4 Things I learned in May

One of my favorite authors and bloggers, Emily P. Freeman, inspires us to discipline ourselves in looking back on where we’ve been and what we’ve learned. I’m slowly finding my way around this practice although I still get surprised by the last day of the month as if it came out of nowhere.

So here’s some things that come to mind as I look back on the month of May……

I learned that I have some amazingly strong friends. A friend who is battling colon cancer right now wrote these words in a note to me this month, “This (cancer) is just another bump in the road of my path to heaven. God is in control.” Those words have been lingering in my heart and head all month long. I want that kind of eternal perspective – where even the yucky hard things can be viewed in light of eternity. This friend’s faith in God and her strength that comes from that has been such an inspiration to me.

I learned this month that compassion brings healing. I heard this from Aimee – the girl with the flesh eating bacteria who is now an amputee. She spoke at a commencement service in GA and it’s floating all over Facebook. If you’ve not seen it check it out below. Great stuff!

I learned that Sports has a wonderful impact on a student even those who aren’t straight A students. I’ve never been anti-sports. But team sports has not been a part of a school years to this point because our daughter is too young for team sports at school and our son has never had any interest in sports. And we don’t push it  –  their choice completely. So this year when our son came home saying he wanted to play baseball we were shocked and excited. We said, “Go for it!” And he did. And it was harder than he thought. The long practices. The even longer games. The bench sitting (hello, you gotta start somewhere.) Games when he didn’t feel like going. It forced him to finish what he started and be a part of a team. He studied harder because he had less time. He got physical exercise that he wouldn’t have had otherwise. And he was proud to be a part of his school’s baseball team. Something about being in an awesomely cool uniform just makes it all feel so right. We’re strongly encouraging a second year of baseball and even cross country in the Fall but again we’ll let him make that choice. I really hope he chooses to play.

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I learned how to make strawberry cobbler from Mitchell’s Science teacher. And it was yum. It didn’t exactly look pretty like hers but it tasted really good. I can’t quite seem to get the “tastes great and looks awesome” combination down yet. It’s one or the other. Ha!

Here’s to saying goodbye to May and Hello June!

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?

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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.

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.

Speaking the Gospel to each other

I love the reminder our High School classes gave to us a few weeks ago – that the Gospel is for everyone all the time.

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Sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ coming to this earth to die for us and to save us from our sin is the greatest news ever. And we must not get tired of sharing it with others. Even to those who already know.

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The Gospel is for everyone. Everyday. May we be in awe of the Good News even after we’ve been living in light of the Good News for years.

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May we be willing to sit down next to someone on a playground or at the break table and share with them the Good News. The life changing truth of God’s love.

So proud of our students for sharing the Gospel with the younger students at our Christian school. Have they heard the Gospel before? Indeed they have. But they heard it again this day from older students who are training to be disciple makers. And just because you attend a Christian school doesn’t mean you’ve engaged in a relationship with Jesus. And so hearing it in different ways, from different people is a good thing.

When’s the last time you shared the Gospel with someone?

I’m asking myself that exact same question today.

May we go and tell.

Your stories: walking through separation and divorce. Part 2

UNIVERSITY PRESS

This is Part 2 in a series on separation and divorce among Christians. All these stories include editing and parts of a bigger picture. We’d be wise to know that what works for some families may or may not work for others but my hope is that God will use these posts in some small way. Maybe we gain a deeper understanding of just how hard this journey is for some of our brothers and sisters in Christ. Maybe it causes others to take a long serious pause before taking the next step in pursuing a separation or divorce. And perhaps it helps some give new thought to how they are handling their own current situation. 

Today’s story comes from a Christian man who has also walked through divorce in the recent years. 

Don’t divorce, especially if you don’t have biblical grounds. You have no idea how bad it will be for you and for your kids, and the negative consequences will never go away for your kids — not least that they’ll never again have an easy holiday, birthday, graduation, wedding, birth, or anything else. If you don’t have biblical grounds, it’s pure selfishness — you’re putting yourself ahead of God, your kids, and anyone else who knows you and observes your life.

If the divorce has to happen (which, in our no-fault legal system, is the case if your spouse chooses, regardless of your wishes), making the best of it for your kids is simple, though it may not be easy: just act like an adult who’s familiar with the Golden Rule. Unless a fight is for the benefit of the kids, let it go. It’s not a game you’re trying to win over your spouse. There aren’t any rewards for getting your way. You’re not proving anything. Grow up.

Never put the kids in the middle of any issue. They hate it, and you’re stressing them. Don’t communicate through your kids — communicate directly.

Don’t rush into a remarriage (goes double if the remarriage requires relocation a long distance away). Take all the troubles that are inherent in divorce and multiply them by 10 (or 100, if/when the second marriage starts to crumble, as it will do something like 75% of the time).

Don’t bad mouth your ex. You may succeed in alienating them from your ex, but then what have you accomplished? Even the secular course for divorcing parents that was mandatory in our county’s court system stressed this. The effect can be cumulative, with delayed results.

Tell your kids about the divorce together, agreeing in advance what you’re going to say to them. Doesn’t have to be dishonest, but it does have to be together. Doing it any other way is completely unfair to the other spouse and automatically puts the kids in the middle.

Leave new boyfriends/girlfriends out of things (especially the kids’ events) for as long as possible — preferably until there’s a ring involved.

Do joint celebrations of the kids’ achievements, like graduations, parties, etc. 

DivorceCare is a good program and helps with multiple issues, including bitterness and doing what’s best for the kids.”

Father, give guidance to the families that are walking through separation and divorce. It’s your grace and love that doesn’t leave them alone in this process. You do not withhold your love even though you hate divorce. For the couples using bitter words towards each other and holding kids as leverage I ask in  your Name to put a divine guard over their mouth. To open their eyes to what you want to help purge and renew. Give hope to the ones who think “things will never change”. Remind them that you are a God of miracles and the impossible. In Jesus Name, Amen. 

The next article is from a woman who says,from her experience, that divorce is harder than the death of a spouse – she has experienced both. 

Hey guys….I know this is a hard series. Hard to read and hard to write honestly. I’m ready to move on to some funny and light hearted stuff. But I know God has put this on my heart and as hard as it is I want to push through.