Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Precious Time

As a mom, you always face the build up toward certain events. With your baby, you prepare to start solid foods. Then you prepare your house for a crawler and then a walker. There is always excitement for the beginning of those things.

When your children get older, you face the inevitable start of school. For me, preschool was not that big a deal. My two oldest children went two days their first year and then three days their second year. They were only gone from my presence for 2 1/2 hours. In reality, that's just a nice little break for mom!

Then comes the big event. Real school. Kindergarten. I was actually just a little sad when my oldest started kindergarten next year. He was so ready and excited that I did not want to damper his spirits. I did get a little emotional, but that only lasted for an hour or so.

As the school year came to a close, I discovered something new. The end of things is way more emotional than the beginning! This was a big surprise to me!

Here I was, preparing for summer vacation. My son's kindergarten teacher sent home the cutest memory book on the last day of school, complete with a picture of him in a cap and gown holding a sign that said, "Class of 2029." Why don't you just rip out my heart, Mrs. K?

I looked through that memory book and saw all of the fun things he had participated in. I remembered how he acted and how much he knew when he started. Compared to where he is now, it is quite evident that my son is ready for first grade! His life is flashing before my eyes!

I spent a couple of days looking at this book with melancholy and nostalgia, tears welling up every time. The evidence of how much he had grown was right there before my eyes. It was just a reminder of how little time we really have with our kids.

And when we send them off to school, we lose some of our control over them and what happens to them. This is an illusion anyway. God is in control of it all. It's only our sense of holding it together that we feel we are losing.

This makes the time we do have with them so precious. Precious. This is a word I have found myself using more than I ever thought I would. It always sounded a little too feminine and girly to me. I don't know why, just my own connotation, I guess. Like, "Oh that precious little poodle pup, Fifi!"

But really. How precious are a mama's kids? I think you have to be a parent to really understand the word precious. And when our kids head off to school, and we see them growing up before our eyes, it becomes clear that we have got to be intentional about how we shape them. 

Not only do we shape them by our own example, but one of the other, and probably most powerful ways we shape them are by our prayers. We can be prophets in our kids lives. 

And what better prayers can we pray than to speak the Word of God over our children? Moms, Dads, if we are not praying for our children, who is? It is so important, and I'm learning it more and more every day.

So parents: I challenge you to find your verses that will help shape your children. Pray them over them, silently and out loud. What a confidence builder to your child to hear you pray scripture over them! The word of God is power! 

Here are some of my verses.

Verses I pray for all of my kids:
"I pray that your hearts will be flooded with light so that you can understand the confident hope he has given to those he called--his holy people who are his rich and glorious inheritance" (Ephesians 1:18, emphasis added. )

"Make them holy by your truth; teach them your word, which is truth" (John 17:17)

For Myles: "May he grow in wisdom and in stature, and in favor with God and man" (Luke 2:52).

For Madelyn: "May she be clothed in strength and dignity, and be able to laugh with no fear of the future" (Proverbs 31:25)

For Maxwell: "But you, Maxwell, are a man of God, so run from all these evil things. Pursue righteousness and a Godly life, along with faith, love, perseverance, and gentleness (1 Timothy 6:11).

Pray, parents, pray! We have precious little time with our kids. 

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Holiness Today...Is it Possible?

Holiness. Does the word conjure up an image in your brain? Maybe you are picturing a super old, stuffy, church with cathedral ceilings and candles and incense, and a priest waving it around...? Is this word just too old?

I grew up in a Nazarene church, and my parents always received this devotion book. Holiness Today. For those of you familiar with the Nazarene church, they follow a doctrine of holiness. Not a bad idea. They didn't just come up with this idea on their own as a way to "do religion."

God wants His people to be holy. It is actually His idea. And if it is God's idea, we can know that it is the best thing for us. It is for our own good.

So what does it mean to by holy?

Here are some other words for holy: consecrate, sacred, hallowed, revered, divine, blessed, religious .

To be made holy means, "dedicated and devoted to the service of God"(dictionary.com).

In the Bible, to be made holy or to be holy is also written as "to be set apart," "sanctified," and "consecrated."

God wants His people to be holy, for that is what He is. "For I am the Lord you God. You must consecrate yourselves and be holy, because I am holy" (Leviticus 11:44).

This all sounds nice, maybe a bit antiquated, but fine. But how do we do this, today, in the 21st century?  Is it even possible to be holy?

You know, I believe it is, and it is something we are called to if we belong to God.

A good example of how to do this is the commandment to "Remember to observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy" (Exodus 20:8). It is not the day of the week that makes it holy; it is the fact that we set it apart from the rest of the week. We choose to rest a day because that is what God commands.

So, to be holy, we must set ourselves apart from the rest of culture. God's followers should do things a little differently than people who don't follow God. It is a choice we must make. It just doesn't happen. We don't just put on a white dress and decide we are holy today.

To be set apart for God means to be devoted to Him and His service. That is a daily choice we must make. In whatever we do, we can devote our actions to God.
"And whatever to do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus" (Colossians 3:17).
This verse is for everyone, even the stay-at-home mom! We can devote our daily routines and actions to God. When we do that, we are holy and set apart for Him!

What happens when we do choose to be set apart for God? He can use us in big ways because we are at His service. Also, Hebrews 12:14 explains it a little more clearly.
"Work at living in peace with everyone, and work at living a holy life, for those who are not holy will not see the Lord."
I believe if we are holy, nothing will separate us from seeing the Lord. This applies now, in our daily lives, not just when we die. We can see the Lord and experience Him in our lives now, if we walk in holiness. We will be able to see Him at work in our lives and in the lives of others.

This gives my mama-heart encouragement. If I devote my daily actions of raising my kids to God, I set myself apart as His servant, then I will see God do great things in and through my children. What an adventure and what a promise for this mom to cling to! What can be better or more exciting than seeing your children grow into who God wants them to be?

I will leave you with my verse for myself and my kids. When it comes to holiness, we do have some help. God's word. Knowing His word will enable us to serve and obey Him better.
"Make them holy by your truth; teach them your word, which is truth" (John 17:17). 
We can do it, moms! We can be holy in this day and age. We can help our families live set apart too! Moms are so important. What a job we have!

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

The Truth, the Whole Truth, and Nothing But the Truth

This year I have felt a little bit like an explorer on an quest to discover something. This "something" has evaded many a brave soul for many a year. Some explorers never stumbled upon it, but I think I'm onto it. 

The truth.

Ultimately, what is truth?


"Truth is like the sun. You can shut it out for a time, but it ain't goin' away."          -Elvis Presley 
"Truth will ultimately prevail where there is pains to bring it to light." -George Washington
"There is no greatness where there is no simplicity, goodness, and truth." -Leo Tolstoy 
"A lie told often enough becomes the truth." -Vladimir Lenin 
"It's no wonder that truth is stranger than fiction. Fiction has to make sense."       -Mark Twain
As you can see, truth has been the object of much thought for all of human history. In America today, truth is subjective. It is no longer an absolute. Is the media honest? Are politicians telling us the truth? (Ha Ha.) We all know that a lot of the time, money or power or threats can change the truth or slant it how the most powerful would have it.
So what are we to believe? How can we know the truth, the real truth?

First of all, truth is not subjective. Sorry, culture. There is a truth, or rather, there is a person who is truth Himself. This would be Jesus Christ, who is God. Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life" John 14:6. Truth is not subjective when we have the words of the one who is truth Himself. 

While Jesus was on this earth, He told us the truth. He actually was really into it! He was all about it! Don't get me wrong, Jesus knew how to love people. He is also Love personified. But in His love for all people, He would not let them ignore the truth.

People think that sharing truths from God and from His word make Christians intolerant. In fact, this makes some Christians afraid to speak out about God. We don't want to offend anyone, after all. But this is not Jesus' way. He spoke the truth in love to all who would listen. This is what we are called to do. 

There is a story in the Bible many are familiar with of the woman at the well. In John 4, Jesus encounters this woman, a Samaritan. This introduces racial tension to the story too. Jesus was a Jewish man, a teacher, someone who was to keep themselves holy. Jews did not like Samaritans. (They had history.) Jews of this time would even take the long route to avoid going through Samaria. It was serious disgust. 

Jesus was not afraid to go through Samaria to get to Galilee, and he found himself in a town, at the well, at noon. It was hot. This was not the time for women to come to the well to draw water because it was the hottest part of the day. But here was a Samaritan woman and Jesus.

This woman was an outcast even among her own culture. That's why she was the only at the well during the hottest part of teh day. Still, Jesus asked her to give him a drink. Gasp!

She was suprised that Jesus would even speak to her, for it was not proper. But Jesus was and is never concerned about what is socially acceptable. He had a divine appointment for this Samaritan woman.

What ensued was a conversation about water. Jesus said, "Anyone who drinks this water will soon become thirsty again. But those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again. It becomes a fresh, bubbling spring within them, gibing them eternal life" (John 4:13-14).

The woman was interested! She wanted this eternal water so she would never again have to come to the well. She would never again have to feel her shame there at that public watering hole. 

So, Jesus talked to her, he offered her a gift, an even better gift than she could understand. He loved her in spite of their differences.

Here comes the truth part.

"'Go and get your husband,' Jesus told her" (John 4:16).

The woman said she did not have a husband. Jesus already knew this, for He knows every detail about all of us.

"Jesus said, 'You are right! You don't have a husband--for you have five husbands, and you aren't even married to the man you're living with now. You certainly spoke the truth!'" (John 4:17-18).

Did you catch that? Jesus pointed out her sin. He loved her too much to allow her to live in sin any longer. He then tells her what to do about it.
"But the time is coming—indeed it’s here now—when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. The Father is looking for those who will worship Him that way. For God is Spirit, so those who worship Him must worship in spirit and in truth” (John 4:23-24).
So what is the truth? 

  • Jesus is truth.
  • God's word is truth.
  • It is loving to tell the truth.
  • It is not intolerant to tell the truth or stand for the truth.  
  • God wants us to live in the truth, because, "The truth will set you free" (John 8:32).
It's this freedom that we all really want, even if you don't know it yet or can't put it into words. It's the freedom from sin's ugliness. It's freedom from the feelings of shame and guilt. It's freedom from having to compete with others and to be measured by the world's ever changing standards. 

It's freedom to live life in the way that Jesus wants for each of us. In fact, it's one of the main reasons He came to this earth.
"I came that they may have life and have it abundantly" (John 10:10).
And so, this is the truth I know, on my quest for abundant life. 

Monday, March 27, 2017

The Questionnaire at the Eye Doctor

Last week, I had the privilege of going to the eye doctor alone. Those with small children will understand why I call this a privilege. Going anywhere alone is like a vacation, no matter how short-lived.

And plus, the eye doctor is one of the better appointments you could have. No uncomfortable situations like visiting the lady doctor. No pain or annoyances like holding your mouth wide open at the dentist. At the eye doctor, you pretty much just have to look.

My paradise did not last long. This was my first appointment in ten years, so I had to fill out their handy-dandy new patient questionnaire.

THE QUESTIONNAIRE.

The top portion of the paper was quite typical. It asked for emergency contact, medical doctor, date of birth, etc. The basics.

But in the middle of the paper it all went downhill.

The paper was asking me to check the boxes for all of my interests and hobbies. I thought, "Oh great! I'm interesting and fun. This should be no problem!"

Wrong.

The list that I could choose from included a variety of sports that I had never played, video games, and other activities that I have not done for a good ten years.

I ended up checking the following: Cooking. Gardening. Reading. Snow Skiing. (I haven't skied since I've had kids, but I had to give myself one!)

I looked at my checks and thought that I easily could have been confused with an 80 year old woman! All that was missing was needle point! (No offense, anyone.)

I sat there in the waiting area with a cloud around me. To make matters worse, I had to answer the good old question: What is your occupation and employer? 

I never know really what to put there as a stay-at-home-mom. That phrase seems too long for the little box they give on the paper. So I went with the classic, Homemaker.

I hate that word. It sounds so dowdy and, well, OLD. Welcome back, 1955!

The rest of my appointment went just fine, but the joy of my freedom was dampened. 

I got to thinking later that I might as well have put a target on my back. In fact, I pretty much did! My word of the year is Content. I have told the entire world wide web and a radio audience that Content is my word of focus for 2017. Of course Satan is going to do whatever he can to make me feel not content. He used my feelings about my occupation and my activity level to dash my spirits. 

He had me questioning whether or not I could really be content as a stay-at-home-mom. And to be honest, its not the first time. I'm an easy target in this area. 

No matter our profession or lack there of, we will always struggle with being content. I know that. I could be living out my professional dreams but there could still be more I would want. Bigger house, better furniture, nicer car. It could go on and on. 

The secret to being content is to get our eyes off of our circumstances and focus on God. Real contentment is found in relationship with Him. In Him, we have all we need.

Here are a couple of verses I found that helped me refocus.
"Yet true godliness with contentment is itself great wealth. After all, we brought nothing with us when we came into the world, and we can't take anything with us when we leave it" (1 Timothy 6:6-7), emphasis added. 

    •  The part that I emphasized there tells me that being content is not easy, for great wealth usually does not come easily. It takes a lot of work. I also notice that being content is to be like God. Great goal to strive after!

"Don't love money; be satisfied with what you have. For God has said, 'I will never leave you. I will never abandon you" (Hebrews 13:5), emphasis added. 

    • God is all we will ever truly need, and He's not going anywhere! Amen! 
**Disclaimer: I love being a stay-at-home-mom and would not trade it for a paying job. I know I will not regret being at home with my kids. However, no job is easy and without trials. God alone can give us contentment in the midst of trials, hard times, and the "Blah" times!


Wednesday, March 8, 2017

A Blog for This Day of the Woman

I used to consider myself a feminist.

I am educated. I am smart. I am capable. So by golly, I deserve equal opportunities. I deserve equal treatment. I deserve equal pay. Give me what I deserve!

There is nothing wrong with being a feminist. We all have different opinions and background and are all shaped by a variety of circumstances.

But because I am a follower of Jesus, I have some different standards. My thoughts and feelings are continually being refined to make me more like my Savior. And thank God for that!

First thing's first: this world will never be a place of equality for all. That would mean that the world would be a perfect place. The state of perfection went out a long time ago in a garden far, far away. Sorry to say that, but its true. Jesus even told us, "Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows" (John 16:33). Perfection will only be achieved when Jesus returns and God's people are at last restored to the way God meant it to be all along. Until then, ALL people will struggle. Some people many be mistreated because of size, gender, race, etc. This is because people are imperfect and will be imperfect until that day finally comes.

Secondly, and most importantly, to the Women! We will never be fully satisfied if we are chasing after the world's idea of what it means to be a woman. The world tells us that we should not be happy to stay at home and raise our kids. The world tells us that if we work, we are neglecting our kids. The world tells us we need to buy more clothes, bags, makeup, shoes, etc. in order to feel more beautiful, to feel more important. These are all lies. Too many women today are mislead by them.

Ladies, the only thing worth chasing after is God. He alone can give you the purpose that will truly satisfy your soul. He alone can love you perfectly, just as you are. He alone will treat you with equality. No matter what.

These ideas are very counter-cultural. It is hard to stand apart from society. It is hard to live differently and not participate in ways that other women may deem "worthy of the cause." But that is what God calls us women (and men) to do.
"Don't copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God's will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect" (Romans 12:2).
The key to being able to stand apart from society? Allowing God to change the way you think. Because not only are these ideas counter-cultural; they are also counter-intuitive.

As human beings, we are programmed to take care of self. We naturally seek to advance ourselves any way we can. It is only by allowing God to change the way we think that we can see His will for our lives--that good, pleasing, and PERFECT will.

This is why being a woman after God's heart is so hard. God calls women and mothers to be self-sacrificing while our insides scream, "What's in this for me? When will I get some kind of recognition for all of this work?"

You probably won't. This world does not always honor those who quietly and humbly serve. But Jesus, the King of the World, came and served in that very same way. He is our model. In John chapter 13, He washed the feet of his disciples. This was a job reserved for the lowliest slave in that day. But Jesus did it to demonstrate His great love. He served in the most humble of ways to be our example.
"I have given you an example to follow. Do as I have done to you. I tell you the truth, slaves are not greater than their master. Nor is the messenger more important than the one who sends the message. Now that you know these things, God will bless you for doing them" (John 13:15-17).
Let me just be the first to say that this idea of "humble serving" is something I struggle with every day. Like I said before, I used to be a feminist. I used to feel entitled to recognition and accolades. It is hard to quiet that down within yourself. I am a work in progress!

It is good to be driven, and it is good to want to help others who are struggling. But everything we do and everything we stand for should be for the main goal. We should be pointing people to Jesus. Jesus showed His love and He served so people would believe in Him and in the God who sent Him. He is the only way to be saved from the imperfection of this world.

If we are not doing that, our actions are futile. "Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing" (John 15:5).

This blog has helped me evaluate that for which I am striving. I had a bad week a couple of weeks ago, complete with a couple of pity parties. I was seeking those accolades. I was wishing for recognition. I was striving for what the world said I should be pursuing. It was time for a heart check.

To All Women and myself: allow God to give you purpose. Allow Him to love you. Seek Him first.


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 from 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. So unlike my black jeans, Weare made new and washed clean 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!