You are my Sunshine

Today, April 4th, 2020, my oldest daughter, My Sunshine Girl, had planned to be married. God had other plans. She and her Sunshine Guy got married a couple weeks early and I couldn’t be happier for them.

But … I tell you what, I miss her like crazy. “Social distancing” is nothing compared to “daughter distancing!”

Emily and I grew up together. When she was born, I was a baby Christian. I didn’t know Christian nursery songs, so I sang, “You are my Sunshine,” to her night after night as I rocked her to sleep. She has brought light and sunshine into my life like no other.

And now that she’s living in another state in the midst of COVID-19 lock-down, I feel like a part of me is missing (and it is), but that little girl was never meant to be the source of my joy or the light of my life. Jesus was.

Look at these references to light in the Psalms:

  • For it is you who light my lamp; the LORD my God lightens my darkness. (Psa 18:28 ESV)
  • The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? (Psa 27:1 ESV)
  • For with you is the fountain of life; in your light do we see light. (Psa 36:9 ESV)
  • Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. (Psa 119:105 ESV)

In John 8:12, Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (Jhn 8:12 ESV)  In Heaven, there will be “no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb.” (Rev 21:23 ESV)

Would you join me in praying right now?

Father, Help me to be grateful for the good gifts that You have given to me. I pray that I would be a spotlight, pointing people’s attention to You and not to me. I pray that my little light would shine like a city on a hill with nothing hindering it. I pray that you would use each of us as candles shining in a dark world that people would see something different in us, that we would live daily as children of light. I pray your blessings on our children, that they would shine for your glory and that we as parents would not make idols of these precious gifts, but that they would be straight arrows for Your kingdom rather than our own. In the name of Jesus we pray. Amen.

 

5 Tips For Those Suddenly Stuck at Home

In 2001, I began my homeschooling journey. My oldest daughter was just starting kindergarten and my son was two. Since then God has blessed us with two more children and we’ve moved three times, but we’ve continued plugging along.

My heart goes out to those who suddenly find themselves with a whole family at home … all the time. This isn’t the regular reality of homeschooling. My regular homeschooling lifestyle has involved plenty of field trips and social time with others. Normally, you’d have time to plan out your school year and you’d be in charge (not your school district). This is harder. If you can do THIS, you can homeschool. (Hint. Hint.)

Here are a few tips to help you in your homeschooling journey, whether this is your first week, your first year or your tenth.

1-Make a loose schedule for the order of your day.
Plan out what to do first, second, third, etc … Intermingle your schedule with some breaks and switching up activities. If there’s plenty of screen time, then mix in some exercise. If there’s plenty of book work, add in some screen time. You don’t need to watch the clock, rather watch the order of things.

For example: First, we get up and get ready for the day. Then, we eat breakfast. Next, we sing a song together led by someone on YouTube, read a chapter of the Bible, work on memorizing scripture and pray for our day. Then, Mom does math with big sister, while little brother reads by himself. When Mom is done with math, then sister reads and book while little brother works on math with Mom. etc…

Write out this schedule on a piece of paper and each day have your child put a check next to it. If you have a laminator, laminate it so you can reuse it week after week. If you don’t, you could tape it on the back side of a glass door/window and cross it off with a dry erase marker. Or, you could write the whole list on a dry erase board glass surface and check it off as it goes.

2-Schedule the most important things first.
When you’re making your schedule, put what is most important first. We are committed to giving God His time first. Then, math and language arts. If that’s all you accomplish in a day, then … so be it. First things first.

3-Have some time together and some time apart.
We go back and forth between time together and time apart. We have Bible time together. We read aloud together. We eat lunch and play a board game together. We walk the dog together.But we also spend time apart. What that looks like has varied based on the ages of the kids – sometimes an older sibling takes some time with a younger one, sometimes the kids are alone in their rooms, sometimes there is one-on-one time with Mom, sometimes Mom needs some time to herself.

4-Use a timer.
I love timers. Timers help hard tasks to feel lighter, and easy tasks to done more diligently.  “We will work on math for 30 minutes right now,” is easier to stomach than we will finish this whole lesson no matter how long it takes. “You need to clean up your bedroom for ten minutes,” is easier to manage than, “Don’t come out of your room until it’s spotless.” “You will stay in your room quietly for fifteen minutes,” can gradually be worked up to thirty minutes to sixty minutes. (This is how I taught my three year old to keep napping until he was six.)

5-Make the most of this time.
The days go by slowly, but the years go by quickly. Somehow my “Sunshine Girl” and my “Little Man” grew up and met those spouses we’d prayed for since they were little and got married.

Don’t lose sight of the great blessing it is to be home and to be together today.

Read a book or two or three. Play a board game. Learn a song. Memorize scripture.

Take pictures. Make a video. Clean something. Start a blog.

Discover a new hobby or learn a new skill. Better still, learn a new hobby or skill with your kids!

Have you considered keeping a family journal for this time? Write down (or have one of your children write it down) what you did each day. Make note of your prayer requests and praises. Write down what you read in the Bible and how God spoke to you through it.

Did you know you could read the whole New Testament in the next sixty days by reading one chapter in the morning, one at lunch, one at dinner and one at bedtime? Check out this 60-day reading plan on YouVersion.

I’d love to answer any questions you have.

How can I pray for you?

How are you using this time at home?

TWIG

Where does your help come from?

I used to think that faith in God was nothing more than a crutch for weak people.

Now I realize that we all need help, and we’re all looking for help somewhere.

Are we looking for help from our parents, our government, or our own strength?

What kind of idols are we pursuing?

Where are we looking in our time of need? Sugar? Social media? Stuff?

Let’s worship the Lord together, the only one WORTHY, the Almighty Maker of Heaven and Earth, the Sovereign Ruler over the affairs of men. HE is my helper, what can man do to me?

A Word of Truth and Encouragement for a Hurting Sister

God has called you.

God has purpose for you.

God is with you.

God has placed His Spirit in you.

God has given you wisdom and faith.

God has delivered you and redeemed you.

God has made you a new creation, the old is indeed gone and the new has indeed come.

God sees you and knows you. He sees your hidden thoughts and deeds, and still He loves you.

God loves you with an everlasting, unfailing, eternal love.

God has demonstrated His overwhelming, boundless, undeserved love for you, a sinner, in sending His very own Son from the glory of heaven to live a humble life and die a painful death in your place.

God will never leave you or forsake you.

God will never take His Spirit from you.

God wants always and only for your good and not for your harm.

God’s commands are always and only for your good, because God is all-knowing and all-powerful and all-good.

We can always, always trust Him because He always, always keeps His promises.

God is our refuge and strength, our ever-present help in time of need.

Come, praise His name with me.

Come, take up the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God with me.

You are not alone.

Almighty God is with you in this good fight of faith and so am I.

Related scriptures:

  • Psalm 46
  • Psalm 139
  • Isaiah 41:10
  • Romans 5:6-11
  • 2 Corinthians 1:20-22, 5:1-21
  • Ephesians 2:5-22, 3:14-21, 6:16-17 (better yet, read all of Ephesians)
  • 2 Timothy 1:7-9
  • Titus 1:1-3, 2:11-14, 3:4-7
  • Hebrews 13:5-6

TWIG

How can I help you in this good fight of faith?

Of Bearing Fruit and Dispersing

Why do seeds form inside of fruit? Seeds form inside of fruit for their protection, so they can be dispersed and grow safely at the right time and place.

This is pumpkin-carving season in the good ol’ USA. Bill and I have been carving pumpkins, cutting them open and pulling out that yucky, gooey, seedy muck with our children for 23 years now. But this year, my oldest little pumpkin won’t be home because God is sending her out. 

And it’s hard. But it’s also good. This is #mommylife2.0

I’ve spent the last 23 years investing into my oldest daughter’s life. I’ve prepared the soil and diligently planted countless seeds. I’m sure plenty of those scattered seeds have fallen by the way, but I’ve kept on scattering the seeds. I’ve watered and tended the little seedlings as they’ve grown, and now I’m preparing to launch my daughter into a new adventure in adulthood. 

Seeds aren’t designed to grow on top of each other. Small oaks can’t reach their full height in the shade of giant oak trees. If too many tomato seeds are planted in one little container, they’ll choke each other.

God commanded Adam and Eve, and Noah and his sons, to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth. (Genesis 1:28, 9:1). Likewise, God wants us to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth. 

The people of Babel didn’t want to be dispersed, so the Lord confused their languages, causing them to disperse. (Genesis 11:1-9) I’ve learned over the years that God’s sovereign purpose will stand and it’s really better to be a joyful partner in the journey.

He wants us to bear both biological children and spiritual ones. He wants the gospel to spread out from my little town in Mississippi to the shores of Florida. He wants the gospel to go forth to the metropolises of Russia and Hungary and China and to the villages of Mexico and Kenya and India.

And that means that dispersing has to take place.

So my prayer today is that those seeds that I’ve planted and tended will grow deep roots in the fertile soil of God’s Word, and that they will bear more fruit full of more seeds that will be further dispersed – whenever and wherever they land. 

And I pray that my sunshine-sunflower girl will keep her face ever pointed to the One Perfect Sun, so that people would look where she’s looking – toward Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of her faith and the Lord and Savior of her soul.

Mark 4:8 ESV — And other seeds fell into good soil and produced grain, growing up and increasing and yielding thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold.”

Matthew 5:16 ESV — In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

John 15:4 ESV — Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.

Do hard things

Today I’m telling myself to do hard things.

Hard things like picking up after myself and after my kids.

Hard things like washing laundry and cooking dinner and taking the dog for a walk.

Hard things like putting my phone away and going to sleep at night.

Hard things like reading a story to my kids and praying with them at bedtime.

Hard things like striking up a conversation with a stranger or praying for my waitress.

Hard things like really listening and really caring about what I hear.

Today I’m telling myself to do hard things. What hard thing do you need to do today?

About Apologies

After almost 25 years of marriage, and raising four children, I’ve both given my fair share of apologies and received them. I’ve instructed my children to accept responsibility for their actions and apologize far more times than I can count.

For the past two months, our women’s Sunday morning class has been watching a series of videos called, “Resolving Everyday Conflicts” by Ken Sande’s Peacemaker Ministries. They are available for free through RightNow Media if your church has a RightNow Media account. Or you can find the DVD or the book online at Christian Book Distributors.

I found Session 5, “Accepting Responsibility, Making an Effective Apology,” to be particularly helpful. The speaker shared seven A’s for an effective apology.

  • Address Everyone Involved
  • Avoid If, But, and Maybe
  • Admit Specifically
  • Apologize, Acknowledging the Hurt
  • Accept the Consequence
  • Alter your Behavior
  • Ask for Forgiveness and Allow Time

In light of this recent teaching, the interaction between Adam and Eve and their Creator in Genesis 3 jumped out at me.

After eating the forbidden fruit, God asked Adam two pretty simple questions, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?”

Adam replied, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.” (Genesis 3:12)

Then, God asked Eve a pretty simple question as well, “What is this that you have done?”

Eve replied,  “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” (Genesis 3:13)

How many times have I asked my children similar questions and received similar answers?

  • Me: “Did you finish your homework?”
    Child: “I didn’t know how, and you weren’t home to help me.”
  • Me: “Have you taken out the trash like I asked?”
    Child: “The dumpster was full.”
  • Me: “Did you put away your laundry?”
    Child: “I forgot.”
  • Me: “Who made this mess?”
    Child: “He did.”

And the list goes on and on.

Since the very first sin, mankind has struggled to take responsibility for our actions. Adam blamed the woman for giving him the fruit, as well as blaming God for giving him the woman. Eve blamed the serpent for deceiving her. Our children blame others or their circumstances, including their own forgetfulness, for their shortcomings. And we blame our children or our husband or our neighbor or the traffic or the dog … for ours.

How do you struggle with accepting responsibility for your own sin?

Who do you usually blame when you mess up?

How can you improve in being genuinely repentant and seeking reconciliation when you’ve fallen short?

Rather than reading this post and thinking of how messed up your kids, or your parents, or your husband or your wife is … let’s try instead to focus on our own responsibility in the problem. And seek God God who is able to do more than we can ask or imagine, and who is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to purify us from all unrighteousness.

TWIG

By the way, I found this article helpful. “Seven Marks of a Good Apology (and 8 Marks of a Bad One)” at Crosswalk’s website. It outlines each of these 7 marks of a good apology in more detail.

Who am I? – Of Relationship and Responsibility

Image result for overcomer movie who am i

Sunday morning, my pastor preached a fantastic sermon titled, “Relationship Comes with Responsibility.” You can listen to it online here:

Then, Tuesday night, I saw the new movie, “Overcomer.” The main character in the movie is a basketball coach and history teacher at his local Christian high school. Without giving too much away, he realizes that he is finding his identity in his job, rather than in his relationship with Christ.  The other main character, a teenage girl named Hannah, is amazed when she learns who she is in Christ while reading Ephesians 1-2 in the Bible. Hannah realizes that as a child of God, she is loved, redeemed and forgiven.

So … What about ME? Who am I … and how, then, should I live?

  • I am a created being, created in the image of God, on purpose, for a purpose … so I should live daily with purpose and hope.
  • I am a disciple of Jesus, called to make more disciples of Jesus … so I should intentionally study God’s Word and share the gospel with others.
  • I am a forgiven and redeemed child of God … so I should forgive others and help them to be reconciled with God, too.

But, my relationship with God is not my only role in life. God has given other relationships, roles and responsibilities as well.

  • I am a wife … so my husband should be a priority in my life.
  • I am a homemaker … so I should clean my house and cook dinner for my family.
  • I am a mother … so I should love and disciple my children with diligence.
  • I am a homeschooler … so I should faithfully teach and train my children in the way they should go.

Like many Christians, I can tend to overemphasize one area of my life and overlook another one.

Yes, indeed, my identity is found in Christ.

  • Who am I? I am a forgiven child of God.
  • Who am I? I am His workmanship, created on purpose for a purpose.
  • Who am I? I am a disciple of Jesus, called to make more disciples.

But, I am also a wife, homemaker, mother and homeschooler to the glory of God. These titles, too, have value and worth.

May everything I do be done to the praise of God who created me, saved me, and redeemed me … and gave me a home and a husband and children.

Having a Gluten-Free Child as a Homeschooling Mom

Do any of you love food? When you’re having a bad day, do you want to head for the pantry? When you want to celebrate, do you head for your local ice cream shop? My answers are: yes, yes, yes – How about you?

In the fall of 2015, when my middle daughter was 12, she was diagnosed with an autoimmune thyroid condition called, “Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis” and began a gluten-free, dairy-limited lifestyle. This year she was diagnosed with autoimmune urticaria (chronic hives). My husband, too, has an autoimmune condition called, “Eosinophilic Esophagitis,” which he chooses to manage with acid reducers and allergy medicine. In May of 2016, I tried a modified diet called “Whole 30,” but have largely returned to regular eating except with less sugar and grains. You can read more about it here: Matthew 4:4 – Not Bread Alone and here: My Whole30 Tips

I hope I can help others with some of the lessons I’ve learned over the past four years of trial and error.

1. Don’t overlook the emotional impact that dietary restrictions have on your child. Food is a big part of our culture, and eating gluten free has consequences deeper than just bringing our own desserts when we go to potlucks. Noelle misses the food that she’s no longer able to eat, but she also hates being “the one” who needs gluten free pizza or who can’t eat Taco Bell tacos.

2. Plan for breakfast, lunch and snacks. Fresh fruit and fruit cups are great. So are guacamole with tortilla chips. Make extra dinner for leftovers that you can package in individual tupperwares for breakfast or lunch meals. Keep yogurt and deli meat on hand for a quick pick-me-up.

3. Encourage your child to get creative in the kitchen. Noelle has learned to make all kinds of creative dishes for herself. We have a weekly “cooking competition” for lunch. Some of her experiments have turned out GREAT and become regular favorites (crustless peach pie with a chocolate chip granola topping and chocolate dipped bananas to name a few).

4. Let your child make some of their own choices. Honestly, it would probably be better for Noelle if she didn’t eat any dairy or eggs or nuts, but until she’s ready to make that jump for herself, that is one battle that I’m not going to fight. It’s too hard for her, and, frankly, it’s too hard for me. Noelle knows how to add things to my “Walmart Grocery app” and she’ll add a gluten-free cookie that she’s craving or a salad bowl that she’d like to have for lunch. This allows her to have some control over her diet that she can’t have in other ways.

5. Be careful with your substitutions. In my attempts to avoid dairy, I substituted almond or cashew milk. In my attempts to avoid peanut butter, I substituted almond or cashew butter. In my attempts to avoid wheat flour, I substituted almond flour. In my attempts to avoid sugary snacks, I substituted roasted almonds or cashews. Bad idea. 😦 Noelle developed a sensitivity to almonds and cashews from eating them everyday, several times a day. Rotate your food choices.

6. Pray for understanding friends for your child. Incredibly, God has blessed Noelle with her own little group of “gluten-free friends.” For as much as she hates being different, I’m so thankful that she’s not alone in this. She isn’t the only one at youth group who can’t eat the regular retreat food.

Would you like to see my list of regular dinner meals?

How about my recipes for the BEST chocolate chip cookies (made with almond flour), or DELICIOUS banana chocolate chip muffins (made with Pamela’s baking mix)?