Archive | May, 2012

A Living Picture

8 May

I opened a Google document shortly after the birth of my first daughter.  My husband gave me the idea to start recording some of the cute things that Susannah did and any milestones that she reached. Good idea, honey.

I have some friends who opened up an e-mail account for their first son when he was born, so they could write e-mails to him as he grows up. So sweet.

I know some people who do yearly scrapbooks of their kids, or have kept perfect baby books, documenting anything and everything about their children. Awesome.

I have heard of those crafty folk, who make lovely quilts for each of the children, something they can keep forever that will hold meaning and memories.

I’ve read about people that write letters to each of their children on their birthdays, recording their love for the child and their prayers for them. What an encouraging, beautiful treasure to have.

Facebook shows me all the fancy new maternity pics that people are having done, and then these nifty month-by-month photos of the new babies.

Pinterest bombards me with so many amazing ideas of things I can do with my children, for my children, or about my children.

And the list goes on.

All of these things are so neat and so great, but you know what, I’m basically having an anxiety attack over here thinking about all the things that I did not do for my children.  The maternity photos? Umm…no, didn’t really want to have pictures reminding me of what I looked like 50 pounds heavier. But maybe I should have? For the children! To preserve the memories! What have I done?!

The month-by-month photos? Missed that boat with Susannah. It wasn’t even invented then. Forgot about it with Caitlyn, and then I attempted it with Madalyn, but I just couldn’t seem to make it work. Now I don’t know what they looked like at each stage! And I can’t even present them with a cute little book so they can compare themselves to their children. Cue the hyperventilation.

The Google documents that I started for my girls….well let’s just say that Madalyn’s is a little sparse by comparison. She apparently doesn’t do anything cute, or reach milestones.  I went to write it in tonight, out of guilt, and then I started panicking over all of the things I’ve neglected to record.

Now what’s the point of this post? Truth be told, I actually had no idea as I started writing, I just knew I was feeling tons of guilt and failure when I thought about writing anything to do with motherhood. I could only think of all the things I’ve wanted to do, attempted to do, and have failed to do adequately. I could think only of all the things these other children will have growing up, that my girls might have liked but won’t have.

But as I wrote, by the Lord’s grace, and by my husband’s loving instruction, I was humbly reminded, that these so called “failures” are not failures at all. Not even close. Oh, I definitely fail as a mom, so often, but these things that I am stressing about, they are not failures and I have no reason to feel any guilt over them.

In fact, the only guilt I should feel is over the fact that I am more concerned about having elaborate photo books for my children than I am about how I am showing them Christ.

As inspiring as some of these ideas I mentioned above are, we as christian moms are not called to do all of these extra things for our children. As an aside, I would probably even wager that half the time we want to do these things for our own sake rather than theirs, whether for pleasure or for self-congratulation. I know this is true for myself, at least.

On the contrary, we are called to “love the Lord our God with all our hearts and with all our souls and with all our strength and with all our minds, and our neighbors as ourselves”.  What will matter to my children is how great I make my God look, and how much they see me seeking after him and serving others, including them, because of that love.

Instead of being concerned with whether or not I can give my children picture books of themselves, I want to be committed to and consumed with giving them a living picture of a mom who seeks to live out the greatest commandment.

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Giving Gifts to Mom

7 May

Mother’s day is this coming Sunday. So what do you get for that special lady in your life? A greeting card for $5.00, a nice bouquet of her favourite flowers, maybe a gift card to the spa? Sounds good! Done and done. No need to think about that one anymore, I’ve got it covered! This is basically the conversation that happens in many people’s heads when it comes to gift-giving, on any occasion, is it not? Throw together a few items and you’ve got a gift, even if it was a last-minute one. It’s the thought that counts, right? Maybe it wasn’t a last-minute gift, maybe it was one you saved for or put a lot of thought into and made by hand. Either way, usually when we think about gifts, we think about tangible, tactile things that one can hold that cost money. Is there such a thing as another kind of gift? I think that there is one that is actually more valuable to a parent than any gift that can be purchased at the mall. It’s the kind of gift that keeps on blessing a mother or father, each and every day. Your life, and how you live it, is going to be either a blessing or a curse to you mom and dad. Listen in to the Proverbs. God has a lot to say about the way children relate to their parents.

Proverbs 15:20
A wise son makes a glad father, but a foolish man despises his mother.

Proverbs 19:26
He who does violence to his father and chases away his mother is a son who brings shame and reproach.

Proverbs 23:22
Listen to your father who gave you life, and do not despise your mother when she is old.

Proverbs 30:17
The eye that mocks a father and scorns to obey a mother will be picked out by the ravens of the valley and eaten by the vultures.

Yikes to the last one. I for one, don’t want to be picked out by the ravens, whatever that means! You can see that wise children make their parents glad, and fools show that they despise them. Wise children are ones who listen to their parents and obey them, and fools are ones who bring shame and reproach. Wise children do not scorn their parents’ instruction, even when they get old! I want to be a wise child because not only do I want to avoid needless suffering as a result of my own foolishness, but I want to honour my parents, the ones who have raised me to know the Lord, the ones who have sacrificed and cared for me, even when I disobeyed and dishonoured them. I want my life, to be a gift to my mom and dad, one that brings them peace and joy to watch, not sorrow and shame.

Maybe since becoming a mom myself, I’ve felt more attuned to the seriousness of the task of Christian parenting. It’s no small thing, let me tell you! Thank God for His grace, and His guidance because it’s a mine field out there and without the Holy Spirit and the Word, we are lost. Looking back and thinking about what it must have been like for my mom to take care of my brother and I, I can now imagine with a very real understanding what it was like for her to make meals, clean diapers, play games, walk to the park, clean more diapers, make more food, and so on and so on. Her life has been one of sacrifice. She did not go out and do other things, spend money on the most up-to-date clothes, or take big vacations. She used her time, and what little extra money she had to care for us. She built a home and that home had its foundation on Christ. We learned Bible stories, heard scripture read and sung, and were witness to the Lord working in our parents’ lives. And now, with Emma, I have the same prayer and desire that I know my mom did. I want her to know Jesus. I want her to come to see her sin and understand that she needs a saviour. And by God’s grace, that will be the best gift I will ever receive! It will be the gift of seeing Him transform her and make her into His image. I want to watch her grow in godliness and love for Jesus. That life, the one of wisdom, the one that comes to obey the truth and love it, will be the one I will cherish most. Yes, I will also love candies (seriously, I really do love candy!), and I’ll love a bunch of lilies and a card, but nothing will compare to that intangible, wonderful peace that I will have knowing that Emma knows my Saviour.

Can you think about ways in which you’ve not honoured your mom in days past? Maybe, this is a chance to ask her forgiveness, and ask God’s grace to live a life that would be a blessing to her, and to Him. Even with all this “intangible gift-giving” talk, that doesn’t negate doing tangible things to show love! So go on, get out there and pick up something special for your mom. And make sure that that gift isn’t followed by a long season of indifference towards your relationship with her. Remember that the day-in, day-out grind is where love builds its strongest bonds, so seek to show it for the other 364 days of the year.

Penguins and Pianos

4 May

This is my favorite toy!

No, not for me, for Amanda! It’s a world of fun all in one corner, with the potential for keeping any child occupied for hours on end. At least that’s the way I see it.

Well, Amanda didn’t share my enthusiasm. Exhausted from carrying her while trying to tidy up around the house, I placed her amongst the penguin, piano and lion, confident that it would give me at least 15 minutes to let my arms rest. She looked up at me, let out a loud scream, and stretched out her arms in a desperate attempt to be rescued from this apparent “chamber of torture”.  Her actions were screaming “No, don’t leave me here! There’s nothing for me here! This isn’t what I want right now! Can’t you see I need more than this?”

Clearly she wasn’t seeing things from my end….maybe she just needed a little coaching. So I sat down next to her and started playing the piano. She looked at me wide eyed “Oooohh,, I didn’t know it could do that.” I pressed the little penguin’s head down and she marvelled at the sounds that he made. I placed my hand on the lion and pretended he was playing the drums…she looked at me as though I were her hero.  With patient encouragement and guidance, she began to embrace her toy for what it really was…exactly what she needed.

At the risk of spiritualizing something that is seemingly insignificant, can you see the connection to our relationship with God?

Too often, sitting at His word, my heart struggles to find enjoyment and satisfaction. In utter foolishness I entertain thoughts that say “I just can’t find anything in here that applies to me today.  This isn’t what I want right now.  I need something else.”  Yet when I turn to the Holy Spirit for wisdom and guidance, He brings the words of scripture to life, opens the eyes of my heart to see the unmatched importance, meaning and relevance of the words before me.

Looking at our lives in comparison to those around us, we may be tempted to think “Lord, I don’t have what I want. How can I be satisfied be here? Why aren’t you giving me what I know I need to be happy?” It isn’t until the Holy Spirit opens our eyes to see our circumstances for what they are…sovereignly ordained by His perfect will that our perspective can change. He shows us the blessings He has bestowed on us, helps us accept the difficulties He has allowed, and equips us to be content.

Going about our day we may struggle to see opportunities to serve the Lord. We may resolve to witness to His name, meet the needs of others, show His love in difficult circumstances.  And yet at the end of the day we may find ourselves thinking   “Guess the opportunities weren’t there today.  Maybe tomorrow He’ll bring more my way.” But when we turn to the Spirit for guidance, He opens our eyes to the many  opportunities to demonstrate His love and compassion to the world. Opportunities that our own flesh could not detect were it not for the ministry of the Holy Spirit.

“But the Helper, the Holy spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things I said to you.” John 14:26

There’s something else I realized as I sat on the floor next to Amanda. It was not so much the piano she was enjoying, but the expression on my face as the music played. It’s not the penguin she was enthralled with, but the joy she had from sitting next to me while we played together. It was our time together, and not just the toy itself that shifted her perspective, brought her joy, gave her delight. So it is when we look to the help of the Spirit. He opens our eyes to recognize the presence of God, so that wherever we are, we may find true satisfaction, because we are with the Lord.

“And I will pray to the Father and he will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever – the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for he dwells with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.” John 14:16

As with any metaphor, the comparison falls short in many ways. I’ll point out just a few. Left to herself, Amanda would eventually figure out the joy of the toys surrounding her. Not so with us…the ministry of the Spirit is not just helpful, it is essential.  Eventually I will get tired, and I’ll need to leave her with her toy so she can carry on by herself. Not so with God’s Spirit.  He doesn’t start us off and then leave us to continue on our own. No, we need Him continually, moment by moment.  And unlike Amanda who will eventually need to learn independence,  the Spirit will never leave us! As believers we are SEALED with the indwelling Spirit…He is our DEPOSIT guaranteeing what is to come!

Circumstances, from our point of view are so different from God’s perspective. Without the Holy Spirit we can never understand His Word and the riches it contains for our heart, never recognize His providential care in our circumstances, never see the opportunities for service He is continually bringing our way. It is the Holy Spirit that gives us comfort and makes us aware of the presence of God in our lives.

Oh how we desperately need the ministering of God’s Spirit in our lives.

“In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession,, to the praise of His glory.” Ephesians 1:13-14

Island Living

2 May

This week I was reminded that I don’t live on island; every decision made will have a direct impact on different people in my life. When I’m faithfully spending time in the Word and in prayer, I am a better church member, family member, friend, and employee. I know for a fact that when I let other things take precedent in my life  I tend to be less patient, more loose with my words, less likely to think about how I should be serving others, and more likely to think about how others should be serving me. In other words, I’m not exactly the kind of person you want to be around. I read a post on Tim Challies’ blog where he quotes from D.A. Carson’s, The Cross and the Christian Ministry. The post is called Many and Colorful. He writes about the different ways in which we unknowingly cause harm to our church family. Every day I’m reminded of how difficult it is to take up my cross and follow Him, but anything short of that, will have a lasting impact on much more than just myself. This week’s lesson relearned: for Christians, island living is not an option.

Called to Confess

1 May

I sat down at the computer last night to write a blog post. Nothing came to me. Well, nothing in the form of a blog post anyway. Something else came, though. It crept in slowly, cautiously, masked and disguised as something far less ugly than what was actually hidden beneath.

I’d just read a couple of amazing blog posts by a dear sister who has an ability to write and convey her thoughts and biblical truth in such a beautiful and poetic way, and although I was deeply uplifted by her words, I found myself becoming reluctant to write because my own ability is inferior to hers. She uses metaphors and language that really allows you to feel with her and feel what she’s intending to say. It’s like the words come to life! I thought, “Why can’t I write like that? Why can’t I use images like raging waters and other aspects of nature to bring my writing to life? Why can’t I find better descriptive words? Why doesn’t anything come more easily to me? Do I even do anything really well?”

I closed the computer and went to bed, attempting to preach truth to myself, while trying to understand exactly what was going on in my restless, chaotic heart. It was as though the winds of my heart were swirling in anticipation of an imminent, ominous storm. Winds of my heart swirling? What does that even mean?  Sigh. Strike that attempt at a metaphor (or is it a simile), from the record.

Anyhow, back on track. I woke this morning and decided I would just be content with not writing today and it’s okay that I’m not that great at anything.  I’m just struggling with envy, covetousness, and pride. Bad. I labelled it, and I moved on.

For some reason though, I still felt unsettled, a slight tugging at my conscience.

Well, I opened my facebook for a few minutes this morning while the kids were playing and I saw that Tim Challies is writing a couple of posts on The Lost Sin of Envy. Great. He’ll probably articulate all my thoughts way more eloquently than I can ever hope to.  I decided to give the post for today a quick read, figuring it would resonate with some of my current struggles.

And it did. And that feeling of unsettledness that I was feeling started stirring even more. Tim paints an incredibly ugly, yet accurate picture of envy and as I read, my convictions grew. I had recognized pride in my life, but somehow in my identification of it, I forgot its vileness, its disdainfulness. When I looked at my envy, my pride and my covetousness, it was almost palatable. I gave it the right name, but that’s about it. I wasn’t recognizing it for what it actually was.

I’ve always prided myself (how ironic) on being able to identify sin in my life, but so often I forget that I need to confess it. It’s as though I’ve come to equate identification of sin with confession of sin. As I read Tim’s biblical description of envy, my patient, longsuffering Father reminded me that I needed to go to Him.

I, so often, forget the value or need for confession. I’ve made my sins acceptable, not recognized them for what they really are, and I know that I’m forgiven for all of them anyway. Confession can therefore seem almost incidental—the mere dotting of an “i”.  Obviously this is patently untrue, but I know that I definitely minimize its value and necessity.

It is at the foot of the cross, as I confess my sin, where my heart engages with my God and I become reminded afresh that He is God, and I am not. It is where I am able to recall the depth and breadth and height of his love, where I see His holiness, and I once again long for His glory. As I start to confess, the Holy Spirit works, melting that layer of ice that has begun to encompass my heart. I begin to realize how offensive my sin is, how much grace I’ve received and how much more I need. I remember that I’m not called to identify my sin, I’m called to confess it, and then to mourn over it and then to battle it. To the death.

Oh God, give me grace.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).