June 25, 2015

Home: Not Just a Training Ground for Your Children

Every time I am stretched out on the couch reading an inspiring book on motherhood, family, or home making, I underline many sentences, imagine how bright the light of Christ could shine in and from our home, and I get excited!

Then I put the book down.

Within minutes someone needs me and I don't want to be needed, again.  Someone starts whining about a terrible injustice, like she's sitting in my space on the couch, and I don't want to train gently, again.  Or I suddenly remember a to-do that has to be done to-day, and I sigh and groan, again.

Often the connection between ideals and reality is fishing-line thin and about-to-snap taut.  My desires for order, peace, joy, and life in our home are often thwarted by the very people I am trying. so. hard. to. serve. with. love. She says, through clinched teeth!

Two weekends ago, while I was sitting at the Broadmoor taking in this view

and processing what the Lord was teaching me at the Mom Heart Intensive, He had something to say to me.

Your home is not only a training ground for your children,
it's your training camp, too!

What does that mean?  Let me flesh it out for us.

As I shared in this post, the toughest thing about being a mom is me, how selfish I am.  But God sees fit in His plan to place people in families where a grown-up sinner is in charge of training up small sinners!  The mistake I make is thinking that I have to have it all together to train up these little hooligans ones, burdening myself with guilt every time I fail to "get it right" and burdening them with guilt for the same.  We're all - the kids, my husband, and me - in training for righteousness and none of us will ever "arrive."  So rather than guilt, we need showers of grace.

The beauty of Christ and His cross will be magnified in our homes, as we come alongside our children to train them, while daily acknowledging before them our need for a Savior, too.  And also daily reminding them of the sufficiency of our Savior to forgive all our sin and lead us in the way everlasting!

Our weekend in Colorado included many wise words about our call as wives and mothers.  But primarily, Sally reminded of our first and foremost call to be Christ's disciples because He has made us members of a new Kingdom!  A disciple listens to her Teacher and responds, watches His ways and imitates, knows the Master's voice and follows.  Then she can invite others along like, say, her children, to learn from and love the Lord.

The point of reading books that encourage us to pursue righteousness in our homes and to instruct and train our children is not to arrive, but to be transformed and be instruments of transformation.  We are learning right along with our kids how to love the Lord with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, and to love our neighbor as ourselves.  So be inspired by those books!  Try new things that will orient all of your hearts toward Christ!  Give thanks for the ways rearing your kids is stretching and growing you to look more like Him!  And worship the Lord with gladness that the Gospel has the power to make all things new!

And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.
Galatians 6:9

*****This summer, Sally is working her way through their book, The 24 Family Ways in a weekly series on her blog, click here.  I bought it years ago, but we completed the devotionals for the first time this school year and it was very helpful.  If you are looking for practical, Biblical guidance for training your children, jump in on reading these posts this summer.  As an aside: I would recommend going through the book for children first grade and up. *****

June 23, 2015

Open for 2015 {Week 23}

Coming home from Colorado last week was like walking into a hurricane!  There were so many things on the calendar I wanted to turn around, reboard that plane, and hightail it outta town before anyone knew I was home.  The irony was it was all stuff I wanted to do, but I was not sure I had the energy to handle the valley after the mountain-top experience of being in Colorado with Sally and all those great women, thinking lofty thoughts about living for the Kingdom, being poured out, and living intentionally and with joy.  I sure am thankful for the valley, though.  "Life in the valley", where we all spend most of our time, is where we really exercise faith, learn our dependency on the Lord, and most see Him work in and around us.  The title of this blog is no accident.

Last week I had to be OPEN to the plans that I had made and embrace them for what they were.  And you know what they were?  Visits with three great friends from three different stages of my life!  I felt so emotionally and physically spent, though, I was not sure it would be a good week, having those visits in the midst of all the routine things on the schedule.  I was not getting into bed early enough, the house needed a fair amount of attention, my husband was leaving town mid-week for nine days, and ... well, you get the picture.  Tasks upon tired were adding up to a Heather that was tense and less-than-fun to be around, ask my kids!

As each day dawned I spoke with the Lord, asked Him for what I needed, gave thanks, and then dove into the day.

It was not a perfect week, but it was a very good one!

Tuesday my high school friend, Kim, came out to see our "new" place for the first time.  She brought her mom and my mom was here, too.  What a delightful time we had around the kitchen table sipping iced coffee, munching cookies, catching up about the present, and laughing - hard - about past memories.

 Thursday evening my Cambridge-days friend, Carol, and her two boys arrived to spend a couple of nights with us before picking up her daughter at camp on Saturday.  We had so much fun playing with our children, sharing simple meals together, going swimming, and sitting in the evenings chatting as if we still do that regularly all the time.  I could sit for a lifetime with Carol on my back porch; my soul was filled up!

Saturday, after farewells to Carol and the kids, we headed in to Pittsburgh for a birthday celebration for my friend, Emily's, twins.  Those three years went by fast!  Their family has birthday parties on Emily's grandmother's giant screened-in, wrap-around porch, where there is space to lounge on couches, eat around a large table, and play with a variety of vintage toys.  Oh the memories we already share on that porch!  I entered the party with a pretty massive headache and by the grace of God it cleared while I sat, next to Em, and the children all entertained themselves.  Her husband served me a fantastic iced coffee; I think maybe that magic elixir was what finally fixed my head.  Thanks, Caleb!

Then before leaving town on Saturday, we met my mom for dinner at Chick-fil-a.  She was supposed to be back in Rwanda but had to stay here for some unexpected surgery she had yesterday,* so we arranged to met up since we were already in town.  We had so much fun talking at the table while the kids yelled and ran around in the sound-proof play area.  God bless you, Chick-fil-a!  That visit was the cherry on top of this week's sundae of sweet visits with important women in my life.

I share about these three friends and mom - also a friend! - because as I drove Route 22 away from the city up and down through the Western Pennsylvania hills, the Spirit reminded me of how many times I have prayed for friends: Lord, we are moving somewhere new, please provide good friends for us during our time there, however long.  I choked up meditating on how faithful God has been to provide companionship for me everywhere I have ever lived.  His kindness overwhelms me sometimes!  I was so grateful.

This verse came to mind:

Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.
Luke 11:9-10

Time to Take Action:  I wonder what the desires of your heart are today?  What do you need God to provide?  Often we feel silly asking Him for things that seem trivial or unimportant in the grand scheme of the needs of the world.  But, dear ones, I can tell you stories of the times the ladies above, Kim, Carol, Emily, and my mom, have gotten me though trials and tribulations.  I needed them, even if at the time I didn't realize how much God had provided.  And they aren't the only friends God has given me at just the right time, they're just the ones who I saw this past weekend!

Ask!  Be bold with your requests and trust the Lord to provide.  He's into caring for His children.

And, look back and give thanks!  It is easy, in the face of life's tasks and responsibilities (like I was feeling after Colorado) to forget the Lord.  He is always faithful to us, forgiving our sin, providing for our needs, and protecting us from evil and temptation.  Thank Him, today.

*The surgery went well and she is doing GREAT!

June 19, 2015

The Word

Verses from this passage keep coming up and we studied it last night at Bible study.  My gift to you today, Colossians 3:1-17.

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. 

Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips.Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all. 

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. 

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Rest in and rely on the Gospel as presented in the first paragraph.  Take all of the suggested actions toward holiness because of what God has done for you in Christ!  We all have a long way to go, but we are not what we were and who we are is defined by the Lord.  Can you believe we're raised with Christ, our lives are hidden in Him, and we'll appear with Him in glory?!  Hallelujah!

Let His word dwell among you richly this weekend!

June 16, 2015

Open for 2015 {Week 22}

Click here to get the low-down on the "Open for 2015" weekly series.

I have to confess that I am floundering coming off of a wonderfully encouraging and inspiring weekend and returning to normal life; I keep looking back to those days like a pleasant dream!  But I am so glad to be back with my people on our home and our place where God has called us to live and move and have our being.

While I was away I had the treat of sitting on the hotel patio early one morning, my body on east coat time in the mountain time zone.  In awe, I soaked up the beauty of the mountain view, the delight of the solitude, and the wonder of the Grace that had me in that place.  For the first time in a while, I was overwhelmed not by my to-do lists and responsibilities, but by the Lord.

He is the reason I was in Colorado.
He is the reason I am cleansed from my sins.
He is the reason that my past does not dictate my future.
He  is the reason!

Blessed be the name of the Lord!

How different would my life be if I spent my days being overwhelmed by my Great God,
rather than tasks, duties, and responsibilities?!

Will I be OPEN to this kind of living?

Sitting here now in my living room, laptop warming my legs, raindrops clinging to the front window through which I see so much green, I am thankful for that cool morning on a hotel patio with a mountain view.  Because today the list is long and the time is short.  Heather, the Spirit whispers to my soul, will you turn your eyes to me and be more overwhelmed by Me than your list?

The choice is before me.  Will I be OPEN to Him today?

The path of the righteous is like the first gleam of dawn,
shining brighter till the full light of day.
But the way of the wicked is like deep darkness;
they do not know what makes them stumble.
Proverbs 4:18-19

Time to Take Action:
Have you had a chance lately to be amazed by God and His gracious work in your life?  We desperately need to make space to remember and have our vision cleared in this busy, overwhelming world in which we live.  What is temporal will pass away, as hard as that is to believe sometimes!  What is eternal will last forever.  Whatever is going on today, plan some time to sit still and be with God.  Ask Him to remind you of His love for you, of the work He has done in your life, and of the work He is doing in your life.  Rejoice that He is the reason you no longer walk in darkness, but are light in the Lord!  That glorious truth is so easily choked out by the cares of this world.

For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light  (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord.  Ephesians 5:8-10

Be overwhelmed today not by your burdens,
but by the One who can lift them!

June 11, 2015

I'm Leaving on a Jet Plane

Hi friends!

This is the big day.  I leave in a few hours for Colorado and a weekend of ministry training with Sally Clarkson!  Please pray for the other ladies and me as we attend and for Sally and her team as they minister.  The word is that it's going to be a FULL weekend!

Last time I attended a Mom Heart Intensive weekend like this, the Lord used it in some unexpected and delightful ways.  I have similar expectations for this time, too.

One of the activities we can do is give a short talk, only three minutes.  I am planning to speak about Hebrews 13:8, Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever.  Friends, God never changes.  Take heart today in this changing world with your changing moods that God is a stable, solid, and unchanging rock.  Lean on Him.  Rest in Him.

All His blessings be upon you,

June 9, 2015

Open for 2015 {Week 21}

Click here to get the low-down on the "Open for 2015" weekly series.

The main theme that keeps coming up this week are the habitual sins of my heart and mind that keep me from loving God and loving others.  We all have a few of these.  We can hide them behind smiles and activity, but when the Spirit gives us a pinch of conviction, we hope no one else notices!

I think what got the ball rolling was our pastor preaching on Galatians 6 two Sundays ago.  He was in the passage about gently restoring your brother if he is caught in sin.  He pointed out how sometimes we are "you who live by the Spirit" and in the position to restore, but sometimes we are the one caught in sin.  We need to be cautious and gentle, just as we would want people to be with us.  The sermon got me thinking about inviting a confidant or two to know and pray for me about my nagging, habitual sins.

I haven't gotten around to that yet!  It is scary to think about sins being exposed.  I don't know if I want anyone to know what I am really like: how often I cast judgments, how much I love my own opinions, how unteachable my heart is, how slow I am to forgive, how quick I am to anger, how little self-control I possess.

Over the week, God has been OPENing me up to talking with Him about my heart condition.  I have had a couple of experiences that have left me feeling raw and exposed to myself, leaving me with what I'll call mild soul-nausea.  That unsettled feeling has caused me to OPEN up to the Lord about the root of these feelings and actions, to confess my sin, and to want to do something about it.

The most difficult thing is knowing how long it could take to see any real change in patterns I have developed, since they are as ingrained as ruts in a well-traveled road. Thus, not only must I be OPEN to admitting/revealing his sin, I also need to be OPEN to believe that God can do something about it.  Enter, His Word.

Yesterday morning as I was again praying through these things, I asked the Lord for the day's reading to speak something to me to give me hope.  He heard my cry!  The reading was from Luke 11, the disciples asking Jesus to teach them to pray.   So perfect.  Not only was I reminded of my need to be more Kingdom oriented, but also of God's father-love for me and His desire to give me His Spirit.

So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.
Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!  Luke 11:9-12

My heart filled with hope!  God used the preaching of His Word a couple of weeks ago to infect me with soul-nausea; He was using His Word to remind me that He also holds the remedy.  I cannot stay and wallow, drowning in guilt, self-loathing, and defeat.  That is not why God convicts us of sin!  We need to repent and believe, so we can walk in newness of life even as we await transformation.

Can you believe the God of all time and creation cares so much about people?

About you?

Repent and believe the GOOD NEWS!

Time to Take Action:
Do you know what I mean by soul-nausea?  Are you in a place right now where the Lord has shown you some thing(s) about yourself that leave you feeling exposed and vulnerable?  Take heart, it is GOOD when He moves in our lives in this way.  He wants to draw you to new places of growth and faith.  But it is uncomfortable, isn't it?  It makes me get squirm!  Read the verses from Luke 11 above and start asking!  Ask the Lord for what you need from Him, seek transformation in Him by His Spirit.  How much more will our Father in heaven?  So much more!  Believe it.  And when God's love fills you with courage, invite a friend to ask God on your behalf, too.

June 5, 2015

The Most Difficult Thing About Being a Mom

Guys!  Or should I say, ladies!  I have a revelation to share with you.  I have discerned what the hardest thing about being a mom is!

Of course, there are a lot of challenging aspects of being a mom: training up the children, dealing with their misbehavior, keeping the home running, functioning on less sleep, etc.  But none of those things really tops the list.  Those are all dwarfed by the greatest challenge facing mothers today, and mothers of every part of history past and future.

Are you ready for it?

The most difficult thing about being a mom is ME.  Yep.  Or in your case, the most difficult thing about being a mom is YOU.

What do I mean?  Well, as I march along in the mom years, having celebrated my oldest's eleventh birthday last month, I'm learning that the job never gets easier.  (You can laugh, I really did believe that at some point being a mom wouldn't be so hard once the kids were self-sufficient.)  There is no longer an infant in our home with the physical demands that brings for one's body, so I am "free" from that phase.  But guess what.  Where the little ones drain you physically, the older ones stretch you emotionally, relationally, and spiritually.  The job just keeps coming at ya, with side shows of laundry, cooking, and cleaning!

What exactly makes me the problem, then?

I am selfish.  Really selfish!

At least once an hour each day I mutter exasperatedly, I don't have time for this, or, I don't want to deal with this right now!  Why don't I?  Because I want peace in my home for my own comfort, not for the sake of my children, the sake of the Kingdom, or to bring God glory.  I love the fun times with my family when all is well, but I pitch a fit so quickly when I have to deal with an interruption, another sibling fight, spilled milk, or an urgent task I forgot about but remember when I'm about to sit down and rest.

I moan and groan.  I complain and whine.  Sometimes Often out loud!

But it is not the job; it is not the task; it is not the children.  It is ME!

The attitude of my heart needs to be changed.

How about you?  Do you feel this each day, the battle that is raging between your self-love and the call to love God and others?  Friends, we will never be free from the war this side of heaven, but we can make advances to push back the enemy, until we can enjoy the true rest of heaven!

Coming to this embarrassing realization has been helpful, because God has used it  to remind me of a few things:
  1. We are not helpless before our selfishness.  The Spirit lives in us and will help us remember Jesus's teaching and example.  In each moment we have a choice; He will help us to choose light rather than darkness!
  2. We are 100% forgiven.  Jesus came into the word to save sinners.  That is each of us!  He knows what we are capable of, but called us into His Kingdom to be His own and to be changed.  Our failures don't define us, and neither do our successes.  Our identity is children of God, heirs in His Kingdom.  We know ourselves, and should always be floored by that good news!  Praise the Lord!
  3. We can be transformed.  "God as the great transformer" is a phrase and theme that has been coming up over and over in my life since last fall.  We all want to "be better people," but God has something far greater in mind.  He wants to work in our lives with supernatural power to transform us, to make us new, and use us to advance His Kingdom and purposes in the world.  Rejoice, there is hope for selfish mothers everywhere!  God can change our hearts and attitudes and, in turn, our homes!!

While I hate to admit that I am the problem and that I have to let go of blaming other people and circumstances for my bad attitudes, I believe that is the very beginning of being set free and the first step toward change.

Mamas, you are loved and God sees you working day in and day out to care for the physical and emotional needs of your family.  He is cheering you on, He is sustaining you, and He is there to help you in every moment!

It is always good to look to Christ, so I will close with that.  Last night in our Own Your Life* book and Bible study group, we read Philippians 2.  I was struck by looking at Jesus:

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!

God gives us authority in our homes and over our children.  Let's push back the dark by using our position not to our own advantage, but to serve, like our Lord.

May God bless your day.

*Pick up this book asap!  It has been such a help and encouragement to all of us.  Own Your Life by Sally Clarkson

June 2, 2015

Open for 2015 {Week 20}

Click here to get the low down on the "Open for 2015" weekly series.

This week at the beginning of our worship service, the pastor delivered the sad news of the unexpected and tragic death of a member of our church.  I had only spoken with this young man a couple of times, but it seemed like he was poised for major transition in his life, a move away from a dark past into a brighter future.

With the news, my heart felt like it was being squeezed.  His life was over.  His family and friends were - are - surely drowning in grief.

Then, we were called to worship, with some verses from Psalm 130: 
Out of the depths I have called to You, O Lord;
Lord, hear my voice;
Let your ears consider well the voice of my supplication.
If you, Lord, were to note what is done amiss,
Oh Lord, who could stand?
For there is forgiveness with you;
Therefore you shall be feared.

A few songs later we were singing lustily, in face of grief in our midst:

Christ alone, cornerstone
Weak made strong through the Saviour's love
Through the storm He is Lord, Lord of all

It almost took my breath away, singing He is Lord, Lord of all, with loss and grief and sorrow so nearby in my thoughts.

Yet the truth does not change because circumstances do.  As I sang, with faith and intensity, I believed it.  I believe it.  He is Lord of all. 

Keep breathing, keep singing, He is Lord, Lord of all.

You are in the grief, Lord.
You are near to the brokenhearted.

After that song a group of youths joined the church.  We celebrated and prayed for them as they took their membership vows.  Such a happy moment.  So many memories of my own confirmation Sunday and all the Lord had done in my life to keep me near Him since then!  What a blessing to be part of the body of Christ.

Tears were flowing only moments later as a Taiwanese student bid farewell to the congregation after a year of college here in the states.  She was loved and cared for by the college group and the whole congregation.  She is now a believer and returns home a changed person.  Tears of joy and tears of sorrow!  Christian good-byes are not eternal, but that doesn't make them any easier, does it?

I share all of these things from worship on Sunday, because I was reminded of the importance of always being OPEN to worship: all times,  all places, all circumstances.

That was one of the most emotionally raw services I have ever been a part of.  Corporately we mourned with those in mourning and rejoiced with those rejoicing, all before the Lord, the Lord of all!  Worship kept our feet grounded on the solid rock and held us together, rescuing us from either despair or arrogance.

He is Lord, Lord of all!

Time to take action:

Nothing major here today, it's too late for me to be too creative!  But when it comes to worship, I don't know that we need creativity as much as we need sincerity.  Give this song a listen, most of the lyrics are from the old hymn, My Hope is Built on Nothing Less.  Sing along.  Worship along.  Agree in your heart, no matter what circumstances you are in right now, that He is Lord, Lord of all.  Worship has the power to transform us!