Titus 2:11-13

"For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus."

Friday, October 29, 2010

Kids Say, vol. 8

Elliana (in a rather deep voice):  "Dubba dubba dubba dubba."
Abel:  "Mommy, did you hear Elliana talking grumpy?"


In efforts to develop in our children hearts that desire to pray for all people, we have placed a world map on Abel and Amariah's bedroom wall from which they each get to choose a country or countries to pray for during our bedtime routine.  Tonight, Amariah pointed to the map.  "I wanna pray for... that one!"  "Okay!" I said.  "The Congo!  Let's pray for the Congo and for our friends Owen and Stephanie, because they are going to the Congo to tell people about Jesus!"  After we prayed for this, Abel went to the map to make his choice.  Amariah said, "But it's my turn to pray!"  Travis reminded her, "Mommy just helped you pray for the Congo.  Remember?"  "The Congo?!" she excitedly replied.  "Who he?!"

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Trash and Treasure

This has been the season of all things plastic breaking in our home.  From chip clips to pant hangers to toys to trash cans, our list of plastics to replace seems to keep growing.

As I was carrying laundry downstairs in my favorite plastic laundry basket this morning, I discovered that it, too, is broken.  Adding it to my mental replacement list, I began reflecting on the fact that things just aren't made to last.  I do my very best to prolong the life of the things we have, but the fact is that "things" aren't forever.

I'm glad that God has brought me to a place of holding onto my "things" a little more loosely.  Granted, we're talking about plastic--stuff that is fairly inexpensive to replace and therefore fairly easy to let go of.  Yet, I suspect that not so long ago I would have fretted over a cracked laundry basket and regretted the replacement cost of it.

My growing list of broken stuff is just another reminder of Jesus' words.
"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.  But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." (Matthew 6:19-21)
 Today I am choosing to treasure in my heart not a trash can or a laundry basket, but my Jesus who saved me and who is coming back again!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Thank You!

I just spent most of my evening giving my blog a makeover, so I don't have much time to actually blog tonight....  However, I do want to take this opportunity to thank those of you who left such great comments with your solutions to my laundry questions.  I really enjoyed reading what everyone had to say; and with all the laundry talk, I even found myself looking forward to my next Laundry Day just so I can do it better. :-)

Laundry isn't the only thing I dream of doing better.  Maybe it's just my personality, but there are so many aspects of my life that I wish I could be better at.  Praying, speaking, organizing, housekeeping.... If only I could actually do these things the way I envision myself doing them.... I'd be quite the noble wife, then!  But, alas, I don't and I'm not....

Anyway, speaking of dreams, it's late and I should be where my kids have already been for almost five hours--sleeping! :-)

Thanks for reading, my friends.  I'm so thankful to be able to share this journey of life and learning with you....


Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Most Important Role

It has been said that being a mother is a high calling. We've all heard it. Many of us have even said it. But have you ever stopped to think about why motherhood is a high calling? What is it that makes the job of Mother so important?...

Travis and I were engaged to be married when we first started entertaining thoughts of one day homeschooling our children. Though it seemed even then like the right thing (for us) to do, I remember the insecurities I felt at the thought of teaching our children. I was overwhelmed by the typical questions of, "How will I know what to teach?" and "What if I'm not smart enough?"; but my concerns went even more fundamental than that. "How can I be both Mother and Teacher?..."

Since then, I have realized, of course, that I don't have to know everything about everything in order to successfully homeschool our children... and that there are awesome curricula out there which not only tell you exactly what to teach but also give... ahem... sell... you everything you need to do it (like Sonlight). These things I learned readily. It was the answer to the other question ("How can I be both Mother and Teacher?") which, although it should have been the most obvious answer, took a little longer for me to get.

Mothers are teachers! It's easy to see the role of Mother as that of Caretaker, Nurturer, Comforter, Provider, Cook, Housekeeper; but do we sometimes overlook--or simply fail to recognize--what is perhaps the most important of the many roles of Mother: that of Teacher?

Indeed, every Mother is a Teacher whether she homeschools or not. Children typically spend more time with their mothers than any other person, and from their mothers' examples--and words--they are constantly learning. What is your example teaching your children? Love or hate? Forgiveness or bitterness? Gentleness or anger? Humility or pride?... And what about your words?

Mothers have a great opportunity--and a great calling--to build into their children through words. Deuteronomy 6:6-9 says,
"These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up."
Elizabeth George says in her book A Woman After God's Own Heart, "As mothers, you and I have countless, daily opportunities in our homes to plant God's Word deeply in the minds and souls of our children. We just need to take advantage of those opportunities" ((Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 2006), 124.). Learn to look for the teachable moments you have with your children, and use them to pour the truths of God's Word into their hearts.

Indeed, mothers have a unique and powerful influence on the lives of the most impressionable of people on the earth--their children. If living and speaking--teaching--in a manner worthy of that role isn't a high calling, I don't know what is!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Laundry Problems...

Okay, ladies.... I'm looking for input on this one!

I'm doing laundry today; and as much as I enjoy Laundry Day, I have some problems with it... some things about laundry that I haven't quite figured out.

What I have figured out is the laundry routine that works best for me.
  • I (try to) do laundry twice a week--Mondays and Thursdays.  This not only keeps my laundry pile under control, it also makes each load a little smaller, meaning the clothes seem to get cleaner, dry faster, and take less time to put away.
  • I sort my laundry into four groups--darks, lights, whites, and towels/bedsheets--which both controls any color-bleeding issues and keeps each load to a manageable size.
  • If my laundry is to be completed from start to finish in one day, I have to focus only on laundry.  I am much more apt to put clean laundry away promptly if I am remembering to pull it from the dryer in a timely manner.
  • I take my clean laundry directly from the dryer to my bed and use that as my folding area.  Many people talk about having a folding table in the laundry room, but I have never seen the sense in folding laundry--including things that ultimately need to be hung--and packing it neatly into a laundry basket just to turn around and unpack the folded laundry to put it away.  Instead, I use the large surface of my bed to fold laundry in piles according to how it will go into the dressers and to lay flat the items that need to be hung.  Processed laundry then goes directly from my bed to the appropriate closet or dresser.
What I haven't figured out is some of the little details of maintaining my laundry to keep it as like-new as possible.
  1. Stain Removal:  I have yet to find a stain remover that I can count on.  I have discovered that Fels-Naptha laundry bar soap works wonders on baby poop stains (and on some other of the less stubborn stains); and I have had luck with dabbing my actual laundry detergent right onto a stain before washing.  But as for products that are marketed as "stain removers," they certainly have been ineffective for me.  Should I give up the search for a good stain remover and continue treating stains with laundry soaps, or is there an easy solution out there that actually works?
  2. Shrinkage:  In the past, I have had trouble with children's clothing shrinking by a noticeable amount when washed and dried for the first time and have therefore gone to hang-drying most of the children's clothing that has been purchased new in order to ensure that it fits for as long as possible.  (I usually assume that second-hand clothing has already been shrunk and therefore put these items in the dryer.)  This method has worked well, but as our family has grown, causing us to purchase more items new (and therefore not preshrunk), I fill my drying rack to the max every time I do laundry.  And, I have to wait for that much more laundry to air dry before being able to put it away.  The additional time and effort required to hang-dry clothing, as necessary as I think it seems, is becoming a bit of an inefficiency in my laundry routine.  Should I purchase another drying rack and remain a laundry day behind in putting away the air-dried items, or is there a better solution to the shrinkage problem?
So, what tips and tricks do you have for keeping your laundry stain-free, shrink-free, and like-new?  Click on the comment link below to share your Laundry Day solutions!

Friday, October 22, 2010

May It Never Be!

I was laying in bed last night, having trouble calming my mind for long enough to allow myself to drift off to sleep, when my train of thought took me to one of those teachable moments I like (and need) so much.

"I wish I could be one of those people who remembers facts well enough to repeat them at will and with confidence," I pridefully thought to myself.  "I wish I had time to research things so that I could be the knowledgeable one in conversations....

[Thoughtful pause.]  (Yes, I really do have things this random running through my mind when I finally get the chance at the end of a long day to just think....)

"The only thing I know with confidence is the Bible...."

[Enter Holy Spirit.]

"I will not boast in anything--no gifts, no power, no wisdom.  But I will boast in Jesus Christ, His death and resurrection."

As if the Holy Spirit Himself were singing to me, the words from the beautiful hymn suddenly rang through my mind, gently and quickly enlightening me of the sinful desire to boast in myself which I was entertaining in my thoughts.  Immediately, I repented of my pride; and I thanked God for His Word, the only Truth I will ever know with confidence.

"But may it never be that I would boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world." (Galatians 6:14)

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The "Better" Alternative




These are some of the popular new slogans for radio stations that are otherwise known as "Christian."  And a majority of the songs they play are merely that:  Positive.  Encouraging.  Uplifting.

I am slightly hesitant as I write this post, because I don't want to give the wrong impression that I dislike Christian music or that I think Christian music isn't a good thing.  On the contrary, I do like Christian music; and I do think Christian music is a good thing.  For one thing, we are called to worship the Lord in song.  Too numerous to count are the Scriptures that reference "singing to the Lord," "making music to the Lord," and "worshiping Him in song."  And for another thing, we are called to watch over our hearts; and choosing Christian music over secular varieties is one way we can do that.  Proverbs 4: 23-25 says,
"Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life.  Put away from you a deceitful mouth and put devious speech far from you.  Let your eyes look directly ahead and let your gaze be fixed straight in front of you."
We must watch over the things we hear (as well as the things we see) because they have a great effect on our hearts--the very center of who we are.  When we put into our ears and our eyes things that are holy and righteous and true (see Philippians 4:8), from our hearts will flow things that are holy and righteous and true.  Similarly, when we put into our ears and our eyes things that are dishonorable and unpure, from our hearts will flow things that are dishonorable and unpure.
"The eye is the lamp of the body; so then if your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light.  But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness.  If then the light that is in you is darkness, how great is that darkness!" (Matthew 6:22-23)
A while back, thinking I was just mixing things up a little, I tuned my radio to a secular station and was listening to songs that were completely new to me.  Before I realized I had even heard and understood the lyrics, I found myself singing these utterly sinful words--words that were in complete opposition to a Biblical lifestyle.  As I heard this darkness coming from my very mouth, I knew that I simply couldn't allow myself to continue listening to such music, the lyrics of which were the furthest thing from holy and righteous and true.

So, back to "the better alternative" I went:  Christian radio, "better" being the problem.  Of late, I have become a little disconcerted with contemporary Christian music because so much of it can hardly be called Christian.  The other day I was listening to our local Christian radio station and noted that only three songs in a 45-minute period even used the name God, Jesus, or Lord.  In fact, had I not known I was tuned to the "Christian" radio station, I probably wouldn't have known I was listening to "Christian" music at all.  Nothing set it apart from secular music save the lack of blatantly offensive lyrics.  I could hardly sing along as I reflected on the fact that all I was doing was singing about feelings and not to--or even about--God.  Indeed, most of the songs were just what the station claimed they would be--positive, encouraging, uplifting--and nothing more.

How sad it is that so much of the Christian music industry has become watered down to the point that it is no longer distinctively Christian.  It is sure to be "positive," "encouraging," "uplifting"--and it certainly is "the better alternative"--but too much of it isn't worthy to be called worship.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Can and Just Might!

It was one year ago today that I confessed to the blogging world that I was falling apart just to hold it together.  I was the sleep-deprived breastfeeding mother of five-month old twins, and caring for myself had been temporarily and necessarily pushed to the bottom of my priority list.  Getting adequate sleep wasn't an option, taking a shower was iffy, and fixing my hair and makeup was out of the question.

When I was in high school I was rarely seen without makeup.  Appearances mattered too much.  I remember one morning when I got to school and headed for the locker room to drop off my sports bag.  I checked my appearance in the full-length mirror on my way out and was literally panicked when I discovered that I had forgotten the last step of my makeup application--curling my eyelashes and putting on mascara.  I hunkered down in the locker room until someone walked in and obliged my request to borrow some mascara.  Whew....

I also remember girls who had graduated ahead of me coming back from college and saying, "Believe me, when you get to college you won't wear makeup."  I would think to myself, "Yeah, right!  I'll never be seen without at least eye makeup...."  Of course, those girls had been right.  College was different.  Very few were concerned about appearances, and even I decided that not wearing makeup was kind of nice.

College is where Travis and I met, and even with a guy in the picture, I didn't change my new makeup wearing--or should I say not wearing--habits.  In fact, I deliberately didn't wear makeup when we were first getting to know each other because I wanted him to see the real me, flaws and all.  I didn't want another high school-like relationship that was all based on image, so I made sure that our relationship was not being built on enhanced appearances.  Of course, Travis is not the type of guy who would have pursued a girl based on some glamorous and unrealistic standard of beauty, anyway.  And to this day he tells me things like, "You always look good," and "You don't need makeup.  You are beautiful just the way you are."  I think the lack of makeup wearing was really more about me refusing to be superficial in any way.  I had vowed that I wouldn't get involved in another relationship unless it was the real deal, and me being completely real was a part of that.

I am working through Elizabeth George's A Woman After God's Own Heart, and I recently read the chapters about "Loving Your Husband."  She says that one of the ways to love your husband is to prepare for him daily; and part of that is to prepare your appearance.  She poses the question,
"If company were coming, you'd do a little something to freshen up, wouldn't you?  Well, your husband--your Number One human priority--is far more important than company, so he should get the most special treatment of all.  Run a comb through your hair, freshen your makeup, and change your clothes so he's not seeing the same old jogging outfit you had on when he left in the morning.  Put on a bright color, a little lipstick, and a squirt of perfume (perfume rejoices the heart--Proverbs 27:9).  After all, the most important person in your life is about to walk through the door." (Elizabeth George, A Woman After God's Own Heart (Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 2006), 102.)
Elizabeth's point is well taken, but it did drive me to some further reflections.  Now, don't get me wrong.  Minus the seasons of my life when I have had neither time nor energy to prepare my appearance (like the season of falling apart I mentioned above), I do like to look nice, and I take steps towards that end.  But, as I looked back over our five years of marriage and thought about the fact that I still have a little bit left in the bottle of perfume that I took on our honeymoon... and the fact that because I have so rarely worn face makeup I have purchased it maybe once in our married life (and that being in the very beginning)..., I realized that Travis has probably been more blessed by the fact that I haven't spent a lot of money on beauty products and by the fact that I have been comfortable in my own skin than he would have been by me being overly concerned about my appearance.

All that being said, I feel like I am finally moving into a season of my life where it's do-able--and desirable (to me)-- for me to take a little more effort with preparing my appearance, both for my husband and for myself.  Since I quit breastfeeding the twins two and a half months ago, I not only have more time and energy but I also feel a little more in control of my body again. :-)  The other day I put on that face makeup that has been slowly getting used up over the past five years, and it didn't look good at all.  So, I am excited to say that for the second time in my married life, I purchased some new face makeup--bareMinerals by Bare Escentuals--which was recommended by my "retired" esthetician-sister.  The 100% pure bareMinerals is free of preservatives, talc, oil, fragrance, dyes, and other chemicals that can irritate skin.  It's actually good for my skin, it's fun to apply, and it looks and feels natural!  I'm loving it!

Indeed, I have gone through seasons in my life when wearing makeup was a must-do, those when it was a won't-do, and those when it was a can't-do.  And now that I'm on the tail-end of infant raising (if the Lord wills :-)), I'm ready for a season of can-and-just-might-do! :-)

Monday, October 18, 2010

Love Much, Hurt Much

This morning has been a not-so great end to a great Fall weekend....

On Saturday, Travis and the kids and I traveled out of town to visit family. Watching football, celebrating our nephew's first birthday, visiting our old church, spending a few hours at a pumpkin farm--and, of course, just being with family--all made for a weekend full of fun... and not much sleep. :-)

(This would be the appropriate place to insert some cute pictures of our kids at the pumpkin farm; but, in classic Angela style, I forgot to grab my camera out of my kitchen drawer before leaving home.... *Sigh*)

The not fun part of the weekend began this morning at 5:30 when Travis woke up sick... and then at 8:00 when Abel woke up sick. As if it's not hard enough to see my beloved and strong husband and my sweet and innocent son not feeling well, I worry as I wonder if and when it will be the girls' turns. And mine....

It's times like this when being a mother hurts.... :-(

Friday, October 15, 2010

Remembering With Hope

Today, October 15th, is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day, a special day of remembering babies who have been lost to miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy, still birth, or infant death. People all over the world are invited to light a candle at 7:00 tonight in honor of these babies who have gone on before us to be with the Lord.

Our candle will be burning in remembrance of the babies of many of our friends and family members who have said goodbye to a baby (or babies) far too soon; and it will be burning in remembrance of our own baby, Ande Lynn, whom we lost to miscarriage on July 14, 2008.

We don't always understand why these things happen, but we do know that "God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose" (Romans 8:28). And, we can cling to the promise found in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18,
13 But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope.
14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus.
15 For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep.
16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.
17 Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord.
18 Therefore comfort one another with these words.
It is okay to grieve, Brothers and Sisters; and it is good to remember the tiny one(s) we have loved and lost. But, let me encourage you, as the name Ande means, to be strong and courageous. Jesus is coming back again, and we--and our sweet babies--will be with Him forever!

If you have lost a precious baby and would like me to be in prayer for you today, please leave a comment telling me your story. I would be honored to lift your name before the God of all comfort and peace.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

I Know that I Know

I know that I know that I do not know.... (But God does!)

It turns out that I spoke too soon. My "Break" Time has been postponed. A few hours after my blog posted yesterday morning, Travis' mom called to say that she had come down with the flu overnight. Although she was already feeling better and was still willing to take the kids, we decided it would be best for everyone if we delayed their trip to Grandma and Grandpa Squires' house.

It's funny that our plans ended up getting changed at the last minute, because even though things seem to always fall right into place for the kids' visits to their granparents' houses, this time I was thinking--even as I was excitedly writing about my anticipated "break" time--"...IF the Lord wills."
Come now, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit." Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. Instead you ought to say, "If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that." (James 4:13-15)
I had never done much of my planning with the contingency that it would happen "if the Lord wills" until recently when God used a series of events to remind me that you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow--or even in the next second. Since then, I have (mostly) stopped taking for granted that my plans will come to pass; and this instance of planning to send the kids away for a few days was no different. Life certainly requires the making of some plans and commitments, but life with an eternal outlook involves doing so with the mindset that things may or may not go according to our plans.

Do you ever allow yourself to wonder why God sometimes allows things to happen a certain way? I certainly do (in an awestruck sort of way)! I believe that our God, who is near and personal, divinely works in the details of our lives in ways and for reasons unbeknownst to us. As I was thinking yesterday about our sudden change of plans, I began to speculate that perhaps there was a bigger reason why the trip was postponed. Would there have been an accident in route? Is there some reason why my kids need to be home with me in the coming few days? Understand that I'm not claiming that such a thing is definitely the case in this instance but instead that I simply enjoy giving God the credit for being intimately involved in our lives. He watches over us, He protects us, and He knows the number of our days. I don't demand an answer for why things happen the way they do. It is enough for me to know that God knows!

I am thankful that God is continually teaching me to live knowing that I do not know. I do not know how my plans, my life, my circumstances may change in the blink of an eye; and that is great motivation to me to live well in the moments I do have.

And, for what it's worth, the kids' trip to their grandparents' house will still happen in the near future... IF the Lord wills. :-)

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

"Break" Time!

It's hard for me to admit it... and you  may not hear me say it again for a long time... but sometimes I need a break.

When you're a mother, the days are long.  Some longer than others. :-)  For me, yesterday was one of those "longer" days. :-)  (Notice I'm still smiling!)

Being a mother is for me one of my greatest blessings and a very large source of my joy; but like any other person in any other job, sometimes this mommy needs a little break.  (Why is that so hard for me to say?...)

This afternoon, my "break" begins!  Travis and I are sending Abel and Amariah to their paternal grandparents' house for a few days, and while I know I will miss them terribly, I am slightly excited for my partial vacation.  A few of my tentative plans for while they are gone include making a trip to the mall (with only two kids in tote) to buy myself some new makeup, hanging out with my friend Amber and her sweet little boy Miles, and talking my husband into doing something fun that we wouldn't normally do with all four kids (Any suggestions??).

(I'm sitting here smiling at the fact that I consider my time alone with 16-month old twins a "break.") :-)

Oh, I love my kids!...

Anyway, we are all looking forward to a little break in the routine; and I anticipate that the short time apart will be refreshing for everyone.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

A Desire to "Do"

But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.  For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was.  But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does. (James 1:22-25)

For months I have been pondering these verses and wrestling with this question:  How can I become an "effectual doer" (James 1:25) out of obedience and love without developing a works-based, "checklist" mentality?  In other words, how can I carry out all the things that God's Word asks me to do without treating His instructions like a mere To Do list in need of a check mark?

God's Word is clear that we are not saved by our works.
And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience.  Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.  But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.  For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. (Ephesians 2:1-9, emphasis added)
Yet, Scripture is also clear that those who live by faith in Christ Jesus are to care for the poor, the needy, the sick, the oppressed, the orphan, the widow (see Matthew 25:31-46; James 1:27; Proverbs 19:17, 29:7; Isaiah 1:17; Psalm 82:3-4; Deuteronomy 24:17-22).  No doubt, there are certain things that Christians are called to do--not as a requirement for salvation ("For by grace we have been saved through faith...not as a result of works.") but because we are His ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5:18-20).   And because we are called, we will have to give an answer.
For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. (2 Corinthians 5:10)
So, we are not saved by our works; but we are called to do good works, and we will give an account for our works.  What this says to me is that just because we are saved by grace through faith does not mean that we can ignore works.  I recently read a devotional which addresses this very thing and which captures my own ponderings so well.
"I was afraid to be like those who were trying to earn their way to heaven with good works because I knew that salvation is by God's grace through faith alone.  But out of this fear, I, like many others, stopped working altogether.  Somewhere along the line I began unconsciously living a lie that says learning about God, singing about God, and speaking about God is more important than walking like Him.  Like so many well-intentioned Christians before me, I had thought I could live out my Christianity in church buildings, in Bible studies, and among friends."
After months of  repeatedly asking myself--and God--how I can be an "effectual doer" without treating His Word like a mere To Do list, I believe I am finally hearing the answer.  When God saves us, our desires are changed.  We no longer desire to live for ourselves and for worldly pleasures but for Him.  We desire to know God more intimately, so we study His Word and we talk to Him in prayer.  And, as we do so, we continue to be changed more and more into the likeness of Christ, who "did not come to be served, but to serve" (Matthew 20:28).  We are able to love others with the love with which we are loved; and we have as our ambition to be pleasing to Him (2 Corinthians 5:9).

In my questioning, "How can I become an 'effectual doer' out of obedience and love without developing a works-based, 'checklist' mentality," I was missing an important point:  The desire and ability to be an "effectual doer" is not something that has to be manufactured by me.  Instead, it should be a natural outworking of my relationship with my Savior.  I can be an effectual doer, not because a checklist told me to do so, but because of Christ in me!

It is my sincere prayer that God would empty me of my selfish fears so that because of my love for Him, I might do the work He has for me.

Monday, October 11, 2010


I was thinking to myself today as I was sweeping the kitchen floor, "Housekeeper.... I'm pretty sure this is not what I grew up envisioning my job would be."  And then I smiled to myself with my next thought.  "There is no better job for me, because this is the one God has called me to."

It's funny that the job I ended up in--Homemaker--is the one I least purposefully trained for throughout my school years.  My mom definitely did her part in teaching my sister and me to keep a home and to feed a family, but I was so wrapped up in what my life was and what I thought it would one day be that I didn't have more than just a temporal perspective on that "homemaker training."  I was always so busy with school and activities and so driven by success and goals that I didn't see doing my laundry or helping with the cooking and cleaning as anything more than me just doing my part as a member of the family.

Then, when I went to college, my focus obviously remained on my education more than on the prospect of me one day being a wife and mother.  I was majoring in Accounting with a plan to go on to Law school, and though I knew that wouldn't mesh well with my other plan to some day stay home with my children, I didn't really allow myself to think about it.  I had always been a good student and an achiever, so it was hard for me to envision myself being anything other than a successful career woman.

Of course, when I met Travis and knew I wanted to marry him, I was forced to confront what my future might realistically look like.  I admitted to myself that maybe Law school wasn't a good idea given my desire to be a stay-at-home mom; and in the midst of my junior year of college, a devastating battle with dystonia, a loss of peace with my current path, and lots of prayer, I quit college with only three semesters left to go.

Just over two years later, I was nine months into my marriage and delivering our first baby--a far cry from being a first year Law student! :-)  Am I okay with that?  Yes.  There isn't a day that goes by that doesn't find me thankful for our ability for me to not be an income earner.  Far more important to me than the degree and the career-oriented success I had thought I wanted (maybe even needed) is being where God wants me to be and where my family needs me to be:  at home.

"Housekeeper."  I thought to myself.  "It may seem menial, but it's a high calling for sure."

Teach the young women to be keepers at home. (from Titus 2:3-5, KJV)

Friday, October 8, 2010

Polishing My Arrows

Is this what you call a "quiverfull"?...
At the very least, it's a bathtub full!
Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one's youth.  How blessed is the man who's quiver is full of them. (Psalm 127:4-5a)

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

A New and Growing Love

My heart is swelling with thankfulness and chills are going up my spine all because of something that came in the mail today. My sweet blogging friend September recently did a giveaway on her blog, and of all the awesome things she was giving away, I somehow won the most perfectly wonderful one of them--Selah's latest CD, You Deliver Me!

I love Selah's music. In fact, a couple of the songs we used in our wedding--including the one I walked down the aisle to--were by Selah. Not only is their music beautiful, but unlike much of today's contemporary Christian music, it is also lyrically rich. Their You Deliver Me album (which I am listening to rather loudly as I write this :-)) is no different. The songs are so beautiful... so meaningful... and I am so thankful, September!

Selah has recorded some great hymns for their past albums, and I was excited to see that there are more of them on this newest one. Perhaps I am an exception amongst those of my generation, but I seem to have a new and growing love for Christian hymns. A couple months ago our church's worship pastor introduced a hymn that I don't believe we had sung in church before. With great enthusiasm and passion he told the story behind the hymn before leading the congregation in the singing of the most moving and meaningful of lyrics--far more moving to me than most of the contemporary worship songs we hear and sing today.

The day after that church service, I read this blog post by Roger E. Olson, a professor of Theology at George W. Truett Theological Seminary of Baylor University. In it, he expounds upon his belief that "the cessation of singing hymns and gospel songs has greatly contributed to the general ignorance of doctrine and biblical images and symbols among evangelicals who grew up in the 1980s and since." He then urges music ministers and worship leaders to "re-introduce hymn singing in churches, leading them with passion and enthusiasm and commenting on the words so that people will awaken to their meanings." This was just what our worship pastor had done, and it certainly did awaken this born-in-1983 girl to the meaning of the song's words.

Indeed, my heart is thankful--not only for the gift of a really good CD, but also for the gift of music with which we are able to take God's Word and to sing it back to Him in songs of worship, praise, and adoration. What a blessing....

MoveBuilder Blog

Americans, you are living in a time and place where life just seems to naturally require a lot of stuff. Clothes, toys, furniture, appliances, books, electronics, and all the things that make your home yours add up to a lot of stuff--whether or not you are a collector of clutter. This becomes no more evident than when it comes time to move. Emotional aspects aside, your stuff--as well as your limited resources of time and money--can make a move rather difficult and daunting.

BUT... what if you had access to information that could help you to "build" an easier move? MoveBuilder's moving blog is just that place. At The Blueprint, as it is called, you can get all the tools and information you need to help your move go smoothly. Their informative posts cover topics such as packing tips, parking issues, storage solutions, and relocation advice; and their site even offers an "ask the experts" tool where you can ask your questions about moving.

Moving is a lot of work, so let The Blueprint be your guide!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

It DOES Get Easier

Four and a half years ago, I was a totally overwhelmed new mommy. I couldn't figure out how to get sleep. I couldn't figure out how to get a shower. I couldn't figure out where I would get the energy and motivation to cook and clean ever again. If I hadn't believed beforehand that I would need help, I believed it now.

We had asked my mom to stay with us for a couple weeks following Abel's birth; but it seems to me that my reasoning for that was initially more geared toward having her near to enjoy the new baby (since we were at the time living eight and a half hours away from my parents) rather than having her near to help me with the new baby. How hard could it be, right?

Wrong! I may be a well-adjusted mother now, but I sure didn't feel like one in those initial weeks of motherhood. Not only was I sleep-deprived, un-showered, un-dressed, and sore, I was learning to embrace a new identity that wasn't so much about me anymore.

Up until the day that Abel was born, I was working in a job that I absolutely loved. I was good at what I did, and I had favor with my bosses, my co-workers, and my customers. I was productive, and I was valuable. My work was noticed, and it was rewarded in tangible ways such as compliments, raises, and promotions. That was, to a degree, my identity.

Now, I didn't have an identity (or at least that's how I felt). Nothing was about me any longer. It was all about the new baby and his incessant needs. Overnight, I had gone from a life of "freedom and success" to a life of service and selflessness. And it wasn't easy. In fact, it was rather a shock. I remember one afternoon in those initial days. I sat at the dining room table, still in my pajamas, body aching, desperate for sleep, and I said as I laid my forehead down on the table, "I just want to like... check out of life for a while." You see, motherhood was forcing me to learn selflessness; and it was painful.

At the end of those first two weeks, it came time for my mom to leave. I can't deny that I was scared. She had been doing all the cooking and cleaning and laundry and probably more, and I still hadn't figured out how on earth I was going to do everything I had been doing plus all of that. But, as much as I didn't want her to leave, it was obviously the right thing. She couldn't stay forever; after all, this was to be my life now, and I was going to have to learn how to handle it one way or another.

It's fun, now, to think back on those days and to see how far the road of Motherhood has brought me--from saying, "I just want to like... check out of life for while," to saying, "I'm okay with this." Our old pastor used to say that marriage isn't only something that makes you more happy but also something that makes you more holy. I have learned that the same is true of motherhood. As I am daily learning this life of selflessness and service to my family--and even as I recognize my own faults in my children--I am being sanctified.

Indeed, time has brought me a long ways. I still don't have everything figured out--and probably never will--but overall things are running smoothly. To you new mommies out there, rest assured. It does get easier. And to you seasoned mommies out there, aren't you glad that it does? :-)

Monday, October 4, 2010

"Choosing Your Battles"?

When I was a new mom I remember having people tell me, "Choose your battles." Now, I won't claim to know exactly what the hearts of those various people were in giving that advice; but to me it meant, "Choose to let some things go so that you don't have to fight with your child."

I realize that to some people, "choosing your battles" may not mean that at all. In fact, I myself have had to learn to "choose my battles" in the manner of using the word "No" with good reason rather than with mere selfishness or laziness. For other parents, "choosing your battles" may mean something more along the lines of choosing not to care when it legitimately doesn't matter--like when Amariah asks if she can sleep in the dress that she wore all day.

However, what I suspect is that for many parents "choosing your battles" means choosing not to make an issue out of something that is perhaps a true issue. In this case, what I believe lies at the heart of that decision is a type of parental fear--fear of how the child will respond to correction. Let me say, first of all, that I am not totally guilt-free when it comes to this parental fear thing. From the time Amariah was born, she has always had the loudest, shrillest cry of any child I've ever known. And, there are certain times and certain settings that I feel held hostage to the fear that if I make Amariah cry, she will make me regret it. Therefore, I must shamefully admit that there have probably been times that I haven't dealt with an issue as I should have. Despite that, I do not support the idea of bowing to parental fear when it comes to training and disciplining your children. Why? Because its obvious result is a lack of proper training and discipline and a child who remains in charge.

The tough thing about child training is that the more you don't do it, the more you need to. However, that is also the beautiful thing about child training. The sooner you do it, the less you need to. The sooner you train your child to obey and respect you, the less need you will have to discipline them. The particular action of your toddler may not seem like that big of a deal (for instance, hesitating or failing to come when told); but the heart attitude behind it is a big deal. If a toddler learns that he won't be made to obey a simple command like "Come," the seeds of his thinking that he is in charge (and isn't he really?) have already been sown. And with each additional instance of allowed disobedience, a little water falls on those seeds until before you even know what happened, you have a full grown plant of disobedience throwing a tantrum on the floor in the middle of the grocery store. What about that battle? Will you choose it, or will you fearfully offer an ice cream cone if he'll get up and be quiet?... Wouldn't it have been much easier to have chosen a few battles prior to now, your victory in which would have probably warded this one off in the first place?

I am not Super Mom, and I do not write this post in an attempt to boast about the parenting skills that I may or may not have or the "perfect" behavior that my kids may or may not display; but I do think that God has given Travis and me the wisdom to do our parts in fostering hearts of obedience and respect in our children. A heart that obeys and respects an earthly mother and father will certainly have a stronger propensity for one day obeying and respecting the Heavenly Father.

No one ever said parenting is easy. It's not. One sinful-by-nature person trying to teach another sinful-by-nature person to not be naughty isn't easy. But, it doesn't have to be so hard, either. See the bigger picture; take heart; and choose to, in the most loving of ways, do battle against the sin that rears its ugly head in even the youngest of children.

For some additional teaching on how to train your children before the need to discipline arises, check out To Train Up a Child by Michael and Debi Pearl.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Good Advice and Amazing Grace

"The point at which many marriages jump the track is in over-investing in children and under-investing in the marriage." (Elizabeth George, A Woman After God's Own Heart (Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 2006), 94.)

Any mother of young children would probably agree that it can be hard to make your husband your number one human relationship. Children--specifically those of the preschool sort--are legitimately needy individuals whose needs are usually best met by one person: Mommy. Indeed, a mommy stays quite busy tending to the needs of her children alone, let alone those of her husband, her home, and herself. And in the busyness of our mommy-child relationships, we sometimes neglect the one that should come first--the husband-wife relationship.

When Travis and I were about to get married (and even on occasion since we've been married), Travis' mom would lovingly advise him, "Never stop dating your wife." Now on the tail end of spending the first five years of our marriage pregnant, nursing, and pregnant again, I have at last had a moment to take a deep breath and to more fully appreciate the wisdom of her advice. It is in good company with the teaching of Elizabeth Elliot who encourages women of the importance of developing a friendship with their husbands. Couples must realize that merely partnering in parental duties is not an adequate investment in their marriage. We live in a busy world, and intentional steps must be taken to maintain and to grow the husband-wife relationship.

One of the intentional steps that Travis and I make to accommodate our friendship is to put the kids to bed early. This gives us time to spend alone together--time where we and not our children are our focus. In fact, we frequently have "date nights" in our own basement while the kids are upstairs sleeping. We'll rent a movie, turn out the lights, snuggle up on the couch under a blanket, and just be together. (It may not involve dressing up and actually going somewhere; but it's easier, cheaper, and more comfortable! :-))

Our date night this weekend was spent just that way, watching one of the best movies I've seen in a while: Amazing Grace. From the back of the movie, Amazing Grace is the "inspiring story of how one man's passion and perseverance changed the world. Based on the true story of William Wilberforce, Amazing Grace follows his courageous quest to end the British slave trade. Along the way, Wilberforce meets intense opposition from members of Parliament but his minister, John Newton, a reformed slave ship captain who penned the beloved hymn "Amazing Grace," urges him to see the cause through."

My heart was truly stirred as I watched and considered the fact that not so many years ago human lives were so abused and so devalued. I found myself wondering what it would have been like to live in that day (and thankful that I didn't). And I found myself grateful for that Christian man who fought so hard to change the world.

This morning Travis and I walked into church to the indescribably beautiful sound of a choir of students who are visiting here from the Zambia International Bible College. As I, on the heels of watching Amazing Grace, watched and listened to their song of praise to God for His salvation, my heart was again stirred. I wept in thankfulness to God that because the slavery of African people--His people--has been abolished, these Brothers and Sisters in Christ could today stand before our church and minister in song of the saving grace of our great God.

Amazing Grace (How sweet the sound)
That sav'd a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.

'Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
And grace my fears reliev'd;
How precious did that grace appear,
The hour I first believ'd!

Thro' many dangers, toils and snare,
I have already come;
'Tis grace has brought me safe thus far,
And grace will lead me home.

The Lord has promised good to me.
His word my hope secures;
He will my shield and portion be,
As long as life endures.

Yes, when this flesh and heart shall fail,
And mortal life shall cease;
I shall profess, within the vail,
A life of joy and peace.

The earth shall soon dissolve like snow,
The sun forbear to shine;
But God, who call'd me here below,
Will be for ever mine.

Friday, October 1, 2010

My Testimony

At a weathered picnic table under a tree, sitting beside one complete stranger and across from another--that is where Jesus saved me.

I think I was about 8 years of age that summer.  A friend of my younger sister's had invited us to go to Camp JOY with her and her sisters in Alma, Nebraska, not far from where we grew up.  Despite my initial reluctance to subject myself to a strange place full of strange faces--and to miss softball to boot--we went.  During the chapel service one day, the speaker asked who in the room had never asked Jesus into her heart.  I knew all about Jesus.  My parents and grandparents were Christians, we attended church and Sunday School, I loved reading stories from my children's Bible.  But, I hadn't ever asked Jesus into my heart.  So... I truthfully raised my hand.  The next thing I knew, those of us who had dared be so honest were being called to action.  My immediate thoughts were, "Oh no!  What have I done?!  Was it a trick question?  I said I've never asked Jesus into my heart, not that I'm ready to ask Jesus into my heart!"  Afraid, I walked to the back of the chapel with the other boys and girls who had raised their hands, and I along with one other girl was paired up with one of the camp counselors.

The three of us found a private place to sit and talk--a weathered picnic table sitting under the shade of a large tree.  I don't remember what exactly we talked about, but I do remember that as we talked, my feelings of fear were replaced with a longing for Jesus.  The other girl and I both prayed, confessing Jesus as Lord and Savior and asking Him to come into our hearts.  I remember the feeling of inexpressible joy that filled me.  It was unexplainable to me, but I liked it... and I didn't want it to ever go away.

Years passed by, and despite my lack of growth as a Christian, the Source of my joy never left me.  I went through school a "good" girl with good morals and a strong conscience; and I was known and respected for that.  It wasn't until after high school that I discovered that this, and not my faith in God, was all I was known for.

You see, it wasn't until after high school that I really began drawing near to God.  My first semester of college I was taking a required course called Introduction to Biblical Studies, and much of my homework for that class was simply reading assigned portions of Scripture. Although I had been a Christian for many years, I had never read much of the Bible; and as I did so for that class, I was amazed by what a wealth of knowledge and wisdom God's Word contains. At the end of that semester I began my own plan to read through the entire Bible in one year. The more of God's Word that I read, the greater my desire to know Him grew. I longed for Him to reveal more of Himself to me and confessed in prayer that I wanted to know Him more.  It was in that time of deep longing and searching that God began to teach me a valuable lesson:  "Draw near to God and He will draw near to you" (James 4:8a).  And that is what I did--and am doing.

More years have passed, bringing along with them the ups and the downs; but one thing--One Person--has remained constant through it all.  The Joy that filled my heart that fateful day at Camp JOY is here to stay.  It is Him that I love.  It is Him that I live for.  It is Him that I look for.  One day He Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and those who are in Christ will be caught up together to meet Him in the air and to live with Him forever (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17).  On that Day, this story--my testimony to Him--will be finally complete.  Until then, I will continue to write it with my life.

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