Saturday, February 23, 2013

Without Excuse

"I have no greater Joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth" (III John 4).

Without Excuse

Recently, our Sunday School class has been discussing discipleship.  Specifically, how discipleship and parenting go hand in hand.  We, as Christian believers, all desire for our children to know and walk in the Truth.  But I know in my busy life, it's easy to go about my daily tasks without focusing on discipling my children.  If I am not purposeful in planning my day, it seems that devotions and teaching my children about the Bible are the first things to get left out.
As we were sharing in Sunday School, my husband shared an example of a "Love Jar" that I had been doing with the children to lead up to Valentine's Day.  I had found a free printable online with 14 verses about God's love, and we read one at breakfast the 14 days before Valentine's Day.  As he shared this, and older lady in our class said, "I never did those kinds of things with my kids."  I was a little embarrassed by the attention, so I told her how different it is these days with the Internet and blogs, and how easy it is to find things like this to do with your kids.
And that's when it hit me.... We are without excuse.  There is no way that most mothers today would be able to stand in front of the Lord and give any reasonable excuse for failing to disciple our children on a daily basis.  Our Sunday School material put it this way:
"Discipleship and parenting is time consuming, messy, sometimes frustrating, and exhausting; yet it is one of the best investments we can make.  It takes a huge commitment during the prime of our life, which is why we often shy away from this work and leave it to others.  Unfortunately, the work is often left undone or only half-way done..."

I know we are faced with many things today that must be done.  Many of you are working moms, some of you are single moms, and others of you have multiple children who are very young.  Being a mom is exhausting.  But if we truly want to lead our children in the way of the Lord, we must take the time to teach them.  We can't leave it up to the church, or their daycare, or their school.  It must come from us.
Many moms that I know of today (myself included), spend huge amounts of time on Facebook, or Pinterest, or random blogs.  I leave this challenge for you: The next time you get on the computer, spend the first 5 minutes seeking out a way to teach your children something about Jesus.  Consider the reward those 5 minutes could bring: an investing that will reap blessings for generations to come.
Here are some of my favorite blogs/websites that I find helpful:
The Dating Divas (mainly ideas for spouses, but some ideas for kids too).
If you have any special sites you visit, please leave them in the comments below.  I'd love to check them out!


Monday, January 28, 2013

Mishaps, Mistakes, and Misery

"Then the Lord God said, "It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him."  - Genesis 2:18 (ESV)

Mishaps, Mistakes, and Misery

A few weeks ago, I was having lunch with my sister downtown, when I had a little accident.  I am a terrible parallel parker, and in trying to park, I hit another car.  This has never happened to me before, and although the damage was minimal, I was afraid to tell B.  We have only been married for 4 months, and he's still traveling out of town each week, so I wasn't sure what the best way would be to tell him.  With my heart beating fast, I called him on the phone and spilled the story.  And you know what his reaction was?  "It's no big deal, I'm just glad you're ok."  That was it.  Once he got home and actually saw the car, we had a little chuckle about my parking skills, and we moved on.  The End.

Fast forward to this past weekend.  Although I won't go into the details, B. did something that I thought was incredibly stupid.  (I'm not proud to say that, but I'm being honest here).  As the time progressed, and we dealt with the consequences of his decision, I got madder and madder, until finally, I blew up and snapped at him.  A much different reaction than the one he gave me after my bad parking experience.

As I have been studying Eve, I have been more and more convicted about my role as a wife, and how often I fail to meet the requirements.  In his book Twelve Extraordinary Women, John MacArthur explains the roles this way,

 "Adam was created first; then Eve was made to fill a void in his existence.  Adam was the head; Eve was his helper.  Adam was designed to be a father, provider, protector, and leader.  Eve was designed to be a mother, comforter, nurturer, and helper."

As I look on this list of "job roles," I couldn't help but think about all of the ways B. meets his requirements.  He is a wonderful father.  He works long hours and far away (for now) to be a good provider.  We have a lovely home, no debt, and I get to fulfill my dream of being a stay at home mom.  He would do anything to protect us, and even though I don't always agree with his decisions, he is always focused on making decisions the way he believes God is leading him. 

So, why do I find it so hard to fulfill my roles? Although I love being a mom, I can't say that I am always great at comforting and nurturing my kids (or husband), and I certainly am not always a happy helper.  When the situation arose this past weekend, instead of pointing out the discomfort I was facing, I should have stood behind my husband the same way he did me.  My attitude should have been, "It's no big deal.  I'm glad we're all ok."  Because we were.  No harm was done, and one day in the future, I know we will look back on that time and chuckle.

May God continue to point out ways in which I fail my family, so that in the future when mistakes and mishaps occur, instead of following it up with misery, I can show our family mercy and create a merry atmosphere.


Tuesday, December 11, 2012

When the Going Gets Tough...

"An excellent wife is the crown of her husband, but she who brings shame is like rottenness in his bones." - Proverbs 12:4 (ESV)

When the Going Gets Tough....

The past few weeks have been very rough on me.  B was given an amazing work opportunity that will be great for his career, but requires him to be gone Sunday - Thursday every week for 6+ weeks.  That means that the running of the household has fallen on me.  I have been trying to juggle kids, school, work, Christmas shopping, etc., and at times, my strength has failed me.  It's been especially hard because the Triplets and I are still learning how to navigate as a family. 

As much as I even hate to admit it, I had to ask B's forgiveness last week for calling him during a "crisis" and adding stress to his plate instead of turning to my Lord and having Him help me deal with it on my own.  It's a fine line between wanting B to know that everything is handled at home and letting him know that he is still needed and missed.

I have often felt like a failure in the past few weeks, but today B sent me this incredible email that not only blessed my heart tremendously, but helped me refocus:

"Every time I’ve seen a picture of a king on TV or a magazine, I’ve always looked at his crown first. There’s something fascinating about it sitting on his head, covered in jewels, inlaid in gold. It shines and is a symbol of his position and place in the world. It shows his authority to lead. It garners respect from others around him and sets him apart. In effect, it makes him special and without his crown he’s just another man in the room. Without the crown, he cannot accomplish anything. But with it he can build great things, lead others, and care for a kingdom that God has given him.

You are the beautiful crown of my life, Amber. You make me special and help me accomplish what I set out to do. Without your help I couldn’t do very much. Thank you for lifting me up and supporting me. I hope I am doing the same for you. As a crown you’ll never be hidden or stepped on. Crowns are for wearing and adorning; boots are for stepping and kicking. I love you with all my heart. I’m so very thankful for you."

As a woman who was raised to be a "Proverbs 31 woman," I cannot express to you how wonderful it is to hear my husband say this to me.  Not that I am a perfect wife (I am not even close), and not that we have a perfect marriage relationship, but isn't this what we're all trying to attain? For our husbands to feel supported and secure, to know that his wife is behind him no matter what.  This certainly isn't a prideful thing for me, but much more of an admonishment and reminder of what my husband needs from me.  May I always be able to let go of my selfish ways, my need to be reaffirmed, and my complaining and put my husband first.  Not an easy task by any means, but well worth it to gain favor in the sight of my husband and God.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Believing What He Says

When Will I Learn to Trust that my Husband Means What He Says?

I admittedly have a problem with perfection.  I have spent my adult life trying to attain and keep standards that are physically impossible.  Although I'd like to think that I'm getting better, these past few weeks have laid open another area of sin in my life.  My obsession with perfection. 

For me, this obsession with perfection centers around my desire to be the best wife and mom that I can be.  Although these are noble goals, they often take my focus off the Lord and put it on earthly things.  My biggest desire in marrying B was to become his help-meet in every sense of the word.  I wanted to completely take over his stress and problems and frustrations, and leave him surrounded in calm and peace.  I feel accomplished when I am able to get home from work, get the kids off the bus, get homework done, and dinner on the table before B comes home from work.  I guess it's how I gauge myself on if I'm being a good wife or not.  B has told me several times that things don't need to be perfect, and that I need to give myself some rest, but I secretly believe he is disappointed if the house is untidy in any way, if all the laundry isn't done, or if I haven't made a homemade dinner. 

Well for the past two weeks, I have had a migraine headache nonstop.  I have been bedridden, to the Dr. and the hospital, all with very little relief.  I have been unable to keep up with the kids or the housework - it has all fallen on B, and he has done an amazing job.  One night he was apologizing for not getting something done, and I told him, "I really don't care at all.  You're doing the best you can.  You're doing a great job."  And I meant it.  It occurred to me then that he probably feels the same way when he's telling me that I'm doing a great job.  I have just chosen to not believe him. 

The Bible says in Deuteronomy 5:32 "You shall be careful therefore to do as the LORD your God has commanded you. You shall not turn aside to the right hand or to the left." (ESV). 

The Lord (nor my husband) seeks perfection from me.  All I am asked to do is follow what I know the Lord has commanded me to do.  While that certainly includes being a focused and committed wife and mother, it does not mean that my toilets have to always be clean and that the kids can't ever have their toys on the floor.  More than that, I need to believe what my husband says, and trust that he is on my side working with me, and not let my own insecurities shake my faith in his word.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Searching for Peace

"When a man’s ways please the LORD, he makes even his enemies to be at peace with him." (Proverbs 16:7 ESV)

This may seem like common sense to most of you, but a divorce does not bring peace.  When I was living in my first marriage, all I wanted was peace.  I wanted a home that was filled with the quiet contentment of being in a family where everyone was loved and secure.  While B and I are working hard to achieve this in our home, it's becoming very apparent that we are facing external enemies that are working to destroy our peace.
The above verse has been hanging in our kitchen for the past few months, and it's one that we've been clinging to, but the Lord gave us a chance to put it into practice last night.
Without going into too many details, we had parent conferences for the triplets, who are in 1st grade.  During that time spent with B's ex-wife, we were lied to, lied about, and vilified.  Though we haven't been married for long, I consider the triplets to be as much my children as P.  I know the hurt, pain, and confusion they have experienced at the hands of their mother, but last night I was able to witness first hand the all-consuming hate that would love to destroy our attempt at a godly marriage.  It's the kind of hate that you really have to experience before you can believe it exists.  The kind that leaves no doubt that we are facing many enemies.
By God' grace alone, I was able to keep my mouth shut and not try to correct the wrongs being spoken about us.  B was also able to focus on the task at hand, interact with the teachers, and ignore the negative.  We were able to get the information we needed about the kids, their grades, and how to best help them, which is why we were there.
After a dinner filled with me spouting off about all of the wrongs dealt us (just for clarification - the children were NOT with us during this time), we went home were the first thing I saw was this verse, and I was reminded that the Lord calls for me to please HIM with my ways, no one else.  He promises that if I live a life pleasing to the LORD, eventually even my enemies will have nothing negative to say about me.  And even if they try, no one will believe them :)
I know we have a long road ahead of us as we raise our children.  I know that I won't always be able to stay calm like I did last night.  But I also know that if I keep my focus on HIM, my enemies will eventually be left speechless.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

When Plans Fall Through

"We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair;" (2 Corinthinans 4:8 ESV)

This past weekend was hard.  I mean, really hard.  It seems like we're beening bombarded on all fronts.  It began with my car breaking down in the rain on Friday, continued through B. and I both struggling with medical issues, and ended with hateful emails and disobedient children. To say it left us feeling overwhelmed would be an understatement.

But do you know what upset me most of all? That I didn't get to do what I wanted to do.  Yes, my thoughts were that selfish.

You see, I had spent a lot of time planning two surprise dates for our weekend.  On Saturday, we were supposed to drop P off at my aunt's, then head to dinner at Outback and go to a corn maze in the dark.  I had even made up this cute invitation for B:

But because of the car breaking down, and P getting sick, and our other various ailments rearing their ugly heads, we didn't get to go.  I knew B. felt that it was his fault, and the last thing I wanted was to make him feel guilty about it.  My flesh though, wanted to throw a fit about it.  I held off, but it was only because of my love for B. and my concern for his well-being.  Had the situation been a little less serious, I can't honestly say that I would have been as gracious about it. I was very convicted over my selfishness and the potential problems that it could create in our future.  

But as we were going to bed last night,  B. reminded me that God is in the process of growing us.  As I thought over the events of the weekend, I saw many areas in which God was teaching us to work together as a couple, and strengthening our bond, and I have to say, I do feel much closer to him than I did before.

The biggest lesson though was mine, and as I pondered the ways things went versus the way they could have gone, I was thankful to the Lord for challenging me and providing me a chance to grow as a wife.  I only hope that the next time it will be easier for me to disregard the selfish route and put my family first without thought.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

It's Not Always Easy to Forget....

After my divorce, I was in very intensive weekly counseling for about 6 months.  Slowly, the memories of my marriage and the anxiety it produced subsided.  Sometimes though, the past comes jolting back in a very real way, and it never fails to catch me off guard.

One such memory came flooding back to me this week at a doctor's appointment.  One of the most devastating things that happened in my marriage took place during a time when I was extremely ill with (what ended up being) mono.  I was hospitalized for a week and in-and-out of doctor's appointments for many months after.  The details don't matter, except for the fact that it was my mom and sister who came to care for me from South Carolina and Washington D.C. respectively.  It was a very trying time physically, but also when my family started to confront me about some of the serious issues they were seeing in my marriage.  It's very hard for me to think back on that time, and I don't do so if I can at all help it.

Well, this week I had a Dr.'s appointment at the same hospital where I was admitted during that illness.  When I checked into my appointment this week, the nurse went through and updated my information.  My emergency contacts listed were two of my aunts....not my ex-husband as it should have been, because I knew that I couldn't count on him to come if there was an emergency.  The feelings and emotions of how utterly alone I was during the time of my illness came flooding back, until I turned to see B. sitting with my daughter in the waiting room, ready to go through anything with me. 

It happens sometimes when I go get P.  My ex-husband still lives in our old home, and although I would never want to be back there, sometimes I am overwhelmed with sadness just remembering what I hoped our home and family would be like there, and the failure of my marriage.

Unfortunately, it happens sometimes when B. says a certain phrase that my ex-husband would say, and I have to fight back the tears or harsh comments that threaten to spill forth from me.

I guess my point is this....just because you are removed from a situation, it doesn't mean that it won't still affect you for years to come.  Letting go of the hopes and dreams you had for your life is hard.  Even if you were in a horrible marriage, it is still necessary to grieve the loss of it.  I have had to grieve the loss of the person I was before my first marriage.  Some of the thoughts these memories bring up are straight from the enemy, and I have to confront them as that.  I find myself repeating the lies that I had gotten used to believing about myself, and I start to feel the guilt and failure all over again. 

For those of you who have suffered through a separation or divorce, or who are suffering in a difficult marriage now, I highly suggest that you work to begin looking at yourself as God sees you.  Search through Scripture to find the wonderful thoughts and promises that He has for His children.  When those negative thoughts and lies creep up, replace them with the Truth from God's Word.  Memories are powerful things, but the Lord who created us is more powerful.  Cling to the Truth about your present and your future, and leave the lies of the past behind.