Friday, April 19, 2013

Equipped in Times of Fear

(This is a picture posted by Proverbs 31 Ministries on Facebook yesterday.)


"Bombs went off at the Boston Marathon today." I heard my friend's voice inform me of the horrific tragedy. My fingers fumbled to turn the television on. The footage left me in disbelief.

There must have been children involved was my first thought. While never in Boston, we have gathered as a family numerous times as spectators for Chicago. Immediately my mind went to the people watching on the sidelines that make the race complete. How could anyone do this? It's just evil.

I was careful to shelter my children from the news of the day. It's difficult enough as an adult to take in the capacity of evil people can possess. How could I expose my children to it? I had to force myself to quit watching the replay of images. They are etched in my mind. My heart truly aches for those involved.

The way information is presented has a way of shaping our outlook on the future. Everything in me wants to protect my children from this type of news. However, I have learned the importance of educating my girls firsthand. If I don't give them the initial information, someone else will with a spin difficult to combat. We know it was our responsibility to be our children's first informers. This was confirmed by my 5th grade daughter following the school shootings in Newtown, Connecticut. "I wasn't as scared when people talked about it because you and dad had already told me."

As our family sat down to dinner Monday night, we made the decision to prepare our children for possible unfiltered conversations they may encounter. "People were hurt today... we do not need to live in fear... the only way to protect against evil is with God..." It's difficult to talk to children 10 and under about these things. At the same time, I realize I am unable to protect them from every evil. It's only knowing God that allows me to send them out into the world each day. I am not entrusting my children to the world. I'm entrusting them to God. Even that is difficult for me some days.

I really can understand how people live this life paralyzed with fear. Without God's Word, I am certain that would be my fate. Maybe that is why I felt such sadness as I read Amos 8:11-12 this past week. "The days are coming," declares the Sovereign Lord, "when I will send a famine through the land - not a famine of food or a thirst for water, but a famine of hearing the words of the Lord. Men will stagger from sea to sea and wander from north to east, searching for the Word of the Lord, but they will not find it." I realize all Scripture needs to be read in context and this is probably referring to the spoken words of prophets in that day. However, I cannot fathom what I would do without the Bible. It is the source of my hope and strength and the reason I can carry on. It's also the only way I know to encourage my children.

As I listened to the President speak at the prayer service for Boston yesterday, I couldn't help but think about the power Scripture plays in my life. I don't know how well the President knows the Bible verses he used or if he truly understands the words he shared or not. For me, however, the two verses he chose are powerful anchors in my life. 2 Timothy 1:7 tells us that "God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline." It's a verse I have used to empower my children as well. Still, verse 8 cannot be missed. "So do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord..."

Part of Hebrews 12:1-3 was also quoted (see that in bold). "Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race [God has] set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne. Think of all the hostility he endured from sinful people; then you won’t become weary and give up." While I am often encouraged in the many races I participate in by this verse, the one Paul is referring to is the life of following after Jesus. We need to keep our eyes on eternity and what matters.

One thing is certain: there is power in God's Word. I cannot imagine life without God's Truth to cling to. It is my source of hope and strength. During times like these, this is the only anchor I know to have my family and I securely clinging to. There is more fear in my heart when I think of no longer hearing God's Word than there will ever be due to evil. I am so thankful God has equipped us with the Bible in times of fear.
 
“I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid." - John 14:27

"So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. For I am the Lord your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you." - Isaiah 41:10, 13

What is your source of comfort in times like these?

Thursday, April 18, 2013

No More Perfect Meals

(Today is the Third Thursday of the month. Time for the Hearts at Home Home Blog Hop! This month's topic: No More Perfect Meals. Head over to Jill's blog to see what other women have to say.)

Ideally, dinnertime would be a picture of my family gathered around the dining room table for a well-balanced meal that I had planned long in advance. The reality is that I rarely know what I am going to serve before the whining declarations of hunger are directed my way. Tonight for example, I asked my husband to pick up cheap pizza on his way home from work. When my brain could hardly manage the task of placing the order, I knew the right decision was made.

I surround myself with friends who make meal plans and freeze a month’s worth of dinners ahead of time. Other friends choose a healthy lifestyle without options of fast food or cereal for dinner. For myself, I’ve found I need to give myself some grace and just do the best I can with today.

Tonight, I had planned on eating breakfast for dinner. We are low on groceries and I had no desire to head out to the store in torrential downpours resulting in area wide flooding. Happy with the fact that I had a plan, I began to do some serious spring cleaning in my daughters’ bedroom.

Just before lunchtime, an unplanned play date came our way. The pounding storms had brought my friends a basement full of water when their sump pump quit working along with other unexpected damage. Taking their child for a few hours was the least I could do to help. With limited food on hand, I offered options to our young guest. With pancakes now on our lunch menu (after I had eaten French toast for breakfast), I no longer had a desire to eat breakfast again when dinner came around.

It’s due to my lack of planning that I feel crummy from our meal of convenience. At the end of the day, I would have preferred meat and vegetables that left me feeling good about my dinner choices. However, I feel wonderful that I was able to step in and help a friend out in her time of need.

As my family sat together around the dinner table this evening, I looked into my girls eyes as they listened intently to their daddy’s story from his college days. I realize it’s not the food that matters. It’s the time together that counts.

I’ll continue to strive for better. There will also be a part of me that wants to fuel our bodies with nutritious meals every time. I will always welcome tips to help me plan meals and reduce the stress of the dinner hour. Most importantly, I will need to remember to extend myself some grace.

It’s unlikely that we will eat a nutritious meal I am pleased with every night. However, when I’m settling on something less than the best to get through the evening because we are helping others, I can go to bed satisfied. While I may never get meal time right before our kids grow up and move out, I hope they will always know it is the relationships that matter.

 

Monday, April 15, 2013

Building Community

I really believe that one of the worst seasons in life to be in is one where you are looking for a church home. It would be nice if we could walk into the doors of a church and feel welcomed right away but who really does? We don’t know where to go or what to do and all we want is a friend. It’s all a bit awkward. I mean who wants to feel as if they don’t belong?

About 15 years ago, my husband and I hesitantly set out in search of a new community. Like a wounded animal from the most painful experience in my life to that date, I guarded my heart from any further injury. While I dug my heels in, the man God gave me was adamant that finding a new church was important for us. I am so grateful he pushed us forward.

For quite some time, I wouldn’t allow anyone to get past the walls I built up in my life. This way, I wouldn’t have to experience the deep pain inflicted on me by others. At the same time, I would never be able to taste the essence of community the way God intended it to be. Over time, I began to realize it was time to let God soften my heart of stone. As long as I remained cold to those God placed in my life, I was the one responsible for my pain.

Slowly, I began to accept invitations. I’ve learned I can trust again. And in those moments where trust is broken, I get back up again. The search for a new community was not fun but it was the best thing we ever did! If you are searching, don't give up. A church operating the way God intended it to be is well worth the effort!

This year, I’m taking another step toward building my community. I’m hosting an (in)RL meetup in my home. If you are looking for community, you're welcome to join mine! Here is the link for more information on the conference as well as registration: http://www.incourage.me/inrl. (It's free!) You can find the information on our meetup here: http://www.meetup.com/incouragemeetups/.
 

 
You won't want to miss it!
 

 

 

 

 

 

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

The Ministry of Availability (No More Perfect Days)

“In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps.” – Proverbs 16:9
 
I am not much of a list maker. To me, it feels a lot like scrubbing the dishes just before loading them into the dishwasher to start it. Why spend the extra time making the list when one can just delve in and tackle it head on?

Many embrace the freedom a to-do list allows their mind. I’ve been told that crossing items off as the day wears on brings satisfaction. With today being one of those days (booked from the moment my feet hit the floor until I could bury myself under my covers before entering dreamland once again), I decided to prepare by itemizing my agenda.
 
Everything was set to go for today’s Science Fair presentation my daughter spent months preparing for. Unfortunately, I forgot to put happy bellies on my list. Amazed at the calm with which God filled me, I took my daughter’s declaration of queasiness in stride.
 
Nikelle’s stomach often wreaks havoc with our mornings. The key is to minimize her stress. Immediately, she began to work herself up into a tizzy. Inevitably, if she was sick, her favorite part of this experience would be missed. I assured her that we could be late to school. (After all, now that the usual bus ride was no longer an option, we had to drive her sister to school anyway. “Drive girls to school” was not going to be successfully scratched off my list… at least not on time anyway!)

Recently, some friends and I discussed the chapter No More Perfect Days from Jill Savage’s new book, No More Perfect Moms. I highlighted the words “Ask God for help. Tell Him, ‘Here’s what I planned. Help me to deal graciously with however it really turns out.” It was time for some application of what I had learned.

(On a side note, I couldn’t help but work to fight off the thought that life was a lot simpler with only one child. It’s not a desire to go back to the good old days. It’s simply an observation in light of today’s circumstances.)
 
I nudged my middle child into her class as my youngest insisted on her urgency to use the bathroom. My oldest was now outside the front doors of the school gagging into the plastic grocery bag I had handed her “just in case”. Asking my 7-year-old to show my 4-year-old the bathroom, I attended to my 10-year-old. After making certain she was fine, I checked in on the younger one only to find her demanding my help in the bathroom. I don’t know how many times I ran back and forth down that hallway but I am certainly grateful for the staff at Eisenhower Academy.
 
Once everything calmed down, I helped my oldest set up her display. Assured by the teachers that it was ok to let her stay for the science fair (with the promise that I would return promptly to be certain this was not the stomach flu), I ran across town to drop the youngest off at preschool. I made a quick phone call to cancel my morning plans and took some deep breaths. To-do lists rarely cooperate with me.
 
I don’t find it to be a coincidence that the Bible study homework I had just completed last night applied to my life today. “What decision involving change in your life is God nudging you to make?” I wrote the answer “homemaker” knowing full well that God has been speaking to me on this very topic. It’s more than being a stay-at-home mom or even cleaning house and making meals. I need to make myself more available to my husband and daughters. For me, this simply means a little more consideration for others.
 
Jill Savage writes “Ministry for Jesus was the person standing in front of Him, regardless of whether that interaction was planned or spontaneous.” For the moment, my daughter needed me to do whatever it took to help her present her project. While I had everything worked out to attend my Bible study and take care of necessary errands, plans need to be flexible. “Motherhood is the ministry of availability” and it was time to make sure my child knew she came before my agenda.

Nikelle made it through the school day with no more incidents involving her stomach. She ate her lunch and came home chatting happily about her day. Whether or not she is aware of the sacrifice I made today or will remember years down the road is not even the issue. This was a test of obedience. Of that I am certain. It feels good to say “yes” to God’s calling.



 “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourself. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 2:3-5
 
“Then Jesus said to His disciples, ‘If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” – Matthew 16:24

 

 

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Getting off the Tilt-A-Whirl


Will, me, my dad, Trent & Traci on the Tilt-A-Whirl


My Saturday started with meeting a group of friends for some hill training for next week’s 10K race. I came home to a messy house and children still in their pajamas. (One child was technically “dressed for the day” but that’s because she fell asleep in her clothes last night and we didn’t have the heart to change her into “appropriate sleep attire”.) My husband was playing Star Wars Wii with our middle daughter. The youngest of our three was playing nicely while the oldest poured a bowl of cereal for breakfast at 10:30 in the morning.

The peacefulness of our morning was exemplified by our family pet. Our dog has a way of relaxing completely only when the entire family is at home. She welcomes me at the garage door with the playfulness of a puppy even though her near-14-year-old body can’t keep up with her spirit. In my eyes, this is an ideal Saturday with nothing beckoning on the calendar.  So why is it I’m whispering a prayer to God of “Help me to be content here at home”?
 
Energizer captures the picture of our lives with their bunny that just keeps going and going and going. We are used to running. It appears this is the model for living… to do just a little more… get a little bit further ahead… or someone will get ahead of you. This is a problem. It’s been my obstacle anyway (at least recently).
 
My mind cannot process any thought to fill the pages of this blog. The stress in our home corresponds directly to my anxiety. “When momma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy” was phrased for a reason. I’ve been gaining weight, relationships feel out-of-whack and quality time with my Lord and Savior has become leftovers rather than first fruits.
 
As a highly competitive human being, I don’t want to be left behind. I am a natural-born leader and I embrace my role. However, I have heard God whispering to me that my life needs to slow down. He created the Sabbath rest for me. It’s a bit sad that life has had to spin like a toy top dizzying my every thought before I’ve taken the time to stop and listen to Him. Thankfully, my God is patient.
 
Why I always think my thoughts are perfect is baffling. I grab hold of the steering wheel of this road trip of life only to realize I’m not that great with directions. It’s amazing what God can do when I allow Him to have the driver’s seat. I need to give up control. It’s a daily battle.
 
There is a giant X marked through my Saturday today for a reason. We are going to live life differently. It’s time to embrace God’s instructions. That’s why I’m whispering prayers for God to renew my thoughts and transform my desires.
 
We cannot continue to think we are infallible when we live life like riding non-stop on a Tilt-A-Whirl. Eventually we will get sick. Today is intentionally crossed out on my calendar. Just as we cannot read the words on a page clearly without margin,our lives need white space.
 
I’m not stuck on a specific day for Sabbath rest. I’m aware of the reality that a time-out in our week is an ideal. Some weeks and months it will get messed up. As far as it relies on me, however, this household is going to live with margin. We will rest. Others may get ahead of us in the process, but I’m keeping my eyes on the goal. I’m trusting my Creator knows best when it comes to my life. The Sabbath is His gift to me. Today I am asking Him to help me embrace it.
 
I don’t know how many times it’s going to take before I learn to the practice of margin in my life consistently. Right now, hide-and-seek, tickle monster and a slow-paced day are playing out around me.  This is the beauty of a Sabbath.
 
How are you intentional to get consistent rest in your life?

 
 
"By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done." - Genesis 2:2
 
"Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy." - Exodus 20:8-11