Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Digging My Own Cistern

I have been receiving Kay Warren's daily video devotions about choosing Joy. In today's video, she discussed Jeremiah 2:13, which says, "'My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water'" (NIV).

She offers this illustration: Imagine you're in the desert. You're hot, tired, and thirsty. Suddenly, you see a kiosk off to the side, and you see Jesus there offering you water. But instead of taking the water and quenching your thirst, you say, "No, I got this" and you start digging your own cistern.

As a person who always likes to be in control, this is such a great verse to ponder.

While this verse is pointing out that the Israelites chose to do it their way rather than God's way what I love about it is that God's way is obviously so much better. God offers a spring of living water while what the Israelites dig are cisterns. When I think of a spring of living water, I think of fresh, flowing, cool water.

When I think of a cistern I have in my mind this cistern that was outside our dorm at boarding school in Africa. It would collect rain water, but then that water would sit there. Algae would grow on the sides of the cistern, and a nice green scum would coat the top. Leaves, grass, and dirt would fall in and rot in the water. The water really didn't smell so fresh either. It was by no means a place where you would want to quench your thirst.

So if  would just stop trying to take control over every situation and give that control to God, look at the wonderful, better plans He has for me.

When Audrey gets sick, instead of worrying and trying to control every aspect of her life in MY attempt to make her better, if I would give that control to God, He will take care of her.

Instead of trying so desperately to control my future, I need to rely on God, and He will show me where He wants me to be 10 years from now, 20 years from now.

When I'm feeling down, instead of complaining or trying to drown my sorrows in chocolate or my favorite TV show, I need to turn to God.

How much better and more joyful would life be if I gave him the reins instead of so foolishly yanking on them myself?

Friday, April 17, 2015

Faith

One of my Facebook friends started a thread about faith recently which has elicited some thought provoking - and surprisingly civil - comments from many. I found it interesting that I came to Hebrews 11 in my Bible reading today.

Hebrews 11:1 - "Now FAITH is the confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see" (NIV). One commentator I read suggested that "substance" is a much better translation of the original language instead of the word "confidence", but I rather like the word confidence. The word confidence reminds me of the Proverbs 31 woman who goes about her life with confidence. She has faith. She knows that no matter what she will spend eternity with Christ.

I want to live with that confidence because of my faith.

Hebrews 11 goes on to give examples of people in the Bible who truly lived out their faith. Abel was faithful by giving his very best. Being faithful in giving is one of the best things you can do. This is one of the only areas where I feel I have been consistently faithful to God. And I'm not pointing it out to be applauded but only to say that giving to Him what He asks us to give is a step of faith, yes, but it is also a chance to observe His faithfulness.

By faith, Noah in his old age built the ark God told him to build and built it to God's exact specifications. I can't grasp how much faith this would have taken. Imagine being Noah...an old man in the middle of an arid land that rarely, if ever, saw a drop of rain being asked to build a boat. And not just a little row boat but an enormous ark. I can just imagine it: as Noah started his project people probably gathered around to watch out of curiosity. I wonder if he told them outright what he was doing when they asked him what he was building. If he did, they would have scoffed at him. As the boat began to take shape, I'm sure the ridiculing mounted. After some time passed, though, I bet people just ignored him with a shake of their head: "Looks like our neighborhood crazy man is making progress on his boat."

What would I do if God asked me to do something for him and that something earned me the ridicule of all of my friends and neighbors? And not just ridicule for a day or two but for years? Would I obey?

Abraham trudged up a mountain with his son, all the while knowing he was about to do the unthinkable, yet it was the unthinkable that God had asked him to do. He kept going, one foot in front of the other, in faith.

But God would never ask me to sacrifice one of my children, right? We don't offer sacrifices to God in that manner anymore because of what Christ did on the cross, right?

Mark and I fully committed our children to God. We committed to loving them and caring for them to the best of our abilities, but ultimately our children are in God's hands. Which is the best place to be.

When I worry about my children, though, aren't I disobeying God's command to place our children in to His loving hands?

Abraham was faithful with Isaac. My constant fears that something will happen to my children outside of my plans shows me to be unfaithful.

By faith, Moses, though hesitant, chose to obey God and lead the people of Israel out of Egypt rather than staying with his adoptive family, a family who could offer riches and freedom to him.

"He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward. By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the king's anger; he persevered because he saw him who is invisible" (Hebrews 11:25-26, NIV).

What if, by faith, I lived a life where I consistently chose the right path even if it meant giving up worldly treasures and conveniences? What if I lived a life where I didn't fear what others' opinions would be? What if I lived a life of perseverance without worry?

What if I lived out my faith consistently?

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

This is Now

"This is now" (Laura Ingalls from Little House in the Big Woods).

I recently took one of those Facebook quizzes. You know, the quizzes that you probably shouldn't take because by doing so, you're dumping your personal data on to some server on the other side of the country, but sometimes you just can't help it because who doesn't want to know what 80's big hair band you should be in or what sitcom mom you most closely resemble?

So the question on this particular quiz was, "Where do you mostly live: in the past, in the present, or in the future?" I did not have to ponder this question at all. I live mostly in the future. I am a planner. I plan. Everything. I plan school for the day, for the week, for next year. I plan meals. I plan finances. I plan. I plan.

I am also a worrier. If there were trophies for worrying, mine would be on my mantle. And it would be a BIG trophy because I am a champion worrier. And I worry about the future a lot. In fact, a worry that has been on my mind lately is college for the kids. Where will they go? Will I have prepared them enough to get in? Will they score high enough on the SAT? How will we pay for college? With college only three years away, I grant myself some allowance in worrying about it.

But then there is the fact that I worry occasionally a lot about what in the world I am going to do with myself as an empty nester. Since that time is eight years from now, even I roll my eyes at me.

So, yes, I do live in the future. Which isn't healthy.

I've been reading a book by Kay Warren called Choose Joy. I sought this book out because I long to live a life of joy, but joy is often elusive to me. Happiness is not. I find great happiness is many things; I just don't consistently live in joy. Really by its very common definition, I am not by nature a joyful person. I am a glass half full, expect the worst kind of gal, so joy by its simple definition does not fill me consistently. That is why I was so happy to hear Kay label herself an Eeyore. It's always refreshing when a spiritual leader is honest; the honesty makes them so much more relatable.

I love her more defined idea of joy: "Joy is the settled assurance that God is in control of all the details of my life, the quiet confidence that ultimately everything is going to be all right, and the determined choice to praise God in all things."

And I love that she shows that joy is a choice. I have always just thought that because of my pessimistic nature, perhaps a joyful life will always be out of my grasp. But choices? I can make those.

There are so many things to learn from this book, but I focus today on her admonition: "To experience joy on a daily basis, learn what it means to live in the moment." Not for the moment because living for a moment is unhealthy, but live in the moment.

My eyes are so often directed to the distant horizon that I miss the moment.

Psalm 118:24 says, "This is the day that the Lord has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it."

Not that God didn't make all the days past, and not that He is not the author of all the days forward, but this verse says that this is the day. Today. Rejoice in today. Don't worry about the future. Rejoice in today.

I said I was a planner. And I am. I actually love to plan, especially when it comes to homeschool stuff. The problem is - and I hate to admit this - I am much better at the planning and enjoy the planning more than I do the implementation. The action is always the hardest.

And it's easy for me to choose joy. It's easy for me to choose to live in the moment. It's the putting that choice to action that's difficult. I know what kind of person I want to be. It's the allowing God to mold me into that person part that is hard.

Three - just three - things I want to focus on to learn to choose joy by living in the moment:

1. Be thankful. Instead of complaining about everything, be thankful.

Philippians 2:14: Do everything without grumbling or arguing.

Psalm 31:19: How abundant are the good things that you have stored up for those who fear you, that you bestow in the sight of all, on those who take refuge in you.

Psalm 100:4: Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name.

So instead of complaining about the incessant winds that sweep across this state, I can be thankful the sun is shining.

Instead of complaining that I have to be TaxiMom tonight and drop three off at three different places at three different times and then pick them up the same way with no time to go home in between, I can be thankful that I don't have to cook dinner tonight, that my kids get some time with friends, and that I get to have a night out with my baby girl.


2. Bring joy to others. Even if it's inconvenient for me. Especially if it's inconvenient for me.

Romans 15:2: Each of us should please our neighbors for their good, to build them up.


3. Say yes more often. I'm usually "too busy" to say yes to the kids. I need to not as my oldest would say.

Ephesians 5:15-16: Be very careful, then how you live - not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity...


I've been farsighted for so long, it's difficult to think of becoming more nearsighted, but I don't want to be someone who regrets the past in the future because I didn't live well enough in the present.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Hockey Puck Biscuits & Puke Gravy

This morning I made a favorite for breakfast: biscuits and gravy. Except the biscuits didn't rise like they normally do, rendering them into the overused description of failed biscuits: hockey pucks. And I tried one of Chef Hubby's tricks and put the sausage in the food processor to improve the texture of the meat in the gravy. But instead of pulsing it, I put the food processor on full blast and left it alone for a minute. Mostly because at that very time I had to rescue the hockey pucks from the oven, or they would have been burned hockey pucks. So the sausage, instead of being fine bits of pork heaven, became a pork slurry. I wasn't about to waste breakfast and start all over, so I added the slurry to the gravy. It looked like barf.

And, naturally, one of the kids was kind enough to also point out that it looked like barf.

I've discovered that in this season of my life, it's easy to feel like a failure. I think most moms struggle with this feeling. There aren't many accolades in motherhood. There are no awards, no promotions. And it's so much more personal than a job when you're dealing with your own flesh and blood.

I often say that I'm so grateful that my kids are really good kids in spite of me. And it's true. By God's grace, they really are good kids, awesome kids. But saying these words doesn't make me feel any less of a failure as a mom.

It's definitely harder now that they are older. As a mom of littles, all it takes is a fun sandwich or a paper craft, and the delight that comes over their little faces makes any mom feel like a superhero.

Smily-face sandwiches and glitter don't always elicit such a response from teenagers.

So how can I overcome this feeling?

Well, this morning I pondered three things: Honestly, I'm a mess. Obviously, I'm a work in progress. Clearly, I must fully rely on God.

That last thing is so hard for me because not only am I a perfectionist, but I am also a control-freak. It is hard to fully rely on God. In fact, I don't honestly know what that even looks like. But I so badly want to learn what it looks like.

So, this morning I decided to check in on Ann Voskamp whose blog I haven't visited in forever and whose blog is always so encouraging and full of wisdom. Naturally, there was something there just for me: a post called "When You Feel You're Not Enough." In this post, she shared some insight from author Scott Sauls. Here is what I needed to hear:

We are not called to be perfectly awesome.
We are called to be imperfectly faithful,
because we have been perfectly loved,
liberated, and highly esteemed
by the Most High.

I still can't grasp why God loves me. Why me? Out of all of the extraordinary people in the world, how can God have enough love to also love me?

Despite the fact that I cannot fully comprehend His love, it is liberating to know that He loves me in spite of me. And that He forgives me when I mess up. Which is a lot.

He loves me and forgives me when I'm not as kind as I should be, when I lose my temper, when I don't put as much effort into a task as I should, when I complain, when I worry, when I'm impatient.

I know I still have so much to learn about Him, so much growing to do, but His love and grace is such an awesome comfort...especially when all I have to serve for breakfast are hockey puck biscuits and puke gravy.