What I'm Praying For My Family

By no means am I saying this is the standard for what we ought to pray for our families, but it is what I am praying for mine. I share this as a way to encourage you in your own prayer life. Definitely make it your own! 

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Dear Heavenly Father,

What a privilege it is to be blessed with these children. Yes, even Anah. While I believe You have called me to bless them as their mother, I also believe You have sent these four people into my life to shape and refine me so that I can be the woman you desire. It humbles me how you use them to remind me of my limits, my brokenness, and my sin at every turn, yet that is the way You keep me on my knees. It is through these hard times with them that I am given the opportunity to choose as Christ would. I need You, my Heavenly Father, so that I can mature in my own faith even as I raise these precious people in your name.

Father, You know my selfish heart and yet You still invite me to join You in this work. That is so amazing to me! I am unfit, but You give me all I need to do this work. Thank You for entrusting me with this task. Would you keep teaching me day by day so I can represent You well? I cannot do this without Your continual help and grace.

You tell me that You knit each of these children together (Psalm 139:16). You have written their days in Your book. You have good works for them to do (Eph 2:10). They are Yours, not mine. Open my eyes to see, recognize, and appreciate all that You have already put into them. Teach me how to accept their limitations yet wisely challenge them to grow into the people You have designed them to be. Alert me to my own selfish ambitions that may be at odds with Your plans, especially (but not only) with Anah.

Father, as You teach me about Your plans for them, guide me in how I can best equip them. Show me how to share the good news, the Gospel of Christ, in a way that speaks to their souls. I confess I am often so busy with the little things, Lord. Will You help me to be sensitive to the movement of Your Spirit?

I realize that my witness is limited when I do not personally grasp the wonder of what You have done for me, so will You keep my own heart soft too? In the busyness of the day, I invite You to break through my tunnel vision of tasks to do and things to accomplish. I give You permission to intrude into my thoughts when they stray. I invite Your Spirit to convict when I make poor choices. Too often I walk by sight, not faith. Awaken me to the unseen realities around me so that I can see You and then share You with my children.

These children are not mine. I know I am responsible for what I do with my opportunities, but I also acknowledge that they too have a will. They are not robots. And so I ask You to help me to do my part while trusting You with their choices. Help me to know the difference between what I need to do and what I need to entrust to You. You know my tendency to mix them up. Will You grant me that discernment and faith? Teach me how to trust You with their futures, how to pray faithfully for their choices, and how to teach them wisely in the moments I have been given.

And with the prayer to know when to speak, would you give me wisdom when it is best to hold back? There are times when I need to listen, not judge. I am not very good at that and hurt my children instead. Will You teach me to listen as You listen to me? I have so much to learn from You in this area.

You promise me that I have everything I need to not only do this parenting job but to find life in the midst of it. I see so little, Lord, especially with Anah. Lift my eyes to You. Please protect my heart from the discouragement of the enemy, especially when I fail. Would you remind me of Your faithful love and presence when I am at my worst, and then lean on Your grace to try again, to love again, to serve again? Only You can do this in me.

I choose to believe that this is the life You have designed for me today. It will not always be this way, even though it feels like it at times. Teach me how to live this day well instead of worrying about the future. Each day has enough trouble of its own (Matthew 6:34). I trust that when tomorrow comes, You will help me then too. But for today, please help me to love You faithfully by loving the ones You bring into my life. Would you grant me eternal eyes to see the good and separate it from the chaff? In this way, I pray that this day will add more to the treasure in heaven You are storing up for me.

I am Yours, Lord. Use me as You will this day. Thank You for loving me and giving me all I need in Christ. In the name of Jesus, Amen.

A Letter to My Friends

Dear friends,

It has been a long time since I have written in my blog. A lot has happened in that time, and I simply could not keep it up. For those of you who keep checking back (if there are any of you), thank you. For those of you who are new to my blog, thank you for coming to visit! I hope that you will find posts of the past that will help you in your journey. 

Even if we are not personal friends, if you poke around this site long enough, you will figure out several things. First, I am a Christian. I am not a perfect saint, but I do believe that through the perfect blood of Christ, I am justified, redeemed, and adopted into the family of God. Second, I am a pastor’s wife and have four children. One of them was adopted almost four years ago. She has Down Syndrome and has been a great challenge to our faith. I have personally struggled with her daily care as well as the impact of her presence in our family. Third, I am a stay-at-home mom who is homeschooling her kids. I have been doing this since my oldest daughter started 2nd grade in 2003, which makes this the start of our 14th year.

You may also discover that I like to cook, scrapbook, and read. I am also a homeschool curriculum junkie and all-around geek. I love to learn with my children and count it one of the greatest privileges I have as a parent. I have a passion for the discipleship of others and seeing them grow and mature in Christ, whether they be my own children, friends, or parents. I believe that investing in the lives of people and helping them to know, love, and follow Jesus is the greatest thing I can do with my time. I view my personal ministry of teaching as my contribution to the kingdom of God, equipping and mobilizing the saints with a foundation in the Word of God, a sense of purpose and vision, and a friend on the same journey to lean on when the going gets tough.

In this way, my prayer is that my life may be poured out on others so that collectively, we as His people may have an impact as salt and light in our country and world today for Christ, even in the midst of the social upheaval that is going on. My prayer is that as I write, speak, and teach, others will be encouraged and excited about their faith and that together, we will courageously take a stand for Jesus. For those of us with children as well, I hope that our lives and our faith will be poured into their lives so that as they grow, they too will be equipped to serve Him all their days and carry on the faith in their generation. 

I still have children at home and homemaking and raising a special needs child keeps my plate full. We live on a single-income pastor’s salary, which means that at times, we go without or I need to figure out creative, low-budget ways to care for my family. What we lack in finances, I make up with my time. I have been prayerfully seeking the Lord and asking Him how my writing, speaking and teaching skills can one day be turned into some supplemental income for our family, but the truth is, right now, I am not in a place to fully develop a home business. I’d like to do that, not just to generate income, but to serve others. I am waiting on the Lord for His direction and timing as this unfolds.

I hope this blog can be a place where you can join me in the journey God has called me on—as a believer, wife, mother, homemaker, homeschooler, and minister of the gospel. Whatever role you identify with, I hope there can be a place for you here. I cannot promise that I will post regularly, but one of my goals this year has been to start writing again. Perhaps in time, I will get a rhythm going, but I don’t want to disappoint you by saying that I will write every day or even post every Friday. I am sure that flies in the face of all the business advice out there, but I am also learning that my God is greater and wiser than all our collective human wisdom. It may be another two months before I post again (I hope not!), but for those of you who happen to wander onto my site, I do want to let you know what has been happening. For those of you who are my dear friends, thank you for being a part of our lives and growing with us. 

And now, onwards and upwards! 

In Christ alone,

Vera

Making Mud Pies

This week, as I was reading chapter 5 in You and Me Forever, I thought it was a fitting bookend to the start of the book on eternity. Just as looking at life with an eternal perspective will shape our lives, so will remembering the reality of our future in heaven. Both of these ideas will color how we live today. On the flip side, how we live today can also betray what we really believe.

For some, our problem is not that we long for heaven too much. It is that we do not long for heaven at all or we have a faulty Hollywood-inspired view of it. We have relegated it to the level of fantasy, not reality. One of my favorite C. S. Lewis quotes comes from his essay, “The Weight of Glory,” in which he puts it this way:

“It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”

Not only are we not looking for heaven, we are looking for our satisfaction in the things of this world. One of Satan’s most effective attacks in America is not outright persecution (yet) but a dulling of our senses to the reality of eternity. Our problem is in building up our cushy lifestyles, we have failed to realize that there is more to come–a life that makes all these earthly dreams look like dust. We wrap ourselves in this illusory existence and completely forget that our real world is unseen.

After years of sending texts on a phone in which you scroll through the letters (remember those?), I recently got my first smartphone. It was exciting at first to set it up and marvel at all I can do with it. But a couple of weeks later, I am finding that it hasn’t really changed my life all that much for the better as it claims. Temporary things will never satisfy. It is all an illusion. In our desire for convenience or ease, in our desire to save time and labor, we pursue the best, top of the line stuff, leaving little to the imagination. Why would heaven look appealing when we have it all here? As Lewis says, we are too easily pleased.

In reflecting on this chapter then, I was challenged by the Chans to re-consider how I choose to buy things. In this world, it makes sense to buy the best you can afford. I never think about buying “good enough” or used until I married my husband. I have a faulty belief that purchasing someone’s unwanted things suggests I am lower class.

What I choose to spend my money on speaks loudly of my unspoken beliefs, even if the item in question is “just” a little thing. Will I invest in things that I will need to work hard to protect or maintain or will I invest it in people, the only “things” I will ever take to heaven with me? Will I try to reward myself now or will I trust that by living with less here so I can give away more, I am actually storing up eternal rewards that moth will not destroy?

I’m not saying that money itself is the root of the problem. As Paul so clearly states in 1 Timothy 6:10, it is the love of money that is the trouble…and you don’t need to have a lot of it to be bitten by this bug. Even those who are poor in our economy can be afflicted. But as Paul also writes, the antidote is not to get rid of it, but to learn contentment in the right things. We really only need two things: food and clothing (v. 8). The rest is purely gravy.

Whether the Lord has blessed us with a little or a lot, we can learn to be content. If we have a little, then we can be satisfied with the limited means we may have. I can still host a big dinner party because it is not the dining room that makes the difference. What brings joy is not the square footage I possess but the love, joy and contentment that comes out of me.

If we are blessed with a lot, we can still learn to be content. As the Chans share in their video, it is possible to live with ugly brown carpet or a used car without automatic windows or door locks and be happy. There’s nothing wrong with making a lot of money or trying to increase our bottom line. The question is: why?

As parents, we can fool ourselves into thinking that we are earning more so we can give our kids a better life, the education they need to succeed, and so forth. I certainly have told myself that I need to work harder so my kids do not need to go without. But without what? By providing them with all their hearts desire, do I end up perpetuating Satan’s lie through my well-meaning intentions? Do I do this because–and this is hard to admit–this is what I really believe will bring them happiness? Is my goal to help them fit in here or am I truly equipping them for heaven?

I think that is why the Chans’ choices have fascinated me. They really live this out…and their kids along with them! I’m sure that as a high-demand speaker and best-selling author, they could definitely afford to live in a nice neighborhood and drive luxury cars. But they don’t. This boggles my mind. My natural response is “Why not?”

When I fix my eyes on heaven, He helps me to find satisfaction in Him, not the things of this earth. I see an inverse correlation here. The less I remember heaven, the more I seek to satisfy myself in the temporal world around me. The less I pursue Him, the more I will pursue the stuff here on earth. We are made to worship something. If we do not worship God, we will worship something else. There is no neutral ground.

Teaching myself to find my greatest pleasure in Him–and not the “mud pies” of this life–will shape me tremendously. I confess I am still learning this. I haven’t mastered it yet. As the Chans remind me in this chapter, it is a discipline. It takes work to live  in–and sometimes fight against–the reality of an unseen world when the ones in our face are clamoring for attention and stealing our affections.

If there’s one thing that I have been reminded of over and over, it is the fact that we are on a battlefield, not a luxury resort on vacation. But what does that look like? Hold that thought, and come join me in my next post.