5 Ways to Avoid Being a Helicopter Parent (part 3)- Takeaways from Helicopter Mom by Bethany L. Douglas

Okay, so here we are. Blog three is comin’ at ya in this series based on Helicopter Mom about fighting fear for our kids and being fearless in our lives and parenting. If you happen to miss the first two blogs, check the first out here and number 2 here.

Thus far we’ve acknowledged that there is, indeed, an actual problem of fear in our lives, and we’ve started dissecting out some of the reasons that this fear is so pervasive. Last week’s blog focused on what we focus on… the kinds of fear-mongering shows, books, movies, music, etc. that we put into our minds. These kinds of images and ideas take our focus off of the One who deserves it most. The fear drives us to worry instead of the cross, it focuses our attention and minds on things of this world, not on things of the Almighty.

So we have a renewed focus. Check.

Now it’s time for some redecorating. And I do mean we’re changing the very scenery of our souls…. we need to clean out the idols we’ve erected all around us.

Medical Mayhem

We live in a society that flourishes with knowledge and with intellect. We have at our

fingertips the vast data of all scientific studies and medical breakthroughs; article upon article

about history, religion, science, politics, and economics. We have access to more knowledge than

has ever been accessible in the history of man about subjects that are only still newly discovered.

There is so. much. knowledge.

As parents, we obsess about the best food, the smartest doctor, the safest car seats,

immunizations, the most eco-friendly wood to use on the playhouse, whether or not the udders of

the cow were shaved when they produced that organic, raw, partially soy almond milk you just bought

<actually I conversation overhead at a mom’s group the other day- I kid you not!>. We

read books, skim articles, become members of mom chat rooms, watch YouTube videos, pour

over parenting books, take out subscriptions to magazines, join Facebook pages, and attend

seminars. We get a special plaque from WebMD quarterly as a most-valued costumer.

<Kidding, those don’t exist! At least I don’t think they do>, All to attain more knowledge; to

gird ourselves with the safest, the healthiest, the best. And then we can back up our craziness

with 1400 articles from Google and our Mommy-and-Me blog that will all prove us right…

because we can! You get my drift? We are both blessed with such knowledge and absolutely

cursed by it. Because the cold, hard fact is we think we know best.

Knowledge is fine. In fact knowledge is great! Don’t get me wrong. I’m just putting forth

the idea that man’s wisdom will always be imperfect. Thus we need to look at it for what it is.

MAN’S WISDOM. I have no issue with researching stuff. I have no issue with making sure

we’re giving our children the most appropriate upbringing. But consider the source! Unless the

source of your decision making is Christ you are in dangerous territory my friend- and very

foolish territory to boot. If you spend more than 5 minutes researching “sore toe” in WebMD,

guaranteed you’ll eventually find out it’s probably Ebola. I promise it’s not!

We live constantly bombarded by tales of woe and tribulation because of this or that. Faulty

knowledge, man’s knowledge, knowledge we too often stake our claim on. Antibiotics or

probiotics, to vaccinate or not to vaccinate, dairy is good/dairy is bad,

paleo/vegan/Adkins/SouthBeach, to oil or not to oil, there’s glass in the juice boxes, there’s fecal

matter in the water, there’s a fly in the ointment, etc. etc. etc. The news no longer delivers news,

now we’re hard-pressed to hear any story about something happy. It’s all bad, all the time. Some

of it is real, some of it is faulty. How often do we take it all at face value though? Can I get an

amen? No wonder we lose sleep at night! The world around us is a scary place!

We have failed to protect our brains and now they are contaminated with filth from our

eyes (see blog 2 of this series) and false-gods from our knowledge. Again we’ve internalized an attack

from the Enemy that has been allowed grow and fester into unrealistic fear and at the same time

prideful knowledge. In most cases, as is cancer to the body, it has grown insidiously in our

minds. I would even argue it’s metastisized to our hearts. We too often place trust and faith in the

man’s knowledge. We’ve conditioned ourselves to run to that knowledge first- to take comfort in

that website first, to check our magazine articles first. It has a place of honor in our lives, and

thereby the lives of our children. And like the Israelites waiting on Moses in the desert, when

God tarried in showing up to them, they turned to something more “concrete”- man’s inventions,

man’s reasoning. My sisters… we are guilty of the very same thing. Hear me out, man’s

knowledge is fine but fallible. Our calling as Believers is to a higher knowledge- a more pure,

infallible way of thinking. (excerpt from Helicopter Mom ch. 5)

Dear friends- we have put idols on our thrones. Idols of knowledge, of learning, of (man’s) wisdom. We run too quickly too often to that which is not of God to fix our woes. And then wonder why the answers don’t stick…

So what to do? I would suggest a re-prioritizing of fear-mitigation. Instead of going to that webpage, that chat group, that book… seek FIRST God’s wisdom, pray FIRST about your worries, read FIRST about it in your Bible. This is not rocket-science people! Don’t oil first, pray first. Don’t google first, open your Word first.

I’m not saying that knowledge from the world isn’t helpful, I am saying let God bring it to you as you seek Him through your fears. Put Him in His proper place…. FIRST in our lives! Take the idols that we seek for and acknowledge too much… down. Don’t use God as a back-up in case everything and everyone else doesn’t work.

He’s not a “when all else fails” kinda guy. He’s a “I will never fail” kinda God.

Give man’s knowledge it’s due (which let’s be honest, is very little…) and start giving some real weight to what God would say, what He would instruct, how He would lead. Forget what the internet says, what your best friend says, what the family member says… find out FIRST what God would say.

Here are some questions to consider-

What or who reigns heavy in your decision-making?

When you worry about something for your children, what most effectively calms your fears- advice, books, WebMD, other moms, God?

What CAUSES you more anxiety?

We need another day of confession about this. Ask for forgiveness for placing idols ahead of God. Ask for help in keeping Him at the center of your life, asking Him for wisdom and guidance, looking to Him for calming of your fears. Look to nothing else sister!

You’ve stopped the distractions so you can look at the right area. Now put the right Person in the right place.

But regarding anything beyond this, dear friend, go easy. There’s no end to the publishing of books, and constant study wears you out so you’re no good for anything else. The last and final word is this:

Fear God. Do what He tells you. And that’s it. Eventually God will bring everything that we do out into the open and judge it according to its hidden intent, whether it’s good or bad.

Ecclesiastes 12:12-14 MSG

You’ve got this! See ya back here next week!

But regarding

anything beyond this, dear friend, go easy. There’s no end to the publishing of books, and

constant study wears you out so you’re no good for anything else. The last and final word is this:

Fear God. Do what He tells you. And that’s it. Eventually God will bring everything that we do

out into the open and judge it according to its hidden intent, whether it’s good or bad.

Ecclesiastes 12:12-14 MSG

5 Ways to Avoid Being a Helicopter Parent (part 2)- Takeaways from Helicopter Mom by Bethany L. Douglas

Wahoo! You came back for more! I’m super proud of you because this fear-stuff is no joke. I hope you’ve had a great week of hashing out with God the amount and kind of fear you have. If you missed the first blog in this series about overcoming helicopter parenting, please check it out here. For those caught up though, let’s get to it!

Last week we worked on simply acknowledging that there, in fact, IS a problem. That’s a huge step. Getting to say the words out-loud is no small thing. This week we’re going to take the next step and identify some of the reasons we fear. In my book, I go into great detail about many of these roots but for this blog we’ll just skirt them a bit. (For the complete read, please grab yourself a copy of Helicopter Mom <shameless plug>. I promise it will revolutionize how you deal with fear!)

These next 3 blogs will all address certain factors in overcoming fears- call them fear-mongers if you will. These are the WHYS of fear as well as the answers to fixing them. As you read, see which ones strike a cord with you…

Trauma Drama

Friends, our minds are simply filled with trash- with blood, guts, goo, rape, violence, abuse, profanity, nakedness. The list of what we intake daily (by choice!) is crippling our souls and infecting our hearts.

Our culture adores blood and guts for some

reason. They get a kick out of the horror of it or the heartbreak of it. Walking Dead anyone?

They love the freakish nature of terror and letting the worst parts of their imagination get the

better of their sanity. Americans go in droves to theatres to be entertained by the morbid.

Weird… and wrong.

So much of our battleground fighting fear is in our minds. In our imaginations. And I

believe women, the female gender, is especially prone to breaks in the protection for our minds.

We, more often than men, live in our imaginations. The fight is for control of our thoughts. And,

gals, our thoughts are too often out of control! These blood and guts visions are not unlike those

distracting injuries I spoke of earlier. They are gory and scary and often can distract us from

what we should be working on. We are losing the battle for our minds because we obsess over

the fear and lose sight of the faith.

Mom’s fear trauma. We fear blood, broken bones, broken backs, broken heads, broken

hearts <yes, it’s a thing> broken skin, broken fill-in-the-blank. Our blood turns cold to think of our children

laying in the middle of the street having been run over by a car. Our heart stops

when we see them fall down the stairs and we’re sure their neck is snapped in two. Our thoughts

explode and tears spring up in our eyes to imagine them drowning in the pool. We are terrified of

these things! They keep us up at night and haunt our dreams. They cripple our days. One stray,

random thought can hijack an entire afternoon. One ill-placed news article on Facebook can

overcome our sense of the realistic and plunge us into the fatalistic. One sad scene from a tv

show can alter how we approach a certain situation. And before we know it we are already in

deep mourning for our child that has died some horrific death- if only in our (overactive)

imaginations.

We are masters of destruction in our own minds! We’ve become distracted by the

injuries. We have become slaves to fear- slaves to the vibrancy of our imaginations.

It’s time sisters, to acknowledge our pitiful state. It’s time to acknowledge we have not

been diligent in protecting ourselves from fear and worldly thinking. We have blurred the lines

between real and make-believe: by not taking every thought captive to Christ, by allowing death

and dismemberment into our heads as a way of entertainment, by allowing the images of gore in

our culture to permeate our minds, by allowing the fear of fictional situations and stories to play

out in our daily, non-fictional lives. (excerpt from Helicopter Mom ch. 4).

Oh friends! How filthy our minds have become! We intake the most horrendous things and then wonder why we fear that which we regularly and intentionally watch. It’s confounding when you think about it. Satan is using these shows, books, movies, etc to distract us from reality. Better yet, he’s using the make-believe to keep us pondering ‘what-ifs’ not the ‘here-nows’.

Distraction is never a good thing when it takes our focus off of Christ. EVER. He is a

jealous God and demands 100% all the time, every time. This is hard enough to do in a perfect-

case scenario let alone when we’re battling demons from our imaginations. I would venture to

say it’s impossible! So let’s start clearing out the trash, the blood, and the guts from our homes,

our families, our lives, and our own imaginations. This is indeed, a bloody mess, but let’s hang

out here for a bit. Look at it for what it is. Identify what it is, what it causes. You have to know

what you’re stained with in order to know what cleaner to use right mom.

So today we’re going to work on cleaning up and cleaning out.

What needs to go?

What do you need to examine in your life/mind that is creating distraction between you and God?

What shows, movies, books, music are you intaking that needs to go?

Are you a glutton for sob-stories and fatalistic accounts?

Are you filling your mind with scary and frightening images?

God calls us to a much higher standard than the world. We simply cannot dwell within in like the rest of the world.

bibleversestogo.com

Philippians 4:8 - Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable if anything is excellent or praiseworthy think about such things.

True

Noble

Right

Pure

Lovely

Admirable

These are high standards… are you meeting them?

Before we go to next week, we need confession and cleaning. Ask God to clean our your mind. Ask for help and accountability to avoid that which is contaminating your spirit. Fear needs no additional help from ourselves feeding it. Have our Father renew your mind and I promise all this distraction will not be for much longer.

Cant’s wait to see you back next week!

5 Ways to Avoid Being a Helicopter Parent (part 1)- Takeaways from Helicopter Mom by Bethany L. Douglas

Okay, so it occurred to me the other day that although I’ve published an entire book about helicopter parenting and how to avoid being one, I’ve never really written a blog about it. So, in order to wet your whistle I’ve decided to condense the book into a few super helpful (and more importantly, BIBLICAL) tips on how to ‘not be that parent.’ This will be an short blog series that I’m super excited to bring to you, hopefully you will gain insight into yourself as well as your fear behaviors. More importantly I pray that you will be inspired to LIFT instead of hover! .

We all know them, some of you ARE them… helicopter parents.

As some of you may know, I <sort of> know a thing or two about this particular phenomenon. Being a flight nurse for a number of years gave me an extremely unique perspective on the helicopter mom thing. And oh! dear ones… it is most definitely a thing… and a growing thing at that. Following the launch of Helicopter Mom I heard from all manner of helicopter grandparents, helicopter dads, helicopter wives, helicopters bosses, helicopter husbands… literally the list is almost endless. There are people hovering all over the place!

As it turns out, everyone on the planet has fears. Which is the crux of what Helicopter Mom is about- facing fears for your children (or fears of fill-in-the-blank…) and pushing past them so that we can LIFT! But for those who haven’t yet read the book, I’ve condensed it for you (I highly encourage you to get yourself an actual copy though, I’ll even autograph it for you!)

So, without any further ado, here’s 5 takeaways from the book that will help all you hoverers out there. (Stay tuned for all the follow-up sister-blogs to this one!)

Acknowledge the REASON for the hovering behavior.

Fear is a funny thing. It manifests as worry, anxiety, co-dependency, love at times, abuse at others. None of it’s manifestations is healthy or of God however.

I remember, before having my boys, my younger sister talking to me about the overwhelming

fear she had experienced as a new mom. I had not yet had my own children, so I had no personal

experience to base her reports, but I had been around enough new parents as a nurse that I could

at least empathize with her musings. Then I had my first son…. And suddenly a dark cloud of

fear came into my field of view almost immediately. Like storm clouds in the distance, the

horizon suddenly became dark… and as I held my newborn child, Jesse, I suddenly felt fear

unlike I’d known before. Fear for his life, for his health, for his walk with Jesus, his first scrape,

his first heartbreak; fear for potential car wrecks, drowning, kidnapping, tornadoes, dog bites,

tick bites, spider bites; fear of future addiction, future relationships, future grades in school,

future illness, future sports losses; fear for rug burns, wrestling bruises, choking on hot dogs,

falling out of trees, eating poisonous house plants… well, you get the idea. In one fell swoop, I

was terrified, stricken, paranoid, and basically rendered into a blob of new-mom goo. After all,

being an actual helicopter mom, I’ve seen the worst of the very worst happen to kids…. Believe

me, I guarantee you some of my peds calls can rival your worst nightmares! And now I had my

very own kid to raise, keep safe, keep fed, keep healthy… basically keep alive. All of a sudden, this mom

thing was looking a bit out of my league… actually I was thinking it was not even in

my universe.

Anybody relate?

As if these (technical) possibilities of maiming, dismemberment, horrific death, and slow

parasitic wasting away by some remote Pacific island virus carried by a previously unknown

species of albino snail was not enough- my mind was completely unprepared for the absolutely

sick and twisted visions I would have occasionally of me accidentally causing death to my son. It turned

my blood cold that such musings would pop into my head. I seriously though there was

something seriously, seriously wrong with me. Surely I was, in actuality, the worst mom/human

being/wife on the planet! Who thinks such things? It’s one thing to be paranoid, it’s quite another

to envision yourself causing the hurt. Lord Jesus, I thought! What is wrong with me??

Anybody relate?

And yet, even in the midst of these visions, feeling these feelings of inadequacy and

incompetence… I also, just as vehemently, decided that I, and I alone could protect my son from

all these things. I would protect him from the big, bad world out there. And, perhaps, in my

biggest shortcoming and display of pride, decided that I could protect him from the big, bad

world out there. He was mine, my very own, my son, my precious (cue Gollum voice...); and I

was going to ensure his forever safety- come hell or high water. Makes perfect sense right? I

should’ve won the award for most delusional and hypocritical mother for 2012.) <I’m pretty sure

I was at least nominated… I’ve yet to receive any official letters about it though.>

Reading about my mindset on paper clarifies the absolute absurdity of my feelings. Yet, in

the moment, at the time, and I suspect for many of you, these thoughts and attitudes, oxymoronic

as they are, seemed totally legit. And how much do those delusions still dictate and shape our

lives?

This is a scary book to write but I imagine for those of you who live in the fear of the Valley

of the Shadow of Death, this book is even more scary to read. Scary because, as I’ve already

said, it addresses our very deepest and darkest fears about those we love the very most.

But I do know a thing or two about fearing for our kids. Mine and yours. Too often their lives

are in my hands… and that, my sisters, is absolutely terrifying. I know you hear what I’m saying.

Kids are petrifying. Fear for their health, their well-being, their life, their bodies, their brains,

their emotional stability… every single, little, sticky, hair on those heads is precious to us. And

damn it! we’re going to keep them fed, healthy, alive, and unharmed in any possible way

including physically, mentally, emotionally, economically, spiritually, politically,

geographically, seasonally, religiously, homeopathically, etc. etc. etc. etc.

We all know that we fear for our kids. This chapter could be an entire book by itself, talking

about talking about writing about fearing for our kids. We talk at nauseum about it. We feel

guilty about feeling guilty about fearing for them. But enough of talking about it and I’m

certainly not writing about it anymore, let’s look at it. (excerpt Helicopter Mom ch.2,)

In order to truly fix any problem we must first acknowledge that it exists right? I had a crazy hard time with publishers getting Helicopter Mom published because editors had an issue with my demographic. In the wise words of one of them, “The women who need this book most likely fall into 2 categories- either they are totally unaware that they are a helicopter mom, or they are very aware of it and proud to have the badge. You’re going to have a hard time getting people to read it.” They were not wrong. This is a systemic, western parenting issue. And yet, whether is be oblivion or a medal of honor, living in fear and the attempts to mitigate it is no way to live.

Like in all successful recovery programs, we have to admit we have a problem.

“Hello, my name is Sally Sue and I am a helicopter mom.”

Cue, “Hello Sallys” from around the room.

So, today, right here right now… let’s take a look at your fear level. This is written specifically for moms out there… but the Biblical principles we’ll apply are good for any kind of fear, worry, and anxiety.

Prayerfully consider your fear levels. Here are some questions to ponder-

Where are you on the helicopter mom scale? Do you make decisions (both for or against) out of fear?

How much time do you spend just flat-out worrying about your kids?

How much energy do you expend hovering over them (physically, emotionally, academically, etc etc etc.)?

How much of your head is partitioned off and labeled “things to worry about”?

Pray it out. Admit the problem, whether huge or small, and let’s start rooting it out! See ya next week for the next step!

If you’re like, “Yaaasss, it’s about time. I NEED this book!” I’d love to get a copy into your hands! It can be purchased on Amazon or this website (if you buy it from my website, I’d love to autograph it for you!)

A Change of Scenery

I’ve been doing a lot of gardening lately and my poor front bed has been begging for attention. It’s got several bushes that, although beautiful, were just planted helter-skelter thoughout the location; neither blossoming well nor growing as abundantly as they should. Don’t get me wrong, none of them are dying, none are not NOT blooming, none are really doing poorly.

They’re just not thriving.

And they’re not in a place where they can truly showcase their blossoms for the world to see.

I mean, I want traffic from a block away to notice them. The potential is there, but their location is not ideal.

So the other day, I did what all gardeners just luuuurrvvve to do- actually more accurately, I had my dear husband do it- I transplanted three of them to three different spots.

And all of a sudden they were NOTICED. Their blooms seemed more vibrant. They complemented the beds we put them in like they’d been there all along. And I swear two of them have doubled in size. I even had a few neighbors comment on them- asking where we’d gotten the ‘new’ bushes.

Funny how that works. Plants we’ve had since we bought the house, that no one has ever noticed, are now thriving.

And all because of a location change.

It was a good call in the gardening department for sure. But it was not without some effort. I’m sure if those bushes had voices, none of them would have been too thrilled about the transplanting process. Getting dug up, uprooted, pruned back, transplanted to a whole new location I’m sure is not the plants idea of a good time.

I can certainly empathize. Changes in scenery aren't always fun.

Last year God took something very dear to me. Rather He forcibly moved me out of something dear to me. Cutting my roots, digging up my heartstrings, transplanting me to a new place. To put it bluntly, it sucked. It hurt. It was unexpected. And I’m still working on re-establishing my new root system.

My change of scenery was not welcome and I certainly didn't like the new view.

These last few days even as I was marveling at how much better my bushes were doing, God has been gently letting me see the parallels.

I wasn’t doing poorly at my other location. I was blooming and growing. But the Master Gardener saw a need to put me in a new spot. A BETTER spot. One where I would grow better, blossom more, and glorify Him from blocks away more brightly.

And just as my bushes didn’t get a ‘say’ in their move, neither did I. Furthermore, they didn’t complain or question me as their gardener, so neither should I question or complain about where my Gardener plants and prunes me.

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight." Proverbs 3:4-6 ESV

Today I encourage you to know that God’s got this. He’s got you, your circumstances, your soil, your sun, your rain, your flower bed, your pruning schedule- all of it- He’s got a master plan for. It may not make sense. It may hurt or feel super uncomfortable. It may involve new locations, new people, new ministries, or new calling. He may prune away even good growth in order for you to more fully thrive. But it’ll be more than worth it.

So please don’t be discouraged. Please don’t question. Please don’t complain. Don’t wriggle or argue. My bushes didn’t do that to me so we shouldn’t either. Rather simply enjoy your new view and the wonderful, God-given change of scenery.

In His Time

Lately I've had a string of days where nothing has come easily. Actually I think I'm going on more like a month. Having five kids, 3 of which are special needs, our calendar is literally jam packed with appointments, therapy, games, school functions, church stuff, with times in between to eat, sleep, and bathe if we're lucky. I would say 2-3 days of each week is literally back to back items that are all super time-dependent.

Soooo, what better time for God to teach me to slow down and smell the roses right?!

For those who may not know, I'm a RN by vocation, a flight nurse more specifically (or at least I was until this whole writing, speaking, momming thing started a couple years ago), so my life as a whole has been defined by high-speed, high-energy, high-adrenaline. Its not overstating the matter to say that much of my adult life was consumed by life or death split second decisions.

Time matters, seconds count, plans going smoothly is paramount- and my A-to-B personality thrives within that structure.

Yet God has been teaching me more. Not that any of those kinds of things are bad, that kind of mindset can be super helpful and effective in fact... but He's been dragging my feet, usurping my plans, and downright challenging my patience literally non-stop lately.

You know that t-shirt that says, "You're testing the Jesus in me!" ? What happens when it's God doing that testing?

These last thirty days have been exhausting and trying to say the least. Nothing, and I do mean nothing, has gone easily. Nothing's gone according to plan. Everything on my schedule has had to be moved, sometimes multiple times. Much of what we do is dependent on other stuff or people doing what they need to; so one thing fails or is delayed and before you know it, the whole house of dominoes has fallen and you find yourself vaguely looking around for the hidden cameras wondering which "Totally Hidden" reality show you've inadvertently found yourself in.

Welcome to my life. Anybody relate?

Any yet God has been good time me and given me so much inexplicable patience. I've taken more deep breaths, given more smiles, rearranged more appointments, given more grace and mercy to people (and myself!) than I ever have in my life. I've been forced to slow down and smell the proverbial roses. After all, unlike my previous jobs, <almost> none of this stuff is life and death.

I admit it's been a total mind-set change for me. And I'm loving the aroma of seeing Him work in me through those undeserved smiles. The scent of His grace and mercy working in and through and towards me. It's been astoundingly peaceful despite what on paper looks life a mess.

More times than I can tell I've found myself humming the words to an old Psalty the Psalmbook song (totally dating myself here!)

In His time, In HIs time,
He makes all things beautiful
In his time

Lord please show me everyday
As you're teaching me your way
That you do just what you say
In your time

In Your time, in Your time
You make all things beautiful
In Your time

Lord my life to You I bring
May each song I have to sing
Be to You a lovely thing

In Your time.

I've been keenly aware in the last few years of my life that I have this sub-conscious timeline in my head of what I should be doing, where I should be going, what goals I should be meeting, etc. etc. etc. Yet His time is so very different from mine! And more poignantly, He will take care of HIS goals for me in HIS time... not mine.

Not mine.

Whether it be a mundane doctor's appointment that's a no-go or getting my first multi-book publishing contact (insert wink wink and lots of prayers here!) I can rest in knowing He is in control and He does, indeed make all His plans, all His people, all His creation- beautiful in His time.

Jeremiah 29:11 "For I know the plans I have for you,” says the LORD . “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope." NLT

Overcoming Bible Study Obstacles- Guest Post

I had a fellow writer friend ask about posting her newest blog that helps with Bible study and I jumped at the opportunity. As much as I’d love to claim that I’m the kind of in-the-Word gal as much as I should be, I’d be downright lying. Being in legit quiet time with God comes HARD for me. Its not that I don’t want to, it’s just that I’m lazy, self-centered, and generally am great at finding just about anything else I can complete before spending true quiet time. Ugh. It’s a <thing> for me for sure. I was even more excited to see that this post is heavily based on a writing conference that I attended with her and was a part of. It’s like this crazy, convicting, refreshing, challenging blast from my past. So, again, I was more than happy to oblige Leah in posting her writing. Without further ado, please enjoy! ~Bethany

A few weeks ago, I asked my Facebook friends to tell me some obstacles they faced when it came to studying the Bible.  They echoed some of the same challenges: the Bible is difficult to understand, where do you begin, and an inability to stay focused.  I understood the struggle all to well, until a couple of years ago.

In 2017, I attended conference for writers and speakers in Christian ministry.  A well-known Bible teacher organized this event and took us step by step through her time in prayer, in the Word, and writing.  Two take-aways the main speaker shared were: we had to be in God's Word if we wanted to share God's Word in our world. Also, as believers, we had to know God's Word because the world is constantly going to come against His Truth. If we don't know His Truth we will be deceived.

The speaker continued to give us the tools to create an authentic time of studying the Bible. It isn't magic. It isn't something some believers have, and others don't. In the book of John, chapter 16, Jesus shares with the disciples in His final hours. He tells them He will be going away because if He leave, the Counselor (Holy Spirit, Spirit of Truth) cannot come to them. "When the Spirit of Truth comes, he will guide you in to all the truth." (John 16:13) Jesus promises that when the Holy Spirit comes to them, they would finally understand. Their eyes would be opened to all Jesus had been teaching for the last three years.

God offers us the Holy Spirit too. When we become believers, the Holy Spirit becomes a part of us. When we open God's word, the Truth comes alive in ways we have never seen to the point that we cannot wait to discover all the Spirit has to show us. The Bible was written through the help of the Holy Spirit, so we need to pray and ask the Holy Spirit for help in understanding the scripture. "But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and remind you of everything I have told you." (John 14:26)

Another speaker at the conference addressed which scripture to read.  She recommended reading the Bible in chunks. We tend to focus on a verse or two, which is fine, but to get a bigger picture and understanding of the passage, she said we should read the entire chapter or read through an entire book over the course of several days. To gain understanding, it helps to know who the author is, what perspective he has, as well as the time frame he is writing in. I had never read the Bible this way, but I was determined when I returned home from the conference.

I prayed next time I sat down to study, asking God (through the Holy Spirit) to reveal His truth to me. I asked for understanding.  God led me to study the life of Paul. I started in the book of Acts, reading about his life, his conversion, and ministry. By reading Paul's letters in the order he wrote them, I was able to compare them with details in Acts to see what he was experiencing when each letter was written. My eyes were opened to a greater understanding of Paul and the trials he experienced throughout his ministry. 

Two years later, on May 1st, I published a study on the book of John titled, “30 Days with John: A Journey with Jesus’ Most Beloved Disciple.”  Each day’s study begins with prayer, a full reading of the passage, and then questions to take you back through the scripture to aid in understanding.  The study is concise, yet in-depth, for those who get overwhelmed by longer studies and lack the available time to complete them.  I hope the study I have written will help facilitate going deeper into God's word. We don't have to be pastors or teachers, speakers or writers to love and understand the scripture. Its here for all of us. The more we know God’s Word, the closer we become in a relationship with Him.

There are always going to be obstacles when it comes to reading scripture because the enemy doesn't want you to do it! That is a topic for an entirely different blog post. Don't allow distractions and obstacles keep you from growing closer to God. If you need more focus, pray and ask God. The more He draws you into His Word, you will find those distractions and obstacles won't be a problem for you. I hope the suggestions I have given will encourage you and give you some confidence to reading and understanding God's word.

 

Leah Lively

“30 Days with John” is available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble (online). 

 

Born and raised in Virginia, Leah’s faith journey began in a small church in a small town.  She is a wife to one and a mom to 4 along with a sweet female boxer.  Leah is motivated by 2 Corinthians 13:11 where Paul encourages the church in Corinth to “become mature and be encouraged, be of the same mind, be at peace, and the God of love and peace will be with you.”  She wants believers to grow in their faith and discover a hunger for God’s word.  Leah’s genuine and authentic style of presenting the gospel lays a foundation for readers to learn more of God’s Truths. 

 

www.leahlivelyblog.com

Instagram: @leahlivelyblog

Playing Hide and Seek

Lately my kids have been on a hide-and-seek kick. Generally from each other, though occasionally they just <love> to hide from me... especially when they're playing and I'm not even aware that I'm in the game.

They think it's hilarious to hide when I call them.

The other day after a particularly frustrating round of me calling and looking for my oldest (all the while not knowing she had decided it was hide-and-seek time) I came to my momma-whits-end. I had started by simply telling her it was time to get in the car. She disappeared. After 5 minutes I was generally yelling around the house telling her is was time to get in the car. After another 5 minutes I was actively searching for her and yelling even louder to come.get.in.the.car. We were late. I was frustrated. I had finally realized somewhere along the line that she was in fact, playing the game and not being <completely> disobedient.

And yet she was being completely disobedient.

And now several people would be late to a  function that would make many others have to change their plans as well.

That night my husband and I were talking over the general hide-and-seek situation. As I was bemoaning her general lack of behavior and how it vastly changed the outcomes of our afternoon, God gently reminded me that I had done the very same thing to Him... on more occasions to count.

How many times had He told me to do something and I didn't? I ran away. I hid. Like my daughter I literally went the other direction and disappeared. How much of His Word, meant for my good and instruction, have I disobeyed? Sometimes inadvertently, sometimes I was simply 'playing' a game and not listening, and other times I intentionally and purposefully didn't listen.

I was immediately convicted that my own games of hide-and-seek with my Father have (I'm sure) caused my fair share of frustration and Fatherly angst. Several situations in which I didn't do what I was supposed to ran across my memory-banks. Ugh. I wonder how many people were depending on me to obey? I wonder how much blessing I lost out on because I didn't listen to what I was told? I pondered who I made 'late' and who had to change their 'plans' because I was MIA. Innumerable I imagine.

But God is good, and even in those dark thoughts He reminded me of something else. That just like I had done for my daughter (probably a bit less angry...) He will also come looking for me. When I was lost, He came after me. Yelling my name, searching high and low.

Better yet, HE is never hard to find, because He never plays games with me. If I need Him, He is there- right there, always ready and willing to be together. There are no games, no hide-and-seek, no wondering where He could be.

In that moment and in the moments after, I have found that wonderfully reassuring. I have a God and a Father who looks for me and is always with me. He will never leave me or forsake me. He will not tire of searching for His wayward daughter, nitwit that I may be at times.

Deut. 31:8 "It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.” ESV

Jeremiah 29:13 "You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart." ESV

Isaiah 41:10 "...fear not, for I am with you;
be not dismayed, for I am your God;
I will strengthen you, I will help you,
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand." ESV

Amen and Amen!

Holding Hamsters, "Onions", and Grudges- Part Deux

So most of this is a reblog from my Easter post from last year. I was going to write a new one… until my beloved middle son (the same one as below!) pulled another ‘easter surprise’ for me a few days ago- and the feelings were so similar to this time last year that I figured I’d just add the story to this one (feel free to check out the original post here!). That boy sure knows how to show me Jesus… lol. But let’s start with what happened last year…

(April 2018) Over the Easter weekend a tremendous and long-awaiting event occurred at the Douglas house. Jake came to visit us for the weekend! My sons in particular had been looking forward to this time together since last fall when we heard that there was a chance he might come visit. Since then almost every weekend came the expected, "Is Jake coming this week?" So, after many months, the special visit arrived. We picked Jake up after school on Thursday, settled him in his cozy little room at the house while both boys busily made plans for the long, 4-day weekend. Before long, all 96 hours of the Easter weekend were lovingly and thoroughly planned for Jake and our family. Quite frankly the first 20 hours were spectacular. Jake fit in with the family wonderfully, participating in all the kid's activities, eating what we gave him, and generally being quite pleasant. Our visit was going swimmingly.

Until he disappeared.

Or rather, I should say, until my 4-year Jonah old let him out of his cage....

And just like that, Jake the hamster was gone. The class pet, the children's Kindergarten mascot, who I was ultimately in charge of keeping, well... alive.... was MIA.

Before I knew it, my generally low-key, tidy world (I write this with the caveat that I have 3 children under 6, a dog, and a cat <who's role in this story will soon become apparent>, so take "low-key" and "tidy" for what you will...) was turned upside down. Instead of making dinner, I made non-lethal hamster traps (Google it, it's a thing). Instead of cleaning my house, I searched my house. And quite frankly I was irate. I was furious. Not that the hamster was lost necessarily, I was angry that my son (who we had already caught messing with the cage multiple times) had disobeyed me once again. I was 1003% O.V.E.R. him!

Me, who is used to high energy, high adrenaline, high trauma work... was seeing RED at my son's defiance. I was fuming. I called my husband, telling him to prepare himself for my mood and <his> child when he got home. I prepared for a long night, praying for a miracle; reasoning that it was Good Friday after all and surely if Christ could take the sins of the world upon Himself than certainly He could find and restore a rodent back into his cage. (Yes, my prayer was actually and literally that I would wake up and find little Jake happily and safely back inside his quarters... I know, I know... one can never accuse me of thinking or praying small!)

Fast forward to Saturday morning and Jake was found. Actually our cat Fievel was the one who discovered him and brought him to me like a good cat should. I, rather, found more specifically pieces of him. All over my bathroom floor. #goodmorningtome

I would have been mad except I literally don't think my anger from the previous night could have gotten any higher. I was legitimately perhaps the angriest I'd ever been at one of my children. The fallout from his decision to defy me continued on and it was not lost on me how much of a headache this visit was turning out to be. It was totally lost on Jonah though- he seemed to not even remember how or when he had opened the cage, only that he had. And though very sorry to see the bits of Jake all over my tile floor, he clearly hadn't made the connection that it was his disobedience that caused the hamster's untimely death. It was infuriating that I couldn't make him understand, and though he is only 4, I found myself resenting the ensuing expense and time to find another flippin' rodent, the embarrassing text to the teacher about the situation, and generally living down what, for anyone else that's not in the situation, is a hysterical story (the humor was not lost on me.) I resented him for it. Jonah could do nothing to fix the situation or even help it... an acknowledgment of guilt would have been nice at least. I was still angry.

Until my husband told me what had happened the previous night at church.

While I was busy (read: frantically) searching the house, christian-cussing under my breath about spending Friday night looking for a missing hamster who wasn't even ours... my husband had taken Jonah to a Good Friday walk-through at our church. I'm pretty sure it was more to ensure the tot's safety from my wrath than for his spiritual sake, but nevertheless at the end of the walk-through, having learned all about what happened to Jesus before and during his crucifixion, there was an opportunity to nail sins or burdens on a life-sized cross. When Gabe ask Jonah if there were any sins he needed to tell Jesus about he apparently replied, "I lost Jake." And taking a way-too-big hammer with a fresh nail, he nailed that black piece of paper his daddy had written his little sin on to the cross.

Que: massive mom-regret and a wee bit of self-loathing...

I was hit with a tidal wave of conviction. 24 hours later and I hadn't forgiven him yet, I was still dealing with the fall-out of his sins and disobedience and I desperately wanted him to understand what he had done.

It doesn't matter Bethany.

He doesn't understand anymore than you do of what sins you've committed. He and you don't need to... that's for Me to deal with, just as you are for him.

He asked for forgiveness. I have forgiven him.

You need to as well.

Fast-forward to several days ago and Jonah hit again. I was out in the yard, bemoaning how much yard-work there was to do before the mowing could commence, when I discovered a random flower bulb laying in the yard. Hmm… that’s interesting I thought, wonder where that came from. I continued cleaning up sticks when another wayward bulb appeared in front of me… another.. and then another. I looked up from my work towards my flower bed to discover that every. single. bulb. had been yanked out. ALL of them. I mean the entirety of my beautiful spring bulbs had been unceremoniously dumped onto the ground. In this garden, around that tree, in the front beds…. A.L.L. of them.

I flipped. I didn’t yell, I didn’t scream, I simply fell to the ground crying hot angry tears. I was done. Capitol D O N E done.

Now let me take a step back. I love to garden. I’d do it a lot more often if I got the chance. But it’s not like a live and breathe flowers. But we had just taken in a new, medically-complex foster kid, a backlog of work and appointments had been piling up in the interim of our transitioning her to our house. My mom-schedule (as all are) is tighter than a toddler’s mouth trying to feed him green beans. I had no extra time to replant dozens and dozens and DOZENS of bulbs. (Did I mention he pulled every.single.one?? Cue that christian cussing again.) Something inside broke a little bit. The recent days of my life had been those kind where nothing comes easily and everything takes 15 times longer than it should.

This day had just reached the “you have GOT to be kidding me!” phase.

Somewhere in the blur I ascertained that Jonah and a friend had pulled them all thinking they were onions. Knowing that onions ‘would make the flower garden smelly’ they took it upon themselves to correct the impending oderous problem.. In the moment, somewhere in my mind’s eye I acknowledged that to be a relatively fair deal. They weren’t being malicious… just curious and impulsive little boys (also in my minds-eye… curiosity killed the cat… but I digress.) I didn’t have the strength to deal with it- so I did what all professional moms do- I left the situation to dad.

I didn’t go to bed mad that night. I went to bed down. I went to bed sorrowful that I couldn’t seem to catch up and now (like it matters) all my beautiful flowers that I was so looking forward to enjoying would miss this season (they may even miss next spring and the next… because let’s be honest, it’s not like i’m going to make the 5-year-old replant them and I certainly have no time to right now.) It wasn’t a big deal. In the grand spectrum of eternity it didn’t matter at all. But it was the proverbial straw for me that day. And I wept bitter tears of exhaustion, sorrow, and not a little bit of discouragement.

The next morning, my blue boy knew I was still depressed. So, he did what this child does best- he picked me a flower. A big, beautiful, yellow tulip plucked out of the yard as his peace offering. It soothed my soul to see his little eyes peering up at me and that huge smile on his face as he told me that “this will make you feel better mommy!”

God is good to us. Even when we’re behind and running to catch up. He’s sees our shortcomings, our sorrow, our mourning of even the smallest things like pulled up “onions”. I think He must smile down lovingly, perhaps with a slight Fatherly smirk now and again as His children try so desperately to ‘help'.

And for those times when we royally but innocently mess up, His arms and smile open wide. Much like mine were when I found out that my tulip was the only one in the entire yard that (had) remained….

Jars of Clay

We took in a new foster this week who was in a horrific car crash last year. It’s taken almost 9 months to recoup but she finally came home with me last Thursday. She is getting stronger but is quite fragile still. She had broken her jaw multiple places and will require extensive surgery in the future to reconstruct her face, but for now she’s alive and healthy. We are blessed to take care of her.

One of the conditions of her discharge was extreme precautions regarding her face and jaw in particular. She has had so much infection in her bone that it’s become very brittle and full of holes. So much so that she has to eat a soft or puréed diet. A single bite of a chip or chomping on carrots could cause her jaw to literally splinter within her skin. So she’s learned to be careful- as have we- with her diet and activity. No WWE in her future I’m afraid. It’s become a constant hum in the background of my mom-brain to keep an ear out for her, reminding her not to jump on the trampoline or lamenting with her that she can’t play volleyball with the other kids. She’s mourning the loss of Ruffles potato chips and pizza. And yet she understands the need for extreme caution- if only for a (hopefully) short time.

Today she told me, “Mom, I’m not going to get upset when I can’t do things anymore, I know it won’t last very long. It’ll be worth it in the end.”

Ugh. My heart.

Despite her fragility, this precious girl exudes happiness and contentment. She sees others and their trials and tribulations and comes alongside them in such amazing ways. I’ve seen her reach out to strangers to comfort them. She’s come to me in times of stress and just stood there with her little arms wrapped around me for encouragement. She’s astounding in her strength.

She’s been a constant reminder to me lately of how God uses us- simple, extraordinarily fragile, weak, and frail vessels- to do His good work. Just like my fragile daughter, who’s body is broken but who’s spirit is strong, so also has our Father put forth His eternal treasure within mere jars of clay.

What a thing! I can hardly get my mind around it at times. And to think that for as much concern and instruction, care and protection I give to my daughter and her fragile bones, how much more must He place over us as the vessels of His spirit. I cannot imagine.

But we need to be careful too, just as she is. Our ‘bodies’, our ‘vessels’ are weak and fragile. We can not be around certain things, do certain things, eat certain things. For the health of our souls our Father has set out instructions to keep us healthy. For the welfare of our eternity and the value of the precious treasure that resides within us we must be cautious of our behavior.

It is hard. Many days carrying the weight of such a burden is not fun, glamorous, or easy. We miss out on what others are doing, we can’t participate with the crowd, we don’t intake that which looks so enticing. But for all of those days, and seeming missed opportunities dear ones, let me repeat the words of my wise-beyond-her-years newest addition, “I’m not going to get upset when I can’t do things anymore, I know it won’t last very long. It’ll be worth it in the end.”

“But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus' sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you. Since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, "I believed, and so I spoke," we also believe, and so we also speak, knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence. For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God. So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”
‭‭2 Corinthians‬ ‭4:7-18‬ ‭ESV‬‬

It WILL be worth it in the end because, you, my dearest, are a very fragile jar of clay carrying an immense, eternal treasure that the King of the universe has placed within you. Protect it well- frail though you may be.

The Four Most Important Things Every Foster Family Needs To Know- Lessons From The Fostering Front

We recently took in and subsequently gave up two foster sons, all in the space of about 5 weeks. We loved a lot, we cried a lot, we prayed a lot, and boy did we learn a lot! Despite all the trainings and certifications, I wished that a few of these hard-won lessons had been told to us beforehand. As Gabe and I have reflected on everything over the last few weeks, as we’ve slowly brought our family back to normalcy (if there is such a thing), it occurred to me that getting what we learned out to the masses may not be a terrible idea. At the risk of being redundant, repetitive, too obvious, and re-inventing the wheel I’m going to assume that (like us) others may not have had these lessons taught to them anywhere in the vast fostering-world. So, without further ado, in no particular order, I give you my top four things you need to know but never have been told….

(To get a full-explanation of the entire situation, please read first blog of this set which sets the stage (and all the GodStuff that happened) for you.

It’s okay to say ‘no’.

Let me put it another way for those who don’t like to be negative- sometimes your best ‘yes’… is to say ‘no’. As most foster parents have no doubt discovered, there is no lack of calls to take kids. And despite the fact that we’d all take them all if possible- you need to hear from me (as I <clearly> speak for all authorities in this) that it is okay to say ‘no’ to some of these calls. I hate saying ‘no’, I know you do too. But I’ve come to find out that if my saying ‘yes’ robs someone else the opportunity to say ‘yes’ instead, if it disrupts my marriage, our family dynamic, my ongoing other ministries… then I’ve made the wrong call. Now don’t get me wrong, fostering at best will always be a <bit> of a disruption- children, whether bio or not, all tend to do that. Don’t misunderstand me… there will always be some stretching and adjustment that comes with each new placement. But if you’re already maxed- in time, energy, resources, bedrooms, carseats, finances, patience, etc. then ‘no’ may be a better and healthier Call. Kids need parents who have the time and energy to pour into them, love on them, lead and disciple them… an already stressed out mom or dad is not helping anyone. I’m giving you permission, here and now, to say ‘no’ if needed… and not feel terrible.

Discernment and prayer is key here as you seek God in who He wants in your house. Prayer is our go-to always for new placements. Sometimes He says ‘no’ to what would seem obvious great fits, other times He says ‘yes’ to the proverbial square-peg-in-a-round-hole placements. But let Him lead your decision-making, He won’t lead you astray.

You.Are.Not.Superman. It’s okay to ask for help.

I’m totally doing to pot and kettle thing here because I am the WORST at asking for help. I don’t know if it’s a subconscious pride thing or that it doesn’t even occur to me that I need it or maybe I’m just too freakishly busy to even have time to stop and ask… whatever the case may be- I’m sure some of you can relate. But I’m telling you right here and now that you not only will want help but you will have times when you need it (whether you want it or not.) Put away the cape and red undies and don’t try to be Superman- you’re not. Neither am I (hard as it is to admit!) So ASK .FOR. HELP. when necessary. There is absolutely nothing wrong with needing assistance in this fostering world. No one on the planet, especially those who love you, are expecting you to do all of it on your own. That’s an impossible task and one that no one is up for. So plan on needing, wanting, begging for help at times.

For those of you who still need a push- think of it this way. There are many people who are not called to foster but still want to support those who do (by the way, send them this blog on ways to best help you) By ‘never needing help’ (insert eyeroll..) you’ve robbed them of an opportunity to serve you and the Lord. Throw these poor people a bone… and maybe some laundry or yardwork to do….

Sometimes your part to play is short and temporary- and that’s okay.

Some placements are long, some are short. The average length in care here in Missouri runs around 18 months. We’ve had our current for 10 months, the last two were about five weeks, the previous before that was less than 24 hours, and somewhere in there we were placed with one that after four days of preparation we never did get. It varies- and that’s okay. I used to get super frustrated with unpredictable length of time. I’m a planner and organizer and not knowing is generally irritating and at times downright infuriating (can I get an amen?) but I’ve learned that there is purpose and a plan in all of it. Don’t ever feel that your time with a child is not without value. You are an important link in their chain, no matter how small, and each second you spend loving on that kiddo will echo in their hearts and in eternity (for more on that, read part one of this blog here). Spend what precious moments you have in the best quality ways you can, and leave the quantity to the Lord. You just never know what He’s cooking up for these little ones!

If it’s not working out, it’s okay to make the call and give them up.

If you’ve read the sister post to this one, you know that our last placement was short and not-terribly sweet. I struggled with coming to my limits and desperately needing to give them back. I felt like a failure, a horrible foster mom, and an utter fraud. I figured if we couldn’t keep these kids, who seemed on paper a perfect fit for us and us for them, then surely no one else could either. I was simultaneously prideful and completely ashamed of myself- a very weird place indeed to be.

I think I had unwittingly fallen into the slightly martyr-like mindset that many foster families do. We are doing great work. We have a worthy and admirable ministry going on. It’s usually rough, it’s always hard. And I fell into a trap of pride within the struggle. Once that decision to take them was made, we put our heads down, our noses to the grindstone, and we were gonna keep them until the end… come hell or high water. We were committed. In it for the long run. Ready to bear these little burdens until someone took them off our backs.

I just never thought I’d be the one to ask to have them taken off.

The best piece of advice a fellow foster-mom told me was that it’s okay to say ‘uncle.’ For my sanity, the sake of my marriage, the health and welfare of the other children we had… I needed to see the situation for what it was- which was not working or at least not working well- and make the call.

It wasn’t failure- it was honest. I wasn’t a fraud- I was human.

I really, really needed to hear that. Maybe you will too someday. If it’s not working, for whatever reason, it’s okay to make that call.

I hope these thoughts are ones that help release you (if needed) from so much of the emotional gravity that fostering holds. I needed to learn them for my heart and head and I’m so happy that we had people who had gone before to lead us down these paths. If you are a foster parent, I’d love to hear your comments on these or others you’d suggest- be sure to comment below!

Be blessed!