2012 Prayer

"My goal is to know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, assuming that I will somehow reach the resurrection from among the dead. Not that I have already reached the goal or am already fully mature, but I make ever effort to take hold of it because I also have been taken hold of by Christ Jesus." Philippians 3: 10-12

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Pack a Lunch

If you have been around the Houston area any length of time and like to listen to Christian radio, then you have undoubtedly stumbled upon the radio station 89.3 KSBJ. Every year for the past few years they have encouraged listeners to take the 30-day challenge. This challenge is to listen to only KSBJ for 30 days and see how it impacts their life. This year they have implemented some mini-challenges each day for listeners to consider. Today, as I reflect back on the past 30 days, I am wondering how I am different today than when I was on January 1st? While I did not set any new year’s resolutions or had any specific goals set for this year, only one thing comes to mind that I have done faithfully for the month…

Pack a lunch.

Yes, that is what I have done faithfully this month…the first ever too. You see my husband is a 6th grade math teacher and everyday he needs a lunch to eat. My attitude, ashamed to say, over the last three years has been…”He is old enough to make his own lunch. If he is hungry, he can take the time to throw something together without me having to do it every day. Besides, he never remembers to bring the lunch bag home and then we end up with all of the bags at school and I don’t have anything to put it in but a Wal-mart sack.” I know it sounds harsh and not June Cleaverish, but that has been my attitude. Yes, I did make his lunch most days, but only out of duty. For some reason, however, when Scott went back to work after Christmas break, my attitude had changed. I couldn’t tell you exactly what it was or that I intentionally said, “I am going to make Scott’s lunch for him every day,” but I began to view my role as a wife to support my husband in this small little area of our marriage and something amazing happened…

He brought his lunch bag home.

I know it sounds just as trite as packing a lunch for him, but for the first time ever, he brought his lunch bag home every day that I made a lunch for him to take! We went the whole week with me making his lunch and him bringing the bag home. We were both amazed that first Friday when we acknowledged what had occurred. Secretly for me, it became a game. Let’s see who can be the first to mess this new routine up. Will it be me not making a lunch for him or will it be Scott not remembering to bring his lunch bag home? Well, here we are at the end of the month and…

Both of us keep winning.

Of course there were several days during the course of the month when I did not want to get out of my warm bed and pack one for him because I had forgotten the night before, but I remembered my game I had secretly began to play and slowly dragged myself into the kitchen to make him his lunch and some hot tea to take. Those were the days when he brought his lunch bag home that I knew he really did appreciate having a lunch to take and by bringing his bag home showed me my extra efforts were not for loss.

This morning as I opened up my bible to my proverb for the day, I was greeted with Proverbs 31. Oh no, the infamous Proverbs 31 woman. As I was already reflecting over the last 30 days and how I had changed, I knew for certain I was not going to measure up to this woman. She far surpasses even June Cleaver. But God, in His special way, encouraged me with verses 11 and 12…

“The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will not lack anything good. She rewards him with good, not evil, all the days of her life.”

God was saying to me that my simple act of supporting my husband through giving him a good lunch every day instead of a lack of lunch as he bought his lunch from the school cafeteria, was enabling Scott to build more trust in me as his loving wife. In return, as I began to see Scott’s trust in me increase, demonstrated through bringing his lunch bag home every day, Scott was unknowingly enabling me to reward him with a good lunch instead of the evil cafeteria food.

My Heart’s Prayer: Lord, thank you for the simple lessons through packing a lunch. Thank you for a husband who loves and cherishes me. Help me to be a wife that Scott can put his trust in to give him good and not evil all the days of my life. Help me to be a lovable wife, worthy of being cherished and not one who is resentful or bitter. In Jesus Name, Amen.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Wife or Wilderness

“A wife’s nagging is an endless dripping Better to live on the corner of a roof than to share a house with a nagging wife… Better to live in a wilderness than with a nagging and hot-tempered wife… Better to live on the corner of a roof than to share a house with a nagging wife… An endless dripping on a rainy day and a nagging wife are alike.” Proverbs 19:13b, 21:9, 19, 25:24, 27:15

I have been reading through the book of Philippians along with one Proverb a day. You know a Proverb a day keeps the devil away. J Well not really, but it does have a multitude of poignant sayings you can apply to your life. Scott unknowingly challenged me a few weeks back when he was sharing with me and my friend about one of the young ladies in our neighborhood who comes and visits and plays with our children. She is just a couple of years older than Hannah and has such a pleasant and sweet spirit. But one thing that stands out above all is her desire to talk about the Bible. She loves to have conversations about it. When my friend asked, “How do you teach that?,” Scott replied, “You don’t, it is caught.” We all agreed, but that small statement that I have heard many times before continued to play over and over in my head. I began asking myself questions like: What are my kids catching? How can I make them catch a love for reading God’s word? How can they catch a desire for godly things? Then it struck me. Our kids know a lot about the Bible and what it says, but somehow there seems to be a disconnect to what it says and how it applies to them. So I decided that as I read through Proverbs each morning if there were one or two that had significance to something they were dealing with throughout the day then I would share it with them. God was not short on giving me opportunities. Mainly dealing with issues of arguing and fighting and sometimes laziness, I shared with the kids the verse and had them write it a few times, memorize it and then share with me how it was going to affect their life. I wish I could tell you they did this with smiles and thankfulness to their mother for making them hide God’s word in their heart so that it could help transform them from the inside out, but unfortunately it was done more grudgingly.

After several days of this, I began to wonder if the kids were going to begin to think of God’s word as a punishment rather than a blessing and I began to ask how I could show them how God’s word also affected me. Well, I didn’t have to wait long. On the 19th the first verse about a nagging wife surfaced. A few days later on the 21st the next two verses appeared and the analogy of living in a wilderness instead of with a wife entered my blood stream and circulated for several days when on the eve of the 24th my nagging, selfish side broke through the surface. You see as I read over those verses on the 19th and 21st I kind of just let them slide and did not really think I needed to heed to those verses or give them a second thought. After all I was trying hard to concentrate on verses that my children “needed.” However, what I discovered on Tuesday night is that I was acting out the part of a nagging wife and driving my whole family to the corner of the roof top and into the wilderness so they would not have to listen to the endless dripping of the rain. Laying my head on my pillow that night, I knew what I needed to do. I asked God for forgiveness and first thing yesterday morning I asked Scott for forgiveness as well as from the kids. God allowed me the opportunity to share with the kids that God’s word also applies to their mother very specifically!

God’s mercies are new every morning and God allowed me a renewed spirit, but He gave me even more than that. Yesterday morning Hannah had picked up her bible to read it first thing in the morning. Peter and Nathan also did without being asked. They then began to spontaneously share with each other and with me the verses they were reading. Dawson woke up and seeing what was going on, sleepily said over his bowl of cereal, “I have a verse. I don’t know the exact one, but it is in Genesis and it says God rested on the seventh day and that is what I am ready to do.” J God is good despite our failures and mistakes. He takes all things and works them together for good. He can even take my selfishness and turn it into a teachable moment that prayerfully will last a lifetime.

My Heart’s Prayer: Lord, how I need your Word. How I need your Word to penetrate my heart and overflow into my family. Open my eyes to when you are speaking to me and help me to not overlook the lessons you would have for me to learn as I try to train your children up in the way they should go. Help me to not be a nagging, hot-tempered wife, but a loving and understanding wife and mother.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Undefiled Religion

Saturday night Scott and I had the unbelievable honor to share with at a fundraiser banquet our experience with supporting a child through Grace International Children’s Foundation (GICF). We had the privilege to see our African friends Morris and Aida as well as two children who were able to come over to the United States with them for the first time. Scott and I sat in the audience laughing, crying, and reminiscing as we awaited our turn to share the impact that our Sarah Nasike has had on our lives and in our family. Please take a moment to hear what was shared from my point of view Saturday night and allow your heart to be open toward pure and undefiled religion…

“It will be eight years ago this March when we had our fourth child. Like all the others we did not find out what we were having until the birth. Our oldest is a daughter and at the time she had two younger brothers and was praying desperately for a sister. However, God had other plans for our family. In March of 2004 Peter was born. Now Hannah was none too happy about this as her heart was set on a sister. For two days straight if someone even mentioned her new brother to her, our 4 ½ year old would close her mouth and retreat. She quickly adjusted to being the only girl in the family, but did not give up the desire for a sister. She begged us for a sister and even convinced her brothers that they needed another sister too. After some prayer Scott and I decided that maybe it would be a good idea to “adopt” a sister for them.

It was about this same time in early 2006 when Scott’s parents gave us some information about GICF. We sent in a request for a girl that was around Hannah’s age at the time (six) and were sent a picture of a sweet precious little girl named Sarah Nasike who we immediately knew was the one. We “adopted” Sarah into the family and her picture has hung on our refrigerator everyday reminding us to pray for her. It is such a blessing and so humbling to hear the prayers of a then six, five, four, and three year old for another child who is their peer and for one they have never met.

As if it were not enough to be so blessed through sponsoring Sarah at Lulwanda, God allowed Scott and I the opportunity to go and visit her in person a year later. After much prayer and seeking if this is what the Lord wanted for us, Scott and I headed to Africa for the first time in the summer of 2007. It was then we met Sarah in person. Words cannot describe all the emotions of placing your eyes on a child you have prayed for over a year and being able to hug and sing and read to her. We played, visited, threw water balloons, and tried to savor and cherish as much as we could with our short time with her and the other children at Lulwanda.

When we came home the kids wanted to know everything about their sister. After the jet lag was over Scott and I tried to relate every conversation we had had with Sarah, where she leaves, the other children, what she ate, and on and on. It was a special time as the kids were able to draw closer to their sister in Christ through our experience. As we continued to pray for Sarah, write letters, and watch her grow older through pictures and the GICF updates, we were pleasantly surprised when God gave us another opportunity to visit Sarah in the summer of 2010. Time had passed, but to see her again was like we had never left. She was still shy, but not as shy as before. She sang songs to us, played net ball (which she is really good at), read books, and ate jelly bellies. It was such a sweet time. Of course all of our kids wanted to go with us and as the last year has passed by and we have received more updates and personal letters from Sarah, the kids are wanting more and more to meet her. Their heart, as is ours, is with her even if it is separated by many miles.

The most amazing thing I feel that has happened to our family since we sponsored Sarah, is the change in all our hearts for those less fortunate and to see how God takes care of them. James 1:27 clearly states: “Pure and undefiled religion before our God and Father is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unstained by the world.” As all my children love Sarah, the most challenging and touching part of our sponsorship of Sarah has been watching my daughter love someone whom she has never seen or met. Giving part of her prayer time every night for Sarah, writing her letters, and sharing who her sister is with her friends, reminds me of the story of Thomas and Jesus. After Jesus’ death and appearance to the disciples, Thomas said he would not believe until he saw with his own eyes the nail scars. Listen to the account in John 20:27-29.

“After eight days His disciples were in doors again, and Thomas was with them. Even though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them. He said, “Peace to you!” Then He said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and observe My hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Don’t be an unbeliever, but a believer.” Thomas responded to Him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said, “Because you have seen Me, you have believed. Those who believe without seeing are blessed.”

Just as one must trust in Christ without physically being able to touch His scars, it takes a step of faith to sponsor a child whom you have never met and maybe even support an organization that you knew nothing about until tonight. But I stand here and testify tonight that adopting Sarah into our family more than six years ago has had an impact on our family that just reading the bible and attending church could ever make. Scott, Hannah, Dawson, Nathan, Peter, and I have been so blessed and have come to know the Lord’s heart for the orphans in a special way because of our willingness to believe without seeing and His faithfulness to reveal it to us. Please prayerfully listen now as my husband helps you to “see” what we were able to experience and how the Lord might be calling you to look after the widows and orphans.” (Scott went on to share more personally how it had impacted his life and he hopes to have his portion available to view on his blog soon.)

For more information about the children at Lulwanda please visit Uganda has over 2 million orphans in a country of roughly 27 million. Please consider how God desires for you to support the widows and orphans in this world. My sister also works with an organization called Back to Life. For more information about the orphans in Haiti you can visit the Back to Life Haiti Project on Facebook.

My Heart’s Prayer: Lord, you have such a large heart filled with love for your children. Sometimes I can only see past the love that you have for me and my family and friends. Sometimes I cannot even see that love. Please continue to open up my eyes so that my heart can see and feel your love for all your children. Help me to move past the feeling of love to the action of showing your love to those around me, especially the widows and orphans. To God Be the Glory for the work you have done and are continuing to do around the world through organizations like GICF and Back2Life. In Jesus Name, Amen.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Connect 4 x 4

We try to have movie nights here at the Zbylot household on Friday nights. Having missed it the last few weekends for various reasons, we were past due. Naturally, the kids always want to watch a movie, but with the busyness of the week we decided we would have a no television, no computer, no Wii night. Scott and Nathan began grinding the rest of the deer meat as I sat on the floor with the other three to try once again to play Apples to Apples. (We had attempted this earlier in the week, but it only resulted in selfish attitudes and made it no fun to play.) Last night we modified the rules making an all-time judge and began the competition. We had a blast even though I came in last place. Moving from Apples to Apples to Connect 4x4 which is not your traditional Connect 4 since you can win by playing on both sides of the game grid, the competition increased! On our fourth round I was just about to connect four when Nathan comes in and sits next to Peter whose turn happens to be right before mine and blurts out, “Peter go right here you win!” What!?! Peter places his circle in the slot, turns, and bear hugs Nathan to the ground with a huge thank you. Scott smiles from the kitchen knowing what just happened even though he couldn’t see it. With that I move to the kitchen to bag up all the meat and prepare it for the freezer as Nathan takes my place in the game.

The evening trails on and periodically bickering trickles out of the living room. The Zbylot’s have struggled all week with fighting with one another and yesterday morning the Lord showed me in Proverbs 20:3 one way we could hide His word in our hearts so that we might not sin. The focus for us yesterday was this “It is honorable for a man to resolve a dispute, but any fool can get himself into a quarrel.” Throughout the day I reminded the kids of what the verse said and would ask them what kind of person they wanted to be and how they could handle the situation. By the time we had to pick Scott up from work, they still were not heeding the message so when we arrived back home they each had to write it three times, memorize it and tell me how it applied to their lives. Even with all of that they each sat having now moved to Clue Jr., getting themselves into quarrels. Gently Scott and I would project our voices towards the living room and ask them to remember their verse. The kids would modify their actions and continue on.

Why am I sharing all of this? Two reasons. #1-Our household sometimes feels like a constant battle field with six people all wanting their own way and barking out orders. We don’t have the peaceful, tranquil, Little House on the Prairie lifestyle that some people might think we live. #2-I began to think about the impact last night had on our family because we chose to turn off technology. God had laid on my heart the verse He wanted us to focus on yesterday. He gave us a multitude of opportunities to put His word into practice. But the only reason that we had those opportunities is because we were forced to interact with one another in person. Yes, we still have arguments as to who stole someone’s seat when they get up to get their popcorn or a drink as we watch a movie together as a family, but the opportunities to interact with one another are extremely slim compared to the amount we have when we are trying to find the card that best matches the word “shy” or finding the best strategy for getting four in a row before everyone else. As parents trying to raise up children to be imitators of God, we must be able to live out the Word of God in our lives and this does not usually happen by watching someone else’s life in a movie. What gets passed down is what has been taught as you “sit in your house, when you walk along the road, when you lie down, and when you get up” (Deuteronomy 6:7). Connecting our walk to our talk ensures a four in a row win.

My Heart’s Prayer: Lord, help me to connect my walk to my talk. The kids need to see more of Your word lived out in my life than from my mouth. Help me as I read Your word to apply it to my life so that it might help foster a desire to live a life in a manner that is worthy of the gospel of Christ. In Jesus Name, Amen.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

When the Cork Blows

It’s been exactly a week ago that the cork blew. No, it wasn’t mine, but in some ways I wish it had been. We’ve all heard the saying the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Well that saying definitely applies to ALL the character traits in our children that we DON’T want them to inherit. Scott has always called me his champagne bottle because I hold all kinds of stuff inside of me and then when I can’t hold anything else and the bottle gets shaken, I blow. Well, my oldest son has inherited this trait and he blew last week.

He had had a really tough time getting through his school and his grumbling, complaining, and bad attitude was the majority of the problem. Finally mid-afternoon I was way past losing my temper and that is when his cork blew. Both of us setting at the school room table, he bubbled over for an hour of all the things that were bothering him inside. It was a bitter-sweet time as he shared with me and as I listened and offered counsel. While I could write for pages of all the lessons I learned from our time together, the one that I have pondered over the last week the most comes from Philippians 3:12-21. After our long conversation last Thursday, I awoke Friday morning to these words from God and shared them at the breakfast table with all the kids that morning. Listen in as I remind myself again of what the Lord had laid on my heart…

“Not that I have already reached the goal or am already fully mature, but I make every effort to take hold of it because I also have been taken hold of by Christ Jesus. Brothers, I do not consider myself to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and reaching forward to what is ahead.”

Mom is not perfect and I make mistakes. I am striving to do what God wants me to do, but sometimes I don’t. I can’t dwell on these things. I have to ask God’s forgiveness and yours if necessary and move forward. You too will make mistakes and you must ask for forgiveness and move forward. You can’t harbor things in your heart or it will take over you.

“I purse as my goal the prize promised by God’s heavenly call in Christ Jesus. Therefore, all who are mature should think this way. And if you think differently about anything God will reveal this also to you. In any case, we should live up to whatever truth we have attained.”

Our reward and our goal is not here on earth, but is in heaven. All of us are not in the same spot in our spiritual walk and that is okay. However, wherever we are, we are responsible to live out the truth that we do understand. What you understand right now about the God and His word, you are responsible for living out, just like I am.

“Join in imitating me, brothers, and observe those who live according to the example you have in us. For I have often told you, and now say again with tears, that many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction; their god is their stomach; their glory is in their shame. They are focused on earthly things, but our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.”

We can’t live our lives for earthly things. We can’t live our lives for ourselves. We have to live our lives in a way that focuses on who we are in Christ. We belong to His kingdom and should focus on what a joyous day it will be when He returns for us.

He will transform the body of our humble condition into the likeness of His glorious body, by the power that enables Him to subject everything to Himself.”

God is going to take our humble bodies, our earthly sinful bodies and turn them into His likeness through His power. We are unable to change ourselves. Even if we wanted to we couldn’t. God is the only one who can help us forget the mistakes of the past and give us the strength to live out His truths in our lives. He is the one that makes all things new. The old is gone and the new has come only because of the work of Jesus Christ in our lives.

…Knowing exactly how much of a burden it is to carry things inside and how much practice it takes to open up and share your deepest thoughts and feelings with others, I told Dawson at the end of our conversation last week that he was going to have to learn to communicate better. His response was simply, “I’m not much for talking.” With a chuckle, I said yes, but he would have to practice. Later that night Scott and I talked about how he could get some practice in. In the past we have had tea time in the evenings with each of our kids. One night a week they would get to stay up later and visit one-on-one with us. It had been an enlightening time for us as parents, but we had gotten away from this for a number of reasons. We decided that this might be what we need to get back too. Another option that some friends of mine shared with me yesterday was a journal. In it the parent and child write back and forth to one another things that are bothering the child or even praises and encouragement from the parent to the child. It allows the child a way to express themselves without having to feel embarrassed or as vulnerable. Please feel free to share anything you may have done or are doing with your children to open up the lines of communication. It is so critical to have good communication between our children while they are still young before entering into the teenage years. I can use all the ideas you have as I am not much for talking myself!!

My Hearts Prayer: Lord thank you that you are the forgiver of all our sins. Thank you that you make all things new. I pray that you will help Dawson to be able to express in an appropriate manner all the emotions and things that are going on inside of him. You have blessed him with a tender and compassionate heart and I pray that you will help him to see that as a great strength and gift from you and not a weakness. Help him as he begins his transition from boyhood to manhood to live up to the truth that he has attained and will continue to pursue throughout his life. In Jesus Name, Amen.