Archive for Christian living

For when you are not okay

Summer awakens my senses. After a cold New England winter, the warmth of the softened ground gives way to growth and I love everything about it. The smell of freshly cut grass, the sounds of Katydids and frogs in the pond on summer nights, the smell of sunscreen and salt water as we watch the ocean crash wildly in front of us. It soothes, mentally and physically.

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I’ve been alive long enough to know that some seasons are like this, full of robust growth. Kids are thriving, I am thriving. Life lessons sink in deep with grace. My inner man is aware of God. My heart is rooted in His word, grounded in truth, and the fruit is evident. Change is happening and I know it.

But other seasons, wilderness seasons, are different. Growth is hard. Appetites are dull. Senses seem unaware. Hearts are numb. Trouble abounds. The inner man is cold and soil of the heart un-tillable. Nobody seems to learn their lessons. Everyone is hurting and out of sorts. Life is plodded through instead of lived alive and joyfully, and getting through the day is the main goal.

Many of my friends are RIGHT NOW in the midst of trials, and it breaks my heart to know they are hurting. We can all struggle for a while and be “okay”, but when the struggle lasts for years on end, we get worn thin and depleted. Though I can’t write about specifics (nor would I) I am sobered by their pain, knowing we will all go through unbearable heartache at some point in our life. Sometimes husbands don’t pan out to be the knight in shining armor we married. Sometimes church members act dumb and hurt others. Kids rebel and make life altering choices. Health leaves. Money is short. Resources sparse. Sometimes people never change. Or maybe our own loved one is self-destructing and there’s nothing we can do about it.

For all my friends who are hurting and struggling, who are going through tough seasons and are basically non-existent emotionally, I hope this post is encouraging to you. Nobody wants to hurt or be depressed, and it’s torture when you know you just “aren’t right” and don’t want to be this way. What now?

I know you don’t want to feel this way. You are usually “fully alive” and this season is wearing you down.

For my friend who just recently told me that she doesn’t really desire anything right now,

and for the lady who wrote that her faith is wavering,

and for anyone out there who is waking up to their own foolishness and realizing that your own actions landed you in the place you are,

and for the woman who has been numb so long that she’s wondering if she’ll ever come through the hurt,

can I just encourage you to hang on a little while longer and to stop adding to your grief by beating yourself up for being human? To stop assuming that your grief is not okay with God, as though sorrow and mourning and downright lamentation is some sort of sin?

Can you believe me for a minute when I tell you that God was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief and that the brokenness of this life is sometimes just plain overwhelming?

Can you trust me when I say God is still good even when our life seems to be in disarray?

Can you believe that your performance didn’t matter before and He’s not disappointed in you or your situation now?

Can you hang on just a while longer to the fact that Jesus loves you first and best and longest and forever? That He’s always faithful even when we are faithless and faltering?

Can I just say that emotional dullness is part of life?

And can we all just admit that our culture’s “get over it”–grit your teeth and just move on–mentality is not helpful when you are truly hurting?

Remember, we are physical and spiritual beings. and feelings aren’t facts. Wilderness times are not always things we can control and obviously, these times are not always because of something we’ve done. However, even if you are where you are because of your own foolishness, please remember that in Christ, you are justified, which means that God looks on you and sees Christ, and that’s good news because it’s as if you’ve always obeyed His Word.

Can you just hope in the nature and character of God a little longer and realize that He’s going to hold you until this is over?

I’m so sorry you are struggling. I wish I could sit with you in your grief. I don’t have much else to say except to point you to Christ and the verses that help me when I am discouraged and fearful.

When you feel like God doesn’t care:

But Zion said, “The LORD has forsaken me;
my Lord has forgotten me.”

“Can a woman forget her nursing child,
that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb?
Even these may forget,
yet I will not forget you.

Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands;
your walls are continually before me. 

Isaiah 49:14-16

When you feel stuck:

I waited patiently for the Lord;
    he inclined to me and heard my cry.
 He drew me up from the pit of destruction,
    out of the miry bog,
and set my feet upon a rock,
    making my steps secure.
 He put a new song in my mouth,
    a song of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear,
    and put their trust in the Lord.

Psalm 40:1-3

When you feel like giving up:

The steps of a man are established by the Lord,
    when he delights in his way;

though he fall, he shall not be cast headlong,
    for the Lord upholds his hand.

Ps. 37:23,24

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

Isaiah 41:10

 

When you feel like God doesn’t like you

He does not deal with us according to our sins,
    nor repay us according to our iniquities.
For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
    so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;
 as far as the east is from the west,
    so far does he remove our transgressions from us.

Psalm 103:10-12

When you self-justify and fall short:

Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due.And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness,

Romans 4:4-5

Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.

Romans 8:33-34

Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

Heb. 4:16

On a practical level, these are some things that have helped me during times of discouragement or heartache. They may or may not help you. Take or leave what you will.

  • getting extra rest or extra exercise, depending on how I feel.
  • eating healthy, small meals.
  • setting aside time to visit a friend.
  • purposefully slowing down to notice life around you: the smell of your child’s hair, listening to the noises of nature, watching the sunset or waves at the beach, feeling the warm water as you wash dishes.
  • doing something you enjoy at the moment. Antiquing, crafting, baking, drawing.
  • praying. When we pray, our voices go straight to the ears of God. It’s comforting to know that He hears our heart.
  • helping others. It always helps to cheer someone else up.
  • listening to Scripture, especially the Psalms. You’ll find lots of true prayer about every sort of struggle, and you’ll be refreshed as you see the Psalmist hope in God in his trouble.
  • meditate on one verse at a time.

I’m praying for you today. When you are weak, He is strong on your behalf. Rest in Him.

I am mad so I bake a cake. {A Few Thoughts on the Unthinkable going on in Syria}

I wasn’t planning to write today so I’m putting this out here as a stream of consciousness, unedited and imperfect. Forgive my mistakes, but…

I’ve been thinking about the horrific attack of life in Syria–the hopelessness those poor people must be feeling after realizing that their own government forever changed their life with violence. Senseless violence. Wickedness. Murder. Chemicals used on children. 27 of them. Innocents assaulted and killed. Children of God, made in His image. Imagine how the injustice of this must anger God and fly in the face of His mercy and love. One man lost 25 members of his family. I can’t imagine the pain. Father, forgive me when I complain.

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I was convicted when I woke this morning and saw the news.

You see, I’ve been frustrated and tired. We’re in a pattern of sleepless nights over here again, our foster child waking at 2:30 am pretty consistently and crying on the hour. Sometimes until 5 am. Sometimes he comes into bed with us. Other night he screams and I rock him. This is hard and I don’t know why he’s doing it. I’m wondering if there’s emotional problems I can’t reach or fix. I’m focusing on the what ifs. I’m not counting this all joy.

My ordinary life–my hard day–is nothing to complain about. There are 27 mothers somewhere in Syria who would give anything to be up at night just one more time with their child. They’d love the chance to try to problem solve for their little one.

I asked God to give me eyes to see the big picture through bleary eyes and weak body.

I prayed for those mothers. Won’t you pray for them, too? I wondered what I could do today when the problem is so huge and the struggle seems so impossible.

I instinctively start to clean and make the home cozy. A magazine here, fluff the pillows and add a throw blanket there. I light a candle, bake a cake.

I recall hearing someone somewhere say, “In times of tragedy, create beauty”–or something along those lines.

I’ve thought of this advice after the death of a loved one, or whenever life seems hopeless. I find myself wanting to create order out of disorder. I suppose that to some extent, it’s a way to imitate our Creator.

Creating beauty and a peaceful environment is like a silent resistance–a refusal to be overcome by the evil or defeated by the spirit of hopelessness. For the artist at heart, creating beauty is a way to deal with grief, and giving art is an offering of healing and friendship to the recipient, whether it’s a handwritten note, baked good, watercolor, fist full of wildflowers, or musical piece.

When my niece Addy had her super risky surgery two years back, I painted this piece: Teach us to Number our Days.

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When my grandfather died, my daughter Rebekah wrote this 3 part violin arrangement of Be Still My Soul (Finlandia) for her and her sisters to play for him one last time at his funeral. Beauty born in the middle of grief.

Some of the most amazing music has been born out of grief. Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 5, (Adagio) was played in Berlin during the RAF bombing and the orchestra continued playing until the end. You can hear it here or purchase the original recording here, digitally remastered so you can still hear the bombs in the background. I highly recommend you listen.

French composer, Oliver Massiaen’s Quartet for the End of Time was composed and performed in a concentration camp on an old, out of tune, upright piano in the winter of January 1941. The piece can be heard on YouTube here (I especially love the V movement: Praise to the Eternity of Jesus. 20:15 in the recording.) and more about how he obtained paper from the guards, and worked with other musicians in the camp barracks and the performance can be found here.

If you are overwhelmed today, realize that our soul knows that this world is broken and we all wait and long for Eternity.

Perhaps create something beautiful for the sake of your children, husband, friend, or even yourself.

Tell someone you love them. Set a table for tea. Light a candle. Love others well. Pray for those who do the unthinkable and those who are bearing injustice. Wait patiently for Him. Do not be overcome with darkness. Walk in the light.

Waiting is your calling. Waiting is your blessing. Every one of God’s children has been chosen to wait, because every one of God’s children lives between the “already” and the “not yet.” Already this world has been broken by sin, but not yet has it been made new again. Already Jesus has come, but not yet has he returned to take you home with him forever. Already your sin has been forgiven, but not yet have you been fully delivered from it. Already Jesus reigns, but not yet has his final kingdom come. Already sin has been defeated, but not yet has it been completely destroyed. Already the Holy Spirit has been given, but not yet have you been perfectly formed into the likeness of Jesus. Already God has given you his Word, but not yet has it totally transformed your life. Already you have been given grace, but not yet has that grace finished its work. You see, we’re all called to wait because we all live right smack dab in the middle of God’s grand redemptive story. We all wait for the final end of the work that God has begun in and for us.” Paul Tripp, New Morning Mercies

Does Jesus Satisfy and Is He Enough?

What to do you value above all else? What rules your thoughts, retains your affections, has your undying loyalty, and warrants your precious energy?

Why does this matter?

Because what you are passionate about– what you believe is worthy of your devotion and effort–at its core, is where you put your hope.

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I’ve been thinking quite a bit about Easter and the message of the cross, and the supremacy and sufficiency of Christ, and I have to ask myself this:

If I really believed that Jesus is better than anyone or anything and that he alone could satisfy, how would that transform my life?

If I believed Jesus is better:

  • my sin would lose its grip on me
  • sinful attitudes (lust of flesh, eyes, pride of life) would be repulsive to me
  • my focus would be on Christ
  • my aim would be to be his follower above all else,
  • my attitudes would reflect His,
  • my duty would be to love His children,
  • my highest goal would be to please Him in everything.

If I believed Jesus satisfied:

  • earthly pleasures would lose their charm and allurement,
  • earthly treasures would be held loosely,
  • I’d seek Him as the ultimate treasure.
  • He’s be the first person I run to when I have a need,
  • He’d be the person I’d want to spend time with,
  • my body, habits, lifestyle would reflect moderation and self-control,
  • my attitudes would be joyful, because I’ll always have my prized possession.
  • I wouldn’t seek my identity apart from Him.

The gospel is not just a teaching. The gospel is hope, healing, and life.

“The gospel is not only the most important message in all of history; it is the only essential message in all of history. Yet we allow thousands of professing Christians to live their entire lives without clearly understanding it and experiencing the joy of living by it.” Jerry Bridges

This Easter and every day, as I look at the cross where God’s wrath for my sin was poured out in full on Jesus, I want to keep these two truths in the forefront of my mind. Jesus is Supreme and he alone satisfies.

Maybe you need this reminder, too?

I think we all need to keep these truths between our eyes because when I look around at the landscape of Christianity, I see that we’re often blind to our own sin and keen to point out others. We’ve become a joyless lot, up one minute, down the next. We’re distracted. Boy are we distracted. We have more ads, images, entertainment, temptations before our eyes than ever before. Digital candy, there to entertain and delight us one click at a time. Yes, we the church, and the church leadership, are often sinful and seeking lesser gods.

I don’t mean that we’ve stopped serving Jesus. Oh, don’t get me wrong. We’re getting it done. We’re doing ministry, but I wonder if we’re doing it God’s way–like people who have been transformed by an amazing love? People who are supplied and satisfied by God’s transforming provision?

I think we’re a lot like Moses, frustrated, all set, and I.can’t.even who struck the rock twice out of anger (dramatic much?) (Numbers 20:11) to “minister” to the thirsty, complaining children of Israel in the wilderness. We “serve the Lord” through gritted teeth and deal with His people harshly, and do ministry in self-serving ways, using our own carnal methods. We show up. We complain about how ridiculous these kids are or how nobody appreciates all we do. We strike the rock. We lead the group. We pick up his socks and close his bureau drawers completely. We complain about the brother. We gossip about the sister. We bite and devour. We one-up someone else. We compete instead of collaborate. We self-justify our anger when it all comes tumbling out. We blame others– the people God gave us–when in truth we acted upon what thought would satisfy us.

Amazingly, and scarily, the stricken rock flows pure water and the job gets done and God waters His people in spite of us.

Don’t confuse God’s provision and goodness with His blessing. We aren’t pulled out of ministry or motherhood, and by all outward appearances, things continue as normal, but we lose the blessing and we forfeit our godly influence.

God will water His people because He is good. He uses our failures to water others but “Be not deceived, God is not mocked” because our God sees our heart. You can’t hide that from Him. And He cares more about your heart purity and your relationship to Him than He cares about any outward ministry or action you could perform.

Our job is to take account of our own heart, keep close tabs on our motives and place every thought and action underneath His control. We are to be disciples, first and foremost, who are gospel-infused, Spirit-led, and dedicated to truth. This means exalting God’s Word, His methods, means, timing, and super-natural power.

If God is sufficient, we won’t dig our own cisterns.

My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.

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We’ll be satisfied when we take and drink and enjoy the Source of the living water, an endless supply, a spring of refreshment, cold, pure, free. We’ll find Him sufficient when we “come to Him” and put down our tools and our try-hard tenacity, and realize that the self-dependence that we once thought at strength was really a weakness and a hindrance from knowing Him. It’s a man-made glass with a hole in the bottom that can hold nothing and deliver nothing and will always leave you thirsty and wanting more.

So, this Easter, as you think about the cross and the resurrection, ask yourself how this has changed you. Have you found in Him your sufficiency and satisfaction?

 

Messy Beautiful Friendship Book Review

I just finished reading Christine Hoover’s Messy Beautiful Friendship which comes out on April 18th, and I’ve enjoyed it immensely and wanted to share a few thoughts and quotes from it with you.

First off, I wasn’t sure what to expect from a book about cultivating women’s friendship. Would it seem seventh-gradish? Would I feel seventh-gradish reading it? Who has time for all the drama that can accompany women’s friendships, never mind read a book about all the ins and outs of said friendships? But Christine is one of my favorite bloggers, and I appreciate her writing, so I gladly jumped in and read, and I’m glad I did.

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Christine continually points us to Christ for our ultimate fulfillment, and gives us a Biblical framework for nurturing healthy, God-honoring friendships, which is why I would recommend this book.

It’s easy to read, relate-able, and convicting.

She shares her own struggles with interpersonal conflict, her tendency of building walls that shut women out, her assumptions about other women’s behavior when she doesn’t know the whole story, her tendency to make excuses that hinder friendship, and the common struggle to second guess everything about sticky friendships–aka–assume the worst in conflict.

She tells how she matured and pushed through to understand, listen, honor, and really love her friends from all stages and walks of life. She confides how she used her position as a pastor’s wife as an excuse for not having close friendships, when, in fact, she claims that her own indifference and pursuit of the “one friend to rule them all” were at the heart of her years of loneliness.

She writes:

“When we hold an ideal of friendship in our minds, believing it’s attainable, we hold a standard above the heads of real women God has placed in our lives, and then we wonder why we’re constantly disappointed by the realities, complexities, and difficulties in our relationship.” (Kindle, loc. 366)

“But in reality, our wish-dreams have little to do with God and his kingdom and everything to do with us and ours. God gives us relationships that are enjoyable and a blessing but also sanctify and challenge us out of our selfishness, because he intends to get the glory from our friendships.” (Kindle, loc. 378)

In other words, friendship isn’t all about us.

“Biblical friendship begins with God and ends with him also.” (loc. 462)

“When I am disappointed with my friendships and I take time to dig a little deeper in my heart, I inevitably find that I’m looking for my friends to relate to me as only God can.” (loc.504)

She devotes a section of the book to threats to friendship.

Fear: “If fear lies at the heart of our attempts at friendship, our interactions with other women will be drenched with insecurity. We will be entirely unable to handle conflict, will lash out an anything that brushes against our old wounds, and we will be quick to retreat at the first whiff of difficulty. We tell ourselves that this is natural, that this is the way friendship goes. This may be the way worldly friendship goes, but it doesn’t resemble anything we see in Scripture. Fear is an impediment to all the commanded “one another” moments in Scripture, because fear keeps our attention solely focused inward.” (loc. 737)

Unloving thoughts: “What are your thoughts about those who have hurt you? Did you have expectations of them that were too weighty? Are you holding on to bitterness even though Scripture tells us to root it out? Are you hurt because you’ve been keeping score and you feel you’re not getting what you deserve? Have you been keeping a record of wrongs? And if you’ve been legitimately sinned against, are you allowing God to escort you through the process of forgiveness? Are you fearful of being hurt again and therefore unwilling to trust God with your heart? And, most importantly, do you see what your fears are doing to you and to your friendships?” (loc. 798)

And she includes a super helpful list of questions to help you identify your most spiritually beneficial friendships, so you can put extra effort into nurturing and caring for those relationships. I did this simple exercise of jotting down the names of those women who build me up spiritually, who I trust to speak truth and correction into my life because they’ve earned my trust and mutual respect.  I realized through this exercise that I really need to schedule more time to spend with these edifying women, so I can benefit from them and bless them. The exercise also showed me relationships I need to be careful about, because we are warned against having friendships with angry people, or those who are unloving, untrustworthy, or an “unfaithful” wounder.

Turns out, being a good friend is about loving others well by following Scriptural mandates about honoring others first, loving them enough to think the best about them, giving the benefit of the doubt, faithfully speaking the truth of scripture into their lives, breaking through the awkward and being the first to love, honoring and preferring one another, submitting to one another and a host of other “one another” commands. We can only do this well when our identity is secure in the love of Christ as our ultimate friend.

I think this book will especially be helpful to moms of teenage girls who are navigating the maze of early friendships and learning what really loving one another looks like in practical terms. The teen years lay the foundation and course for normal, healthy friendships (or unhealthy ones) later on.

Caveat: I do need to mention that there are several casual references to music and television shows that I know conservative readers may not appreciate or endorse, such as Seinfeld, Survivor, Journey, etc… which can unwittingly normalize/validate shows with questionable elements. But apart from that, this book was extremely helpful.

*This post contains affiliate links. I received this book free to review at my discretion from the publisher, but as always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

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.

A Newsy, Political-free Post

This is going to be newsy because I haven’t had much time to blog in a while. I’m staying off-line for the most part because of the drama/hate/turmoil of the election. It breaks my heart to see the lows of humanity and the fact that #rapeMelania is trending on Twitter makes me realize just how broken we are and how much people need the Lord.

So if I’ve been quiet and slow with answering email and messages, that’s the reason.

On the home front, the cranberry harvest is over and I’m in full holiday mode.

img_4561 In the span of one week, we’ll celebrate three birthdays (Peter, Holly, and Little B) and host Thanksgiving. Matt is flying home and I’m so thankful to have a few days with him. Plus we started construction on our home to repair the water damage from a few winters ago.

What I’ve been up to:

Crafts::

I’ve been decorating (frugally) for fall. I wanted a few little accents for Thanksgiving. I painted this old picture frame and gave it a chalk board insert for fall. (I used Olde Century Paint in Pearwood.)

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Also, I wanted a natural wood sign like you see everywhere, so I decided to make one. In the process I realized that if you stain the wood, then seal it with glossy spray sealer, you can write on it with chalk marker and make it erasable like a chalkboard. I’ve made several of these sizes for the Christmas season and for my mantle. :)

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We had a craft night with some of the kids’ friends and made these little yarn hats to hang on the Christmas tree.

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Ministry::

Hospitality continues to be one of the biggest blessings of this season and I’m always amazed at how often God opens the door when I’m sensitive to His leading. Sharing burdens, encouragement, and common grace over a hot mug of tea or coffee, all while fulfilling God’s commands and the Great Commission. What’s not to love?

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Hospitality can be intimidating, but don’t shy away from it. Don’t confuse “entertaining” and “hospitality.” One focuses on the meal, the food, your performance; the other on the person, their need, and nurturing a growing relationship. We need other people and without the input of other believers, we believe our own “press” and don’t benefit from the truth that others speak into our lives.

But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. Hebrews 3:13

If you are nervous about extending hospitality, start with having someone in for tea. Use what you have. Don’t stress over having the best of everything. Most of my dishes are mish-mash and many are things I’ve picked up at second hand shops. They aren’t there to see your things, but to spend time with you, and to get to know Christ a little better through you, and vice-versa.

Mentoring::

I’ve been helping a younger mom who is having some struggles with her kids. In the process, I’m reminded that we so often believe the lie that proper parenting guarantees that your kids won’t make mistakes. Nothing could be farther from the truth. I’m guilty of falling into this mindset as well. I can recall several times when our kids failed and instead of realizing that we are all sinners, I wondered where I went wrong. In my sleepless nights, I’d wondered if maybe I gave them too much leeway, or perhaps too many rules. Did I train them enough in righteousness or just give them all the dos and don’ts.

Friends, we are flawed parents who want to teach our kids the right way. But we can’t function from the mindset that our performance, wisdom, or righteousness is what “sures up” and sustains our family. We can’t measure success by an absence of sin because that is to deny what scripture teaches about all of us.

We are all sinners. You, me, everyone. So don’t be surprised when your kids mess up, and please, please, don’t shame them into thinking that they are in some special class of sinners because you are angry, embarrassed, or devastated by it.

We were never meant to parent as though it all depends on us or our performance. God is a God of grace: for you, me, and our kids.

I’m not saying that you shouldn’t do your job. Not at all. Do it with all your might. Heed Deuteronomy’s command to talk of God as you rise and sit and live and go your way with your kids. Teach them diligently. But don’t make perfection an idol. It’s an illusion. Make God the aim.

Meals::

I’ve been trying to save some money for Christmas, which means that I’ve been trying to do meals that are less expensive than normal. I’ve really enjoyed these frugal meals.

Quinoa Chili from Cooking Classy. My cousin, Susan, told me about this meatless chili that uses quinoa for protein. My kids even liked it. I served it topped with cheese, guacamole, and sour cream. YUM.

Shakshuska. I don’t even like eggs and I loved this. It’s inexpensive and so yummy. I served it with warm bread and lots of feta on top. Note: If you can’t eat eggs or just plain don’t like them, you could fry up some boneless skinless chicken breast slices in the oil (for protein) and then make the sauce as directed. It could be served over pasta, “fra diavalo” style.

Christmas:: My cards are almost done. Woot.

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Reading::

I’m currently reading through Colossians with Weirsbe’s Commentary and Dr. Constable’s notes , which are very helpful and free online.

Humble Roots is on sale right now for $7.73 (usually $12.99). If you haven’t read it, I’m going to be bossy and insist that you do. 😉 I’m giving it to a few friends for Christmas, it was THAT good.

Also, Women of the Word by Jen Wilkin is also on sale for $7.23 if you haven’t read that yet.

Articles I appreciated::

Steward the Gift God Has Assigned to You. “Our lives are not about pursuing our dreams. Many of our dreams are self-exalting pride fantasies and gratuitously selfish when we really examine them. And the truth is, we rarely know what’s best for us and what will really make us happy. But our Designer knows.

Mothering or Smothering our Adult Children Appreciated the wisdom of this older woman.

I hope you have a wonderful thanksgiving. We have so much to be thankful for and if we don’t praise the Lord, who will?

 

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