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.


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

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. 

Friday, April 29, 2016

Motherhood: An Honest Look in the Mirror

So, we brought a new baby into the world! My third child, a boy, was born March 7th. He is absolutely wonderful! Such a little sweetie!

But little did I know, his birth would bring about some unexpected changes. My daughter, the now middle child, turned into a disaster! A mouthy, sassy, disaster at that!

Within the first weeks with the new baby, she had performed many attention-seeking acts. From screaming at me for the simplest requests to using the cat to scratch up the door of our brand new vehicle: she did it all.

She was sweet as pie to the new baby though. I am thankful for that, at least!

At our most recent MOPS meeting, we had a marriage and family therapist speak to us on parenting. She was awesome! She was so nice about telling you the truth without directly laying blame. For example, one hot topic was back talking. (I was all ears for this!) She delicately said, "Ok. So your younger child learned the back talking from their older sibling. Well, where did they learn it from?"

Yikes. Needless to say, I left the meeting feeling convicted, but encouraged. She gave us all many tips to try to stop the back talking.

And, I have really been trying to employ them. That very day I successfully dealt with a slew of sass! But then, that terrible, witching hour struck: bath time. My progress quickly vanished, and I slid back into my old ways of raising my voice to try and deal with my daughter.  When she went to bed, I just asked myself, "What happened? How did I fail so suddenly and so badly?"

I know why. I'm flawed. We all are. And we all are a work in progress. Thank God!

God knows we're flawed too. That is why He longs for us to turn to Him for help. He wants to make us new. He wants to change us into the people He has planned for us to be. Best news: He doesn't give up on us when we fail. He keeps working as long as we keep working.

God gave us a lot of encouragement on this topic. I'm so thankful for these verses that speak to my imperfect heart. 

  • "Our bodies are buried in brokenness, but they will be raised in glory. They are buried in weakness, but they will be raised in strength" (1 Corinthians 15:43).  
    • In Heaven, we will finally be without sin. We will be without weakness. We will be perfect!
  • "And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns" (Philippians 1:6).
    • One of my favorite verses! God doesn't give up on us; of that we can be certain!
  • "My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness"  (2 Corinthians 12:9).
    • Even the apostle Paul, writer of over half of the New Testament, had weaknesses. He learned, as we moms need to do, that God works best in those that admit their weakness and turn to Him for help. He offers us grace!
  • "Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning" (Lamentations 3:23).
    • When we mess up, we get a fresh start. God forgives us of our mistakes and lets us try again. Whew! What a relief!
Some days, we feel we make so many mistakes as moms. Being a mom reveals your flaws every day as you see your children act out your worst habits. (I'm not saying my daughter got her sassy talking from me, but...ok, maybe.) Yep, being a mom forces you to take an honest look in the mirror. My reflection shows me so many things I need to work on. But that's okay. God's helping me. And He is powerful enough and patient enough to get the job done.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Just Imagine

A new toy has hit the scene, making little girls oh so excited. What is this new revolution, you ask? They are a little something called Shopkins. Maybe you are familiar. If not, I will do my best to enlighten you, but I am not an expert. My 3 year old daughter is just getting into them. Here is a picture: 
Shopkins are little figures in the shape of things you would buy. They range from clothes items, shoes, accessories, to food and household items. They are all smaller than an egg. That is it. That is what they are.

What is the purpose, you might ask? (I have asked myself this too.) They encourage imaginative play. If you are like me, you get that. Sure, it's great for kids to use their imagination. It's awesome. But as an adult, it is hard for me to imagine how you could even play with them. What could you even imagine with a little boot and a skirt with eyes and names? (Yes, they all have names. My daughter was playing with Penelope Pleat the other day, a skirt.)

Isn't that just like adults? We are not very good at using our imagination. We just can't see what our kids can see. We work hard as parents and teachers to encourage the imaginations of our kids. However, somewhere along the line, our own imaginations just quit. They stop growing, and in some cases, they are never used again.

I have been reading Oswald Chambers' My Utmost for His Highest for my daily devotion each day this year. One recent day got me thinking about imagination like I never have before.  The title of this particular day was, "Is Your Imagination of God Starved?" The entry pointed out that nature is full of evidence that our God has a huge imagination, and we should too.  Nature, such as a beautiful sunset, should really get our imaginations pumping as we consider the character and abilities of our God.

Chambers states that if your imagination is starved, "when you are up against difficulties you have no power, you can only endure in darkness...Do not look back on your own experience; it is God whom you need. Go right out of yourself."

We do that, don't we? When faced with a problem, we tend to limit God's response and His ability to help us. Sometimes, our prayers lack imagination, which to me means they lack real faith. We must "go right out of ourselves" because our human minds are so great at limiting God's awesome power and His unfathomable plans for us. We really have no idea what God can do in our problem situation. 

The Bible does not call us to stop being imaginative. It encourages us to use it and to have faith without human limits. 
"Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus, throughout all generations, for ever and ever. Amen!" (Ephesians 3:20-21).
We are to give our God glory for ever because He is more than able to accomplish great and mighty works, no matter what our situation! He can do even more than our wimpy, adult imaginations can muster. We are encouraged to dream big and believe with a faith that knows no limits. His boundless power is at work. Amen!

Let's be more like our children. Use our imaginations when it comes to God. He has given us evidence time and time again that He is bigger than what can ever dream up. Each sunset is different. Every snowflake that ever falls is unique. Each and every person He creates is one of a kind and known by Him. What a big God! Just imagine!

**This may be my last blog for awhile. Baby #3 is set to arrive any day now! I will return to blogging as time allows. While I feel called to write, I know that I am also called to be a mom first! 

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Can You Handle It?

As 2016 begins, I am preparing for a major change in my family: we are adding baby number 3 in March. 

This was a huge decision for my husband and I. Two kids seemed like a no-brainer. Vacations are created for families of four. Normal cars fit two car seats easily. Our house has three bedrooms on the same floor. One kid's not enough; one kid needs a playmate. A third kid would undoubtedly rock the boat that had been carrying our little family of four. Needless to say, a third baby would return us to the world of sleepless nights and diapers. 

But, we just felt like we should go for it, so we did.  And, here we are, on the brink of rocking the boat.

One of the main emotional obstacles that I faced when considering a third child was my own abilities as a mother. My children are not exactly what I would call easy-going.  I think the politically correct term is "spirited." I questioned myself: could I really handle a third spirited kid? Could I give even more attention to yet another child? Could my brain and heart be divided by three instead of just by two? 

Could I handle it?

Let me tell you the answer to that question, moms and dads, friends and family. 

No, I cannot.

And whatever it is that you are staring down, that thing that seems impossible and overwhelming to you? You can't handle it either.

I'm not trying to be negative and discouraging here. I'm being truthful. We can't handle everything well; we can't excel or flourish or soar on our own. And I just don't want to handle motherhood. I want to be amazing! I want my kids to be the absolute best they can be. I know that is what you want too. You want to be the best, do the best, and give the best. However, we as humans cannot do anything well without God.  

This is a topic Jesus addressed during his time on earth. He must have known (of course he did!) that we would be faced with tough and overwhelming situations. In John 15, Jesus said,
"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" (v. 5, emphasis added).
We cannot do anything of real value without the help of Jesus. We must fully rely on him, just as a branch relies on the vine for life. Being a good mother is one of the most valuable jobs we can do.  We must rely so heavily on Jesus each and every day if we want to do more than just "handle" a situation.

 So, I am looking forward to this new baby. I believe that he will just draw me even closer into relationship with Jesus, the only one who can help me excel as a mother. And in those times when I feel I'm really struggling, I'll turn to His word for truth and encouragement. 
"I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me" (Philippians 4:13).
 "Though they stumble, they will never fall, for the Lord holds them by the hand" (Psalm 37:24). 
"The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning" (Lamentations 3:22-23). 
So you see, friends, we are not able to "handle" everything on our own. We weren't made to (sigh of relief!). We were made to remain attached to our source of life. Jesus is our source of life, hope, and strength. Thank goodness I have someone to turn to! I thank God every day for his help and strength...and I know my kids do too!

Linking up (usually) with these great sites:#soulsurvival,  #intentionalTuesday, #RaRaLinkup, #threewordWednesday, #livefreeThursday, #belovedbrews, #dancewithJesus, #fellowshipFriday, #graceandtruth, #coffeeforyourheart, #TellHisStory, #Reflect, #livefreeThursday, #thecozyreadingspot