Thursday, May 2, 2013

Guest Post: The Most Important Thing

The first time I took my 3-month-old firstborn to a pediatrician in the States is the first time I felt complete relief that I was not doing everything wrong. What had I been worrying about so much? Almost everything the doctor told me was opposite of everything my son’s pediatrician in Croatia had said. One country required different shots than the other; in America he was considered a good weight, in Croatia he was underweight etc. I walked out of the doctor’s office thinking about all the parents around the world (although I’m pretty sure western parents do this much more than any others!) freaking out about whether they’re doing things right, reading all the books and trying to keep up with the latest parenting fads when in reality so much of it just boils down to traditions or what’s currently popular in parenting styles.

Parenting styles differ from country to country in the same way they change from one generation to the next (my mom was told formula was better for babies than breast milk!).  Here in Croatia my parenting habits are often greeted with odd looks and questions. “Sometimes, we just look at your kids in the yard dressed lightly and rolling on the ground…” our neighbors once commented. Translated, that means “they’re not wrapped up in 5 layers of clothing on a springy day” and that we don’t freak out if they choose to roll down a little hill in our yard and get dirty.

My Croatian friends are also shocked that I let my kid pick up the apple that dropped on the floor a minute ago and put it in his mouth and that they walk around without slippers or with wet hair. In the states my friend was shocked that my youngest was on cow’s milk well before her first birthday, that I do just fine without many of the ‘must have’ baby products and that I use an attachment to a household vacuum to suck out snot from my kids stuffy noses (best baby product ever!). 

I too often obsess about my parenting habits. I read. I compare. But I need to remind myself that much of what I’m doing on an every day basis is not necessarily right or wrong and that in the end most of it really doesn’t matter. I’m not saying that teaching good eating habits, schedules or being wise with entertainment are not important parts of a child’s upbringing. Of course those things have some influence over the well being and future of my child. 

However, there is something so much more important than any of those things that I spend too much energy thinking about - their heart. What matters for their future and what will truly make all the difference is whether or not I’m pointing them to Christ. Their eating habits very well might change, just like their interests, and their daily routines. But through all that, I hope to plant a seed in their hearts of wanting more of Jesus. That is the one thing that doesn’t change with time. Easier said than done though. 

Just like in my own life, I get so carried away with the small things I forget the most important thing. In the same way I need to keep refocusing my thoughts and priorities, I need to be doing the same for my children. Move through the fog of the everyday questions and concerns so I can more faithfully and consistently point them back to Him.  


***Petra is a Croatian who went to college (and some of high school) in the US. She married a great American guy named Jeremy, and now they live in Croatia with their three kids (almost four!). They are missionaries who work with the church there doing camps, youth  work, baseball ministry . . . and a whole lot of other stuff! You can follow along on their ministry journey at http://bohallministry.blogspot.com or visit her husband, Jeremy's blog at http://cultureshock-jeremy.blogspot.com



Thursday, April 18, 2013

Guest Post: The Depths of Motherhood

It’s a blur now. The days of having half a dozen kids in just as many years. Moments of tears and beauty have wrapped together to make this lovely, heart-stretching thing called motherhood.

Our Family for His Glory
And I know now what it’s like to be the mom that brings nourishment when she can’t pull herself off the floor covered in tears. The mom that stands brave when she doesn’t know whether to laugh or to cry as she grabs her tweezers and digs out the shiny gem from her little boy’s nose. The mom who sits watching her baby hooked up to monitors and cords, and is on her knees in prayer in her heart as she strokes the soft hair of the babe sound asleep through the beeps. The mom who feels like melting in agony and defeat from the sinfulness of her children… and herself. The mom who cheers bitter-sweetly with each first step and every last diaper. Each moment strung together like shiny pearls on a strand. Praying that they will somehow glimmer with more than just a glimpse of God. For eternity of these little hearts weighs heavy on my shoulders. The charge of a child is no small calling. I search through crinkled pages of the Bible on my lap. Knowing His truth is all I have left. And there are His Words bringing breath to my lungs.

He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young. -Isaiah 40:11 NIV

And that’s what I can cling to – that this kind Shepherd will carry them and lead me. And the weight is no longer heavy when He’s carrying it. For this Shepherd laid down His life, nailing all my blunders and failures and sins to the cross. And the same great power that rose Him from the dead, lives inside of me. I no longer need to don my glass slippers or supermom powers, But can rest in His grace and trust that His power is working in me.

“His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness” -2 Peter 1:3 NIV 1984

Guiding me. Carrying them. Through every blessed, tiring, awe-filled, heart breaking, gleaming pearl of motherhood.

Jessica

JessicaJessica is the wife of her ministry-minded best friend and the love of her life. She is a blessed homeschooling stay-at-home mommy to 6 precious children all ages 8 & under! She is your every-day mommy that longs to be full of grace, but often needs to ask for forgiveness. She has a passion for seeking & following hard after God, loving on her family, leading little (and big) hearts to Christ, and encouraging others along the way! She shares her heart & her life at Our Family for His Glory.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

The Heavens Declare His Glory - Part Two


Good morning everyone! I just wanted to pop over and let you know that the second installment of "The Heavens Declare His Glory" by Susie over at Raising Deep Roots is live on her blog! I so loved all her ideas for teaching our children about space while keeping the emphasis on the fact that God created it all! Plus I am so thankful for all the awesome book recommendations she gave! I can see a few of them making it into our own personal library!!! I really think you will enjoy it as well!!!

To read part two go here.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Guest Post: The Heaven's Declare His Glory

(I just love this post from my friend Susan at Raising Deep Roots.  She has become a dear friend to me and this idea for turning a lesson on stars into a fun way to point your kiddos to the majesty of the Creator is just awesome!  She knows her stuff too because she graduated with a degree in astronomy!  I hope you enjoy it as much as I did and she'll be posting a Part 2 soon over on her blog to continue with the project, so stay tuned! -Desiré)

infant_stars_in_the_small_magellanic_cloud-ps15_8x10
{The Small Magellanic Cloud is a satellite galaxy of the Milky Way. It contains this group of baby stars that are still forming from collapsing gas clouds and have not yet ignited their hydrogen fuel.}
It's not surprising, that if you were to peek through the doorframe of my boys' room, you would find their walls covered with space ships, planets, astronauts, and glow in the dark stars. You would also find remnants of space themed birthday party favors in their toy chests, crafts from our astronomy summer theme week still hanging on the walls of the family room, and a closet full of Epiphany "follow the star" decorations that find their way to our living room every January. You see, I love astronomy! I have been fascinated with it ever since my sixth grade science class when I fell in love with it and decided then and there I was going to be an astronomer. And I did! Come high school, I chose calculus and physics as my electives (what?) and by the time I graduated university, I had a degree in Astrophysics and even landed an 'observing' run at the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory. I've since switched physics fields as I've discovered (for me personally anyway) that it is way more fun to LEARN about someone else's research than it is to actually DO the research! LOL! 

All that aside, I'd like to suggest to that you don't have to know anything about this:astronomy text


to share with your children about this: mystic_mountain-ps52_5x7

This mage shows a mountain of dust and gas rising in the Carina Nebula.

And when we spend time admiring and standing in awe of the heavens, our hearts are naturally drawn to worship and to glorify the Lord and to worship him as the Almighty Creator of the Universe! The Psalmist agreed...

The Heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of this hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;
night after night they display knowledge.
There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard.
Their voice goes out into all the earth,
their words to the ends of the world.
Psalm 19:1-4
When was the last time you managed to get away from the glare of the lights of the city (or just from the street lamp in your neighborhood) and see the night sky? I mean REALLY see it?
stars
Even without telescopes, the naked eye is drawn to the heavens. Those billions upon billions of twinkling stars take our breath away! Who created these marvelous celestial bodies? Look how big the Universe is! Oh how small am I? Ah...exactly! As we behold the intense beauty of God's creation and the immense scale of His universe, we realize our insignificant place in it.
When I consider Your heavens,
the work of Your fingers,
the moon and the stars, which You have ordained,
What is man that You are mindful of him,
And the son of man that You visit him?
Psalm 8:3-4
And yet, our Creator IS mindful of us. Just as he knows the stars in the sky by name, he knows the number of hairs on our very heads! The creator of the universe calls us friend! Oh how he loves us! Oh how he loves us! He took on flesh and made his dwelling among us! Yes, dear one, and then he sacrificed his own life that we might have life everlasting! Oh praise Him! O Praise His name forever! Glorify his name, glorify his name, glorify his name in all the earth!

Wouldn't it be marvelous if we could to invite our children into this place of being awed and amazed by the Creator God? Can we give our children a glimpse of how big and mighty and yet so personal and loving God is? Well, it is my prayer that some of the resources and activities outlined in the this post will invite you and your children to magnifying the Lord as you gaze at his Glory as proclaimed in the Heavens.

Book Resource: I found an absolute treasure when I saw this book lying on the coffee table in the home of a Bible study I was attending. Um...yes you could say it caught my eye :) It's full of pictures taken by the Hubble Space Telescope which are then paired with scriptures about the beauty of God's creation. Added to that are poems and quotes by beloved Christian authors as they themselves are propelled into praise as they gaze upon the wonders that are to behold in the heavens. This is one for your library for sure!
heavensproclaim 

Family Fun Adventure: Go sky gazing and search for constellations. Before we go out at night to star gaze, I like to familiarize my boys with finding patterns in the stars so they can actually recognize the constellations. So we pull out our flashcards (of course I have some lying around ;-) ) 


I love these ones:

100 things to spot in night sky

But I've considered picking up a set of these:

space flashcards
(Note from Desiré:  I got these in the $1 section at Target last year and my boys LOVE looking through them and talking about them!)

A great activity is to pull out a chalk board and chalk and let the kids try to copy the constellation patterns. I actually decided to make our own super portable chalk board by simply taking some poster board and spray painting it with chalk board paint! Did you know chalk board paint comes in a spray can? Super easy and very affordable!
posterboard chalk board
constellation

Most constellation cards also come with super helpful star finder charts or you can make some star finders from NASA . Now that you are at least somewhat familiar with the night sky for your region and time of year, head out and see what you can find!
He counts the number of stars;
he gives names to all of them.
Great is our Lord and abundant in strength;
His understanding is infinite.
Psalm 147:4-5
Family Devotional : This is one of my favorite family devotionals ever. Buy some glow in the dark ceiling stars. Maybe like these:
glow_stars
Place the stars under a lamp and let them "charge" for at least 5 minutes. Turn off the lights and watch them glow! Once the glow has faded, turn the lights back on and while you wait for the toys to re-charge, explain how this is a picture of what happens when we spend time with Jesus. Ask your kids, "what made the stars glow?" They soaked up the LIGHT! Help your children make the connection that the toys had to be close to the light in order to shine and show them that the LONGER they are in the light, the brighter the toys shine! So it is with us, the closer we are to Jesus and more time we spend with him, the brighter our light will shine too! Jesus has told us that we are "the light of the world"(Matthew 5:14-16) and that we are to "shine like stars in the universe" (Philippians 2:14-16) . Just like God created the stars and the galaxies and the quasars and comets to bring Him glory, we too were created to bring Him glory. By living lives that please him, we too can proclaim his glory!

For extended fun, affix the glow in the dark stars on the ceiling, (maybe even in the shapes of some of your newly learned, favorite constellations!) drag in pillows and have the whole family pile on the floor to look up at the stars glowing. Why not break into song, singing Twinkle twinkle little star and add in praise and worship songs. You will make some memories that will last a lifetime. 

And each night, as your kids drift off to sleep, they'll have a visual, glowing reminder that :


1)When life feels big and overwhelming, look up at the stars. God is bigger ! He who hung the moon, put comets into orbit, flung the stars into space, and sent galaxies whirring through the cosmos is more than able to see you through your present trials. 

2) When you feel insignificant, look up at the stars. God made all of those stars and planets and galaxies and he knows every one. But even more importantly, God knows the number of hairs on your head, knows you in your innermost parts, and oh how he loves you. Yes, we are mere specks in an infinitely majestic and unfathomably vast universe, and yet God the creator chooses to be with us, to indwell us. 


3) When you wonder how you can live to please God, look up at the stars. Just as the heavens proclaim the glory of the Lord, so should our lives. We were made to bring God glory. Stay close to Jesus, soak up his light, and shine his light bright like the stars in the universe! 


Blessings, 


Susie 


Susie blogs at raisingdeeproots.wordpress.com along with her cherished friend Kellye. Both gals are boy moms, pastor's wives, and ministry leaders in their respective churches. Raising Deep Roots sprang out of a shared passion to encourage and equip parents to raise up children with deep roots in the Word of God and the Person of Jesus.
kellye&suz_watermark

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Guest Post: Each Day By Faith

(Today's guest post is from one of my college roommates.  I still love her dearly to this day and think you will be so blessed by her encouragement about what "give us this day our daily bread" means in the midst of the normal mundanes of a mama's life.  Thank you, Lindsay.  You were a sweet role model for me in college and continue to be that for me years later.  -Desiré)
Give us this day our daily bread…

Know here the nature of the life that prays this prayer worthily and sincerely.  It is a life that has taken to heart the command to seek first His Kingdom.  It is a prayer that knows the difference between bread and the Bread that gives true life.  The one it needs, and receives with joy and thanksgiving, but its real hunger is for the other and this is its food by which it knows itself to live.  This is therefore a life that has burned its bridges and knows itself each day – one day at a time – to be directly dependent on the provision of its Father.  Not merely as an abstract principle, in theory, but really and truly dependent for the needs of this day.  If He does not act this day, we will perish.  And tomorrow our situation will be the same.  And it is a heart that finds in this dependence a greater peace and confidence than any earthly parent, any work contract, and any investment portfolio could promise.  This is a prayer that is too quickly prayed by the young before they have got the measure of the sacrifices such a life of faith will bring to them.  But pray it and mean it and God’s grace will empower you to live it.

Give us this day our daily bread…

When Desiré and I were at Moody together, one of our favorite professors, Dr. Laansma said these words during a Day of Prayer we had on campus as part of a focused teaching on the Lord’s Prayer.  This particular part has been echoing in my mind tons these days. Each day by faith in the God of Life.

My husband and I have been preparing a lecture series through the Gospel of Matthew, and I have been thoroughly challenged, especially as my life has taken a turn from my college days of ambition to my current motherhood days of life with babies and preschoolers.  I am amazed how much faith this life of motherhood requires, especially in light of Matthew’s Gospel.  Through Jesus’ life and words, he demonstrates throughout the gospel that the nature of His kingdom is entirely different than what everyone in his day (and I mean, everyone) was expecting.  The economy of His Kingdom is our world turned upside down:  the last will be first, the first shall be last.  The “little ones” are upheld as role models, to find our lives we must lose them, and the Coming King is crucified.  And, for me, without even realizing what was happening to me, motherhood ripped the rug from beneath me—laying down one’s life for the least now seems a lot more real.
            
And so, I am thinking about this request, “give us this day our daily bread,” in an entirely new light than I did in college.  I used to think about receiving the faith and provision to accomplish great things for the Kingdom in some unreached people group. Right now, I am asking God to help me believe and have real perception into how his Kingdom works, because, if I’m honest, it is hard for me to serve my children in obscurity.  Jesus showed us that true life, His life, is found in service and giving up our lives for the sake of others.  Give me this day faith to believe that I might find You here, find abundant life here, folding clothes, wiping eight meals a day up off the floor, almost breaking my foot every hour on not-put-away-Matchbox cars, gently instructing time and time again similar lessons like “Please don’t smash your sister’s head into the floor.”  You are the God of Life; please meet me here in my little corner of obscurity, and show me the glory of your upside down Kingdom.
            
He is the Author and Giver of Life, and it’s a promise that we, I, must cling to every day.  He is the Giver of Life, when I feel like I’m laying mine down again as I set aside my dreams and my self for others.  He is the God of Life when those we know are hurting, and we feel bankrupt of resources to help; we cling to him.  When I struggle to believe his promises that the last shall be first, that true life is found in serving the least, that the economy of His Kingdom turns our world upside down, He is the God of Life, supplying all we need for this day.  Give us this day our daily bread

Lindsay


 

Lindsay and Desiré were freshman year roommates at Moody Bible Institute, where Desiré inspired Lindsay to change her major to Applied Linguistics and train for the dream of someday working in Bible translation.  From there Lindsay went on to Wheaton College for her master's in Biblical Exegesis. After marrying a fellow Moody grad who also happens to be Canadian, she immigrated North to Calgary, Alberta, where they currently live with their two small children.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

What Does Hope Look Like When Your Child is Fighting for His Life in the Hospital on Easter Morning?



This morning is Easter.  Many of you are getting ready for church.  Some of you have new clothes for your kiddos.  Some are prepping the holiday lunch.  Traditions may be being carried out and you're looking forward to a day of fun memories.

For the first time in my life, I won't be going to church this Easter.  I'm wearing sloppy, comfy clothes.  I likely won't even be tuning into an Easter sermon as I work to console my 15 day old baby who is fighting for his life and suffering from the pain of open heart surgery, withdrawals from narcotics and fussiness from never having eaten 2 weeks into his eventful little life.

What does hope look like then?  What does Easter mean now?  Many have been praying for a miracle for our precious son and it appears in many ways that God is granting it.  We continue to pray fervently for God to make Caleb whole... but what if he doesn't?  Or what about all the families that have gone before us that love Jesus with their whole hearts, have prayed earnestly for a miracle and God DIDN'T grant it?  What about those who have had to bury their child? 

What does Easter hope look like then?

I've wrested with this question a lot in the last few months.  Hope has become my theme.  I even had the phrase, "I have HOPE" put on a customized necklace.  At first glance, I'm sure many assume that I mean I have "hope" that Caleb will get well enough to come home with us and of course, that is something I hope for, but that's not why I have it dangling around my neck.  The hope I have is much deeper and remains regardless of circumstance.

The hope I have is that one day, all this suffering will be gone.  Mine.  Caleb's.  Anyone who has placed their trust in Christ does not have to fear even the darkest circumstances.  Does that mean I don't feel the sting of this suffering my child and family is going through?  Of course not!  I frequently stand at my helpless child's bedside and weep.  This stinks.  Big time. 

Some may become bitter with God and wonder why he would ever allow a tiny baby to go through the insane pain we've watched Caleb endure the last two weeks.  He's completely capable of healing him.  Why doesn't he just take it all away?  I read something from Nancy Guthrie that has helped put this all in perspective a little better for me:

She points out that when we expect God to spare us from the effects of sin (sickness, tragedies, etc.) "we're mistakenly expecting in this age what God has reserved for the next."  Am I expecting God to create a "heaven on earth" right now?  That thought has been profound for me.  I long for heaven for a reason.  It's perfect.  That's not where I'm at right now and I am expecting the wrong thing from God when I expect him to make the here and now what he has promised us for the future:  A world without sin and all the effects it brings is the hope we have to look forward to.  In times like this, I am reminded all the more why I want it and what it has to offer.

So I cling to hope, knowing that one day there will be no children born with congenital heart defects that require multiple open heart surgeries.  I know there will be no more death.  I know there will be no more pain.  There will be no more sin and no more effects of sin.  Because of what Christ did on the cross, I can celebrate Easter this morning, even though my day may look drastically different than yours and painfully different than what I'm used to.  My hope is sure.  Jesus died... like for real died.  But he was stronger than death and he defeated it.  For me.  For you.  For anyone who believes and will call on his name.  Sin (and the effects of it) don't have the final say when Christ is in the picture. 

That is glorious hope. 

 "For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.  For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God.  For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.  For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.  And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.  For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees?  But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience." -Romans 8:18-25

 

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Guest Post: When I Rise

(Today's guest post is from my sweet, real life friend Kelly of Exceptionally Average.  I think you will be so encouraged by her thoughts about the idea of planning out Bible activities and going over the top when it's a struggle just to get out of bed and do the "normal" stuff each day.  -Desiré)

“And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” Deuteronomy 6:6-7

These verses sum up the purpose of this blog. I respect this command from God, do my best to live it out, find inspiration in the responsibility, and comfort in knowing that the reward for seeing these words through is eternal. 

But let’s be real.

Sometimes it’s easy to get overwhelmed with God’s charge to us parents to diligently teach His Words to our children. In a quiet season of life, reading these verses might be just the motivation and challenge we need to get creative and intentional. 

Quiet seasons never last for long, however; and there are times when the phrase “when you rise” makes us moms sigh with a great big desire to roll over and pretend like we have the luxury of staying in bed.

Perhaps your quiet has been taken over by a curious child with more energy than your choice of caffeinated stimulation.

Or a defiant child.

Or a child with a disability.

Or your family is going through a busy or trying season.

Maybe illness has struck your household and it’s all you can handle to keep up with wiping noses, cuddling, and disinfecting.

It’s possible that you’re a single parent trying to balance all of the responsibilities that demand your attention every day.

Or are you in the same boat as me? Sleepy mama to a newborn while older brother is watching my every move.

God gave me a fresh perspective on a familiar verse the other morning when my eyes were bleary and I wiped spit up off my shoulder in the middle of devotion time. I pray it encourages your heart as well as you face the “when you rise” part of your day.

You have searched me, Lord,
    and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
    you perceive my thoughts from afar.
 You discern my going out and my lying down;
    you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue
    you,
Lord, know it completely.
Psalm 139:1-4

I find incredible comfort in knowing that the same God who gave me the command as a parent to teach His Words to my children, even from the moment I rise, is the God with whom I have a personal relationship. The God who knows when I rise, and what words are in my heart to share even if I’m afraid they’ll come out jumbled and inadequate.

While I may not get a “free pass” to neglect my duty to train my children when times are hard, I have direct access to the source of all things true, even the very One who defeated death and gave me eternal life.

This season is not filled with cute little projects and well-planned Bible lessons, but it can and will contain conversations about Almighty God. My children will have the opportunity to witness me spending more time showering them with love in the form of cuddles and prayer because my hands are too filled with baby to worry about organizing my closets. Most importantly, they will unknowingly witness my dependence on God’s strength to get through the day-to-day responsibilities. 

Realizing that God is present to sustain me during the multiple times each night and early morning that I rise during this brief season of my life gives just the energy I need to not give up on being purposeful in showing Jesus to my kids throughout the day.

Kelly




Kelly is a wife to a fire fighter, mama to two little ones, blogger at Exceptionally Average, and writer. Her passions are Jesus, family, friends, chocolate, and encouraging women of all ages to be purposeful in life and relationships.
 

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