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Month: March 2015

That Tricky Thing Called Contentment

That Tricky Thing Called Contentment

“Mom, I can’t wait until I am a grown up!  It takes forever being a kid!” my oldest declared from her booster seat as we drove down the road.  “Oh honey, don’t be in a hurry.  Your time as a child is actually going so quickly!” I replied.

Instantly my mind did a replay of the nearly 8 years since she has been born.  Sometimes it seems like just yesterday and other times it feels like a lifetime ago since she was born!  It is so difficult to imagine our life before we had children!!  What did we do with all of our spare time?

As I pondered the conversation between my daughter and I, I was reminded of when I was a child.  I could not wait to be in high school like my older siblings.  They got to do all the FUN stuff while I was still at home…. just biding my time until I could be in high school!

Once my high school days did arrive I couldn’t wait to be done with them!  Oh I enjoyed being a teenager, but all the “cool” older kids were away at college!  I wanted to be away at college too!!  In high school time seemed to go much quicker than when I was a child and before I knew it my senior year of high school was done and gone and college was here!

While most of my high school classmates stayed close to home God had led me to a college on the other side of the country!  I knew my older sister and brother and no one else on that college campus that seemed really huge.  My first church service at the campus church was overwhelming.  I had NEVER been in a church of that size!!  It was ginormous!

While in college I couldn’t wait to eventually be done with college and move on with “real” life.  Getting married!!  It was going to be amazing!  Once the wedding bells rang it wasn’t long before we desired to have a baby of our own.

Where am I going with all of this?  Good question 🙂

The point is this, being content with right where God has us at this exact moment is not always the easiest thing to do!  It isn’t wrong to have goals and aspirations, but sometimes those things become more important to us than the here and now and we can slip into a state of discontent just that easily.  We find ourselves always looking at what we don’t have, things we want to do but can’t for various reasons, money we want to have/earn, places we want to visit, big beautiful homes we dream to call our own, are you catching my drift?

Contentment can become a struggle when we make the choice to not be thankful for right where we are this very moment.  We can forget to be content when our minds constantly wander to what God has maybe withheld from us instead of focusing on all that He HAS given us.

Paul challenges us in Philippians when he shares with us what God had taught him.  Philippians 4:11-13 say,

Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.  I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.

Can you imagine being content all the time no matter what?

When money is tight, we are still content.  When our home is small, we are still content.  When we long to be married but are not yet, we are still content.  When we desire to have children but God has not opened the womb, we are still content.  When someone else gets the promotion we know we deserved, we are still content.  That is exactly what Paul learned!  Contentment in all things at all times.

Just imagine with me if you will, what if God was to give us everything that we ever wanted or everything we thought we deserved, what would our life be like?  I think it would become easy to not depend on the Lord, it would be a challenge to see how and when God met our needs and even so many of our wants.  We would begin to boast about all that we did or had instead of praise and thank God for giving us what we need!

As a parent I do love to give my children gifts, but I do not give them everything they ever wanted.  Oh goodness, that would be a tremendous mistake!  I can only imagine the greed, selfishness, wrongful attitudes that would develop in them.  I would actually be hindering them instead of helping them!

The same is true of our heavenly Father.  He knows what is best for us.  Solomon, a man that was gifted wisdom by God had it right when he said in Proverbs 30:8-9,

Remove far from me vanity and lies: give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with food convenient for me:Lest I be full, and deny thee, and say, Who is the Lord? or lest I be poor, and steal, and take the name of my God in vain.”

He knew that if God gave him everything he ever wanted his heart would tend to turn away from the Lord.  He only wanted what God knew he needed.  He would learn to be content with what God gave him.

Where does God have us today?  Are we finding ourselves yearning for things He has chosen to withhold?  Are we learning to be content in every situation?  The Lord knows I have much to learn yet in being content.  Discontent can catch me off guard so quickly if I am not careful!  Thank God for the hope and help that He so graciously and constantly offers to us!  Let’s work on being more like Paul and ask the Lord to help us to be content with such things as we have and that in every situation we find ourselves in we will practice the art of contentment!

“Okay Lord, I’m Ready!”

“Okay Lord, I’m Ready!”

“Lord,” I prayed, “I’m ready!!  I’m ready for a relationship!”  I was a Senior in college and though I had had dates throughout my college years, I knew I had not yet met “the one”.

A few years prior I decided to put aside all other books {college books not included 😉 }and in my spare time I would focus solely on reading books that would hAWomanelp teach me about being a Godly woman, wife, and mother.  I started with Elizabeth George’s book, A Woman After God’s Own Heart.  I soaked up the words, I underlined what stood out to me, I gleaned so much from her practical and down to earth writings!  It was the beginning of a beautiful relationship between Elizabeth and I…. one she will probably never know about, but through her writings I began to learn what it meant to be a godly wife.

As I finished one book of hers I would pick up the next and on and on I went.  I yearned to learn how to be a godly woman and eventually wife!

During the first semester of my Senior year at college I poured my heart out to God about it all, once again.  “Lord, you know I have been striving to prepare myself for my future husband!  I feel ready now to meet Him!”

Have you ever felt like you could almost hear Christ audibly speak to you?  During my prayer it was almost as if the Lord audibly said, “You may be ready, but what if he isn’t?”

Whoa.  That thought had never even crossed my mind!  What if he really wasn’t ready for me?

So I picked up my prayer journal and I began praying feverishly for my future husband like I had never done before.  Day after day prayer entries filled up my journal.  I asked the Lord how I should pray for my future husband and do you know that God once again spoke to my heart.  I prayed that God would build his character.  I prayed that if he was going through a trial-some time that his faith would be stretched and that he would become closer to God because of it.  I prayed for him to become a man after God’s own heart.  On and on the prayer journal entries went.  I remember that entire semester I was burdened for my future man, and I didn’t even know who he was!

Every time I would struggle with not having a special someone yet, I would pray for him.

Then January rolled around.  It was my first full week back on campus for the last semester of my Sr. year.  My phone rang and this guy on the other end was asking me to go to dinner with him and some friends.

As time went on and we had more and more dinners together our relationship blossomed and I just knew he was the one God had for me.  He was the one I had been praying for and waiting for.  After a long two hour phone conversation I discovered just why the Lord had me so burdened to pray for him!  I had no idea what he was going through the previous semester and yet, as he told me his story I got more and more excited!!  With each of my prayer journal entries I dated them and do you know that specific days and times I felt burdened to pray for him were the exact days that he was struggling the most?!  How incredible are the ways God works!!

Now that I have been a wife for ten years I know I still have SO much to learn.  However, I am also thankful for the way the Lord worked in my heart to not just be waiting twiddling my thumbs for my future husband to find me, but to get busy learning about becoming the kind of wife he would need.

I truly believe, whether one is single, dating/courting, engaged, or even married, it is wise to continue learning how to be the best Christian woman you can be!  Tuck some good resources on your night stand or coffee table.  Download books to your kindle or onto your phone so when you are somewhere you have to wait, you can be gleaning while you wait.

I love looking back all those years ago and remembering how God brought my husband and I together.  I appreciate the things God taught me before He brought my husband into my life.  I also have wondered about what may have happened had I not headed the prompting of God in my life to pray passionately and purposefully for my future husband.  Great and godly marriages do not “just happen”, but they are always worth the effort put into them!

Checked off my reading list

Checked off my reading list

At the beginning of the year I purposed to read more books this year!  I don’t have a ton of time to sit and read, and for some reason when I do sit down to read it makes me reeeeeally sleepy!  However, I have learned that if I squeeze in some reading time after my Bible reading and prayer in the morning while the house is still quiet, it works great!  I thought I would share a few books with you that I have enjoyed reading and hope they can be an encouragement to you as well!

My disclaimer is this: though I have enjoyed reading most of what is in these books, I do not agree with 100% of their writing.  So as my husband likes to say, “Take what you can but spit out the bones” 🙂  These are great books though and have been encouraging and also challenging!

The first one I read was Give Them Grace.  A great book about learning to give grace to your children.  I had been wanting to read this one and then one day it was free for the Kindle!

givethemgrace

Next, you all know because I have been writing about it 🙂  1000 Gifts is an excellent book!  Learning to give thanks in all things and for all things.  It has truly been life changing!

images.duckduckgo.com

Growing Up Duggar was on my list to read as well and my hubby gave it to me for my birthday!  There are a lot of practical helpful ideas on parenting!  It’s been a good read!

duggar

Parenting In the Pew is not a new read for us, but we have re-read it recently and it was just encouraging.  As a Pastor’s Wife I sit and parent in the pew on my own and sometimes with three children 7, 5, and 2 it can be a little tricky!  This was great to re-read and be reminded of helpful tips when it comes to parenting in the pew with my littles!

parenting

This book, Christ in the Chaos, was gifted to me by a fellow Pastor and his wife.  I love that it isn’t a long book because I feel like I can get through it in a  timely manner 🙂  It was a GREAT read though and packed full of encouraging and challenging thoughts.  I want to be the best mama I can be for my children so books like this are a great encouragement and I find they help to give me just the right push to keep on keeping on!

Christ

Next on the docket for my hubby and I is What Did You Expect.  We are looking forward to diving into that one.  I am on the hunt for my next personal read so let me know if youhave any great suggestions!

Are images are courtesy of duckduckgo.com

To Whom Much Is Given

To Whom Much Is Given

The headlines in America, and really the world, frighten me at times.  I used to be able to watch the news, Fox and Friends was one of my favorites, however, I can’t handle watching it anymore.  I get overwhelmed when I think about everything going on in the world.

Just the other day my husband was telling me about the children that were being stolen away from their families by ISIS and were being sold as sex slaves.  Ripped my heart right out of my chest.  I wanted to weep and demand those children be returned!  I was angered and thought, “Who do they think they are?!  What gives them the understanding that they have the right to steal children and sell them in such gross ways?!”  I wanted to weep for the children, the scared, stolen, and now scarred children.  Oh my heart, it can’t handle it.  I prayed as we drove down the road.  I watched the tree line and pleaded with God to protect children all over this world.  I pleaded that ISIS would be destroyed.  The depth of the evil is truly unfathomable.  It is incredible to think that Christ loves this group of people and longs for them to come to Him as their Savior.

As I live my day to day life I can easily forget about the troubles of the world.  I can make my own troubles seem like mountains when in comparison to the rest of the world it is all rubbish really.  Then when I hear shocking headlines it grounds me once again.  I begin to think about how blessed I really am and begin to wonder why….. I mean I had nothing to do with the family I would be born into, the faith I was brought up in, the country I was born a citizen of.  No, I had nothing to do with that but God had everything to do with it.  When I wonder “why have you chosen this wonderful life for me when so many people are living a life of poverty, pain, they are denied the very essence of Christianity?” one verse comes to mind each and every time.  Right in the middle of Luke 12:48 this is written, “For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required:”

I have been given much, therefore much is required.  When I was born a citizen of America I was instantly given freedoms.  When my mother cradled me in her arms, I was the newest recipient of all that America’s freedoms offer.  As I grew I could freely worship Christ without fear of prison or torture.  I could freely speak of Christ.  I could live my life the way God intended me to live it.  To whom much is given, much is required.

What am I doing with what I have been given?  Am I wasting what I have been gifted with?  Am I becoming a glutton with all of God’s blessings instead of sharing what I have been blessed with? We have been blessed to be a blessing!  If all I was ever given was Christ, I could honestly say I have been given much, yet God has blessed me with Himself and so much more.

He has gifted each of us with time, how are we spending that time?  God has gifted me with a husband, how am I serving and loving him?  God has graciously given us three children, how are we raising them?  Is Christ the center of my very being?

To whom much is given, much is required.

What are we doing with what we have been given?  Does our life show our appreciation of all that we have been given?

I remember a few years back my husband and I were the recipients of an overwhelming gift given to us by someone we hardly knew.  That one persons generosity spurred in me a desire to be a more giving person.  I had felt loved, thought of, and their generosity overwhelmed me, and it caused me to want to be just like that!  To make others feel just as I was made to feel, loved and cared for!  What we were gifted with was earthly though, what Christ has given me is eternal!!  When I think about what Christ has given me, eternal life with Him, His grace, His peace, His provision, oh He has given SO much, how much more should I desire to share that with others!

I may not be able to fix all of the problems in the world, but I know the One who can.  Am I worrying instead of praying?  Do I trust that He really is in control?  Do I trust that one day all will be made right?  That no matter what a certain people group tries to say, no matter how much they try to flex their muscles and show their limited power, one day every knee will bow before Christ.  {Romans 14:11, “For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.“} 

Yes, we have been given much, God has entrusted us with much to use wisely to further His kingdom.  What are we doing with what we have been given?

Grace In Motherhood

Grace In Motherhood

Have you ever forgotten about grace?  I have to be honest and say that I have.

The area I most forget about it is in my own parenting.

In the hustle and bustle of child rearing God knows I long to raise the children He has gifted my husband and I with, to love and serve Him as long as they live.  I can easily carry on with my day-to-day routine of parenting though as if it all depends upon me that these children of mine turn out godly.  I sometimes forget that God is in the equation as well!

I cannot minimize the fact that my husband and I do have a tremendous responsibility to raise them up right, however, it isn’t all on our shoulders.  When I forget about God’s grace I begin to feel overwhelmed with pressure and my imperfections stare me down.  How many times have I said to my husband, “We only have one shot at this and I don’t want to mess them up!!”  I see how much I parent imperfectly and love my children imperfectly because of the imperfectness of me!  I fear that because I’m not the perfect mama to them, I will mess them up and cause them to turn from God.

I forget that God’s grace can make up the difference where I lack.

The truth is, I will always parent imperfectly, and God knew that I would when He made me a Mama.  He knew that when He made me a Mama it would cause me to depend even more on Him.  He knew that when He made me Mama it would reveal crystal clear the selfishness rooted deep in my heart, the pride I have, the “perfectionist” in me would struggle over not being the “perfect” parent, and that ultimately He would use Motherhood to sanctify me and draw me ever closer to Himself.  He didn’t call me to be “perfect”, He knew my children would never be able to handle a “perfect” mama.  He knew that He could use my imperfections to point my children to their need of Him as well.  We are all sinners, we are all in need of His grace, not only His saving grace, but His day-in-day-out plenteous grace!

I’m in the trenches of motherhood.  My children are young and I have no idea how they will actually turn out.  I cling to the promises of God, I plead for wisdom beyond my years, I ask for forgiveness of God and my children when I mess up, and I strive to point my children to the One Who is perfect and has enough grace to go around.

Whether we have a “good” day or a “bad” day in parenting, it does not change my standing before God.  No matter how I parent I will not earn more or less favor with God.  Because I have accepted His free gift of salvation, {Ephesians 2:8-9} the cloak of the righteousness of Jesus Christ is over me.  He took all of my imperfections and sins and placed them on Himself when He hung on that cruel rugged cross.  When God the Father looks at me, all He sees is the righteousness of His only begotten Son.  Oh what grace.

So I’m parenting imperfectly, I love my children imperfectly, but God {I LOVE but God moments!} intervenes and offers grace.  He can make up the difference where I seriously lack and He can use the imperfections of my life to point out their need for Him in the lives of my children.  My imperfections are what God can use to draw my children to His saving grace!  I know I will continue to parent imperfectly because I am a sinner, but God!  Motherhood is sanctifying!

In the middle of parenting, don’t forget about grace!  Work hard being a Mama, pray harder for your children, yourself and your husband, do everything you can to point your children to Him, but don’t forget about God’s grace!

Plumbers, Pedicures, and a Perfect Plan

Plumbers, Pedicures, and a Perfect Plan

“There is no panic in heaven.  God has no problems, only plans.” – Corrie ten Boom

Whenever I am asked what my favorite quote is, that one by Corrie ten Boom is always the one I give.  It speaks deeply to me.  I mean, for a woman who endured such terrible, dire, and hopeless circumstances to be able to say that is amazing.  (Actually, she said tons of amazing things.  What a godly woman!)

Anyhow, for that being my favorite quote, don’t you think I would remember it a bit more when some trial comes into my life?  You would think.  But not so much.  And I had a great reminder of this recently.  Let me share with you….

My birthday was just a few weeks ago.  Now that I am older, birthdays aren’t quite as exciting as they were when I was, say, 6.  But I still enjoy the sweet cards and gifts from my husband and kids.  But I really don’t make a big deal about it.  Anyway, my birthday was on a Sunday so I got lots of “happy birthday!” greetings from my church family.  It was really nice.  Then, a friend asked me if she could treat me to some pampering like a pedicure that following Saturday.  When she asked, I tried to play it cool and say, “Oh, sure that would be fun!”  But inwardly, I was VERY excited as I have never had a true pedicure in my life (you know – the foot soak, massage, warm paraffin wax type).  So, we made plans and I was really looking forward to it!

Fast forward to Friday.  I had been busy doing dishes, laundry, cleaning, and giving two of my kids baths.  I had noticed that our water didn’t seem to be very hot but just passed it off as because I had been using a lot of water that particular day.  Later that evening, just before supper, I turned on the kitchen sink and we had no hot water.  None.  I told my husband and he went down to the water heater to turn it back on.  We have had it randomly shut off on us a few times before.  No biggie.  Except it was a biggie – it would not turn back on this time.  Not at all.  Oh great.  What was the problem?  I didn’t have too much time to think about it as I had to leave to go somewhere for the evening.  So I left and my husband was home with the kids, trying to figure out the problem.

After some investigation, a phone call, and a friend coming over to look, they realized it was not an easy fix.  From what the call with a plumber said and what they had read in the manual, it looked like we were going to have to replace the whole water tank.  The WHOLE THING!

—A side note here is that over the past several months, we have had a lot of expensive things needing to be replaced – including a car! So we have been pretty tight financially and didn’t have any wiggle room.  And what’s worse is that it was after hours.  And we live in a small town where a plumber would have to come from a town farther away.  Which means we would have to not only pay double time for labour, but we would have to pay for mileage too! This news was not welcome at all.

So I’m off at my meeting when I get a text from my husband telling me the bad news.  Immediately I want to cry.  I feel overwhelmed and frustrated.  Why?  Why does it seem like we can’t get ahead?  Why did the stupid water heater have to break?  I guess you can say I started to panic.  When I got home that night, I went to bed and prayed – admittedly half-heartedly.  I just didn’t see how this was all going to work out.  I started thinking of everything in our house that we could sell to get some money.

The next morning I wasn’t any better.  I stood in the kitchen and cried.  I was so overwhelmed.  We had thought about just waiting to call the plumber on Monday, but, when we figured it all out, it really wouldn’t have saved that much money (and honestly, I didn’t want to go several more days without water.  I know – I live in a first world country and I am spoiled…).  So my hubs called the plumber.  And I left to go with my friend for my pedicure.

The place she took me to get our pedicures was a place she had not been before.  When we got to the address we realized it was at someone’s house.  This was a little awkward for us at first, as we walked in and her husband in the kitchen waved at us as we followed her downstairs to her basement.  I was thinking, “What in the world?  Do I really trust this friend?” 🙂

But, when got to the basement, we walked into this beautifully decorated spa room and sat down.  The lady was so friendly, and did a fabulous job on the pedicures.  I was relaxed and enjoyed the conversation.  I was able to forget about the plumbing problems just a bit.

You see, I had been stressed.  I was worried about how WE were going to figure this out.  How WE were going to financially be able deal with this unexpected expense. WE.  I was busy figuring out and forgot to include GOD!  HE had it all figured out.  HE knew this was going to happen.  HE knew how we would pay for it.

And here is where the Perfect Plan was revealed to me.  When we were just starting the pedicures, the lady asked how my friend and I knew each other.  We told her we met at church, that I was the associate pastor’s wife.  And that’s when she said, “Oh!  You know, reading the Bible has been on my bucket list for a long time.  So I just started that this year.”  We both looked at each other – neither of us have ever had a non-church person tell us that reading the Bible was on their “bucket-list.”

And then, throughout the whole two hours we were there, she kept talking about what she had been reading in the Bible, questions she had, and things she was thinking about.  We were able to talk with her about the Bible and God working on our lives.  My friend even whipped out her phone and played a song that has deep meaning on waiting on God. We invited her to the Bible study my hubby and I have each week at our house, and she didn’t just brush it off like most people do.  She was genuinely interested in it and even brought it up again as we were leaving.

My friend “randomly” selected this spa place out of a list of others.  What seemed a little strange for us at first was, I fully believe, actually divinely directed by God.  We were meant to be there.  We were meant to have appointments with that lady (who told us she usually doesn’t do appointments on Saturdays but decided to do them that day for some reason). It was God’s plan.

And the whole time we were doing this, my husband was back at our house with the plumber.  He was a good plumber who was able to fix the parts that were broken without having to replace the whole thing.  And while he was working, he noticed the Bible verses we have up around our house and asked my husband if we were “religious.”  My husband was then able to share for more than 10 minutes about God and what we believe.  And again, there is God’s perfect plan.  God didn’t panic when our hot water went out.  He allowed it to happen so that this particular plumber would come to our house, and would not only get paid double time for his work, but get eternal seeds of God’s Word planted in his heart and mind.

There was no need for me to panic and fret.  God had it all along.  As He always does.  And He always will.  Now, if I can just get it through my thick skull, maybe when trials come into my life, I will handle them a bit better.

Oh, and as for the finances – with the help of warranties and very generous people – God is taking care of that too.

~Emily

Counting My Blessings Has Changed My Heart!

Counting My Blessings Has Changed My Heart!

I’ve been on this journey of purposeful thanksgiving for nearly 3 months now.  I have since finished up the book 1000 Gifts.  Wow.  Amazing.

Have you ever stopped and just sought for blessings?  Have you ever asked God to peel the scales away from your eyes so that you could see Him at work?

When I began my journey I was excited but I wondered if I could really keep it up.  Skeptical of me for sure, but I know how I am!  Sometimes things (like working out!) sound exciting and fun and NEW, but then life settles in and sometimes those new things become not so enjoyable!  After working out your muscles are sore and sometimes you can barely move!  So this journey God sent me on has been indeed life changing.

I’m looking at my list of growing gifts and am overwhelmed with thankfulness.  Thankful in the midst of chaos.  Seeing God answer prayers and to revel in the fact that He is indeed answering prayers!   When I see my attitude beginning to go south the Holy Spirit prompts me to seek for the gift in the moment.

I love the quote on page 176 of One Thousand Gifts that says, “While I may not always feel joy, God asks me to give thanks in all things, because He knows that the feeling of joy begins in the action of thanksgiving….. joy doesn’t negate all other emotions—- joy transcends all other emotions.”

When I choose to not be thankful and rejoice in all things I am choosing to reject what God is giving in that moment.

Wow. Powerful right?

On page 177 Ann Voskamp states, “Pride slays thanksgiving… A proud man is seldom a grateful man, for he never thinks he gets as much ad he deserves”  I can turn to Scripture and what does Christ say about pride? James 4:6 “But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.”

The Lord resists pride.

Could it be in part because we become unthankful and begin to complain and wag our fingers in the face of our Creator demanding things we believe we deserve?

Oh help us Lord!

Pride is the easy road because it comes naturally through our flesh.  Joy takes work!  Joy takes humility, thanksgiving requires humility.  A sacrificing of our flesh, which can often be a painful process.  Yet, it is a path worth taking!

Seeing the Lord transform my heart has been incredible.  I wish that I had learned to be more thankful long long ago, but no use looking back.  The past is done and all I can do it reach forward to what is ahead!  Each day I look forward to adding more and more blessings to my list of gifts and as I scan through them I can’t help but think, “Lord, you really do daily load us up with blessings!”

Now I pass the challenge over to you!!  Get some paper and a pen and begin to list your blessings!  Name them one by one and you will begin to see what the Lord has done!