Monday, July 22, 2019

Dealing with Rejection



"He called me 'Indian' and I got mad at him...but then, I found out that I am Mayan and that they were pretty smart and fierce, so I guess it's OK he called me that..."

Is there anything harder than to witness the suffering of one's own children?

Every hint of pain that a person endures, is felt with double intensity by the heart of his/her mother.  It's just the way it is.  There's no way around it.  That's why Mothers are wired to protect their children.  Because, in a way, we are protecting our own vulnerabilities.  Therefore, when author Heidi St. John says in her book Becoming MomStrong that today's Mothers have to do something that the previous generations didn't have to worry about, my attention heightened.  What she says is that we have to prepare our kids to face rejection.

Wow...

Just the thought of my boys being rejected feels like a knife in my heart.  How could anybody reject them?  It's impossible!  They're the best!  In reality, however, she is right.  Nobody is everybody's cup of tea always.  There will always be people who are not going to like my sons.  There will be people who are not going to love all their ideas, looks, personalities, opinions, attitudes, words, beliefs...and they will encounter rejection. 

Even though our society marches to the battle song of "tolerance," people are very intolerant.  Tolerance, as preached by our society only means: we tolerate you as long as you share and advance our views; but if you see the issues at hand from a different perspective, you're a bigot!"

Growing up in a Christian environment and with Christian values, means that my sons will be at odds with many of the things our society and culture finds tolerable.  Therefore, rejection will be a reality for them.  How do we train them for that?  How do we teach them how to stay true to what they believe with love, grace, strength and respect? 

I have no idea...

As a teenager who wants to fit in and just be the same as everybody else around him, even though he knows he is different in many, many ways, Dylan is struggling.  His insecurities show up in his obsession with his appearance.  "I just want to be cool!" He says.  "It helps me be more confident," he admitted.  How do I counter that?  I want him to be confident too.  I want him to feel secure on who he is.  I want him to feel that he is just as good as any of the kids around him.  But, how do you explain to a 13-year-old that our identity comes from Christ, not from Adidas?  How do I make it sink in that God's opinion is the only one that matters?

We have talked about the irrelevance of outer looks and the importance of cultivating the spirit.  But, when kids at school use the term "Indian" as a derogatory name to make him feel belittled...Dylan's defense is to find comfort on the expensive logo printed on his tennis shoes. 

"Yes, you are of Mayan descent. And that should make you proud.  The Mayans were the smartest of all civilizations of native-Americans! (I know...it might be a bit of hyperbole; but they were pretty amazing!)  They knew most of the stuff the Europeans knew.  They were strong and fierce.  And you do have all that in your blood too!  And, on top of that, you are a child of God.  You are the son of the King! Nothing is more important than that!"  I have said these things to Dylan many times.  But, he still doubts.  He still finds tangible things more reassuring. 

O Lord...help me!  Please, help me be the Mom that a Guatemala-born, Mayan ancestry, American, Christian teen needs in this day in age.  Help me know how to guide him and how to help him work through his insecurities.  Help me know how to prepare him to face rejection with grace and strength.

My own insecurities lead me to doubt the effectiveness of what I tell my son.  But Heidi St. John's words remind me that a MomStrong finds supernatural courage from the Lord in the midst of overwhelming challenges.  And that I either trust and believe God and His promises; or I don't.  I can't be a halfway believer, because He is not a halfway God.  He is either Faithful or He is not. 

The good news is, we know He is!

 Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; he is the faithful God,keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commandments. Deuteronomy 7: 9

So, even though, knowing that my boys will face rejection in this world breaks my heart into pieces, I take heart and put my faith in the Faithful One.  Even though my courage and faith waiver, I stand on the Solid Rock, which stays unmovable and forever strong!  I chose trust.  I chose to believe His Word.  I chose to rest in His love.


Saturday, July 20, 2019

The Fear of the Lord



The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding. Proverbs 9: 10

I have read, heard and memorized this proverb...but...it still puzzles me...

So, I want to try to dig into it a bit today.  

I let my eyes wander back and forth on the verse, and I can't help but stop at the word "fear."  That's the one that catches my attention, and sort of makes me stumble in my understanding of this piece of Scripture.  Fear...I know a lot about fear...sigh...

Fear is my constant companion.  I fear illness.  I fear loneliness.  I fear uselessness.  I fear emptiness.  I fear condemnation.  I fear failure.  I fear lovelessness.  And the list goes on and on and on...and that's just the list of things I fear for myself...after having kids, the list of things I fear for my sons is endless!  I am so afraid for the safety, health and well-being of my boys that it's a miracle I allow them to even go to school!  (I tell you, I agonized about sending them to public school more than I have dreaded my own death...sigh...)

Fear paralyzes me.  It poisons my mind to the point that I have no room for any other thoughts, but the obsession of that which frightens me.  Fear enslaves me.  I become a puppet of that which makes me afraid.  Fear is the enemy's most effective tool in his quest to manipulate me.

So...how is it possible that the book of Proverbs...the quintessential book of wisdom...features fear...FEAR...as the beginning of wisdom?  I don't get it.

Well, perhaps it is because I'm allowing the lies and deceit of the devil to drown the voice of the Holy Spirit.  I'm allowing the devil's schemes to mask the truth.

In Biblical terms, when the word "fear" is associated with "of the Lord" the connotation is a positive reverence (admiration, adoration, devotion, respect, wonder etc.).  All the references to the "fear of the Lord" imply that attitude of being in a state of such awe, that our mind expands to begin to have a hint of an understanding of who the Holy One truly is!  And the more we gain such understanding, the more our reverence, admiration, adoration, devotion, respect...fear...increases because there is no other response to the infinite and amazing nature of Our God!  He is an AWESOME GOD!  And His breathtaking magnificence leaves us speechless and awestruck.

In Job 28: 28, God says:  'Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom, and to turn away from evil is understanding.'

The more we know Our Heavenly Father, the closer to wisdom we get.  The closer to God we get, the more we understand the need to turn away from evil.  Rejecting sin grows of our growing closer to God.  And the closer we grow to God, the more our "fear" of Him increases.

It's a riddle, I know.  But it's a marvelous one, isn't it?

The fear Proverbs 9:10 talks about is not the one that paralyzes us.  It's not the enemy-induced emotion that we feel when we take our eyes away from Christ and allow ourselves to fall for the devil's plots.  The fear of the Lord is the one that binds us to Him...like Jon Courson says in his Bible commentary, "The fear of the Lord is to love Him, to hear His song so clearly that the siren song of sin is drowned out completely."

Therefore, I pray that the next time I feel the crippling, cold chills of the enemy-induced fear crawling up my spine, the Holy Spirit gives me the weapons to combat that attack and extinguish the paralyzing and enslaving effects of its flame...so I can stay focused on the liberating, awestruck wonder of My Lord, instead. In the Precious Name of Jesus. Amen!


Saturday, July 13, 2019

Courage and Fear



One of the questions we are supposed to ponder in the MomStrong Bible study has to do with courage:  Can we be afraid and still be courageous? 

Well...ask my son Dylan, and he'd tell you!

A few weeks ago at church, Dylan had to face one of his deepest fears:  standing in front of people. 

The thing is that he had diligently attended confirmation classes with our Pastor and a group of kids at church for several months; but when it came time to take the confirmation vows, we were out of the country.  So he missed it.  But the Pastor told us he'd have an opportunity to do it when we got back. So, guess what? the first Sunday we were back, we hadn't really taken our seats yet (I have to say, we're always late...sorry...) when our dear Pastor called out Dylan to come up front to be confirmed...yikes! 

The four of us gasped in unison.  Dylan looked at Dan and I with terror showing in his eyes...and as we gave him the most encouragingly shaky nod we could muster, he got up and went in front of the congregation to join the church.  Let me just say that Grant, Dan and I stopped breathing for the duration of the ceremony...

After the vows were complete, our Pastor asked Dylan if he could give him a hug.  We saw Dylan timidly give him a silent nod, and as he open his arms for the embrace, finally the three of us were able to exhale...

"I was listening and paying attention to all the questions," Dylan told us later in the car as we were heading back home.  "I know, I could tell you were really focusing!" I replied giving him a kiss in the head.  "But I was so scared!"  He added.  "Yes, but you did it anyway, and we're very proud of you!" Dan said to him, giving him a wink on the rear view mirror.  "We are so very proud!" I repeated, as I watched Dylan relax on his seat with the hint of a smile on his face. 

So...courage is not the absence of fear.  To me, courage is doing what we have to do in spite of how terrified we are.  Courage is the ability to do something that scares us!  Therefore, we have to feel the cold sting of fear creeping up and down our spine in order to be courageous.

And the thing is...courage also involves a great measure of trust...trust in the One Who Gives us the strength and the ability to do what we can; the Same One Who Takes Over, and completes the things we can't.

If you ask Dylan, he'll say he is still terrified of standing up in front of the public.  But if you ask him, he'll also say that he has felt the power of God going with him and through him in the moment when he needs it.

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” Deuteronomy 31: 6

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Why do I struggle to make time for God?



As I'm getting ready to start the Becoming MomStrong Bible study, I'm hit by the first question

In your own personal experience, why do you think it is such a struggle to make time for God?

Oooo...kay... 

All I can think of is: "you're soooo  BUSTED!"

Deep sigh...

Regardless of how convicted I feel by this question, I can't help but also having a sense of hope.  You know why?  Because the more I contemplate the wording of the question, the more I realize it is not accusation.  You know what I mean?  The question is not pointing the finger of shame at me.  The question actually is implying the fact that it IS, indeed, a struggle to make time for God.  Yes, the struggle IS real, my friends.  It isn't just me.  We all have encountered the difficulty of setting aside time for our spiritual growth and communication with Our Heavenly Father.  Therefore, the question is not trying to make us feel guilty.  Guilt is not God's Modus Operandi.  Remember:

For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. John 3: 17

and

“In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace” Ephesians 1: 7

Therefore, guilt should not be our default emotion.  Never trust it.  Don't let it rule you.  But explore it and let it serve a purpose for your own benefit and growth, and then, discard it!  In this case, focusing on the guilt-inducing feelings that scream: "I am a failure because I struggle with setting aside time devoted solely to worship, prayer and thanksgiving to the Lord, Almighty everyday," would defeat the purpose of the question.  It would block any efforts I might be able to make in order to move towards the goal of spending more time with God.  That's what guilt does.  That's why it is a tool of the enemy, not of Our Heavenly Father.  

So, instead, let us focus on the actual point of the question:  why?  That's the real issue here.  Not whether I struggle or not...I do!  It's a fact!  The important part now is to examine myself and to find out what aspects of my life are preventing that I spend more time in devotions?

Deeper sigh...

I could type a mile-long list of reasons here, starting with the demands of my profession and the overwhelming burdens I'm carrying over my shoulders right now at work, all the way through the mundane, everyday details of life such as cleaning, ironing, cooking, grocery shopping, doctors' appointments, summer activity coordinating for my kids, all the way down to taking the dog out for his business...life is busy, no doubt about it!  A more rigorous scrutiny of my choices, however, would, perhaps, reveal things I don't really want to see...things about my character and about my heart that I try to masquerade or hide behind the disguise of busyness...things like...relentless selfishness and enormous amounts of pride.

Yeah, I'm busy, but, why?

What propels me into the rushing and choppy waters of everyday chaos?  

I regret to say that some of the fuel that moves me into a life of self-absorption and disorganization  might be my quest for self-indulgence, to get what I want and my thirst for self-fulfillment...my unquenchable thirst for feeling accomplished...

Simply put: I want to be the woman that everyone looks at in awe, respect and admiration.

In order for me to begin to attempt to have a life of achievement, I need to get busy as I grab the wheel every single day.  Notice, it is all about "I".  And, a life where "I" is number one...there isn't much room for anyone else.  I am the captain of my own life.  I do all the steering.  Therefore, I don't need to make time for anybody else.  

What is a person like me to do?  Surrender.

I need to surrender the illusion of power and control.  God is Sovereign over all!
I need to surrender my desire to be awesome.  God is the Only One who is Awesome!
I need to surrender the lie that I'm indispensable.  God is the Sustainer!
I need to surrender the notion that I have to do it all on my own.  His Grace is Sufficient!
I need to surrender my insecurities.  God is the Only Solid Rock!
I need to surrender my need to follow my own path.  Jesus is the Only Way, Truth and Life...I just need to follow Him!

In summary: why do I think I struggle to make time with God? Personally, because I'm not good at surrendering all to Him.  

I pray that the Holy Spirit will guide me on this quest to surrendering to His love and grace; and that in His infinite compassion, Christ will show me the way to Him without guilt.  May we sense His hand holding us tight as we tip-toe into the path He is unlocking in front of us.  Amen!

Friday, June 28, 2019

Mommy-Hulk ... MomStrong

"MomStrong"...hmmm...as soon as I saw that term, I was intrigued...

I was browsing titles of Bible studies and books specifically written for Mothers, so when I saw the title Becoming MomStrong, by Heidi St. John I felt drawn to that one.  So I got it.  I haven't read much yet (I have to admit, I'm currently obsessed with Vannetta Chapman's trilogy The Remnant! but I'm already wrapping up book three, so I'll be able to focus on this soon :) What I've read, however, seems very promising.  This is why I've decided to write my meditations and thoughts about this book as I go along with a small group of Moms who, like me, are seeking ways to be what the Lord has designed us to be...which we are still trying to figure out what it is, exactly...but anyway...I hope this is a productive journey that moves us closer to Christ as we walk on the road of Motherhood.

Before anything, however, I've got to get a better sense for what the term "MomStrong" truly means.  My first instinct is to see it as a rather fluid concept, since strength varies from person to person.  However, I have a feeling I might be wrong...

In the few pages I have read so far, the author hasn't really offered a definition of MomStrong.  So, I'm still intrigued, and wondering if there's a formula or something to figure it out.  Secretly, (another confession moment warning) I'm hoping it validates my Mommy-Hulk tendencies :)  You know?  Strong...who's the strongest Avenger, after all?  Yep!  The Hulk! :)  Anyway, I digress...

After pausing long enough to hear the thoughts bouncing in my head, however, I start to realize the strength that Heidi St. John is referring to in her book, does not reside in our ability to smash or anything like that.  I believe, what she is trying to say is that the Mom who is strong, is the Mom, who in her weakness, knows that her strength comes from the Lord, and Him alone. (Psalm 118: 14)

I believe, that what we will encounter in this book, is the affirmation that we don't need to do Motherhood on our own, simply because we can't.  Like St. John says:  "coming to terms with weakness is liberating."  Yes, it's very liberating because it frees us from the burden of believing the lie that we have to accomplish the mission of Motherhood by our own strength and power. 

She goes on to say that when we finally admit we can't do it on our own, and look to Jesus, we become free from the past, from the tyranny of other people's expectations, from worry, and free to love and to grow. (p xvi) 

I'd add, that we become free from our own, self-constructed expectations too.  Often, as it happens in my case, the biggest burden is the one I place on my own shoulders myself.  Therefore, admitting that I am truly not superwoman...takes that crushing weight off my back so I can stand up on the Solid Rock!

"God has already given us the blueprint for becoming MomStrong," St. John says, "that blueprint is found in the Bible."  So, the first step to becoming, whatever it is MomStrong means, begins by opening Scriptures and making the Word of God our sure foundation.

Maybe reading this book will help me get rid of the green-angry monster I carry inside...or maybe it will help me embrace the hero that also resides in me...Maybe I can stop being Mommy-Hulk and become MomStrong...I don't know, but one thing I'm sure of:  anything that moves me to have a Bible-centered worldview in Motherhood has to be a plus!  So, maybe we can embark on this journey together, and see where it takes us.  Guided by the Holy Spirit, I trust the sailing will be smooth until we find our safe haven. 

Thursday, June 27, 2019

As Iron Sharpens Iron...


"The Hulk is still a hero!"  These words implanted in my psyche yesterday as I read a reply one of my dearest sister in Christ and role model sent me in response to my post about being a Mommy Hulk...

She added:  "He still does good and wins victories!  He isn't what he wants to be, but no one is..."

I didn't know what to say.  I was so moved by her words, I became speechless.  I just wanted to soak in the healing waters of that thought for as long as possible and let its wisdom filter through my insecurities all the way to my soul. 

It was as if God, Himself, had commanded my friend Kim to write me that message, for it was exactly what I needed.  Perhaps, that's exactly what happened.  After all, God knows what He is doing and He reigns over the heavens and the earth!  But, my point is, Kim knew I needed words of encouragement and she acted upon that knowledge.  She realized that, even though she knows I know the truth, I needed support.  No doubt, prompted by the Holy Spirit, she took to action in solidarity with a Mom who is still struggling with the uncertainty of her own inadequacy.  As a more experienced Mother, Kim was able to look at my situation from a different perspective to offer a lifeline so I wouldn't sink and drown in my own self-pity. 

I believe that's what Proverb 27: 17 means when it says:

As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.

In Mommy-world, it reads:  "as iron sharpens iron, so one Mom sharpens another in order to survive motherhood and see your children live to become adults!"  The wisdom of experience and the experience gained as one Mom walks ahead of another one in the long and rocky road of motherhood are not to be kept private and secret.  Sharing the tests, anxiety, fears, concerns, panic, exhilaration, love, joy and all the other rollercoaster of emotions we feel as Mothers at a personal level could become another Mother's reason to hang on!

Therefore, in our desperation to succeed at this God-given mission, let's not forget the importance of surrounding ourselves with a group of Mommy-sisters in Christ that can help us win victories in the war we are fighting on.  Let's put on the Armor of God (Ephesians 6: 10-18) and let's lock arms.  Together, armed by the power of the Living God, we will win victories.  Even the Hulk does too, right? (Hey, there are instances when God uses those with the ability to smash :) 

We are not what we want to be, but who is? The call is not to be perfect on our own, but to show up as we are, and trust that God will do the rest.  The times we live in are not easy-peasy.  The battle is real and the heart must not be faint.  So, let's bring what we've got to the fight for our kids and see the Lord do His thing through us.  After all, we have already won because He who leads us is Victorious and we have Victory in Him!  I say, then, let's power up...even if it means to turn green once in a while :) 




Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Mommy Hulk



"Mama, look...it's you!"  Dylan said to me the other night as I was exiting his room after tucking him in.  He was pointing at the calendar hanging by the door of his room, which for this month has a giant picture of the Hulk in a menacing pose. 

I looked at the picture and pretended it didn't bother me by mimicking the pose before I left the room...but, as I closed the door behind me, I couldn't help but letting out a deep sigh, maskarading a tear and a knot in my throat. 

Yep...that's how my children see me, as a green, mean monster full of uncontrollable rage...

My heart sank...

The thing is, I can't deny it.  That is who I am:  Mommy Hulk.  I've said it before.  It's a fact, and there's very little I can do about it.  I want to become something different, but I'm unable to change.  So, the guilt takes over and my insecurities gain another foothold in my soul.

Motherhood hasn't been easy for me.  Half of the time I have no clue what I'm doing, and the other half I know that what I'm doing is wrong.  My children are precious to me.  I praise the Lord for the privilege of having entrusted them to me...and at the same time, I fear because I don't know why He did that?  He knows my limitations.  He knows I truly suck at it (that's a fact!).  He knows my flaws and weaknesses.  But yet, He still gave me the chance to enjoy the greatest gift a woman can receive: hearing someone calling her Mom.

I don't get it.

See...what happens to me is a classic example of how the enemy works.  It is the enemy the one that makes me believe I'm inadequate.  It's the enemy the one that keeps my insecurities alive.  It's the enemy who plays mind tricks and pushes all my buttons so I feel like a failure.  It's the enemy the one who turns on the guilt.  And he does all that, so I would run away from God as far as I can.  The enemy knows that in my shame, I feel unworthy to seek the presence of the Most Holy One.  Therefore, he keeps stocking the fire of my self-destructing attitudes so I would stay away from the One who can heal me and restore me.

The biggest lie the enemy tells me, and I believe, is that it is up to me to be a good Mother.  He insists in deceiving me by tricking me into believing that it is by my own power, resources, ability, wisdom, intelligence, creativity, strength, etc. that I can stop being Mommy Hulk.  The truth is, I am nothing.  I've got nothing on my own.  Anything that would make me a good Mom comes from God and God alone!

My problem is that I focus on the wrong message.  Instead of paying so much attention to the lies of the enemy, I must turn my eyes towards Christ and listen to the voice of truth who tells me:

But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may 
rest on me. 2 Corinthians 12:9

It isn't easy to be a Mom.  My journey into the adventure of Motherhood started on the rough path of infertility and continues on the rollercoaster of middle age challenges.  But the one thing I know: the journey is not over yet.  And for as long as I am alive, I will keep combating the enemy's attacks by fastening the belt of Truth, putting on the breastplate of righteousness, the shoes of the Gospel of Peace and the helmet of Salvation, holding firm the shield of Faith and wielding the sword of the Spirit that is the Word, all of it in prayer! (Ephesians 6: 10-18)

The rest, I will leave it up to the Lord and Commander of the army.  He is in control and He certainly knows what He is doing.  He knew what He was doing when He decided to give me children.  He knows what He is doing as He continues to hold me in my journey.  In His hands I place my efforts, even if often they seem right out of a Marvel comic book.  Amen!