What breaks the heart of God

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I recently wrote about how God has taken my heart and made it a bleeding mess for the “have nots’ of this world and how as a society, we aren’t doing much to alleviate those needs. There IS enough food in this world to feed everyone. EVERYONE. There is enough money to bring fresh water to every last village around the world. Every. Last. One.

No, it is not a problem of the rich being too rich or not using their money as they should. No, this is about how each one of us, from the wealthiest person right down to the one who has all of their needs met but not much more, have stopped caring.

This week I got my feathers ruffled over a guy who took out a loan to buy a boat. He took out a loan because he couldn’t wait to sell his motorcycle to free up some money. The motorcycle was bought with his giant tax return and his life savings. He also has a huge loan on a very nice truck. I was so angry thinking about how many people could have been fed with even a tenth of his new boat loan; how many children could be taken off the streets and put in a safe house where they don’t have to sell their bodies; how many people could be given the gift of livestock and fresh water that would provide a means of self care for generations to come. But here was this guy who has spent thousands upon thousands of dollars on himself, for pleasure.

I was indignant! Does he not see the hurts of this world? Does he not read his Bible and see Jesus command us to “love our neighbor as ourselves” and “do unto the least of these as we would unto him”?

But I was wrong. So, so, so very wrong. Yes, there are needs to be met all around us. But the problem isn’t that we don’t meet them, the problem is that we don’t even care. We may say we do, we may write blogs about how we do (hand raised right here), but if we do care then we will do something about it.

Just today I plotted how to rearrange my back yard to be more child friendly and look attractive, thought about how to better organize my shelves of kid crafts and toys, fantasized about having my bathroom and bedroom painted and done instead of doing it myself over the course of a few weeks, and about a dozen other things that don’t really need to be done in the grand scheme of things. Not once did I say a pray for those people who will die today from starvation. Not once did I think about how I could free up just $10 in the next month to donate to Safe Refuge International (https://www.saferefugeinternational.com/) to help women caught in sex trafficking. I meant to drop off some size 5 diapers to CareNet Pregnancy Center (http://www.carenetirc.org/), but I got distracted by all of my ‘busy-ness’.

Today, there was no difference between myself and that guy who bought a boat. None. His heart was on things of this world, and so was mine.

Lord, forgive me. Forgive me for judging the boat guy. Forgive me being distracted from the things that really matter on this earth. Forgive me for setting my heart on the things of this world instead of on you. Forgive me for not caring. Give me a heart that is one with you, that breaks for the things that make you weep, a heart that is focused on eternity. Amen.

The memory a smell can evoke

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The dollar store is one of my favorite stores. Everything for a dollar. Everything (actually there at items that are even less than a dollar!). There are websites and Facebook groups dedicated to all the things you can do with items from the Dollar Store. As a bonus, I can placate my toddlers with a snack or toy that doesn’t blow the budget, especially when they’re going to lose interest or break it anyway. And don’t get me started on the fact you can buy helium balloons for $1 each. I may just start to hyperventilate in my excitement. I can fill my entire house with helium balloons for the price of what i would pay for the latest new found gadget for my kids’ birthday and the balloons will last a whole lot longer, plus provide hours of entertainment when we turn the ceiling fan on and wait on the edge of our seat for the balloon to be swept into the rotating blades. The kids’ squeels of delight make it worth the brief moment my heart stops beating because it sounds like someone is shooting at my house.

A couple of weeks ago I was in this beloved store going through the checkout lane and then going for a massage two doors down. First, let me point out that I said “I was in the store”, as in just me, no kids. Second, let me point out that I had time to go for a massage afterwards (Thanks to a gift card from Mother’s Day). Pretty sure I also saw pigs flying.

As I checked out, on a whim, I grabbed a pack of mints to make sure I had fresh breath. Apparently impressing my masseuse was important to me. Apparently that’s also a problem they must deal with because they have bowls of mints for their customers in their lobby. I stepped outside, opened the pack of mints and as the smell wafted up to my nose, nostalgia hit me. It was like an old, familiar friend I hadn’t seen in years.

Grandma. Immediately I saw her, her house, her apartment, her buffet, her end table, and the small bowls that always, always, held her mints and her chapstick. Oh how I loved searching out those two items every time we went to her house, which, by the way, was almost every day since we lived in the same town. Needless to say, I ate a lot of mints and used a lot of chapstick as a kid.

What good, good memories of an even better person. Oh that I could see her again and share a mint (or two). I think she would be delighted that my kids are now hooked on those same mints and love getting my old chapstick tubes (old, as in all used up except a tiny bit smooshed down in there because their idea of using chapstick is to eat it). I think I’ll be buying these mints on our almost weekly trips to our beloved dollar store.

Dream kitchens and hungry babes

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Though I don’t watch much TV to begin with, HGTV is a semi-regular channel on our TV. I like to dream of my perfect house, get ideas for DIY projects around my current home and laugh at the little things home buyers get so worked up about, as if the knobs on the kitchen cabinets are really worth not buying a house because of.

However, recently, a gnawing in my gut has started as I watch these shows about people buying a vacation house, remodeling their home to be more sophisticated and modern, and searching for a house with a master bedroom the size of my entire house, 3 car garages or kitchens that a restaurant gourmet cook could only dream of having.

Instead of dreaming about what I want, these shows now make me think of the third world countries where people live in one room shacks that may or may not have something covering their windows, much less a large bay window over-looking a lake. What gives me the right to sit here in my air conditioned house, which apparently is small at less than 1400 sq ft for our family of 4 according to HGTV, with a fridge, freezer and cabinets stocked full of food while a mom on the other side of the world sits outside of her shack because she can at least have some air flow in the stifling heat, rocking her babe who hasn’t eaten in days? Why am I able to go to my small but fully functional kitchen to get a glass of filtered water while that other mom has to choose between her child dying of thirst or giving him muddy water that may or may not have fecal matter or other contaminants in it? While my kids nap I get the luxury of a quiet house to either get some chores done or sit and watch TV. Meanwhile, the other mom doesn’t have to worry about folding clothes because the only items they own are the ones they are wearing, but she does have to worry about if today will be the day her child dies from malnutrition.

And yet, while people die every. single. day, we sit here and continue to think about our dream kitchens, lose ourselves in HGTV and shows like The Bachelor and spend our money on ourselves because we’ve worked hard and we’ve earned it.

Y’all, we are a blessed nation and God says that He blesses us in order that we may bless others. I weep as I write this because I am so guilty of being so caught up in my own life, my own house, my own kids, that I forget that I can do something for that mom on the other side of the world. I don’t know how to help, but maybe it starts with shutting off the good ol’ boob tube and actually looking for a way to help. (Side note-while I talk about the mom on the other side of the world, there are plenty of people here in our own country, state, city that need our help). Instead of using social media to look at what other people are doing today, perhaps I use it to find an organization that is intimately involved with providing help for those who are in need, and I link up with them. It may be giving money, which if we’re honest, can be freed up in our budget if we are willing to sacrifice one or two wants of our own, or donating needed items, spreading the word and information, or perhaps it’s volunteering even one hour of our time each month.

Far be it from me to think that I am too busy or strapped too tight financially to tell the mom of a dying child that my life is more important than hers, that my kids matter more than her babes.

 

Gentle and Quiet Spirit

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If I were to describe myself, the word ‘gentle’ would not be my first choice, nor would the phrase ‘quiet spirit’  come to mind (though I can be quiet as far as not talking much, a quiet spirit is entirely different). However, during a bible study I did last year, I came across 1 Peter 3:4.

“Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.” 1 Peter 3:3-4

This verse stuck to me, ingrained itself in my brain, burrowed under my skin, and has latched onto my heart. I haven’t been able to shake it. I wasn’t exactly drawn to the verse because I liked it. I’ll be honest with you, while this bible verse may be telling me how I’m supposed to be, it sure as heck ain’t me and to be even more honest with you, I haven’t wanted it to be me. This kind of woman sounds so blah, boring, weak.

I pretty much ace the whole ‘don’t put all your efforts into looking good because that isn’t where true beauty comes from’. I’m lucky to get a shower without the kids seriously maiming each other, let alone spend even another few minutes doing something worthwhile with my hair and face, so it’s rare to find any extra adornment there.

But what about this “gentle and quiet spirit” the bible talks of. What exactly does that mean? As I looked up the original, greek word used for ‘gentle’ and found it is the same word used in 1 Kings 19:11-12.

“The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.” Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper.” (italics mine)

And that is where God was found. Not in the power of the wind, nor the earthquake or even the fire. He was in the gentle whisper. While His very presence is one of power and commands our awe, He need not showcase himself with dramatic revelation. He is ‘I Am’ simply because He is God, not because of how he appears.

“God said to Moses, “I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I am has sent me to you.’” Exodus 3:14

Now on to the next word that I haven’t been a huge fan of: ‘quiet’. The original, greek word used here can also be derived from the greek word which means ‘firm, immovable, steadfast’ (according to the Blue Letter Bible at blbclassic.org).

Now, I get it. Instead of hearing this verse tell me I’m supposed to be blah, boring and weak, this verse in 1 Peter is telling me something entirely different. To have the “unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit” is calling me out to be a woman of quiet strength and dignity, unshakable peace, firm in my beliefs, passionate and steadfast in God’s truth. This verse does not tell me to lay down and be a doormat, but rather to rise up and change the world for Jesus. Not by showcasing my beliefs in anger or by disrespecting and putting others down, but by being a peaceful anchor for my family to hold on to when life’s storms blow us around, by offering forgiveness to those who hurt me instead of avenging my pride, by not letting the words of others break me because my strength and identity come from God, by standing up for what Jesus taught and how he lived even when it is the unpopular stance to take. No, this verse is not about a woman who just smiles and nods, but rather about a woman standing with her God, messy and dirty from the trials of her life, but who’s unfading beauty shines forth as she stands tall in the presence of her Saviour.

Reigning it in

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I just put my kids down for naps and got a huge lesson in motherhood.

I’ve heard lots of jokes about blondes. I’m not a blonde, except when the sun lightens my hair, but at times, I have found myself just as ditzy as those jokes make blondes out to be. I’ve also heard lots of comments about how red heads have fiery hot tempers. I’m not a red head either, but I definitely have a temper. My reaction to just about any situation is anger, annoyance or frustration, which in and of themselves isn’t so bad. They are a God given emotion after all. That argument only carries me so far though because my anger often comes out in not so good ways-yelling, slamming or throwing things, or growling/grunting (a very unattractive sound according to my husband); pretty much all the things my toddler’s second favorite show, Daniel Tiger, teaches you not to do. His option, take a deep breath and count to 4, is not as satisfying though.

And that is where the one thing I probably find the hardest in motherhood comes into play-reigning it in; reigning in my anger, my desire to yell at the child who won’t stop yelling themselves, my almost knee jerk reaction to push away the kid who just bit my shoulder, my satisfaction I would get from throwing the pot that won’t pop the popcorn across the kitchen, the guttural yell that wants to escape from my lips when the stupid sun shade won’t hang right after trying for 30 minutes while the kids are trying to climb on the chair to “help” and whining because they just want some lunch.

Seriously, I have an anger problem. Unfortunately for me, Jesus commands in Ephesians 4:26 “in your anger do not sin”. I read that verse and my lungs deflate in a big sigh. Oh how I fail at this every day. However, sometimes instead of blowing my gasket, I actually lay my anger down at Jesus’ feet and beg for his patience, his mercy, his grace, and his love. Not because I need it so much (although I do), but because I have a little person right in front of me who needs it, and in that moment of anger, I have nothing to give them but anger. So I really, really, really need Jesus to fill me with his character so I can pour it out to my children.

Today, it was my eldest, my 3 year old, my little girl who may whine for a few seconds prior to naps just because, well, because she’s 3, but who typically goes down without a hitch. She’s my easy one. Not today though. Today she threw an all out melt down, screaming, growling (hmmmm, I wonder where she got that?), toddler tantrum. I was in the other room putting my not-so easy sleeper down for his nap and as I listened to my firstborn scream her head off, my anger started to build higher and higher, deeper and deeper. I was ready to go in and give her a real reason to scream. However, in the 2 seconds it took me to slip out of one bedroom (after my not-so easy sleeper went down easily and stayed down despite his sister’s loud protests) and into her bedroom, I took a deep breath, said a quick prayer (“Jesus, help me”) and reigned it in.

Instead of scolding her, which is putting it nicely, I simply asked her what all the screaming was about. Turns out, all the little person wanted was a couple of band-aids for her knees, which had a couple of old boo-boos on them, but which apparently needed something to cover the almost healed battle wounds. I didn’t get it. I didn’t understand why those boo-boos needed band-aids today when it happened days ago and why they needed the band-aids RIGHT NOW, but in her little 3 year old mind, she understood it and it made perfect sense. Yes, she went about it the wrong way and the whole situation was made worse from her being tired, but what a simple solution; band-aids and a kiss from her mama. Wouldn’t you know that once we put those band-aids on (which took way too long because she wanted to do it herself) she was the sweetest little thing and promptly said “thank you” and “good night”.

I don’t condone her temper tantrum, but Jesus wouldn’t have condoned my tantrum either if I were to have reacted to her anger with  anger of my own. It’s a lesson that isn’t easy for me to follow, but one that I need to be reminded of again and again. Today was a good reminder.

Motherhood and Presidency

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As moms, we often try to find shortcuts to motherhood. Some are good  or indifferent (I don’t bother wasting time putting shoes on my toddler before leaving the house because she just takes them off in the car anyway. Time saved? One minute. Sanity saved? A whole boat load). Some are not so good (I have bribed my toddler to eat her lunch by getting bites of cookie in between each bite of her meal).

One of my shortcuts is nursing my youngest to sleep before his afternoon nap. He’s pretty much guaranteed to go to sleep this way and I get a bit of time to look up stupid stuff on the internet and facebook. It’s a win-win situation for us all. Although I would like to point out that if he does not in fact fall asleep while nursing, I can usually get him to sleep with out it. And if I can’t, well then I bring him back out into the den and let him play with some toys while I lay on the floor and cry because all I want is a BREAK!

Anyway, so on one of my recent bouts of doing nothing worthwhile while nursing my son to sleep, I came across pictures of President Obama pre- and post-term. Wow. Talk about aging (no offense Mr. President-do we still call past presidents Mr.?-but pictures don’t lie). I then looked up pictures of other presidents when they first entered the Oval Office and when they departed. Good Lord, what a change.

And then it dawned on me, these are men who have led our nation for anywhere from 4-8 years. I have led my kids for less than 3 1/2 years and pictures of me pre-kids and post-kids don’t tell lies either. This mama has aged! But oh, how funny it is to realize the similarity between mothers and presidents. We’re kind of the same, huh? Rock on mamas, you have earned every grey hair, droopy body part and wrinkle/laugh/stress line! At least we have something cute to show for it. Maybe this will make you feel better.

15barackobama

bushclinton

roosevelt

lincoln

 

Trophy Wife

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The term ‘trophy wife’ makes me want to roll my eyes and gag. You’ve seen them, the women who pride themselves in looking hot and their men who like to show them off. So not me and thankfully, so not my husband. I’m hoping to deter my daughter into wanting to be one by posting this bible verse on her side of the bedroom:

“Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.” Proverbs 31:30

Maybe I should also post it on my son’s side of the bedroom so it’ll deter him from wanting that kind of wife….hmmmmm

Anyway, the term ‘trophy wife’ came to me the other day, and I still have no idea why it popped into my mind, but it got me thinking about the root of WHY a woman would want to be one and why a man would want one. I get why women want to look good. Everywhere we look and much of what we read tells us that who we are is what we look like. I’d also say that even if you say you don’t believe this, how you spend you money tells me what you really believe, but that’s another argument for another post. As to why a man wants a trophy wife, well my guess is it makes them feel bigger, stronger, manlier, like the victor in some battle against every other man out there and they all stare and drool over the woman on his arm, jealous that she is not on their arm. He has something they want.

So then my mind took a left turn and decided there’s another kind of trophy wife. The kind who excels, not at what she looks like (though this isn’t to say she’s not attractive) but at what she does. Perhaps she is a doctor with her own practice; or a teacher who opens the minds of a classroom full of 5 year olds eager to discover the wide, wide world before them; maybe she is a dog trainer who can handle small or big, aggressive or submissive; she could be the woman who owns and runs her own flower shop or the wife who takes care of a barn and has no problem being around, in between or on top of animals over 6 times her weight. These are the wives who, when asked what they do, are “ooooh and ahhhhh’d over, are told by the listening person that they could never do that (how many of us could be kindergarten teachers? I mean, c’mon, seriously??) and are, in general, described by what they do (this may sound like I’m against the idea of a woman being known for what she does…I’m not. bear with me).

And it was then that my mind stopped, dead in it’s tracks. Well, I’m definitely not the first kind of trophy wife. I used to have a job, which I loved, but not anymore. So how am I described by my husband’s friends? How am I viewed in a room full of people, as I stand next to my man? I mean, what do I do? I’m a wife and a mom. I cook, I clean, I change diapers and wipe butts, I discipline and play, and run errands all day. Not exactly something people get excited about.

But after much thought, this is what I’ve decided I want to be known for:

  1. I am a wife who feeds her hungry husband. First, let me say, I’m not a great cook nor do I enjoy cooking every day, even simple meals. BUT, my husband works hard all day and is spent when he gets home. Not only does he physically need nourishment, but he enjoys it as well. Second, let me say I often view cooking as a burden. Let me fix one large dish that lasts for a few days and I’m good. But to have to fix something new about 5 times a week? Ugh, are you kidding? Fix it yourself or eat leftovers! So, while I struggle in this category, deep down I still would like to be known for it. Not every man has a meal to come home to. I want mine to.
  2. I am a wife who provides a home. My husband works to provide us with our house, it’s up to me to make this house into a home. Something personal, something functional, something full of memories and promises of a future, something that is welcoming to all.
  3. I am a wife who provides a sanctuary. Life is hard. It’s even harder when you’re out working in this blasted Florida heat and humidity. I want my man to WANT to come home. I want him to ENJOY being in our home. I want him to have a place where he can relax and rest, a place that restores his soul, that is a breath of fresh air. Of course this isn’t so easy as it sounds because it includes a variety of factors, such as: managing the kids’ toys, not letting laundry sit around (we don’t have a laundry room…it’s a closet = laundry sitting around means on the table or our beds or the desk or somewhere else it doesn’t belong), providing a place for everything and making sure it gets put there, teaching our kids to clean up after themselves, keeping a semi-clean house, exercising the dog so she’s not bouncing off the walls, exercising the kids so they’re not bouncing off the walls, etc., etc., etc. It doesn’t always happen, but I’d like to think I succeed more than I fail.
  4. I am a wife who mothers with a purpose. Many of my days seem to be just about survival. However, lately I have been convicted to devote more thought and time to mothering my kids, not just being their mom. Kids are like dry sponges, soaking up everything around them, whether it’s what they watch on TV, the behaviors of the kids they play with, what they hear on the radio, or what comes out of the mouths of people around them. I have the opportunity to make sure they are influenced by positive people and things as well as the choice to allow or not allow everybody else to influence them more than I do. I can allow their hearts to take on whatever shape the world molds it into, or I can gently guide them, teaching them who they were created to be and who their Creator is, what unconditional love is and who it comes from, the difference between absolute truth and objective truth and why it matters.
  5. I am a wife who is pleasant to be around. Oh that I may be a wife that builds my husband up, encouraging him and spurring him on in his dreams. That I may be a wife who is more interested in building our marriage than building my own interests; a wife who can disagree in opinion without starting a fight; a wife who can just shut up and listen; a wife who can reach out to break the silence even when I feel wronged; a wife who will choose to love my husband, every day, through every valley and up every mountain; a wife who finds a way to be his wife when I’ve used up all my energy being a mom all day.

This is who I am, or at least who I want to be. This is what I do. It isn’t rocket science or glamorous. But it is important to me, to my husband and to God. I may not care about what other people think of me, but I pray my husband finds joy in who I am and what I do for him, for us, for our family.

“Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.”

1 Peter 3:3-4

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