Be Still: Self-Control in God’s Presence

Be Still: Self-Control in God’s Presence

Tracy Watts

Tracy Watts

Wife, mom, daughter, teacher, blogger, crafter, organizer - but most and best of all, I am a Christian. I am passionate about my family and my God. I am married to my best friend and am blessed with a one year old son who keeps me busy all the time staying at home with him. And I am glad to be in the service of our incredible and awesome God.
Tracy Watts

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My son has just recently made the transition to his big boy bed. You know, the one without any constraints, the one where he must use self-control, where there are no crib railings to enforce his staying in one spot.

And it is hard–so very, very hard–to have self-control. He has fallen asleep on the floor, behind his door, under the bed. He has over-enthusiastically piled so many books on his bed that there was no longer any room for him. (After all, I had said he could take a book to look at quietly. Surely, thirty books are better than one?) He has wandered out into the kitchen in the middle of the night (looking for a midnight snack?). And he has quietly come out to his living room bucket of toys to begin playing in the morning.

But I remember the first time he successfully fell asleep in his bed and actually slept. All it took was being still for a few moments. A little modicum of self-control and then something bigger and more powerful (his sleepiness) took over, and he was fast asleep.

Of course, you and I both know that one success does not a habit build. But it is a start! And over the course of days and weeks, he has begun to make that habit and I no longer search for his little sleeping form draped uncomfortably over toys in his room.

In this one area at least, he has learned self-control.

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I think of a passage in Psalm 46:10:

“Be still, and know that I am God;
    I will be exalted among the nations,
    I will be exalted in the earth.”

Our own need for God is a little like my little boy. We need just that start of self-control. Just an ounce. Enough to come before the great God of the universe. To be still before Him and to let something–Someone–bigger and more powerful than I take over.

And it’s at that point we can see ourselves as we truly are. We can see the beautiful, magnificent, and glorious God for who He truly is.

All we have to do is be still.

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My Kids, My Sword, and My Story

My Kids, My Sword, and My Story

Meredith P

Meredith P

Hello, there!  I grew up as a military kid who loved adventure, so I fell in love with and married a military man right after college graduation.  The two of us had adventures together as we traveled for a while, but we finally settled in cozy Southern Indiana.  However the excitement is still alive, because God has given us four kiddos that I homeschool.  I love nerding out on anything from school curriculum to thrift store bargain hunting, from rockin' recipes to theological debates, and pretty much any lively discussion in between.  Thanks for reading!
Meredith P

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My children were bickering a lot last week so I told them a story and I thought I’d share it with you…

The Tale of the Brave Villager and his Sword

Once upon a time, there lived a brave young man. He lived in a kingdom ruled by a kind, wise, and loving king. For the most part, the people were happy and lived good lives except for one thing…there was a dragon!

The king’s heart grieved deeply for his people under the tyranny of the dragon. However, being a good king, he did not leave his people defenseless. He gave each of them a sword.

No Ordinary Sword

These swords were no ordinary swords; they had in them the power of the king: the ability to defeat the dragon.

Villagers could choose what to do with their swords. Some kept their swords on the shelf, collecting dust. Some would get their swords out occasionally practicing one or two swings. This gave them some comfort for the moment, or gave them something to do with their friends, but they quickly became busy with other things and put their swords back on the shelf. However, some villagers chose differently. The brave young man was one of these people.

He loved his sword, because he knew it was a present to him directly from the king. He cherished it and studied every move against the dragon he could find. His sword did not collect dust or become dull because he sharpened it daily.

The Dragon’s Terror and Destruction

One day, the dragon came roaring from his cave and sat on the roof of a villager whose sword was covered in dust. The dragon breathed fire on the home and the villagers inside ran to their neighbor’s house as theirs was destroyed.

The dragon moved to another house where the sword inside was only used occasionally for comfort. When the dragon breathed fire on their home, the villagers ran for their sword. But they did not know how to use it effectively against the dragon and so their home was also destroyed.

Finally, the dragon came to the home of the brave young man. The young man did not need to search for his sword because he carried it with him always. However, his fright at seeing the dragon made him forget all about the sword and his home began to burn.

But because the sword had the power of the king in it, the young man could, in a way, feel it tugging at his hand. Sensing this, he remembered his sword. Skillfully he unsheathed the sword, pointing it directly at the dragon on his roof.

The dragon, seeing the sword with the power of the king in it pointed directly at him, fled in terror and the young man’s house was saved.

The End

The Moral of the Story

My oldest son, knowing by now that most of my stories have a moral, asked, “All right, Mom…so what’s that about?”

I told them the story describes me at different points in my Christian life.

I then asked, “Do we have a sword?”

They replied, “Yes, the Bible.”

Hebrews 4:12

I asked, “Do we have an enemy like the dragon in the story?”

They answered, “Yes.”

1 Peter 5:8

Do I Use My Sword?

In the past, I’ve been like the villagers whose swords became dusty. I rarely read my Bible. While I owned one, I didn’t see the point in reading it and I had some unsettling times because of it.

Sometimes, I confessed, I have been like the villagers who only occasionally used their sword. I have used the Bible only for comfort, reading a Psalm or two here or there. Or I have read my Bible because it was “the thing to do” in some circles and church and Bible study was merely a social event and what “should be done.”

Then I told them at some point, I became like the young man. I recognized the power God has put in His Word, the Bible, and I read it often. The more I read it, the more I came to love it and the more I wanted to memorize it so that I could always have it with me.

However, I again confessed that sometimes in the heat of the moment, when I struggle within myself or against the enemy, I forget about my sword and do not use it.  I told my children that I am asking God to help me learn in increasing ways to feel the tug of the Holy Spirit, reminding me to pull out my sword and point it directly at whatever situation I am in. (For another time I learned about using the Word from my son, read here.)

Sharpening the Sword

I then brought the lesson back to them and their bickering. I reminded them of the verse we had been “sharpening our swords” with by memorizing.

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.”

 

Philippians 2:3-4 (NIV)

I asked them if any of them had used that verse to combat the bickering going on in the house. They got my point and half-smiled, half gave me the “good grief, mom” look I usually get with these stories.

Which villager are you in the story right now?

How is your life affected by which villager you are?

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It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Toni D

Toni D

Toni was born and raised in a small town in Oklahoma.She graduated from East Central University with a Bachelor's of Science Degree in Business Administration with a concentration in Economics.After college, she returned to her hometown to marry her best friend, Charles.Toni is a stay at home mom to their three teens, two boys and a girl, whom God led them to homeschool.Her goal is to raise her children to love and serve the Lord.They live on a farm where they grow produce to sell at several farmers markets.She also plays the piano at church and teaches piano.
Toni D

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Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Yay!  Back to school!  Some consider the kids’ return to school the most wonderful time of the year. If you are a homeschooling mom, you may not feel that way.  I am by no means a homeschooling expert, but I have completed over thirteen years of home educating my children.  My oldest child graduated and is off to college so I guess I am what is considered a home school veteran.  So here are some of my survival tips to get through the school year.

1.  Put God first.

I know this should go without saying, but sometimes we forget.  Start each morning by having a quiet time with the Lord.  I know it can be hard. After a sleep-deprived night, all I want to do is send my husband off to work and then crawl back into bed.  I cannot tell you how many times I have fallen asleep reading my Bible or praying in the morning.  At some point in the morning, have some time with God.  It will set the mood for the entire day.

2.  Pray without ceasing.

I do this a lot.  There are those times when one child just is not getting it and the baby is screaming and another child is literally climbing the walls (Yes, my children climbed the hallway walls).  All you want to do is run away.  That is when you need to pray.  God gives us what we need if we ask.  All we have to do is take a deep breath and give it over to Him.

3.  Get organized.

I’m not talking about daily routines.  I’m talking about taking time away from everything and spending that time planning the upcoming school year.  You can go over material and familiarize yourself with it.  I have previously done this with a group of friends for a weekend.  We shared ideas and discussed materials.  I also have friends who have gone to a hotel for the weekend. If you do not feel that you can do this, home school conventions are great for getting away just for a little while.  This is also a great way to recharge.

4.  Don’t get bogged down by schedules.

This does not mean throw everything that you planned out the window.  Life happens.  Many of us are in the “sandwich generation” where we take care of children and parents.  This can be the cause of many unexpected events.  If something happens or one of the children get behind, remember, we home school.  We can always “catch up” later.  Be flexible.

5.  Start the year off with something fun.

We always start the year off with baking cookies.  I know this may sound strange but I think I got the idea from a home school convention.  What we do is I pick out a recipe.  I do not help with making the cookies, but I sit in the kitchen and tell each child what to get and what to do.  They must follow directions and work together.  If anyone fails to follow directions or do their part, they do not get to eat the cookies.  This really encourages and helps with listening skills and cooperation.  This helps set the tone for the year.  If you need to do it later in the year to get them refocused (or you just want the kids to make you some cookies), then do it again.  Oh, I almost forgot the most important part–they have to clean up, too!

6.  Make time for your husband.

Sometimes we spend so much time being a mom and teacher that we forget to be a wife.  Our husbands are just that: husbands, not children.  Be there for them and support them.  Make them their favorite meal.  Listen, really listen, to what they say.  Be supportive.

7.  Take care of yourself.

As moms, we put everyone else ahead of ourselves.  It is hard for us to not take care of everything and everyone and take a moment for ourselves.  Take a bubble bath; go shopping; have lunch with a friend; read a book.  If we do not take care of ourselves, we will not be able to take care of our children.

8.  Have fun.

Spend time playing games, singing together, dancing silly, taking nature walks.  These can be fun and educational.  Education is not just working through books; it is also experience.  Anything can be educational.  Homeschooling is not school at home.  It is educating the entire child.

We must remember that we only have 18-19 years with our children and it will be gone before you know it.  Spend that time having fun.

Do you have any other tips to make back to school the most wonderful time of the year? 

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Perfection (or Not)

Perfection (or Not)

Susan
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Susan

Susan York Meyers is the author of several children’s picture books, including The Mystery of the Red Mitten and Grrr…Night,! for which she won the Creative Women of Oklahoma Award. Other books include Shoe Haiku and Two Old Ladies: It’s all in the Attitude. Two Little Old Ladies is a humorous inspirational book combining both fiction and devotionals.

Susan has spoken at Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators Conferences and has also judged in the juvenile and short story for children contest categories for the Oklahoma City Writers.She lives with her hubby and Kira, the dog that thinks she’s people.

You can find out more about Susan and her books at susanameyers.com
Susan
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Proverbs 31 scares me. The Virtuous Woman’s kitchen floor was always perfectly clean, no sticky messes for visitors’ sandals to stick to. She never ran by the bakery fifteen minutes before school for “homemade” cookies because her child forgot to tell her she was homeroom mother that week. And I assure you the Virtuous Woman never said to her husband, “Whoops, I forgot to go to the market. Can you bring a lamb home to roast?” I’d be afraid to let that paragon of virtue into my home. If there’s a checklist for perfection, there are no checks in my boxes. Seriously.

Take cooking. As a newlywed, I’d drag myself out of bed and make a full breakfast for my man. Remember this was over thirty years ago, when wives still did things like that. After a week, he confessed he didn’t like breakfast but ate it so my feelings wouldn’t be hurt. Well, I didn’t need to be told twice. I threw in the spatula and went back to bed. I didn’t make breakfast again until my son came along.

My sewing skills didn’t earn any medals either. Again, hark back to the olden days when schools still taught Home Ec. Knowing how to sew was a top priority for women. However, even my supportive, loving mother couldn’t figure out how to wear the apron I created.

And then there’s cleaning. If God is in the “big upstairs” wearing a white glove, ready to sweep it across the top of my shelves, I might as well give up now.

Fortunately, the lady in Proverbs isn’t a real woman. She’s a combination of virtues for which to strive. And that’s good news for people like me, who find “adequate” a sometimes daunting task. Even though I know God doesn’t expect me to be perfect, there are still nights I snuggle under the covers waiting for sleeping bliss, but instead my mind says, “Let me remind you how you screwed up today.”

It doesn’t help that it seems like everyone but me has their act together.

Is there some domestic secret? Why does everyone else seem to breeze through being a wife and mother, while I barely manage to limp along?

I remember one Sunday morning, between class and worship service, I caught up with a friend and fellow mother of a two-year-old.

She taught as a college professor.

Her house always looked perfect.

All the treats at her son’s birthday party were hand-crafted.

Maybe, just maybe, she could give me some tips on being perfect. Or at least help me achieve average a little more often.

“Sometimes, it just gets overwhelming,” I ventured to say as my son wiggled in my arms.

She laughed. “I know exactly what you mean. This morning my husband had to grab a pair of socks out of the dirty clothes.”

I managed to shut my mouth so it didn’t look like I was angling for someone to drop a worm in it. “The dirty clothes?”

“Yes. That’s just the way it goes some mornings, isn’t it?”

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She helped me that day. Her secret wasn’t perfection. It was confidence in the fact that she didn’t have to be perfect.

So what if the cake isn’t homemade? It’s bought with love.

So what if I read a bedtime story instead of cleaning? I’ll just tell everyone the dust bunnies are pets.

So what if I’m sometimes slow at getting the laundry done? If it doesn’t smell, no one knows the difference.

No one is perfect. We tend to cut everyone else some slack while holding ourselves up to impossible standards we can never meet. So, my challenge for myself is to start treating myself like I’m my best friend. When I look in the mirror every morning, I give my best friend a compliment. When I screw up, I cut my best friend some slack.

God loves me imperfections and all.

As for the Virtuous Woman, although there are days I like to imagine her cowering beside the washer, eating chocolate and hiding from her kids, I still strive to emulate her. I’ve just learned to give myself a break when I fail.

I am a woman formed by God’s hands, shaped by His love, and saved by His sacrifice.

And that’s perfect enough for me!

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Am I Doing Great Things For the Kingdom of God?

Am I Doing Great Things For the Kingdom of God?

Laura P

Laura P

Hello. I grew up traveling the world as a military brat. I ultimately felt God's pull to Oklahoma Christian University where I met my husband. We now have 3 beautiful children and have settled in Mustang, Oklahoma.I am a homeschooling mom and with 3 kiddos it is a full time job! I am daily encouraged by God's great patience and grace in my life. In my free time I enjoy reading and crafting.
Laura P

Doing Great Things

Recently, a close friend challenged me with her words. She was talking about her children and what each one had chosen to do with their lives.  My friend was recounting a discussion with her youngest son about his future.  She was trying to emphasize to him the importance of his role in the kingdom of GodIn the same breath of sharing how she was encouraging him to go out and do great things in the name of Christ, she mentioned that her daughter and son-in-law decided they were never going to leave their home state to go out and do something great for the kingdom.  It was like she was saying in order to do great things for the kingdom you have to go away to a new place.

Am I Doing My Part?

Am I Doing Great Things for the Kingdom of God_(1)This really got me thinking and praying about whether I was doing my part for the kingdom of God. As a humble, stay at home, homeschooling mother of three, I asked myself, “Am I inhibited from doing great things for the kingdom of God?”  I thought she must be right.  How can I be doing great things for the kingdom when every waking moment I have is spent wiping noses and bottoms, finding cups and bottles and snacks, trying to squeeze in phonics and reading, and on and on and on?  What was the question again? Oh yeah, am I doing great things for the kingdom of God? Where in the world would I find the time to do anything else?  Especially something great?

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My mind ran through all of the normal arguments.

  • If I raise three children who all go out and do great things for the kingdom, that must count as me doing three great things, right?
  • It’s not like my life is only in the here and now.
  • Someday, the children will be grown and I’ll have all the time in the world to do something.

As I contemplated these things, the Lord quieted my soul, as He so often does. I began to think about the people in the Bible whom God has used right where they are. He did not always call them on a great adventure.  He did not always ask them to move across the nations.  Rather, He simply USED them. In Joshua 2, we see Rahab, a prostitute, being used in God’s plan.  In 1 Peter 4:10, we hear these words of encouragement:

“Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.

Like a balm for my soul!  Has God called me to leave my family and go evangelize to “Each of you should use whatever gift (1)the world?  Certainly not.  Has God put me exactly where He wants me, to use my own gifts as a faithful steward? Definitely.  So often as women we fall victim to feeling like we aren’t doing enough.

God Will Use You Right Where You Are

We spend day in and day out giving everything to maintain our marriages and meet the needs of the little hearts God has given to us to raise.  At times, we may feel so bogged down by our daily responsibilities that we can’t even think about our place in God’s plan.  Believe me when I say that God sees you where you are and He knows you. He can use you! Nothing is impossible for God.

Have you ever felt like you aren’t doing enough for the kingdom?

How do you handle your doubts and fears about your place in God’s plan?

Stopping to Smell the Roses

Stopping to Smell the Roses

Jessica D

Jessica D

Born and raised in sunny San Diego, where I reside with my amazing husband, two spunky kids and our two rambunctious dogs. I am a part time occupational therapist and a full time wife and mommy. I love anything and everything outdoors and love my coffee! I enjoy decorating my home through pinterest and am learning to sew.
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It was a work day for me, and of course, we were running late. My daughter Addison woke up grumpy and didn’t want to put her shoes on. Chase, my son, was wandering around the house, finding every little piece of anything that he could put into his mouth. I was trying to prepare lunches, pack papers for work, and load the diaper bag. I carried what seemed like a dozen different bags to the car, loaded up the kids, and ran back into the house for the third time to grab the correct pair of shoes for my daughter. Thinking back, I probably mistakenly grabbed matching shoes.  She is going through a phase where she likes to wear mismatched shoes.

I raced to my parents’ house to drop off the kids before going to work. First, I let my daughter out of the car. As she walked up the path to the door, I unloaded my son. As I carried the “dozen” bags inside the house, I noticed that Addison was lagging behind. I looked at her and asked her to come quickly inside the house because we were running late. She desperately wanted me to come over to her, but I didn’t have the time, so I hurried her inside the house and rushed off to work.

Later that day I began to reflect on my morning. I was not in a very good mood and I was rather snippy with my kids. Why? Well, of course it was because we were late. If you have never been to Southern California, you probably do not realize that everyone around here is in a hurry. And by hurry, I mean it can feel like a bumper car race or speedway to get anywhere during rush hour.

Again, I had to rethink what I was telling myself. Were we late, or was I late? My kids were not late; they rely completely on me because they are only one and three years old. I was running late. Not only had I not prepared the night before for work, packed lunches, etc., I woke up late.  I had created a difficult start to my morning routine.Stopping

Then, I remembered back to when I was at my parents’ house. It was early spring and a few flowers were beginning to bloom. Addison has a great love for God’s creation. She loves learning about all the different animals and especially enjoys smelling all kinds of flowers.  On this morning, there were some small purple (her favorite color) flowers that had bloomed. She was so excited to show me and have me smell them. Instead of enjoying the special fleeting moment with my sweet girl, I instead rushed her away because I was running late. I missed an opportunity to bond with my baby, an opportunity to let her enjoy God’s beauty and to teach her about changing seasons.

My new perspective is that I am in control of my own thinking.  I make the choice to “create a great day.” I have the ability to show my children patience, love, and joy in each day we are blessed with. Next time, I will choose to stop and smell the flowers with my daughter and take in each special moment with her.

How have your children reminded you of God’s beauty?

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