Monday, August 13, 2018

Are Children Really a "Gift" from the Lord?

Dear Friends,

Have you ever compared your children to your friends’ “perfect,” high-achieving offspring?  Do you ever feel like you’re in a state of emergency, having to lock everything down in order to deal with the trials and upsets of parenting? That has been my experience.
God’s Word clearly says that children are a gift, a real blessing from Him (Ps. 127:3, GNB).  However if I’m going to be honest, I have often felt joyless when I’ve dwelled on the many challenges of raising my daughter. I’ve even wondered why she didn’t seem to love me as unconditionally as I‘ve loved her.
As I think about it now, it’s clear I was more concerned about me. But Scripture says that children are a gift from God. What do you do when you receive a gift you always desired? You appreciate, love, cherish, and take care of it. You are grateful to the person who gave it to you, and if given the opportunity, you reciprocate.  
Our children teach us how to show grace, mercy, and forgiveness like our earthly parents and God have done for us. We have a responsibility to treasure them, not expecting perfection from them, but understanding the magnitude of God’s love in blessing us with that child. Then we can reciprocate by thanking and leaning on Him as we raise them up for His glory.   
 When you’re struggling to see your children as the God-given blessing they are, here are a few things you can do:
  1. Pray. Only God can save your children and work in their lives. Ask Him to reveal Himself to them so they will know without a doubt that He is real and He loves them. 
  2. Be present and available. When your children ask for help or just need to talk, be there. Praise their positive activities and spend time with them, showing an interest in the things that matter to them.
  3. Gently guide your child’s faith walk. Your child may not always live by faith or hold to your teaching. Deal lovingly with them where they are as you continue to share your own faith with them. 
  4. Demonstrate unconditional love. Love your children even when they make bad choices. Doesn’t God love us despite the things we do? When they seem unlovable, that’s your opportunity to love them unconditionally. Choose to see the best in them.
  5. Model Christian love. Be a witness for Christ by how you live your life. Speak to your children about Christ. Show God’s goodness through your loving and kind actions toward others. They will learn from your example that God is alive and living in you.
Although parenting can feel like a constant battle, the goal is not to make your children “perfect” or to prevent you from feeling hurt and embarrassed by their actions. The ultimate goal is for their eyes to be opened to Christ. Trust God with the children He has placed in your care, giving them your very best. 

In Him,

Tamara Meyers
   

Tamara Meyers is an administrator, mother, and grandmother. As a Christian writer, she believes she has a responsibility to illustrate through her personal experiences how readers can live a victorious life in Christ. She is a native of Barbados.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

The Beauty of a Scar

Dear Friends,

The other morning, as I was finishing up my makeup and hair routine, my hand brushed across a scar between my upper eyelid and eyebrow. I see it every day, but this particular morning the light caught it just right and I paused for a moment to look at it. It is a small scar from when I was about 10 years old and had picked at a chicken pox. I remembered my little childhood home and how my mom furiously worked to help four children combat this childhood disease during that cold February.  
I began to think about all the scars that we women carry around with us every day. Some are visible and are caused by physical injuries. Many are hidden in the recesses of our souls where only God sees.  
Often we want to hide our scars because we feel that they reveal something about us that we don’t like. They make us feel self-conscious and different. They bring back difficult memories that we don’t want to relive, or cause us to feel trapped in the past.  
I have some deep scars like this. I have five laparoscopic scars in my abdomen from two major surgeries over the past two years. The whole time I was clinging to life and God as doctors worked to figure out why I was so sick. They are reminders of the loneliness, despair, and frustration I went through during my physical pain.  
My friend has a massive scar from the mastectomy that saved her life. Her scar led to feelings of depression, hopelessness, and a new identity.
It is not uncommon for women to have hidden scars. Women like me who work in ministry cannot always share our hurts with those we work with. Feelings of isolation can cause scars that wreak havoc on our souls. We long to find true friends and sisters who can understand our pain. 
Scars remind us of trouble and hurt and we desire relief, healing, and mercy. God sees these scars and longs for us to spend time in His presence, allowing Him to bring healing to our pain. Lamentations 3:19-23 is a cry to our Lord. It says, “Remember my affliction and my wanderings, the wormwood and the gall! My soul continually remembers it and is bowed within me. But I call this to mind, and therefore, I have hope. The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning, great is your faithfulness.”
Scripture promises that God will bring healing to our scars. Psalm 147:3 says, “God heals the broken-hearted and binds up their wounds.” He lovingly wraps His strong arms around me and gently whispers, “These scars are part of your story, and I think they are beautiful.” He does this for all of His children. He wants us to be whole in spite of the pain we endure.
Christ Himself was not immune to scars. He was constantly ridiculed, rejected, and mocked. His final moments on earth brought horrible wounds to His body. But His scars bring us ultimate healing. I Peter 2:24 says, “He himself bore our sins in his body on a tree that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By His wounds you have been healed.” Not that we might be healed but that we have been.  
Psalm 40:17 says the “As for me, I am poor and needy, but the Lord takes thought of me. You are my help and my deliverer, do not delay, O my God.” Sometimes this help that the Lord provides comes through another brother or sister that has endured a similar experience. That is part of the beauty of what God does through us. He uses our pain for His glory and to help others.
In a two year time span, my husband and I lost both of our dads to heart conditions—sudden, unexpected tragedies. Our hearts were raw with grief and shock. I remember asking a loving friend who had been through his own share of loss, “Does this pain ever go away?” He said, “The pain never completely leaves, but over time the agony begins to fade. It becomes less harsh, and you are able to deal with it easier.” 
Pain and scarring will always be part of our story this side of heaven. God uses them to help us minister to others, and when we do, I think God smiles and says, “That is beautiful. That scar on her is beautiful.”  
Blessings,

Laura Sumpter

Laura Sumpter, married and mother of three, is an Academic Resource Specialist at a private Christian School in Salem, Ore. She has worked in education for 18 years, and has had the opportunity to work at camps and on her church’s women’s ministry team. Laura also teaches women’s Bible studies and speaks at women’s events.

Monday, July 30, 2018

Being a Community

Dear Friends,

It takes a village. So where’s the village? 

Twenty years ago Hilary Clinton popularized the proverb, It takes a village to raise a child. If you have ever felt overwhelmed by the tasks in your life or the need for community, then you probably want a village. And if you’ve ever wanted a village and none have appeared then you are not alone. I have often wished for a village, usually when my plate is too full. 

We’re not the first people to want a village. Near the turn of the 20th century there was a movement in Israel toward these villages, called kibbutzim—unique rural communities dedicated to mutual aid and social justice, based on the principle of joint ownership of property, equality and cooperation of production, consumption, and education—a home for those who had chosen it.

Yet, today we more likely find ourselves raising kids in isolation, cooking meals for one, and thinking it’s up to us to meet our own needs. This “every man for himself” movement is the exact opposite of what Luke writes about the early church in Acts 4:32-33:

All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all.

Sharing with one another was not only a way to love one another or merely a practical solution, but this was the way to make their ministry more effective. They were more effective together than apart. The world was watching. The goal of these Christians was to preach the Gospel. That meant looking like Jesus and loving like Jesus—being a community rather than a competition. 

While compound-living is not practical for most of us, this is where I want to raise my family. The Village which teaches, nourishes, protects, and takes care of one another is exactly the place I want to be! Don’t you? 

So what are we doing, Church? Are we being the community home? What can the model of these early Christians teach us? Maybe that we need one another, maybe that we must be willing to share our blessings and our burdens for the sake of the Gospel. Maybe it’s worth joining a village.

Blessings,

Maureen Kasdorf

Maureen Kasdorf is a freelance writer, Bible study leader, sleep coach, and mother. She, her husband Mike, and their three spirited children live in Wauwatosa, Wis., and are actively involved in their church.