Is God Mad at You?

Family Photo copyI simultaneously felt the heat rise to my face by the implication and the doubt take root in my heart as the question was raised, “Well is God mad at you?” I was smack in the midst of some of the most troubling experiences I’ve ever had. I was broken and beaten up by loss, disappointment, disillusionment, and confusion. I needed hope and I needed compassion. Instead, I received blame.

Despite being a recipient of God’s amazing grace and love for many years, that question echoed in my mind for some time as I weighed the scales of God’s mercy against His judgement and I feared I was more deserving of the judgement. Why shouldn’t God be mad at me? I claim to know Him, but often don’t look like it. I fall far too often and I make so many mistakes. I blow it with my husband, my kids, and my friends all the time. Maybe He was just tired of it. Maybe His mercy had run out and all this heartache was my own doing because God was angry.

If similar questions have found their way into your heart, please let me tell you it has no basis. Mamas, you love your children. They often may make you angry. But let me ask you, do you spend your nights seeking ways to “get back at them” and “make them pay” or do you cry and long for their best no matter what? The word says in Psalm 103:8, “The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love,” and that He has an everlasting love and unfailing kindness (Jeremiah 31:3 NIV). Does this sound like a God who takes delight in causing you pain?

I know what a good daddy looks like. Perhaps you don’t. Perhaps you believe God is often mad at you because you knew what it was like to have an earthly father who was mad at you, but it is not an accurate perception. My father was not perfect, but he was loving and kind and gave me the ability to understand my Father in Heaven in that light. When I failed (and I failed often and I failed big), my father’s heart broke. He sought ways to restore me, not break me. Though he often had to punish me, it was full of mercy and it was meant to bring me good not harm. That is how God operates.

So what of punishment? While God may let us suffer the consequences of our choices, He does not make bad things happen to us. Your suffering is not a sign that God is angry at you. It is a sign that you can trust the words of Jesus who says in John 16:33 “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” He wanted us to know why troubles come (because we are in this world, not because God is angry) and that because He had overcome, we could find our hope in Him. All of our hurt in this world offered to God is never wasted. He says, “I will turn their mourning into gladness; I will give them comfort and joy instead of sorrow” (Jeremiah 31:13). Believe it and run to Him in hope and not away from Him in fear. Then, watch what He will do.

I have heard women say they are certain they had a miscarriage (or other traumatic experience) because God was paying them back for past living. This is an absolute myth. My friends, whenever you are tempted to believe your hurt is due to God’s anger, please know that is one of the greatest lies on earth. Our circumstances may be due to our own choices like being in debt because we’ve made poor spending decisions, or being out of favor with someone because we’ve been selfish. They are NOT because of God’s wrath. He is waiting to help us, guide us, and love us through the worst of our mistakes and struggles.

Is God angry with me? Absolutely not! And He is not angry with you either. Please let the truth sink in deep today. No matter what you’ve done in the past or what you struggle with today, He loves you and He is for you. Message me anytime you struggle to believe it.

 

 

 

Beyond Bunnies–Christ-Centered Easter Ideas for Families

Courtesy jannoon028 at freedigitalphotos.net

Courtesy jannoon028 at freedigitalphotos.net

Is Easter early this year or am I just late? Somehow I missed the last month, the month I typically spend gathering craft supplies, reading great Easter stories, and searching for new creative ways to make Easter fun and fresh and most of all Christ-centered for my kids. I wanted to gather my favorites over the last 15 years and put them together for you here. I wanted to make it easy for you to make Easter special in your home, but somehow life got in the way. It does that sometimes. Maybe if I start now I’ll be ready next year :-).

Still, Easter is important to me. So, I’m going to do my best to carve out a few new memories between now and Sunday and maybe you can find a sliver of each day to join us.

Here’s what we’ve done so far:

We’ve been reading Amon’s Adventure A Family Story for Easter by Arnold Ytreeide, so we’ll continue reading a chapter a day and finish Easter night.

Amon

I love this author and all of his books. They are captivating stories that younger ones can enjoy and yet delve deeply into spiritual truths. We’ll finish ours Easter day, but it’s okay to start now and finish when you can.

Resurrection Eggs are a must in our home.

celebrate-easter-resurrection-eggs-800X800

I love this activity that can be used with or without the book, Benjamin’s Box by Melody Carlson. One by one, the eggs tell the events leading up to the crucifixion and it all ends with an empty “tomb”.

Here’s what we will hopefully get to:

Crafts, crafts and more crafts from http://www.orientaltrading.com. These are inexpensive to buy, but can also be used as ideas to make your own. We haven’t gotten to this yet, but we will by Sunday and my little girls will tell me how awesome I am.

Well that’s it this year. We haven’t done anything earth-shaking yet and likely won’t. We haven’t made a crown of thorns or constructed a giant lighted cross. We haven’t even made our annual tissue paper cross to hang in the window. Still, I’m sure my kids will survive an uneventful pre-Easter and we’ll all still love Jesus when it’s passed. In the end that’s what matters.

Jesus.

Just Jesus.

All the activity is fun, but if we make a crazy dash to create the perfect Easter but forget how to look like Jesus in the process then what have we accomplished but hollow religion? And who says we can’t have a cross cake and make resurrection cookies next month or any other time of the year?

Happy Easter dear sisters and may you find Him in all you do.

A Journey to Kindness

Kaila and Kieran, my grace givers

Kaila and Kieran, my grace givers

I remember the moment I spat the ugly words, punctuated with a piercing stare, “You act like children of the devil!” It was directed at my oldest children, who were then around nine and twelve years old. In the angry stillness that followed, Kaila, who has always been a mild-mannered child not given to back talk, looked at me with all her innocence and said slowly as though pondering some great mystery, “Mommy, if we are children of the devil, what does that make you?”

Time stood still and no one breathed as we waited for what would happen next.

The wind left my sails as I considered the answer and the truth in it. An apology followed and we salvaged what we could of the rest of the day, but my heart was pricked by yet another ugly stain on my checkered mothering past. We’ve since laughed about the day (along with others) Mom lost her mind and when they both were sure Kaila would lose her tongue, but secretly I’ve cried many times.

I’ve cried because I know love is kind, and I was not always kind. I was many things, but I was not kind.

I was intentional. I was nurturing. I was self-sacrificing. I was compassionate. I was generous. But I was not kind.

Kindness has been a journey for me, one full of determination and disappointment, but one also full of grace, both from God and from my children. I share it with you in the hopes that if you struggle with kindness, your own journey will be shorter.

My two youngest kindest teachers, Samara and Avielle

My two youngest kindness teachers, Samara and Avielle

Please don’t think I’ve arrived. I’m still broken many times over by my weakness in this area but I’m also reminded that it is my weakness that keeps me dependent upon God’s strength and that my children get to witness a life and a heart that is continually being changed by His strength as I remain teachable. I’m learning to love well as I learn to be kind.

Kindness changes everything. It softens hearts. It mends relationships. Kindness transmits love from head to heart, from knowing to feeling.

The scriptures say in Romans 2:4 that it is the kindness of God that leads to repentance. Doesn’t it make sense then that it is the kindness of a mother that leads to the same in her children? Why then do we often choose harsh words, fierce stares, and cold responses when we love so much? For me, it’s been because I like results and I want them yesterday. Kindness, however, requires patience. It is selfless and humble.

In the day to day, kindness cuddles a toddler when he’s fussy instead of scolds him, realizing we all have bad days too.

Kindness gives a soft answer instead of yelling at children who are yelling at each other AGAIN.

Kindness looks a pre-teen in the eyes and recognizes the doubts and insecurities instead of labeling it rebellion.

Kindness reminds teenagers to be faithful with what they have instead of telling them how ungrateful they are for all they’ve been given.

Each day, it is kindness that compels me to say I’m sorry to my husband even when he’s wrong, and it shows me how to fight fair. I’m good at fighting. I can hurl my endless words and he can’t compete and I can win the argument, but I lose him in those moments. Kindness shows me how to fight for him and for us instead of for my rights so we can both win.

Still the one I learn the most from

Still the one I learn the most from

Love is kind.

And if I want my love to translate to my family, if I want them to not just know with their minds, but feel with their hearts, that I love them dearly, then I must not love without kindness.

Memories of my failures often threaten to bog me down in the quicksand of guilt. The tears well up and spill over even now as I type. Still, I have to choose to let grace, not guilt, cover my yesterdays and carry me into my tomorrows. I hope you will do the same.

When I do, I am sweetly reminded of a good God who will never give up on me and of a husband and children who have always extended more grace than I have deserved. And in such moments, I am grateful that I am the daughter of such a merciful God, wife of such a kind man, and mother of such forgiving children.

And I’m grateful to all of you who visit me here and see my heart through all my flaws.

God’s 2015 Promises For You and Your Family–Will You Claim Them?

IMG_2117 - Version 2Well, I always have plenty to say, but I thought as we close this year and head into the new one, I’d say less and let God say more. His words are more important and reliable anyway. So instead of giving you my list of resolutions, I thought I’d share just a short list of His promises for you and your family instead. He is anxious to see them fulfilled in your life, but

There is a catch: You have to claim them.

It’s true God’s promises are real and powerful, but they do typically require our faith and cooperation. Think of it like this. If you receive a paycheck for services or goods, that check is a promise, but unless it is cashed in, unless it is claimed, it is useless. You can stare at it all day and it will not put food on your table or clothes on your back until you deposit it or cash it in.

God’s promises are likewise. They do not automatically come to pass. You must receive them as truth in your heart and take them to Him in faith and claim, “Lord, you’ve said this and I believe it”. Then Oh! what miracles take place when we pray God’s word with expectancy over our children and our homes! And let me add, whatever faith you have to believe them is all the faith you need. He will meet you where you are and grow your own faith through His faithfulness.

So, here are just a few of the many promises of God. I keep a journal of them so I can find the ones I need when my heart is anxious and I don’t know what to do. Perhaps you’d like to write down those that speak to you most and do the same. I promise you this. As you learn God’s heart for your family and speak His promises over them, your own heart will find more rest.

God Bless you and yours in 2015!

Promises of Provision:

“…those who seek the Lord shall not lack any good thing.” Isaiah 34:9-10

“And my God shall supply all your need…” Philippians 4:19

“Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.” Matthew 6:31-32

Promises of Salvation and Deliverance:

“…the children of the godly will go free.” Proverbs 11:21 NLT

“For I will contend with him who contends with you, and I will save your children.” Isaiah 49:25

“Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved, along with everyone in your household.” Acts 16:31 NLT

Promises of Blessings:

“I will pour My Spirit on your descendants, and My blessing on your offspring.” Isaiah 44:3

“The generation of the upright will be blessed.” Psalm 112:2

Promises of Protection:

“In the fear of the Lord there is strong confidence, and His children will have a place of refuge.” Proverbs 14:26

“The Lord shall preserve your going out and your coming in from this time forth, and even forevermore.” Psalm 121:8

Psalm 91–the whole chapter! My go-to chapter for all that frightens me concerning my children.

Promises for Guidance:

“You will guide me with Your counsel…” Psalm 73:24

“I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will guide you with My eye.” Psalm 32:8

“Your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, ‘This is the way, walk in it,’ ” Isaiah 30:21

Promises for Wisdom:

“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” James 1:5

“For the Lord gives wisdom; From His mouth come knowledge and understanding;” Proverbs 2:6

Promises of a Plan and Purpose:

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. Jer 29:11

“The Lord will work out his plans for my life.” Psalm 138:8 NLT

More Promises You Can Count On:

“I will teach all your children, and they will enjoy great peace.” Isaiah 53:13

“He Himself has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’ ” Hebrews 13:5

“Therefore know that the Lord your God, He is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and mercy for a thousand generations with those who love Him and keep His commandments.” Deuteronomy 7:9

“Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.” Hebrews 10:23

 

 

Gratitude, Not “Attitude”–7 Ways to Teach Thankfulness

My greatest blessings minus one :-(.

My greatest blessings minus one :-(.

I have always told my children that there is something to be thankful for in all situations, but finding just one in the port-o-potty of a Lancaster farm earlier this month was difficult for me. Although I was suspended between the door and the potty hole for mere milliseconds, to me it seemed much longer–long enough, in fact, to have a dozen possibilities race through my mind. You see, somehow I thought I could maneuver my way through the whole process of going pee in a 1X3 foot area with a cell phone in my right hand and the door slide in my left because, for whatever reason, it wouldn’t latch all the way. Somewhere in the midst of this task, I lost my balance and had a decision to make. Do I lurch toward the door and risk falling out with my pants down or do I lean back and…well, you know?

I chose dignity over sanitation and came down on my hip with a thud. Now any reasonable woman would know she can’t actually fit down a port-o-potty hole, but I was not exactly a reasonable woman at that moment, and I was certain there was the chance I’d be forever humiliated for having to be rescued from my toilet fiasco.

In any event, it all ended with little more than bruised pride and a bruised hip for which I was not the least bit grateful. Annoyed, I kept my little incident to myself and wanted nothing more than to take a bath in Lysol. Unfortunately, I couldn’t stop my own words from creeping out from the corners of my mind, “Give thanks in all things.” Um, No. But after all day of listening to that nagging phrase, I finally threw up my hands and declared, “Lord! Thank you that my butt was too big to fit through the port-o-potty hole.” I know, it was pathetic and not very sincere, but sometimes gratitude is hard work. However, as in all things, practice makes perfect and the dividends are worth the investment.

For instance, new studies by R. A. Emmons, Ph.D., at the University of California at Davis show that a heart of gratitude actually makes us feel happier, healthier, and behave with more kindness and goodwill toward others. Who wouldn’t like to see more of that in our families?

7 ways to move from attitude to gratitude that have worked in our family:

1. Say thank you. To everyone. The teller, the clerk, the waiter, and most importantly to those in your own house. Just the habit of saying those two words is very powerful and your children will catch on.

2. Teach your children not to compare themselves to others. They will always find someone who has more. Model this mamas. Please don’t let your children hear you wishing you were in someone else’s house or driving someone else’s car or living someone else’s life. Yours is an amazing one without someone else’s stuff.

3. Teach them to give and serve. This is huge and it doesn’t require much effort to find ways to reach out. Whether it’s as involved as serving regularly as a family at a shelter or nursing home or as simple as inviting a lonely person to dinner, making others a priority will help your children develop not only a heart of gratitude but a heart that cares.

4. Give thanks in all things. And now I’m back where I started. They’re really not my words, but the apostle Paul’s from 1 Thes. 5:18, and I have stood on a rather large soap box and preached endless sermons about this one to my children. I wholeheartedly believe that there is something we can be thankful for in every situation. Look hard; it’s hidden somewhere. While I’m still not grateful I beat myself up inside a smelly port-o-potty, I am extremely thankful I didn’t lose my phone in a pile of poop.

Courtesy debspoons at freedigitalphotos.net

Courtesy debspoons at freedigitalphotos.net

5. “Count your blessings, name them one by one; count your blessings, see what God hath done!” It’s a great hymn and great advice. Whether you intentionally talk about them daily or encourage your children to write them down, recalling blessings helps us be conscious of all we have instead of focused on all we don’t. Let’s not limit it to a once-a-year ritual.

6. Pray. Gratitude is not easy so ask God to cultivate it in us and our children. James 4:2 says “You do not have because you do not ask”, so ask and believe.

7. Keep at it. Let your children know it’s okay if they are only going through the motions but don’t feel grateful at first. Eventually it will move from an exercise of the mind to a response of the heart. It will.

There will always be too many reasons to grumble, but if we choose instead to move from attitude to gratitude, things won’t only feel better, they will actually get better. I’d say that’s a reason to be grateful.