In July God told me He has called me to be a person of prayer. This was no surprise to me because at the time I had been placed in a situation that needed to be completely saturated in prayer.
Zach’s mom was very sick with Leukemia. She had been in remission but it came back and it came back hard. We were faced with a choice. We knew because of the leading of the Holy Spirit, that we did not have much longer for her to be here with us. Some may say it’s ridiculous for me to say it was the Holy Spirit that told me she was getting sick but it truly was Him. We prayed for her to be healed and we believed God wanted to heal her, but He kept ordering our steps in a way we knew He was preparing us for a very bittersweet day.
You always imagine your wedding day involving the people who matter the most to you. So we wanted to make that happen.
Fast-forward 3 days later, we got married in the hospital and our lovely Becky was with us- body and mind. It was a God-anointed time and we could not have had a more perfect ceremony. Just like He is always faithful to do, God came through and delivered on his promises to us. We were married! And it was not at all what either of us imagined it would look like, but it was so much better. After two nights of wedded bliss we received the call that we needed to come to the hospital because it wouldn’t be long before my sweet mother-in-law would leave us and go to be at the feet of her King.
How beautiful it was that God was speaking to me in the midst of all the chaos. I have waited so long to be married and now I am! Glorious! But what I walked in to was something that truly only God could carry me through.
We spent the next 48 hours awake at the hospital. I heard so many stories and made deep connections with my new family. But I also saw was how deeply this woman touched each person she came in contact with.We listened to the recordings of her piano playing, we sang hymns, and we talked about everything she was going to soon get to experience in Heaven. It honestly created a longing for Heaven in my heart.
“God, thank you so much for being here with us in this situation. Thank you for my husband. But God, what am I supposed to do? This situation is over-whelming. I don’t know how I am supposed to help in this situation, but you sent me here now for a reason. What’s the reason? Why me, and why now? Why does my sweet husband have to endure this just days after our marriage? And how in the world am I supposed to comfort him in this time? God- you orchestrated this to happen the way it did for a reason, but what is the reason? HELP. SOS. I cannot do this, even if I knew what it was that I am supposed to be doing.”
There were a few times I would go out of the room and down the hall to the furthest bathroom and fall to my knees and lose my composure crying out for the pain that my family was enduring. I was exhausted, physically and mentally. The last week had been a complete whirlwind. I had my marriage license before I was even engaged and was married two days after being engaged. My new mother in law would be leaving us soon, and here I am. Sent. He sent me to be the one to stand and pray for my family. Not just in the current situation but God told me that because he was giving me a new calling over my life.
God told me to read about Hannah in the bible, so I did. Her prayers for a child went on for years and years but she persisted. She never stopped praying. She was faithful, and not only was she faithful to pray but she believed her prayers would be answered. She was devout and she was humble and she allowed God to strengthen her during her many years of praying. This is what God was calling me to do.
So, I ran with it. I reached out into the world and found where prayer was needed and it’s pretty much everywhere. God started throwing it at me. Pray. Pray. Pray. I got on the intercessory prayer team at church. I started asking for prayer requests on Facebook. I began asking for the prayer request cards at church so I can pray over them during the week. I do my absolute best to actually write down every need, dream, desire, and thought that people bring to me. I pray over that journal that has the words written on it “Yes and amen.” Because that is His answer to us.
I do not have it all together. None of us do. I pray because I know I need him. I know you need Him. I know that with every fiber of my being and coming to Him in prayer keeps me in my right position. At the Fathers feet. Your prayers don’t need to sound fancy or eloquent or use big words, they just need to be honest.
I am saturating my circle in prayer. I am reading the bible looking for people who were also faithful in prayer. I am looking to see where prayer was ineffective and asking the Holy Spirit why? I am also seeing where it had great power. We get to have conversations with the Holiest of Holies and that is what will draw us near to Him. The best thing about prayer is that to deepen our intimacy with God, all we have to do is speak and listen.
I am not sure what your prayer life looks like, or if you even pray at all. Dude, maybe you don’t even believe in God or maybe you believe in another god. Regardless of how much you pray or who you pray to, you cannot deny your inner need to connect to someone or something. For me, I have found the strongest connection in Jesus Christ. In Emmanuel. And with that being said, I want to pray like Hannah. Relentlessly. Fervently. Passionately. Honestly. Faithfully.
So, let us pray.
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Probably one of the most, if not THE most, difficult responsibility I have ever been handed in my life thus far. I started on the parenting journey at the ripe young age of 18 when I got pregnant just after graduating High School. Besides all of the drama and conflict I have went through the last 8.5 years of my life concerning the consequences of getting pregnant unwed and with a boy who had no concern for anyone other than himself… it hasn’t been easy in any way. Let’s just say there have been a lot of ups and downs and twists and turns to navigate. If you’re a parent, you know what I mean.
One of the hardest things for me on this journey so far was my need to make sure everything was taken care of and that my son wouldn’t live a hard life because of my mistakes. I had taken on a lot of guilt and shame for placing him into a not so ideal situation. I knew that because of my sin, he would also suffer the consequences of it. He would have to live in the world I created for him. That guilt and shame wrecked and controlled me for a very long time.
Not only did I put his life into some crazy whirlwind of uncertainty, but there were a lot of times when his safety was 100% out of my control. These times were definitely the hardest because I really had to trust that God was taking care of him and protecting him. I had no control over where he would be taken to or who he would be left with and there is a very scary element to that. I did find out later some things that happened to him while he was not under my care and it is possibly the worst feeling I have ever felt on this journey so far. It gave the enemy another chance to bring tall of that shame and guilt back to me once again. To tell me it was all my fault and that now my son would be even more screwed up. I thought it was bad before but now it would be worse. But then, God.
God spoke to me very specifically about my child and the calling and destiny He had placed on his life and how he would turn so many hearts to God. He told me that yes, I did create a different world for him to live in but that He could still use me and he would still use Elijah. He told me He would begin using him even now at his very young age. “The things he has seen and went through will give him strength. He will be like a rock for many people who are hurting. His troubles will build him a firm foundation of trust and reliance on Me, and he will be okay. I have more love for him than you do. Do you not know this?”
SO, I guess I had to start trusting God that he could take my mess, take my son, and fix what I thought I had screwed up.
That’s what is so cool about God. God sees everything as fixable. We see our circumstances and our situations and can’t see past the emotion of it most of the time. It seems overwhelming and exhausting and God just sees a canvas. He sees a page with lines going every direction, scribbles, and things marked out and He thinks “Hmmm, what beautiful thing can I create out of this?”. There is always an eraser in one of God’s hands and a pencil in the other. It’s all fixable.
God isn’t scared of our huge failures and He isn’t worried about the final outcome. He already knows it and He already has our way out planned. He has actually already FIXED all of it. The creator knows exactly what to do to fix something that has been broken or damaged, which is why we contact a company when we have an issue with our washing machine or our heater goes out. We may not know what to do, but someone else does. And I don’t know about you but any time I have tried to fix something that I already knew I wasn’t prepared to fix, I just messed it up even more! It’s all fixable.
Not only did God help me with dealing with guilt and shame and give me a hope for Elijah’s future, but He has helped me so much in all of the practical ways. Which that’s what we need on the daily. Parenting isn’t always a super spiritual moment where your child asks you deep theological questions and is wanting to know the answers to life. No, sometimes parenting is getting through the day without losing your patience and yelling. Sometimes it is slowing down enough to notice you’ve been nodding your head yes and no while staring at your iPhone, not truly listening to a word your child is saying. (GUILTY!)
God cares about the day to day practical struggles we face as parents and He wants to be with us as we are dealing with them. We have to look for him.
When Elijah was having a terrible time at school with behavior and I was at my wits end with him, God showed me a deeper level of grace and understanding. He led me to books about positive parenting and how to communicate better with my son. I felt led to read “The 5 Love Languages of Children” which truly helped me understand my sons need for quality time and physical touch. I poured time into my child, intentionally. I made sure to hug him or hold his hand more often. I began looking him in the eyes more often when we were talking. Even when he seemed annoyed, I asked him specific questions about his day at school. I have always been interested in my child, but I wasn’t showing him I was in a way he understood. His issues at school, fixable.
I hate not being on time. If I am not 15 minutes early I feel like I’m late and anyone else who is like this and has kids knows how frustrating it can be because most kids have no sense of time and couldn’t care less about getting somewhere in a timely manner (unless it involves nerf guns and ice cream). This was a huge problem for us, especially in the morning. I wanted Elijah to have some responsibilities to encourage his executive skills so we set up a system of chores in the morning for him to do which was a great idea besides the fact that this would take extra time in our daily routine. I set a timer for breakfast. I made a list of his chores (breakfast, get dressed, make bed, feed dogs, brush teeth). He was to check mark them off as he finished and he set a stop watch to time himself for each chore, trying to beat his time every morning. For every chore he finished he would receive a popsicle stick to store in a cup we keep in our laundry room.
I also created a rewards page with extra ways to earn the sticks. Kind words, extra reading time, a good day at school being nice to the dogs, etc. There is also however a side of consequences. Being mean to the dogs, yelling in the house, talking with disrespect, complaining, etc. For each one of these offenses, depending on the severity, we take away sticks.
This gave him the motivation to work hard at changing his behavior with a reward but also realizing that when he chooses badly, he would receive a consequence. He gets to turn in sticks for rewards like extra iPad time, staying up later on a weekend, playing a family game, choosing a toy out of the toy bin I filled. Your Childs behavior at home? Fixable.
Do not fear. Do not worry. Seek God and ask him for guidance in the big moments, and in the small ones. He is there beside you and He knows what your child needs. He knows what you need, and He wants to show it to you. It’s all fixable.
“Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”
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Genesis 9:7 “And you, be fruitful and multiply, increase greatly on the earth and multiply in it.”
We hear this verse and we automatically always look at it through the eyes of sexuality. While I believe that was the context God was using when he gave this command, I want us to look at it through metaphorical eyes today.
Elijah had been saving up his reward points (we give points for chores and good behavior, etc) for almost 2 months now. He finally decided to cash them in today! He decided on bowling and pizza, so we picked up one of his friends and took off for a fun afternoon! We got there and got the boys shoes and ordered a cheese pizza. We waited and waited, and the boys bowled and bowled. We had about 5 minutes left of bowling and still our pizza had not come out.
The manager had come over to us a couple of times so I decided to let him know our pizza never did come out, and now we were already done bowling. I was not hateful or rude, and honestly I wasn’t even really that irritated. We simply moved from our lane and to a table and waited. The pizza finally came and the boys went to town.
When it was time to pay the manager came up and apologized again that our pizza had not been placed and gave us our ticket which he had given us the pizza for half the price. I was appreciative and payed and we packed up what was left into the box, which happened to be half of the pizza. It was an 8 slice pizza and we packed up 4 pieces. The boys wanted to go back outside and play a round of Jenga before we left so I said sure.
When we got outside I noticed a homeless man sitting by the riverwalk going on and on talking to himself. I asked the boys if they would want me to give him the rest of their pizza and they both agreed, yes. So I walked over to him, keeping the boys in eye sight but not having them come with me, and I asked him if he would like some pizza. He said “Oh, yes! Thank you, bless you, you are oh so pretty.” I thanked him and told him to enjoy the pizza. I made my way back over to the boys and explained to them that this man could be mentally ill or on drugs but that they showed the love of Jesus by sacrificing their pizza so he could have something warm and fresh to eat.
They continued to play their game of Jenga and we periodically glanced over at him and watched him talk away to whoever it was he was imagining sitting with him. It was so neat to see him open that box and eat that pizza, but you’ll never guess what happened next.
Two men, also obviously homeless, walked up to him and started chatting. This man opened up his pizza box and gave away two pieces of his pizza. He gave away warm food that he had been freely given. My mind was blown. I could not believe how he could be so selfless, but I guess that’s probably because he knows what it is like to have nothing.
We are so hesitant to give things away, and we have SO much. We have excess. We don’t want to give someone $5 or spend $5 to buy someone a warm meal meanwhile we have 8 different options for breakfast ALONE in our cabinet plus extra refrigerators in our garage because the one inside is already full. Our closets are overflowing and we have to store clothes under our beds depending on which season it is because it won’t all hang up or fit in our drawers. Our kids have their own iPad’s and we have our iPad, iPhone, and Macbook. And we don’t want to give someone $5 because what if they use it on alcohol or drugs? What if the point of giving to someone wasn’t about finances or moral standards or judgements or what if’s? What IF it was based on love?
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