Peace in the Season of Covid-19

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Peace…as elusive and rare as a roll of toilet paper in this historic moment of Corona virus, empty store shelves, social distancing and self-quarantine. Many people are worried, even panicked over the lack of certain consumer products, the fear of catching this new, contagious virus, the shake-up of their daily routine, the loss of all or part of the family income.

It is not surprising that many are searching for peace.

My mother is 94 and is bed-bound. She has wonderful caregivers in her home who take care of her daily needs and give her great emotional support. We have kept her informed as this pandemic has developed and spread because she is as sharp as a tack (and suspected something was going on when we all started wearing masks around her!). Mom is a believer and has been ready for some years now to meet Jesus and to see my dad, her husband, again. She is not in pain and has made the most of her time these last few years but, her desire is to move on to her heavenly home. She is not fearful about this virus taking her life should God choose to end it that way. She knows that God holds her in the palm of His hand and that her days were numbered by God even before she was born. Is it possible for the rest of us to have that kind of peace? Absolutely! Let’s look at what God’s Word says:

 1) We can have peace with Christ. 

“You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.” Isaiah 26:3

Is your mind steadfastly attuned to Him? Are you faithfully reading His Word during this unprecedented time of upheaval and change? Are you prayerfully going about your day, talking to the Father, thanking Him for the little blessings he pours out on you even in this difficult season? I have enjoyed having my daughter (our youngest) home from college. She has become my exercise buddy—Zoom fitness classes, tennis, and walks in the park— my shopping buddy as we search for surgical masks and toilet paper, and our in-house comedienne (Let’s laugh about it or we’ll cry). Her presence is a blessing. I do not have enough space here to list the blessings God has bestowed on us the last few weeks but I hope you will look for those blessings in your life and remember to be thankful.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7

2) We needn’t worry when we know the final outcome for the Christian—eternal existence with God in heaven, where joy knows no bounds and sickness and evil are forever vanquished!

“See, I will create new heavens and a new earth. The former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind.” Isaiah 65:17

“My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” John 14:2-3

The Bible tells us to live with a heavenly mindset, knowing that this world is not our home. For the believer, this world is only a temporary stopping place to our eternity with God. There is a tomorrow…and it is glorious!

3) God is ultimately in charge of the world and everything that is in it. (And aren’t we glad!) Your children belong to God. Your spouse belongs to God. Your elderly parents belong to God. Why worry over what exists in the very palm of God’s protective hand? 

“The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it, the world and all who live in it; for he founded it on the seas and established it on the waters.” Psalm 24:1-2

A long time ago my husband and I gave our children over to the Lord. Of course, they were already Hisbut that“letting go”, that dedication of them to God, is an important step for every parent. We all must come to the realization that our childrens’ safety—their future–rests solely with Him. And we have to be ‘OK’ with that. If we do not turn our children over to the Lord, we will literally fall apart every time they walk out the door, get in their car, board an airplane or make a bad decision. During this Corona virus outbreak, of course, we must use wisdom and follow the safety guidelines, but we must also rest in the peace of knowing that God is in control. 

4)  God already knew how this pandemic was going to effect you. He knew you were going to: get sick with Covid-19, lose your job, have a family member pass away with the virus, test your marriage to the breaking point, experience depression and loneliness. None of this came as a surprise to him. He is more than aware of your daily stresses, needs and fears. He is waiting there at the throne of grace—the fountain of blessing— to meet your need, quiet your heart and give you peace.

“The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth. He fulfills the desires of those who fear him; he hears their cry and saves them.” Psalm 145:18-19

“Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” Hebrews 4:16

Consider this: When we go through trials and difficulties, whatever they may be, God waits expectantly to see how we will respond. Every tribulation is an opportunity to exhibit peace to the unbelieving world–the quiet confidence that says, “I am a child of God and he’s got this, he’s got me, he’s got my family.” And furthermore, we have the opportunity to tell others,”You too, can know this peace”! What better time to share Christ with your unbelieving friends and family members? Are you ready? Or are you frazzled, stressed, and panicked? The world is looking for calm amid the storm. Let’s trust in the God who loves us with an ever-lasting love and will never leave us nor forsake us in our time of need. That way we can be a model of peace for those who are filled with anxiety and fear in this uncertain time.

 

 

 

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Roots are Easy, Wings are Hard! : Preparing Your Children for Adulthood

 

 

 

We’ve all heard that, as parents, we need to give our children roots and wings. Well, I think we can all agree that the “roots” part is easy. We love them consistently, provide for their basic needs, let them know that they are, and will always be, a part of a family. We play together, pray together, support each other–all the while sinking those roots deep into the ground of family togetherness.

But what about the wings? Do we really have to encourage the development of those? I mean, I’d rather just keep my littles safely under my protective wing for all of their days. The problem with that is, how will they ever complete the important mission that God has for them to do in the world? Every child has unique gifts, talents and personality traits that God will use to touch others and further His kingdom. It is our responsibility, with the help of the Holy Spirit, to make those wings strong and sure so that when they leave the nest they will soar!

Here are a few pointers for parents to help you in the wing-shaping process:

  1. Please don’t be a helicopter parent. When our children are in elementary school we want to be there as much as possible for their protection and support. It’s a way we can show them that we care. For example: Going on a field trip with your 2nd grader? Awesome sauce! Good job on racking up those volunteer hours! Going on every single field trip and event with your middle-schooler? Not so cool. And when high school rolls around if you are still going on every single trip and showing up at school every time there is an opportunity… it may be time to clip your rotors (the spinning things on helicopters). Why should I let my older student experience things by themselves? Well, there are several great reasons: First of all, they will learn to navigate new situations without mom. This is an important skill for life–figuring out what to do without an adult making the decisions for you. Also, an older student on a trip may have to keep up with their own tickets, get to a meeting place on time, manage their own cash for the trip, etc., all of which help to develop responsibility. Another skill your child will develop if you are not there is that of listening for themselves/tuning in to the instructions given by the leaders. If you are always there, your child will rely on you to hear and remember the pertinent information. Listening/tuning in to instructions is a crucial life skill. Lastly, every time your child experiences time away from you on their own they gain confidence that they can, indeed, navigate the world on their own.
  2. Allow your older child to do their own homework. Does this really need to be said? From my teaching experience, I’m afraid so. I’ve known parents who have spent hours sitting by their middle school child at the table coaxing them painstakingly through every question (blood pressure rising to dangerous levels by the minute) so that they could turn in completed and accurate homework! Life is too short for that, parents. What will happen if your older child has to do his/her homework by themselves? They will learn about consequences for not following directions or turning things in late or incomplete. They will learn to ask questions regarding material they just don’t understand. Is your middle school/high school child confident enough to say, “Mrs. Jones, I don’t get this. Do you think you could find a time to help me?” Asking for help when needed is another important life skill. I can’t say that we never helped any of our kids on the occasional science fair project. In fact, working on projects can be a special time for parent and child to do something challenging and fun together! My kids still remember the “sunscreen project”, the “Orange juice project”, and the “electric current project” that their dad helped them with. (probably some form of punishment I gave him for letting the trash pile up or something, ha,ha) Allowing children to do their own daily homework, reaching out for help when needed, will grow them and ultimately build their confidence, not to mention help them with time management.
  3. Encourage your older child to do their own communicating with friends, teachers and coaches when there is an issue. This is especially important for high school students. Are you calling the school every time your student doesn’t like the grade they got on a test? How about when your child doesn’t feel they are getting enough playing time in their sport? In cases like this it is important to have a conversation with your child to clarify the issue and maybe give them some wisdom as to how to proceed. And certainly, pray with them. But, your child needs to learn to respectfully approach the teacher or coach and set up a time to meet with them in private to discuss their issue. Even older elementary students can be encouraged to talk to their teacher if they have an issue in the classroom. Perhaps, you as the parent can prepare the teacher by sending a quick email stating that, “Johnny has an issue he would like to talk to you about”. That way she will be sure to make it happen.
  4. Allow your older child to cross the “bridges to adulthood” with confidence and in a timely manner. I am talking about driving, getting a part-time job, spending the day with a group of friends without you, etc. Of course, you know your own child and must use wisdom as to when they are ready but, don’t let your own fear be a roadblock for them as they try to spread their wings and navigate life independently. If you are a believer, you must understand that these children in your nest are not yours anyway. They are on loan to you from our creator, God, who has a plan and purpose for their lives. And you can trust him. He loves them infinitely more than even you do.
  5. Include your child in family plans and decisions. Let your child know that his/her opinion has value and his/her input is appreciated. We were not always the best at this, given our authoratative parenting style, but we tried to respect their opinions and not to belittle or exclude them. If you raise your children with respect and appreciate their contribution to the family, they will more likely have the confidence to contribute their ideas and opinions in the wider world. This is so important if they are going to have an impact on the kingdom as adults. Now more than ever, we need young people who will speak up for Christian values in the world.
  6. Teach your children that God loves them and has a plan for them. Help them understand that if they walk in His ways they will have Holy Spirit power to succeed and to impact the world in big and small ways. Model for them kindness, generosity (of pocket and spirit!), and respect. These three things will go a long way towards making them responsible, independent, caring, impactful adults who will make the world a better place!

So, that doesn’t sound too hard, does it? In a nutshell, we as parents are to:

*Love unconditionally

*Provide opportunities for growth and development

*Encourage our children’s gifts and strengths

*Teach our children that God is real, ever-present and all-powerful!

And ultimately…let go of their hand, give them a gentle push, and let God take it from there.

Beth and Eric have 3 children and 2 grandchldren. Nick is a dentist in the US Navy and is married to Danielle. Nathan is in graduate school in sport psychology and married to Jessica. And Kari, is a sophomore in college studying athletic training.

 

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OK Lord, I’m Ready for my Close Up!

 

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Most of us lead very ordinary lives. We take care of our families, participate in church and community activities and enjoy various hobbies. The majority of us will never find ourselves on the cover of a magazine. We won’t write a bestseller, win a gold medal, or accomplish an extraordinary, news-worthy feat. In reality, only a small percentage of humans will ever achieve such fame and glory. Yet, we still feel the desire to be lauded and applauded, to be admired, to accomplish something note-worthy, to be seen.

As women we struggle with questions like: Does my life make any real difference? Am I having an impact in my world of home, family, church or career? Especially as we reach mid-life and beyond we wonder if anyone will even notice when we are gone.

So, what do we do with this gnawing desire for significance? How can we have a fulfilling, purposeful and effective life and live with contentment in the space in which God has placed us?

First of all, we must decide which master we serve. Are we living to please the One True God? Or, do we have such a haughty view of ourselves that we believe our ordinary lives can have no real impact…that surely we were made for greater things. In other words, our master is our own prideful, sinful self. We should never forget that pride is one of satan’s greatest tools to ruin our lives.

God’s Word tells us what he expects from us:

“He has shown thee, oh man, what is good and what does the Lord require of thee? But to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with our God.” Micah 6:8

We make a mistake as believers when we overlook the simple everyday opportunities for significance. The little things that can have a great impact on someone God has placed in our path. When we take the time to reach out to someone in need it can lead to a change in their eternal destination! Lovingly caring for our little ones can set them on a path to come to faith in Christ and to grow into caring, Christ-loving believers who then impact their own corner of the world. Using our talents of speaking, singing, praying, serving, sewing, writing, as God leads…can bring significance and meaning to our lives. The thing is…we are not all called to be on the national speaking circuit…even if we think we’re the next Beth Moore. We must learn to find significance and contentment in our everyday, sometimes mundane lives.

Many people spend their entire lives paddling upstream, trying so hard to be noticed, to achieve some sort of fame. In the meantime, the million and one God-scripted appointments and tasks right at their doorstep have floated on by.

We can find significance and meaning right here, right now, where God has placed us at this moment in time. As a believer, God has a purpose for your life and through Him, you can find fulfillment.

And, believe me, God sees you! God knows how important you are. God loves you with such a powerful love that he gave His very own Son to die on the cross for you so that you could be forgiven and one day live with Him in heaven! You are famous to God!

Did you know every believer has a spiritual gift that can be used to benefit the kingdom of God? If you’re not sure what yours is or how you fit in, talk to your pastor or a leader at your church. They can help you. We can find significance in Christian service.

Let me leave you with this thought:

Brothers and sisters in Christ, stop working so hard to find significance in the world’s eyes. Rest in Him. Pray for eyes to see the truly important moments of every day…the ones God ordained for you. Hug your elderly neighbor, kiss your child’s skinned knee, mentor someone at your church. Use your gifts and talents to impact your little corner of the world. God is in control. Be patient. Be content. Who knows? Maybe you are the next Beth Moore! ( probably not! )

“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Ephesians 2:10

“Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men.” Colossians 3:23

 

 

 

 

 

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To Bite, or Not to Bite (your tongue), That is the Question: Allowing Your Teen to Navigate Heartache and Disappointment.

 

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Wow, mothering can be tough! Can I get an “Amen”?! It’s a fine line we walk between allowing our teenagers to grow and mature and intervening in order to make things easier for them. It hurts to see our kids left out, overlooked, hurt, or treated unfairly. Whether it’s sports, academics or navigating friendships and dating, every teen sometimes gets the short end of the stick. Life is not always fair, in fact, it very rarely is. So, yes, there is something to be said for allowing them to learn that lesson early. But, our mama’s heart breaks when our children are emotionally bruised and battered.

We sit on the sidelines and watch as our kids learn how to speak up for themselves with teachers, coaches and peers. We want them to learn to handle their own issues but, it’s so hard not to jump in—to come to the rescue. As our kids were navigating the teen years, they each experienced disappointment and unfair treatment; if not from friends, then from coaches, teachers or even parents of friends—who may not have realized the impact they had on our teen’s heart.

I believe there are times when a parent’s assistance is necessary but, only as a last resort. Instead, we can listen, pray with our teens over issues, give advice when asked, and point them to God’s Word for help and consolation.

And it’s usually not just our teens who need consoling! We, as mothers, carry the burden of our child’s broken heart, loneliness and disappointment like a soggy, woolen blanket over our drooping shoulders. When we are crushed over our teens heartache, we need only go to God with our sadness and frustration and lay it at the foot of the cross. He is there to offer hope, help, and peace.

God knows our teen’s predicament and he knows how it will all turn out. He loves them with an everlasting, unimaginable love. He has a plan—a long-range one—to shape our teenagers into strong, compassionate, humble and effective warriors for the kingdom. Everything he allows to happen to them—disappointment, heartache, loneliness, frustration— is another piece of the puzzle, designed to fit into his beautiful plan for their life.

So, what’s a mama to do? Pray. Be a shoulder to cry on and a listening ear. Give advice when asked. Point your teen to the truth and comfort of God’s Word. Bite your tongue. Go to God with your own heartache. And be patient. After all, God is creating a masterpiece.

 

“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in times of trouble.”            Psalm 46:1

“Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” 1 Peter 5:7

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28

“The Lord is near to the broken-hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” Psalm 34:18

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”                                                                                                                                        James 1:2-4

 

 

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Hello Again! Surprised by God and Back in the Saddle.

 

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Dear Readers,

So sorry that it has been a while since I last posted on Heart of the Matter, but this season of life has been extremely busy and eventful for our family. Our second son got married and moved to another state for graduate school, our oldest son was deployed with the Navy and has had lots of adventures on the high seas while his baby back in Japan, is learning to crawl and feed himself! Our daughter is a full-fledged high school senior complete with all the excitement and responsibility that entails. In addition, my 91 year-old mother, of whom I have frequently written, has had a fall, gone through rehab, and moved back to her house with in-home care. Life just never stops.

Nor do we know what surprises God has for us around the next bend. I quit teaching school quite a few years ago to homeschool my daughter during her middle school years. After she returned to school, I enjoyed being home, volunteering —diving whole-heartedly into home-keeping, mothering and husband-minding. But, alas, God had other plans. Who knew? ( well, God, of course, duh)

As I was reading the online newsletter from my daughter’s Christian school, I came across a notice for a part-time elementary music teacher position. It really piqued my interest! I always loved teaching and one of the highlights of my career was when I had the opportunity to teach elementary music for a few years. The next time I was at the school, I went to speak with the principal to find out more. Let’s just say, the job was a dream job, as far as I was concerned—it was right in my wheelhouse! Ya’ll, not only do I get to sing, play the piano, and teach kids about using their voices to praise God but, I don’t have to be at work until 10:30! I am not a morning person!

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Now there is nothing more satisfying to me than working at a Christian school where I can share the love and message of Jesus Christ with little ones who have their whole lives ahead of them. Not to mention the parents of all those little ones who oftentimes do not attend church or have a relationship with Christ but just want their children to attend a school that will instill good values and morals. What an opportunity to influence people for the kingdom of God.

Music is the language of heaven. It can fill our souls and lift us into the realm of the heavenlies. And there is no sweeter sound than a roomful of children singing praise songs to God.

Needless to say, I took the job. It has been so much fun. My only challenge has been learning to submit lesson plans online and to navigate the newest education technology. It’s really nice to be at my daughter’s school during her senior year to share in all the joy and excitement of what is probably her last year living at home full-time.

So, I hope to be able to share some of my “adventures in music” with you, my readers, as the year goes on. And I’m ready to get back to writing—encouraging you to live lives that are Christ-honoring as He fulfills his purpose in you.

I am blessed, thankful, excited and filled with joyful anticipation of the year to come. Don’t ever think that because you are on the downward slope of life that God is finished with you, or that you can no longer impact people for the kingdom. You never know what God has in store for you around the next bend!

“Sing joyfully to the Lord, you righteous; it is fitting for the upright to praise him. Praise the Lord with the harp; make music to him on the ten-stringed lyre. Sing to him a new song; play skillfully and shout for joy.” Psalm 33:1-3 (NIV)

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