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!)

cropped-ce28f-550738_10151124590334565_972509845_n.jpg

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

3eb75-jesus_and_children002

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

 

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.

Just God and Me

“Your words were found, and I ate them, And Your word was to me the joy and rejoicing of my heart; For I am called by Your name, O LORD God of hosts.” Jeremiah 15:16


On Saturday I listened to an inspiring Christian woman speaking about godly priorities while cleaning my room.  Later that same day, while I was folding underwear and sorting socks, I heard another famous woman interviewed on a highly revered Christian website.  As her voice streamed through my laptop, my hopes for a meaty message quickly faded.  I was left feeling parched.  Yes, she mentioned God, spoke about prayer as well as other true and good things, but never communicated God’s own words.  Most of her words were about her. 

More than any other time in human history, we have countless opportunities to hear and learn from God’s Word: radio, television, internet, books, church, CDs, Sunday school, small groups, conferences, magazines, DVDs, blogs, YouTube, email, Facebook, etc.  Certainly there are messages and interviews worth hearing that point us to God.  It takes some work, but we can wade through fluff and find solid biblical teaching.

My concern, as I get to know myself better and listen to others around me, is that we too easily depend on the testimonies of other humans.  Before realizing it, my own quality time with God slips away.  Unless the words of others springboard me toward further personal study in my Bible, munching from the crumbs of other people’s spiritual meals soon leaves me depleted, hungry. 

“And Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst.'” John 6:35

If I allow this spiritual malnutrition to continue, my starved self turns to my husband and children, friends and pastor, to feed me, to fill me.  I open my refrigerator, go shopping, listen to music.  My emptiness echoes in my soul, and when women come to me for counsel I give them my helpful opinions and good ideas instead of God’s.  At times my family feels the brunt of my ugliness.  I’ve allowed the potential fruit of the Spirit to wilt and rot.  Then finally, after the damage has been done, I end up where I should’ve been in the beginning: on my knees and in His Word.

Do you have a daily quiet time with God alone?  I understand, it can feel nearly impossible at times with the busyness of life.  Do you enjoy listening to Christian radio but sometimes let that take place of your quiet time?  What about church – do you tank up on the sermon and small group lesson, hoping it will carry you through your stressful week? 

Dear sister, we need “just God and me” time.  If it means getting up earlier, staying up later, shutting down the computer, getting away from the house for awhile, turning on a good video for our kids, declining an invitation from a friend, hiring a baby sitter . . . we will only be PEACEFUL and USEFUL when we spend time with God.  Alone.

“His (her!) delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he (she!) meditates day and night.  He (she!) shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth its fruit in its season, whose leaf also shall not wither; and whatever he (she!) does shall prosper.” Psalm 1:2-3

Stay tuned for ideas to help you develop a quality daily meeting with God.

Special thanks to The Narrow Gate for the picture above.

Get out of the way!

Twelve years ago I was privileged to be a preschool teacher in Poulsbo, Washington.  I loved my students!  I remember one day when a new fellow joined our class.  The poor little man had major first day jitters and insecurities.  Not even music and story time could cheer him up.  He continued in distress until . . . I got up and moved.  Behind me on the wall was a picture of Jesus (similar to the image above).   After Kevin saw the picture of Jesus, his entire demeanor changed!  As I watched him smile, I could picture a party going on inside his brain – “This is a Jesus place!  I’m going to be okay!”  From then on, he seemed to feel at home.

While studying John 3:27-33 (*context below) today, I was challenged to remember that I am privileged to point people to Jesus.  Like John the Baptist, I have the opportunity to tell others, “It’s all about Him!”

“He must increase, but I must decrease.” John 3:30  

This passage of Scripture reminds me:

I must diminish!
The good things you see in my life are only because of Jesus.  I am only special because God made me in His image, God in the flesh died to pay my sin debt, and I am chosen by Him to know and serve Him.  Why should my screen time only point people to Him?  Because . . .

1.  I have nothing except for what has been given to me by God (27). No room to brag!
2.  I am not God (28).  It seems obvious, but I find myself idiotically trying to play God in my life.
3.  I have been sent by God (28).  On His mission, not mine.  He uses the weak things of this world! (I Corinthians 1:27)
4.  I am His bride (29).  Do I act like a bride in love, preparing for our day?  Do I glow and tell everyone about the One I love (Who first loved me – I John 4:19)?
5.  The sound of his voice gives great joy – in Him my joy is fulfilled (29).  So, why do I go elsewhere for my joy?  Rejoice in the joy Giver!  And find my fulfillment in Him alone.  Not in my accomplishments!  Not in my list of souls won!  Not in my one-upping a sister with whom I feel a pull of competition in church leadership.  No!!!

He must become greater!

Jesus IS the greatest – this verse is saying that He must take center stage and be given complete dominion in our lives.  Why?  Because (again, taken from John 3) . . .

1.  He is the Giver (27).  All gifts are from God!  Isn’t His signature verse John 3:16?  And, don’t forget Romans 8:32!  With His strength, I can appreciate His gifts and become a selfless giver.
2.  He is the Sender (28).  Matthew 28:18-20.  I am on a mission!  I should be grateful – I get to serve the King of Kings!
3.  He is the Christ (28).  Anointed One, appointed by God.  Jesus is God in the flesh, no matter what other people say.
4.  Jesus and I have extremely different roles.  He is transforming me into His image while I am but a speck in the shadow of the Almighty.  That means I must continue to reverence and obey Him.  Humble myself.
5.  He is the bridegroom (29).  He loves me.  He chose me.  I am His precious bride.  He is worthy of my adoration!
6.  He is above all (27-28, 29-31). So, doesn’t He deserve my complete allegiance?!  I cannot even imagine the ridiculous spectacle of a termite bragging about his strength next to a tyrannosaurus rex dinosaur.  God and me?  The difference is even greater!

HE is above all!
He IS above all!
He is ABOVE all!
He is above ALL!

7.  Jesus is evidence that God, and what He says in the Bible, is true (33).  Divine and sent by God, Jesus gives a living, breathing view of God.
8.  He has something to say that is worth hearing (32).  Am I listening?

We have the privilege of pointing people to Jesus.  Let’s get out of the way so people can see the source of hope and true joy!

Practically Speaking: How To Point Others to Jesus

Family:

  • Above all, your family needs for you to be godly.  When you are right with God, God is able to shine through you!
  • Talk about God to your children, every day of the week. 
  • Begin the day with a verse and prayer. 
  • In a moment of frustration, let them hear you pray to God for help and strength. 
  • Put a little love note on their pillow that includes a Bible verse telling about Jesus’ love for them. 
  • If unsaved family mock or accuse you, be like Jesus to them, keeping silent and taking it graciously. 
  • Let them hear you pray for them out loud.
  • Be excited about God!
  • Teach them about good manners – the purpose of which is not to make people think they great, but it is an opportunity to show people the love of Jesus.
  • Talk about how great God is and show your children how you can together enjoy praising God in song and service. 
  • Praise them for their accomplishments, then add, “God is so good to have given you such a special talent to use for His glory!”

Neighbors:

  • Take baked goodies to them, just because.  Put a little note on the treat, including a simple Bible verse, that says you are thankful God allowed you to be neighbors. 
  • Be the first one to take a meal to a new mom, a newcomer to the neighborhood, or a grieving family.  Include a winsome tract telling about God’s love and hope. 
  • Don’t flaunt your beliefs – have an attitude of kindness and humility. 
  • Don’t be afraid to show them you can have fun. 
  • Take care of your yard.  This one is hard to keep up with (we know)!  But it is important to respect our neighborhood by taking responsibility – this will help people to view Christ in a positive light. Think of your house as God’s embassy in your neighborhood!
  • If you borrow something, return it as soon as possible. 
  • Don’t keep a perfect home – let people see that you are real – someone they can relate to.  People feel more comfortable in a home that isn’t spotless.
  • How you dress matters.  Incorporating Biblical principles of modesty, be approachable in the way you dress – neither slovenly, goody-two-shoes, nor Hollywoodish.  They are more apt to listen if your appearance doesn’t distract from your message.

Friends:

  • Don’t gossip. 
  • Don’t control the conversation, but try to guide it toward godly ideas.
  • Offer to pray for and with your friend.
  • Share what God is teaching you and ask her what God is teaching her.
  • Ask how you can help her in her Christian walk.
  • Ask for accountability – when she is holding you accountable, she will more likely seek to be right with God herself.
  • Give gifts that will remind her of God: perpetual calendar with verses in it, a Bible verse magnet or picture, a favorite music or speaker on CD.
  • After she sings or plays the piano, don’t say, “You’re awesome!”  Instead say something like, “Your song blessed my heart today.  I am so thankful you are using your talents for God’s glory!”
  • Send an e-mail saying you are praying for her today.
  • Share what God is doing in your life on Facebook.  Don’t be afraid to admit your struggles, but try not to complain.  Verbalizing what is true, even online, can help you and your friends focus on the One Who holds all the answers.

Strangers:

  • Smile and say hello. 
  • When waiting in line or while your kids are playing together at the park, try to find common ground by asking about their interests. 
  • Pray for an opportunity to share Christ, but be sensitive to His leading.  Being too bold can give people a negative stereotypical view of your Christianity. 
  • Invite them over for a play date or for supper. 
  • Always carry a quality tract with you to give them some reading material later on. Have your e-mail address or phone number on the back in case they have questions.

“I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.” John 15:5

*27 -John answered and said, “A man can receive nothing unless it has been given to him from heaven.   
28 – You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, ‘I am not the Christ,’ but, ‘I have been sent before Him.’  
29 – He who has the bride is the bridegroom; but the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is fulfilled.  
30 – He must increase, but I must decrease.  
31 He who comes from above is above all; he who is of the earth is earthly and speaks of the earth. He who comes from heaven is above all.  
32 – And what He has seen and heard, that He testifies; and no one receives His testimony.  
33 – He who has received His testimony has certified that God is true.” 
– John 3:27-33

Father’s Day Reflections

Tonight my breath caught in my throat as I noticed a bright rainbow just out my back door.  It was positively glowing!  I’ve never seen the violet ribbon so brilliant.  As it expanded into a double rainbow, I could hear my children ooo-ing and ahh-ing from their bedroom window, talking back and forth with their Daddy about what a rainbow means.  Hearkening back to our father in the faith Noah, God our Father keeps His promises, of course.

This spring my Dad designed a little
house for his grandsons.
Tim and our boys enjoyed helping out!


This Father’s Day weekend I am eternally grateful to God for a Dad who loves Him and loves his family.  Some of my favorite memories with my Dad include: when we went camping, going to church, walking the mall and him stopping occasionally to buy me a rope of licorice, bike riding, eating mulberries, him teaching me how to drive a tractor on the farm, horseback riding, chuckwagons in Colorado, and the countless times he listened to me practice the piano, clapping after every song! 

And now I am blessed to be married to a man who is a good husband and a great father.  I am unspeakably thankful that my husband is someone I can respect and trust with my children.  He loves playing with them, listening to them, chasing and tickling, singing with them . . . my cup overflows.

I love this old picture of Tim
and the boys!


Maybe you feel that while others enjoy rainbow memories and relationships, yours have been or are stormy.  Perhaps your dad wasn’t the loving kind.  Instead he wounded you and wrecked your childhood.  What pain and agony!  Perhaps you are single and longing for someone to build a family with, but God hasn’t brought him along, yet.  I remember the ache.  Or, you may have seen your prince charming fall off his horse and land in the kingdom of another princess.  There is no one to love you or the children you had together, and your weary heart is broken.

While human beings fall short in sympathy, God understands what we think and feel.  When His children are hurting, He hurts, too.  And He is closer to us than breathing. Just like the rainbow I saw tonight which followed scary lightening and ominous clouds,  God will help us through the storms of life – He is the safe place of eternal love and forever rainbows.

The following verses are familiar to many of us, but let’s take a few moments to soak in them once again.  Just like sinking our toes into a plush carpet, munching on a warm-from-the-oven chocolate chip cookie, coming home and smelling freshly baked bread . . . let’s come home to our Father and bask in His love today.

Our Perfect Father 

“For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great is His mercy toward those who fear Him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us. As a father pities his children, so the Lord pities those who fear Him. For He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust.” Psalm 103:11-14

“For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:6

“But now, O Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay, and You our potter; and all we are the work of Your hand.” Isaiah 64:8

“… your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him.” Matthew 6:8b

Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!” Matthew 7:7-8,11

“Therefore be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful.” Luke 6:36

“For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.” Romans 8:15 

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” 2 Corinthians 1:3-4

“I will be a Father to you, and you shall be My sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.” 2 Corinthians 6:18

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ …” Ephesians 1:3

“Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God!”  I John 3:1

“And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son as Savior of the world.” I John 4:14

Push the Pause Button: Taking Time to Evaluate

At this very moment I am enjoying a rare moment of bliss.  My laptop, Bible, calendar and I are sitting at a local coffee shop, in an air conditioned room with, ironically, a cozy fireplace flickering nearby.  It is doing it’s job well, relaxing me while I sip a blueberry Italian soda, nibble an M & M cookie, and reflect on life.  Yes, I’m spoiled.  A whole pack of thank you notes wouldn’t be enough to thank my sweet husband.

It is a break, yes.  But, it is also a work appointment.  As a wife and mother I take my job very seriously.  And sometimes I need to get away from the workplace I love to renew my perspective.

As a stay-at-home wife, homeschooling mom, host mom, writer, daughter, friend, and growing child of God, I must take time to pray, evaluate, and plan for coming days.  When I was single I needed to do the same thing.  It was tedious to face life’s ups and downs alone, besides being responsible for everything. 

We all need TIME to REFOCUS.

Here are some questions to help us check our path as we push the pause button:

1.  God – Is God still a priority in my life?  If so, what is the evidence?  When is the last time I was truly abiding in Him?  Have I poured my heart out to Him today?  How many times a day do I think about Him?  Do people know that I am His?

2.  Myself: God’s Temple – Is my heart soft or hard?  Am I where God wants me to be?  Do I need help?  If so, am I asking for help?  Am I a thankful person?  Am I taking care of my spirit, mind, emotions, and body?  Am I doing ____ for God’s glory or mine?  Are my goals in life reasonable or am I constantly defeated by unrealistic expectations?

3.  Others: Eternal Souls – Who has God given to me as priority relationships to help?  Am I putting them first?  Am I doing my best to help them in their walk with God?  Do I pray as much for others as I pray for myself?  Do I need to change my schedule to make more time for others?  Am I using my influence for good in my home, neighborhood, church, community, and beyond?

4.  My Home: God’s Embassy – Do I have too much stuff in my home?  Is taking care of things weighing me down and sapping energy better used elsewhere?  What do I need to get rid of?  How often do I have people over?  Is my home a refuge for my family?  Is my home a God-place?  Am I clinging too tightly to things?  Is my house a place of peace and joy?

5.  My Schedule: My Soul Test –  What does my schedule say about me?  About my view of God?  Is it too packed or do I need to add some things to use my time wisely?  What is causing me the most stress?  What about it is stressful?  How much time do I spend online every day? What is the first thing I’d like to remove from my schedule?  Why?  Am I dwelling in the past or future instead of today?

Jesus told us what our priorities should be …

“Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 22:37-40

But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” Matthew 6:33

“Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:1-2

Blessings abound in us because we are daughters of the King.  Whether we are single, married, with or without kids, an empty-nester, a grandmother, or are standing at the end of life on earth, God wants to help us live with His heart.  All we need to do is ask Him! 

Be Thou My Vision

Be Thou my Vision, O Lord of my heart;
Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art.
Thou my best Thought, by day or by night,
Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light.
Be Thou my Wisdom, and Thou my true Word;
I ever with Thee and Thou with me, Lord;
Thou my great Father, I Thy true son;
Thou in me dwelling, and I with Thee one.
Be Thou my battle Shield, Sword for the fight;
Be Thou my Dignity, Thou my Delight;
Thou my soul’s Shelter, Thou my high Tower:
Raise Thou me heavenward, O Power of my power.
Riches I heed not, nor man’s empty praise,
Thou mine Inheritance, now and always:
Thou and Thou only, first in my heart,
High King of Heaven, my Treasure Thou art.
High King of Heaven, my victory won,
May I reach Heaven’s joys, O bright Heaven’s Sun!
Heart of my own heart, whatever befall,
Still be my Vision, O Ruler of all. 
– Forgaill