Category Archives: Real Life With Kids

What I’ve Learned About God In The Hood

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There’s been a lot of hype lately about The Mother Hood.  I’m sure you know how things roll there or at least have seen a commercial or YouTube video about it. So here’s my flow…

In the last year, my Hood has seen

Long days, short nights; lots of caffeine.

Tantrums. Messes. Sleep deprivation.

The Greatest Potty Training Rebellion in the nation. 

Lessons and practice and places to go;

And don’t forget the endless school-paper-flow.

Exhaustion is my homey and Rest is my foe.

My kids stopped nappin’ so it’s been real, yo!
From the trenches, I confess my shades tend to tilt toward the negative. But as Mother’s Day approaches, I’m reminded there are sunny days in The Hood; those shining moments when I’m overcome by joy and contentment and can’t imagine my life in any other place. 
I can’t help but giggle and smile when I think of all I love about The Hood…
I love holding my babies and getting “Cubby” hugs from them.
I love listening to them sing and hearing them laugh.
I love being with them in still, quiet moments.
I love seeing myself in them (most of the time).
I love teaching them new things and watching them finally Get It.
I love being my kids’ mom–not just A mom–their mom.  Not because they’re perfect but because they are mine.
You know, God probably enjoys the same things about His children.
Being a mom has taught me so much about God. That’s not to say I didn’t know anything before I was a mom; it’s just His heart for His children is so much clearer from this vantage point. His desires for us make more sense now, because I realize I want the same things for my kids that He wants for His.
He may be our Father, but I see similarities between my Mommy Heart and His.

God loves to hold us.

I have always loved holding my babies. With my first-born, people warned me not to hold her too much, but I couldn’t resist. I wanted to hold her, cuddle her, be as close as I possibly could. She was part of me, my heart wrapped in a pink blanket. 

She will be eight soon and I am sad to say it is almost impossible for me to carry her to bed–but I still try!
Unlike me, my Father’s arms never need a break. I will never be too big for Him to lift. When I raise my arms up to Him, He will always pick me up. (James 4:10)
And when this Mommy gets weary and just wants to hide in a blanket-tent and color, I can. He’s still my Father and I can enjoy the freedom of being His child. He is still in control, even if my tent now requires a mortgage. (Psalm 4:8)
God loves being with us. 
My son just turned three, so he’s still the perfect size to hold and cuddle and carry.  He says, “Momma! Sit wi’t me in ‘da Night-Night Chair!” That’s our spot.
Our mornings are routine; we watch Peter Rabbit over milk and coffee and cuddles. It is our time together and I cherish it every single day, much like I imagine The Lord enjoys His time with me. 
My daughter and I had a similar routine, only it was Jack’s Big Music Show and Nilla’s with milk. But once Baby Brother came along and school started, our routine had to change. Gone were the days of quiet, slow mornings. Sigh…
Now we have to purposely find time to be alone, and what we do together looks different than it did when she was two. The time I spend with The Lord has changed, too, and as I’ve shared, that’s okay with Him.
Same goes for time with my own Momma. The rhythm of our lives has changed, but our love and desire to spend time together hasn’t.

God Loves to hear our voices.

Young or old, near or far, all moms love the sound of their kids’ voices. (Side Note–don’t forget to call your mom on Mother’s Day!)  Granted, there are times I want those little voices to desist, especially after hearing MOMMY! 4,518 times in a row; but I’d go crazy without them.

My favorite are those tender, quiet moments when the world is still; lying in bed, listening to them think back over their day.  The way they whisper secret thoughts with sleepy voices between yawns, even though I already know what they are thinking…

These are the moments I wish would never end, ones I savor for nights they’re down the hall in their own room.  They are intimate and sweet and so precious to my heart.  They are the moments I most understand how much God delights in me.

Like the night my son prayed…
Gee-Zus, T’ank you for apples, my pillow, my jammies, pickles, my horse, Sissy, Sissy’s school, Daddy, Momma, Gramz…
I have no doubt Jesus grinned through that whole prayer, just like I did.  It was music to His ears and mine.
God loves seeing Himself in us.
It’s an awesomely weird feeling when your child makes a face or movement and suddenly, you see yourself.  It feels good to have someone say, “They look just like you!”  But acting like you? Well, that depends.
Sometimes that’s a cute thing, like this morning as my daughter tried to kill a bug in the backseat. I warned, “Don’t break the window!” to which she quipped, “I’m trying to break the bug!”  Yep, she’s mine.
Other times are not so cute, like disciplining your child for being bossy–which they totally learned from you. Such a humbling moment.

Fortunately, God wants to teach us His ways because they are always Good. 

I love it when I see the light come on over my kids’ heads.  The moment they learn to snap their fingers or tie their shoes–or use the potty–is just The Best.  Their little minds grow right before my eyes, proving all my efforts aren’t in vain.
Thankfully, God waits patiently for the moment when we Get It. The moment we realize we are made in His image to reflect Him. The moment we grasp the depth and width and height of His love for us.
God truly loves being our Father.
Motherhood is the perfect paradox.  One minute I want to lock myself in the bathroom to get away from The Minions, but then I don’t want them out of my sight.  I’m stoked for a Mom’s Night Out, but then I’m teary-eyed when I leave. What is that?
For every moment my kids make me feel like a crazy person, there are triple the moments I feel blessed. I think God feels me.
Even though we are sinners, God loves each of us even more than I love my babies (if that’s even possible). He loves us with a before-you-were-born, everlasting-to-everlasting love. (Jeremiah 31:3)  
We are His and no matter what we may say or do, how we may misunderstand or falsely reason, He promises to never abandon us. His resources will never dry up. He will always care, always provide, always give us the best.(Isaiah 54:10)

God doesn’t want to punish us.

I think my least favorite corner of The Mother Hood is The Naughty Step, yet I am forced to take my kids there.  If ever there were a doubt as to whether God’s word is true, Psalm 51:5 is proof it’s legit.  We don’t have to be taught how to sin.

God hates sin. He is Just and He must punish it.  Yet, He loves us so stinkin’ much.

“The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ, our Lord.” ~Romans 6:23

Oh, I understand this in my deepest soul now.  When a three-year-old pushes the limits of his tantrum by spitting at me, justice comes natural.  Yet when that same precious one cries tears of remorse and sobs, “Mommy, I sowwy,” Mercy takes over.  Grace is the balance.

In His Mercy, God doesn’t give us what His Justice says we deserve.  By Grace, He gives us something we do not–Forgiveness.

The longer I live in The Hood, the more I realize becoming a parent is to become more like God; to feel His heartbeat, see His view, and have His desires. 

We want the best for our children.  We pray for them, nurture them; protect and direct them. We provide for their Needs and graciously give their Wants when possible.  We see their true worth and have hope for their future. Sound familiar?

Our heavenly Father wants Good for us so much, He actually gave His one and only Son to be killed in our place.

As a mom, that is the one thing about God I don’t think I’ll ever fathom. I could never give my child over to be killed for anyone, much less someone guilty of a crime.
Yet, that is precisely what The Father did. He accepted full payment for our sin debt from His very own perfect Son in order to offer us forgiveness.
When we accept this amazing offer, He gives us the free gift of eternal life. From that moment on, The Father begins parenting us to become just like His sinless, first-born Son.
We all think our kids are pretty awesome, but His really was.  And He took the spanking we deserved.  Like my C-section scar, His wounds gave us life.

As moms, we’ll never move out of The Mother Hood but one day our peeps will find cribs of their own (we hope). The frenzy will settle and we will no doubt pine for the good ol’ days.

That day will be here before we know it, so let’s do our best to enjoy our place in The Hood today.

Peace out and have a Happy Mother’s Day!

~Jessie

Check out these videos for some fun Mother Hood laughs…

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Groundhog Day Greatness

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A friend of mine sent this to me a few days ago. She knows this to be true because she’s a mom, too.

046As a mom of littles, there’s a lot of redundancy to my life. Like Bill Murray in the movie “Groundhog Day,” I literally do the same things over and over and over–and over–again.

Staples may have an Easy button, but I want a Repeat button. Attachment-1

Make the beds?  Repeat!

Laundry?  Repeat!

Dirty dishes?  Repeat!

Pick up Legos and Barbies?  Repeat!

Life with littles would be so much easier with a Repeat button.

I’m really feeling this today as it’s actually Groundhog Day, but then I read Jesus’ words in Luke 9…

“46 Now came an argument among them as to which of them would be greatest in the coming Kingdom! 47 But Jesus knew their thoughts, so he stood a little child beside him 48 and said to them, “Anyone who takes care of a little child like this is caring for me! And whoever cares for me is caring for God who sent me. Your care for others is the measure of your greatness.”

Caring for little ones is a big deal!

Whether we are working moms or we stay home, taking care of our little people is The Thing that makes us great.

Not how much money we make. Not the car we drive or the house we live in. Jesus said caring for others is the measure of greatness.

Today, I am both challenged and encouraged by this.

Challenged, because I love routine and strive to keep it. But if I’m not careful I find myself running on Auto-Mom, either being annoyed by or completely missing the little things that make life Life.

In those moments of frustration and exhaustion I must remember I’m not just doing all this for my little people, I’m doing it for Jesus, too. The way I speak to them, the attention I give them and my attitude toward them says a lot about who I am and it’s the measuring stick Jesus uses for greatness.

At the same time, I must remember life for little ones is supposed to be repetitive. It’s how they learn best.  When I’m tempted to hit Repeat, I need to remember repetition is a good thing.

The encouraging part is knowing that what I’m doing is important to Jesus and to Him, loving little ones is the greatest job in the world.

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Regardless of what Things I may do in this life, being Momma is the greatest.

Here’s the most encouraging part. Even if you’re not a mom, you can be great, too. Just love the little ones around you. Care for them. Encourage them. Take time for them like you would for Jesus.

Your investment in a young person is the one that guarantees the greatest return.

So I’m off now to make beds, pick up Legos and do laundry–again.

Oh, and love on my little ones.

Jessie

It’s My Party, I’ll Complain If I Want To

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Have you ever had A Moment? If you’re a mom, you know what I mean by A Moment.

It’s that point when it ALL comes out because—For The Love—MOMMA JUST CAN’T TAKE ANYMORE!

That’s exactly where I was a few months ago, except I didn’t have A Moment; I was having *Lots* of Moments and they were all starting to run together.

Like the night Me with All My Words was going on and on about Who Knows What, when my husband gently informed me that I am a Complainer.

Are you kidding me right now?! I was offended and for a moment All My Words were gone.

I tried to defend myself by saying, How would you know? You’re mostly with me at my two worst times of day, early morning and late at night.

But who was I kidding? In my heart I knew he was right. (Man, I hate it when he’s right!)

But rather than argue with me, he simply told me that if I couldn’t take his word for it, maybe I should ask someone who’s with me all the time.

And just who would that be?

About a week later as I sat frustrated and frowning, my precious, angel-faced-7-year-old lovingly came to my side. Putting her arm around my shoulder she sweetly asked, “Momma? Can you try not to be so grouchy? I really don’t like when you’re cranky, it makes me sad. I like it when you’re happy and fun.”

That stung, but even through my tears I still justified my attitude. Sometimes Momma’s Happy Pants just don’t fit. Momma is tired and quite frankly, the Cranky Pants are comfortable.

I didn’t get it.

Ohhh but then. One week later to the day—I kid you not—I turned on the radio to hear one of my favorite pastors preaching on… Complaining.

Bam. There it was. I hear You, Lord.

A lump formed in my throat as I listened. Tears began to fall. Guilty as charged.

For the first time ever, I understood what complaining really is, what it does to my heart and those around me, and even worse, what it does to God.

Unbeknownst to me, my Moments were a sign that I was in The Wilderness. (If you’re just joining me, check out “I Am a C” and “Welcome to the Wilderness” to get caught up.) Though I smiled and tried to be My Best Self, those closest to me knew the truth. I was going through the motions and I was miserable.

“Those who choose murmuring as their lifestyle will spend their lifetimes in the wilderness.” ~ James MacDonald

Complaining is one of the five attitudes that constitute this “murmuring” that Scripture refers to. Complaining is:

  1. Griping about something that IS wrong but doing nothing to change or affect it
  2. Griping about something this IS NOT wrong but differs from my preference

For Instance, it is not complaining when I’m served the wrong order at a restaurant and I politely ask that it be fixed. It is complaining if I eat the wrong food I was served and gripe about it to everyone at the table, never asking my server to fix the problem.

Complaining is also expressing dissatisfaction when things aren’t the way I think they should be.   Nothing is technically wrong; things just don’t match the Standard of Rightness in my head. If you have self-diagnosed OCD like me, you totally get what I mean. There IS a correct way to fold the towels and load the dishwasher.

Any fellow Complainers out there? My hand is up—y’all don’t leave me hangin’.

Honestly, I’m a pro. If there were an American Ninja Warrior Complaining Challenge, I would have a pretty good shot at the title. Whatever the topic, it doesn’t matter. I usually have no problem spotting something to complain about…

Gas prices. The government. Video cameras at traffic lights. Walmart only opening 4 of its 50 registers. Vaginal Mesh Sling law suit commercials during Full House. (Seriously, does that last one bother anyone else?)

But I can get even more personal with my complaining… My husband. My family. My house. My car. My church. My life situation in general. I can complain about anything, even the people and things I love most.

Confession? Sometimes I just like to complain. It makes me feel better. It’s like even if I can’t change things at least I can gripe about what bothers me. At least I can make my opinion known lest my disapproval go unnoticed by the world (because my opinion is THAT important, she says sarcastically.)

James MacDonald, also an admitted Complainer, writes, “The reason we complain is because it momentarily satisfies our sinful natures…by releasing negative emotional energy.”

See, even he agrees—it feels good to gripe. To “vent.” No big thing.

But then I remember something…

If-It-Feels-Good-Do-It Mentality always leads to A Not-So-Good Reality. God’s word promises I will reap what I sow. (Galatians 6:7-9)

With every complaint I utter, I plant a seed. What fruit do I reap from complaint seeds? A stinky personality and a bad attitude. And as we’ve learned, my attitude determines my ability to live the abundant life Jesus offers.

On top of that, my stinkin’ thinkin’ affects others. Have you ever been trapped in the car with a Complainer? It’s not long before you find yourself either harmonizing to the same ugly tune or plotting a McGuyver-style escape route in your head. (My poor family.)

Right now some of you may be thinking, Yeah, I know some Complainers, but not me. I keep my thoughts to myself.

Hold the phone right there, Introvert. Before you go thinking this is just a problem for us loose-lipped Extroverts, think again. As MacDonald says, “You’re not living in victory simply because you have a piece of duct take over your mouth.”

Complaining isn’t just that outburst of frustration; it is also the dissatisfaction we keep to ourselves. Even if I never speak a word, my unspoken negative thoughts still affect my attitude and experiences, leaving me with the same stinky fruit.

“May my spoken words and unspoken thoughts be pleasing, even to You, my Rock and Redeemer.” ~ Psalm 19:14

But here’s the worst thing I reap: Separation from God. He hears All of My Words and All of My Thoughts and judges them for what they are—sin. God hates sin and in His holiness He will not tolerate it from His children.

We don’t like to think of God this way, as Judge, but that’s who He is. He is the Ultimate Judge and Authority of Everything because He made everything. He gets the final say about what is right and wrong and He determines the consequences.

Friends, God has something to say about complaining. Let’s look at what happened to the children of Israel and learn from their mistakes.

“Do not regard lightly the disciple of The Lord…For those whom the Lord loves He disciplines.” ~Numbers 12:5-6

Who Did God Judge?

“The people were soon complaining about all their misfortunes, and The Lord heard them…” ~ Numbers 11:1

“The people…” Which People? The People who witnessed the plagues in Egypt and The Passover. The People finally freed from years of slavery. The People who walked across the Red Sea on dry ground. The people who followed God via a cloud by day and fire at night. The People who gathered miracles called Manna every morning.

These were Saved People, Blessed People, like you and I are today, yet they were unhappy because they focused on their “misfortunes.”   As a result, they totally missed the joy of the miracles within their midst.

What Did They Complain About?

These people complained about Everything. All.The.Time. If it didn’t match their taste or suit their liking, they complained about it. Just take a quick glance at the Book of Numbers…

“And they turned against Moses, whining, ‘Have you brought us here to die in the desert because there were not enough graves for us in Egypt?’” ~ 14:11

“So the people grumbled at Moses, saying, ‘What shall we drink?’” ~ 15:24

“The sons of Israel said to them, ‘Would that we had died by the Lord’s hand in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the pots of meat, when we ate the bread to the full; for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.’” ~ 16:3

Life was changing for The People. They were finally free from captivity and movin’ on up to “a land flowing with milk and honey.”

Unfortunately, the move wasn’t happening the way they had envisioned and God’s promises weren’t coming fast enough. They began to focus on the good old days (in captivity, mind you) and lost sight of the joy set before them. They were physically set free but still mentally living in bondage.

Who Did They Complain To?

“But the people thirsted there for water; and they grumbled against Moses…” ~ Numbers 17:3

“…They grumbled against Moses.” Or so they thought. Though The People voiced their complaints to Moses, God says they were actually complaining against Him.

“I have heard the complaints of the sons of Israel, which they are making against Me.” ~ Numbers 14:27

God heard their complaints and He took it personally. It wasn’t Moses’ idea to lead thousands of people through the desert, it was God’s. He was The Man with The Plan; there was a purpose behind everything He did.

How Did God Judge Them?

“…His anger flared out against them because of their complaints, so the fire of The Lord began destroying those at the far end of the camp.” ~Numbers 11:1

God heard their complaining—just their complaining—and He engulfed the outskirts of the camp with flames. The People DIED, y’all. Dead as doornails because they complained. How scary is that?

Have you any idea how many times my house and all its contents would have been torched by now if God were to judge me that way? God’s anger is righteous and just and it is to be feared. This is why we need a Savior.

What Does This Look Like Today?

“Now the people became like those who complain of adversity in the hearing of The Lord…” ~ Numbers 11:1

Here’s an unpleasant truth: “God has entrusted to every person a measure of adversity” (MacDonald). God allows each of us just enough trouble or frustrations or unpleasant circumstances in order to draw us to Him and accomplish His plans. Sometimes those circumstances are major and sometimes they’re minor. Regardless, when I complain about adversity I’m essentially telling God, You’re not doing a good enough job for me.

Whenever I gripe about my job, I’m really complaining about the way God is providing for my physical needs. Whenever I whine about my childhood, I am questioning God’s intentions for me by allowing me to experience certain situations.

Y’all, God doesn’t have a Heavenly Complaint Box. He doesn’t sit around waiting to hear how I think He’s doing with my life and the suggestions I have for how to make it better. He is God; I am not. He sees The Big Picture; I don’t. It makes Him beyond angry when I think I can do His job better.

“Complaining is an attitude that if left unchecked will wither my capacity to experience joy and genuine thankfulness.” ~James MacDonald

Today, the consequences of complaining are not physical; the fallout is spiritual and emotional. Feelings of resentment, hopelessness, discontent, frustration. Lots of Moments.

For me, complaining about my husband led to fighting and disrespect. Complaining about my family and home led to comparison with others and feelings of inadequacy. Complaining about my church led to dissatisfaction and a critical spirit. Complaining about my work led to daily feelings of dread and drudgery.

But the biggest fallout? We become ungrateful.

Consider this illustration by Pastor MacDonald. It was the heartbreaking moment of realization for me.

Imagine for a moment you went out for a rare Date Night. Your oldest is babysitting the younger two. As you enter the house, expecting to find them in bed, you realize they are nowhere to be found. The house is quiet and dark and you begin to search frantically. As you walk through the house listening for them, you hear voices in the basement.

You open the door slowly and step down the stairs, only to realize it’s your children’s voices. They are sitting on the floor in a circle with a flashlight, obviously engrossed in conversation because they have no idea you are there.

You’re relieved to find them, but you’re also curious what they’re talking about. So you listen and hear…”I wish Dad would get a better job. Is he lazy?” “Why can’t he take care of us like the Smith’s at church or like the Joneses at school? Why can’t we have…?” “I’m so sick of Mom’s rules: ‘Go to school,’ and ‘Clean up your room.’ Who does she think she is?! I’m not gonna take her bossy ways anymore.”

You listen and the complaining goes on. At first, you’re hurt. You think, “I have tried so hard, I’ve done so much. How could it not be enough?” Your hurt lasts about ten seconds and then you’re angry. “The nerve of these kids! It’s never enough! The things I have done for them! They have no idea the sacrifices that we have made. Maybe we haven’t given them everything but we have done our best!”

As a parent, I totally get this. I understand how much God loves us, how He wants to do so much for us because I know how much I love and want to do for my own children. When we complain about what He’s doing or how He’s doing it, we are questioning God’s sovereignty, His love and His provision.

God wants to be close to us. He grants us eternal life forever but He also longs to give us abundant life NOW. Not perfect—abundant.

So How Do We Change?

If you’re a Complainer like me, all of this is clicking right about now. I was convinced of my sin and convicted to change.

  • First, I agreed with God that complaining is, in fact, sin.
  • Second, I admitted I am a Complainer and confessed my dissatisfaction has really been with Him.
  • Third, I repented.

“Repent” means to stop doing one thing and start doing another. Researchers agree; the best way to quit a bad habit is to replace it with a good one.

Complaining is what I must stop and Thankfulness is what I must start.

“Less Attitude. More Gratitude.” ~ Unknown

Thankfulness must become a deliberate choice I consciously make. Whenever I am tempted to complain about our financial situation, I must consciously choose to reverse that thought and thank God for faithfully meeting our needs. Whenever I want to gripe about my church, I should instead thank The Lord for the people He’s given me to walk with and pray for their endeavors.

A practical way I’ve reminded myself to do this is with this verse:

“I thank my God every time I remember you.” ~ Philippians 1:3

I’ve literally taped note cards with this verse all over my house. I put it anywhere I am usually tempted to complain, like on my husband’s closet doors because he never remembers to close them. It’s a small thing, but something I would grumble about nonetheless. Whenever I see that verse, it reminds me to give thanks for the companion God has given me and dwell on the things he does do to help me.

“Do everything without murmuring or complaining…” ~ Philippians 2:14

I’m nowhere near victory just yet; I’m a Recovering Complainer. I ’m aware I have a sinful habit and I am actively seeking to change it.

I still have Moments, but I now know better than to complain. Instead, I allow that ache to point me toward my Creator and Sustainer, for He is the only One who can deliver the Promised Land living I desire.

If you’re still serious about leaving The Wilderness, don’t take your boots off just yet. There are four more attitudes to tackle before our journey is through.

Remember, attitudes are patterns of thinking formed over a long period of time. We didn’t get here overnight, so we can’t expect to get moved overnight, either.

Hold your horses just a little bit longer.

Jessie

“Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.” ~ 1 Thessalonians 5:18

It’s Gonna Leave a Mark

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“It will be gone before you know it. The fingerprints on the wall appear higher and higher. Then suddenly they disappear.” ~ Dorothy Evslin

I feel a lump in my throat as this thought sinks in.

My Baby is seven today.

That means I’ve had this parenting gig now for seven years, but I still feel like I do not have the foggiest idea what I’m doing.

At most jobs, seven years of experience would say a lot, but when it comes to parenting, seven years is just a drop in the bucket. I’m still quite The Newbie.

Newbie or not, I do know this:  Parenting is by far the hardest job I have ever had. There is no how-to manual, everyone does it differently, and if you don’t do it right, you don’t just mess up a “project”, you potentially ruin a life.

Not only is parenting hard, but parenting in today’s world is downright terrifying.

Just this year my kindergartner experienced something I have never known, as she was forced to go into her “secret place”  with her teacher and classmates. Their class of 20 huddled in a closet as the kindergarten campus went on “lock-down”.  They closed the shades and turned off the lights as helicopters and police searched for a carjacking and robbery suspect outside.

Really? This is the kind of world we live in and our children have to grow up in? How do I prepare my innocent babies for the evils that lurk within this world? Why do we even continue to bring more lives into this messed up place?

Oh how the mommas in Israel must feel every day.

Even as I write this, tears well up in my eyes for I know I cannot protect my children from the evil that surrounds us. I in my own power cannot adequately prepare my babies for the dangers of life in the real world.

That job requires supernatural strength and divine intervention. Only Jehovah God can protect them, guard the length of their days and carry out His will for their lives. I desperately need His help to teach them truth and prepare them for life in this world.

“God loves our children infinitely more than we can…I am able to be with and help my children only to the limit of my presence. But there is no boundary to His presence.” ~ Lee Ezell

The good news is, this world is not Home. Jesus said “Let not your heart be troubled…I go to prepare a place for you.” (John 14:1-4 ) That means we have the glorious hope of ditching this place one day and living with Him.

My first and foremost task is to teach my children to love Jesus and to lead them to accept His salvation so they may live with Him one day. 

My second task as a parent is to train my children in the way they should go, not for my sake or their own benefit, but for the glory of God. (Proverbs 22:6)

I’ve heard many young Christian couples express their fear of bringing children into this world and all of its evil. I myself was even fearful of this, feeling as if it were almost unfair to bring a child into the horrors of today.

But as Dr. Tony Evans teaches in his Kingdom Family series, God gave us the charge to be fruitful and multiply. (Gen. 1:28; 9:7)

This was no haphazard command. God purposely designed the family so that His people would reproduce and create replicates of Him.

As Tony says, we are not to create look-alikes of ourselves, we are to lead our children to become look-alikes of God. The righteous are to outnumber the unrighteous. (Jeremiah 29)

God wants to replicate Himself on earth through His people. That means Believers are to marry one another, center their lives and homes around the Truth of God’s Word and have as many babies as they can leave a divine imprint on.  For most of us, that may be one or two or three babies; for the Dugger’s, it’s 20 (or however many they’re up to now!).

That is why we have children, not just because we want them or because society tells us we should have them.
We as believers have babies so we can further the kingdom of God and so more of His love can be seen here on earth.

Satan knows this and it’s the reason he has waged war on our homes. It is a lie to think we as women must go outside our homes for fulfillment or to be useful for The Kingdom.  What we do outside the home has the potential to impact others, but what we do within the four walls of our home is certain to leave a mark on this world.

“We can change the world inside our own houses. Take the gift of this moment and make something beautiful of it. Few worthwile experiences just happen; memories are made on purpose.” ~ Gloria Gather

So indeed, parenting is the most important and difficult job we as believing adults have before us today. This is a calling and a ministry and a blessing and a burden all rolled into one. It is delightful and difficult, and certainly a task we should not take lightly.

If you’ve yet to have babies or find yourself fearful to, see it as a step of faith and obedience. God will not fail to help you raise replicates of Him if that is your aim. Don’t let the craziness of the world keep you from the divine ministry God has for you.

“If The Lord be with us, we have no cause to fear. His eye is upon us, His arm over us, His ear open to our prayer–His grace sufficient, His promise unchangeable.” ~ John Newton

“He is the faithful God, keeping His covenant to a thousand generations of those who love Him and keep His commands.” ~ Deuteronomy 7:9

“I know of no realm of life that can provide more companionship in a lonely world, or greater feelings of security and purpose in chaotic times, than the close ties of a family.” ~ Charles Swindoll

Today, as I celebrate my daughter’s seventh birthday I also celebrate the day I began a new job. It is my seventh anniversary at Parenting Inc.

No, I do not have awards and accolades hanging on the walls of a cubicle to show for my work, but I do have this: framed hand-prints from a beautiful daughter who God created and has a plan for. Two Children who I am called to share the love of Jesus with. A unique ministry because God saw fit for me to be the mother of these specific individuals.

God has entrusted me with this job, this ministry and I answer to Him.

Because I am human, I must seek divine support and guidance so I may leave a divine imprint on these little lives I’m called to shape. I want them to be the unique creatures God desired when He thought them up.

I’m not going to do it perfectly as mistakes on my part are inevitable.  Like a funny Pin I saw, I’m hoping to give my kids just enough dysfunction to make them interesting.

No matter what else I may do in this life, my parenting is definitely gonna leave a mark.

“O God, You have given me a vacant soul, an untaught conscience, a life of clay. Put Your big hands around mine and guide my hands so that every time I make a mark on this life, it will be Your mark.” ~ Gloria Gather

Lord Jesus, thank you for children. Thank you, Father, for seeing fit to further your kingdom through the replication of Yourself in us. Today I realize parenting is in fact a ministry and a calling from you. I know I cannot do it on my own, so please be close to my heart. Guide me so that as I follow after you and my children follow after me, we will together be walking in Your footsteps.

~ Jessie

“4 This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: 5 “Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. 6 Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. 7 Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.”
Jeremiah 29:4-7

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God[a]; believe also in me. 2 My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. 4 You know the way to the place where I am going.” ~John 14:1-4

“God blessed them and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.’” ~Genesis 1:28

“As for you, be fruitful and increase in number; multiply on the earth and increase upon it.” ~Genesis 9:7

June Cleaver Moments in a Rosanne World

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Sometimes I feel like June Cleaver.  Pearls, heels, apron.  Immaculate home.  Dinner on the table.  Happy black and white television family.

Other times, I feel like Rosanne.

For the past month or so, I’ve been in Rosanne-mode.  Sickness has definitely found its way into our household, along with moodiness, impatience and lethargy.  Thus, our halls are still decked and it’s still beginning to look a lot like Christmas around here.  The New has been collected and squeezed in the closet beside The Old.  Nothing is in its usual place.  If you could see my house right now, you’d probably suggest us for an episode of Hoarders.

I hate sluggish seasons like this, as do most people, I’m sure.  As I’ve confessed more than once, I’m a List-Maker and a To-Doer, and there’s nothing like a good New Year to bring out the Organizer in me.  (I don’t know what it is about Christmas decorating and un-decorating that makes me want to rearrange all my furniture and clean every room from floor to ceiling.  I’m going to blame Momma; I’m quite sure this trait was inherited.)

I’m a productive person, so when I can’t accomplish something I’ve set my mind to or do something my brain says needs to be done, I feel tense.  And I cannot think in a cluttered space.  I can hardly function.  It’s like my brain short circuits and I just shut down.  Can’t write at a cluttered desk.  Can’t cook in a dirty kitchen.  Can’t sleep in a bed with Confused Covers.  I don’t even know how I’m writing this right now.

Having said, it’s easy to understand when the drudgeries of sickness find their way into my home, I feel down.  Really down.  Defeated almost.  It’s easy for me to emotionally implode and find myself back at The Pity Party.

Rationally, I know I am not defeated.  This isn’t the end of the world, it’s just a momentary lapse and life eventually return to normal.  The Voices are telling me, “Hello, Crazy!  You’re sick.  You have a sick toddler, whiny kindergartener, and a husband whose back is out.  It’s okay that your house is a disaster and you’ve not accomplished your List.  Give us a break, would ya lady?”

So the other night, after weeks of NOT accomplishing things, or at least, not accomplishing them at my usual speed, The Holy Spirit made His way into The Pity Party.  He reminded me that my current circumstances will soon change, considering none of our conditions are chronic or life-threatening.  “But,” He suggested, “what if they were?  What if the surmounting laundry and dishes and disorder lasted not just a few weeks, but months?  Years?”

I began to recount the loved ones and friends I know, whose circumstances may not or will not soon change…

…My diabetic, artificial-hip-and-back-laden husband who endures relentless nerve pain, 24-7.

…My father-in-law who struggles with COPD, taking breathing treatments multiple times a day, every day.

…My parents, facing indescribable financial strain and loss.

…A friend with chronic migraines and painful Lupus…and a three year old son.

…A former youth group member who unexpectedly passed away last week, at the age of 30.

I was convicted.  My situation is NOT that bad.  So what if my house is in chaos?  At least I have a house and my family is together.   I realized this is a temporary setback for me; this, too, shall pass.  Then, after a moment of confession and repentance, The Lord overwhelmed my heart with love and compassion and mercy for those suffering around me.  While I do give myself a bit of permission to feel slightly disheartened by my struggles—for the stresses of sickness and Mommyhood ARE real—I realize they are nothing in comparison to others’.

The Holy Spirit proceeded to show me a few things…

You Are An Overcomer Through Christ.  Having been sick and uncomfortable lately, I realize I truly cannot fathom the pain and discomfort some people deal with on a moment-to-moment basis.  Even as you read this, some of you are in real, physical pain.  But Believer, know this:  You are an overcomer through Christ.  God’s got this!  And that means I’ve got this!  (If Christ is in me.)  One of my favorite songs is Mandisa’s “Overcomer” because it so clearly reminds me to not let discouraging situations get the better of me.  I find myself repeating the line, “Don’t quit; don’t give in; you’re an Overcomer.”  We ARE overcomers and we can boldly declare this because of Jesus.

“You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you…But if Christ is in you, then even though your body is subject to death because of sin, the Spirit gives life because of righteousness.  And if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of His Spirit who lives in you.”

~ Romans 8:9-11

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?  Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? …No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.”

~ Romans 8:35 & 37

“He who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all—how will He not also, along with Him, graciously give us all things?”

~ Romans 8:32

My Problems Are Big, But My God Is Bigger.  I just can’t get my mind around the strength of those who truly are Overcomers.  Some of you have been through the wringer without losing your faith.  How do you keep your focus and sanity in the midst of chaos and noise?  Sick, clingy babies are okay for a day or two; but what about for a year or two?  How do you learn to deal with that kind of irritation without yourself becoming irritated?  I cannot grasp the sort of calm that many of you possess in the midst of trials.  It truly is supernatural.  Living paycheck to paycheck is daunting.  How do you so peacefully deal with surmounting financial pressure and the possibility of loss?  Your tenacity inspires me and makes me want to press on.

“…But I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.”

~ Philippians 3:12

“And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

~ Philippians 4:7

“Now you have every grace and blessing; every spiritual gift and power for doing His will are yours during this time of waiting for the return of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

~ 1 Corinthians 1:7

“…Being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”

~Philippians 1:6

“Know, therefore that The Lord your God is God; He is The Faithful God, keeping His covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love Him and keep His commandments.”

~Deuteronomy 7:9

I’m Not Effective for Christ If I’m Focused On Myself.  When I’m sick or my household is ill, I very quickly get a one-track mind, which is Me, Myself and I.  As I confessed these things to Jesus, I realized I should ask that He make us well, not for my benefit, but for His.  In my heart, I want to be Jesus to the world around me, but when I’m solely focused on my own problems and wrapped up in my own little world, I can’t see anything beyond Me.

Example:  A couple of days after praying this, my eyes were opened to a homeless man standing on the corner by my local Walmart.  He’s been there for a few weeks, apparently, which means I’ve driven past him a few times and never even noticed him.  When headed to the store lately, I’ve been consumed by the fact that I barely have enough money to cover our needs and focused on not going over budget.  This week, the blinders were lifted and that’s when I met Paul.  Long story short, he and his two sons have been living out of an old minivan for the past 6 months since their family home burned.  Once I got my mind off of my circumstances, The Lord was able to use me to love and serve this family.  Our Life Group rallied together and provided Paul and his boys with food, blankets, toiletries and other basic needs.

As I consider all of this, I realize I am not capable of loving and living as Jesus commands.  It’s just not humanly possible; that’s why I need divine intervention every single day, every moment throughout the day, because this sinful body just can’t seem to hack it.

“We Christians glory in what Christ Jesus has done for us and realize that we are helpless to save ourselves.”

~Philippians 3:3b

 “Jesus replied, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.  The second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’  All the Law and The Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

~ Matthew 22:37-40

“I can do everything God asks me to with the help of Christ who gives me the strength and power.”

~ Philippians 4:13

Always Be Mindful Of Those Who Are Hurting.  Now here’s where it gets a little touchy.  The Lord pierced my heart at point-blank range with this one.  He’s allowed to; He’s God.  So, as I’m fully aware that I am not God, I’ll try not to do the same to you.  However, it hurt when I realized my guilt in this department… don’t say I didn’t warn you.

While I know not everyone is in This Place, being here has convicted me to be mindful of those who are, or who have been for some time—especially when speaking about my June Cleaver moments—particularly on Facebook.  In an attempt to share our lives, we hurriedly blab our thoughts and unwittingly cross the line between encouraging and gloating.  Quickly spoken words are often misused and written words are easily misinterpreted; they unintentionally become discouraging daggers aimed at our friends’ hearts and psyche.  We allow words to flow so freely when not looking people in the eye, without that face-to-face reminder that they’re struggling or hurting.

Consider a couple of instances:  One morning, when I was feeling particularly down, I came across a post by a well-meaning friend.  Her words were in no way intended to discourage, I know.  But because of This Place where I am, her spouting off her many accomplishments from the day left me feeling terribly inadequate and longing for better days.  It shouldn’t have, but let’s be honest—after reading that post, I felt like crap.  (Am I the only weakling who allows this to happen?)  Her words simply highlighted the fact (in my mind) that I was failing in multiple areas of my life.  Not gonna lie.  I cried a little.

Other comments, like some recent ones made by a favorite author/speaker of mine, make me just wanna reach across Facebook and shake someone.  Stop griping about the burden of your blessing; it’s not entertaining.  It’s paint.  It’ll dry and life will go on.  Many of us are just thankful we have a house with walls to paint.

Like Momma telling me, “If you can’t say something nice…,” The Lord smacked me with this scripture:

“The more talk, the less truth; the wise measure their words.”

~ Proverbs 10:19 (The Message)

Or to put it another way…

“Don’t talk so much.  You keep putting your foot in your mouth.  Be sensible and turn off the flow!”

~ Proverbs 10:19 (Living)

I want you to know I’ve sincerely confessed and prayed over these words of mine, for I often use too many.

Friends, let’s seek to use our words to inspire and encourage others, even when we’re being Real and speaking about our everyday lives.  “Speak Life,” as Toby Mac so awesomely puts it.  As Believers, let’s be careful that social media doesn’t become our outlet for gripes and complaints.  No, we’re not perfect and yes, we do have gripes and complaints.  We’re sinful humans; how could we not?  But God makes it clear that we should control our tongues; scripture is laden with direction concerning our words.  Now before you go thinking I’m being preachy, you should know my saying this is a lot like The Pot calling The Kettle black; I’m so guilty of this.  Therefore, I must consciously choose to remember that everyone out there in Social Media Land, or Blog-Ville for that matter, does not have the same blessings or struggles as me.  When I share things, I should do so in a way that blesses others, encourages them, makes them think or gently rebukes when appropriate, in a way that pleases The Lord and brings glory to Him—not to me.  A fellow mom-friend made a wise comment recently that stuck with me.  She said she purposely doesn’t post a lot of “mommy” stuff on Facebook because, having lost a child of her own, she is mindful of ladies dealing with the sorrow of that loss or the pain of not being able to conceive.  I have never even thought of that because I haven’t dealt with it.  Oh Lord, help me be mindful of the hurt around me, even if it’s a hurt I do not understand.

“So speak encouraging words to one another.  Build up hope so you’ll all be together in this, no one left out, no one left behind.”

~ 1 Thessalonians 5:11

“The tongue has the power of life and death…”

~ Proverbs 18:21

“Does not the ear test words as the tongue tastes food?”

~ Job 12:11

So, to those of you feeling June Cleaver-ish today, You Rock.  Seriously.  I love when I have those days.  Just try not to rub it in.  And for those of you Roseanne-rs, get yourself ready for the Hoarders’ camera crew and I’ll send ‘em your way when they leave my house.  Regardless, spend a minute with Jesus.  Find your hope or perseverance or healing or rest in Him—He embodies all of that.  Time with Him is as refreshing and energizing as a hot shower.  Get an extra nudge, if you need it, and listen to the hope in the songs I’ve mentioned.  Or, maybe like me, you need to Turn-The-Facebook-Off and go spend some time with a real, living face.  Whatever you’re convicted to do or not do, just go with it.  Whatever struggles you’re having, see them as the exciting climax in The Great Adventure of Your Life.  Because Believer, it will have a happy ending.

Jessie

“And we know that in all things, God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.”

~ Romans 8:28

Click Here to watch Mandisa’s “Overcomer” video.

Click Here to watch Toby Mac’s “Speak Life” video.

Confessions of a Middle-Aged Drama Queen

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I think writing is sometimes as therapeutic for me as a good cry or a hearty laugh with an old friend. If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, you’ll know that I tend to confess things to y’all. I don’t mean to, it just happens. My purpose is to be honest and real in the hopes that there are other women like me in the world. I think I’m pretty normal…?

Today, I have yet another confession.

Hi, my name is Jessie and I am a Drama Queen.

There. I said it.

I tend to “idle high”, as Jen Hatmaker once put it, and for no apparent reason. Sometimes I just find myself in a tizzy over, well, nothing. I think being the mom of little ones has a lot to do with it these days, but if I’m honest, I’ve been this way my entire life.

Here’s a bit of proof…

• When I was in junior high, I coined the phrase, “I have tender bones!” after finding myself at the bottom of the pile while bouncing on a trampoline with friends.

• The Hubs says I turn into Judge Judy when I’m tired…or hungry.

• I once sent an e-card to The Hubs and Momma that read, “I’m sorry for what I said when I was hungry.” (See previous bullet point.)

• I’m usually in a bad mood every Monday morning.

• I make myself a pretty cup of coffee when I feel down.

• The blinds and curtains MUST stay open during daylight hours.

• My house usually seems clean, but like Monica Gellar, there’s a mystery closet somewhere that you DO NOT want to open.

• When I was a kid, I would never let anyone listen to me practice my vocals for fear of messing up in front of them. (Duh? Isn’t that why it’s called “practice”?!)

• I subconsciously lean heavily toward pessimism and perfectionism, although I consciously refuse to be either.

Anyone else out there, or is it just me?

I’ve recently written a lot about contentment and joy, because I find myself desperately wanting both. You probably think I already possess those qualities… Think again. I’m a great cheerleader and encourager for you, but for myself, not so much. I’m not always this happy, perky, “sparkly” person everyone sees. I wear my Cranky Pants way too often and my Drama Crown stays on standby. Today, I feel I need to confess that. I’m a grouch. I complain. I cry. I expect too much of myself and others and it leaves me (and those around me) feeling discouraged.

I so want the Lord to remove the layers of my heart where impatience and discontent and frustration lie. I don’t have time for those things, not if I want Him to use me to share His love and hope with others. I don’t want to be the thorny soil spoken of in Luke 8.

“Other seed landed in the thistle patches and the young grain stalks were soon choked out…The seed among the thorns represents those who listen and believe God’s words, but whose faith afterwards is choked out by worry and riches and the responsibilities and pleasures of life. And so they are never able to help anyone else to believe the Good News.” ~ Luke 8: 7,14 (Living)

I want to be the good soil…

“Still, the other fell on fertile soil; this seed grew and produced a crop one hundred times as large as he had planted…But the good soil represents honest, goodhearted people. They listen to God’s words and cling to them and steadily spread them to others who also soon believe.” ~Luke 8:8,15 (Living)

I’ve seen God do some truly AWE-inspiring things over the past couple of weeks. He’s proven His love and provided in ways beyond my imagination. I’m humbled to say He’s even used me in the process. Yet, even in the midst of such goodness, I find myself frazzled. All the little things and small stuff of life tend to choke out The Seed and keep me from rejoicing in the harvest He’s given.

So, I’ve been racking my brain. How do I beat this? How do I get this thing back on the rails?

Rejoice in the Lord always; I will say it again, rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”

~ Philippians 4:4-6 (NIV)

Rejoice. Be gentle. Pray. Give thanks.

God promises, “If you do this, you will experience God’s peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand. His peace will keep your thoughts and your hearts quiet and at rest as you trust in Christ Jesus.” ~Philippians 4:7 (Living)

So today, I’m going to rejoice, be gentle, pray and give thanks. For everything, in every situation. Even though it’s Monday. Even though it’s December 2nd AND Cyber Monday, and I’ve not purchased the first Christmas gift or hung the first decoration. Even though I’m sleep deprived, as my toddler-son hasn’t slept through the night in almost three weeks. Even though I can find multiple things to be in a tizzy about, I’m going to choose differently today. Stop the madness. Dial it down a few.  Ease up, Turbo! (Shelbea, that was for you.) Trust in The Truth and expect “His peace” to keep my heart “quiet and at rest.”

I’m going to take my tiara off today. Won’t you join me? Maybe I’m the only Queen on her throne today, but seeing as there are only 24 more shopping days until Christmas, I’m willing to bet I’m not alone. We Drama Queens tend to keep our tiaras pretty handy this time of year. So, whaddya say we give our crowns a rest and have us a cup of pretty coffee?

Cheers.

Jessie

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To Boo or Not to Boo, That is The Question

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Some of us need to agree to disagree, right outta the gate today.  There’s my disclaimer.

There’s a lot of debate among believers this time of year. Is it okay to recognize Halloween and participate in related activities? How can I show the love of Jesus and still keep Halloween fun for my kids?  How would Jesus approach Halloween?

Over the years, I’ve had this conversation with many a believer AND non-believer.  And let me just say, I’ve yet to win anyone to Christ by staunchly avoiding Halloween.  This is not that big of a deal, people. Realizing this, I am not seeking to persuade you to think like I do on the subject; I simply want to offer some food–or should I say candy–for thought.

Here’s how I operate. I love Fall. Like Lorelai Gilmore and Snow, Fall and I have a relationship. It’s not so much about Halloween as it is the season. I love everything about it: the weather, the colors, the smells, pumpkin-flavored anything.  I dress up and so do my kids. Our Bible study group even has an annual costume party.  We trick-or-treat. We eat candy, and we usually attend at least one Fall Festival at a local church, if not our own.

The way I see it is, I love Jesus. I tell others I love Him. My husband and kids love Jesus and as a family, we strive to serve Him. If my life, my actions, my words, my family’s values and priorities clearly convey true love for Jesus throughout the other 364 days in the year, then I don’t think a fun costume or jack-o-lantern on my porch one night is going to ruin all that.

I haven’t always thought this way, though.  I’ve been known as one to avoid the Halloween hullabaloo.  And unfortunately, I sometimes tend to come across to people as “holier than thou” or as a “goodie two shoes.”  This saddens me because nothing could be further from the truth.  I’m a mess, y’all.  Jessie, without the control of the Holy Spirit, is SOME-thing else.  I know this about myself and, with His help, I’m trying to grow past it.

I was recently reminded of this ugly little fact when I was told that a non-believer acquaintance of mine was shocked that I dress up for Halloween.  She couldn’t believe “little miss perfect” celebrated Halloween.  Really?  In my walk and talk, do I make others feel like my life and my beliefs are THAT unattainable?  Do I make myself or my Jesus seem THAT unapproachable?

I don’t want people to think I’m perfect, I want them to think I’m real.  So if putting on a  costume will make my love affair with Jesus more attractive, or make my walk and life seem more attainable; if it will make me “real” to people, then dress me up, Scotty!  As long as my costume is not immodest or offensive or just pure evil, I’m totally down with that.

So WWJD with Halloween?  Would he make people feel despised for donning a costume?  Would he turn over their candy buckets and run them out of the Fall Fest?  I don’t think so.

Jesus was all about doing things differently.  His teachings seemed to always go against the traditions and religious customs of the day.  He came to show us a new way, a different way than the ones we, as dirt-made humans, had devised.  He did crazy things like touch lepers and eat meals with sinful tax collectors.  He even traveled with his disciple posse to forsaken places like Samaria, where he even dared to speak to the woman at the well.

I believe Jesus is gracious and loving and powerful.  I believe He can use anything–anything–for His glory and to further His Kingdom. 

I believe He can use a jack-o-lantern for His glory.  As a family, we choose and carve a pumpkin while telling The Pumpkin Parable.  It’s a fun and easy way to share the love of Jesus and His salvation with kids.  Check out http://www.creativebiblestudy.com/christianobjectlesson-pumpkin.html to learn more about how to do this or Google “Pumpkin Patch Parable” to order a cute book to use along with your carving time.

I believe He can use fear for His purposes and our benefit.  In my post on 9/11, “12 Years Ago Today”, I said I believe God can use fear to draw us to Him.  Transfer that to Halloween.  Every year my husband, a youth pastor, takes our youth group to Hell House.  If you’ve never heard of or been to this, it’s a ministry tool like none other.  It’s similar to a spook house but the spooks are actually dramatic reenactments of scenes from real life.  Things like suicide, drug addiction, abortion.  People pass through rooms and witness the staged but real horror of these things.  Then, they take a trip to “hell”.  Our local Hell House puts you and one other person in a vertical “coffin” and closes the door.  It’s pitch black.  It’s hot.  It’s noisy with the sounds of demons screeching and people screaming.  It truly is hell, especially if you’re border-line claustrophobic like me.  You enter in one side of the coffin, after passing through a scary, hell-inspired room.  When you exit, you exit through the opposite door into a room where you see Jesus.

He’s there.  He’s bound to a pole and he’s being beaten for your sin.

After a scene portraying his death, burial and resurrection, you’re escorted by angels to The Throne Room.  And there’s Jesus again, only this time He’s in His rightful place on the throne.

Upon exiting, each group is clearly presented with The Gospel and given the opportunity to visit with a counselor.  I cannot tell you how many young people I’ve seen get their lives right with Christ after witnessing this.  I truly don’t know that I could count them all.  What I know is that if we avoided Halloween altogether, if we turned a blind eye to the season, multiple souls would miss an opportunity to make a decision of faith.

The truth is, The World is going to celebrate Halloween whether we as believers avoid it or not.  The World cannot wait to get its hands on our kids and teach them Its ways.  I want to combat that and teach our kids God’s ways, using whatever means I can.  I want what happens in my home to change the world, not the other way around. 

As long as I’m not seeking to promote evil or disrespect my Lord, I’m not sinning by participating in Halloween activities.  If I see no problem with the fun Halloween offers, if I’m not convicted by the Holy Spirit within me, then scripture says it’s okay for me to participate. In contrast, if I choose not to participate in any form of Halloween activity, that does not make me holier or more obedient than you, and I cannot judge other believers who do not share my convictions. That would be sin. (Read the Book of Romans, chapters 14-15.)

Regardless of your convictions, just love Jesus.  Love Him like crazy and the world will know where you stand.  Love your neighbor as  yourself.  Don’t get bogged down in the debate of Halloween, or Christmas trees or Easter eggs.  Just love Jesus and love people.  He’s big enough to take care of the rest.

Here’s my costume from last night’s party…

I was “A Stick in the Mud.” 😉

Happy Halloween!

Jessie

“May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

~ Romans 15:5-6