Offerings at the Heart’s Table

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So here we are, the last day of the Write 31 Days Challenge. Wow! What a journey for me as a writer. Thank you so much for your encouragement along the way.

How are my readers doing? Have your hearts been warmed? Have you been able to partake of cups of God’s grace, truth, and love for the areas where you’ve grown cold?

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Yesterday in our church group, sweet Judy shared how the day before God told her that emotions like self-pity, shame, anger, frustration, doubt, and so on are simply temptations. That’s all. They are offerings set before us that we have a choice to say yes or no to. I loved how the Lord boiled it all down to something we actually have control over. We simply choose.

So this month I’ve talked about what we can to choose. Warmth or cold?

• Fullness of the Holy Spirit or Emptiness from our own efforts?
• Letting God write His symphony in your life or complaining about the discord?
• Accepting God’s forgiveness or being smothered under the blanket of guilt?
• God’s empowerment or my ineptness?
• Safety of God’s loving embrace or slavery to fear?
• God’s light or disillusionment?
• Hope or grief?
• Belonging or isolation?
• Peace or anger?
• Dependency on God or self-reliance?
• Value based on what God says or what you think?
• Healing or woundedness?
• God’s redemption or self-degrading when we make mistakes?
• Commitment to God’s vision or shattered dreams?
• Truth or the enemy’s lies?
• Vindication from God or defense against misjudgment?
• Humility or pride?
• God’s reality or unrealistic expectations?
• Freedom or unforgiveness?
• Setting boundaries or being trampled?
• Release or control?
• The Bright Morning Star or nightmares?
• Learning to trust again or mistrust?
• Rest or exhaustion?

The choices we make determine how our days go, our years pan out, and how successfully we serve as moms. They determine whether we walk in joy or dread. They reveal what master we serve. They make way for God’s miracles or Satan’s victories.

Which cup will you choose today? Poison from the one who came to steal, kill, and destroy? Or complete satisfaction from the Fountain of Living Water?

We will frequently choose the wrong cup. I’m so glad God continues to offer His cup of redemption.

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Every day we get to choose His offering of mercy. Let’s drink full of Him as often as we need.

Rest for the Heart Exhausted

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I’m done! I am sooo done!” How many times did I say this? Countless. Sometimes I would think, Go ahead, lock me in jail. At least there I can be left alone and maybe get some sleep.

Once I packed my suitcases (two huge ones) and was ready to leave the next day. Didn’t know where I was going, but I was done. I was calmer the next morning but by then my husband had found places for all the kids to stay overnight and had reserved a room at a nearby bed and breakfast for him and me.

Another time my husband arranged for me to house-sit for a week for friends going to Europe. All I had to do was feed the outside cats and water the plants. That’s it. I slept as late as I wanted, watched oodles of movies, and spent hours sitting at the kitchen table, staring out at the tall pine trees while I read and prayed and journaled.

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The truth is, we all have limits. At times we come to a point of physical, mental, emotional, and even spiritual exhaustion. It’s normal. There’s no need to feel guilty about it. But there is the need to do something about it.

For a short period of time our church provided semi-monthly respite for us. Wednesday nights my husband took the kids to church while I enjoyed a few hours alone at home. My adoptive moms support group met once a month. And daily I retreated to my bedroom where I sat in my sanity corner (in a stuffed orange swivel rocker) and escaped into a world of fiction, while my husband monitored the kids for the evening.

Yes, I had a wonderful husband and a pretty good support base. We did have to do some educating to build some of this base. But whatever it takes, you must be sure you get regular rest. By “rest” I mean time when you’re something other than Mom. When you’re simply a wife, a sister, a friend, a woman, a person, a human. Just YOU.

YOU: a beautiful lady and cherished child of God.

You need to get the rest it takes for this truth to soak in deep.

And you know what? God commanded it. It’s one of the ten foundational commands (Exodus 20:8). Probably the only of the ten disobeyed regularly. The word for Sabbath means to take an intermission. Like the safety breaks you have to take every few hours at the swimming pool. Just sit down. Quit your activity and rest. The word holy means deliberately appoint. Don’t wait for a break to come along. You know that’ll never happen. You have to make a plan then heed the plan.

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We have every right and reason to demand it for ourselves. We have God’s rubber stamp on it. Let’s take it. Let’s make it happen starting right now.

Unless the Lord builds the house,
the builders labor in vain.
Unless the Lord watches over the city,
the guards stand watch in vain.
In vain you rise early
and stay up late,
toiling for food to eat—
for he grants sleep to those he loves.
Psalm 127:1-2, NIV

Restoration for a Heart Eroded by Lying

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She stomped her foot and insisted she hadn’t gone in the house I had just watched her go into. Or was that me who stomped her foot out of complete frustration? (I can’t remember.) How could one lie so blatantly in the face of evidence clearly stating otherwise? They call it crazy lying and it’s probably the most common behavior SAFE (Step/Adoptive/Foster/Every other nonbiological) parents battle. I’m not sure I know a single SAFE mom who has reported differently.

SAFE children lie—a lot—like, every day. I’ve come to believe it’s not a moral issue for them; rather, it was a matter of survival that became a lifestyle. Think about it. In Russia not that long ago, Christians met in secret; the poor stole wood or coal to heat their shackish homes in the winter; and street kids told heart-wrenching stories in order to procure food. In impoverished environments, lying is simply a means for meeting basic needs.

Needless to say, once those needs are consistently being met in our homes, the habit of lying gets used for other purposes: avoid punishment, fulfill desires, or affirm a false sense of being in control (another practice necessary for survival).

But for us raised in an environment where basic needs were readily met and love cradled the needs of the heart, lying is taught as evil. To utilize it would result in uncomfortable consequences. Honesty, however, was a prized characteristic—a mark of respectability. Most SAFE parents were reared with this moral code deeply ingrained.

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So when you have a mom raised where honesty is exalted, trying to parent a child who learned lying is a necessity, battles, confusion, and heartbreak result. When that mom spends years having trust eroded, her view of the world is tarnished. She has learned to evaluate people through the grid of distrust.

This is the place I landed after fifteen years of parenting habitual liars. A place where I kept a guard up that said, “Yeah, right! I’m not buying that story.” And I didn’t like it one bit. An innocent, basic trust in mankind had been destroyed and it felt icky. I didn’t mind being wiser and more discerning; but I missed the ability to watch for the good in others instead of the bad. My youngest child moved out for good the summer of 2012. Four-and-a-half years later, I think I’m learning to trust again.

So what do we do when we swim in a tank of devious sharks? How do we keep from being swallowed by cynicism? Well, I’m still learning this and God has been gracious with me. I think it’s simply taken time for the beauty of others to soak back in.

I remember making huge strides in this recovery when I visited my parents in Ukraine. I met all these people with Russian sounding accents that were honest and upright. Part of my brain was shocked that such godliness could accompany that accent. I mean my frontal cortex was saying, “Well, duh. Not everyone is a liar.” But a deeper part of my brain took some time to absorb that truth.

My kids, by the way, rarely lie to us anymore. I suppose they don’t always paint an accurate picture about what’s going on in their lives. But since I’m not responsible for their choices anymore, their decisions don’t carry the weight they used to. And frankly, I have a pretty good idea about their lives and I love them anyway. They are maturing by leaps and bounds and I know little by little the need to lie in order to live or to impress others is slowly diminishing. They’ll get there.

As for me, I’m learning to take my cynicism to the Lord. I think I’m learning to love people even if they aren’t telling the truth. The Lord alone knows what’s driving their need to lie and I can leave that brokenness with Him. If God wants to use me to reach them somehow, then I have to start by loving them right where they’re at.

Maybe the key lesson for me, is that it’s no longer my job to confront the liars of this world. My job is to love them anyway—fully aware of their tactics—pray for them, and let God fix them.

If you have kids who frequently crazy lie, I would say just expect them to. Don’t take it as a personal affront. Call it, communicate it’s wrong and no longer needed, and implement disciplinary action. Be consistent and don’t back down. But also know that love and safety will eventually erase their need to lie. I say eventually because mine were adults before they got to this point.

One more thing. We’ve all done our own fair share of lying. Only God can not lie.

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I probably say it one way or another in everything I write—all needs are met in God alone. When you need to remember what Truth looks like, look to Jesus. Sink into His Word. Live there. It makes being a light in this dark world a whole lot easier.

Make me know Your ways, O Lord;
Teach me Your paths.
Lead me in Your truth and teach me,
For You are the God of my salvation;
For You I wait all the day.
(Psalm 25:4-5, NASB)

“I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.” (John 14:6, NASB)

The Morning Star for a Heart Haunted by Nightmares

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I remember it vividly. I was lying flat on my back, surrounded by total darkness other than the 2 x 5-1/2 foot opening six feet above me. I felt like several heavy blankets had been piled on me. As I looked up at the dimly lit opening, I saw my children standing around it, shovels in hands, nonchalantly but in a cooperative effort, burying me.

Even now I have to remind myself to breathe as I recall this dream from probably ten years ago. My five kids were teenagers—a clue as to why I’d have such a dream. Gratefully, I had this dream only once.

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But I did have several recurring dreams. The circumstances and locations changed, but the characters and storyline were the same: my kids running rampant and totally ignoring my demands to cease and desist. I still have this one once in awhile.

Dreams allow our brains to process real emotion-loaded events. Dreams work to lessen the emotions while filing the events in our long-term memories. In doing so, they reveal the things we struggle with and what we hope for.

So, I’m curious. Do you have nightmares regarding your children’s behaviors? Do your dreams reveal fears or pain that need attention?

I think Satan loves to take the things we fear and exaggerate them—not only in our dreams but in our waking moments as well. I’d like to offer you some reassurance. You are not the wimp he makes you out to be. You are not the victim. You are not defeated.

In all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. (Romans 8:37, NIV)

Furthermore, your kids are not your enemy. Yes, their behavior can seem to communicate that. But deep inside they too are hurting and afraid, and coping the only ways they know how. And deeper inside, they are crying for love and acceptance, and they know—they know—you are the one that can provide that.

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. (Ephesians 6:12, NIV)

And what about your hopes? What longings do your dreams reveal?

I had another recurring dream. My husband and I were looking for a new house—one with plenty of bedrooms for our family of seven. These were fun dreams. We’d walk into a house barely big enough and begin to discover room after room hidden in unsuspecting places. These dreams had all sorts of craziness to them. I’m certainly glad I never owned these houses. I wouldn’t have wanted to clean them.

I don’t know if these dreams revealed my desire to hide, the need for a place to breathe, or both. Sometimes finding that place in my dreams was enough. But, in my conscious hours when I felt like screaming, that place had to be the presence of God—at times tucked into my sanity chair behind my closed bedroom door, other times in the shower, or sitting on the commode.

I can tell you this:

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Pay attention to your dreams and what they are really saying about the state of your soul. Then let Bright Morning Star redirect, heal, comfort, and fulfill those deep stirrings.

“I, Jesus, have sent My angel to testify to you these things for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star.”

The Spirit and the bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who wishes take the water of life without cost.

Revelation 22:16-17 (NASB)

O God, You are my God; I shall seek You earnestly;
My soul thirsts for You, my flesh yearns for You,
In a dry and weary land where there is no water.
Thus I have seen You in the sanctuary,
To see Your power and Your glory.
Because Your lovingkindness is better than life,
My lips will praise You.
So I will bless You as long as I live;
I will lift up my hands in Your name.
My soul is satisfied as with marrow and fatness,
And my mouth offers praises with joyful lips.
Psalm 63:1-5, NASB

Would You Like a Refill?

 

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Sometimes when you sip a cup of warmth, the contents can turn a bit tepid. So how about a top-off of this week’s cups? It’s Thursday, the day I re-serve the warmth shared throughout the previous six days of the Write 31 Days challenge. That way if you missed anything, or simply want a refill, the offerings are here for your enjoyment.

And for those who drink til the last drop, you’ll find a link to a generous offer from DaySpring. (DaySpring, the Christian branch of Hallmark, is an official sponsor of Write31Days. They have something very special for the faithful readers of our posts. They are saying thank you for me in a way I can’t.) But you only have one day left to respond—deadline is Oct 28.

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Feel free to take your time soaking in the warmth of God’s graciousness, served in my little nook of the world. There’s nothing better than enjoying a cup with a friend, so feel free to take a seat and share your heart. My cup is warm but my heart is warmer—eager to hear your thoughts.


Friday, Oct 21, defined the flavor of true humility.

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Humility for a Heart Enslaved by Pride


Saturday, Oct 22, served the reminder of where to place legitimate expectations.

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Reality for a Heart with Faulty Expectations


Sunday, Oct 23, offered hope for the recognition we desire.

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Recognition for a Heart Overlooked


Monday, Oct 24, placed unforgiveness on the table so we could examine what it really means.

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Freedom from a Heart of Unforgiveness


Tuesday, Oct 25, offered an assurance that sometimes walls are necessary (and I’m not talking about geographical walls).

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Assurance for a Heart Protected


And, Wednesday, Oct 26, served a reminder of who’s really in charge

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A Pry Bar for a Heart Clutching


Now for that offer. DaySpring is an official supporter of Write31Days and they are offering our readers a chance for a $100 gift certificate. $100! That’s awesome! So click the link and it will take you to the special signup page.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Be sure to use the Rafflecopter giveaway widget before October 28th. If you’re the winner DaySpring will contact you directly.


I can’t believe there are only four days left of this challenge! Thank you for being a dear friend and reading the messages God has burned into my soul during the years I had kids at home. I pray that you are encouraged and that those spots of your own heart that have grown cold, have been warmed by God’s grace and faithfulness.

I will resume my weekly blog again on Monday, November 7th. November! Oh my how this year has flown by. But, I’ve more material to share and a few surprises in store. So stay tuned.

A Pry Bar for a Heart Clutching

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Have you ever taken the Meyers-Briggs personality inventory? I have, like four times. Once for a job and the others in abbreviated forms as a part of some class at church. I always end up right in the middle on the extrovert/introvert scale—sometimes leaning more toward one side than the other. Interestingly, the older I get the more introverted I become.

For the middle two categories I can never remember what I am. But that last area, I’m a strong J. I like to have things in order. I like things predictable. I like to be in control. I don’t have to be in charge, but I’m not one who likes to go with the flow that easily.

If you’re like me, you might sometimes call yourself a control freak.

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One of the purposes of the Meyers-Briggs test is to let the world know we control freaks play an important role in society. Without us there’d be all sorts of anarchy and nothing would ever be completed.

As moms, our personality type is found in neat homes, with orderly children, weekly meal plans posted on the fridge, and color-coded bins. Usually. But God wants to make sure there’s balance, so He gives us a husband or a child—or two or three—who unintentionally throw a bit of chaos into our order. And we want to scream.

You see, God is the ultimate J, and He’s the One who needs to be in control. So when we need a little lesson in this, He sneaks in and kicks over the fruit basket. But He doesn’t send the produce rolling so we’ll go scrambling. No, He wants us to learn to sit down and let the colors scatter.

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. . . where vibrancy splatters our world and sweet aromas waft through the air.

I know, I know. Often things quickly turn into a sticky, stinky mess. But how much do we contribute to that mess when things don’t go the way we planned?

Order provides sanity. It makes us feel like the job is doable. And most of the time that’s ok. But, when we start acting like God in our homes—demanding this, expecting that, ordering them, and losing our sweetness in the process—the Lord just might start throwing some chaos into the picture so we can remember that He’s the one in charge.

And you know what? He’s pretty good at it. He can handle it. He can turn chaos into order, disturbance into peace, and storms into stillness. So let’s loosen our grip on the joystick and allow our world to lean into a slight tilt. I think if we do, we’ll find things a bit more centered.

He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. (Mark 4:39, NIV)

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28, NIV)

Assurance for a Heart Protected

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How long did it take for you to build that wall? No, not Donald’s wall. Your wall. That one you’ve erected around your heart. That wall that deflects the pain of another rejection from your child. The one that puts distance between you and friends and relatives who frequently offer criticism masked as parenting tips. The one that puts on a plastic smile when someone compliments your child’s beguiling goodness. It probably didn’t take very long at all, did it?

But, you know what? Sometimes walls are necessary.

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Sometimes we need to not absorb the rejection our children throw at us. Because truth is, though we’re the one they’re shooting at, it’s not us they’re really after. We just happen to be the closest heart they can reach.

And most of our friends and family have not—and will not—walk in our shoes. They simply won’t get it, so we just have to appreciate their well-meaningness. Educate where we can, and let it be where we can’t.

As for those compliments, aren’t you glad your children aren’t revealing their ick to everyone around you? As much as we wish people understood our grief, isn’t it nice to have most people in the dark. Our children need people to believe in them. And we don’t need to hear all the advice people would share if they “only knew.”

But, we must be careful. We must make sure that those walls can be easily dismantled because we never know when some hurting soul might need to hear our story. We need to build some windows to let the light of hope illumine our dark moments. And we need to build a door because the day will come when our children will be ready to meet us heart-to-heart.

One final word about these walls. They must be build with bricks of truth. Not resentment. Not stubbornness. Not fear. Not guilt. Truth.

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Here’s a few bricks to consider:

You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance. (Psalm 32:7, NIV)

Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High
will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress,
my God, in whom I trust.”
He will cover you with his feathers,
and under his wings you will find refuge;
his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.
(Psalm 91:1-2, 4, NIV)

Keep me as the apple of your eye;
hide me in the shadow of your wings.
(Psalm 17:8, NIV)