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.

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.
Entry #74613brittany g.
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.
 

Why I Believe in Marriage

My husband Randy and I on our wedding day.

My husband Randy and I on our wedding day.

Because the Sovereign Lord helps me, I will not be disgraced. Therefore, I have set my face like a stone, determined to do his will and I know that I will not be put to shame.” Isaiah 50:7 NLT

The tea party was finally ready. All morning I had been baking chocolate chip scones, setting the table with my china and praying over the afternoon’s festivities. I was expecting a beautiful group of precious college girls over to my house for tea and discipleship. What an honor and a privilege it is to be with these sweet young ladies of God. This was my second time to have them over and, as usual I was running late, and praying that they would be late too! Why is there never enough time? Oh well, I learned long ago that the heart of the hostess is much more important than the perfection of the get-together, so I asked the Lord to help me and I managed to get it all together and have a happy heart. What a blessing it is to have the Lord to help us!

 After the hot tea and yummy food was consumed, I then began to ask the girls a question. I had already purposed to talk about marriage and family so I asked them, “What are some of your fears about getting married?” The young ladies began to pour out their hearts with fears that I had heard many, many times before: “So many Christians get divorced.”  “What if my husband stops loving me?” “What if I marry the wrong person?” “What if God doesn’t help us to have a good marriage?” “What if we wake up one day and realize that we no longer love each other?”

According to the Huffington Post, married couples are at an all time low. In 2011, just 51 percent of Americans were married, compared to 72 percent in 1960. And new research predicts that marriage rates will remain at a historic low in the years ahead.

It seems as if people have stopped believing in marriage.

Even if America doesn’t believe in marriage, God does. At the end of the Creation account in Genesis 1, “God saw all that He had made, and it was very good.” But when we look over at Genesis 2, God said that something was NOT good. “It is not good for man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” Even God thought that man needed a companion, so he gave him a wife.

Marriage is God’s idea. Why do we have so little faith in marriage these days? What if, instead of doubting, we “set our face like a stone” and trust that God will help us with whatever comes our way, no matter what!

What if, when the trials come, we purpose to pray every day, walk with the Lord and love our husbands?

What if marriage could be the best thing ever? What if, instead of looking around at other failed marriages, we ask the Lord to bless ours, stick as close to God and our husbands as possible through the seasons, and choose each day to love in the power of the Holy Spirit, never giving up.

What could God do through a generation of committed marriages, of people that choose to love, believe and walk by faith? How could God use Christian marriages to change the world and bring more into His kingdom? Oh, the possibilities!

I believe in marriage because I believe in God. I believe that God can redeem anything, and is committed to our marriages because marriage is His idea. I believe we can accomplish more for God’s kingdom with our spouses than we ever could do alone.

God loves to work through ordinary people who have chosen to trust Him, and He desires to bless our marriages more than we could ask or think. God wants to bring glory to His name through our Godly families, and to show His love to a hurting world.

What a blessing marriage is!

For the rest of my time at the tea, I decided to talk to the girls about how wonderful marriage is, trusting God, and all of the blessings that go along with it. After the tea party was finished, one of the sweet girls came up to me and said, “Mrs. Weakly, thank you. I have never heard anyone talk about the beauty of marriage before like you have. It’s good to hear that marriage can be wonderful!” Out of the mouths of babes…

 Marriage is wonderful.

 Marriage is God’s idea.

 God will help us in our marriage.

 Marriage is GOOD!

Think Before You Speak

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by Cherie Werner

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.  Ephesians 4:29

 One of the greatest jobs I have as a mother is to instill godly character into my children. To do this, I intentionally utilize both resources and teachable moments. I have found that it is best to learn from life’s blunders.  Currently I am reading aloud and discussing the book Love As A Way of Life by Gary Chapman with my youngest daughter, Cayley, as well as the mom group I’m leading.  At the end of one of the chapters, I became convicted. There was a challenge to evaluate verbal interactions with others and determine whether or not the words spoken were kind. If any unwholesome words came to mind, the challenge encouraged you to take action and apologize.

My heart sunk as I remembered a phone conversation that I had with a friend. I sent the apology email below to my friend and then read it aloud to my daughter. Even though I was embarrassed by my blunder, I wanted to use it as a teachable moment. Words do matter and carry weight.

OK my dear friend, things just got real.  I just finished reading a chapter on kindness to Cayley and I was convicted.

I read, “To make kindness a habit, ask yourself after each verbal interaction with another person, what kind words did I say and what unwholesome words did I say?” I thought back to our conversation and was convicted.

 I realized that sharing with you about my disgruntles with ________ were not edifying or life giving.  I did looked up the quote you mentioned by Dave Ramsey concerning gossip which said, “gossip is defined as discussing anything negative with someone who can’t help solve the problem.”  So I’m apologizing for gossiping.

Words are powerful as they give life or death.  I desire to be known as one who spreads life. 

Love ya.

My friend wrote me back the following:

Your email made me think, what if the words about _______ were said in a happy, surprised, and excited tone, but because it was hearsay, and because of our filters, we assume it was negative?  It gave me a lot to think about.  The other thing that I want to sort through with you is where is the line between gossip and sharing our heart, and frustration with a friend.

Was I gossiping or simply sharing my heart and frustration with a friend? I wanted to know. Actually, I needed to know.

Two definitions of gossip:

  1. Dictionary – Casual or unconstrained conversation or reports about other people, typically involving details that are not confirmed as being true.
  2. Bible – One who reveals secrets, one who goes about as a talebearer or scandal-monger.

Gossip is different from sharing information in many ways. Below are some ways I feel the two differ but I’m sure there are many others.

  • Consider your motives for sharing? Are you seeking to build yourself up by making others look bad? We often feel superior to the person we are talking about which is prideful and often gossip.
  • Gossiping wants to share and tell a story for reactions. It is done repeatedly to many persons.
  • If you are hurt or angry with someone and desire to draw others into your pain wanting them to side with you it’s likely you are gossiping.
  • What type of information is being shared? Gossipers speak of the faults and failures of others or reveal possibly embarrassing or shameful details regarding the lives of others without their knowledge or approval.
  • Gossip usually occurs when you complain or talk about one person to someone who knows both of you.
  • Ask if what you are saying is helpful for building up the person I am speaking about by sharing this? Charles Spurgeon said, “Tale bearing/gossip emits a threefold poison. It injures the teller, the hearer, and the person concerning whom the tale is told.”
  • Ask yourself why you want to share this information, do you have permission, and if it’s necessary? Then consider whether you would share if the person you were talking about were present? If not, you are most likely gossiping.
  • It’s gossip to say anything about someone that will lower the listener’s opinion of that someone as gossip changes the way we see people.
  • Do you have a complaint about someone that you take to someone else who can do nothing about it? If so, then that is gossip.
  • Do your words build up and edify others? Gossipers seek to tear down others.
  • Kind words see the best in people and call it forth. Gossipers tend to focus on the negative and nit pick.
  • When someone is talking negatively about others it become gossip on your part if you jump into the conversation.
    • Don’t participate. Excuse yourself from a conversation that becomes full of gossip, to avoid “falling into” gossip games or socializing-by-demoralizing.
    • Encourage them to speak directly to the person who is involved as it’s biblical, see Matthew 18:15
    • Let gossip end with you. Help navigate the conversation to whatever is true, pure, and lovely.
  • Always remember your words are powerful enough to give life or death.
  • Will what you share glorify God?

With this particular situation, I decided that my friend might be right as I truly was sharing my heart. Nevertheless, I realize that it is a fine line. Next time, before talking to a friend about something, I will ask myself if what I am about to say is true, kind, necessary, or helpful? This whole experience has reminded me that it is important to THINK before speaking. “He who guards his mouth keeps her life, but she who opens wise her lips comes to ruin.”  Proverbs 13:3

T –is it true?
H –is it helpful?
I  –is it inspiring?
N –is it necessary?
K –is it kind?

In closing, I encourage you to ponder the following poem by Ann Landers. Personally, this poem really made me think deeper about a few things.

Remember Me?
“My Name Is Gossip. I have no respect for Justice.
I maim without killing. I break hearts and ruin lives.
I am cunning and malicious and gather strength with age.
The more I am quoted the more I am believed.
I flourish at every level of society.
My victims are helpless. They cannot protect themselves against me because I have no name and no face.
To track me down is impossible. The harder you try, the more elusive I become.
I am nobody’s friend.
Once I tarnish a reputation, it is never quite the same.
I topple governments and ruin marriages.
I ruin careers and cause sleepless nights, heartache and indigestion.
I spawn suspicion and generate grief.
I make innocent people cry in their pillows.
Even my name hisses. “I AM CALLED GOSSIP.” Office gossip. Shop gossip. Party gossip.
I make headline and headaches.
Before you repeat a story ask yourself. Is it true? Is it fair? Is it necessary?
If not – KEEP QUIET.

GREAT minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; shallow minds discuss people. Eleanor Roosevelt       

Which are you?

How do you differentiate between gossiping and sharing?  I’d really like to know. 

Cultivating Your Marriage Relationship

Photo Credit

by Anne Everitt

The year following the birth of our third child was the hardest year our marriage has yet seen.  Our kids were sick all winter… for months. Every time we would plan a date someone would puke or develop a fever or nasty cough; we had to cancel something like 7 or 8 times. The perpetual sickness left us isolated from friends and community. My husband felt extra pressure at work, adding to the stress.  We both felt exhausted, with little energy left at the end of the day to tend to our relationship, and we grew distant. It felt like even finding space to have a conversation about our need to have a conversation, was impossible! In the midst of this it seemed like we were not seeing eye-to-eye on anything… big or small.

In these hard and vulnerable seasons of marriage and parenting, I think the enemy whispers lies to us, something along the lines of “Why did you marry this person? You are so different and have nothing in common. This was a mistake.  Your love for each other has grown cold. You are growing apart and will only grow further apart. By the time your kids are grown you will be strangers.  You’d be better suited to someone else.“  Our culture and media also play into these lies… telling us that relationships should be easy and on fire all of the time or else something is wrong and the relationship wasn’t really “meant to be”.

The truth is, love is a commitment, through easy and hard seasons. When we feel it and when we don’t. And Biblical wisdom never tells us it is going to be easy or effortless, or that we ought to live our life solely out of emotions (wouldn’t that be a roller coaster ride?!). In fact, this is what 1 Corinthians 1:10 says (talking to believers in general—so this applies to all of our relationships, including our marriage):

I have a serious concern to bring up with you, my friends, using the authority of Jesus, our Master. I’ll put it as urgently as I can: You must get along with each other. You must learn to be considerate of one another, cultivating a life in common.

In the middle of such a season of marriage, my husband and I desperately needed to re-establish… to cultivate, a life in common. Friends, cultivation implies effort. That can seem daunting when you already feel maxed out, but God wants this for our marriage and He wants to breathe life and provision where we are at our wit’s end. Part of walking that out involves obediently doing our part as the Spirit leads.  The very existence of this command tells us unity and relationships have never been easy. They must be cultivated. Worked at. Planned and prepared for, tended to. A life in common does not just happen on its own.

So how do you cultivate a life in common? The above verse gives us an idea: By being considerate of one another. Considerate…  characterized by careful thought— deliberate; careful not to cause inconvenience or hurt to others; thoughtful of the rights and feelings of others; attentive; showing kindness towards others; having regard for the needs of others.

Mamas, whether we are in an easy season of marriage or hard, these are some questions we can bring before the Lord to help us think deliberately about our marriage:

How can I consider my husband’s needs today?

How can I encourage, pray for, bless, and serve him?

What do I need to let go of in order to build unity in our relationship?

What can I do to cultivate a life in common with him?

What can we do for fun together?

What things did we enjoy doing together when we were dating that we have stopped doing (but could start again!)?

What can I do to improve our relationship?

What lies am I believing that I need to surrender to the Lord?

Do I need to forgive any hurts that have occurred in our relationship?

What things does he love or enjoy that I can do with him?

What can I do to make him feel loved and respected?

What emotions do I need bring in alignment with the solid ground of truth?

In what areas do I feel at my wit’s end? {Take some time to bring this to the Lord.}

:: :: ::

By God’s grace, following trials and triumphs, and with ongoing intentional efforts to cultivate our relationship, we are in a new season. For us healing came as we practiced being considerate of one another—  forgiving wrongs, putting each other’s needs first, letting go of things that were putting a wedge between us, and also making it a priority to have fun together. I thank God that seasons come and go. Little ones grow— even just a year changes everything, and suddenly we find ourselves with room to breathe again.

But for those of you who in the trenches of a difficult season in your marriage, know that you are not alone. Every marriage has these seasons. May the Lord breathe life into your marriage, may He speak to you— showing you specifically how to tend to your relationship, and may He bless your efforts as you walk in His wisdom and ways.

As I head into a New Year, I’m making it a priority to cultivate a life in common with my man. What is one thing you want to do to cultivate a life in common with yours this year? I’d love to hear!