The way people treat you – isn’t so much about you.

Back when I was in high school, I remember being greatly affected in my psyche, from hour to hour, by the way people treated me.  If someone smiled at me – it could send me soaring.  but then if someone didn’t smile at me – it could sadden me for hours.  I cried out to the Lord desperately for His help with this terrible flaky feature in my life.

He shared with me a Life Truth that set me free.  And the real beauty of it is that every one of my children have needed this understanding at some time in their life journey, to lighten their hearts when someone has hurt their heart.  I think most moms experience the eventual pain – of someone treating their child in a way that crushes your child’s heart and yours consequently.

This is what I have comforted mine with – time after time.

The Lord told me “The way people treat you most often reflects their heart towards Me.  If they love you and are good to you – they generally love Me.  If they are ugly or rude to you – that also reflects their heart towards Me.  So never take too personally the way that people treat you, but see beyond yourself to what their heart reveals toward Me.”

What I have noticed my whole life long is that this prevents you from becoming prideful when people applaud you – you recognize them as beautiful people themselves, with good hearts.  And likewise, you never need to be offended by hurtful people, but see their hurting ways as a cry for help or love.  And take that as your cue to love them.  And teach your children that “hurting people hurt other people”.  And the more hurtful a person acts, the more they need our love, prayers and friendship.

Encourage your kids to feel the heart of Jesus and the pain He must feel when people reject His great love.  And then how to go beyond themselves, and love as Jesus would have and ultimately did.

1 John 4: 7-8 “Beloved, let us love one another.  For love is of God, and everyone that loveth is born of God and knoweth God.  He that loveth not, knoweth not God, for God is love.”

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Yet…will I trust Him!

Habakkuk 3:17 says “Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord and I will be joyful in God my Savior.”  My study Bible claims this passage “as one of the strongest affirmations of faith in all the scripture.”

Back in 1994, as the New Year was upon us, and I was seeking God for His heart perspective that He wanted me to have for the coming New Year, I received a prophetic word from a strong prophetess.  She said I was about to “go through a series of crisis that would teach me to receive from others and even be forced to depend on others.  That this was part of my ‘leadership training’ the Father required of me, because He wanted me to learn the beauty of the way He designed the Body of Christ to take care of one another.”

She went on to say,  “Up until this point you have always been in a positon of strength, able to help others – spiritually, emotionally, physically and financially, but as one of My leaders you must also know how to receive.”  Well – that was the worst New Year’s prophecy I had ever heard.

At the time I received the “Word”, we were giving over 90% of our income away – to those in need.  I tell you that for this reason…Do you know that the only scripture close to the concept of tithing in the entire New Testament is where we are told to “Be a cheerful giver”.  So many make the mistake of thinking that we only owe the Lord 10% of our income.  Once that is paid, we have fulfilled our obligation.  Actually we “owe” the Lord 100% of all that we earn, and all that we are.  He deserves us completely – and all of our resources.

Before God – none of us really own anything – we are only stewards.  He longs for us to realize that everything we have in our hands belongs to Him.  And in that, we should always be willing to bless those around us as we are able, from whatever resources the Father has blessed us with.  A foundational scripture that we have taught our children is “Withhold no good thing from whom it is due, when it is in the power of your hand to do it.”

For 9 months I cruised, and then in September I had my first miscarriage.  After that, for the next 13 months I had one crisis after another. (Some people live like that – I never had before.)  By Thanksgiving of 1995, I had been laying in bed for 3 weeks with a migraine so bad that I would either faint or throw up, whenever I sat up.  My husband would bathe me and brush my teeth and take me to a different specialist every day to ascertain what was wrong.  Nobody knew.  During the whole time I never ate a bite of food or drank any coffee.

On Thanksgiving Day, my faithful homeschool group was bringing in food to my family, as they had done many times over the previous year.  As Kate Halsmer and Karen Batchelder left my home, I began bawling.  I understood for the first time in my life, that I/we would never have made it without them and all the “body” around us, over the last year, who pulled together for us so graciously.

Over the years since then, I have truly learned the beautiful way that God intended the body of Christ to operate.  People are to be taking care of one another.  In different seasons you have different resources to give.  Sometimes it is your time, your talent, your skills, or friendship, or home, or money, or prayers, or your love.  But you always have something to give to people around you who need your resources, or what you have to offer.

My following statement might embarass some of you, and to be honest, it isn’t something I ever planned on sharing here.  But this morning a lifetime friend of mine encouraged me that by my sharing about our present vulnerable place, it may be able to help many others going through similar crisis at this time.

So, at the risk of looking like fools, I will share with you my current “Habakkuk confession.”

Though my gas has been off for 5 weeks – meaning no hot water and cooking stove.   And both of our vans are struggling to get around town in the last 2 weeks, and our riding mower that maintains our 3 acres is shot, and the kitchen sink faucet is broken, and water and electric bills are past due, and we need haircuts and groceries,

Yet I will praise Him!!!

Not only with my words, but my heart, my spirit, and all my family along with me shall continue to love Him, trust Him, and adore Him and walk on – Grateful for all that He is – letting Him and each other bring us total Hope, Joy, Peace and Love!

He is always worthy of our praise!!!

Do Your Kids A Monumental Lifetime Service ~ Teach Them Manners

Everybody knows the “magic word”.  But there is a whole lot more to understanding the difference manners will make in your children’s lives, than just requring them to say “Please”.

Recently a friend asked me if I would be willing to speak to our largest, area-wide home school co-op group on manners.  It got me to thinking ….how few seem to really grasp the weighty significance of manners and the role they play in contributing to your kid’s success – in everything they do no matter what it is!

The most noble reason we have for teaching our children manners – is that they inherently learn, in the process, to always consider the person in front of them.  Using manners promotes attitudes of courtesy, honor, and respect for all other people.

Let’s begin with one of the most basic courtesy words in the English language – Thank You.  Have you noticed children don’t come “wired” to say these words without being taught extensively.  When we teach our children to say thank you for everything, they learn to appreciate everything with grateful hearts, taking nothing for granted.

You are not doing your kids a “motherly service” by making all their meals and not teaching them to say thank you for them.  Most women feel they are just “doing their job” .  But then your kids will always expect everyone around them  to just “do their job”.

You teach them to say thank you – for meals, for clothes, for chaueffering, and for all services rendered and consequently they will live with grateful hearts – always appreciating whatever someone does for them.
And in that one word you have given to them a rich life of appreciation.  For they will always gratefully appreciate what others do for them or anything given to them.

This will completely and radically effect their contentment factor for their entire life.  You see teaching manners is about far more than you simply needing a little appreciation.

My sister, Kim, lives a mile away from me.  She has 6 kids – all my kid’s ages.  So our families are really close and spend a lot of time together.  Kim is my only “friend” whose children always say thank you for being permitted to spend the night, share a meal, or catch a ride with us anywhere.  It always has such a pleasing effect, and always makes me “like” them even more.  They never forget.

Well, the older ones never forget.  The younger ones are still in training and are reminded every time they forget, which is the most critical part of this process.  It’s not about your children being perfect, but that you are always constantly teaching them honor and respect for others, and manners are the evidence of that respect.

In fact, this very week one of Kim’s kids did something a little out of line, courtesy wise, and she called me to apologize.  It was so small it could have easily gone ignored, but she is always conscientious and working with her kids.

Another dear friend this week, with a large and wonderful family, also called to apologize for her son’s attitudes and lack of respect.  Folks, all of our kids are imperfect. The important point here is our diligence in training and to not let up, because our kids are worth it.

And yes, it takes a lot of work!  But it is so worth the effort.  A mother will literally remind her children thousands of times, before they remember on their own.  But then she has cultivated different human beings, who stand head and shoulders above the majority for the rest of their lives.

I understand “Yes, Ma’am” and “Yes, Sir” tend to be more common in the south, but 99% of all adults appreciate being treated with respect.  Many admittedly are taken aback by young people responding in such a manner, because they didn’t even know they had earned the right – just by virtue of being an adult.

Occasionally, I will even observe an adult being gently reminded of what it means to be an adult, by a child who addresses them respectfully.

The Bible tells us “that love covers a  multitude of sins.”  So do manners.  Every adult can tolerate “childish ways” more readily, when they come from a child who is generally respectful.  It is the children who have not been taught to respect others in this most fundamental area of manners, that adults have the hardest time accepting and tolerating.  No matter how much anyone loves children – or doesn’t – everyone knows which kids must be tolerated and which can be delighted in.  And manners are what makes the biggest difference, when they are taught from a foundation of honoring and respecting others.

When I was a teenager, I was on a very “friendly” level with adults.  Shocking, huh?  For some reason, I got the idea I could call anyone by their first name.  (The presumption of my youth).  I did it with teachers, principals, and professionals alike.  Nobody ever corrected me nor seem to understand the danger of me being too familiar with adults, as a teenager.  Suffice it to say, it caused problems that would have never occurred if I had a proper respect for adults.

By the time you are married, you have waited a long time to be Mr. or Mrs..  With that new title, you step into an adult world and deserve to be thus treated by children with respect.  Don’t feel badly, correcting children (lovingly) to call you by your proper adult title, if they address you by your first name.  You are doing them a favor.
Now granted, as your kids become college age and older, that begins to change, as they themselves transition into an adult world.

When young people consistently use good manners, they are always chosen above those who don’t.  It communicates not only respect for others, but self-respect.  It is a whole package deal – that causes others to assume that one who uses manners and stands so above the norm in this area – is also trustworthy, dependable, and responsible.  It seems to make an easier way for young people as they enter the adult world.  Everyone around them will more readily embrace them.

Help your children communicate to the world around them their own value – Teach Them Manners.

Breastfeeding

With my first three children, I was a superlative multi-tasker, out of neccesity – I might add.  I nursed them around the clock, about every 30 minutes, because I understood nothing about scheduling their feedings.  Consequently, I had to learn how to breastfeed while accomplishing every other task known to motherhood.

I cooked, cleaned, went to the bathroom and even showered while nursing babies.  Crazy, huh?
The beauty that scheduling the feedings brought into my life was that I began to savor my time with my babies – more and more – the longer that I nursed and the older I got.

One night, when I was 30 years old and nursing my 4th child in the middle of the night, I complained to my husband “I am just too old for this – waking up in the middle of the night to nurse a baby.”  Isn’t that funny?  Because at 47 I am still doing it.

Into my 40’s it became absolutely precious to me and I realized it is about the most beautiful and sacred privilege of being a woman.

I don’t do anything anymore – not even talking on the phone or reading to the other kids, while I nurse.  I look into my babies eyes the entire time – as we feed each other’s souls.  I kiss and nibble on her and receive her delicate and life-giving touches as she gives back to me.

It always soothes me, and ministers to me peace, joy and love that arrests everything else going on and raises me to a more noble place in my mind and heart than I was minutes before I starting nursing.

Do you know that breastfeeding releases a hormone in the mother called Prolactin?  It is commonly known as the “Mothering hormone.”  If you allow it, it literally nurtures you in your heart and permeates your being with a chemical that cultivates more of a mothering nature naturally.

It is a gift from God – be sure to open it and take advantage of it.  It acts like a natural tranquilizer also.  So – let it tranquilize you.

It was in one of these most sacred moments, breastfeeding my baby, that a profound truth came to me.  “The greatest nourishment a baby needs is it’s mother’s soul.”  Breastfeeding is the most valuable way to begin to impart to and feed your baby’s soul.

But if your baby is bottle-fed, the baby should still be held and focused on completely and lavished with your love the entire time.  Please try not to ever prop up a bottle for you baby to feed itself.  If you already do that – consider taking back this time to love your baby – which will minister to you both.

And if you don’t even have a baby, focus on loving more intentionally those around you, without always multi-tasking everything.  Just for the sake of love.  It will always enrich you and those around you.  Your family and friends deserve to know they are worth your undivided attention on a regular basis.

My Thought on “The Shack” ~

I was just asked for my “take” on the book – “The Shack”.

My family loved it and I encourage everyone to read it!  I think “Christians” generally get uncomfortable with God being outside of their mindset box.  But friends – Please try to understand – we can’t even begin to wrap our puny little minds around His greatness or His love!!!  (selah)

I dare you to begin to ask Father God to take you out of your little box – that you might begin to taste and relate to Him in new ways you have never even dreamed of before.

So – What does your husband do anyway?‏

Inevitably, whenever someone learns that I have 10 kids, the first thing they want to know is “What does your husband do?”

If you want a simple, superficial answer…he is in sales and marketing, marketing strategy, business coaching, and more.

But if you really want to know how we live, as many who have known us for years would really like to know…then stay tuned as I share of our intimate life journey.

It is my heartfelt prayer that as I honestly share what we have walked through – you would be encouraged in some way to trust the Father for what you may not understand in your own life.

My husband, David, had been extremely successful in business his whole life, until about 7 years ago.  At the climax of his business life one of his companies, Digital Dynamic Systems, was awarded company of the year – worldwide – for the biggest product in the television and film production world, the Avid Technology Media & Film composer.  Then because of technology industry pressures and Avid Technology corporate leadership changes, he decided to retire for a few years.

In June of 1999, when we had just purchased a new home on 10 acres, surrounded by over 350 acres, David had his second heat stroke and almost died.  He struggled anytime he was in the heat for almost 4 years after that second heat stroke.  He also struggled with belief in himself after that, because the heat stroke effected him in his physical body, his mind, his spirit, and then later in our finances.

It was during this time that he began connecting with his greatest passion in life to “Lifecoach” men.  He has been life coaching people since he was a teenager, when he managed people much older than he was at that time.  He is extremely good at it.

I don’t believe a day has gone by in the last 10 years, that God does not put someone in his path, that he has life changing conversations with.  It is his greatest fulfillment, beyond his family, to cause transformational change in a man’s life.  Problem is – it just hasn’t been a big money-maker.  David has charged by the hour to life coach men, but he really would do it for no charge if he could.  He just lives to connect with men at the heart level.

In the meantime, he has never lost his passion for business and has a brilliant business mind.  (okay may I just hereby state….”more people die of broken hearts than swollen heads”, a quote I remember from my childhood.)  I think everyone should honestly be commended, wherever they deserve it – in my family and yours!

Back to my brilliant husband…really not a biased opinion, I am told that regularly by business executives, leaders, and business owners.  He has continued working harder than any one I have ever seen, trying a number of things, rather unsuccessfully.  He has sought the Lord all the while – for direction and examination – of everything that can be examined in a life.

Now, backing up a bit ~ before any of our financial hard times began, I had an experience in a church service that I must share.  The youth pastor shared a message about the alabaster jar that was broken over Jesus.  He explained that the value of it was equivalent to about a year’s salary in those times.  He asked us to prayerfully consider what we would be willing to give the Lord that was worth so much.

As I turned my heart and head toward the Lord, He responded to me immediately with what He wanted of me.  His exact words to me were – “I want you to give up all earthly security.  I want to become your total security.  I want you to know that I am truly all that you must have to survive.  I want you to be willing to give up homes, insurance and income.”

He proceeded to repeat that same thing to me over a dozen times during that service – word for word, asking me every time if I was willing.  David and I both had prayed our whole lives, even before we knew each other, and we told the Lord we were willing to go through whatever cost we must in this life to become all that He desired of us.

Heck yea – that is a scary prayer!  But we both understood that nothing in this life is worth holding onto against His highest desires for us.

So, of course, I told Him yes that night, without question.  Just praying all the while for the “Mercy He promises those with young.”  Isiah 40:11

We proceeded to lose almost everything, after that, step by step.  My four oldest children had never known financial lack or limitation and my best friend Lynette encouraged me greatly with this thought.  “Toni, now your children will be forced to learn to trust the Lord and live by faith, in ways that your words alone could have never taught them, when you had all the money they could ever need.  They will need that understanding greatly for the rest of their lives.”

That thought alone has carried me – probably more than anything else anyone has ever told me about our trial.  Because we are about destiny and what will bring the greatest fruits for all of eternity.

If and when America gets turned inside – outside – upside down – my kids know that their heavenly Father will take care of them.  They do not fear anything life can bring.  They are solid in their hearts.  “They know whom they have believed in, and are persuaded that He is able, to keep all that they have committed unto Him.”

I believe that everyone who loves the Word of God has their favorite “Pet” scriptures, that they have full faith for and have always seen the Faithful hand of Father God in that area of their lives.  Where other scriptures are harder to actually believe and “stand on” , because of negative personal experiences, or questions that remain.

One that I believe so strongly, because I have seen God be so very faithful to this promise, is Romans 8:28.  “He will work out all things for our good, for those who love Him.”  Every family struggles.  Every individual struggles.  It is what you do in your struggle, and how you guard your heart to keep loving the Father that is so important.

The beauty of choosing to love Father God through our struggles is how faithfully we will see HIm harvest great fruit in our lives, that will literally make the struggle seem worth it.  In fact, the “Struggle” can actually seem small compared to the glory of what God accomplishes through our lives – a Glory that could not have happened any other way.

I believe this is part of what James meant in the first chapter of James, when he tells us to “count it all joy…”.
Perhaps you have had an experience or memory in your life, that still hurts and brings tears to your eyes or heart when you even think of it – prompting a pit in your stomach. That might indicate that you have not finished walking through it yet, to the other side of a state of wholeness over this area, that the Father wants for you and only He can give you.

Please take it to Him and ask Him to begin to work in you and show you the good that He desires to make of that rotten situation – in your heart and in your life.  And then ….Behold His work.

O.K. – so did I mention we have gone many years with no consistent monthly income, never a weekly or even a guaranteed monthly “paycheck” – only commissions here and there.  We have had utilities cut, for days and even weeks at at time.  My kids are professional campers in their own home.  More days than not, I don’t know when I wake up, what I can even prepare for 3 meals that day for my army.  And yet, we have never missed a meal.  WE have even had thousands (outside of our immediate family) partake at out table, throughout this time.  (No, I am not exagerating.)

Years into the struggle, the Lord asked me if I could still adore HIm and live for HIm with all my heart, if He didn’t do things the way I believed He would, even the way I believed His word promised He would.  Would I still be His if we had to live the rest of our lives “by faith”?

I said, “of course!” really believing it was only a rhetorical question.  LIke when God asked Abraham to lay Isaac down on the altar – just to know his heart, was He trying my heart?  I didn’t know He was serious!  And I still don’t know how long this journey must go on – that was years ago.

A while back, I read the book of Job in the Bible, looking for encouragement.  (That’s pretty low, huh?  To look to Job for encouragement.)  I did learn that he had 7 sons and 3 daughters just like us, when he was considered the most blessed man in the world.  Then he lost it all and regained back twice as much, but was again given 7 sons and 3 daughters.  I have to admit, that was encouraging.

The last page of Job, God had Job pray for his “counselors” that they would be forgiven.  God said He was angry with those men for being so grossly wrong in their assessments of Job’s situation.  And when I read that, He spoke something to me that freed me and changed my life perspectives on everyone forever.

God said to me, “There is no one who has a clue of what I am really up to in your lives, not anymore than Job’s counselors did in his day.  Just like Job in his day, not even you understand what I am up to!  Just rest assured, I am at work here for my ultimate purposes in your life and it is for good.”  Wow!

Could that be true for all of us, or at least some of us, and the “crosses” we bare?  Be careful making an assessment of other people’s lives, judging their actions, or thinking that you have it all figured out.  That is what Job’s counselors did, thinking they understood what God was up to.

So, here we still are.  Trusting and believing God daily for an ultimate breakthrough and the daily miracles of provision it takes to sustain this big healthy family.  And you know what?  God has promised me many things I have yet to see.  And he rarely does things the way I would if I were God.

But he has become our total security.  In Him we live and move and have our being.  We thrive, and we are alive!  We love intensely and are at peace (most of the time.)  Our hearts and lives are completely full.  We feel as richly blessed as people can be – we just have no money.  We have people come visit us, and some stay with us.  They leave our home feeling loved, and know that what real peace looks and feels like.  You can’t fake that when you have people in your home, right in the middle of such fiery trials.

With all that Dave has done and all that he is working on right now- everything could change tomorrow.  Or maybe…….this will forever be our “cross”.  But Jesus is our Lord and we know that Father God is always up to our ultimate good and can always be trusted!  Father God is for us, He loves us, and has never been against us.  And that goes for you too!

P.S. To be honest, one of the hardest elements to deal with thru this journey, is that I had no idea how much everyone close to me in my life, family and friends, would be stretched far beyond their comfort zones also.