I’d really like to be a victim — to blame those around me for my problems. And, boy, do I try! If my husband would just appreciate me more, if my kids would just complain less, if my students would just listen the first time I explain something…THEN life would be perfect. I wouldn’t need to get frustrated.
But I DO get frustrated! Not because of anything I have done, of course. Because of them.
I spend a lot of time thinking about how others have wronged me. That is an embarrassing truth to admit, but there it is. I think about what I don’t like about this person, that situation. I think about how things should be and get even more upset at how they are.
And the reality is that I have it pretty easy. My husband loves me, and he loves God. My kids’ biggest weaknesses are not doing their chores and occasionally getting a low grade on an assignment. I teach at a Christian school where we have actual rules we can enforce and the students, for the most part, respect those rules.
Compared to pretty much everyone else on the planet, my life is cake. I know.
Yet, I still complain. Still feel sorry for myself. Still want to blame others when I am irritable.
But here’s what God has been trying to teach me: I am responsible for my attitude. I am responsible for my thoughts. I am sinning when I choose to focus on circumstances and other people for my contentment instead of focusing on God.
One of my favorite verses is Philippians 4:13: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” But I often forget the context of that verse. Before Paul says this, he talks about learning to live with plenty or with nothing, about learning to be “content in any and every situation.” This from a man who wrote letters from prison, who had no real home, who was rejected and persecuted and hated for the sake of the Gospel.
“I can do all things” isn’t a mantra meant to enable people to achieve their dreams. It is a truth learned through the fires of testing, that “godliness with contentment is great gain.” (I Tim. 6:6)
So the truth is that I can choose contentment no matter what. Even if I feel unappreciated and unheard, even if circumstances are less than ideal. I don’t get to blame my bad moods on other people. I don’t get to be the victim. The truth is that all of my discontent is, in fact, my fault. God offers the tools to enable me to be content in all circumstances.
My job is to choose whether I will believe Him, or the voices in my head.
Almost everyone deals with heartbreak at least one in her life. Even the most careful, most godly girls. Sometimes, it’s because you made a wrong choice – you went for a guy without consulting God, without listening to parents’ or friends’ advice, and you ended up hurt as a result. Other times, you went in with eyes wide open, seeking God, making wise choices, but the relationship just didn’t work out, for whatever reason. With the former, there is often regret along with heartbreak. The latter is usually regret-free, but still…it hurts. A lot.
My heartbreak came my first year of college. He was a good guy, but we just weren’t right for each other. He realized that before I did. And, if you don’t know this: Being broken up with is SO much harder than being the one breaking up. I questioned my worth, my looks, my personality. I wondered, “What’s wrong with me? Why doesn’t he like me?” Because he was a good guy, I couldn’t just say, “Oh, he’s a jerk.” My friends couldn’t say, “you’re too good for him.” I just had to deal with the fact that we weren’t right for each other.
It took a while, I’ll be honest. But in the time it took for my heart to recover, something amazing happened: I discovered the Psalms. I’d read them before, but during that time, I read them, and they spoke to me, ministered to my aching heart, reminded me that others have faced difficulties – far worse than mine – and come through them. I saw how much God loves me, that He is there for me, and He will never leave me. I learned that He is all I need.
Later, when my now-husband and I began to date, and as I grew to realize he was “the one”, I saw why that other guy wasn’t. Dave has personality traits and gifts that fit just right with mine. I also found Dave WAY more attractive than I ever found that other guy. I ended up being so grateful for the break-up. Had the other guy “stuck with me”, I might not have ever met Dave.
So if you’re dreading this Valentine’s Day, if your heart is broken or bruised, take comfort from the Truth that there is One who loves you deeper than you can fathom. He has a plan, even in this difficult time. Cling to His love and His words.
“And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ” Eph. 3:17a-18
A few years back, I asked a former student attending a Christian college if her school had a dress code. She said yes. I was waiting to hear a long list of what could and could not be worn on campus. Instead, she told me their policy was just seven words:
“No crack in front or in back”
I laughed. Because the images that popped into my head were pretty funny.
But, seriously, does it matter what you wear? Do Christians really need to dress differently? Or is that just for those strict ultra-conservative folks who want to suck all the fun out of life whenever they can?
Here’s what I think: how we dress is important. It reflects who we are, how we think of ourselves. Teens express themselves by what they wear: are they hipster? sporty? artsy? preppy?
But here’s another thing: how we dress doesn’t just affect us. Other people have to see us. And, girls, guys are looking at what you wear. And what you don’t wear. Guys are WAY more visual than we are. When we see a guy in short shorts, our first instinct is to gag (really — what are they thinking??). But when guys see girls in short shorts, their brain starts going places we, as sisters in Christ, don’t want it to go.
God made us beautiful, girls. But there are certain parts of our anatomy that need to stay covered. We don’t want to advertise what is not for sale. Yes, I know – it’s hard to find clothes that cover “the cracks in front and back.” But those clothes are out there, I promise.
So, yes, this is a “mom” post. But we moms aren’t out to get you or make your life miserable or keep you hopelessly out of style. We love you and want the very best for you. We want people to see you, not just for who you are, but for whose you are — a treasured daughter of the King.
“Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.” I Peter 3:3-4
As a mother of three – two teenage girls and an almost-teen boy – I think the practice of arranged marriages should be reinstated.
Forget the fact that my husband and I wouldn’t be married if that practice had been in place when we were dating, nor would any of our friends. Or our siblings. But whatever. I am a parent now, not a young person looking for my soul mate.
So back to the topic. I will explain my reasons using bullet points. Because no one can argue with bullet points.
Here we go.
Why the practice of arranged marriages should be reinstated:
- I want to pick who my co-grandma is going to be. I mean, seriously, I have some friends who would be terrific grandma’s! We could go shopping for baby clothes together, we could take the little tykes to the zoo together. And if we are friends, we won’t argue over who gets the kids on Thanksgiving. We’d just all eat together. One big happy family!
- With age comes wisdom. Dave and I know our kids. We know the types of people they are and, subsequently, the type of person they each need to marry. Besides, parents today don’t even let their kids ride their bikes outside the neighborhood. Why in the world, then, should we give them permission to make this incredibly important decision all by themselves??
- We wouldn’t have to take away all choice. Parents could give options. Like a list. Or a multiple choice quiz. We wouldn’t have to pick just one potential spouse. Personally, I have three or four options in mind for each of my kids. I’m okay with any of those three or four options. See how generous I am? Freedom – with boundaries.
- Marriage takes work. Ask anyone who has been married for any length of time. Good marriages aren’t a result of finding the “perfect” person. It is a result of working together through good and bad, being committed to each other no matter what. What better way to begin that practice than by being forced together, possibly against your will?
Recently, I watched a documentary about the Roosevelts. In it, several biographers affirmed something amazing: had Franklin D. Roosevelt not contracted Polio at age 39, he would not have been prepared to be President at age 51. What that disease did for him was teach him to overcome incredible difficulties and connect to other struggling Americans. Those lessons informed his decisions as he led the country out of the Great Depression and into World War II.
What seemed like a tragic event in his life was really a gift.
I thought of Joseph in the Bible. He, too, had tragedy thrust upon him. Several tragedies, in fact. Yet God used those tragedies to prepare him for a leadership position that saved his people.
I have seen this in my own life – on a much smaller scale. Events that seemed tragic actually turned out to be beneficial. My character was developed, my faith deepened.
Romans 5:3-5 says, “We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” (italics mine)
I don’t think I’ll ever be excited about suffering. But I can face it with faith and not fear, knowing God will use trials for my good and His glory. We know Him better as a result of suffering, we are better equipped to help others as a result of suffering, and we are conformed more into His image as a result of suffering.
Suffering draws us to God far more than the easy times do. And suffering reminds us this world is not our home: We are made for more – for a sinless eternity with the Holy God.
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28
Teens today are having sex. A lot. Studies indicate that at least half of all teenagers are sexually active in high school. Personally, I think that number is conservative. It is as casual a part of many relationships as the goodnight kiss was back in the “old days.” It isn’t a stigma, isn’t embarrassing,isn’t shameful. It is considered a natural part of adolescence, necessary, even beneficial.
Those who disagree with this view of sex are seen as ridiculous prudes. We are mocked on TV shows, movies, even Broadway musicals. “What is the big deal?” They say. It’s a primal need, an itch that needs to be scratched. Monogamy in general is hopelessly out of fashion, even within marriage. So abstinence before marriage?? Laughable at best; harmful at worst.
Christian parents have an increasingly hard time with this issue, as well. Some don’t ever want to say the word. It is NOT a discussion they want to have with their “babies.” Other parents focus on just the negatives: teen pregnancy, STD’s, heartache…have sex and your life will be ruined. Some, who made mistakes in their own teen years, feel hypocritical telling their children to abstain when they chose not to.
Those of us – parents and teens alike – who hold to the Bible as our foundation must recognize two things:
1) Sex is a good thing
2) Sex is entirely reserved for the marriage relationship
We hear a lot about the second point. And, while people may not like it, there’s no getting away from the fact that sex is for marriage. Period. Not for people in a non-married, but committed, relationship; not for people planning to get married. Sex is for marriage.
Because of reason #1 – it is a good thing. It isn’t terrible, evil, scary, or disgusting. Sex is a gift given by a good God for our enjoyment. Within marriage, there is guilt-free, committed, life-long enjoyment of each other. It is part of the “one flesh” relationship God grants to the children He loves so much. It enhances a marriage, helps couples remain connected, provides a level of intimacy that, hopefully, carries over to all other aspects of marriage. Couples with healthy marriages have healthy sex lives.
It is because of how good this gift of sex is that we should guard it and protect it. While the desire may be there long before we can satisfy it, we are not powerless to give into it.
Teens, you don’t have to be in the half that chooses to give this gift away. Stand strong, even when everyone around you is falling for the world’s lies. God has something great for you – don’t miss out on His best.
Parents, you HAVE to talk with your kids about this subject. Not just once. Often. Pray for them. Pray for their future spouse. Model a healthy marriage for your kids. Don’t just kiss with the bedroom door closed. Let them see you kiss, give little tush-grabs. It’ll gross them out, but that’s all right. They see it with non-married couples all the time. They need to see it within marriages.
“For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God.” ~I Thess. 4:3-5
When I teach characterization in literature, I use Edgar Allan Poe’s classic, “The Tell Tale Heart”. The narrator in that story starts out by saying, “I’m not crazy!” He repeats that throughout the story – as he’s recounting, in graphic
detail, how he murdered, dismembered, and buried the old man with the “evil eye”. He says, “I’m not crazy!” as he talks about stalking the old man for EIGHT nights, watching him sleep, laughing at how he scares the old man, and pridefully explaining how he committed the murder.
Readers of this story all agree that the narrator is, in fact, crazy. We don’t care what he says. His actions prove otherwise, and we all listen to actions more than words.
Today, we call that “judging” and many get angry. We behave in cruel, selfish ways, and when we’re called out on it, we say, “You have no right to judge me!!” and walk off angry and hurt.
But, folks, “judge” means “to form an opinion.” And if you have a brain in your head, you form opinions! And how do we form opinions? By watching what people do.
I know people who go around saying they love Jesus, that He is first in their lives, that their New Year’s resolution is to know Him better. Great words! But I see how they spend their time, their money, what they talk about, who they talk about, what makes them angry, what makes them excited…and I can tell if their “I love Jesus” statements are just empty words or if they really mean what they say.
And others do the same with me.
As believers in the One true God, we are called to stand out, to stand up, to be lights in a dark world. We are called to have our actions match our words so we aren’t just another hypocrite.
Yes, yes, none of us is perfect, and we need to bear with one another’s weaknesses. I know. And I agree. But I think the pendulum is swinging WAY too far, so far that we allow each other to do and say whatever we want because, to call someone out on sin is “judging” and we have deemed “judging” a far worse sin than anything else.
But, if we believe the Bible, the worst sin we can commit is refusing to acknowledge the supremacy of Christ in our lives, refusing to submit to His authority. And the greatest gift we can give to others is to remind them of that truth so they can walk in it. And, on our part, to be open to hearing from others when we are falling short. Because we will!
Do you love Jesus? Then act like it! Stop justifying your sinful behavior, stop getting angry when/if people “judge” you on it. Be who you say you are.
“Work hard so God can say to you, “Well done.” Be a good workman, one who does not need to be ashamed when God examines your work. Know what his Word says and means.” 2 Tim. 2:15
2015 was a BIG year for the McGee family: BIG birthdays, BIG move, BIG changes.
We started out 2015 knowing we’d need to move, but not knowing where. I prayed…and prayed…and prayed that we wouldn’t have to leave Florida. That’s home! Our friends and family are there, the familiar is there. We love it.
At the end of January 2015, Emma and I celebrated BIG birthdays: 16 and 40, respectively. We were gifted with the ability to go to NYC for a long weekend. We were blessed to go with some of our closest friends. It was an amazing weekend. If you HAVE to turn 40, I highly recommend doing it in The Big Apple! (for more about our trip, read this blog post)
By March, no jobs were opening up in Florida, so we had to open up the search…we sent applications out to schools as close as Georgia and as far as South Korea. I teach high school English and Dave teaches high school Bible. There aren’t many Christian schools looking for both those positions.
In May, we accepted positions at Calvary Christian Academy in Chula Vista, CA (for more info on that, read this blog post). We had a month to say painful goodbyes and prepare for this BIG move. Leaving Florida was difficult, but we knew God directed us to California, and we trusted His plans – even if they were VERY different from ours!
You can read this blog post for info about our cross-country drive and house hunt. Both were long and arduous, but ended well. We loved getting to see family along the way, but we are in NO hurry to make any more long drives for a long time!
Adjusting to life in southern California has been a roller coaster. Lots of BIG changes! The weather is amazing. But millions of people know that, so the roads, the stores, the malls — everywhere — are all ridiculously crowded. We’ve lived in large cities before – San Jose, Madrid, Tampa – it’s not like we’re “small town” people. But having EVERY parking space in a mall full, long lines EVERY time we go grocery shopping…not fun.
The beaches are (sorry Florida!) SO MUCH better than those on the east coast. Huge waves, beautiful sand, tall cliffs. And the sunsets…wow. LA is just a couple hours away (with no traffic…which, sadly is an oxymoron here!). Two hours east is the desert – and Dave’s old stomping grounds. And there are mountains all over the place – some even get snow in the winter!
Our new school is on a year-round schedule, so Dave and I started July 7 — less than two weeks after we moved into our house! The first term flew by, and we settled in better than we expected (for more on that, read this blog post). The kids got involved in sports, the school musical, and made some great friends.
The second term was more challenging – primarily, I think, because the “honeymoon phase” ended right about the time the holidays started. Thanksgiving without family?? We haven’t had that in almost a decade. Christmas was better because friends came to visit. But it was bittersweet — reminding us of what we’re missing and how, though we have friends here, they are “new” friends. We love them, but we miss our old friends!!
We never expected, at the beginning of 2015, to be in San Diego by the end of 2015. We have seen God do mighty things, and we have come to depend on Him in new ways.
2016 will see our oldest begin her senior year and our youngest become a teenager. What else does it hold? Who knows! I have learned enough to know I shouldn’t even try to guess. But I do know who holds 2016, and I will trust in Him.
It’s Finals Week at schools across the country. Students are stressing, staying up late, and kicking themselves for not paying better attention in class this semester.
Many students feel MAJOR pressure to deliver exceptional grades. However, sometimes, students just don’t “get” certain subjects. Some teachers are ridiculously hard. Sometimes, stress at home or with friends takes over your life, leaving little time to study the way you need to study.
It’s stressful, I know. This is your GPA! Potential scholarships are affected. College entrance requirements don’t take into account your tougher-than-nails Calculus teacher or your parents’ divorce. You don’t get to put an asterick on your college entrance essay and say, “That Chemistry class? The teacher spent the entire year discussing his favorite movies, then tested over formulas we’d never seen before.”
So how do you deal with the unfair? The frustrating? The less-than-good-enough’s?
Remember that God is in control. My friend, Laura, reminds her AP English students that “Your grades do not define you.” We are the children of Almighty God. We are not a 3.2 GPA or an 800 on the SAT. And God’s plans for our lives are not thwarted by a terrible math teacher or a D in Biology (I speak from experience!).
That doesn’t mean we don’t try our hardest. Paul commands us to “Work hard and cheerfully at all you do.” But here’s the key: “Just as though you were working for the Lord and not for masters”. (Col. 3:23)
There are some things you just can’t control: whether or not your teachers are fair, whether or not you “get” a subject, whether or not your college-of-choice accepts you. If you focus on those things, you’ll be constantly frustrated.
But if you focus on working hard and cheerfully, on pleasing God, then you can experience joy. Even in difficult times. When you remember that your History grade doesn’t define you – Jesus Himself does – you can breathe easy. When you know that God loves you and has a purpose for you – even in that class that seems impossibly hard – you can rest.
When your identity is found in God Himself – not your grades – you are free. So do your best, but don’t get sucked into the thinking that the grades posted reflect who you are. They don’t! You are a beloved child of God. Period.
Awwww. Aren’t they adorable?
Those are my three kids.
They are still adorable, but they’re not so little anymore. My oldest is about to turn 17. My youngest daughter will be 15 in a few weeks. My baby boy is 12.
Those of you teens and tweens reading this are rolling your eyes. (imagine what my kids are doing ) But you need to know what pictures like this do to your parents and grandparents, your aunts and uncles, the nursery workers who changed your diapers…it makes us a little sad.
Sure, we’re glad you’re growing up. My kids are amazing. I am beyond proud of the young women and young man they are becoming.
But I miss that age. They all speak clearly, now, no cute little mispronunciations. They no longer enjoy sitting on the floor and singing “The Wheel on the Bus.” They don’t go through an entire box of Dora Band-Aids in one day.
Because of this, when I see little guys – especially my own nieces and nephews – I want to pinch cheeks and tickle bellies and play peek-a-boo. All those things I don’t get to do with my kids, anymore.
And, occasionally, when I just can’t stand it, I grab my kids and pinch their cheeks. I can’t help it. I spent years doing just that. Now it’s over. I can’t stop cold-turkey.
So this Christmas, when your Aunt Bertha comes over and goes in for a hug, her fingers poised right in front of your face, smile and lean in. Let her pinch away. She misses it. She loves you. She’s remembering those childhood days gone by.
And, if it hurts too badly, you can always go put a Dora Band-Aid on it