Taking an afternoon walk--this time, Central Park, New York City, Halloween
Learning new pathways where God keeps leading me down places I never would have known.
Mentoring Mondays are my long articles but you seem to be reading, so here it goes again! Some of these issues I have mentioned before, some are brand new!
A little over 40 years ago, God called me to give my whole life to him--everything! My possessions, my future, my heart, my decisions, my health, my relationships, all that was dear to me or ever would be--everything. In my young idealism, I told Him I was his girl and I would follow Him anywhere all the days of my life.
Of course I could not have known what it would cost me, but at 61, I still want to think about what this means and live this way, as much as possible, every day until I see Him.
Abraham was our example, our model of faith early in Hebrew history. Hebrews says he is a hero of faith--following God, not knowing where He might lead, but choosing to follow Him, no matter what. I believe through Abraham, God wanted to make an impression on all of us--Abraham was the father of the whole nation of Israel. He was the beginning of the history or the Jewish people as God's people, and their Father was a man with a heart willing to follow God anywhere.
The final story and example to us, was a picture of God giving up his own son. It was also a completion to the story of Abraham--even in this last impossible situation, where you have asked me to give up my son, I will obey you--I know you are the God who provides. You are still my treasure and my trust.
This is what it looks like to follow God--I don't know where you will lead me, but I will follow by faith because you are my treasure, my life.
I could not have imagined where this life of faith would lead me in my own life and even now I am on some new, untried paths, but still, though I don't know exactly where it will lead, I trust more than ever, that the one who leads me is worthy of my trust.
God led us to host leadership trainings in our home. Now He has put on our hearts to do them all over the world. Seems impossible, but even a little meeting in England this week, literally fell into place.
There are obstacles in everyone's lives, however, that would tempt us to question God when it looks like He might have made a mistake in leading us to such interesting and unfathomable places. Abraham had to wait years on end to have that one son who would lead to him being a father of all nations. Then God asked him if he was willing to give up even Isaac. Abraham did not hesitate. And So Jesus did not hesitate to give up his life for us, a fulfillment of that very picture a thousands of years later.
Will you give up all of your expectations? Are you holding on to any demands you feel you have the right to make on God?
These are some of the ways I see women struggling and I have struggled.
Force--When we try to force God's hand, we tell Him what our will is (our desires, our way) and then we pray again and again and usually in the name of Jesus and demand that He does our will. Often this is expressed by trying to control our circumstances according to our own logic. I see moms who try to control their children, their children's friends, their circumstances, their husbands, their marriages, who their children will marry, and they want God to cooperate.
This is not God's way. He will not be manipulated and is not free to work in the life of someone who will not follow Him anywhere. You cannot control your life, your children's, your friendships, your financial circumstances, the world we live in--to follow God His way means to give up control, even as Abraham did. God will not share his throne and we are not big enough to tell Him how to lead.
Foolishness There is a lot of worldly advice in cyberspace that pretty much gives license for about any philosophy you would want to adopt. Much of it says, "Children are resilient, they will bounce with your decisions." And so parents are given permission to take care of themselves, to do whatever they want, to pursue their own dreams, apart from their children. In the same way that an adult would not thrive if left to fend totally alone, so children are even more sensitive. If left to culture, they will grow up without the oxygen of focussed love and training and will be hindered most of their lives for lack of it. Some philosophies give parents permission to become lazy or passive in regards to parenting. Though there are indeed many ways to live well as a family, passivity and neglect will have the same effects on children as it would on any other area of life--lack of growth, lack of development, and dependence on whoever or whatever will give them attention.
Formula--So often, I get letters, "Just tell me exactly how you did it, your schedule, your words, your discipline, your methods, and I will copy you. I just want my child to sleep through the night, to learn to behave, to be educated and learn like yours did, to know what are the 10 rules that make children pop out right!" We all long for formulas. It seems like it would make life easier.
Now, there are all sorts of wisdom principles in scripture. Yet, each of us has a different puzzle. Each child has a different personality and responds to different kinds of a relationship. We have different personalities and will be motivated differently in our leadership of our children. Children and families are all different and must grow according to their unique make up.
Even as plants are all different and some need lots of sun and others wilt with too much--same with water. So our families each have a unique culture and we must cooperate with who we are and not try to be just like someone else--or to follow someone else's method. It will not work for you. Live into the life you have been given with confidence.
God wants to lead you in wisdom as you seek His word and His voice by spending time with Him as Abraham did. It may not always look logical to the world, but God's ways will be the pathway to blessing. He allowed Joseph to be in prison for 10 years for training, David wandered for over 20 years before he became king, as promised, Moses in the desert for 40 years until he was a ready leader. Don't live by formula or you are sure to miss God's ways.
Me, 3 years old!
Born, over 2 months early, weighing barely over 2 1/2 pounds, in an oxygen tent forever, how could my parents have imagined the life God would have for me.
Flesh--Living by flesh requires so much effort. If I just get up earlier, work harder, use my influence on my children, my authority, they will turn out ok. Flesh feels like a lot of work and effort and can be exhausting. Flesh living requires a perfect mom, working hard in all areas, exhausted every day with no rest, in order to check off the list of everything she thinks she is supposed to do right. Flesh is focussed on the outward performance of a child and of herself, and it is exhausting to keep up perfection. Usually the children raised in this type of family develop lots of guilt because they will never ever be perfect (and neither will their mama and daddy) or rebellion. If they think God wants their works unrelated to the desires of their hearts or their ability or their passions, (All of you will behave this way because I said so!), then they will eventually give up on God because they know in their hearts they will never be perfect. Living by flesh and performance exhausts a mama and she blames God for giving her so much to do--when He wants her to lead a simpler life.
Fear is also a controlling way to parent. Fear is afraid of the world, afraid of failure, afraid of possibilities of what may happen. Fear tries to protect children from failure, or difficulties or sinful people or the world. Fear over protects and hides children so that they will never hurt or be hurt. But a child who is raised by a fearful parent will never develop their own muscle--spiritual or emotional muscle. God wants our children to practice being strong, little by little with us as their mentor. Children who are raised by fear never learn to leave the prison of their own parents making. Fear can control our hearts and paralyzes forward movement.
What if my child loses their faith? What if someone abuses them? What if they become disappointed in Christians? What if they get hit by a car? What if they lose their faith in college? What if? What if? Fear keeps a parent from making forward decisions. Fear closes out the power and presence of God and His reality.
My crazy kids, way to much for me to handle--and yet all of them, a miracle of His grace, and His best gift to me.
Un-Forgiveness is also paralyzing. When a person cannot forgive themselves for their failures or forgive their parents for a terrible upbringing, or get over the scars life has brought their way, then they do not release their lives into God's hands for Him to heal, to work and restore and to bring about strength and blessing. Forgiving in broken relationships is essential. I see so many people tied up by bitterness, blame, and often times use this as an excuse for doing nothing.Bitterness steals life, brings death and darkness and is a never-ending black hole. Others may not change, but God will give you the ability to heal, to restore and to become new.
Faith is the only choice that leads to Freedom.
Faith is what God is looking for. He wants to take us beyond ourselves and all of our formulas, fears, flesh, force, and any other ways we would tell Him to run our lives. God cannot work with a person who is shaking their fist at him.
Have you ever seen a toddler throwing a fit, crying, falling on the ground and rolling around, slapping whoever comes their way? All adults know that a child who gets their own way will grow up to be untrained, spoiled, undisciplined and unusable for God's kingdom work. He is looking for a heart soft enough to respond to Him, a heart humble enough to wait on His timing, to trust Him even when it does not look right. Throwing fits and shaking our fists at God just prohibits us from submitting to Him, finding rest in leaving our issues in His file drawers, living beyond our own potential into His infinite ability to work in our lives.
Faith says, I am not sure where you are taking me or why your are allowing this, but I will trust you and rest my burdens, and desires into your hands and choose to believe that you are good.
I have found in my own life, that often when God's ways seemed too much for me, too hard, if I kept going anyway, they became the making of my character, the place where miracles eventually took place.
Each of us is more capable and stronger than we even know.
The places that seemed so very hard have often become my glory place or a trophy later on in life. The seasons that seemed unimaginably hard became a place of freedom when I saw God use it to work in bigger ways than I could have known.
My difficulties as a mother gave me compassion for other moms. My challenges in marriages humbled me to understand how generous was God's eternal love. The disabilities of my children taught me that they didn't need to be perfect, they just needed God. And He worked beyond what I could have imagined through my own frailty and theirs.
So, what areas are you pleading with God to change? How willing are you to trust them into His hands?
Your story becomes His glory, and your deep soul satisfaction, when you wait on Him.
Abraham was chosen for his willing, humble, obedient heart.
And so, if you follow God in your own unique puzzle and live to be His woman in your life time, you will find His favor, His grace, His character to be true, and His ways to be best. And you will be more suited for heaven--where He is preparing you and your children to live.
He led me then to serve Him in Communist countries that were in need of the gospel. I was not that important in the ministry there--just a brick on the foundation as we began to understand what it looked like to work behind the iron curtain. But I was changed. I cut my teeth on following Him, reading His word, learning how to love others so different than myself. Learning the value of endurance through hard times. Learning that I didn't need everything I thought I needed. Learning to deal with depression. Learning that Christians, even missionaries, aren't perfect and make mistakes--often! And that I did, too, more often than I even knew I would--and still do dumb things all the time. But, I also learned that He loved me anyway and that He would take me faithfully, lovingly, through all the days of my life.
Leading us to missions.
Leading us to have 4 children, even after 3 miscarriages.
Leading us to start a ministry, even though it meant going 4 years without a salary.
Leading us to start Mom's conferences and rent a hotel without any money to pay.
Leading us to idealistic decisions with our children, even though most people in our lives thought us crazy.
Following in new areas:
Meeting my wonderful friend, Kristen, her precious children, in New York City, to work on a new marketing strategy for my new book--way out of my comfort zone, but God is at work--Aslan on the move in new ways! Hoping to reach more sweet women with the principles of a life of faith and possibility.
I was reminded of it this week when I had to step out in faith again. Clay and I have been partners in ministry all of our lives. But because of a serious back issue and complicated surgery, he is not able to travel far from home and we still believe that God has some more places He wants me to speak and train. Clay is still writing, inspired with new projects and will keep investing His life in writing resources for families. He just finished writing a wonderful leader's guide for women to use in starting small groups, and I will be doing training and speaking to women all over the world about how to start groups, ministry to moms, and how to use the manual and generally encouraging them.
This means I have to travel without Clay. I would rather do it with him, he would rather be going with me. This week, I flew to New York City to meet with sweet friends--people who work closely with us in ministry. I had butterflies, but knew the ropes. I made it to the mission house where I would stay near central park and even made it up all 3 flights of stairs with my suitcases. Met with my precious friends.
But in the middle of the night, I had a little stomach upset and was awake for hours. I pondered taking my suitcases down the stairs the next morning and whispered to God--you do not have to do this, Lord, but I would so appreciate having someone help me take my suitcases down the stairs. I just wouldn't feel so alone, so unhelped.
The next morning, as I was leaving my room, an older man suddenly came out of his room, (I had not seen anyone else the whole time I was staying in this hallway), and in Spanish said, "Can I help you?" It was as though God said, "I see you. I will help you. I will be with you." It meant so much to me. Seems everyone helped me all day long---even the muslim man who was my taxi driver. So very thoughtful and helpful and full of great advice--"We all need to work hard and develop our character!"
Spending the day in Oxford with Joy--another place I couldn't have imagined that God would take my girls!
Then, I made it to Heathrow, went through security and worked my way to a bus to Oxford and took a taxi to the hotel where I would meet my girls--all by myself, dragging luggage, dropping my chicken sandwich on the floor of the bus while the driver said, "We would appreciate it if you would keep the bus clean for others." on the microphone. (Did he see me?) and then dropped a cup of tea! But I made it.
Now in Oxford for a week---loving the days with my girls and looking forward to speaking here.
Remembering why I loved big cities--I remember apartment life where you look out your window and see across the 6 foot space between you and the opposite apartment, and you know what they are cooking in their kitchen for dinner, because you can see into their kitchen.
Walking out the door and seeing people everywhere--never being alone. Hearing so many different stories and seeing that the world is bigger--and so it God--than I thought.
A walking life where you have no car but walk for miles and miles every day, to get groceries, meet friends, do errands and live life in the rain or snow, always walking. (This is where I picked up the habit--I miss a walking life so much!)
Hearing international languages wherever you go and trying to converse with the people in the languages you kind of remember.
In England, restaurants traditionally serve Sunday roast and it can be lamb or beef. This was at a wonderful organic cafe, mixed veggie salad with nuts, savory beef and veggies and roast potatoes with sour-dough whole grain bread!
Having a variety of food choices at your finger tips in cafes, food trucks, farmer's markets. Seeing mothers and fathers love their children so fondly as they dressed them up and took them out for trick or treat. Having compassion on the people God brought across my path--and enjoying the kindness of people everywhere I went.
God has led me through valleys and places of delight. He has stretched me, but always His choices lead to freedom from performance, freedom from idols, freedom from having to do it all myself, freedom to live in His love, which is more sure and secure than the imperfect love of anyone else I will ever meet. And God has delighted my soul and made my heart to love and deeply enjoy the fruit of what He has amazingly done.
Tomorrow, be looking for an amazing, fun Christmas giveaway!
A favor, please!
Also, I am launching my new book, Own Your Life, the first week in January. If you have been helped by my ministry or encouraged by my books or writings, will you please consider being on a launch team, and consider helping us get the word out about my book on the week of January 5-12?
I am looking for those who are willing to dedicate a small bit of time and effort to help me spread the word. If you can dedicate some time to helping us reach more women and have a passion to help us get these messages out, we would love to invite you to join a launch team that will work together to reach women together!
If you are interested, please consider joining us by requesting to be a part of Own Your Life Book Launch Team on facebook. I would really appreciate your help and prayers as I am quite excited about this book.
Thanks so very much! Cheers!