Wednesday, 13 February 2013

The Heart of the Matter

Once again, I find myself in a quandary.  Is what I am about to write about a contradiction?  I feel this subject on my heart but I am going to go on to talk about how unreliable the heart is.  Well, let's just see where this goes.  

The heart is well known to be fickle, wicked, deceitful, easily lead to folly and not a good way to base our life's decisions.  However, so many things are based on how we feel at the time.  Many good decisions have been made by following the heart; also many bad ones.  How then can we know if it is the right course of action to take?  

My father-in-law said something once that I have never forgotten, regarding the decision to either buy a pet or have a baby, that it is an emotional decision.  This I have come to see in my own life as very true.  Before we had kids, I decided I wanted a puppy to cuddle and nurture and look cute.  Did I put a lot of thought and research in to this decision?  No.  We have spent the last 7 1/2 years as parents to Lola, and have often wondered if we knew what we were getting in to.  

Also with children.  We knew we wanted children, but not having a lot of experience with kids myself and no training program for want-to-be parents, I really didn't know what I was in for.  Does this mean that because my heart told me I wanted a baby that it was a rash decision.  In this case no (maybe so in the puppy case).  Children are a gift from the Lord, we are blessed by what we have been entrusted with.  

You don't become a parent because you have passed a course and know everything there is to know and are ready to take on this task with all the tools of the trade.  You become parents, most likely, with a lot of hope and desire, but no real clue.  You are then put through the ringer, and if you're like me, you have been challenged in ways you never dreamed of.  

This goes beyond the sleepless nights to the real spiritual heart of the matter.  We have been parents for 6 years now and I have been stretched, tested, grown and refined in ways that go beyond my control and planning.  Of course I didn't think parenting would be easy, but I didn't realize how much of myself would have to change in the process.  I am slowly learning to be less selfish about my sleep.  I am trying to set aside my agenda and expectations, to be open to God's leading.  I am working at putting my family's needs first, even if I feel unproductive.  I have been convicted by my sin and my daily need for forgiveness and do-overs.  

When you realize that you have little mirrors walking around your house showing you your sin every day, you can choose to ignore or justify it, or come to the Throne of God in repentance and humility.  I have been humbled as a parent.  I have seen my shortcomings ten fold.  I have tried to justify them by being tired or overwhelmed.  But really, sin is without excuse.  I am always telling my kids to have patience and self control, it is no shear coincidence that those are the areas I struggle most with.  It is up to me to control my heart, to choose to be cheerful in the morning, to take on the day with a good attitude and as I tell my kids, have a happy heart when things don't go my way.  

I am a work in progress.  I am a parent in training.  I am a saint being sanctified.  When I am having a hard time I know I have to turn to God for strength and grace.  But it is when things are going relatively smoothly that I need to give full credit to the God that has seen fit to use me for His service.  In this life, there are hills and valleys, but God is faithful and will see us through the journey when our hearts and minds are in tune with Him.  

Just to throw in some scripture here, Psalm 37 is an amazing meditation and has so many golden nuggets of truth to gleam from.  I find reading this so encouraging and a good foundation.

With a Barrel and a Heap of Love,


Linking up with Grace Laced

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Vain Labour

I am taking a step out in faith here.  I hope that what I am about to do it not in contradiction to what I am about to write about and that is the concept of labouring in vain.  It is quiet in my house right now (2 youngest napping, 2 oldest watching a movie).  But it won't be for long, so I hope and pray that I am using my time wisely.  

I have always wanted to write.  I have this desire, that I am more sure that God has placed there, but I don't have the confidence to think I have anything of consequence to say.  I keep thinking that someday, when there is time, when there is years of wisdom behind me, then I'll sit down and write.  But I think that I have this subject placed on my heart for a reason and, therefore, I'm going to just put it out there.  This is for my benefit.  Something that I have been contemplating and working through and to put it down in writing is a way to process.  I don't expect this to become a regular entry or a devotional or for anyone other than myself to benefit from it but here it goes.

"Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain."  Psalm 127 1a

I recently partook of a Bible study by Beth Moore (Stepping Up) and some of what I will write here has been gleamed from that study.  I have also been reading a lot of blogs and books by Rachel Jankovic and I am processing what I have learned from her, through the Spirit of God.  

Now that credit has been given, I will write freely.

I have a tendency to get caught up in my own projects and "to-do" lists.  I have a desire to have a sense of purpose and accomplishment and being a stay-at-home mom doesn't really come with a job description or a performance review.  Thus I seek fulfillment in making lists and checking them off.  I have learned over the years to make my list more tangible and realistic, so that I maintain reasonable levels of balance and priority.  However, even though my cleanliness standards have lessened, my desire to be "finished" something has not changed.  

Kids are never finished.  Kids are always needing, doing, going, wanting, asking, taking.  It can be draining.  The more you're willing to give, the more they take; if you give them and inch, they take a mile.  But in the end (figuratively the end is being done raising kids I suppose) do I want completed photo albums or successful human beings?  A decorated house or children who love the Lord.? Do I want to be a mom who appears to have it all together to the onlooker, or a mom who takes the time to listen to her children, work with them through their sin and teach them the Love of God through my life's example?

I think the answer is pretty clear, but how to get there when I so easily get caught up in my own selfish ambition?  Of course it doesn't seem selfish at the time, I'm building memories for my kids, trying to maintain a reasonable level of cleanliness or keep on top of things so that I don't loose my mind trying to play catch up if I loose a day or 2.  I think the key here is where is my line of sight.  Am I trying to do things to fill my day and ignore the kids so that I feel in control, when really I should be looking to God, every moment, every step of the way, for guidance, direction and insight.  If I am so busy doing my own thing, wthout consulting God or relying on his grace to get me through, how can I expect the results I desire.  I cause myself more anxiety and stress doing things that ultimately don't matter.  Here's one from Beth's study that has to be shared; "A Latin motto says, 'Nisi Dominus Frusta', which means 'Without the Lord, Frustration'."  

Psalm 127 goes on in chapter 2 to say, "It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep."

Sleep is a precious commodity for a mother with young children, I know I am going to be up in the night nursing and up early for breakfast and getting ready for the day, yet I find myself staying up late to finish that digital scrapbooking project or scrolling through Pinterest.  I am irritable the next day and unable to deal with the daily load with a calm spirit.  This is how Beth puts it...

"Godless labor + little sleep = a futile expenditure of energy"

That's not to say that I can't have time to myself or find enjoyment in a hobby, but there needs to be balance and limits on time spent in these pursuits (I have for example, given the kids 1 hour to watch a movie and thus, the same time to work on this).  I would normally make getting a certain something done my priority and tend to leave the TV on all afternoon and feel guilty in the end but "at least it's off my to do list."  I typically wake up in the morning thinking what am I going to accomplish today, but I am realizing that I should, rather, make my morning prayer "Lord, make me your humble servant, use me how you see fit for your glory, give me an attitude of giving, equip me for the task and make my priorities in line with your will."

It is not my job to entertain or appease my kids, but it is my job to meet their needs, nurture and love them, and give them a full life.  I read in "Thriving Family" magazine, our goal is to make them successful, satisfied and spiritually mature adults. These days with 4 kids at home may seem long, but they will not last long and I should use the time I have to work with them, to put their needs first.  I may not see the immediate gratification I would from a clean floor (but we all know that is a fleeting result anyway).  However, I am realizing more that God wants me to build my house according to His blue print - which, with more prayer and scripture reading, will become my desire as well.

With a Bushel and a Peck of Faith,


Here is a great blog by Rachel Jankovic - many more in the archives under lizziejank