1 Corinthians 1:26-31 NIV "Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.”
1 Corinthians 2:1-5 NIV "And so it was with me, brothers and sisters. When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power."
Isaiah 4-:31 NIV "But those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint."
Romans 15:1, 2, 4-7 NIV "We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. Each of us should please our neighbors for their good, to build them up. For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope. May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God."
Accept your own shortcomings, friends; accept your lowly, weak, frame, and turn to the one who lifts and restores, redeems and resurrects to new life. And then walk in His strength into the lives of the weak darlings within your home, within your sphere of influence, within your reach, within your world.
Romans 15:13 NIV "May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit."
How sweet are your words to my taste!
Yes, sweeter than honey to my mouth!
My red leather-bound Bible could tell a thousand tales — not only stories of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the prophets, or the days our Savior walked the earth. My Bible is underlined, highlighted, with notes in the margins. My favorite page is the one half eaten. Literally. Before My first born son could roll over he reached for my Bible, as I read on the floor beside him. He tore part of the Psalms out and put the thin leaf paper into his slobbery little mouth. I retrieved the torn piece, flattened it and dried it out, and now have it taped to the inside of my jewelry box. Nothing I own is more beautiful to me (not diamonds, gold, or pearls) than the tangible reminder of my greatest hope — that one day all of my children grow up to believe, ingest, and speak to others the very Word of God.
Nine years ago, when my little Caleb was lapping up pages from my Bible, I knew very little about the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Even with all the underlining, highlighting, and writing I had done in the margins. I knew about Jesus dying for my sins so that I might be forgiven. And I belived. But I didn't know what the gospel of Jesus, lived out in a daily way, interacting with others, was all about. I thought that living the gospel was telling people about Jesus. But I am slowly starting to see that the Gospel, lived out in our lives, is simply walking out the ministry of Jesus. Extending grace and love and forgiveness, ever pointing to Him as we do.
Yesterday my Bible consuming boy spent the day playing his electric guitar at our church's performing arts camp. Actually, he was supposed to be playing his guitar when in fact he was getting into trouble. Lots of trouble. I won't divulge the specifics, (9 1/2 is too old for cyber sharing) but I will say he came home remorseful and repentant, and wrote a dear apology to the child he had offended. In the end my child went to sleep last night content in the knowledge that he was forgiven.
His peaceful sleep reminded me of a verse I had memorized while he was in my womb:
There is therefore now no condemnation
to them which are in Christ Jesus,
who walk not after the flesh,
but after the Spirit.
Before he left for camp this morning I looked my boy straight in the eye and said, "You can stand tall when you walk into the church today — you are a forgiven boy, you don't need to be embarrassed or ashamed." He nodded, smiled, and walked out the door with his head high.
* With all the scriptures I wanted to throw at him last night, all the correcting,
berating, instructing him in godliness I had wanted to do... what he needed most of all was this picture of The Gospel. Forgiveness. So thankful that my husband is a calm and loving Dad. That through his hugs and encouragement last night both Caleb and I learned more about the Gospel of Jesus Christ lived out in the lives of our children. Ironically, today as I was going through some of the boys crafts I came upon a card Caleb made for Matt this Father's Day. Inside the card our son wrote the words "Thank you for remaining calm with me when I've disobeyed."
"While He was in Bethany at the home of Simon the leper, and reclining at the table, there came a woman with an alabaster vial of very costly perfume of pure nard; and she broke the vial and poured it over His head. But some were indignantly remarking to one another, "Why has this perfume been wasted? For this perfume might have been sold for over three hundred denarii, and the money given to the poor." And they were scolding her. But Jesus said, "Let her alone; why do you bother her? She has done a good deed to Me. For you always have the poor with you, and whenever you wish you can do good to them; but you do not always have Me. She has done what she could; she has anointed My body beforehand for the burial. Truly I say to you, wherever the gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be spoken of in memory of her."" (Mark 14:3-9 NASB)
There are stories from the Bible we could perfectly tell on cue, so familiar with them we are. The above scripture is one of those for me. And then a new day dawns and another layer is pealed back, new applications sting with Heaven's challenges in this Christian life.
This morning I read these verses about the woman who anointed Jesus' body with very costly perfume. And I thought to myself, "Do I give generously to Christ, by giving to others because I am His disciple?"
My first response was "Yes, hello... I'm a Mom!" And then I felt an immediate prick as I thought the words "but do I pour our my sacrifice joyfully, thankfully?"
And I thought of the verse "let your light so shine before man, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in Heaven!"
As I sacrifice, pouring out all of my resources in service to the little recipients within our home, am I doing so as unto The Lord? Is my light shining?
"Do everything without complaining or grumbling, that you may become blameless and pure children of God."
Do I look like the child of God that I already am? Is my light shining? Is my sacrifice of costly perfume fragrant? Does the aroma rise Heavenward toward the One who gave all He had for the Salvation of our souls? And does the aroma waft through our home and into the nostrils or our little ones, my husband, our neighbors, and those in need of Jesus all around us every day?
How sweet is my sacrifice?
"That they may see your good works and glorify our father in Heaven."
This morning after I took my shower I stood before my mirror applying a battery of moisturizing arsenal. After soothing my pricey eye cream into the fine lines around my aging eyes I applied a bit more to my upper lip where little wrinkles have started forming. I pursed my lips and watched the lines sink deeper still.
30 years ago, when smoking was all the rage, ladies called these lines "smoker's lips." In our mothering generation I've heard them referred to as water bottle lines. We carry around our water bottles, pursing our lips to take sips all day long. But I wonder, sadly, should we call these new wrinkles "disgruntled mother lines?" Have you ever caught your reflection in the rearview mirror of your car, or a window in your home? Pursed lips, unwelcoming eyes, the proof that your sacrifice has cost you your joy and your love...
Has your sacrifice lost it's fragrant aroma?
I want joyful laugh lines framing my eyes and crowning my lips. O how sweet it should be, to pour out our lives, our love in a display of the most costly sacrifice. As unto the Lord Himself. How very sweet it should be.
“God’s grace is manifest in not letting us be content with anything but Him. Every hollow feeling in the heart is a catalyst to drive us to Him.” -Paul Washer
Today a fellow blogger, Ruth at GraceLaced, began her post with the above quote. It rattled my insides. She challenged her readers where to run when the going gets tough, and I realized that this was actually at the foundation of every New Year's Resolution I made this year. Run to God!
There are two different locations I found myself consistently running over the course of the last year or two, that were not the Lord. The first was to sweets (around 2pm every afternoon) and the second was to social media (all day long.) And so I decided to forego a Resolution and start a Revolution in 2013. Why? Because I was not satisfied! Taking it a step further, everything else ultimately led to Sorrow.
I said to the Lord, “You are my Lord;
I have no good besides You.”
As for the saints who are in the earth,
They are the majestic ones in whom is all my delight.
The sorrows of those who have bartered for another god will be multiplied...
We've the choice: to receive God's delight or to receive sorrow. The equation is simple (albeit not always easy!) And the solution? Run to God! I said that I have abandoned the term resolution this year for Revolution, likewise, I don't want to Resolve I want to Revolt! But that requires me to first Repent.
"In Thy Presence is the fullness of Joy, Lord, I am sorry for turning to solitude. In Thy right hand are pleasures forever, I turn from the sugary snacks that bounce me back for only a short time before I look for something else to lift me up again. You are my support, I turn back from the lifting I try to find in relationships with others on Facebook or through texting. You are my counselor, I run from other counselors and straight to your Word this year!" Amen
Repent, Revolt, Resolve!
Between the study of God's Word we are doing at church and John Piper's book, "Don't Waste Your Life" I am astounded at the simplicity of this truth: My Happiness in the Lord is in proportion to my satisfaction in Him. When I run to other venues or fillers I am left wanting (sorrow) but in Him there is an abundance! In Him there is Satisfaction, Delight, and Joy. In Him is where I want to be!
I thought I'd share with you the two main ways I am curbing my natural fleshly tendencies to run to other things (gods) for fulfillment.
1) I have resolved to not get online each day until I have had a rich and fulfilling time with the Lord. If life gets started with the children super early and leaves me without a quiet morning time with Him, than I don't try to fit in moments connecting with others. This is very difficult, but it is a constant reminder for me that only His Presence truly satisfies. He is Preeminent and I want to honor Him as such in my life.
2) I've resolved to take all sweets out of my diet for 40 days. This includes all breads and other carbs that turn to sugar in the body. It's basically the Atkins diet. I'm on day 10 today: My energy is up and my moods are much more stable. I don't have a scale, so I've no idea what it's doing to those pounds, but who cares! I feel great.
When I look back over my life in the years to come I want to see a deliberate and sudden change in the story displayed there - A revolution that began with just one person. Me. Me, running to Him. Me, foregoing the pull of hormones, culture, and sparkly things with which to satisfy myself.
I have no Good besides Thee...
The Nearness of God is my Good.
It's been well over a week since I posted here at "Love Covers a Multitude of Sons" because, well honestly, loving my sons as taken every bit of my time, strength, and energy these past busy weeks.
Just like you, In the midst of the business, I long to love my Multitude fresh each day. For me, beginning each morning in God's Word is paramount for the filling, the sustenance, and the endurance required. It doesn't always happen first thing in our home, where boys are usually up by 5:45 each morning, ready for milk as they play with their action figures - but I do try to sneak away in the early part of each day.
One day last week, in the middle of the madness, my husband volunteered to take our oldest to school. The two little ones enjoyed a morning of legos and sticker books and so I stole away. I showered, dressed, made my bed, and opened up my Bible. (Okay, so I opened up the Bible App on my iphone.) It took me straight to where I'd left off the day before. Psalm 119.
Since beginning my time in the Psalms a couple of weeks ago I have been looking forward to this particular one. I've loved this Chapter since High School, and was eager to read it again and apply it in fresh ways to my life in this unique season. Alas... I was brain dead as I read through the first few verses. I stopped, prayed, and started all over again. Then again. And again. Finally I closed my Bible (a.k.a. turned my phone off) and the words of my Pastor echoed in my mind, "Did you come here to hear from the Lord this morning?"
I nodded, eyes shut, in prayerful response to the question. "Yes," I breathed my answer.
The phone rang as though on cue. I hesitated, not wanting to discard these hard to find stolen moments, but knew Matt would be calling soon. So I answered, "Hello?" It was my dear friend Bonni on the other end. We only speak 2 - 3 times a year, but each conversation is loaded with laughter, tears, and deep encouragement. The timing couldn't have been more ideal.
As we talked about our days, and lives, and children, she said "I spend 90% of my mothering time and energy on my two boys. The three girls... their needs just aren't as constant as the boys. They have their issues, they're just not as loud about them." we laughed together and then she went on to drop this hard earned pearl, "The boys never stop pushing boundaries and testing what's right, but instead of getting upset or frustrated I've started praising God for each opportunity to instruct my boys. It's so easy to grumble and nag and abuse them with our words over long days spent together, but I've come to see each time they push a boundary as a chance for me to correct them, instruct them, and disciple them."
For the rest of that day, and these past weeks, each time my boys have spoken nasty words to one another, cried for one another's things, or used their hands or feet in anger, I praised God (as I took a deep breath,) and thanked Him for another blessed opportunity to train my boys up in the way they should go.
Grace. Applied. The Bible. Applied. With Flesh on.
Thank you, Bonni.
Photo curtesy of Tammy Labuda Photography in the greater Dallas, TX. area.
My boys need ample time to slow down and play, to let their imaginations soar, and bond with one another and me, their busy mom. Like your children, mine love it when I forego the dishes to delight in what they delight in. My oldest child's heart opens and softens when I linger in his bedroom to listen to his heart and tickle his soft back at bedtime. My middle-est child dimples deeply when I leave the laundry half-folded to join him on the carpet and bring a play mobile scene to life. My youngest jumps into the air and runs to put on his knight costume at the mere mention of his book "Saint George and the Dragon".
But it takes time, doesn't it? Time that stretches from one moment to another and then into another and onto another. Moments strung together. Moments of time. And I struggle to relinquish my grasp on them.
I've been thinking lately about the moments in life that God has specifically prepared for me. And this week, as I read the Bible, I was struck by the specific and great tasks God had prepared for both Nehemiah and Esther to walk in.
When Nehemiah's brother Hanani came to him in Susa, Nehemiah asked his Brother how things were in Jerusalem. You see some of the Jews had returned to Jerusalem after the Israelite's massive exile out of the Promised Land, and Nehemiah was eager for news. Sadly, he was told, the remnant found their city were lying in ruins; the walls torn down and the gate burned. Nehemiah grieved deeply at the news. Nehemiah's heart was so distraught that he immediately "sat down and wept and mourned for days." He "fasted and prayed before the God of Heaven. Saying, 'I beseech you O Lord, God of Heaven, the great and awesome God, who preserves the covenant and lovingkindness for those who love Him and keep His commandment, let your ears now be attentive and your eyes open to hear the prayer of Your servant which I am praying before you now, day and night, on behalf of the sons of Israel Your servants." (Nehemiah 1:4-6)
Now as the Lord had orchestrated, Nehemiah was the cupbearer to King Artaxerxes, King of Persia. God granted him favor before the foreign King and received all he needed to return to Jerusalem safely to oversee the rebuilding of Jerusalem's great wall. It's the story of one man trusting in the Lord to accomplish great things. It includes opposition from enemies and victory as the Lord binds His people together to work faithfully. I'm astounded by the vastness of Nehemiah's calling, and the Glory the Lord received as this man faithfully answer his call.
After wrapping up the book of Nehemiah I embarked on an even more familiar story; the story of Queen Esther. While the book of Esther follows that of Nehemiah, the events actually took place about 30 year prior Nehemiah's journey back to Jerusalem. Esther was also a Jew, exiled with her family in the Persian empire. Her parents had died and she had been left in the care of her older cousin Mordecai. It's an amazing tale of how God, again, prepared the way for His people to be cared for, provided for, and redeemed through a person of His choosing. Esther became King Xerxes' Queen just in time for her to save her people from a terrible threat; a threat that intended to annihilate God's chosen people throughout all of Persian's 127 provinces.
God entrusted Esther with a "for such a time as this" moment, just as he had prepared a way and accomplished great things through Nehemiah. So many parallels as I look at them now, and so many parallels to my own, "For such a time as this" calling.
Just as God's people, the Israelites, needed leading throughout history, my children have been grafted into His beloved Nation, through faith in Jesus Christ... and they need leading too. As Nehemiah responded to care for the wall and the believers in Jerusalem, and Queen Esther said "yes" to the task before her in Persia, so I make myself available to His call today.
I am called today to say "yes" to teach and instruct my sons in how to follow the Lord. I am called to rebuild the ruins of faith in our own home; habits passed down for generations that are like the ruined walls of Jerusalem, in desperate need of tending. We will be mocked and some may attempt to thwart our plans, but it is my call to champion them as we build a legacy of faith.
Like Nehemiah, Esther also prayed and fasted as she sought the Lord's help in the good work that God had prepared for her to walk in. Queen Esther wrote to Mordecai, "Go, gather together all the Jews who are in Susa, and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my maids will fast as you do." (Esther 4:16)
Fasting is a taboo topic, but one that I hope to write more about soon. Until then, I'll say this... I have come to see fasting as emptying oneself of idols, so that all that remains is the Lord who works powerfully to accomplish His purposes in our lives.
We have all been called to good works - some public, most private - but all good works, appointed and prepared for us in Christ Jesus.
In this mothering season of life, most of my good works take place on the humble carpet and the noisy cul-de-sac. They are sweaty, sweet, and sticky little good works that require my daily YES', my time, and my self-sacrifice! They require prayer and fasting. They require strong hands and kind words as my faithful building tools. My good works have an adversary as well, but I rely on the One who prepared them beforehand for me to walk in.
For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them. (Ephesians 2:10)
Looking for encouragement and accountability to be in the word? Check out goodmorninggirls.org
No, I'm not confused about which Holiday is fast approaching; I know by the carols and the lights already strung on our neighbors' houses that Christmas is coming and the goose is getting fat. But as I awoke this morning with Advent on my mind, for today is the first day of the Blessed season, I thought of Palm Sunday and how similar the two pre-Holidays are.
On Palm Sunday the people of Jerusalem shouted for joy as Jesus entered their city, heralding Him the long awaited Messiah. They shouted, "Hosanna. Hosanna in the Highest... Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!" They were celebrating His coming.
The latin word for coming is advent, and during our Christmas Advent season we prepare our hearts to welcome Him with similar strains, "Joy to the world, the Lord is come!"
Advent season can be celebrated in a myriad of ways, both traditional or contemporary, but the purpose is always the same... to prepare our hearts for the King of Kings, the Messiah, Jesus, Emmanuel, God with us.
My family always did the advent wreath when I was young. I remember going to church each year on an early winter night as a child, along with all the other church families, to make advent wreaths. Each family would get a styrofoam ring and fresh evergreen trimmings to decorate it with. I can still smell the pine scent mingled with our spaghetti dinner in the "fellowship hall" beneath the sanctuary, as I recall the fun of our advent tradition.
Before leaving church with our advent wreaths we'd also receive a little booklet of nightly scripture readings and songs to sing, three purple candles, a pink candle, and a white candle. When we got home mom would put the wreath on our coffee table and set up the candles around the ring, with the white candle standing alone in the middle. On the first Sunday of advent we'd light the first purple candle and read together the evening's verse, and sing together our advent song. Sweet memories of preparing our hearts for the coming of the Lord at Christmastime.
Now it's our turn to be the parents and help our children ready their hearts for the coming of the Messiah. "Hosanna," we long for them to one day shout, "Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!"
Last night i went online to see if I could find some help getting ready to celebrate advent with my own little family some 30 years later. Angie over at Celebrating Holidays has done a wonderful job laying out simple yet specific Bible readings for each day during the Advent season. She tells us the meaning of our common holiday symbols, where they come from and why we celebrate them as we do to this day in America. She also offers songs, crafts, recipes, and Christmas stories to be read aloud. It's all you need for celebrating Advent with your children this year!
Wherever you find your inspiration about how to celebrate the season, start this year by making fun traditions that begin on this first Sunday of Advent. Here's what our family is going to do for the four Sundays of Advent:
Advent Sunday #1. Light a fire in the fire place tonight and tell the children that Jesus was born to be the LIGHT of the world!
"When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." (John 8:12)
"While I am in the world, I am the light of the world." (John 9:5)
Jesus answered, "Are there not twelve hours of daylight? A man who walks by day will not stumble, for he sees by this world's light. It is when he walks by night that he stumbles, for he has no light." (John 11:9-10)
Advent Sunday #2. Next Sunday light the Christmas tree and talk with your children about how Jesus desires for us to be His personal light bearers as well.
“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven." (Matthew 5:14-16)
Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation. Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life. (Philippians 2:14-16)
Advent Sunday #3. Hang a strand of Christmas lights in each of the children's rooms and share with them one on one how we are to believe in the Jesus, and be saved.
"Put your trust in the light while you have it, so that you may become sons of light." When he had finished speaking, Jesus left and hid himself from them. (John 12:36)
Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. (Hebrews 11:1)
So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:10)
For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? (Romans 8:24)
That if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. (Romans 10:9)
Advent Sunday #4. Light the fire again as a family and read the Christmas story found in Matthew 1:18 - 2:23. It's a wonderful thing to have and to use a family Bible, for that is where the Light can be found. Then pray together that your family would grow to better know Jesus as the Light throughout the Christmas Season and all year long.
Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path. (Psalm 119:105)
And we have the word of the prophets made more certain, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. (2 Peter 1:19)
For these commands are a lamp, this teaching is a light, and the corrections of discipline are the way to life. (Proverbs 6:23)
On that very first Palm Sunday, the people shouted their Hosannas. Hosanna literally means, O Save! They were in desperate need of salvation, and so are we, and so are our children. Let's use the age old tradition of advent with our young ones and our spouses to shout together "Hosanna. Hosanna in the Highest! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!" And "Joy to the world, the Lord is come!"
poem by Vassar Miller
God, best at making in the morning, tossed
stars and planets, singing and dancing, rolled
Saturn’s rings spinning and humming, twirled the earth
so hard it coughed and spat the moon up, brilliant
bubble floating around it for good, stretched holy
hands till birds in nervous sparks flew forth from them
and beasts – lizards, big and little, apes
lions, elephants, dogs and cats cavorting,
tumbling over themselves, dizzy with joy when
God made us in the morning too, both man
and woman, leaving Adam no time for
sleep so nimbly was Eve bouncing out of
his side till as night came everything and
everybody, growing tired, declined, sat
down in one soft descended Hallelujah.
I awoke exactly fifteen minutes before the alarm was scheduled to go off this morning. Had the alarm been set for 5:45 then the whole house would have stirred with me, so this was especially sweet. I reached silently for the alarm to turn its control to off and felt a little body move slightly at my back. When did he crawl in? I wondered as I picked up my phone and hit my Bible App.
The light from the screen shone bright, too bright. So I squinted until my eyes adjusted to the glare. Reading through the end of Joshua, I was reminded again of all of Israel's great victories as they followed the Lord into the promised land. How many times I've seen my own life as a journey, following God through joyful times as well as strenuous seasons that required increased faith and persistence.
After my 15 minutes of quiet I turned the phone to off and heard a raspy little voice ask, "Can I please play angry birds now that you're done reading the Bible on your phone?" I laughed and squeezed him tight, then turned the phone on and found his favorite game. Just as he began to play the other two boys came into the room asking when their turns would be. Yep, 6am on the nose... and away we went.
The last four years have been nearly impossible for me to fit a regular quiet time into my days. I usually wake up before the alarm goes off because someone needs me, and then go to sleep when the last one is done with me. During the dry seasons I hold tight to the scriptures hidden in my heart but this year I finally hit a place of deep hunger... and knew I needed new sustenance for my life and my soul. But where would I fit it in on a regular basis?
That's when a friend suggested I give God the "First Fruits of my Day." I chuckled, though rather annoyed, sure that she hadn't been listening to how my mornings begin. But she went on to say that when I am awakened by the needs of all those I serve, then my time has not yet been my own. It's only once the children are fed and dressed and the big ones are off to school and the little ones are home again and settled into their play, that I might be able to deny the dishes and laundry and rest in the first few moments that are actually mine... My "first fruits" of the day.
And so I have been doing that. But it's harder than it may seem. It requires serious self-discipline to say NO to so much. Not just the crumbs on the floor or the loads of clean laundry yet to be folded and put away, it requires self-control against anything that would steal away my time with Him. Checking email or stopping by facebook to see what friends are up is my barometer to recognize when my "first fruits" have arrived.
When the children are playing and a moment's peace is mine, I find that my first thought tends to be, "I wonder which of my 'friends' have reached out to me." But as sudden as the thought comes into my head, a new one now replaces it... "there's only one relationship that deserves my first moments." And that's when I grab my phone or my (old-school) Bible and turn to where I last left off.
It's been marvelous, life-giving, and challenging to be back in a consistent relationship with the One who made me. He loves me so much more than any of my "friends" and setting Spiritual Disciplines like this helps me to love Him first, put Him first, and give Him my first fruits each day.
p.s. -- Another Mom Blogger recently wrote a post about one of her recent quiet times and what she learned there. I really enjoyed it. Visit her at: Renewing Housewives
When I began this blog back in July, 2011, I had one purpose: To honestly share with others my Mothering journey, ever pointing to Jesus as the source of my strength and love in the midst of the chaos.. My husband looked through my first couple of posts and asked, "are you sure you want people to know how hard Mothering has been for you?"
"Yes," was my answer, " because it's equally hard for the majority of moms out there... but no body admits it. I want to admit it to the ladies in my sphere of influence, so that together we can look to Jesus to infuse our troubled times of parenting with His Patience, Grace, and Love." But it starts with sharing our weaknesses with one another.
And so that is what I have attempted to do these past couple of months.
Looking back over the course of my musings I have to ask, "how am I doing? Am I sharing honestly, ever pointing to Jesus?" I think I have been. At least I've tried. But something has been missing, I'm aware. Three little letters, comprising one big word... JOY!
But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you. So you too should be glad and rejoice with me.
( Philippians 2:17-18 )
Sisters, this is the component I tend to miss out on: Gladness and joy while serving my little men.
Paul here is talking to the church in Philippi, his Spiritual children... but the message is much the same for us and our children. ...Even if I am all poured out, like a spent cup of water, (refreshing others around me) I am glad and express JOY with those I am serving. So that they too can have JOY and express it to me!
When our home lacks joy, there's only one place to look: The mirror. I am the mother, the blessed servant of our family, the heart of our home. And if i cannot find and express the joy or pouring myself out for them each day, then joy will cease flowing in our midst.
I do not like doing laundry, it's true. And the never ending dishes and meals and correction leaves me all spilled out at times.... but still I must find the reason to rejoice with my family and with you all. That they, and you too, might be glad and rejoice with me.
But how do we find the JOY when we've spilled out until we're dry, bone-dry? I think the secret comes from displacing emotions. I recently read a blog post at GraceFullMama.com where she quoted this wonderful gem:
Today, when stress mounts, I pray to dismount it with gratitude. I can only feel one feeling at a time, and I choose to give thanks at all times. Fight feeling with feeling!”- Ann Voskamp
So what can I displace to make room for Joy?
I think it comes down to self-love. When we are weary we are aware of our own self; poured out and dry. But if I can turn my eyes outward, upon the ones who are soaking wet and sloshing through the service and sacrifice of my love, I can rejoice that they are not parched but are growing in the faith. And because I dismount self-love and my weary self-focus, then I can fully mount up upon the joy of knowing they have received the outpouring of my love. And in turn, they will share their joy with me.
It is my hope that I will grow to be a mother (and a writer) who displaces grumbling with thanksgiving, self-love with others-centered love, weariness with the refreshing that can only come from Him. It is my prayer today that as I "rejoice with all of you, that you too should be glad and rejoice with me."
How about you? Comment below if you desire to be glad in your mothering. Let's encourage one another in this together. Joy is contagious. Joy is the answer. Let's dismount all that stands in our way, throw off the sins that so easily entangle us, and mount up upon His wings and be glad.
I'm currently reading through the Bible; I just wrapped up Deuteronomy and embarked upon Joshua's journey into the Promised Land with the children of Israel. There have been numerous themes, but the most profound lesson thus far is the one I'm currently mulling over.
Before crossing over the Jordan, Moses commissioned his predecessor Joshua to take over as Israel's Prophet and Leader. Over and over again, in the chapters leading up to Joshua's commission, Moses warns Joshua that the people would disobey the Lord once settled in the Promised Land. The task loomed heavily before him as he walked up to Moses, in front of all the people of Israel, on the fateful day of his commission:
Then Moses went out and spoke these words to all Israel: “I am now a hundred and twenty years old and I am no longer able to lead you. The LORD has said to me, ‘You shall not cross the Jordan.’ The LORD your God himself will cross over ahead of you. He will destroy these nations before you, and you will take possession of their land. Joshua also will cross over ahead of you, as the LORD said... Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”
Then Moses summoned Joshua and said to him in the presence of all Israel, “Be strong and courageous, for you must go with this people into the land that the LORD swore to their ancestors to give them, and you must divide it among them as their inheritance. The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”
Sisters, I tell you, we've been commissioned with the mighty, imposing task of leading a great multitude of stiff-necked children as well! That's parenting... Can I get an Amen? And so Joshua's commission has spoken directly to my own shepherding heart. Here are my main take-aways:
1) God warns us that our children will be disobedient.
Folly is bound up in the heart of a child (Proverbs 22:15)
All have sinned and fallen short of God's glory (Romans 3:23)
2) He promises to those He commissions that He will go ahead of us and never forsake us.
Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand. (Isaiah 41:10)
Do not be afraid, for I am with you; I will bring your children from the east and gather you from the west. (Isaiah 43:5)
3) Because of the above promise we can be strong and courageous.
I can do all things through Him who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:13)
With God all things are possible. (Matthew 19:26)
We've been commissioned by the Lord Himself to train up our stiff-necked, folly filled, disobedient and willful quivers full of testosterone charged arrows! But He has not sent us out to do this alone. He is with us, going before us, leading and instructing us with His Spirit and His Word. He is near and encouraging us, supporting and commanding us to remain strong and courageous as we lead this mighty people we've been entrusted with. And so let us pray together:
Give (us) the wisdom and knowledge to lead them properly, for who could possibly govern this great people of yours?"
(2 Chronicles 1:10)