Thursday, October 30, 2014

Where Beauty and Sacrifice Meet

A few months ago I was listening to "Grace Talks," a podcast by Edie Wadsworth who blogs at life{in}grace. The podcasts are focused on the things that make up a fulfilling life and how we can incorporate those concepts into our daily lives. In the podcast on beauty she said that Christ's beauty was best displayed on the cross. 

While I don't know that there is a Bible verse backing up that statement (Bible scholars?) I think it is true. The cross was the culmination of everything. Christ's purpose, His satisfaction, His drive was to the cross to honor God, to finish His work, to redeem mankind. The best display of any characteristic in a believer is found in obedience. 

Don't you find it interesting that His beauty was best displayed in sacrifice? In pain, suffering, humiliation- this pouring out of all that was in Him best displayed His love, His beauty, His God-ness. (Is that word?) We look for beauty, for satisfaction in things that fulfill us; that make us look good, sound good, feel good. We search to please self not to deny self in our search for beauty. 

Beauty is worth nothing when it is for show- when we hoard it for ourselves to make us feel good or to impress others. I believe if we are to follow Christ's example, true beauty is best displayed in sacrifice, in trying to serve God and others. Isn't God beautifying me as I obey? Isn't my love growing and being displayed as I do the work in front of me? 

My work has been in the front of my thoughts lately. You know this because I've been blogging about it. What I've not been blogging about is how beauty is intertwined into our lives as believers. God has given me a work. It's important because obedience is important, not because the world says my role is important. I'm not to worry about what someone else's work is or how they are doing it. I am to do mine, faithfully and passionately. Beauty, real beauty-not a supermodel show- is something I desire and can be found in my daily life.  The beauty is in the work. It's in pouring out my talents and abilities for these people God has placed in my life. None of it was an accident. God made me specifically the way He wanted. And He put each individual person in my life on purpose. 

I am to use my talents and abilities to bless those in my life. My husband, my children, my extended family, my church family, my friends, my homeschool co-op, the stranger at the grocery store, the acquaintance who needs a listening ear, my blog readers even. 

That is my purpose. Everything I desire for my person, my character, is tied up in my relationship with Christ and obedience. Amazing. 

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

When Nice Isn't Enough

A few months ago after Toddler Time the boys and I were running some errands. When we left Save-A-Lot, there was a younger woman, probably younger than I am, sitting propped up against a column right outside the store. I asked if she was waiting on someone and she replied that they were in the store, but thanks. She seemed appreciative of my concern and very friendly. 

Was it nice of me to check on this lady? Sure it was. Nice according to the dictionary mean "pleasing or agreeable." Is it our goal to be pleasing or agreeable? Why? I think I am generally rated as a "nice" person but sometimes nice isn't enough.

Nice isn't enough when people need Jesus. What I should have done was share the Gospel with that lady. She would have listened to me.  When I turned around to look back she was already gone. I don't know if she went in the store or to a vehicle but I missed my opportunity. 

Nice won't transform her life. Nice won't give her a home in heaven. Nice won't forgive her sins. But Jesus can do all of that. If all I give is my "niceness", it's not enough. I need to give Jesus. 

Nice isn't enough when I need to stand up for my convictions. If I am more concerned about being nice than pleasing God, I can easily become a people-pleaser and compromise on my convictions. 

Nice can actually be selfish. I can be nice so people will like me. That's self centered and all about me. I can be nice so that others will think well of me. Once again, all about me. Now I did ask about the girl because I was concerned about her sitting there alone.  But nice isn't a good enough motivation; God sees my heart. Am I trying to please God or am I trying to make myself look good? 

Nice isn't enough when people need the truth. When I'm having a conversation with a friend and I have the choice between being nice and telling her the truth in love, I need to choose to tell her the truth in love. Sometimes listening to someone tell their life story or share a part of their past isn't nice, but it is necessary. Life isn't always nice and people need a safe place to share that. 

Nice is good. Nice is a great way to be likeable. But nice isn't enough. It's not enough to be liked. I don't want a lost person to point at me in heaven and say, "Why didn't you tell me?" Nice won't keep anyone from going to hell. The truth isn't always pleasing or agreeable and we won't be either if we are sharing and living it.

People don't need nice. They need Jesus. Let's stop trying to be nice ladies so that others will like us and focus on pleasing God, even if it doesn't seem as "nice".  

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Why Your Disciplinary Attitude Matters

I don't usually read the Bible specifically thinking about the different roles of my life; instead I try to let God speak to my heart however He wants. The Bible is so rich that God can show me many different things from one verse depending on what I need during that reading. Earlier this month I was reading Proverbs 3 and had a verse speak to my mothering. 
For whom the Lord loveth he correcteth; even as a father the son in whom he delighteth. Proverbs 3:12
The verse before that tells us not to get tired of God correcting us because it's a sign of His love; it's a sign that we belong to His family. You've heard it said before that you don't discipline and instruct other people's kids, you teach your own. Why? Because of the motive behind our discipline. 

There are some really bad reasons to discipline and I think they are typically why we discipline. 

We discipline because
1. Our child's behavior annoys/frustrates us. 
2. Our child's behavior embarrasses us. 
3. Other people will think we are a bad mom if we don't. 
4. Our child's behavior inconveniences us in some way. 

In other words, we make discipline all about how we feel. "I can't stand that you do that so I'm going to correct this behavior." And do we ever say- or feel- that calmly? I doubt it. That's the "I'm about to blow my top; watch out world" reaction. And it's not proper for discipline. 

Why should we discipline? We should discipline because we delight in these children that God has given us. We don't want to teach them that sin is ok and they should tolerate it in their lives. We want to teach them that obedience is the way to blessing. Knowing "why" we discipline affects "how" we discipline. We should discipline out of love, not out of annoyance or frustration or anger. 

Do I have this down? Of course not! I don't read my Bible for blogging ideas. I read my Bible for God to speak to my heart about issues in my life. Internalizing this verse will help in several ways.

1. It will help us be consistent. If we are disciplining because our child's behavior annoys us there are plenty of times we can ignore the behavior. Maybe it only annoys us when we are tired or trying to do something so that's the only time we discipline for it. What does that teach our children? That sin is ok sometimes. And that they need to watch our mood to stay out of trouble. Not the message I want to send my kids. I want them to know that sin is sin every time regardless of what I'm doing or how I feel. 

2. It will help us be calm. We're not disciplining because we simply can't stand something any longer. That causes us to blow up in anger and damage our children. Instead we can discipline calmly. Calm discipline helps remind the child that the consequence is the result for their sinful action and not the result of how Mama feels right then. Also it is much easier to be calm when you are remembering that you are disciplining because you love that child and want the best for their life not because they are driving you crazy (although they might be!). 

3. It will help us not give up. Sometimes teaching and discipline seems to accomplish nothing. We work on the same habits day after day after day and it seems to make no difference. But then, all of a sudden, it starts to click. What if you had given up two weeks before? Sticking it out because you delight in the child and want them to learn God's ways will always pay off. It just might take a while. Love will give you perseverance. 

I try not to blog a lot about how to raise or train our children. That's because I know so little and our children are so young. But God's Word and principles are always true. I've seen it lived out in the lives of several "older" families. God's ways always work- even if they are a lot more work! 

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

3 Things Your Appearance Reveals

There have been several occasions when I've surprised people by telling them that I'm a stay-at-home mom. Each time, I've gotten the same response, "We just assumed by your clothes that you came from work."  That's probably a compliment for me and a sad commentary about how most stay-at-home moms treat themselves. Just because we "only" stay home and raise our children doesn't mean we have to look like slobs who never shower. (Don't get me started on either the "only raising children" or the women who stay home to sit on the couch and not raise their kids.)

Seth Godin had a blog post last week entitled "Put a frame around it." You should go read it. No, really, it's super short. Go on. 

I think we can all agree that he was not talking about putting a frame around yourself. But that's immediately where my mind went; we present ourselves to the world everyday.  It matters how we do it.  We can argue that it's sexist that we're judged based on our appearance. We can argue that the heart is really what matters. But how we present ourselves matters and we can't ignore that without consequences. Our appearance says several things to the world. 

1. Our appearance shows our opinions about ourselves. It also affects how we view ourselves.  It shows if we value our work and our roles in life. Do you see yourself as a competent person with something to offer? That will show in your appearance. Do you see yourself as a sex object? That will show up too. Our appearance reveals our hearts. 

2. Our appearance shows respect (or disrespect) for others. The first Forbes link in this post mentioned this concept. A man stated that he must value the friendship more because he dressed up for lunch. Do we find others worth fixing up for? Do you fix up even when it's "only" your family who will see you? 

3. Our appearance is an advertisement for who we are.  More than just what we think we are, we show who we are.  Anne Lamont stated that"everyone is walking around as an advertisement for who he or she is."   This is sometimes called visual branding in the corporate world. Appear to be what you would like to be, not necessarily what you currently are. 

Now of course I'm not a lawyer or an IT technician. I'm not planning on applying for a job in the next month (or year!) but the above statements are still true. So how does this apply to everyday life? First you must know what you are trying to represent. Until you answer that question you can't decide how to best present yourself.  But there are some basic guidelines on how to present yourself. These hold true regardless of your position, your job, or your gender. 

Be appropriate for the occasion. I don't wear the same thing on a date with my husband as I do for a day at home cleaning bathrooms, cooking, and playing kickball in the yard. However I can look nice for both. You may not wear the same thing to the office that you wear when you eat lunch with friends. But you don't have to look like a slob for either one. 

Be appropriate for your faith. I'll just go ahead and say the word. Dress modestly. I don't care if you're a man or a woman- and I'm not going to outline what modest is- but dress in a way that brings glory to God. Isn't that the point of life? 

Be balanced. Don't take your appearance to an extreme where it's all you care about or where you don't care about it at all. You don't have to look like a Miss America contestant but don't look like you just rolled out of bed either. 

Be yourself. Develop a personal style and taste. If appearance reveals who you are, craft what you are displaying to showcase your personality. You don't have to look like everybody else. 

Be comfortable. What you are wearing should blend with who you are and not stick out. If you are uncomfortable with what you look like, change. Otherwise all you will think about all day will be your appearance instead of the people God would have you minister to. 

How has your appearance affected your interactions with others? Do you believe your appearance reveals at least part of who you are? 

Thursday, October 16, 2014

My Non-Mom Resources

Obviously I'm a mom. I don't think you could have read here for long and missed that. We're weeks away from having our third boy and this mothering/wife/homemaking gig takes up most of my time and energy. But I don't spend all of my mental effort on it. I'm still growing as a person in other ways as well. 

Today I thought I would share a list of my non-mom resources. I read blogs about mothering and marriage and homemaking. I listen to podcasts about being a Christian woman and mother. But I also read blogs and listen to podcasts about business, leadership, writing, and networking. Here are some of my favorites (in no particular order). 

Jeff Goins   (blog and podcast)
Michael Hyatt    (blog and podcast)
Jon Acuff    
Influence Network   (blog and podcast and other resources)
Dave Ramsey  (specifically the Entreleadership podcast)
Zen Habits
How They Blog   (specifically the podcast)
Beyond the To Do List   (podcast)
Brilliant Business Moms   (podcast)

I find many of the ideas that I learn from these business leaders/entrepreneurs are actually applicable to my mothering and the way I approach my work now. I like the idea of "professional" motherhood in that I want to approach my work with the skill, excellence, intentionality, and enthusiasm of a leader.

The skills and habits we learn in one area of our lives always spill over into other areas. Learning keeps our minds sharp and our conversation interesting as well. I do like to be able to talk about things besides diapers on occasion.

Do you listen to podcasts? What are some of your favorites? 

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The "How" Is Harder Than The "What"

Then one day like the beautiful sound of a solo trumpet, The Lord brought to my attention I Cor. 13:1 "Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal." Say what? I do love my kids I wanted to defend, but I knew The Lord knew better than me. He showed me how my daily irritations toward the kids, the impatience in my voice, my frustration over their carelessnesses, my furrowed brow when they are misbehaving, my harsh voice when correcting them sounded out like a cornet playing a soprano solo, "I only love you when you are doing right, the right way at the right time." OH MY!!!!!! So often the tendency is to get discouraged when God so kindly shows us how messed up we are; but oh what kindness it is when He shows us now while we can change and repent before lasting damage is done. So for us we still sing and pray and memorize and read and instruct, but my desire and prayer is that God's love would flow through me like a mighty river flooding those around me.  Erica Lerisse- missionary to Haiti

The above quote was part of a facebook post by a missionary to Haiti. Her family (including six young children) lives in the Dominican Republic and serves the people there and in Haiti. 

In the beginning of her post, Erica was talking about how she spends so much time trying to teach her children the Bible and Bible principles and how to treat each other and they still don't seem to get it. They fight and kick and hit (thank goodness it's not just at our house!) and then one day she realized she was part of the problem. 

Lately I've been memorizing a verse in James that applies directly to my mothering. James 1:20 says, "For the wrath of man worketh not the righteous of God." When I correct my children in anger or frustration I am not fulfilling God's design for me to bring them up in the "nurture and admonition of the Lord." (Ephesians 6:4)  

I am not going to bring about God's righteous results or His purposes through my uncontrolled emotions. When I react in anger to their sin I am sinning. That is not the righteousness of God. Not only do I have to teach them "what" to do I need to model "how" to do it also. The "how" is typically much harder than the "what." The "how" involves my attitude, my tone of voice, my words, and my intentions, not simply my actions. 

Our children are learning from us.  We are also learning from them. They show us weaknesses and flaws that we might have been able to ignore without them. Don't be discouraged! It's one of the beautiful, if painful, parts of motherhood! God uses our children to change us as He uses us to change them. 

Erica already told us how to win this battle of the "how" in our own actions. The most important thing for us as mothers is to be filled with God's love. Ephesians 3:19 says, "And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God." We have to have all of God to do even the simplest task.  When we know God's love for us we can be filled with God. 

I picture this like a teacup and saucer. I am the teacup and the people and life around me are the saucer. As I get filled up with God, then what splashes out onto others is godly, just as a teacup splashes whatever is in it on the saucer. What are you splashing onto those around you? When you are "bumped" by your children's misbehavior or messes what comes out? 

Do you erupt in anger and lash out? Or are you able to respond with patience and discipline appropriately? Do you roll your eyes and sigh at the work that's required of you or do you cheerfully tackle the tasks God has placed before you? Ultimately the work is designed by God; it doesn't originate from our children.

We must discipline our children and teach and train them. We can't do whatever anybody wants in the name of love but there is a difference in completing our work filled with God and struggling through our mess on our own. 

Don't feel discouraged when you've failed. We're all imperfect people and we always will be. Do be encouraged to keep seeking God's face and His wisdom for your work. God can change the way we respond to our children and our lives. And the answer is the same that it always is: get in the Word and let it change you. 

Just in case you really need to be reminded that you aren't alone check out these two blog posts that I found last week. Girltalkhome reminds us of the purpose of motherhood while Lisa-Jo Baker discusses ways to handle anger in your mothering

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Why I'm Not A Natural Mother

God does not require that we be successful only that we be faithful- Mother Teresa 
I believe that statement to be true even if sometimes I wish it weren't. I like a sizable to-do list with tasks neatly checked off. I like accomplishments and awards and accolades. None of those are associated with faithfulness or success in my present position. Now more days than not, we do check off our to-do list but it's filled with items like "clean the bathroom," "post to instagram," and "finish preschool." Nothing particularly impressive or successful. 

It would be much easier on me mentally to go to a job that required some creativity and work than to stay home and change diapers and discipline for bad behavior. It would be easier to dress up in heels and a cute outfit than to realize my skirt is dirty and we are only three hours into our morning. It would be easier to sleep all night and have my precious alone, quiet time in the morning before I went to work than to try to finish my Bible reading before my babies pop out of bed. 

It would be easier, not better. That's not the work that God requires of me now. I know that I am right where God wants me even if it goes against my preferences. All work goes against our preferences sometimes. It's tempting to spend time pretending that this work of mothering or homemaking or building a marriage doesn't require more of us than what we thought it would.  But I find that everyone's work- when they are doing God's work for them- requires more of them than what they have. It's supposed to. 

If it were easy, we could do it on our own. If it were easy, we wouldn't have to rely on God for wisdom or strength or perseverance. We wouldn't have to search for answers and techniques and skills to better accomplish the tasks before us. 

I don't consider myself a natural mother, regardless of how deeply I love my children. I don't consider myself a natural mother because there's a lot of "me" in me. While I have always wanted children and even wanted to stay home with them the picture looks different than I thought it would. That is true for everything; imagination and reality are not equal. If I were to leave my God-appointed work to go do something else more "fulfilling," that would look different than what I imagine too. I would also be leaving the path of God's blessings to walk in disobedience. (And who would raise my sweet babies?)

What do I need to be a better mother? More of Jesus and less of me. I need to let go of romantic notions and knuckle down to the work. I need to accept that faithfulness is more important than success and that success is now defined differently than it has been previously in my life. 
He must increase, but I must decrease. John 3:30

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

You Are Not Alone

There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.        1 Corinthians 10:13
You are not alone. 

There is so much power in that statement. I know many women, probably men too, who can benefit just from hearing, "oh, we have days like that at our house too." Sometimes we think we are the only ones with kids with health problems, sick kids, overworked husbands, morning sickness, unruly kids, mounting bills, an unsettled heart, a challenging boss. But we are not alone. There is no problem in the world that is unique to you and there is no one else with your exact set of problems. 

You are not the only mom striving to discipline calmly when she wants to scream and toss the children off the porch. 
You are not the only wife who misses her husband when he's at work late...again. 
You are not the only mom with a child who has strict dietary guidelines. 
You are not the only mom who is sick from growing new life and trying to keep up with the work. 
You are not the only woman who feels 9,673 different emotions every day and wonders if she might be crazy. 
You are not the only woman who wonders if she will ever do anything for God. 
You are not the only woman who struggles with fear about the future and her family. 
You are not the only woman who wishes her hair would look the way she wants it to. 
You are not the only woman who sometimes feel alone, unattractive, or useless. 

Even if you can't find anyone at your stage of life or with your problems you are still not alone. Jesus will never leave you. He is the answer to all your problems. 

He will teach you how to calmly reprove your children. 
He will be your companion and your strength and make you a blessing to your husband when he works late. 
He will provide for your child's health and remove all the problems in heaven. 
He will cover you with His hand during your pregnancy (and give you wisdom to cut back). 
He will teach you to give those emotions to Him and keep obeying regardless of how you feel. He will give peace. 
He will show you the path that you are to walk and use your life. 
He will never leave you and can be trusted with your fears. 
He will help you learn how to fix your hair and help you to dismiss it when it doesn't measure up your (sometimes ridiculous) standards. 
He will always want you. 

You are never alone. God lives inside you and He walks through life with you- wanting to live through you if you will surrender to Him. 

God loves you. He always has; He always will. Nothing can separate you from that love. Nothing can take you from His presence. You are never alone because Jesus is always with you.
For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38-39

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Managing Our Everyday Emotions

I love being a woman but I have to admit to occasionally questioning God's design in some parts of womanhood. Hello, emotions! However, I have a sneaking suspicion that life is designed so that we will see our deep need for God and His help as we go through life. I cannot be a woman that honors Him without Him. It's not possible. My shortcomings show how great God is. 

We are called to control our spirits (Pro. 25:28) and guard our hearts (Pro. 4:23) even with our emotions. Our spirit- which is our attitude- is to glorify God because He redeemed it (1 Cor. 6:19-20).

So how can we help ourselves do that? I know that on my own I often don't. I'm snappy and irritable. I'm short-tempered and worried. I'm frustrated and selfish.  I don't want to live life that way. It doesn't honor God and it doesn't bless my family. Here are some ideas that have helped me- not that anybody has this conquered.

1. Ask God for help. Did you know that you can tell God that you feel grumpy or angry or sad or frustrated or irritated and He won't tell on you? He won't rat you out to your friends or make you feel bad. We should not be shocked at our capacity for sin. We know we are sinners. But God can help us to live better. Tell Him that you need His help. Ask Him to help you. Who doesn't want to be needed? He has everything you need. You can tell God about your problems and He won't speak a word to anyone. Take what is burdening you to Him. 

2. Do what you are supposed to, not what you feel like. Take a deep breath and speak calmly when you want to yell. Get up off the couch and cook dinner. Do something kind for your husband when you are mad at him. Act like you are supposed to; don't act out what you feel. 

3. Be thankful. Start listing all your blessings. "Thank you God for our home, for my children, for a good report at the doctor's office, for Your help when I need it, for caring about my life, for blueberries, for my phone, for sunshine." etc, etc. Don't stop. Just keep doing that. Pray and pray with a thankful, grateful heart. 

4. Pray for others. Often when I have a consuming prayer request I could "pray" about it constantly. And it turns into a consuming worry. So I take it to God, leave it there, and start praying for others. I pray regularly for five or six missionary wives that I know personally and are in similar seasons of life. I pray for our families and the requests of my friends. I pray for people who have been a blessing to me and people whose problems deeply burden my heart. 

5. Shut up! Just don't talk so much! If your husband is irritating you, be quiet, pray for God to bless him and talk to him about it later if it still seems like a big deal. Walk away from the issue with your children and come back in five minutes when you've calmed down. You don't have to "give people a piece of your mind" or "say what you think because you're honest." Those are excuses for hurting people. 

When you start doing these five things it will take a while to retrain your mental patterns. You will have to fight to control your mind. The battle is for your mind; if you can learn to control your thoughts it will make a big difference in controlling your emotions.  Make the effort. As you do, you will be glorifying God in your daily life. And you'll feel less like a crazy person. 

What about you? How do you strive to manage your daily emotions? 

(And I'm not talking about postpartum depression or deep grief. I am speaking of our day to day hormonal emotional changes.)