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! 

Monday, March 19, 2018

Why I Failed At College Athletics

Since pursuing minimalism I have been ridding my home not just of things I do not need, but anything that distracts me from my purpose in life, including dusty old memories. One of the things I just finished purging is my memory box. Throwing away items that remind me of a person I no longer am, of who I used to be, is a wonderfully freeing activity. Because many of those items brought about emotions of pain, regret, and joy intermixed.

For example, I threw away an entire bag full of metals and ribbons from every track meet, honor band, or academic achievement from junior high and high school. As I sorted through what I really wanted to keep and what could be tossed, I began to reflect on who I was in those high school days - as an athlete and student. Sure I have regrets even then, but when I think back on those two things specifically I can honestly say I gave it my best effort. When the coach asked for 7 sets of 100 meter hills, my 4x400 team did another set because we wanted to stand on the podium at state (which we did). When the gun went off, I gave an enormous amount of effort in running as fast as I could to the finish line, even though I knew I would probably puke. The only race I wish I would've dedicated more time and energy to is the 400. I think I could've ran faster than 59 seconds, other than that I persevered through a broken foot and made it to state track in four events my senior year (even while I openly complained, insert an enormous eye roll here, I should have shut up or went to the doctor). In basketball when the coach said "hit the line" I made sure I was the first to finish. During practice I worked so hard sweat dripped off my nose. As long as I was on the court I was giving 110% effort. Even when practice was over I made an effort to stay after and work on my shot. What made me a decent athlete in high school wasn't my skill (I'm a huge klutz), it was my dedication, work ethic and perseverance. 

So why didn't those qualities transfer to college? I think I know why and we will get to that in a bit, but the truth is...

I became extremely lazy. When I didn't want to go to class, I didn't. When I hated a class I gave minimum effort. When I didn't want to do homework, I waited until the very last minute. I did not truly give a full effort in anything. I still have no idea how I even graduated with a 3.2 GPA. This also goes for basketball, pep and concert band where the only thing I mastered was showing up and being lazy in my efforts.

I drank too much alcohol. I didn't think that the amount of alcohol I was drinking would effect me, but it did. My freshman year of college I gained 30 pounds! Other than the short term effects such as dehydration, it also affects your immune system and blood flow to your muscles which "get in the way of the proteins that build them up resulting in lower muscle mass and less strength" (sourcesource #2). Alcohol effects athletic performance, period. And I was not willing to admit this truth 10+ years ago.

I made excuses. I had a broken foot, my teammates didn't like me (well, can you honestly blame them?), I wasn't happy, I didn't like it, I'd rather be drinking, I just don't enjoy it anymore, my parents were getting a divorce, my friend passed away, I didn't have any money, I don't have time... I justified giving up the things I worked the hardest on for many years all because of my excuses. Some were legitimately hard, but when life gets hard that is reason enough to persevere and work harder!

When things got tough, I quit. I didn't do this in high school. I remained dedicated even through my senior year of high school when my basketball coach benched the seniors stating he was "building for the future". I still came to every practice and worked my butt off. I persevered when I broke my foot, still running a 62-64 second 400 (a few seconds slower than the year before) and still ran a 27 second 200 meter dash because I was willing to suck it up (but not without whining).

Why was that different in college? I truly believed that I was un-save-able and I was not willing to push through the pain. I reached a point in my sin that I truly thought that God was too angry with me to ever accept me. So I gave into laziness, alcohol, poor excuses, and I just gave up the desire to do anything other than what I wanted to do. When I think back to myself during those years, I am disgusted, but I am also super thankful.

Super thankful for a God who never left me, even in my stupidity.

Why do I share these things with you? Partly because reflecting helps me purge the emotions attached to these memories, and also because I hope someone out there reads this and learns from my mistakes. But mostly, I share these things because they no longer embarrass me.
"I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me." Galatians 2:20
To be crucified is to be dead, there was no other end and if I have been crucified with Christ then I have been raised from the dead with Him (Romans 6:4) and made new,
"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold the new has come." 1 Corinthians 5:17 
You cannot embarrass someone who is dead. That person from 10+ years ago no longer exists! So when I share things like this I share it because it gives me an opportunity to share the gospel and it's effect on my life. When God opened my eyes to the truth of His salvation - that there was nothing I could do to be set free from my sin and there was nothing I could do to lose that salvation, I was forever changed. Jesus did all the work when He became sin, took the wrath of God for that sin, died on the cross, and rose again. And since that day He has been working in me and changing me and forcing me to face these terrible habits I got into 10+ years ago.

And so I purged the crap from my house and while writing this I purged the negativity that went along with those items. More importantly I was able to praise God for all that He has done in my life these last 10 years since realizing that the gospel was God's work, that He is not angry with me, and that my identity is in Christ who is continually working on my ugly, lazy heart.

As I let go of the things in my home, I also leave all my failings at the cross - where Jesus paid for those failings once for all time! 

Ahhhh... that is so incredibly freeing.
Today, I am more motivated than I have ever been and I credit that to Christ alone! The fire inside is due to what He has accomplished in me! Today I understand that I did not finish college well and I do not want to be on my death bed with those same regrets. I want to finish well.

If I want to finish well I must work hard.
If I want to finish well I must quit quitting the things that are important.
If I want to finish well I cannot let my weakness destroy greatness, for God has done a great work in me.
If I want to finish well I must face adversity knowing that the sovereign God of the universe does not waste pain. And just like muscle, which becomes stronger by repeatedly lifting things that have been designed to weigh us down, I will do rep, upon rep, upon rep, knowing that God works all things together for my good and His glory (Romans 8:28).
If I want to finish well I must trust in Christ alone. 
And I want to finish well for His glory alone.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Book Review [Katharina & Martin Luther: The Radical Marriage of a Runaway Nun & a Renegade Monk by Michelle DeRusha]

Katharina and Martin Luther: The Radical Marriage of a Runaway Nun and a Renegade MonkKatharina and Martin Luther: The Radical Marriage of a Runaway Nun and a Renegade Monk by Michelle DeRusha
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Katharina was quite the inspiration! Although this book was not what I expected, I thoroughly enjoyed it. I wasn't expecting to learn so much on the difficulties women faced during this time period. I wasn't expecting to learn about Katharina's tremendous work ethic! I wasn't expecting to fall in love with the Luther household. And I truly wasn't expecting conviction upon reading of Katharina's work ethic. But these aren't the only unexpected, wonderful results of reading this book, which I encourage you to do as well! You will be thankful for it, I can promise you that.

I cannot even begin to sing my gratitude for living in the 21st century. The view of women in general has changed significantly. We have citizenship rights, for example, and if our spouse passes away (or if we choose not to marry at all) we will not be condemned or feared to be a witch with extreme sexual passions that cannot be tamed. Documents like Malleus Maleficarum (known as the Hammer of Witches) is now considered ludicrous for statements such as, 
"a woman was a liar by nature; vain in gait, posture, and habit; and insatiable in carnal lust, as well as wicked: "a foe to friendship, an unescapable punishment, a necessary evil, a natural temptation, a desirable calamity, a domestic danger, a delectable detriment, an evil of nature, painted with fair colors! A woman either loves or hates there is no third grade. When a woman thinks alone, she thinks evil. All [witchcraft] comes from carnal lust, which is in women insatiable." (p. 171) 
When I read those lines my jaw dropped to the ground. I was more than shocked and appalled for these women! My sympathy for their extreme adversity ran so deeply that my head was overwhelmed by my shaking it. With that, I thanked God for our equality in Christ. That before Him I am no better than a king, the president, a man, or any human in history - no matter the race, nationality, or physical disposition - like everyone I am a sinner in need of a Savior. And because of my faith in Jesus Christ's death, burial and resurrection I am like any other believer - whether king, president, man, or human - no matter the race, nationality, or physical disposition - I am righteous and holy because of the work of Christ in my life. Hallelujah!

I am also incredibly thankful modern appliances that only require me to walk up and down the stairs and not to the river to wash my clothing - even in the dead of winter! Or the ability to vacuum my rug rather than beat the dirt out. Or my dishwasher, crockpot, &etc. that have essentially made me lazier than the women during 1500's. Katharina woke at 4am and hit the floor running. Her 17 hour work day included being a brewmaster, house manager of the many guests who lived in their home, wife, and mother. She raised her own livestock, slaughtered them, and prepared them for meals. She tended her own garden and bees. She was also a nurse whose son, Paul (a doctor), commended her for her knowledge of the medical profession. In fact, when the Black Plague hit their town, she tended to the sick in the cloister where they lived. Still, that isn't the part that struck me - she tended to the sick and gave birth to a child right in the middle of it!

This woman!

Another fact that struck me was that Martin tried to pay her for reading the Bible through in a year. She refused, but he wrote of her that she knew the Psalm's by heart better than anyone he knew (including himself). Amazing.

Katharina is a woman I cannot wait to meet. Although this was a book about her revolutionary marriage (she was a nun and her husband a monk) and despite my joy in reading about their marriage and how they faced adversity together or reared their children (which was one of my favorite parts because of statements like, 

"Luther understood parenting as nothing less than a holy calling. "The greatest good in married life, that which makes all suffering and labor worthwhile, is that God grants offspring and commands that they be brought up to worship and serve Him, he wrote in 1522, before he was married or had children of his own. "In all the world this is the noblest and most precious work, because to God there can be nothing dearer than the salvation of souls." ... [Luther] considered there no greater or nobler authority on earth than that of parents over their children. Yet the comments and stories sprinkled throughout Table Talk, the ender letters Luther penned to his wife, and the portraits depicting Luther and his family also reveal something obvious yet not often mentioned: Luther and Katharina had fun with their kids and enjoyed spending time with them. They delighted in their children's antics and their innocent comments and expressions. Love and joy were obviously abundant in the Luther household." p.233-234) 
My favorite pieces to learn were that of Katharina and how Martin - despite what the world at that time said about women - had a deep and abiding love, trust, and respect for his wife. Even after he passed away, his trust for her was immense when you read his will which was revolutionary for that time. What he gave her and entrusted her with was unheard of which caused a lot of heartache for Katharina. Still, when her husband died she proved her resourcefulness, her intelligence, and her innovation. I am still amazed and inspired by her and how she came alongside her husband - a man who changed history by standing up for truth!

View all my reviews

Because I can't help myself (seriously, it's that good!) I had to share one of my favorite quotes, 
"[Martin Luther's] understanding of grace-based faith versus works-based faith was more than a personal revelation; it informed his entire rebellion against the church. After all, if human beings couldn't possibly earn salvation by their good works, if human beings had no righteousness of their own and were entirely dependent on Christ for their salvation and hope, where, then, did that leave good works like pilgrimages and fasting? Where did that leave the notion of purgatory? Where did that leave the monastic vows of poverty, obedience, and chastity? Where did that leave the pope, with his sales of indulgences, and the priests, doling out penance in the confessionals? Luther came to believe that the church to which he had dedicated his life was built on sand, and each abuse, each indulgence, added an unsustainable weight to the structure. In his eyes, Romans 1:17 obliterated the very foundation of the Roman Catholic Church." p.91-92

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Tuesday's Top Ten [My Roadblocks to Purging the Unnecessary]

I'm quickly coming up on my one year goal. In April of 2017 I decided to become a minimalist upon the realization that stuff was causing me stress, was taking my focus away from my purpose in life, and was keeping us from our goals. So I made the goal to rid our home of at least 40 trash bags full of stuff we did not need in a years time. I didn't count what we threw away in the dumpster or the items here and there that I gave away to friends who could use them, so I'm sure if I counted all of that this number was exceeded a long time ago. But I still feel like I have a long way to go when I see my craft supplies and storage room. It's overwhelming and now that I'm getting down to the hardest stuff, I'm hitting roadblocks! As I acknowledge my obstructions, I feel better equipped to kick them in the tail. 

The first is GUILT. When I evaluate whether or not to keep something, and decide to purge it, but then remember how much I spent on it or who bought it for me I begin to feel guilty for wanting to get rid of it. Then it moves from the "definitely purge" pile to the "maybe" pile. This feeling of guilt is overwhelming when I see the evidence of the way I used to think about the clearance rack or second hand purchases. I had zero issues hitting up a thrift store and buying another $3 shirt for my overflowing closet. It was just $3! But when I purged my closet the $3 here and $5 there added up to a significant amount of cash. That is just one example of my spending habits. I didn't think I was spending a lot of money! What I didn't realize is that the small amount I wanted to spend in the moment added up to quite a bit at the end of the month. Every penny counts when you're trying to help your husband reach a life time goal of going back to school for his doctorate, or go on a family vacation, or pay off school loans, or, or, or, or, or.  When I think about that fact, it's easy to let guilt take me down. 

Fear of needing it in the future. There has been a few items here and there that I wish I didn't throw away. I hate that feeling because that thought always enters in my brain, what if you need this later? This is especially applicable for my craft supplies.

Gifts. Most of the time I receive gifts I truly do need and/or appreciate. Still, there are times when I come upon a gift that I no longer need or has long ago used up it's purpose. I have to remind myself, as I put the gift in the donation or sell pile, that by doing so does not diminish my love for that person. Getting rid of a gift does not change the way I feel about who gave it to me! It's a ridiculous blockade, but the more I dig into this minimalist lifestyle and follow others who are taking this lifestyle on - I know I'm not alone!

Time. When I dig into my stuff I make piles (huge piles). It takes quite a bit of time to sort through it and time is something we all lack.

Frustration. When I use up my precious time to sort through these piles of crap I've accumulated it is so easy to become extremely frustrated with myself. How on earth did I get here in the first place?! Why did I buy this?! If I had just thought this purchase through in the first place I wouldn't be wasting my time sorting through all this nonsense! &etc. It's easy to let the purging become a major downer when I allow my irritation to overwhelm my sense of accomplishment. I have to remind myself that all of this is evidence of my growth! 

The first step. Does anyone else struggle with this? I have a tendency to just stare at the enormous task in front of me struggling to know where to start.
Just saying, "No." I have so much that I need to accomplish in my day. My first priority is time with God reading His Word and in prayer. That time is a necessity for growth as a Christian and my sanity for the remainder of the day. Second is my husband. What do I need to do to help him? Third is my children. It is my job to teach them, discipline them, and see to it that they get the best of me during the day. Lastly, I am a disciple of Jesus, a disciple maker, and a teacher. If I say "yes" to anything that adds significantly to my day and takes away from my priorities then I just have to say "no" - for some reason that is extremely difficult sometimes. I realized last week that not only do I need to be a minimalist in what I own, but I also need to be a minimalist in what I do. Otherwise I lack focus.

Over Analyzing. For example, sometimes I waaaaaay over think about whether or not to keep an item, the reasons why I bought it in the first place, if I should try to sell it, if so for how much, or whether or not to keep it, when I use it, the last time I used it, if I'll ever use it again, what I'll use it for, if my husband ever uses it, or if my girls would benefit from it, or maybe just scrap all of that and donate it! None of these thoughts are bad thoughts, but sometimes it's a simple answer that requires very little thinking.

Simply liking it. There have been many items (especially from my decor and closet collections) that I truly do enjoy for its beauty or unique qualities. When I simply like an item for the sake of liking it I struggle because my reasons for keeping items go something like this:

  • Do you enjoy it? 
  • Yes? Does it serve a purpose?
  • Yes? Does it help keep you focused on your purpose?
  • Yes? Do you have room for it?
  • Yes? Where? Then put it there, right now, and keep it there!
Sometimes the likable item never made it past question one and when that was the case - it went out! Most of the time I find that really difficult. Over time, however, I forget what those items even were that I agonized over.

Motivation. Sometimes I simply do not want to do it anymore. The result of the purging process is amazing! Ridding our home of those bags has been worthy of celebration after celebration (I've done 35 mini celebrations in fact) but when I see the mountain it's hard to find the motivation to take those first steps and begin the climb. I cannot wait for the day when I am able to say I've gone through every tote, memory box, closet, and cabinet - but it's hard finding the desire to do it sometimes. What I find most motivational are other people who share their struggles, their reasons, their stories, their wisdom. When I lack motivation, I am thankful for blogs, and video's, and little snippets of wisdom on Instagram and verses like this: "Take care, be on guard against all covetousness, for one's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions." Luke 12:15