A Few Thoughts On “Humble Roots”

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

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

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

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

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

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

Some favorite quotes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

DIY Doctored-Up Dollar Tree Church Ornament

Wanted to share an easy craft I’ve been working on for Christmas.

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I love New England churches, so when I saw that Dollar Tree had these ornaments, I snatched up a bunch to doctor-up.

I simply added twine, plaid ribbon from Michael’s Craft Store, and mica glitter with a glue gun to add “snow” to the roof line and perimeter of the church. You could also add a silver bell in place of the pine cone that comes with it.

They’ll be really cute attached to brown paper packages.

Enjoy.

Troubles That Paint The Right Story

Have you ever been shocked by life’s turn of events?

I’ve had several defining moments when life seemed to spiral out of control, like the day my baby sister told me that her ultrasound showed that her baby had severe disabilities and was not expected to live. Like the day I got the call that her baby, my niece, had passed away.

Maybe you’ve experienced trials and sufferings of another sort and wondered why God would allow them. Maybe you’re in a long term trial right now and you’re wondering if God has made some colossal mistake in the story of your life.

Years ago, as a child, I remember a church service where a Child Evangelist came to present the gospel in a chalk illustration. I was interested in art at a young age, so his demonstration intrigued me. He stood on the platform with a huge sheet of paper and worked, hands flying and smudging the chalk as fast as he talked. I attentively watched as he added lines here and color there, sudden swatches of dark next to light, bringing unseen shapes to the foreground.

Is that going to be a hillside? A road? No, a tomb? No, what is it?

I was mesmerized and surprised that at the end of his talk, the final product was the face of Jesus.

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Do you stare at the portrait of your life and wonder what God is doing?

What story is He telling?

Why this dark trial here?

Why this heartache?

Why that loss?

What are you doing, Lord?

Where are you?

Why is this taking so long?

Do you know what you’re doing, because I’m really getting scared.

We can’t see the end while we are living in the middle, but it’s comforting to know that God has a plan for the final product. He wants the image of Jesus Christ to be seen and displayed in our life.

The Bible uses another artsy analogy, of a potter working a lump of clay into whatever sort of vessel he pleases, compressing, chiseling, squeezing, firing, proving, until he makes just the sort of vessel that is useful to him.

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The clay doesn’t get to choose what he becomes. That is entirely up to the Potter.

So the potter molds different vessels, all unique but just what he wants, just like God makes us with certain gifts and abilities, spheres of influence, and tasks for us to do.

We may be made of different materials, have different functions and roles, some more glamorous, and others, mundane, but to compare ourselves to others would be foolish because we were created for specific good works.pottery

He may put us in a place of prominence or in a secluded area. We might be set aside for a season, but our role is still the same: faithfulness to our calling and to our Creator.

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Trials are never fun. Nobody wants to suffer. But suffering, it turns out, is a gift. It’s one of those gifts we’d rather not have, but it catapults us towards Christ like nothing else can. And the gift of suffering allows us to have a unique, unexpected “fellowship” with Christ which endears our hearts to His, and tears our grasping hands from this earth.

So that dark season of suffering did not mar your story, but was the contrast needed to allow God’s glory to shine brightest.

And that trial we thought would nearly kill us and ruin our life, was another layer where God’s glory could be displayed, and the finished work of Jesus face would be overlay-ed and superimposed on the picture the world sees when it looks at our life.

Even when our own sin and foolishness brings us trouble and heartache, God’s grace and goodness re-paints the scene and covers our mess with the perfect image of Christ.

This truth, that God is working all things for my good and His glory,

that none of my suffering is random, helps me to trust and embrace whatever God has for my life, and to rejoice in any suffering that comes because of it, knowing that suffering drives me to Him which strengthens my spiritual life, even when my body, emotions, or resources are wasting away.

Trials put me right where I need Jesus every day and know it.

May Christ be seen in the story of my life, especially during times of trials. 

What about you? Has your life taken unexpected and unwanted turns that seem unfair and unwanted? Can you trust that no suffering is wasted in God’s economy, but that it has the purpose of drawing you closer to His Son? What can you do today to change how you view suffering and to embrace it with joy?

 

Take Courage Where God Has Called You

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

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

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

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

Why entertain…I’ll never be Ina Garten.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Joshua 1:9

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

Matthew 28:20

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

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

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

 

Weekend Edition

This weekend I’m sharing a few links that I think you’ll enjoy, so grab yourself a cup of coffee or tea and enjoy.

I’ve been doing all the planning that comes with another school year: meal plans, curriculum choices, Bible study plan, etc, so it feels good to get some of that out of the way.

Food-wise, as soon as the weather gets crisp, I want to start making soup. I make it once a week because it’s usually frugal and it gives me an excuse to eat French bread and makes plenty for easy lunch leftovers. Rebekah was asking for some of my favorite soup recipes, so I thought I’d post them here as well.

Some great soups online::

Garlicky White Bean Soup with Greens via Nourishing Gourmet: This is so inexpensive to make and it’s delicious…and I don’t even care for bean soups usually.

Tortellini Sausage Soup via Gooseberry Patch: This soup is present at nearly every fall family gathering we have. It’s so good served with Caesar Salad and bread.

Cream of Pumpkin and Apple Soup via Wilson Farms. I love the sweetness of this soup. I’ve used canned pumpkin before with great results. Wilson Farms is a beautiful, New England farm and Lynn Wilson has a wonderful cookbook that is one of my go-tos.

Zucchini Cheddar Soup via Wilson Farms: Cheesy and delicious.

These are all family favorites. Let me know if you try them and how you liked them.

What I’m reading right now:

Keeping House: A Litany of Everyday Life. This is a book I return to when I need a little home making inspiration. It’s not a book that will guilt you into becoming a better homemaker. It’s one of those books that reminds you of the why behind what you do. It talks of the necessity of sheltering, clothing, and feeding the people we love the most. It connects the duties of home to Kingdom work and most importantly, it shows how it mirrors God’s watch care over us.

Favorite quotes:

“Housework is all about feeding and clothing and sheltering people who, in the absence of that daily work, would otherwise be hungry and ill-clad and ill-housed.”

She discusses how our culture spends more and more money on kitchen gadgets and cookware, while fewer people actually cook and eat at home. She discusses seasons and rhythms of life and likens them to homemaking and faithfulness.

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

“A well-kept house thus possesses a kind of sacramental quality. It is no substitute for either the kingdom of God or the church. But it is a kind of foretaste of the kingdom. A nurturing and hospitable home can be a reminder that God has always been in the business of making a home for people, that God desires that people should have the food and clothing and shelter associated with home, that one day our tattered and partial provision of these things for one another will be gloriously supplanted by God’s perfect provision of shining robes and a sumptuous feast in God’s own house.”

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And one of my favorite quotes:

“A Christian home overflows its boundaries; it is an outpost of the kingdom of God, where the hungry are fed and the naked are clothed and there is room enough for everyone.”

While I do have a few qualms with the book and she doesn’t write from a conservative Christian perspective, the book is extremely valuable.

The Blessing of Humility by Jerry Bridges was published posthumously and is, not surprisingly, a blessing like his other works.  He starts with the premise that humility is the second most frequently taught character trait in the New Testament, second only to love, but is a trait that is hardly pursued or celebrated. He argues that humility is not optional, but a command of God which is enabled by grace to those who are born again. He goes through each of the Beatitudes and shows how each verse (poor in spirit, mourn over sin, peacemaker) reflects the qualities of the humble person.

A few favorite quotes:

“Instead we too often use the Scriptures not as a means of judging ourselves but as a means of judging others, especially those whose sins are more flagrant than ours. The meek person, in contrast, searches the Scriptures (or listens to it taught) not to judge others but to allow the Holy Spirit to judge him or her. In fact, the meek person earnestly desires the Spirit to use His Word to effect a deep change in his or her inner being.”

“It is often the sinful use of our tongues that causes conflict. But the tongue is only the instrument. The real problem is the heart, for Jesus said, “For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” (Matt. 12:34) It is because of pride, anger, jealousy, and the like in our hearts that we speak cutting and hurtful words to one another. And it is because we nurse hurts from other people and harbor resentment in our hearts that we engage in verbal conflict.

To become peacemakers, then, we must begin with our selves. We must ask ourselves, “Why do I make cutting remarks to another person? …What causes my resentment toward that person? or “Why do I continue to nurse hurts by that person instead of forgiving them?”

I could go on…it’s Jerry Bridges and he was truly one of my favorite authors. I’m so thankful for his ministry of teaching via writing.

Sermon on the Mount by Jen Wilkin is an inductive Bible Study that covers the Beatitudes. Like all of her studies, it has been excellent. If you’ve never done an inductive Bible Study, this is a great place to start.

Jen defines a meek person as “enduring injury with patience and without resentment” …and as “someone who is not occupied with self at all, someone who does not insist on a set of rights.”

Highly recommend. In fact, I’m doing this with my teen girls this fall.

What books are you reading right now? Let me know in the comments.

Links you might enjoy:

Gossip Says More About Me via Desiring God.

Community Requires Vulnerability via Christine @ Grace Covers Me

The Ministry of Your Everyday Normal by We Are That Family

Blessed Weakness by Lydia Brownback

Projects:

I’m in the thick of choosing paint colors for several rooms in my house. We’re beginning repairs soon, and I have to have my ducks in a row for the builder. I’ve been on Pinterest searching for a great greige color. If any of you has found a warmish greige color that you really love, let me know the color in the comments or on FB. Thanks. :)

Well, that’s about it. I hope you have a GREAT weekend.

*Post contains Amazon affiliate links. Thanks for supporting JoyFilled Days.

 

A Word About Enforcing Obedience

The human heart pulses with the desire for self-rule.

Every fiber of our natural being is bent toward autonomy and self-sovereignty. We don’t naturally want to bow to the Lordship of Christ, and even after we’ve trusted Christ, our old selfish nature fights against God’s new standard for us: submission to Him.

Truthfully, the flesh hates to submit to anyone. We get really uppity when our will is crossed or people question us. I don’t like it when Peter questions why I keep the water bottles in this drawer or why I don’t crush my boxes before I put them into the trash bin. When he tells me that I should use this curriculum instead of that one {the one that I researched for a gazillion hours and where were you again during that process??} I can feel that old self, that defensive self, rising up claiming its right to rule the world, and I have to force it back down under the rule of Christ.

 Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.

The rubber meets the road in the oddest places and over the smallest issues sometimes, doesn’t it? Water bottles, recycling, and curriculum?

Even in small matters, God’s will must super-cede our whims and wishes. God wills that I submit to others in areas of preference, and He wills that I submit to my gentle husband.

And unless we choose to bow to God’s will in the small, insignificant moments, taking drastic measures to cut out selfishness and self-seeking– measures that include repentance and turning from the wrong way into the path of obedience,

and unless the grace of God shines in and prompts us towards a serious pursuit of humility,

we’re going to fumble and fight our way through this life, hurting people, sacrificing relationships on the alter of our own ego, burning bridges, cutting off those who cross us, and elbowing our way to our perceived top.

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So every morning, my job is to de-throne Sarah and re-throne Christ to His rightful place, as Master and Lord. This is seriously hard business.

SO, where am I going with this?

Well, I often talk to frustrated mothers who are dealing with disobedient children, and they can’t seem to see that their sweet child is struggling with the same old temptation we all face: the submission issue. The child wants what the child wants. End of story.

And honestly, the mother is not dealing with this situation well. They’ve gotten into a battle of the wills and the child is driving her crazy and she resents all the TIME it takes to parent this out-of-control child. She’s frustrated, so she takes action. Nobody will accuse her of being a passive mom. She’s armed with Ephesians 6:1 and she uses it like a boss. She sets out to enforce first time obedience and nobody better cross her. She uses threats or promises to control the child’s behavior. She begins to expect outward compliance. She uses punishments and rewards to get a desired behavior. Her moods are all over the place. She snaps in an effort to control. She yells.

Obedience has become the end-all and she’s ruled by that desire.  And this is where it all goes terribly wrong.

To be clear, the desire for kids to obey is a good desire, but it’s not the ultimate goal and it’s abusive to use ungodly methods to get your child there.

In fact, dear mom, more important than your child obeying you is YOU OBEYING CHRIST. Your authority only comes from Him and He has put you in this place to represent Him.

You are His ambassador and your authority has boundaries. You can’t rule any old way you’d like to. You’ll answer to God for your treatment of His kids.

Your authority must be reflective. It MUST reflect Christ. It should bring the child face to face with the Father’s character. It should hold the child’s hand and say, “I’m dealing with you this way because this is how God is.” “God says we all must obey His word, and this behavior is not in His will for you. We can’t bite and hit and hurt others. We must be kind.”

So when mom is not under the authority of Christ and is ruling like a CRAZY–

You are portraying a false image of Christ to your child and undermining all that you are setting out to do. You’re marring the image of Christ and portraying Him as a moody, silent, manipulative, angry, frustrated, or exasperated taskmaster. And you’re harming your child’s soul. (hardening it as well.)

I know parenting is hard. I know it is. But we make it harder when we don’t submit to God’s will for our life  because we’re locked and loaded on one aspect of our kid’s life. 

There’s a lot about training kids online, but if we would just submit ourselves to Christ, our authority issues won’t become central. No, showing your child Christ becomes central.

If you’ve asked your kids to obey for all the wrong reasons, or if your heart’s motivation was all wrong–GO AND TELL THEM and ask them to forgive you. Tell them that you have an authority problem–a problem as old as Eve– and you’ve used that authority in ways that displeases and misrepresents God. Tell them that yelling, manipulating, and the silent treatment are all just adult selfishness and sin.

And tell them that you are working on trying to be a mother that obeys God just as much as they are working to try to obey you, for Christ’s sake.  Tell them that we are all under the authority of the Word of God and none of us can live the way we want.

Then repent of your wrong reasons for enforcing discipline in the home and remember that your number one job as mothers is to teach our kids to glorify and honor God’s Word and to point them to God by reflecting His nature.

Life is simpler when we follow Christ first. Only then can we lead our kids to Christ.

 

 

A few ways that mid-life is better than being 20-something.

We live in a culture that worships youth and all that goes with it. Advertisers daily remind me that I need anti-aging creams and miracle fixes to make my middle age wrinkles re-wind the clock and bring me back to a better time and look.

And although I do have a few aches and pains that I didn’t have five years ago, there are aspects of mid-life that have given me perspective that I wouldn’t trade for anything.

Mid-life has been surprising, I’ll admit. We took in a 2 year old foster boy the same year our oldest daughter got engaged to be married. That’s something I never would have predicted.

Still, there are aspects of mid-life that are better than when we were young, and I thought it would be fun to share that today.

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Personally & Spiritually::

When you are 40 something, you know who you are. You know your limitations and quirks. You know what you believe and why. Experience is your friend and time has been your teacher. This gives you wisdom to know what is worth pursuing and what is a waste of your time. You know when to walk away from a toxic relationship and you feel freedom to do it and you know when a toxic relationship is redeemable. You value time and relationships and realize that life is short and people are where you should invest. Money, fame, health, power all fade. Love stands forever. You know and appreciate that people come from all different places and that we respect other people not because they deserve it or not, but because we are respectable. You understand the love of God more each year and it causes you to grow in humility and compassion, thankfulness, and dependence.

Motherhood::

Mid-life motherhood means raising teens and adults and there’s a fundamental shift in the relationship. It’s easy to think of toddlers as your babies, but teens are full-fledged people with likes and dislikes and hearts that struggle with fear, people pleasing, idolatry, and sin in general just like their mother and father. Mid-life mothering is more friendship/discipleship based and it’s wonderful. My adult kids are truly such wonderful friends. And as much as I can guide and encourage them to follow hard after God, I have to remember that God wants this more than I do and He is able to shape them, convict them, teach them, correct them and love them when they go the wrong way or love the wrong things too much.

You sleep less because you’re up watching late night movies, or waiting for them to get home for curfew. And sleep evades you because teen problems are bigger than potty training and tantrums. Late night thoughts remind you that you were not the perfect parent and that all of your sincerest attempts were woefully short and your motives were often askew at best and sinful at worst and you beg God to be the Father and Mother that you wish you could have been and you learn to pray for your children like never before.

Friendships::

Mid-life friendships are the sweetest. You’re mature enough to appreciate other people’s gifts and talents without being threatened by them. You are realistic in your expectations and you have grown up enough to know that life is not all about you and you stop taking everything personally. You know that anything someone does or says is a reflection on them alone, not you, and you just worry about yourself.

You aren’t as needy as you were in your 20’s so you don’t expect your friends to fulfill you, be there all the time for you, or never let you down. You’re not jealous when friends get together without you {GASP} because you know that life happens and time is precious and you want good things for your friends by this point. You believe they want good things for you, too. You know that even the best people will fail you and that this is why grace in your interactions is the only way for relationships to thrive.  We don’t have time for drama, and we don’t mind walking away from it. We know who we are, we have nothing to prove, and it makes us much more comfortable to be with. We prioritize our time to be with women who make walking with God a priority as well.

Hospitality::

Mid-life hospitality is more comfortable and focused. It’s less about entertaining than ever, although I love sharing a great cheese platter or simple appetizer.  Life is busy, so any chance to minister “in house” is always welcome. Come by. If my hair is a mess, I’ll let you in and pour you some tea. If I’m making dinner, I’ll hand you a knife and you can peel my cucumbers with me. I’ll listen as you talk about life and struggles and I’ll pray with you over store-bought cookies. I’ll offer advice when I’m asked, but my goal is to encourage you, not fix you. We can both admit our faults and thank God that He’s patient with both of us and in control of our lives and have a wonderful time resting in that knowledge.

Ministry::

Mid-life ministry is easier because there’s less trying to do everything and more listening to what God wants you to do in the first place. You value your time in the Word like never before and you read to know God, not simply to know the facts or to be a wealth of information. You value the amazing and forgotten ministry of prayer because you realize that God does answer and that intercession is one of the kindest gifts you can give another person.

There’s more humility which means fewer people problems. You realize that all ministry is God’s work and He doesn’t care so much what I do but how I do it.  He cares about how you treat His sheep.  My main job in ministry is to be an example of a woman who fears the Lord, and this will open up more opportunities to serve than I could ever handle. There’s a sense that every ministry trial is a test of my obedience and humility before God and really, nothing else matters.

Mid-life has also afforded me more opportunities to write and speak, but I can take them or leave them. I don’t look to them for validation and I don’t need people to look to me, answer to me, or respect me at all.

Ministry life is about service and loving one another. When problem people arise, I try to understand what makes them tick and help them get busy doing something that makes them feel valued. When people fail you in the church, you realize that no matter who they are, they are responsible for their sin and it’s not a reflection on you even if they are antagonistic, accusatory, odd, unkind, or territorial with you. They own their sin–you own your responses. When you are satisfied in Christ, it doesn’t matter what your job is. You’re working for Him and you’ll always have Him. You have everything you need for your happiness and holiness.

 

I’d love to hear what you’ve learned as you’ve aged. Feel free to tell me in the comments or on FB.

Thanks for coming by, friends. I appreciate you.

 

Weekend Edition

My daughter got married last weekend, so this week has been purposefully quieter for me. I scheduled large chunks of time to catch up on my rest, read, go to the beach with the family, “do lunch” several times in Plymouth, and spend time with a few friends. We also had dinner company several times this week which is always fun and we celebrated my daughter, Emily’s 21st birthday with outings and shopping and lunch and good cake. It was just such an enjoyable week.

This week, we’re back to our normal pace–driving kids to work, play dates, errands, mentoring two younger women, getting ready for another homeschooling year–  but I feel refreshed and up to whatever God calls me to do.

Today, I thought I’d share a few pics from our week and a few links to resources that might refresh and encourage you.

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A little blurry from my iPhone but...

A little blurry from my iPhone but…

Beautiful beach at low tide. The kids love wading in the 12" skim of water and it's perfect for a toddler.

Beautiful beach at low tide. The kids love wading in the 12″ skim of water and it’s perfect for a toddler.

Delish appetizer at Anna's Harborside in Plymouth.

Delish appetizer at Anna’s Harborside.

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Really enjoying this book. Love reading about Muller’s prayer life.

My hydrangea tree is in full bloom so my mantle will always have blooms. :)

My hydrangea tree is in full bloom so my mantle will always have blooms. :)

Have you read Delighted in God, the story of George Muller? He is famous for ministering for years and never taking a salary, but trusted God to provide for his needs through prayer.

“For George Muller, putting Biblical prayer principles into practice resulted not only in spectacular answers, but also a growth in an attractive personal holiness. Those who knew him spoke of a ‘smile which so habitually lit up his eyes and played over his features that he left its impress on the lines of his face’. And although he relished a joy which was wholesome and free from malice, nobody was inclined to engage in idle chatter in his presence. They sensed he walked with God.”

I was greatly encouraged to see the ever-important tool of Christian hospitality used to influence the life, ministry, and ideals of George Muller.  In Muller’s early years, as he was still figuring out what God wanted for him to do, he attended a church meeting and was greatly moved by one of the preachers. He said that he didn’t agree with everything the minister said, but he was struck with his earnestness. After the church service, he inquired about the pastor, and the pastor invited him to stay with him for ten days in his home. Mueller recorded, “Through the instrumentality of his brother the Lord bestowed a great blessing upon me, for which I shall have cause to thank Him throughout eternity.” It is said that this man’s 10 day hospitality influenced and shaped Mueller’s ministry.

I Thessalonians 2 talks about Paul’s ministry to the Thessalonians how he had the gospel in the forefront of his mind as he “was among them”, and how he modeled the way to live by his gentle, non-demanding demeanor that wasn’t out for self-glory, and how he was ready to not only share the gospel message, “our own selves.” 

I don’t know about you, but the women who have influenced me the most are the ones who spent time with me and talked through issues and life with me.

If you really desire to disciple anyone, it can’t be from an arms length distance. It’s not when you’re “not busy” or when it’s “convenient.” You don’t talk “at them.” It’s side-by-side, walking through life, giving of your time, so they can see your actions, reactions, traditions, lifestyle, and demeanor. And obviously, a godly lifestyle is the great qualifier for being an effective mentor. Someone who is full of great opinions or strong preferences but who lacks a godly testimony is not helping the cause of Christ. They’re actually making it look bad.

I know I’ve said this before, but your home is the perfect place to minister for the gospel and to encourage younger women to persevere and trust God. It’s one of the most underused tools in the church today and I was blessed to see how influential it was in the life of young George Muller.

Other links you might enjoy::

20 Things Every Married Woman Needs to Know via Joy Forney

This video from Dare for More Ministries on How to Deal with personal attacks.

Stop Saying “I Feel Like”

How Maintainers, Not Innovators, make the world turn.

To Spiritually Float is to Dangerously Drift

That’s about it. Have a great weekend. Let me know what articles you enjoyed and share them with us on our Facebook page or in the comments.

*Post contains Amazon Affiliate Links

 

 

Four Ways to Thrive Spiritually

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Keep an eye on your own heart.

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

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

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

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

Thoughts on love as my daughter gets married

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

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

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

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

But love is pretty simple.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jen then contrasted love with hate:

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

 

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

You tell her to live out the Golden Rule.

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

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

But that’s not it at all.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Be proactive with kindness.

Do the thing you’d love done to you.

Matthew Henry says this:

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

And Calvin says this:

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

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

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

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

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

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