Archive for Heart

Weeding Wisely to Increase Joy

I spent most of the day outside, tending my herb and flower garden while my 3 year old played nearby.

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It’s warm enough now to plant, so I bought a few herbs to replace several that didn’t survive the winter: parsley, mint, and basil. I spent hours pulling weeds and showing Brayden how to find and eliminate them so we could replace them with something better.

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Among the herbs, I also added pansies (a favorite of mine), freesia, pink flowering ornamental strawberries, and violets.

While I worked, I listened to my Bible App (Hebrews) and also enjoyed a podcast.

I also tried my hand this week at propagating roses for our yard. Though there are detailed YouTube videos on how to do this, you basically cut a piece of new growth under a leaf node off at a 45 degree angle, dip it in water for a minute, scrape the outer layer of the stem off with the side of scissors, dip it into rooting hormone, and place it in a cup full of potting soil or perlite. It is then misted with water until moistened and placed in a ziplock bag to make a small greenhouse environment for each plant. They’ll require misting every few days and in 6 weeks, roots should form. I’m very excited about the possibility of propagating some of my grandmother’s roses and bringing them to my yard. I have a bleeding heart bush from my husband’s childhood home that I propagated using root cuttings and it makes me smile whenever I see it. There’s something satisfying about connecting times and places and people through flowers and conservation.

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Whenever I garden, I’m reminded of how much it parallels life. Jesus used gardening terms when he taught: branches connected to the Vine, sowing, reaping, various types of soil and ground, broadcasting seed, mustard seed sized faith, plants thriving near rivers of water, and the life of the godly being compared to watered garden.

Especially as I pull weeds, I’m reminded that so many areas of life need to be removed in order to make room for what is truly life-giving. Weeds easily overtake and crowd out those aspects of life that bring beauty, nourish your soul, and feed and heal your body.

Weeds will choke out your joy if you’re not alert. “The cares of this world.” It’s a slow creep, barely noticeable. Weeds crowd and steal space and use necessary oxygen.

We may need to weed out busyness where we’ve over-committed and run ahead of God. We may need to plant ourselves still before Him so we can worship.

We may need to weed out the hidden-in-plain-sight sin that has so entangled us that we believe it’s just part of our DNA –who we are.  We may need to plant the Word before our eyeballs and meditate on Truth in order to get back on the righteous path.

We may need to weed out friendships that are mediocre or toxic, or worldly influences that are not honoring God nor helping us thrive spiritually. We may need to plant ourselves with godly friends, older women, and those who are doing right and acknowledging God in all their ways.

We may need to turn off the noise, the social media, the books, the TV, the hobbies, the chatter that steals our attention from the One who truly deserves our undivided devotion. We may need to rearrange our time so that God gets the first fruits.

Weeding is tedious, hard stuff, but it makes space for the crop that you want to harvest in the end.

Saying no to one is saying yes to another. Weeding wisely increases your success and your joy.

Summer is right around the corner, and I want to challenge you to do some weeding so your life can flourish and grow with grace.

Might you have a few weeds to pull? Ask:

  • What is sinful, ungracious, and unlovely?
  • What is hindering me from following God and pursuing His best?
  • What is keeping me from loving others first and best?
  • What is weighing me down?
  • Where am I easily offended and where does Satan enjoy tripping me up time and time again?
  • Where am I easily angered and frustrated? Again, where does Satan keep me defeated by pushing my buttons?
  • What friendship leaves me depleted? Which one is not based on mutual respect and edification?

To purposefully plant, ask:

  • Lord, what do you have for me in your Word today?
  • Lord, where is my first circle of influence and what jobs have you assigned only to me? How can I be most influential there?
  • Where is God burdening me to act?
  • Who needs my kindness today?
  • What is God teaching me through this thing?
  • What virtue is the Holy Spirit asking me to put on?
  • Which friendships refresh and encourage me? Which friendships are based on mutual respect? Whose life points me to Christ?

I hope these questions help you to navigate the maze of your own heart and encourage you to seek the important and eternal aspects of life that will bring you joy.

Have a lovely week tending the garden of your heart and hearth,

Sarah

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

before we run to do one more thing,

we need to bow.

Worship is our first priority. 

And we need to worship rightly,

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

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

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

but have we worshiped?

Have we quieted our heart at all before the Lord?

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

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

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

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

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

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

I like this quote from Joseph Carroll:

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

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

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

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

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

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

So much clamors for our attention this season.

The world promises we can have it all.

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

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

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

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

 

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.

Getting Help {Ministry Wives Series}

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Most recently I asked for help for weight loss.

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

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

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

Side note:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Are You Accomplishing Anything For God?

Maybe you’re discouraged today, dear friend.

Maybe you’re wondering if what you’re doing matters in the long run.

Last week I wondered, too.

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I was reading over a list of New Year’s questions (meant for personal reflection and growth) from a sweet friend in a writing group. It was a wonderfully thorough list, meant to prompt confession, repentance, acceptance.  Questions like:

  • “If the last year could be summed up in a word, what would it be?”
  • “What are the two or three themes that kept occurring.”
  • “What are some major life lessons I learned this year.”
  • “What’s one thing I can do this year to increase my enjoyment of God?”

I breezed through them until I came to this one:

What did I accomplish this year that I am most proud of?”

I sat and thought. What one thing did I accomplish that I was most proud of?

Honestly, I couldn’t think of one. I sat on this for a few days, thinking about it. Still nothing. This really bothered me.

It wasn’t that I hadn’t done anything. We live a busy life. But to not be able to think of one thing? This bothered me enough to write a dear friend to see if she could think it through with me. (THIS is the benefit of having iron-sharpening-iron friends.) We hashed it out a little and she helped me gain perspective.

Some seasons of life cannot be measured by accomplishments.

There are times when life happens so fast and people need you so intensely that what you accomplished hardly makes the highlight reel. (Think sickness, death, new baby, foster child, new adoption, moving, etc…)

This Christmas I planted a lovely amaryllis bulb that a sweet reader, Becky, gave to me. I’ve been watching it grow and bloom against the backdrop of the grey bare trees outside my window. It started as a brown bulb, a stump really, not very pretty but full of potential. I planted it, put it on the windowsill, and gave it water. Things must have happened underground, because now it’s in full crimson bloom. The flower was alive and accomplishing its task underground before any of us had any clue it was accomplishing anything. The growing season was an accomplishment that allowed the flower to blossom.

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I believe our mundane days are the same–underground work, unseen, undetected, un-celebrated, but vital.

Maybe you are in a mundane season right now. Maybe all your hard work is unseen because it’s undone the very next day– the clean house dirtied, the once shiny sink now full of grimy water.

Moms, we feed hungry bellies. We wash clothes and remove stains. We wipe tears and console hurt feelings. We listen to little hearts. We make meals for others and host people in our home. We bake cakes to mark milestones for family parties and church fellowships. We bathe dirty bodies and change messy diapers. We stir stew and kneed bread. We watch our neighbor’s kids. We calm irrational fears and keep toddlers on our hip when they are whiny. We make sure our kids do their homework, get to their appointments, and make their beds. We sit with hurting women. We stay behind so that our husband can minister to others.

It’s not hollywood stuff and it may not be memorable, but it’s important. This is the stuff of life and it’s where God has called us to bloom. It may not feel like an accomplishment. Nobody’s going to celebrate that you made your bed and got tangles out of the two year old’s hair.

But it’s our sacred work. It’s our reasonable service.

My friend sent me this wonderful verse:

Ps. 37:3 Trust in the Lord, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness.

God doesn’t require accomplishments. God just wants us to be faithful right where we are. He wants us to take joy as we serve others in hidden ways that no one will ever know about except God.

My friend also sent me these lovely lines from Robert Louis Stevenson that I hope encourage you as much as they encouraged me!

“The best things are nearest: breath in your nostrils, light in your eyes, flowers at your feet, duties at your hand, the path of God just before you. Then do not grasp at the stars, but do life’s plain common work as it comes certain that daily duties and daily bread are the sweetest things of life.”

and

“Everyday courage has few witnesses. But yours is no less noble because no drum beats for you and no crowds shout your name.”

And from Elisabeth Elliot:

This job has been given to me to do. Therefore, it is a gift. Therefore, it is a privilege. Therefore, it is an offering I may make to God. Therefore, it is to be done gladly, if it is done for Him. Here, not somewhere else, I may learn God’s way. In this job, not in some other, God looks for faithfulness.”

10 Ways To Refresh Your Soul

Looking for ways to refresh this winter? The common theme among my friends is that we are all looking for ways to rest our bodies and revive our hearts a bit after a hectic holiday season. We all know that doesn’t happen automatically. It needs to be planned, especially if you are responsible for the daily care of babies, toddlers, teens, or the elderly. These stages of constant giving can be draining.

I’ve learned from experience that when I am depleted, I’m not the wife, mother, or friend I want to be. The more I feed my own soul, the more I have to give out.

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I thought it would be fun to share a few of my favorite ways to refresh. I hope you’ll share yours as well. Maybe your list looks different from mine–that’s okay. But we all have this in common–we all need to rest. So, pour yourself a cup of tea and repeat after me: “Caring for yourself is wise and everybody needs to rest.” 😉

Here goes:

  1. Spend time alone. New research suggests that quiet time–literally solitude and silence–can be therapeutic in the noisy world we live in. If you have young children, try to find a few snatches of time in the early morning, late evening, or during afternoon naps to just sit and listen to the silence. This is a perfect time for a warm cup of coffee, your Bible, a journal, or to meditate on a daily verse. Bonus: A worshipful life gives us the added benefit of direction and strength to face each day, no matter what comes our way.
  2. De-clutter your soul. As you sit, listen to what’s going on in your heart. What recurring theme pops into your mind? What worry, disappointment, regret, or memory is disturbing your peace? Recognize it, acknowledge it, fix it if you can, repent of it if you must, and then give it to God and move on! Don’t let “mind noise” keep you from thinking on “things above.” Colossians 3:2
  3. Rest. We weren’t created to run, run, run. What comes up must come down. After the adrenaline of the holidays you must take a good nap or go to bed early. “You are only as spiritual as you are rested.” ~Jim Berg
  4. Pray. Did you know that simply talking to God and sharing your burdens, disappointments, frustrations, and ambitions with Him is more beneficial than telling them to a friend? Plus, God can actually intervene and do something about all you share…and He’ll never betray your confidence or reveal your inmost secrets. There aren’t too many friends that you can trust like that.
  5. Spend a moment reading for pleasure. Charlotte Mason was a huge proponent of reading quality material in small chunks, allowing the brain time to process and make connections with the material. I’ve found that over-reading can hinder comprehension and appreciation of the material.
  6. Plan time for friendship. Who are your 3 closest friends? If you haven’t told them how much you appreciate them lately, what are you waiting for? Text, write, phone, or visit your friend and make time to laugh, shop, and eat together. You’ll both benefit.
  7. Plan for beauty. When winter is blah, I know that arranging some small vase of flowers, a candle, a freshly pressed table cloth, or some other simple seasonal display does wonders for the atmosphere of my home. Simple creativity bring so much pleasure.
  8. Change of scenery. If you are a stay at home mom or a homeschooling mom, I KNOW it can be hard to load all the kids into the car and go somewhere but just do it. Head to the library, your favorite bagel shop, or to a friend’s house. Go somewhere where you can grab an inexpensive treat and the kids can play. This is a mood booster, especially during long New England winters.
  9. Plan for stimulating conversation. I’m not a small talk person. I love to talk about heart and life matters and I’m not afraid to ask the people I respect their views on difficult subjects. My happiest moments are over a cup of tea discussing philosophy of education, motherhood, and ministry life with a dear friend. If you are far from friends, listen to a pod cast or seminar online about topics that interest you. I loved this one from Sally Clarkson.
  10. Learn a new skill. Anything you ever wanted to learn is on YouTube. What a time to live! Right now in our home, we’re practicing calligraphy and hand lettering, and crocheting.

What refreshes you? Share in the comments.

The Beauty of Humility: A Christian Woman’s Ornament

One of the most beautiful adornments of a Christian woman is the grace of humility. The Christmas story is jam-pack full of examples of humility for us to emulate.

“Humility is simply the disposition which prepares the soul for living on trust.”-Andrew Murray, Humility

A humble woman trusts that God is good and can be trusted with all the aspects of our lives.

“Our humility before God has no value, except that it prepares us to reveal the humility of Jesus to our fellow men.
― Andrew Murray, Humility

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How do you know if you are humble before God? The tell-tale sign: she’s humble and gracious to her fellow man. Our regard for God is seen in our treatment of others and our mistreatment of others betrays all of our claims of “loving God.”

Humility colors all of our interactions with other people. It enables graciousness, the ability to act with appropriateness and thoughtfulness in any situation. Those who’ve received grace live gracious lives.

In real life, graciousness looks like this:

A humble woman uses common courtesy. She doesn’t interrupt others because she doesn’t assume that what she has to say is so important that it must be said right now.

She doesn’t make others uncomfortable by asking probing personal questions because she doesn’t assume that people owe her an answer.

She doesn’t seek attention but rather promotes others.

She’s socially sensitive and thinks before she speaks. She considers the feelings of others. “Venting” (verbal vomiting) and telling people off is not something she does.

When she acts in less than courteous ways, she shows that she knows better by making it right and apologizing for her shortcoming.

A humble heart gives rise to kindness, courteousness, and a host of other virtues so that social graces come naturally.

Humility is one of the chief characteristics of Christ’s life in the gospels. We see humility throughout his life, and at his death, but we see it first in His birth.

 

We can hardly wrap our head around the fact that our King, Jesus,  left his throne for a lousy stable in order to save sinful, hateful people. A humbling act for our benefit.

We see Mary’s humility as she says “Yes, Lord,” to whatever God ordained for her life. This meant misunderstanding, scandal, pain, and a life of trials for her, ending in the gruesome murder of her Son on a cross. She signed up for pain knowing that God’s ways are always higher than our plans or temporal pain.

Humility gives up it’s rights and doesn’t demand it’s own way. 

Isaiah 53:6 reminds us that in our flesh, we all want our own way: “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.”

We also see Mary’s humility in her interactions with Joseph. She believes him and follows him to Egypt when he tells her he was warned “in a dream” (eye roll!) “by an angel” to flee. A proud Mary might have asserted her rights or pulled the “I’m the one God chose to carry His Son” card so you’ll listen to me.  But her lifestyle of humility shines through in her interactions with her husband at home.

We see Joseph’s humility as he refused to “get even” with Mary when he found out she was expecting “miraculously.” He could have socially shamed her. But he was godly enough to refuse to give into vengeance. A humble heart is quick to protect like that. It’s the proud who loves to avenge.

We see Jesus humility in His birth. No shiny-floored birthing room. Just a dirty animal place.

And again, we see Mary’s humility as the stable-birth-room is invaded by shepherds right after she just.gave.birth.on.a.dirt.floor and we see her demeanor is not one of “give us a little space” or “who do you think you are barging in like this?” In the noise and excitement, we see she was quiet before the Lord, “pondering” all these thing in her heart.

Where do you find yourself today?

Maybe you think humility doesn’t matter too much because your moments are mundane or menial and considered “unimportant” by the world.

Did you know that the fiber of your character is being woven by every humble interaction you have with your children, your neighbor, your fellow church member, that sick parent you’re caring for?

Did you know that your influence is not determined by a spotlight on a stage or by thousands of followers on social media, but by the tiny, seemingly unimportant words and deeds of your everyday life?

Did you know that the most influential person in the Kingdom is the humblest?

That the strongest is the meekest?

That the One who sees all sees all of your unseen and unnoticed works, words, and actions that you’ve performed on His behalf?

He knows when your hands served as His hands in another’s life.

Did you know that our humble Lord will take up your cause when you are mistreated? That God resists the proud and refuses to bless the works of the self-reliant and self-serving? Call it what you will–ministry, social work, or sacrifice–if pride is present the Lord rejects it. “Pride renders humility impossible.”

“The truth is this: Pride must die in you or nothing of heaven can live in you. Under the banner of the truth, give yourself up to the meek and humble spirit of the holy Jesus. Humility must sow the seed or there can be no reaping in heaven. Look not at pride only as an unbecoming temper, nor at humility only as a decent virtue: for the one is death and the other is life; the one is hell and the other is heaven. So much as you have of pride within you, you have of the fallen angel alive in you; so much as you have of true humility, so much you have of the Lamb of God within you.”

Andrew Murray

This Christmas, we have the opportunity to deal with so many different people. We have ministry opportunities, and family gatherings, we run into friends and neighbors, and even some people we’d rather not spend time with. Let’s make humility a matter of utmost importance and prayer. Let’s let our interactions show that we are under the control of the Master and that we represent Jesus correctly.

Do you need to find humble friends?

It’s counter-cultural to seek out the meek. In our flesh, we want to be associated with the people calling the shots, the loud, assertive, flashy, and popular. But, believe me, befriending the humble woman and finding the women who are dealing humbly with their family and church members is where it’s at. You’ll rarely find them on stage or seeking the spotlight. You may not know what they are doing at all because they don’t have to announce it to everyone. You’ll know them because they’re gracious and courteous in their interactions. They’re not frazzled, but live lives of peace and contentment. They know their God and they’re servants just like Him.

Surround yourself with these lovely women. Encourage them. Learn from them. And as you ponder all the examples of humility this Christmas, ask God:

“Where am I proud?” (great resource here)

“How have my interactions with others not reflected humility and how can I make that right?”

“What steps can I take right now to put pride to death to show my love for God and to have proper relationships with others?”

 

Fear and Faith

Senseless violence and killing. Islamic Terrorists. Scenes I never imagined I’d see in my lifetime playing out on the lovely streets of Paris.

I spent my Friday night watching my Twitter feed, nervously awaiting news of the hostages in the theatre. I heard that they were killing them one by one. My heart sank and my legs felt weak.

Peter and I were out shopping with the kids, trying to go about our night like it was a normal one, walking the mall, eating Thai food with chop sticks, oohing and ahhing over toddler clothes for Brayden, trying to shield my youngest from the fact that the situation was deadly serious because she’s so very afraid of ISIS and already has nightmares about it.

Friday night, I didn’t fall asleep until 2 am, half watching the news, half praying, trying to make sense of the absolutely senseless.

God, in His perfect timing, reminded me of a book I’d read but never reviewed on the blog, by the lovely Trillia Newbell, the author of the book Fear and Faith.

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She asked me to share a little bit about my experiences with fear and that post will be published on her on  her blog on Tuesday. Tuesday, here, I’ll also share some of my favorite quotes from her book, because as I’ve told you before, I am the world’s worst book reviewer. I just love sharing the quotes that especially spoke to me.

I think fear comes naturally for me. I come from a long line of worriers, all the way back to my Italian great grandmother. I can hear her words in her broken English now:

“ma-Sarah, put on your coat. You’re going to catch a cold!” or “Get down! You’re going to break your leg.” or “ma-Eat! You’re going to get sick if you don’t eat the broth.”

Fear is something I had to deal with when my kids were young, and mercifully, God has opened my eyes to my own specific “brand” of fear which was control, especially when it came to my kids. I tell more about that in my article for Trillia’s blog, and after you read it you’ll think I’m a certified crazy woman but suffice it to say, I was living my life as though I was solely responsible for the safety of my children and it was a heavy burden to bear, because I am not God.  It wasn’t until I embraced the idea of God’s sovereignty and goodness in all areas that I was able to relinquish the reins (and my children!) to Him.

Fear manifests itself in so many ways: anxiety, anger, restlessness, indecisiveness, irrationality, stubbornness, etc…

(Side note: the terms fear and worry are such “acceptable” words in Christian circles. We should call it what it is: unbelief, lack of trust, doubting God. It’s that serious and ugly.)

Are you a control freak? Do you get angry when things don’t go your way? Do you have a hard time trusting men or women? Do you find yourself doing and saying things for the approval of others? Do you assume the worst about everyone’s motives? Do you fear the future?

Bottom line: fear issues are trust issues. We don’t think God’s big enough. We don’t think He cares enough about us. We believe He’s shortchanged us and we doubt His love.

We live like orphans when we are the most beloved children of a good God. We live like beggars when we have all the resources we need in Christ. We live like outsiders when God’s invited us into His inner circle to dine and live with Him forever.

Trillia covers so many common fears in this book: fear of man, the future, tragedy, not measuring up, and, hello, other women! 

She then brilliantly unfolds how God’s sovereignty, wisdom, love, and goodness all play out in His plans for our good. She then instructs us to turn all of this truth that we know about God into action as we worship and fear Him.

If you’re struggling to break the grip of fear in your life so that you can walk a life of faith and freedom, I highly recommend this book.

*Post contains affiliate links. I received this book at no cost to review. All opinions are my own.

Contentment is a choice.

Contentment is a topic that kept resurfacing over and over again this past week, and whenever that happens, I know the Lord is trying to teach me something.

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Discontentment can creep into our hearts in the subtlest ways, like the other night when I just wanted a few minutes of peace and quiet. It had been a busy day, and I had met the needs of everyone in the house, and had a busy “ministry” day.

Peter made a nice fire in my fireplace so I could read, but I couldn’t seem to get to my bedroom to enjoy it. As I ran around, tidying up the house, I could feel the frustration building and discontentment growing each time I passed my bedroom and saw the warm glow flickering and heard the wood crackling. The internal complaining began:

What am I, the maid? Can’t I have five minutes to myself? Am I the only one with two arms and two legs in this house? Why am I doing everything?

God graciously convicted me after a few minutes that my complaining thoughts were not okay. Wanting a fire and solitude are wonderful things, good gifts, but

not the ultimate thing. When I desire good things too much, and it morphs into demands, you can be sure discontentment and covetousness are at the root.

contentment

Nobody wants to be discontent. I strive to be joyful, but without contentment,  joy is completely impossible and elusive.

I’m not alone in this struggle. I’ve sat and listened to many women who find joy elusive. It’s always just out of reach because everything is not the way they’d dreamed. Happiness would come:

  • If I were thinner/prettier
  • If my kids weren’t so disobedient
  • If finances weren’t so tight
  • If I had an attentive husband
  • If I had a better childhood
  • If people respected me more
  • If that person would just leave
  • When this thing ____________{fill in the blank} changes

But do other people make us unhappy or is this just a way of blame shifting?

Jerry Bridges, in Respectable Sins says this:

“Your circumstances may be much more difficult than any I’ve ever experienced, but the truth is, it is our response to our circumstances rather than the degree of difficulty that determines whether or not we are discontent.

My contentment is not based on my situations or circumstances, but on my responses and the focus of my heart.  Contentment is a choice.

Lydia Brownback, in her lovely book “Contentment” says this of Rachel:

Jacob’s wife Rachel was never a very happy person. She wasn’t a very productive woman either. She spent the majority of her life seeking the things she wanted at any cost and at the expense of other people. God never satisfied Rachel, which is precisely why nothing else satisfied her either.

Discontentment is an equal opportunity tormentor and we see it in every walk of life:

  • the single girl who wants to get married and the married lady who wishes she wasn’t,
  • the woman who struggles with infertility and the woman who has so many children she can’t hear herself think,
  • the woman who lives in a teeny-tiny apartment and the woman who can’t stand to clean her enormous house,
  • the mom of toddlers who just wants a break and the empty-nester who thinks her life is over now that her kids are gone
  • the woman struggling to put food on the table and the richest woman in Hollywood.

When God gave Moses the 10 Commandments, He prefaced all ten of them with this statement:

I am the Lord thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.”

So when we’re breaking the 10th commandment by coveting (which is idolatry, because of discontentment) we’re forgetting the Lord our God.

I am the Lord thy God. Period. I am everything you need. You are no longer in bondage. I am in control. I am doing what’s right for you. If you follow my ways, you’ll be blessed.

“Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you’” (Hebrews 13:5).

Be content. Why? Because I am the Lord your God. I will never leave you or forsake you. You have everything you need.

Everything. If we have Christ, we have it all. Anything else is just an extra blessing.

Sow thankfulness, reap contentment.

How are you pursuing contentment?

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You Need To Rest Because You Are Not The Savior

“You can rest in Heaven.”

I heard this blunt one-liner many times as a child, and every time I hear it today, I cringe. I’m not sure who coined this callous phrase but I wonder if they had a “savior complex.”

 

In our pride, it’s easy to believe that WE are the reason that things get done when behind everything we do is the Lord, the Sustaining One, who holds us all together and gives us life and breath.

 Acts 17:28a, for “‘In him we live and move and have our being…

Busyness seems to be the American norm. Everyone runs themselves ragged. We have more conveniences than any other era and we still have no time.

I believe busyness has its roots in idolatry. We run ourselves ragged because we’re trying to keep up the appearance that we are good moms, ministry wives, business women, friends, etc. We serve these idols tirelessly and “busyness” is the means to this end and our bodies and spirit become collateral damage and totally depleted.

Eugene Peterson says that busyness is an “illness of the spirit” and “we are busy for two reasons: vanity and laziness.”

In the Contemplative Pastor he says,

“I am busy because I am vain. I want to appear important. Significant. What better way than to be busy? The incredible hours, the crowded schedule, the heavy demands on my time are proof to myself–and to all who will notice–that I am important.”

Can you relate with this quote? Do you feel a boost in self-worth when your phone is ringing off the hook or you are running here and there to meet the needs of all.the.people. (“savior complex.”)

Remember Martha? Her problem wasn’t serving others, but trying to find her self-worth, significance, and meaning apart from Jesus Christ.

I just had a lengthy talk about this with my oldest daughter as we hashed out what it looks like to “serve” others with a humble mindset while balancing our own needs and schedule and not burning out.

She said something along the lines of “There are certain people who think “Leadership” means always having the answers, being the one everyone goes to…like they have no needs themselves. I like to look at counseling as, “Today, I’ll help you, and tomorrow, you’ll most likely be helping me.” (I just love her!)

I thought this was a great way to avoid becoming too big in your own mind and burning yourself out meeting needs you weren’t ever meant to meet, because

We have a Savior, and He has already come.

So have you allowed busyness to become a measuring stick for your self worth or your commitment to the Lord or the church?

When we get too busy, our body will rebel.

We ran quite a bit the last few weeks, so yesterday we took a “Beautiful Day” to recoup and refresh.

Beautiful Days include staying in our jammies late, sipping coffee on the couch while checking email or reading a magazine, lunch, a walk, music, a candle. We went to the Plymouth Waterfront for lunch and enjoyed watching the boats. We were still and quiet. We noticed the lovely all around us.

Are you run down? Maybe you need to plan for rest and refreshment? Especially you moms of littles who believe that you couldn’t possibly get out/alone for a few hours of leisure.

Let me warn you, don’t be a martyr mom. Don’t kill yourself trying to do it all and never think about your own well being. There’s nothing holy or noble about running your body into the ground.  I don’t see Jesus burning himself out in scripture. I see Jesus resting, getting away for private prayer and solitude, enjoying meals and weddings, and connecting with His disciples.

And then we have his lovely invitation for rest: “Come unto me, all you who are weary and heavy laden (burdened down) and I will give you REST.”

Here are a few ways I’m resting and rejuvenating my body and soul these days:

How you exhausted? What are you going to do about it? :) Let me know in the comments.

 

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