Sunday, October 26, 2014

The Joy of Sharing Our Lives With Others

In a world where we are made to believe we are too busy, the skill of being  relational seems to be lost. We are so connected over phones and computers, that we fail to relate in an interpersonal way.  Everyone is ready to share what looks good on the forefront but being able to share in a relatable way is covered up. Unfortunately, we are less genuine as a side effect.

As an introvert, it's easy to find the comfort of  relating to others  from a distance made available in this modern world. Making plans for an upcoming get-together? Wanting to catch up with someone? Responding to someone's recent question? Just send an email or text. Speaking to each other with our voice has almost become non-existent and being together, even more lost. The demands of every day life make this way much easier. However, the big concern is over whether we can still share our lives or build closer relationships on a much deeper level.

1 John 1:7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.

When I'm busy with the kids and don't have a lot of quiet time around here, I struggle with knowing  what the best way to communicate is with others. Having someone over is often out of the question as I feel as though I am rushing around the kids to various activities and don't always have the time to be hospitable. At the same time, as an adult, I long for those moments to share my life on a deeper level  that is often missed because of both busyness and convenience.

Matthew 5:14-16 "You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your  good deeds and praise your Father in heaven."

I love the lyrics to the song No Man is an Island by Tenth Avenue North that sums up much of what I believe many of us can honestly admit is a very real, yet serious problem. Loneliness can creep in when we hide our lives from others. We don't need to hide our lives from each other. We are made to  go through life together, not alone.

We miss out on opportunities to share our lives, open up to others, and be real when we hide behind a screen. We miss out on sharing our home, serving others, and being together when we fail to communicate on a deeper level. I struggle with this and I know other women do too. I intend to change that as I work on less digital communication and more face-to-face interactions. Who's with me?

No Man Is an Island lyrics:
"I see fear in your eyes
There's no safety here
Oh, my friend, let me in
I will share your tears
No man is an island, we can be found
No man is an island, let your guard down
Please don't try to fight me, I am for you
We're not meant to live this life alone."


Saturday, October 25, 2014

The Joy In Being Comforted

When I woke up this morning, I awoke to rain. It instantly became a day of sweatpants, hot coffee, a pot of simmering soup, and children laughing from the bedroom as they built forts out of blankets from their beds. I settle into comfort and put on one of my favorites to watch, Christmas at Downton Abbey. As I relish in the beauty of the day, I also am reminded of the things I miss.

Weekends are difficult when my spouse is away. It's never the same when I know he is gone and other families are enjoying their weekend time together as a whole. He is missed and it never feels right.

And as I watch my British romance, I am also missing my Grandmother today. She shared a lot of things with me, these types of shows being one. She was the one I would call when my husband was away as we shared similarities with that lifestyle as well.

Matthew 5:4 Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. 

When a person misses another, their heart feels as those it has leaped out from one's chest. You chase back after it but there is a sense that it cannot be recaptured for that moment. Jesus says, "You will be comforted." You are not forgotten when you are sad. But rather, He knows your sadness and He will deliver you. He will restore your soul.

Psalm 20:6 Now I know that the Lord saves His anointed; He will answer him from His holy heaven with the saving strength of His right hand.

Rejoice in knowing that on days that you miss someone, God will see the sadness of your heart. Just like the rain, it does not last forever.

Revelation 21:3-4 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every year from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away."

Thursday, October 23, 2014

The Joy in Being Dearly Loved by God


All around us, we are surrounded with photo-shopped pictures of "perfection." Everything from magazine covers that offer "Tens Steps to Slimmer Waists" to the mommy wars of posts on who feeds their child a cleaner diet, women are constantly overtaken by looking the best and being the best. I hear women talk about weight as if it's meant to be the sole identity of a person.

"Oh my, don't eat that one! You'll gain a tire around your waist," announces one. 

"I can't have any more of that or it'd be too many calories," voices someone with a hinting tone.

"Hmmm, I'm going to post a picture everyday of myself working out. I'm looking pretty good and in shape," thinks another.

Then you have the mommy wars between women on who feeds their child better or who's child has the cuter clothes. One only has to look so far as Instagram to see the copious amounts of pictures of girls in tutus of the day or boys wearing ties. Yes, it's all very fun to show off your child with filtered cuteness. But how far do we need to go in proving who's the better mom? Isn't keeping your child alive, clothed, and fed good enough? Instead, we hear conversations between moms on whether they are the better one because they chose not to vaccinate or whether they didn't take part in the soccer snack since there was sugar in it.

"I could never feed my child THAT," suggests some outspoken mothers.

Better yet, women have resorted to posting pictures of the often healthier-than-you-are menus. How's that going to make anyone feel better?

"Boy, I sure wish I had fixed something as healthy as so-and-so did for their children. They've got a full spread of good food and I'm lucky to get to the grocery store tonight to pick up a frozen bag of Tater Tots and already cooked chicken."

Other women find it their duty to constantly compare outspokenly through social media or word-of-mouth, all that defines them through the use of articles and quotes. I admit, I've done this before too. My mind says, "I'll post this one and yeah, it'll prove my point to that other person who gets on my nerve with their opinions. Boom!"
Galatians 6:3-5  If anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself. Each one should test his own actions. Then he can take pride in himself, without comparing himself to somebody else, for each one should carry his own load. 

Proverbs 21:4 Haughty eyes and a proud heart, the lamp of the wicked, are sin!

JUST STOP IT RIGHT NOW! Since when did we become a society of women who insists on proving that they are the best? Everyone seems to be in a race to be the better eater, the smaller waist size, the smarter parent, or the more religious person. People giving each other opinions are overly done to the point that on the inside, it really makes no one feel any better. Instead, we are left with feeling defeated as though we can't keep up. 

Sure, the ideas on Pinterest are great. But what is our sole intention for it? Are we purposely doing this to outdo someone else? Are we just re-posting for the purpose of showing others we are more creative than them? No, I'm not saying it's all bad. I love finding cool hair-do pictures to try on my girls or some new allergy-free recipe to try. However, I'm guilty of wanting to serve the cool "soccer people" snacks that are Super Glued so that I could be the cool mom. Or in the past, I wanted to have the perfect kid's birthday party by having this or that. But what does it really say about me or my intentions? How did we get to this point of living in a "look at me and all I can do" world?

Yes, some of it can be helpful when you purposely share an article or well-meaning quote that encouraged you as a way to help others.  But then there are those that are shared for the purpose of saying, "Boo-yah! Take that because that's what I am hoping you'll know from me sharing this bit of information. What's that? Well, I'll raise you an anti-vaccine article but you can take that gun's rights article and keep it!"

The excessive posting of me-all-of-the-time is getting out of control. Not to mention, things that should be simple are now getting way too complicated. When it's meant to show that you can do all of this and more, that might not be such a great idea. "Lookie, look at me," is what it comes across to others sometimes. 

How about all of the pictures on social media websites? Is it really necessary to post a picture everyday? We are already aware of what you and your children look like so can't we limit the amount of pictures we share? I get that you think your child(ren) are the cutest. I've been there and once upon a time posted outrageous amounts of pictures too. Then it hit me. I realized that I was in that race to show that I had it all together. My children don't need to be shown as perfectly dressed for another picture posting or that I was a great mom in "appearing" to have it all together. Because in reality, I don't. 

I don't always get out of the door on my way to something with that five-star look. Some days, I need to leave the house without make-up on in order to get the kids to the dentist on time. There are other days, I feel drenched in sweat from carrying the twins and rushing from activity to activity that I'm sure the perfume I used that morning is long gone. Often times, I serve the kids cereal for dinner because we didn't get home from soccer until late and there was no way I had time to cook up the perfect "clean" meal. And gasp, the crumbs from breakfast are still on the floor long after dinner and maybe even in to tomorrow. 

So why are we as women so worried about how we appear on the outside to others? Are we creating an idol out of our self in proving our greatness? Why do we get embarrassed when someone shows up at random to our not-so-clean homes because of the chaos of the day? We all get stretched thin, so why would we want to push ourselves at "being" even more than what we have to give? Where is the joy in proving we are the best? Can't we be satisfied with knowing that we are dearly loved by God and that is all that truly matters?

Colossians 3:12 Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility,  gentleness and patience. 

Proverbs 31:30-31 Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. Give her the reward she has earned, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate. 

When was the last time you encouraged the tired mother at the grocery store trying to shop with small children? When was the last time you randomly paid for the person's coffee in the drive-through line behind you? When was the last time that instead of comparing calories with another woman, you left the weight talk at home and complimented her God-given strengths? When was the last time you thanked an older woman for the children she raised up into our society? When was the last time you invited someone into your home knowing that it wasn't all that clean but you offered the best you had and served them coffee/tea? When was the last time you brought groceries over to the woman who had a busy schedule? 

Proverbs 15:30 A cheerful look brings joy to the heart, and good news gives health to the bones. 

We can all do our part in being an encouragement to other women in this world. Instead of trying to be the "better woman," how about throwing those comparisons out the window and just be YOU? God loves you for you and that is all that matters. So instead of caring so much about what the world thinks you should be, go on and be the woman God wants you to be: an imperfect, not-all-together , beautiful mess.                                                                                                                   


Friday, October 17, 2014

The Joy in Raising a Large Family

Over a year and a half ago, my husband and I received the joyous news that we were expecting twins. We have always had this dream that twins would be so great to have! Not too many husbands are wishful for twins, but my husband was always hopeful with each pregnancy.


When people first saw that I was pregnant when I was out alone, they would congratulate me on my "first" pregnancy, not knowing that I had four more children at home. The conversation would go as follows:

"Congratulations, you must be ready to have that baby," says stranger.

"Well, it's twins and I have three months to go," I would respond.

"What? Twins? You are going to have your hand's full," gasps the stranger with a shocked look on their face.

"Thanks, yes we have four others at home," I added on. Now, comes the jaw drop from the stranger and cricket sounds in the background.

(At 39 weeks preggo with twins)

Fast forward the time to now and what happens when I go out in public with children. Around me, I get every kind of comment from others. Sometimes, people are just naturally curious and other times, they are downright rude. I've had someone corner me at the dentist's office with comments about how I am contributing to the overpopulation of the earth. I've been asked if our family has a TV. I always get the questions such as, "Are they all yours?" and "Are you done now?" And I must get the comment, "Wow, your hands are full," at least three times in one outing. My children always hear the comments and sometimes, they are distasteful. For example, someone will ask me if they are all from the same father.  Worse yet, someone will make remarks about how my husband should get fixed or I should have my tubes tied.

Are my reproductive organs up for discussion with others? Absolutely not. Is it anyone else's business to pry into my personal life? No! And for the record, I am not just some pathetic woman taking orders from my husband. We are two that became one on our wedding day. We are following the calling He has for our lives. We enjoy raising the family He has given us. And no, we are not missing out on other things. This is the life for us. Furthermore, while it's not as common in today's society, it's something people insist on making comments on. It'd be easy for my to reply back rudely but then what am I teaching my children.

Ephesians 4:29 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.

Proverbs 15:1 A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.

Romans 12:14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them.

Matthew 15:14   But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these make a man 'unclean.'

In my early years of parenting, I never thought I'd have six children. I remember wondering how a mom would go about having a large family when I was struggling with the first two that I had. Then, one day, God laid it on our hearts to have a large family. Through friends and from reading the Bible, we felt a strong call to follow God with His plans with our family. I truly believe that when you are convicted of something, you should seek wisdom and follow whatever it is God is calling a person to do.

Psalm 127:3-5 Children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from him. Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are children born in one’s youth.  Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them. They will not be put to shame when they contend with their opponents in court.

When my husband and I courted, we used to talk about how much fun it would be to have a large family. But it wasn't until after we had our third, that we felt like God had more in store for us. Families come in all kinds of sizes. For us, God was telling us to have more.

The most common words others say to me when they find out I have six are:

1.) "You must have a lot of patience."

2.) "Pregnancy must be easy for you."

3.) "I could never do what you do."

Usually, I explain that my patience runs dry just like any other person. Pregnancies are not easy and I experience sickness and other symptoms just the same. And finally, I don't do it without relying on God's strength. I could never do it alone either.

God calls each of us to different things in life. As a little girl, I always wanted to be a mom. I played it, imagined it, and hoped for it. Before I married my husband, I knew he was the perfect guy for me because he loved children as much as I did. As a father, he works hard, encourages each one, and is great about spending time with each one individually as well. We make a great team together and we enjoy what God has given us.

There will always be naysayers when you follow what God wants you to do. It's the enemy's way to discourage you and I am not interested in listening to his lies. There are always hurdles and even those close to you can be hurtful in the process. I truly want to live out my faith. Each new blessing God has given us brings us a greater amount of joy. They contribute to this earth a strength laid out for them by their Creator. On this journey through living a life of unspeakable joy, I refuse to be broken apart by the world around me. I will be face-to-face with Jesus someday and I want to raise a new generation to live in the world ready to carry on His message.

I never need to worry about what others might say about the existence of my children.  They are not an accident. They are not a mistake. They are a gift, a treasured gift. My heart explodes with the love and joy they bring to my life. It's amazing and I am thankful for each one.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Finding the Joy in Each Season of Life

My favorite season of the year is here! I LOVE FALL! I love pumpkin spice lattes, cooler weather, Fall wreaths, Thanksgiving, mums, soccer, and many other things. I love when people go around saying, "Happy Fall, Y'all!" I love being able to actually enjoy a hot cup of coffee in the morning and then not burning up after because it's hot outside. I love being able to wear sweaters and boots. When the evenings are crisp and cool, I love being outside. I prefer cooler weather over hot weather. I would rather live where it's colder than hotter. Yep, I know. Crazy!

Sometimes, the hardest part for me is when summer weather lingers on. It gets to October and it still feels hot outside. It takes my joy away, like seriously! As soon as it starts to really turn to Fall, I become a blissful person. We all have favorite seasons that we look forward to with the weather. I would definitely say mine is Fall.

(These are Fall sunsets from our neck of the woods. Yes, this brings me joy!)

But I want to reflect for a minute on how God gives us different seasons. Not only does He give us different seasons of weather, but also seasons of life. Some seasons are full of sadness, such as when there has been a loss. Some seasons are full of worry and anxiety. Some seasons are really great and a person feels on cloud nine. Just like the weather, we endure the hard seasons to get to the good seasons. We never stay in those brutal seasons forever, although it sometimes can feel that way. Sometimes those hard seasons last for years.

My husband and I are in a season of big changes for our family. More or less, I feel sad about leaving this wonderful home where I can admire God's creation on a day-to-day basis. Yet, there are other emotions I feel about the changes as well. Some days, I feel really excited for the future. Other days, I feel overwhelmed by all that we have to do to get to the next place we are going in our lives. I am exhausted and I begin to grow weary. I start to question how it will all work. But it's not up to me on how it all happens.

"I have gone before you and prepared a place for you. Do not worry. I have it all planned out." This is what I hear God telling me through this process of change. As exciting, crazy, and scary it is all at the same time, I just need to put my trust in Him 100%. It's funny how much we can worry ourselves about tomorrow when God has it all planned out for us already. So I come back to that realization and let go of my fears, which is what worry is all about anyway.

Romans 5:1-5 Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.

When I face those seasons where sadness, worry, anxiety, anger, frustrations, or pessimism starts to sink in, I need to remember that I am being tested. Things cannot be GREAT all of the time. If it were, we would never have any reason to rely on God. Have you ever noticed that when times are tough, we lean more on God? As soon as things get better, we feel great and our relationship with God gets thrown on the backburner. Sorry, God! It isn't intentional.

But then again, what is intentional? Is our sadness intentional? How about our hopelessness? Our emotions can be the real deal. It's how we handle those emotions that gets us to tomorrow. Never give up hope. Once we start losing that hope, we stop trusting God.

Hebrews 6:19-20 We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where Jesus, who went before us, has entered on our behalf. He has become a high priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.

I have lots of little ones here at home with me. Some days are peachy-keen and everyone is in a good mood. But low and behold, someone wakes up on the wrong side of the bed one morning and we have lots of bickering going on. My husband has a great word he uses for days that start out this way. He tells everyone that they need to "re-group." And we do! Sometimes, I pull everyone together and we talk about how the day started and how we can make it end better. We pray together as a family and wow, what a change!

Praying can be our best asset in those difficult seasons. Leaning on God and asking Him for changed hearts can really make a difference. When things are hard, I like to think of Job. I've always thought that the book of Job was one of the most challenging books of the Bible. Job suffered a great deal loosing his livestock, his family, and developing a skin illness. What I find so amazing about Job is that he never turns his back on God, even in the midst of all of his suffering.

Job 27:2-6 As surely as God lives, who has denied me justice, the Almighty, who has made me taste bitterness of soul, as long as I have life within me, the breath of God in my nostrils, my lips will not speak wickedness, and my tongue will utter no deceit. I will never admit you are in the right, till I die, I will not deny my integrity. I will maintain my righteousness and never let go of it; my conscience will not reproach me as long as I live.

Lord, when I go through the different seasons of life, I pray that my relationship with You grows. Help me be strong through my suffering like Job. Draw me close to You. I thank you, Lord, for both the good times and bad. I pray that I can remain joyful always, giving thanks even under he hard circumstances in life. I lift up the current situation of the persecuted Christians in the Middle East. Lord, lead them to a place where they can feel safe. I pray you provide for them the food, water, clothing, and places to sleep that are needed. I pray that they stay strong through their difficult circumstances and that you bring relief to them soon. Amen.