Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Knee Deep in the Struggle

Are you in a "struggle"? You know what I mean; you feel like you are pulled in 100 different directions at once and you don't know which struggle is worth the fight and which one is not. Struggles come in all different shapes and sizes. I have a friend who is in a physical struggle with breast cancer. She has small children and struggles with how to effectively treat it in order to have more time with her children. I have another friend who is in an emotional struggle with how to effectively help her aging mother. A sweet young friend of mine is facing a struggle with her pregnant teenager and they are both way in over their heads, knee deep in the struggle. Daily I watch a friend struggle with insecurity, low self-esteem and depression. And dear friend, I know that if you are living, breathing, and serving Christ, you struggle.

As I wrote in an earlier post, I don't swim, I awkwardly dog paddle. Since my Dad had such a fear of water that he told us girls we couldn't go swimming until we learned to swim, I didn't do much swimming. When I was about 9 or 10, our Baptist association rented a local swimming "lake" for the day and all the
G A girls and their leaders were invited to swim, free of charge, and my Dad let me go. There were lots of leaders there, plus women from our own church, and I'm sure he felt I would be safe.

For awhile I was content to splash around in the edges of the water, but I kept watching my friends out in the deeper part, so I decided to venture out a little farther. This may have been a man-made lake, but it still had drop-offs and I hadn't ventured out too far until I stepped off the solid ground and found myself in water up to my chin and I panicked. And what do we do when we panic? We struggle. Even to this day I can still feel the fear, I can still hear the roaring of the water in my ears, and still remember struggling for something to grab hold of. As I stood on my tippy toes and tried to get closer to shore, the noise, the splashing, and the fear all contributed to my struggle. I was in "almost" over my head, struggling against the water that threatened to wash over me, and more scared than I could remember being in my entire young life. Suddenly someone saw my struggle and they reached out a hand and effortlessly pulled me onto solid ground, I made my way to the shore, and I stayed there for much of the day.

As an adult, I learned that the struggle I had with the water that day was nothing compared to the struggles of everyday living. David and I married young and when 2 very opinionated, strong willed people try to make a decision or come to an agreement, you talk about a struggle! I've struggled with other issues such as fear, low self-esteem, the usual depression that most women struggle with from time to time, jealousy, hurt feelings and anger. I've struggled with making good choices, and the everyday struggle of being a godly wife and raising our sons. And then as if I hadn't struggled enough, there was the struggle to be a good mother-in-law, grandmother, daughter, daughter-n-law, sister, friend. In other words, the struggle to be perfect and have it all together because that's what people expect of us strugglers, right?

If you are a reader of the Old Testament, then you know that many men, and women, struggled. In Genesis
32 Jacob actually struggled, physically, with God Himself. And poor ole Moses endured one struggle after another as he tried to get those wandering Israelites to the Promised Land! But for me, Job stands out as the "struggler of all strugglers".

Job was a man who loved God and God loved him. Job is one man in the Old Testament that I believe God was "proud of", like you and I take that good kind of pride in our children. Job was wealthy, blessed with a wonderful family, honor and prestige in the community and an all around great guy. Then one day, he lost it all. And for the first time in his life he knew what it meant to struggle, I mean really struggle. I hope you'll read his story in the book of Job, but what caught my eye today is found in Job 41. I was reading in a devotional and saw the verse Job 41:3, and in that verse is a word that has always fascinated me and sent my imagination racing; leviathan. The leviathan is defined as the largest of all sea creatures and in Job 41 the Bible says in v33 that "upon the earth there is nothing that can compare to leviathan."

Dear friend I do not know what your struggles may be today, but as a woman I know you have them. Just know this; that what God created, God controls. And if God has complete authority over leviathan, then He has complete control over your struggles. You may have created your struggle through neglect, wrong choices, or out and out sin, but God allowed it and what God allows, He can fix.

So whether you feel you are treading water and just trying to make it to shore, or if you are-facing a struggle that threatens your marriage, the safety of your children, your job, or your very life, the God Who created leviathan can replace your despair with hope.

In Job 41 God reminded Job that He had created leviathan and He has all authority over it. But please don't stop there; in chapter 42 Job finally gets it. After all of his struggles with fear, insecurity, loss, hopelessness, and pride, he sees for the first time why God allowed his struggle.
v2; Job said, "I know that You can do everything, and that no purpose of Yours can be withheld from You."
v4; "Listen please and let me speak."
And here it is: v5; "I have heard of You with my ears, but now my eyes can see you."

We hear the words of God, but after a struggle with our weight and health issues and God prevails, we see Him.
We hear His words in our struggle with insecurity, but He answers us, and we see Him.
We hear His words in our financial struggle, but then He sends a breakthrough and we see Him.

Dear friend, whatever your struggle may be today, I encourage you to take it to the One Who created and controls leviathan. Remind yourself of Who God is, how big and powerful He is, of His abiding love for you. I am continually amazed at how much less I struggle when I remember that the One Who created all things has total authority over my struggle. Could my struggle in that lake so many years ago turned out differently? It sure could have, but God had a divine plan for my life and He has a divine plan for your life, too. Sometimes in that divine plan He lets us struggle for a set time so that we can grow and expand. And sometimes in that divine plan He lets us struggle so that we won't just hear Him, we will see Him.

Blessings to you and yours today. Thank you to each one who responds; many are faithful to respond to each post and it means so much to me.


(and just one more thing; when you have been delivered from a struggle, and you see a dear sister in her own struggle, do what that dear lady, that I did not know, did for me: reach out a hand and help pull her out of her struggle. God bless)

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

What's The Plan?

I am a planner. If you read my last blog, then you also know I like structure, routine, and order in my home and in my personal life. As I often heard a wise woman say, "A place for everything and everything in it's place." Sometimes that works, but much of the time it doesn't, right?

Being a a structure oriented, type A personality, goes a long way in making me a planner. When we have a holiday or family get together coming up, I start making plans weeks in advance. Most of the time, planning in advance is a good thing and it sure helps things to run more smoothly, but.......sometimes even the best made plans can get unmade in a hurry.

This month we are celebrating our youngest grandson, Isaac's birthday. He will be a year old and we are so blessed and thankful for his life. Since April had a C-section with our grandson Alex, she scheduled a C-section with Isaac. And since the hospital was about 40 miles from their home, and she would have to stay for 3 days, David and I planned to stay in a motel with the 3 older children so they would be close to the hospital and it would make for much less driving back and forth.

As is true to my character, I had our bag packed several days before the planned event. Two days before the scheduled C-section, I receive a call from Kyle about 6 a.m. saying April was in labor, they were headed to the hospital and he needed me to get there as quickly as possible. Do you know what an unexpected 6 a.m. call like that does for a seasoned planner? First of all, I had "planned" to wash my hair that day and do all the things we women "do" when we know we are going to be gone a few days. I had "planned" to get everything in order here at home, and I was looking forward to spending a few days with the older children and being a help to Kyle and April and their family. But my plans didn't even enter the picture when I received that call. David had already left to get an early start at work, so I called him and told him what was going on, then I threw on some clothes, combed my needed to be washed hair, jumped in the car and headed to the hospital. I was excited, nervous, and deep in prayer as I turned on my flashers and as David says, "Probably at least drove the speed limit."

As I am driving down the parkway, I receive another call from Kyle. An ambulance had met them about half-way there and she would be arriving at the hospital ahead of them and I needed to be there. That sure wasn't in the plan, and I began to pray, in earnest, for God's mercy, His grace, and His blessing. God was faithful to our family that day and we have precious Isaac as evidence of His goodness.

Later that evening after things had calmed down a bit, I jokingly told a friend, "Well as usual, I made my plans, then God showed me His."

Do you ever make plans? It is scriptural to make plans; remember the ant in Proverbs 6? And what about the woman in Proverbs 31? She made all kinds of plans for herself and her family, and they were good plans, plans that God blessed. Making plans, setting goals for your family, your personal spiritual growth, financially and for your health are all good things and things that God will bless. The problem occurs when I focus on the plan and not the God Who reigns over the plan.

Proverbs 19:21; "There are many devices (plans) in a person's heart; nevertheless the counsel (decree) of the Lord, that will stand (prevail)."  I love that KJV word nevertheless; for me it's right up there with "wherefore and therefore". It says to me, "Penny, go ahead and plan your day, nevertheless, don't be caught off guard if I change things around a bit for your good and My glory." Only someone in authority can issue a decree and only God Jehovah has the authority to make a decree in my life.

So how do you respond when your best made plans are suddenly changed and you or someone you love must move in a different direction?

True of false:
1. I get angry.
2. I blame someone else.
3. I try to make my plan work anyway. (can be dangerous)
4. I cry and have a "poor me" party for one.
5. I adjust my plan to God's plan and keep on moving.
6. I learn from the experience and choose to ask God to help me make my plan the next time.
7. I look at God's plan and say, "Hey, this worked out much better than I had planned."

Well, needless to say, God's plan was much better than mine. April had a speedy recovery, no issues with surgery, she was back home in less time, and there was less stress on their family. And for me...I'm learning some planning adjustments. I find myself asking God more often, "Lord, what do You want me to do today?
How can I be a blessing to someone? I "plan" to do so-and-so today, but if You need me somewhere else, I'll change the plan."

I had such a good time that day with my grandchildren.  There was no plan, we just hung out, ate lots of junk food, made a movie of the day, and I inner-acted with people I may not have had the opportunity to be with had we stuck to "my plan."

Ladies, it is amazing what God will do when we let Him "run the show". Would there be less stress in our marriage, with our kids, in our health, at the workplace, even in our church family, if we didn't have to always be in control, and if we got up each morning and said, "This is the day that the Lord has made; I will rejoice and be glad." And Lord, what's Your plan for me today? And then move in the direction that the Holy Spirit sends us.

People watch how we respond to the un-planned, and they are influenced, one way or the other by how we react. It's amazing, yes, even life altering what un-explainable, supernatural things can take place when I take my hands off of my life and surrender control to the One Who has the authority to issue the decree and say


Monday, August 4, 2014

Boundaries, Structure, and Responsibility

Hey Everyone! Has this been the busiest summer you have ever had or what?? I know it sure has been at the Noffsinger household. We've hardly had time to sit on the patio and enjoy a cold glass of tea and watch the hummingbirds! (one of my favorite summertime things to do. If you haven't gotten there yet, trust me, one day you will be old enough to enjoy it, too!)

I can't believe school is already starting! My Mom used to say that she was always ready for school to be out, but she sure was ready for it to start again. And as a Mom of 3 boys I soon understood what she meant. School means routine and I like a routine.

Recently a Mom was sharing with me about her daughter's obsession with her new phone. We talked about all the advantages of kids having cell phones and she feels that her daughter is mature enough to handle the responsibility, but she had some concerns. She said to me, "All she wants to do is face time her friends, take selfies, (selfies, really? what's next?) text and play games." I shared with her that my boys often express relief that kids didn't have cell phones when they were in school because I would never give them a minute's peace; I'd be calling to check on them all the time! So true. We talked for a while about some things she could do to lessen her daughter's phone time, and with school starting this week, I thought I'd share 3 of those things on the blog.

(to my friend in Uganda we will do a marriage post soon, I promise.)

With kids it's all about boundaries. Boundaries say to a child, "You are loved. I care too much about you to allow you to do whatever you please, whenever you please." I asked her, "Who bought the phone?" And she said, "Well I did." And I said, "I thought so. Children usually don't have the money to buy their own phone, ipad, notebook, or ipod. And since you are the one who bought it, doesn't it just make good sense that you should be the one to decide when it is used, where it is used, and how it is used?"

It's amazing how secure kids feel when parents establish authority in their home by setting boundaries. Ipads are great tools for school and work, plus they're fun. But children need balance and too much Iphone or Ipad time will get the best of kids off balance, quickly. You bought it, you set the boundaries.

Children don't just need boundaries for Iphones; parents need to set boundaries for how their children speak to them, for how they speak about them, for how they speak to other adults and their peers. Children also need boundaries in what they wear, (who buys their clothes?) who their friends are, where they go, and what time they are to be home.

So Mom, talk to Dad and together you set the boundaries for your family.When you do, you will be amazed at the level of respect that will be present in your home. Respect for you, but also, you will treat your children with more respect. Remember, you are the Mom; you bought it, you set the boundaries. You are the Mom; you decide how you are treated by your children, tell them what you expect, then tell them what the consequences will be when they step outside the boundaries, and follow through. Here's a great Bible verse to teach your children about the importance of living within the boundaries that you set for them;
Psalm 101:2; I will behave myself wisely in a mature way.

Children need structure. Parents create structure in their children's lives by developing a routine that works for your family. A set time for homework, family devotions, mealtime, bathtime, getting their backpack ready for the next day, laying out their clothes and a set bedtime all work together to make your kids feel secure, and gives them the structure they need to be successful in school. Structure and routine will give your kids the edge they need to be prepared physically, mentally, socially, and scholastically. A sleep deprived kid, without his homework complete, and all fueled up with sugar and junk food does not make for a pleasant student. And there is no way they can have a good day when it gets off to that kind of a start. Mom, you are the key; work out a routine that works with your family's schedule and stick to it as much as possible. You will be amazed at the difference almost instantly in your kids when they adjust themselves to the routine you put in place.
A great verse for teaching structure; Eccles.3:1; To everything there is a season and a time to every purpose under heaven.

Children need responsibility. When you create boundaries in your child's life, then build structure into their day, giving them age appropriate chores will build confidence and self esteem. Work is an important part of our lives. And next to our identity as believers in Christ, our work identifies us. Our work is a display of our talents and spiritual gifts and training. Work is a good thing and most children like to work. When children are given age appropriate tasks, then as they grow bigger, given more advanced chores, character and integrity begin to blossom and grow. They love to hear Mom and Dad praise them for a job well done. Even when they let you know very matter-of-factly that they are not pleased with what you have assigned them to do, but they finish the job and you praise them for their work, you can just see that little face soften and grow tender at your praise and gentle touch. Giving your kids age appropriate work will be a blessing in their lives, even if they don't think so at the time. Here's a great verse to teach your kids about the importance of work; 1 Cor.4:12; Work with your own hands.

Mom and Dad, you are the key players in your children's lives. Our kids are too valuable and too important to us to allow them to live outside the boundaries. We care too much about them to allow them to live without good habits that are formed by family structure and routine. And work establishes their place in the family and society. And as I shared with my young friend, when Mom and Dad set boundaries for their family, set up structure and a routine for their home, and give age appropriate work for their kids to do, iphone, ipad, ipod, video games and a whole lot of other "obsessions" have an amazing way of taking care of themselves.

Here's a suggestion; try these 3 things in your home for 2 weeks and watch the level of respect within your family go through the roof. See if they don't make a difference in how much more smoothly their school day goes and how much work will actually get done. But it gets better; kids who live within the boundaries that are lovingly set by their parents, learn good habits through structure and routine, and who learn at an early age the value and importance of a job well done, will be "stand out" kids from most of their peers. They will have a level of character and integrity that we don't see in every child. Sounds simple, I know, but from experience I can tell you it works. Try it, you will be amazed!

I'd love to hear from you. Contact me through the blog or by email and let me know how it's working for you. God loves your family and He desires that you succeed as a Mom. And I do, too.

Have a great day and a great new school year!!