Posted in Being a Mom, Faith, Family, Inspiration, Uncategorized

The Secret

I’ll let you all in on a little secret that I’ve been carrying around with me for about the last 16 years. It’s difficult to share, but it is something I feel the need to get off my chest. So here goes. My secret is this. I’m a mom and I’m not doing it perfectly.

I know it’s hard to believe, but despite what my Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Snapchat feeds might depict, our family is far from ideal. While it pains me to admit it openly, our kids aren’t exactly faultless either. In fact, they are sometimes lazy, messy, selfish, disrespectful, ungrateful, judgemental, complaining, angry, — the list could go on and on. Here’s the worst part of my secret. Do you know who they learned some of these awful behaviors from? Yep, you guessed it. It was me. Now there’s a slice of humble pie that doesn’t look so appetizing.

Ever since they could walk and talk, our kids have been watching me. When I think of them, I hear the gravelly voice of Roz from Monsters Inc. in my head, “I’m watching you, always watching.” As their mom, my kids have seen me at my very best and my very worst. They’ve heard me say to them “Don’t judge,” and watched me do just that. They’ve listened to me say, “Stop complaining,” and have witnessed me grumbling with my very next breath. Unfortunately, they have seen a whole string of these unsightly behaviors over the years; and sadly, they’ve even repeated them.

It’s easy to point fingers at society, at their teachers, their friends, or various other worldly influences, but when I look at myself as one of their primary role models, I realize quite humbly, that what they’ve been watching over the years, is not necessarily what I always wanted them to see. I didn’t always do parenting the “right” way. I screamed, I yelled, I made poor choices, and my kids have seen it all.

Some parents will find failure in that admission, wagging their fingers or their tongues about the quality of my parenting skills. I have to admit, I’ve spent plenty of time in my life beating myself up over that very fact. As of late though, I’ve also found great freedom in the admission as well. Freedom in knowing that while my kids are quite familiar with my mistakes, they have also seen me at my brighter moments. They were watching when I chose to give of my time at church. They saw me take dinner to an ailing friend in need. They’ve seen moments of patience with the grocery clerk when there was a glitch in the system that was holding up the entire line. Just as often as they’ve witnessed the bad, they’ve undoubtedly also seen the good. I see that good reflected in them when they practice forgiveness, kindness, patience, love, compassion, generosity, unselfishness, hope, faith, honesty, and so much more.

More importantly, I believe God sees it too. When He does, I like to think He celebrates. Not that I’ve adequately done my parenting duty or that that they’ve done another good deed, but that we’re all growing. While I am not the perfect parent, He has created me as the perfect example for my children, that through His grace and mercy He is molding us all into the people He wants us to be.

I would offer this advice to my fellow parents and guardians out there today. Be kind and supportive to one another and to yourselves. Allow yourself to experience the freedom of knowing that in even in our imperfection, He is using both the unsightly and the good in all of us. While He did not create evil, He can control it. As Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

Today I pray that as parents and guardians, instead of criticizing one another, we would all strive together to remind each other of this fact. It’s okay to admit you’re not the perfect parent and that you’ve made mistakes. It’s okay to admit that your kids aren’t completely blameless too. If we all were willing to make this admission, I think parenting would be a whole lot less lonely and wildly more productive. God bless and easy breathing! 0DC59459-3729-477E-BB5F-D1C1742CFB3E

 

 

 

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Posted in Faith, Family, trust in God, Uncategorized

It’s Not About Me

5FCC8903-44E8-4731-8ECF-19F369067BFEOver the past few years, I have had the joy and privilege to see God at work in a friend’s life. I have watched her intensely study the word of God and immerse herself in Christian reading. She has served in a variety of ministries at our church, often in a leadership role. She has ministered to the poor both locally and overseas, and that joy of serving has spread to her husband and her children in ways I know she couldn’t have even imagined. I see God’s light in her and I continue to be both proud and inspired by her example.

To be honest, I get frustrated too; not with my friend of course, but with myself. I get angry that my relationship with God seems so two steps forward and two steps back. I feel sad that even in my immediate family, faith is a topic of great debate. While we challenge each other with our different viewpoints, we don’t always agree on how following Christ should look. Our family has served in different capacities; but if I’m being honest, my kids are not eagerly seeking opportunities to serve right now. In a growing place of restlessness, I sometimes look around me and ask God, “What am I doing wrong?” In that moment, He hits me with an answer that feels a bit like a two-by-four to the forehead, “IT’S NOT ABOUT YOU.”

When the realization hits, I acknowledge I’ve done it again. I’ve let my need to control everything around me spin me into a state of anxious chaos. I have let that slick salesman of evil (also known as Satan) plague me with fear, rob me of my joy, and put doubt in my head. Instead of trusting God’s perfect plan, I am relying on myself to make things happen according to what I think they should be. As the admission sinks in, I once again realize my continued need for His grace and remember Romans 9:16, “It does not depend on man’s desire or effort, but on God’s mercy.”

Do you struggle with trusting God’s plan and battle against the enemy of control? I recently discovered this prayer of surrender by Thomas Merton and I really love it.  I hope as you read the words, they bring you peace wherever you are in your own journey. God bless and easy breathing.

My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always, though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.

 

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized

Sweet Surrender

Our dog, Daisy, is seven pounds of butterscotch cuteness. She is a Morkie, a mix of Yorkie and Maltese. She is intelligent, sassy, loves people, and is the perfect size for snuggling. Staying true to her “little dog” persona, she can be a bit skittish of noises and tends to bark quite loudly at anything that threatens her peace. Unfortunately, this includes the Fed Ex guy, the garbage trucks, the school buses — you get my point. On a rare occasion it is the wind blowing the screen door or something randomly bumping around outside that scares her, and usually what follows is a total assault on my ears. This morning was one of those times. 

I was pulling my journal and Bible from our bedroom for some quiet time, and I heard her begin a barking tirade. I went to the door to see if someone had come, or a delivery had been made, but there was nothing there. I reassured her that everything was okay and proceeded to sit down. Her barking had decreased but she was still nervous and pacing around my chair. Finally she climbed up into my lap and snuggled in. I found myself continuing to pet her and reassure her that everything was okay. While her barks quieted, she still continued to remain alert and woofed every now and then just to let me know she was still feeling uneasy. I continued to reassure her that she was safe and that I was not going to let anything happen to her, yet still she woofed softly from time to time. Finally, at last she was able to relax and fell into a deep sleep. 

I thought about this situation in the context of my own relationship with God. I often come to Him in a frazzled state and He invites me into the calm of His presence, His lap, so to speak. He reassures me with His promises that I am safe and secure with Him and that I am deeply loved. Psalm 27:1 says The Lord is my light and my salvation– whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life– of whom shall I be afraid?

Yet, just like Daisy, it takes awhile for me to trust in his protection and I continue to assault him with my personal woofs, the “Whys?” and “Are You Sures?” By doing so, I defy His request for me to “Be still and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10) 

Are you having a hard time resting and being still in His presence? Do you long for the sweet peace of surrender where you can find true rest? Ask Him to help you surrender you heart, your mind, and your body to His promises. Remember that you have been saved by grace. There is no greater safety than that. Rest in His love and protection. Daisy will show you how it’s done. 

Posted in Being a Friend, Dealing with Trials, Faith, Inspiration, Uncategorized

Lighting the Way Home

This past weekend my husband, Bob and I took part in a candlelight vigil for our neighbor and friend who went missing on December 16th under suspicious circumstances. The download-1search for clues has reached a feverish pitch for this husband, father of three, and township trustee. In minus degree temperatures, we gathered with his family and about 75 other supporters from our small community to share stories and pray for his safe return. There was such a mix of feelings during that vigil; of desperation and sadness to be certain, but also of hope, that our friend and community member would be safely led home.

This morning as I was reflecting on that event, it made me think about the times we turn away from a relationship with God, and how similarly, He must also desperately grieve knowing we are lost. Luckily, there too is hope. Just as the candles we held during our vigil lent light to the darkness, God gave us his son, Jesus, as light and hope for the world. John 12:46 tells us, I have come into the world as a light so that no one in me should stay in darkness and 1 Peter 1:3 says, Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy, he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. God gave us Jesus to fulfill our hope, and the clues we seek in finding our way home are written within the truth of His gospel.

Today I pray that if you are feeling lost and don’t yet know God, you would invite him to help you find your way home through His son, Jesus. If you know Him, but something is holding you back from the truth of His love for you, I pray that you would again seek hope through His word. God bless and easy breathing!

Note: If anyone has any information regarding the disappearance of Bryon Macron, please click here for more information.

Posted in Uncategorized

This One’s Just For You

Recently, Meghan, our high school freshman, came home from school with the news that her Journalism teacher had decided to guest publish an article she had written in the school newspaper. After congratulations were shared, she and I were discussing some of the journalism assignments she had completed during the semester and how much she was enjoying writing. I was proud to learn that her teacher had encouraged her to join the newspaper staff as a writer next year. What tickled me most about our conversation though was something that I never expected. Towards the end of our conversation, Meghan’s eyes suddenly lit up and she asked me, “Mom, how come I never knew you had a blog?”

She explained that she had been researching online during class for a writing assignment she was working on and had come across my blog in her research. “Mom, it’s a real, live blog with awards and everything! That is so cool! I was reading a few of the articles and my teacher asked me what I had found and I told her I had found a blog my mom wrote.  She thought that was great.”

Then that light disappeared from her eyes and a slight frown crossed her face. “Mom, why did you stop writing? You’re a really good writer. How come you haven’t written in such a long time? You should really start it up again.”

That night as I was getting ready for bed, I thought about our conversation and how excited Meghan had been about my blog. I had been feeling the Lord tugging at me to get back to writing for some time, but couldn’t seem to put my finger on exactly what He wanted me to write. I even had friends praying about it for me. I didn’t know if Meghan’s discovery was a sign, but I took it as a reason to pray about it. I still don’t know what the answer is, but I take comfort that God does. He’s given me a passion for writing and now He’s shared it with my daughter as well. How can I encourage her to use her God-given talents if I don’t use mine? So today’s post is for you, Meghan. Thank you for reminding me to use my gifts. Thank you for being proud of me. I wrote this one just for you. Who knows what will come along next.

Posted in Faith, Family, Inspiration, Uncategorized

Christmas Lists

I think I heard a communal sigh from some of you when you saw the title of this post, as in, “Gee Jen, could we get through Halloween first? Walking into any retail store and seeing it decorated for Christmas when it’s not even Halloween is disconcerting enough, but do we have to read about it in blog posts too?” Believe me, I COMPLETELY understand. I promise you all that the jack-o-lanterns are still burning brightly at our house as we gear up for Trick-or-Treat, Halloween parades and the like. It’s just that as November quickly approaches, there are those in both mine and Bob’s families who like to get their holiday shopping done earlier rather than later, so it is about this time every year that I hear the familiar call of “Christmas lists please!” and have to sit down with Bob and the kids to see what I can pull out of them.

Last evening as I sat down to begin to compile lists for our family, I titled my note “Christmas Lists 2013” and underneath listed each person’s name: Bob, Meghan, Jake and Jen. Even Daisy, our puppy, who is barely teetering on the “Naughty” into the “I’m going to have to find a new home” list found a place in my notes. As I began to jot down a few things for everyone, a quiet voice seemed to whisper at the back of my mind, “Where am I on your list?” to which I immediately responded by writing God at the top of my paper. I sat there pondering this a moment, feeling a little bit like the little drummer boy who claimed to have no gift to bring to the Christ Child. I began to think about what gifts I might give to God this coming holiday season and one finally came to mind, time.

Time I could certainly spare. Over the past several weeks I had realized that the time I had been spending in prayer with God had certainly dwindled. It was not until I was gravely ill and back in the hospital with health scares abounding, that I began to desperately call out to Him again and ask Him to help me keep my eyes fixed on Him. When I was sick, I received two devotionals in care packages from close friends. One is Jesus Calling: Enjoying Peace in His Presence by Sarah Young. This book is uniquely written from the perspective of Jesus as if he was having a personal conversation with you. There are so many days when I have gone to that book now and the message for a particular day is exactly what I needed both emotionally and spiritually. The reading for each day is short and the supportive biblical verses are right there for you to examine more closely. I highly recommend it! The other is Prayers for a Woman’s Soul by Julie K. Gillies. For all your ladies out there, as busy moms and/or executives of our careers, it is easy to bombard heaven with prayers to meet everyone else’s needs. But how often do you pray for your own needs? As daughters of faith, we need to be open to a daily offering of our own needs up to God, and Prayers for a Woman’s Soul is a great way to begin.

Anyway, I’ve digressed a bit. The important takeaway here is that no matter how much time we’re currently spending in prayer, we could always give God a little bit more of our time. God is completely crazy about us and wants us to spend time with Him. Though He knows the interworking of our souls, He desires to hear our voices in prayer, whisper to us in the silence of our minds and hearts and bathe us in the joy of His presence.  Psalm 4:3 says, I know the Lord has set me apart for Himself; the Lord hears when I call to Him. Psalm 21:6 says, Surely you have granted Him eternal blessings and made Him glad with the joy of your presence. Did you ever think that you could make God happy just by being you in His presence? 🙂 Do you know that even in “seasons of silence” God is always listening to you and loving that You trust Him with your needs?

I know it’s not Christmas yet, but who says we have to wait? Give God the “treat” of your time at Halloween, share with Him the bounty of your thanks at Thanksgiving. Best of all, I dare you to include Him on your Christmas lists this year. What will you give to the Kings of Kings this year? I hope you will all challenge me to answer that question as well as we head toward these upcoming holidays.

God Bless and Easy Breathing!