Peace

Refuse to Let Evil Win

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I let my 12-year-old daughter go running by herself for the first time the other day. She ran around our neighborhood and returned successfully home. It was another step toward independence for her.

I was feeling pretty good about letting her jog around the neighborhood until yesterday when I heard the news about Hailey Owens. Hailey was 10. She was blocks from her house. And she was kidnapped and killed.

And my first instinct when I hear a story like that is to pull my kids close. It’s to keep them in a bubble. It’s to go everywhere with them and not let them out of my sight.

That might have worked when my girls were toddlers and preschoolers, but the truth is my older daughter is 12. She’s five years from graduating from high school. She has to learn to be independent. She has to learn how to navigate this world on her own.

And I have to give her that independence. It may be in baby steps like jogging around the neighborhood and going to the movies with her friends, but I have to start to let go. Even in the face of scary news like what came out of Springfield, Missouri, yesterday.

I can’t let my fears of the evil in this world hinder my girls’ ability to grow into the young women that God wants them to be. I don’t want to send my girls out into this world unprepared to stand on their own two feet. I don’t want them to always need me. And I don't want them to live in fear.

Letting go of our kids and sending them out into this big, bad, scary world may well be the hardest part about being a parent. It means we have to let go of our fears, turn our kids over to God and let them navigate the twists and turns of life.

Even when we're confronted with the evil in this world, we can't let fear rule our parenting. Because when we do, Satan wins. Fear that paralyzes us, fear that keeps us from letting our children become independent, isn't from God. 1 Timothy 1:7 says "For God gave us not a spirit of fearfulness; but of power and love and discipline." When we let fear control our decisions, we let Satan win. We let evil have the last say.

Today, it's going to be hard to send my daughter out the door to school, it's going to be hard to let her walk home from the bus stop. My heart will be breaking all day for the tragedy the Owens family has suffered. I'll be flipping my porch light on tonight in honor of 10-year-old Hailey. I'll be having conversations with my kids about what to do if a stranger approaches them. I'll be hugging my girls just a little more today.

But I won't be letting fear push me into creating a cocoon around my kids. I won't let fear turn my girls into kids who are afraid to play outside or walk home from the bus stop. I won't let Satan use fear to paralyze my parenting. Because if I do, then evil wins, Satan triumphs.

God hasn't given us a spirit of fear -- even in the face of horrible, incomprehensible evil. We can live without fear today because we've read the end of the story, and we know that God triumphs. So, today, say a prayer for the Owens family, hug your kids tight, teach them how to be as safe as you know how, then let them be children. Let them play outside, walk home from the bus stop, and continue to become independent. Because that's how we triumph over evil -- by refusing to let fear win.

The best book I've ever read about the dangers that confront our children and how to combat them is The The Gift of Fear : Survival Signals That Protect Us From Violence by Gavin de Becker, and the best book I've ever read about protecting our kids is de Becker's Protecting the Gift: Keeping Children and Teenagers Safe (and Parents Sane). If you're concerned about keeping your kids safe, read these books.

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A Fish Story

behavior

I have a confession to make. I almost killed George.

I got up yesterday morning, let the dog out and took a peek at George. Instead of swimming happily around his tank, his little golden body was lethargically floating near the bottom of his tank. Even food pellets couldn't entice his usually swift golden self to swim to the top. Tapping on and shaking the tank (actions expressly forbidden to my kids) produced nothing more than a slight wiggle of his golden tail.

George is our goldfish, and, honestly, he's not my favorite member of our family. He showed up one day when I was out. The girls and my husband thought it would be great fun to have a goldfish. They brought him home, dropped him in a bowl of water and thought they could feed him once a day and it would be great. After two days, he started to turn black.

I was pretty sure that goldfish are supposed to be gold, not black. A little bit of research (thanks, Google) told me that the ammonia in the water was burning his skin. So, off to the store I went, and the purchase of tank, filter and some kind of drops to make the water safe (and $50) later, our goldfish had the appropriate home.

When I came home the first time and saw George, all I could think about was how it was one more thing for me to do. My husband and girls saw a fun addition to our home. I saw a dirty, smelly fish whose tank I would have to clean. (I know many of you are wondering why my girls don't clean the tank, but the tank is heavy, and it would be more work to clean up after one of my girls cleaned the tank than it is to do it myself. Some day I'll turn that task over to them, but not today.) George hasn't really grown on me over time.

Which leads to yesterday. George was lethargic and sick because I kept putting off cleaning his tank. I would look at it, and think, "I'll do that tomorrow." But I never did. George's needs never rose to the top of my list, which is how I found myself tapping on the glass of the fish tank yesterday morning, willing the fish to swim around. That's how I found myself cleaning the fish tank before I had breakfast or a shower.

As I watched George perk up and swim happily yesterday afternoon in his clean tank, I realized that sometimes parenting is a lot like my reluctance to clean the fish tank. We see behaviors or attitudes in our kids that we know we should correct, but it's a lot of work and we know we're going to meet with resistance. So we let it go. We think we'll deal with it later.

A month or even a year down the road, we look at that child and wonder how things have gotten so far off track. Raising kids is a job that requires constant attention to detail. It requires us to do things we don't want to do at times that are often inconvenient. It's a job that asks us to deal with the same things over and over again until our kids "get it."

Training our kids isn't something that can be put off. It has to be done every day. We have to pay attention to those behavior and attitude issues when they happen or we risk having to deal with a bigger problem later. Like my fish tank, if we leave our kids to their own devices, we find that the water just gets murkier and murkier until they don't know what's expected of them. The behaviors and attitudes we want to avoid have become ingrained and are that much more difficult to change.

Proverbs 29:17 says, "Discipline your children, and they will give you peace; they will bring you the delights you desire." Too often, we let wrong behaviors and attitudes go in our kids because we don't want to deal with the conflict it will bring. We think it will steal our peace. The truth is exactly the opposite, though. It's only when we discipline our kids, when we deal with those behaviors and attitudes as they happen, that we find peace.

When we discipline our kids and show them how to follow God's commands when it comes to their behaviors and attitudes, we are actually leading them on the path to life and peace. Don't put off cleaning your kids' tanks of poor attitudes and behaviors. It may seem like a tough job now, but it will lead them to the Source of life, and it will bring peace to your home.

Who is Establishing Your Plans?

number

In about a week my well-ordered life (well, as well-ordered as it ever gets around here) is about to take a detour. For the first time in six years, I won't be sending both kids off to school. We'll be keeping my younger daughter home to homeschool her for a year.

As the end of summer draws near, I've been having some mixed emotions about the whole thing. While I know that this is what God has called us to do for this season, I'm loathe to give up this life I've created for myself. I enjoy working from home in the silence, having sometime for myself, being able to get things done with no interruptions.

As I struggled with these thoughts the other day, I came across this verse: "Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom" (Psalm 90:12). It was followed up a few verses later by this one: "May the favorof the Lord our God rest on us; establish the work of our hands for us—yes, establish the work of our hands" (Psalm 90:17).

I had to stop when I read those verses. It was like a sledgehammer hit me up the side of the head. I've always read about God numbering our days but never realized that Psalm 90:12 says we are to learn to number our own days. We are to make careful use of the days God has given us because their number is limited. And that last verse. That one was the one that made my gut clench. How often do I let God establish the work of my hands? How often am I off on my own track while God is trying to get me to do something else? How often do I establish the work of my own hands?

So, as I face the changes in my life this fall, I find myself reordering my priorities and wondering what the work is that God wants to establish for my hands. I find myself wondering how I can number my days so I use them well. I look at my schedule and wonder how much of what's on it is what God has established and how much of it is what I have established. And I wonder what I'm teaching my kids about letting God be in charge.

I'm trying to place those coming days in God's hands. I'm asking Him to remind me on the days when I'm frustrated and wishing for my old life back that He has established this work for my hands. And I'm looking at each day with new eyes -- viewing it as a precious gift instead of another day to slog through.

Friends, is God establishing the work of your hands? Are you choosing to learn to number your days? Or are you so happy with your well-ordered life that you rebel when God wants to slip something in the mix?

Think about your days, and think about what you're teaching your kids about letting God establish your plans. Is that what you want to teach them?

The Worry Jar

I'm taking the week off to spend time with my family at our annual family reunion. This is one of the best ideas for kids who struggle with worry. If anxiety is paralyzing one of your kids, consider giving them a tangible way to get rid of their worries and replace them with God's promises. Enjoy this post, and I'll be back on Monday.

Last week was supposed to be state assessment week for my oldest daughter. I won't go into all the reasons I hate state assessments, but the main one is that it stresses my daughter out to the point where she almost can't function. And last week was the worst it's ever been.

She was scheduled to test on Tuesday, and Monday night it took her forever to fall asleep. She laid in her bed and worried about the test. She worried about getting the right answers. She worried about the computers breaking. By the time she finally fell asleep, she was in tears and I was ready to pull my hair out.

Tuesday afternoon, she climbs in the car with a look on her face that clearly announced to the world that she had not had a good day. As soon as her bottom hit the seat in the car, she began telling me all about the fiasco that was her state assessment. A glitch with the district's computer server meant the computer had kicked her out of her test, no less than a dozen times. Every time she got kicked out, it lost some of her answers. Then, it quit working entirely. She didn't get to finish her test and had no idea if it had saved anything she had done. In her class, only she and two other kids had this problem.

Needless to say, this added yet another thing to her bundle of worries. Tuesday night was miserable. She cried, she worried, she talked it through and she cried some more. I was worn out, and I hadn't even taken the test. Tuesday night was another long evening of trying to get her to stop worrying and go to sleep. No matter how many times I told her to simply pray about it and let God deal with it, she kept holding on to her worry -- causing both her and I not to get much sleep.

This week, the school has sorted out the computer problems, and yesterday was the last day of her reading assessment. But this whole process made me start thinking about how to help my daughter with her worry. You see, God doesn't want us to worry. It's harmful to us. It causes us to lose sleep. It can make us sick. And it solves nothing. As a matter of fact, God commands us not to worry. In Matthew 6:25, Jesus says "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life." It doesn't get more clear than that. When we disobey God's commands, we are sinning. Worry is sin.

Too often, we gloss over the fact that worry is sin. We think, "I'm not worrying about this. I'm just figuring out what to do." In reality, that's often just a way to put a pretty face on worry. Any time we continually chew on a problem with no productive result, it's worry -- and it's a sin.

Kids struggle with worry, and I think it's even tougher for them to understand how to hand it over to God. Our kids need to learn to take their thoughts captive, give them to God and replace them with something that is pleasing to God. That's what we've taught our daughter to do, but it clearly wasn't working for her the other night. So, I came up with a tangible way for her to give her worries to God and replace her thoughts with thoughts that are pleasing to God. I call it our Worry Jar.

It works like this: If one of us is worried about something, we write it down and stick it in the jar, telling God that we are done worrying about it. Then we screw on the lid, literally taking our thoughts captive (2 Corinthians 10:5). We replace that worry thought with a verse out of our Scripture Jar, giving us something else to think about. Whenever we're tempted to worry, we pull out our scripture and replace the worry with the scripture.

We've just started this process in our house, but it gives all of us a tangible reminder of how we should deal with worry. And it gives us something to do with that worry -- an action we can take to give it to God. If you'd like to make your own Worry Jar, you can find directions and printable graphics and verses on our Free Stuff page. Be sure to let me know how it works with your kids.

Help your kids take their thoughts captive and give their worries to God. Forming that habit now will save them a lifetime of stress and replace it with a lifetime of the peace that only God can provide.

Linking up today with Women Living Well , Your Thriving Family and Word Filled Wednesday

Calming the Fears

life

We live in tornado country. My girls know what to do if the sirens go off, whether they're at school, on the soccer field or at home -- find the lowest spot with the most walls and the fewest windows between you and the outside and hunker down. Thankfully, we've never seen a tornado in close proximity.

But yesterday as we heard about and watched the devastation in Moore, Oklahoma, my girls realized that all those drills they do at school, all the talking we do at home are about something that could really happen. As we heard that two elementary schools had been hit -- one flattened by the monster tornado -- my girls truly understood that a tornado can hit, and it could hit their schools or our house.

It's a scary moment when the veil of invincibility is lifted from your eyes. Kids think they are untouchable. They think bad things only happen to others. It's one of the things that allows kids to be fearless. It's one of the things that allows them to trust without reservation. It's one of the things that makes them kids.

But in every child's life, there comes a moment when they realize that they could get hurt, that they could experience something bad. It happens at a different time in a different way for each child, but it is a moment when a little piece of what makes them children gets stripped away.

When that moment comes, we can allow fear to overwhelm our kids or we can help them put things in perspective. The truth is that any one of us could die today. We're not promised tomorrow, so we have to make the most of today. God has numbered our days, and it's our job to live them to the fullest while we have them.

But that doesn't mean that we live each day in fear that it will be our last. It doesn't mean that we raise fearful children. It means that we teach our kids that while we're not promised tomorrow, we are given this one extraordinary life to live to fulfill God's purpose for us. We don't have to worry about tomorrow because God has it under control. We don't have to live a life filled with fear about the future because God is with us as we take each step. 2 Timothy 1:7 says "For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind."

I can't promise my kids nothing bad will happen when they walk out the door of our home today, but I can promise them that no matter what happens God is there with them.

If your heart is breaking like mine as you watch the images of parents waiting for word on their children, say a prayer for the community of Moore today and consider donating to the relief efforts through the American Red Cross.

Keeping Our Kids Safe

safety

Ever since the news broke that police had found three women who had been missing in Cleveland for 10 years, I've been thinking about keeping my girls safe.

My girls are 10 and almost 12. They're past the age where I can keep that at my side all the time. They're past the age where I can monitor everyone they hang out with. They're past the age where I can monitor their every move. Yet, as a mom my first instinct is to want to put them in a bubble and keep them safe. I want to keep them where I can see them. I want to keep them from harm.

But the truth is that sticking my kids in a bubble and keeping them by my side all the time doesn't create successful, ready-to-launch adults. We've reached the point with both our girls where we have less time left with them at home than we've already had with them. Our focus has to be on teaching them how to navigate the dangers of this world, not on always being there to protect them from harm.

Whether it's physical harm, emotional harm or spiritual harm, we want to keep our kids safe from it. When they're little, that seems easier. Our kids are rarely away from us, and they're almost never with people that we don't know or don't approve of. As they get older, though, we have to loosen the reins a bit. We have to start giving them some independence. And that's when we have to rely on God. That's when we have to turn our worry and fear over to God and trust that no matter what happens, God is in control and He will watch over them.

I can't go to every sleep over. I can't monitor what's said on the soccer field or at the hockey rink. I can't protect my girls from all sorts of harm. But God sees them. He hears them. He watches over them. He is there even when I am not. Joshua 1:9 says, "Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” God has told us not to be afraid. He has said the He is with us wherever we go. Placing our kids in God's hands is one of the hardest things to do, but it is something we need to do daily -- because our kids don't belong to us; they belong to Him.

We can and should be teaching our kids how to handle different situations. We need to teach them how to be safe. If you're looking for a great resource on what to teach your kids and what the true dangers are to our kids, I highly recommend reading Protecting the Gift: Keeping Children and Teenagers Safe (and Parents Sane) by Gavin de Becker. It is the best book I've ever read about how to keep our kids safe in what seems like a crazy world.

But it's important for us to remember that no matter how hard we try, we can't keep our kids safe from everything. People are going to hurt them. People are going to do mean things. And even though we can't always be there to stop the hurt, we can trust that God is in control, that there's nothing that He doesn't see. We can trust that God has a plan, and He will see it through. We can trust that our kids are in good hands.

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Crying for Boston

I shed tears yesterday for the city that my heart will always call home. I grew up in Boston. I love the city. I love the history. I love the spirit. I even love the gruffness of its residents. I love the pageantry of Patriots Day – the early Red Sox game and the Boston Marathon.

Yesterday, I cried for that city. I cried for the lost innocence. I cried for the achievements lost. I cried for the souls that were taken by a horrible act of violence. I cried for the fact that no one will ever go to the Boston Marathon again without remembering this day. I cried for the fact that I had to tell my kids when they came home that an evil person had committed a senseless act that killed and injured people, including children.

Then I showed my girls a picture. It’s a picture of everyone running away from the blast – and every police officer in that picture was running toward it. There are so many more good people in this world than there are evil ones. There are people willing to put their lives on the line to keep us safe. There are ordinary people who do extraordinary things to help others in times of crisis. Good outweighs evil even when evil steals the headlines.

My girls don’t remember 9/11. It’s simply an event in the history books to them. This is the first time they’ve been personally exposed to an act of senseless terrorism. And I don’t want it to paralyze them. I don’t want it to make them afraid to go on with their lives.

Because if it does, then the terrorists win. And we know that even though today it seems like evil has won the day, we know that good wins in the end. I’ve read the end of The Book, and I know that evil loses, and God takes the day.

That’s what we need our kids to remember. No matter how bad the day, no matter how horrible the event, no matter how much it seems like evil is going to triumph, God wins in the end.

So, cry for the lost lives and injured people and say a prayer for the people of Boston. Shed a tear and say a prayer for our nation. Talk to your kids about what a senseless act of violence it is.

But don’t let it paralyze you. Don’t let your kids be paralyzed by it. Remember that picture, the one where the men and women who have pledged to protect us are running toward danger when everyone else is running away. And remember that that’s what God does. He rushes in and heals the broken-hearted and comforts the weary. He is there even when it seems evil has won the moment, and He always triumphs in the end.

First Friday: Worn

The last few weeks have kicked this old girl squarely in the pants.

I have gone from a pull-myself-up-from-the-bootstraps mama to a consistent blubbering mountain of mess. It is no one thing in particular that has me sniffling.  Just a whole lot of life coming at me all at once.

But something remarkable has also happened in these same few weeks.

Every morning as I have placed my feet on the floor, I’ve heard these opening words to the 10th Avenue North song, Worn play clearly in my exhausted mind:

“I’m tired, I’m worn.  My heart is heavy.  From the work it takes to just keep breathing...”

Even more remarkable, different strains, different lines followed on different mornings:

Exhaustion met with “I’m worn even before the day begins.”

Sadness met with “I know I need to lift my eyes up, but I’m too weak, life just won’t let up.”

Anger met with “I’ve made mistakes, I’ve let my hope fail.”

Ending always with, “So heaven come and flood my eyes.”

In retrospect, it has, no doubt, been a gift from Jesus.  Designed perfectly for my tired brain.  A brain that often struggles to read words on a page.

I imagine it is for this very reason that He has so lovingly brought the words to my mind.  Fixing them in my heart every morning.  For a moment when the truth of the melody would become absolutely real to me.

And real, it has become.

The day it happened was rough one.  Lots of tears.  Lots of time in my pulling-it-together corner.

The particular moment happened right after I surveyed the great room to see if anyone was there to hear or see my blubbering.  Coast was clear.  Blubbering began.

But I had forgotten something very important.  A little girl who is just short enough not to be seen over the height of the kitchen counter.  I realized my mistake when I felt a little hand gently tug on my shirt.

“What’s is wrong, Mommy?”

Immediately, I tried to put on a brave face and bent down to assure her I was fine.

But then something incredible happened:

My baby girl took her hand and held my chin firmly in place as she looked into my eyes.  I tried to look down and keep from crying harder but she was relentless in keeping my gaze.  Finally, she took my face in both hands, pressed her forehead to mine and said with a maturity beyond her two-year-old years,

“I.  Love.  You.”

Sob. Sob. Sob.

Face back to hers.  “I said, “I.  Love. You.”

She kissed my cheek ever so softly, wiped the tears away with her hands and hugged me tightly.

Then, just as quickly as she came, she was gone.

The next morning, I woke up with the same words running through my mind that had come to me the morning before.

But this time, I saw a little face filled with concern.  I felt little hands lifting my eyes to a place of purpose. And I heard a little voice speak of a Father’s love.

For the first time in weeks, it didn’t matter that I was worn.  Or tired.  Or done.

What mattered is that I knew when I cried out, He would respond.  He would come.  He  would care.

And greater still, He would bring heaven down to fill my teary eyes.  Just as He had done on a day that the world was kicking me squarely in the pants.  When He used a little girl’s hands and heart to finally make me hear Him say:

“I.  Love. You.”

Sara Cormany guest posts on the first Friday of each month. Sara is mommy to six-year-old Grace, four-year-old Drew and one-year-old Sophie. When she is not wiping noses, changing diapers or chasing her kids, she is a sometimes writer and a sometimes teacher to teenagers. But her most cherished role is that of one who is perfectly held by Jesus. She loves watching Him take the broken, the messy and the seemingly mundane of her everyday and turn it into something beautiful.

When Your Child Struggles with Their Faith

I have a child who is struggling with her faith. She has a lot of big questions that don't have easy answers. She really wants to believe that everything she's learned about God is true, but there are moments when it all seems too fantastical. There are moments when it's simply a lot to take in. There are moments when a loving God doesn't reconcile with what she's seeing in the world.

While it makes for some tough parenting moments, my daughter is simply trying to wrap her head and her heart around God. The process is actually healthy. She's trying to make this faith her own -- not just something she believes because mom and dad believe it. It's also incredibly difficult to watch as a parent.

We want our kids to follow Jesus. As Christ-following parents, that's the primary goal of our parenting -- to move our kids from dependence on us to dependence on God. We want them to have a strong faith. We want them to choose the right path. But for some kids that faith doesn't come without struggle. It doesn't come without questions. It doesn't come without doubts.

It reminds me of the story of Jacob in Genesis 32. Jacob was a man who had gotten ahead in life through deceit and trickery, and he was on his way to face his brother whom he had tricked out of his birthright and his blessing. Jacob spent the night physically wrestling with God. At the end of the night, Jacob came away a changed man -- he even got a new name, Israel. God would use Jacob in mighty ways to create the nation of Israel, but Jacob had to wrestle with God first.

Sometimes our kids need to do their own wrestling with God. They need to put God to the test to see if He's going to do what He says. They need to struggle with the big questions until they come out on the other side with a faith that is their own. As parents, we can't choose what our children are going to believe, but we can help them as they struggle.

If your child is struggling to make their faith their own, pray for your child. Pray continually. Hit your knees and intercede for them. Pray that God would remove every stumbling block to your child knowing Him. Pray that God would show up in your child's life in a way that they can't deny that it was anything but Him. Ask your child what he or she wants you to pray for every day, then be specific in telling your child you are praying about those things for him or her. Point out when God answers those prayers.

Answer your child's questions honestly. We've has some big discussions around here in the past couple months. Sometimes my daughter asks questions that I don't know the answer to. If that's the case, I look for the answer. Sometimes she asks questions that there are no good answers for. When that happens, I simply tell her that I don't know but we can ask God when we get to heaven.

Let your child wrestle with God. Encourage your child to seek out answers on their own. Encourage them to have a daily time where they read the Bible on their own. Encourage them to talk to God about their doubts and questions. God will show up when your child is earnestly seeking Him. Jeremiah 29:13 says, "You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart."

While it's hard to stand by and watch our kids struggle with God, struggle to find their own faith, for some kids it's the only way they will ever make this faith their own. As parents we can pray, teach and encourage, but our kids have to choose to follow God on their own.

God is on Your Side

Sometimes I feel like I'm all alone in this fight. When things get bumpy in my marriage, when I don't know what the right thing is to do for my kids, when friends let me down, it's easy to feel like there's no one on my side.

As our kids grow, they encounter people who aren't always on their side -- the bully at school or the friend who stabs them in the back. Our kids can feel like they're all alone in the world.

As I was reading through Psalm 35 the other day, feeling a bit like no one was on my side, I ran across these words: "Contend, Lord, with those who contend with me; fight against those who fight against me" (Psalm 35:1). I was struck by the simplicity of those words. David was crying out to God to stand up to his enemies because He knew that God is on His side.

When we become a child of God, God becomes our champion. There is nothing in our lives that is too big or too small for Him to take on. He contends for us.

There's a song, "Whom Shall I Fear," that puts it best:

I know who goes before me

I know who stands behind

The God of angel armies

is always on my side.

Our God is the God who commands angel armies, and He says He's on our side. I can't think of anyone better to be on my side. As Paul says in Romans 8:31, "If God is for us, who can be against us?"

We know how the story ends. We know who wins the ultimate battle against evil. God does, and He is in our corner. Nothing can stand against Him. If we follow Him, then we are guaranteed a victory.

When our kids struggle with life situations, they need to know that God is in their corner. They need to know He's got their back. Growing up can be tough. Learning to navigate the social waters at school and the sometimes bumpy currents at home can take a toll on our kids. We need to help them understand that no matter how bad the situation, God is on their side.

I love the picture that song gives us. Here's God with an army of angels at His command, and He's standing in our corner just waiting to give the order to contend for us. He and His angels are battling for us constantly. Use that song to draw a mental picture for your kids of what it really means to have God on your side, so the next time you or they feel all alone, all you have to do is remember that God and his angels are standing at the ready to contend for you.

 

Peace Stealers

Yesterday was one of those days -- you know the ones where you just want to crawl back in bed well before the day is over. I woke up to a mess made by a dog with an upset stomach. We followed that with a sick child and a car that wouldn't start. I spent well over an hour in the doctor's office to get sick child some antibiotics for her sinus infection, then went to pick up her prescription and some Sudafed. When trying to buy the Sudafed, the pharmacy technician informed me that my driver's license was expired, which means no Sudafed and I have to give up a half day of my life to go get it renewed. All this before noon.

With the holiday, my younger daughter hasn't been to school in a week. I'm behind on meeting my work deadlines. I haven't even begun to touch the Christmas decorating, and now I have her cold. Oh, did I mention we're learning about peace in my Bible study? Everything that's happened in the past few days have been peace stealers. The temptation to throw up my hands and sit down for a good cry is overwhelming.

Too often, it's not the big stuff that trips us up. It's the little stuff. It's the expired license, the sick kid, the messy house. In this season of peace, it's really easy to let these little things erode our sense of peace. I think one of Satan's favorite tools is to load us up with little nuisances to steal our joy and peace.

When the angels announced Jesus' birth to the shepherds, they said, "Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests" (Luke 2:14). God's favor rests on us. When we chose to follow Jesus, we became "those on whom his favor rests." That means we have access to God's peace. All we have to do is tap into it.

God wants us to have peace. He doesn't want us to be overwhelmed by the little nuisances of life. He wants us to have abundant life. He wants us to celebrate His Son in this joyous season. He wants us to keep our eyes on Him instead of letting them be pulled away by the things Satan throws at us. He wants us to be filled with peace.

Our kids learn a lot from us about how to react to their circumstances. If we allow the little things to steal our peace, then we teach our kids that the little annoyances of life are bigger than God. However, if we allow God to fill us with His peace even in the midst of the little stuff (and the big stuff), we teach our kids that God is bigger than anything Satan can throw at us.

What's stealing your peace today, and what are you teaching your kids about how to deal with the little annoyances of life?

Looking for great ways to keep your kids' attention focused on Jesus during the Christmas season? Check out my Everyday Christmas e-book.

Linking up today with Women Living Well , A Wise Woman Builds Her Home and Word Filled Wednesday.

Hug 'Em Tight

Within the span of an hour on Friday, I learned that one of my older daughters' classmates had lost his dad unexpectedly on Thursday night and one of our elementary school kindergarten teachers has a 14-month-old with cancer. My heart is breaking for both families.

We had some soccer drama with our older daughter over the weekend. It included tears and frustration. Yet, when I went to bed last night, emotionally exhausted from a weekend spent speaking at the WHOLE conference and dealing with my daughter's disappointment, I realized all of my daughter's tears and frustration were small potatoes. As I lay there praying for these hurting families, I realized that simply being together, being healthy and being loved are the most important things in the world. Soccer will sort itself out. My daughter will grow and learn through the situation. It will all be OK in the grand scheme of things.

So, this morning, I want to be brief and simply want to offer this reminder:

Your family is a gift.

Your kids are treasures.

Make the most of today because we don't know what tomorrow holds.

Never miss an opportunity to offer a hug or a word of encouragement.

Always say "I love you" before any member of your family walks out the door.

Hug your kids tight. Hold them close. Let them never wonder if they are loved.

Because we're not promised tomorrow, but we do get today. Make the most of it, even in the midst of drama and difficulties. Because you don't know if you'll get another chance.

There's still time to enter our 31 Gifts giveaway. Check out Friday's post to enter.

Linking up today with The Better Mom and Graceful.

First Friday: Chasing Cars

A few weeks after delivering my son, hormones and mommy guilt prompted me to take my then two-and-a-half year old daughter on a lunch date. We ended up at d’Bronx, a cute little pizza joint that we had frequented the last month of my pregnancy. So frequent in fact, I could safely credit my final weight balloon on their “Slice and A Drink” special.

We laughed. We cried. We bonded.

Okay, maybe that’s stretching it a bit. I was sleep deprived, and she was two. But as we walked out hand in hand, I felt like a rock star mom.

And then a kitten ran out into the street.

Before I knew it, Grace had released my hand and began chasing after the little streak of gray and white. Above the street noise, I could hear her sweet voice repeating over and over, “Nice kitty. Nice kitty.” And even though I couldn’t see it, I could hear a car barreling down the road.

Barreling straight toward my baby.

Throwing our leftover pizza box in the air and running as fast as my postpartum legs could carry me, I screamed, “Grace, run to mama. Run.” Her precious little face turned to mine, and I caught her hand just as the tires screeched in front her.

Tires that mercifully belonged to a police vehicle.

With my heart pounding and tears flowing, I scooped my girl up and nearly hugged the breath out of her. I kissed her face all the way to the car. And I whispered prayers of gratitude as I sat in my seat waiting for my hands to stop shaking.

The memory of that day still plays vividly in my mind. But the picture that I absolutely cannot erase is the moment that Grace turned to look at me. Even though over a ton of metal was coming straight at her, her eyes fixed on me.

She wasn’t anxious. Or nervous. Or afraid.

Instead, a quiet confidence filled her big brown eyes. It was as though as long as she had me in her sights, everything was okay. Mom had it under control.

Even with me screaming her name, throwing things and losing my everloving mind, my girl trusted me.

It made no logical sense. And yet, it illustrated the perfect truth of a peace that passes all understanding. It wasn’t just peace within a circumstance.

It was peace that defied the circumstance.

Over the last few weeks, it has become clear to me that we as Christ-followers are in desperate need of that kind of peace. Because in reality, life is filled with oncoming cars.

For some, the car will be illness. For others, loss. For others still, betrayal.

And truth be told, there will be some days that the “car” moniker just does not cut it. Because in the thick of it, adversity feels more like a Mack truck than a frou frou coupe.

But no matter the variety, whether it’s barreling toward us or knocking us flat, we can cling to the promise of God’s peace.

Now sometimes, we’ll buy the lie that this kind of peace is, itself, some kind of frou frou, wishy-washy good feeling. But it's not. This peace is gifted by God and literally blows the mind of humanity.

And people on the outside looking in just won’t get it.

It is why you might observe such sweet folks wringing their hands. Or speaking words of wishy-washy comfort. Or even trying to save you themselves.

But the truth is, God’s peace only comes when we set aside human anxiety and cease to fear what could be or even what is. It infuses us when we let go enough to fall at the feet of Jesus with broken, grateful hearts as we pray in earnest. Leaving us with the promise of Philippians 4, a peace that will pass all understanding and will guard not only our broken hearts but our minds as well.

That kind of peace can knock a giant Mack truck around like a Matchbox car.

I say this not just because I believe God will do what He says. Even though, in reality, that should be enough. I say this because I have experienced the power of God’s peace in my own life and vicariously, through the lives of those I love.

In the last few years alone, I have felt it lift me out of the greatest sadness I have ever known. I have watched it permeate the cruelest of diseases. And I have stood in awe at its quiet presence beside a tiny coffin.

I have seen God’s peace defy circumstance over and over and over again.

And the funny thing is, God isn’t freaking out. Or screaming. Or even throwing things in response to our oncoming cars.

He leaves that crazy business to us.

Instead, He calls out softly, just above the street noise, “Run, walk or crawl to me, my love. I’ll hold you close, help you breathe and give you the greatest peace this world will ever know.”

Sara Cormany guest posts on the first Friday of each month. Sara is mommy to six-year-old Grace, four-year-old Drew and one-year-old Sophie. When she is not wiping noses, changing diapers or chasing her kids, she is a sometimes writer and a sometimes teacher to teenagers. But her most cherished role is that of one who is perfectly held by Jesus. She loves watching Him take the broken, the messy and the seemingly mundane of her everyday and turn it into something beautiful.