Friday, November 20, 2015

Fearing Insignificance: Now that Your Nest is Empty

If you find yourselves here from Encouragement Cafe: Welcome!

Image by Laura Hartog, Empty Nest Syndrome, CC BY ND 4.0

 "For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you, not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." Jeremiah 29:11

Sitting across from old high school friends, we caught up on all the years we’d missed between our daughters’ fifth grade graduations and weddings. Fifteen years later, we no longer sip a cup o’ coffee during their play dates, but instead we share similar experiences from our empty nests, now three thousand miles apart.

“What fills all your time, now?” I asked. And immediately I felt her embarrassment. I’d asked that dreaded question which plagues any stay-at-home mom and twice over for the stay-at-home-empty-nester. It’s the question I stammer to answer myself, as if staying home needs justifying.

While I couldn’t always afford being a full time stay-at-home wife/mother, I cherish the season I’m in now, where I’m not juggling office and home and church on the same plate. That doesn’t mean my plate isn’t full, but I’m now working for those that matter most—my God and my family.

I no longer run around like a banshee slapping four lunches together while gulping down a breakfast shake, or hunt for misplaced car keys while snapping at my kids to hurry out the door for school. Rather, as a stay-at-home-empty nester, I’m afforded breakfast alone with my husband every morning and uninterrupted candle-lit dinners. I can drive two towns over to sit in sweaty school auditorium and beam proudly up at my granddaughter singing a dramatic rendition of Disney’s newest theme song, or just lend a hand when my kids need help.

Staying home hardly means sitting around eating bonbons all day; although there are moments when I find myself in the empty nest talking to the cat curled up on my lap. But those days are rare. Often my days are spent caring for our aging mothers, helping them remain dignified, independent and healthy. I might drive them to doctors’ visits, pick up groceries, do their banking, mow their grass and rake some leaves; whatever they need.

And what about ministry? This…these words you’re reading, that’s part of my ministry. I felt guilty about it for quite some time. How can something I love, something I do in private, alone be ministry? Because when I hit that “publish” button on my blog, it sends my words around the world. The other way God uses my words? Children’s books. Silly little stories based on healthy family and moral values. And, when I walk into a school to present these books, or I’m at a fair signing these works, God’s right there, sending those who need these messages the most.

God presents each one of us unique opportunities to share Him with the world, no matter our circumstances or life season we find ourselves.

If you feel you are insignificant, know this: God sees you and He wants to use you right where you are to make a significant impact on those around you for His Kingdom.


Father, when we find ourselves feeling insignificant, especially in our family or ministry, show us how you want to use us. Help us to see that everything we do, how you’ve created us and the season we find ourselves can be used by you to make a mark in this world for Your Kingdom purposes. 

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Raising Grateful Children in a “Gimme More” Society

"Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful." Colossians 4:2
Around this time of year, before we’ve had a chance to empty the Halloween candy bowl or carve the Thanksgiving turkey, the big toy sales fliers start arriving and kids start their Christmas wish lists. Tantalized by every gimmick and colorful advertisement, their lists grow long and their expectations reach great heights.   

While there’s great fun letting them dream and wish for everything they desire, it creates quite a conundrum for parents striving to raise grateful children. Let’s be honest, those newspaper ads are colorful and those TV ads do well convincing them it’s a MUST to have the newest everything, don’t they?  

So, what’s a parent to do? How do we first, balance their expectations with our budgets and second, teach them gratitude when the world screams, “gimme more”?
(Please join the discussion at Christian Children's Authors blog? All are welcome! Just click here.)

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

More than Hearing: Soul-Life

If you find yourself here from Encouragement Cafe, Welcome!

Blessed is the man who trusts me, God, the woman who sticks with God. They’re like trees planted in Eden, putting down roots near the rivers… Jeremiah 17:7-8a The Message

One by one, cool mornings gather – sneak between our flip-flopped days. Summer scorched edges line the garden beds and pile beneath the trees. Back-to-school bargains fill our closets and drawers. We trade loose cottons for warm wools and bare toes for socked feet.

I think of all those lazy, carefree summer days gone by as autumn rushes in, clutters the ground and my calendar. Busyness pushes her way into every day, overrunning God’s presence – threatening soul death.

God describes self sufficient, busy people as tumbleweeds in the desert – roaming aimlessly with no roots. But…
God restores soul-life

Those who trust in Him – stick with Him – they are like trees replanted in Eden (paradise), rooted near rivers – “Never a worry through the hottest summers, never dropping a leaf, serene and calm through droughts, bearing fresh fruit every season”(Jeremiah 17:8b)

I don’t know about you, but I’d much rather be a strong tree, rooted in paradise, planted near living water, serene and calm, bearing much fruit than an aimless, tumbling tumbleweed in the hottest desert.


Ø  God replants us in paradise. Sin uproots our relationship with God, like in the Garden of Eden. But Jesus came to restore that relationship through his death and resurrection. Romans 10: 9 say, “That if you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”

Ø  God supplies us with living water. Like trees, our souls need living water to flourish. Throughout scripture, God refers to himself as the spring of living water. If we stay rooted in Him by reading His Word, (the Bible) and learn to abide in Him – listen, pray, worship, we cannot help but thrive, flourish and bear fruit. God is our source of life.

Ø  God requires we rest and worship. Even God rested. At the end of creation, he looked around at all his work and said, “It is good” and then, he rested. He saw how good rest was and He required it of us: “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy” (Exodus 20:8). It was still important to God in Jeremiah’s time:

“‘This is God's Message. Be careful, if you care about your lives, not to desecrate the      Sabbath by turning it into just another workday, lugging stuff here and there. Don't use the Sabbath to do business as usual. Keep the Sabbath day holy, as I commanded your ancestors’ ” (Jeremiah 17: 21-22).

In our fast-paced, cluttered, 24:7:365 worlds, let’s be mindful to keep our souls rooted near the spring of living water where soul-life flourishes in perfect rhythm between work, worship, and rest.

Father God, make us mindful of you throughout our busy lives. Tug at our hearts to slow down when we’re entangled in the demands of the day. Help us to carve our time alone with you so that you might fill us with soul-life that comes only through the infilling of your precious Holy Spirit. 

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Remembrances: Sweet Family Comfort

If you've found your way here from Encouragement Cafe, Welcome! 

CC BY ND 4.0
He will take great pleasure in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing. Zephaniah 3:17 NIV

A medley of hymns from my childhood rings clearly in my heart when I close my eyes and listen. They were completely separate tunes until my mother gathered me in her arms and strung them together as one. It's impossible to count how often she sang over me, but this I know: it comforted me.

Decades later, I gathered my own children in my arms and rocked away the nights in darkened rooms gently whispering that same strung-together-medley: "Jesus loves me this I know...Oh how he loves you and me...Jesus, Jesus, Jesus. There's just something about that name...On a hill far away, stood and old rugged cross...Draw me nearer, nearer blessed Lord." Every time I sang over them in love. Every time, it comforted them.

I miss those lingering moments of new sleep when I studied their sleeping little faces, inhaled their clean baby hair and thanked God for the precious gifts they were.

Now, six grandchildren later, I sometimes relive those times when they spend a night. Gathering them into my arms, that old, familiar, strung-together-medley reemerges, and usually, within minutes, their little bodies relax and their eyes close. If I’m honest, I linger with them when their fast asleep, tracing their familiar profiles and delighting in their presence.  

It awes me to know God looks at us the same way. I wonder how many lingering moments-when our hearts are quieted by His love-He rejoices over us with singing?

Do you have a favorite childhood tradition or memory that you’ve carried over into your own parenting or grand parenting? If not, memories can be intentionally created. Why not start today? Choose something that shows you delight over them like singing over your children as they fall asleep or sending them to school with a prayer. The sky’s the limit.

Dear Jesus, thank you for taking pleasure in us, quieting us with your love and rejoicing greatly over us. And for those times when we might feel unloved, bring to mind how much you delight in us. 

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Storytelling: Sharing God's Goodness from Generation to Generation

We will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord, his power, and the wonders he has done. Psalm 78:4

My father-in-law was an infamous storyteller. You wouldn't know it by his quiet public manner, but gathered around the dinner table with family or friends, his storytelling flowed for hours. He had great material from growing up in the rural south during the depression, serving in the U. S. Navy after Pearl Harbor, forty years of repairing failed factory production machines, fishing and hunting trips, retirement golf tournaments...well, you get the picture. 

While most of his stories may not have intentionally imparted any moral lessons, they taught us more about history and the storyteller than he ever imagined. So many times we said, "We should really record his stories for future generations," but we didn't. 

Storytelling is a wonderful teaching media. Whether spoken or written, it ignites our imagination and helps us connect-the-dots between the story and our personal life experiences. It's exactly why Jesus taught God's truths through parables. 

Not all stories are parables, but admit it, everyone loves a good story. If this weren't so, there would be no books, no movies, no theater. Have you noticed how our souls long for a captivating story with a hero, a villain, a battle, a rescue, and a happy ending that instills hope? 

( hear the end of this story, click here. See y'all in a second at Christian Children's Authors blog).

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Daddy, Am I Beautiful? Mommy, Am I Strong?

I'm proud to share with you two new children's books authored by my friend and colleague, Michelle S. Lazurek. 

Daddy, Am I Beautiful? is a delightful new book which addresses every little girl's deepest desire - to know she is beautiful. Through colorful, whimsical illustrations, this book teaches girls that beauty is God-given and comes from within. They will discover not only their own inner beauty, but learn to recognize the inner beauty in others through acts of kindness, love and concrete biblical examples.
Little girls will easily identify with Lovely Leah through her ordinary playfulness and inquisitiveness as shown through the extraordinary collaboration between author and illustrator.
:) :) :) :) :)
Pauline Books & Media, October 2015
ISBN 978-0-8198-1905-5 (paperback)
SRP $12.95
Ages 4-7
Written by Michelle S. Lazurek
Illustrated by Apryl Stott
Mommy, Am I Strong? is the companion book to Daddy, Am I Beautiful? and addresses every boy's universal need - to know he is strong.
Loving to play superheroes, Courageous Caleb and his cousin Daring David learn that true strength isn't measured by how high they can leap or how heavy an object they might lift. Rather, they learn that real strength comes from within - asking for God's help to do the right thing, especially when it's difficult.
Little boys will love the colorful illustrations and identify with these adventurous superheroes.
:) :) :) :) :)
Pauline Books & Media, October 2015
ISBN 978-0-8198-4948-9 (paperback)
SRP $12.95
Ages 4-7
Written by Michelle S. Lazurek
Illustrated by Scott Spinks

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Love Me

"Your unfailing love will last forever. Your faithfulness is as enduring as the heavens." Psalm 89:2 NLT

"I need someone to love me!" she shouts impatiently from her princess toddler bed.

"I'll be right there," Mama reassures her, "as soon as I lay your baby brother down."

Oh isn't that the cry of everyone's heart? Toddler princess or not, we selfishly desire love -an all-knowing, unfailing, soul-deep love. We crave attention, reassurance that our existence matters; that who we are in this great big world makes a difference to someone

Mama finally arrives and kneels beside her bed.

"My heart is so full of love, Mama, so I need to love you," the toddler princess explains. "And, I need someone to love me."

Isn't that the way unfailing love cycles? Love fills and spills and fills again - without fail - without fear. Perfect love never fails.

{Click on over to {re}fresh for the rest of the story, won't you?}