an enemy who roams this earth and wants nothing more than for us to be unaware of the power of God’s word in our lives. Let’s fight back with God’s word in our hearts.

Below I’ve linked to LifeWay’s all access online studies – most of them are 7 week studies and great for an individual study over the Summer or grab a few girlfriends and study together – while the kids drool popsicle juice down their mouths and hang from chandeliers in the house. Okay so maybe after bedtime is the perfect time for you?

Online Bible Studies

Lord – help us to believe you and when you tell us that your words give us life and health and understanding that we would want those things from you. We can strive for these things on our own accord but we will never achieve them without coming to you. Help us to long for your word and to engage in it every single day. Amen.

 

 

Dinner Parties & Alcohol – “you asked”

Occasionally I’ll get an email from someone asking me to address a particular topic on my blog and recently I received this question:

“What to do when you’re invited to a gathering you know alcohol will be served at?” 

The person who asked this question doesn’t drink alcohol and is feeling the tension of wanting to reach out to people but not wanting to be around the alcohol. The particular event this person is talking about is not a wild & crazy party but a simple gathering of adults and some of them drink. So your basic adult gathering with alcohol being served.

This is a very personal issue and I can’t answer for anyone but myself but maybe I can give some food for thought based on personal experience and observations from scripture.

We actually experienced this exact scenario recently. We were invited to a cocktail party for a new neighbor. New gay neighbors. We don’t drink. And we don’t condone homosexual lifestyles. But we want to love our neighbors well and it starts by getting to know them. So we went. Most everyone drank but us. Was it awkward? No, it really wasn’t. We didn’t make a big deal out of it and neither did they. They asked if we wanted something to drink and we declined. That simple.

We’ve been to a few other neighborhood type events where alcohol was served and we were the only ones not drinking. The first time it was a bit awkward for us just because we felt kind of out of place but walking home that night it just felt right. I can’t explain it other than we knew we were doing what Jesus would do – he would totally spend time with his neighbors. Right where they were. In their homes.

In order to be a light in our world, in our communities and in our neighborhoods we have to get on other people’s turf. And their turf isn’t going to always look like ours. And that’s okay. It will involve being uncomfortable sometimes. That’s also okay.

At first you might feel like you have to defend yourself and explain yourself – for instance, “No, I wouldn’t care for anything to drink because………”  But you don’t have to do that. Don’t make a deal out of it. If someone asks you why you don’t drink that’s one thing. Everyone has their right to drink or not to drink. If they ask, tell them why but try not to get into a debate about it. This isn’t your chance to turn people away from drinking. It’s your chance as a Christian to love people where they are. And that starts by simply getting to know them. Even when they have a drink in their hand. And it’s important to remember nobody is “better” or  “more free in Christ” because they do or don’t drink.

The other thing you might be worrying about is what other people will think if you attend a party with alcohol. What if someone sees you there or finds out you went and they don’t know you didn’t have a drink. What if you’re at the company party where there’s a lot of drinking and someone see you there and your testimony is ruined.

When we feel the need to put disclaimers out when coming along side people it tells us we’re more concerned with what other people think about us, our image, and our reputation instead of loving people right where they are. If we’re concerned about what other people think of us then we’re missing the point of reaching out.

I used to walk in fear of what others would think when they saw me with a neighbor who was having a glass of wine while we ate lunch in a public place. But it didn’t take long for me to shed that fear when I heard stories of women just like me in need of a Savior. They poured their hearts out and felt comfortable being themselves. Some of these women would later come to know Christ and some of them didn’t. One woman sat in our living room and cussed confidently in the middle of Bible study because she just didn’t know any better. A few months later on her self made prayer list was “help me not to cuss.” Had anyone asked her to stop? Yes. But it’s not what you think. It wasn’t me. And it wasn’t the ladies in our Bible study. But the Holy Spirit put that on her heart as she grew in her new walk with Jesus. And that stuff really happens when we simply love people the way Jesus loved.  And it’s beautiful. Messy sometimes but really beautiful.

When we look at Jesus in the Bible we will see that he didn’t care what other people thought about his testimony. If he did he wouldn’t have shown compassion towards prostitutes. He would have avoided the tax collectors house instead of partying there. We don’t even see him explaining himself to his disciples or religious leaders in these situations. It was through and through love for these people.

And if we can remember that we are “these people” then loving others in this way will come easier. You might not have had 5 husbands but the sin you were born into is the sin that Jesus died for out of his love for you. We all have the same universal problem – sin. And we all have access to the One who can redeem us from this problem. But some people don’t know this. Some of your neighbors haven’t heard. And how will they know unless we tell them? Are we seriously going to wait until they “stop drinking” or “start looking like us”?  I pray not.

So I would say to the Christian adult who doesn’t drink to still go to the party where alcohol is served. Go with the purpose of getting to know people who may not know the Good News. And by all means look for opportunities to love your neighbor well. They’re just like you – in need of the love of Jesus Christ.

Have a question or topic you’d like to see addressed on LIABOW? Shoot me an email. I don’t claim to have all the answers but I’ll share what I’ve learned if I’ve learned anything at all. 

 

 

 

 

When your child marches to their own beat

 

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When you have a child that marches to their own beat it can be frightening and beautiful all at the same time. I’m learning that letting go of what others think will be one of the best things we can do for our little rebels, true-to-themselves-marchers. And sometimes letting go of even what we think “should be.” I’m referring to peripheral issues not foundational biblical and moral truths. I realize what some people consider peripheral and merely “preference” could be someone else’s interpretation of “foundational.” And that’s where grace and openness comes into the picture. For each other and for ourselves as we learn & grow and let the Holy Spirit lead us – not rules, regulations and other people.

I love my girl. She is so fun and beautiful and yes sassy like her Mamma. I love the picture above of her performing a little part in the Mother’s Day Drama thingy they did this past Sunday.  This is not my first choice for a Sunday morning Mother’s Day outfit. I almost made her change but then I didn’t. I didn’t because I’m learning that Sophie’s style is so different than mine. At her age I didn’t care what I wore. My Mother put me in quite a few Laura Ashley dresses with Nelly Olson bows that flapped all over the place threatening to injure bystanders. I liked it fine. If it pleased her it pleased me. I didn’t really have much of an opinion because that was just me at that time in my life.

But Sophie at this age has a definite opinion and especially when it comes to fashion and style. And it doesn’t come close to ruffles or florals. It’s more like mismatched socks, Dr. Martens, messy hair and a cute-funky style. It used to bother me because I prefer ruffles and bows at that age for little girls. But I realized I was trying to impose on her my style and what I thought “should be” at her age. So I backed off. I still intervene and guide her in fashion choices but at the end of the day I’m okay if it’s not my first choice. She has a desire to dress modest and appropriate and my biggest concern and prayer for her is that she clothe herself with a beautiful spirit and a tender heart towards Christ. I’m not going to get all wedgied up over casual vs. dressy and boots vs. church shoes. What are church shoes anyways? Really, think about it.

Music is another one of these issues. Our teenage son loves techno music. Electronic music that makes me want to bang my head against a wall. Picture Axel F overdosing on steroids. Not my first choice. Let me rephrase – not even my personal last choice. But we’ve allowed it. In moderation and with teaching and monitoring of what specific techno music is appropriate (ie: no *#%* words allowed). I actually think it drove him batty as well because we don’t hear it nearly as much anymore. Kinda glad he got that out of his system.

I pray that as our kids get older and God continues to develop their unique make up that we will have the wisdom to know which beats to encourage them to march to; which beats to embrace even if they aren’t the ones we want to dance to and the ones to redirect completely. Because if we believe we truly have a Creator and He made us all individually then we’ll realize we all march to our own God-given beat. Let’s do it well with His direction.

Now excuse me while I go and dance to the beat of  Uptown Funk (clean version!) in my striped toe socks. My Mother would be rolling her eyes and praying a prayer for the next generation.

A little episode

Over Mother’s Day weekend my Mom felt the need to share this story with my children.

This was first published on May 8, 2013. 

God indeed has a sense of humor while teaching me and I marvel at it on

a daily basis. Recently we were eating lunch on the back patio much to

our ten year old’s disappointment. He is very afraid of bees to the point

of obsessessing over it. My mother could see the fear rising in him and so

as she prayed for our meal she asked God to help Mitchell overcome his

fear of bee’s.

A few minutes later Mitchell was still talking excessively

about how horrible it was to be eating with the bee’s (even though none

were in sight.)  At that point I had a very firm conversation with him about

moving on from the discussion and negative talk about bee’s. Okay, it

was a lecture. It went something like,  “Bee’s won’t hurt you; they have a

purpose, God made them, blah, blah, blah. I told him he needed to let that

fear go and relax, quit letting satan suck the joy of God’s creation out of

him and just be happy we could all be together in the beautiful weather.”

 

I’m not kidding, at that very moment I heard what sounded like a high power

chain saw buzzing next to my neck and out of my peripheral vision I saw a

huge black winged creature coming towards me.  It all happened so fast.

The next thing I knew I was being attacked by a huge bee that flew into

my jacket.  I wish I could say I was relaxed about it but I’m mortified at my

response: Patio chair knocked over, ripped my jacket off, screamed like a

little girl and kept saying “WHERE IS IT? WHERE IS IT? WHERE IS IT?”

 

My Mom was laughing hysterically. Mitchell ran to the garage and was saying,

“Mom, go inside! I’ll protect you inside!” It was the “Fight with God’s

Creature” version of Jerry Springer if I ever saw one. When it was all over I

put my clothes back on, picked the chair up, cleared my throat and said,

“Well, that wasn’t so bad, was it?” And once again, I walked away

humbled at how when I think I’m teaching others it is actually the lesson

God wants me to learn.

4 things to the Woman still waiting to be a Mom:

To the desiring woman still waiting to be Mom,

It’s hard, isn’t it? Still waiting. Hoping that this would be the Mother’s Day you celebrate as a Mother with a child in her arms. While you’re still hanging on to hope and know God has a plan there’s still a deep ache inside your heart. And you wonder if you can make it to Sunday morning service where all the Mother’s are recognized. The oldest, the youngest – if it’s like our church there will even be some sassy and fun categories that you can’t help but laugh at. The prizes of course are fun to win and you’re happy for your friends. But you still wish it could be you this year.

I have some words for you based on real life personal experience.

God has not forgotten you. He is working out a plan for you that is far better than you can possibly know. It doesn’t feel like it but it’s true. One day you’ll be encouraging others with the same words as you look back and see all that God was doing while you were waiting.

A few things to consider during your wait:

It’s okay if you cry. I didn’t do this well. I hid my tears many times and felt like if I cried that I was in essence saying God wasn’t enough for me. And that is so far from the truth. One year on Mother’s Day – soon after a failed IVF cycle –  we celebrated Mother’s Day at my Mom and Dad’s house with all our family. As soon as we got to their subdivision the tears starting welling up. I held them in all morning at church. But as soon as we pulled in they gushed. I asked Randy to back out of the driveway and do circles until I could pull myself together. And of course the guys don’t know what to do with us when we cry and it’s just all around awkward. But looking back I wish I had been more willing to cry openly.

 Don’t beat yourself up if you simply can’t make it to church on Mother’s Day. I know this goes against the grain of so many in my former circles of friends. You just don’t miss church – like ever. I never missed a Mother’s Day due to these reasons (probably more out of pride than anything) but going back I’d give myself more grace. One young woman struggling with infertility called me up one year and explained her struggle and how she didn’t think she could sit through a service that coming Mother’s Day Sunday but she was feeling very guilty about it. I told her to stay home and don’t feel bad. You’re not a wimp if you need to sit Mother’s Day Sunday out because the pain is so great. Not everyone needs to do this but if you do – don’t feel bad!

 Keep a journal. If you’re waiting on a baby through pregnancy or adoption start your journal right now. Include specific prayers and ask God to show you Bible verses for your child. Record these things because when you look back a few years down the road you will be amazed at all the things God was doing behind the scenes – on the Mother’s Day when you sat holding back the tears; on the days you looked at yet another negative pregnancy test. God was working through all of that to accomplish something greater. You may not see all of it but you I promise that you will clearly see traces of it if you start recording and then look back.

Don’t totally roll your eyes when someone says, “But you can still be a Spiritual Mother.” (Spiritual Mothering could be defined as bringing one under your arm through discipleship.) A little eye roll, yes. Because I get it – and you get it – Spiritual Mothering is great and all that but you still really want to be a physical Mother with baby hanging on hipster hip. But don’t let this baby wait distract you from why you’re here on this earth. It’s to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ. So keep praying and asking for God to work his way in what Motherhood looks like for you but don’t dismiss Spiritual Mothering – bringing others under your arm of discipleship – it’s not second class Mothering.

Lord, for my friends still waiting – let them know you aren’t waiting. You are actually working a plan you have for them. Help them to trust you in this process. To cry when they need to cry. To cling to scripture and record their heart’s cry so they can one day look back. In Jesus Name, Amen.

 

When the healing doesn’t come

I’m in a small group Bible Study and we’re working through Jennifer Rothschild’s study called “Missing Pieces” and it’s so very good.

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Jennifer is blind and she shares openly of her years of praying for God to heal her. I love the ladies in my study and last night after hearing Jennifer’s session on being thankful FOR and not just IN her blindness we were all in awe. And we had some really good discussion. Like is it pie in the sky thinking to be able to be thankful for the very things we ask God to remove or change?

I’ve had a lot of discussions with people and read a lot about the topic of healing and honestly I think Jennifer’s teaching segment in session 3 of this study is the very best teaching on healing. I love her position and her spirit while talking about these things. She’s Biblically grounded and open to the fact that God can and does heal today. But we aren’t “entitled” to his healing. We don’t “deserve” God’s healing. Sometimes he heals and other times he gives grace in the situation instead of healing.

The Apostle Paul being a perfect example of this with his “thorn in the flesh” whatever it was. I think he was bald and wanted more hair. Just Kidding. I don’t think that was his thorn but whatever it was God didn’t remove it. You guys! What if he really had like a REAL THORN in his flesh?! Ha! I’ve never thought about that before until this very second. Like people forever have been offering attempts to guess what the “thorn” was: blindness, stomach problems, etc. what if that time he got shipwrecked and he had to live off the bush country and thorns and thistles – what if he really got a thorn stuck in his side? And we’ve just been overthinking it all these years. Okay, that’s just insane. Sorry about that. But God never healed Paul. He gave him grace instead and God’s power was resting on him because of his weakness. (II Cor. 12:6-10)

Jennifer helps us see that God can do what he wants when he wants to. Sometimes he heals and sometimes he doesn’t. He has a right to not heal. What we actually deserve is hell (because everyone is born in sin and that penalty is eternity in hell) but the good news is that we don’t have to get what we deserve because Jesus died to take our place. We didn’t deserve that. Jennifer calls it the divine unfairness of God. It wasn’t fair that he died for us and became poor and cursed so we could be rich and not have to be cursed if we choose to accept Jesus through a relationship with him. It’s not what we deserve but it’s what we can have.

Jennifer makes this statement that I’m still processing: “My friend, if what we really deserve is hell, then anything else God gives us or spares us from on this side of eternity is a privilege – even suffering.”

This is where she talks about not just being thankful IN all things but being thankful FOR all things. I’m still chewing on this honestly. I understand this in light of her blindness. My infertility. Things we can’t change. And even then it’s hard. She talks about that as well. She doesn’t claim it’s easy to be thankful for suffering. And she still prays for healing but she’s thankful for her blindness in the meantime. How incredible. But where I’m struggling with this is when it applies to abuse, rape, murder, etc –  things where someone has been willfully wronged through sheer wickedness. I’m just struggling with how you can be thankful for any of that. To me recognizing that God is always in control and he is still good even when horrible things happen is different than being thankful for them.?

So yeah – I’m still praying for God to teach me what He wants me to see. I want to have the kind of heart that is so tender towards God that I can be thankful for all things. I really do want that kind of trust and faith. In the meantime I’m continuing to be in awe of the divine unfairness of God in his taking my place on the cross. That is simply amazing.

When our kids grapple with faith

I’m not ashamed to say that I see my son grappling with his faith right now. Asking a lot of questions. Wondering why God did things a certain way when He had all the power and control to do things differently – things that make more sense to him. Like – not putting the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the garden to begin with. Not letting satan tempt Adam and Eve. Not allowing sin to enter the world. These things.

A Bible paper that is due next week on the life of Noah has also spurred on some deep questions. It’s been a long time since I’ve gone back and looked at the life of Noah. As Mitchell and I looked into scripture together about Noah we read these hard but true words,

” The Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time. 6 The Lord regretted that he had made human beings on the earth, and his heart was deeply troubled. 7 So the Lord said, “I will wipe from the face of the earth the human race I have created—and with them the animals, the birds and the creatures that move along the ground—for I regret that I have made them.”

God regretted the very creation he made. That’s tough stuff. I found myself wanting to defend God as Mitchell asked questions like, “So did God make a mistake when he made that generation of people?” “Why is he so angry with us?” “If he knew that was going to happen why create in the first place?”

I felt myself getting all tight inside my heart. I didn’t want to mess up by attempting to explain. I didn’t want my son to see God as an angry God who wiped out people because he didn’t care. I wanted him to know the deepest foundational point of God wanting to be in relationship with these people – with us – and that his love and mercy allowed a new start. That our sin separates us from God because He’s holy and we are not. Sovereignty and free will and all that. Still. It’s a hard truth. An entire generation wiped out.

But these questions are good. And I’m so glad he’s talking them out loud and not afraid to ask. They are excellent questions. And yes, truthfully I have to say, it is a little scary to see your child chewing through and asking such tough questions and not being sure where they’ll land. But I am trusting God and praying that the Holy Spirit will keep opening Mitchell’s eyes to the Truth of his word and the essence of who God is. Nobody can force an authentic believing faith on anyone. That is between the Holy Spirit and an individual.  So I don’t have to get uptight in pleading and defending “my faith case” to him. I can as gracefully as possible tell him I’ve had some of those same questions. We can look at different parts of scripture (because interpreting scripture in light of scripture is crucial in understanding God and his ways) to identify who God is. Not that we can ever figure him out or understand him fully. And that’s what faith is – trusting and believing when we don’t have all the answers or understand or like what we see.

Questions are good. Grappling with faith is good. God can handle our questions. He’s big enough for that. When our kids do it we need to be okay with it and never rebuke them for asking such questions.   But with a tender praying heart ask God to guide us in coming alongside our kids as they journey through their own faith walk. Some kids just need to wrestle it out more and ask lots of questions. Others don’t necessarily do that. And that’s okay too. I kind of think wrestling for something helps us remember it better. We may come out limping a bit but we’ll never forget what we learned.

So Lord, today we pray for our kids who are trying to understand you. For the ones who might be mad at you. For the ones who aren’t even thinking about you. We ask in your name, Jesus, that you would reveal yourself to them in such a personal way that they know you love them and want to be in relationship with them. Draw us and our kids closer to you. Let our walks be individual walks of faith – never attempting to hang onto the coattails of parents or religious activities. Increase our faith Lord. We need you to do that in us. In Jesus Name, Amen. 

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4 things I learned in April

Things Learned

  1. April Fool’s Day is the best day everrrrr! I learned that I grow to love it more every single year. This year I fooled my entire family at a local restaurant by getting our waiter who looked like an actor to pretend he was indeed that actor. He autographed and took a picture with us and as he signed the date I said, “April Fool’s!”  I thought my family was going to kill me. It was so worth it though.
  2. The “first person to share” principle is beautiful in context of a church setting. Here’s what I’ve seen and maybe you have too. In a group setting where someone has the courage to step up and share something close to their heart knowing there’s risk involved. And then watching others rally around this person and soon are sharing their own struggles with the very same thing in which everyone at one time thought they might be the only ones experiencing the very thing that was shared. I watched this happen recently and it was such a powerful experience for me. It took one person sharing openly. It took our leader to lay aside the rest of the “agenda” and instead invited our group to pray and that’s when others also pray/shared their own heart to God with the same things. May we be willing to be the “first person to share” sometimes and may we sometimes be the one willing to come along after as well.
  3. I now know why my Mom never talked to me about sex. No matter how you cut it it’s just flat out awkward. I’ve read all the books on how to talk to your kids. Watched video clips and even had a great laid out plan of action for a girls weekend Sophie and I had last weekend. It involved casually bringing it up and we’d talk about body changes and then would move into more specific things. I had it all planned out and was so ready. I refused to my like my Mom who never told me anything growing up. I had to learn all I knew in my Sophomore year of Biology class at a Bible college from a 75 year old man. Epic! So, with an American Girl book in hand about body changes, etc. I show Sophie what we’re going to talk about. Ask her to flip through the book and find a section that interests her as a place to start. She actually found the book in my purse while we were driving to the hotel so this was not the time I had expected to do this. But I figured I’d be good with her just flipping through and getting a preview. She suddenly gets this grimace on her face and says, “WHAT in the world?!!! This is so gross!” And she flings the book all the way to the back seat. I kid you not. Gone. The book is no longer with us in the front seat. She says to me, “Please don’t make us read that.” Half of me was so stinkin’ relieved. And the other half was like “uhh, what just happened? and now what?”  I know sex is beautiful in the context of how God intended it and there’s no shame but I’m still just sayin’ it’s weird to talk about this with my kids. Clearly we are not ready for this conversation yet. I thought we were because of some of the questions Sophie has been asking me the last year. I’d answer them and she’d go run away after pretending to throw up but always came back for more answers and I’d give them as she asked. I guess I should keep with that method for now. Ha!!!

Parenting is Hard. It’s hard not to have your identity wrapped up in your kids but Lysa TerKeurst has really helped me with this in some of her writings. If our identity is wrapped up in how our kids behave then we find ourselves taking credit for things we really don’t have a right to take credit for and becoming discouraged over things that aren’t our weights to carry. Of course it stands we need to be training in the Truth and correcting and disciplining but at the end of the day our children make their own choices and we can’t let their choices – not matter how great or stinky – determine our identity.

Well friends – another month is right around the corner – lets take the things we’re learning and dive into another month of life together!