Friday, April 30, 2010

God *involves* people

Lately it seems I've been on an unofficial mission to better understand who God is—can you tell? :) I've been walking closely with the Lord for over 14 years, but during the last 2 years I lost sight of His love and grace [basically I had been laying with my face in a big cow pie of my own failings as a mother, because I started buying into the enemy's lies that God's grace couldn't possibly keep flowing day after day to cover over my imperfections in child rearing]—so painful! So now I'm in the process of rediscovery, I guess. I know much of what it says about God's grace in the New Testament (head-knowledge, at least)—but, much to my surprise, I've been finding a significant amount of comfort from what I'm learning about God in the Old Testament!

Anyway, I was just thinking this morning (as I was washing the bathroom floor, of all things) about Adam naming all the animals God created. It says in Genesis 2:19, "So the Lord God formed from the ground all the wild animals and all the birds of the sky. He brought them to the man [Adam] to see what he would call them, and the man chose a name for each one." And it struck me—why did God do that? In His marvelous creativity, He fashioned every animal on the earth... yet He gave the job of naming the animals to Adam! I think it shows God's relationality (is that a word?)—He wanted to involve Adam in the process! By the way, Adam also named his wife Eve (Gen. 3:20)....

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

God's compassion

I am fascinated by these imperfect humans in the Bible whom God chose to show His glory through! Yesterday I read about Gideon in Judges 6 & 7. God told Gideon he would rescue Israel from the Midianites, but Gideon doubted God and asked for a sign (Gideon put out a fleece—twice!). Then a little later, the Lord flat-out tells Gideon, "I have given you victory over them. But if you are afraid to attack, go down to their camp with your servant Puran. Listen to what the Midianites are saying and you will be greatly encouraged. Then you will be eager to attack." (Judges 7:9-11)

What kind of God is this? That seems like a pretty compassionate thing of God to offer!! He could have said, "Look, Gideon. I already told you straight-up that I will make you win the battle—just believe what I said! I am God! Who are you to question or doubt me?!" But instead God gives Gideon an opportunity to be encouraged by eavesdropping on the Midianite army. He didn't have to do that for Gideon. Amazing.

It is also interesting to me that Gideon is listed among others in Hebrews 11 as a "great example of faith"—despite his questioning God, "Give me proof that You will do what You say."

It just makes me say, Thank you, God, that You are merciful!

"As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear Him!" [Psalm 103:13]

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

God uses ordinary, imperfect people

I just read a fictional book about Rahab yesterday. God had promised to give Jericho to the Israelites, and Joshua sent spies to check things out in Jericho. Rahab was the prostitute in Jericho who hid the Israelite spies from the king of Jericho's soldiers. While she had been living in a sinful lifestyle, Rahab recognized God for who He is. She says to the spies in Joshua 2:8 and 11, "I know that the LORD has given this land to you... No wonder our hearts have melted in fear! ... For the Lord your God is the supreme God of the heavens above and the earth below."

It would appear that Rahab turned from her sinful ways, as it says in Joshua 6:25 that she lived among the Israelites after being rescued from Jericho. And, in Matthew 1, you can see that she is part of Jesus' ancestry! She gave birth to Boaz, who was father of Obed, who was father of Jesse, who was father of David! Isn't that incredible?! God truly uses ordinary, imperfect people for His purposes! All I can do is sit here and marvel at God's ways!

Somehow this adds to my hope in the Lord. He's not requiring perfect, sin-free people. That reminds me, it says in 1 Corinthians 1:26-28, "Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things..."

Anyway... I just feel God's love and acceptance today—and you should too! As it says in 1 Corinthians 1:31, "Let him who boasts boast in the Lord!" I am not perfect, but I love Him—and He loved me [and you] first! (1 John 4:19)

Thursday, April 22, 2010


My oldest, Brandon, loves to be tickled! Kids are funny, ya know? He'll say, "Mom, I need some tickies!" [He calls getting tickled tickies.] His best spots are on his neck and up his pant-leg to his knees. My tickles are always met with fits of laughter and shouts of "Stop! Stop!" But about 2 seconds after I stop, he'll say, "Do it again!"

During today's "tickies" session, I realized how much I love hearing my son giggle. What joy his laughter brings to my heart! And joy really feels good. :) So bring on the tickies!

Make your own taco seasoning

I recently found a recipe for homemade taco seasoning (instead of buying the stuff in the packet)—and after tweaking it a bit, I'd say (and my husband would agree) it tastes just like the store-bought stuff, only better! Here's the recipe...

1/4 c. chili powder
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. onion powder
1 tsp. oregano
1-1/2 tsp. sea salt
2 tsp. paprika
1/4 tsp. cayenne
1/2 Tbsp. black pepper
2 Tbsp. cumin

Stir all ingredients together. Store in airtight container.

To prepare taco meat:
Brown 1 lb. ground beef or ground turkey. Add 2-1/2 to 3 Tbsp. taco seasoning mix with 2/3 cup water. Simmer.

I like it! A lot! Not only does it taste awesome... I also KNOW what's in it! :)

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

A repentant heart

So think clearly and exercise self-control. Set your hope fully on the grace to be given to you when Jesus Christ is revealed. So you must live as God's obedient children. Don't slip back into your old ways of living to satisfy your own desires. You didn't know any better then. But now you must be holy in everything you do, just as God who chose you is holy. For the Scriptures say, "Be holy, because I am holy."
(1 Peter 1:13-16)

I'm going to be very honest here. I couldn't figure out why I was initially repelled by these verses. It felt like condemnation... but no... that is the devil trying to deceive me. God doesn't condemn, He convicts. Yes, what I'm feeling is conviction—guilt that leads to godly sorrow and then repentance. The biggest, most obvious area where I "slip back into old ways of living to satisfy my own desires" is on the computer—not because of what I'm viewing (none of it is impure), but because of when I'm viewing it (while I should be hanging with my boys).

Mothering is probably THE hardest thing I've ever done—requiring very significant amounts of endurance, patience (long-suffering!), and sacrifice—and I find myself often looking for an escape... obviously not in drinking, drugs, or affairs... but on the internet (primarily email and blogs). It is precisely for this reason that I do not have a Facebook profile! [I have no other vices—I can't even have coffee or chocolate, because I'm taking a homeopathic to support my thyroid, and caffeine and homeopathics don't jive!]

Help me, Lord, to have self-control... to not turn on the computer unless the boys are napping or in bed for the night... to just BE WITH my boys and find joy in that! I don't want to live my days with a guilty conscience. [I wonder how much that contributes to my questioning of God's love and grace?] "Remember, it is sin to know what you ought to do and then not do it." (James 4:17) This may not be "sin" for everybody, but it is for me, for right now. I violate my own conscience when I sit at the computer while my son(s) are left playing alone. (I feel they are too young at 2- and 4-years-old.)

I am tempted not to make this humble [humiliating?] confession; however, I sense God leading me to do it in this way.

Have mercy on me, O God, because of Your unfailing love. Because of Your great compassion, blot out the stain of my sins. {2} Wash me clean from my guilt. Purify me from my sin. {3} For I recognize my rebellion; it haunts me day and night. {7} Purify me from my sins, and I will be clean; wash me and I will be whiter than snow. {8} ...give me back my joy again... {9} ...Remove the stain of my guilt. {10} Create in me a clean heart, O God... {12} Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, and make me willing to obey You.

{16} You do not desire a sacrifice, or I would offer one. You do not want a burnt offering. {17} The sacrifice You desire is a broken spirit. You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God.

(Psalm 51:1-3, 7-10, 12, 16-17)

Wow... my heart actually feels much lighter! I feel cleansed and purified! I think I'm really starting to take in God's grace and mercy again! Not because I think I'm good enough, but because I am seeing it for what it really is: undeserved favor! Awesome!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

My Mom

I think my mom is the best! When I was growing up, I thought everybody had a mom who was patient and kind, who loved them unconditionally, who was eager to hear about their day and their thoughts, who encouraged them, who said "I love you" every day, who apologized when they were wrong, and who made them feel like they were something special—like I did. After talking with friends in college, I learned how blessed I really was/am!

(This picture of me and Mom was taken in 2007—look at my short hair! I'm thinking about chopping it short like that again. Whoopee!)

While I'm afraid I'll never live up to the "legacy" of my mom, I recall something one of our pastors said at a parenting seminar... he said, "I can never be a perfect parent, but I can be perfectly humble." And you know, the Bible says the Lord leads the humble, teaching them His way (Psalm 25:9)... and oh, do I need leading!! Come, Lord Jesus!

Incidentally, my husband and I did get to go to the homeschool conference—for some much needed time away together—yay!—thanks to my wonderful mom and dad watching the boys for us!!!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Struggles produce perseverence, perseverence produces character...

I've been reading a book called Confessions of an Irritable Mother which has caused me to really stop and think about how God's goal is to help me become holy, like Him—not as a barking drill sergeant, but as a loving Father—and how struggles produce perseverance, and perseverance produces character (Romans 5). I mean, think about it. Yes, I want to be regarded as a woman of character! But does character mean I've had an easy life and I just have a cheery smile on my face all day long? No. Character is persevering and passing the test of one's trials. And a person does not develop character without struggles!

Anyone who knows me knows I've been struggling with motherhood for quite awhile. My responses to the challenges of raising two busy, boyish young sons isn't always so good. I yell sometimes. More often than I'd like. That leaves me feeling guilty and beaten down (What kind of mom am I?)... and over time, this guilt has eroded my view of God's love for me (How could He keep loving and forgiving me day after day?).

Yesterday morning started out rough (Brandon woke up too early and was sporting a baaad 'tude). So I caught a few moments to myself while making Brandon's bed and was asking God to help me persevere.

I felt God impress upon me that He's not trying to be unkind... He didn't give me difficult children to be cruel... but that this uncomfortableness isn't going to let up until I "get" what He is trying to show me about His love for me. It's going to take more than just a quick flip through the Bible to find another "promise" to cling to. Like a loving parent, He is allowing me to go through this struggle so I can learn more of the depth of His love and grace.

And I'm not going to give up, either. It feels like the enemy might be taking this opportunity to "sift" me, but I believe God will grow my character that much more strong when I'm through it.

God is also giving me peace with the fact that Jon and I may not be able to stay overnight on Friday for the homeschool conference, due to Ryan getting sick. I was starting to feel a bit bitter about the timing of Ryan's cold—right before Jon and I have the opportunity to go somewhere—together—alone—but I feel like God is trying to show me to find my hope in Him and His ability to give me peace & rest, especially in the midst of these taxing days with small boys—not in getting a break away. (Not that we shouldn't ever get a break, but you know how a person can just start putting their hope in vacations.)

Anyway... that's what's been on my mind this week! Oh, and about Confessions of an Irritable Mother—I just love that book! I have never felt so understood in my struggle, and I love how the author, Karen Hossink, doesn't simply list a bunch of antidotes to anger (i.e. "count to 10") but instead emphasizes the importance of an intimate relationship with the Lord, through reading the Bible and praying! Very encouraging!!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Sleep, Interrupted

I've never been what you'd call a "sound sleeper." I'm actually kind of a light sleeper... but prior to having kids, I usually slept quite well.

These days, however, sleeping through the night is a rare thing for me. I am often awoken by any number of things. Here's the top four:

1. snoring (not mine)

2. crying in the middle of the night ("Where's my bear? I can't find my bear!")

3. nature calling (what's up with that? does that just happen after having babies? or after turning 40?)

4. crazy dreams... last night... I had not one, but two dreams that caused me to sit up in bed and scold my 4-year-old son in my sleep.... until I realized it was just a dream. In the first dream he was goofing around, spraying potty all over the back of the toilet seat and on the floor. Ack! In the second dream he was standing, balancing on top of our 4' chain link fence! Both, in real life, are enough to make a mother's blood pressure rise a little.

Oh, the life of a mother... even in her sleep she is admonishing, beseeching, sighing...

Grin! :)

Friday, April 9, 2010

The antics & adventures of boys

I love hearing people's stories about their boys! Since I have two sons, I find that the dynamics in our home are a lot different than, say, those who have all girls or a combination of boys and girls. Stories of the antics & adventures of boys make me grin and feel somewhat relieved... that my boys are normal, active BOYS!

There have been times, I admit, that I have asked God why He didn't give me sweet, quiet little girls... who like to just sit quietly and read books, color, or play with their baby dolls. My husband reminds me, "Sara, God must really think we're strong and capable enough to handle these two!" Don't get me wrong—I love my boys! They are fun and funny and adorable! They just keep me very busy. :) Can't leave them alone for too long...

I used to have this quote by Plato printed on our white board, sort of to serve as comic relief: "Of all the animals, the boy is the most unmanageable." My mantra has become: Civilize them, don't sissify them.

Just this morning, our Culligan man shared that his three sons used to jump off the roof onto their trampoline in the back yard! Yikes! Not that I'm desiring such rambunctious roughhousing from my sons... but it just helps me really see, and perhaps not be so shocked, that boys tend to be boyish and do boyish [daring, sometimes dangerous] things! Hooray for boys! :)

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Throwing my "what a 'good mom' does" list out the window!

One week after Jon and I were married, I had a crisis. A "good wife" crisis. We had gotten back from our honeymoon and were trying to get settled into our new condo. With little more than a few basic staples in the frig, I tried to scrape lunch together. As we sat on the patio and ate, I started to cry. When Jon asked me what was wrong, I told him that this wasn't the kind of meal a good wife makes. "Uhhh...well what kind of meals do 'good wives' make, Sara?" I sniffled and said, "Homemade soup with cheese on top!" Now who set that standard?!?

Well, that was almost 9 years ago, and I've long left behind that "what a good wife does" list, which had left me feeling guilt-ridden and inadequate at the time.

Now I'm just starting to get over my "what a good mom does" list—a.k.a. the "what a good Christian mom does" list—which includes such things as:

* you play on the floor with your kids all day, every day—and love it

* you implement formal training sessions to teach them such things as not to fuss when coming in the house after playing outside or to sit still through church

* you are utterly consistent with discipline [and if you're doing a good job, your kids never whine or argue]

* your children never misbehave in public [and probably never misbehave at home either, because your training has been so thorough]

* you enjoy your kids so much that you never need a break

* you instinctively know the best way to train or discipline in every situation that comes up with your kids

* you are excited and enthusiastic about Play Doh, finger painting, and glue & glitter crafts

* you never, ever get frustrated or lose your cool or raise your voice

* life is so hunky-dory you want to have 19 kids!

This mental list has tormented me and stolen my joy... left me with guilt and shame... until I could see nothing good in myself.

But yesterday during my QT, this is what the Lord spoke to my heart:

What are all these burdens you are carrying around, Sara? "Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest." Who said you have to do that list of things in order to be a 'good mom'?

Then this morning, He further reminded me there is no "one right way" of training your kids! It doesn't matter what others are doing to train their kids. God is calling us to follow His lead. And...

Commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today. Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up. [Deuteronomy 6:6-7]

And GOD'S WAY is:
Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord. [Ephesians 6:4]

And I found some relief... because we are doing this with our kids! [Read: I realized I'm not utterly failing at motherhood!] And it tells me that if my son has a bad attitude, it's not all my fault, but that he lives in the same stinkin' flesh that I do!

So, thank you, Lord for giving me peace today. I have had a sweet morning with my boys!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

The power of the Resurrection

Everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God's glorious standard. The wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord. Christ died for us at a time when we were helpless and sinful. No one is really willing to die for an honest person, though someone might be willing to die for a truly good person. But God showed His great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. “Oh, what joy for those whose disobedience is forgiven, whose sins are put out of sight! Yes, what joy for those whose record the Lord has cleared of sin!"

[Romans 3:23, Romans 6:23, Romans 5:6-8, Romans 4:7-8]

Jesus willingly died on the cross to pay the penalty for your sins and mine. Three days later, God raised Jesus from the dead (which fulfilled the prophecies recorded in the Old Testament)! Happy Resurrection Day!