kids

God Is Faithful and Gracious

June 3, 2017, marks the tenth birthday of our stillborn daughter Carsyn. I have written about her impact on our family a few times over the years. The most recent post can be read here: http://jeremypcarroll.com/celebrating2livesonjune3

My wife and I have tried to make the date of June 3 as a memorial stone on our family’s calendar. In Joshua 4 God instructs Joshua to have the Israelites take stones from the Jordan river to remind of God’s faithfulness and miraculous provision as they cross on dry ground. After collecting the stones, Joshua told God’s people: In the future, when your children ask their fathers, ‘What is the meaning of these stones? ’ you should tell your children, ‘Israel crossed the Jordan on dry ground.’ For the Lord your God dried up the water of the Jordan before you until you had crossed over, just as the Lord your God did to the Red Sea, which he dried up before us until we had crossed over. This is so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the Lord’s hand is mighty, and so that you may always fear the Lord your God.” (Joshua 4:21-24) We will find great benefit in life if we establish landmarks in our lives to help us remember God’s provision lest we fall into taking God’s graciousness for granted.

It is difficult for me to believe that season of our lives was only 10 years ago. So much as happened since then: lived in 3 different states, added 3 more children, welcomed into several church families, God has healed our family from that dark place in ways we could never had imagined at the time.

This year we were blessed to be able to celebrate in a special way with almost everyone from our extended family in TN. Just spending an evening of together. Enjoying each other’s company. God’s faithfulness was on display.

God’s faithfulness is most often on display during life’s trials. An interesting thing about life’s trials… they do not play favorites. Someone once said about the trials of life:

You are either in a trial, just coming out of one, or… buckle up because one is likely around the corner.

We all face them. This means we all have various opportunities throughout life to witness and be thankful for God’s faithfulness. In fact, how we deal with the trials of life reveals the depth of our own faith. In fact James said in the New Testament:

Consider it a great joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you experience various trials, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing. ~ James 1:2-3

Now, I have NOT reached the point that I can consistently rejoice in the trials I face in life, but by God’s grace and with the support of my wife, I have been able to find the strength to submit to His leadership through them. I am inspired by Paul’s dependence on God’s grace in the midst of his “thorn in the flesh.” (2 Corinthians 12). God’s power is perfected in my weakness.

Whether you are in the midst of a trial, heading into one, or in a place of healing from the last one, may God’s grace be your abundant supply at all times!

Women Who Fear the Lord

“Charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.” ~ Proverbs‬ ‭31:30‬

A woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.  This verse is frequently used in churches on Mother’s Day. In fact it was YouVersion’s Verse of the Day today (Mother’s Day 2017). And we should celebrate our moms. They work hard, some away from home and some in the home. Regardless of where they spend their days, moms are incredible. They are selfless. They are nurturing. They give of themselves when there is nothing left to give. 

But Mother’s Day can be difficult for some ladies due to a variety of reasons.

Whether mom or not, a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. Today I am thankful for the women of faith in my life, including but definitely not limited to:

  • My wife and the mother of my children, who loves me more than I deserve and who daily works diligently to pass her faith to our children. 
  • Susan, the woman I call mom who passed her faith to me by showing me what unconditional love looks like through the way she loves me and my siblings, as well as, the way she loves my dad. 
  • My Mimi, my mom’s mom who passed her faith down to her daughters.  
  • My mother-in-law, who passed her faith down to my wife. 
  • My sister, who works to pass her faith on to communities of people often overlooked. 
  • My sisters-in-law who love their families and work hard to pass their faith on to their families. 

I am forever thankful for these women who “fix their eyes in Jesus” (Hebrews 12:2) and live out the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20) in their homes and communities. 

TGP 52-week Devotional

The brand new Big Picture 52-week Bible Story Devotional is the latest addition to the The Gospel Project themed Bible/BIble Story family from B&H Kids… and I love it!! If you are looking for a family devotional, this one would be worth trying out. It is available in print and e-reader (ordering link below).

We have used The Big Picture Storybook Bible with our older preschooler/younger elementary schoolers and it is great for Bible stories. This devotional takes Family Worship to the next tier through well-written life application. Though it doesn’t provide explicit “Bible stories” on each page (Bible story videos are linked), this devotional does an excellent job in the application of Scripture to a child’s life. Consistent with other Bibles and Bible Storybooks in this series, the 52-week devotional retains the central goal of The Gospel Project which is not only to teach Bible stories but to teach the Bible’s story (see tweet below).

 

Several key features stand out to me:

1. Single page devotional content is good for time-management and younger attention spans.

2. The Read It section features additional Bible passages to support or re-enforce the devotional story as a great addition to keeping each week founded in the Bible.

3. The Watch It section provides a direct link to the Bible story video from which the devotional is based.

4. The iconic Big Picture Question & Christ Connection sections, staples of The Gospel Project, ensure a close tie-in to the gospel helping children and families think beyond the page. This devotional includes expanded Big Picture Questions to help facilitate deeper conversations.

5. The Live Big section sends the devotional over-the-top providing practical application and recommendations to carry the devotional “lesson” beyond the Family Devotional time to the rest of the week. The inclusion of this section expands the applicable age-range of the devotional to include older elementary-aged children.

No devotional is perfect in and of itself nor is any one book (outside the Scriptures) the perfect fit for every family. The Big Picture 52-week Bible Story Devotional, however, interweaves a simplicity perfect for older preschoolers with thought-provoking questions and application that will engage older elementary schoolers with such excellence that many families will find this devotional a great resource to guide Family Worship in their homes.

Additional reading about this devotional and sample pages:
https://www.gospelproject.com/2016/03/08/the-big-picture-interactive-52-week-bible-story-devotional

Link to purchase from LifeWay:
http://www.lifeway.com/Product/the-big-picture-interactive-52-week-bible-story-devotional-P005727303

Grace & Hope Are the Family’s Safety Net

I recently heard this quote on ABC’s Last Man Standing. The episode is entitled “The Dad Hat” and originally aired on 11.5.2015.

The tough balance for any parent is providing a harness to keep our kids safe without taking away the victory of the climb.

~ Tim Allen, #LastManStanding

Anyone who has been a parent for any length of time will quickly relate to the truth in this statement. Most parents constantly engage in this internal battle between the desires for their child to succeed and to protect them from harm and failure.

I think of one of my nieces who is into indoor rock climbing. I don’t know a great deal about rock climbing, but one thing I’ve been told is that entry level rock climbing makes use of belay ropes for safety and support. These belay ropes allow a person to embrace the thrill of climbing to new heights but with the peace of mind that someone is holding the rope to keep you from falling. As long as you trust the person holding the rope, risk of danger is relatively small.

As parents this is what we want to do for our kids. We want our kids to try new things, climb, and succeed while we provide a safety net from failure that could cause them pain. I recently heard my wife say to one of our children:

There are 2 kinds of people in the world: those that fail & try harder and those that fail & quit.

(Of course there is, also, that third kind of person who is too afraid of failure to try at all.)

We cannot protect our kids from failure without shielding them from the invigorating joy of victory and ultimately preventing them from becoming the people they can and should be. Instead, we need to inspire our kids to work hard and not fear failure. How do we provide a safety net for our kids? I imagine that there are various ways this can be done in specific circumstances, but the primary way families should do this is by ensuring a safe place for their kids. This safe place means that we detach a child’s value from his performance. Each child must know, beyond any doubt, that he can try something new, and whether he succeeds or not, his family loves and will encourage him. We do our children great harm if we allow them to think that we believe they are failures. Even if the world turns on them, children need to know that failing does not make someone a failure, but quitting does. The old attage is true:

If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.

The Bible has much to say about avoiding idleness in the pursuit of hard work (Proverbs 14:23, Proverbs 18:9, Proverbs 21:25, and more), and we are often encouraged to do so under the leadership and power of the Holy Spirit. We are, also, charged with different priorities than others; we are commanded to “seek first the Kingdom of God” (Matthew 6:33) and to “set our minds on things above.” (Colossians 3:2). We have these divine commands because God knows that the pursuit of His Kingdom provides hope, and that hope is the key to providing the right kind of safety net for our kids: grace. Ultimately, this hope is found in the grace of Jesus. In fact, the Bible makes this connection in Romans 5

Since we have been declared righteous by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. We have also obtained access through Him by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. And not only that, but we also rejoice in our afflictions, because we know that affliction produces endurance, endurance produces proven character, and proven character produces hope. This hope will not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.. (vv 1-5)

Be the Parent:

Be the parent who encourages and challenges your child to new heights. Let him climb. Teach him early that his value is not tied to success or to failure. As a parent, guard your own heart from attaching your child’s value (and your own for that matter) to his performance. Be the parent that models courage by holding the belay rope while your child is young but allowing him to try new things all while maintaining an atmosphere of grace and hope in your home. Preventing your child from experiencing failure will likely lead to fear of trying. Be the parent who inspires hard work, perseverance, and courage instead of laziness, apathy, and fear.

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” – Winston Churchill*

“Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.” – Robert F. Kennedy*

* Final quotes taken from http://www.forbes.com/sites/ekaterinawalter/2013/12/30/30-powerful-quotes-on-failure/

 

 

Celebrating 2 lives today, June 3

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Each year, June 3rd brings 2 celebrations of life.

One life is my dad! June 3 is his birthday. He is a man who has seen struggles, some consequential and others circumstantial; but today, he is fighting hard to be the man God has called him to be. I am thankful for him and love him so much!

The other life is daughter Carsyn Marie. She was stillborn on June 3, 2007. This morning I have reflected and read through posts from 2012 and 2013. Some thoughts from previous years can be found below.

But this year, I am reminded that the fact that these 2 lives are connected to the same calendar day means a great deal to me. My ability to deal with loss and life’s struggles was, in a large part, learned from my dad. As I said, he is man who has seen many personal struggles in his lifetime, and today, he stands firm fighting against those struggles toward Christlikeness. His example, along with other’s I have seen, wrapped in the mercy and graciousness of God gives me hope. Hope to press on. Hope that God is working things our for good according to His purposes and glory (Romans 8:28). Hope “that He who started a good work in [me] will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6).

Finally, I would be negligent if I failed to mention the steadfast faith of my wife, Janna. Through an emotionally devastating situation, she exemplified the peace of God unlike any I have personally witnessed. Paul said, “Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses every thought, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7). She lived this back in 2007. And I’ve seen it over and over again since then. She is one of my greatest heroes.

My encouragement to you is this: struggles come and go, some last a long time and some only a short time. Jesus told His disciples, “In the world you have troubles, but take courage; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33)

 

Original post: http://jeremypcarroll.com/today-she-would-have-been-6

HPIM2389Our daughter, Carsyn, would have been 6 years old today, had she not been stillborn. In one sense, it seems like a lifetime ago; in another, like only yesterday.

Each year, we try to set aside this day to be together as a family. We talk. We do things together, some fun – some somber. We pray. We remember. The goal is not to idolize our daughter but to simply be together and to remember and celebrate, as a family, the mercy, grace, and faithfulness of God in our life during a dark time.

May God encourage you by what we continue to learn.

Below are some excerpts from last year’s post (to read in full: http://jermpc.com/?p=505)

My dear, sweet daughter Carsyn. Today would be her 5th birthday (2012) had she not been stillborn. Her birthday serves as a reminder for our family of one of the darkest seasons we have encountered. In a moment like that, there are no words of comfort for someone who has just been told “I’m sorry; we cannot find your baby’s heartbeat. She has died.” There is grief. Even though, we never heard her laugh or saw her smile. Even though, I never comforted her when she was crying or read her a book or played with her and her dolls…there is grief. There is sadness. She is, to this day, part of our family, though. Her picture hangs on our wall with the rest of the childrens’ pictures. She come up in our conversations.

I find myself reflecting often on the circumstances of 2007 in hopes that the Lord will not allow me to become complacent and stagnant in life. Of course, I do not desire that to return to that valley, but I, also, do not want to forget the lessons that God taught me during that time.

What did I learn then that I do not want to let go of? (note: this list is certainly not comprehensive)

1. Life is in God’s hands. Pretending I have any control or hand on life and death is pure foolishness. Furthermore, I do not need to understand death any more than I need to understand birth. I should not ask “Why did Carsyn die?” any more than I should ask “Why was Carsyn’s life created?”

2. Circumstances change; God does not.

3. Contentment in the Lord must be of highest importance to my family. Paul writes, “I have learned to be content in all things.” and so must I (1 Timothy 6). Not just contentment with stuff but with His power over the ebb and flow of life.

4. One of the most often misquote…and misapplied verses in Scripture is 1 Corinthians 10:13. It says:

No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to humanity. God is faithful, and He will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation He will also provide a way of escape so that you are able to bear it. (HCSB)

I’ve heard it many times with this verse as support, “God will not allow anything to happen to you that you can’t handle.” This verse does not say this, nor does the Bible, in any other place, teach this idea. This verse is talking about the temptation to sin not the trials of life. The whole point is that we can’t handle many (perhaps argument could be made for all) of life’s circumstances. We need God. We need to Him as focus of our praise in the good times lest we think too highly of ourselves, and we need Him to sustain us during the difficult times by His peace.

5. The peace of God really does surpass all human understanding.

Why is this so important to me? Because as difficult as that season of life was for our family, God has shown us great mercy & grace over the last 5 years since. He has added 2 more amazing children our family and granted us loving relationships from our amazing church staff and church family…to name just a couple. God has shown us His kindness in more ways than I can name…and that is something I never want to forget!

“Many times the words of parents become the script that children [rehearse] in their own hearts…”

Click the image for more info about this book.

The following is the first in a series of posts of reflections and/or quotes from “Cultivating Responsibility” by Scott Turansky & Joanne Miller of the National Center for Biblical Parenting.

A convicting statement about the importance of both the content and the delivery of our verbal communication with our children:

Many kids feed their emotions with negative thinking. Psalm 19:14 reminds us that the things said in the heart are just as important as those that are spoken. “May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.” Many times the words of parents become the script that children say in their own hearts, so it’s important to manage parental speech, even when you are frustrated or angry.

Thanksgiving 2015

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Carroll Family 2014

Like many of you, our family has much to be thankful for this year! We have been humbled by God’s graciousness to us over the past decade.

I began this post last Thanksgiving and dropped the ball on posting it. I thought I’d pick it up today and see if I could finish.

2014

When we moved to Keller, TX, in 2007, we were in the middle of the darkest years of our married life up to that point. Moving to Keller was the answer to much prayer, and we had no idea how refreshing the years that followed would be. During our time in Keller, we were blessed part of an incredible church and community. We have so many friends who have had dramatic impact on our lives. When we moved to Keller in 2007, we were a small family of 4. God graciously added 3 kids to our family in those 7 years.

Growth was not only familial; there was spiritual growth, as well. I had the great honor of being ordained into the gospel ministry by our church family and baptize 2 of our children.

The deep friendships we made during our time in Keller continue to have a meaningful impact on us even today.

 

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Carroll Family 2015

2015

September rounded out our first year in Tuscaloosa. While we miss our friends from TX, the Lord has been gracious to us over the last year. Here are some highlights:

  • Moved to a new town
  • Moved into a new house
  • Began a new ministry
  • Lovingly welcomed into a new church family
  • Began new homeschooling endeavors
  • New soccer opportunities
  • Began new friendships
  • J: soccer (being able to continue to play after our move and for new opportunities)
  • C: 10th birthday
  • R: our home
  • H: our family (“& that I can draw a ghost on paper” Haha!)

 

All the way around, we have so much to be thankful for. We are grateful to have had another year together and know that we owe our gratitude to Jesus. We know that many have not had a great… or even a good year. Many of you have faced incredible challenges in 2015. To you, know that my family is praying for God’s sustaining grace and mercy be present and evident in your life. We pray that God will engulf you with His faithful love during this holiday season.

One of the verses that hangs in our home is Philippians 4:12-13, and it is one we pray envelopes our family.

In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being content — whether well fed or hungry, whether in abundance or in need. I am able to do all things through Him who strengthens me.

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Taking a Walk with Jesus

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Recently I was reading through 1 John and was struck by the phrase “walk in the light as He is in the light” from verse 7. My mind immediately jumped to Ephesians 4:1 in which Paul instructs Christians to “walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called” and then to 5:1-2 he says to “be imitators of God…and walk in love.”

As I began to reflect on these passages about walking, I recalled a time earlier on in my life when my wife and I would take walks together.

As I reflected, I realized that these are some of my fondest memories of our early days of being married. My wife and I first moved to Texas to go to Southwestern Seminary in 2002. We had been married for about two and a half years and it was before we had kids. It was a much simpler time. 🙂

Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary has a beautiful campus that encompasses several city blocks, and my wife and I would often take long, quiet walks around campus. Just talking. As I look back, I think of how close we became during these walks. How our relationship grew. Sometimes these walks were filled with vibrant conversation; other times, we walked silently enjoying each other’s company. I learned a great deal about her, myself, and our relationship during these walks. Sometimes we talked about the future: wondering what life would look like for us after I graduated or after we had children. What I realized now, though, is that even though we often discussed the future, what was really happening, in those moments, with each step and each conversation is that we were growing close as couple. God was knitting our heart together in ways that we could not see.

As I think about these memories, an old phrase we don’t often use anymore comes to mind: “your walk with the Lord.” Many of you will remember when that was common vocabulary in the church. Personally, I miss this terminology because, at least to me, it conveys a slow, steady pace and investing time in the relationship. Sadly, this phrase might be lost today in our busy day-in-and-day-out lifestyle. In fact, one of my sons asked me recently, “Dad, do you think there will ever be a time when we won’t have to walk anywhere?” I fear many see walking as a necessary evil.

This scene comes to mind:

original from: http://cdn.screenrant.com/wp-content/uploads/Best-Movie-Chairs-Wall-E.jpg

Back on track…

When the Bible talks of our relationship with Jesus & our Christian life, I believe this is what Jesus wants for us (the slow, steady walk; not the Wall-E picture above). He wants us to set aside time each day to read His Word. Not in preparation for teaching or just to check it off a list of things to do, but to He wants us to hear Him… to get to know Him. Talking (praying), yes, but listening.      Listening to the truth of His Word… how He loves us. So I want to encourage you to pause during your busy week and “take a walk with Jesus” (sometimes it helps to even literally take a walk).

As parents (and teachers), the most important gift we can give our children is investing time in our own relationship with Jesus. We cannot merely teach kids into loving Jesus; we must lead them into loving Jesus.

Cell Phone Safety (a helpful book)

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My wife and 8 year old son picked up a book from the public library last weekend that, as it turns out, is quite helpful and informative. It is a short little book called “Cell Phone Safety” by Kathy Allen.

Most parents will have to deal with the issue of their children having and using a cell phone. Many parents want to help their children learn to use their cell phones responsibly but don’t know where to begin in talking with them. I believe this book gives parents a good track on which to start. For children, it asks the right questions to help children begin thinking for themselves about this responsibility

The book is written directly to children, most likely younger teenagers (older teens might find it “immature”). While it’s certainly not perfect nor comprehensive, I believe there are several good things to note about it. Addressing topics like “Phones are not toys,” “Public v. Private Info,” “Identity Theft and Dangers,” “Cyberbullying,” “Think Before You Send,” and “Screens Taking Time Away from Real Life” makes this a book from which both parents and children/teenagers can benefit.

A few notable points:

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“Cell Phone Safety” encourages open, honest communication between child and parent. On several pages the statement is made “Talk to a parent or trusted adult.” The book elaborates a “trusted adult” to be a teacher or someone similar. Parents definitely need to be intentional about keeping the lines of communication open, but children need to be reminded often (from outside the home helps tremendously) that their parents are not the enemy.

While cell phones certainly enable fun aspects of social life, they are not toys. Owners/users of cell phones, regardless of age, must remember that these devices are a tool for sending and receiving information, and that’s not a game. This book doesn’t gloss over or minimize the reality of the dangers of sharing private information publicly.

In light of the “it’s not a toy” point, “Cell Phone Safety” encourages and emphasizes responsibility on the part of the child, not just the parent.

Dealing with questions like “What’s the harm in telling posting about where I am?” and “What’s the harm in responding to a number I don’t know?” undergirds the serious nature of information sharing and helps children understand the risks.

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Similarly, kids and adults alike should adhere to the point of “think before you post/share” and in many cases, you simply cannot “un-send.”

Kids and adults alike can, also, benefit from periodically and intentionally unplugging; I know I can.

Boundaries are not a means to end fun but a means to ensure safety, just like crosswalks and traffic lights are on the road. Working with your child to set and understand boundaries will go a long way toward cell phone and online safety.

 

All in all, if you are struggling with how to help your child understand the importance of online/cell phone safety, this little book is a pretty good place to start. If you are just beginning crossing into the territory, as we are, of adding an additional cell phone in your home, this book will give you a path to walk on as you begin.

 

 

Note: This is simply a short review of a book I read. I have no affiliation with the author, publisher, or anyone else associated with this book. I have found its contents helpful; perhaps you can, too.

2013 Family Christmas Eve Service

Due to family circumstances our Family Pastor was unable to attend our 4pm Family Christmas Eve service. He asked me to fill in for him. So I had the tremendous privilege of teaching a lesson on The Gifts of God. The lesson turned out to be longer than I had hoped.

http://youtu.be/RhC3IDyB5fg

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