Gratitude: Filling the Half-Empty Cup

A few days ago, my glass didn’t just look “half-empty” to me. Life seemed like a half-empty glass with suspicious-looking water inside and white streaks from an unsuccessful round in the dishwasher splotched on the outside.

Nothing seemed to be going right. Exhaustion and discouragement joined forces and all I felt like doing was complain.

6:30 p.m. rolled around. I’d shed many tears that day, but hadn’t spent an ounce of thought on dinner. The day had slipped through my fingers and we were already way behind my desired schedule. Annoyed, I started to grumble to myself.

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Then the verse “In everything give thanks,” came to mind.

Give thanks that I’m going to serve dinner late, again? It seemed both too annoying and too small of a deal to have to worry about.

And then my eyes were opened to just how much this simple complaint took for granted: that Joshua joins us for dinner cheerfully no matter the time or menu, that the kiddos were still playing happily together without the normal pre-dinner meltdowns, that I had plenty of food to serve and fresh salad from the garden, and for health to enjoy the meal.

As gratitude filled my heart, the complaining melted away. Even the real problems we were facing shrunk from monstrosities back down to their actual small size, because you can’t complain while actively giving thanks.

My half-empty cup was filled to the brim.

“In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” 1 Thess. 5:18

 May be linked up at Mama MomentsGrowing HomeWalking Redeemed, & Graced Simplicity

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Bible Reading with the Church Calendar

For about two years, we’ve read through the stories of the Bible (straight from the Bible) at the breakfast table roughly following the church calendar. This week we start over again in Genesis.

Why? On Sunday, churches around the world celebrated Pentecost—the day when Jesus fulfilled His promise to send the Comforter to His people.

After anticipating the arrival of the Messiah during Advent, then celebrating His birth, ministry, death, resurrection, and ascension, Pentecost marks the end of the special season of the Church calendar that focuses on the different aspects of Christ’s life on earth.

Reading through the Bible

Reading the Bible aloud with the children each morning has been such a blessing to me. Attempting to follow the beautiful flow of the Church calendar has also been such a blessing.

Like the feasts in the Old Testament that highlight God’s saving care of His people, the Church calendar highlights the foundation of our faith: Jesus. It also helps keep us from focusing on one aspect of Jesus’ life (like His suffering) while neglecting the others (like His resurrection). I’m not sure about you, but it’s easy for me to get caught up in my favorite stories or passages. Following the church calendar is one method for focusing on the entirety of the grand story and “anchor[ing] our scattered stories in the story of Jesus.” (Jack King)

We don’t have an elaborate Bible reading plan. It’s quite simple:

  • From Pentecost through Advent, we read stories from the Old Testament anticipating the coming of Jesus.
  • At Christmas we begin reading through the Gospels and continue until Easter.
  • From Easter till Pentecost, we read about God’s working in His Church in Acts (and the rest of the New Testament, if we get to it).

This is our third time to start at the very beginning. The first year we barely made it through Exodus by Christmas-time. Last year we read from Genesis through Second Samuel. Hopefully we’ll get to the story of Jonah this year.

More than that, hopefully the story of the Gospel will not only shape our Bible-reading time, but our lives.

Do you have a favorite method to teach the story of Jesus to your children? 

May be linked up at Mama MomentsGrowing HomeWalking RedeemedGraced Simplicity, & Proverbs 31

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Everything to God in Prayer

A few days ago I discovered horrible tooth decay while brushing one of the kid’s teeth. I’m not sure how it developed so quickly and without loud complaint, but it was quite disturbing. If a dentist’s office would have been open then, I would have made an appointment immediately.

Instead, I fretted and tossed and turned in bed that night until the hymn fragment “everything to God in prayer” ran through my mind. I committed the dental problem (and my guilt at not discovering it sooner) to God and drifted off to a peaceful sleep.

The next morning we got an appointment with a great dentist who took care of the problem immediately. On the way home, I began thinking about the brand new baby chicks we’d bought the day before. My sister was baby-and-chick-sitting, but I couldn’t reach her to make sure she’d given them fresh water.

Once again, the temptation to worry arose. Once again the words “everything to God in prayer” combatted them.

God cares about the details of our lives and wants us to talk to Him about them, as we would to our father or brother or friend.

As Christians we should pray earnestly and fervently for the many great and pressing needs around us. But as Corrie ten Boom so beautifully said, “There is nothing too great for God’s power, nothing too small for His love.”

Even though the hearts of kings are in His hands and He decrees the destinies of nations, He is not offended when we bring our children’s dental problems or even our baby chicks before His throne.

What a Friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer!
O what peace we often forfeit, O what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry everything to God in prayer.

Breaking My Own Little Bubble

Do you ever feel like you are living in a sort of bubble. A safe, happy bubble constructed of your own cares and duties?

I do. Sometimes my own simple joys and petty troubles fill my days. I grow content to teach my children, spend time with family and friends, make garden plans, experiment in the kitchen and simply enjoy being a homemaker, without a thought to the outside world.

Teaching, cooking, gardening, and investing in the lives are my children are all good things. Things that I believe I should be doing at this stage in my life as I seek to be a faithful wife and mother.

The trouble comes when I get so caught up in my own little bubble, that I lose sight of the needs of the Church and lost around the world.

My calling doesn’t end at wife and mother. As a daughter of the King, I am commanded to love the saints, pray for those in bonds, and seek to save the lost.

With four little ones committed to my care, it’s difficult to find ways to be actively involved. I can’t think of many ministries that would jump at the prospect of four children under six joining me for an afternoon of volunteering. But volunteering isn’t the only way to break free of our own little bubbles.

Be informed:

Some mornings I wish I could hide my head under the covers and hold off facing the many demands of the day a few more minutes. Sometimes I wish that by ignoring the news or avoiding stories of the hardships of believers globally the problems would fade away. Neither tactic works. The needs are real and urgent.

Opening our minds to the needs of the world helps break us free from our own little bubbles to bear the burdens of believers globally.

Pray:

God commanded us to “bear one another’s burdens” but also to cast our “burdens on the Lord.” Oftentimes there is little or nothing you or I can do to solve a problem. Thankfully even the kings’ hearts are in God’s hands and He moves through the prayers of His people. Depressing news shouldn’t drive us to despair. It should drive us to God’s throne.

Share:

“He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep, to gain what he cannot lose,” said Jim Eliot, a missionary who gave his life to spread the gospel. Ten out of ten will die and we can’t take anything with us. All we have comes from God’s hands. He has called us to acknowledge that with open hands and purse strings.

 Linked up at Mama MomentsGrowing HomeWalking RedeemedGraced Simplicity, & Proverbs 31

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Busy With the Right Things

The phone rings just as baby wakes up with a blood-curdling scream and drowns out his big sibling’s urgent calls for help from the bathroom. Momentarily ignoring the phone and the baby, you rush to the bathroom but on your way, have to break up an escalating argument between the other siblings.

Nobody said this mothering thing was a piece of cake.

Life as a mom of little ones is busy. Usually all the children don’t desperately need you at the exact same moment (thank goodness!), but there are always things clambering for attention.

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I was feeling overwhelmed by the constant bombardment of needs and the list-of-things-I-want-to-do that kept growing, not shrinking, when God used Facebook as His instrument of encouragement.

I was glancing over my news feed before bed when a friend’s status jumped from the screen, “Lord, help me be busy with the right things.”

Life with four little ones IS busy, especially because I’m teaching part-time at Rose’s two-day-a-week classical school and homeschooling the rest of the week. Countless times over the past couple weeks, this prayer has come to mind.

“Lord, help me be busy with the right things.”

  • Sometimes choosing “the right things” means settling for a super simple dinner plan so that I have time to cuddle on the couch and read books to Meg or dropping everything to kiss a hurt finger.
  • Sometimes it’s meant choosing joy while Rose and I plod through a subject or neglecting this blog (again) so that we can have a “date” while the other kids nap.
  • Sometimes it’s meant pausing in the midst of a busy day and ignoring the mess for a moment to be still.
  • Sometimes it’s simply highlighted the fact that dirty dishes and laundry are a part of life and the right thing to do at the moment (and I might as well sing about it!)

Busyness is inevitable. Let’s make sure we’re busy with the right things.

[Katie, my heartfelt thanks for your simple status. It’s blessed me far more than you know!] 

Linked up at Mama MomentsGrowing HomeEncourage One AnotherWalking RedeemedGrace Simplicity, & Proverbs 31

Remember God’s Faithfulness

Forgetting. It’s something we humans are so good at. Each time I read through the book of Exodus, humanity’s forgetfulness strikes me again: God just barely finishes making a rock gush with water, when the people of Israel want meat. Instead of just asking for God for it, they get ready to stone Moses. Pretty much the whole book is filled with miracles followed by forgetting and whining.

I can scarcely help shaking my head in disbelief as I read the story.

And then I remember my own life and how many, many times God has shown Himself strong on my behalf, only for me turn around the next day and complain about a problem without even thinking to pray about it.

Over and over in the Scriptures God tells His people to remember His might acts, both in history and our own lives.

Since it’s so easy for me to forget, I thought I’d record one of my favorites stories of God answering prayer for me.

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The Sunday after we moved to Alabama for Joshua to start law school, we sat in the cold bleachers of a new church. I tried to pay attention to the sermon, but failed. I was homesick and completely unprepared for Josh to begin the crazy schedule of a law school student.

As I sat there I thought about how much I would love to tutor history or English to a few homeschool students. Not only would it provide a little income, but I love teaching and since I’d left behind seven younger siblings, I desperately wanted the chance to be involved in the lives of other young people.

Nothing’s impossible with God, but this was so unlikely it hardly seemed worth praying about. Aside from a very sweet cashier at Walgreens whose only son was grown, I knew the names of about two people (Joshua’s professors). The school year was getting ready to start, I’m a horrible marketer, and I was sure I was simply too late.

This train of thought wasn’t helping my loneliness, and I tried to pull my attention back to the sermon.

After the sermon ended, Southern hospitality was beautifully displayed as members of the congregation came up and welcomed us.

Then the pastor’s wife walked over.

She was carrying a copy of Spielvogel’s “History of Western Civilization” in her hand and shifted it as she reached out her hand to greet me. After a moment of chit chatting, she said, “At the very last minute the history tutor I had lined up wasn’t able to teach. I’m trying to find a replacement. You wouldn’t happen to be interested in teaching my daughter and her friend, would you?”

I was so surprised it took me a moment to respond. Of course, I said “Yes!”

The weekly meetings we had discussing God’s incredible workings throughout history quickly became a highlight of my week. Over the next four years I got to explore history and literature with them, their siblings, and a few of their friends.

It’s been over five years since that day, but the details are still vivid in my mind. Whenever I remember God’s faithfulness to me (despite my doubting), it makes it easier to trust His power and goodness today.

How has God shown His faithfulness to you?

Linked up at Mama MomentsGrowing HomeEncourage One AnotherWalking RedeemedGrace Simplicity, & Proverbs 31

[Full disclosure: links to products in this post are my referral links.]

“I Love You More Than All My Toys”

“I love you more than aaaaaalllllll my toys,” Will said as he wrapped his arms around me and planted a good-night kiss on my cheek.

He tells Joshua and me this regularly as we tuck him into bed. I don’t place quite as much value on his trucks and stuffed animals as he does, but his words warm my heart each time.

God loves to shower His people with good gifts. But sometimes while enjoying the gifts, we lose sight of the giver. God wants us to love HIM more than all His gifts.

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His words took on new significance earlier as I snuggled with Edmund and thought about God’s gifts to me, which have been so evident this past week.

I’ve seen His goodness in so many ways:

  • I see it as my children run laughing down the sidewalk, with the wind and the sun working together to make their hair ripple like gold.
  • I see it in the beautiful sandals I found at a garage sale to replace my much-loved (but falling-apart) ones.
  • I see it in Joshua finding the absolutely perfect picture for our living room (on it’s way from London at the moment!)
  • I feel it when Joshua steps up behind me and wraps his arms around my post baby waist and tells me he loves me.
  • I see it in the generosity of family and friends who have showered us with meals and love these past weeks. 

Happiness and gratitude filled me as I thought on these and many other blessings. But as I rejoiced in God’s gifts, Will’s words came to mind: “I love you more than all my toys.” 

God loves to bless His children with good things. But sometimes His gifts give us such happiness that we forget the Giver and start focusing on all our shiny “toys”.

Will’s words pointed me back to the Giver of all my good gifts. Though we certainly should rejoice in His goodness, God wants us to love Him more than all His gifts.

Fruitfulness Trumps Efficiency

We live in an age that pushes productivity. Maximize efficiency, cross things off the to-do list, and realize your full potential: these are all are key goals of modern life.

Productivity is a good thing. The Proverbs 31 woman accomplished an incredible amount (though I believe her portrait is of a lifetime, not a single day.)

Sometimes though, productivity is so much in the spotlight, that we forget that God desires fruitfulness much, much more than a checked off to-do list.

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Sometimes fruitfulness and efficiency walk hand-in-hand. Sometimes though, the fruitfulness God is working into our lives demands that we set the to-do list aside for a while.

That we love our children by letting them “help” make cookies in the freshly mopped kitchen. (Not that mine’s been freshly mopped in a while.)

That we choose joy when little people demand attention just as we gain momentum on a project.

That we practice patience when the one simple thing we really, really want done on the to-do list gets trumped day after day by our calling as wives or moms.

It may not be orderly anymore, but at least there’s lots of green, right? 

Before Edmund came, the kids and I attempted to tame the garden jungle and I had to laugh at my planning. Only two of the eight cucumber seedlings survived, but they had way outgrown the cages that were supposed to contain them. You could hardly even find the cages beneath the dense cover of green. The tomatoes hit the top of their trellis and didn’t get the memo that it was time to stop growing. Their tops curved down and around and are in danger of toppling over completely.

It was such a striking example of life: our efficient pretty plans get completely overrun and we have to choose between embracing the fruitfulness or trying to push everything back into the neat little boxes we’ve assigned for them.

Efficiency is often a good thing, but sometimes we need to set it aside and embrace the mess of fruitfulness.

The Humble Minute

“Little Things”

by Ebenezer Cobham Brewer

Little drops of water,
Little grains of sand,
Make the mighty ocean
And the pleasant land.

Thus the little minutes,
Humble though they be,
Make the mighty ages
Of eternity.

The children and I have started learning this poem together and the “humble minute” has been on my mind. We have each been given the same number of minutes in a day, 1440 to be exact, but how we choose to use them varies so widely.

In our busy lives as homemakers, there are many little pauses. We can choose to fritter them away or diligently grasp the minutes. Last week I was bemoaning to myself that I just didn’t have the time to clean the bathrooms or vacuum (and the house was definitely showing it).

But as I thought about it more, it wasn’t that I didn’t have time, just that I wasn’t using my time wisely. The next morning while the children were finishing their morning routines, I had a few spare minutes. The immediate temptation was to check email, but the “little minute” begged for me to choose the bathroom sink instead.

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There are so many “spare” minutes like that throughout each day, and so many ways to wisely make the most of them. In a “humble” minute or two, you can

  • wipe down the bathroom sink
  • deal with the mail, instead of letting it clutter the counter
  • throw in a load of laundry
  • elicit a laugh from a little one
  • clean the toilet
  • look into your child’s eyes and tell them you love them
  • dust a bookshelf
  • put your dirty socks into the hamper
  • take your vitamins (why does it always seem so hard?)
  • pause to marvel at the glory of God’s creation

The minutes may tick past endlessly, but even the humble minute is worth redeeming.

When You’re Overwhelmed & Flustered

Do you ever find yourself with so many projects in the works that any time you have a spare moment, there are at least a dozen important items impatiently waiting for your attention?

A few weeks ago I realized that something had to change. My summer plans of enjoying time with the children had unconsciously morphed into a mad race to cross things off my to-do list before school starts and the baby arrives.

I can totally relate. What about you? 

As I was trying to figure out just where I’d gone wrong, these four things came to the forefront.

Renew Your Mind

Just as I’d reached the height of stress, Jacinda, from Growing Home, shared this on Facebook“I was too “busy”.. and somehow thought I could do on less of His grace instead of more!”

Convicting and so true.

I’d let the noise of many distractions crowd out time with God. But as Jacinda said, the more we have going on, the more desperately we need God’s grace.

Life as a mother of little ones is often hectic, but here are a few ways that have helped me find time in God’s Word… and when the days are crazy, we need to lean even more heavily on God’s grace.

Sleep

It feels productive to stay up an extra couple of hours in the evening to work on a project or to lie awake in bed brainstorming once I finally get to bed, but shorting myself on sleep one day almost always have negative consequences the next. Sometimes I’ll lay awake excitedly making great plans for all I’ll accomplish in the morning, only to wake up so exhausted that I barely have energy to get breakfast on the table.

Sleep is a gift that God blesses His beloved with. (Ps. 127) Purposefully skipping sleep night after night is not a good idea.

Let Go of Perfection

Sometimes, good enough is really good enough. We can stress out trying to perfect every last detail, or just do our best in the limited time we have for a project and commit the outcome to God’s hands.

Rose will be starting a two-day a week classical school and I’ll be teaching her class as well as homeschooling the other days. There have been lots of decisions to make and plans to complete, but I realized that I was letting my perfectionism make the task way more daunting than necessary. Rose just turned six. I really don’t need to read an in-depth textbook on George Washington Carver in order to spend ten minutes discussing his contributions to science in our botany class. (Shocking revelation, isn’t it?)

The same principle applies to hunting down the absolute best deal, researching the best curriculum options, and all the other tasks demanding our attention: instead of seeking perfection, we should pursue faithfulness.

Choose the Most Important, Then Say “No!”

It’s an unfortunate fact of life, but we don’t get more hours added to our days, no matter how over-committed we are or how long the to-do list stretches. There simply isn’t time for everything. We have to say “no” to good things, in order to make time for the best.

Sometimes it’s as simple as saying “no” to one more activity “for the kids”, so that we have time to enjoy making a batch of cookies together. Often it’s a lot more complicated, but seeking the balance is vital to avoiding burnout.

Linked up at Mama MomentsGrowing HomeEncourage One AnotherWalking RedeemedGraced Simplicity, & Proverbs 31