Love the Imperfect “Right Now”

Yesterday, I woke with the knowledge that I was already behind. Coffee mugs, ice cream bowls, and popcorn kernels graced my kitchen sink and told the tale of the late night festivities that come with a house full of older children and their friends who come alive at night when I am ready to collapse into bed.

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An untidy house can send me over the edge depending on my mindset. (Did I mention I was tired?) Plus, my to-do list was long and our little one was up three times the night before.

These are the days when I feel my lack: not enough time, skill, wisdom, wit, energy,or money to create the life I’ve crafted in my mind as “ideal” and I feel myself sinking into discouragement.

And it’s rough, dear friend, when you hang on to ideals and compare them to the life that is right in front of you right now. It’s a sure fire way to make yourself miserable.

Today, maybe you are lacking as well. Maybe your ideals and your present circumstances are nothing alike. You believe you need:

  • more understanding to be a better wife,
  • more patience to be a better mom,
  • more money to provide better meals,
  • more wisdom to relate to people better,
  • more opportunities to get ahead,
  • more organization to be efficient,
  • more free time to pursue hobbies and dreams.

But here’s the thing: the need for more is a little lie I tell myself. It stems from a heart that believes that God short-changed me. The belief of “not enough” is a poor-me mindset, living like an orphan who needs to fend for herself, when I am in fact, a daughter of the King who has promised to take care of every one of my needs.

This quest for more because of a perceived lack is not a new phenomenon. No, it’s as old as

  • Sarai who wanted a son pronto, so used Hagar to get her way
  • the Israelites who needed better food because they were fed up with manna,
  • David, who believed he should have more in the wife department so killed and committed adultery to get it,
  • Annanias and Sapphira who wanted prestige and all their money at the same time, so they told a tall tale.

The lie of “Not enough”, when mulled and meditated upon, when toyed with and hand-crafted in our thoughts and imaginations, emerges as a micro-idol that lodges into my very being like a parasite. I barely know it exists until it shows itself in the unexpected moments:

  • complaining
  • blaming God
  • sour attitude
  • depression or apathy
  • lack of submission to others
  • demanding my own way

No matter what form it takes, its core of self-reliance, discontentment, control, and self-pity must be rooted out with gospel-truth.

My lack is supposed to show me Someone who never lacks and is all-powerful. It’s meant to break the death grip I have on preserving my own life through my own resources, and pry away my fingers so that I can gently hold the hand of my loving Heavenly Father who wants to provide what He knows is best for me.

The truth is that I have everything that I need in Christ. “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want/lack.” This truth has been a great simplifier for me in my Christian walk. I can be at peace knowing God always gives me what is good and is too good to withhold any good thing from me.

When dishes in the sink mount, and dust flies in the air, and I can’t seem to get ahead, I need to preach to my own heart that failings don’t define me and inadequacies don’t disqualify me from the love of God. I can love the imperfect present because I am loved in spite of my dirty dishes or toddler who tantrums. I’m cherished regardless of how put together I am in the moment because God’s love is not about me measuring up. I’m still in His care when I’m exhausted and depleted and frustrated and feel un-spiritual. I still have His resources when I’m disappointed. And you can rest, too, whatever your lack, real or perceived. God has us where we are for a reason, and He will never give us something that is not for our good. Learning to be content in this present place is where the gospel-work is being done in our hearts today, friend. Let’s let God do His work in us.

Love,

Sarah

Construction update, spring decorating, and some favorite domestic quotes

We are almost finished with our house renovations, and since this has been going on since last November, if I never see a shop-vac again in my entire life, I’d be okay with that. I absolutely love how beautiful my kitchen is. I still can’t believe that God used ice dam damage to bless us in such an amazing way.

God’s goodness to us in this renovation has been evident. Almost embarrassing. He knows that my heart is to use our home to serve others, and He gave me WAY more than I ever hoped or imagined. I hesitate to write how excited I am because I don’t want anyone to think that I equate God’s smile with our American idea of a beautiful home. Still, after years of using our 1950’s kitchen for God’s glory (which, by the way, I grew to love and decorated the best I could) I’m excited to wash dishes in my brand new farmers sink.  Is that bad? Shallow?

During this whole affair, I’m firmer than ever in my conviction that a clean, orderly home is good for the mind, body, and soul. After living in boxes and seeing dust and debris for months, and feeling the mental confusion and frustration that disarray brings, I am more inspired than ever to keep our home well.

During these dusty months, friends have invited us in for dinner and ministered to us, another blessing of this project. My in-laws and parents were also a huge blessing, allowing the kids to study in peace at their home away from banging hammers, and allowing us to stay at their home during the worst phases.

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Although we’re still not completely done with the project (our floors are being done this week) I’m excited to do a little decorating in the places I can.

I saw some spring table decor in the Pottery Barn catalog that I loved but couldn’t afford spend the money on–this bunny cloche  {um, $169–crazy town}and spring flowers and nest –so I went to Michael’s Crafts this week and made my own version for a fraction of the price. (My DIY tutorial for the nest is here.) I like how it came out and love how it looks on my kitchen table.

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IMG_5144I found the cloche at Michael’s for $12 after my 40% coupon. It was in the area that had a bunch of fairy and gnome miniature house accessories. I covered a round piece of floral foam into the bottom and covered it with Spanish moss, attaching it with hot glue. I added the vintage glittery chick (in the seasonal Easter section) and a few sprigs of fake flowers. The tiny eggs were on a floral pick, so I pulled them off and stuck them in the ground. The mini nests were $1.99, and I just added moss with a glue gun and a few tiny eggs and leaves. (I have a tutorial for the larger nests here.) The grass covered bunnies were from Walmart. Anyway, after all the construction, I was so happy to decorate a little bit. I’m in the process of searching for fabric for kitchen curtains, my next project. :)

Are you guys excited for spring? Decorating? Send me your photos or tell me in the comments what you are up to. I love talking crafting. :)

Finally, since I’ve had homemaking on my mind lately, I thought I’d share a few of my favorite quotes that I hope will inspire you as you work in your home:

A household has to be tended if it is to flourish and grow. Housework is never ‘done’ in the same sense that gardening is never done or that God’s providential involvement in the world is never done. Housework and gardening and God’s providence itself are exercises not in futility but in faithfulness – faithfulness to the work itself, to the people whose needs that work serves, and to the God whose own faithfulness invites our faithful response.” Margaret Kim, Keeping House

I first learned that housework has meaning by observing my grandmothers. The reason they made a fuss when they saw their granddaughter doing things in a “foreign” way is that they knew–in their bones if not in words–that the way you experience life in your home is determined by how you do your housekeeping…

Understandably, each of my grandmothers wanted me to make a home in which she could feel at home…

This sense of being at home is important to everyone’s well-being. If you do not get enough of it, your happiness, resilience, energy, humor, and courage will decrease…Home is the one place in the world where you are safe from feeling put down or out, unentitled,  or unwanted.

Home Comforts, Cheryl Mendelson

 

God’s economy is fantastic…As we serve someone, a human being, we can be serving the Lord…How do I regard my having tun upstairs with tea, or having served breakfast in bed, or having continued for years to do this kind of thing for a diversity of people,  as well as for my husband and children? How do I look at it? Do I feel like a martyr? Let me tell you exactly how I see it.

First, I say silently to the Lord, “Thank you that there is a practical way to serve YOU tea[or breakfast in bed, or whatever it is that I am doing for someone.] There would be no other way of bringing You food, or doing some special thing for You.  Thank you for making it so clear that as we do things that are truly in the realm of giving of ourselves in service to others, we are really doing to for You.

Edith Schaeffer, Common Sense Christian Living

 

“Putting away things that get daily or weekly use is a way to exercise a kind of providential foresight…Having clothes ready to wear in the drawer or in the closet is part of creating an expectation that in this home we care for one another. Our needs are not a perpetual emergency but are anticipated and provided for ahead of time.” Margaret Kim, Keeping House

I hope you have a great week.

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What is Important Ministry Work?

“Does my work matter in the grand scheme of things? And how do I live a life of ministry to God and others if I’m home all day with kids?”

I asked myself this question many times over the years as a stay at home mom of five children who came all in the span of under ten years. During that time, if I wasn’t pregnant and throwing up with morning sickness, then I was nursing a baby or trying to potty train and juggle toddlers. If I’m honest, I think the real question haunting me was whether my ministry work mattered as much as what Peter was doing for the Lord, because sometimes motherhood feels like you are sidelined and out of the game, not really doing the real work, the stuff that matters.

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I’m addressing this today because this topic comes up in my inbox often. In so many seasons of life, we try to choose between kids, home, work, and “ministry” like we’re walking a tightrope, trying to balance our Christian life by finding the perfect “home:ministry:work” ratio that will please God.

I think this confusion means that we need to better define what qualifies as important ministry work.  

A missionary wife once confided that her days on the field felt unproductive. While her husband was out “ministering,” she was shut away spending so much time trying to provide basics like washing clothes and cooking meals, gathering ingredients and waiting for electricity so she could actually cook the meal. Her work seemed sub-par and unimportant compared to his ministry since her daily highlights would hardly make the next newsletter updates. How again was she contributing to the church? Was this what her calling to the mission field was going to look like for the rest of her life?

Today I want to share a few things that have helped me through the years of having to sort through priorities and what ministry means in my life.

First, If it’s appointed, it’s important.

I needed to stop setting up a false dichotomy between the “secular” and “sacred” aspects of my life. Teaching Sunday School was important, but clipping the kids’ fingernails was unimportant.  As a believer, I can’t think this way because God tells me that He is the one who planned out the work I am to do:

For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Eph.2:10

The Bible also says, “LORD, you have assigned me my portion and my cup; you have made my lot secure.” In short, God does the “doling” out. My ministry with a large family, as a homeschooling mother, in my time and place will look very different from the single woman’s ministry. And my ministry will change as the seasons of my life change. God knows every detail. And all the work He has called me to do can and should be done for His glory.

For instance, some days my assignments from God are simple: I make the bed for God’s glory. I wash the floor, make supper, and bake cookies to God’s glory. Other days God asks me to teach a Sunday School class, counsel a hurting friend, or teach the teen girls. Some days He appoints that I visit someone in the hospital or speak to a large group of women. Some jobs are easier than others for me and some are not my favorite, but each one can be done with joy as an offering to God. There is not one assigned job that was unimportant.

Secondly, when we think of ministry we need to re-evaluate what that means. What is a woman’s ministry? Or, what is your ministry as a woman? Is it when you teach a Sunday School? Is it ministry when you drive dear old Aunt Martha to the grocery store, or sit with a sorrowing friend? Is it when you mentor that younger mom who is at your kitchen table in tears? What qualifies as ministry? Ministry sounds like a lofty word, but simply put, it’s service. And service isn’t always glamorous and a servant rarely gets to choose his work for the day. A servant does the will of someone else for the benefit of another. Service. Work. Under the Lordship of Christ. Plain and simple.

Thankfully, the Lord allows us to serve using our “gifts” in many ways as we are led by the Holy Spirit. And the Lord will give you the desires and direct you to use your gifts in the ways He wants–and to the people who need your service. There are so many varied examples of “ministry” in scripture that they are too numerous to name, but a we see that God uses women in many important ways: teaching good things, ministering to the sick, sewing for others, telling the good news to friends and family members, caring for widows and orphans, hospitality, correcting doctrine, feeding people, housing the church. My friends all have so many varied ministries that none of our lives look the same. From working full time to staying at home, from caring for an aging parent to cradling a newborn. Whether you are traveling the globe as a missionary or evangelist’s wife or serving in the hometown you were born in, the job and location doesn’t really matter, does it? But there’s a common thread that runs through all work that is done for the Lord and you’ll see it in the lives of the godly older women you most admire: the Word of God is primary.

True ministry is “Word Work.”

  1. It is Word-filled. We aren’t here to spread our own opinions. We aren’t here to spread the opinions of a great author or commentator, and we aren’t to study their books or words over the Words of Scripture. Anybody that we work with should know by our words and deeds that Scripture has the final say in our life and conduct.
  2. It is Spirit-directed. The Holy Spirit directs us and we almost can’t help but minister to the people He intends for us to minister to.
  3. It’s purpose is God’s glory. True service is never about me. In fact, if God doesn’t come out shining then you are doing something very wrong.

Your work, no matter how big or small, infused with God’s Word, done God’s way brings glory to God.

Whether you are ironing your husband’s shirt, reading to your children, counseling your teen, or speaking to a crowd, your work, infused with God’s Word, done God’s way, brings Him glory.

My encouragement for you today is that your important ministry is:

whoever God puts in front of you today: your kids, your husband, extended family, and out from there: neighbor, class mate, co-worker, the lady at the grocery store, that woman who calls you crying. Younger moms, if the only people you see all day are under 2 feet tall and are clinging to your leg about to drive you crazy, remember God gave you those kids as an assignment from Him. You are the only one called to those kids and the work matters to God.

whatever God gives you to do today: from everyday responsibilities like food prep or car pooling, to surprises like sickness or a friend who suddenly needs help, or to opportunities that fall into your lap, everything comes from the hand of the Lord, and He’ll direct you, give you wisdom and the energy to do what must be done. No matter how lack-luster or glamorous, the assignment isn’t really important, but our faithfulness and joy as we do it as unto the Lord.

What has God called you to do today?

What one job or person do you dread?

What can you do to change your outlook and work as though you are standing and doing it for the Lord?

Words With A Purpose

 

Words, words, words. We use them every day. And God has quite a bit to say about our words.

Our words can build up or tear down. They can be kind or bitter. They can bring God glory or bring Him shame.

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Today in Sunday School we talked about not grieving the Holy Spirit by sinning, and one of the ways we grieve Him is by using “corrupting communication.”

Ephesians 4:29,30 is one of those extreme “never” verses. Never let this happen. 

“Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. And grieve not the Holy Spirit…”
I can’t think of anything that I would actually want to be defined as corrupt. A corrupt file? A corrupt accountant? A corrupt home? No, thank you. There is nothing attractive about something that is corrupt. And lips and words are no exception.
What are some synonyms for corrupt? Rotten, useless, depraved.
We are talking about words that tear another person down, or build ourselves up at the expense of another. It also encompasses thoughtless, backhanded comments that hurt or belittle another person.
God’s word says that out speech should have a purpose. To build up and edify.
Anything that falls short of that goal grieves the Holy Spirit.
I often tell our teen girls that when you use your lips as a tool to slander or tear another person down, you are never more like Satan. When you encourage and edify another sister in Christ, you are never more like Christ.
We have ALL kinds of excuses for our sinful speech, don’t we? Excuses ranging from “Oh, it just slipped out” to “I have PMS.”
But sinful words have a sinful root. A sinful heart. We hate to admit this, because it is so much easier to make excuses or tell people about all of our extenuating circumstances. We love to blame others and claim our own goodness.
But we can never blame another person for something sinful that came out of our own lips. We need to own our words. And when we have grieved the Holy Spirit and torn down another believer, we need to make that right on a vertical level (God) and on a horizontal level (person you offended.)
When you find yourself in conflict, how is your speech?
A Facebook friend had this as his status this week:
“Conflict is especially effective in breaking down appearances and revealing stubborn pride, a bitter and unforgiving heart, or a critical tongue… It is important to realize that if you do not glorify God when you are involved in a conflict, you will inevitably glorify someone or something else. By your actions you will show either that you have a big God or that you have a big self and big problems” (Ken Sande from his book The Peacemaker).
If you find yourself wishing that you didn’t have to deal with this sin nature, and you are discouraged by battling your tongue once again, remember this:
God has given us all we need to live for his glory. 1 Peter 1:3 “His divine power has given us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue.”
Do you find yourself struggling? We all do.
Do what it takes to avoid this sin. This might include separating yourself from people who tempt you to gossip, recording yourself during the day to evaluate your tone of voice with your family, taping scripture near your telephone or computer, or just plain limiting the amount of words that come out of your mouth.

Does this generation know what love is?

I read an article the other day that made me wonder if our current generation understands love at all.

It was entitled “Survey: Sleeping together before a first date is a-okay, but cracked phones are a put off.”. My heart hurt after reading it, and though I know these types of surveys aren’t completely accurate, I couldn’t help but feel concern for a generation who is looking for love and connection so desperately that the cultural norm is sleeping together on the third date.*

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The world interprets many lesser things as “love”–

  • cheap clicks on social media
  • attention gained through sexting and skin-baring
  • gaining a “following” by revealing your most private self for men to gawk at on Instagram or Snapchat
  • “being together” even when abuse is present because anything is better than being alone
  • indiscriminate s*x outside of marriage

The hurt and regret that follows such a misguided pursuit of “love” makes me wonder where our kids have learned this. Can we blame them entirely? Kids learn from examples, and we have to ask, where were we in this teaching process, and do we know what true love is? Have we demonstrated self-less love in our marriages and to our kids?

If we haven’t, the world has certainly been busy indoctrinating them to reject God as Creator (ultimately dismissing Him from any say in their life, erasing accountability) and to embrace self-love as the “ultimate good”, doing what feels right in the moment, an act which in itself makes loving others impossible.

Which leads us to confess that apart from God, we don’t know what true love looks like. Without His example of extreme sacrifice, we’d believe that the greatest love is the one that gets me what I want, feeds my ego, lets me use and dominate others, and always caters to my needs.

God shows us a better way. True love serves and sacrifices, as seen on the cross.

Love actually does the hard thing. When you want to fall in love, know this, love costs and invites inconvenience.

And we have to ingrain this in our kids and live it out before them. Sometimes love is not a feeling. Sometimes it costs us something. Sometimes we lose so others gain. Sometimes love is self-denial instead of indulgence.

Peter and I have been married for 25 years, and though I’ve married one of the finest men alive, it’s not the flowers, notes, dinners, or get-a-ways that show me how much Peter loves me.

It’s his love displayed in the daily self-denial moments.

  • It’s holding his tongue when he feels like telling me off.
  • It’s getting up for work every day for 25 years to provide for us.
  • It’s standing by me in my worst moments, through 5 pregnancies, the “unattractive days” of morning sickness, the bed rest, the encouragement through postpartum depression, the getting up early on Saturdays so I can catch some extra rest while he walked the floor with cranky babies.
  • It’s the speaking truth to me when it’s not popular.
  • It’s giving me opportunities to do things I love when he could have used the time or money on himself.

Love looks a lot like sacrifice that doesn’t wait around for reciprocation.

You and I can relate to this kind of love in motherhood. What mother doesn’t want the best for her kids? We do hard things because it’s best for our kids. When we are exhausted, we still get it done for our kids. When they’re praised, we don’t pout and wish we were the one praised. (Love does not envy.) When they are excited about an opportunity, we rejoice–we don’t brag about our own opportunities. (Love does not boast. Love is not proud.) It’s not about us, it’s about them, and we’re happy to have it that way.

(Side note: when you struggle with that problem person in your life, compare your love toward them to your “mother-love.” Ask, would I be excited if my child was honored or given an opportunity? Yes, because, mother-love. Then how does my love for this person compare? Why is it lacking? Would I be glad if my own child received good gifts that I never had? Yes. Then why do I feel the need to downplay or stew over their happy moments? Usually, you’ll find that love is lacking, friends.)

As we celebrate Valentine’s Day this week, let’s remember that we only know what true love looks like in purity when we see Christ. We can’t define love our own way. God has modeled and defined it:

Love is patient and kind. It doesn’t ever envy or boast because it’s always happy for the other person. It isn’t proud because it mainly serves. True love doesn’t keep track of wrong doing. Doesn’t tally up your mistakes as ammunition later. Love overlooks and extends grace. Love protects and cherishes. It always expects good and hopes with eyes that sees all the possibilities for a person.

Don’t settle for lesser loves. Don’t embrace a love-fraud that promised happiness and leaves you hurt. Let your love be regulated by scriptural bounds and tested for truth and purity by Biblical standards.

As Christians, we’ve known the Giver of the greatest love, and as we know and enjoy Christ more every day, and find our satisfaction in Him, that knowledge will revolutionize the way we love others in return.

Want to love your spouse better? Plan to sacrifice more. Want to love your neighbor as your self? Serve him in ways you’d appreciate being served. Want to love that church member as Christ commands? Plan to deny your flesh, and expect inconvenience as ministry (aka–service).

My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.  ~John 15:12

 

*Side note: no matter how conservatively or conscientiously you’ve trained your kids, they are more like the current culture than you’d ever believe. For reference, read Generation Me and Already Gone and Revolutionary Parenting, all very helpful books for understanding how the “rudiments of the world” stick to your kids and shape their thinking.

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Weekend Edition: Copycat Shepherd’s Pie, Natural Cures, and Favorite Things

I hope you are all having a great weekend.

Some newsy stuff::

We’re in the middle of construction again and I’m super excited about this part of our renovation: my kitchen makeover. It feels surreal to be getting new kitchen cabinets and to be able to choose just what I want. Who knew that all of our water damage two winters ago would turn out to be such a blessing in disguise? After a nerve-wracking few days of color samples and trips to the paint store, I’ve decided that the cabinets will be painted Dover White by Sherwin Williams. It’s a bit whiter than I’ve used in my house before, though it has a hint of warm cream, but I want the kitchen to look bright and cheery, so I am going to warm it up with accents and lighting. I’ll be posting pictures as we go on Instagram, so if you want to follow our progress, you can find me here. (PS: If you are on Instagram, tag me so I can follow you, too.)

Recipe::

A while back I told you about a great copycat recipe for the Cheesecake Factory’s Shepherd’s Pie that made after I took my daughter and a couple of friends to Cheesecake Factory for dinner. It was so delish that I decided I needed to make it at home. I found a wonderful recipe at Chaos in the Kitchen (Thank you, thank you, Katie.) that I loved because it used ground beef but didn’t taste “ground beefy” if you know what I mean. I made her recipe the next day, and it was so close, but when I compared it to the leftovers, I realized it was missing something. I added a couple of things and viola–it tasted JUST like the leftovers.

So, to make this at home, use Katie’s wonderful recipe, but also add 2 Tbsp Soy Sauce and 1 tsp Dried Rosemary.

You’ll LOVE it.

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Learning::

Peter has pneumonia and doesn’t seem to be getting better. He’s on his second antibiotic, but this thing seems to be hanging on. My sister Amy is a whiz with Essential Oils, so I got a little advice from her. She gave me this recipe to help with pneumonia based on the oils I had available to me:

Mix 5 drops peppermint, 5 drops Immune Strength, and 5 drops Lemon in 2 Tbsp of carrier oil. Rub on the chest and bottom or feet.

We’ve also been diffusing Rocky Mountain Oil’s Immune Strength in the kitchen and bedroom.

I took the plunge and ordered this set of 14 oils, because it was reasonably priced and before I invested a lot into them, I wanted to make sure I’d actually use them. I also ordered clove and frankincense. When I get them I plan to make Jacqueline’s version of “Four Thieves”. So, I’ll tell you how I make out with all this oily stuff. I know it’s been used for centuries, but it feels a little awkward to me since I have no idea what I am doing. (PS–don’t get peppermint in your eye. Mkay?)

Reading::

IMG_4997I’m currently reading The Secret Thoughts of An Unlikely Convert which has been excellent. Also, Simplify Your Spiritual Life: Spiritual Disciplines for the Overwhelmed, which is so basic that it’s refreshing and encouraging.

Family::

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We celebrated Hope’s 14th birthday and she got the Cuddl Dud’s Cozy Soft Comforter that is the.softest.thing.ever. Seriously. I got one for Christmas and I am literally so happy to get into bed at night. It’s so bad. LOL. If you go to Kohl’s you need to feel this thing. It’s mostly sold out online.

Links I Loved::

I really enjoyed these articles from around the web:

A Place to Start for Spiritually Stuck People

Dear Women’s Ministry, Stop Telling Me I’m BeautifulIMG_5089

That’s it for now. I hope you’re enjoying your winter and finding time to enjoy the little things and taking care of your soul.

I’m interested to know what you’ve been reading and pursuing. Also, if you have any podcast recommendations, would you send them to me? I’m always looking for interesting content related to art, homeschooling, motherhood, or family life. :)

 

Please note: This post contains affiliate links. Thanks for supporting JFD. :)

 

 

 

My 3 Small Resolutions for 2017

Like everyone else, I love the idea of a new year and a clean slate but like I mentioned in my last post entitled New Year’s Resolutions For the Rest of Us , grand goals are not a realistic option for me in this stage of life. I’m currently a caregiver by choice (my own kids and a foster son who needs lots of care) and my days are never my own.

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I did however make three small resolutions that I plan to focus on this year. I chose these things after some prayer because I believe they will feed my soul and help develop the gifts that God has given me so I can steward my “talents” well. (Matt. 25:14-30)

1. More Meditation.

I don’t have a lot of extra time for extended Bible study in this current season of life (toddler…hello.) and that has been a little frustrating for me. I’ve come to grips with the fact that God would have me meditate more right now with the time constraints I’ve been given.

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Bible reading is where we find God’s truth. Meditation is where we commit it to memory by dwelling on that truth. Meditation/remembering is what changes us according James 1:25:

But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does.

Obviously, these verses need little explanation, but the gist is that in order to grow and change, we not only read carefully but we must choose to remember what we’ve read vs. “being a forgetful hearer”. Remembering—>leads to being an “effectual doer” because it changes our mind—->which changes our behavior.

As Matthew Henry puts it: “Mere hearers are self-deceivers.”

In Joshua 1:8, the Bible connects meditation as the tool that helps us obey:

This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success.

 

Meditating can be as simple as

  • writing a verse on a 4″X6″ card and posting it where you’ll see it as you work
  • listening to a sermon several times to cement the truths in your heart
  • Singing Psalms or spiritual songs that talk about God’s character, promises, or providence in our lives.

2. Nurturing My Gifts:

God made me creative and I’m thrilled to be able to glorify God with my “pen and paint.” I love writing here on the blog when I have time, and am reading more about the mechanics of it. Last year I pursued some freelance writing and loved that. This year, I’d like to do more. Also, I want to learn a new type of watercolor technique that I’ve been putting off. And I am about to jump into a local knitting class for beginners.

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Hospitality is one of my spiritual gifts and I’m eager to spend more time practicing hospitality this year after a slight decrease last year. I’ve found that God has opened up doors for me to spend more time mentoring younger moms because of Brayden. Hospitality and mentoring go hand-in-hand beautifully, and I’m eager to jump back into that now that Little B seems like he’s doing well.

3. Creating Margin

Believe it or not, I still struggle with doing too much. You would think that having mono would have taught me, but the tendency is still there. I really have to pace myself or my priorities can easily get out of whack. This means saying “NO” to good things in order to say “YES” to what God has called me to. Saying no to good things allows me to put the time and energy into the people, ministries, and priorities that God has ordained for my life, and it allows me to do it with joy, competence, and excellence. (vs. trying to do too much, being haphazard with tasks, and being unprepared or sloppy in my work.) I need to take small steps to feed my soul.

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I have noticed that my mind is not as sharp if I am overstimulated or over-committed. I need silence and rest, so I can regroup and organize my thoughts. This means that I need the “Sabbath rest” and I have been intentional to get a few hours to myself on Sunday to rest, read, and focus on God. During the week, I need to turn off the notifications and scale back distractions, electronics, and noise in general because I have limits. Too much “input” robs my time to process, think, and meditate.

In The Overload Syndrome, Richard Swenson discusses the God-given limits we have, and how our culture suffers physically, mentally, and spiritually from general overload. (His chapter on “expectation overload” was astonishing–contrasting current day expectations in every area, like our homes, cars, kids, health, income, fashion, government, and retirement to our grandparent’s era and how all of this unrealistic expectation is robbing our joy.)

“We are not infinite. None of us has more than twenty-four hours in a day. We do not have an inexhaustible source of human energy. Limits are real, and despite what some Stoics might think, limits are not even an enemy. Overload is the enemy. As the Author of limits, God puts them within us for our protection. We violate them at our peril.”

So, there you have it. Three small changes I’m making this year. What about you? Did you make any small (or big) resolutions? I’d love to hear about them in the comments.

Also, here are a few articles about planning that I enjoyed from around the web:

A Tradition for the New Year: Decluttering My Soul by Sally Clarkson

7 Killer Steps to the Best Missional Year Yet

Don’t Make Resolutions, Make Commitments by Paul Tripp

Happy New Year, friends.

New Year’s Resolutions for the rest of us.

This post is for women who can barely get ready in the morning without littles banging on the bathroom door, for the mom who is nursing a baby and trying to train toddlers, the one who can barely eat a meal while it’s warm without an interruption.

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This post is for the mature woman who is caring for an aging parent  whose days are more like one continual stretch, dotted by doctors appointments and scares at the ER.

This post is for all of us who are caregivers by choice and nature, whose days and schedules are not our own.

This post is for all of us who want to make New Year’s resolutions but who are too scared or too realistic to try anything “big” because big dreams require chunks of time and we don’t have that right now.

Me? I’m in a season of homeschooling and carpooling and caring for a just-turned-3 foster son whose needs are ever evolving and whose care consumes most of my days. So setting anything but the most basic goals is not a realistic option for me.

As Katherine Brooks pessimistically replied to Anne of Green Gables hopeful ideas for her future–“Bend in the road? There’s no bend in my road. I can see it stretching out straight in front of me.”

If you’ve chosen a life of caring for others and your schedule is not your own, and there’s little to no “bend in your road”, and you’re feeling a little down about that, wondering if your life will matter, here are a few thoughts I’ve been processing myself, that I hope will encourage you.

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  1. Success is not defined solely by doing great things. Success is doing small, faithful things with great love.
  2. Success is not reserved for the woman with no boundaries or constraints on her life. Success is doing what you can with what you have. Many of the greatest inventions were born out of need not abundance.
  3. Your quiet time may not be as quiet as you like, with toddlers on your lap or interruptions that you can’t avoid. Remember that Bible reading is only half of the equation. Meditation is the secret weapon that brings change and peace. So even if you’ve only got 5 minutes to read the Bible, you will benefit greatly by meditating on what you’ve read throughout the day. I try to write one truth on a 4″X6″ card to remind me of the verses I want to think about that day.

Reading is the exposure to the Scripture, but meditation is the absorption of the Scripture.

Donald Whitney, Simplify Your Spiritual Life

When living your daily life, even when your time is not your own, you can still grow spiritually by asking this simple question before you act or react: “What will bring the most glory to God?”

Spiritual growth can happen no matter what our circumstances because God uses ordinary days to mold us into the image of His Son, Jesus.

  • So on the days when you feel like you have no control over your situation (kids sick, dog throwing up, money tight) ask, “What does the Bible say about this situation?”
  • When you are unsure about the future, ask “What truths about God do I know for certain?” and meditate on those.
  • When you are frustrated or feeling stuck, ask “What is God teaching me about contentment and godliness today?”

For all of us with no foreseeable bend in our road, we may not have grand goals or plans for the next year, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t set our heart to seek the “things which are above, where Christ is”. And isn’t this what true spirituality is all about? Seeking God’s will and glory faithfully, right where you are, trusting Him with every detail of your life?

Happy New Year, friends. May we all be faithful wherever we are and love God and others more in 2017.

Measuring God’s Goodness, In Joy or Trials.

How do you measure God’s goodness to you?

If you are like me, you tend to equate material and physical blessings with God’s smile, and hardship and trial with God’s frown. When my kids are doing right, and we’re on top of the world (aka organized and on track for school) or when God provides ministry opportunities and we see fruit in our work, then God is blessing us.

But the dark side to this thinking is that when trouble strikes, we assume Satan is after us because we’ve been so righteous (pride) or that God’s somehow withholding blessing from us (self-pity…aka…pride).

Looking back at this past year, our family has had tremendous blessing. We’ve traveled more than ever, enjoyed health and happiness in our family, grown in size with a new son-in-law as our daughter married, and we’ve seen God provide in miraculous ways for our family. If I’m not careful, I can equate God’s goodness to us as a correlation to our performance or His happiness with our family.

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Our family has also known worries and trials that we’ve never experienced before with the care and keeping of our foster son. Emotional unrest, uncertainty, and fear were all very present in 2016. If I’m not careful, I can equate all of this to God’s displeasure or a reflection of our poor performance in our Christian lives.

The wonderful truth about God is that He is good to His children because that’s His nature. The end. It’s not based on how good we are. This is at the heart of the gospel. God seeks us when we are sinful and unlovable, and does all the work to save us. It’s not about us or about our performance. I don’t know about you but I need this reminder daily.

This small line of verse has been ringing in my ears for the last 6 months:

“Every joy or trial, falleth from above,

Traced upon our dial, by the Son of Love.”

“Works Christianity” can creep into my mindset so easily, even though I’ve fought that natural teaching my whole life, and worldly philosophy like Karma and survival of the fittest can jade my worldview, distort the truth of the gospel, and rob my joy.

Circumstances are not an indication of God’s pleasure or displeasure, love or coolness toward me. God’s act of sending Jesus to die for us on that bloody cross is the final indication of His love for us.

When we have plenty of money, lots of opportunities, when life goes smoothly and people treat us with love and respect, God does indeed love us.

But when God seems distant, and everything we touches falls apart, when money’s short, and hurt surrounds us, God also loves us.

Whatever comes our way, “every joy or trial”, comes from His good hand and it’s intended to bring us close to Him.

Whatever accomplishes that,

whatever makes us look up at Him, whatever strips us of our own delusions of goodness or self-sufficiency, whatever makes us realize how small and out of control we are apart from Him, whatever drives us to cling to Him as our only Hope, that is exactly when we can see the love and goodness of God despite the circumstances.

This past year, despite highs and lows like we’ve never experienced before, the goodness of God’s love has shined through the circumstances and God’s grace has shown us His presence.

In the end, dear friend, God is the goal and to know Him is the stabilizing factor in our lives.

Whatever your goals for 2017, don’t assume that God’s goodness is measured by the amount of ease, plenty, respect, happiness, approval, or health you’ll experience. Good or bad, come what may, be willing to embrace everything and anything as from the Father’s good hand, knowing He’s there with you and present, and that is the ultimate gift.

 

Still, Still, Still: The Missing Key to Adoration.

There’s no shame in listening to Christmas carols before Thanksgiving in my book. They somehow bring all of the sentiments we hold dear–home, family, faith, hope, love– and tie them all together in one musical, merry package. {And who can lift your spirits like Bing Crosby or Perry Como?}

One of my favorites Christmas hymns, “O Come, All Ye Faithful” says,

“Come and behold Him, born the King of angels,

O Come, let us adore Him, Christ the Lord.”

I love it because it beckons you and me to worship.

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Isn’t that exactly the call we need when we have over-burdened ourselves with mammoth to-do lists?

Before we pull a Black Friday all-nighter, coordinate/dress/photograph a Pinterest worthy family Christmas card, bake ourselves into oblivion,

before we run to do one more thing,

we need to bow.

Worship is our first priority. 

And we need to worship rightly,

because worship can so easily shift and drift into false worship of anything and everything. 

As conservative Christian women, we’d confess that we do, in fact, worship. Oh, yes. We document our quiet time on Instagram, yes we do. #soblessed

When talking about our quiet time, we can produce lists, plans, schedules, and studies. We trot out our favorite commentary and think we’ve done okay. That’s all good,

but have we worshiped?

Have we quieted our heart at all before the Lord?

Have we taken the time to recognize His presence and ascribe Him the worth He is due, or are we so busy talking to Him and telling Him all that needs to be blessed and done and fixed?

Come, let us adore Him. Let those words do their work on your tired soul.

When was the last time you were still in the presence of God? Still, as in, quieted, weaned, submissive, yielding-– nothing to say or dictate, no agenda but to know Him, see Him in His beauty, acknowledge and adore His presence?

And if it has been a while, have you replaced worship for service? Let’s be honest, service is safe. You can control it. Yes, I’ll do this. No, I’ll not do that.

Worship requires submission and admission that God is greater and worthy of anything and everything, and that’s a little scarier than service.

Some have spent their entire life in ministry and service and have never surrendered to the Lord. We’ve given parts, sure. But we cling and hoard those secret loves that we refuse to part with. We still fight and demand self-adoration. We say, “No, Lord. That’s too much. I can’t release that.”

I like this quote from Joseph Carroll:

“The first essential condition for true worship is total submission. The second essential is that Christ alone should be glorified. We must meet these conditions, submitting ourselves absolutely, without reserve, to Jesus Christ.

In Revelation 4:11, we find the worshipers ascribing worth to the One on the throne, telling Him he is worthy.

“You are worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and by Your will they exist and were created.”

What have they done? They have abdicated and cast their crowns before the throne, divesting themselves of their glory and saying, “You are worthy to receive glory, and You alone.” Honor and power follow. These three things are what men seek: to be glorified, to be exalted, to be honored.

Therefore to worship Jesus Christ, we must divest ourselves of all desire for glory and honor and power; for He and He alone is worthy of such.”

“O come let us adore Him, Christ the Lord.”

So much clamors for our attention this season.

The world promises we can have it all.

Advertisers tell us that if we do more, buy more, we’ll be happier, more glamorous, more, more, more.

God says to be still. Adore. Come unto me.

“One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to meditate in His temple.”

Let’s take a few minutes today to do this: be still, truly adore, and go forward mindful of God, aware of His presence, submitted to His will, and active in His service to love others and exalt Him. This is the worship-ful life.