Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Encouragement and a Call to Obedience

Want to know one of my favorite things about daily Bible reading? God uses passages I've read time and time before to speak to my heart about an issue I am having right then. It's amazing! The Bible truly is a living Book. There is so much to be gained from reading every single day and not just jumping around randomly looking for inspiration. God can find us in the pages of all of His Word (even Ezekiel and Leviticus)!

Last week I was suffering from an attitude problem I couldn't exactly identify until I started reading Hebrews. Hebrews 1:3 gives this marvelous description of Jesus: "Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the majesty on high."

-He was the brightness of God's glory.
-The express image of God's person.
-He upholds all thing by His Word.

And he purged our sins by Himself. It wasn't too small or too lowly a job. He came Himself. He didn't send someone else.

I don't worry about the smallness of my work but more about the smallness of the scope of my job. Who am I actually impacting? Of course I know the true answer; there is nothing more important than nurturing souls. But that's not what matters.

Jesus didn't come for a few days or a few years to fulfill this mission. He lived 30+ years on earth- most of it in obscurity- to redeem our souls.

So if I feel like my work is lowly and unnoticed, that's ok. What matters is my obedience, my pursuit of excellence right here where God has placed me.

If I could encourage you... if you're struggling, keep obeying and keep reading. God can speak to your heart too.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

When I First Knew

Yes, I know. I've been remiss in posting the past few weeks. But I have a good reason: I've been napping. Doesn't sound like a good reason? Well, few things outweigh naps in the first trimester of pregnancy! We're going to have another baby! 

(Please forgive the horrid photo!)

I remember when I first knew that I wanted more kids (Micah was rather frightening; we debated not having more). It was about 2:00 am on Saturday, July 4th. Micah was two months old and we were heading home from a road trip to Cincinnati to have his g-tube replaced. As we were driving, trying to stay awake and reconcile this new version of life with what we knew, I realized that- in spite of all the problems with Micah- I still wanted to have more kids. Something about this motherhood thing still is unexplainable. 

So we did it again. Kevin is almost 20 months old and a wonderful piece of our family puzzle. 

And we are going to do it again. Sometime around the middle of November we will welcome a third baby in our arms. He/she already has a place in our hearts and a name once we know gender. (Yes, we will be finding out!)

So you'll have to excuse me if posting is slow. I have just as many ideas but I'm somewhat lacking in energy by the time the essentials are done. You know, food, preschool, laundry. That whole "we have to survive" bit. :) 

And please note, mamas, the above picture was taken at 10 1/2 weeks pregnant. You really do show faster each time. 

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Micah's 4th Birthday!

Micah's four today! 

This is the child I didn't think we were going to keep. We were given little hope when Micah first had his crisis that he would survive. 

And now he's four. I'm so glad that God's plan included leaving Micah here with us! 

Happy Birthday, little man! We love you! 

And I know I've been absent... more about that tomorrow!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Faithful, Cheerful Service

*reposted from the archives

Ever tried to impress somebody with how tired you are and how much you have to do? You know the whole, "I'm up all night with babies. Someone is constantly dirtying my house as I clean and I just keep slaving away. Nobody appreciates me. I never get to go on vacation....." That whole routine? I'll admit that I've done it. And I'm really bad for doing this to my husband. I must want him to notice exactly how miserable I am! Oh wait, but I'm not miserable! So why do I do that? 

1. I'm insecure in what God called me to do. I want to be sure others realize that being a wife and mom is a full-time job too. And aren't people supposed to complain about their job? 
2. I'm trying to impress people. (Twisted thinking: who's impressed by whining?)People-pleasing never gets you where God wants you to go. I am working for God's smile, not man's approval. 
3. I've fallen into worldly thinking that says I must be miserable if life is not all about me and whatI want. 

Last time I checked nobody liked a complainer, especially God! (1 Cor. 10:10, Phil. 2:14-15) So I decided to shut up! (Or at least try to!)

And you know what I found? I'm the one that benefits! Yes, in an attempt to please God and stop discouraging my husband by constantly reminding him how hard my life is, I have found more joy. (And yes, it does discourage my husband. His goal is to have a happy wife.)

"A merry heart maketh a cheerful countenance: but by sorrow of the heart the spirit is broken." Proverbs 15:13. The last half of verse 15 also states, "but he that is of a merry heart hath a continual feast." What's in my heart? I've been studying a lot about how my heart affects my words and it's scary to think how much I reveal about myself with what I say! Do I have a heart for God and the work He has given me? 

So what is my new goal? Faithful, cheerful service! Here's some steps I'm taking to work on this. 

1. I don't constantly talk about how tired I am. And somehow I think I'm less tired too. I tell God about it and ask for help. I want others to see that God's plan works and it doesn't mean misery. What a great testimony to always tell people what a drudgery your life serving God is! NOT! 
2. I tell my husband how much I LOVE getting to stay home with our babies and take care of him and our home. I want him to know that I appreciate the opportunity and I love my life. Because I really do. 
3. I remind myself frequently that I am working for God's approval. If no one else ever notices anything I do or if no one else thinks anything I do is important, it doesn't matter. God says it's important and He notices everything. Because I of that I can keep going....cheerfully! My hope and my joy are found in God, not vacations, money, or applause.

Make your work look easy, even when it's not. -Beverly Hyles

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Homemaking Dreams

*reposted from the archives

My boys and I go on a walk almost every morning we are home from April to about October. It's gorgeous out and it helps deplete some of that almost-three-year-old-energy. We walk down our road, around the corner, and back to a cemetery. (We've lived by cemeteries since we've been married. Glad I'm not superstitious.) On the way back to the cemetery we pass a gorgeous old white house. I love houses, especially old ones, and I've always been intrigued by this one. 

This week an older woman was there when we went by. She stopped us so that she could look at Kevin- who was sound asleep in the baby wrap- and we started talking about the house. She said that at one point it was a bed and breakfast. Now I've always loved the idea of a bed and breakfast; I think it would be thrilling to own one someday. When we got back home I was daydreaming about creating a beautiful space for others to relax and recharge and cooking them delicious food. And I realized something.

I already do that. 

People go to a bed and breakfast for a home away from home. You are essentially a homemaker for other people on a short basis. Now with a business you are recognized as a business owner. You get rewards and accolades (and some bad reviews).  But in essence it would be the same thing I am doing now with my family.

Photo Courtesy of Matt Banks/freedigitalphotos.net 

I may not have paying customers but there's nobody in the world that I love like my family. It might not bring in income but hopefully it will show results in our children's lives for years to come. I get to live my dream every day and I want to approach my work with the same enthusiasm that I was picturing pouring into a bed and breakfast. Make it beautiful, comfortable, comforting. 

Of course there is much more to it than the simple work. There's no intrinsic value of homemaking above anything else. We could have someone else cook, clean, change diapers, run errands, do laundry, etc. The spiritual aspect of homemaking is what elevates it to God's call on my life. Homemaking is nothing unless my husband and children are pointed to Christ by my work. Unless they serve Him more because I'm here.

The goal is that my presence in my home frees up my husband's time and energy to complete his work and serve at church. My presence in our home allows me the opportunity to teach and train our children. My management should save my husband's money so that we have more to give to church and missions. Our home should be a place where my family can recharge and be pointed to Jesus. 

If we have an atmosphere in our home that points to Jesus I will have to set it. That means my most important priority is my relationship with God. To properly serve God at home I must draw close to Him every day. I am nothing without Jesus and I cannot fulfill my purpose without Jesus. 

This means that the relationships in my home are more important than task lists. Being a cheerful wife is more important than ironed shirts. Consistent discipline of my children is more important than daily chores. Creating memories and managing our home atmosphere is more important than grocery shopping and running errands. Teaching toddlers is more important than doing laundry. Obviously, I believe those other things are important. We love a clean house to live in, clean clothes to wear. We have to cook and go grocery shopping. But I have to remember that those are just means to an end to what I'm really trying to accomplish. 

So when I get discouraged I'm going to remember my bed and breakfast dream. And then I'm going to remember that I'm living it right now. 

Thursday, April 3, 2014

7 Reasons to Go to Church

I seem stuck on the number seven this week. I could probably come up with seven good reasons for anything. But for today let's stick with sevens reasons to go to church. 

Of course we have Hebrews 10:25 that commands us not to forsake the assembling of ourselves together. So we have a direct Bible command. Now it doesn't tell us how often or when. But the church in the New Testament met daily so we're hardly sacrificing meeting two days a week. 

But there are plenty of other reasons to go to church. You don't even need a Bible to see them. I love how God gives commandments in the Bible that are backed up by common sense. 

1. Bible preaching. We all need more of the Bible. And we need help learning some things. My Preacher is smarter than I am. He's studied the Bible for years and his sermons are so practical and applicable. I need to hear the Bible being taught. 

2. Fellowship with other believers.  We live in a world frequently isolated from other believers. We work, shop, and live with unbelievers most of the week. We need the time to refresh ourselves with like-minded individuals. To restore our spirit with the love our fellow church members have for God. 

3. A place to serve.  We need to work at church. It's a place to give something for God and to be involved in His work. The church was His arrangement and His setup. We need to be there serving. It helps our pastor and it reaches the lost and needy. 

4. A place to grow. We learn from the preaching. We develop new talents to use to serve God. We grow in practical skills as we work there. 

5. Practice in human relations. People are always the problem. It's a struggle to get along with people who are different from us and who do things different from us. Working in a church forces us to grow in our ability to relate with people. 

6. Faithfulness in building your life. Just the routine of regularly being at church for the services will solidify faithfulness and the ability to schedule your life. 

7. Relationships for your children. Your children will grow up with the influence of other godly Christians who care about them. They will be loved and have a place to belong. And if one day, you are having a difficult time reaching them, one of those church members may be able to. 

Church is a beautiful thing in spite of the flaws found anywhere with people. It's worth the time and energy it takes to be there and get the kids there. It's worth the effort and pain to struggle through relationships and work out difficulties. 

Why do you go to church? How has it impacted your life? 

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

7 Lessons I've Learned Since High School

It always amazes me when adults tell  high school students that those are "the best years of their life." Really? What exactly did they do after high school? I enjoyed high school well enough but you couldn't pay me to go back and do it again. College was much better but this life here- I wouldn't trade it for anything. 

photo courtesy of iosphere/freedigitalphotos.net

Life gets better as you age if you are following Jesus. I'm not talking about circumstances; life usually has more problems and difficulties. But as a person, on the inside, life can get better. 

Here are a few things I've learned since high school. 

1. No one is quite as critical of you as you are of yourself. That's because nobody pays that much attention to you. They don't know what you wanted your hair to look like or that you don't like how your shirt fits. Most likely, people just don't care. They are too busy obsessing about how their hair looks. (And this is just in general. There will always be those who take the the job of critic but don't worry about them. They won't approve of you if you look like Miss America and win the Nobel Prize.)

2. Living in obedience creates confidence. Of course if you're making up your own ideas as a twenty-something year old, you will be uncertain. What do you know? But if you are trying to follow the principles of the Bible you are building on a firm foundation. Those are God's way. They don't need to be defended. Just do them. 

3. You don't have to impress anybody. And it's better to not even try.  How on earth do you know what will impress someone? If you are trying to impress people you will be the most wishy-washy person around. You will scope out their viewpoints and then change to please them. Don't even bother. Please God. Please your husband (if you have one.) Don't worry about anybody else. 

4. It's ok to be different. It's ok to be different from your classmates, your teammates, your co-workers. It's right to be different in the big things if they don't believe the Bible. Stand on truth.  And it's perfectly fine to be different in the small things even if you agree about the big things. You like music? Like music. Don't worry about whether or not your friends like music. You like to write? Don't worry about whether or not your co-workers even like to read. You like sports? Like sports. Be you. 

5. It's ok to be the same. I have some friends now that I have a lot in common with. And that's great. I don't have to make sure everyone notices me by pulling weird stunts to stand out. 

6. Life is a competition with yourself; not others. This isn't always true in school or even on the job. But it is as a stay-at-home mom. And it will help your competition with others if you are competing with yourself first.  I don't need to worry about whether I'm better than my friends. Am I better than I was yesterday? 

7. Give it your all. Other people will hate you for it. They will dislike you for loving God. They will dislike you for working hard, for being an engaged mother, for loving your husband, for taking care of your home, for developing your talents, for not making excuses.  Give it your all anyway. Life is certainly not a popularity contest. 

What about you? What have you learned since high school?