Where were you?

There’s been a lot of talk about politics these days. I’ve been known to have a strong opinion or two, but this time I feel like a minority in the Christian world.

It could be anything at anytimew but this week it’s the Supreme Court ruling to legalize gay marriage. I was interested in the reaction of both churched and non-churched people alike as a few went to scripture but mostly some celebrated, some mourned, some lashed out, some feared, and others rushed to the defense of each side of the issue.

I had to wonder if my heart was unhealthy because I wasn’t freaking out. Yes, I had some thoughts rolling around in my head, but to be honest with you I didn’t feel much of anything. Ironically, I started feeling a little bit guilty for my lack of feeling. But then something clicked that God had been doing in my heart all week.

If you’re a Christian, I’m sure you’ve had those times when the same thing keeps popping up everywhere. I’ve always liked how Margaret Feinberg calls it a sacred echo. Not a coincidence, but a God who knows exactly how to speak to our hearts.

This week the book of Job came up in conversations, reading, and even the Sunday school lesson I was teaching (to preschoolers no less, talk about difficult). The final straw was a song that went straight to my heart. It’s the second amazing song I’ve come across based on this passage in Job.

I felt a deep peace in my heart. It’s okay that I wasn’t surprised or worried or a happy or any myriad of other reactions I could have had. If anything, I was baffled. Why were my fellow believers shocked that a mere kingdom of this world isn’t acting and looking like the eternal Kingdom? Why are they surprised that the world doesn’t look like the church?

For every possible reaction besides joy in the Lord and trust in His sovereignty, the Lord had an answer of peace for my heart. Fear? Anger? Happiness? Sadness? Bitterness? Passion?

Who am I? Where was I when He laid the foundations of the earth? He is almighty, eternal, all-knowing, merciful, loving and patient.

Should we stand on His word? Absolutely. Should we worry if the world look drastically different from what God asks of us? No. He told us it would happen and he told us not to fear.

No matter what is going on in your life and the world around you, I pray (really, actually pray for you) that you look to the God of the Bible for peace. Here is the song that the Counselor used to speak to my heart this week. I hope it encourages you, maybe today or maybe another day. I also highly encourage you to read the section of scripture. It goes from about Job 36-40

 

Advertisements

Our big “thing”

I read. A lot.

I clearly remember my parents coming home from a parent-teacher conference with grim looks on their faces only to report that I was a book worm. Apparently my teacher (one of the best out there btw) had to tell them that I was even reading when I wasn’t supposed to be, zooming through books faster than I could get them from the library.

Today, I’ve moved on from Nancy Drew (most days!) and try to read things that will grow me as a believer, wife and mother. I often seek out books and blogs and articles to help me parent and homeschool “right.” It’s almost as if I feel like there’s a perfect combination that, if I could just narrow it down, equals a recipe for perfect children. Of course, to write that it seems ridiculous, but that’s the reality of my strivings.

11169793_10103099164671053_774557601831639369_nI’ve developed a sort of way I go about things (always being adjusted slightly) that seems good to me. In all of my likes and dislikes I’ve found resources that I turn to.

Montessori preschool, waldorf play, reggio amelia too, building independence, Bible-based discipline, classical homeschool, sustainable/whole foods. And there is a blog and book or ten about all of them! But as I look at families who seem to have any one of those “down,” I can’t help but wonder about something. If waldorf is our thing, or interest-lead learning or even classical schooling, where does Jesus fit? I mean really, should Jesus just “fit?”

I asked my husband about this about a year ago when I was expecting Eloise. None of those things equal Godly offspring. Only God’s grace can do that. 

So how do I make our “thing” Jesus. When people look at our blog, Facebook pages even our home and our family, I want them to see Jesus. Do they see wooden toys? Children studying Greek? Or do they see the love of Jesus? The peace of God?

Since I’ve started thinking about this a couple of things have changed:

I’ve loosened up on a few things. Learning to depend on God’s grace means I don’t have to strive for perfection AND I don’t have to worry about what other people think.

IMG_1100

I’m slowly learning to see things more through my children’s eyes. This means more fun, more yes answers and less teacher-voice (at which my son’s eyes automatically roll anyway). It also means more discipline. I’ve seen a look of contempt come from some of my friends’ older daughters toward their mothers. When two women live in the same house, some amount of conflict is inevitable. But one thing I think would prevent some of this is good discipline early on. God’s authority, God’s grace. If they get that, they’ll be just fine.

We’ve been more intentional in our Bible study. We had already done a Bible story before bed, but now we try to make it more enjoyable for our children all ages and in different ways. Family Bible study should be something they look forward to, right?

Also, I’ve been keeping my children with me in service. The baby is the only one I’ll occasionally pass off.IMG_1212 Not only do I want them to learn to sit in church (quietly obviously…one day. Sigh.) but I want them to learn to listen and participate. (Side-note: one of the biggest obstacles we see in Christian teens is that once they’re given their own youth pastor, they’re no longer taught to learn from the main pastor. They’re only required to sit still and keep quiet.)

I’m sure there are more ways, maybe even some I don’t notice. (I hope!) These are just some things I’ve been wrestling with, and this happens to be where I share them. I’d love to hear your take on Jesus being the center. Here’s a verse I’ll leave you with today, one my wise and wonderful husband brought excitedly to me a while back:

Did he not make them one, with a portion of the Spirit in their union? And what was the one God seeking? Godly offspring
Malachi 2:15

 

I Need People

I remember the first time I came across the word hermit. I was about eight and came across it in a book. I’ll admit, the first thing that came to mind was Kermit the Frog. Secondly, the appropriately named crab. Not knowing how either of these applied to the man in the story, I asked someone. They described someone living alone, venturing out for necessities only when absolutely necessary. I think I heard angels sing as I pictured a cabin by a stream in a mossy wood where no one would find me unless I wanted them to. I could grow my own food and visit with the deer and hedgehogs. My life goal in third grade was to become a hermit.

Obviously, I am an introvert.

Today, I have an ever-growing family and my house is often full of teenagers, neighborhood kids and whoever else the hubby drags welcomes in. (He, obviously, is an extrovert.) I’m happy that my hermit dreams didn’t come true; not that I don’t day dream of my cabin in the woods on a regular basis. With the various people in and out of our days and weeks, I’ve noticed something about my self and it really set me to thinking.

It’s difficult to admit, but I noticed that I interact with my children differently when people are around: in both good ways and bad. The first thing I noticed is that I can encounter something incredibly frustrating, at home: my frustration will usually show at the very least but sometimes I’ll be impatient and snappy. The same thing can happen out and about and somehow I manage to scrape up the patience to remain calm and kind as I deal with the situation.

Unfortunately es, I was raised to care a little too much about what people think. But it’s more than that.

When we are alone, unwatched and unchecked it is easier to lose a battle against sin. On the other hand, it is easier to live in the freedom from our sin nature when we other believers around us who are on the same journey.

We were made for community. Christ didn’t leave us with a pep-talk about making it on our own and standing in our own strength. He left us the Holy Spirit and a body of believers, each member having different strengths and weaknesses. How well our Creator knows us and how gracious he is to us! We need the visual reminder of our accountability and the consequences of our actions.

The fact that my patience and mercy amidst their treachery points my children toward Christ should be enough to help me operate that way. But is it? Not always. Sometimes encouragement, understanding and even a swift kick from other Christian moms is just what it takes.

I see my parenting more clearly in the eyes of other gracious parents. Likewise, if I’m transparent about my marriage, I’m more likely to see areas in which I can care for it better. If I’m close enough to my believing neighbor, she’ll see ways in which I waste time and I’ll have to think twice before I do certain activities. The same goes for homeschooling, finances, homemaking. The more other believers are a part of my life, the more I’ll be forced to think about whether my actions are useful for furthering the Kingdom of God. I’ve even considered whether it would be worth the sanctification process for us to live in a multi-family situation, but that’s a conversation for another day.

I guess what I’m saying is that all of our fences and independence in this modern world we live in have done us no favors.  “For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.” If our eyes had as little contact with our ears and our legs as most Christians do with others, we wouldn’t get anywhere or accomplish much of anything. We’d be a train wreck! And so it with the body of Christ. We need each other.The difference is that with Christ as the head on our shoulders, the Victory belongs to Him despite our stumbling!

Our American Idols: 3 Ways You Can Do Your Children A Favor

What is most important to you?

I’m finding more and more that people say, “family.” If it wouldn’t hurt feelings, I would tell you specifically how I’ve seen the effects of this is the lives of people around me. My husband and I are passionate about pouring into the lives of young people in order to see them grow into Godly adults. As I look around at the twenties, teenagers and younger, I see devastating results of their parents lives revolving around them.

Sadly, parents are often unaware of how God designed their unique children because they have an ideal in their mind and they treat their young ones as if their children should be exactly what their parents imagine them to be. I struggle with this myself and battle daily to figure out what makes my children tick and encourage them in those directions. Sometimes I’m successful, sometimes I fail.

I’ve been pregnant four times in the last 6 years. I have the privilege of raising three of those children and hopefully some more. Each one of them is so unique and by God’s grace they can do beautiful things to further His Kingdom. But that may not happen if I make them the center of my world. We do our children no favors when we live like this. Here are some things I’ve seen and steps I’d love for you to join me in taking to love our children better and to the glory of God.

When people make their children their number one priority, they often fail to discipline properly. I frequently see either a fear of making their children dislike them or a tendency to micromanage their children’s behavior for fear that they might appear to be bad children. Both of these model how to fear man, not God. I tend to struggle with the second, but I’m constantly reminded in my Bible reading that it is vital to help my children understand God as their authority, sin as their illness and grace as their cure. This is the goal of discipline. I must try my best to 1. Discipline consistently according to God’s standard of right and wrong (no more, no less) and do it in grace.

When a child is the most important thing in the world to you, they’ll copy you in one distinct way. If your Creator is not your number one priority, it won’t be theirs either. At least not at first. Your idols can easily become their idols. God is great and gracious. Many in my generation are slowly figuring out how to reprioritize now that we look back and see how things didn’t work out for our parents. I’m sure we’ll look back and see how we could have done better, but I pray regularly for God’s grace to get me through this adventure with children who serve him! Sports, friends, looking just right, family, work…the list of firsts goes on. But one thing I can tell you is that very few of the young people that we spend time with have any sort of understanding of a Christ-centered life. Reading, praying and serving are often simple inconveniences in their “Christian” life. I desire to 2. Model for my children what it looks like to live for Christ.

Finally, when we treat our kids like they’re the center of the universe, they grow up acting like they are. It sounds a little simple and a little crazy at the same time. I’m sure there aren’t many people who consciously think this, but a great many act like it. When parents do everything they can for their children out of “love” they rob their children of experience, work ethic and humility. Have you noticed it too? Every teacher, coach, boss, parent (everyone) should work to make their life “better.” I so badly want to 3. Help my children develop a Biblical, eternal worldview.

As someone who hears what tweens, teenagers and young adults are saying when you, their parents, are not around, please (I’m begging you and joining you) teach your child:

What God’s grace is all about,

God’s Word and

How to serve others.

 

 

On Mothering: My convictions

Disclaimer: As I share some of my parenting philosophies, please understand that I’m not determining that other methods are wrong. I simple have found this to be right for us, for now!

I have said all along that I personally think that I don’t like either end of the parenting spectrum. This is why:

I feel like Attachment Parenting lends toward a lack of healthy independence when children are ready because parents tend to go all the way. I like many things about it but I personally think people miss opportunities to move to the next step. Do you know what I mean? For example, wearing a baby is a beautiful thing and something that people have done for centuries, which matters very much to me. I think many people wear their children to often for to long and their children often miss out on developing some independence and skills. I hope I’m being clear here. I’m just not comfortable with the extent of dependence and pace of skill development in the all-in AP families I know.

On the other hand, I think that detached or cry it out or Ferber (whatever!) methods are convenient so that children fit into our busy Western lifestyle. I personally feel like it’s a little severe to expect infant to quickly adjust to life in this fast-paced culture. What it comes down to is that I feel selfish demanding a rigid schedule and such from my little one. My pastor said it wisely when he described an idol we have in our western culture. It has as face. We hang it on our wall and refer to it frequently. We completely arrange our lives around it. The clock can rule our lives and I tend to want to rebel. In fact, the only clock displayed in my house is the one on my stove. I just refuse to rush around like crazy! While I do try and teach children to respect others by being punctual etc, I feel that a lack of rigidity in our schedule has created more flexible, easy-going children: even little miss screams-a-lot.

Whew! It is so difficult to open myself up for criticism by writing all of this down. But I’m beginning to feel a certain freedom in remembering that it is the Lord and His grace that makes my house stand and the only one I need to please with my parenting!

On strong-willed children and the like

Today I was writing in a journal, a luxury I rarely get. Here are some thoughts I thought I’d share concerning the temperaments of my children. People have been classifying them as of late. You know: good, bad, wild, calm, smart, trouble…those kinds of things. Needless to say, I’m not a fan.

The truth is: yes my children are different. But they were both formed by the same loving Creator with unique personalities.

They are both corrupted by the same sin-nature and they are both in need of Christ’s redemptive work on the cross.

What saddens me: Because my son demanded less of me, he received less of me. less nursing, less cuddling, less holding – he was easy. But is that really the way babies should be cared for? Just because he played so well by himself, how wish I would have just held him more.

Maybe God made him to be a more introverted soul in order to appreciate deep, meaningful relationships with others. Maybe he will be exceptional at taking the hand of those in need of fellowship or discipleship . Maybe as he grows in wisdom, what little he’ll say will lead many along on the narrow road.

Yes, my daughter pushes the boundaries. She tests the limits and explores every nook and cranny. What if one day she instead pushes the church around her to test what is truly Biblical? What if she tests the limits of what culture says she can do with the Word for instruction and faith, grace and love as her tools? What if she explores every avenue to seek out lost souls to be taken into he heart and home and thereby into His fold.

I feel that her outgoing nature is no more of a weakness than his introverted nature. She may struggle with obvious sings, while he struggles with secret sins…Of course I would hope none of this for my children and this is why I pray for God to grant me the grace to see how to disciple my children.

In a world where raising young ones is about managing behavior (appearances really), I desire that God would use me to cultivate the inward person of the heart to be something beautiful. That all of my children would walk with Him and glorify him with their lives…no matter the cost.

I have an odd sense of peace about all of this…The thought of my children suffering for Jesus’ sake raises a pain I my chest, but also a peace and joy that the Father would be their first love…

Can any of you relate? Do you understand? I want my children’s personalities to be seen as a gift from God that they can offer back to him, not a stumbling block. They will have enough of those in this life.

Submission: What It Is and What It Isn’t

Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. – Eph 5:24 ESV

This scripture ignites controversy, frustration and/or confusion in many circles. I would love to explain to you why it ignites joy within me. No matter how many times I’ve thought through this post, I still come to my keyboard and think, “Where do I start?” Do I assure those with fears of the “s” word that it’s not something terrible? Do I bring to light the beautiful comparisons made in Scripture as to what submission really is? Maybe I’ll do it all at the same time…Well, here goes.

As much as I love writing, this one may come out a little scatter-brained. But try as I might, I cannot think orderly. My passionate desire to women in thriving, healthy marriages just gets me in a tizzy. I will say this, if you’re tired of reading or you disagree with me, please read the last two paragraphs as they summarize why I believe these statements are true.

What it’s not: Submission is not slavery. Submitting to your husband does not mean you are like hired help. You’re not being asked to do as your told, with no say in all manner of housework, cooking and intimacy.

What it is: Submission requires humility. The position of wife-hood was not created for commanding around. It was made for helping the husband though. (Gen 2:20-23) In the instructions for the church in Romans 12, Paul instructs not to think of ourselves higher than we ought to. If we are not serving our husbands out of humility than we are serving in a selfish manner, which will always lead to resentment.

What it’s not: Submission is not biased against women. 1 Peter 3 says to be “subject to your own husbands”. This means that your husband is your authority, but every other man is not. God did not make women less important, less smart or less useful than men. He did make us different: different but equal. You are not for other men, you are for your husband.

Nic and I on our 5th anniversary trip!

Nic and I on our 5th anniversary trip!

What it is: Healthy submission in marriage sees the reality of just two people working together toward one goal. You get plenty of say, but he calls the shots. It is what God made you for: mutual submission. Honestly in my marriage, IF we are both spending time in the Word and in prayer, there are very few instances in which we would disagree. In such cases though, my job is to support him whether or not I think it’s best. This means all the way through: standing by him and helping him recover if it was the wrong choice without a “told you so” attitude. Conversely our husbands are to try and make wise decisions, protect and provide for us.

What it’s not: The kingship of your husband. I know this is similar to my first point, but I want to point out the best part; the part that makes it all work. Your husband is under the authority of God and His church, and so are you. He does not have the last word. There are a few instances in which one’s responsibility to obey God’s Word may conflict with one’s husbands life choices. You are not there to help him along in His sin, especially when it means you are disobeying the Lord. When this is confusing (which it quickly does when you’re in the midst of it), a healthy dose of church discipline should be in order. Seek wise counsel.

What it is: A covenant to follow him as he follows Christ. Your marriage should never be about either one of you. It should always be about Christ. Having said that, I realize you may not be married to a man who knows the Lord. In which case, your (very difficult) task is to follow the Lord as you submit to your husband in order to show him what Christ has done in you. The best way for him to come to faith in grace is for you to show him grace as God has shown you.

The instructions in Scripture on marriage compare our relationship to that of Christ’s to the church. Our husbands, like Christ, are to love, provide and protect us. Whether or not that is happening, remember this my sister: Your are accountable for your actions. Not his. We are sinners married to sinners and every encounter gives us an opportunity to respond selfishly or selflessly. The more we respond selflessly, the easier it is for our husbands to get back on track when they are struggling. If we choose to respond selfishly, we can begin a cycle that can escalate into two people constantly looking out for their own way. Your way nor his way is right, but God’s way is. And God’s way brings joy.

Three Part Series on the Divided Church

The Invisible Church Split – Part I

imagecred: richardwintle via AventuresInWonderland

There is crack, a crevice almost, through many local church bodies. It splits a single congregation into two, without even the cost of a new building. While not terribly financially wasteful in most cases, it is a fissure that is always very costly…

Join me over at theBELLAred for a three part discussion on generational divisions within the church.

Click here to read more!

Diet Dilemma: When the Processed Foods Are Free

As many of you know, my husband and I recently moved to a “new” community. (In actuality my husband to a job at one of the churches I attended as a child; you can read more about that here.)

image by Feasting At Home

Being the kind of folks they are, the church threw a pantry party for us to get us started. They had mentioned my gluten allergy in the church bulletin announcement, so most of what we received was gluten free!

The dilemma: Very little of the food could be classified as “real food”…

My question: What to do?! What to do?!

We are all at different places when it comes to the food we choose to eat. For those of us on a real food journey, we have become concerned with the quality of our food and what we’re actually putting in our bodies. Considering this, many non-perishable goods can be a nightmare!

Image by lotsawords

So what’s a girl to do? The way I see it, I have 3 choices:

1: Stick up my nose. (Refuse to eat it and find it a new home: food bank, garbage can etc.)

2: Open Wide. (Just eat it)

3: Open my Heart. (Serve everything I can to my family and share as much as possible.)

I personally feel that (trying to stay Biblically minded) being ungrateful enough to reject the food would dishonor the One who provided it more than putting some processed foods into my body. I separated out the gluten-free stuff and narrowed the pile down to mostly canned goods and a few boxed side dishes. The fact is most of the people who step inside my home couldn’t care less what kind of food they get as long as it tastes good.

Do I want to set a higher standard (even for unknowing guests?) YES! Is that an excuse for wastefulness or ungratefulness? Absolutely not.

In the end, I am so blessed to be a par of this community. Their generosity touches my heart! I am thankful for all of the effort they put into welcoming us, even remembering my special dietary needs.

 Where are you at in your real-food journey? Is it even a consideration for you? Or are you at a place where you are tempted to let your high standards trump your duty to love people?