Intentional enthusiasm is different from forced or fake enthusiasm. Intentional enthusiasm is choosing to be excited about life's "disruptive" moments. As a mother of four boys, I thought specifically of my children and the moments spent listening, engaging, and loving through my life.
You can just "muster through" cooking breakfast or you can ask a helper to crack an egg, and accept the shell that may fall in. I'd rather pluck a shell out of an egg-wash than exclude my children from every activity that I enjoy. Going for a jog and having to stop at every ditch and watering hole to check for frogs, is expected when my three-year-old is along.
When I have to stop the focused attention of completing a task, such as writing or cleaning, so I can hug my boys tight and they can tell me about their day, I have to be intentional in my enthusiasm. I must engage and not get too frustrated with the "need to finish" mentality.
Learning to appreciate my children's "moments" results in my most favorite times of the day. At night, when I think about my day, the book I read to the baby, the snuggle I had in the morning with my boys, and my undivided focus I gave my husband when he talked about an experience at work are the moments I was most happy to have "spent" that day.
Intentional enthusiasm is utilizing the fruits of the Spirit and responding with the workings of the Holy Spirit.
"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law." (Galatians 5:22-24 NASB)
Just the other day, my oldest son, was doing homework and the baby crawled up onto my lap. We had to stop what we were doing because of the sheer delight of holding him. I could have told my oldest son, "No, you can't hold him or talk to him, you have to finish your homework." But that would have isolated him from family-life.
Sometimes our very life-support is Joy and Hope. When we see life as drudgery, we may need to enjoy the "spilled moments" of our lives. Those minutes that completed no task or resulted in nothing, but placing our life on hold for the benefit of others. Pouring our lives out for others will indeed fulfill, instead of empty. Jesus knew that and so should we.
I was recently in the middle—I mean in the middle—of a conversation with someone I respected. I actually thought I was making a valid point when the person completely shifted eye contact to someone clear across the room and joined in their conversation.
Truthfully, I was slightly humiliated. I think I haven't outgrown the awkward age of—people need to like me. And not only should they like me, but they should agree with what I say. But, most importantly, I am so confident that they should (almost immediately) do what I recommend. And when they don't....
I left the room, unnoticed, and began to pray. Father, my identity is in You.
I felt God confirm in my heart that I was a child of Him—the King. He is where my true value is derived from. I am a princess of Him. I have value and merit.
I was able, minutes later, to walk back into the room where I had been ignored with a gracious and kind spirit towards the person who offended me. I always need to remember that the true art of conversation is listening. Whether I am in the center of attention, or not, I must remember I am the apple of God's eye and in the center of His hand.
"Keep me as the apple of the eye; Hide me in the shadow of Your wings." Psalm 17:8 NASB
You can try. You can look at the "bright side," but when it comes down to it—a tired mama who has reached her end of patience is one miserable, stressed-out person. In fact, personal space may be absolutely necessary for the survival of all! (Especially for her husband.)
This period of time is usually accumulative—taking place over a period of sleeplessness, crying babies, and difficult circumstances.
There was a moment for me recently, when I was beyond tired, felt incredible stress with the children who weren't being obedient, and an air mattress that will no longer be allowed in my presence!
After spending a very long night on a leaking air mattress and found my sleep pattern further disturbed by my baby who cried for most of the night, I met my grumpy self. By morning, my idea of conversation was a growl consumed by the impatient emotion of complete annoyance with—everything!
In fact, I literally felt a dark cloud hovering over me, threatening at any moment to turn into a storm or rather a raging hurricane.
As I walked with my children to the lake after spending seemingly endless hours preparing the children with sunblock, life preservers, unearthing missing swim trunks—I asked myself a question...
"You are about to spend the rest of this day in complete misery, sharing that with your children at every moment. Do you want this dark cloud over you all day?"
My flesh immediately answered with a resounding, "Yes!"
But the Holy Spirit, was of a different opinion. "You know you could continue to be miserable, but the whole day will be tempered with the color gray. It will be unlikely that anyone, including yourself will be happy. You could choose to be happy, instead. To find the Joy of the Lord."
At that moment, I realized this was true and I didn't want my ugly emotions to affect my entire day. As you know, some people would lead you to believe that we, in ourselves have complete capacity to change. But I knew my figurative "boot straps" (which comes from the old adage: pull yourself up from your bootstraps and march on), were not there. An utter mist of strength was evaporated from my being.
Then I called on the Most High God. The maker of heaven and earth. The giver of life. The lover of my soul. My God who cared for my character more than anyone else in the world.
I called and He answered.
It was the triune agreement of God the Father, God the Son—Jesus Christ—and God the Holy Spirit. A complete aura of solid peace, felt in my core and from the top of my head traveling to the bottom of my feet.
It wasn't about me suddenly finding "inner peace." This was about me meeting my loving Heavenly Father at a crossroads and accepting His banner of victory over me. I truly remember not even having the mental strength to raise my internal hand toward the Father. It was simply an acknowledgement of Him and His grace.
Time and time again, the Lord has operated like this in my life. Finding myself unable to, and slightly unwilling to, fix my internal radar toward righteousness. However, the Lord is able even when we are not. "Call upon me and I will answer you." (Psalm 91:15 NASB.)
Needless to say, the day turned out to be a beautiful memory with my family. Splashing in the lake, water skiing, radiant sunshine, fast boat rides, and cheesy Goldfish.
You can say what you want, but I know that God met me in the middle of a street and cared for one of his children with the compassion that far outreached a tired mommy's heart!
Slipped away to our special spot. Threw a rock into the lake. Saw it ripple and I imagined you showing me how the sun dipped below.
You won't believe how tall the kids are growing again.
I whispered in my dreams again. Imagined you holding my hands. Talking about all our troubles and plans. All seamed together in a dream.
Thought I saw you once again.
Wanted you to come home again. Well and at peace again. But you whispered once again, you were happier that could ever be on this earth—now eternally free. Heaven's home is very good.
But I miss you.
God is good.
He loves you so, more than you could ever know. Mmm.
Know God holds your hand—now your heart.
He is so very good. He has plans, eternal joys.
He is so very good today.
He is so very good today. Mmm.
Random Silly Thoughts from a Mom of Four Boys:
My idea of organization is grabbing a garbage bag, filling it, and hoisting it into the attic. Never to be seen again.
The attic at our house is like Vegas. What goes up in the attic, stays up in the attic.
As I make my way through public life with my four boys, I comfort myself with the fact that one day I can embarrass them as much as they have embarrassed me.
I can relate to the celebrity life: If everyone is staring at me, it's a normal life of a mom.
When people see me coming with a baby on my hip, a three-year-old holding my hand, and two other boys around me, I seem to create an automatic response from the observers of, “My, you have your hands full."
“Yes, I do. Yes, I do.”
When I try to be funny, I think I scare people. I'm just too literal with my wit.
There is a place for everything and everything in it's place. So my brain, is where?
Honesty is the best policy except when it comes to my personal muffin-top. It needs no introduction and should therefore, never be mentioned.
If the food is not that good, don't say anything. The fact that we have something cooked at all is a miracle.
If I tell you that I cleaned all day and you can't tell, just go ahead and trust me. We have four boys!
Once I asked a friend when I only had one child, “What do you do when the house is clean and the baby is napping?”
Now, I laugh at the thought of a clean house and a baby napping.
One day you will understand how much time you had before kids.
If I hear that time flies and I need to enjoy every moment, I will ask them to a dinner at a restaurant where my baby is crying, my toddler is screaming, my child is under the table looking for a lost shoe and toy and another child just wants to sit on my lap. Those are the times, when I eat nothing, ask for the check when ANY waitress comes by our table, and get everything to go.
So, when my husband says, “Do you want to eat out?” I reply, “I just don't have the energy.”
When the waitress tries to seat our family in the middle of the dining room with enough chairs for everyone, we beg to sit in the corner where we won't bother anyone—ever again!
Why I struggle with weight loss:
I've always been a “good eater” since childhood.
You remember when you were a child. You would have a snack at 10 and a snack at 3. Plus you ate three round meals a day. I guess I liked that tradition.
I should be as thin as a toothpick. But every time one of my boys asks for a snack, I remember that I need one too.
I walk into the kitchen and try to remember why I came in there. Eating helps me remember.
I've heard of stress-eaters. I think I eat stress too!
Yeah, I eat healthy. Granola for breakfast. One slice, just one slice, of pizza at 10 a.m. One slice of pizza at 11 a.m., and one slice at 12 p.m....
You know the clothes that are so comfortable that you never want to take it off, well—there you go.
Things I say to the kids when they are throwing a tantrum.
“Been down that road before. It didn't work then, and it won't work now.”
“Really? Is is really that bad?”
Things my husband and I say about putting the kids back into bed after they have gotten up for the nineteenth time for water, bathroom, and “need to tell you somethin'.” = It's your turn.
“Do not grieve. The Joy of the Lord is your strength!” (Nehemiah 8:10 NIV)
My phone beeped with a familiar sound of a text coming in.
It was a cancellation from friends due to illness and I was actually relieved about the cancellation. (Partly, due to the fact that I had laid awake the night before, worrying about every little imperfection my guests would have had to endure. Based on the fact that my home has been filled with children that leave physical reminders of their presence on every surface in the house.) My mind hammered out the ungodly thoughts, “One less item on my to do list. One less item that didn't have to be fulfilled. One less opportunity to muster strength, that I didn't have, to even feel social. Whew!”
Then, I caught myself, “Is this the way Jesus operated His life?” Surely He would have been genuinely grieved at the loss of fellowship with fellow believers. Likely, He would have immediately prayed over the situation for God to heal the sick one. He also would have prayed that His heavenly Father would continue to direct His plans and time usage according to God's will.
Jesus, I'm sorry for my own lack of faith and love. I'm sorry for my weariness in doing good unto others. I'm sorry that I lacked so much vision for fellowship. I'm sorry that my home is so disorganized that when I heard company was coming, my heart felt overwhelmed at the task too great before me. Help me to realize that You are my Strength and My Song. Your Banner over me is love.
I now realize, that even if the house wouldn't have been perfect, the fellowship would have been sweet. And when the time came for friends to gather, The Lord would have ministered to my heart so that I could have been a vessel. And most likely, I would have had a special blessing that comes from the ministry of hopitality.
“Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.” (I Peter 4:9)
Isn't it interesting that God tells us to not only offer hopitality, like serving a meal or having someone stay in your home, but He also tells us to not grumble, complain, or murmer about it? I think God knew how challenging it was to offer hopitality and He also knew human nature. Anything that is hard, makes us want to give up or not try it at all. And, if we did have to do it (like hosting family or feeling “guilted” into hosting someone), we would want to let people know how hard it was!
Lord, help me to be willing to minister, even when I'm tired. Even when the house isn't organized or the food isn't plentiful. Lord, I love you and I see that you do guide me. Give me the wisdom and grace for the next day, so that I can continue to do your will. Knowing that completing your will for my life will be my greatest happiness.
Years ago, I was sitting with some co-workers and the subject came to: the boss. What agravated them the most, etc. I tried to remain a non-opinionated third party, but the time came when all eyes were on me, waiting expectantly for my candid response.
I was uncomfortable with the idea of saying anything negative about a person to my own own peers. There is one person who I can tell ALL to and that is my husband. And of course, I can pray to God about everything. However, it was obvious that I “needed” to contribute something, but I felt like a pinned bug under a microscope.
I finally just shared something small that the boss had done to hurt my feelings. I didn't delve into any of the juicy details that I could have.
I always thought that if I didn't talk about others, than they wouldn't talk about me.
None-of-the-less, a few weeks later I heard that those very co-workers talked about ME at an event after work. In fact, it was said to be “quite hysterical.”
Wow. I really learned who my friends were at that moment. I didn't want to be talked about behind my back. I didn't want to be made fun of. But you know what, I learned a lesson, I disliked being criticized behind my back. And even though I didn't say much against my boss, I wasn't going to join in that conversation again.
Gossip has a return policy. It spreads to others and it impacts you. Especially when you experience the brunt of it first-hand.
“A man who lacks judgment derides his neighbor, but a man of understanding holds his tongue. A gossip betrays a confidence, but a trustworthy man keeps a secret” (Proverbs 11:12-13 NIV).
“A perverse man stirs up dissension, and a gossip separates close friends” (Proverbs 16:28).
I was only trying to help when I weed wacked all the weeds. The gas powered weed wacker was so powerful, I nicked all the siding along the bottom of the shed.
Then there was the time when I mowed the lawn and I went over the driveway. Rocks scattered and the back windshield shattered on our new mini-van. $600 later, a new replacement was put in. Of course I mowed the lawn the other day and a tire from the mower fell off. Then last week I ran over the mower's air filters—completely annihilating it.
I was only tying to help, but maybe Kent would prefer to not have so much help!
Don't worry about me. Believe me, I've already done that today. Just pray for me!
Asking For Help When Raising Children
There was suddenly a big hill in front of me and I couldn't carry all four of my children anymore. I needed more arms to lend a hand and share my burden.
I won't allow myself to feel guilty for being unable to carry all of them. I will only be grateful that there are others who can walk with me and take a turn, less I falter and lose my way or perhaps have a child not gain life's experiences and fullness because I was afraid to ask for help.
I recently had gone through a season of spiritual dryness with my relationship with God. It affected my mental state and physical state. My response to overwhelming circumstances, sadness, or discouragement was that God didn't love me. He surely didn't care for me, and I even wondered if he saw me at all. If fact, I considered the word hate. God must hate me.
Hate, according to Merriam-Webster.com, is described as “a very strong feeling of dislike or an intense hostility and aversion usually deriving from fear, anger, or sense of injury.”
We know that according to the Bible, God doesn't hate us as His children. He loves us. “This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.” (1 John 4:9 NIV)
Though I knew these truths, I continued to doubt God's love to me.
The feelings I had when I was overwhelmed was that God was angry towards me and was leaving me to my own strength to 'just deal with it.' In those darker moments, I turned my stress into anger and detatchment towards God and an apathy towards my life and responsibilites. Earlier we read how hate can be derived from a “sense of injury.” I turned bitter towards God based on my own projection of inner turmoil.
I began praying ardently to God. I recognized the disease of depression, hatred, anger, and sadness that were escaping into and out of my very depths. I continued to read God's word and pray, hoping that soon I would sense His strength to sweep away all the challenges in my life.
God answered my prayers with this thought, “Lauren, I have been here this entire time. I love you. The circumstances in your life may not change. The challenges you face may be the same day-after-day, but if you will continue to, “Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.” (Jeremiah 33:3 NIV) I have been answering you. But you must be willing to make inward changes to receive my blessings of peace and strength."
Some of my desert moments were because of the inner workings of my mind. We cannot be mindless sheep that never listen to their Shepherd. Yes, we are sheep and need guidance. We ask questions like, “Which way should we go, and which project should we delve into, and why is this happening?” However, we must also be on the listening end of the relationship with God. We cannot resist His love to us or His guidance. If we do, the desert is our own fortress. We don't want to be changed inwardly, so therefore, we won't be empowered to change the circumstances around us or receive the strength to walk-through the challenges facing us.
“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.” (2 Corinthians 4:16 NIV)
I came to realize that God did love me. He was leading me and guiding me. I needed to let Him pull me out of my own self and resist the urge to remain on the throne of my life. God is the King and the only One that should be in charge of my life. With His loving hand of guidance, I am accomplishing great works for Him and continuing on the challenging version of my life. God be praised!
Remember, God loves you, of this I have no doubt! Walk through life with Him and receive His grace in your life.
I innocently walked into my living room, only to find one of my children had unrolled a dirty diaper and had taken a remote-controlled car through the “mud.” The “mud” was everywhere. I brought the car outside and took my child to the bath for a much needed cleansing soak.
Later, I made my way outside to the backyard and sprayed the car with the garden hose—from a distance. Yes, I was cleaning the car, but I didn't want to touch it. I honestly didn't want to see it again, but I cleaned it because it was their toy.
Jesus, when He was on this earth, often touched the person that He was healing. He would put His hand out to the leper—one of the untouchables of the day.
He never hesitated to do a great work in the lives of the people.
God is so much more gracious to us than I felt toward that remote-controlled car. “He brings us out of the miry pit,” the Psalmist says. He chooses to lovingly pull us through our worst moments, whether we brought them upon our selves or life just got really messy around us, God rescues us.
He then cleanses us with the redemptive power and love of Jesus Christ. He provides the fresh wind of the Holy Spirit to renew a right spirit within us. He transfers all the guilt and blame we feel to the cross. He pushes the sin as far as the east is from the west. He entrusts us to Himself. His outstretched arms strengthen us.
We are His.
Forgiven, Pure, loved. Not by our own merit, but because of Jesus' saving love.
I am thankful for Him. Aren't you?
“He brought me up out of the pit of destruction, out of the miry clay, And He set my feet upon a rock making my footsteps firm.” (Psalm 40:2 NASB)
“As far as the east is from the west,
so far has he removed our transgressions from us.” (Psalm 103:12 NIV)
How many times have you heard of a recent friend or family member that is going through a divorce? We ask, “How can this have happened?”
The answer to that question, like so many things that have negative results, is—thousands of steps.
My mom, who was a professional counselor for many years told me,
“There are a thousand steps to divorce.”
If in a marriage, neither party is willing to take a closer look at themselves and their contributions, you have a stalemate. The word stalemate means: action is blocked. But it is ironic that when you look at the words stale bread it translates: dry and crusty and the word Mate means: life-long partner. Either interpretation applies to a marriage that has no communication or grace.
If in a marriage there is complete stubbornness to connect back with a person after an argument, the results are: further complications and consequences.
Sometimes a person can be so overwhelmed or depressed that they say to their spouse, “I can't give anything to you, only take, because I have nothing left to give.”
A wife who gives to her home, her children, her job, and chooses to not care for her husband's emotional or physical needs will result in an empty shell of a marriage. Perhaps she will use anger and blame to communicate her needs to her husband. What about the husband who lets his job, stress, or personal crisis dictate how he treats his wife with a short-tempered attitude? These actions can leave the wife emotionally hurt and can turn a marriage into a irritating friction.
Examine these examples of common arguments in a marriage: “If you would just help me more, maybe I wouldn't be so tired all the time!” or “You're never here and even when you are—you are so disengaged!” or “I'm trying, but it just seems to be never enough for you!”
What did we learn? Stress breeds Stress. Crisis breeds Crisis. A person in Pain shares Pain.
Our emotional responses are the barometer of the home.
Like an ocean, marriage has an ebb and flow. Sometimes the waves called life you and your husband are on are the same and sometimes they are different. If you are going through a personal challenge and so is your husband—your “waves” may run into each other producing conflict.
We need each other.
Ideally, you embrace and impart to each other your struggles, conflicts, fears, and concerns that you have so that you agree to “ride” together on the waves of love and life. Phrases like: “I need help with this...” or “This is where I'm at right now...” or simply, “I need a hug,” will bring unity between you and your spouse. Also, make eye-contact! Storming through the house, eyes on the ground will only alienate you from your loved ones. Making eye contact with your spouse can translate the love you have for each other. This need for communication and agreement that, “We are in this together,” mentality is essential and necessary to prevent a void that no human can fill.
Recognizing that God's role in marriage is one the most important realizations you can come to in having a healthy marriage. “That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.” Genesis 2:24 (NIV).When you seek God, He will relate to you in a way that is a tender Shepherd. Leading you beside the still waters.
“He stilled the storm to a whisper; the waves of the sea were hushed.” (Psalm 107:29 NIV).
“The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters. He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths of righteousness for His name's sake.” (Psalm 23:1-3 NASB)