Sowing Seeds

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“He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness.” 2 Corinthians 9:10

What seeds have you been given?

In late December of 2015 I was blessed to cross paths with the Patriot Journalist Network, where I met the founder, Mark Prasek.  As a former coach, I quickly learned that his passion is to add value to others, and whether he realizes it or not,

he is influencing the influencers.

By providing a 24/7 forum online, like-minded people who are burdened for our nation, can come together and make a difference collectively online.  During several chat room discussions with the other members, Mark set an important example.  He encouraged others to use what you have already been given.

Seeds

As I was praying for my family, church, community, and nation, the Lord pricked my heart and I thought, “What is it that I have already been given?”

The Lord has given us a home, and a large family who all love Him.

A husband who is gifted in song writing and worship leading, with a powerful life story.

Love of cooking and hosting

Years of experience planning major events from fund raisers to formal balls for our local homeschooling community.

Through a series of events and confirmations, a vision was born.  Our family began to host monthly potluck dinners followed by a sweet time of music and testimony led by my husband.

These evenings are called GATEWAY

With so many of our family members touching different circles in the community, we decided to open it up to anyone who wanted to attend and allow our kids to invite their friends.

Paul says in 2 Cor. 10:13, “But we will not boast beyond limits, but will boast only with regard to the area of influence God assigned to us, to reach even you.” 

You see, the Lord has given each of us an “area of influence” where we can reach out and influence others.  It may be a momma reading a bedtime story to her young children,  a college student hosting a bible study in his apartment, an educator teaching students how to write pro-life speeches,  or a data engineer creating an online forum where thousands of powerful tweets are sent out daily.

We’ve all been given something by God, and a circle of influence that He wants to use to further His kingdom.

What about you?

What are your seeds?

I encourage you today to sow YOUR seeds with VISION.

 

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!

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Strength Made Perfect

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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

 

 

Speed of the Leader

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Leadership…

Who comes to mind when you hear this word?

Government Officials? Military Generals?  Naval officers? Company Presidents? Corporate Executives?  Local Pastors or maybe even Little League Coaches?

How about Stay-at-home Moms?

Do you think of a Mom when you think of Leadership?

Do you think of yourself?

Why not?

Moms, you ARE all leaders in your home, and your TRIBE is watching you. Not only do you lead them daily as you help guide them through simple routines, but you are modeling for them how they are eventually to lead themselves. Yesterday I was visiting with a close friend, who has three young kids ages 5, 3, and 2.  She didn’t see herself as a leader, and I told her that YES she was.  She was leading those young hearts every day, and she was setting a Godly example to other moms of how to be a faithful wife, a caring friend, and a steadfast mother.  Then my oldest son shared a quote he had just read by Brene Brown, in her  best selling book, Daring Greatly…

“I believe a leader is anyone who holds her- or himself accountable for finding potential in others.” ~Brene Brown

Isn’t this the epitome of motherhood?

John Maxwell says that, “Everything rises and fall on leadership; the speed of the leader determines the speed of the pack.”

Recently, I was fortunate to be in the company of some amazing moms at a staff meeting for our local Classical Education program.

The director encouraged all of us to begin a personal enrichment plan in order to grow personally, academically, and spiritually.  We were each challenged to identify the types of activities which recharge us and work to implement those activities weekly into our schedule.  In order to grow as a leader, we need to develop ourselves in Body, Mind, and Soul. I recommend scheduling time every weekend to lay out what Stephen Covey teaches as the WEEKLY COMPASS, where instead of focusing on your to do list for the week, you first identify four different areas in your personal life that you can work to improve on, one thing at a time, followed by your 7 keys rolls each week.  (More on that soon).

If mom as leader is working to improve herself on a regular basis, be it running on the treadmill, memorizing scripture, reading good books, working on a political campaign, or even taking online classes, then each of these things communicates to her children that we never “arrive” on the journey, we are always continuing to grow.

It’s called personal development.  School doesn’t end at 12th grade, spiritual growth isn’t over at salvation, and health and wellness are a life style, not a passing phase.

I believe that anything worth doing, is worth doing well.

Including motherhood.

What can you do today that will recharge you?  How do you weekly work on adding value to your own body, mind, and soul?  Your children are watching you.

The speed of the leader determines the speed of the pack.

The hand that rocks the cradle…

 

 

 

Sowing in Marriages

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A couple of weeks ago on Valentine’s Day I was at the home of a friend of mine who was entertaining her five young grandkids for a week so that her daughter could travel on a much needed, long overdue anniversary trip with her husband.

This was no ordinary week with Grandma!

Those kids had more fun packed into one week than their mom admittedly can pack into six months. They spent a long day at the Children’s Museum, went to the park, a petting zoo, the movies, played outside all day, and even hosted a massive Valentine’s Party for about 30 young kids ages 12 and under. The party I attended with my five younger kids was loaded with sugar and sunshine, painting, go-carts, pizza making, and cookie decorating.

It was a perfect day, and her grandkids didn’t give a second thought that day to the fact that mom and dad were away at a resort in Mexico. When mom and dad came home, not only were their love tanks full from time away and alone, but their kid’s love tanks were overflowing from an action packed week with the grandparents.

This got me to thinking

If more of us set aside our own personal schedules and routines, and embraced the children of a couple in need of a long overdue get-a-way…

Maybe we wouldn’t see a 60% failure rate in marriages?

If more of us actively sought out a struggling young couple with small children, or teens at home, who might be in need of a long date night…

…maybe we could save just one marriage?

I heard on the radio a few weeks ago a powerful message from Andy Stanley, he was speaking to the Christian church who often have the mindset that we have a greater impact on the world when we host marriage conferences for hundreds of couples, or travel to the foreign mission field and preach to thousands of people, or when we give to causes that put water wells in third world nations and save entire villages, or traveling to orphanages to volunteer  for a couple of weeks sharing God’s love to dozens of orphans?

All these things are wonderful acts of service, but how many of us can (and will) drop everything and do something “BIG” for God?

Andy Stanley made a powerful statement that morning on the radio that I won’t forget,

“DO FOR THE ONE, WHAT YOU WISH YOU COULD DO FOR THE MANY”

Look around you this week.  Somewhere nearby, there may be a couple in need of alone time.

Perhaps a date night, a three or four day retreat, or even a week long get-a-way?

We reap what we sow.

Who’s marriage are YOU helping?

 

When They Leave

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It was a normal Monday.  With the flu in the house, I wasn’t sure which child I would be up with in the early morning hours, but I knew someone would need something for their fever.

Up at 3am.

I had even beat my 20 year old Starbucks-early-morning-barista-daughter up.   She would be leaving the house at 4:30am.  The two year old wasn’t going back to bed.  She was up and didn’t know what she wanted exactly, but she knew it needed to involve momma right next to her.  There was no consoling her other than rocking her and singing softly to her as the Motrin took effect.  As she began to settle down, the kitchen was now calling.  Being up early with the younger kids allowed me a chance to make an early morning breakfast for my college student who was headed out to campus for a full day of summer classes.  As the day unfolded, I knew it was a good time to get into that school room and organize all those school papers and clean out all the backpacks before something started growing in them.  While the house was a flurry, little girls were drawing pictures for their big brother who was off at camp, my 16 year old daughter getting ready to take one of her sisters on that promised trip to the pool.

2pm: I grab a quick nap, my work-from-home hubby is headed to an appointment and we kiss goodbye.

It’s now 2:45 in the afternoon and I need to meet a student I’m tutoring at the library soon.  With the dinner instructions explained to the teen in charge, and the preferred chores requested, I head out to teach.

3:30 at the library, my student has arrived late and I get a text.

Cassidy:  Mom….Abby is being horrible. Will you talk to her?  She has been rude, disobedient, and back talking. She’s told me she hates me over 8 times and counting and she keeps screaming like I’ve been hurting her, when in fact I haven’t touched her.  She’s being SO dramatic!!

Me: Send her to my room and let her lay down. I will call her

Cassidy: I tried to. She won’t listen.

Me: I’m in the library and can’t talk yet. Please call dad. Try another approach with her. Just leave her be. Tell her calmly that her sister is resting and she needs to cooperate.

Cass: I’ve tried EVERYTHING. She won’t listen, when she goes to your room, she wakes up Charis!

Me (to my student), “Will you excuse me a minute?”  I head to the stairwell and proceeded to try and mediate remotely a household that has been recovering from the flu with emotions high.  I knew everyone was on edge and I innocently thought that a two hour trip away from home would be uneventful.  Boy, was I wrong.

The offender had her say, and finally calmed down.

Time to leave the library. I’m now headed to the bank.  So far a normal day.

Then it happened.

My oldest daughter called me.  She’s the one living at home, has just graduated college, soon to be married in one month.  I hadn’t seen her in a couple of days since she had met her fiancé at the airport and spent the day before with him.  She had worked a full shift that morning and was asleep when I left the house.

Beth:  Mom, are you coming home?

Me: Not yet, I have one more student to tutor.

Beth: Mom, he got the job.

Then I knew.

It hadn’t hit me till that moment.

She was leaving.

I knew it would happen, we have been planning a wedding for six months.  But for some reason, today…I wept.  Actually, I couldn’t stop the tears. They were flowing and would not stop.  I wasn’t crying because I needed her to fill some emptiness in me,

…I wept because I will miss her.  I wept just because…

I’m a mom.

Did I hug her enough? Tell her I love her enough?  Did I listen to her when she was excited about a new book she was reading?  Did I really try to make her comfortable in the home?  Were the years she was here a blessing to her, or something else?  Did we pray together enough?  Did I take enough pictures?  Did I tell her enough stories of her childhood?  Did we spend enough time together?

I cry because I am thankful. I weep because God is good.  He allows us to love as He loves…To draw from His well, His height and depth and width and breadth of unending, never failing love.  We love because He first loved us.

It’s true, and now I get it.  God really does just “loan” our children to us for a short season.

Then they leave.

Others have felt this way, my friends all warned me it would come suddenly.

And it did.

She’s my first.  There are seven more to follow.  I am hoping it will get easier.  It is all good.  Things are as they should be.  She’s marrying the right man.  She’s strong, independent, and loves the Lord.  My head knows that everything is good.

I’m just waiting for my heart to get the message.

Suddenly, those early morning Motrin runs, non-stop dishes and laundry, and interrupting text messages don’t seem so bad.

Suddenly, in that moment, I realize that I have one chance to pour into all my children all the time and the love and grace and forgiveness and scripture reading and worship nights and family meetings and coaching and story-telling that I can possibly give them.

I have ONE chance to get it right.

Before it all becomes a memory.

I love you Bethany.  I am so happy for you.  The tears may flow this month, but they are tears of gratitude and love.   You make me want to me a better mom.

To all the mommas out there, holding their babies right now in the middle of the night, one day they will leave, and you will be so glad you loved them deeply like you are doing right now.  One day, you will thank the Lord, for these late nights.   One day, you will look back, smile, and pray over the next generation who will carry the mantle that you have passed on to them.  One day…..

 

Sowing with Siblings

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“It’s not worth it” 

That’s the answer I received when both of my daughters came to me on separate occasions and told me of a minor offense they each had with the other.  I asked them if they had mentioned to their sister how they felt.

“It’s not worth it” was the response I heard from both of them.

I’ve felt the same way before too. Something small is bothering you and it’s easier to just let it go than to risk confronting the other person.

It’s not worth the TIME it will take to talk this out.

It’s not worth the RISK of being misunderstood.

It’s not worth the ENERGY to even bring it up.

It’s just not worth it.

The problem with this attitude is…

…that’s how walls are built up over time, and I was witnessing one being built between my two beautiful daughters brick by brick, day by day: Cutting off intimacy, sowing roots of bitterness, robbing them of love and attention.

Girls, I have noticed the last few weeks that you are not talking to each other much.  Is there something going on that needs to be addressed?”

This was our conversation before church one Sunday.

“No, Mom, everything is fine.”

“Are you both sure?”

“We’re sure.”

“I just don’t think you are being honest with yourselves, or with me because I see how you are treating each other and it doesn’t seem to me that everything is ok.”

Silence

“I’ve heard from both of you about the other person and so I know something is not right.”

Silence

“You know, God made you both very different from one another and that’s a good thing.  The friends you hang around with tend to be like you, because we like people who are like us. Your sister may not be like you, but God put her in your life to teach you how to love and be loved.”

After several minutes passed, finally the dam began to break and the oldest daughter confessed what had been eating at her. The other one followed her lead. The issue was much deeper than how it started weeks ago because the wall had time for the mortar to harden.

Each day the wall was being built brick by brick and I told my girls that if they have the attitude, “It’s just not worth it”, they will miss out on the intimacy God wants them to have now.  If they don’t deal with the pride that separates them and get right with each other while they are living in the same house, then ten years down the road when one of them has morning sickness, and a toddler running around the house and really just needs her sister to come over so she can get a NAP, she won’t have a sister to call for help because the voice in her head will say, “It’s just not worth it”.

Really?

“But, my daughters, it really is worth it.  It is worth bringing the truth to the light, being honest with each other, and humbling yourselves and telling the truth.  Relationships, true and honest and deep, are WORTH it.  Love is worth it. It’s worth it to go through a little discomfort now, for the intimacy you will share as adults. Strong relationships in families don’t just happen. They take love, honesty, and work.” 

I told them that I am confronting them both because I see the wall of separation and I love them enough to take a sledgehammer to it and tear it down. Walls divide, Love unites. Truth sometimes hurts, but the truth of God’s word will bring healing and restoration if it’s said in love and gentleness.

My girls opened up, shared with each other how they felt, and the minor issues bothering them, and experienced what a sledgehammer can do if used with precision and discernment: tear down walls and bring freedom.

If you have teens in the house who aren’t speaking to one another, realize those walls may be thick, but the right sledgehammer, and the power of God’s agape love, can tear down those walls.

I am praying for you today.

Take the time to see what’s going on in your home and tune into the atmosphere and the relationships of those you love around you!

[ I wrote this post four years ago when both my older daughters lived at home.  These two vastly different and fiercely independent ladies are now the very best of friends…texting, laughing, and sharing daily.  Hang in there moms.  It really is worth it! ]