Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Reader Survey 2015

So I write and jabber here about twice a week (and occasionally more over the years) and you so graciously show up to read it. It's about time I gave you a chance to talk, don't you think?

Please take this ten-question survey so I can better understand you! Thanks bunches! (And no, it's not an April Fool's joke.)

Create your own user feedback survey

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

5 Reasons I Dress Modestly

Once upon a time I did a little informal poll. (And by that I mean I asked three friends the same question.)  I wanted to know why they tried to dress modestly. Two of the three said they didn't want the wrong attention of men. All three of these ladies are gorgeous ladies; I can see why men would find them attractive. But I was a little surprised at their motivation for how they dress. 

 Our ultimate motivation must always stem from a desire to please God.  I don't dress modestly for men because I'm not responsible for them. There are some men who have trained their eyes to move and their thoughts to redirect no matter how scantily clad the woman is. And then there are men who could lust after a nun. Nowhere in the Bible when Jesus addresses lust does He give men an out if a woman is immodest. It's never even mentioned. He simply mentions their responsibility for their thoughts because of their relationship with God. 

Now obviously we are not to be a stumblingblock (Romans 14:13). We are are not free to do whatever we want without thought of how it affects other people (1 Peter 2:16, 1 Corinthians 10:23). Don't worry, I'm going to briefly mention the men's issue again in a minute. I just want the primary motivation for godly dress to be right. 

The Bible actually only says a little about dressing modestly.  1 Timothy 2:9 uses the phrase "modest apparel." (We also know there is such a thing as immodest dress from Proverbs 7:10.) So if it's an arguable point, why is how I dress such a big deal? 

1. I am God's daughter, a royal child. If it would be inappropriate for Kate Middleton to dress certain ways, why not me? 
2. My body is sacred as the temple of God. He lives within me. 
3. I respect myself and want the respect, not the stares, of others. 
4. I believe that my worth is a lot more than what my body looks like. 
5. My nakedness is a gift to my husband, no one else. 

As in all things, when I obey God He blesses abundantly (that includes those men I said were responsible for themselves). Not only do I have the blessings of obedience but this almost-exclusively skirts-wearing girl (threw that in there, didn't I?) gets "ma'am-ed" a lot by men.  When I get second glances in public it's because someone is counting my kids (three, just three) not because my clothes barely cover my body.

Read this next statement closely. I don't care what you wear. I'm not trying to lay down my standards to be yours. Ok, we all good there? You dress the way you believe God would have you to.  I wear skirts because if I wore pants my motivation would be to look good in them. And I don't mean in a nice way. As my blogger friend Phylicia says, "How holy can I be?" should be the question. 

Since I mentioned that I wear skirts I might as well tell you why. I love that skirts cause others to assume that I'm a Christian (at least where I live). I've had people ask me where I went to church and if I was a Christian solely because I was wearing a skirt. 

I also love that skirts are distinctly feminine. In our increasingly androgynous society I want to embrace my femininity. I love being a woman and the gifts and callings that God only gives to women. 

I hope that wearing skirts draws little attention; it's not a major point to me. But at the same time I want the fact that I try to dress like a lady to bring honor to Christ.  I know that dressing like a lady draws attention; you've probably noticed that too. That's ok. I'm cool with what I'm doing. We're all going to get attention for something; why not make it something that points to Christ?

What motivates your dress? Share it with me in the comments! 

(The day I edited this post I read two other interesting blog posts about modesty and dress. You can read them here and here.)

Thursday, March 26, 2015

10 Tips for Finding and Using Your Creativity, Part 2

Using your creativity isn't as scary as it sounds, is it? Did you discover anything this past week about how you use your creativity? Be sure and share it with me if you did! Here are a few more ideas to use your skills right where you are. 

6. See real life. Really look at it. It's not just diapers and dishes. You are shaping a home. You are forming adults, even if they are quite tiny now. You are creating in your daily work with cooking, developing new recipes, baking. You're drawing with your kids and teaching them about colors and shapes. You are taking pictures of your kids and of your life. You are teaching them and that's creating all in itself. Homeschooling is great for creating in real life. You are developing a home environment that's going to shape your kids and your marriage. You are teaching about relationships and hopefully crafting good ones. 

All that real life stuff is creativity at work in the daily life. Recognize the value of what you are doing right now.  

7. Use what you have. Use what you know. You can teach someone else a skill you have. There are teenagers in your church that would love to learn something that you know how to do. There are other ladies who would like to develop a skill you have. Teach them. Use a talent you have at church. Sing, play an instrument, write, teach, welcome visitors. Make your art and decorate your home or give it as gifts. Blog and develop your writing skills and share knowledge. Don't overlook the value of what you have right now. You're not an expert? That's ok. You still know more than someone. 

8. Use free or cheap resources. Right now I am working on teaching myself how to use Photoshop. If I ever get a decent grasp on that I'm going to move on to Illustrator (where I might should have started to begin with). But you know how I'm doing that? YouTube. Almost everything is on YouTube for free. If you don't like the first resource you find, leave it. You don't have to finish that one. Search for one that makes more sense to you. You can buy books or check them out of the library. You can read blogs and listen to podcasts on the subjects you are interested in. Don't stop progress because you don't have the time or the money to go back to school. (Extra school is possibly unnecessary anyway.)

9. Limit the internet. That sounds silly since I told you to start a pinboard of inspiration and use YouTube to teach yourself things. But try it. Cut back on social media. Spend less time surfing the web. Be present with your people. Spend that time creating or reading. Don't worry about what other people are doing. Do your thing. Don't worry about what other people think about your thing either. It doesn't matter. 

There is time to be creative even in the busiest life. Even if you don't make money from it. That's not to say you never will but you won't have the skills if you don't invest your time wisely now. 

How do you fit creativity into your busy life? 

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Input = Output

I used to listen to country music (back before it was just rock or pop music with a different name). Matter of fact, there are still a *few* country songs that I like, but I don't listen to it anymore. Wanna know why? I don't like the person I am when I listen to it. Music has a profound influence on me and it probably does on you too. 

People say you are what you eat. I'm not sure about that but I do know you are what you think about. Proverbs 23:7 says, "For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he:" 

Someone posted on facebook that it didn't matter if you exposed yourself to filth as long as you knew it was fiction but that you shouldn't put up with that junk in real life. 

I completely disagree. Why? Because you are what you put in. Ever heard 'garbage in, garbage out'? It's true. The things you put in your mind and your heart directly influence the type of person you become. It's ok to be horrified by the atrocities that humans commit against other humans. Matter of fact, if you aren't you might should ask yourself why you aren't. What you have been doing to desensitize yourself?

The Bible tells us to "be renewed in the spirit of your mind" (Ephesians 4:23), to be "transformed by the renewing of your mind" (Romans 12:2), and that the "thoughts are the righteous are right" (Proverbs 12:5). 

The Bible even give us guidelines for what kinds of things to think about. God isn't trying to muddy the waters about how to live for Him and receive His blessings. Philippians 4:8 states, "Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things."  It does matter what we think about. 

Have you ever stopped to consider if what you are thinking matches these criteria? That gossip about another lady- is it true? Is it lovely? That movie- is it of a good report? That music- is it pure?   Just learning- and applying- that one verse would change the way we think and therefore change who we are. 

Your output tells the story. What are you getting out of your thoughts? It will show up in your words and in your worldview. That all stems from your heart. Is it reflecting the heart of a woman who loves God? If you don't like your output evaluate your input. 

1. Recognize the importance of your thoughts. The Bible has a lot more to say about your thoughts and your mind (we are to love God with all our mind, after all) than just the verses I've listed above. Do a little study for yourself; mark down what the Bible has to say. Psalm 19:14 is a great place to start. 

2. Evaluate your input. What are you listening to? Watching? Reading? Do those things pass the Philippians 4:8 test? Would your listen/watch/read those things with Jesus sitting on the couch beside you? 

3. Change your input. If you need to make changes, do it. You will never grow past your obedience. Once you get to the place where you know you need to change and you refuse to do it you are stunted right there. You must obey. Make the changes to your input that you need to. I didn't say it would be easy. I didn't say your friends would understand. But God always blesses obedience. 

Memorize some of these verses about your mind and spirit and quote them when you need to remember your purpose. Remind yourself that you don't want to be full of garbage so you can't put garbage in. Find some accountability if you need to.

It will take time but you can transform who you are by changing what you put in. 

Thursday, March 19, 2015

10 Tips for Finding and Using Your Creativity, Part 1

Sometimes as moms (or other busy ladies) it's hard to find time to nurture or express our creativity. This is actually something that's gotten easier as I've had more kids and I think I know why. I started recognizing the value of small moments and showing up to the do the work consistently, even if it's not every day. Here are a few ideas of how to develop creativity in busy seasons of life. 

1. Put in- You will never come up with anything inspiring if you don't put the right materials into your brain and life. Fill up with heaping doses of the Bible. You need your brain working on God's channel; that's the only way to get anywhere in life (Joshua 1:9) Then read good books. Yes, you can find time! I've read two Jane Austen novels and Great Expectations since the first of the year. All I've done is read for the few minutes I'm feeding the baby right before bed. The boys are watching Curious George and I read. Try it. I haven't read fiction in forever and I love the classics. I'm actually getting much more out of them now that I'm older. 

Then put in other good things: art, music. Find what you love and see it/ hear it often. Play music as you work through the day. There are tons of printable art you can put around your home. Save your money and order beautiful things for your walls. Start a pinterest board of things that inspire you. Follow people on Instagram that have beautiful feeds. You can't pour out of an empty vessel. 

2. Investigate. What do you love? What are you interested in doing? What's available for cheap or free? I know that I hate crafts that involve glue, tape, or scissors. I break out in hives just thinking about them. No, really, scrapbooking is just not my thing. Know yourself. What do you have on hand? You can draw with a mechanical pencil and an actual pencil set can be gotten for fairly cheap. What do you just love doing? You can start a blog or Instagram account for free and document your progress. My Instagram account is where I keep up with #52for2015. 

Learn what you like and don't try to force yourself into someone else's mold, no matter how cool they may seem. You'll never be comfortable growing when you are squishing yourself into a place you don't fit. Creativity is expressed in many different ways. What makes yours different is what makes you unique. 

3. Commit. Set aside the time to do the work. This will vary for each person and it doesn't have to be hours. This is what killed me for years. I thought if I couldn't devote an hour or more to it every single day there was no point in doing it. That's not true! Maybe you are a morning person and can get up and write for thirty minutes before your babies are up. Maybe you can work in photoshop for forty-five minutes after the kids are in bed. Maybe you can paint or take pictures for half an hour during nap time. Whatever your thing is, find a spot- at least once a week- and do it at that time every week. I have some things that I do every day (like writing) and I have other things that I only try to do once a week. You can't do all the things, but you can do some of them. Pick one and start there. 

4. Let go of guilt. You are not a bad mom for taking time to develop your talents/express your creativity/grow as an individual. I would argue that you are a better mom if you keep it in perspective. Obviously you can't quit mothering and quilt for five hours a day. But the reason you aren't doing these things is because you don't want them to take over. So let go of your guilt. Enjoy the time you spend on these things. You are going to be a better mom when you use the talents God gave you and you are showing your children an important lesson in being a steward of your talents. 

5. Remember seasons. You may just be laying the groundwork now. If you are busy with several small children (or grad school work or caring for a sick parent, etc, etc) this may not be the time to start a small business or start developing new skills. Pick one thing and do it consistently. Learn something every day. Grow. Develop. Whatever season of life you are in, it's short. The baby will start sleeping. You will finish school. One day the children will be grown. Don't put unrealistic expectations on yourself. 

Live where God put you. Ruth Simons said on Instagram that "you don't have to be blooming to be growing." You can be learning new things and developing new skills and no one else see the fruit for years. 

I'll be sharing a few more ideas next week but what can you start now? How do you work this out in your life?

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Grace in Motherhood

Grace in motherhood is often talked about. "We have grace. It's ok if you have a bad day, give yourself grace. It's ok if you yell at your kids, there's grace for your mistakes. It's ok if you neglect your husband, there is grace for your marriage." All of that is true to an extent. There is grace for our sin and our mistakes. But it doesn't make it right. It certainly doesn't mean we shouldn't try to do better. We serve because of God's love not to earn God's love.  

My favorite definitions of grace is that grace is "the desire and ability to do God's will." I often need the desire to do God's will. Sometimes I just don't feel like doing whatever it is I'm supposed to be doing. I don't feel like getting up with the baby or changing another diaper or cooking dinner or scrubbing the toilets. Often I don't feel like doing the real hard work in raising my babies. I don't want to consistently discipline. I don't want to interrupt myself to deal appropriately with the issue so instead I yell. Is there grace to forgive that? Of course. Does it make it right? Does it mean I shouldn't learn to do better? Of course not. 

There's an adjective in Psalms (113:9) that's used to describe mothers. It's "joyful." I haven't found another adjective in the Bible for mothers. God never intended mothers to drag through life barely making it (although we all have our days!). Are you a joyful mother? If God gives us the desire for His work and the ability to do it, we can be joyful. We just can't do it on our own. I don't want to show motherhood to the world as a drudgery. Of course it's exhausting but so are most things worth doing. I want to be doing a work worth doing- and doing it well. 

How can we find this grace for motherhood? 

1. Pray for the desire to be a godly mother. It starts there. You have to want it. If you don't even want to be a godly mother you have a heart problem. Ask God to give you the right desires. 

2. Ask for God's help. It's foolish to think we can do this by ourselves. And if we've been a mom for more than about five minutes we realize we can't do it by ourselves. I don't know anybody deluded enough to think that they can. 

3. Learn. Ask older moms. Read books on motherhood. Try, try again. 

4. Pick one thing to work on a time. Maybe you want to stop yelling. Then work on speaking in a calm voice. But more than that work on the irritation and the anger in your heart toward your children. Of course they sin. They disobey. They make messes. That's why God gave them you. You are His gift to them to help them. 

5. Do the work. God does the work but we must do our part too. Pray for a rescue but row to shore just the same. Get up today and feed, bathe, and love the children. Do the next thing in front of you. 

Grace is what we need. We need to desire to do God's will. And then we need God's help to actually do it. 

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Creative Homemaking- 3 Reasons Home Matters

When you read Genesis 1 and 2, you read about God the Creator. Creating isn't something that man came up with; it's how man got here. God created us with His words. And He didn't just create man. He also created a place for man to live. 

As a mom, I've brought three boys into the world. That's not enough for my job as mother. I need to create a place for this family. If I didn't have children I would still be responsible for making a place; all people need their own place. God did the same thing when He created the Garden of Eden. This work of homemaking is no little thing. It's the very next work that God does after creating Adam; He made him a place.

I realize that our world places little value on the family and home but we are to have God's priorities, not the world's. People need someone to care for them and to care for their place. God has appointed that role to women. (I'm not here to discuss working moms versus at-home moms or anything of the like. We all feel responsibility for our people and our place regardless of our other responsibilities.) 

When I read Genesis 2 I noticed three specific things about the place God created. 

1. It was beautiful and useful. (Genesis 2:9) There is research about how much better children do in ordered, structured environmentsOrder is a large part of beauty. Nothing is beautiful thrown into piles or covered with dirt. Disorder dulls usefulness too. I teach my children to pick up their toys but I do put all the books back on the bookshelves for one reason. The books are in the same order. The boys know where they are and they can go get the book they want. If we throw books onto the shelf no one will even use them.

I also want my home to be beautiful. I don't mean magazine-spread beautiful; that's not my area of expertise. Some people are gifted in that area and you can learn from them! I love to view their homes and get ideas. Work on making your home a place of comfort for your family. 

2. Man had a job. (Genesis 2:15) Everyone needs a place of belonging and usefulness. I was sick a few weeks ago and while my husband did an extraordinary job keeping things going it's not the same. And you know what? That makes me feel good; I want to be needed by my family. 

I can't do the work that my husband does for our family. Our boys cannot fill each other's place. Embrace your place in your family. (See Ephesians 5 and 6 for more on the family.) Give your children a place in the family. Teach them to work and contribute to the family good. I tell my kids all the time that we are a family and a team: that means we work together to help each other grow and learn. We need each other with all of our differences. 

3. There were clearly-defined rules. (Genesis 2:16-17). The rules weren't many; actually there was just one. Children will be overwhelmed by many rules but there should be rules. There were also clearly-stated consequences. Children should know the consequences and they should be applicable in every situation. Set your family rules and stand on them.  

(Let's please also note that God's rule was broken. We're insane if we expect our children to never break our rules. Apply the consequences and go on.)

The work of homemaking is a creating work. It's the first rule of people: have a place for them. We are creating an atmosphere in our homes that will affect our children for the rest of their lives. We are creating a home that will nurture or destroy our marriages. This creating work is important and it's up to us.