When Faced With a Difficult Decision

 In our 24 years of marriage, my husband and I have had to make a lot of difficult decisions.  The weight of those decisions have always been much greater when they affect our children.  A recent one easily qualifies as a Top Five for us.  But it wasn’t one made without a lot of thought and prayer.

 

We made the decision to leave our church and attend another one.  I’ll be honest.  Even typing those words brings an ache to my heart.  The best way I can describe it is that it feels like an artery to the heart has been severed.  It’s a connection we’ve had for more than 20 years now.  You don’t walk away from a church you’ve attended that long without experiencing some sadness.

 

It’s the place that saved my soul, my marriage and my family.  It’s a place of familiarity for my children…where they met their first best friends…where they grew spiritually and were received with grace when their relationship with the Lord was rocky.  It’s a place I envisioned being at for the rest of my life, with the hope that my children and their children would also attend (not that I am discounting that possibility).

 

Our reasons for leaving are personal.  But I definitely don’t want to leave the impression there is something wrong with the church.  Our children understand that if they were to decide on their own to continue attending, we’d be more than happy about it.  We’re not looking to pull them away.  It’s just that for my husband and me, it’s the right decision.

 

Still…it affects them.  I’ve heard the protests, questions and even slight anger over this decision.  But when it comes down to it, we have to do what’s right for us as a couple.  As much as I love my children, I’m closer to the time where it will be just my husband and I…which means I can’t allow their disappointment to cloud what’s best for us.

 

One of the reasons I know this was the right decision is that it wasn’t made hastily.  It was with a great deal of contemplation and prayer.  I can only hope that my children truly believe this.

 

Sometimes parents have to make difficult decisions.  If we’re not 100% confident it’s the right one, this can result in guilt and fear.  Guilt that we’ve got it all wrong and fear that our decision will cause negative consequences.  But when our trust is in God—rather than our decision—there is no need to feel guilt or fear.  We can know that it’s all under control.  HIS control.

 

When facing a huge decision…such as how to educate a child, whether or not to move or choosing between working outside the home versus staying at home…seek God.  Keeping seeking until you feel at peace with His answer.  When faced with any decisions, big or small, know that you can find assurance in the outcome if God is part of the process.

 

© 2015, Stephanie Romero

 

Fighting for the Souls of Our Children

downloadEvery New Year I ask God to give me something—a scripture verse, a song, quote, word, anything that will help me in the coming twelve months.  He has never failed to come through.  Sometimes I receive it in December and sometimes not until the year has started.  But at some point, He delivers.

 

Last year it was just one word…FIGHT.  It wasn’t what I expected.  And quite honestly, I really didn’t get it.  But as the year went on, God began to show me the importance of this word and how it represented some battles we would face as a family.

 

Early in 2014, I came across this video by Elevation Church’s pastor, Steven Furtick called “I Will Fight.”  Quite honestly, it’s worth your time to check out.  It was confirmation of not only the word God had given me for the New Year…but preparation for challenges I didn’t know were coming.

 

2014 has felt like a fight for my marriage, our finances, the salvation of my children and a few other areas affecting extended family.  The battles have been waged but not all have been won.  Yes, there have been a few victories and in some cases hope of an end in sight.  But there are ongoing ones yet to be conquered.  Just because 2014 is over doesn’t mean the fight is over.

 

One of the major battles has been for my children.  Raised in the church, taught the Word of God and yet they struggle with their faith to one extent or another.  Now I understand the reason God gave me the word fight.  But He never meant for me to do it alone—He has been there alongside me the entire year.

 

Let’s be real here…you don’t have to be given the word fight to know there is a battle waging for your children.  The world our children are growing up in today is a scarier place than we’ve ever seen before.  The enemy has turned up the heat and he is aggressively pursuing our children.  This is no time for cowering in fear, giving up or becoming complacent.  We must be warriors for our children—fighting not with a manmade weapon but with a spiritual one…prayer.  Fervent, desperate and ongoing prayers for the souls of our children.  Whether they’re still in diapers, grade school, teenagers or adults.  It’s never too early or too late to fight on their behalf.

 

We don’t know what 2015 will bring to us individually, as a family or for this nation.  But we do know that whatever comes, we are never alone in the fight.

 

You will not have to fight this battle.  Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the Lord will give you, Judah and Jerusalem.  Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.  Go out to face them tomorrow, and the Lord will be with you.  2 Chronicles 20:17

 

The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.  Exodus 14:14

 

Don’t let bad reports—from the media, doctors, circumstances or anyone/anything else determine the level of your faith.  Trust in the Lord your God.  Entrust your children to Him.  He cares more about their souls than we could ever comprehend.  But do your part in fighting on behalf for their souls…pray without ceasing (I Thessalonians 5:17); in the spirit (Ephesians 6:18); and in faith, with no doubting (James 1:6).

 

© 2014, Stephanie Romero

 

Keeping Love in Balance

1012285.largeI can clearly remember when my third child realized the imbalance of things.  When he questioned the greater number of videos and pictures I had of our firstborn son, in comparison to him.  Thankfully he never brought up the fact that my oldest son always had new clothes and most of his were hand-me-downs.  Or that he had fewer new toys…or that my energy level was much less by child #3…or that I didn’t boil his pacifier in hot water (when rubbing it against my pants works just as well)…or that I didn’t run to the doctor every time he had a fever…and would just wipe up the blood instead of freaking out.

 

But he does remember never having his own bedroom.  He can recall the makeshift bedroom we made out of a closet and the upstairs foyer we tried to pass off as a bedroom in our next house.  (By the way, he’s had his own bedroom for several years now).

 

And for goodness sakes, please don’t tell him about the time he was accidently left behind in the van in his car seat.  When my husband dropped me off at the doors of church, thinking I had taken all three of our children, when I really only took two.  And how I thought he heard me say to grab our youngest after parking and he didn’t.

 

Despite the cruelty of being the youngest and missing out on brand new clothes, exclusive time with mom, tons of pictures and videos, and just getting shafted in a variety of ways—I can only hope he’s never felt any less love from me.  His siblings will sometimes remind him that he was the “unplanned” baby.  But we know (and tell him) differently—he was our special surprise.  God knew we needed a little more light and laughter in our lives, so He saw fit to bless us.

 

The truth is, we can fill picture albums…we can buy the latest and greatest…we can outfit them to the nines…we can do all these things and so much more.  But it will never replace the gift of love.  It’s so important that we ensure each child (no matter how many are in our quiver) KNOW they’re loved. Don’t assume they know it.  Don’t take one day for granted.  SHOW them love every time there is an opportunity.  It’s the one area in parenting that should always be in balance.

 

© 2014, Stephanie Romero

 

Faith Tester Moments

Faith-Quotes-1You don’t realize how easy it is to trust God until you really have to trust God.  This is a hard truth that kind of slapped me upside the head in recent weeks.  And the scary thing is that you don’t even recognize this truth until it’s tested.

You see, it’s easy to be smug about how strong your faith is when life is smooth sailing.  Even a few bumps in the road may not be enough to jostle your faith.  A difficult day could be constant bickering amongst your offspring, a child who wets her pants for the fifth time or a teenager whose attitude is stinkier than the dirty socks that have been lying on his bedroom floor for the past month.

That’s not to say these aren’t challenges.  But they’re hardly faith testers—at least that’s the conclusion I’ve come to recently.  I believe your faith is tested when the rug gets pulled out from underneath you.  It’s tested when a child’s wrong choice alters her life forever.  It’s tested when everything you envisioned for your child is no longer.  It’s tested when all you can ask is, “Why God?”

A friend and mentor told me that I would grow closer to the Lord because of the recent events that unfolded in our home.  She was right.  In fact, I’m starting to wonder if I ever really knew Him—because the intimacy I’m experiencing lately has been unlike any other time in my life.

In the past I’ve mentioned a couple of scenes played out in the movie, “Passion of the Christ.”  One is when Jesus is a little boy and he falls down.  His mother rushes to him—never an easy moment for a mom to see her child hurt.  Then there is the scene when she is looking up at her son, nailed to the cross.  Both moments significant—but with one requiring more faith than the other.

I’ve experienced the same kind of moments as a mom, a child that’s been hurt emotionally or physically.  And while I certainly can’t say I’ve had to endure the pain of watching my child die, I have watched a dream die—knowing that anything I might have envisioned for my child’s life has forever changed.

Through this blog I’ve been able to share my heart as a mom.  While every blogger wants to see a healthy dose of readers, it’s never been my central focus.  To know that I’ve touched even one person is more than enough for me.  What’s been especially uplifting is the encouragement I’ve received from readers—which has helped me to keep on when I’ve felt like giving up.

I’m still unsure about my plans for this blog.  I’ve considered a few other ideas, such as ending it and concentrating on a devotional (something I’ve always wanted to write), starting an entirely new blog and continuing this one…feeling a bit in limbo at this point.  All I know is that I have to write, almost as much as I have to breathe.

I don’t know what challenges you face on a daily basis as a mom.  I don’t know if your faith has been stretched to its limits.  But I do know this…we can choose our response to those circumstances.  We can throw in the towel or we can cling to the Savior.  As for me, I will continue to hang onto Him—even when it feels like my faith has been tested beyond capacity.  Because it’s those faith tester moments that draw us closer to Jesus.

© 2014, Stephanie Romero

 

 

When Your Best Isn’t Good Enough

tumblr_m34bbtSvyL1r2t4spo1_500Have you ever been in that place—when it feels like the best you have to offer isn’t good enough?  Although we can experience this in many areas of life, I think the hardest place is when it’s as a parent.

I’ve done my best to teach good manners—but still he refuses to say thank you.  I’ve done my best to get the extra help she needs—but still she cannot read.  I’ve done my best to be a good example—but still he makes the wrong choices.  Virtually every parent has some type of “I’ve done my best” scenario.

Here’s where my struggle has been the biggest lately:  I’ve done my best to raise my children in the Lord—but still they don’t know Him, serve Him, love Him, etc.  This isn’t to say it’s true for all my children.  There is at least one who is on the right track and the other still trying to figure it all out.  But I definitely have one child who has gone off the beaten path.

In moments of exasperation I’ve vocally expressed my frustrations.  “What good has it done to raise you in the church?”  I realize this isn’t one of my most redeeming moments as a mom…but it’s me, in the raw.  I’ve also cried out to God and asked Him similar questions.  Essentially it comes down to this…I’ve done my best and yet it hasn’t been good enough.

In Luke 18:19 Jesus asks a rich younger ruler, “Why do you call me good?”  He goes on to say that no one is good—except God alone.”  How is it possible that Jesus would refute someone calling Him good????  If He isn’t good (and we know that He is!)…how in the world can I possibly think that my best is good enough?  In other words, my best ISN’T good enough.  Because my best is built on my own works, my own ways.  If Jesus is telling us that only God is good, that means it’s not about me (a reminder I need often!).  It’s entrusting everything—including my children—to the only One who IS good.

© 2014, Stephanie Romero

 

To the Parents of Younger Children: What You’re Doing Isn’t a Waste but It’s Also Not a Guarantee

Mom-With-KidsIn my last blog, “I Don’t Have It Figured Out, and I’m Not Afraid to Admit It,” I received quite a bit of support—some that came through the comments section and others through email.  I greatly appreciated the encouragement and the resounding message that it needs to be said.  But isn’t that how life works?  Sometimes you have to say the hard things.

At the same time, I recognized that my blog (and other ones I’ve written) has the potential to discourage parents of younger children.  While I try not to focus solely on raising teenagers, it is a topic that comes up frequently for the sheer fact that I am.  But I started to think, “How would I feel reading some of these blogs if my children were younger?”

The answer is…I don’t know.  Because the feedback I receive only comes from those who have “been there and done that” or are in the midst of it.  But I have a sneaking suspicion that it’s possible for some parents with younger children to feel one of two ways.

The first is that it may cause them to wonder, “What’s the use?”  Some parents may be wondering what good is it to raise your children in the church if they aren’t going to follow what they’ve learned.  Well, I have a couple of thoughts on this.

First, it doesn’t mean they won’t.  Not every child wanders off the path.  In fact, I have my own example of that with my oldest son who is serving overseas.  I went through all of his high school years with very little difficulty.  He never talked back to me, was obedient and just a really good kid.  Now 20, he continues to stick to his commitment to remain a virgin until he gets married.  Don’t get me wrong—he’s not perfect (no one is!).  But my point is that some children fare quite well when raised in the church.

Second, even if they do wander off the path, it doesn’t mean teaching them the truths was for nothing. I have heard too many stories of people who left their faith and eventually came back to it.  Granted, the road back hasn’t always been easy—but they returned.  Parents of younger children, what you’re doing isn’t a waste.

The second way I suspect some parents of younger children might be feeling is this:  “It will never happen to me.”  They are pretty self-assured that it’s going to be different for them.  Not that I want to rain on your parade, but I was there.  I banked it all on the fact I was raising them “right.”  We were good examples, we attended church three or more times a week, we read the Bible together, they memorized Scripture, participated in VBS and well, the list could go on.

You see, as wonderful as all of this is, it’s not what salvation is about.  It’s not about doing good—it’s not about earning your way—it’s not about a checklist of “Christian” works—and it’s not about “10 Steps to a Godly Child”.  Our children’s faith must come from within.  Not that these things aren’t good or helpful.  Of course they are.  But the decision to follow the Lord must start in the heart.  Faith is not something we can make happen for them.  We can’t create it.  We can’t force it.  Parents of younger children, there are no guarantees.  But we can do our very best, pray and trust God.

It seems appropriate to end with something I saw posted on Facebook the same day I wrote the blog about not having it figured out and not being afraid to admit it.  Despite the positive feedback, I was still questioning God about why parenting sometimes has to be so hard.

One of my friends reposted something from an author/speaker, Israel Wayne.  And it was this:  “I have made a commitment.  If my adult children reject God, it will be a God they know, not a God they don’t really know.” 

© 2014, Stephanie Romero

 

 

 

Christian Parents Need to Get Their Head Out of the Sand

head-in-the-sandOne of the most disturbing cases of child crime has struck close to home.  In fact, right where I live.  It’s made national news, the tragic story of two 12-year-old girls who nearly stabbed to death their friend.

In case you don’t know about the story, they planned it for months.  They lured their friend into the woods and while one of the girls held her down, the other stabbed her 19 times—in the arms, legs and torso.  Amazingly, she managed to crawl out of the woods where a bicyclist found her.  She will live—but can you imagine the horror of living with what her “friends” did to her?

I don’t normally address newsy items on my blog.  But as a mother, it deeply affects me and in some ways is personal.

From the accounts I have read, most people who knew the girls never could have imagined such a horror.  They had good families, good upbringings. There’s some talk about one of the girls possibly suffering from a mental disorder.  But that seems to be the default when something unthinkable such as this happens. Is it possible?  Of course.  Something is clearly wrong with someone who acts out in such a way. But one of the things that can’t be ignored is how those girls spent their time.

I took it upon myself to visit the website that apparently sparked the idea of murder.  It’s called “Creepy Pasta.”  I don’t suggest anyone going to the site unless it’s for research purposes, which is what I did.  And believe me, I spent not more than a couple of minutes before I reached the conclusion it’s filled with nothing but evil and darkness.  They claim it’s a literary site.  While that might be true, it’s filled with paranormal and horror stories.

One of the fictional characters that these girls were trying to “please” when they attempted to murder their friend was a fictional character called Slenderman.  That immediately caused a reaction in me.  I had heard the name before…out of the mouth of my daughter.  Back when she was in middle school.  I remember at the time asking her who that was and she simply laughed it off.

If only I had taken the time back then to research it.  But we had taken all the necessary precautions to block websites and have reports sent to my husband’s email on sites visited.  Never once did I think about the possibility that at someone else’s house my daughter was looking at things she shouldn’t.

Without divulging too much information—but feeling it’s important to share the truth—she began to step foot into the dark world (not Slenderman but other avenues).  I should also point out that it was with a friend she had grown up with in the church.  I didn’t know this was going on but the signs were there.  I guess I’d convinced myself that it was “just a phase.”  At the same time, she had become the victim of bullying.  Again, something I wasn’t aware of—and so with the combination of both, my daughter began to change.

Today she is no longer bullied.  She is now terrified to even step a toe into the waters of evil and darkness.  But it doesn’t mean she hasn’t dealt with the repercussions.  We’re still dealing with some of the effects today.

I guess the point I want to make is that we can’t assume all is well in our children’s lives simply because we don’t see the bad.  Too many parents (especially Christian parents) have their heads stuck in the sand.  They believe that because they have put protective measures in place, it’s foolproof.  That just because their children are raised in the church, they don’t have to worry.  Or that since they see their children acting one way, it’s not possible they have another side to them when they’re not around.  We’re fooling ourselves.  And the devil is laughing.

It’s getting harder and harder to protect our children.  But we have to do what we can to get into their world—to know what’s influencing it and to accept the very real possibility that it may not be what we think.  We all want to believe the best.  We want to trust that our prayers, our commitment to live a Christian lifestyle is all it takes.  But the harsh reality is that sometimes it’s not enough.  I’ve seen it in my home and in others.

I wish I had a solution to all of this.  I wish I could say that if you follow this 10 step plan, you’re guaranteed holy children.  That if you live right, your children will do the same.  But all I can offer is my heartfelt plea to take your head out of the sand.  Ask questions. Investigate.  Don’t believe everything your children tell you.  Check up on them.  Look through their belongings.  Look up their friends online.  Go see if they’re really where they say they are.  And if they complain that you don’t trust them, tell them they’re right.

© 2014, Stephanie Romero