Sunday, February 27, 2011

Book Review: Regret Free Read

       Over the past several months I have received complimentary copies of several books from BookSneeze on behalf of Thomas Nelson Publishing that I have thoroughly enjoyed reading. The latest book I received was Regret Free Parenting by Catherine Hickem, LCSW.  I was pleasantly surprised by this newest book on my shelf. Mrs. Hickem passes over the to-do list of parenting, instead opting to give you seven principles and guidelines in applying them as you raise your children. She gives a fresh insight into motherhood, being a proponent of "intentional mothering."
      I had heard of this concept before and completely agree. Mothering does not just happen as some mistakenly think. Mothering is a God-given responsibility that we have the duty and honor as mothers in carrying that out. Hickem guides the reader in an in-depth look at their parenting purpose. If we are to raise secure children we must build trust and give respect to them as little human beings.
       As I read Regret Free Parenting I became aware of what I have been doing correctly, though not in a black-and-white sense, but rather I recognized certain principles that I do carry out as a parent. I gained perspective of my children's preferences and our mother-child interactions as I never thought thoroughly about some things. My eldest son loves to call my name randomly throughout the day. I answer him wondering what he wants. He always says, "I just wanted to know where you were. Love you." Then he continues to play or continue in whatever current engagement he is involved in. Well, I never labeled that as my son wanting my presence.  I have always been there for my kids. In my life it is a given.
       I am certainly not a perfect parent. Mrs. Hickem highlighted some areas in my mind that I will give much more awareness to now that I see them. Regret Free Parenting is not a one-size fits all book. It is an all-inclusive approach book that you can tailor and apply to your life as you see fit. It won't make you a perfect mother overnight, but it will help you define yourself as a God-ordained mother and set you on a better path.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Our Duty to Love Our Husbands

     In the past year I have witnessed many marriages come to a breaking point. Either the couple was about to divorce and decided to follow God's protocol and stay together or they went their separate ways and divided their assets. Of course, if they stayed together they are still working on their issues. Every marriage goes through trials and battles in the course of its life. As believers we must value God's Word enough and carry out our commitment to our mate and Father.
     1 Corinthians 7:3, "The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband." A duty is a moral commitment to someone or something. As David's wife, I cannot passively fulfill my duty to him. My duty is something I must do actively. I actively love him, mother his children, take care of him, etc. When what makes a commitment to another there is some inhrerent sacrifice to be made, whether it is in time, money or self-indulgences. I am happy to make that sacrifice to my husband. If one needs incentive, the love given in return is worth more than any and all sacrifice made on my part.
     Marriage cannot be looked upon as easy-come, easy-go. Every married couple stands before God whether in a courthouse or in front of family and friends vowing to love one another no matter what circumstances fall before them. I find it unfathomable that couples today think of marriage as something you take out with the garbage, as if disposing the marriage frees the person from their vows. On the contrary, their slate is tarnished, stained with sin and their previous marriage is always lurking in the darkest recesses of their memories.
      I remember the first few years of our marriage as being difficult, yet I also remember the many blessings that came out of our battle. If David and I hadn't stood together through those harried years we wouldn't be where we are now. I know I can turn to David with my heart on my sleeve and find him their supporting me. We have united our front towards our children more strongly over the years. The greatest thing is the love we have for one another. He is my best friend and greatest love besides Jesus Christ.
     That is not to say that we always like one another every moment of every day. I remind myself often that I was created to be his helper and that is an honorable position in God's eyes. Genesis 2:18 says, "The LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.”  I am priveledged to be David's helper through this life. I try to support him to become the man that God created him to be. No, I don't find it to be a piece of cake. I don't always agree with him. However, over the years I have found great blessings in supporting him.
      God never said love was always easy to give. If it were easy God would never have had to issue a command. We are commanded though to love. John 13:34 states,“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another." If we are commanded to love than we must take action to love. It does not have to be based on feelings. If your marriage is encountering troubles the first thing to do is pray. Praying helps not only to commune with our Father, but also allows you to verbalize your feelings about the situation. Often when we verbalize we can realize how selfish we tend to be. Also as we pray, the Spirit can convict us of our wrong-doings and soften our hearts towards are partner.
      Actively love your man no matter what. Do the things that please him and more than likely you'll feel loved as well. When our men don't feel respected they don't feel loved. For me that was one of the hardest lessons I had to learn and remind myself still as I tend to like to voice my opinion. Learning to keep my mouth shut to this day can prove to be a challenge.
      One of the greatest things I have learned is to remember that in this life the only love and acceptance I need is from God. God's love covers it all. His love is deep enough to heal those hurts and patch the wounds. His love can purify your heart and produce fruit in abundance. Ephesians 3:17-19 is such a joy to ponder. "So that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love,  may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God." My happiness cannot be dependent on my husband's affections or affirmations, only on my relationship with my Lord, Jesus Christ.
      Every relationship, including our marriages, go through valleys of ease and mountains of tensions, deserts of loneliness and jungles of obstacles. Relish the moments of happiness and love, treasure memories and laughter and be thankful for strength and hope.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Suffering in Hope

       I have viewed suffering in my life as part of God's boot camp for me. Some days are rigorous training days that build me up to be a better soldier in God's army. Other days I wonder if I will ever join the great ranks in heaven, knowing that is the goal God has in view for me.  As I strive to accomplish my mission here I come across opportunities that present themselves in my path along the way. I can choose to allow those ops to become either stumbling blocks  or allow God to use them for his purposes and glory (Rom.8:28). Every saint is going to incur problems as God sanctifies him or her in this life. How does joy play into God's grand plan in the midst of our earthly suffering?
      Today I feel as I accomplished one objective in my training. I was having an internal monologue with myself, which is normal for me especially as I hit another obstacle. That is the way I process things by talking them out. Two days ago I was told I have arthritis in my lower back at 30! To me that seems plain wrong. My other health issues are enough to handle, so I thought. God thought otherwise. I am talking this through I am thinking about how all suffering is a part of our sanctification. In fact, it is a fast track to sanctification, not that that will be finished on this side of the veil. Suddenly, I thought I am happy to suffer. My Lord suffered and knew pain here. Why wouldn't I? If my suffering reveals His glory in me at all, I am more than happy and pleased to allow His will in my life.
      Romans 8:17 states, "Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory." If I am a sinner and deserve death (Rom. 6:23) and knowing I am the Father's child, should I not be thankful to suffer as Christ did? He being free of sin suffered was penalized for the world's fall. Not only do I deserve the suffering, but feel it is my right and duty to suffer. But where is the joy?
      The Gospel gets better and better as I read it repeatedly. The great apostle Paul knew pain and suffering physically and yet maintained a heart full of faith, love and joy. Certainly, Paul was a work of the Spirit for the fruit he bore was definite evidence of that. Romans 5:2-4 gives us this beautiful illustration. "Through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God.  Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope." For me hope in what is to come is where my joy lies. Knowing I have a loving Father, the Savior and a guiding Spirit leading me to Him is the greatest joy in the world. My Commander is waiting for me to achieve my destiny with his strength. Glory in the future beats out any problem here any day. In Romans 8:18 Paul wrote, "I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us." No they aren't worth it. I'll make what I can of any trial before me and let God work in me any way He chooses.


Thursday, February 10, 2011

Waiting for Rainbows

      Pneumonia, an ear infection, three trips to the ER, a severe infection, back problems, a heart condition and job loss are the adventures that punctuated our January calendar. It was difficult circumstances to endure to say the least. Only with perspective, strength and joy from the Lord were we able to endure. In fact, my family and I are still dealing with those happenings as we speak.
      On New Year's Day as my husband was at work which seems to be the norm when my youngest son needs to take a trip to the emergency room, I found myself preparing in case we needed to make that trip. The inevitable occurred as my kids watched the Rose Parade on t.v.  Unfortunately, our trips for Jacob's asthma have become so common, little fanfare is thought of. The fire department coming down our street is a normal scene every few months, sometimes happening a little more frequently.
      We have the most wonderful department close by, which when I hear the sirens now I don't think of them as a nuisance, but a blessing for our families. It also helps that my father-in-law was once a captain at that same fire station. That day we were sent home rather quickly from the hospital with antibiotics and albuterol for pneumonia. Home treatments are so much easier to deal with than seeing your little one lying in a hospital bed for days with boredom in every corner.
       My daughter made a surprise appearance in the ER towards the end of the month. When you see your six-year-old doubled over at a restaurant your heart plummets to the floor with her head.  We headed out the door before dinner was served and spent the rest of the night watching our daughter go through several tests to find what was wrong. She had a severe UTI without those normal symptoms.  Before I left my daughter and husband to pick up my boys, I prayed over Mary.  We asked for the doctors' wisdom and discernment and a quick diagnosis. Within 30 minutes after hours waiting the doctors discovered her ailment. Little did they know God was answering a prayer lifted to him in the ER. A few days later with antibiotic in her system, she managed to develop an ear infection. I was utterly amazed. At least for now our health is slowly being restored.
       In the midst of my husband's unemployment I found a quiet peace within. It seemed our circumstances were dizzying and could throw many off balance. Day in and day out God was and of course still is with us. He is there for the storms, God is there for the subsequent rainbows. Genesis 9:16, "Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth.” God has made many promises to us as believers. One scripture that brings me an immense amount of peace in many circumstances is Hebrews 13:5, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”
      Some days it is easier to live with those promises in my heart. The days I find difficult I have to remind myself several times of those promises. I always find the Spirit reminding me that He is there. May God's peace and love abide in you and you in Him.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Book Review: Promised Good Read

     BookSneeze sent me a complimentary copy of Shelia Walsh's new book The Shelter of God's Promises on behalf of Thomas Nelson Publishing. Every person has ups and downs in life, but Christians have the promises of God to hold on to during the storms. Walsh uses personal anecdotes and biblical examples of resting in the arms of God. In 10 chapters she brings to light the promises, such as peace, confidence, grace and strength, that we can rest in as we endure the valleys of life. At the end of the book is a corresponding Bible study for those that want an in-depth look at each promise.
     I have enjoyed reading a couple of her other books in the past. The Shelter of God's Promises is my favorite thus far. Walsh writes with a smooth style and what really comes across to me is her intelligence and knowledge of the material. Not every one is able to apply biblical principles in everyday life in a fresh manner. She likens resting in His promises as finding shelter in a cleft of a rock. No matter the pounding ferocity of the storm, there is a peace we can find in the shelter. We can stand sure in God's love and grace.
     Each chapter is great for a rather quick sitting or a bedtime read. Walsh conveys her love for God in every word. I found myself reflecting a lot on how God has answered my prayers and fulfilled many promises in my life. Though I am an avid reader not every book I read touches me so tenderly. When I do find a book such as The Shelter of God's Promises I make sure to peruse it's pages over and over to treasure the words deeply.