What Real Love Looks Like to Kids

real loveREAL LOVE: I stepped into “Little House on the Prairie” reruns when I visited friends’ homes during childhood. A home very different from mine.

People in these homes blessed each other with words of affirmation:

“Beautiful picture, honey. I can barely wait to show grandma.”

“You remembered to put away your books. You are so responsible!”

“I appreciate that you called home to say you’d be late. That meant a lot to me, that you cared.”

Raspberry kisses, tummy tickles, and high fives interspersed these blessing words. I watched these dreamy interactions unfold and harbored more than a little jealousy. Have you too wanted something you didn’t have?

Where’s Real Love?

But at my home, dad yelled and mom withdrew into stony silence. Often I covered my ears to muffle the hate words. I also tried make my parents happy. From age 8 or 9, I washed floors and tubs, dusted and vacuumed, finished my homework without reminding, and played with my older brother, Ted.

But my presence made little difference. And Ted just seemed to irritate them. A bonafide IQ of 148 and report cards with Cs and Ds–he had trouble finding a place of belonging at home or school. It seemed, we were side tables in a white clapboard, one-and-a-half-story house in a Chicago suburb. Just furniture. We believed we had no voice.

When Ted turned 16 or so, the drug scene lured him. I tried to fit in with the “popular” girls and failed. Again. Do you relate?

God Steps In

Perhaps the influence of an unhappy childhood is one reason I became a counselor. My work as a biblical counselor permits me the privilege of helping children and teens know God’s care, love, and purpose in their lives. It’s encouraging that very often a child’s pain evaporates like a puddle on a hot summer day as the child (or teen) and the parents choose to love God above all. (Matthew 22:37)

As God transforms hurting hearts, thoughts, actions, and emotions as well as beliefs come together and reflect the heart of Jesus. Did you know Jesus welcomes little children? Our wonderfully radical Lord invited them to come near.

Now they were bringing even infants to him that he might touch them. And when the disciples saw it, they rebuked them. But Jesus called them to him, saying, ‘Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.’ Luke 18:15-17, ESV

The truth: Children do matter. Toddlers or teens, they deserve our love. Real love. Christ-like love.

Real Love in Good Times, Bad Times

What does real love look like during good times at home?

Conversation at dinner time, playing board games, and going for walks.

What does real love look like in bad times?

Repentance, forgiveness, consequences.

Reality is a phenomenal teacher. When a child does his homework, he gets the satisfaction of good grades. When a preschooler bites a 3 year old at the playground — yes, I am a mom of a former biter — she is escorted from park immediately. When a teen refuses to clean her room, her cell phone goes in timeout.

Real Love: Messy!

Healing came as I recognized I cannot change my family of origin. But my husband and I can rewrite the script for our children. With God’s help, we can leave a legacy of real love. We mess up, of course. Real love isn’t perfection. Rather, it’s hugs and tears and laughter in the middle of mess.

JUST FOR YOU: Would you like help with struggles that perhaps go back to childhood hurts? I offer a short, complimentary phone consult. Sign up here.

 

Discover Your TRUE Heart’s Desire

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Friend, do you know your TRUE heart’s desire? Knowing and fulfilling your heart’s desire can change the direction of your life–from burned out to rest-filled, from down-in-the-dumps to delightful.

Listen to the story of three of my counselees. Notice how different they are. Yet each is making a difference for God’s kingdom. See if your story is similiar.

  • Kim teaches Sunday school to preschoolers, showing them the love of God through simple Bible stories, songs, and Jesus “parties.”
  • Dora has a decorative flair. She beautifies her church’s worship center, making it inviting to regular attenders and visitors.
  • Tanya cleans the homes of elderly folks in need of a helping hand and conversation.

In this brief article you’ll learn:

  1. why you want to know your heart’s desire.
  2. 2 quick steps to discovering your heart’s desire.

Why You Want to Know Your Heart’s Desire

You want to know your heart’s desire because. . .this knowledge empowers and energizes you to make a difference in your own life and in other’s lives. Most important, God wants you to know your heart’s desire to honor him. Does this make sense?

When you know your heart’s desire, you are energized to make a difference, honor God, and be happy.

Take delight in the Lord,

    and he will give you the desires of your heart. Psalm 37:4

Sometimes this verse gets mangled. God doesn’t say he’ll give you anything you desire, though at first glance it may sound that way. Reread the verse part of the verse. God gives you the desires of your heart as you submit to Christ.

As you delight in him, you’ll desire what he desires. Yes!

2 Quick Steps to Discovering your Heart’s Desire

God made you unique. There’s no one on this planet just like you. You have your own DNA, life experiences, upbringing, talents, and spiritual giftedness (1 Corinthians 12:1-3).

God wouldn’t change a hair on your head. He is for you. He is with you.

QUICK STEP 1: 

What propels you out of bed in the morning (other than an amazing cup of coffee)? Are you keen on empowering single moms? Encouraging war veterans? Designing organizational systems? Taking photographs that tell a story?

It may help to jot answers to these questions:

  1. If you could change one thing in the world, what would it be?
  2. What do other Christians say you’re particularly good at?
  3. Which of the following people groups tug at your heart? The homeless; women who’ve had abortions; impoverished families; couples in healthy marriages; children with learning disabilities; substance abusers; families of prisoners; the elderly; the ill; women (or teens) in emotional pain; gifted children, other: ___________.

Look over your answers. Do you see a theme? Now write down: I believe my heart’s passion may be _____________.

If you’re not sure, this is OK. As you try out your interests, the Holy Spirit will guide you. Let’s go to quick step 2. It’s truth-telling!

QUICK STEP 2:

Did you know that usually people’s heart’s desire comes from their life experience, especially the difficult ones?

On a 8 1/2 by 11 paper, turned sideways (also called “landscape”), write My Timeline at the top. Then make 3 long, parallel lines. Divide your current age by 3.

On the lines, you’ll record events (happy and sad and disturbing). The top line is for the first third of your life, the second line for the middle third of your life, and the bottom line for the last third of your life. Got it? Good.

Among the events to record are…

  • Birth dates
  • Death dates
  • HS graduation
  • Anniversaries
  • Marriages and divorces
  • Hospitalizations
  • Moves to new locations
  • New jobs, lost jobs
  • Other important events

Now What?

Once you finish your timeline, prayerfully review it and notice what tugs at your heart. Perhaps you faced a home foreclosure and have a heart’s desire to minister to the homeless. Or, maybe you desire to write a book on fear or to teach Crown financial budgeting principles to others.

Maybe you lived in a blended family and have a heart’s desire to help second and third marriages stay intact. Or possibly you were a victim of a crime and your heart’s desire is to become a first responder, teach self-defense classes, or lead a Bible study in prisons.

Next, look over your timeline. Why not pray over what you discovered. Then, reread your answers to the questions in Step 1.

Finally, write a preliminary statement: my TRUE heart desire may be: _____________.

Chances are, over time you’ll refine your statement. Here’s mine.

Isn’t it amazing that God often uses your story to foster hope in others?

The Takeaway

When you live your heart’s desire, you help others, avoid burnout, glorify God, and are truly happy.

Do you have questions? Would you like help making your heart’s desire a reality? Then contact me. It’s beautiful to hope.

Counseling Hearts to Hope!

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God’s Peace Plan: P.R.A.Y.

planPEACE PLAN: Remember the spunky Miss Clara in the movie War Room? She narrates: “We fight for power. We fight for riches. And we fight for rights. We fight for freedom. There always seems to be something to fight about.” Yet. . .

“Very few of us know how to fight the right way.”

In this post, war-roomI’ll outline a simple, Spirit-inspired peace plan to pray. Miss Clara prayed in her closet she calls her “war room” and taught Elizabeth, played by Priscilla Shirer, to speak fervently with God about her crumbling marriage.

Is your marriage in trouble? Are your emotions out of control? Is your teen making poor choices? Are you ill? In financial duress? Brokenhearted?

God has a peace plan for the war you’re in. Prayer is your battle cry!

God’s Peace Plan

It’s a four-letter word: P.R.A.Y.

Do not be anxious about ANYTHING but in EVERYTHING, by PRAYER and petition, with THANKSGIVING, present your requests to God.” Phil. 4:6

Read this familiar verse again. Then think on it. Now do what it says: P.R.A.Y. This is your peace plan!

P: Praise

Begin with praise. Praising God puts your mind where it need to be: focused on God. He is the One who not only created to universe, but also knows your hurts and deeply cares.

And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. 1 John 4:16, NIV

R: Repent

To repent is to change your mind and line up your thoughts with God’s thoughts. Repentance is a gift from God, and I’ve noticed in counseling, those who repent make lasting, positive, godly changes the quickest.

The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. 2 Peter 3:9

A: Ask

The Lord invites you to approach him confidently and share what’s on your heart. This is part of deepening your relationship with him. He promises to give you all that is good.

For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God. 2 Corinthians 1:2

Y: Yield

As you pray, believing that God can handle your problems, your faith will increase, and you’ll become calm and confident.

Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live! Hebrews 12:9

Go ahead, PRAY. I will too. Tell me how it goes.

“And the peace of God, which surpasses are comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Phil. 4:7

Sharing Hope with Your Heart,

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Help! I’m a Slave to Food (part 1)

foodFood is a gift from God, right? But for some people, overeating is a. . .sin. In this helpful post that first appeared here, counselor Paul Tautges shares parts of Shannon Kay McCoy‘s booklet, Help! I’m a Slave to Food. It is used with permission. (Edited for length–LAM)

God declares overeating to be a sin: ‘For the heavy drinker and the glutton will come to poverty’ (Proverbs 23:21).

So begins the second chapter of biblical counselor Shannon Kay McCoy’s very helpful mini-book HELP! I’m a Slave to Food.

Then McCoy defines sin. These definitions include–

  • whatever is not from faith is sin (Romans 14:23).
  • therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin (James 4:17).
  • all unrighteousness is sin (1 John 5:17).
  • sin is lawlessness (1 John 3:4).

These descriptions view sin as the act of the will. Sin is choosing to act in opposition to God’s Word.

Sin of Overeating?

Slave to Food-small email

McCoy continues: “Perhaps you don’t believe that overeating is a sin. Many of us have been brainwashed by magazine articles, television talk shows, and reality shows that tell us that food is the problem: you are simply eating the wrong things in the wrong way.”

Often Christians view overeating as a diet problem rather than a sin problem. But overeating does n

ot seem serious. We often treat it as one of those ‘little sins’ that are acceptable in the church.

You don’t hear sermons or read books on the sin of overeating, do you? Your focus is more on getting treatment for your problem of overeating than facing up to your personal responsibility of repentance and obedience.

As McCoy pointed out, overeating is failing to do the right thing. It is unrighteousness and lawlessness.

Description of a Food Struggle

A woman McCoy spoke with describes her struggle:

My eating was out of control. I ate solely to satisfy whatever craving I was having at the time. As a result, my health was suffering and I was not honoring God with my life and body He had given me. I was for the first time confronted with the fact that the way that I was eating was sinful. I knew that my eating was ‘not good,’ but I never considered that my eating was sin.

In her mini-book, Shannon transparently identifies with her readers by acknowledging that overeating once dominated her life. Then she shares the life-changing counsel from the Scriptures, which changed her life, beginning with admitting the seriousness of her sin problem.

Overeating Is Not an Addiction

Some overeaters label themselves “food addicts,” believing they are addicted to food. However, addiction is not a biblical term. The world uses this terminology to describe the behavior of someone who is controlled by a substance.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines addiction in this way: “To devote or surrender (oneself) to something habitually or obsessively.” But the danger in labeling overeating as “addiction” is that it undermines the personal conviction of sin. If the problem is not sin, then you will look for solutions in a system of theories, not in the person of Jesus Christ.

Overeating Is Idolatry

The biblical term for “addiction” is “idolatry.” The sin of overeating is idolatry. And idolatry is worship and devotion to creation rather than worship and devotion to the Creator God.

You worship your stomach and appetites by indulging in food. In fact, you desire the created food more than your Creator. The problem is not necessarily the food you consume; it is the worship of your heart. But before you can be set free, you must acknowledge your idol, denounce it, repent, and give your heart and devotion to him. Your greatest hope is in turning from your false gods and surrendering your life to Jesus, who forgives your sins and frees you from the sin of overeating.

God’s Grace Empowers Us to Change

Romans 6:12-14 both exhorts us to repent of the sin of overeating and gives us hope on God’s power to change us:

Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts, and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace.

In the remainder of her mini-book, McCoy teaches us how to conquer the sin of overeating by God’s gracious empowerment for disciplined living.

Get HELP! I’m a Slave to Food in print copy and/or Kindle format.

RESOURCE: Looking for a whole-hearted, comprehensive ebook to be Fit for Life. Get it now.

Sharing Hope with Your Heart,

5 Godly Solutions to Loneliness

lonelinessLoneliness touches every woman some of the time. Do you feel lonely now? Do you know someone who does? Here are five godly solutions to loneliness.

Loneliness has run amok in our super-connected Facebook-y, Instagram-my, Twitter-ed world, don’t you agree? Relationships have suffered. Jealousy flourishes. Even happy events like the wedding of a son or daughter may usher in a melancholy of loneliness.

Have you experienced an upheavel like a move? or lost employment? or a health issue? These can bring on loneliness. Destructive emotions can spiral into loneliness too.

A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity. Proverbs 17:17, ESV

Here are 5 practical, godly solutions to loneliness.

1. Do not give in to self-pity.

At first self-pitying thoughts may seem comforting. You may feel a right to your indignation. But it is a false comfort since you are holding anger inside. And these creates more loneliness.

2. Believe what God says about you.

Don’t listen to the lies the world tells you. Don’t listen to the lies you tell yourself. Believing lies leads to greater loneliness. Believe the truth of your true identity in Christ.

3. Draw close to the Lord.

How do you draw close to Jesus? Here are some ways: Read Scripture and think on it. Asking God for biblical wisdom and apply it to your life. Listen to praise music. Join a women’s bible study.

4. Get a physical exam.

What does seeing a medical doctor have to do with loneliness? Maybe nothing, maybe a lot. If you have a physical condition that zaps your energy, then getting care may help make friendships easier.

One of my adult daughters, for instance, had undiagnosed hypothyroidism. The doctor ordered a blood test that revealed the core physical problem. Once she began medication, she felt physically better and reengaged with friends and coworkers.

5. Take a risk: Show love to others.

I remember when our family moved to a new town where I knew no one. My thought: “Find friends at my new church!” And for a month or so the church ladies talked to me, then nada. Barley a peep! Feeling lonely and deserted, I prayed, “Lord, make the church ladies show me hospitality and friendship.”

Amazing to me, as I reached out to the women, I connected. Did all my loneliness flutter away? Not at all. But I felt better and, more important, I was doing what God directed.

Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. 1 Peter 4:9

What interferes with your connections with friends and family? What’s one thing that would foster connection?

Sharing Hope with Your Heart,

 

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5 AMAZING NAMES GOD CALLS YOU!

Blessed, Daughter, Saint, and more!

In this delightful, four-color ebook, you’ll discover the precious names God calls you. Today so many Christian women don’t fully know their wonderful identity in Christ. Isn’t a time to know yours? Filled with scripture, photography, personal stories, and encouragement!

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