February Preview Pack

Here’s a look ahead to what we’ll be learning in Heroes Gate in the month of February:

February 7: Toddlers through 4th graders will rejoice as they hear one of Jesus’ most famous parables: The Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37). Club 56 kids will discuss the topic: Who or How Should I Center My Life on Jesus?

February 14: Toddlers through 4th graders will learn how Jesus wants to help us see things differently as they hear about a dinner he attended at the home of a Pharisee (Luke 14:1-24). Club 56 kids will discuss the topic: Why Should I Worry About Who or What Influences Me?

February 21: Toddlers through 4th graders will discover how Jesus is our Good Shepherd (John 10:1-21). Club 56 kids will discuss the topic: Why Do I Need to Be Careful About What I Watch?

February 28: Toddlers through 4th graders will be reminded that God is greater than your stuff as they hear the story of the rich young ruler (Matthew 19:16-30, Mark 10:17-31, Luke 18:18-30). Club 56 kids will discuss the topic: What Does the Bible Say About Music?

Parenting When Life Hits the Fan

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By Patrick Showers, Associate Elementary Pastor

Woodland Hills Church

Parenting can be tricky even in the best of times. Parenting can be challenging, exhausting, and often frustrating, but it is also worthwhile, life enhancing, and remarkable. There are highs and lows over the long haul of being a parent. We may have 3 healthy kids one moment, and the next; we have 3 vomit-spewing volcanoes. You may experience a blissful vacation together as a family only to find it ruined on the car ride home with bickering and whining, sometimes even among the kids. Typically, family life doesn’t have many dramatic highs and lows; it is subtler with bumps and small updrafts.

Yet, there are families that experience a life changing moment that can only be defined as crappy (albeit in more mature language). I’m not talking about Blair Walsh missing an easy field goal in a playoff game or even cell phones falling into the toilet. Think worse!

For my family, October 7th, 2005 was our life changing moment. I was on the roof of my friend’s house helping to redo the roof. We worked into the dark, which upon 20/20 hindsight was a really dumb idea no matter how much you want to get done. I took one wrong step and found myself falling, then suddenly on the ground in a lot of pain. I was quickly rushed to HCMC by ambulance. My friend had to make a very difficult and painful call informing my wife that I was hurt pretty bad. Backstory: we had just had our third child five weeks before, meaning we had 3 kids under the age of 3 years living at home, and I was the primary breadwinner.

My wife rounded up a bunch of friends, our small group, and her parents. The doctors informed her that I had broken two vertebrae in my lower back. There was concern that my spinal cord had been damaged, even though the CT scan didn’t show any obvious issues. I underwent surgery the next day. Over 10 hours, the doctors repaired my vertebrae using hardware. I spent 2 weeks recovering from the surgery at HCMC and then was moved to Abbot Northwestern. Over the next 10 weeks, I had to relearn how to function without half of my body. I was officially pronounced a complete paraplegic, meaning that no feeling or movement would return below my waist.

My wife was amazing through all of this. With support from church staff, small group members, friends, and family she was able to spend time with me everyday. My kids also visited me often, especially my new baby daughter, since she was dependent on my wife for food. People provided meals, lots and lots of prayer, cards, money, and even modified my home so it was ready for my return.

The next phase of recovery was 2 months of living at home and learning how to function in that environment while recovering from the surgery. Notice, I haven’t mentioned learning how to parent from a wheelchair yet. My wife was a single parent for 4 months while I focused on recovery. Even still, after I returned to work, I was overwhelmed, exhausted, and my emotions were all over the place, so I still wasn’t very helpful in the parenting department. My kids were great! They were a huge motivation for me to get out of the hospital and to continue even when everything really seemed to suck.

Over the next year, my wife continued to care for the kids and for me. My independence was growing, but doctor and therapy appointments took a lot of time. Strangely enough, those moments away together gave us a lot of time to connect and process together while other people cared for our kids. People continued to bless us throughout the next year by cleaning our house, doing lawn work, making meals, babysitting, and even organizing a hugely successful fundraiser.

As life’s new rhythms began to emerge, we had to deal with a new kind of healing process.   I began to mourn the loss of who I was with legs. Being in the wheelchair changed how I operated in my job, in my giftings, in my parenting, and in my marriage. Depression and frustration took us into another season of crap.

Over time, we began to realize a few things that helped us. When you are laid bare from pain, suffering, or grief, your core identity is viewable. My identity as a priceless and loved child of God continued to shine through all of the garbage moments. My kids, our friends, and people around us continued to see this part of me even when I was so distracted by the hardships that I couldn’t see it. Being surrounded by a community of love, lifted in prayer constantly, and cared for reflected God’s love back into my life over and over again until I couldn’t deny that God was bringing good out of this crappy situation.

Struggling reminds us also that we need God. My wife and I relied heavily upon God during those two years of hardship. I was often still and had the opportunity to hear God’s voice directly and through others. Whether I was experiencing a high or a low, I could feel God’s presence throughout. I knew without a doubt that His love was real and discovered that even though He didn’t stop me from getting hurt or fully heal me, He was trustworthy.

Over time, I was able to become fully engage and equal in the parenting department.   I worried for a time that my kids would be damaged from my time of healing, but, instead, I think they have a perspective that few kids experience. They’ve seen me at my worst and how I relied upon God and others. They’ve seen how valuable having a solid relationship with God can be in a person’s life and how important it is to establish loving relationships with other believers. They benefited from the love of others and were able to bask in all kinds of attention during those two years, even if my attention waned at times. We also share a unique family identity together that unifies us. Each of my children has also learned that every family member is a needed and important part of this family, whether 2 years old or 45.

Life will have moments that give you a face full of pain. Being solidly connected to our Heavenly Father is vital to recovery and to restoration of normalcy to family life. Your kids will benefit from your relationship to the Creator as your core identity transforms to reflect a loving and trustworthy God who is actively involved in your life and with you no matter what is happening in life.

20/20 Hindsight

We asked Guest Blogger, Michelle Abbott, to share with us some of the insights she has discovered as a parent over the years.  She’s the mother of 2 young adult daughters and is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist.  We loved her perspective and hope you find it helpful, as well!

Life Mentor 14

By Michelle Abbott, Guest Blogger

When I was a young parent, I loved Jesus, and so I assumed my two daughters would, too. I also assumed that if I was a loving, encouraging, fair, and patient parent, my daughters would obey. It was subconscious, but now looking back, I realize that I believed I could control my daughters and turn out a successful parenting project = a Jesus-loving, productive, respectful, contributing adult. Was my world ever rocked when my oldest daughter became a teen.

As my daughter searched for her identity amongst her peers and pushed back on our values at home, I started to panic. Her sneaking, lies and disobedience were often only brought to light by the Holy Spirit. However, my confrontations with her weren’t Holy Spirit led. I felt like a failure because of her waywardness. I felt powerless to reach her heart and get her to understand that our rules were for her best interest, not just to control her or keep her from fun. So, when I would find out she disobeyed, I would storm up to her room, poke my finger in her face and let her have it. I’m sure I looked like a cartoon character – red-faced, teeth clenched, steam coming out of the ears! I cringe now when I think how my angry face looked to her! I’m sure she didn’t see any love in it!

I began to realize that anger directed at my daughter was really a cover-up for my own feelings of inadequacy and failure. Those painful and vulnerable feelings made me feel small, and I hated it! Instead, I went to anger. Then, at least, I felt strong. My anger wasn’t bringing Godly change but was sabotaging any possible good. The Lord graciously taught me that my angry responses were not helping to reach my daughter’s heart.

1 Peter 4:8

Love covers over a multitude of sins.

Proverbs 15:1

A gentle answer turns away wrath, but harsh words stir up anger.

James 1:19-20

Be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to get angry. Human anger does not produce the righteousness God desires.

When my daughter broke a rule, I began to realize how much she was hurting herself. The consequences were going to sting, and I didn’t want that for her. I was filled with compassion. Instead of storming up to her room as an angry cartoon character, I showed her a face of love and concern. I expressed sympathy for the hurtful consequences her misdeeds were going to create. My new response to my daughter’s infractions made a huge difference. In the past there had been anger, hurt feelings, walls of silence, feelings of inadequacy, and despair. When I responded to my daughter in anger, she rarely apologized for her misdeed. When I countered with grace and compassion, she later apologized every time.

I wish I could report that my better responses changed my daughter and she stopped acting out in ways that continued to hurt us both, but I can’t. She struggled through her teen years because she so desperately wanted to fit in. My big realization is that I only have power over one person on this planet and that is me. God gave us children to shepherd, not control. We are called to provide for them, keep them safe and lead them well by showing them the Father’s heart. They create their own inner moral compass through the ways they filter information and experiences, not by us somehow finding their control panel and programming them.

All behavior is communication. Do not take your child’s negative behavior personally as a sign of parenting failure. Instead, work to hear your child’s heart through their behavior. If they are doing harmful things to get attention from peers, hear that they are feeling insecure and are wanting to belong. Find compassion and trust the Lord to lead you to their heart.

Practicing the Art of Believing the Truth

We asked guest blogger, Erica Morrow, to share her thoughts.  We loved what she had to say and think you will, too!

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By Erica Morrow, Guest Blogger

I have never considered Satan to be very creative. At least not with me, anyways. Throughout the mains and plains of life, his tactics have stayed quite boring and predictable. The relationships or circumstances would change, but the lies He would feed me would not. Lies, lies lies. Lies about who I am at the most gut level, lies about how others perceive me, lies about my place on this earth, lies.

I have loved and wanted to follow Jesus for as long as I can remember, and as equally far back, I can remember believing things that I now know aren’t true. I remember playing with a group of older cousins when I was eight, and I distinctly remember feeling that I wasn’t funny enough to fit in with them. When I watched my friend try out for the swim team in seventh grade, I knew- at least I believed I knew- that I wasn’t good enough at sports to dare to try with her. As a college freshman, I was convinced that people wanted to see me a certain way, and my days were spent living to fit the mold I believed they wanted me in. As a newlywed, the lie that hedged me in was that I was too much- too much of a dreamer, too loud, to impulsive, and at the same time not enough- not smart enough, not frugal enough, not special enough to be truly loved.

Parenting opened the floodgates for lies that consumed in an entirely new way. They were easy to identify for what they were from the outside in, but during foggy, sleep deprived, endless days with little ones, I was easily led to believe that I was failing my children. Even before my head hit the pillow at night, I was retracing steps and filling my mind with the regret of what was left undone. And the older the kids become, it seems like the stakes increase exponentially. I’m hovering too much. I’m over scheduling- no, now I’m under-scheduling. I’m not doing it as well as so and so. The tapes that can play in my head are seriously ridiculous, but oh so easy to believe.

Now, the reason I am even able to call out these lies that are prone to consume me is because to a large degree I have been able to stop and see them for what they were- seeds of falsehood that tried to steal my joy at every turn and distract me from the Jesus looking God standing before me, wanting to lavish me with affirmation and love. And there are certainly times when what is true gets the victory- I have had so many moments throughout my journey where I have felt bathed, completely washed and renewed by the reality that I am loved and accepted simply because I belong to my Father. But just as quickly as I believed that reality, there would be another lie, ready to suffocate that truth and send me spiraling again towards mistrust and anxiety.

Enough.

I want to live into the authority God has given me to accept the love he offers me as a gift that is free and inexhaustible. And as I am learning more and more about what God’s character is like, I am discovering that in order to keep the lies at bay, I need to spend more time with the Lord so I can remember again and again what is true. A few weeks ago, I was asking God to show me who I would be, what my life would look like, if I actually believed all of the things that He says are true about me. He started to show me, and as I scribbled it all down, I was overwhelmed. Completely and utterly blown away. Because I was beautiful. I looked like the person I had always wanted to be but could never bring myself to believe I really was. And as God showed me truth after truth, I saw like I never had before that each of the things I was writing were true, even when I believe the lies. This is who God says I am, whether I choose to believe it on a given day or not.

As I was receiving the gift of this truth and feeling so freed by it, I realized that this is not just about me. This picture of who we are, this is for all of us. We believe different lies about ourselves to be certain, but this truth is for each of us. So here are the words that stirred and freed up something in my dry bones that had not danced for some time. Maybe they will awaken something in your spirit as well.  And as you read, I implore you. I know this all sounds like a fantasy, too good to be true. But dear ones, this is who we were created to be, and this is who we really are. The old is gone and the new is come.  We need only to press into the reality that is already all around us.

I see myself deep, and deeply refreshed, roots that are established far below where feet or tools could reach. Roots extending outward to where there is always enough to drink. My heart is strong and full of peace because I am readily satisfied and I know I am taken care of.

Little things bring tremendous joy, and my eyes do not look frantically over my shoulder to make sure I’m not missing anything. No matter where I find myself- whether it is somewhere of my choosing or not, I see the beauty in the circumstance. My words, actions, and attitude reflect the joy and gratitude I feel.

I need little, and I long for even less; my future is settled and secure, because I will never be loved any more than I am at this moment.

Others come to the well I drink from and are equally refreshed. My life is a flag to alert those around me to the knowledge that true peace, rich satisfaction, and anointing of the Holy Spirit is closer than our breath. And my breaths, because of how He loves me, are slow, and relaxed, unhurried in their steady in and out.

I am unwavering in my knowledge of who I am, and I treat others as the precious treasures they are because I can really see them. I can see beyond what eyes can see, and I can sense beyond my senses, because the love pouring through my veins opens the eyes of my heart to see the real story.

And always, always, I keep my gaze fixed on what is pure, what is lovely, what brings life, what fosters healing, what nurtures reconciliation, what puts his creativity and the beauty of hidden places on display.

Will I always believe this truth, always walk with the knowledge that I am who He says I am? Sadly, my brain is trained to trust the lie, and I fear that I will do battle in my mind until I see Jesus face to face in Heaven. But this I know. I was born to be free now, not to have to wait until eternity to experience truth. God wants to shine his face on us today, as we are exhausted by sick babies, as we are feeling inadequate in our marriage, as rebellious older children fill our hearts with guilt and regret, as we look ahead at the tasks before us and wonder how that mountain can ever be climbed. May we each nestle in close to our God and allow him to speak over us the things that are true, and may the branches of our hearts slowly bend towards his face as we reject the lies and believe that we are who He says we are. May we believe these things and so much more as we learn through scripture and through His whispers what is true about us. And may our lives bear testimony to the beauty of God’s creation as we live out each of these truths in ministry to each other, taking turns releasing each other of the lies we believe and reminding each other that His truth has indeed set us free.