Monday, July 9, 2018

In One Years Time...

Wrapping my mind around the concept of time requires an enormous amount of effort. Time is remarkably puzzling. It reveals itself when I look in the mirror. It rusts, deteriorates, yet refines. It drags its feet on a Monday afternoon, yet accelerates on the weekends. There is never enough time to accomplish all that I need or want to do, still time seems to waste moments away. Time is valuable, but no one has enough of it. Free time is a luxury. I can burn time, take a time out, have time on my hands, kill time, and pause my timer while the sun still moves in the sky. Summertime is fleeting while the months of February and March seem endless. Sleepless nights with children tick slowly by while the first eighteen years of their life with me seem but a mist. Over time things rot, yet time heals. Time can have permanence and be temporary. Time gives wisdom and experience in an instant or in lengthy intervals. Time is continuing, constant, yet ever changing. Days stretch and years hurry. Time lives a life of paradox.

And the most baffling fact about time is that it is designed by God who governs it and is not bound by it. He gave time its seasons and made the sun know its time for setting (Psalm 104:19). Everything is governed by His time,
"For everything there is a season and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, a time to die, a time to plant, and a time to pluck up with is planted, a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; a time to tear, and a time to sew, a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace." (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8) 
God "has made everything beautiful in its time." (Ecclesiastes 3:11) He accomplished, will accomplish and is accomplishing all that He wants to accomplish in the course of His time, in His perfect timing, at His appointed times. "His ways prosper at all times..." (Psalm 10:1) To Him a thousand years are but a day. His steadfast love and promises will stand firm for all time. For all time He is righteous, perfect, just, and holy, holy, holy. While He is patient with time; I am not. While He orchestrates time and all that will occur within it, I must submit to His plan - for my life (which belongs to Him), my life with my husband, for my children's life (who are really His children), for what I do and when I do it. For all time I am His and He is mine. I trust Him to use my time wisely for His purpose, my good, and His glory. All of which is hard for my finite mind to fully understand.

I wonder over the time God has given to me, especially on the one year anniversary of a loss. The endless joys, comforts, and hardships. The gains. The loss. The growth. Especially the growth. Especially within the last six years, especially within the last year.

In six years time, I've been changed through the reading of God's Word. Changed. Convicted. Comforted. I've learned the power of God's gospel. I've learned what it means to be a disciple of Christ, a godly wife, mother, servant, teacher, and friend. I nearly lost my life to gain a deeper understanding of time - here and in eternity. I learned who I am in Christ. Gained confidence in Him. Learned to let go of the nonessentials to make room for the essentials. I've learned what it means to be an instrument in the Hands of my Savior - to come alongside other women who struggle with anxiety, pride, who lack identity and confidence of who they are in Christ. I've learned the value of my testimony and why God gave me the story He gave me for the sake of His gospel. I've learned the power Christ gave to conquer sin. I've learned what it means to serve, to deny self, and love on others. I've lost friends and gained friends. All the while learning so much about the significance of quality time.

I've learned that thirty three years are short. Very short. But Jesus accomplished more in his short thirty years of life than an eighty year old accomplished in a lifetime, "Now there are many other things that Jesus did. Were very one of them to be written, I suppose the world itself could not contain the books that would be written." John 21:25 That in and of itself confounds me most!

In one years time, I've learned that the loss of a thirty three year old friend gives a whole new perspective on time - how we spend it and what is important. I only knew Erin Aerni for eight short years, but I get to spend an eternity of time, picking up from where we left off, worshiping God in His presence. I learned that to live is gain and to die is gain, if that were not true the faith we shared in Christ is in vain. Her heavenly birthday was a year ago yesterday and as I reflect on the time I spent with her I grow to love her even more.
After reading what is written of her, listening to what is said of her - what is still being written and said - I can't help but wonder, what will people say about me at my funeral? Will they say I spent my time well? That I served well? That I loved well? That I glorified God well? The truth in Ecclesiastes 7:1-2, rang true time and time again in one years time, "A good name is better than precious ointment, and the day of death than the day of birth. It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting, for this is the end of all mankind, and the living will lay it to heart." Funerals give perspective of time and who is in charge of it. Her death did that for me more than any other I've experienced. It was through her life and her death that I became inspired to spend more time on my eulogy than my resume. I hope and pray that the time I spend on this earth inspires others as her life still does today.

Most importantly, when my time comes, when I, like Erin, finally meet Jesus face to face, what will He say to me? Will he say I spent my time well? That I served for His purpose and His glory? That I loved well? That I glorified and honored Him well? That I trusted Him?

With all that in mind, I know how I need to spend my time. I need to call upon the Lord for all time, to trust that He is my stronghold in good times and in bad - that the time I have on this earth is in His hand (Psalm 31:15, Job 12:10 & 14:5, Exodus 23:26, Psalm 139:16). To be a woman who laughs at the time to come, trusting in His sovereignty. To hope in Him from this time forth and forevermore - whether He gives me one hundred years, or just one more year, or even just one month, a final day or one more minute of breath - I will hope in Him for all time.

Friday, July 6, 2018

What a Failed Friendship Taught Me

Approximately two years ago a friend stopped talking to me for reasons I do not fully understand. My attempts at contacting her have been unfruitful and she has alienated herself from me and our shared friendships. The entire situation is a heartbreaking one, that I hope will be healed someday, but for the time being this failed relationship has taught me so much.

Initially I felt betrayed by her accusations, seeking my husband's advice to determine if they were unfounded. He asked me some hard questions that lead to some deep growth, why did you ask their advice? Why do you care so much about what others think? Who's advice is the advice that really matters to you and why? To fully answer those questions I had to dig deep into some dark places and ask myself if I held too tightly to the opinion of others, and then why I highly valued the opinion of others. My honest answers revealed that I was too quick to care about what others thought of me. I weighed equally the opinion of others to that of God, my husband, and the woman who disciples me. In reality, God's word and the advice of my husband and from the woman who disciples me is the only advice that truly matters.

Thankfully through this loss I've experienced the healing power of God's Word, the value of prayer, the wisdom of my husband's advice, and I sought the council of the woman who disciples me - who continually points me back to Christ.

Most importantly, I realized who I am. I am Christ's alone. It is through His death on the cross, burial and resurrection that I am who I am today. I also knew that I should be thankful for what others say, because the truth of the matter is this: only God knows the deepest, darkest crevices of my heart. Those crevices are insanely deep and they are agonizingly dark. He knows every thought and the intent of every action - so the reality is that I am a 100 times worse than what she said about me. But here's the kicker, I learned that God does not view me as she views me. He paid for my sin once - and for all time - on the cross and because of Jesus I can enter the presence of a holy and blameless God as righteous. Upon the full realization of who I am in Christ, I stopped caring about what others said! My identity was founded on nothing other than Christ. This solid foundation changed my thinking, uprooted insecurities, and gave me confidence and courage. I live because He lived and died for me. The more I trusted in God, the more I relied on His design for my life. I trusted my husband more. I sought godly counsel. I hungrily read God's Word. God worked miracles in my heart and mind through the heartache of a failed friendship. I knew God was changing me from the inside out, but I did not realize how much until a random reader tagged me in a "You're an idiot sandwich" gif on Facebook. And I laughed. Truly laughed. I.didn'

I didn't care!

I was free from the burden of caring what others thought of me.

So while the loss of this friendship has been a difficult and sad journey for me, I am thankful for what I learned. I am a chosen one of Jesus Christ - bought and paid for by His very blood. Everything else falls under that fact! I am a wife. I am a mother. I am a disciple maker. I am a teacher. I am a servant. This world is not my home. What I learn here in this world is preparing me for an eternity at home in the arms of my Savior. And that is what I care about... that is what I value above all things!

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Tuesday's Top Ten [When Inspiration Strikes]

My brain has a hundred ideas rolling around at the most inopportune times. I'll have a stroke of genius in the shower or while doing the dishes, but when I actually have a chance to work on one of those ideas, my brain stops working. All those ideas? Gone.

At least that is what has happened to me as of late, which is why there has been nothing published since May. It is incredibly annoying. So instead of the many ideas I can't seem to finish, or even get started, I decided to share all the inconvenient times inspiration strikes...

1. The shower. I keep saying I need to bring my waterproof journal into the shower with me, but then I might never get out.

2. Doing Dishes. Standing at the sink with my hands submerged in soapy water gets the brain rolling for some reason!

3. Sorting Laundry. Between the sort-ment of  darks, gentle cycles, and whites I get lost in thought. (And no, sort-ment is not a word. The suffix -ment denotes an action, but I'm ignoring the fact that it's a suffix of nouns. Sometimes in the art of writing it's just fun to break the rules, especially when my brain could think of nothing else but "sort-ment" and would make me laugh. And this afterthought is ridiculous. Time to move on...)

4. Scrubbing toilets. 'Cause I'd rather be thinking about anything else...

5. Making meals. I do not enjoy cooking so that is probably why other ideas pop into my head.

6. In the middle of the night. Or right before I'm about to fall asleep. This is when I yell at my brain to, shut up! 

7. Driving. Behind the windshield offers some great reflection time, but if I can't write the thought down it's like a vapor or a mist the Nebraska wind blows away.

8. Waiting for my children to finish eating. Does anyone else have children who eat like little sloths? Or have to remind them to chew? It's these moments that I want to do anything, anything, other than waiting for them. Still, I should be thankful I can't write during those moments because each post would probably make me sound like a raging lunatic with irritating mouths to feed. They are so so so so so so hungry ... until I give them food.

9. Conversations with my hubby. Seriously ya'll, I married the smartest man. When I get a glimpse into his genius, I am inspired. I wish I could bottle up those conversations and store them for those moments when I do have a chance to write.

10. While I'm trying to finish one of my ideas. I'll be writing or crafting and have this idea I don't want to forget, so I put aside the one I was working on to start the next one (just so I don't forget!) and something else hits me. Do you see the ugly cycle? My struggle isn't coming up with the ideas, the struggle is often getting it started and when I do finally start it the ultimate struggle is actually finishing it!

Inspiration doesn't seem to latch on in moments when I can actually work on something from start to finish. It has been incredibly frustrating. My last post was in MAY! MAY! Which means this irritation has been festering for over a month. Hopefully you haven't given up on me and can laugh alongside me as I work through it. I am hoping that writing this down helps me overcome whatever roadblocks exist up there. One can only hope...

Monday, May 14, 2018

Combating the "Mommy-Wars" in My Own Heart

Breast milk vs formula, cloth diapers vs disposable, nonmedicated delivery vs epidural, home school vs public school, discipline, shots, stay-at-home mom vs working mom &etc. etc. These topics are just a few that conjure up all kinds of mommy wars. To be honest, I do have an opinion on each of these topics. Unfortunately, you have probably heard me talk about them here (to my everlasting shame) I've tried to go back and delete what I felt would tear another mother down, and if I ever did that to you, I am so incredibly sorry. Never again will I argue these topics vehemently one way or the other, unless it is obviously contrary to Scripture. I might write about why we made the decision we made, but you will never, ever hear me bash another mother’s decisions on things that are unnecessary.

Almost 6 years ago God gave me a beautiful little girl who challenged my thinking on each of those topics listed. When my second, wild child came around I was challenged even further! Some of the hardest decisions I have ever had to make were for the well being of my children. None were taken lightly and each decision made was what we thought was best for our children. I know I am not alone in that statement.

Which is what began combating the mommy-wars in my own heart, helping me to be less combative and more compassionate. But I still struggle at times, so how do I fight against the temptation to judge my fellow mothers? 
Focus on the gospel.
When the temptation arises I ask myself, is this essential or nonessential to the salvation of eternal souls? If anything is contrary to the gospel of Jesus Christ for salvation - that He died on the cross for our sin, was buried and rose again - I will battle it. It is far too important not to - your eternity is at stake!

Second, I ask myself if this momma is a Christian. If she claims that she is, then I ask myself if it obviously and purposefully contrary to Scripture. If she is not a Christian, I never bring up Christian values that she does not know or want to know. I stick to the foundational gospel message in this case. God has the ability to work on hearts by recognizing you are a sinner in need of a Savior - who did indeed die on a cross, was buried and rose again. Would I, for the sake of the gospel, give up these nonessential things in light of eternity? 

The gospel is the foundation upon which God builds and is the one message that guides the rest of my thinking.

Think true thoughts.
Because what I want to think is true thoughts. First, we are all sinners in need of a Savior. Stop expecting sinners to be perfect and sinless. That is what Jesus accomplished during His life on earth and He is the only one who could and can, therefore our reliance should be on Him. When my focus is taken off the issue and fixed on Him, then I am able to take an honest, eternal, and biblical approach to whatever war I want to fight.

Have an eternal perspective.
Nine times out of ten I realize that the “issue” I want to hotly debate is nonessential and a temporary one. 150 years from now will this be remembered? When we are all standing side by side in the presence of our Almighty God, will we care about this particular issue? Looking at it from an eternal perspective is essential in combating the war being built inside me.

I struggle too.
And usually this war being built inside of me is quieted because I struggle with the very same things. If I see a mom being inconsistent in her discipline, I am quieted when I realize my own inconsistencies. When I see a mom failing to use kind words, my mouth is shut when I remember the harsh words I had to apologize to my girls for yesterday. When I see a mom struggling because of all her supposed failed birth stories, I am reminded of my own very public and humbling experience when I adamantly debated a natural birth but was unable to do so. 

When I witness the struggles of my fellow mothers, I am quite often reminded of my own, allowing me to give grace - just as Jesus gives me. 

Memorize Scripture.
Finally, I memorized Ephesians 4:29-32 knowing the Holy Spirit will bring it to mind when I need the reminder,
“Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”
So with my words I want to give grace, I want to build each other up, I want all bitterness, and wrath and anger and clamor and slander and malice be put away from me, I want to be kind, tenderhearted, and forgiving, because that is what Jesus Christ accomplished for me and through me. Who am I to withhold it from someone else if our Creator, and God of the universe does not withhold it from me? These true thoughts are especially helpful in the difficult, challenging, and trying job of motherhood.

And I know I am able to accomplish these things, not because of any amazing super powers I hold, but because everything I just listed come from God and He gives freely when asked. So I frequently pray, “Lord, give me your words to build this momma up, kill these judgmental thoughts within me, remove the malice that I feel and replace it with kindness and tenderness.” 

Prepare my heart and mind.
When I know that I will be in a particularly challenging situation, I pray and read Scripture before I go. I want my mind focused on Christ and I want to be prepared for whatever challenge I might face. I pray that I remain focused on the gospel of Jesus Christ, that I think true thoughts, that I keep an eternal perspective, that I give grace, and remember Scripture. I pray with bold faith knowing that whatever strength I need - God will give abundantly.

When I fail, ask forgiveness.
I also pray for strength in these moments when I need to say I'm sorry. I do not accomplish each of these things perfectly, because I am a sinner in need of a Savior. I often tell my girls, mommy needs Jesus too. Seriously, this momma needs Jesus, desperately. And it's on Him I rely. It's only because of the forgiveness He gives me that I am able to ask it from others and give it to others. This is the piece that takes the most courage and humility because admitting sin is never easy, but once I do - to God and to my fellow momma - an amazing weight is lifted and I can go back to doing my job to the best of my God-given abilities with lighter feet.

Pride must go.
Letting go of my pride is vital when I ask forgiveness, but it's necessary when trying to combat the inevitable wars that plague my mind. We all think we have the answer. That what we are doing works the best. That my opinion is the most educated. Which is rarely ever the case. Each family is different, with different needs, backgrounds, dreams, experiences, and goals. The one thing we have in common is that this momma job is hard. I have learned so much from watching and being with other mothers who are in the midst of it and who have already run that race. Letting go of my pride has been the most effective learning tool in existence - one that I can only tackle through prayer. When I let pride go, I'm always learning something new.

Where shall I put my energy?
In all that I do, I desire biblical accuracy. Especially as I raise little women in a world who hates Jesus. That in and of itself takes an enormous amount of energy. I don't have the time, the desire, or the energy to take on the wars of the world. To make straight paths God has made crooked and it is most definitely not my job to tell a mother how to mother.

But I do have hopes for mothers...
I hope that if you're a Christian you realize that mommy wars have no place in the church body. Don't let the unnecessary destroy unity or be a cause for arguing, building walls, or destroying friendships. Stick to what is necessary: biblical truth. I also hope that you seek a partnership with your spouse to be consistent as you raise your little people together in the knowledge of God, that you seek a discipleship relationship to show you the truth in Scripture, offer sound advice, and continually point you back to Christ. I also hope that you read the Bible for yourself - cover to cover - and God will work on your heart as a woman of Christ, a wife, and a mother.

It is not my job to do those things, therefore I will not battle what is unnecessary. For my own sanity's sake, and for my family, I will pour my energy into the role God has called me: as a Christian, wife, mother, disciple, discipler, and teacher. Knowing my purpose and where I need to pour my energy has also helped tremendously in combating these mommy wars.

When I consider motherhood and all that is required of us - to selflessly give ourselves to serve the needs of others no matter the weather, our imperfections, our circumstances, or our own health (cause they don't care if you're puking, hemorrhaging, sleepy, or dead to the world - they need you) - I truly believe that those mom's who go into this job with that mentality need grace, encouragement, loads of coffee, a deep tissue massage, and Jesus. 
Especially Jesus.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Tuesday's Top Ten [Favorite Childhood Books]

Some of my favorite childhood games revolved around the book and movie I read and watched as a child. There are many examples beginning with the fact that I used to dress up as Mother Goose (even making my own glasses to sit at the tip of my nose) so I could fly around reading stories to children.
The photo evidence.
My siblings and I grew up playing like our Barbies were Borrowers, or that we had a Secret Garden, and we thoroughly enjoyed dressing as the ladies in Little Women or Little House on the Prairie (that game we titled, "Old Timey"). If I wanted to play alone I pretended like I was the little orphan Mandy who found an abandoned cottage to make my own.

Books have a significant influence in the life and imagination of children. If my life isn't example enough look to my own children! Briella Bean, for example, chose to dress up as Stellaluna for Halloween because of her all-time favorite story. One librarian happened across a stuffed Stellaluna bat at some library convention and she couldn't pass it up. If any of her toys could be "real" like the Velveteen Rabbit, it would be her beloved Stellaluna - who is missing half an ear and has some stuffing falling out (which reminds me I need to do some repairs).

I swear that the only reason my Ele-monster was even remotely interested in potty training was because her favorite book was "Bye-Bye Diapers" with Miss Piggy as the main character. Each due-date stamp has been because we checked it out - over and over and over again. When the library hosted a "dress as your favorite book character day" my children did not hesitate in deciding what their costume would be...

I am so excited that my children's memorable moments in life revolve around books - or at least that's what I hope. I may not be able to afford a trip to Alaska for an adventure of a lifetime, but I can provide opportunities to create memories and go on adventures centered around books and the places those stories take us. Growing up, my fondest memories are because of books. My family couldn't afford to take vacations either, but we did go on adventures. I went to many, many places and participated in crazy, fun adventures - all because of these books - which I cannot wait to read with my girls...

1. Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingall's Wilder is an all time favorite. We read all the books and watched every Little House on the Prairie episode - I could easily do this again! I have the books my mother read to us, can you tell they are well loved?

2. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott is another favorite - not just because the book is wonderful but the movie is also worth watching over and over again (which we did quite often growing up). Did anyone else cry over Beth?

3. Polyanna by Eleanor H. Porter whose influence changes the way an entire town views life!

4. The Borrower's by Mary Norton was one my siblings and I used time and time again as the plot to our playtime. The Barbies became borrowers and when things disappeared it was always blamed on those little people!

5. Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery was easy to fall in love with - Ann(with an e) was smart, witty, dream-filled, daring, dramatic, wonderful - a bosom friend character. (Also, who wouldn't love Gilbert Blithe?!) By the way, I was always amazed (and still am) at how well the movies follow the book! Definitely a favorite.

6. Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls - I still remember my mother sobbing at the end of the story - book and movie!

7. Mandy by Julie Edwards is well worn (which = well loved). This story is all about a little orphan girl who climbs over the wall and finds an abandoned cottage that she makes her own. There were many times I pretended I found my own little cottage to call home.

8. The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett inspired many secret garden quests. I loved the movie more than the book - it was eerie and wonderful. As an adult, however, I was quite disappointed rereading this story, but the idea behind a secret garden is one I do not want to keep from my children.

9. The Indian in the Cupboard by Lynne Reid Banks - how often I wished that I could make a toy real with my own magical cupboard!

10. Heidi by Johanna Spyri was another I fell in love with as a child. Little Heidi and her adventures around the mountains, her energy and love for others, captured my imagination in so many ways.

I had so much fun pulling these books off the shelf. They conjured up so many childhood memories!
I have many more that I can't wait to read with them, like C.S. Lewis' The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe or any of Gary Paulsen (which my husband has many memories attached to his stories of adventure and survival) or Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine or Shiloh by Phylis Reynolds Naylor or or or or or... (this list could be endless, which means I should stop typing and start reading with my girls...) I encourage you to do the same. As a reading teacher for 7th and 8th graders who had over half of my students entering the 7th grade at or below the 4th grade reading level, I cannot even begin to tell you the difference it makes when children have one-on-one time each day reading with an adult. When I surveyed these struggling readers, over 90% of them had no memory of their parents reading to them. It is so easy to pick up a book and read it - you'll never know the difference it makes in their life until much later in life - so take the time, because it is well worth the time.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

The One Attribute of God that Adorns Me in Strength, Fearlessness, Love and Laughter

The Proverbs 31 woman is described as a woman with an impeccable work ethic, a woman devoted to God, her husband, children, and community, a woman who is owed a tremendous amount of respect. She is a woman who is happy, satisfied, accomplished, hard working, fearless, loved, and beautiful - inside and out. When a woman reads about the main character of Proverbs 31, most are inspired. Who doesn't want to be this woman?

There are books, blog posts, and commentaries galore about this particular Proverb and I'm positive that a simple Google search will provide ample information in regards to this woman. My post isn't about that woman, but how I became a woman who is happy, satisfied, fearless, and doubtless in God's love for me. I am a woman who "laughs at the time to come." (Proverbs 31:25)

I am that woman not of my own accord. On the contrary, I am that woman because my Bible is purple. So this post is not at all about me, but what God has revealed about Himself to me and how He worked in my life as a result of that fact.

The one attribute of God that adorns me in strength, fearlessness, love and laughter...

If you have been reading my posts I shared the color code I use to take notes in my Bible. Purple is God's sovereignty. I would be hard pressed to find a page without purple in it. Every page, every line, every word spoken by God Himself points to this one amazing truth: God is in control. And if He is in control, I have nothing to worry about. I can face the future knowing that His purpose will stand, His counsel will not be thwarted, what has been is what will be, what He said will come to pass, for He is God and
"there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, 'My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose,' calling a bird of prey from the east, the man of my counsel from a far country. I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass; I have purposed, and I will do it." Isaiah 46:9-11
I am a woman who is clothed in strength, adorned in fearlessness, happiness, and firmly resting in God's love for me - not because of me - but because of God's sovereign hand. God's sovereignty is the very foundation of my strength, satisfaction, fearlessness, happiness, and rest in His sovereign love. 

If passages like Isaiah 45:6-7 are true, then my trust in God should grow resulting in a tremendous amount of fearlessness at what is to come knowing He willed it to happen, therefore I can trust Him,
"I am the Lord, and there is no other, besides me there is no God; I equip you, though you do not know me, that people may know, from the rising of the sun and from the west, that there is none besides me; I am the Lord, and there is no other. I form light and create darkness, I make well-being and create calamity, I am the Lord, who does all these things."
When I highlight passages like Psalm 104:24-30 in purple, double underlining the verbs clearly illustrating what God did, I am in awe of Him and my trust significantly grows,

When I read passages like Job 34:13-15 and learn of our complete dependence on Him, I become a fearless woman because my very life, my very breath, depends on Him and that brings ultimate comfort,
"Who gave him charge over the earth, and who laid on him the whole world? If he should set his heart to it and gather to himself his spirit and his breath, all flesh would perish together, and man would return to dust.
When I meditate on verses like Ecclesiastes 2:14 my soul is at peace, my heart at rest, my mind at ease,
"whatever God does endures forever; nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it. God has done it, so that people fear before him. That which is, already has been; that which is to be, already has been; and God seeks what has been driven away.
In other words, God will get an event and show how perfectly it fits within His perfect plan!

When I foolishly agonize over my transgressions, at being dead in my trespasses, at being a child of wrath (Ephesians 2:1-3) knowing that there is nothing a deadman can do but rot, the Holy Spirit wisely sets my gaze on God's sovereign hand in my life filling me with an overwhelming gratitude, relieving me of guilt, reminding me of His sovereign love - knowing that if the very next passage begins with "But GOD" then I can trust that He did the work and will therefore never again be lost. I am instead standing in His grace - His abounding love - and this is not my own doing (2:8) - thank GOD - otherwise I would be eternally lost, living in the passions of my flesh,

And just when I am overwhelmed at God - who He is, what He has done and will do, at things I do not fully understand, I memorize verses like Isaiah 55:8-9, which calms my thoughts and renews my spirit,
"For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts." 
So when I don't understand the events, ideas, and problems of this fallen world, the Holy Spirit brings to mind such comforts, adorning me in strength and satisfaction - not in myself - but in an all-mighty powerful God who holds the stars in the heavens, knows every hair on my head, and who will never, ever fail.

Which is why I laugh at the time to come...
I am fearless because God is in control. I am strong because I have nothing to fear. I am loved because God first loved me. I laugh at the time to come because God is supremely pleased with Himself, and if He is happy in Himself and has given me Himself then I too am extremely happy. God has the right and the ability to do what He wants with what He created (which is everything) and because He cannot and will not fail, because the earth and everything in it was created by His word and all things are sustained by Him, and if what He has purposed will come to pass - for His glory - then I must deduce that He is happy in and of Himself. He does not need me for His happiness, but I desperately need Him for mine. If I rest in His sovereign hand, which gave me Himself, then I know that I can laugh at whatever comes to pass - for He willed it for His glory.
"Our God is in the heavens; he does all that He pleases." Psalm 115:3
And if you do what pleases you, doesn't it make you happy? We should say the same of God after reading verses like that! And if nothing He does can never be undone, or added to, or if nothing can be taken away (Ecclesiastes 2:14) or if He will accomplish His purpose (Isaiah 46:9-11) then He must be supremely happy. Ahhhh... I breathe a contended sigh of relief as I mark yet another verse in purple, the more I mark (which is daily), the more clearly God illustrates His sovereignty - helping me to further trust Him as He fulfills His perfect plan.

I will spend eternity fearlessly in wonder at His glory because of Christ's love, which made me strong in this life; and I will be eternally happy in His presence all because I know - beyond a shadow of a doubt - that God is in control!

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Tuesday's Top Ten [How a Busy Mom Can Become a Theologian]

What you do during your day reveals what you believe about God. What you believe about God is developed by how you spend your time. Everyone has something to say about God, so where do your belief's about God come from? Facebook? Pinterest pins? Your pastor? Your friends? From your own study?

Theology (the study of God) is vitally important for every Christian, even busy mommas - especially busy mommas. 

So, how do you start your day? What is the first thing on your mind? What is it that you want to do first? Why? As you go through your day, what do you listen to? What do you read? What do you spend your "free time" doing?

If I answer each of these questions honestly I do not sound like much of a disciplined theologian...

  • How do I start my day? I begin my day by reading John Piper's "Solid Joys" devotional app, with difficulty. I would rather open Pinterest or Instagram.
  • What is the first thing on my mind? Typically it's, "Ugh, I do not want to get out of bed!"
  • What is it that you want to do first? Go back to sleep, stay warm under the covers... Why? I do not enjoy those first few minutes in the morning. My lazy brain tries to convince myself to stay warm and cozy rather than enduring the cold and dragging my feet to the dresser for my workout clothes.
  • As I go through my day, what do I listen to? Music, Bible app, Ligonier's "Renewing Your Mind", sermons, my children reading, screaming, fighting, laughing, playing... Marley barking...
  • What do I read? Poetry, loads of children's books, my Bible, professional reading, biographies/autobiographies, I will begin "The Holiness of God" by R.C. Sproul as soon as I get it in the mail. For fun I'm reading the Harry Potter series.
  • What do I spend my "free time" doing? It depends on the day, but there are days I find that I wasted 20 minutes on my phone scrolling through Pinterest (for example). It is far too easy to get caught up in exploring and the only reason I got on it in the first place was to find a recipe or idea to implement! Grrr. Sometimes I write. Sometimes I doodle. Sometimes I just sit.
I find that if I'm completely honest with myself, I do a lot of time wasting during the day. One of my prayers recently (thanks to Elisabeth Elliot's Through Gates of Splendor) is that I, like Nate Saint wrote in his journal as the missionaries prepared to share the gospel with a historically hostile tribe, 

As a busy mom, whose mission field is her own home with her own wild (sometimes hostile) tribe, this prayer is just as important! If we are to share what we believe with our children, our neighbors, our immediate family and our church family, we must first solidify in our own mind - What do I believe about God as my Creator and Savior? What do I know about who He is and what He has said or revealed about Himself? What do I know about what He has done? What has He promised? Can I trust Him? How? Why? When? If those questions overwhelm you, like they once did me, read verses like Romans 15:4,
"For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.
and be encouraged because the answer to all of those questions is possible to know and it is vitally important to know!

How do you answer those questions? In Scripture! And why is it so important to study God? You conquer falsities - anything that takes your focus from Christ - by the very word of God!
"The only way you can be saturated with the thoughts of Christ is to saturate yourself with the book that is all about him." - John MacArthur 
How does a mommy do that during the busy, crazy day?

Here are ten tips that I apply to my own life, that I hope help you despise time-robbing distractions and charge the enemy with all your energies in the name of Christ!

Before I begin the list you must know that the only way for a Christian to become a theologian is by opening your Bible and reading it cover to cover - over and over and over again. It takes time and discipline and focus - all of which mommy's of little people can lack for obvious reasons. Still, it is vital for Christian's who do not want to become stagnant in their walk with Christ! To be sure, going to church, listening to sermons, and reading books are all valuable contributions to growth, but it is your own time in Scripture that is most valuable! I'm on my third read through since becoming a mother, how have I accomplished that?

1. Your children should see you read your Bible and pray. Modeling is the best way to teach. If they see this practice in your life, they will take note. I will never forget reading of a particular mother named Susanna Wesley, who reared two of the greatest theologians in history - Charles and John Wesley - and had 8 other children and also 9 who died in infancy (talk about a busy mom who faced a lot of adversity); she was an amazing theologian that dedicated her mornings to prayer. Her children knew that if her apron was over her head they were not to disturb her time in prayer. I apply that same principle with my children (minus the apron), aged 2 and 5, if my Bible is open or my head bowed in prayer do not disturb me. This is a time that we work on over and over again - you have food, you have a drink, you have books, coloring books and colors to keep you entertained, if you need a kleenex or to use the potty you know what to do! I set my timer for an hour and get to work reading and marking my Bible as well as praying through what I read, requests, praise, and thanksgiving. Because it has been a daily discipline since becoming a mother, disciplining my children is nill because they know what is expected of them during this incredibly valuable time.

2. Read your Bible to your children. During lunch I get out my Bible and read to them after I finish eating (they are the slowest eaters). Sometimes I pick a Psalm, sometimes I pick up from where I left off that morning, sometimes it's a favorite story, but I read and they listen while they eat. The more you read what God has to say, the more you'll learn! This isn't a guarantee that your children will grasp or pick up everything that you read, God will open their eyes if He intends to use that time, but I simply will not waste it for myself as well as for them.

3. Listen to your Bible. While you fold laundry, listen. While you do dishes, hit play. While you do a general pick up, open your ears. Thank goodness for Bible apps with playback features to make this possible! The more you read or listen to what God has to say about Himself, the more you will grow in the knowledge of Him.

4. Do daily devotions before your feet hit the floor. I am so incredibly thankful I live in the time I do! I can open my phone in the mornings (my devotional app is set to ding at me first thing) and set my mind on the things of Christ.

5. What is your purpose for reading __x__? These days I have very little time for "fun" reading. I really enjoy historical fiction and a sci-fi book once in a while and once in a blue moon (more so recently) I do pick up a book for this purpose, but overall I am very purposeful in picking books. Here are two questions I ask myself: What will this author teach me about God? How will he/she inspire me in my walk with Christ? Here are some that I found extremely interesting, yet thought provoking, convicting, inspiring, and full of wisdom, (each author taught me so much...)
6. Focus. This one is directly related to numbers 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 9, and 10, but it's worth discussing a bit more. Once in a while mommy's have this glorious thing called, FREE TIME! It doesn't happen often, but when it does, how do you spend it? If you want to be a woman whose strength and trust is in the Lord, who laughs at the time to come, one must remain focused on knowing the God of the Bible! What delegates your thoughts? When adversity strikes, how do you respond? Do you hit your phone to vomit all over Facebook? Or do you hit your knees in prayer, or seek wisdom from your Bible? What is your focus and how do you remain focused during your busiest times, during your down time, during your quite time, in moments when you need to discipline, clean, fold laundry, run errands - when it is so easy to forget Jesus all together? Mommy's desperately need theology for all these moments!

7. Listen to great theologians. I am currently listening to our pastor preach through the book of Ephesians again (thank you YouTube!); reviving the need in my heart for church unity. And I am also deeply moved by R.C. Sproul's sermon series The Holiness of God. Talk about WOW! The more I learn about God's holiness, the more I am in awe of who He is and what He has accomplished on a sinner's behalf. Wow. Due to this sermon series I was super excited to read his book, The Holiness of God, which I cannot wait to read with the woman who disciples me. 

8. Listen to theologically sound music. I like to have access to things that encourage my soul (i.e. my Bible, focused prayer, music, &etc.) and I am very purposeful in what I pick. Some of my favorites include...
  • God is Sovereign playlist on YouTube
  • On my phone I access songs like Jeremy Camp's Give Me Jesus, or the Getty's songs The Power of the Cross, My Worth is Not in What I Own, or He Will Hold Me Fast, or Sovereign Grace's All I Have is Christ etc. etc. etc. 
  • On our little iPad for our iJuke I jam out to playlists focused on titles like,
    • Gospel
    • God is Sovereign
    • God is Faithful
    • God is Great
    • Rest in Christ
    • Solace in Sorrow
    • Sanctify Me
9. Attend a Bible teaching church where the pastor values expository teaching. This type of teaching goes through book by book, paragraph by paragraph, sentence by sentence, word by word to find the author's purpose for writing what he wrote to whom he wrote it. (Read more about Expositional teaching here: Find a church near you using the 9Marks for a healthy church website:  Finding a church family who values the teaching of God's Word will do numbers in your own growth. We were not meant to go through life alone! God has a lot to say about the unity of His church family, about discipleship, encouragement, and instruction. He gave us Christ and He gave us each other!

10. Memorize Scripture. This one is extremely valuable for any busy mother! Find someone willing to do this with you and hold you accountable, otherwise (if you're anything like me) you'll drop it. It is amazing to me how often the Holy Spirit brings to mind the words I have memorized. Memorizing is observing the text, memorizing is meditating, memorizing text plants God's Word deep within your mind and if verses like Proverbs 30:5 are true, "Every Word of God proves true," then you are planting God's truth where it matters most - in your heart - the very core of who you are.
What do you believe to be true? The answer to that question will reveal itself eventually - how you speak, how you respond to adversity, what you do or don't do, how you spend your day - are all evidence of what you know about God. Although the study of God is important in all aspects of life, theology is most important in adversity, because it is when you're faced with trials, temptations, or difficulties of any sort that what you have studied about God is now firmly solidified in your mind. It's in hard times that what you have learned about God becomes the truth upon which you rely. 

Motherhood is a mission field full of difficulties - therefore, every mother needs theology!