Thursday, July 30, 2015

Valuing the Familiar

I love Psalm 23. Micah can already quote it and when Kevin can talk a little better I know he'll be able to as well. I want these boys to hide God's Word in their hearts while they are little. It's so easy to memorize and learn when you are that young and I want to take advantage of that with things that will have an eternal influence. Psalm 23 is chock-full of goodness and inspiration and comfort and a kick-in-the-pants. And yet, I often consider it overused. There is nothing wrong with the familiar. 

Psalm 23 brings comfort to my heart. God is my shepherd; He provides for what I need. God goes with me so I don't need to fear. God prepares places of rest and stillness for me. 

Philippians 4:13 is another great verse. God will give me the strength and ability for whatever He calls me to. This verse even gets used by non-believers as a positive thinking mantra. That's not how it's intended. Paul was speaking about living with contentment in whatever path of life God placed him. Some of Paul's places were hard places and God gave him the strength he needed.   

It's easy to overlook the familiar: to not see the rich truth in familiar verses because we know them. We just skim over them instead of letting them seep into our hearts. We don't see the value of the work we do daily because it is so normal- so routine- in our minds. We see only the potty-training accidents and sibling fights instead of the training ground of our children's minds and souls. We don't see the wisdom of the people that God has placed in our lives because they are familiar. We know what they ate for breakfast and the last time they apologized for saying something they shouldn't have. 

My husband always reminds me that an expert is someone who does the same thing somewhere else. It's the element of mystery, the lack of familiarity, that makes that person an expert. We don't see them day after day. We read a resume and hear of their greatest accomplishment and see those near us taking out the trash and losing their temper. People are just people. No matter how accomplished or talented or wise we are all flawed. 

1. Realize the value of those near to you. They know you. They know your life and they can speak truth into it. No, they aren't perfect and no one else is either. 

2. Set your sights on the familiar. Those Bible verses that comfort you. The work that's before you every day. The floor that needs swept again. Glory in that routine and the work God is doing in your heart through it. 

3. Live where you are. Serve Jesus where you are and you'll serve Jesus wherever you are. A new place or situation only seems new in your mind.  Once you are there it becomes your routine, your normal, and you lose that motivation of a "dream" place or job. It's still work. It's still hard. 

We are a society ever chasing the new, the thrilling. We pursue work that fulfills us instead of doing what's before us with gusto. We leave marriages for someone more exciting and rip our families apart in the process. We church hop, job hop, city hop so that life is always exciting and new instead of knuckling down and growing in the places God has for us. Is it thrilling? Not always. Birth is the big moment of having a baby; after that it's just day after day of love and training and care. But that's where your character is forged. That's where the results are accomplished. That's where the work is done. 

On the days when it seems like nothing is changing, when weeks drag on through the same problems and issues, don't be discouraged. You'll look back in a year and see how far God has brought you and be amazed. 

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

What We Need Instead of Girl Power

Even though we're mostly ignoring the myriad of other issues I have with girl power songs, I'm going to state a few of them here. Number one, why on earth are we always almost naked in the music videos? Are we really still presenting ourselves as sex objects? Feminists, we're moving backward here. And number two, what about boy power? I have a husband and three boys and they are all pretty rad. Ok, moving on. 

Of course there are people with a prejudice toward women. I've met them. You've met them. But I've also met people with a prejudice toward boys, white people, black people, skinny people, fat people, short people, and tall people. Get the idea? You can't live by these people. You aren't defined by them. You don't have to prove anything to them. 

If we know what God thinks we don't have to care about what anyone else thinks. God thinks enough of me to send His Son to die for me. (John 3:16) So I don't really care if you don't like me. Or if you think I'm "just a girl." The ground at the cross is level. "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus." Galatians 3:28

Girl power is only a shadow of confidence when we could build our lives on what God thinks about us. Here are two things we need instead. 

1. We need to know Jesus. 

I hate to break the news to our generation of special butterflies, but we're not special. There's over 7 billion people alive on the earth right now and you're probably not that awesome. I have nothing to offer on my own. John 15:5 says, "for without me (Jesus) ye can do nothing." 

I don't have anything awesome to offer my husband, children, friends, or neighbors just in myself. I can't even consistently get out of bed with a good attitude on my own. But the Bible tells me that I have the same Spirit in me that raised Jesus from the dead (Romans 8:11). 

It's not me; it's Jesus. Ephesians 3:20, "Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us," If I want to have something to offer anyone, it's won't be in my own specialness. It will be Jesus. Because I'm not smart or wise or spectacular. 

I can understand why girl power songs appeal to unsaved women. We all need something to believe in, a confidence to build our lives on.  But I'd rather believe in Jesus than in myself. 

2. We need to do the work. 

A lioness doesn't announce to the jungle that she's going to roar and wait until everyone is paying attention. She just roars, and trust me, everyone else notices. If you know Jesus and you do the work, people will notice. You will stand out because that's not average. 

Am I saying there's not a place for societal change? Of course not- Rosa Parks, for example But we would accomplish more collectively if we each did the work in front of us. Forget platforms and names and do the best work you possibly can where ever God has put you. Single or married. Kids or no kids. Working, stay-at-home, work-at-home. 

There's a great story about a man who bought a field and it was covered with rocks and brambles. The man spent years clearing it out in spare hours around work. When he had  a flourishing garden, a neighbor stopped by and complimented him on the work that he and God had done. The man replied, "You should have seen it when only God had it." 

Of course that's tongue-in-cheek but it proves the point. You have to work. You want to be recognized for special contributions? Make special contributions. And parading around in your underwear is not a special contribution. It's not enough to proclaim you are a champion. 

See a need? Fill it. Find work that needs done? Do it. Offer up yourself to better your neighbor. Give when you aren't getting anything. Serve the unlovely. 1 Timothy 5:10 says this about the type of woman we want to be: "Well reported of for good works; if she have brought up children, if she have lodged strangers, if she have washed the saints' feet, if she have relieved the afflicted, if she have diligently followed every good work." 

This is America. If you want to succeed, you can. Even if you're a woman. Even if you meet someone who tells you otherwise. You are not less because someone else says so. We should spend less time talking about how awesome we (think we) are and more time doing the work God has given us. 
Most men will proclaim every one his own goodness: but a faithful man who can find? Proverbs 20:6
Follow our Savior's example. We become great through service. "And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant: Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many." (Matthew 20:27-28) We don't need girl power; we need God's power. 

Stop worrying about roaring or running the world. And find some better music. 
“Do all the good you can by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can.”

Monday, July 27, 2015

When to Work: What to Work On

I have some well-laid times to work on the blog. I have three small boys and don't want to work on it when they are awake. I want to spend that time with them, training, loving, laughing, and gritting my teeth occasionally (#reallife). 

I know when to work if the work is doing to be done. I try to keep it to two blocks of time: quiet time and before the boys gets up. The morning work fluctuates depending on what time I go to bed and when the boys get up. But quiet time? It's like gold. I look forward to that hour of mostly quiet (one boy doesn't nap) when I can write and draw and blog. 

Having the work times isn't enough though. I have to have a plan for my work. Otherwise I waste the time deciding what to do first or surfing social media. 

I have a list of tasks to accomplish during quiet time. These include writing 500 words, drawing my daily sketch, posting to Instagram, responding to social media comments, and updating our budget. If I work in the morning I have more flexibility; I'm working on making that a habit. I also need to edit blog posts and plan for the podcast but neither of those are done every day. 

That's not a short list of work for around an hour and half every day. But it is a specific list. 

This is also true in homeschooling. We are just barely getting started but I need a plan (even if we don't always follow it). I get frustrated trying to think of ideas while the boys are doing who-knows-what waiting. That doesn't work. I have to know what I need to do. 

That's why I meal plan. I can cook and I enjoy it. But if I don't know what I'm making or at least have a list of meals to choose from (which is really what my meal plan turns into) then I just stare into the cabinets and the refrigerator and think "there's nothing here to cook." It doesn't work for me. 

That's why I have a cleaning schedule. So that I know what needs to be done every day to keep the house in order. I know we need to make beds, start laundry, and empty the dishwasher before breakfast. I know that we need to pick up toys before we move on to the next thing. I couldn't work here in the living room at quiet time if we left the toys everywhere. The clutter and chaos would drive me crazy. 

Having a time to work is only half the battle. You have to know what you need to do. 

Know what to do. Know when to do it. Then do the work. 

Do you have settled times to work on different tasks? How do you keep yourself on track? 

Thursday, July 23, 2015

How to Have a Life That Matters

I read quite a bit about work, creativity, and business. Over and over consistency and habit are touted as the secret weapons. It's not that you do amazing work every day. It's that you show up to do the work every day. 

You show up and write even if it's bad. You show up every morning to teach your kids even if you feel like pulling your hair out. You show up every day because you committed to the life God has given you. 

I know duty isn't a sexy word. It's not a buzz word everyone is throwing around. Adventure is. Fame is. But duty? Habit? Routine?  Nobody wants to talk about those. Those are the words, however boring they may sound, that build a solid life. 

This attitude carries over to all of life. Duty is what makes me clean up an accident again. Grace is what helps me do it with a good attitude.  Routine is what allows me to move seamlessly from one activity to another so that we accomplish our work and have fun. Habit is what makes me do the hard things; it's simply time to do them. 

Maybe duty means you show up on time or empty those trashcans even if it's "not your job." Habit allows you to move quickly through your email or finish a set of tasks. Routine enables you to get more done because you aren't spending your time deciding what to do next. 

Duty is what keeps me disciplining my children and lovingly teaching them when it seems to have no effect. Maybe I'm not sure it will ever help but I know that I've been called by God Himself. It's not a job I can pass off. It's not a job I can ignore. However unlovely it may seem at the time- and diapers, accidents, and still more dishes are often unlovely- the job is mine to do and do well. 

It's not how worthy we consider the activity. It's how worthy God is of our best effort. He didn't call us to a life of excitement, although life is often exciting. He didn't call us to a life of adventure, although the Christian life shines with adventure. God calls us to be faithful, to do our duty, just as Jesus did even when His duty led Him to the cross. 

Suddenly our work seems like no big deal, doesn't it? Perspective is always the issue. Do your duty. Show up every day. Show up to change the diapers, sweep the floor, empty the trashcans. Show up to input the data, answer the phone, count the money. 

Live out the less exciting words and you'll have a life that matters. 

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Back to the Basics: Bible Study

The best way for me to pay attention to what I'm reading in the Bible is to sit with pen in hand and pray my way through the verses. I can mark words, write in other references, and even jot down notes on paper or my phone to remember things. It's really easy to tell when I'm not doing these things. Reading tends to get a little stale. Or I start to fall back asleep while I'm reading.  

It's better to read one chapter and spend time with Jesus than to doze through four chapters.  I want to read to learn more about Jesus. I want to read to know the Bible inside out. And I have to be awake to do that. Unfortunately I can't learn through osmosis. 

I need the Bible. How else am I going to know who God is or what He wants me to do? I'm going back to the basics when it comes to my Bible study. I seem to have to do that every few months. Focus on the Word. Pray throughout my day. I want to be talking to Jesus in the little moments instead of carrying on those conversations in my head. You know the ones; you have them too. 

Here's what I'm changing. 

1. Quality over quantity. I'd rather read one chapter (or even one verse!) and learn something from it than to read four or ten chapters just to say I did it. I'll sit up with my pen and pray through my Bible. 

2. Motivation. I want to spend time with God. I know this life is too big for me to do on my own. My  motivation isn't to check quiet time off my list. My motivation isn't to seem like a super Christian. My  motivation isn't even to get things from God. My motivation is to spend time with my Savior. 

3. Mental energy. I want to use my mental energy well. I don't want to waste it rehearsing conversations I think I'm going to have; I want to pray about them instead. I don't want to go throughout my day thinking about how impressive the way I do my work is or is not. I want to pray over my work and over my family and for others too. 

4. Write it down. I need to write it down. If I'm learning I'm writing. Even if it's just scribbling down ideas and references in my Bible margins. (I'm not holding everyone to that. It's just something I know to be true for myself.)

So here's to the basics. Today. Tomorrow. The rest of my life. 

What helps you in Bible study? 

Monday, July 20, 2015

How Social Media Affects Work

I love social media. Instagram is my favorite (@delighting_days) and I'm really enjoying the facebook page that I recently started for the blog. But I've learned something valuable. Social media has to be my last priority when I sit down to work. 

Social media has the potential to kill my blog. And not only my blog. Social media could kill all my dreams for all my projects, current and future. How, you ask?  Could a sociopath find us on the internet and murder us in our sleep? Ok, it's a possibility, but probably not. 

If I spend time on social media that I need to spend on other things, I'm killing something. Social media could kill my blog if I spend my time scrolling instead of writing or editing blog posts. If I don't spend my writing time, well, writing, then I'm wasting that time. Social media is constantly updated. But you have to live life not just look at everyone else's. 

If I spend my time scrolling you know what I'm not doing? I'm not writing. I'm not drawing. I'm not practicing the piano. I'm not editing blog posts or collaborating on projects. That means I'm not blogging. I'm not adding words to what I've written this year (from January-June I've written over 96,000 words). I'm not actually living; I'm just watching other people live. 

If I spend my time scrolling instead of working on my skills, then I've killed my dreams for future work because I won't be any better than I am now. I am handing over my options for the future. 

To step outside of work, if I'm scrolling I'm not kissing my husband, playing ball with my boys, or kissing my baby's face. I'm not making dinner, talking to friends, or cleaning the bathroom counter. There are very few things you can do while you are scrolling through social media and even fewer that you can do well at the same time. 

Am I against social media? Of course not! But they can take over. How often do you look at social media during the day? Are you checking out everyone else's lives when you should be checked into your own life? That's when you have a problem. 

There's a give and take with everything. I want to know what I'm giving up when I take up social media one more time. I'm having to draw lines again. When you start new things it's easy to be a little infatuated. Who's looking at that facebook post? What was that message about? But I have times to check social media and I need to stick with them. They are best for our family. 

Maybe you wonder how I blog or draw with three young kids? I'm very careful with my time. I'll go into that more next week. If I waste all my time on social media, it's gone. I don't have all day to do these things. 

Time is precious. How do you safeguard yours? 

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Two Sides of a Balanced Faith

The best books are the ones you think about when you're washing the dishes. Reading Own Your Life by Sally Clarkson (who is one of my favorite authors) prompted me to state on Instagram that I wanted to live a life of passionate obedience: pursuing the work God has put before me with enthusiasm and faithfulness. 

I don't want to give grudging obedience. 1 John 5:3 says, "and his commandments are not grievous."  I don't want to live with a "I have to do this or God will strike me down" attitude. I know people that do and it's not an attractive lifestyle. Nothing about that draws others to Jesus. 

Neither do I want enthusiasm but no substance: a hearer but not a doer. James 1:23-24 says, "For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a  glass: For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was." It's not the thought that counts; it's what you do. 

They need to both go together- the faithfulness with the enthusiasm, the passion with the obedience. The part that shows up every single morning to fulfill my assignment from God. The part that does it out of love for my Savior. 

That's the kind of Christian I want to be. That's the kind of woman I want to be, the kind of wife I want to be, the kind of mother I want to be. 

I want to be a woman of passionate obedience. I want to love God and love others. I want to be thrilled with the work He is doing in my life. But I want to have substance too; I don't want to be fluff. I want to obey. I want to continue through the hard things. I want to stand on the Word and not my emotions. 

I want to be the enthusiastic wife.  You know, the girlfriend-that's-obsessed-with-you kind. The wife that lingers with passionate kisses and dreams for the future. One that rejoices in life and family. But also a wife with substance. A woman that's a true partner in life: faithful in marriage, with money, to the responsibilities of living. A wife that reflects well on Christ and her husband. 

I want to be that kind of mom. The fun "yes" mom. A mom that plays in the sprinkler, goes to the park, has tickle wars on the couch, and reads books over and over. But also a mom that expects obedience and excellence. A mom that keeps praying and working when she's not really sure what to do or how to do it. 

I want that passionate obedience to spill over into every area of my life.Whether I'm blogging, working at church, or waiting at the doctor's office my attitude will be apparent (and so will my work ethic). 

Passionate obedience even at three in the afternoon when I really just want to nap. 

Passionate obedience. Not just obedience. Not just passion. But both together.