Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Just Keep Going

I don't like to wait. A product of my culture, I suppose...waiting is lame when you can get so many things right now. But perseverance is needed in so many arenas of life. Exercise. Eating Right. Waiting on God to speak a direction, open a door. Prayer. Homeschooling. Parenting, on so many levels. Disciplining our children.

Oh, I can grow weary.

But I want to shout it from the rooftops today...IT'S WORTH IT!! Just. Keep. Going.

Today was one of those days in the Clemmons' home I'll always remember.

The boys and I were diving into our Awana work while the youngest two napped. We were repeating their verses and began a craft project to actively think through how God is powerful. We built a paper chain and the boys took turns spouting off ways they knew of God's might and power, through the Bible or their own lives. Judah was rattling off stories from the Bible as I wrote....protecting Daniel in the Lion's Den, saving God's people from Pharaoh, creating the world.....and then Levi chimed in so sure, "God rescued me from my sin." 

This kinda stopped me in my tracks. 

Just a few nights before we had begun to talk about the idea of confession. We were reading in our Big Picture Story Bible of the Holy Spirit coming to the disciples and Peter preaching the message of Jesus to the crowd. (Plug for this Bible, if you haven't checked it out, please do! It's my favorite children's Bible by far!). The story furthered to say that many people "confessed and believed in Jesus that day." We paused and talked more about confessing to Jesus and how it was like saying the wrong things we do, and asking for forgiveness. (This exchange is very familiar to all of our kids because it's what we go through every time they are disciplined...."What did you do that was wrong? What could you have done instead? Now go apologize.") We finished our section of reading for the night and went into a time of prayer, like always. We prayed around the room, thanking God for our day, and suddenly, without any prompting, Levi began confessing his sins from the day. He named two specific times he didn't do what God would want him to do. He said he was sorry and asked God to help him obey Him.

Woah. This was the first time I had heard confession uttered from one of my children's mouths. A big deal.

This has always been the component of the gospel I've been waiting to see unlocked in their hearts. They understand the story of Jesus dying on the cross. They can tell you He rose again. They know they should choose to follow Him. They've been saying they want to follow Him for quite a long time. And that's all great. They have the knowledge of Christ's death. They get they have a choice. But I have always waited, and have prayed so often, for them to see their great need for Jesus. They need to get they are sinners. They need to know how bleak the picture looks when we are stuck in our sin. Then, the magnificent work of Jesus' sacrifice for them is truly received.

In comes the perseverance...disciplining a child is not for the faint of heart! It is inconvenient. It's almost never a "timely" occurrence. Other things are beckoning and it's so tempting to just overlook the matter by ignoring it (maybe because you're 8 months pregnant and have 2 others under 3 and just cannot face the reality...oh, ignoring seemed so right to me then...), or just throw our hands up in the air because we don't know how to respond. Yet, children who are disciplined must come face-to-face with their sin. They see they do wrong because they are receiving a consequence and learning the truth behind why what they have done is wrong. If I'm giving myself to disciplining as I should, my kids get a chance at least daily to be reminded that obeying God's word means obeying Mom & Dad and loving others. Any other kids you know out there that could use those reminders all.the.time.? Yes, we are all born into sin. Some days it may seem like nothing else can get done but teaching them again, and again.


So, after Levi uttered the fact that "God rescued me from my sin," he went even further. He began to confess a sin he had kept from me from months past. He told me he didn't want to do it again. He then asked me, "Mom, can God hear me when I tell you about what I did?" I explained to him, yes, He could, and that it was great that we confess our sins to one another, but that it was good to talk to God about it, too. I asked him if he wanted me to pray with him, and he answered, "I will pray."

So right there, in our kitchen, he began to utter some of the sweetest words I believe I've heard to date. He began to downright respond to the gospel. He said he was sorry for his sin. He asked God, "to take all of my bad sin I've ever done away from me, and help my heart to be in the right place...and I will come to You when Mommy & Daddy can't help me, because you are the smartest and the strongest..." and then, looking at our dog at our feet, he ended with, "and let Belle have lots of cute puppies." The best. 

I cried. I told him I was proud, that God was proud of him. I told him following Jesus would make him a good man. I told him he'd fall again, and still feel tempted to sin, but the Holy Spirit would help him. 

He hugged me. And gave me a kiss. And a hugga-mugga. That boy.

I teared up again as we replayed the conversation with Waylon later. And I felt my heart swell. I told Waylon how glad I am that we never gave up disciplining him. He knew his need for Jesus. And the Holy Spirit gave him understanding deep in his heart to respond to what Jesus did for him. 

The gospel is so powerful. God is so good, so faithful. All in His timing.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Handing out Courage

"Realize that when you encourage you are giving out courage for people to continue on the journey of life." - Debbie Alsdorf, The Faith Dare

Giving out courage? Sounds like a real superpower...

I've been journeying through this book, The Faith Dare, with a great friend and have had to sit on one of my day's dares, "To use your tongue to bless and build up others..", for a few days. I just can't move forward. It's striking something deep in my heart and needs more attention.

How many of you rub shoulders with people day in and day out that could use an extra dose of courage for what lies ahead? Maybe the better question is, who doesn't need a bit more courage to continue their journey of life?

Our words are powerful, people.

For me, I have four little ones and one great man in my life daily that could use some extra courage. Am I seizing the opportunity I have to impart to them?

I've really been challenged by this question in regards to one of my children, in particular. We can, at times, have the perfect clash of weaknesses (as we are all-too-similar) that leave us a bit exasperated with one another. It's my issue ultimately, since he is five, and I'm the one that is supposed to be the adult around here. If someone is going to bring him to maturity and show him the way to go, it should be me.

Well, I sometimes do ok with this, but honestly, have been doing very poorly at encouraging this little guy as of late. And he needs it. He, after all, is tackling all kinds of new uncharted territories....reading books, working math problems, and trying to learn self-control with his anger. These are all big things. 

Sometimes an absence of words is best. 

Because truly, at times, it would be best if my words and I, with my raised eyebrows and disapproving scowl, would just leave the room and hide. If I stay, even more pain can ensue as I do the opposite of handing out courage, but instead, bring defeat with sharp, careless words. Oh, it makes me cringe to replay some of the encounters I've had with my son. I'm not trying to be out to get him. But when I replay our interactions, I can see he is only gathering that I am very disappointed with him, over something that is honestly just an immaturity or a natural weakness. Fail. Unless....

Unless, I really start taking thought about what my words can do.

Unless, I humble myself and ask for forgiveness when I wish I could take back my words (or my scowl...). 

Unless, I seek out the good and actually take the time to speak it to others.

To practically help myself in this arena, I started a sticker chart for my son for reading books. This chart is a visual reminder in my home to celebrate the things accomplished. It is a forced stop to dose out courage. It sounds so simple, but it's really helping set a tone in the home. 

As well, I've been learning from my husband and my four-year-old, as they have been truly blessed with this superpower, effortlessly encouraging others as they go. Really, God has made them to be encouragers and I'm aiming to stop and see how awesome it is when they just do what they do, living their lives handing out courage as the color, eat, or say good-bye. Do you know people like this, too? It's so refreshing to be in their presence, isn't it?

Life is tough. Let's do this. Let's start being intentional to bite our tongues when needed, and instead hand out some courage as we go.

I'd love to hear your thoughts, too! How to you guard your tongue or intentionally use it to bless others? Please share :)

Monday, February 3, 2014

When Shame Rears It's Head

"Shame, shame, shame."

Sometimes I feel like I can almost hear God saying that to me, hovering over me larger than life, shaking a big finger.

"Shame on you. Exactly how long has it been since you've read your Bible?" in a disapproving tone.

"Shame, shame. You think praying with your kids before meals and bedtimes is going to cut it?"

Is that Him? Is that how He sounds? Is that His heart?

Or maybe the picture should be painted more like this....

My husband is very busy in this season. He is working a 2nd shift job, a part-time job on the weekends, and is in the application process for two Fire Department jobs. (And by the way, do you know what Fire Department job application processes can look like? Yeah, I didn't either. Turns out some can take longer to work through than carrying and birthing a child. No joke. Just ask us.) Bottom line: Daddy doesn't have a lot of free time.

So, busy Daddy misses his kiddos. He soaks them up every chance he gets. And, in his sweet fashion, always gives the "good-byes" that really count. None of this "Bye, see ya later kids!" as he scurries out of the door. Nope. He calls them all to him, and one by one looks them in the eyes, speaks right to their hearts, and holds them like he means it, like they are treasured.

"Do you know I think you're great?" he'll say to our energetic, brown-eyed 5 year old.

"Levi, I'm so glad you're my son."

"I love you to the moon and back. You are so beautiful, Clara Grace."

That's a heart of a father that loves his kids.

You know what, I think God is much more tender and full of grace than I get. My distorted view paints Him to be so distant and harsh sometimes. But I think I get glimpses of Him more accurately as I see the Daddy in our house saying his good-byes to our four little ones.

He calls to us. He just wants us to come. He wants to whisper sweet truths in our ears. He wants us to know whose we are.

We are His. We are loved. We are beautiful in His sight.

It's not, "Shame on you, you no-good, no-Bible reading Momma!"; it's more like, "Daughter, I have something for you, please just come be refreshed by Me as you can."

He gets it. He knows we're up to our elbows in dirty laundry, snotty noses, and Legos. He is not disappointed that we give ourselves to these little lives. He doesn't expect us all to spend hours a day in deep Bible study, or in prayer like we may have once had the freedom to do.

He loves us. He wants to be with us. He just wants us to come. He doesn't need a one hour slot to speak deep, attitude-altering, spirit-checking truth into your heart. He can do it in 5 minutes, or less. 

And He's not waiting to shame you. He is completing the work He started in you. 

We can trust Him to make it happen.

It's all pretty amazing.