Couch Parenting

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Could you imagine if you were the coach of an NBA team, hired for the sole purpose of coaching your team to a victory, leading ultimately to a national championship and you never even left the bench? My guess is you wouldn’t be a very effective coach. You would most likely be fired for not doing your job. More than that the players wouldn’t respect you, would never feel truly led or encouraged because you’re sitting on the bench merely yelling at them to do their jobs.

Your leadership wouldn’t go very far.

This is where I found myself the other night, this is the image God gave me to teach me a lesson, and it’s a lesson many of us might need to learn. With a mass of technology to occupy our time from smart phones to laptops to tablets, family time is getting less and less and children are becoming more and more unruly, or maybe that’s just in my house? This lesson came to me as I was directing my child to go and get ready for bed. I had been busy all night, helping my oldest with a project, fixing dinner, serving dinner, cleaning up the kitchen and in between doing loads of laundry.

I was tired.

I had just plopped myself down for the first time that evening and pulled out my phone to respond to some messages. “Get up and lead her to the bath.” I knew it in my heart it was the right thing to do, but did I mention I was tired? My daughter continued to lay on the couch, not moving, not doing a single thing I said. I looked over at my husband, and he was working so I was the parent of the moment. My impatience was growing, and I felt my tone getting more and more tense. The Voice got louder, “Get up and take her to the bath!” I argued with that wisdom, “I’m tired. Why can’t she just do what I told her to do and get in the bathtub?!” Then, my heart awoke. I looked at this growing girl beside me and how she was laying up next to me, and I realized that perhaps it wasn’t disobedience keeping her from doing what I asked but a desire to be with me. That’s when God said, “You can’t pour into her from the couch. You can’t help her to know and find me while you are on your phone. You can’t show her my intentional love and attention if she reluctantly gets it from you.”

Ouch. God pinch.

Ironically, or should I say, unsurprisingly, when I reached for her hand and told her, “Come on, I’ll sit with you while you take your bath.” She didn’t hesitate. Immediately she got up, and we went to the bathroom. We had a good chat. She shared about her day, how she had been hurt by her friend, how she was wondering if God saw that moment, and I chastised myself. I could have missed those confessions, failed to have an opportunity to undo that hurt and assure her that indeed God did see that moment… Just as He saw that one.. And the one before that where I sat with my butt on the couch.

Everyday it’s a choice – to couch parent or invest. And I don’t always get it right, but when I do – the reward is a better relationship with my girls and a greater understanding of my Father.

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The Journey begins…

I’ve been home a full 3 days from my trip to Guatemala, and I’m still struggling with what to say, what to share, what to reveal about my journey. Tonight I have decided that I have to start somewhere, begin to share the story, open up my heart to what I am only beginning to make sense of…so bear with me.

The moment that I saw the lights of Guatemala City appear out the airplane window, my soul thrilled. There was this feeling pulling on my heart like an excited child dragging my attention to something important. I couldn’t process the feeling immediately, and then I heard it, the voice of God echoing in my spirit with that same emotion of excitement, “I can’t wait for you to meet my children!” I almost cried as the lights grew closer and closer and I began to make out the mountains and the terrain. I closed my eyes and prayed this prayer, “God, show yourself to me. Show me your might and your wonder. Show me how wild and free you are! Break out of this box that I’ve placed you in, and be the wild and powerful God I know you to be!”

There is this misperception that ministry teams come to bring God to the lost…the truth is that God’s people are all over the globe. We don’t know them so we aren’t sure they exist, but they do, everywhere, whether we know them or not. God’s presence isn’t ushered in by one source, nor is it limited by anything. Governments can’t stop Him. Laws can’t rule Him out. He doesn’t require us to represent Him. He is, and we are invited into the journey for what He can teach us and do through us, not for what we can do for Him. I knew the moment I heard His Voice my trip wasn’t about me bringing Him to a lost nation, but Him showing me more of Who He is and what He has done and what He longs to do. This set the tone for the whole trip, the journey where He had invited me. It was about so much more than the abandoned, misused, and rejected girls in a home in Guatemala- it was about His Kingdom, His desires, and my expectations.

I’m going to take the next several days to attempt to communicate what I heard from Father God while I was away, and my prayer is that as you read this, you will understand more of Who He is that allows us to call Him Daddy and, as Paul also prayed “that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” That is where Life becomes more than existing and is filled to the greatest measure of Love and Grace and POWER that can transform a starved and dying world.

Dave Ramsey called me “STUPID”

I will never forget that day. I found myself in a tough financial situation, and needed some advice. Who better to get financial advice from than Dave, right? I called the number, I waited for what seemed like hours (but was more like 20 minutes), and an operator asked me my problem. “I don’t have health insurance and my daughter was recently hospitalized, I need some advice.” I couldn’t believe my blessing when I heard her say, “Hold on. We will patch you thru.”

What? Deep breath. (Okay, a few deep breaths and a quick prayer.) “Hello, you’re on the air…” It wasn’t an all together big thing to be on the radio, I cohosted a local radio show, mostly it was the knowledge that I was talking to THE Dave Ramsey. I began to share with him my problem, stating that my husband and I had been without health insurance for a little over two years, and we were suddenly stuck in a situation with medical bills that we weren’t altogether prepared for. I didn’t get much further. “What!?” He was appalled. I don’t remember the exact next few words, but he finished it with “Of course you are in a bad situation, you are stupid!” He rattled something off about finding an endorsed insurance provider right away and to never make that stupid mistake again. No time for response, the music played, the endorsements started and the show was over.

It was my turn to be dumbfounded. And then, I was angry.

Stupid is one of my least favorite words in the world. You can call me ignorant, unwise, naïve, but don’t call me stupid! I wanted to call him back, not in a fit of anger exactly, I was biting back tears of explanation. It wasn’t stupidity that led us to make that decision. It was faith!

My husband and I have never been in debt. We learned early on that you only buy if you have the money. You never borrow what you can’t pay back. Even then, we lived on a budget and were frugal; money wasn’t something we were stupid with. We weren’t living in “envelopes” but we were very aware of our expenditures. My husband was offered a new job, he had crunched numbers and looked at our present income compared to the adjusted income, it was driving him insane, almost literally. He was trying to figure out how I could stay at home with our kids, a priority for us, and him still take this job that would eliminate a 45 minute commute that he felt was wasted time that he’d rather spend at home.

One Sunday he was in that same state of mind, crunching numbers, a constant calculator running digits through his brain, but he was on stage at church singing with the praise band. It bothered him that he couldn’t even worship without numbers cropping up, so he prayed, “God, what do you want me to do!?” He says the answer was practically audible, “Don’t take the insurance. I will take care of your family, but invest in My House.” Weird, right? Absolutely. But any responsible child of God doesn’t hear that message and say, “Nah.” In His heart he replied, “Yes Lord,” and IMMEDIATELY the numbers stopped.

So we began a journey of faith. Two kids aged two and four and we opted out of health insurance. Stupid? According to Mr. Ramsey it was and by no means something we would haphazardly recommend to others, but we were absolutely convinced that God would take care of us. And He did, for exactly two years.

My husband admits that at the end of that time he felt that God was leading him to be insured again. He began looking and talking to people but procrastinated in making a decision on acquiring insurance for our family. Then, one of our daughters got really sick with double pneumonia and was hospitalized with white blood cell levels that the doctors were convinced were fatal. We were told we’d be in there for a week at least, probably 10 days. Even as we filled out admission papers, I trusted and believed that God would to take care of us. Three days later, to the doctor’s documented and utter amazement, my baby was healed and discharged. Three days and $6,000 dollars later, we had accrued debt that we weren’t prepared for, slight as it was compared to what it might have been!

It was that debt that led me to call the debt guru. It was that debt that God used to show us that it was time again to be insured. It wasn’t a fear thing. It was just very clear that our provision was shifting. And, in those two years, we had done as we promised by investing in His house.

But that isn’t the end of the story… this is the part that I want to tell Dave, “God used that debt to show us what our next steps should be financially, and in less than 6 months time, we not only had paid off every bit of that debt, but my husband’s employment changed and our income increased and that additional amount we were having to pay separately for the girls’ and my insurance didn’t seem to dent our budget!”

This isn’t a story about health and prosperity. This is a testimony of faith and faithfulness. A confession of being weird (never stupid!), and realizing afresh that God sometimes asks us to do the ridiculous, but in the end, He will give you wisdom and understanding that is like foolishness to the world. We continue to live weirdly. We happily live below our means so that we can do more for His Kingdom and His people. Not because we have to, or because we expect His blessing, but because we have seen that there is nothing in this world that can compare to serving God.

Lapping it up

Silence.

It’s impossible.

In this day and age it is.

I sought silence. I pursued it thinking somewhere, somehow, it was possible. I went to the quietest place in my house. My bathtub. Seems crazy, doesn’t it? But I have real moments with God there. I was convinced that if I could find total silence, I would hear His voice louder than ever.

I sat there and waited. All around me was noise, my dogs jingling collar in the hall, the man next door mowing for the third time this week. The pool pump running. The air conditioner kicking on and off again. Clicks, and rings, and vibrations. Nothing that I wanted to hear. I wanted to hear God!

So I submerged myself. Head, body, feet, hands, ears completely submerged in water. Still no silence, and added to that was the rush of thoughts and feelings and disappointment that I was trying and still there was noise! I got upset, “All I wanna do is hear you God. All I want is complete silence so I can here your voice.”

Then I heard him…not in the silence, every sound shared a lesson, but in the stillness.

I stilled my emotions, my desperation and I listened. The sound that was almost overwhelming was that of water. It was as if God said, “Remember this? This is where we first met. You were a developing baby and mine were the hands that gently formed you. I love this sound…listen and remember.”

The next sound I heard was my heart beat. ”And that….that is my love for you. The life I have given you. I choose to give you life so that you might find me. That passion that you feel, that overwhelming love that knocks your breath away, all me.”

Next I heard the steady inhale and exhale, of each recently ragged breath. “I breathed life in you! That is my breath that fills your lungs! Air didn’t exist until I breathed it. With each pull and push of your lungs you must know that I am breath to you.”

I opened my eyes, thinking I might see Him sitting right there, smiling beside me, His presence was so strong. Instead the light, made me blink. “And those eyes. I had great delight forming their varying shades and ridges to make them unique to you.” Thinking about my eyes made me cry, but He even responded to those tears, “Remember two years ago…you begged me for tears to water your dry eyes? Remember when you were told that you might be going blind, remember when you strained to see even 3 inches in front of you?” I remembered. I remembered the fear and the desire the reservation and the submission…and the miracle. “You asked for your sight so that you might see what I see…those faces, those hearts, this generation, these women…this love…my eyes, in you.”

At that point, I slowly raised my hand out of the water, watching the drops fall and hit the side of the tub. I turned it over looking at each line and wrinkly pucker. “Those hands…those hands are my voice. Those hands share my message of love and hope and healing to those you will never meet. They are the tool that I have chosen in you. They are my gift to you.”

Feeling ashamed of my desperation and my discouragement, He addressed it. “No. You are wrong. The absence of sound is not where you will hear my voice. And the absence of my voice is not the absence of my presence. I will never leave you or forsake you…this is my promise! I am always with you…this is my oath! I love you…this is my delight, and that you love me enough to seek me, this is my joy.” His love washed over me like the water I had just left behind. I was moved beyond the moment and in my mind I pictured myself sitting in His lap. “This is where I hold you, love. Safely, in the shadow of my wings.” But He had more to say, “You love your children, don’t you? I know I do! And you are always there if they need you. Oh, but daughter, when they run to you, when they crawl in your lap, or sing you a song they made up, or hold your hand and trace your face…it’s overwhelming, isn’t it? So I feel right now with you.”

I have to admit that caused me to question whether I was truly listening to His voice, Father God was overwhelmed? By me? But He hushed me. And before I left that moment, that place. I heard Him say, “You long to do so much…my child, I will give you much to do. But now, be still. Rest. I require nothing of you.”

Silence.

Maybe it is possible.

I found remarkable silence in the lap of my Father.

And you’re next!