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

 

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A Letter to My Children

To My Dear Children,

 

Nothing in this world has brought me greater joy than being your mom.  It hasn’t always been easy but I wouldn’t trade any of it for even one second of being motherless.

 

Yet I know I haven’t always done it right.  I’ve probably messed you up in some ways.  Maybe my fluctuating moods caused too much confusion.  Or you felt that at times I was impossible to please.  I know I’ve raised my voice more than necessary.  And I’ve probably said some unkind things.

 

I wonder if I was too strict about some things and not strict enough about other things.  I’m certain that I wasn’t always a good example.  And I probably changed the rules from one child to another.  That wasn’t fair.

 

I’ve tried my best.  I fell far short of perfection.  Hopefully you never felt that I expected perfection from you.  My goal was to have a healthy balance between discipline and grace.  I’m sure one side weighed more heavily at times.

 

You’ll never know the insecurities I felt as a mom.  The times I questioned my decisions.  And the moments I wish I could take back.

 

Despite these (and other unnamed insecurities), may you know without question that my love for you is unbreakable, unsinkable and indestructible.  And regardless of my many shortcomings, I can only hope that somehow you still felt my love even when I was angry.  That you sometimes saw Jesus in me.  That you felt my prayers.  And that I somehow lessened your hurts when I wrapped my arms around you.

 

Love,

Mom

 

© 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

 

Accepting Your Limitations

super-momI’ve always admired those moms who seem to do it all and do it well.  We might call them “supermoms.”  But I’ve come to a conclusion about the truth behind these women.  One is that they’re really not all that super…yet they’ve managed to convince us they are because of the work put into making that happen.  In fact, instead of spending the majority of their time being supermoms, they’re really working hard at the façade.

But there is another side to the whole supermom thing.  I also believe that what makes some of them truly super is that they’ve come to accept their limitations.  They do what they can and because of that, they do it really well.  They don’t try to be someone they aren’t and they don’t expect the same of their children.

Why is it so difficult for people (women in particular) to accept their limitations?  Perhaps it’s because we don’t like feeling weak or inferior.  Maybe we’ve spent too much time striving for what others have or we struggle with comparisons.  Sometimes it’s that other moms have told us what makes a super mom and so we try to fit the mold.

If we’re not careful, this inability to accept our limitations can be passed onto our children.  So we push them into being someone they really aren’t.  I may have told this story before but it fits so well with what I’m trying to say.  In this case, it was a dad who had trouble accepting the limitations of his son.  Okay, let’s just keep it real here—it was my husband who had the difficulty.

Sports has always been in my husband’s blood—whether he’s watching it or playing.  When we had our son, he envisioned the love of sports would be passed on.  So it only made sense that we sign up our oldest son (who was four at the time) for T-ball.

Not only did our son have zero interest in T-ball but he would never develop a love or talent for sports.  In fact, he’s not athletic…like Not At All.  My husband had to learn to accept our son’s limitations.

What happens when we don’t accept them?  Whether it’s our own or our children’s?  It creates undue pressure.  It makes us fake.  It depletes us of energy.  And it keeps us from fulfilling God’s original plans for our lives.

Limitations aren’t meant to bring us down.  Instead, they cause us to look up…to the One who not only made us (and our children) but put in place a plan for our lives.  It won’t always look like someone else’s.  But that’s okay.  God didn’t make us cookie cutters.

When we recognize our limitations, we more easily turn to God for the strength, wisdom and direction that we need for our lives and the lives of our children.  And you know what?  That’s the best place to be.

© 2014, Stephanie Romero

If you’re a mom of teenagers, preteens or you’re just curious, I invite you to subscribe to my newest blog, “Keeping It Real Mama – Musings of a Mama Raising Teenage Children in the Church.”  I just launched this new blog on Monday with my first post, “The Two Words That Changed Everything.”

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

 

 

 

I Don’t Have It Figured Out, and I’m Not Afraid to Admit It

p_confused_mI’ve been weighing the idea of walking away from this blog…closing up shop…enjoying it while it’s lasted…posting a final farewell message or just stopping writing and giving no explanation why.  The reason?  Sometimes I don’t want to put myself out there.  I want to write about fluffy stuff—fun things—the bliss of motherhood and how it’s something I’ve enjoyed every single minute of my life.

Because you see, I read these types of messages in other people’s blogs.  And yet…when I think about how I feel after reading them, I have to face the truth.  I don’t walk away feeling better about myself as a mom.  I don’t even feel encouraged or inspired.  Instead, I wonder…what am I doing wrong?

It’s the same feeling I sometimes get when I’m on Facebook and I read about the accolades of other people’s kids—straight A students who still manage to excel in sports and participate in every ministry at church.  Or when I’m on Pinterest and I see all these homey ideas that make me wonder if I have a creative bone in my body.

And I find myself asking these questions…why does it seem so easy for her???  Why are her kids so in love with Jesus, when sometimes I don’t know if my kids even like Him???  Why are her kids involved in every kid/youth event that happens at church when I have to sometimes drag my kids to church???

It’s not that my kids are bad—and it’s not even that they don’t have a relationship with the Lord (even if it is more like an acquaintance).  In fact, I know they’re believers.  But I just don’t see what I guess I see in other people’s kids.  Instead of my children going to the altar in youth group and lifting up hands in worship to Him, they’re sitting in the back row (and I can imagine one of them in particular has her arms folded, looking bored—the other probably doesn’t hear anything because he’s got earbuds jammed into his ears).  I don’t see their noses in the Bible.  I don’t hear them talking about how God has answered prayer.  I don’t see demonstrative acts of serving Him.

But see, I don’t think the problem is what I’m not seeing on the outside.  It’s that I’m focused on the wrong thing.  And frankly, it’s that revelation keeping me hanging on (just barely) to this blog.

Because while I don’t observe some of the things that parents see in their children, I do have my own victories as a mom.  I know that their relationship with the Lord (whatever degree of closeness it may be), keeps them from doing things other teens might do.  Committed to morals and standards that I certainly never gave a thought to when I was a teenager.  They make good choices, in the face of temptation.  It’s something I’ve seen happen time and time again.  And I hear the maturity of their spiritual walk when they discuss certain topics.

I think sometimes my kids feel that other adults view them negatively because they aren’t doing the outward Christian acts.  But honestly, it doesn’t matter what we do on the outside—it’s what’s on the inside that matters most.  It’s the heart that God cares about and needs to work on before what happens on the outside becomes real and tangible.

So in the end, I’m staying.  I’m willing (with heels digging in) to continue toward the path of keeping it real.  I’m just a prayer-committed mom who’s doing her best to raise her children in a fallen world.  A mom who is learning about Jesus just as much as her kids…who doesn’t have it all figured out.  And who isn’t afraid to admit it.

© 2014, Stephanie Romero