October is the craziest month of our year, as we come off birthday season in our house (3 of the four of us have birthdays within 13 days of each other) and head into a quieter time before Thanksgiving. This year especially, I was looking forward to it.
But the last three weeks have proven to be anything but quiet. We made a rapid-fire (but not rash) decision to try and sell our house and move into something else. I won't go into the trigger incident for the move. I will say the goal is to be in a house that has better space for our guests and that is closer to church.
That means that it fell (mostly) on me to declutter and clean the house and make it ready for house-shoppers to come through and peruse what our little home has to offer them. I have boxed and cleaned, cleaned and boxed, and moved furniture out and in to make the house look...different. About half of our belongings are now either in the trash, at a thrift store, on Craiglist (printer/scanner anyone?) or in a storage space that we rented, and the house is starting to come together as a sell-able product.
That makes it sound like it's been easy, right? And yet, it has been an extremely humbling experience. I have, for a long time, clung to the idea that since I have a small house, I must be a minimalist, free from the constraints of materialism and the longing of having All The Things.
But I've come to realize that I was not practicing what I thought I was practicing. In many ways, we continued to accumulate things when we should not have. When The Stuff got to be more than we could handle, sure, I'd haul some of it to Goodwill, but there have also been a lot of trips to Ikea to buy Stylish Swedish Vertical Storage to fit The Stuff into the small space.
I wish I could say that in the process of the packing that I decluttered more than I did, but in truth some of those things won't be clutter if we have the space to house them in the new place--though I intend to do another round of decluttering once we move, if the Lord is willing that we do so.
In the meantime, and especially with the Season of Marketing and Advertising upon us, I have been giving a lot of thought to The Stuff. And how to truly be free of any unproductive attachment to it. Here's what I plan to do to stay on the right path as we move forward--whether the Lord blesses us with more space or not.
1. Take care of what I do have. This has been a truly convicting point for me, and perhaps the most humbling part of the whole experience. I have found several things that I have really enjoyed, and perhaps have even used a lot, that are no longer as desirable to me simply because I didn't care for them as well as I should have. I have been instructed to be a good steward of what I have (1 Pet. 4:10). Realizing the many ways I have failed in that has been disturbing to me, and I am newly resolved to discontinue that trend! The good news: since I am determined to have less stuff, that will be less stuff to clean and maintain. More care to lavish on what I really do enjoy.
2. Use what I have. My wedding shoes--the ones I lovingly had color-matched to my dress and that were a real splurge for my parents, are in the trash as of this week. They did not hold up well, tucked away in their box in the top of the hall closet. I found them discolored and unsightly, and realized that even if they still looked nice, the style is far too youthful for me now. Wouldn't it have been nice to wear them a time or two in the years just following the wedding? They got ruined anyway, at least I could've used them. I have been far too guilty of not using my 'nice things.' Well, what's the point of having them if you're not going to use them? How will I tell the children stories of the china my grandmother gave me if they never see it? At some point, I'm not going to have it anyway--it will either get lost or broken or stolen or I'll die. So... why not use it and enjoy it? I remember reading Alice Walker's short story Everyday Use years ago, and being touched by it--but not always putting it into practice, that using important things is important and good.
3. Use my things to serve. This is the most productive way to do #2. If you look at 1 Pet. 4, there is a clear link between stewardship and serving. We aren't given things (physical or spiritual) to just sit around and stare at them--or even worse--to put them in the closet! It can look different depending on your interests, who you know, and what people need. Maybe it's using your dishes to have people over. Maybe it's using a casserole pan to make a meal for someone. Maybe it's letting someone borrow your outdoor gear because they want to try out camping without committing to buying a slew of stuff just yet. My things, while now clutter to me, can be a blessing to someone else. When I have clothes that are no longer my style or are too youthful for me, there may be someone else out there who will love it. My random small appliances may have been on someone else's "want" list for a while. Getting a freebie from someone else is such a nice surprise, and giving one to someone means both of us win. Just don't be offended if they don't take it--all you can do is offer!
4. One thing in, one thing out. When you do find that you need to bring something into your home, this is a great rule to follow. I'll warn you though-- this one is hard! We "need" the new thing, but have a tough time letting go of the old. But it is a good practice in just how much we need it, if we already have something we don't want to let go of. Going forward, I intend to decide just what I will let go of BEFORE I buy the new thing.
5. If it hasn't been used in a year, let it go. Oof, this one is hard for me. I always want to fudge and make it two--or even three--years, but the one year rule is solid. If it's important to you, you'll use it. If it's not, it's clutter.
Alright, I'm off now to clean the newly-discovered surfaces in the house in preparation for family and Thanksgiving. I have so much to be thankful for--including my newly humbled spirit. Here's to being a better steward of all the many, many blessings I have been given.
This blog has been long-neglected. Not for any lack of thought on my part, but because much of my thinking has been going on in the background while things that required doing demanded my time more urgently. I am pleased to have the desire and the time to be back at a keyboard and writing this morning.
Lord, may I be single-minded, sincere, and constant in my love and service for you. May I teach your way diligently to my children, and may we all never stray from it.
A couple of weeks ago, I took the girls to have lunch with their daddy at work. It was a beautiful day so we went to the picnic tables that his company has outside, and we lunched there. The girls were having honey roasted peanut butter and apples as part of their lunch and pretty soon we were joined by a couple of yellow jackets who wanted to have it, too. I’m terrified of bees but was trying to stay calm so the kids would also keep calm.
Shortly after we had re-assured them, again, that there was nothing to worry about, one of them landed on my husband’s hand and as he tried to shoo it away, he crushed it between his fingers and it stung him. We all saw it happen, and saw his reaction: the grimace of pain, a grunt that sounded something like “oh-oof,” and the wringing of his hand, followed by more grimacing.
And that was it. No histrionics. No yelling. No jumping out of his seat. No so-many-other-ways someone could react to a painful yellow jacket sting. I’ve known this man for nearly half my life and I know how he is, and even I was impressed.
“Girls,” I said. “You have an amazing daddy.”
“Why?” one of them asked.
“He just has incredible self-control. Most people who get stung by bees wouldn’t just sit there and be as quiet as he just was. It’s very painful! And he just really controlled himself even though he hurt a lot.”
Okay, I may have said more than that. I may have demonstrated what some of the histrionics that that their dad forewent would have looked like. But I really wanted to drive home the point that you don’t have to freak out every time something hurts you.
Fast forward to Saturday, and we were hiking. We all enjoy being in the woods so much, but don’t do it often enough. It was a beautiful day, we hiked a 3.5 mile round-trip route. But it was late in the day when we started, and headed back to the car, the girls were tired. I was tired too, and I could tell my motor skills were just off enough that I needed to concentrate on my footing. We warned the girls (who have a penchant for both walking backwards and swiveling their heads all the way around to talk to us) that they needed to keep their eyes on the trail and pay attention.
On one of our little rest breaks by the side of the trail, our eldest was hanging onto the side of a tree when she had a slight misstep and scraped the inside of her arm against the bark. I saw it happen and grabbed her quickly and she pressed into me. I could feel her breathe hard, tense, silently grimace, tense again, breathe hard and hug me tight.
“It’s okay, it’s okay, let me see it,” I said, fully expecting tears and some sort of hike-denouncement coming on. But she said nothing of the sort. She said it hurt, and I know it did, especially because it was at such a place that it would have rubbed against her shirt for the rest of the hike. But she quietly gathered herself and continued on the hike without a word of complaint.
Later in the hike, very near to the end, both girls were goofing off with their dad, running and holding hands, when I saw our six-year-old go down in a complete face plant. She laid on the ground for probably a full 20 seconds as I ran to her. She was starting to get up as I arrived by her side, and I could see the full extent of the damage. Scrapes, on both knees, dirty abrasions on her palms. Dirt all over her shirt and shorts, a flushed face, and her little blond ponytail in disarray. We didn’t discover till later a pretty nasty scrape on her right hip. Her little eyes were watery but instead of letting the tears fall, she insisted, “I’m okay! I’m okay!”
“Are you sure?” I asked. “It’s okay to not be okay.”
“I’m okay. I’m okay. “ I brushed her off and we told her that the visitor center was just ahead and we’d get her cleaned up there. With very little fanfare she grabbed her sister’s hand again and they started back down the trail, though this time, they were walking.
They were close enough to us for my husband to overhear our oldest lean over to her sister and say proudly, “Hey! You were using SELF-CONTROL!” And she was. They both had been.
In both instances, they acted very much like they had seen their father act a few days earlier. Both of them had every reason, as children who were hurt, to dissolve into tears. But both made the choice to control their emotions and continue on their adventure.
I was reminded of two things that day.
1. Our children are watching and listening, closely. Yeah, yeah I know I talk about this alot, but this fact continues to be a wonderment to me, as well as a lesson in humility. I pray every day when we start school that their little hearts will be open to the lessons of the day, and they are learning. They may need help in understanding what they are seeing, but that’s one of the great joys of parenting: helping them process lessons. The humility part comes in accepting that in the role of parent, I am a--if not the-- primary role model for their behavior--good or bad. Likewise, with the spiritually less-mature-- they are watching us, too. And if those two sobering realities don't call for self-control, I don't know what does..
2. We all have a choice, in every situation, in how we react. If my six-year-old can hold back the tears while blood is seeping down her knee toward her socks, how much more practiced should I be as an adult? In a situation where my feelings are hurt by a hostile word, I can choose to react with words of kindness, or to react in meekness, sometimes saying nothing at all. When my anxieties threaten to spiral out of control I have the choice to make myself step back and look at the situation as it really is, and let my faith in God’s control comfort me. And on and on. Self-control in situations of pain allows me to continue to have joy on my journey by not focusing on the scrapes I’ve received along the way.
For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. (Titus 2:11-14)
I am not a mathematician. Oh, giggling peels of laughter, I am not a mathematician. But today is one of those days when I wish I knew how to make an algorithm. Or an algebra problem. Or… something… that could help me to prove something.
See, I have a theory. Let’s call it, oh, the Theory of Collective Christian Distraction. And it is one that pops into my head well, just about every time I get on Facebook. For there, undoubtedly, I will see an article or a blog post that someone has shared. Sometimes (not often) they are written by someone I actually know. Sometimes they are shared from the blog of someone I don’t know. The sources are varied, but the intent is often not: They contain religious or semi-religious content and opinion that will inevitably spark conversation and debate about some gray matter among Christians. Let me be very clear: I am not talking about scripture-based devotional writings or videos—the posts I’m speaking of rarely drive us to open our Bibles, but rather to open our mouths via the keyboard.
And then, if you want to, you can actually spend the better part of an entire day watching the responses of people who you don’t know… who the author of the blog post likely doesn’t know… who, quite possibly, your Facebook friend doesn’t know. Sometimes the numbers will go into the high double digits, or even triple digits. It is clear that all of them put (some) thought and time into crafting these responses, whether right or not. This, despite the fact that it will simply disappear into the ether when on the following day someone posts something about the government or –oh look! A cute cat!
WHAT. A. DESTRUCTIVE. WASTE. OF. TIME.
That’s pretty much the Theory of Collective Christian Distraction. I just wish I could figure out a number that would do something like this:
Add time spent reading such articles to time spent by poster crafting an initial comment.
Subtract time spent in Bible study on the matter (this rarely appears to happen, at least between first reading and sharing).
Divide by amount of confusion experienced by new Christians or struggling ones.
Multiply by number of people who may be lurking on the topic but not posting.
Multiply again by negative perceptions of ‘argumentative Christians’ who are no longer really all that hip to spending time with you inside or outside of worship because of how feisty and outspoken you and your church buddies are.
Can someone help me quantify this? Because really, I’d like to compare it to the amount of time we’re spending in the actual ministering to the spiritual needs and in study of the Bible with people who need to know about Jesus. The real lives we could touch if we’d get off the computer, stop arguing non-binding matters, and focus on all the people who are hurting.
Me, I’m trying. I don't want to get distracted from my real work here as a servant of God. I’m getting better about letting the arguments go. It’s not always easy. But I am instead making a conscious effort to do what is productive in my own personal service to the Lord, instead of engaging online. I’m a mom, and let me tell you, there is no shortage of what is in the Bible that I need to learn myself, and teach my children. That’s where my focus needs to be. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t be aware of what’s going on in our culture or what our brothers and sisters are concerned about—I think that’s part of the warning Jesus gives in Matthew 10:16.
I’m saying we must be on guard about the time and effort and good will that all this ‘discussion’ eats up. And I’m saying it’s harder to do my actual work when I’m distracted and distraught about what everyone thinks today about Blog Post X. And far harder when I’m upset about something someone clear across the country said that truly, has no bearing on how I will worship God come Sunday.
So. Instead of using my emotional energy on those things, I might invite a college-aged girl over for lunch. Instead of writing out something thoughtful but soon-to-be-buried by other posts, I could be texting a friend to see how she’s doing today. Instead of reading responses, I could be reading my Bible.
Of course Facebook can be a tool for good. Of course it can. But public division, I’m pretty sure, is not the best way to use the tool. People who need God don’t need more useless fighting. They are already in the fight of their lives. They need an introduction to the peace of Jesus. But sometimes we feel like our opinions must be heard, and let our lack of humility and meekness make us terrible advertisers of God’s gifts. And yes, I have struggled with whether to even put this post on Facebook as it could be perceived as a hot-button topic post. But, I'm asking specifically that you not make comment or argument publicly, but merely that you give it your consideration (and of course feel free to message me personally if you feel the need to discuss further).
If you post the stuff, please think seriously and honestly about why you’re posting it. If you follow or respond, think about whether it is the best use of your time and influence. If you are discouraged by it, get out your Bible and read God’s words, not someone else’s. Ask a trusted older Christian to help you make sense of it all—in person if you can.
“ Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.” Eph. 5:15-16
Last weekend we celebrated my daughter’s sixth birthday. As it is with every passing birthday, it is so hard to believe it’s been so long since she was just a chunk of a baby, laid up in my arms.
Nevertheless, the time came for us to celebrate her again, and this year she chose a Shirley Temple theme for her party. She has been exposed to Shirley Temple through my dear friend Judi, who dotes on my kids like they were her own grandchildren and has occasionally kept them up very late watching Shirley sing and dance. When we first started talking about doing the party, I took to Pinterest where I found… very little. But over time the party took shape and so following is what we ended up with.
I do want to say that the reason I’m sharing this is not so I can be all “Heyyyyy look how crafty I am.” Here's why I wanted to put it out there:
1. Lots of us wonder how to keep little girls sweet in a world that wants to sexualize them too early. I latched onto this theme because it is sweet and innocent and I think that not only do mindful parents want that, but our children do too! When I went to look for ideas they weren't there, so I'm sharing some for someone else who might want them.
2. I also have struggled with the increasing price and over-the-top-iness of children’s birthday parties. But every time I again commit to having a party at our home and limiting the budget somewhat, I end up quite pleased with what I can come up with, with a little internet research time and some work. I want to encourage anyone interested to give that a try instead of just feeling like you have to keep up with everyone else.
My family’s go-to cake is the Hershey’s Especially Dark Chocolate Cake. You can find the recipe here or on the back of the box of Special Dark Cocoa. I cannot recommend this cake enough—it is AMAZING and very easy to make. I have done more extensive cake decorating in the past but for this, I just made some white chocolate shaving ‘curls’ for the cake. Cost: Under $9 for cake, white chocolate, and candles.
THE TABLE AND FAVORS:
I decorated the table with some leftover tulle and ribbons I had, and then all the candy from the song The Good Ship Lollipop:
On the good ship lollipop.
Its a sweet trip to a candy shop
Where bon-bons play
On the sunny beach of Peppermint Bay.
Lemonade stands everywhere.
Crackerjack bands fill the air.
And there you are
Happy landing on a chocolate bar.
See the sugar bowl do the tootsie roll
With the big bad devils food cake.
If you eat too much ooh ooh
You'll awake with a tummy ache.
Bonbons, peppermints, lollipops, Tootsie Rolls, chocolate bars…basically everything but the lemonade. The girls each got a bag and filled it with the candy to take home. This was the biggest expense of the party but, oh well. Cost (including bags): $15
…and the reason we didn’t do lemonade was because I wanted to make the Shirley Temple floats I’d found on Pinterest. Ginger Ale, Vanilla Ice Cream, Maraschino Cherries and their juice. I put them in the crystal we got when we got married so it felt very fancy. I wasn’t sure how the little girls would like them (I myself don’t like cherry-flavored things) but they slurped them down. Cost: $7 for ice cream, ginger ale, maraschino cherries
I had toyed with rag-curling their hair for the party but that just seemed like too much work, so I decided to make them “wigs” using headbands and curling ribbon. I got the cheapest headbands they had at Target and a big roll of gold curling ribbon. I then spent quite some time cutting the ribbon, tying it on the headbands, and curling it. I stupidly thought this might be a project my kids were old enough to help me with if they used kiddie scissors but right off the bat there were tears and a cut, so, um, no.
This was by far the most time-consuming part of the party. Thankfully it is pretty mindless and everything else was easy. I ended up using about 60 pieces of curling ribbon on each headband. Each piece was about 12-15 inches long; I didn’t do hardcore measuring on it because that seems like work, but it also ended up that the pieces weren't completely uniform--a good thing in my opinion. But anything shorter than 12-15 inches and you’ll end up with tiny bits of curl. Cost: $6.50 for headbands and curling ribbon.
THE TAP SHOES:
Right when the girls got to the house I showed them a bunch of YouTube videos of Shirley Temple singing and tap-dancing. I then showed them how to do the simplest of simple tap steps (which I had looked up on YouTube the night before. Mama don’t tap dance.)
Then we made temporary tap shoes. I found a DIY guide to making tap shoes, but it called for using metal washers, which will certainly destroy hardwoods. So I went to Michael’s and got a bag of big plastic buttons and some cheap yarn. Then at the party I enlisted some (very patient)parents to help thread the yarn through the buttons and we tied a button to the front and the back of the bottom of the girls’ shoes. Then they ran around the house making noise until inevitably the buttons slipped off and we had to re-tie them. It was cheap, and fun, and they got a feel for the joy you get when your shoes go tappity-tap. Mission accomplished. Cost: $6 for buttons + yarn
Then we ate the cake and opened presents and the party was done. My daughter felt celebrated and her friends enjoyed themselves. I don’t know that anyone will be wearing their Shirley Temple curls around town, but maybe that’s a good thing. ;)
You know those moments, when your child says or does something that, in that beautiful childlike way brings things into focus? Yep, had one of those yesterday. I told the girls we were having some neighbors over for dinner and my oldest said to me, “Oh good, Mommy! I knew that was going to happen but I didn’t know when.”
“How did you know?” I asked, just because I knew I had unintentionally neglected to tell them until that day.
“I heard you tell Mrs. Jennifer about it in the car the other day,” she said. And then, the articulation of her heart:
“I like to listen to grown-ups talk, Mommy. I do it all the time so I can know what’s going on. I don’t know why. I just like to listen to the grown-ups.”
Now, I try to be mindful of what I say in front of the kids. I don’t want them hearing me be negative, anxious, or grumbly. I do want them to hear me say kind things, praise others and work out problems. So certainly, this was a reminder that I need to continue on that track.
But it also brought to mind a phrase I first encountered as a child myself, reading The Little House on the Prairie series. Ma Ingalls would say, "Little pitchers have big ears." My child is listening to us. She wants to listen to us. And she does it with purpose: to learn.
And then I wondered… Am I listening to the grownups? Do I hear what Christians who are older, wiser, more experienced are saying, both to me and to each other? Do I want to learn?—because here seems to be an easy way to.
If I am listening to the grownups, what can I learn? A lot of them will tell me directly what I need to hear—thank God for those who take on the role of public and private teacher! But I have to be willing to show up, and to listen, and then to apply.
Still others will talk to me about their experiences; share their experiences. There is so much to learn there, if I listen. A lot of times the struggle there is in making the time to listen to them. If I am too busy rush-rush-rushing around, I don’t have time to take in what they have to say. That’s a struggle while wife-ing and parenting, but probably a struggle I need to fight. Those who have been-there, done-that have, quite simply, been there and done that and almost always have a few tips and tricks that will save me pain and heartache in the long run.
And then there are times I get the opportunity to listen to "the grown-ups" talk to each other. To hear their regrets, to hear the ways they care for each other, to “listen” to what their interactions with each other have to teach me about their hearts, and to mimic the good things they do. There is learning in the listening.
But most importantly, am I listening to the ultimate grown-up, my Heavenly Father? Do I really want to learn? Because He has said so much to me in his word! I am his beloved child. Just like I want my children to learn what is good and right and true from what I say, so He wants me to learn those things from that He has said.
One of the most infuriating things in my parenting is when one of the kids says “I didn’t hear you,” when the truth is, they weren’t listening to me. I have found that to make sure they are listening, I sometimes need to put my hands on their cheeks, gently turn their face to me and lock eyes with them. I’m pretty sure that in preserving scripture for us, God did the exact same thing for me. It is my job to listen. I need to lock my eyes with him, in devoted study of my Bible.
Today I need to speak less, listen more. Find the grownups. Read what my Father is saying to me. Have big ears and hear it. Apply it.
And the Lord came and stood, calling as at other times, “Samuel! Samuel!” And Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant hears.” 1 Samuel 3:10
The time when I’m making dinner can be a vulnerable time for me, thought-wise. It’s often the first time after the events of the day where I am somewhat alone—the kids usually play and it’s just me and my thoughts while I cook. Often the activities of the day have left me somewhat tired and instead of having time to process the day I’m doing more work. Now, I love to cook, but this just seems to be a time where I’m able to be in my head, and that’s not always good.
Last night I got to thinking about Mary and how much I will miss her. And there was that jolt of “I can’t believe she’s gone,” which is so often followed by what seems like an almost electrical jolt of sadness to my system. It is the kind of thing that can sometimes be a diving board straight into despair.
But last night, just as I had that thought, it was hijacked by this most wonderful realization: “I am so thankful I got to know her.” Now, Mary knew a lot of people. A LOT. And because she loved people in general and because she wanted to serve God and them, I’d say she knew well many more people than most folks do. But in the grand scheme of the world, there are so many more people who didn’t get to know her. BUT I DID. And I am just so thankful that God allowed me some time with her. And it gave me a totally different perspective on what to think about during the many times she will be crossing my mind. “I miss her, but thank you, Lord, for letting me know her even just a little bit. I won’t waste that gift.”
I like to think I’m a pretty grateful person, but this was revelatory for me. For the rest of the night, I decided to consciously practice gratitude, just to see what other thoughts I could turn on their head.
I was making Breakfast-for-Dinner (yeah!), which involves my grandmother’s recipe for biscuits from scratch. I am pretty committed to cooking real food, but I gotta tell ya, cooking without convenience foods can be pretty…inconvenient. And while Breakfast-for-Dinner is pretty much the best thing in the world, I found myself looking at the bowl of flour and thinking of cleaning up bacon grease and cutting up watermelon. I felt a sigh coming on.
And then…”I’m so thankful I get to do this.” I’m so thankful I have the means to do this. That I have a husband who supports us willingly so I can have the time to do it. That he even has a job. That we have two little girls who clamor for the biscuit dough and help set the table. And on and on till the biscuits were in the oven and we were ready to eat and truly offer thanks for dinner. Grateful. I won’t waste that gift.
The other experiment came when I checked Facebook. One of the first things that came up was a picture of some people I know, having fun together. I hadn’t been invited. This is nothing new, and I don’t invite everyone I know to everything I do, nor do any of us have time to attend every gathering of every person we know every time they happen. And yet, I started to feel that feeling. Perhaps you know it? It’s the “Oh thanks Facebook for letting me know that other people are having fun together while I’m just here hanging out in my frumpy clothes with my phone” feeling. I hate discontentedness, and yet I could feel it coming on.
And then… I hijacked the thought. “I’m so thankful they got to be together.” And I meant it, too. Perhaps it was just what they needed at that time. It was certainly a group that doesn’t get to be together often. I know how that feels and it is so good! I’m thankful that they were together, and that they got to get closer. Those are all good things and frankly, how self-centered of me to be even remotely jealous. I have good times, too—a lot of them. There are times where the reality is, I am thankful not to be asked to do more things because I tend to over-commit and then get stressed out. I’m truly thankful for all of it. And I won’t waste that gift.
I intend to practice intentional gratitude again today. But going beyond gratitude, I intend to hijack as many negative thoughts as I can. We are in a war against Satan, who wants to steal our joy at every turn. This is a weapon against discontentedness and so many other joy-stealers that we are free to use, and it’s a powerful one. Strongholds: I am coming for you today.
3 For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. 4 The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. 5 We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.
2 Corinthians 10:3-5
Pray the simple prayer above; it will happen. May we all draw nearer to the God who made that ocean, those clouds, that sunset, and our eternal home.
7 Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9 Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. (James 4:7-9)
I started this morning with a bit of work in Robin’s study on How to Love Your Children. It’s very good—I recommend it if you have children or hope to be blessed with them. One thing I am inspired by every time I read it is Deuteronomy 6:1-13.
“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.[b] 5 You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. 6 And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. 8 You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. 9 You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
10 “And when the Lord your God brings you into the land that he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give you—with great and good cities that you did not build, 11 and houses full of all good things that you did not fill, and cisterns that you did not dig, and vineyards and olive trees that you did not plant—and when you eat and are full, 12 then take care lest you forget the Lord, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. 13 It is the Lord your God you shall fear. Him you shall serve and by his name you shall swear. “
It is a comfort to me that God has wanted his children to teach their children diligently since the beginning. If he told me to do it—I can do it! (Because he WANTS me to do it.)
[dil-i-juhnt adj. 1. constant in effort to accomplish something; attentive and persistent in doing anything: a diligent student.
Look at that definition. God is giving us work to do here! It is every day work. It is all-through-the-day work. It is a constant effort. It has a goal, to accomplish something; you’ll find that in verse 12 above. I am to be attentive: I have to stop texting, take a break from cleaning, and interact with these children and figure out what they need to hear in order to never forget the Lord. I must be persistent in my teaching of God’s word. And He will help me do it (Phil. 4:13).
Here’s what that looks like right now, for me:
1. Daily Bible study with the kids. We do this as part of our homeschool curriculum, but you can do it whenever you are together with your kids. A book like Egermeier’s has easily digestible lessons with questions to ask at the end. It makes it easy and my kids beg me to read more than one. Working together to do their Bible lessons for class at church is part of this, too. Someone once told me that kids find it embarrassing to be unprepared for class, so that's an added motivation, too.
2. Learning hymns and songs. This is what I remember most from being a child—the songs we sang. The words comfort me and since those songs are rooted in scripture, they remind me of what the Lord has done for me. I want to impart that to my children. It’s one of the reasons I’m working to set their memory work to song. These don't have to be kids songs, by the way. We do a lot of vocabulary work in explaining what some of the more 'stately' hymns mean. It helps me, too.
3. Being in nature. Children always find things to look at when you are in the woods or even just paying attention to the sunrise/sunset or the growing things in your front yard. “Who made that? Isn’t it amazing what God has done?” Is a constant refrain in our house. When they start asking the “Why did God make that?” questions, things get really interesting! (P.S. if you exercise them well in the outdoors they will be calmer and sleep better, too. You might find that you enjoy this benefit as well.)
4. Being around other Christians, of all ages. Teenagers love little kids and can be a great example and friend to your children. Parents with kids older than yours will remember theirs fondly when they look at yours, and will help pinpoint areas in which yours can be encouraged and more disciplined. Older Christians will actively seek to teach your children and to show them affection. These are special relationships that my children treasure. I do, too.
5. Taking them to evening or weekend Bible studies and singings. Mine are really starting to see this as a way of life, and they are learn to sit, behave, and even participate. If you take it seriously, they will learn to take it seriously, too. At almost-6 and almost-8, mine love to sit with different people (often the teenagers I mentioned above), they love to be able to find and even index a song in the hymnal, and they like to pick out a song to request. Added bonus: we are all getting to know new people better.
6. Thankfulness, thankfulness, thankfulness. My kids start their prayers now as their father does: “Our Father in Heaven, thank you for this wonderful day.” If we can see every day as Full of Wonder, because of how God has ordered things, then gratitude for everything about it comes more easily. It helps us set the tone in our house for teaching thankfulness for the things we HAVE been blessed with, instead of complaining about the things we don’t have. It is a lesson that, I myself need help putting in practice every day… especially when I get on Pinterest. Amen?
I’d love to hear how you teach diligently, as we look for ways to know God and make Him known. Especially if you have kids in different age ranges than mine, I want to know what this looks like in your home. Share, please!
"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God."
2 Thess. 1:3-4
My mother is a psychologist. A helper. She has counseled countless people, and so many of them are ‘secret’ from anyone because of confidentiality laws. But beyond her paying clients she has also privately counseled many Christians just because… that’s what she does. She listens and she helps (my dad, a minister, does his share of this, too). Thus, I sometimes forget that not everyone has a psychologist in their family, so not everyone grew up with copies of the DSM-IV sitting around, or being gifted the now-defunct board game “Therapy,” and that not everyone knows the terms that we have always thrown around in conversation. Yes, I grew up with words like “behavior modification” (using systems to increase the desired behaviors and/or decrease problem behaviors.), “projection” (assuming other’s view of the world is the same as your own), or “FOO” (family of origin) rolling off my tongue. (You didn't?!?)
I realized this week that a lot of people don’t know about the stages of grief. And I’m around a lot of grieving people this week. So I wanted to throw them out there in case knowing about them might be helpful to anyone going through this process. And it is a PROCESS.
Process (pros-es): n. a continuous action, operation, or series of changes taking place in a definite manner: the process of decay.
So, I hope you take away from that that it's not necessarily going to happen overnight. It may take time. Sometimes it takes a lot of time. I am not saying that it's right to wallow in grief (that would be ‘grieving as the world’ 1 Thess. 4:13), but it’s okay to recognize what’s happening. God gave us emotions, and we are capable of controlling them (Eph. 4:26). Often, if we will be quiet and listen to them, emotions serve as warning signs. Knowing those signs can help you to pray more specifically to God about His help. They can also help you articulate what's on your heart to a caring Christian who can help you, too.
So, without further ado: The Five Stages of Grief. My non-psychologist brain remembers that not everyone goes through these at the same time or in the same stage; apparently there is no real timeline. And isn’t that also a blessing? We can give each other some perspective as we go through this since even those of us mourning the same thing will be in different places in our grief.
Here are the stages of grief, as described by WebMD:
May God bring us swiftly through the stages that leave us so foggy and to a place of acceptance and joy in His care. Lord, keep us ever-mindful that there are "No tears in Heaven."
"And the ransomed of the Lord shall return
and come to Zion with singing;
everlasting joy shall be upon their heads;
they shall obtain gladness and joy,
and sorrow and sighing shall flee away. "
Encouragement Spoken Here
"A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver." Proverbs 25:11