Lessons From the Greed of Bilbo Baggins

Call me a nerd, but I am definitely a Lord of the Rings fan. I love the elves, the magical places they go and all the messages that are in each movie. As a kid, I attempted to read the books (I couldn’t make it through of course) and for Halloween, my mom made me an elvish dress, got me some pointy ears, and I was an elf. So yeah, you could say I am a bit of a nerd.

The other evening, I watched The Fellowship of the Ring and for the first time, I noticed a hidden message that pertained to my life. Do you remember Bilbo Baggins? His greed for the one ring was so strong that he would snap at others and show an evil side that he was often times ashamed of. In the movie, he calls the ring “my precious” and it got me thinking, how many material items do we have in our life that we allow to take over our emotions and life? In this idea, I had two thoughts.

First, I am very protective of my belongings and value the things I have worked hard to be able to afford. You could even say that those things have become precious to me. I am so protective that I don’t allow my daughter to touch those things. My husband gave me a necklace for Valentines Day one year. It was a necklace with three hearts on it, representing my husband, myself and our daughter and the bond we shared. My daughter, being the girly princess she is, got into my jewelry box one day and was playing with it. When I realized what she was playing with, I lost it and snapped at her. I became like Bilbo with an evil attitude towards her.

After I realized what I had done and the damage I had caused my daughter, emotionally, I had to stop and reevaluate my actions. I apologized to her and explained why Mommy had become so mean. I explained why the necklace meant so much to me and her little brain clicked and understood immediately. She told me she could play with a different necklace and that Mommy’s necklace was too special to be played with.

If I had just sat down and had a conversation with her rather than reacting the way I did, I would have avoided that situation completely. We often times forget that children understand a lot more than we give them credit for.

Second, How often do we react the same way to God? We tell Him that we want to follow Him but don’t want to surrender what is most precious to us. We allow our material items to take away from our time with the Lord. Instead of spending more time in His word, we desire to spend more time on our phones because we value them so much.

I have tried to devote a lot of my time to God’s word and prayer. I want Him to use the process of sanctification to change me into the Christian He wants me to be. Often times, that is a hard task to do during the week because I want to come home, have dinner and veg out in front of the TV or on my phone. I value those objects more than I value my time with the Lord and often times finish the evening feeling incomplete but as soon as someone mentions turning off the TV and opening my Bible at the end of the night, I turn into the evil side of Bilbo Baggins. I get greedy and mean and shove other things in front of my relationship with the Lord.

Without that time in God’s word, that sanctification process cannot continue and God cannot work in my life. It may be a lesson I have to continuously learn for the rest of my life, but it is definitely a lesson that needs to be learned. Allow yourself to put your desires and precious objects aside to spend more time with the Lord and more time with our family. Don’t let greed rot your heart because no one likes looking like the evil side of Bilbo Baggins.

The Struggle of a Strong-Willed Child

About a month ago, we started to get some negative feedback from our daughter’s school on her behavior. The director started telling us how our 4 year old daughter was hitting, spitting, kicking and punching the teachers and other children. At first, I was a little shocked and wondered what happened to make her act this way. When she is at home or at church, we do not see this kind of behavior. And yes, deep inside, I thought “whatever, she is not acting this way; she is my little angel”. My daughter never behaved the way they described; ever. She tells me constantly how much she loves me, brushes my hair, gives me hugs and is kind to me.

Day after day, we would pick her up and get another incident report. She punched her friend in the face, she said a bad word, she kicked her teacher. By the end of the third week, I was exhausted emotionally and mentally. When I couldn’t take it anymore, I set up a meeting with the teacher and director and my husband and I went to talk it out. After about 45 minutes of chatting, we learned that our beautiful angel was struggling a lot more than we realized. We have known for a while that she was strong-willed and didn’t like change but it because apparent that those aspects were taking a toll on her emotionally.

To give you a glimpse of how strong-willed she is let me tell you about when she was first born. When she was first born, she would eat out of a bottle and breastfeed. So when we didn’t continue bottle feeding, we didn’t think it would be that hard to transition into it later on. Boy were we wrong. She would go 10 hours without eating until I came home from work. Often times, the babysitter, my mom or whomever was watching her, would have to drive to my work twice a day in order for her to get some food. So it is no surprise that she is strong-willed but we never knew that it had taken such a toll in school.

The teacher explained that when they moved from one station to another station, our daughter would act out in anger or if a friend sat too close to her after changing stations, she would then kick or hit that friend. Nap times were becoming difficult for the teachers and listening was a dwindling talent for her in class. So something had to change. The meeting with her teacher helped but I still felt like a failure as a parent and needed some encouragement. I had a few audible credits left so I purchased a parenting book on a whim. I did no research before hand nor did anyone recommend this book to us (God was working for sure!). The book is called “Parenting” by Paul David Tripp.

I want to share a few tips I have learned so far. We are far from being over this hurdle and I am only on chapter four but we have also learned so much during this first month and throughout this amazing book that I had to share it with other struggling parents.

  1. You are not alone. First, I want to stress to you that you are not alone. So often we hide the rough moments from others because we want everyone to think we have it together and when I struggled with the feelings of being a bad mother or not wanting to be a mom at all, it brought on a lot of depression. I mean it when I say I have had moments when I thought to myself, “I don’t want to be a mom anymore” or “Where did I go wrong?” So please, know that you aren’t alone. That is the first hurdle you need to face as a parent. Whatever you are going through as a parent, you are not the first one; I can promise you that.
  2. Don’t desire to change your strong-willed child. When I first ran into this a few weeks ago, all I thought about was changing her; but why? God created her with such a strength inside and although it comes out in this stage of her life as strong-will being negative, she can grow into an amazing, strong leader or an individual who’s strength can be used in other aspects of her life. God made her a strong child but He has a plan behind that strength.
  3. Identity is often discovered by watching others. Your child looks to you to discover their identity so when you tear them down rather than guiding them through this difficult moment in time, they might look at their strength/ strong-will as being a bad thing when they grow up. Never tell your child, “I wish you weren’t like this” for they will view themselves in a negative light.
  4. You have no power to change them. Only God can change the hearts of others and that includes your children. So instead of trying to change them, pray for them and with them. God’s grace alone has the power to change our children.
  5. Every day is full of opportunities to point towards God and talk about His grace. Don’t let the opportunities slip passed; even when you are having a rough day with your child.
  6. Lastly, no one gives grace better than a parent who humbly admits they need grace themselves. When we admit, as parents, that we are not perfect, our children can see that as well and they can see God working in our lives.

Although I am only a month into this battle, I wanted to share the lessons I have learned. We all hit certain battles with our children and often times, we need to help each other by sharing those battles and the accomplishments we reach. The picture above is of my beautiful little girl. I asked her to be a strong warrior and this is what she gave me. Don’t erase the strength within your child but let God work in their lives to cultivate that strong-will into a strong child of God.

Resolutions Vs Sanctification

I recently sat in on a sermon series at my church that talked about sanctification. I had heard the word before but never truly knew what it meant. The definition of sanctification is “the act of making something holy”. As I sat, listening to these sermons, I realized that becoming sanctified is one of the greatest processes we could go through. God is always working within us to make us more like Him but I had never thought of sanctification as being that important process.

Another thing I learned about sanctification is that it doesn’t solely benefit us but it also benefits others as well. When we become more like Jesus, others see the change in us and start asking questions. What a great way to plant a seed of faith. But there was one major thought that came to mind when I finished this series. Every year I focus on making myself better through new years resolutions. I set goals in every aspect of my life, try to set new habits and end up failing. By the end of each year, I am frustrated and planning new resolutions I am not sure will even happen.

So what if I look at 2021 differently? Instead of setting unrealistic resolutions, why not set Sanctification goals, work hard in those spots and let God do the rest? If God is the one working in our lives then me trying to do all of the change will always end up as a failing year. If I let God do the work in my life and change me the way He wants to change me, I will become a better, stronger individual. Here are some tips to keep in mind.

  1. My goals of growth are not always God’s goals of growth. Sometimes the things I want to focus on in my life are not the things that God wants to change in me. We always set these end goals of how our life should work, but often times, God has a different plan for our life. When we try to set our own goals that don’t line up with God’s, it is no wonder we fail over and over.
  2. Sanctification doesn’t happen overnight. Often times, we think that we can just be fixed overnight but the reality is, it takes time. If the process of sanctification was easy, no one would struggle in life; we would all be perfect.
  3. The process of sanctification can be painful. Changing is never easy and sometimes, when God wants us to change something that we do not want to change, there can be resistance that is painful. Let God work in your life. In the end, it will be the most rewarding thing you have ever done.
  4. Just because you mess up doesn’t mean God isn’t still working in you. We all mess up and even God knows that. When we mess up, just pick ourselves up again and move forward. Stopping is not an option.

2020 has been a rough year for all of us and I know we would all like to start out fresh, but keep in mind, as you plan for next year, that the process of sanctification is a very important part of our lives as Christians.

My Idols

Currently, I am in the middle of reading a book called “From Grouchy to Great”. The author, Ruth Schwenk, talks about how being cranky reveals your idols in your life. What a powerful thought. After reading this chapter, I stopped and thought of the things that make me cranky and if I am honest with myself, the lack of sleep and personal time makes me cranky towards my family and others. So, I guess you could say my idol is selfishness.

The more this thought lingered in my heart the more I realized it was true. I am the first to admit that I am bad at spending time with God. Why is it so hard for me? Because, at the end of the day, all I want to do is sleep or have time to myself. Wow, how selfish that sounds. I am more concerned about getting my personal care than I am about spending time with my Creator. I don’t put others before myself and I especially don’t put God before myself. It is all about me, me, me, me.

How many times do we do that though? We work a long day, come home, make dinner, do the dishes and decide we are done so we tune out. Our children longing for time with us, our spouses needing our attention, and God wanting to spend time with us too. Yet, we decide that Facebook, TV, or a videogame is more important.

I am not saying that self care is bad. In fact, I strongly believe that self care is the most important thing you can do for yourself and for your family but self care is not just relaxing in front of your favorite TV show or indulging in your favorite book. Self care also includes time with God. When we spend time in God’s word, we are growing, learning, and hearing from God.

What makes you cranky? Could it be possible that those things are your idols? I want to encourage you to reflect on this idea as I have and see what idols may be holding your heart.

The Promise of the Lord in Jeremiah 29:11

It is so easy, in our hectic and fast paced lives, to get worried about how things will turn out in life. AS life gets busier and busier, we become worried and anxious about our future; wondering how we will make ends meet financially and then working harder and harder to defeat that struggle. We rely on our job and ourselves in order to secure our future, we come out short.

God makes a promise in Jeremiah 29:11 that says, ” ‘For I know the plans I have for you.’ says the Lord. ‘They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.'” With this promise, why are we worrying about life? Why is it so hard to rely on God instead of trying to fix it ourselves? God promises us a future and in that we can have hope.

Recently, I was seeking ways to help me not worry about my future and let God take control. I read a book called, The Mental Toughness Handbook by Damon Zahariades. The book talks about being mentally tough and gives tips on how to accomplish this. One of the tasks the author discusses is the Sisu Mindset. Here is the Sisu Mindset:

  1. Refuse to let your circumstances overwhelm you.
  2. Commit to taking action
  3. Practice emotional resilience every day
  4. Anticipate problems

I want to encourage you to try this but add a bit of a biblical twist on it.

  1. Refuse to let your circumstances overwhelm you. When you feel like things are going wrong and you aren’t sure how they will work out, remember all that God has done for you this far and remember He is the one writing your story.
  2. Commit to taking action. Have you ever heard the story about two farmers who were praying for rain? One prepared his field and the other did not. Who do you think got what he prayed for? Taking action does not mean coming up with our plan to fix things or make our future. Sometimes it means taking care of the things we current;y have action to take care of. For example, if you are waiting on the chance to purchase a home, pay off the debt that you have and work towards a better credit score.
  3. Practice emotional resilience every day. In order to do this one, we need God. When you begin to feel anxious, pray or spend time in God’s word. You will notice a peace in doing this and it will help you fight anxiety and have emotional resilience.
  4. Anticipate problems. As always, bumps in the road will happen. It doesn’t mean you have failed, it just means that life happens. Don’t feel defeated when problems arise. Just remember they will come and when they come, jump right back into these steps to face the problems.

Although it is hard to have faith in times of trouble, keep seeking God in the times of trial.