Choosing Contentment–What My Daughter Has Taught Me

thumb_FullSizeRender-6_1024I’ve had a rather grumbly morning. Nothing has changed since yesterday except my perspective, and I’m finding it more difficult than usual “to be content whatever the circumstances” (Phil 4:11).

My daughter Kaila is halfway around the world on a 6-week trip to Australia, and in her absence I’ve realized how much impact she has on my level of contentment. You see, I’m not naturally content. Instead, I lean toward restlessness and have to choose to quiet my heart and be content.

Kaila, on the other hand, at 17, is a picture of a heart at rest, and I have much to learn from her. She has an innate sense of what matters most—God and people—and she is content with knowing that God controls her life and the people in it for her good. At any moment, she’s perfectly happy with what she’s doing, whom she’s with, and where she is.

Watching her over the years, I’ve learned much about how to quiet my soul and be content, but days like today remind me I am still on a journey.

If you also struggle with contentment in your life, I hope you’ll appreciate these lessons I’ve learned from Kaila. I know what it produces because I’ve witnessed it. It produces a contented spirit that is peace to the struggler, rest for the tired, and a source of quiet strength to those who know her.

I am blessed to be my daughter’s student and to learn:

1—To enjoy the moment instead of yearning for the next adventure. Kaila lives completely in the moment. It’s not that she doesn’t dream, but her focus is always on living in every moment and engaging every person in that moment with her.

2—To enjoy what I have instead of longing for something more or better. Whether it’s stuff or station, I have never known Kaila to look around and want for anything that isn’t hers. As a matter of fact, she is constantly sacrificing in order to give and yet feels no lack because of it.

One of this girl's many talents--YES those are her arms :-)!

One of this girl’s many talents–YES those are her arms :-)!

3—To appreciate my talents and accept my weaknesses as part of God’s divine purpose for my life. Kaila knows that she knows that she knows that her talents are God-given, and conversely, so are her weaknesses. She is a gifted singer, talented musician, and craft-sy artist among other things, but she is also disorganized, a slightly clumsy athlete, and a lousy joke-teller. She neither shows off her gifts nor hides her weaknesses. She is who she is and she is perfectly okay with it.

4—To enjoy a job well done, instead of focusing on all that’s left to do. While Kaila is constantly honing her skills, she is always content with where she has come instead of frustrated by how far she has to go. She is motivated by the joy of learning, not by a standard of perfectionism.

5—To celebrate the accomplishments of others without a single moment of insecurity or jealousy. People matter to Kaila. She loves to do a good job, but she loves it just as much when others do. If given the chance to shine or let another shine instead, Kaila will always choose the latter. She may not win the prize or the glory doing so, but she always wins our respect and admiration.

Nearly 18 years ago, I started this journey feeling the weight of responsibility to lead and teach this precious gift of a daughter. Little did I know that in so many ways, she would do the same for me.thumb_IMG_2277_1024How about you? Could you use some lessons in contentment today? I know I’m sure missing my little girl who keeps her heart–and mine–so content.

 

 

Kim’s Jeans

Candy Abbott, Executive Director of Mothers With a Mission

Candy Abbott, Executive Director of Mothers With a Mission

Although my daughter is now the mother of two teenagers, I vividly remember a day when she was twelve that helped me learn to recognize God’s voice. It was a simple matter, really. She needed new jeans for her sixth grade class trip to the Smithsonian Institute the next day. In a sudden growth spurt, she had shot up two inches and could hardly bend over in her old ones. For a month, I’d been promising to get her a new pair, and I was down to the wire.

At that time in my life, I had another mission, too: to get better acquainted with the Third Person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit. Every morning, I climbed the stairs to our attic for some alone time with the Lord. If you’ve seen the movie, War Room, you’ll have an idea of how serious I was about this. I called it my “prayer closet” where I used The Helper, a book by Catherine Marshall, as my devotional guide.

The page open before me that morning was “He Saves Me Time,” so I prayed that I’d be able to find Kim some jeans that fit and still get to bed on time (not only for her benefit but also for mine since I was one of the chaperones). Before leaving my attic prayer closet, my eyes rested on these words from pages 75–77:

Lord Jesus, so often I ignore or ride roughshod over these strong inner feelings supplied by the Spirit. . . . What is willfulness in me, Lord, change . . .  Nothing could be more foolish than thinking I know better than You do. Help me this day, no matter how busy I get, to listen and to obey.

I worked as a secretary at Delaware Technical & Community College, and things were fairly slow at the office, so my thoughts drifted back to the day’s lesson. Would the Lord save me time if I could actually recognize and heed the voice of His Spirit? Around 11:00, I began to toy with the idea of using some overtime hours to make a quick run to the Salisbury mall to look for Kim’s jeans. My boss was in a meeting, so I arranged for someone to cover my desk. I’m sure he won’t mind, I rationalized, and it sure will save me time. Off I went.

The 45-minute ride was, in a word, harrowing. I hardly ever speed, but I did that day. My thoughts kept time with the speedometer as I raced along. If it was difficult for me to recognize the Lord’s voice in the quiet of my home, how could I ever hope to hear Him with cars and trees whizzing by my window?

My heart tugged and told me not to go, but I tried to ignore it. Wonder if that nagging feeling is God’s inner nudge? No, I countered, it’s probably just my guilty conscience because I didn’t get the official okay. Besides, I asked God to save me time, and this looks like a golden opportunity time-saver.

“Listen. Don’t go,” the tug repeated. My heart thumped, but I sped on.

Rounding the bend, an inner voice cautioned, “Turn back; it’s not too late.”

“Is that You, Lord?” I couldn’t be sure. “If it is, please bear with me.” Was I guilty of ‘riding roughshod’ over the strong inner feelings supplied by the Spirit? Maybe I shouldn’t buy Kim’s jeans without having her along to try them on. As I reconsidered my excursion, the internal struggle eased a bit. My mind is made up! I insisted. Again, something grabbed at my gut as I pressed on the accelerator.

“Turn back, turn back, turn back,” the voice seemed to echo.

“Lord,” I prayed, “if this is You and You’re trying to keep me from having an accident or something, please make it clear.”

“You’re speeding.”

“I know. I’ll slow down.”

“Go back. Don’t waste your time.”

“Lord, I’m sorry if I’m being bull-headed, but it’s too late to turn back now; I’m over halfway there. Besides, this will be a good test. If I don’t find any jeans in Kim’s size, then I’ll know it was Your voice after all. On the other hand, if I’m successful, then I’ll chalk this up to a vivid imagination. Either way, I’ll learn something. Thank You, Lord, for seeing me safely through this experiment.”

I rushed into the store and before my eyes stood a rack of 12-Slims, just what I was looking for. I scooped a pair of designer jeans off the rack and onto the sales counter where the cashier was quick to accept my credit card. I signed the form in haste, not paying any attention to the total.

An ear-splitting alarm sounded the moment my foot passed through the door on the way out. I jumped but, knowing I had paid, kept on walking, although I could hear a distant voice calling, “Ma’am, oh, ma’am.” When I turned around to see who was in trouble, the sales lady was racing toward me!

“What have I done?” My face flushed as she reached for the bag I was holding. She had forgotten to remove the security device from my purchase, and, although I was innocent of any wrongdoing, I had this eerie feeling that I’d been caught.

On the return trip, I concluded it must not have been the Lord’s voice to turn around, after all. My mind must have been playing tricks on me. The jeans were easy enough to find, and there were no traffic complications. Back at the office, everything was fine. I was relieved but a bit puzzled about that inner tug. I really had hoped that it was the Lord.

But surprise, the jeans didn’t fit! They were even tighter than Kim’s old ones. My heart skipped wildly.

“So it was You, after all! That is what You sound like.”

About that time, as if the ill-fitting jeans weren’t proof enough, I noted the sales slip and the outrageous price I’d paid. “Thank You, Lord, for convincing me. Next time, help me not to doubt Your voice and to be more obedient.”

Kim and I went shopping together that night, as originally planned. But this time, there was a difference. I was tuned in to the Lord’s voice, and I wasn’t racing around in a panic.

“You know where today’s sales are, Lord. Where should we go?”

“Dover.”

“Okay, here we are; which shopping center?”

“This one.”

“Which store?”

“This one.”

We drove into the parking lot and walked leisurely into the nearest store where Kim and I discovered a half-price sale and three pair of jeans that didn’t pinch, pull, sag, bag, or need to be hemmed. We were home and tucked into bed that night by 9:15.

Eventually, I returned the unwanted jeans to Salisbury. Some might say, “What a waste,” but I say, “What a workshop!” So many glorious lessons came out of that experience. It was almost as though God had enrolled me in a special “mobile classroom.” The return trip provided valuable time for reflection. Never again will I think that God is too busy with important things to be bothered with my trivial concerns. Not only did I learn that the Holy Spirit cares enough to save me time, but I know He’s big enough to pay attention to the tiniest detail and tolerant enough to deal with my clumsy experiments.

We don’t need good hearing to detect the Lord’s voice, just a sensitive, willing heart. I actually think the Holy Spirit delights in providing sensitivity training. Although the voice may be still and small, it is near. In fact, Luke 17:21 says, “The kingdom of God is within you”—in our very own hearts, souls, and minds.

But thoughts can be tricky. Not all inner nudges, promptings, impulses, or impressions come from God. The handcuffed, suicidal maniac I saw on the news who insisted, “God told me to do it!” as he was being thrust into the back seat of a squad car was responding to the voice of the god of destruction, not the God of heaven.

How can we be sure it’s God’s voice we’re hearing? Examine what the voice tells you in light of God’s attributes. I compiled the following checklist as a tool to test the validity of any inner leading I may have. Let the truth of these points sink deep into your heart, soul, and mind.

Checklist for Hearing God

  1. God will never lead me astray.
    He won’t ask me to do anything immoral, unethical, corrupt, vicious, dishonest, unkind, or unbecoming. If my morals or integrity are jeopardized in any way, the voice cannot be His. He is a God of righteousness.
  2. God will never violate His Word.
    He will never ask me to do anything that is contrary to the Scriptures. Even if I can find a passage that seems appropriate, I must be careful not to twist it to suit my own needs but rather consider the context in which it was written. He is a God of honor.
  3. God will never cause confusion.
    He offers me peace, joy, and clarity of mind. If I am experiencing anxiety or confusion, it is probably because of my own pandemonium, worldly pressure, or some unholy spirit—which I promptly and deliberately reject. He is a God of order.
  4. God will never bring condemnation.
    He is compassionate, righteous, and just. While He insists on confronting me with my own sin and shortcomings, He will not whip me with guilt. His desire is not to cripple but to lead me in the ways of repentance and restoration. His trademark is not incrimination but forgiveness. He is a God of mercy.
  5. God will never entertain discouragement.
    He builds me up and calls forth courage. He does not throw in the towel, promote defeat, or look for easy escape routes. He offers power and victory, no matter how bad a mess I get myself into. He is a God of hope.
  6. God will never contradict Himself.
    His message will never be in conflict with His nature that is comprised of unconditional love coupled with unwavering justice. God is love, and His Word is truth. Christ’s character and His law will always be reflected in the words His Spirit says. He is a God of conviction.
  7. God will never hurt me.
    He is the Great Physician—the healer and the restorer. He is the Good Shepherd—the seeker of lost sheep, the protector, and the guide. He is the Solid Rock—a ready fortress and refuge. He is a God of grace.

Morning by morning, O Lord, You hear my voice;
in the morning I lay my requests before You
and wait in expectation
(Psalm 5:3).

Cinderella: 5 Lessons on Raising A Modern-Day Princess

Their first meeting with Cinderella.

Their first meeting with Cinderella.

I recently took my girls to see the latest release of Cinderella and we just loved it! Well, I love all fairytales because somehow they depict life as it should be. Oh there’s plenty of trouble that threatens the protagonist, but we all know how it ends. Prince Charming saves the day and they all live happily ever after.

I believe every life has fairytale potential, and since I have two young princesses and one almost grown one, I intend to do all I can to ensure they not only dream of a happily-ever-after, but that I give them the tools to find it. However, since I spent most of my young life as a tomboy who’d rather chase snakes than stars and who preferred denim to lace, I’m not the perfect princess role model.

So, I took some lessons from Cinderella:

My own Cinderella

My own Cinderella

1- “Be courageous and be kind.” Cinderella’s mother tells her this great truth, adding that “there is great power in kindness.” I agree. As I said in my last post, I believe kindness changes everything.

2- Love others with “an open heart and an open hand.” Though Cinderella ate from the leftovers of her selfish stepmother and stepsisters, she was generous with what little she had, considering others’ interests ahead of her own.

3- Overcome evil with good. In regard to why she tolerated such ugly treatment from her new family, Cinderella answered, “They treat me as well as they are able.”  Oh if my girls can smile in the face of criticism and unfair treatment and deflect it with grace and peace, they will always be able to not only protect their own hearts but possibly change others’ as well.

Princess in training

Princess in training

4- Be who you are. As Cinderella comes down the steps with her soot-stained face, bedraggled hair, and ratty clothing to meet the prince, we hear her uncertain thoughts, “The greatest risk for any of us is to be seen as we truly are.” Isn’t that the truth! My girls need to know that who they truly are has nothing to do with clothes or hair, but a heart of goodness and beauty within.

5- Believe in something greater than yourself. For Cinderella, it was a Fairy Godmother. For me, it’s God. All of us will reach a point where we know our own strength is not enough. I want my princesses to know that when they have nothing left to give, God has more than enough, and all He gives lasts well beyond midnight.

My girls aren’t likely to ever wear a real crown or live in a castle, but I believe that if I encourage kindness, love, grace, a knowledge for who they are and for Who is greater than they are, then they can live a life that rivals any fairytale.

Wishing all your princesses a Happily-Ever-After Life!

My fierce pirate princess thanks to big brother's influence.

My fierce pirate princess thanks to big brother’s influence.

More help from big brother

More help from big brother

A princess still must work :-)

A princess still must work 🙂

Not quite the complete look

Not quite the complete look

With their crowns

With their crowns

My 3 princesses today

My 3 princesses today

“The Shelter Your Daughter Needs” by BJ Foster (All Pro Dad)

Hey, moms. While Rita is in Alaska with her family this summer and unable to blog for lack of Internet service, I’m trying to fill the gap every now and then. Here’s something of substance for the DADS among us:

http://www.allprodad.com/articles/dads-and-children/the-shelter-your-daughter-needs/

The Shelter Your Daughter Needs

One day my daughter and I were playing in a shallow baby pool with a sprinkler.  The sprinkler water came pouring down like rain.  I got down on all fours to play with her and then an interesting thing happened.  She crawled underneath me and sat down—safe from the falling water. I noticed the look on her face—it was content, peaceful, and confident. Under her dad’s shelter, she knew she was safe.  It reminded me of the scene in A Few Good Men when Demi Moore’s character is asked why she likes the marines so much.

“Because they stand on a wall and they say, ‘Nothing’s gonna hurt you tonight. Not on my watch.’”

Our daughters need our shelter and protection. We won’t be able to keep them free from pain. In fact, some pain in life will be a purposeful motivator for personal growth.  However, in those storms they need a safe place they can call home. They need a shelter with a foundation of love, framed with faithfulness, and covered with moral strength.

Here are 3 areas to provide the shelter your daughter needs.

1. Physical.

There are decisions men don’t think twice about—walking home alone at night or entering a hotel room. For women, these and many more are a measured risk. Women are acutely aware of their physical vulnerability and often live with anxiety and fear. When daughters know their dad is on guard duty and ready as a first responder, it gives them a sense of security. It’s also important for us to teach our daughters about the dangers in the world and how they can best protect themselves. If she does get hurt, we need to be there with a tender touch and a warm hug. It comforts her knowing she is back in a safe place where she can always rest.

What you communicate: “You are protected.”

2. Emotional.

At the core of all women there is a one question, “Am I lovable?” We have a powerful voice in answering that question. If they feel like the answer is no or ambiguous it will cause self-doubt, despair, and a lack of identity. The attack will come from the relentless cruelty of other girls, immature guys they date and, sadly, some adults. Your daughter needs consistent and constant reassurance from you. Let her know that it is impossible to love her more and, no matter what she does, you will not love her less. The answer to her core question needs to be firmly founded and affirmative.

What you communicate: “Yes, you are lovable.”

3. Spiritual.

The media will barrage her with unrealistic pictures of the way she’s “supposed” to look; very different than her own reflection in the mirror. Multiple fronts will attempt to dehumanize her by reducing her to an image or sex object. The real problem is not that this is being communicated to her. The real problem is when she believes it. When she accepts the lie as truth her soul will wear and tear. The reality is, she was sculpted together—hand crafted with significant beauty and purpose. Protect that. Give her plenty of prayer cover so this God-given truth is ingrained in her and never lost. Remind her daily of her magnificent design and precious value.

What you communicate: “You are eternally valuable.”

Post Script: On the day your daughter walks down the aisle to marry, she will be moving out from underneath your shelter and underneath her husband’s. The qualities and character of the new shelter she chooses will depend largely on the way you provide cover for her now.

Sound off: In what ways do you protect your daughter?

Huddle up with your daughter tonight and ask: “How do you know I love you?”

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By: BJ Foster