Can you rejoice in Me?

Lying in bed, earlier than I want it to be.
The sound of children’s voices when I want quiet.
Grumbles rise to the surface, discontentment chafing.
If only I had a bigger house, quieter children…

Recognising the path my thoughts are taking, reining them in,
Offering thankfulness for this house, these children, this life.
And then His whisper in my mind:

“Can you rejoice in Me?”

Not just thanking Him for His blessings,
But basking in His presence,
Opening my heart to the rays of His love,
Looking past the changing circumstances, good or ill,
And seeing the One who never alters.

I will rejoice in You!

Unless You Become as Little Children…

I would like to share this post from a blog that is very special to me. Three and a half years ago God used this blog to help me to find freedom and peace, to know that I am under grace, not under law, and that Jesus is enough.

8thDay4Life

I really believe the human default (for adults that is) is law and legalism. I am not sure we are born with it, but society operates on this paradigm so it’s drilled into us at a very early age. Even if you don’t grow up in a legalistic religion, classmates and teachers both will make sure you understand the ground rules of success both socially and academically. How far back can we trace our fear of failure and rejection? Maybe parents were critical and you felt you must achieve something to gain their love. I am starting to see behavior-based religion as a secondary element that we choose because it flows with the worldview we already have. All the world religions I know of fall well into this same paradigm.

The problem isn’t that the law framework is false. Reaping and sowing are obvious – and even Jesus talked about…

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The Concertos Will Come

 

Nature Boy in the spring, 2013

Nature Boy in 2013

Imagine a nine-year-old boy playing the violin.  He has an excellent ear and almost never plays a wrong note.  He can play any tune he hears.  But the sound coming out of his violin doesn’t match the music in his head.  It is scratchy and weak. Despite regular practice, he does not seem to improve. It is frustrating to listen to him, knowing the possibility of his talent.

That was our son a year ago.  We had taken him to violin lessons, but his teacher had not worked enough on good playing habits, instead forging ahead with more and more difficult music, because of his excellent ‘ear’ and ability to read music.  At first we were pleased with his progress, but as the music got harder his bad playing habits began to hamper him, until his playing was no longer a pleasure for the listeners.  He had poor posture, and his hand was crooked as he held the violin.  His bowing was weak. Something had to be done.

An email came into my inbox from the homeschooling network to which we belong, someone recommending their daughter’s Suzuki violin teacher.  The cost would be higher than what we were already paying, and it was further away.  But I had been praying for guidance.  We decided to leave the old teacher and try the new.

She took him right back to the beginning, back to ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star’.  I tried not to care, thinking, “It won’t be long before she’ll move him on to the pieces he was playing before.”  She worked on his bowhold first, then his hand position.  Week after week, she has been working on his playing habits – making sure the bow goes in the right place to get the best sound, standing up straight, hand in the right position, thumb pointing up at the ceiling not lying down.  Every day when he practises at home I watch him to make sure that he is following her instructions.

Almost a year later, he is still not playing the more difficult pieces he was before, but the sound that comes out of his instrument is a hundred times better.  His playing habits are not perfect, but vastly improved.  I have learned patience, waiting for the fruit of our labours, knowing that this time nurturing his musical gift will be worth it in the end.  The concertos will come, but the foundation must be properly laid.

As I was watching him at his violin lesson recently, I started thinking about what God has been doing in my life, about the bad habits that held me back from His purposes for me:  self-pity, pride, criticism of others, self-condemnation, anger, impatience.  Like me watching my son practising his violin, the Holy Spirit reminds me when my thoughts and behaviour go off the rails.  He is patient and never condemns, but I am frustrated at times because I want to be so much further on than I am.  However as we continue together, the new behaviours will become the norm, and the old will fall to the side.  Already, some bad habits have died, and others are breathing their last gasp.

“Discipline always seems painful rather than pleasant at the time, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.  Therefore lift your dropping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint, but rather be healed.”

Hebrews 12:11-13

Dear Moppet

In January we had visitors from Germany come to stay with us.  They were friendly and fun, playing swing ball and jumping on the trampoline with our children.  However their stay also highlighted for me some problems in our family that needed to be dealt with.  It was painful at the time, but I’m grateful for the work God did….

Dear Moppet,

You have long blond hair, a sweet round face, and sturdy limbs.  You love to sing and dance.  I watch you on the trampoline and I laugh at the big words you use and your decided opinions.  You act tough, but can suddenly crumple at a harsh word or angry tone.  Sometimes you use words as weapons, lashing out at your three older siblings, and I wonder how you learnt that and why you want to hurt them.  You are growing fast and will soon be too big for my lap, and I suddenly want to put brakes on Time and keep you little for longer, and make up for the moments I did not cherish earlier.

I’m sorry to say that I resented you when you were little: the years of waking up every night for no reason I could make out, the annoyance of trying to keep everyone else quiet during your naps, the ‘inconvenience’ having a baby or toddler caused.  I even spoke the words, “I wish…..”  I don’t want to finish the sentence now because it is too painful to remember.  I didn’t realise the treasure God had given us in you.

I saw the damage my attitude had caused, when we had visitors in January and my little 5-year-old girl clung to a stranger, wanting to hold her hand and sit on her lap, things you never did with me.  God forgive me for my blindness.  That night I lay awake and wept because of the wrong I had done you and the words I had spoken many times, though never to your face, “I don’t want another baby if it is like M.”  I take them back.  I love you, Moppet.  It doesn’t matter how much disruption you cause.  Nothing changes the fact that you’re my treasure.

Your Daddy and I prayed together and repented of our words and attitudes.  God gave us His peace and I know that He will heal our relationship and make it beautiful.  I’ve been holding you more, and expressing my love for you, praying with you and playing with you.  I know things are changing and I’m grateful.

Love you forever,

Mum.

Washing dishes for Jesus

There are seven of us in our family, and we eat most meals at home.  We also do not have a dishwasher machine.  We have a small kitchen that becomes cluttered and unusable very quickly if dishes are not dealt with. 

For a long time dirty dishes were a point of contention between myself and my husband.  I felt like I washed the dishes more often than he did (I even started keeping count), and that he should wash more, and he became annoyed with me when he was washing and I was sitting around using the computer or reading a book, and not helping him get through them faster by drying.  I would become irritated with him when I needed to cook and the kitchen was still full of dishes from the last meal.  Such a small thing, but resentment simmered and even broke out into arguments and anger.

I realised my attitude was wrong, and that I needed to change it, but how?  I found the following verse, and put it over my sink:

Whatever your task, put yourselves into it, as done for the Lord and not for your masters,since you know that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward; you serve the Lord Christ. 

Colossians 3 verses 23-24

Every time I wash the dishes (especially when I really don’t feel like tackling them again), I remember that I am doing them for my Saviour, as an act of love for Him.  The difference has been extraordinary: so marked that I can only attribute it to God’s work and the power of the Word of God in my life.  The resentment is gone, and if it tries to return I can dispel it easily.  We have had no more fights over this issue.  Both of us have changed.

When self-pity tries to throw a party, I can boot it out by thanking God.  It doesn’t seem to matter what I start to thank Him for.  Once I start on that track it’s easy to continue.  Perhaps this is the ‘secret’ of contentment that Paul writes about in Philippians 4 verses 12 and 13:

I know what it is to have little, and I know what it is to have plenty.  In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being well-fed and of going hungry, of having plenty and of being in need.  I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

There are many things we can (and do) complain about.  But if we are in Christ the reasons for thankfulness are so much more numerous and more significant, and when we focus on these, the heart overflows with joy and He gives us strength.  Our thankfulness is a beautiful offering to our Father, more precious than any sacrifice.

I will praise the name of God with a song;
    I will magnify him with thanksgiving.
This will please the Lord more than an ox
    or a bull with horns and hoofs.
Let the oppressed see it and be glad;
    you who seek God, let your hearts revive.
For the Lord hears the needy,
    and does not despise his own that are in bonds.

Psalm 69 verses 30 to 33

In some ways it seems trivial to write about my struggles with dishes, when I know that there are many people in the world who are suffering terribly, people who would love to have three meals a day and the ‘problem’ of dirty dishes.  However, it seems as if it is not our circumstances that are the most important factor in our contentment, and that each small battle we face may be a training ground for something greater:

Whoever is faithful in very little is also faithful in much, and whoever is unrighteous in very little is also unrighteous in much.  Luke 16 verse 10

His master said to him, “Well done, good and faithful slave! You were faithful over a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Share your master’s joy!” Matthew 25 verse 21

Ectopic

Fleeting life,

You came to rest too soon

In a tube, not my womb,

And died.

Entered into the greater Rest

Which I do not yet know,

See His face,

Hear His voice.

I wait for eternity,

Wounded, bereaved.

In memory of Shiloh, October 29, 2013

Verses for Parenthood

I would like to say now that even though I am the mother of 5 children, and a stay-at-home mum, and a homeschooler, I do not consider myself to be an expert parent.  In fact, I can only point to the grace of God who sustains me, gives me wisdom when I ask Him, and who forgives my sins and heals both my wounds and the hurts I have inflicted on others.

Blessed be the Lord, who daily bears us up;

God is our salvation.

Psalm 68:19

Today I’d like to share some of the verses that have been signposts pointing me to a way of parenting that is more Christlike.  I have been transformed from a violent, angry and selfish parent to one who is patient and loving (though still not perfect).  This process has taken about 10 years.  My darkest time was about 7 years ago when my third child was a baby.  I wanted to change desperately, but it seemed impossible.   I wanted to kill myself, run away, anything to escape.  I thought that my family would be better off without me.  That was a lie.  Somehow God’s Holy Spirit got through to me that it would be better for my family if I was able to change and be a different person, than for me to die and leave them.   white_dove-wideHe gave me a thread of hope to hold on to, that better days would come.  And they have.

‘Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near.’

Philippians 4 v. 5

The true Christian parent must be gentle.  This does not mean that the parent is weak or does not discipline their children.  However we can see the gentleness of Christ with children.  He valued them, He welcomed them and He was beloved by them.  They were drawn to Him because of the love that radiated from Him.  That is what I want to be like.

Human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.

James 1 v. 20

This verse has reminded me many times that my human anger will not produce true righteousness in my children.  It may induce them to comply with my wishes, and behave as I want them to, but will not change their hearts.  My Heavenly Father has worked in my heart, taking away the anger and giving me peace.  I need to come to Him each day because it is easy to fall back into my old habits of becoming irritated and impatient, and using my anger to try to produce God’s fruit.  It won’t work!

She opens her mouth with wisdom,

and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.

Proverbs 31 v. 26 (NRSV)

How can I teach others to be kind, if I am not kind myself?  The righteous mother teaches others to be kind and her words are wise.  They flow from a life that is full of wisdom and kindness.

For the Lord spoke thus to me while his hand was strong upon me, and warned me not to walk in the way of this people, saying: Do not call conspiracy all that this people calls conspiracy, and do not fear what it fears, or be in dread. But the Lord of hosts, him you shall regard as holy; let him be your fear, and let him be your dread….

See, I and the children whom the Lord has given me are signs and portents in Israel from the Lord of hosts, who dwells on Mount Zion.

Isaiah 8 v. 11-13, 18

I call this my ‘homeschooling verse’ because God gave it to me about a year after we started homeschooling.  It is a reminder to me that I must not fear what anyone else fears, but only fear God and do His will.  He will make me and my children a sign to others.  They will see His presence with us as we obey Him.  There are so many things that we as parents worry about and fear, but Jesus tell us not to worry about the future.  Trust in Him for the days to come.  Seek the kingdom first!

Here is my last one to share, which the Holy Spirit pointed out to me only recently.

I know your works.  Look, I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut.  I know that you have but little power, and yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name.

Revelation 3 v. 8

God gave me this verse at a time when I was deeply discouraged about homeschooling.  I was afraid of what others were thinking about my children and about me.  I had a sleepless night, torturing myself with these thoughts.  Then in the morning, I asked Him for guidance, and turned to Revelation, the book I was reading then, not expecting anything encouraging, but that verse leapt out at me.  He was saying that He knows that I am weak (and I am), but I am faithful to Him and that is what matters.  This past year both my husband and I have been praying more, seeking God more, and putting Him first.  He is in control, and no one can shut a door that He opens.  🙂

Consider Your Ways – A post for the new year

One of the elders at our church presented the following questions to us this morning to help us reflect on our direction and how we can seek the Kingdom first.   He also read from Haggai 1, where God warns the people of Jerusalem that they cannot expect His blessing, because they are building their own comfortable homes when His temple lies in ruins.  The application for us is not necessarily to build beautiful churches for God, but to see that we are His temple.  Are we putting Him and His agenda ahead of our own comforts?  My answers follow the questions below:

1. What’s one thing you could do this year to increase your enjoyment of God?

2. What’s the single most important thing you could do to improve the quality of your family life this year?

3. What is the single biggest time-waster in your life, and what will you do about it this year?

4. What is the most helpful way you could strengthen your church?

5. For whose salvation will you pray most fervently this year?

6. What one thing could you do to improve your prayer life this year?

7. What’s the most important need you feel burdened to meet this year?

8. What’s one new way you could be a blessing to your church family this year?

9. What’s one thing you could do this year to enrich the spiritual legacy you will leave your children or grandchildren?

10. To what need or ministry will you try to give generously this year?

My answers:

Heavenly Father, guide me as I consider these questions.  I don’t want to just make resolutions and try to change myself in my own strength.  May I walk by the Spirit and delight to do Your will.

1. How can I enjoy God more?

Sometimes it’s easy to praise Him and rejoice in Him; other days I am overwhelmed or grumpy and the praises don’t flow.  Father teach me to praise You and rejoice in You always, because You are worthy.

2. How can I improve my family life?

Be present when I’m present!  Enjoy my children and my husband and give them my affection and time.

3. What is the biggest time-waster?

For me it is the internet and computer (though of course I’m not wasting time right now…).  This is also related to no. 2 above.  I can ask God, “Is this what You would have me do right now?  How do You want me to use this time?”  I was recently at the swimming pool with my 5-year-old daughter, talking to God about something else, and then the thought came to me, “Play with her; enjoy her.”  So even though it’s really hard for me to play, because I seem to have lost the knack, I put the effort into interacting with my daughter in a playful way, helping her to float, playing catch, swooshing her through the air like a dolphin, and doing things I used to enjoy when I was a child at the pool.  It was great to see how her eyes lit up, and we enjoyed being together.

4. How can I help strengthen the church?

At the moment God is calling me to pray regularly for the church we attend and each person in our congregation.  I am sure He will reveal more as His plan unfolds.  I have lots of ideas but am not sure they are His plans.

5.  Whose salvation will I pray for this year?

I’m praying for lots of people, but one family in particular stands out at this time.  I have been praying for them at least once a week.  I could increase that to daily prayer.

6. How can I improve my prayer life?

It’s improved vastly over the last few weeks as I have been making it a priority over Bible reading.  I pray in the morning and read the Bible later in the day, usually in the afternoon or before bed.  I can also pray when I’m driving and when out walking by myself.  Making prayer a priority first thing in the morning seems to have made a huge difference.  When my husband wakes up early in the morning (6 am) to go to work, I can wake up at the same time and pray then.

7. What’s the most important need you feel burdened to meet this year?

I’m very disturbed and burdened by the problems of child abuse and exploitative materials that are being distributed on the internet.  I don’t know how I can help with these needs except to pray, and to support ministries like Hagar and Open Home Foundation.  I’m praying that God will expose those who are abusing children and producing porn; for the removal of corrupt officials and that police will not take bribes to turn a blind eye;  that children who are being abused will find help and safe and loving homes, and healing through Jesus Christ; for those that are addicted that they will find help to overcome it.

8. How can I bless my church family?

I can bless them by being faithful in praying for them, and encouraging them in other ways.  This year I will be helping in the children’s ministry and with music.  I will try to build relationships outside our Sunday meetings by having church members round for meals at our home, and by visiting those who are housebound.

9. What can I do to enrich the spiritual legacy I will leave my children?

Continue with our Bible memory programme, and spend time with the children one-on-one, praying and reading God’s word together.  Continue to point them to Him as the source of all goodness and life.

10. To what need or ministry will I try to give generously this year?

We’re giving to quite a few different ministries.  The one that stands out for me most is Asia Harvest’s China Bibles Fund.  This is a very cost-effective way of helping the kingdom of God to grow.  I would also like to support Hagar.

A good day

We had a relaxed morning.  I woke up early, with Bubs, but he hadn’t woken during the night, so I felt well-rested.  Curly woke early too, and played with Bubs, pushing him around in a plastic crate.  Kitkat and Nature Boy slept in until 8.  It was a good day not to be at school.

Bible – we read about the healing of the centurion’s son and the raising of the widow’s son.

Astronomy – stars – learning about the different types of stars, as well as black holes and supernovas, and the characteristics of our sun compared to other stars.  It turns out our sun is very average: in size, brightness and heat.  It is stable, and it is a single rather than binary star.  It is perfect!

Reading with K and M – We read ‘Smudge, the little lost lamb’ by James Herriot: one of my favourite Herriot stories.  It reminds me of the parable of the lost sheep.

Writing – writing letters to Nan and Poppa (my grandparents who live in Australia).

We also went for a walk down the lane, in the rain.  We sawVetch sheep, and foxgloves, and leguminous plants that we don’t know the name for, but they reminded us of vetch.  Vetch is a plain name for a pretty weed.