Building Foundations of Belonging

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We were made to belong. First to God—He made us to belong to Him and to be in intimate relationship with Him. Then, by His design, He set us in families as a place to belong and live in community—in relationship with each other, in order to know Him and ourselves more fully. Because it is how we were made, each of us has this need to belong deep in our hearts. Though this is God’s design, this is not what many of us experience. Sin corrupts relationships and so many—like myself—grow up in broken homes. This can leave children feeling very lonely, neglected, with a confused sense of identity, rejection in place of belonging—and at a time when this need is most acute. Because it is a real need, kids will go to great, and often unhealthy lengths, to find that need met.

But I think it is not only broken homes that can leave children feeling neglected and rejected. I wonder if many practices of our modern lives have the same implications. I’ve been asking myself—what do my actions and the ways in which I spend my time communicate to my children about my priorities and where they fall in line? If we as moms are more in the habit of staring at our screens, busy agendas, and to-do lists than our children in the eyes, I wonder if they are not feeling rejection —that they are not interesting enough, deserving enough, fun enough, important enough, to have our attention?

I’ve also been asking myself—what DOES build a family identity and sense of belonging? Here are some ideas:

Study your children. Get to know who they are, how they are wired, their love languages, interests, desires. Then…

Experience them. I read a passage by Henri Nouwen once that said something along the lines of this: hospitality is putting yourself aside and allowing another person to be fully experienced. Our kids want to be fully experienced. They want us to come alongside them in their interests, bents, developmental stages, and desires, to be championed, encouraged, developed, nurtured, mentored, listened to, and cheered on.

Create family traditions and rhythms that build beautiful memories and captivate hearts. We learn through our environment and experiences. Simply telling a person they belong yet acting otherwise will not convince them. What we do speaks volumes and the environment of our family culture matters. Here are some ideas for building a family culture.

  • Feasting—like a big Sunday breakfast or dinner that you do each week.
  •  Family rituals—like our friend Ruth whose crew debriefs at the end of each day by serving one another with back rubs. For my family a favorite ritual is getting cozy under blankets and reading aloud together each day.
  •  Taking trips or extended time to be together. We love to go camping. Someone recently asked my seven-year-old daughter “what is one of your favorite things?” and her answer was our family camping trips. (I thought she’d say something like her doll or bike or some material thing.) I loved that glimpse into how important such experiences are to children and how they shape them. A stay-cation or camping in your backyard would be just as memorable to them. If you have the opportunity, mission trips are another wonderful thing to do together. Teenagers especially have a need to know that they are apart of something—a story—bigger than themselves. A family mission trip or serving together will give them purpose and help them find their identity and place in God’s story at a time where they are sorting out their identity— who they are and what they are here for.
  • Have fun together! God wired us in such a way that we need to rest and play together. Our responsibilities as adults can be overwhelming and sometimes we find ourselves so overcome that we forget to have fun. In these moments we need to entrust what burdens us to God so that we can exhale and enjoy one another. I recently read a translation of Psalm 46:10 which said, “Be at leisure and know that I am God.”
  • Cultivate a home environment of grace and unconditional love instead of criticism and perfectionism. Perfectionism pushes God out of the equation. Our kids need us to model for them apologizing, forgiveness, and a deep dependence on God. God’s love for us is unwavering in the midst of our ugliest sins and our kids need us to represent that reality to them. In a home where kids are constantly criticized, they will feel rejected, like they are never good enough, that love is somehow earned, and that they don’t belong.
  • Be intentional. I know this is a bit of a buzzword. But the word literally means “aimed at”—which implies that we have a target. What are you aiming at? What family culture do you want to create in order to shape your kids? What do you want your family to be about? What do you want to direct your kids toward and how will you integrate that into the way you do life as a family? What experiences do you want to incorporate? What shaping practices would you like to have in your home?

If you feel like sharing, I’d love to hear in the comments what you are already doing OR, what God might be prompting you to do differently or to begin doing—to shape your family culture and nurture a sense of belonging in your own children.

Best Beef Stew

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by Chrystal Evans Hurst

Ok…so I’m trying to be a Proverbs 31 woman and realized that a P31 woman wouldn’t throw away perfectly good food. So…I proceeded to try to figure out what I could do with perfectly good remains of a roast we had earlier this week. Hmmmm….let’s see! I know…Beef Stew!

But I had never made it before and didn’t really know how in the world to go about making it. I started perusing some of my cookbooks that have barely seen the light of day, only to find that Beef Stew can be a complicated thing.

Back to the drawing board. I went back to my “frig” and scoured some more to find that I had other things left over from different meals during the weak. I decided to throw a bunch of unrelated stuff in the pot, risk wasting the perfectly good leftover roast, and take my chances…

Let’s see…

Roast…sliced and diced…cooked carrots cut a little smaller…roasted potatoes diced…a can of corn….some frozen okra…don’t forget that leftover gravy….ok…that doesn’t look like enough liquid…let me add some water….ok…wait…a little more…that looks about right…now…won’t all that water make the stew too watery?…I need some flavor…how about a beef bouillion cube…I’ve always had those on hand and never known what to do with them….let’s let that simmer….ok…maybe I should add a little seasoning…ok…that one has never been used before…let me try a little random concoction of seasonings and see what I come up with ….alrighty…a little garlic power cuz garlic is in everything…

I didn’t know I had it in me but….

After all of that tossing and guessing and hoping…my husband sat down to eat after having the kids on errands this morning. I asked him not to eat out w/the kiddos cuz I had made lunch. Everyone came home to eat. Jessie said that he was so glad that he hadn’t stopped by Whataburger! Jessica said that the soup was better than the soup her Granny makes! We had to force feed Sumo (yes…I know there is irony here with the name) but whatever no big deal. We always have to force feed my preschooler so I didn’t take it personally.

Wow…imagine that…later tonight Jessie said that this was the best beef stew he had EVER had. The pot throughout the day has slowly dwindled down to little of nothing as my family has eaten a little here and a little there…

Whooda thunk?

I wonder if that is how God works out wonderful creations with me. Really, he doesn’t want his creation to go to waste and so he takes a little here and a little there of my leftovers that are really not good anymore standing on their own. What God can do with my “leftovers” is amazing…

God starts with Chrystal…sliced and diced…pride that’s been cooked and he cuts it a little smaller…independance that’s been roasted and diced …He adds a little can of purpose….some frozen hope that she thought wasn’t worth anything…don’t forget that leftover prayer….even though she wasn’t a prayer warrior let me work with what she gave…ok…that doesn’t look like enough faith…only a mustard seed worth…let me add some love….ok…wait…a little more…that looks about right…now…won’t all that love make the new Chrystal to watery and wimpy…i need some flavor…how about some of my power…I always have that on hand and never can find anyone who wants to do something with it…..let’s let that simmer….ok…maybe I should add a little seasoning…ok…she can use some of the Holy Spirit’s discernment and vision…and I don’t want to forget FIRE cuz that one has never been used before…let me try a little random concoction of seasonings and see what I come up with such as passion, selflessness, righteousness, purity of heart….alrighty…a little grace cuz grace is in everything…

I didn’t know I had it in me but….

God did and I’m amazed at the work he is accomplishing in my pot, my vessel of clay.

More than my husband loving the stew, I want to hear him say the same thing about the work that he sees God doing in the soul of his wife.

That’s when I’ll know that I’ve really turned into the P31 woman. I don’t mind simmering awhile so that everything is just right. A little heat won’t hurt anything :)

While I have begun to share some recipes, I have yet to document my own recipe for Beef Stew.  So far, it has been working for me to just throw leftovers in a pot and heat it up!  In lieu of my own recipe, I feel confident in pointing you to The Pioneer Woman for her Beef Stew recipe.  Everything I’ve tried from this woman has left me singing first soprano and doing a high kick!

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Mothers: The Civilizers of Nations, the Cultivators of Cultures & The Winners

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Most of you who know me, know that I love international ministry and have been seeking to start Women’s small groups, Bible studies all over the world, and how much I love missions for having had the opportunity to be involved overseas as a young woman. Angela and I have partnered in some ideas of how to reach more women in more countries with some of these Biblical messages in their own countries. For one, when you buy a book here in the US, we will donate one book for free to our translator’s groups in their own countries, all over the world. I am so excited about the ministry vision that God has given Angela and me to train leaders of other countries to start women’s Bible studies and to lead in their own countries.

But we are hoping to have some special training times for women in other parts of the world. I would love to see the Lord open doors for me to do some intensive leader’s training in different countries. But Angela and I also have a more practical dream for next summer. Read about our vision HERE!

And now for a special Motherhood message! 

 

Carl Larrson

Mother’s: The Civilizers of Our Nation

civ·i·lize
1.    to create a high level of culture
2.    to teach somebody to behave in a more socially, morally and culturally acceptable way
Enlighten, cultivate, improve, advance, subdue in terms of a people or nation.

“The home is the fountain of civilization. The value and character and appetites of a people are greatly determined by the reading, training and cultivating of moral and spiritual appetites in the home.

Mothers, you are the divinely-appointed teachers and guides of your children; and any attempt to free yourselves of this duty is in direct opposition to the will of God. If you neglect them, the consequences are swift and sure. …, Spend most of your time with your children. Sleep near them, attend and dress and wash them; let them eat with their mother and father; be their companion and friend in all things and at all times.”

From Golden Thoughts on Mother, Home, and Heaven: From Poetic and Prose Literature
of All Ages and All Lands
. Copyright 1878-1880

The above quotations were gleaned from a wonderful book that a friend gave to me at our Dallas conference. The words written over a hundred years ago are still very powerful today. This, in a culture where the imagination of the importance of mothers to the overall well-being of soul of the next generation has been lost. How affirming it is to see that truth of past generations still applies to us today.

Often, I find that in the absence of a clear enough vision for their children and homes, mothers replace conviction and vision with lots of activities and distractions for their children. This hyper-activity and rushing around to an endless list of expensive lessons and experiences and the buying of the newest expensive curriculum and technological options make moms feel like they are accomplishing something. However, when the home-life of children is rich with excellent, classic literature, passionate Biblical devotions, rousing dinner-table discussions around sumptuous, tasty meals, lots of love and affection given and household chores attended to—and a child will become committed to all that is good and excellent and develop a moral and compassionate soul for all the divinely important values.

From the beginning of time, God created the home to be a place sufficient to nurture genius, excellence, graciousness and grand civility. But the key factor is nothing that can be purchased or owned. The accomplishment of this grand life is found only in the soul of a mother, through the power of the Holy Spirit, personally mentoring her children.

It is a personal relationship with a real person whose soul is alive in which the deepest imprints of life are given. The secrets and deep emotions shared during the goodnight hours in which a the soul of a child is tender and open; the comfort of warm, home-made food shared in the early evening as ideas are shared and discussed and prayers and devotions given; the laughter, stories, advice given in the midst of washing dishes together or sharing of a meal; the heroic and riveting  stories read aloud and shared together that establish common patterns of morality, values and  dreams in the comfort of the blazing hearth, mugs of steaming hot chocolate and squishing against each other on a den couch are those heavenly things which are food to the soul and nourishment to the mind and conscience of a child fully awake to all that is important in life.

There is no computer, television, software or text book that can pass on such passion, love and motivation.

It is indeed the personal touch of a mother’s heart that creates grand civility, deep affection, care and commitment to the foundations of a family. When the invisible strings of a mother’s heart are tied to the heart of her children through loving sacrifice and nurture, the stability and foundations of a nation become secure and stable. A mother, living well in her God-ordained role, is of great beauty and inestimable value to the future history of any generation. Her impact is irreplaceable and necessary to the spiritual formation of children who will be the future adults of the next generation. Fun, comfort, humor, graciousness, spiritual passion, compassion for the lost, hospitality, chores, meals, training, life-giving words, hours and hours of listening and playing and praying and reading—all are parts of the mosaic which go into the process of soul development.

Moms, God is calling us to a work that is quite important–He will give us the strength and supply us with wisdom one day at a time. He will listen to our prayers. But most of all, we have to be willing to bend over backwards to meet needs and to encourage and to figure out a new game plan, because we are His guard in a fallen, tempting world; we are His hands and words of comfort and wisdom; and we are His voice to tell our children that we love them and believe in them, even in the midst of their immaturity. May He give grace to each of you today! Happy Mother’s Day!

Thanks so all of my wonderful friends for helping our first week of launching our new book a great week. Love to you all! Have a lovely weekend with your loved ones!

Here are the winners:

The e-conference winners are:
Alia Regier
Bonita Penner
Trista Shah
And the audio book winner is:
Annette Blanch
The Winners of our new book, You Are Loved
Giveaway
Entry #50423Debora J.
Entry #26220Shelley B.
Entry #22995Ashelyn D.
Entry #66748Lavinia M.
Entry #22751Christina V.
Entry #28285Jannell N.
Entry #23227Cheryl O.
Entry #1001Natalie W.
Entry #6012Amy W.
Entry #10046Brenda S.
Entry #76527Trisha
Entry #59203Marietta T.
Entry #45737Betsy H.
Entry #58610Brooke M.
Entry #11319Mary S.
Entry #44822Andrea M.
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Entry #3029Jennifer L.
Entry #39435Ashley R.
Entry #37905Sara D.
Entry #5452Heather D.
Entry #11376Kim V.
Entry #3681Jennie C.
Entry #36678Alyssa Z.
Entry #36681Sarah A.
Entry #39255Sasha L.
Entry #4806Heather ‘.
Entry #15418Holly K.
Entry #12874Holly W.
Entry #43987Terri B.
 

The Freedom of Flexible Traditions

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My mom is the original Martha Stewart. She has a great eye and palate, crafting lambs out of butter for a Spring table and stuffing huge globe vases with tulips overflowing and spilling out onto a precisely pressed linen tablecloth. I once overheard a guest in our home telling her daughter, “Pay attention to what Mrs. Hopper does. Her gatherings are just wonderful.”

 They really are. But what makes my mom’s mad entertaining skills so appealing is her ability to remain flexible, adding or subtracting guests according to their needs and scrapping traditions that feel more like a burden than a blessing.

Traditions can be a wonderful thing. In fact, there are many resources around for helping you start some of your own, but what I love about the traditions in our home growing up is that they remained in flux; they grew or shrunk with the reality of our home life and the needs of our family.

So when my mom created a gorgeous sit-down Christmas meal the year my oldest brother brought two kiddos under two years old to the table, she laughed about their inability to sit with us and dine. You know how it goes with a two-year-old — down from the table in 3.7 minutes. Next Christmas she created a casual buffet that allowed us all the freedom to pop in and out of the room to nurse a baby and put the toddler down for a nap.

Traditions become a burden when they cannot morph and change with a growing family. If baking your homemade cinnamon rolls with the dreamy cream cheese frosting for Christmas morning seems daunting this year because of morning sickness, a dying relative, a shocking life change, or for any other reason, then a can of ready-to-bake rolls will not be the death of your family life. Neither will buying them from the mall, popping them in the freezer, and warming them up after the gifts are opened.

Loving our families well often means learning to let go of our grip. Traditions that cause unnecessary stress or conflict amongst family members serve one thing: the tradition itself. And what good is that?

This year our family has swelled by one college-aged “big sister” who has been living with us, bringing our family total to 11. Add in-laws next door, family coming in from the Bay Area, plus a musician friend from Nashville, a lot of traveling and speaking this spring, and I’ve got a major recipe for overwhelmed.

Despite whatever the Easter traditions have been in the past around here, I had to choose to major on the most important one of all — Jesus. We talked about Him, read about Him, quietly pondered His gift and mercy during a Good Friday service, and then rejoiced with abandon on Sunday. All the other details were periphery. Whatever I used to make for Easter brunch doesn’t matter. This year, it was a picnic in our sunny California backyard where everyone’s happy to pitch in, making the menu even more doable.

The tradition of gathering and celebrating remains firmly in tact, but there is freedom in the details. Your joy and ease will be treasured for years by children who understood that your relationships always trumped the china and the table setting. 

In this season where God has reminded us with every new blossom and leaf that he makes all things new, how can we renew the heart of some of our traditions to fit the current needs of our families?

What did you learn from your celebration this Easter?

Blessings,

Kendra

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Children do not accidentally become righteous leaders or emotionally healthy and productive adults – any more than seeds thrown randomly to the wind grow to be part of a thriving garden. Someone needs to take responsibility for their nurture, protection, nourishment, intellectual development, manners, recreation, personal needs, and spiritual development. Someone needs to commit time and energy into staying close to them as they grow, encouraging and correcting and teaching. Sally

DON’T FORGET TO REGISTER FOR THE E-CONFERENCE, MONDAY NIGHT, APRIL 26, 7-9 MOUNTAIN TIME!

REGISTER HERE.

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The Ministry of the Ordinary Life

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There is much beauty to ponder at Christmas. The beauty of the Christ Child coming to earth to save the souls of men–His name shall be called Immanuel, God with us.

As the holiday season comes to a close, it is so wonderful to remember that Jesus is with us every day of our lives. He is in the warp and woof of the everyday life; He is the fabric of our essential being. This is one of my favorite parts of Christianity, the fact the we have the Holy Spirit who dwells in each of us and helps us to walk out the Christian life. We are never alone; Christ makes His home in our hearts.

As I reflect on the New Year, I find myself thinking about the days to come and wondering what my heart desires to fill each of them with this coming year. At the core of my thoughts and dreams is a desire to make a difference for the Lord.  I think that, as Christians, most of us would say this is our desire, but for the most part our daily lives get in the way of what we think holiness and serving the Lord should look like.

So much of the time, our hearts want to minister, to make a difference for the Lord, but we find ourselves knee-deep in the music of the everyday life: laundry, cleaning, meals, sibling squabbles, sick children, discipling our children, listening to our children, helping in-laws to feel connected to the children, meals needed for friends, and making time for our sweet husbands… just to name a few.

My desire is to challenge each of us to readjust our thinking, to realize that these things, the seemingly insignificant things of life, are the notes that make the music of our ministry. This is the time in our life where we are creating our greatest symphony of ministry, our grand Opus.

What if we all looked at our lives differently? What if we all could be like Brother Lawrence, a monk who live 300 years ago and taught about the presence of God being in the ordinary life and said “The time of work,”  he said, “does not with me differ from the time of prayer.  In the noise and clatter of my kitchen, while several persons are at the same time calling for different things, I possess God in as great a tranquility as if I were upon my knees at the Blessed Supper.” Brother Lawrence had the uncanny ability to look at each activity or chore he did as worship unto the Lord, as his ministry of the everyday life.

Scripture says this perfectly in Colossians 3:17: “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”

And Jesus simplified this concept of the ministry of the everyday life when he said, “This is My command: Love one another as I have loved you.”  John 15:12

Beloved, may I suggest that we all look at our lives differently this year? May I suggest that we walk with Jesus, one day at a time, and pray for God to give us a heart for everyday, ordinary ministry? We could all pray at the beginning of each day for the Lord to help us to be others-centered, humble, and aware of the needs of those around us, to see the hearts of the people God has placed us with, and to know how to minister to them in a way they feel loved.

Here are some simple ways I have found to truly bless the people God has placed in our lives:

1. Hug your children and tell them each something you love about them. Look them in the eyes when you talk to or listen to them. Make time in your day to just be available for your children. A good saying is “Put down the work and pick up the child.”

2. Text your husband at work and tell him that you are so proud of him and some of the reasons why. Better yet, make known the fact that you are very attracted to him.

3. Take your teenager out for lunch or coffee and ask them how their heart is doing. (Ask God ahead of time for the ability to see your child’s heart and what they might be struggling with or concerned about)

4. Try to get in the habit while your children are young of asking them to sit with you at the end of each day to tell you all about how they are doing, and what’s on their minds, even if it’s trivial or silly. This habit comes in handy when your children are old enough to drive, and will automatically know that when they get home you will want to sit with them and hear all about their day. It’s important to know the details of your children’s lives and how their friendships are doing and how their hearts are.

5. Call a friend or family member to pray, even if it’s just a quick 5 minute prayer. Let them know that you will be keeping them in your prayers that day.

6. Send a note to a friend telling her what you love about her and how she has blessed your life.

7. Double one of your meals to keep in the freezer to take to a friend when she is having a bad day.

8. Pray a silent prayer for people you see when you are out and about during your day- the cashier at the store the next time you buy groceries, the mom of the child that is throwing a fit at the mall, the homeless man on the street corner, or anyone the Holy Spirit brings to mind to pray for. Ask God to give you a heart of compassion for the people around you so you will know how to pray.

9. Have the children make a card for their Grandparents. Also, Skype can help them to feel connected to their grandchildren if they are far away.

10. Make time for your friends. Pray for your friendships; for God to strengthen and protect them. Ask God to heal the ones that are strained or broken. Have a friend over for a quick cup of tea. Light a candle, put on some beautiful music, and have a cookie or simply a piece of delicious chocolate. God-ordained friendships are worth the effort, and close, lifelong friendships are a blessing.

These things may seem small and insignificant, but they make up a beautiful life and encouraging ministry to those the Lord has entrusted you with.

What are some small  ways you create beautiful and minister to those in your life?