Breaking & building habits – Word before the worLd

I continue to take a look at the habits in my life. The thing about bad habits is how they can sometimes form with such little effort and feel so difficult to break. Yet, the ones most beneficial to us take considerable energy to develop and we break with ease.

I listened to a sermon series by Craig Groeschel titled Habits. He shared that by Valentine’s Day, 92% of people have quit their New Year’s goals and resolutions.

I wrote a post in case you missed it titled 6 steps to fail proof goals and habits.

Apparently, I live and write in themes. You know that about me by now I think.

A Slip of Habit

Over the last several months I’ve felt my morning quiet times becoming stale.

“Staleness is an indication of something out of joint with God.”

Oswald Chamber, My Utmost For His Highest

I’ve not heard God with the same clarity. I’ve approached my time with Him like any other ordinary task, something to be checked off a long to-do list.

As I listened to this full series, I began to think about my morning habits. In the past nothing came before the Lord and my time with Him. But now, I reach for my phone to see what time it is. I brush my teeth and scan my phone to see what I missed while I slept. I walk to to the coffee pot, I scan Instagram. Are there notifications or messages I missed in the night?

I pour my coffee, grab my Bible, pick up my phone and respond to messages, scroll for a minute, decide what I need to post, think about my day. Then I see the time. Where did all that time go? My quiet time is nearing an end without me giving my fullness to listening to God. So, I quickly open my Bible, pray, read, journal, and basically squeeze God into the tiny space left over after checking in with the world first.

It’s a habit I’ve created unintentionally.

The exact opposite of how I’ve always treated and protected this time and space.

“Guard jealously your relationship to God.”

Oswald Chamber, My Utmost For His Highest

I’ve been placing the world before the Word.

It starts with a decision

I knew what needed to be done.

I made a decision that God would receive my all in time. God would get the very first of my time, energy, and focus. He will receive my first and best.

When we make a decision to step back on the right path, it won’t come easy. The enemy is there distracting. So we fight.

The morning following my decision to break this habit, my eyes opened and I saw His Word first thing on my pillowcase. It was the reminder I needed about the decision I made.

Word before world.

I read the verse on my pillow and repeated over and over again, “Word before world.” I prayed before stepping out of my bed. “Lord give me strength to give you my first fruit time and energy and focus today. Set my feet on your path. I surrender.”

Surrendering the old

Before I can create a new habit, I must surrender the old. I open my hands and raise them to Him.

Surrender. The word God gave me for 2019. The word I didn’t seek or ask for. In His mercy He delivered anyway.

The world brings distraction and chaos and worry. His Word brings peace, love, and comfort.

What have I been doing to my soul?

With each step of my morning quiet time, I realized how firmly rooted this bad habit had grown. I had to force my mind back to Him. My hand wanted to reach for my phone so I put it in another room so I couldn’t cheat and pick it back up.

It wasn’t easy, which showed me this is a fight worth waging. I already knew that though.

Do you know what happened that morning? I received a fresh word from God. I received clarity on some worries I’ve been holding. My mind felt more stable and calm.

My King never left. He was there speaking all along. I’d just filled my eyes and ears with sounds and images that shut Him out.

The enemy steals in the stealthiest ways. Therefore, we guard. We protect. We choose. We aren’t victims of our habits. We own our choices. It’s not easy, but in His strength we can break the habits needing breaking and create the habits waiting to move in their place.

I once heard a sermon about the idols in our lives. He said when we discover an idol and decide to remove it, we must replace it with something good. Otherwise, that empty spot will find something eventually. Well, he said it better than that, but you get the picture.

We have the power to choose.

Here’s the steps I’m taking.

  • Place my phone in the bathroom at night rather than my nightstand.
  • I use my watch to tell me the time (what an antiquated idea. Ha!)
  • I look at my pillow and remember to pray and start in the Word.
  • I pray before getting out of bed to set my mind and heart on Him.
  • I preset the coffee pot the night before.
  • I have all my Bible study materials ready in my spot before going to bed.
  • When my quiet time is up, I check my phone. But I have to walk to another room to get it.

Just little tweaks and changes to help me stay the course.


Maybe you are like me and need visual reminders to fix your gaze on Jesus first thing in the morning.

Maybe you’d like to break your habit of checking in with the world with the first of your day via Facebook, Instagram, the news, email, whatever the source may be.

Maybe you are like me and you are tired of starting your day from a place of anxiety, worry, and fear and you are ready to claim the peace He promises if we seek Him first.

If you could use help in this area, I have one small tool that is helping me. Scripture pillowcases.

It’s the trigger I need to force my mind back to the decision I’ve made to start in the Word. I see His Word with the first and last of my day now. I pray that verse as I literally rest on His Word. Then I get up renewed by His strength, ready to stay focused on creating new, better habits.

You can see the full collection on my shop page right here. Do you want a custom verse? I do that too.

 

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Let’s keep marching towards our most intentional year ever!!

When she dove in a dumpster for me

For the first 5 years of Jacob’s life, he had a well-loved, treasured baby blanket. It had a name. Boppy.

The shiny new beginnings.

When Andrew was born, Jacob passed Boppy down to his new baby brother. Boppy became Andrew’s prized possession. Everywhere Andrew went, Boppy followed. To bed, in the car, outside to play.

As time and life wears us down.

Over the years this treasured possession began to look more like a torn, worn, and forgotten rag. The once silky edges were no longer present. The body of the blanket began to show its age with little holes. But it wasn’t forgotten at all. It was loved very well.

No matter the condition of Boppy, Andrew’s love remained unchanged. Smelly, stinky, holey – it mattered not. Andrew faithfully loved his prized possession.

When life turns.

One dreadful day of errands, my three little boys and I ventured to Costco. As we stood in the checkout line, Andrew cried out rather loudly, “Where Boppy go? Where Boppy go?”

His cries began to rise as panic set in. I frantically searched the stroller, the buggy. Boppy was nowhere to be found. I grabbed the hands of my little boys and drug them around the store as we retraced our steps. Every last step of that enormous warehouse.

Andrew’s cries escalated as he loudly called out Boppy’s name over and over and over again.

Feeling defeated, the 4 of us gave up the pursuit of Boppy and made our way to Customer Service. I looked for someone I thought would understand. She stood before me like an angel. A mother, a grandmother. She might as well have been an angel.

I explained the situation, but there was no way I could possibly convey the value of this tattered rag. It didn’t aesthetically appear valuable. It appeared worthless. By the way I acted, I’m sure she envisioned a baby blanket covered in jewels.

“Ma’am, at one time this baby blanket was soft, edged in perfect white satin. The print was full of little yellow ducks. But now, the cloth is full of holes. Not one little duck is present. They’ve all been worn, rather loved, right off that cloth. But ma’am, if anyone finds this blanket, they will think it’s an old dust cloth. It looks like it belongs in the trash, but it doesn’t. It’s my son’s prized possession.”

What appears as trash to one is treasure to another.

Andrew’s cries never softened or lessened.

I saw compassion in her eyes as she promised me she would do everything she could to find Boppy.

We left in tears, knowing Boppy was somewhere in that store and not with us where it belonged.

For 2 solid days Andrew cried in fits. He skipped all naps crying out for Boppy. At night he’d fall asleep then wake crying out for Boppy.

We were all exhausted. My heart ached watching my baby hurt.

On the third day, my phone rang. My angel clothed as a Costco employee informed me Boppy had been found. I burst into tears, scooped up my boys, and raced to Costco.

The woman handed us a ziploc bag sealed tightly.

“A customer found this blanket on the floor. Thinking it was an old dust rag, he gave it to an employee. The employee thought it was trash and tossed it. When I described the blanket as you did, the employee remembered throwing it out. But the trash had already been taken out back to the dumpster.”

When someone goes on a rescue mission.

Ya’ll, she went to the dumpster on our behalf. She went to lengths most can’t imagine. All for the sake of love and reuniting my boy with his prized possession this lady went dumpster diving.

She handed the torn, ragged, worn, smelly rag to us. Andrew didn’t see the holes and stains. He saw that stained rag through eyes of deep, unconditional love. He saw it whole and new.

It was his prized possession. His special treasure.

God created man in His image, perfect and whole. But man chose to disobey God. Because of this disobedience, sin entered the world. Because of sin, we have heartache, disease, death, and sadness. And this separates us from our holy, perfect God.

God set out on a rescue mission. One no man could fathom. He went to lengths unimaginable because we are His special treasure. We are his prized possession. He was willing to dig us out of the dumpster and save us when we were unable to save ourselves.

God went dumpster diving to find us in this heap of a mess.

The great rescue.

Here’s how the rescue mission went down. God sent His one and only son, Jesus, to be born on this Earth as a baby. He was fully God and fully man. Jesus lived a perfect, sinless life and was crucified on a cross, bearing the full weight of our sin on Him. He died and resurrected after 3 days.

Jesus defeated death. Death lost its grip on us that very moment. When we accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior, union between God and us is restored.

Apart from Jesus, we are a worn, torn, smelly rag of a blanket. Yet, we are God’s treasure, and because of Christ, He sees us as a perfect, spotless, prized possession.

Boppy had a name.

We have a name.

We are children of God.

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praise of him who called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light.

1 Peter 2:9

6 steps to creating fail proof goals & habits

Inspiration to set goals and habits.

I was so inspired by all the motivation I saw on my Instagram feed last week, the first week of a New Year. It seemed each post was filled with determination, clarity, and focus. I read grit in those posts.

For me the start of something new is exciting and challenging. I’m on fire because a part of me is addicted to new and change. I’m much less inspired to keep moving forward when that newness wears off or when others fall off the excitement wagon, or simply….when the plan turns down a difficult path.

Quitting when it’s hard

When Andrew was younger, he overheard me telling his brothers I planned to fast on that particular day.

“Mom, I’ll fast with you today!”

A couple hours later, I found him in the kitchen enjoying a snack.

“Andrew, I thought you were fasting with me today?”

“Oh, I decided to fast until I got hungry.” He turned his attention back to his fast turned feast without skipping a beat.

I can relate to Andrew. Without the proper mindset before moving down that path, at the first bump, I’m ready to jump off the wagon.

How long does it take to create a new habit?

I’m currently listening to the audible version of Your Best Year Ever by Michael Hyatt.

In his book he talks about the lack of science behind the idea of a new habit taking 21, 30, or some variation of these days to create. The rest of what he explained in this chapter really stirred my mind to think about the habits I’ve created and the ones I’ve wanted to create which I’ve failed at.

The struggle is real

I began thinking about the people who have reached out to me about wanting to get healthy and how they’ve tried and failed so many times they don’t want to fail again. My heart aches because I know the genuine struggle they are facing.

I can see how we could feel hopeless if we expect a habit to take root after a mere 20, 30, or 40 days. Maybe some do. But not the more challenging ones.

As I underwent the torture of allowing heated wax to cool and rip off my eyebrows, I chatted with the gal about habits and such. We talked about our sleep habits.

She asked how many hours I sleep and I told her how I am asleep by 10 and wake at 5:00.

“Is it easy to get up at 5:00?”

Before I answered her, I paused. It’s easy for me now. But it wasn’t easy when I started to create the habit.

In fact, it was so difficult I knew I needed to handle it like I would handle a very important priority. If I had a client meeting or a doctor’s appointment, it would go on my calendar. I would set my mind that I would make that appointment. There was no doubt about it. However unpleasant it might seem, I would show up.

When I gave birth to my 2nd son, I struggled to find time to read my Bible and pray. I realized if it was going to happen, I needed to wake before my kids. Because once they were up, I was done with any hope of quiet time. Plus, I found when I had time to wake, reflect, read, and pray before I stepped into mothering, I was a much better mom.

6 steps to creating habits that stick

Step 1: Schedule it. I scheduled my wake up time on my calendar. Literally. I wrote in every day: 6:00 am Quiet time with God. Set a reminder on your phone or your work calendar or whatever you use to help you remember.

Step 2: Set the environment. The night before, I set the environment so nothing would hinder my time. I set the coffee to brew at 5:55 am. I had my Bible, a journal, and a pen at my chair. I’d light a candle, turn on a lamp, cozy with a blanket and cup of coffee.

Step 3: Set your mind. I didn’t give myself an out. I didn’t say “If I’m not tired, I’ll get up.” I’d always be tired. And satan will do anything to get in the way of this appointment. Tired or not, I’d already determined I was getting up. (PS. Days I failed at this, God woke me anyway.)

Step 4: Refuse failure. I failed some days for sure. But I refused to give up saying it wasn’t for me. I just tried again the next day.

Step 5: Give grace for falls. Falls aren’t failures. It’s a stumble. Get up and keep going. Rather than beat myself for the times I chose sleep, I told myself I did a great job on several days. Now, I could build on those successful days.

Step 6: Move the bar. Over time, I set my alarm earlier and earlier. I now wake at 5:00. But when I first started it was 6:00.

You know it took me years for this habit to become so much a part of me and my life that I never even think about it now. Years, my friends. Not 30 days. Not 1 year. Years.

We quit too soon.

Most things worth doing take time.

Is it easy?

So when I answered my wax gal, I told her it wasn’t easy when I started, and it took me years to create a faithful habit. But yes, now it’s very easy. My body wakes on its own. I race to meet with God each morning because I know He is faithfully waiting for me and our intimate morning appointments.

Part of why I race to Him is the fact I’ve come to know Him differently now. I now understand He isn’t shaking His head in shame at me when I failed to meet Him with my coffee in hand. Instead, He touched my shoulder, pulled me tight, and said, “I love you. You can’t make me love you more or less. I’m faithful, not dependent on your faithfulness.”

Hearing His whispers of love, I’d raise my eyes back to Him. No need to hide in shame over my failures. He loves me despite my shortcomings. He’s perfection when I’m not. He’s love when I’m not. He’s everything I need. And over years of spending time with just Him and Him alone, I’ve come to know Him in ways I never knew Him before.

As I’m finishing up Michael Hyatt’s book, I’m learning the difference in types of goals. He says some goals are not achievement goals, rather they are habit goals. It’s good to have both, but not too many. Too many diverts our focus.

That’s what typically happens to me in a new year. I go too wide and too strong. Then I quit.

He also talks about making the goal specific. Christy Wright talks about this quite a bit as well. Both emphasize not making goals so general. Instead of “get healthy”, make it “Drink 4 glasses of water by noon.” Make it specific, set time limits on it.

One of my habit goals for this year is weekly writing. I used to write all the time, but now I’m running 2 businesses and homeschooling. So, writing takes a backseat. But writing is a passion of mine. It’s good for my soul. It’s a creative outlet.

I want to write once a week in a free flowing way. With no real agenda. Just me and pen and paper.

Rather than my past goal of “write more”, I’m setting a specific goal with time frames. “Write every Saturday morning from 6:00am to 8:00am.”

How about you?

Do you have a habit goal you want to create this year?

Can I suggest writing it down? Just focus on one right now. Don’t look at this big whole year of 2019. Just look at this month. What’s one new habit goal you’d like to set?

  • Make it specific
  • Set a time frame
  • Write action steps.
  • Make those steps small steps. Not giant leaps. Baby steps.

Babies stumble and fall. But eventually they walk on their own.

When you begin taking your baby steps, you will stumble, trip, and fall.

Just get up and keep trying.

Falls aren’t failures. They are simply opportunities for do-overs.

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Maybe one of your habits is a daily time with God. Or maybe it’s reading more this year. Or maybe you’d like to grow in your faith and get to know God better. I have a resource just for you. And it’s 100% do-able. In fact, it’s only 14 days long, about 10 minutes a day.

I’ve written Illuminate – Seeing God by the Light of His Word as a 14 day devotional to help you overcome your fears, anxieties, and worries by learning to focus on who God is before you focus on what He does. It changes everything.

Illuminate is available in 2 formats: audio and ebook. Both are only $10 and yours forever.

The audio version comes with a pdf transcript and arrives once per day over 14 days in your email inbox. The ebook version is a full download you receive right away.

Is Your Memory As Good As You Think It Is?

I’ve spent my life as a mom building traditions into our family. Even wrote a Christmas devotion to help families do the same.

So you can imagine why it shocked me to my core when I heard one of my children answer the question, “What Christmas traditions does your family have?” with “We don’t really have any traditions.”

Seriously?

We have so many traditions I actually have a notebook dedicated to all things Christmas. It holds Christmas traditions, recipes, menus, etc.

I slept on that comment and woke with it still front and center. It was bothering me because I’ve worked so hard to create in our family memories, experiences, and traditions.

As casually as I could muster, I asked my son why he answered that way. He didn’t remember giving the answer he gave. I tried jarring his memory.

“Remember, they said this. You said that.”

He looked at me quizzically. After a moment he responded, “Well, we don’t really have any do we?”

“What? Are you serious? Let me remind you and see if you recall them.”

I continued to list them all.

“Mom, why are you so upset? Those aren’t really traditions are they? I thought traditions were big things?”

“No, it’s a repeated experience. It can be something small like we have Pioneer Woman Blueberry French Toast Casserole every Christmas morning.”

“Oh, well, I wasn’t thinking that way.”

“Well, how about these? We have a gingerbread house competition every year. Or we make Rolo cookies every year. We have a competition before the baking begins to see who can unroll and stack their Rolos the fastest.”

His response, “We didn’t do it last year.”

I felt myself get defensive all over again. “Yes we did!! I even have it on video.”

I spent the next 5 minutes searching for the videos and made him watch them with me. It all came back. He remembered it clearly.

Yet, until I forced him to recall, he’d forgotten.

If we don’t practice the art of remembering, we forget.

We forget easier than we remember. And we don’t all remember the same way or the same things. We must practice how to remember well.

The Bible is full of this call to remember.

“Aware of this, Jesus said, “You of little faith! Why are you discussing among yourselves that you do not have bread? Don’t you understand yet? Don’t you remember the five loaves for the 5,000 and how many baskets you collected? Or the seven loaves for the 4,000 and how many large baskets you collected?’”

Matthew 16:8-10

Simply Remember

In 2017 the word God continued to speak to me was Remember. In 2018 the word was Simple.

And today I continue to hear these words together. Simply remember.

Remember Me. Remember My works. Remember My faithfulness. Simply practice the art of remembering.

It was the days leading up to Christmas I felt called, inspired, and driven by God to write Illuminate. The inspiration came after a time away at a writer’s retreat and after months of Him stirring a theme in my heart. One of remembrance.

This year has been a challenge for me in many ways as I’ve attempted to homeschool a high schooler, middle schooler, and a delayed learner in elementary school. All while writing and launching 2 businesses at the same time. I’ve cried many tears over all of it and the overwhelm.

Do you know when I’ve hit my wall or felt completely overwhelmed, the Lord has asked me to remember. Every. Single. Time.

It’s like He whispered, “My child, you are forgetting again. Remember. Simply remember.”

I have personally gone through Illuminate multiple times over this last year. God has used it to minister to my soul. He’s used it to restore my hope and put the tools in my hands to defeat the discouragement the enemy attempted to bury me in.

You, my precious and faithful readers, are always on my mind. When the Lord shows me something, you are the first to come to my mind. I begin to think, “I have to share this with my readers. I know they will be as encouraged as I’ve been.”

Illuminate released as a 14 day audio devotion. Meaning it arrives one day at a time for 14 days as an audio file.

I realized some people simply aren’t audio. And some people get stuck at the 14 day piece thinking they need to carve out 14 days (you don’t).

So I packaged Illuminate in 1 complete eBook.

You can now purchase the eBook and get the entire 14 day collection as one book. You can view it on any device or computer. Or print it off. I’m a paper kind of gal and printing at an office supply store is super inexpensive.

While the audio version comes with the transcript as well, there’s something about getting it all at once that some people really want.

Now you can have it both ways!

What God does flows out of who He is.

When we begin to practice the art of remembering and establish this habit, everything changes. Suddenly fear fades, anxiety shrinks, and worries wither.

Illuminate will provide the light your soul is longing for to see the path toward a deeper intimacy with God. For 14 days you will practice seeing the character of God like never before.

ebook devotional

What will Illuminate do for you?

Illuminate will teach you how to truly rest and be still like never before.

No more living overwhelmed by life.

At the end of 14 days you will have a deeper, more intimate relationship with the Creator of your soul. It’s exactly what your soul is longing for.

Who is Illuminate for?

For the one ready to:

  • live free of fear
  • release anxiety and worry once and for all
  • learn to rest even in chaos
  • grow in knowledge and love of God

Looking for a last minute gift?

Give Illuminate. No shipping. No runs to the store. No lines. And best of all, no more adding to the gift clutter. It’s a simple gift that will appeal to all.

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If I release this to God, will I ever get it back?

Clinging to what I treasure

When Andrew was a baby, his “boppy” held the position of his most prized possession. A satin trimmed polyester blanket passed down from Jacob. Boppy went everywhere with Andrew, especially into his mouth as he sucked his thumb to fall asleep.

Persuading Andrew to release his grip on boppy in order to wash it proved quite the task. A tiny glimpse into his strong-willed nature perhaps. He’d cling with all his energy, not trusting for a moment I’d bring it back in better condition.

I knew my intentions and plans. Andrew saw only his love for boppy. I saw my love for my child.

No matter how hard I worked to convince him, I was never able to truly make him understand I would bring boppy back safely. And clean. In better condition than when it left. I’d guard it better than he would because I loved my son, which didn’t compare to the love of a blanket.

I can relate. Can you?

Does God Want What’s Best For Us?

Do you find yourself clinging to what you want or hope for?

Do you grasp with the force of fear?

I think somewhere hidden inside us, we all struggle with the slight thought that God won’t protect us the way we think He should.

We have such a limited view.

Over the last year God has been speaking the word “simplify” to me. In order to simplify, I must learn to release and let go.

In the physical realm of my life, to simplify looks like purging closets and drawers. It looks like scaling back my schedule. It looks like learning to spend less money as I learn I don’t need what I think I need despite what culture and the world around me says. It means understanding that less truly is more. It’s not just a catchy phrase. Truth is bound in that statement.

In the spiritual realm of my life, it looks like a new way to trust that God is truly good and desires not to withhold good from me.

As you read that sentence, pause for a quick moment. The church-y answer is that of course we know God is good to us. But I think we sometimes say that because we know it’s what we are supposed to say.

We are tested in our beliefs about who God is when we are asked to release our grip on our prized possessions or our hopes, dreams, and desires.

All In

I shared in recent posts (Do I Give Sacrificially?) (God Dares Us To Test Him) how our church entered into a 2 year campaign called All In.

We are building a building, but All In is beyond the scope of simply raising money for a physical structure. It’s a realigning of hearts to be given to God fully, wholeheartedly.

For me to release more resources to God, I have to loosen my grip. I have to fully believe God desires good for His people.

And I have to believe He will bring back to me in better condition what I release to Him. And if He doesn’t, I must understand it is better for my heart and soul not to have what I thought I must have.

God’s love for us is beyond our ability to understand. We can’t possibly grasp unconditional love. Even love for my own child can’t make me understand the Father’s love for me.

Grieving the release

As we entered this 2 year season of All In, the first step we took was a moment of grieving the release. We had plans for our money. We had projects for our house and our family. We had trips we wanted to take. We had. We had. We had.

But God had better plans for us. These plans begin with a willing heart to trust Him.

The first days after we signed our commitment card, I felt a sense of buyer’s remorse. It was similar to the first house we bought. After we signed the contract, I had a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. Had we bitten off more than we could chew? What if’s pounded inside my head.

In a similar way, after signing our All In commitment card, I kept looking at the numbers. It would be impossible. Even cutting costs couldn’t bring the numbers into alignment. That’s when the light dawned in my understanding.

If I could figure this out, it wouldn’t be God.

If I could see the whole picture and all the neat and tidy spaces, it would simply be a created picture by our family.

No. This would become a work of God. One in which we would take a step toward Him in learning to release it all into His hands.

The moment of release

Our family has many “boppy” possessions. They aren’t bad. They are special to us for various reasons. And now we are in a season of opening our hands and handing over to God what we attempt to cling to for comfort, for security, for love.

In the first days of stepping into a season of All In, we cut every cost possible from our budget. Some were not necessities. They were just nice to have. A house cleaner service to help me keep this house in order in a season of being a full time teacher, writer, and business owner of 2 businesses. A gym membership to a really nice gym that held so many things I loved, including people (like a favorite instructor). Cancelling subscriptions. Going to a cash system of spending. No more eating out except for a super limited food budget. You get the picture.

Initially, I saw it as a challenge. I love a challenge. But as time marches on, the newness wears off. That’s the moment I really began to see God’s holy work in small and big ways.

Release Multiplied

November was our first month and the numbers didn’t work out on paper. As they never do in God’s economy. As a former CPA, this is still mind-blowing to me. Our grocery and food money spent decreased by almost half!! And no one was hungry. In all areas, God multiplied the fishes and loaves like only He can.

I felt myself relax a bit more. I could relax my shoulders as I loosened that tightly clenched fist just a little bit more.

When God Brings Back What We Released

Last night God brought another picture to my mind.

We joined the YMCA on a family membership. While it may not have the fancy bells and whistles of the previous gym, it costs nearly 1/2 of the price.

Unlike our previous gym, the YMCA allows 10 year olds onto the floor to work out, and in some cases, into group fitness classes. Andrew has begged for years to take these classes or use the floor machines. But he’s always been too young.

The YMCA near us has indoor tennis courts, several basketball courts, an ice skating arena, an amazing pool, and all the things that boys would love.

It’s a bit of a drive from our house. Last night Andrew and I had 40 total minutes together alone in the car. He and I took a spin class together. Seeing the joy in his eyes when they told him not only was he old enough, but that it was encouraged for families to work out together was priceless.

Trusting God with what we release

Watching his legs pump that bike, his arms lift those weights, and his abs crunch those crunches gave back to me in ways I didn’t anticipate when I grieved letting go of our previous membership.

When we had to release our hold on our own membership, I was convinced we’d been forced to let go of what would be the very best for us. And for some people it would be. But it turns out, for our particular family, in our particular season of life, there was something better God had in store.

He had a gym that would cost us less money, offered more in line with our boys’ interests and activity levels, more flexibility with our crazy schedules, allowed all 5 of us to work out together, and multiple locations so there’s never an excuse to not fit in a work out.

Actually, it is just perfect for us.

I never considered it. I had my fingers too tightly wound around what I thought was best for us.

God brings it back better

Last night as Andrew and I cycled our hearts out, I looked over at the determination painted all over his face, the joy pouring through his sweat, and I heard God whisper these words to me. Open your hands. If you release to me, I will give back to you in ways you never imagined.

My friends, He is good. One day I hope to believe it in the very core of my soul.

The prayer of our heart

Lord, forgive us for believing lies about You. Lies that say you aren’t good and we can’t trust you with the things in this world we value and treasure. May we open our clenched fists to you today. May we release back to you what we hold so dearly to. May we trust that You will bring back to us in proper seasons gifts you have in store. May we trust if you don’t bring back, it means you had something better for us.

Take us to new levels of trust in You. We love you, Lord. Amen

Are you ready to grow in intimacy with God? To know Him deeper?

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LORD, You light my lamp; my God illuminates my darkness. With You I can attack a barrier, and with my God I can leap over a wall.
Psalm 18:28-29

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The Christmas Collection

I’m a reflector by nature. Even more so at Christmas. So, naturally, I’m reflecting this morning on some past Christmas posts.

I sat to write this morning, but I realized I have many words stored up over years of Christmas writing I needed to remind myself of today. Sometimes I need time to focus on remembering the old rather than creating something new.

Last year I compiled one post of some of my favorite Christmas posts. You can access it here.

For all posts related to Christmas, simply choose Blog from the Menu, scroll to Categories and choose Christmas from the drop down menu.

In this best of post, you will find the following themes:

  • Ideas for serving others during the Christmas season.
  • A sweet tradition of writing a letter to your child each Christmas, tucking it in the tree for Christmas morning.
  • How to overcome Christmas anxiety.
  • When the season doesn’t line up to your expectations.
  • Lists of non-toy, non-material, non-clutter gift ideas. Experiences and memories. Gifts that keep giving, don’t break the bank or clutter your home and life.
  • Letting go of Christmas comparison.

Don’t miss these 2 posts:

  • My favorite Christmas post from last year Why My Christmas Can Be Incomplete. I needed this reminder. Back to the cross. All the time the cross, which becomes so commonplace, I fear we miss the beauty and magnitude of it in daily living.
  • Actually maybe this one is my favorite. Except the title. I should’ve chosen a different title. December is interesting in that people seem nicer and happier. More giving, less selfish. It’s contagious. Christmas cheer spreads. When it’s over, we are quick to move on with the march of the world. In this post, I’m pondering what each month could look like if we held to the practice of the art of remembering.

You are on my heart this Christmas. I glory at the community God has grown here. I’m humbled by your faithfulness to read here with me in an internet world filled with much more bling to catch your attention. I don’t take you for granted.

I pray your season is filled with a new awareness of the fullness of God in your daily life. May He awe you with His whisper. May He silence you with His presence.

 

Merry Christmas!!

 

If you are looking for a last minute gift that requires no shipping, how about an audio devotion? As you know, over the last year I’ve become quite the audio fan. It fits into our busy lifestyles quite nicely. But also, I learn differently when I listen. So maybe you have a friend or family member who has everything and you can’t think of anything they possibly need.

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Maybe you don’t need to wait until Christmas morning? Maybe they need it right now. Like today? And maybe you need it too? Day 1 starts the day you purchase it.

You know what? If you purchase by tomorrow, Day 14 will end on Christmas Eve. Then, they can start again.

 

How to control screens in your home so they don’t control your family

When I began writing about limiting screens in our family, I was surprised to discover I wasn’t alone. It seemed many of us felt the encroachment of electronics in our homes and were searching for ways to protect our time and our hearts.

One common comment I heard, and still hear, is along these lines.

I wish my kids played outside more.

I wish my kids liked to read.

I wish I could get my kids off the screen more.

I wish…..

What do you wish for your family regarding screens?

The parents who make these comments genuinely mean what they said. I hear it in their voices and see it in their eyes. They truly feel at a loss and in need of ideas, help, or direction.

Over the years, I’ve spent much time talking, reading, and listening to families on this topic.

Two things to consider in taking control of the screen issue:

  • It starts with the culture we create in our homes.
  • It starts with starting with the end in mind.

Set the Home Culture

When we moved to Nebraska and visited our church for the first time, we immediately sensed the unique culture. Over the next several weeks, we saw it was a church that had a deeply established culture of servanthood and self-feeders. The congregation didn’t show up to be served and spoon fed the Word. They showed up eager to jump in and serve. And they showed up with their Bibles having spent the week studying the Word on their own and in groups.

It started with the leadership of the church. These were values important to the leaders. They modeled and lived out the culture they wanted to create.

In a similar way, we as parents are leaders in our homes and have the unique opportunity to create a family culture. In order to do this effectively, we can’t be concerned with what “everyone else” is doing. We have to keep our eyes in our own lane. Where do we want to drive our family?

How to limit screen time

In our home we never had the tv on in the background, and we never allowed our kids to simply turn on the tv whenever they felt like it. The same holds true for gaming devices or any screen for that matter.

We have a time and place for screens. We control screens so they don’t control our family.

When our kids were small, we had dedicated tv time. From the beginning screens functioned within boundaries set by us, the parents. As the parent, this is our role to set and monitor these boundaries. We didn’t hand this over to the children because children don’t know what is best for them. Two hours on a device is like 5 minutes to a child.

As our kids grew older, those boundaries remained. They earned more time and greater freedom with age and responsibility, but our family culture remains today the way we created it all those years ago.

Start with the end in mind.

It was highly important to me to have teenagers who wanted to hang around us, who were respectful and kind, and who didn’t live in their own selfish worlds. It’s impossible to one day mold a teenager when they are 13 into what we hope they will be. Instead we begin the day they are born. We spend time with them, we pour love into them, we teach, mold, and develop for years.

With screens, because they can be so invasive in the home, we begin with the end in mind.

If I want a teenager who lives connected to our family more than a device, then I’m careful when he’s a baby or toddler not to put a screen in his hand as a babysitter. What we do in the beginning sets patterns for later.

At the same time, it’s never too late to start again. To create new boundaries and communicate your love and commitment to your family.

If I want a teenager who isn’t completely selfish, I don’t as a baby give him a screen to calm him down or get him to do what I want as we go through our day. I don’t give him a screen so I can do what I want.

It’s hard, it’s sacrificial. It’s a long haul view for sure. But it is so very worth the time and energy it requires of us as parents.

Now when parents tell me the greatest struggle is getting their kids off the screens, I ask them if they allow screens to be turned on without parent permission. I know that if from the beginning we had allowed our kids to turn on the tv or play a gaming device whenever they felt like it, that is all they would want to do to this day. They would have never chosen to play outside or read a book. But screens weren’t an option to turn on whenever they felt like it.

We grow what we feed our appetites.

If our kids feed on screens, their appetites for screens grows. Same for us as adults.

Screens must live within the family’s boundaries. If not, screens will attempt a takeover of the family, and before long, it will feel like screens are in charge.

There is hope. There really is!

Over the years I’ve received my fair share of ugly emails from people telling me how my kids will end up hating me one day. How they will feel excluded and left out. I believe this is a fear many parents have. Often we cave to our fears and begin to allow screens to rule.

When kids understand the why and the heart behind the why, they get it.

From the beginning we discussed the issues and dangers of allowing screens to dominate our lives. We discussed the heart issues. Most importantly, we focused on building the relationship. As Josh McDowell wisely says, “Rules without relationship leads to rebellion.” Build the relationship.

Our kids understand we are for them not against them. As a family, we are on the same team. We are Team Robinson.

The issue runs deeper than many parents have yet to consider. It’s deeply spiritual. When we place screens within protective boundaries, we are training our kids to master the cravings of the flesh rather than live slave to their flesh.

One argument is to give the kids all the screen time they want so they can learn to handle it.

Well, they can’t. Instead they will often find themselves bound to it.

We don’t place before a toddler a bounty of vegetables and candy and say, “They need to know how to handle this on their own.” No, we know what they would choose.

Over time, they would lose all taste for vegetables and find themselves highly sugar addicted. And we all know the spiral of the sugar crash in a child.

Screens are addictive. When our children are in their growing and forming years, it’s our job to protect their hearts and their minds. To teach them what is best for them.

My middle son leans more toward being a spender over a saver. When he was much younger, if he had $5 for 5 minutes that was a miracle. Money in his hand didn’t remain long. He was very impulsive too. We’d go into a store, and if he had money, he’d suddenly find something he thought he had to have.

For awhile I let him try to control his own spending. I told myself it was his money and the best way to learn is the hard way. But I began to see something quite sad take shape. He couldn’t control himself. No matter how many hard lessons, he didn’t seem to learn. In fact, the struggle only became more difficult for him.

He would feel guilt and shame over his choices. He’d be filled with sadness and regret. He saw all the lessons, but he felt powerless in the moment of decision to make the right choice.

Parents, this is so often what happens to our kids when we let them control their screen time. What takes form in their hearts is damaging over time.

So Zachary and I worked together on his spending. We discussed the heart issues. We discussed how this is a small issue now but at 20, it would be a bigger issue. He trusted me and knew I wanted to help him.

So when we went to stores, even though it was “his money”, I no longer allowed him to spend the money impulsively. If we hadn’t planned for it, we didn’t purchase it. He would leave without spending the money and spend a week thinking about it.

You know what happened? When the chemical rush wore off, he never went back to the store for those purchases.

We’ve spent years doing this with him now. He is gaining greater control by allowing us to help him by placing boundaries around his spending.

This applies to screens with our kids. They often simply can’t see what is best for them. They may not know they need us to place those boundaries, but they do.

They will never choose today based on what’s best for them in 20 years. They can’t possibly because they don’t have an adult brain yet.

This is our role as parents. It is loving and kind to place screens within our limits. When kids understand the why behind what we do, they may not love it initially, but they respect it. And over time, you may be surprised when they thank you for placing those limits around them.

I have written for the last 5 years on this topic. It’s a passion of mine because I want to see deeply connected families thriving. If you want to read more, simply choose Categories, Electronics from the Blog page or click here.

If you’d like to receive posts via email, simply click here. Bonus – you will receive some fun free downloads that will help you connect with your kids!