Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The Love Killer


 Today, I am being prompted to grow in my marriage through
FIGHTING THE SELFISHNESS IN MY HEART BY FINDING CONTENTMENT IN CHRIST ALONE

It was one year ago when it happened.  I had been anticipating it's arrival for weeks, maybe even months.  Finally, when it arrived I couldn't wait to see what was in store for me...it was our anniversary after-all, and David had known for several weeks about the weekend date I had arranged.  I was certain that he would sweep me off of my feet once again and "romance" me like he used to in our earlier years.  

I dropped the children off at a friends house, drove back home, and then patiently (not-so patiently is more accurate) waited for David to come home from work.  All the while, dreaming about what my wonderful husband must have planned to make our weekend together really special and memorable.  Like a small child, anxiously awaiting the arrival of Christmas, I waited, looked at my watch, waited some more, looked out the window, and waited some more.  Finally, I could see David's car heading towards our driveway.  I jumped up from my seat and eagerly ran out to greet him.  

After giving David a little time to unwind after working all day, I asked, "So, what are we going to do tonight?"  The response came as quite a shock to me, "I don't know, what do you want to do?"

I didn't even know what to say.  I was so sure that David had planned a great weekend date for the two of us!  So I inquired a little more, "Are we going out to eat somewhere?"  Again, the response came as quite a shock, "I don't know, I haven't really thought about it."  

Immediately, I could feel the anger bubbling up inside of me...like a carbonated beverage that's been shaken up, just waiting for the lid to be loosened so that it can explode.  That pretty well sums up how I felt right at that moment.  I just couldn't believe that David hadn't planned anything for our anniversary, and I was going to make my feelings very clear.  The cold shoulder always works well for that. 

Would you believe that I was so angry that I barely said a handful of words to my husband most of the weekend.  He of course felt the tension between us, so he just kind of kept his distance from me, which only intensified the anger that I felt.  "He should be pursuing me and making me feel loved and appreciated!  I mean, I went to all of the hard work of scheduling the date, the least he could do is plan something nice for us to do together!" 

Thankfully, right before we went to pick up our children, we had a discussion, mutually pouring out our thoughts and disappointments with one another...and eventually confessing our sins, seeking forgiveness, and most of all, regretting our stupidity in wasting an entire weekend being rude and angry towards one another.  

I take full responsibility for our wonderfully anticipated weekend date ending up as a miserable and lonely  "no-show" instead.  I had been extremely SELFISH!  I had placed several expectations upon David that were just outright unfair.  
In the moment, I felt that David had a responsibility to sweep me off of my feet...meanwhile my sin of selfishness was being deliberately swept under the rug by my pride.
To be really honest, I had lost sight of the fact that my contentment must come from Christ alone, and not from the actions of my husband. 
Looking back, I am amazed that I didn't even bother to consider the fact that I could have planned a wonderfully romantic weekend date for David.  Hmmm, I wonder why that never crossed my mind?  I will give you a clue.  It begins with MY SELF.  Yep, I was being selfish.  I wanted, what I wanted, when I wanted it because I had failed to remember that only God can complete me!  

My guess, is that you can relate in some way to this story; after all, we are more alike than different when it comes to our sins and struggles in life.  Maybe you just feel unappreciated and unloved by your husband and it is beginning to wear you down emotionally.  You may wonder why your response really matters anyway.  Well, I would appeal to you that your response does matter.  The Bible has much to say on the topic of selfishness.  Read the following verses, if you will.   
"Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth." 1 Corinthians 13:4-6
"Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves." Philippians 2:3
 "Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such "wisdom" does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, of the devil." James 3-13-15
"For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice. But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere." James 3:16-17
Wow!  I am so humbled.  

I remember hearing at a marriage conference several years ago that "selfishness kills love".  Oh, how true and wise those words are, causing my heart to sting with regret and pain at my own selfishness within me.  Sadly, I am certain that it is not the last time that my selfishness will rear it's ugly head in my marriage to David, because I am a sinner...and as long as I am on this earth, I always will be.  

But, I know that God's desire would be for me to seek to find my contentment in Christ alone, through learning to love HIM more.  Only Jesus has the power to change my selfish heart and give me true contentment within my life and marriage.

I would like to end with two quotes that really spoke to me this morning.  I hope they will speak to you as well. 

"When I have learnt to love God better than my earthly dearest, I shall love my earthly dearest better than I do now."  C.S. Lewis
"You say, "If I had a little more, I should be very satisfied." You make a mistake. If you are not content with what you have, you would not be satisfied if it were doubled."  Charles Spurgeon

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Cultivating Tender Thoughts

Today, as I was folding my husband's clothing, I started thinking about how amazing it is that God has allowed David and I to share our lives together.  In our 15 years of marriage, we have experienced great joys and bitter sorrows, pleasant memories and difficult trials, the birth of children and the loss of jobs.  And, I wouldn't change a thing!

I am equally amazed that God chose a man like David, who is so patient and kind despite my crazy antics, strong opinions, and burning passions, which would drive most people crazy. He is unbelievably patient and kind even when I have refused to allow him to use the toilet, simply because I had just finished cleaning it and I didn't want it to get dirty again.  Or, when out of the blue I have decided to boycott a company like Kelloggs because they are using genetically modified ingredients in the food they produce.  My wonderful husband simply smiled and ate the organic, less-tasty cereal I purchased instead.  I could learn a lot from David's example.

Recently, I  read a book entitled, "When Sinners Say I Do", by Dave Harvey.  I would highly recommend it to married couples, couples who are engaged, and even to those who are single, but hope to marry in the future.  It really drives home the fact that a marriage consists of two sinners, both in need of a Savior and that our husbands are hand-picked to bring out our sinful attitudes, behaviors, and thoughts as a way of sanctifying us...conforming us more and more to the image of Christ. This is certainly true in my marriage.  God has used my marriage to David to make me more painfully aware of my sins,and more humbly aware of my Savior

I found a wonderful quote by Elisabeth Elliot which stirs me as a wife to grow in grace towards my husband, and I hope it will stir you as well:
"The consciousness that we are alike in our need of redemption is a liberating one.  For there will be times when you find yourself accusing, criticizing, resenting...But you will find yourself disarmed utterly, and your accusing spirit transformed into loving forgiveness the moment you remember that you did, in fact marry only a sinner, and so did heIt's grace you both need...you love, accept, and forgive that sinner as you yourself expect to be loved, accepted, and forgiven.  You know that 'all have sinned and come short of the glory of God,' and this includes your husband who comes short, also, of some of the glories you expected to find in him.  Come to terms with this once and for all and then walk beside him as 'heirs together of the grace of life.'"
As I thought about my marriage today, I realized that there are many areas in which God would desire for me to grow as a wife, as a way of bringing honor to David and glory to God.  So, over the next several days, I would like to share a few of them with you.

My prayer is that each of you would meditate on these truths as well, and by doing so, that your faith would be strengthened, that your love towards your husband would be rekindled, and that ultimately your marriage would be a beautiful reflection of "God's amazing grace".

And, as always, I would love to hear about the changes that God is bringing about within your marriage or within your heart as a woman as you read, reflect, and apply His word. 

Today, I am being prompted by the Lord to grow in my marriage through,
CULTIVATING TENDER THOUGHTS TOWARDS MY HUSBAND.
 How?   
1.  By "taking captive" any critical thoughts I have towards my husband, and replacing them with true, noble, right, pure, lovely, and admirable thoughts towards him.  
One of the best ways I can think of to put this truth into action is by praying for David throughout the day.  Thanking God for the hard-working, loving husband He has given me and by choosing to let go of the unrealistic exceptions that I unfairly place on him.  Ahh, I am ashamed to admit that often times, I have placed selfish expectations upon David, simply because I am overly absorbed with my own desires, wants, and needs;  stirring up selfishness and pride, and a whole host of other nasty things which I am not proud of.  But as I try and look towards the needs of David first, willingly letting go of the unfair expectations I have placed upon him, and as I seek to grow in serving him instead of expecting to be served, my thoughts also become more tender towards David and more pleasing to the Lord. 
"Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable - if anything is excellent or praiseworthy - think about such things."  Philippians 4:8
2.  By remembering all of the things that attracted me to David when we were first married.
As a wife and mom, there are so many thoughts that consume my days... Where did the kids hide the bread  I was planning to use for breakfast?  Did the dog eat my "to do" list again this week?  Does trying to walk through the house with a screaming child hanging from my leg count as exercise?  And these thoughts all occur within the first 10 minutes of jumping  (or should I say crawling) out of bed. 

I find that at times I am so consumed by the other thoughts spinning around in my head, that I rarely take time to think of David throughout the day.  The following quote from Shirley Rice is a wonderful reminder of the necessity of taking time to intentionally cultivate tender thoughts towards my husband.  
"By the grace of God, I want you to start changing your thought pattern.  Tomorrow morning, get your eyes off the toaster or the baby bottles long enough to look at him.  Don't you see the way his coat fits his shoulders?  Look at his hands.  Do you remember when just to Look at his strong hands made your heart life.  Well, LOOK at him and remember.  Then, loose your tongue and tell him you love him."
I am so encouraged!  Today, I am going to spend time praying for David, asking God to help me find ways of serving him, and intentionally taking the time to remember all of the things that I love so dearly about the amazing man God gave me.

I hope that you are encouraged as well,  to cultivate loving tender thoughts towards your husband, ask God to rid your mind of any critical thoughts you may have against him, and pray that God would enable you to sincerely give thanks for the wonderful and precious gift HE has given you.

Oh, and don't forget to greet your hubby when he walks through the door by wrapping your arms lovingly around him, kissing him on the lips (even if the children are around), and telling him how much you love and appreciate him.

Monday, June 28, 2010

The Mountainside Experience

The coolness of the evening breeze could be felt as Isaac and I walked, both of us enjoying our special time together.  Looking out over the sea of people and campsites surrounding us, I listened as Isaac talked about the great time he was having at the Creation Festival.  It was our last night before returning home, so I was hoping to make it a really special evening for my son.  Little did I know that God had a wonderful teaching moment in store for the two of us.   

High upon the mountainside was an overlook, revealing the the beautiful valley below.  I knew Isaac would love it, so I grabbed his tiny hand and slowly led the way to the base of the trail, walking along side of him.  We hadn't walked very far when it occurred to me that it was begging to get dark and we had no flashlight.  So, I picked up the pace in hopes of making it to the top and back down before the trail was lost in the darkness.  But Isaac's little 4 year old legs just could not keep up with the quick pace I had set.  Frequently, we had to stop to give his legs time to rest and recuperate before attempting to climb higher up the trail.   

About half-way up the mountainside, the path was no longer visible to our eyes.  Darkness had set in, leaving only an occasional flickering of lights from the movement of other people's flashlights way up in the distance.  Although I didn't want to show it, I was scared.  We could not see anything surrounding us at all!  It was pitch black.

I was so afraid that I would lead my child to the cliffs' edge without even realizing it, or that Isaac would stumble on the rocky path in front of him, leaving him injured.  "Ahhh!  What was I thinking by bringing my young son up a mountain without a flashlight to lead us?"

I stopped moving and stood almost paralyzed on the mountainside, silently praying for help.  I could sense that Isaac was becoming afraid as well.  I squeezed his hand a little tighter, pulled him a little closer toward my body, and assured him that everything was going to be alright.  I am not quite sure how long the two of us were standing upon that dark mountainside alone, but it seemed like forever.  

Then out of the blue, two girls walked up behind us and noticed us standing there.  Without asking any questions, one of them walked over next to me and handed me her flashlight.  In that instant, a peace swept over me. Shining the light in front of us, I was overwhelmed with thankfulness for God's protection over us.

The path could clearly be seen now, exposing the unsteady ground, the cliffs, and the other dangers that seemed to lurk in the darkness.  I once again grabbed Isaac's hand and we slowly, but confidently made our way to the overlook at the top of the mountainside.  We stood for several moments on the platform admiring the beauty of the scene playing out below us as several hundreds of thousands of candles were being lit, followed by a chorus of voices, singing their praises to God.  It was a sight to behold.

On the walk back down the steep incline, with flashlight in hand, we had a wonderful conversation about how our experience of trying to walk up the steep incline of the mountainside without a flashlight, is very much like trying to live our lives in spiritual darkness without Christ.  It was very frightening not to have any light marking the path as we walked up the steep rocky path.  In the same way, without Jesus we are simply wandering around in the darkness, uncertain of what is ahead in our lives.
"I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness."  John 12:46
"The name of the LORD is a strong tower: the righteous run to it, and are safe." Proverbs 18:10
We then thought about all of the obstacles that we had to overcome to make it to the top of the mountain, such as the rocks and unlevel ground and the cliffs sitting upon the trails shoulder.  The flashlight clearly lit up the path in front of us; therefore, we didn't need to fear the things meant to cause us to stumble, for they were exposed by the light and could be avoided.
"Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you preserve my life; you stretch out your hand against the wrath of my enemies, and your right hand delivers me."  Psalm 138:7
 And, we talked about how the flashlight is like the Bible, providing us with direction and wisdom.  Without the flashlight, we could have easily made a life-threatening step.  So it is without the Bible.
 "Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path. Psalm 119:105
 Although I wouldn't wish to repeat our journey up the steep mountain without a light directing us, I am thankful that God choose to use my foolishness in forgetting my flashlight to once again lovingly remind me and my precious son of our need for Him, in every circumstance, every day, at every moment in of our lives.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Cream-e-sew-er-y...Go Ahead and Laugh, It's Good For You

As I was driving to my mom's house for a visit, I could hear the girls carrying on a lively conversation in the backseat of the van.  

Have you ever has the opportunity to listen to 7 and 8 year old giggly girls carrying on a conversation?  It is very entertaining!

They fluttered from one topic to the next every few minutes; one minute talking about serious matters the next just being silly.  But no matter which topic they were discussing, it was obvious that they were genuinely enjoying each others company, which blessed me. 

We had made it to about the half-way point on our trip, when we passed a cemetery.

Ellie immediately noticed it and shouted out to Amaris, "AMARIS LOOK!  IT'S A SEWER!" 

Then, very calmly and confidently Amaris offered her correction, "That is not a sewer, Ellie.  A sewer is for pee and poo, but that place is for dead people.  It is a creamery."

I could hardy contain myself.  It was so funny, I almost peed my pants.  

Well, if I have a choice of being buried at the sewer or at the creamery, I think I will choose the second option...I know my spirit will be in heaven so it shouldn't really matter, but I am only thinking of all of you.  I mean, it would sure stink for you to have to visit me at the sewer.  

Have a wonderful Sunday and remember to laugh a little today!
"A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones."  Proverbs 17:22



Saturday, June 26, 2010

Thank You Lord


Crusty layers of spaghetti sauce cover Avidan's body, 
with a sigh and a wet washcloth in hand, 
I gently scrub my little boy hoping that eventually, he won't be tinted red.  
I AM TIRED

The dishes in the sink are overflowing, remnants of the morning's breakfast offering a discouraging reminder that I had forgotten to run the dishwasher, 
and now have double the work to do after the children are in bed.  
I HAVE A HEADACHE

Clothing sits piled high upon my couch, 
waiting to be sorted, folded, and packed for camp.  
I haven't even completed half of the packing list yet.   
I WISH I WERE GOING ON VACATION TOO

On the table is my checkbook.  
The one I haven't balanced in several months. 
I FEEL LIKE WATCHING TV

Weeds have taken over my garden and are beginning to suffocate my plants.  
The beauty of our landscaping is quickly becoming an eyesore. 
I WOULD LOVE A MASSAGE

My Bible, sits undisturbed on the coffee table.  
 My mind fights the desire to pick it up.  
"I have too much to do already, I can't take time to read right now."

I break down, tears flowing from my eyes.
Weeping, I cry out...
"I can't do it all, I am exhausted."

A still small voice responds...
"You are right, Satin.  
You can't do it all.  
You need a Savior.
My grace is sufficient for you, 
for my power is made perfect in weakness."

I pause for a moment in silence, reflecting.
I slowly walk over, pick up my Bible and open it.
Under my breath I whisper...
HELP ME, LORD.

As I read the words on the page in front of me, 
I break down again.
This time with laughter,
rejoicing in God's gentle reminder to me, 
a sinner with a wonderful Savior.

"...I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, 
so that Christ's power may rest on me.
... I delight in weaknesses, 
in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. 
For when I am weak, then I am strong."
2 Corinthians 12:9-10

Humbly, I bow my head and close my eyes,
uttering the only words that seem appropriate...
"Thank you, Lord."
 

Friday, June 25, 2010

Postpartum Depression: My Journey

Shortly after the birth of Eliana, sadness monopolized my days and guilt pressed down heavily upon me even as I slept.  Fear sat at my doorstep waiting for an opportunity to attack my weakening frame;  my mind eventually surrendering out of sheer exhaustion.  Daily, I grew more and more fragile and afraid.  My battle to survive was being fought in silence and shame.  Postpartum depression had arrived uninvited, stripping me of months of joy.  Months that, even today seem dark and painful to recall.
  
Do not fear,

 
As Eliana lay peacefully in my arms, my mind was tormented by thoughts, awful thoughts and accompanying pictures that I couldn't shake away.  I, was having thoughts of cutting myself, slitting my wrists, with no one there to rescue me. 

for I am with you;  


In desperation, I remember turning on the TV, trying to replace the agonizing pictures so vividly playing out in my mind.  But every image on the screen only served as a reminder of the razor sitting in the shower, waiting for me and quietly whispering my name.  At times, I would catch myself holding the razor in my hand, paralyzed for a few moments until I could force my fingers to release their grip.  

Do not anxiously look about you,
 
Even when I would tightly close my eyes and cover my tear-drenched face with my hands, the thoughts remained.  When my children would jump into my lap, throwing their loving arms around my neck, the thoughts continued to pull me far from their embrace. The thoughts which I battled daily left me feeling hopeless, the anxiety left me struggling to breathe.  Being alone with my children caused unbridled fear, "What if I harm them?"

For I am your God.

 At night, I would silently cry myself to sleep, often times too weak to even utter a prayer for help. One night, I remember trying to write down several Bible verses, so desirous of encouragement and hope.  My mind and body were so weakened by the thoughts tormenting me day and night, all I could do was crumple up the paper filled with life-giving words and hold it tightly in my hands throughout the night. Many a night I held that crumpled piece of paper...occasionally crying out, "Help me, please help me, Lord!" 

I will strengthen you,

Finally, my "secret" was too much to bear alone.  So reluctantly, I told David and a few of my closest friends, but still the battle within my mind continued to rage on...until I could admit that I needed help to get well. 

surely I will help you,

Walking into the emergency room was the scariest thing I have ever done.  With irrational thoughts spinning round my head, palms sweating, heart pounding, my body shaking under the stress and fear of the unknown...yet, God was with me!  His presence was so clearly felt next to me as I sat in that cold, sterile bed in the ER.  He gave me hope...He reminded me that everything was going to be alright.
 
surely I will uphold you 

The truth is, God was with me all along.  In the midst of every sleepless night, HE WAS THERE. While battling every thought of hurting myself, HE WAS THERE.  In the midst of every anxiety attack, HE WAS THERE, upholding me with His righteous right hand. 

with My righteous right hand.

And, God is with you too, no matter what you are battling.  He may not immediately remove the trial you are facing, but He is faithful to remain an "ever present help in trouble."  Whether it be postpartum depression like me, or the loss of a loved one, or the uncertainty of your future, you are not alone; HE IS THERE!  Trust Him to help you, to strengthen you, to place within you a living hope anchoring you to Jesus Christ.   

Isaiah 41:10

HE IS THERE, right there next to you.  So close that maybe you can feel the warmth of his breath on your shoulder.  HE IS THERE, ready to uphold you with His righteous right hand. 
"Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you;
he will never permit
the righteous to be moved."  Psalm 55:12

       

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Colorful Candy Confetti

The sound of giggling from behind the closed bedroom door was a dead give-away...the girls (Amaris, Eliana, and their cousin Maggie) were up to something.  

"Girls", I called, "Is everything alright in there?"  My words brought with them a quiet hush to the laughter. 

Finally, one of the girls bravely responded to my inquiry, "Yes mommy, everything is fine.  We are just having a party."  

At that moment I should have swung the door wide open to expose the intent of the girls, but instead I decided to walk away for a few moments to complete a few chores.   

Again, the laughter was heard.  This time louder, along with a few high-pitched squeals and some strange sound that I could not easily identify.  Standing with my ear to the door, I listened, intently trying to figure out what the odd sound coming from behind the bedroom door was. 

Without warning, I swung open the bedroom door.  The girls turned quickly, facing me like a deer caught in the headlights, wide-eyed and shocked to see me standing there.  

Sternly I asked, "WHAT ARE YOU GIRLS UP TO?"

"We are having a party, mom!"

Two empty bottles lay empty on the floor next to the girls.  I walked over, picked up the empty containers to see for myself what this threesome had been up to.  

"SPRINKLES!  GIRLS, WHAT HAPPENED TO THE SPRINKLES?"  

"We used them.  Sprinkles make nice confetti."  

For the first time since entering the room, I allowed my eyes to scan the perimeter.  Nearly every flat surface in the bedroom was covered with brightly colored candy sprinkles. Upon closer inspection, I realized that sprinkles were even scattered throughout the freshly made beds.  

I WAS NOT HAPPY!

"GIRLS, YOU KNOW BETTER THAN TO THROW CANDY ALL OVER YOUR ROOM!"

Silence was the only reply...

"THE THREE OF YOU WILL PICK UP EVERY BIT OF THIS MESS, RIGHT NOW!  DO YOU UNDERSTAND?"

I am not sure I even gave them a chance to respond.  I walked out of the room, angrily told David what had transpired, and proceeded to collect brooms and dustpans for the three little "party-goers" to clean-up with.

As the girls swept, shook out the sheets, and wiped down the dresser, I sat observing the threesome for a few moments.  The laughter which once filled the room was a distant memory, the smiles had been replaced with a countenance of sadness and shame, and the party which had once rained down "colorful candy confetti" had ended abruptly. 

I am such a party-pooper!  I mean, was there really any harm in celebrating with "candy confetti"?  Of course not!  But, I didn't want to clean-up after the party had ended and the threesome had zonked out for the night.  

The bottom line...I was angry that the girls had "inconvenienced" ME, disrupted MY peaceful afternoon, and used ALL of MY sprinkles...I mean I use them like once a year for cupcakes, now what would I use?   

Isn't it true that as Christians, we can be tempted to allow our circumstances to rob us of our joy in the LORD?  At times, it seems that the mundane tasks of life overwhelm us as Christians, causing us to grumble and complain rather than rejoicing in the fact that we are SAVED BY GRACE.  

But, God's desire for us would be that we would overflow with joy, rooted in the knowledge that as Christians we have been forgiven of our sins, accepted into Christ's family, and we have been given eternal life. 

Maybe you dislike your job, and it takes every bit of energy you can muster in the morning to even get out of bed.  Maybe you have a child who is difficult to manage and feel defeated before you even say hello in the morning.  

God desires to fill you with un-speakable joy in the midst of the circumstances which you find yourself.  Not just an outward, pretend kind of happiness, but an internal joy...giving you hope and assurance for what ever your future holds and producing perseverance .   

"Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds,for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.  And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing."  James 1:2-4
Today, I was thinking back to the afternoon when the girls threw the "colorful candy confetti" all over the bedroom.  I remember the countenances of the threesome changing, smiles turning to frowns, shoulders slumping under the weight of disappointment, and the boisterous giggling that once echoed throughout the house ceasing to echo anymore. 

May we be different as Christians...

May we look towards Christ in the midst of our trials... finding joy!  May the rooms of our heart always be filled with "colorful candy confetti" raining down, bringing laughter and smiles from deep within us.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Attentive Ears

This morning, I had a conversation with my daughter, Amaris.  Well actually, she did all of the talking, I just listened.  Ummm...maybe I wasn't quite listening either.  The truth is, I was feeling mentally exhausted and felt entitled to "check out" for a few moments.  

As Amaris spoke, I recall gently smiling, giving an occasional shake of my head in agreement with whatever she was saying, and every now and then I would utter a few random phrases such as "Really", "Uh, Huh", or "That's great, Amaris",  so I "appeared" engaged and interested in what she was saying. 

After several minutes, it seemed that Amaris became fully aware of my "fake listening" when she stopped, sighed, and with disappointment in her voice stated, "You are not even listening, Mommy".  Initially, I tried to console her..."Oh honey, of course I was listening".   Come on...Are you kidding?...I knew full well that I wasn't listening!  Sadly, Amaris' words had fallen on deaf ears.

Not only was I too selfishness and prideful to admit that I wasn't really listening to a word she was saying; I also showed a complete lack of love and respect for my daughter.  In that moment, my actions spoke volumes to her... 

"Mommy cares more about herself than she does about anyone else, including me.

And, do you know what?  She's right!

I am so grieved to have treated my precious daughter whom I love so deeply in such a rude manner.  I mean, I personally know how it feels to try and have a conversation with someone who you know is not really paying attention to you as you speak...it feels simply awful!  

You know how it feels too...

I am so thankful that God is not like me! 
"And this is the confidence which we have in him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have obtained the requests made of him." 1 John 5:14-15
"The Lord has heard my supplication, The Lord receives my prayer."  Psalm 6:9 
"The eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous And His ears are open to their cry."  Psalm 34:15
"The Lord is near to all who call upon Him, To all who call upon Him in truth. He will fulfill the desire of those who fear Him; He will also hear their cry and will save them." Psalm 145:18-19
It is so humbling to think that there has never been a word spoken which has escaped God's ears.  And in our lifetimes, He will never ignore a single prayer uttered, a single word whispered, a single praise shouted, or a single burden cried-out by us, His children. 

Reading the scriptures above all should stir our hearts...it should stir my heart, to talk to God with more and more fervency and devotion.  After all, we are His children and He delights in hearing the sound of our voices, because He loves us!
  

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Feast like a Flamingo

I woke up this morning thinking about flamingos.  (I have no idea why flamingos would come to mind at 6:30 in the morning...my mind just works in mysterious ways, I guess.) 

Aren't flamingos beautiful creatures?  Did you know that the female only lays and cares for one egg at a time.  And unlike most birds, which regurgitate food in order to feed their offspring, both male and female flamingos actually secrete a milk-like substance that provides the young bird with the proper nourishment until it's beak has fully developed, at which point it can begin to search for food independently. 

Isn't it equally amazing that a flamingo can stand so still and lifeless on one leg while the other leg is tucked neatly underneath it during periods of sleep or rest?  And, a flamingo has the ability to fly up to 35 miles per hour.  Crazy!!  Can you imagine flying with such an awkwardly long neck sticking out in front of you and two long spindly legs trailing behind?  If I were a flamingo, I think I would be tempted to keep both legs safely on the ground!

Then, there is the unique way in which a flamingo eats.  I mean, have you ever thought about the fact that a flamingo eats with it's head positioned upside-down and backwards?  Yup!  Watch next time you see one.  A feasting flamingo appears to be standing on it's head!  Quite funny, actually!  The flamingo takes water, mud, and food from shallow shorelines while "standing on it's head", gently it rocks it's head in a back and forth motion to filter out all of the "yucky" stuff, and sucks the nutrients down with it's vacuum like tongue. Simply incredible!

But, in my opinion, the most amazing characteristic of a flamingo, is that a flamingo's diet is responsible for the beautiful pinkish salmon color of it's feathers.  If foods rich in carntenoid pigments (like the pigments of carrots) are eaten regularly, the flamingo's feathers become more vibrant and colorfully pinkish.  On the other hand, the fewer the carntenoid rich foods being eaten on a regular basis, the paler the coloring of the feathers, often times resulting in birds that appear virtually "colorless".  This "lack of coloring" is often an indication that the flamingo is a very sick or malnourished bird.  Only God can create such an incredible characteristic!  Simply amazing!

It may appear that as humans, we share no commonalities with this unique bird.  However, I think that as Christians we are quite similar to the flamingo.  I mean think about it...  

As Christians, we require a steady diet of God's word to remain healthy and well-nourished spiritually.  Without spending time in the Bible, we begin to become almost colorless...our consciences may become dull, our ability to hear from the Lord decreases, and we begin to hunger and thirst for things that may cause further weakening to our already sick bodies.  

But, what makes the Bible so special?  

I mean, how does the Word of God really keep us healthy spiritually?  

How does a steady diet rich in God's Word provide Christians with the nourishment needed to stay vibrant and colorful throughout our lives?  

I am glad you asked! :)

1.  A steady diet rich in God's Word protects us from sin:
 "I have hidden your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you."  Psalm 119:11
2.  A steady diet rich in God's word equips us for every good work:
 "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work."
3.  A steady diet rich in God's word encourages us with the truth:
"For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope."  Romans 15:4
4.  A steady diet rich in God's word provides wisdom in daily life:
  "Your commandments make me wiser than my enemies,
         For they are ever mine.
   I have more insight than all my teachers,
         For Your testimonies are my meditation.
  I understand more than the aged,
         Because I have observed Your precepts."
  Psalm 119:98-100
5.  A steady diet rich in God's word reminds us of Good News of Jesus Christ:
"For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him." II Corinthians 5:21
 A flamingo needs to eat foods rich in carntenoids to produce bright and beautiful salmon colored feathers.  Without it, the feathers will turn nearly "colorless".

As Christians, we need a steady diet rich in God's Word to produce a strong and enduring faith in Christ...
                 I guess we are not so different from the flamingo after all. 

My prayer is that everyone reading will begin to hunger and thirst for righteousness, through feasting upon the Word of God...and like the flamingo, that all of us would would be visibly changed as a result. 
"Now what is food for the inner man? Not prayer, but the Word of God; and here again, not the simple reading of the Word of God, so that it only passes through our minds, just as water passes through a pipe, but considering what we read, pondering it over and applying it to our hearts." George Mueller

Monday, June 21, 2010

The Placental Brain Moment

I can't believe that I am about to do this....really, I must be insane!  I am going to tell you about my most embarrassing moment. Well...one of them.  And the funny thing is, no one was even around to witness my most embarrassing moment, except me and God.  But trust me, two witnesses were quite enough...I might have been lobbying to move to a new town where NO ONE knew me if anyone else had seen.  I am quite certain that God still affectionately laughs at "His silly little girl" when He recalls what I like to call my "placental brain moment" (yes, I was pregnant.).  Hormones....what can I say?

It was a very hot summery afternoon.  I was in the kitchen, oven turned on, stove blasting, making a meal for a family in our church who had just had a baby.  Did I mention that it was very HOT?  After the meal was nearly completed, I decided that since my clothing was drenched from sweating my guts out, that it would probably be a wise idea to shower before delivering the meal.  So, I showered, dried my hair, and rushed to the kitchen to wrap the meal up and double check my list to make sure that I wasn't forgetting anything

When I looked at the clock, I realized that I was running late.  With a quick sigh and quite possibly another pause to wipe off the new sweat that was forming on my forehead, I grabbed the meal and out the door I went.  I jumped into the car, put on my seat belt, turned the car on, took one more glance at the food sitting in the passenger seat next to me (which I was feeling quite proud of, BTW), and drove off.  

About a mile down the road, something dawned on me...

I had forgotten to put on pants!  (Go back to paragraph 2...showered, dried hair, rushed to wrap up meal...notice no mention of the words "put on pants"?)  

I was on my way to deliver a meal to friends from the church... in just my UNDERWEAR!  

I slammed on the breaks, shuttered at the thought of what may have happened had I not actually noticed until I arrived at the family's house that I was just wearing my gutchies, and quickly turned back around to "complete" my wardrobe.

 Alright, please stop laughing at me now...I can almost feel the earth shake from all of the laughter at my expense.  Just please remember that I am trying to be humble here.

So, you may be thinking,  
What could Satin's experience of nearly delivering a meal without pants on possibly teach me?"
I am so glad you asked! I will sum it up in one sentence for you...

Make it your passion to care about what God thinks about you according to His word, not what you or others think...

So, now I have a challenge for you.  
I would like for you to spend this week searching scripture and meditating on it, to see how God feels about about you as His child.   Then, if you are wiling, post a comment or send me an email sharing what He has taught you. 
Also feel free to share a most embarrassing moment...trust me, it will keep you humble. 

Sunday, June 20, 2010

In Need of Being Rescued

Dazed and confused, the little bird sat on our gravel driveway.  Chirping helplessly, it cried out for help, desiring safety from the cruel fate that it must have known awaited it if it were to linger in the open space on the gravel too long ...the jaws of our cat, Toby.  Near the tiny feathered creature, was another baby bird, this one having already lost it's fight to remain alive.  Compassionately, Amaris expressed that she felt it was her duty to protect this little helpless baby bird from our cat or some other danger that awaited it.  After pleading her case, I gave a simple "yes" nod of my head in the direction of my daughter.

Slowly bending down over the birds shivering little frame, Amaris lovingly scooped it up, pulled it gently against her chest, and carried it safely towards the aquarium underneath the awning of our porch.  The second she picked it up, the bird chirped even more wildly, more loudly.  Perhaps the other birds were watching what was happening too, for in an instant, the forest seemed to erupt with an outcry of screeching and chirping.  Several birds began to swoop near to Amaris' head, wildly flapping their wings, showing their claws as they flew by.  I wonder if one of them was the baby bird's momma.

This poor little helpless bird had no idea that it's life was being saved from the jaws of the cat.  It was fearful of the very one who was trying to save it's life.  The other birds too had no idea that Amaris was a friend, full of compassion towards this little creature, but rather they were afraid that she was planning to harm it.  And interestingly, the other birds were helpless on their own strength or faculties to protect this little baby from being harmed.  The other squealed and squalled, but the truth is, the baby was still on the gravel, in the wide-open driveway, all alone...and they were unable to save it. 

In watching this scene play out, I was freshly reminded as a Christian of my own salvation through Jesus Christ.  At one time, I was like that little helpless baby bird...afraid, alone, maybe at the time not even realizing the extremity of the danger that I was in.  But God, in His great mercy, rescued me.  No one else could have saved me...not my parents, or friends, or even my pastor.  I couldn't be saved from my sin as a result of attending church, completing a confirmation class, or by being born in a Christian family.  No!  Only Jesus could save me.  Prior to experiencing the full unmerited favor of Jesus Christ, I  spent as much time as that little bird, chirping wildly, fully unaware of  my need for salvation.


What about you?  Are you like the little bird, out it in wide-open gravel driveway, in need of being rescued?  Or the parent of an unsaved child, wildly chirping, swooping down to show your claws as you fly by, thinking that if you do or say the right things, that maybe your child might be saved?   Moms, Dads...your best efforts can not save your child or offer to them the forgiveness of sins.  Only the blood of Jesus Christ can do that! 

Be encouraged, because God delights in saving sinners.

"For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast."   Ephesians 2:8-9  

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Just Enjoy the Ride

The directions seemed so simple and clear when my mom first spoke them.  I had planned to go to the mall for awhile, but the main road in her town was closed, which necessitated taking an alternate route.  "You just go up to the top of the hill.  When you see the corn fields, take a right.  Go down the road about a mile to the bottom of the hill and take another right.  That will take you to I-80.  After getting onto I-80 East, take the 3rd exit.  You can't miss it!" 

I could feel the anxiety rising up within me.  I am horrible at following directions, no matter how simple they are.  I can get myself lost on a straightaway...NO KIDDING!  I have even been known to get lost while using the GPS unit.  My husband, David seems to have an internal compass or something....I sure don't.  Unless it is one of those cheap compasses like you get in the McDonald's Happy Meals that just spin and spin and spin, never really pointing to true north. 

I straightened my frame, took a deep breath, and whispered to myself, "This time is going to be different.  I am not going to get lost.  Only three turns are required the whole way there.  Surely,  I can handle that."  I quickly corralled the children into the van and set off on what was to be a quick trip to the mall. 

As I neared the top of the hill, I started to feel a little nervous, questions now flooding my mind.  "Did she say to take the first right, once I see the corn fields, or the second one?  Or did she say the first road past the corn fields?  I slowed down the vehicle to try and make a quick decision.  "Think Satin, think!"  After arguing with myself over which option seemed the most logical, I opted for the first road past the corn fields...BZZZZ, WRONG ANSWER!  Only I didn't realize that I had taken the wrong road until I had driven confidently along for about 4 miles.

Humbly, I turned the van around and back-tracked to the first road.  "Okay, see this isn't so bad...you did it, Satin."  I really felt I was on the road to success, until I went about a mile down the hill and saw a road leading to the left and a road leading to the right.  Contemplating...desperately gnawing at my already non-existent fingernails, I tried to once again recall the directions my mom had given me, to no avail.  Doubts filled my mind.  "Should I stop and ask someone for help???...there is no one, silly, unless you are going to go over and ask that cow!"  So, onward I drove...

Well, to make a long story short and to spare you of all the boring details, I will just tell you that I did end up making it to the mall...and it only took me 6 wrong turns and about 30 minutes more than what it should've taken.  And, I made it back to my mom 's house too...and I only made 3 wrong turns on the way back and beat my original time by 5 minutes!  You have to celebrate the small successes in life you know.

Sitting in the car thinking...since I had so much time to think.  I realized something quite interesting.  As I was driving, I was worried.  Would I end up driving into some deep abyss somewhere never to return again (not really, but it sounds dramatic).  But, I was concerned about being lost.  However, sitting in the back of the van were my three younger children, laughing, chatting...just enjoying the ride.  They were not the least bit concerned about our impending peril, as I was.  They were just trusting that we were going to make it to the mall and back.

As adults, it seems that we worry and fret about our every decision, struggling, wondering if God will really
show us which decision we should make and questioning all the while. Can anyone reading relate?  The Bible contains many verses which would encourage us not to worry in the midst of making hard decisions, but rather that we should pray to God for wisdom and TRUST HIM for the outcome.
James 1:5 says  "If any of you lacks wisdom, let Him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given to him." 
Wow, isn't that such an encouragement?  Why do we question every detail, working ourselves into a tale spin when a difficult decision comes up, when God promises to give us wisdom generously if we just ask Him.

Maybe you are contemplating a career change.  Maybe you are trying to decide if you should pursue an adoption.  Possibly you are questioning who you should marry.  Or maybe you are trying to decide whether to vaccinate your children or not...I don't know.  I do know, that whatever decision you face, God desires to give you all the wisdom in making it.  Just pray to God, ask Him for wisdom, seek wise counsel through Godly friends and the Bible, and trust God for the outcome.

Thinking back on my adventure driving to the mall this morning, one thought comes to mind.  On the road of life, I just desire to sit back like my children, laughing, chatting, and enjoying the ride...trusting God to get me where He wants me to be.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Mud Puddles and Our Greatest Need

While on a short walk one afternoon, Avidan noticed a mud puddle in our driveway.  He pointed in the direction of the puddle and uttered, "Go, go!"  I was curious how he would react if I allowed him to walk up to the edge of the puddle, so I motioned for him to go ahead.  As he inched nearer to the murky water, I could see the corners of his mouth rising, smiling at this new found freedom. 
Cautiously and Curiously, he knelt down to view his reflection in the brown, murky water in front of him.  Moments of gazing passed.  An idea had started to form.  Carefully, so as not to disturb the calmness of the water, he gently placed the tip of one solitary finger into the puddle, and waited.  The response of the water to his touch was very slight, barely a ripple was seen.  Another thought formed in his mind.  With the same finger, Avidan began to gently stir the surface of the water, circling in large deliberate strokes over and over across the cool dirty water in front of him.  Ripples and waves began to form, making their way to the edge of the puddle, seeking solace once again.  
Eventually, the novelty of the redundant stirring soon wore off.  Next, Avidan flatted out his hand and stretched out his fingers; looking down to make sure that none were touching.  He quickly looked back at me, as if looking for an expression of approval and then, once again turned his attention to the mud puddle.   Excitedly, he began slapping the surface of the puddle, violently sending water and mud flying, releasing laughter which had too long been pinned up inside him. 
Instantly, it was as if all self-control had vanished.  Standing up, Avidan ran through the puddle, squealing with delight as he felt the cool water slapping against his legs.  Occasionally, he paused to sit at the edge of the of the puddle, throwing clumps of mud at the reflection of himself that initially was calm and lifeless.  
Finally, without considering the outcome, Avidan grabbed a clump of mud, looked at it for a moment, and then without a second thought, he foolishly placed the clump into his wide-opened mouth.  

Thinking back, I realize that I am not all that much different than my son.  Like him, I at times am foolish, not giving much thought to my ways until I have a mouth full of mud and regret.  Sadly, when I am confronted with temptations, I don't always flee from them as I should, but rather sit by the puddles edge, gaze at my reflection and stir the murky water with my finger. What about you?  Do you give yourself permission to willingly flirt with certain temptations rather than fleeing from them.  You know the old saying?  "If you stand too close to a mud puddle, eventually you are going to get wet and muddy."

A friend calls...laughter, joking, and sharing eventually ripple into to small comments that seem to be turning into gossip...The comments, seemingly innocent at first, now carry with them the pangs of regret, because in the end; you had as much gossip to contribute to the conversation.

A child waits patiently to be served lunch...at fist.  Eventually, your smiling, happy child melts into another creature it seems, crying, kicking, shouting, and hanging onto your leg.  "How am I expected to get lunch on the table when I am dragging a screaming child across the kitchen," you think to yourself, all the while feeling anger welling-up deep in the bosom of your chest.  You feel the weight of your response bearing down upon you, telling you to leave the room and seek a few moments of solitude to pray for strength and wisdom.  But, lunch still needs to be served, so you press on, stirring, cutting, and muttering to yourself.  Sweat begins to pour off of your brow, emotional and physical exhaustion weakening your resolve to stay calm.  In an instant, you lash out, your words cutting through your child's hearts like a knife...your heart hurts too, you know that the hurtful words you had spoken can never be taken back.      

The TV is blasting with another hockey game, your husband sitting comfortably in the easy chair, seemingly oblivious to the house falling apart around him.  You look around...baskets of clothing over-flowing onto the floor, dishes becoming crusty in the sink, children in need of some soap and water "therapy"...deep inside you start to notice thoughts of self-pity taking shape..."He doesn't even care about me!"  You go and sit down in the chair next to him, but rather than cultivating loving thoughts towards your spouse you allow the unbridled thoughts in your mind to continue.  "All he seems to care about are his dumb sports.  Doesn't he realize how hard I work all day?  I shouldn't have to do all of this work by myself."   Later that evening, you can barely look at him, feeling only coldness and bitterness.
Every one of us has foolishly played too close to the puddle at one point or another.  Maybe more often than we even realize.   My intention in writing this is not to in any way to make you feel condemned, but rather to encourage you with the truth that we are all helplessly unable to change on our own.  You may be thinking, "And this is suppose to be good new?"  Actually, it is very "good news"!  God sent His son into the world to save sinners; to rescue us from our sins.  We just don't have the power and strength within us to resist the temptations of this world...without the help of a Savior. 
Avidan's tongue and body, now coated with a gritty layer of thick mud, needed to be rescued...so I gently picked him up, stripped him of all of his clothing, and placed him into the tub.  Slowly with soap and wash cloth in hand, I began to scrub his little body, washing the crusty mess of mud from his body.  I was glad to see my squeaky clean little boy again.  But more importantly, as the filthy water spiraled down the tub's drain, I couldn't help but think, "I am so glad I have a Savior who washes me clean with the blood of the guiltless lamb.
"See how red is your guilt, mark the scarlet stain.  It you were to wash your soul in the Atlantic Ocean, you might incarnadine every wave that washes all its shores, and yet the crimson spots of your transgression would still remain.  But plunge into the “fountain filled with blood, drawn from Immanuel’s veins,” and in an instant you are whiter than snow.  Every speck, spot, and stain of sin is gone, and gone forever."  Charles Spurgeon


      


Thursday, June 17, 2010

Treasures in the Sand

The quiet breeze blew gently, softly mingling with the light of the sun, rays reflected hues of gold and bronze on their long locks.  Little giggles echoed as they walked and talked...sharing...dreaming of what they might find on their big adventure.

Pails in hand, eagerly they skipped across the moist sand, only pausing on occasion to look with wonder at the wide expanse surrounding them, stopping to smell the fresh salty air, or pausing to sink their toes into the wet gooey sand beneath their feet.  As one would find a possible treasure nestled safely in the sand, an urgent call was made to the other to come, quickly, so as not to miss the joy of seeing the treasure before them. Together as sisters, as companions, they bent down to inspect each shell, slowly picking them up to place them gently into one of the pails. 

As the sun marked the hours passing in the sky, the pails began to fill up with beautiful remnants, most of which had been washed in from the powerful sea.  You could almost feel them holding their breath, hearts beating, standing in awe of the wonderful sites before them.  Some of the treasures were broken, scattered across the sand, but valuable to the girls nonetheless.  Others were still perfectly formed, but still showed the ware and tear of the strong waves which had beaten up against them.  Still others shells contained living creatures such as a hermit crab or whelk.  Lovingly, the girls would pick them up and toss them back into the sea, maybe uttering a silent prayer for safety and protection against the waves that still churned upon the beach before their view...for they understood that the treasure of these creatures was found in setting them free.

With pails nearly overflowing, the girls sprinted back to where I stood, eager to share what they had found on their adventure on the beach that day.  One by one, shells were gently lifted out of each pail, carefully, so as not to damage a single one in any way.  The girls, placing them all in a line, admired them, rejoicing in each one being found, looked up at me with eyes wide with excitement. 
"We found so many treasures, Momma.  Aren't they all so beautiful?"
 Along with my girls, I am certain that my face radiated with excitement and joy too, for at that moment, I realized something profound yet wonderful.  The Lord rejoices over us too.  Whether we are battered and broken by the waves, eroded by the friction of the sand, or whether only scattered remnants of us remain.  If we are His children, He treasures us!

As Christians, we have such a difficult time believing that God could possibly delight in us.  At least I do!  But there is a verse found in Zephaniah 3:17 that has been such a huge encouragement to me that I would like to share with you too:
"The LORD your God is with you, he is mighty to save.
He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love,
he will rejoice over you with singing."
On occasion, my girls still pull out the box of treasures they collected on the beach that day.  They gleefully share fond memories of time spent together as sisters, searching for treasures to fill their pails; treasures buried beneath the moist sand, waiting to be found.  From the next room, I can hear giggling and chatting.  As I peak in, I smile.  Once again, they are gently placing each shell in a line, delighting in them with the same excitement  and joy as they had done on the day of the big adventure on the beach.

This day, may you be more aware of how God delights over you as His child.  
      Shhhh!  Listen... you just might hear Him singing!