Saturday, May 30, 2015

For First-Time Parents of Graduates


Your firstborn has graduated.  What an exciting and emotional time of life.  You've successfully parented (hopefully and for the most part) your first child.  At least you've gotten them to this point in one piece (again...hopefully and for the most part)!

I thought you might like to know what to expect in the days ahead.  I know every child and every family dynamic is different, but having gone through this four times myself and watching it countless times as a youth minister's wife...I have just a few pointers.
  1. Your man-child is going to start feeling very independent.  This is a normal part of the letting go process.  And actually, they're probably feeling more insecure than you really know.  This is one of the hardest struggles in your relationship.  If your child is going off to college, you're not going to have a clue (for the most part) about what they're doing.  Their wings are about to be stretched and new freedom is about to be theirs.  This was your goal all along--to shoot that arrow you've trained, stretched, and shaped into the world.
  2. You will probably panic at some point about not having taught them enough.  Enough about managing finances, enough about God, enough about studying, enough about abstinence, etc., etc.  I know I did.  And God gently reminded me that my job was to get them to this point.  And now it was His turn.  He takes His job very seriously...and He's not panicked.
  3. You will probably experience some of the most extreme emotions of your life--a virtual rollercoaster.  It's hard to let go.  You're excited for them because of the adventures you know they're about to experience, but you don't know what to do with that empty bedroom (unless a younger sibling has already claimed it!).  Your family dynamics are about to change.  I encourage you to enter the thrill your graduate is experiencing.  It was hard for me to be sad when they were so excited!!
  4. Please, please, please don't do everything for them.  If they haven't already had to stretch their negotiating necks out there, now's the time.  They need to make decisions on what to take to college (this skill will serve them for years to come), which meal ticket to buy, how to pack their car, which classes to take (and drop), finding a roommate, buying books, talking to admissions, college counselors, dorm advisers, and professors.  Do not be their alarm clock!!  Give them a heads-up that they're on their own.  If you are doing all of those things for your kids, you are being talked about by those professionals....I know.  (I have 5 family members who work/teach at a college.)
  5. Realize that these are the years where your kids are going to be making their faith their own.  To this point, you've probably "highly encouraged" your kids to be at church and participate in the youth group.  They've heard everything you've taught and believe about God and have kind of ridden on the coattails of your belief system.  But now they have the freedom to make their own decisions about church attendance or getting involved in a campus ministry.  Most are going to question everything they've ever learned.  This is normal.  They're having to make their faith their own.  Give them space and freedom to do this--all while diligently praying for them.
  6. Your kids are going to make mistakes now that they have all of this freedom.  Some are going to mess up badly.  The best advice I can give you is this:  Keep the Doors Open!!!  Let them know you love them unconditionally and that you'll always be there with open arms.  Show them how to find their way back to God and let them know they're forgiven.  This doesn't mean they may not have to suffer consequences...but they need to know you will always love them.
  7. Having said "Keep the Doors Open,"  I'd also tell you to be ready to lay down the law if needed.  One of our kids moved out of our house to live with his friends in a college town and still didn't have a job after three months.  He was told, "Either get a job or come home!"  (He wasn't going to school.)  Our kids attending college knew that if they had failing grades, their next year was "on them."  Boundaries are good...still.  You also are probably still holding some of the purse strings.  Use it.  This will be great leveraging power.
  8. This fact is reliable with most kids:  The first summer after their freshman year at college is tough when they come home.  They've had a whole year with new-found freedom and independence.  They know more than you do at this point. ;)  The good news is it probably won't be this way the next summer.  (Oh!  And get ready for all their stuff---it grows!)
  9. Every parent wants to see their child succeed.  Send them notes of encouragement, praise, and blessing. Send them care packages.  They like tangible things--not just text messages.  Fix their favorite meals when they come home (like you'll have a choice!).  Expect to spend money when you go visit them--they're going to be ready for some good, free food! Pray for them consistently.  Do all of these things...but don't overwhelm them.  You'll see them peddling backwards if you push.  They need room and space to grow.
  10. Realize that you're about to gain a friend.  As soon as this "expansion process" is complete, you're going to have a brand new relationship.  And it's sweet...oh, so sweet!!  This is what you've been waiting for and dreaming about.  THIS, my friend, is your graduation.


Thursday, May 28, 2015

The End from the Beginning


Seeing the end from the beginning...did you know that's what prophecy is?  It's being given the gift of seeing a final conclusion--or even just something in the future--and speaking it into someone's life.  And because God has all of our days numbered, He knows our final outcome.  Do you think he knows what you're going to be?  How you're going to finish?  What His desires are for your life?  He knows all of that.  Maybe the greater question is:  Does He still speak to us?  After my own careful search of the scripture, I believe He does.  And He's willing to tell us of some beautiful things to expect in people around us to help them get to that place.

Consider Gideon.  In Judges 6, you find Gideon hiding in the winepress beating the wheat to hide from the Midianites.  The Angel of the Lord meets him there and says, "The Lord is with you, you mighty man of fearless courage!"  What??  He's hiding in the winepress!!  That doesn't look too courageous to me.  But God knew who Gideon was created to be....and He was calling it forth.  Look at the Samaritan woman at the well.  The fact she came at noon speaks volumes--most women went early in the morning before it got hot.  She was avoiding meeting people because of her situation.  But Jesus sat and talked with her--which was unheard of for a Jewish man to talk to a Samaritan woman (lower than low in that day and culture).  Jesus didn't avoid her sin.  He addressed it (the fact he knew the details of her life got her attention!)...and called forth a true worshiper.  She left excited and ran to share her news with everyone--so they could come and hear Jesus, too.  She left...changed.

See those things in your children and speak of them.  If the Spirit of God shows you some great things to expect in their lives, tell them.  They will aspire to it.  I remember spending time praying for each of my children when they were in middle school/high school and seeing things to expect in their lives which also existed in the lives of certain Bible characters.  I called it out.  I wrote it, read it to them, and prayed it over them.  And now I'm seeing those things developing in their lives.  It's powerful.  Ask God how you can come in agreement with Him for those you love.  Each person has greatness God has planted there and you can be a tool to cultivate it.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Josh Duggar


I love the TV show, 19 Kids & Counting!  I enjoy watching a family who loves God with all of their hearts and who has solid family values and are willing to expose the day-to-day of their lives.  I was sad to hear about Josh's conduct when he was 14-years-old.  As a young victim of that kind of behavior from an extended family member myself, I don't excuse his behavior.

But did you realize it wasn't his victims who exposed him?  My guess is that it was completely forgiven by them.  Maybe not completely forgotten--because who can?  I know because I forgave my own offender and don't hold it against him.  I believe there was someone in the police department who was jealous for the attention this family gets in this small town.  Someone who despises Christians and had the attitude, "Let's see how you deal with this!"  They may have even gotten paid for the information.  It may have been someone who'd also been abused and was "standing and speaking for all victims everywhere." Someone who wanted to see the Duggars fail.

But let me tell you what will happen.  The Duggars will stand.  Oh...they'll have to take time to re-group, love on one another, find Josh a job, etc.  But their character will shine.  TLC would be crazy to take them off the air, but if they do, it won't matter.  Their lives aren't about television...television was just a medium to get their message out.  And now they'll get a bigger message out:  Christians aren't perfect.  They mess up.  But this is what forgiveness, restoration, and unconditional love look like.  They will stand for TRUTH.

Here's what I'd want Josh to know.  DON'T FEAR!!  We believe in you.  Your past does not define you.  I don't know of ANYONE who would want their 14-year-old behavior displayed for the world to see.  And the piranhas who are feeding on you, least of all.  They will accuse you of hypocrisy, but their own accuses them loudly.  And remember this, Josh...what comes against you measures the stature of who you are intended to be.  Your place of pain will become your place of reign.  (Living Life By Design taught me these things last weekend.)  Your brothers and sisters in Christ are standing behind you.  Those of us who have endured some persecution and understand where you are, have got your back.  You are not alone!  What Satan has intended for evil, God will use for good.  Watch and see....

By the way, as a parent of adult children of my own, I want to commend Jim Bob & Michelle.  You are great parents.  You handled this situation with Josh all those years ago with great integrity.  You didn't cover it up, hide it, minimalize it when you found out about it.  You included those who needed to be included and got counseling for all involved.  And you put boundaries in place to protect your children.  For those looking in, your encouragement to your children not to kiss before marriage makes perfect sense now.  The things I said to Josh, I'd say to you:  Your place of pain will become your place of reign and what comes against you measures the stature of who you are intended to be.  You are great parents.

God, please bless the Duggar family.  Let them know they're not standing alone.  Press in to each of them today and give them great hope, truth, unconditional love, fearlessness, and vision for who they are.  Give them Your promotion, Father.  Bless those offended all those years ago.  Fill their hearts with peace and forgiveness--again.  And Father, please let the person in the police department who exposed this find You and find forgiveness.  In Jesus' name, Amen.

And do not [for a moment] be frightened or intimidated in anything by your opponents and adversaries, for such [constancy and fearlessness] will be a clear sign (proof and seal) to them of [their impending] destruction, but [a sure token and evidence] of your deliverance and salvation, and that from God.  
Philippians 1:28

**The first reports online were that someone in the Springdale Police Department supplied the information to inTouch Magazine which made it appear someone in the police department was eager to share the information to the media...and upon which I based my information.  Since then, it's been reported by inTouch Magazine that they received the report through a Freedom of Information Act request.  I'm thankful no one in the police department was at fault and sorry for my conclusions without those pertinent facts.  

Friday, May 22, 2015

Who am I?

One of the things Dr. Tina Hay did at the retreat was to mention the meaning of some of our names--our given name and sometimes our surname.  So I thought it would be interesting to research all of my names and--in the spirit of "noticing everything"--see what it says about me.  I encourage you to do the same---it's so easy to do today with the internet!

Becky
Of course, Becky is a derivative of Rebecca or Rebekah which is a Hebrew name.  It literally means "noose" or "to tie."  From that, many updated versions will say it means "captivated or captivating."  When I first looked for the meaning of my name years ago, I found it meant "trap or snare."  That always bothered me.  But when you look at the story of Rebekah in the Bible, you'll see her life became a trap for her husband and sons.  She was partial to her son, Jacob, and together they tricked or snared Esau (her firstborn son) and Isaac (husband) and Esau lost his birthright to Jacob because of it.  I like captivating much better.  ;)

Darlene
From the endearment "darling" or "tenderly loved."

Sanders
Sanders is my maiden name.  It appears Sanders, an Anglo-Norman name, came from the name Saunder which is a derivative of Alexander.  And Alexander means "helper of mankind" or "defender of men."

Childress
My mother's maiden name is Childress, so it becomes a part of me.  It is an Anglo-Saxon name and comes from the Old English words childra-hus which means "child house" or orphanage.  Childress may have been a nickname for an orphan.

Dietz
I married into the Dietz family and because of that vow, took on all it offered.  Dietz is the diminutive of Dietrich, hence "little Dietrich."  The first part "diet" comes from a German word meaning "people" while the last part "rich" comes from the German word "reich" which means ruler.  So Dietrich or Dietz means "ruler of the people."


As I studied on these names and their meanings and allowed the Holy Spirit to speak to me, this is what He showed me...

Spiritual Meaning...
God, the Great Helper of all mankind came and took me, an orphan, and adopted me into His family.  He didn't just take me in...I became His tenderly-loved child...one He invested in.  He raised me up and trained me to be a strong, warrior woman capable of ensnaring the enemy in his own traps and to tighten the noose around the enemy's neck for the destruction of his dark plans.  Because I became a protector and an initiator to release others from Satan's snares, there are many who stand today and have become warriors in their own rights.  I hate what the enemy wants to do to mankind.  I desire to see the fulfillment of God's perfect plan in each person's life and count it a privilege to help build and create wholeness and bring them to their full potential and to their God-given destiny.


Orphan            to             Warrior

Thursday, May 21, 2015

The greatness of God I see in you...


We were reminded on the retreat that we are created in the image of God.  Each of us has a unique characteristic of God, a treasure, placed within us which no one else has.  Just imagine the different combinations of personalities, gifts, families, and backgrounds which create who we are.  There are 7.2 billion people living on the earth today and...we're all completely different.  Even my husband, who is an identical twin, is different from his brother.  Collectively, God is revealed through us.  God has placed a piece of His greatness in each of us and it's up to us to find His greatness in one another and in ourselves--a treasure hunt!  Imagine us looking for His greatness in one another instead of focusing on the negative and being critical.

We practiced doing that.  We sat knee-to-knee with three other people and told them, "The greatness of God I see in you is..."  That part was easy.  It was actually a little more awkward to listen to others telling me what greatness they saw in me.  But the most difficult part came when I had to tell them what greatness of God I saw in myself.

But that's bragging on God.  HIS GREATNESS ABIDES IN ME!!  ME.  That's worth telling people about.  And if I dismiss His greatness in me...I'm just displaying false humility.  I'm taking away His glory.

Since I've been home, I've looked in a mirror each day and told myself, "The greatness of God I see in me is...."  It's been eye-opening.  God has revealed some incredible things to me.

YOU have greatness!  And you can begin discovering exactly what that is.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Notice Everything!


Before we went on our retreat, we had some paper work to fill out and a DISC personality test to take.  In the paper work, we were asked what our top 10 passions were.  Now I've learned that when I take these kinds of tests to not over-think them...because I'm an over-analyzer by nature and want to give the "right" answer.  So I honestly didn't take a lot of time as I began writing the first things which came into my mind.  I figured if they popped into my mind that quickly, they really were my greatest passions.  And because the "paper work" was actually all done online, I didn't even make a copy for myself so that I could go back and look at it.  So when I stood in front of the room that first day to repeat what they were to the class, I didn't even remember all of them.  But they were my passions.  One of the leaders took my list and showed me how they all fit together--that I liked to learn new things so that I could then invest in people.  My key passion is to influence others.

We were told to NOTICE EVERYTHING!  That was it.  It didn't come with much more instruction except to say that the things we do and enjoy in the natural have spiritual meaning.  So I've been noticing everything.  Yesterday, I was noticing how I was reacting to Andy.  After having read the in-depth report on my DISC test and realizing how I'm made up, I was laughing at myself.  Yes, I'm very much a "could you get to the point?" kind of person.  My mind was in high gear all day yesterday.  One of the women at the retreat had mentioned a TV show which was one of her passions.  I began thinking about what I liked to watch on TV.  HGTV is my go-to.  There are many programs on that channel which I enjoy.  So if I'm going to notice everything and the natural has spiritual meaning...what does that say about me?  It became as clear as a bell:  I delight in watching a "building or remodeling" take place in a person's life.  I like to build and restore lives and...the Church.  I like to design and make others beautiful.  I love bringing someone to completeness.  I began sharing this with my sister, Sandra, and she said, "And once that's done, you're ready to move on to the next project!"  Yes!!  I'm never content to stick with one project.  I move from project to project in the natural because I don't want to get bored.  I don't move as quickly in the spiritual because it takes more time to see completeness in people.  Who knew that watching HGTV said something about my inner makeup?

Back to my top 10 passions.  When we got to the greatest passion of mine, I was overcome.  I was even surprised by the depth of my emotion.  Want to know what it is?

Interacting with my adult children. 

Interestingly, I'd blogged this before I left for the retreat.  My four kids have been my greatest "building project" (since they were born) and now I'm getting to see their completeness.  I am ENJOYING their blueprint (God's...not mine) and delight in watching their own expansions, remodels, designs, and decorating.  They are just FUN!!!  And I am so blessed that they include me so I can get an up-close and personal look at what they & God are up to--because I love a good, inviting open house.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Retreat

Erin, Me, Peggy, Sandra-my sister

For Mother's Day, Matt, my oldest son, sent me on a retreat in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico.  (It wasn't lost on me that we were learning truth in this place!)  In fact, he invited all four of us in the photo above.    It was extremely intense.  The purpose of the retreat is to help you understand who you are and the purpose for which God has created and designed you.  There are so many combinations of personalities and gifts--and to see that we are each a unique expression of an aspect of God--a gift of/from Him to value and receive from one another.

There are going to be so many take-aways from this retreat.  It's like the Living Life by Design team was just the key to begin unlocking the doors of my spirit, soul and body and the Holy Spirit is completing the work...because my mind has not been able to rest since I've gotten home.

For instance, this morning, I've had a flood of thoughts.  I began remembering (through grace and the work of the Holy Spirit) all of the negative things which have ever been said about me and my personality, in particular.  I'm bossy, loud, straightforward, harsh.  Many snapshots came to my mind of how the negative was reinforced in my life (no blame, none at all!!).  But then I remembered a person who reinforced my personality in a positive way.  Bro. Somerville (my pastor in high school) asked me to "LEAD" by planning and organizing our youth Valentine banquet.  I did...and loved it!  He said I was a leader.

This morning, God has been graciously showing me how these negative things are actually a positive---and an expression of who He is.  These things I've been trying all of my life to get OUT of my life were a part of me and created in me to show the world who HE is.  Instead of bossy, I'm a leader who knows where she's going.  Instead of loud, I'm passionate.  Instead of offensively straightforward, I can easily pinpoint problems to help others work them out.  Instead of harsh, I'm direct...with a big heart to help.  And to tell you those things, I'm not bragging on myself.  I'm expressing to you the greatness of God in me.  Incredible, huh?

Now I've just got to figure out how to embrace these things in my life, allow the Holy Spirit to refine them, and use them for His kingdom and His glory.

*Hold on to your seats!  You'll be hearing a lot about this retreat.  And I hope my life becomes a billboard to send lots of people to go and hear and experience it for themselves--just like Matt's life was that for me.  I began to see a settled-ness in Matt, a new confidence, a sureness of who he was and his purpose in life.  The struggle was gone.   It is life-changing.  And I don't say that to sell it.  Check it out:


Monday, May 11, 2015

The Payoff of Adult Children

Matt, Amy, David, Zach--in birth order.

I recently had a young mother talking about the trials and  stresses of dealing with young children.  I wanted to encourage her...but I had to tell her that the payoff comes much later.

Mothering is a tough job when the kids are little.  Most moms are usually around the kids a lot more hours than dad.  And a lot of the discipline falls to her...unless you tell them "just wait til your dad gets home!"  (And sometimes that's the only thing that works.) Little kids are messy and are really good at creating chaos.  Heck!  So are big kids!!  And if you have more than one, they fight, cry, whine, torment one another, demand, question, and hardly give you a moment to breathe.  I watched some young moms at church on Mother's Day wrangle their kids and I asked, "Did you just tell them all you wanted for Mother's Day is for everyone to obey?"  That's all we want!  But it's impossible to obtain with small children--especially all at the same time!  They don't reason or communicate on our level.

Even teenagers are difficult.  That's usually the age when they cop an attitude of "my parents are stupid and I know more than they do."  Of course, not all teenagers have that teenage angst...but most wade through it in some degree or measure.  It's hard for them to communicate without eyerolls and a good ol' "M-o-m!"  They hate the rules and on some days you just think, "It would just be easier to give in!"

But please don't.  Carry through with the discipline, the rules, and the teaching of respect.  Because tonight, I sit here meditating on the payoffs of adult children.  And there are many.  I have four adult children and the payoff is different with each one because we communicate and interact differently.  For instance, I can have intense, deep spiritual discussions with my oldest, Matt, who is very driven and has the heart of a prophet.  In fact, these days, he's doing the teaching and leading.  He keeps giving me books to read and I can hardly keep up. When Amy & I talk, we will laugh hysterically!  She is full of life and sees humor in even the craziness of four children of her own.  When she calls and tells me about the funny things they do, we can laugh for a full minute, trying to catch our breath!  She amazes me.  David is my gentle soul.  But when he gets excited about something, hold on to your seat!  Life rushes out of him and it's like trying to get a drink of water out of a fire hose.  I recently went through a study with him and it's like we were "getting it" at the same time and it was so exciting!  Zach is hysterical and keeps us all laughing. He can tell a great story!  But I can hardly keep up with all of his thoughts and spiritual growth--it's coming so fast.  He's learning so much as a leader and I love hearing his innovative ideas and the new truths he's learning.  There have been times when my son's music has ministered deeply to me--like ointment poured on a wound--or brought me to the throne of God in praise and adoration.  Just hearing Amy's vision for ministry gets me excited---she's made me "see" it...and she knows how to get there.  And this is just a small sampling from each of my children.  Trust me--I know their growth isn't about how well I did as a mom.  It's all about God and their submission to Him.  But we, as moms, have got to partner with Him.

Mama's....don't give up!!  Keep cleaning up those messes.  Keep disciplining your children. By learning to submit to you, they're learning how to submit to God.  They need boundaries and rules and much love.  But most of all, keep praying for your children and pointing them to Jesus.  They need that more than anything.  Will you do things perfectly?  Heavens, no!!  Of course you'll mess up!  There's not a mom out there who hasn't--and I was the chief of mess-ups!  But God in His grace and mercy wants to redeem our mess-ups and lead our children into His perfect plan for their lives.  And when He does...
WOW!

The payoff is more valuable than anything you could ever obtain.  I promise.  It's gonna all be worth it.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Tom & Brady


Tom (single) and Brady (married to Karen, with baby son, Elijah) were buddies in every since of the word.  They were fighting the same enemy, sharing foxholes, and covering each other's backs.  They had a bond which would never be broken.  At the end of a day of fighting, Tom would hide from his emotions in a bottle of Jim Beam while Brady would immerse himself in the Word of God.  Brady was trying to share Jesus with Tom, but it was tough to understand love when you were killing people every day.  And then the unthinkable happened.  An enemy grenade was tossed within yards of Tom--and Brady instinctively ran and fell on it.  After the shock, Tom became sober-minded and laser-focused and  determined his future fate...he was going home and taking care of Karen & Elijah...for Brady.  Which is exactly what he did.  He came home and found a job in the city where Karen lived and began helping her financially and doing odd jobs she needed.  He babysat Elijah occasionally...and loved it.  And gradually, Tom came to understand that Jesus died for him and he, in turn, committed his life to Him.  The story doesn't end there, though.  Tom and Karen fell in love, got married, and Tom adopted Elijah.  Tom & Brady's story is a story of unconditional love...and holiness.

You see, Tom set himself apart to take care of Karen after Brady's death.  He was sober-minded.  He didn't allow anything to detract from his commitment to Karen (and Brady).  His life was devoted to taking care of his buddy's family--because of Brady's great sacrifice for him.

That's holiness.  Holiness is being set apart.  It's not being perfect or holier-than-thou.  It's understanding the great sacrifice made for us and committing to live for the one who made that sacrifice.  It's loving Jesus for what He did for us...and then living single-mindedly for Him.

I've been consumed with understanding holiness lately.  Instead of the kind of devotion that Tom demonstrated, I see more of us wondering how little we can do and how close we can come to the line of worldliness...and still love Jesus.  We're not sober-minded and laser-focused or consumed with living for the One who sacrificed his life for us.  We love the world and the things of the world more, it seems.  But God has called us to holiness...a life set apart for Him.

 "So brace up your minds; be sober (circumspect, morally alert); set your hope wholly and unchangeably on the grace that is coming to you when Jesus Christ is revealed. Live as children of obedience to God; do not conform yourselves to the evil desires that governed you in your former ignorance when you did not know the requirements of the Gospel.  But as the One Who called you is holy, you yourselves also be holy in all your conduct and manner of living.  For it is written, You shall be holy, for I am holy."
I Peter 1:13-16