December 28, 2013

2014-Less and More

I've been mulling over what word I want to use for 2014 and came up with 2: less and more.  I know that seems like two odd words to put together, but here is what's been going through my mind:

Father, in 2014, help me to have:
Less distraction and More time in Your word.
Less time with technology and More intentional non-school time with the kids.
Less time wasted doing nothing and More time making our house a home.
Less sitting on the couch, eating junk food and More exercise and eating nutritious foods, not so that I look better, but so that I am healthier and will be around for my family longer (hopefully).
Less time worrying about what I look like in the mirror and More time working on the inside and becoming more like Christ.
Less time doing all the "extra" things and More time spent with friends and family doing the IMPORTANT things.
Less time focused on myself (what I want) and More time focused on serving others in His name.
Less time thinking the house is too messy for others to see and More time spent gathering around the table with guests who become family.
Less time thinking of all the things on my to-do list and More time enjoying life and all the amazing blessings God has given me.
Less time yelling, crying, and asking "why" and More time listening, loving, speaking gently, and listing gifts.

Lord, I know that my year of being intentional wasn't perfect, but I saw so many changes and blessings in my life as a result.  As I look ahead into 2014, help me to see where I need less me, less temporal and more You.  Then, Lord, give me boldness to take the steps I need to take to remove anything that doesn't glorify or point others to You.  Give me a joyous heart and lifestyle so that others can see it's about You, not the circumstances.  Lord, move in ways only You can!  I turn 2014 over to You and look forward to all the amazing things I'll be able to see You do in my life, Kevin's life, our kid's lives, and in the lives of all those around us.

December 26, 2013

Of Santa Claus, The Tooth Fairy, and Admitting My Opinion Doesn't Matter

I am afraid that I inadvertently hurt some feelings with a facebook status on Christmas day.  I hope that most people know me well enough to know that I honestly didn't intend to offend anyone or brag about what we were doing.  I was honestly very overwhelmed when I woke up on Christmas day with the awesomeness of the Truth that God is with us. If I offended you with my facebook post, I am truly sorry and I hope that it will not cause harm to our friendship.  I have a sweet friend who is on a plane today headed to meet her son, after more than a year of waiting and hoping and praying and trusting.  As I woke up the day before she boarded a plane to bring her son home, I was overwhelmed with the thought of the people of Israel, waiting for centuries for their promised Messiah, and the knowledge that HE'S HERE!  I could hardly keep the tears from falling as I sat there in the dark, everyone else still sleeping.  I was genuinely grateful that I didn't need to interrupt that feeling and thought process to show my kids what "Santa" brought them.  This year just seemed so much more special to us as we looked ahead to celebrating Christmas.

Now, I do not think that you are a sinner or bad parent for doing Santa with your kids.  We watch movies and read books that have Santa in them, but we have talked about the fact he is not real, but based on a real person who loved Jesus and wanted to follow His example of loving others with all he had.  No presents in our house come from Santa (initially because of laziness and just not wanting to go to all the trouble, now for other reasons).  For our family, this was the right decision.  Admittedly, I am a little jealous of the families that are able to honor Christ, celebrate His birth to the fullest, and include Santa in a way that still points to Christ.  But, I know that we are not that family.  I like to think that I multi-task well, but the truth is, I really don't.  I know that there's no way I could do Santa and Jesus and truly give Jesus the honor that He is due.  I know many others that can do that and I wish, at many times, that I could be like them.  Also, my children, like their mother, tend to be pretty inward focused and we have to work very hard against that.  I know that not all children struggle with this.  I have no been creative enough to figure out how to do Santa and not make it all about them. Maybe I am just not creative enough.

I'll go ahead and admit now that we also don't do the Tooth Fairy.  This is a direct result of the fact that we don't do Santa.  We though that if we weren't going to pretend Santa was real, it would be silly to pretend that the Tooth Fairy is real.  Fortunately, we have some friends at church that gave us a fun Tooth Fairy replacement idea and now it's a fun game for all of us!

But, the biggest thing I want to say here is that what I think about Santa, the Tooth Fairy, or anything else, doesn't really matter to others, or it shouldn't.  We are doing what we feel God has asked us to do.  It may not be the same thing He has asked you to do.  I don't condemn anyone who celebrates differently, just as I don't condemn those who are being obedient and not homeschooling.  The most important thing for you and me to do is to OBEY.  Sometimes that's hard and lonely and makes you feel left out.  But I encourage you to do it anyway.  It's always the best option, even if it doesn't feel like it.  Even if it makes you different from everyone else in your family, church, or community.  If it's what God has asked you do to .  Do it!

I pray that God will strengthen all of us to step out boldly in obedience in all areas of life, no matter the sacrifice involved.  I know that's what I am praying for myself, a changed heart that desires Christ and obedience to Him in all things.  To think of Him before I think of the cost.  To be an example of faith and love and trust and obedience to Him that will point my children to Him in all things.  Sometimes I'll get it right, sometimes I'll have to ask for forgiveness from Him and my children and try again.  But I pray that I will always keep striving to be like Him!

December 25, 2013

The War Within Me

Ok, so really, I have many wars within me....and today has been no exception.  But, today, in the midst of Christmas and presents and saying no to Santa (maybe if I get brave enough one day that will another blog topic) and spending time with family God really hit me with my need to hand my children's souls over to Him...and leave them there.

E has had a rough day today.  He loves to be around other kids, especially boys, but when this happens he becomes almost a completely different person.  He forgets all rules, thinks nothing of the others around him, and just does whatever he wants.  Which, of course, usually lands him in trouble.  Again, today was no exception.  After being spoken to several times about his poor choices and selfish attitude, I was done.  He was sent upstairs to our room until he could change his attitude.  He was up there so long he fell asleep.

I felt so hopeless.  I just wanted to collapse on the bed and cry.  I couldn't help but start comparing my little man and his bad behavior to all the little ones I know his age who, to me on the outside, seem so together, nice, and always obedient.  I actually wanted to just ask God if it was ever going to be possible for his little heart to change.  What was I going to do with the thought that he would never change, never seek God, never want to know anything more about Christ?  (Drama queen much?!?!)

Then, I went over and picked him up. I held him while he slept.  My heart melted.  I immediately asked God to forgive me for doubting that God could change his heart.  I was reminded that the saving of his soul, the calling of this little one, is not up to me. The Spirit will do the work.  Now, I do have some work I need to do so he can know as much Truth as possible, but teaching and praying is the end of what I can do (though both are big things).  The rest is God.  I cannot give up hope.  God can change any heart at any time.  What a comforting and hope-filled thought!

Lord, draw my children to You.  Show me how to teach them and pray for them.  Show me how to trust their souls to You.  Do mighty things in their hearts and lives!

December 13, 2013

Ruth and Esther

As I was doing my Advent devotional today (which was about Ruth), I was struck by something.  There are only two books of the Bible named after women, and both of those books seem so different from many of the others.  The book of Ruth just seems so mundane.  Nothing extraordinary or miraculous (at first glance.)  The book of Esther is one of the few in the Bible that doesn't even mention God's name.  Without an understanding of the sovereignty of God it seems He's not even in the book (but we know better, don't we?)  And I was really struck by how much that is so like women, or well, at least this woman.  We look at things and compare them to something else and what we have, where we are, always seems so much less, so much more mundane and nothing special than what everyone else has.  It's easy to look at our lives in comparison to someone else's and think, "God is doing so much there, why isn't He doing anything here?"  It's so easy to get lost in the everyday dishes, work, laundry, and mess that we don't see the hand of God guiding each moment, giving us gift after gift, and setting things in place just "so" in order that He may be glorified.

Both of these books seem that way to, when you only read them once or just glance through them to get that reading plan finished.  But, both books scream of God's sovereignty, wisdom, provision, and love for us.  Do we really think that Ruth "just happened" to end up in the field of the ONLY man who could be her kinsman-redeemer?  Do we really miss that amazing picture of what Christ came to do for us?  Do we see length God went to in order to bring His son to rescue and redeem His people?  Do we miss how clearly God shows us that any and all are welcome, even a Moabite widow?  Do we miss that the Son of God came from that line of Ruth and Boaz?  How could we say there is nothing miraculous in this story?  The same way we miss the miracles all around us everyday.  We miss it when all we see is a sink of dirty dishes, clothes piled next to the laundry basket, a workload we don't even want to think about, and a calendar that barely leaves time to breathe, let alone spend time with our Creator.  I am as guilty as any when it comes to this.  Do we know how much of a miracle it is that any of us can even have children?  What a miracle it is that we wake up each morning?  Everything around us is a miraculous gift from a Creator who loves us more than we could ever ask or imagine.

And what about the book of Esther?  I have a hard time reading that book and not seeing God's fingerprints all over it, but don't I fail to see God's fingerprints in my life everyday? I constantly think He's not there, not listening, not working, not moving.  But is He?  Yes!  He is always in control, even when I don't see it or feel it.  I cannot doubt that when I look back and see His fingerprints, so I must believe His fingerprints are there right now, too, even though I cannot see them, yet.

There's really nothing deep or theological here, I just thought it was so amazing that our God knows us so well.  He gave us two books, named after women, that totally fit the way women think and feel...well, at least fit the way I think and feel.  I never really thought about it until this morning and it was just another reason to praise my God.  Lord, thank You for Your word.  Thank You for knowing us and loving us, despite our sin.  Thank You for showing me that You are always in control and You are moving at all times, even when I don't see it!  Thank You for reminding me that there are miracles happening all around me, everyday, if I would only take the time to see them.

December 09, 2013

Thinking of 2014

As 2013 comes to a close I feel like my brain is a big, jumbled mess.  Emotions are high, sleep is low, and my brain is no longer functioning!  I am still baffled as to how it's already almost halfway through December. Wasn't 2013 just beginning like last week?  Where has the time gone? It's hard not to be contemplative at this time of year; what did I accomplish this year, did I even come close to living out that word I chose for 2013 ("intentional"), what do I want next year to look like, what changes to I want to make as the new year dawns?

I've been thinking about my "theme" or "word" for 2014...and just like my jumbled brain, so many things have come to mind:
---"LESS"  This was one of the first words that came to mind as I began to think about next year.  Less stress.  Less chaos.  Less mess.  Less distractions.  Less schedule.  Less saying no to fun times with the kids. Less screen time.  Less being glued to the phone.
---"SAY NO"  Learn to say to things that will interfere with my most important roles (for this season): wife and mother.  Learn to say no in a nice, loving way.  Learn to say no because sometimes, it's the best thing for all involved.
---"SLOW DOWN"  Take some time to just enjoy the moments, big and small.  Slow down and see the people around me.  Slow down and seize each teachable moment.  Slow down and see God's hand, even where I think it couldn't possibly be there.
---"BE STILL" Simply be still....and know that He is God, that He is here, that His hand is in all things, that all is Grace, that I am not the one in control.

As you can see, there are lots of words, though they are all leaning in one direction.  Still seeking God's direction for the new year.  I am looking forward to seeing all that He will do in my heart, my children's lives, my marriage, our little family, our church, and our community in the next year.  I look forward to learning more about and practicing Sabbath rest, individually and as a family.  I know that we need more of that in this house.

Have you been thinking about your "word" for 2014?  What will it be?