Thirty-One {31 Days of Wisdom}

Unfortunately, the Proverbs 31 Woman has become some kind of caricature of femininity in this post-modern culture we live in. When her address is mentioned, eyes either roll with irritation or sink low with condemnation and feelings of not being good enough. Yet God sees fit to include her likeness in the pages of Wisdom and the twenty-one verses about her were written actually as a blessing rather than a “To-Be” list for all women who would come after her.

As one friend pointed out, if you read carefully you won’t misunderstand and believe this is a daily docket of her life. She does not do all these things in one day and most likely not in one season either. Verse 28 says, “her children rise up and call her blessed,” indicating when her children grow up, they realize how blessed she is to have been able to care for her family, her employees, her community, the poor, and of course her man. Perhaps her life ebbed and flowed according to each season of the year and each season of her life because she knew who gave her each day and breathed life into them.

I started this project of 31 Days of Wisdom because there are some things in my life right now that require an extra measure of wisdom, the kind I know I don’t have and the kind I know can only come from God. I need it to guide me and help me before a word is on my tongue and before I take any actions. I also wanted to treat it as a writing project… to read the words and then respond immediately in my heart. These posts were both excercise in writing and of the soul. In the last month, I’ve learned a bit about writing and blogging, but I’ve also learned more about me and my God:

1. I need to watch what I say. Words are powerful…what they say and when they are said. In almost every chapter there is something about what our conversation can do for a person and a situation. I want to be a life-giving person in word and deed and in a split second a word or two coming out of my mouth can take life and with that… much more time to repair.

2. Wisdom is like a garden that requires tending. The vegetables I planted in the Spring are all gone. The tomato plants were so prolific I literally couldn’t keep up with them. I let them go too long and their vines were attacked by aphids and all kinds of things of which I have no idea about. The fruit shriveled up and their branches became dry. The word of God is seriously prolific… it’s living and active and it’s amazing what happens when it comes to life. But to live by it and live through it requires tending. To get wisdom, one must pursue wisdom, one must ask for it. Solomon who wrote these Proverbs knew that well. He could have had anything he wanted, but instead he asked for wisdom. God gave it to Him and then some…. But if I ignore it, like the tomato plants in my yard, the fruit will shrivel and be tasteless…useless and the branches dry. Living water, every day.

3. The Proverbs 31 woman taught me the necessity of accepting the seasons we are in. This is not the season in my life when I can write a blog post every day. I was getting stressed out about posting every day, until I gave myself permission not to. Hence, the 31st post on November 2. But who cares? The point was to read the Proverbs, not to keep up with a non-existent standard.

4. I love to have written. When I did sit down to write, I gave myself a time limit, a goal and God fed my soul. God has created me to write, and to write is to create, and when I do so… I am grounded. My best {my favorite} writing comes from when I see Him moving among us… in whatever and where ever He has us. Writing settles my mind, it settles my heart and it releases all the stuff inside me that can come out in unproductive ways when not stewarded wisely.

5. I want my children to rise up and call me blessed. In the journey through Proverbs this month, a lot of what I read and locked my mind on had to do with raising our boys. At the end of the day, I realize Jesus is everything. And because of that, when I look in their eyes I know this is the one thing, the only thing, I desire for them as well. For Jesus to be their everything. He has to do that work in revealing Himself to them… calling them out and bringing them along. Yet in the meantime, He has chosen Steve and I to make it real to them. The faith, the doubt, the failing, the redemption, the grace the mercy… all of it has to be real in us if we want them to birth their own real love for Jesus.

So November is finally here and I will go back to posting less often, but hopefully more often than before! If you’d like to subscribe you can do so via email or a reader in the upper right of this screen.

Thanks for being on the journey with me.

Nineteen & Twenty {31 Days of Wisdom}

It’s happening.

Those years people told me about when a boy becomes a man.  I see the struggle to break free and separate like a to and fro… sometimes they long to be close, sometimes they want to be as far as possible.

The challenge for me is to know how much to hold on and when to let go.

A good friend advised me this week to separate myself from their emotions.  Much like when a 2-year-old who throws himself on the ground in a tantrum… the advice is to walk away and not acknowledge it.  I’m now supposed to detach from the anger of an adolescent to prevent further kindling.

Trouble is, I’ve got both ends of the spectrum right now.

19:11

“Good sense makes one slow to anger,
    and it is his glory to overlook an offense.”

My issue is the good sense because none of it makes sense to me. It’s been a long time since I threw my hands up in an adolescent rage, but I remember it well.  Your feelings get out of control and out the heart, the mouth speaks.

So when they are out of control, my goal is stay in control.  Not of them but of me.  It’s the discipline of remaining steadfast when nothing seems steady to them.

19:18

“Discipline your son, for there is hope;
    do not set your heart on putting him to death.”

Not sure if I have what it takes for this ride.  But He does.  In Him there is hope.

But I know, when I lose control they no longer hear.  All they see/hear is that loss of control.

19:27

“Cease to hear instruction, my son,
    and you will stray from the words of knowledge.”

They have to find their own way and I can see the way separating from mine.  I can’t go with them, but I can go alongside them.  I can’t walk it for them but I can show them the way.

20:24

“A man’s steps are from the Lord;
    how then can man understand his way?”

Ultimately they need to find their Compass. The One who will direct them.   The One who goes before them.  The One who really knows the way.

Today I’m praying for an extra measure of love…the steadfast kind. I’m praying for faithfulness, the job assigned to me 11 years ago.

I am reminded of how desperately I need this Wisdom the Proverbs give.

Six {31 Days of Wisdom}

This month I’m spending 31 days writing and reflecting on wisdom found in the Proverbs.  This is part of the 31 Days of Change blog link up started by The Nester. I confess, it was hard to get going today.  But the purpose is change… that comes with discipline and building a new habit.  I choose wisdom and pray it gets ingrained in my soul. If you’re reading along, I’m praying the same for you as we go.

“My son, keep your father’s command
and do not forsake your mother’s teaching.
Bind them always on your heart;
fasten them around your neck.
When you walk, they will guide you;
when you sleep, they will watch over you;
when you awake, they will speak to you.
For this command is a lamp,
    this teaching is a light,
and correction and instruction
are the way to life…”

The father’s command and the mother’s teaching.

The command is a lamp and the teaching a light.

They are inseparable in their purpose. 

 

I interrupt the one who is sitting near me reading:

Son, what do you think the difference is between a lamp and it’s light?

The lamp is the structure, the light is the electricity.

Together, they light the way.

I doubt the writer meant mom is electricity and dad is the lamp.  He is explaining to his son the command is followed with a teaching and the message is consistent from both parents. Consistently working together, lamp and light are joined together to light the path for the sons and daughters of wisdom. The persistent message enables his son to write it on his heart and wear it around his neck.  Remember a time as an adult when you were caught in some precarious situation and you heard the voice of your parent, distantly ringing in your ear?

I recall one night as a college freshman walking alone at night in Azusa.  The darkness was haunting and I thought to myself, This is why my parents never let me go anywhere alone.

There is safety to be found in wisdom.

The worst times in parenting are when we are on different pages.  The light isn’t as brilliant when it doesn’t shine from the lamp.  I have many friends who are a single moms and I marvel at the grace given to them for the job at hand.  They are both lamp and light.

I often take for granted the fact there are two of us but when the two are not one the wreckage is in plain sight.

Recently I was talking with a friend about leadership development and the difference it makes when you like those you lead with.  When you like those you lead with, you laugh together, have fun together and head down the same path. When {not if} problems come, you defer to one another with understanding and compassion, believing the best about each other. People want to follow leaders who have electricity together.

Parenting in marriage requires the marriage to be strengthened.

If you’re reading this and you’re married with kids, will you please pray with me?

Lord, help us to look to you first and foremost above anything else in this world.  Help us to put our marriages second and prioritizing our spouses before all else {forsaking all others}.  Turn our hearts toward one another so our kids can find safety and that a united front would be so much more than just a front but a place of refuge and safety to grow. Amen

How do you find it challenging to prioritize your marriage before your parenting?

Have you noticed a difference when you do?

This is the 6th post in a 31 Day series: Wisdom. Start from the beginning here

You can also find over 1000 other topics from bloggers also participating here.

Four {31 Days of Wisom}

Proverbs 4 in my Bible is titled “A Father’s Wise Instruction.”

He tells his sons about the wisdom His father taught him, when he was tender, the only one in the sight of his mother.

Let your heart hold fast to my words; keep my commandments and live.

His words are full of resolve, they are firm but loving.

As I read a picture popped in my head of a father driving a car and his young son next to him.

The father points to all the things around them, not being afraid to drive through the rougher parts of town while showing him the beauty around them.  He begins with wisdom and his words point to her value,

Prize her highly, and she will exalt you; she will honor you if you embrace her.

When you taste and see the treasure of wisdom, everything else is cheap.

He tells the boy with the graceful garland of wisdom bestowed on his head, he will

walk, and his step will not be hampered, and if he runs, he will not stumble.

The father does not hold back from telling him and perhaps showing him the path of the wicked and warns him not to walk in their way.

He points to it enough for the son to recognize it but warns him to avoid it, do not go on it; turn away from it and pass on.

A young boy, the only one in the sight of his mother is likely still afraid of the dark. The father speaks to him in ways he will understand

The path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, which shines brighter and brighter until full day.

The way of the wicked is like deep darkness; they do not know over what they stumble.

Today I am encouraged to be wise and to listen to the faultless instruction of my Father and also pass it on to my boys.

There is safety in His wisdom.

I’m convicted to not only speak to them of wise choices without holding back on the urgency but also explain and show them why the Way of Wisdom is better.

 

Right now they still listen. They watch.

I will not be afraid to point out the darkness and boast about the light.  They need to be equipped to recognize both paths in order to ponder the path of their feet and not swerve to the right or the left.

Let wisdom reside in our hearts, may we keep it with all vigilance so out of it will flow the springs of life to all You bring near.

 

This is the 4th post in a 31 Day series: Wisdom. Start from the beginning here

You can also find over 1000 other topics from bloggers also participating here.

On Headbands and the Writing on My Hands

Today I started a 7 day reading plan on You Version focused on the topic of parenting.  It’s been a struggle lately, so where better to turn than Scripture.  You Version has really great reading plans based on whole Bible reading but also on specific topics if you are looking for God to speak to you on something specific.

The first reading took me to Deuteronomy 6:

And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes.You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

Moses is talking about the Ten Commandments when he speaks of the “words” to be on our hearts.  I don’t know about you, but when I have read this before, I’ve often thought of how to bind them in my children’s hearts more than I think of my own.

The heart is defined as the center of the total personality, especially with reference to intuition, the center of emotion, especially as contrasted to the head as the center of the intellect. When something is bound on our hearts, our speech and conduct, the way we do life overflows from that within us.

When God gave these words to Moses, He already knew of the battle raging within their hearts. The Israelites would struggle with loving their stuff more than He.  He knew they would even love their kids and worship them more than they loved Him. He could see they would have a hard time loving one another.  Their sexual temptations were never a surprise to Him, or their struggle to want what they did not have.  They would wrestle with being content where ever they were…Egypt, the Desert, even in the Land of Promise.

Historically, Jewish people would literally bind something on their hands and have a band or ribbon tied around their foreheads to remind them of these commands.  But metaphorically, God knows we need reminders too.  Reminders that the work of our hands, the way we serve, embrace, and hold our children as well as the perspective by which we see should be infused by this Way being bound in our hearts. They are to be set at the entrances of our homes where we tend to exhibit our worst behavior {when no one else is looking}.  Also on the gates surrounding our homes, creating a safe place to learn how to walk in the way of God so when we go into the world we know  who we are, where we came from and better yet Who we are made of.

Parenting, like everything else we do, should be in response to Who we know God is and what He has done for us.

His grace that saved us. His love which reached us when we were dead in our trespasses.  His mercies, new every morning.  The love that is steadfast and suffers long.  His hope that reminds us of His plan for our lives, you know the ones… the ones to prosper us and not to harm us.  His kindness that leads to repentance.  The security that comes with the promise He will never leave us and He is with us where ever we go.  His love that isn’t easily angered or holds on to records of wrongs.

Perhaps the two chapters are tied up in 5:33

“Walk in all the way that the Lord your God has commanded you, so that you may live and prosper and prolong your days in the land that you will possess.”

Lord, thank you for your infinite grace and mercy, your love that is from everlasting to everlasting.

Help us to walk in your ways today so we can be a life-giving display of your presence among us.

Good Enough

There are days when I am hard on myself for the things I could have done better. Days I could have been more patient, more kind and intentional.  Days I could have not yelled, or said that one thing or joked in that crude way. I could have been less snarky and more encouraging.  More hopeful and less doubtful.

Yet I am reminded of His mercies, which are new every morning and comforted by the company I keep with those who are attempting to emulate Someone perfect while battling the lie of perfection.

It is written:

We are His workmanship created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

He prepared them… we are to do them.  He is the artist.  Sure, we are to do good but nothing good comes out of us apart from Jesus.  While it also says, everything we do should be done heartily because we do it for Him and not for others, sometimes good is good enough.

The only thing perfect about me is and will always be, Christ Jesus within me.

Everything else is susceptible to failure and short coming.

This 11 and under crowd will, no matter how hard I try to prevent it, bear wounds from my many imperfections.  They will have work through my mistakes and it will be part of their story.  I see their own struggle with perfection already forming them.  It shows up in a fear of losing and even a fear of being fearful.

The root of it all is pride. The ugly root that takes hold in my heart and needs to be dug out no matter how long and hard the work is to do so.

I need to become okay with being good enough.  Good enough as a mom. A good enough wife. A good enough friend.

In the good enough He will be praised for His excellencies.  Our dependency on Him becomes more clear to ourselves and those around us.

Lord, help me be good enough at what is before me today

and let me see the excellence in all your ways.

Let’s Talk About Sex Baby {5 Conversations: Saying No}

If you’re following along in our study on 5 Conversations You Must Have with Your Son, Raise your hand if the Salt ‘n Pepa song came to mind at least once this last week.

If you are doing the study with us, here is where we will converse about the daily study.  Contribute to the conversation by leaving your thoughts in the comment field.  Answer one question or answer all… feel free.  Make sure you check the box for “Notify me of follow-up comments via email” so the conversation isn’t just one-way and you can also respond to comments.   If you have insight into parenting boys but aren’t necessarily doing the study with us, you are also free to join the conversation!

This week’s study was thought provoking to say the least. It caused me to think about my own upbringing, experiences, impressions, conversations with friends and parents {or should I say – lack, there of}.  And along with some other random conversations this week, really made me think about how the subject of sex is being leaked out, presented and impressed upon our kids.

From page 81:

“Our sons need to know that sex is good and that God, the Creator of sex, put some rules in place so that they might experience the best sex life possible.”

Question – How did you learn about sex growing up?

I’ll go first… I learned from my friends, the media, and thankfully at the right time in my life learned from some amazing youth leaders from church and other people’s parents.  {Shout out to Mrs. Reed!}  If God hadn’t intervened, life may have turned out very differently for me and I’m thankful that in the midst of hearing from a mom in my community, I realized even then how I wanted to approach the subject when I became a parent.

Consider this quote from page 92:

“For evangelicals, sex is a ‘symbolic boundary’ marking a good Christian from a bad one, but in reality, the kids are always sneaking across enemy lines.”

If you were to take a moment of honest introspection, is your view of sex

closely tied to your view of a good Christian? What are the results you are looking for in your kids?

About 15 years ago, I would have reluctantly answered yes.

This week’s conversation drove home the concept that we as mothers ought to be about shepherding and nurturing our children towards a relationship with God.  An authentic-Christocentric-Jesus-loving-Holy-Spirit-leading-Sheep-hearing-His-voice-kind of relationship with the Living God.

I want to do my best to impress upon my children the truth and give them a God honoring perspective of sex and how fantastic God intends it to be. That being said, we must be careful not to make virginity more important than a heart turned towards Jesus.

Should they remain pure until the day they are married, praise God… this is only one sign of fruitfulness.  Behavior modification will only go so far… heart transformation is eternal.

In retrospect, my view of sex was largely based on a rule, “don’t do it.”  I didn’t grow up understanding the “why’s” of God’s design.

Have you and if so, how have you began the conversation with your son? 

If your sons have reached adolescence, do you encourage them to wait? If so, how?

In our home, it’s began in 3rd grade.  The questions came up and we decided to answer them {age appropriately} lest they hear a different, less accurate answer from a friend.  My son told me the kids are already talking about it, so I was glad when we began.

Consider the following:

“We moms must approach the topic of sex with confidence and assurance, so our sons are left with no doubt that it is an amazing gift from God.  If we’ll only ask, God will give us the wisdom to know when to initiate conversations about sex and the boldness needed to approach the topic with confidence.  Our boys need to hear the truth.”

What makes you nervous about these conversations? 

If you are married, do you think it’s just as important for you to be having the conversations

along with your husband?  Or would you rather leave it up to him?  Why or why not?

And just a note… one of the best books I’ve read on the subject so far is called Teaching Your Children Healthy Sexuality by Jim Burns.  Jim is the President of HomeWord Ministries where they have a plethora of resources on marriage, relationships and parenting, including books on sexuality you can read along with children as young as 6 (which we’ve used).  We have found these resources helpful… and I didn’t get paid to say this.

5 Conversations: Choosing Sides

Today is the week two wrap up for the study we are doing on 5 Conversations You Must Have With Your Son.  If you are doing the study with us, here is where we converse about the daily study.  Contribute to the conversation anytime by leaving your thoughts in the comment field.  Make sure you check the box for “Notify me of follow-up comments via email” so the conversation isn’t just one-way and you can also respond to comments.  If you have insight into parenting boys but aren’t necessarily doing the study with us, you are also free to join the conversation!

I thought week one was challenging, but week two has really got me thinking.

A few years ago, when my oldest son was still a tot, someone challenged me to pray for him to be a light in darkness rather more than I pray for his protection.

Like any mother, I will not stop praying for my sons’ protection but I am gaining a better understanding of praying for them to overcome and be light in darkness.  This chapter made things a bit clearer to me.

I confess… some of the temptations this world will serve them scare the heck out of me.  I don’t want them to suffer the consequences of the sin that will crouch at their door. I worry every time they are in front of computer screen. When a friend has an iPod touch near them.  Every time they get that glazed look in their eyes from playing video games.

But God has not given us a spirit of fear but of power and love and self-control (or a sound mind). (2 Timothy 1:7)

Which means that if I’m going to teach self-control, I’d better model it by not having such a spirit of fear when it comes to the things my sons’ may face.  I was challenged this week that in these young and formative years, with prayer and God’s leading my job as a mom is to pour Jesus into them so they will see He is bigger than themselves and they will hear His voice and learn to respond to it.  Easier said than done.

However, we did get to practice a little “Stop, Listen and Think” this week.  I gave my son some money to run into Jamba Juice to pick up an order for us.  He said while he was waiting, he thought about buying one of their new lip balms.  Before making a bad decision, he stopped, thought about it (he skipped the prayer) and realized it wasn’t the right thing to do.

Baby steps. 

There is always a way out of temptation.

I’ll take baby steps in the right direction any day knowing there will always be a few steps back along the way.

So I’m encouraged…

Pray for self-control more than I pray against temptation.  We will all be tempted until Jesus returns.

Pray that Jesus will become their master rather than something created for this world.

Pray for power, love, a sound mind and self-control.

How have you been able to overcome temptation? 

How have you experienced teaching this to your children so far?

If you’re studying with us, what challenged you this week? 

5 Conversations: Redefining Manhood

Today is the week one wrap up for the study we are doing on 5 Conversations You Must Have With Your Son.  If you are doing the study with us, here is where we will converse about the daily study.  Contribute to the conversation by leaving your thoughts in the comment field.  Make sure you check the box for “Notify me of follow-up comments via email” so the conversation isn’t just one-way and you can also respond to comments.  If you have insight into parenting boys but aren’t necessarily doing the study with us, you are also free to join the conversation!

The title of this week’s conversation is “Redefining Manhood.”  There was so many rich things we could talk about here but what really stood out to me was the building up of character.  Drawing from examples in 2 Kings and Genesis, there was a building up of character we want to nurture in our boys.

A Penitent heart  (a tender or responsive heart over wrong doing)

Humility (Having or showing a low estimate of one’s own importance – – the rare quality of caring more about God’s approval than the approval of men)

Courage (grounded in faith, seasoned in love)

From boyhood to manhood, we want to partner with God in raising up men who embody these three characteristics.

In one of the personal reflections, the question was asked: “How might you encourage a penitent “softening of the heart” when your son does something wrong?” 

I have to be honest here… my answer was:

I. don’t. know.

In our family, we believe in discipline, we believe in consequences.  These are good things, but I was really challenged with whether or not we are also forming the hearts of our boys to respond with a heart like Jesus… a heart that breaks like His.

It all came to a head on day three when another character trait came up. This time it wasn’t regarding the boys, it was for the moms.

Fear.

“But while at first glance hovering Helicopter Moms may appear to have their child’s best interests in mind, their high need for control is unhealthily rooted in fear.  Fear of danger. Fear their child will not find future success (as defined by the Helicopter Mom). Fear their children may not be accepted if they don’t look or perform a certain way.  In a nutshell, Helicopter Moms want to ensure that their children turn out according to their personal script and time line.”

I was really proud when I took the Helicopter Mom quiz, I only checked one thing (Confession – I’ve signed my kids up for 2 extra curricular activities in one season).  I’ve never considered myself a “Helicopter Mom.”  But I was challenged that I often respond, discipline, and react from the root of fear.

What do I fear?  Perhaps they will not choose the narrow road.  What if they would not live healthy lives – choosing things or lifestyles that are unhealthy? What if they end up doing drugs? Or get caught up in pornography?  What if they choose friends or a spouse  who will not love them or love God.  I have many fears about the outcome.

In the beginning of the week, the author used the illustration of a mother perhaps acting like a “regent” to a king. Someone working to surround him with Godly role models throughout his reign to help him make good decisions, be a good influence to help him live up to the potential and carry out God’s plan for the boy and the nation.  We ended the week with Rebekah, a mother who manipulated and made her plans and timing supersede God’s.

There is a thin line between a regent and a manipulative, helicopter mom.

Our plans and God’s plan.

Courage vs. Fear

One way to teach our boys courage is to parent courageously.  Knowing there are lessons with skinned knees and brokenness.

Father, help us raise these boys to men according to the plans you have for them, not our plans.  Give us courage to let them live adventurous lives, learning how to trust you when they encounter difficulty and danger.  May they learn throughout life how much bigger you are than them and may they learn to seek you with all their heart, soul, mind and strength so that at the end of their lives, they would be known as men who did what was right in the eyes of the LORD.

Questions:

1. What, if anything, do you fear in parenting?

2. How do you encourage penitence, humility and courage?

3. What were you challenged in your parenting this week?

4. How were you encouraged in your parenting this week?

Feel the freedom to answer, one or all of the questions in the comment field.  Be sure to check the “follow-up box.”