Thursday, February 27, 2014

Like Toddlers in the Kitchen

Frequently when I'm cooking the boys play with kitchen utensils. (A whisk or a big plastic spoon, not knives!) One day they were waving them around in the air as only little boys do and Micah lost his balance, fell against the wall, and lightly tapped Kevin with his whisk. I can assure you that it did not hurt but Kevin put up a howl like someone was pulling his toes off! I told him that Micah didn't mean to do it and he needed to be nice; he did not looked convinced. 

Having children teaches me so much. How often do we act just like toddlers? Someone- thoughtlessly, accidentally- says something that hurts our feelings or that we disagree with. Maybe they don't use as much tact and discretion as we would like. But instead of responding graciously we put up a howl just like Kevin. People are thoughtless. Granted there are some that mean to hurt you. But mostly it's accidental, especially among family and friends and church members. 

photo courtesy of stuart miles/

What if we learned to overlook those little things? We don't have to turn them into big things. We don't have to tell our friend what happened or what so-and-so said. We don't have to think about all the things they could have possibly meant by that comment. Often we even find offense where there is none. Maybe they really just meant that they don't let their kids watch a lot of tv. Did they say, "We think parents who let their kids watch a lot of tv are bad, stupid, and abusive." Did they really say those words? They probably don't care how much tv your kids watch. 

What if we learned to respond graciously to the big things? Maybe that person did offend you on purpose. Maybe they criticized. Maybe they gave overbearing advice because they believe you are doing something wrong. Do we have to make a big deal about it? No, we don't. Francie Taylor teaches a concept from Proverbs that she calls POAT: "pass over a transgression." (Proverbs 11:19) We can tell God everything about it: what they said, how it made us feel, what we wish we could have said back. And then we can pray for a forgiving spirit in our heart, grace for our lives, and discretion in our words. We don't have to tell anybody else. We don't have to bite back. We don't have to keep a list in our head of all the people who have hurt us. 

Let's put our feelings back in our hearts instead of on our sleeves. Let's pour out our hearts to God and be silent toward man (Psalm 62:8). We really don't have to behave like toddlers in the kitchen. Good thing God is a longsuffering God or He might get as exasperated with us as I do with my children sometimes. 

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Managing Your Emotions: Daniel's Example

Daniel is one of my favorite Bible characters! (And Joseph. I never pick the easy ones..oh wait, there aren't any. Shouldn't that tell us something about life?) In my chronological reading of the Bible- which I'm thoroughly enjoying by the way; I will definitely do it again- I just finished reading Daniel. As I was reading, God really spoke to my heart. 

photo courtesy of david castillo dominici/

Sometimes I get discouraged about how I can be a good testimony to others when I often feel so crazy. Let's admit it, ladies. We women can feel crazy. It's not just me. Every woman I know will admit to feeling less than spectacular on more days than not. We can go from high to low and back to high again in just one hour!  It takes a lot of praying and practice but I generally don't act crazy. My husband will testify to this and he's the best judge. But I frequently feel less than top-notch (you know, those days when you wake up and everything feels right?) and I always felt that it must hinder my testimony. It must make me a bad Christian.

I am changing my mind about that. My feelings don't matter as much as it seems they do. 

Back to Daniel:
-Daniel was taken from his family, home, and God's promised land. He left all that was dear to him and most of the people were probably killed.  (1:1-6)
-He was taken to a place where no one cared particularly about him (at least at first) and everything was different. He was a slave, a prisoner. (1:3-7)
-He was surrounded by a heathen, ungodly people who did not share his faith. (1:2)
-He was persecuted for his character and his faith. (6:4-8)
-He bore mental and emotional burdens from the visions that God gave him. (7:28; 8:27)

I do not see in any of that how Daniel could have "felt" good. Or how his feelings were upbeat and enthusiastic.  Instead I find that he probably had to give it all to God every day and beseech Him for help to obey instead of giving in to feelings. 

But how was the Daniel with all these feelings remembered? It's documented for us in chapter 6. 

He had an excellent spirit.  (6:3)
He was faithful. (6:4)
He loved God. (6:5)

There is hope for me! If Daniel can go through all of that and display an excellent spirit to others; if he can continue being faithful in spite of how he felt; if he can be remembered for his love for God, so can I. Daniel was not special on his own. Neither am I. But God lives in me. The same God that Daniel served. God makes the difference! In spite of hormonal mood swings, cabin fever, metabolic mommy concerns, and all the other difficulties of life, God can change my heart.  

We are not to wait on good feelings or perfect circumstances to serve God. Serve now. Obey now. Let God do the work. 

And let's not forget that some of the reason Daniel could stand like this before others is because he was on his knees before God multiple times a day. (6:10) And..something that makes my heart smile...a few chapters later Daniel is referred to by an angel as "much beloved." (9:23; 10:11, 19)

Those three things in Daniel life caused several kings to issue decrees about the abilities and faithfulness of Daniel's God. May He get all the glory! (4:34-37; 6:25-28) They also caused Daniel to get promoted in his work. God blesses obedience! (2:48; 5:29)

God gave Daniel the wisdom He needed for the work He put in front of him. He will do the same for me! 

Friday, February 21, 2014

Remember the Heart

But the Lord said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for the man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart.  1 Samuel 16:7
I try to pay extra attention to what I wear. I don't spend a lot of money on clothes but I want to dress well. Not expensively or really trendy but feminine and appropriate. Why? Because people notice our appearance and we are here to be a light to people. I know this verse is normally used to remind us that God cares more about our heart than the outside but I think we need the reminder that people can't see our heart. They see our appearance.

photo courtesy of winnond/

We all say something with our appearance. It reflects what we believe about ourselves. I don't want people to think "Oh, Christians are really frumpy" or "Wow, how can she dress like that and be a Christian." Now I realize I won't please everyone and that's ok. I'm not trying to but I do want to be the best representative I can be. 

But you know what? While my appearance might be one of the first things noticed I don't want it to be the most remembered. My heart should be so overflowing with God's love that they remember that. I want them to think Lisa...the enthusiastic one. Lisa...the one that loves her husband and kids. Lisa...the one that apologizes. Lisa...the one that loves Jesus. If they never think to mention what I wear- great! Let's be remembered for our "yes's."

Again, we need a balance. We need to remember to care for our appearance because we are here to witness to people. But we also need to remember that our heart is the most important to God and to others once they know us. 

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Fall in Love with Jesus First

We all know I love goals. Working toward achieving something is a great part of life; but it's not all of it. As Emily Freeman says, I want my life to be a lyric, not a list. I don't want to just check off my activities and go on like that's enough. It's not. I want to really live.  I want a joyful life. 

Joy is found in Christ. It is only by falling in love with Jesus that I will experience the fullness of life. That I will find joy in this work I have been given. That I will live with purpose and not simply check off my list. 

photo courtesy of christian meyn/

Psalm 16:11 says, "Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore." God's presence is where joy is. God is with me all the time. Do I realize it? 

Are you growing weary and cold? Are you overwhelmed by your list, you work, your rhythm? Fall in love with Jesus. Spend time with Him reading His Word. Ask Him to renew your love for Him. Talk to Him. Listen to sermons. Fill your home and mind with music that reflects Jesus.  Jesus is joy. Finding Jesus is the only way to experience life. 

2 Peter 1:3 says, "According as His divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue." 

God has given everything we need for life. To really live. 
God has given everything we need for godliness. To really live with a purpose. 

I may not know what your purpose is but I do know how you can find it. We find everything we need for life and godliness through knowing God. That is my one true goal this year. I want to know God. I don't want to read my Bible because it's a habit, although that's good. I don't want to read my Bible so I can mentally cross it off my list. I want to read my Bible to know God- to understand His heart. I want to learn to care about what He cares about. 

But learning His Word is just the first step. I also need to learn what He says about my work. The end of that verse in 2 Peter tells us that God has called us to something. Glory can be defined as "honor or excellence." I want excellence in my work. I want to pursue being better at what I do. Virtue is also excellence or moral goodness. God cares about how I do my work so He left plenty of instructions

Fortunately, He left more than instructions; He also left divine power. He "hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness." The next verse notes that we are given "exceeding great and precious promises."  And I find that, again, through knowing God. The Bible is full of instructions on marriage, mothering, homemaking, soul-winning, working at church, being a friend, etc. It's all in there if I will just fall in love with Jesus and learn it. 

God wants my heart. I want to give it to Him. He doesn't need my list as much as He needs me to listen. 

Fall in love with Jesus every morning. Be a woman of the Word and then get up and be a woman of your work. 

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Royalty and Crowns

We live about an hour and a half from Dollywood. Dollywood is one of my favorite places and when we were in college we forked out the money for season passes so that we could make a couple of trips each year. It's not really cheap but I would go at least once a month if I could. It's beautiful and has a great family atmosphere. They are expanding their limited number of rollercoasters.  Dollywood also has a lot of small shops. (Did we mention rollercoasters?)

As you amble around the park you can browse through stores and catch snippets of shows all at the same time. A small Christian bookstore used to be tucked away in a line of shops. It's not there now but I remember exactly what it looked like. It was open on one side and I always wondered how they kept the books dry in bad weather. It was there that I met Elizabeth George. 

Not in person, mind you, although that would have been awesome. They had rows of her books on one side of the shelf. She was on the first authors to influence my life in a spiritual way once I was an adult. She wrote passionately about loving God and using your work to glorify Him. She talked about how to love your husband, train your children, quiet your tongue.  I bought a small stack of her books for four or five dollars apiece over the few years of college. I still have them and I've been rereading "Beautiful in God's Eyes." It's a book based on Proverbs 31 and she's unpacking some of the truth of that Scripture and how it applies to my life. 

In one of the last chapters she's talking about how a wife becomes praiseworthy to her husband. As I was contemplating being a crown to my husband this morning I realized something. 

If I'm going to be a crown to my husband (Pro. 12:4), I must be royalty myself (I Pet. 2:9). A crown that really honors can't be made of cheap materials. No one wants a crown of cardboard or sticks. No one wants a crown colored with crayons or thrown together in thirty minutes (unless your babies make it). They want a piece of art. Something lovingly designed with hard work and creativity. 

photo courtesy of digitalart/

If I am going to be a crown to my husband, I must be royalty myself. I can't suddenly be something for him that I'm not on my own. My love for God must mold all aspects of my life to be a virtuous woman. Who I am matters. I can't base my worth on my position as a wife or mom or anything else I do. I will stand before God as Lisa. 

Yes, there are very practical aspects to being a crown to my husband. 
- How do I keep my home? Does it discourage him when he comes home? Does he dread bringing people here or having people drop by? Is he comfortable? 
- How do I train our children? Can he enjoy them? Do they obey? 
- How do I look? Can he be proud to be seen with me? Does my dress reflect his position? 
- How do I manage our money? Do I stretch what we have? Do I thank him for his hard work and provision? 
- How do I love God? Can he expect me to be serving God or does he always wonder if he'll have to pull me along into God's will? 
- How do I spend my free time? Am I growing as a person? Do I use it to bless my family?  

But in the end it comes down to me. I must be royalty myself. My motivation must be a heart that pleases God. When I am seeking God's approval with my life then I will be a crown to my husband. 

Thursday, February 13, 2014

A Love for the Ordinary

I have a decided love for the ordinary. You know, the daily routine of dishes, laundry, preschool, cooking. The "let's go sit on the potty" and "let's read some books." It's beautiful and grating and memorable. Beautiful because I am living out my dream. I'm here with my babies. I have an amazing husband to love. We live in home that is perfect for us. Grating because, well, have you ever stayed home with small children and attempted to teach them about life? And memorable because the every day is what will be remembered. The daily work and play. We spend it all and then sleep to get up and do it over again. Slightly different to be sure but mostly the same. 

There's a vision in my heart for the work I've been given. I want to focus on the things that matter and leave the other stuff behind. I want to build a deep, enduring love with my husband and enjoy life with him. I want to teach my kids to love God, love to learn, and love to work. I want them to know that I love them. I want to take care of my home and use it to show God's love to my family and to others. I want to develop my musical talents and even blog about life and share what I'm learning. I want to serve at church and win souls to Christ. I want to be a different kind of woman. 

Big dreams? Perhaps not. No one notices most of what I do. In fact, I'm sometimes looked down on for giving my life for this work. This "fabulously rare life work" as Edith Schaeffer says. I'll never see my name in lights or get applauded. But I'm doing a work that matters in the hope of crowns to cast at Jesus' feet when I see Him one day. 

So what will I do?  I'll cook the soup and read to Micah. I'll get Kevin up and snuggle him. I'll iron some work clothes for my hubby. We'll eat dinner and clean the kitchen. Play with the boys. Put them in bed and work on the budget. Practice the keyboard, watch a Star Trek, and go to bed so we can get up and do it all over again.

I have a decided love for the ordinary. Not the days that stand out when others see my life. The normal, everyday that make up the majority of our lives. And it's my job to add the luster and the joy. To make it beautiful and homey. God gave me an important task and I can't neglect it without damage to these dear people that I love. 

I have a decided love for the ordinary. I have a decided love for today. 

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

A Marriage Story

I love steak nachos at our local Mexican restaurant. I rarely order them anymore because Kevin usually shares my food and he eats dairy free. That wonderful, creamy, white cheese is not dairy free. But my husband surprised me the other night. 

I hadn't been feeling that great last Sunday. Justin had been doing quite a few of the things I normally do and holding things together so that I could rest and take it easy. I causally mentioned after church that I was hungry and then he went to finish some work and I went to get the boys. 

When we left church that night he took a wrong turn and headed toward town. He parked at El Dorados and ran inside. He came back out with a to-go plate of steak nachos. Yes, I am married to a wonderful, wonderful man. 

Sometimes your marriage can grow when you need help, not just when you're doing the helping. My love for my husband grows tremendously on days like that. I realize how much he loves me and the caliber of man that I married. He's a great man. He doesn't ask for acclaim for the work he does for our family every day. He doesn't ask to be noticed for the way he sacrifices or the choices he makes for our good. 

But sometimes it's hard for me to accept help and let him care for me. I can clothe this in noble statements like, "I prefer to take care of him."  But really, do I just not want to feel indebted? Do I feel like I have to contribute my part to be worth something? I think there's more truth in those statements than any sense of nobility. 

That man loves me. We are building a strong marriage by the grace of God. And it's ok if some days he gives more and other days I do. It's not a 50-50 deal. If it was, some days I don't keep up my part. And some days, he doesn't keep his. 

In marriage you have to give 100% regardless of what the other person is giving. And it will fluctuate. Some days- or weeks- you will give 100% and it seems like they are only contributing 30%. That's ok; you're not supposed to be keeping score.  The tides will turn. Maybe you're giving in the little things right now. But one day it might turn into the big things. It may mean moving far away to follow God's will. It could be a cancer diagnosis. 

You can't keep score in marriage. You must go into every day determined to give every part of yourself to your spouse. To hold nothing back even if there's no guarantee of receiving anything in return. You promised your everything to that man at the altar. Everything in the day to day life. Everything in the big wonderful or tragic events. 

I'm not here to reshape my husband into something different. I'm here to love him. To support him. To care for him. 

And to let him do those things for me. 

Friday, February 7, 2014

Encouragement for Tired Mamas

The job has been given to me to do. Therefore, it is a gift. Therefore, it is a privilege. Therefore, it is an offering I may make to God. Therefore, it is to be done gladly, if it is done for Him. Therefore, it is the route to sanctity. 
Here, not somewhere else, I may learn God's way. In this job, not in some other, God looks for faithfulness.  The discipline of this job is, in fact, the chisel God has chosen to shape me with--into the image of Christ.  
Thank you, Lord, for the work You have assigned me. I take it as your gift; I offer it back to you. With your help I will do it gladly, faithfully. I will trust you to make me holy.    Elisabeth Elliot

Mothering small children can be exhausting. It can also seem pointless. Some days you repeat the same cautions and instructions over and over. You can train repeatedly in the same thing. And some days it seems like nothing is working. There are no results. They aren't learning. 

So why discipline? Why train? Certainly not for results. There are days- week even- when there are none. It's a hard work.  So we discipline out of obedience. Train your children because God says it is your responsibility as the mama. 

I'm there, friends. Some days my discipline and training seems to have no results. There are thankfully other weeks when I can see the fruit of my persistence. But it's easy to be discouraged in the time when you feel overwhelmed by the challenge.  Pray for wisdom and strength. Step out of the room to calm down if you need to. Then roll up your sleeves and show them again. Calmly. Cheerfully. Love those children. Correct their sin. Enjoy your time with them. 

Don't discipline for the results or you'll quit when there aren't any. Train your children daily and you will reap the results. (Maybe even when you are out in public!) 
And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not. Galatians 6:9
Train and discipline out of obedience. Solely because God told you to. It's part of your work as a mother.  

Do your work well today, mamas. 

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Is Facebook Your Counsel?

Some most posts on Facebook really amuse me.  I especially love it when people poll their facebook friends for opinions. "How do you feel about carrying handguns?" "What do you believe about healthcare?" But my all time favorite are the parenting advice polls. 

"My kid is doing _______________." Two sentences of context. Then- bam!- what would you do??" 

Really? Maybe I'm just picky about who I take advice from but you don't know how these people really live! Sure you see their pictures (what they choose to show you, remember?) and hear their stories but you don't see their marriage, how they parents, or what they read. I have a fine set of friends but some of the advice I read on facebook is really ridiculous. I can't imagine that being my channel of counsel. And how do you decide which advice is best? You are going to get some really conflicting ideas. Do you just pick the person you like the best? Or the advice that seems easiest? 

Here's an idea. Instead of polling your facebook friends and getting advice from people with completely different worldviews than what you have why not find yourself a godly mentor? Someone who has walked in the path before you and has kept serving God? (They don't need a title. They just have to be willing to answer a question or two occasionally.)

Wait. You don't have one? You don't know of anybody that could do this? Are you absolutely certain about that? 

What about your pastor's wife? Or your mom? Or your mother-in-law? A godly older lady at church who has grandchildren now probably has some great advice on priorities when raising children.  Do you have a medical question? Ask that nurse or a doctor or a physician's assistant.  Need some homemaking skills? Ask that lady at church who runs a nice home.  Don't wait to find someone who "has it all" before you ask for advice. Ask people about their strengths if you need help in those areas. 

Sometimes the problem isn't that there's not anyone to ask.  The problem is that we don't want to ask. "Because we have it handled. We don't need help. We know what we are doing. Please don't insult us by pretending we don't have it together." That's pride. Pride will keep you from growing if it can keep you from asking.  I want to come right out and say, I don't have it together. I need help. I need advice and counsel. If you can beat down that pride you have a fighting chance at learning something. 

I jokingly told Justin I was going to poll my facebook friends about a parenting issue and he laughed and said, "Go for it; that should be really funny." And I think that's all it would have been- a source of humor. I want to picky about who I take advice from. I want to be consistent with my life and that's easier with consistent advice. 

Now I realize that sometimes there's really not someone to give godly counsel. Then I would suggest books. I have received life-changing techniques and suggestions from books. There's so much wisdom out there if we just tap into it.

But it's probably not on Facebook. Give that a rest and post pictures of your dog, ok? 

photo courtesy of pixomar/

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

How To Get Your Work Done

I'm part of a mother's group on Facebook and last week a mom asked a question about how she could get all of her work done.  Her third baby is six months old and getting more into a routine and she wants to be in one too. I didn't comment but I did think about my answer. How do I get my work done? 

You have work to do so you must have a plan. Work will not be accomplished well (or at all) if it's done haphazardly.

(Warning! Before you can work your plan you must decide your priorities. What are YOU going to do? You can't work a job, have a spotless house, cook gourmet meals, homeschool your four children, volunteer ten hours a week, and spend three hours a day developing a talent or working on a hobby. You aren't a superwoman. Decide what you are going to do and go do it.)

photo courtesy of michal marcol/

1. Have a rhythm. Life with small children can be unpredictable and it's frustrating to put times to activities and always feel like you are off your plan. So I don't put times down. We don't have a schedule; we have a rhythm. And by rhythm I mean an order to our work. We have a specific "time" to unload the dishwasher, do our Bible time, read, do that day's cleaning, fold a load of laundry, pick up the toys, play a game, iron. If you have an idea of what you need to do you can learn to move from one activity to the next smoothly. 

2. Change it up! I'm not talking about your rhythm here; I mean your days. Don't follow the same rhythm every single day of your week. One day every two weeks we go grocery shopping. One morning every two weeks we have a playdate with some friends. Every Friday we go to Toddler Time. But have a plan. Don't just go gallivanting around because you're bored. If you have work to do at home you have to be at home to do it. There's enough to do to not be bored. 

Schedule your trips away from home. Do you have to go to the laundrymat? Take games and books for your kids. Run all your errands on the same day. Be home for naptime!!! 

3. Schedule your work. Know what cleaning you need to do each day. We're back to cleaning a little every day since we started preschool. I really enjoyed cleaning once a week but it took a whole day out of our lineup for school.  Don't try to clean every corner of every room every week. Divide up your work and then do it and don't sweat the rest. Say, "Oh, the furniture's dusty. That's ok; it gets dusted on Wednesday." Then move on to cooking dinner or reading to your kids or spending time with your husband. 

4. Have a designated break. When your kids are napping or in quiet time take a short break. Read a book, browse facebook, whatever. Just sit and be for a few minutes. But monitor that carefully and don't waste your whole time. 

5. Stop wasting time throughout the day. The biggest thing I did to help myself was to take facebook off my iPad. I don't need to look at it every time I walk through the kitchen. Don't browse pinterest or twitter or instagram or your email or read a few blogs. When you are working, work. Save the extras for a designated time. Or don't do it at all. Don't sit down to watch tv or read magazines or talk on the phone if you are supposed to be playing, cooking, or cleaning. 

6. Follow the plan. You know what you need to do and what day you need to do it. Now do it! Now obviously some flexibility is required here. Your husband can have an emergency, one of the kids- or you!- may get sick, it may be 40 below outside. Then swap that day's rhythm with another day's and move on. (And sometimes you just stay in pj's, read books, and watch VeggieTales. But that should be a rare exception.) For most regular days, work your plan. Even if you don't feel like it.  

7. Experiment. Change the way you are doing the cleaning. Change what you are doing during the kid's snacktime. Change the order of your morning work. Different things will work best for you and your family. But try them for long enough to find out. Don't try it for two days and say it doesn't work. I cleaned my house on Mondays for six months before I decided that a little every day really did work better for us. 

8. Break up the work. Don't expect to work on cleaning for 45 minutes with no interruptions. Do 15 minutes of cleaning and then 20 minutes or playing/reading/preschool, then swap the laundry and let them play while you work a little more. Then change diapers and read and play a game with them. Then teach them something and let them help you work. Then let them play while you work. Life with small children works better in little intervals. And you will be less frustrated if you expect to only work for a short amount of time. 

9. Be willing to change. As your children's ages change, as your husband's schedule changes, as your health changes, adapt your rhythm. I find our rhythm changes at least every few months as our children get older. About the time you really get in a groove you will need to change something. 

10. Embrace Reality. You can't do everything. Your house won't be spotless with a meticulous preschool running at home with gourmet meals on the table but you can have a real, lovely life.  You may simply need to lower your expectation and find out what's really important for your family. 

There's a lot of work for a stay-at-home mom to do. There's a lot of work for anybody that's doing anything in life. But you can learn to do it. And then you can learn to do it well. 

What helps you get your work done?