The Frailty of Life

It’s been a while since I’ve wrote anything.  Things have been a little busy around here, but also I struggle with content and how I am relaying what I’m trying to say.  In all my endeavors, I strive to make God known and give Him the glory.  If I can share a joke or laugh in middle of 5 children under the age of 8 in our house, it’s because God has given me joy that exceeds my circumstances.  If I can look at a sunset and be in awe of it’s beauty, God is the one who created that beauty.  If I can handle 4 kids in my home on a regular basis, it’s because God gives me grace to…again and again.  If my husband can keep adoring me even through all of who I am, it’s because God is present in the marriage.

I occasionally take a break from sharing or writing because I like to evaluate what I’m trying to relay to people.  Am I coming from a place of wanting to exalt myself or exalt Him? Am I coming at this in love-for every single person created in the image of God?  With that, I have a heightened desire to write today.

The last few weeks have been heavy, even for someone like me who attempts to find joy or meaning in every circumstance.  I have been surrounded by people who are dealing with job complications, people dealing with a tragedy or death relating to their child, friends exhausted with seasons in their lives, my kids pushing boundaries, and trying to meet friends in their specific areas of need.  I’m sure the list could go on, but I don’t want to keep you here all day.

After I had Tripp, I would say I definitely struggled with PPD.  It wasn’t diagnosed, but I know myself and I know those extreme mood differences I was living in at the time.  I would almost have panic attacks when I thought of death after having him.  For some reason, having kids here definitely changed my perspective of death.  Really, before kids, I never thought much about it.  After kids, there were times it consumed me.  Tyler would have to hold me while I cried and panicked.

I would say that it’s really been in the past year or so that death doesn’t seem to have a hold on me it once did.  Does that mean I don’t struggle with certain situations in life? Absolutely not.  Do I understand why God would take a 7 year old child from their parents? No.  Do I know why God would let a woman who yearns to be a mother, have infertility struggles while allowing those whose children end up in state custody, continue to keep having babies? Nope.  I also know, those are the things God originally intended for us to have in our lives.  Because of the fall, and the resulting brokenness we will now live in fallen and broken places and circumstances.

Over time though, I have come to accept that death is just another part of this life.  (Like my rejection or acceptance would have changed anything regardless).  We are all going to face hardships, and often different ones, throughout this life.  We are also all going to face death.  I heard the other day that 50% of all children die by the age of 8 in the Himalayas.  We take for granted the fact that we are given life, and often abundant life here in America, and spend it helping or entertaining ourselves.

I read in my Bible reading this morning that we are called to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of God saving us for His own purpose and grace.  We know our time here is limited.  Even if you don’t want to face it, you KNOW it.  It’s not an opinion, it’s a fact.  Even when times feel heavy and I feel like I’m thinking of and praying for a new circumstance throughout entire days, these times have purpose too.  We spend so much of our lives toiling for things that won’t really have a generational difference.  We should work while we’re here.  We should have friendships.  We should help and try to make a difference for the time we are here.  There is one thing that I know will have a lasting effect on each and every one of us- and that is eternity.

Because, we will face a day in eternity.  We will behold the glory of the God who never left us.  The God who comforts me beyond comfort when I am feeling defeated.  The God who upholds me with His strength when I don’t know how I’m going to find the strength to continue.  The God whom I consider it a privilege to be counted worthy TO approach His throne of grace with prayer requests and hurts.  None of the hard days have to consume me because this life isn’t all there is.  I KNOW that to every season there is a purpose.  While we have more entertainment, longevity, and materials to distract ourselves from that truth; it doesn’t change the truth.

“You don’t have to know a lot of things for your life to make a lasting difference in the world.  But you do have to know the few great things that matter, perhaps just one, and be willing to live and die for them.”                  -John Piper

The ants go marching one-by-one…hoorah…

Yesterday morning I woke early to exercise and get my reading for the day done. Now if you know me at all, you know I detest mornings. Early bird gets the worm? Worms are stupid. I have no interest in them. However, it is getting harder and harder to fit those two things into my daily schedule. So rising earlier seems like my only choice at this stage in life.

Once I finished those two tasks, I went out to look at my gardens and fill my bird feeders. (You can’t be a crazy bird lady without any bird food). As I was pulling weeds, I noticed the millions of ants in my garden.

Instantly Proverbs 6:6 came to my mind “Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise:” Have you ever sat and watched how ants moved? They are workers. They work in a colony. They all have tasks. They use seasons to know when to store food.

Why do I think God would tell us to consider her ways and be wise? Well, these verses are teaching to be productive and not lazy. But I also think there is something to thinking on something inferior, such as an ant, which leads us to give glory to God. When we spiritualize common things, we make the things of God ready and easy to us. By observing and thinking on these things, we can converse with them daily.

I hope you’re having a good Tuesday. I hope you feel purpose in your day. I hope you find a second to sit and consider the minute things in life that we often overlook.

Love your kids

I have been thinking a lot about the raising of our kids.  Partially because it is going so fast, and partially because it is so hard.  Many times we treat the raising and leading our children as inconveniences on our schedules, emotions, or time.  I believe that every situation we find ourselves in has the opportunity to form us more into the image of God, including motherhood.

We are told in Matthew to love our neighbor as ourselves.  In addition to loving God with all our heart, soul, and mind; all the commandments hang on these two instructions.  Do we realize our children (and those who live in our house with us) are our closest neighbors? Are my kids image bearers now or later? The obvious answer would be now.  They have opportunities to be influenced by the gospel this week, today, this minute.  Am I living in a way that shows them an example of the love of the Gospel?

Because of the fact that we know even now, they can be influenced by the Gospel, it is important what we show our children.  When I act annoyed or inconvenienced by having to stay up 10 minutes later discussing (again!) why we can’t throw a ball in the house, I am showing my kids that I care more about focusing on my time than helping them.  (I know, I know: but I need ME time!) I’m not discounting the fact that we need to take care of our emotional or physical state, but what I am emphasizing is that if we act as though we are the more important, we are teaching our kids to do the same.

I struggle with this constantly, while trying to intentionally be aware of it.  I have had to make choices that aren’t natural to me to help foster this “loving my neighbor” relationship with my kids.  When they have a day off from school and I am dreading the day of listening to arguing between all three of them, I remind myself that it’s an opportunity to love them.  I have made a conscious choice to never say “I wish they had school today” or “I really just need me time on that day.”  Because we all are members of this household.  We all belong here at this moment.

When I realize my kids are some of my closest neighbors, I also don’t down play or discount their relationship with God and the church.  I don’t drop my kids off to children’s church because “I need a break so I can focus on the real church.”  Their children’s church is an opportunity for my kids to be reached by the Gospel.  When I treat children’s church as an alternative to the “real” thing, I also discount those volunteers who have given their time, prayers, and energy to giving the Gospel to children.

I want to be clear: I am the parent.  My kids know sometimes they will have to do things they don’t understand or don’t like, but they also know my jobs are to teach them about God and to keep them safe.  I will implement rules as needed to achieve those two tasks, even if they don’t fully understand it.  While we all are members of this house, and as such will never be made to feel as an inconvenience while in this house.  But we also all contribute to this house in some way.  Obviously they don’t contribute monetarily, but we all have duties in the house.

Treating your children as “neighbors” doesn’t discount the fact that you are the parent, but it also doesn’t negate the fact that they have opportunities to see and show others the Gospel today, not 10 years from now when they are adults and out of your house.  I think we do a disservice by teaching our children to not be thinkers and individuals who learn how to discern.  We expect them to entertain us, like what we like, and do as we say just because we say- without showing them the Gospel in our actions.  Then we get confused when they are teens or adults and don’t know how to make decisions according to the truths of the Bible.

One last thing on this subject, God uses motherhood to help daily change us to be more into the image of God as well.  The other night I lost my temper and raised my voice every time one of my children spoke to me.  Crazy T asked me a question, I yelled my answer in response, and he responded “why did I deserve that yelling?”  Guys, don’t miss opportunities to be convicted because of your pride.  I could have said, “I’m the mom, I can do what I want.”  But I can’t do whatever I want when I’m trying to love my children as myself, when I’m trying to live in the Gospel truths myself.  So I swallowed my pride, and told that little boy “You’re right.  I’m sorry I yelled and you didn’t deserve that.”  He said okay and moved on.  THESE are my closest neighbors and I don’t want to neglect the opportunities I have to show the Gospel to them, just because it’s easier to do so.

No Greater Love

Happy Valentine’s Day!

I’ve always been impartial to Valentine’s Day.  It doesn’t excite me.  It doesn’t bother me.  I don’t really care about the gifting and you won’t find me buying $30 worth of gifts for my kiddos either.  Do I mind that others do it? Not at all.  As I said, I’m really indifferent.  I have no specific feelings about the holiday.

Of course, on Valentine’s Day, you can’t help but think of “love.”  I caught myself looking at old pictures this morning as I went down memory lane thinking about the guy I love.  I really love the guy I get to spend my life with, but that isn’t who I think of when I think of the most perfect love.

Many times, we love with conditions.  Of course, there was something that appealed to ME when I first came to notice the hubs.  He was pleasing on the eyes.  Then I came to love how calm and collected he was.  It worked well with my passionate, sometimes over-the-top personality.  I love how he aims to take care of me and our children.  I love how he never hesitates to help with one of our kids.

Do you hear a common factor in my descriptions? The common factor is me.  I didn’t just see him one day and decide “that’s the guy I’m going to love.”

Christian is completely different.  Christian love is a gift from God.  God’s love always takes the initiative.  He decided that I was worthy of love, regardless, or in spite of how I am.  When He was on the cross thousands of years ago, He displayed his love for me, before I was even formed.  How can I truly experience love? By knowing the kind of love that passes my understanding.  It’s not logical.  It doesn’t make sense.  So even when there are days that it’s not easy to love the hubs or there are days he’s acted in a way that doesn’t deserve love as a response, I can love him anyway.  Because perfect love isn’t contingent upon anything.  Perfect love is a gift.  When I struggle at giving it, I can look to the only, perfect example of love.  The gift of a love that I don’t deserve.

“We love because he first loved us.” 1 John 4:19

The Struggle With Contentment

“Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound.  Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.” Philippians 4:11-12

This is the mindset I strive for, yet struggle with constantly.  I also think it’s completely safe to say I’m not alone.  The Survey of Consumer Finances by the U.S. Federal Government said the average American credit card debt is $5,700.00.  The average American household carries $137, 063 in debt.  The U.S. Census Bureau also report the median household income is $59,039, which suggests that many of us are living beyond our means.

I feel the struggle constantly.  I feel content when I’m sitting in my house, surrounded by my family, knowing that we have food in our fridge, clothes on our bodies, and a roof over our heads.  Then I log online, or go to the store, and suddenly realize all of these items that I am lacking in life.  Contentment is something I’ve really been trying to focus on lately, so I wanted to share a few thoughts I am using right not to try to help myself with being content.

  1. I would be remiss if my first suggestions wasn’t to pray for God to give you a heart of contentment.  I am often requesting this myself and praying that He would help me to focus on my blessings more than what I am lacking.
  2. “Just because I can, doesn’t mean I should.”  I am drooling over white Birkenstock sandals, and have been for probably a good half a year.  I already own a few pairs of Birks, so even if I could afford them, should I add another pair when I already have some in good condition?
  3. On the other hand, if I CAN’T at the moment (i.e. have to use a credit card to purchase) I probably shouldn’t.  A credit card is not actual money we have, it is a debt we would bring upon ourselves.
  4. If I didn’t know I needed that item before I logged online or went to the store, there is a great chance that I don’t really need the item.
  5. Lastly, I try to give myself some time if I feel like I am wanting something. If I really feel like I need a new flannel shirt, I give myself a month or so to sit on it.  Often times, if it was just a want on a whim, I won’t be thinking about it a month later.

After all this, I want to say, I don’t think it’s bad to treat yourself sometimes.  I just don’t think it’s worth going into debt and making other areas in life hard.  We live in a time where we are constantly receiving suggestions on what would make us happier, our outfits perfect, give us perfect skin, etc.  It is important, though, that we learn to discern the cost of these items.

Happiness is Not The Goal

It’s 2019! A time for new beginnings! A time for getting fit!  A time for being more intentional in time spent! A time for carving out more “me-time!”

None of these things are bad.  As a type-A, goal-oriented person, I love having lists to check off.  I love having goals to aim for.  I work better when I have an end point I’m working towards.  Having just finished another holiday season, I have focused on the word “happy” a lot.  My kids are “happy” with their new toys.  I’m happy with the break and being able to sleep in most every day.  We were happy when we are being entertained.  Yes, the holidays are a happy time for a lot of people.  Let’s not let happy be our goal, though.

As happy as my kids were with their new toys, I’ve (within the week or so following Christmas) heard from them about toys that would make them even happIER.  I would be happier if I was able to sleep in EVERY day.  We would all be happier if someone was entertaining us all the time.  One thing I have come to realize is that when being “happy” is our goal, there is always something that could make us “happier.”

Maybe 2019 will live up to every expectation that you have for yourself throughout the month of January.  Maybe you will welcome a child, lose that weight you’ve been itching to say good-bye to, get married, get engaged, move closer to family, etc.  Maybe you will lose a family member, experience infertility, lose a job, move away from family, etc.  Let’s not discount the growth that can occur during the hard times as well.

I hope in 2019, you are able to live life.  Live it in the good, the bad, the plenty, and the want.  All situations can be used for good.  All situations can bring about growth.  I would even argue that my biggest growth occurred when experiencing some of my darkest times.  The one thing in life that is constant is change.  Life will keep changing as long as you are here.  Don’t lose hope in the hard times.  Don’t let “happy” be your goal in life.  Yes, we will experience moments that give us happiness, but don’t let that be your goal in each day.

Be content in knowing that every single day is a new beginning (not just the beginning of the New Year), that some days will be hard, some days will hurt, but it is not in vain.  All things can be used for good.  All things can bring about growth.  Contentment comes not when we depend on our circumstances or things to make us happy.

Grace Wins

The top of our Christmas tree is almost centered perfectly with a “Grace Wins” sign that I bought a couple years ago. Right now, I am laying on my couch, staring at lights on the tree. My light up star tree topper is aglow, illuminating the sign.

I can’t help but think about how grace won thousands of years ago, when a young woman found out she would carry the Christ Child. Grace won when Joseph agreed to stay with her regardless of the new predicament they found themselves in. (I bet they didn’t plan on having to explain a situation like that). Grace won as they traveled the long journey (on a donkey, while pregnant!). Grace won when she gave birth in a stable.

I love the Christmas story. I love talking about the birth of Jesus. I love thinking about a woman like Mary who said “not my will but thine”. A woman who gave birth in a place many of us prefer not to visit. There were animals all around. (Can you smell it?). There was dirt on the ground. (Can you feel it?). Then there was the cry of a babe. The beginning of God’s plan of restoration was at hand.

I know the holidays are tough for some. (To be honest, I’ve had my years of struggle with them). For some, the holidays are the best time of the year. The one day that all family puts aside their busyness to spend moments together. Regardless of your activities, regardless of where you find yourself this year, I hope you come to know the story of how Grace Won. He came not because He needed us, but because we needed Him. He brought Himself low (like born with animals low), so we can one day be brought high with Him.

Merry Christmas!

If not, I don’t want it.

I’m not a patient person. I have never been patient. I would say that I probably never will be, but I know God transforms whatever He will so maybe some day I won’t be quite so impatient.

For being an impatient person, I have found myself waiting for important things a lot in the past 3-4 years. I remember anxiously awaiting the call that KB was going to be born. For a good month, my heart sunk to my feet every time my phone rang. Then we went through the same situation while waiting for KB’s little sister.

Now, we are waiting to welcome a child into our home again- waiting for the ring of the phone again. Every.Single.Time. I think “Oh this is going to happen fast. I’m not going to wait at all.” (I’m nothing if not persistent 😜). But alas, here we are, waiting.

I was telling Tyler last night that I’ve been praying “If it’s not your will, I don’t want it.” (Meaning, If today is not your day for us, help me not to want it to be today). Let me say, I want it YESTERDAY. I am praying for my heart to be changed while waiting. We can’t control our situations or the time span in which things occur, but we can control how we wait or how we live.

Tyler is fine waiting until after Christmas to welcome a child into our home. It’s a crazy busy Christmas season. #amiright? I know logically it would be best for our lives if it were after Christmas, I just don’t want to wait for “after Christmas” to get here.

It’s important that we wait well. God doesn’t care so much about changing our circumstances as he care about changing our hearts. Do I believe all things work to the good of those that love Him? Yes. Do I believe God has my ultimate good and His ultimate glory in mind? Yes. Those are the truths I must rest on.

Don’t be disheartened if you still find areas of life that you still struggle with. God will meet you right where you are. Thankfully, if you’re looking to Him, He won’t leave you where you are.

Christmas Reading Plan

Christmas Reading Plan (As I said in an earlier post, this is not an extensive Christmas reading plan.  I wanted something that every person would be able to do no matter the busyness of their season.)

If you have cross references in your Bible I HIGHLY encourage you to use those for further reference as well.

December 6th- Luke 1:26-27

December 7th- Luke 1:28-29

December 8th- Luke 1:30-31

December 9th- Luke 1:32-33

December 10th- Luke 1:34-35

December 11th- Luke 1:36-37

December 12th- Luke 1:38 (Read verses 39-45 to read about Mary’s visit to Elizabeth)

December 13th- The Magnificat Luke 1:46-50

December 14th- The Magnificat Luke 1:51-55

December 15th- Luke 2:1-2

December 16th- Luke 2:3-4

December 17th- Luke 2:5-7

December 18th- Luke 2:9-10

December 19th- Luke 2:11

December 20th- Luke 2:12

December 21st- Luke 2:13

December 22nd- Luke 2:14-15

December 23rd- Luke 2:16-17

December 24th- Luke 2:18-19

December 25th- Luke 2:20

I just want to add one last verse from Isaiah.  A lot of times, we make the mistake of discounting the Old Testament as “old news.”  I really want to emphasis to you guys that the Bible is one book that tells one story throughout the ENTIRE book.  

“For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder.  And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace There will be no end, Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, To order i and establish it with judgment and justice from that time forward, even forever.  The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.” Isaiah 9:6-7

Waiting Well

This is one last thought I wanted to share before sending out the Christmas reading plan tomorrow! Be encouraged as you “wait well.”

Since we know that we are living in the “already, but not yet” it is important that we wait well.  We know there will come a day that God will come and make all things new. There will be no more pain, sorrow, crying, death, or mourning.  We will experience communion with God, in the PRESENCE of God.

This doesn’t mean that there is not a correct way to live in the meantime.  Quite the contrary, SINCE we know there will be a day that God will come and make all things new.  We should live with a sense of urgency. Every single person we come in contact with is going to spend eternity somewhere.  Psalm 90:12 tells us “…to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.”  We need to learn to number our days, because we know this life is short in comparison to eternity.  

In order to make the best use of the days we have here, we need to get a heart of wisdom.  Where does our wisdom come from? I’m glad you asked. “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.” James 1:5

God gives wisdom generously to any of those who ask wisdom of Him.  This wisdom is not like our earthly wisdom. This is a wisdom that passes our understanding.  This well of wisdom never runs dry. It may be uncomfortable sometimes. It may not be what we want in the moment, but God always has our good and His glory in mind.  That is wisdom that will last forever.