2010 was a year of renewal. It was a time of returning to God after losing myself in motherhood (don't all moms do that for a time?). It was full of conviction, a desire for intentionality, a longing for a life lived well. 2010 made me the mother of a 2-year-old, with so much laughter, so many smiles shared between the hubs and I, and so many frustrating "I don't know how to do this" moments too.
It was a year of getting to know my son as he began to string words and sentences together. Yes, it was a year of words. I fell in love again with words, with The Word who was made flesh. Words are powerful and strong and important, because The Word is. So I tried to talk less, listen more, and use my words well. I wrote... oh did I write... emails, articles, FAQs, status updates, tweets, texts, prayers, lists, plans, poems, and blog posts. Lord, let the words of truth and beauty stand.
And so (because words have power) I've decided to give 2011 a name: The Year of Faith. I've been living with a lot of fears... of inadequacy, imperfection, failure, rejection (oh, the list goes on)... and I'm realizing that it's when I step through those fears and have Faith - it's then that I truly live and truly love. And for me, Faith isn't some soft cusion to fall back on; it's a rock-solid, death-defying, mountain-moving reliance on my Maker.
One summer at Bible camp, my two best friends and I bunked with a girl who was mentally challenged (what's the right word for that these days anyway?). I started the week with a resistance toward her (fear of what I didn't understand); I ended the week wiping vomit off her sweater after she got carsick. Truly loving means moving through fear, stepping out in faith, forgetting about my desires, and letting God take over.
So my prayer for this year isn't for health, success, or wealth... it's that I would recognize those moments of fear and step through them to rely upon my Savior. Oh, that I would lose myself in Him so that He can shine through me!
2010 was a year of renewal. It was a time of returning to God after losing myself in motherhood (don't all moms do that for a time?). It was full of conviction, a desire for intentionality, a longing for a life lived well. 2010 made me the mother of a 2-year-old, with so much laughter, so many smiles shared between the hubs and I, and so many frustrating "I don't know how to do this" moments too.
It was an achingly beautiful, peaceful, wild, challenging Christmas. I guess Jesus' day of birth could've been described with some of the same adjectives. :) There were moments of quiet candle-lighting, prayer and scripture, and moments of stressful discipline, time-outs and deep breaths. We were so blessed to be able to give to those in need this year. Putting Jesus' great love into action is something I want to do every moment of my life, and especially at Christmas. I want to teach my family to give sacrificially, to love sacrificially, like God did for us. I hope your Christmas was more than just merry... I hope it was meaningful this year.
What love the Father has bestowed on us, that He should call us His children and give us good gifts at Christmas and always!
177. Sleeping in until 7:30!
178. Hearing J say "thank you God for making rocks"
179. A super-productive day at work
180. The generosity of our worship pastor, taking time to help me figure out my cello part for Christmas Eve
181. My sweet husband supporting me in playing cello
182. An extra day off of work to prepare for Christmas
183. My dad making it safely through his shoulder surgery
184. Rehearsal for Christmas Eve... losing myself in worship, kneeling with the worship team and dedicating the service to God's glory
185. Getting J up for the day and watching the squirrels climb & jump in our back yard
186. The way his little arms reach up to me from his crib... the way he says "time to get up, mommy!"
187. Snow falling softly on Christmas Eve morning
188. The Lamb of God who lifts off the sin of the world
189. Playing cello for three beautiful Christmas Eve services... hearing my pastor's words of Peace and letting them sink into my heart
190. A peaceful Christmas Eve dinner with the Prihoda's
191. Watching J interact with his baby cousin
192. Hearing about our family's "Jesus gifts"... sharing the love God was so much more wonderful than receiving more for ourselves
193. The incredible love of God that indwells me, upholds me, surrounds me
194. The joy of giving gifts to those I love
195. Hand-sewn gifts from my talented mother-in-law
196. One Thousand Gifts coming in the mail soon!! :)
197. Quietly lighting candles in the dark hours of Christmas morning
198. Snuggling with my family in bed on Christmas morning
199. The joy of watching my son play with his new toys... in his own little world
200. An ice cream maker from my sweet husband... one that's been on my wish list for most of 2010!
201. All of my grandparents there for Christmas
202. Being at my childhood home for Christmas
203. Such a sweet, encouraging, supportive family
204. My old bedroom... a refuge for my overwhelmed, overtired, sick son to eat dinner (a banana) on Christmas
205. A restful Sunday sabbath at home to wind down after a busy week
206. Seeing the Trans-Siberian Orchestra with friends - what a show! What adventures in the snow! :)
207. Looking forward to the lights and music and sights and fellowship there'll be in Heaven
He is the perfect Gift... enjoy Him, revel in Him, live for Him this Christmas and always!
Praising my sweet Savior for His many gifts...
150. A productive, crazy week at work
151. Watching the efforts of the past year of work starting to come to fruition
152. A co-worker who shares her coffee maker :)
153. Remembering the waiting and longing and hand of God in Israel's past... all leading up to Jesus
154. Getting a T-Rex for my son at a White Elephant gift exchange
155. Making muffins with my son (even if it does take twice as long and make five times the mess!)
156. Fellowship and good food with EaganMoms
157. Lunch and good conversation with a friend... watching our kids play and talk and laugh... commiserating about the joys and challenges of motherhood
158. Catching up with my sweet sisters over lunch - watching my son interact with his aunties, catching up on all the usual things, the time always flying by
159. Safe driving and bus rides in the snow
160. Watching the MN Orchestra and a 300-person choir perform beautiful Christmas music
161. The way the Body of Christ is even more beautiful than the best orchestra
162. Spending time with my grandparents
163. My patient husband loving me despite my crankiness
164. Catching up with my brother
165. Delicious dinner at my childhood home... so many wonderful memories there
166. How my brain and fingers remember how to play cello, and the opportunity to play again
167. Eating the bread and the wine and remembering the Bread of Life who was born in Bethlehem, the House of Bread
168. The sweet words of my son... when I ask "Who is Jesus?" he says "Fights the bad guys". :)
169. Dreaming and planning with my husband... his grace and desire to bring me back when I start living life on my own
170. Time for a sanity break after J refused to nap
171. The way my Father never forgets me, even when I forget to give thanks and praise and honor to Him.
172. Hearing my son start to sing "Deep and Wide" in the car... so grateful for his Sunday school teachers. He does remember what you teach, dear ones. :)
173. Sweet Christmas cards in the mail
174. The way my son claps at the end of a worship song and says "Yay, Jesus!"
175. A seat on the bus during my 2.5-hour commute in a snowstorm... and making it home safely
176. God's perfect gift... His Son, a love offering, a Savior for all who will trust in Him
A merry, meaningful, worshipful Christmas to you!
116. Marriages that last (even as my heart cries out for those that don't...)
117. Sweet young ladies holding a bake sale for Samaritan's Purse
118. An impromptu lunch with my mama
119. A friend safely getting to the hospital to deliver her baby son amidst a blizzard
120. A warm home, a refuge in the storm
121. Chai tea lattes and hot cocoa
122. A beautiful time of worship at youth group... Remembering to believe the words I sing.
123. A working snowblower and a husband who has the fortitide to plow after a long day of work
124. Eating soup and discussing a good book with my lovely small group girls
125. An unprompted "thank you making dinner mommy" :) (he's getting quite good at this!)
126. Sweet little hands showing me how they can be nice (after hitting me!) by stroking my cheek
127. Wonderful friends and becoming a part of old traditions
128. Extra time to sleep off this cold while being "snowed-in"
129. Making cookies with my boys; helping J push them down with a fork
130. An encouraging tweet from my sweet sister
131. Talking and dreaming with my husband about our future together :)
132. A seat to sit on on the bus
133. A friend at work sharing her last bit of cold medicine
134. Coffee to warm up on a frigid cold morning
135. God's sustaining joy and strength during a busy time at work
136. My Advent devotional, reminding me to remember
137. Pictures of my niece who was once so tiny and weak, sitting up on her own!
138. Basking in the sunshine as I walk through the skyway
Clinging to Him and praising Him for these gifts that just keep coming...
91. Dinner and girl talk with my sweet sisters
92. The easy way we move around the kitchen together, like a choreographed dance with no song but our words and laughter and clanging dishes and pans
93. Sanity and grace after failing to get my son to nap (and trying for waaay too long!).
94. My husband being there to save the day… literally!
95. Taking in the beauty and creativity of God's creation
96. A warm, cozy home
97. Watching my son and husband watch football, and J cheering “Go Tawaris Jackson!” J
98. Making cookies with the youth group ladies
99. Hearing about all God is doing in our youth group at leader training
100. My first tea party… beautiful snow, decorations, music, conversation, and message
101. A safe drive in the snowstorm
102. True, lasting joy despite a rough week at work
103. Cuddling on the couch with the hubs, watching HGTV
104. Dusting off the cello, helping my son pluck the strings and move the bow
105. Still being able to play and read music after a 2-year haitus! :) (And a cello that still works and is practically in tune after a 2-year hibernation!)
106. Laughing at silly email drama at work
107. Listening to Christmas music
108. Accidentally sleeping in on the weekend due to a faulty alarm
109. Grace, mercy, forgiveness... knowing God's at work in this life despite who I was... 110. My son saying "thank you for making dinner, mommy" without prompting! Brought tears to my eyes!
111. A job I can leave at the office
112. Reminders that He's enough, He's every gift I'll ever need
113. Jehovah Jireh's faithfulness to provide throughout all generations... knowing He's providing still
114. A husband who snowblows the driveway and starts up my car in the frigid cold
115. Little hands stroking my hair as I pray over them; making my hair into a tent and laughing
Everything about this week has pointed to this one tiny word: JOY. In one sense, I'm indignant about Joy. It's word that's thrown around carelessly this time of year on advertising, gift wrap, cards, and mall decorations. We're to have joy because of the season, the feelings, the goodwill, the snow, the shopping, the family and friends. But joy that's founded on fleeting things is worthless in the end. When the Christmas lights are stored away, when the parties are finished, when the holidays are over, there's this sense of let-down... that the joy didn't last.
And so I've been considering a lasting joy this Advent. The announcement of Jesus' birth by the angel promised good news and great joy for all people. This is the joy that lasts. The God-man coming down from Heaven, the all-powerful God limiting Himself to a virgin's womb, for you. The all-just God becoming your punishment, your shame. The holy, pure, light of the World coming into darkness, getting Himself dirty, for you. The Word that spoke the universe into existence, speaking on your behalf. This is the ultimate story of reconciliation, of redemption, of beautiful incredible unfathomable love.
So this Advent, this Christmas, and every day of my life, I choose joy. I choose to see beyond my circumstances and trust that I'm in my Father's hands. What joy and life there is there!
Charles Spurgeon's sermon, "Joy at Bethlehem", speaks the words I'm trying to say much more eloquently. Here's an excerpt:
(Thanks to Cheri Dobbs who spoke at the Eagan Hills Christmas Tea for her words of truth and life, which inspired many of the words written here.)
Thanksgiving this year has been more joyful, more meaningful, more focused on the One who deserves all thanks and praise. The more I document His gifts to me, the more I see His great love for me, His shepherding care for me, His glory. I'm also seeing myself better. The things I take for granted. The hidden sins of pride and selfishness. The great need I have for a Savior, and His all-consuming power to redeem.
Praising the great Giver for these things this Thanksgiving week...
62. The ability to work from home amidst a snow storm (and a boss who is kind and flexible!)
63. The joy of trying new recipes and learning to cook more from scratch
64. Teaching my son to catch snowflakes on his tongue
65. A thoughtful husband who brings home bagels for breakfast
66. Cuddling by the Christmas tree with my son as he falls asleep in my arms :)
67. Preparing for Thanksgiving dinner with my mama
68. Prayers of Thanksgiving with my family
69. Delicious turkey, gravy, potatoes, sweet potatoes, green bean casserole, lefse, and pie!
70. Having my sweet brother home for the holiday... hoping for someday when we'll live closer together again and have long talks about God and life
71. Watching my son slowly warm up to extended family, and shine as the center of attention
72. Compliments on my cooking :)
73. Grandparents who are (relatively) healthy and here to laugh and love with us another year
74. Memories of Thanksgivings in Ohio and fun times with my cousins
75. Leftover Thanksgiving with friends... laughter, good food, and two sweet little boys playing side by side
76. New friends who I just know are kindred spirits... who I'll talk long with someday in Heaven even if we only meet briefly now
77. Thanksgiving with the in-laws, so peaceful and wonderful
78. Watching my son kiss my niece and tell her "don't cry, baby"
79. The signs I'm growing as a mama... that it's okay when he doesn't nap... that disgusting accidents barely phase me... that his whining doesn't bother me...
80. Surviving Black Friday shopping yet again :)
81. Finding the last pair of the perfect boots in my size
82. Breakfast at Perkins with 3 generations of beautiful, strong women
83. Finally making it to church on Sunday
84. Making our worship pastor's morning by agreeing to play cello on Christmas Eve
85. I get to play cello on Christmas Eve!! :)
86. Family naptime on Sunday afternoon
87. A free Advent devotional and Jesse Tree ornaments! (see aholyexperience.com)
88. A reminder "do not fear"
89. Waiting, remembering, longing for the Savior
90. The filling He brings in the empty spaces we make for him...
Blessings to you as Thanksgiving continues on and on... and as Advent begins. Let us be quiet, be still, be made ready...
What a wonderful heart-preparation it has been to start documenting 1000 gifts just before Thanksgiving! God has already made me so much more aware of His goodness and love for me, and I am excited to see what He will do through the next 939 gifts. :) I'm praying that He will open your eyes to His overwhelming love for you this Thanksgiving!
27. Free Bruegger’s Bagels at work
28. Beautiful and unexpected snowstorm this morning. And a safe ride to work.
29. Reminders of how God’s arms are always open to me, even when my heart is closed to him (like when my arms are open to my son, and he wants nothing to do with me…)
30. My husband’s ability to fix things, to problem solve, to put things together (gifts I do not have!)
31. Watching my son’s excitement as he plays with my old train set
32. Emails from my 3 "sisters" brightening my workday
33. The promise and growth of new friendships
34. Reminders of God’s power and sovereignty in Isaiah 40 and 41
35. How my husband can always make me laugh, no matter how cranky I feel
36. Hot coffee and oatmeal on a cold morning
37. The ability to learn through trial & error (who would’ve ever thought I’d be updating my department’s website?)
38. Hearing my son tell stories about his friends at daycare
39. Microfleece sheets. Whoever invented them is a genius!
40. The honor of being a youth group mentor to “my” awesome 10th grade girls… first started leading their small group when they were in 6th grade!
41. Remembering Proverbs 15:1 when my anger begins to stir; saying soft words and giving thanks instead of speaking death and holding bitterness
42. A family that is excited to give Jesus birthday gifts this year… oh, it is so good to give when we have been given so much!
43. Christmas lights illuminating the darkness… a tiny little reminder of the Light of the World
44. Music that makes me cry for joy
45. The ability to nap during my commute
46. Breathing clearly through my nose again – thank you, Lord!
47. Wireless internet that worked, and a knowledgeable back-up for our presenter who was out unexpectedly
48. A night of youth group… a sense of family there… the joy of being back… deep questions and beautiful hearts
49. Time to eat and giggle and dream with my “sister”
50. Time to fellowship and learn with other mamas at EaganMoms
51. Learning something new about myself today – it’s okay to be a shy extrovert! And I’m actually an auditory learner!
52. Making a snowman with my son and neighbors
53. A spontaneous dinner with in-laws that I love
54. Practicing my lefse-making skills with my grandma; learning more about her life
55. My mom keeping my son entertained during lefse-making; staying to play with him so the hubs and I could have a date night
56. Not being on the icy roads on Saturday night
57. My God who is good, whose steadfast love endures forever
58. A husband who knows how to cheer me up and give grace when I’m cranky
59. All-family naptime on Sunday afternoon
60. The smell and taste of freshly baked bread
61. Reading a bedtime story with my cuddly, sweet-smelling son
Happy Thanksgiving! (This week and every moment...)
It seems like a good time of year to learn gratitude. And I can't seem to get this Gratitude Community out of my head. And God is so good, how can I not give thanks?
So here I go. In no particular order, naming 1000 of the gifts God's given to me; undeserving me. I'll try to post at least 25 each Monday, which should get me to 1000 in ten months. Feel free to join me!
1. A weekend at home with my family
2. Freshly baked chocolate chip cookies
3. An unprompted “please” and “thank you” from my son
4. Moments to teach my son “God is always with you” when scary monsters come to his active imagination
5. My son remembering “God wit me” when he started to get scared about monsters before naptime
6. A safe drive to the store in the midst of a snowstorm
7. Getting a stress-relieving check in the mail as I drop off the mortgage payment
8. Dear sisters falling in love with godly men
9. A generous giver providing gifts to stuff in Operation Christmas Child boxes
10. An obedient, cuddly son “helping” stuff the boxes
11. Time to talk and hold hands with my husband
12. Putting up a beautiful Christmas tree with my sweet family
13. Holding my husband close; remembering our Christmas Eve engagement as we put up the “Our First Christmas Together” ornament
14. Watching my husband and son play and tickle and wrestle
15. Chai tea and hot cocoa to soothe my throat
16. Chocolate chip pancakes on Sunday morning
17. A low-key day at work … alone time to recover from my cold and my cranky attitude
18. A full night’s sleep, despite sickness and my son’s potty-training
19. Helpful and kind co-workers
20. Work schedules that allow for fewer daycare days and more family days
21. A daycare my son enjoys (that’s also affordable and close to home!)
22. Not falling on the ice this morning
23. Loving on an old friend whose brokenness is being healed as she learns to love Jesus
24. A mind that can memorize Proverbs 15:1 … “a soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger”
25. My son who hears my memorizing and decides “anger” is really “angel”, who won’t stop talking about angels fighting the “bad guys”
26. Remembering I’m His Beloved, and He is mine
God brought me to A Holy Experience, and the words make my heart burn. Burning to be more grateful, to be bread to the world, to love sacrificially...
To stop asking and stop pretending that I don't know the answer already. To obey.
Lord, consume me with your fire, and leave only You.
This weekend was full of preparation for J's second birthday party. Plenty of things went wrong during said preparation, because I'm not a professional chef, and I happen to have a short fuse (God's working on it. And so am I.). At least twice as I was cracking eggs this weekend, the force of my fingers caused the egg to explode - all. over. my. outfit. I have this natural reaction when things like that happen... my husband calls it screaming. I prefer to call it a shriek. Anyway, it was loud and sounded like "AAAAAAHHHH!!!!!!"
So yesterday, as my (awesomely helpful) husband was taking the garbage out, the (empty) trash can fell over. And what did said 2-year-old do? Let's just say it sounded a lot like his mommy.
When you realize they're watching you... it's scary. When you see them copying you... it's terrifying.
This post inspired me to start memorizing scripture again on a regular basis. My first verse is the one she recommended: “…take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life God desires.” James 1:19-20
Oh, Lord, let the things J copies be the love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, and self-control Your Spirit is growing in me! I know that by Your power, my frustration can become peace, and my anger can become patience. When I want to hide in a hole, let me hide in the shadow of Your wings.
Because it's welcoming and cheerful, but not afraid to cry.
Because not everyone there looks like me or thinks like me.
Because it's centered firmly on God's truth.
Because we serve each other so willingly.
Because my son is so well-loved there.
Because I can see us growing old there.
Because it feels like home -- like family.
Why do you love your church?
If you're having trouble finding a church you love -- don't give up. In order to be supported in your walk with God and to serve others, it is imperative that you do life with other believers. Some tips on finding a church:
1. Know what is important. Keep your priorities in line when searching for a church. People can be so picky about a church's music, and yet how important is a musical style really? Maybe the building isn't perfectly kept up, or at first glance people seem stuck-up... but is the Bible faithfully taught? Are there opportunities to fellowship and serve and worship?
2. Think outside denominational lines. Just because you grew up going to one type of church doesn't mean you should limit yourself to being a Lutheran or Baptist or Methodist for life.
3. Network. Ask pastors and Christian friends you trust about churches they would recommend checking out.
4. Meet with church staff. Check to see if the church has a visitor's social, or just ask to meet with the pastor. Hearing about the vision and plans for the church from its staff will tell you a lot.
5. Commit. When you find a church you like, stay there for awhile. Get involved, put yourself out there. So often, people church shop until they just give up. Be committed to taking the time to find a body of believers that you connect with. And if you're not connecting, ask yourself why. Is it on your part or theirs? Are you serving and giving of yourself?
Do you have other tips for those who are looking for a church family?
Aren't "before" and "after" pictures so much more meaningful when the "before" was truly horrible? Jesus paid it all, with the "after" in mind. The Church is beautiful, not of her own merit, but by God's grace and favor. Those who once were dead in spirit, isolated from both man and God, became alive and reconciled to God and man.
God shows this new life and reconciliation through the amazing image of a Body in which Christ is the head and every Christ-follower is a body part (Rom. 12:4-8). This image is preceded by an incredible prophecy, thousands of years before Romans was written; Ezekiel 37 tells the story of dry bones becoming flesh, and flesh becoming spirit-filled. God prophecied through Ezekiel to remind his people of his promises - that he would not cut them off entirely, that they would be given land, and that he would put his own spirit in them. As believers in Christ, we have been grafted into these promises (Rom. 11:11-24). We have been given God's Spirit, and have been resurrected from "dry bones" to a spirit-filled body with Christ as our head.
I ask you: what can be more beautiful than the dead coming to life, than the outcast being reconciled, than being grafted into the most incredible promise ever made? Church, we are part of something more beautiful than we know.
How is the Church beautiful to you?
- Is it because we value authenticity so much that church is no longer considered a "social club" that every respectable person should belong to, no matter if they believe it or not?
- Is it because we have become disillusioned with the concept of organized religion?
- Is it because there are truly fewer Christians in my generation than ever before?
If it's #2... I understand. But I don't agree. I have had a tiny taste of disillusionment with my local church. It was bitter and sad, but it did not diminish my opinion of The Church. However I might disagree with a decision my local church makes, my love The Church does not change. And in the long run, my love for my local church does not change either, because I am committed to Eagan Hills Church. I love her members, her leadership, her servant's heart, her committment to the truth... and only a major geographical move or a major dissent with her foundational beliefs will shake that commitment.
And if it's #3, I still do not doubt that God has a plan for my generation. And I am passionate about sharing His Truth with them. And everyone.
Next up, I plan to share more about why I believe belonging to a local church is vital to a Christian's walk with God. And more about why I love my church, and how being a mother of a toddler has affected my connection to her.
P.S. Yes, I decided to call my church a "her". You can think I'm a dork. But the Church is called the Bride of Christ... so I figured I can call my church a "her". :)
I wish I had some beautiful photos and happy thoughts today... but here's all I have...
(Photo of my favorite men was taken on a happier day a few weeks ago)
- 103 degree toddler at 7 am
- Rush to Urgent Care, don't know what's wrong
- Poking, prodding, crying, snuggling
- Whining, whining, whining...
- Quick trip to the park, J enjoyed the swing for the first time
- Baby-mommy nap on the couch (daddy got to nap on his own)
- Carside To-Go for dinner... too wiped out to cook (oh, and it was Kyle's choice!) :)
- Whining, whining, whining some more
- Beautiful moment of the day... feverish toddler running down the driveway to tackle daddy with a big hug :)
Hopefully J will be better tomorrow... or daddy's in for another crazy day!
Grandma = Numna
Grandpa = Bapa
Great-Grandma = Nat-na
Scott = Dot
Sarah = Waa-wa
Doggy = Dadu
Cat = Num (Don't know where that came from??)
Bug = Bim
Stuffed lion = Dude
Basketball = Ba-baball
Baseball = Ba-ball
Go outside = Mail
Sandbox = Duurt
Elmo = Melmo
Mickey = Mi-mey
It has been so fun to get outside more this Spring. We planted our first vegetable garden 2 weeks ago (in a beautiful raised bed, thanks to my wonderful hubs!), and are already starting to see some plants growing! We're looking forward to fresh lettuce, spinach, peas, carrots, and beans this summer. :)
On a more personal note, please pray for my walk with the Lord. I have been convicted about so many things, but am having a hard time putting changes into practice. I'm beginning to be discouraged and lose the burning passion I felt for Him just weeks ago. I feel like big changes are coming, but then lose heart when they are just baby steps, and more waiting... May He shake up this life and make it set apart for His glory! May He be the center of all I do, and may every distraction become worthless to me, compared to the riches of His grace!
Consider with me the incredible gift we've been given...
"As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath.
But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do."
Let's celebrate the life we have been given! Let's put to death our selfish desires and do the good works God has prepared for us! Why waste time on the idols of Hollywood, of the Internet, of drinking, or catering to the expectations of others? God's opinion is the only one that matters in the end! The work we do for Him is the only work that lasts!
One last quote that really hit me this week...
"We must look upon the world, with all its delights and all its attractions, with suspicion and reserve. We are called to a higher Kingdom, we are touched with a diviner Spirit. It is not that He forbids us this or that comfort or indulgence; it is not that He is stern, demanding us to follow a narrow path. But we who love our Lord and whose affections are set on Heavenly things voluntarily and gladly lay aside the things that charm and ravish the world, that, for our part, our hearts may be ravished with the things of Heaven that our whole being may be poured forth in constant and unreserved devotion in the service of the Lord who died to save us." - Amy Charmichael, God's Missionary
I found Lindsey's blog through my sweet friend Carrie's blog, and her words have been such an inspiration and encouragement to me in my pursuit to be a godly wife and mother. I must admit, at times, her amazingness puts me to shame... and then I must remember, God calls me to live my own life, and no one else's. :)
And a quick update... we're spending lots of time enjoying Spring, playing in the yard and discovering what's planted there, going to the zoo, Spring cleaning, etc. It seems that Spring gives us an all-around new appreciation for life, and renewal to pursue our goals, build our friendships, and love on our family. :) At the same time, sometimes it all gets a bit overwhelming, and we remember to take time out to rest in the Lord.
Ate, cried, breathed, slept.
He felt hot, cold, hungry,
Thirsty, happy, angry, sad.
He was betrayed by his friends.
My Jesus suffered.
He was beaten, mocked,
Pierced with thorns, bloodied.
Whipped, over and over again.
He carried two beams to the hill.
My Jesus was nailed
To a tree He created.
The sensitive hands and feet
He created, screaming in agony.
He forgave a criminal.
My Jesus died,
Bloodied, naked before the world
He came to save.
Mocked, beaten, and crucified
By those He came to save.
My Jesus was sliced open,
The water and blood testifying
That He was more than a man.
The Spirit testifying, darkening the world,
Ripping the temple curtain in two.
My Jesus was buried.
For three days in the tomb.
And then - and then!
The stone rolled away.
My Jesus is Love.
My Jesus is Power.
He's Life in abundance.
He's a River that never goes dry.
He's Bread that never runs out.
No matter your stains,
Your depravity, your brokenness -
His death can cover your sins.
His life can make you whole.
Will you call him your Lord?
In preparation for Spring, I've had this drive to have a sparkling clean house that I've never felt before (probably because I've never owned a house in the Spring before!). I've been following the kitchen spring cleaning tips on The Nourishing Gourmet, which has given me some extra motivation. So far, I have cleaned out the fridge and freezer (ewww... I'm really bad about not throwing away old food!), cleaned out our food cupboards, and filed away all the papers that were hogging our counter space. Hooray!
I've also been inspired to begin a home organizing binder, thanks to Davy's Delights and Passionate Homemaking! I am usually horribly unorganized unless someone inspires me to have a "system" for organizing. I believe that God is a God of order, and that our lives are more pleasing to Him when they are in order (oh, and more pleasing to us, too!).
So far, my home organizer includes:
- My weekly menu plan and grocery list
- Fast food menus (I wish I could leave that one out...)
- Upcoming bills, paid bills
- Important receipts
- List of house to-do's
- Healthcare info
- Commonly needed phone #s
- Gift ideas
- Book list
I had a good talk with a friend the other night, and we both agreed that all of the information on the internet makes it hard to know which "good thing" to focus on first. There are so many great Christian blogs out there, with so much good information. But it's easy to become overwhelmed with it all, and to start feeling that I'm not good enough. I'm trying to take baby steps in all of this, and to remember my ultimate priority is to do everything for the glory of God! May He be honored in even the most mundane tasks of motherhood. :)
My bus-reading this week was Set Apart Femininity, by Leslie Ludy. I arrived to work each morning feeling that my heart was about to burst with love for Jesus, and couldn't understand why people didn't mention the glow on my face. Maybe they think I'm pregnant. ;) Needless to say, I highly recommend this book. I have shared its impact on my life with pretty much everyone I've talked to this week for more than 10 minutes.
Leslie uses God's Word, her own story, and stories of faithful Christian women of the past to unveil God's beautiful, incredible plan for femininity. She challenges the status-quo of Christianity, convicting me on each page that Jesus wants more of me.
I was especially convicted on how I spend my time. It's so tempting after a long and stressful workday, making dinner, doing dishes, playing with the little man, and putting him to bed, to just turn the TV on and veg. And in our society, it's perfectly acceptable and normal to do so. But think about this:
"One of the ways that you can tell something is an "idol" or "other lover" in your life is that you are unwilling to let it go; you can't picture living without it....Most of us verbally declare that Jesus Christ is more important to us than our fetishes for music or movies. But what do our lives say? Where do we spend the best hours of our days? What do we turn to for enjoyment and comfort?" p. 79, 81 (bold mine)
That last sentence hit me hard. Do I turn to Jesus for enjoyment and comfort? More likely, I turn to reading a blog or Facebook, or watching TV, or reading a book. And yet the enjoyment I get from spending an entire day doing those things is nothing compared to spending a few minutes in focused prayer, a few minutes studying God's Word.
I will confess, I have rarely set aside a consistent time in my day just for God. After rising early for Bible study and prayer for the past two weeks, God has transformed my heart, renewing my passion for Him. While I once considered "quiet time" a chore that I rarely "had time for", now I can't imagine not making time for Him, and desire to spend every possible moment knowing Him more. I am so amazed by the great love He has for me, that He would lay down His life for me; how can I not love him with every ounce of my being, every minute of my day? I can't wait to see what He will do with this life, now that it is completely His. Please pray with me that God would continue to reveal His will to Kyle and I, that we would know how we can be most effective in our service to Him.
If you've been in a dry season in your walk with God, I urge you to take 30 minutes each morning to read the Bible. (Really, what's the difference between 6 or 6:30? Or in my case, 5 or 5:30.) Proverbs and 1 John have been my books of choice lately. I would also highly recommend the Precept Upon Precept Bible studies, if you benefit from a more structured study. Then spend some time talking with God, letting him know what you're feeling, what you're thankful for, what you want Him to do in your life. Ask Him to show you who He wants you to be, because I assure you that His plans for you are probably more wonderful that you can even imagine. Delight in who He is, in His great love for you!
Oh, and pick up a copy of Set Apart Femininity. :) For the guys, her husband also wrote a couple of books that are more geared towards men - "God's Gift to Women" and "The Bravehearted Gospel".
I don't have it all together. On a topic as touchy as family planning, I just want you to know there is no condemnation here for those who are seeking to follow Jesus. If you have made choices you regret, there is abundant love and grace in the arms of Jesus! Tell Him you realize you were wrong, turn away from doing wrong, and follow Him! If you aren't sure what decisions to make, let Him make them for you. "Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight." (Prov. 3:5-6).
That said, I have a confession to make, which some of you have heard before. I am so much more nervous to get pregnant with baby #2 than I was for #1. The Lord must have given me a gift of faith before #1, because I had very few fears or worries before or after we got pregnant with J. I trusted that God would provide, and that we were in His will. I am having a hard time trusting God, now that I can "count the cost" of having a child. I have no clue how things will change once we have two kids. I have no clue if we have enough money, or energy, or mental ability. I am so worried about me, it's just ridiculous. God provided when we had one meager income, one tiny apartment, and a very new marriage. He will provide again. Please pray with me that God will help my husband and I to trust Him with our next child (if another one is His will), and that He will provide!
The most important thing I have learned as I have studied God's views of family planning: "the foolishness of God is wiser than man's wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man's strength" (1 Cor. 1:25). God always knows better than I do. And he definitely knows better than the ways of the world. I've found myself examining the different facets of my life to see if I am following man's "wisdom" or God's Wisdom. Am I lusting after things, success, power, or recognition? Or am I desiring the incorruptible treasures God longs to share with me? Am I trying to do life all by myself, my own way (or trying to be someone else)? Or am I giving my life over to God, seeking His narrow path? (1 Jn 2:16-18)
This passage showed me so clearly that God's wisdom can definitely plan my family:
I [wisdom] was there when he [God] set the heavens in place,
when he marked out the horizon on the face of the deep,
when he established the clouds above
and fixed securely the fountains of the deep,
when he gave the sea its boundary
so the waters would not overstep his command,
and when he marked out the foundations of the earth.
Then I was the craftsman at his side.
I was filled with delight day after day,
rejoicing always in his presence,
rejoicing in his whole world
and delighting in mankind.
"Now then, my sons, listen to me;
blessed are those who keep my ways.
Listen to my instruction and be wise;
do not ignore it."
Lord, help Your people to turn from man's wisdom to Your wisdom. Help us to live radically different lives that shine Your light and love to the world. Let us not become complacent with traditions, rituals, or expectations, but to seek correction and discipline from You that we might become like You. Let us truly be Your hands and feet, Father. Amen.
NOTE: This post is PG-13. If you don’t care to hear about my personal family planning choices, please read no further.
Soon after discovering that The Pill is an abortifacient, I happened to have a conversation with my pastor about birth control. “Children are a blessing from the Lord,” he exclaimed, “so why would you try to limit God’s blessings?” I had honestly never thought of family planning in such a way. Our culture certainly doesn’t see having many children as a blessing! So often I hear people maligning large families, and speaking of the parents of large families as if they don’t understand the “facts of life”. It is seen as irresponsible (oh, that carbon footprint!) to have many children. More on a theology of family planning later…
Later that week as my fiancé and I drove through the countryside, I brought up the idea of trusting God with our family size, and foregoing B.C. After much discussion, we decided it wasn’t the right plan for us at the time. With me graduating a month before our wedding, and no employment plans on the table, we knew we would need time before having a baby.
So, I began researching other options. It became clear that the only other family planning methods that would work for us would be Natural Family Planning (NFP), barrier methods, or some combination of the two (the Fertility Awareness Method, or FAM). Based on our theology of family planning, we determined that NFP was the best option for us. It allowed us to remain open to the possibility of conceiving, while also allowing us to naturally avoid pregnancy.
I began charting my fertility signs right away (in November) in preparation for our marriage in June. I won’t go into the details of how this works… but if you’d like more information on how to use NFP, I recommend the resources offered by the Couple to Couple League. Their FAQ page on NFP is here. If you’re going to use NFP, I highly recommend at least a few months of charting before actually using it to postpone pregnancy. This gives you some time to build confidence and understand your cycle.
Some pros and cons of NFP:
1. Openness to life
2. Works with the natural signs of fertility
3. No hormones/chemicals/barriers to worry about
4. Encourages communication between husband and wife
5. Encourages non-sexual affection
6. Highly effective when properly practiced
1. Abstinence during fertile times
2. Time and stress of properly charting fertility signs
We used NFP for the first 6 months of our marriage, before conceiving in December. No, my pregnancy wasn’t a mistake (nor was it a perfectly thought out and planned decision!). It was God’s perfect plan, though! At that point, we both had steady jobs, and God has been so faithful to provide all we needed.
Our dear son was born in September. Knowing that breastfeeding is not 100% effective at postponing another pregnancy, we decided to use FAM until my signs of fertility returned.
Hopefully this isn’t all way too much information. My intent is not to gross anyone out, but only to share what has worked for us in the hopes that others will be inspired to follow God’s leading in choosing a method of family planning. I am open to answering your questions, and if they are too personal to post as a comment, feel free to leave your e-mail address and I will contact you.
And alas, I am out of time and will need to cover a theology of family planning in Part 3. But in the meantime, here is one of the sites I found while researching my theology of family planning: http://www.silentvoices.org/birthcontrol.html#biblep. I think they have a great biblical perspective on birth control.
Anyways, I'm not to great about keeping my mouth shut when I have a strong opinion. And I consider this to be an incredibly important topic. So I'm going to attempt to share...
I never really thought much about family planning until I was engaged. For the first time in my life, I had to consider... are we ready to start a family? And if not, what are we going to do about it? (In hindsight, I would recommend discussing this pre-engagement, as this decision could have a huge impact on your marriage!) In an act of God, I happened to be a part of a Relationships class in college during this stage in life, and we happened to be studying the big B.C. (Birth Control).
It was the first time in my life that I heard that The Pill could be considered an abortifacient. (Big word meaning that it causes abortions). Oh yes, The wonderful little Pill that gives you lighter, shorter, more manageable periods and assurance that there really doesn't have to be a connection between sex and babies... has a dark side. I was totally shocked, and a little incredulous. If this was really true, why had I never heard it before?
And like any good student, I decided to do some research. Here is a short overview of the way The Pill works, taken from Randy Alcorn's "A Short Condensation of Does the Birth Control Pill Cause Abortions?"
"...according to multiple references throughout The Physician's Desk Reference, which articulate the research findings of all the birth control pill manufacturers, there are not one but three mechanisms of birth control pills:
1. inhibiting ovulation (the primary mechanism),
2. thickening the cervical mucus, thereby making it more difficult for sperm to travel to the egg, and
3. thinning and shriveling the lining of the uterus to the point that it is unable or less able to facilitate the implantation of the newly fertilized egg.
The first two mechanisms are contraceptive. The third is abortive."
I would highly recommend reading his entire e-book, available to downoad free as a PDF here.
After finding this information about The Pill, we decided against using any hormonal form of birth control. We didn't ever want to risk aborting a baby, not to mention the other side-effects that The Pill can cause.
So, after eliminating the option of hormonal birth control, we saw three available options: forego B.C. altogether, use Natural Family Planning, or use barrier methods. I will talk about these three options, as well as a theology of Family Planning, in my next post. :)
he leads me beside quiet waters,
he restores my soul.
He guides me in paths of righteousness
for his name's sake."
God has blessed me so greatly in these past few weeks with a season of restoration, rest, and renewal. While life has continued on at full swing, my soul has found rest in Him. It's been one of those dry seasons for a long time... the kind where I seek my own way, rely on my own strength, and feel bitterness toward those who are full of living water and light. But God has been pursuing me all the way, showing me His mercy and tenderness. I have seen His goodness in so many ways - through encouraging friends, miraculous events, His word, and the church. I know that apart from Him I am tired, run down, confused, and hurt. But as I have opened my heart to Him again, I have found joy, peace, understanding, energy, and meaning.
Some things I have learned in the valley...
1. Shame leads to isolation. In my prideful sin, I hide so I am not exposed by the light. As I have sought fellowship and intimacy with others, God has convicted me and encouraged me so greatly!
2. Doing nothing leads to backsliding. I have failed to develop habits that deepen my relationship with God. Satan has used distraction to keep me from growing, and I need to recognize when that is happening. If you're reading this - please ask me if I've established a steady "quiet time". I need some accountability here. My goal is to start small, with one hour on Sunday mornings.
3. I need to start living my faith. When faith becomes just ritual and habit, it is meaningless. True religion is to serve the widows and orphans in their distress. Lord, help me to give and serve and bear fruit for you!
I love the end of Ps. 23:3... "for His name's sake." When God gives me rest, restoration, and growth in righteousness, it is not just so that I can be a better person. It is ultimately so that His name will be honored and lifted high!
And in the midst of this personal "change of seasons," I have been so heartbroken and touched by the devestation in Haiti. I believe that God is sovereign over this disaster, and pray that He will work mighty miracles for His name's sake! Please pray for the Baptist Haiti Mission, which has one of just a few functioning hospitals. Their doctors have been working non-stop since the earthquake, and they are so dependent on incoming planes for supplies. Please pray continually for them to have the energy and supplies they need - and for many lives to be saved (physically and spiritually!). Here is one post from their Twitter: "the FAITH of Haiti Christians singing praises as they search for survivors is an inspiration and lesson to Christians everywhere." Praise Jehovah Jireh for upholding and giving joy to his children in Haiti. May many be saved by their testimony!
This woman is two years younger than me, and is the foster mother to 14 children in Uganda. She runs a sponsorship program that provides for the needs of over 400 poor children. She has an incredibly challenging life, and has witnessed horrible tragedies, and yet she writes as one who is completely alive. She is full of joy in the Lord, because she has listened to His call, trusted in Him, and seen Him work miracles.
Here is an excerpt from her blog about her daughter who has Cerebral Palsy, and was supposed to never walk or talk:
"In two weeks I have been able to watch God give back to Grace everything that was taken from her the first three years of her life. I have watched Him not only begin to restore her physically, but restore her spirit, her little heart that He so deeply loves and desires intimacy with. He has reminded me how deeply He longs for each one of His children to know His intimate love. He has reminded me how He longs to restore our brokeness. He has reminded my girls what His LOVE can do through their little hands. Most incredible is that I know He is not done yet, but only getting started. Lord, we give you our brokeness, that you may fully restore us. Remind us of the intimacy that you long for with each of us, your deep, passionate love for your children. Father, you have given so freely, you have loved so extravagantly. Let us give. Let us LOVE."
A song that came on while reading her blog...
"It is not too far a cry
Too much to try to help the least of these
Politics will not decide if we should rise
And be your hands and feet
Fill our hearts with your compassion
As we hold to our confession
God, be the solution
We will be your hands and be your feet"
~"Solution", Hillsong United
Children Katie feeds from one of the poorest tribes in Uganda
I am overwhelmed at the thought that the money I waste on so many things could save a child's life. "My" money is a gift from God in the first place, and should be used for His glory! Less than $5 could provide life-saving medical care. Less than $1 per day could provide food, education, and basic medical care to a child. Lord, let us wake up from our complacency and be Your hands and feet!