Made to create

Something I have noticed about children is that they are instinctively creative. They like to do things like color, draw, paint, sing, dance, make messes, invent new tools or contraptions, and pretend millions of different world and games.

Why is that?

I think it’s because children don’t feel the pressure to impress, they just do what gives them joy.

My son builds machines, monsters, and robots with his Duplos for hours, simply because he likes to build and loves to show me what he makes. He just learned a new skill of drawing faces, and he loves to draw “silly” faces. Future comedian on our hands I’m telling you.

My middle daughter sings, and sings… and sings… and sings. There are very few moments of the day when she is not singing. She simply loves to do it. She also loves to play pretend with whatever is in her hands at any given moment. From pretending her grapes are those infamous monkeys jumping on the bed, to dancing her Moana doll across the coffee table. Her new favorite pretend game is pretending our couch is a ship, which is sinking and they must stop it! (She’s got a flair for the dramatic, for sure.)

Even the baby is in on the scheme. Play any song, and she’s bouncing to the beat in an instant. Sometimes she will even coo along with you if you sing to her.

Children do what they like to do. They do what brings them joy.

I’m not sure when, but somewhere along the way, adults lose this ability to just do creative things we love. Adults feel the need to qualify why we do anything to see whether it’s worth doing. On top of that, adults add an (often) unachievable standard of quality required for this creative endeavor to be worth our time.

When we add these qualifiers on to creativity, we limit what it can be and we belittle the one who made us creative.

First, creativity is expressed whenever something is made and there is enjoyment when making it. So, this would include things like writing, cooking, drawing, decorating, singing, playing an instrument, any visual art, dancing, and much, muuuuuch more.

Second is an element that I call a “shared experience”. What I mean is that thing is made and enjoyed, is also shared with someone else (whether they are a “fellow creative” or are an “audience”). Part of the joy in making is sharing. Experiencing art at a museum, a home cooked meal, a music recital, a “Pinterest-worthy” party, or a theatrical production are intended to connect people and for people to enjoy.

Now, we experience and do creative things imperfectly. When does a great artist know when he’s finished, or does it need one more dab of paint? Is a musician ever satisfied that their performance was excellent, or could this one portion have been played better? Did the audience respond as predicted in the play, or was there a disconnect? You see what I mean, it’s never perfect, but this is what leads me to my third point about creativity because it answers this question: Where does creativity come from?

Third is that creativity comes from God. Take a look a Genesis chapter 1 for a reference here. God created the universe. From whence there was nothing, God spoke, and everything came. This point, that creativity comes from God, also gives support and reason for my first two points. We know that God enjoys his creation, because he doesn’t need it! He was complete, the Trinity was perfect in relationship and love and purpose without us. He chose to make the universe anyway, and he made it intricate and beautiful. You don’t make things detailed and beautiful unless you like it.

More than that, God called it good. Now, this word doesn’t just mean well done, or wholesome, or the opposite of bad, it also means complete. When God spoke the universe into being he did it perfectly, completely, without leaving anything out on the very first attempt.

Of all the creatures and matter in the universe only humanity is created to be like God. This is why we are creative creatures, and why every human is creative, because we are all made in his image.

So, what do you do that is creative? How are you imaging your maker?
It’s doesn’t have to be anything formal, or “crafty”, but think about it. What do you make that you enjoy making?

As always, all for His Glory.

Soli Deo Gloria!

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Library review – an unpopular anti-bullying message

New month, more books! This trip the kids did a lot of picking on their own, and so we had a very surprising variety of books–as you would expect with a 2 and 3 year old pick out books whose titles they cannot read. Luckily, we had just enough space in our bag for mama to pick out a couple books too just to balance it out and stretch us a little bit.

My son is turning into quite the reader (or rather, listener), and is liking more and more books. He is getting to the point where he likes most of the books we get!

Here were his top favorites this time:

About three “chicken” chickens, very comical
About a turkey trying to run away from the farmer on the day before Thanksgiving.
About a big turnip, a family effort, and good homemade food.
Classic tales of foolishness and wisdom, old language, friendly characters and format for little hands.

Like I said, we had a pretty eclectic bunch!

My daughter appreciated some of these, but her attention span is pretty short these days.
Oh, to be two!

My son also liked this book, because I could “read” it on his own:

It’s a wordless book, and it tells the story of going out of your way to be kind to someone else. The illustrations tell the story beautifully. It’s a strong message about bullying and looking out for others.

I will say that my kids felt that the story was left unfinished, which I thought was very telling. At the end of the story, the entire school (or so it appears) rallies behind the girl who was picked on. A very “happily ever after” feel, but my son asked me,

“What about the mean boy? Why is everyone leaving him?”

That’s so striking to me! My son was so concerned for the bully, the apparent “bad guy” of the story. Why is that? Because my son saw the bully for what he is, a person, an image bearer. Even though the “mean boy”, as my son dubbed him, was indeed mean to Vanessa it didn’t make the whole school ignoring him right, and my son felt that. He didn’t know it, but he hit upon a biblical truth here.

Here is Jesus’ Anti-Bullying Message:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
Matthew 5:38–48 (ESV – emphasis added)

That is a really unpopular message. Do not resist the bully, give in to him, love him, pray good things for him. Be perfectly loving to the unlovely, gentle to the violent, merciful to the unjust, giving to the greedy, good to the evil.

Be like Jesus. Be holy, perfect. We can only do this through Christ. We can only love our enemies through Jesus, through his Holy Spirit changing and growing us to be more like Jesus, who did it perfectly, who loved his enemies enough to die for them, take their punishment, and redeem them. We need a love that powerful to help us love others.

Do all things for his glory, even reading wordless books!

Soli Deo Gloria

Beginning Slow – home education

It’s officially August, and my son turns 4 at the end of the month. (Cue heart swelling, and tears!)

Like really?! Oh my goodness, I love this boy, and he is growing so fast!

My son is suddenly getting really interested in books, building with Legos, and he always gets excited about anything to do with numbers, sorting, or patterns (i.e. basic math concepts!).

So, this week, despite me having a cold, we unofficially started homeschooling (unofficially, because he is not even old enough for TK).

It’s super basic, easy to do, no curriculum, and takes maybe 15 minutes to “do school”. With a 2.5 year old and an 8 month old, so this is about as much as I can handle.

I don’t know if homeschooling is what we will be doing for all of our education years. We will take it one year at a time!
Although, I will say, my husband is a huge fan of homeschooling.
At the same time, he’s at work all day and won’t be the one really teaching.
So, we will see!

For now, this is our little routine:

  • Bible story: currently reading the Jesus Storybook Bible.
  • Alphabet flashcards (literally 3×5 cards that I wrote the alphabet on): we just go through and say the letter’s name and the sound it makes (short vowel sounds right now). He’s already got about 80% of the alphabet memorized!
  • Read, read, read!
  • Counting: cars, Legos, fingers, toes, crayons, shopping carts, trash trucks, everything!
  • Bible verses: I have verses written down, and in a frame on our dining room table. They can’t read it, but seeing it and hearing it read over and over basically helps them memorize. I don’t have a schedule of what verses and how long it should take us or whatever. I just pick a verse that fits our lives at the moment and we work on it until it’s memorized, then I pick new ones.

Ta da!
That’s all we are doing. I try to do most of that in the morning, and maybe a little in the afternoon (all the kids nap from about 1-3pm).

Sincerely,
This reluctant homeschool mom!

Soli Deo Gloria!

My story, God’s story

A lot happened this weekend.

Went away with my hubby Thursday night to celebrate our 5th anniversary, Dodger game Friday night (which they won!) with fireworks commemorating the 50th anniversary of the moon landing, my niece’s 1st birthday party on Saturday, then I got baptized on Sunday.

Like I said, big weekend. Very fun and very full. Has made for a very sleepy Monday, which I am totally fine with.

Many people from my church came up to me after service saying how encouraged they were by my testimony. I always feel awkward when people thank me, but especially then because I didn’t really do anything. God did it all, I just showed up.

Here’s what I shared:

My Story – God’s Story

I was baptized once before, when I was 11, but I was not a believer at the time. It took a long time for me to admit that the testimony I thought I had wasn’t true. I believed my own lie.

The truth was, I was a really good Pharisee. I grew up in a Christian home, was taught about God, heard the gospel, and mentally assented to the truth about God. I told others about God, I behaved well, I sought to be “the good girl”, and prided myself in all these things. There was one problem, and that was me. I didn’t believe I needed Jesus. I didn’t believe I was that bad. I didn’t believe I was a sinner. 

It wasn’t until high school that this deadly belief in my own goodness, grew into something more serious: pride. I loved myself more than anyone. I wanted others to love me too. I sought favor from my peers, and affection from boys. I despised my church, my parents, and especially my siblings who knew the real me and all my flaws. I attacked or cut off anyone who confronted me, who tried to show me my sin, or who stood in my way of what I wanted.

By God’s grace, I was accepted to and received scholarships that enabled me to attend The Master’s College. In the first three months of being at college, I ignored all the warnings of my parents, and got in too deep with a boyfriend. I almost got myself kicked out of the school. I was then confronted with my sin, and I couldn’t escape it, or reason it away. I was confronted with the reality that God’s standard for my life is not Goodness, but Holiness. I can fake Goodness, but I cannot do Holiness. It broke me. 

I remember collapsing on the emergency stairwell of my dorm, where no one could find me, and just crying. Crying over my sin. I remember that being the very first time I prayed to God. I prayed, fully expecting to hear nothing, “God I can’t. I’m awful. I’m gross. I’m not holy.” In my heart an answer came, “And I love you anyway”.

That was the part about God that I didn’t understand for 18 years. That He is holy, and I am not. And He chose to love me anyways. This is where my faith in the Lord began, in repentance. Repenting of my pride, my selfishness, my self-righteousness, my godless goodness, all that mattered to me, because now none of it mattered to me without Christ. I was, and still am by God’s grace, like Paul in Philippians 3:7-9 

“But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the flesh, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith-” 

God tested my faith at that time too. I came back to school after the Christmas break with no friends, and in a new department because I had switched majors. I spent the next year in complete dependence on God. I had lost it all for His sake, and He slowly revealed to me that blessed truth that He is worth it. 

God faithfully showed me his love. By His grace the trust with my parents that I had broken was restored, and by restoring, and continually growing the relationship with my siblings, blessing me with deep friendships with my family members. Almost exactly a year after I repented and my faith became true and real, God brought Mike into my life. 

I became a born again Christian almost 10 years ago. I am now married to a man who strives to show me Christ daily. I have three kids, entrusted to me and my husband to teach the things of God and be faithful parents. I want them to know that there is a God, that He is holy, that they are sinners, and that they desperately need Jesus. That is why I want to get baptized: to be an example, and to obey my loving Father.

Soli Deo Gloria!

A godly friend, like Paul

The women’s bible study at my church is going through Philippians right now, using Melissa Kruger’s book In All Things. It’s been such a blessing to have this reminder to rejoice in the Lord Jesus no matter what.

Why? Because he is greater, he is worthy, he is worth it, he is with us, he is the reason and the end of all things, he is good.

Could we with ink the ocean fill
And were the skies of parchment made,
Were every stalk on earth a quill,
And every man a scribe by trade,
To write the love of God above would drain the ocean dry,
Nor could the scroll contain the whole
Though stretched from sky to sky.

– “The Love of God is Greater Far” by Fredrick M. Lehman (1917)

I read though the entire book of Philippians just to refresh myself of the whole context of the book, even as we study it verse by verse. As I read, I was receiving texts from two girls. I pray for both these girls on a regular basis, and with their texts in my mind this verse of Philippians really popped out at me:

“Therefore. my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and my crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved.” 
Philippians 4:1

Do you have friends you think of like this? Do you have friends who think of you in this way? Through out this little letter, Paul’s language shows that he really loved and cared for these people. 

It’s so interesting to note what Paul’s love for these people calls him to do, because it is so different from what the world says a true friend does. Paul encourages this church to stand firm in what they have believed about Jesus (that he is the only way of salvation), love one another, and rejoices even in their suffering.

Do we do this for our friends? Do we spur them on? Or do we pander them when they grumble? Do we actually talk with our friends about Jesus, about good theology, even in a casual way? Or do we “save” those conversations for the formal church setting?

Are we investing in the spiritual growth of our brothers and sisters in Christ? Are we allowing others to invest in us?

These are tough questions! They require messiness, uncomfortable conversations, personal sacrifice, and more! That’s hard friend, but that is what Jesus did for us (and more!), and that is what we, as believers, are called to. 

Let us, in the confidence we have in our savior Jesus Christ, Rejoice! Standing firm, united in love, and growing ever more like Jesus.

Soli Deo Gloria!

Anxiety, the gospel, and potty training

Today is Day One of potty training for me and my son. He’s 3 and 1/2. He’s plenty ready, but I’m a nervous wreck.

Why am I so anxious about potty training? I have 3 kids: a 3-and-1/2-year-old, a 2-year-old, and a 2-month-old. All are (obviously) in diapers. You’d think I’d be ecstatic about getting one if them out of diapers!
But I’m not.
I’ve been dragging my feet.
I’m forcing myself to do this.

You wouldn’t guess it looking at me! (Unless you’re my mom, or my hubby, or my sister 😉) I grew up performing, so I know how to “fake it ’til you make it”! On the outside: I’m excited, motivated, encouraging, and confident. All for my son’s sake!

On the inside: I’m nervous that I’ll fail. I’m afraid my son will have a bad experience, and be upset with me. I’m sad my baby is growing up! I’m also excited my baby is growing up! (The inner turmoil of a mom, right?!)

He’s my only son (so far 😉). He’s my first born. He’s the spitting image of my husband. I’m in a constant struggle between wanting him to become a grown, godly man, just like his daddy, and wanting to hold him forever. 💜

I think he’s barely a year old in this, maybe not even a year yet! Oh, be still my heart!

Potty training is just bringing all my anxieties and fears to the surface, I think. They were there the whole time, but didn’t have a chance to really show themselves. The heat is bearing down now!

I see my heart’s tendency, to be anxious, so today I am clinging (with all my might) to God’s grace, because I need it!

These are the Truths I am holding fast to:

“Therefore, preparing your minds for action and being sober-minded, set your hope on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”
1 Peter 1:13

This should be the theme verse for all of babyhood and toddlerhood. So much of parenting at this stage is preparing ourselves for intense action! Midnight feedings, continual diaper changes, tantrums, potty training… the list goes on. These are all activities that require immediate action and continual readiness to jump right in! I love that this verse points to the future, to what is ultimate: Christ’s return, when all things will be made right. I need this reminder when I’m in the thick of things with my little ones. Especially today with our new adventure in potty training.

“The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.”
Lamentations 3:22-23

This is my go-to verse in my current stage of life. What a comfort this verse is! The promises here are so rich!

  • God’s love is steadfast.
  • God mercy is renewed for us each dawn.
  • God’s mercy is never ending.
  • God is always faithful.

These promises also highlight the reality that we are broken people and are none of these things.

  • Our love is fickle and short lived.
  • Our patience wears thin, and we are harsh rather than merciful.
  • Our mercy ends, or fails to even show up.
  • Our short term memory, and frail frame make us a faithless people.

BUT GOD!

“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ – by grace you have been saved-“
Ephesians 2:4-5

I am holding fast to the gospel!

Mommies need the gospel. We need it in our hearts and minds everyday. It’s incredibly practical! Because it puts every diaper change into perspective.

Let me say it again, not just for you, reader, but mostly for my own heart:

The Good News that we are sinners saved from punishment and death through the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross, paying an eternal debt to an eternal God that we cannot pay, and saved to life “together with Christ” as Ephesians puts it, now in this earthly life by the ministry of the Spirit, and forever for eternity in heaven through Jesus with God the Father, makes the mundane tasks of each day not just worth it, but I am also able to glorify God in them because his Spirit enables me to serve others and God rather than my sinful self.

Read that again. and again. and again.

Remind yourself (and myself) everyday of this reality, believer. This is your reality. This is your life. This is why you can say “no” to being anxious, and “yes” to trusting in God in all things.

But before you or I begin to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps, or wash our face and put on the make-up of self-righteousness, let’s take a look at Scripture verses that tell us how we say “no” to anxiety, and “yes” to trusting God.

1. God is, powerfully, at work in us

“And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”
Philippians 1:6

2. God has given us instructions

“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction and for training in righteousness, that the man [or woman] of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.”
2 Timothy 3:16-17

3. God has given us a family. Don’t go it alone.

“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”
Hebrews 10:24-26

Reading to his 2-month-old baby sister. He loves his sisters sooooo much!

Let me conclude with this:
I am anxious about potty training. It is a challenge!
Parenting is hard! Having three kids as young and as close in age as I do, IS HARD!
But! God is in control. God is good. God is faithful. And, God is with me.

Deep breath.

“The LORD is my strength and my shield;
in him my heart trusts, and I am helped;
my heart exults,
and with my song I give thanks to him.”
Psalm 28:7

Soli Deo Gloria

Looking back and looking forward

For our family, 2017 began with many uncertainties.
We had just welcomed our second baby into the world a few weeks before the year began, and we were looking at the chaos of having two under two, in a one bedroom apartment, with a very limited income. We began the year thinking: “how are we going to do this?”

We did it, but not alone.
2017 is the year God taught me that He provides, time and time again, and usually when we don’t expect it, in ways we could never imagine.

Enough.
That’s my word for 2017.

We don’t have much. We lived 2017 on a paycheck to paycheck basis. We often had to ask for help. Money for car repairs. Diapers. Groceries. Rent. God provided enough for us to live.

He gave us parents who love us. He provided obstacles to keep us from moving away from our parents (something we strongly considered twice in the past year). We can always ask them for help, babysitting, a ride, counsel, even a bath or shower when our plumbing goes out.

We love them very much.

 

We have fantastic friends who join with us in prayer and support.
Our church is awesome. We get so excited to go to church. Sunday school is amazing, rich teaching and solid believers building one another up. It’s so depressing for me when I have to skip church. So much so, that my loving hubby usually is the one to stay home if one of our kids is sick on a Sunday.

Our nursery through pre-school program is also awesome (my vocabulary is insufficient, I know). It is headed by a beautiful woman, who loves these kids, and loves us parents. She is creative, caring, and so so godly. She is such a blessing.

The “Timothy Tots Mom text group”. We all have kids about the same age, and we are all in this group text (and now there are more pregnant mommies who will be joining it I’m sure). It’s our help line. It’s our mommy prayer chain. It’s our source for practical help, prayer, health updates, picture sharing, and social outlet.

Women’s Bible study, i.e. “Thursday morning brunch” with women you would never otherwise talk to, but you find so much in common with them, so much to learn from them, and you all learn so much together it’s unlike any other fellowship with other believers I’ve ever experienced. It’s wonderful.

I’m forgetting things, people, and opportunities. When you start listing the ways God has blessed you, that tends to happen. “My cup overflows”.

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More than enough. That’s really what happened in 2017.

When my husband and I looked at each other wondering “how will we have enough?” God surprised us above and beyond our expectations. We have been so blessed. How can another year compare to the blessings we have experienced?

Here we are! 2018. Looking forward I want to stop looking at what I think is lacking in my life. Instead, I pray for God to change my heart, see my overflowing cup of blessings, and pour that cup into another’s. Serve one another and glorify God. That is my goal for 2018.

 

Soli Deo Gloria!