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."

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Picking Up Where We Left Off

There is nothing like coming home to a neat, clean house.  Any time we are going to leave home for more than a few hours--and especially overnight--I am determined that all the cleaning must be done, the counters cleared, the dishwasher emptied, the trash taken out, and the laundry in check before we walk out the door.  Some may think this a little unnecessary; but I ask, who wants to come home to a mess?!  Not me!  I can enjoy myself while away from home so much more when I have no reason to dread my return.

We returned home from our Thanksgiving trip to my parents' house late yesterday afternoon, and as I stepped in the door of our house, I caught myself letting out a sigh of thankfulness at the sight (and smell) before me.  No cluttered countertops, no dirty dishes, no smelly trash... what a relief!  Even though I always leave the house in good shape when we go away, I'm still pleasantly surprised by its cleanliness every time we return home.  There is definitely reward in working hard before leaving home.  And... there is reward in working hard upon returning home, too....

I learned a long time ago that unpacking suitcases after a trip is so much easier when done immediately.  For whatever reason, the longer a full suitcase sits on the bedroom floor undealt with, the harder dealing with it becomes.  Although there are times when I'm just too tired or unmotivated to unpack the moment I arrive at home, most of the time I do try to get everything put away in its proper place as soon as I walk in the door.  That is just what we did last night, and we were literally done putting away a week's worth of stuff for six people within fifteen minutes!

Because of our diligence both before leaving home and upon arriving home, we can begin our day today without the delay of having to still get settled in or caught up.  We are simply picking up right where we left off, as if we had never been gone.  What a blessing!...

Monday, November 29, 2010

Serving with Humility

"...the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many." (Matthew 20:28)
Travis and the kids and I spent several days with my parents and my sister's family for the Thanksgiving holiday, and we had the greatest time.  Unfortunately, we aren't able to all get together as often as we would like, so I always look forward to the holidays with my family with a little extra excitement.  The obvious perks of the holidays--family, food, and football--make for a lot of fun.  But, this year, my eyes were opened to another not so obvious joy of the holiday:  the opportunity to serve.

On the Sunday of Thanksgiving week, our pastor was preaching from Romans 13 about living life lovingly, and he posed this question:  "Who will you love this week, and how will you do it?"  The answer that came immediately to me was that I would love my family by serving them.  In the past, I've tended to treat our visits to my parents' house as my little vacation.  Although I'd be caring for and spending time with the kids, I'd sit back and relax while my mom (and sister) did most of the busy work.  This time, though, I realized that I shouldn't go to be served, but to serve.  Who am I to deserve a pass on serving?  After all, even Jesus came to serve.

I still have a long way to go in the area of servanthood, for to be a perfect servant would require a complete putting to death of self.  But, I am thankful that God is working in my heart to cultivate in me a desire to serve and a joy in doing so.  I pray that He will continue to give me eyes to see opportunities to serve and that He will continue to teach me to "do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind [to] regard [others] as more important than [myself]" (Philippians 2:3).

Friday, November 26, 2010

Giving Thanks: God's Eventual Provision

I have been spending this week at Eternal Outlook in intentional giving of thanks to God for His provision in every aspect of my life, putting into practice our call to be "always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father" (Ephesians 5:20).  All too frequently we allow ourselves to become so comfortable that we forget how much we need God.  Like the Israelites, we sometimes forget (or even fail to recognize) all the mighty things He has done--and is doing--for us.  But what better to remind us to be acknowledging God's provision in our lives than a holiday set aside for giving of thanks.

This week I have looked at God's spiritual, physical, vocational, and relational provision in my life.  Today, I am specifically praising and thanking God for His eventual provision in my life.  Not only do we have the promise that God will supply all of our needs in this life, but we (Christians) also know that God is preparing a place for us in heaven.  ("In My Father's house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you.  If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also." John 14:2-3)  What a promise!

I am so thankful that not only is God with me in this life but also that I will be with Him in eternity.  This is the blessed hope to which I cling.

Other Posts in This Series:

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Giving Thanks: God's Relational Provision

Happy Thanksgiving!  In light of the holiday, I am spending this week at Eternal Outlook in intentional giving of thanks to God for His provision in every aspect of my life.  This is nothing more than what we are called to do anyway--to be "always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father" (Ephesians 5:20).  All too frequently we allow ourselves to become so comfortable that we forget how much we need God.  Like the Israelites, we sometimes forget (or even fail to recognize) all the mighty things He has done--and is doing--for us.  Let this day be one of both recognizing and remembering God's provision in our lives.

Today I am specifically praising and thanking God for His relational provision in my life.  My family and friends are among the greatest of blessings in my life.  Admittedly, relationships between two naturally sinful human beings aren't always easy or comfortable (and may not seem like blessings at times).  In fact, they require much effort, transparency, humility, forgiveness, understanding, etc.  But no matter how hard relationships are, we need them.  Most importantly, we need a relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ; but also important are our relationships with each other.

As we gather with family today to celebrate a day of thanksgiving to our Lord, I won't fail to recognize the blessing of the people and the relationships that God has placed in my life.  It is my prayer that as I draw close to others my character would be continually refined to be like that of Jesus.  May I always be willing to love, serve, and lay down my life for my friends as He has done for me.

Other Posts in This Series:

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Giving Thanks: God's Vocational Provision

With Thanksgiving Day upon us, I am spending this week at Eternal Outlook in intentional giving of thanks to God for His provision in every aspect of my life, and I invite you to do the same.  This will be nothing more than what we are called to do anyway--to be "always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father" (Ephesians 5:20).  All too frequently we allow ourselves to become so comfortable that we forget how much we need God.  Like the Israelites, we sometimes forget (or even fail to recognize) all the mighty things He has done--and is doing--for us.  Let this week be one of both recognizing and remembering God's provision in our lives.

Today, I am specifically praising and thanking God for his vocational provision in my life.  We human beings, myself included, are so prone to going through our daily routines in our own power without stopping to seek God’s help/strength/plan/blessing for the day.  Thinking we have it all figured out, we push forward as we push God aside.  The truth is, though, that we need to seek God even in the most habitual activities of everyday life; and, when we do, He will faithfully provide the strength, the focus, the grace, the patience… whatever it is that we need for the moment.

As I reflect on the fact that God is the One who created me, the One who called me, the One who leads me, the One who sustains me, I can’t help but realize that He is also the One who equips me.  He provides everything I need to live out (and even to excel in) the vocation in which He has placed me.  Homemaker, Teacher, Writer, Ambassador… He is the source of all that I need to do the things He has called me to do.  Because He works in me, I can work at home—and do it joyfully.  Because He teaches me, I can teach my children—and do it purposefully.  Because He writes His word on my heart, I can write my life on this blog—and do it eternal-mindedly.  Because He represents me before the Father, I can represent Him before man—and do it unashamedly.

Indeed, I am thankful to God for His vocational provision in my life as I strive, with His help, to be the best me I can be for the sake of the Kingdom!

Other Posts in This Series:

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Giving Thanks: God's Physical Provision

With Thanksgiving Day upon us, I am spending this week at Eternal Outlook in intentional giving of thanks to God for His provision in every aspect of my life, and I invite you to do the same.  This will be nothing more than what we are called to do anyway--to be "always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father" (Ephesians 5:20).  All too frequently we allow ourselves to become so comfortable that we forget how much we need God.  Like the Israelites, we sometimes forget (or even fail to recognize) all the mighty things He has done--and is doing--for us.  Let this week be one of both recognizing and remembering God's provision in our lives.

Today, I am specifically praising and thanking God for his physical provision in my life.  It is the things we most need (and want) in this earthly life--food, shelter, clothing (and comfort)--that we can so easily (albeit wrongly) take for granted.  In America, where having an abundance of food, clothing, square footage, and other niceties is the norm, we sometimes don't even realize just how physically blessed by God we truly are.

The Bible tells us that everything we have is from God (see 1 Chronicles 29:10-20); and it also tells us that our heavenly Father knows that we need these things (i.e. food, drink, clothing).  Furthermore, when we seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, these physical needs will be provided for us, too.  (See Matthew 6:24-34.)

Indeed, the fresh water that we drink, the warm showers that we take, the comfortable beds where we sleep, the tasty food that we eat, the nice clothing that we wear, all of this and more comes from God.  Just as I am thankful to God for His spiritual provisions for me, so I am thankful on a daily basis for these physical blessings from God.  He feeds me.  He clothes me.  He shelters me.  He comforts me.  He knows my needs, and He supplies them.
"And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 4:19)

Other Posts in This Series:
Giving Thanks: God's Eventual Provision 

Monday, November 22, 2010

Giving Thanks: God's Spiritual Provision

With Thanksgiving Day upon us, I will be spending this week at Eternal Outlook as one of intentional giving of thanks to God for His provision in every aspect of my life, and I invite you to do the same. This will be nothing more than what we are called to do anyway--to be "always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father" (Ephesians 5:20). All too frequently we allow ourselves to become so comfortable that we forget how much we need God. Like the Israelites, we sometimes forget (or even fail to recognize) all the mighty things He has done--and is doing--for us. Let this week be one of both recognizing and remembering God's provision in our lives.

Today, I am specifically praising and thanking God for his spiritual provision in my life, namely, for the salvation that is from Him, the relationship that is with Him, and the prayer that is to Him.

The most important aspect of God's spiritual provision in my life is salvation itself. The Bible says "that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved" (Romans 10:9). Before that moment when I confessed and believed, I was dead in my trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1)--and you were, too. "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.... 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 2:4-9) Thank You, God, for Your gift of salvation!

Indeed, the largest component of God's spiritual provision in my life (i.e. salvation) rests in my relationship with God as my Savior. But not to be forgotten is the provision offered through my relationship with God as my Father (God adopted me. (Galatians 4:4-7)), God as my Advocate (Jesus represents me. (1 John 2:1)), and God as my Helper (The Holy Spirit teaches me. (John 14:26)). Through these (and more) aspects of my relationship with God, He "has granted to [me] everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called [me] by His own glory and excellence" (1 Peter 1:3). Thank You, God, for the relationship I have with You because of my salvation!

Because of my salvation (and because of who God is), I have a relationship with God which is grown and strengthened through communication with Him. This third aspect of God's spiritual provision in my life--prayer--is another of the blessings I am thanking God for. When Jesus died on the cross the veil was torn (Matthew 27:51), signifying to us that we no longer have to stay outside the "Holy of Holies" (Hebrews 9:3). We now "have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh" (Hebrews 10:19-20). Because of Christ's work on the cross, we have access to God through prayer. Not only that, but we also have the assurance that He hears the prayers of the righteous (Proverbs 15:29). Thank You, God, for prayer which strengthens my relationship with You--my Savior, my Father, my Advocate, my Helper!

God has provided for our every spiritual need, but before we can receive that provision, we first have to recognize that we have a need. We need a Savior! We must see the gravity of our sin, and we must admit that without Jesus and His shed blood we are dead in our trespasses. Have you acknowledged your need for Jesus? The Bible says that "if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved" (Romans 10:9)! Today is the day of salvation. I encourage you, if you have not given your life to Jesus,
"Seek the Lord while He may be found; call upon Him while He is near. Let the wicked forsake his way and the unrighteous man his thoughts; and let him return to the Lord, and He will have compassion on him, and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon." (Isaiah 55:6-7)
I am so thankful for God's spiritual provisions of salvation, relationship, and prayer. May I never forget nor fail to recognize the mighty works of God in my life; but instead, may my heart be continually praising God, saying, "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ" (Ephesians 1:3)!

Other Posts in This Series:

Friday, November 19, 2010

Sweet Snapshots

(L to R) Elliana Faith and Isabel Hope
Abel's kind eyes mirror his kind heart.
Amariah asked me to take her picture and then struck this pose.
Sweet little Isabel and her curls
My precious Elliana

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Glimpsing Heaven through Song

Music is on my mind and in my mouth today.  Travis purchased Chris Tomlin's new CD, "And If Our God Is For Us...," for our family on Tuesday, and we have pretty much had it playing ever since.  Worshipful lyrics set to beautiful music make for an album full of great songs.  Also included with the deluxe version which we bought are four acoustic tracks and a bonus DVD with a behind the scenes interview and two music videos, all of which is totally worth the extra cost.

As much as I am enjoying the new songs of Chris Tomlin, it is one of his music videos from the bonus DVD that moved me the most.  A track from his "Hello Love" CD, the song "Love" was done with the amazing Watoto Children's Choir from Uganda.  As I watched these beautiful children sharing the stage with Chris Tomlin and worshiping the God of love along with him, my heart was stirred by the reality of a God who is over every tongue, tribe, and nation.  What an absolutely beautiful thing to see and to hear God being worshiped in a language other than our own.  It feels like a glimpse of heaven.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Connecting with Your Children

I heard a bit of wisdom from a mother more experienced than I that I am thankful to have received while my kids are still so young.  In Titus 2 style, this "older" woman encouraged me and the other young moms in my Bible study group to find a special connecting point--a common point of interest--with each of our children that can remain as the years pass by.  For her, a common point of interest with her son through the years has been in movies and music; and with her daughter, it has been in simply talking.

My kids, of course, are still too young for me to know what things might turn out to be special connecting points between them and me; but, even now, I am beginning to see some things that Abel and Amariah seem to have in common with me--areas in which we easily connect.
  • Abel is his mother's son when it comes to both attention to detail and eagerness to learn.  I am confident that he could detail for anyone who cared to know exactly how I carry out certain tasks--and that he would do those things in the same way himself.  He is hungry for knowledge and excitedly seeks opportunities to be mentored by his mommy.  (Knowing yesterday that it was laundry day--and interested of late in learning the details of folding, hanging, and putting away laundry--Abel told me in a very assuring voice, "When we need to fold laundry, you just let me know.")
  • Amariah is her mother's daughter when it comes to getting lost in thought or in song.  Amariah can be in the same room as the rest of the family and yet be in a completely different world.  She loves to think, and she loves to sing.  (Today, my heart was warmed when Amariah and I, at the exact same moment, broke into singing "Jesus Loves Me" while standing side by side at the sink washing dishes.)
It is exciting, of course, to see my children taking after some of the better parts of me; but more than that, it is exciting to be able to pick up on the little things that interest them so that I can take interest in their interests, both fostering a place of commonality and nurturing a place of potential.

Witnessing the uniqueness of each of my children has been a great blessing and an amazing testimony to God's special design for them.  In no way do I wish to place them into some sort of cookie cutter, forcing them all to be like me or one like the other.  Instead, I rejoice in their differences and am excited to partner with the One who created them to grow them into the best unique selves they can be.  And, as we discover some common points of interest along the way which will serve only to strengthen our mother-child bonds, all the better!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

What is Your Family's Legacy?

Over the weekend I finished the latest books of my favorite Christian fiction author, Francine Rivers.  (Actually, hers is the only fiction I read.)  Her Mother's Hope and Her Daughter's Dream, the two books that make up Francine's Marta's Legacy series, were definitely worth the time it took me to read them.  From the inside cover of Her Mother's Hope, this "sweeping and lyrical two-book saga... explores the depths of grace and forgiveness in one of life's fiercest bonds--the love between mother and daughter."

I've mentioned before not only the great blessing it is for a mother to have daughters but also the great responsibility it is to model before them the type of women they ought to be.  These things I am conscientious of.  However, as I read through this "deeply moving story about the silent sorrows that can tear a family apart," I realized that this is another facet of mothering daughters (and sons) which must also be given careful attention.

Although I have been blessed to have a regret-free relationship with my own mother (not because of lack of mistakes but because of no lack of openness and reconciliation), I realize that this isn't the case for all women.  Even within my own family lines, I have been made aware of hurts between mothers and their children that have made a definite--even if minor--impact on the lives and relationships of the hurt ones.  No one is perfect, and by nature it seems to be those whom we love the most that we hurt the most.  Hurt feelings and misunderstandings are going to happen within a family.  There is no way around it.  But in the absence of a desire to make things right--and certainly in the absence of grace and forgiveness--these silent sorrows have the power to transform a life and a family for the worse.

It is my desire as a mother (and as a daughter, wife, and friend) that as I continue to grow in Christ-likeness I would not only minimize the occurrences of hurt and misunderstanding in my relationships but that I would also have the wisdom to perceive the effects of my words and attitudes and actions on others so that I might seek both reconciliation and change.  I pray that I would in no way inadvertently bruise the tender hearts of the daughters and son whom I dearly love but instead that their hearts would be strengthened by the love and the grace and forgiveness which abounds within our walls because of Christ within us.

Monday, November 15, 2010

A Day of Rest

"Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.  Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath of the Lord your God; in it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter, your male or your female servant or your cattle or your sojourner who stays with you.  For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and made it holy." (Exodus 20:8-11)
Yesterday was the first Sunday after my first full week of purposefully avoiding idleness, and as such, it was the first Sunday in my memory that I truly felt enabled and entitled to not do any work.

According to The Wiersbe Bible Commentary on Exodus 20:8-11, "The word 'sabbath' means 'rest.'...  While the Sabbath was rooted in creation (Gen. 2:1-3), it was also a special sign between Israel and the Lord (Ex. 31:12-17; Neh. 9:13-15; Ezek. 20: 12, 20), and there's no biblical evidence that God commanded any Gentile nation to observe the seventh day (Ps. 147:19-20).... When the Jews observed the Sabbath, it was not only a mark of their devotion to the Lord, but it was also a witness to their pagan neighbors to whom the seventh day was just another day.  By resting on the seventh day, the Jews were promoting their own welfare as well as that of their servants and farm animals, acknowledging the lordship of Jehovah over time and creation (Ex. 23:12)."

Honestly, I've never had a good understanding of why a day of rest is important or of what a day of rest actually looks like.  Especially as a wife and mother, I've wondered if taking a day to not do any work is even possible.  (We've all heard--and probably testified to--the old addage, "A mother's work is never done.")  Yesterday... and the days leading up to it... proved to me that it is.  Possible.  To not work.

You see, yesterday was a day of not working like I've never experienced before.  The preceding six days full of completed household tasks and projects--and the Saturday of working a little later into the evening than normal--set me up for a day of rest that brought not only refreshment of mind, body, and spirit, but also joy and peace in knowing all that had been accomplished during the six days in order to make the seventh day possible.  So often we focus on the part of the commandment that says, "But the seventh day is a sabbath of the Lord your God; in it you shall not do any work," to the exclusion of the part that says, "Six days you shall labor and do all your work."  What a blessing it is to have a day of true rest as a reward for six days of diligence in hard work!  I think God knew we would need such a provision in order for us to "keep on keepin' on."

Friday, November 12, 2010

Thanks to Abel,...

Apparently, Abel is taking notice--and advantage--of my renewed focus in "looking well to the ways of my household" (Proverbs 31:27).

Abel politely informed me yesterday morning that we needed to clean out
  1. the coat closet and
  2. the van.
And... he was right.

After completing the closet project, I asked Abel, "So, why did you say I needed to clean the coat closet?"  "Because I couldn't find anything in there," he replied.
Abel approves.  And so do I!

Abel's second suggestion also made the To-Do list.  We were blessed with another beautiful Fall day here in central Iowa, so the weather was just perfect for the task of cleaning out the van.  I had Abel and Amariah skip their naps in order to let them work alongside me.  The kids and I have memorized Proverbs 10:4 ("Lazy hands make a man poor, but diligent hands bring wealth."); so we talked about working diligently as we cleaned.

At the end of the long, busy day, as I sat on the living room floor playing with my four sweet children, Abel walked up to me with a twinkle in his eyes and patted me on the back as he said, "Thanks for being such a good Mommy."  It was through that sweet comment that God showed me that if I am obedient to Proverbs 31:27, then Proverbs 31:28 really can happen to me.
27 "She looks well to the ways of her household, and does not eat the bread of idleness. 28 Her children rise up and bless her...."

Thursday, November 11, 2010

A Renewed Focus

"She looks well to the ways of her household, and does not eat the bread of idleness." (Proverbs 31:27)
The past several days, as I have been acting on my recent conviction that I've been spending too much time online and not enough on task, I have been taking extra effort to stay busy about my home.  After about a two-year break from purposely following the "Daily Household Task Schedule" which I created for myself during our first year of marriage and which worked so well to keep me on task and in control, I finally made the choice a couple days ago to buckle down and start using it again.

I am the kind of person who likes the feeling of accomplishment that comes from crossing something off a list... and from adding something to the list just so I can cross it off. :-)  I am also the kind of person who likes to keep a neat and clean home.  That being said, all I can figure as to why I've spent the last 18 months or so doing only enough to get by is that at some point I lost my focus.  I lost my focus, and laziness crept in.

The funny thing is that no one would have known by walking into my house or even by snooping in the hidden places that I really wasn't working all that hard.  Yes, the bathrooms were clean, the bed was made, the dishes were done, the countertops were cleared, the floors were scrubbed... the work was pretty much getting done.  But, there was also a lot of time getting wasted.

I know, I shouldn't be too hard on myself.  After all, I am talking about a period of time in which I was completing a full term pregnancy with twins, nursing twins, mothering four children, and leaning to feed my family more healthily.  In proportion to the level of energy I had during that time, I suppose I was quite busy.  However, I am looking back now and thinking that I probably wasn't making the most of the time and energy that was available.  I was physically tired and therefore unmotivated to do more than I had to do to get by.  I became slightly selfish with my energies,  preferring at times to eat the bread of idleness instead of to look well to the ways of my household.

Perhaps there might be an argument for the allowance of some degree of seasonal idleness.  The problem, though, is that my seasonal idleness grew into a habit of laziness.  By the time the season ended and my energies returned, my focus had been lost.  Doing just enough to get by may have been excusable for a time, but that time is over.

We talked a little bit about this verse from Proverbs 31:27 at my women's Bible study last night; and as we did so, I pondered in my heart all of the things that are written here.  I found myself smiling at God for the way He is never idle in encouraging me to seek the best He has for me.  He watches over my ways.  He knows my faults and failures.  And He gives me mercies that are new every morning.  Oh, how I need that!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Raising Women

My sweet little Isabel woke up with a fever this morning and wanted to be nowhere but in my arms (which was okay with me, of course).  When I had to get up to get breakfast ready, I had Amariah take my place on the couch with Isabel.  I watched and listened from the kitchen as Amariah gently stroked Isabel's arm and softly said in the most compassionate voice, "Oh, Isabel, I know you don't feel good."

Elliana was concerned for her sick sister, too, bringing books to Isabel and lingering near the couch where she lay.

As I looked at this scene, I was so blessed by my daughters' display of motherly compassion; and I was reminded of the fact that my three daughters are even now learning from my example how to be women.  What a privilege it is to be entrusted with such an important task as training my girls to be women who will honor God and love their families!
"Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips nor enslaved to much wine, teaching what is good, so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored." (Titus 2:3-5)
May I always be all of these things for the sake of God's Word and for the sake of the young and impressionable eyes that are constantly watching me.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Connected... but Not Disconnected

About a week ago I finally admitted to myself that I have been spending too much time on the computer.  Ever since Travis and I bought our laptop about a year and a half ago, Internet access has been just a little too... accessible.  Prior to that purchase, our only computer sat in our upstairs bedroom where it was out of sight, out of mind, and out of reach; and my time in front of it was pretty much limited to when the kids were sleeping.

The handy dandy laptop, though, has been a different story.  It sits on the breakfast bar in the kitchen, the hub of our home; and it has beckoned me to check my email, Facebook, etc., every time I walk by it.  What I didn't recognize until recently is that too much of my day was getting clicked and typed away two minutes at a time.  Indeed, the checking of my email inbox and other favorite websites has become nothing more than a time-consuming habit--a habit I am attempting to break.

For about a week now, I have been very purposeful about avoiding unnecessary glances at the computer.  In fact, knowing my weakness for over-using the laptop, I have been keeping it either off or closed as a reminder to stay busy with other things.  Instead of checking email and other sites all throughout the day, I have been utilizing the upstairs computer for a first-morning check and then not looking again until midday when the kids are napping and again in the evening when they are in bed.

I must admit, I have been amazed at how much more I've been able to accomplish--and at how much more I've been motivated to accomplish--since I've removed from myself the easy accessibility of the Internet.  I feel like I've been freed from a bondage that I didn't even know I was under!

My desire is that I would please God and my family in the way that I spend my time.  I pray that I will be able to strike a balance as I seek to stay connected to the world while not disconnected from my home.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Re-Enter: Reading!

As I slowly move into a stage of motherhood where I once again have a little more time and energy for acknowledging some of my personal needs, I have been able to resume an enjoyable endeavor which has been necessarily placed (mostly) on hold since the time Abel was born:  reading!

I have always loved reading, but I've nearly always had limited time to devote to reading for pleasure.  During my school years, assigned reading and other homework and activities consumed much of my time; and in recent years, the normal responsibilities of adulthood--and motherhood--have done the same.

While my responsibilities haven't waned (and probably won't for many years!), my energy which was being zapped by pregnancy and nursing for the past five years has begun to return, rendering me more capable of and motivated to add some simple and worthwhile pleasures back in.

For this reason, and for for the sake of my desire to be constantly learning and growing, I am ready for the pleasure of reading to re-enter my life.  As with any pursuit, this, of course, must remain of lesser importance than my time in the Word; for the Bible is the one Book that is unquestionably necessary for the type of learning and growing I desire.  That being said, there is also much to be gained from Biblically accurate supplemental reading.  (Some of the books that I have found to be quite worthwhile are listed on the My Bookshelf page.)

In hopes of facilitating this process of growth and learning in the upcoming year--and also in hopes of focusing  and "making the most of my [free] time" (Ephesians 5:16)--I have begun compiling for myself a reading list full of books that I feel will help me to grow in the roles in which God has placed me.  While I don't know how many books I can realistically tackle in a year's time, I am certain this preliminary list will continue to grow as I learn of other good reads.  Here are the books I am keeping in my sights for next year.  Some I already own, and some I've read portions of before.

What are some other Biblically sound, profitable books?  Leave your suggestions in the comments!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Moments That Make My Heart Full

A beautiful Fall sunset

Isabel Hope

Isabel wanted to practice Handwriting with Abel

(L to R) Elliana, Abel, Isabel

I heard giggles and found this--Elliana laying on Isabel

I heard more giggles and found this--Elliana sitting on Isabel

Elliana Faith

Isabel Hope

Isabel wanted Abel to rock her

(L to R) Elliana, Travis, and Isabel

Isabel Hope

Amariah dressed "Izzy the Ellie" in Isabel and Elliana's shoes

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Because I Needed to Hear It Twice

My heart is heavy as I write this tonight. It's a heaviness I'm not sure how to explain--not due to grief or guilt but perhaps due to yet another moment of coming to an end of myself.

I am still working my way through Elizabeth George's A Woman After God's Own Heart, and while I have been greatly encouraged by it, I have also been slightly overwhelmed by it... in a good way, I suppose. "An excellent wife, who can find?" (Proverbs 31:10). That's what I want to know! :-)

This afternoon I was reading chapter 14 about a woman's call to watch over her home and to work hard ("She looks well to the ways of her household, and does not eat the bread of idleness" (Proverbs 31:27).); and as the chapter laid out exactly what this "excellent"--or "virtuous"--wife looks like, I began to think to myself, "How can I ever be all of that?"
"The word virtuous [in Proverbs 31:10] means moral strength, strength of character. But a second meaning emphasizes physical ability and physical prowess. And Proverbs 31 is all about a virtuous woman in both senses of the word. This portrait reveals her strength of character and moral excellence as well as her strength of body--her industriousness, energy, work, skill, and accomplishments--as she watched over her precious household and refused to eat the bread of idleness." (Elizabeth George, A Woman After God's Own Heart (Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 2006), 169.)
"How can I ever live up to this woman?" I thought. I turned the page and kept reading.
"...God's principles were His solutions to my disorganization and inefficiencies in my home.... God's Word has worked for me, helping me tune my heart to His will and His ways. God is faithful and will do the same for you." (171)
There was the answer, as obvious as could be and yet so easily missed. Just as God had spoken to my heart less than 24 hours prior, He was reiterating to me that the only way to make a better me is to seek Him. Why do I have to make it so hard? Why do I fret about how far I have to go and how much work it will take to get there when all I need to do is to stop and look at God? Just as Elizabeth George realized, so I see that the directions and the means lie with Him.

Oh, how I need God's grace! Oh, how I need His mercies which fail not and which are new every morning (Lamentations 3:22-23)! Some days I do well just to put a nice meal on the table, let alone to display strength of character, industriousness, hard work, energy, skill, accomplishment.... Oh, dear God, how I need the wisdom of Your Word and the patience of Your guiding hand! Oh, how I desire that my heart be fully after Your own! Dear God, lead me in paths of righteousness for Your name's sake! On You I will wait. In You I will trust. With You I will place my hope. "'You are my portion,' says my soul" (Lamentations 3:24a).

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Listing My Way to a Better Me

I list.

I list To-Dos...and Have-Dones.

I list needs... and wants.

I list goals... and ideals.

I list who I am... and who I want to be.

I list where I want to go... and how I can get there.

I list.

I lay in bed awake at night, and I think about the areas in which I can do better... be better.  And then I think about steps I can take to get there... be there.

I have so many lists in my mind; and it occurred to me, I'm listing my way to a better me, but these lists are never going to get me there.

The more lists I make, the more I see how far I have to go; and the more I see how far I have to go, the more I recognize that I could never work hard enough to get there.

There is only one list that can effect true change... only one that can make me a better me.
  • Seek God. 

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

When Shopping is a NEED

There is something about the change of seasons that makes me want to... SHOP! :-)

Now, don't get me wrong. I try not to be one of those women--you know, the "high-maintenance" kind.  The last thing I want to do is to burden my husband and our family's budget with my wants; and while I do get spending fever every now and again, I really am a pretty frugal person; and I guess that--and my contentment with my life--keeps me from being too "needy."

However, I obviously do have legitimate needs that arise and that call for me to spend some money from time to time.  For example, over the course of this year, I have worked on practically and frugally revamping my wardrobe which had spent much of the past five years in storage tubs waiting for me to be finally not pregnant or nursing.  Many of my clothes were dated, and many of them just didn't fit the same as they did four babies ago.  (And...  admittedly...while I didn't, in the truest sense of the word, need new clothes (i.e. I wasn't without covering), I certainly wanted some.) :-)

Another legitimate need that arises, especially with the changing of seasons, is the need to clothe our four growing children.  We have been blessed several times with hand-me-downs for Abel; and we have been fortunate that Amariah's old clothes are the correct seasons for the twins.  However, one child's wardrobe isn't always enough to clothe two (especially when their Mommy wants to dress them similarly :-)).

This past weekend, I sat down to think through what clothing the kids realistically need for the onset of Winter and made a list of the things I felt we needed to buy.  I collected coupons, researched prices online, and then decided from where we would buy the needed items.  This gave me the focus to make practical purchases, to stay within budget, and to know exactly what I was looking for when we went into the stores.  I am happy to say that when we went shopping Saturday night, we were able to get everything on my list, to stay right on budget, and to finish before I had exhausted my husband's and kids' tolerance for shopping! :-)

As I think about the items we purchased for the kids, I have no buyer's remorse (which I undoubtedly would feel had I made an unnecessary or unwise purchase).  Instead, I feel confident that our children have what they need for the turn of the season; and I am thankful for God's provision for our family!
"She is not afraid of the snow for her household, for all her household are clothed with scarlet." (Proverbs 31:21)

Monday, November 1, 2010

Brand Loyalty

I am one of those people who tries something once, and if I like it, I stick with it.  I find a menu item that I like at a restaurant, and I order it every time.  I find a product I like, and I buy it every time.  Brand loyalty (and lack of adventurousness) definitely holds some power with me.

There are just some things that are (probably) never going to change.  My dishsoap?  Dawn.  My paper towels?  Bounty Select-A-Size.   My slippers?  Isotoner.

And then there are some things that I thought would never change but did.
  • My baby gear loyalty has always been to Graco; but when Graco couldn't offer what we wanted for the twins, we bought Fisher-Price high chairs and Britax convertible car seats.
  • I was loyal to Tide laundry detergent for the first five years of our marriage; but when I realized our clothes weren't getting clean and our daughter had sensitivities, I started buying Earth Friendly Products Ecos.
  • My facial moisturizer loyalty has been to Only Yourx for the past six and a half years; but when I admitted to myself that the price was keeping me from using the product as generously as I really needed to, I switched to another good but not as expensive product, Cetaphil Daily Facial Moisturizer (recommended by my "retired" estitician-sister).
I have one other brand loyalty that I'm currently calling into question, and I would love to get some input on this.... When Abel, our oldest, was ready for his first pair of shoes, I went into our local Stride Rite store and questioned them as to why I should buy their shoes for my child.  They explained how Stride Rite shoes are designed based on extensive research and that unlike other children's shoes, Stride Rite's are actually good for a child's foot.  Based on that information--and the fact that their shoes come in wider widths than other brands--we purchased our first pair of Stride Rites and have never looked back.  The health of my children's feet is just not something I want to mess around with!

That being said, I'm wondering if Stride Rites are indefinitely the way to go for Isabel and Elliana or if there is another good brand out there that I'm not aware of.  My questions are raised by the facts that their feet don't appear to be as wide as Abel's and don't appear to have the pronation tendencies of Amariah's--and by the fact that there are two of them, meaning an already high price tag is doubled.  I do, of course, want to give them the very best that we can give them; but what I want to know is:  Are there some other good brands of children's shoes that I should consider?  One thing is sure--quality comes at a price.  But, I also want to make a decision that is wise and reasonable on all sides.  I am attempting to not be blinded by my brand loyalty (because I really do like Stride Rite!), so if there is another brand that I should "see," please share that in the comments!

So, what are some of your brand loyalties?

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...