Sunday, June 22, 2014

The Joy in Being Named by God

Currently, I've been studying one of my favorite books of the Bible, Ruth. I have been joining for their daily online Bible studies. Let me just say, I love it! It keeps me accountable at getting in my time with God each day. In the past, I'd start and then stop studies. What has helped is that I buy their study packs and since I spent the money, I also want to get my money's worth so I stick with it. Plus, let me tell you. The 8x10 prints that come with the study packs are amazing! I buy inexpensive frames for them and decorate my house with them. I love to decorate my house with scripture. My love for it comes from these verses in Deuteronomy.

Deuteronomy 6:5-9 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.

In our study, we read about how Naomi changes her name to Mara which means bitter. Because of the current circumstances she was in with losing her husband and sons, she was in a grieving process. With her faithful daughter-in-law, Ruth, by her side, she heads back to her home of Bethlehem now that the famine was over. When they arrived, the women of the town were talking and asked if this was Naomi.

Ruth 1:19-21 So the two women went on until they came to Bethlehem. When they arrived in Bethlehem, the whole town was stirred because of them, and the women exclaimed, "Can this be Naomi?"

"Don't call me Naomi," she told them. "Call me Mara, because the Almighty has made my life very bitter. I went away full, but the Lord has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi? The Lord has afflicted me; the Almighty has brought misfortune upon me."

Through the study that we did, we were reminded that circumstances may change but God doesn't. And so often, we give ourselves names based on our circumstances, not necessarily names that God would give us. So as part of a writing assignment, I am answering the below questions that go with this study.

Is there a discrepancy between the names by which Jesus calls you and the names you give yourself? So often, I give myself names that reflect my circumstances. It's true. I am guilty of naming myself:
  • Failure for when I don't think I've done enough
  • Awkward because I can be timid sometimes
  • Crazy for when I have mood swings (as women, don't we all)
  • Chicken for the things I'm afraid of
  • Unlovable (sad, but so often I see it as true)
  • Unworthy (another sad reality of something I've said and thought)
  • Ugly (for the days I feel unattractive and play the comparison game)
But Jesus doesn't think these things about me. He calls me:
  • His branch that bears fruit (John 15:5)
  • His sheep (John 10:14)
  • holy and dearly loved (Col. 3:12)
  • a child of light (Ephesians 5:8)
  • God's handiwork (Ephesians 2:10)
  • Blessed (James 1:12)
  • Chosen (Ephesians 1:4) (1 Peter 2:9)
  • His disciple (Matthew 28:19-20)
And so much more...

It is time take out the "un" part of some of those words that I name myself. Instead of unlovable, I am loved. Instead of unworthy, I am good enough. Instead of undeserving, I am chosen. And most importantly, I am HIS!!!

Are there circumstances in your life to which you are giving undue power, power that rightfully—and in reality!—belongs to our sovereign God alone? In the past 3-4 years, my husband and I have been through a lot of hard circumstances. Between health problems, loosing people close to us, and lots of various changes, we were feeling overwhelmed. But as we look back, because of the way things have happened, we were blessed with twins, a wonderful home, having him around more (less time deployed), and a closer relationship with each other, not to mention with God. Sure, things have been hard. It's an understatement, really. But all the good God has blessed us with along the way was His reminder that He took care of us. It was His doing to give us those blessings and continue making sure we were able to eat, have a place to sleep, etc. He always provides! He always wants the best for our lives! He always loves us no matter what!

Sister, who names you today—your God or your circumstances? GOD!!! I have been slowly giving those feelings of negative self-worth or what society says of me over to God. It's refreshing. I have given up on allowing others to control my happiness and I've let go of those who bring me down. Life is dynamic. We don't know what will happen from one day to the next. All I can do is look to God for hope and a future. It is so amazing to let go and let God be in control of all things. I am choosing to be His no matter what.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

The Joy Comes in the Morning

One of my favorite children's books is called Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst. The book goes through the day of a boy named Alexander who has a series of things happen that are "no good" in the eyes of a child. His brother gets the prize from the cereal box, his school lunch didn't have a dessert like his friend's lunches, and he gets into trouble for fighting with his siblings. So he keeps wishing he could move to Australia as if the problems of his life would be better there. The best line of the book comes at the end when it says, "Some days are like that.  Even in Australia."

How many of us have days like Alexander's day where we wish we could move somewhere or get a repeat?

Perhaps you woke up this morning with the coffee maker not working. You go to take a shower only to realize you forgot to buy shampoo and now you can't wash your hair. You end up with greasy hair for the day. You get dressed only to have your children banging on the bathroom door. You open it to find out your son dumped all the cereal out of the cereal box all over the floor. As you clean it, the dog won't stop barking to go outside. You finally get rounded up and out the door for the day. When you get to the park playdate, you turn around to realize one of your little ones forgot to put shoes on. You re-strap everyone into their car seats to return home to get the shoes and get a flat tire on your way home. And on and on it goes with all of the craziness.

As the day goes, you wish you could just escape to Hawaii with your husband to enjoy a vacation. Then it gets especially hard when you realize you won't be taking a vacation that year because of money or lack of vacation days from work. Sigh! You begin questioning why things are so tough that day. Why, God, why???

But folks, some days are like that, even in Hawaii (or Australia).

James 1:2-4 Consider it pure  joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

I love this series of verses. The author, James, doesn't say to consider it rottenness or misery to face trials. No. He says to consider it pure joy to face whatever trials you are going through. You could replace joy with some of it's synonyms. Consider it pure anticipation. Consider it pure bliss. Consider it pure delight.

Sure, James! You haven't been in my shoes. You aren't the one going through the loss of someone close to me. You aren't going through a terrible divorce. You aren't being laid off from a job.

In  the footnotes of my Bible, it says "the same Greek root lies behind the word 'trials' here and the word 'tempted" in vs. 13."

James 1:13-14 When tempted, no one should say "God is tempting me." For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each one is  tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed.

When we face trials and temptations throughout the day, how are we battling them? Are we spending enough time in prayer? How's your prayer life going? Are you looking the enemy straight in the eye and telling him, "No! I will not be tempted?"

Sometimes, our family will get to the end of the day and I will have nightly bedtime talks with my children. We talk about how that day may have been rough and perhaps, we did things we shouldn't have. We talk about how we may have said things we shouldn't have either. We devote time to prayer asking for forgiveness. Then, I remind them that tomorrow is a new day.

Lamentations 3:22-23 Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.

I am so thankful God's love is never-ending nor is it unchangeable. I am so thankful that his compassions are new every morning. I love that we do get re-dos and a chance to start fresh. Allow yourself some grace and rejoice in the fact that we are forgiven. And when you wake up in the morning, stretch your arms out to God and say, "A new day is here. Thank you, Lord. The joy comes in the morning. I will start anew."

Friday, June 13, 2014

Older Women Teach the Younger Women

In my early days of parenting, I was apart of an organization called MOPS when we lived in Enid, OK. I was 2 years into my marriage when we welcomed our first blessing, a son named Hunter. We were far from my parents who lived in CA and friends I grew up with as well. Even though I had experience as a nanny, a teacher, and with my own siblings, there were lots of things still very new to me. I was blessed to have three wonderful women who were my Mentor Moms during my short time there. They taught me so much on how to love my children, how to love my husband, and how to run my household. They taught me about loving God and loving others as well.

Fast forward to 9 years later, we are back living in CA (but a whole new area) and I've been doing some online studies through With six children, I don't have the time or chance to go to a Bible study at church. So this has been such a huge blessing to find this online community to study with each morning. This month, we studied the book of Titus. It was a great refresher course for me on learning how to live out life as a Christian. One set of verses we studied was about spiritual mentoring.

Titus 2:1, 3-5 You must teach what is in accord with sound doctrine. Teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can train the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.

How is spiritual mothering already taking place in your community? Since we homeschool, I've been blessed to be apart of a wonderful co-op of families in our community. I would estimate there are probably anywhere between 35-40 families apart of it at the moment. What I've found so amazing is the older women who have counseled me along the way in homeschooling, raising children in this generation, etc. These women have had children who are older and been through my steps. They believe the same things as me and share the same passions about homeschooling, families, etc. This past year I took a break from the community when I delivered the twins. But I am planning on being apart of it again next year. This summer, I am going to the different activities through the group and I'm hoping to push myself at finding some more spiritual mentors in the group who can encourage me.

Has a godly woman influenced you in your growth in the Gospel, or has mentoring a young believer impacted your life? Yes, one wonderful friend of mine has been meeting with me every once in awhile and I always feel so encouraged after being around her. She is one of those amazing, joyful women who shares the same beliefs as me. Her children are teenagers and older with one getting ready to be married. I've been so blessed and encouraged by her friendship and influence over my life.

I also have the most amazing and wise mother. She is a missionary and also raised up five children. She is the greatest spiritual mentor in my life. I wish everyone could meet her and get to know her. She's that wonderful!!!

 How would you like to see Titus 2 shape your relationships moving forward? I would like to continue actively seeking out women who can spiritually mentor me as well as praying for my husband to find some men who can spiritually mentor him as well. I dream as well to be a mentor to others. It's something I'm passionate about and hope to do. When I have children grown, I would love to be a Mentor Mom for MOPS and lead things like Apples of Gold. I would even love to become a speaker/leader at homeschool conferences.

Here are some of my favorite-ever pieces of advice I've received from the mentors in my life:
  1. Be sure to homeschool your children spiritually. Don't expect the church or others to do it. You are the one who needs to teach them about God.
  2. Spend time doing daily devotionals with your children. Start with Proverbs and read through each one in accordance to each day. For example, today is June 13th so read Proverbs 13.
  3. Pray with your husband and for your husband.
  4. Do things with your husband even if you don't necessarily find it fun.  If they like going to a football game, go with them. If it's fishing on a boat, go with them. But also find things to do without them too. Find time to get together with friends just the same.
  5. Proverbs 22:6 Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.
  6. Be willing to tell your children sorry when you make a mistake. If you were frustrated and yelled at your child, tell them that you are sorry. Parents make mistakes too. When they see that you are willing to apologize to them, they learn that to practice forgiveness and grace.
  7. Set up boundaries early in your marriage. Set them up as husband/wife and with family members too.
  8. Get a King-sized bed for when you are pregnant. Just trust me!
  9. Don't put a TV in your room. Limit the need for technology in your home.
  10. Store your treasures in heaven instead of on earth. Don't collect things in your home. Live on less and purchase less. Don't let things own you.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Foolish Arguments and Quarrels

Titus 3:9-11 But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and arguments and quarrels about the law, because these are unprofitable and useless. Warn a divisive person once, and then warn him a second time. After that, have nothing to do with him. You may be sure that such a man is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned.

The sun has risen and the day is new. The coffee is finished brewing so you pour yourself a cup of coffee. You grab your iPhone or log into the nearest computer. The first thing you do is log into Facebook and begin reading through the newsfeed.

Sandra Smith's status reads: "Why do people vaccinate their children? Don't they know what kinds of chemicals they are putting into their child's body? Just imagine what will happen when that child is older and they are suffering from disease that was caused by vaccines."

Below Sandra Smith's status is thirty comments filled with arguments for both sides of the vaccination issue. Christians and non-Christians alike are name-calling and putting each other down toward the opposing stance.

You read through the status and list of comments and then go back to your newsfeed. You continue down and read the next one.

Bob Frank's status reads: "Obamacare is beneficial for our country. Check this article out from Huffington Post on what it has done to help others (attached is the article)."

You read the article and then go back to read Bob Frank's comments on the article.

Bob Frank's Friend #1: "You fool! You care nothing about the future of this country and the way this new healthcare system has messed it up for those hardworking individuals.

Bob Frank's Friend #2: "You are an idiot. This is the best thing for everyone. Now, no one has to go without being taken care of."

Bob Frank's Friend #1: "It seems to me you know nothing of what the Founding Fathers did for our country. Time for you to hit the history books."

Bob Frank's Friend #3: "I agree with you, Friend #1. We must get back to how this country started. This new system of healthcare is socialism at it's finest."

And on and on it goes.

You scroll down the newsfeed some more. More posts on opinions. More people lashing out with their opinions and comments. What a depressing way to start the day! Is this the way to a joy-filled life? What is Paul teaching us about in Titus on foolish controversies and arguments?

Recently, I read this quote over a year ago about opinions. It said, " We live in an era in which it is important to have opinions. Not necessarily smart or original ones; almost any opinion will do as long as it's forcefully expressed. When it comes to opinions, we're all living in an intellectual Costco, where it's volume, volume, volume.

It wasn't that long ago that opinions were something carefully considered and weighed, so that they'd stand the test of time and reflect well on the author. Thinkers were like gourmet chefs laboring over an elaborate meal they wanted to be perfect. But today, opinions are like Big Macs- thrown together hastily, served by the billions and not very good for you. (Stephen Randall, Los Angeles Times)"

When I think about what Paul said about arguments and quarrels and read this quote about opinions, I am reminded that arguing and expressing opinions about everything is unnecessary. Paul tells us in verse 9, "these are unprofitable and useless." Do you feel as convicted as I do?

In an age of social media websites, blogs, and texting, it seems everyone has jumped on the argumentative bandwagon. We see a thread of opinions stated, jump on the bandwagon to argue our side, and prove nothing. Most often, the person who originally expressed their opinion feels one way and the person arguing back feels the other way. Is this wise? Does this make us feel better about ourselves? Are we getting anywhere by trying to prove a point?

Paul advises us to warn that person arguing and then "have nothing to do with them." Wow! Do we get up and walk away from the argument or continue on with it?

Many people have been asking me about my disappearance from Facebook. One of the main reasons for it is that I felt the need to get away from the arguing and quarreling of others. If we were face-to-face with one another, would we be having these same arguments? How about the mommy wars?

Proverbs 16:24 Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.

Proverbs 18:2 A fool finds no pleasure in understanding but delights in airing his own opinions.

Proverbs 21:23 He who guards his mouth and his tongue keeps himself from calamity.

Solomon gives a lot of wisdom on how to control our mouths and our words. The Bible is filled with ways in which we need to speak. Search the back of your Bible in your concordance to find all the verses having to do with words, speech, your mouth, and tongue.

Ephesians 4:29, 32 Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

Father, You are Holy. You are good! Forgive me for speaking unkindly to others. Forgive me for the times I involved myself in unnecessary arguments with others. Help me to avoid those who bring me down and involve me in their gossip. Teach me to be blameless and pure. Fill me with your Spirit so that I can discern the times when there is a useless argument and avoid it. Help me to have grace on those who do not understand. Thank you Lord for all that you do to teach me through your Word. May I be good with my time. I want to be close to You and Your Word each day! Amen.

My absence from Facebook is helpful in avoiding the unnecessary arguments. My absence is also for spending less time focusing on me. I don't want to spend time focusing on who I am trying to impress or compare myself to on the internet. I don't want to find myself shaking a finger at people expressing their opinions or waste my time being bothered by the things that don't matter. I am pushing myself to develop and grow interpersonal relationships with others. I don't want to spend my days being an armchair activist. I want to complete the good work God has called me to do here on Earth.

My Aunt Terry is someone who is always smiling and happy. She is one of those joy-filled people who are great to be around. One day I asked her how she stays so happy.

She said, "I don't consume myself with the news. Those stories on a day-to-day basis are unhappy. I don't do Facebook. I spend time outside everyday. I surround myself with happy things."

So here's to no more days of waking up to arguments and news. Here's to days that start in the Word. Here's to making more efforts at building relationships with those who I'm close to and less time with the hundreds of people on Facebook who barely know me (or never see). Here's to surrounding myself with the people I am praying God will fill my life with to be an encouragement and support. Here's to separating myself from those who bring me down. 

My prayer for those reading this blog today is to remember to be careful with the words you post online. Be careful with the words, opinions, and arguments you say to others in person too. No more gossiping! No more time spent proving a point! Be less like the heretics of Paul's day who were trying to argue to death a point of small matter. At the same time, practice grace on those who aren't in the same place as you are in your walk with God. Practice grace on those who do like to spend their days in arguments and turn the other cheek to them. Go in grace and peace, my beloved friends!


Carrie Lynne

*** All names were made up for this blog! :-)