Thursday, June 10, 2010

Teaching Firstborns God’s Order of Authority—A Summer Survival Guide!

My firstborn, ten-year-old son seems to spend his whole life in an effort to dress himself in the robes of a parent.

I often hear tidbits like:

“Now, Christian, we need to clean for Papa. Would you like to come home to a messy house?”

“Abigail, if you don’t eat your dinner, you won’t get dessert.”

“C’mon everybody, I’ve got three activities planned for you.”

“Mama, you need to be a good example to us.” Ack!

After half a week of constant posturing to maintain—and sometimes regain—my God-given authority, I’m tired and wondering how to handle a whole summer with my firstborn underfoot. Well, I may not have the answer, but here are some ideas I’ve come up with as I work through this dilemma.

First, I need to remember my dear boy is just trying to help. I know his “leadership” exudes from a sincere desire to create a more effective home and to guide us all into better behavior. I’m grateful he has this desire, and I want to encourage it. But I must be careful to help him see the difference between helping and usurping authority.

Second, I can thank God for the opportunity to teach my son about God’s order. When my boy acts like he has more authority than me, his parent, he’s not only striving against our family balance, he’s telling God he knows better. “This mom you gave me isn’t doing a good job, so I’m going to do it for her. I’ll take it from here, God.” It’s so important for him to understand that if he honors his earthly authority, he will more readily rest under the Lord’s authority. Handing the reins to his not-so-smart mom (in his mind), is a big struggle for my dear son. But it’s a fight we must win—by God’s grace, of course!

How do I cement a deep respect for authority in my son? Prayer and love.

Which brings me to the third point. I’m beginning to realize that part of the problem could possibly be my attitude—maybe just a little. You see, I too kick against authority. I have a certain way I want my day to go. I want my house to look nice and tidy. I want my children to say “please” and “thank you” and I want everything in my realm to make me look like a got-it-together mama.

I don’t know about you, but this doesn’t always happen. And when it doesn’t, like my boy, I sometimes get frustrated and try to force my will. Fruits go flying out the window—fruits of the Spirit that is—as I make excuses for my less-than-encouraging thoughts, words, and actions.

To simmer down I must remember that I’m not the one in control. We have a saying in our house. “You’re not the king.” I’m not the king. God is. And when I bow my knee to him in prayer and the Word, peace comes—as well as the ability to handle the dents and bruises to my vision.

The same is true for my boy. When he starts thinking he’s the king, the answer isn’t a big ol’ lecture. It’s not to “put him in his place,” or undermine his ideas. It’s to send him to his Savior in the Word and prayer. And as he sits at Christ’s feet, he will grow into the boy who respects authority—both his parents and others.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

What Kind of Bride Am I?

Recently I was asked to do a devotional for a bridal shower. As I thought about what to talk about, I, of course, ran to our great mothers—those great brides in the Bible. As I looked at these wives and their attributes, I began to wonder, What kind of bride am I?

Am I Eve? Do I, like her craving the forbidden fruit, manipulate my husband to get what I want? In the same manner as she listened to the voice of the serpent, do I heed the voice of my own desires or other influences rather than the authority God has given me?

Am I Sarah? Rather than building up my husband’s faith, do I, like Sarah in her fit of laughter, ridicule God’s faithful promises by my own lack of trust? And also, do I meddle into things which are between him and God—as Sarah meddled with the need for offspring?

Am I Gomer from the book of Hosea? A prostitute who ran from the man who God had called to serve her. Am I unfaithful in my thoughts or words? Do I run from my husband when I should be running to him?

If I’m honest, I must admit, yes, I am like these women a lot of times. But I long to do better, to reflect the others we learn about.

Am I Rebecca, Rachel? Beloved of their husbands and blessed of God.

Am I Ruth? Humble. The faithful wife who longs to support and serve the man who loves her.

Am I the Shunamite Woman (Solomon’s beloved)? Her passion for her husband engulfs all her life, and she longs to serve only him. Am I like that?

I hope to more closely resemble the faithful ones. But as I study these ladies, something aside from their character strikes me:

Each of these faithful women has been especially chosen by her husband.

Think about Rebecca, Rachel, and also Moses’ wife. All these women were simple daughters, interested in livestock. There was nothing exceedingly amazing about them. They were not born of kings, they weren’t exceedingly wealthy. Just good, upright women. But the main thing these women have in common is that they watered their herds at a well.

And what happened at the well? A husband, or representative of a husband, sought out each one of these women, Rebecca, Rachel, and Zipporah, courted them, and claimed them for his own. These women were called to be part of God’s family by the patriarchs themselves. Not because of who they were, but because of the simple fact that they were chosen.

What about Ruth? Was she much of anything in the world’s eyes before she married Boaz? We know Ruth was a woman of good character, but in earthly terms, Ruth was less than a nobody. A widow. A foreigner—not an Israelite. There was nothing earthly to recommend her to the noble farmer, Boaz. Yet, in God’s providence, Boaz chose her for a wife. Redeeming her life from poverty and bitterness.

What about the Shulamite woman? The great, beautiful King Solomon (did you catch that? A king!) took this woman—a young country girl—and in his great, overwhelming kindness, he didn’t just wed her, but passionately without reserve, in utter fleshly desire and spiritual delight, he adored her.

Song of Solomon 4

You have captivated my heart, my sister, my bride;
you have captivated my heart with one glance of your eyes,
with one jewel of your necklace.
10 How beautiful is your love, my sister, my bride!
How much better is your love than wine,
and the fragrance of your oils than any spice! ESV

Again, we see the kindness of a husband, who welcomes a bride into his arms, despite the woman’s lowliness.

Back to the question. Which sort of bride am I? I still wasn’t sure. I looked in one more place, near another well, an old, old well, yet during a different time.

John 4
5 Now Jesus came to a town of Samaria called Sychar, near the field that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. 6 Jacob's WELL was there;

What was there? A well? Have we heard this before? Do you think John knew that in the first five books of the Bible the place to get wives was at a well? Let’s keep reading:

so Jesus, wearied as he was from his journey, was sitting beside the well. It was about the sixth hour. 7 A woman from Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” … 9 The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?” (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.)

Immediately we see that just like Boaz, King Solomon, and Hosea, Jesus has no earthly reason to pursue this woman. Why?

Let’s talk about the Samaritan woman for a second. What do we know about her?
1. She’s a woman. Not good during that time. A rabbi wasn’t allowed to talk to women.
2. She’s a Samaritan—What does that mean? Less than a half-breed. Rejected, outcast.

We’ll get to more later. But for know we start to glimpse that Jesus is like those former husbands we’ve seen. He goes to a well and talks to a woman, not because she’s extra worthy, but because of something about the man’s character. There’s something the man has been called to do. Something in God’s bigger purpose.
Verse 10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.”

Not only did Jesus lower himself to talk to her, he gives her something better than she has. Let’s skip to verse sixteen.

16 Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.” 17 The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; 18 for you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband. What you have said is true.”

So we come to the other issue with this woman that would make a normal person stay away from her? What is it? What makes her more than a lowly woman, a rejected Samaritan halfbreed? An outcast of outcasts?

She thirsts.

Not for water. She thirsts for husbands. She’s had six. Six. And none of them could quench her thirst. They only left her dry, weary, tired. And thirsting even more.
What does this woman need? She needs a seventh husband. Seven, the number of perfection. She needs the perfect husband, who is Christ. And he doesn’t turn her away. She deserves to thirst forever because of her sin—her many, many sins. She does NOT deserve to have her soul quenched. She does not deserve to be Christ’s bride. Not the beautiful Christ. The lovely husband. She deserves to die in her arid loneliness.

We are that bride.

We are that faithless one, who thirsts for what does not fulfill. Our sins make us outcasts of outcasts, a Samaritan, Eve, faithless Sarah, Lot’s wife, Gomer—despised, rejected. We do not deserve to have a beautiful, strong, honorable husband seek us out and call us his bride.

But then … what happened to the Samaritan woman? Do you remember? Jesus quenches her thirst for husbands with Himself—the most beautiful husband there is. Better than the Old Testament grooms.

Yet, the story is not over, for, “This bride will not come cheap.”

Christ calls her to him, but he must pay a price for her. “Quenching his beloved's thirst will require him to endure the horror of the cross in her stead. For it is there, nailed hand and foot, that Jesus, the source of living water, would cry out, "I thirst." Christ goes to the cross to thirst in his bride's place, taking on her sorrow, grief and sin.”

Dear friends, our groom gives himself to us. He pulls us from our dirty, desperate estate and just as a husband will take his bride’s hand to claim her as his own, Christ takes ours. As a bride is clean, fragranced, adorned in a beautiful dress and jewelry, hair perfectly coifed, so our we as our great husband raises us from the filth of our sin and brings us to him.

And I wonder, what kind of bride was the Samaritan Woman? First, she embodied all those unfaithful brides, but then, after an encounter with Jesus, she blossoms into the Shulamite woman—the wife of King Solomon, passionately in love with Jesus.

The water he gives her overflows out of her abundant love for him. And she can’t help but tell others about him. She preaches the gospel to her loved ones, and you can only imagine the change her life took on. Do you think she continued to live in sin after falling head over heals in love with her new seventh husband? The perfect one?

Of course not. That living water never runs dry. His love for her never runs dry. And then it overflows from her heart—from our hearts. Love for all around us flows uncontrollably and the recipients include … our husbands.

The love for our heavenly husband is fleshed out daily in love to our earthly husbands. For as we adore Christ, we will be patient, kind. We won’t boast or envy. We won’t insist on our own way, or be irritable or resentful. We’ll rejoice in the truth, bear all things, believe all things, endure all things. In Christ, we become the wife he’s called us to be. Not out of resentful duty, but out of overflowing love for our heavenly husband whom we cherish.

So my advice, to the soon to be bride. Fall in love with your savior, and your love for Him will overflow to your groom as well.

*Special thanks to Scott Hunter and Brett McNeill for their help!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

How Many Times Have I Told You?

“How many times have I told you?”

It seems like my mommy job is a never-ending treadmill on futility.

Well, maybe that’s a bit of an overstatement, but seriously, how many times do I have to tell my son to stay out of his sisters’ room? And how many times must I instruct my princess-adoring daughter, Gabrielle, that, “Sweetie,” (my teeth are clenched) “Cindrella wouldn’t make smacking sounds when she eats with Prince Charming”?

We had a spell of this type of “forgetfulness” today. Christian, my five-year-old rough and tumble knight, has a bad habit of putting his fat fists on, and in, things he’s not supposed to …

First thing this morning, he ran to the front porch to “help” retrieve the milk from where the milkman left it. Before I could get there, he’d knocked over the egg carton also nestled with the milk. So fun cleaning up a bunch of egg yolk (actually, not so much).  How many times have I told him to ask for help when getting the milk?

Later, he dumped out my daughter’s big, perfectly organized, box of … beads. Yeah, millions (well, it seemed like millions) of sparkly pink, yellow, and gold beads all over the floor. How many times have I warned him not to touch Gabrielle’s things?

And finally, without thinking it was even wrong, he smiled at me and grabbed my daughter’s newly beaded necklaces (a big pile she’d been working on) and balled them into a tangled mess. I sent him to the corner. When he got out, where do you think the first place he raced to was? That same ball of beads.

Definitely ingredients for a frazzled mom’s frustrated outburst, but the moment that went beyond frustrating was when the same five-year-old repeatedly (and I mean repeatedly) loses his temper. Such defiant words coming from my silly boy’s mouth. Such an inability to control his fists and his stomping feet.

After about six of these incidents today, I just wanted to cry. Will he ever learn? Will his heart ever soften to my instructions?

And then I heard echoes of my heavenly Father. My own sins go far beyond those of my sweet children. I think first of my own needs more times every day than I can count. When my frustration explodes in words that shame Him; when I snap at my husband rather then giving him the benefit of the doubt … It’s like a neverending treadmill of futility—my repeated sins.

Yet, God’s grace and forgiveness never end. I can never sin more than He will forgive. Did you hear that?

I can never sin more than he will forgive.
Even if I ask for forgiveness one minute then rush and do the exact same thing the next, well, Jesus paid for those sins—the first one and the second.

My Heavenly Father never gets exasperated with me—he never says, “How many times have I told you to be patient with the children I’ve entrusted to you?” It’s so hard to believe, but it’s true. He always let’s me climb back on his lap and whisper one more, “I’m sorry, Abba.”

“Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord:
though your sins are like scarlet,
they shall be as white as snow;
though they are red like crimson,
they shall become like wool. Isaiah 1:18

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Love Finds You in February Winners!

Thank you for all who participated in this fun contest. All of we author-types had lots of fun answering your awesome questions!

Sandie’s books to: Martha A. and Katheyeeberly

Loree’s to: Sherry K and Marlee

Ocieanna to: Shelly

Tricia to: Abi

Cerella’s to: Emily

Miralee’s to: Kim & Elyssa

So Shelly, send my your address and I'll shoot a signed Love Finds You in Lonesome Prairie over to you!

Thanks to all who participated!

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Love Finds You in February!!!

The "Love Finds You in February" Contest kicks off today and runs until Valentine's Day. If you leave a comment (and your contact information) at one of the following blogs and your name is selected, you'll win a copy of one of the fantastic Love Finds You titles highlighted below.

We’re giving away free copies of eight separate books--not all to one person, either! There will be eight winners, and here's how you can become one of them:

We’re not doing canned author interviews. You’ll be doing the interviewing! Pick as many authors as you like, ask any question you please (such as, something about their book(s), their writing or personal lives), and the author will post the answer in the Comments section. Be sure to bookmark the page and come back often (or have comments forwarded to your email) so you can keep track of the answers. And be sure to identify which author the question is for!

PLEASE NOTE: If someone has already asked the author of your choice a question on that particular blog, you must pick another author and a different question. Questions will be moderated before posting, so naturally, no inappropriate questions will be included.

All of the participating authors will post this same contest on their personal blogs. You can visit each one by clicking on the link listed with each book/author below. That way you can ask a different author a question on each blog, if you’d like (and increase your chances of winning!). You're allowed multiple entries for posting on different blogs... but only one entry per blog.

So let's get started! You can click on each author's


Web site

Love Finds You in Lonesome Prairie, Montana

Julia Cavanaugh has never left New York City. But in 1890, the young woman must head west to ensure that the orphans under her care are settled into good families. After her final stop in Montana, she plans to head straight back east. But upon arriving in the remote town of Lonesome Prairie, Julia learns to her horror that she is also supposed to be delivered into the hands of an uncouth miner who carries a bill of purchase for his new bride. She turns to a respected circuit preacher to protect her from a forced marriage but with no return fare and few friends, Julias options are bleak. What is Gods plan for her in the middle of the vast Montana prairie?

Web site:

Love Finds You in Bridal Veil, Oregon
In the thriving 1902 lumber mill community of Bridal Veil, accidents happened.
But nobody expected murder.
Against the backdrop of the breathtaking Bridal Veil Falls in a historic Oregon logging community, a schoolteacher finds herself torn between a past love and the man who could be her future. Sixteen-year-old Margaret Garvey promised her heart to Nathaniel Cooper the night he disappeared from town. Four years later, just as she’s giving love a second chance with Andrew, a handsome logger, Nathaniel suddenly returns to town with a devastating secret. While grappling with the betrayal of those she trusted most,Margaret risks her reputation and position by harboring two troubleds disaster strikes the town and threatens the welfare of its citizens, Margaret will be faced with the most important choice of her life.

Love Finds You in Last Chance, California

Alexia’s father has died unexpectedly, leaving her burdened with a heavily mortgaged horse ranch. Marrying one of the town's all-too-willing bachelors would offer her an easy solution, but Alex has no interest in marriage. Instead, she dons men's trousers and rides the range, determined to make the ranch a success on her own. But des pite Alex's best efforts, everything seems to go wrong: ranch hands quit, horses are stolen, and her father's gold goes missing. Alex is at her wit's end when wrangler Justin Phillips arrives in Last Chance with his young son, looking for a job. But there seems to be more to Justin's story than he's willing to share. Will Alex ever be able to trust him?

Web site:

Love Finds You in Hershey, Pennsylvania
“Love Finds You in Hershey, Pennsylvania is a swirl of chocolaty goodness mixed with multi-layered characters and a touch of surprise. In this lively tale of a klutzy-yet-fiery heroine with a will to succeed, Cerella D. Sechrist creates a delicious story of forgiveness, grace and sweet romance. Highly recommended.” -Julie Carobini, author of Truffles by the Sea and Sweet Waters.

Chef Sadie Spencer has learned that in life, as well as in food, sour balances sweet. After returning to her deliciously charming hometown of Hershey with a young daughter in tow, Sadie has managed to rise from the ashes following the death of her husband, the passing of her mother, and the dissolution of her career as a TV chef. With the help and encouragement of her best friend, Jasper, she opens a restaurant and looks forward to savoring the sweet side of life. That is, until a handsome Russian entrepreneur arrives in town, apparently intent on opening up his own restaurant in direct competition to hers. Sadie becomes obsessed with honing the one skill she’s never had – creating desserts – to keep up with her adversary, and in the process, she finds a love that’s simply icing on the cake.

Web site:

Love Finds You in Holiday, Florida
Award-winning author of laugh-out-loud comedy for the inspirational market. The Big 5-OH! - Abingdon Press - Due on bookstore shelves 2/1/10 Always the Baker, Never the Bride - Abingdon Press - Due on bookstore shelves 9/1/10

Cassie Constantine has no intention of staying in Florida. She's just there to get her late husband's vacation home ready for the real estate market, but the place needs more work than Cassie bargained for. What's more, her widow status is like a target on her back, and the elderly matchmakers around town manage to sidetrack her mission at every turn. Holiday is a landmine of golf tournaments, ballroom dancing competitions and unexpected intrigue. But the biggest obstacle of all? Richard Dillon, the stuffed shirt she's paired with on the dance floor. He makes her heart beat faster than the rhythm of The Quickstep.

Love Finds You in Snowball, Arkansas
So what if she can't hook a fish? This city girl has a plan to snag something else...and his name is Justin. Lucy Binoche is reasonably attractive, intelligent, and fit. She has French lineage and better-than-average hair. So why is she nearly 30and still single? Justin Gerard is the rugged hottie new to her church's singles group. When he signs up for a camping trip in the Ozarks, Lucy loses no time writing her name on the line beneath his. Theres only one problem Lucy's idea of "roughing it" is suffering through a long line at Starbucks. She assumes she can rely on the grace of God and the assistance of her friend to get through.

But at the campsite in Snowball, Arkansas, Lucy bungles everything she attempts as she tries to impress Justin. She can't fish, hike, or ride a horse; caves make her hyperventilate; and hot-air balloons make her ill. Soon, events are snowballing out of control. Will Lucy pretend to be someone shes not just to snag a boyfriend? Or will she discover someone who loves her just as she is?

Web site:

Love Finds You in North Pole, Alaska

A former marine is no match for the spunky Sam Sinclair!

Wounded in battle, Bryce Stone has returned to his home town of North Pole, Alaska, aknd the self-admitted scrooge isn’t happy about living in the town “Where the spirit of Christmas Lives Year Round.” What’s worse, he must postpone his dream of opening a furniture-making shop when his aunt retires and leaves him the family’s cramped and cluttered Christmas boutique. When Bryce underestimates the young woman he’d hired to manage the store, it becomes a battle of wills, and soon Bryce and Sam find themselves fighting for more than just the success of the shop.

Love Finds You in Paradise, Pennsylvania

For as long as anyone can remember, tourists have flocked to the quaint town of Paradise, Pennsylvania, where Amish buggies are as common as shops that sell hand-crafted goods. But to attorney Julia Spencer, this town is anything but a paradise. Raised in foster homes, Julia has succeeded in life only through steely determination and independence. The close-knit

Amish people are a mystery to her. But local veterinarian Simon Thomas knows them well and is fiercely protective of their simple ways, which are increasingly threatened by the outside world. When Julia agrees to defend a local teenager charged in a case involving an Amish boy, she and Simon find themselves on opposite sides of an intense legal and emotional battle. Just when it seems they will never understand one another, God has something to teach them both about the power of forgiveness… and the joys to be found in Paradise.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Laundry Lessons--When My House Looked Like My Righteousness

"I will greatly rejoice in the Lord;
my soul shall exult in my God,
for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation;
he has covered me with the robe of righteousness,
as a bridegroom decks himself like a priest with a beautiful headdress,
and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels." Is. 61:10 ESV

Remember the verse from Isaiah. “Our righteousness is as filthy rags.” Yesterday my house reminded me of my righteousness—full of filthy clothes!

I’ve spent the last year writing two books, Love Finds You in Lonesome Prairie, Montana and Love Finds You in Victory Heights Washington. The deadline for Victory Heights was Monday and, sisters, for the last week I worked 10-12 hour days.

Needless to say keeping up on housework, and especially laundry, went out the window—or rather into huge piles all throughout the kids’ rooms, my room, and the hallway.

Our physical well-being was at risk (in case an unaware wee one tripped and crashed her head into a lego creation or other strewn mess.) And our spiritual health also hung in the balance (not the prettiest words pour out when a struggling-to-maintain-her-happy-demeanor mama stumbles on a pile of dirty jeans.)

So yesterday, the first day after the deadline, I jumped in with both feet—and elbows, hands, and a bottle of bleach—to clean! For some reason, I thought my kids would be as fed up with the mess as I was. It was TEAM FLEISS time, and we would conquer the house together.

So, while I chucked one load after another into the washer, scrubbing showers and dishes in the down time, I cheerfully gave the kids tasks. “Christian, yank all that stuff from under the couch.” “Abigail, take this sponge and scrub the stains on the wall.” And the ultimate goal— “Gabrielle, those piles of laundry in the hall need to come down!”

Then as sweet Gabrielle lugged her third basket of laundry down the stairs, she began to make a strange sound. Could that be whining?

I was so surprised. My daughter was whining about cleaning? Doesn’t she know this house is a disaster? I’m gonna be honest. A rumbling frustration grew in my chest. I wanted her to willingly help with a smile—like Snow White in the dwarves’ cabin. “Whistle While You Work.”

Even though my crazy fantasy lacked any understanding about kids’ attitudes toward cleaning, I was disappointed, and tempted to snap at her. “Don’t you want to be on Team Fleiss? Don’t you want to stop living in filth?”

But by God’s grace, instead of snapping, I took a moment to pray and think. Maybe my ideal was extreme, but my desire to instill the value of hard work and a clean home was a good one. How could I take this moment to teach her?

Here’s what I told her.

1. “Sweet Gabrielle, after you brought all those loads down, when you looked at the empty hallway, how did that feel?” She shrugged and said, “Good.” Phew, she said the right thing. “One reason we clean is because it feels good to work hard to make it look nice.’ She liked that. So I moved on.

2. “Another reason we keep our house tidy is to bless others. When you brought down the laundry it meant the family will have clean underwear (which is gleeful!) AND nobody will crash to his death from tripping on the piles. All because you did the not-so-fun work. Thank you, Gabrielle.” A big smile spread across her face.

3. Finally, the most important reason. “We also clean with a cheerful heart because it pleases God. Remember that verse, ‘Rejoice always.’? An orderly house pleases Jesus. It means we care about the home he gave us.” My thoughtful girl’s eyes squinted. “Hmm. Okay, Mama.”

So by the end of the day my house no longer looked like my righteousness—not so full of filthy clothes. But the question still remains. How can my righteousness be cleaned up?

Well, my logic to Gabrielle only worked because God is in her heart, making the truth come to life. And the same is true of me. My temptation to snap shows how scroungy my heart is when ruled by my own selfish desires. I need someone to change my heart from mucky to clean.

There’s hope.

Christ takes our filthy clothing and exchanges them for garments of righteousness. Unlike my home, I can’t scrub hard enough to clean my own hearts. But when I trust in him alone, he does it for me. And dressed as his bride, I go out with joy, serving him in all I do—whether scrubbing showers, teaching whining children, or folding piles of laundry. He is with me.