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A Duet:  A composition between two people: Let it be of love and a relationship webbed tight like our DNA.

She is four. I look at her and I see the blank slate…I see the purity and innocence of a good and perfect gift, untouched and untainted by the world. She is a child, and so she rushes through life with unbound joy, with little fear, experiencing, trying to stretch the boundaries.

I am to be her guide as she shines her light on this world and her guide, as also, in time, this world threatens to swallow her whole with all of its darkness. No small task.

What if I fail?

She watches me. Her eyes follow as I teach her and her reactions apply what I have modeled. We are symbiotic: she brings me the greatest of joys and I clumsily scuff out the misbehavior, the strong-willed leanings of a four year old, helping her to learn His love, extending her all of mine.

Is there enough? Enough in all that I show her…teach her. I am to her, the teacher and the doer of The Word, the mother whose primary task is to love her unconditionally.

I want to protect her always. I want to shield her from all the darkness because I know for her to pierce through she will have to walk through it…the darkness of the world. When she is called out I will have to trust because it will not be for me to be the bushel that hides her lamp.

My life finds me rushing…always running to the next thing. She is my oldest and I sling responsibilities and expectations at her. I’m afraid of missing our duet…the story that she and I are supposed to be creating together. My loving her never stops, but its cultivation often gets swept aside …making room for other urgent, time devouring needs. So how can I make time to be the best part of her life song that I can be?

For now,

It is making the time to know her. I want to encourage and love her developing personality: take an interest in her interests…my four year old dinosaur loving girl.

It is affirming her qualities of excellence…she is the best big sister to her baby sister that she can possibly be, and to encourage her developing qualities. She needs to be positively praised…to hear me say it.

I want to build her confidence…teaching her she doesn’t have to conform to fit and that she is precious in both His sight and in mine.

It is for her to see me putting my faith into action. She needs to see me doing the right and Godly things. She needs to see me be a servant.

It is for me to be patient with her. It is too easy for me to make her my battering ram…she is the oldest and somehow that makes her a target for my impatience.

It is for me to use wisdom as I train her. This one takes me crying out daily as I struggle to find discipline tailored to each child and their needs.

It is for me to share her life song…to take time for the afternoon tea party she asked me for, to listen to her story, to play baby dolls with her, to make her feel as special as she really is.

This is all just a reminder to myself to remember to take the time and not to miss out on our time…time that slips away so fast. A reminder to be the mother who guides her daughter as she begins composing her song so that as time passes the life-words that fill up her slate are words such as these…

Christ, Servant, Love, Faith, Humility, Courage, Forgiveness

May the words of her life be a love song to Him.

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Our afternoon tea party.

Christ in Christmas

My just turned two year old son calls Santa Clause something that comes out like, “Nanny Bots.” So cute. He loves the big bellied, jolly old man.

Both of my young children are so enthusiastic and cute about Christmas this year…probably the first they have been old enough to really understand and enjoy. They helped put up the tree, make all the goodies, set out decorations and even wrap some presents.

Myself. I love Christmas and I do like Santa Clause. I love the charm, sweetness and magical joy he represents. The thing is, I teach my kids that he isn’t real, instead that he is pretend like a fairy tale.

I love the Christmas tree, the heirloom ornaments, the beauty of it, the joy of putting it up with my children. But what does the tree represent exactly? How does it bring honor to Christ during a time of celebrating His birth?

The gift giving. This is probably my favorite part of Christmas. I love shopping for just the right gift to wrap and tuck under the tree, to be opened and enjoyed by the people I love most  before the sun rises on Christmas morning. For a child, it’s hard to beat the thrill of all the presents under the tree. Whether or not we teach that Santa brought them, what a magical and joyous time for children. But how does giving and receiving gifts help them remember Christ?

I do celebrate Christmas. There is hardly a time of year that I enjoy more. I do, however, understand why many don’t celebrate, as is the choice of several sweet families and friends that I know and love dearly.

Here is why I understand their hesitation and have questions of my own: no matter how much I teach my youngsters about the meaning of Christmas being about the birth of Jesus they still learn how to say “Santa Clause” before they voice the name of our Savior.

We all realize how Christmas is commercialized. Businesses thrive as shoppers flock to their wares. Parents spend small fortunes on purchasing just the right toys for their kids. Decorations go up symbolizing Santa as the head figure of the holiday. We overeat, and all the while our children are absorbing everything, much like snow absorbs the sweet syrup when we make our snow ice cream.

The question is, how do we celebrate Christmas and keep Jesus as the focus during our festivities?

I don’t claim to have this all figured out. My own kids often lack in focus and remembrance and there is no one more at fault than myself in spite of my efforts. After all, they learn what I model and teach them.

Here are some thoughts and ideas, though, on how to teach our children about the real reason for celebrating Christmas:

Books! There are so many that tell the story of Christmas. Here are a few:

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The Donkey's Christmas Song

Movies: I’m sure there are many more, but here are a few that my kids watch:

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Church: I teach the children at my church and I put as much focus as I can on teaching about God during the holidays. This is an opportunity for boys and girls who may not ever have been taught about Christ during Christmas to learn, and for children who do know, to strengthen and increase their knowledge.

Remind and teach them: I find myself repeating over and over things like, “Santa sure is neat, but he isn’t real and remember that we are celebrating the birth of Jesus. What is the name of the town Jesus was born in? What kind of bed did He sleep in.”

Create a family tradition on Christmas Eve and Day: On Christmas Eve my dad always read us the nativity story. Try this passage Luke 2:1-20. Even as a young child I felt the sacredness of remembering while he read aloud. There were times, also, when we turned off the lights in the house and left only the flame of a candle burning. The flame reminded us of the Star of Bethlehem and of Jesus and it was simply a time to meditate on these things and a time of worship. All of these are memories from my childhood that I still treasure and they helped to teach me the meaning of Christmas.

Limit the amount and elaborateness of the gifts our children receive: I hope I’m not failing at this one. I really have to reign myself in here, as I want to buy them presents I know they will love. I do believe that it is wise to keep the gifts simple. Our kids do not need every expensive toy on the market they desire, no matter the time of year or celebration! Also, whether or not you tell them that Santa brought them the gifts is a choice you have to make as a parent, but we choose not to for our family. I also love the idea of having my children hand make gifts to give. *Cough* Maybe I will get to this one next year, but here are some ideas I love!

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Homemade snow globes!

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Woodland animal felt ornaments. I have actually purchased the felt for this project, but have just never sat down to work with my children to make them…someday…*sigh*

Giving! Oh, this category is huge. I cannot wait to involve my children more and more in this aspect of Christmas in the years to come. There are so many ways to give and to involve kids in it. Here is a list with links of some of my favorites:

Operation Christmas Child. Have your kids participate in packing shoeboxes full of gifts that will be sent to children in desperate need somewhere around the globe. Through the gift, the recipient will hear the salvation messages and be touched by the gifts they were given. http://www.samaritanspurse.org/index.php/OCC/

Local food drives: at least in our community, this is a big deal. There are multiple places to donate food items for those in need. Kids can use some of their allowance money or gift money to help purchase food to be donated.

Reece’s Rainbow: This is a fantastic charity. It is a website that helps build grants and raise awareness for children all over the world with special needs who are waiting to be adopted. When you give a financial gift to this ministry during their Angel Tree program you can receive a Christmas ornament with a picture of the child on it that you donated toward.  http://reecesrainbow.org/

Adopt a Family: You have to have some connections and know of just the right family to do this, but it is possible. Find a family in your community that needs some extra help around Christmas. Buy them groceries and gifts for the holidays.

Purchase gifts for someone living in intense poverty: Samaritan’s Purse Gift Catalog: You can purchase practical gifts to send to needy children and families all over the world. For example, buy a cow or purchase mosquito nets. https://www.samaritanspurse.org/index.php/Giving/gift_catalog/

You can also do this through Compassion International: http://www.compassion.com/catalog.htm

and World Vision: http://donate.worldvision.org/OA_HTML/xxwv2ibeCCtpSctDspRte.jsp?section=10389

If you already sponsor a child through one of these ministries they give you the option to purchase and/or send extra money for a Christmas gift for your sponsored child.

For even more ideas on giving, Ann Voskamp writes about teaching her children to be grateful during Christmas at her blog: http://www.aholyexperience.com/2012/12/the-grateful-christmas-project-7-ways-to-have-more-grateful-kids-this-christmas/

 

My friend, Krysten, also blogged some great ideas for Christmas and giving during the holidays over at her site:

http://restoringoldpaths.blogspot.com/search/label/Things%20I%27m%20an%20advocate%20for.

 

Be creative and diligent with your own ideas for teaching your kids about what Christmas is really about.

I’d love to hear your ideas and add them to what I teach my kiddos!

Merry Christmas!

I have heard people say that after abstaining from sugary foods for an extended period of time they stop craving the sweet stuff altogether. This is not anything I have ever experienced. Rather, I crave food that is bad for my body ravenously. I do this because I have a habit and I have never put forth the effort to discipline my mind and body to reign in my cravings and heal myself of the need. Of course it’s not just sugar. I crave all sorts of processed, overly salted, fatty goodies and I regularly indulge…but doesn’t nearly everyone? Surely my intake ranks far below the overindulgence of that person over there ordering a large vanilla cone after they finished their Big Mac Meal. Goodness! I would never consider such a thing. Too many calories! My moderate self-control, combined with the comparison to another junk food junkie helps to dampen my guilt and makes me feel better. After all, I left like five over-cooked french-fries in the bottom of the box. Ah ha! See, I do have the self control to not completely stuff myself with food that is harmful to me…I’ll just sneak in some chocolate a little later to cut the salt and grease residue left in my mouth from the fried food. I’m still doing good, right?

I justify a lot of things through the phrase, “everything in moderation.” What that tells me is that if I show at least a little control, then I can safely indulge in nearly whatever bad habit I choose. I wonder, though, if true moderation is a lot more drastic and requires a lot more discipline than that. Maybe the only way  to really control what I crave is to completely abstain from it. Alas, but where in the world will that willpower come from? I certainly don’t come by it naturally.

But this post is not just about junk food. I realized this morning that I give in to other temptations in a way similar to my dependency on  food that is ultimately poisonous to my body.

Aside from food, my brain is also addicted to what is unhealthy for both my spirit and mind, and oh how I feed those insatiable habits.

And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. (Phil. 4:8)”

I spend so much of my thought processing doing the complete opposite of this. I lack discipline of my thoughts in the same manner that I lack control of my body’s cravings. I have realized that my mind is as ravenous an animal as my body. The more it tastes something bad for it the more it begins to crave. For example, there is so much junk food for our brains available to entertain us. Yes, we may get large enjoyment from indulging in a book we should never be reading, or watching a movie we should never have even begun, but there is never any long term satisfaction in it. Instead, giving into the temptation to feed ourselves with trash only causes us to crave more of it and with more intensity.

Junk entertainment isn’t the only way to feed and poison our minds. We/I can also indulge ourselves with ugly thoughts. Thoughts like these,

“I am so angry with that person because they did this to me.”

Or, “I hate the way I look. It’s not fair that she inherited perfectly slender legs and with my genes I’m stuck with legs that bulge out of my jeans.”

“If I had been given the same opportunities as them I could be just as successful.”

“Why doesn’t he ever listen to me?! He just doesn’t care.”

“I never have time for myself. I have to give all of my time and efforts to everyone else.”

These are just a tiny sampling of junk food thoughts. I’m sure I could think of a million more to regularly feed and indulge in. And like “Connect the Dots,” when I begin with one bitter thought I usually and easily connect it to another thought and unforgiven circumstance until I have worked myself into a state of bitterness and anger. Not a pretty picture!

Ugly thoughts like these might give us temporary satisfaction. Sort of like the “satisfaction” a toddler gets when throwing a tantrum because he didn’t get what he wanted. However, if those thoughts and actions are left unleashed they are incredibly destructive to us and just like the toddler, if we aren’t disciplined, one bad behavior will lead to the next and will probably be even tougher to beat. Like sugary foods, ugly thoughts are addictive and one taste will probably lead to another taste and then another, leading to dependency and overindulgence.

How can we control this war of both mind and body? I sometimes feel so completely defeated in all aspects. I am the last person who should lecture on maintaining a healthy diet and what steps to use in avoiding unhealthy foods. However, it really boils down to temptation and giving into a sinful nature just like surrendering to impure and unhealthy thoughts and means of entertainment.

Therefore, we can first seek God. He never promised that we alone would be strong enough to resist temptations, but He did say that with His help we have that strength. Memorizing and repeating scripture will help when we are confronted with bitter thoughts and unhealthy cravings. For me, keeping my “house clean” also dramatically helps. To explain, when my house is empty of junk food I can easily resist a temptation that I don’t have access to. In the same way, I can try and keep my thoughts clean. I can avoid entertainment that serves only to tear down instead of build up (truthfully, I am terribly uncommitted to this one in some aspects,) and I can realize that indulging in an ugly thought will probably lead to a buildup of anger and that I should quell the thought before it dirties my “house.”

There are so many awesome scriptures that deal with resisting temptation. Here are just a few that might be committed to memory and repeated when needed:

1 Corinthians 10:13
No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.

Psalm 119:11
I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.

Matthew 26:41
Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.

Luke 11:4
Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us. And lead us not into temptation.

Luke 22:45-46
When he rose from prayer and went back to the disciples, he found them asleep, exhausted from sorrow. “Why are you sleeping?” he asked them. “Get up and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.”

James 4:7
Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.

To Be at Rest

“Virtually all violence originates with the power of darkness.”~ Jesus the One and Only

12 Dead and at Least 50 Wounded.”

That headline screams at us from our computer screens and televisions today as our hearts hit the floor and we try to comprehend the senseless taking of these lives. Sorrow climbs up my throat and spills out my eyes as I try to grasp the horror of it…

This young man, what doors did he open to be filled with such violence, the unstoppable urge to terrorize and destroy? …”Do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil. (Eph. 4:26) How much anger must have possessed him that he allowed such an opportunity?

His family, what incomprehensible sorrow and regret they must be feeling.

The victims…Is there a spectator in our country who isn’t completely devestated for them? Lord, “Bless() those who mourn for they shall be comforted.”

Immediately I react with fear. We are not safe. My children are growing up in a world diseased with violence and terrorism. As I stare at the computer screen and read about the tragedy this word keeps beating in my mind: chaos. Our world is in chaos.

But…

God has given us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. (2 Tim. 1:7)

On behalf of our world, for those who suffer from violence and those who cause it, cry out with me to the Prince of Peace. “For God is not a God of disorder but of peace (1 Cor.14:33.)”

We must turn our hearts toward God. We must pray and remember that for now satan is “the ruler of this world…but he will be cast out(John 12:30.)”

We must put on the full armor of God: “10 Finally, be strong in the Lord   and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God,   so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood,   but against the rulers, against the authorities,   against the powers   of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God,   so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist,   with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith,   with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation   and the sword of the Spirit,   which is the word of God.18 And pray in the Spirit   on all occasions   with all kinds of prayers and requests.   With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying   for all the Lord’s people. (Eph. 6:10-18)”

Trust in His promises. For, “The Lord Almighty is with us, the God of Jacob is our Fortress (Psalms 46:7)”

 “If you look at the world, you’ll be distressed. If you look within, you’ll be depressed. If you look at God you’ll be at rest.”  ―    Corrie Ten Boom

 

I’m writing this while I sit on the front porch swing and look out. It is a beautiful day. I mean gorgeous. About 80 degrees, with the sun shining and a breeze that just tickles the grass. From where I sit I can see and hear so much and it is lovely. I am soaking in the sky, trees, the pond with fish ripples, the flag waving from our front porch, the sandbox where the kids play…and I can hear a lot, too.

Where are you sitting right now and what can you see?

Today, right at this moment, the view I have is nearly perfect. It isn’t always so. Actually, this is sort of a rare few minutes for me. Typically there is just too much activity…the push to accomplish everything…for me to even focus on the whole view. I’m usually zeroed in a task and afraid to take my eyes off two accident prone toddlers for even a second. My vision gets pretty narrow sometimes.

In a similar manner, our emotional and spiritual vision can become narrowed. It’s like we are so focused on an issue, a problem, a stress, a hurt, an anger, an unforgiven…that it’s like we’re studying it under a microscope. It fills our central vision, and short of glancing up from time to time, we can’t see -think- of anything else. That sort of focus can be poison. Like our spiritual vision is becoming clouded with glaucoma and cataracts.

And to illustrate…

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Still on the front porch and this picture is an extreme close-up of a geniune, blood sucking, Arkansas tick. I abhor these creatures that carry disease and leave itching sores wherever they attach themselves. I took this picture just now to help illustrate my point. The limited focus of my snapshot captures mainly the tick. If I hadn’t just pointed it out, you may have never noticed (in my blurry photo) the fields in the background, the green trees, the sunlight, the panoramic beauty…the big picture.

How easy it is to allow our problems to take over our vision in a manner almost exactly this. So much of the good becomes obscured when an issue becomes a mountain we can’t see past.

Let us try and and open our eyes to see beyond what is dragging us down. More importantly, we should begin by trusting God to handle whatever the problem is. Because, no matter where you are standing, even with the best view in the world, all that your mind’s eye can behold is miniscule compared to the view He has. He sees that problem you have and He sees beyond it, too. He knows what is behind it and everything that surrounds it.

“God’s viewpoint is sometimes different from ours – so different that we could not even guess at it unless He had given us a Book which tells us such things….In the Bible I learn that God values us not for our strength or our brains but simply because He has made us.”
Corrie Ten Boom, The Hiding Place

Don’t forget, “He’s got the Whole World in His Hands.” His control over every situation is immaculate and He is simply waiting for us to surrender our troubles…our ALL…to Him. In return, He makes everything glorious…

“You Make Everything Glorious

The day is brighter here with You

The night is lighter than it’s hue

Would lead me to believe

Which leads me to believe

You make everything glorious

You make everything glorious

And I am Yours

What does that make me?

My eyes are small but they have seen

The beauty of enormous things

Which leads me to believe

There’s light enough to see that

You make everything glorious

You make everything glorious

And I am Yours

~ The David Crowder Band

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KuGRaCrg9hE

Splitting

After much consideration I have finally decided to split this blog into two different sites. I intend to use this site for journaling and writing in general, while the second site: http://rebekahhome.wordpress.com/, will be where I post recipes, homemaking tips, etc. Things were just getting too confusing having everything all lumped into one site. I’m excited about this new step!

Perfectly Yielded

The water was just sitting there above the moist, saturated ground. The water wasn’t agitated, it had been untouched since the rain that had caused it to fill up the small cavity of ground. It was just a puddle,

but it was a puddle with potential.

Watching from the window I had view as the oldest child started with a few sticks and rocks. The youngest watched…for a while. The water splashed and spread as my two young children used it to explore sink or float, swirly patterns and the feel of wet.

But I had told them not to get wet.

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The submerged sticks and rocks soon gave way  to underwater toes and playful water splashes. The two were in the water now and fully enjoying the sensory experience. Only, now the water had become something else. It looked like brownie mix all stirred up and ready for baking. The water had become squishy, brown mud and four little feet were muddy too, past the ankles.

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But it wasn’t just their feet;  hands and faces looked like they had been used to help clean a brownie bowl, too.

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The water play had turned to mud play and it had become more delightful for the children and much, much dirtier.

Remember, they had been told not to get wet.

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Sin can have appeal like that. It can look innocent and desirable. We can start to poke at it and feel regret, but not be able to avoid the temptation of it. We begin to dig deeper and it covers us more completely. Sometimes we forget to repent and lean on the One who makes “all things possible through Him.” Our sin dabbling can turn into a full body plunge into darkness and spiritual death.

Judas started with a few dips of his hands into the moneybag. A bag that was used for the ministry of Jesus. He stole the money and turned the value of riches into something more desirable than anything to him. But with his greed he had stirred the pot and the money had also become something black and dirty, a gateway for the devil himself and an unimaginable betrayal.

Sin is inevitable. At some point we will fall flat with our face in a mud puddle. We will sin and it will happen because of our imperfect human nature, the original sin and the lies and deceit of Satan. We “all fall short of the Glory of God.” What then should we do? How can we become clean again and wash it all off; protect ourselves from doing it again?

Look at the sin of David. He was “a man after God’s own heart,” but he more than fell flat on his face. He committed a sin that seems unforgivable. How did he differ from Judas? David became broken. He repented and begged God for forgiveness from a heart that was truly sorry for what he had done. Through the process of repentance he also trusted God and realized that his only hope of being saved from sin so thick that it must have been suffocating was through the absolute grace and forgiveness of God. David pulled himself up out of the mud and was washed clean. Then he yielded himself in the right way, to the heavenly father. God knows our hearts and he knows if we are truly repentant and ready to rely on Him. Read more here: http://wp.me/pNOi4-8G

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Yield to Him.

The first thing I must be willing to admit when I begin to examine what controls and dominates me is that I am the one responsible for having yielded myself to whatever it may be. If I am a slave to myself, I am to blame because somewhere in the past I yielded to myself. Likewise, if I obey God I do so because at some point in my life I yielded myself to Him.

If a child gives in to selfishness, he will find it to be the most enslaving tyranny on earth. There is no power within the human soul itself that is capable of breaking the bondage of the nature created by yielding. For example, yield for one second to anything in the nature of lust, and although you may hate yourself for having yielded, you become enslaved to that thing. (Remember what lust is— “I must have it now,” whether it is the lust of the flesh or the lust of the mind.) No release or escape from it will ever come from any human power, but only through the power of redemption. You must yield yourself in utter humiliation to the only One who can break the dominating power in your life, namely, the Lord Jesus Christ. “. . . He has anointed Me . . . to proclaim liberty to the captives . . .” (Luke 4:18 and Isaiah 61:1).

When you yield to something, you will soon realize the tremendous control it has over you. Even though you say, “Oh, I can give up that habit whenever I like,” you will know you can’t. You will find that the habit absolutely dominates you because you willingly yielded to it. It is easy to sing, “He will break every fetter,” while at the same time living a life of obvious slavery to yourself. But yielding to Jesus will break every kind of slavery in any person’s life.

~ Oswald Chambers

“…you are that one’s slave whom you obey…” (Romans 6:16)