Is Your House Clean?

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Have you ever noticed how God uses the ordinary, mundane things of life to teach us? I love that the lessons He has for us are not usually sent by audible voice or great revelation but by everyday things that we can all relate to. It’s a new year! A time for new beginnings, resolutions, and plans.

By the time January 1 arrives, I find myself rather grumpy at the clutter of Christmas decorations and chomping at the bit to take them down. As much as I love Christmas and the beautiful décor that comes with it, I enjoy putting it all away and refreshing my home just as much as I did putting it up! Am I weird, or can you relate?

So earlier this week, I grabbed my storage boxes from the garage and started pulling down my garland and unplugging my lights. But as I did, I noticed something unpleasant: my house was dirty!

I’ve always considered myself a good housekeeper, one of those “a place for everything and everything in its place” type of people. But as I went deeper, I started noticing the crumbs and dust bunnies under the furniture, the dust on the top of my kitchen cabinets, the sand and debris under the living-room rug. Everything looked great on the surface. But those hard-to-reach hidden places that I don’t look at on a daily basis needed a lot of attention.

As I rolled up my sleeves and started to pull apart my house to take care of those neglected areas, it was almost as if the Lord nudged me. “This is what I want to do with you,” I heard Him say.

As I went deeper and moved more things, I found more dirt, more dust, and a couple of stains that I hadn’t known were there. What God wanted to speak to me was so evident. How often do I, do we, look nice and clean on the surface but hide dirt, dust, cobwebs, and stains inside? This is a short and simple truth, but it cuts right to the heart of our Christian lives.

Matthew 23:25–26 says, “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean” (NIV). Jesus was speaking to the religious, self-righteous, learned men of the day. He saw their pride and was unmoved by their words and actions. He saw beneath the surface, into the heart of each one.

What was spoken back then is still being spoken today. Not to the Pharisees but to us, God’s people. We spend a lot of time working on the surface stuff that people see, but much like in our homes, we don’t go deeper very often. I believe that as we move further into this new year, God wants us to dig deeper, to move things around a little so we can expose the dirt and stains in our lives that maybe we don’t even realize exist.

As I finished up my cleaning project and started putting my home back together, it felt good to know that even though those hidden places are usually unseen, the layers of dirt and dust in them were stripped away. They were spotless. For now. But I realized that it will be necessary to uncover those areas more than a few times a year. I made a decision to incorporate that task into my regular cleaning routine.

May it be so with our spiritual lives. I pray that God will continue to nudge me this year. To show me through the mundane, everyday activities and jobs I find myself in that He is interested in me, in my heart, and that He wants to make things new and fresh. May we recognize His voice, pull out the feather duster, move around the furniture, and respond.

Lord, help us to hear Your voice and act in humble obedience to it. May we allow You to expose the dirt that we try to keep covered and hidden. I pray that we would be transparent and allow You to do the work in us that You desire to do. Amen.

Chicken Drumsticks, Peas & Choosing Joy!

Sometimes it’s good to look back and remember lessons that God has taught us. I recently found this journal entry from 2008. We were moving from Alaska to Tennessee. Jasen stayed in Alaska for a couple of months to wrap up his business, while the kids and I went to Florida to be with my parents. The children were young. Really young!

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“Today I woke up and almost immediately asked the question “who took my children?” I was convinced from very early on that Curious George and his friends from the zoo had come in sometime during the night and replaced my dear ones. It just seemed like from the moment they stepped out of bed things went downhill.

They were so loud! Jaden and Adam fought continuously. Leah was having intestinal problems, which resulted in a funny dance type move and trips to the potty every 5 to 7 minutes. There was bouncing from bed to bed, couch gymnastics, yelling, screaming, arguing, and general horrid behavior. For most of the day I felt like I was going to pull my hair out, and on more than one occasion I just had to walk away.

We are in transition. Grandpa has been gone for a few days and they are still adjusting to being away from their daddy, life is confusing right now for our little ones; I have to be understanding. So many things going on I am starting to wonder if I am going to get through it with my sanity.

Leah was tough today, whined and cried all day. Not sure if it was because of her bathroom issues or what, but you never quite know with little Leah. I love her dearly though, she is my girl.

Then dinnertime rolled around and things were looking up a little. We had made it through the majority of the day without an ER visit and without me checking myself into that ‘special place’ people go to ‘rest’ and ‘get better’. I had a healthy meal prepared, oven-fried chicken, broccoli, peas, potatoes, and some kind of fruit. They all seemed pleased when it came to the table, “good” I thought, “maybe things are turning around”. We said grace, and all seemed well. With the kids settled at the table I left for a few minutes to tend to something else and upon my return found a sight that made me laugh so hard I had to leave the room. The twins were playing baseball with their chicken legs and peas! They were so intense and so encouraging of one another “good one Leah Lou!” Evan said as Leah hit a home run across the table. It was one of those moments when as a mom you have a choice. I ‘should’ have done something, handed out some form of discipline for bad table manners but I couldn’t, I just didn’t have the words. It’s times like this that I have to relish the gift of motherhood, the bad and the good, and determine to enjoy every moment. To realize that sometimes laughter is the best medicine”

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I can look back on this fondly and be thankful. My children, who had been the source of my frustration all day, were actually the ones that turned my heart toward the Lord. I find that discouragement is always around the corner waiting to pounce. He is teaching me that very often my response to things determines the behavior of the people around us; our husbands and children, the lady in the grocery store, the difficult customer service rep on the phone

My continued prayer, even years on is that when faced with a situation, no matter how frustrating, I am able to CHOOSE JOY!

 

Thanking God in the Chaos!

“A cheerful heart is good medicine,
but a broken spirit saps a person’s strength.” Proverbs 17:22 NLT

One of the greatest gifts that God has given us as mothers is the ability to find joy in the midst of chaos. If you think about it, we have many opportunities throughout the day where we could choose joy and laughter over frustration, irritation and anger. We can laugh with our kids, many times at them. We can laugh at our husbands taking care of our kids. We should also take the opportunity to laugh at ourselves and the ludicrous things that motherhood can sometimes make us do! It is not only uplifting and healing to laugh, but sometimes it is all we can do in a certain situation. There are days that are so overwhelming, the last thing you feel is joyful. On days such as this, I encourage you, laughter truly is the best medicine, and our children seem to instinctively know that! Like I said earlier; God presents us with many opportunities to choose joy, and most of those come through our children. The question is do we see them, and do we choose well?

God promises that we will go through trials, we will faces challenges, however they are balanced and outweighed by His tremendous blessings, encouragement and love.

As a Christian family, going to church on Sunday has always been a priority for us. As parents we have instilled in our children the importance of giving our Sundays to God, and being together as a family. This being said it doesn’t change that fact that when Sunday rolls around, I am never excited about the prospect of getting everyone up and ready for church in the morning. I’ve often wondered if it’s just us, or if there are other families that experience something similar to World War III on Sunday mornings. You are fighting to get breakfast eaten quickly, trying to explain to a three-year-old why he cannot wear his Cars swimming shorts or Incredible Hulk pajamas to church, and scrambling to find a pair of shoes that match.

I am always the last one in the shower, which gives me approximately six minutes to somehow make myself look somewhat presentable.  Then there is my husband struggling to put on little girl tights, (on our daughter, not himself!) When we finally manage to corral everyone into the van we are met by pushing and shoving and daughter pulling her ponytail out.

We eventually arrive at church, always a few minutes late. We are hot, sweaty and more often than not, annoyed. However, somehow a truly miraculous transformation takes place as we step out of the car and walk into the church building. We are now the Cleaver Family; happy, all smiles, put together, not a trouble in the world!  Often times I smile to myself as we find our seats. I wonder how many of the other ‘happy’ looking couples walking into church with their families drove there in complete silence, because of the big fight that occurred over little Johnny’s shoes moments before leaving the house. Let me tell you about one of those particular Sundays.

…….’It was Sunday morning in 2008. I had four children ages, 7, 5 & 3 year old twins. We were visiting my parents in Florida. Unfortunately my husband was not with us on the trip, but I figured I could handle things! We could do church! Right?!

I had just come out of the shower after enjoying a fairly relaxing fifteen minutes void of anyone banging on the door with a near 911 emergency. Daring to pat myself on the back in satisfaction, I reached for my hairdryer. Alas, my peace was short lived. I heard commotion outside the door. “Oh dear”, I had ‘atta boyed; myself a little too soon. “Mama!” Came a little voice through the door, “Evan pooped on the floor!” “Great” I said under my breath, “I just sat him on the potty minutes before my shower.” I quickly wrapped my hair and headed out to survey the damage.

As I approached the bedroom I hung my head; there standing in the middle of the room surrounded by poo was my sweet Evan. “Went poopy Mommy” he says with a panicked look on his face. “Oh Evan! It was truly all I could say! Thank goodness for my oldest, Jaden, who jumped in and grabbed the wipes, the Resolve, and wet rag.  I wiped down Evan’s foot, then my own. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention we both stepped in a pile!

 

After the Operation Poo clean-up, the rest of the morning went pretty smoothly. We actually arrived at church  on time. We enjoyed about 10 minutes of the service and then decided I should either head to the nursery or risk being thrown out for disturbing the peace. Snacks, plastic animals and crayons spread everywhere, our pew closely resembled a daycare floor. The deciding factor was when the offering plate was passed and one of the children knocked it on the floor spilling pennies, nickels & dimes everywhere; leaving my mom and a very irritated parishioner on their hands and knees retrieving the coins!

As I sat in the nursery alone that day watching my kids play, a realization came to me.  You could call it an “aha moment” I prefer to see it as God speaking clearly into my cluttered, overwhelmed heart. Rather than sitting there feeling like I was missing out on ‘me time’ at church, and seeing my nursery duty as an inconvenience, I started to see it as a blessing. I started to choose joy!

Observing Leah conquer a new shape sorter.  Watching Evan take complete delight in Homer Simpson plowing down The Beast with a cool red sports car, then in the next breath seeing him tenderly tuck in a baby rabbit into bed, “nite, nite, cute bunny” he says. My heart melts. As he looked at me with a sweet smile, “I love nursery Mama” said a contented Evan, who then immediately runs off to find something else to satisfy his need for activity. It struck me that day more than ever before, life is all play and fun for my little ones, that’s all they care about right now, and let’s face it, that is all they should have to care about.’

How many times do we miss out on cherished moments because we are so focused on our own wants, needs and desires. We choose to wallow in our ‘poor me’ pity party and fail to see what God is trying to teach us. I realized that day that I have the rest of my life to sit in church, but only a small window of opportunity to watch my children grow. A window that once closed, will never reopen. May we look for, recognize and gather those many blessings and be thankful. May we laugh and choose JOY!

God’s word promises us everything we need to live joyfully and succeed in what He has called us to do, in your case it’s being a mother to those he specifically chose to bless you with.

Psalm 121v1-8

1 I lift up my eyes to the hills– where does my help come from? 2 My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth.3 He will not let your foot slip– he who watches over you will not slumber; 4 indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. 5 The LORD watches over you– the LORD is your shade at your right hand; 6 the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night. 7 The LORD will keep you from all harm– he will watch over your life; 8 the LORD will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.

Precious Mama, as you are faced with the day to day, seemingly mundane tasks that seem to fill your life remember to look to Jesus. He has promised not to let you fall. He does not sleep and is in complete control. He will not allow harm to come to you, He loves you. We will often times have to make the conscious choice to look to Him, just as we have to make the choice to be thankful. Remember that your children are sponges, everything you pour over them they will soak in. Cover them in joy and thankfulness and watch the fruits of you motherly labor grow and flourish.

He Never Sleeps!

How thankful I am this morning for His promises and faithfulness to me! The Lord directed me to Psalm 121 as I woke up today. hillI lift up my eyes to the mountains—
    where does my help come from?
 My help comes from the Lord,
    the Maker of heaven and earth.

 He will not let your foot slip—
    he who watches over you will not slumber;
 indeed, he who watches over Israel
    will neither slumber nor sleep.

 The Lord watches over you—
    the Lord is your shade at your right hand;
 the sun will not harm you by day,
    nor the moon by night.

 The Lord will keep you from all harm—
    he will watch over your life;
 the Lord will watch over your coming and going
    both now and forevermore.

It still baffles me how the God of the universe is able to watch me day and night. He know my thoughts, my movements, my challenges, my struggles. He is my help! Even though He is the maker of heaven and earth, He still concerns Himself with my daily life. He never sleeps. He is always on the throne. His promises are always good. Now, if only I would only trust them and not just give them lip service! I wonder how my life would change if I truly believed what He says. I would have no fear, no doubt, no anxiety, no frustration, no concern for the future. I would be secure, solid, content, able to walk through any situation, knowing He is in control.

Lord, help me to see Your hand in my daily life. I am so blessed that you have my back in every situation. You see my day before I wake! Help me to let go and trust you.

May I be a blessing today.

Amen

Builder or Fool?

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Proverbs is such an amazing book! So much wisdom, so much instruction. It really should be named Quick Little Nuggets of Truth! I am consistently blessed by this book. As a wife I am constantly looking for ways to be better in my role. Proverbs has so much instruction on the subject.

I think we all struggle at times, to be the wife we know we should be. As we strive to grow and blossom in our marriage, there are some important principles laid out in Proverbs. I love that God has instruction for us, all we have to do is follow.

Proverbs 14v1 – “A wise woman builds her house, but with her own hand the foolish one tears hers down.”

As wives we can find ourselves torn in so many directions. It’s hard! To be a Godly wife in today’s society takes courage, strength, wisdom, patience, self-control, loyalty, love, a foundation in Gods word, and most importantly, prayer.

There has never been a time when marriage is more challenged, and attacked than it is today. I feel like I am constantly having to defend what I know is right. As a woman, I am constantly being told that I am not to be ‘owned’ by my man, that I have the ‘right’ to do what I want, when I want to, and that no man should control that.

On the opposite end of the scale, there is the church. The body of Christ, who when speaking on marriage, normally addresses wives submitting to their husbands, and husbands loving their wives, end of story. The loving part usually goes down ok, but the submission part…well not so much!

I don’t want my place as a wife to be viewed just as a position of service and submission. Marriage is so much more. I want to know the fullness of a Godly marriage.

So, what does it take?

Proverbs 14v1 Tells us that we to be builders in our home, not just participants, observers or helpers, but active builders. A builder is not a position of submission. It’s a position of great responsibility and trust.

The Bible does clearly state in Ephesians 5v23 that the husband is the head of the wife (or family). We know that we can’t have two heads or leaders,  so in light of this, what exactly is our role as a wife?

After much pondering asking of the Lord, He once again gently guides me to the answer. The answer that sets me straight and gives me clarity. In order to build our house, we must build up our husbands, so that they can be successful as our covering, our provider, our head.

So, now question number two! How do we build our husbands? The answer? It’s simple.

  1. Respect
  2. Love and affection

Really? You say. THAT’S IT? Seems easy. Straightforward.

If it’s so simple then, why are there so many marriages falling apart?

Why do we find it so hard to give these two very simple gifts to our husbands?

Ask yourself, would a contractor sabotage a new home project by not giving it a solid foundation, strong walls, and well functioning mechanics? Only a fool would build that way. Why then, as home builders, do we so often sabotage our own home, by not giving them the care and consideration it needs to be strong and safe for our family?

Being a courageous wife takes so much more than ‘submission’! It requires us to cherish, respect, and love that which God has blessed and entrusted us with.

Most of our conflicts will come from either a lack of respect or love. Respect shows our husbands that we recognize them as gifts given to us by God himself. Showing respect encourages us to act in a manner that recognizes such. Love is the act of laying down ones life for another. If we are dead to ourselves, it is impossible for us to be offended, have our own agenda or demand our own rights.

Even when we don’t feel like it, or our flesh gets in the way, I pray God would help  us, ME, to build in such a way that my home is able to withstand anything the world throws at it.

 

 

 

Rest

come unto meThe Lords message to us this morning is short and sweet! “Come to Me!” We are so busy, and get so tired. More often than not, we try to fight through on our own. We just keep going, because that’s just what women do, right? Our schedules are so demanding. It seems like we are constantly running. Even in the midst of it all, Jesus still says “come”. We hear His invitation, but we have to respond.

Have you ever been invited to a formal event? It always includes a RSVP, right? We have a choice whether or not we will attend. It occurred to me this morning, that the same applies when we are invited by Jesus to ‘come’. We can choose to accept or decline.

When we offer our children comfort and rest after a long day, we hold out our arms and say “come here”. The comfort is not imparted until they are in our arms. They have to first accept our invitation.

“Lord, help me in my crazy, busy, overscheduled life, to stop and accept Your invitation to rest. Help me to realize that all I have to do is walk into Your arms. It’s that simple. Amen”

Wickedness Abounds

This morning I am angry! Once again this country has shoved it’s fist in Gods face and said “we don’t want you!” Once again, we see a major retailer jumping on the bandwagon with so many others, drawing a line in the sand and setting themselves up against you; even celebrating their decision.

While the majority of our society is caving to the whims of the culture, I have to believe that there is a remnant of people who desire to put Gods word first, to stand for truth even if it means facing persecution and hatred. Today I am standing up and declaring ‘Here I am Lord, send me!”

I feel a little like Habakkuk when he cried out to You in Habakkuk 1:3-4

“Why do you make me look at injustice?
    Why do you tolerate wrongdoing?
Destruction and violence are before me;
    there is strife, and conflict abounds.
 Therefore the law is paralyzed,
    and justice never prevails.
The wicked hem in the righteous,
    so that justice is perverted.

These are the days we are living in! As Moms I think sometimes we tend to freak out. We panic, “Lord, what do we do? It’s just not right!” As Gods people, do we stand by, or do we rise up?

I believe we are to be angry at what angers God. I believe we are to call sin for what it is. I don’t believe the answer is in boycotting or protesting. They do make a temporary difference, but they are not lasting. The answer is in Gods people, the church. Sin abounds and unfortunately the church is asleep.

As we see the day fast approaching when lawlessness abounds, and the righteous are hemmed in. May this be our prayer.

“Lord, help us to wake up! Help us to not be overwhelmed by the depravity of our culture. Help us to be a called out people. Help us to teach our children, not to be accepting of those things You despise. Help us to love people and guide them to Your truth, the truth that sets people free. Help us to diligently seek You. Help us to realize that the only change will be brought by a move of Your spirit. Help us, as Habakkuk did, to pray, to trust You, and ultimately rejoice in You, because You are in control. – Amen”