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Can Natural Living Become an Idol?

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This post is the finale of our TOP 10 CELEBRATION here at Passionate Homemaking. This post received the most general comments over the last 5 years then any other post on the blog, so I thought it fitting to republish this article for you all.
Originally published on January 21, 2010.

Please note: I want to express my heart from the outset of this post to assure my readers that these are musings that the Lord has been working in my heart lately, and I felt compelled to share them with you. I in no way desire to condemn anyone, but my motivation in sharing is to challenge us all to guard our hearts in this matter.

I recently encountered two stories that have challenged me in the motivation and out workings of my pursuit of natural living. The first account began with a friend desiring to throw a baby shower for an expectant mother in her church. This friend was expecting her first little one. The hostess simply wanted to bless and encourage this new mother in her pursuit. When she asked for gift ideas, the new mother stated that she only wanted organic baby clothing, wooden natural toys, organic cloth diapers, and the like. Half of the guests could not afford these products. One lady missed the memo and came with a few plastic toys.

How do you think this made her hostess and guests feel?

The second account took place when I heard a couple share that they had not been tithing for several months and wanted to begin again. They had not been able to afford it. I knew that this family ate all organic and natural foods. This appeared like it could not be sacrificed.

What is more important?

I have had conversations with friends or family members on various occasions when I tried to persuade them of the health consequences or benefits of a certain product. What has resulted? Relationships have been hurt. I have left others feeling condemned or inadequate. Or at a shared meal gathering, when another mom instructs her son not to eat that food item because “it’s not food”, relationships are damaged because we exalt food over fellowship.

Do I consider myself superior to others because we have adopted a more natural lifestyle?

In the past I have skimped on hospitality because I did not want to spend the money to buy good quality food for my guests or when bringing a meal to another. I made the excuse that I couldn’t afford it. In all honesty, I wanted to keep the best of our budget for my family. This is not true generosity. True generosity takes place when I joyfully give the best that I can following the Scriptural command to do unto others as you would have them do to you (Matt. 7:12).

Where is my heart?

The apostle John’s last words in 1 John are, “Dear children, keep away from anything that might take God’s place in your hearts (1 John 5:21).” These last words are significant…He wants them to be remembered.

How often do I turn a good thing into a god thing?

As Tim Keller states in Counterfeit Gods, “Most people know you can make a god out of money. Most people know you can make a god out of sex. However, anything in life can serve as an idol, a God-alternative, a counterfeit god…What is an idol? It is anything more important to you than God, anything that absorbs your heart and imagination more than God, anything you seek to give you what only God can give.”

Natural living can become an idol when we willingly give our emotional and financial resources to achieve it.
Natural living can become an idol when we think that it can give us significance, security, safety and fulfillment.
Natural living can become an idol when we hoard the benefits and not freely offer it to others.

What is my motivation for eating healthy and living naturally? Because I have desired to be a good steward of creation and for the health and wholeness of our family.

Can preserving the safety of my family become an idol in my life? Yes!

When I give my money first towards the purchase of good healthy food prior to giving it back to the Lord in my worship of tithe, natural living has gone too far. When I am more concerned about the safety of my family to the extent that I sacrifice relationships, the service of my brothers and sisters, than natural living has become an idol.

Eating healthy will not guarantee my family a more peaceful longer life. It will not add a single day to my life than God has already determined. Only God knows the number of my days. (Psalms 139:16) He calls me to be faithful to care for my physical body, and this includes being wise in what I put into my body, knowing that it will affect my ability to serve the Lord; but when I raise that to a god-level, it is no longer a good thing. My security must only be found in Christ. He controls my family’s health and wellness.

Eating healthy and living naturally does not make me any more honorable in God’s eyes than any other. We are all in equal standing before Him.

Our first fruit of income should always go to tithe and not food. (Lev. 23:10; Numbers 28:26). Where your money is, there your heart will be also. (Matt. 6:19-21) If I put more money towards my health and wholeness before God and giving unto others, than that is where my treasure lies. It will burn up at the end.

Unity in the body is more important than the safety of our family. (Rom. 14:1-3; Psalms 133)

God calls me to be generous, not to hoard the good stuff for myself. Am I only concerned about my health and not the well-being of my friends, family, and fellow brothers and sisters in Christ? God loves a cheerful giver. I am challenged to serve the best to my guests as I possibly can. The more you give the less hold it has on your heart. (2 Cor. 8:9)

I have seen and confess to these evidences of idolatry in my heart. Am I implying that organic food, clothing, or wooden toys are bad? In no way. It is a matter of the heart. What is my motivation? Is that a God-glorifying motivation? My challenge to you all…let’s not raise being a good steward to a god position. Let’s not make others feel guilty, discouraged, or overwhelmed because they cannot afford the natural lifestyle or only in part. It’s about relationships. Let’s keep God first, love one another, and pursue giving generously to one another as we are able. Jesus commanded in Luke 10:27 states, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind, and love your neighbor as yourself.” I hope you understand my heart in communicating this message. There is no condemnation here. This is just a challenge to go further up and further in in our pursuit of Christ Jesus with me.

“Accept other believers who are weak in faith, and don’t argue with them about what they think is right or wrong. For instance, one person believes it’s all right to eat anything. But another believer with a sensitive conscience will eat only vegetables. Those who feel free to eat anything must not look down on those who don’t. And those who don’t eat certain foods must not condemn those who do, for God has accepted them.” - Romans 14:1-3

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Preparing My Heart for Motherhood

Originally published on July 18, 2011. Republished in light of our top 10 celebration on PH!

With each new little one that the Lord chose to bless us with, there is a certain amount of preparation and pruning that my heart must go through before being in a place to welcome them with open hands. I honestly go through serious withdraws as the last few weeks of pregnancy linger over me. Thoughts such as, “What am I doing? Am I ready for this? Number 3? Ahh!” Can I honestly be the godly joy-filled mother that I desire to be? Can I embrace this child with a heart of love and gratitude? How can I turn my eyes from the reality of the work ahead of me and truly embrace the change?

Take a Retreat.

I have found taking a personal retreat prior to having a new little one to be an invaluable exercise towards preparing my heart for this new stage in my journey of motherhood. Get away, spend time with the Lord, read His word, and pray. Pray for grace. I must acknowledge that this task is certainly beyond my ability. I cannot be a good mother on my own strength. I will stumble and fall…time and time again. I need to let go find grace in His arms.

Meditate on the Blessing of Children.

Jesus loved children. He welcomed them. He embraced them. (Matthew 18:2-6; Mark 9:37; Matthew 19:13-15). He promised in His word that they are a blessing, a heritage, a reward. They are His generous legacy chosen to be passed down through us. Children are a weapon – a tool entrusted into our hands to be prepared to wage war in the enemies camp. With the influence and power of God’s gift of children, no one can stand against us! (Psalms 127:3; Deut. 28:4).

Embrace the Change.

I believe it is important to realize and acknowledge that motherhood is hard work. It is work. And yet it is beautiful work. When God designed work back in the Garden, He designed that it was good. Work is a good thing. I like how Timothy Keller defines work as the art of bringing together the raw materials and forming it into something that flourishes, something that brings life to those around you. I love that! So for me as a mother, my work is the art of bringing together the raw materials in my home, food, children’s hearts and character, their body’s, and working them carefully, nuturingly, beautifully, so that my children, my husband, our home, and those God sends into our lives might truly flourish.

I need to embrace the fact that God’s grace is sufficient for the change, the tireless nights, the repeated needs and demands around me. His grace is mine! It has been fashioned for me before time began. It’s new every morning. The process of mothering is a sanctifying work. Change stretches and grows us drawing us nearer to our Lord. God is working in and through to for His good pleasure. And He promises to never leave or forsake you.

So recognize that it will be work, chose to embrace it, and the Lord will cause you to flourish. This is my work. Remember that this work is your worship.

Make a Thankfulness List.

Why not make a list of simple truths and reminders that you could post near your bed as gentle reminders for those late night feedings. They could be verses that relate specifically to you or to your baby. You are beautiful (I am fearfully and wonderfully made). You are loved! (You are loved with an everlasting love).

Passing on the Torch.

Recognize the high calling and mission you are about to embark on.

Psalms 78:1-7 gives us this commission:

O my people, hear my teaching;
listen to the words of my mouth.

We will not hide them from their children;
we will tell the next generation
the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord,
his power, and the wonders he has done...
which he commanded our forefathers
to teach their children,

so the next generation would know them,
even the children yet to be born,
and they in turn would tell their children.
Then they would put their trust in God

and would not forget his deeds
but would keep his commands.

That is a beautiful calling!

Read a good book.

Before each birth, I try to read a good inspiring read about the calling of motherhood. Currently, I am reading A Mother’s Heart by Jean Fleming, and it has been so refreshing to my soul. If you cannot get to a book or desire something in addition to, be refreshed by Rachel Jankovic’s articles on Motherhood: Motherhood is a Calling and Motherhood as a Mission Field. Check out my list of favorite reads on motherhood for further recommendations.

Pray for your Baby.

It’s never too early to start praying for your baby. Oh, I forget this every day. So today, I am sitting here praying for this new little life in my womb. I am praying for a particular life verse or life hymn that might be a strong reminder for them through the thick and thin of life. We have chosen a life hymn for each of our children in the past and this serves as a gentle reminder to continue to sing these hymns over them. I am also re-printing out this helpful free 31 Days of Prayer for Your Children.

So my heart is in a state of rest in this moment as my soul is prepared for this new little life. I will chose to see the beauty and embrace it wholeheartedly, as this is the work assigned to me! It is a beautiful work and His strengthen is mine for each step of the way.

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Finding Joy in Your Homemaking

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There are many frequent days in my pursuit of passionate homemaking that I have to fight for joy. I get weary from the constant demands of preparing meals, to wiping sweet bottoms, to dealing with cranky attitudes, to reading the same story for the millionth time. From sun up to sun down, a mother’s work is never done.

I know I am not alone. I know that you and I alike must purposefully strive to cultivate joy. You are about an eternal work.

God has assigned you a glorious task, how do we not loose sight of it?

1. Remember, each day is a gift.

“So here it is, another day. I did nothing to deserve it. I just woke up this morning, and there it was. I may have expected it to be there, but I had no right to. Just like Christmas morning, I got up to find a present waiting for me, a brand new day. Yes, today is a gift. And it has my name on the tag. This present from God has been custom-made for me. God has filled it with blessings, some obvious and some in disguise, its difficulties and challenges are tailored to fit my size. It may not be exactly what I asked for, but it is exactly what I need.” Read the full article by Russell Board, World Magazine.

This is a quote that deserves a place over my bed to read every morning. It is a simple reminder that each day is filled with God’s grace to accomplish the tasks assigned to me. Each struggle and challenge is perfectly designed to help grow and strengthen me in my faith, homemaking, and mothering skills. Remember, “this is the day that the Lord has made, we will rejoice and be glad in it” (Psalm 118:24). Each day, my son or daughter gets a little older. Each moment with them is a gift. Let’s actively pursue joy!

2. Keep an eternal perspective.

I was recently meditating upon this verse: “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men” (Col. 3:23). I was struck by these thoughts that I recorded in my journal:

In your mothering and homemaking, Lindsay, this is work indeed, and yet it is valuable work through which you can bring glory to God. Do this work – changing diapers, kissing bruises, training hard hearts, guiding souls – do it for Jesus! This work will bring forth eternal reward. Don’t do it complaining. Don’t run from it. Don’t fret or cultivate discontentment. Pursue it passionately for Jesus! Take control of your thoughts. Think about the things of heaven (eternal souls in my hands), and not the temporary things of this earth (lose of sleep, free time, late nights out, etc).

3. Take a walk.

When you are weary or feel like you need a break, take a walk. It is a simple and practical step, but it does wonders to your physical and mental well-being. I strive to get outdoors frequently, if not daily, to enjoy God’s creation, breath deeply the fresh air, and refreshment pours over my body.

4. Have a vision/purpose for your home.

Do you have a mission statement? This is something I have been praying through lately. What is my mission? What is my purpose in the home? I challenge you to compile a mission statement for yourself using the excellent guide provided by Kat at Inspired to Action. “Where there is no vision, the people perish” (Prov. 29:18). A mission statement will help focus you on the priorities, guide you in making better decisions, and keep your view above the changing tide of circumstances.

My mission in my home is to cultivate a simple, peaceful haven or rest for my family and anyone that might enter my home. My mission is to make my home a place of blessing (1 Chron. 16:43), joy (2 Chron. 7:10), learning (1 Cor. 14:35), training (Deut. 6:7), and testifying together of the Lord’s goodness (Acts 2:46). Having this vision behind me continually is a great source of refreshment.

For further help in developing a mission statement, check out The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Families by Stephen Covey, and their online guide.

5. Dig deep into the Word of God.

She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future” (Prov. 31:25). How does the virtuous woman have the ability to laugh? She is confident in the Lord. She daily finds her strength and confidence in spending time with Him. Find a method that works for you (listen to a sermon podcast while you work), but don’t leave it out of your day if you want to pursue joyful homemaking.

Your attitude has a powerful effect on the atmosphere of your home.

It can be a place of warmth and rest in the presence of a joyful women, or it can be a place of discouragement and depression in the place of a joyless women.

It’s your choice today.

How can you cultivate a joyful heart today?

Originally published April 5, 2010. Original comments included below.

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Digging Out of the Pit of Guilty Motherhood

I failed miserably in my mothering today. Everything from getting coats and shoes on, to going potty in underwear, to getting out of bed before the proper time. Each situation was responded to with an outburst of anger and frustration.

I experience guilt on many levels in my motherhood. I feel guilty when my house isn’t clean, organized, or I don’t have the energy to design all these glorious organizing tools (thanks Pinterest! ;) . I feel like a failure when I don’t spend enough quality time with my children or waste too much time on my phone or computer browsing this and that. I feel guilty when we don’t do family devotions as if my children’s salvation was all dependent upon me. I feel like a terrible homemaker when I don’t get anything done on my to-do list. So in response to my guilt, I get frustrated and the cycle continues. It’s a dangerous pit of self focus that destroys my joy.

The only means through which we can find deliverance out of this battlefield of guilt, condemnation, and anger is through the power of the gospel. The only lasting freedom can come through acknowledging what Christ has done on my behalf.

We have to steep ourselves in the power of the gospel. We have to soak it in.

I have to remind myself that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1). Yes, you and I will surely fail. But we have a glorious Savior who bore our condemnation. He bore our guilt. It was nailed to the cross. So in our failure, we can have hope. Christ Jesus has replaced our sinful record with His perfect righteous record.

As Elyse Fitzpatrick says, “When you are tempted to slide down into a miry pit of self-condemnation, you can remember Jesus’ sinless life and the perfect record that is now yours. Yes, it’s true that you sin heinously and consistently, but you have a perfect record before God, the only one who opinion really matters.”

“Yet God, with undeserved kindness, declares that we are righteous. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins. (Romans 3:24)”

You have a perfect record.

Colossians 1:16-17 says,The Father…has qualified you [past tense; it's finished] to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. He has delivered us [past tense again; the deliverance is completed] from the domain of darkness and transferred us [past tense once more: the transferal is already concluded] to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have [present tense; this very moment we possess it] redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”

My outbursts of anger were nailed to the cross before I even walked this earth. My fear of failure is a waste of my energy. He paid the greatest price for them. In order to experience true freedom from guilt, I must stop focusing on all that I need to do in order to become a better mother. I must first turn my gaze upon what He has already done for me.

The only way to become a better mom is to preach the gospel to myself every day. It’s not by behaving that makes me a better mom, it’s by believing- believing more deeply in what He has accomplished.

God doesn’t call me to be perfect. He calls me to embrace my standing before him, and to run in that freedom he has already granted to me! I am adored by Christ! I am redeemed! I am accepted!

Ultimately, when I enslave myself by guilt I am mocking what He did on the cross, I am disbelieving the grace and mercy purchased for me through his sinless life. This guilt is witness to the fact that I am depending upon my own strength. I am believing that my children will only grow, flourish, and follow Christ if I do this certain set of practices.

So when you are tempted to put another brick of guilt on yourself, may I encourage you to stop, and declare with me:

“Because Jesus was strong for me, I am free to be weak;
because Jesus won for me, I am free to lose;
because Jesus was someone, I am free to be no one;
because Jesus was extraordinary, I am free to be ordinary;
because Jesus succeeded for me, I am free to fail.” -Tullian Tchividjian

Praise God for the full and abundant life I have in Christ!

Jesus loves me just as much today as He did yesterday!

Many of these insights have been gleaned through Tullian’s powerful book, Jesus + Nothing = Everything.

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Originally published February 9, 2012. Original comments included below.

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Taking A Weekly Planning & Prayer Retreat

Screen shot 2009-10-25 at 2.06.51 PMPhoto by renmeleon

Commit to the LORD whatever you do,
and your plans will succeed.
Proverbs 16:3

Are you feeling overwhelmed or discouraged? I cannot express how much adding a simple weekly planning and prayer retreat has assisted me in maintaining a joyful heart in my homemaking! After feeling completely overwhelmed, physically exhausted, and being prone to be quick tempered with my children, I knew the enemy was trying to attack my joy and make me unproductive. I am realizing more and more how he seeks to attack me by discrediting my role and tempting me to compare myself with others.  After much prayer, the Lord led me to begin adding this time away as a regular routine in my life. Thankfully, my husband been graciously willing to watch the children for an hour or two every Sunday morning so I can get away and pray, refocus and plan. I have been doing this consistently for about a month now, and I have found such refreshment, renewed joy, and encouragement in the journey of homemaking and mothering. It has been invaluable!

I want to encourage you ladies to pray about how you might begin to get away for a short time on a regular basis, if not once a week, maybe once a month. Whatever works for your family. Just getting out of the house and sitting in our car with my Bible, notebook, and laptop suffices most of the time! Occasionally, I will go down to the local coffee shop or drive down to the waterfront and just sit in my car and watch the water. Sitting out in nature really helps me focus on the Lord.

Each week in my planning season, I start by thanking the Lord for each and every blessing from the previous week. I thank Him for how He has grown and challenged me in my faith. Then I begin to pray over the new week and for anyone in particular that He lays on my heart. What would the Lord have me do this week?

Then I begin writing in my simple spiral bond notebook. I make a basic to-do list with check boxes for the week and then assign the tasks to one or two per day. I keep my to-do list very basic. There is usually no more than 10 items on my to-do list, and they include various housecleaning tasks, errands that need to be done, etc. I then proceed to evaluate how I can be useful for the Lord this week. How can I practically be productive and fruitful not only in my homemaking but also for the kingdom? How can I serve my husband? How can I reach out to one person this week? I try to find one way to serve or express appreciation to my husband (whether it be a note of encouragement on his desk or in an email), and one way I could minister to someone this week. Is there someone that could use a note of encouragement? Is there a neighbor I could invite over to dinner?

After completing my to-do list, I make a menu plan for the week. I base this off my monthly menu plan, but simply choose meals from it to prepare for the week. I will jot down any notes in relation to the meals and any preparation that needs to be made in advance, so I don’t forget! ;)

I also write out a basic blog post plan for the week. Then I take some time to read the Word, pray again over my to-do list to make sure it lines up with the Word of God, my priorities in this season of my life, and to dedicate my week to the Lord. I also like to take time to pray for my husband and children.

Having this time of peace and solitude allows me to refocus on the Lord, what he has assigned me to do, and to acknowledge my complete dependence upon Him. It has been a huge blessing! My weeks in turn have been so much more peaceful and productive. Ultimately, it is not about the to-do list, but more about renewing my soul in the Lord. I want to run in such a way as to win the prize and please my Lord. I want to do my work heartily as to the Lord. If I am stressed, I need to step back and take time to pray and re-evaluate what has gone astray in my life. This simple weekly retreat has accomplished these things for me right now.

The mind of man plans his way, But the LORD directs his steps. (Proverbs 16:9) The Lord is ultimately in control of all things!

Do you take a retreat on a regular basis? How do you practically plan for the week?

Originally published October 26, 2009

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Book List for 2013

I just love starting a new year with a fresh list of wonderful reads for me to devour! Reading is one of my favorite pastimes, and I have to be diligent to weave in small reading moments here and there, while juggling my various responsibilities, but it is so worth it. My reading moments might be found in a thirty minute window while the kiddos take a quiet rest/nap time, or a brief chunk of time before bed, but the rich nuggets that I take away while reading the inspiring lives of fellow man, biographies, classic novels, inspirational materials, and more, are the fuel that keep me strengthened day by day to live my life to the fullest, and to understand the culture and historical times around me that I might be a more effective ambassador for Christ now. Reading is a little taste of heaven for me. Each year for the past 5 years I have posted my reading list on this blog and checked off the books as I have read them, and it has been a wonderful source of accountability…so here we go again.

How do I pick which books to read? Well, I try to balance my reading with classical literature for the purpose of continuing to train and teach myself so that I might be an effective teacher to my own children. I love learning and want to inspire my own children in this way. I participate in a classics book club for accountability and deeper discussion in this area. Classics are balanced with biographies so that I might be challenged to grow from the lives of courageous people (especially fellow believers) that have gone before me. Along with these, I pick a few inspirational reads from times gone by as well as contempory authors. And lastly, I pick a few titles that simply apply to my current roles as wife and mother so I might be continually encouraging my soul in my mission. So you’ll see I pick 2-3 or more from each of the above categories.

A Little History of the World - E. H. Gombrich – a solid overview of history written actually for children but a great educational tool for this mommy too!

Problem of Pain – C.S. Lewis – I love reading from the old great theologians, so Lewis’ work on understanding the purpose of pain and suffering will surely get me thinking.

Amazing Grace – bio on William Wilberforce – Eric Metaxas – it’s truly valuable to read at least one good biography each year to help inspire us onward through the lives of men and women of faith.

The Brothers Karamazov – Fyodor Dostoevsky- I read Crime and Punishment this last year and really loved the redemption protrayed in Dostoevsky’s works, so I knew I must attempt the big one.

Unfashionable: Making a Difference in the World by being Different – Tullian Tchividjian – I read Tullian’s Jesus + Everything = Everything this past year and have deeply challenged by his call to keep the gospel the main thing. I wanted to read this book to continue reminding me of my purpose to live intentionally for the Kingdom.

Instructing a Childs Heart – Tedd Tripp – Tripp’s book Shepherding a Child’s Heart has always been one of my favorite books on child training, so this companion/sequel volume is a great resource for really getting to the heart of the matter.

Rich Mullins: A Devotional Biography - James Smith – this biography has been on my list for far too long. I’m going to actually read it this year!

Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of your Child – Anthony Esolen – a discussion of ten points on the cultural trends of education, technology and overscheduling of activities hinder the imagination development of our children and what we can do about it.

Keep a Quiet Heart - Elisabeth Elliot – it’s time for a re-read of these short inspirational writings from a dear women of faith.

Discipline: the Glad Surrender – Elisabeth Elliot – lacking self-discipline? I sure am. This timeless volume of truth will surely be a wonderful tool.

Reflections on Joan of Arc - Mark Twain – we studied the life of Joan of Arc recently with the kids during our study of the Middle Ages, and I was really curious to learn more about her life. When I discovered that Mark Twain had written a book on her, I knew I had to check it out.

At Home: a short history of private life by Bill Bryson – This looks like a fun read detailing the history of every room in the house, and the domestic story behind each artifact.

Joni & Ken : an untold love story - Joni Eareckson Tada – the beautiful love story to be released this April on the life of quadriplegic Joni Tada and her husband Ken of thirty years.

Raising Real Men: Surviving, Teaching & Appreciating Boys – this book comes to me highly recommended as a wonderful resource in raising boys who will be men of faith and courage.

The Gospel for Real Life: Turn to the Liberating Power of the Gospel…Every Day - Jerry Bridges – We so easily forget the beauty of the gospel and how to live it out in our daily life. Jerry Bridges is a wonderful author and a long time favorite of mine.

Fit to Burst: Abundance Mayhem & The Joys of Motherhood - Rachel Jankovic – Rachel has written some truly powerful articles on motherhood over at the Desiring God blog, alongwith her first book, Loving the Little Years. I anticipate another good read from her soon to be released book.

Desperate: Hope for the Mom who needs to Breath by Sally Clarkson & Sarah Mae – I highly recommend any of Sally’s books as the best materials out their to inspire you in your motherhood, and her newest book, Desperate, is sure not to disappoint.

In My Fathers House -Corrie ten Boom – Corrie ten Boom was placed in a concentration camp during World War two after her family risked their lives to hide Jews. This incredible story is told in the Hiding Place. This book tells the story of Corrie’s childhood.

Tramp for The Lord – Corrie ten Boom – a sequel to the Hiding Place. Tells the story of Corrie’s travels around the world and her incredible testimony following her imprisonment.

The Scarlett Pimpernel – Baroness Emmuska Orczy – This book follows the adventures of Sir Percy Blakeney as he seeks to help French aristocrats escape the guillotine during the French Revolution. We have loved the movie adaption of this book many times over the years, so I am excited to read this classic.

One Thousand Gifts Devotional by Ann Voskamp – I have been an enthusiastic of Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts and the practice of numbering all of God’s blessings day by day. Her newest companion devotional has been a fabulous read for short inspiration to accompany your Bible study.

What are you looking forward to reading this year?

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You Are Beautiful

There we sat snuggled in and playing a roaring game of cards (the game Speed in fact). My husband in his sweet way looks up and says, “You’re so beautiful.” Immediately, my self conscious way pips up and points out the leftover baby flub on my tummy as I emphasize the fat by holding between my finger tips. As if he wasn’t fully aware of the way my body has changed and grown over the years and the effects of birthing three babies? In a laughing insecure way I respond, “but this isn’t very attractive.”

My husbands instant reply struck me to the quick: “The only thing I find unattractive about you is your lack of confidence in yourself.”

Wow. My heart was instantly convicted. The only thing my hubby, and I might just venture most men out there, find unattractive about us as women is when we speak negatively about ourselves. It only makes us unattractive to our men. We need to let go of the silly notions about image and appearance. Your man loves you for who you are not based upon how skinny or fit you are. He loves you with all your quirks and baby flub, just like our Heavenly Father.

I look at my numerous stretch marks and say, “yuck”, but my husband looks at them and sees beauty. These are the marks that brought his children into the world. These are the scars that brought forth precious life. I exchanged temporary physical perfection with eternal precious little souls. I imagine these stretch marks as a permanent kiss offered for my child.

When we speak negatively about ourselves, we ultimately mock our Creator. He who has fashioned and designed you unique and imprints “beautiful” all over you. When we look at ourselves in frustration and despair, we are doubting His goodness and that His ways are perfect.

Sisters, make yourself beautiful for your man and others by cutting out the critical attitude about yourself. Embrace the way God has beautifully created you to be. You are beautiful and precious in His sight. Embrace your appearance, your specific gifts, your style, and seek to use it for His glory in bringing life into your spear of influence.

And remember…the only thing unattractive about you is when you speak negatively about yourself. I’m letting go of the crap (for that is what it really is) and embracing my design.

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Whole-hearted Motherhood {Minus the Guilt}

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Written by contributing writer, Trina Holden.

This spring, being the analytical person that I am, I discerned that the stress level I was enduring and the general behavior and attitude of my kids and myself was no longer tolerable.

In other words, I was fed up, and it was time for a change.

Ahh, but I had tried to change in the past, and I knew all my try-hard efforts would only get me so far. A different tactic would have to be employed.

A Problem of {My} Heart

Sally Clarkson clued me in to the true problem (and thus the solution) as I read the first chapters of her book The Mission of Motherhood. She wrote of “The Divided Heart”, and I fit her description to a ‘T’. She shared her own journey and the decision to pursue motherhood whole-heartedly:

“Instead of pursuing a career with mothering tucked in around the edges, I have chosen to focus first on the mission of motherhood. My reward for this decision has been both simple and profound. I have been able to know the joys of mothering without a divided heart.” –Sally Clarkson, The Mission of Motherhood

Her beautiful description of whole-hearted mothering–in contrast to my own messy attempts at being the mom I wished I could be while juggling so many other balls–prompted me to pray a dangerous prayer.

“Lord, change my heart toward my children.”

I wanted to view them not as distractions, mess makers, and cute-but-time-consuming barriers between me and my definitions of success, but as gifts that allowed me to be what I’d always wanted to be: a mother. I wanted them to become my highest priority, and I knew that required heart change, not another set of rules or a new schedule.

Let me testify: this is the kind of prayer the Lord loves to answer.

The Change

I began to feel a difference after only a few days. I was beginning to cherish and enjoy my children more! My passion was rekindled to be the kind of mom I had always planned on being–a mom who read and played and drew and sang and climbed trees with her kids. I began to notice the little moments in each day to create these memories with my children. It did involve sacrifice in other areas, but thanks to God’s work in my heart, I felt the grace to embrace the sacrifice.

As we leave summer behind and head into a busy fall season, I find my heart quaking at the challenge of maintaining my new rhythm. But I’m beginning to see grace and beauty in the process because my new motivation is coming from a place of joy instead of shame.

Minus the Guilt

Jerry Jenkins wrote about a choice he made at the beginning of his writing career–to only write after his children were asleep. He believed in quality time with his children, so after working his day job, he’d spend time with his kids and not write till after they were in bed. He feels God blessed this choice and that his success as an author is largely due to keeping his priorities straight. He said,

“The major benefit for me as a writer? No guilt…There are things more important than your writing career.” –Jerry Jenkens, Writing for the Soul

I want to be a mom without guilt–don’t you? And I believe that wherever we find ourselves, whatever other passions and callings and roles He has given us, God will equip and provide grace for us to fulfill our highest calling without guilt. We just have to be willing to let Him do heart surgery.

If you struggle, as I do, with keeping motherhood balanced with all the other passions and pulls of life, I want to challenge you–not to another list of resolutions, or a new schedule, but simply to pray one small prayer from the heart:

“Lord, change my heart.”

He tells us He can change the hearts of Kings. I think He can handle this mamma heart, don’t you?

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When You Are Weary and Ready to Scream

I lay awake as the hours slipped by. Sleepytime tea, melatonin, protein snack, reading. This cycle repeats trying to get my mind to turn off and let go into sleep. As darkness surrounds me and others sleep soundly nearby, I battle doubt, fear, desperation. Darkness brings such lies and fearful thoughts into my mind. I have been dealing with insomnia for nearly three years now. I don’t remember the last time I actually enjoyed the recommended eight hours of sleep, not from lack of desire or intentionality. I’ve tried nearly every natural remedy, suggestion, drug, or sleep specialist. I know the feeling of desperate tears falling down my cheeks as I cry out for relief in these dark moments. Day by day, I struggle for strength to face the challenges and responsibilities of each day.

If you are in a place of desperation right now…struggling to trust the purpose and plan of our Lord…if your husband is out of work, and the finances are running dry. If you are sick and weary from a long term illness. If you just tired of holding down the fort and dealing with kids that are bickering and fighting hour after hour…I know the feeling.

In one of my moments of desperation, God spoke three little words of truth to my soul: “My daughter, I am the God of rest, comfort, and strength for you today. Don’t worry about tomorrow. Simply embrace my rest today.”

He is the God of REST:

“My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest” (Ex. 33:14)

My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from Him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; He is my fortress, I will never be shaken” (Psalms 63:1-2).

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matt. 11:28-30).

He is the God of COMFORT:

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of all mercies and God of all comfort. Who comforts us in all our affliction…for as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we may share abundantly in comfort too” (2 Cor. 1:3-5).

“Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loves us and by his grace gave us eternal comfort and a wonderful hope, comfort you and strengthen you in every good thing you do and say” (2 Thess 2:16-17).

“As one whom his mother comforts, so I will comfort you; you shall be comforted in Jerusalem. You shall see, and your heart shall rejoice; your bones shall flourish like the grass; and the hand of the Lord shall be known… (Is. 66:13-14)”

As our loving Comforter, He stands by our side to minister soothing balm to our needs. He is my Comforter, providing everlasting comfort for my soul. He shares it abundantly. Under His wings my soul can find refuge and hope.

He is the God of STRENGTH:

“For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to give strong support to those whose heart is blameless towards him” (2 Chron. 16:9).

“Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength…they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint” (Is. 40:28-31).

“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Is. 41:10).

Dear sisters, He will kiss, bandage up your wounds, pick you up again and again and hold you in His arms and whisper words of love in your ears. Let go and rest in His arms. He brought you, O daughter, from the ends of the earth, from the farthest corners, from the depths of your sin, to be his own precious child. He will not cast you off but offers His very presence to be with you all the days of your life. He is my God! He is with me! He promises to uphold me with His very own arm – the strongest and most reliable arm available for me.

Don’t put your hope in health, sleep, the perfect job or circumstances; put your hope in the rock that cannot bend against the tide. The enemy who fights against you will be no more – he will perish forever. Our Lord holds your hand. He is the God of help and strength. Find your strength today by sitting at the Master’s feet, as strength is found in His fellowship.

I may struggle with this battle of insomnia for the rest of my life…only God knows. But I do know that He is a very present help in trouble and brings great good in my life through this trial. And my life is bringing glory to Him as I embrace the trial and seek to cling desperately to His hand and be faithful with the strength that He alone provides.

“The Lord is my portion, says my soul; therefore, I will hope in Him” (Lam. 3:24).

“Look around you and be distressed,

look within you and be depressed.

Look to Jesus, and be at rest.”

- Corrie ten Boom

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True Woman 101: Week 4 & 5

Welcome back for further discussion on our Bible study through True Woman 101: Divine Design by Nancy Leigh Demoss & Mary Kassian. I apologize for the delay in getting Week 4 up, but I decided to combine these two lessons into one post this week, due to time limitations. The focus of these two chapters in the book center around the fall, what took place in the temptation and fall of Adam and Eve and how this affects our roles and relationships.

WEEK 4: Snake in My Garden
Did you watch the video? These 20 minute panel discussions on each chapter are just a fabulous addition to the materials:

Download our audio discussion on Week 4 here.

WEEK 5: Battle of the Sexes

Watch the video panel discussion:

Download our audio discussion of week 5 here.

Satan took a stab at damaging our relationships in the temptation of Eve and sin entered the world. Eve lost fellowship and harmony with Adam and instead of working together they started to turn against each other and blaming the other. Satan planted doubt in the woman’s mind and the seed of independence began to grow. She no longer trusted the God who had given her everything in the garden, but she took matters into her own hand and craved the one thing she lacked. She declared, “I will do it my way!” She abandons the protection of a loving Savior and believes the lie that she is missing out on something. As a result, we as her daughters bear the consequences of sin. We suffer through pain in childbearing, not just in the birthing process, but the difficulties of raising, discipling children, conflict and separation with our husbands, and challenges in all our relationships. Man endures difficult push back in all his work – finding pain his efforts to provide and protect.

The good news is that God offered amazing grace. Adam and Eve tried to hide their sin and make inadequate coverings for themselves, which could never cover their sin, but God gave us a glimpse into his powerful redemptive love by taking the skin of an animal and covering them Himself. Through the shedding of blood brings salvation. He began the story of redemption from the beginning. He promised that through the very seed of Eve, eternal life would spring through the second Adam, Jesus, who would crush the serpent for all eternity. As Adam names Eve as the mother of all living, we see hope that they could be redeemed and still be fruitful and life-giving.

What do you think Eve found compelling about Satan’s sales pitch?

What are some subtle lies about womanhood that Satan pitches in our culture and in your own heart?

What are your thoughts?

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