Mini-Me & Mini-You

Caps for Sale

How amazing to see yourself reflected in the lives of your children. There have been moments when I so clearly see me reflected in the actions and expressions of my children.   The way they stand and how they pace while chatting on the phone.  The methods I use are even mirrored in how they tackle tasks and order their day…making checklists as reminders of the important things needing to be accomplished. Some days it’s like looking in a mirror.

Our children watch and mimic our actions, our attitudes, our loves and our distastes. Soaking them in like a dry sponge absorbs the water. When children are young, they want to be just like mommy, copycatting our actions just like those monkeys in the above illustration. It is endearing as they pretend to wash the dishes, work at the computer or drive the car while sitting in the back seat.  However, as children grow into adulthood, the mimicking is no longer childlike copying. At some point in their maturing, children take ownership of what they have seen modeled and what they have practiced. What they mirrored as children, now makes up who they are as individuals.

Like the funny story of the mom that is asked why she cuts off the end of the ham and she replies because her mother did and her mother did, never realizing that her great grandmother cut the ham because her pan was too small…some traditions and approaches our children take with them into adulthood are harmless, even funny. But many attitudes and behaviors that have eternal significance. What they love, how they see God’s hand in the little things, their fears, their worth are, to some extent, learned from what we model as moms.

Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it. Proverbs 22:6

I am not a perfect mom. Some days, my flesh reigns over my spirit and I forget my children are ‘taking notes.’ Some days, my eyes are fixed on the worldly tasks at hand and I lose sight of my Heavenly Father and His will for me as a mother, role model and trainer of my children. Days like these my selfish heart direct my attitudes and actions and I end up planting bad seed on fertile ground.

His mercies are new every day! His Grace is SUFFICIENT for me! Lamentations 3:22-23 & 2 Corinthians 12:9

When the Lord shows me glimpses of my heart reflected in my children’s actions I must take note. Sometimes it is a sweet “well done” from my Lord, and other times His gentle rebuke calls me to make a change. As I humble myself before my Loving Father, He forgives me, refines me, loves on me and gently leads me in His ways. The more time I spend with my Heavenly Father, the more His ways become my ways!  I yearn for my ways to reflect Christ so that my children’s reflection of me looks more like Christ and less like my flesh. Just as Paul says in 1 Corinthians 11:1- Imitate me as I imitate Christ

Are my children imitating a mother that is imitating her Heavenly Father? I pray that I will so vibrantly reflect my Father’s Heart that my children reflect Him as well.

What do you see in the mirror of your children?


Photo Credit: Caps for Sale by Esphyr Slobodkina

Let Them Drink of Me and Be Filled With Him

Whoever is thirsty, let him come and drink the water of life.

Lifeless words and a depleted posture reflected my soul as I breathed out my cry for relief.  Sharp and cutting, I invited them all to stick their straws in me a little deeper to be sure and suck up the last portion of me allotted for the day.  Downcast shoulders and outstretched arms certainly weren’t a warm invitation in welcoming others to truly come and draw from me.

For as he thinks in his heart, so is he. 

“Stick a fork in me, I am done” thoughts had been entertained too often.  My flesh believed that all of me was depleted by a certain hour of the day, investments had been made with intentional efforts and more of me could be offered tomorrow.

                Come to me, all you who are weary, and I will give you rest.

I sit at my Lord’s feet and he feeds, restores, fills and encourages me.  His promise to give me joy and peace as I trust in him is fulfilled in those moments.  He teaches me that my early morning times of feasting on him will never be adequate for the afternoon.  I must return, or better yet, I must keep sitting at his feet, even in my going and doing, letting him fill me.  In my gluttony, his banquet is never exhausted, his hope never depleted and his well never runs dry.  He is always more than enough for me.

                The jar of flour shall not be spent and the jug of oil shall not be empty.

The Spirit within me groans to pour out of me.  When multiple straws pierce me for their portion, I desire to let the life giving blood of Jesus fill them.  Let them drink of me and be filled with him, let them thirst for me because they taste the goodness of the Lord.  I am learning I can only be a filling portion if my own straw is embedded into the core of Christ.

My flesh battles my spirit, friends.   As I finger these words, I’m engaged in a quarrel with my own selfish desires.  The struggle is all too familiar.  In reflection, I know I must sit at his feet more, especially in my going and doing.  If his name and renown are the desires of my heart I must strive to become an open vessel of taking in from him and pouring out into them.  I want Jesus through me to be more than enough for them.

Increase our desires for you, Lord Jesus.  May we breathe soft answers that turn away wrath and speak wisdom that spreads knowledge.  Our hearts long to speak aptly, in season, so our families find joy and grace in us.  May our life-giving reproof be refreshment for their bones, may they gain intelligence and dwell among the wise because of our obedience to sit and drink from your cup.  Fill us up, pour yourself into us.  Let your love flow through us.  Father, fill us up.  May our hearts be cheerful and offer a continual feast for our family.

Good Job, Mama

Pregnant Mama with little boy

I watched my kids weave through the pumpkins, enjoying the sun on my face and the brisk autumn air. From the corner of my eye I caught a glimpse of a mama, belly ready to burst, buying pumpkins with her little one. He was near 3 years old and a cute little button of energy. I observed as she maneuvered around pumpkins with her pumpkin-sized belly, hand holding her sweet, lively boy.

He asked for something, she told him no, and two seconds later he was on the ground flailing in the dirt, letting her know *exactly* what he thought.

I saw the exasperated look in her face, the desperation, the exhaustion, the overwhelmed feelings sweep over her. 

And, quick as that, the Lord whispered to me, “Joy, go over there and put your hand on her shoulder. Whisper to her, tell her she is a great mom, encourage her heart right now.

My immediate response came just a fast, “Lord, she and everyone else here will think I’m nuts! This is America! You don’t just walk over to someone stranger and put your hand on their shoulder!”

He urged me gently again, “She needs your encouragement right now. Go ahead and put your hand on her shoulder and tell her she’s a great mom.

So I did. I swallowed my embarrassment and my pride and walked over. Face hot and palms sweaty, I put my hand on the dear mama’s shoulder. I quietly whispered, “You are doing such a great job. Hang in there, mama. We have all been there. You are doing a great job.”

She looked up at me, startled, and then grateful. She offered a tear-filled, “Thank you“, and we shared some tears and a smile and the knowing bond of motherhood.

No matter our differences, we all share those desperate mama moments when we need a hand on our shoulder telling us everything will be okay, don’t we?!

Who do you know that could use a hand on their shoulder, an encouraging word spoken, a smile? Are you like me, you don’t want to appear foolish, so you hold back? Here is my challenge…. just do it!!

Are you like the mama at the pumpkin patch? Do you need encouragement today?

Leave a comment and let us put our hand on your shoulder, pray for you, and bless you.

Now, let me whisper to you, “YOU are doing such a great job. Hang in there, mama. We have all been there. YOU are doing a great job. Good job, Mama.

Blessings,

Joy GraceFullMama

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Our Children, God’s Hands

Our Children are in God's hands

I am out of control… but I mean that in a good way – a GOD way – especially when it comes to mothering my children.

Let me explain.

There are no promises from God stating that if I am a “good” parent, then my children will turn out to be godly.

Yet how many of us desperately try to be the perfect parent so that our kids will be the perfect children who then grow up to be the perfect adults? {*raising hand*}

I think most of us probably need to step back, breathe deep and rest well in the promise that God. Is. In. Control. I (the mom) am not.

Don’t get me wrong. I do sincerely long to orchestrate every moment of every day of every year of every one of my children’s lives to guarantee they’ll each love God with a fiery passion and serve Him with their whole lives.

But… that’s just not how it works.

However, that doesn’t mean I am off the proverbial parenting hook, either.

I love how Sally Clarkson stated it.  She says, “God has granted me a portion to be a good steward over.” I embrace God’s call for me as a mom, and that means I am responsible for creating daily rhythms of joy in my household; showing my kids love in tangible ways; and maintaining order wherever chaos threatens our peace.

It is my duty to unreservedly devote attention and care over my family and my home.

HOWEVER, giving this mission of motherhood my all – even everything I have to give – guarantees nothing.

You read that right… no plan, no program, no method of mothering will ensure that my kids grow into pure-hearted, Christ-following, Bible-believing, God-fearing people.

In fact, Jesus makes it pretty clear that nothing *I* do clinches hearts for eternity when He states, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.  And I will raise him up on the last day” (John 6:44 ESV).

See there… GOD is in control.  It is God who draws my children and your children to Himself.   And that is good news for us moms!

Let me be clear: God grants us the privilege of partnering with Him to raise our children rightly, and therefore it is our obligation to engage their hearts and minds and bodies and souls in activities that will attract them to the essence of God.

However, we must also understand that it is by the undeserved favor of God – not by our “perfect parenting” – that our children are saved (Ephesians 2:5).

So, are you living with guilt over past decisions you’ve made regarding your children? Are you experiencing anxiety in anticipation over what could happen to them?

Release it to the Father, dear one, because while God does let us collaborate with Him to raise our sweet babies, the soul-capturing, heart-changing, passion-instilling work of securing them for eternity is His.

So “be still and know that [God] is God” (Psalm 46:10). And remember that while our children are ours for a time, their forever future is in God’s hands. Thank you Jesus!

Blessings,

Ruth Schwenk, The Better Mom & For the Family

Is Your Lens Properly Focused? Mine Wasn’t.

MP900438755

It hit me hard in the middle of the first session of two-day parenting seminar at church.

To some degree, it had nothing to do with child rearing.  But it had everything to do with me and how I think about myself as a parent, as a mom.

Our pastor was pointing us to the Scriptures and encouraging us to minister to our children, reminding us of our call to disciple them through instruction, discipline, and relationship.  I think being reminded of all of the good we can do in our children’s lives might be what caused the Spirit to prick my heart at that moment with this thought:

I process my life through the lens of failure.  I have trouble seeing the good and focus only on what I’m not doing or can’t do.

Like a camera with an improperly focused lens, my perspective was blurring what should have been in crisp focus and drawing my eye to what belonged in the fuzzy background.

As I wrote down this observation about myself at the bottom of my notes, a weight was lifted.  It was as if the Lord said to me, “You do not have to look at your life this way.”  And, friend, I say to you: You don’t have to either!

Here are a few reasons why:

The Gospel Defines You:  When you believed in your heart and confessed with your lips that Jesus is Lord, you received a new identity.  You belong (every bit of you!) to God the Father.  You are His child.  The Bible tells us that our sins are forgiven.  Sure, you probably have in immense number of weaknesses and a hearty list of ways you blew it in only the last 24 hours, but in Christ you are a new creation!  We confess our sins, we remind ourselves we belong to the Lord, we receive His forgiveness, and we move forward joyfully in faith.  Phew!

You are Gifted:  The Spirit lives in you and has gifted you in a unique way to contribute to the body of Christ, including the little part of it that lives in your home.  Don’t be shy about finding out what that is and using it liberally in your church and under your own roof.  I repeat, the Spirit lives in you;  honor Him by processing life through and with Him, rather than focusing always and only on what you can’t or don’t do.

You are “Just Right”:  You have a unique life during which you have had experiences and training that make you who you are as a person and a mom.  I think that’s pretty stinkin’ cool!  You may be a crafter extraordinaire.  If you are, craft it up with your kids.  Share with them what makes your heart sing.  Or, you may be useless in all things domestic but love the great outdoors.  So, stop feeling bad that you’re not doing life with your kids someone else’s way, and do it your way.  THAT’s the way the Lord would have you do it.  After all, He did give your kids to you!  And I have strong feeling that there are some wonderful things happening in your home simply because of who you are as mama to your little ones.  (Don’t believe me?  Ask an outsider for their perspective!)

Moving from feeling like a failure to mothering in freedom requires refocusing the lens through which we see ourselves, making sure it lines up with what the Bible says about who God is and who we are.  These words from an article at howstuffworks.com say it well:  Camera focus depends on light passing through the camera lens at the proper angle to produce a clear image.*  Let’s kick the dark lens of failure to the curb, open our hearts, and let The Light shine in so we have a clear and right perspective!

When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”   John 8:12

Photo Credit

*http://electronics.howstuffworks.com/camera1.htm