not everything is as it seems

not everything

My husband’s friend, Mario, brings a large box of fresh oranges from his farm in Texas to our family on a regular basis. These oranges are like nothing I’ve ever tasted from the grocery store. They are sweet, juicy, fresh, and delicious.

However, by the outer appearance of this citrus that our family refers to as a “Mario Orange,” you wouldn’t think it would taste good. On the contrary, one might think it was squishy, sour, old, and moldy.

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Obviously, we can’t judge a “Mario Orange” from its outer appearance. With it’s bee stings, mottled appearance, and pale color, it isn’t what it seems.

People are much the same way. Some of the nicest, kindest, most gracious people I’ve ever met would not be considered the most attractive. On the other hand, some of the most mean-spirited,  rudest, and malicious people I’ve ever met have been the most physically attractive.

There are many beautiful people who are also kind and many “homely” people who are inconsiderate. However, an important thing to remember is this:

Not everything is as it seems.

That’s why it’s important not to judge someone based on their outer appearance. Instead, we should look to important virtues, such as:

  • God-fearing
  • honest
  • kind
  • loyal
  • trustworthy
  • faithful
  • generous
  • selfless

And the list goes on.

Proverbs 31:30 tells us that Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.

Proverbs 31 30

What if we saw people through God’s eyes? What if we saw people as being made in His image?

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Our worth does not come from appearance. Our true value does not come from how others perceive us.

If we realized this, we could see things as they really are.

 

 

 

 

 

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Movie Monday: Duma

movie monday duma

Once in awhile, I come across a little-known movie that is, in my opinion, a “must-see.” Duma is such a movie.

dumaSet in South Africa in the present day, 12-year-old Xan and his father nearly run over a baby cheetah while driving home on an empty stretch of highway one evening. They take the animal back to their South African farm and raise it as a pet. Xan mentions that when you give something a name, it then becomes your friend.  After trying to decide on a name, Xan finally decides to give his new pet the name of Duma, which is “cheetah” in Swahili. It isn’t long before a wonderful friendship begins between Xan and Duma.

One of the things I enjoyed most about this movie is the portrayal of Xan’s closeknit family. Xan’s dad, Peter, is sure to teach his son all he knows about building things and taking care of a farm (which comes in handy later in the movie). Peter spends a considerable amount of time with Xan and, together, they test Duma’s speed by racing alongside the animal with a stopwatch.  There is also a strong love and devotion between Xan’s parents, even when they are in the midst of tragedy.

Duma is void of anything objectionable (there is a situation with “cultural” medicine practices, but nothing explicit); however, there are several intense scenes that will frighten younger viewers. When Xan embarks on an adventurous journey and a promise he made to his father to return Duma to the wilds where he belongs, Xan encounters the harsh elements, wild animals, a stranger, and near death due to a lack of water and food. Parents will also want to discuss Xan’s choice to leave on his own to help Duma find his way back to the wilds, rather than solicit his mom’s help.

Duma is one of those movies that I hadn’t heard much about, but that I am glad I purchased. Themes of family unity, forgiveness, loyalty, loving your neighbor, and grief all play integral roles in this movie. I highly recommend it for everyone ages 12 and over. (NOT recommended for those under 12).

For a listing of movie suggestions, followed by archived movie reviews, please see Mom Approved Movie Reviews.

 

what is love?

what is love

Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day, the day when love is celebrated. But what is love?

The world’s definition of love:

Love is a loosely-used term in today’s culture. It is fleeting, and based on feelings and emotions. It is conditional, must always be romantic, is often selfish in nature, and self-centered. It can come and go at any time, and does not think in terms of longevity, but lives for the moment.

So what is love really?

Love is…

Loving someone even though they are flawed. I hear of single people stating they are waiting for the “perfect person” to come along. There are no perfect people. We are all flawed, all human, all broken. Someone will always have little idiosyncrasies that drive us crazy. Habits that are irritating, and mannerisms that are more than an annoyance. But love sees through that. It sees the heart of the person, flaws and all.

Loving someone through the hard times. If you ask people who have been married for a long time, they will tell you that marriage is not all roses and fun times. Illnesses, injuries, job loss, loss of loved ones, money problems – these can crop up at any time. Love stands beside someone through the surgeries, through the job losses, through the grief of loss. It doesn’t give up on someone, but remains steadfast.

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Making sacrifices. If you truly love someone, you will make sacrifices that are in your spouse’s best interests – even if it’s difficult.

Not dependent on feelings. Feelings are fickle at best. They come and go, are ever-changing, and can’t be trusted. Deep, abiding love realizes that feelings are undependable, and instead looks to commitment.

Not dependent on what you can get out of it. The Bible tells us to put the needs of others first and to put them above ourselves in Philippians 2:3. Love puts “self” aside and looks to what benefits the other person.

Forgiving. We all make mistakes. We are commanded to forgive others as we have been forgiven, even when it’s difficult. Love does not hold onto grudges.

1 Peter 4 8

Primarily evident in actions rather than words. Examples include supporting someone in their hobby or a dream, listening without interruption when they are telling you something that’s weighing on their heart, etc.

Loving as the Bible commands. Many verses in the Bible teach us how to love others. First John 4:19 says that we are able to love because God first loved us. Ephesians 4:2 tells us to Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.” First Corinthians 13:4-5 says Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.”

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Sure, these are all nice verses, but how can we love like we are commanded? Only with the Lord’s help. People (including ourselves!) are not always easy to love. Only through dedicated and regular prayer can we love those whom we are called to love. Only as He grows us in grace and tenderness can we love like He does.

Thankfully, He does love us. More than we can fathom. More than we ever know this side of Heaven. And thankfully, God’s love for us isn’t based on feelings. His love is evident through His Son Jesus, today and everyday.

 

 

5 ways to make your child feel loved

5 ways to make your kid feel loved

We tell our children we love them often – and our words are important. But how can we put action to those words and show them we love them? Here are five easy steps.

1. Pray with them. We pray corporately several times daily as a family – in our family Bible studies, before meals, etc. However, one of the things I have found especially important is to pray separately with each of my children as well. In those quiet times we prepare to spend with the Lord, I ask each child what specific prayer requests they have for others, for themselves  – are they struggling with a subject in school? Having difficulties with a friendship? Dealing with an illness?

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2. Spend time with them one-on-one. These moments are some of the most precious. My oldest daughter and I both love to write. We brainstorm ideas together, have “inside jokes” about a writer’s life, and discuss “problem characters.” My youngest daughter and I ran a 5k to raise money for breast cancer last year. It can be, but doesn’t have to be big events. Sometimes the littlest most ordinary times together make the best memories.

3. Listen. Really listen. So many things compete for our attention. Work duties, household chores, other children, etc. When we look our child in the eye and really hear what they are saying, we are showing we love them. I have personally found that the car is one of the best places to strike up conversations. No ear buds, no smart phones, no TVs. Just great conversations (unless, of course, we are all joining in singing with our favorite Christian artist on the radio! :))

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4. Find out what’s important to them. Recently my youngest daughter told me that she really appreciates when I plan out the day ahead with her. She enjoys knowing exactly what we’ll be doing that day and helps her to prepare.

5. Discuss the easy and the hard topics. We, as parents, should be the first line of information for our kids. We’ve always had an open-conversation-policy in our house where our daughters can discuss whatever topic they’d like, as long as they do so respectfully. We’ve had some fantastic talks about fun topics, but also some great discussions about the hard things: drugs, eating disorders, politics, abortion, etc. Be sure that your discussion topics are always age-appropriate.

In James 1:17, we are told that every good gift is from above. Children are such a gift and a blessing that the Lord has given us. May we, as parents, be worthy.

James 1 17

Movie Monday: Indivisible

Movie Monday indivisible

Darren and Heather have a picture-perfect marriage. They are both committed to each other, to their children, and to the Lord.

Michael and Tonya are struggling in their marriage and have been for some time. Michael has anger issues and ignores Tonya on a regular basis.

One day, both Darren and Michael, as well as two other secondary characters in the movie, receive orders to deploy to Iraq. Darren will be deploying as a chaplain and for the first time; Michael and the other characters as soldiers.

Darren came back from Iraq a different man.

Michael came back from Iraq a different man.

One for the better, one for the worse.

What happens in Iraq changes both men forever. Darren sees things, experiences things, and faces loss that he’s never experienced before his deployment.

Can a couple with a strong faith rely on God to get them through a crisis in their marriage?

Can a couple of the brink of failure allow God to intervene?

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Indivisible is a touching story of faith, love, and patriotism. It details the realities of war, the difficulties our soldiers and their families face, and tackles the difficult topic of PTSD. While I have a grandpa who served in WWII and the Korean War; a father-in-law who served in WWII, and a cousin who served in Iraqi Freedom, I didn’t realize the extent to which our faithful servicemen and women give of themselves – their sacrifices – to keep or great nation free.

There is nothing objectionable in the movie; however, there are some scary parts that would frighten younger children.

Indivisible is based on a true story, and is one you’ll want to watch more than once. I give it a strong five out of five stars and highly recommend it for age 12 and older.

 

the importance of life

the importance of life

There is a lot of debate these days about pro-life and pro-choice. As a Christian, I look at things from the perspective that God created all life. Not only did He create us, He created us in His own image. (Genesis 1:27)

At the writing of this post, over 61 million babies have been aborted, and over 2,000 just today in the United States. Worldwide? 1.5 Billion so far. (Source: numberofabortions.com) )

When I was pregnant with my oldest daughter, I developed severe Hyperemesis gravidarum. It was so serious that I lost 15 pounds in one week and was admitted to the hospital. I was unable to keep any food down and suffered from malnutrition to the point that my bones protruded and I fainted twice. Everything I ate, I vomited. A few months later, I developed pneumonia and was again hospitalized. In all, I was on bed rest for the first five months of my pregnancy. The doctors weren’t sure if my daughter would be all right. They weren’t sure if I would make it. Our lives were in the balance.

God is faithful and brought us through that ordeal. It also brought me back to Him, which is a story for another time. However, I can’t imagine ever not having that little life that had begun to grow inside of me. I had already grown to love her. God had designed her before He ever placed her in my womb.

Life is valuable. My mom has severe chronic pain and is disabled from an accident less than a decade ago. But her life, as one who cannot walk or even use her hands to send a text message, is no less valuable than the athlete running ten miles on the treadmill. A person with Down Syndrome, a blind person, an elderly person, or a person confined to a wheelchair is no less important than another human being. The baby in the womb is no less valuable than the adorable toddler swinging on a swing in the park.

Not in God’s eyes.

And they shouldn’t be in ours.

When did we, as a society, decide that some life just wasn’t valuable? When did we, as a culture, decide that some life is not important and must be extinguished? When did we decide that it was our job to make that call?

mom's iol

My cousin and his wife lost their precious newborn a short time after he was born due to complications. They knew that their baby would die soon after birth, but in a valiant act, they chose life.

I have friends and relatives who have had miscarriages. They know the pain of loss of a baby who never had a chance to live.

So that brings me to abortion. A hot topic right now with a new law in New York passed allowing abortion right up to birth. I struggle with this news. For days, it has weighed heavily on my mind. The “right” to kill another human being? Isn’t that called murder? While abortion has been around for a long time and made legal in 1973 with Roe v. Wade, the thought of people doing even more to snuff out life up until the last possible moment brings about a whole new wave of horror.

You can probably tell by now that I am 100% pro-life.

My daughters and I have attended many pro-life meetings, where we spoke for those who will never get a chance to speak, prayed for those who have had abortions and those who were contemplating abortions, and prayed for the dads of the babies they would never know.

Why pray for those who have had abortions?

A close friend of mine had an abortion years ago. She confided to me that, while she remains pro-choice, not a day goes by that she doesn’t think about her baby and what he or she may be like if she had chosen life. She struggles with forgiving herself.

Thankfully, we serve a mighty God, who can forgive us as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12).

We should come alongside those who have had abortions. We should care about them. Reassure them of God’s forgiveness. Refuse to condemn.

Why pray for those contemplating abortions?

Because when you’re struggling with how you will support a new baby, or you are in high school and pregnant, or you were the victim of rape that resulted in a pregnancy, decisions can be even more difficult.

We pray for those who are in the midst of that struggle. That they would choose the other “a” word – adoption.

Why pray for the dads who will never know their child because of an abortion?

Because, in my opinion, they are some of the most forgotten in this scenario. As one who once worked in the social services field, I saw dads who were against their girlfriend or wife having an abortion. But they didn’t get a say.

So come alongside that young woman facing an unplanned pregnancy. Be there for her. Help her choose life. There are so many who would love to adopt a baby. To place your child for adoption, when you know you are unable to care for them, is one of the most courageous choices a woman can make. Support adoption. Support your local pregnancy center.

Come alongside those who have had abortions. Show the love of Christ to them. We don’t have to agree with someone to extend the hand of mercy.

And pray for the babies.

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Pray that someday abortion will be outlawed and that babies will have a chance to live and do all the fun things babies, toddlers, children, teens, and adults experience.

That we, as a society will truly see the importance and value of life. All life. Made by a Creator who loves us more than we could ever know. A Creator who desires for us to spend eternity with Him.

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7 ways to inspire others

7 ways to inspire others

Several people have lately inspired me. My mom, whose severe disabilities stemmed from an accident, is one of them. While she suffers from chronic pain and has little use of her arms and legs, it doesn’t stop her from serving others. It doesn’t stop her from being a prayer warrior and a mentor. Her strong faith, in the midst of the challenges she faces each day, is such an encouragement.

A man at the gym where I teach cycling takes one of my classes. That may not sound unusual as cycling is a popular way to get and stay fit. The unique thing about David? He is blind. That doesn’t stop him from navigating the way from his apartment to the gym and joining in the class. A co-worker told me that he also does the weight circuits without assistance. He never complains and never gives up.

A friend of ours works as an oxygen deliveryman. What sets him apart is that during his deliveries, he stops to shovel driveways, change lightbulbs, retrieve the mail, and any other things he can do to assist his elderly and housebound customers. He doesn’t have to do these things. He chooses to serve others.

How can we inspire others?

Lend a listening ear. Inspirational people are good listeners. They take the time to really hear people.

Persevere.  People who inspire don’t give up. They continue to fight the good fight. Even in the midst of the hardest moments, they trust the Lord to see them through. And they encourage others not to give up either.

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Care. Those who inspire care about others. They are concerned for their welfare and seek to help when possible.

Put others first. Those who are inspirational are not selfish. They seek the good of others above their own good.

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See the best in others. We are so often guilty of jumping to conclusions and finding the worst in others with the judgment of their motives. Instead, give people the benefit of the doubt.

Realize God has a plan for your life. Inspirational people know that, despite what obstacles they face, God is working all things for their good (Romans 8:28). Times can be tough and faith will be tested, but God will never leave us nor forsake us (Hebrews 13:5).

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Take an active role in the lives of others. Encourage them to be their best.