For those Mommas who just, well, MISS the Lord

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At a friend’s encouragement I decided to write this down hoping it would serve to breathe life into some of your precious momma-hearts like it did mine when the Lord shared it with me…

I don’t know how many of you have, like myself, found yourself in the midst of raising young children, chasing toddlers, cleaning house, tending to cooking and caring for a husband, found yourself just plain MISSING your time with the Lord like you used to know it. I miss the days of 2 hour quiet times if I just felt like it. I could close my eyes, get lost in worship, in the Word, hearing his voice, and get heaven and his heart downloaded to me any given day I chose it. Then I became a momma… and my quiet times are far from daily (as I would have defined it before), far from “uninterrupted”, far from 2 hours long, and just plain not like it was before. After I first had children (specifically, more than one child. Judah was easy and I still got lots of time with the Lord then… it was the second child that sped my life up so drastically!) I really wrestled with condemnation, guilt, sadness, a sense of loss and frustration over my struggle to find time with the Lord. I would constantly hear zealous phrases I’ve heard in the past whispering “If you want it bad enough, you’ll do what it takes to get alone with Him.” or the comparative guilt trips of “I bet so-and-so still has awesome times with the Lord.” Even still, those old voices of comparison and guilt would sneak up to rob me of what meager times I MIGHT get with the Lord. So, in attempt to remedy the feelings of guilt, I would “do what it takes” to try and meet with him. And wouldn’t you know, those early mornings, late nights, or isolated naptimes for the boys would be the times they conveniently woke up early, stayed up late, or struggled to take a nap. I ended up more frustrated and sometimes, honestly, resentful at my children, for “stealing” my relationship with the Lord from me.

THE EPIPHANY…

A couple weeks ago I had the privilege, thanks to my generous husband, of being able to take a trip with some of our college students to a Hillsong concert in Houston. While there, the room was dark, the worship sweet, no one was asking me for juice or anything else, so I just sat down and enjoyed being still and quiet with the Lord. And I found myself, as I have sooo many other times, approaching him immediately with my “I’m sorry’s”… I’m sorry I haven’t had time with you like I want. I’m sorry I haven’t made time for you. I’m sorry I haven’t woken up early, stayed up to pray, read your word, etc… and the list goes on. Except these weren’t apologies led by holy Spirit’s gentle conviction, these were apologies, though sincere, that came more out of guilt and insufficiency. Then the Lord interrupted me. He said, “Jenilee, stop, darling. Stop apologizing. I see your life. Just take the moments of love when they are available. Seize the moments of love when you can, and enjoy it. Enjoy Me.” I began to explain myself, still feeling like somehow that was unfair to him, given my apparent lack of devotion indicated by my lack of disciplined quiet times that I used to enjoy. And he went on in His Wisdom: “Jenilee, I want you to think of my servant, David. He is the only man acclaimed to have a heart after mine. The only man I said that about, in scripture. And often the picture is of him having ethereal, blissful, spiritual moments in the quiet fields with no one to interrupt him, but look closer. He was a shepherd, as you are. He shepherded sheep, you shepherd your children. He may have wanted to close his eyes and get lost in hours of blissful worship, as you do, but he couldn’t afford that. He had many little sheep that needed constant attention. He had to bring them to water, bring them to food, keep them corralled, chase them down when they wandered, keep a constant eye out for wolves, bears, lions, and then kill the beasts when they challenged the safety of his lambs…. much like you do. You have to feed and nurture your children, keep them in safe places, watch constantly that the enemy is not attempting to prey on them, and then you must stand up against the enemy when he dares to touch your child. You must constantly be alert, as a shepherd. There are moments of quiet, but even in those moments of quiet, you are watching, listening, caring. Just like my servant David. yet, he took the moments of love. He sang while he watched. He listened to my voice, while he scanned the herd for wandering sheep. He drew on my strength and wisdom when he fought beasts. He grew to know me, though his times with me did not look much like what you used to experience, yet he knew me and sought my heart, even amidst the distractions, the constant watching and tending. And, though shepherding was a very simple job to the outside eye, I saw what it created inside him, and I saw him worthy to be established as a king. You will shepherd children for many years, and it may feel somewhat aimless at times, and even like you’re giving up much of your greatest potential in order to just wipe noses or scrub behind ears, and it may feel that there is greatness within you just lying there, waiting, untapped. Yet, at the right moment, those years of faithfulness and commitment and care are laying a foundation for you to step into the “kingship” seasons that you sense reside quietly inside. When you feel your parenthood is an obstacle, the menial tasks of raising children “pointless”, remember my servant David, and continue on in your faithfulness, encouraged that it is not a waste, it is not fruitless, it is not wasting an ounce of what I’ve placed in you. The greatest king of Israel spent the majority of his life raising sheep… and yet he made a great king of Israel because he seized the moments of love when they were available and allowed me to build him into a King. Don’t apologize. Just seize the love when you can, and enjoy me when you can, and realize this season of your life is bearing more fruit in you than most would see or appreciate. But I see. I know. And I love it. Thank you for shepherding my children to love me.”That’s all it took. That’s all I needed to hear. I hope it encourages you as it did me. Truly, the Lord knows the word that sustains the weary, and I’m so grateful for it. ūüôā

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“Love’s Most Perfect Dance”

This was a poem I wrote back in 2003 for my Core when I was a Core Advisor back at Teen Mania. ¬†It was in honor of them, really, for Valentine’s Day. ¬†Gosh, I remember spending forever on this, praying for something good I could write for them (since I was super duper short on cash and had no other gifts to give them.) ¬†It resurfaced today when I was going through some old things on a book shelf and I thought it was good enough to share. ¬†I think this was probably the last poem I wrote. ¬†I hope you enjoy!!

 

Love’s most Perfect Dance

 

The gentle fog rolls across the sand, enveloping this woman and this man.

They stand hand in hand, eyes locked in a gaze, 

Peering into the deepest parts of their souls, astounded, astonished, and amazed.

The gentle splish and splash of the foamy waves engulf their feet

The seagulls speak softly, their overhead presence discreet.

The sun rests it’s brilliant head on the outstretched horizon,

Brilliant colors creep forth: orange, red, gold, all brazen.

Their silhouette is captivating; tender and unrelenting.

The passion in their eyes so contained, yet quietly exploding and penetrating.

He softly lifts his hand to her face; her knees seem to quake.

And as he parts his lips to speak, breathlessly, she waits.

He forms his words carefully, speaking with utmost convict

And in a moment she drops to her knees, healing tears down her cheek quietly slip.

He lovingly stoops to the ground and lifts her to her feet.

He places hers on his and whispers, “Dance with me.”

They slowly spin and sway, with perfectly angelic ease,

He leans in and whispers soft, entreating her with this plea:

“When all the world has stopped the music of this dance,

you step back onto my feet and let my love enhance…

Where you once were rejected, I long to embrace.

Where you once were unworthy, I lavish my grace.

Where you once were forgotten, you are always on my mind.

You’re my perfect and Pleasing One; you are my waited for Bride!”

She lifts her face to his, gaze steady and entranced, 

And whispers, “My Savior, my King. ¬†Please, teach me to dance.”

 

-Jenilee Lott 2/14/03

That is “so YOU” and I love it…

The way you bite your nails. ¬†The way you crinkle your¬†nose when you’re thinking about… whatever it is

you’re thinking about. ¬†The way you get excited over coffee but couldn’t care less about Disneyland. ¬†The unique things that make you “so-you” make you irreplaceable to me. ¬†These are the things I want to focus on when I think about YOU.

We all go through times where we take those we love for-granted or just treat them with less esteem than they deserve. ¬†We probably find ourselves doing that most easily with family or those closest to us. ¬†I started to wonder, and ask myself why in the world the ones who are most precious are the ones I easily treat the worst! ¬†Is it because I don’t REALLY love them? ¬†No. ¬†That’s not it at all. ¬†Is it because I’m too consumed with myself and my own life? ¬†Maybe. ¬†But not totally. ¬†Sometimes it was as though I’d be looking at my husband but not really SEEING him. ¬†Interacting with my kids on auto-pilot, but not really being AWARE of them. ¬†Hmm…

Then it clicked.

I was not relating to them as individuals, constantly aware of their personhood, I was relating to them according to what they represented to me.

For example. ¬†My husband is Stephen. ¬†But on a daily basis, he is my bill-payer, he is my bug-killer, he is the father of my children, he is the one I cook for and clean up after, he is my helper with the house hold responsibilities, he is my grass-mower, trash-taker-outer, listening ear, and fellow minister. ¬†He is all these things to me on a practical level. ¬†And so long as I’m functioning on “do-or-die” mode in life, I will likely not slow down enough to see past all the things and chores he represents to me, in order to see HIM. ¬†And that is when I treat him carelessly. ¬†See, its easy to mistreat a bug-killing-trash-taking-lawn-mowing person because they just represent a lot of separate functions. ¬†But when I stop and make myself see deeper than the jobs he fulfills to the unique creation that he is with thoughts, feelings, ambitions, hopes, insecurities, and loves, all of a sudden I become aware of the heart of this man, and even more aware of how my behavior and words have either been enhancing him, neglecting him, or wounding him.

Wow.

You see, it takes work, and intentional effort to stop and engage in people. ¬†Even to stop and engage in ourselves, or in the Lord. ¬†But if we don’t, we will move through life treating people as service-men, treating ourselves like a machine, and treating the Lord like a religious-system rather than treating all our relationships with value and honor.

So, as simple of a revelation that this was, it really helped me to see my own need for stopping the busy rhythm of my life, even if just in my own head and spinning thoughts, to take the time and engage.  Engage in the Lord and His ever-present-companionship.  Engage in the ones around me and take the time to notice them and the unique things that make them special to me.  Engage in my own heart, see deeply inside myself and simplify.

Given this valuable revelation, I have started a new little habit, tiny, but I believe will add a richness to all of my relationships. ¬†I have started challenging myself to, when I think about someone, stop long enough and let my thoughts linger on them and what it is about them that makes them so very special to me, un-duplicated by any other human being. ¬†What is it about them that makes them “so-them“? ¬†Then, as I become better and better at identifying those things (because it can be a challenge at first!), I begin to express those things to those people when given the chance. ¬†Be it a hand written card, an email, a text or in person. ¬†Any way I do it, it will mean a lot to them, and it will simply deepen my appreciation for everyone around me, and hopefully also make me more aware of how I treat people. ¬†I want to live a life that sows honor and value into people. ¬†I think this is putting me on the right track. ¬†ūüôā

I cor. 13:13 ¬†“So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”

Thanks for reading!!

Understanding: a lesson learned in parenting

Understanding…

I frequently think about life a few years from now, to anticipate hang ups or snares, and make a plan for them. ¬†Like Proverbs says, “A prudent man sees danger and takes refuge, but the simple keep going and suffer for it”, I figure that if there are challenges most parents complain about, surely there’s a way to take a different route and see a different

Jenilee and Judah walking together in the park

Pregnant with Levi, walking with Judah through the park enjoying some time together.

outcome. ¬†So, I frequently wonder about the teen years of my children and what they will look like. ¬†Many times when I was with our youth kids they would tell me something and I’d ask if they had told their parents and they would say, “What?! No way! I can’t tell my parents THAT!” ¬†Finally one day I asked my car-full of youth girls as we travelled home from a youth event, “Girls, what is it that your parents do that makes you feel like you can’t talk to them?” ¬†They thought for a minute, and without exception, though their examples varied, the bottom line problem they agreed upon was this: “they don’t understand where we are coming from.” ¬†I thought about this and followed with another question, “Don’t you think they probably do? They were teenagers before too, and you will be parents one day. ¬†What makes you think they don’t understand?” ¬†Here the answers varied a bit more but were not a surprise: “Well they just get angry and never want to know how I feel.” ¬†“They don’t really listen to me!” ¬†“They only care about what they think is important!” ¬†What I heard in all their answers was this: My parents don’t hear me, see me, or value my feelings as important. ¬†Granted, parents have been there, done that during their teen years and they have a very different perspective looking back in retrospect. ¬†Its so clear to them what to do when you can look back on a thing, but what they forget is that when you’re in the¬†middle¬†of it¬†right now, it IS a big deal, and it IS important, and it DOES hurt. ¬†And that’s what those girls were saying. ¬†“Meet me where I’m at and show me you care, even if it’s not¬†yourconcern.” ¬†What a valuable thing to learn: Understanding. ¬†What a difference this one thing makes in relationships.

As I thought back over my relationship with the Lord and about all the different times I was an emotional wreck, or a confused wreck, or just plain a wreck of a wreck, and I would go to him for counsel, interestingly enough, he would always meet me where I was at: he would meet my emotional needs FIRST, and then tend to the matter. ¬†If I was hurt, he would comfort me and console me with understanding. ¬†He didn’t endorse lie-based emotions by telling me how I felt was “normal”, but he DID make me feel that truth or not, the way I felt still mattered to Him. ¬†As his love and understanding comforted my heart and brought the healing needed, then he would gently bring me the truth of the situation. ¬†That is when he would tenderly bring loving correction, or would show me where I was wrong and how it had hurt me, or even would show me where I needed to go and make things right. ¬†Whatever it was, he brought me truth; but not before he brought me LoVe. ¬† Love heals and nourishes the way for truth to land on good soil.

Now, how does this apply to my little three-year old? Given this principle of¬†understanding¬†I began to ask the Lord to help me lay a foundation of understanding with my boys now, that way trust would be developed and our relationship would be built on a trusting foundation of placing value on the other’s perspective and feelings. ¬†This so that by the time the teen years reach us, we will already be heading in the right direction. ¬†See, I knew that if I waited until the teenager years to try to develop an understanding stance toward them, they would see it as an insincere effort because our entire relationship history would have already been built on a different dynamic.

One night as I tucked Judah into bed, we talked about the evening we had just had. ¬†There had been some spankings and some tears and so I was taking the opportunity to teach him a little more about the situation. ¬† At one point he said, “Yeah, and when me and Levi wouldn’t eat our hot-dogs, you were being mean, Mommy.” ¬†I remembered the scenario: hotdogs, ketchup, dinner time, and the never ending challenge of getting them to eat what I put in front of them. ¬†This time, however, I was tired. ¬†Daddy was out of the country and I was more than ready for bed, so my patience was thin and I was harsh. I spanked them more out of frustration than correction. ¬†As Judah reminded me of this, I was about to correct him with, “No honey, mommy wasn’t being mean, you were being disobedient so mommy needed to correct you-” when the Holy Spirit came gently to me and quickened to me, “He is telling you how he feels in three-year-old language. ¬†Honor that, and honor him.” ¬†Wow. ¬†Yes he was. ¬†He wasn’t accusing me of being mean. ¬†He was telling me that I was treating him with a meanness that hurt his feelings. ¬†My tone quickly changed as I corrected myself and softened and said, “Judah, you’re right. ¬†Mommy did get mean, and I am so sorry. ¬†I should not have spanked you in the way that I did. ¬†Mommy was upset and I took it out on you boys and got angry. ¬†I am so so sorry. ¬†That was wrong and I hurt your feelings. ¬†Will you forgive me?” ¬†He looked at me with so much grace and gently said, “Its ok Mommy, we can try again tomorrow” as he reached out to hug me. ¬†Wow. ¬†What forgiveness. ¬†And what grace. ¬†And what a mended relationship. ¬†If I had just forsook his feelings and pursued arrogantly my agenda of teaching him and putting him in his place, his little heart would have gone unseen, his little voice unheard, and our relationship wounded. ¬†However, after I took the time to hear him and tend to his feelings and repent for my sin (because it WAS wrong that I spanked him in anger like I did), I gently explained why it was so frustrating that they did not eat their dinner. ¬†He nodded in understanding to what I shared, and easily agreed to eat his dinner the next time. ¬† And he did!! ¬†(And he made sure I knew he did too!) ūüôā

The bottom line is this: in any relationship, if we fail to honor each other by treating one another with understanding, then our relationships will slowly deteriorate, one wound at a time. ¬†We were designed to need understanding in relationships. ¬†In and of itself, understanding carries a healing essence to it. ¬†Why else is counselling and having a “listening ear” so beneficial to people?

Proverbs 11:12 says “A man who lacks judgment derides his neighbor, but a man of¬†understanding¬†holds his tongue.” ¬† Most times, the doorway to listening with understanding ears is simply to hold our tongue, and reallyhear¬†what the other person is saying. ¬†To hear past the words, to what their heart is trying to communicate.

Proverbs 18:2 “A fool finds no pleasure in¬†understanding¬†but delights in airing his own opinions.” ¬† and Proverbs 20:5¬†“The purposes of a man’s heart are deep waters, but a man of¬†understanding¬†draws them out.” ¬†If our form of discipline looks more like “airing my own opinions” than drawing out the deep waters of the heart, according to scripture we are not likely in a position of understanding. ¬†Listening is a lost art that is crucial to healthy relationships. ¬†Listen to hear and see the person you are talking to, not just to see when you can insert your next good point. ¬†If you have children, try approaching them from a stand point of understanding. ¬†This doesn’t mean that you have to tell them they are right, it just means you offer validation to how they feel, and show them that it matters to you. ¬†Understanding brings so much healing and establishes trust in a relationship. ¬†Treat them with the same kind of understanding that you hope someone offers you in your next moment of crisis… and watch as the healing waters of love and honor nourish and restore the relationship. ¬†For some, this may take longer than others. ¬†And for you, this may begin with more than just a habit change, but an actual heart change. ¬†Wherever it begins for you, take the challenge. ¬†It is worth it if it means peace in your home and more obedient children (which also means they will be safer and healthier if they are obeying you!). ¬†Start today, start now. ¬†Start with yourself, take responsibility, confess and repent to your children if necessary for not treating them more carefully. ¬†And allow the Lord to teach you and give you wisdom on how to treat them with the same honor he treats us with.

Proverbs 24:3 “By wisdom a house is built, and through¬†understanding¬†it is established;”

Me and Judah

Me and Judah while on a walk