When a Book Touches Your Soul: A Book Reflection

I finished another book and was reluctant to read the last page because I was soaking in every word and didn’t want it to end. This book is written for mothers, but the gospel truths it contains apply to every believer seeking to live a relevant life.

In Gloria Furman’s Treasuring Christ When Your Hands Are Full, the relevancy of the gospel to daily living was presented in a straightforward manner that I had not previously considered. I had unconsciously fallen into the mindset that being a mom was an end in and of itself and was striving to do as much as I could on my own. Motherhood challenges me like nothing else. Ironically, I handle the diaper blowouts in Costco more calmly than I do the dropped puzzle pieces that the dog chews up. I become angry over childish fumbles but manage to stay calm in the face of extreme chaos. Why do dropped toys and broken treasures bother me so much?

It is because I am a sinner; I am fallen and I need a Savior to not only guide me in being a wife and mother but also in being a Christ-follower. Gloria Furman drew my attention to the impact the gospel has on motherhood. The main points that have stayed with me from this book are these:

  • Motherhood is not an identity or end in itself. It is a tool God uses to sanctify and equip me for His kingdom. It is for His glory.
  • The chaotic days and the mundane ones do not undermine the power of the gospel. In fact, they emphasize it.
  • All moments of motherhood are an irritation to worship. Am I overwhelmed? Christ provides discernment. Am I blessed beyond measure? Praise Him! Am I exhausted? Christ is my strength and rest. Did I fail yet again? Christ forgives. Am I unable to do this on my own? I don’t have to and am not meant to.
  • Long-view mothering sees beyond the present and scans the horizon of eternity. One day my children will make the decision to accept or reject Christ. One day their souls will reside somewhere other than here on earth. Am I mothering with that view in mind every day?
  • A relationship goes two ways. The responsibility of being close to God doesn’t rest solely on my shoulders. Yes, I need to do my part but He reaches out to me too. He knows my rough days and meets me there.

Without hesitation I would recommend this book to every mom. I will be reading it again to glean even more and to reinforce what has already resonated with me.

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How ARE You?

One of the simplest and most sacrificial ways we can show love to someone else is by taking the time to genuinely listen to them and to show them that we are ready to listen. Recently I was convicted about this in my relationships.

I keep a tight schedule since routine is critical to the smooth functioning of our day. I have little time for long chats (as much as I would like them) and my emotional energy is often maxed out towards the middle of the day when I might have the chance to converse with fellow adults. Needless to say, when I’m able to interact with friends or relatives I have the habit of forming opinions and prepping responses while the other person is talking or texting with me. I think I do this to maximize my time and cut down on small talk. But that is not sincere listening.

Listening means not formulating opinions until they are asked for since I don’t truly know what it’s like to walk in her shoes. It means avoiding having prepped answers for the sake of hearing the other person’s heart and not merely their words. And it means asking, How are you? and really wanting to know.

In her book Make It Happen, Lara Casey says that women avoid answering the how are you? inquiry honestly because they assume people don’t really want to know. Let’s change that this month, shall we? Let’s step out and ask and posture ourselves for listening. And let’s honor the genuine inquirer by giving an honest answer.

I’ll start: how am I? I’m tired and a little overwhelmed with all that I think should be done. I am afraid to lighten the daily load more than I already have because what if I never get passed doing the bare minimum of food, sleep schedules and laundry? I’m a little lonely. My day doesn’t allow much time for deeper connections with other women. I squeeze in a text, Polo or post where I can. I want to connect with my children on a deeper level too, but it sometimes feels like the demands of their physical care prevent that. Yet, I do feel content overall. I like my quiet moments, my writing, my book time and having a professional side with my Thirty-One business. Best of all, I know God sustains me when I can’t go on another minute.

How are you?

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Welcome to the Love Month

We are in the month of love. Society has warped this beautiful, emotional action, making it all about physical pleasure and momentary commitment; in actuality, love is about “you before me” and persistence when your feelings tell you to give up.

I’ve been pondering how I can love better. My husband and I have begun the The Love Dare devotional (by the makers of Fireproof) and the first dare involves praying for one week about how to love better and be a more loving person. This challenge has opened my eyes to all the ways that I am unloving- not simply in marriage but in every aspect of my life: friendship, parenting, interactions with strangers, and with Jesus. It’s in the little things, the moments of choosing self first, the outbursts of impatience when love could make all the difference in the world.

And so, as I proceed through this new month, a month that celebrates love, I am going to try to focus on ways to live and serve with a more loving heart. Perhaps I can ask God to help me release the bitterness I feel towards that person who really hurt me; maybe I can spend a little more individual time with each of my children; I can offer a word of kindness to a friend or stranger who is hurting; I can take the dogs on a little longer walk than usual; I could definitely ask my husband about his day before barraging him with all the details about mine.

What would this world look like if we all tried to live out the love we claim to have? How can you put love into action this month?

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Here and There

January 30th. The first month of the new year is almost completed. In some ways the new year still feels fresh; in other ways it feels like it’s been around for a while. Old habits die hard and it’s a struggle to stick with the changes I want to make in order to live better this year than I did last year. But I’m not giving up!

This month has been one of adventure. We made our first major trip as a family of six all the way to HI. Getting there we traveled for 36 hours but that was easier than the shorter trip coming home! We were on the island for a fast week and didn’t get to visit all the places we wanted to, eat the yummy food we hoped to or see all the loved ones we miss, but it was a blessing to reconnect with beloved family and make lasting bonds between them and our kids.

As we journeyed home through different airports, planes and cities, our kids kept asking if we were in HI or in the new state we call home. From their young perspective it is difficult to grasp how you can be in one place at one moment and then in the next be some place entirely different. And then I realized that my heart and mind haven’t entirely grasped that concept either. At times I think I’ll step outside my front door and be able to wave at my nephew and nieces or that I can hop in the car and drive to my parents’ for a swim. The distance hurts and the stretching of one’s heart is a painful process.

In her book Cultivate, Lara Casey reminds us that good things come out of hard things. While visiting Hawaii I was encouraged by how my world had expanded in less than two years! Many new names and faces have been added to my list of loved ones; delightful experiences have been added to my memory bank; and my perspective on life has broadened as I learn to look outside myself so that I can better understand the people around me.

As we all cozy up indoors during this nationwide cold snap, let’s take a moment to think about all the people we are connected to around the world. What have you learned from them? How have they inspired you? Is there something you can do in the month ahead to make the world a brighter place? Our bodies might be limited to one physical location but our hearts can be spread out here and there.

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Weary of the Worry

A friend and I are journeying through the New Testament this year (I got a late start so she is way ahead of me) and it’s a good journey. I take the beginning gospels for granted because I assume I know them so well. But as I read truths are refreshed and my heart responds.

Take the ending section of Matthew 6, for instance: the admonition, from Jesus Himself, to not worry. “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food and the body more important than clothes? … So do not worry, saying ‘What shall we eat?’ Or ‘What shall we drink?’ Or ‘What shall we wear?’ …Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

I have read this passage dozens of times through the years but it convicted me anew as just seconds before I had been worrying about those every day concerns. I rarely bask in the God-given goodness of the moment but exchange that for problem-solving the future. Why? If God provides for me today, is He not able to do so tomorrow as well?

I think this passage on worry is addressing temporal, surface issues, if you will. I think fear is different from routine worry and is not being particularly addressed in Matthew 6:25-34 (it is in other passages, though). This leads me to muse if whether or not contentment could be the antidote for worry. Perhaps if I am content with how things are my mind won’t drift towards better, more or different. If I am content, I can be happy with how things are and rejoice if change happens.

There will always be some type of disturbances in life’s waters: job issues, vacation details, wardrobe dilemmas, meal planning, budget constraints, health improvements, parenting modifications. These are the things that bring me back to Jesus again and again and again. After all He did say, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Worry makes a wearisome burden, wouldn’t you agree?

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Fervency in a Two-Year Old Body

I remember what a shock to my system it was to deliver a baby WITHOUT an epidural. With our first two I had gone as long as I could on pitocin without requesting an epidural but I still finished the delivery pain-free. With our third child, I made it all the way through and was therefore stunned by the gripping pain of the transition stage. It overtook my body with such fervency! And that is how our third-born has approached life ever since.

She builds her own relationships with fervency: with our loving neighbor across the street; with our incredibly strong pastor’s wife; with my friend and preschool consultant. These special ladies see Arden coming and greet her with open arms as she crawls into their laps or puts her hand in theirs.  Arden makes her own path in life.

She keeps up with her siblings with fervency: she uses words and phrases that her older siblings never articulated at her age; she participates in their games and inflicts physical pain if it is required to avoid being pushed around. She isn’t even afraid to bite the puppy if he gets too pushy. She calls her siblings by name and they eagerly respond.

She loves with fervency: her favorite place in the whole world is in her parents’ arms. Throughout the day she will come up to one of us, hold up her arms and say, “Hold it,” her term for being carried.  If we are sitting down, she will say “Lap,” meaning she wants to sit in our laps. And then she utterly relaxes, contentedly sucking her newly adopted pacifier and caressing her hair with her hand. At other times, she will rush up to us and embrace us in as fierce a hug as her tiny arms can give. And who can but return such ardent love with equal fervency?

My husband and I pray over the names we give our children, knowing that we don’t know their future or their personality, but their Creator does. In the hospital, during labor, we finally settled on Arden’s full name which means: Fervent Melody of Joy.  It is with great eagerness that I anticipate this little girl’s future. She lives, breathes, sings, reads, plays, smiles, and loves with the utmost fervency. If her first two years are any indicator of what is to come, then I believe she will motivate us to live, love, pray, and seek God’s wisdom in parenting with the utmost fervency as well.

As we prepare to celebrate our littlest girl’s second birthday, I am thankful that God has chosen to show us His love by gifting her to us.

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New Year Transplanting

Welcome to 2019! Raise your hand if you are entering this new year with a few misty-eyes glances over your shoulder at the old year? While I am excited and motivated about all that this nouvelle annee has in store for me, 2018 held the comfort of familiarity. I was used to writing it in my journal and on letters; there was a sense of predictability that came with set routines and old habits; I felt a connection with events and people that passed, yet somehow saying “this year” rather than “last year” when referencing them kept them closer. The new year is a blank slate on which anything can happen and that can be intimidating.

As a military wife, I have had to acquaint myself with the unpredictable, with extreme flexibility and with cultivating a positive outlook when things don’t go as planned or wished. I like to feel settled and secure, to know where things are and to have a community. The thought of ever moving again after I’ve put down roots in a friendly place can feel like a rough uprooting- something to resist and resent, worthy of complaint rather than joy.

But recently God has prompted me to look at a potential move as a transplanting rather than an uprooting. The latter has a negative connotation in which we think of the plant as not being wanted, pulled out and carelessly tossed aside. The former, however, indicates a tender transition of a growing plant to a predetermined location where it can flourish even more.

I don’t expect a move to happen in 2019 but I want to apply this fresh outlook to every unexpected encounter in this fresh year. God didn’t uproot me from 2018; He transplanted me into 2019. In this year, I have the opportunity to lay aside attitudes that hinder and cultivate helpful ones in their place. It will be proving ground for the lessons learned last year and a classroom for new lessons I have yet to learn. And surprises! I am sure there will be many delightful surprises awaiting me.

Let’s raise our glasses of sparkling cider to being lovingly transplanted from a good year to an even better one.

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New Year’s Cues From Little People

With our children growing in their ability to verbalize their awareness of life, I am seeing my own habits with fresh eyes. For instance, our 4-year old clearly sees things in black and white. If something is unhealthy to eat, then why do we still eat it? Or if he can’t watch a scary movie, then why do we watch it? My conviction has increased when I don’t keep my word in detail or neglect my own daily Bible reading. At the risk of sounding cliche, I want them to be able do what I do and not only what I say.

Which brings me to my renewed intentions for the new year:

  • Compromise out of conviction not convenience~ I hope to reduce the number of times I compromise because it’s the easier thing to do. Perhaps I am too lazy to fix a healthy meal so we eat snacks instead; I might not feel like getting out of bed right away so I skip my devotions; I lack motivation so I put off an important task or ignore a friend’s request to chat.  These are things I want to leave in yesteryear. Instead, I would like to show my children that at times we compromise because we seek peace with those around us and meeting in the middle acknowledges that we are not all-knowing. Other people have valid points that are worth considering.
  • Live the gospel~ Jesus and His truth are becoming more and more a part of our little ones’ vocabulary and that THRILLS my heart. Out of a passion to nurture their desire to learn more about Jesus and genuinely love Him, I want to be passionate about living for Him daily. This doesn’t mean becoming missionaries to Africa; it does mean reading my Bible, audibly praying for wisdom, asking for forgiveness when I make mistakes, and explaining biblical truths that apply to our mealtime conversations.
  • Practicing balance~ the young people in our home are busy forming their “norms,” and what they see us routinely doing plays a significant role in those formations. Balance is a necessary practice in healthy living, physically and emotionally. If they see me on the phone more than they see me doing anything else, they will assume that’s what is done; if they hear me talking about my looks or what I dislike about myself every day, they will speak critically about themselves or obsess about appearance too; if I initiate conversation that criticizes others or is cynical about life, this will likewise influence their speech. Alternatively, I hope to speak uplifting words about myself and others and the world God has given to us; I desire to read books and a variety of them at that; I plan to continue to listen to music and theologically rich sermons; and we will be spending much time outdoors every day.

It goes without saying that I am not going to achieve these good intentions right away or all the time. And this allows me to practice showing grace and resilience- to myself and those around me. Perhaps in 2019 the children in this home will learn that just as God shows us grace through His Son, we likewise show grace. And just as He continues to perfect His good work in us, we will continue to try again and again and again to live well and righteously.

What are some of your new year’s intentions? Share them with us.

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Future Investments

Pause.         Let your mind drift back…and farther back…and farther still.  Where did you go? What memories floated to the forefront of your thoughts? What mental doors did you start to open and then slam shut? Where did you linger? Which faces brought warmth to your heart and which ones sent chills through your spine?

My memories pique my interest. At times I am surprised by the names that pop into my head – people I haven’t seen or talked to in years. Other times there will be a recurring thought, perhaps things I played as a child, or places I visited, or events in which I was a participant. Certain memories cause me to recoil; certain people bring tears of joy or sorrow or bitterness to my eyes. Every so often I regret missed opportunities and wonder what fond memories they would have brought had I seized the day.

I believe that the circumstances and people of which our memories are comprised are what shape our identities and have influenced the people we are in this moment. Each person has left a fingerprint upon our values and opinions; each event or situation or cause in which we spent time has given us experience to reflect upon and, in turn, prompts our future decisions. With this perspective in mind, it prompts me to pose the question: how will we live tomorrow?

There is less than a month left of the year 2018. It behooves us to reflect on how we are going to move forward in the year ahead:

  • How much time is spent with Jesus each day?
  • Which individuals need more of my time and attention?
  • Are there habits that need to be removed or cultivated?
  • How can I keep my mind from stagnating?
  • What opportunities do I want to seize?
  • Do I need to refresh my priorities?

Every moment that I live is an investment into my future. I want it to be worthwhile.

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The Humility in Change

Have you observed yourself doing something because you have always done it? Do you hold on to certain activities, styles, methods because you have a reputation for them? Do you do something because you know you’re good at it and you might not be good at doing something else?

I have observed these things about myself and realized that I am avoiding change because it hurts my pride. I like having the reputation of being well-balanced in all that I do. I like the idea that I’m well-rounded and able to juggle motherhood and everything else. I have held myself to a certain standard of quality and consistency and hate admitting that I can maintain that standard without letting go of certain activities I’ve always done.

It’s humbling to say I can’t do it all. That means I’ve dropped the ball on more than one occasion. It means I’ve messed up more than I care to acknowledge. It means I have to say “ta ta for now” to things I truly enjoy doing and people I enjoy interacting with on a regular basis.

But it’s also freeing. It means I can linger a little more, breathe a little deeper, and focus a little longer. It means that I know what my priorities are and I’m upholding them. It means that what I’m keeping is going to flourish with extra cultivation and I have made peace with the things I’m letting go.

Change is hard but it is healthy. It is indicator of growth in life and in character. It’s ok to be wistful when encountering change, but it’s also ok to allow it to refresh you.

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And Just Like That…

I am taking your birthday photos for the third year in a row. I dressed you up in a new outfit and you loved every minute of the process. We brushed out your hair and chatted about whether or not we should put in a hair clip. We decided not to. Then we gathered up the photo props and went outside. You eagerly climbed up on the rustic stool and held the flower I gave you. “This is fun!” you declared. Every moment of your special day has been treasured by you- and that’s simply one more precious thing about the person you are. Special moments, no matter how small, are savored by your sincere heart.

We chat as I snap different poses. I’m trying to capture the essence of who you are but I doubt that can be done in a photograph. It takes spending daily life with you to know exactly who you are. I savor the little conversations overflowing from your busy mind and expressive tongue. You verbalize deep ponderings in quiet moments and I’m thankful we live slowly so you can articulate them and I can listen.

You flourish at being you! You appreciate your own skin and are comfortable with your likes and dislikes. I know that I am a deeper person, a more appreciative person, because I spend time observing you. I am thankful for every instance I put down my phone so that I can look in your eyes or snuggle you in my lap or chat with you. No moment spent in your company is wasted. Gratitude fills my soul at every one of your birthdays because I know I have treasured every single day of those years. I am learning to linger, to not mind the midnight slumber parties, to let you help whenever you ask, to repeat answers, to not make little messes a big deal…because I know the years slip by…just like that.

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The Challenge to Do Less

As indicated in my previous post, I have very little spare time. There is so much going on, in fact, that I have very little to write about in my very few moments of spare time. This season has presented me with a fresh challenge: to do less rather than more. It goes against my nature but I have come to terms with it.  The question is: how do I meet this challenge?

One of the first things I have done is identify the priorities of the day; this is followed by reducing or eliminating anything that would distract from them. Social media has hung in the balance during this evaluation phase. It is essential to my  business and it certainly is a useful means of keeping up with the happenings in the lives of other people.  It is also convenient for keeping others updated on the events of my life without having to make individual contact with everyone. On the other hand, it can be the ultimate time waster as I scroll and click and browse and watch.  In many ways it is information overload to my already saturated brain. And after I finish scrolling, I rarely feel uplifted; it is more common for my heart to feel heavy as I see the parts of people’s lives that they want me to see: the pristine homes, the trendy clothes, the vacations, the new purchases, the perfect day. I am often left sighing about what I don’t have or can’t do or won’t see. This does nothing to add to a serene home or a peaceful heart.

I also feel a pressure to post. If it’s Instagram, I feel like I need to post every day with a million hashtags so that I will boost my following. I find myself comparing my following with others or my pictures with others and there I go again with feeling dissatisfied. There seems to be an element of social status on Instagram; if you don’t have a cool feed then you won’t have a large following and if you don’t have a large following you’re not cool. With Facebook, there’s an element of social obligation. People are friends because they want to know what’s going on in my life and if I’m not posting regularly I’m letting them down.

I realize that I could be reading a lot into this and I may also be stepping on some toes by broaching this subject. I also know that there is a growing frustration with social media. We are seeing that it does eat up much of our time – time that could be spent reading a book, playing a game, writing a letter, making a phone call or (*gasp*) stepping outside our front door and striking up a face-to-face conversation with someone.   People long for authenticity and let’s face it, that’s hard to come by on social media. People long for community, but we have to admit that the community found on social media is shallow and impersonal – you can’t borrow an egg from a friend on Facebook; you need a neighbor for that.

What it comes down to is that we fear invisibility and insignificance. We want our voices to be heard and our thoughts to count. On our accounts we are the center of the virtual universes we create; our followers see what we want them to and if we don’t like their comments we can delete them. It is not so easy in a live conversation on our front porches, is it? But truthfully, that is where true relationships and true change comes about: in person. When I weigh out a quick peek on Facebook with reading a story to my kids, which choice will have the lasting impact? And what will benefit my children the most, seeing me typing out a political post that they can’t even read yet or listening me engage in a thoughtful conversation about worldview at the dinner table?

The sands of time are sliding, ever sliding. I am seeking to maximize each minute: in conversation, in correspondence with individuals, and in lingering without the distraction of thinking about what I’ll say on my next Facebook post.  How we spend our time is a personal issue between us and our Maker. I know that many in my readership seek to use social media as a platform for sharing Christ’s truth with the world; I applaud and am grateful for their efforts. Personally, as I spend less time on social media I am  finding more free time than I expected and am now seeking to invest this time into individual people rather than the masses.

How would you rate the benefit of having social media in your life? Could those benefits be gleaned from other sources as well?

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A Very Good Place to Start

This week the kids and I have been studying the biblical account of Moses. It is evident that from his infancy God had a mission for this individual, although the details are not revealed until well into the middle of his lifetime. But what stood out the most to me in this particular reading is that after God told Moses to go back to Egypt, God also told him EXACTLY what to say – word for word! And what was even more profound to me is that it all began with God’s Name, the essence of His very nature.

There are many convicting details in this chapter, such as how Moses shrunk back from God’s call upon His life, even after being given the words to speak and told the successful outcome of his mission (that may be another blog for another day), but my takeaway from this main point is that everything I do should begin with God. (Why, even the Bible itself BEGINS with God!) I don’t know about you, but my first thoughts of the day rarely jump to Jesus. They are often about how tired I still feel or what needs to get accomplished before I go back to bed that night. My resolutions for the new year tend to revolve around me, myself and I; my routines tend to focus on what keeps my life running smoothly. These aren’t wrong in and of themselves; they are all human struggles. We get busy, tired and aware of ourselves because that is just how life goes. But it’s good to be reminded of Who should be our focal point each day.

Some of you may not be New Year’s resolutions kind of people like I am. And for those of you who make resolutions like I do, if you drop the ball on some of them and your year kicks off with a shaky start, it doesn’t mean your entire year is doomed. However, I think January is an excellent time to recenter our focus on I AM WHO I AM.  Gaining or losing poundage, getting our kids on a fantastic nap schedule (or not), or growing our businesses allpale in comparison to the majesty of the God whose name lasts FOREVER.

As Julie Andrews so poetically sings, “Let’s start at the very beginning/A very good place to start,” let’s begin this brand new year by asking ourselves the question, “Am I allowing the temporal struggles of life to overshadow the eternal truth of the gospel?” (A question inspired by Gloria Furman’s Treasuring Christ When Your Hands are Full.)

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