Who Can You Count On?

“…I [the Lord] will never leave nor forsake you.”

Joshua 1:5b NIV

Several years ago, Grant asked our oldest grandson to help him clean and mulch the large flowerbeds in front of our house. They agreed on an upcoming Saturday both of them were free. When the day arrived, Grant took Caleb for an early breakfast before working him all day in the scorching sun. Caleb was a hard worker and the yard looked wonderful when they finished.

A few days later, we discovered Caleb had missed his first soccer practice (which was scheduled after he’d signed up for yard duty) on that same Saturday morning. We felt terrible knowing how important soccer was to Caleb, and that missing a practice could impact his playing time on the team.

When asked why he didn’t tell us so we could reschedule, 15-year-old Caleb made my heart proud with a simple response: “I promised Papaw first”. There is little doubt Caleb wanted to be on the soccer field more than doing manual labor for his grandparents, but he felt it was important to honor his first commitment…even if it meant sacrificing more than just a Saturday.

Kudos to Gwen and Marcus for modeling strong character and teaching their kids the importance of commitment. When children see promises kept by their parents, it fortifies their faith to believe God’s promises. “Caleb’s resolve to do the right thing brings honor to the God he serves and will take him far in life. He is becoming a tremendous example for others, both young and old.

God does the same thing for us…He promises to be with us always, no matter what. If He ever seems far away, it’s because we’ve run from Him…He hasn’t left us. He is the God of countless wonders, the God of countless answers…a God to be counted on in good times and in bad.

PRAYER: Heavenly Father, it’s hard to comprehend how wide and deep Your love for me is…even when I sometimes get so caught up in my life I forget You are here. Help me be the kind of person You and others can always count on. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Don’t Bite Off More Than You Can Chew

IMG_3421I am no scientist, but it sure seems like the world is spinning faster than it did when I was a child. In the good ‘ole days, a week was, well, a week. It wasn’t a blink of an eye like it is now. The lazy days of summer were actually lazy days…we had time to relax, take naps, ride our bikes, swing at the park and trap lightning bugs after dark. Organized sports weren’t yet developed for children in our little town and most of us didn’t even know what a soccer ball was. I probably would have been a klutz on the ball field, but I could outrace anybody wearing roller skates clipped on the outside of my PF Fliers!

What a difference a generation makes! When Grant and I raised our children, sports, extracurricular activities ruled our lives and filled every waking moment. Talk about the tail wagging the dog…with four kids playing multiple sports, we didn’t even have time to meet each other coming and going! Many of my memories are at best a blur…and the busyness is getting worse instead of better. When I served as a children’s pastor at my church, I saw the demands of “gotta do” and “have to be” stretching kids and families to the breaking point. It’s no wonder divorce is at an all-time high and children have to be medicated just to “cope”.

The time for guarding your family’s time is BEFORE it is over-committed with “stuff”. Good as all the many activities are, without boundaries, the good will be offset by stress, lack of rest and a loss of time together…time you can never get back! Take a hard look at your calendar and the number of hours in the day. Schedule family time like you would a soccer practice so it actually happens…be intentional as you plan how many hours you’re willing to sacrifice for carpooling, practices, rehearsals, games, etc. Once you have the answer, give your children choices but don’t let them bite off more than your family can chew!

A final note…don’t forget to put God on the schedule. Teach your children (by example) to spend time daily with God, studying His Word and praying. I can’t tell you how many of my church kids used to say they didn’t have time to read their Bible because of sports, dance practice and homework. God must be a personal priority…without Him, what a mess we make for ourselves!

PRAYER: Heavenly Father, I need Your wisdom as I plan each hour of my day. Help me put You first and seek Your will before adding extras to my life. Give me the boldness to say “no” and the courage to let go of time stealers that rule my life. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

You’ve Gotta Dig In

IMG_2625“Taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him.” Psalm 34:8 NIV

When Drew turned one, we set him on the floor in front of his birthday cake. Wearing only a diaper, he put first one hand and then the other into the big fat middle of the icing, squishing it in his fingers until both hands sunk to the bottom of the cake. Grabbing fists full of gooey delight, he proudly displayed his find. The more we laughed, the bigger the mess. By the time he’d finished, he was wearing more cake than he had eaten and it took a hose to clean him off. Years later, Drew still enjoys digging into his birthday cake…if you look closely, you’ll see sometimes he doesn’t even bother to blow out the candles first.

It isn’t hard to get kids to eat cake, but what about spinach or Brussels Sprouts or cottage cheese? I discovered my kids almost always ate what Grant and I ate…we put it on their plates and it never occurred to them to turn their noses up and say, “I don’t ike that” – because we didn’t. Eating a variety of vegetables and meats was “normal” for all of us.

Parents define normalcy for their children. If mom and dad pray, read their Bible and have a personal relationship with Christ, their children grow up understanding a faith that is real. Conversely, if mom and dad only serve up a “sliver” of God in their life and home, that’s typically all their children feed off of and the entire family may end up spiritually malnourished.

God wants us to be comfortable digging into Him with the same zeal we eagerly jump into other things with. He has so much to offer and waits patiently for us to come to His table…the table of Life. Remember…your kids will develop a taste for what YOU are eating. Is it time to upgrade your menu?

PRAYER: Heavenly Father, I pray for a renewed craving of presence in my life, so that spending time with You is as important to me as eating a meal or watching my favorite television show. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.



Change Is Hard (For Me)

dome“…be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.”

1 Corinthians 15:58 ESV

I love new phones, new computers, new cars — almost anything new electronic. I enjoy the challenge of learning how technology works and how it can make my life easier. Those changes I embrace with enthusiasm.

But when it comes to doctors, jobs, churches, grocery stores, driving routes, and so many other things, change is hard for me. When we moved to Plano, I drove back to Abilene (3 hours one way) once a month, for FIVE YEARS to my old hairdresser so I didn’t have to look for someone new to cut my hair.

In the mid ’90’s, my daughters shamed me into finally changing my beloved 80’s frizzy-permed hairstyle for one “a bit more modern”. Then there’s my grocery store – the one I have gone to for years because I know where everything is – even though the produce is terrible and the prices are more than Kroger down the street. I guess since we’re moving 10 miles away, change is inevitable. Ugh. And it’s no secret the kids think my decorating style is old-fashioned, desperately needing to – you guessed it – change.

Earlier this year, as Grant and I prepared to break ground on our dream home, I seriously considered making major changes to my “style” as I met with my builder’s designer. Even though I felt at home with my colors and selections, I kept hearing they were “out of style”. Facing tough choices, I thumbed through dozens of decorating magazines and explored popular house websites, wrestling with the idea of change. It wasn’t that I didn’t like the new looks…they just weren’t ME. One day I came across a page in a magazine with the following words printed in an eye-catching 2″ font: “Be True To Yourself”. I had my answer. Choose what made me feel comfortable and happy, not some magazine editor! Through the rest of our house building process, decisions were much easier to make. (Ironically, if I didn’t like a choice I’d made, all I had to do was turn in a “change” order.) Styles come in and go out all the time. If I wait long enough, the choices I made WILL be in style (again).

Some people make changes because they think only of themselves, at the expense of relationships, promises, and even their marriage covenant. Instead of working to nurture and care for those they should value, they discard them like an old sofa – just to get someone or something new. Most of the time they are looking for happiness in all the wrong places, and they never truly find it.

My kids may tease me about being in a rut, but I know they’re glad some things in my life have never changed – my love for them, for their father, and for my Heavenly Father. I pray I will always be an example of being steadfast — especially in the important things — and with the important people!

PRAYER: Heavenly Father, thank You for blessing me with a wonderful husband and precious children. Thank You for choosing me before I even knew to choose You. Help my children learn through my example and Your Word how to be steadfast in their lives and families. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.







Passing the Hat


“Be careful…that the exercise of your freedom does not become a stumbling block to the weak.” 1 Corinthians 8:9 NIV

There is something about a daddy’s hat and a little boy…need I say more? It it’s Drew’s, Liam wants it. At the ripe old age of one, Liam was already copying his dad. He would even swing his arm when he walked…just like daddy did (who by the way picked that trait up from his dad). Kids are in many ways, their recycled parents. Scary thought, isn’t it!

Over thirty-five years ago, God allowed me to see how influential my actions were. I remember it like it was yesterday. My personal wake-up call came when I walked in on Gwen and Shannon toasting one another with water-filled wine glasses. Grant and I weren’t big drinkers, but even an occasional glass of wine was already being emulated by our two toddlers. That “reality snap shot” changed my life forever. How could I expect them not to drink alcohol if they saw me do it? What if they couldn’t stop after one or two drinks? What if my actions influenced them to do something that would later destroy their lives or marriages? I never took another drink of alcohol.

Today’s blog is not about drinking…it’s about influence. As parents, we will ALL be copied. When we “pass the hat” to our kids, it comes with our habits (good and bad), our traits and our character. We must take a long, hard look at ourselves and make the necessary changes, so the person we are is the kind of person we want our kids to become.

PRAYER: God, it’s not just about me anymore. My influence is shaping my children and grandchildren. There are areas of my life that need to be cleaned up and gotten rid of. I submit myself to You. You be the potter and I’ll be the clay. Mold me into the person and parent I need to be. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Heroes In Disguise

Superman“Be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger.” James 1:19 NIV

My Mac laptop had to go to the Apple doctor awhile back for some warranty service. I loved the statement on the shirts of the IT experts working at the Genius Bar (that’s the fixit counter at the Apple store). It read, “not all heroes wear capes”. How true. Those technicians were saving the day for me and countless others, by getting our sick and broken electronic tools back into service. They were our heroes.

Flip through the television channels on Saturday morning and you’ll discover a plethora of animated superheroes, equipped with special powers they use to help mankind. My kids grew up watching and reenacting these kinds of shows. Drew used to pin a blanket on his shoulders and fly through the house, jumping from bed to bed or chair to chair. One day I found him literally swinging from the chandelier above our dining room table. How grateful I was that the builders had solidly anchored the light fixture to the ceiling!

Kids love pretend heroes, but they need real heroes in their life…not the ones who wear leotards and capes, but the ones who they look up to for the things they do. In all my years of parenting and ministering to children, I’ve come to believe heroes in disguise are the people who make time to listen when children talk. Shame on the author of that 15th century proverb, “children should be seen and not heard”!

Kids want to talk. Some of them talk quite a bit. (I think I wash one of those kids). It’s not that what they’re saying is earth shattering, but when someone takes the time to listen to them, they are made to feel valued as a person. In fact, their need is so great to be listened to, if we as parents don’t give them our ear, they will find someone who will. And that can be dangerous.

A great time to listen to your kids is at the dinner table. The key word is “listen”. Bite your tongue if you must. Don’t offer advice. Don’t lecture. Don’t preach. Let this be the safe time where they can share their hearts without fear of being put down or criticized. You’ll be amazed how sitting still and opening your ears can turn you into their hero in disguise!

Prayer: God, many times I’ve been so overloaded with my own thoughts and distracted but he phone or the TV that I’ve failed to listen when my children needed me to hear them. Help me to realign my focus and give them the attention they need and deserve. Thank You for always being there to listen to me! In Jesus’ Name, Amen.



Have Your Cake and Eat It Too

Eat Your Cake“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.” Philippians 2:3 NIV

Child development specialists say children start out selfish and must be taught to share with others. Stand in a room with a group of playing toddlers and you will almost always hear the word “mine” emphasized with a push or a shove. Each child wants what the other one has, not necessarily to play with it, but just to have it. Too often, parents fall into the trap of buying duplicate “stuff” for their kids so nobody has to share…it’s just easier and more peaceful that way. Unfortunately, those children grow up thinking, “it’s all about ME”. They want their cake and eat it too. Somehow, the world doesn’t always work that way and sooner or later, that attitude leads to disappointments and failures.

It’s easy for me to say my kids learned to share. The truth of the matter is they had to because there were four of them and we didn’t have a lot of money. At some point in their lives, they all shared a bedroom with one or more siblings before getting rooms of their own. I was grateful for the invention of bunk beds and trundles! One day Drew asked me if he’d have to sleep on a bunk bed in heaven!

Despite forced sharing, we definitely had moments when selfishness precipitated knock-down-drag-out fights. The most memorable one was when Gwen and Shannon got into it during their adolescent years and Gwen had to go to junior high with a split lip after her younger sister Shannon punched her.

Beyond their tiffs and complaints, I’m convinced being in close proximity all those years, sharing spaces, toys and clothes, taught each of our children the values of compromise and selflessness.

God’s Word teaches us to put others first. For the selfish, that seems like naive folly. But in the eyes of our heavenly Father, He isn’t asking us to do anything He hasn’t already done first. He put us first when He allowed His Son to suffer and die on a cross, all for the forgiveness of our sins.

PRAYER: Heavenly Father, remove from me any selfishness that might keep me from seeing and doing Your will. May You be glorified as I serve You by serving others. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Good To The Last Drop

IMG_0048“For with You is the fountain of life, in Your light we see life.” Psalm 36:9 NIV

There are some things you hate to see come to an end…lazy summers, a good book, the coziness of a warm fire, vacations, a Scotty P’s chunky Oreo shake, {insert your favorite things here}…but nothing on earth lasts forever.

Too many distractions…even too many favorite things…keep you from enjoying any of them to the fullest. It’s impossible. There’s not enough time. A few years ago, a young mother in our church taught me a valuable lesson. She was interested in her daughter participating in our 4th and 5th Grade Leadership Program and wanted to understand the level of time commitment it required. After gathering the information, she said she’d discuss it with her daughter who would have a decision to make. Their family rule was you had to give up an activity before you could add a new one. Wow! What a mom!

This is Time Management 101 in a nutshell. Don’t put more on your plate than you can eat. And don’t fill your plate so full you can’t savor the taste and enjoy the meal. Simpler schedules give the mind breathing room, and oxygen is a good thing for brain cells – and your soul!

Busy schedules keep us from doing important things – like sleeping, exercising, praying and reading our Bibles – just to name a few. The pace you set your child’s body clock to now is the minimum pace they will run on when they grow up. Pray. Ask God to help you. Hard and counter-cultural as it may seem, set boundaries for yourself first, then for your children and family. A wise pastor once told me, “keep the main thing the main thing”.

I believe in living life to the fullest…but the older I get the more I realize “less is really more”. Teach your children that life is good to the very last drop. And make sure they aren’t moving so fast the drops get left in the bottle or fall on the floor!

Prayer: Heavenly Father, help me slow down and experience a life without regret…help me to stay focused on You and the important people in my life. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Along For The Ride

Becky on Vacuum“…consider carefully how you listen.” Luke 8:18a NIV

In the busyness of life, kids are often just along for the ride. We take them with us, but we’re not really with them. Instead, we’re gabbing on a cell phone, listening to talk radio, texting friends or we just want some “peace and quiet” so we tell them to be quiet.

I wonder what it’s like for a two-year-old to have an inquisitive mind, a world to discover, and nobody to answer their questions. I watch parents in the grocery stores and at shopping malls…and in many cases, the only words to their children are “in a  minute”, “not now”, or worse…

We (as parents) are the most influential people in the lives of our children, but there is only a small window of time to instill truth and values in them before the world begins to tug at their ears and their heart.

Practice the art of listening to your children. Ask questions that require more than a “yep” or “nope” response. Then listen and ask more questions. Listening requires patience and time. Your undivided attention helps to build their self-esteem. Never put off or ignore your child when they come to talk. If they believe you will always listen, it sets the foundation for them to believe God listens when they talk to Him.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, forgive me for the times I’ve put my children off when they wanted me to listen. Please give me discernment to sense their need for sharing thoughts, questions and dreams. Thank You for always listening to me. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Memory Markers

IMG_0031“See to it that you really do love each other intensely with all your hearts.” 1 Peter 1:22b NLT

Waiting is hard – at least for me. Sometimes I play a game with myself, intentionally “marking the moment of anticipation” to look back upon after the event. My first recollection of doing this is when I was in Junior High, planning a New Year’s Eve party at my house. All my friends were coming, including an older boy I had a crush on. I had butterflies in my stomach imagining (and hoping) that at midnight he might try to steal a kiss. I could hardly wait. As I stood in the den that afternoon, I thought to myself, “some day I’ll look back on tonight’s party and it will have already happened”. Strangely enough, I remember the anticipation of the moment, but not the party itself…or even if I got the kiss I was dreaming of.

Memory markers help me pause, look back and consciously think about special times and the important people in my life. At the beginning of a new year, I reminisce over years gone by and the people I’ve loved (like my dad and grandparents) who are no longer with me. I miss them terribly and will cherish the memories of them as long as I live.

Each day is a gift. MAKE the time to build memory markers with the people in your life who mean the most to you. Speak of your love and share your memories often so that what you have treasured is passed on to future generations. Most especially, tell your children how very much they are loved — over and over again. Your love and Jesus are the two most important things you can give them!

Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank You for blessing me with family and friends. Give me wisdom as I order my steps, so that I spend time living life to the fullest with the people I love. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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