My Computer Doesn’t Give Hugs

Yesterday I mentioned a helpful blog where my friend found some great homemaking tips. I enjoys blogs, and am obviously a blogger. Yet I have some musings about all this…

Technology has advanced more rapidly than I can keep up with — even though I work for my son who owns a technology company! The internet, skype, cell phones, facebook, twitter and email have made information and people accessible to everyone.  When google showed up on the scene it made instant information about any subject available 24/7. There, I can find an answer (not always a good one) to any question and find tips on any subject.

There are aspects of this I love!  Facebook allows me to connect with friends in meaningful ways and see and share family pictures; I can text family or friends with a quick question or “I’m praying for you”; and I can do a quick internet search to order flowers to send to a friend.

But relationships weren’t designed to be done by computer.

The interdependence by which God designed His people to live can certainly be supplemented by an encouraging email or thoughtful text. But when we spend more time in front of a computer or holding a cell phone than in face to face interaction with others something is amiss.

I’m glad my friend, Liz, found such good ideas on a homemaking blog. But believe me, she is the last person to depend on technology to connect with people. She would much rather chat over coffee than type on a keyboard.

I’m not anti-technology. I use my cell phone and iPad regularly  and often spend more time on my computer than is wise. There’s more safety, ease, quickness and self-protection in asking for prayer with a facebook status than stopping to call a friend. After all, she is probably too busy to answer my call anyway — and what if she asks the kinds of questions about why I need prayer that results in a lengthy, risky or humbling phone call? What if she picks up on the sinful attitudes I’m having? Or…hmmm…at times she can be a little quick to give (good!) advice rather than just patiently hearing me out and I just need someone to listen right now. Oh, and I really don’t have time to get into it all over the phone..and let’s see…it’ll be a week from tomorrow before we could meet for coffee.

Yep, I’ll just do the quick and safe facebook route…or should I send her an email?

So when it’s time for help or tips on homemaking, powering up the computer is a good option. But the impartation that happens when women sit face to face and share heart to heart is something a computer can’t provide.

A few days ago a first-time dad texted me with some breastfeeding questions for his exhausted wife concerning their just-born daughter. We had a phone chat and two days later the challenges continued. The baby was losing more than an average amount of weight and her new parents (and their pediatrician) were concerned. Technology had served its purpose but it was time for this new Mommy to get a hug and some help from a few experienced mothers.

I called one of my daughters-in-law who also had some very challenging issues with nursing her newborn just over a year ago, and she contacted a dear friend who is a lactation specialist. This compassionate friend had supported Lauren through weeks of painful breastfeeding, calling and stopping by regularly to offer practical advice and encouragement — resulting in Lauren having to wean her baby girl over a year later.

Within hours Jaime, Lauren, Heather and I visited this new mommy and her beautiful baby girl, armed with Heather’s “cadillac” breast pump, hugs, prayers and encouragement.  When she took her baby into the pediatrician just over a day later she had gained over one-half pound and was peeing and pooping constantly. Her exhuasted parents are nevertheless relieved and happy.

Cell phones coordinated all of this — but skin to skin, face to face contact is what made the difference.  Heather wasn’t content to talk to Stacey over the phone. She wanted to see what was happening; patiently coach her; and give eye to eye encouragement. It’s not about whether Stacey continues breastfeeding or decides to use formula to grow her daughter. It’s about women caring for other women one hug and word of encouragement at a time.

So let’s use technology for the blessing it can be. But let’s not substitute it for the kind of life-giving face to face ministry that humbly says, “I need help. Can we talk?”

I texted the new parents earlier to see how their night went. Hmm….I’m gonna call them and see when I can stop by.

Waking up to a Clean Sink

I interrupted the series on homemaking to share some personal stuff and now want to return to and complete that series.  So here we go..

Last week I was spending time with a dear and longtime friend who is battling cancer. As we sat together while she was receiving her chemo treatment I was yet again inspired by how seemingly effortlessly she thinks of others before herself. This time, she was talking about a blog she was reading recently to get homemaking tips.

Homemaking tips? When you’re struggling with a life threatening disease? Battling chronic fatigue and the side affects of toxic drugs? Struggling with understandable fears about your future?

Liz’s heart for her home still comes through. She was telling me how the blog encourages homemakers to pick one project a day to tackle. It could be as simple as reorganizing a junk drawer or making it a point to make your bed first thing in the morning. She read a tip there that suggested that she clean out and wipe down her sink each night. Even if the dishes are just rinsed and put on the counter to load into an already-full dishwasher the next day, she talked about how good it felt to have a clean sink to wake up to.

I  am often inspired by how my friend is navigating the turbulent waters in which she finds herself, and this day was no exception. Her heart to care for her home came through even as the chemo drugs were flowing through her veins.

I’ve been thinking about our conversation since then. While I believe it’s critically important to put the horse of heart attitudes about homemaking before the cart of practical ways to make our homes the priority the Bible teaches (see more about that here), the fact is this: being a passionate and effective homemaker requires both planning and work.

Liz can’t do heavy cleaning anymore. But she can usually rinse her dishes and wipe out her sink. She found something she could do regularly, rather than reaching for something too ambitious. You may not have a chronic or terminal disease, but there are other providential limitations that prevent you from keeping a sparkling house everyday. (Do you know anyone who can? I don’t!)

I am finding help in what I’m calling the Project/Habit approach to homemaking these days. Before I go to sleep each night I choose one project to do the next day that will take no more than 15- 30 minutes:

  • Clean the ceiling fans (I have some really dusty ones in my house!)
  • Move the couches and vacuum under them
  • Reorganize the linen closet
  • Straighten the pantry
  • Clean the windows (living in a one-story house makes this possible in less than 30 minutes)
  • Dust all the pictures on my walls
  • Organize the drawers and under-the-sink area in a bathroom
  • Scrub the shower doors

I’ve also picked one habit to focus on weekly. Here are some suggestions that I’ve found helpful over the years to get your own thoughts moving:

  • Reminding myself of the “don’t put it down, put it back” rule a friend taught me years ago. This means I can always find the scissors, kitchen clean up is much

    easier, and the dog leash is hanging right where it’s supposed to. (Something I continue to work on to this day!)

  • Making my bed right away each morning. (Even if my dresser isn’t tidy and there are other things in our room that need to be put away, having a made bed helps me get my day started off well.)
  • Tidying up the living area before I go to bed. (When I wake up to a mess it’s demotivating and discouraging.) One lady I know calls this “putting your house to bed each night.”

Do you have things going on in your life that tempt you to feel that homemaking is something you just can’t focus on at this time? Then maybe you can remember my friend, Liz.

Caring for our homes is possible in even the most challenging, busy or stressful seasons of life. Liz is a wonderful example that homemaking begins in the heart. And sometimes it’s just expressed by waking up to a clean sink.

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!

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.

God Made me for a Purpose..and He Made Me Female

Webster defines drifting as “floating or being driven along by a current of water.” The “drift” in my heart didn’t happen quickly. There was no storm or high wind that came along and forced me into rapidly wrong thinking. It was slow. Subtle. “Explainable.”

As I’ve prayed and thought about it, there are two “explainable” factors that have contributed to the drift in my heart.

The first is stress from providential things that have been added to my plate. In recent years I have walked through some very weighty issues involving people I love that have yanked at my heart. Additionally, my husband experienced changes in his ministry responsibilities, resulting in him unexpectedly leading a team to plant a new church this past January.  (You can learn about Redeemer Church at http://www.lakenonachurch.com.)

Some of what I’ve walked through with people dear to me have been the most difficult and heart wrenching circumstances of my nearly 60 years. A few other situations have been wonderfully joyous. Stress can come from both positive and negative sources.

The pressures in my life have been good for me in many ways. I have learned things about myself and about God that have enriched my relationship with Him. I have had to cry out for His help, strength, wisdom, conviction, comfort and grace in new ways — and anything that leads me to do that is welcomed! I have watched Him do amazing things through the hard situations, including taking the saddest of circumstances and bringing redemptive good from them all.

The drift from prizing godly womanhood has happened because I’ve allowed the pressures of life to distract me. Rather than finding peace and joy in my womanly responsibilities, I have viewed them as just “more things” on my task list. I’ve allowed understandable times when I needed to give myself a break to turn into a growing attitude of entitlement that I deserved  break after break because of all I was going through. I’ve also become resentful when others didn’t seem to “get it” that I needed those breaks and expected me to keep serving them rather than them serving me! (How’s that for real honesty? Smile.)

Eric Liddell of Chariots of Fire fame said,  “I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast. And when I run I feel His pleasure.” I, too, believe God made me for a purpose, and he also made me female. And when I’m fulfilling my created design I feel His pleasure.

Since I returned from my retreat I have found fresh joy in caring for my home and family. I don’t feel as much like I’m going through the motions and checking tasks off my list. I’m still working for my son and serving alongside my husband in our new church — things I never imagined doing in this season of my life. But I’m starting to experience the stirrings of new life, fun ideas and fresh motivation for serving my family. The changes in my heart are starting to affect my decisions and choices.

And I’m opening up my heart and struggles to others, which is a gracious means of accountability for change. The power to change comes only from God — but the simple truth is that when God changes the heart, visible differences happen. I’m seeing the first fruits but have quite a ways to go.

Thanks for listening!

P.S. Visit tomorrow for the second explanation for my season of drifting.

A Different Kind of Woman

Some time ago I decided to make my family’s favorite yeast rolls “for no reason.” Because they’ve been a special occasion staple in our family for nearly 20 years, I assumed I had the recipe down. After all, I had used it many times over the years. When the work of mixing and kneading was done, I set the bowl of dough out on my patio for the first rising. Nearly 2 hours later I realized I had forgotten about it!  I rushed out, expecting to find dough climbing over the sides of the bowl onto the patio table. But no. It had hardly risen at all! I didn’t have time to start all over so my no-special-occasion rolls never made it to the dinner table.

Over the past few years I have been relying on my memory about godly womanhood.  After all, I have benefited from decades of teaching, and learned from dozens of speakers and authors. But we are all prone to drift. Like my daughter Janelle and her friend, we get distracted and then find ourselves in troubled waters.  (If you didn’t read her story, you can find it here.)

Google images

When I started reading the DeMoss/Kassian book, True Woman 101, I wasn’t prepared for the impact it started having on my heart. The things I’ve been reading aren’t new to me. But the Spirit of God started pricking my heart with conviction that I have slowly and subtly allowed my heart to drift from keeping the truths of scripture before me on this issue. Like the dough, I’ve been relying on my memory and past study and now see I’ve been leaving some ingredients out.

Two quotes from this book have been rolling around in my head and heart: “‘True womanhood is a distinctive calling of God to display the glory of His son in ways that would not be displayed if there were no womanhood” (John Piper) and, “The fact that I am a woman does not make me a different kind of Christian, but the fact that I am a Christian does make me a different kind of woman” (Elizabeth Elliot).

How can I display this glory and be this different kind of woman?

I think the answer for me is simple: by allowing God and His word (not myself or others) to define for me why I was created. You see, I was created primarily to know and reflect the One who gave His life for me and to share that incredible news with others.  But I was also created to orient my life to the man I was chosen to help, to nurture and train our children, and to be a hard worker in our home.

Simple? Yes. I expect that most, if not all, of you who read this blog didn’t just read something profound. Smile. In fact, you live these principles out – tiring day in and day out. Whether single or married, kids or no kids, you love God’s word and the truths there and want to live according to His plan.

But are you like me and find yourself at times drifting from being a “different kind of woman?”  Are you tempted to believe that good teaching naturally results in good living? Do you find yourself excusing the sometimes irresponsible draw to things outside your home with, “Oh, it’s just not that simple anymore; life has gotten busy and I don’t want anyone to tell me I have to stay home every day to clean toilets and scrub floors.”

The good news is no one should be defining for you and I what being a different kind of Christian women should look like. For some, it could mean never being married or having children (as with one of the authors of the book I’m reading); home education or public school; working only in the home or also outside the home; having one child or ten; having a schedule for keeping your own clean and tidy or playing it by ear. And certainly godly womanhood is far more than having clean toilets and floors!

There is only One who can define for you what being a “different” woman looks like in your life. And He has quite a bit to say about how we should be different than our non-believing counterparts. For years I’ve found great joy in those differences but I’m seeing how I’ve drifted into thinking I — rather than God’s word — have control over what I do with my time and energies.

So, like my near-drowned daughter, I’ve decided to start yelling for help. I don’t like everything God is saying to me 🙂 but I do love His word. I’m actually starting to get excited about how an aging Granma who has loved biblical womanhood for decades can recover from drift and what change is going to look like. By God’s grace, He has protected my affection for being a “different kind of woman”…but I know that change is never easy.

Off to get some laundry going…