Sunday, March 26, 2017

When a Group of 4-Year-Olds Lead a Game of Musical Chairs

During the day as a preschool teacher, I witness many hilarious moments as preschoolers interact with each other. It’s funny to watch them learn, grow, and solve problems through their four- and five-year old understanding of the world and how it operates. This past Thursday, my kids were playing musical chairs. There were three groups of kids playing their own version of musical chairs.

Group 1 – A group of boys was playing musical chairs together, and they were interested in playing by the rules. Therefore, they asked me to dictate when to stop, so that they could properly eliminate a player each time. Most of the boys had fun, and there weren’t any major fall-outs (minus one boy who was angry that there weren’t even chairs for everyone…he was still learning the point of the game…)

Group 2 – A group of girls decided they wanted to play after watching the boys. However, they didn’t want my involvement in the game. One girl decided she would be in charge. She was deciding when everyone would stop and find a seat, but she was also a player in the game! Therefore, she won the game every time. Her friends didn’t understand how she kept winning… Go figure! (After a few rounds of her winning, I walked over and asked how they were determining when to stop. The girls told me that a certain girl was dictating that. After I asked that question, that girl started letting other girls win the game… J She realized that I caught on to her winning strategy.)

Group 3 – All of the boys, but one decided that they wanted to play something else. So, that one boy asked if he could play musical chairs by himself… I tried to explain to him how that wouldn’t really work because he would always win! He laughingly put the last chair away because he understood that he couldn’t play alone, but he liked the thought of winning every time!

As I was watching their comical attempts to carry out a game of musical chairs, I thought about the issue with Groups 2 and 3. The main issue was… CONTROL. The girls didn’t want my involvement because then the girl in charge wouldn’t be in control anymore. She wouldn’t be able to control when the game stopped and started; thus, she may actually get out during the game (which isn’t what she wanted). Therefore, Group 2 would rather play a rigged, unfair game of musical chairs instead of playing it correctly. Why? Because the leader didn’t want to risk losing. The boy in Group 3 was trying to be funny because He understood that of course he would win every time if he played the game alone, but he saw the lack of competition as an opportunity for him to finally win! In each of these groups, there was a struggle for control.

A struggle for control is my long-time enemy. I think I want control. I make decisions so that I can be in control. I worry over situations when I’m not in control. I try to control things that are completely out of my control, and so then I just stress and worry about those situations even more when I realize that my attempts to control are pointless. I try to control situations in my daughter’s life because I want her to make the right choices and I don’t want her to come into harm’s way. I try to control my marriage. I may try to submit to my husband, but then I nag or worry in ways that can hopefully give me some influence (aka control) in certain situations. I want to control major life decisions our family. I pray about those decisions, but then I try to take back the reins or I just hold onto the worry from the unknown. Can anyone else relate to the struggle for control???

Let’s take a look at Psalm 16. This is one of my all-time favorite Psalms because it reminds me that my focus should be on the Lord.

Psalm 16
            Preserve me, O God, for in you I take refuge.
            I say to the LORD, “You are my Lord;
                        I have no good apart from you.
            As for the saints in the land, they are the excellent ones,
                        in whom is all my delight.
            The sorrows of those who run after another god shall multiply;
                        their drink offerings of blood I will not pour out
                        or take their names on my lips.
            The LORD is my chosen portion and my cup;
                        you hold my lot.
            The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
                        indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.
            I bless the LORD who gives me counsel;
                        in the night also my heart instructs me.
            I have set the LORD always before me;
                        because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken.
            Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices;
                        my flesh also dwells secure.
            For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol,
                        or let your holy one see corruption.
            You make known to me the path of life;
                        in your presence there is fullness of joy;
                        at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”

When I find myself struggling with wanting to control things that are not mine to control, I am reminded of this Psalm. Let’s see what we can learn from these uplifting verses:
-       God is in control. He is the one who “holds my lot.” That’s much better news that if I controlled my own lot.
-       God is a place of refuge. When I feel anxious are worried about circumstances in my life, I need to remember that God, who is good, holds my lot, and that He is a place of refuge for my weary and anxious soul.
-       God reveals to us what we need to know. The psalmist said that God made known to Him the path of life. He also wrote that the Lord gave Him counsel. Whatever was going on in the psalmist’s life during the time he penned this psalm, he confessed that God made known the paths of life to Him. God will do the same for us, maybe not in our desired timeframe and maybe not the exact answers we hoped for, but He will reveal to us what He desires for us to know. We can trust that He has our good and His glory at heart.
-       There is joy in God’s presence. Even in the midst of uncertainty, we can still have joy. Why? Because if we are close to the Lord and in the midst of His presence, we can find joy in Him, even if our circumstances are not pleasant.
-       The best thing that we can have is a relationship with God. To know God is our greatest treasure. Therefore, even when times are uncertain or difficult, we can still confess with the psalmist that we have no good apart from our God. It is better to dive into knowing God more intimately rather than attempting to control things that are not for us to control.

-       READ/STUDY: Read through Psalm 16 again. Also, read Proverbs 3:1-8.
-       EVALUATE: What verses in Proverbs 3 stand out to you? How does the Lord challenge us through these two passages to trust Him, rather than trust in ourselves? In what areas of your life do you struggle to relinquish control? What is the root issue of your desire for control?
-       PRAY: Ask the Lord to enable you to trust Him and His control even when your flesh desires to control circumstances in your own life. Ask Him to show you the areas in your life that you need to submit to His lordship. Ask Him to give you peace as you desire to trust Him with the unknowns in your life.

When my students were attempting to control the game of musical chairs, it was quite comical to me. It wasn’t comical to them; the girl who was in charge thought she was pretty smart! But to me, I knew it was silly (and unfair!). When we try to control things in our lives, it must seem pretty silly to the Lord because He knows that we aren’t really in charge and He knows that if we were in charge, we’d most likely make a huge mess of things. Why? Because we aren’t sovereign, we’re not always good, and we are not infinitely wise. We don’t always have the glory of God as our aim. God, however, is sovereign, always good, infinite in wisdom and power, and always His glory as His aim. So, it is much better if He’s in control, not us! Praise Him for his goodness as He leads and guides us. Praise Him that He is patient with us, even when we foolishly grasp for control. Praise Him that we can say with the psalmist that we have no good apart from our God and that we find immense joy in knowing Him! I pray that you are able to trust Him more as you seek to trust His plan for your life instead of your own!

Always, Jacquelyn

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

What Bruises and Facebook Have in Common

Two rather unpleasant things have come to my attention lately. One has to do with bruises, and this revelation came through my husband. The other has to do with Facebook, and this revelation came through my daughter. After explaining, I bet you can relate to one or both of these unpleasant realizations.


Recently, I’ve noticed that I always have bruised knees. I kept trying to think what I did to acquire these bruises. Then, I remembered that I am a pre-k teacher and am always on my knees setting up a learning center or reading a story or cleaning up an accident. The latest bruise is from a dump truck that came flying down the hill at me when I was tying someone’s shoe. I used to be proud of my bruises because I thought it meant that I was tough (and I rarely have cool, discolored bruises because I don’t do things that could possibly cause bodily harm because I am a chicken!) I don’t bruise easily, so when I do have a bruise, it must mean something painful happened. Now, I’m not so proud of bruises because I am more aware now that they contrast far to noticeably against my year-round glowing white skin… My sister, Jessica, does bruise easily. She actually has huge bruises most of the time. The funny thing is, she doesn’t know where most of them come from! She thinks maybe from cutting corners to quickly and running into the counter or just chasing around her five kiddos. J (Love you, Jess!)

Physically, I don’t bruise easily. Emotionally, I bruise wayyyyyy too easily. The other night, Patrick and I were talking about something (I don’t even remember the topic), and he said something that put me a little “off.” I honestly have no clue what it was, but whatever it was, it offended me. So from that second, my entire demeanor changed. I stopped contributing to the conversation. I started giving flat, one-word answers. He looked up at me, and said, “So, that offended you??” As soon as he said it, I tried to act like I didn’t have a bad attitude, but truthfully, yes, the minor statement that he said (that obviously wasn’t that important because I can’t even tell you the topic of the conversation!) offended me. This small incident showed me that I am too easily offended. Being easily offended is a sign of pride because it shows that my attitude was along the lines of, “How dare he say that to me in that way? I’m offended now, and I’ll show him. I’ll start pouting! Hmmph!” Wow, how many preschoolers live in my home??? I don’t want to be easily offended by people, but many times, I am. I get my feelings hurt too easily and my body language changes immediately. (I know my parents have seen lots of this in my teen years… Dad, can you testify to this?? J) So this “emotional bruising” was the first unpleasant thing that has resurfaced recently.


The second unpleasant realization came when Riley Grace was taking a bath the other night. I was in the bathroom and had picked up my phone to check either Facebook or my email while she was playing the tub. She was talking to me the whole time about the game she was playing with her bath puppets and I was responding to her while still focused on my phone. Finally, she said, “Mama, stop looking at your phone. Look at me!” I was immediately convicted. I do NOT want her memories of her mama to be of me glued to a screen instead of looking her in the face and giving her my attention. I want to give my attention to the important relationships in my life, not my email or my Facebook “friends,” all of which can wait until Riley Grace is in bed. I don’t want her to remember or learn this behavior about me, and I certainly don’t want her to learn this behavior from me. When she’s old enough to have a phone, I know as a mom, I’m not going to want her to be on her phone 24/7, looking at her phone while she’s responding to me about something. I’m going to want her full attention. I don’t want her to be disrespectful. I don’t want her to be distracted. I don’t want her to be rude. But if I am glued to my phone and act those ways toward her because I think, “She’s playing; she won’t notice,” then I’m wrong about that. She will notice. She has noticed. And she will learn that it’s the norm if I don’t guard against an addiction to electronics at the expense of relationships with my family and being “in the moment” with them. Talk about convicting!

Besides the fact that these realizations were not “fun” to have, I am thankful that the Lord uses the ones I love to reveal things about me that need to change so that I can look more like Him and love my family more. I don’t want to be offended every time Patrick and I have a conversation. I don’t want Riley Grace to have to ask me to stop looking at my phone. I want to be present and loving and full of grace and humility in my relationships with them. Even things that seem harmless, like my phone, or things that may seem justifiable, like being offended if Patrick said something that hurt my feelings, are not ok. We need to notice those things about ourselves, and rather than trying to hide them or excuse them, we need to ask God to help us change the things that don’t look like Him, don’t point others to Christ, or don’t make others feel loved. As believers, we don’t want to settle into those bad habits. They aren’t harmless things, even if they seem minor. If the habits/attitudes/actions don’t point others to Christ, then they need to go!

-       READ/STUDY: I encourage you to read all of Colossians 3. This passage talks about setting your mind on things above, where Christ is seated, not on earthly things. Paul explains things that we should “put off” and things that we should “put on” so that we can be clothed in Christ rather than in clothed in things/attitudes of this world. Also, read and pray through Psalm 139:23-24, asking the Lord to search your heart and reveal these sinful areas to you.
-       EVALUATE: Read these verses closely and carefully. Don’t rush! What worldly things do you need to “put off,” and what godly things do you need to “put on” in order to have more fruitful and loving relationships?  
-       PRAY: Ask the Lord to reveal to you what areas of your life are hindering your relationships with others. These revelations may be painful or embarrassing (I certainly was embarrassed and taken aback when Riley Grace asked me to stop looking at my phone and look at her!), but it will be worth it in the long run for these issues to come into the light so that you can confront them and move forward in more Christ-centered relationships! Ask the Lord to help you make changes in these areas so that you can look more like Christ each day and better love the people that He’s placed in your life.  

So, what do bruises and Facebook have in common?... Well, in my life, they reveal areas of my heart that are sinful and need the Lord to change. They reveal things that hinder meaningful relationships with my family because I'm focusing on myself rather than focusing on my loved ones.

What about you? Do you bruise easily (on the inside)? Do you need to put down your phone? Or is there something else in your life that the Lord is revealing to you that you need to change in order to look more like Christ? Don’t beat yourself up about those things, but don’t ignore them either. Instead of shoving them under the rug, confront them! I know that I will be more blessed by spending time involved in Riley Grace’s bath puppet game rather than scrolling through pictures of people I don’t even know on Facebook. I will be more blessed by continuing on in my conversation with Patrick so that we can grow together instead of becoming immediately offended at something, and thus ending any hope of a productive conversation. Friends, we will be blessed (even if it hurts at first) by confronting these areas with the Lord’s grace and strength! Ask Him to gently reveal these things to you, and help you to be free from them so you can look more like His child!  

Always, Jacquelyn

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Can You Handle Today?

Riley Grace is a singer. She sings all day long without stopping. She sings songs that she knows (or thinks she knows), and she makes up songs about completely random topics. Sometimes, her singing is soft and soprano, and other times it is powerful, passionate, and a bit through the nose! There are usually several key changes within each song. J Lately, she and I have been listening to Bethany (Dillion) Barnard’s new CD, “To Those Who Wait” and her EP on repeat. (Side note: If you’re looking for new music, I highly recommend those two albums. They have greatly ministered to me these past few weeks!) She has learned about half of the songs. Every time we get in the car, she has a song request. The song request as of late is entitled, “To Those Who Wait.”

The other night, she was singing these lyrics in her bed while she was supposed to be sleeping:

“Lord, today….. Lord, today…. Lord, today… etc. “

So apparently, she hadn’t learned much of that song!

Here are some of the lyrics of “To Those Who Wait” by Bethany Barnard:

“Lord, today You know what I need to do. And You can do more in my waiting, than in my doing I could do. So I won’t run anymore. I’m waiting on You.”

“Oh my soul, wait on the Lord. Keep your lamp filled with oil. Oh my soul, be not deceived. Wait for Him; don’t be quick to leave.”

As I listened to her sing “Lord, today…” on repeat, the Lord gently showed me that she was singing the answer to my worries, doubts, anxieties, burdens, and fears. HE is the answer. The LORD GOD is our answer TODAY.

When my problems seem insurmountable, I can call on Him TODAY.

When I fail miserably and fall into the same sin that entangles me over and over, His mercies are new TODAY.

When my responsibilities overwhelm me and I think that God has entrusted me with too much, I can lean on His strength TODAY.

When hardships and sorrows are weighing me down, I can trust in His peace TODAY.

When the future seems uncertain, and even tomorrow causes immense worries in my heart and mind, I can trust in His goodness and sovereignty TODAY.

When I’m struggling to discern how He wants me to respond in a certain situation, I can trust in His guidance and wisdom TODAY.

When my flesh does not want to like or even love a certain person in my life, I can trust in His love for them to shine through me TODAY.

When I’m physically exhausted from a sleepless night, a whining or sick child (or children), a taxing work day, or any other emotionally and physically draining circumstance, I can trust in His rest TODAY.

We can trust Him TODAY, friend. He will give us everything that we need TODAY. But we have to ask for it daily, and we have to seek Him passionately and diligently for the answers. We have to meet with Him TODAY and each day so that we can receive His mercies every morning (Lamentations 3:23). They will sustain us throughout our day!

Friend, He knows what you need right now. He is a personal God. He knows what you need today. When you woke up this morning, He knew exactly what you’d face today. And He’s prepared to equip you with everything you need to face what you will face – but you have to seek the answers and the strength from Him! He knows and you know that your own strength is not enough. He desires to fulfill all of your needs, and most importantly, your greatest need – Himself. His Word promises that He fills the hungry with every good thing (Psalm 107:9). Jesus also reminds us that just as God provides for the lilies of the field and the birds of the air, how much more will He provide for His children whom He greatly loves? In that same passage, He commands us not to worry about tomorrow (Luke 12:22-34). That’s reallllly hard to do, but it’s a command, and we should seek to obey it. Don’t allow worries, doubts, and fears to steal away your joy today. Ask the Lord to sustain you TODAY, and keep coming back each day to ask Him the same thing! You will continue to see that He will always be faithful to you.

-       READ/STUDY:
o   Psalm 16:2 – “I say to the Lord, ‘You are my Lord. I have no good apart from You.”
o   Psalm 107:8-9 – “Let them thank the Lord for His steadfast love; for His wondrous works to the children of man! For HE SATISFIES THE LONGING SOUL, and the hungry soul He fills with good things.”
o   Lamentations 3:22-26 – “The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. ‘The LORD is my portion, says my soul, therefore I will hope in Him.’ The LORD is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul who seeks Him. It is good that one should wait quietly for the LORD.”
o   Matthew 5:6 – “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.”
o   Philippians 4:6-7 – “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, with prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” 
-       EVALUATE: Read these verses closely and carefully. Don’t rush! There’s so much truth and encouragement just within these four small passages. Can you say with the writer of Lamentations 3 that “the Lord is your portion?” Can you say with the author of Psalm 16 that you have no good apart from the Lord? What does the Lord promise for those who wait for Him? What does He promise to do for the hungry and thirsty? What does He promise for the anxious heart who releases their requests and petitions to Him instead of holding onto them? What do you personally need to release to Him TODAY? What do you need to trust Him with TODAY? How can you seek Him on a more intimate level TODAY?
-       PRAY: Ask the Lord to help you trust Him more each and every day. He knows what you are facing, and He already knows what you need, but He wants to hear it from you! Prayer builds your relationship and your trust in the Lord. Trust Him to love you and care for you as He has promised to do!

So, can you handle today? Not on your own strength.

Can you call on the Lord today? Absolutely!

And will He fulfill His promise to sustain you and provide you with everything you need to serve Him today? Definitely!

As you are going through your day today, remember the lyrics of Bethany Barnard’s song. Even if you can’t remember most of the lyrics, just remember the ones that Riley Grace sings on repeat: ”Lord, TODAY!” TODAY, He knows what you need, and He longs to prove faithful to you. He knows your desires, and He longs to fulfill them. Turn to Him first before you allow your mind to be filled with worries and doubts. He loves you, friend, and He is trustworthy TODAY and every day!

(Also, I encourage you to listen to “To Those to Wait” so that you can learn more than just “Lord, today…” J)

Always, Jacquelyn