Thursday, July 24, 2014

Hard Days Can Be Good Days

Take a second and describe your day yesterday.  What was it like? Would you call it good or bad? What about the rest of this week? Do you normally have good or bad days? 

Of course there are bad days. Deaths, sorrows, NICU stays, crushing disappointments, and dissolved relationships all happen. But I'm not talking about those days. I'm talking about normal days and the mishaps of life that happen to us all. We are setting ourselves up for failure and disappointment by calling those "bad days."  We do have hard days; they just aren't necessarily bad. 


photo courtesy of mr lightman/freedigitalphotos.net

Hard days can also be good days. The two adjectives are not mutually exclusive. Easy days are coasting day. You're not growing, or learning, or depending on God. While nice every once in a while, a life of easy days would be quite pointless. Around here, we've had a string of good, hard days lately. Days when God has blessed us with health, purpose, and family. Days when I'm doing what I know God meant for me to be doing. But they are also frustrating days of training small children. Days of leaning on God for strength for the right attitude, tone, words, wisdom. 

What do I need in these good, hard days? A break? Starbucks? A shopping spree? Not really. None of those would have any lasting effect. They wouldn't teach my children. They wouldn't change my heart. They wouldn't strengthen our family. Instead I've gone to what I always need: God. 

I've been clinging to a promise from the Bible. I've found that God gives me verses that impact my day-to-day life and strengthen me through different seasons of life. Right now it's Hebrews 13:5-6. 
Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me.
There is a lot in these verses but here's what's sticking out to me right now. God is my helper. That is amazing when you think about it! God is helping me. He cares so much about my daily life that He is ready to help me train my children, manage my time, love my family. I can claim that promise boldly. I can't exhaust Him by asking for help too many times in one day. He never grows weary of me or my need for help. God sees me in the vastness of the universe and is waiting to help me. God will never leave me. A human helper would have times when they wouldn't be available. God is available around the clock. I never wake Him up talking to Him. He's never surprised or shocked by the situation. He will never leave when He sees my mess. 


-That means when I'm struggling for wisdom and patience in training my children, God is my helper. 
-When my husband isn't coming home for lunch but eats out for work, God is my helper. 
-When I'm fearful about pregnancy and delivery, God is my helper. 
-When I'm overcome with the needs of little people, God is my helper. 
-When I feel judged and condemned by others, God is my helper. 

Hard days can be training small children- not an easy task. Hard days can be rejoicing with others over an opportunity you wanted. Hard days can be loving your family selflessly when you want to demand your rights. Hard days can be lots of different things, depending on your spot in life. You know what makes your days hard. But those hard days can be good days. Good days of accomplishing the work God has given you for that day. Good days of seeing God work in your heart. Good days of knowing that you are investing in the future and in eternity even if you can't see the results now. Good days of obedience to what Christ wants. 

Good, hard days also help you grown.  Growing isn't easy. But in a few weeks, months, or years you will be able to look back and realize that the things that make these days hard are still present. But they don't make life hard anymore. You've learned and grown and you know how to handle those things. The beginning stages of learning can be very uncomfortable. Take heart and hold on! 

I don't need more money, time, resources, or breaks. God is my portion. Often what we need isn't more of whatever we think it is. We need God. We need to let Him use those circumstances that He is in control of to change our hearts to honor Him. Let's not look for an easier life. Instead let's look to God for the help we need for this life. 

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Dealing with Questions

I love to ask questions. "Why does electricity work that way?" "Why do you add that chord there when you play that song?" "What does that do?" "Who invented that?" Questions are good. Questions are how you learn. 

Questions can also be uncomfortable. Questions can force you to go beyond what you already know and seek for answers. Questions can make you look at things you just accepted by habit before. Questions can be hard. There are some questions that do not have easy answers. 

The world is filled with information; I never expected to stop learning and growing. There are many fields of study of particular interest to me, not to mention the rest of them! But at some point I did expect to have fewer philosophical questions. Instead I've found the opposite to be true. 

photo courtesy of stuart miles/freedigitalphotos.net

I can look back over my life, especially the last five or so years, and see where I'm learning and growing. But I'm pretty sure that I have more questions now than ever where I can't just Google the answers. Questions like, "what does it mean to be a woman?" "How does that look lived in my marriage, my mothering, my attitude toward myself?" "What will truly matter in eternity?" "How should I prioritize the few moments of free time that I have?" "How do I be the best me and yet conform to the standard?" "Do I even have to conform to the standard?" (I never see where God calls the Christian to conformation, only transformation. God made us all unique people. Yet, of course, the Bible is our guideline so there should be similarities as we all follow the same Book. See what I mean?)

You may have totally different questions. There are stages in life and circumstances that are hard to understand. The questions can change- and do change- from season to season. 

So what can we do? I can't quit everything until I have answers. I can't put all of my work on hold while I search for answers. 

Here's some practical thoughts for dealing with questions of life. 

1. Continue with your work. Do the things that you know God has handed to you to the best of your ability. God isn't waiting until we are perfectly mature and knowledgeable to use us. If He were, He would have no one to use. Don't freak out and throw all things to the wind. Continue. 

2. Surrender your heart to God. It's easy to think that we know what the answer is going to be and instead of searching for what God says about it we are searching for something to validate how we feel. Be looking for Jesus above all. 

3. Immerse yourself in the Bible. The Bible has all the answers. That's where you are going to find what God thinks and says about all of life. Allow God to transform your life through your time in the Bible. 

4. Pray. Ask God for help in understanding. Commit yourself to serving Him regardless of when answers come or what they look like. Don't obsess about your questions. Have a time you take them to God and move on with your day. 

5. Learn. Remember, questions are an opportunity to grow and learn. Ask questions of Godly people. Read books, blogs, articles on the subject. Be sure to always ask, "Is this what the Bible really says?" Often we say things that are cultural standards or habit when it's not exactly what the Bible says. As you are learning let the Bible remain your authority. 

Can I guarantee you'll find answers? No, I can't. But I do know that the Bible says that "Evil men understand not judgment: but they that seek the Lord understand all things." (Proverbs 28:5)

There will always be questions. Questions can make you uncomfortable but remain committed to following the truth while you search out answers. We have the Answer as our Father. And for the things that we can't know here on earth we can have faith that God is sovereign and working for His glory and our good. 

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Back to the Fundamentals

I used to play volleyball in college. (I LOVE volleyball.) Maybe you don't know anything about volleyball but the whole concept is three "hits" back over the net. You want to pass, set, and hit. Hitting is the exciting one. But passing is the one that we spent most of our time practicing. Passing is the fundamental skill of volleyball. If you can't pass you can't set and you can't hit. If you can't pass, you can't score. 

photo courtesy of amfroey/freedigitalphotos.net

I also play the piano. Want to know what I do almost every day when I sit down to practice? Scales and arpeggios. Is it boring? Yeah, kinda. But they make an incredible difference! 

No matter how advanced you get or how skilled you are, you never move past needing fundamentals. What are the fundamentals of your life? They may look different from mine but you need them. What do you need to do to pursue excellence in your work? 

Maybe you need to extend graciousness to your husband when he comes home in the evening even though you've felt more like a zookeeper than anything else that day. Maybe you need to get back to reading your Bible every day and pursuing a relationship with Christ. Maybe you need to spend more time teaching your children obedience and about Christ. Maybe you need a basic cleaning schedule that just keeps the house decent. Maybe you need to pick that job at your workplace that you don't like but needs to be done to make the work flow smoother. 

Maybe you've never thought of what the fundamentals of your life are. What roles do you have? What do you need to do in order to be faithful and do your best? 

What are some of the fundamentals of your life? How are you going to refocus on the things that matter? Or what are the fundamentals that you're excelling at?  Share in the comments and let me know what you're working on! 

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Work, Art, and Identity

We've been on vacation! We spent a wonderful two days in Hilton Head with the marvelous ocean and while I even thought of blog post topics while we were gone (and took notes; like I would remember otherwise) I did not do any writing. Too busy splashing in the ocean to write. But I did want to share some thoughts that have been inhabiting my mind lately. 



First some thoughts on work. Our generation is afraid of hard work. Run to your work and give it your best. Mike Rowe has some great thoughts on work with his S.W.E.A.T. pledge.  What if we showed up every day to do our work that way? 

Secondly, what about your art? Right now, my art is definitely piano and writing. I would like to expand that later but that's where it sits now. A friend of mine had a quote on Twitter that I loved. He said, "The most important thing about art is to do the work. If you sit down every day & try, you art will get better.  Are you devoting any time to your art? 

And third, where are you finding your identity? I've been searching this one out for a few weeks and will definitely be sharing a blog post about it soon. I want to find my identity in Christ and not what I do or what anybody else thinks. Cary Schmidt has an excellent sermon series titled "Thrive" that I've been listening to and it has really expanded what I was already thinking. I believe everyone would benefit from listening to these sermons. (The series is titled Thrive and you can scroll down through their feed to Thrive 1 and follow them all the way to the top.)

As important as I think work and art are I can't find my identity in either of those. It can only come from Christ. What if the work or the art was taken from me? What if it doesn't achieve what I hope? It cannot be the source of my identity. Only Christ. 

What have you been puzzling over lately? Are you finding any answers? 

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Raising Children: The Root of the Problems

Sometimes I find I'm having some problems with my kids. Whether it's a behavioral problem or an attitude issue or just a logistics question, I often run into roadblocks on my mothering road. 
The rod and reproof give wisdom: but a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame. Proverbs 29:15
I've found the root of these problems always come from one of two areas: something I'm doing or something I'm teaching (or not teaching!) the children.  A briefer way to say it would be to say that the problem is always me.



-Often I'm in a rut with logistics questions. How am I going to get "this" done? The answer is there but I don't want to change what's comfortable. It's also possible that I need to teach my children a new skill to either allow them to help or to engage themselves constructively while I complete a task. Asking questions is a great help here. Find a mom with older (or more) children and ask what she does. (Remember to find someone who is trying to follow God with her life. Be picky who you take advice from.)

-The attitude problem pops up more than I like to admit. And more often than not, this problem is with me. I've noticed that the boys will mirror my attitudes, good and bad. They respond in kind to my tone and actions. This is proving to be a great training ground for me.  It's a slow process so have patience. How long does it take you to change your attitude? Don't expect more than that from your children.  

We also get to choose how we view life circumstances. Choose to have a long-term viewpoint. For example, I have rather determined children, but I refuse to look at that as a bad thing. I believe that in twenty years when my boys are grown it will take a large dose of determination to serve God and I simply want to direct it the right way now. 

-The behavioral problem is usually something I'm tolerating. Now I run into some special points with Micah here but overall the concept is the same. Some kids are going to need more time to learn than others but they are teachable. Kids need to learn how to behave: to look people in the face and answer them when they are spoken to, to wait their turn. 



I've learned that after some prayer and thought I can generally prepare a plan of attack (discipline and training- the verse does say "rod and reproof." Don't just tell them what's wrong; teach them what's right.) for dealing with behavioral problems that proves pretty effective. These plans are a lot of work but my children deserve my effort in their training.  Justin and I were joking just last week that it would be a lot easier to complain about my kids on Facebook than actually do the work training them. Modern wisdom, right? 

The important thing to realize is that I can't hold my children responsible for their training. I have to be the adult. I am the one that will resolve the issues. It is not fair to expect my children to shoulder that responsibility at such young ages even though we already talk about what pleases God and why we do things a certain way. 

I always get to choose my attitude. I get to model that for my children and help them learn to choose the attitudes that honor God. My attitude needs to be one of responsibility. These children- and this home- are my direct responsibility and I need to be willing to search myself to correct problems that arise. 


What about you? Have you narrowed down the roots of the problems at your house? Have you noticed these same, or similar, patterns in your mothering?

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Lessons from Kate

Kate Middleton, Duchess of Cambridge, is one of my favorite "famous" people. Now I don't follow her or what she does for two simple reasons: I don't have time and it doesn't matter. But there are quite a few things I admire about her. 

She's lovely, ladylike, and poised. She has a lot of qualifications put upon her based on her position. She had  more "freedom" when she was as an average person and the Queen didn't get to help name her baby. She could wear what she wanted, say what she wanted, and do what she wanted. Now everything she does is a reflection on the royal family, not just an outlet of herself.  But she has graciously responded to the responsibilities of stepping into the role of future queen. 


photo source: google images

(There's one overwhelming reason that I'm glad I'm not famous: paparazzi. I don't want people trying to take my picture, make up stories about me, or splash me into everyone's view on a daily basis. Now the British government does a pretty good job of protecting the royals but there are still pictures of Kate everywhere.)

You know what most people do with those pictures? Criticize. They are wanting to criticize how she looks, what she wears, and how she parents. Although she must have days when she wants to hide away somewhere because people are always watching, she doesn't. She gets up, fixes up, and goes out to her work.  She dresses and acts with the goal of representing the royal family well. 

There are several lessons we can learn from Kate. I don't know her personally (obviously) and I don't know what she believes but she sets a good example. 

1. I represent God and His family.  Everything I do reflects on Him and I need to be aware of that as I make my choices. I hope I respond as graciously to that truth as Kate seems to have responded to her new role as royalty.  How I dress, how I act, how I teach my children, how I treat my husband all reflect my relationship with Jesus. I am here as God's ambassador and I should be more concerned about how I'm representing Him than how I feel about something. Somehow it really helps to see an earthly example of this, doesn't it? Can we not give up something for the good of the greater? We will never regret it in heaven. 
Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God.  2 Corinthians 5:20
2. There will always be critics. No matter how beautiful, talented, intelligent, or rich you are people are waiting to criticize.  We can't expect anything less because they did the same to Jesus. The Pharisees were constantly watching Him with the intent of criticizing what He did. The world will always criticize; it does not matter what you do. They criticized Jesus and John the Baptist for doing the exact opposite things. You cannot base what you do in life on pleasing others; it's a futile effort. You can't let the criticism of others stop you or make you go hide in your closet either. You will miss all of life that way. 
For John the Baptist came neither eating bread nor drinking wine; and ye say, He hath a devil. The Son of man is come eating and drinking; and ye say, Behold a gluttonous man, and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners! But wisdom is justified of all of her children. Luke 7:33-35
Live life to honor God. Die to self and step into that role of ambassador even when it's uncomfortable. Follow God's will even when others are going to criticize. 

What are some ways you make Bible truths more relevant to your own life? 

Also, am I the only one who would like to meet famous people in a normal setting- like my dinner table- so I could see what they are really like? 

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Years of Deep Roots

The years of raising little ones can seem never-ending; occasionally it even feels like life is passing you by while you change diapers, cook dinner, and wash little hands. The accomplishments seem small even though you know they aren't. There just isn't much recognition in teaching letters, manners, and good habits. But recognition doesn't       determine the value of how your time is spent. 

These are not wasted years, even for you, if you spend them correctly. These are years spent learning and leaning into God. I have learned more about God and how He changes my life since I've had children than in all the years beforehand. That knowledge benefits my life, my marriage, my family, and my church now. Who knows the impact it will continue to have as life goes on. I cannot imagine the scope of God's plan for me. Or for you.



photo courtesy of tiverylucky/freedigitalphotos.net

Maybe you have big dreams and they seem impossible to realize. That's right now, in this season of life. Instead of looking at the big dreams, the impressive branches, focus now on growing deep roots. How?


1. Spend time with Jesus. Every single day is best. I know I need more of Jesus every day to face the work in front of me. Read and study your Bible. Pray. Memorize Scripture. Get to know Jesus. Even if it's in fifteen minute increments during naptime or after the kids have fallen asleep. There is no prerequisite set in the Bible. Just grow in Jesus. Practice obeying. Learn as much as you can about how Jesus did things, what the Bible says about different topics, how the Bible applies to your life, and then apply it to your life. Allow God to transform you through your time in the Word. 

This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success. Joshua 1:8
2. Be faithful. Be faithful to the work God has given you. God has given you this work.  This Amy Carmichael quote really convicts me when I start to feel unnoticed: "If by doing some work which the undiscerning consider not spiritual work I can best help others, and I inwardly rebel, thinking it is the spiritual for which I crave, when in truth it is the interesting and exciting, then I know nothing of Calvary love." Be faithful to your marriage, to training and loving your children, to church and your service there. It matters that you are trustworthy. Those little things that you are being faithful to might not seem impressive but they matter.
He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much. Luke 16:10
3. Learn. Be constantly learning about the things relevant to your gifts and callings. Read books about marriage, motherhood, homemaking, education, cooking, writing, speaking, or whatever you are interested in. Practice your instrument even if it's just a few minutes a day. Those minutes add up. Set aside thirty minutes a few times a week to sew, craft, create, decorate, build, or whatever you are involved in. This will keep your interest up and help you as a person who spends most of her time with small children. Don't be concerned about how much time you can spend on learning, just learn something every day.
The heart of the prudent getteth knowledge; and the ear of the wise seeketh knowledge. Proverbs 18:15
4. Pursue excellence. The habits you develop now will either help or hinder you throughout the rest of your life regardless of what you are doing. Strive to be a woman of excellence in all that you do. (See Proverbs 17:27 also.) It matters, not just what you do, but how you do it. This motherhood job is powerful; learn to do it with excellence. And do whatever else God places before you with excellence too.
The righteous is more excellent than his neighbour; but the way of the wicked seduceth him. Proverbs 12:26
Don't be frustrated with the limits of having small children. Limits make all art better.  Those people you are raising are your greatest life work. Focus on putting down the deepest roots that you can during these years when time is valuable and the work is exhaustive. Then, and only then, will you have the support system to hold you up while you grow those branches.