Heart Roaches…yuk!

Mom had a great sense of humor and she hated bugs. Especially cock roaches. She refused to admit God created them. Rather, she said, they “crawl right of of hell.”

I inherited her hatred of these nasty critters. In fact, when Benny mentioned our possible move to Orlando 13 years ago my first response was, “Hmmmm…only if you promise we’ll have a monthly bug killing service.”  I heard the roaches in Florida could carry off small children, and wanted nothing to do with them! (Interestingly enough, I saw far more roaches in Virginia than in Florida. Whew.)

So when I walked into the garage last Thursday to find one of these child-snatching beasts scurrying around, I screamed for Benny. Mom convinced we that if you could see one, “all his relatives were hiding behind the walls.” I was imagining an army of just-crawled-out-of-hell creatures infesting my home.

It’s kinda the same way with sin. What is obvious and visible can be just the tip of the iceberg. My recent angry outburst at my husband was fueled by a family of subtle and “hidden” sins of self-pity, discontentment and self-righteousness. Behind the “walls” of my heart were the relatives of the anger scurrying around our bedroom that night.

Indwelling sin is the enemy of our souls. As believers, we are forgiven of every past, present and future sin…thank God! We have been declared not guilty and will never have to pay for our sins. But as long as we live, sin will crouch at the door of our hearts. And the only way to get rid of it is to put it to death like Benny took care of that cockroach!

Our sin nature taints everything, even our commitment to provide a warm, hospitable home for our family and friends. Our homemaking responsibilities – including cooking, cleaning, organizing, beautifying and managing – are affected by our sins of selfishness, laziness, self-pity, procrastination, anger, greed or other hidden sins of the heart.

Take it from me: Sin doesn’t “go away” as we get older; rather, it grows and becomes more ingrained and insidious.  (Consider the mold in your shower; what would happen if you just hoped it would go away?) My battles with procrastination and selfishness have not disappeared, even though my family is smaller and I have more discretionary time on my hands!

Sure wish there was a SINcesticide to apply to my heart!

Our commitment must be to embrace God’s will no matter what the cost. And the cost of being a disciple of Jesus Christ includes humbly inviting Him to search our hearts for patterns that hinder us from making progress as faithful and diligent homemakers.

God’s will is the ultimate joy and fulfillment of our lives. There is peace in knowing “I am in the middle of God’s will! In the case of our roles in the home, the Bible is not unclear.  It is clearly His will for us to be homemakers. What security!

I’ve been reminding myself that any sacrifice to obey the clear commands of scripture will be met with grace. When my sin results in not being responsible in my home, God is eager to forgive and help me. Whether it’s been days or years of sinful attitudes or actions our part, God is ready to forgive and grant fresh vision for our homemaking role.

Is the Holy Spirit lovingly exposing any sinful hindrances in your heart to being an effective homemaker? Me, too! I am loving having a clean conscience, the wonderful fruit of confession and repentance.

Next week I will be chatting about some practical steps to change. On a foundation of knowing the love and acceptance of God — and that our identity is not in what we do but in who we are as His beloved children — we can start the fun process of investigating helpful ideas to growing as homemakers.

That is, after an update from my weekend. My youngest graduates high school tomorrow!

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It’s True…I’m Officially Old

All this talk on homemaking has me doing quite a bit of thinking. I’ve been looking through old notes (some of teachings I’ve done over the years…smile) and have enjoyed re-learning some precious principles from God’s word. According to t Titus 2:-3-5, as an officially older woman I have the mandate to teach younger women to love their homes (among other things). I’ve heard it said, “More is caught than taught.” I want to be the kind of woman whose passion for my home is “caught” by the younger women in my life.

Up until this point, my blog has been more conversational than instructional. It will stay that way. But I wanted to share some “teaching” I’ve shared in years past in case these timeless truths from scripture will encourage your heart as they have mine. I’m hope this isn’t too long and boring for you.  🙂

My review of this important passage is reminding me of 5 things:

1.  Homemaking is a Divine Assignment

  • This assignment carries with it all the blessings of obedience and the consequences of neglect.
  • This is not an option to consider but a God-given mandate to intentionally and actively pursue.  (Paul didn’t say, “Find out who in the church would like to be a homemaker and then provide some help for them to do this.”)
  • Our created design as women is to be a “home maker” in every season of life.
  • This passage isn’t written exclusively to married women:  being a keeper at home is the responsibility of women in every season of life and we do well as mothers to help our daughters to embrace their unique contribution to helping keep our homes.
2.  Homemaking must be taught.
  • Though some are more naturally gifted in domesticity (cooking, cleaning, organizing, decorating a home) this passage is saying all must be taught.
  • This “teaching” should begin with the heart not the practical process.
  • A God-centered homemaker must be taught to place biblical value on what you are doing; to esteem working busily at home; and to grow in your affection for this divine assignment.
3.  Women learn about homemaking from other women.
  • In our media-saturated culture the temptation is to “learn” from books, magazines and television.
  • These are not always bad – but if our steady diet of “teaching” about homemaking comes from Martha Stewart or Good Housekeeping or even blogs we are opening ourselves up to greed, comparisons with others, discontent, and an impress-others approach to our homes. Nothing can replace the face-t0-face fellowship of women helping women.
  • Notice:  Paul puts the responsibility of teaching onto the older women in the church but he does not give them the sole responsibility of initiative.  Younger woman are responsible to seek out counsel, mentoring and teaching about being a homemaker.  Don’t passively wait for a church “program” or for an older woman to come to you.
4.  The home is the place of feminine management.
  • Keeping a home requires skill.
  • The wise woman who desires to glorify God by actively embracing her role as a homemaker will not settle for “getting by” but will seek to grow.
  • No wonder skillful homemaking and management must be taught by experienced and wise women.
5.  Ineffective homemaking has potentially serious consequences.
  • The most important consequence: God’s word is reviled (maligned) when we do not embrace the mandate for biblical womanhood found in Titus 2. We “render ineffective” the very word of God by our disobedience, giving the world around us cause to resist the gospel due to our poor example.
  • A secondary consequence:  Robbing the next generation of the legacy of biblical womanhood. If each generation even subtly resists a joyful, skillful approach to homemaking the next generation is affected.
  • The potential for godly influence is great!  We have the privilege of imparting to our daughters, sisters, neighbors and friends a biblical vision for womanhood and homemaking.  Your influence could be THE difference in whether or not your daughters and granddaughters actually love and care for their homes. And the potential for influencing saved and unsaved relatives and friends is significant!
  • The world is watching!
Remember, we can only fulfill our responsibility to be skilled homemakers with God’s help. No requirements of scripture can be achieved in our own strength! What wonderful news it is to know that those of us who are believers have been graced and empowered by Him to do all He has called us to.
Is there an older woman in your life to whom you can turn for prayer and help with homemaking? I have an older friend I am going to email right now to see when we can talk. Even at my age, I know how important it is to have older, godly women in my  life whose wisdom and example inspires me.

 

My Home: My Ministry

Yesterday I introduced you to Barbara.  She taught us the importance of having a biblically informed vision for our homemaking before we rush into all the practical ways to take care of our homes.

The home is the perfect place for planned times of fellowship and ministry.

Something the Lord has been reminding me of lately is that my home is a place of ministry. It’s not just where my family sleeps, eats and showers. The Christian home is the context where the love and presence of God can be experienced on a regular basis.  A place where the gospel is lived out in tangible and life changing ways.

So many women see ministry as that which happens outside of the home. I am tempted to do that, too! When our church’s small group meeting ends and sweet fellowship transpired, I feel blessed to have witnessed such personal and Spirit-led ministry. During worship on Sunday morning when people are cared and prayed for, I am filled with joy at the ministry that took place.

My son-in-law honoring my daughter on Mother’s Day. Such a sweet time of ministry.

I’m re-learning that some of the most effective ministry that happens in my world is in my day-in-day-out life as a homemaker.

Ministry is what happens with God visits His children with His empowering, comforting, hopeful, convicting, instructing presence. What more regular place can this happen than in the warmth of our own homes?

Being a homemaker is the call to make a home where Jesus Christ is welcomed, honored and given free reign to pour out His love and presence! Whether the home we are making is a college dorm room or a large five bedroom house, we have the awesome opportunity to create a pleasing and pleasant environment where the Spirit of God is free to move; friends and family are served; forgiveness, patience and hope is experienced; and the distractions of unnecessary clutter or the embarrassment of disorder don’t prevent us from opening our homes to whoever the Lord brings. Beginning with our own family.

Celebrating milestones = wonderful ministry opportunities!

This is the kind of vision that has recaptivated my heart.

Having a ministry minded vision for homemaking didn’t come easily for me. During the early years of marriage I saw homemaking as a list of chores to get done so I wouldn’t be ashamed if someone showed up at our house unexpectedly. I enjoyed an orderly environment, but as a pastor’s wife I valued ministry outside the home as the “really important” stuff that happened in our lives.

Over time and with the help and example of godly women in my life, I began to see that the primary goal of effective home management was not to get more done, but to get the right things done. I learned that having a ministry mindset to my homemaking duties gave me inward motivation to create a culture of love and service to my family and friends. I learned that busyness doesn’t equal ministry. I can be busy all day doing things that don’t contribute to the culture I longed to create.

Hospitality are special times of ministry.

And I learned that while my vision for homemaking needs to remain constant, my season of life requires flexibility. During various seasons of my life (pregnancy, up night after night nursing a newborn, caring for sick children or relatives, special projects that required an unusual amount of time or energy, difficulty sleeping, etc) I simply couldn’t/can’t keep up…and I’ve needed to be ok with that!

But when my vision is in tact, I am able to bounce back from these “off” seasons to a renewed commitment to embrace the joy and privilege of being a woman called to make a home for my family and friends..saved and unsaved.

Unplanned moments can happen when ministry is the focus of our efforts.

Being a godly homemaker requires a lifetime of sacrifice. We cannot do this on our own. Yet the One who laid down His life for the sake of others can give us the strength to do the same. Living a life laid down is no easy thing. But as Christians, we have access to a throne of grace where we can run to find mercy and help in our time of need (see Hebrews 4:16 ).

I have been running to that throne quite a bit recently. And I’m getting lots of help.  I love it.

Meet Barbara

When I started my little blog, I had no idea who would visit here. Over the months, I’ve been blessed to hear from a wide variety of readers: grandmothers, singles, moms with kids of varying ages, and even some guys (married and single). I especially appreciate the humble men who visit here! I pray that God will use what you read here to increase your appetite for godly womanhood in your wife or future wife. The lady in your life (or who will be in your life) is blessed to have you!

Godly womanhood is the noble pursuit of all, even guys who want to encourage biblical values in your daughter, wife, girlfriend, sister, or the gals in your church or small group.  And it’s not something that just happens! Ladies can be raised in the home of a godly and devoted wife, mom and homemaker and still not have the training and skills to manage a home.

copyright: Perfect Plan Resources

Like my friend, Barbara (not her real name). She grew up in a home where her stay-at-home mom and hard working dad sought to raise their children to love the Lord. They were actively involved in their local church and regularly had people in their home. Barbara learned at an early age to help out with dishes and other household chores, and was happy to help entertain her younger siblings. While she was eager to attend college with hopes of becoming a physical therapist, her greatest desire was to be a wife and mother.

During her teen years, though, Barbara’s life became busy with school, youth group, babysitting, hanging out with friends, and sports. Family meal times often happened without her and household responsibilities increasingly fell to Mom and the younger siblings. When asked to help out with cleaning or helping with her siblings, Barbara apologized for not letting her parents know about the test she was studying for, the birthday party she was attending or the extra practice the coach scheduled.

Then came Jason. Her parents were happy to see their relationship blossom and saw him as a good choice for their daughter. In time, they were married and Mom was excited about watching her daughter become a wife and homemaker. The early months were fun and exciting. Even though she was working full time, Barbara used wedding gift cards to decorate their small apartment and enjoyed cooking several nights a week.

Before long, though, the apartment was regularly messy and meals consisted of drive-thru take out or microwaved frozen dinners. Jason wasn’t complaining, so Barbara figured he either didn’t really care or understood that she was busier than either of them had anticipated prior to the wedding. Plus, they had agreed that he would help out so he didn’t mind ironing his shirts or pitching in with cleaning.

Barbara’s busyness was not the issue: it was what she was busy doing. During a book study with some ladies in her church, Barbara was encouraged to start keeping track of how she was using her time. She didn’t realize the number of hours every week she was spending on her computer, watching television, and splitting errands up throughout the week that could have been combined into one outing. When she evaluated their food budget, she was surprised at the number of nights per month they weren’t eating at home and realized that even home cooked meals were thrown together without much thought.

In talking with her mom about what the Lord was doing in her heart, it hit them both that Barbara just didn’t have the practice or skills to manage a home. Barbara asked her mom to help her learn how to plan meals, stop overspending on their food budget and devise a cleaning schedule. She was excited about how these new initiatives would help her become a more organized and devoted homemaker!

Yet months later she was discouraged. The plans they made together just weren’t working. Being more organized was much harder than she anticipated.

Barbara’s understandable discouragement came because she started at the wrong place. Her desire to respond to the inward stirrings to be a more responsible homemaker were an evidence of her humility. And her urge to do something in response was the correct one.

But the changes needed to begin not with meal planning or a cleaning schedule but deep in her heart. With the help of others, Barbara started asking herself questions like:

  • Why does the Bible elevate homemaking as the worthy pursuit of the godly woman?
  • Why is it important enough to be listed as one of the main things younger women need to learn from older women? Hmmm…isn’t it just supposed to come naturally?
  • How does responsible, skillful homemaking glorify God? Is it really that big of a deal as long as things look nice when people come over?
  • Does diligent homemaking have to look the same in every family? Why or why not?
  • What did the use of her time say about what she valued and prized as important?
  • If he knew she wouldn’t react defensively, what would Jason say are the things he would like to see changed in how she cared for their home?
With the Holy Spirit’s help and after careful study of the scriptures, Barbara caught a vision for homemaking for the first time. She repented of some sinful attitudes and patterns of laziness (as defined by “doing what I want instead of what I ought” according to a pastor friend of ours) and began to find hope in God’s power to change her heart. Consequentlyher former temptation to give up when she lacked motivation was replaced by hopeful trust that God was doing a work that He (not she!) would complete.
Like Barbara, perhaps you have struggled with putting the cart of new ideas and “I’ll try this” attempts to be an effective homemaker before the horse of having a grace-informed vision for seeing your home as a place for ministry that glorifies God.
Proverbs 29:18 warns that “without a vision the people wander aimlessly.” While homemaking certainly isn’t the context for this warning, the principle is helpful: without understanding the value and purpose of being hard working “keepers” of our homes, we will wander from one idea to the next — and likely give up when sin patterns, lack of training or discouragement set in.


Deprived of Saturday Morning Cartoons

Mom liked having one day per week when the house was tidy all at the same time. So while my friends were enjoying Saturday morning cartoons, my siblings and I were cleaning. I remember telling myself that my children would spend Saturday mornings leisurely sleeping in and then watching cartoons like the rest of the kid world.

They didn’t. “Saturday morning chores” are still pretty typical, even though only two of them are left at home. While things sometimes happen that prevent us from working together in the house on Saturday mornings, I love hearing the sound of the yard being mowed while the smells of pine sol and furniture polish fill the house on Saturdays.

It’s Mom’s fault.

One of the concerns I have for young women today is the number of distractions available to them that take them “away” from home. As a young mom, our only car went with Benny to his office each day and I didn’t have the internet (including email, facebook, pinterest, blogs, online shopping, etc) to pull me away from working in my home. I’m not suggesting that these things are wrong at all.  I enjoy all these things myself and am tempted to spend too much time on my own computer. If I had these options as a young mother I would certainly have been tempted to “leave” home through my computer, too!

At least my messy kitchen is brightened by homemade Mother’s Day flowers from my little people. 🙂

You don’t have to set aside Saturday mornings for chores to be a hard working homemaker. Perhaps your routine involves splitting up chores throughout the week or you have the financial ability to hire someone to help keep your home in order. The question is more related to the heart:

Do we believe Martin Luther when he says that what we do in our homes is of eternal value? Or are our responsibilities at home the things we “have” to do so we can get to the things we “love” to do?

I don’t love cleaning toilets and dusting ceiling fans and removing science experiments from the frig. I have friends who actually love these kinds of chores. Not me. I would much rather read blogs, meet a friend for lunch, cook, or take pictures of my grandkids. I’m just as tempted as the next person to put off the laundry or wait till next week to scrub down the shower.

The question isn’t how clean our homes are, but how devoted we are to the scriptural mandate to be hard working homemakers. Whether you are single or married, work outside and in the home or are a stay-at-home mom, live alone or have a large family, we ladies all have something in common: we have been called and graced by God to manage our home for His glory. As a college student your “home” may be a dorm room or your bedroom at home. You may have a small apartment or a large multi-bedroom house. And being a godly homemaker involves much more than cleaning and organizing, but includes creating a warm and inviting place where love is on display to all who enter your dwelling. But making a home does mean we have to work to keep it presentable, welcoming, peaceful and orderly.

Those of you who have been frequenting my blog know the Lord has been exposing some areas of drift in my life. If you regularly visit my home you know that it is typically tidy. After all, four pretty-much-adults are all that live here now. So the drift isn’t that I’ve been neglecting my home or haven’t cleaned my kitchen floor in months. The drift has been in my heart. Slowly and subtly, caring for my home became too much of a “chore” and less of a joy. In recent weeks I’m finding a fresh breeze of grace blowing through my heart, reminding me that the faithful stewardship of my home is first and foremost a response to the commands of scripture and then a way to imitate the One who came to serve rather than be served.

This quote from Charles Spurgeon speaking of the Titus 2 passage for older women to teach younger women is stirring my heart:

“There were some women [in Crete] who supposed that, the moment they became Christians, they were to run about everywhere. “No,” says the apostle, “let them keep at home.” There is no gain to the Christian Church when the love, and the industry, and the zeal, which ought to make a happy home, are squandered upon something else.”

I’m grateful for the relationships and opportunities that enrich my life — and they often require me to leave my home to make them happen. Yet there is a growing return to the joy of homemaking due to the work the Holy Spirit is doing in my life. His work is requiring that I say no to some things I really want to do so I can invest the “love, and the industry, and the zeal” that being a diligent and joyful homemaker requires.

Off to start the laundry and get a bedroom ready for overnight guests.  Yay!

Finding Worth in Daily Life

You can find this under “resources” at http://www.girltalkhome.com

Here’s one of my Mother’s Day gifts, given to me by my Jesse and Rebekah. I love the quote from Martin Luther:

“What you do in your house is worth as much as if you did it up in heaven for our Lord God.”

When I opened it, tears brimmed in my eyes. I wasn’t sure why, but I’ve had time to think about it and I think it touched me so much because:

  • It’s true.
  • It’s an affirmation of what God called me to do with my life the past four decades of being married to Benny, mothering our 7 children and seeking to make our home a place where love abounds – with lots of sinning and repenting along the way.
  • It reminded me of my Mom’s love for her family and the legacy she left me, her granddaughters and great-granddaughters.
  • It put into words the longing I have in my heart for the big and little ladies in my family to find worth, dignity and joy in living lives laid down for their families and future families.

Loving our homes and families looks differently from woman to woman. My devotion to mine included having lots of kids and being a stay-at-home homeschooling mom. My friend, Stacy’s, love for her children involves having a smaller family, working outside the home and having kids in public school. Yet, as I’ve gotten to know her, I’ve observed the same warmth and devotion to her family as I have for mine.  We’re both Christian women who love God and our families, but have chosen different paths, anticipating the day when we will both hear “Well done.”

Biblical womanhood has many faces. When we look at the Proverbs 31 woman we don’t find a lady who rarely left home and always baked her own bread. Rather, we see a woman who is industrious, out in the community finding bargains, bringing income into her home, managing her home with the help of hired servants, and making warm and beautiful garments to protect her family during cold winters.  She is competent, energetic and loving. And exhausted at times, I’m sure!

Whatever we do outside our homes, the question is this: Are those activities, interests and decisions home-oriented? Is the motive for the time we spend away from our home and family to bring new provision, ideas and energy back to our home and family? Or do we expend ourselves and then come home too tired or spent to work hard serving those God has placed in our lives to receive the best of us?

Over 30 years ago I was 24 and sitting with my feet in a kiddie pool in my friend’s back yard up north. My friend and I were talking about our firstborn sons, who were about a year old. I was expecting my second (sooner than we anticipated!) and we were having one of our regular conversations about training toddlers, keeping house and balancing motherhood and marriage. Hours passed all too quickly and I was headed home from Maryland to Virginia, thanking God for the joy of having a sweet friendship: someone with whom I could share struggles and ideas, temptations and funny stories. For me and my friends, there was a freshness about embracing the call to godly womanhood during a season when “I am Woman, Hear me Roar (in numbers too big to ignore)” was the call of feminism to women our age. That call remains to this day.

“I am strong. I am invincible. I am Woman!”  It even had a catchy tune that is ringing through my head right now.

The truth is I am strong because of the power of Christ in me – but His strength is given to embrace the call to die to myself, not make a name for myself. To energetically fulfill my responsibilities in my home and not to run from them.

I am not invincible, but He is! I don’t have the wisdom or the strength to persevere through the challenges of godly womanhood, but He does! Because of his death and resurrection I am promised all I need for life and godliness. My weaknesses, sins and failures are no match for His strength, forgiveness and perfect obedience.

Seriously…is what I do in my home really “worth as much as if I did it up in heaven for my Lord God?”

Yes. But not because Martin Luther says so. Someone else far wiser than he says so.

More about that in future posts.

They Call me Mom

Still goofy.
From L to R: Jake, Josh, Me, Jaime, Janelle, Julia, Joey; Jesse (in front)

Last week’s Mother’s Day happening couldn’t include all of my people because a few were out of town. So we delayed our celebration until yesterday. Our loud and crazy group descended on Josh and Rachel’s home where we had lunch, watched sports and played in the pool. (You can click on the pictures to enlarge them if you would like.)

I love it when all of of are together. I often think about women my age who don’t have all their children and grandchildren nearby. Honestly, sometimes I feel guilty. In a store recently I was chatting with an older woman like myself and the conversation turned to family. Grinning, she told me about a daughter in the midwest who just had her second baby and asked if I had grandchildren.  When I mentioned I had eleven, she responded in typical fashion.

Take Two…or was it three?

“Eleven??? That’s amazing!  How many children do you have?”

I love those divine invitations to speak of God’s faithfulness. I explained that I was never supposed to have children, but that God gave me 7 miracle babies — the last being adopted. I can’t count the number of times God has used the heartache of my infertility and His power to heal as a way to communicate the gospel.

Our departure from the grocery store brought the familiar temptation to guilt. Why do I get the privilege of having all my people nearby when others don’t?

Then I remembered someone warning Benny and me years ago not to “apologize for God’s will.” He wisely discerned that we were nervously concerned about the affects on others of a decision we needed to make. He shared that while sensitivity was appropriate, we didn’t need to give in to the temptation to tip toe in conversations about our decision. It was the first time I had considered how often I did “apologize” for God.

Josh, please…just one good pic!

I don’t know how long all my children and grandchildren will live nearby. Once they start their own families Benny and I are intentional in doing all we can to encourage them to “leave and cleave.”  This could certainly mean watching the Lord move them to other cities to pursue God’s will for their lives.

And I don’t want them to apologize for Him.

For now, it’s God’s will for my 7 children and 11 grandchildren to live within minutes of each other. My children are all taller than me. Five are married and multiplying. The first to leave for college is moving in just months when we gather up his belonging to head up I-75 to Gainesville where he will attend the University of Florida law school. Julia’s high school graduation is in 2 weeks.

But they are still my children. My gifts from God. My regular reminders that God heals and answers prayer. The sources of both my greatest joy and my temptations to worry. The former babies and toddlers who I knew would grow up too quickly, yet I could find no way to stop it. The ones who show up on Sunday mornings (along with others) at our new little church to help lug chairs, play instruments, do children’s ministry, train their own toddlers to be still during worship, and greet guests. The godly men and women who are now among my closest friends.

These amazing people are the fulfillment of God’s promise to “make the barren woman live in her house as the joyful mother of children” (Ps 113:9).

I love them. They still make me laugh and drive me to my knees to pray. Even though they’ve given me the most adorable little people ever, their hugs remain the ones that warm my heart the most. Their opinions of me matter more than anyone’s on this earth. After Mother’s Day or birthdays, I take their cards into my bedroom and set them nearby for weeks to read and read again. I watch them from across rooms or gyms or ball fields and still wonder how I got to be the mom of someone so amazing.

Oh, how I love being Granma.

There they are…my Big People. Love them so!

But there’s a deep and protected and cherished place in my heart reserved for those who call me Mom. And as long as I can drop by Josh’s office to grab one of my boys for lunch; respond to Janelle’s spontaneous request to have me take her to lunch; meet  Jaime to run errands with the kids; or take Julia to Michael’s to get art supplies I will cherish every moment of having them nearby.

Unapologetically.

I am Loved

I am loved not because of how I look. Where I live. How clean or organized or pretty my house is.

I am loved not because of who I know or who knows me.

I am loved not because of how my kids act or whether they are godly. Mannered. Smart. Successful. Humble.

I am loved not because I’m mature or respectable.

I am loved not because I have a godly husband.

I am loved not because I exercise self-control and don’t say hurtful things that come to my mind.

I am loved not because I work hard in my home. Cook nice meals. Launder the sheets regularly.

I am loved not because I choose to give to others when I’m hurting or tired or sick and need help myself.

I am loved not because I read my Bible and worship God alone in my bedroom.

I am loved not because I do all these things consistently, because I don’t.

I am aging. Getting wrinkled. Know many women who are far more attractive than I.

I don’t know anyone “important.” Have never met a famous person. Wrote books that are now out of print. And only a handful of people will ever read this blog post. 🙂

My children do not always act as I (and God) would like. They are delightful; loving; kind to me. They are becoming men and women of character that bring me joy and who glorify God with their lives. But they sin. Do things that tempt me to be embarrassed. Disappoint me. Just as I do them.

I can be immature in my thinking and actions. Still a work in progress. Am not always respectable in my conduct and attitudes.

My husband and I both live with sinners. He is amazing. Gracious. Patient. Yet sometimes insensitive. Selfish. Proud. As am I.

I sometimes silence the choice of  self-control. Say things I regret. Have unkind, judgmental thoughts. Become resentful.

I am tempted to be lazy in my home. Choose things I want to do rather than those I ought to do. Procrastinate.

I choose not to serve. Long to be served. Quench promptings to give out of my weakness.

I sometimes skip my devotions and choose to rely on myself.

I am a mixture of godliness and sin.

Strength and weakness.

Maturity and childishness.

One day I am trusting and hopeful. The next I am fearful and discouraged. My heart is fickle.

Both joy and sorrow reside simultaneously within a heart that is gracious and critical. Humble and proud. Me-centered and others-focused.

Yet this conflicting woman is loved because He chose to set His love upon me.

I am loved not because of anything worthy in myself or because He needed me.

I am loved because before the foundation of the world He knew me. Named me. Called me. Chose me. And will fulfill His promise to complete the work He began.

I am loved on my good days and my bad. When I am industrious and when I’m lazy. When I choose to act and speak what is right, and when I sin with my attitudes and words.

I am a Christian so I am loved.

And because there is nothing I can do to make Him stop loving me I am secure.

I don’t have to prove anything to myself or others.

When I sin I can run to a throne of grace to find strength to confess my sin to Him and then to others without shame or condemnation.

I am loved because He rose from the dead, proving once and for all that His shed blood was accepted as the atoning sacrifice for meYes, ME!

I am loved…and soon and very soon the light and momentary difficulties of this life will be over. I will worship Him and fellowship with the cloud of witnesses (Dad, Mom, my brother, uncles, cousins, aunts, friends) in sinless abandonment.

I know I am loved because He hung naked on the cross to forever say, “There is nothing that can or will ever happen to you, in you, around you, or by you that will ever make me love you one ounce more or less than I do this day.”

I am loved. Period.

Why, Lord?  Why me?

Hill Climbing is Good for the Heart

In my devotions this morning I read this quote:

‎”The land is full of hills and valleys. It is not all smooth nor all downhill. The hills collect the rain for a hundred fruitful valleys. Ah, so it is with us! It is the hill difficulty that drives us to the throne of grace and brings down the showers of blessing.” (N.L. Zindendorf)

After posting this on my facebook, a friend from up north mentioned there being no hills or valleys in Florida. Smile. But the ups and downs are alive and well in my heart!

Over the months I’ve definitely felt like I’ve been doing some serious hill climbing. The combination of health issues, family happenings (both fun and challenging) and changing circumstances (including starting a new church and anticipating our second move in 18 months) have found my mind and heart swirling. Throw my sin into the mix and…well…the hills and valleys have been on display!

In the midst of my ups and downs — which can swing back and forth from day to day — I have found the unchanging truths of God’s word and His uninterrupted nearness to be my strength.

Life changes.

Jobs get lost or transfers come.

Unplanned things that cost money happen.

Sin erupts.

Hormones fluctuate.

Kids make messes…in your home and in your heart.

Sickness strikes.

Friends disappoint.

Fears stalk.

Children grow up and leave home.

Sleep evades.

In the midst of all the changes, fluctuations, drift, eruptions, disappointments, unplanned happenings and disorienting shifts of life there is One who never changes. He who is the same “yesterday and today and forever” (Heb 13:8) is sitting down on His throne.  He is not pacing; fretful; concerned. He is still. In control. At peace. Ever watchful yet unruffled.

Yesterday I slipped from my hill climbing into a valley of worry and anger. Today the truth about Who God is — His unchanging character and sovereign control — is lifting me back onto the path.

I hate climbing hills. When I use the treadmill I keep the levels flat. I know it’s not as good for my heart as the incline upward, but I congratulate myself that I’m at least on it. Plus, I know I’m out of shape so I figure I’ll work up to a more vigorous routine.

In some areas I’m also out of spiritual shape. We are all a work in progress. We are weak. Needy. Frail. But God is strong and mighty to save. The ups and downs of life tempt me to be discouraged and weary. But remembering God’s unchanging, always faithful, forever present, unmoving strength governs my changing heart and life.

I hope these verses encourage you today as they have me:

“Of old you laid the foundation of the earth,and rthe heavens are the work of your hands.They will perish, but tyou will remain;they will all wear out like a garment. You will change them like a robe, and they will pass away, but you are the same, and your years have no end” (Ps 102:25-27).

“For I the Lord do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed” (Malachi 3:6).

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change” (James 1:17).

He is the same. He does not change. He never varies.

When “all other ground is sinking sand” it’s comforting to know He is the solid rock on which we stand.

Help for Your (or your friend’s) Marriage

Taking a little break today from my heart musings to share something with you….

One of the areas in which Christians need to have vision, commitment and faith is in marriage. Whether you are single or married, understanding what the Bible teaches about husband and wife relationships is critical.  Why?  Because marriage was chosen above all relationships to demonstrate to the world the beauty, covenant devotion, complementarianism and leadership/submission between Christ and the church.

Benny and I have some dear friends who have a terrific blog on marriage called The Romantic Vineyard.  It’s written by a husband and wife for husbands and wives. Tom and Debi do a great job with their writing, but the good news is that they live what they “preach.”

And they provide excellent resources and ideas — along with lots of humility about their own regrets and struggles as a couple.

Please visit http://theromanticvineyard.com/ and mark this wonderful, homey, winsome and encouraging blog in your favorites!