Do you ever make plans only to see them blown to smithereens before your very eyes? Of course you have; everyone has unless you’re Jesus, which you’re not because you can’t walk on water, raise the dead and aren’t preparing for you own crucifixion. Best laid plans have a tendency to go up in smoke faster than a book of matches in the hands of a curious five-year-old boy.
Case in point: For a long time, Karen and I have wanted to put our house, which has been our home for 39 years, up for sale. Oh, we tried selling our home twice before, but it garnered as much interest as a leper selling hour-long massages for $5.00. You see, we live in a flood plain. The Stillaguamish River slithers through our neighborhood like a thirsty snake. When el Nino decides to visit the Pacific Ocean, his jet stream carries a warm, atmospheric river of rain from Hawaii toward Washington. The Stillaguamish gorges herself on all the melting snow until her sides burst open and flood the land with the contents of her swollen belly.
So over the years whenever we tried to sell our home, potential buyers would look at the snake coiled around three sides of our neighborhood and say, “Thanks but no thanks.”
Twice, plans to sell our home were dampened by the specter of a snake with a leaky belly. The list of reasons Karen and I wanted to move grew longer with each passing winter. At first, Karen and I were mostly concerned about what would happen if the “Big One” shook our vulnerable house built on sand. As we both have gone through physical affliction the past few years, we realize how much more difficult it’s going to get to take care of our home and continually walk up and down the two-flights of stairs.
Then this past year many of our friends are beginning to retire. Over the years, I cashed in two 401 K’s to pay for medical and dental expenses and to pay the bills during three separate job loses. Retirement for me was not going to happen any time soon.
Then our son-in-law Jason, half-jokingly suggested we move to Florida. He pastors a church in a town called Leesburg, about 40 miles north of Orlando…home of the happiest place on earth. He said the cost of living was much less than that of Washington, especially the housing.
So on a whim, Karen and I began to look on the internet for retirement communities in and around Leesburg. Our jaws dropped when we saw beautiful 1,500 square foot homes selling for $110 to $140,000. The 55 and over communities looked like vacation resorts sporting swimming pools, golf courses, tennis courts and too many other amenities to mention here.
Wow!!!! There were more retirement communities in Florida than Starbucks stores in Seattle.
What began as a fun way to pass time soon became a spark igniting a flame of passion for the idea of moving to Florida. The passion grew every time we bundled up to take our Golden Retriever Molly for a walk in rain and 40 degree weather. But just as the dreary gloom of a winter in Washington can drain the life out of many, the thought of leaving our family, friends and the only town we’ve ever known would dampen our enthusiasm. It was especially hard to think about leaving my aging mother and our Daughter Jaymi, her husband Matt and their three kids who we are very close to.
Like a roller coaster, our emotions took us on a wild ride. I’ve heard it said that the hardest part about making a decision is indecision. Finally, Karen prayed that if we would put our house up for sale, we would know it was God’s will if it would sell in a week. From past experience, I figured it would take a miracle for her prayer to be answered. We called a real estate agent, put our home up for sale one morning and had six showings that day and had four offers the next morning.
Thank you God for your patience. We sold our home for $270,000…$101,000 more than what we previously had asked for it twice before. God knew to hold off the sale until the housing market was red hot in Western Washington.
I am writing this blog from a hotel room in Tallahassee, Florida. Karen and I are on our last pit stop before arriving in Leesburg, Florida tomorrow afternoon where we will be greeted by our oldest Daughter Katie, her husband Jason and their 5 children. It will be a bittersweet reunion because while we now will be able to enjoy the company of this family, we know the sadness of leaving other family members behind.
The journey leading up to today is worthy of a blog post all unto itself which I will write at a later time. Until then remember this: If God seems to be throwing a monkey wrench into some of your best laid out plans don’t get frustrated…He may just be saving you from a $100,000 mistake.
Elvis Presley performed in his last concert in June and died in his home in Memphis, two months later.
Jimmy Carter was inaugurated as the 39th President.
Fleetwood Mac released their Rumours album.
Led Zeppelin played in their last USA concert.
Rocky won an Oscar for best picture.
Karen Lund and Terry Carlson got married.
Many more things happened over the next 40 years:
In 1980, not only did Mt. Saint Helens erupt but my beautiful bride also erupted, giving birth to our first child…Katie Lee.
Dianna wasn’t the only princess to capture the hearts of millions around the world when she married Prince Charles in 1981. Jaymi Marie was born capturing the hearts of both her parents.
In 1982 the Epcot theme park opens in Disney World and Karen and I open our heart to receive Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior.
M*A*S*H* the T.V. series ends in 1983 after 11 seasons and 251 episodes. Karen is instrumental in bringing the MOPS (Mothers Of Preschoolers) program to Camano Chapel which has successfully lasted for 34 years & counting. MOPS has encouraged and inspired tens of thousands of mothers around the world with Godly insight.
In 1984, Michael Jackson moonwalked for the first time at the MTV music awards. That was nothing compared to the entrance our son, Michael Keith, made as he burst onto the scene in September of that year.
March 18, 1990 – The largest art theft in U.S. history occurs in Boston, Massachusetts, when two thieves posing as policemen abscond twelve paintings worth an estimated $100-200 million from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. In November of 1990 a hundred-year flood swallowed up our home. We didn’t return to our home until December of 1991. Our kids thought it was a big adventure and still, to this day, remember that year as having the best memories of their childhood.
Bill Clinton became President in 1992 and Karen became very sick. After many tests, a dentist discovers she has mercury poisoning. She has to quit her ministry with MOPS and begins a long and painful journey down the road of dental procedures and chronic pain.
Between 1989 and 2002, Nintendo begins selling the Gameboy, U.S. retail giant Montgomery Ward announces it is going out of business after 128 years and Charles M. Schultz, the creator of the Peanuts comic strip passed away. Also during that time, Karen and I coach and attend many basketball, baseball, volleyball, tennis games and matches and school plays; participate in and plan many field trips, birthday parties, sleep-overs and Camano Chapel youth group functions. We cry as we watch Katie, Jaymi and Michael graduate from High School and begin college.
Between 2002 and 2017, the final episode of Friends appears on NBC, BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill Disaster in the gulf of Mexico leaves gulf beaches / fishing and the shellfish industry reeling, and Donald Trump becomes the 45th President of the United States. Also, Katie, Jaymi and Michael marry Jason, Matt and Signe. Our grandkids: Logan, Caleb, Jacob, Maya, Jonathan, Brooklyn, Joshua, Esther, Hannah and Daniel are born. Karen and I both publish two books and today Karen and I celebrate our 40th wedding anniversary.
Thank you Karen for 40 wonderful years of marriage. Your the best!
This past Sunday in church, our four-year old granddaughter, Brooklyn, walked in with her family wearing leopard print eye-glasses. They were adorable on her but I didn’t know she was needing to wear glasses. She proudly walked down the row of seats to where Karen and I were sitting and said, “Papa! I now have glasses just like you!” Throughout the worship time I couldn’t take my eyes off her. She looked so darn cute in them.
Between songs Jaymi, Brooklyn’s mommy, leaned over to me and whispered in my ear. “Dad, those aren’t real glasses. This morning, Brooklyn told me she wanted to wear her pretend glasses to church. I asked her why, and she said they were her singing glasses.”
I wish I had singing glasses that really work. I don’t have confidence in my singing. While trying to make a joyful noise during worship, I’m afraid others around me will mistake it for an awful noise. My mother was sitting next to me in church and after the service complimented me on my singing. But isn’t that what mother’s are supposed to do? Aren’t they notorious for giving undeserved praise to their children?
Anyway, I know God didn’t bless me with an awesome singing voice. Maybe I’ll get new vocal cords when I get to Heaven. But until then, I’ll continue to sing the best I can and know God doesn’t mind. To Him, I sound like Frank Sinatra.
God has blessed each of us though with certain gifts and abilities. God gave me the gift of creativity. I love to write, take pictures, draw and create. I’ve even learned how to take these talents and use them to glorify God by helping others with my gifts.
Karen and I developed our ministry, Desire To Inspire, with 1 Peter 4:10 in mind.
“God has given each of you some special abilities; be sure to use them to help each other, passing on to others God’s many kinds of blessings.”
Our goal is to encourage people to use their God given gifts to glorify God. We are not focusing on the spiritual gifts of speaking in tongues or Prophecy. We want to focus on God given talents, such as hospitality, empathy, teaching, serving, giving, encouraging and so on. In Matthew 25, Jesus gives the parable of the talents. The talents Jesus uses as an example in this parable not only represents a denomination of currency but also the opportunity each servant had in using his God given talents to help his Master. Two servants used the resourcefulness God had blessed them with, the 3rd did not.
Are you using your God given gifts to help others or do you have undeveloped talents and abilities just waiting for you to tap into? Just like the three servants in the parable, God wants us to use our gifts and not bury them. God can even use us when we don’t have confidence in our abilities. Remember, Moses told God that he couldn’t speak well enough to confront Pharaoh and lead the Israelites out of Egypt. God used a few fishermen, a tax collector, a doctor, a cupbearer, sheep herders, and others not educated in journalism or creative writing to author the sixty-six books of the Bible.
While borrowing Brooklyn’s “singing glasses” unfortunately won’t help me sing any better, seeing the world through God’s eyes will bring into sharp focus the need to use our special talents so we can be the image bearers of Jesus.
Have you ever bitten off more than you can chew? I mean that literally. From my years of dental procedures, I’m learning the importance of an aligned bite. If the bite isn’t right, you are in pain. The jaw bone is connected to the neck bone. If the joints in the jaw aren’t happy, the neck isn’t happy. If the neck isn’t happy, the brain isn’t happy. When the brain isn’t happy you have major depressive disorder. When you have major depressive disorder, you struggle to push through every day. You wish you could get away from the pain and you try to not focus on yourself, but chronic pain is relentless, day in and day out. Everything is an effort. Comfort food is no longer a comfort.
When people ask how I’m doing, what should I say? The polite but dishonest answer is, “Fine!” Am I truthful and go into how badly I feel? I guess it depends on who is asking the question.
Terry and I played The Game of Life with the grandkids one night. Our grandson, Logan, chose to take the shorter route to begin the game and soon discovered that he should have taken the longer route to get his career. His sister, Maya, took the long route and was rewarded with a higher income than Logan. He wanted a do over. He made us laugh and we gave him a do over.
I want a do over with my mouth. I would have brushed my teeth three times a day and ate a lot less sugar. Dental floss would have been my best friend. This may have helped some, but inherently and genetically, bad teeth run in my family.
When Terry was a little boy, he wanted to be a dentist when he grew up. I think God was trying to warn and prepare him for being married to me. He should have listened. I told him, he should have looked in my mouth and checked out my teeth before deciding to marry me. His answer was very sweet! He said, “You never look a gift horse in the mouth. And you are a gift from God to me.”
I think if we are honest, we would all like a do over in one area or another in our lives. We live in a broken world with frail human bodies that aren’t as perfect as we want them to be. I think we all have an ideal picture of what our lives should be like…then real life happens.
For years I carried false guilt around I wasn’t meant to carry. I used to believe God was mad at me for being undisciplined so He punished me with pain. Oh I tried so hard to be disciplined enough to win back His favor so I could become healthy once more. Even though discipline can be a good thing, it didn’t change my heart. I continued to judge myself under my standard of thinking, believing they were God’s standards.
As a child, I perceived being weak as a bad thing. I believed I had to be strong emotionally and physically to be loved. I compared myself to others (it came as natural as breathing) and I always came up less than. I played it well and appeared to lead a disciplined life. On the outside everyone thought I was a good girl — but internally, I was as rebellious as they come. I threw away the lock and key on the inside of my heart. I couldn’t escape the shame and ugliness I felt, believing no one could understand, connect with, or love me if they really knew what was inside. Over the course of many years, I discovered I could never be disciplined enough or do enough to win God’s favor.
For now, physical pain is my constant companion but false guilt doesn’t need to be. Pain and suffering is a direct result of our fallen world. I can’t control that. False guilt is Satan’s way of distracting me from being all I can be in Christ. I can control that by understanding and applying what God tells me through his Word.
GOD SAYS TO US…
“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. for our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4: 16-18
“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God–not by works, so that no one can boast.” Ephesians 2: 8-9
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come.” 2 Corinthians 5: 17
“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.” Romans 8:1
Today our four year old granddaughter, Brooklyn, was over and we were coloring with markers. She has been introduced to the alphabet by her older sister, Maya, and asked me to write the letter M. I wrote MOM, turned it upside down, and showed her it said WOW. Brooklyn was impressed. Whatever season of life of motherhood you may be in, may you feel WOW–CELEBRATED and LOVED!!!
I didn’t appreciate my mom until I grew up and became one myself. One Mother’s Day, when I was a child, I asked my mom, “Why is there a Mother’s Day and there isn’t a children’s day to celebrate me”? I didn’t like her response then, but it makes me smile today…she said “Everyday is children’s day”.
WOW–what a privilege and responsibility it is to be a MOM. God has entrusted and gifted you in such a way to love, nurture, and raise the children He has blessed you with. Is being a mom easy? Absolutely not. Becoming a mom is a life changer…On the job training, requires multi tasking of various responsibilities which include managing a household, organizing a budget and show casing your culinary expertise (or lack there of).
Whatever season of life and MOM-hood you are in, take time to enjoy! Being a mother is more like a marathon than a sprint! I hope you realize how much God loves you this Mother’s Day. If you are a mother of a preschooler and feel like you are in this season alone, get connected with a MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) Group. http://www.mops.org/
WOW MOM!!! To each of you Mom’s out there, Happy Mother’s Day or Happy “WOW MOM Day”!
After, I wrote this blog, I found this video clip which hopefully will encourage you and cheer you on.
Have you ever thought about the word “Hope”? I decided to look it up and get the dictionary’s meaning of Hope. Hope is a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen. A feeling of trust. Also as a verb it means to want something to happen. We all need hope.
What are you hoping for? For me, I’m hoping winter will soon be behind us and for a sunny spring to arrive “tonow” (My granddaughter Esther’s favorite saying when she wants something today, not tomorrow). I am also hoping to have my chronic pain subside after my dental implants heal and I eventually will be able to chew with no pain.
We all have things we actively or passively hope for. Some things are more important than others. Hopeful for things to come; some things are short lived and temporal and truly aren’t too significant in the light of eternity.
Regardless of our circumstances now on earth, the Bible tells us where we can find eternal, CERTAIN HOPE. Hope based on eternity, not on things of this world. This world is temporal. 1 John 2:17 “The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.”
The Bible is clear in whom our hope needs to be placed. Through faith in Jesus Christ, God’s one and only Son. He is our Hope, not only on this earth but our hope, OUR CERTAIN HOPE, for eternity.
Our sweet two year old granddaughter, Esther, coined a new word. It’s now part of my vocabulary. When she doesn’t want to wait for something, she will say ToNow. She doesn’t want to wait for ToNight or ToMorrow, she wants it ToNow!! Her innocent childlikeness makes me smile. I can so relate. If we are honest, don’t we want everything ToNow?
Technology is such that ToNow is becoming more expected in this world we live in. With voice command on Echo you can tell Alexa what song to play and how loud to play it. Drones can deliver meals or packages to our doorsteps. Robots are beginning to take the place of baristas, making our expressos and lattes faster than ever before.
Waiting is a part of life but can feel like a waste of time. We wait in grocery lines, post office lines, stop lights, lines for our expressos and lattes. Without a Disneyland fast pass, you may wait an hour or two to go on a ride that lasts a few minutes.
Some waiting is exciting and hopeful: anticipating a baby or a grandchild to be born, a vacation you’ve been planning, to get together with family you love, or waiting for winter to be over and spring to arrive.
Waiting can be stressful and not always pleasant. Like lingering in a waiting room at a doctor’s office, a surgery waiting room, or waiting for another procedure in the dreaded dental chair.
Some situations you are waiting in may be life altering: Awaiting results from a pregnancy test, a loved ones cancer diagnosis or a job interview.
I used to hate to wait! Like Esther, I’m a ToNow kind of girl. God is teaching me to be more patient. I’m learning to listen to His Spirit while waiting. I’m learning to be present in that moment, not wishing or waiting for it to be over. I am learning to rest in God’s waiting room.
Are you praying about something that you want God’s answer ToNow? Be confident, God loves you. He is sovereign and knows the reason for making you wait to answer your prayer. What will you do while waiting? Look to Jesus and be encouraged. Psalm 27:14 “Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.”
Lamentations 3:22 “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness, I say to myself, ‘The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for Him’.”
James 5:7 “Be patient, then brothers, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop and how patient he is for the autumn and spring rains. You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near.”
Please feel free to sing along to my version of “Oh Christmas Tree”
Oh Christmas time, oh Christmas time, how lovely through the years
Oh Christmas time, oh Christmas time, why then all the tears
Each year expectations are so high, when they go unmet we often cry
Oh Christmas time, oh Christmas time, the card is maxed I fear
Oh New Years time, oh New Years time, we promise to start anew
Oh New Years time, oh New Years time, but our plans do go askew
Our expectations are so high, but the bathroom scale does not lie
Oh New Years time, oh New Years time, I think I’ll hide the mirrors
Each year we feel the need to vent, about our winters of discontent
Oh Christmas time, oh Christmas time I’ll give you my two-cents
Oh how we set ourselves up for discontentment with our high expectations.
After Thanksgiving I love listening to Christmas songs on the radio. Mostly because of how they make me feel. Because it rarely snows on Christmas in the Pacific Northwest, listening to people sing about a winter wonderland, talking snowmen, overachieving reindeer and a partridge in a pear tree (things I would never think about any other time of year) causes a wave of nostalgia to wash over me.
Just this past fall, I was already looking forward to Christmas. My son Michael, his wife Signe, and their two small children were coming home for Christmas (Christmas day evening to be exact). They live in Chandler, Arizona and make it home for Christmas every other year. Also coming home from Florida, the Wednesday after Christmas, was my oldest daughter Katie and her youngest out of five children.
Needless to say, both Karen and I were very excited to have all our children and six out of 10 grandchildren home for the holidays. Four or five years had passed since the last time our three children were under one roof together celebrating Christmas. It would be a time stay up late reminiscing about Christmas’s past.
But then came the winter of my contentment. One by one, a series of trials and afflictions met me head on. It all started on September 25th with me having a mini-stroke, losing my job for a year because of my stroke, having two heart surgeries and a third surgery resulting from an accidental puncturing of an artery which led to a hematoma in my right hand and forearm. (For the whole story of this Job-like experience, see my last article) http://desiretoinspire.life/dear-job-we-have-a-few-things-in-common-suffering/
So for the first four days Michael and his family are home, I’m sleeping twelve to sixteen hours a day. When I was awake I felt ten seconds behind every conversation with all the pain pills I was taking. Because my arm was sliced open like a carved turkey, I couldn’t pick up and hold two-year-old Esther. That broke my heart. Michael did put 3 month old Daniel on my lap. I didn’t hold him for long though. He not only is a cute, butterball of love but he’s built like a Butterball turkey and I was scared to death I’d drop him.
Karen and Michael would take Esther for walks to look at the neighborhood cow and horse while I slept on the couch. While the rest of the family had the kind of in-depth conversations I enjoy, I would fall asleep on the couch. I love to take pictures but I couldn’t hold onto the camera.
I was beginning to feel depressed even though the thing I wanted most this holiday (my three children all home together for Christmas) had come true.
Our family loves to play games. I was not about to miss out on that time together. One night five of us were playing Settlers of Catan…a game where you need to think and communicate well. I’m a pretty competitive guy and my daughter Jaymi is the undisputed champion of this game. I started fast and thought for sure, despite having a distinct disadvantage of being under the influence of a drug induced coma, I was going to win. But in the end I messed up by making a few mistakes with strategy and not only didn’t win but came in tied for last.
I blamed the loss on being high on drugs and told my son-in-law Matt that the winner had to put the game away. I walked into the living room, sunk into my couch and sulked. My Christmas wasn’t supposed to go down this way. I desired to squeeze out and drink up every ounce of family time I could. Instead the drugs and fatigue were draining every ounce of energy I had.
I felt cheated. The best conversation I had with Michael came on the eighty-minute drive back to Sea-Tac airport. My head was finally clear. I had quit taking the pain pills the day before, not because I didn’t need them, but because I was so constipated. If anyone poked my belly button I would explode.
After saying good-by to Michael and his family, Karen got behind the wheel for the long drive home. As we pulled away from the airport, I began to cry; partly from the pangs of constipation but mostly because of unmet expectations. Karen said that Michael understood my situation and reminded me that we still had Katie and our granddaughter Hannah home for another few days. I still had time to enjoy them while they were home.
Why do we do this to ourselves? Don’t feel too bad though. Even the wisest and maybe wealthiest man to have ever lived struggled with feelings of discontentment.
Solomon was King David’s son from Bathsheba. When he became king of the nation of Israel, God found favor with Solomon because of the king’s love for him. God told Solomon, “…Ask for whatever you want me to give to you.” 1 Kings 3:5
Solomon humbly asked for, “…a discerning heart to govern your (God’s) people and to distinguish between right and wrong.” 1 Kings 3:9
God was so pleased with Solomon’s request that he gave him the things (wealth and a long life) he did not ask for along with wisdom. Solomon’s life was filled with many great accomplishments:
“It was during his reign that the kingdom gained its highest splendor. Solomon was renowned throughout the ancient world of his time for his wisdom, his wealth and his extensive political and commercial alliances with the nations in the region. It was he who built the First Temple of Jerusalem, thus establishing the city not only as the political capital of the kingdom but also as the religious center of the People of Israel.” Excerpt taken from http://www.kingsolomonlegend.com/King-Solomon-Great-Construction-Achievements.html
“The royal palace of Solomon took twice as long to build as the Temple, and was much more complicated. In fact, it was a whole complex of buildings, with many different functions. According to the Bible, our only source of information, there was:
the cedar-pillared House of the Forest of Lebanon, perhaps an audience hall
a treasury or strongroom
the Judgement Hall where Solomon’s magnificent ivory throne stood
a special palace for the daughter of Pharaoh, Solomon’s most high-born wife
living quarters for Solomon’s multitude of wives and children. Though the ‘thousand wives of Solomon’ is probably an exaggeration, there were certainly many of them. Solomon cemented alliances with neighboring territories by marrying their rulers’ daughters, and by giving his own daughters in marriage to governors of provinces.” Excerpt taken from http://www.womeninthebible.net/bible-archaeology/solomons-palace/
Finally in Solomon lists all the ways in which he strove to find fulfillment in his life. In Ecclesiastes 2 he says, “…I tried to find fulfillment by inaugurating a great public works program…next I bought slaves, both men and women…I also bred great herds and flocks…I collected silver and gold as taxes from many kings and provinces…In the cultural arts, I organized men’s and women’s choirs and orchestras…and then there were the many beautiful concubines…Anything I wanted, I took, and did not restrain myself from any joy….But as I looked at everything I had tried, it was all so useless, a chasing of the wind and there was nothing really worthwhile anywhere.”
In his youth Solomon loved God. But throughout his rule as King, he began to turn his focus on other things. At the time of writing Ecclesiastes, he is an older man reflecting back on his life with what I believe is regret. During his reign, Solomon constantly strived in vein for what would make him happy. Instead of happiness he found discontentment. So what was missing?
He soon forgot to look up to heaven to rediscover his true joy. In the conclusion to his book he acknowledges the folly of his ways. In chapter 12 of Ecclesiastes he states the following:
“Don’t let the excitement of being young cause you to forget about your Creator. Honor him in your youth before the evil years come – when you’ll no longer enjoy living….Here is my final conclusion: fear God and obey his commandments, for this is the entire duty of man.”
Wait a minute! I’ve heard that God = Love. How do we reconcile the phrase ‘fear God’ into the equation?
While at the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle, I have no fear toward any of the animals while enjoying them from the safety of the walking trail. I will wet my pants if I ever find myself in the same cage as a tiger. I know what they are capable of, especially if hungry or provoked.
Most of the world doesn’t fear God because they either view Him from afar or don’t consider Him at all. Christians who understand the nature of God fear (respect, have reverence for) Him because that fear helps to prevent us from giving in to our sinful desires.
Now a tiger can no more love me than share a steak dinner with me. Actually, I am the steak dinner. God, on the other hand, loves us so much that, “… he gave his only Son so that anyone who believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16
This past Monday I was having another pity party. My hand hurt, my arm full of stitches was itching like crazy, I felt 100 years old just walking up our stairs, and we received a letter from the insurance company questioning one of the surgical procedures. Then my daughter Jaymi called and wondered if Karen and I wanted to go for a walk out at her house on Camano Island. We did go even though I wasn’t convinced I was up to it. I can’t tell you the joy I felt just being around my daughter and her three kids. When we left their home I felt 100% better.
Was it just being around my family which made all the difference? Maybe some but not all of it. It was what I did on the way to their house which paved the way for an attitude adjustment. I prayed that God would help me change my perspective on today’s circumstances. I thanked God for my family and thanked him that I was well enough to enjoy this day with them. That was it but it changed everything.
“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything; tell God your needs and don’t forget to thank him for his answers. If you do this you will experience God’s peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand. His peace will keep your thoughts and your hearts quiet and at rest as you trust in Christ Jesus.”
A few years ago, I woke up one frigid morning with a very sore back. I called my chiropractor and, to my surprise, got his last opening for the day. The only problem was that the appointment was in ten minutes and his clinic was twenty-minutes away.
I hobbled down twelve, slippery stairs, skated to my car, squeezed inside and started the engine. Then I noticed that I couldn’t see out my frozen windshield. By the time I unsuccessfully searched for the ice scraper, the heater had produced a fist-sized hole to peer through. I shoved the car into gear and let out the clutch. I lurched ahead and ran smack dab into the basketball pole cemented into the side of our driveway, shattering the flimsy plastic grill and pushing the wheel well into my front left tire.
Many things in life, if rushed, can end badly.
Eating ice cream too fast will result in brain freeze.
Speeding through your driving test will find you riding shotgun for a while longer.
Taking on your teenage grandson in a footrace can land you in the ER.
Telling your hair-stylist you are in a hurry will give you a bad hair day, most likely for many days to come.
Rushing to conclusions can result in either egg on face or foot in mouth disease.
And rushing your toddler through the terrible twos.
Depending on the child, the terrible twos can stretch into the terrible threes, fours and fives. So what’s so bad about this age? What has led parents to bestow upon it the nickname “terrible”?
In their book Raising Great Kids, Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend said, “One parent described adolescence as the terrible two’s all over again, but this time in a bigger body. We personally don’t see either time period as “terrible,” but each one can be a time full of difficulty if you don’t recognize the important stage of independence, separateness and autonomy that a child is going through. In the “twos,” toddlers are moving away from the early dependency of infancy.
In his book Parenting Isn’t For Cowards, James Dobson specifically discusses the challenges of raising children. In the following excerpt, he tells a story about a strong-willed, three-year old neighbor.
“In the early 1970’s I had the privilege of living near one of these little spitfires. He was thirty-six months old at the time and had already bewildered and overwhelmed his mother. The contest of wills was over. He had won it. His sassy talk was legendary in the neighborhood, not only to his mother but to anyone who got in his way. Then one day my wife saw him ride his tricycle down the driveway and into the street, which panicked his mother. We lived on a curve and the cars came around that bend at high-speed. Mom rushed out of the house and caught up with her son as he pedaled down the street. She took hold of his handlebars to redirect him, and he came unglued.
‘Get your dirty hands off my tricycle!’ he screamed. His eyes were squinted in fury. As Shirley (Dr. Dobson’s wife) watched in disbelief, this woman did as she was told. The life of her child was in danger, and yet this mother did not have the courage to confront him. He continued to ride down the street and she could only stand and watch.
How could it be that a tiny little boy at three-years of age could buffalo this thirty-year-old mother in this way? Well, it was clear to any observer that she had no idea how to manage him.”
I acknowledge the above case is extreme, but how do we best manage our preschoolers? As crazy as it seems, this is the age when you begin the process of teaching your children to live on their own. Parenting is the only relationship where we prepare the recipient of this special connectedness to leave the relationship as they know it. This is a command from God.
“For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” Ephesians 5:31
While this might be the last thing on the minds of parents with toddlers, couples (or single parents) need to begin this process of separation early. Otherwise they may find themselves buffaloed like the mother of that foul-mouthed three-year-old. And if not corrected, that three-year-old will grown into a disrespectful, irresponsible, and unloving adult.
As with the rest of my articles on becoming a hero to your children, much of what they learn is through observing your behavior, attitudes and actions. Before they begin to attend school is the age where you have the most influence on them. This is the age when the cement for a solid foundation of character development is poured. Drs. Townsend and Cloud list six main attributes of character building. After each attribute I will give an explanation defining each term:
Attachment: The ability to form positive relationships. Your children will watch how you interact with your friends, your spouse, with them and with God. Are you kind? Do you show empathy toward others? Are you patient? Are you happy around the people in your life? These are the things your preschoolers are observing.
Responsibility: Parents bear the responsibility for their children’s basic needs. Parents are also responsible to help shape their character. It will be shaped, either positively or negatively. You can only “help to shape” their character though. Children are born with a mind of their own. As the toddler slams the door on the infant stage, they let you know they are now in control. This is where parents “help shape” their character by beginning to teach them that there are rules to follow, not only in your home but in the world they are just discovering for themselves. They need to learn that if they break a rule there are consequences. Again, they learn this by observation and also by experience.
Reality: This is where your child learns that the world doesn’t revolve around him or her. Preschoolers also begin to experience pain not caused by a rumbling tummy or an earache. He will experience pain affiliated with disobedience, the frustration that comes with learning new things, sharing, correction, and discovering that adults aren’t always right or even kind at times.
Competence: As parents, it is our job to give our toddlers a wide variety of learning opportunities. On the following Australian parenting website, It is universally accepted and explained that “In the first five years of life, your child’s brain develops more and faster than at any other time in his life. The early experiences your child has – the things he sees, hears, touches, smells and tastes – stimulate his brain, creating millions of connections. This is when foundations for learning, health and behaviour throughout life are laid down.” http://raisingchildren.net.au/articles/child_development.html
Conscience: Children aren’t born knowing right from wrong…they are sinners from birth…it’s hardwired into their inner being. Psalm 51:5 “Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived in me.” Pastor and Author, John MacArthur describes it this way. “The conscience is a built-in warning system that signals us when something we have done is wrong. The conscience is to our souls what pain sensors are to our bodies; it inflicts distress, in the form of guilt, whenever we violate what our hearts tell us is right.” So how do our children develop a Godly value system to serve as a compass for our conscience? You guessed it…it is by what is taught and more importantly what they observe, primarily from their parents.
Worship: Preschoolers are sponges soaking up everything around them. You may have noticed this when a naughty word, which slipped out of your mouth, was proudly repeated to Grandma by your preschooler. Use this time to also help develop an awareness of God to them. Include God in every aspect of conversation you have while showing your child God’s wonderful creation. Deuteronomy 11:19 says, “Teach them (God’s words) to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.”
As parents and grandparents, God has entrusted you as stewards of one of His most precious gifts…the gift of a new life to raise for Him. This relationship is filled with many challenges but also offers opportunities unlike any other relationship you will ever have.
You are a lighthouse, warning your children and grandchildren of the many perils they will encounter as they sail along life’s seas.
You are their shepherd, supplying all their needs.
You are their general contractor, responsible for the construction of their lives. You provide the material, labor and equipment needed to see the job through until completion.
You are their guidance counselor, making sure they stay on track.
You are their hero…their role model. The best role model you can be is when your child looks at you and sees Jesus modeled through you.
“Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us….” Ephesians 5: 1-2
So just as a person doesn’t want to rush into marriage, rush the nurse inserting a needle into your arm, or rush to the gym after a big meal, let’s not rush our children through the early years. Take time to nurture this unique relationship. Rushing your preschooler through this critical time of inserting your morals and values could leave a scar. They need time to properly digest every new morsel of information they receive.
.When is the last time you looked at your heart? The heart is an amazing muscle. It works non-stop. If you read Terry’s blog last week, he talked about having surgery to repair a hole in his heart. His surgery went well and we are so thankful. If you prayed for us, THANK YOU!
For some reason, I’ve been thinking a lot about hearts this week…I wonder why. I was by Terry’s side and witnessed what the latest technology, teamed with a great cardiologist can do. What would have been an open heart surgery just a few years ago, was now a serious, yet much less invasive procedure that took a little over an hour and involved a one night stay.
I was with Terry when the ultrasound technician made sure the surgery was successful. While watching the ultrasound screen, I jokingly said, “There I am and I see all of the grandkids in your heart!” The technician laughed and said that was the first time he had ever heard someone say that. He said, he usually hears something like “Wow, he really does have a heart!” I said, “Oh, that’s mean.” He agreed.
I viewed Terry’s heart beating repeatedly. The technician said that it’s the one muscle that continually works throughout one’s whole life until the day you die. Wow! He said around 20% of people are born with holes in their hearts and don’t know it until something goes wrong. I don’t know about you, but I hadn’t thought much about my heart and all it does for me. Even though I didn’t have a clue what I was looking at, it was fascinating. The heart is a big deal!
Just as our physical hearts are a big deal, so is the heart of our soul. I looked up “hearts” in the Bible. I challenge you to do the same sometime. Below are just a few:
Proverbs 27:19 “As water reflects a face, so a man’s heart reflects the man.”
Proverbs 4:23 “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.”
1 Samuel 12:24 “But be sure to fear the Lord and serve Him faithfully with all your heart;consider what great things He has done for you.”
Psalm 37:3 “Trust in the Lord and do good, dwell in the land and enjoy safe pastures. Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.”
Matthew 6:19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasure on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal.But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
And in part (my favorite Psalm 139) 13-18, 23-24 “For you created my inmost being, you knit me together in my mother’s womb.I praise you because I amfearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be…Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”
As I was viewing Terry’s heart, I stood in awe of our Lord Jesus who created us and whom loves us unconditionally. He doesn’t need an ultrasound to view our hearts. He sees and knows all. Hebrews 4:13 says, “Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight.Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.”
Terry’s doctor recommended a heart healthy diet for Terry, which includes exercise, sufficient rest, less sweets, limiting his fat intake and adding more fruits, vegetables and protein. It will only be as effective as we follow what the doctor says to do.
Just as Terry and I are learning to implement some heart healthy habits for our physical hearts, we are also learning to apply some “heart” healthy habits in our spiritual lives. The Bible tells us that our hearts are all sick and need a Savior, Jesus Christ. Without Him, we can do nothing. Revelation 3:20 says, “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him and he with me.”
Terry and I are learning to trust Him, rest in Him, studying and reading His Word, praying together and individually, guarding our hearts from unhealthy temptations and exercising our faith by sharing it with others.
Psalm 119:11 says, “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.”
What heart healthy habits do you follow? What about for your “spiritual heart”? I’d love to hear from you.