Each day I am overwhelmingly grateful for my life. I have a comfortable house, a well stocked pantry, and two reliable vehicles. My family is overall healthy and safe. We live on a tight budget but we make the most of the simple things in life...things like s'mores in the backyard, attending church together, movies on Netflix, family dinners with lots of laughter and of course lots of football and baseball games.
More than that, I am grateful for how my children continue to grow in their knowledge and love for Christ. They love to serve others and have a heart for ministry.
But there are times when I want more. Times like today when I wish my house was bigger with more rooms and a larger kitchen. Not because I want more space for me or my family, but so that we would have the room to serve more baseball players. More rooms for more beds for them to sleep in. A bigger kitchen so we could cook more food for them to eat after a game.
Sometimes it's easy to look at what we don't have and wish for more. Sometimes the little doubts make me wonder why we open our home. It's not very big and we already have 6 people living here. Sometimes I wonder if the players would be more comfortable staying with a family with a bigger home. Sometimes I think about how much more we could do if we just had more.
But then God speaks to my heart and shows me that we don't need bigger or more to be like Him. To be like Christ we just need to be willing to serve others right where we are with what we have. To impact others for Christ we don't need stuff we need to build relationships.
That's what we did with Mateo and that's what we're beginning to do with Jonathon and Ronald. As we sat with them at the table tonight after the game, just talking and laughing as they ate their dinner, a new relationship began. A relationship around Latino food and family. Two things that the Carlson's do well.
It was a great picture to me of what God calls each of us to do. He doesn't want us to wait for a bigger house, more money, special training or a job in a church to make us feel like we're equipped to impact our part of the world. He wants us to look around at work, in our communities, in our schools and in our neighborhoods for opportunities to serve others and build relationships. When we build those relationships then we get the joy of sharing Christ.
We don't know how long Jonathon and Ronald will be in our home. We have learned that professional baseball is a business and can sometimes be a cruel one. Players are moved up or down, traded or released based on performance or on what benefits the organization at the time.
What we do know is that we will continue to build relationships with the guys as long as they are here in our home. We will love them like family and feed them like Carlson's. We will strive to reflect Christ in everything that we do.
"Everything is permissible"--but not everything is beneficial.
"Everything is permissible"--but not everything is constructive. (1 Cor. 10:23)
"We each have lots of rights. We have the right to life, friends, marriage, family, safety, security, health, and happiness. We have the right to eat, drink, watch, wear, read, study, listen to, and say whatever we want. We have the right to organize our schedule, spend our time, choose our career, make our money, use our money, take our vacation, and plan our retirement. We have the right to do what we want to do, go where we want to go, and live how we want to live. However, the cross compels us to surrender our rights for the sake of the gospel here and around the world." David Platt
The cross of Christ compels us to surrender all of our rights for the sake of the gospel...ALL of our rights. The cross of Christ compels us to rearrange our lives so that everything we do promotes the spread of the gospel.
Am I willing to rearrange my finances, vacations, free time, career, and relationships to make His Name known to the nations? How much of my daily life do I spend spreading the gospel of Christ? I can get so caught up in the day to day tasks of making a life and making ends meet that I forget my purpose. God has put me on this earth for one purpose...to make His Name known.
As Christians in America we can get so caught up in making a life for ourselves that we forget that this life is not about us. God did not create us and place us where we are so that we could spend our days striving for the things that make us happy. Our culture is obsessed with being happy. The media wants us to believe that if we're not happy then we need to go buy something, travel somewhere, meet someone new, pamper ourselves, etc.
Many in the church believe the same way except they add one little requirement...make sure you give a little something to the church first. And if you have lots of money, then give a little more to some other charitable organizations. If you do that then nobody can make any judgments about how you spend the rest. It's your money and as long as you give a little then you have the right to do whatever you want with the rest.
But that's not what the cross compels us to do.
The cross compels us to look at the 4.5 billion people who are on their way to spend an eternity in hell and ask "What can I do?"
The cross compels us to see the one billion people who do not have access to safe drinking water and ask, "What can I do?"
The cross compels us to put ourselves in the shoes of the two billion people who live on less than $2 a day and ask "What can I do?"
The cross compels us to fight for the 27 million people who are victims of modern day slavery by asking "What can I do?"
The cross compels us to weep for the 26,000 children who will die today from starvation or preventable diseases and to ask "What can I do?"
Can I believe the gospel and turn a deaf ear to those who are unreached and starving? And the answer to that question is absolutely not. It is impossible to truly believe in the gospel of Christ and turn a deaf ear to those who’ve never heard of Him or those who are starving outside our doorstep.(David Platt)
Ephesians 6:4 says "Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord."
How do we bring our children up in the training and instruction of the Lord? How do we give our influence more weight when it matters most? How do we teach them the importance of a personal walk with Christ? I think it depends on one very important factor.....relationship!!
A relationship that begins when our children are young. A relationship that invests time in the daily lives of our children. A relationship that looks for teachable moments in the every day interactions. Its like an apprenticeship. It begins while the learner is still young and in his learning process. An apprentice observes every move and follows his teacher's instruction. The apprentice learns much more than a profession, for he is being taught a whole way of life.
This concept of learning a whole way of life is inherent in "bring them up". Through word and personal example parents will nurture their children and teach them what it means to live for Christ in a practical, daily sense. Parents can nourish and replenish, guide and coach their children.
As a mom to teenagers, I see everyday how vitally important my relationship with them can be. They are beginning to make major life decisions and I want my influence to have weight. I want them to listen when I give them guidance. I don't want to guilt them or beat them over the head with the Bible. I want my influence to be a natural outflow of our relationship that has been built through the early years of their lives.
If I want my influence to continue to have weight when they leave for college, start a career, choose a mate and raise their own children, then I must make sure that I'm doing what I can today to strengthen my relationship with them. And that is not an easy task....especially when the teenage years become difficult and they ignore my influence.
When the days get difficult, I have to continue to point them to Jesus in every area of their life. I have to continue to speak into their lives even if they don't seem to be listening. And most importantly I have to deal with my own heart. I have to make sure that it is focused on God and that I am parenting His way not mine!! I must depend on Christ's guidance to help me speak wisdom when needed and be quiet when needed.
I have missed many opportunities along the way to strengthen the relationships with my kids. I have allowed circumstances in life to distract me and have many times ignored the teachable moments because I was just too tired. However, I am thankful for the relationships that I'm building with my kids.
We have lots of struggles. There are good days and bad days and even really really bad days. But through it all, my desire is to bring my children up to love God, love others and serve God wholeheartedly.
When they become adults with families of their own, I want them to be excited to load their families up to come visit me and their Dad. I want there to be mutual honor and respect between all of us. I don't want to undermine their marriages or their roles as parents, even when we disagree on how things are done.
With that goal in mind, I have to be intentional about building relationship every single day. I have to guide, nourish and take advantage of every teachable moment. Each day I must ask myself, "What do I need to do today to bring my children up in the Lord?"
This month is full of things to celebrate. Last week we celebrated the high school graduation of our oldest son Christian. This week we're celebrating our daughter Madison's birthday as well as Father's Day.
Rich and Madison share a special bond. It's been there since the day we found out we were having a girl. From the moment she was born, he was smitten. He loves her in a special way that only a Daddy can love his little girl.
Today she turns 13 and I know it's tough for Daddy to see his little girl growing up. (It's not so easy for mom either)
I created this video for Madison's special day to honor her and also as a gift for her daddy.
Happy Birthday Madison!! I love you and I am so grateful to get to be your mom!!
And Happy Father's Day Rich!! I am so blessed to have you as a partner on this journey of parenting and our kids are privileged to have you as their Dad!!!
When you think of the "Mafia" what do you think of? Guns? "The Godfather"? Criminals living above the law?
When I think of the mafia, I think of blackmail, extortion, killing anyone who calls you out or threatens your way of life, retaliation, and protecting "the family" at all costs.
I think as believers we can sometimes live with a "Christian Mafia" mentality. I know that sounds really strange but let me explain.
In the mafia, everyone has a secret crime that can be exposed if the need arises. The threat of that will convince people to keep quiet about the crimes of others. As Christians, we're all sinners and we have our pet sin that we don't want to let go of or maybe a secret sin that we don't want exposed.
So if a brother or sister brings attention to that sin, how do we respond? Do we acknowledge that struggle in our lives and ask for God's help? No, many times we immediately look for a weakness in the other person so we can exploit it. Because if we exploit their weakness then maybe they will leave us alone about our own. And we can continue to go on living life the way we see fit.
We let pride take over and disillusion ourselves into thinking that we're not the one with the problem. The other person has the problem!! And when it's someone else's problem then we have no ownership of it. No ownership means no responsibility.
We're not willing to look deep within and ask God to reveal those areas in our lives that are robbing us of a closer relationship with Christ. Our freedom to do what we want becomes more important than surrendering it all to Christ. We choose to ignore godly confrontation because we don't like what God's Word really says. We're comfortable just snacking on the parts of the Bible that talk about freedom and grace while ignoring the parts about obedience and holiness.
It can also work the other way as well. We can see a brother or sister walking in sin, but feel unworthy to address it because of our own sin. We're too afraid to offend or cause conflict that might lead to hurt feelings or maybe even the death of a relationship. So we pretend that it doesn't really matter. We may even ignore the Spirit prompting us to discuss it with our brother or sister.
I challenge you to think about your mentality the next time a brother or sister brings attention to sin in your life. Before you plan a "hit" on their life, honestly ask yourself if there is truth to their message based on God's Word. They could be wrong but just maybe they're right and you have a Christian Mafia mentality.
Last night as I was thinking about summer break, I decided to see how many days we would have until Christian goes to college. So I go online and find one of those countdown sites. So I enter the date and this is what I get:
The number of days immediately jumped out at me. That's Christian's football number and on social media he's known as Big_Carl66! It may sound weird, but I felt like it was God's way of reminding me to make the most of the next 66 days with Christian and the family.
My plan is to do something memorable each day for the next 66 days!!! I'm looking for simple things that cost little to no money but that give us the opportunity to make a fun memory as a family!!
We got the summer started tonight with a bonfire and s'mores!!! We had a great time!! Now to figure out what to do on the next 65 days!!!
Do you have a bucket list of times you plan to do this summer? What are some things on your list?
I am a Christian, a wife, a mom, a VBS crafter, a coupon clipper, a thrift store shopper, a football fan, a cook, a student of the Bible and an avid reader.