Saturday, February 11, 2017

Black Jeans Aren't for Mamas

I am one of those women who enjoy dressing up. I like putting on my cute outfits those times that I actually get to go out of the house. I know some of you can relate, and some of you just want to stay in yoga pants all the time. Either way, stay with me here.

It was one such special occasion that I decided to wear my black skinny jeans. I was feeling pretty cute this day, pretty put together. I was taking my two youngest kids to Bible study, so I was looking forward to a little me time, too.

Well, it is winter in Minnesota. For those of you who don't know, that basically means your car is dirty for 5 months. They keep the roads treated up here in case it snows, which it often does. Also, I live in the country and have family and friends in the country, so I travel gravel roads a lot. Needless to say, our Traverse was transformed from its lovely shade of navy blue to a gross shade of grungy grey. 

Since I'm kind of a magnet for dirt, I of course find that I have rubbed my black jeans up against the dirtiness of my car while getting my baby out of his carseat. Great. I had to go to Bible study with a grey smear on my thigh.

Then at lunch, my daughter dropped white cheddar mac and cheese on my leg. Combine that with the results of my drooling baby, and you can imagine what I looked like. I was no longer the picture of a put-together mom. Not at all.

Nope. Black jeans are not for mamas.

But when we get discouraged or feel a little pitiful, God's word is there for us. When we try to have it all together and fail, God can help put us back together.

A verse that I have always loved is Ephesians 2:10. But this time, I backed up a couple of verses and found some more good stuff.
"God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can't take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. For we are God's masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago" (Ephesians 2:8-10).
See what I mean? There is such good stuff here for us! 

First, God saved us. We did nothing but accept His grace. The fact that He saved us through Jesus is the greatest gift of all. We can't earn it. We can't repay it. We can just believe and be thankful. I don't know about you, but I'm glad that God does not require a list of things that we need to do in order to be saved. He does not want to burden us. He wants to give us mercy and grace. Thank you, Jesus!

Second, the fact that I don't have to do anything to earn salvation is so freeing! We do so much as moms and wives. Jesus came to give us freedom. Freedom fro perfection and striving! What a relief for this mom with a busy to-do list!

And then there's verse 10. We don't have to have it put together. We are God's masterpiece no matter what we look like, or no matter what we have on our jeans. We are made new and washed clean (unlike my black jeans) by Jesus. And, in spite of our mess, He wants to use us in His plans. What a trade off! I give Him my mess of a life, and He gives me "good things" to do for His purpose. 

Black jeans may not be for mamas, but God is all about us. He's all about you! 


Monday, January 16, 2017

Never Underestimate a Mother's Reach

As a stay at home mom, sometimes I feel like my world is small.

I know I'm having a direct influence on the three little ones in my flock, but who else do I affect?

The four walls of my house seem to cut me off from the world, which sometimes feels like I am cut off from affecting God's kingdom in a big way. 

I don't think I'm alone in this struggle. Many women feel called to be moms, but also feel called to live a life for God. I do truly believe that being a mom is serving God. It is a huge job and probably the most important one I'll ever do. I just wonder: is there more?

But here's my point: being a mom is so important and valuable. You and I will never know the extent of our reach as a mom. 

Are you familiar with the story of Jesus feeding the 5000? If you grew up in church at all, I'm sure you are. Here's a refresher if you have forgotten!

Thousands of people followed Jesus across the Sea of Galilee and up a hill. The number 5000 represents the men there. There were extra women and children. They were all eager to hear Jesus teach. They were hungry. In more ways than one!

As lunchtime approached, Jesus asked the disciples to feed the people. The disciples had no idea what to do. There were tons of people, and they knew they did not have the money to feed all of them. But, some of the disciples searched the crowd for some options.

Andrew found a young boy who had a small lunch. His lunch contained five barley loaves and two fish. Andrew wondered how this would feed the whole crowd.

We know the story now. Here comes the miracle. "Then Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks to God, and distributed them to the people. Afterward he  did the same with the fish" (John 6: 11). Everyone ate until they were full! The baskets had enough for all of the people!

It's an awesome miracle, to be sure, and it is the source of many valuable lessons. The part that I want to focus on is the little boy and his lunch.

Who packs the lunches at your house? The mamas! It is usually the moms' responsibility to make sure their kids are prepared for the day. If they are going to be out of the house, travelling here and there, the mom packs some snacks! 

Think of this mom's reach! She carried out her normal, maybe even daily task of packing a lunch for her son. It wasn't much. It was just bread and fish. But look what happened!

Jesus took her offering and used it to do something amazing! She was just doing her job, but God multiplied and greatly expanded her reach.

Mamas, we never can know how far our reach is. Some days, at least to me anyway, it seems like I'm only influencing my children. And let's be real, some days I wonder if they are even listening! Are their brains even absorbing anything I am trying to teach them!?

But the Bible teaches that, "whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God" (1 Corinthians 10:31). When we offer even our mundane tasks up to Him, there is no telling what He will do with them. 

Hang in there, Mamas! Let God expand your reach!


Thursday, January 5, 2017

A Mom's Word for the New Year

I have been challenged by one of my MOPS mentor moms to choose a verse and a word for the year. You know, just a verse and a word to focus on, to set the tone throughout the year. I know lots of people do this, but I have never really gotten serious about it. This idea has been like a typical New Year's resolution for me in the past. I remember it for a week or two, but it fails to stick. 

This year, I'm going to get serious about it. Blogging it will help keep me accountable, right? 

The verses I feel led to choose are verses that I have been marinating in for the past few months, actually. Through the wonderful experience of Bible Study Fellowship, (have I said that before?) I was introduced to these verses in a new way. Really, I don't think I had ever noticed them before. But a friend and fellow mom from my discussion group shared them with us, and I knew they were for me.

Without further ado, here are my verses for the year!
"Care for the flock that God has entrusted to you. Watch over it willingly, not grudgingly--not for what you will get out of it, but because you are eager to serve God. Don't lord it over the people assigned to your care, but lead them by you own good example. And when the Great Shepherd appears, you will receive a crown of never-ending glory and honor" (1 Peter 5: 2-4).
Now, if that isn't a word of encouragement and conviction all rolled into one, I don't know what is! It speaks to me so perfectly in my current stage of life. 

I have been given a flock. It includes my husband and three children. I am blessed, and I know it! I am to take care of them WILLINGLY! I shouldn't expect anything in return. I should just do it because those people are who God gave to me, so taking care of them is serving Him. Even if you don't have a husband or kids, you have a flock too! Who are you in charge of on this earth?

I am giggling right now at the part that says, "Don't lord it over the people assigned to your care." Have you ever said, "Because I'm the mom!" or "Because I said so!"? I know there is a time and a place, but that verse is a good check for me! 

Conviction: "lead by your own good example." I'm still working on that part...

Encouragement: When Jesus returns, I will "receive a crown of never-ending glory and honor." Awesome!

So, as my MOPS mentor mom suggested, I'm going to write this down and post it in several locations in my house. I'm not going to let these thoughts slip away this year.

Out of those words, and from some thoughts on life in general, I have decided on a word for the year as well. I'm copying one of my friend's words, actually. I'm not sure all of her meaning behind it, but it totally fits for me too. It's just a good one for moms!

Content.

I struggle to be content on many levels. I look at my life now and instead of enjoying it one day at a time, I think, "I wonder what is next? What will I do when my kids are all in school?" I also try to take on too much because I like doing things, and I've done them in the past. But let's face it, right now I have to be okay with making my family the priority and cutting out things that don't work for us. 

I'm also a list maker. And whether it's on paper or in my head, I like to cross one thing off and move to the next. While it's a good way to get things done, it's not always a good way to live. We no sooner finish one house project, and I'm ready to begin the next, for example. A lot of times, I do not allow myself time to enjoy things as they are and rest. 

Confession time: I like to shop. This year, it is my goal to really evaluate my purchases before I purchase them. I want to buy less stuff. I'm already overwhelmed with stuff!

So I'm going to be like Paul. My prayer for this year is to learn, like he did, how to "be content with whatever I have" (Philippians 4:11). He had a secret. He knew to draw from Christ's power for strength at all times and in all situations. In Philippians 4:13 he said, "I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength."

Moms, wives, whoever, I would also encourage you to find a scripture and/or a word to cling to for this year. Let God direct you to it. Then let Him use it in your life this year. I'm really excited to do this! I can't wait to see how God will use it in my life this year! 

Feel free to share with me your verse and your word. Let's encourage each other!



Tuesday, December 20, 2016

A Christmas Thought

I have finally emerged from the shopping and the gift wrapping to write this blog.

That's about the only thing I'm caught up on. But as moms, are we really ever "caught up"? Not me! Dishes are filling the sink and the surrounding counter top area. Legos have taken over the other side of the counters. A girl can't even have possession of her own kitchen. Isn't anything sacred anymore???

I digress... Dishes will always be there and so will the Legos. (Oh, the Legos.) But Christmastime is rapidly approaching and will soon be past. So, I will take a moment to think on that.

There has been a scripture that has stood out to me this Christmas. It is something that John the Baptist's dad, Zechariah, said about Jesus.

Zechariah was an interesting man. He was a priest who became mute because he did not believe an angel that said his wife would become pregnant. Zechariah thought he was too old for that to happen. Can you blame the guy for his disbelief? I'd probably react the same way. (You can read his story in Luke 1:5-25, 57-80.)

Anyway, Zechariah was to remain silent until his baby boy was born. According to the angel Gabriel's prophecy, Zechariah knew that his son was going to be exceptional. He knew that his son would prepare the way for the coming of the Lord. And he also knew the baby was to be named John.

As the angel described, Zechariah remained silent his son was circumcised and named. As soon as Zechariah wrote that the baby's name was to be John, he was able to speak. Quite a story! Quite a punishment for not believing!

But that's not the point of this blog (thankfully). When Zechariah was able to speak, he had a prophecy of his own. It was like he had been gathering up his thoughts and storing up his words for the moment he would be able to speak again.

He had a prophecy about his son, John, but it is what he said about Jesus that I just love.
"Because of God's tender mercy, the morning light from heaven is about to break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, and to guide us to the path of peace" (Luke 1:78-79).
I just love how this prophecy shares so much about God's character. First, God is merciful. I love how his mercy is described as tender. I just get such a sweet picture of God the Father from these words. Just like how a daddy tenderly loves his little boy or girl, that is how God loves us and has compassion on us. He didn't want to leave us alone or in the dark.

Second, these words describe Jesus as Jesus would later describe himself.  In John 8:12 Jesus said, "I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won't have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life." Jesus came to be our hope, a bright light in the darkness. He also came to light the way to God, for it is only through Jesus that we can see God and be saved.

Last, the prophecy says that this light, Jesus, will guide us to the path of peace. Jesus is described as the "Prince of Peace" in Isaiah 9:6. So how exactly do you find the path of peace? Know and trust in Jesus, for He is Peace. He came to give us peace. Jesus said, "I am leaving you with a gift--peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don't be troubled or afraid" (John 14:27). One thing I am sure of is this: we all need this peace. The world is scary and dangerous. Families are under attack. People are facing all kinds of diseases, stresses, and trials. Jesus came to be peace in all of these situations.

So as I take the time to think about Christmas and about Jesus, I let Zechariah's wise words wash over me. What a gift we have in Jesus!


Thursday, October 27, 2016

Peace for the Heavy Heart

Really, I should be cleaning right now, but I don't want to.

God has put something on my heart, and I have finally decided to share it. A mess can definitely wait.

My heart has been heavy the past few months. My first born went off to public school (which I totally support,) and we are in an election season that is so turbulent that you'd have to live under a rock to not be concerned. 

Or maybe not. Maybe you love one of the two major party candidates, and you're excited. Good for you. I cannot say the same.

But this is not a political blog post. 

I have just had a heavy heart over the past few months because it seems that my values and the values upheld by Jesus are not represented in the political candidates or in the public schools. Our school district decided to follow the president's executive order to avoid losing state funding. How is that acceptable? With no votes from the people? Anyway, to avoid a political discussion, my point is that my values are not represented in the decisions of the school district.

And similarly, my values and beliefs are not represented in either of the two major party political candidates. 

I have recently felt that I have no choices in these matters that are ultimately of great importance to me.

Sad.

But you know what? Christians should not be surprised. No where in the Bible are we promised that we will be the majority. No where in the Bible does it say we will have an easy life. Jesus says just the opposite. 
"I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world" (John 16:33).
We will have sorrow and face things that weigh us down. But Jesus offers us two things. First, He came to earth and continues to teach us so that we may have peace. This is a guarantee from Him. No matter what we face, we can have peace in our souls if we seek Jesus. And second, Jesus already overcame the world. What this means for us is that we have hope. There is no reason to fear the future of this country. If we have faith in Jesus, it's all good for us in the end!

I also have taken great comfort in the fact that nothing, not even this election, is out of God's control. Not only does God control all government officials; He put them ALL into place.
"Everyone must submit to governing authorities. For all authority comes from God, and those in positions of authority have been placed there by God" (Romans 13:1).
We have no reason to fear and no reason to freak out. I think all we can do is pray for God's wisdom before we vote and obey when His Spirit leads.  

I have prayed and have come to peace with who I will vote for. God delivers peace when we ask! He gives wisdom when we ask! 
"If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you" (James 1:5).
And furthermore, we do not need to feel out of control. Humans love to have control (especially women, I think!) But we forget that we don't need to worry about things, great or small. 

There is a song on the radio now that has been giving me great comfort. It's "King of the World" by Natalie Grant. I will leave you with the lyrics because they are so powerful. For the youtube video click here.

I tried to fit you in the walls inside my mind
I try to keep you safely in between the lines
I try to put you in the box that I've designed
I try to pull you down so we are eye to eye
When did I forget that you've always been the king of the world?
I try to take life back right out of the hands of the king of the world
How could I make you so small
When you're the one who holds it all
When did I forget that you've always been the king of the world
Just a whisper of your voice can tame the seas
So who am I to try to take the lead
Still I run ahead and think I'm strong enough
When you're the one who made me from the dust
When did I forget that you've always been the king of the world?
I try to take life back right out of the hands of the king of the world
How could I make you so small
When you're the one who holds it all
When did I forget that you've always been the king of the world
Oh, you set it all in motion
Every single moment
You brought it all to me
And you're holding on to me
When did I forget that you've always been the king of the world?
I try to take life back right out of the hands of the king of the world
How could I make you so small
When you're the one who holds it all
When did I forget you've always been the king of the world
You will always be the king of the world

Monday, October 3, 2016

The Sustainer vs. Stress

This is a rough time of year for me. Harvest.

As a farmer's wife, I'm learning to think more favorably about the harvest. It is the fruition of all my husband's hard work throughout the year. He eagerly looks forward to it every year. Me, I dread it every year. Like I said, I'm learning to like it.

But every year it is just a time of STRESS for me. I don't need to get into all the details. I know many jobs have busy seasons and many husbands travel often for work. Let's face it, women/moms deal with STRESS a lot. (I'm capitalizing it because it is yelling at me.)

I was thinking about how I could gracefully handle the STRESS this year because, I'll just be honest, I don't always do that well. I was thinking about how God could help me. I was thinking that God gives us grace. God gives us salvation and righteousness. God gives us mercy. I am thankful for all of theses things.

But in the STRESS, my mind doesn't focus on those things. So, I searched for an attribute of God that I could claim during my time of STRESS.

I need God to be my Sustainer. I need Him to sustain me through this harvest season.
Sustain: verb. "To support, hold, or bear up from below; bear the weight of. To keep (a person, the mind, the spirits, etc.) from giving way, as under trial or affliction"  (dictionary.com).
See, I drastically need to be sustained by God during this time. If you're like me, going through a time of STRESS or trial, you need a verse or two to cling to. Here's what the Bible says about God and His ability to sustain us.
Psalm 54:4 - "Surely God is my help; the Lord is the one who sustains me."
Psalm 55:22 - "Cast your cares of the Lord, and He will sustain you; He will never let the righteous be shaken."
Isaiah 46:4 - "Even to your old age and gray hairs, I am He, I am He who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain and I will rescue you."
So not only is God full of love, grace, mercy, and righteousness, He is able to sustain me when I feel the most STRESSED. He will carry me. He will help me. He will sustain me. I'm going to rely on Him one day at a time. I'll make it. (Check back with me in November!)

He's my rock, my anchor and my sustainer.

Here's a great song that expresses these attributes of our great God. I always love a good song! "My Anchor" by Christy Nockels
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0NG_D19wru0


Tuesday, September 6, 2016

New Places in Motherhood

Summer came and went in a flash, as summer usually does. Then, the inevitable happened: school began. I've been on many sides of this annual event. I've been the student. I've been the teacher. I've gradually eased into being the parent by taking my two oldest kids to 3 day-a-week, half day preschool. But this year, I've entered a new zone. My oldest has started his own relationship with school. He started kindergarten today.

This same little boy had many other firsts this summer, all signalling to me, his mom, that he was growing leaps and bounds. He learned to ride a bike without training wheels. He learned to tie his own shoes. He actually began to eat "big people" food. And just recently, he lost his first tooth. 

Yes, that first precious little baby tooth that I analyzed and agonized over JUST FELL RIGHT OUT OF HIS HEAD!  Or more accurately, the boy just yanked it out himself. Like is was no big deal. 

(Pause for tears.)

And this morning, as my husband and I drove our precious first born off to school, I looked over to him and said, "It seems like we just named him, like we just picked out his name." 

(Pause for more tears.)

Why is motherhood so hard? I know and you know that it is hard for a number of reasons. That is why parenting well is the hardest thing many of us will ever do.

Its moments like these that make a mom emotional. I mean, in what other career does doing a good job break your heart?

We work to make our children ready for the next phase of life as it comes. Then, when they are ready, we face the paradox of pride and sadness.  Our hearts are full but they are broken a little bit at the same time. 

Since it is only my first day of this with my first born, (I will experience it in new ways with my younger two kids, I am sure) I have no advice. All I know is this: The Bible tells us that we are to "Give all your worries and cares to God, for He cares for you" (1 Peter 5:7).

God invites us to tell Him everything we are worried or concerned about because, He cares for us. May I just say that that phrase, while nice, is a huge understatement! God loves us with an unending, unconditional, unfathomable love. He sent His own little boy to die for us. As a mother of two boys, I can't understand this at all! We are talking about mind-blowing love here.

So while I spend the day wondering if my son ate his lunch or if he had someone to play with at recess, God is right there with me. As I worry about the bus ride home, God asks me to give my worries to Him. Because not only does God love me an immeasurable amount, He loves my son that way too. He loves him more than I do, in fact.

And while this is not something my mind can grasp, I am comforted and at peace with that knowledge. And that peace will get me through this day, this week, this year.