Thursday, August 28, 2014

3 Characteristics of Womanhood

I've been reading, praying, and studying about being a woman because I want to know what God meant for me when He made me one. I want to know how that affects my life, my marriage, my work. I want to know what to teach my boys about manhood and what to look for in a wife one day. If we ever have daughters I want to possess something Biblical to teach them. 

Obviously I don't have all the answers. But as I search with an open heart and mind for what God says He is answering. And it looks a little different than what I expected.  For now I want to focus on one verse that is driving my whole experience on the subject. 

Ps. 118:14 "The Lord is my strength and song, and is become my salvation." 

All parts of being a woman are wrapped up in our relationship with God. He made us women and He has a specific plan for womanhood. Only in the Bible can we find the real answers. There are three characteristics that I want to focus on from that verse. 

1. Strength. I am not talking about physical strength with this although I do believe it is prudent to take care of our physical strength. (Pro. 31:17) I'm talking about that inner strength- emotional and spiritual strength. Often strength is described as a more masculine character but it's a feminine quality too. Proverbs 31:25 says, "Strength and honor are her clothing;" Our world needs strong women who are depending on Jesus instead of falling apart at every little situation. This is only possible by the power of the Holy Spirit. 

Psalm 138:3 states, "In the day when I cried thou answeredst me, and strengthenedst me with strength in my soul."  That's where I need strength- in my soul

Colossians 1:11: "Strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power, unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness." There is such a strength (because God's power is mighty and glorious) that can let us be patient and longsuffering with a joyful heart. A joyful heart in teaching toddlers and preschoolers all day long even!

Ephesians 3:16, "That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man."  Our inner man (or woman) can be strengthened by His Spirit and according to His riches. Think on that promise for a while. 

Yes, God wants His women to be strong. Never brash and hateful and bossy, but strong emotionally, depending on God. We are called to be stable and even in the ups and downs of our days. 

2. Joy. Not ditzy, super-caffeinated idiots who don't have a serious thought about anything, but joyful women. I'm talking about real joy in Jesus. Why? Because He is our song; it takes joy to have a song in the midst of life. Joy is found in the presence of Jesus. Psalm 16:11, " thy presence is fulness of joy..."  Joy doesn't mean not facing reality. It means that in everything I see Jesus.  Joy is once again only found by the Spirit. Galatians 5:22, "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy.." We can't manufacture joy up by ourselves but as we yield to the Spirit we can see it growing. Joy is thanking God when you'd rather complain. Joy is looking through the current mess to eternity. Joy is remembering that God has a purpose and is at work in your life. 

God even designs specifically for mothers to be joyful. Psalm 113:9, "...and to be a joyful mother of children. Praise ye the Lord."  Also note the verse in the "strength" section from Colossians, "unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness." Joy should be the state of our hearts even in difficult situations. Even the Bible was written so that our "joy may be full." (1 John 1:4). 

Joy is found in our relationship with Christ. (As was strength. See a pattern here?) Isaiah 61:10 says, "I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my soul shall be joyful in my God;" 

Can we learn to be joyful women? Cheerful ladies instead of critical, complaining ladies? I would much rather bring a smile to people's faces than have them run from my negative attitude! 

3. Confidence. God is become my salvation. What else do I need to be confident? I certainly can't be confident in my appearance- it can and does change. I can't be confident in my abilities, talents, money, relationships; these are all unstable. I can be confident in God.  Read through Isaiah 43 paying special attention to verses one and seven. God redeemed me; He knows my name; I belong to Him. I am known by His name; I am created for God's glory; God made me specifically the way I am. Confidence, ladies, is when we embrace that and let it sink into our souls. Our confidence also (like our strength and our joy) comes from our relationship with God. 

Proverbs 3:16 states, "For the Lord shall be thy confidence, and shall keep thy foot from being taken." In fear and uncertainty, God is my confidence. When I feel no one wants me I remember that God knows my name. 

Webster defined "confidence" as 1. A trusting, or reliance; an assurance of mind or firm belief in the integrity, stability or veracity of another, or in the truth and reality of a fact.  
It is not a confidence in ourselves, but in God. To have the ultimate confidence as a woman, as a believer, we must walk in obedience. Often confidence is lacking because we don't know what we are doing or what's coming next, but walking in obedience removes those doubts. Proverbs 14:26 says, "In the fear of the Lord is strong confidence: and his children shall have a place of refuge." A good definition of "the fear of the Lord" is obedience. If you fear the Lord, you will obey Him. In obedience is confidence. 

Being a confident woman doesn't mean you are a snob. It doesn't mean that you walk all over people or drown the world in your opinions. It means that you can know God's path for your life and walk in certainty fulfilling those purposes regardless of what anyone else is doing. Confidence is obeying God and not caring what anybody else thinks. 

Women are not known for having these characteristics. And when these characteristics are represented they are warped in meaning. The world definitely has a different idea of a strong, confident woman than what the Bible describes. Watch the media stereotypes of women (or even the church ones). Women are hyperemotional, unstable, miserable, complaining, and insecure. Or the stereotypes swing toward the opposite with bold, overbearing, and harsh. You do not have to settle for that. God has called  you to something much greater (and harder) than that. 

Being a woman means holding a position of influence that comes with a great deal of responsibility. And God has given us everything we need to grow into His kind of woman. 

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Blog Updates!

It's been a while since we've had a more "housekeeping" type of post where I fill you in on some things happening behind the scenes. So let's get to it! 

1. As the birth of our third child approaches (we're in the last trimester now, people!), I have been working on reformatting and editing/rewriting some older archived posts. These will be published for a few weeks after we have Caleb to allow our family some adjustment time without my having to worry about the blog much. Don't worry, I'll still be hanging around the comments, answering emails, and updating Pinterest and Instagram! 

(behind the scenes blogging work)

2. Did I say, "Instagram?" Yes, I did! Delighting in my Days has an official Instagram account now that I've been working on for several weeks. Look for 'delighting_days' on your instagram and follow along. I have to admit that Instagram is quickly becoming my favorite form of social media. I love it...versus that love/hate relationship I have with Facebook. 

3. I've updated the Bookshelf page to include my favorite books that you might enjoy as well. The titles that I have reviewed are a link to the blog post. The others...just know they come highly recommended. 

4. And this really has nothing to do with the blog but Kevin turns two a week from today! I can't believe it; he's supposed to be a baby still! 

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Living to Bless Instead of Impress

My prayer over the past few weeks has been that my life here at home will glorify God. My life here mopping the floor, going over letter sounds, folding laundry, reading books out loud, and cooking dinner. My life here that is largely unobserved except by two (soon to be three!) small boys. That life that no one sees. The life where no one really knows what I do or how I do it. I want it to honor God. 

My desire is that my life would bless those in it, specifically my husband and children. Then spreading around to other family members, friends, church people, acquaintances, and even the Wal-Mart cashier who tells me how terrible it is that I don't know how many months old Kevin is.  But it's hard to live with that in mind. It's hard to live daily in a work that no one sees and seek to honor God. It can seem like it doesn't matter. 

The big temptation is to try to impress those who only see me occasionally instead of trying to bless those who closely interact with me. It's much nicer to seem impressive and have people look up to us. It's flattering to have people think we are good mothers, intellectual women, generous wives. But we don't have to actually live it out daily for those people to think those things. It's a bad system of rating how we are doing in our work. 

The question is not, "Am I impressing anyone?" The question is, "Am I blessing those in my home?" 

Am I truly a blessing to my husband? There are ten thousand tips and ideas to share here but I just want to share one that I've been working on the past few months. I've been trying to think about what he needs instead of what I want. For example, if he calls to say he has to work over I want to respond with, "Ok, can we bring you dinner? Anything specific we can pray about for you? Will you get a chance to facetime with the boys?" Something that lets him know that he is important and I understand the challenges of his life. I know he would rather be here with us.  I don't want to make him feel bad about something he can't change. I try to express our appreciation for what he does for us and let him know we will miss him without making him feel bad. I want to leave him energized for his work not weighed down.  I want to be his safe place. 

Am I truly a blessing to my children? Once again I'm going to focus on the idea I've been working on. I want to take the time to train the boys in what to do and why we do it. I don't want to only focus on what we don't do. For example, I want to teach my boys that we are a family and a family is a team. Families help each other grow and learn. So yes, we discipline for pushing and fighting. We have a "hands to yourself" policy. But when this happens we also discuss our family being a team and how blessed we are to have our family and then we practice helping each other. We also talk about working together as a team at other times. And it's working, slowly but surely. 

Am I making our home a blessing to our family? My family will know if they are important by the way I keep our home. Order is necessary for learning and growth. Now families are messy; it's not a museum, but I'm not embarrassed for someone to drop by either. We are learning the concept of stewardship: everything we have belongs to God and He wants us to take proper care of it.

Once I've taken care of these necessary things I find I have little time to worry about what anyone else thinks of me. Some people will like it; some people will think I'm strange; some people will wonder how I "do it all." (I don't; I am only one person. You prioritize your family's needs and go from there.) Focusing on being a blessing will not leave us with time to worry about impressing anyone. And that's a good thing. 

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Preparing for a New Baby

As I approach the birth of our third child I find myself quite a bit more prepared for the first few months with a newborn  than I was the first time. Having a baby changes life. You wait for it to go back to normal but it doesn't. Instead your family finds a completely new normal. It can be a tough process, especially if you don't do any preparation. Since we are 13 weeks away from my due date I have been spending a little time praying and thinking about the upcoming adjustment. 

1. Pray for the adjustment period. I know that my family will adjust better if I handle the transition well. I always claim Pro. 16:1 here. That verses says, "The preparations of the heart in man, and the answer of the tongue, is from the Lord."  The God can guide me in what I need to do. I pray for my husband and the boys. I pray for wisdom in the practicalities and wisdom for the emotional stresses. 

2. Know it's a season. You hit a rhythm in just a few months. Just wait. Don't freak out if you don't feel like yourself or nothing feels right. It's a feeling; it's not truth. 

3. Give yourself grace. Prepare to do less. This starts with some practical stuff and the moves to mental stuff. I'm prewriting blog posts. I'm reviewing some old favorites for offertories. I'll put food in the freezer. We'll take a holiday from homeschooling for a few weeks. Then after the baby is here, don't worry about the dust or your normal schedule for a few weeks. Do what is most important for the people and let the rest slide (just not permanently). 

4. Don't over contemplate delivery. It's really one of those things we have very little control over, regardless of how we like to think otherwise. What happens, happens. I can't change it. I know that God is with me and is in control. I have a doctor I trust. Pray and move on. 

5. Buy some pick-me-ups.  I always give myself at least 2 months before I expect to start feeling like myself. Before that I simply remind myself that I just had a baby and let it go. (If this lingered significantly beyond the 2 months, I would seek assistance. My doctor would be third on the list. I know what is normal for me; use wisdom.) But I find some new books to read starting while we're at the hospital.  Have someone bring in fresh flowers for the kitchen table. Play your favorite music. Make a list of what cheers you and prepare for that. 

6. Form new habits beforehand. Think of things that irritated you after you had your other babies. (Or if this is your first baby what you think will challenge you.) Change what you can. For me, I am changing the time I make Micah's formula. I have made it while the boys ate their bedtime snack for at least a year. But soon I'm going to have an infant to feed then. I will not enjoy needing to make formula once I finally get the big boys in bed and I'm trying to teach a baby when to go to sleep. So I'm moving formula making time back to dinner prep or cleanup. That way it will already be a habit once Caleb arrives. 
-I'm also changing around my Bible reading. I end up doing most of my Bible reading at night while I'm up feeding the baby which means I read on my iPad. That is not my favorite way to read and so I am already reading on my iPad more just to get adjusted to it before I'm also super tired.  

It's a transition; it passes. And you get a beautiful new member of the family. But do help yourself out with the process. I'm expecting to see God show up in crazy big ways in my personal life in the those weeks just as He has been in the past few weeks. He is a personal God always at work in even the little things.

How do you ease the transition of a new baby? 

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Developing an Eagerness for God's Word

I read a verse in Luke a few weeks ago that really challenged my approach to the Bible. The verse also changed my approach. I've noticed that a change will follow the challenge if I don't ignore it. What good does it do to ignore the Bible? You stop the transformation process if you ignore what the Bible says.  
And it came to pass, that, as the people pressed upon him to hear the word of God, he stood by the lake of Gennesaret,  Luke 5:1
The verse made me wonder if I had that kind of hunger for God's Word. Was I that eager to know what God had to say? Would I "press in" to hear the Word? Our pastor recently went on a missions trip to Zimbabwe to conduct a training conference for preachers and laypeople. Our church raised money and sent over one hundred Bible to Zimbabwe for them to hand out. They videoed the part of the conference where they handed out the Bibles.  It was so precious. Zimbabwe is a very poor country and Bibles cost about $40 there. The people can't afford them and they were so excited about their Bibles! 

Do you know how many copies of the Bible we have at our house? We have at least eight that I can think of right away and that's not counting digital copies on phones and iPads. And sometimes I treat my Bible like it's old news. It's always there; we always have it; what's so exciting, right? Wrong! 

This is God giving me everything He wants me to know for this life. It's my guidebook. It teaches me Who God is. It's God's Word. And I have my own copy- in my own language. Not only can I read it but God gives me understanding. Do we understand how amazing this is? 

I don't think we do or we would take it more seriously. We would appreciate holding the Bible and being able to read it. We take for granted that we aren't being persecuted. No one is going to come into my home and search for my Bibles or try to take me to jail for having one. No one is going to arrest me for going to church and hearing the Bible preached. 

God's Word is a treasure. I want to come with eagerness to hear it. I remind myself of that when I'm awake in the morning before I "have to be" because my children are up. I remind myself of this when I come to church and find myself distracted with life. 

So here are some ideas for approaching the Bible with a "press in" attitude. 

1. Pray. Ask God to give you the right attitude toward His Word. 

2. Remind yourself how important the Bible is to your life. Read Psalm 119 if you need help with this. 

3. Look for one truth to take with you through your day. Write it down and over time you will have quite a collections of truths. It will allow you to see how personal God is when you realize how closely His Word relates to your life. 

Today will be determined by my heart with God. And my life will be determined by how I spend today every day. Let's approach God's Word with eagerness to hear what He has for us today. 

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Pursuing Daily Excellence

I love to eat out. We don't eat out often because of the dietary restrictions of our family (plus that pesky thing called money) but when we do I want something I know will be yummy and preferably that I wouldn't make for myself. This usually means I don't try tons of new things- how do I know it will be good? I don't want to waste the experience. (And yes, I realize this means I miss out on some things; I'm working on it.)

It also brings us to a reality about business. A restaurant has to provide quality service if they want my repeat business. I'm not going to go to a restaurant that serves excellent food two days a week and mediocre food the rest of the time. Are you?

No one is going to do that. That's why businesses that succeed don't use that model. They don't say, "People might expect a high standard of excellence from us every day and we don't want that kind of pressure. We don't feel like performing at that level daily." Well, fine then, don't; but don't expect to have a business for long either.

I've noticed that people have no problem bringing that attitude to their home though. It doesn't bother them at all to say that they aren't going to serve or even spoil their family because they might expect that kind of treatment all the time. It doesn't bother them to say that the expectations are too high and they aren't even going to try to live up to them.

If I were a doctor (a profession I considered for some time in high school) I would go to work every day ready to give my all. Why? Because I would believe that my work mattered. Because I had promised to do my work to the best of my ability regardless of how I felt about it that day. I've reminded myself of that multiple times this past week. It's a good kick-in-the-pants about the attitude I carry into my work here in our home. I wouldn't complain about the workload. Of course there's a workload! I'm a doctor, not a greeter at Wal-Mart. It would be a position of prestige and a lot of routine hard work. Do I really believe less about my role in the home?

Our actions and our attitudes show exactly what we believe. It doesn't really matter what our words are if they contradict what we are doing. We show everyone what we think about our family and our work at home by what we do and how we do it. What is my attitude as I go about my work? Do I whine to everyone about how annoying my kids are and how the house always gets dirty right after I clean and my husband is working late again?

Sometimes what we do is comfortable. We are used to it; it doesn't require any effort. But I'm finding that another word for comfortable is mediocre. Comfortable work is usually mediocre work. We're not growing. We're not pursuing excellence. We're not learning new things and trying better ways to make things work for our families. We're just coasting because anything else would be- you guessed it- a lot of work!  I'm not really interested in living a mediocre life doing mediocre work especially for something as important as my family.

Excellence may mean stepping outside your comfort zone. Be a little uncomfortable in how you do your work; that's called learning.  I don't mean uncomfortable to be unsure if it's morally right. I mean uncomfortable to be that you can't do it on automatic. You have to really put some mental effort into what you are doing (like when you are learning a new song on the piano). And yes, this may make you extra tired. It won't hurt you. Try something new with homeschooling. Read some books about how children learn. Try a new cleaning schedule; teach your children to clean.

Excellence may mean being different from others. The complainers and the critics are everywhere. The miserable, grouchy women are everywhere. Find that joy in Jesus and be different. Show that you value your family and your work by your attitude.

Excellence may mean doing things that are difficult for you. It may mean speaking calmly to your children during correction and training when you want to scream. It may mean not rolling your eyes at your husband. It may mean disciplining yourself to get out of bed and get off the couch and do the work.

Excellence may mean doing things that you don't want to do. This past week I've done things every single day that I didn't want to do: things like cook dinner. And you know what? I'm still alive; it didn't hurt me at all. Instead I honored God with my obedience. I blessed my family because they really do have to eat.  And I helped my character; no one needs to spend their life doing only what they want. Do what you are supposed to.

Maybe imaging the attitude you would bring if you were a doctor doesn't help you. But something does. What is it? How can you push yourself to seek that excellence in your home life? Don't worry about my quest for excellence. What my family needs may be totally different from what your family needs. Find what your family needs and pursue it with excellence. Day in and day out, regardless of how you feel about it.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Godliness and Exercise: Held in the Balance

Last week, while balancing an almost two-year-old beside me on the bed, I finished my morning Bible study by reading 1 Timothy 4. I was struck by several thoughts from verse 8 so I jotted them down. I have a notoriously bad memory which has probably prompted my love of notebooks and Evernote. 
For bodily exercise profiteth little: but godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come. 1 Timothy 4:8
1. Godliness to profitable to all. I know I've said this over and over, but what we really need is Christ. When we are struggling with our marriage, with our kids, with our coworkers, with our jobs, what we need is more of Christ. All of the answers are in the Bible.

-Growing in Christ will make you a better woman.
-Growing in Christ will make you a better wife.
-Growing in Christ will make you a better mother. 
-Growing in Christ will make you a better homemaker. 
-Growing in Christ will make you a better co-worker. (Or fill in that blank with whatever you are.)

Godliness will benefit every single part of your life. Pursuing godliness here will also benefit us in the next life. 2 Peter 3:11 says, "Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness,". This life is short. Pursuing godliness is part of living for eternity. 

2. Exercise is profitable. Take care of your body. It's the only one you have. Exercise, eat right, sleep well, drink plenty of water, maintain your weight or get to a healthy weight if you can. Of course it's only a little profitable. Health problems can occur no matter what you do, as can accidents. (Although we could argue that the verse means it "profiteth little." As in does nothing. You decide.) 

3. Keep it in balance.  When I have baby Caleb in a few months I know how motivated I will be to lose baby weight. I've been in those shoes twice already and I'm usually itching to start exercising again. Do I have that same enthusiasm daily for pursuing godliness? 

How obsessed are you with counting calories or following your diet? Do you religiously follow certain rules for your diet and not mind because you want to have good health? Do you weigh yourself everyday and adjust what you eat the next day to make the number more acceptable? I'm not saying that's wrong but do you have the same passion to follow godliness? Do you watch over your words and your tone of voice? Do you think back at what you said today so that you can do better tomorrow if you need to? Do you evaluate how you spent your time (Eph. 5:15)) so that you can better honor God with it? 

What do we really value in our hearts: our appearance or our godliness? Are we more concerned with what people think of our appearance or in how we are representing Christ? What we do in life shows what we believe even if we would say something different. 

How do you pursue godliness with a daily passion? 

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Families Are Work; Work Is Good. (Or 3 Thoughts for Hard Days)

I think I've mentioned before, like maybe here and here, that some days are hard. And also that hard days are ok. Sometimes on those hard days we need the encouragement that what we are doing matters. That the hard is accomplishing something in the lives of our families.

So what do we do on those hard days?

1. Pray like it's your lifeline. Because it is. God really can help you in practical ways. We want to make Him spiritual and spooky but He's practical and real. And although "Help me, Lord!" works here are some prayer ideas if you are drawing a blank. Pray for a cheerful attitude, a thankful heart, and wisdom and patience for different situations and people.

2. Depend on truth. I wrote one day a few weeks ago that I "buried myself in truth" during quiet time. I can assure you that I needed it. Obviously the best place to find truth is in the Bible. And here are some posts where I've written out some truths I'm learning in my life.
-God loves you
-God is your helper
-Your relationship with God is the most important part
-Obedience is the goal

3. Remember it's a season. Whatever season you are in, it will pass. The children will grow up. The sickness will ease; the job circumstances will change. And if by some chance it doesn't end here, heaven is much longer than our lives.

To leave you with more eloquent words,
How precious a thing is the human family. Is it not worth some sacrifice in time, energy, safety, discomfort, work? Does anything come forth without work?... Somebody has to get up early, stay up late, do more than the others, if the human garden is to be a thing of beauty.  Edith Schaeffer in "What Is A Family?" 
And then in another passage she says, "love has work to do." And I don't know about you but around here love has plenty of work to do. There are diapers to be changed, clothes to wash, supper to cook, little boys to read to, and playing to be done outside. Let's get to work and let's do it with love.