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Friday, October 26, 2007
Thanks for all of the prayers, girls, because they have been answered! Nathan has done a complete about face with regard to his behavior and attitude at school and at home. He has received excellent daily conduct reports, and the few marks he has received are for things that he does because he is six.
Our evenings are (mostly) no longer spent in front of the television or computer screen, and are instead spent playing games or reading books. Please don't think our home has become a Norman Rockwell painting, because we still have our share of tantrums, hurt feelings, TV watching and stress. But I think that the extra effort on our part to be more attentive to the kids has paid off tremendously.
Not only that, but the kids and I have started a routine of praying on the way to the sitters every morning. I can't tell you how sweet it is to my ears when I hear Nathan praying that he will make good choices that day, and that I will have a good day as well. Or when the three year old prays that she will not bite today and that she wants to be sweet. After the prayers, we recite the catechism that we are learning together.
Who made you? God did.
What else did God make? All things.
Why did God make you and all things? For His glory.
How can you glorify God? By loving Him and doing what He commands.
This is as far as we've gotten, but they love shouting out the answers correctly and Nathan keeps asking me what the next question will be. It's gratifying to see my children wanting to learn biblical truths and about the character of God. Let me be clear that I believe it takes more than a rote catechism to fully understand scripture, but I think that it is a really good start for our children. The questions and answers will lead to more in depth discussion, and that is a good thing.
There are so many out there, and we chose one that was simple enough to be understood by young children, and then we will gradually build and change it to match their growth. It's also a good tool for everyday teaching. Grace loves to point out the moon to me in the morning when we are getting in the car to leave. She squeals, "Look mommy! It's Luna! It's Luna!" I can then respond, "Yes, that's Luna. Who made Luna? When she responds with "God", then I can reinforce the fact that God did indeed make all things. Sometimes this results in a fifteen minute long recitation of all the things she can think of that God made, from the trees to the Tahoe, but that's okay.
One thing that has really hit home with me throughout this time of change with Nathan is the scripture in Ephesians 6. Nathan can recite verse 1 without blinking an eye. "Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right" but I often forget that the second part of that commandment is given to the parents. "And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord."
Oh, how I provoke my children to wrath sometimes! My impatience with their little hands moving too slowly, or their brains not thinking as quickly as I think they should. My tendency to judge a situation before I have all of the facts. My insistence that things be done my way because I say so, and for no other reason. We have some serious wrath, or as the NIV translates, exasperation in our home!
Some days, the only way to maintain my sanity is to repeat over and over, "They are just kids, they are just kids!" Too often I think of them as adults in little bodies, forgetting that they do not have all of the social and emotional restraints that we do, and that it's my job to teach those things. If I would just slow down for 30 seconds and instruct instead of reacting, I would do away with a good deal of my children's exasperation.
So, I am thankful that Nathan is entering a season of (relative) obedience and that God used a situation that seemed so difficult and hard to teach me to be a better parent. As Heather put it, "There are times in this Christian life that we experience the Refiner’s fire. It is necessary for us to feel the heat so that we may be made pure and holy. John Piper says that “…God will have no alloys in heaven.”
How I love that quote! So I will glory in the good times and in the bad, because God intends all of it. Every single event of my life is intentional and for my good, even when I can't see past the end of my own nose.
Tuesday, October 23, 2007
I have a scrapbook that I should have completed about a week ago for a friend at work, that is still sitting in various stages of disarray on my kitchen table waiting patiently for my creative juices to get flowing again. (Please, please start flowing soon!)
About an hour and a half ago, I started feeling achy and tired with a bit of a chill. I took a warm bath and then was so tired that I got right into bed, but in spite of feeling awful, could not fall asleep. I resigned myself to getting up for a little while longer and decided to check my email and visit my favorite blogs to see of there were any new posts.
Lo and behold, I went to Heather's blog and this
was waiting for me in a brand, spanking new post of hers! What a lovely surprise and instant pick me up. I can't tell you how encouraging I find all of your blogs. I think my "real life" friends and family get a little tired of hearing about my "cyber life" friends sometimes. Rarely a day goes by that I don't reference an event, post or comment from the blogosphere. So getting this award just makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. The “Change Begins at Home” award is designed to honor people who walk the walk with regards to what they “preach” in their blogs, and who are trying to start in their own homes with making the changes they’d like to see in the world.
I think my husband and children might cock their heads in confusion if they saw this (except for maybe the "preach" part), but I am honored nonetheless. I have spiritually grown so much in the last 6 months or so, greatly in part to the support I've found right here. I'd like to pass this award along to a few women that have made such a difference in my walk, and have encouraged me through the tales of their day to day lives to live in such a way that God is glorified and lifted up.
So Kate, Debra, Faraja, and Alana: please step forward and receive your reward. No....not that reward, that comes much later, but I hope this in some way conveys the respect and love I have for each of you. I know that no matter what kind of day I'm having, you are all right here cheering me on and making me want to be a better person.
Saturday, October 20, 2007
10 Years Ago:
I was newly married to the love of my life. I had quit my job and moved to Portsmouth, Virginia where he was stationed until he was discharged from the Navy, and then found myself back in Houston with no job. Trevor was trying to figure out what he was going to do as a civilian, and I took a temporary job as a waitress (bar none the worst job I've ever had, including the time I processed fecal samples for MD Anderson) and we moved in with his parents for a few weeks, and then on to my parent's house. Thank goodness it only took a few months for Trevor to find a job in Carlsbad, NM and we moved there at the first of the year.
20 Years Ago:
I was a sophomore in high school, and very involved with my boyfriend (there are 4 years of my life that I can't ever get back). The only thing that took more of my time than my boyfriend was church...we were a two times Sunday and Wednesday night kind of family, and I spent every moment that I was not in school, dating or practicing my trombone for honor band tryouts, with the youth at church. (Yes, you read that correctly. I play trombone....went to State my freshman year...probably never going to stop bragging about that) I sang in the youth choir, served on the youth council and in spite of my involvement, spent a largish amount of my time pushing the boundaries of authority with my parents.
30 Years Ago:
This one is a little harder since I was only 5 and in Mrs. Curry's Kindergarten class. I do recall making a play dough ashtray for my dad, and being falsely accused of playing during nap time and being paddled. The culprit was Doyle Terrell (who turned out to be a bad boy throughout our school years) and I never really forgave him for getting me in trouble. I also remember very distinctly being aware for the first time of my foot falling asleep. I was sitting on my knees waiting in line before school, and when I stood up it felt like I was walking on platform shoes but I couldn't feel my feet. Isn't it weird the things we remember from childhood?
So now it's your turn. Where were you 10-20-30 years ago?
Friday, October 19, 2007
So here I sit, anticipating staying up late tonight with Trevor watching all of the shows that we missed this past week in all the madness of school, homework, phone calls, cooking dinner, bathing children, telling bedtime stories and housework. All I can say is thank the good Lord for DVR!
After staying up way past my bedtime, I plan to sink into my warm, inviting bed and sleep deeply until I wake up. There will be no alarm setting or worrying about getting to work on time in the morning. The weather is supposed to be beautiful this weekend, and I can't wait to get my steaming hot mug of coffee and my bible and sit out on our deck in the 60 degree air and have my quiet time while the birds slowly begin calling out to one another and the world wakes up around me.
I have things to do this weekend, but tonight they seem somehow unimportant, like all the details will take care of themselves simply because I will it. The birthday gift I need to buy for a party Sunday afternoon, the scrapbook that I need to assemble for my friend by Monday, the Sunday School lesson that I still need to study and the myriad of other things that I need to do over the next two days just seem like someone else's problem tonight.
So, here's to a great weekend. May all of the "stuff" that you have to do take a (temporary) backseat to some rest and relaxation. Don't waste a minute of it. Be still and take in the details. The fine texture of your daughter's hair, the twinkle in your son's eyes, the very sound of your home around you in the early morning hours. Drink it in and savor it because we are not promised tomorrow. Don't get so focused on the next task, the next item on your to do list that you miss your own life.
We laughed out loud ‘til we criedAnd the tears were sweetMidnight melted to morningA moment faded to memoryAll these daysThey just slip away through our fingersSo…
Don’t let goHold onto every momentAlways knowHold onto every moment that You can
We move on with no regrets to our destinyHeld by the hands of the FatherWe share His love and He leads us throughAll these daysThey just slip away through our fingersSo…
Don’t let go
Hold onto every moment
Hold onto every moment that You can
Running through yesterday into tomorrowDon’t let it just drift awayForget about tying the hands of timeGive every minute to the One who gave us todayEvery Moment ---Joy Williams
Wednesday, October 17, 2007
1. I am going to present to you a little acrostic to begin our discussion today. What is your latest NLIP? (Not Like I Planned?)
I guess my most recent NLIP concerns our small group at church. About a year ago, my fervent prayers to God that my husband would be filled with the Spirit and become the spiritual leader in our home were answered. We began attending a couples small group and became good friends with the core group. At the time, we were doing a study called The Truth Project (I highly recommend this study!) and as we grew spiritually, we were also growing socially. Trevor and I had never really had close friends as a couple, and this was a new and exciting experience for us.
Then the Truth Project ended, and we moved on to the next study. It wasn't nearly as engaging, and attendance lagged in small group. When we finally moved on to the next study, there were mixed feelings about the content and presentation, and faithful attendance continued to lag. Although our group had expanded beyond the few core couples, we were never all there at the same time and there was no sense of accountability. The group was larger than originally intended, and it was impossible to make everyone happy.
So how is this a NLIP? After my experience with the Truth Project and how we were able to open up and share with one another, I felt certain that we had found our niche. This was a place that we could come and be fed from the Word each week. These were friends that we could trust and encourage. My plan was for this group to remain exactly the same forever. Then it all unraveled and fell apart and we felt like we were adrift.
2. How did you react to your NLIP? Are you still upset about it? Happy about it? Baffled by it? Explain.
We were frustrated that very few people seemed to have the desire to dig into the Word when it required something more of their time and energy, and a little angry at the whole situation to be perfectly honest. We began to pray about our small group and for discernment. I made it a priority in my quiet time to pray about it and so did Ali, my prayer and accountability partner. I knew what I wanted to happen, but I prayed that God would show me what He wanted and to use me to facilitate His plan.
Events fell into place in such a way that I knew at once it was God working in our lives. One of the women in our small group took on a new small group as her ministry and by doing so, alleviated some of the issues of our small group not being so small anymore. One of the other couples felt led to take a break from small group for a season to focus on their family. This left 3 couples, which was what Ali and I had felt would be an ideal number. Enough people for free exchange of ideas, but a small enough group to foster accountability and encouragement.
Am I sad that the original group of people are no longer meeting each week? Of course I am. I miss that particular group of people, but because God is good, He has given me something else. I may not know everything there is to know about God, but I do know that He always works things out for my good. Praise God for being in control!
3. Have you ever attempted to step into an area of ministry and found your desire rejected? Did this cause you to question God and yourself? Perhaps distrust what you perceived to be your calling?
I haven't really reached a point where I stepped out and was rejected, but I know that Satan desires it. He wants us to step out in faith and feel as though our efforts are in vain, so that he can gloat when we backtrack and question God and our very salvation. He lives to plant seeds of doubt and fear, and the only way to overcome is to put all of our trust in God. If we are truly motivated by the desire to glorify God and to let His light shine through us, we may have a NLIP with regard to what we think our ministry should be, but God will reveal His good and perfect will in His time. We just have to trust Him.
4. Do you harbor any bitterness towards any individual or situation which you believe waylaid your best laid plans?
I did at first, because all I could think of was my own loss. The loss of fellowship with good friends, the loss of digging into the Word with trusted Christians. The loss of intimate prayer and worship with my group. But God uses all things for His glory, and this was no exception. He opened up a new ministry in our church, He provided me with Ali to personally encourage me and hold me accountable, and He pared our group down to a manageable number while avoiding hurt feelings. Although I felt out of the loop for a time, God was always in control!
5. Have you had a life experience or trial that left you with a shaken faith because it ended in an NLIP?
I can't think of anything that caused my faith to be shaken, but there have been many times that my faith was renewed and restored by seeing God's hand in my NLIP.
6. Based on Moses' response of faith to his own rejection, how will you re-evaluate your own experiences or look at future ones differently if a NLIP presents itself?
My prayer is that I will see every experience as an opportunity to glorify God. Sometimes that means getting over myself, if you know what I mean. It's not about me, it's about what I can do to glorify God. I am so opposed to change, and sometimes I need to just look beyond the immediate circumstance and press on toward the prize.
If you want to read more about the study, click here.
Monday, October 15, 2007
Sunday, October 14, 2007
The conference is over, and Ronna and I had a great time. Noel Piper spoke about the Psalm 91 woman, and really focused on the sovereignty of God. Because he controls (and intends) all things, we do not have to fear. We know with absolute assurance that His hand is guiding everything that happens to us, good and bad. He doesn't change terrible circumstances in our lives to glorify Himself. He intended those events all along, as we see in the story of Joseph and his brothers.
Joseph said to them, “Do not be afraid, for am I in the place of God? But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive. Genesis 50:19-20
My peace comes from my salvation and the knowledge that God is in control of all things. Not just the things that I want Him to have, but all things. At one point Noel said, "The limits that we put on God do not limit Him." It spoke to my heart because of my tendency to try to be self sufficient first, and then to run crying when I can't fix the situation myself and need shelter from the storm. I partition my life into "Areas Xandra can handle" and "Areas God can handle".
Foolish, silly woman.
God handles all things, from the tiniest detail to the looming problems. He is there. He is here. He is forever.
That they may know from the rising of the sun to its setting That there is none besides Me. I am the LORD, and there is no other; I form the light and create darkness, I make peace and create calamity; I, the LORD, do all these things. Isaiah 45:6-7
How is it that we believe God can heal, protect and love us but we have a difficult time believing that God is completely sovereign?
Then He said, “I will make all My goodness pass before you, and I will proclaim the name of the LORD before you. I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. Exodus 33:19
He controls it all....who will come to know him, who will not. If we believe the scriptures when they tell us that God softened or hardened men's hearts according to His will and good pleasure, then why do we not believe that he can do the same today?
I didn't intend for this post to turn into a commentary on election, but there it is. I can't discuss or think about God's sovereignty without being humbled by the fact that He chose me. I did not choose Him. Before He softened my heart, I was completely dead in my sin, unable to move, paralyzed by sin and my state of depravity. But God had compassion on me when what I deserved was an eternity in hell for my sin...what we all deserve. His love and compassion broke through the layers of grime and dirt in my life, and washed me clean to stand before the throne of grace a new creation in Him.
And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified. Romans 8:28-30
Thursday, October 11, 2007
Wednesday, October 10, 2007
Tuesday, October 9, 2007
First prize: One case (Forty copies!) of The Truth of the Cross by R.C. Sproul along with a copy of Jesus the Evangelist by Richard Phillips (that's a retail value of over $600!). The forty books are not to be sold, but are to be given away or used for evangelism. Just think what you could do with forty of them. That's ten for people in the church, ten for family members, ten for Christmas gifts and ten to hold on to for just the right moment.
Second prize: One copy of Jesus the Evangelist by Richard Phillips and admission for two to the Ligonier Ministries 2008 National Conference, Evangelism According to Jesus.
Third Prize: One copy of Jesus the Evangelist by Richard Phillips and admission for two to the Ligonier Ministries 2008 National Conference, Evangelism According to Jesus.
Note: If the second or third prize winners are unable to attend the 2008 National Conference, they may substitute admission for two to The Cross of Christ Regional Conference in Dallas/Fort Worth (November 2-3, 2007) OR any two books published by Reformation Trust.
If you would like to throw your name in the hat for these fabulous prizes, click the link below.
Sunday, October 7, 2007
We sang this song in church this morning, and it really touched my heart.
In Christ alone my hope is found
He is my light, my strength, my song
This Cornerstone, this solid ground
Firm through the fiercest drought and storm
What heights of love, what depths of peace
When fears are stilled, when strivings cease
My Comforter, my All in All
Here in the love of Christ I stand
In Christ alone, who took on flesh
Fullness of God in helpless babe
This gift of love and righteousness
Scorned by the ones He came to save
'Till on that cross as Jesus died
The wrath of God was satisfied
For every sin on Him was laid
Here in the death of Christ I live
There in the ground His body lay
Light of the world by darkness slain
Then bursting forth in glorious Day
Up from the grave He rose again
And as He stands in victory
Sin's curse has lost it's grip on me
For I am His and He is mine
Bought with the precious blood of Christ
No guilt in life, no fear in death
This is the power of Christ in me
From life's first cry to final breath
Jesus commands my destiny
No power of hell, no scheme of man
Can ever pluck me from His hand
'Till He returns or calls me home
Here in the power of Christ I'll stand
Saturday, October 6, 2007
So I call on you, my sisters in Christ, my fellow prayer warriors....lift her up. Lift her up and thwart the plans that Satan has for her. Pray that God's will is revealed to her in a mighty way and that her life will be a testament to His mercy and grace.
Thursday, October 4, 2007
Yep, you read that correctly. My six year old has had just about 5 weeks worth of bad days. If you do the math, his run of bad luck began just about the time that 1st grade started. Hmmmm.....could there be a connection?
Every day, Nathan brings home a purple folder with his homework, papers to be signed, permission slips and a conduct report. If he doesn't pull any marks all day, he gets a little smiley face for that day. If he does pull marks, he gets a letter grade based on frequency and severity.
The first week of school, all was forgiven with the words his teacher wrote across the blank spaces for that week: "Learning the new rules."
The second week of school, he received 3 smiley faces and 2 letter grades. Enough to make Trevor and I sit down with him and discuss behavior and what we expect of him.
From week 3 to week 5, he has had more bad days than good. We began taking privileges away (computer, Gameboy, time with his best friend, new Harry Potter costume for Halloween), hoping that he would modify his behavior and walk the straight and narrow.
Then came this past Sunday afternoon. We were at our annual church picnic, and Nathan was waiting in line to ride the horses. I went to check on him since he had been in line for quite some time, and as I was walking up I saw him hit a slightly older boy as hard as he could with an open hand on the back. Imagine the look of surprise and horror when I gripped the back of his neck with steel fingers and led him away from the line. That incident ended all hopes of riding a horse, and we left the picnic immediately. His behavior had finally disintegrated into physical violence.
When we got home, we sent him to his room so we could discuss appropriate punishment. We had (seemingly) tried everything, and nothing seemed to be working. We decided to follow through with a previous threat, and removed everything except for his bed and his clothes from his bedroom. He just laid there on the bed with emotionless eyes as we made trip after trip in and out of his room. It wasn't until we had retrieved the last of his things and firmly shut the door behind us that we heard him begin to cry. This just broke my heart, and I leaned on the kitchen counter trying to compose myself.
Retrospectively, this punishment was a little harsh, but at the time it seemed like a good idea. We told him that he would only get his things back by proving to us that he could make good choices and behave himself at school. I thought we had gotten through to him, and Monday morning we went over his behavior one more time to encourage him to be good at school.
At 3:45 pm, I received a phone call from his teacher to inform me that Nathan had hit a child in the face with his closed fist. I sounded like a cartoon character as I stuttered and tried to formulate words. I was literally speechless. Horrified and speechless. She told me that he would be sent to the vice-Principal's office in the morning to be written up and punished. We discussed his behavior and she was at a loss as well. He was doing an exceptional job academically, he was challenged in class and finished his work. She mentioned that he seemed angry about something, and I agreed.
As I drove home, I tried to figure out what could be making him so angry. I called my mom (who has a doctorate in education) to get some advice. After I spilled my guts for about 10 minutes straight, I finally stopped long enough for her to give me her opinion. What she said to me stopped me dead in my tracks and brought tears to my eyes.
She asked me what I had been doing differently in the past several weeks, then answered the question for me. I had been on a diligent campaign to pray for my children every day, and Satan was attacking me. He was trying to find a foothold on which to latch on and fill me with doubt about my parenting and about the character of my child.
It was working.
What she said was so obvious that I felt a little ridiculous for not recognizing it for myself. Before we hung up, she gave me a few practical tips and some advice for dealing with the situation. I prayed and thanked God for the situation and for helping me to grow as a mother and as a Christian. Although the battle was far from won, I felt a real peace about how I needed to deal with Nathan.
Without going into all of the details, I had a really good talk with Nathan that evening and I think that we made progress in communication. He saw the vice-principal the next morning (he received an hour and a half of in school suspension), and then later in the morning saw the school counselor (who taught my husband math in high school). I spoke with her and she gave me some good advice and we discussed the importance of Christian principles in rearing children. I told her that she was always welcome to bring everything back to God with regard to disciplining and talking to Nathan. We try our best to raise our children in a biblical manner, and it was good to know that I have an ally at school.
The point of this post is that this experience has made Trevor and I re-evaluate how we raise our children. We have instituted a "no computer, no TV until the kids go to bed" rule (which explains the dismal number of entries on my blog this past week) and we have family night every night. We help Nathan with his homework while we are cooking supper, and then after he is finished we do something together. Monday night it was a board game and Tuesday it was building a fort in the playroom. The point is that we are spending more time with our kids, and we've noticed a difference in their behavior.
Nathan has earned his room and Gameboy back with good behavior at school, and when he gets home in the evening he can't wait for family time. We still have issues to work through, and he's still going to have bad days at school, but we'll get through it together. I think one of our mistakes was that we were not adequately balancing our expectations for good behavior with reassurances that we loved him no matter what. I think that in his little 6 year old brain he thought he had to be perfect, and that was a goal that was completely unattainable (duh). It was such a huge mountain to climb that he didn't even try, hence the declining behavior.
Anyway, Nathan has had a dramatic change in behavior this week and I praise God that He has surrounded me with people who are willing and able to give me godly advice and counsel. And just so you know, my prayer time about my children has only increased because of this attack.