Bible Check-up #2

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Is anyone with me?  If you haven’t been sticking with the plan so far, it is okay to jump right in.  Today I am reading Genesis 32, Mark 3, Esther 8, and Romans 3.  So far, I’ve read all of Matthew, Ezra, Nehemiah and Acts…and most of Esther.  It is amazing what you can accomplish in a month by just taking it one step at a time.

After reading chapters 27-32 of Genesis, I just have to say how thankful I am that the accounts of Jacob’s life are included in the Bible.  Jacob was selfish, he had a tremendous fear of man, he was manipulative and made bad choices.  He lied and prospered from others misfortune.  He ran away from his problems and was arrogant enough to think he could take on God in a wrestling match.  And yet, he was chosen to be a special part of God’s perfect plan.  He was named “Israel” by God himself…and would bring forth the great nation of his namesake, called and chosen by God to be His people.  I find myself often getting bogged down in the guilt and regret I feel over sin.  I feel that I have failed God because of the choices I have made.  I become discouraged and overwhelmed by how little progress I have made.  But the encouraging truth is that God does not use us because we are perfect…he loves us and calls us for His purposes because we trust Him and we follow His Son.  Jacob’s life was anything but perfect and yet he was used by God to do mighty things.  Can I not expect that God will also use me, imperfections and all, as I seek to follow Him?

Reading through the entire book of Matthew in combination with all the things that God has been teaching me lately, has been such an amazing experience.  To read of the life of Jesus and the abundance of his short ministry is life altering to say the least.  An exhaustive list of everything I learned from reading the book of Matthew this time around would fill a book…so until I get published, I will only share one concept that really made me think.  I have struggled in the last few years with trying to figure out my purpose in life.  I have tried new things, I have focused hard on writing and then switched abruptly to singing and piano, I have taken on a part-time job, I have attempted to blog everyday, I led a bible study, wrote songs, sang on stage, and met new people…all in the attempt to figure out what will make me feel like I have accomplished something.  But through the entire recorded life of Jesus, one concept stands out to me to exemplify what my purpose should be.  Jesus knew what God had sent Him to do.  He constantly talked to his Father and he kept his mind placed firmly on the calling…to bring glory to God and complete the tasks that God set before him.  And you never read of Jesus searching for his purpose…you never read of Jesus worrying about what he will become or what he will do.  It was because it wasn’t about him, it was about His Father.  It was because he knew what he was called to do and did it, without wondering what other people thought.  Jesus was free and at peace because his focus was on God.  In all my attempts to figure out my purpose, I was focused on how I felt and what others thought about me…there is no room for that in God’s Kingdom.  Like Jesus, we are simply called to do what our Father asks of us and bring Him glory in doing those things.

 

Parenting: A Lesson in Tantrums

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The last couple weeks have been hard on all of us but it seems the changes have affected my little princess more than I had ever imagined.  As my husband left for his first day of work, she stood pitifully at the window, tears gleaming in her eyes…”I don’t want Daddy to go to work.  I will miss him and he will be gone for a long time.” She had gotten used to spending every Tuesday and Thursday with Daddy while Mommy went to work.  She had gotten used to Daddy bathing her and helping to tuck her in.  She had gotten used to Daddy being home on Saturdays to play Monster High and watch movies with her.  But this week her pitiful expressions of sadness have been replaced by rage and turmoil that I have never seen from my timid , cautious child.

We pulled away from the restaurant the other night, the princess screaming wildly in the back seat, thrashing and sweating like a caged beast.  “What happened to you?” I calmly inquired, “You were a little girl when we went in there and now you look like a little monster.  You tried to hurt Mommy and Nana and Jayme. And you almost made yourself sick acting like that.”  As I pulled into the driveway at home I could still hear tiny whimpers coming from the back seat but the chaotic fit had subsided.  She scrambled from the car and tried to open the door for me.  “Let me help you, let me help you…” she frantically raced ahead of me.  She pulled at her sleeping brother’s coat, “Can I help you get his ‘jamas on? Please.  I want to do better.  I want to help.” I felt frustrated and exhausted, but my heart hurt for her as well…she really is a helpful and loving little girl, but what happened?

As I helped her get into bed my mind began to race with thoughts about how I could fix this situation…and how to make it not happen again. I ignorantly chalked it up to exhaustion and hunger and assured myself it would be fine in the morning.  But when our trip to Wal-Mart the next day turned into a repeat offense, I sent my little monster to her room, in the process locking all her toys away in the attic.  I returned to talk calmly about honoring Mommy and Daddy and about consequences when she chooses to disobey.  The conversation ended in cries of repentance and a soft-spoken, “Mommy, do you forgive me?” Am I convinced this won’t happen again? Not at all.  Am I over the feelings of frustration and embarrassment I felt? Not at all.  But it has done me some good to be reminded…

1. I throw fits too.  That is why I clean my house like a crazy person when someone makes me mad. That is why I eat brownies til I make myself sick when I am exhausted from a stressful day. Those are my “fits”.    And many other adults throw fits as well…that is why you see angry Facebook rants and vengeful blog posts.  Temper tantrums are not a kid problem, they are a people problem and if I don’t help my daughter to express her anger more appropriately, she will inherit my tendency to try to clean away my feelings.

2. I am not alone.  Sometimes when my kids get out of control, the world seems to turn into a vacant tunnel, stretching endlessly to what I hope is a way out.  I don’t have the focus to see anyone else.  I don’t have the strength to do anything but get through the situation.  But somewhere in the sea of chaos and the judging glares, there is that one person who can offer up-lifting encouragement…but in the moment, I often forget.  Sometimes all I need is to call my husband, or throw the kids in the car and drive to my parents, or just stop to listen to the lady at the store saying, “I have been there.  It does get easier.” (Thank you, by the way, to the nice lady from church for not judging….sorry I was lost in trying to get my screaming child to the car).

3. It is not me against my children…it is me FOR my children.  As a parent it is hard not to develop the mindset that I am fighting an uphill battle…or to give in to the concept that I always need to be on the defense or my kids will overtake me.  I will be honest, if I had done things right to begin with, I never would have had to face the consequences of my neglect to parent preemptively.  I constantly let my kids get away with things and then fight an all out war when all of my bad decisions pile up.  When I give in to the concept that I am just trying to keep my kids from doing bad things instead of reminding myself that I am training a future adult, I am nurturing a living soul who I will be responsible for before God, that is when their behavior becomes horrible.  But if I take the time to train and correct…encourage and uplift….warn and discipline….before the situation gets out of hand, then I won’t have the explosions that I experienced over the last few days.

4.  I need to learn to listen to my children’s needs.  I knew my daughter was under a lot of stress.  Last week her “Daddy time” was cut very drastically.  She started at a new school where the hours are much longer.  She has walked in on conversations about other changes that may be taking place.  And she has been pushed and pulled in every direction trying to force our crazy schedule of classes and work and church and school to develop into a somewhat cohesive routine.  She made many attempts to warn me of the upcoming meltdown but I kept pushing and never encouraged a break. Wouldn’t it be much more prudent to give my daughter some quiet time…even if she doesn’t think she needs it…instead of pushing her to her breaking point? Wouldn’t it be wise to give my child an opportunity to calmly voice her frustrations and help her find a solution instead of waiting until she becomes so overwhelmed that she explodes in uncontrollable rage?

Though I know I can not be certain this won’t happen again, my children’s fits are yet another situation that can be used by God to train me in raising my kids….an unwelcome  but needed reprimand when my parenting does not align with the loving instruction found in the Bible.  For in loving and training my child to honor and obey me…I am ultimately training them to love and obey their Heavenly Father.

The words in my head today…

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When life hands you promises  already broken

Truth dulled by the dark of lost ambition

When the dawn doesn’t seem to be lurking behind

Any of the hopes that have lost their mission

 

Dark is the way leading down to the water

And deep is the shadow beneath the waves

But under the ripples lies life everlasting

In the deeper well of the one who saves

 

When you seem to be living life far from the shore

And waves pour upon you nothing but woes

When under the sun there is no hope of friends

And under the moon you can find only foes

 

Dark is the way leading down to the water

And deep is the shadow beneath the waves

But under the ripples lies life everlasting

In the deeper well of the one who saves

 

When God Says “No” to Full-time Ministry

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On the heels of a difficult and frustrating few months, my husband was forced to find a full-time job due to insufficient funds at the church we are serving…creating a disappointing change in plans.  We struggled to figure out all the logistics of where the kids were going to go while we were both at work.  Between going to work and getting the kids to where they needed to be I was desperately craving social interaction so I frantically planned lunch dates and evening hang out sessions. On top of a mounting list of activities, I had decided for health reasons to stop eating gluten…all my go-to comfort snacks were out.  So the other night when I should have been sleeping, I stared the next day’s plans right in the face and didn’t like what I saw.  I had a doctor appointment at 9 and a play date at 10 and somewhere in between I had to find time to go to the post office and the grocery.  I had to have dinner on the table at multiple different times because of everyone’s schedule. Then I had to pick up my daughter from dance class at 6 when I also had to be at a class twenty minutes away that started at 6….and my husband got off work at 6 (why has no one invented time travel yet!?) My heart was racing and I already felt frustrated and overwhelmed and…I just really wanted a big piece of chocolate cake! And somewhere in my mind, I blamed God for the turmoil I was experiencing. When my husband and I have asked for the last 5 years to be able to spend our full attention to the ministry of the church, this last month God stamped a firm “DENIED” on our request.

I have found myself in the last few weeks in a raging storm of bitterness.  My husband and I had plans…he would go to seminary, he would be a pastor, we would stay in the same church for many years and die happy servants of God….is that too much to ask for? We were not so naive as to think that ministry would be easy but through many frustrating church experiences, we discovered that it was actually much more difficult than we had bargained for.  And when our plans were shattered yet again and my husband was forced to set aside his desire to be a pastor I just wanted to be angry for a while.  I began to say things like, “we deserve better than this” and “he has worked too hard to have to walk away from what he really loves to do” and “he is really good at being a pastor….why does he have to give that up while there are so many pastors out there that don’t care and are hurting people”.  And I began to feel entitled…entitled to anger, entitled to something better, entitled to pity, entitled to hating people. Spending hours at night without adult companionship while my husband worked til 6 then raced off to counsel and teach weighed heavily on my already broken spirit.  Why doesn’t God want my husband to be a pastor? Why is He keeping us from being able to devote time to each other and to Him?

But last Sunday night brought a wave of priceless and painful epiphanies. As the speaker at church spoke from Mark 6 about Jesus Feeding the 5,000, a story I had heard many times before became so real to my situation.  As Corey wrapped up his message, he began to emphasize his driving point that we are just instruments in the hands of a wise, gracious, loving God who has much bigger plans than for us to succeed.  We are not entitled to getting to do what we want to, or dream of, or plan for…we are simply called to do the work of God. Even if doing so means that we are stretched beyond our capacity for what we deem comfortable or what we even think is possible. In the moment recorded in Mark 6, the disciples saw no way to be able to do what they needed to do. The people were hungry and needed food but they did not have enough for that many people. So they began to think purely on a practical level and began to examine only their own capabilities….they became frustrated and impatient and focused on their own abilities to do what needed to be done. But in order to feed the 5,000 they would have to give more of themselves and trust beyond what they even thought possible. They would have to turn it over to Jesus and trust him fully with the situation, choosing only to be the instruments by which the miracle was carried out.

God had a lesson to teach them….and God has a lesson for me.  Maybe I need to learn to walk in the footsteps of those whom we are called to serve.  Maybe I need to learn to trust God and stop trying to handle everything in my own way.  Maybe I need to learn patience.  Maybe I need to give a little more and expect a little less.  Maybe I just need to learn to hand it over to God and stop worrying about what I want or what I can do. Maybe I need to learn to be more of an instrument and stop striving to be the miracle worker.

I had selfishly claimed roles for myself and my husband that were not mine to claim.  I saw ministry as him being a pastor, me being a pastor’s wife and working full-time in a church…but certainly God’s view of ministry is not so clear-cut and defined.  For this moment in time we are called to work our jobs, take care of our kids, love other people and serve God in any capacity He would ask us to. Like the disciples in Mark 6, I was allowing my circumstances to determine my willingness to serve. They saw an impossible task and an inconvenient situation…God saw a way to teach the disciples something.  So, will I choose to sulk in the insurmountable situation, or will I allow God to do His work?

I’ve seen many ministry families go through a similar situation….missionaries waiting to be approved, pastors and their families searching for a church that can meet their needs in this crumbling economy, young people with degrees from Christian institutions that face a world without jobs to offer them.  The expressions on their faces and the words that leave their mouths have a similar refrain that God has somehow jipped them out of the life that they should have had.  But what I have begun to see is that God is not depriving me and my husband at all.  He is giving us an opportunity to trust and to grow….a chance to see Him more clearly and understand His love in a new capacity, a chance for  us to step back and let Him do His work. If he could feed a crowd of 5,000 people with five loaves and two fish certainly he can handle the situation that we are in.

Kid Quotes…Laughing in the Midst of Chaos

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If you are not interested in cute kid stories, I will warn you  ahead of time…that is all you will find in this post.  And honestly it is mostly for me anyway…I have a bad memory and if I don’t write it down I will never remember these precious, hilarious moments in my children’s development.

**Every night before bed my husband has a series of questions, called catechisms, that he asks our kids….such as “who made you?'” with the answer being “God did”.  One night we were going through the questions and the kids were chiming in with the answers in their usual energetic fashion.  When it came time for the final question, my husband asks, “What must God do when people disobey?” Knowing the answer, our little man chimed in in his most enthusiastic voice and with full dramatic swinging fist, “He must punch them!”…though we have tried to correct his error, he still insists it is “punch” because obviously that makes a lot more since to a two-year-old boy than the word “punish” as the answer is meant to be given.

**One day I was texting with my sister and relaying much of the conversation to my five-year-old daughter.  “She is telling me that she got a new wave iron today.  And then I asked her, ‘What is a wave iron’….and before I could even finish, my little diva interrupted with “Duh, Mom, it’s just the hottest new trims.” Trying desperately not to laugh, I secretly marveled at how much my little princess has grown and how much growing she still has to do to fit in to her teenage vocabulary.

**My favorite quotes from my kids usually come at bedtime when we all have time to settle down and have real conversations.  One night as I was tucking my little princess into bed, our discussion went something like this. I think she has a little bit to learn about science and nature…and reality.

Her: Unicorns aren’t real…or are they? I think I heard Nana say once that she saw a unicorn.

Me: Maybe Nana was confused and it was really a rhinoceros 🙂

Her: No mommy…that is a kind of dinosaur, and I know they are not real.

**My little man is constantly cracking us up but because it is just part of his personality to be funny, when I sit down to try to write about his funny kid moments, it is hard to come up with any one particular instance.  My mind seems to scan over the many ways he makes us all giggle….like the way he tells all the people at church in great detail about taking a bubble bath, or the way he calls his chin his beard, or the way he calls my craft room my “workshop”, or the way he always pluralizes TV (“I watch TVs?”), or the way he calls his tummy his “Thomas”, and the way he won’t eat anything unless we pretend it is bugs.  And even though it is slightly mean, I still laugh (mostly on the inside) when he is in the bathtub and someone flushes the toilet, he screams, “Oh no, the shower coming on.  The shower coming on.” and he scrambles to get out of the tub.

Blogs I Read

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www.girltalkhome.com –This is a great blog written by a mom and her three daughters for women of all life stages…single, married, with kids, working, retired, etc. I have kept up with it on and off for many years and it has brought great encouragement and insight into so many situations in my life.  I especially enjoy the Friday Funnies…it keeps things from getting too serious!

www. christinthecity.wordpress.com –Of course I read my own husband’s blog.  Okay, not every day, but I do try to catch the highlights.  Though he would argue with me about this…he is definitely smarter than me and helps me to look at issues from a much more intelligent perspective.  Left to my own devices, I would fill my head full of fashion advice, horror movies, historical fiction with a little celebrity gossip unintentionally mixed in…so I am grateful to have someone in my life who challenges me to study more substantial subjects.

www. pastormattblog.com –Pastor Matt is another guy that is far smarter than I am…he is writing a series called Apologetics 101 in which he helps us intelligently defend our faith. He clearly and concisely presents defenses for well-known arguments against the Christian faith and makes it easy for even the busiest or slow-minded person to learn more about standing up to those who challenge what you believe.  He also gives me a shout out everything now and then….

www.shawnandjenn.com–Shawn and Jenn DeAtley are missionaries in Senegal, West Africa who were sent and are supported by our church.  Jenn writes very honestly and from the heart and has a contagious and uplifting sense of humor.  I love all of the pictures she posts and I can’t get enough of the “Dear____,” posts she writes….they light-heartedly give a poignant look into the life of missionaries.

www.kendieveryday.com— This blog is my guilty pleasure.  I love fashion and tips for dressing well on a budget.  Kendi creates outfits that are very easy to replicate with clothes I already have in my closet.  I enjoy reading the little snippets of her life she includes at the bottom of every picture…it makes me feel like I know her and we are friends.  My husband makes fun of me because many of my conversations start with…”The other day Kendi said…” or “Kendi and her husband went to…”.   I’m not usually such a nerd….okay, yes I am.

www. glutenfreegoddess.blogspot.com — This has become my most visited site lately.  I recently went completely gluten-free in an attempt to finally overcome my nagging health problems which have still gone un-diagnosed and un-treated.  I feel completely lost when I stand in the health food aisle at Kroger unless I check this blog.  My meals come out disgusting and tasteless if I don’t check this blog.  My family thanks me for checking this blog.

Bible Reading Check-up

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Ok, so I started on this Bible reading program last week (Robert Murray M’Cheyne Bible Reading Plan), and I’m not going to lie….I’m already a little behind.  But I’m pressing on and praying, by God’s grace, I will do better next week. But here’s a bit of what I have been learning…feel free to comment and share what you have been learning in your time in the Word (whether you are following the program or not)

Genesis 1-6 gives us a great picture of the gospel…Creation, Fall, Redemption and Restoration. Creation–We are given a rather close encounter of the way the earth and all that is in it was made.  God spoke it all and it was…and it was good because he made it.  Fall–But then man, given an opportunity to turn his back on God, took it and faced the consequences for that by being removed from God.  The world and all that was in it became corrupt. Because of the terrible manifestation of sin, God chose to destroy the earth with a flood but spared those who truly obeyed and followed Him. And as we can continue to read in the chapters that follow, God brings redemption and restoration. Redemption–God redeemed those who chose Him. Restoration–God restored the earth and people returned to Him.

Ezra 1-6: The accounts of Ezra actually remind me so much of what our church, and so many other churches experience, as they seek to grow in the Lord and build His kingdom.  In the book of Ezra, the people of Israel begin to rebuild the city of Jerusalem, as God, through King Cyrus, told them to. They obeyed God only to face opposition from people who wanted to see them fail.  Though initially they were discouraged, they re-grouped and ultimately ended up re-building the city and celebrating what God had done through them. In my own church I have seen people from the community show up before or after our services to tell us what we are doing wrong.  We have received e-mails to criticize our choice to minister to the needy and addicted in our community.  We have experienced those feelings of discouragement and exasperation…feelings that have made me want to give up.  But we are not under the authority of man…God has called us to something bigger, and ultimately we will also rejoice in what God has done if we persevere and continue with His plan.