Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Five Promises to Live By

I've been reflecting in the wake of Christmas. What I've uncovered is a message for each of us that's applicable every day. Actually, it's a message to live our whole lives by.

Christmas means a retelling of the familiar story of Christ's birth. Every year I hope to hear something different in it. This year what the angels prophesied to Mary and Joseph about Jesus struck me. Mary would soon be with child, and there were marvelous expectations surrounding him. He would be the Son of the Most High who would save the people from their sin and rule over a never-ending kingdom. I wonder what it must have been like for Christ to hear a retelling of these angelic prophesies as he matured into his destiny.

Just as words were spoken over Christ before his inception, scripture speaks words over you and me too. We are not the Savior of the world, but we are meant to live and thrive in his service. Understanding our own scriptural "prophesies" is key to fully embodying our God given potential. There are five promises God wants each of us to know today. Even though we may already be able to recite them by heart, really believing and living them can still be a challenge. So I invite you to read these words anew, words that were written about you long before your birth in our Bible...

Please click here to finish reading this article over at iBelieve.com.  Moms, let's start the year strong by living out the five promises I discuss!

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

I Have a Confession to Make

I got this on vacation, and it now hangs in my laundry room.

It's almost February, and all of our Christmas decorations are still up.

But really, that's not the worst of my confession.  My house is a mess, so it's going to be even longer before I get to them. 

The reason for the "backup" isn't a bad thing.  This Type-A girl is intentionally taking a couple of hours everyday to do something that refuels me.  I am not doing the dishes that are leftover from last night, folding laundry that has been sitting in bins for two days, or paying bills during those two hours.  I will get to all of those things, like the Christmas decorations, eventually.

In the afternoon when my younger son is napping and my older son is relaxing, I allow myself to do the same.  That's right.  I actually relax during "crunch time!"  Maybe I write to you while sipping a cup of tea.  Maybe I read my Bible or devotions from the pile of books on my nightstand.  Maybe I take a little nap.  The point is, I do something for me.  It feels so good, it's almost as if it's how God intended it. 

It has taken me over thirty years to get to this point.  I just love ticking things off my list and the satisfaction it brings.  And I really want a home that is clean, organized, and perfectly decorated (or undecorated at this point).  But I want my sanity, health, and quality time with my boys more. 

The reality is that when I take time out, I'm a better mom afterward.  I'm a happier mom too.  So I remain convicted, but I have to fight the voice in my head.

I have to fight the voice that says I am not a good mother when my home is sometimes a mess.  I grew up in family where a clean home wasn't an option, it was a nonnegotiable responsibility.  I have struggled with my Mom's imaginary assessment of me.  And I have struggled with what other people would think if they saw my home messy.  (And trust me, with two little boys, generalized havoc can happen almost instantaneously.)

But I don't want that nagging voice in my head to rob me of what is at stake.  Ultimately, the goal of any home should be one that we feel comfortable in, a place that functions as a safe haven from the world.  What does it say about us if we place such high expectations on ourselves that we don't even feel like we can relax there?  What does it say when we cannot refuel and nurture the people God whom made us to be because we're more concerned about what other people think, even from within the walls of our own home?  Finally, what does it say when we give more time to our home than to the people who are living inside of it, ourselves included?

My answer to all of this is that I'm attempting to let go of the little things.  I choose to refuel during nap time.  "Nap time" might look different for all of us depending upon our schedules, but the challenge is the same. 

Don't get me wrong.  I will thoroughly clean my house; I just have to be patient some weeks more than others before everything gets done.  Patience is a challenge.  I like everything within my control in a neat little bow.  How about you?  But I believe it's important we create homes that nurture rest, fun, and development - both for our children and ourselves.  Moms, I'm here to tell you:  You're worth it.

"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).

If this post resonated with you, you might also like A Peaceful Pause.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Holy Nudges

The Bible depicts the Holy Spirit, the author of our nudges, as a dove.

Last Sunday I went to church without the little people.  My husband stayed home with our boys who were sick.  Of course, I love the weekly trips to church that include worshiping with my husband and seeing my children's gleeful eyes while holding their Sunday school creations.  But last week I didn't miss having to rush past coffee hour in order to pick them up.  I could stay and visit awhile.

I took the opportunity to visit my church's new satellite campus.  I recognized some familiar faces from the staff but took a seat next to two women whom I didn't know.  One of them was there by herself just like me.  We laughed as our big winter coats kept falling off the chair between us.  She looked to be over eighty years old, but fully enjoying the contemporary service with the electric guitar, which I silently applauded her for.

After the service, we exchanged pleasantries and I quickly realized a nudge to want to pray for her.  She had not expressed any hardship, but I couldn't shake it.  Near the end of our exchange I said, "Well, it has been wonderful talking to you.  I hope you will come again as I believe this to be a special church, and I will be praying for you."  Then, the flood waters opened.

She stopped and said that if I really wanted to pray, she had a request.  She started to cry as she relayed concern about a young mother and her five year old child whom she believed to be in peril.  She did not know them personally, but they were family members of a close friend.  She was gravely concerned that this young woman was making decisions that would negatively impact her own life and that of her child - their safety, security, and stability were at stake.  So we prayed.

After we finished, we both realized we were meant to pray that day.  I encouraged her to be bold, to continue praying, and to believe that God could use her even from a distance to help that young mother and her son.  She had a heart for them for a reason.  I could feel the power of the Holy Spirit surrounding us.

I came home feeling alive and hopeful about the power of prayer, about how the Holy Spirit really can and does nudge our hearts, and how we can have the privilege to sometimes play a part in the mysterious workings of God. 

It got me thinking about the number of nudges that I have felt in my lifetime, some of which I have acted upon and some of which I have not.  And when I have acted, sometimes I have witnessed fruit and sometimes I have not.  But I am convinced that having the boldness to risk and try can lead us to richer, more fulfilling living.

My encounter drew upon my training as a chaplain, when for two years I would pray with people whom I had just met after walking into their hospital room.  Those prayers sometimes involved life and death, but often involved pain and a longing for the peace and hope of God.  Remarkably, I am not using those skills in my everyday life of raising toddlers (at least in the same way)!  But God remembered my training and planted that nudge.

And God nudges you too.  Like me, that nudge might involve training that you have and aren't currently using as a mother.  Or maybe that nudge involves simply planting a seed of faith in a friend who is struggling, or giving the grocery store clerk a kind word so that she can smile that day.  Maybe it involves praying with or for someone yourself - you certainly don't need formal training to do that.  Whatever it is, I hope you won't ignore it.  I hope we will allow God to use our hands, our lips, and our presence to shine his light and effect good in the world.  After all, our faith doesn't only equip us to be better parents, it equips us to be strong women of God. 

"The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him - the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of might, the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the Lord" (Isaiah 11:2). 

If you liked this post, I think you will enjoy Stair-Master Challenge.

This post was happily shared with Christian Mommy Blogger.
{Photo by Muffet at Flickr}

Thursday, January 9, 2014

From Worry to Confidence

Do you struggle with worry?  Are you looking for scriptural encouragement to help set you free?  The psalms are a wonderful resource to turn to because we read prayers of real struggle and a search for God.  The following is a reflection on worry that includes a discussion of a favorite psalm of mine. 

I came across an insightful quote on worry the other day by the Dutch Christian Corrie ten Boom.  It reads, "Worrying is carrying tomorrow's load with today's strength - carrying two days at once.  It is moving into tomorrow ahead of time.  Worrying doesn't empty tomorrow of its sorrow, it empties today of its strength."  I cannot stop thinking about it.  I knew worrying was a nuisance, but she describes it as a crippling force.  It takes away needed strength and does not alleviate the problem.

A natural response to this predicament is to ask, "What is the opposite of worry?"  An opposite is confidence.  Confidence can change life's terms.  Instead of becoming paralyzed by what ifs and replaying them in our mind, we can have a faith that's insurmountable.  Instead of fear dictating the terms, we can accommodate healthy risk and even thrive on it.  So instead of shrieking back, we can march forward. 

The definition of confidence is interesting.  When I did a quick Google search, I found the term defined this way:  "The feeling or belief that one can rely on someone or something; firm trust."  We might think of confidence as an attitude we can muster, but instead it is a dependence upon something else.  We have to choose to lean on it.  And when we lean on it, we know it to be worthy of firm trust.  Friends, that someone who's worthy of our firm trust is God.

I love Psalm 27 because it tells us why we should be confident in God.  First, we should be confident because God is our Protector, our stronghold.  It reads, "Though an army besiege me, my heart will not fear; though war break out against me, even then I will be confident...For in the day of trouble he will keep me safe in his dwelling; he will hide me in the shelter of his sacred tent and set me high upon a rock." (v. 3 and 5).  It is in the midst of even the most dangerous circumstances that the psalmist claims God's salvation.  We can be confident ourselves because nothing happens that is beyond God's reach to equip us with power and resources through faith.  Further, our enemies will never be able to bring about our ultimate undoing - God's hand will not allow it.

Second, we should also be confident because blessings inevitably follow while in relationship with God.  The psalmist claims, "I am still confident of this:  I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.  Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord" (v. 13-14).  No matter how dark the situation is, no matter how worrisome it may appear, the psalmist claims confidence because God is working on his behalf.  God will not just show up to defend him, but will go further and promote him with blessing.  This same promise is available to us.

Psalm 27 is one of my favorites because it shows what God's salvation looks like this side of heaven.  [Tweet that.]  We know we have eternal life with God through faith, but God's power is not confined to the afterlife.  It is no mistake that Psalm 27 begins with the line, "The Lord is my light and my salvation - whom shall I fear?"  Your salvation is waiting for you now.  If we truly believe God is our unfailing Protector and Giver of every good gift, then not only do we never have a reason to worry, but we always have a reason to be confident -- and give thanks.  

Is worrying less included in your New Year's Resolutions?  I think there's a space for it on all of our lists!  Let's reflect upon scripture and how God has been faithful in the past, so that we can reroute our energy toward the exciting plans God has in store for us in 2014!

If you liked this post, you might also enjoy reading A Promise To Live By Forever.

{Photo by Jon Rawlinson at Flickr}

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

New Snow and a New Year

It's a snow day today as I write.  I had to take a deep sigh and release the appointments and plans I had made this morning.  My children were home and excited to get outside.  No school today meant an opportunity, and I'm glad I took advantage of it.  We went sledding, threw snow balls, made snow angels, and ended the morning with hot cocoa.  I remember my Mom making it for me on cold winter days.  It's incredible to think I'm providing my children with the same memories with every stir of their hot drinks.

Looking around at the newly fallen snow got me thinking.  Everything changes with it on the ground.  Not only do schedules sometimes change, but have you ever noticed how much quieter the world gets under a blanket of snow?  It's almost as if God is beckoning us to slow down and pay attention. 

The snow makes everything glisten.  Even though it's covered in only white, it's far from monotonous.  In fact, I love how Christmas lights burn brighter on green bushes under the snowflakes.  The same scenery somehow takes on a totally different appearance.  There is a purity to newly fallen snow on a field without footprints.  There is a playfulness to the fluff as it collects on wispy branches.  And there is the wintry reminder that it's a special time of year.

In winter we celebrate the hope of Christmas and the New Year.  The New Year in particular offers a calendar reminder of new beginnings.  There is power in new beginnings, as symbolized by the making of New Year's resolutions.  We seek to take advantage of the opportunity it brings.

As Christians, we know about new beginnings too.  A new beginning is offered when we pledge our lives to Christ and become his disciples.  One is offered every time we pray for forgiveness.  In truth, our souls become as clean as newly fallen snow through the power of the cross.  For Isaiah 1:18 reads, "'Come now, let us reason together,' says the Lord. 'Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow...'"

As much as the calendar serves as a reminder, a true new beginning is only offered through the cross. Only Christ can make our hearts as light and free as children dancing in the snowflakes.  Only God can love our souls enough to clean them with his own son's blood so they are as white as snow.  Only the Holy Spirit can allow us to harness that power as we go forth into our lives as new creations.

Is there something stirring in you as you read this?  Allow the New Year to remind you of what we have in Christ.  New beginnings are always possible through him.  Whether you are struggling with relationship trouble, becoming free of an addiction, or stuck in a demoralizing rut, Christ is offering his hand.  Let's not just read the promises of scripture, but let's make it our New Year's resolution to write them across our hearts and live them. Join me as we attempt to drink in God's overwhelming grace in a fantastic and freeing 2014!

{Photo by Muffet at Flickr}

I am excited to report that my blog is now Pinterest friendly.  Simply slide your cursor over a post's picture and the Pinterest button will appear.  Pin away!

It's hard to believe that this post marks the year anniversary of my blog.  Thank you to my loyal readers and welcome to my new ones!  I pray that this community continues to be a place that we can seek inspiration and come together.  As moms, we are not alone!  In Christ's Love, Noelle

TODAY Video Clip