Posted in Faith Nuggets, Meditations & Meanderings, Thoughts from Scripture

A Real Passion

Several months ago, I was looking for an image to add to a blog post when I came upon this precious image of a child reading an old, battered Bible. Although the image did not fit the post I was preparing to publish, I couldn’t help but save the picture anyway. It was beautiful, and I wanted to use it someday.

There are so many reasons this image struck me. The child with his scrunched up little forehead trying to read the words in front of him (probably still in Isaiah, based on the way the pages are slightly visible). The wear and tear on the paper cover. The way the pages are crisp despite their yellowing, indicating that this Bible is more old than worn. So many little details releasing so many thoughts in my heart and mind.

Above all of these thoughts, though, rose a passion. I never fail to feel deep excitement when I see someone connecting with the Word of God, whether it’s a small child trying to decipher the words of that big book lying around the house or an adult seeing an old truth with new eyes. Excitement abounds when my children share something new they have discovered in Scripture. Delight overflows when the girls in my Sunday school class ask questions about what they’ve read in the Bible. Joy fills my heart when I get to be a part of a Bible study where others truly want to engage and dig and explore and learn and grow.

That simple picture reminded me of that excitement and that joy.

But here’s the thing: our natural inclination is not to seek out those opportunities for engagement. We may say we have a passion for Scripture and that we want others to engage as well. But, it’s too easy to fall into phases of life when our passion looks a little too much like the Bible in the picture. Worn, yes, but not from loving use. Instead, simply worn from being around for a while. Familiar because of its presence, not because we’ve plumbed its depths. We engage when the opportunity presents itself, much like this Bible is read when a child just happens to pick it up, open it to the middle, and try to decipher the good old King James translation of what the prophets had to say.

That’s not how I want my passion to look.

If I say I love the Word of God, I have to act on it. I have to read it. And, I do. I started the habit as a child. I’ve been more diligent about it in some seasons than in others, and there are times I still struggle with the discipline of being truly attentive to what I’m reading each morning. But, I know it’s worth it to work on that discipline. To be diligent. To make an effort to wear my Bibles out.

My passion to see others connect with God’s Word has to be just as intentional. It has to be active. I can’t just plan to happen upon it now and then. Instead, I have to actively engage my children in discussion about what they read. I have to structure Sunday school in a way that will encourage my students to ask questions. I have to seek out opportunities to study Scripture with fellow believers.

A passion with worn edges but no real internal use is a false passion. It’s a sweet picture that is completely posed. But God knows the truth. He sees the little clues that reveal my lack of intentionality. And, because He is Truth, He will work to reveal those clues until I recognize that it’s time to get real.

Guess what. It’s time to get real.

Posted in Marriage, Parenting

Preparing Our Children for Marriage

We live in a society that is fixated on relationships. Specifically, romantic relationships. And I have two teenagers in my house, one of whom is a natural romantic.

In all honesty, arranged marriages are looking more and more tempting.

Is there a way to prepare our children for marriage?

Despite the arranged marriage temptation, my husband and I have chosen a different route. We have chosen to prepare our children for marriage. Yes, I know they are still young. But, what if we can shape their thoughts now, before the relationship temptations hit? Allow me, if you will, to share a couple of thoughts with you.

Teach Surrender to God’s Plans

I love talking to my children about Christmas and birthdays. For years, they never had a list of requests. That gave us a clean slate to direct their desires and interests. Now, they frequently have desires, but most of their requests tend to be thought-out. While they occasionally express frivolous desires, my children typically want useful things or pleasures that will have long-term delight. They want the desires that we have taught them to have.

This training also involves teaching them to hunger for the things God wants them to have, promoting a natural hunger for God’s will. They may still fall prey to adolescent puppy love crushes. But ultimately, a hunger for God’s perfect plan will remain the foundational drive for their desires, whether that includes marriage or not.

Teach a Right Attitude About Relationships

It is important to teach our children that all relationships are a gift from God, provided by Him to fill a need. And yes, marriage is a need when it is a part of God’s plan. But we greatly limit need fulfillment when every relationship with the opposite sex revolves around determining whether or not that person fills the marriage need.

It is so much better to teach our children how to honor God to the best of their abilities in every single relationship. When our children approach relationships with that mentality, they will be stronger when the romantic inclinations creep in. They will naturally pray for protection, direction, and guidance to help them meet the needs of their friends. And those prayers will form a hedge of protection around their hearts.

The desire for romantic relationships probably will not go away. But, our children will know that those desires, like any other thought or desire, must be held in submission to God’s will for the relationship.

No Guarantees-Just Trust

Now, I know that the real world is still out there. Temptations are strong, and no amount of teaching will guarantee that none of my children will fall prey to those temptations. But working to ingrain these thought patterns in the minds of our children will definitely point them in the right direction.

And if that doesn’t work, we can always fall back on the arranged marriage idea.

Originally published at wellplannedgal.com. Republished with permission. 

Posted in Work & Life

Getting It Done

It never ceases to amaze me the number of practical life lessons I’ve learned because of the challenges I’ve worked through in homeschooling. For instance, in the homeschool community, record-keeping discussions are common. What do I keep? How much do I keep? What information is needed? How do I gather, organize, and maintain the necessary information?

The needs vary from state to state, depending on local homeschooling laws. Some states, like Arkansas, are very lax. I fill out a form every year stating my intent to homeschool. That’s it. In other states, parents have to have regular meetings with education officials, showing not only intentions but also progress. Samples of work, grades, test results, etc.

Now, on the one hand, I am thankful that Arkansas does not require such things. On the other hand, that makes it easy to lose track of where the kids actually are and what progress they have made. I have had to be intentional from the beginning about choosing curricula designed to help me keep them on track, knowing that my husband and I are accountable for the progress of our children – if not to a state education representative, then definitely to ourselves and to their future needs.

This intentionality in homeschooling serves as a continual reminder that there’s not always someone else to keep me accountable and on track in life any more than there is in homeschooling! I have to be intentional and diligent about finding ways to hold myself accountable in every aspect of life.

Keep in mind that just because I know I should find ways to hold myself accountable doesn’t mean I always do it. But, when I am diligent, here are some of the things that work:

Recognize the Trouble Spots

Like with homeschool record-keeping, there are areas where we know we will face problems if we do not keep ourselves accountable. So, the first step is to recognize those trouble areas. One for our family comes at meal-time. I hate to decide what to cook. So, menu planning is critical for me. If I don’t plan, we don’t eat well. We either eat less healthily or more expensively or both. So, the first step is recognizing the trouble spot that mealtime can be for me.

Make a Plan

Once the problem is identified, a plan has to be made. I can say I’m going to cook well or teach my kids well or make progress in any other area of life. But unless I actually create an avenue to accomplish this, it will never get done! So, a plan is critical. I have a list of what needs to be done each year to prepare for and progress through a school year. I know each month when I need to menu plan. (And before you think I’m always on top of this, realize that last year I failed in this area much more often than I succeeded. I’m a work in progress.) I have plans for other areas of life as well, including trying to get back to regular writing. It doesn’t have to be anything rigid, but having a plan keeps the need right in front of me.

Find Accountability

My job is the best example of this. Every Monday, each employee in the small company I work for gives our boss a list of priorities for the week, talking through them with her and with one another for clarification. At the end of each week, we send her a record of how we spent our time. This is not because she doesn’t trust us or is trying to micromanage and nitpick. In fact, it is just the opposite. These lists help her know where our energy is going, allowing her to keep track of whether or not the limited time, energy, and resources of our company are being used effectively. But, this also allows me to clearly see where I am using my time and gives me a measure of accountability for my work days.

By using the same principle in other areas of life, I don’t have to handle the full weight of responsibility all on my own. I can have others help hold me accountable.

Implement!

As is obvious with the confessed menu plan failures, implementation is the final key. We can know what to do, plan to do it, and even have others remind us. But, ultimately, it’s up to us to take action. And when we do, the pay-off is more than worth the effort.

Posted in Helpful Hints, What Works for Me, Work & Life

Erasable Ink

Sometimes, life really comes down to the practical. No deep lessons. No profound thoughts. Just basic and practical.

Sometimes as I ponder depth and meaning and how to surrender to the surgery I desperately need the Lord to do on the deep parts of my heart, mind, and habits, I forget just how important those basic and practical things are.

Like erasable ink.

Several years ago, a friend introduced me to Frixion pens. I’d never liked erasable pens because they never seemed to really erase. But these? Oh my word…they work!! And I became addicted! They’re pretty and fun and just a treat to use. They add a little pizazz to life.

But, there’s more to these pens than just fun. There are actually two reasons I really, really like the idea of being able to use erasable ink pens, especially in my planners.

Flexibility

The first really is obvious. I always function better when I can plan ahead, and sometimes I need to plan FAR ahead. But the truth is that life changes. Plans change. I need to be able to erase and make changes, both in my personal planner (the Mommy brain, as my kids call it) and in my homeschool planner. It’s just a necessity.

But, that can be done in pencil, can’t it? Yes, it can. And, for a long time, it was done in pencil. Erasable colored pencils, to be certain, because I color code. In the homeschool planner, each child has a color for independent work and a color for work I do with them (read-alouds, etc.). In my personal planner, I have separate colors for general family life, school, work, church, writing, and personal development. It saves space, helps me keep it all distinguished, and helps me not overlook tasks and activities. Color is my friend.

But, why ink?

Commitment

While pencil works well for flexibility, it doesn’t work well – at least mentally – for commitment. You’ve probably heard the phrase, “I’ll pencil you in.” More often than not, that means plans will change. We are not committed to penciled-in obligations, tasks, and events.

Yes, it’s mental. And yes, it’s something we might just need to get over. But, for me, being able to use ink instead of pencil helps with that mental commitment – even if they are equally erasable. There’s just something about seeing it in ink that solidifies a task, event, or other commitment in my mind.

It’s just a little thing. But sometimes those little things make the deeper things more feasible. Even something as little, as practical, as basic as using erasable ink.

Posted in Faith Nuggets, Thoughts from Life

Unharried

It was a lovely Saturday morning. The chilly breeze blowing in through open windows offered a delicious contrast to the humid, oppressive heat that is typical of the last days of an Arkansas summer. The sound of rain against leaves and the roof provided one of my favorite auditory backdrops, and I wanted nothing more than to just sit there and soak up the beauty. Although my ultimate preference would have been to find a covered porch and a good book to enjoy on that delightful day, I found myself enjoying even the prospect of tackling a work day with the coolness and sounds of rain flooding the “office.”

Although Saturdays aren’t normal, routine work days in the Hibbard household, they are still full. Some are filled with outside obligations. Those that aren’t still produce full lists. School prep for the new week. Finishing up any remaining work hours from the previous week. Fitting in any yard or housework that needs to be done. Working in any ministry and writing tasks that didn’t fit naturally into the week before. It’s the catch-all day, and that can sometimes make Saturday even more intense that a typical work day! Unfortunately, that can leave me somewhat harried as I head into Sunday and launch a brand new week.

It’s funny how God embraces me on all sides with lessons He wants me to learn, and one of the lessons He started teaching me last year (and is still working into my heart and mind) is connected to that harried feeling. This lesson is a natural follow-through to what He’s been teaching me about Sabbath rest for years now. It’s the realization that there is no true rest one day a week if I live the rest of the week in a state of maxed-out rush. I’ve long known this reality, but I haven’t truly known what to do about it. We live in such a rush-rush world. Full investment. Full engagement. Full planners. Full lives. That’s our culture. How do we keep our commitments, maintain productivity at work, and truly engage this lost world if we slow down at all? Is that not laziness? Sloth? Unproductivity? The opposite of all that is good and exemplary?

I still don’t really have an answer to that question, although I learned much through my studies of James and 1 & 2 Peter last year. And, books I’ve already mentioned like An Unhurried Life and Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking have helped me consider practical aspects of the changes that need to be made in my life.

But, in all honesty, I recall even now how that cool, rainy morning enabled me to get a glimpse, for the first time, of what it looks and feels like to tackle a full day with an unhurried, unharried mentality. No less work. No fewer tasks. But a mind of calmness and peace.

The realization is rather convicting. I was incredibly relaxed and peaceful on that delightful fall morning because the weather and the physical conditions of the day met my preferences. It was easy that day to be thankful for my office with many windows (a room which now serves as my daughters’ bedroom). It was easy to let the cool air wrap around me and chill me and leave me feeling wonderfully energized for the tasks ahead. But what about when the heat returned? Or when the days turned cold and cloudy with no nourishment of sweet rain or even beautiful snow? When being unharried and unhurried would require more work? That’s where I am hit hard with the realization that I do not submit myself fully to the rest and peace of my Savior. In sinfulness, I attach rest to a specific set of circumstances. Hebrews 4 tells me Christ Himself is to be my rest. The guilt of my idolatry makes plain why I cannot seem to escape a harried life, even with all I’ve learned about Sabbath rest – I connect rest to environment, not Christ.

I wish I could say that I can flipped a switch and automatically took the revelation of that beautiful Saturday into each new week, immediately implementing an unhurried, unharried approach. But, that’s not the way growth works. I still have to actively learn how to live this out – yes, even months later, I’m still working on it! How to take the ease of a perfect day’s peace and rest and choose to engage in it when it’s not so easy. That day, though, was a lightbulb moment. A day when I recognized the conviction and training of the Holy Spirit. An Ebenezer I can look back on and remember as I move forward into a life of increasing rest and peace, as I am doing even now.

Oh, precious Lord, may I learn the lesson diligently, no matter how long it takes!

Posted in Thoughts from Scripture

Psalm 2

Last week, I mentioned how persistence opened up beauty and wisdom in Psalm 2 that I’d never seen before. I hinted at the light that switched on in my mind, but I didn’t go into details. This week, I want to share just a glimpse – just a taste of what I saw in those verses and what has spurred me on as I’ve continue to work methodically through Psalms.

Throughout the week, I acknowledged the angst found in Ps 2:1-3. This is a hymn of frustration about the state of the world – one that rings with familiar tones as we compare it to those our hearts tend to sing today, over three thousand years later. Nations still rage and kings and rulers still plot in vain. The world is a mess, and we have to deal with it. Even so, we can chuckle when we get to verse four and see the Almighty King of kings laughing at them. He mocks their supposed wisdom and planning and scheming. He reminds them that they’re not really in charge like they think they are. And He promises to send His Son to rule over them.

These observations were nothing new to me – I’ve noticed them every time I’ve read this psalm over the years. But as I wrapped up this particular week of reading and rereading, it was as if blinders fell off, revealing a new layer of beauty. I suddenly saw God’s response in verses 4-6 as a comfort instead of simply a statement of His mockery. How can such things be comforting? Well, when looking at this passage in light of the whole of Scripture – in light of the fulfillment of the promise to grant the nations as an inheritance to the Son – I remember that I belong to this Lord who sits in the heavens. I may be under the temporary authority of worldly rulers, but the King of kings, Lord of lords, and Ruler of rulers truly knows me. I am not relevant to His power. I am not critical to the accomplishment of His will. He works through me simply because He chooses to, not because He needs to. I may not be relevant to His success, but I’m relevant to Him and included in His plan.

I’m in awe. Not at all because any of this is about me, but because I am so very often distracted by those insignificant, temporary rulers of this world. Those who will ultimately be “shatter[ed] like earthenware.”

The greatest beauty is revealed in the final verses.

Now therefore, O kings, show discernment;
Take warning, O judges of the earth.
Worship the Lord with reverence
And rejoice with trembling.
Do homage to the Son, that He not become angry, and you perish in the way,
For His wrath may soon be kindled.
How blessed are all who take refuge in Him! (Ps 2: 10-12)

Is that not a perfect prayer for those in authority? Is it not a powerful way to lift up our rulers, asking that the Ruler over them all open their hearts to help them show discernment, take warning, worship Him, rejoice, and do homage? Should it not be my heart’s cry that they be saved rather than perish? That they be blessed rather than falling to His wrath?

Yet in my distraction, I rarely have prayed in such a way for the temporary rulers of this world. I’ve been frustrated by them, filled with angst because of them, and discouraged by them. My prayers have been more imprecatory than a cry for their salvation.

After progressing from a point of limited understanding to a sense of great comfort, my final awareness was one of deep conviction regarding my own sin of neglect and need for change.

This is what God’s Word accomplishes in us. It shows us the truth about the world in which we live. It shows us the truth about ourselves – both in comfort and in conviction. But, above all, it continually teaches us more about who God is: the one who is never thwarted by the temporary rulers of this world. It draws us to respond, not because of what we learn about this world or ourselves, but because of what we learn about Him.

Posted in Book Recommendations, Joy of Reading

Favorite Books of 2018

I’ve always loved to read, but I have to say that my love has only increased in the past couple of years. When I was a child, I devoured every book I could get my hands on. As a young adult and young parent, I would go ages without reading anything other than my morning quiet time Bible reading and a devotional, then I’d binge on something fiction. Only in the last few years have I discovered the discipline of intentional, habitual reading.

That intentional reading habit has led me to some really great books. As I looked back across 2018, several really stood out. So, what were my top picks from the year?

Fiction

Well, Julie Klassen, Elizabeth Camden, Patrick W. Carr, and Timothy Zahn all came out with much-anticipated sequels this year. And Tricia Goyer added to her London Chronicles series. All of those were wonderful treats, as always, and all of them continue to rank among my “favorite, will read whatever you write” authors.

But, I also made a new discovery this year: Rosemary M. White. Early in the year, I selected a book to review, only to discover it was book number two in a series. So, I decided to check A Name Unknown out of the library so I’d be prepared when I received A Song Unheard to review. Before I even finished the first book, I knew I wanted to own it to read, reread, and share. And, I was thrilled to know that An Hour Unspent was due out in the fall. (I got it for Christmas and started 2019 with that one!) Meanwhile, I checked her Ladies of the Manor series out of the library over teh fall and thoroughly enjoyed it – so when I recently found the first two books in the series on a sale rack, I snagged them quickly.

Another new discovery was Kristy Cambron when I read The Lost Castle for review. My 15-year-old daughter was even more hooked than I and immediately proceeded to check out a stack of her books. She loved every one!

Nonfiction

As for nonfiction, several books really stand out.

The first two are books that I would recommend without hesitation to anyone – and actually go further than recommend. I’d encourage them both. They are both incredibly useful for very different reasons, but they are definitely going to be rereads over the years.

  1. Calming Angry Kids by Tricia GoyerI reviewed it here, so I won’t rehash that review. But, I will revisit the encouragement to buy it, read it, then have extras on hand to give away. The focus is parenting, but I cannot express how helpful this book is for relationships in general. I would argue that this is Tricia’s best book, and that says a lot.
  2. An Unhurried Life by Alan Fadling: My friend Joanna commented that she wants to underline and highlight every single word, and I agree! I had to read it very slowly and intentionally, and I still need to reread it. Oh, how convicting it was! Oh how much we miss because we are so hurried – and often we don’t even realize it. We’re just fitting in with the way things are when we should instead be breaking the mold and setting a new pattern.

But, there were several others as well. And, honestly, I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend these, either.

I came back again this year to Mark Buchanan. I read a couple of his, but Hidden in Plain Sight really stood out. Then there was Survival Guide for the Soul by Ken Shigematsu, another revisited author. Such nourishment and challenge! Not God Enough by J.D. Greear felt, on the surface, like an “easy” read because Greear, like Mark Buchanan, is so incredibly conversation. Yet, the direct and challenging content forced me to read it slowly, frequently stopping and take a look at my thoughts, habits, and attitudes.

Finally, I read a book entitled Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop TalkingThis is not from a Christian perspective (I am increasingly intentional about working those in, too) and is more research-based, so the writing style was definitely different from what I’d learned to train my mind to process over the course of the year. But, it was a very enlightening read. My husband read it first and kept reading quotes, so I knew I needed to give it a go. Now, I’ve challenged both of my girls to read it. It offers such a valuable insight into the nature of introverts, and it is one I will probably review in coming weeks just to explore some of the valuable insight. If you are an introvert, it will help you understand yourself better. If you know and don’t understand an introvert, it will help you, too!

Of course, there were also the homeschool read-alouds, mostly re-reads by this time. But, still wonderful titles! We’re all looking forward to 2019. I just started Shadow Spinner with Steven, and Seven Daughters and Seven Sons is coming up next. Both rank among the girls’ all-time favorite read-alouds (and Seven Daughters and Seven Sons was a favorite among my siblings as well!). But, this past year, Steven couldn’t get enough of The Incredible Journey, and I always love reading The Master Puppeteer.

So, there you go – my favorites from 2018! You are welcome to join me on Goodreads to see the rest of the titles I enjoyed (you can check out my 2018 tags).