Five Minute Friday: Imagine

Imagine.

Imagine a home filled with three rowdy, laughing boys and one daughter with a giggle high and light.

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In that home you might hear such phrases as:

“Don’t lick your brother’s face” and

“You can’t beat up your sister’s special doll.”

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You might also find messes like this on your nine-foot ceilings,

evidence of a seven-year-old boy left too long in the bath. :)

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Now imagine a young, often tired mama, who tends to be on the serious side.

She dislikes messes,

and rowdiness,

and chaos.

She appreciates controlled fun, if there is such a thing.

I never imagined myself to be the mama of so many boys, but I certainly am thankful for God’s wisdom in placing them in my care.  By the grace of God, I’m learning to embrace

noise,

chaos,

wrestling, and even….

….fart jokes. :)

Imagine that tired, young mama opening her mind and heart to a world of fun and let’s pretend.  Those rowdy boys and silly daughter teach her to play. They teach her to take life less seriously.

Imagine life without my children?  Impossible!

Jen :)

What do your children teach you?  Share with us in the comments.

Be a Transformer

Have you ever put off saying (or posting) something because you feared the repercussions, how it might be received?  If so, then this post is for you.  Even as I wrote it, and re-wrote it, I felt that same fear because being bold in my witness does not come naturally to me, rather it usually results from conviction of the Holy Spirit.  Thus, I have put off posting this message for too long now, and God has  convicted me that I’m not trusting in the Him, the God “who goes before me.” I have spent hours crafting the message so that it will hopefully ring true without causing a permanent loss of hearing. :)

So I hope that when you read it, you will consider my heart (even though some of you might hardly know me).  My heart beats for God’s people and for His truth, it yearns for us all to strive toward Christ-likeness not for the sake of personal pride or satisfaction with self, but for the sake of His glory, that His name and His Truth should be known around the world!  My heart aches for the lost, those who are searching for His Truth without even knowing it.  You can blame my parents for this since I spent a great deal of my growing up years as a missionary kid. But that’s another story for another time.   Today I want to ask you some tough questions in relation to the following verse:

do not conform

Recent conversations on Facebook and other media outlets have opened my eyes to a developing trend in Christianity today.  Being a Bible-believing, truth-defending, Christ-follower is no longer popular even in many Christian circles!

Somewhere along the line, some of us Christ-followers have become so conformed to this world that we are afraid and/or unwilling to take a stand on issues that the Bible clearly addresses.  I’m ashamed to admit that I’ve found myself in this camp before, keeping quiet because it’s just easier.  Some believers even go so far as to throw their total support behind worldly ideology, political correctness, tolerance  – whatever you want to call it – and then condemn their fellow believers for being “judgmental,” “close-minded,” or “intolerant.”

While criticism from the world is to be expected, criticism from fellow believers often surprises us!  We are not accustomed to being labeled (or  dare I say “judged”?) by those who should be our support.  How warped is it that Satan has convinced some of us that simply standing on God’s Truth is being judgmental, and is therefore wrong?

Allow me to clarify: the Bible DOES speak strongly against judging others and becoming self-righteous. We are all familiar with the words of Luke 6:41-42.

speck or plank

Only God can see, and therefore judge, the motives of the heart.  Therefore, we should not pre-occupy ourselves with the sin of others; rather we should be too busy dealing with our own sin.  However, God also calls us to be transformed by the renewing of our minds and to be bold in our witness as transformers.

Unfortunately, well-publicized, so-called “Christians” have recently taken a stand for their so-called “truth” in ways that ARE harsh and hateful, tarnishing our witness.  Furthermore, we have Christian brothers and sisters actively ridiculing others on forums such as Twitter and Facebook, adding to the world’s negative perception of us Christ-followers. While I fully support upholding God’s Truth, when we haughtily shove our beliefs in someone’s face with a sarcastic turn of phrase, a witty cartoon, or a picture that belittles others, we end up conforming to the world and looking just like it!  How can we then be salt or light to a world that is in dire need of God’s truth?

I believe Satan has seized hold of this shame over others’ behavior and used it to confuse believers (as well as the world!) and convince many of us that upholding God’s truth is wrong in and of itself, when the reality is that the fault lies in the method of delivery. We have only to study Christ’s example to see how he gently revealed truth to people, often with a single phrase or sentence, and always while caring for their needs, whether physical or spiritual.  He did not skirt sin issues, neither did he humiliate the lost.

We must follow Christ’s example in our efforts to live as transformers.  When the Bible speaks clearly on issues of right and wrong, we are called to uphold God’s Truth with – and this is the key – LOVE and RESPECT.

prepared to give an answer

The key lies in our delivery – a delivery which requires a balance between Truth and Grace, not the absence of either or both.  A total-grace perspective can lead to conformity, while a total-truth perspective can lead to self-righteous bullying .  Is it wrong to bully others into sharing our beliefs?  Yes!  Is it also wrong to be silent on issues that the Bible clearly addresses?  Yes!  Why then have we allowed the world, the Great Deceiver, and even fellow Christians to tell us that it is un-Christian-like to be a Christian? Ironic, isn’t it? :)

My purpose is this: consider carefully how your life and your actions or statements appear to others (especially in regards to social media).  Do they see a difference?  Are you being transformed by Christ, or are you choosing to conform to the world?  There is no middle ground!

power of risen savior

I know it is risky voicing the unpopular Biblical perspective on many current issues, but then Christ wasn’t all that popular with the worldly and falsely religious leaders of his day, either.  You may lose friends.  You may lose popularity.  You may even be judged by the very people who accuse you of “ being too judgmental!” Have the courage that Paul had when he wrote in Philippians 3:7-11:

But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. 10 I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.

Amen??

If at the moment you find that you’ve been conforming (and haven’t we ALL at some point or another??), remember that God’s grace is immediate and His power to provoke change in us is immeasurable.  On the other hand, if you are already actively trying to live out a transformed life, take heart. You are not alone!

I encourage you to look to God’s Word and the Word alone to form your opinions, and allow the Holy Spirit to transform your thinking.

Questions to ask  before posting or sharing a “truth” statement via social media:

  1. Is your audience one you love and one who loves you in return?  In other words, will your message be received in the manner in which it was intended?
  2. Is your message one of God’s truth rather than man’s truth?  In other words, do you have contextual biblical support  for your message?
  3. Is God leading you to share this truth at this particular time in this particular fashion?  In other words, has the prompting come from Him or do you just love your soap box? :)
  4. Have you achieved a balance between truth and grace?  In other words, how is your method of delivery – gentle or smug?

overcome evil for good

Telling the truth in grace and love is such a delicate balance to achieve, but as Christ’s image-bearers, we must work toward that balance!  We have amazing technology and a unique opportunity to show the world what Christ-like love truly is, so let’s allow Christ’s love to shine through us without diminishing the light of His message.  Don’t conform.  Be a transformer.

Because of His love,

Jen :)

You might also enjoy this post:

http://www.godspotting.net/2013/06/god-is-not-republican.html

Five Minute Friday: View

Today I’m trying something new!  Another blogger has challenged us to participate in Five Minute Fridays – we’ll spend only 5 minutes writing on a word prompt that she gives us.  No editing, no grammar checking, no revising.  Just creativity. So, here goes!

 

View

 

I once lived in a land with breath-taking views.  Papua New Guinea, with bright tropical foliage filling the valleys, and the valleys ringed by tall mountains with a beauty of their own.  Our tribal home sat perched on the side of one of these mountains, up on stilts with our hammocks hanging beneath.

 

PNG house

 

I loved to sit in my hammock and look out at the blue sky that seemed so much brighter at that elevation and across to the mountain range on the other side of the valley below.  Some mornings, thick, white clouds filled the valley as if a blanket of white cotton was laid out for us.  So much beauty from the hand of our Creator!

hammocks under png house

 

Today the views that grace my landscape are not quite so spectacular.  Our small town has its own form of quaint beauty, and the surrounding corn and soybean fields have theirs.  Still, I miss New Guinea and the way in which the physical beauty of our mountain home brought me closer to my Creator.  It was as if His presence was always evidenced before me, less easy to ignore.

 

But my Creator is so quick to remind me that my view has so much to do with perspective.  I may no longer be surrounded by majestic mountains, wild-growing poinsettia trees, and grass-topped huts scattered among the dense green bush, but I’m surrounded by beautiful people.  The man in my life who is quick to help anyone in need.  The four-year-old twins who frolic together in the backyard.  The seven-year-old with the impish grin on his face, no doubt planning some new mischief.  The thirteen year old with his gentle smile and willing spirit.

 

me and kids

 

Yes, my view is good.

Jen :)

 

Sanity Saving Chore Charts

Last summer we sold our home and moved to the community that we are currently ministering to.   We were very blessed to be able to move into a larger home, and I just knew it would be perfect for the kids and perfect for entertaining people.  What I didn’t count on was the time it would take to adjust to cleaning and maintaining a larger home!

I quickly found myself overwhelmed by the cleaning projects that come with maintaining an older, farm-style home.
Sanity Saving Chore Charts

I struggled for months with the housework and felt like I was always “behind.”  Because I felt frustrated and overwhelmed, every little mess the kids made irritated me – every spilled cup, every toy left out, every article of dirty clothing on the floor – and I often found myself grumping at them even as I was telling myself to have patience.

I felt like I was losing my mind!  It was as if I was stuck in Romans 7, knowing what I wanted to do, but feeling utterly incapable of doing it.

How a move to a new home changed my view on chores.  Read for great ideas on chore charts for various ages!  Sanity Saving Chore Charts

So, after many tears of frustration and quite a bit of prayer, my husband and I  decided it was high time to expect a little more of our four children.

You see, our children have always had chores, but in the craziness of moving and settling in, we’d become lax in our supervision of them.

We decided that the best way to save my sanity was to create new chore charts!

I set about researching some age appropriate chores since we have such a wide age-span in our family and quickly realized that we had failed to see how much our children had grown.  Obviously they had grown physically, but we failed to notice they were now also more mature and more capable of handling more difficult tasks.

For our younger two children, we chose this flip-up system with pictures of each daily chore.  When all chores are finished and flipped, they can see their names spelled out.

Need a little help getting started? You can check out my parenting board on pinterest for DIY tutorials that I used as a base for building my own.  (Also, my amazing sister has taken these flip charts a step further with some great ideas at her blog Love Notes.  In addition to the flip chore charts, she utilizes a morning and evening checklist and a chore jar, where children get to choose an extra chore to complete and receive a nice prize.)

Preschool chores focus mainly on taking care of the body, and beginning to take responsibility for their own messes.  We chose to incorporate things that should become daily habits such as: brushing teeth, making bed, getting dressed, clearing dishes from the table, picking up laundry, and picking up toys.

How a move to a new home changed my view on chores.  Read for great ideas on chore charts for various ages!  Sanity Saving Chore Charts

They both remain very enthusiastic about flipping up the chores they have done each day, even after several months have passed!

In fact, our daughter often wants to do her bedtime chores (laundry) in the morning because she wants her name to be complete. :)

Our older boys have more complex chore charts that are laminated so they can be re-used.  We use dry-erase markers to check things off.  One of the things I like most about the chore charts for the older boys is that they are divided into categories that emphasize different areas of their personal responsibilities.

You can see the various categories highlighted on the left in the picture below.

The weekly responsibilities have options to allow for personal choice, and the tasks in that area of the chart are more difficult for our oldest son, who is 13.

How a move to a new home changed my view on chores.  Read for great ideas on chore charts for various ages!  Sanity Saving Chore Charts

(One important note: the “Taking care of my relationship with God” area is included only as a reminder to our older boys.  We don’t want time with God to be assigned a “task” status.)

In our home, chores are part of being a family and working together toward a common goal, which is to be good stewards of the material things God has given us.

Doing chores helps our children to learn personal responsibility as well as team-work.

For that reason, we do not pay our children an allowance in relation to their chores.  Instead, we reserve allowance for teaching financial stewardship and how money works in general, but that is just our family preference.

However, our older boys were understandably less excited about the new chore charts, and our fairly intense 7-year-old was so overwhelmed by the change that he was practically in tears.  (What he didn’t realize at first is that most of the things on his list were things he already does on a daily basis, like brushing his teeth and making his bed.)

In an attempt to lighten the mood and help them adjust to additional responsibilities, we added a bonus for good attitudes and for helpfulness without prompting – an additional 50 cents on their allowance.

For our new chore system to function well, we realized that we would need a consequence for those times when our older boys failed to complete their chores.  We wanted the consequence to be more of a learning opportunity (“the punishment fits the crime” approach).

Eventually we settled on this method:  if there is a pattern of a chore going undone, then the consequence would be to complete the undone chore, as well as an additional one.

I love this solution!  It simultaneously helps me and provides an unpleasant experience that they don’t wish to repeat. I’m happy to report that we rarely have to enforce consequences with the chores because the boys really, really dislike doing extra chores.

Although we’ve had a few bumps along the way, our house has been much tidier in general, considering we have four children living here.  I no longer feel overwhelmed on a daily basis.  Additionally, I’m less uptight about the messes the little ones make because I know they’ll be picking them up before bed.

My sanity has been restored!  

Perhaps most importantly, I know that developing these good habits now will benefit them greatly as they grow into adulthood.

Although initially the chore charts mean a little more work for us parents in supervising and making sure tasks are completed (or even teaching a new skill), the goal is to eventually make parenting a little easier in this area of keeping a tidy home.

So, if you’ve been feeling overwhelmed by your housework, feeling taken for granted as the one who cleans up after everyone, or feeling like you just might lose your mind, consider the following questions.

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4 Questions to ask about chores:

  1. Who does the chores?  Are you expecting enough help from your children, or do they think it is just Mom’s job to clean up after everyone all of the time?  Or do you often take on the majority of the work because it’s easier to just “do it yourself?”  I admit to being guilty as charged on both accounts previously.  However, especially if you have sons, try to consider how their future wives might feel about this unhealthy portrait of what a wife and mother is “supposed” to do.  At the same time, think of the message you are sending your young daughters.  Yes, we are called to be homemakers, managers of the household, but that does not mean we have to do everything on our own! :)
  2. Are the chores age-appropriate?  If like me, you failed to realize how “big” your babies are getting, you might want to rethink your expectations of them. If you are unsure of what chores are appropriate for your children, a quick google search or pinterest search will return a wealth of information!
  3. Are the chores focused on teaching your children personal responsibility? One of our goals with the new chore charts was to emphasize the stewardship aspect of chores. We want our children to learn to take care of their things and the things we share commonly, such as our home and vehicles.
  4. Are the chores fairly distributed?  Yes, older children are capable of handling more responsibilities than younger children.  However, avoid burdening one child with the majority of responsibility.  For example, when in a hurry to tidy up previously, I would ask our oldest son to pick up the toys. He is generally helpful and I knew he would do a good job.  However, when my husband and I looked at teaching personal responsibility, I realized I was making a mistake. With the new chore system, we really worked at making sure he wasn’t bearing a disproportionate load just because he is older and is more compliant.  Additionally, make sure you don’t put off the majority of the housework onto your children. Mom should have her own set of chores to do (Dad too)!  Lead by example. :)

For now I am very happy (and sane!) with our current chore charts, but I’m sure after a time we’ll need to look at it again and make changes. I wouldn’t mind trying out a few different methods to give the children a variety, to keep it fresh and exciting.

If you don’t currently have a chore system in place, why not give one a try? It just might save your sanity!

Jen :)

What methods do you use for teaching responsibility and team-work in the home?  Give us your best advice in the comments!

For more great ideas on how to maximize the flip charts for younger children, check out this blog:

http://sarahjofairchild.wordpress.com/2013/06/11/bogo-mommyhood-chore-charts/

 

Also linking up at:

The Power of Music

I love music.  I love to sing it, I love to play it (when I have time), and I love to listen to it.  I love all sorts of music, too.  In our house you might hear contemporary christian, classical, broadway, oldies, big band, some jazz, a little country, a little rap. and even some of what my husband refers to as “love music” (think ballads!).  By far my favorite music is the kind that speaks truth directly to my soul!  You know what I’m talking about – those songs that are almost devastating in their truth and beauty.

Even my young, four-year-old daughter knows the power of music. I can no longer sing, “Rock-a-bye baby” to her because the melody makes her sad.  On the other hand, my seven-year-old son likes  enthusiastic jams from artists like TobyMac, not surprising since he’s our energetic one.  When the kids are fighting with each other and just can’t seem to get along, a dance party to some great music goes a long way toward re-establishing their sibling camaraderie.  When nothing seems to be going right, I find solace in music.

Music is powerful.

Music expresses that which cannot be said and on which it is impossible to be silent.  ~Victor Hugo

Music is an outburst of the soul ~ Frederick DeLuis

Psalms 95:1 – O come, let us sing unto the LORD: let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation.

James 5:13 – Is any among you afflicted? let him pray. Is any merry? let him sing psalms.

In the scriptures we read about times of rejoicing, accompanied by music, and times of sorrow, accompanied by music.   When David killed the Philistine giant, God’s people rejoiced through music.  When King Saul struggled with sorrow and other emotions, David’s instrument soothed him.  When Paul and Silas sat imprisoned, they sang songs of thankfulness and praise to the Lord.  Music is for happy times, sad times, and all of those times in between. Praise the Lord for the incredible gift of music!

So today when my head and heart are full of so many different thoughts  and emotions that I don’t even know where to begin, why not begin and end with a song?

Jen :)

When do you turn to music?

Peaceful Parenting (No Thanks to Pinterest)

We’ve been experiencing some parenting problems in our home recently.  With four children, it’s bound to happen from time to time!

One of our children is struggling socially at school since we moved last summer and has requested to home school this fall.  While I’m willing and capable of teaching him at home, we want to be certain it is the best solution for him.

At the same time, one of our preschoolers has been demonstrating disrespectful behavior by grunting or growling when I attempt to correct him.  It’s basically the same thing as saying, “NO, Mom!” I wasn’t expecting such stubbornness to surface at the age of four! What happened to my sweet two-year-old?

Continuing in our efforts to parent with Christ in mind is difficult when we aren’t seeing results.

What am I doing wrong?

What should I do differently?

Sometimes when we’re parenting, there is no clear right or wrong answer.

And this is where I struggle.

In the age of social media, it's easy to find conflicting parenting advice. How do we know which method is right or best? Overcome parenting guilt and find peace  by...

When I lack enough evidence to declare one parenting choice as superior to another for our family, I often worry that I’ll make the “wrong choice.”

I can become obsessed with gathering information from various sources in an attempt to make an informed decision. Unfortunately, when I turn to parenting resources (even Christian parenting resources), I often find that they can contradict each other in the details.

In our “how-to” age, we can access a hundred different opinions, or even tried-and-true techniques, about any given subject at any given time.

Which one should a desperate parent choose??

As a mama of four children, I know that not a single method will work well with every child, every time.  Thus, one potential problem with looking to others for help is the tendency to see that repeatedly re-pinned, how-to post as gospel-truth.

In the age of social media, it's easy to find conflicting parenting advice. How do we know which method is right or best? Overcome parenting guilt and find peace  by...

As I was thinking about social media and how it has changed the way we parent, I wondered: what happened to relying on the Spirit to guide us?

What happened to prayer?

I’ll be the first to admit that when I encounter a problem or challenge, I often run to other humans for wisdom first!  After all, it’s natural to ask our peers for advice.  However, consider King Solomon’s humble request,

However, consider King Solomon’s humble request,

“Give me wisdom and knowledge, that I may lead this people, for who is able to govern this great people of yours?” (2 Chron. 2:10).

You see, Solomon had some pretty big shoes to fill when taking over his father David’s kingdom.  How would you like to be next in line after the “man after God’s own heart?”  Solomon knew he lacked wisdom for leading. He also faced a huge project, the building of the temple! The temple would be a place of worship for generations to come, and that burden rested on Solomon’s shoulders.

Parenting is a little like that, isn’t it?

We know that the choices we make will affect not only our own children, but also our children’s children and even the generations to come.  Like Solomon’s task, our task is also great, for a whole world of lost people is at stake!

The key is remembering Whom our children ultimately belong to.  Solomon recognized that He was given authority not over his own people, but over God’s people and that the best leader for those people was God Himself.  In the same way, as parents we’ve been entrusted with these beautiful beings, but they don’t really belong to us.  They belong to Him.

Here’s how to have peace as a parent:

Like Solomon, we parents should ask God for wisdom to lead them, His children.

Please hear me out; I’m not suggesting we exclude the advice of others altogether. I really do enjoy Facebook, Pinterest, and other social media forums and have successfully used many ideas from other savvy moms (along with a few epic failures)! :)

What I am suggesting is that we not forget the ultimate source of wisdom when it comes to parenting, or really anything in life – our Father God.

In the age of social media, it's easy to find conflicting parenting advice. How do we know which method is right or best? Overcome parenting guilt and find peace  by...

In the midst of my parenting problems, I hear His voice.

Trust Me.  Ask ME for wisdom instead of asking others first. Be led by the Holy Spirit and by my WordAfter all, I am their Creator; who better to understand them and their needs, but me?  Persevere in your purposeful parenting and wait to see what happens.

I still don’t know how to best correct our four-year-old’s sudden defiance, nor do I know where our middle child will attend school this coming fall (update: he has adjusted well to his new school!).

Both situations are works in progress because I am a work-in-progress parent and my children are works in progress as well.

However, I do know that in the midst of my uncertainty, I can trust Him.  He is in control. He knows my heart is in the right place.

He knows I want to be a peaceful parent, not one ruled by fear, or dare I even say, by Pinterest? :)

My sisters in Christ, if like me, you often feel confused by the wide variety of parenting styles, methods, and opinions out there, I hope today you hear His voice: trust in Me.

If you find yourself lying wide awake at night wondering, “What am I going to do with this child?!,” ask for wisdom.  And then sleep peacefully knowing that although your children have imperfect parents, they are perfectly protected in the hands of the Father.

In the age of social media, it's easy to find conflicting parenting advice. How do we know which method is right or best? Overcome parenting guilt and find peace  by...

I’d love to hear from you, if you are willing to share!

What parenting issues are you struggling with lately?  What scriptures have you turned to for wisdom or  encouragement in parenting?

Jen :)

If pressure to be a perfect parent plagues you, you might enjoy:

The Superwoman Myth

  

 

 

 

You might also enjoy:

http://wegotreal.com/things-arent-always-as-they-seem/

Also linking up at:

http://abidingwoman.com/

Faithful Friend or Critical Chrisitan ~ A Word on Chronic Suffering

I have a soft spot for those who struggle with chronic health issues, those who experience chronic suffering.

Just recently, I had yet another bout with sinusitis and was reminded once again how much I dislike being ill. I have a medical history complicated by allergies and asthma along with an immune system that just doesn’t work well and never has.

Truthfully, the ONLY positive medical rarity I’ve experienced in life thus far is giving birth to twins! :)

While my medical issues pale in comparison to so many others, I struggle often enough to understand some of what it feels like to battle chronic medical conditions.

I understand that chronic sufferers often feel lonely because illness keeps them at home in isolation.

I understand the judgment sometimes felt from uncaring medical professionals, unsympathetic friends, and even gossipers who relate physical health to spiritual health.

I understand the weariness of facing yet another day of pain with no end in sight.

I understand total helplessness.

Over the years, I’ve heard people say some pretty harsh things about our sisters in Christ with chronic conditions, and I’m very ashamed to admit I’ve even had these same thoughts on occasion:

They’re just depressed. They need to get help.

They obviously can’t handle pain well, so they exaggerate their symptoms.

All they do is complain!

They are not living a healthy lifestyle. If they would just eat right, exercise, etc. then they would feel better.

They are not disciplined enough. They should just do what’s right in spite of how they feel.

They’re not trusting God enough.

While all of these statements have the potential to be at least partially true in many cases, they come across as self-righteous.

Is that a little harsh?

Perhaps.

However, such self-righteous thoughts or even voiced opinions do nothing to uplift or encourage that sister in Christ who is so lonely, so overwhelmed, so discouraged, so needy.

Consider these excerpts from Job, who suffered for the glory of the Lord.

Job 12
4 “I have become a laughingstock to my friends,
though I called on God and he answered—
a mere laughingstock, though righteous and blameless!
5 Those who are at ease have contempt for misfortune
as the fate of those whose feet are slipping…

16 Then Job replied:
2 “I have heard many things like these;
you are miserable comforters, all of you!
3 Will your long-winded speeches never end?
What ails you that you keep on arguing?
4 I also could speak like you,
if you were in my place;
I could make fine speeches against you
and shake my head at you.
5 But my mouth would encourage you;
comfort from my lips would bring you relief…

19 Then Job replied:
2 “How long will you torment me
and crush me with words?
3 Ten times now you have reproached me;
shamelessly you attack me.
4 If it is true that I have gone astray,
my error remains my concern alone…

Job was “blameless and upright”; he had done nothing to deserve his suffering, and he continued to turn to the Lord throughout. Yet, how did his religious friends respond? They criticized him. They questioned his faith.

When he needed them most, Job’s friends failed him. How sad that they missed the opportunity to demonstrate brotherly love to Job!

As sisters in Christ, we are called to minister to those in need! Even if those suffering are not as blameless as Job, we are responsible to love them through the difficult times.

I know from experience that suffering from a medical condition can make a person pretty needy, and sometimes we grow weary of giving to someone who cannot give back. Trust me; I’ve been on that side of the coin, too.

As Job said, “Those who are at ease have contempt for misfortune…”

How quickly we forget the depth of the dark when we are bathing in the light.

I’m guilty of it myself.

So, how can we avoid being unsympathetic know-it-alls like Job’s friends?

Chronic suffering is hard for many to understand because they haven't experienced it. How can we encourage those who suffer rather than condemning them? Read here for 4 Ways to Comfort a Sufferer

 

1. Check your attitude. Don’t condemn or condescend; show compassion instead. You cannot possibly know how difficult your sister’s life is unless you’ve been there yourself. Try to remember a time in your life when you suffered great physical pain or discomfort. Now imagine dealing with that on a daily basis with no end in sight! “Be kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another….” Eph. 4:32

2. Remember that dealing with medical issues can be scary and lonely, especially when an issue lacks a confirmed diagnosis. Doctors are not always correct and sometimes they lack the medical knowledge or the compassion to find answers patients need. Just because a person does not yet have a diagnosis does not mean “it’s all in the head.” Remind them that you will remain a faithful friend.

3. Before you offer advice to your suffering sister, consider your relationship with her. Are you close enough to her to have all of the facts, or have you made assumptions based on partial information? Have you first spent time in earnest prayer for her? Do you have a strong enough relationship that she will be able to hear you in love without being wounded by your words?

4. Be the Body of Christ! Offer an encouraging word, send a card or note to let her know you are thinking of and praying for her! Additionally, offer some practical help – making a meal, providing child care, cleaning the house, running an errand, even giving financially to help with medical bills in the case of severe illness. Don’t say, “If you need help, let me know.” Instead say, “I want to help by _________. When is a good day or time?” A specific offer of help is much more difficult to turn down. :)

On the other hand, if you, my sister in Christ, struggle with chronic medical issues, remember that you are not alone and that God IS in control, even when it doesn’t feel like it.    The Word can be a tremendous source of encouragement during such trials.

Do you know someone who suffers from chronic health issues? Are you a faithful friend to them or a critical Christian?  Read here for 4 Ways to Comfort a Sufferer!

 

Isaiah 55:8-9

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the LORD.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

We don’t always understand His ways, His reasons, for allowing trials in our lives, but we can trust in His compassion for us.

Hebrews 4:15-16

“ For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

Jesus suffered. He suffered physically, emotionally, even mentally in his life as a human on earth. He was betrayed by friends and rejected (albeit briefly) by His own father. He suffered horribly and then He died. If anyone can understand your pain, He can!

2 Corinthians 1:3-5

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ.”

Over the years, I have learned that God often uses illness to get my attention, to bring me back to that place where I am totally reliant on Him because my physical body has failed me.

I don’t always know or understand why God allows such frequent illness, but I am secure in the fact that He only allows things into my life that He can work for good (Rom. 8:28). I hope you find that same comfort!

So as we go about our week, let’s remember those in our circles who are hurting. I challenge you to put a little time and effort into encouraging a suffering sister in Christ this week!

Who’s with me?

Jen :)

What great ideas or verses do you have for encouraging our suffering sisters?

If you know someone who is struggling spiritually rather than physically, here’s an excellent article on that issue:

http://lori-benotweary.blogspot.com/2013/06/when-someone-you-love-is-struggling.html

Sharing with: Grace and Truth

The Superwoman Myth

Before Reading:  Write down (or think of) the one personality trait that you dislike most about yourself.  Example: I am too shy, I am too loud, etc.  Save for later! :)

………………………………….

A few weeks ago, my seven-year-old son came to me after receiving a scolding and said something that shook me to the core. “Mom, sometimes I feel like you expect me to be perfect.”

Immediately my eyes burned with tears because I knew that feeling, the feeling of not being good enough, and I certainly did not want my child to ever fear that he wasn’t “good enough” for me!

Nevertheless, somehow I sent that message to him, and although unintentional on my part, I felt overwhelmed by sadness and then by conviction.

You see, God’s been speaking to me about this issue lately, about my tendency toward perfectionism.

I’m realizing it’s not only frustrating for me, but it’s something that often negatively effects my relationships with others also. For these reasons, perfectionism is the personality trait that I dislike most about myself.

So why do so many of us women struggle with perfectionism and other personality flaws?

Because we have bought into the Superwoman Myth.

Have you heard about the Superwoman Myth? It's the untrue story of the woman who does it all and does it perfectly.  When we fall for the Superwoman Myth, we lose sight of who we were created to be!

You know, the myth about the woman who does it all and does it perfectly?!  Wouldn’t we all love to be that supreme woman, to bask in the knowledge that we ROCK at being women – everyday in every thing and all of the time?!

If Superwoman truly exists, she certainly is difficult to find in the midst of our messy everyday lives.

The first contributor to this Superwoman Myth is self.

How many times have you written yourself a to-do list a mile long and actually expected to get most of those tasks accomplished?

And at the end of the day when you have only made it to number 3, how do you feel?

Frustrated?

Discouraged?

Or consider this: How often do you feel like you’re making so much progress in one area, only to discover you’re completely falling apart in another?

Although some of us may come close to being Superwoman on a given day, soaring above the circumstances of messy homes, sick family members, extra hours of work, and so forth, the perfect mother, the perfect wife, sister, friend, daughter, child of God – she does not exist!

Have you heard about the Superwoman Myth? It's the untrue story of the woman who does it all and does it perfectly.  When we fall for the Superwoman Myth, we lose sight of who we were created to be!

 

Instead of listening to the lies perpetuated by our superwoman-wannabe selves, let’s listen to the truths our Creator God has to say about us.

Psalm 139:13-14

“For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.”

God created you purposefully and intentionally to be who you are.

While he did not create you to sin, He did create you with your unique personality, your unique strengths and weaknesses. The good news is that even those things we tend to see as our weaknesses can become strengths with His help.

Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 12:9-10,

“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.”

Those personality traits we so often view as flaws have positive aspects to them, my sisters in Christ!

For example, while my perfectionism easily leads to worry and sin, it is incredibly helpful for tasks that require attention to detail.  Likewise, people who are argumentative may be difficult to get along with, yet they make excellent lawyers and advocates for others.  While those who are easy-going often lack organizational skills, they are typically great friends and listeners.

Let’s find the beauty in being who God created us to be instead of wishing we were someone else.

Let’s allow Him to work in our weaknesses to make us strong.

The second contributor to the Superwoman Myth is how we view others.

How many of us can honestly say that we’ve never compared ourselves to another woman…ever?!

None of us can.

Especially in this age of social media, we are very aware of the skills other women have. Furthermore, we often envy those things in others that we feel we are lacking.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s great to admire others and to challenge ourselves to grow.

We definitely want to be the best

wife,

mother,

sister,

daughter,

aunt,

woman

that we can possibly be.

The problem is that sometimes when we see all of this womanly awesomeness out there, we wish that we could be someone we are not, someone we were never created to be. 

We wish we could be more

more pretty,

more popular,

more successful,

more creative,

more organized,

– you fill in the blank!

But the beauty of a relationship with God is that it’s personal, unique to the individual.

While all women are similar in that we are imperfect sinners, saved only by the belief that Christ’s shed blood paid the penalty of death we so deserved, we can be very different in the way we live our faith out.

Have you heard about the Superwoman Myth? It's the untrue story of the woman who does it all and does it perfectly.  When we fall for the Superwoman Myth, we lose sight of who we were created to be!

 1 Corinthians 12:12-20 confirms this idea:

 Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many. Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be?  As it is, there are many parts, but one body.”

We each have a part to play in the body of Christ, and He’s created each of us uniquely to fulfill the role He’s planned out for us.

So the next time you feel unworthy, inadequate, or that you just don’t have anything “special” to offer, remember that God created you to be you, and that He created you to fulfill your role and yours alone.

His intention is for me to be the best Jen that I can be, not the best Suzy or Katherine or Betsy (or maybe in this perfectionist’s case the best Suzy and Katherine and Betsy.)

No, He simply wants me to be the best Jen.

And the best Jen might look very different from the best Kelly or the best Martha.

Now, isn’t that truth freeing?

Follow me to part two of the Superwoman Myth to discover the third and final freeing truth and to learn what to do with that least favorite personality trait of yours.

Jen :)

Read the rest here:

I'm sure you've fallen prey to the lie of the Superwoman Myth before - you know, how you need to do it all and do it all well?! Learn how to put those lies right in their place with this final freeing truth. The Superwoman Resolved

Sharing with: Making Your Home Sing Mondays, Titus 2 Tuesday, Unite Linky, Mama Moments Monday, Tell It To Me Tuesdays, Wholehearted Wednesdsays, A Little R and R

When Temptation Lingers Near

A few years ago, we endured a time of discouragement and trials galore.  My husband and I were both under a lot of external stress, both personal and from ministry, and our marriage temporarily suffered.  I faced the temptation to give up nearly daily!

I felt like one of the Israelites in the desert, bemoaning my situation and feeling helpless to enact change.

I share this story with you today, hoping that it may encourage you if you’re facing a situation that seems impossible, or even unbearable.  I hope you find comfort in the fact that you are not alone and that He always provides a way out! :)

…………………………………………………….

It’s almost supper time, but the stove top sits empty and no pleasing aromas fragrance the air.  I’ve not even yet decided what to cook, let alone made any sort of preparations.  Instead, I’m sitting in my bedroom trying desperately to pray while my preschoolers whine for attention right outside of the bedroom door.

My husband, weary from our recent argument, sits slumped over just outside the door at the dining room table.  He’s grumbling over the budget and seems unaware of the noise around him.

There is no peace, no quiet.

But I need to pray because I am one moment away from falling into temptation.  One moment from allowing my impatience, anger, resentment, and frustration to spill over onto my family.  One moment away from blowing any chance at doing right.

At this moment I am certain, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that Satan has set his sights on me; I’m being tested.

Life is difficult; marriage is difficult; parenting is difficult. And just when we decide to make changes in our lives, the enemy strikes even harder. And we face even greater temptation. Find out how to overcome when temptation lingers near.

It isn’t the first of such evenings in my home.  In fact, our marriage relationship has been under strain for a few months now, and I’ve grown oh-so-weary of “fighting the good fight.”  However, this past week, God has shown me the truth of my situation; I haven’t been doing my part, either.

I have been selfish.  I have been lazy.  I have been avoiding the time with my Lord that I need.  Thus, I recently resolved to make some positive changes, knowing full well that temptation would linger near.

So as I sit here in my room praying while the chaos rages just outside of the door, I laugh.

Yes, I laugh!

It’s absurd, even comical, that every other person in my home would suddenly become distractions at the very moment I attempt to find peace.  I want to complain to the Lord that I’m trying so hard to do what is right, to seek Him in my moment of weakness, but He’s not making it very easy!

Just when we've decided to make changes in our lives, then the enemy strikes hardest! A little story about temptation and finding a way out. "It's almost supper time, but the stove top sits empty and no pleasing aromas fragrance the air ..."

In that moment of laughter, I realize the truth that as long as I’m trying to do right, to obey God, Satan is not going to leave me alone.  In fact, He’s even going to use good things like bible study and prayer against me by causing frustration and chaos at just the right moment.

Thankfully, now that God has shown me the truth of the matter, Satan cannot win.  I see his game plan for what it is, and prayer is a powerful tool!

Sorry, Satan, I’m getting up from my throne of self-pity and frustration, and I’m cooking supper tonight.

 

Lord, I thank you for always providing a way out for us, even when it seems impossible or unbearable!  I ask that you would encourage my sisters in Christ today to look for the way out when they face temptation. Help them to see the truth in whatever situations they face.  Remind them that You are with them always, every step of the way, even when it doesn’t feel like it.  Give them the strength they need to resist temptation and to flee the Devil and remind them of your unfailing love and grace for them because of your Son, Jesus Christ.  I ask all of these things in the name of Jesus, Amen.

Jen :)

Sharing with: Grace and Truth

Choosing Mary Moments in a Martha World

Like many women, I’ve been really busy this week with a lot of good things.  In addition to my everyday tasks, two things in particular have taken up a fair amount of time: a Mother’s Day talk I am working on for church and a future blog post that just isn’t quite right yet.

They are both really good things, both uplifting to the Body of Christ and instructive for me, the writer.

However, last night and this morning God was working in my heart to show me a truth that I had learned before, but temporarily forgotten.  Good things can become bad things when they distract me from the BEST thing – my relationship with Him!

You see, I thought I was doing good by feverishly working on these projects in my spare time, which you can understand as a mother of four children is indeed very spare.

In my zeal and enthusiasm for this good work, I forgot to turn to the Source from whom the words flow.

I neglected the best work!

Sounds an awful lot like Martha, doesn’t it?

 

Luke 10:38- 42 reads:

38 As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him.39 She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. 40 But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”

41 “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

Martha was busy doing good things – taking care of others, preparing food to serve them, and so forth.  They were necessary preparations.  But when she expressed her frustration to the Lord about her sister Mary, He actually rebuked her instead!  He told her that Mary’s choice to fellowship with and learn from Him was the better choice, the BEST choice.

Jesus audaciously suggests that perhaps Martha should be choosing some Mary moments!

In a fast-paced world, we neglect the best things because we are busy with merely good things. Focus on choosing Mary moments in spite of your Martha world.

 

I had the opportunity earlier this year to attend a women’s conference, and the main speaker, Kimberly Sowell, so aptly narrated this story to us.  She reminded us that we live in a Martha World – full of work and busy schedules.

Those tasks, those good and necessary things that we do on a daily basis (raising up children, working, serving others, preparing meals, even work related to ministry) have to be done, but we must be careful not to let them distract us from the most important thing – abiding in Him.

Don’t make the mistake I made; don’t choose simply good things over the BEST thing.  Choose to make time for a Mary moment in spite of your Martha world.

In a fast-paced world, we neglect the best things because we are busy with merely good things. Focus on choosing Mary moments in spite of your Martha world.

And as soon as you start choosing Mary moments, don’t be surprised if something needs your immediate attention.

This morning, as soon as I sat down on my bed and opened my Bible, my preschoolers who were playing so nicely together suddenly needed my TOTAL attention.

Thankfully, God reminded me that Satan is always at work, and rather than getting frustrated and giving up, I was able to quickly attend to their needs and come right back to my Bible.

It wasn’t easy with two distracting 4-year-olds at my feet (and on my bed, sometimes even in my lap), but it was worthwhile, and I know He was pleased with my obedience.

I know because when I finished, I had peace.

Will you be choosing Mary moments today?

Jen :)

Question:  What “good” things tend to distract you the most from the BEST thing? (feel free to share in the comments)

For practical advice on how to focus on the Best thing, read more here.

*After writing this, several readers mentioned this book. I haven’t read it yet, but it looks excellent! (affiliate link)