For the Bride

This devotion was written to my daughter who is preparing for marriage in a few short weeks.  It was written by her mentor and my dear friend Melana Hunt Monroe and read aloud yesterday at a bridal shower. There wasn’t a dry eye in the room. My prayer is that this encourages someone today.

“Endurance IS the currency of heaven” ~Melana Hunt Monroe

 

My beloved Cassidy,

The day you got engaged you posted, “We are overjoyed and can’t wait to see what the Lord has in store for this next season!” If I could confidently share words that would enable you to navigate marriage with all the joy and hope you have right now, I would in a heartbeat. But that wish reveals my tendency to shrink from thinking on a loftier, grander, heavenly scale.  I think I would be closer to God’s heart to share with you how He matures our love and joy and hope towards resembling His own eternal, unchanging emotions, through a million minutes of happiness, grief, dread, delight, terror, amusement, enchantment, disappointment, and ecstasy over scores of years.

 

Truth be told, we all deeply want this. No one wants to have the maturity of a twelve-year-old at the lovely age of eighty.  Your Father has a VERY specific plan to ripen your spirit, and He has designed every single step (every.single.step.) in a way that will give you the greatest, purest joy.

 

Though your journey will be entirely unique (because you two are unique and He’s designed your path for YOU), there will be common features of the terrain that His children recognize (remember Christian’s journey to the Celestial City).  I’ll share a few landmarks I’ve seen, in the hope that you will recognize and embrace them as they come along.

 

WAITING.

There will never be a time you are not waiting. Right now you are waiting (eagerly) for your wedding. You will wait to graduate, wait to find a house, wait to find out if you are pregnant, or with some, wait through months of agonizing infertility for repeated dreaded news, maybe eventually wait for delivery, wait to see if the baby is “ok” (I could write a lot on that one), wait for good news, wait for bad news; waiting can become agony. You will always be waiting for something, and sometimes that process is excruciatingly hard. God places incredibly great value on waiting well. Trust, hope, faith, dread, all imply that what we see ahead must be bought with intentional patience. Hidden in all of the hundreds of Scriptural admonitions to wait (even the whole creation is waiting eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God), is the key, tucked in the opening verse of Ps 62: For God alone my soul waits in silence; from him comes my salvation. Then repeated in verse 5: For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from Him.

 

You see, my dear Cassidy, every desire of our heart, if it does not lead to waiting on God only, can quickly morph into an idol. The process of waiting reveals what we value the most at any given time.  When what we are waiting for consumes our emotions and energy, when it is what our mind boomerangs back to, it becomes the thing that – when fulfilled – will bring happiness rather than the Giver of every good gift Himself. And joy from an idol is hollow, frail, and temporal. I’ve found that God has kept me waiting until “waiting” becomes a friend. Waiting, as a true friend, leads me to Him, and is not just a (frustrating) constant companion. Here you can be a great helpmeet for Tad.  You will lean on each other to wait well, being strong when the other is weak, to intentionally keep your focus on God alone.

 

Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths. Lead me in truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long. (Ps. 25:4-5). “Waiting all the day long” leads to:

 

ABIDING IN CHRIST

Do you remember Augustine’s prayer, “Command what You will, but give what You command”? When we apply his ancient wisdom to Christ’s commands in prayer, the commands become not only doable, but life-giving and hopeful (“hope is the present enjoyment of a future blessing” – quote from my dad).  It is strikingly evident when Christ Himself gives the ability to believe and obey His command to ‘Abide in Me.’ Faith is a gift; it is not attainable through effort, Eph 2:8-9…that’s why the perceptible presence of faith itself IS the evidence of things not seen, Heb 11:1) Many choices in married life are not ‘right or wrong’ or ‘black and white.’ Whether to eat this or that, live here or there, are not as important as the time in prayer together, searching, abiding in Christ with one mind.  This process can take a LOOOONG time. Which is why we have need of:

 

ENDURANCE

I think endurance can develop through three different situations. First, there is a kind of enduring where, though the trial is real, painful, and wearisome (even vexing), the outcome is visible and sure. An example would be these last creeping, slow days before your wedding, or the last agonizingly long month of a pregnancy. Even a terminal illness like my mother suffered fits in this category. The days are long, but the end is visible.

 

Second, there is a kind of endurance where the outcome is unknown.  The trial is long, and there is no indication or evidence that it will resolve, if ever. The fiery test has no expiration date; although we can ask God to resolve the issue, His concern is that we learn to be longsuffering, develop patience, resolve, trust; to study, learn, apply, pray, and ultimately simply stand until He says stand down. I’m thinking here of a dear friend, a lovely young woman in her thirties, who longs to get married, but has absolutely no prospects.  Other examples would be waiting for employment or for funds to come in, or for resolution to a horrible family relationship. There is hope for an end, but no timeline at all, if ever. The process is the terminus.

 

The third “flavor” of endurance is when we know for sure there will not be a resolution or end to the trial until He glorifies us after death. Here, your own dear father’s suffering, and my little Eve and Lissy are good examples. Embracing His strength in our weakness is the goal. We can even learn to see joy inside of the sorrow.  Every time I look at my granddaughters I feel both intense joy and overwhelming sorrow simultaneously.

 

I believe endurance is the ‘currency’ of heaven. It has such extreme value, Hebrews says that it was worth the horrific agony of the cross to pay for ‘the joy set before Him.’ Love makes endurance possible. Endurance does, however, have a limitation: we can only develop our eternal capacity for endurance here and now – what will there be to endure there? What will there be to be patient with in heaven? So if we earnestly yearn for an eternal weight of glory, sorrow and suffering will accompany us up our mountains, faithful companions to our Much Afraid. But remember that the Good Shepherd does change Sorrow and Suffering into Grace and Glory!

 

Back to your post. The Lord has in store for you great, massive, verdant meadows of great joy for frolicking. Some of that joy will come as a gift, from the Giver of all gifts, who simply delights to give you delight. Enjoy it immensely. He also will have you wait, agonizingly, to the point you can honestly say “And now, Lord, for what do I wait? My hope is in Thee.” You will abide together in Christ, so that “you can ask what ye will, and it will be done unto you,” and through abiding, together you will “bear much fruit” and your “joy will be full.”  And together you will endure pain, because your unity will become purer and stronger and brighter in the crucible. Everything “in store for you” is already planned for your good and His glory. Embrace it all. Jesus is Lord.

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The Parenting Secret

sowwithvision


“Just wait till their teenagers!”

This was the common refrain we heard every weekend at the ballpark while cheering on our six year old athlete and chasing her three younger siblings around the bleachers.

I often think back at how I felt when I would hear those words: overwhelmed, fearful, confused, even sad. It was as if people were communicating to me, “One day you’ll be sorry for having all those kids!”

How sad

Here’s a newsflash

It is 17 years later….and

I’m not sorry

Recently, my husband was asked to give his #1 parenting advice.  If he could tell young parents one thing, what would it be? How does he raise such great kids? Without a second thought he spoke the most profound words…

Wait for it…

joey and cassidy

“NO MATTER WHAT IT TAKES

YOU MUST WIN THEIR HEARTS.”

He went on to say that one reason why our family is…

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The Heartbeat

6:00 am.

The alarm and the toddler both wake me up.  I stumble to the coffee maker and reach for my cell phone to listen to the daily audible Bible, while loading a full dishwasher.

The morning was harried and stressful.  It was the first day back to our weekly homeschool program after a long Christmas break.  Each of my kids arise and are dressing for the day.  Still dark outside, the air was piercingly frigid.  We busily hunted for shoes, jackets, and backpacks while we frantically rushed to pack seven lunches.

7:30 am.

We arrive at our destination and start unloading the van.

As the kids make their way to chapel, I visit with other moms. So far, a normal day for us.  My reluctant toddler decides school isn’t for her today, so I’m dealing with clinging hands, trying to coax her into her room.

My class starts in a few hours, and I spend the next hours researching and going over my notes so that I can prepare to teach.

When all of a sudden, my ordinary day instantly turns extraordinary by the presence of the living God…

Through a simple text.

It is now a monumental day…

11 am

My adult daughter, pregnant with her first baby, sends me a text following her very first visit to the midwife.

“I heard the heartbeat”.

The tears began streaming down my face.

My GRANDCHILD’S heart is beating strong!

How can I put this feeling into words?

The realization that your first born child, is carrying your first born grandchild.

Pure Joy inexpressible.

By the grace of God, I’ve carried to term and delivered eight healthy children over the past 21 years.  I remember the posters on the wall of the doctor’s office where I was sitting when my husband and I heard my oldest child, Bethany’s, heartbeat for the very first time.  I remember how we celebrated and wiped away the tears because God had given us the desire of our heart.

I remember that day and I will always remember today.

This extraordinary day.

When a text told me, that new life is here.

The heartbeat means just that….a heart is alive, and beating.

My prayer is that this child’s heart beat, will inspire others to continue to beat.

…That this child will send a message on the value of human life, from their tiny home, my daughter’s womb.

“Let the little children come unto me, and forbid them not, for such is the kingdom of heaven.”  Matt 19:14

I wrote this story two years ago. In the summer of 2014 Temperance Chloe  was born. She was born on the one year anniversary of the passing of a very significant Pro-Life bill that had passed the Texas Legislature HB2, which my church family and friends were deeply involved with in prayer circles and in Austin the year before.  I believe the Lord will use this beautiful young life to speak to the nation about the sanctity of human life, and the value and worth of every heartbeat.

More good news!!! Today, March 22, 2016

I got another text….

“We have a strong heartbeat!”  Yes, Grandbaby #2 arrives in October!

hb2

Strength Made Perfect

4-ways-to-turn-weaknesses-into-strength

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. ~2 Cor. 12:9

“Everyone has a disability. Some are just more visible than others.” ~JPL

What happens when a mom of many loses her voice completely?

What about when a pianist begins to lose her eyesight and can’t read the music?

What happens when an athlete is injured?

Or a musician loses his hearing?

What happens?

Recently I’ve been thinking about these questions because I have been battling a hard case of laryngitis. As the master scheduler running a busy bustling household, this has become more than just an inconvenience, but a major challenge. Using a pen and paper, I have discovered that I do not write near as fast as I talk! Not to mention those cute (non-reading) preschoolers having fun trying to interpret moms hand signals and facial expressions.

This past two weeks of suffering ‘muteness’ has caused me to really reflect on God’s plan in my home and marriage and all the ways God has used weaknesses to show Himself strong. It has quieted my soul, as well as my tongue.

We learn obedience through what we suffer….

Our family is no stranger to suffering. My wonderful husband of 24 years and father to our eight children was born with Cerebral Palsy which makes simple tasks like getting out of bed, putting on shoes, and walking to the car a daily challenge.

“How blessed is the man whose strength is in Him” ~Psalm 84:5

At 2.2 pounds 51 years ago, when Joey was born, the prognosis from the doctor to his parents was grim with a slim chance for survival. The news to his parents, still very raw from the loss of Joey’s twin brothers a few years earlier at only six weeks old, was almost more than they could bear.

For literally, 40 days and nights, the tiny infant lived in an incubator, while his creator ministered to his fragile body. Day by day he gained a little more strength…

Over that first year, the doctors told his parents he would never walk, never ride a bike, never go to school, and never even play a musical instrument.

But God had other plans. Strength was being perfected in weakness.

At the tender age of 3, this miracle child experienced another hardship, which would prove even more painful in so many ways.

He became a child of divorce.

His first 5 years of life were full of doctor visits and surgeries and finally, at age five, with the help of a very strong willed step-father, He learned to walk…for the very first time.

His mother decided that her son was smart, and he deserved the same chance as other kids. So she started her personal campaign to get her handicapped child admission into the public school.

He would be the very first disabled child in the school district to attend the public school.

Strength made perfect.

Public school was both a blessing and a curse. The break from the tensions of home helped him find peace, but the social pressures and school work at times became very challenging.

At the age of 8, after major surgery, he was placed in a full body cast. After every surgery he would learn to walk all over again.

The child loved sports more than anything, he secretly wanted to play baseball and would call out a memorized batting line up as he threw a tennis ball on his garage door. Loneliness became a way of life.

His German mother, who fought so hard to get her son into public school, was now on a new mission.

She would be the founder of the first and only handicapped baseball league. Joey would finally get to play. Making headline news, and finding support from local Houston Astros, Joey, along with his assigned “buddy”, would round the bases and experience the thrill of the game.

He was 11 years old.

Strength made Perfect in weakness…

But life was lonely. There were many questions.

Questions about life and God – questions his parents weren’t able to answer.

So God sent a man to their family, who gave Joey some literature about the gospel and the seed continued to grow.

Growing up, he discovered music in his loneliness, and has since been able to teach his children to embrace the silence of life, and to not be afraid of loneliness.

Strength made perfect.

As a father, he teaches them that you don’t have to be surrounded by people to find significance. It is in that very loneliness, that God becomes more real, more near. They learned that Jesus sticks closer than a brother.

He has modeled from the very beginning unconditional love and fought vigorously against a performance based love with his kids.

His natural talent as a musician was evident. During hundreds of hours of alone time, he would play his instrument. Through the sometimes lifesaving bi-monthly visits with his father, Joey began to play music professionally.

He was 15.

College at Texas A&M was not easy. He was on his own, and did not look back. Playing music for cash to get through school meant driving in to college station from Houston at 5am to make an 8 am class.

But this overcomer never quit.

With a turbulent home life, Joey poured himself into his music and playing.

In 1987, in a dirty hotel room, after a very successful gigging night, this broken man, found Jesus.

He was 23 years old.

His exact words were, “Lord, if I can’t live solely for you, just kill me now, because I don’t want to live without you.”

Growing in his Christian faith became a passion.   He served as a summer missionary in downtown Houston, as well as in Colorado. It was in April of 1989 that my life would be changed forever.

It was the day I met Joey.

Our BSU director introduced us, he said, “Joey, here is a gal I think you need to meet”.

All I could see was JESUS. His love and His light radiated from this man.

We spent many hours together talking about our mutual love for the Lord. And two and a half years later, we married. January of 1992. 23 years and 8 amazing children later, I am overwhelmed by the spirit of this man. His fearless attitude and overcoming spirit is contagious and permeates our entire home. He never makes excuses, and by example teaches us to do the same. He knows the source of his strength. He knows why we are weak…why God allows us to suffer…

to drive us to Jesus – the source of all our strength.

I have been so blessed to live with the most amazing, steady, loving, faithful, talented, visionary, passionate, and respected man over this past quarter of a century. The gifts and calling of God on his life inspire me more today than even when we first met. It is a tremendous honor and a privilege to be called his wife, to walk by his side every day. I am thankful for his love for me through all these years, and for how he has raised our kids with conviction and integrity and for modeling what it means to love God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength.

Micah 6:8 “He has shown you, oh man, what is good, and what the Lord doth require of you, But to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.”

 

What happens when a wife and mom of many loses her voice completely? When she is unable to speak and teach, instruct, encourage, train, mentor, love, and edify the family???

…She finally writes that blog post

His Strength is Made Perfect in our Weakness

 

 

The Strong-Willed Child


 

Sitting in my office, I am  listening to my 20 year old son make breakfast for his 4 year old sister.  The two are laughing and giggling and referencing different silly cartoon characters.  My son prepares to begin a day of back to back piano lessons as students and families come in and out of our home all day.  Our son is in his Junior year studying piano performance at Sam Houston State.  Each Monday and Friday I get the blessing of interacting with different moms who love to tell me about how much they enjoy the lessons, while I also listen to him teach his young students about discipline and control on the keys.  The value of doing something WELL…over doing something FAST, and I have to smile.  Mommas….he was my strong-willed child.  Enjoy the read

The Strong-willed Child

 

Are you raising a strong-willed child?  If you are not quite sure, think about it like this.  Strong-willed children are a lot like active labor.  For weeks leading up to childbirth you experienced Braxton-Hicks contractions.  There’s always that nagging question as you feel those pains, no matter how many babies you’ve had,

“Could this be it?”

I’ve given birth eight times, and I still have those questions and I still time those contractions, to no avail, it’s not real labor.  But, when REAL HARD ACTIVE LABOR finally does hit you, there’s no more ‘guess-work’, you KNOW you are in LABOR, and dad had better hurry up and get momma to the hospital PRONTO!

A strong willed child is like that.  If you HAVE one in your home, you KNOW it.  If you are ‘guessing’, you probably don’t have one.

Here’s the deal with the strong-willed ones, and I am speaking to mom.

HEAR me momma:

This child needs you to stand strong in your authority as his parent.

This child needs you to always WIN.  This child needs you to NEVER EVER EVER GIVE UP.  They need you to have vision for their future, because they can’t see.  They need you stand firm.  They will test every single ounce of your patience, and squeeze out every bit of your resolve until you feel like you have nothing left to give.

KEEP GIVING.

This child will be the one who needs to be disciplined every single day, possibly for years, while all the other kids watch in disbelief at the fact he is messing up YET AGAIN.  They will scratch their heads and think, “DUDE!  Just do what mom says!”

He just can’t.

It’s his iron will, and yours needs to be stronger.  Love him deeply, hold him often, praise him in the non-conflict times, and always discipline with a vision of righteousness.  Do it over and over and over.  Don’t quit.  They grow up fast and every day is another brick in the wall of his character.  You are helping to forge his character every single day you keep standing.

Each day will seem like a power-struggle.  It is.  You will notice that the house is calmer when that child is not home, and you’ll be tempted to let him play all the time at his friend’s house just to get him out.  Don’t send him.  He’s not ready.  You are in a battle.  God will grant you rest one day, but for now, keep standing.

Do not let this child win the battle.  He will fight to win every time.

You win

You fight

His soul is the prize

His future hangs in the balance.

You will say to yourself, “I must be doing something wrong, he keeps getting in trouble, always needing to be disciplined”

Yes he does, keep doing it.

You may be thinking…How do I reach him?  How do I train him? Nothing is working. 

Find what works and do THAT. Ask other moms, go to your elders and ask them for help.   Sometimes corporal punishment works, sometimes it doesn’t.  Sometimes time-outs work, rarely ever do they work on the strong-willed child. There are countless other disciplining techniques.   Mix it up.   Make every action he does that is willful disobedience, counter-productive to what he is after.  Allow him to get the OPPOSITE of what he’s going for.

He throws his toys up against the wall when he’s mad? Go buy garbage bags and put every SINGLE one of his toys in them and get them out of the house.  When my son was six years old we did just that.  I bagged up every item in his room and left him with a bed only.  He slowly earned back one toy at a time, over several months.

Teach him, “He who is faithful in little, will be faithful in much”. Luke 16:10

He slams the door to his room? Take the door off the hinges and put it in the garage.  Teach him that privacy is a privilege, not a right.

He pitches a fit in the grocery store because you won’t buy him the item he is demanding?  Instead of giving in to the tiny terrorist, leave the groceries at the store, and GO HOME.  Yes, it’s more hassle for you now, but you are buying your time back in the future and making sure it will NEVER happen again.  When you get home, look him in the eye and tell him that he will NOT be allowed to come with you to the store if he EVER pulls that again. Teach him that self-control is a fruit of the spirit. (Gal. 5:23) Then try it again.  If he doesn’t get the message, take his sisters to the store when dad is home and leave him home.  He’ll get it eventually.

Think ‘counter-productive’ when bad behavior arises.  What does he WANT?  What is the opposite that I can give him?

He won’t fold that basket of laundry? Give him two baskets to fold.

He won’t stop pestering his sister in the car?  Stop the car, and tell him to, “drop and give me twenty push-ups!”  One day, my son was bothering his sister over and over in the car. Nothing was working: screaming over my shoulder, empty threats, nothing.  It was raining outside and everyone’s “feeler” was “on ten” from the conflict.  I stopped the car, and made the offender get out in the pouring rain on the side of the road where there was only gravel.  He was nine at the time.  I told him, “drop and give me 20!”  Right there on the side of the road in the rain. I think he thought it was a joke at first, then, he realized all the siblings were watching him and he was going to have to deliver.  Nothing shocks a child into a sound mind quicker than the element of surprise, and sitting in wet clothes.

He continually bickers with his sister?  Set up a meeting with him and a church elder and let another man reprove him.  He won’t forget it.

He plays with matches when you have repeatedly told him not to?  Take him to the fire department and let the firemen lecture him.  I promise you he will NEVER forget that moment.  They are dead serious about fire safety, and have attended many funerals.

REMEMBER dear mothers: Do not give up on your precious child, no matter how strong their will.  They will be the ones to change the world, because they will NEVER let the world change them.

And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” Gal. 6:9

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