Friday, September 06, 2013

What is Unseen

It's been a while. :) But lately I've had so many thoughts and lessons running through my head and life that I know must be written down. Not out of obligation or duty or the need for responses (although I love those!) but out of a deep need to not forget what God is doing in my life. And always, I think and process better when I write it down. I wrote a great post the other day, a serious one, about seeing God in the suffering and sharing a new Shane & Shane song I discovered and many other deep things. It contains this paragraph, which is where I pulled the title for this post from:

"Romans 8 says this:
'24 For we were saved in this hope, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one still hope for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance.'

Look to what is unseen. WAIT for it. With perseverance."

I've been struggling daily, sometimes hourly lately with a situation in my life and heart. I'm struggling with the feeling/thoughts/conviction about some choices I'm making or have made that maybe others don't agree with. This is vague but I prefer not to share details. Basically though, it comes down to what I believe most mothers/people with struggle with at least once in our lives. For me, probably yearly. What is my role? You read Proverbs 31 and you read of this amazing woman who cares for her family and brings income into her home. You read blogs about utilizing your time as a stay-at-home Mom and helping your family out with the finances while caring for your family. You have friends who's every post on Facebook is evidence of their success in this area, about the money they are bringing in or the lives changed or the success won. And me, I feel like I'm not doing enough. I'm an incredibly competitive person by nature, and so especially when I feel like someone is doing something I should do, or do better, I get a nasty ugly feeling in the pit of my stomach. And I have a very hard time saying that it's the Holy Spirit. :)

The rub is that I would LOVE to write a book, or update my blog daily, be "famous" in the blogosphere, be wildly successful in an at home business that allows my family to run off to foreign countries and have lots of fun toys. I'd love to decorate a house to my exact tastes no matter the cost, to hire someone to sew designer clothes for my family (because I have given up on being a great seamstress at this point in my imagination), to be known for cooking amazing dinners, etc... And while I think some of these things are so good and so attainable, I'm also desiring relief from the pressure I put on myself.

Romans 8 grates on these desires. Because they are MY desires, born from my sinful selfish flesh. That does NOT mean that for everyone these things are wrong, but the simple act of taking a photo of my children on my phone and immediately posting it to Facebook has convicted my soul. Why do I do this? Is it to share in the joy that I believe is my children? Or is it more often than not to brag on some accomplishment they are doing? Or to make others feel like I'm such a good parent because I took them such and such a place and did something fun with them? Is it to gain recognition as a Mom who's with her children? To be the fun or smart Mom? To share that my child must be super smart or super athletic or super nice? What's my motivation? I "don't" care about your motivation, that's up to you and God and your husband too. :) But I'm so devastated by my own prideful and competitive heart. When I give in to the pride that says "I will show the world I'm supermom"

And then Romans 8 "why does one still hope in what is seen?". I often feel so inadequate as a person that I look for my validation in what is seen, in portraying to the world that I'm supermom, that I'm doing what I should, that I'm worthy I guess. "But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance." Oh how that rings hope to my soul, along with conviction. We EAGERLY wait for what is unseen with perseverance. What is unseen in my life? Right now, this baby boy growing inside of me. (Well we get to see him on ultrasound, for which I'm thankful, but overall, he's hidden away in my womb) What is unseen? My children's future. The unseen in their lives that I can hope for and persevere for is that they will be called by God and saved and glorify Him in everything they do for all of eternity. This is the biggie. And how do I hope and persevere for that? By this moment, and the next. By desperately praying and trying and striving to be a Momma who points them to Jesus. And God gives small moments of hope. Like when Levi was asked at an assessment this week to draw what I would say was a plus sign. He did (!) and then said "It's a cross, like where Jesus died". And did I pray that was a testimony to the other person? Of course, but my Momma's heart sung because it was a small glimmer of hope that Levi was understanding what God has done. Do I share that now for praise and a good job Momma? No, because in my failures I know it's only by God's immense grace that my child could understand anything about His love and precious gift.

So how does this all tie together? Let me share my week's/month's events with you for application. I've been struggling, like I said. I LOVE what I do, I love being a wife and mother, but lately, it's overwhelmed me. Yes, I know some of that is from being pregnant and hormones and physically dealing with it all. And when I say overwhelmed, I don't mean in a "I can't cope!" kind of way. I mean overwhelmed in a "Lord is this all worth it? How am I making a difference? Am I really doing what I should?" Kind of insightful way. Insightful, ha! ;) Last weekend my husband went on a camping trip with some guy friends. I had finally had a successful week budgeting our groceries and had already gone shopping before I realized he'd need to provide at least one meal for all of them. So not out of resourcefulness, but out of sheer "I WILL NOT GO BACK TO THE STORE!" craziness I made cinnamon rolls and cookies for them to take. And they were good! (Yes, they ate more than that, but that was the staple I was lacking in his meal.) Guess what? No big pat on the bag or even eaten by all the guys. Pride, demolished. In the same weekend, I was blessed to take my kiddos up to one of the guy's wife's family's cabin for a day on the lake and not alone with my kiddos. It was so fun, and I was just relieved to not be alone with them. Seriously. I was so tired and so desperate for Daddy's help I was just glad to be able to go somewhere. Now, let me say my husband definitely deserved a weekend away, so he's all in the clear here. But my biggest lesson? No pride needed. There is NO way I could have cared for my children in that setting alone. At least not without going crazy. I was overwhelmed by the love shown to myself and my children. I got to try Stand-Up Paddleboarding because others swam and played in the water with my children. I got to eat lunch because others played with and chased them. I got to sit and just visit with friends because another dear couple played puppies and other random kiddo things with my 2 munchkins. Not out of duty or obligation, but out of hearts of love and kindness. I saw Jesus in my friends and their family. Could I have cared for the basic needs of my children alone? Yes, by God's grace. But would my babes have had as much fun or been as loved if I had? Not by a long shot.

See, God knew what He was doing when He designed the body of Christ. He knew we needed each other. And after the weekend, Tuesday morning I woke up knowing I was getting a cold. My pride tried to fight it, and say it'll only last a day or two and I'll be fine. So I worked hard on Tuesday on some projects I wanted to get done. I felt like crud by the end of the day and leftovers for supper it was. Wednesday I knew we had our big anatomy scan for the baby in the afternoon so I worked hard all morning/afternoon on cleaning my house and supper in the crockpot and getting lots done. When we got home and thanked the dear friend who watched our kiddos and ate supper, I knew I'd overdone it. But I wanted a totally clean house for the first time in weeks and for my husband's admiration. I went to bed that night sicker but looking at my house like "finally". And let's be clear here, there are windows that needed washing and dusting to be done, but overall, toys were picked up and floors cleaned and the bathroom sanitary and all the dirty laundry fit in the hampers and all the clean laundry was put away. Now, 36 hours later, guess what? There are toys on the floor, toothpaste in the sink, laundry to be folded, dishes to be washed and crumbs on the floor. Does it matter? No, because we live here, but my temporary pleasure in what is seen was so quickly undone. Now, no harm in being thankful for a clean house or HAVING a clean house. It's a good thing. But I was feeling way too proud of myself for getting it done while sick. And since then? No denying, I probably prolonged my sickness. Today, I'm down for the count. I still fed my children and ran an errand and played with them, but ugh how cruddy I feel. No supermom awards today. Except this, I am a mom, and God has given me the day with my family.

All these examples to say this. We need each other. I need my husband to pick up pizza for supper and take the kiddos on a walk when I'm done in. I need friends who don't expect me to do it all and who love to play with my kids. I need older women who enjoying giving me a break or going to an appointment by watching my children. I need a friend who drives her daughter to baby-sit to save me buckling in my kiddos twice. We NEED each other. God never expects us to do this life alone. The gift of salvation should teach us this. It's not by MY works of righteousness, but in HIS mercy He saved me.

So what does this mean? It means that my guilt/frustration/heaviness that I place on myself for wondering if others think I could be doing this pregnancy thing better is SO wrong. Do I care if you think I look fat or pregnant? Yes, unfortunately. But here's what I do know to be truth. I was able to run and bike far longer into this pregnancy than any previous. My pants may not fit still, but my son is kicking me. I may not be an excellent example of helping my family out financially by bringing in lots of extra income, but God has given my husband a new job that pays more and still allows me to do things that save us money. Even now as I write these things, I sound justifiable.

So let's backtrack. I am writing this before you today to say, relax. Open the Scripture. Talk to your spouse. Get your requirements and expectations from God and your spouse alone. Not Pinterest, not your friends lives, not Facebook pressure, not your own warped idea of what you should be doing, not your own prideful ambitions, none of the "seen" things. Does your husband want to take trips to exotic places, or does he simply want supper at home every night? Does he want ironed clothes, or simply a made bed everyday? Does he want you to spend your time earning money from home (possibly while using the TV as a baby-sitter, because I'm not sure how else you do it?!), or does he want you to shop less and be home more? What does God say is important in your children's lives? To know all their letters by the time they are 2 or to be able to know He wants their entire lives to be about Him?

Am I saying you can't do both sides? Nope, not at all. That's why I'm saying it's between you and God and your spouse. Because obviously here's my confession. I'm a horrible example of getting it right. And that's why I'm broken, needing more grace than ever before.

Because I can't go for a run, I can't make an incredibly healthy meal my children will eat for every meal, I CAN'T do it all. Can I do some of it some of the time? Absolutely. But my heart needs changing. And if that means that in the in between time we have pancakes for supper and candy for a snack, will my children die? No. I don't think we have to choose between health and spiritual or health and character building. But I AM A HUMAN. And here's the truth from Scripture. I'm dying. No matter what I do someday my body will fail and I will stand before my creator and answer for my life. Do I believe I'm covered by God's grace? Yes. Should I strive everyday to become more like Christ and therefore more of a set-apart person? Yes! Will it all be perfect tomorrow? Nope. Not even close.

I look into my heart and I see serious character flaws that are affecting my family far more than what I serve for supper does. I see anger and short-temperedness that needs addressing. Because I may feed their bodies healthy food, but if I'm crabby during supper that will have a far greater impact on eternity. I want my children to see a Momma who adores and loves their Daddy and shows him appreciation far more than they see a Momma who wants Daddy to "get it right" (ahem, her way) so that life looks perfect.

So I'm praying and desperately begging God today for that perseverance. To look to what is not seen. To realize even greater how my children are eternal beings who need God's grace and they will learn that from us. To love them for who God made them, not for what they do or don't do. To sit down on the dirty kitchen floor for hugs instead of saying "go play, Momma's busy". And yes, to do my dishes and teach them to help. Because LIFE does need to happen. They do need to go play. But while knowing if they need me, I'm here for them, not just a clean house.

This doesn't wrap up in a tidy neat applicable bow for everyone, because it's my life. Your conviction today may be that you need to clean more, that you NEED to make more money, that you need to ____. Because you're you. You're not me. We're not the same because we both see Pinterest or Facebook or Twitter. God made us dependent. So please, hold me accountable, help to say "wow, please help me do what you're doing" "thank you for helping me!" All of the above. Because that doesn't show our failures. It shows our desire to grow more into what God designed. We're not in this alone. So I for one need to stop pretending I can do it alone. So here's my weakness, out for you to see. I'm a Momma of 2 little and growing another life inside me. I'm tired, I'm not perfect, I'm not incredibly strong. I'm me. I'm the one God gave to them, and by His grace I'll be more of who He needs me to be for them everyday.

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Redeemed for a Future

As I shared last month, redemption has been on my heart so much lately.

There is a family who has been attending our church who are such a perfect picture to me of redemption. They have both been saved within the past few years and months, and they are divorced, but they are now getting remarried this month. They have lots of struggles ahead, but as they were both baptized this Sunday, I couldn't help but be overwhelmed by God's redemption.
He takes what we've made a mess of and puts the pieces back together. He redeems not only hearts and souls, but lives and choices.

And I'm so thankful. Because my family would be a disaster without God's redemption. Even today He redeems us. It's never too late until death. There is always hope with Christ.

This applies to so many aspects of my life.
My time can be redeemed. When I've wasted it, God can redeem it with His blessings.
My mind can be redeemed. When I've dwelt on things I shouldn't, on the negative, the destructive, I can turn to Him and He can renew it.
My soul HAS been redeemed. The work He did on the cross and the forgivenss I asked for has been given.
My days can be redeemed. A bad day parenting or as a wife doesn't mean the next has to be a struggle. It might be, but God can redeem my attitude too. ;)
My marriage can and has been redeemed, many times. It's an ongoing lesson and experience, to blend to selfish sinners into one union before God. It's a lifelong process, and one that we just keep working on.
My health can be redeemed. I honestly believe we've been fed so many lives about what is "good for us" as a culture and society, and the 27 years I spent in ignorance or partial ignorance can be redeemed. My children's health has a better start because of it.

This is something to think about. We were discussing a generational view of our faith in church (sort of Sunday School) on Sunday, and the lesson was on Grandparents and the impact they can have and should have and used to have. And the concept was also taught that if you don't have that, a Godly heritage, and that if you're kids themselves won't have Christian or even active Grandparents, then you can be the first generation. Make a goal NOW to be that for your grandkids someday. Adopt surrogate Grandparents for your children. The message was HOPE. Life isn't going to be perfect or ideal, but make the changes to help the future generations.

This resonates with me. My life may be too short to make every change and blessing that I want, but I can make an impact on the future generations. Any change or blessing I can pour out on my children will only bless them. I don't have to "get it right" everyday to not screw up my children. God redeems. He blesses. There is hope.

So yes, there are still boxes of mac&cheese in my cupboard for "emergencies". There are still days when Mommy & Daddy are struggling and not being great examples of a loving marriage. But there are days, when the joy and love and healthy eating overflow with abundance, and I know God is at work, redeeming what sin and evil would love to destroy.

So as I said, it's never too late. Make small changes. Say something nice to encourage your spouse with no motive other than to love and bless. Speak encouragement into your children, not just critical words. Make dinner, even from a box, instead of going out to eat. Offer strawberries instead of fruit snacks at snack time. Go walk, go to a swim class, whatever, instead of saying it's too hard. Call your friend, instead of expecting them to call you. Reach out. Pick up your Bible if you feel God is distant. Just start, God is still there, waiting.

Because that's what He does, because He loves us and is all about His glory. He redeems so we can better glorify Him and paint a picture to the world of that redemption. I'm so glad there is hope.

Sort of a Sidenote:
My baby girl turns 1 next week. This song was the "anthem" if you will of my pregnancy with her, and therefore a song I've claimed over her life. And it's so fitting for this discussion. He IS Mighty To Save.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Now We See Dimly

I've been thinking a lot about this blog in the past month or so. It's obviously not been full of writing this past year, and I've been wondering what to do, to remedy that, or chalk it up to "all done" as my kids would say.

But as I think back to where I was a year ago, anxiously awaiting the arrival of our precious miracle Emelia Grace, and the fact that it was practically summer already, and here this year we've been "blessed" with at least 9 inches of fresh snow in the past 24 hours, I realize it's time to write. Even if I do use run-on sentences.

Because here's the deal, I am NOT the same person I was a year ago. So much has changed, and not just with the arrival of baby #2. (I choose to call her #2, even though we have 3 in Heaven. It makes it so much easier for those who can only see the 2 that we feed and love everyday.)

Right now, I have a 3 year-old little boy watching the city department clean up all the snow outside our window on the street, and an 11 month-old big girl pushing down balls in her toy over and over again. And laughing. And my heart is full. I woke up with a discontented spirit today, a tad discouraged about a few things in my life. But as I thought about writing, I realized how many blessings I wanted to write about. And I can't help but feel oddly peaceful. So I better write fast or you know the chaos of life will snatch that away. ;) It's all going to sort of spill out versus and organized fashion, because well, it's life, and it's never neat and pretty all the time.

I wrote you about Andrew's station closing and all the chaos in our marriage and life. Well, currently he has a "new" temporary full-time job. It's just north of town about 10 miles and he loves it. I am SO proud of him for getting it, he had to work hard and make some sacrifices, but he got it, and it's such a great fit for him and our family. We're praying and we'd ask you to pray that it would become permanent.

After I wrote in December, that was really the beginning of our lives changing immensely. In January I started some new whole-food natural supplements. And boy, has my life changed. This blog isn't dedicated to selling you on them, but rather to share how they've impacted my life, and I can't share about my life without sharing about them, because I want this great life for everyone.
This was a very risky step for me, money was short, but I was desperate. I trusted my friend that shared them with me, so I went for it. A 30-day money back guarantee helped too. :)
My life is forever changed. It wasn't just that I lost weight, I did, it was that I finally found healthy nutrition in my life. Literally by the 5th day on the products I was craving vegetables and choosing to cook with them, for me, not just my husband! If you know me, you know this is huge. I won't defend myself too much and say "It was a gag reflex, I wanted to eat them!" Or "I am a people pleaser, my entire childhood is marked by feelings of rejection because I didn't eat what my extended family thought I should." Trust me, I wanted too.
The important thing is what I'm learning, so that will be part of the journey and sharing. I'm learning how nutrition is key to our health and weight. Our culture pushes exercise as the perfect solution to our obesity problem, but research shows it just isn't true. We SHOULD exercise and be active and strong, but our core needs are good nutrition. And frankly, I don't care how organic or healthy you eat, our food does NOT have the nutrition it needs to give us what we need. Everyone, and I mean EVERYONE, needs supplements. "But I grow and raise all my own food!" you say. Great! Good for you! And I mean that, but ever consider how depleted our soil is? I have a friend who's husband's company is working on helping farmers replenish their soils, but oh it's a long process in our world.
So to get personal, what changes have I seen in my family? I have a baby girl who's diaper rash is no more after we tried EVERYTHING to help her. These whole food/vitamins/minerals/probiotics have helped her so much. I have a son who's digestive system is SO much more healthy than it's ever been. It's been a huge struggle eating and bathroom wise and it's finally becoming much less stressful in our lives. I have a husband who's putting on a few pounds. Which is really good news after his battles and weight loss with the stomach flu this winter.
And me? HUGE life-changing differences. Not only have I lost weight, had huge balance in my emotions/moods/seratonin levels, gained muscle, and gained tons of more energy, but my life is finally healthy. I am choosing to make MUCH better food and meal choices for my family. Sugary snacks aren't our go to. Chips are healthier options and less often. Do we still eat pizza and other less-healthy options? Of course! We live in our world after all. But that's the awesomeness. These supplements allow me to live a real life, but by being healthy in it. I could go on and on, but I'll just say my life has been changed, our health is better, and I am so thankful. If you want more info, just contact me, and I'll be sharing more in the future. I'd love to help you make life-changes that really are for life, not a week or month.

These products have also given me the chance to have my own business. Without all the hoops and pressures of other direct-sales companies. I just returned from Orlando from an amazing conference, and what I was thinking about the whole time I was there was about my family and about sharing with you. Because I was overwhelmed by the power of balance, and of goals and dreams. It overwhelms me at times, this desire to help my family. Because that's why I'm doing it. For my family. I honestly struggled last month with knowing how to balance business and family. Because I didn't want to take away from my family, with the pretense of helping my family. And I was honestly so torn about how and what to do. But this one quote keeps reliving in my brain.

"Don't give up what you most want in life for something you think you want now." Richard G. Scott

When I made it home Sunday night Andrew and I had a big conversation. About life, our marriage, our family, and our goals. And we both agreed, we have some goals to achieve. And here's the thing, we believe. We believe that sometimes life has to be out of balance before it can be balanced. That there will be sacrifices. There will be days when our kids come before our marriage, when our marriage comes before our kids, when business/work comes first, when simply putting dinner on the table will be the goal. But the goal overall is balance, and raising our family to know Christ, and to help others a long the way. As you can see, the goals are relative and ever-changing too. :)

The opposite of Faith is Fear. So which side of the fence will I live on? With fear? Or with Faith?

Because I am a Christian, a disciple of Christ, my life needs to always come back to the spiritual. So how does this all connect? How does my daily struggle to build a business, be a great wife, continually be growing our marriage, be a good mom who points her children to Christ, who builds children who know it's all about God's glory, to be a great friend, to run a balanced and healthy home, to be, well everything, how does this all come down spiritually?

I'm doing a study once a week on the basics of the Gospel. And it's not boring, it's not old, it's not the same old same old. Because the Gospel is never-ending. My biggest challenge so far from the study? Redemption. What areas of my life have I not yet let be redeemed? Where am I not letting the Gospel be applied?

My challenge? This quote:

"God isn't interested in making us 'spiritual' if by spiritual we mean detached: Jesus was God stuck in. God isn't interested in making us self-absorbed. Jesus was self-giving personified. God isn't interesed in serenity: Jesus was passionate for God, angry at sin, wept for the city. The word 'holy' means set apart from or different from, our sinful ways. It doesn't mean being set-apart from the world, but being consecrated to God in the world. He was God's glory IN and FOR the world."

We are to reflect God's image to the world, and with sin that mirror image is broken. But now it's as if that mirror is being healed and is slowly reflecting an accurage image again.

So here it is:

"This process - us becoming more like Jesus so we reflect more accurately what God is like - is the number one thing God is ALWAYS up to in our lives."

"A disciple is someone who is learnign to apply the gospel to absolutely every part of life. Discipleship is all about letting God bring about change in our lives from the inside out so we look more like Jesus."

There you have it. That's who I am. A broken mirror that wants to be healed and accurately reflect Christ. A Disciple that is letting God bring about change from the inside out.

And guess what? That isn't just about my soul. Our bodies are truely body, soul/spirit, and mind.
My soul has been redeemed, but our world is cursed, death abounds. God wants to redeem my mind and body too.

So when I lose weight and heal my physical body from the inside and get healthier? God is being glorified.

When I work daily and being a better wife and mother and loving others? God is being glorified.

When I spend time in Scripture everyday studying and soaking up God's promises and being convicted of sin? God is being glorified.

The mirror is being healed. Won't you join me on the journey?
Oh there will be days of failure, days that the image is distorted. I am a sinful creature. But my goal, is to be redeemed in ALL areas of my life.

There's a lot of change to happen, but for the first time of my life, it doesn't overwhelm me. I am learning to set goals, big and small. To do today what will help me get attain my goals tomorrow. To do today what will make me like Christ. And to never again seperate my life. Because it's all interwoven. God's plan for our lives body, soul, and mind is so amazing. He wants to REDEEM all of our life.

Join me as I strive to let him. And as I share about the struggles of doing it. The days when the 3-year-old is driving me nuts and we have boxed mac & cheese for supper. And the days when it's calm and productive and everything is from scratch. Because both days are life. And God's redemption should be reflected in both of them.

Keeping it REAL.

And real was the panic when I thought I lost this entire post and about slammed my computer shut in tears. Praise God He redeemed this post! :)