Two Ways to Improve your Connection with your child

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I often work with children and teens in my profession, and in doing so, along with having two children of my own, I have discovered two things that can help improve the connection with a child. I have found that owning up to your mistakes, and entering your child’s world are incredible ways to show genuine love and deepen connections.  At times I do a good job with this and see my connection with my girls improve, While other times I struggle and succumb to my weaknesses. I have found that when I turn to God for help I am capable of being who He wants me to be for my children, humble and selfless. I know He can do the same for you. 

Own up to your mistakes: If you have caused your child pain, either directly or indirectly, and you don’t own up to it, connecting will be very difficult to do. If someone else hurts your child and you ignore it, you are indirectly Causing him or her pain. Even if you do everything else right, your child wants to hear you take responsibility and apologize for pain your choices have caused them. This shows genuine love and care. It proves that you can set aside your own pride for the sake of your son or daughter. Honestly, to me this is critical! Not only does this show that you are willing to admit your fault and share regret for pain you’ve caused, it also teaches him or her a valuable life lesson that will help in their future relationships.

Avoid excuses like the plague. An excuse voids your apology and relinquishes responsibility to someone or something else. Your child wants to hear you share sorrow and regret for your wrongs, not an excuse for why you did what you did. When I lose my patience with my daughter and react poorly I tell her how sorry I am and that my reaction wasn’t okay. She always responds well and forgives me! What if I said, “I’m sorry I reacted poorly, but it was because you were acting up.” Does this apology mean anything? Not at all. (This works the same in marriage). I can sometimes be the queen of excuses so learning this has been a challenge for me, but with God’s help I am improving and connecting better with my family as a result. 

Think about your own life, are there things you wish your parents took responsibility for that they didn’t? How would you have felt and how different might your connection to them have been? Admitting your faults to your child doesn’t make you appear weak, it shows your child what humility and honesty looks like (James 5:16). PS: It’s never too late to do this by the way! No matter how much time has passed, doing this can make a world of difference for your child.

One last thought on this point. Don’t believe the lie that your child is resilient and can handle pain without recourse. Every child wants to be accepted and validated. All children are effected by pain and need to know you care. An amazing way to do this is by acknowledging hurts and taking responsibility. 

Enter their world: the world of a child is drastically different than that of an adult. Its easy to want our children to enter our world because that’s what we are more comfortable with. Showing our kids that what matters to them matters to us is a big way to deepen our connections with them. Maybe coloring, doing puzzles, pretending to be a prince or princess, having tea parties, watching super hero movies, doing crafts, going on roller coasters, playing ball in the backyard, or reading books about dinosaurs isn’t interesting to you, but doing these things because your child loves to do them will greatly improve your bond. This was challenging for me as a new Mom, but with dedication and God’s help we can overcome our weaknesses in order to be the parents God desires us to be and connect well with our children.

This point is especially important with teenagers. Maybe you would say that your teen isn’t interested in doing things with you or doesn’t talk to you. Have you hurt him or her in some way? Take responsibility for the hurt you have caused first. Maybe you have and your teen still acts uninterested. This is a normal part of being a teen, but don’t let it scare you away. Instead of asking just plan a surprise outing to your teens favorite place. I promise this will make a difference and will show genuine interest. Over time your connection will begin to deepen. 

When you connect on a deeper level with your child it’s easier to be aware of what’s going on in his or her life. Your child will feel safe, secure, and trusting, and will be willing to share thoughts and feelings with you. When they do, be careful to validate those feelings even if you might disagree. Entering your child’s world means taking them seriously. Instead of putting down their feelings try putting yourself in their shoes. This is another way to enter their world and improve your connection.

Thanks for reading!

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He who Comes to God Must Believe that He is..

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“But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.”
‭‭Hebrews‬ ‭11:6‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

Someone close to me recently told me that during a dark time in her life she tried to go to God. She begged him to heal her and rescue her from the pain she was feeling. But He didn’t. She never claimed to believe what the Bible teaches about who God is. From her perspective she tried God and that didn’t work. I wonder how many people would say the same. This breaks my heart, and their was a time in my life this would have left me rather upset with God. Thinking, God, why would you not heal someone who cried out to you and begged for healing. Especially someone I care so much about. To expect this of God is to expect him to force himself on those who do not really believe in who He is. I personally don’t believe he does this.

The person who truly believes, will go to God for redemption, not relief. Why? Beause she believes in Who God is and she understands her desperate condition and need for a savior. She is a sinner in need of saving grace, not a victim in need of help in a troubling circumstance. The reality of an eternity without salvation and life in Christ is far more significant than a current struggle, no matter how challenging. God wants to transform your heart and mind, not fix your problems. Does God care about helping us through tragedy and pain we face while on earth? Of course! But this only comes once you have believed in your heart in who God is and have received Jesus Christ as your savior. You can’t go to God expecting his reward without believing who He is.

“For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.”
‭‭Romans‬ ‭10:10‬ ‭NKJV‬

When we believe who God is we will naturally want to diligently seek Him. Webster defines diligent as being characterized by steady, earnest, and energetic effort, and to seek, as going in search of or trying to discover. So we are to seek to discover God steadily, earnestly, and with great effort. Would you do this without believing who He is? Possibly, if you were set on gaining knowledge for the sake of knowledge. But I think for the most part, you wouldn’t. I don’t diligently seek God because I hope He is real, I do it because I know and believe what the Bible teaches me about God, along with what creation shows of Him. Add to this the personal relationship I gained when I answered His call, believed and received Jesus as savior, and the incredible and amazing things He has done in my life since.

Maybe you are that person who “tried” God when times were tough, nothing miraculous happened, and so you determined that He must not be real or at least must not care about you. This just isn’t truth.
Ask yourself these questions:
1. Did I seek God for relief from a difficult circumstance rather than for redemption? Relief from struggle is appealing, but it doesn’t compare to redemption in Christ. “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace” Ephesians‬ ‭1:7‬ ‭NKJV‬‬
2. Did I acknowledge my sin, my need for a savior first, and the reality of not accepting the gospel of Christ? “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” ‭‭I John‬ ‭1:9‬ ‭NKJV‬‬, “in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power,” II Thessalonians‬ ‭1:8-9‬ ‭NKJV‬‬ (not trying to be all fire and brimstone, but this truth shouldn’t be avoided simply because it is unpleasant)
3. Did I really believe who God is? That He is the God and creator of the universe and everything in it,  “I have made the earth, And created man on it. I—My hands—stretched out the heavens, And all their host I have commanded.” Isaiah 45:12, NKJV), that lack of belief condemns me, (“He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God” John‬ ‭3:18‬ ‭NKJV‬‬), that He sent His son Jesus Christ to live a sinless life and die on the cross to pay the price for my sin, offering me the free gift of salvation? (“Therefore, as through one man’s offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man’s righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life.” Romans‬ ‭5:18‬ ‭NKJV‬‬).

If you answered no to these questions it could be that you went to God for relief, rather than for redemption, because you didn’t really believe that He is. So what’s the good news? It’s not too late to believe and receive the reward that God has to offer you, eternal salvation in Christ and spiritual blessings that blow worldly comfort out of the water. God doesn’t offer bandaids, he offers complete redemption through His son Jesus Christ to those who believe in their hearts and confess with their mouths that Jesus is Lord. Once you have gone to Him believing who He is, your life can never be the same.

Maybe you just don’t know who God is because you have never sought out the truth. Go get a Bible, ask a Jesus follower you know, brave a Sunday morning church service. If you diligently seek, believing who God is, you will absolutely never be the same. How do I know this is true? Because He told us in His Word!

Secret Faults

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Who can understand his errors? Cleanse me from my secret faults.
Psalm 19:12

This verse sheds so much light on why so many of us struggle in the various relationships in our lives. All the way from our familial And professional relationships to our relationship with God. We all have secret faults that we are blind to and none of us are immune to this fact! If each of us were praying this prayer, as David did, and opening our eyes to see these faults in ourselves, don’t you think it would eliminate a lot of our relational struggles? Perhaps the biggest of which being our relationship with God. To make it worse, often our faults that are secret to us are not so secret to those around us, causing frustration and conflict. So what can we do about it?

Here are some things I’ve learned and have had to work on in order to see my faults more clearly. By the way, I’m still a work in progress!

I have had to accept that I am not immune to secret faults and I am not everybody else’s savior. Maybe you have a tendency to always see the faults in others but not in yourself. If we were more focused on our own sins and flaws and changing them maybe we wouldn’t be so bothered by the faults of others. If you always find yourself feeling the need to confront others and “help” them by sharing your thoughts on their sins it might be because you are not looking at yourself and the areas you need to change. Are there times when we need to confront the people we care about in love? Of course! but this should not be happening all the time. It is God’s job to save not yours. If you have this savior mentality it is likely hurting your relationships and blinding you to your own faults.

I have had to stop being so defensive: when someone confronts me on something I’ve done wrong, whether it’s the Holy Spirit or a person, It can be really hard to see and admit my fault. Something I’ve always kind of struggled with when confronted with faults is the tendency to become defensive. Maybe this is true for you? When someone shares a hurt with you and you make an excuse it tells the other person that you think they are crazy and that you don’t care about their feelings. There’s a pretty good chance that you have in fact done something wrong. Especially when it’s the Holy Spirit doing the confronting! Instead of defending yourself, try objectively looking at the situation to find your fault in the matter. This will enable you to not only be more caring, but to see the areas you need to work on changing. (This is a hard one for me!)

I have had to specifically pray that God would reveal my secret sin and help me make changes. This doesn’t happen naturally, it takes serious work. It
All comes down to how badly I want to change and whether or not I’m willing to do what it takes. I personally believe that Satan can really create strongholds when it comes to secret, indiscreet sin because it’s different than the BIG in your face sins. Maybe you don’t get hammered every night, cheat on your spouse, or lie on your taxes. Maybe instead you judge people who think differently than you, live with discontent, or neglect spending quality time with Jesus (all of which at times I’ve been guilty of). These are the sins satan can easily trick us into believing aren’t really sins at all. If we don’t allow the Holy Spirit to reveal them to us we are in serious spiritual and relational danger. The good news is God always comes through if your heart is willing! He continues to do so for me and desires to do the same for you.

 

Maybe Having Faith in God Isn’t What you Think it is…

IMG_0209I’ve been surprised many times by people thinking that faith means not knowing but believing anyway. They seem to think that my belief in Jesus goes something like this:

I believe in Jesus but I’m not totally sure it’s true, I have to just have faith. but I sure hope I’m right and get to go to heaven.

Maybe I’m to blame for this impression people have of faith and following Jesus. Do we make the mistake of not sharing all that God has done in our lives? Leading people to believe it’s a life of hoping rather than fully knowing with confidence? The definition of faith is complete trust or confidence in someone or something. My faith is much much more than simply hoping I’m right. You see when I made the choice to follow and accept Jesus Christ I became a child of God. In a literal sense. God has revealed himself and moved in my life in such incredible and amazing ways I could write all day long telling you about it. It would blow your mind. It starts with choosing to believe but this isn’t the end of the journey. This is where the journey starts. After this point God makes you his own. After this point you know God on a deeper level, as your father. There is no more questioning whether or not He is real and whether or not the Bible is truth. (By the way, the Bible is a historical document, not just stories. Don’t believe me? Look it up!) A person who has never made this choice will never be able to comprehend this fact. But maybe, just maybe if I were more vocal about all that God has done and is doing in my life I would clear up some of the misconceptions people have regarding my faith in Jesus Christ.
I’m not a Christian because I don’t want to go to hell. I choose to be a Christian because I am so beautifully loved by God. Not just because the Bible tells me I am but because He shows me daily and I feel it. Every single time I pray, read my bible, worship God, I walk away full. Full of strength, joy, peace, courage, love, excitement. Does what you believe offer you that? If you aren’t fully confident in what you believe I would question it. God has done beyond more for me than I could ever say. He has loved me, protected me, guided me, rescued me, and healed me. He wants to do the same for you. I can’t imagine what my life would be like without Him. It wouldn’t be worth living, not even for a moment. You can say I’m extreme but it’s true. This is what I want you to know about my faith in Jesus. It’s not a religion that simply guarantees me eternal life, it is my life. Every. Single. Day. And it is a beautiful and full life to say the least.

You see the amazing thing about choosing to follow God is that He is constant. Things in life are always changing. God never changes. My happiness and Joy isn’t dependent on things in my life always going right, it’s dependent on my choice to seek God and spend time close to Him in His presence. If you haven’t made this choice then this is foolishness to you and I can’t expect you to think otherwise. All I’m saying is don’t think I’m just like you apart from having a contingency plan. My life with God is beyond more than that. you could have the same thing if you would take a chance and choose to believe. This will transform your life forever and fill you like you never could have dreamed. Don’t waste your life on the temporal or choose to live with less than God planned for you. Don’t think you know what it means to follow Jesus based on what the media tells you or based on the hypocrites who claim it to get into heaven and nothing more.

Don’t think I’m a stupid person who simply wants something to believe so I can feel better about life. This honestly makes me want to laugh. I believe what I do because God has filled my life beyond comprehension and has transformed every single aspect of it. What gives you fulfillment in life? Is it constant and unchanging? It surely is for me and I wish more than anything that everyone could experience what I do on a daily basis. The ability to trust in a God who is present and faithful, who can always be trusted in.

I have total confidence and belief in God and the fact that Jesus died for me and rescued me from sin. I also have total confidence and belief in the Bible to be accurate and truth (which can be backed up as reliable and valid in the same way that other historical documents are, if you would take the time to look into it). If you can say that you feel this way about what you believe great! If not, then I ask you to take a chance on God. Take a chance to find out for yourself rather than listen to what others tell you about Jesus. When CS Lewis was an atheist and struggling with his beliefs he did this very thing. It changed his life forever. This is the case for countless other people who struggled to place confidence in their beliefs and decided to find out the truth about God. As I said before, if you choose to go on this journey you will not be disappointed. I pray that you make that choice.

Thanks for reading!

My Weakness, His Endless Grace

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I’ve begun to wonder if fear is my “thorn in the flesh”, similar to whatever Paul was dealing with. For some reason I am so weak when it comes to fear. I seriously cannot even watch a slightly scary movie without being unable to sleep for at least a week. And please, whatever you do, do not even tell me a story about something bad happening to a child! I won’t leave the house for a month.. I hate having to be home alone over night when my husband travels! I am a grown woman! I know it sounds silly, but it is truly a serious struggle for me. It comes out in other ways too but I’m not going to share all of my embarrassing examples with you! I have to be on constant guard. Whenever I think I’ve beaten it, back it comes as scary and overpowering as ever. I’m left feeling discouraged and beaten down, wondering if I will ever truly conquer it. Well if this is indeed my thorn in the flesh I probably won’t. Even though I know that Gods grace is sufficient sometimes I just wish it would be gone for good.

When Paul asked God to remove his weakness God response was not what Paul was looking for. Here is what God said, “And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” (2 Corinthians 12:9) I can’t say that I have quite reached the place that Paul did, boasting in my weaknesses, but I would like to!

So how can I embrace God’s grace like Paul did and rejoice and boast in my weakness instead of desperately try, in my own strength, to eradicate it. Below are some things I’ve learned I have to do for this to be possible!

1. I have to accept it as something I will likely struggle with forever- Recognizing and accepting that I will always need to rely on Gods sufficient grace to overcome the fears and anxieties that grip me has been a freeing experience. Paul asked three times that God remove his “thorn” but God said no. Does this mean I have to live bound by my thorn? No. What it means is that I will forever need to tap into Gods grace, as Paul did, to battle it. Honestly I can go long periods of time where it seems as though I’ve won, and then out of nowhere, I begin to lose the battle. Thoughts start to creep in, feelings emerge, and discouragement starts to take hold. Maybe you can relate? Achieving acceptance helps me go straight to the throne of grace, rather than give into the thorn and allow it to gain control.
2. I have to offer grace to others- Listen, you probably think the fears I deal with are totally crazy! And you are right. I would probably think yours are crazy too. Don’t judge others because it doesn’t make sense to you, try to be understanding and offer encouragement. Allow God’s grace to flow through you to others, this may be exactly what they need in order to overcome! We want others to be sensitive regarding our fears and weaknesses but sometimes we don’t offer the same in return. I’m still working on this..
3. I have to face it, not hide from it- I used to just avoid fear at all costs. While sometimes this is okay and possible, other times it is straight up unhealthy. Rather than flee from it I had to learn how to face it with the strength of God and His grace. This is my only hope of experiencing His strength in my weakness. If you run from your weakness you will totally miss out on this blessing. Totally still working on this one too… but getting better!
4. I have to God FIRST, not last- Now that have I accepted that I will never truly eliminate my weakness of fear I am more prone to go straight to God whenever it starts to creep in. Where in the past I would try other things first, thinking I actually had a chance, now I know I need God immediately to stand a chance at all. This has brought me closer to the Lord and has enabled me to feel his love and care more deeply. I have found that His grace truly is sufficient for my weakness. If we don’t do this we will just go through life crippled by our weaknesses, unable to reach our full potential in Christ. The enemy knows our weaknesses and will work hard to use them against us. We have to rely on the only one who has already defeated him. Through Him we have true victory.

What is a weakness you just can’t seem to defeat? Ask God for His grace and strength to help you and you will not be disappointed!

Expecting what God Expects for your Marriage

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If you’re married you’ve probably been given this advice: “If you want to be satisfied in your marriage lower your expectations.” This advice is awful so don’t believe it. Couples who have high expectations and standards are the ones who experience satisfaction and have lasting marriages.

Expectation is defined as “a belief that something will happen or is likely to happen.” To put it plainly, what you expect is likely what will happen. If you expect greatness in your marriage you will fight for it. If you expect anything less you’ll accept it. This is a pretty big deal in my opinion. I don’t know about you, but I want my marriage to be great! Not just okay. Having high expectations, or better yet, expecting what God expects, is the way to achieve greatness in your marriage. Don’t be confused. High expectations are not the same thing as unrealistic expectations, in the same way that low expectations are not the same thing as realistic expectations.

God thinks pretty highly of marriage and so should we. It is beyond me how we as christians have been accepting of so much less than God desires for our marriages for so long. This truly needs to change if we are to reclaim what God has designed to be beautiful and satisfying. God tells us that men are to love their wives like Christ loved the church and died for her, and that women are to respect and honor their husbands as the great women of the Bible did before us. Not to mention, have you read Proverbs 31!?  Biblical expectations for husbands and wives are seriously high if you ask me! So why are we ready and willing to accept such low worldly expectations for our marriages?

Lets talk about some ways to go about setting high expectations and throwing out the low ones you’ve allowed yourself to adapt to in your marriage.

Determine what your expectations for your marriage are. You have to make the decision that you want what God wants for your marriage. Anything other than this will leave you unsatisfied and longing for more. This doesn’t just happen naturally because you’re a Christian. Next, you have to Define what this actually looks like. Simply saying you want a godly marriage isn’t enough, you have to know what a godly marriage should be. If you’re not sure pick up the Bible and start reading! Honestly that’s what I had to do. I didn’t have a perfect example of this growing up so I had to go to God’s Word and figure it out. Defining your expectations will get you nowhere if you don’t Discuss it with your spouse. Be honest about your hopes and fears. If you have never talked to your husband or wife about what you are expecting for your marriage now is a good time to start doing it. This will put  you on the offense. Don’t wait until it’s too late. Proverbs 27:12 says “A prudent man foresees evil and hides himself; The simple pass on and are punished.” Be on the lookout for those things that might threaten your marriage and guard against it.

If you do these things I promise you will notice when something’s off. When this happens, because you’ve set these standards and talked about them, your natural instinct will be to do something about it. This doesn’t mean that it wont be a challenge, it means that you will be willing and ready to fight hard and win the battle.

For any of this to really work you have got to let go of the low and negative expectations you’ve allowed yourself to have regarding your marriage. If you expect it, when it happens you likely wont do anything about it. You might think you can “just get over it” but this will not last forever, I promise you that. Not only that, but it will chip away at your marriage until you find yourself at the place you feared all along. In a marriage that is empty, together for the kids, and headed for destruction. In a society with a divorce rate of 50% it’s not enough to just assume this could never happen to you.

Below are four negative expectations that I believe can kill marriages and what God’s Word has to say about them:

-Are any couples really best friends? Its silly to expect this in my marriage. Genesis 2:24 says “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” In my opinion, being one with somebody translates to the deepest level of intimacy. This is knowing someone inside and out, and to me, this is what it means to be best friends. If you don’t feel this way about your spouse you might have this negative expectation in your marriage. I believe that a deep friendship is the key to everything in marriage.

It’s okay to check out other women and men and watch pornography, this is normal. If you expect this in your marriage you need to do something about it immediately! Nothing will kill your intimacy and friendship faster. God’s Word has a lot to say about this in fact. Matthew 5:28 says “But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” God sees this as adultery, not a normal acceptable thing. I promise it will destroy your chances of having a godly marriage.

Couples don’t have sex much after kids are born. That’s just the way it is. This low expectation is a huge marriage killer. 1 Corinthians 7:5 says about sex in marriage ” Do not deprive one another except with consent for a time, that you may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again so that Satan does not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.” This verse applies before and after children. Listen, I have two children and I will tell you that you can and should expect to be intimate with your spouse after children. Don’t believe the lie that it’s normal for intimacy to dissolve after children, this is certainly not God’s opinion.

My husband or wife likely won’t meet my needs and that’s okay. Yes, it is true that God is the one who should ultimately be meeting your needs, but one way that He does this is through your spouse. In Genesis God said that it isn’t good for man to be alone so He made him a helper. As a wife you are your husband’s helper, you alone are capable of enabling your husband to be the man he needs to be. In the same way, as a husband you are called to care for your wife in the same way that Christ cares for the church. This is huge! Expecting that you will meet each other’s needs is critical to your marriage thriving. You have to talk to each other about what you need and work together to define what this looks like.

Having high standards and expectations won’t prevent trials or conflict in your marriage. What it will do is enable you to face and overcome them, coming out stronger and closer than ever before.  You don’t have to be exceptional to accomplish this, you just have to fight hard for what you want your marriage to be and rely on God and His Word to help you do it.

I can promise you one thing, you’re marriage doesn’t become what you fear overnight. It’s a slow progression that results from low expectations and standards. Thankfully you can change this by changing your expectations and expecting what God expects for your marriage, Greatness.

The Secret to Perfect Peace

peaceIsaiah 26: 3-4

You will keep him in perfect peace,
Whose mind is stayed on You,
Because he trusts in You.
Trust in the Lord forever,
For in YAH, the Lordis everlasting strength

I don’t know about you but when I hear the phrase “perfect peace” I get a tad skeptical. Is it really possible to have perfect peace? According to God’s Word it is. My other question is this, Can I really keep my mind fixed on the Lord? One definition of peace describes it as freedom from disquieting or oppressive thoughts or emotions. This was my favorite, as oppressive thoughts and emotions are almost always the culprits behind my lack of peace. Can you relate?

So what is the secret to possessing this perfect peace that God promises us? First of all I think we need to take a step back and gain some perspective on just how incredible this promise really is. Here is a personal story of a time when I found perfect and unexplainable peace despite the difficulty I faced.

My daughter was only 4 weeks old when we were told that she had a large hole in her heart that would likely require surgery. I was shocked and had no idea how in the world I would be able to handle the situation. six months of daily medications, weekly dr. apts., constant vomiting, and stress over the possibility of dehydration, the time had come for her open heart surgery. I can honestly tell you that during those six months and the next four days to come my husband and I had a peace that was so real and unexplainable. We didn’t doubt that God would keep her safe, regardless of the outcome of surgery.

Something I thought about while planning to write this blog really opened my eyes to the gravity of this verse. Living in America and being told that my child has a large hole in her heart is a lot different than living in a third world country and being told the same thing. Children are dying from this very same condition simply because they lack the medical care necessary for repairing it. This verse is just as true for these mothers as it is for me. Its not the potential outcome of a situation that determines the level of peace we can have, it is God’s mercy and goodness.

This verse is true for us when it comes to horribly tragic scenarios like the death of a loved one, and seemingly simple scenarios like a conflict with a friend. The secret to receiving this promise of peace comes through keeping our minds on Him. Below are three things that have helped me to keep my mind on God even when it seems impossible, resulting in experiencing His perfect peace.

Trusting God: Isaiah 26:3-4 points out that those who keep their minds on God do so because they trust in Him. If we don’t trust in God then we wont be able to keep our minds on Him, its as simple as that. The reason I was able to have peace while my daughter was in surgery, and even during the months leading up to it, was because I trusted in God’s love and goodness. I knew that no matter what might happen God would take care of me and would remain faithful. Honestly, there is no secret to trusting in God. In my opinion you either do or you don’t. Its all about your heart and whether or not you have made the choice to accept Jesus Christ as your savior, the choice to live for Him.

Loving God’s Law: Psalm 119:165 says “Great peace have those who love your law and nothing causes them to stumble.” We have to have a love for God’s law if we expect to be able to keep our minds on Him. Love is defined as an intense feeling of deep affection. I don’t know about you, but the people I can focus positively on are those that I love deeply and affectionately. If you aren’t deeply in love with God and longing to please Him it will be hard to keep your mind on Him. Jesus pointed to this very thing when He said in John 14:23 “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him.” To love God’s law is to obey Him. To obey Him is to trust Him.

Praying Diligently: As I mentioned earlier disquieting or oppressive thoughts or emotions are steelers of peace. We can keep our mind on God by submitting our requests regarding our worries, hurts, and pain to Him (Philippians 4:6-7). Believe me, I mess this one up a lot. I often find myself ruminating on negative thoughts before I decide to go to God in prayer, resulting in a lack of peace. When I choose to go to God with my fears and worries and surrender it to Him I am able to experience His peace. Prayer helps you to shift your focus from the worries that are stealing your peace to God.

The interesting thing is, if we don’t trust in God we wont love his law and we wont seek Him through prayer. We have to remember that we can only walk in the promises of God once we have made the choice to follow Him. For me personally, I have to start with trusting in God and believing in His goodness in order to love Him and His Word enough to keep my mind on Him and experience peace. Have you ever tried this? Are you struggling to find peace in tough times? I promise you that He is there and is waiting for you to place your trust in Him. Once you do there are endless promises of peace and goodness waiting for you.

What are some other things that have helped you focus on God and experience His perfect peace? I would love to hear your insights!

 

5 Ways to Minimize the Negative Impact Conflict Can Have on your Marriage

imageIt wasn’t long into my marriage, probably about a week in, that I realized conflict starts right away. There is no waiting period for conflict when it comes to marriage. One thing that I have learned is that conflict is a normal and healthy part of every marriage. It isn’t simply having conflict that negatively impacts a marriage, it is the way in which conflict is dealt with that can negatively impact it. I have often heard people say, “oh we don’t ever have conflict.” As a counselor, and a human being for that matter, I just don’t buy that! In my personal opinion, if a couple tells me they don’t have conflict they are either lying or suppressing conflict for fear of damaging the marriage.

So what can be done to minimize the negative impact conflict can have on marriage? Here are a few things that I have learned since being marriage that have helped me to positively handle conflict and in turn strengthen my marriage and connection with my husband. Maybe they will help you out as well.

Be aware of your weaknesses: I feel like I can’t say enough about being self-aware. To me this is one of the most important things a person can do in life and will determine  not only the impact he or she has on others but also his or her ability to improve. So how does being aware of your weaknesses help you handle conflict in your marriage? If you know where you are lacking, whether it be with personality traits or your responsibilities, when your spouse makes a complaint you can more easily accept responsibility for it. Let me give an example. When my husband brings up the fact that I sometimes leave a small hurricane behind when I leave the house I can calmly take responsibility for this. Why can I do this? well because I know that I am easily flustered and don’t always manage my time wisely. My weakness is not being messy or careless, it is rather thinking I have more time than I do, realizing I don’t, not getting to all the things I needed to get to before I had to leave,  and then rushing out in a mad dash so that I wont be late, sometimes leaving a disaster behind. Because I know this about myself I can accept his complaint, apologize, and let him know I am aware and want to improve this area of weakness. If I lacked awareness I might get angry and accuse him of blaming me without reason. Of course, one key to this is actually working toward change. For tips on increasing self awareness you can check out my recent blog on the topic here.

Be aware of your partners weaknesses: Not only should you be aware of your own weaknesses, but of your partners as well. This helps you to show more compassion and less anger when confronting an issue. Don’t assume your partner should be just like you. Our differences are what make us better together than apart. If you know your husband or wife has a hard time showing emotion try to be more gentle with him or her when you expect an emotional reaction. Its not wrong to complain about an issue, what is wrong is complaining with anger and dislike. Try to remind yourself of all the things he or she does right before bringing up whats bugging you. This can minimize your anger and help you to get your frustration across in a more loving way.

Minimize your reactions: I have always struggled with reacting defensively when confronted with any kind of complaint. This was because I was totally freaked out by the thought of possibly not being good enough (something I discovered through self-awareness). Once I was able to recognize this I was able to learn how to minimize my reactions to conflict. If your spouse attacks you or criticizes you, instead of getting angry or attacking back, try saying something like this “You know what hunny, you’re right. I did drop the ball on that and I’m really sorry.” He or she may look at you like your crazy. This one takes a lot of practice and requires some serious self-control. try to be genuine. We can typically find some kind of truth in our partners complaint, something we are responsible for. Find it and admit it calmly. Over time this will change the way your partner brings things up to you. Typically we bring things up in a negative or critical way because we assume that our spouse will react negatively and deny responsibility. If we show our spouse the opposite, eventually he or she will start bringing up complaints in a more calm and loving way, expecting a calm and loving reaction.

Allow your partner to feel exactly what he or she says he or she is feeling: Stop, I repeat STOP telling your spouse he or she shouldn’t feel a certain way. I have been guilty of this many times. Over time this can cause your spouse to stop sharing his or her feelings with you altogether. Not only that, it tells your spouse that you simply do not care about what he or she is feeling. It doesn’t matter if you agree with it or not, a person’s feeling is a person’s feeling and it deserves to be cared about and explored. I have learned that when I stop making it about me, and start making it about my husband I am able to accept his feelings with love and compassion. If your husband tells you he feels rejected by you it might make you feel guilty and tempt you to defend yourself. An easy way of doing this is to tell him he shouldn’t feel rejected because you accept him. This is wrong and will only lead to more issues. If he feels rejected there is a reason for it and you should want to do what you can to fix it. Even if his feeling ends up being irrational it is still important to care. After all, how many of my feelings are irrational? A LOT! I still want my husband to care. Additionally, you may feel that you are accepting him but you might be doing something that tells him otherwise. denying his feeling takes away the chance to explore it and come up with a solution, showing him you love him and care in the process. This leads to acceptance and a deeper emotional connection.

Increase your positive interactions: Dr. John Gottman says that happy couples have a positive to negative interaction ratio of 5:1. Increasing positive interactions is a great way to improve the way you handle conflict. When do you feel the most frustrated with your spouse? I feel this way when my needs aren’t being met. When my husband is showing me affection, attention, encouragement, and love I tend to be less irritated by silly things. Additionally, I am more capable of handling big frustrations in a more loving way. When my husband feels supported, respected, and appreciated he is less likely to be bothered by my weknesses and responds more lovingly to conflict. Meeting needs comes through positive interactions. This might include going on a date, reminiscing about happy memories together, leaving a loving note, making love, eating dinner together, expressing appreciation, etc. If you focus on increasing positive interactions conflict will be much easier to deal with.

Will I Obey Even When I Don’t like God’s Answer?

bibleHave you ever begged God to show you what to do or where to go, desperate for a direct answer? I was so irritated the other day while reading Jeremiah 42. Check it out really quickly before continuing. There was a remnant of Israel that went to Jeremiah asking him to seek God for direction, promising that they would do whatever God wanted them to do. God responded telling the people not to go to Egypt, but instead to stay where they were and that He would bless them and protect them. Guess what happened next? They disobeyed God and decided to follow their own desire to go to Egypt! This made me really mad because I would give anything for such a direct response from God.

How could this remnant possibly hear from God so clearly and yet choose to disobey and do the opposite of what He told them to do? First of all, it seems to me that they weren’t really close to and connected to God. When they initially went to Jeremiah they referred to God as Jeremiah’s God, rather than their God (vs 2). If you aren’t close to God then what He wants you to do isn’t going to matter a whole lot.

Think of the people in your life who have the most influence over you. You care about what they think and say and long to please them. I would be fairly certain that these are people you feel most close to. In the same way, it is when I am close to God that I truly value His plans over my own and long to obey Him. The remnant was missing this connection with God. this is evident in later chapters when God calls them out for worshiping other gods aside from Him (Jeremiah 44:8).

The second thing to notice is that their hearts didn’t match their requests. Initially their request appeared genuine, at least it did to me. They ask God “show us the way in which we should walk and the thing we should do.” They weren’t making this request because they longed to do God’s will. They were looking for relief and an easy way out. When this is the reason behind your request there is a good chance you wont obey if God’s response doesn’t line up with your desires. They wanted instant comfort and pleasure. It seemed more realistic to them that they would get this in Egypt, where everything looked nice and pleasant, rather than staying put with the imminent threat of Babylon close by.

Our goal should never be to find relief from difficulty or to feel safe and secure. Our goal should be to please God and to be as close to Him as we possibly can be. Our level of true safety and security comes from our closeness to and connection with God through His son Jesus Christ, and should be totally unrelated to outside circumstances. This is what Paul meant when he said he learned to be content whatever circumstances (Philippians 4:10-13). A poor man without Christ is no less secure than a rich man without Christ.

Reading this caused me to look very closely at my own requests to ensure that my goal is to please God and to do His will, rather than to find relief and comfort. What I found is that I have to set aside any hoped for outcomes and be open to whatever God might have and desire for me and my family. Just recently my husband and I were led to make a decision that went against everything we had hoped for and desired. To be honest it wasn’t fun and it was certainly scary. Knowing that God is in control and close to us enabled us to face it and move forward toward something different, something unplanned for. The remnant was blinded by their hoped for answer from God, which was to tell them to flee to Egypt and find comfort and safety.

How can I avoid making the same mistakes that the remnant made? What I concluded is that I can hopefully avoid this by following three principals I learned from reading this chapter.

Principal 1: Make sure my goal is to be close to and to please God, not to find relief. Isaiah 55:7 tells us “Let the wicked forsake his way, And the unrighteous man his thoughts; Let him return to the LordAnd He will have mercy on him; And to our God, For He will abundantly pardon.” Hebrews 10:22 says “let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.” I need to focus on drawing near to God and living a life that is pleasing to Him. 

Principal 2: Release any desired responses I feel I need to receive from God. I need to be open and willing to obey whatever God calls me to do, even if it is 100% different from what I wanted. Proverbs 20:24 tells me “A man’s steps are of the LordHow then can a man understand his own way?” If God’s Word tells me that I wont be able to understand my own way then why am I always expecting to have it all figured out? I need to be willing to give this up and allow God to truly guide me according to His will.  

Principal 3: Trust that He will deliver on His promises. God’s Word is full of promises for me and for you. The remnant gave into fear rather than believing God. Romans 8:28 tells us “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” If we know this and believe this then we can trust that no matter how scary or uncertain things look, if God has called us it will all work out. This doesn’t mean that we will be comfortable and will have endless worldly pleasure, what it means is that our lives will bring glory to God and will impact this world for Christ.

 

 

Have I Really Forgiven?

Forgiveness.jpgWhen I was reading my book Hope Focused Marriage Counseling written by Everett Worthington last night I came across something about incomplete forgiveness. It talked about how sometimes we think we have forgiven someone but we might not have fully forgiven. What it talked about next really got my attention and got me thinking. Do I feel a sense of happiness or satisfaction when I find out that something bad happened to or went wrong for someone I have “forgiven”? This was tough for me to read and really convicted me. Here I am thinking I’ve been obedient and have forgiven specific people who have hurt me, yet reading this made me realize I really haven’t.

Think about someone who has caused you pain that you think you have forgiven. If you found out tomorrow that something went wrong for him or her would you be happy about it? or would you feel compassion? My answer to this question definitely did not thrill me. To be honest with you, after reading this my initial thought was how in the world can I truly and completely forgive? What I realized was that forgiveness is a choice, one that takes purposeful action and God’s grace.

Ephesians 4:31-32 says “Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.”

This verse tells me that I am to lay down my bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking. When I feel a sense of satisfaction at the expense of someone I claim to have forgiven I am not obeying this command. Additionally, as I mentioned before, If I have truly forgiven someone I should feel kindness and compassion towards him or her, especially when things go wrong. This can truly seem like an impossible thing to do, which is why I must rely on God’s continuing mercy and grace to accomplish this.

We have to remind ourselves of the forgiveness and grace that we received from God through Christ in order to offer this to another. One thing I have found helpful when I am lacking forgiveness is to pray for those I can’t seem to forgive. That God would bless them, encourage them, and heal them as He has healed me. Asking God to help me forgive is also something that has made a huge difference for me. Praying for strength to forgive doesn’t mean you are failing, it means you admit that you need God to accomplish such a difficult task. I’m still on my journey of forgiveness and hope that this encourages you on yours as well.