Keep them Close

I really need to let out some frustration here…but first, look at my family! Most of it anyways (Isaiah was on the other couch with me.) Aww!! Aren’t they sweet? Aren’t they precious?

My blog is usually not a place for me to vent. I’ve tried to keep my blog a neutral place. Uplifting. Encouraging. Hopeful. Hopefully I’ll be able to come to that in the end.

Right now, I’m in transition.

Man, I hate transition.

Can’t anything ever be predictable? Can’t anything ever stay the same?

We’re taking a year off from homeschooling and sending our kids to public school next year. And the school system has really good things going for it. Really it does! But boy, does it ever have its flaws.

I have a love-hate relationship with public school.

As I social kid, I LOVED school. As someone who loves opportunities and creativity, I love public school. In fact, let’s be honest here, I would’ve been horrified if my mom would’ve suggested homeschooling me!

But, in hindsight, public school hardened me to my morals, made me value peers over family, taught me that immorality was funny, showed me that disrespect was popular, that stuff was more important than people, that God was irrelevant and quite honestly, it brought me to my teenage rebellion.

A hard heart doesn’t happen overnight. My soft, sensitive character was horrified at many of the things I heard and experienced my first tender years in school. I remember lying awake and feeling guilty just for the things I overheard. Oh, to have that sweet innocence, that childlike concern for all that is evil.

But over the years I choked back my feelings. To speak out was to be mocked. To tell an adult was to be a tattletale. To cry was to be a wimp.

Children shouldn’t have to harden their hearts to survive in this world. They shouldn’t have to accept evil as normal to adapt to their environment. But I did. In fact, if more adults had the softness of children, this world would be a better place!

Now here’s my rant. I have accepted and overlooked many many ignorant and insensitive comments about homeschooling over the years, but if I point out anything negative about the public school I am seen as judgemental, self-righteous and narrow minded for believing that home is actually the best environment for children to learn in. People today act as if children randomly turn out good or bad. Like it all depends on each character and us parents have little to no say in the outcome.

As if raising good kids is like buying a lottery ticket.

Like rolling a die.

Of course deep down they know better. We all know better.

Good kids are the result of good parenting.

Now, I know it’s also true that good parents can have a child that rebels…just as bad parents can birth a child with good morals! There are pastors who have done everything right whose child suddenly turns wrong crowds and drugs, just as there are druggies who have done everything wrong, whose child decides to end the cycle and make something of themselves!

BUT mostly, good parents raise good children. If that didn’t have at least a hint of truth, then none of us would bother trying to do our best.

And the crazy thing, the thing that really blows my mind is that when I talk like this people get shifty eyed and act uncomfortable. Maybe this kind of talk will offend someone. Maybe someone will feel judged. Maybe they’ll feel guilty.

Who are we scared of offending? The millions of parents out there who are doing it wrong?

Let me put it down plainly:

Kids shoved into daycares all day from day one, and dragged from sitter to sitter every evening and weekend, then thrown into the school system to be taught and mentored by random adults will feel disconnected from their parents and find belonging elsewhere.

Is that what we want?

It’s what we’re breeding.

I see kids who only care about what their immature peers think, because all the adults in their life who should be caring for them are too busy to give a rip.

I see children put in front of endless screens because actually training them to get along, sit quietly in a restaurant and use table manners takes too much effort. It’s just too hard. Isn’t it?

Telling a kid to go play is much easier than inviting them to take part in our world, much easier than teaching them how to work, how to cook, how to be creative.

These days, getting a sitter so we can go to bible study or prayer meeting is the new norm, why bother go to church if it’s too distracting right?!? What if…what if, it’s not just about my relationship with God?

What if it’s about theirs as well? What if them witnessing us model a good bible study, good devos, and hearing our prayers has more value than just me and a bunch of other adults going deeper on our own, free from distraction?

But if my kids are respectful and well behaved, that’s just chance, isn’t it? If they listen to their parents over their friends, if they love God, do personal devos and know how to pray in groups, that must just be something special they magically inherited, right?

People, it’s not just chance!

You want good kids? Then keep them close! Love them! Spend time with them. Teach them about what matters. Show them that they are the most important thing you can invest your life into!

The best piece of advice I ever got as a young mom was to learn to live off one income. “Whatever you do,” I was told, “sacrifice what you have to to stay at home with your children. It will be worth it.”

I wholeheartedly agree. It was worth it.

And I understand this isn’t possible for absolutely everyone. If you must work, then do, but for goodness sakes, keep your evenings open at least!

However, for the majority of us, we can make it work, we just don’t want to. We’ve believed the lie that raising a family has no value. That a stay at home mom is an unsuccessful one.

That a career brings value.

That a salary defines me.

That my family needs me to bring in more money.

They don’t need the money, they need me.

I don’t know what hardships public school will bring to my kids. But I do know that I have every intention of pouring in just as much time and care into their hearts as I ever did.

Social Media, you will not hold my kids hearts.

Drugs and Alcohol, you will not take hold of them.

Popularity and Vanity, you will not control their actions.

I can’t keep them home for forever, that would be terrible for them! I am willing to let them go, yes. It is good to allow them freedom to roam!

But every time they come home that’s what it will be: HOME. Where love and laughter and warmth awaits. Where we do things together – as loud, as crazy and as messy as it may be! Where they have freedom to cry and make mistakes. Freedom to be weird. Freedom to tease. Freedom to grow and learn at their own pace. And my arms will not push them away just for another break. I will not tell them to go away so I can enjoy a bit of silence.

I’ll get more than enough of that in the nursing home someday!

As long as they’re willing, I’m keeping them close.

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We Can Be Free

As promised, these are my steps to freedom that I would like to share today.

My last few blog posts have been about my struggles with words which started many years ago. In fact, it started so long ago that I had forgotten how or why or when it began. So I did what I’ve learnt to do when I don’t have the answers: I went to God.

I knew it wasn’t going to be just one conversation, rather many – all addressing the root of my anger, of my hurtful words and my outbursts. So I set aside a whole week of prayer and journalling to spend with God dealing with this character issue.

Day One: God, I journaled, what is the root of my hurtful words? Where did this begin?

I sat in my bed, waiting expectantly in the early morning, for that’s when the house is quiet and motionless. The sun was still hidden from sight although the first edges of the light were slowly beginning to creep up on the horizon.

God speaks when we listen. But it takes time to learn to hear him. Sometimes he’s silent. Sometimes we are too loud. Sometimes there’s a reason he’s not answering – usually because we already know the answer but we don’t want to listen.

However today, my heart was quiet and I was desperate.

And I saw a picture in my mind. It was a memory from when I was a girl. I remember something really bad happening and someone that I respected very much yelling and swearing in anger about it. As a result of that outburst, people paid attention, that person was heard and the problem was dealt with.

A simple memory. One long forgotten. However a lie was planted in my heart that day: Strong and hurtful words are powerful and they can accomplish good.

That was the lie where it all started. Where I let my voice shout and scream hurtful, strong words to gain a false sense of control because I felt that in the end it would accomplish good.

Recognizing the lie is always step one. I quickly scribbled the memory down in my journal, along with a lie I believed. I renounced the lie, and repented before God that I had believed it.

Then I asked God: Can you give me a foundational truth to replace this lie?

“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” Romans 12:21

Ah, Yes! Of course! Evil cannot bear good fruit. Evil and darkness do not birth goodness and light. The only way to overcome evil and injustice is with GOOD. This is why revenge will never set the bitter soul free, only forgiveness can do that. I memorized this truth, etching it into my memory like initials carved into concrete.

Day Two: God, how can I change my habits? They are ingrained into my life so deeply. How can I become someone who speaks life?

God: Repent! Choose a day to turn from your sins. Make a list of those who you’ve heard in this way and apologize to them. You will never be perfect, but if you say sorry to each person and start fresh from this day forward, then you won’t have a heap of history to carry on your shoulders. You can look back and say on this day you repented. From then on, all you have to do is apologize each time you say something hurtful or burst out in anger.

I’m too exhausted to ask God for names this day. The thought of the list He might give me is overwhelming. So I pray for strength.

Day Three: OK God. Who do I need to apologize to you?

He gives me a list. It is not exhausting. In fact, it involves mostly family members. I thought it looked too short so I mentioned some other names of people that I’ve had conflict with. God gently tells me that the actions of others I need not taken responsibility for, only the mistakes I have made.

That same day I ask my husband and children for forgiveness, and they are incredible. They forgive me without hesitation.

Day Four: My heart feels lighter God! There’s no more secrets, no more shame. Help me to have the strength to confess to the remaining people.

God: Good. It’s time that you see yourself as loveable again.

These tender and applicable words cause me to melt. I feel lovable. That’s exactly how I feel.

Day Five through Seven- More confessions. The last of them. So much grace shown to me by so many people. God, I feel at peace. Thank you for giving me the strength needed to go through with this.

God: I love watching the captives go free. You are free daughter.

Me: God what now? I am free, how do I keep from getting tangled up in sin again?

God: Dear Child, continue walking beside me. Soak in the truth. Repent when you fall and run back to me, not wasting a second with hiding in shame. Walk with a tender heart beside me and I will lead you into victory. Turn your eyes to the cross and I will purify your mouth.

The steps aren’t set in stone. The conversations will look different for each person. But this is my journey to freedom. This is God completing his work in me.

-It isn’t difficult, yet it’s humbling.

-It isn’t hard, because he’s done the work, but it does take time.

-It doesn’t take a strong person, it only takes a desperate one.

This is what Freedom looks like.

The Day I Cursed God…And Lost My Voice

At the beginning of this year I lost my voice, for three days. The end.

If I had my way, that would be all there was to the tale. I would stop this post right here and move on. Nope God. I’m not telling them the full story. Obviously I had some sort of cold…right?

Except that I’ve never, not even once lost my voice in my entire life before this. And while my voice was gone, I didn’t have a cold or a runny nose – not even a hint of one. In fact, my throat didn’t even hurt. But my voice was gone. It was so gone that I couldn’t even make those raspy, crackling noises of a teenage boy… I could only whisper. And it hurt to whisper, so I stayed mostly silent.

Three full days to listen to others speak.  Three days to realize how many things I can accomplish without using words. Three days to think about how much I take talking for granted, how often I’ve used my voice for evil rather than good.

Three days to consider what happened the day before my silence.

The day before… was a windy one. The snow blew across our driveway in a big three foot drift. My husband had specifically done something that I had asked him not to and I was furious at him. In fact, because of my anger, I decided enough was enough, that I was going to drive away for the afternoon and leave him with the kids while I went out and did whatever I wanted for once. I grabbed my purse, stormed onto the van and backed out of my garage door only to get stuck in the drift that I hadn’t thought of looking for. Furious, that I was now trapped, I got out of the van and began to kick at the snow around my back tires….Maybe if I move forward and take a speed, I’ll make it out. So I drive forward and then hammer the van into reverse and try to barrel through the drift, but my bald, all-season tires are no match for the deep white fluff that surrounds them.

I am now a prisoner in a snow drift.

Then, oh God, no, please no! Who should peek out of the window, but the grinning face of none other than my beloved husband, who I’m so desperately trying to escape.

I feel like a child. An immature, angry, helpless child, stuck in my own mess. I beg God not to let him come out and help me. That would be too much, too embarrassing …humiliating actually. But, of course, he calls out to me from our front door already with his jacket on, beaming at me as if he’s greatly amused at my anger: “Need some help??”

I shout back that “NO, I do NOT” – but we both know I do. And he begins putting on his boots and grabbing for the shovel as angry tears pour down my face.

 I mean to pray, but what comes out of my mouth are a string of curses directed at God. How dare he humiliate me so in my anger! How dare he put me in this humble position after what was done to me! I sit sulking in my van as Ryan patiently digs me out of the snow bank. Without a word, I drive forward and park in the garage. I walk straight into the house and disappear into my room for the next couple hours, crying myself to sleep. I feel foolish when I wake up that evening, but don’t quite understand the magnitude of everything that happened until the next day when I wake up and try to speak…

Not a single sound comes out. Not one word.

At first I’m simply confused. I’ve never lost my voice before, and here, I can’t even squeak! I try again to clear my throat but this doesn’t even make a sound. Panic fills me as the harder I try to talk, the more I wonder if I will ever make another sound again! And it’s a Sunday, the day that I’m supposed to go to church and worship! How can this be?!?

Finally, to my relief, I realize that when I gently whisper, I can still make a sound. But it is only then that I realize why my voice is gone as memories of my careless, thoughtless words to an all-powerful God fill my mind. I hear a voice in my head which speaks loud and clear: “Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be.” (James 3:10)

Tears immediately spring to my eyes as I realize the mercy of my all-powerful God. He could’ve struck me dead the moment I decided to speak to Him as if he were someone that was put there just to serve me. He could’ve put me in my place in fierce anger and he would’ve been fully justified in doing so.

But he chose to gently take away my voice.

He was lovingly disciplining me as a a Father would a child, not lashing out at me as an enemy, which shows me, not only can God do whatever he wants with whomever he wants, but he really does discipline for our good.

Also, He has a pretty funny sense of humour. “Fine, my angry, childish daughter, if you will speak to me that way, then no longer will you speak!”

Three days of silence does a lot to calm an angry heart and to open the ears of a child who doesn’t want to listen. It’s humbling. It got my attention.

Fast forward four months.

God’s still teaching me about my hurtful words, he’s given me so much grace, showing me and guiding me through. God really doesn’t leave us if we truly desire to walk in his ways. Next post, I want to share with you the steps he’s given me to lead me to freedom from using hurtful words. I believe these steps are a tool that can be used not just to control our tongue, but to walking in freedom from every kind of harmful habit or addiction. Until then, know this: that God is absolutely faithful…even when we are faithless. He disciplines us only because he loves us so dearly. Sit on that truth today.

He loves you and will do whatever it takes to get your attention.

Thanks for taking the time to read.

Love always,

Heather.

 

A Wise Woman and A Foolish One

“The wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down…” Proverbs 14:1

I watched as a three year old boy carefully laid each cardboard brick down onto the floor. He held each piece as steady as his pudgy little hands could, and carefully he built up his wall. The bricks were becoming more unstable as the wall grew, but he continued to build the wall higher and higher until it reached way up above his head and he had to stand on tip toes to touch the very top. His eyes sparkled in pride at his creation as another child clumsily teetered towards the wall to admire the masterpiece. The other child reached her arm out and with one light little touch that wall that had been so carefully laid, piece by piece, all came crashing down.

I watched as the little builder’s face turned from a lighthearted smile to uncontrolled rage and he wound up his tiny body to go for the tackle. Quickly, I stepped in between the pair. Keeping my voice calm and gentle, I held the little angry hulk in my arms until finally, the rage dissolved into what it really was: sadness and disappointment. As I comforted the little boy, he asked something absolutely profound: “Why are things so hard to build and so easy to break?”

The question took me aback. I had no answer for the boy.

Why are things that way?

A man works years to build up a company, pouring in his time, sweat, his money and his sanity, only to find out that by the time he’s reached his peak, something newer and trendier has taken his product’s place and he files for bankruptcy.

A family spends years and years working on the farm only to have a disease tear through the entire herd, or prices take a dive, and all is lost.

A teenager spends almost all of his high school years making wise choices and getting good grades, but decides to go to that one party where he is offered a drug which leads to forty years of helpless addiction.

A couple invests twenty-five years into marriage, and one partners falls into infidelity breaking down all those years of trust.

A politician could be honest a hundred times and lie only once, but the trust for him would be forever lost.

Life’s just so fragile isn’t it?

I think of how many bricks I’ve carefully laid; sleepless nights, patient mothering, waking up to feed, to change, to rock, to sing, to love.

The many days of wiping noses and mouths and dirty hands, the endless meals, the mountains of laundry, the “to do” lists that could stretch across the country.

I think of the long days of homeschooling; of planning lessons, carefully teaching, leading hundreds of family devotions. Of the discipling and the comforting, the encouraging words at just the right moment.

Or even the self sacrifice of giving up that new area rug I was looking at so that my daughter can go to horse lessons or the new shoes I wanted so that my sons can play soccer. Not to mention the driving around to these events when all I really want is to just spend one measely hour soaking in the tub.

Yet, I often think of the proverb above and wonder how many times I’ve so carelessly torn down everything in one heated moment, that I’ve spent the past 13 years trying to build. How easy it is to utter hurtful and careless words:

What’s the matter with you guys? You don’t know how to do anything. You just sit around and play all day while I work!

I wish that you would just leave me alone already so I could have a moment of peace!

Why did you do that?!? You have no clue how much you embarrassed me tonight! That was really stupid!

Can you go away? I’m busy here!

It’s hard to write down these things.

It’s really hard.

Knowing that I’ve said them. Knowing that they can’t be taken back. Knowing how much they hurt to hear.

Why are things so hard to build and so easy to break?

“The tongue has the power of life and death and those who love it will eat its fruit.” Proverbs 18:21 

Thinking about these things can bring about a sense of hopelessness. If words can’t be taken back, then what’s the point? How can one change the past? Ahh.. but that’s not the point, is it?

The past cannot be changed, my friend, but the future can be! It is never too late!

If every action is like laying another brick, we must also remember to fill in the cracks with grace, for grace is the mortar that holds it all together. None of us are perfect, not one, but how I hate when people say this and then go on as if everything they’ve done is OK!

It’s not OK to hurt people.

It’s not OK to treat people with disrespect and contempt.

But the truth is that you and I will never be perfect. In fact, striving to be perfect brings about ugly fruit of its own. Perfectionism will never bring about a strong house simply because it’s foundation is built on one’s own works rather than the works of Jesus.

 Perfectionism is Satan’s counterfeit to the work of God on the cross.

Repentance and trusting in Jesus’s work on the cross is the only way to build up a house that will last.

The Cross alone is our real righteousness. It brings about a change in us that we cannot explain or take credit for. Perfectionism breeds judgementalism and self righteousness. The Cross brings true humility and wisdom.

I’ve been having a hard time writing recently. There’s something going on in my heart that is different from anything I’ve felt in the past. I’ve been recognizing a lot of lies I’ve believed about what it looks like to live righteously and be bold, brave, zealous and honest. I’d compare it to learning how to stay in the middle of a narrow bridge with deep crashing waves on either side.

On one side of the bridge is perfectionism – that need to do everything perfect in order to follow God wholeheartedly. This kind of living is in the flesh, as it sees perfection as something that is humanly attainable. One who gets too close to the edge will find themselves drowning in pride, unhappiness, judgmentalism, condemnation, bitterness and many other things that go hand and hand.

However, equally dangerous is the other side of the bridge which is complacency. That attitude that says I’ll never be perfect so why try. Or that God’s grace is enough for all my sins so it doesn’t matter what I do. One who falls into this side will be overtaken be selfishness, debauchery, gossip, greed, and wickedness.

Sadly too many Christain find themselves in one of the two camps. Either nothing is ok or everything is. I myself have been on both sides, and by God’s grace, he’s yanked me back to the middle through hardships and warnings.

But here’s what I’m learning: I can’t be perfect, but I can apologize. And I can change. Everyday I have a choice; am I going to build up or tear down? That is my honor and duty as a mother and wife. And what a high calling it is having such power and responsibility in my home!

May I learn to never despise that calling.

And a word specifically for women:

I felt God’s encouraging heart towards wives and mothers while reading Proverbs 14:1. What an incredible opportunity that we so often grudgingly bear. We have the power to build our home in such a way that it stands strong or falls to the ground! God has given this power into the hands of women. You have the power within you to build up your family strong for life or tear them down, this is a difficult but hugely rewarding mission! Do not take it lightly, dear friend.