Finding a Peace-filled Schedule

Spoiler alert: I haven’t found it.

Schedules and routine are glorious things.
When I was a new mom, I followed a sleep training schedule just to keep me sane (postpartum emotions are no joke). Second baby came 15 months after the first, and getting my babies to sleep at the same time was my end-all-be-all goal.
Now, with three children ages 4.5 years, 3 years, and 16 months, schedules have been an vital part of our home for just about 5 years!

Schedules = sanity

Or do they?

For all of my motherhood, I have searched for peace and security in schedules. Yet, I still battle with anxiety (the kind where you just sit alone and cry for no reason, or can’t find it in you to get off the couch or even out of bed).

Why?

There is only one place where we can find peace, security, sanity, purpose, and all the other things we really are looking for in our ideal schedule.
That place, is actually a person, it’s Jesus.

Jesus is the source of lasting peace.
Jesus is the anchor for our fluctuating emotions and circumstances.
Jesus is the only cause for life-long and minute-by-minute purpose.

“The heart of man plans his way,
but the LORD establishes his steps.”

Proverbs 16:9

Schedules are good and often very helpful, they are fantastic guidelines, and give us (and our kids) things to look forward to. However, helpful tools were never meant to calm our souls, give us disaster-proof security, or motivate us with an all encompassing purpose that would fill every moment of our days and last our entire lives. Nothing on this earth can do that, only God can.

The book of Romans has a lot to say about peace, where it comes from, and where it does not come from. Let’s take a look at a few verses:

“Their throat is an open grave;
they¬†use¬†their¬†tongues¬†to¬†deceive.‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúThe¬†venom¬†of¬†asps¬†is¬†under¬†their¬†lips.‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúTheir¬†mouth¬†is¬†full¬†of¬†curses¬†and¬†bitterness.‚ÄĚ
“Their feet are swift to shed blood;
in their paths are ruin and misery,
and the¬†way¬†of¬†peace¬†they¬†have¬†not¬†known.‚ÄĚ

Romans 3:13-17

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 

Romans 5:1

For¬†to¬†set¬†the¬†mind¬†on¬†the¬†flesh¬†is¬†death,¬†but¬†to¬†set¬†the¬†mind¬†on¬†the Spirit¬†is¬†life¬†and¬†peace.¬†For¬†the¬†mind¬†that¬†is¬†set¬†on¬†the¬†flesh¬†is¬†hostile to¬†God,¬†for¬†it¬†does¬†not¬†submit¬†to¬†God’s¬†law;¬†indeed,¬†it¬†cannot.¬†Those¬†who¬†are¬†in¬†the¬†flesh¬†cannot¬†please¬†God.

Romans 8:6-8

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.

Romans 15:13

May the God of peace be with you all. Amen.

Romans 15:33

The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace  of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.

Romans 16:20

True, lasting, unwavering peace comes when our trust is in Jesus alone. Why? Because unlike every other thing in the universe, including ourselves, he is unchanging. Peace founded in Jesus Christ because no matter what we go through no matter our circumstances, our emotions, our relationships, our mistakes, our health, any of it, he remains steadfast. He is our peace.

No matter what faces you today, tomorrow, ten years from now! God remains faithfully the same. We can rest secure in that.

Soli Deo Gloria!

Pandemic, Manna, Contentment, Anger, and the Idol of Me

They set out from Elim, and all the congregation of the people of Israel came to the wilderness of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after they had departed from the land of Egypt. And the whole congregation of the people of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness, and the people of Israel said to them, ‚ÄúWould that we had died by the hand of the LORD in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the meat pots and ate bread to the full, for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.‚ÄĚ

Exodus 16:1-3 (emphasis added)

This was my Bible reading this morning, and it got me thinking….

Two months after the miraculous ten plagues, Passover, and crossing through the middle of the Red Sea on dry land, the entire congregation of Israel is grumbling.
This is more than the casual complaining, “just saying”, or venting type attitude we excuse ourselves of now. Or was it?
They were a good two month walk from the greatest civilization at the time, the only place they had ever known, and were now on a never ending camping trip in the middle of the wilderness. Oh, and they had run out of food. The people had some legitimate concerns! Food is important! Being in the middle of nowhere lacking food is deadly!

So what’s the problem?
Instead of seeking God’s guidance, instead of calling out to him for help (he clearly had the power and willingness to help them out), they looked to their own knowledge, their own understanding, and their own situation as being ultimate.
They had grown discontent. Following a miraculous pillar of cloud by day, and warming, light giving pillar of fire was not good enough.
They had let that discontentment take root, and now they were angry, with Moses and Aaron. Really? No. They took it out on Moses and Aaron. They had seen in Egypt what happens when you shake your fist at God directly, people die!
But God knew their hearts. They were angry with God, not Moses. They were not trusting God. They were trusting their eyes, their heads, their stomachs.

Those silly Israelites! Come on guys!

Well, how different am I? Just two weeks into public spaces being closed because of this current pandemic, and I feel discontent, a little angry. Justifiably so! A lot has changed in a short time, but if being in the wilderness and running out of food was not a good excuse for idolatry, then safer-at-home orders are not a good excuse either.

Idolatry? Whoa, hold on there. I see no statue worship, no fist shaking at God, no out right denial of his work.

Yes, idolatry. Whenever our peace, our hope, our security is relying on something other than God it’s idolatry.

Comfort, control, predictability, family, community, health, finances, “me time”, independence, whatever! If you are willing to sin to keep whatever it is, then it’s an idol. Not trusting God is the foundational sin, it’s what got Adam and Eve in the garden.

Yes, things are crazy. Yes, it is scary, nerve wracking, and we need to exercise caution (extreme caution in some cases). Yes, there is suffering (there was before COVID-19 and there will be after it).

But! God is not surprised, this is not outside of his plan. His good, pleasing, and perfect will for the good of those whom he has called, and for his glory forever and ever, has not changed and will not be stopped. Nothing can thwart his will.

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?”

Romans 8:35

What happens in the next verses of Exodus? God gives them Manna, literally raining bread from heaven to feed them. Just before giving them the Manna, God gave Moses instructions about the Manna. God said to only collect enough for one day, except for the sixth day of the week collect enough for the seventh day also because the seventh day is the Sabbath, the day of rest. Even in God’s provision, he is requiring that the people trust him.

God did not take the people out of the wilderness. God did not lead them on a quicker path to the promised land. God did not have them settle down and start growing crops to solve their food problem. No, God did not change their circumstances, but came to them in the midst of their circumstances and provided for them even in their difficulty and even provided for them in their disobedience.

Praise God he comes to us before we come to him! Praise God he gives us grace before we ask for forgiveness! Praise God he allows us to see our weakness, so that the beauty of his provision is vibrant! Praise God he permits suffering so we stop clinging to our flimsy idols of self, and cling to our all sustaining, holy Savior!

Soli Deo Glroia!


Praise deep in the woods… or cave.

Psalm 57

To the choirmaster: according to Do Not Destroy. A Miktam of David, when he fled from Saul, in the cave.

Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me,
for in you my soul takes refuge;
in the shadow of your wings I will take refuge,
till the storms of destruction pass by.
I cry out to God Most High,
to God who fulfills his purpose for me.
He will send from heaven and save me;
he will put to shame him who tramples on me.
God will send out his steadfast love and his faithfulness! Selah

My soul is in the midst of lions;
I lie down amid fiery beasts-
the children of man, whose teeth are spears and arrows,
whose tongues are sharp swords.

Be exalted, O God, above the heavens!
Let your glory be over all the earth!

They set a net for my steps;
my soul was bowed down.
They dug a pit in my way,
but they have fallen into it themselves. Selah
My heart is steadfast, O God,
my heart is steadfast!
I will sing and make melody!
Awake, my glory!
Awake, O harp and lyre!
I will awake the dawn!
I will give thanks to you, O Lord, among the peoples;
I will sing praises to you among the nations.
For your steadfast love is great to the heavens,
your faithfulness to the clouds.

Be exalted, O God, above the heavens!
Let your glory be over all the earth!

It’s a weird time. People are afraid, acting in ways they never thought they would. Children are home, stuck inside for the most part, and driving their parents up the wall!

Yes, I chose to quote an entire Psalm, because right now, more than usual, context matters. David wrote this song of praise while running for his life, hiding in a cave. If you’re familiar with the story, this is the cave where Saul comes to, ahem, relieve himself, and David is hiding in the shadows close enough to be able to kill him.
Saul had been pursuing David, to kill him. David, legally, had the right to defend himself, and his men, and strike first. What does he do instead? He sneaks up, while Saul is- um- yeah, and cuts off a piece of his clothing. Then, when Saul leaves the cave, David and his men emerge and show the cut piece of clothing, showing how close Saul had come to death, except for David choosing to show mercy towards Saul, and love to God.

Let’s be clear on a couple details here:

Saul was the man God had allowed to be king of Israel. Saul was the government David was called to submit to and obey. Saul was pursuing David, because God had anointed David to be king, taking his favor from Saul.

David did not pursue becoming king while Saul lived. He never raised up an army to take over the kingdom. Actually, David supported Saul, fought along side him, served him.

This context of the brokenness in David and Saul’s relationship, magnifies the dependence and strength of David and God’s relationship.

David relies on God.
Why? Not because of who David is, not what David has done, not what David has refrained from doing, not what David will do, but because of who God is.

David’s situation is not the best, he’s hiding for his life in a cave.
The situation of the world currently is not the best, many hundreds of thousands of people are effectively hiding for their lives in their homes (much better than a cave, but you get the point).

But God is…
Merciful
A Refuge in the Storm
Most High (none is higher!)
Fulfiller of Puposes and Promises
Savior
Just
Steadfastly Loving and Faithful
Exalted
Glorious!

Because God is, We can be…
Steadfast
Joyful Noise Makers
Awake and Alert
Thankfulness Shouters
Praise Singers
Glory Heralds

This crazy time reminds me of this song (it’s just constantly playing in my head!)

For the broken

I couldn’t help but laugh when this handle popped off in my hand.

We live in a pretty old town house, and while it has been maintained pretty well, “good enough” is definitely the standard around here, rather than “quality” (not even “high quality” just regular “quality”).

All sarcasm and sass aside, I also recognize how appropriate this was that the handle that broke is on the door that has a scripture passage taped to it.

This is what the passage says:

“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the names of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
Philippians 2:3-11

I have this passage taped on this door, because this door is over our kitchen sink. It is literally right in front in my face while I do my least favorite chore, washing dishes. It is a constant reminder of the humility I am to imitate, Jesus Christ’s.

This passage describes Jesus coming down into our broken, sinful, fallen, sorrow-filled world, in order to serve and save those in it. Jesus came to serve and save broken, sinful, fallen, sorrowful people.
We are like my cabinet door on our best days. Holding it together with too much paint and not enough screw. That is, without Jesus.

WITH JESUS: We are not just fixed up enough to work properly. No, with Jesus, our hearts are replaced and made new, our dead soul lives, our lame legs walk, our blind eyes see.

Believers are then called to not just be renewed, but to be renewers, to be tools in the Savior’s hands. We are called to go, like Jesus did, and serve others. Yet, not in our own strength, knowing that we were broken too, but in his strength, through the power of the Holy Spirit within us, as servants of the Master, as ambassadors of the King, as children of the Father.

So that in all things, even in a broken cabinet handle, we might give God all the glory due his name.

As always,

Soli Deo Gloria!

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!

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‚Äďas 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:

‚ÄúYou have heard that it was said, ‚ÄėAn eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.‚Äô 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.

‚ÄúYou have heard that it was said, ‚ÄėYou shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.‚Äô 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‚Äď48 (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!