Joy From the Inside Out

Blessed, I am!  Yet, I know I am not alone in my struggle to enjoy every moment of motherhood.  I love my boys, but sometimes I feel like I’m going to go crazy.   You know what I’m talkin’ about.

A couple of weeks ago my boys were having at it.  After much prayer I read through I Corinthians 13 with them, inserting their name wherever is was written “Love.”  Then they spent an entire day wearing gloves – doing school with gloves, eating with gloves, and learning to consciously think about using their hands for things better than wailing on their brother!  (We all had to admit it was comical when they were trying to eat their lunch with big hands.  And thankfully they haven’t hit each other since).

Then on Sunday morning, one boy was such a grouch.  I reminded him (and me, again) that Satan is extra busy on Sundays, trying to upset people and families.  “We love you!”  Eventually, on the way to church, he decided to put on a smile and treat us with kindness. (I was thankful for the quick resolution.  I realize that this will not always be true here and that presently you might be enduring a long-term rebellion in your home.  Hugs!)

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Then there are times like last night, when one knocked on my door sounding like a barking seal, “Mom!  I can’t breathe!”  I rushed him into the bathroom and turned on the steaming hot shower.  I held him, sang to him, attempting to calm him down.  Of course I was concerned and completely thankful that he woke me up to help him!

In the dark, quiet hours, I got to thinking about how Jesus cares about His children.  About me. Then I began to wonder, what kind of child am I to God?

Basically, what endears us to children is their childlikeness.  The things they do that irritate us, threatening our sanity, is childishness.  (How many times a week do I remind myself to be patient – that they are just 8 and 6 and are in process.  Phil. 1:6!)

Dictionary.com defines them this way (followed by my lists):

Childishnessof, like, or befitting a child: childish games … weak; silly: childish fears.

My short list:

Unrestrained goofiness
Irresponsible, lazy
Doesn’t feel like it – doesn’t do it
Mine!!!
Sullen rebellion
Violent responses of anger
Happy one minute, upset the next
Says things without thinking
Fearful about the silliest things (orange juice pulp?!)
Stubbornness

 

Childlikeness:  like a child, as in innocence, frankness, etc.; befitting a child: childlike trust.

My short list:
Joyful outbursts of laughter
Honest
Trusting
Inquisitive – asks lots of questions
Forgiving
Spontaneous hugs
Excitement about life
Devoted and helpful
Willing to try new things
Natural inclination to believe there is a God and want to know Him better

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Truth: I am extremely prone to childishness, many times every day! And to go even deeper, recently one of my precious children asked me, “Mom, when are you going to be happy?”  GULP.  I am thankful for my children’s insights – so convicting!  With the health challenges I’ve faced the past several months, I have struggled with joy.  Even when I am making myself smile, somehow my children know when it is forced.  God, help me! A verse in Proverbs has been buzzing in my brain this week …

“Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she smiles at the future.” Proverbs 31:25 NASB

I thank God for His patience with me!  He is gracious and slow to anger, always filled with joy.  This past week He has been teaching me about joy and how it is His gift.  When I trust that He is giving me everything I need, including the trials, I don’t need to have a hissy fit like a three-year-old.  I can laugh again!  Today I can smile (from the inside out!), knowing that if He gives me another day, He will be my Rock, my Provider, and my Joy!   Abba, I want to enjoy You and our walk through this life together.  Please make me more child-like in my joy, excitement about life, and in my undoubting reliance on You every day.

 

God’s Living Word …

“At that time the disciples came to Jesus and said, ‘Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?’ And He called a child to Himself and set him before them, and said, “Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. “Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. “And whoever receives one such child in My name receives Me; but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him to have a heavy millstone hung around his neck, and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.”  Matthew 18:1-6 NASB

“When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known.  But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love.”  I Corinthians 13:11-13

“For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1:6

 

In Her Shoes – Mom’s Day Tributes 2014

I thank God … when I call to remembrance the genuine faith that is in you,
which dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice,
and I am persuaded is in you also.” 2 Timothy 1:3a,5

Y Presenting our 2014 Mother’s Day tributes … Y

 
 


I just spent a few days with my Mom and every passing year reminds me of how much more I am thankful for her. 

God has been very gracious to our family, and I praise Him that He was merciful to save my mother.  I don’t remember a lot about my little years, but I do remember her talking with me one night about Jesus.  That was the beginning of my spiritual journey.  As soon as all of us were old enough to be in school, she started teaching again. I remember many hours of our week were spent at church and school.  I am so thankful for her selfless giving which helped allow us to have a good, Christian education. Fatigue often hit in the evenings, and I really didn’t have a clue as to why she was always so tired. But now I do!

She faithfully taught by example that I needed to rise early and spend time with Jesus.  As I grew older, she taught me many practical skills that prepared me for my future role as a wife: cleaning, organizing, ironing, baking, gardening, cooking.  Being well prepared in those areas was a huge advantage when the parenting learning curve began.

I am thankful for her counsel and confrontation. I still remember the day that my parents pulled me aside and pointed out a major sin area that I needed to address. God was very kind to bless me with parents who spoke words of life to me. I am especially thankful for the example of love, submission, and servanthood that she lived out in her marriage.

As the years have passed, God has grown our relationship to a more intimate level. The last few years have given us many opportunities to share what God is teaching us from his Word. I am so thankful for the trials and difficulties that He has chosen for our family to drive us to Him. This has drawn us much closer together as we cry out to our Father in prayer. 

Just recently, I finished a Bible study through Hebrews that  she shared with me. I am so thankful that we both know and serve the God of hope. Mom, may we ever know and love Him more! May we run with perseverance. Looking ahead to Jesus the author and finisher of our faith. Thank you for pouring out your life to serve and bless me!  I love you.

– Megan, North Carolina

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God graciously saved my Mom when she was in her teens. She grew up in an
unsaved, dysfunctional family. She has been through many trials through her life
and come forth as gold. I am privileged to be her daughter.

I have seen her grow
in her walk with the Lord. She has shown tremendous courage in the face of
difficulties that other people might have just run from. I know I didn’t always
appreciate her and was a rebel at some points, and I am thankful she always
loved me no matter what. She is constantly serving others, especially her
family.

Through her many trials in life, she has put together a booklet of
Scripture verses and quotes that have helped her. She puts these in a flip photo
album that stands up so you can see one at a time. She has a ministry of giving
these albums to people going through very difficult times. It has blessed so
many people over the years. I love to be able to give them to people I know and
then hear how God used it greatly to comfort them.

Over a year ago, my Mom was
diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer. It was during those first few months that
I turned to her booklet of verses for God’s comfort. Her testimony through it
all is a blessing and a testimony of God’s goodness. Right now she is responding
well to medicine that is keeping her cancer at bay.

Thank you, Mom, for the
strong, godly heritage you pass down to me and future generations!

– Tracie, Minnesota

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A Tribute to my Grandmother, Grace Braymer Mears

2014-02-26 11.25.31
“Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips nor enslaved to much wine, teaching what is good, so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored.”  Titus 2:3-5 NASB
 
In reflecting upon my grandmother’s life, a multitude of thoughts come to mind. This passage however, was foremost in my thoughts. Grandma’s life truly reflected the heart of this passage. Her life was one of modesty. She did not have to be the center of attention; she was content in being in the background, quietly serving and meeting the needs of those present. Her words were “seasoned with salt;” I never heard her say an unkind word to or about anyone. She was an able teacher. This is evident in the lives of her children. All of them are upstanding in their character, hard-working in their chosen occupations and ministries, faithful to the work that God had chosen for them. All have served in some measure in the Lord’s service.
 
She taught her daughters well by example to love their husbands and children, even when it might have seemed like God wasn’t working. She was sensible, pure, and kind. She kept her home in order and diligently worked to preserve the yield from Grandpa’s garden. She was subject to her husband. All of this is lived out in the lives of my aunts, Lucy Hess and Gloria Ruby. She was also a good model of what a godly lady was to be like for her sons, who in turn chose godly young ladies to be their wives.
 
When I look at the results of Grandma’s life in relation to my own family’s future, I wish that I had more time to spend with her to glean treasure from her words of wisdom. I want my children to grow up as well as hers did. I wish I would have had the insight to ask her those questions when I had the chance. I did not feel the pressing need when she was able to communicate with me. Now that my children are growing, I am really feeling the need for her insight. Even to the end, she was seeking to impart wisdom and godliness. Her last words to me from her hospital bed were “Praying for one another,” showing her heart for others and her dependence upon God.
 
Grandma was a quiet lady. She loved her husband and family and was content when they were happy. Proverbs 31:30-31 says, “Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, But a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised. Give her the product of her hands, And let her works praise her in the gates.” Grandma, I am so thankful for the godly heritage that you have given me. I treasure it and will strive to pass it on to my children. I love you. God’s Word has been honored in your life. May it be so in mine.
 
– Sharon, Ohio

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 “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28
 
This picture was taken shortly after my oldest son was born in 2006.  My Mom and I have so much fun together, no matter where we are.  Anyone who knows her knows that she is very sweet and thoughtful, putting others first.  I like to think of her as a queen of hospitality.  And I’ve never seen anyone send more cards to express love! 
 
Part of the reason my Mom is so kind is because she has a heart for God and for people.  Since God saved her years ago, she has tried to walk closely with God every step of the way.  My Mom prays for me (and many others) several times a day.  I imagine that her praying heart was shaped by years of waiting on God to become a mother.  Over the space of about 15 years, my parents gave birth to three girls, and during that time also lost seven babies.  God brought them through many painful moments, and what He taught them is clearly described in her life verse (seen above).  She smiles so beautifully from the inside out because she knows God has a wise plan, and He promises to provide every step of the way.
 
My Mom is my best Girlfriend.  I thank God for her every day.  And I am especially thankful that someday we will be together with Jesus, able to meet for the first time my brothers and sisters gone before, and my own three sweet babies … together enjoying and praising God for eternity.  I love you, Mom!!
 
– Sara, Iowa
 

 

Please feel free to give tribute to a special woman in your life, below.
Thank you for stopping by!
– Sara

Shovels, Love, and Hot Cocoa

“There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love.”
I John 4:18 NKJV

Yesterday I watched my sons, ages 5 and 7, shovel the snow.  They were so excited to get out there, shovel in hand, helping and making the way clear.  As I stood and watched them, I was filled with love and thankfulness for my little men, growing up so big and strong, physically and spiritually. 

They weren’t perfect in their shoveling.  But, they would try to improve their methods if a lift or push didn’t do what they wanted it to do.  Of course the bigger boy got more done, but the younger did his best.  I love them the same and didn’t compare them.

It was a moment of love, not fear.  And it made me think of God’s love for us.  He looks at us in love.  He is not wagging His finger in disgust, micromanaging our lives.  He allows us to make mistakes.  He forgives.  He doesn’t compare us with each other.  He gives us the “thumbs up” as we walk along the path of life with Him.

When the boys saw me watching, smiling from the window (between stretches, lunges, and squats – gotta get exercise in sometime!), they worked harder, happier, and pretty much “went to town,” clearing the entire driveway, sidewalk, and steps.

Knowing that God is watching me with love removes my fear.  He is with me.  He is cheering me on.  He is providing everything I need to accomplish His will.  He appreciates it when I do the laundry and dishes for His glory.  And He has a reward waiting for me …

Aches, pains, cold.  After putting in several minutes of hard work, my boys came into our warm home, happy to find hot cocoa and a loving, thankful Mama.  Someday, I am going to go home, too.  And I want to hear my Father say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”  Maybe He will even have hot cocoa for us to share together.

Priority Check

“… the older women likewise, that they be reverent in behavior, not slanderers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things — that they admonish the young women to love their husbands, to love their children,  to be discreet, chaste, homemakers, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be blasphemed.” Titus 2:3-5

In Her Shoes – In Honor of Mom

“Every wise woman builds her house; but the foolish pulls it down with her hands.”  Proverbs 14:1

Our all-wise and gracious God created mothers.  One of the greatest blessings in life is a loving, godly mother.  I am blessed with such a mother.  If your mother doesn’t fit this description, please don’t stop reading.  God wants to comfort you and help you.  The God of resurrection can take past patterns of pain and turn them into paths of peace. 

This month we have the privilege to walk in the shoes of two special moms through the tributes of their grateful daughters.  May God use these examples to encourage and challenge us.  And most of all, may we have hope for the future – because with God’s strength, it is possible to bless our families and honor Him in this adventure called Motherhood.

.  .  .  .  .


“My mom and I have an amazing
relationship, I do not take it for granted as I’m keenly aware there are many
mother-daughter relationships that are highly strained. 

I am blessed to have a mom
who sacrificed her time for me.  One of
my fondest memories is that she would always be awake when I came home late
from a youth activity, friend’s house or sporting event.  We would sit in the kitchen talking into the
wee hours of the night.  I am the
youngest of three kids and I’m certain her first full night of sleep came the
day after I got married!

Not only did my mom sacrifice
for me, but she modeled what it looked like to sacrifice her time and talents
for others.  She was always baking
goodies for others and doing little acts of kindness for people on the
sly.  I learned from her that there is
great joy in giving to others even when no one else is looking.

My mom taught me that her
faith and relationship to God was important. Nearly every morning, my mom would
be sitting in her favorite chair reading her Bible.  She was never showy in her walk with God, but
I always knew her faith was very important to her.

My mom showed me how to live
a life of simplicity.  She is an incredibly
organized person, thrifty in using what she has and never complained or
compared her status with others.

Overall, my mom taught me her
life motto, which has become mine – “Love God and serve others”, which
basically summaries everything that stand out most to me about my mom.

Because of the time my mom
invested in my life, I can wholeheartedly say that next to my husband she is my
best friend.”



– Jennifer, Minnesota


.  .  .  .  . 


“I couldn’t let this opportunity pass me by, so here are
the top five things my mom has taught me.  It was hard to narrow it down to just five 🙂 ! 

1.  My mom taught me that the Bible and my relationship
with Jesus Christ are the most important things in life.  She always took us to
church and we studied the Bible together after supper.  Over the years, she
taught children in Good News Clubs, Sunday School, and also in Vacation
Bible School and most recently in our church’s AWANA club.  She is a great
storyteller and each generation of kids loves to hear her missionary stories. 
But more importantly, she showed her Christianity in her daily walk with
God.

2.  My mom’s nickname is “Sunny” and she lives up to that
name.  She’s never met a stranger, but is always striking up a conversation with
the waitress, a health care worker at my aunt’s nursing home, or someone at the
gym.  She’s very friendly and upbeat.

3.  She is very generous and wants to do whatever she can
to meet someone’s need.  When they needed someone to lead the children’s choir,
she stepped up.  When they needed someone to teach English to international
students, she said, “I can do that.” When we needed a place to live, she opened
up her home to us.  Years later, when my son needed a place to live, she said,
“Sure, Justin can live with us until he gets married!” If she could, she would
give you “the shirt off her back”!

4.  She’s always ready and willing to learn something new
or do something fun.  She took on a project to scan all her family’s old photos
and make digital albums for each family.  She loves playing word games like
“Take Two” with Scrabble tiles or Quiddler with whoever will take her on.  (She
usually wins!)

5.  Whatever happens to her in life, she takes it as from
the Lord.  When I had a traumatic event of a job loss happen in my life, I went
on crying jags and acted like it was the end of the world.  In contrast, Mom was
recently diagnosed with terminal cancer (leukemia) and her reaction was totally
different.  She didn’t rant or rave, but found appropriate Scripture verses to
share with the doctors and nurses who have been treating her.  Even though she
tires easily (a new concept for her!), she still keeps up with her five kids,
twelve grandkids, and five great-grandchildren plus her husband, Rod, of 61
years!

Thanks for giving me this opportunity to brag about my
mom.  We treasure our time with her and it’s been fun to condense what she’s
taught me in five short points!”

– Cindy Albertson, Iowa

“Her children rise up and call her blessed … charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.  Give her of the fruit of her hands, and let her works praise her in the gates.”  
Proverbs 31: 28a, 30, 31

Sparkles of Joy

Two and a half years ago:

It’s a cloudy Saturday.  The dishes and laundry scream “clean me!”  My to-do list is so long it could be used as ribbon to bedeck several beautifully wrapped packages.  I try to remember why I ever wanted to have children (who make messes, yucky smells, and lots of noise), the imperfect carpet and linoleum grind at me, I can’t remember what the word vacation means, my husband and I are in a rut in our relationship, my jeans are too tight, and I am too busy to make a dentist appointment much less squeeze in a coveted hair cut. 

Then it happened. “MOM!!!”  Four-year-old screaming bloody murder.  My husband and I run into the other room to find our son’s forearm hanging gruesomely crooked as terror fills his beautiful blue eyes.  I try to keep from throwing up, reminding myself to breathe as I wonder what to do next.  Between sobs he tells us he jumped off the couch and hit a desk chair (which he knows is a no-no).  Tim gathers a few things as I throw together a sack of hopefully edible items to send with my two men.  Baby and I remain at home, and I ask God to keep my son and our family safe.

They are off to the hospital, and I dissolve in a tirade of tears.  I call my pastor.  He remembers. Same song, different verse.  Two and a half years earlier, when my adorable boysie was learning to walk, he fractured his leg.  It was minor, but because we weren’t sure how it happened (we figured out when it must have happened after the intimidating doctor visit), our doctor informed us that she had to submit our name to the Department of Child Services to be investigated for child endangerment.  I struggled with shock and anger while our betraying doctor assured me, “I know you would never do anything to hurt your child.”  We went through the worst trial we had ever experienced, only to be waved through at the end of a grueling month as “probably not dangerous.”  Violated. Hurt. Labeled. (Reminds me of Someone I know.)  I heard my pastor at the other end of the line saying, “Sara, you need to trust God.”

I calm down as I cry out to God.  While fearing the worst, I know my God . . . I can trust the Creator of the universe.  A couple hours later they come home.  My boy’s arm is safe and secure in a new shell.  Tim looks tired, but he says it went pretty smoothly.  He didn’t feel that anyone doubted what happened.  It helps when the child is old enough to explain this time.  I start to breathe again.

Suddenly, even though I am completely drained, I look around and notice that my home is not hum-drum anymore.  I am so thankful to be here. The linoleum is looking shinier, and the carpet spots are hardly noticeable.  My husband and I kiss and hold each other a little longer.  After a nap I have an urge to clean my family’s clothes and cook them a delicious meal. I don’t mind having toys all over the floor, and wall smudges have become my art gallery. As I glance in the bathroom mirror, I think perhaps I am looking prettier than I have in days.  And at supper the whole family seems happy simply being together.  In coming weeks my heart warms at the sight of my boy with his orange cast and matching Tigger overalls.  I can’t help but giggle, while in the same breath praising and thanking God.  God got us through and did what He does best – turning ugly things into His beautiful artwork. He used a terrible day to sprinkle sparkles of joy on my heart.

What happened?  Did a broken arm suddenly and miraculously change everything?  No . . . the carpet was still blotched, the laundry piled high, and my hair seriously in need of reshaping . . . and, yes . . .  God adjusted my heart and healed my blindness.  If only it wouldn’t take hospital trips to make me truly appreciate God’s blessings.  By God’s grace, I’m getting there. 

God’s joy is always there for the taking.  In fact, it has your name and mine written on it by God’s hand with the most expensive and the most powerful permanent ink imaginable: Jesus’ precious blood.

This Christmas will you join me in taking time to open up, admire, put on, and gratefully enjoy His gift of joy?  Let’s close our eyes, take a couple of deep breaths, and accept this lavish gift.  With thankfulness we receive Your gift of joy, Father.  We know this gift is ours because of Jesus.  For He has come . . . and will come again. 

“Then the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.  And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.’ And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”
Luke 2:10-14 
 
Update: Today my oldest son is a happy and healthy almost seven-year-old.  And I am getting more used to dusting off my priceless gift of joy.

Special thanks to http://poppiesatplay.blogspot.com/2011/11/joy-to-world.html for the above image.

Autumn Reflections

Last Sunday afternoon we drove to a nearby park to take in the autumn splendor. One son was at a birthday party, so we took the opportunity to enjoy an adventure with our four-year-old. In the middle of the park is a twenty-seven acre lake. It beckoned and we followed.

This lake is unique because of the seven bridges, some over 100 years old, which were transplanted from various locations around our state. 

One bridge stood out to me. I was surprised to discover that the bridge’s original purpose was to be the support structure for the top of a building.   Because it didn’t meet specifications, the builders threw it away. Later on it was discovered by someone with a vision for what it could be. If this bridge had a brain, it never would have imagined ending up here. God knew that this bridge wasn’t a mistake! He allowed a man to find and place it in this majestic setting.

As we approached the bridge and followed it from beginning to end, we were impressed by it’s rustic beauty. We were very grateful for the bridge’s help as it made it possible for us to walk all the way around the lake. Yet, the focus of our attention and praise was not the bridge. We were captivated by the incredible beauty of God’s creation all around us.

The bridge originally destined for the top of a building

These bridges remind me of how God works in my life.   My dreams sometimes clash with reality. God created me for different roles in life, and sometimes He uproots me to a different location. I cry, “But, I thought you wanted me to be here, to do this!”   He lovingly carries me, reassembling me in my new place of service. And miraculously, to me, I fit into His plan.

And my imperfect past was not a mistake.  God used people, places, and Himself to make me who He wants me to be.  He can use me wherever He places me.  And I will not be here alone – He promises to stay with me all the time.  Like the bridge, my purpose is not to captivate people, bringing attention to myself.  I am part of what helps make it possible for people to see God.
This autumn has been one of the prettiest in recent years. The colors feed my spirit. The crisp breeze, warmed by the Indian Summer sun, nourishes my soul. In the midst of this beauty my weary heart cannot help but smile. At times I feel insecure during life’s constant state of transition.  This is what keeps me depending on God instead of myself.  As I take my hurts and disappointments to my Savior, He promises to comfort and bless.
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” Matthew 5:4
Are you grieving a life that is different than what you had hoped it would be? Are you confused about what God is doing in your family, schedule, body, job, church, etc.?  Grieving is not wrong. It is part of the way God made us. But, our grieving must not keep us from moving ahead with God. He hears the cries of our hearts, He understands, and He is working what is best. He can be trusted.
As for God, His way is perfect; the word of the Lord is proven; He is a shield to all who trust in Him.” Psalm 18:30
Father God, please help us to be thankful for where You have placed us, and may our lives help others see You in all Your splendor.

“Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place.” 2 Corinthians 2:14