Archive for Christian living

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?

 

**This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

On Being A Counter-Cultural Mom

My mom was a counter-cultural mom.

When everyone else was watching certain movies and listening to certain music, my mom said no. When disrespect was flying out of the mouth of teenagers everywhere, mom expected respect to our elders, including her. We didn’t call boys. We didn’t dress provocatively. She expected us to be in church on Sunday, whether our heart felt worship-ful or not. Some days I thought she was the strictest mom I knew, but now I know that she was actually a God-fearing mom, and I’m so thankful.

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Today, as mothers, we have to make similar choices. Often, being a follower of Jesus Christ means saying “no”, not only to the outright wrong, but to questionable activities that the world views as normal. And this can lead to being labeled: legalistic, over protective, old-fashioned.

I’ll be honest, there are stands in the Bible that I don’t completely understand, and sometimes I don’t know exactly where to draw lines when it comes to application and practice.

This is where I have to walk by faith.

When God says “no” to something and calls it sin, I have to agree, whether I understand completely or not. When God says that I can’t be like the world and we can’t embrace the values, norms, or philosophy of the world, I have to trust God to lead me through the grey areas. I have to use the best information I have at the time and follow Him without apology.

Moms, when you have to make hard, unpopular decisions, and you are swimming upstream, don’t waver. And when you see other Christians and blogs and articles telling you that your “verboden” area is nothing to worry about and why your kids should do XYZ, pray, ask God about it, then do the right thing.

This world is full of rationalizing and line walking. And it has infiltrated the church under the guise of enlightenment and moderation.

But, dear mom, you answer to God and not the latest blog. Rely on Him.

In order to stay the course, we have to remember that we are called out to be a people unto God. Separate. Not isolationists, but consecrated to God’s Work as the “temple of the Holy Spirit.” There can be no mixing of darkness and light.

It means I can’t sin in order to get a chance to witness to someone, and I can’t compromise or engage in worldliness to somehow affect the people around me.

We are to be “salt and light” according to Jesus. Light shines in dark places, and salt preserves and flavors. Faithfulness right where you are is what will make the difference. 

I’m studying the quiet faithfulness of women of the Old Testament and how God used them to accomplish His will. Most had mundane lives, living in obscurity, with little to no rights, but what made them great is their faith that led to brave, counter cultural acts of obedience. Shiphrah and Puah, the midwives, are two examples of counter-cultural, God-fearing women. They refused to comply with the king of Egypt’s order to kill all the Hebrew baby boys as they were being born. Exodus 1:21 tells us they defied the king “because the midwives feared God” more than they feared the King. Their refusal to sin preserved the fledgling nation of Israel. Talk about being part of God’s story.

And this has to be true of us today, right where we are, in our little homes or out and about living our everyday lives, raising families for God’s glory. We have to live with our eyes and hearts toward God, and we must fear and respect Him enough to boldly live out our faith when it’s counter cultural and unwanted by society. It’s okay to be different. In fact, we have to teach our kids that this world is not our home. We are truly strangers and pilgrims on our way to a Better City.

So, if you have to say no to the worthless, so you can pursue and ingrain the eternal, do it.

When you are the only mom saying no to that movie, or that activity, or that music, or that type of dress, or that questionable situation, or that type of screen time, because you don’t believe it will help your child’s spiritual growth, stay strong. Keep your eyes on heaven. Remember Christ. This world is not all there is. This is only a moment. Eternity is forever. Rely on Christ and be faithful.

A few thoughts on foster care from the first year.

Several of you have asked me to write about my fostering experience, so I thought I’d share a few thoughts about that. Obviously, I can’t write details, but I can give you some general thoughts.

In some ways, fostering at my age is like being a grandmother except that I have full time care of the child. We love seeing all of B’s “firsts”, from big things like seeing Disney and having his first airplane ride, to small, daily things like learning to wink and trying apple pie.

Fostering is emotionally draining on levels I never knew with my own five. It requires wisdom about how to interact with the family (kinship), DCF, court, lawyers, etc… Everyone has a say and their own set of expectations. Ultimately, my job is to advocate for little B and do what is best for him.

As a homeschooling family, DCF was always portrayed as the monster lurking in the background ready to snatch your kids if you didn’t put them into the public school system. I can honestly say that I’ve had nothing but REASONABLE interactions with DCF. They’ve been pleasant, helpful, resourceful, and really quite “hands off” in our case. Yes, we had to meet certain requirements and they came to the house each month, but B’s case worker honestly just wanted to see him safe and thriving and was relieved to see that he was. She was overworked, and still had time to sit in my living room and talk about fun stuff B was doing. I can’t imagine the brokenness she’s seen at her young age (27-30 years old maybe) and I certainly couldn’t do her job without becoming depressed, but she was amazing and upbeat to all of us.

Fostering brings out the best in people. Someone has said that you can tell a lot about a person’s character by the way they treat someone who can do nothing for them in return. There are people who just ooze with compassion for our little guy. You can see it in their eyes–they just want this little guy to land on his two feet and their hearts hurt for his little plight. They text that they are praying for him. They give him toys and more toys. And it’s true that if you want to love people well, love their kids–or in this case, their foster kids. We’ve been so amazed by the good friends God has given us.

On a spiritual level, fostering has taught me to love without strings attached and simply for the good of the person.

Fostering has also opened up doors of ministry.  It’s put me back into the throws of younger mothers who want to do play dates and meet for coffee. When they ask me for help with parenting, I’m not talking from a “rosy” “I remember when” nostalgic view which can forget how hard the day-in and day-out really is. I can speak from a place of both experience from my adult children, and compassion and understanding from my 2 year old. I totally get it when they tell me that their toddler is taking a tantrum and they are too exhausted to read their Bible in the morning with any intelligent attempt at study.

Fostering has shown me a little more about the effects of sin on other people, and has made me more aware of my own sin. No man sins in a vacuum. It ripples out and punishes “innocent bystanders”, whether it’s heroin use or a bad mood to selfish behavior.  No where do you see little ones paying for the sins of their parents like in the foster care system. It opens your eyes to the brokenness of this world like nothing can. Any of you who’ve read here know that I have a particular HATRED for cruelty to children in any form. So to read and see the brokenness surrounding these kids makes me sob. Fostering has made me hate sin more and love God more. It’s also made me thankful for the ministry of reconciliation that Jesus Christ made possible. The gospel truly is good news for this broken world.

Fostering has taught me to embrace every season with gratitude. I can’t do what I could do a year ago because I have a God-ordained job to do right here with this little guy. I don’t write as much as I did, I’ve declined speaking invitations, I’ve backed away from things that would be good and pleasant to do, but that aren’t best for us or Little B right now, and God has given me joy in that obedience. Seasons change, moms. Embrace the NOW with your little ones.

“”Don’t let the fear of loving a child who might leave deter you. Let the fear of a child not knowing love drive you.”

That’s about it for today. If you have any questions, feel free to ask them in the comments or message me. Have a great week.

 

Polluted Worship

Imagine God sitting down with your conservative, conscientious church and describing it as one that:

  • despises God
  • is polluted
  • is profane
  • is unacceptable.

That’s the scenario that plays out in Malachi, a book we are studying with out teen group for a regional Bible quiz.

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God tells them they’ve despise Him, polluted His alter, wearied the Lord with their words, left Him, robbed Him, spoken against Him (blasphemed).

The Israelites can’t figure out where they’ve gone wrong. They are literally clueless. They answer, “Wherein”–“How have we done this?”

God goes on to say that they’ve used terms of endearment for Him, saying “Father” but not honoring Him as such, and “Master” but not giving Him the respect due a Master. Basically just taking God for granted, like He’ll take anything from us, even our worthless, leftover sacrifices.

He mentions their “polluted” offerings, basically the cast offs that cost them nothing, given like they were the best they had.

To use modern terms, these people honestly thought going to church, serving in the church, and doing the “right things” would make up for the fact that their heart was far from God.

G. Campbell Morgan says,

“These people are not in open rebellion against God, nor do they deny His right to offerings, but they are laboring under the delusion that because they have brought offerings, they have been true to Him all along.

Theirs is not the language of a people throwing off a yoke and saying, “We will not be loyal,” but of a people established in the temple.

It is not the language of a people who say, “Let us cease to sacrifice and worship: and let us do as we please,” but it is the language of a people who say, “We are sacrificing and worshiping to please God,” and yet He says be the mouth of His servant, “Ye have wearied me: ye have robbed and spoken against me.”

…They have been most particular and strict in their outward observances, but their hearts have been far away from their ceremonials. They have been boasting themselves in their knowledge of the truth, responding to the knowledge mechanically, technically: but their hearts, their lives, their characters, the inwardness of their natures, have been a perpetual contradiction in the eye of Heaven, to the will of God…..and they look with astonishment and impertinence and say, “We don’t see this at all?”

I’ve been thinking about this quite a bit as we study together and think it’s relevant to Christendom in general today.

All I can think of is this verse,

“Having a form of godliness, they deny the power thereof.”

We see this in our own lives and in the church around us. It’s a display, masquerading as holy, but hollow and vacant in the heart.

We see this with people who’d never miss a service but who have a sour, contentious spirit.

Or those who take pride in dressing modestly, but have proud hearts, feuding and arguing with others, marring their “Christian” walk.

Or those who have Bible knowledge coming out the ears, but can’t seem to love that one brother.

Or those who teach “the truth” but don’t live it themselves.

God also said that He is “wearied with their words” because they claim that God loves everyone who does evil, and that He won’t judge sin. They portray Him as the big softie upstairs who just giggles at our rebellion. They said, “Our God is a God of love; there is no judgment.” We should be clear that God does and will judge sin. He is the one who names it and defines it. We can’t excuse what God forbids.

It’s easy to see the sin in others and miss our own. So let’s not be too hard on the old Isrealites. Let’s ask ourselves how we are like them in areas where we compromise. Let’s ask God’s Spirit to show us our impurities. Where does this all start?

“Ye departed out to the way.” Malachi 2:8–Instead of teaching the law and keeping it, we’ve gone our own way in these matters. We paid lip service, but lived any old way.

We know the right thing, but do the wrong without remorse and without repentance. We assume that God will accept our service while our heart is polluted. We imagine that God will be appeased by sacrifice or service, but without a devoted heart, it’s all worthless.

A form of godliness…but denying the power.

We may hold to the truth of scripture intellectually, even condemning false teachers and speaking out against false doctrine, but if our heart is astray, it’s all polluted, detestable, not accepted.

I think this serves as a warning to us today to really check our hearts. I was thankful for the grace of conviction during this study. Whom the Lord loves, He chastens.

Some questions:

First, do we actually love God, and is that love displayed in obedience for Him?

Second, do we come to the “table” with clean hands? Are your motives pure? Are you obedient? Are you hiding sin? Is your conscience clean? Are your desires pure?

Thirdly, do we serve in a sacrificial way or do we serve in ways that benefit us? Do we seek recognition? Do we get miffed when someone gets an opportunity we wanted? Do we manipulate to get preeminence? Do we put others first? Do we only serve when others will know or when it’s easy for us? Do we get agitated when we are treated as a “servant” rather than a “master”?

As Christian women, God is Master and everything that is done must be done to bring Him glory. We must heed Malachi’s warnings and check ourselves:

  • let’s worship with pure heart, hands, and minds
  • let’s free ourselves from greed in our service
  • let’s honor God in our activity to the point where our service costs us something.

Some things to think about:

Is God enough? If you were stripped of all your outward shows of ministry and service, would God still say He knows you as a friend?

Do you carefully follow God’s word, or do you live and worship any old way you want?

Is your “ministry” free from ulterior motives?

Is your worship worship-ful, from the heart, or just part of your routine?

Does your outward dedication to God reflect your inward longing for Him? If not, this is hypocrisy.

Have you read Malachi lately? I challenge you to do so. And then ask, “What needs to change today?”

A Few Thoughts On “Humble Roots”

Today I wanted to share a few thoughts on Hannah Anderson’s new book, Humble Roots, available now via Amazon.

Fine Print and Disclosure: I received this book free from Moody Publishers and I am part of the Humble Roots Launch Team. However, you know from reading here that I will not recommend any book that I believe to be unsound. If I find a book to be helpful as a whole, but find problematic spots, I’ll disclose that to you as well.

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It’s been a while since I’ve enjoyed a book like I did Humble Roots. Not only is it theologically sound, but Hannah’s writing style is gentle, descriptive, and calming.

Hannah’s book recounts her struggle with restlessness, anxiety, loss of sleep, feeling like she has to do it all, fear that she can’t do it all, and a myriad of other common symptoms that plague the modern women. She ties all of these issues back to a few common denominators: failure to rest in God, trying to do life on our own strength,  and unknown pride. She then gently unfolds what true humility looks. She explains, “Humility is not a commodity. It is not something you can achieve. It is not something you earn or accomplish. Being humble is something you either are or you aren’t.”

She uses agricultural examples to cement the truths in the book: ripening tomatoes (excerpt here), sowing seeds, root blight, grafting trees, pure honey, thorny blackberries, etc. I found her descriptions of Appalachian life endearing and refreshing, and I may or may not have spent an hour watching YouTube videos late one night learning more about the process of grafting apple trees onto common root, an example that only deepened my understanding of Jesus command to “abide in Him.”

This book was helpful to me, and went along perfectly with the Beatitudes study I told you I was doing using Jen Wilkin’s “Sermon on the Mount” inductive Bible Study.

Some favorite quotes:

“When Jesus calls us to take His yoke, when He invites us to find rest through submission, He is not satisfying some warped need for power or His own sense of pride. He is calling us to safety. The safety that comes from belonging to Him. The safety that comes from being tamed…It is understandable that we fear the yoke. We fear the loss of control. We fear surrender. But we must also understand that without the protection of a good master, we are not safe. From the manipulation of other masters. From the expectations of society. From ourselves.” pg 43

“…humility begins by remembering where we come from. Humility begins by remembering that to be human is to be dirt. Humility begins by remembering that we are “dust and to dust [we] shall return.” pg. 66

“At its root, pride confuses our identity with God’s and makes us think of ourselves as larger than we really are. But when we begin to think of ourselves this way, we expect other people to think of us like this too. Without realizing it, we begin to expect more glory and honor because we actually believe ourselves to be better than they are.” pg. 70

“The first step to engaging our resources with humility is to recognize how much we have been given. This may sound simplistic, but left unchecked, pride blinds us to God’s good gifts. Because pride convinces us that we deserve a certain experience of the world: and when something disrupts that, our pride reveals itself by complaining.” pg. 140

Her final chapter on death, the death of her beloved grandmother, and our return to the dust as the humble beings we truly are, was my favorite chapter in the book. I cried through much of it.

There are too many wonderful quotes to add to this short review but I highly recommend this book without reservation. It is one of the best books on humility I’ve read. It helped me to appreciate the humility of Jesus in a world that values and promotes self-sufficiency and self-promotion. It helped me see the loving Savior as He really is, to see the beauty of humility, and to value it just a little bit more.

I also loved, loved the simple yet beautiful pencil sketches by illustrator and artist Michelle Berg Radford.

Have you read Humble Roots? It’s now available through Amazon here.

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links. Thanks for supporting this blog.

 

 

Take Courage Where God Has Called You

Sometimes comparison is a good thing, nudging us upward to higher potential. Maybe you’ve experienced that nudge after reading a missionary biography and, as a result, decided you needed to do more in the way or trusting, praying, or serving. Maybe you’ve been inspired by a friend’s beautifully appointed home and decided to make changes in your own to make it more appealing or orderly.

Comparison that prompts us to evaluate our stewardship is a good thing since we’re going to give account of all we’ve been given: our gifts, resources, and abilities.

But sometimes comparison spirals into self-evaluation, and we are painfully aware of our limitations and shortcomings. And aren’t we always our own hardest critic? We feed on our own failures or on life’s disappointments, and it discourages us from trying because, well, we’ll leave that for the experts,  the more put together person, the more disciplined person, the lady who isn’t constantly blundering her way through life. 

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Why bother trying to decorate if I can’t be Martha Stewart.

Why entertain…I’ll never be Ina Garten.

Why try to minister? I’m no Amy Carmichael or D.L. Moody.

I don’t have the faith of Abraham, the whole-heartedness of David, the faithfulness of Anna, or the humility of Mary.

I don’t seem to have much to offer, so why bother.

The simple answer is that God called you to this time and place. He didn’t call these other men and women to your neighborhood, home, or church. He called you to be His hands and feet and mouth in this time and place and hour.

Our job is to look around and faithfully answer the call by meeting the needs as God providentially presents them.

God didn’t call Ina Garten to serve that hurting woman at your door a glass of lemonade. He didn’t ask Martha Stewart to make up that bed for that missionary family. He didn’t ask Jay Adams to counsel that frustrated mother who begged you to meet with her to discuss child raising. He didn’t ask Clara Barton to bring soup to that neighbor who is sick or to bring cold facecloths to your feverish child.

He sent them to you. To your little humble abode.

And comparison that freezes in fear is a dereliction of duty of sorts when you believe in God’s providence.

Don’t leave the job for the gifted. The gifted person is not there. You are.

Christian women, we need your “small attempts” performed in love. We need your faithful “unspectacular” deeds because people are hurting and need another human to step up in courage and offer what they have.

Offer your five small loaves and two fish and see how God multiplies the most insignificant offering. All of our small attempts are little offerings, aren’t they? Given in love to be used as God sees fit?

We need you to take courage and know that your devotion to God qualifies you

and that the need in front of you was not brought to your attention by accident.

You are not a conduit, funneling people to someone better than you.

You are a servant and you have an opportunity, and if the Master presented it before you, He’ll help you perform it.

Like Joshua, who needed encouragement to lead the unruly Israelites after Moses died, God promised His presence as the help Joshua needed and we have that same promise of God’s presence:

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.

Joshua 1:9

Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.

Matthew 28:20

Has God brought people into your life that you think would be better served by someone else? Is God giving your opportunities to speak for Him and you’re saying “No, thank you.” Does guilt over past failures keep you from stepping out in faith in areas that God has called you? (Confess any sin, claim God’s grace and forgiveness, make it right with fellow man, and move on.)

What lies are you believing about ability and God’s dependability? How can you adjust that thinking and take courage where God plants you today?

Take courage, friend. God is with you and will equip you.

 

Four Ways to Thrive Spiritually

Imagine being so spiritually healthy and noticeably thriving, so happy in joyful obedience to the Lord, that someone comes up to you and says, “Hi. I hope you are as physically healthy on the outside as you are clearly spiritually healthy on the inside?” That’s the question/concept Jen Wilkin posed in her Abide podcast, a study through 1-3 John that I highly recommend and have enjoyed immensely.

External health that matched the excellence of your spiritual health. Would that be a scary thought for you?

That’s exactly what John wished for Gaius in 3 John vs 2:

“Beloved, {Gaius} I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, as it goes well with your soul.”

I often sit with women who know they are struggling spiritually. They want to know what I am doing in my devotions because they’ve been Christians for a very long time and feel that they aren’t thriving. Some of you write because you’re  isolated and lonely and have no one to pour into you. Some are in Christian ministry and are afraid to ask for help. Others just know that something’s off and they’re not sure what to do about it.

This question from Jen is helpful because it makes all of us ask a simple question: am I thriving spiritually?

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That’s my topic today and I want to talk a little bit about a few steps we can take to test our spiritual health. Are we hot, lukewarm, or cold? What do I make of Jesus right now? What place does He hold in my heart right now? Am I living for Him or not?

I want to make clear that actual thriving is not a feeling. It’s not a high one day followed by a discouraging low the next. Too often, women mistake hormones or feelings for good and bad spiritual days.

Thriving spiritually can look a lot like obedience through extremely hard trials where you feel physically beaten up, like your spirit is almost crushed. Perseverance and faithfulness in the middle of trials is thriving, though it doesn’t feel like soaring, and it doesn’t feel good.

If you are in Christ, you know that you’re forgiven, and you’re no longer under God’s condemnation. God looks at you and sees Christ. He not only loves you, He likes and delights in you. So we are not talking about doing MORE to be loved or in better standing with Christ.

We are talking about daily obedience, faithfulness, and what thriving spiritually looks like in the Christian woman’s life.

First, to thrive spiritually, you have to feed on truth. We can’t be healthy and discerning if we are living on and feeding on lies. We get our truth from Scripture. It should be our mainstay. If we are reading books, blogs, articles, or depending on little spiritual shots in the arms from bible studies or spiritual memes on FB, we’re short-changing ourselves and not really valuing the gift of God’s Word.

Second, we need to obey Scripture. I’m probably going to make a few people mad by saying this but Christianity is not a list of mental assents that we simply affirm and speak out about: I’m pro-life, I don’t listen to this, I don’t go there, I don’t wear that, I vote this way. This is such a lazy excuse for Christianity and unfortunately what many people believe makes a “good Christian.” No, a Christ-follower seeks to purify himself from internal uncleanness and to die daily to the temptations of the flesh. She says no to ungodliness through God’s grace–the ungodliness in her own heart and mind. She puts to death the “me first” attitude that plagues her and paralyzes her from loving others well and from pursuing humility.

Third, we need to trust that the Lord WILL lead us, even if times seem “dry” or “mechanical.” Sometimes the intersection of our flawed, human flesh and our heart for God’s Word and ways leave us feeling like we’re not too spiritual after all. We feel lousy and trials threaten to steal our joy. But God will use the days when we don’t feel like we are thriving to work out His will in our life. He does this through His word and by prayer, if we are faithful to Him. Spiritually dry times serve as a reminder that every good gift does come from above and that all of our enjoyment of life comes from Him. Feelings are not facts, friends. Thank God. I am in Christ, and I can depend on Him to finish the work He started in me and to bring it to complete fruition.

When we worry that we don’t feel one way or another…stop and engage your mind with truth. We CAN depend on the Holy Spirit to guide our steps, and to GIVE us the opportunities He wants us to have. God WILL GIVE us anything that is good for us, even this dry feeling. He will allow highs and lows to make us dependent on Him and to keep us from trusting in lesser things.

He’ll bring people to you who need your encouragement.  He’ll be faithful to convict you of sin and help you to repent. He’s trustworthy to hear and answer your prayers and to keep his promises. Faith is believing God will do what He says He will do and is NEVER dependent on my feelings or perceptions about my situation.

Fourth, thriving looks like faithful work and for women, that looks like having gospel-focused interactions with your husband, family, and the younger women in your life and church. Every interaction is a chance to share the gospel for salvation or for sanctification. Who in your home needs your encouragement and guidance? Who in your church needs your encouragement? Who keeps coming to you for help? Take the initiative to take them under your wing and offer help. This is time consuming, I know, and we are all so busy, but it’s one of the most natural ways to influence someone for the gospel.  That younger mom, the struggling one with the unruly kids? Invite her in. We can’t influence or be influenced in a positive way by people we don’t share life with. (I do realize that we can benefit from the teaching of people via sermons, blogs, books, etc…from a distance, but flesh and blood interactions are what Titus 2 talks about.)

This doesn’t take place in a classroom. It takes place as you drive that younger mom to the grocery store or sit with that heartbroken mom as she spills her heart and tears at your kitchen table over tea. It takes place as you watch an older, godlier woman deal with loss and disappointment. It’s up close and personal, sharing life. It’s about giving of time and energy for the benefit of others. There are mutual benefits, because as we speak the truth of God’s word into the heart of others, our own heart is strengthened and encouraged. Who needs to be encouraged by your gospel-infused words mixed into the ins and outs of the everyday mundane today?

We can’t allow ourselves to coast when it comes to our spiritual life, because this thing is a battle and we have to keep gaining ground and putting to death the things that break God’s heart.

Keep an eye on your own heart.

Be in God’s Word to know Him and love Him more–not just to add to a little checklist of facts and knowledge.

Be quick to root out bad motives and attitudes that will corrupt you.

Don’t fool around with sin. Don’t assume that you are some special kind of Christian who is able to control sin or who can toy with it and get away from it. Don’t assume that you are immune to the lusts of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life.

Fill yourself more with God’s word than with this world. Because when we read God’s word to see God and God alone, we are sure to find Him, the end goal, the prize, and our all in all.

Thoughts on love as my daughter gets married

It’s wedding week in the Beals household, and I’ve been thinking quite a bit about what genuine love looks like. Rebekah and I have had many great conversations about life and love, and I’ve been mulling over the command to love God and others in a new way this week…in a practical way, so that I can flesh it out in words and advice to my daughter.

It’s surreal to think that the words I speak to her have the potential to impact generations (especially my own grandchildren someday) and to do good to her husband-to-be.

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Shower favors: Starbucks individual brew bags and Fortnum and Mason Tea with tags that say “Love is Brewing.”

And I’m thankful that in the midst of the busyness, the Lord has given me clarity about what loving well looks like so I don’t overload her with information because it’s my “last chance.” Not really, but that’s how it feels. :)

But love is pretty simple.

Love is not about what you can get from someone. It’s not how you feel. It’s not in the give/take tension/compromise the world promotes.

What is love? And how do we best show love?

I really appreciated Jen Wilkin’s definition of love in her Bible study over I John which I highly, highly recommend.

I’m paraphrasing Jen from the notes I’ve taken:

Love is an intelligent, purposeful attitude of esteem or devotion. A self-less, purposeful, outgoing attitude that desires to do good to the one loved.

Love is not given because the recipient is worthy, or meeting your needs today, or because you are personally feeling fulfilled, or based on your spouse living up to your expectations. No, because our love is supposed to mimic Christ’s love for us and we all know that he loved us when we were still horribly unlovely and wallowing around in the mire of our sin. We were the object of his intentional, decided love.

Jen then contrasted love with hate:

Hate is the purposeful attitude of disrespect (vs esteem) and disregard (vs devotion), a selfish, purposeful, self-centered attitude that desires to do harm to the one hated. An attitude of contempt, or worse, indifference.

 

How do you go about loving others in a practical way? What advice do you give your daughter on loving well?

You tell her to live out the Golden Rule.

By the way, the golden rule is often twisted in our minds into something like this:

Don’t do what you don’t want others to do to you. If you don’t want someone to___________ to you, then don’t ______ them.

But that’s not it at all.

It’s DO unto others, the thing you’d want done to you.

“So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets. Matthew 7:12

This is pretty simple because we all know how we wish others would treat us. With kindness, dignity, and respect. So be the first one to act. Outdo one another with kindness.

If you’d like him to make you coffee, then you make it for him.

If you’d like him to remember you during the day, you text him and let him know you’ve remembered him.

If you’d like him to speak with gentleness, you speak that way.

And honestly, if we lived like this, our marriage advice could be cut refreshingly short.

Be proactive with kindness.

Do the thing you’d love done to you.

Matthew Henry says this:

Christ came to teach us, not only what we are to know and believe, but what we are to do; not only toward God, but toward men; not only toward those of our party and persuasion, but toward men in general, all with whom we have to do. We must do that to our neighbour which we ourselves acknowledge to be fit and reasonable. We must, in our dealings with men, suppose ourselves in the same case and circumstances with those we have to do with, and act accordingly.

And Calvin says this:

The only reason why so many quarrels exist in the world, and why men inflict so many mutual injuries on each other, is, that they knowingly and willingly trample justice under their feet, while every man rigidly demands that it shall be maintained towards himself…

Perfect justice would undoubtedly prevail among us, if we were as faithful in learning active charity, (if we may use the expression,) as we are skillful in teaching passive charity.

…the second table of the law is fulfilled, when every man conducts himself in the same manner towards others, as he wishes them to conduct themselves towards him. There is no need, he tells us, of long and involved debates, if this simplicity is preserved, and if men do not, by inordinate self-love, efface the rectitude which is engraven on their hearts.

Don’t weddings tend to make you look at your own marriage and relationships and evaluate if your love has been Biblical or not?

Moms, we have the privilege of training our kids to love well by simply loving well by example. Our daughters learn how to love a husband by watching us. And we all learn from each other by being the recipients of sacrificial Christ-like love on the days we don’t deserve it. And we are more apt to love like Christ when we’re infused with His love and preoccupied with His goodness to us.

Thankful for these days. Thankful for time. Thankful for Rebekah’s Peter, the “boy” I’ve been praying for since Rebekah was a child. Thankful for God’s love to us which has shown us what genuine love looks like.