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 Faith Nuggets, Repost, Thoughts, Thoughts from Life, Thoughts from Scripture

Expected Rest

This is part two of the rest series originally published in Arkansas Baptist News.

Recently I shared that God has been teaching me a good deal about rest. I love that the learning never stops. He builds on each lesson, continually growing me. The more I learn, the more I see how much I have left to learn.

Discovering the depths of rest is no exception.

In addition to the surprising lesson that rest is relational, God is showing me more and more that rest is expected. I suppose in the true nature of biblical instruction, I should say that rest is commanded, for that is the reality. Either way, rest is not an option.

But I am just beginning to understand why God expects us to take rest seriously.

What keeps us from resting?

I asked myself that question recently, and I was not too fond of the answer: a lack of trust prevents my rest.

Far too often, I resemble the children of Israel wandering in the desert. They grumbled about the lack of food. So, God sent them manna. But, He told them to collect the manna in a certain way. Five days out of every week they were commanded to collect only what they needed for that day. On the sixth day, their collection was to be enough for two days.

It was illogical. It was improbable. Why would manna that did not last more than twenty-four hours five days a week last forty-eight hours on the sixth day? Had I been among the Israelites, I probably would have obeyed. But I can guarantee you I would have been very skeptical that first week. Even if I took God at His word, it would not have been easy.

But He said to rest on the Sabbath. And He never gives a command or holds an expectation without providing the means for obedience.

That is as true for me today as it was for the Israelites then. God expects me to rest, and He will always provide the way for me to accomplish it.

What about the work I am behind on? What about the little things that have not been done during the week because of other obligations? What about the expectations upon me? What if I let someone down? What if I do not get something done?

Yes, God even has provision for those.

If I choose to not rest, it is because I do not trust Him to take care of everything just as He said He would. And believe me, it feels as improbable, illogical, and unlikely as the preservation of manna. But it is just as expected for me as it was for them.

May we trust Him enough to obey and rest.

Posted in Repost

The Line

The other day I took a few minutes to browse through old journal entries. I laughed as I saw one from almost a year ago. I wrote it not long after we put up the Christmas tree, and a few weeks later I turned those thoughts into a blog post. It was a good reminder to me to reread those thoughts, so I figured I’d share them with you again, too.

Originally posted Jan 2, 2012

Last weekend the Christmas decorations came down. I was definitely ready, but not for the obvious reasons. I love Christmas decorations, and I’m never in a hurry to see them packed away. But, our cat Mina takes some of the pleasure out of them – well, the tree, at least.

Mina has a fixation with being under the Christmas tree. If it was just that she wanted to sit calmly under it, then I don’t think we would be so concerned about it. When Steven was a toddler, mama cat Smokey used to love to escape from his over-anxious little hands by hiding under the tree behind all the gifts. Smokey is a petite, dainty cat. She walks silently and is rarely destructive in any way. So, we had no problems with her being under the tree. Her daughter Mina, however, is just the opposite. Mina plows through life like the proverbial bull in the china shop. And, she’s not content with just resting calmly under the tree. She wants to climb the limbs (which her weight would break) and knock off ornaments. She wants to be right on top of gifts (many of which her weight would crush).

So, our rule is that there are to be no cats under the tree. For the past three Christmases or so, we’ve used a spray bottle to reinforce that rule. If a cat goes under the tree, he or she is sprayed with water. Jack and Smokey learned the rule very quickly and have pretty much decided that the tree isn’t worth the effort. Mina, however, is another story. Every year she seems to be magnetically drawn to that tree. This year was no exception.

The funny thing is that this year Mina found a spot that would allow her to be as close to the tree as possible without actually being under it. She seemed to know right where to lie down to avoid being sprayed, and somehow that magical spot brought her great satisfaction.

One morning, though, she decided to take a bath in that spot. As she moved and bathed, she ended up under the tree, bumping the ornaments. She remained oblivious, convinced that she was still in her “safe” spot.

I didn’t spray her that morning. It wasn’t worth the effort to me. But, I did think about how easy it was for her to “accidentally” end up under that tree simply by her choice to locate herself so close to a spot of danger. Smokey and Jack never ended up even remotely under the tree because they chose other favorite spots throughout the house. But Mina couldn’t handle completely giving up the tree. Because of that choice, she ended up “sinning” just through the normal course of life.

I’m sure you can see where this is going. There are things that we know are wrong. But, we flirt with them. We convince ourselves that it’s okay to be close as long as we don’t fully indulge. We know that there is a point we must not cross. But, we also know that to set up a fence 100 yards behind that point leads to legalism. Since we so greatly want to avoid legalism, we instead go the opposite direction – we live right on the edge. We stay right beside the tree.

What is going to happen when the natural course of our lives bumps us into the tree? I guarantee that happens. When we choose to live right next to the things that we should completely avoid, at some point we will find that we’ve crossed the line. What does that do to us? To our relationship with our Lord? To our influence on others? To our witness?

What if we were to instead just live close to the Lord? What if we were to ignore not only the line right near the temptation, but also any fences that legalism could put up? What if our focus were truly and simply to be as close to Christ as absolutely possible? I guarantee if we did that, we’d never “accidentally” bump that tree.

Last weekend, Mina’s temptation was removed. No more tree means no more lines to accidentally cross. What about us? We can remove our own temptation by being more concerned with being close to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ than to anything else this world has to offer. May we hunger to do so.