Joy in all circumstances

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“You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.” Psalms 16:11

I’ve been busy lately with some changes to my life in general, changes at work, changes in seasons, changes in routines, changes in my children’s behavior, changes in new people coming into our life, changes in expectations for the future and plans. In the midst of all of those changes, God has given me a true peace as we have navigated some really turbulent waters. He has convicted me and asked me to act on things that required me to step out into that water with no life jacket. He has asked me to take my family out there with me. I don’t love change, I really don’t care for conflict, and I certainly don’t like risks, yet here we are.

All that to say, I don’t mean to be cryptic and there will be a bigger post soon to come, but I have been unable to think clearly about what or how to write because I fear my brain has been clogged with schedules and details and, honestly, FEAR and guilt. But in the midst of that I begin to be more aware of emerging from a fog of early motherhood, into a new stage where I am allowed to have hobbies that do not include my kids. I’m allowed to shower without an audience and potty with the door closed. I’m allowed to sneak away for a short trip and not feel guilty. My kids are okay and so am I.

Social media is simultaneously the most wonderful and most horrible thing for me. For someone with anxiety, social media can be a catalyst for worry and over-analysis. But when it comes to ideas and connecting to lots of people, for marketers, for sales, there is no better outlet. This week I found myself thinking a lot about all of the mom groups, blogs, posts, classes, books that I am a part of or contribute to. As moms we all struggle to be patient and kind, while sacrificing our very being at times for our children. We.Do.All.The.Things. and then we wake up after little sleep and do it all over again. It’s no wonder why social media is filled with quotes about how “my kids whine, I wine” or complaints about surviving until bedtime or leaving them home alone. Now hear me clearly, I realize that most of the quotes are ones that are only half meant serious. But those words can sting. Imagine growing up knowing your mom would rather do anything other than play with you, or sighing loudly when you speak to her, if she made jokes about how annoying or difficult you were. I don’t want to foster those insecurities in my children, they have enough to battle without me heaping burning coals on their heads.

Even further than that, mother, you were made in the image of God and you were given the blessing of precious little ones. They are your mission field. Stop acting so downtrodden and lets see if we can show others the hope we have in God for our future. Ladies are watching you, christian mother, there are women online who read your posts, do they see hope? do they see mercy and forgiveness when your children have a bad day or your husband comes home late? Do others see a bitter heart or a servants heart? What makes you stand out from the hopeless mothers online? I’m not advocating that you paint an untrue picture. I’m saying: FIND JOY.

Find Joy in your children. If you are on the struggle bus to Fussy Town, find something to laugh at. If theres a spill, don’t cry or yell. Use it as an excuse to put the babies in the bathtub to play. Take pictures of the happy times. Give yourself permission to play and tell others about it. I’m terrible at play, I have no imagination but I can make a funny voice or tell a joke while I read a book. I can sing a song while we clean. I’m great at making homemade playdoh and slime. Find your niche and do that thing with joy.

Find joy in Jesus. Read a verse, a story, listen to a christian podcast where they read the word of God to you EVERY DAY. Delight in God’s creation: get outside, take your kids outside and enjoy the backyard through their eyes. Look at all the amazing creatures there are just in the bug world, but also space, rock formation, plants. Fresh air is good for the spirit. Tell your kids how God made the dirt and the rocks, God made the beautiful butterfiles to be all different colors, God made the singing bird and the tadpoles in the stream. Talk to them and yourself about how smart God is and what a creative imagination God has. It’s hard not to have joy when you look beyond yourself to his great big creation.

Find Joy in a hobby or friendship or side hustle. Find a passion, get your creative juices going. Keep trying, if yoga ain’t your thing, try something else. KEEP TRYING all the things until you find IT!…The thing you are passionate about. And then make time to do it. Make your passion a priority each week so that you get filled back up and your mind gets to work. A busy thinking mind is the opposite of an idle mind. You know what they say about idle hands? Well an idle mind is the opposite of finding Joy…an idle mind compares, envies, lusts, and complains. A busy creative mind has only time for doing and finding and giving Joy.

And when you find your joy, please post about it…tell others about what helped you!…If it’s an exercise or fitness plan, if it’s a MLM side hustle job, if it’s a supplement or vitamin, if it’s painting, running, walking, blogging, writing, photography, a mission to promote awareness for a social issue, church work, volunteering, a part time job, a full time job, sewing, vinyl, etsy sales, baking, cooking, Bible study…..LADIES, there are so many things to do that surely you can find something you enjoy doing besides whining on social media.

So before you take it the wrong way, Here’s what I am really saying: Momming IS hard! “And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light. ” Colossians 1:10-11

Quit complaining and remember that we were all made to be servants of the one true king. SERVE your people and then refresh and then serve again. But “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” 1 Peter 3:15b

A New Craving

As a couple, Neil and I started our marriage off with a lot of good habits. Pre-kids, we exercised together. I ran several marathons. We ate healthy, even completed P90X with the diet and all of the training. And then we decided to have kids. (cue the DUH-DUM from LAW & ORDER) I have endometriosis, undiagnosed prior to our difficulties having children, but when I went off of my oral birth control, something changed for me. I now know it was hormone regulation and my body having withdrawals from the removal of a hormone I had depended on for many years, and thryoid or adrenal fatigue.

I began BC very early in an attempt to regulate severe bleeding, cramping, and migraines that surrounded my cycle. The headaches were almost constant only varying throughout the month in severity beginning in about 8th grade. I only finally found relief through the birth control/hormone regulation and prescription beta blocker in a low dose. However, when the hormone regulation of birth control ended, two things happened: my headaches returned with a vengeance and (unknown to me) my endometriosis began to flourish, creating fibroids throughout my abdomen. As we tried to have a baby, I began to feel guilt over my use of birth control for years as if it was my fault because of that, I felt frustrated, inadequate and desperate. But all of those were feelings that had not been a reality for me prior to this struggle. I was depressed. My body rebelled through fatigue and weight gain, the return of cramping, which was like a stabbing reminder each month that “THE TEST” was negative again. I didn’t feel like exercise or eating right, I felt depressed and foggy and I wanted a baby!!

I won’t go into more detail here except to say that the babies eventually came….God blessed us three times over. SO SO SO BLESSED! During pregnancy and after pregnancy I allowed myself to eat mostly whatever I wanted. I enjoyed pregnancy and felt amazing due to all of the hormones that surged through my body! My energy was back! I even painted all of the cabinets and rooms in my house at that time. I was almost addicted to how good I felt. I would have another child in a heartbeat just to be pregnant again. I loved it, there’s nothing better for me. But I totally let myself go, no diet rules or exercise. I just fed the baby (right!?!?).

Fortunately for me, I really didn’t have much trouble losing my pregnancy weight, but the 10lbs I gained while we were trying to get pregnant just would not come off. I didn’t want to pick back up exercise and eating right because I was busy with all the babies and working! In the last couple months, through my husband’s gentle prodding, I have decided to begin the health journey again. Sparked by the use of Plexus products, I am exercising and running again. I feel motivated to work hard and my energy has returned. We have returned to healthy eating as well. We started a KeTO friendly lifestyle, severely reducing our carbohydrates and our sugar and eating whole, healthy foods and less processed foods. We are finally really making consistently good choices again. My headaches are gone, along with the endometriosis, and I’m truly enjoying my life and my family, finally.

Food and diet can be tricky, your body tells you that you want one thing, your mind/conscience says another. The more you think about what you can’t have, the more you want it! However, if you’ve ever eaten whole foods for over a month, meaning…no sugar, no complex carbs, and NO SODA, you will recall that your taste buds actually change. It’s hard to say exactly what changes, are they more or less sensitive? I don’t know, but I know after repeating the habit for the choice of healthy whole foods over and over again…your body begins to quit craving the sugary or salty complex carbohydrates. And your tongue begins to really enjoy the taste of whole foods; fruits are sweeter, vegetables are more flavorful, and even meats are more rich in taste.

This can be true of our spiritual life as well. I have always been inconsistent at best with individual Bible Study. I would start with a great study or plan, I would make time to read for 2-3 days and then when the newness of the study washed away, so did I. I would complete Bible classes out of duty, even working through Beth Moore and Priscilla Shirer studies with church groups but the reading of the Bible was painful for me. This was not because I didn’t love God, but because I didn’t have a desire for the really good stuff. I wanted or needed to be spoon-fed some feel-good messages that would convict or educate me and then move on to my regular life. I had a desire, but not a plan I could stick with. I’m so thankful that his year I was challenged by a friend to begin a Read through the Bible study. I determined and committed to use this study to motivate me to really getting my daily routine to spend time in God’s actual word, instead of listening to a podcast about God, or a sermon about God’s word.

I remember a pastor I really respect admitting once that he had a really hard time reading the Bible when he was younger and that he had prayed over it, that he had asked God to give him the desire to read the word and understand it, so that he would be able to KNOW GOD more. He admitted over time that his love for the word of God had grown to the point of actually WANTING to read the Bible, even missing it if he skipped it one day. He found that with the building of the habit of daily reading his Bible that his desire to read it increased with the increased understanding of the word. The more he read, the more he knew; the more he knew, the more he wanted to know; the more he wanted to know, the more he understood and came to love God. I want that for myself.

So this year along with determining to physically get more healthy, I decided that I would commit myself to become more spiritually healthy. New Year resolutions are the kiss of death for me, so I did not make a “resolution,” I just decided, committed and got accountable. When my friend asked me to do the study, I said “YES” and when I say “YES” – I mean it. So while I have missed a day or two in the study. I have finished out each week. If I have missed a day, I have completed two the next day…making sure that as I am reading the Bible through I am using my guide to help me to not only read, but understand and stick with what I am reading.

I’m using the book, “FOUNDATIONS” by Robby and Kandi Gallaty. It does not hit every chapter of the Bible. It highlights the major chapters, pulls out details and emphasizes important events and figures. I have read old stories with a renewed insight, understanding, and in some cases with facts I have never uncovered before. I plan to share my next post on some insights I found in 1 Samuel on David and Goliath, which I may have read to my children 979,000 times, yet, God’s word is living and breathing and eternally relevant and applicable. I’m discovering that with the consistent taking-in of God’s HOLY, TRUE word, my tastes have changed! I no longer want to listen to someone’s thoughts on God’s word…I want to see what God has to say. I want to hear God’s words in my head. I want to understand HIS thoughts, and his expectations. The character of God is revealed in his word, through his actions, his interactions with his people, his words to his people, and even through his patience and then anger with his people. I’ve found that as I read more of God’s word, I no longer want the sugar-coated gospel, I want the MEAT and POTATO Gospel of Jesus Christ. And I want to give Him every single breath, penny, moment, and ounce of effort I have to get it. If the book I’m holding is powerful enough to still be speaking his real words to me and bringing me to my knees because it is so powerfully relevant to the struggle I’m in on the very day I’m reading it, thousands of years after it was written, then the God who wrote it, spoke it, inspired it, is so powerful and timeless that I can never be able to fully know Him, but I don’t want to miss a chance to keep knowing more.

Hebrews 5:12-14 In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need mild, not solid food! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.

When God becomes Common

 

     Once upon a time, a teacher of mine told us a story about the men who made the earliest copies of the Bible. It stuck with me and I think about it often. She described how the names for God, Yahweh or Jehovah, were so revered and respected that the religious scholars would stop prior to writing the name. They would put down their pen and purify themselves, pray, change clothes, even change and consecrate the pen they were using before they returned to write the name of God and then they would put that sacred pen aside, change their clothes, pray and return to the older pen and writing the remainder of the text. Imagine a passage that had the name of God 20 times to a page. They did this. Every. Single. Time. No matter how long it took, they did it out of reverence and respect for their God.

     And now, we carelessly toss around those Bibles so reverently printed just like we carelessly use the name of the Almighty, Everlasting, Prince of Peace in exclamations about mundane details of our temporary lives (OMG! or OH LAWD? OH MY GAWD or Jesus Christ!…right?). We can walk into a store or go online and access our own Bible app or purchase a Bible for less than $20. We can read it in any language we choose. The accessibility has decreased the value of something that is invaluable, while there are believers in other countries who are literally dying for their Bibles. 

     I recently saw a posting on Facebook that implied that as Christians we are to be un-offend-able. The author intended it to be a commentary on how judgmental Christians are when they condemn the sins of others or are unaccepting of those who don’t look or act “Christian”. I read it a few times, but for some reason but for some reason my mind kept jumping to the idea there are times when maybe we should be more offended, not by the person but by the sin. Loving the person, does not equal accepting the sin. 

     Almighty God was so offended by our sins that he had to eject Adam and Eve from the garden, right out of his presence. In order to allow his people, the Israelites, to be able to meet with him, God instructed them to create a tabernacle with an innermost place for the ark of the covenant to dwell. There were very specific protocols required to even get close to the meeting place and the throne of God. Sacrifices (blood) had to be made to cover the sins of the people. When David moved the ark of the covenant without permission, even with good intent, a man who reached to touch the ark to steady it, was immediately struck dead. The Bible says Moses was the only man who was able to speak to God, face to face. When He was allowed to see God passing by, it turned his hair white and gave him a glowing presence.  God requires reverence. God is so awesome and powerful that even his name requires awe and respect.

     There is little today in America that evokes reverence anymore.  That is “first world” problems. There used to be an awe that accompanied the presence of the President of the United States. Today it seems a sport to make accusations and tear down or criticize POTUS or any other person of high rank. The police are not given respect due their title. We see men and women attacking police, videos of normal people acting like maniacs when pulled over for a traffic violation.  We have become numb from too many youTube videos of men behaving badly or we’ve grown to enjoy it like a modern day gladiator/spectator sport. I don’t mean to say that these average men and women are different than you and I; I mean that, as a society, we no longer show respect to positions of authority because it is the right thing to do. It would seem that it is the opposite: we look for reasons not to give respect to others as if somehow giving that respect demotes our position.  How can we then expect to show a proper respect for God? We have already lost sight of the two greatest commandments. Love your neighbor as yourself and Love your God with all your heart, soul and mind. 

     God has become common when we no longer say his name in prayer but we constantly say his name in vain. When we curse with his name but we aren’t allowed to bless with his name (in public). I believe that we should be offended by the use of the HOLY NAME OF GOD by those who do not seek to point to him, but by those who curse him, denounce him and deny him or just tell lies about his character. Jesus came to forgive our sins and once he conquered death, he left behind the HOLY SPIRIT to LIVE IN US.  If you are a born again Christian, you have the same power that raised Jesus from the dead (living in you!) and that spirit should prick your heart to the disrespect of the Father.  If you have become so numb to the denial of the holiness of God, I pray that you will seek to grow closer to him and draw near to him. Satan is using many tricks these days but his favorite dates all the way back to the garden, “Did God really say ‘Don’t eat the fruit from this tree?’ He just doesn’t want you to be like him, having all knowledge of good and evil” Satan still wants to convince us that God is just trying to hold us down, we don’t have to obey him because, “Who does he think he is? to tell us that we have to respect him, and obey his commands and Love him with all our hearts? Did He really say that?” and besides Jesus likes us, so he would want us to be happy and speak and act however I would want, right? When we treat the name of Jesus like any other word, we demote him. We put him on our level and that’s just what Satan wants. Jesus ain’t your homeboy. Jesus is the PRINCE OF PEACE and the SON of the ALMIGHTY GOD, EVERLASTING FATHER, ALPHA and OMEGA, THE GREAT I AM, THE CREATOR OF THE UNIVERSE, THE KING OF KINGS, and FATHER TO THE FATHERLESS. 

     Sometimes when I think about family, I get a picture in my minds eye of the movie Godfather.  For Vito Corleone, it was all about family.  He would sacrifice everything for family, even when he disagreed with them. No one was going to talk about his mother, or his brother, or his father. How much would you burn against someone who criticized your mother or father, cursed them, vowed to take them down? Should you not be expected to have righteous hurt and anger against anyone who spoke that way against your heavenly father who sacrificed the life of his son for you?

    If you are reading this I want to challenge you to listen carefully, now that I have drawn your attention to it. Listen for the name of God, on your lips, on television, around you, and ponder it in your heart. Maybe it’s ok to feel offended when people make your God common. 

 

Chalk Paint

I’m not really artistic, like an artist, but I do like to re-create. I’m more of a good imagineer … yes, I like that: Sort of a good mix between imagination and engineering. I like to use old things, like old furniture, old dishes and old tools, and find uses for them. One of my favorite tools for recreating my finds is chalk paint.

When I first started painting with chalk paint I wondered why I hadn’t painted more furniture in my life. In fact, I began to fancy myself a pretty great painter. Chalk paint is very forgiving. You can paint over any type of surface without sanding it first and it sort of fills in and smooths out the surface. You can sand it, distress it, wax it and you get a beautiful smooth coat of paint with no brush strokes.

And then, the day came when I decided to use some latex paint on a dresser I was painting for Brynn. After just one coat of latex paint I remembered why I don’t paint with it more! It took a great deal more finesse and about 3 more coats of paint before I managed to finally create something I was proud of.

I mistook the quality of my tools, for an improvement in my skills. The final product had much less to do with me and much more to do with the paint I was using. The type of paint made me better and made my creation better too.

When it comes to your life and what you are creating, what kind of paint are you using? Are you choosing paint that makes you better or a paint that highlights your mistakes? Are your friends filling in your cracks or pointing them out? I wonder, do you feel loved by those around you or do they tear you down? You have the ability to be the chalk paint for those around you. Choose to make their lives better, smoother, easier if possible. And choose to overlook the times when they are latex paint, or rub up against them and maybe smooth them out a little when you can.

We aren’t all born with access to the same tools. Circumstances, parents, place of birth, education, even genetics, play a part in which paint we can choose for our lives. Many wish to paint a smooth surface but it seems dust keeps landing on the surface, or the paint clumps up and it has to be sanded down and started over, again and again. But, if you are a believer, you are encouraged to know that the tools you’ve been given are all part of your master story. Because, in truth, you aren’t actually the one doing the painting at all. There’s an artist that’s creating a much bigger masterpiece and he’s using you and your circumstances to do it. He’s using all the best tools, the best paint, best brushes, best timing, best canvas and he’s putting them together in the most perfect way.

What we consider to be the best is much different than what HE considers the best. Our God looks not at the surface but at what is underneath, what’s in the heart, the details. He makes all things beautiful. All those things that to you look like cracks or imperfections, bumps or blemishes, from his perspective, those are just the tiny details that work the perfect highlights onto the picture he’s painting of the face of Christ.

“He has filled them with every kind of skill to do every sort of work done by an engraver or by a designer or by an embroiderer in blue and purple and scarlet yarns and fine twined linen, or by a weaver– by any sort of Workman or skilled designer.”

Exodus 35:35

Sorry, Not Sorry: A note to my children

I love you with all my heart, I’m not sorry for that. I prayed a long time for each of you, many prayed with me. I know that you are God’s, and he has only allowed me to hold you, to shepherd you, while you are here on earth. And so, I have to answer to him that I’ve given my best effort to do all the things.

You complained today that your friend has all the toys from McDonald’s, but we don’t eat there often enough.

We never have all the good snacks, only fruit. Sometimes cookies. And you don’t like granola bars.

I yelled at you today when you ran from me in the parking lot. I was afraid and there was a car coming.

You wanted to run and play but I wouldn’t let you go that far, out of my sight to the other side of the playground without me.

You struggle against the idea of a safety net.

You climb to the highest point on the playground.

You want to stand in the buggy and ride in the street.

You scream “faster, faster” and “push me higher”. There are times when I have to close my eyes or clinch my fists, and others I must grab hold of you.

You told me that you hate your church clothes and why do we have to go to church anyway. It’s so difficult on Sunday mornings, but then there is no sweeter sound than your little voice singing praises to God. And when you tell me about how you shared with your friend at lunch, my heart melts.

You lost your temper today when I wouldn’t let you play with the lighter or start the fire on your own. I read a story about a child who was badly burned while starting a fire.

You constantly climb outside of the netting on the trampoline. Santa promised he wouldn’t deliver a trampoline without a safety net.

You asked me when can you spend the night with your friend and when I talked to you about the rules Daddy and I agreed on, you cried and were angry with me. I remember missing out on some things when I was a girl due to my parent’s rules. I also remember several friends whose parent’s weren’t so protective.

Those little floaties won’t let you dive down for pennies. I know a mommy whose little girl fell in without her floaties.

You want to unbuckle your seat belt and climb around in the car since we are almost home. Last year a baby girl just your age was taken too soon from her family in a devastating car accident.

Why must I cut up your grapes?

Why no balloons?

Why can’t you play with the pocket knife without mom or dad watching?

And the time limits and restrictions on what you can watch on the tablet or computer. But Why, MOM? WHY?

One day when you are a momma or daddy, you will understand.

You will see that all of the things you hate about how I limit you are really all of the ways I protect you.

Those boundaries I put in place aren’t to keep you in, they are to keep the wolves out.

I love you my children and for that I’m not sorry.

Broken pieces

If you were raised in church or have been in church for long, I suspect you have heard the analogy of the potter and the clay. The christian is the clay. God is the potter. The jest of the story is that God is molding us through our experiences, he is painfully and painstakingly creating a masterpiece with us. In this analogy, we start as an unformed mass. The potter shapes us through a painful process, adding water, spinning us on a wheel, and applying pressure in just the right places. This is a great analogy for growth through pain and being changed in the process.

I’d like to expand the potter/clay analogy because there are events, circumstances and tragedies that also shape our lives. Events not caused by God, but allowed by God. Events that are a part of the humanity of man, born out of sin and a fallen world. Imagine the potter carefully applying his hands to the clay, molding shaping and turning it into a beautiful vase, when outside the window a storm begins to brew. The potter is unaffected, but the humidity changes the consistency of the clay to water ratio and the vase flattens. The potter adjusts and reforms the vase into the tall vase he had imagined and places the masterpiece in a prominent place on a shelf to set. Once set, the vase holds water and a beautiful floral arrangement. It receives compliments and admiration. The pot brings glory to the skills of the creator.

But one day the creator’s pet, a large dog, bounds into the room, knocking the table, the shelf and the vase to the floor. The vase shatters. The potter was there, he could have stopped the dog, he could have caught the vase, but he didn’t. He simply picks up the broken pieces of the vase and creates something new, a new piece with a new purpose, a stepping stone or, by adding holes, strings a necklace or a wind chime. The broken pieces still have value to their creator, and he does not discard them. God uses our broken pieces just like he used us as a clump of clay. A new purpose for a new season.

When the circumstances of life knock you down and break you, your creator is there. He is not surprised, he quietly begins to scoop up your bruised ego, your fractured heart, your fearful inner voice, your lonely soul and he begins to reshape you. Only this time, he recreates you. He doesn’t just make you new: he makes you a new creation. When you are broken, you become changed and he uses your broken-ness to teach you how to become something new for a new purpose, HIS new purpose. And strangely enough, God is really great about finding a way for whatever broke you to be a big part of your story. We don’t get to bury our story, he wants to bring it to the light and use it. Whatever broke you is what made you who you are and gave you purpose, the purpose of seeing that same type of breaking in another life.

“So I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was working at his wheel. And the vessel he was making out of clay was spoiled in the Potter’s hand, and he reworked it into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to do.” Jeremiah 18:3-4

Keep saying Yes

Our current journey is one that we are traveling down a road of uncertainty. We know that it will bring as much heartache as joy, and yet we are choosing to travel it. Through watching a family that I very greatly respect begin foster care a few years ago, my soul began to be touched. I was moved by the Holy Spirit to learn more, to become involved in some way. Neil and I have begun the certification process, which means that we are taking classes and readying our home for a home study. There are a lot of emotions and thoughts that brings with it. Growth is necessary any time you are called outside of your comfort zone, and I believe that is very Biblical. Jesus didn’t promise us comfort, in fact, he said we would have trouble in life “for his name’s sake.” I have decided that there is no better way to live my life than to answer his call: whatever that might mean.

The current foster care curriculum is called, “A Journey Home.” We attended a session recently where we talked a lot about brain chemistry and how newborn brains develop. The brain of a new baby is undeveloped except for the lower brain and the amygdala—the need/pleasure center. All a baby knows is that there is a need and they know how to cry. So the little baby cries out and when the mother or father meets their need by answering for their cries little pathways begin to develop into their frontal/upper brain. The cause and effect, cry and be soothed, becomes a routine for the child. This process happens over and over and the child learns trust; when I cry my needs are met and I feel secure. All the while, the child is growing in other areas and the brain’s capacity for learning and intelligence is also increasing. However, if the child’s cries are not answered, if the child is neglected or mistreated, instead of these pathways being developed, the brain gets a wash in dopamine (the fight, flight or flee hormone) which actually stunts growth and creates something similar to a drug addiction, causing decreased ability to reason or regulate emotions. So our speaker today actually said that for an infant, it’s important that their caregiver just continues to say “YES” to their needs. That’s key to the development of a healthy child, the development of a healthy trust relationship with a caregiver. That’s why we see failure to thrive in children with poor attachment such as orphanages and care facilities.

Interestingly, there’s a foster care movement complete with T-shirts and hats, called “KEEP SAYING YES.” (Find it here: Http://www.fosterflorida.org/store.html) It refers to the need for foster families to just keep saying yes to each new call, each new need, each child who needs a family. I couldn’t help but make the connection, but I’d like to take it one step further.

As is so often the case, we find that the Bible gives us a great example and this principle is laid out for us in our relationship with God. The Bible tells us that with God as our loving, compassionate Father, giving us the spiritual milk of His word daily, we can begin to grow into mature Christians.

1 Peter 2:2 “Like newborn infants, long for the spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up in your salvation.”

Hebrews 5:13-14 “You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.”

As we mature, we develop more of a relationship with Him. We begin to know and trust Him more and, with practice, to be able to discern good and evil, right from wrong. We put away childish behaviors, and we become spiritual adults, equipped to follow him and do His will.

Scripture tells us that when we were children we thought and acted like children. 1 Corinthians 13:11 “When I was a child, I spoke as a child, but when I became a man, I put away childish things”

And God says, ” If you are willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land” Isaiah 1:19. He encourages us to “be doers of the Word and not hearers only” in James 1:22 and in Romans, ” For as by one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous” (5:19). Our obedience to Him can also lead others to know about Him, and choose to follow Him.

I want to point out that our relationship with God grows when He keeps his promises to us, over and over. He promises to provide for us, to give peace and salvation. He promises through the rainbow that he will never abandon us and start over again. His word, our spiritual milk, is full of reminders of His promises and their fulfillment. But our relationship also grows when WE obey HIM, when WE say “YES” over and over again to each baby step He asks us to take toward him. I can look back over my life the last 10 years and see so many things He asked me to do and I have notoriously said NO, NO, NO, NO! complete with reasons and rationale, sometimes even a little tantrum. But y’all! He does not give up. I may have missed out on some blessings along the way by making lots of excuses but I have learned through each of those experiences that not only does He know better than I do, His plans are so much more extravagant than my imagination. Each time I eventually changed my answer to yes, I was rewarded with a twist or turn in my journey that I couldn’t have predicted a need for, that I couldn’t have more perfectly timed, and that I wouldn’t have asked for as a blessing because it wasn’t in my capacity to plan. My God weaves a story better than any Hollywood movie plot. He’s orchestrating the most beautiful melody and He lets me play a tiny part if I will just KEEP. SAYING. YES.