Seeing Past the Elevators a Lesson from Disney

Seeing Past the Elevators a Lesson from Disney

I’m not very good at hearing God speak. My life is loud and usually I can barely hear myself think let alone hear God. But God spoke to me recently in an unusual place. A 16 hour van ride with 5 kids and 2 grandparents is not where I would have expected to hear God. Me speaking (more like crying out) to Him, yes! But I didn’t expect the communication to be the other way around.

 

We took our family to Disney last month. It was a great trip with lots of memories made. My 3 older children had been before, but for the 2 younger ones it was the first time. And Benjamin, my 3 year old, was excited! I mean….Disney! It had been talked about for months, he had seen pictures of our last trip, and he knew he was in for a treat.

 

Now, Benji is 3 and he is one of the youngest of 5 siblings so his life is pretty small at this point. I mean, going to a new playground is a big deal for him. But his all-time favorite thing is riding on elevators and escalators. When you’re 3 this is a big deal. The buttons, the movement up and down, stepping on and off. It doesn’t get much better than that!

 


So now…  Disney! We arrived at our hotel late and tried to quickly unload and get to settled to get some sleep before our first day at Magic Kingdom. Our room was on the 2nd floor so we used the elevator to load our stuff up. Benjamin was in heaven. He got to press the buttons and it was like, wow, “we’re at Disney!” He was ecstatic.

 

The next morning; what did he wake up talking about?….the elevator. “Are we going to ride the elevator again?” “Are there going to be more elevators?” “Can I press the buttons?” We kept telling him about all the rides he’d be able to go on at Disney and how those would be so much better than any elevator, but he wasn’t convinced. In his mind elevators were the best thing there was, the best thing he could imagine.

 

Well he got plenty of elevator time that trip, each day when we left and then returned to our hotel. But he did also make it onto his first roller coaster: thunder mountain railroad. He was nervous as we waited in line, and then getting into this train car and having a bar come down over his lap. But he loved it! He had a blast and was so proud that he rode his first roller coaster. His excitement over elevators never ceased though, even after his roller coaster experience.

 

On our long drive home I was thinking about this and I felt God giving me a spiritual lesson through this observation. I realized that so often we plod through life being excited over elevators. Elevators may be all we really know or maybe we’ve experienced a roller coaster here and there but have fallen back into the rut of expecting elevators.

 

What I mean is that we have such low expectations of God sometimes. We don’t really expect that He can answer that big prayer, or that He could do that big thing in our lives. So we settle for praying small things or just looking for small things, or maybe not looking at all.

 

Ephesians 3 says that God is “able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine.” It is good and right to be excited for the small things, to find joy in the elevators, but I picture God smiling at our excitement and saying, “Oh, just you wait for what I have in store for you!” Just like we knew what lay ahead for Benjamin at Disney. I believe God wants us to dream big about what He will do in our lives and in our families. He has roller coasters in store for us! I was convicted that my prayers are so small, they often revolve only around the here and now. But what excitement and anticipation I would have if I truly took God at His word that His will is for me to have life abundantly in Him (John 10:10) and that He is able to do more than I can even imagine.

 

Thankfully, His goodness and faithfulness do not depend on my expectations. But I do believe He takes joy in our faith and trust that He can and will do big things in our lives. He has more in store than we can see.

 

God is at work, even when all we can see are elevators.

Lauren Stadig

Lauren Stadig

Wife, Mom, Friend

Lauren is a dear sister in the Lord as well as sister-in-law to Eric and Leslee. She brings music and order to any event. She lives with her husband, Paul, and their five children in Charlottesville, VA.

New Year 2020

New Year 2020

2020

Every year around this time, we do a lot of reflecting. Christmas is over, there are new gifts to enjoy and some to exchange and return:) We are sad to see it go and very glad to put decorations away and get back to some order!

As you reflect on the year past and make plans for the new year, here are a few articles to consider:

Will you Say "No" this Year?

If you have not yet carved out some time to quiet yourself and think about some basic goals…

Simple Way for your Family to Pray for a lot of People

Our family has been using this approach for years now!

How to Prioritize your Relationships

One of the problems with being too busy is that we easily lose sight of our priorities…

Ministering to Neighbors

Practical ideas and encouragements for making ministry in your neighborhood a reality this year!

It is important to start off the new year remembering that we are New Creations! If you have not already purchased a copy of one of our Who Are You? resources, consider signing up for our newsletter you will get a free PDF copy of twelve key identity statements to meditate on. Fill out the form below!

It is easy to get overwhelmed with plans for great change and personal growth. These goals in themselves are not harmful. They should never be made outside of the Gospel and our identity in Christ. We are new creations in Christ, this means for us that everyday is New Year’s Day. If you don’t already have a copy, consider reading through Who Are You? as you start your new year. Remember your identity!

Helping our Children Face Difficult Circumstances

Helping our Children Face Difficult Circumstances

Have you seen this before? If you look at it one way, you see an old woman looking down. If you look at it another way, you see the profile of a beautiful young woman looking away. You can look at the same picture and see two entirely different things. It’s all about perspective.

Our Children Need a Change of Perspective

This is a perfect analogy for understanding one of the most essential truths that our children need to grasp: how to look at life, especially the circumstances we don’t like, from God’s perspective. (Be sure to grab the PDF printable to use with your children at the end of this article!)

As parents, we are familiar with long, late-night conversations that often boil down to a child’s struggle with a particular circumstance. Some circumstances are of their own making, such as waiting until the 11thhour to complete a school assignment, maybe a Facebook post that backfired, or the fallout from poor spending choices. Other circumstances might be out of their control, such as a sibling who continues to push their buttons, the fact that they do not have a car to drive, or a chronic health condition. Either way, circumstances usually present emotional pain that we as parents are called upon to remove—and quickly!

How do we help our children see what happens to them in life from God’s perspective?

Usually, my instinct as a father is to simply fix their problem by immediately telling them what to do. While that response is understandable, and even appropriate in certain cases, alone it falls short because it misses the point of what God might be trying to do in the situation.

The perspective that says, “Okay, God. What are you doing here?” needs attention in all of our conversations with our children, but especially during the challenging moments.

Two Things to Say to Our Children to Help Them Change Their Perspective

Here are two thoughts we can share with our children as they are trying to reconcile their view of how life should be with the circumstances they are facing.

First, we might not grow as much when things are going well for us. In fact, things going great may simply mean our idols are working for us. Or perhaps, God in his kindness may indeed bless us with a season of reprieve. Either way, it usually isn’t very long before adversity returns. She breaks a nail, he is asked to clean up his room, or a much more serious event occurs and the emotional roller coaster begins again. This is where what they believe about God is tested and—if they’re looking—they can grow in their relationship with him.

Second, discomfort, emotional distress, and even physical suffering is often the crucible God uses to help us grow in Christ. Personally, I wish there were another way but this is why perspective is so important.

Think of Jonah. The circumstances he was in were in one sense of his own making because of his sin, but in another sense they were very clearly of God’s doing in response to his sin. Scripture says that God sent the fish to swallow Jonah.

By using Jonah as an example, I am not suggesting that every bad situation is God’s discipline for something we have done wrong—it isn’t. There was mercy even in how God dealt with Jonah. Through Jonah we also see how God deals with one man’s sin within the much larger context of his redemptive plan which only deepens our awe of God’s power and wisdom and compels greater love for God.

You don’t need to use your imagination very long to appreciate how hard that must have been for Jonah. But God was with him through those circumstances. God used adversity to do a great work in Jonah that resulted in Jonah being used by God in an incredibly powerful way.

God Is Working Through Our Circumstances to Do Good—We Can Be Assured

In Romans 8:28, we learn God works all things work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose. Do we often forget verse 29? What is his purpose? His purpose is to conform us to his image.

As we guide our children through their circumstances, we do well to help them look for God’s message to them through those circumstances. What is this teaching you about yourself? What sin is God exposing? How is God proving himself faithful? Are the judgements you are making demonstrating a belief in what God says is true, or belief in a lie by the Evil One?

While we often can’t control what happens to us, we can control our response. We are not victims in the sense that what happens has to be determinative. Toward that end, it is far more helpful to realize that God is sovereignly in control and can use our circumstances, most especially those we do not like, for good when our children look at them from that perspective.

This does not justify harm done or necessarily remove the real pain they endure in this life. But this change in perspective enables them to proceed with real hope, confidence, and the resolve that God is working through it, ultimately, for His glory and our child(ren’s) ultimate good and joy.

Please download this PDF guide to help you work through circumstances with your children!

Choosing to Enjoy our Children

Choosing to Enjoy our Children

“Oh my goodness! Is that your Dad?” Those were the shocked words of one of my teenage son’s friends as I walked—clad in cool “skinny jeans” and Van shoes—across the boiling hot parking lot into the building where six of my children were preparing for a performance of Beauty and The Beast. It was 1:00 pm on that Saturday but I didn’t need to be there until the show started at 7:00 pm.

Now, why would you care about that? Great question that I will answer in a moment.

You need to understand something about me. Saturday afternoons are by necessity usually devoted to conquering a huge list of fix-it projects around the house and yard. Although exhausting, I love the challenge of getting as much done as possible. But on this day, the snakes that needed killing (we had seen a copperhead in the yard), and the drainage system that needed repair would have to wait.

These productions are an annual event that represent a huge moment for my children, probably not all that different from a Disney vacation. In addition to the sense of accomplishment that comes from producing a truly amazing show, my children relish the relationships that have enriched their lives. It’s a big deal to them.

While I have supported their participation in years past, I never fully appreciated just how important this experience has been to them personally. It was a great source of joy that I never fully embraced because I was so busy killing snakes or working overtime.

But this year was different. I joyfully went—early—anticipating being part of the hoopla, and soaking it all in with them. Sure enough, they were surprised to see me there so early. They seemed excited that I stepped into their world and was genuinely enjoying the moment with them. I was actually humbled and deeply touched that it mattered to them that I was there. This was a good thing for our relationship.

I would like to say that this is the way it always is. But it isn’t. This was the work of the Holy Spirit in my heart. As we all know, it is a struggle to balance the polarities in life. We would do well to try to make more relationally-positive decisions. Let us be encouraged by Jesus’ example.

He says in John 14:18, “I will not leave you as orphans. I will come to you.” God values presence with us. Consider: God—comes—to—us. He comes rejoicing over us says the prophet Zephaniah (3:17). How can thatbe?

He makes us new creations and gives us His Holy Spirit to take up residence in our hearts. He promises never to leave us. As we discern his work providing assurance, peace, joy, and guidance, we learn what the Psalmist means when he says in 16:11, “In your [God’s] presence is fullness of joy.” God’s holy presence brings us joy even as we blows lines, even entire scenes in the drama of life.

God comes to us and rejoices in us. What a challenge—and opportunity—this presents to us as parents. It is easy to get so engrossed in-you name it- that we miss going to our children and delighting in them. But there is a reciprocal joy for us. All of that together mutually strengthens our relationship with them while accomplishing something more important: exemplifying what it means that God comes to them and delights in them, too.

The Second-Most Important Thing a Father can Pray

The Second-Most Important Thing a Father can Pray

May I suggest that after our children’s salvation in Jesus Christ, the second-most important prayer we can pray for our children is actually… a prayer for ourselves: “God, please turn my heart toward my children.”

We need to pray this prayer for at least four reasons.

#1. Our identity is one of being ambassadors of Jesus Christ to our children(Deut. 6, Eph. 6:1-4, 2 Cor. 5:20). God’s clearly revealed will is to use us as the primary evangelizers and disciplers of “our” children. To do this well, our hearts need to embrace what is already true about us: that we have been given this calling. God’s callings are His enablings.

#2. We are easily distracted by everything going on around us.Technology has made our attention spans like that of gnats on espresso. Instant gratification is just milliseconds away. Consequently, we’d rather lick the icing than make the cake. Priorities? What are those? Everything seems equal in importance. We complain about the tyranny of the urgent but in our worst moments we use it is a convenient excuse for why we rarely engage our children on a deeper, spiritual level. What do we really value most? Our hearts must change.
#3. We would rather pursue things that bring us glory.Let’s be honest. Discipling children, even with its joys, is still what sometimes feels like an odyssey into the paranormal that does more to humble us than shower us with accolades of success. We find it easier to give our time to pursuits that we find much more affirming, immediately rewarding and fun. Our hearts must change.

#4. God is conforming our children into his image, not our image.Our children were created in God’s image, not our own. Jesus’ death and resurrection ensures the transformation of his children into his image. Yet, how often do we find ourselves trying to conform them to an identity that wehave planned out for them? God has a plan for “our” children that usually looks different than our own. We have to stop the tug-of-war with God. God’s dream needs to become our dream. Our hearts need to change.

Time is short. It seems to go by ever so slowly until you wake up and realize that you’ve been at it ten years and the things you wanted to do “tomorrow” you didn’t do. Regret is hard to live with. I already regret things I should have done but didn’t because in key moments, my heart was somewhere else.

Good fathers are not perfect (as if that were even possible). Instead, good fathers are weak fathers who have hearts that are increasingly mastered not by guilt, fear, or self-righteousness but by the overwhelming, compelling love of Jesus Christ for us—in our weakness.

His love for us becomes compelling when each day we realize ALL that he has done for us in making us new creations and giving us every spiritual blessing. We have been given a new identity that is rocket fuel for us fathers.

What are you praying for as a father? Is it for God to change your heart toward your children? If so, seeing all that God has already given you in Jesus is a powerful tool he will use to answer your prayer.

Take a look at what Jesus has done for you!

Please consider the following two resources. First, my 38 minute webinar, Three Wounds Fathers Face and How Our Identity in Christ Helps us Overcome Them, and then second, our 25 page booklet, Who ARE You? For Men!
Two Simple Encouragements for Parents

Two Simple Encouragements for Parents

All ten of us were around the dinner table and the conversation slouched in a bad direction—fast. The kids were discussing some choices that a friend had made. These were not necessarily sinful choices but could reasonably be categorized as lacking wisdom. I tried to arrest the free-fall by looking over at my youngest son, Hunter, asking him, “Hunter: What is something you are thankful for today?” I don’t even remember what he said. I then headed around the table asking his siblings the same question.

I could not believe it. Like a school of piranha fish my children began attacking one of their siblings for what they said they were thankful for. Distraught, Leslee left the table and quietly went upstairs. I stayed for about 3 more minutes and went upstairs to find her.

Is this a familiar scene in your home?

Leslee and I were both angry about what we saw. It was a struggle. The situation needed to be addressed. But how? We knew we needed to pray and get our own hearts right so we could then discuss what had happened. We discussed what we should do in order to address what happened. Then, we went downstairs and called a family meeting. After everyone gathered in the living room, we prayed with the children and then calmly asked some questions. We had about 45 minutes of good discussion which led to some confession and restoration between siblings. Leslee and I even gained some insights we hadn’t had before. It wasn’t quite a scene from the Sound of Music but it was effective.

I wish that I could say that events like this were rare. And I wish I could say that they all cleaned up as relatively easily as this one apparently did. My point in sharing this is to encourage mothers and fathers with two reminders:

First, God works through the messes. The messes are real life. I think we all (parents and children) learn more from messes than from perfection. We all want life to be less confrontational and more peaceful. We wrongly conclude that because there is conflict that there is something inordinately wrong. But that doesn’t have to be, nor is it usually the case. While we seek peace it doesn’t just happen because we wish it but because we work through the inevitable challenges presented by our sin.

Second, Prayer is powerful.Prayer demonstrates a simple dependence upon him. He must act because he is the only one who can change our hearts. Sometimes—especially in the midst of conflicts—we don’t want to pray. Prayer sometimes feels hollow. But God sees in our hearts the desire to honor him. He is glorified in this. And we are helped.

It is easy to become discouraged when we see the same song, 99thverse in our homes. We can easily lose hope because we wrongly conclude that God is not at work. But don’t give in to the hopelessness that is so easy to give in to in the home. Stand firm in the fight for our families. Use the powerful means of prayer. Never doubting that God is at work through it all to accomplish his glory and our ultimate joy.