Prayer: Our Powerful Parenting Tool

He will cover you with His feathers, and under His wings you will find refuge; His faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. Psalm 91:4

Sometimes, all we can do is wear out the carpet with our knees. 

God used my son to teach me this valuable lesson during his first couple years of elementary school. I knew he was an energetic kid, but when his behavior started to fall behind his Kindergarten peers, a small seed of worry began to grow. Could he have special needs? A learning disability or ADHD?

Countless attempts at discipline, setting consequences, and rewards without improvement left me feeling defeated. Reassuring the school principal we were handling the situation became harder the following year as the reports kept coming home: Has difficulty focusing. Is a distraction to his classmates. Cannot complete assignments. I dreaded answering the phone when the school called. What if they ask him to withdraw?

Before I knew it, that seed of worry had grown into full blown momma anxiety. I felt ill-equipped to handle the mental strain and emotional stress of a child with academic and emotional delay. 

I needed a plan to fight the fret. Tummy butterflies, shaking hands, and trouble breathing became physical manifestations of a spiritual lack of trust and I simply couldn’t live like that. One night, I went into my son’s room after he fell asleep and knelt beside his bed. I laid my hands on him and began to pray for guidance. 

Psalm 91 has always been one of my favorite chapters in the Bible, but in the shadows of my son’s dimly lit room, I experienced the comfort of being covered by the Lord’s wings. Verse 4 says, He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. I found refuge in remembrance of the Lord’s faithfulness. I knew He was in control and would guide me through the ups and downs of this journey.

As I reread Psalm 91 in its entirety, my anxiety fizzled out as the words became relevant to my circumstances: 

  • God will protect my son. (v. 4) 
  • I have no reason to fear what will happen. (v.5) 
  • This process will not bring harm or disaster to our family. (v. 10) 
  • When I call on Him, He will answer me. He will be with me every step of the way. (v. 15)

Perhaps you understand how the weight of parenting can lay heavy on a momma’s heart. But that’s why prayer is the most powerful tool we have. Consistently going to God lessens anxiety; as our knees wear out the carpet, God lifts our burdens. He protects our children more effectively than we ever could. Let’s put our trust in Him.

Courage to Stay When You Want to Walk Away

She gave this name to the LORD who spoke to her: “You are the God who sees me,” for she said, “I have now seen the One who sees me.” Genesis 16:13

“I’m not sure I can do this anymore. No matter how hard I try, nothing changes. I just want to give up.”

My friend was going through a particularly difficult season in her marriage and my heart went out to her because I understand how it feels to want to walk away. Insecurity says, if I could just eliminate this relationship, I would be more confident. Pride says, I’m not letting them treat me this way. Fear says, I’ll never see change, I might as well stop trying. Daily bombardments of negativity cause us to throw our hands up in exasperation and exclaim, this is simply too hard! We want to toss in the towel and leave the pain behind.

Have you ever felt like walking away from a difficult relationship? Hagar did just that. She fled circumstances which left her feeling utterly hopeless. She felt mistreated, isolated, and worthless. She saw no other way out. Overwhelming fear invokes a fight or flight response in all of us. And for Hagar, flight was her default.

We find God’s reaction to her choice in Genesis 16:7. The angel of the Lord finds Hagar near a spring in the desert. He asks her where she is from and where she is going. She admits to running away from her mistress, Sarai. If you’re unfamiliar with the story, Sarai was Abraham’s wife and Hagar was her maidservant. Sarai longed to be a mother but had been unable to conceive. She encouraged Abraham to take Hagar as his wife in order to produce a son. He did so and Hagar became pregnant.

A seemingly hopeful situation turned south as Sarai’s jealousy lead her to despise and mistreat Hagar. Hagar could no longer stand it, so she left. The driving force of her desire to walk away stemmed from deep hopelessness. The same is true for us; we feel powerless to change our circumstances and see no other way to escape the suffering.

Even when our pain is caused by another’s choices, we get to choose our response. We are not completely helpless; we do not have to walk away. Walking away is the easier, but temporary option. God wants us to work through the hard times with His help.

The Angel gently acknowledges Hagar’s feelings of rejection and hopelessness, and encourages her by saying, “You are now pregnant and will give birth to a son. You shall name him Ishmael for the Lord has heard of your misery.” (Genesis 16:11) Recognizing God valued her so much that He sent an Angel to communicate His love for her causes a powerful shift in Hagar’s perspective.

She responds by calling the Lord El Roi, which means “the God who sees”. Genesis 16:13 says, “I have now seen the One who sees me.” He sees you, too, my friend. He knows what you’re going through. You are valuable to Him and He wants to help. He has plans and miracles to perform in and through us but we’ll never know them if we walk away.

If you’re facing an impossible hardship and feel powerless make changes, please know you are not alone; God cares for you and He will meet you wherever you are. Only He can give us the courage to stay when we want to walk away.

A Word to the Anxious Heart

Say to those with fearful hearts, “Be strong, do not fear;
your God will come, he will come with vengeance;
with divine retribution he will come to save you.” 
Isaiah 35:4

“What is the world coming to?” I overheard a conversation between two ladies as they watched the news playing on a tv perched above the bar at the airport.

Who hasn’t muttered a phrase of similar persuasion in the past few years? It seems as if violence is becoming a regular occurrence, fear an all-too-common emotion. Many of my friends are also moms who voice concerns about the environment their young children will be growing up in. We worry if they will be adequately equipped to handle the struggles they may face. We question our ability to instill Godly conviction in them. We wonder, will they turn out ok?

I imagine our concerns may be similar to those of the remaining faithful Jews living in Israel while the vast majority had walked away from religious traditions. In the book of Isaiah, we find a message of judgement in response to the Israelite’s rejection of God. Impending doom for God’s chosen people must have evoked fear and worry in the hearts of those who desired to obey. Perhaps they questioned if their commitment would be enough. Would the Lord remember His promises to Abraham and King David if their descendants forgot about Him? They may have felt desperate for change yet powerless to do anything.

Have you every felt that way? I wish I had a crystal ball telling me how things turn out in the end. My hope is that my sons grow up to be kind, independent, and courageous Christ-followers. I want them to find God’s path for them, but worry that the noise of this world will cause great distractions.

That’s why I find Isaiah 35:4 particularly comforting. In this chapter, we see a shift from the message of death and destruction to one of encouragement and hope for restoration.

And I think it speaks to a specific group of people – those of us who have a tendency to worry. We believe in God and trust His authority, but relinquishing our need for control is extremely difficult. The verse says, “Say to those with fearful hearts, ‘Be strong and do not fear; your God will come, He will come with a vengeance; with divine retribution, He will come to save you.'”

Say to those with fearful hearts; the Hebrew word used here is leb, which refers to a fearful mindset. The heart, mind, or will of a man is in a state of concern or alarm. It’s a tendency to anticipate a bad outcome. It’s an ever-present unsettled feeling, rather than being scared about a specific situation. A fearful mind finds it extremely difficult to trust God. We want to manage our circumstances with substantiated evidence of tangible control; believing an invisible God will give us what we need is uncomfortable and nerve-racking.

But God has a tender spot for those who long to be brave. He cares deeply for those who are fighting fear and worry day in and day out. He wants to whisper in our ear, “I’ve got this. I see what you’re facing and I’m in control. There’s nothing too big for me.”

If your heart has a tendency to worry rather than trust, be encouraged today that God has a special message just for you. He calls us to be strong and courageous (Joshua 1:9) for our benefit. God doesn’t want us trying to play god – He’s the best one for that position. He longs for us to experience His peace (John 14:17) but tranquility and turmoil cannot co-exist. It is impossible to live a joyful life when our minds are consumed with the possible outcome of circumstances beyond our control. When we know The One who has the authority to command the wind and seas to obey (Matthew 8:27), we can rest assured that He will take care of us.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7

When the Words Won’t Come

The Holy Spirit will give you the words to say at the moment when you need them.
Luke 12:12, the VOICE

 

I found myself in unfamiliar territory.

Something I had previously been passionate about wasn’t even peeking my interest. After falling in love with writing, I looked forward to weekly blog posts. It wasn’t difficult to find inspiration and the words came with little effort.

But the honeymoon phase ended and I was left feeling disenchanted by the whole thing. Previously, I couldn’t bear the thought of missing a week – my goal when starting this blog was to post once a week. I was committed to that goal and achieved it for over eight months. I spent time in the Word, praying, and asking God what to write. I knew this was something He had called me to do and I desperately wanted to avoid failure.

Now, as the weeks passed, I wondered if I would post again. I began pushing the guilt down deep enough to pretend it wasn’t there. I struggled to find the words and was ready to give up. I didn’t really care if I continued to do something I believed the Lord was calling me to do.

Finally, I did some soul searching. I had to shake off the funk. While checking my email one evening, a sentence caught my attention – “If we do what we want, when we want, we will waste the little time we have”. I realized that I had been doing what I wanted rather than what God wanted me to do. My indifference was masking a deep fear I didn’t want to acknowledge. I was disappointed by the lack of progress I was making and questioned my ability to be successful as an author.

Sometimes, doing nothing feels safer than risking failure.

I reasoned that if I didn’t expose my tender underbelly by sharing my writing, I wouldn’t risk being injured. I wouldn’t risk rejection. I wouldn’t risk the uneasiness that comes with stepping out in faith to do the Lord’s work.

Then it hit me. I was letting fear hold me back. Again. Fear has been my constant companion. The thorn in my side. I could rattle off numerous reasons as to why I shouldn’t move forward and as I did so, I was reminded of Moses. He really didn’t want to go to Pharaoh and ask for the freedom of the Israelites. He was allowing fear to cloud the Lord’s calling on his life. He thought he knew better than God and tried to talk Him out of it:

“Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” (Exodus 3:11)

“Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?” (v. 13)

“What if they do not believe me or listen to me and say, ‘The Lord did not appear to you’?” (Exodus 4:1)

“Pardon your servant, Lord. I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue.” (v. 10)

“Pardon your servant, Lord. Please send someone else.” (v. 13)

Despite Moses’ pleading with God to change His mind, the Lord used Moses. He coupled Moses with his brother, Aaron, and together, they went to Egypt and Pharaoh eventually freed the Israelites. In spite of his fear, it was the Lord’s plan for Moses to do this.

The Lord has a specific plan for my life as well and nothing will prevent it from happening. He may allow me to complain, make excuses, and procrastinate, but He will never give up on me. He is not alarmed when the words won’t come. He isn’t bothered by my questioning. He doesn’t worry when I take a break. He knows how my story ends.

He knows how your story ends, also. Is fear holding you back from something God wants you to do? When the words won’t come, ask God to share His. The Bible says He “will help you speak and will teach you what to say.” (Exodus 4:12) Believe that “the Holy Spirit will give you the words to say at the moment when you need them.” (Luke 12:12, the VOICE) And trust in His promise of a plan for your life – a plan to prosper you; a plan to give you a hope and a future. (Jeremiah 29:11) 

What Are You Afraid Of?

For I am the Lord Your God who takes hold
of your right hand and says to you,
Do not fear; I will help you.
Isaiah 41:13

My alarm went off. Ready or not, the day was here. I knew it was coming, I just didn’t think it would get here this fast. Nor that I would feel the way I did – anxious, overwhelmed, and ill-prepared for what this day would be like. Would they do okay? Would they feel scared, timid, worried about fitting in?

I wasn’t ready for this flood of emotion. I didn’t want to get out of bed, but knew I had to. I was sending my firstborn twins to their first day of kindergarten and felt blindsided by the unexpected response my heart took as I dressed and walked to the kitchen to make coffee.

The house was still dark as I began sifting through my feelings. I realized they were all rooted in fear – fear of the unknown. Feeling uneasy about not knowing what to expect is one of my biggest struggles. The uneasiness turns into physiologic anxiety – my heart beats fast, my chest feels tight, my hands a bit shaky. At times, it’s difficult for me to trust the Lord when I am unfamiliar with my circumstances. I simply prefer to be prepared appropriately and I can’t prepare without knowing in advance what will be happening. Have you ever felt that way?

I sat quietly sipping my coffee. The stillness of the morning brought peace to my flustered heart as I was reminded of Isaiah 41:13 – For I am the Lord Your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.

I had been allowing my circumstances to dictate my emotions; when I stopped to absorb the truth of God’s Word, my soul began to believe it. Even when my circumstances, emotions, and life change, God is with me, helping me.

God is not surprised by my desire to know what’s around the next corner on the path of life. In fact, He expects it and yet commands: Do Not Fear.

It’s not a suggestion. He doesn’t say, “I know life is scary sometimes, but try your best to not be afraid”. That’s like me telling my child, “When you cross the street, try your best to not get hit by a car”. That’s nonsense – I take my child by the hand, stay with him, and walk him safely across the street. He doesn’t fear being hit because I am with him – he trusts me.

God wants me to trust Him the same way because the truth is, He is holding my hand, staying with me, and walking me across the street of life. I don’t have anything to fear – not the unknown, not what the day will bring, not feeling ill-prepared for whatever life brings.

Fearlessness is found by fastening our faith to Jesus.

We all have fears. Perhaps you can relate to mine; maybe you fear rejection, feeling like a failure, letting others down, being fully known, being vulnerable, being loved. Think about it – what are you afraid of? What holds you back from allowing the Lord to take your hand and help you?

As I sent my boys off to school that day, I grabbed ahold of the Lord’s hand and gave it a squeeze, thankful for His presence. After all, it’s ok to have emotional responses to the events of life – I have nothing to be afraid of!

Dear Heavenly Father,
When my hands are clinched around my need for control, help me to open them to You, accepting Your help to release my fears. May Your promises seep deeply into my soul, saturating my heart with peace and comfort amidst the changing life circumstances threatening my security. Teach me to hear the voice of Your Holy Spirit over my doubts each and every day.
Amen

Hiding is Not An Option

If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
Psalm 139:8

My cell phone screen lit up, alerting me to a new message. It was a friend asking to meet for lunch. Although I enjoy spending time with her, I didn’t want to go. I wanted to stay home. By myself.

What’s the problem?, you might ask.

There’s no problem if I simply needed to rest, accomplish other tasks, or run errands. There’s no problem if I had previous obligations, financial restraints, or transportation issues. There’s no problem if I didn’t want to go for any other reason than the reason I didn’t want to go – avoidance.

Going to lunch meant I would have to talk about how things were going, which meant admitting they were not going as well as I would like, which meant I couldn’t pretend everything was fine anymore. Going to lunch meant crawling out of my hiding place.

I thought of my son who loves to play hide-and-seek. Loves, loves, loves. He would play it every single day if we let him. However, our home is small and there are only four or five good hiding places – total. Therefore, it doesn’t take long for my son to find me because he knows where to look.

The same is true for the Lord. He knows where to look; there is no hiding from Him.

David describes his experience beautifully in Psalm 139:

Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. (v 7-8) 

If I say, “surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,” even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day for darkness is as light to you. (v 11-12)

These verses reminded me of Lord’s presence in my life. He brought light into the darkness of my life and I had lost sight of that. I wandered from the path of freedom, heading into the shadows of fear. Hiding had become an outward expression of an inward digression.

Have you ever felt like hiding would quiet the voices of fear and insecurity? Perhaps they would go away if left alone long enough? Just as my son eagerly searches for me during hide and seek, the Lord searches for us. He knows where we hide and lovingly awaits our willingness to be found. Because to Him, hiding is not an option.

 

Dear Heavenly Father,

Thank you for pursuing us, even when we want to hide. Your radiant light is brighter than any darkness we could experience in life; thank you for loving us enough to play hide-and-seek and knowing exactly where to find us.

Amen

 

The Darkness is Necessary

 

No one likes the darkness. No one willingly answers his knock at the door and invites him in. He simply invades our mind, casting shadows of doubt into the corners of our soul. He represents feelings of sadness, worthlessness, and fear. Darkness inhibits mental clarity and produces hopelessness. Many are devastated by its presence.

But what if the darkness is necessary? What if the Lord uses the darkness to draw us into the light, closer to Him? For someone consumed by the suffocating presence of darkness, this may seem impossible. Nothing seems necessary. Nothing seems usable for good. Everything is simply painful. I know; I’ve been there.

After years of cohabitating with darkness, living under the bondage of shame and depression, the Lord mercifully illuminated my desperate, calloused heart. As the darkness dissipated, I experienced unrelenting freedom for the first time in my life.

However, it wasn’t long before the darkness came knocking at my door again. It caught me off guard initially, but my surprise quickly turned into anger. I felt angry he had the audacity to intrude upon my life after all I had been through to squelch feelings of shame, insecurity, and fear. Why was this happening?, I thought.

I knew I couldn’t simply ignore the presence of darkness as I had in the past. I needed to face him head-on, addressing the reason he was there.

Psalm 23:4 is one of my favorite verses:

Even though I walk through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil, for You are with me;
your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

Meditating on the presence of the Lord brought me comfort. I had no reason to fear for Jesus was with me. He gave me the courage to welcome the darkness in.

As the shadow of darkness hovered like a thick cloud of smoke, I remembered how I previously viewed myself – worthless, unlovable, and insignificant. I lived in fear of rejection, looking to others to define my value. My brief encounter with the darkness resonated the miraculous transformation God has performed in my life. I no longer view myself in negative ways; Jesus has shown me who I truly am – a priceless, adored, precious Child of God.

If you have ever interacted with the darkness, you can relate to my hesitancy to converse with him. However, years of ignoring him and pretending he wasn’t there were quite damaging. Confronting my fears has been the crucial first step to experiencing the Lord’s sovereignty.

Jesus can never free us from bondage we don’t acknowledge exists.

The darkness is necessary.
– It reinforces our need for dependency on God.
– It reminds us of His presence in our lives.
– It requires we surrender our fears.
– It redirects our perspective from our struggle to His sovereignty.

Without the darkness, we can’t experience the amazingly powerful transforming light the Lord offers.

Dear friend, if you have been overwhelmed by a journey through the darkest valley, there is hope. You are not alone. Jesus can and will meet you in the pit of despair and guide you into the light of freedom. Just ask.

Lord Jesus, thank You for Your light that casts out darkness. I pray for anyone reading this today who struggles with insecurities and depression. Satan wants nothing more than to enslave them to the darkness. May they experience the freedom that only comes from You.
Amen

Healing Hidden Wounds

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

Have you ever stopped to consider the measures we often go to in order to hide our pain? Many wake each morning, the sting of old wounds lingering after a night of sleep aided only by a numbing substance. Rather than acknowledging our feelings, we shove them under the covers as we make our bed, shower, and face another day. We welcome distractions such as busy schedules, laundry to be washed, dishes to be cleaned, meals to be made – anything to keep our minds off the ache we cannot shake.

I’ve been there. I know what it’s like to put on a smile and go about the routine of my day, only to land in a heap on the couch, exhausted by the effort it took to maintain the facade.

Deep, hidden wounds are rarely revealed. They are associated with guilt, shame, or regret over a choice we made or one that was made against us. They are those do-over moments we wish truly existed.

So, what is one to do with these wounds? Continue to self-medicate? Avoid sensitive topics and triggers at all costs? Pretend we are not affected by our past?

For the person who simply cannot go on this way anymore – the one who needs complete healing – keep reading.

Hope is where it all begins. “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.” Do you believe the Lord has plans to prosper you? Perhaps numerous difficult circumstances have left you disenchanted, feeling hopeless of a future blessed by God. Maybe you question His existence, His presence in your life, or if there is a plan at all.

I used to put my hope in things of this world – in people’s approval of me; in my children’s validation of my mothering skills; in my success as a person by what I did rather than who I was. Putting my hope in anything other than the Lord lead to discouraging disappointment. He is the only constant, trustworthy source of unfailing hope.

Regardless of where life has taken you, there is no path that cannot be redirected.

Dare to hope in the power of the Holy Spirit to transform hidden wounds into healed scars. Dare to believe that change can happen – even after years of self-medication, bandages and acceptance of the bed you have laid. Consider the faint possibility that God offers a soothing balm formulated to restore the health of your exact hurt. 

God has a plan for you, my friend. A plan of hope, redemption, and healing – and He is hoping you will venture to trust in Him.

 

Dear Lord, it can be really tough to hope in the unknown. It’s easier to stay in the predictability of our pain than to venture out into the uncertainty of change. Be with us as we begin the process of healing by choosing to put our hope in nothing other than You. Amen