December 31, 2011

My Mind and Heart Are Full

So many things going through my mind and heart right now...not even sure where to start!

About halfway through Christmas day I had a breakdown.  I just sat down and cried for about 30 minutes because I was so disappointed in the way things were going...disappointed in myself, my children's reactions, and just things in general.  Kevin and I worked  very hard this Christmas to make sure our kids knew what the holiday was really about.  We worked very hard to include Christ as the center of everything we did this season.  Ethan was still a little young to really get things, but I was so excited at how excited Sophie was to pick gifts out of the World Vision gift catalogues.   It was so sweet that, as she looked at the picture of a child that was next to each gift, she was totally convinced that the gift we got would go to THAT child!  It just melted my heart to see how hard it was to narrow down which gifts to pick, when she really just wanted to do everything in the catalogue!  I was so thankful to God for giving her the beginning of this understanding.  Of course, then Christmas morning came and suddenly those gifts were a thing of the past and they couldn't see past the gifts in front of them.  Their (and my) selfishness was screaming at me and I just almost couldn't take it.  I felt so disappointed.  In my head, I was picturing her turning to me and saying something like, "These gifts are good, mom, but nothing is better than being able to send that little girl food so she can eat today."  Of course, this didn't happen!  Kevin was so great as he sat with me and talked me through my breakdown, reminding me that they are just kids and that as we continue to pour into them and pour God's truth into them, they will become more and more like that.  I sure hope he's right!  Admittedly, there's a part of me that still thinks that if we had started this process sooner, if we had started that very first Christmas thinking more of helping others than getting gifts for each other, then maybe she'd be there now.  Maybe if we lived somewhere else, somewhere with less frills and more struggle, maybe her first instinct would be to love others and serve others each day.  But, the truth is, we all need a little more selflessness in our lives.  They need to see it in me more each day, and I need to trust God that, if I am teaching them His word and following what He calls me to do, He will lead them where He wants them to go.  I need to lay my life and my kid's lives at His feet and trust each day to Him, totally and completely!

I just finished reading Kisses from Katie by Katie Davis.  I strongly urge you to read it!  It was so convicting and challenging, yet just what I needed!  What reassurance that God is always there and always in control, even when it feels we're surrounded by total chaos.  Of course, however, I finished feeling, again, that maybe if we lived pretty much anywhere other than the US that my kids would be less selfish and more focused on God (but, of course, isn't that true of pretty much all of us?  With less material distractions, one would think that it would be easier to focus on Christ!)  However, reading this book I was also reminded that, even when you take away the material "distractions", there are still many physical hardships that can steal your focus just as easily.  But one of the last phrases in the book hit home...it's something I've been thinking for probably 3 years or more, but never really given voice to, lest I sound ungrateful for all that God has done so far in my life.  It is so often through tragedy and struggle that we draw most near to Christ, most diligently seek His heart, most become like Him and truly reliant on Him, yet I find so little struggle and tragedy in life.  At times, it feels as if I need to beg God to bring the struggle so that I can see Him clearly, draw near to Him, and be transformed into His likeness.  But, in that same thought, I can't help but think that perhaps the reason He has not sent the struggle is that, rather than choose to be more like Him, I would turn and run as fast as I could in the other direction, simply because that is the easy thing to do.  My heart yearns for the chance to cling to my faith, to see my amazing God prove Himself faithful as healer, redeemer, provider, friend, sovereign over all, yet I remain paralyzed with fear that He may one day do just that. 

Oh, Lord, help my unbelief.  Lead me to the center of Your will, for me and for my family, and don't let me go.  Bring whatever it is that will change me in a way that I can never go back.  Help me to bring my family along so they may see Your truth and faithfulness, that they, too, may be changed in eternal ways.  Lord, help me to see that every little thing You've given me is for Your glory and for me to use in Your name for Your people.  Remove my fear and doubt.  Remove my selfishness.  Remove me from my comfort zone and lead me in Your path.  Drown me in Your word and presence, that I may hunger and thirst for nothing more than You.  Show me how to do this and still be the wife and mother my family needs.  Help me to do this so I can be the wife and mother my family needs.  Be in the details, big and small, each day.  Lord, regardless of what goes on around me, let me be one who is completely devoted and sold out to You in every area of life.  Lord, don't allow me to settle for what is comfortable or good enough in this world.  Don't let me settle for that in the life of my children and husband, either.   Lord, change us from the inside out!  I know I've been saying this with my lips for a long time, but the burning in my heart for this is almost unbearable now!  Don't let this slip away.  Don't let me get caught up in the busyness of life and forget what's truly important!  Never let me lose this urgency.  Lord, I look forward to this new year and all that may come with it.  Let it be a year of reliance on You and You alone, in everything I do.

December 29, 2011

Intentional

That's going to be my word for 2012.  Intentional!  I want to be more intentional about so many things in my life:
--I want to be more intentional about my time alone in the Word and prayer.  I want to be intentional about setting aside time for this and not allowing a single day to go by without this precious, most important time.  It is important for me and for my family that I have this time.
--I want to be intentional about teaching my children scripture and about learning more scripture myself. 
--I want to be more intentional about how I spend my time and money so that I can be a witness to my children of good stewardship, generosity, and sacrificial living. 
--I want to be more intentional about teaching my children selflessness.  I want them to have a heart for others before themselves.  I want my children to see in me a desire for all to know Him and I want them to have that desire, as well.
--I want to be intentional in my homeschooling, making the most of this amazing opportunity to show that God truly is in everything.   I want to make the most of the time I have with both of my children each day, to train them in the way that God would have them go and pray each day that they will hold fast to what they learn and that they will be drawn into relationship with God at an early age.

Of course, there's much more in my heart than I could possibly list here...and just looking at this list overwhelms me.  How can I do this?  Will I even be able to accomplish one thing on this list, let alone all of them?

Oh, Lord, lead me and guide me as I strive to seek and serve you with my whole heart.  Help me to be intentional in every area of my life that I may know You more and help others to know You more, as well.  Lord, help me to model a life of loving sacrifice as we share all you have given us with others that others may see Your love through us.  Lord, keep me focused on You at all times in all things.  Lord, remind me that you are my strength and my shield.  Thank You, Lord, for the many blessings You have lavished on us.  Show us how you would have us use those same blessings to bless someone else.

December 14, 2011

Oh, December

Can you believe it's the middle of December and it's warm enough to play outside...well, if it weren't raining so hard, that is!  What an amazing God we have!!!  It's been quite the weather ride this year and I take comfort in the fact that God, and God alone, is in control of every moment of it, every rain drop, every snowflake, every wind that blows!  Hallelujah!

I have not been nearly as good about keeping up this blog as I would have liked...things have just been so crazy!  Adjusting to the homeschooling routine has been something...well...crazy!  We've been doing it for a whole semester now and I don't feel like I know any more than I did before and we still don't really have a routine or schedule down.  If you know me, you know this is driving me crazy!  But, it seems no matter how hard I try, that part of it just doesn't seem to be clicking.  However, I know this was the right decision for our family and we are all really enjoying it and the benefits, even with some of the irritations.  One of the biggest things for me is trying to figure out how to fit in all the household chores in the midst of school.  But, I know it will come in time and I am doing my best to be patient (something that does NOT come naturally to me at all!  Only by God's grace!!!!)

One of my favorite things about this holiday season has been doing our Jesse Tree Advent book with the kids each day.(Find info about downloading it here .)  What fun this has been!!  It is pretty much taking us through the entire Bible and showing us how Christ's birth is the fulfillment of so many prophecies from hundreds of years before His birth.  We decided to do it at the last minute, so we had to improvise with the tree.  Instead of buying another small tree, we decided to just make a construction paper branch on the wall and hang our ornaments on it.  The kids have really loved it.  One of the things Sophie has really loved is to see how many times Bethlehem is mentioned in the Bible, waaaaaaaay before Jesus is ever born there.  Her eyes light up every time she hears the name.  It's fun to see her now connect it not only to Jesus' birth, but to the land that was promised to Abraham and his descendants, as well as the town of David, from whose line the Messiah was promised to come.  Like all of us, I am not sure she completely sees the whole picture, but the pieces are beginning to fit together for her!  God, You are so good!  Thank you for always delivering on Your promises!  You alone are 100% faithful 100% of the time.

I was once struck again this week by the abundance of our blessings and the overabundance in our lives all at the same time.  We head out next week to celebrate Christmas with Kevin's family in TX, so, as many of you may know about me, I felt the need to go ahead and get packed (but, in my defense, I was trying to avoid having to do laundry at the last minute and be throwing things into a suitcase and forgetting something...that makes sense, right?!?!?!).  As I did this, I was struck by the fact that I could pack for both kids for a week, put those clothes aside, and they both still had enough clothes to last at least another 2 weeks or more without me ever doing more laundry.  Wow!  And to think, there are families all over the world who barely have one outfit to their name, let alone the ability to truly ever get that outfit clean.  Lord, I don't know why you have blessed me beyond measure, but I pray you show me how to clear out my abundance so that others may have true needs filled. Lord, show me what I truly need in order to live that I may help others, out of my abundance, to have even their most basic needs met!

Last night we finally decided on the gifts we would get out of the World Vision catalogue.  This was kind of like torture for Sophie and I.  We both just wanted to give everything we saw (see, we do have something in common other than our drama queen tendencies!)  Every need seemed so pressing and so immediate, we could barely choose.  As I sat there in front of the computer putting the items in our "basket", I just wanted to sit and cry.  Our contribution seemed so small.  Can $25 really help a child with disabilities or an orphan with no place to live?  Is that really all it takes?  Why do I not do this everyday?  Why do I spend money on extra sweaters or silly things that are just an unneeded extravagance when it would take less than I spent on that to put food in some one's mouth?  Oh Lord, open more doors for our family to share You in unexpected ways.  Lord, You've opened my heart to those orphans who have no hope of adoption in the earthly sense, show me how to take the next step in meeting their physical and spiritual needs.  Lord, use us!  Use our little family to do things we never imagined were possible to help those in need, both physical and spiritual.  Lord, use this time of Advent, as we celebrate Your coming, to be an Advent in our hearts as You enter in and change us from the inside out!  Lord, move or move me!

December 07, 2011

What to do What to do

So, I read this today and had to just sit in tears for a few moments.  It was what my heart has been screaming for the last month.  As we have been drawing nearer to the Christmas season, my heart was overwhelmed with a sense of needing things to be less about us and more about Him.  But how?  How do I teach my children it's about giving and not taking?  Then I got a World Vision gift catalogue in the mail and all felt peaceful and right!  I was ready to throw away all my Christmas lists and buy at least one of everything in the catalogue! (Oh, if only the bank account would allow that!)  But, somehow, even though Kevin and I talked about it and we both loved the idea, it just hasn't happened.  Every time I have thought about getting rid of the presents for ourselves and doing things for others instead, I just couldn't do it.  Instead, I ended up heading out and buying stocking stuffers and other things that we really just don't need?  Why?  Well, as I have been pondering this, it's just plain selfishness and pride.  You see, I kept thinking, "What are other people going to think of me if we choose not to get our children gifts for Christmas?  Are they going to think I am mean and cruel?  Will it make my children upset with me because everyone else got gifts and they didn't?  If we start a tradition like this will they come to despise this holiday that is so important to mankind?"  I didn't want any of this to happen so I have shied away from it. Still not sure what to do, but the blog post was a breath of fresh air and a reminder of what is truly important!  Lord, lead Kevin and I to what you would have us do for Your Kingdom in this season.  Show us what our tradition for You needs to be each year and each day that You give us.  Help us to share You with all we do!