Learning to Love My Dad

20180618_154548I wanted to write a nice piece for Father’s Day to honor my dad. After all, I am a Christ follower and it’s what I’m supposed to do. Except I couldn’t pull it off. I’ve always written from an honest place, so I have to stay true to how God has called me to write.

The truth is, my relationship with dad is not how I want it to be. We don’t talk much, even though he lives with our family. He hasn’t been what my four siblings and I needed in a father. But I’ve come a long way to the place of forgiving him. I’ve learned to love him in spite of his faults.

Over the years my dad’s harsh words and conditional love has not been discriminatory. He has treated all his kids the same. In his mind, we are big disappointments because we have not made him proud in our work and we have not taken care of him the way he thinks we should. Compared to other people’s kids, we have not been loyal and grateful for all he has done for us. To sum it up, we have failed him.

Even with all this said, I have learned to love my dad. I don’t like and agree with how he treats us, but I choose to love him anyway. I do it because my Heavenly Father commands me to love. As a child of God, I am to imitate him and live a life of love (Ephesians 5:1-2) in following the example of Christ. In loving my dad, I am doing what God would do. I love my dad in spite of his faults because God loves me in spite of my faults. And I can only love in this manner by the resurrection power of Christ living in me!

Now, is it easy to love a dad or anyone who treats you poorly and doesn’t realize they need to change for the better? You bet it is! Loving my dad is an impossible thing to do on my own. When I recall his hurtful words and how he insists on his own way, the last thing I want to do is show him love. The weak human part of me wants to return the hurts he’s dished out. Yet, the Spirit of God living in me fights against my flesh, reminding me to act differently. He reminds me to treat my dad how I want to be treated, as Jesus taught in Matthew 7:12.  When I wrong others I want forgiveness, grace, and do-overs. So, I should do the same for my dad when he wrongs me.

I can love my dad because God first loved me. When I don’t feel like loving him or feel I don’t have what it takes to love him, I can borrow God’s love with which to love my dad. If God can love me with all my faults and failures, how can I not love my dad?

My dad is an imperfect human like me. He has weaknesses and failures like me. God loves him as much as he loves me. The more I get to know God and love him, the more and better I love my dad. I can love him not because he has changed his ways, but because God has changed me. God has soften my heart and given me wisdom, understanding, and compassion to see my dad the way He sees him.

You see, my dad is a by-product of his family environment and culture. He parents how he was parented. He loves how he was loved. Since he doesn’t see the error and harm of his parents’ way of parenting, he never changed the practices he learned from them. And more importantly, he is a man who is living without the guidance of the Heavenly Father. He is the master of himself and the leader of his own life. He does not know how to love unconditionally because he does not know God, who is love (1 John 4:8).

I’m not excusing my dad’s actions, but knowing about his family upbringing has helped me to understand his methods and to have compassion for him. I no longer resent him for wounding me because I understand how he fathered from a place of brokenness himself, and he didn’t know it.

As for him changing his ways, I pray he will one day soon. But I won’t allow his stubbornness and oblivion to the need for change interfere with my love for him. Doing so would mean I have the same conditional love for my dad as he does for me and my siblings. And it would make me a hypocrite in regards to Jesus’ teachings of love. If I treat my dad the way he treats me, I’d be repeating the sins of the generations in his family. My kids would learn the same from me and their kids from them and the unhealthy patterns of parenting would spread to even more generations. This, I will not accept.

So, with the help of my Heavenly Father, I will love my dad unconditionally regardless of how he loves me. It’s what I’ve learned from my Father, God. And I shall love no other way. I want to break the generational sin of dysfunctional parenting in our family and begin the practice of parenting with God’s love for all future generations in our family and beyond.

 

Posted in Change, Christian Living, Daily Life, Family, Growth & Maturity, Love, Parenting | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Letter to My Suicidal Self

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In light of last week’s suicide of 2 celebrities, Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain, my heart grieves for the families and friends left behind. I fear for others who may be on the brink of suicide and am compelled to write this letter. I want to offer those in darkness real hope in a real God who wants to help you fight your demons and bring you out of  darkness forever. Because He has done it for me, he will do it for you too.

 

Dear Heart,

If you only knew how much you’re worth and how well your life will turn out, you won’t want to kill yourself.

Life won’t always be this hard. You won’t always hurt this much. The pain will go away. In time.

You are so lonely, I know. But it’s because you’ve isolated yourself from everyone. You’re keeping too many secrets for fear no one will understand. Reach out to the people in your path and tell them why you hurt. Don’t be afraid to let them know who you really are and what you need. They can help you if you let them.

You don’t have to cry yourself to sleep every night in the dark! Shut that depressing music off! It is putting wrong thoughts in your mind and dragging you low. You are loved! Your life does matter! People do care about you! They do want you to live!

So you think taking your life will make people feel sorry for how they’ve treated you? Even if you are correct, would this matter if you are dead? You won’t be around to see their remorse or receive their apologies. This is idiotic thinking!

How you feel about yourself may be real, but your view of yourself is skewed. You do not have a right and true perspective of yourself because you’ve been tainted by wounds aimed to tear you down to shreds. You have an enemy who wants to destroy you because he hates the One who made you. And, he has a cast of demons with him to help with his cause.

Yes, dear heart. Demons are real. For your struggle is not against yourself and others, but against the evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against the mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places. You don’t know this yet, but God wrote these words in Ephesians 6, chapter 12 of the Bible specifically for you. These demons are your enemies. They lie to you about yourself, your world, your life, and the people around you. They want you to loathe yourself and feel hopeless so you’d end your life. Then, they’d defeat you and your Maker.

That was the bad news. But, there is much good news for you to hear.

Dear heart, darkness is not your end because God has sent light into the world. And this light shines in the darkness. And the darkness cannot extinguish the light. 

Beloved, God loved you so much that he sent his one and only Jesus into the world to extinguish your darkness. You will come to believe in Him and his light will penetrate through the darkness, which has clouded your vision and outlook. You will understand why you went through the valley of the shadow of death.

Years down the road, you will see how the light brought you out of darkness so you can offer hope and help pull people out of darkness by pointing them to this same light that rescued you from your dungeon. You will learn to love yourself because you’ll understand how your Maker made you just as you are on purpose and for a purpose. You’ll stop hating the person looking back at you in the mirror. You’ll value her and even thank God for the darkness you went through, because He will constantly remind you how he carried you through the darkness so you can help point those in darkness to Him

So, hang in there dear heart. You are not the ugly, useless, loathsome, and unworthy person you believe you are. Light is coming into your darkness sooner than you know. No longer will you be a self-hater. For your Creator, God made you in his image. Because he is love, he will show you how to love yourself and keep you living in his light, away from the darkness, once you give your heart to him.

Dear suicidal self, you are God’s treasure. Your life matters. You have much to offer because God put much worth in you. Don’t give up. Keep hoping. Keep praying. Don’t take your life. Give your life to Him. He will do more with it than you can ever hope for and he will fill your heart with so much love, passion, and satisfaction that you won’t ever go back into the darkness again!

With deep love,

 

Your Redeemed Self  🙂

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The Path of Least Resistance

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“If you keep doing the same thing and it’s not working, why would you keep at it? It will cause frustration, discouragement, and eventually you’ll believe you’re a failure because you can’t seem to get anything right in your life. Perhaps, God has a different way but you are unwilling to accept it. You refuse his way because you’ve always done things your way and insist on continuing in the same direction even though nothing is working as you intended.”

This was my recent encouragement to a family member who is struggling and has struggled with severe health issues stemming from stress. Little did I know these are the exact words I needed to hear right now. God gave me these words to encourage, but he is using it to help me as well.

You see, I’ve been writing and teaching my sons in the way I think will work. Except it has caused frustrations, confusion, and restlessness in me. Even worse, it makes me want to quit everything because nothing is working out as I had envisioned!

Choking up with weeping, this family member admitted to being tired. Tired of fighting. Tired of having ongoing health issues, one after another. Tired of worrying. Tired of being self-dependent. Tired of trying to keep everything in order. My loved one has come to the end of their stubborn way. And it is a very good thing. Because now, they are wanting to know God’s way since doing things their way is wreaking havoc on their body, physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually.

I can’t criticize because I’ve been doing the same under the disguise of following God. I’m tired too. Tired of striving to prove myself a worthy a writer and using conventional ways to pursue my passion. I’m tired of teaching my boys using traditional methods that isn’t productive and produces frustrations. Mostly, I’m tired of doing things my way when I know God’s way works!

Being a control nut, I can be stubborn. I often choose my own way until it doesn’t work. Then I want to give up. I lose hope, thinking I can’t accomplish the work God has given me to do. I go back to the lies of my youth, believing I am a failure and I can’t get anything right. Yet, I will keep doing things the same way. It’s a deadly cycle.

I suspect I’m not alone, that this way of thinking and doing is a part of the human condition.

We want to take the way of least resistance to our own way of doing things and most resistant to God’s way. Our way makes sense to us. We think it will work because we’ve planned it and can understand it. Unfortunately, we don’t know everything and we can’t see into the future. We can’t see how our decisions today will affect the rest of our lives. But God does, because he knows everything and can see what is ahead.

God loves us and wants the best for us. He wants us to take his way so we don’t have to stress in trying to figure things out on our own. He made our intricate bodies and knows stress makes us sick, so we aren’t able to function at our best for ourselves or anyone. This is why he wants to direct us onto his path. For His way is always right and his plans are for our good, not harm. God wants us well and whole for our benefit.

If we keep going the same way, doing the same thing and do not have peace but keep hitting roadblocks, it’s time to give in to God’s way. Ask him what to do. He’ll show you!

Giving in to God is no easy feat. The first step is the hardest. We will resist because it is in our rebellious humanness to do so. Only by God’s power are we able to yield to his way. But even difficult things can be accomplished with prayer and practice.

So I pray for my family member to accept God’s plan over theirs. And this is my prayer for myself and you who are feeling the frustration, discouragement, and confusion of taking your path of least resistance instead of taking God’s way.

Do not be afraid or dismayed as you seek to follow God’s way. For the battle is not yours, but God’s. You will not need to fight this battle. Position yourself. Stand still. God promises to be with you when you seek him. Do not fear or be dismayed. The Lord is with you. He has the power to help overthrow our stubborn resistance to his good and prosperous way.

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When God Shows Up on Vacay

My husband and I surprised our boys with a trip to the beach last week. We packed all their things and loaded up the van Saturday night. Sunday came and they assumed we were headed to church…….until we turned in the opposite direction 😉. They were totally surprised! On to Florida we went!!

It was a relaxing and restful seven days with no agenda and no expectations. Our plans were to soak up the sun and enjoy the ocean as much as possible.

Well, I guess I did have an agenda. I wanted to have some alone time with my Heavenly Father. So, I snuck out early to walk the beach a few mornings while my guys were sleeping in. What a special time He and I shared. I talked. He talked. I listened. He listened. We reconnected. I cherish every single minute of our few hours together. His canvas captivates me 💜. Every time.

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Rain met us the first day and a half. The boys were antsy to play in the ocean so we asked God for sunny, dry days. The morning of our second day came with threatening dark clouds, but we went down to the beach anyway around 11:00. As Isaiah and Caleb were playing in the water, I looked up into the sky pleadingly and asked God to move the storm clouds out into the ocean. Minutes later, I watched those storm clouds on either side of us move out towards the water. By noon, God had pushed all the clouds out to the ocean and the sun showed its face. It was the most amazing, quickest answer to prayer I’ve ever experienced!!!

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God never ceases to amaze me. I’m continually in awe of all he does! He is such a good Father. He cares about the littlest details of our days. If it’s important to us, it’s a priority to him. This doesn’t mean he always answers quickly or in the way we hope for. After all, we did wait a day and a half before rain clouds stopped hovering over us 😁. But, He does always answer in ways that will reveal his power and increase our faith.

The rest of our week was sunny and pleasant as we had asked for. God surely is good to us, his children 😍. On Sunday morning the rain came back as we packed up Old Faithful (our 2001 Odyssey van with nearly 200,000 miles on her) and headed home.

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What a treasure to have time away to rest, refuel, and reconnect with one another and with God. How blessed we are, to experience God’s kindness and mercy as he rolled back the clouds to reveal himself to us in so many unforgettable ways!!!

Once again, I learned this truth: When we don’t limit God, He shows us there is no limit to how he loves and cares for every little detail of our lives.

 

 

 

 

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Mommy Guilt

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I’ve been feeling the weight of it recently. Mommy guilt. Those feelings of not ever doing enough and being all you think you ought to be for your kids. And consequently, you feel guilty taking time or doing anything for yourself.

When my boys were babies and toddlers, I had a bad case of mommy guilt. It subsided for a few years. But in the past few months, pangs of guilt has resurfaced. So, I’ve been asking God to show me why mommy guilt is making a comeback. And he has revealed some things.

As a homeschool mom, I’m with my sons from sunrise to sunset and beyond. Yet, I still feel as though I’m not spending enough time with them. Maybe it’s because I spend more time being teacher than mom. School ends and mommy guilt begins. I am torn between having some “me” time versus actual play time with the boys. It’s a constant tug of war between doing for them and doing for me. I thought I was balancing both well. Lately, I’ve questioned whether I’m focusing more time on me and not enough time with my boys.

Why do I feel guilty taking time for myself when I’ve been teaching and mothering most of my waking hours? Should I feel guilty? What is causing these feelings of guilt?

One word sums up the reason for my mommy guilt. Insecurity. When I forget who and whose I am, I become insecure and begin to compare myself to other moms. And comparison is a losing battle. Every time I compare myself, my work, my family, my stuff, or my life with another, I lose out to guilt. Guilt pressure causes me to believe I should be doing or being more of this and less of that. Yet, it is hard not to compare when everyone’s life is on display 24/7 on every social media outlet :(.

The more I scroll through Instagram and Facebook, the more I find myself comparing, competing, and coveting. Most of the time, I take part in the comparison game without even realizing it, until guilt consumes me. It is a subtle and dangerous trap.

But, I don’t have to give in to guilt when I remember who and whose I am. I am a daughter of God. I have his imprint in me because he designed me uniquely. Therefore, I don’t have to compare myself with another mom. I am wired specifically for my children and God teaches me how to be their mom. I fail daily, but God extends his grace and forgiveness. He gives me a fresh start every day to do a little better than I did yesterday. With him by my side, failures are turned into teachable moments. My boys get to see an imperfect mom who needs God and relies on him for every, little, single thing.

Yes, mommy guilt is real and it may always be present. But, I don’t have to believe its lies and act on what it tells me. I can ask God to help me be the best mom for my kids. Limiting exposure to social media or anything that may trigger guilt is crucial. And I must remember to listen for God’s instructions in the Bible, instead of following the masses. For he made me and my kids. He knows how we fit together. In His strength and by his power, I can squash the pangs of mommy guilt when it arises and stop the comparison game before it begins.

Here’s a habit I am practicing to tackle mommy guilt. I hope it helps you as well. The next time guilt sneaks in, pay careful attention to the work of nurturing your children. Refuse to compare yourself and your kids to anyone. Instead, use the comparison energy towards your children and pour your best effort, time, and love into them. Then, you won’t feel the need to compare yourself to others and think you should do or be more. You’ll have the satisfaction of a job well done to the best of your ability, with God’s help.

Keep at it mommas! Don’t let guilt rob the joy and peace from your mothering days. God is your help! With him by your side, you will have all you need to do the best for your kids and to grow into your best self for them. And he’ll help you make time to do a few things for yourself, without mommy guilt pestering you :).

Posted in Daily Life, Family, Growth & Maturity, Motherhood, Parenting, Self-care, Wellness | Tagged , | 2 Comments

Rising Above Murky Waters

In murky waters is where we discover God is real and whether we have been relying on him or self.20180504_120245

Don’t let circumstances determine your outlook and dictate how you feel about yourself.

Do use your circumstances as opportunities to look for God and ask him what’s going on. Then you will see how he is growing a more beautiful and genuine you, for the benefit of his world.

Put your hope and trust in Jesus. He will give you a true perspective of your situation and a correct view of yourself.

Things will not be as they are forever. You, God’s special treasure, are of great value to him.

Don’t trust how you feel. Acknowledge your feelings because they are real. But don’t dwell on them or you will head into deep waters of despair and your faith will drown in self-pity.

Murky waters will come. We can sink under it or choose to rise above it. But know this. God is real. He hears our cries. He does care. He is doing something right now to pull us out.

Give yourself permission to rest in his care. Accept the process God is growing you through. Stop relying on self and expecting your outcome. Start trusting confidently in the God who made you and knows how to help you through the waters of life.

God is always working for our good. We can’t understand his way of doing things. But, His outcome for us will definitely be more spectacular than we can imagine possible!

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Waiting With God

Untitled design (1)Isaiah 30:18 – The Lord longs to be gracious to you; he rises to show compassion. The Lord is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him!

 

Waiting is a lonely place. It can feel as though God has abandoned you.

I pray and wait. And wait. And wait. I know God hears. I just question why he doesn’t answer (at least in the way I expect). It’s hard when you know God is able and willing to give you what you ask, yet he allows you to wait.

One thing which helps during my wait is to remember all God has done for me in the past. It reminds me how he does care for me regardless of how discouragement messes with mind.

I reflect on how God continues to take care of our family on one income and has done so for over ten years. Just last year he protected trees from falling on the house during our first tornado encounter. Over the years, jumping deer, flying ladders, and loose tires didn’t plunge us into deadly accidents because God’s angels shielded us. I can’t forget how God gave us two healthy boys after a horrendous miscarriage and a season of barrenness. Perhaps, the longest wait was for God to make a way for my husband and our whole family to be part of a generous family who genuinely cares about people. After working many years of taxing hours at the expense of his marriage and family, hubby’s job at Chick-fil-A is truly a gift from our good Heavenly Father. And, I can’t leave out how God has rescued our marriage. More than once.

I could go on, but you get the idea. God didn’t abandon me in any of my past troubles, small or big. And I trust He will never forsake me even if it feels like it at times. I trust God’s character and record, not my feelings.

Waiting is a lonely place, but it forces us to face our human limitations. Our frustrations during the wait comes from the reality that we can’t see what’s coming and we aren’t in control of anything at all. We realize how powerless we are without God’s help.

It is in the waiting that God reveals himself to us. He grows our dependence on him, helps us to better understand other people’s struggles, and puts in us the desire to help those who are hurting.

While waiting with God through the years, I’ve learned he is a Father who protects me from hopelessness, a friend who never leaves me to deal with my questions alone, and a counselor who gives me wisdom to get through the wait. Our relationship is tight now because I’ve had to wait for answers to my problems. As I wait with God, He continues to grow me up.

If you’re like me, you are continually waiting for something. I suspect we will never stop waiting in this life. So, it would be wise to learn how to wait without being anxious and losing hope. The only way I’ve been able to wait with hope and not be overwhelmed by discouragement is to rely on God.

Being intimately connected to God gives us the power to wait with hope because we experience his presence waiting with us. He gives us an inner peace we can’t explain or deny. We’re able to remain calm and we keep going to him with our requests no matter how long we have to wait.

Jesus knew we’d get impatient in the wait. So he encourages us in Luke, chapter 18, to always pray and never give up. He hears as we cry out to him day and night. He is a just God. He won’t keep putting us off. Be strong and have courage! Wait for the Lord!

Yes, wait for the Lord! He will act for you!

 

Posted in Christian Living, faith, Growth & Maturity, Prayer Life, Suffering | 2 Comments