Tuesday, May 26, 2015

The Point of My Prayers

So many of my motherhood prayers are about getting over my problems. "Help me train this child out of this behavior."  "Help this baby sleep all night!" "Help them recover from this illness quickly." I want to get out of or over my problems. But I'm learning that problems are meant to be worked through. Maybe my prayers are supposed to be about getting through my problems and learning from them. Not necessarily being “better” when they are finished but being more like Jesus. More like Christ because of the patience needed to help this child in this difficult area. More like Christ from leaning on Him when I lack sleep. More like Christ because my child has a rare disease.
Perhaps God’s goal isn’t to relieve all my problems. Maybe it’s to use my problems to shape my heart, to tuck me in close to Him and help me to learn Him. Instead of taking my problems away He wants to carry them for me.
We want life to be easy. Life isn’t supposed to be easy; it’s supposed to be effective. Effective at showing me my sin and changing my outlook. Effective at removing the things that hold me back from service or teaching me to persevere through problems. We hardly learn that from getting over our problems, do we? We don't learn from ease; we learn from hardship. 
Think about Joseph for a few minutes. He is one of my favorite Bible characters. He prospered wherever he was because he stayed close to God. He was a slave; he was a prisoner; he was the second-in-command in Egypt. What he did or where he was didn't matter. He just served God. God didn’t take away his problems. He did take him through them and prepared him for the work ahead.
What about Moses? Did you know when God sent Moses to Pharaoh Moses knew that Pharaoh wouldn’t listen to him? God used the resistance of Pharaoh (and the corresponding trial of Moses) to show His power. Moses was taken through problems instead of out of them his whole life.
And Mary? The mother that all Jewish girls wanted to be? Scorned by society, gossiped about, judged- that was just how it was. There was no changing it. She had to carry that her whole life all because she was the type of woman God would chose to bear the Messiah.
It’s easy in the frustration of the moment to cry out “help this child get it!” There’s probably not anything wrong with that. We do, after all, want the child to “get it.” But maybe deeper than that there should be a desire in our hearts to be changed. “Use this in my life and in this child’s life to help us see you. To help us become more like you. To draw us closer together.”
It’s easy to feel frustrated in our prayers. It’s not because God isn’t listening. It’s because our desired outcome is different than His. He’s changing us to be like Jesus. We just want to be comfortable. Transformation is rarely comfortable or easy but it is desirable.  

Thursday, May 21, 2015

The Type of Woman a Man Needs

In all the hubbub about 50 Shades of Grey (which seems to have died down now that it's not new- what a short attention span society has) a friend of mine posted on Instagram, "Don't be a woman who needs a man; be the woman a man needs." I've yet to find anything in Scripture that contradicts that. It's said that a wife is a good thing (Proverbs 18:22). It's said that it's not good for man to be alone (Genesis 2:18). Nothing is ever said the opposite way. 

"Don't be a woman who needs a man."  Now woman was made for man (1 Corinthians 11:9). There is a natural desire in women to want a man. But women need to be complete in God first. When we make our focus anything besides God we end up with something warped and cracked and broken. 

In our quest for women's submission or women's rights we have forgotten something. Women aren't to submit to men- just to their husbands. Then they join in the ranks of those that submit to their pastor and their boss or whoever by reason of position. We are told about our differing roles in the church but that doesn't make us less than men, simply different. 

A woman who finds her confidence in God is a scary thing. She can walk in submission to her husband as an insecure woman cannot. She's not challenged by God's order of things or her husband's strengths. A woman who finds her confidence in God can bless her husband because she isn't concerned with what others think about them or their family. A woman who finds her confidence in God is able to bless other women because she isn't intimidated by their gifts and talents. 

"Be the kind of woman a man needs." What kind of woman does man need? Society has all sorts of strange answers for that question. But a man doesn't need a sexy woman, a high-society woman, a career woman, a trophy wife. Marriage goes so much deeper than the skin. The Bible tells us what kind of woman a man needs.

1. A virtuous woman. Proverbs 12:4, 31:10. A virtuous woman is prized and rare. Virtue is sometimes described as excellence, moral goodness, femininity (or masculinity in males). In our androgynous society this type of woman stands out. Do you embrace your femininity and your calling as a woman? You do not have to be like a man to do great things. God made you a woman. Embrace that. Take to God your troubles and difficulties about womanhood and watch Him work in your life as He has worked in mine. 

2. A gracious woman. Proverbs 11:16. She retains honor just like the Proverbs 31 woman is clothed in honor. There is honor in being a woman. It's an honor that we can take from ourselves when we act in ways that are unbecoming. There is plenty to be said about grace and being gracious. It is a characteristic of God. It shows itself in kindness (Ephesians 2:7) Grace accepts others and makes them feel at home (Ephesians 1:6). Gracious words come from wisdom (Ecclesiastes 10:12). Wisdom is a hallmark of the Proverbs 31 woman's speech. A gracious woman is an abounding woman (Ephesians 1:8) When we are not gracious- when we are careless with others, judgmental, unwelcoming, loose with our words- we lose part of the honor of being a woman. 

3. A meek and quiet woman. 1 Peter 3:4. It may surprise you what this verse actually means. After all Moses was the meekest man, remember? It doesn't mean a doormouse woman who sits around with no opinion or viewpoints and never talks. It means a steady woman. Even, predictable in emotions, not given to extremes. It means she doesn't incite riot or offense. She's not stirring up trouble. She's calm inside and toward others. We can be that type of lady. 

There is so much more said about women in the Bible. We'll be unpacking more later but I want to end with one thought. 

You know what kind of woman it's never said that a man needs? 

A beautiful, size 2 woman. 

Certainly there are mentions of women in the Bible being beautiful. Sarah was beautiful. Rachel, Esther, and Abigail were called beautiful. But that's about it. It's never said for a man to look for a beautiful wife. It's never commanded for a woman to strive to be beautiful- actually it's said to matter very little (Proverbs 31:30). I'm not advocating neglecting our appearance. I think it's important to God, ourselves, and our husbands; but it's not most important. It's not even on the radar of importance. I would like to do less judging of others based on their outside and look on the inside instead. 

Being a woman is a privilege. Therefore, like all privileges, it has responsibilities. Let's be the kind of woman that God sets out in His Word. 

To me, a lady is not frilly, flouncy, flippant, frivolous, and fluff-brained, but she is gentle, she is gracious, she is godly, and she is giving. You and I have the gift of femininity...the more womanly we are, the more manly men will be and the more God is glorified. Be women, be only women, be real women in obedience to God. Elisabeth Elliot

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

But God

Mantras are a big thing lately. A "this is what I go to when things are going poorly or I feel bad to make myself feel better". We are full of affirmations and positivity and empowerment. Why? Because we are a weak people. Even those without Christ know that we need something bigger than ourselves. 

The problem is that we pick mantras that aren't true. Christians are just as guilty of this as nonbelievers. We don't pick mantras that say things like, "I'm a rotten sinner that deserves to go to hell but by God's grace I'm His child." Have you ever heard someone declare that to themselves while staring in the bathroom mirror? No? Me neither. We pick sayings like, "I'm beautiful." "I'm a great mom." "I am a terrific, talented individual." 

We exalt self instead of Christ. 

That makes sense when it's the world that's doing it but how sad when it's the Christians. The people who know Christ and what His Word says should be different. The Bible should penetrate our every thought and action. 

We're not good enough. All have sinned and come short of the glory of God. We're not good people. Our righteousness is as filthy rags. 

But God. That's the phrase that changes the world. "But God." We can fill in whatever part of our story and the changing point comes at "But God." God does the work. He makes the difference. It's not that we mustered up enough goodness to be different. We didn't save the day with our terrific abilities. We didn't swoop in and hurtle people toward their destiny with our mesmerizing words. 

But God. 

I was a sinner on my way to hell but God sent Jesus to die in my place so I could go to heaven. 
I was confused about how to live but God gave me a Bible to guide me. 
I was stinking up relationships but God gave me grace to act in a way that honored Him. 
I was wasting my life on frivolous things but God gave me purpose. 

Notice the common denominator? God did it. I didn't pump myself up until I could do something. I didn't tell myself lies about how great I am so that I could accomplish something. I can't do anything by myself (John 15:5). When I buy into the world's mantras I rob God of the glory that He deserves and take it for myself. The mantras are lies.  

Staring at ourselves and saying lovely things doesn't make them true. It doesn't make us good women or great moms or beautiful or skinny or anything else. While words have power it's not that kind of power. 

"But God" is where the story starts. "But God" is where His work happens in my life instead of my trying to do it on my own. "But God" is where He gets the glory for what He can do through His power. 

Thursday, May 14, 2015

How Having a Sovereign God Affects Our Emotions

All sorts of interesting things happen at the eye doctor. I find it even more intriguing because I can't see it from an outside viewpoint. So last time I finally asked a question I had wanted to ask for years. "Does that instrument actually touch my eye?" I usually chose to not think about it and simply sit there but this year I asked. The eye doctor looked at me for a few moments and then said, "Yes, it does. And I only told you that because you asked so calmly. If you had been freaking out 'DOES THAT TOUCH MY EYE??' I would have denied it all day long." 

That encounter cracked me up but it told me something: we don't do ourselves any favors freaking out. Out-of-control behavior doesn't benefit anyone. Of course there's the "hysterical female"  stereotype. You know, the one that says that women can't be calm. The one that says we have no choice but to yell, or sob uncontrollably, and be incapable of thinking rationally about anything in a crisis or when something doesn't go our way. 

I don't believe this has to be true. When Gabriel came to tell Mary that she was going to have Jesus you don't see her wringing her hands and yelling, "Oh my goodness! What does this mean? How am I going to explain this!!" Esther didn't get all hysterical when she found out Haman's evil plan. Ruth calmly went to Boaz to ask for his protection and marriage. Abigail followed a well-thought-out plan when she went to David to beg forgiveness for her evil husband Nabal. 

Our belief in a sovereign God that guides our lives and holds the universe and eternity in His hands is what calms our hearts. Esther knew that, as Mordecai said, she might have come into the kingdom for such a time as this. She knew that God was in control. He had a plan and she could trust Him. Jael didn't freak out when Sisera showed up at her tent. She won the victory for the whole nation. Deborah went boldly into battle because she knew that was God's will. 

This doesn't mean we won't feel strong emotions. We will find ourselves in situations where it would be natural to panic or succumb to fear and uncertainty. But we don't have to be guided by our feelings. Feelings take over when all we see in a situation is ourselves. 

We don't need some great confidence in ourselves and strong self-control. We simply need to see our lives in light of what really is. God holds everything in His hands. He knows everything. He controls everything. He is always at work in our lives. We can trust Him. 

That knowledge allows us to be calm during crisis. That knowledge allows us to control ourselves enough not to scream "IS THAT TOUCHING MY EYE!?" That knowledge gives us strength when life tries to topple us over. 

When we see beyond ourselves to a God that sustains and leads us, we can step into each  moment with inner strength. We can find comfort knowing that God is not surprised and He isn't confused. We rest in His certainty. 

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

7 Ways to Serve at Church

Church is important to our spiritual growth and service. I was jotting down some notes for this topic while I was fixing my hair one morning and then I read Hebrews 10 in my reading just a few minutes later. We are to be in church. No, there's no rule that lists Sunday School, Sunday morning, Sunday night, and Wednesday night but why are we going to miss that opportunity for growth? The verse says, "so much the more" as we see the day approaching. It's no time to slack off. 

You'll never find the perfect church. Churches are led by people and filled with people. You'll never find a church that you agree with 100%. As my pastor says, "I don't even always agree with myself!" That's not an excuse to not go. But is going the end? 

So you've found a church that believes and teaches the Bible. Now what? Do you just show up and put in your time? Sit on that pew and then leave when it's over? Let's put a little more into it than that, ok? I have a few ideas for you. 

1. Get on board with your pastor's vision. Yes, you know what it is. It spills over every time he stands in that pulpit to preach. Jump on board. Go the same direction.

2. Serve. Find work you can do and do it well. Sing in the choir. Work in the nursery. Play an instrument. Offer to cook breakfast/snacks for your Sunday School class. Clean the building. Serve in a ministry. 

3. Be faithful. People should be able to expect you to be there. Now if you're sick and germy, stay home. No one wants to get the flu from you. And obviously if you have sick kids, stay home with them. But other than that, be there. Every single time, show up in your place. 

4. Be prepared. Be ready to do your work. Practice your music. Arrive early for the nursery. Plan a time to clean. Prep materials for your Sunday school class, bus route, outside ministry. 

5. Nurture your own walk with God. Your pastor and your church are not responsible for your own spiritual life. You are. That's between you and God. Your pastor shouldn't need to pump you up every week. Dig deep in the Word on your own. 

6. Love others. Grow your relationships with fellow church members. Be kind to visitors. Show the love of Christ to the lost. Your pastor really cares about how people are treated when they attend your church but there's only so much he can do about how you behave. 

7. Be durable. You are going to get your feelings hurt; your church is filled with people. Don't let that stop you. Someone is going to let you down. That's ok. You're serving Jesus, not that person. Don't get all bent out of shape and quit. Stay till the end. 

Church is a wonderful blessing to you and you should be to the church as well. What helps you serve at church? 

Thursday, May 7, 2015

5 Ways to Learn to Cook

I love to cook. I even like to grocery shop. I love to see all the food in the stores. I love to handle the bags of flour and the heads of broccoli. I like to check for broken eggs before I put the carton in my buggy. (Yes, buggy. I'm from the south.) And is there anything better than putting food away and seeing your cabinets and fridge fill up and knowing that you have food for your family? 

This process definitely looks different now that I have three children than it did when I was a newlywed. It's not as calm as it used to be. It's not as fast as it used to be. A lot of the meals I cook aren't the same since our kids have dietary restrictions. 

A reader asked me how I am such a creative cook. That I can tell you: practice. I have cooked and cooked and cooked and cooked. I've cooked for two and I've cooked for forty. I love to cook because I know how to cook. I don't really enjoy doing things that I'm not very good at; that's frustrating instead of relaxing. Maybe you don't like cooking. Maybe you're not very good at cooking but you would like to learn. It's never too late.

I remember sitting on the counter and eating biscuit dough with my mamaw (I had to have been under three at the time). My mom started teaching me to cook when I was really young.  She taught me to grocery shop and plan meals and prep ingredients. I've been cooking for a long time to not be 30 yet. 

(See folks? Not old. But I'm going to rock it out when I am. None of this trying to be pretend to be 17. Who wants to be 17 again for real anyway? Sorry, end of the random side note.)

Maybe you didn't learn to cook when you were barely out of diapers and so you stare into your fridge every day at 5 waiting for something to jump out at you. It's not too late. (Ok, maybe it is for that day. Say it with me- "S-a-n-d-w-i-c-h.") There are some simple ways to get better at cooking. 

1. Ask. Ask your mom, your aunt, your sister-in-law. Ask your best friend, your neighbor with the delicious banana bread. Ask them to show you their specialty. Most people are more than willing to teach you how to make their favorite meal or at least pass along their favorite recipe! 

2. Watch. This has never been easier. Watch Food Network. Yes, call it education. Watch YouTube videos. (Although please find something better than this. Hilarious but not what you are trying to do. Unless your goal is to waste time watching YouTube videos because there are more than just that one. I won't link to them here because I don't want to be party to your YouTube extravaganza.)

3. Read. The Pioneer Woman's cookbooks are hilarious as well as mouth-watering. Read blogs. Joy the Baker has some great posts on cooking basics. You should start with this one on reading recipes.  And yes, you should always read the recipe BEFORE you start cooking. 

4. Collect. Get recipes! Start Pinterest boards. Start a cookbook collection. Write down the recipes your mom and your grandma always make. 

5. Practice. Pick one new recipe a week. Plan to cook four meals a week. You have to actually make something to get better at cooking. 

You can learn to plan meals based on the same ingredients. You can learn how to make an omelet, whip up a roux, and bake raspberry bars. You will learn what tastes good together, how to adapt a recipe for dietary needs, and how to make substitutions. But like with anything else, you have to start small. Try something new. Then try something new the next day. And if it flops-if you overcook the pasta or burn the bread- guess what? You can always order pizza or eat a sandwich. It is not the end of the world. 

Now go cook something. And post your pictures on Instagram and tag me in them so I can see them! (@delighting_days)

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Mind and Marriage

Sometimes thoughts pop into my mind and I let them slide away instead of grabbing onto them. One of the most noticeable one for me is the "what if Micah didn't have IVA? What if I could just feed him pizza when Justin's office goes to Pizza Hut for a birthday lunch? What if we could all grab an ice cream cone on the way home from church? Imagine if he could just eat the chicken nuggets!" That's the most thinking that I've ever done along that line because it does no good. All the thinking, wishing, hoping in the world won't change the fact that Micah has IVA. Why torture myself by even considering it? 

Now I don't expect that your five-year-old has IVA but don't write me off yet. Maybe you are considering what life would be like if you had married someone else. If you weren't attached to this person that shares your home.  If you had married someone who was your soulmate. Maybe you're not so sure about your choice anymore. Now unlike Micah's IVA you could change this but you shouldn't. 

The problems in your marriage are at least partly settled in you. If you leave this spouse and go on to another one you take all of those problems with you; you won't have solved anything. A different man might not have the same problems your husband does but he will have problems. He might not be any easier to live with. You can't know. 

You don't want to do that because God says not to. (Obviously I'm not talking about abuse or rampant, unrepented infidelity.) God commands that marriages are for a lifetime; He joined you together (Mark 10:7-9). You are in direct disobedience to God when you seek that route for something easier. Do the work where you are. 

Maybe you didn't marry your soulmate. Maybe none of us did. Can you find that topic in the Bible? I think our culture made it up because we love fairy tales. Maybe you think did marry your soulmate but your soulmate is still an imperfect person just like you are. Forget the soulmate nonsense. (I'm such a romantic, aren't I?)

Look at the person you married. That is your man. That is God's will for your life even if it wasn't the choice you should have made at the time. You can't go back and fix that but you can choose what you do now. Look at that man and choose him. Choose him with his problems. Choose him with those annoying habits. Choose to love him. Choose to accept him. 

When those thoughts come up that you should have married someone else, let them glance off your mind and go right on. Remind yourself (yes, I'm saying talk back to yourself. You know you're crazy already) that it's not true. You are where God wants you. God is doing something in your life and in your husband's life. Remind yourself that another person would not solve the problems but only create new ones. 

You can't control what thoughts pop up but you can control what you do with them. You don't have to constantly fantasize about being with someone else. You don't have to admire what other members of the opposite sex look like or what house you could live in. That brain is yours. You be in charge of it.