teens

All posts tagged teens

Strength When the Struggle is Real

Published January 25, 2018 by Dawn

I sat here last night and wrote two or three sentences over and over, going back and erasing, writing something else. Nothing flowed because I didn’t even know where to start. A regular reader will have noticed a marked decrease in my blogging over the past two months, and I finally have a word that adequately defines why: stunned.

Like a deer hit with a high beam, I’ve felt taken off-guard. Hit hard and fast with an overwhelming barrage of things, and for a while, I didn’t want to talk about any of it because it would have been complaining and I am currently breaking up with self-pity. I didn’t want to go there. I wanted to share from a place of security and wholeness. So, let’s talk.

A little over two months ago, we took in a little boy who needed a safe place to stay for a bit. He’s six, adorable and more of a handful than I wanted to deal with. It was a God-thing, but it didn’t feel good. First lesson: our comfort is not God’s ultimate aim in life. We have to stop worshipping our comfort and refusing to do God’s will because it doesn’t feel good. Let’s just say this wisdom didn’t come immediately, but more of a chastisement. I was wallowing in my own self-pity and self-centered bitterness. Then, the Word said, “Whoever welcomes a little child in my name, welcomes me,” and immediately I was faced with this dilemma: who’s right? Me or God? I was hurting, but not right.

It’s hard to accept, with gratitude, a child who causes angst in your own children and purposefully annoys them to get their attention. A child who pees in the floor when he’s mad or upset. A child who moves like a sloth through his morning when you have to be taxi to three different schools before you head to work. A child who doesn’t do what you ask unless you watch him like a hawk, repeatedly disobeys, and is one more person not picking up after himself in a house full of people you were already frustrated with for the same reason.

This child has good qualities too, but I was so frustrated with the depth of sacrifice, I couldn’t take my eyes off the things that were causing me to choke, to give him any credit. Not only was my attitude unChrist-like, it was downright sickening. And I knew it.

Then, we added a third into what is now known as “the boys’ room,” (another thing grating on my already-hurting son), when I had to take in a short-term exchange student because they are my responsibility while they are here and this teen’s placement didn’t work out. He’s not a problem at all, but there were more sacrifices: Earlier mornings, shorter showers, less laundry days, putting on make-up in bad lighting and not having time to do my hair. Having one more person to pick up and drive all over every day. One more person eating meals and hanging the door open. My electric bill roiled my stomach!

On top of this – or maybe beneath it is how they feel – are my own two precious kids struggling with hormones, an absent father, pressure from school, pressure from teachers, pressure from friends, and needing me to console and love on them while inside, I’m kind of freaking out. When my daughter hit me with an “I miss my dad” at bedtime the other day, and all I could do was cry with her, the magnitude of how powerless I am in my life hit me hard.

Lesson two: hardships bring us closer to God, and that was why Paul gloried in them. I went to my room and prostrated myself on the stained carpet that desperately needs TLC. Inhaling dust and God-knows-what, I cried out to God because I do know that, although things seem out of control, He is absolutely still in control. I felt held.  I felt listened to as I poured out my soul. Then, I felt taught as the Holy Spirit reminded me that God’s aim in our suffering is to teach us obedience, perseverance, and all the strengthening words we need to help others in their suffering. Paul talked about being offered up on the sacrifice and service of other believers’ faith – he was talking about enduring trials so that the faith of others may be built up. His comfort, his desires, were the sacrifice. All so that others might come to really know God and His power at work on their behalf. This is such a beautiful thing.

I was also reminded that when you tell God you are ready to be used, you don’t get to pick the circumstances and it’s foolish to complain because God is answering your heart cry to be used. It just might not look like you want it to look. And it certainly never feels like you hope it will feel. God orchestrates our lives because we are His. While we are looking for miraculous and amazing things, God is in the people and places of ordinary, everyday life. So many of us will miss our moments to be used for His kingdom waiting on a stage and lights. If I refuse to be Jesus to this little boy, or this Chilean student, because they take up time that I could be holed up reading my Bible or writing, I’ve missed a divine appointment that I’ve prayed for simply because it’s not the way I envisioned my service to the Lord working out. But that’s not the will of God; it’s the will of Dawn. I set myself up as an idol.

When I thought I couldn’t possibly do another thing in surrender, God asked something else of me: I was asked to move our teen meetings at church to Sunday mornings so that the larger group of teens that attend on Sunday morning will participate in a service. I was reluctant, but I did it upon the advice and excitement of others and the peace I received in prayer. But as eleven bustling, energetic teens followed me up to our new classroom Sunday morning during the interim between worship sets, I faced my own fear: losing “my time.” Sunday morning is my time of truly pressing in to God. I mean, I have a prayer-life outside of church and my Bible and I are besties, but Sunday mornings fill me to overflowing like no other time of my week. It’s a time of release and abandon and submission. And when I close my eyes during worship, I feel alone with God and it is glorious.

I walked away from “my time” to teach a group of teens that sometimes, I feel, just want to mess around until the bell rings without really digging into the treasures God lays before us each week. Again, self-pity and bitterness sidled up next to me and cooed in my ears in patient understanding of my plight.

When I got home, I went to my room and laid my face on the dingy carpet again and told the Lord how I felt. Again, God comforted me and then reminded me of Jesus, climbing up a mountainside to pray and being followed by a couple thousand people. Or being chased by a boatload of them across the Sea of Galilee when all he wanted to do was mourn over his cousin, John. Jesus, who, of all people needed a break, stealing away for moments with God whenever the opportunity arose, but never insisting that a time be set aside specifically for him to pray. He made time of the moments in between, instead of making a god out his OCDs. Lesson four: It’s important to be filled, but God does not want you to make a god out of your set times to be with Him. He wants you to be available to minister whenever and wherever, and He promises to meet you in the in-between moments to strengthen and encourage you.

If all of this has taught me nothing else, I have learned lesson five, which is that people will drain us quickly. So many need Jesus, but they will come to us first and they will fill up on Christ through me and you. We are the first image of Jesus people see, and they will earnestly desire Him and seek Him out through us and we will pour ourselves out until there’s nothing left in the bottom of the cup. But emptiness is not God’s will in ministry. Fullness is. Springs of living water bubbling up inside of us. David said, “All my fountains are in you” (Psalms 87:7). We have to be with God in stillness and be filled. He is our source of replenishment. We need Him in order to be the hands and feet of Christ. If even Jesus needed him, how much more will we?

I can honestly say that circumstances have become so much easier, having heard these blessed truths. I can now look down into the freckled face of this six-year-old boy and see Jesus and my duty to Him. I can smile at this child without feeling the weight of the burden I thought he was. I can endure a host of students hanging out in my kitchen at eleven at night, eating my lemon meringue and stealing moments with a Chilean teen who will be leaving in a week. I can smile through the murkiness of mothering children who are experiencing inner turmoil. I can smile at God knowing that while I didn’t ask for any of this specifically, I did ask to be used and this is what it looks and feels like. I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me.

 

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Godly Parenting

Published November 13, 2017 by Dawn

My fifteen-year-old daughter is a parent’s dream. Yes, I’m bragging. I’m super proud of her in so many ways, not the least of which is the fact that she is a naturally responsible, obedient young woman. But this week, it happened. She finally found herself up against a rule I set for her many years ago. She is not allowed to date until she is sixteen.

Here’s the short of it: She’s fifteen and has a few crushes. She’s really nervous because she’s afraid that this one guy might ask her out before she’s sixteen and when she tells him she can’t date yet, he’ll move on! In utter turmoil, she came to me and asked me to modify the rules so she doesn’t miss this opportunity, should it arise. She was kind of frantic about it, insisting that I explain to her once again why we even have this rule, in hopes that she might be able to poke holes in my logic (she was born to be a lawyer).

I went through it all:

  • Dating is something you do to find someone to marry. Are you ready for marriage?
  • Do you know if he’s a Christian? Why waste time on something that God will not purpose in your life?
  • In the heat of emotion, it’s easy to make decisions based on feelings instead of obedience to God and even more so for people just starting out in their walk with the Lord.
  • Any good relationship is built on a friendship and you can’t even talk to him like a normal person!

These are just a few of the many things we discussed and even though she argued like a pro, there was no poking holes because I, too, was born to argue.

I got the cold shoulder for two days.

I went to my room early the second night to pray and seek God’s wisdom in the matter, because I felt very strongly that this was a good boundary for my kids, and as such, was not budging in it. In my prayer time, the Lord reminded me that the parent’s role in a child’s life is to mirror the relationship of God’s role in all of our lives. Parents love their children unconditionally, care for them, protect them, guide them, discipline them and all of this prepares kids for that day when they become accountable to God alone.

At some point in a person’s younger years, he or she realizes that rules can either be followed or broken. Before that pivotal moment, if his or her authority figure spoke, it was gospel and followed no matter what. Then, an awakening happens. The natural, rebellious self awakens to the temptation of self-will, and that kiddo will struggle against the obedience that is good in favor of whatever their young heart truly desires. So, in my daughter’s case, as in every person’s case at some point, it was bound to happen. Temptation entered the picture in the form of self-will, clouded with emotion and child-like (shortsighted) reasoning.

The Lord also reminded me of the two aspects of God’s will – the permissive will and the perfect will. God understands rebellion. It’s been breaking his heart for thousands of years. Thankfully, though, he knows how we were formed and remembers that we are just dust (Ps. 103:14). His perfect will is the life he envisioned for us when he lovingly crafted us in the secret place. All the wonderful gifts he planned for our enjoyment, the path he desired us to walk in life. The Eden we ruin with our self-will, more often than not. In that moment, we enter into the permissive will of God, in which he permits us to wallow in the mud we so desire, then works all things in conformity to his will. We make choices despite his wishes and our lives are marred and broken thereafter, but God lovingly picks up all the pieces and makes a new masterpiece, if we will let him.

One thing God never does, though, is move the boundary stones to appease our soulful desires. He has set standards before us and guides us through them if we let him, but when we disobey him, it is with an understanding that we have chosen something lesser to gratify our human nature and exchanged his perfect will for his permissive will. Beg as we might, God has already chosen what is good in his sight and he knows that, while we might not see it for the good that it is right now, if we persist in obedience to him, we will one day understand why he set those boundaries.

I explained all of this to her, knowing that in her heart, she has accepted God as her father. I explained that obedience and disobedience are acts of our will, but that God doesn’t allow us to be tempted beyond what we can bear, but provides a way out from under it so that we won’t fall (1 Cor. 10:13). That if we truly want his perfect will, there’s a cost we will pay and that cost includes instant gratification, ridicule, and losing opportunities that look good to us. But, I also reminded her, that “eyes have not seen, ears have not heard, nor has it entered into the heart of man, the things God has prepared for those who love him and are called according to his purpose” (1 Cor. 2:9). Her father has crafted something precious, a treasure for her, that if she walks in obedience to him, she will experience in this life.

These two things, I firmly believe:

  1. We teach our kids how to obey God by teaching them how to obey us. When we move boundaries in response to their duress over them, we teach our children that they can haggle with God. But God doesn’t work like that. He doesn’t lower standards just because we find them impossible to accept or live with. He strengthens us in our weakness, but he doesn’t change in response to our angst.
  2. Our children will obey God the same way they obey us. Just as our relationship with them is an example of God’s love and devotion to them, their relationship with us is a reflection of their relationship with God. How they obey us is how they will obey him.

It is important for parents to make standards for their children, express them and be unmoving in their authority. It’s very counter-culture but that is what we Christians were called to be anyway. “Come out from among them and be separate” (2 Cor. 6:17). Our homes should not be governed according to the latest Psychology trend, they should be governed by the Word of God. Our kids should know our standards and we, as parents, should be aware that at any given moment, our kids’ self-wills might dictate their decisions. But we don’t have to move boundary stones to appease them, because when we do, we subjugate our authority and our kids suddenly feel they are the rulers of the household. I work in a high school and I hear students laughing at their parents all the time because they have caved to tyranny.

Let your kids know that when they act in disobedience, they do so in defiance. Don’t change the rules just so they play nice. Remember the saying, “Give them an inch and they’ll take a mile”? Your kids will not respect you for caving to their demands. They’ll just be more persistent in future demands.

I took my daughter to the Bible and read her two scriptures in Proverbs. Chapter 22, verse 28, says, “Do not move an ancient boundary stone set up by your ancestors.” Why is this wisdom for parental discipline? Because we make rules based on our understanding of their age, the trouble they might get into, the trouble we got into and our knowledge of their childish tendencies. We also base our rules on the presumed actions and reactions of others. We use wisdom they don’t have yet because people do not become fully rational, reasoning human beings until they are 25, according to modern scientific research. I also read her Proverbs 23:10, which says, “Do not move an ancient boundary stone or encroach on the fields of the fatherless.”  I pointed out that sometimes, our disobedience to the will of God has consequences that encroach on the field of those around us. Consequences are far-reaching, like the ripples after a stone is thrown into a lake. You can’t stop the ripples. They die out on their own and you can never tell how far they might travel across the surface. If we walk in obedience to God, we are comforted knowing that he is working on something so complex that involves everyone around us, without hurting anyone. The pain comes because we disobey and hurt ourselves, and sometimes, people we dearly love.

In concluding, I would like to add one thought: if we are going to discipline our children in such a way as to prepare them for God’s boundaries and discipline, we must also show them love like God does. We must continuously forgive – graciously, and not with gritted teeth. We must discuss our actions and reactions with them – the why – so they will not be disheartened when obedience is a sacrifice. We must pray with and for them. Our kids have to feel secure enough in our love and affection for them, to fail our expectations and still be willing to climb up into our laps for comfort. This is perhaps one of the greatest aspects of God’s love and forbearance and as parents, we must guide them into that confidence. The hand that hurts is also the hand that heals, in our walks with the Lord. Let it also be true in our relationships with our kiddos.

“Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it” (Prov. 22:6).

 

 

The Agony of Our Father

Published October 25, 2017 by Dawn

Can we just not talk about it? I mean, I need to talk to you about something, but I really cannot actually talk about it. It’s still too raw. It still hurts and I don’t want to talk about it. But I need to, as an act of obedience, tell you the deep truth that was dropped into my spirit today. Do we have a deal?

Okay, so here goes: my son … my thirteen-year-old baby, my heart growing up to be a man … this boy that I love so much … he moved out a month ago. He’s been living with his dad. I can’t tell you all the prayers I’ve prayed, or the amount of tears I have cried. The fake smile I’ve plastered on my face to maintain composure around people because life goes on … I can’t tell you about these things just yet because I can’t even bring myself to talk about it with any real depth. The pain in my heart, the ache in my chest, the thoughts in my head. I can’t even.

Today, I got a call from school. They were just checking on him because he wasn’t there. I didn’t even know. I called his dad and found out he was sick.

Without me.

Today was the first day my son has ever been sick without me. He stayed home without me. The first time I didn’t hold him while he suffered. I didn’t even know he was suffering! I got off the phone and broke down in tears.  The Lord, being very gentle with me lately, whispered, “This agony you feel … I feel it all the time. My children choose to suffer without me too.”

Oh, my soul! My heart is breaking! Can this really be the agony God suffers through when His children suffer at a distance? This, guys … this is why Jesus came. Because for thousands of years before Calvary, God watched His children suffer the disastrous effects of sin. The turmoil of living outside of the will of God. The panic, fear, desperation … God watched his children suffer without him until he could bear it no longer. Then he sent Jesus.

But Church, even after Christ, there is still this war. This suffering. Endless agony. Christians living in fear and lost people living in sin. God’s heart, I now know, is breaking for us. How many parents have watched helplessly while their children have made bad choices and suffered drastic consequences? You know, then, the pain of a Father who loves his children. You know the feeling of desperation on their behalf. Can our Heavenly Father feel any less for his children?

If this is you … if you are suffering at a distance because you feel unworthy, I just want you to know one thing: God does not love you because of your worthiness. He loves you because he chose to as he lovingly knit you together in the secret place. He hasn’t changed his mind about you. You may have made choices against his will, and you might be suffering consequences, but you are no less loved than you have ever been because God is unchanging. If you feel the Holy Spirit leading you with this truth, I implore you to surrender and be led into the arms of God. He longs for you. His heart is yearning for your nearness just as much as you are yearning for his. Run to Him. He loves you.

Trusting God on a Fearsome Wave

Published September 27, 2017 by Dawn

I gently laid my phone down on the counter after a major act of obedience and thought to myself, “Well … that was weird.”

I had just sent a text to my ex – the man who had, until recently, been on the far periphery of our lives while I raise two kids solo – telling him I was praying for him. I also thanked him for “stepping up.” Do bitter moms even do that, like, ever?

It was a response to prayer. I had just had a major freak-out session with God about my son because – let’s just say he hasn’t made the wisest choices this week. I immediately reacted (or overreacted), and my son decided he wanted to go to his dad’s for the week.

My son.

This man … he’s struggled to be reliable in the past and I don’t necessarily approve of his decisions and the person he has chosen to become. I certainly have not envisioned the path he took in life as the path I want my kids to walk. I have prayed very fervently over the years that God would send someone to help me in raising these kids because I have never wanted to do this alone. I’m fifteen years in and I have only remained single as an act of obedience. It was not my will. I have crumbled many times over the years. My prayers have run the gamut:

God, please. Send someone to help me in raising these kids. I can’t do this alone.

Lord, if it’s your will for me to remain single, be my Husband. Help me. They are your children and you care about them. Do your thing.

Husband, I need your help in raising these kids.

When their dad decided very recently to begin to pull his life together and step up, my prayer changed. I became insolent and bitter. God, I asked you to send me someone. I’ve been begging for years. I have allowed you to do your thing in my life and when you finally send someone it’s him. You have nothing better than this?

I’m a little embarrassed at my attitude but there’s no point in denying it. The truth sets us free, right? I began to pray for his salvation, and that God would separate him from things that are no good for him. I prayed he would hear God and respond to him. I also prayed fervently that he would move as far away as possible so my kids wouldn’t wander into foreign lifestyles that he might introduce them to.

After a disturbing day yesterday, when my son left to go to his dad’s house, I broke down. I kind of threw a panicked fit. None of this was in my plans. I had just spoken to a few people this past weekend about Job and how Satan was really aiming at God’s goodness. He wanted Job to denounce God and admit God wasn’t good. I quoted the scripture, “Shall we accept good from God and not bad also?” And another, “His ways are higher.” These verses nagged at me while I questioned God.

I am so glad God is patient with us. He listened without speaking for a long time and when I was finally done ranting, I heard Him speak in my spirit: What if, through this need, I can work in both of them? Is it impossible that I can call him up higher by presenting a need you can’t meet? Isn’t his salvation and deliverance what you are praying for? Do you trust me?

Let’s just say I hesitated. Then I acquiesce. Hadn’t God delivered me through my children? I prayed a new prayer then. Please be with him and teach him. Give him wisdom. He might not know how to handle this but you do. Open his ears and his heart to hear and obey you, Lord. I leave my son in your hands.

Proverbs tells us that “as a man thinks in his heart, so he is” (Proverbs 23:7). I can’t keep holding the old man over my ex’s head and expecting him to become someone new. I also know that if this man is the man God intends to raise my son, while also redeeming him, who am I to question? Who am I to remain bitter? I have to stand in God’s decision and be a help and not a hindrance. I can’t let my pride, or any roots of bitterness, endanger the man my son will become. I have to allow God to use this man I had previously had no respect for – I have to respect him as the instrument God intends to use to make my boy a man. I have to pray for him. I have to encourage him. I have to forgive him and allow him to step up. I don’t have to trust this man; I only need to trust God. So I sent the text. I reflected on how strange it felt, but let it be. I freaked out again today, because I am still struggling with memories that haunt me. I have plans for my son. But so does God, and he has two sons to train here. In my son’s life, his dad will become the greater influence while I become the lesser.

God can do anything, friend. Don’t we say that all the time? We sing the songs, we quote the scriptures, but at some point, we have to walk the talk and only then will we know whether or not we really believe God is who He says He is, and is capable of all He claims to be capable of. In what ways is God stretching your faith? Let Him. Don’t argue or fight it. Just let Him.

“Praise be to the God and Father of our LORD Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith-of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire-may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls” (1 Peter 1:3-9).

 

 

You Might Be a Bad Mom If …

Published June 16, 2017 by Dawn

I’m probably not a very good mom. Yesterday, my son reflected on himself while getting ready for bed and said to me, “I should probably stop lying. You would probably like me more.”

What was I to say to that? The truth is, his lying is a HUGE deal to me.

  • Number one: lies are bondage. If “you shall know the truth and the truth will set you free (John 8:32)” then what good is a lie? It’s no good! How can you put people you love in bondage and for what purpose?
  • Number two: lies show a lack of respect and love. How can you love someone and lie to them at the same time? And when you lie to someone, you are basically saying, “I don’t care enough about you to be honest.” Or, you are saying, “I don’t think you are smart enough to figure out the truth, so…” I hate both of those things.
  • Number three: What would Jesus do? Well, he wouldn’t tell a lie …

I could go on. I hate lies. I’ve lived my life being lied to and deceived by people I loved and trusted, and I hate the brokenness and suspicion that resulted. So when my son said this to me, I did what came natural … being a good mom wasn’t it. A good mom might have started with, “Oh son … I love you no matter what, but –“

Instead, I said, “Son, that’s legit.”

I kid you not. The truth just popped off my tongue and hit my son right between the eyes. He looked at me incredulously and did a nervous chuckle. I then defied motherhood a second time and I swallowed every instinct to immediately apologize for it. Here’s the truth: the way he lies – the ease and surety that makes me uneasy because I’m afraid he believes himself – it does kinda hamper my affections. You know how it is, moms. You know you love your kids but sometimes, you don’t like  them. We all feel this way at some point, right?! So it was truth and I delivered it unapologetically.

He just shook his head, chuckling, and said, “Mom, I can’t believe you said that!”

I sat down on the edge of his bed and said, “Son, your lying really needs to stop.”

I’ve been thinking about this all day, praying about it, because naturally, I’m always nervous about how badly I’m screwing my kids up. I wasn’t looking to justify myself, just exploring my own lack of good parental etiquette. Instead of finding myself coming  up short, I recognized a little of my own Father in it. You see, God hits us with hard truths sometimes. He allows things to dawn on us and when we begin to sense the Holy Spirit directing change in our lives, God guides us to that change with a healthy dose of truth that He doesn’t apologize for. He doesn’t even cushion the impact. If the truth is going to set us free, it has to first illuminate the bondage and break it. Being broken is hard, but freedom … who can deny it’s preciousness? It turns out God doesn’t always function within the guidelines of “etiquette” as we understand it either. He is loving, but often blunt as well. The Lord chastises those He loves (Heb. 12:6). We live in a time where this sounds counter-intuitive, but it’s scriptural. God doesn’t always protect our feelings. He’s busy protecting our spirits and our eternities.

I think it’s important to remember that God still loves us in these moments. I love and adore my son to death. But his lying … I don’t love that at all. I could live without it and I know that this bad character trait will make his life a lot harder than life already is. I love my son so much. I don’t want to see him intensifying his own struggles by something the Holy Spirit can deal with. I want him to embrace this as an eye-opening opportunity to make a change for the better. God wants the same for His children. And the Bible calls Him a good, good Father. I guess I’m not so bad after all!

What Kind of a Mother am I?

Published May 2, 2017 by Dawn

When my kids were little, they had such beautiful faith. Every ache, fever, whatever … they would come to me and plead, “Mom, can you pray over me?” They just knew that if we prayed, they would be healed. God was so gracious too. Most of the time – without medication – a simple prayer later, my kids were back to their normal selves. It really bolstered their faith, and they began to rely on my praying over them more and more.

There were times, of course, when praying wasn’t my number one priority. As sad as it is to admit, when my kids would come to me in the middle of the night and wake me out of a dead sleep with really bad knee pains or headaches, I remember pulling him or her into bed with me and cuddling a crying child, trying to schmooze him or her back to sleep. “Pray with me, Mom, please!” The pleading would fall on deaf ears. The humiliating truth is I just wanted to sleep. I was mostly exhausted from working 40 hours a week and going to school, and semi-taking care of a house/yard/two kids. My excuse, however seemingly valid at the time, kept me from performing my kids’ saving grace. They knew if I’d just pray, they would feel brand new. I thought that feeling was the result of sleep, so I slept on.

I was sitting on the couch this evening with my son laid across the couch beside me, his head in my lap. I was thinking about prayer and how powerful it is. How devastatingly underutilized it is … when this truth hit me: it’s all my fault.

Don’t try to console me. I need this truth. You see, it is my fault and I needed to hear this. I am not afraid of the truth. I like freedom. I like growing. The truth is vital to both. I said to myself, “This is all my fault. The depression my kids are battling. The ways Satan has manipulated my family. The way he’s winning most of the time. I just wanted to rest, but look at what’s happened! Instead of pressing in in prayer, I checked out in exhaustion and suddenly the battle is out of control!

“Pray with me, Mom.”

I’m broken. It’s all my fault. I shouldn’t have allowed this slumber to get the best of me. I shouldn’t have encouraged my kids to sleep too, when prayer has become such a necessity. What kind of a mother am I to leave my kids suffering in pain while I struggle to maintain my grasp on ease and comfort and rest? How can I, with the keys to the kingdom in my hands, leave things unlocked in my own home? How can I, having been given all power and authority, allow Satan to run rampant in our lives? What kind of a mother am I?

Don’t try to console me. I need this guilt and shame. I needed God look me square in the eye and speak this truth, and let me grapple with it because tonight, things changed. My son heard me weeping and awoke out of his slumber. “What’s wrong, Mom?

“I’m so sorry. I love you so much and I’m sorry for leaving you in your pain and not praying over you.” Then we cried and prayed together, like I should have done a long time ago. I should have awakened and prayed a long time ago.

I hesitated to write this because it’s painful and raw … and really embarrassing. But I wanted to share it because I wanted to encourage you: whatever it is, pray. Wake up and pray. Stop allowing Satan to lull you into complacency. That’s how he keeps us ineffectual. That’s how he keeps winning in our lives. Prayer is so powerful and he knows it. But so do you. “The effectual, fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.”

Don’t say to me, “But I’m not righteous.” There’s a prayer for that too! Get right before God, then get down to the nitty-gritty and take care of business in your life, and the lives of those you love. Sometimes, we can do nothing more than pray. Thankfully, prayer is the best way to make a difference. What kind of a mother am I? A praying one – enemy beware!

Beyond My Strength to Endure

Published April 4, 2017 by Dawn

This past weekend was EXHAUSTING. It was really good, but really exhausting. So exhausting that this blog took me four hours to write because I took a nap in the middle of writing it.

I took the youth group on a weekend glamping trip to a nearby theme park (and by nearby, I mean a four-hour drive … and we camped near the park … in cabins). We left on Friday and came back on Sunday. It was hands down the best extended trip I have ever taken a group on and I would do it again in a heartbeat. But it was long and took a lot out of me. Travel back with me to when it all started and see if you don’t come out exhausted too:

I woke up Friday and took the kids to school. Came home and went on a three-mile run before getting ready to go because I knew I’d not have a chance to run all weekend. Showered afterward and then left to drive 40 minutes north to pick up the rental van. Brought it home, packed our things into it, went shopping for weekend supplies (that took an hour of fast-paced aisle hopping), and then headed to grab the kids from school and meet the rest of the teens at church.

Our adventure began with a four-hour drive, complete with a concert at the top of our lungs and other shenanigans. We arrived at the campground, unpacked the van and while they all went off in every direction to “hang,” I sat down for a few minutes to unwind … I get uptight after extended periods of nonstop action.

An hour or so later, I started the campfire for dinner. We roasted hotdogs. I kept up with the trash and micromanaged a bunch because I didn’t want the messes to get out of hand. It happens quick with kids. Dinner done, they headed up to the gameroom for some evening fun while I enjoyed the peace and quiet of the fire. I know you think I should have been well-rested and not exhausted, and truth be told, I was at this point. Friday, after all the early hassles, turned out really awesome. I had a lot of down time. But then we stayed up until eleven, and I had to share a bed with my daughter and niece. I don’t share a bed with anyone, so this part was really hard. They were laughing, bouncing around on the bed, refusing to go to sleep … I was tired and there was way too much noise for me to sleep. I finally fell asleep at midnight and got a total of five hours of sleep before I was up for Saturday. Saturday, we left the campground at 8:00, so we had to wake the teens up at seven and have them breakfasted and on the van ready to go by seven thirty. We arrived at the park, waited a bunch and while they all rode rides all day, I ambled around the park talking to a friend who went with us. She wanted to ride a few rides, so I sat for an hour or so in a chapel there and read a hymnal until it was time to leave.

We went to dinner, played games for a few hours back at camp and then headed to bed. I finally fell asleep around 1:00 a.m. and managed to stay blissfully unaware until 7:00 a.m. If you are adding up sleep hours, that’s eleven in two nights. We went back to the park for a few hours before heading home, and then four more hours crammed into the van got us home. At this point, I was sooooooo done. But I really wasn’t done. I still had to wait for parents to pick their kids up (waited an hour for one), then I had to drive the van back, which took another hour and a half. When I finally made it home, I had to turn around and leave again because it was my son’s birthday and we hadn’t properly celebrated (or eaten), so we headed out to his favorite restaurant.

Back up just a little and I will let you into my head: On the bus on the way home, as the second Top-O’-The-Lungs Concert was happening right behind the driver’s seat, I started thinking about that drive to take the van back. I wanted to be home so bad, relaxing before bed, knowing I had to go to work today. That drive to take the van back was taunting me. I didn’t want to do it! I nearly cried for most of the drive home because I just wanted to be done. I wanted to go home at the same time as everyone else. I wanted to sleep!

I started praying for strength to endure. The same prayer I pray while I’m running. “Help me to make it to the end. Your word says you are strong in my weakness. Be strong in me!”

This truth became painfully obvious while I finished the long evening ahead of me: God’s calling has nothing to do with convenience. He’s not always concerned about us. When we submit to being His vessel, He uses us faithfully, but His ultimate concern is the ministry of the Holy Spirit in the lives of others. The “job” isn’t always over when we like for it to be. It may require more of us than we would give on our own. It may require all of us. It may not be easy and God doesn’t necessarily apologize for that. Our comfort is not His main concern. Paul recounts this same truth in 2 Corinthians 11:27: “I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. God’s calling in Paul’s life had one aim and that was to use Paul to the fullest for God’s glory.

God’s aim in and through us is the same. We cannot allow our needs and our desires to dictate our usefulness to God. We cannot allow our comfort to keep us in a place where God can’t use us fully. If He is going to have His way through us, we have to be willing to be used beyond our feelings. Beyond our fleshly abilities to endure. We have to allow ourselves to be weak and still persevere through what God wants to do, being made strong by His Holy Spirit. The finish line isn’t dictated by our feelings. It is dictated by the Father, and He has promised to sustain us.