Friday, January 29, 2016

Willing to Bend? Embracing Hope!

            Since the beginning of this year, I have been praying that God would give me a “word of the year.”  And for awhile, I thought it was grace - as in “My grace is sufficient,” as in finding His grace anywhere I can each day (even if I wish that so many things were different), and as in I need to extend more grace to other people.  I do not like the negative way I view people sometimes, quick judgments that I might make about them.  And I want to really “see the person behind the snap judgment.”  I want to be more graceful in my view of others.  So grace sounded good to me.  But I was the one who picked that word, because it seemed to fit. 
            But last night (Jan 28), I was praying again, “Lord, do You have a word for my year or month?”  I really wanted to know what word He wanted for me.  And just as I finished praying, the word “hope” popped into my mind.  “Hope,” it seems, is to be my word.  At least for the month of February.  (I am trying to ask each month for a new word, as part of my “Chicken Challenge,” posted earlier this month.)
            And as soon as I heard the word “hope,” my heart went, Oh, no.  Not that one.  I was a bit bothered that God gave me that word.  (As least I think it was from Him.  I am learning to identify when it’s from my own thoughts and when it’s not.)
            I know this is going to sound terrible, but hear me out. 

Saturday, January 23, 2016

One-Penny Offerings

            “But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a fraction of a penny. 
            Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, ‘I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others.  They gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything – all she had to live on.’”  (Mark 12:42-44)           

            Do you ever feel like your contribution to the Kingdom doesn’t really make a splash?  Because it is so small and unflashy, compared to others?  Do you ever feel like your spiritual accomplishments might seem laughable and pitiful?  Like you just don’t measure up? 
            I know I do. 

Rest!

            “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”  (Matthew 11:28-30)

            This verse really speaks to my soul right now.  It is exactly what I need.  Rest.  To put down the burdens I carry around with me.  I’m just not sure how to do it.
            A couple days ago, I asked God one of my “250 Questions to Ask God.”  It was “Since You know what’s best for me, what do I need most right now?”  I had been struggling with concerns and frustrations and disappointments.  With God’s silence even.  And I didn’t know what to pray for anymore, but I needed to hear something from God.  So I asked Him this question.  Because I don’t know what I need right now.  I just know I need something.  And for a couple days, He didn’t answer.   

Friday, January 22, 2016

Gifts From God?

            James 1:2-4:  “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.  Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”

            I am reading a book right now by a woman who lost her mother to cancer.  And she is struggling with the common Christian idea that all trials and tragedies are “gifts from God, meant for our good” and that we are to be thankful for them. 
            Are we supposed to accept infertility, fatal car accidents, chronically-ill children, divorce, disease, cancer, natural disasters, the death of loved ones, etc. as “gifts from God” that He has deliberately given us for our good?  Are we required to push away any pain or heartache or frustration because these are “gifts from God”? 

            I would say “No”!

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Those Heavy Crosses!

            Matthew 10:38:  “and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.”

            Oh, those crosses that we are asked to carry!  They can be so awkward, heavy, and discouraging.  Maybe it’s the cross of loneliness or a job you don’t like, financial concerns or a too-small house, a broken family or a difficult relationship.  None of us like to carry these crosses, these burdens and heart-aches.  That’s why we have to be told to do it.  Because our natural instinct is to not carry them, to try to get them off of our backs and take the easy way.   
            And doesn’t it often feel like you didn’t really do anything to deserve some of those crosses?  Like Simon (Mark 15:21), you are just walking along and minding your own business when, out of nowhere, someone grabs you and lays a cross on your back and forces you to carry it.  And the kicker is that Simon wasn’t even one of the people screaming for Jesus’ death.  He was from out of town, just passing through all the hoopla.  He wasn’t part of the group that was crucifying Jesus (as far as we can tell).  And yet, he was the one chosen to carry the cross.  What a shock!  What a change of plans!  What an incredible, unexpected, “unfair” burden!     

"Can" or "Will"

            “When the spirit saw Jesus, it immediately threw the boy into a convulsion. . . .
            Jesus asked the boy’s father, ‘How long has he been like this?’ 
            ‘From childhood,’ he answered.  ‘. . . But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.’
            “ ‘If you can’?” said Jesus.  ‘Everything is possible for him who believes.’
            Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, ‘I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief.’”  (Mark 9:20-24)

            “A man with leprosy came and knelt before him and said, ‘Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.’”  (Matthew 8:2)

            “If you can” verses “If you are willing.”  These are two very different things.  One comes from a place of doubt, wondering if Jesus is really that powerful and if He can do what we are asking Him to do.  And one comes from a place of hope and trust, knowing that He can do anything we ask but that He might not and we will have to trust that He has His reasons.
            Jesus tells the first man that “Everything is possible for him who believes.”  If we don’t believe that Jesus can do something, we don’t ask.  We don’t persevere in prayer.  We don’t take any steps in faith.  Because we’ve already decided that it’s not really possible for Him.  And our unbelief prevents us from getting His help.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Grieving the Spirit

            “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.” (Ephesians 4:30)

            There are some questions in my post “250 Questions to Ask God” that you really might not want to ask.  Because you might actually get an answer.  And you might not like what you hear.  Plus if you get an answer, you are then responsible to act on it.  One such question is “Have I ever grieved or quenched the Spirit along the way or refused to obey in something?  If so, what?  And is there anything I can do about it now?”
            I have been experiencing a lot of God’s silence lately.  And I was wondering if I had given God any reason to keep so silent.  Did I do anything out of disobedience or a stubborn heart?  Have I put up a wall between us somewhere?  Did I veer off the path along the way and not even realize it? 
            As I looked through the list of questions one day, this one jumped out at me.  And it seemed like it was time to ask it.  And so one day, I prayed,
            “Lord, have I grieved or quenched the Spirit along the way?  Is there something I failed to obey in or is there an unconfessed sin that I am not aware of?  And what would You like me to do about it now?”
            And I tell ya, God answered.  And yikes, I wish He didn’t. 
            Over the course of the next couple months, the Spirit revealed several things that I needed to make right.  (It’s embarrassing to share these foibles of mine, but I hope we are all human here and can understand.) 

Monday, January 18, 2016

The Strong Hand

            “Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”  (1 Peter 5:8)
           
            As I have gotten older, I have struggled more and more with “depression.”  And I think I am finally realizing why it keeps hitting me.  As I have grown closer to the Lord and have experienced more of life, I have grown more and more discontent with what life has to offer.  And I long for more of God.  More than He is willing to give me right now.  I want to see more of His glory and power.  I want to hear from Him more.  I want more answers to prayer, and I get confused when it doesn’t happen because I feel like I have grown so much in my understanding of prayer.  (And yet, the more I learn, the more I realize how big and mysterious God and prayer and faith is.)  I want more peace and joy and deep contentment, yet I know I cannot find it in anything this life has to offer.  And so, in a way, my “depression” comes from my deep desire for the eternal, for Jesus to come back again and make everything right and take us with Him to our real home.  I am truly understanding the “they were aliens and strangers” verse (Hebrews 11:13).  I’m just passing through here.  I want to be home!
            Yet, this is where God has me right now.  My job is to be here, to share His love and draw others to Him.  To live Christ for other people so that I can help them find eternal life in Him.  To delight in Him while in a “strange land” where I don’t really belong.  And to do my best to do my best every day, for His Kingdom and His glory.  While it is still called “today” and while I still have a chance to help lost people. 

I am weak and I need You!

            What is it that we always say to encourage people going through a hard time?
            “God won’t give you more than you can handle.”

            But guess what?
            It’s not true. 

            “We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered . . . We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we even despaired of life.  Indeed, in our hearts, we felt the sentence of death.  But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead.”  (2 Corinthians 1:8-9)

Sunday, January 17, 2016

The Heart of Prayer

            “I lift up my eyes to the hills – where does my help come from?  My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.”  (Psalm 121:1-2)]

            “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, 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 minds in Christ Jesus.”  (Philippians 4:6-7)

            “Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”  (Psalm 46: 10)

            A couple months ago, I was struggling with prayer, with laying requests down at God’s feet, with asking Him for more.  I just couldn’t bring myself to “ask for more” when He’s already been so good to me.  I felt like an ingrate who wasn’t satisfied with what He gave me, like asking for more would be showing that I didn’t appreciate what He already gave me, like it would say that I wasn’t content or joyful with my life. 
            I found myself tripping over the words in my prayer. 
            “Lord, You have been so good to me.  And I am thankful for what I have.  I’m not asking for something else or something more because I am not thankful, I’m just trying to be honest with what’s going on in my heart.  We are supposed to be honest and lay our requests before You.  But I don’t want to seem like I’m not thankful or content.  You know that I am.   Or at least I really try to be.  But I still think it’s right to go to You with all wants and needs.  So I’m not coming to You with my requests because I’m not thankful.  I mean, You have proven to me how good You are by blessing me so much in the past, by always answering me, even if it’s not the answer I expected or wanted.  But You always listen, always answer, and have always been good.  And so I feel bad bringing another request to You, but . . . it’s just that . . . it’s just that . . .”

18 Questions I Don't Have Answers For (Yet!)

            As I begin reading through the Bible for the 5th or 6th time in my life, I am once again struck with certain questions that I don’t have adequate answers for.  I guess you could say these are the things that make me go “Huh?”  Things such as . . .

            1.  In Numbers 22, we read about how Balaam was riding his donkey, trying to make it go down a certain path.  The donkey had seen an angel standing in the road and wouldn’t go forward.  So Balaam beat the donkey.  Then the Lord opened the donkey’s mouth and the donkey said, “What have I done to you to make you beat me these three times?”

Saturday, January 16, 2016

"Don't Be Such a Chicken"- December

(If you want to do this Challenge in order, start in January!  It’s where the introduction is.)

December
1.  Ask God to help you find a new “verse of the month” and a new “word of the month.”  Post it where you can see it.  And ask Him to help you apply it.  (And/or ask Him if there is any task/challenge He wants to give you this month.)

2.  Pick two or three new people to pray for this month.  Write their names down, pray for them daily, and ask God if there is anything specific you should pray for about them. 

3.  What are five things about winter you are thankful for?

"Don't Be Such a Chicken"- November

November
1.  Ask God to help you find a new “verse of the month” and a new “word of the month.”  Post it where you can see it.  And ask Him to help you apply it.  (And/or ask Him if there is any task/challenge He wants to give you this month.)

2.  Pick two or three new people to pray for this month.  Write their names down, pray for them daily, and ask God if there is anything specific you should pray for about them. 

3.  Clean out your kitchen cabinets or pantry, giving you a fresh start for the holidays.  Replace spices that are outdated.

"Don't Be Such a Chicken"- October

October
1.  Ask God to help you find a new “verse of the month” and a new “word of the month.”  Post it where you can see it.  And ask Him to help you apply it.  (And/or ask Him if there is any task/challenge He wants to give you this month.)

2.  Pick two or three new people to pray for this month.  Write their names down, pray for them daily, and ask God if there is anything specific you should pray for about them. 

3.  What five accomplishments of yours are you most thankful for? 

"Don't Be Such a Chicken"- September

September
1.  Ask God to help you find a new “verse of the month” and a new “word of the month.”  Post it where you can see it.  And ask Him to help you apply it.  (And/or ask Him if there is any task/challenge He wants to give you this month.)

2.  Pick two or three new people to pray for this month.  Write their names down, pray for them daily, and ask God if there is anything specific you should pray for about them. 

3.  What are five things about fall you are thankful for?

"Don't Be Such a Chicken"- August

August
1.  Ask God to help you find a new “verse of the month” and a new “word of the month.”  Post it where you can see it.  And ask Him to help you apply it.  (And/or ask Him if there is any task/challenge He wants to give you this month.)

2.  Pick two or three new people to pray for this month.  Write their names down, pray for them daily, and ask God if there is anything specific you should pray for about them. 

3.  What are five things you are thankful for in your own backyard (or whatever’s outside your door)?

"Don't Be Such a Chicken"- July

July
1.  Ask God to help you find a new “verse of the month” and a new “word of the month.”  Post it where you can see it.  And ask Him to help you apply it.  (And/or ask Him if there is any task/challenge He wants to give you this month.)

2.  Pick two or three new people to pray for this month.  Write their names down, pray for them daily, and ask God if there is anything specific you should pray for about them. 

3.  What are five white things you are thankful for?

"Don't Be Such a Chicken"- June

June
1.  Ask God to help you find a new “verse of the month” and a new “word of the month.”  Post it where you can see it.  And ask Him to help you apply it.  (And/or ask Him if there is any task/challenge He wants to give you this month.)

2.  Pick two or three new people to pray for this month.  Write their names down, pray for them daily, and ask God if there is anything specific you should pray for about them. 

3.  What are five things about summer you are thankful for?

"Don't Be Such a Chicken"- May

May
1.  Ask God to help you find a new “verse of the month” and a new “word of the month.”  Post it where you can see it.  And ask Him to help you apply it.  (And/or ask Him if there is any task/challenge He wants to give you this month.)

2.  Pick two or three new people to pray for this month.  Write their names down, pray for them daily, and ask God if there is anything specific you should pray for about them. 

3.  What five trials have you gone through that you are now thankful for?  Why are you thankful for them?

"Don't Be Such a Chicken"- April

April
1.  Ask God to help you find a new “verse of the month” and a new “word of the month.”  Post it where you can see it.  And ask Him to help you apply it.  (And/or ask Him if there is any task/challenge He wants to give you this month.)

2.  Pick two or three new people to pray for this month.  Write their names down, pray for them daily, and ask God if there is anything specific you should pray for about them. 

3.  What are five hobbies/fun things that you are thankful for?

"Don't Be Such a Chicken"- March

March
1.  Ask God to help you find a new “verse of the month” and a new “word of the month.”  Post it where you can see it.  And ask Him to help you apply it.  (And/or ask Him if there is any task/challenge He wants to give you this month.)

2.  Pick two or three new people to pray for this month.  Write their names down, pray for them daily, and ask God if there is anything specific you should pray for them. 

3.  What are five things about spring you are thankful for?

"Don't Be Such a Chicken"- February

February
1.  Ask God to help you find a new “verse of the month” and a new “word of the month.”  Post it where you can see it.  And ask Him to help you apply it.  (And/or ask Him if there is any task/challenge He wants to give you this month.)

2.  Pick two or three new people to pray for this month.  Write their names down, pray for them daily, and ask God if there is anything specific you should pray for them. 

3.  What five things about your past are you thankful for?

"Don't Be Such a Chicken"- January

The One-Year “Don’t Be Such a Chicken” Challenge

            Why is this called the “Don’t be such a chicken” challenge?  Well, for one thing, I think the word ‘chicken’ is funny.  And “chicken challenge” has a nice ring to it.  And for another, it just seems to fit.  Because this challenge is about doing things that we are afraid of: praying the prayers we are afraid to pray, facing the things inside of ourselves that we are afraid to face, and asking ourselves and God the hard questions.  It might take a little guts to do this, but “Don’t be such a chicken.”  You can do it!  And you’ll be better for it!   
            It’s also about doing some challenges and tasks that we might not normally think of (and others that we might already do).  Chickens are content to just scratch around in the dirt and never really consider how they might better their barnyard life.  They just peck and scratch, scratch and peck.  But this challenge is about doing things to better our lives, our walk with God, and our relationship with others, instead of just running around the barnyard, looking for the next bug.  Don’t be such a chicken! 
            And it also includes counting our blessings.  Have you ever seen a really thankful chicken?  Cats show how thankful they are by purring on your lap or brushing up against your leg.  Dogs are deliriously thankful, even when all you do is smile at them and pat their head.  But chickens?  Did you ever see a chicken run up and throw their little chicken wings around the neck of the person who just threw some chicken feed at them, affectionately pecking them on the cheek in gratitude?  Don’t be such a chicken!  This year we are going to be deliberate about counting our blessings, about looking high and low for things we are thankful for.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

A Little Marriage Advice

            I wrote this advice for a young couple at our church who was getting married, some would say “too young.”  While I didn’t marry too young (I was nearly 24), I did marry my first boyfriend, who I began dating at 18.  And I heard things like “be young, have fun . . . date around . . . don’t settle so quickly . . . find someone who will sweep you off your feet.” 
            But I knew (before I ever started dating) that I would only date someone worth marrying.  I would not set my heart up to get broken.  And so when I found “the right guy” at 18, I knew that I was set.  I found the guy I would marry.  I wasn’t dating just for fun.  And I wasn’t about to date around just to see what’s out there.  I found someone worth taking a risk on, I trusted him with my heart, and he proved himself to be trustworthy and loyal and stable. 
            And that’s what I wanted in a marriage.  Not to get “swept off my feet” with someone more flashy or fun or unpredictable.  I like predictable and stable, especially after watching my mom go through a couple divorces. 
            So when this young couple was getting married and facing the “too young, too soon” criticism, I decided to send them a little advice of my own.  And since I think it’s good marriage advice for anyone, I decided to put it in a post, with a few additions.  Just for fun.

Serious Advice 19-20: Relax and Stay Connnected to the Lord

(This "Mom Advice" series - for dads, too - starts at the bottom of the January posts with "Mom Advice #1: Expectations.)
            #19  Parenting is a learning process and we all do it differently.  Go easy on yourself.  When I was a child, I didn’t realize that parents could be scared and clueless and unsure.  That went against the whole idea of being an adult.  Adults knew what to do in any situation.  Adults were confident and wise, even at the ripe old age of twenty-five. 
            I used to think that parents had the answers, that they had an innate sense of what was the right thing to do in any given situation.  And what they didn’t know, they looked up in the big book that they all got when they became parents.  You know, the one with all the answers. 
            Well, maybe I didn’t get in the right line because I never got my book when I had kids.  Instead, the curtain was pulled back and the truth revealed - so much of parenting is really done by the seat of your pants.  Oh, I know some parents do better than others, and it comes more “naturally” to some than to others.  But it’s a job were all of us go from not being parents to being parents.  It’s a job where we all have to learn as we go.  And we all come to learn that we know a lot less than we thought we did.  As I see it, the older you get, the more you learn, the less you know.  Which is why we parents desperately need the Lord.   We need to be constantly on our knees in prayer.

Serious Advice 16-18: Positive Words and Blessings

            #16  Okay, onto a lighter subject!  Proverbs 16: 24:  “Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.”  Tell your children daily that you love them.  Make it a ritual when they wake up, leave for school, or go to bed.  They love to hear it and they need to hear it.  (And you never know when it will be the last time you get to say it!)  Tell them things you like about them.  Especially if you want that behavior or personality trait to continue.  Hug them with all your might, even when they start to shy away from it.  (But maybe not in front of their friends because, you know, they would just “die of embarrassment, Mom!”)  They will be grown and gone all too soon.  Eighteen years is so short.


Serious Advice 14-15: Protecting Our Children, Spiritual Warfare

            #14  Remember that your children are counting on you to look out for their welfare.  Do not put them in risky situations, either deliberately or by neglecting to find out what’s going on. 
            I remember as a pre-teen that it was time for me to go in for my physical.  And as we sat in the waiting room, my mom told me, “Now, Heather, this doctor is known for being a bit of a pervert.  If he asks you to take off your clothes, tell him your mom said not to.” 
            And then . . . she sent me in there alone. 


Serious Advice 12-13: Wise Decisions, Mompetition, Tolerance

            #12  On a more practical note, take the responsibility of being a wise parent seriously and make conscientious decisions in life.  By all means, put thought into the who, what, where, when, why, and how of raising kids.  God gave them to you to raise.  Never just accept what others say as truth, including the “experts.”  Research it for yourself. 

Serious Advice 9-11: Reaping, Learning, and Modeling

            #9  Always remember, you only get a few years until they are grown.  And when they are, you will reap what you have sown.  Galatians 6:7:  “. . . A man reaps what he sows.”  They will treat you in response to how they were treated.  Parent in such a way that earns their respect and honor.  Don’t expect it just because you are the parent.  1 Peter 2:17:  “Show proper respect to everyone. . .”  Even your children! 

Serious Advice 6-8: Respect and Uplifting Speech

            #6  The previous points can be summed up in this Biblical principle:  Imagine how you want to be treated and treat your kids likewise.  Good ‘ole Matthew 19:19:  “. . . love your neighbor as yourself . . .”  Well, our closest neighbors are our family members.  It seems so obvious, but it’s amazing how little we show kindness and respect to our family members. 

Serious Advice 3-5: Child Eyes, Gentleness, and Discipline

            #3  Here’s another one about seeing it from their point of view:  Get on the child’s level to see things through his eyes in order to interpret his behavior, to figure out why he might be doing something.  Many times, we misinterpret their behavior, and we discipline them unfairly because we aren’t seeing things from their eyes. 

Serious Advice 1-2: Respond to Them

            The last list of advice was a humorous one . . . humorous, but true.  However, on a more serious note, there is another list of rules that I try to live by.  These are beliefs that I have formed, though not executed perfectly, from things that I’ve read and by watching how people (including myself) interact with their kids.  They are ones that you probably will see in some parenting books.  They may not fit for you, but they do for me.  (These do not include specifics or advice on discipline.  There are numerous good books out there about that.  These are just some general principles.  And many of them also speak to how we should relate to all people, not just our children!) 

Fun Advice 19-21: Coffee, Criticism, and Curveballs

            #19  Always remember , “Coffee is your friend!”  And when all else goes wrong, “Chocolate never fails!”  Just make sure that you have enough for the kids, too, unless you eat it in a soundproof, airtight room.
            However, I would like to add a caution.  If you are not a coffee drinker, then don’t start.  Coffee may be a friend, but sometimes that friend is like a giant, belligerent gorilla that you willingly strap yourself to with a heavy, fifteen-foot-long chain.  Sure, you can go about business as usual, but only within sight of this demanding beast.  You will go from a happy, relaxed sunshine-greeter to a sullen, foggy-eyed grunter doing the zombie-walk to pay homage to your ape friend first thing in the morning, before he gets angry and begins ruthlessly whipping that chain around.  Then you’ll be sorry!  So I really can’t, in good conscience, recommend this to non-coffee drinkers.  Fair Warning!            

Fun Advice 16-18: Spots and Messes

            #16  If there is one thing that I know for certain, it’s that, with children, there will be spots.  Get comfortable with spots on your clothes.  When you have young children, you can expect spots of all kinds, from coffee to spaghetti sauce to spit-up to snot.  (Body fluids don’t scare you as much after having children!) 
            And how is it that when I’m mixing batter and one drop flies out of a bowl, it lands square on my shirt in a spot that I don’t really want people staring at?  Despite the fact that it had about 270 other degrees it could have gone?  That, or it will hit me right in the eye, going around the glasses that I’m wearing.  That always amazes me!  I am not kidding, the other night during dinner, Ryder was sitting three feet away from me.  Three feet!  When he said something, a large piece of food shot out of his mouth, flew around my glasses, and hit me right in the inside corner of my eye, where it proceeded to bother me for an hour.  How in the world? 

Fun Advice 14-15: Having Fun and Sacrificing Ourselves

            #14  Don’t take everything so seriously.  Sometimes we have opportunities to have a little fun with our children.  And that’s okay.  It’s beneficial, even.  Proverbs 15:13:  “A happy heart makes the face cheerful . . .” 

Fun Advice 11-13: Fighting, Saying No, and Staying One Step Ahead

            #11  If the balance of power is rather equal and they are not bleeding, then let them handle it.  Don’t step in and fight all their battles for them.  (But don’t allow name calling and other kinds a disrespectful talk.  That’s just not right!  You wouldn’t believe how many disrespectful, naughty children there are on the playgrounds.  Seriously, if parents don’t correct children’s misbehavior, they won’t learn.) 
            In fact, it is a very wise thing to pick your battles carefully.  This is a lesson that only a broken, tired, humbled mother can understand.  If I didn’t pick my battles, I would find myself fighting all day long over the littlest things, especially when my third is so willing to fight me on everything. 

Fun Advice 6-10: Memory, Cereal, Socks, and Mud

            #6  Get in the habit of writing things down.  Before I had kids, I could remember all the phone numbers, and what was happening when and with whom.  Now, if I’m simply asked what day it is, I stare blankly with a confused look on my face.  Day?  What is ‘day’?  Honestly, the wheels are spinning, but nothing is coming to the surface.  Same thing when someone asks me how old I am.  (I have to ask my husband, or figure out how old he is and subtract a year, or recall what year I was born and count up.  Isn’t that pathetic?)  I used to hear that you lose your memory when you have kids.  But I think that you still have the same amount of memory, it just gets spread a lot thinner.  So it’s basically useless.  Write it down! 
            #7  Cereal is an acceptable dinner occasionally.  No guilt allowed! 

Fun Advice 3-5: Hair Cuts and Conversations

            #3  Never - and I repeat, never - pick up a pair of scissors and impulsively start hacking away at your hair while you are home alone with a little one.  I don’t know, but there’s something about having a baby that makes you want to cut your hair.  Call it the “Steel Magnolias syndrome”.  Well, one day when Kody was a baby, I looked in the mirror and realized that I hated my hair and wanted it cut shorter.  I’m one of those that won’t think or care about something for so long, but then as soon as I decide that I don’t like it and want a change, I have to do it NOW!  And that’s what happened with my hair. 

Fun Advice 1-2: Exhaustion

            In all honesty, though, things aren’t as crazy at our house and my children aren’t as wild as I make them out to be.  (Okay, Ryder really is that wild . . . like a wild stallion.  I can see him growing up to be a bull-fighter, using only his bare hands to throw the bulls around.  He is freakishly strong!  And so willing to fight!  I think a bull is the only animal that could give him a challenge.  My neighbor, Ray, was watching the boys play in our backyard once.  He comes from a family of many, many boys, and he was laughing about Ryder.  “I love watching him play,” he said.  “He is just a little bulldog.”  See!  I’m not the only one that notices it!) 
            But they really are great kids, if I do say so myself.  And they are quite well-behaved (in front of other people, at least).  And they are all really sweet.  I am so thankful that they haven’t yet reached the age where they are embarrassed to hug me or say, “I love you.”  I’m going to enjoy that for as long as I have it.  They are the most endearing little jungle monkeys ever.  (Monkey is a term of endearment at our house.  I’ll ask, “Who’s my jungle monkey?” and Ryder’s face will brighten up and he’ll say, “Me!  Me jungle monkey.”)         
            You know, now that I’m thinking about it, I want to write a list of all the advice I can think of that you won’t learn in a parenting book, such as the four lessons at the beginning of this series.  These are just the kinds of lessons that we learn as we go, the lessons that humble us.  The more kids you have, the more you’ll understand. 

Mom Advice #2-4: The Here-And-Now, Humility

            Letting go of expectations (Lesson #1) relates to Lesson #2:  Look no further into the future than the here-and-now, because it never goes the way you expect it will, either.  That’s actually quite Biblical.  Matthew 6:34:  “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.  Each day has enough trouble of its own.”  
            If I wake up and the sun is shining and I feel rested, I make all sorts of plans in my head about what I’m going to accomplish that day.  I’m going to open the windows, let all the fresh air in, clean the whole kitchen, make some breakfast cake, organize our clothes, and take the kids for a long walk.  And then, when all I get done is breakfast, lunch, dinner, and helping the kids with their school-work, I feel like I failed for the day.  

Mom Advice #1: Expectations

            Alright now!  So, here I am - a mother of three young boys.  (Update: When I first wrote this I had three; now I have four.  Oh, and this series is from my other blog, chapter 7 and 8 in the Child of Mine posts.)  I never did go back to work as the counselor that I went to school to become.  (Yet, I have done nothing but work since they arrived.)  Instead, I enlisted.  I enlisted in the ranks of the sleep-deprived; the worn, ragged souls serving at the front lines of the battle.  God bless them!  I am neck deep in Motherhood.   And the battle rages on, as it does in many homes around the world, between mother and child.  Who will dominate?  Who will rule?  Sometimes the battle is too close to tell.