Posted in Around the Web, Faith Nuggets, Meditations & Meanderings, Repost

Source of Delight

Sometimes I have to go back and revisit what God has taught me in the past, either through journals or old articles. Today, I’d like to share one I wrote for work – probably for Family Magazinefour or five years ago. I needed this reminder today. 

What delights you? Obviously, our families and good friends bring delight. But, we can’t forget that good bite of chocolate, either. Okay, so maybe we need more than just a bite, but you get the picture.

I can think of several activities that bring me delight. I find great relaxation in sewing and writing. Other times there’s nothing like curling up on the couch with a warm drink and a good book when I catch the chance. I feel energized when I have something to organize, whether it be a kitchen cabinet or a well-laid plan. Even though I typically would prefer to leave cooking to just about anyone else, I do thoroughly enjoy whipping up a delicious baked treat. And then there is teaching my children. Oh how I truly love being the one to watch that precious trio learn!

I have noticed something about myself, though. There are times when none of these activities appeal to me. Somewhere deep inside of me I might want the relaxation of a good book or the accomplishment of completing a sewing project. But, that little something seems to be so greatly buried that it offers no motivation. Instead, I find that I just don’t care about anything. I’m so restless that inactivity drives me crazy, but none of the things that normally delight me tempt or motivate me at all.

Maybe I’m the only one who ever ends up in a place like that, but somehow I doubt that to be true. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised to find at least one reader battling similar feelings right now. I hate that part of myself and never want to be in that place. But, it has taken me a very, very long time to learn how to battle against those times of lethargy.

Rediscovering Delight

Once I did finally discover the key weapon in my battle, I found it to be something so incredibly simple. It comes from a verse many of us have known for as long as we can remember.

Delight yourself in the Lord; and He will give you the desires of your heart. Psalm 37:4

This is such a familiar verse, and it is one that frequently gets taken out of context. So, just to make sure there is no misunderstanding, let’s look for just a moment at what is going on in Psalm 37. Essentially, David observes that the wicked seem to be living in the lap of luxury while the righteous struggle day after day. But, he also notes that the success of the wicked is temporary, and he reminds us that only trust in the Lord will endure eternally and bring us success, fulfillment, and even provision. He’s calling us to delight in the Lord in the middle of frustration, agitation, and injustice. We are reminded to put aside the earthly temptations that draw in the wicked and intentionally find delight in God alone.

I can guarantee you beyond any doubt that those deep, dark moments of life in which I lose all interest in everything can be traced back to a choice regarding where I place my delight. When I delight in the Lord, I find myself fully delighting in the things He created me to be and do. I cannot help but write. I itch to sew. I look at my bookshelf and hunger to find a book that teaches me more about His Word or tells the story of a character, real or fictional, who delighted in Him. I want to keep my life organized, and I want to bake just so I can delight someone with the treat. And oh how I want to teach my children. The hunger and passion to instill that delight in the Lord in them almost overwhelms me. But when I stop delighting in Him, I begin trying to find joy in all of those other things. And suddenly, they’re not good enough at all.

The only treatment for times like these is a restoration of our delight in the Lord. But we fight against it so strongly. We don’t want to pray. We don’t want to read His Word. We don’t want to fellowship with other believers. We know we’re rotten, and we are convinced that diving into anything of spiritual significance will do nothing more than reinforce our own blackness. All we want to do is avoid that spiritual depth. And the more we avoid delighting in the Lord, the more we lose our delight in everything else.

So, what do we do? We try to rev up our delight in all those other things. It will never work. The opposite happens instead, and we find ourselves even more repulsed by the very things that typically fuel us. Amazingly, though, the moment we push through and make ourselves delight in the Lord, we see a change. We see the passion begin to spark again. We feel the energy begin to flow. There is an instant, cleansing power found through delighting in the Lord.

Are you in a place right now where you have lost delight in everything? Take that first step toward delighting in the Lord. It might be as simple as getting on your knees and crying, “Help me!” It could involve forcing yourself to read a passage over and over until you sense the voice of the Holy Spirit speaking life back into your heart. Joining with other believers in a place of good, Christ-focused fellowship might be the step you need to take. Whatever it is, take it! It will be hard. It will take all of your energy. But as soon as you take that step, you’ll sense the delight returning to your heart.

My friend, may you delight yourself in the Lord, and may He overwhelm you with joy in the desires of your heart.

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Posted in Marriage, Repost

Wishfulness or Certain Hope?

This is an article I wrote for Family Magazine last year. To try a free sample of Family, click here.

Once upon a time, little girls had hope chests.

Some were fancy, while others were just plain wooden boxes. No matter what the construction, each chest held items made and collected in anticipation of that “someday” when the keepsakes would be used to turn a house into a home – a home the grown up little girl made with her brand new husband.

Although occasionally we may run across a young woman with a hope chest in today’s culture, these keepsake boxes seem to have become a thing of the past. Nowadays, the collection of items for a new home waits until the engagement has been announced and the wedding date set. Wish lists are created through gift registries, and new houses are turned into homes by friends and families who shower the happy couple with gifts.

Have We Lost Something?

On the surface, the change in tradition is just a cultural shift. But, a deeper look reveals a more critical change – a shift in our symbols.

The hope chest was aptly named, because it was a tangible symbol of hope. A girl and her family took action on the hope that one day she would marry and have a home of her own. It was faith in the unseen.

Wedding showers and engagement celebrations, on the other hand, represent a faith in what is seen. A relationship is present, and, unless something unforeseen happens, a marriage will ensue.

Were it just about the hope of a husband and family of her own, this shift in symbols might not be all that big of a deal. The tragedy lies in the fact that this shift reverberates into marriage itself. Our hope lies in the tangible of circumstances and actions rather than in the intangible nature of God himself.

We have replaced certain hope with wishfulness.

Because life itself is so continually uncertain, how we face that uncertainty represents what we believe about biblical hope, whether it be as young girls looking forward to the “someday” of marriage or as women clinging to the “someday” of answered prayer within marriage.

What we should believe is visible in Hebrews 11:1.

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

Or perhaps we can flip over to 1 John 3:2-3.

Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.

Oswald Chambers has this to say about the certainty of our hope in Christ:

Certainty is the mark of the common-sense life; gracious uncertainty is the mark of the spiritual life. To be certain of God means that we are uncertain in all our ways, we do not know what a day may bring forth. This is generally said with a sigh of sadness, it should be rather an expression of breathless expectation.

Hope Is Not Common Sense

Precious friends, there is absolutely no certainty in any aspect of our common-sense life, including marriage. A marriage that is trucking along nicely right now may be blindsided by a financial crisis, illness, depression, temptation, or spiritual laziness. It could even be that what you believed to be true and certain was actually a lie.

The opposite could also be true. A marriage that seems to be in the full throes of failure and without hope could actually be right on the verge of complete restoration. What appears to be a long, dark tunnel with no end in sight might in reality just be a short stretch, with visible light and healing blocked only by that sudden turn you cannot see ahead of you because of the darkness.

Common sense tells you to trust in what you can see. Common sense keeps you trapped in fear that what is good might sour and what is bad may never change.

But hope is not common sense. Instead, hope is certainty in something much more solid that what you can see. Hope is certainty in Christ himself, the Almighty God who not only sees the unseen, but controls it.

When I think of those old-fashioned hope chests, I picture a young lady caressing each treasured item in breathless expectation of the unknown. For years, she has collected piece after piece. Some have been passed down from generation to generation. Some have been fashioned by the hands of her mother or grandmother. Still others she has lovingly prepared herself. She is uncertain of the future, yet each item represents her certainty in a promise. True, the occasional fear will tickle the back of her mind. What if these treasures never find a home? What if the hoped for future never materializes? Yet, the items themselves remind her to not lose hope in the future laid out for her.

How much more powerful is our hope in Christ? That is all the certainty we need.

This article was originally published in Family Magazine, 2016 Issue 2, then on WellPlannedGal.com.
Posted in Around the Web, Repost, Thoughts from Life

Sock Dolls & Homeschool Tradition

Remember the “looking back at old posts” idea from yesterday? Here’s a post that I wrote nearly three years ago for work purposes. The sock dolls aren’t as prominent these days, having given way to other things. But, the traditions birthed from those sock dolls are still growing. This is a precious memory. 

My daughter’s ninth birthday was just around the corner. She loves homemade gifts, but this particular year she had no requests and I had no ideas. So, my husband and I made plans to purchase a gift or two instead of making something. Suddenly, inspiration struck! Two mere weeks before her birthday, my precious child decided all she wanted for her birthday was a homemade sock doll.

To this day I have no idea where she got the sock doll idea. I wonder if she even knows! I began to interrogate her, trying to determine where she had seen or heard of the idea, but she would just shrug and say the thought popped into her head. I dug deeper, hoping to determine just what sock doll image she carried in her mind so I could attempt to create what she was envisioning. A doll made out of socks seemed to be her only criteria.

After finally remembering a sock doll pattern book my mother-in-law had passed on to me some time before, I set to work. Pressed for time and lacking in confidence, I prayed I could create something that would make my daughter smile. By the time the big day rolled around, a nightgown, two dresses, and a brown-haired, green-eyed sock doll named Susan were wrapped and ready for my brown-haired, green-eyed birthday girl.

Not Just A Doll…

I never would have imagined the tradition that sock doll request would become.

Hardly a birthday or Christmas passes without at least one more doll joining the family. A year after Susan’s arrival, William graced my daughter’s tenth birthday celebration. Ella joined the sock doll family a few months later when my daughter decided that her little sister needed a doll of her own. William and Susan now have a son named George, and Ella met Oliver this past Christmas. My son, who was given a blue-eyed chef named Han for Christmas, is helping me assemble a little sister for George. I believe my middle child has created a sock bunny, and both George’s little sister and the sock bunny will soon be wrapped up and presented to my oldest for her twelfth birthday.

When I first started homeschooling, I mourned my inability to establish homeschool traditions.

I hate paper crafts, and I never could get my act together early enough to plan the perfect food celebration for every holiday. I felt like a failure because holidays such as President’s Day and Valentine’s Day would pass by without an educational, yet celebratory, plan. An old school year would simply end with little fanfare, and a new one would begin in much the same way.

…A New Tradition

Only after the sock dolls began multiplying with great rapidity did I realize that our family really is creating homeschool traditions. We usually forget to work in thankfulness activities all through November, put out the perfect Valentine’s display, or welcome Easter with reminder-filled baked goods. But we do not forget to line up the sock dolls and their stuffed companions to help recreate the first Christmas. We always remember to pull out a favorite book in March to make sure the stuffed menagerie knows the story behind St. Patrick’s Day. Napoleon the Penguin preaches stuffy church every Sunday, and Alf the Calf has performed at least one sock doll wedding in full-fledged Impressive Clergyman fashion.

I no longer mourn the holidays and events that pass us by without the typical homeschool crafts and foods.

A cheap bag of men’s tube socks, some fiberfill, and a supply of fabric scraps might not seem like much for other families, but for us they symbolize surprising tradition in the form of pilgrim and Indian sock dolls retelling the story of the first Thanksgiving. That, my friends, is tradition enough for me!

This article was originally written for Home Educating Family’s blog, now WellPlannedGal.com.

Posted in Around the Web, Thoughts from Scripture

The Lord’s Prayer

A couple of years ago, contrary to the anti-liturgy tradition of Baptists, my preacher husband began a Sunday morning practice of reciting the Lord’s Prayer to close out a corporate prayer time. Like most of our congregation, I had known the Lord’s Prayer for as long as I could remember. But, reciting it together as a church body each Sunday has breathed life into a familiar old passage in ways I never could have anticipated.

A PRAYER THAT BINDS

When a congregation chooses to truly pay attention and seek the Lord together using the points of this prayer, a level of intimacy spreads throughout the church family. Don’t get me wrong – not everyone in our church prays in a heartfelt manner. In fact, it is very much a learning process, and many in our congregation simply repeat the words without much thought. But, in the voices of others, I can hear the same passion that I feel in my own heart. That passion both binds us together and drives us to learn powerful truths about prayer.

Click here to read the rest of the article on wellplannedgal.com.

Posted in Around the Web, Christmas, Faith Nuggets

What is Advent, Anyway?

‘Tis the season when Advent books and products are everywhere! There are Advent wreaths, Advent calendars, Advent devotionals, Advent Bible studies . . . and the list goes on. But, what exactly is Advent? What does it mean?

Advent Defined

In one of his devotionals, my husband describes Advent as “the idea of coming, of expectation.” Christmas celebrates the incredible moment when Jesus, King of creation, left royalty beyond our imagining to come live as the humblest of humans — all for the sake of mankind’s redemption. Our redemption!

When we celebrate Advent, we do more than simply set aside one day to wish Jesus, “Happy birthday!” We reset our focus over the course of the whole season. Nothing can make Christmas more precious than an increased awareness of what Jesus really accomplished by taking on our flesh.

When is Advent?

Advent begins four Sundays before Christmas and runs through Christmas Day. Because of this, the season can vary in length from twenty-three to thirty-five days, depending on which day of the week Christmas falls.*

Some devotionals and celebration plans also include the Twelve Days of Christmas. No, that is not just an annoying Christmas song! It is, in fact, the time between Christmas and Epiphany (January 6), the day traditionally set aside to honor the Magi’s visit.

How Does One Celebrate Advent?

The celebration is about as varied as the people who celebrate. As long as you are diving into the spiritual significance of the incarnation of Christ on a weekly or daily basis, you are celebrating Advent. But, just in case you need a little more guidance, here are a few suggestions:

Find a Devotional

Advent devotionals range in style from weekly (each of the four Sundays and Christmas Day) to daily. Strive to find one that not only meets your schedule but also has content to appropriately meet your family’s needs.

Light Candles on an Advent Wreath

Advent wreaths, like devotionals, come in many forms, shapes, and sizes. But all Advent wreaths have at least four candle holders. The idea is to light one candle each Sunday of Advent. A fifth, larger candle should fit in the center of the wreath (some wreaths will have a candle holder for the middle). This is the “Jesus” candle, intended to be lit either on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day.

Each Sunday, light one candle. If you have chosen an Advent devotional, read the entry for that Sunday. If not, choose a focus for the season and discuss a portion of it each time you light a candle. Here are some ideas:

  • people of Advent such as the shepherds, Magi, angels, and Mary & Joseph; or Zacharias & Elizabeth, the innkeeper, Anna, and Simeon
  • Messianic prophecies
  • topics such as love, joy, peace, and patience, discussing how they relate to Christmas

Use an Advent Calendar

There are Advent calendars designed to open windows to cute pictures each day, create a manger scene, decorate a tree, discover a surprise, play music, and on and on! Whether you choose one of these or create one yourself, let this be more than just a daily countdown to Christmas Day. Let it be a time when you stop in the midst of the busy season and honestly refocus on the true reason for celebration.

Sing a Carol a Day

There are enough fantastic Christmas songs to pick one a day throughout Advent. Every day, sing or listen to one Christ-centered Christmas song as a family. Then discuss what that song communicates about Jesus and his first coming. (This can also take the place of a topical discussion when lighting the Advent wreath.)

In the words of my pastor husband, “You cannot fail Advent.” As long as you take a moment weekly or daily to step back and consider the truth of Christmas, you are appropriately celebrating Advent.

*This year, 2016, Advent began on Sunday, November 27, and runs a full five weeks. But, it’s not too late to start! 

This article was originally written for Well Planned Gal and published on hedua.com, now wellplannedgal.com. Reprinted with permission.

Posted in Around the Web, Thoughts from Others

The Impact of Story

My job opens the door for me to interact with some fantastic people. Last fall, I had the privilege of interviewing Warren Walsh, Editorial Director for YWAM Publishing, for a pair of Family Magazine articles. This morning, the first of these articles was republished online.

The stories Warren shared express so beautifully the reason I believe strongly in the ability of story to impact lives. This article also shares a fantastic opportunity for ministry this Christmas – one dear to the heart of my family.

Read and enjoy!

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Prison Heroes 101

Stories are the mother tongue and currency of our hearts. This is the stuff with which we do the business transaction of life. It’s worldview. – Warren Walsh

For decades, YWAM Publishing has worked to produce and distribute resources that stir Christians to actively impact their world for Christ. But recently, a door has opened for YWAM to directly partner with their readers to minister in a powerful way through the Prison Heroes 101 project. YWAM Publishing Editorial Director Warren Walsh shares that, in all his years at YWAM, he has “never seen a project that has as much traction as this one does.”

What exactly is the Prison Heroes 101? What does it accomplish? Why is it such a powerful and successful project? And how is it relevant to the HEDUA audience? Family Magazine had the privilege of sitting down with Warren Walsh to discuss these very questions.

Please click here to read the rest of the article.

Posted in Around the Web, Helpful Hints, Homeschooling, What Works for Me

The Great Balancing Act

Sometimes I need to remember what God has taught me in the past. And today, it’s a reminder about balance and making decisions that work best for today, no matter how task- and schedule-oriented I may be. So, instead of writing something new today, I’m going to share with you an article I wrote for Family Magazine last year – one God brought back to my attention this morning to give me the “past lessons” reminder that I needed for today.

Working and Homeschooling: The Great Balancing Act

Homeschooling was once a venture primarily tackled by stay-at-home moms who had no intention of working for income, whether inside or outside the home. Working homeschool moms were relatively rare. But, as homeschooling grows in popularity, more homes experience the juggling act that comes from trying to combine employment and homeschooling.

Every situation is unique. Some children need more attention than others. Some parents work from home while others work outside the home. Some jobs fit into a solid routine; others require flexibility. As a result, there is no one-size-fits-all response when a desperate mother asks for help balancing work and school. But shared experience and wisdom from other work-at-home moms can still offer valuable assistance.

Here are some tips I have gleaned from fellow work-at-home moms:

Click here to read the rest of this article at wellplannedgal.com.