Thursday, December 31, 2009

Word to the Wise

Have you ever been stung by someone’s words?  Every time it happens to me it is harder than I remember. I hate being hurt. I can remember certain times when I was spoken to with a less than loving word that have stayed with me for years.  It happened again just yesterday.  And it hurts.  Even after forgiveness those words and the hurt they caused don’t go away.

Today I’ve been wondering how many times I have made someone feel crushed by my words.  Chances are – a lot.  I talk way too much.  I speak without thinking. That is not wise. Words are powerful.  The things that come out of my mouth have consequences.  The ones closest to me take the brunt of my quick tongue.  I often let frustration, anger or sadness have their way and come out in the form of a rude comment or harsh word.

I was just telling the kids about an object lesson I saw in Sunday School years ago.  Dylan was chosen to come up front. Bev handed him a tube of toothpaste and told him to empty it into a bowl. After he was done, she asked him to put it back in.  He gave her a helpless look.

Impossible right?  Because as easy as it squeezes out, once it’s out it’s out to stay.  There’s nothing that can be done to put it back in. That’s how it is with words.  They quickly roll off the tongue, but once they are out they can’t be taken back. 

I need to learn to let my words be few or at least fewer. 

Ecclesiastes 5:2-3

Do not be quick with your mouth,

do not be hasty in your heart

to utter anything before God.

God is in heaven

and you are on earth,

so let your words be few.

As a dream comes when there are many cares,

so the speech of a fool when there are many words.

Now that a lot of my communication is over email and Facebook, I also need to watch what I type.  People reading email can’t hear my tone or see my body language.   It’s easy to type a quick response without thinking of the implications because you are not looking the person in the face.  Some are people I never see and haven’t seen in more than ten years.  But I “talk” to them all the time.

Today while I am hurt over words spoken to me, I am remembering all the words I have spoken.  Were they spoken out of love?  Were the spoken to build others up?  Were they spoken in haste?

The problem is deeper than my quick tongue.  The things that easily roll off my tongue are born in my heart.  I have ugly attitudes and thoughts down there in the depths.  How am I supposed to control that?  Jesus addressed this when he was on earth.

Matthew 12:34-37

You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good?  For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks.  The good many brings good things out of the good stored up in him.  But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken.  For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.


I need to slow down my tongue and fingers.  Words are powerful.  They can be used for great hurt or great encouragement.  They can be used to tear down or build up.  No matter how hard I work at it, sometimes I will use my words to hurt.  I will use my words for revenge.  I will snap back out of impatience. I am thankful that when I fail, God is faithful to forgive me.  He helps me forgive others who hurt me.

I don’t want my family and friends to think of me and remember hurtful things I’ve said.  I want them to know that I love them.  I want them to know I am their biggest fan.  I want them to be encouraged.

But more importantly I need to Christ to change my heart.  If my heart is soft and filled with His love, the things that pour out of my mouth and keyboard will be filled with love and grace. 


Psalm 19:14

May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart

be pleasing in your sight,

O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.

Proverbs 16:23

A wise man’s heart guides his mouth,

and his lips promote instruction.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Resolved To Hope

I love Christmas and am always happy to see it come.  But I’m even happier to see it go.  By the time we make it through the marathon month of parties, programs, baking, shopping and travelling I’m ready to get the tree put away and get on with life.  I’m ready to bury the past year and look forward to a new one.

I’m not that eager to make new year’s resolutions though, because I know I won’t keep them.  I always have the same ones.  I am going to get organized.  I am going to exercise and eat right.  I am going to lose the baby weight since the baby is almost three.  I am going to keep my house clean.  I am going to make the most of each day.  I am going to be a better wife and mom.  In other words, I am going to be perfect. 

The stores certainly understand what we wish for by putting all their rubbermaid storage bins and treadmills up front and on sale.  I don’t think there is anything wrong with making resolutions.  The problem is that we’ll never be able to get to that place of perfection. 

A new year and a new start is the time for hope.  Hope is the heartbeat of the continual desire to be more and have a fresh start.  We long for a better future.  We hope. 

Hope is part of how God made us.  We desire the perfection that he created us for.  Perfection that is not of this world now tainted with sin. 

Romans 8:20-25

For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. 

We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.  Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.  For in this hope we were saved.  But hope that is seen is no hope at all.  Who hopes for what he already has?  But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.

All our cravings and desires that we write down on the first of the year are really looking for Christ.  He is Hope.  He brought hope to this world at Christmas but by New Year’s we are looking for it in the exercise or organization aisle at Target.  We can’t find it there.

Christ put hope in us when he made us. 

Colossians 1:27

To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.

We can only find it in Him. We can find hope in knowing that someday we will have it all for eternity.  If you are looking for it anywhere else you will be disappointed.  I will be disappointed around January second or third that I was unable to keep my resolutions again.  But I’ll never be disappointed in the hope of Christ and the peace that brings.

At the top of my list for 2010 is to hope in the right thing.  The One that will bring hope to my life every day, whether I’m getting up and exercising or not.  Whether my house has all the toys in place in their little plastic boxes.  Whether I have a bad day and am not the best mom.  Christ offers hope despite all my imperfections. 

If you don’t know the hope of Christ, make that your resolution for 2010.  He is waiting for you with open arms full of love and hope. 

Lamentations 3:19-23

I remember my affliction and my wandering,

the bitterness and the gall.

I well remember them,

and my soul is downcast within me.

Yet this I call to mind

and therefore I have hope:

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,

for his compassions never fail.

They are new every morning;

great is your faithfulness.


Saturday, December 26, 2009

Place of Honor

I try not to brag about my kids.  It seems like when I write about them, I’m usually highlighting their less than stellar moments.  But I have great kids: they are talented and smart, fun and cute.  They get excellent grade and are nice to others.  I’m definitely proud of them.

Last week piano recitals and programs at school and church highlighted the point.  I was happy with the progress on their piano skills, despite the agonizing pain of having to practice every day.  It was fun to see them sing and play their instruments in the school program.  Grant really did a great job drumming in the elementary band.  He’s only been playing since September.  I thought I would have a royal headache!

On Christmas Eve, Grant and Jenna were going to play their piano duet.  Jenna decided she didn’t want to, so Grant played by himself.  It’s easy to only promote the kids’ outward skills and talents.  Excelling in school can become the most important thing.  Talents are great to have and I’m glad they are using them.  It’s nice to have them in a place of honor, all shiny and talented, sharing it with others.  But, it’s way to easy to become more concerned about what they do than who they are.   

Christmas Eve was very snowy here.  We had to shovel our way into the school our church rents.  Mike had Grant and Jenna bring their shovels.  They happily worked together to shovel the stairs and sidewalk.  They salted it generously.  They worked hard.  No one saw them do it, except me.  No one thanked them.  They didn’t say, “But we are on the worship team.  We shouldn’t have to do THIS job!” 

Shoveling snow is not a normal place of honor.  It seems unusual that I would look back on those moments with more pride than watching them play or sing in front of people.  But in God’s eyes, there is no higher place of honor than service.  Who they are is way more important than what they do.

Jesus washes the feet of his disciples to prove this point.  It’s the lowest job, for the lowest servant.  He says,

“You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord’, and rightly so, for that is what I am.  Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet.  I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.  I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him.  Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.”  John 13:13-17


If only more people could see it.  Letting go of their rights and being willing to do anything, even when you don’t have to.  There will be costs.  People will think they are strange, people will take advantage.  It’s not a message this world understands, but Jesus continually lived and taught it.


My kids taught me a valuable lesson on Christmas Eve. I went about my job that night of taking off and then re-hanging all the lost and found garments on the coat rack we use with a different attitude.  It’s tedious and I like to grumble to myself while I do it.  Maybe it was a Christmas miracle, but I could see it through Jesus’ eyes that night thanks to them.

The true place of honor is service. There is honor in humility.  And I couldn’t be prouder of them.

John 12:25-26

The man who loves his life will lose it, while the many who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.  Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant will also be.  My Father will honor the one who serves me.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Great Expectations

After waiting many long weeks Christmas morning finally arrived. We spent time shopping and thinking about what everyone would like. We spent a lot of time wrapping presents last night. After everything was opened one of our kids (who shall remain nameless), started crying and angrily yelled, "You are meanies!" Apparently she didn't get everything she wanted. That was just the reaction we were looking for.

The problem is that you cannot possibly get everything you wanted when you wanted everything. Again, who can blame them? All the hype, commercials, catalogs and people asking them what they want just causes them to dream. And in America we teach our kids to dream big. Nothing you can imagine is impossible.

Some things are impossible. Some dreams are too big. Even if we had the money, we still would not buy them everything their hearts desire.

After my initial frustration with the lack of thankfulness I actually felt like I could understand. I have high expectations of holidays too. I dream of my house to be perfectly decorated and clean and beautiful food on the table. I'd love for my kids to be dressed nicely and have combed hair. I want to wow my kids with their gifts. I want it to be a perfect, gleaming day of joy and happiness.

Sometimes the kids are still naughty. The food may not be perfect. Sometimes the house is messy or there's a blizzard preventing you from seeing family. Maybe your family gets sick or the present doesn't work out. Does that make it a bad Christmas? or a bad life?

Having it all is a lie. I think that's why so many people are disillusioned with life. We all build up impossible expectations. That was a big problem in my marriage and parenting. I thought it would all live up to my dreams and it doesn't. Just like the presents under the tree won't be perfect either.

That's not a bad thing. In my imperfection and failures, I've found peace. I don't think the answer is to lower our expectations and give up on joy. The answer is to give up our desires to Christ. The answer is to put Him first. After that everything else is filtered through his grace and peace.

As we have imperfect Christmases and days, I want my kids to learn that it's not about the outcome. The key to joy and peace that we can't understand is in Christ. He is peace. He came to bring us peace.

Isaiah 9:6
For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Micah 5:4-5
He will stand and shepherd his flock
in the strength of the LORD,
in the majesty of the name of the LORD his God.
And they will live securely, for then his greatness
will reach to the ends of the earth. And he will be their peace.

John 14:27
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

John 16:33
"I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."

When you believe and live that, the details don't matter. A blizzard or the flu can't ruin Christmas. Not getting the gift you wanted doesn't mean a temper tantrum. Joy and peace don't come in a package or in family or food or lights. Joy and peace are always flowing from Christ. He is the source and it is always available from him in good times and not so good times too.

That's the best Christmas gift we can get. It's the best gift we can give. The joy and peace of Christ that, despite the odds and trials of this world, results in perfection.

Romans 14:17-18
For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and approved by men.

Romans 15:13
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Galatians 5:22-23
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Little Angel

We had our Christmas program.  Maren wasn’t exactly in tune with what was going on.  First, she got one of these from the fun, crafty lady at church.

christmasblog 007

She opened it and was concentrating so hard on getting each little MnM out of the bag.  Eventually one would pop out and roll away.  She would happily scurry after it and eat it right off the floor of the school our church meets in.  I’m sure it’s really clean.  That kept her busy for a while.

Then the program started and she was no little angel.  She took her shoes off, but she wasn’t the only one.  She stood in place for about five seconds, which I thought was pretty good.

christmasblog 012

Then she sat down, went up to the top of the risers by Jenna, sat with me, and  looked at the instruments in the basket.  Up, down, all around.

christmasblog 010 christmasblog 011 christmasblog 008

She finally decided to get in the game after it was over.  She even wore her hair bling.

christmasblog 013

Even in her flame red dress with a personality to match, she’ll always be our little angel.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Crabby About Christmas

It’s the most wonderful time of the year…blah, blah, blah!  I thought so but there is kind of a lot of stuff to do.  It is actually stressful and busy and exhausting.  I have not been in the jolliest of moods this month.  And it wasn’t all due to the fact that we had a week long stomach bug. 

The problem is that I’m a control freak.  I never thought I was but I do want everything done my way.  It’s made me unable to enjoy a lot of things this Christmas.

Like when we got our Christmas tree.  It was a long day.  I didn’t get enough sleep.  Maren was a bear to deal with.  I had to run back and forth to school activities.  I had to run my bus route of four year olds to school.  I had a meeting that Maren came along to.  You can probably guess how well that went.  There were some other stupid things I was stewing about.  I got home in time for her to throw a royal fit until the bus delivered all four kids.  Mike drove in the drive way at the exact same time.

He came in an announced we were going to get our Christmas tree.  I was thinking, “Now?  Are you insane?”  I begrudgingly got my boots on and went along.

christmasblog 002

We found a tree the Griswold way.  Nothing really went according to plan.  We ended up buying one out of a guy’s front yard.  I tried to help with the straps just to be a good sport.


christmasblog 003


We got home and I started making the supper I never had a chance to make while they trimmed it and brought it in; pine needles and dirty boots everywhere.  I was so annoyed with everything that I could not enjoy the evening.  I was snapping at the kids and pouting while struggling with my chicken.

Part of my problem is that our family adventures never live up to how I envision them to be.  I’d like to have a clean house and head out happily together.  I’d like to plan ahead the night we are going to do the tree and have soup in the crock pot waiting for us.  I’d like to have homemade hot cocoa and cookies while we merrily decorate the tree. 

Because of the way I wish things would happen, I was missing how they were happening.  The kids were having a ball helping get the tree to stand up straight.  They loved getting out all their ornaments.  Maren especially was thrilled.  Last year we were probably keeping her far away from everything.  She shrieked with joy at every little decoration.

When I went to check the chicken at 6:30 it still wasn’t done.  The kids were practicing their piano and wrestling at the same time.  The ornaments were clustered too close together.  One of them dropped and shattered into pieces.  The tree is still a little crooked.


Christmasblog 031


I guess that’s how tree decorating night goes when you have little kids. 

Everyone wanted to help me wrap presents for my Sunday school kids.  I wanted to do it by myself.  I was in a hurry because I was doing it Sunday morning.  I wanted them to look pretty because preschoolers care about stuff like that.

I had help rolling out sugar cookies.  They are my favorite.  I didn’t want help.  They were too thick and too thin.  There were mounds of frosting on each one.  While Annie was rolling cookies, she said, “I am having so much fun, Mommy!”

I was looking forward to some peace and quiet in my kitchen last night.  We had everyone in bed, but someone magically reappeared.  So I had a chatty helper while making the birthday cinnamon rolls. She cut them all with thread and unwrapped a bunch of candy for me. 

cinnamon rolls

christmasblog 017

christmasblog 024

It was kind of nice to have the company.

Sometimes I need to learn to let go and just enjoy the moments even if they aren’t planned out or perfect.  It doesn’t change one thing to be crabby about it.  It still needs to get done.  The house will get messy anyway like it always is. The cookies and rolls may not be perfect and it may not get done in peace but there will be plenty of happy mouths eating them.

I don’t want them to remember a crabby and crazed mom trying to get it all done and done right.  I don’t want them to remember never being able to help.  I don’t want them to remember always being told no or wait because I’m busy making this the perfect Christmas for you.  I don’t want them to remember getting in trouble for making a mess. 

It’s silly to get uptight about everything.  Christmas will come and go.  No one will remember the cookies or the tree or the nice wrapping on the presents.  I want them to remember doing things together and having fun.  I want them to treasure time spent over cookie dough and tree ornaments.  I want us to laugh about our Christmas tree expeditions. I hope I remember the important things this year and enjoy every minute.

Stocking Stuffer

Eleven years ago today we got an early Christmas present.


Our stocking was full and so were our hearts. 

Christmasblog 039

Happy Birthday Grant!  You are a blessing that has knocked our socks off!


James 1:17

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

On Winning and Losing

It was pretty shocking to see “Wrenshall” on my Yahoo News ticker. I didn’t believe it. My little town of 350 people in the headlines? When I clicked on the links to this story and this one, I read about our girls high school basketball team and their 65-0 loss.

I had to wonder why would a news agency do a story on that? To embarrass our team or our town?

Our society is obsessed with winning. Whatever it takes, you better win. Hollywood turns out tear jerker movies about the underdog that comes back to be victorious above all odds. In the real world, some teams lose. Not every underdog comes back.

Some of the background Yahoo Sports didn’t cover was that 2 years ago our girls basketball team went to state. They were very good. The next year was rocky. Now we have a new coach and smaller classes in the high school.

Our little school has had a tough year. We had to forfeit part of the varsity football season because we didn’t have enough players. There are some small classes in the high school right now. But the numbers start to grow quickly with the younger kids. It’s typical ebb and flow in a small school

I got a first hand view of how a game like that might feel on Saturday. I’m helping with Jenna’s fourth grade basketball team. These girls have worked so hard in practice and have improved so much. We played our first of two games on Saturday and got crushed. At half time the ref asked us if we wanted to shut off the scoreboard. The girls were getting frustrated, discouraged and tired. I found myself feeling the same way. I know it’s not the most important thing but I’d sure like to see them win!

So is it worthless? Should these girls keep showing up to practice and games? Should they even continue their losing season? Is it harder to easily win by thirty or keep playing your hardest when you know you probably can’t come back?

I wonder if the reporters were surprised with what they found in Wrenshall. Let me fill you in on a few things that Yahoo Sports does not know about us.

I bet they didn’t expect to find a coach like Michelle Blanchard, who continues to show up to practice and work with these girls. She talked honestly about the tough loss and moving on saying she doesn’t even look at the score, just the improvement of the girls.

They didn’t count on players that are keeping at it. They keep practicing, working hard and getting better.

They didn’t understand how supportive our tight-knit community is.

They don’t know that when I call because my kids are sick, the secretary knows who we are and what grade the kids are in.

When I pick my kids up from school, the superintendent is in the lobby greeting people.

When there is a schedule mix-up and two teams have practice at the same time with our limited gym space, we go half court and make it work.

When there is a concert, almost the whole town comes.

There are grandparents and community members that volunteer to read with kids.

There’s a community education director that puts in way more time than she’s paid for.

A teacher’s husband passed away and every teacher went to the funeral.

There’s always someone to chat with over coffee at the Brickyard.

The person who owns the One Stop gas station knows my name and where I live, and not in a creepy way.

Is winning the most important thing? Will the girls that had a winning season be better off in life than these girls? Not necessarily. How long will they play basketball? Maybe through college. Life and work is more about commitment, hard work and improvement than the glory of winning. There is pride in those things win or lose.

So if you’re looking for me, I’ll be the one wearing my orange and black Wrenshall shirt. I am proud of the varsity team and our fourth grade team. Win or lose, they are playing with heart. And if you read the yahoo stories and think we’re just a sorry little town, think again. There is more to the story.

Friday, December 18, 2009

The Gimme’s

I can’t believe how many times I have heard my four year old say, “ I want that!”  in the last few weeks.  In some ways it is kind of cute.  How can I blame her?  There are catalogs coming in the mail, commercials on TV, people asking her what she wants.  The problem is that she could not possibly get everything she wants for Christmas.  Especially when she wants every toy on the planet. 

The other kids have their own ideas.  They are wondering if we bought anything big.  With all the talk and all the hubbub about presents, how could they not be disappointed?  What about me?  Will I be satisfied with what we are able to get them? 

I think this is one of the reasons that Christmas turns from being joyful and fun to being stressful and depressing.  I get sucked into the Gimme’s too.  It’s not so much wanting things for myself anymore.  But I desire to give everyone the perfect gift and give them presents that will make them squeal with glee.  It’s easy to spend hours shopping, charge up our credit cards, and make ourselves miserable with worry.

How do we cure the Gimme’s?

I’ve been reading a debate on Santa vs. Jesus on a forum.  Some people tell their kids to pray to Jesus that Santa will bring them what they want.  Some people don’t like Santa because he’s too commercial.  They would rather tell their kids to pray that Jesus would give their mom and dad a lot of money to buy cool toys for them.  Really?  Is that all it’s about?  Are Jesus and Santa interchangeable?  Is Jesus a big cosmic vending machine?  Can you tell I don’t agree by my sarcastic questions?

The thing is we will never be able to give our kids everything they want.  Nor should we.  Even if I had a million dollars to spend at Christmas, I wouldn’t spend it all on every single thing my kids wanted.  I’m not a scrooge.  I love giving to people.  But is that what will make our Christmas happy?  If that’s what we are putting all our hope and energy into, there will definitely be disappointment Christmas morning.

We’ve simplified a lot over the years.  We don’t buy for our adult siblings or a lot of other people we used to.  It’s not that we don’t love them.  But just having less gifts to look for, wrap, ship and pay for have taken a ton of pressure off my holidays.  I found that in doing that it really is easier to enjoy all the other wonderful parts of Christmas.

Some people don’t get caught up in commercialism, but think Christmas is all about family.  As long as we’re together Christmas is great.  What if you can’t spend Christmas with your family?  Or don’t want to?  Does it then become a bad or miserable holiday?  Don’t get me wrong, I think being with family at Christmas is one of the best things.  But this year, it is not possible for us. 

Perhaps Christmas is wonderful because of traditions.  Nativity scenes, baking, outings to see Christmas displays are some fun things we like to enjoy.  Are those really the things that make Christmas the most wonderful holiday?

Christmas is not about any of the those things.  It’s not about the perfect gift, family or traditions.  Those can all be special parts of the celebration but Christmas is about Jesus.  When he was born at Christmas, it was the beginning of God’s plan to bring salvation to all of us.  Through this little baby we would be freed from the grips of sin and brought into everlasting relationship with Christ.  He came and took the condemnation we deserve so that we can go to heaven.

Even people that know and celebrate that get carried away with all the other stuff Christmas brings.  I’ve been thinking about ways to make Christmas less about the gimme’s for my family. 

I want to try to get my kids involved in giving.  And not just buying presents for their siblings or teacher.  There are selfish motives sometimes in buying presents.  We want to look good.  We want to impress people with our wonderful gift. 

I think it’s important to realize that there are kids that will not have anything under the tree Christmas morning.  Kids we will never know.  Kids that will never know where their presents came from.  There are tons of organizations out there that could use our involvement and generosity:  toys for tots, Salvation Army, Samaritan’s Purse. 

This year, we know several families that are struggling because of job loss and other situations.  We have the opportunity to help them.  I want our family to see the value of giving to others in need.  Even if it mean there will be less presents for them.  Even if it means there will be one less gift to someone who doesn’t need anything anyway.  It’s hard to find the time, but I love it if the kids can help shop and wrap those presents.  It helps them feel the joy of giving and takes the focus off themselves.

Matthew 6:3-4

But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret.  Then your Father, who sees what is done is secret, will reward you.

Since our family is going to be alone this year, we are busily inviting other orphaned people over.  It was kind of a hard thing for me at first, but I never thought it would be so much fun.  We are looking forward to adding some new friends to our Christmas.  It’s an act of giving to plan to make it special. 

Matthew 25:44-45

They also will answer, “Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?”

He will reply, “I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.”

What is your Christmas going to look like?  What are you going to do to get over the gimme’s?

Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Details of Discontent ~ Part Five: Marriage

It’s been a struggle to write this mainly because it is painfully obvious that I am not an expert.  However, I feel I may have underestimated myself just a little. Tuesday, I spent the whole day Christmas shopping with my husband who hates to shop and spend money.  We had fun.  We didn’t disagree.  We were still married when we came home.  So it seems that maybe I am an expert after all!

Your wedding day.  The happiest day of your life.  The day you marry the love of your life, the person you cannot live without.  In the early days of marriage it is all so exciting.  The two of you taking on the world, building a life, careers, buying a home.  Then the baby years bring a new excitement, purpose and focus.  Eventually, the rubber hits the road and it gets hard.  I never thought that would happen to me. 

As the years go by,  it can become very monotonous.  The realities and pressures of career, mortgage, toddlers come crashing down.  And your spouse can become just one more person demanding your time and energy.  It can become strictly a partnership:  who’s cooking, who’s taking out the trash, and who’s driving the kids to dance.  It’s easy to start to wonder what seemed so great about getting married.

I’m just going to go ahead and say it: sometimes I am discontent with my marriage.  Shocking I know.  There are things I wish he’d do and be.  I’m sure there are things he wished I’d do and be. 

I am never going to be able to say we’ve been married thirteen or thirty years, and every day has been bliss because it hasn’t.  I know there are some couples that is probably true for, but most people who say that are lying or delusional. One night when Mike and I were having a disagreement, I couldn’t help but wonder why God would put two hardheaded people like us together.

There are some things I have learned about marriage that have totally revolutionized my perspective on it.  Marriage is not about most of the things we get married for.  No wonder there is so much disillusionment involved. 

God created marriage.  When he made Adam he didn’t want him to be alone.  So he created woman to be with him.  It was perfect until sin came into the picture.

Genesis 2:18-24

The LORD God said, "It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him." Now the LORD God had formed out of the ground all the beasts of the field and all the birds of the air. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds of the air and all the beasts of the field.
      But for Adam no suitable helper was found.So the LORD God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man's ribs and closed up the place with flesh. Then the LORD God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man.

The man said,
       "This is now bone of my bones
       and flesh of my flesh;
       she shall be called 'woman’, 
       for she was taken out of man."

For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.


Not only is marriage God’s idea, but He has a plan and purpose for it.

Here’s the hidden mystery of marriage.

Ephesians 5:25-33

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church— for we are members of his body. "For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh." This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.

Marriage is a reflection of the relationship between Christ and the church – his believers.  He loves us and will always be faithful.  Always.  Because He is faithful. 

As the church, we are here on earth to prepare for His coming.  When I was a bride, I spent a lot of time, energy and money to be ready for that day.  I bought a fancy dress and got my hair and nails done.  It took a year to plan that few hours.  I am supposed to desire to make the time to prepare myself to be united with Christ. 

Our human marriages will be an imperfect reflection, just like as humans we are not a perfect reflection of God because we sin.  But it’s still a picture of the promise of Christ to the church.

At the heart of a fulfilling marriage is a deep love and devotion to Christ.  Without that what do we have?  A mess.  I know because I’ve lived it.  Even our Christian marriage counselor could not help us work things out.  I think I know why now.  Because no amount of compromise or communication could ever be enough.  There will never be enough forgiveness if we just try to work things out in human terms.  It will never be fair for someone to be asked to sacrifice or let go.  No matter how much money you have or how good looking you are, it will never be enough. 

True healing and happiness in our marriage came through surrender.  When both of us were willing to give up our rights and attitudes we found freedom.  There is freedom when you give up the fight for self.  It takes humility to admit we are wrong and to willingly put our needs or desires in the backseat.  Those are the very things God uses to make us ready.

Last spring we were having a tense week.  During that week two people asked Mike if he was happily married.  He had the opportunity to share our weaknesses.  He told them that it’s been a rough week and we had things to work through. Challenges and disagreements don’t trump faithfulness and commitment.   

I think that kind of honesty honors God because it isn’t easy.  It isn’t all candlelight and roses.  It isn’t wrong to have bad times and struggle.  When we hit the low point in our marriage it was ugly.  But as ugly as it was, it was also a beautiful new start.  Once we realized that we could not do it on our own, that we’re sinners, that we’re selfish;  that’s when Christ makes the difference.  Without Him, what’s the point?  It seems easier to just cut and run.

Along the way, we’ve found a way to love each other that is true to how God made us.  God made each of us unique and wonderful.  Our marriage is practical and sarcastic, full of humor.  Sometimes I wish it were different.  I look at other people and think if only he was like that.  If only we did those things.  That’s dangerous thinking.  The things we do and say really aren’t the point.  The point is God offers us perfect love, protection, commitment, faithfulness.  He will come back for his bride.  It’s not about us.  It’s about God. 

So maybe the first step to contentment in regards to marriage is to realign our ideas of what it should be with God’s. 

Are you willing to surrender?  Are you willing to give up the fight?  Are your ready to live something greater than your own temporal happiness? 

I’m thinking there will be more on marriage,  it’s just coming slow.   There are some instances when surrender is not the right thing.  There are times when we should be discontent with our relationship.  We’ll get there.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Nitty Gritty

Have you ever had one of those days when you don’t want to get out of bed?  And then upon getting out all you want to do is crawl back in, curl up in fetal position and plug your ears?  You’re tired, stressed, unmotivated and overwhelmed.  It isn’t fair:  the cheaters get ahead, the whiners get attention, the rich get richer.  You have a cold coming on and there is a lot of stuff to be done.  Not to mention Christmas shopping, wrapping, mailing and baking. 

I hate when life leaves me feeling battered. It makes me edgy with my kids. I find myself wondering around the house but getting nothing done.  I try to reason with myself; it’s not that bad.  And it certainly is not.  We are healthy, we have a warm house, a job, and two vehicles.  On those days though, being rational really doesn’t help.  It actually makes it worse.  I should be thankful and happy.  If I have it so good, why do I feel so bad?

Normally I just keep on pushing through.  I’m just wondering if there is anything wrong with letting myself feel bad?  Just a little.  Maybe I can take the night off from laundry and cuddle with the family in front of a movie.  I could take a bath or go to bed early.  Or take a minute and call a friend. 

Maybe it will help to just slow down.  But does it?  In the short term, yes. I don’t deny the fact that a little downtime and wallowing is nice.   But the next day?  I am back to square one.

The last place I seem to turn to for my battered little soul is Christ.  A bath will soothe my body, and extra sleep will help my brain but what I really need is a soothed soul.  When I’m in the nitty gritty, tired and unable to handle life,  it’s usually because I’ve been too busy for God.  And that leaves me all dry and prickly.

I read this to the little girls tonight.  It’s exactly the salve my soul needed.  This is the kind of refreshment and encouragement that lasts.  It’s the kind of encouragement that allows you to slow down and keep going.  So just in case you are in the nitty gritty, I thought I’d pass it on before I go get in the bath help my husband process a deer. 

Psalm 121

I lift up my eyes to the hills-

where does my help come from?

My help comes from the Lord,

the Maker of heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot slip-

he who watches over you will not slumber;

Indeed, he who watches over Israel

will neither slumber nor sleep.

The Lord watches over you -

the Lord is your shade at your right hand;

the sun will not harm you by day,

nor the moon by night.

The Lord will keep you from all harm-

he will watch over your life;

the Lord will watch over your coming and going

both now and forevermore.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Is Santa Coming to Your Town?

We had our first Christmas small group tonight. We had supper together, held the baby, prayed another baby would be delivered soon and watched The Purpose of Christmas by Rick Warren. If you live by me, you can join us next Sunday if you want. Free food! As we were discussing our Christmas celebrations we started talking about Santa.

How do you celebrate Christmas and focus on Jesus' birth when Santa Clause is comin' to town?

I never believed in Santa as a child. We had fun with Santa gag gifts and usually Santa visited our gathering but it was all silly and I never actually thought Santa brought us presents.

Our kids have never believed in him either. Our kids were the ones telling all the other kids in Kindergarten that Santa is not real, resulting in mass hysteria. Sorry about that. But our stockings get filled, we go see Santa at Bentleyville and watch all the classic and not-so-classic Christmas specials. Santa is certainly not taboo in our house.

Let me just say that it's hard to believe in Santa when he shows up dressed like this.

One of the couples in the group was sharing about their transition with Santa. They've always had Santa as a big part of their Christmas. They are starting to rethink telling their kids that Santa, the tooth fairy and the Easter Bunny are real because they are abstract and not tangible. They cannot be seen or felt. Sort of like Jesus. She wonders if in the future as the kids inevitably learn that Santa and friends aren't real, they will begin to think that Jesus is not real either. The stories we tell our kids about Jesus and Santa may all seem like fairy tales.

They also noticed how as their kids get older they have to keep perpetuating the lie. They ask questions like How does Santa know where everyone lives? Why does Santa bring Jimmy a Wii and he only brought me some play dough? How does Santa fit down our chimney?

I've never thought of it that way. It's a horrifying thought to me that my kids might look back at us and feel like we aren't trustworthy or we lied to them. Or worse, that they would wonder if Jesus was just some made up character like the big fat guy in the red suit.

It's making me rethink how I handle the character thing. I think it's fun to play around with it. And I don't think it's wrong. In fact, the tooth fairy is due to make an appearance at our house this evening. If she remembers, she can be pretty unreliable.

I guess I need to prayerfully consider how we are going to handle this in a way that honors Christ. Because He's what Christmas is all about.

Isaiah 9:6
For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Friday, December 11, 2009

In Its Place

Mirror, Mirror on the wall, who's the fairest of them all? I used to think it might be me. But as I grew up not only did I become painfully aware of my shortcomings, I noticed there are other people out there a lot prettier than me. After I got married, aged, gained some weight and had kids, the time and attention I paid to my appearance diminished. So, I seem to have transferred those feelings to my kids. Who has the cutest kids? Well, I do of course.

This week when we had "the hair incident" with Maren I realized I am way more invested in the physical beauty of my kids than I would like to admit. I know it's ridiculous. It's just hair. It will grow back. She hasn't lost her hair because she is fighting cancer. However, I couldn't help but feeling a little depressed about it. We were just getting her bangs grown out the way I wanted. She looks like a boy. I hope she will wear the pretty hat I ordered her but I doubt she will.

Now when people see her pixie hair, they say "I like her hair. Did you have to do that? " Or "What happened?" Which is all fine and good. It's pretty obvious. But it still makes me feel kind of bad.

I hated when some of my babies had baby acne. As my older kids grow into their "awkward" stage, I look at their crooked teeth and shudder. Some kids are overweight or need glasses. Some are too tall or too short.

I don't want people to look at my kids and wonder what happened. I want them to say, "You have the most beautiful children."

When my kids don't look good, I want to fix it. I sometimes cringe at their appearance; a dirty face or mis-matched clothes.

We live in a world that is all about physical beauty and outer appearances. Being beautiful leads to money, success and acceptance. The bible sends a different message.

Proverbs 31:30
Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;
but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.

1 Peter 3:3-4
Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight.

I don't think that means that we can't or shouldn't help our kids look their best. When they have an encounter with a scissor we can do our best to fix it. We can buy our kids braces so their teeth are straight. Or teach them to wash their face to help control acne. Maybe there is a cream that will help diminish the appearance of a scar. God wants us to take care of our bodies.

1 Corinthians 6:19-20
Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.
But where is the balance? How do you teach them to care for themselves without crossing the line into superficiality?

In 1 Samuel 8 the people of Israel demand a king. They want to be like other nations. They think it will be their ticket to victory. God had told them they would have a king in the future , but for now HE was their king.

1 Samuel 8:6-7
But when they said, "Give us a king to lead us," this displeased Samuel; so he prayed to the Lord. And the Lord told him, "Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected as their king, but me."

Demanding a king was a rebellious act. God goes ahead and lets them have their King with a warning: the King will own you. But the people do not care.

Saul is chosen as the first king and his main credentials are his looks.

1 Samuel 9:2
He had a son named Saul, an impressive young man without equal among the Israelites - a head taller than any of the others.

The Israelites desire for a King was idolatrous. They wanted something to worship and believe in, in place of God. They wanted protection and deliverance from their enemies. They soon realized that their tall and handsome king wasn't exactly Prince Charming.

When God chooses David, the shepherd they had to go get out of the field, to succeed Saul he says this,

But the LORD said to Samuel, "Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart." 1 Samuel 16:7

It says that David was handsome.

So he sent and had him brought in. He was ruddy, with a fine appearance and handsome features. Then the LORD said, "Rise and anoint him; he is the one." 1 Samuel 16:12

But David was a man after God's own heart. It was the inside that made him King material.

It seems like the balance comes in showing them why we should take care of ourselves. It's not just so people will notice us and think we are pretty or handsome. It's because God made us and we take care of the bodies he gave us for his purposes and glory.

So when the outward appearance takes up most of your time and money, that's not the right balance. If you want to be noticed, that's not the right motivation. When you need to look good to make up for the things you don't like about yourself, that's not what God intended.

If you won't leave the house because of a big pimple or will only dress your kids in the most expensive clothes, then your focus is on the wrong things.

When you make the outward appearance your king, it will own you.

Being obsessed with our outward appearance is putting that in God's place. He is the one that deserves the most attention in our lives. When we put him first and spend time in His word, he'll transform us into the most beautiful people. That's good news because my heart is much more pliable and transformable than my face.

I am way more superficial than I'd like to believe. This is a lesson I need to learn and live. I've got to put beauty in its place: behind God.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Have You Ever…

  • hung up on a telemarketer when, even after trying really hard to be polite, they just won’t take no for an answer?
  • gone the other way in the grocery store to avoid talking to someone?
  • made a quick call in the store so you only can smile and wave when walking by the person?
  • bought expensive whipped wax hair gel hoping to show your crazy spot who’s boss?
  • quickly logged off Facebook to avoid getting into a chat with a friend you hardly know?
  • thought about defriending someone, but decide to keep them for entertainment purposes?
  • made a joke you thought would go over your kids’ heads but your oldest gets it and gives you a knowing look?
  • been glad when one of your kids was sick because it got you out of something?
  • considered buying an “As Seen on TV” neck slimming device while waiting in line at the store?
  • driven somewhere and upon arrival realize you don’t remember how you got there?
  • heard one of your kids say, “Daddy I didn’t take any toys out.  I just sat in front of the TV all day!”
  • let your child go outside with no mittens on, even when you have yours on?
  • not noticed when your child took a scissor downstairs and cut themselves a mullet?
  • ignored you temper tantrumming two year old in a restaurant?
  • stopped at a gas station, unloaded kids and bought them candy just because you are desperate for a Diet Coke?
  • lived in denial of the fact that 5:00 would come and totally not thought about supper all day?


Yeah, neither have I.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

The Details of Discontent: Part 3.2 ~ Chronic Health Problems



When I was thinking about seeking out someone to write about chronic health problems, two people came to mind.  One was Stephanie who you heard from yesterday.  The other was Deb Hansen.  She is a Village Missionary in Nebraska with her husband, John.  I know my husband would love them because they are Husker fans too. 

Deb is someone that has great wisdom and insight.  She’s got a gentle and loving heart.  My respect for her is beyond words.  Enjoy reading her perspective on chronic pain and contentment.


One of the things that I have had to struggle through with having a chronic disease is learning that I can't do everything that I used to do. When I over do, I really pay for it physically. The Lord has taught me so much through physical pain in my life. Needing to rely on Him daily for my whole being.

Before getting sick on our last field, I was able to physically do so much more. During that time of trial of lying in bed for almost a year, I learned how to rely on him more and more. I wasn't able to do much but I learned how to pray as I could lay in bed and do that. I learned how to sit quietly at His feet and to learn from Him as I could read the Word to help cope with my constant headache. But most of all I learned to wait patiently on the Lord. He had a plan and in time His plan would be revealed. I prayed for deliverance and He did supply.

I don't struggle with mold issues in our current home but the damage done to my immune system will probably never be healed, but my heart was healed in so many ways during that year. I am thankful everyday even with pain that I can get out of bed and serve in His kingdom. I try to organize my list of things to do and my time by the pain level I have on a day to day basis. Sometimes I feel like I can soar and sometimes I try to soar and know I need to rest. It is a balancing act and I am thankful that the Lord has freed me from the guilt I use to feel. I am honest when asked to do certain things if I don't feel I can do it then I don't.

My main focus in my relationship with Christ, My relationship with Jon and my relationship with the kids that the Lord has given to me as a gift from him. I want to focus on things that have an eternal value and not just things that will keep me busy, because only what is done for eternity will last. The things of this world will soon come to an end. I want to be remembered as a woman who sought after the Lord. If the Lord gave me this thorn of physical pain to help grow me up in this are, then He will give me the strength each and every day to help me live with it.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

The Details of Discontent ~ Part 3.1: Chronic Health

Not only am I making up numbers but I’m also going backwards.  I’m okay with that.  One of the responses to my informal survey that started this whole series was “not being healthy enough to do the things I want to in life.”  I mentioned that it seems like health falls into two categories:  things we can control and things we can’t. 

I don’t know anything about living with chronic pain or health conditions but many people do.  So I want to introduce you to someone who has become a dear friend, Stephanie VanGorden.  She and her husband, Matt, are Village Missionaries like us on the east coast. She’s a way better writer than I am and knows words I have to look up in the dictionary.  I asked her to share her journey with chronic health problems.  I know you’ll be blessed by her words!



The Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord gives grace and glory;

no good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly.

Psalm 84:11

This has been my mainstay, my comfort, my go-to when I question why life has turned out the way it has.

My husband and I can't have children-we've known that for years. We didn't know why, or what, if anything, could be done about it. Turns out that the direct cause is complicated by an underlying chronic disease that is complicated by yet another chronic condition. This we learned over 18 months as eight different doctors diagnosed five distinct causes for fatigue, pain, weight gain, mental fog, and infertility.

All of these have the potential to derail my contentment: the fatigue and pain have drastically changed my schedule. The weight gain...well, ladies, do I really need to explain that one? The mental fog has been one of the biggest problems-one of my greatest loves in life is the written word. I love to read, to write, to digest, to discuss. But when the fog is at its worst, I can't concentrate, my eyes go blurry, my vocabulary regresses to about first grade, and I can read an entire page and not be able to tell you a single thing I read.

But the battle for contentment in those things seems easy when compared to infertility. We feel our childlessness keenly; our home is too large for us, and the silence can be deafening. We serve in a ministry to hurting and broken people, but we are rarely "allowed" to offer help to parents because we're not parents ourselves. We have to endure endless questions by well-meaning people who think they have a right to understand my reproductive system. We have grieved privately and without help or support partly because the world complains about its children, denies our grief, and tries to tell us that we're better off; and partly because people just forget.

As we see children "raised" by parents who see them as a burden-at best, leaving them to fend for themselves unprotected, or, worse, neglecting them entirely-we have asked God over and over again why He would allow this. We have wondered why a good God would do this. Why...

...will medical technology not work for us that has worked for so many others?

...would our infertility be complicated by other diseases that make resolving it virtually impossible?

...are some given children only to damage them, when we, who serve Him, endure empty arms?

These questions have kept me up at night, have kept me down during the day, have plagued my mind, have exhausted me. More so because I absolutely and without question believe that God is good, wise, loving, sovereign, and righteous. He doesn't ever make a mistake. He doesn't ever need to apologize. He doesn't allow suffering "beyond what we can bear" (1 Corinthians 10:13). As I have tried to wrap my mind around the juxtaposition of a good God allowing so much pain, as I have battled for contentment in the face of these questions, I've come to some conclusions about why contentment is so hard to find.

I think it's because we misdefine the problem, and so we misdefine the cure. Most of us would say that contentment is being satisfied with what we have, but I'm not sure that's entirely correct. It's part of it, but not the whole of it.

We all know Hebrews 13:5, right? Some of you immediately went to, "He has said, 'I will never leave you nor forsake you.'" And some thought, "Keep your life free from the love of money and be content with what you have." When we try to define contentment, we go right to the put off/put on-putting off the love of money or material possessions, we put on just "being okay" with where we are and what we have now. For instance, I want a new cabinet for our TV, but what we have works, so I'll be content. I'd love to be pain-free, but that's not likely to happen. I can complain, or I can choose to be grateful that it's not worse. These aren't wrong attitudes...but I don't think they go far enough. These focus horizontally, on myself, comparing what I have with what I could have. But if I base contentment on the fact that it could be worse, what happens to my mental stability if it does get worse?

We need to put the two halves of the verse together: "...Be content with what you have, for He has said, 'I will never leave you...'" What you have isn't about material things, or current status in life. It's talking about the God of the universe. You see, contentment isn't a question of attitude so much as perspective. My husband calls it wearing the binoculars of Heaven (Colossians 3:1-4). Contentment comes not from being okay with life as-is, but from understanding that a perfectly wise, faithfully loving, unfailingly good God has a purpose in what He allows, and whatever that purpose is, no matter how painful it is to accomplish, He is right there with us, every step of the way.

I have to ease into my day, but I have the presence of God (Psalm 90:14; Psalm 121). I have to plan even a shower based on if I'll have time to rest afterwards, but the God of the universe knows my name and how many hairs are on my head - both before and after I wash my hair (Matthew 10:29-30)! I can't do normal household tasks without paying a steep price anymore, but my heavenly Father paid a steep price through the gift of His Son to cleanse my heart and make me whole (Psalm 51:7-12; Ephesians 2:8-9). I have a big empty house and no little voices to break the silence or little feet to pound up and down the stairs, but the Lord of all has ordained even this quiet day for my good and His glory (Psalm 90:12; Ephesians 2:10).

This God is a sun and shield. This God gives grace and glory. His ways may be inexplicable to my human mind, but my God doesn't withhold any good thing if I am walking uprightly. If I am without, the lack is somehow better for me in God's economy than gaining my desire. And there, I am content.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Don’t Be Weary

Today everyone went to school. I ventured out with the little girls to get a few things and get out of the house. Annie decided she wanted to get her haircut. She doesn’t like to comb it. On the spur of the moment, they cut six inches off her hair. It was a little shorter than I wanted, but she loves it. I cried. I thought her long hair was beautiful.

While we were waiting, an old friend of mine came in. She looked fabulous: her hair was coiffed, nails done, matching jewelry and cute, trendy work clothes on a nice thin little body. She has a good job and looks amazing.

Never have I been more painfully aware of my “mommyness” than at that moment. I had on my thrift store jeans and shoes – oh yeah and shirt. I didn’t really have time to do my hair. I was chasing my kid around the store trying to keep her from knocking down shelves of beauty products. I was jealous.

And surprised. That doesn’t happen to me very often anymore. I have grown comfortable with the role God has given me right now. But today it was tough. Just for a few minutes.

The thing is that I know this friend well enough to know that despite her glamorous outward appearance, her life is in shambles. Her marriage is on the brink, she doesn’t live with her kids. She is choosing to walk away from her family to pursue her selfish ways.

As I was herding the girls back to the van I kicked myself. Why on earth did I feel jealous? I know God wants me to be a wife and mom. I know there is nothing more important I could be doing with my days. It doesn’t matter what it looks like on the outside, it’s what is going on inside that counts.

Sometimes these feelings happen a lot and other times it sneaks up on me. Whether you are a mom that has a job or stays home, we are filled with the same guilt and questions and make a lot of sacrifices. Does it happen to you? On the way home I was asking God to remind me about all the important reasons I should choose my family.

I felt a tug in my heart that you might need a reminder now and then too. After all, the world does not seem to care in the least that I choose to pour myself and talents into my kids. No one cares about all I have sacrificed. It doesn’t seem to matter the things I squeeze in my day. Who notices when I get up early to make lunches or stay up late to get the laundry done?

Matthew 10:29-31

Are not two sparrows sold for a penny ? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.

Matthew 10:39

Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.

God notices. God cares. He knows every tear we have shed, every hair on our head. He cherishes the time we spend and the sacrifices we make. He is thankful that we are investing in His future kingdom by raising our kids to love him.

Galatians 6:7-10

Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially those who belong to the family of believers.

Don’t become weary of doing what God has for you. Don’t let yourself be fooled into thinking that you are not making a significant contribution or that you could be doing something more important. If you ever do, like I did today, run straight to Jesus and let Him assure you. His vote is the only one that really counts.

1 Peter 3:4

Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Small Price to Pay

We've had some issues surface with our kids over the last month. Issues besides body fluids. Issues that make me wonder if I am the biggest parenting hack to ever be blessed with children. I'm so impatient when I deal with things. Sometimes I'm busy and there isn't time to stop and talk it out. Sometimes I'm lazy. Sometimes I just don't care. Aren't you admiring my parenting skills?

I am learning that if you don't take care of little things, they grow into monstrous problems. Like the little leak in the washing machine or the spill in the back of the fridge.

A few weeks ago the school hosted their blasted book fair. I know it's a fundraiser and I'm a big fan of books, but people we are not made of money. Not only do they sell books but they sell all sorts of other junk trinkets. The kids make wish lists and then drag you in there when you are at conferences. Being the pushover I am, I told them they could buy a book. A book, not junk. Grant wanted an electronic organizer that was $10. We said no. He didn't want to buy anything else.

The next day he told me he was going to buy a book after all and took his money to school. I didn't think anything of it, until a week later when I was going through his backpack and found the electronic organizer. I was a mix of mad and shocked. We had explicitly told him no.

I brought it down and put it on his bathroom dresser while he was brushing his teeth; no drama, no yelling. That night Mike and I sat down with him. Mike asked him to show him all the things this organizer could do, which was basically nothing. We talked about disobeying and deceit. He felt bad and asked for forgiveness. We decided that it was punishment enough to have wasted his money on a piece of junk.

Grant also had to do a report this fall. It was based on a field trip they took for Conservation Day. He had not written down all the information he needed that day. He got an F. Now Grant is an A student. School work comes naturally to him which is nice since he is somewhat irresponsible.

When we were at conferences that report came up. It was a major part of his science grade. He ended up on the "B" honor roll because of it. The "B" honor roll is great. But he knows he could have done better. His teacher had laid out exactly the information she wanted them to record and report on. He just didn't take the time to pay attention.

Abby wanted to bring a dollar for the school store because she needed erasers. I offered her a bunch of erasers out of my stash. We told her we didn't want her to bring money to school. She had just bought a book at the book fair. She fussed and whined. Everyone buys stuff at the school store! It wasn't that the dollar was too much, it's more about teaching them to spend wisely and not do what everyone else does.

When she was leaving for school, I noticed her slipping that dollar in her pocket. I asked her if she was going to disobey with it. She handed it to me. I put it back in her purse.

I know in the grand scheme of things these are minor issues. When situations like this come up I either tend to flip out, give in or gloss it over. That's no way to handle these little issues.

These lessons are important to learn now. They are important to talk about and stand firm on. It takes a lot of energy. It takes time. It takes patience.

Isn't it better if they can learn they are wasting ten dollars before it become $100?

I want them to learn how important it is to be attentive to their teachers and assignments in fifth grade when their GPA doesn't really matter very much.

I want them to know how crucial it is to save money and be wise how we spend it when we're only dealing with a dollar.

It's important for them to be able to avoid feeling like they have to do something, just because their friends might be doing it.

It's good to teach them not to color on the walls and respect property when it's something that can be washed off instead of paint on someone else's garage door.

It's better to take the time to teach them to take care of their siblings things so they'll learn before they trash a friend's sweater or video game.

I'm trying to remember it's worth the time and energy. All these little day in and day out situations add up to important lessons to learn while there is still only a small price to pay.

Proverbs 14:8
The wisdom of the prudent is to give thought to their ways,
but the folly of fools is deception.

Colossians 3:12-14
Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

My Day So Far

This day started in the wee hours of the morning with a line up of girls waiting to get into my bed.

Laundry. Shower. Eggs.

Gas Station.

Gas Station Cappaccino. 99 cents.

Grocery Shopping.

Girl Scout Preparations.

Pick up Girl Scout.

Pick up Avon. It was a make-up emergency.

Reading Group with 5 fourth grade boys. They like me because I bring them food.

Girl Scouts.

Five minutes into Girl Scouts Annie's tummy hurts. I decide I should take her home. She pukes all over me in the parking lot.

Go home. Change. Bathe. Clean car. Start laundry.

Back to Girl Scouts. We made gingerbread houses. Big clean up job.

Home. Slam two tacos.

Basketball Practice. Lots of Drama.

Deliver forgotten coats and give rides.

Home. Clean up.

Go to grocery store to buy crackers and Sprite. It's cold and my coat is in the wash.

Help get kids to bed.

Not impressed with my homemade laundry soap.

Help Mike with paperwork and bills.

Wonder how long it will take for everyone to get this bug.

Bedtime. I have a feeling my night is only beginning.

Hmmm I think my stomach feels a little queasy.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

The Details of Discontent: Part 4.1 ~ Making Comparisons


See I told you I wasn’t good at math.  If you are a left-minded thinker I am sorry.  I have to make this 4.1 because there are a few more things I wanted to add to the comparing myself to others thoughts.  So I had to make up a number. 

What I was thinking about is that if we are going to believe that God loves us and has a plan for us, what do we do when we don’t like the plan?  How could he love me if THIS is his plan for me?  We’ve got a big problem, a beef with God.  There are a few things in the Bible that deal with this.

Romans 9:19-21

One of you will say to me: “Then why does God still blame us?  For who resists his will?”  But who are you, O man, to talk back to God?  “Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?’”  Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for noble purposes and some for common use?

So, let’s pretend I am a quilter.  Nothing could be further from the truth but a girl can dream right?  Plus, I think you have to be good at math to quilt.  I go to the quilt shop and buy some cotton fabric.  I take it home and make a beautiful quilt for a king sized bed.  With the leftovers I make some cloth diapers.  It’s up to the creativity of the quilter what is going to be done with her fabric.

And I think that is what the verse in Romans in saying.  God gets to choose.  He’s in control.  Who are we to say I didn’t sign up for this!  I don’t want this!  I want to be a fancy quilt not a diaper. 

Romans 9:14-16

What then shall we say?  Is God unjust?  Not at all!  For he says to Moses,

‘I will have mercy on whom I have mercy,

and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.”

It does not, therefore, depend on man’s desire or effort, but on God’s mercy.

And that is a hard thing to deal with.  We are not in control.  Everything began with God and His purpose.  But guess what?  God’s mercy is for everyone.  Mercy is forgiving and compassionate.  He wants us all to have the opportunity to know him.

2 Peter 3:9

The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness.  He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

The thing I tend to miss is that as I grow in my relationship with Christ, I should grow in humility.  That’s not a word we like to talk about or revere.  But it’s of great value to God.  Jesus showed the ultimate act of humility.

Philippians 2:6-11

Who, being in very nature God,

did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,

but made himself nothing,

taking the very nature of a servant,

being made in human likeness.

And being found in appearance as a man,

he humbled himself

and became obedient to death -

even death on a cross!

Therefore God exalted him to the highest place

and gave him the name that is above every name,

that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,

in heaven and on earth and under the  earth,

and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,

to the glory of God the Father.

When I was younger I loved to sing.  I wanted to be a singer.  I took voice lessons and spent a lot of time singing in front of a full length mirror with a pretend microphone.  I cannot believe I just admitted that. But just ask my sister, it’s true.  She’d love to tell you the whole story.

I never really had the opportunity to sing in front of real people very much.  When our youth group was preparing to go on a missions trip to Mexico we were featured during the Sunday Morning service. They asked my friend Jenny to sing a song and they asked me to speak.  I wasn’t that happy.  I really couldn’t understand why they didn’t recognize the talents I thought I had. 

What I didn’t do was step back and ask God about the talents and plans he had for me.  I know I have the gift of gab and maybe that is more the direction he wanted to use me.  Instead of accepting and embracing that, I kicked and stamped my feet that he wasn’t using me in the way I saw fit.  Because how could God have a better plan than me? 

So as I am trying to learn to trust God’s plans for me, it changes the way I operate.  He has given me this personality and gifts that he wants to use.  I need to be humble enough to let him use them.  And better yet, embrace them.  It’s not productive for me to look at Jenny and say boy I wish I was her.  Although I do because she’s beautiful and talented to this day.  I want to trust Christ and say I’m glad for the way he made me and I’m willing to be used however He wants.

Does it mean I have to stop singing?  No way!  I still sing a lot at my piano.  Music is a big part of how I worship God.  It just may not be used in performance mode.  But I can still sing to Him and I’ve found it’s a little more special when it’s just between us.  Although I do miss my microphone.

There is so much peace and contentment in that place.  That’s where I find peace with who I am and how God created me.  By cultivating humility and surrendering myself to do His will.  You may think that is silly.  Or stupid.  But that’s what the New Testament continually tells us to strive for.

Part of God’s plan in making everyone different with different gifts was for his work to be completed on earth and for His glory.

Romans 12:3-8

For by the grace give me I say to every one of you:  Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you.  Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.  We have different gifts, according to the grace given us.  If a man’s gift if prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith.  If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage, if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.

1 Peter 4:10-11

Each one of you should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.  If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God.  If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ.  To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever.  Amen.

I can display the awesomeness of God by doing what He’s gifted me to do.  I want to be encouraged to be humble and eager to serve,whether it’s in the way I want to or not.  It’s hard to serve as a Mom and wife.  I am continually giving up more and more.  When I think I’ve finally given everything, God shows me I can give more.  The term give until it hurts seems to apply here.  I am trying to learn to embrace that.

I know this isn’t a hot seller anymore but I think it’s worth recommending The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren.  It is such a great help in finding your purpose and place in life from a biblical perspective.  I have a copy that I’d be happy to give you if you can’t find it or buy it. 

I hope and pray that you can find people around you that will encourage that in you.  Seek people and mentors that will challenge you with using your gifts for the Lord and assure you that your surrender is not a waste.  Do that for your kids.  Allow God to show you areas you are gifted and and serve wholeheartedly and joyfully.  That’s the place of contentment.

Monday, November 30, 2009

The Details of Discontent ~ Part Four: Making Comparisons


There are things I do not like about myself.  Lots of things.  I have small eyes and my face is too round.  I don’t feel like I am a productive member of society.  I am disorganized and talk too fast and loud.  I am forgetful and stay up too late.

When do we start hating things about ourselves?  Every four year old thinks she is a beautiful princess and by the time she gets to junior high she can’t stand anything about herself.  Girls are cutting themselves because they are so miserable. 

Society conditions us to want perfection.  We want happiness and strive to be like those who seem to have achieved it.  We look at airbrushed models and hate our bodies.  We look at people with exciting careers and lots of money and feel insignificant. 

Comparing ourselves to others seems to take two paths.  It either leads to total depression and self-hate or snarky nastiness.  Why do women do this?  I think it’s because we are looking for significance and love.  We are searching for meaning in our lives.  We have a longing for something and we aren’t sure what it is.  We think that that purse, husband, degree or job might finally be the key to our happiness.

We won’t find what we are looking for in a self-help book or beauty magazine.  We won’t find it in a career.  We won’t find it in a husband or children.  Those longings can only be filled by one person and that’s Jesus Christ. Before we go any further, let me share some of God’s thoughts on the subject.

He made us in his image.  

Genesis 1:27

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.

He made each of us special and unique.  He made us just the way he wanted us to be.

Psalm 139:13-16

For you created my inmost being;

you knit me together in my mother’s womb.

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;

you works are wonderful,

I know that full well.

My frame was not hidden from you

when I was made in the secret place.

When I was woven together in the depths of the earth,

your eyes saw my unformed body.

All the days ordained for me

were written in your book

before one of the came to be.

God loves us enough to die for us.  He has a plan for our lives.  No matter what we do or don’t do, where we go, who we marry nothing can change his love for us. 

Jeremiah 31:3

I have loved you with an everlasting love;

I have drawn you with loving-kindness.

Romans 8:37-39

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.  For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels or demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all of creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Jeremiah 29:11

“For I know the plans I have for you”, declares the Lord.  “Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”


Soak those words in.  God loves me and you just the way we are.  It doesn’t matter how we look or what we do.  We are made to perfection.  But instead of going to Christ and being filled with his love, we are constantly drowned by bad knock offs.  We think that if we only had what she has we would be happy.

So here are some things I’ve learned in this area.  Most people that I compare myself to are not what they appear to be. 

Most people that have to talk themselves up and flaunt what they have are deep down insecure.  But it’s so easy to get sucked in.  I think the internet is especially dangerous because you can be whoever you want to be.  When you read your Facebook friends status or look at their pictures it only tells the part of the story they want you to know. 

What good does it do if you tend to fall into despair over what you are not?  Does it help?   It hurts your marriage and your family.  It stifles productivity at work and friendships.  It’s a path to a dark place.  Please take the words of Christ to heart.  He loves you.  Even if no one else in the world cares you are alive or gives you a second thought, God does.  He is the only place you will find true contentment and worth.

I probably fall into the catty and nasty category most often.  It’s a defense mechanism.  Tear down everything else and you will feel and look better.  Only it doesn’t work.  It doesn’t make me feel better.  It’s adds insult to injury because not only am I the same person I didn’t like in the first place, but now I’m mean and cruel.  That makes me like myself even less.  

Part of how I get past insecurities and comparisons is by letting my vulnerabilities show.  By being genuine.  We shouldn’t be ashamed or embarrassed about the struggles we are having in life.  The older I get the more I want to stop trying to impress people and be perfect.  I am way more happy when I’m real.  I’m much more fulfilled when I’m open.

I have many times asked God to replace the jealousy or anger I have toward someone with His love.  Why am I always so surprised when He answers my prayers?  It is a freeing thing to be able to be truly happy for other people’s new jobs, babies, houses, or haircut. 

When we are willing to be real and vulnerable we can connect with others.  We are willing to reach out to others and be reached out to. 

Last week at our small group, it came out during casual conversation that a family didn’t have an oven.  They hadn’t had one in months.  They needed help and there was help available.  But no one can help if we aren’t connected and vulnerable enough to have our needs known.  Through the generosity of some brothers and sisters, they now have one.  I’m so glad that they opened up and reached out.  Through their vulnerability, they gave others the chance to serve and share. 

I have a great desire to teach my kids not to love themselves as the secular psychologists would want them to, but to love Christ.  If they can embrace his love for them, they will have a self-image that is based on the right things.   They will look out for others and show them love.  They will be real.

Everyday I am going to look to Christ and His love for my value, not others.  I am going to keep my eyes and heart fixed on the promises that he will complete the good work he started in me.  He’ll do it in you too.


Philippians 1:3-6

I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.