A Mary Christmas or a Martha Christmas?

I get it.

The calendar is so full this time of year. I think we legitimately have two days between here and Christmas Day that don’t have something written in. Between the activities, the shopping, the cooking, the crafting, the parties, and all the stuff, there is hardly time to just be still.

That reminded me of the story of when Jesus came to the home of a Mary and Martha. I’m sure you remember it… Jesus is there. Martha is in a tizzy getting everything ready, trying to make everything just right. … and there is Mary…. sitting…. not getting anything done.

Martha wanted Jesus to correct Mary. She wanted Jesus to tell her sister to get up and help. It was Martha who was corrected, though.

Jesus said, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken from her.” (Luke 10:41-42 NASB)

Friends, in your quest to create the perfect holiday this year, I encourage you to prioritize, pare down, choose the good part, and have a Mary Christmas.

From a nursing momma…

My heart for this blog is to help you see God in the everyday patterns of life.

Right now a major pattern in my life is nursing our 5 1/2 month old son. In fact, not only is it a pattern in my life, but it sets lots of perimeters in my life. My son’s appetite determines my sleep schedule, often affects which subject our daughters will study next, and whether I’m about to workout or sit in the recliner be cuddle.

After nursing each of our girls for a good long while and now nursing our son, I have several years of experience nursing while eating, sitting in Sunday School, listening to a young reader, even while teaching. I’ve nursed in parked cars, church pews, restaurant tables, and dressing rooms.

Moms, we do what needs to be done, don’t we? Our bodies aren’t our own. When our babies are in our laps, they often have an agenda. They want a desire satisfied. It might not have been that long since they last ate, but they know what they want and they express it in obvious ways!

When he is weaned and this season of my relationship with my son transitions to the next, our relationship will change. Rather than coming to me clamoring for nourishment, for something to fill him, he might come already full, just to rest with me. Receiving comfort from cuddling and enjoying connection with me rather than just wanting what he can get from me.

David compared his relationship with God to the relationship between a weaned child and his mother.

Surely I have composed and quieted my soul;

Like a weaned child rests against his mother,

My soul is like a weaned child within me.

Psalm 131:2

There are absolutely seasons of life in which I come to God, hungry, dissatisfied, wanting to be filled, crying out for needs to be met, healing to occur, or broken relationships to be restored.

But are there times in which, like David, I come to God just desiring relationship?

Am I ever wanting to rest in the connection, rather than serving my agenda?

How often do I come for the intimacy rather than the list?

The Box

I have this amazing flat box in my house that tells me how to feel about myself. You probably have one, too.

In the past six months, I stepped on one weekly at pre-natal doctor visits. The one at the doctor’s office communicated to me how our little guy was growing and how I was doing in taking care of him and myself.

I revolted and completely ignored it for 6 weeks after our son was born. That was very intentional. I had just had a baby and didn’t need the pressure. After that, I became very aware of what I was eating. Some days I would step on it and feel good about myself. The box gave me reason to stay motivated to keep doing what I was doing because it was working. Other days it made me feel guilty because it told me I was making bad choices. It made me so self aware.

Then there was this magical day. I stepped on the flat box and I saw my pre-baby weight on it. My baby was less than 3 months old! I tried on clothes that I had been afraid to wear. I walked with confidence. It told me that I should be proud. It gave me permission to relax a little.

But, I relaxed too much. I ate too much pizza at my daughter’s birthday. I devoured chocolate at Halloween. My exercise time suffered as I got behind in sleep caring for a newborn. Good things happened in our family and we celebrated with a family favorite: lasagne- homemade with love and lots of cheese! Then the holidays hit. I avoided the flat box because I was afraid of what it would tell me. I beat myself up. I felt uncomfortable in my own skin. I even felt like my husband was blinded by love, not seeing what I just knew the box would say about me.

I made goals for the new year. I wanted the flat box to tell me to feel good about myself again. I needed to know where I stood with it, so I began the first day of the year by hesitantly standing on the flat box. I was dreading it, feeling very self conscious. I had looked in the mirror. I could point out what the box would report back to me.

I stood on the flat box. It didn’t say what I thought it would.

I thought it lied to me.

It told me I should be very proud and that I had already reached the goal I had set for myself 5 months from now. I didn’t believe it. I got off and stepped back on the lying box. It said the same thing. I told my husband that it was lying. He stepped on it. He told me it was correct and how he knew it was correct. I wanted to believe it, but I was afraid to.

Then I went on with my day. As I did, I saw myself differently. I looked in the mirror and saw that maybe the box wasn’t lying. I thought about the size of the clothes I got for Christmas and remembered my excitement at the number on the tag. I thought of the kind people who commented agreements with the box before I sought its counsel.

I allowed myself to believe the flat box and this changed how I saw myself. I realized, once again, that I have reason to be motivated and keep doing what I have been doing. I had confidence, rather than dread, when I put on jeans instead of my standard black yoga pants. I even put on a shirt that clung to my midsection just a bit instead of flowing away from my body. I went outside with my family and ran, my head telling me that I could go faster because I was lighter.

The bottom line- I allowed a flat box to dictate to me how I should feel about myself.

I allowed it to determine my attitude.

I’m sure you’ve figured out what the flat box is.

I never thought that I would allow a scale to affect me in such a significant way. I thought I was stronger than that. I thought I was grounded in Scripture better than that.

When I realized that I was allowing my thoughts and how I saw myself I had to own it and confess it. Then how God saw me started to fill my mind.

“For You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother’s womb. I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Your works, And my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from You, When I was made in secret, And skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth; Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; And in Your book were all written The days that were ordained for me, When as yet there was not one of them. How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God! How vast is the sum of them!” Psalms‬ ‭139:13-17‬ ‭NASB‬‬

“”Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, And before you were born I consecrated you; I have appointed you a prophet to the nations.”” Jeremiah‬ ‭1:5‬ ‭NASB‬‬

“For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.” Ephesians‬ ‭2:10‬ ‭NASB‬‬

“Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows.” Luke‬ ‭12:7‬ ‭NASB‬‬

A flat black box we bought at Walmart doesn’t have the authority to define me.

It doesn’t have the privilege of telling me how confident I can be.

I refuse to allow my attitude about myself to be defined by something I can purchase.

Only the One who made me and loves me enough to die for me can tell me how valuable I am, how confident I can be, how worthy I am. He alone defines my worth and He did emphatically when He died on the cross for me.

We talked about idols in Sunday School this past Sunday- that they don’t have to be little statues that sit on the mantle. I realize now that giving that much power to a scale turned it into an idol. It has a place in my life, but it is an idol no more.

Is there an unexpected idol in your life you need to identify and put in its proper place?

My Heartbeat

I haven’t written in a while. Life is busy with the end of summer and other changes that are happening in our family… like this…

This little guy is just over a week old. He’s turned our life upside down in a wonderful way!

Today he and I stayed home from church, (he’s still so little and has some weight to gain back). He had some awake time, took some good naps, and is eating well. But this afternoon, none of those satisfied him. He had been awake a while, he wasn’t acting sleepy, and he had nursed ’til he was overflowing, but he was still not content.

I leaned him up against my chest and instantly, he was quiet. I think he just wanted to hear the familiar sound of my heartbeat.

Our desire as parents isn’t just to raise a boy, but to raise a man of God. That is my prayer over him, daily. David was known as man after God’s own heart and I want our son to be the same. Just like he knew and was comforted by hearing my heartbeat, I want him to know, crave, and be comforted by God’s heartbeat.

Which made me think, how in tune with God’s heartbeat am I? Am I an example for him of being in tune with God?

Hungry

It’s summer and the world around us is doing what God designed it to do.

Grass seems to be growing so fast you can watch it grow with your own eyes.

Afternoon thunderstorms pop up with a fury and leave the world even more humid than it was before.

Kids are chomping at the bit to be outside and wet.

Lightening bugs put on an amazing show of fireworks in the evening .

Bees, flies, and wasps are buzzing around, investigating options, bullying with their stingers, and dodging the beaks of birds.

Birds, meanwhile, are taking advantage of thunderstorms to find worms that emerge and are looking for bugs to feed their newly-hatched young.

We have a nest on our porch, high up. It’s a mud contraption that has been used and reinforced for several years. In fact, here’s a picture of the nest from May 2015.

Over the past 5 years, barn swallows have appeared each spring to repair the nest and raise their family. The girls and I have watched with amazement as the birds have carefully repaired the nest and taken turns sitting on their eggs. We’ve grieved as we’ve seen young pushed out of the nest and celebrated little heads sticking up.

We’ve noticed an increase in activity around the nest over the past few days so I’ve been watching to see what has been going on. Yesterday I saw this:

Can you see what caught my eye?

Let me help…

The second one from the left with his mouth open looks like he is posing for the picture, doesn’t he?

There are four little heads sticking out of the nest and their mouths are bigger than their faces! They sure keep their momma and daddy busy flying from the nest to the yard and back collecting insects to feed them! As soon as a parent arrives, those heads are up and those mouths are clamoring for food. They are desperate. (And I appreciate the number of insects that are leaving my yard😉.)

Even now, a head is sticking up looking around, wondering when the next meal is coming.

Yesterday, as I was watching these little birds, they were so anxious for their next meal that they were not even retreating to their nest between feedings. Their heads stayed up, their mouths stayed open; they were desperate. At one point the one with the biggest mouth there in the front was panting. I thought about this verse:

“As the deer pants for the water brooks, So my soul pants for You, O God.”

‭‭Psalms‬ ‭42:1‬ ‭NASB‬‬

These birds were literally panting, waiting to receive nourishment… How often am I that anxious for nourishment? Not for food… my waistline reflects that I am well taken care of in that way 😳, but for the Living Bread (John 6:51) and the water that springs up to eternal life (John 4:14).

This past Sunday night, our pastor was unpacking Jeremiah chapter 29. Many of us are familiar with verse 11, but verse 13 jumps out at me.

“You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.”

‭‭Jeremiah‬ ‭29:13‬ ‭NASB‬‬

These little birds are completely dependent on their parents and they know it. They cannot feed themselves but seek their parents with everything they can muster, anxious to receive from them. I can learn from these little guys on my porch…Do I realize my complete dependence on God?How Intentional am I about creating time to be with Him? Is it a priority?Am I hungry for His Word, humbly waiting with my Bible open, anxious for Him to illuminate it and apply it to my heart and mind?Do I seek Him with all my heart?I can go through life hungry for God, trying to fill that void with other things, but I will only be satisfied when I receive what He gives me.

Eczema

Our daughter has eczema. She has dealt with it most of her life and we’ve learned lots of ways to help ease her itching.

~Early on we found out it was triggered by milk products so we have eliminated dairy from her diet. We’ve found lots of ways for her to be a normal kid with no dairy.

~We have used lots of lotions. We’ve picked things up to try and people have handed us samples of things that work for them. We love trying new things to see if they will help.

~Bathing has also been a factor in this process. We try to keep all fragrances off her skin and soaps can cause drying so we use baking soda in he bath water to cleanse and promote healthy skin.

In the past week, a patch of red, irritated, inflamed skin got drastically worse. After spending a day on the slip-n-slide at grandparents’ house with cousins and then playing in the public pool with our church the next, her skin reached new levels of irritation. We tried all of our normal go-to fixes. We even gave her antihistamines to help with the itching that was keeping her up at night.

I started reading on the internet to see if there were things I hadn’t already tried. I even considered that it might not be eczema. I used creams and ointment for all kinds of rashes. I would think something was helping and by the afternoon or the next morning it looked worse.

When it started spreading from her arms to her face and trunk, I got more concerned. If this was something viral or bacterial, I needed to know so I could take precautions with every one else in the house. I also realized that treating the surface of the skin was only treating symptoms. I had to look past symptoms and get to the root of it. It was time to go to the doctor.

After answering questions and telling everything we had tried, we heard the course of treatment; we continue the oatmeal and epsom salt baths, try samples for a new eczema ointment, and get steroid shot with a prescription for oral steroids for 5 days.

All of the different treatments I was using on her skin were put away and we dialed in on the right treatment, including treating her from the inside instead of just treating the symptoms. We also have an appointment to see a dermatologist. My husband and I hope that he can help us get to the root and truly treat her issue rather than just her symptoms.

I was telling with a friend about it and our conversation shifted. We started talking about how often in our lives we have issues and want to treat symptoms and see results. It might be a physical issue, like struggling with our weight, so we try buying clothes that flatter the fluff, we avoid scales knowing the number is going up, we might even buy pills that guarantee fast results, but the root of the problem is a spiritual one. We aren’t recognizing our body as a gift from God to be used for His glory so we aren’t fueling it right and we aren’t giving it the opportunities to exercise that it needs to be at its optimal state.

Maybe it’s a financial issue and rather than getting getting a short-term loan, we need to address the spiritual issue of contentment and see what God says about debt and living within your means.

Maybe as we are raising our children we see things in them that need correcting, like having a smart mouth, laziness, or disrespecting authority but we never evaluate what we are modeling for them in how they hear us talk, see us stare at our phones when they are trying to talk to us, or speak about those in authority over us.

As my friend, Tabitha, put it so well, “We treat the surface, pretend we are okay on the surface [and] we have surface Christianity. We only go so deep. We tend to fear what we might find or being called out for something we are doing wrong so we avoid [going beyond the surface symptoms].”

Did you catch that? We put on a facade, treat the symptoms, convince everyone else that everything is ok while trying to convince ourselves of the same. We avoid the possibility that there could be something deeper that needs to be addressed and we keep going through the motions.

Isaiah recorded it this way:

“Then the Lord said, “Because this people draw near with their words And honor Me with their lip service, But they remove their hearts far from Me, And their reverence for Me consists of tradition learned by rote,”

‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭29:13‬ ‭NASB‬‬

How often are we like the people of Judah? Our words, our appearance, they look like things are hunky-dory, yet on the inside we are far from being in right relationship with God.

Jesus spoke these severe words:

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness.”

‭‭Matthew‬ ‭23:27‬ ‭NASB‬‬

We would never put a bandaid on a known clogged artery, yet that is what we do spiritually.

God wants to do more than put on a bandaid and pretend that everything is fine. He wants to give us a heart transplant.

“I will give them a heart to know Me, for I am the LORD; and they will be My people, and I will be their God, for they will return to Me with their whole heart.”

‭‭Jeremiah‬ ‭24:7‬ ‭NASB‬‬

I want to encourage you, put yourself on the table of the Great Physician. Allow Him to diagnose your symptoms and prescribe treatment, especially if it means a heart transplant. Find and treat the root cause rather than just the symptoms of your struggle.

Cleaning out

We have certain events happening in the life of our family that has made it the right time to do some cleaning out. In fact, it’s not just the right time; we absolutely need to hard core evaluate whether we use things or not. If not, can it be shared with a friend, donated, sold in a yard sale, or does it just need to go in the trash?

This past weekend, it was the laundry room’s turn. This small room in our house serves as the path from the most-used door right beside our vehicles to the kitchen. It contains the washer, dryer, and shelves that hold homeschooling supplies, crafting supplies, yard work clothes, outside toys, and any other thing that doesn’t have a place in the rest of our home. Do you have a space like that in your house? It’s almost like some families’ garages.

As I carefully started pulling things into the kitchen, I found an assortment of things that were both useful and not-useful. I broke down empty boxes to either store or throw away depending on the size and condition. I set 2 boxes aside to sort later. Then after taking a break, I swept the floor well and started loading selected things into the room.

There was one box, though, that I needed the wise counsel of my husband to know how to handle. It was a box of various cords and cables. My husband was absolutely the right person to ask concerning this because not only is he the techie of the family, but he works in a tech environment. I showed him the box this morning and asked if he would go through it at some point.

At first glance, he instantly identified what kinds of cords were in the box. He began pulling out wires saying, “We’ll never use this.” “Heh, no one uses these anymore.” He finally pulled out 3 things to save and said, “The rest of these are obsolete.”

I looked at our girls and asked if they understood what Daddy had just said.

They didn’t.

I explained that obsolete means it cannot be used anymore because it is outdated and has been replaced by something better.

I immediately thought of this verse.

“When He said, “A new covenant, ” He has made the first obsolete. But whatever is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to disappear.” Hebrews‬ ‭8:13‬ ‭NASB‬‬

This verse is talking about the New Covenant that was made through Christ’s blood which made the Old Covenant obsolete.

The original covenant was made during the time of Moses and involved the system of sacrifices. Jesus’s sacrifice, through His death on the cross, fulfilled the need for sacrifice and made that system obsolete… just like the cords in the box, but even more so.

If someone had the right device and the right components, I could hook them up…literally. Those cords could be used by the right person, just not anyone in our family. The old system of making sacrifices to get right with God isn’t one that you can go back to. It would be like deciding to take out the Bluetooth system that connects with my phone in my brand new car and replace it with an 8 track player, the definition of obsolete!

That’s why the author of Hebrews was writing. He wanted those hearing him to not try to return to an obsolete system. Jesus is far more superior!

You may be wondering, “What does His have to do with me?” I’m so glad you are thinking that!

We might not be considering returning to the Old Testament system of sacrifices, but we did have a life before we became Christians. The ways I tried to get right with God before I became a Christian (being good enough, going through the motions of Christianity without having a relationship with Him, et cetera) those things never worked but I sometimes find myself turning to those works (that I do) rather than resting in the work that Christ did on the cross on my behalf. I realize that I am still trying to earn my salvation.

Friend, rest in what God has done for you. Don’t try to return to what never worked to begin with. Christ did the work on the cross so that you could have a relationship with Him. Enjoy that relationship. Grow it and make it deeper through time with Him and in His Word.

Do you find things in your home that are obsolete? As you decide to get rid of them (or save them to laugh at and show grandkids later) you could tell God thank you for the sacrifice He made in sending Jesus that will never become obsolete!

Bees and Wasps

Several years ago our younger daughter was stung by a wasp on her hand. It, evidently, was more of a traumatic experience than I realized at the time. She still remembers getting stung as a toddler and this year as we’ve spent more time outside, she has become increasingly aware of flying insects that might sting her.

Just this morning, we were trying to spend some time outside before a wave of thunderstorms came through. She didn’t want to go outside, and then the didn’t want to leave the safety of the driveway for the clover-covered yard because she saw bees.

I assured her that bees are not out to get her. They are more focused on gathering what they need to make that sweet stuff- honey! Wasps, on the other hand, are just mean. I feel like they will go out of their way to sting you.

I’ve encountered people like both bees and wasps. Some are out bring sweetness every where they go, others spew negativity every where. Goodness, I’ve been both of these, sometimes in the same day!

I shared these two ideas with our daughters and asked which they would rather be like, a bee or a wasp. I agree with them; I’d rather be a bee… but I’m not always.

I did a word study from 1 Peter recently. The idea has lingered with me and became more real to me through the discussion we had outside this morning.

“Do not let your adorning be external–the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear- but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.” (1 Peter 3:3-4, ESV)

The word that I’ve emphasized here, gentle, is actually the same word, in Greek, that Jesus used in the Beatitudes when He said, ” Blessed are the meek (gentle), for they shall inherit the earth.” (Matt. 5:5)

According to my Greek-Hebrew Key Word Bible, the Greek word that has been translated “gentle” means so much than our culture’s idea of gentle. The idea is not weakness, but strength of character that brings power under control. It’s not a refrain from anger, but anger that is timed right and aimed in the right direction. It’s being frustrated with circumstances but trusting God in the big plan, even when things aren’t going our desired way.

Bees can sting. They reserve their sting, though, for when they (or their honey supply) have been threatened. They have power, but it’s under control.

Wasps can also sting. Man, can they sting! I had one pop me in the arm in our driveway growing up because I in was in the area. I felt like I was a target for no good reason. If I were describing wasps with human traits, I would think of them as being hot-headed with temper. Like a loose cannon, they don’t reserve their sting but attack at the slightest perception of threat or inconvenience.

I don’t always have the power of my words under control, and I’ve been told I say so much with my eyes, even if it doesn’t come out of my mouth. This makes me wonder how much better I need to control my thoughts and bring them under the Lordship of Christ…

I don’t want to be like a wasp and cause people to constantly be aware of my presence and wonder, “Will I be her next target?” In what ways do I need the Holy Spirit to bring the fruit of the spirit of self-control into my life? What am I modeling for my children?

I want to be a bee, taking the various elements of life around me and using them to bring sweetness to those around me to God’s glory.

Next time I see a flying, stinging insect I’m going to do a heart check.

Is my spirit gentle?

Does strength of character rule over my tongue and temper?

Is the Holy Spirit ruling my life no matter the circumstances?

Am I being a wasp or a bee?

Leaves

This is an interesting time of year to be outside. January can bring snow, which we had last week, but it can also bring a warm spell, like we are having now. I’m currently watching our girls play on their swing set wearing short sleeves and capris!

As our girls play, I’m watching them, but I am also noticing the trees. My family lives in Middle Tennessee and there are lots of bare trees around. The leaves are long gone and the branches seem, well, … naked. As I look around though, I realize that the bare branches reveal so much that remains hidden much of the year.

On the way into town, we drive down a road that runs right beside a steep drop off with a river at the bottom. We moved here in the spring and it was months before I knew there was such a dangerous but beautiful scene feet from the road hidden by leaves and overgrowth.

A friend once pointed out to me that this time of year you can also see bird nests. Have you ever noticed a clump of sticks and leaves in the crook of a branch high up in a tree? It’s a bird’s nest that’s tucked away and hidden during the rest of the year but revealed until spring covers it again.

The bare, naked branches reveal what was there all along.

Do you remember Adam and Eve and their leaves? They sinned and realized their nakedness. In an attempt to hide what had been revealed, they covered themselves with leaves. God came to dwell with them in the quiet of the garden and they hid, ashamed because of sin. God already knew what they were trying to cover. They were only deceiving themselves. (Genesis 3:8-10)

Are there times when it’s just us and God and we need to “remove our leaves” and own what’s hidden? Maybe we know what we are trying to hide and need to face it. Could it be that there are things in a secret place that we need revealed to ourselves? Remember that we have a tendency to justify our own actions and choices. We need an outside standard. God reveals Himself and His standard through His Word.

“For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” Hebrews 4:12

God knew leaves wouldn’t last. They wither and are temporary. He made clothes of animal skin for Adam and Eve. (Genesis 3:21) I realized something several years ago: blood was shed as a consequence of the very first sin. An animal had to give its life. How else would God get animal skins? This, all the way back in Genesis, points to our once-for-all sacrifice, Jesus.

I encourage you, be like a tree and loose your leaves. Carve out some time to get bare before the Lord. Allow Him to reveal what is hidden and needs to be confessed.

In this season of life…

It’s been me of those weekends.

Strep hit our house and our daughter has a tendency to vomit when she has strep.

Between caring for her needs and cuddling her, taking care of our other daughter, cleaning up things that needed immediate attention, going to the doctor and trying to find an open pharmacy, spending extended time in the middle of the night giving “just a sip of water because we want to make sure it stays down”, fighting to get medicine in her, and loads of laundry… my weekend wasn’t restful.

We were supposed to sing at church this morning. I had already packed clothes to go to the park after church. All responsibilities, obligations, and fun plans suddenly dissolved and my agenda changed drastically.

But, this is just a season of life.

This weekend of illness won’t last forever.

Our girls won’t always need my attention like this.

As I drove home from the doctor, I had a deep realization. I just want to be faithful in this season of life.

Faithful in this season doesn’t mean singing at church, it means caressing a fevered forehead. Faithful in this season doesn’t mean great plans, it means trusting God in the middle of the night. It means doing extra laundry and going without sleep without complaining and trying to model a servant heart, like Christ’s, for our daughters.

What does it look like to be faithful in your season of life?