Two Types of Ambition

My last post was about letting God lead you and how the Christian life is not directionless, but about being more at ease with God’s plans and will than your own.

I had several people tell me that the post was so freeing, and others who wondered if I thought it was wrong to have ambition in life. “Is ambition bad? Does that mean I’m not trusting the Lord to make my plans?”

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Is it okay to want to do great things for God? Is it wrong to learn new skills and prepare for something God is giving you a heart to do?

The answer is no, ambition is not wrong. Planning is not wrong.

Ambition is a good thing. We encourage hard work and, of course, the wise person plans ahead. We use our talents and gifts for the Lord. We’re negligent if we don’t.

But ambition is never neutral.

Ambition always stems from somewhere.

James tells us that there are two types of ambition: selfish ambition and the ambition that stems from the wisdom that is “above”:

James 3:13-18

Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. 14 But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. 15 This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 16 For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. 17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. 18 And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.

Selfish ambition has self promotion as its center. It works to give me an advantage. It labors to make sure that I am taken care of and seen and heard and on top. At its core is jealousy and envy, and its “fruit” is every sinful and despicable practice meaning that it eventually will produce bad conduct: every vile practice. A person with selfish ambition has been made ineffective to Christian service and is actually harming the body of Christ. Selfish ambition feeds on the lies of the earth, the flesh, and the devil and is a contradiction “to the truth” of Scripture.

Ambition that works for the good of God and others has several traits. It has no ulterior motives. Its motives are pure-hearted. Its practice is gentle. Its demeanor is open to reason and discussion. Its lifestyle is lovely and full of mercy and good fruits. It blesses others without partiality or partisanship. Its single-focus is God’s glory and it will always produce godly behavior that promotes peace.

I think there is so much confusion about ambition because we start with pure motives but we can quickly morph into sinful motives:

  • Like the person who takes on a ministry in the church only to become territorial and domineering about it later.
  • Like the church leader who gets jealous and irritated when people seek counsel from “laypeople” in the church instead of them.
  • Like the woman who wants to counsel others but lacks love and speaks her “wisdom” without self-control or Spirit-leading.
  • Like the mom who wants to train children as unto the Lord, but who allows self-image to become a tyrant and obedience the end-all product.
  • Like the husband who wants to provide well for his family, but lets that ability to provide come to define his worth.
  • Like the college student who is ambitious for popularity, so they compromise their convictions to make friends.
  • Like the woman who appears to want to serve others, but for the wrong reasons–always with strings attached–and when others don’t give her the thanks or friendship she thinks she deserves, she sulks and punishes them later.

 

I know these are simplistic examples, but our hearts are so wicked, that we can start out “Spirit-filled” and morph out of control quickly if we forget about Christ and ignore His leading.

I hope this shows you what I mean by having the correct type of ambition when it comes to walking the Christian life.

It’s ambition that says, “I want to do what you have for me today, Lord.”

It’s ambition that is obedient to the Scripture, and that does not sin in order to get what it wants.

It’s ambition that does not have a hint of bitterness or jealousy connected to it.

It’s an ambition that doesn’t look for praise, promotion, or preeminence in any regard. It’s not looking to make a name for itself.

“Whether therefore you eat or drink, or whatsoever you do, do ALL to the glory of God.”

It’s an ambition that has the heart of the Savior behind it: to lift others up and give them the better place, to encourage and serve for the sake of His name not for self gain, and to work for the kingdom of God with no regard to the costs and with no expectation of earthly acclaim or adoration.

Striving under selfish-ambition is a dead end, Christian woman. Only when we turn our eyes towards service for the True Master and hate our selfishness, envy, comparison, jealousy that we’ll find the freedom to live for Someone bigger and better than ourselves. Anything motivated by selfish ambition is slavery to sin and will keep you spinning your tires, getting nowhere, reaping the unpleasant consequences of that type of sin, and will, because of the bitter nature of jealousy and envy and selfish ambition, keep you at odds and at war with others. It will keep you in bondage, all the while promising grandeur and greater things.

If God condescended to serve us, then our only ambition can be to serve Him out of gratitude. And of course, where bitter jealousy and envy and selfish ambition reside in the heart, thanksgiving and gratitude cannot reside in the same residence.

 

A blog about nothing in particular?

It’s come to my attention that my little blog is not easily classified. When people ask me what I write about, I don’t really know what to tell them. Just this past week a lady asked me, “I hear you have a blog. What do you write about?”

“Well, you know, whatever I’m learning or interested in. Kinda about life… Err…” {crickets}

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When I read about social media growth strategies and “growing your brand” by surrounding yourself with people who are writing and talking about similar things, I realize that my my little blog is kinda in no-man’s land.

How do you market a blog with no clear focus? {“Market” would imply a “business model” which I don’t have. HA.}

Who are my people–my “tribe”? Moms? Wives? Ministry Wives? Home schoolers? Artists? Christians? Foster parents? Really, I’m kinda all over the place.

This week I was re-reading Kisses from Katie and she helped me realize why I’ve never been able to quite nail this down.

She says, “Today I am living the desires of my heart and I cannot imagine being happier; I cannot imagine living any other life than the one that unfolds before me day by day. But believe me, I am by no means living my plan…I am watching God work, and as I delight myself in the Lord by doing what He asks of me and saying yes to the needs He places in front of me, He is changing the desires of my heart and aligning them with the desires of His heart.” Kisses from Katie.

I write about life and the way it unfolds and what I am learning and I’m not sure you can map that out ahead of time. At least, I can’t.

This is not the same as being directionless, although it feels that way. I do recognize common themes here: grace, God’s sovereignty, God’s goodness, and love. Oh, and coffee. 😉

I’ve never been one to make big plans for my life. It’s not that I’m directionless or have no goals, or that I’m lazy. I’m always busy, but I’ve learned to be okay with whatever God wants. I guess you’d call that “following.” This blog is about following God on a daily basis in the everyday moments.

I’m still floored when people show up to read here. (6K of you? WHAT??)

But I think that people show up because maybe their life is similar. Maybe your days are a bit unpredictable with kids or school. Maybe you can relate with the mundane jobs that need to be done by “someone.” Maybe you fight to choose joy in the midst of it, like me. Maybe you want can relate to the cooking, cleaning, laundry, decorating posts. Or maybe you just like to read what God is teaching me every day. Maybe you have dry spells when you don’t desire God like you should and it’s comforting to know that other people struggle with that as well.

Maybe you, like me, are just trying to follow God with whatever He gives you today. Trying to steward your moments well, depending on Him for the outcomes. Maybe you’re handing him your 5 small loaves and 2 fishes in faith and you’re hoping He’ll see your desire to give and serve and use it to feed someone else.

If you feel a little directionless like I do sometimes, or if you’ve been sidelined from your plans by kids or health or circumstances, that’s not always a bad thing. In all these things, God is leading you and your life is unfolding according to His plan.  It’s really an adventure. Every day you wake up and ask, “Lord, what today? Who will you send me? What can I for you? Who can I love for your glory?”

Some days we don’t recognize it as much. On the down days it looks very much like nursing sick kids to health or training and retraining toddlers. Sometimes our mission looks like serving nutritious meals to a husband or cheering up the people who reside in your own walls.

I am in good company. My mom, one of the women I admire most, taught me by her example to pray for whatever God has for the day and then trust Him to lead you.

It’s all holy work when God is in it. God is the focus. It’s all for Him. Our job is to follow and be faithful.

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Kids who sacrificed, and why we should expect more of our teens.

One of the highlights of our time in London was a Christian Heritage Tour. I was especially moved by this wall, a memorial tucked into the back corner of a church park. It was to commemorate the heroic acts of people who sacrificed their lives for someone else.

I think what touched me most about this Memorial to Heroic Self Sacrifice was the fact that so many of the heroes were young people.

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IMG_1259 IMG_1262 IMG_1264 One story was of Alice Ayres, a 25 year old who rescued three young children from a burning building, going back into the flame to get one child out after another, and eventually lost her own life.

John Clinton, age 10, who drowned near London Bridge trying to save a child younger than himself.

David Selves, age 12, who drowned while trying to keep another boy afloat.

Henry Bristrow, age 8, who died trying to extinguish a fire from his sister’s clothing which had caught fire.

Amelia Kennedy, age 19, who died trying to save her sister from their burning house.

George Blencowe, age 16, who died trying to save a drowning friend.

I guess what really struck me was that we’ve become a culture that expects nothing of our teens. Even in the church, the average person almost expects rebellion and dismisses it as the result of hormones or age or peers.

We aren’t surprised by disrespectful talk, immoral behavior, imitation of the ungodly elements of the world, or even passive rebellion.

And yet, here this quiet memorial stands and reminds us that our kids can take the high road, do right, and that we can expect more of them. They can live and die for someone else.

As Christian moms, we do our teens a disservice when we expect nothing of them as though they are unable to live by God’s ways.

Instead of teaching them that their young heart wants to function from THE default setting of all mankind,rebellion and self-rule because of the fall, we pander and make excuses, really paralyzing them from the self-discovery they really need: all of our hearts are rebellious, no matter what age, and we all need the restraint and rule of our Creator.

Over the years in youth ministry, I’ve seen parents blame rebellion on a myriad of things: legalistic expectations enforced on children, super intellect that needed to find expression, deep hurt from adults that should have helped the child but abandoned them, peers who led them astray.

These parents are setting these kids up to fail by excusing and deluding them to the universal truth of all men: we are desperately wicked and want self-rule and self-fulfillment. Not one of us bends easily to external rules, because our hearts tell us that we need to be our own mini-gods.

Until we come to the conclusion that our teens are passively or actively rebellious because they have the common ailment of the entire human race, a corrupt heart that needs redemption first, then submission and reliance on Christ, we’re going to spend our lives making excuses and expecting nothing from this whole generation.

This memorial was a breath of fresh air. It reminded me that all of us, no matter what age, can live self-less, heroic lives. And it reminded me of the need to teach our kids that successful Christian lives are dependent on our willingness to submit our stubborn hearts to God’s will and ways, no matter what our age.

Why the internet is wearing me down, and what I’m doing about it.

I have to be honest. This year, I’ve grown tired of the online world. I’m increasingly aware of the “rudiments of the world” that seem to stick into my heart and mind by what I see on Facebook, the news, and other social media and it’s wearing me down.

Before you think I’ve been indulging in smut online, let me tell you that I am not talking about overtly horrible stuff. We are super careful about what types of media enter our home. (Honestly, not all rated-G movies make it into our home, and I’m not kidding.)

So what’s going on?

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I think it’s pretty much the unintentional exposure to insults, foul language, derogatory talk, and constant cynicism, even within the Christian community. It’s like the Lord said that if you disagree with someone elses’s political standing then by all means–fire away your best insults and put downs in a public forum. And that’s just the language.

I’m tired of seeing things that contradict scripture brazenly posted by the people of God. I just am and I’ll leave it at that. I’m not saying that we all don’t have sin issues, we do. I do. But sin should be a source of remorse, not something shared for likes and public comment as though God thinks this is no big deal.

Are we too quick to be enamored with the world, with our stuff, other people, and our selves as though these sources are the well-spring of good gifts that come from God alone? Do we stay longer at the table of temporal delights because we believe they’ll deliver something we need like love, worth, happiness, or status?

Have we forgotten that every perfect gift is from above, from the faithful Father who never once changed in His aggressive, searching, seeking love for us?

Why do we go elsewhere again?

We’ve made big of sharing our story and we’re forgetful of the old, old story of Jesus and His redemptive, trans-formative love.

I don’t want to sound like the grouchy old lady, so I will just say that what I see affects me, so I shouldn’t  be at all surprised that this has taken a toll.

We all become like what we behold.

Your co-worker’s negativity drains you. Toxic people zap the life out of you. Print media in the grocery story. The fear-mongering news coverage. Podcasts. Cynical memes. Controversy, discord, feuds. It all changes you.

Thankfully, we know from scripture that something else changes us as well: looking into the mirror of God’s word.

And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.

2 Cor. 3:18

All this to say, a quick “devotional time” is not going to be any match for the drip, drip, drip of this world on the outside and the sin that lurks in our own hearts on the inside.

Not only do we need to be intentional about immersing ourselves in God’s word for cleansing and clarity, but we need to do more than just read. We need to cultivate our love for the Lord so that devotions aren’t just devotions, but that our lives are devoted. 

Devoted lives are driven by love for the Lord. They say no to worthless things and make time for the most important thing.

Maybe for you, you’re not sensitive to visual negativity. Maybe your weak spot is somewhere else. But whatever is slowing you down, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin that so easily besets us and let us run this long distance race with endurance, fixing our eyes on Christ for our inspiration, acceptance, and example.

Are you tired of the noise, too? Looking for a few good summer tools for personal Bible study and growth? If so, I hope you’ll find this list helpful as you seek to know Him more and more. Most of these are free, except for the books, so you should be able to benefit from many of these great resources.

Bible Study/Podcast: If you’re looking for a free, EXCELLENT, inductive Bible study, I highly recommend Jen Wilkin’s Hebrews study. Jen is a gifted Bible teacher, and a serious student of the Word, and that’s SO very evident as you hear her weekly podcast. I’m so thankful she is faithfully using her spiritual gifts for the benefit of the church.

Dramatized Audio Bible: If  you have young children, listening to a dramatized audio Bible as you work is a great way to fill your mind with Scripture.

Daily Audio Devotional for Kids: Kids4Truth has an excellent, simple daily devotional or biographical vignette for kids. (Some adults like them, too. ;))

20 Years of Elisabeth Elliot Newsletters: Did you know the Elisabeth Elliot’s Newletter Archive is online? Very interesting and encouraging to read.

How to Study the Word: resource page I can’t tell you how many times women have told me they study the Bible, then go on to basically say they read a commentary. I don’t have to discuss why this is dangerous. No man’s words about the Bible should replace your reading of the Bible. This page has many lessons about studying the Bible, the inductive Bible study method, etc. I also posted about the Immersion Bible Study method here.

Radio: There are many radio lessons to learn about Christian women at the bottom of this page.

Book: The Practice of Godliness by Jerry Bridges. If my kids remember one thing about me, I hope it’s that I was a mom who loved God and who was devoted to Him. This book has helped me to see God as worthy of my devotion and praise, and has helped me to not seek only external change, but change based on love for God and hatred of sin.

Devotion to God, then, is the mainspring of godly character. And this devotion is the only motivation for Christian behavior that is pleasing to God…

It is sad that many Christians do not have this aura of godliness about them. They may be very talented and personable, or very busy in the Lord’s work, or even apparently successful in some avenues of Christian service, and still not be godly. Why? Because they are not devoted to God. They may be devoted to a vision, or to a ministry, or to their own reputation as Christians, but not to God. ~Jerry Bridges

Book: None But Him by Jen Wilkin talks about how God is different from us and discusses his attributes.

Book: The God Who Satisfies: How Jesus Seeks, Saves, and Satisfies Samaritan Women – Like Us Rebekah gave this to me and I highly recommend it.

What are your plans for summer Bible study at home? Do you have other resources to share with me? Feel free to inbox me, comment on FB or below and tell us what you’re doing.

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Lessons You Learn by Becoming A Mother

Motherhood has a way of teaching us surprising lessons.

It challenges pre-conceived notions about life.

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Motherhood is both wonderful and exhausting, exciting and mundane.

The emotions of motherhood, the highs and lows and the rate they change, cannot be tallied or tracked on paper. How can someone I love so much frustrate me this much!? How can I be worried so much about someone who has a total mass of less than 25 lbs!?  I’m not being dramatic. The love a mother has for her children cannot be exaggerated. Still, even the most observant mothers need to experience certain things in order to fully understand.

For instance, if you thought that a normal bedtime was 7 p.m., you’d be wrong. That’s apparently THE VERY HOUR when children become scared, hungry, interested in books, and downright thirsty. Oh, then they need to use the bathroom.

If you thought 7 a.m. was the normal time to “rise and shine”, you’re wrong again. The ideal time to rise is based on the first rays of light coming through the window. Room darkening shades are a TOTAL waste of money.

If you thought that toddler’s tantrums were based on reality or reason, I don’t even know what to tell you, except you need to spend more time with kids. Tantrums, as it turns out, are based on perception of extreme mistreatment and injustice like the wrong colored sippy cup being administered, the wrong drink IN the sippy cup, the wrong character on the cup, or the wrong person handing them the cup.

Tantrums can be triggered by the desire to NOT wear a jacket, the mention of going to the store, not being allowed to buy candy once inside said store, being buckled into a car seat, or simply the urge to go outside right.at.this.very.moment even though it’s only 5 a.m.

Watching a tantrum is like watching a writhing, shrieking, sobbing contortionist performing his final act.

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Children will embarrass you. They’ll point out people’s worst features –in front of them– at loud decibels– whilst pointing. Subtlety is not a strength.

You learn that toddlers’ appetites are unpredictable. They refuse to eat one day, causing you to panic and take temperatures. “You have to eat, or you’ll get sick! Wait, are you sick!?” 

Oh, and food tastes change dramatically as well. On Monday they love carrots, and the next day, NEWSFLASH, all that has changed and they are willing to DEFY THE WORLD in order to not have to eat them at dinner time.

As they grow, the lessons are less obvious and take more time to learn.

You’ll learn the delicate balance of letting go during those tricky years between 11-18 when normal things become slightly embarrassing like kissing them in front of their friends, wiping their face in front of their friends, and reminding them of the family rules in front of their friends.

You learn that sometimes they really need to talk to their mother and sometimes they don’t. You learn to be perceptive to these times so you don’t miss them.

You learn that sometimes you need to let them fail in order to learn the lessons that will help them become responsible adults. And when they do fail, your mom-heart breaks as much as theirs. Conversely, when they succeed, your heart bursts with pride and excitement.

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You learn that Time has a way of showing up and declaring “The End” to the childhood phase all together.

As they leave, you’ll learn that they take pieces of your heart with them out the door on their journey.

As they leave, you’ll look back fondly on the days when the scuffle of feety pajamas on the wooden floor broke the 5 a.m. morning silence. (You might not even mind recalling the sound of tantrums.)

You realize that time was precious and memories were made in the midst of what seemed like the mundane whirl of family chaos: running to lessons, buttoning jackets, combing hair, family meal time, working on homework, games in the yard, snuggling to watch a movie, or family pizza night.

Moms, the “ordinary days” were actually an extraordinary gift from God.

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Motherhood is a gift, every stage of it.

I’m so thankful for that gift, and for my children, who taught me so much and still teach me every day!

Advice from Elisabeth Elliot

We all have them. Bad days. Unexpected problems. Things we didn’t sign up for. Things that are totally out of our control.

Maybe it is financial hardship or a loss of a job. Maybe someone who should be doing good to you is doing you harm.

A friend betrays you or a parent hurts you deeply. A child becomes terminally ill. A church member betrays you. A spouse walks out for good.

In all these things our hearts rise up in opposition to the crisis. We wonder if God sees, knows, or even cares.

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I love this quote by Elisabeth Elliot who had her life turned upside down by the murder of her husband, missionary Jim Elliot, by the very people he was on mission to help. Speared through by the Auca Indians.

In an instant, her world changed. Her husband was gone and she found herself a widow. Her children were fatherless. She was in a strange land, and she had two choices:

to see God as a loving, wise Father who always does what is best for her  or

to chose the path of bitterness and resentment toward God.

Hear what Elisabeth says:

“Lord, You have assigned my portion and my cup, and have made my lot secure’ (Ps16:5). I know of no greater simplifier for all of life. Whatever happens is assigned. Every assignment is measured and controlled for my eternal good. As I accept the given portion other options are cancelled. Decisions become much easier,directions clearer, and hence my heart becomes inexpressibly quieter.”

We need the same mindset when things seem all wrong. A life of faith is a life of trust.

The Bible shows us many examples of sisters in Christ who faced hard times and chose to walk in faith, knowing that God would do what was right for them: Sarah, Abigail, Hannah and Mary to name a few. They welcomed and walked the hard path through faith. The surrendered their life to His plans.

  • Sarah packed up her life and followed her husband Abraham to their “new home.”  Problem was,  Abraham had no idea where he was taking her.  Only God knew where that would be.
  • Abigail lived with a drunken fool, but was godly enough to protect her household from King David’s anger at Nabal’s rudeness and insolence.
  • Hannah felt the pain of barrenness. She longed and prayed for children while living under the provoking taunting of her husband’s “other wife” who had no problem having children.
  • Mary  risked her reputation and many misunderstandings when she agreed to be the mother of the Savior, Jesus.

“It is in our acceptance of what is given that God gives Himself.”  ~Elisabeth Elliot, These Strange Ashes: Is God Still in Charge?

When trials come, they open wide the dark corners of our hearts and reveal the true us. Our words and actions show what is really reigning: the “fruit” of the spirit of the “fruit” of the flesh.

The spirit filled life will produce the same works and attitudes of the Lord Jesus Christ. His life is flowing through our life, enabling us to walk as He walked. We will respond to life’s problems with trust and obedience. Our lives and testimonies will be characterized by loving others, joyful countenances, the peace of God, gentleness and kindness to all people.

When sin reigns, we will exhibit the characteristics of the fallen nature: anger, bitterness, unforgiving spirit, desire to rule others, jealousy, envy, manipulation and the list goes on and on.

We are living under the gracious hand of our Heavenly Father. How can we doubt Him? In child-like faith, we accept whatever He chooses to give knowing that though it looks bad and sometimes is hard, it’s for our own good and His glory.

If you are discouraged today and fearful, remember the God who loves you and is in control, and pray for faith to trust Him.

MORE FROM ELISABETH ELLIOT:

Keep a Quiet Heart

A Chance to Die: The Life and Legacy of Amy Carmichael

 

 

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The One Thing I Want My Dating Kids to Know.

I have three adult children who are either dating or of dating age and after 25 years of marriage and lots of exposure to teenagers who are in the “throws” of dating, I’ve learned one thing that I want my teens to know about dating:

Dating, done right, is a an outgrowth of worship done right.

In other words, God has to be your First Love before you can date with wisdom.

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It takes two people to date and get married, but only one to walk away. (Or to check out, which is the same as separating emotionally.) Divorce statistics are pretty staggering in the Christian community, don’t you think? Over 50%?

I know careful dating doesn’t guarantee that a marriage will last, but knowing that you are on the same page “worship-wise” from the get-go is so important because worship determines direction.

I’m sure you’ve seen newly dating couples who can’t seem to function without one another. At first it just seems cute, like “young love” and all dreamy-filtered-Instagram-my, but at it’s core, this obsession can be really unhealthy.

If one person has become an idol, that’s not love at all. It’s co-dependence–like a wood tick on a cat—a parasite on a host. Not a sustainable relationship because you suck the life out of each other.

I’m the kind of mom who points to the prison almost every time we pass by and tell my kids, “That’s where people who disobey the law end up.” I’m kind of a harper like that.

So when it comes to love and marriage, I’ve told me kids that love is doing the best for people when they are at their worst. Go into the relationship planning for the poorer, the sicker, the hard and unlovely and being thankful for the good.

Maybe our wedding vows should be more honest. (My wheels are turning, but I’ll spare you my sarcastic side.)

Suffice it to say, you are promising to love in the HARD. If an accident leaves him a quadriplegic or if the girl you were so attracted to ends up bed ridden and can do nothing for you, this is the “forever” mindset you are signing up for and pledging before God and these witnesses. *

THIS IS LOVE.

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Love is my grandfather caring for my grandmother in the late stages of Alzheimer’s and never wanting to leave her side.

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Anything that resembles “for richer”, good health, and mountaintop moments are all just the gravy on top.

When your desires are first met in God alone, this changes your focus completely. Dating is no longer about what I need from you but becomes what can we do together to serve this amazing God we have. This changes and informs and puts limits on our earthly interactions with each other.

Dating (and eventually marriage) is about you and me on mission to worship God properly, as equals, side by side, joint heirs of Jesus Christ. This overarching world view keeps Christ focal and my wants and whims and whining at bay.

Everything I do for my spouse, every interaction, every kind word when I don’t feel like being kind, every respectful answer when I feel like snapping back, is because my FIRST LOVE has commanded it to be so.

Christ is the True North in the dating then marriage commitment. We go off course when our “love” for this person becomes twisted and all about my needs being met. Self centered love exposes worship disorder.

In dating, worship disorder says:

  • “You’ll finally complete me!”
  • “He understands me better than anyone else I know.”
  • “I can’t live without him.”
  • “I’d do anything for him.”
  • “With him, I’ll finally be happy.”

In marriage, worship disorder says:

  • my husband needs to meet all of my need
  • my husband needs to make sure I feel loved
  • my husband needs to learn to communicate more
  • my husband needs to appreciate me more

Like a tick on a cat. You do for me. You perform for me. You live to make me happy.

What if we returned to true worship, even in our relationships? What if we expected more of God and less of our spouse? What if we found our fulfillment in God alone? If we relied more on the unfailing promises of God and gave our spouse grace to be human?

Gary Thomson in A Lifelong Love says it this way:

“Isn’t it true that many marital arguments result from disappointment with our spouses? We want them to be something of do something or catch something and they aren’t or they don’t, and we feel sorry for ourselves. We really do want them to love us like God loves us…

Do you recognize that’s an impossible burden for a human spouse, right?

But what if I sought a “monk’s marriage”? What if I decided that I would depend on God alone, expecting nothing from my spouse but depending entirely on God for all my needs, including my emotional and relational needs.” pg.99

When God calls us into a dating or marriage relationship, there are certainly perks and blessings, but it’s not ultimately about our happiness. As Christians, our marriage is a picture, a metaphor, of Christ’s irresistible love for the church. Our love for our spouse shows the world a Kingdom picture.

This can only be done with the Lord’s help, through daily “dying” to our flesh, and by putting others first as an act of worship to the Lord.

In marriage, the way upward is downward. The way to unity is via humility, supernatural humility, in response to all we have and owe to our First Love.

I want my kids to know that a lasting marriage is not because two people just clicked while 50% of others didn’t. Marriage is hard work because the flesh is strong and sin is always with us. Pride and misplaced worship drives us to demand that my needs be met or else. That you praise me, appreciate me, notice me, etc… or else all bets are off.

I have one of the easiest husbands to get along with on the planet. Peter is really just the nicest guy ever. We were high school sweet hearts. I’ve always been crazy about him and I can honestly say that he has kissed me and told me he loves me every morning before work for the last 25 years. He is thoughtful and generous and makes sacrifices so that I will not only have what I “need” but anything he thinks will make me happy. (Hello, he’s taking me to LONDON for our 25th Wedding Anniversary!! Such a great surprise!)

This doesn’t mean that our marriage has been trial-free. No, we are both lively, driven, and selfish. (Him especially! JK) And to my shame, there have been many times when I’ve been argumentative, selfish, and disrespectful in marriage.  I’ve insisted on my own way, pouted when disagreements arose, expected Peter to read my mind and meet needs that only God can meet. Every time I acted this way, I can tell you with 100% certainty that I was in the midst of a worship-disorder.

If I had known this truth earlier on, that my marriage is an outpouring of my worship, I might not have struggled as much as I did.

A passion for God will keep your own passions in check. You’ll not so easily desire anything outside of His will. “If you love me, keep my word.”

Christ has an undeniable claim on your life AND on the life of your spouse/fiancee/boyfriend/girlfriend because God is their father and cares about how they are treated. It’s a crazy thought that God is my “father-in-law” because I married His redeemed and loved child, Peter. And God cares about every interaction I have with Peter and vice versa.

PURITY in dating becomes easier: “I’m dealing with God’s child and He cares and knows if I violate His will.” “I am not going to ask him/her to sin for my “benefit” when my First Love is CENTRAL in my heart and mind.

And Purity is not just a dating issue. The misplaced worship of self in dating only multiplies the struggle in marriage. This is why it’s mandatory that our heart’s affection is firmly attached to the God who claims our first love, allegiance, our life, and our all.

Why not focus on this first love and find your fulfillment in Him? He’s is THE SOURCE of all happiness. This frees you to love others well.

*NOT talking about enduring abuse here. If you are being abused, separate and get help. Be safe for you and your kids. It’s not Christian to be someone’s punching bag, verbally or physically.

*Post contains affiliate links.

Giveaway & Review of “A Heart Set Free” & Tea!!

I have a really great giveaway for you girls and I’m really excited to offer one of you a free copy of

A Heart Set Free by Christina Fox

PLUS

a 12 Single Serving Tea Sampler Gift Pack from Blooming with Joy Tea! Sweet!!

Enter using the Rafflecopter form at the end of this post!

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A little about both prizes:

A Heart Set Free By Christina Fox

Christina came to Boston a few weeks back and we had the pleasure of meeting in person. We are both part of an online writing group, and it was neat to make the  “real live” connection after being “virtual friends” for several years. We got to talk about her book a bit as we toured Boston.

On the site of the Boston Massacre

On the site of the Boston Massacre

If you have teen daughters, you’ll want to read A Heart Set Free and discuss it with them. I’m using certain aspects of it as I teach the Junior and Senior High girls in our church youth group, because, let’s face it, emotions are a huge part of our lives, and dealing with them in a godly way is something that we need to learn.

Emotions will rule you if you let them, and Christina talks about her own struggle with despair and depression, and likens them to house guests who show up unannounced and un-invited, who’ll make themselves at home and never leave if given the chance.

She walks through several Psalms and discusses how commonly we see negative emotions on display in them: anger, fear, loneliness, abandonment, despair, depression, betrayal, you name it…these negative emotions are in these “laments.” (Side note: There are more “laments” than any other type of Psalm!)

She shows us how the Psalms are helpful and instructive to us today, as we observe the way the psalmist confesses his struggles in his raw, honest prayers to God.

Christina shows us a three step pattern in the Laments that will help us when we struggle. She walks us through honestly telling God what’s going on in our heart (He already knows anyway!), encouraging us to go to Him for help, then engaging the mind to recall what we do know about God.

Here are a few of my favorite quotes:

“One of the greatest lessons we can learn from the Psalms is the importance of expressing our feelings to God. We learn not only of its importance but also the fact that we are free to do so and God wants us to.” pg. 94

“God’s love for us is immeasurable and limitless. It is not dependent on anything we have done. There is nothing we can do to make Him love us more or love us any less….It is this love that the Psalmist looked to as he waited for God’s response to his lament. Focusing on God’s love helped reshape his emotions. It restored his trust.” pg 128

“Often we allow our emotions to lead us and take precedence over our minds. The laments show us that both the mind and heart can meet together. They show us that the truth of God’s Word we have stored in our minds can lead the heart to rejoice in that truth.” p.135

“Too often our emotions tell us half-truths and sometimes even downright lies. Our emotions can exaggerate our circumstances to the point that we feel like our entire world has been flipped upside down. When we feel emotions like fear, sorrow, despair, abandonment, or worry, we need to be prepared to draw for the deep wells of God’s Word, saturating our heart with the Truth. We need to compare what we are telling ourselves with what God’s Word says.” p. 164

I really liked that this book was not super emotional and feelings driven, and not overly Spartanish either. I love Christina’s high view of God’s Word as the truth that will keep us anchored when life gets tumultuous! A great read!

About Blooming With Joy Tea Sampler Pack

Michelle from Blooming with Joy Tea has graciously offered her “12 Single Serve Sampler Pack” for this giveaway. Best thing about this prize– you get to choose the 12 tea flavors you’d like to try! Each one makes a 10 ounce cup of tea, and comes attractively wrapped in brown card stock and hand tied with jute. The winner will be given a free code where they can head over to Blooming With Joy and choose their flavors! (I love her Earl Grey Creme but you already know that!)

Side note: I am a huge believer in tucking tea into my letters and I have done so for years. (And pretty stickers and bookmarks!) These single serving teas are perfect for this!

Also, Michelle offered this coupon code to any reader who’d like to take advantage of it. Use code JOYFILLEDDAYS to receive 10% off any $30 purchase.

Contest ends Wednesday (4/27) night at Midnight!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Fine Print: Contest and shipping limited to the Continental US. You must provide an address within 48 hours of winning or another winner will be chosen.

This post contains affiliate links.

Homeschooling Mom, You Are in Charge of Your Happiness.

I spoke to a younger homeschooling mom this week who was clearly exhausted and suffering from burn-out.

After telling me why she was dreading the next two months of “school” , I asked her if she’d ever considered this:

“You are completely in charge of your own happiness. You don’t need permission to make changes for your own sanity. If you are discouraged, change something or nothing will change.”

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She needed to look for creative ways to make room for things that bring her joy. She was suffocating and needed some soul-oxygen.

I have been in her shoes too many times to count. We don’t have time so we don’t take time. It’s a vicious cycle.

Sometimes we get so stuck in the same old rut, that we don’t even know we are spinning our tires and headed nowhere. Spinning our tires requires movement and energy, so we equate that with productivity. Fast paced, multi-tasking, non-stop activity does not guaranteed progress. In fact, I’ve found that it almost guarantees burnout.

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The great amount of work that is truly on the shoulders of a homeschooling mom can scare us into a life of hurry and worry.

We begin pushing our kids to perform with a “standardized expectation” where kids can’t be themselves or excel in their own strengths. No, come end of the year, we must all perform for the test. Proficiency in every subject. Just call me Drill Sargent Mom.

Maybe we forget that education is not simply about gaining knowledge to pass tests.

It’s about relationships, training, direction, discipleship, character, and the atmosphere of home.

Charlotte Mason was a huge proponent of the “The Atmosphere” of education, that sense of well-being, connection, and joy that you share with your child that assures them that you are glad that you are together today!

We are training for real life situations.

Grandma is sick. We’re packing it up to get her some ginger ale and make some soup.

Mrs. Jones lost her baby. We’re headed there to watch her kids so she can rest.

Mrs. Smith is really struggling this week. She’s coming here for coffee and we’re going to cheer up her kids. 

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Homeschooling is a marathon, not a sprint. It’s real life training. And we have to plan time for small things that will yield big results in our happiness. (This will be different for every person, depending on your interests!)

If you are dreading the end of your school year and you find yourself less than enthusiastic about it, evaluate why.

  • What has zapped all your energy?
  • Where are you stretched too thin?
  • Have you become the “do everything” mom, so that the kids aren’t carrying their weight?
  • Have you let behavior slide so that your days are filled with a constant chorus of whining?
  • Have you taken time to refresh your own soul?
  • Have you purposely pursued time away from the kids/classroom to nurture life-giving friendships?
  • What inspiring friend can you plan to spend time with this week?
  • Are you looking for ways to serve others outside of your own home?
  • How can you provide moments of beauty in your daily routine?
  • Are you over-committed somewhere? What can you cut?
  • Have you under-nourished your own interests? What can you add?

Being a homeschool mom should not mean that you are now cloistered into your locked house, only to emerge for necessities like groceries and doctor’s appointments. You don’t stop being a sister, daughter, friend, neighbor when you teach at home. In fact, this role almost requires you that intentionally pursue a connected lifestyle to spark imagination and inspiration.

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If you are suffering from burnout, and you still have a way to go in the semester, it’s time to change something. Write down two things you can do this week to plan for moments of beauty and inspiration.

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Oh, I know. It’ll slow down your pace. You may only finish 130 lessons, rather than 140, but I think your kids’ experiences will be richer. (Don’t worry. The traditionally schooled kids rarely finish all their textbooks either.)

  • Make tea time a daily thing.
  • Take an afternoon to shut off all electronic devices and spend some serious time in the sun and fresh air.
  • Take a nature walk.
  • Arrange a small display of flowers for the table.
  • Notice the beauty around you in nature.
  • Notice the negative self talk in your own mind. Maybe your own words rolling round and round in your head–words or failure, or bitterness, regret, or disappointment–are the reason you are so sour and drained. Dwelling on the negatives will always do that to you.
  • Take a walk.
  • Get some exercise.
  • Head to the library and find books that inspire you to learn something new.
  • Paint outside with the kids.
  • Laugh with a friend.
  • Make a bon fire.
  • Read aloud to the kids.
  • Enjoy a treat together.
  • Invite people over. Connect in meaningful ways. Live. Enjoy your life and the people in it.

If you are dreading the homestretch, change it up. You’re on your own schedule. And you don’t need anyone’s permission to care for your self. You are in charge of your own happiness!

What are you going to do this week to plan for happy and inspiring moments? Share in the comments!

 

Getting Help {Ministry Wives Series}

We’re continuing our Ministry Wives (MW) series where I try to answer your questions about ministry life. Last week we talked about difficult friendships. This week, we’re answering a frequent question: “Where do I go for help? Who’ll mentor me when I struggle?”

I’ll tell you what I’ve done and hopefully it will give you some ideas.

It’s pretty much a universal truth that none of us feels like we completely know what we are doing. When we struggle with sin, embarrassment can keep us from getting help. See, we know the right answers, but sin has a way of deceiving and entangling everyone. We can either fake it and take the bull by the horns not knowing the damage to us or others, or we can admit we don’t know and ask for help.

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We are all just all sinners at different stages of sanctification. Pretending to have all the answers or living like we are “above” getting help is not only proud, but it puts people off—the same people who can see clearly that you don’t have all the answers and the same people you try to encourage to get accountability for their struggles. Integrity and truth are your bff’s in ministry.

We are all just beggars at God’s grace table along with everyone else. We’re all dependent creatures, held together and breathing the air of our Sustainer God. Any time we take ourselves out from under that place of dependence, and place ourselves in a position where we believe we have no need, or worse, where we think we have it all together, we are in trouble.

Here’s what I’ve seen and heard from the MWs I talk to. We avoid going to people who could judge us for help. We head to self-help books or commentaries, our spouse, or our mother. Although these all have their place and can be good things, I do think they have drawbacks.

  1. Books allow us to hide. They never look you in the eye and ask heart-probing questions about our sin or blind spots. A book doesn’t gently tell you that your attitude is wrong and your spirit, sour. Books let us skirt the issues reading what we think we need. There’s no uncomfortable confrontation with a book.
  2. Spouse. Until death do us part. For better or for worse. Our spouse is safe and isn’t going anywhere and we know this, so we ask him. Our spouse is resigned to our quirks–sometimes even our sin. He may, for the sake of peace, avoid confrontation and just listen to you vent. It’s almost hard to gauge whether he can see clearly through the situation because he’s so close to it.
  3. Mother. “Mother love” blinds us to our own kids’ bad behavior, therefore, when we need help with a struggle against sin, Mother is probably going to be too soft with us.

Taking advantage of a variety of counselors helps us to see our potential, and brings us face to face with our failures so we can deal with them. Though painful, it’s good because we don’t want our testimony to be a stumbling block to others.

One of the biggest challenges is finding “the woman” to mentor us.

It’s like we’re looking for superwoman–the one person who has it all together in all areas of life. Mary Poppins would be nice. Obviously, that person doesn’t exist.

Instead, look around and notice excellence. I look for a woman who has ONE excellent quality that I want to emulate. If she also has the character qualities I mentioned in the last post, namely the ability to keep her mouth shut…keep her counsel and not gossip, I’ll ask her to help me out. :)

I’ve sought counsel for writing, bible study, counseling, organization, health, parenting, marriage, etc…

Most recently I asked for help for weight loss.

A few months back I had a physical and the doctor told me I had gained 15 pounds in the last 8 years. Disturbed, I called my friend, Toni, who is a health coach. You might remember her from this post, Missionary Wives Speak: Have We Lost Something?

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In her sweet, unassuming way, she asked me a battery of questions about my eating, sleeping, and exercise habits and I have to tell you, my eyes were opened to several glaring problems with my weight loss struggles. For one thing, I don’t get enough sleep. I also skip meals when I am busy with the kids, reeking havoc to my metabolism. Just these probing questions were enough to help me correct several issues. (If you want to contact her, her email is tonihealthcoach@gmail.com . She’s super helpful and just a lovely person!)

All this to say, don’t be afraid to ask help from the people who really can help you and won’t be too soft on you.

Side note:

I think it’s very interesting that “Life Coaching” is an exploding, trendy industry in 2016. If you’ve not heard of life coaching, it’s a wonderful blend of consulting, mentoring, and therapy that focuses on practical, everyday stuff.  The Harvard Business Review reports that Life Coaching is a $1 Billion/year industry. The three most popular reasons people hired a life coach:

  1. to develop higher potential in their personal life
  2. for a sounding board
  3. address their negative behavior/habits

In our isolated world where a blue screen frequently replaces face to face friendship and interaction, people are going back to what they know works: mentoring and discipleship in all areas of life.

This is exactly what Titus 2 prescribes! Women, helping women. The older, helping the younger. The more experienced and excellent helping those who want to learn. Walking life with others. Isn’t it great that God knows exactly what we need and tells us how we work best? Life Coaching is a Biblical concept that works!

I know you’ve probably had bad experiences with people who shared your struggles or who talked about you behind your back. Don’t let that stop you from getting help to better yourself, and don’t let a negative experience push you into a life of isolation and fear. We really need to let go of the fear of man, and instead live for an Audience of One who calls us to a holy lifestyle. Maybe your humble desire to grow and change will be the catayst for change and growth in your church? Maybe your life will encourage others to seek God more passionately.

“Where no counsel is, the people fall: but in the multitude of counselors there is safety.” Prov. 11:14

“A wise man will hear and will increase learning. And a man of understanding shall attain unto wise counsels.” Prov. 1:5

“Without counsel purposes are disappointed; but in the multitude of counselors they are established.” Prov. 15:22

“Thy testimonies also are my delight and my counselors.” Ps. 119:24

If you are still struggling to find help, pray. I’d be happy to pray for you, too. Ask God to guide you. I know He’ll guide you to the people and resources you need.