4 a.m. Mommy Moments

4 am

It’s 4 a.m. It’s dark and cold, and I should be sleeping. I’ve been awake for an hour. It’s one of those middle-of-the-night mommy moments when the weight of the challenges facing my daughters is keeping me awake.

My older daughter is struggling to recover from an ankle injury and adjust to a new soccer coach. My younger one is struggling to make friends. And it’s all just a bit much for this mom’s heart. Because these aren’t problems I can fix. They aren’t things that a hug and a kiss on the forehead will make better.

These are things my daughters have to struggle through, mostly on their own. I can offer encouragement and a shoulder to cry on. I can give advice and a hug. But I can’t fix it. I can’t simply wave my magic mommy wand and make it all better.

But I want to. Oh, how I want to. I want to save my daughters the tears and the struggles. I want to keep their hearts in one piece. I want them to have the smoothest road they can have.

But that’s not life. Unfortunately, in this fallen world we live in, struggle is part of the package. Our kids have to navigate the bumps in the road, sometimes on their own. All we can do is stand back and watch and pray.

So at this 4 a.m. moment, I’ve been placing my kids at the foot of the cross. I’ve been handing them over to Jesus — the only one who can heal their hurts and make it all better. Because when there’s nothing I can do to fix the problem, I know that there’s plenty that He can do.

Philippians 4:6 says “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” That includes our kids. It’s hard not to worry about our kids. It’s hard to lay them at the foot of the cross and trust that God is going to use these struggles as part of His greater plan. But He is.

I’m confident that the things my daughters are facing now are preparing them for some piece of God’s plan in the future. I know that God will use all of this for good. But, honestly, that confidence doesn’t stop my heart from breaking when my daughters hurt. It doesn’t stop the tears from rolling down my cheeks as I pray. It doesn’t make the 4 a.m. mommy moment disappear.

Those things are part of being a mom. Those moments of heartbreak and tears are as much a part of being a mom as the moment of joy when that little bundle of baby was placed in your arms the first time. When you love someone as deeply as we love our kids, hurting when they hurt is just part of the package.

So, in the wee hours of this morning I’ll be laying my daughters’ wounded hearts in the lap of the only One who can heal them. I’ll be giving my kids to the only One who knows them and loves them more than I do. And through the mommy tears, I’ll remain confident that He will mend their hearts and use their hurts for His glory in the way that only He can.

 

The Worry Jar

How to Make a Worry Jar

I’m taking the week off to spend time with my family at our annual family reunion. This is one of the best ideas for kids who struggle with worry. If anxiety is paralyzing one of your kids, consider giving them a tangible way to get rid of their worries and replace them with God’s promises. Enjoy this post, and I’ll be back on Monday.

Last week was supposed to be state assessment week for my oldest daughter. I won’t go into all the reasons I hate state assessments, but the main one is that it stresses my daughter out to the point where she almost can’t function. And last week was the worst it’s ever been.

She was scheduled to test on Tuesday, and Monday night it took her forever to fall asleep. She laid in her bed and worried about the test. She worried about getting the right answers. She worried about the computers breaking. By the time she finally fell asleep, she was in tears and I was ready to pull my hair out.

Tuesday afternoon, she climbs in the car with a look on her face that clearly announced to the world that she had not had a good day. As soon as her bottom hit the seat in the car, she began telling me all about the fiasco that was her state assessment. A glitch with the district’s computer server meant the computer had kicked her out of her test, no less than a dozen times. Every time she got kicked out, it lost some of her answers. Then, it quit working entirely. She didn’t get to finish her test and had no idea if it had saved anything she had done. In her class, only she and two other kids had this problem.

Needless to say, this added yet another thing to her bundle of worries. Tuesday night was miserable. She cried, she worried, she talked it through and she cried some more. I was worn out, and I hadn’t even taken the test. Tuesday night was another long evening of trying to get her to stop worrying and go to sleep. No matter how many times I told her to simply pray about it and let God deal with it, she kept holding on to her worry — causing both her and I not to get much sleep.

This week, the school has sorted out the computer problems, and yesterday was the last day of her reading assessment. But this whole process made me start thinking about how to help my daughter with her worry. You see, God doesn’t want us to worry. It’s harmful to us. It causes us to lose sleep. It can make us sick. And it solves nothing. As a matter of fact, God commands us not to worry. In Matthew 6:25, Jesus says “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life.” It doesn’t get more clear than that. When we disobey God’s commands, we are sinning. Worry is sin.

Too often, we gloss over the fact that worry is sin. We think, “I’m not worrying about this. I’m just figuring out what to do.” In reality, that’s often just a way to put a pretty face on worry. Any time we continually chew on a problem with no productive result, it’s worry — and it’s a sin.

Kids struggle with worry, and I think it’s even tougher for them to understand how to hand it over to God. Our kids need to learn to take their thoughts captive, give them to God and replace them with something that is pleasing to God. That’s what we’ve taught our daughter to do, but it clearly wasn’t working for her the other night. So, I came up with a tangible way for her to give her worries to God and replace her thoughts with thoughts that are pleasing to God. I call it our Worry Jar.

It works like this: If one of us is worried about something, we write it down and stick it in the jar, telling God that we are done worrying about it. Then we screw on the lid, literally taking our thoughts captive (2 Corinthians 10:5). We replace that worry thought with a verse out of our Scripture Jar, giving us something else to think about. Whenever we’re tempted to worry, we pull out our scripture and replace the worry with the scripture.

We’ve just started this process in our house, but it gives all of us a tangible reminder of how we should deal with worry. And it gives us something to do with that worry — an action we can take to give it to God. If you’d like to make your own Worry Jar, you can find directions and printable graphics and verses on our Free Stuff page. Be sure to let me know how it works with your kids.

Help your kids take their thoughts captive and give their worries to God. Forming that habit now will save them a lifetime of stress and replace it with a lifetime of the peace that only God can provide.

Linking up today with Women Living Well , Your Thriving Family and Word Filled Wednesday

Fighting Worry

How to Make a Worry Jar

Last week was supposed to be state assessment week for my oldest daughter. I won’t go into all the reasons I hate state assessments, but the main one is that it stresses my daughter out to the point where she almost can’t function. And last week was the worst it’s ever been.

She was scheduled to test on Tuesday, and Monday night it took her forever to fall asleep. She laid in her bed and worried about the test. She worried about getting the right answers. She worried about the computers breaking. By the time she finally fell asleep, she was in tears and I was ready to pull my hair out.

Tuesday afternoon, she climbs in the car with a look on her face that clearly announced to the world that she had not had a good day. As soon as her bottom hit the seat in the car, she began telling me all about the fiasco that was her state assessment. A glitch with the district’s computer server meant the computer had kicked her out of her test, no less than a dozen times. Every time she got kicked out, it lost some of her answers. Then, it quit working entirely. She didn’t get to finish her test and had no idea if it had saved anything she had done. In her class, only she and two other kids had this problem.

Needless to say, this added yet another thing to her bundle of worries. Tuesday night was miserable. She cried, she worried, she talked it through and she cried some more. I was worn out, and I hadn’t even taken the test. Tuesday night was another long evening of trying to get her to stop worrying and go to sleep. No matter how many times I told her to simply pray about it and let God deal with it, she kept holding on to her worry — causing both her and I not to get much sleep.

This week, the school has sorted out the computer problems, and yesterday was the last day of her reading assessment. But this whole process made me start thinking about how to help my daughter with her worry. You see, God doesn’t want us to worry. It’s harmful to us. It causes us to lose sleep. It can make us sick. And it solves nothing. As a matter of fact, God commands us not to worry. In Matthew 6:25, Jesus says “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life.” It doesn’t get more clear than that. When we disobey God’s commands, we are sinning. Worry is sin.

Too often, we gloss over the fact that worry is sin. We think, “I’m not worrying about this. I’m just figuring out what to do.” In reality, that’s often just a way to put a pretty face on worry. Any time we continually chew on a problem with no productive result, it’s worry — and it’s a sin.

Kids struggle with worry, and I think it’s even tougher for them to understand how to hand it over to God. Our kids need to learn to take their thoughts captive, give them to God and replace them with something that is pleasing to God. That’s what we’ve taught our daughter to do, but it clearly wasn’t working for her the other night. So, I came up with a tangible way for her to give her worries to God and replace her thoughts with thoughts that are pleasing to God. I call it our Worry Jar.

It works like this: If one of us is worried about something, we write it down and stick it in the jar, telling God that we are done worrying about it. Then we screw on the lid, literally taking our thoughts captive (2 Corinthians 10:5). We replace that worry thought with a verse out of our Scripture Jar, giving us something else to think about. Whenever we’re tempted to worry, we pull out our scripture and replace the worry with the scripture.

We’ve just started this process in our house, but it gives all of us a tangible reminder of how we should deal with worry. And it gives us something to do with that worry — an action we can take to give it to God. If you’d like to make your own Worry Jar, you can find directions and printable graphics and verses on our Free Stuff page. Be sure to let me know how it works with your kids.

Help your kids take their thoughts captive and give their worries to God. Forming that habit now will save them a lifetime of stress and replace it with a lifetime of the peace that only God can provide.

Linking up today with Women Living Well , Your Thriving Family and Word Filled Wednesday

Quiet Acceptance

For about the past year, I’ve been hearing God tell me to spend more time and energy on this blog and my writing and speaking. But, you know what? I’ve been comfortable and busy with paying freelance work. I tossed a few things off my plate with the intent of
writing more. I’ve picked up a few speaking engagements at local churches. I even asked God to clear my plate a bit, but I was pretty happy with my life.

Well, in the past month one of my major freelance clients hasn’t had much work. It’s been frustrating and a little concerning. I’ve been hunting for new clients, but so far not much has turned up. I know God has a plan, but I really liked my life the way it was. On the plus side, I’ve been able to put more time into the Everyday Truth blog, I’ve published Everyday Christmas and I’m working on a new website and some exciting plans for next year. They’re all great things, but I can’t measure them monetarily.

In studying Mary for this week’s blogs, I find I wish I had her spirit. Here’s a young girl, probably 15 or so, who is just going about her business one day when an angel shows up. He doesn’t just want to tell Mary she’s doing a great job. He wants to tell her she’s about to become the mother of God’s Son. Mary’s engaged to Joseph, and she has to know that he’s not going to take the news that she’s pregnant very well. This was actually a crime punishable by stoning.

Now, I don’t know about you, but I probably would have been having a major freak-out session. I would have been scared and worried. I mean, how was she going to tell her parents? No one else saw the angel. But not Mary. She doesn’t even ask the angel very many questions. She simply says “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled” (Luke 1:38).

That’s some pretty calm acceptance from someone whose life has just been radically changed. Mary didn’t appear worried about the future. She accepted God’s will and the blessings that came with it.

Change inevitably comes to our lives. Our children get older and we go from diapers and rattles to soccer balls and hockey sticks to dating and choosing a college. Our professional careers change as well. We may find ourselves jobless for a time or
changing direction in our careers. And sometimes we fight that change with all we have. We don’t trust God. We get mad because He’s taken our comfort zone away.

Yet God has a plan. He has great things for you and me and our kids to do. When we spend our energy fighting His plan, we make it difficult for Him to work through us. It
takes us twice as long to get where God wants us to go.

Mary’s life probably ended up looking a lot different than what she had planned. Yet, more than 2,000 years later, she is remembered by the world. Her quiet acceptance of God’s will earned her a precious place in God’s plan.

When God wants to change things up in your life or in your kids’ lives, remember that He has a plan. His plan is so much better than what we can do our own. We can reach more people and be more effective when we follow His plan than when we try to walk our own path.

A little of Mary’s quiet acceptance goes a long way toward putting us on the path to the
amazing things God has in store for us. What is God asking you or your kids to accept today?

Can You Pray?

The other night I heard my dog howling. Now, our 4-year-old German short-haired pointer rarely barks or howls so it took me a few minutes to figure out what that horrible noise was. He was standing on my back porch howling his head off.

As I stepped out on the porch, I realized he was howling at the cacophony of sirens heading in our direction. It sounded like the entire fire department was on its way. After standing there for a few minutes, I realized the sirens were headed our way as fire trucks started pouring into the cul-de-sac that backs up to our house.

By this time, both my girls — who had been in bed — were standing in the yard trying to see what was going on. We had a limited view between the houses, so it was difficult to determine if anything was on fire.

My oldest looks at me and says, “I’m scared.” After assuring her that the firefighters were there to help and that it didn’t look too serious since we couldn’t smell smoke, she says, “Can you pray?”

Struck dumb for a moment, I realized I hadn’t even thought to pray for the people involved. I was too busy being a gawker.

We stopped and prayed for the family and for the firefighters. My daughter was much calmer afterwards and was able to go back inside and head to bed.

It took a 10-year-old to remind me that prayer is a potent tool in all situations, especially ones where we feel powerless and afraid. James 5:16 says “The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.”

Too often, our first response to a situation is to try to fix it when our first response should be to take it to God, so He can fix it.

We want our kids to take their cares and concerns to God in prayer. The only way they will learn to do that is if they see us taking our cares and concerns to Him. Model a prayer-filled life for your kids, so they will learn the habit of going to God first.

  • Whenever you hear sirens, stop and pray with your kids for whomever the police or firefighters are going to help.
  • When your kids tell you about a tough situation they are facing, before you offer them advice, stop and pray with them about it.
  • Before you leave on a trip, pray with your kids for safe travel.
  • Before your kids walk out the door in the morning, pray with them about their day.

Praying with our children and letting them see that we know God is able to handle all of our worries and concerns gives them an example to follow. And someday they just might remind you that it’s time to pray.

An Out-of-Control Imagination

About 20 minutes after we put the girls to bed last night, my oldest was standing in front of me, tears streaming down her face explaining that she couldn’t go to sleep because she kept thinking about some scary stuff someone at school had told her. God has gifted my oldest with an amazing imagination. She can draw entire comics, write extremely creative stories and make up song lyrics on the spot. I can send the girls out to play with the neighbors and with nothing more than a rock and a bucket, my oldest will create an elaborate plot for the girls to follow as they play. I am in awe of this gift that God has given her.

But, sometimes, that gift can take a scary turn. Because she has such an active imagination, she’s extremely open to suggestion, and the time before she goes to sleep can become a terror fest for her. She’ll start to dwell on something that someone told her. Lying there in the dark, she can create situations in her mind that are terrifying. This usually ends either in nightmares later in the night or, as it did last night, with her standing in front of us crying because she’s scared to go to sleep.

For many parents, the scenario I’ve just described is a familiar one. It’s also an extremely teachable moment. So, we need to put aside our frustration at what may seem like “silly” fears and teach our children how to stop letting what God intended for good be used in a way He never intended.

Psalm 34:14 tells us “Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.” Within this short, little verse is the key to putting our kids on the path to using whatever gift God has given them for good. Now, my daughter is not “evil” because she lets her imagination get carried away, but the things she is dwelling on that scare her are “evil” because they rob her of the peace that God promised her.

God has given each of our children talents that they can use for Him or that they can use in other ways that aren’t pleasing to him. The key to teaching our children to use their talents for good is teaching them to recognize when they are straying from what God intended and then teaching them to seek and pursue peace when using their gifts. Sounds easy, right? It’s easy to talk about, but even as adults, we struggle with this. Teach your kids a simple process to recognize when they are letting their gifts and talents serve the world instead of God.

  • Talk with your kids about the gifts and talents God has given them. Ask them how they think they can use those gifts and talents for God. Then, ask them if they can think of any way that they could use those gifts and talents in ways that aren’t pleasing to God.
  • Give your kids this simple process to follow: Stop, Ask, Pray, Replace. It works like this. Whenever they are in a situation where they find themselves using their gifts and talents in a way that either scares them or that they aren’t sure is pleasing to God, they should Stop what they are doing. Next, they should Ask this question: Is what I’m doing pleasing to God? If the answer is yes, they can keep doing what they are doing. If the answer is no, then they move on to step 3. They should Pray and give their gift or talent to God. They should ask God to remove whatever fear their use of their talent has brought them and ask God to show them how to use their gift for Him. The last step is Replace. They should try to replace what they are doing with something else that is pleasing to God.
  • This process looked like this last night with my oldest. We asked her to identify the problem, which was that she had let her imagination run away with her, which led her to worry about things that weren’t likely to happen. We talked about how that wasn’t what God intended for her to do with her imagination. We prayed with her and asked God to take away her fear and to help her not to let her imagination create fear. We also asked that God would replace her fear with peace. Then, we gave her something else to think about. We told her to build the best ice cream sundae ever in her head until she fell asleep.

The next time your son or daughter gets caught in a spiral of using a gift or talent that God has given them in a way that’s not pleasing to God, help them follow the Stop, Ask, Pray, Replace method to find peace and to use their gifts for God.

Lessons from Linus

As I’ve sat at home this week nursing a sick 7-year-old (who, by the way, is still sick, and her sister has a snow day), we’ve been reading a lot of Peanuts comic strips. We have a big book that contains thousands of the comic strips, and my daughter loves to read them.

So, we’ve been climbing up in our big recliner, sharing a blanket and reading them together. Tuesday we ran across a strip about Linus and his blanket. Linus tells Charlie Brown “This blanket absorbs all my fears and frustrations. At the end of each day I shake it out the door, thus scattering those fears and frustrations to the wind!” Charlie Brown asks him, “What about tomorrow?” Linus replies, “Tomorrow I start with a clean blanket. Not unlike the proverbial clean slate.”

You know, Linus has the right idea. Carrying our fears and frustrations around with us creates a heavy weight. The more fears and frustrations we carry, the heavier the load gets. But we have something better than Linus’ security blanket. We have God. Peter tells us “Cast all your anxiety on Him for He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7).

God loves us, and He knows that carrying around fears, frustrations and worries does nothing but cause us harm. Fears, frustrations and worries keep us focused on the unimportant things and not on the things of God. We need to be like Linus, shaking out our figurative blankets and letting God handle our fears and frustrations. When we choose to worry over our fears and frustrations, we’re telling God that we don’t trust Him to handle them. We choose to carry the burden by ourselves instead of letting God carry them for us.

Teach your kids to cast their cares on God, so they aren’t weighted down by them.

  • Deal with your own tendency to worry and carry your own fears and frustrations. Ask God to remind you to turn those fears and frustrations over to Him. Children copy what they see. If your children see you worry, they are likely to worry, too. If they see you take your cares and concerns to God, they will take their cares and concerns to God.
  • Give your kids a physical way to get rid of their fears and frustrations. Have them write down their concerns on a piece of paper. Then, pray with them about each of their concerns. After praying, have them rip up the paper and throw it away. Talk with them about how ripping up the paper is symbolic of letting God have their fears and frustrations. They have turned them over to God, so we don’t want to take them back and carry that heavy load all by ourselves again.
  • Gather some rocks. Give your child a Sharpie. Let him write a fear, frustration or worry on each rock. When he is done, put the rocks in a bag and have him carry the rocks around. Talk about how our worries are like rocks. When we try to carry them by ourselves, they get heavy and affect everything in our lives. Now, have your child give you the bag of rocks. Walk around for a bit with your child. Ask your child how it feels to walk without the rocks compared to walking with them. Talk about how much better it is to give our worries to God and let Him deal with them instead of carrying them around and letting them weigh us down.

Like Linus, we can start each day with a “clean blanket.” All we have to do is turn our fears and frustrations over to God.

Memory Monday: Philippians 4:6

It’s Monday, so it must be time for another verse to memorize together. How did you do with last week’s verse? Did you find yourself in situations where you could use that verse? Did you share it with your children? Leave a comment and let the rest of us know how Isaiah 41:10 was used in your life last week.

This week’s verse is Philippians 4:6. This is one of those verses that many of us probably know in some form, but we may not know where it’s found or the entire verse. It’s also, I think, one of the most difficult verses in the Bible to obey. It says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”

Wow, that’s a tough one. With school getting ready to start, it’s an anxiety-ridden time in many households. Kids are worried about whether they will fit in at school, whether they’ll like their teacher and whether being in a different class from their best friends will affect their friendships. Moms are worried about whether they will like the teacher, whether their kids will fit in and whether their children will make wise choices while they are at school. The problem is, all that worry is a sin.

God commands us in this verse to not be anxious. When we worry, we are telling God that He is not big enough to handle the problem. 1 Peter 5:7 says “Cast all your anxiety on Him, for He cares for you.” There’s nothing too big for God to handle, and we need to act like that is true. The thing I love the most about Philippians 4:6 is that it doesn’t just tell us to not worry, but it gives us something with which to replace our worry. It tells us to take it to God in prayer, and to be thankful. I don’t know about you, but when I’m worried, I’m not generally feeling too thankful. When we capture those worrisome thoughts and replace them with thoughts of thankfulness, we put up a barrier to Satan. We don’t allow him to take our worry and use it to keep us in a place where we are not trusting God.

So, the next time you find yourself worried or you find that your children are worried, take hold of those thoughts, and replace them with prayer over the situation and thanksgiving in the situation. As you memorize this verse this week, prepare to be tested in it. Satan likes nothing better than to make us ineffective, and keeping us wallowing in worry is an effective way for him to distract us from our purpose.