Life Lesson #1

Philippians 4 6

In every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. Philippians 4:6

What is a mom to do when her son’s pediatrician tells her that her son has a heart murmur and he recommends an appointment for an echocardiogram? She prays. What is a mom to do when her other son is potty training? She prays. These are just two examples taken from my prayer journal that I began when I became a mom.
Before I had children, my prayer life consisted of sporadic, shallow blurbs. Oh, I would pray for people if they asked, but I did not seriously believe that my prayers could make a difference. Then God blessed my husband and me with two boys who are just fourteen months apart in age. This was the turning point in my prayer life.
After having the boys so close together, and coming from a household of four girls, I realized I could not properly parent without some (OK…a lot of) divine intervention. At first, I began to jot down various simple requests. “Please help Mitchell sleep through the night.” “Please help Daniel learn to love and accept his new baby brother.”
After weeks and months of developing a set time devoted to praying for my children, I began to recognize God’s answers. However, God was not only working in the lives of my children, He was also molding me into a better mom each day. I was learning that my husband and I do not have to parent alone. God is there to guide our steps. All I have to do is ask Him. Am I a perfect mom? Of course not. Do I make mistakes? Every day! Am I the best mom for Daniel and Mitchell? Absolutely!
What I pray about is different each day. Sometimes I pray for particular character traits. Other times I am praying for current problems or situations. Many times I pray for myself as their mom. I especially pray that the Lord would give me the wisdom to raise Daniel and Mitchell according to His will. Often I am writing a thank you for the answered prayers. As certain prayers are answered, God gently directs me to other needs. Praying daily for my children has given me peace as a parent because I confidently know God is in control, and He truly cares about every detail of our lives.
While I have learned many lessons since I became a mom, none of these life lessons supersedes the importance of learning the necessity of praying for my children. God surprised me by showing me that He cares more for my children than I ever could. The Almighty has taught me that one of the best things that I can do for my boys is to take every need, concern, and blessing to Him in prayer. This alone empowers my family with the strength and endurance we need each day.

Bulbs of Faith

Isaiah 38 19

The living, the living—they praise you, as I am doing today; parents tell their children about your faithfulness. Isaiah 38:19

On a crisp October morning many years ago, my sons and I emerged from the garage holding gardening equipment: one small shovel, sixty tulip bulbs, bone meal, a sand shovel, and a clear plastic bug box. We progressed to the circle of mulch surrounding the ash tree in our front yard. Tasks were divided in our small group of garden enthusiasts. I dug the six inch holes and added the bone meal. Daniel, age three, put the tulip bulb right side up. Mitchell, age two, got to cover the flower bulb with his plastic shovel.
Every once in a while, I would uncover a worm when digging, and we would switch from botanists to zoologists by putting the worms into the bug box for observation. At one point during this procedure, Daniel stated confidently, “You know Mom, God makes the worms, too!” I smiled and replied, “Yes, He does.” The remainder of the morning was spent working together and continuing our discussion of God’s creations. I look forward to each March when the tulips bloom because they not only represent the “flowers” of our labor, but they symbolize the seeds of faith planted that morning.

Fall Leaves Me Feeling…

2 Corinthians 5 17
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! 2 Corinthians 5:17

Autumn is a time of change. The temperature drops, and summer annuals die with the first frost of the season. As acorns drop to the ground, squirrels quickly gather them up and bury them under dirt and mulch. Grass begins to shift from deep green to a dull, dormant wheat color. Fall leaves me feeling reflective as I consider the changes of the season.
In Illinois, one transformation that occurs during the month of October is the color change of the leaves. From the ripe shades of green, leaves turn into various autumn colors and fall off the trees. Oak leaves become different shades of brown. Maple leaves turn into a beautiful display of orange, mahogany and gold. All around, trees undergo a change that appeals to the eye.
As I ponder the dramatic changes of the leaves, I cannot help but think of the Christian life. As we ask Jesus into our heart, we are transformed into His likeness. When we humble ourselves before Him, we allow our old self to die. This permits our new life in Christ to be born and grow. Likewise, fall leaves must change color and descend to the ground. In doing so, trees are preparing for new growth in the spring. How lovely the leaves are when they transform from their shades of green to their gorgeous hues of reds and yellows! Just as the autumn leaves reveal their vibrant colors, so, too, does a committed Christian exhibit a vibrant life.
Thus, a change in the leaves is symbolic to me of a converted heart submitted to Jesus Christ. As fall approaches, the air turns cool and crisp. Pumpkins, gourds and hay are displayed on porches. However, I am moved by the dying leaves. As I observe the leaves floating to the ground and covering the grass like a protective blanket, I am reminded to continually yield my life to Christ. A committed Christian life is a beautiful life. May fall always leave me feeling this reflective!

See You At The Pole

See You At The Pole 2015
See You at the Pole Prayer Ideas
On the fourth Wednesday in September, in the United States, over three million students early in the morning gather at their schools’ flagpole to pray. In twenty other countries, students also participate in this event of prayer (syatp.com). While this event is student led, we can partner with these young men and women by praying for the schools in our communities sometime this week. Here are some topics and verses to help get you started. Please feel free to add more topics and verses in the comments below.
Students
That God is “Guarding the paths of justice and watching over the way of his saints.” Proverbs 2:8
That students will “Apply their hearts to instruction and their ears to words of knowledge.” Proverbs 23:12
That students will know the love of Christ. “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.” Ephesians 3:18
That students will grow academically and socially in a safe learning environment. “Start children off on the way they should go,and even when they are old they will not turn from it.” Proverbs 22:6
That students will learn Christian values and morals. “Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” Matthew 19:14
Administrations and School Board Members
That they will do what is right. “First of all, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.” 1 Timothy 2:1-2
“Then do what is right and you will be commended. For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good.” Romans 13:3-4
Teachers
That teachers will lead by example and have a voice of wisdom. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” Proverbs 9:10
That they will exhibit the fruit of the Spirit as they teach their students. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” Galatians 5:22-23

My Agenda or God’s?

Philippians 2 4
Do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Philippians 2:4
After spending a wonderful Labor Day weekend vacationing with my family, on Tuesday I found myself in my utility room, knee-deep in luggage and dirty laundry. I spent part of my day unpacking toys, shoes, pillows, food and toiletries. The remainder of the day was spent washing, drying, folding and putting away the laundry.
Between unpacking and putting the clean clothes away, I must have walked through my kitchen over 100 times. At the end of the day, I looked in the corner of my kitchen where a plant, sitting on its stand, was literally dying of thirst. I had not only forgotten to water it on the Friday before we left, but I had been so consumed with putting my utility room back in order that I didn’t even notice its wilting, brown leaves.
Was I always that busy that I overlooked others’ needs around me? What if it had been a hurting friend I passed by in the store? Would I have noticed if she was dying for a drink of God’s living water, or thirsty for a word of encouragement? Or would I be so self-focused that I wouldn’t see her needs, just as I didn’t see the need of my plant?
That Tuesday I resolved to become more considerate of those around me and less worried about my agenda.
Lord, help me to be mindful of the needs of those around me. Amen.

The Power of Unity

John 17 23

May they experience such perfect unity that the world will know that you sent me and that you love them as much as you love me. John 17:23

While washing fruit at the kitchen sink one morning, I was feeling great because I was ahead of schedule for the first day of work which was teacher orientation day. Without warning, I heard a loud boom, felt my home shake, and out of the corner of my eye witnessed something fall in the direction of my house.
I screamed, “What is going on?” Frantically, I wondered if there had been an explosion at one of the chemical plants near my home.
My son, Mitch, who had a better view, yelled, “The tree fell down!” Stunned, I went to the sliding glass doors to see that the fifty foot oak tree had indeed fallen down in my backyard. Moments later, I called my husband to tell him. He asked me to check if there was any damage. Miraculously, there was none. The top branches of the tree had missed the kitchen window where I was working by mere inches.
This event took me by surprise because there was no wind or rain to cause the tree to fall. It was a perfectly calm August morning. Perplexed and curious, I walked out to the base of the tree and saw the cause. It was the power of millions of carpenter ants laboring together at the roots of the tree to take it down. WOW! Inspired by the unity of the ants, that day I recognized that no task is too big when we work as one. What a impact Christians could have on the world if we labored and loved each other in perfect unity!
God, I am so grateful that much can be accomplished when we work together for Your kingdom. Amen.
Base of Fallen Tree Window View
Trees By Deck

Garbage Day

1 John 1 9
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9
Today is garbage day. After Sunday this is one of my favorite days. In my community garbage is picked up on Mondays which is so convenient after the weekend. If you were able to peek in on my life on Mondays, you would find me gathering all the garbage around the house that I can find. I visit each of the bathrooms and empty their small garbage cans. I also search through the refrigerator to examine the plastic containers to see if anything is not edible anymore. You know the ones hiding behind the milk on the lowest shelf in the back that we tend to forget are there! I move quickly through the basement and garage to find any leftover wrappers of newly opened items. After breakfast (which of course is the last portion of cereal in the cereal box), I toss all the crumbs and remains in the plastic bag I have been carrying around all morning. At last, the plastic bag is full, and I slip on my shoes to run to the end of the driveway where my husband has already put the garbage can. In goes the rest of the trash collected that morning. The walk up the driveway is always exhilarating! Why? It is because I have just emptied my house of one more bag of debris and junk. Usually, I feel lighter than air because I am walking into a home that is cleaner, fresher, and emptier than it was a few moments ago.
It is similar to the feeling I have when I spend time in prayer especially my times of true confession to God. It seems that when I confess to the Lord the accumulated sins in my life, I immediately feel fresh and clean like my house on garbage day. Sometimes my failures stand out like a piece of litter on my grass. Other times I need to do an honest search to find the offensive ways lingering in the corners of my heart just like the crumbs hidden under my kitchen table. Unlike the garbage man who is only able to pick up my trash once a week, our forgiving Father is always ready and waiting to forgive our transgressions. Sinful habits such as impatience, pride, stubbornness, and worry give us impure hearts. Praise God we do not have to wait to experience His cleansing power of forgiveness! We can have pure hearts when we make every day a garbage day!
Forgiving Father, create in me a clean heart. Amen.

God Our Guide

Psalm 48 14

This is God, our God forever and ever. He will guide us forever.
Psalm 48:14

One Memorial Day weekend, my husband, Steve, and I loaded up our boys and traveled from our home in Illinois to his parents’ cottage in Wisconsin. Not only did we pack up the usual items such as our suitcases, food, and toiletries, but we also hooked up a trailer with a couple of four-wheelers on it. Part of the vacation was spent driving the four–wheelers on the trails especially made and marked for them. Since I was a novice at driving a four-wheeler and unfamiliar with the winding trails, I followed my husband, who led the way. As I was riding, I savored the beautiful scenery of pine trees, deer, birds, and bushes. I could not let my eyes linger too long because the view could quickly become a dangerous distraction. Had I not kept my eyes on the path in front of me and on my husband ahead, I could have easily run into the deer that crossed the trail or scratched my helmet and arms on the encroaching branches along the path. As we put our four-wheelers and helmets away, I took a moment to give thanks to God who not only has given me bountiful blessings to cherish, but who also gently reminds me not to let them hinder my focus on Him. Even though I sometimes get stuck along the way preoccupied by the scenery of life, this vacation was a stopping point where I acknowledged my need to faithfully focus on the Guide of my path.
Father, forgive me of all the times I have allowed myself to be distracted with the landscape of life. Help me remember to keep my eyes on You, my loving Guide. Amen.

Seeking God

Jeremiah 29 13 hawk

You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. Jeremiah 29:13
Driving from our church’s Vacation Bible School years ago with my sons, I observed a hawk resting on a telephone pole. I drove another mile down the same road, and again noticed another one perched on a different pole. “Look boys, a hawk! It is the second one I have seen since we left the church. I can’t believe it! Let’s see if we can find any more before we arrive home!” Sure enough with our eyes on alert, we were able to spot two more hawks sitting on light poles before reaching our house. Later that night during dinner, we each took turns sharing something special about our day. I mentioned our experience with noticing the birds. With a new perspective, I told my family that the hawks reminded me of God. Like our Lord, they had been within my eyesight, but it was up to me to look for them. Thankfully, our unchanging Lord is omnipresent! He is ALWAYS present in my life. I just need to keep seeking Him.
Holy God, thank you for your constant presence in my life. I sincerely seek You with all my heart. Amen.

Love Letters

Deuteronomy 23 5

Getting the mail is one of the highlights of my day. As soon as the mailman delivers my mail, I quickly slip on my sandals and walk outside to see what treasures are hidden in my mailbox. Sometimes I am very disappointed because the mailbox just holds bills that I need to pay. Other times, though, I am pleasantly surprised when I receive a card or package from someone. Whether it is a birthday, a thank you, or a thinking of you card, I feel truly loved because someone took the time to encourage me.
I also feel truly loved when I read Scripture verses. Many passages of the Bible are love letters to us from God. Numerous verses describe the abounding love God has for His children. Throughout His Word, our Father clearly shares how much He cherishes us. In fact, the Bible says that, “God loved the world in this way: He gave His One and Only Son, that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). What lovingkindness! Unlike my mail, which arrives only once a day, God’s Word is available at any given moment. When I am in need of a fresh filling of love, I grab my Bible and dwell on the comforting and encouraging words given to us by God.