When Fear Takes Hold

3:45 AM. That’s when I first heard my husband stirring, and despite my attempts, I could not fall back asleep. I grabbed my phone and began sifting through the news once again. News that in these past few days has struck fear in my heart. Fear for those I love deeply and fear of what the future might bring. As anxiety began to take hold, I was reminded of  the words of Paul found in Philippians. He said,

 Keep your gentle nature so that all people will know what it looks like to walk in His footsteps. The Lord is ever present with us. Don’t be anxious about things; instead, pray. Pray about everything. He longs to hear your requests, so talk to God about your needs and be thankful for what has come. And know that the peace of God (a peace that is beyond any and all of our human understanding) will stand watch over your hearts and minds in Jesus, the Anointed One. Finally, brothers and sisters, fill your minds with beauty and truth. Meditate on whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is good, whatever is virtuous and praiseworthy. Keep to the script: whatever you learned and received and heard and saw in me—do it—and the God of peace will walk with you.” Philippians 4:5-9 (VOICE)

A couple of things stood out to me from these verses. The first is that we are told to keep our gentle nature so that others will know “what it looks like to walk in His footsteps.” Gentleness. I typically view it as showing tenderness or kindness towards others, however, there is more to it than that. In the Greek, gentleness is defined as calmness towards God. It’s completely surrendering to God’s will and way in my life, and trusting that He is in control regardless of what my circumstances may be. It’s letting go of any anxiety I may feel and placing it in His hands. As fear grips my heart, have I surrendered it to Him? Have I been an example of gentleness to those around me?

Secondly, His peace will “stand watch over” my heart and mind. Peace is a gift that only Christ can give. It’s not dependent on circumstances. It’s found by surrendering my thoughts, my control, and my life to Him. It’s trusting that He is working in my life even when I can’t see His hand clearly. As fear grips my heart, am I trusting that He has control?

Be reminded that regardless of what we face, God promises that He will always be there. Always. When fear tries to consume your heart, take a deep breath and remember that God’s got this. You can trust Him.

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Life Stole My Fun

  “Taco! Cat! Goat! Cheese! Pizza! Taco! Cat! Goat! Gorilla!” I watched my daughter fall onto the floor in a fit of laughter after her feeble attempt to be the first to bang her fists on her chest like a gorilla and slap a hand on the cards before us. A friend had recommended a new card game for our family, and after just a couple of rounds I had tears in my eyes not to mention a sore belly from laughing so hard. It was a simple card game. Not one that took a lot of time to play or required me to think deeply. It was a simple game played purely for fun. And I have to tell you, it felt so good to laugh hard with the people I love most. I also have to tell you, however, that laughing hard with the people I love most doesn’t happen as often as it once did. The busyness of life tends to leave me feeling hurried and exhausted. The life I’m choosing to live leaves little room for fun. 

Fun. It can be defined as any particular behavior or activity done simply for amusement, enjoyment, or lighthearted pleasure.  And, I must admit that fun is something that rarely makes it onto my daily to-do-list. Most days I get caught up in completing the tasks that I feel are vital for my family’s existence. Tasks like cooking meals, keeping the house tidy, and ensuring that all humans in the home bathe at some point or another.  With only 24 hours in a day, I keep my focus on the work at hand and leave little room to deviate from that. But, in doing so, I forget the importance of fun. 

Michael Rucker, author and entrepreneur, has studied the importance of fun. He says that science suggests there are a couple of reasons why we should have more fun. First, having more fun improves your relationships. When we have fun with another person, it gives us an opportunity to really connect with him or her. That positive connection helps build trust and communication within that relationship.  

Secondly, fun is downright good for us. Having fun has been shown to reduce stress which can have a number of negative effects on our health. By engaging in fun activities, we can counteract some of these negative effects. Lowering our stress levels can help improve our memory and concentration, balance our hormone levels, and help us feel more energetic. 

Fun is also important for our kids. Children learn best through play, and it is vital for a child’s development. Through play, kids become better problem solvers, learn how to get along with others, and learn to think more creatively. As parents, we need to ensure that each day allows ample time for fun and play. But, does that always happen?

In an article entitled, “5 Ways to Be a More Playful Parent” Janet Smith says, “Parents are rushed, stressed and tired—we’re too focused on results and not interested in taking the long way around. So instead we resort to nagging and lecturing, and then anger and punishment—far less effective techniques, according to the experts.” She then goes on to quote Lawrence Cohen, a psychologist and author of the book Playful Parenting. He says, “We need to spend more time joining children where they live, instead of all the time dragging them into our world, which is the world of schedules and chores and planned activities. Those things have to be done, but when they take over our family’s life, what gets shortchanged is play.” As parents, it is vital that our children have ample time for fun and play each day. 

So, what do we do to ensure that fun and play are found in each day? When it comes down to it, it is a choice we have to make. We have to be open to having fun. In her book, Have More Fun,  Mandy Arioto says, “Raising kids is some of the most important work we will do, and it can be some of the most joyful work if we choose to let it be.” So how do we choose fun?

First, we need to change our perspective. If asked to describe motherhood in one word, what would you say? You might say love, fulfilling or awesome. But for many moms, the first words out of their mouths are exhausting, hard, consuming, chaotic or overwhelming. We live in a world that chases after perfection. A world that expects us to mother flawlessly. That’s a lot of pressure isn’t it?  What happens when we are unable to meet the expectations of the world? We begin to lean into comparison, to exhaustion, and the overwhelm. We lean into this idea that motherhood is nothing, but hard. Now, don’t get me wrong. There are some days that being a mom is really hard. But, instead of focusing on how hard it can be, what if we chose to focus on how energizing and transformative mothering can be? What if we focused on what we love about being a mom? What if we approached each day determined to make the best of it? What if we approached each day determined to not let the challenges it may bring steal our joy? What if we shifted our perspective and chose to bring fun and lightness to our mothering? How would that change the dynamics in our home?

Secondly we need to choose to enjoy our kids. Many people believe that our first responsibility as a parent is to raise children that will go on to become responsible and productive adults. Though that’s important, Mandy Arioto challenges that thinking. She says, “What if our first responsibility in raising kids is to enjoy them?” 

Think about this with me for a moment. How perceptive do you think our kids really are? I’ve found that my kids pick up on way more than I think they actually do. My oldest for example, can always tell when I’m having a bad day. I typically hide in the bathroom when I need some space, and if I’m in there a shade over five minutes, he’ll come to the door and ask me if I’m feeling ok. I admit that I don’t always respond in the best manner when he does this, but the point is that this kid is not dumb. He’s picked up on the fact that I like to hide in the bathroom when I am feeling frustrated by the day. And, if he can pick up on that, what else does he pick up on? 

Mama, our kids can tell if we enjoy them for the people they are or if we are merely tolerating them. These perceptions that they have go on to shape how they will see themselves for the rest of their lives. Are we enjoying our kids?

Now, don’t get me wrong. My kids are not always enjoyable to parent. I’ve had my fair share of tantrums, talking back, threats of running away, and dealing with a child who is furious that her brother chose to breathe the same air as her around the breakfast table. Mothering isn’t always enjoyable, but that shouldn’t stop us from enjoying our kids. Find something that you love about each child and cling to that in those moments when momming is hard.  Also, remember that what is frustrating you as a mom now might frustrate you for the exact opposite reason down the road. An infant that won’t sleep now may later turn into a teen that won’t wake up until 1:00 on a Saturday afternoon. A toddler that clings to you may one day be a teen that doesn’t even want to stand in the same room as you. Surrender any expectations you may have on what your child should be in this current season and focus on what is going right. Enjoy the kid you have right now. 

Thirdly, respond with the unexpected. Mandy Arioto shares how she did this with her teenage son. One morning, she dropped him off at the bus stop. She pulled up to the curb, got out of the car, walked around to the other side and gave her son a big hug and a kiss on the cheek. As she pulled away, a text came to her phone. It said, “Mom, you are invading my personal space.” Now, what would your reaction be if your child sent you that text? Would you be angry, frustrated, or hurt? How would you respond? Mandy chose to respond with the unexpected. She wrote back, “You came out of my personal space. P.S. Moms can hug their kids whenever they want. Xoxo. Have a great day.” By responding in a lighthearted manner rather than in anger, she opened herself up to having a very positive conversation with her son later that day. A conversation that gave her permission to invade his personal space, but to do so in the safety of their home and not in front of his peers.

Responding with the unexpected. It’s making the choice to respond with lightheartedness even when we’re angry, frustrated or have had our feelings hurt. It’s responding in a way that “disarms frustration and changes the script we are expecting to hear.”

Now there are times when it is necessary to sit a child down and have a “Come to Jesus” meeting with him if he has chosen to be rude or disrespectful toward you. However, there are times when an unexpected response can ease tension, help build trust and open the lines of communication with our kids. Responding with the unexpected can be a gift not only to our kids, but ourselves as well. Add some fun and respond with the unexpected. 

Lastly, choose to thrive as a mom. If you want your kids to thrive, they need to see you thrive. Mothering has a way of trying to consume us. We feel that if we can’t do it all or don’t do it all it makes us a bad mom. We give up a girls night out because our youngest wants us there to tuck him into bed. We give up a much needed weekend away with our spouse because the kids will miss us too much, and we don’t want to impose on the grandparents once again. We give up working out at the gym because our toddler cries every single time we drop him off at the provided childcare. We don’t do those things we long to do because we’re afraid that it makes us a bad parent. We should be sacrificing everything for the sake of our kids, right? We only have them for a short period of time and that time needs to be completely devoted to them, right? Wrong. You see there’s a difference between sacrificing and settling. Sacrificing is giving up something valued for the sake of something else regarded as more important or worthy. We sacrifice sleep to feed a newborn through the night. We sacrifice buying that cute bag to buy clothes for kids that never seem to stop growing. We sacrifice time as we sit in parking lots waiting for practice to finish. As moms, we sacrifice a lot for our kids. Settling on the other hand is doing things even when it is not the best thing for you. Settling is skipping the gym because your child cries at the childcare. Settling is missing out on much needed one-on-one time with your spouse because the kids don’t want you to leave for a couple of hours. Settling is choosing to live in a house that you can barely afford and staying at the job you hate to live there. Settling means not taking that class that you’d love to take because your kids will be alone for a few hours on a Saturday. Settling is giving up those things that will help you to thrive. 

Do your kids know what your dreams are? Do they know those things that you are passionate about and that are life-giving to your soul? If they don’t, let me you ask this. How will they learn to chase their dreams if they’ve never seen how that’s done? Mandy says, “When we actively take responsibility for our own flourishing, it spills over onto the people around us. Our kids benefit, our spouses benefit, and we begin to live in more dynamic and energizing ways.” When we choose to thrive, we are choosing to squeeze the absolute best from this life. We are choosing to have fun with the life that we’ve been given. 

Are you choosing to have fun and enjoying the life that God has given you? Do you look for adventure as a family? Is your home one that encourages play and laughter? Do you celebrate all of the big, small, and silly things that life brings your way? Do you make room for the unexpected? Do you choose to have fun? 

Mandy says, “I don’t want to get to the end of my life and look back and realize that the best thing about me was that I was really good at keeping up with email. I want to have more fun now; I want to live with passion and stop taking life so seriously. I want to do crazy awesome things to show people I love them. I want my husband to look forward to falling into bed with me at the end of a long day. I want to make my kids laugh, and I want to start truly experience what it means to be loved by a good God. . . . to remember how much fun life can be.” Me too.

Let’s be women who remember how much fun life can be. Let’s be women that don’t just settle with life, but savor it. Let’s live a life filled with more fun.

 

 

 

References:

Arioto, Mandy. Have More Fun. Zondervan, 2019.

Bongiomo, Laurel. “10 Things Every Parent Should Know About Play.” NAEYC. https://www.naeyc.org/our-work/families/10-things-every-parent-play.  Accessed 2 Mar. 2020. 

Botnick, Vicki. “Learning From Our Kids: Five Ways to Make Parenting More Fun.” Good Therapy. 6 Oct. 2014. https://www.goodtherapy.org/blog/learning-from-our-kids-5-ways-to-make-parenting-more-fun-1006144. Accessed 2 Mar. 2020.

Cambridge Dictionary. https://dictionary.cambridge.org/us/dictionary/english/settle-for-sth. Accessed 2 Mar. 2020.

Robertson, Carolyn. “Moms Describe Motherhood in Just One Word.” Babycenter. https://www.babycenter.com/609_moms-describe-motherhood-in-just-one-word_20004130.bc. Accessed 2 Mar. 2020. 

Rucker, Michael. “Why You Need More Fun in Your Life According to Science.” Michael Rucker. 11 Dec. 2016. https://michaelrucker.com/having-fun/why-you-need-more-fun-in-your-life/ Accessed 2 Mar. 2020.

Smith, Janet. “5 Ways to Be a More Playful Parent.” Today’s Parent. 2 May 2018. https://www.todaysparent.com/family/parenting/be-a-more-playful-parent/. Accessed 2 Mar. 2020. 

 

You’ve Not Been Given a Spirit of Fear

 If I were to ask you to name something you fear, what would you say? For me, spiders are at the top of the list. When I was young, I had a healthy respect for spiders. We had a ton of them in our dairy barn, and I would catch flies and feed the barn spiders as I did my chores. Sick, I know, but I found it entertaining. However, when I was thirteen, something happened that completely changed my view of spiders and honestly scarred me for life. 

I walked into our basement one day and saw the largest wolf spider I have every seen in my life. Large as in his body, just his body, not including his legs, was probably the size of a water bottle cap. No joke. Now, even though I respected spiders, there was one rule that I always followed. That rule was: there shall be no spiders in the house. So what did I do? I quickly stomped on it with my shoe. Can you guess what happened next? If you guessed that I missed, you’d be wrong. My shoe hit its mark, however, my foot bounced back off of its body as though I had tried to squish it with a feather. (Even as I type those words, I can still feel his body under my foot!) In my panic to end his life, I grabbed the first heavy object I could find as he scurried across the floor. It happened to be a 13-inch black and white tv. I not so gently dropped it onto the spider, pressed down for good measure and then proceeded to run upstairs screaming. Ever since then, I have declared that spiders are no longer friends, but the enemy. An enemy that must be eradicated. Every time I see one, I can feel a scream bubbling up from inside of me as I run for the nearest shoe, vacuum, or better yet, my husband. He is my spider killer. I love him.

Fears. We all have them, and I think that once you became a mom, that list of fears seems to grow, doesn’t it? MOPS conducted a survey a few years ago asking moms what their greatest fears were. The top five responses were: #5 – Moms worry that their child will have a serious illness or disability. #4 – Moms worry that their child won’t fit in socially or will get picked on. #3 – Moms worry that their child will be hurt in an accident. (On a side note, it was once we had kids that I asked my husband for an emergency hammer for my car. If I happened to be in an accident with my kids, I wanted that reassurance that I could possibly get my kids out safely.) #2 – Moms worry that their child will be snatched by a stranger. And the top fear at #1 – Moms worry that they are not enough as a mom, that they’re not capable of being a good mom, or that they have enough money or resources to adequately care for their kids. Fears that moms have. Can you relate to any of these? I know I can. 

We all have something that we fear. In my last post, I shared my fears of being unloved, unworthy, and unseen and how those fears drastically affected my life. Those fears were deeply rooted in my heart and kept me from living the life God had for me. And, I think that holds true for most of us. I think most of us have fears that are deeply rooted in our hearts, holding us captive, and preventing us from moving forward in the life God has for us.

Fear is defined as an unpleasant, often strong emotion caused by anticipation or awareness of danger. Danger that is real or even imagined. When we perceive that we are being threatened, our body responds by releasing chemicals into the brain that tell our heart, blood, and muscles  to be on the alert. This is known as the fight or flight response and is our body’s way of helping us survive a dangerous situation. 

Last spring, I took my daughter away for a weekend. As I checked us into our hotel, I could not shake the feeling that something was wrong. Our room door wouldn’t lock, the bathroom was not clean, and a woman kept walking up and down the hallway asking the clerk from the front desk what he was doing to keep her safe. Despite the fact that it was almost midnight, I packed my girl up and got out of there. This natural fight or flight response that our bodies have, helps protect us from danger. 

But, this fight or flight response can have a negative reaction on our bodies if it is repeatedly triggered. If we are consistently finding ourselves in a place where we are allowing fear and worry to overwhelm our days, this fight or flight response can actually be quite damaging.  As those chemicals are released into our brain to put us on high alert, our heart rate and blood pressure increase. We can experience diarrhea or constipation as the acid in our stomach increases, and our digestive enzymes decrease. Cortisol, which normally boosts our immunity, can actually suppress the immune system if introduced too often. High levels of stress can also increase our risk for depression or anxiety. Repeatedly giving into fear and triggering our fight or flight response isn’t healthy for our bodies or our minds.

So how do we handle the fears that hold us captive and keep us from moving forward into what God has for us? First, it’s important to remember that we live in a broken world: a broken world that in reality has much for us to fear. But an equal reality is this: most of those things we fear may happen to us, actually never do.Michel de Montaigne is quoted as saying, “My life has been filled with terrible misfortune; most of which never happened.” It’s easy to make a list of things that we fear, isn’t it? However, research has shown that 97% of what we worry about doesn’t actually happen. 97%!

In the study done by author Don Joseph Goewey, subjects were asked to make a list of things they feared. They then keep track of the results of these fears over a set period of time. It was found that 85% of what they feared would happen, never did. Of the 15% that did happen, “79% of the subjects found that they handled the difficulty better than expected or that the difficulty taught them a lesson worth learning.” 

Most of the things we worry about or fear never actually come to pass. It’s important to identify which fears are possible and which are probable. If a fear is only possible, then that is a fear we need to let go.

For example, I’ve seen posts on Facebook about this being coyote mating season. The posts suggest that male coyotes tend to be more aggressive during this season and that one should not leave their pets or children outside unattended. So, I as a mom, now have this fear that my precious cat or any one of my kids will be mauled by a coyote if they step a toenail outside. Is this possible? Yes. Is it probable? Unlikely. This is one fear that I need to release. 

Secondly, sort your fears and worries into two categories; those in your control and those out of your control. Identify those fears and worries that you have control over, and ask yourself what steps you can take to ease those fears. For example, you may worry about your child getting sunburned while playing outside. You have control over this fear in the fact that you can prevent it from happening by simply placing sunscreen on your child. That fear is one you can control. However, there may be some fears and worries that are completely out of your control. When faced with a situation that is out of our control, the best thing to do is pray about it and trust God with the outcome. 

For example, I didn’t want any of my kids to get teeth. Go ahead and laugh, but it’s true. When each of my kids were born, I thought they looked absolutely perfect. Though I knew they would all grow quickly there was one thing that I never wanted to change: their toothless grins. I thought each of my children would look utterly ridiculous when they got their teeth, and I may or may not have begged God not to let it happen. I even dared to admit this fear I had to my husband who of course thought it was absolutely ridiculous, and God must have thought so too because all three of my children currently have teeth. Was my kids getting their teeth completely out of my control? Absolutely! Am I glad now that they have teeth? Of course! 

This is a crazy example, but it proves to show that there are some fears we have that are just out of our control. We can’t control how other kids are going to treat our kids. We can’t control the thoughts that others have about us. We can’t control loved ones getting sick or accidents happening. We can’t control a lot of things in our life. But, we can control our response to them.  We can pray about these out of control situations and trust God with the outcome. He promises in Isaiah,

“Even if the mountains heave up from their anchors, and the hills quiver and shake, I will not desert you. You can rely on My enduring love.”

Isaiah 54:10 (VOICE).

He will not desert you. During those times that you feel completely out of control, surrender your situation to Him and trust Him with the outcome. 

Next, filter your fear through God’s truth. As I mentioned before, we live in a broken world; a broken world that can strike fear in our hearts just by reading the daily news or scrolling through Facebook. When fear tries to work its way into our hearts, it’s important to take that fear and hold it up against what God says is true. Romans tells us,

“Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.”

Romans 12:2 (NLT).

We have to start changing the way we think. The world is going to tell us to fear. God however, says,

“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

Isaiah 41:10 (ESV)

The world is going to tell us to think about everything that can go wrong. God says,

“Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”

  Philippians 4:8 (ESV). 

When fear begins closing you in, take it immediately to God and ask, “Is this true?” If it doesn’t line up with what God’s Word tells us, then it doesn’t deserve a second thought. Change the way you think and filter your fear through His truth.

It’s also important to find an “unshakeable”. In her book, Brave Mom, Sherry Surratt identifies an “unshakeable” as someone who doesn’t panic, but faces situations with a steady calm. Think about this for a moment. How often have you shared something you are worried about with a friend only to have that friend come back and share other things related to that worry that you should also be worried about? 

For example, my oldest traveled with the marching band to Disney a couple of weeks ago. We decided to go down as a family, but would permit our oldest to actually travel with the band. This meant separate flights, separate hotels, separate transportation, and even a separate Disney park one day. I was completely at peace about this until a friend shared with me that she would never let her child go on such a trip at his age. What would happen if one of our planes crashed? What if someone tried to snatch my child at the airport? What if he got stopped going through security? What if he forgot to lock his hotel room door at night? What if he got lost at the park or hurt or kidnapped? There was no one way she would let her child go on such a trip. Now, how do you think I felt after this conversation? She shared an entire list of worries that I hadn’t even thought about, and now I was worried about all of that too!

There will be people in your life that will add fuel to your fears. It’s important to find an unshakeable, someone who will listen, encourage you, and give you calm, wise advice when you feel fear closing in.  Proverbs, says,

“Become wise by walking with the wise; hang out with fools and watch your life fall to pieces.”

Proverbs 13:20 (MSG)

Lastly, choose gratitude. Sherry Surratt shares that fear can make us feel small and hopeless. When you feel fear beginning to overwhelm you, she suggests making a “thankful” list. Make a list of all the things that you can be thankful for in the moment. Maybe you’re thankful for your kids, maybe it’s a cup of hot coffee, or the opportunity to take a shower by yourself. Whatever it is, write it down. Then look over your list and be reminded of how much good is in your life right now. A grateful heart can give you a new perspective on any situation.  1 Thessalonians says,

“Whatever happens, always be thankful. This is how God wants you to live in Christ Jesus.”

1 Thessalonians 5:18 (ERV)

To close, I want to remind you on one thing. If you have taken that step and asked Jesus to come into your life, then God’s very spirit lives within you. His Spirit is not fearful. 2 Timothy tells us,

“God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.”

2 Timothy 1:7 (NLT)

He has given you a spirit of power, of love, and of self-discipline. It’s time to step into that and let go of the fears that are holding you back from the life He has for you. 

 

 

 

References:

Biblegateway. www.biblegateway.com. Accessed 3 Feb. 2020. 

Building 429. “Fear No More.” YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3cJFAGw3OaQ. Accessed 4 Feb. 2020.

Cherry, Kendra. “How the Fight or Flight Response Works.” Very Well Mind. 18 Aug. 2019. https://www.verywellmind.com/what-is-the-fight-or-flight-response-2795194. Accessed 3 Feb. 2020. 

Daly, Jim. “The Top Ten Fears of Moms: How Do You Fare?” Focus on the Family. 20 Aug. 2015. https://jimdaly.focusonthefamily.com/the-top-five-fears-of-moms-how-do-you-fare/. Accessed 3 Feb. 2020.

Dictionarycom. https://www.dictionary.com/browse/fear?s=t. Accessed 3 Feb. 2020.

Goewey, Don Joseph. “85 Percent of What We Worry About Never Happens.” Huffpost. 6 Dec. 2017.  https://www.huffpost.com/entry/85-of-what-we-worry-about_b_8028368. Accessd 3 Feb. 2020.

Merriam-Webster. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/fear. Accessed 3 Feb. 2020.

Surratt, Sherry. Brave Mom. Zondervan, 2014.

Surratt, Sherry. “Busting Your Mom Fears: 6 Easy Strategies for Overcoming Worry and Fear.” Faithgateway. 6 Oct. 2014. https://www.faithgateway.com/busting-your-mom-fears-6-strategies-overcoming-worry-fear/#.XjXXkC2ZOfU. Accessed 3 Feb. 2020.

TerKeurst, Lysa. “Overcoming Fear.” Lysa TerKeurst. 20 May. 2010. https://lysaterkeurst.com/2010/05/overcoming-fear/. Accessed 3 Feb. 2020.

“What Happens When Your Immune System Gets Stressed Out?” Cleveland Clinic.  Mar. 2017. https://health.clevelandclinic.org/what-happens-when-your-immune-system-gets-stressed-out/. Accessed 3 Feb. 2020.

 

My Story

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”  

 John 10:10 (NIV)

A life to the full . . . Do you ever struggle with understanding what a life lived to the full looks like? Living to the full is defined as a life lived fully, thoroughly, completely, to the utmost, to the limit, to the maximum, for all one’s worth. It’s slowing down and soaking in each moment. It’s living with purpose and intention. It’s making the choice to fully embrace each day that God gives us.

But, some days that’s hard to do, isn’t it? Some days, the difficulty of our circumstances leave us weary. Some days, it feels as though it is life itself that is holding us back from living to the full. 

Have you ever been there? Have you ever been in a place where you knew there was so much more to life than how you were currently living it? Have you ever felt as though something was holding you back and keeping you from living the life God had for you? I have. Here’s my story. 

I was first diagnosed with anxiety and depression over fifteen years ago. At the time, my husband and I had just been married a little under two years. We had a cute two bedroom apartment off of a dead end street outside of the city. We had a small backyard perfect for a garden, an amazing pizza shop just down the street, and upstairs neighbors that reminded us of how thin the walls were. (Their three year old would throw himself face down in the floor when he had a tantrum.) The front window needed covered with plastic each winter to keep out the cold, and I refused to lay on the floor because we had these creepy centipede type bugs everywhere. It was nearly impossible to see one heading your way on the carpet until it was upon you. Most days, I lived on our couch. But, this place was home and in my mind, absolutely perfect! My husband was in school at the time, and I was teaching first grade for a wonderful district in the suburbs. Life was really good. But, at the same time it wasn’t. 

I had started my job part way into the school year when two classrooms were divided into three. With only a few short days to prepare for my students, I felt completely overwhelmed. As the year progressed, I felt as though I was always playing catch up and as a result began to doubt my abilities as a teacher. By the spring, I felt numb to what was happening around me. I found it difficult to focus on the tasks at hand and had many days when all I really wanted to do was curl up under my covers and have a good cry. If you had asked me what was wrong, I honestly couldn’t tell you. I couldn’t tell you because I didn’t know. I just knew that I didn’t feel like myself. 

With the encouragement of a friend, I went to see my doctor and was quickly diagnosed. She felt that a chemical imbalance in my brain was behind what I was feeling and prescribed medication for me.  It helped for a time. But, as life continued to move forward, I found I still had times where my anxiety would run high, times when I didn’t want to leave the house, and times when I just didn’t feel like myself. And, then, something happened that would forever change me.

It happened eight years ago. I found myself at a MOPS Leadership Winter Retreat being asked to describe through writing or pictures, how I honestly saw myself. As I sat down to begin the assignment, tears filled my eyes. Words like unworthy, not enough, weak, ashamed, and unseen poured from my heart. When my turn came to share with the other women, I couldn’t even get the words out. I simply broke down and wept. Those women gathered around me and began to pray over me. I can’t tell you what they said, because in those next few moments, I felt God speaking clearly into my heart. He said, “This isn’t who I created you to be. You are so much more than this.” His words hurt because deep in my heart, I knew them to be true. 

I left retreat that weekend determined to discover who I really was. What I wasn’t prepared for was how quickly God would reveal a hard truth to me. That truth?  When it came down to it, I didn’t believe Him. I didn’t believe Him, and I didn’t trust Him. 

My belief and trust issues started when I was a teen. I grew up in a wonderful Christian home, and knew without a doubt that I was loved. I accepted Christ at the age of eight and for the most part, life was going really smoothly; no complaints.  Then at the age of 14, I met a young man. Two years older than me, he was the first boy to ever tell me that he loved me. Now, I had been in “love” before. I lost count of how many times I got married and divorced in the fifth grade alone, but this was the first young man to tell me, as a young woman, that I was loved. And, I loved how hearing those words made me feel. 

As the relationship progressed over the next two years, I allowed this young man to capture my heart, and willingly gave him every part of me.  It was at this point in time, that I began to clearly hear whispers being spoken into my heart. “You’re not strong enough to say no. He’ll leave you if you don’t. No one else will love you, not now.” My relationship with this young man soon ended, and I wish I could tell you that those whispers being spoken into my heart stopped as well. But, they didn’t. The whispers continued and led me to other young men as I desperately sought to feel like I was beautiful, that I was loved, and that I was treasured above all others. Yet, each time, one of them left me, I was left feeling wounded, lonely, insecure, and wondering what was wrong with me.

Those whispers followed me into my marriage. Though I felt securely loved by my new husband, I felt I failed him as a wife in so many ways. The whispers followed me into my workplace. I constantly compared myself to veteran teachers and kept track of all of the ways I failed my students. The whispers followed me as my husband and I struggled to start a family. As I faced the reality of losing our second baby in the span of one year, I blamed myself. There must have been something I did wrong. What kind of mother can’t even safely carry her own baby?

The whispers spoke into my heart daily, and do you know what happened over time? I began to believe that they were true.  When you listen to something long enough, you begin to believe it. You begin to believe it, and it becomes your truth. 

God brought me to my knees on that snowy night, eight years ago and broke through those lies that Satan had been speaking into my heart for so long.  Lies that I allowed to define me. Lies that I allowed to hold me captive. Lies that kept me from living the life God had for me. 

What about you? Is there something that is holding you captive? Is there something that is holding you back from living the life God has for you?

Captivity can be defined as the condition of being imprisoned or confined. What are some things that can hold us captive in this world? The desire to feel love and accepted is a big one. Money, material possessions, and even people can make us feel as though we are being held captive. All of these things can too easily keep us from the life God has for us. 

So, how do we break free from these things that hold us captive? It starts by taking these things that we have come to believe about ourselves and our circumstances, and standing them up against God’s Word. God’s Word is the only truth that can stand firm in this world. Every part of our life, we have to look at through the lens of His Word. 

What does God’s Word tell us? First, you are loved!

“God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.”

1 John 4:9-10 

When Christ died upon that cross over 2000 years ago, your face was on His mind. He died for you because He loves you and wants to spend eternity with you. And this love He showed us through the cross is not a love that we deserve.  Far from it. He died knowing that we would disappoint Him over and over again. The love God has for you is deep and unchanging. Do you believe that you are loved?

Second, you are worthy. Do you believe that? Do you believe that you are worthy? Do you believe that you are valued, that you are important? Do you believe that despite how badly you feel you have messed up your life that God can and wants to use you for His good purposes? For me, this was the hardest one to accept. I could believe that I was loved, but, I struggled to believe that God could use me for anything worthwhile. And that’s when He led me to the story of Leah. 

We find the story of Leah in Genesis 29. Jacob, the son of Isaac, has been sent out by his father to find a wife and was told specifically to traveled to the home of his uncle, Laban. Now, Laben had two daughters, Leah and Rachel. Rachel was the youngest and is noted as having a lovely figure and a beautiful face.  One look at Rachel, and Jacob is in love.  Jacob offers to work for Laben for seven years to win Rachel’s hand in marriage. Laben agrees. At the end of the seven years, they hold a great feast, and at the end of the night, Laben slips the bride into the bridal chamber. When Jacob wakes the next morning, he is shocked to find that it is not Rachel in his bed. It is Leah. 

Leah. She was the oldest daughter. The only other information the Scriptures give us about her is that she had weak eyes. Some translations say dull while others say delicate. Though I can’t explain exactly what this means, we can assume that Leah probably wasn’t one of the most beautiful women Jacob had ever laid eyes, and she was definitely not the one he fell in love with. 

Furious, Jacob confronts Laben only to be told that it is not custom to give the younger daughter away in marriage first. Jacob must finish out Leah’s bridal week. Then, in exchange for another seven years of work, he will get Rachel as his wife. Jacob agrees. Now, pause with me for a moment here. How would you have felt if you were Leah in this situation? The only way your father can marry you off is to slip you into your sister’s bridal chamber. How would that make you feel?

The story goes on to tell us that Rachel did indeed become Jacob’s wife and that Jacob loved her more than Leah. God saw that Leah was not loved and blessed she and Jacob with four sons while Rachel remained barren. Genesis goes on to tell us that Jacob went on to have more children with both Leah and Rachel, but I want to look at something I found very interesting here. Leah hoped by giving Jacob a son, she would earn his love and affection. Yet, after the birth of her first three sons, Jacob stilled loved only Rachel.  

After the birth of her fourth son, Leah does not again hope for the love of her husband. Instead, she says, “This time I will praise the Lord.” She names her son Judah. It is from Judah’s line that King David is born, and it is from King David’s line that Jesus is born. 

In the eyes of her father, Jacob, and even herself, Leah was not worth much. But in the eyes of our Father, she was far more precious than she realized. God knew from the beginning of time that through Leah, dull eyes and all, His Son would be born, the Savior of the world. If God could do that, imagine what He might want to do through you? Do you believe that God values your life? Do you believe that He can use you as a light in this dark world?

Believing I was loved and worthy enough to be used by God was just the first step for me. The next step is the one that I am in right now. It’s trusting God. It’s trusting Him enough to take those steps towards the life He has for me. It’s letting go of my what I once was or thought I was and seeing myself through His eyes. Isaiah 43 reminds us to,

“Forget the former things; do not dwell on [your] past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in [your] wasteland.”

Isaiah 43:18-19 (NIV).  

It’s surrendering control of my life and trusting that His plan is good for me.  Scripture says,

“The LORD will surely comfort {you} and will look with compassion on all [your] ruins; he will make [your] deserts like Eden, [your] wastelands like the garden of the LORD.”

Isaiah 51:3 (NIV). 

And it’s trusting that He will always be there and is bigger than any mountain I may face. God says,

“Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, Your Savior.” 

Isaiah 43:1-3 (NLT).

I don’t know what is holding you back from living the life God has for you. But, I can tell you this. Whatever it is, it’s not worth it. I am not the same woman I was eight years ago, and I am so thankful for that. Author, Renee Swope says, “We can trust God’s plans as we realize that His story is being written in ours. His power is perfected in the broken places we consider to be our greatest weaknesses—our most vulnerable emotions we don’t want anyone to know about. In those hiding places, God calls us out of captivity. When we’re willing to let Him, He brings hope for our future despite the pain of our past.” – Renee Swope

God brings hope, and hope it what our world needs. Give your life over to Him. You won’t regret it. 

Set Apart

Our conversation that morning echoed so many that we had had before as I took my oldest to school. “It’s the latest trend, Mom. Everyone will be wearing it.” Words I had heard several times since he started junior high. Words that made my eyes want to roll right out of my head. But, at the same time I understood the heart they were being spoken from.

As I merged back into the school traffic, I couldn’t help, but notice that my son was correct. I passed child after child sporting clothing of one specific name brand or another. American Eagle, Hollister, Under Armour, Adidas, Nike. Clothing that I personally know is not cheap to buy. Clothing that many will likely grow out of in a short period of time. Clothing that is important to this generation of young people for one reason and one reason only. It helps them fit in.

Fitting in. We all desire it, don’t we? We long to feel accepted, loved, and to be welcomed into the crowd. We long for the approval of others and to feel as though our voice matters. But, let me ask you this. At what cost? What price do we pay to feel as though we belong? How many poor decisions have we made just to be part of the crowd?

The pull of this world is so strong, isn’t it? In the midst of our day to day, it’s easy to get pulled into the crowd. It’s easy to be drawn into the ways of this world. But, I’m reminded that as believers, the reality is that we’ve been called to be different. We have been called to be set apart. 1 Peter tells us,

“But you are the ones chosen by God, chosen for the high calling of priestly work, chosen to be a holy (set apart) people, God’s instruments to do his work and speak out for him, to tell others of the night-and-day difference he made for you—from nothing to something, from rejected to accepted.” – 1 Peter 2:9 (MSG)

We have been called to be different. We have been chosen and set apart to show others the difference that God has made in our own lives. We have been called to be a light in this dark world. When others look at you, do they see someone who is different? Or, do they see just another face in the crowd?

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Lessons from Mary

Christmas is my absolute, most favorite season of the year. But, I have to be honest with you; this year is hard. I find myself in the midst of a season that is meant to be joyful, yet, I’ve had many moments when I’ve felt anything but joyful. These past few weeks have been filled with heartache as I’ve watched some people that I love dearly walk through some very difficult circumstances. Circumstances that have left my heart aching for them, and my soul asking God why. Why this? Why now? Why must life take us down difficult paths?

Have you ever had questions like that? As I’ve struggled with these questions, I’ve felt God leading me to one particular story in the Bible. A story of a woman who did not lead an easy life by any means. A story of a woman who we all might agree had the right to question God. A woman who sets a beautiful example for us when we find ourselves in the midst of difficult circumstances, filled with uncertainty, and maybe even questioning what God is doing. That woman . . . is Mary.

Mary lived in Nazareth, in the village of Galilee, which was part of the nation of Israel. She was engaged to a man named Joseph, a Jew just like herself, and a man from the family line of King David. Now, engagements, or betrothals as they were called then, were a bit different then than they are now. It was a several step process that began with the arrangement of marriage by the families of the bride and groom to be. These arrangements were often made when the children were young, and it was common for arrangements to be made within one’s own tribe or family. The arrangement of a marriage was often seen as more of a business transaction between two families rather than a love match.

Once the marriage was arranged, there was the signing of the wedding contract. This was a legal document that could not be broken except through divorce. Once a contract was signed, the couple was considered married. However, the bride remained with her family until the dowry was paid. A dowry was a payment in the form of money, animals, or service for the bride. It was not viewed as the husband was paying for his wife, It was seen as given compensation to the bride’s family since they would be losing a working member of their household. Once, the dowry was paid and the bride and groom were at a suitable age to marry, there was a celebratory wedding feast followed by the moving of the bride to the groom’s home and the consummation of the marriage. Mary is in the first stage of this betrothal process when she receives a special visitor

We find Mary’s story in the book of Luke.

“God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, ‘Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.’ Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.’  ‘How will this be,’ Mary asked the angel, ‘since I am a virgin?’ The angel answered, ‘The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. For no word from God will ever fail.’” 

Luke 1:26-37 (NIV)

God sends an angel to Mary to tell her several things. First, he tells her that she’s found favor with God. He then goes on to tell her that she will conceive and give birth to a son, and she is to name him Jesus. Have you ever stopped and wondered what thoughts might have been racing through her mind in those moments? Here she is, a young woman soon to be married. She is going to become pregnant, but not from the one she’s betrothed to. And she’s not just going to have a son. She’s going to have God’s Son! Can you imagine what she must have been thinking?

It’s important to remember that in those times, conceiving out of wedlock was more than just frowned upon. It would have caused a scandal in the village, and she could have faced the possibility of divorce, being banished from her father’s household, or even face death. If I were Mary, I think I would have been extremely fearful: fearful of what Joseph would think, what my father would think, and what the others in the village would think. I might have even been angry towards God for wanting to place me in those circumstances. Circumstances that would prove to be hard. Circumstances that would be painful. Circumstances that if I were Mary might have me questioning why. Why me? Yet, how does Mary respond?

“‘I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.’ Then the angel left her.”

Luke 1:38 (NIV)

“May your word to me be fulfilled”. How does Mary respond? She responds by saying, “Yes.” Mary says yes and in saying yes she chooses to believe what God says and trust Him completely with His plan for her life. She also chooses to look for His goodness in her circumstances. 

First, Mary believed God. God promises many things to us throughout Scripture, and they are promises that He will always keep. Joshua tells us, 

“Not a single one of all the good promises the Lord had given to the family of Israel was left unfulfilled; everything he had spoken came true.”

 Joshua 21:45 (NLT)

The name of God we find in this Scripture is translated as Yahweh. In the Hebrew, this name means that He is the eternal, unchanging one, who is faithful in keeping His Word. If He promises us something, that promise will be fulfilled. Mary knew this and believed it. If God promised something to her, He would fulfill that promise. What are some of the promises He gives us?

First, He will always love us. Jeremiah reminds us, 

“Long ago the Lord said to Israel: ‘I have loved you, my people, with an everlasting love. With unfailing love I have drawn you to myself.’”

Jeremiah 31:3 (NLT)

God loves us. There is nothing you can do to make Him love you any more, and there is nothing you can do to make Him love you any less. Do you believe that you are loved?

Secondly, He will never leave us. In the Old Testament we read, 

“He will be leading you. He’ll be with you, and He’ll never fail you or abandon you. So don’t be afraid!”

Deuteronomy 31:8 (VOICE)

“Don’t panic. I’m with you. There’s no need to fear for I’m your God. I’ll give you strength. I’ll help you. I’ll hold you steady, keep a firm grip on you.”

 Isaiah 41:10 (MSG)

Do you believe that He will never leave you and that He will always be there when you need Him?

Another promise, God has for us is that He has a plan for us and it is good.

“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ says the Eternal, ‘plans for peace, not evil, to give you a future and hope—never forget that. At that time, you will call out for Me, and I will hear. You will pray, and I will listen. You will look for Me intently, and you will find Me.’”

 Jeremiah 29:11-13 (VOICE)

“Never forget that.” Verses 12 and 13 are often left out when people quote this Scripture, but I feel that they are most important. God has a plan for our lives, but what must we do to understand it? We need to be in communication with Him. He says, “Call out to me and I will hear.  Pray and I will listen. Look for me and you will find me.” To be able to understand His plan and trust Him, we need to be in communication with Him. 

Mary believed in God’s promises. She believed she was loved, she knew God would never leave her, and she trusted that He had a plan for her and that it was good. When we find ourselves walking a difficult path, do we believe that God is everything He says He is? Mary believed so.

Mary also trusted God. Proverbs encourages us to, 

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.”

Proverbs 3:5-6 (NASB)

To trust in someone is to believe in their reliability, truth, ability, or strength. To trust God is to believe that He is reliable, believe what He says is true, believe that He is able, and believe that He is strong enough. Mary trusted knowing the road ahead might be difficult. She trusted because she knew that God was reliable. She trusted because she knew that what He said was true. She trusted because she knew He was able. She trusted because she knew He was strong enough. When it comes down to it, do we do the same? Do we trust God? Do we really trust God?

And, lastly, Mary chose to say yes and in doing so she chose to see God’s goodness. 

“At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.  In a loud voice she exclaimed: ‘Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!’ And Mary said: ‘My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful   of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me—holy is his name. His mercy extends to those who fear him,  from generation to generation.” 

Luke 1:39-50 (NIV)

We don’t find Mary complaining to her cousin Elizabeth about what God has asked her to do. We don’t find Mary expressing worry or anxiety about what is to come. We find Mary giving thanks for being chosen to be the mother of God’s son. We find Mary choosing to see the good in her circumstances. When life gets difficult, are we still looking for God’s goodness? Are we still looking for evidence of His hand working in our lives?

Mary’s life was likely very different from what she imagined it might be. Her life was likely more difficult from what  she imagined it might be. But, she chose to believe what God had promised to her, to trust Him, and to see the good within her circumstances. 

Do we do the same? When we face difficult circumstances, uncertainty, or immeasurable pain, do we respond as Mary did? Do we believe that God is good and that we can trust the plan He has for us, or do we focus on the pain, the fear, and trying to understand why? Do we look for the good He is doing around us or do we focus only on the negative? How different would our lives look if our first response was to reach for Him when life gets hard? Reach for Him instead of your anxiety, your fear, or your anger towards the difficulty of your circumstances. I don’t understand why God allows us to walk through difficult seasons. But, I do know this; in those times of difficulty, God never leaves us, God’s hand is always moving, and He is always working to bring some good even out of the most difficult of circumstances. But, we need to believe Him. We need to trust Him. We need to see the good that He is doing in our lives.

As we move through this Christmas season, I would encourage you to keep your eyes focused on Him. Keep your eyes focused on the gift we were given through His birth.

 

References:

Biblegateway. https://www.biblegateway.com. Accessed 2 Dec. 2019.

Howard, Kathy. “Mary Believed.” Kathy Howard. https://www.kathyhoward.org/mary-believed/. 2 Dec. 2019.

Schauss, Hayyim. “Ancient Jewish Marriage.” My Jewish Learning. https://www.myjewishlearning.com/article/ancient-jewish-marriage/. Accessed 2 Dec. 2019.

“The God I Know”. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iDvmBqHqZHQ. Accessed 3 Dec. 2019.

“What Was Betrothal in Biblical Times?” GotQuestions.  https://www.gotquestions.org/betrothal.html. Accessed 2 Dec. 2019.

Loving Our People Well

  If I were to ask you to define love, what would you say? The dictionary defines love as a feeling of warm personal attachment or deep affection for another. I think however, that love is much more than simply an attachment or a deep affection. Scripture tells us the following about love:

“Love is patient; love is kind. Love isn’t envious, doesn’t boast, brag, or strut about. There’s no arrogance in love; it’s never rude, crude, or indecent—it’s not self-absorbed. Love isn’t easily upset. Love doesn’t tally wrongs or celebrate injustice; but truth—yes, truth—is love’s delight! Love puts up with anything and everything that comes along; it trusts, hopes, and endures no matter what.”

1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (VOICE)

Love is an action. Love is a way of life. Love is unconditional with no strings attached. Love is the most important thing our kids need from us, and is at the forefront of mothering with purpose. Love accepts and affirms our kids for who they are, not what they do. It’s love that will bring out the best in them, and it’s love that will help them grow into the people who God created them to be. 

In their book, The 5 Love Languages of Children, Gary Chapman and Ross Campbell, say, “In raising children, everything depends on the love relationship between the parent and child. Nothing works well if a child’s love needs are not met. Only the child who feels genuinely loved and cared for can do her best.You may truly love your child, but unless she feels it – unless you speak the love language that communicates to her your love – she will not feel loved.” 

Love language. Every person has one. It’s the way in which we understand and perceive love. As a parent, it’s important to identify your child’s love language and communicate your love for him in a way that he understands. By speaking in your child’s love language, you fill up his “emotional tank” with love. As your child moves through challenges in life, it is this tank filled with love, that will help him to persevere.

Now it’s important to note a few things. First, it’s important that the love we speak to our child is unconditional. Unconditional love accepts and affirms a child for who he is not what he does. Unconditional love is not based on performance. Secondly, it is difficult to identify a child’s love language much before the age of five. It is important to speak in all of the languages until the language that speaks most directly to the heart of your child is made clear. And even when it is made clear, it is still beneficial for your child to see love expressed in the other languages. Some kids respond well to more than one language, and as they grow up, they will learn to love people well by the example you set. 

And, lastly, speaking in your child’s love language is not a guarantee that you will not face trials or challenges as you raise him. There will be hard days. But those hard days your child experiences will be filtered through the deep down knowing that he is loved. 

The first of the five love languages is physical touch. Physical touch is the easiest language to use, and for some children, it communicates love more deeply than words. Physical touch is defined as any physical contact used to communicate love. 

You can express love through physical touch in many ways. For your infant, holding, cuddling, kissing, feeding, and rocking are all ways to communicate love through physical touch. Your toddler will feel loved through hugs and kisses, wrestling on the floor, or reading a story as you hold him on your lap. As your child enters school, there is still a strong need for physical touch. This need can be met through a touch on the head, a pat on the shoulder, sitting closely together on the couch or through playing physical games with one another. As your child moves through adolescence, physical touch continues to be a strong need. However, it is important to respect the timing and space for this communication to occur. Children at this age are filled with emotions, thoughts, and desires and are in the process of discovering their identity. In addition, peers are becoming more important and the opinions of those peers matter a great deal. Your child likely does not want you to hug and kiss him in front of others. At home however, your child may welcome a hug, a neck massage after studying for hours on end, or a back scratch. Look for ways that you can love your child through physical touch, but be sensitive to the timing and the place. 

The next love language is words of affirmation. Words of affection, endearment, praise, encouragement, and words that give positive guidance are all powerful when we are communicating love to our kids. 

When speaking words of affirmation over your child, it is important to remember a few things. First, choose your words carefully. Angry words are damaging for any child, but more so for a child whose love language is words of affirmation. Remember that your words are extremely powerful and have the ability to build your child up or tear him down. Proverbs tells us,

“Kind words heal and help; cutting words wound and maim.”

Proverbs 15:4 (MSG)

Use care in the words you speak. Once a word is spoken, it cannot be taken back. 

Secondly, take care not to overpraise your child. Two things can happen when a child receives too much praise. First, if our kids are used to hearing praise from us all of the time, it becomes less meaningful to them. Secondly, our children may become accustomed to praise and expect it from everyone. When it is not given, a child my become anxious and feel that there may be something wrong with him. Give praise when it is due, but use caution about overusing it. 

Words of affirmation can be expressed in several ways. With infants, it’s important to remember that they cannot understand spoken words. They can however, understand the look on your face and the affectionate sounds you make. Hold your baby physically close and speak lovingly to them. 

With toddlers, it’s important to remember that they think very concretely at this age. Love is a very abstract concept. Hold your child physically close to you as you speak to them. Children will begin to associate the loving feeling of being with you to the words you are saying. 

For school age children and those moving through adolescence, words of affirmation are extremely important. Encouraging words and notes can go a long way in helping a child feel loved. Praise your child for his accomplishments and be very specific with that praise. Rather than saying, “Good job” say, “I appreciate how thoroughly you dusted the living room today” or “I loved how you were encouraging your teammates out on the court”.  Give encourage and specific praise to communicate your love to your child. 

Our next love language is quality time. This love language is communicated by the giving of our focused, undivided attention to our child. It’s giving the gift of our presence and assuring our kids that they are important and that we enjoy spending time with them. Quality time is what many kids crave and most of the misbehavior we see from them is simply their way of expressing that they need our presence. They need our focused and undivided attention. 

Now, quality time can be difficult to give, especially as a child grows older and life gets busier. Many of us struggle with accomplishing the tasks we need to in a given day let alone taking extra time to spend with our kids. However, for the child whose love language is quality time, taking that time is so important. A child who needs this time and does not receive it, can quickly begin to doubt that he is loved. 

For your child who needs this time, start by giving your child time first. Spend time with your child first, then move on to the task at hand. This might mean that you set a timer for ten minutes and play a game. Once the timer goes off, you return to the work you were doing. Your child gets some of your time and you still have time to work. You could also try including your child in your work. For example, if you are washing dishes, maybe your child could help dry and put them away. It may take longer to complete the task, but that time with your child will be worth your investment. 

When spending quality time together, just focus on being together. That is what your child desires most. Going somewhere special or spending money is not required when spending quality time together. Making eye contact, talking together, and giving your undivided attention is what matters most. 

To spend quality time with your baby, hold him, cuddle him, and play with him. For your toddler, play together. Join him on the playground, get down and help him build the sandcastle, build a blanket fort and read a book together under it. For your school aged child, play together, throw a football back and forth, do nails together, or plan date nights that give your child some one-on-one time. For your adolescent, setting aside time to talk one-on-one is really important. Those times that are set aside for the two of you can not only help you to understand your child better, but also give you an opportunity to discuss some deeper issues that would not otherwise come up in conversation. I’ve had many deep and important conversations with my oldest in the times we’ve spent with just the two of us. Giving our kids quality time is so important. 

Gifts is another love language. This love is communicated through the giving and receiving of gifts. A true gift for a child is just that. It’s a gift. It’s freely given as an expression of love, not payment for services rendered. Giving your child a gift as a reward for cleaning his room is not a true gift. It’s payment for cleaning his room. A child with this primary love language feels love upon receiving a gift and will make a huge deal about receiving the gift. The gift will be placed in a special place, and every time he sees the gift (even if a number of years have passed) he will feel loved.

For this love language to be effective, however, the gift must be given while communicating in another love language. Give words of affirmation or a hug with the gift. Give the gift as you spend quality time together. A child whose love language is gifts needs not just the physical gift. They need to feel the love behind the gift.

It’s important to note that gifts should not be used as a substitute for your presence. Our kids need our presence in their lives. It’s also important to remember not to over give. Just as we talked about with praise, if we overwhelm our child with gifts, the gifts may very well lose their specialness. Choose gifts carefully, size or cost doesn’t matter. What matters is the love behind it.

This language is easier to express as your child gets older. The love language of gifts can be expressed through a special treats given when you are out running errands or traveling. It could be snack served on a special plate or eating by candlelight. Love can be expressed through a special box or drawer for their treasures or by making up a song just for your child. You can wrap up new shoes and present them at dinner or bring your child something home from a trip. Remember that it isn’t necessarily the gift that matters most. What matters most is the love behind it. 

Our last love language is acts of service. This is a language as moms that we speak every day. This love is communicated by doing things for your child. 

There are two important things to note about acts of service for this language to be effective. First, doing what is best for your child, not what pleases him, should be your primary motivation. Acts of service can be both physically and emotionally demanding. It can be easy to run ourselves ragged trying to please everyone, especially our children. Identify what is best for your family and focus your efforts there. 

Secondly, it’s important that that your acts of service are age appropriate. What do I mean by that? Only do things for your child that he is unable to do for himself. For example, your infant is unable to feed himself. You must feed him. Your toddler is unable to do his laundry by himself. You must wash his clothes for him. Love is expressed to your children when you do those things for them that they are unable to do for themselves. 

Love is also expressed however, when you DON’T do things for your children that they are quite capable of doing themselves. For example, my twelve year old is completely capable of doing his own laundry. My nine year old can certainly unload the dishwasher. As your child gets older, it is important to give him additional responsibilities. This not only encourages independence, but teaches your child the value of hard work and responsibility. 

How do we express love through our acts of service?  For your infant, anything you do to care for him is an act of service. Feeding, changing diapers, and dressing him each day are all examples of act of service. The many things you do for your infant you will also do for your toddler. Dress him or help him pick out appropriate clothing. Feed him, wash his clothes, and take him to preschool. These are all examples of acts of service. For older children, it’s important to continue to meet their basic needs. But, it is also important at this age to begin giving them age appropriate chores. This not only fosters their independence, but teaches responsibility. It also shows trust on your part. Sometimes as moms, it can be hard for us to let go of some of our household responsibilities and put them in the hands of our children. They likely won’t load the dishwasher like you do, and it may take them forever to wash that sink full of dishes. But, it is so important that you place some trust in them and hand over some of those responsibilities. 

Now, there will be times that you do things for your kids that you know they can do on their own. For example, one day, we had stripped the sheets off of the beds so I could wash them. Later that evening, I went upstairs and made my oldest son’s bed. Can he make his own bed? Yes, but, I knew he was going to be getting home late that night. I made his bed out of love. There have been times that I’ve packed my kids’s backpacks on extremely chaotic mornings. Can my kids pack their own bags? Yes, they can, but I did it out of love for them. These acts of service were done purely out of love and was my way of loving my kids well in that moment. Though we don’t want to baby our kids, and they need to be held responsible in some areas, there are times when they need us to extend grace. They need us to love them well in the moment. 

How do we know which love language speaks directly to the heart of our child? First, observe how your child expresses love to others. Children will express love in the way that they would most like to receive it. For example: my youngest is always encouraging those around him and loves to give hugs. The love languages that speak to his heart are Words of Affirmation and Physical Touch. 

Secondly, listen to what your  child requests most often. If you hear, “Look at me”, that translates into “Spend time with me.” If your child asks, “Is this coloring ok”, that translates into “I need words of affirmation.” Listen to what your child is telling you.

Lastly, pay attention to what your child complains about most frequently. Frequency is the key here. If your child frequently says, “You’re always busy”, that child is likely trying to ask you to spend some quality time with him. If your child begs to be held, he needs some physical touch. Take notice of the complaints of your child. He simply could be asking for your love.

Take a moment and watch the following video.https://skitguys.com/videos/a-very-special-mommy. 

Did you notice the many different ways these kids felt loved? Learning to speak in the love languages that touch the hearts of those we love is so important. I encourage you to use them all not only to love your people well, but to show them what it looks like to love others. 

Most Important Work

 

References:

Campbell, Ross and Gary Chapman. The 5 Love Languages of Children. Northfield. 2012.

“A Very Special Mommy”. Skit Guys. https://skitguys.com/videos/a-very-special-mommy. Accessed 18 Nov. 2019.

“Most Important Work”. Joyfully Thriving. https://www.joyfullythriving.com/most-important-work. Accessed 21 Nov. 2019.