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.

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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.

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

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

 

 

*Post contains Affiliate Links to Amazon.com at no cost to you. I earn a small percentage when you buy via this link. Thanks for supporting this blog.

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.

finding help

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.

Homemade Fried Rice and New England Style Duck Sauce

My friend, Ruth, had the greatest recipe for fried rice on her website, but the flipgram is now disabled!! (Ruth, we need another tutorial!!) I’ve made her recipe so many times because my kids love Chinese Rice and this recipe is quick, easy, and inexpensive.

fried rice

I’m going to summarize Ruth’s recipe for you the best I can and I think we should peer pressure her into doing another video. Mkay?

Per Ruth’s FB, you need “day old rice, lunch meat, frozen veggies or whatever you have, and eggs.”

I usually cook up jasmine rice the day before and stick it in the fridge for the next day.

To start, I cut up a boneless, skinless chicken breast into small cubes and fry them up in a little oil in my largest non-stick pan. ( I still don’t have a wok!)  When they are almost cooked through, I add green and red peppers and sugar snap peas, cubed, and I fry until slightly softened.

I scramble three eggs and add that into the meat and veggies, making a big scrambled “mess.” I add a little more oil, and then add my cold, day old rice (about 4 cups or so) and fry it until it sizzles a little and browns slightly on the bottom.

When the rice is fried, I added some soy sauce to add color. I just sprinkled it around until I got a nice brown color. Maybe 1/4 to 1/2 cup max for a large pan of rice. I also threw in a few Tbsp brown sugar, 2 Tbsp Sesame oil, and black pepper. Right before it’s done, I add a cup of frozen peas and cover loosely, stirring until they are soft.

This recipe is so easy to tweak. I’ve made it with leftover ham lunch meat that I cut into cubes. (Also, I’ve made it without lunch meat. It does have eggs in it as protein.)

I always serve fried rice with duck sauce. Apparently our area of New England has their own version of duck sauce because the grocery store version is a sicky-sweet-gloppy-orange impostor and is nothing like our restaurants serve. The duck sauce in New England is thin, almost watery, and applesauce based.

It’s easy to make at home for those of you who can’t stand the store bought version.

New England Style Chinese Duck Sauce

In a saucepan, simmer until flavors meld:

1 cup sweetened applesauce (not the kind with cinnamon)

and 1 Tablespoon each: apple cider vinegar, sugar, soy sauce.

That’s it! Enjoy.

 

Seeking Friendship {Ministry Wives Edition}

For the next few posts I’ll be answering a few ministry related questions I’ve received over the last few months. Hopefully, by reading someone else’s perspective, it’ll help you make sense of your situation. I know every ministry situation is different and has its own nuances. Please feel free to take what helps and leave what doesn’t. Okay, then?

friendship

I frequently get asked about friendships in ministry–specifically the lack of forming close friendships in your own congregation.

It’s no secret that friendships in ministry can be tricky.

No matter where you serve,

whether full-time, part-time, or layman, missionary, youth pastor’s wife, musician, or church planter’s wife, we all need someone to love us enough to speak truth into our lives. But we all know that sometimes transparency backfires in a leadership position. This is certainly the ministry wife’s catch-22.

“Blessed are they who expect nothing for they shall not be disappointed.” Although this saying from Rachel Lynde is laughable, there’s wisdom in realizing that we are all just people walking through various stages of life at different stages of sanctification. Since we are flawed people serving with other flawed people, wisdom is necessary when sharing our heart.

You don’t share your heart with someone who gossips about others.

You don’t share your heart to someone who is critical or outspoken about every little thing.

And repeat after me:”Transparency is not spilling your gut and sharing every thought. That’s venting.”

You simply don’t share with people who have proved themselves untrustworthy.

  • I know of one friend who was co-laboring with another couple and who shared some deep troubles they were having in their marriage, desperate for help, and they were basically disciplined out of the church after a slow death of the relationship, and told they would not be recommended for another ministry because of their marriage issues. (For the record, their marriage is thriving.)
  • In another instance, a ministry friend was punished by a bitter pastor’s wife after sharing concerns about ministry practice to her.
  • In yet another instance, a pastor’s wife and family were raked over the coals for asking, through a broken heart, for prayer for a struggling teen.

So what do you do about forming close friendships as a ministry wife?

Well, the Lord initiates friendship with us and the Bible warns about how vulnerable the “loner” is, and how there is strength in numbers, so we know avoiding friendship is not the answer.

The pat answer seems to be to have friends in other ministries because sometimes you do need to “talk shop.”

There’s a problem with this, though. Friends in other ministries don’t know our “blind spots” and we’re certainly not going to tell them because–wait for it–we are completely blind to them, so our version of the “truth” might be skewed and we might not get the help we need.

And God does PUT us with people to humble us and chisel away our ungodly characteristics, so total avoidance is really short changing yourself.

Here are a few things I’ve learned in my limited experience:

Be in your Bible.  God’s word is there to convict you and change you. Go into each reading assuming that God wants to humble you in some area. Then read to change. God also offers you friendship and only when you love God supremely will you actually have the ability to love others well, warts and all.

Know your church culture. If you’re in a church culture where truth is valued and transparency is safe, then by all means, feel free to share with your fellow leadership wives or trusted friends. If you’re not sure about the culture, listen, listen, listen to the way people talk about others when they fail. You can tell a lot about the humility of a leader by how well or ill they speak of others.

Accept what God gives you. You might really want a close friend and deep conversations but God keeps giving you younger moms who are really needy for advice and play dates. God always gives us what we need. He promises to. Perhaps our desire is stronger than it should be and God wants us to serve others at a play date at the park or beach.

Keep friendship in perspective. We sometimes imagine that there is that one person out there who will always be there for us, be completely loyal, never let us down, always know just what to say. There is only one person who can do all this and it’s God. That kind of pressure on any friend will kill it from the start. Friendships are good gifts, but not the ultimate thing: God is!

Pray for a wise woman. She doesn’t have to be in your congregation, but pray for an older woman to talk to. You don’t have to bear your soul. You might just really listen and learn as she talks about God’s faithfulness through years of marriage and child raising and widowhood.

Look for a woman who has these qualities:

  1. She doesn’t feel the need to gossip to gain acceptance or to seem like she’s in the know. This quality assures you she’ll keep your confidence.
  2. She speaks well of others.
  3. She’s self-controlled in her life and emotions.
  4. She’s Word-filled. Enough said.
  5. She’s faithful. Her yes means yes and her no means no.

Realize that God appoints your place and time and makes no mistakes. You don’t have to be best friends with someone in order to work with them. Your personalities don’t even have to mesh. Because in the end, love for God will smooth the way.

 I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to live in harmony in the Lord.

Notice that Paul doesn’t give relationship strategies or personality profiles to help fix whatever was troubling Euodia and Synthche, two New Testament women who seemed to clash. He tells them to recognize their place “in the Lord.” He emphasizes their mutual submission to the Lord. He was saying, “Hey, girls, it’s not all about you! It’s all about the Lord!”

Realizing that we are “in the Lord” does eliminate any temptation for one-upmanship or insisting on your own way. This brings humility. Serving in unity rises and falls on our willingness to see ourselves in Him.

Initiate friendships. If God brings someone to mind, you initiate. If you’re lonely, they might be, too. Make the first call. Invite them over. Ask to meet for coffee. Contact them online. Tell them you’d like to get to know them better. This is always a blessing.

Don’t demand that friendship look a certain way. Maybe for a season, your friendships will be with older women or with women walking through a sorrowful season. You be the friend that you’d want to have.

Don’t waste your loneliness. Read good books. Do an online Bible study. Encourage others. Visit a nursing home. Babysit for a younger mom. When one of my girls struggled with loneliness in her teens, I told her that maybe God was preparing her to depend heavily on Him for some mission work in her future or season of isolation.

“Be not weary in well doing. For in due season, you will reap if you faint not.”

I’ve learned that God uses every trial to direct and lead me. When I’ve lacked close friendship, He’s used unpleasant circumstances to lead me to the people and the opportunities where He wants me to minister. And in obedience and joy, there’s so much hopeful anticipation about what God is doing and how He’ll provide for each of our needs, just like He’s promised He will.

 

 

 

 

Grace for the Mom Who Isn’t Enough

Wipe the counters. Empty the trash. Vacuum the rug. Make the coffee. Wash the cups. Fill the dishwasher. Empty the dishwasher. Change the laundry. Pick up Cheerios. Pick up Legos. Swiffer the floor. Change the diaper. Answer the phone. Fill the sippy cup. Check the mail. Write the check. Fold the laundry. Brush the teeth. Feed the cat.

Dizzying, this mother-life. Constant. Always moving, never seemingly making progress.

grace

Nothing will hit you with the stark reality that you are not enough like motherhood will. You quickly realize that you don’t have enough of anything–energy, time, organizational skills, wit, wisdom, patience, or maternal instinct– to parent these kids like you dreamed you would.

Our suspicions seem to be confirmed when we check social media and notice that our friend’s kids are wearing matching outfits and hairbows and they’re all “off” to ballet lessons. You notice your smiling friend seems to have the Kate Middleton blowout, and she’s clutching her coffee in neatly-manicured-hands.

And with every click, we are measuring ourselves and mentally keeping track of our deficiencies.

Click. Oh, she’s on a missions trip with her kids! Wow.

Click. Oh wow, they’re on vacation at that beautiful resort.

Click. What a sweet husband she has. He’s always sending her flowers and wisking her off for dinner. 

Click. Look at how amazing her decorating is. That house looks like it should be in a magazine!

Click. Oh, look at her surrounded by all her friends. They always have so much fun. I wish I had just one close friend like that.

Doesn’t social media feed the notion that everyone’s enough but you?

I had a day like this recently. I was going on day three of barely any sleep because my little guy was suddenly crying at night and needed to be rocked. I was also fighting sickness.

I pulled myself out of bed earlier than normal because my to-do list was long, poured myself an extra-large cup of coffee, plopped down on the couch and admitted to God, “Well, here I am. Completely overwhelmed before the day even begins, exhausted, moody, and ridiculous, but here for whatever I can get today.”

grace 1

I’ll admit to you right now that my flesh hates to come to God. I hate to admit that I’m needy. I feel like a beggar and who wants that? I want to be like my friends in the pictures who have it all together! But I’ve learned that my feelings are rarely truth. God tells us to come. He implores us to come! Because he wants to satisfy. He tells us to come with nothing in hand and be filled.

I love this paraphrase/commentary of Matt. 11:28-30

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” (MSG)

Bleary eyed and half-heartedly I read:

“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”

God’s power made perfect in the midst of my weakness.

Yes, please. That’s what I need.

When I agree with the Bible and admit that self-dependence is NOT a Christian virtue, nor the trait of a Spirit controlled woman, I can embrace these truths when I am depleted that give me hope:

I am never left to fend for myself and I am not parenting these kids alone.

God gives me exactly what I need in the moment. “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want/lack.” He takes care of every one of my needs.

I do not need to conjure up the strength to do this thing right. I have God’s strength to cover my weakness.

God promises grace for today. I don’t need to worry about the tomorrows, because God doesn’t dole out grace for all.of.the.things I could ever worry about tomorrow. He deals in today.

No matter what I feel, God called me to parent these kids. This wasn’t a freak lottery. God is sovereign and in His wisdom, you are “it”, dear mother! Yes, you have inadequacies like we all do. Yes, you’ll struggle with issues your friends may seem to conquer with ease. But God does not call you to do something that He doesn’t equip you to do. While parenting is hard, we are not left comfortless. We have the Holy Spirit to cheer and guide our daily work.

My life doesn’t have to look like my friend’s life. God called me to this. He ordained my place and time. He wants me to rejoice and live it out!

Could it be that weakness is a gift? On those days when we are most aware of our own frailty and feel like a failure before we begin,

on the days when we are most vulnerable, is it then in those moments that Christ can work in us and through us in visible ways by the power of His might?

And isn’t it when we are the frailest that we’re also hyper-aware of His work in us and through us and we’re most prone to thank Him and give Him the glory?

So instead of beating yourself up for having limitations or for lacking ability, let’s give thanks for anything that causes us to press in to God and to rest in His sufficiency.

What is lacking in your life? Could it be that God will use that deficiency to keep you close to Him? Praise Him for it and rest in Him.