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.