Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Shopping for Peace

Overwhelmed by my every day existence, I headed out of the house the other day to clear my mind, hoping to hear myself think. I needed a break from work and kids and laundry and noise. Perusing the aisles of my 'go to' little strip mall, I wasn't shopping for stuff, I was shopping for peace. Looking at all the stuff on the shelves that I don't truly need, I was convicted that I pursue peace from all the wrong places.

So often I convince myself that I "need" some kitchen gadget or something new to beautify my home. I make some internal declaration that "I will truly be happy when..." For a long time that statement involved living in a home I could call my own, one I could transform into some little glimpse of heaven on earth. Truth is, I still have that in my head, but I know even owning my own home would bring the stress of maintenance and taxes and broken water heaters. Do I really want to spend all my life -my time- working to own stuff and then spend my time off work maintaining and grooming and repairing that stuff I hold so dear? Is that what this life is created for?

I'm not saying owning things is bad. I'm just not so sure that the having of stuff is worth my time. that pursuing stuff that's supposed to make my life comfortable is contributing to some big picture in this life. As long as I live on this planet, I will probably be subconsciously trying to set up my heaven on earth.

While being in the midst of this fruitful land where even the poor are far richer than much of the rest of the world, my hope is that I could be more conscious to not buy into the lie that my heart can be satisfied with stuff, that I can work to earn some false peace that this life, even this country is supposed to offer me.

When my focus is misplaced by the sin of a heart driven in selfish pursuits, I am rendered useless in working for the One who made me. I have entered into the business of propping up myself instead of promoting my King. Do I want to worship the work of my own hands and neglect to acknowledge the ultimate work of Christ?

Our culture teaches me to want stuff, to "need" stuff, to worship stuff and self. Our culture tells me to pursue material wealth and fame; to promote self because I deserve "it" - whatever "it" is. Our Creator has said "...whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for [His] sake will find it." (Matthew 16:25) Am I willing to be inconvenienced for my Creator? my Savior? Will I find comfort in Him alone or will I continually look for peace in my current comfort-level, my circumstance? Am I willing to lay aside myself and depend on Christ to truly save me, to bring comfort to my soul? or will I ever depend on my human self (that only has mere breath)? or will I live for the One who gives me that breath? Where will my children see me find peace?

God, forgive me for always thinking that I can find or buy peace instead of acknowledging that You are Peace. Help me to stop shopping elsewhere for the perfect peace You alone can give. Amen.

......I found these verses from the book of Isaiah reminding me where my trust should lie and from where my peace must come.

Their land is full of silver and gold; there is no end to their treasures. Their land is full of horses; there is no end to their chariots. Their land is full of idols; they bow down to the work of their hands, to what their fingers have made. So people will be brought low and everyone humbled—do not forgive them. Go into the rocks, hide in the ground
 from the fearful presence of the LORD and the splendor of his majesty!
 The eyes of the arrogant will be humbled
and human pride brought low;
the LORD alone will be exalted in that day. The LORD Almighty has a day in store 
for all the proud and lofty,
 for all that is exalted
(and they will be humbled),
 for all the cedars of Lebanon, tall and lofty,
and all the oaks of Bashan,
 for all the towering mountains
 and all the high hills,
 for every lofty tower
 and every fortified wall,
 for every trading ship 
and every stately vessel.
 The arrogance of man will be brought low 
and human pride humbled;
the LORD alone will be exalted in that day,
 and the idols will totally disappear. People will flee to caves in the rocks 
and to holes in the ground
from the fearful presence of the LORD
 and the splendor of his majesty,
when he rises to shake the earth.
 In that day people will throw away 
to the moles and bats
their idols of silver and idols of gold,
which they made to worship.
 They will flee to caverns in the rocks
 and to the overhanging crags 
from the fearful presence of the LORD 
and the splendor of his majesty,
 when he rises to shake the earth. Stop trusting in mere humans,
 who have but a breath in their nostrils.
 Why hold them in esteem?
Isaiah 2:6-22

Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? Matthew 16:24-26

Friday, January 21, 2011

Idolizing "Easy"

Do you idolize "easy"??

I do.

Last month, I stepped out of my comfort zone to experience a week in the life of missionaries in Eastern Europe. Before my husband and I went, I romanticized what the missionary life must look like: vacations to neighboring countries, speaking a different language, walking on cobblestone streets and eating yummy foods amid the beautiful architecture. The reality of what they're truly experiencing is not quite as romantic. Holidays away from family, communication barriers with locals, loneliness, struggling just to learn the culture, changing their very existence - for the sake of the gospel.

Exploring the possibility of becoming a missionary in that land foreign to me, I have been doing some deep soul searching. Digging my heels into the ground, I was determined not to buy into the idea. My resistance began with my want to avoid bitterly cold winters and deep snow, to avoid having to learn to drive a stick shift in the snow, having no homeschool support, leaving HGTV and thrift stores behind. That's not to mention the idea of moving 6000 miles away from family and friends. I realized how selfish my motivations are - how ME-centered my instincts are. My motivations are sinful, self-ish- naturally. I was slowly awakened to idols I didn't even know I had. The ease of my little American life.....

When I found myself grumbling at the thought of experiencing those inconveniences, I realized I idolize "easy" in everything from avoiding conflict with my husband, family, or friends to rarely going to the grocery store during the day when it's crowded. So often my joy, my worship of the Lord, is caught up in how I perceive the convenience of my life, my bank account, my children's behavior, my relationships, my diet, my health and my home. Over and over again my joy is wrapped up in the blessings and not the Blessor.

I am Eve in the Garden. Doubting that what God says is true. I. am. Eve. Every thought in my head reeks of sin and distrust of my Creator preventing me from seeing Christ and His perfect work, His atonement. His grace. which. is. sufficient. for. me.

Time and again God has provided for my every need. Yet I doubt....Even now he has given me work and my husband gigs to sustain us after severance is gone. I do not know how we will make it through February or March or any month thereafter, but I have moved from worry to trust. (This is a big step for me as worry is in my genes). I will still doubt, but I am more confident in who HE is and especially who I am NOT. God has shown me how in control he is of my health, my family, my marriage. He is ushering me to Himself always. Exposing my sin and my pride all the way. My pride in wanting to put on a mask to tell the world I'm doing good and feeling good..when He knows I am not. I like to pretend I'm in "Easy." He stretches me and makes me uncomfortable with who I am, yet reassures me of who He is.

"Easy" doesn't usually get me closer to the Savior. "Easy" doesn't stretch me outside my comfort zone. "Easy" doesn't usually bring the level of worship that I experience when I am in a pit. "Easy" makes me think and live like Heaven is here. "Easy" makes me think I am in control.

I might just need to see God's own handwriting telling me to go or hear His audible instructions to be confident of His will - especially after the year we've had feeling like we'd come to the "wrong" place. But when I was thinking of what it would cost me to be a missionary in a foreign land, leaving everything I know and ones I love, I was missing the boat! I never thought about what it cost Christ. I was acting like this was my life to live - for myself, not for my Creator. I was missing the big picture of why I SHOULD go vs. why I SHOULDN'T or for whom I should go. I took my feet off the brakes of my will and asked for HIS.

Now the truth is, my husband and I haven't discerned God's will in this decision yet and feel that a "no" is just as important as a "yes." While I'm gunshy after the past year of being stuck in a valley, I am more confident than ever that it is He who leads us into the valleys and onto the mountaintops. I would never want to re-live the past year and a half, but He has shifted me from a "we made a mistake" mentality to a "God brought us here for HIS purposes" confidence. And I am certain it was not for my glory, but for His. I am certain that He HAS deeply blessed us in that valley, drawing us to a clearer perspective of who He is.

I must not pursue God's will for blessing, for "easy." His blessings must not be my motivator. Who He Is must challenge me to ever pursue Him, to want Him to captivate my heart. I must worship HIM. Not stuff, not ease of life and health and wealth. I must not hinge my joy on seen things, but on Him who is unseen. Any gospel preached that claims health and wealth and good days belong to me outside of heaven is false. All those things will fade away. The foundation of my house will crack - I must build the foundation of my soul on THE CORNERSTONE and rest there - in Him, not in what I think is "easy."

...Jesus is ‘the stone you builders rejected, which has become the cornerstone.’ Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.” Acts 4:10-12 NIV

"God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks to us in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: It is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world." - C.S. Lewis

Heidelberg Catecism

Question. 1. What is the chief end of man?

Answer. Man's chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him for ever.

Here are two ends of life specified.
1. The glorifying of God. 2. The enjoying of God. First. The glorifying of God, 1 Pet. 4:11. "That God in all things may be glorified." The glory of God is a silver thread which must run through all our actions. l Cor. 10:31. "Whether therefore ye eat or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God." Everything works to some end in things natural and artificial; now, man being a rational creature, must propose some end to himself, and that should be, that he may lift up God in the world. He had better lose his life than the end of his living. The great truth asserted is that the end of every man's living should be to glorify God. Glorifying God has respect to all the persons in the Trinity; it respects God the Father who gave us life; God the Son, who lost his life for us; and God the Holy Ghost, who produces a new life in us; we must bring glory to the whole Trinity. - Thomas Watson's sermon Man's Chief End is to Glorify God

For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:17-18

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:8-10

Friday, January 7, 2011

Handmade gifts

I love giving and receiving handmade gifts. This year after visiting Edie of lifeingraceblog's 12 Days of Christmas event, specifically the tutorial on sewing zipper pouches and Jessica of Happy Together's rosette tutorial I was excited to sew something special for the ladies in my family. The zipper pouches were a hit! The fabrics weren't expensive at all; in fact the houndstooth came from a skirt I bought for about $1 at Goodwill, the red roses were made from a Dupioni silk remnant on sale in a scrap bin!

I hope you'll try your hand at making them too!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

My Joy Problem

Today I began reading Little Men by Louisa May Alcott to my children. I was so moved just by the first chapter. Twelve year old Nat, an orphan found mourning the loss of his father in a cellar, was taken in by a couple who cared for many other boys from similar backgrounds. (my own children watched as I my voice quivered holding back tears) As Jo, the mother, was showing Nat the lay of the land, she simply took his hand and said "My child, you have got a father and a mother now, and this is home. Don't think of those sad times any more, but get well and happy; and be sure you shall never suffer again, if we can help it." And more tears flowed.

That first chapter touched on so many things relevant to my life, feeling like an orphan, a cast away, wanting to actually adopt an orphan in the near future, wanting my home to be one filled with joy and wanting the Lord to reach down, take my hand and lead me to a joyful place.

Why is joy such a problem for me?! I do believe that Jesus Christ suffered and died knowing I was His child whom He was saving and I do believe He was my substitute, paying the ransom for my soul. But why do I have such a hard time with joy? Because I am to rooted in the world? and not the Word?! Am I weary because I don't look at myself as a Pilgrim in this world? or Perhaps does being a Pilgrim make me weary? or both...

I AM convinced that God wants me to be "joyful always" (I Thessalonians 5:16-18), even here on this earth, especially on this earth, but man, is it tough sometimes. This world does not offer up spiritual satisfaction. No money, no vacation, no t.h.i.n.g. has the ability to fill me. Christ does satisfy. The suffering I experience here is supposed to drive me to my knees and to HIM. Over and over again I look, I wait for joy to happen to me. I wait for my circumstances to change, for God to write His will for my life down on paper so I can attempt to obey and check off some magic list. Even then my joy would come from my attempt to get it right. In this present day, with my husband's job search that has not been fruitful yet I just want the Lord to tell us what to do. to move. to stay. what. to. do. In the waiting and even when He does provide, my joy must not come from the provision, but from the person of Christ. The more I attempt to rest my joy in some tangible Thing, the farther away I am from the true joy of resting in Him.

The things in this world will orphan you -every time. God's Word does give you the 'lay of the land.' His Word tells you "The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” (Deuteronomy 3:8). When the believer's hour has come He will say "My child, you have got a [father] now, and this is home. Don't think of those sad times any more, but get well and happy; and be sure you shall never suffer again.."

“Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

He shall pray to God, and He will delight in him,
He shall see His face with joy,
For He restores to man His righteousness. Job 33:26

He shall pray to God, and He will delight in him,
He shall see His face with joy,
For He restores to man His righteousness. Psalm 5:11

Restore to me the joy of Your salvation,
And uphold me by Your generous Spirit. Psalm 51:12

In the day of prosperity be joyful, But in the day of adversity consider: Surely God has appointed the one as well as the other...Ecclesiastes 7:14

I will greatly rejoice in the LORD,
My soul shall be joyful in my God;
For He has clothed me with the garments of salvation,
He has covered me with the robe of righteousness,
As a bridegroom decks himself with ornaments,
And as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.
For as the earth brings forth its bud,
As the garden causes the things that are sown in it to spring forth,
So the Lord GOD will cause righteousness and praise to spring forth before all the nations. Isaiah 61:10-11

Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Happy birthday, Edie!

life in grace

Today is the birthday of a dear lady I've never met. Her blog is a beautiful communication of all things heart and home that has touched my heart so often. The Tuesday before Christmas Edie lost all her earthly possessions in a fire. What she truly possesses is so much more than all the worldly goods so many of us desire. She has a heart of worship. She worships the Lord in all that she does in her home and heart and especially in her relationships. She is a friend I've never met, a mentor and woman of God.

Join me in wishing Edie of lifeingrace a most bountiful and very happy birthday! May God restore all that you have in heaven and on earth as He pours His love out on you! Happy birthday, Edie!

The Joy of Homeschooling

My prayer for 2011, is for the Lord to restore my joy in Christ. The world and all the circumstances in it nearly destroyed my and my family's spirit last year. I need a refreshed outlook on my God, my King, my Savior who puts meaning in all this mess of my life and this world.

Lately, I haven't been excited about much, we're a few weeks away from losing steady income and scared to death. If you would, please send up a prayer for a job for my husband. Please....

In the midst of this worry today, buried in design work, laundry, our first day back to homeschooling, two feverish children on the couch, potty training and a headache that won't subside, I received an email from a friend asking about why I chose to homeschool. For the first time in a while I felt excited! And I was MORE than happy to respond right away. The email communication went a little something like this:

So, I wanted to pick your brain about homeschooling. We are considering it... just in early stages of praying and looking into it. I am overwhelmed! Can you tell me what lead you to your decision? And, give me the ups and downs? For me the main reason is just that I hate that [my son] is gone for sooooo long each day at such a young age. And, when he is home he is tired and cranky so we don't get his best hours to do all the at home learning (music, Bible, etc...) that I want to do. Does that make sense or am I being an overprotective, controlling mom? ;) Also, how do you work it with the little ones? I think [my little girl] could join in on some of it, but not [the baby] yet. Just wondering how you work it out logistically. So, whenever you have time, which may be never, I realize!!

"Hi! We're doing okay, just down to the wire with the job search.....

Ahhh, homeschooling! I am SO glad we decided to bring the kids back home this year after having them in the [private] school last year!

The Ups:
First, we love the flexibility of being able to travel and not be on some 'master schedule' that someone else has planned where we have to ask special permission to do things with our children. (That just never set well with me).

Second, while my house is a little messier and there's more sibling and parent to child conflict - there are many more opportunities to teach real 'life' skills of communication, working as a team on chores/running a household/meal planning/personal responsibility, serving one another, talking with neighbors and people of all ages as opposed to just their peer groups. Not to mention more opportunities to pour God's word into every situation in those "Best hours" as you put it!

I do want the 'best hours' of my child's day, being present to encourage them, avoid or alleviate frustrations (allowing them to take a break when they need it), and create a routine that works best for our family as a whole and for each individual. I love walking them through the day, my getting to know who they are, and helping them to identify their strengths and weaknesses, helping them to focus on God in even the little moments.

Most of all, I realize that my children will, Lord willing, be with us only for a small fraction of their lives, so I want to lay a strong foundation under them that includes a strong familial relationship, that encourages them to be confident in Christ, independent of the world and teaches them how to be life-long learners.

One of the things I hated last year was feeling like we had two separate families - the school kids and the little ones. It didn't feel like a family unit. Now that they're home, they're playing more with their little sisters, using their imaginations more, and not growing up so fast. I personally see (and hear from friends who have their children in school) their peers who are in school, even Christian schools, focusing more on boy/girl relationships, putting one another down, bathroom humor, etc. While we've had the 'talk' with our big kids (7&9), they still play with cars and dolls and aren't as interested in the latest Disney preteen shows. (I admit, I'm not a big Disney fan, in general).

I love that I can focus on building up where they are individually weak and encourage their strengths, helping them every day to see God's giftings in their lives and how that fits with God's calling on each of them.

As for concerns over socialization, usually we are involved in a co-op or really, just a support group of about 10 families that do field trips together and have park/play dates regularly.

Incorporating little ones....Because of our style of schooling - short lessons given by me, then the kids go do their assignments, coming back to me for help, the little ones either are in the room quietly coloring/playdoh/puzzles, etc, are watching a very limited amount of tv/Sesame Street or Sprout, or freely playing in their room together.

Every day may look somewhat different, but I really try to incorporate learning in everything we do. For example, during meals I have eaten beforehand so that I can teach or read while they quietly eat (This usually makes for a pretty peaceful mealtime). During breakfast, I try to read a short bible story (Catherine Vos, Child Story Bible) which the kids narrate/retell in a journal later or read from Susan Hunt's ABC Bible Verses book. Then, during lunch (again, I've already eaten or eat later) I read aloud a chapter book and ask comprehension questions; we recently finished the Narnia series. The kids still have their own age appropriate chapter books to read as an assignment.

The downs:
You have to be more intentional about having time for yourself - hopefully [your husband] could help protect and encourage that time for you. I used to have one night a week designated to get out of the house....We still need to work on that! We do have a "quiet hour" or two during [my 2 year old's] nap when the big kids have quiet time in their own rooms doing a quiet activity. That hour or two is priceless!

As I said before, where there are people, there's sin, so there's a lot more opportunity for your kids to see your sin -and your repentance!

You are in no way being overprotective or controlling! There is no one who loves your child (on earth) more than you and [your husband], so no one else has their best interest in mind as much as you! It is fun experiencing those 'light bulb' moments when they 'get' a new concept and I am always so excited that they love to read when you give them rich literature.

I'm going to send you some links to other sites and maybe some blogs that are really good either for curriculum or just encouragement.

In our efforts to save money, I piece together curriculum and use the library a ton. I use book lists from Sonlight and Veritas and Ambleside to get ideas for age appropriate books that are very rich, 'living books' that fuel the imagination and are not dumbed down. I use Abeka for math, the Get Ready for the Code and Explode the Code series are great for little ones learning to read and write. Beautiful Feet and/or Story of the World for history and God's Design for Science. For art, there are projects within the history curriculum we do and I also use a book called Discovering Great Artists that teaches short lesson or bio on the artist and has a project to do. We also use the internet as a resource.

I know I've written a book, but I'm always encouraged and ever reminded of why I'm doing this when someone asks! So thank you for asking!"

Thank you friend for reminding me of why I chose this and why I love it. Thank you, Lord for restoring my joy of homeschooling in this hour!