Saturday, January 14, 2012

Student or Teacher?

A while back, a young woman in our congregation brought me a journal and explained that she was asking women in our church to write in it for her. She was hoping to gather bits of advice, encouragement and/or words of wisdom from those that had gone before her into this crazy world of womanhood.  Pretty smart of her, yeah? I thought so, too....what I couldn't figure out was why she was asking ME. 

I was a little taken back by the request and unsure of how to respond, so I laughed nervously and said, "Yeah, I'll take it, but if it's wisdom you're after you should ask....".  I didn't open it until I got home and only then did I realize just how little I had to offer.  There was great advice from Godly women already filling the pages and I only felt less adequate for the task at hand, so I avoided it.  I put it on my headboard and put it off until the ever-elusive "later". 

I am pretty sure I had that thing for months, all the while wrestling with the idea of it.  It wasn't so much that I couldn't come up with something to say, I just wasn't really sure that I should have been asked.  She was looking to those she deemed to be wise women, and I just didn't measure up. She had pages upon pages of advice from amazing women that had travelled much farther down this road than I.  Mothers and grandmothers, pastor's wives and missionaries, Titus 2 women and long time lovers of Christ.  What could I say that would be even remotely relevant or worthwhile compared to what these women had already shared?

You see, I was not much older than her when I decided that the plan God had for my life wasn't working out quite like I'd hoped and I could handle this life on my own.  I got pregnant with my oldest son, Max, that year. I was 17.  How could any advice I give to this girl be anything but hypocritical considering the choices I made at her age?  How could I encourage her to stay the course and follow Christ when I myself had been too weak to do so? I struggled with that one.  I cried out to God these same questions and for a while no answer came. 

And when the answer finally did come, it was one that surprised me.  God hadn't laid it on her heart to ask me because I had lived my life perfectly and made all the right choices, it was because I hadn't.  I wasn't being asked to measure up to the advice of other women or claim to have it all together.  I simply needed to share with her the Truth of my testimony and the words I wished someone would have shared with me at her age, had I been mature enough to ask. 

My life is a beautiful picture of God's grace.  He has redeemed me and made it more beautiful and blessed than I ever thought possible.  I am so thankful He decided that the tattered pieces of my life were worth His breath of life and that I have been made new.  I bet your redemption story is just as beautiful.  Whether you made it through life always walking the golden path, or like me have arrived to this day with a few more scars, you are loved & cherished just the same. 

Thank you, T, for asking to hear my "words of wisdom".  God has used you to stretch and grow me, to test my limits and increase my understanding of His love & mercy.  I am forever grateful ~A. Dancer

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Do Over or Do Better? - Gentleness Challenge Week 2

Here we are, heading into week 2 of The Gentleness Challenge.  How did your week go?  Anybody out there wishing for a "do over"?  I'm raising my hand!  That's not to say the week went horribly, but it sure didn't go perfectly.  I had some really great days and some not so great ones.  I have learned to recognize the time of day when I am most tired and pray up as those hours approach.  I feel like I had victory in some areas, like choosing playtime over household chores a few nights this week. It has alleviated a lot of irritability on my part and has helped give structure to our nighttime routine. Max has benefited from this the most.  He is much less whiny after school, because he knows that I will make time to sit down with him (and ignore the dishes, if necessary) before he goes to bed and do something fun.

"Yelling at a bud won't make it bloom"

That being said, I still have a LOT of work to do. I really liked what Courtney said on her original post, "Yelling at a bud won't make it bloom".  I read that, and think...duh! But isn't that the goal of parenting? To help our kids bloom and blossom into the person that God created them to be?  I cannot control or will a flower to bloom or grow by screaming at it anymore than I can my kids.  So why would I yell at them and expect different results? I think that might be the definition of insanity, folks.

I really appreciated the video that Courtney shared as well.  I tend to be the mom that nags and points outs faults. I don't want to be that mom. I want to speak words of life into my kids. I want them to know what Grace really means, and how in the world can they when I give them such a small margin for error?  I want to be more like the Lord and let my kindness lead to repentance.  I want them to be convicted by the Holy Spirit, and for that to happen it may mean I have to step back a little and quiet down a lot.  They will never hear the Holy Spirit whispering to their hearts if I am screaming at them. Although I have been very encouraged by these realizations,  I am only now realizing how little self-control I have in this area. Grow me, Lord!

So, as much as I would like to erase the not-so-great mom moments of last week, that is just not the way life works. I think instead I will settle for a "do better", I will give myself & my kids more Grace and I will pray that we can learn from every success and failure in the future.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Thanksgiving isn't just a holiday in November

Giving thanks is a habit, not just something we do once a year while we eat ourselves into oblivion.  It is a choice and a discipline, and it is not always easy.  Sure, when things are going well and all is right with my world, I am happy & thankful....but what about the hard days? The seasons in life when I am depressed, overwhelmed & exhausted? What about tragedies, heartbreak and loss? Do we give thanks then?  We should and we can.  Scripture tells us to "Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you". (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)

I spent a lot of time dwelling on this verse last year.  As I prayed and asked God to help me be thankful, to Be Intentional about giving thanks, it became a little easier and made my life a whole lot better .  I know this change has come not in my own strength, but because of His power and my willingness to surrender this area of my life to Him.  I also know that this is a mindset that I need to renew daily in order to stay focused. 

That is why I am joining with Ann Voskamp at A Holy Experience in her Joy Dare, to count 1000 gifts in 2012.  She writes, "So I write it down –This crazy Joy Dare to do it all over again because I need it, to make this the habit before all the other habits — the joy habit — and count a full 1000 gifts in 2012. He deserves all my thanks and it’s impossible to give thanks and simultaneously feel fear."

Her writing is beautiful and inspiring and full of thanks.  I appreciate her honesty and her ability to see the gifts, the jewels hidden among the mundane of life, and to encourage us all to join in.  If you want to take the Joy Dare, to count 1000 gifts of your own in 2012, please click here to read more & download the Joy Dare Calendar for January.  Have a smart phone? Get the app here.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Love is Patient, Love is Kind - Gentless Challenge Week 1

I am a yeller. I yell at my kids. Not all the time of course, but I short circuit some days & I yell.  I don't say this fact proudly as I am somehow justified in my actions. In fact, it comes with my head hung low, guilt in my heart and fear that I am not teaching them what love really is. That somehow my shortcomings in this area will cancel out or override the authenticity and depth of my love for them.  My kids know I am not perfect. Not only can they see it, I confess it to them...often.  There is no need to pretend.  I want them to know the truth, and the truth is that God is Love and in His mercy, He covers my shortcomings with his abundance and that is true love.  I show them love when I ask for forgiveness and when they extend forgiveness to me, I know they are getting it. They, too, are learning how to love.

If you, like me, lose it from time-to-time and want to be intentional about this area in your life I invite you to join me in The Gentleness Challenge.  Every Monday in the month of January, Courtney will post a video excerpt from her study of The Ministry of Motherhood by Sally Clarkson, that addresses this specific issue.  I will be praying for you as we walk this road together. 

Love is Patient, Love is Kind, Love (God) Never Fails.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Be Intentional

Oh boy! The last 6 weeks have flown by in a haze as I have desperately tried to take in everything going on around me. I hate the knowledge that while I am living this life, I very rarely actually participate in it.  To be with my kids everyday & yet feel as though I missing out on their childhood is a maddening situation that I am sure many of you can relate to...and that is just one area of my life in which I feel like I am 'missing out'.  As I write this, I can think of a half-dozen tangents that I could take & realize how undisciplined I am in this area, as well. Yep, I'm a mess.

I guess that's the bad news, but the good news is: Tomorrow is a new day.  I know that with the re-setting of the calendar many of us re-plan, re-prioritize & resolve to do all those things we didn't do last year. While the start of a new year is always refreshing for me, one thing I have learned through this last year is that I don't need January 1st to start fresh.  Heck, I don't even need to wait until Monday (*Gasp*).  I am learning to take Christ at His word & believe the promise that His mercies are new every morning. What a freeing thought process this has been for me!  I don't have to feel frustrated or ashamed if (*when) I fail to meet the expectations I have set for myself.  Hallelujah!

I am setting about this year prayerfully & with one all encompassing goal in mind.  This year I resolve to Be Intentional.  I will be intentional about my time, my commitments, in the way I spend or don't spend our money, while parenting my children, during my time with the Lord and in every decision I make.  I will also fail. I will over commit. I will get wrapped up in 'doing' & forget to savor all the moments that make life worth living.  I will struggle to stay encouraged & focused....and I will cling to the promises of my God and learn more fully the meaning of Grace & Mercy

So join me.  Let's be intentional about this life we have been blessed with. Let your kids see you laugh more & complain less. Play with them & forget the laundry (or dishes, or messy beds, or whatever).  Find the wonder in the small things and enjoy them. Savor every minute, smell and sound of your day and those you spend it with.  Find joy in making your home a haven for your husband and really LIVE your life this year.  Be Intentional. And when you fail, praise the Lord for His Grace for a new day, His Mercy for our imperfections and His Strength to walk in His promises.

May God bless you in 2012!