Thoughts on Peace, Trials, and First Loves

There is an amazing peace that fills you when you love the Lord first and foremost. And conversely, there is unrest and inner turmoil when you don’t.

This week has been a strange one. We started with a wonderful Memorial Day celebration on Monday, followed by an ER trip for Matt on Tuesday, then news that my Grandmother is in her last stages of life on Wednesday, to a trip to the hand surgeon with Matt to discover he needs surgery on Thursday. These are just the “highlights”–of course this week has also been sprinkled with driving kids to summer jobs, visiting/caring for my grandmother, visiting with family, cooking, cleaning, phone calls and general life.

My grandparent's celebrated their 68th wedding anniversary yesterday. Love this pic of them.

My grandparent’s celebrated their 68th wedding anniversary yesterday. She was also put on hospice yesterday. Love this pic of them.

Not only does life come at you fast, it also gives us ups and downs at alarming rates. The funny thing is that even with ups and downs, God’s peace is absolutely amazing and unexplainable.

I was talking to a friend about this, about this eerily peaceful state that takes over in the middle of a crazy string of unexpected, life altering stuff like this.

Peace that tells you that God is here and near, that He’ll never leave you and that He’s working. The peace brings an awareness of God’s presence that is unusual and is a rare gift. “Lo, I am with you always.” I don’t need to fear.

Yet other times, when things are calm and normal, peace seems elusive. Why?

Peace has nothing to do with circumstances and everything to do with “first love.” Loving God first, knowing His character, and resting and embracing whatever He brings.

Obviously, knowing about God, knowing proper theology, adhering to a certain creed is not the same as knowing and loving God personally.

We make our own Christian lives hard, when we give a nod to Biblical teaching but don’t love Him as we should. Christianity becomes an exercise of the mind.

We find ourselves in a predictable pattern of…

stumble, trip, fall, fail, oops, did I just say that, did I just do that, how could I say that, how could I do that, guilt, discouragement, despair, try harder, read more, do more, study more, try more…

and on and on this pattern goes, because we’re trying to live a life of will without the love to propel it. Head knowledge, yes, but misplaced heart affections.

This is putting a band-aid on cancer instead of addressing the root issue which is our love. We’ve left our first love and have tried to play the part.

We lack victory because our heart and head are not in agreement. Our head says “A” but our heart tugs “B”. If our heart tugged “A” then our minds would quickly follow.

Love must come first. (Imagine this in a “loveless” marriage where the guy has read all the books and has tried all the tricks, but it’s clear by his daily life that there is no real love for his wife. He wouldn’t have to try so hard if his wife was truly the center of his affections.)

This is especially troublesome for those of us who were brought up in Christian homes. We’ve known Christianity from infancy, but knowledge of God cannot do what the love for God constrains us to do, which is obey.

For those who were raised in Christian homes, our minds know THINGS–BIBLICAL THINGS–but our hearts love other things. God won’t allow us to live in our own little tidy, spic-and-span, look-good-on-the-outside-because-we-dressed–up-for-church delusional worlds. God calls us on it. He calls our hearts for what they are: Your heart is “far from Me.” Far. Distant. Away.

Loving God with all of your heart is the primary thing. Trying to obey God without loving Him is putting the cart before the horse.

 

That’s why years of Christian education does not ensure a healthy, vibrant, thriving Christian walk. This is why pastors in the news can be charged with immorality and criminal behavior against children even though they know scripture inside and out. Their first love was not God and what He loved…it was some twisted, dark desire that ruled them and then ruined them. And that is why we, too, refuse to love that unlovely person, carry a grudge for years against another person, look at immorality on the screen, tell someone else off in an angry outburst, or overindulge the flesh to the point of addictions, even to the hurt and ruin of others around us, all the while donning a dress or tie on Sunday morning.

Who or What you love most rules you and determines what you’ll chase.

Our heart can be pursuing that one earthly thing, that small g-god, all the while our mental assent to a creed has not changed. Our mind affirms Biblical teaching, but our behavior betrays our heart.

When our heart’s true love is on earthly things…

for admiration, for love, for a change in health, for a new job, for a better set of in-laws, for a more understanding church, for an obedient child, for a positive pregnancy test, for a husband, for a new home or couch or car or whatever…

the desire controls us and we cannot love God as we should.

We need to pry our hearts off of temporal things and clasp on to loving God again as we should. First. Most. Only. Life is supposed to work that way. We are made for this.

Life is peace-filled and joy-filled when He truly is first in our affections. Our circumstances may not have changed, but He changes us! And suddenly, it is well with my soul.

 

Chalk Paint Tutorials and The Importance of Making Your Bed

I’m sure you’ve heard of Annie Sloan Chalk paint. I’d been seeing it all around home design blogs and was itching to try it. (It’s not chalk board paint, just FYI.) So, before Rebekah and Emily came home for the summer, I decided to refinish an old bureau in their bedroom.  I used this plaster of paris tutorial. I used flat Benjamin Moore Sail Cloth. It was a creamy linen color that wasn’t too yellow or too tan. Lovely.

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I added some touches from Wal-mart: a little natural basket, a robin’s egg blue spindle lamp and some fake flowers, sold by the stem. I am fussy about fake flowers, so I was pleasantly surprised to see Walmart selling a line that passed muster. The peonies and ranunculus were $2 each. I used them for a pop of color.

I’m really looking forward to diving into The Nesting Place: It Doesn’t Have to Be Perfect to Be Beautiful this week. I think I’ll love it because I love fixing up yard sale finds to make things homey. When people come here, I tell them that there’s nothing “irreplaceable” in this house so put your feet up. That’s the beauty of decorating your home with inexpensive finds. :) Have you read it?

Do you have strong feeling about making your bed as soon as you get up? This navy seal does. He told graduates at a commencement speech at the University of Texas:

“If you want to change the world, start off by making your bed…If you make your bed every morning, you will have accomplished the first task of the day. It will give you a small sense of pride, and it will encourage you to do another task, and another, and another. And by the end of the day that one task completed will have turned into many tasks completed. Making your bed will also reinforce the fact that the little things in life matter. If you can’t do the little things right, you’ll never be able to do the big things right. And if by chance you have a miserable day, you will come home to a bed that is made — that you made. And a made bed gives you encouragement that tomorrow will be better.”

In my favorite home care book, Home Comforts: The Art and Science of Keeping House, Cheryl talks about her grandmothers’ different approaches to making their beds and their strong opinions about it. One insisted that a bed must be made right away; the other insisted it be aired out, sheets pulled completely back, then made.

I agree with Gretchin Rubin who asserts that making your bed is a quick way to make a big difference. It promotes a peaceful environment.

It’s also the largest object in your bedroom, so when it’s neat, the majority of the room looks neat. Plus, you can’t see pretty throw pillows when they are under the blankets or on the floor. ;) I’ve taught my kids to get up, turn around and make their beds. Also, if you make your bed well, you get the pleasure of sleeping in a crisp, neat bed that night.

So, if you want to feel accomplished, go make your bed! :) Easy peasy.

Did your mom have strict bed making rules in your house?  Do you make your kids make their beds right away? Have you tried refinishing anything with chalk paint? IF NOT, yard sale season is coming! Keep your eye out for something inexpensive to paint! :)

Made for More Giveaway!

UPDATE: Made for More Winner is Mrs. T!! Congratulations! I’ll be emailing you for your mailing address shortly!

I’m so excited to be able to give away a copy of Made for More this morning thanks to the generosity of Moody Publishers!

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I receive a lot of books to review and I’m rarely as excited about them as I am about this one.

Caveat: I find that I am the world’s worst book reviewer ever. If I hate the book, I don’t want to discuss it. If it’s full of doctrinal error, I won’t recommend it or discuss it on the blog for fear that I’ll promote error. And if it’s really amazing, like this one, I feel as though I will do the book an injustice by trying to explain it! I can’t win! lol

I don’t want to short change Hannah Anderson by this review! It’s amazing and  you should buy it! And I’m going to be honest: I covet her writing style and precision with words! Her book is phenomenal.

Hannah Anderson answers this simple question: What does it mean to live Image Dei, in the image of God.

And when we don’t live as proper image bearers, what affect does this have on our souls, our relationships to others and on our “wholeness” as people.

Instead of trying to do this book justice, I’ll let it speak for itself. Some fav quotes:

As an image bearer, you are made to reflect and represent God on the earth. And this happens as you live at the convergence of the three aspects of identity. In order to know yourself and exist as you were meant to exist, you must live in dependent communion with Him: you must be in loving relationship with other and you must exercise creative care over creation. And when any of these elements is off-kilter, you will experience a loss of identity and feel disoriented simply because you are not existing as you were created to exist.” (pg. 40)

Most of the time we associate legalism with strict adherence to a specific set of rules, but legalism is not simply choosing the letter of the law over the spirit. Legalism is any attempt to model God’s attributes apart from a relationship with Him. Legalism is trying to be an image bearer with relying on the Image. (pg 78)

On being gracious people:

...grace is not simply God’s response to our sin; Grace is the essential nature of a God who is already intentionally inclining Himself toward you. In this sense, forgiveness is the result of a grace that already exists; it is the fruit of a tree whose roots run deep, ever reaching, ever stretching, further and further into the generous nature of God Himself. (pg. 88)

After talking about extending grace is a very broken world where people sin against you:

When you remember that imago dei identity is defined by relationships, you can begin to understand how grace–the inclining of yourself toward another person–strengthens and maintains bonds between us. And you also begin to understand why the forgiveness that flows from grace is essential to becoming the people God created us to be. (pg 89)

After talking about judgmentalism, tribalism, and other forms of self-protection in a world that is splintered with sin and brokenness:

When we do not extend grace to those around us…we are really restricting ourselves from being what we were meant to be. When we respond in anger and bitterness, it only furthers the divide  between us as image bearers… This is why people who hold grudges seem so small. They are not existing in the largeness of God’s grace; they are not existing in the fullness of Him nature. They are not existing as image bearers. (pg. 91)

The chapter on using your God-given gifts to bless those around you is worth the money for this book alone. (Know any college bound women? This is a great gift.)

I’m so excited to give away this book!

To enter, leave a comment, tweet this or share on FB and let me know in the comments so I can count your votes accurately! (total, 3 entries possible)

If this is your first time to the blog, your comment will go to “moderation” and will not show up immediately. Don’t worry, I’ll approve your comment ASAP. I moderate new-comers to avoid spam and to prevent profanity from appearing on this blog. :)

If you are out of the US, you’ll receive the KINDLE version of this book. :)

Contest ends Wednesday night, 5/21, at 9 EST!

 

Family Photos and An ESV Journaling Bible Giveaway

Update! Winner of the ESV Bible is Charity Harley! Enjoy!!

 

So, first matter of importance, MY GIRLS ARE HOME FOR THE SUMMER!!

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We had the loveliest weekend. Holly and I spent a night in Mystic, CT, seeing the sights, eating delicious seafood, doing pedicures, spending quality time and eating ice cream. I also had the opportunity to speak at a ladies luncheon at a church there. They were super sweet and I felt led to encourage them to not merely survive in their spiritual walk but the THRIVE. We looked at Psalm 1, about the blessed man and his habits. Bottom line: He delighted in God’s Word and everything was touched by that: his ministry, his fruit bearing, his effectiveness. It’s always a privilege to share the gospel and it was a great weekend spiritually.

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AND then we had a lovely Mother’s Day Together. Peter and the kids made a special breakfast and spoiled me. Then we went to church and I was blessed by the message about the qualities of an older Titus 2 woman. We were spoiled at my sister, Hannah’s, for lunch and a special tea. All in all, I was just plain blessed and spoiled. (Not complaining! ;))

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I’ve been quiet around here as things have been busy, like I mentioned before. The Lord has been graciously teaching me to take each day as it comes and to thank Him for the opportunities He gives me. It’s all from His hand.

I’ve been reading quite a bit. Here are some highlights.

 

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Rebekah and Emily got me Holiness Day by Day: Transformational Thoughts for Your Spiritual Journey Devotional by Jerry Bridges and Pause for Power: A 365-Day Journey through the Scriptures (Year in the Word Series) by Warren Wiersbe for Mother’s Day. These are two of my favorite authors and I didn’t know that either of these books existed. I love one-a-day books like this.

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{DRUMROLL} If you have book money right now, this is the book to get: Made For More: An Invitation to Live in God’s Image. This book is really excellent. It’s about properly reflecting the image of God. I’ve told my college girls that this is MANDATORY summer reading for them. :) It’s just one of those world view books that is so very helpful. I can’t recommend it highly enough. In fact, I’d say it was the most spiritually beneficial book I’ve read all year. If you can buy it sometime, you’ll be blessed.

ALSO, I told you the other day that I had won a new ESV Journaling Bible. Bekki asked how I used my old journaling Bible, so I thought I’d share pics.

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First, when I’m studying with my commentary, I use a 3-ring binder for my notes. I messily jot down things I don’t completely understand (to remind myself to go back and look into it), quotes I want to remember, and any verses that really spoke to me that day. I also write out any attributes of God that I notice in the reading. (I got that idea from What Do I Know About My God?)

So what do I actually write in my journaling Bible? I usually write down the main point that sticks out to me during my study. Also, things like illustrations or quotes from commentaries, word meanings that clarify a passage for me, quotes, sermon outlines and cross reference proofs. THIS is so helpful when you are teaching. It’s a quick reminder of what you’ve already studied and what impacted you.

And although I love my new Journaling Bible, there’s a bittersweetness about changing Bibles, know what I mean?  Certain passages that have been life changing for me will be copied, but for the most part, I will start again.

Monday, I received my ESV Journaling Bible in the mail. Here it is!

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And on Tuesday ANOTHER one showed up on my door from Crossway Books! I contacted them about the mistake and they encouraged me to give it away on my blog!

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So, that’s what’s happening.

You can win this ESV Journaling Bible, value $59, compliments of Crossway, by commenting and telling me if you’d copy your old notes or start afresh or how you use your Bible. Do you write in it freely or reserve your writing to a notebook? Also, you can win additional entries by sharing this giveaway on social media via FB or Twitter using #joyfilleddays or @joyfilleddays.  Just let me know you did in the comments.

 

Easy peasy.

I’m so excited for one of you because this is a beautiful Bible.

Ends Saturday, 8 pm, EST. Continental US only. Will mail via USPS. 

If you are new to the blog, welcome! Your first comment will be moderated, so it might not show up right away, but I’ll approve it ASAP, so no worries. Feel free to look around and subscribe to get our posts via email. 

*posts contains Amazon Affiliate links at no cost to you. Thanks for supporting my blog.

Frozen {In Your Calling}

The world has gone stark raving “Frozen” mad. I mean, the Disney Frozen. Seems where ever you go, children and adults alike are singing “Let It Go” and “Do You Want To Build A Snowman?” It’s really quite hilarious, when you think about it.

olof

I’ve realized that many times when I’m discouraged, it’s because I’m frozen. I’ve sensed the same patterns in women I’ve counseled as well. Frozen, unable to move, at a complete stand still due to fear of failure and lack of belief. And since my mind is mush these days, the analogy that comes to mind instantly connects to the movie. It may not be deep, but hear me out. :)

Women everywhere are called to something. But fear renders them FROZEN.

You may be called to motherhood or maybe barrenness. Your calling might be to marriage or singleness or a redemptive separation. You might be called to the mission field, or your mission field might be right in your own home to an unsaved spouse or child. You may be called to love the most unlovable person around. Perhaps you are called to a life of travel that changes daily or perhaps to a mundane life with no changes at all. Sickness, poverty, financial struggles, emotional struggles…these are many of the places that we find ourselves on any given day.

I don’ t know what you are called to, and your calling is surely different than mine, but we all have the same “Caller.”

Whatever our situation today, our sovereign Lord placed us here, called us to it and knows all about it. Nothing comes to us that hasn’t been approved or ordained by his hand.

But we give way to fear and doubt our calling. We wonder how we got into this situation at all. We wonder where God is in all of this. So doubt freezes our ability to act out our calling.

THIS calling, we reason, is for that perfect woman, but not for me! (The woman who haunts and taunts you in your imagination. The one who has it all together.) We begin to believe that we can’t do this.

We women are famous for focusing on our flaws and failures. We telescope in on our insecurities and inadequacies and it’s all we can see.

We’re frozen by fear in the recesses of our minds. Thoughts like:

  • Why me!?
  • I’ve never had the training to do this!
  • Surely, anyone can do this better than I could!
  • If only they knew what kind of past I’ve come from.
  • If only they knew how I’ve blown it in the past.
  • I can’t do this! I’m ______________ .
  • It’s not in my nature to _______________.
  • She’s so much more_____________. I can never measure up to her.
  • My personality is such that I can’t do _______________.
  • I don’t have the natural ability, the education, the biblical knowledge, the _________ to get through this.

Doubting my ability can be good and bad. It’s good if it leads me to the conclusion that I’m dependent on grace for everything I accomplish through Christ’s enabling strength. It’s bad if it stops me from trying and taking hold of that grace that’s promised.

Guess what? If God brought it to you today, you are the one He wanted to handle this situation. It’s from His hand and He wants for you to see His grace and help and to depend on Him. You can’t do this alone and THAT dependence on Him is just what He wants you to learn.

You CAN do this with His help. You can obey, you can serve, you can step out of your comfort zone, you can love that unlovely person, you can serve that ungrateful person, you can live with misunderstanding, you can tolerate that whiney kid, you can clean that crazy-dirty-house-that-you-just-cleaned-10-seconds-ago, you can do it all today with His strength and grace.

If you are frozen in fear and you’ve just stopped trying, here are some verses that will hopefully begin a thaw, warm your heart, and give you courage to carry on.

“But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God and not of us.” 2 Corinthians 4:7

“Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it.” 1 Thes. 5:24

“When I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Cor. 12:10

“And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” 2 Cor. 12:9

“Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” Isaiah 40:28-31

So the next time you hear “Let it Go” (OH, believe me, you’ll be hearing it!! I’ve taken to beating myself every time I hear it! Just kidding.) think of dropping your fear and excuses and claiming the promises that are yours in Christ.

What has God called you to do today, that forces you to claim His promises and press on for Him? What verses do you cling to for comfort and strength?

 

 

 

 

Taking Time for Little Things

Have you ever been surprised by what makes your kids happy?

They’re excited by little things.

Soap bubbles galore while doing dishes.

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Animal sightings in the yard.

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$2 glow in the dark star stickers for the bedroom ceiling

Picking wildflowers.

Skipping rocks.

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Riding bikes, playing in the yard.

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Eating lunch on the back porch.

Swinging, climbing trees.

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Motherhood isn’t as hard as we make it. It we’d just maximize our own enthusiasm for life, our kids would surely follow suit, because they’re easy to please and enthralled by life.

Children catch your enthusiasm for life, mom. (Or they catch your complaining about life. They’re great mimickers.)

When did we get so busy that we no longer notice the sunset? When did we become so enthralled in the here and now that we miss little things, like bubbles, stars and people. How did life become so heavy that we fail to smile and choose joy?

“In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God…” is an attitude adjustment verse for me.

Being fully engaged with the little people all around you is a privilege. It’s no accident. You’re here to point them to Him. And if you’re too busy to notice them, their little interests, and enjoy life with them, then your job is going to be impossible.

If you are living life like you’re carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders, relax! God’s in control. He’s spinning the planets and holding us all together.

Today, take time for little things. Give thanks. Make your thankfulness and enthusiasm for life contagious. Laughter begets laughter. Wonder begets wonder. And while you’re enjoying the little things with your little ones, remember to point them to the good and gracious God who gave us a the little things freely to enjoy. Everyday talk about God is often the most effective way to train hearts.

Have a great day!

Hope for the Dissatisfied and Empty

Whenever I read the account of Jesus talking to the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4:1-43), I am struck by Jesus words:

“If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water…whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.”

If you only knew me, you’d “Never thirst again.”

Knowing Jesus, not knowing about Jesus, not going to a church that talks about Jesus, but actually knowing Him in order to be satisfied is what Jesus was talking about here.

He’s speaking of the internal longing in every one of our souls that can’t be met by money, power, position or influence. He’s addressing the emptiness in our heart that tells us that this world is all wrong, and that we are wrong in it. The emptiness eats away at us at various times and we instinctively know that life must have more meaning than this. We were created for eternity and our soul knows it. Jesus came to give us abundant life here and eternal life in heaven.

When our souls are empty we search and stuff.

We search and stuff in various ways. We sometimes look to fill the void with food, drink, friends, fashion, spending, business, social clubs, social projects, social media.

We seek significance in being a good mom, having a perfect home, body, or children. We take pride in heritage, genealogy, political stance, theological camps.

We look for escape in entertainment and adventure. We adopt the motto: “Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die.” “Live life to the fullest,” –because we’re afraid that the here and now is all there is.

Creation has no capacity whatsoever to truly satisfy your heart. Your heart has been wired to find its hope, peace, and rest in God alone.

Your heart will only be satisfied when it finds its satisfaction in God.

Paul Tripp

The Samaritan woman was clearly looking for love and significance in men, as she had “five husbands.” She also identified very heavily with the fact that she was part of the “outcast” society, the Samaritans. It was the first thing that came pouring out of her mouth when Jesus talked to her: “How can it be that a Jew is talking to a Samaritan woman!”

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Emptiness also emerges in the way we label ourselves.

We label ourselves by our choices: homeschooling, breastfeeding, eco-friendly, organic, artsy, free spirited, disciplined, republican, democrat, libertarian, conservative, evangelical.

We seek significance by our accomplishments. We make sure everyone knows that we are a _____________. (fill in the blank with your thing.) It’s recurring and comes up in all of our conversations. It’s our security. We identify with our own self-labels: I’m a victim, I’m a survivor, I’m a working mom, I’m super educated, my kids are super educated, I’m raising good children, my marriage is stable, my kids are obedient, my family is in tact, my finances are in order, we are debt free, we are clean eating…

Other people label us as well, fueling our own search for meaning: you’re from the wrong side of the tracks, you’re uneducated, you’re too disfunctional, your own parents disowned you, you’re a minority, you’re too fat, too skinny, too dark, too poor, too stuffy, too out of touch, too emotional, you’re from the south, you’re one of those northerners, etc…

But what happens when our labels dissipate around us? Then what?

What happens when your influence is gone, when people don’t accept you, your health is gone, your marriage is crumbling, your once-effective ministry is slipping away, your kids rebel, and you fail to live up to your own ideals?

What happens when you disappoint yourself and decide that you’re not really sure why you’re living at all.

Where do you find your satisfaction then?

Enter, Jesus.

Jesus is the hope for the hopeless, for the spiritually destitute.

He’s where we should have started in the first place. Jesus is not a conduit to getting what you want. Jesus is the end all. A relationship with Jesus Christ is the only place you’ll find satisfaction, because you were created for a relationship with Him.

Spiritual refreshment doesn’t come in a Coke bottle, it’s found in Christ.

Even as Christian women, maybe we’ve become soul-thirsty and dissatisfied, because we’ve wandered away from the Source of all of our happiness and have meandered over to wells that we know can never satisfy. Maybe we’ve hewn out broken cisterns and have tried to produce our own water and have lived life independently of God.

If you’re soul-thirsty today, spend some time with Jesus.

If you’ve wandered away, you know that by confessing and forsaking your sin, you’ll find relief and forgiveness.

If you’re wondering if he could love you, you simply need to look at the cross and all that he went through on your account.

Jesus is the remedy for the dissatisfied. And He’s calling to you, the empty, weary, thirsty women of the world today, just like He met with the woman at the well 2,000 years ago.

He’s the lover of your soul, my friend. And knowing and loving Him is where abundant life starts.

These Are A Few of My Favorite Things

Some favorite things this week. :) :)

Loved::

This printed cone on Pinterest. These would be perfect for a bridal shower, Mother’s Day front door decor, etc…and bonus: They’re CHEAP because–>PAPER. Woohoo. cone And then I saw this GORGEOUS paper peonies tutorial from Twigg Studios and decided that this would be a match made in heaven. I can’t wait to try them with the girls.

 

Made::

Loved this fried rice recipe from Ruth. My kids loved it. Hope asked why I had never made this before, it was so delish. I explained that moms learn something new every day. It’s better than any fried rice I’ve gotten at any restaurant. Yum. I made my favorite ever cake into cupcakes for Easter. THEY are JUST too good to resist. {and so I didn’t.} ;)

photo credit: my sister Hannah.

photo credit: my sister Hannah.

Okay, I lied. I have two favorite cakes ever, but that’s beside the point. These both made delicious cupcakes, you just have to remember to reduce your baking time or you’ll end up with hockey pucks. ;)

Read::

I loved this article about kids leaving other kids out by promoting their “fun” lives (which are just a well crafted farce) on social media called Instagram and Gospel Inclusion.  In my day, you didn’t talk about plans or parties in front of someone who wasn’t invited for fear you’d hurt someone’s feelings. I have belabored this point to my kids because it’s not taught anymore and it happens  everywhere. And if adults do it, then of course their kids will.

True story: one day I was sitting in a pizza shop in Carver with my kids and some soap opera was playing on the TV. Naturally, I was glued. ;) Anyway, it was portraying some totally over-groomed rich 10-year old boy in preppy duds getting ready to go sledding with some little girl who should have been at home playing with paper dolls, but instead is getting ready to go on a date. Yes, this is true to life stuff, folks. Anyways, she looks like she’s 16 and she’s apparently caught in some love triangle at age of about 10. Yes, awesome.  SO, to taunt the other boy, said spoiled brat boy starts uploading photos to his social media account. I remember thinking, “If that kid was mine….” thoughts about how I’d flush that smartphone so fast it would make his coiffed hair flip. Anyhow, I think you should just read this article and we should remember to teach our kids that other people are precious. This story talks about one incident with Rebekah which was a teaching moment about the preciousness of others even when we don’t see their value.

Also, I loved this article about female submission and how we get it so wrong sometimes. ” I want my girls to be intimidating to the wrong kind of guy.” Yes and amen.

“So as we teach our daughters to “be submissive,” the ever-important question is “submissive to whom?” And the only no-fail answer to that question is “God.” We teach our daughters to be submissive to God – and that may mean being the extremely un-cool person who believes that wives should submit to their own husbands . . . and that also may mean being the wife who calls the cops on her husband, or the woman who calls the cops on her pastor, or the girl who calls the pastor on her dad. Submission certainly doesn’t always mean saying yes – sometimes submission means saying no, and that can take an awful lot of strength and bravery. Submission always has a backbone – and that backbone is the Word of God. Every human authority requiring our submission should be examined in the light of that.”

I’m currently reading Grace Is Free: One Woman’s Journey from Fundamentalism to Failure to Faith and loving it. I don’t typically read books where someone has a major gripe about their former denomination, whatever religion they are, because to me it just seems like a blame game. This book does not do that. It’s not a tedious list of every.wrong.ever.committed.against.me.ever.and.

the.world.must.know.every.gorey.detail.about.how.I.felt.

and.what.this.person.said.to.me.and.did.to.me. EXHAUSTING.  I just don’t have the temperament or desire to read that kind of stuff. Not that I don’t try to empathize in real life if someone I know has had serious issues with their former church. I guess I’m old enough to realize that people are people everywhere in a fallen world. The church is made up of sick people. Your church and mine. And at some point you’ll realize that about your next church as well. Whatev. This book is really good. It’s about finally understanding the gospel after years of misunderstanding and wandering from the Lord.

Also reading Treasuring Christ When Your Hands Are Full: Gospel Meditations for Busy Moms but I just couldn’t get into it. I’m giving it another shot because I loved Glimpses of Grace: Treasuring the Gospel in Your Home so much. Also, I noticed that another favorite, Gospel Meditations for Women, is only $2.99 on Kindle today. You’ll love it.

Did I mention that my big girls are coming home May 10th for the summer!? easter What are you loving this week? Reading? Crafting? Planning? Share below in the comments. Feel free to post links to your own blog if you’re recapping your week so we can all enjoy! Have a great weekend!!

How to Go From Pleasant to Bitter In A Decade

We all want to age gracefully, but that doesn’t just happen. In fact, in a decades time, we can go from sweet to bitter or vice versa. And although beauty is only skin deep, bitterness of soul goes straight to the bone and can poison you and everyone around you. Let me explain.

In times of trial, it’s easy to want to escape and get away from our problem. We want to make the emotional or physical pain stop. We can have many different reactions to trials:

  • We can play the Spartan and simply endure the trial–teeth gritted, keep a stiff upper lip– we grow bitter from focusing on the hardship. We end up being self-driven instead of Spirit-led.
  • We can try to escape the trial running for relief to friends, emotional outbursts, finding comforters in sleep, food, drink, spending, overindulgence or other “saviors.”
  • When we embrace the trial, we grow in grace because we know the Sender of the trial and His good intentions for us. We humbly accept good and bad from the hand of God. We know God is leading us THROUGH a trial and He’s promised to be with us.

Trials are always a wake up call and they are a good thing. It’s a mercy when we realize how much we crave self-rule in our own lives and how much we resist God’s rule when we are in the midst of something unthinkable, unplanned and unwanted. ruth I’m studying Ruth right now and it has been eye opening and refreshing. I was struck by this quote from Warren Wiersbe and have been mulling it over for days: “They exchanged famine in the land for three funerals.”

Famine is a pretty desperate situation, yet, God sent the famine as judgement for the sin of the people of Israel. (Lev. 26:14-20) He had a good purpose for the famine. However, Elimaleck, Naomi’s husband, decided that the best course of action was to leave the covenant community and go for help in the land of their enemies, the Moabites.

Matthew Henry: “It is an evidence of a discontented, distrustful, unstable spirit, to be weary of the place in which God hath set us, and to be for leaving it immediately whenever we meet with any uneasiness or inconvenience in it. It is folly to think of escaping that cross which, being laid in our way, we ought to take up. It is our wisdom to make the best of that which is, for it is seldom that changing our place is mending it.”

In a sense, they left their covenant God because they believed they needed bread and had to find it for themselves when in fact In God we live and move and have our being. (Acts. 17:28) This life–bread, food, water–the physical life– seemed so big when what they were used to was lacking.

Once in Moab, they assimilated. So much so that they let their sons marry two women of the Moabites, a practice forbidden by God. (Deut. 7:3, 23:3, 4)

Then all three men in the family died. Naomi found herself husbandless, sonless, and stuck with two Moabite women and no resources. She hears that there’s bread in Israel and decides to go back. “She was still primarily interested in food, not in fellowship with God.” says Wiersbe.

What she does next is strange and shows how far out of bounds her thinking was: She encourages her daughters-in-law to go back to their old gods and people. Oh, she prays for them and wishes them many children, but she cared so little about their souls that she encouraged them to return to false, forbidden gods. Instead of taking comfort in the God of all comfort, she’s so consumed by her own grief that her thinking is seriously off. “God has dealt bitterly with me!” was her testimony, when really God was doing something amazing and redemptive by putting her family in the lineage of Christ.

And we do that as well, when we’re not thinking right thoughts about our God or when we experience a “famine” or sorts in our own lives. When friends are sparse, money’s gone, health fades, children rebel, husband’s leave, we “charge God foolishly,” and accusations fly.

We complain that life hasn’t been fair, that God’s shortchanged us somehow. We emote that we deserved better, that people should recognize and appreciate us, that life should have worked this way instead of that way. We demote God from His place of prominence and praise on the throne of our heart. Our words condemn a perfect God, and malign His intents. Our sin proclaims that He’s not worth following. Hey, if it makes you happy, go back to your old gods as well, Ruth and  Orpah. You’ll be better off than where you are now. Really. God’s dealt so bitterly with me, you should try your luck with another god. 

Not the behavior of a woman who is fully in love with her own God.

How did Naomi, {whose name meant pleasant and sweetness} go from a sweet spirit to a sour spirit in less than a decade? What would make her announce “Just call me Mara! (bitter)” I jotted down a few ideas:

  • She focused on her trials.
  • She let her feelings rule.
  • She looked for help in places God forbid.
  • She ignored God’s clear commands.
  • She valued physical gain over spiritual gain.
  • She failed to go to God for comfort.
  • She blamed God instead of confessing their sin.

I’m wondering if she also tried to send Ruth and Orpah packing because she didn’t want the “evidence” of their sinful life back in Moab to be seen when she returned to Israel. Sometimes hiding sin is easier than confessing it and finding grace. Yet the Lord encourages us to “return to the Lord” and find mercy. It’s helpful when we are in times of trouble, to soul-search.

  • Am I wiling to trust God in my famine?
  • Am I content and thankful right now?
  • Do I believe God’s in control?
  • Where am I seeking comfort?
  • Am I doing what God has forbidden?
  • What do I love more than obedience to the word?
  • Is my life showing the fruit of the Spirit in this moment? If not, why?
  • Have I confessed my sin? Am I right with God and others? If not, why haven’t I?

Ruth is a redemptive book. It’s such a wonderful story of a loving daughter-in-law who chose to saddle herself to a bitter woman because she loved that woman and her God. And God honored Ruth, allowing her to be in the Messianic line. God was not dealing bitterly. He meant it all for good. And I’m trying to remember that today. My choices have consequences. My attitudes affect and teach others. My thoughts about God can center me or send me into despair. And whatever my thought life tells me, God’s Word is always accurate and His promises are true, whether I believe them or not.

You Have A Job To Do Today For Eternity

Do you have a lazy side? I do.

The lazy side of me says, “I’ll do that tomorrow. I’ll clean it, call her, get to it, work on it, figure it out, deal with it tomorrow. Today, I’ll take it easy, zone out, relax. And maybe tomorrow…”

You know what I mean, don’t you? Lots of plans, but little implementation, then we get distracted…..OH MY WORD, isn’t that a gorgeous outfit on Pinterest! And I must look into that book and try that recipe. Someday.

As women who make God our #1 priority, we can’t afford an “I’ll get to it later” mindset. We have a job to do today that impacts someone for eternity.

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Your big opportunities for faithfully serving the Lord come in the tiny tasks:

  • It might be serving a bowl of cereal to your child with a smile rather barking orders for him/her to get it themselves.
  • It might be picking up the phone to honor your mother with a phone call just to see how she is doing.
  • It might be making your husband’s favorite meal just because he loves it and you love him.
  • It might be giving of your talent to help a friend be successful in her pursuits.
  • It might be using your time to sit with a hurting friend, or listening to a lonely shut-in or neighbor.
  • It might be bringing food and comfort to a grieving family.

We have a long legacy of women before us who got the job done, went the extra mile, were faithful and dependable.

  • Jocabed and her early training of Moses, not to mention her amazing basket weaving skills,
  • Rebekah and her water pitcher, providing comfort for family and strangers
  • Israelite women who “had a willing heart” and “brought an offering to the Lord.”  (Ex. 35:5) These women used their time, talents and treasure to benefit the building of the tabernacle.
  • Ruth who worked hard to support her mother-in-law Naomi.
  • Dorcas who was full of “good works and charitable deeds.” (Acts. 9:36)

The list is long, but the message is clear: They went about doing good because they loved the Lord with all their heart, soul and strength.

Although they were human, and selfishness must have been a struggle for them as well, I’m thankful for these examples in scripture where they did the right thing.

Edith Schaeffer made this observation and offers encouragement for creating a caring family environment:

This is what is being said today to most children, as well as to most husbands or wives: “Just get it yourself” or “Do it yourself…” it becomes a refrain without a very pretty tune: “I have my rights.” “I’m tired.” “I’m reading a book, I don’t want to be disturbed.”….
How do I regard my having run upstairs with tea, or having served breakfast in bed, or having continued for years to do this kind of thing for a diversity of people as well as for husband and children? How do I look at it? Do I feel like a martyr?

Let me tell you exactly how I see it…”Thank You that there is a practical way to serve YOU tea [or breakfast in bed, or whatever it is I am doing for someone]. There would be no other way of bringing You [God] food, or doing some special thing for You. Thank You for making it so clear that as we do things that are truly in the realm of giving of ourselves in service to others, we are really doing it for You. These things can be done so often!”

Laziness is not your friend. It robs you of your ideals and goals. It steals the joys you’d planned for others. It silences the love and encouragement that another person was meant to hear. It leaves you empty because self-focus always leaves guilt and regrets.

Who can you serve today? Time is a gift, that must be used wisely. All we may have it today to do good! Today, make it a point to love those around you well.