Thursday, January 28, 2010

Communion in the Commotion

I wrote this over a year ago (for possible publication). I feel like it goes hand-in-hand with my previous post, "Abiding (and not)" . . .

"For many years I was bothered by the thought that I was a failure at prayer. Then one day I realized I would always be a failure at prayer; and I've gotten along much better ever since."--Brother Lawrence

There I was. My four-year-old wanted me to read to her; my two-year-old wanted me to work a puzzle with him; my infant wanted me to feed her; my husband wanted to talk to me about our church; my mentally handicapped neighbor came to tell me (as he did every day) that the mail was here; my sister called me to see how motherhood was going; my dinner was in the process of being made on the stove; my infant had now spit up all over me, so I needed a shower . . . Anyone else been there? I was in desperate need of time alone with God to help me regroup and be rejuvenated, but how in the world was I supposed to "be still and know that He is God" in the midst of ALL THIS??? It didn't look like it was going to happen anytime soon.

Now nearly eight years into motherhood--with time alone in the bathroom even hard to come by!--I only have faint memories of lingering one-on-one time with God. But it's been good. Really good. I have grown in my love and relationship with God more in these last eight years than I ever did before. While a lot of that is attributed to the way that parenthood changes your understanding of God and the way He loves His children (another wonderful story for another day), much of it is attributed to the fact that my relationship with God became much more of an integral part of my daily life. Nothing was compartmentalized anymore; it all just ran together, overlapping and intermingling. My task-orientedness, mind you, was driven crazy by this! It was just what I needed, though, to shake up my preference for routines and rituals and to be reminded that my desire to be in control of my life is sinful--not to mention unsuccessful.

Prior to becoming a mommy, I could pretty much decide when and where and for how long I wanted to sit and read my Bible and commune with God, and it was wonderful! My soul is filled in times like these, and they are still so vital to me. But even though those retreats and long talks with God are now a lot less frequent, I have found that we are conversing even more these days. It's more constant. I don't mean it's without interruption; I mean it just naturally flows throughout my day, like any other conversation, except it's usually not out loud. I ask Him for help with things like my anger, selfishness, and impatience; I ask Him to give me wisdom in guiding and discipling my children; and I thank Him for continually lavishing His love and blessings upon me, even though I so often take them for granted. We talk about how I get tired of doing dishes and laundry but how that is one of the ways I serve my family and, therefore, am serving Him. We talk about my struggles with priorities and pride. I ask Him why I can't seem to get it all together (Whatever that means?!) but then turn right around and ask Him why in the world my life is so easy.

When I read John Ortberg's book The Life You've Always Wanted a few years ago, I was greatly encouraged at his sentiment for a mother with young children. "To her," he says, "reading the Bible and praying were the only two activities that counted spiritually. As a mother she felt that 'time alone' was an oxymoron. In this the church had failed her. She had never been taught to see that caring for two young children, offered daily with expressions of gratitude and prayers for help and patient acceptance of trials, might become a kind of school for transformation into powerful servanthood beyond anything she had ever known . . . Our season of life--whatever it is--is no barrier to having Christ formed in us . . . Whatever our season of life, it offers its own opportunities and challenges for spiritual growth. Instead of wishing we were in another season, we ought to find out what this one offers."

Wow. What a burden lifted from those of us who have felt so guilty because we weren't having our daily hour-long quiet times before sunrise each day! (Of course, that didn't happen even before I had kids. I'm just not wired for mornings.) I believe that God has love and grace enough to release us from using this as our dominant measure of personal spiritual growth. I also believe that He would rather have an ongoing conversation with us, rather than us keeping a once-a-day appointment (if that's where it ends). Isn't this just as true in each of our human relationships? I mean, who wants to have a once-a-day sit-down meeting with your husband or best friend and just leave it at that? No more conversing until the same time the next day. It's just not the way a relationship naturally flows. We like to talk to those with whom we are the closest about every little thing happening during the day. How much more so should it be with our Creator, our Savior, our Father?

In the same context, however, there are certainly instances when we really need to have a sit-down conversation with our husband or best friend. Those times are equally as important as the discussions throughout the day, just as our getting alone with God for undistracted conversation is incredibly vital. As I said before, I greatly grow and learn from those solitary times spent with my heavenly Father. But that doesn't mean that growth cannot occur in our relationship if I haven't visited my prayer closet in several days. God promises never to leave me, and I am both aware of and comforted by His presence. I am even blessed to be able to glean from the in-depth Bible studies I enjoyed in my previous life (i.e. pre-mommyhood), the Holy Spirit often bringing to mind at a particularly pertinent time these passages of Scripture that I once read or memorized. I've even found myself with a song stuck in my head, and when I stop to really think about the lyrics, I discover that it is just the message I needed to receive from God at that moment. Again, the Holy Spirit at work!

God speaks to us in many, many ways. Sometimes it's through nature, sometimes through other people (especially children), sometimes through the Bible, sometimes through trials, sometimes through silence, and sometimes through commotion. The communication is not limited to one method during one particular hour of the day. God longs to commune with us throughout the entire day--no matter how crazy busy it is! It is a relationship, after all, and just as in other relationships, the more time we spend with this Person, the more in-depth we will know Him.

Abiding (and not)

Last night in my Small Group, we were challenged to be intentional this week about taking the time to be alone with God, to allow Him to fill us. I have felt spiritually depleted for the better part of the last several years. This doesn't mean that I haven't been in conversation with God or even that I haven't felt close to Him. It just means that I have felt like I'm running on fumes, so to speak. I've been going off of all those years that I used to take time to sit and read the Bible, to dwell on it, to spend concentrated time with God in prayer and meditation. And I have missed it. So much.

I have often treated quiet time alone with God as my reward for getting everything checked off of my list that day. I figured I would be too distracted to do it before then anyway. (I have a love/hate relationship with my task-oriented self.) But I have found time and time again (and again . . . ) that my to-do list will never be completed, and I am merely exhausting myself to attempt it. In addition, by not taking the time to be quiet and still before the Lord, I find myself drawing on my own strength, which is actually weakness. I find that when I do this, my joy and love and patience and even energy are all lacking.

So I sat down this morning at my kitchen table, with a million tasks and ideas swirling around in my head, and I lit a candle and opened my Bible. I started with Psalm 1 and read, " . . . his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night. And he will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither; and in whatever he does, he prospers . . . " This reminded me that I am a living being--like a tree--that must be rooted and cared for, nourished.

I decided that I should write some things down, so I went to find my old journal. Found it. Good grief, I started writing in this thing in 1997! Thirteen years and I still haven't filled it. And it's not a very big journal. Again, I was reminded of my inconsistency in my time alone with God. Not that the un-filling of my journal is a direct reflection of my relationship with God over these last years, but it does somewhat serve as a commentary.

I decided to browse the last few pages that actually had writing on them . . .

October 17, 2001 (Yep)--
"Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you, unless you abide in Me . . . apart from Me you can do nothing . . . If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it shall be done for you." (John 15:4, 5, and 7)

Father, I confess that I have not been abiding (dwelling) in You for some time now. I always have the intention of spending time with You on a daily basis, but I end up doing other things instead. Help me to realize that there will always be "other things" to do and to stop making excuses for my lack of self-discipline. God, give me a hunger and thirst for You and Your Word. The longer I go without it, the more I realize that I cannot live without it. You truly are Living Water! When I haven't had a drink from You in awhile, I begin to try to quench my thirst with other things . . . and I am still thirsty. God, please quench my thirst for You. Help me to abide in You.

Sooooo . . . . obviously this has been an issue for me for a long time! John 15 is one of my favorite chapters in the Bible. The image of abiding in Christ is very real to me. When I strive to do things on my own, the fruit is not nearly as sweet.

At the risk of sounding defensive, I will say that it is very difficult for a mother of young children to have quiet time with God on any kind of consistent basis. I struggled for many years with this, feeling that I must not desire it badly enough. But then God ministered to me and told me that this season of life is simply more demanding than other seasons might be. Babies and toddlers require the vast majority of a mother's time as well as the greater part of her physical, mental, and emotional being. In John Ortberg's book The Life You've Always Wanted, he specifically speaks to these mothers and declares that the Church has done them a great disservice by making them feel that they are "failing" spiritually if they are not consistently spending time alone with God. He says, "Caring for children in and of itself--when it is bathed in prayer and offered with as much grace and energy as we can muster--is one of the most powerful tools for transformation available to us." How beautiful! And how true!

During those years while my children were so little, I fully feel that God sustained me through Scripture I had memorized in previous years, through music, and certainly through other people. And I am so grateful for that. But as I am entering a new season of life--with my children now 5, 7, and 9 years old--I am finding that my need to have this time alone with my God is once again growing greater. And I think that I am doing my husband and my children a great disservice if I don't take the time to do it. My excuses have become a habit, and I would like to put an end to this.

Abide. Abide. Abide.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Nothing Left

My friend Susan Briggs posted this on Facebook yesterday, and it really struck me. I need to read it everyday, I think . . .

Taken from Deeper Walk: God of the Desert, God of Greatness by Jason Johns

"Because by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy." (Hebrews 10:14)

There is nothing left to do.

I like the sound of that. My life is a maze of tasks and deadlines. Projects for work here, papers and tests for school there. There is grass to be mowed, a friend to see, family to care for. At the end of the day, I am exhausted, and yet I fall asleep thinking of things that I have to do tomorrow.

Hanging on the cross, Jesus did all that needed to be done. He finished the work of salvation once and for all. He has made us perfect. We are complete. We are whole.

There is nothing left to do.

Such an idea counters our western philosophy of accomplishment. Who are we without tasks to keep us occupied? Many Christians are tireless in their efforts for God, motivated both by an authentic desire to draw closer to Him and out of fear that God is never satisfied.

But it is finished. There is no sacrifice left for us to bring. Our efforts are not the issue. We are whole in Christ. Can we rest in His love?

There is nothing left to do.

Resting in Him is not a license to ignore the needs of others, to grow lazy, to shun the calling of God on our life. It is an invitation from a loving God to 'seek first the Kingdom of God.' We can rest and step into His Kingdom.

There is nothing left to do.

*Consider Psalm 4:8 and Matthew 11:28-29. This week, take a look at your motivation for the way you live your life. Remembering that His sacrifice has made you complete, take an inventory of your days to discover where it is you are attempting to gain favor by your activity. Claim His promise of rest.

Jesus, thank You that there is nothing left for me to do. I want to rest in You. Teach me what it is to rest.

Friday, January 22, 2010


Live Sent: You Are a LetterFirst-time author Jason C. Dukes has a heart and passion for the message he presents in his book *Live Sent: You Are a Letter. Jason challenges us to stop thinking about the Church as a particular time or meeting place. We are the Church, and Jesus told us to "go forth," not try to get everyone to come to us. Also, being the Church means doing so every minute of every day--meshing our lives with everyone around us, caring for each other, striking up conversations, doing life together. One of my favorite of Jason's metaphors compares some of us to e-mail drafts: "saved but not sent." That's challenging. What good is an unsent message?

Although Jason's message is heart-felt and also extremely important, I imagine that his communication style is probably best in one-on-one conversation or in his teaching. I personally felt distracted by his overuse of quotation marks and very informal style of writing. It felt more like I was reading a blog or an e-mail. Of course, since the emphasis was on our being letters, maybe this was appropriate. Still, the grammatical errors, repetition, and asides made the book seem like it wasn't properly edited. Then again, we don't worry about all those things when we write or read letters and e-mails.

Overall, I liked this book, mostly because I feel strongly about the topic. I greatly appreciate Jason's heart and ministry, and I am encouraged and challenged by the practical suggestions and stories he shares in Live Sent. This book would be great for Small Groups to read and discuss together.

To order this book, visit

*Disclosure of Material Connection: I received the product mentioned above for free by The Ooze Viral Bloggers in the hope that I would mention it on my blog. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Tuesday, January 19, 2010


I can remember when I thought that 35 (or even 27) sounded "older."

I can remember when gray hairs were not even something I looked for, much less found.

I can remember when I gasped that my body required a size 7 instead of a 5.

I can remember when I was nine years old . . . and now I have a nine-year-old of my own.

I am still very young, but my, how perspective changes over the years!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Dealing With Depression

I just finished reading a book that my sister Julie let me borrow. It's entitled Healing for Damaged Emotions and was written by David A. Seamands. As someone who struggles with depression at various times, I found this book to be really helpful in helping me understand what depression is and where it comes from. I also found it to be particularly freeing for those of us who sometimes feel that it isn't "right" for a Christian to be depressed. I won't go into the whole book here, but I do recommend this book for those who deal with their own depression or with depression in those they love.

The following is an excerpt from the book, which comes from the chapter entitled "Dealing with Depression." I have found all of these (especially #'s 1 and 3!) to be true in my own life. These are not simplified solutions for depression, but they are practical and good suggestions to remember when you are in the midst of it.

Suggestions from both Martin Luther and David A. Seamands on dealing with depression:

1. Avoid being alone. When you are depressed you don't want to be around people. You want to withdraw. But withdrawing means isolation, and isolation during depression means alienation. Force yourself to be with people. This is one of the major areas where you have a definite choice in your depression.

2. Seek help from others. During depression your perceptions change. A little hill becomes a great mountain. But real friends can help you see its true height in perspective. You can no more pull yourself out of depression than you get yourself out of quicksand by pulling at your own hair. Seek out people and situations which generate joy. Here again your choice is definitive.

3. Sing! Make music. This was the only cure for King Saul's moods of depression. The harmony and beauty of David's music lifted King Saul's spirit of depression (I Sam. 16:14-23).

4. Praise and give thanks. All the saints of the centuries agree on this one . . . When [a man] couldn't feel God's presence or really pray, he would thank God for the leaf on the tree or the beautiful wing of a bird. For simple, everyday things. In essence, Paul told Timothy: "Remember, and be thankful" (2 Tim. 1). To the Thessalonians he didn't say, "Feel thankful for everything," but, "In everything give thanks" (I Thess. 5:18).

5. Lean heavily on the power of God's Word. God can use any portion of the scriptures to minister to you during times of depression, but throughout the centuries His people have found the Psalms to be the most beneficial. This is because the psalmist is the one most familiar with and open to the whole range of depressive emotions . . .

6. Rest confidently in the presence of God's Spirit. The psalmist repeatedly affirmed the secret of deliverance from depression. He encouraged himself, "Hope thou in God; for I shall yet praise Him for the help of His countenance" (Psalm 42:5). It is the assurance of God's "countenance"--His face-- that is the guarantee of His personal presence.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010


There are so many things that I take for granted. Water, for instance. I hardly give the fact that I have a basically unlimited supply of clean water right there in my own house any consideration . . . until it's not available to me.

Our city has been in a water crisis for a few days now. Due to extremely cold temperatures, we've had, I think, somewhere between 70 and 100 breaks in the main water pipes. This has caused a great decrease in water pressure, and many people have lost water altogether. All of us are having to boil our water for drinking. Therefore, panic has ensued. Sort-of. Basically, there have been runs on all the stores for bottled water, and a lot of us are saving buckets of water to aid in the flushing of toilets, etc. At our house, my husband explained the principle of "If it's yellow, let it mellow; if it's brown, flush it down" to our children. However, when my five-year-old was faced with a situation this afternoon that was not either/or, she screamed to me from the bathroom: "MOM!! What happens if we tee-tee AND poop??" Quite the crisis. (We went with flushing.)

Actually, the kids haven't thought the water crisis has been so bad. First of all, we have yet to lose ours altogether. Secondly, they got to get out of school early on Monday and then were out today and will be out tomorrow, too. Vacation!

These minor inconveniences serve as a reminder to me about all the people around the world who do not have access to clean water like we do. Many people have to actually go and retrieve their water every single day. Some people have to walk miles just to get to it and then carry it all the way back home. No nice bottles or jugs with lids. Certainly no variety in brands of water. They just hope it's not so infested that it will make them sick.

Us? We whine if we can't flush the toilet or take a shower for a couple of days. We think it's terrible if we have to wait for our water to boil for an entire minute before we can consume it. Or if we can't do laundry or dishes (Okay, that's not so bad.) in our automatic machines. And if we have to go seek water out--well, we complain if they don't have the brand we like or if it's expensive or heavy and we have to carry it all the way back to our car and then lug it into the house.


I confess that I've done my share of whimpering when having to go without water. But I'm really hoping that God will use these times to remind me of just how easy I have it, because I do. I'm very spoiled. And it's sinful for me to feel so entitled.

"Every good and perfect gift is from above . . . " (James 1:17). This includes water.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

First National Publication

Some very exciting news in my little world--my first national publication has just been issued! The January 2010 issue of ParentLife magazine contains my article entitled "Lasting Lessons: How to Recognize and Seize Teachable Moments." I am really excited about this, because I have always loved this publication and have found it to be very helpful in parenting. I have written a couple of other articles that will be published by them in the future.

It's Been Awhile

I have neglected to write anything new on my blog for quite some time now. There are various reasons for this. None of them all that good. I do plan to remedy this very, very soon. Stay tuned!