Archives for January 2012

Raise a Child in the Way She Should Go…Even if It’s Hard

Last night as I picked up my daughter, Hannah, from dance she asks, “Am I dancing on the elite teams again next year?”  I say, “I have no idea.  Why do you ask?  Do you have to decide now?”

“No, I have just been thinking and praying.  All the money we spend on dance could help so many people in the world.  Like Katie and her kids in Uganda.  I want to help them.  Just think how many kids I could help with all that dance money, “ she says.  “Maybe I could give up doing a solo.  I could give up the elite teams and just do one team.  Then, I could give all that money to Uganda.”

“You’re quitting dance?  But, you love to dance, Han,” I respond.

“I know, but what am I going to do with dance in the future?  But, that money could educate and feed kids.  And they need that,” she says. “I won’t quit.  I’ll still dance. But, maybe I won’t compete.”

“Let’s pray about that, Han,” I mumble.

A few weeks ago Hannah began reading Kisses from Katie.   I recommended it to her after seeing Katie Davis speak at Catalyst in October.  While reading the book, Hannah has continually educated our family with statistics about the plight of children in Uganda who need clean water, food, housing, an education, and medical care.

Then, a few Sundays ago, the children’s ministry at our church launched a project to support Amazima Ministries – the organization Katie Davis founded in 2008 at the age of 18.  (She’s now adopted 14 children and is only 21 years old.  Read more of her story here.)

Katie Davis

That project was like a word from God for Hannah.

She told me she’d been praying for a way to help Katie and now she could.  Awesome, I thought.

Not much more was said after that, except for the occasional, “Mom, did you know that for just 19 cents a child in Uganda can have clean drinking water?”

Until yesterday.

Little did I know that my eleven-year-old little girl had never stopped praying or pondering how should could help Amazima.  This morning, once again on our way to dance, she described her plan while reading from her “notebook” on her iPhone.

Her plan:

  • For my 12th birthday [coming in March] I’d like to have a big party at church, but ask for people to donate $12 to Amazima instead of bringing me a gift.
  • I want Nana to help me make heart suckers at Valentine’s Day and Easter.  I’ll sell them and give the money to Amazima.
  • I’d like to have the pretzel container from Christmas.  I want to decorate it and put it at the front desk at church, so people can drop their spare change in it.  I can even ask them during the service if they’ll let me.
  • I want to make a Facebook page.  I want to post statistics and information about the needs in Uganda and let people give money through the page.
  • I want to think about how I spend money and try to be more careful.

This is how she plans to Make Much of Him.

I bet most of you are thinking, “That’s great!  Aren’t you proud of her? What a great little gal!”

Yes.  I am proud of her.

But, deep down – if am truly honest – I do not want her sacrificing her gifts and party and special day and dance and all the things 12-year-olds want and do.

This is what other people’s kids do.  Other people’s kids are called to sacrifice.  Other people’s kids are called to the mission field.  Not mine.

Steve and I teach our kids to pray and listen for God.  We teach them to go with God, even if it seems radical or counter-cultural.  So, when my precious little girl goes the way she’s been taught, I should not be surprised, upset, or anxious.

Yet, I am.

I should be thankful.  I should pray for her and her quest to raise $6,000.  Yes, you read that right:  $6,000.  She did some math based on the statistics in the book and came up with that number.

That’s just her first goal. She actually hopes to raise $24,000 – in $6,000 increments.

I want to say, “Han, that’s really not possible.  You’re dreaming too big.  You’re being unrealistic. That’s a lot of heart suckers!“  I want to say those things because I don’t want her to be disappointed if she doesn’t reach that goal.

Pause.  I don’t say those words because I suddenly realize I am not practicing what I preach – literally.  This is the young lady we teach her to be.  Pray she’ll be. So,  I keep thinking, “What is wrong with me?”  I should be jumping up and down and my heart is heavy.

Little or no dance? Hannah is passionate about dance.  She literally dances from room to room and spends about 10-12 hours at the dance studio each week. $6,000?  No birthday party?  Really?

In the midst of this back and forth in my heart, I asked a trusted friend for thoughts.  My friend replied with this:

“The leading priests and the teachers of the religious law saw these wonderful miracles and heard even the children in the Temple shouting, “Praise God for the Son of David.” But the leaders were indignant. They asked Jesus, “Do you hear what these children are saying?” “Yes,” Jesus replied. “Haven’t you ever read the Scriptures? For they say, ‘You have taught children and infants to give you praise.”   (Matthew 21:16, NLT)

Indeed, this is what we have taught her – to praise and glorify Him with her life.  It’s time to walk alongside her as she lives out what she’s learned and what God’s spoken to her young heart.

Even if it’s hard.  Even if it’s not what I had planned for her.

Hannah is His child.  God has entrusted Steve and me with the gift of raising her (and Owen:).  He has a plan for her life that’s far greater than anything I could imagine, even if it’s tough to see right now.

While I can speak wisdom into her life, teach her His word and ways, guide her to Biblical teachers and Godly adults, and pray for her, ultimately, I must let her find her way – follow God’s calling on her heart – even if it’s not what most would call “normal” or “typical.”

Today was a lesson in letting go and letting God.

Are you having trouble letting go and letting God?  Maybe it’s not your children, but something else.  I encourage you to give it to Him.

Easily said, not easily done.

NOTE:  If you like to learn more about Amazima Ministries and Katie Davis, please visit this site:  http://www.amazima.org/index.html

I’ll keep you up-to-date on Hannah’s plans and progress:)

 

 

Burnout and Cheating: Conversations with God at 3 am

As I approached my front door this evening, I was overwhelmed by the smell of something burning.  Opening the door, I realized the rancid smell was floating from my living room along with clouds of smoke.  My husband stood in the garage door taking deep breaths, trying to get some fresh air.  Owen seemed guilty, and Hannah seemed highly amused.

As it turns out, Owen mistook a packet of instant oatmeal for microwave popcorn, which created a small fire.

This is the package post fire. The other side is black ash.

Both are packaged in a brown wrapper, but beyond that, I have no idea what he was thinking.

The package clearly said, “Quaker Instant Oatmeal” and looked nothing like the popcorn, save the brown packaging.  In fact, just last night the whole family had wanted popcorn, and I had said we’re out.

As I watched a sorrowful Owen, it didn’t take me long to surmise the root of his error:  distraction.  He was watching a basketball game with his dad, and although I wasn’t home at the time, I can imagine a hurried Owen running to the kitchen between plays, grabbing the first brown wrapper he saw, tossing it in the microwave, and running back to the game.

Owen operates in distraction a lot, and it often irritates me, but not tonight.  Tonight I saw a sad little boy.  While he didn’t get in trouble – in fact, we were all laughing – he still felt terrible and asked us not to mention it (or the smell) again.

Fast forward to 3:00 a.m, I am lying wide awake.  Nothing’s really keeping me awake, but a crazy to-do list that’s ping ponging in my head.   Sleep’s eluding me, so I gather materials and sit down at my computer to chip away the list.

And, God says, “Owen is not the only one operating in distraction, Sarah.”

Ouch.

There’s nothing worse than seeing your worst qualities – and failures – manifested in your own children.  Like mother, like son.

I have been operating in distraction since Christmas and was so…well, distracted…that I didn’t notice.  Ok, maybe longer than since Christmas.  Ok, probably most of my life.

I operate in distraction because I overextend myself, so something – some task, person, appointment – something is always in need of doing.

If nothing is in need of doing, I create something.  Free time often equals reorganizing my cabinets or starting a new family calendar system, or…  Sigh.

While staring at the computer deciding what to tackle first, the image of Owen’s charred oatmeal package fills my mind. Then, I decide email first.  I open my email, and the first line of Mary DeMuth’s blog from Wednesday night says this: Last week I burnt out {pretty much}.

Burning…burn out…weird. Or not.

My next thought?  The word those wiser than me have warned me about:  Burnout.

I asked God, “ Amid charred oatmeal packages and emailed blog posts, what do I need to hear? I feel distracted, but not burned out.  I know burn out.  I have experienced it a few times.  This doesn’t feel like that.”

He ever-so-clearly responded, “It’s coming. And, this is not about you, Sarah, because when it comes it will hurt and impact you far less than it will hurt and impact those you love so much…your family, your friends, and most of all, those you serve.”

He reminded me of a Mark Driscoll podcast I listened to a few days ago called Real Marriage in which Driscoll details an upside down priority list.  He explains how he and his wife, Grace, reprioritize after a tumultuous decade of marriage.

Their new list? Friendship with Jesus, friendship with one another, their children, and Mark’s ministry – in that order.

No other way works.  Jesus has to be first, Steve second, Hannah and Owen third, and all other fourth.

God spoke in my heart, “Burnout is coming because I am not first.”

When He is not the center.  When He is not the motivation for ALL I/you do.  When bringing Him glory takes a backseat to my/your spouse, children, job, or volunteering (even in the church), peace is lost.  Balance is lost.  Anxiety creeps in.

And, you find yourself unable to rest – arguing with God at 3 a.m.  I settled in knowing God had awakened me and needed me to hear Him distraction free.  (Funny, huh?)

He sent me to the book of Daniel.  A book I read today while planning story time for our church’s midweek program.  I recalled once reading a life-changing book based on Daniel called Choosing to Cheat.  In fact, someone had just mentioned that book to me today during a meeting.

Argument over.  Extras Internet tabs closed. God had my attention.

We all choose to cheat.  There’s not enough time in the day to be all things to all people in all places.  We cheat our job or our children or our spouse or our God.  There’s always an exchange:  I have 20 free minutes – should I jump on the trampoline with my kids or do the dishes?  Should I read God’s word or scroll through Facebook?

Or, much bigger than dishwashing or mindless Facebook scrolling, what chunks of time I am giving away to others that belongs to my family and God?

Who am I cheating?

I can’t answer that – yet.  I plan to refocus on His word and pray. Oh, the excuses will come – I know myself all to well.  “I can’t do this or that, Lord.  If that changes, what will they do?  If I quit, who will [insert all the ways I pridefully think I am important here]?”  Yeah, yeah, says God.  We’ve been over this before and because you didn’t learn, you can traipse through it again.

Thank goodness He’s the God of second (or sixteenth) chances.   The wisdom and power are His.  His grace knows no end for me (or you!).  He loves me so much that He got my attention early just as I began operating in distraction – again.

I echo Daniel’s praise from chapter 2:

“Praise be to the name of God for ever and ever;
wisdom and power are his.
21 He changes times and seasons;
he deposes kings and raises up others.
He gives wisdom to the wise
and knowledge to the discerning.
22 He reveals deep and hidden things;
he knows what lies in darkness,
and light dwells with him.

Who are you cheating?  Ask Him.  He’ll tell you.  I just hope it’s not at 3:00 a.m.:)

Honoring my Dad and Glorifying my Father

I live with a sports nut.  Really.  I watch more sports in a year than 85% of America…well, that’s a guess:)  I love sports too.  I grew up watching the Cleveland Browns, Cincinnati Reds, and West Virginia Mountaineers with my dad.  Actually, we’d watch whoever was playing.

Now, my favorite part of sporting events is the story.  You know those “behind the scenes” looks at the sports hero’s life?  (I think just about every channel is running a Tim Tebow story these days!)

Tonight, we were watching the National Championship pregame with interest, knowing that Nick Saban (Alabama’s coach) is from West Virginia.  Our whole family gathered to learn more about this small town boy “making big.”

Nick Saban’s interview centered on the influence of his dad, who died at age 46 while jogging.  Nick said of his dad:   “[He was the] one person I could talk to in the world that it wasn’t about his best interest but mine.”

I understand that!  My dad wanted NOTHING more that the absolute best for my sister and me.  This interview began hitting close to home.

Nick said he called home after coaching his second college game to tell his dad about the game.  Instead, his mom told him about his dad’s death.  Nick volunteered to move home immediately to run his parent’s store and take care of his mom.   His mom refused saying, “Your dad would want you to do what you set out to do.”

My dad would want that too even though “what I set out to do” always seem to boggle his mind.  He mostly thought I was always biting off more than I could chew…he was mostly right:)

Nick’s story continued.  He stayed with coaching, and tonight he’s coaching his third National Championship game.  He said during each game he considers,  “What would your dad say about that or think about that? “

His ultimate goal?   “I want to make my father proud.”

Coach Saban’s devotion to his dad resonated with me.  It so closely mirrored my feelings about my dad.

Wow.  Of all nights – of all days.

On January 10, 2008,  my dad passed away.

This day – tomorrow – never ever gets any easier.  I don’t miss him less.

On Friday morning, I walked past Mahone Tire in Marietta, Ohio.  The door was open, and they had a load of tires on the sidewalk.  My dad worked in a tire store and that smell overwhelmed me, reminding me of him, visits to the store, and so much more.

As I continued down the sidewalk, I asked, “God, please help me.  Help me not to mourn anymore.  Help me to quit counting down til January 10.  Help me to honor my dad.  He would be ticked if he saw me wallowing in self pity – if he knew I was still hanging on to some major anger about his death.  At what point am I going to give this up?”

Very clearly I felt this in my heart:  “I am my father’s daughter – my earthly father and my heavenly father.  I live as a representative of him and Him.  My life should be a legacy to my dad and a glory to my Father.” I stopped and typed it into my phone, not wanting to forget.

This is God’s message in  1 Corinthians 10:31  “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”

Every choice I make, I try my best to filter through this verse.  Regardless of what others think – regardless of the opposition and snide comments behind my back, I ask myself, my husband, and my God, “Will this bring You, God, glory?”

Somewhere deep inside I also ask, “Will this make my dad proud? Would he be proud of who I am? What legacy am I leaving?”

Whatever I do, I want my heavenly Father to be glorified.  Whatever I do, I want my earthly dad to be proud.

This year as I mark another anniversary – another year without my dad – it feels a bit different.  I am sad.  I have been sad for a few days.  But, I have a new sense of purpose.  Without my dad, I wouldn’t be here, so any glory my life brings to God – any work God does through me – is the legacy my dad leaves.  My dad continues on through me.

What better way to honor my dad and his memory than to live a Christ-honoring life?  What better way to honor my Lord and Savior – my heavenly father – than to live a Christ-honoring, God-glorifying life?

Whatever you do today, tomorrow, or next week, do it all for the glory of God.

So simple.  So profound.  So life-changing.

 

Your Greatest Need for Healing and Change

Have you ever heard something and knew your life would be forever changed or altered from that moment forward? From “we’re turning off Dad’s machines” to “you’re pregnant” to “he died on a cross for you; he bore your sin so you could live forever,” all of these statements forever altered my world.

This morning as Beth Moore spoke at Passion 2012, I had one of these life-altering moments when she said this:

“The greatest need we have for healing is something intensely private. Something we don’t like to talk about publicly. Our greatest need for healing is in a place so deep and private we don’t want to tell anyone. We hide what needs healing the most.”

Think for a moment. What is that “thing” deep down inside you that needs healing?

You don’t want to talk about it publicly, not with family or friends. Maybe no one even knows. Maybe someone knows but they pretend as if healing has taken place and all is well.

In the past when someone mentioned weight or a new weight loss program, I’d act busy or brush it off as a fad. I couldn’t stand it when anyone successfully lost weight. It was my secret. How I ever thought it was “secret” is beyond me. If you’re carrying around 60 extra pounds. People know.

Trust me, they know.

They know you eat too much. But, who wants to talk about that? Who wants to show up in a room and say, “I eat more than my share. I make unhealthy choices too.”

Absolutely no one.

If you’re overweight, I know you care. I know it’s painful. I know you want to fix it/lose it. If you’re [insert problem here], I know these same things. You want it to go away – you want to fix it.

How do you step forward, admit the problem (weight or something else), and seek help? After all, it’s humiliating It’s embarrassing. It’s painful. It’s heart breaking. It’s frustrating. It just plain sucks.

From where does that courage come? Where can you turn?

This morning Beth Moore spoke about the woman in Luke 8 who had the issue of the blood. Uncomfortable, huh? Who wants to talk about having THAT problem?

This woman, who would have been considered unclean, as would anyone she touched, was in a crowd pressing around Jesus. He was on his way to the bedside of a dying 12-year-old girl. The woman had had a discharge of blood for 12 years (remarkably the same length of time the dying girl had been alive). As she reached out and touched the fringe of Jesus’ garment, the blood stopped.

She was healed.

As the people pressed in (think of a crowd in which everyone is literally touching), Jesus stops in verse 45 and asks the crowd, “Who was it that touched me?” When all denied it, Jesus says in verse 46, “someone touched me, for I perceive power has gone out from me.”

“And when the woman saw that she was not hidden, she came trembling, and falling down before him declared in the presence of all people why she touched him, and how she had been immediately healed. And he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace.” (Verses 47-48)

Beth reminded me this morning that He wants us to reach out and grab hold of Him. He wants to help us heal. We just need to ask, step forward, and extend our hand to Him.

This was so life altering for me because I hate (double hate) talking about my weight in person. I can type on a blank page and post it to my blog, but in person, it’s gut wrenching.

In one short week, I will stand in front of 30 women and detail my greatest weakness as I begin leading a Bible study about weight loss. It’s going to be uncomfortable and awkward for all of us.

But God reminded me today that I grabbed on to Him to begin the healing and this public discussion is the next step. God knows my heart. He knows the hearts of the ladies with whom I will share my deepest need for healing.

While it’s intensely private, I have to take the same chance that the woman with the issue of blood took if I desire healing. I have to take this risk in the crowd, reach out, and grab on – in obedience to Him and for His glory – although I still don’t want to.

Once we take the risk- once we grab on- we can’t let go.

Ever.

I have had some people ask me, what if you gain it back? How will this time be any different from last time you lost weight?

This time I believe in my heart that God has forgiven me for my sin in this area- overeating and not taking care of the body He gave me. I won’t – can’t – forget I’ve been cleansed of that sin. As Beth said today, it’s when you forget that you’ve been forgiven and cleansed that you fall back into a cycle of sin again.

If I keep remembering what He’s done for me. If I stay close to Him and in His Word. If I keep the cross and His plan for me close. I will stumble, but I won’t fall. And, even if I do fall, I will “grab” Him again, and He will pick me up.

It’s when I take my eyes off Him and get full of me that I falter, stumble, and struggle.

Remember, Jesus told the woman with the issue of blood that it’s her faith, not her touch, which made her well.

It’s my faith, not my works, which makes me well. It’s my faith, not my amazing will power and awesome running skills that makes me well.

My faith – built on Him and renewed each day by staying close to Him.

Will you step out and “grab” Him as the woman did? Will you reach out to Him and ask for help and healing? Will you ask Him to send you someone to help you in the process?

If someone asks you for help, will you step forward and walk with them in the process regardless of how uncomfortable, tough, or awkward it may be? And once you do, how will you stay close to Him so you don’t slip back into the cycle of sin?

I pray you allow the healing to begin. No matter how awkward or uncomfortable. Grab Him and never let go.

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