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

A Christmas Challenge

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Merry Christmas Eve! If you’re like many Americans today, you’re probably out buying last minute gifts, hurriedly wrapping the last of the gifts or planning your Christmas Day.
Tomorrow marks the middle holiday event that leads us closer to a new year.

Thanksgiving has come and gone and saw us stuffing ourselves with food and emptying our pockets on all the great sales. Christmas is a time to be with family, show our love by giving gifts and feel others’ love by receiving gifts. New Year’s is a day of celebration as we say out with the old and in with the new and better.

Some of us probably took some time to give to those less fortunate than us. Maybe you served at a soup kitchen thanksgiving morning before gorging in your own kitchen. Christmas is a wonderful time to give toys to kids who don’t have any. I mean, what better way to clear out the toy bins for all those Christmas presents we’re about to give and receive (kid and adult toys)? With the new year comes taxes so end of the year giving to charities provides a meaningful way to get rid of some money to receive a tax break.

I interrupt my slightly sarcastic words to point out a few things:
1. I know many people who really do have good hearts as they do all the above mentioned things
2. I realize there are other holidays during this time of year. Forgive me for not including them. I don’t celebrate them and thus have no background to include them in my holiday examples.
3. Personally, my family celebrates Christmas because it’s Jesus’ birthday. Take away the family, the gifts, the merriment and we still have reason to celebrate-our Lord and Savior came to earth so we would not have to spend eternity without him and we rejoice in that on Christmas Day.

So in a month and a half time (end of November through January 1) there is a ton of giving going on in our country. I won’t ask anyone to validate why they are giving or who they give to.

My challenge this Christmas season is to think about the remaining 10 1/2 months of the year. What would happen if once a quarter (that’s once every 3 months for those of you who, like me, go brain dead at times like this. It’s like my brain just stops ticking and all I can do is stare into space as I try to come with something, anything to say) each one of us gave to someone in need simply because….well, just to do a nice thing?

The homeless woman on the corner? Give her a couple of those blueberry muffins you just bought for breakfast. Maybe she’s homeless and hungry, maybe she’s just trying to pull one over on you, but I bet you’ll make her smile. Have a heart for kids? Find a local foster care family or organization and donate some of your kids’ books or toys-not because you’re getting new ones, but just because you can. Miss your grandparents? Make some Valentine cards and head on down to a nursing home to pass them out. Got those taxes back? Maybe you could take a small percentage, buy some groceries and drop it off at a food pantry. Find some coupons and weekly deals in diapers and donate a pack to the pregnancy center. Maybe even take one Saturday morning, load up the family and donate your time to a homeless shelter.

I don’t know how many people live in America and honestly, my kids are napping right now so I’m racing against time to actually start and finish this thing in one sitting, but suffice to say, it’s a lot. Imagine if even one quarter of us took this Christmas challenge and carried it out. Just one time of giving every 3 months. Imagine how many people we could take care of? How many people we could help? How many smiles we could deliver?

Side note-I did it. I’m done typing and the kids are still sleeping. It’s a Christmas miracle.

Saying goodbye to home

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I was blessed to grow up just 15 minutes away from my grandparents (on my mom’s side), who lived on a small farm in the country. Granted by the time my brother and I were born and old enough to remember any animals, the only critters there were rabbits and that didn’t last long. If you ask my mom, she doesn’t remember there being any animals, though she did have rabbits when she was growing up (along with a cow or two, possibly some other animals), but I’m going to stick by my memories of rabbits. There were also 2 huge gardens on either side of the 2 acre property and a small strawberry patch. The rest of the property was dotted with an old, small, pieced together barn (that held the aforementioned cow(s)), an old dog house, a small shed connected to a larger pole barn, an outhouse looking shed that held old coal, a large lean to where tractors were parked, a brick 2 car garage, another metal shed that held mostly fire wood, and of course, the two story farmhouse.

A small, murky swampy pond sat just on the other side of the back property line and it held many adventures for my brother and I, our cousins, along with friends and the neighbor boy down the road. On a side note, this is the boy who once said I could never shoot him and not miss. Luckily for him, it was just a BB gun, because I did shoot him….and I didn’t miss. My grandpa kept everything. Some may have called him a hoarder, but he was simply a man who survived the depression and was ready for another one. If the apocalypse came, I knew where I was going to go. That being said, out of his “junk” we made rafts out of inner tubes, wooden pallets and hockey sticks with the ends sawed off. Oh the fun we had pushing ourselves through that murky wonder.

The plethora of buildings provided us with places to climb, hide, explore, and play in. Hours on end were spent climbing tractors; walking through the barn with the very old hay, imagining a cow kept there; sorting through the old hardware, farm and garden tools, and odds and ends and climbing over the furniture and riding mower in the garage. In later years, my mom and I would dream of how we would refinish all the old stuff and open our own business.

Then of course there was the house. I recall playing Lincoln logs on the stair landing; having sleep overs in my grandmas room upstairs (and her portable potty chair that she kept upstairs since the only real bathroom was downstairs); trying to get the color to come in on my great grandmas old boob tube (it was a black and white tv….it took us awhile to learn what that meant); practicing my piano skills in the den (one of my aunts painted it an avocado green when she was younger); traipsing down to the basement and being awed by all the canned goods in the root cellar room, the unlighted corner that held who knows what and was covered in cob webs, helping with laundry in their ancient washer and then hanging the clothes out to dry, shuffling food around in the two deep freezers, and sneaking pop.

The gardens held a variety of vegetables and in later years, flowers too. My brother and I loved running through the corn field, though looking back, it was really just a few rows of corn. But when you’re small, the full grown corn stalks were taller than us and seemed to provide yards of mazes for us. Green beans needed picking, but that also meant munching away on fresh beans as we picked off the ends, dirt and all. There’s nothing better than a homegrown carrot and I loved eating the tomatoes like an apple with a little sugar sprinkled on. I would catch moths and other small bugs to feed the ants. I’d watch them tear apart their meals and carry them down into their holes, then I’d dig around and try to find the moth part. I never did. To this day it’s still a mystery as to how the ants ate, broke down or hid/stored each insect that quickly. There was an electric wire that ran around the perimeter of the main garden (the other garden grew pumpkins and other squash in the fall, and gave us our own pumpkin patch) and my brother and I would laugh hysterically as we dared each other to touch the fence and jolt ourselves. I would catch moths and other small bugs to feed the ants. I’d watch them tear apart their meals and carry them down into their holes, then I’d dig around and try to find the moth part. I never did. To this day it’s still a mystery as to how the ants ate, broke down or hid/stored each insect that quickly. Two of my old dogs are buried there.

You could watch birds and squirrels at the bird feeders from the kitchen window. We would tunnel into and build forts in the piles of snow after my grandpa plowed in the winter. There was a small hill in the front yard that gave us sledding fun and we’d often head across the street to a larger hill that, if you weren’t careful, would dump you into the creek after careening down. The row of pine trees along the driveway were full grown when I was old enough to notice them, but I marveled at how my mom and her sisters could jump over them when they were kids growing up. Ground hogs and chipmunks were always making holes or digging into the garden and considered nuisances. We enjoyed walking behind my grandparents through the open field that led to a forest with a fox hole that always had animal bones scattered around. I remember walking back there just me and a friend one time and seeing a wolf. We freaked and ran all the way back to the house. Granted it was probably just the fox, but the imagination of a young girl can run wild at times. Deer were plentiful and my Grandpa blessed us with a nice buck every year. Venison, mmm-mmm good!

Oh the memories. I could go on and on. That was home to me. It was home even though we lived in town. It was home when I moved away to college, and then grad school, and then got a job. Whenever I traveled home, that is the house I thought of. After my Grandpa passed away and then my Grandma, my mom moved into that farmhouse and has lived there the past few years.

Until now. The house has been sold; it no longer belongs to our family. I feel like a part of me died when it was sold. That was home. Our family home. My home. Our memories. It drew me back and called to me when I had been gone too long. It was a breath of fresh air, peace and tranquility regardless of what my life held. The memories flood back often and I smile at them, only now there are tears behind the smiles. It’s like an ending of an era that I miss so much.

 

Me vs. the President

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You know what has been really frustrating about this election? The power that people have put on our future president. It probably happens with each election, but this is the first one I am really aware of it being such an issue.

Let me ask a question: How will the new president affect your life? I mean, really affect your personal life, your family, what you stand for and believe in? I’m not saying our president does not affect us in any way, shape or form, but who has more power over your day to day life, you or the President? Who has more power over what your kids are raised to believe, you or the President? Who has more power over the people you claim deserve more rights and more help, you or the President?

I am a woman and I have a daughter. We deserve to be looked at not as a physical body that is either pleasurable or not, fat or skinny, hot or ugly, but as human beings who have been created in God’s image, fearfully and wonderfully knit together in our mothers’ wombs and are beautiful JUST the way we are. And yet, what am I promoting when I watch TV shows that show just the opposite? What am I supporting when I sit through a movie that depicts men lusting over a woman’s body and women trying to seduce a man to lust over her body? Am I not being hypocritical in what I claim to believe and want to teach my kids vs. what I am allowing into my brain and supporting with my money (books, movie tickets, cable bills, high speed internet, products promoted by sexual means)?

When it comes to teaching my daughter that her identity is in Christ alone, that who she is is so much more than what she looks like, who is she going to learn it from, the President….or me? I have a whole heck of a lot more influence over my daughter than any person in the oval office.

Abortion is always a hot topic when it comes to elections. Pro-life vs. pro-choice. A woman’s rights vs. a baby’s rights. is it a person or a fetus? When does it become a person? Which candidate is going to support what I believe and do what I think should be done? My question to you (and myself) is: what are YOU doing to support what you claim to believe?  Because again, it goes back to who has more power, you and me, or the President?

As a pro-lifer, what am I doing to support my claim that a baby is a person at the moment of conception, that he/she is formed by God himself at that exact moment, that to abort a baby is murder? Do I simply post articles on facebook touting my truths? Do I yell them from the street corner? Or do I do a little homework, realize that many abortions are done because the mother sees no other way out of a very real, very scary situation in her life, and find a way to provide other resources for these women? Many cities have pregnancy centers that provide physical resources and teachings for these women. I’m talking diapers, wipes, baby clothes, car seats, cribs, how to care for yourself and the life inside you while pregnant and as well as how to care for a baby and be a mom (many times a single mom). These clinics provide resources by way of women coming along side of them, supporting them, help with health care for mom and baby, etc. Maybe instead of spending our time and energies on hating the “other side”, we rally together to support these pregnancy centers by way of money, donations of items, volunteer hours. Let’s take the power into our own hands and really make a difference, regardless of what the law books say, regardless of what any president says.

So I say, whatever your beliefs (even if they are different that mine), realize that YOU and I have more power to be the change that we so desperately want. YOU and I have more power to help our neighbor, the homeless vet, the abused woman. YOU and I have more power to teach our children the truth. No matter who is in the white house or even in the role as our city mayor, no one has more power to influence our life and our world than we do. NO ONE.

 

 

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