One Blessing From Suffering.

I remember when I first became a Christian and learned in the Bible that I was going to suffer in this life. I wasn’t a stranger to suffering. In fact, I was still in deep pain when I came to the Lord. But for some reason, I thought that when I became a Christian, everything would be all roses and butterflies.

So when in every book of the New Testament, and throughout the Old Testament, I read that in this life, there are going to be some pretty hairy and hard moments – well, it felt like a pretty big downer.

And it made me a little bit fearful. What kind of suffering would I go through? Would it be too much for me? Would I survive? What would the Lord allow me to go through?

 

Well, within a few years, I went through a period of great suffering. It was an anguish-of-the-soul type of suffering. It was the type where, not even those whom love you best, can understand the grief and pain you are experiencing. I was fully alone in my groaning. Like David, I could say,

My tears have been my food day and night.” Psalm 42:3

It was terrible. And it was all that I had feared suffering would be like: a harrowing valley of darkness you don’t know why you’re in and how long you’ll be in it for. It was, to quote St.John of the Cross, a dark night of the soul.

But.

I can say with an unwavering surety that that period of suffering was the greatest blessing of my life. It changed me forever, and I am so grateful that God brought it into my life for His purposes.

What was the greatest blessing in that suffering?

It was just me and God.

Don’t get me wrong, my suffering involved other people. In fact, my suffering was caused by other people I loved. This, in many ways, made it all the more worse. But, it also made it all the more sweet.

Now only, could I turn to God.

Now only, could He be the one I called out to.

Now only, could He be the one to shelter under.

Now only, could He be the one whom my heart trusted fully.

Only He understood my particular situation, my particular pain, my particular grief, my particular sorrow. As I cried day and night, He alone caught my tears and bound up my brokenness.

Sometimes the primary reason suffering comes into our lives is so God is our only answer.

Many times we can turn to people, or things, or even ourselves for help. But very occasionally, the situation is so unique, a person is truly alone in their suffering. No-one can understand the broken heart and tears and questions but God.

Charles Spurgeon once said,

When a man is burdened with troubles so pressing and so peculiar, that he cannot tell them to any but his God, he may be thankful for them; for he will learn more of his Lord then than at any other time.”

I know from my own experience that this truth is very real. The pain is very bitter, but the quiet joy of being so dependent on the Lord is very, very sweet.

Mercifully, that suffering for me passed. And God has used it mightily in my life and the lives of others. He has truly turned my mourning into dancing {Psalm 30:11}.

Not only this, but I have a quiet place in my soul that has communed only with God, and it is a place I treasure. I know that that special communion with Him can only have come in the throws of a tempest —

So if that is you today, hold fast to the Lord and commune with Him alone. He truly understands your grief and your suffering. Because, at the end of the day, we stand before Him alone. He really is our Only.

How I Broke My Brain.

Yes, you read right, I broke my brain.

I had a pretty wonderful and settled childhood. We moved to the country, lived by the sea, played in the hills all day. I remember thinking as a young teen how lucky I was, and I couldn’t imagine a future where our family wasn’t together.

And then, at fifteen, my parents broke up in pretty unusual, and very painful, circumstances. My life took a dramatic turn, and I had to learn how to cope with all that had happened, all that was going on inside me, trying to sort out my emotionally dysfunctional family, and dealing with being a teenager.

I didn’t know it at the time but, in doing all of the above {that is, coping with what life had thrown me}, I broke my brain.

How I Broke My Brain.

Yeah, apparently you can do that. Break your own brain. Who knew?

I only found out yesterday, actually. Remember how I wrote how I had gone off my anti-depressants? Well, I’m back on them again. As much as I want to feel like a failure about that, I’m not going to. Because, actually, this anxiety disorder isn’t something I can “fix”. My brain is a bit broken and, no matter how much I try my best and work hard to be my best, at the end of the day, I’m a bit sick and need medicine.

Anyway, how did I break my brain?

In part, it’s genetics. And that is something you definitely can’t do much about. The other bits are personality and family. {It’s the whole born vs. raised thing, which really, isn’t either, it’s both.}

When my family world fell a part, I had to deal with a lot of revelations, burdens of other people’s hurt and sin. I had to cope with living in different places, I always had a suitcase. I had to cope with my own trauma and emotional pain. I made bad choices as a young woman – as a way of taking control of my own life – but it made it all so much worse.

I kept everything inside. Some things I pushed down, deep down – and kept doing that even when those thoughts/feelings/memories kept rising up. I was faced with repulsion and a side of human nature I had not known before. I tried to think about it and process it all.

Somewhere, in those few years, something happened. All the pressure, all the pain, all the intensity of emotion must have broken some neurons or brain “switches”, because the chemical make-up of my brain changed. I did not know it at the time but, instead of talking to a counselor or someone I could trust, all that internalising damaged me.

I was very unstable. There was not a rational thought in my mind. If there was one amongst the crowd of thoughts that were constantly going through my mind like factory-line, it was drowned out by the louder voices of fear, condemnation, lies, pain.

I was emotional all the time. I would cry or feel like something terrible was going to happen even if nothing indicated that it was. I expected bad things to happen to me, like it was my due. And despite being saved at nineteen and God helping me get my life on track, I was a mess.

By God’s grace, He sent me my husband who came from a family with strong, solid theological roots. For the first time, the Bible made sense to me. Truth started pouring into my broken self and God started freeing me from certain ways of thinking and feeling. In the almost nine years we have been married, I am a far cry from what I used to be. Having a loving husband has healed me. Growing in my faith and knowledge of the Bible has healed me. In many ways, becoming a mother has been the making of me.

But my brain is still broken. And, in all likelihood, will always be.

I am not depressed. Anxiety gets lumped into depression, but can be quite different from it. As my doctor told me yesterday,

“Some people get depressed so bad they get into this hole that is hard to get out of. You, on the other hand, are a little bit bad all the time. And you need help.”

When I came off my medication, I was great. I had felt normal for three years, and felt it was time. But I’d forgotten that this broken brain of mine is not something I can make better by shear force of will. I would love to make myself better. The perfectionist side of me feels like a failure for not being able to “pull my socks up”, as my mother-in-law would say.

But the truth is, this anxiety is part of me. One day, when life is less hectic and busy and sleepless {yep, we still have those times}, I may be able to do it through cognitive therapy. But right now, that is so much effort. And just another thing I have to work on in my list of all the things to do. So I’m back on my pills, and I am accepting that in God’s grace.

And to my readers who have broken brains, too: We’re okay. We’re not nutters, even if there are periods of time when it feels like a crazy person is living in our brains. That’s just wiring gone a bit haywire. It feels real, the fear is overwhelming – but it is not Truth. The Truth is you are loved, cared for, held in the hands of an Almighty Father who, in His wisdom and mercy, enabled medicines to be made that can help us. So don’t be afraid to seek that help. You’re not a failure. It is wisdom. It’s wisdom to get help so that you can wake up one morning and think, “Oh yeah. This is what it feels like to be me. Life is good.”

For more on my journey with mental illness, read this series.

 

Reading Scripture with the Right Spirit {and Free Printable}.

When I sit down for some time reading the Bible, it can be so simple. The words are there, the Spirit is within me, my mind is capable – I read, I absorb, I believe. Sometimes, of course, there are passages that I’m not sure about. But there are very reliable sources I can turn to for help as well as my lovely, learned husband. As a someone commented on another post of mine the other day,

“God doesn’t want His will for us to be a mystery.”

And that is so true. That is why we have this blessed book called the Bible! It is His breathed out will, written by men, inspired by His Spirit. Surely that means God’s Truth can be known? Surely the pages we hold can be understood – and not only by those who are learned, or studied in theology – but for regular believers, like myself?
So why then, my heart ponders in confusion, is there so much debate out there? Why can so many of us just not agree? How can particular passages divide strong believers, Christ-like followers? Why are there so many “interpretations”? If this is confusing for me as a Christian, I can imagine what it is like for those watching in from the outside. No wonder the Church has so little integrity in the world today.
Call me naive, but I do believe the Bible is to be taken – in general – as it is read. And when I say, in general, I mean that we in our post-Christ age read the Word with Gospel eyes.  Of course there are elements of Israelite law that just do not apply to us anymore because all of the Law’s promises have been fulfilled and have their their “Yes” in Jesus {2 Corinthians 1:20}. And cultural context does come into play when we look at the New Testament {as in, life is just different now}.
But surely God knew this when He put the Bible together? Did the Middle Ages with serfdom and plagues and monarchies take Him by surprise? Or the Reformation or the Enlightenment or the Industrial Age or our Post-Postmodern world with it’s terrorism and gender-nuetrality and sexually obsessed culture?
When Paul sat down and wrote this letters, did God not know ahead of time the issues, the cultural differences, the wars, the history, the people that were to come?
Of course He did. Paul didn’t know what was to come. He just wrote what the Spirit guided Him to, having lived and learned with Jesus, alone, for three years {Galations 1}. What Paul wrote he learned directly from Jesus, something none of us can ever say. So why do many people just not accept or believe or want to obey some Scriptures?

 

Again, call me naive, but this is my simplified observation: the way that we believe and live out Scripture stems from the way our hearts approach God’s Word. Now I don’t want to say how others approach Scripture, I just want to write about how I want to approach Scripture: with the right spirit.
A quotation that inspired my heart to write this post was written by a Christian man from long ago. His name was Thomas A Kempis and he loved the Lord during the 1400’s. In his devotional, The Imitation of Christ, Kempis wrote:

 

“Every holy writing ought to be read with the same spirit wherewith it was made.”

The same spirit wherewith {in which} it was made.

 

 

 

What kind of spirit did Moses have? Or David? Or Isaiah? Or Paul? Or Peter? Did they have a spirit of arrogance or conceit? Did they want to write what they wanted to? Did they write with a spirit of falsehood or with a chip on their shoulders?
Yes, every single man that God used to write His Word was that, a man. But that doesn’t mean we cannot trust the Bible. We can trust it because each of these men were filled with the Spirit of God and it was His Spirit that caused the words of their hearts and minds to flow out. This is why we can believe that the Bible is inerrant {not wrong} and all we need {2 Timothy 3:16}.
So if we know that the spirit the writers of the Bible was God’s own Spirit, then we know that their intentions were: honourable, righteous, meek, loving, God-seeking, Christ-glorifying, selfless, and in fear of the Lord.
Because we are fallen creatures, we will never read the Bible exactly as God intended it to be read. This is the biggest reason why none of us can agree. But, we are responsible for how our heart’s are when we come to God’s Word. James tells is that we are to receive the Word “humbly” {James 1:21}.

Is my heart humble?

 

Is my heart meek?

 
Is my heart truly wanting to please God and obey what He wants?

 
Is my heart clouded by own desires or preconceptions?

 
Is my heart darkened by worldly lies?

 
Is my heart seeking God’s truth even if it costs me?

Finally, is my heart reading the Holy Scriptures with the same spirit that the original writers had when they wrote the very words of God?
When I think on this thought, when I think of what God was thinking when He wrote the Bible, I want to want Him. I want to want His ways, even if it chafes with something in me. I want to remember that if someone has to be wrong between God and I, it’s me! 
 
Perhaps, just perhaps, there would be less confusion, less strife, less broken churches and broken people if we had a right, humble spirit in respect to the Bible.

 

 — Free Printable —
Will fit 8’x10″ frame

 

 

Rock of Ages: A Hymn of Gospel Love

I am a great lover of hymns. In my life, God uses the depths of the words, the echoes of the music to stir in my soul a love for Him, worship for His Name, and a passion to share Him with others. This hymn, “Rock of Ages” is my favourite hymn. It has special meaning for my family; my husband sings in beautifully; I hum it to myself when I feel especially close to the Lord, or, when I do not.
“Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in Thee;”
God is our Father, and He alone in this changing world is where we can put our feet and know we won’t fall. There is nothing and no-one that can save us, protect us, rescue us from the death that is our sin and the sickness that is in our souls. He is our hiding place.

“Let the water and the blood,
From Thy wounded side which flowed,
Be for sin the double cure,
Cleanse me from its guilt and power.”
God is our hiding place only because of Jesus, the man who was God, and who died on a cross for those he loved. He was wounded, pierced in the side from which blood and water flowed {John 19:34-37} to fulfill the scriptures from hundreds of years before {Zechariah 12:10}, to save us both from the guilt we have as sinners and the power it has over us.

“Not the labour of my hands
Can fulfill Thy law’s demands;
Could my zeal no respite know,
Could my tears forever flow,”
It is in our very nature to do all that we can to make ourselves good. We make ourselves nicer, more giving, more patient, more loving – anything that save us from who we truly know we are inside. We know instinctively what is right and wrong – God’s laws – and we try to do “what is right”. We expend all our energies and have the highest zeal to the point of weeping – 
“All for sin could not atone;
Thou must save, and Thou alone.”
There is a point we get to in our “holiness treadmill” when we realise that there is simply nothing we can do to save ourselves. We see inside and despair. Nothing we do can make right what we do wrong {in our hearts and with our hands}. We are broken, hurting and hurtful, people. Only Thou – God in Jesus – can save, only Him alone.
“Nothing in my hand I bring;
Simply to Thy cross I cling;”
When we realise that we are actually nothing without Jesus and that we can do nothing to make ourselves right with God, we come to Him with open hands. We see the bloodied Cross before us and know that it is the lifeline for our very breaths. In all the storms of life, in all the pain and sorrow, in all our deepest failures – it is the Cross we cling to.
“Naked, come to Thee for dress;
Helpless, look to Thee for grace;
Stained by sin to You I cry;
Wash me, Saviour, or I die!”
Everything about us is stained by sin until we are given the clothes of righteousness that Christ has purchased for us. Like newborns, we can do nothing with Him – we lean towards Him, desperate for the mercy and the grace that washes us clean, that gives us a new life to live, that enables us to breathe again.

“While I draw this fleeting breath,
When my eyelids close in death,
When I soar through worlds unknown,
See Thee on Thy Judgement Throne,”
In our moment of life and in our moment of death; when we are taken to that which we cannot see; when we face that which we have always taken in faith; when we see that what faith we have has been given to us and not what we have created – – then, before the judgement throne of God, we will finally see Him. And not just with our eyes – which so few have done before – we will actually see, clearly and fully and with perfect understanding, Him and all of our life’s purpose, in Christ.

“Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in Thee.”

The only way we can face the Judgement Throne and come away with mercy is by crying out to God, through Jesus Christ, and asking Him to cleft to us – to hide us away, forever, washed in the blood of Jesus on the Cross. And, we must ask – not presume – for Him to let us.
***
This hymn was written by Augustus Montague Toplady in 1763, considered one of the four top Anglican hymns. Traditionally, it is said Augustus wrote this whilst taking shelter in a cleft of a rock during a storm. In his Psalms and Hymns For Public and Private Worship, he labels this song simply,
“A Prayer, living and dying.”


Why Being A HelpMeet Is Not Beneath Me {Or You}.

The voices that speak to the troubled heart of a woman today are many, subtle and just soul-destroying. And the Greatest Liar of them all? His delight is purely in the downfall of all that was beautifully made in the beginning. He is thrilled and has made fools of us all. Wherever the pendulum swings – male abuse of being a head to the emasculating domination of a she-male – he is behind it all.
The Bible is the only place we can find the hope, the solace, the nourishment, the endorsement, the understanding, the answers, the freedom and the beauty all women today crave. Today, I want to point our struggling hearts to the theology of women being helpmeets. I pray God just sets you free from any lies and snares and doubts about this incredibly holy calling.
“And the LORD God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone, I will make a helper fit for him.'” Genesis 2:18



First, woman was needed.
 
It is easy to gloss over the fact that God said that “it is not good”. We’ve heard that before, haven’t we? My heart can become dull to the fact that nothing in creation had been “not good” until Adam needed a companion. But did you know that the original Hebrew sheds a little more light to the heart of God as He made beautiful Eve?
The Hebrew used for “not good” here means positively bad. And I don’t mean the positively bad that we’ve run out of chocolate in the house! No, when God saw Adam hanging out with his animals, He saw that without companionship, life would have no goodness.
Woman, you are good. You are needed and are just plain lovely and good.
Note too, that it didn’t take God by surprise that Adam was lonely. God didn’t make everything without Eve in mind; rather, he waited until Adam realised himself that he was alone. Adam discerned that he needed someone {Genesis 2:20}.
Second, woman was a helper-partner.

Elyse Fitzpatrick in her book Helper By Design: God’s Perfect Plan For Women in Marriage fleshes out this verse {and surrounding verses} to show that God gave Adam six tasks to do in the Garden: Rule. Relate. Reproduce. Reflect. Rejoice. Rest. She says,

“Adam and Eve were unique in the creation, and although he was made from from the dust of the earth {and Eve wasn’t}, she complemented and corresponded to him. Eve wasn’t some other sort of creature; she wasn’t beneath Adam, nor was she superior to him; but rather she was created as his partner, equally in God’s image and called to glorify Him. pg.35
“Fundamentally, a wife can take steps toward helping her husband by seeking to understand the specific ways in which God has called him to rule, relate, reproduce, reflect, rejoice, and rest.”pg.37
God’s original plan for human kind hasn’t changed. In our spheres of home, work, and other influence, we are called to glorify God and enjoy Him forever by ruling and subduing His creation. Specifically in marriage, a wife’s role is to come alongside her husband and care for him, nurture him, strengthen him, encourage him, rebuke him {when necessary}, love him, and seek to learn him as a person and God’s calling for him.
A wife may have her own form of paid employment. She may be a mother. She will have other pursuits and interests outside the home and that are uniquely her own. That is very needed and God will use her mightily as she submits those things to Him. But, her primary calling if she is married, is to be her husband’s helper.
 
 
Third, woman was called to be like her Father.
When God created woman to be a helper, he wasn’t making a role or calling that was new. God made man and woman in His image and imparted to them characteristics and responsibilities that were part of His nature. {The fact that they are man and woman and need one another differently reflects the very nature of the Trinity.} In fact, God’s call on woman to be a helper was asking her to be like Him.
The very word “helper” in Hebrew is only used twice in the Old Testament. The first is when God created woman, and the rest is in reference to God and His great care of His people, Israel. Mary Kassian in her book Women, Creation and the Fall writes,
“In the creation of female, we see that a doormat or servant-slave was certainly not what God had in mind. God intended to make a counterpart for the man, a vital helper for him, perhaps in much the same sense as God is a helper. pg.17
Do you see that? When God made us to be helpmeets, He gave us a role that He fulfills to His people. This is such an important reason why the argument that women are inferior just does not stand and why our fear of being helpmeets is so sin-laden and culturally influenced. God made us to be helpers like He is. If it is “good enough” for God, why wouldn’t it be for us?
 
“Behold, God is my helper; the Lord is the sustainer of my soul.” Psalm 54:4
“Do not fear, for I am with you; do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10
“The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in Him, and I am helped.” Psalm 28:7
I understand the fear in the hearts of women when they start looking into God’s calling for them. So much of history is blackened by the abuse of men over their women. Yet, so much of history is also littered with women abusing their power of womanhood over men for their own purposes. We mustn’t ever forget that women are sinners and have equally distorted God’s design. 
 
Please don’t think that I have never struggled with this. Please don’t think that there aren’t feminist feelings floating around in my mind. There are and I do struggle. In fact, this has been on my mind recently, my soul has been wrestling with what I believe the Bible teaches to what I hear the world teaching. I am truly flawed. But, I don’t want what the world offers. Look how messed up this place is! I want God and His ways. I want what He has designed and which is lived out perfectly, beautifully and so sacrificially in the Trinity. 
Instead of fearing what isn’t truth, we must fear the Lord, just like Sarah did {1 Peter 3:6}. Not only must we fear Him {respect and honour Him}, we must trust in His ways. We must seek to pursue His very words to us and believe that the fears we hold, the lies we hear are not from Him.
He esteems women greatly because they are made to reflect Him!
He made us because we are wanted and needed!
He created us to nurture just as He nurtures!
He calls us to help as He helps!
No, being a helpmeet does not make us less. And no, being a helpmeet is certainly not beneath us. It is a calling that is godly and requires serious commitment and faithfulness. Being a helpmeet is a holy calling, one that is worked out in the heavens, and can be, by God’s grace, lived out in all Christian marriages.
 

Please share your comments below. I would love to chat about this all.

Callings and Self-Doubt: Choosing Faith that You Are on the Right Path.

We all struggle with comparing ourselves to others {remember?}. And, as I am growing to see in myself, we all struggle with doubting ourselves next to others. Self-doubt is a massive continuing blip in the radar of my Christian growth.
Before we had children, I wasn’t like any of the wives I knew. I didn’t have a full-time job. I wasn’t helping us save money for when children came. There was great logic in those choices, but they weren’t our choice. I worked part-time {generally ten hours a week} and, for the most part, I considered being a homemaker {ie. Tim’s wife} my full-time job.
Oh, it was such a different path to take. Granted, I never, ever got negative comments or remarks – but I did get lots of people questioning me.
 
Why don’t you work more?
Don’t you want more money?
What does Tim think?
Aren’t you bored?
What do you do all day?
The questions always got me. I knew, deep down that this was God’s calling on my life, and I knew people would disagree with me. But all the questions – and often what the questions didn’t say but silently did – were like little arrows of doubt. In those times, I really did have two people on my shoulder; one speaking positively to my calling, the other asking more and more questions, leading to deepening doubt. Even though I knew my own story and Tim’s, even though I knew why dedicating my life to my family was my dream job, I still doubted. I doubted simply because I feared man.
 
Each day we have a million battles we face. We battle the choice to have faith or reject the Gospel. We battle to believe the truth of God’s Word {and not listen to the hissing whisper, “Did God really say…?”}. We battle to choose obedience to God and not sin. We battle our culture. And sometimes, sadly, we battle our own family, friends and church.
Living a life of faith and conviction is ridiculously hard. Mere questions can be the marsh mellows of it all! Ridicule, persecution, misunderstanding, judgement and rejection are almost expected. And I am not just talking about God’s moral laws here {as opposed to the world’s standards}: I am talking about an individual’s call, their choice of occupation, a family’s way of life, their vision for the upbringing of their children…
 
I am talking about the personal, quiet, submissive belief one has before God that this way – this choice, this path, this conviction – is uniquely given by the Lord, to them, for their life. Everyone has callings that submit under the law of the Gospel.
We have authors, painters, teachers, leaders, servers, mothers, fathers, missionaries, single individuals, bridge builders, carpenters, evangelists, singers, bloggers. Under the grace of the Gospel, we have individual callings. And they will be different. You, and I, will be different. And amongst the many battles that we face each day will be the battle to believe, to hold on to, to grasp the hem of God that this calling is ours. No matter what questions are asked. No matter who asks those questions.
Self-doubt is one of the ways in which the enemy gets God’s people off track. Indulging, believing and participating in self-doubt causes us to be like the person James speaks of, the one who, when asking for wisdom,

 

“must ask in faith, without doubting, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind” {1:6}
When we are being tossed about in the waves of self-doubt {which is not faith}, we are ineffective disciples of Christ. We are crippled by our own selves and will not thrive in the calling God has given us.
Paul, throughout the Epistles, repeatedly began his letters stating his calling, or appointment to service {1 Timothy 1:12}, or apostle by command {1 Timothy 1:1}. He claimed his calling and, despite believing he was the worst of sinners {vs.15}, he knew his calling to be true and that it was a mercy of Christ.
Though we are not Paul, we too are disciples of Christ and have our own callings. I am called to be a wife, mother, homemaker and church member. I have talent-callings I must use for God’s service. And, as a married couple and as parents, Tim and I have decisions we must make in regards to the atmosphere of our family, the upbringing of our children and the way in which we use the blessings God has given us. We will look different. But being different to others doesn’t mean being wrong.
So, dear friends, choose to have faith in your calling. You will be different, but don’t let questions cause you doubt. Hold fast to your appointment, use questions to show God’s mercy in your own life, and be thankful for God’s unique care and concern over the way your life is lived, in practice and purpose. 

 

Please share your calling and any struggles you have had of self-doubt in it.

The Foundation Years: Letting My Kids Just Be.

I wrote awhile back how we are considering homeschooling our two children. This is still very much on the cards, and my husband is about 70% convinced it’s a good schooling option {compared to the 5% when I first brought it up!}.
Just with every major life decision, I have spent much time in reading and praying over the reasons/positives/negatives about it all. And I can honestly say that, as I have done so, the Lord has really surprised me. 
My original reason why I wanted to educate our children at home {ie. there are no good schools in our area and I think God might want us to} is now a periphery reason. Even my conviction that it provides a really solid education is not where God has surprised me. My happy surprise has been this:
Home is where my children should be for as long as possible.
In all my reading, the conclusion I have come to is this: research shows that the influence of parents and family during a child’s foundational years is fundamental to their health and well-being. Not only that, but, educationally, children learn best when they can take their time and grow/learn at their own pace. Self-directed and guided learning in childhood sparks a life long joy and delight in learning.
I have never been a person who takes the status quo without thinking it through. That has always made me a bit different. My parents taught me from an early age to try and see past the surface to the why’s and how’s of situations and ideologies. My history degree taught me an array of new ideas and concepts, but most enduringly, the simple fact that our culture today is the odd one out.

And it frustrates me when others do not see this. They take the status quo and accept that either,

  • this is the way it has always been, or,
  • our society is more advanced now so this way must be better/more evolved/more fulfilling {and so it goes}.

Sometimes I feel my insides spiking a fever of “Use your brains! Think outside of now! The way things are doesn’t mean it’s better!”

And for Christians who, genuinely without realising I believe, I want to say,
“Just because our culture sends kids off to school at five-years-old doesn’t mean that it is right.”
 
Chocolate.
 
Childhood in western society today is a pendulum of experiences unlike any other in the past. They have health, they have freedom from work/pain/suffering/fear, they have education, they have gadgets, they have individuality. Children today have gained so much and yet, have lost so much as well. And the most significant loss I believe they suffer through is the loss of their family as the primary source of worth, friendship, learning and wisdom.
Time goes so quickly. My son is just over three – wasn’t he born not long ago? And my daughter, she is two in July. We no longer have babies in the house – but I have only been a mother three years. Time is just sucked up into the vacuum of fading memories. In less time that he has been alive, according to the status quo, I ought to be sending him to a place where he spends the majority of his days for the next thirteen years. 
Five years. That is all I’m “supposed” to get.
Historically, educationally, relationally, theologically that just doesn’t make sense. It really doesn’t.
Now, I’m not ganging up on school. I wasn’t homeschooled – I’ve been to big schools, country schools, public schools and christian schools. I see great benefit in being in such an environment. But, I firmly believe now, only when children are ready
Schools in my area of New Zealand are changing dramatically. Modern Learning Environments are the new “thing” for education {even though they tried it in the sixties and it didn’t work, but hey, we have technology now and we are more advanced so that time/failure doesn’t count} and at the school my children are zoned for, they would be new entrants in a single building {with no walls} holding three hundred children. Three hundred. At five years old.
Why that makes sense when research {over and over again} shows children learn better the smaller the class room. Who knows what politicians are thinking?
Sensory bin.
Anyway, that is just not an option. And not just because it’s nuts. Primarily that is not an option because our children are our children. Our community and society can have them one day, but not yet. They are just not ready. They need time to mature, know their place in the world, grow in beliefs that are rejected in most institutions.
So until they areready {ten? eleven?}, I’m letting them be with us. Yes, we’ll do “proper” learning, but even then, it will look different. We’re going to read ridiculous amounts of books. We’re going on lots of walks. We’re going to kill lots of dragons with homemade bow and arrows. We’re going to listen to a lot of Batman by Danny Elfman {at least three times a day, currently}.
These foundation years, we never get them back. So I am grabbing hold of them and living them to the fullest. Childhood that is family {and not schooling and peers and fads} is back in. There is no status quo around here.

Grace For The TV Watching Family.

This post contains some affiliates.


I am outing our family:

We watch TV. In fact, we love TV.
Watching TV is one of our favourite past-times as a family. I’ve already blogged about some good TV shows to watch with your husband. Our current favourites would be: Person of Interest and Vikings. On Saturday’s and Sunday’s, we eat dinner together in front of a TV show suitable for us all {Home Improvement has been a favourite}. The kids favourite shows are Fireman Sam, Curious George, Jake & The Neverland Pirates and Paw Patrol.
There. We are bare and open, ready for reproof and various links to the bad effects of watching TV.
But, before you do, let me just share a few points to ponder.
In my opinion {and that is what it is, so you’re welcome to disagree!}, there is no right or wrong on this issue. It is a “first-world” problem, and we need to keep that in perspective. At the same time, we shouldn’t feel ashamed that we live in the great abundance that we do. It’s all about keeping everything in it’s right place, knowing where – as an individual family – to draw the line.
Places where we can draw the line could be:

  • How much you as a couple watch and what
  • How much you allow the children to watch and what
  • What level of worldliness is appropriate for ourselves {catering to what tempts us, causes us to draw away from the Lord}
  • How you balance responsibility and hard work with free time and leisure
When I think about different families choices on this matter, the verses from Romans comes to mind:
“Therefore, let us not pass judgement on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother. I am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself, but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it is unclean.” 14:13-14

Now, Paul is talking about the divisions among the Roman church in regards to what food to eat and not eat now as Christians. Today, food is not often a point of conflict in the church family. Rather, other issues are: alchahol, schooling for children, hobbies, politics, worship and, my topic, TV watching. 
I think that Paul’s words of wisdom and advice are very applicable to us in these ways: Let us have a clear conscience in matters of peripherial Christian living, but care and love those who differ in thought and habit.

“For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” ~ vs.17 

Do you see what Paul is saying here? Being a Christian family {as his earthly kingdom} isn’t about all the “rules” we follow. 
As a member of the Anglican Church, we have lots of Church laws and committees and synods and administration – all based on the particular theological grounding we stand on. And these things are good, they keep our parishes and dioceses running worldwide. When kept in the place they need to be, rules keep unity and fellowship working. But when certain laws or preferences or practices begin to divide the Christian church, this is when we need to remember that furthering God’s kingdom will only come about by our “righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” 
Watching TV or not watching TV {or any other issue} is a preference. A family’s choice not to watch TV could be based on really good scientific research and personal experience – but it is still a preference, not a law.

“So then, let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.” ~ vs.19

The absolute beauty of our worldwide Church is the difference and variety. I am glad there are different denominations and I believe God has worked it this way. We are all different and our faith is fleshed out in worship in different manners. And I believe the freedom we have been given to worship him in our church settings is also in our personal preferences and hobbies. 
Of course, I am not advocating sinful choices. But you’re smart, you know that.
All we need to be, as the next verses show, is sure of our preferences before God. It’s between him and ourselves, no one else. Faith is what we need. Faith that, as we entrust ourselves to him and seek his wisdom and pleasure in our choices, we are committing no sin – even if the choices we make look different to others.

“The faith that you have, keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the one who has no reason to pass judgement on himself for what he approves. But whoever has doubts is condemned if he eats, because the eating is not from faith. For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.” ~ 22-23

So my fellow Christian TV watchers and non-watchers – great! Keep going, keep holding firmly to the preferences you hold before the Lord. But don’t be ashamed or distressed or wracked with confused guilt if you are different. It is between you and the Lord, and no-one else {Romans 14:6}.

Let’s have a conversation! Would love other people’s thoughts and family experiences.

How to Recognise True Manhood.

“An excellent wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels.” ~ Proverbs 31:10

I know this is written by a mother to her son, but I believe we can ask the same about manhood: An excellent man who can find? What makes an excellent man? What is true manhood? I think it is nothing like what our world manipulates men to be today. I think a true man is as precious as gold in our day and age. 

This week a New Zealand Olympian publically admitted to having a pornography addiction. He wasn’t forced to “out” himself {that is known of}; he willingly shared this difficult and very personal struggle by his own free will. He is a Christian, with a beautiful wife and young son.
He is a brave man. 
Is he a perfect man? No. But is he more manly than the men who make, promote and sell the filth that Willis got sucked into? Yes. Undoubtedly, it isn’t good that he has struggled with this sin. But I believe, without knowing him, that his actions of sharing his sins signal a strength of manhood in the very place of weakness.
Because, that is what makes a man. His actions.


I feel as women we think true manhood is perfection.  A man who has a good job, a good income, comes home and cheerfully cares for everyone, who tenderly knows all his wife’s needs’, and leads his family without fail. A man who never sins. A man who never struggles with anger, or lust, or addictions, or laziness.
Sure, that sounds like a great man. But he doesn’t exist. And neither does the perfect woman. {Try turning the tables and imagine how it feels for a man to measure you up to the “perfect” woman he has created.}

For years now, I have shamefully created in my mind what I believed was true manhood. I measured my husband up to that, and have spent much energy {with internal judging, criticism, grumbling} trying to “help” him become “the man” I believed God wanted him to be. It was my job to be his Holy Spirit – that is part of my job as his helper, isn’t it?
I have been so wrong.
Here I have been, trying to manipulate and shape an already amazingly imperfectly true man, into someone he can never be – who he shouldn’t have to be. I have put incredibly high expectations on him. I haven’t loved him for him. I have sought what I thought he ought to be when the man he already is is the man who really is enduringly manly.
Kimberly Wagner, through God’s timely grace and rebuke, has pointed arrows at my carefully constructed facade of “Husband Holy Spirit Helper” in her book Fierce Women: The Power of a Soft Warrior. I picked up this book thinking it would help me in one way only to have been absolutely blindsided and floored before God in humble and repentant need.


//ws-na.amazon-adsystem.com/widgets/q?ServiceVersion=20070822&OneJS=1&Operation=GetAdHtml&MarketPlace=US&source=ac&ref=qf_sp_asin_til&ad_type=product_link&tracking_id=thelifofthimo-20&marketplace=amazon&region=US&placement=0802406203&asins=0802406203&linkId=Q6PFBUY772V2JYEY&show_border=true&link_opens_in_new_window=true

There have been many ways this book has challenged me and forced me to face ugly parts of myself. But I do believe the biggest way has been to show me how to really love my husband again – like I did at the start, when I loved him for him. Yes, this was before life happened and hurt happened and the up’s and down’s of married life happened. Along the way I have grown in my understanding and appreciation of God’s design for men and women in marriage,but I have lost what it means to flesh out the gospel in marriage: to accept, to step down, to come alongside, to be kind-hearted when faced with faults and sin and hurt, to believe in the best.
And I have lost sight of what God thinks a true man is. 
For those who are lost too, who are searching for a way back to loving their husbands well again, purchase this book and be amazed. But before you do, read this passage and have a fresh vision of who your husband is and what a true man he really is:

“True manhood shows up in daily choices that require character qualities like courage, integrity, perseverance, and self-sacrifice. It’s being a man of honor – taking personal responsibility, fulfilling duties, demonstrating valor, and showing willingness to sacrifice and lead for the greater good.
  It is rock-solid strength that forges ahead with the determination to make it through the storm. True manhood stands guard over loved ones with protective eyes. It manifests the tenderness of a benevolent heart that seeks to provide for those in need. But, most importantly, knowing his strength is not derived from himself, a true man walks in humble dependence on the One whose image he bears. He lives out the gospel by fleshing out the character of his Warrior-Savior.”
 

Fierce Women, pg.179

Can you see your husband in this description? In many of these traits, some, or just a few? It doesn’t matter if you can only see one quality in your man. The fact that he is trying makes him a man.

What we, as their wives, have to control in ourselves is the expectation that he be these Christ-like qualities now, all at once, perfectly. Just as we will take many years to mature into feminine Christ-like characteristics, so we should not expect – nor demand – these things of our husbands.

Accept our men now, as they are, extending grace and compassion. As they see that they are safe with us, that we aren’t like dripping taps {Proverbs 27:15}, then they will – God-willing – desire more and more true manhood. Like Kimberly Wagner said, real men need real women.

“Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other just as in Christ God forgave you.” ~ Ephesians 4:32

Thoughts: What is one way you can affirm your husband’s masculinity today? Can you think of one quality from the description above that you can thank the Lord {and your husband} for?

This post contains an affiliate link. Thank you for supporting me.

When You’re Stuck in a Homemaking Rut.

I think just like any other job out there, all homemakers can get into a rut at different times. In fact, because we are our own boss/manager/self-evaluator/trainer/teacher, and therefore spend much of our time working alone, it can be easier to get slack, behind and unmotivated than other vocations.
For me, in most areas of my life, I tend to be an “all or nothing” type of gal. I struggle with balance. Tim and I get this about me and, though it can get me into trouble sometimes, both of us extend myself grace and help me get on track with the things I get unbalanced about. 
As all of us wives and mothers know, we are busy people with many things demanding our time and resources and focus. Lots of women can multi-task really well and balanced everything in the right priority. But me? *Snort* I really struggle to multi-task the big things in life.
Oftentimes, this can be the keeping of our home.

Like I said in my last post, there are so many other more successful homemakers out there who can teach us how to do things and keep our homes well. I am not one of those women! But, because I struggle, I can get along side of you and encourage you with what helps me, a semi-skilled housewife.

Here is what helps me:

Get Your Heart & Head in the Right Space.

As Christian women,we need to continually soak our minds and hearts in God’s truth to help us live lives worthy of our calling {Ephesians 4:1}. Know the Scriptures that specifically pertain to our roles as wives and mothers, have a firm grasp of Christ’s love and grace through the Cross, and work hard at putting those truths into practice {James 2:17}. Read good books to encourage your vision, help you learn new ways to care for your home, or simply read about another person’s growth.
Whether you journal these verses in places you can regularly see or memorise them or pray through them regularly, we need to continually put these truths in the foremost of our thoughts each day. It is so easy to follow our weaknesses, or wander astray from our purpose by things from outside our families. I journal and I write verses and quotes in my bullet journal planner
Believing and fleshing out God’s truth for homemaker’s gives us joy and hope as we learn to love all the things that must be done {<<< Great blog post, read it!}.

Do the Next Thing.

I first came across this source of wisdom through Elisabeth Elliot who shared this beautiful poem {see second page of newsletter, on the right}.  The Lord brought this to me at the time in my life where I could not even get off my floor without great grief. All I wanted to do was sit, cry, wallow and beat my chest to the Lord. I cannot, for the life of me, remember how this poem came across my path, but it helped me immensely. It helped me teach myself, when I could do nothing, to do the next thing.

Source

And it works beautifully in the slow-paced, rotational flows of a homemaker’s life. When there are a million different things to do, do the next thing. Whether you do the next thing on your long list, or do the next thing that catches your eye. Just do it. And, as you keep on doing the next thing, you will work your way out of your rut.

Keep Going…And Going.

I find that when I can’t be bothered, or when I really would just rather sit down and do something lazy, or when I find myself getting sucked into busyness outside our home, if I determine to do the next thing, and then the next, my motivation and heart for homemaking come flooding back in.
There is great satisfaction in homemaking. Despite what the world tells us, there is great success and accomplishment in taming this domain of ours. Once we get back into the swing of things, our joy and hope for this work settles in our hearts again. We see the purpose and the plan in caring for our families in this way. We see God’s hand in the small things of our daily lives, and we know he is pleased with our work to serve him.
On days, weeks, or months, when it’s hard to make our homes – just keep going. The joy will come back.

What do you find helps you when you find it hard to care for your home?