Just The Facts, Mam!

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We were without Wifi for about a month since our big move, so we extended our data usage to a bagilillion gigabytes in order to stay connected with the outside world.  This included a FaceTime conversation with my mother that was ended abruptly when my financially conservative hubby told me to end the call because it was running up the data.  You can imagine how well that went over.

Besides FaceTime, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and all of the socially connected mediums, I wanted to stay connected with the news.  And what an unfortunate month for news.  A quick glance at my feed on Facebook did not do justice for me with the news of the day.  Because I have both conservative and moderate friends, and I follow both conservative and moderate blogs with differeing and biased perspectives.  I wanted “just the facts, mam.”

Sidebar.  Do people still get the paper?  Like the good, old fashioned, black print, finger staining newspaper?  I could have used one last month.

Anyway, I did manage to scroll through some online “papers” to get informed on the issues of the day, skimming and speed reading through the headlines mostly.  I found an app on my phone that I downloaded at some point but had yet to use, and it came in handy during my “limited data” month.  It is called Feedly.  Basically, it is a tool to manage and organize regularly visited content such as blogs, webzines, news sites, etc.  It is becoming my “go-to” method for getting information quickly and efficiently.

Because social media is social, not informational.  Sure, you get information but it is filtered through opinions, biases, agendas, and platforms.  Sometimes, you just want the news.  Am I right?  Some of my favorite sources for quick news- meaning, the headlines and top stories and easily accessed, are USA Today, The Washington Post, and The Atlantic.  Sure, every news source has its biased bent one way or another, but I find it easier to filter through the news myself rather than through social media’s opinions on the news.  Less noise means less distraction from the facts.

So now that I am back online I can take my time through the news of the day and I can be better informed on how to pray for our nation, its leaders, and the world.  And my husband and I do not have to ration data like the last bowl of soup on the coldest day of the year. :-)

 

Build the Wall

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There is a little unspoken secret that all mothers share and that is that we really don’t know what we are doing.  Sure we read the books, follow certain methods, implement schedules and routines, but at the end of the day when we find a cog in our wheel of control we shrug our shoulders, hands in our laps and cry “Uncle!”  Because the only certain thing that we do know is that we are called to this life of motherhood.  We have children, so therefore we are called to them- to love them, nurture them, nourish them, and raise them in the fear and admonition of the Lord.

Nehemiah had a calling too.  God commissioned and compelled him for the task of rebuilding the wall around Jerusalem.  He gave himself to this task, seeking the Lord through every step of the process.  Though he wasn’t a mother, Nehemiah experienced what every mother will experience at some point in her ministry at home- opposition.

How are we opposed?

The world opposes us.  The Christian mom is countercultural in how she instructs her children.  Her manual is God’s Word, not pop psychology, marriage amendments, 3rd wave feminist ideology, or the blog of the day.  She is building a wall.  Her task is to raise a generation who know Christ and will make Him known.

Some in the church may oppose us.  “You can’t work and raise a family!” or “So, you stay home all day.  I couldn’t be with my kids all day.  I would go crazy!” or “You let him cry it out?  That is so cruel!” or “Co-sleeping?  Well, that is a recipe for a visit to the psychiatrist’s office.”  or “You mean to say that you spank your child?” or “That child is out of control because he is never spanked.”  We have a “godly” plan for how we “know” God would have us raise our family and every family should follow suit.  We distract each other with our “proven” methods (sidebar…none of us have a proven track record yet, so we have very little credit to go by) while discouraging each other on our common mission to raise the next generation for Christ.

When Nehemiah was opposed, he didn’t cower or hang his head in shame.  He prayed.  “Hear, O our God, for we are despised. (Nehemiah 4:4)”  He didn’t stop there, though.  After Nehemiah prayed he got back to work.  “So we built the wall.”

Moms, let’s build the wall.  When the enemy (our real enemy is the devil, and he will use whatever he can to discourage and distract us) comes in to keep us from the task at hand, then we must pray and then get back to work.  I think about Jesus’ disciple Peter and how he was concerned about John and whether or not he would remain until Jesus’ return.  Jesus said, “What is that to you?  You follow me!”  Instead of looking at the world, or other moms and what they are doing we must follow Jesus with how He has specifically engineered our calling.  Some of us are teachers, some are business execs, some are involved in Multi-Level-Marketing, some of us are homeschoolers, some of us are single moms, and some of us are doing a host of other things, but the one universal thing that we all must do is like Nehemiah, “to have a mind to work.”  Not worry.  Not compare.  Not compete.  Work.  The task is that great, and we do not have time to come down from our wall.

Nehemiah encouraged the workers on the wall, so let me encourage my fellow wall builder mamas.  “Do not be afraid of them. (4:14)”  Who is the “them” in your life?  It may be a family member, a co-worker, a neighbor, or somebody else who is discouraging you from building your wall.  How can we keep from fear?  Nehemiah said, “Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome…”  He is greater than our fear and those who oppose us.  If God has called you to this task of motherhood, He will enable you for it.  Don’t let anyone or anything incite fear or doubt in your heart and mind.  What we need is boldness and decisiveness to complete the task given to us.  So, Nehemiah said, “Do not be afraid, remember the Lord, and finally, “fight for your brothers, your sons, your daugthers, your wives, and your homes.”  We must fight for our homes, moms.  In my previous post I mentioned how this battle we wage is not against flesh and blood, but against the spiritual forces in this present darkness (see Ephesians 6).  When we look to the Lord, remembering His might and that He is for us- and oh Christian mom, how he is for us!- we are emboldend to fight, to pray deep, from the gut prayers, and to work.  The work is great indeed, but mamas, “Our God will fight for us. (4:20).

 

More Than Meets the Eye

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I would have to be in a coma to miss the message the Lord has relayed to me over and over again this summer.  I mean His truth is palpable that hits between the eyes and into the heart.  His Word is indeed “living and active.”

It began in a daily Bible reading some months ago, and the Spirit led me to Ephesians 6 reminding me that this battle being waged is not a flesh and blood, physical, what we see with the eyes sort of thing, but a spiritual, invisible, from the background to the forefront in this present darkness matter of reality.  Then I went to the SBC annual meeting and the Ephesians 6 text was preached from, referenced to, and spoken of numerous times.  I am going through Priscilla Shirer’s “The Armor of God” Bible study this summer, slowing down through the passage, ruminating on each verse week by week.  And my girls will work on memorizing Ephesians 6 this year as our Bible memory work for Classical Conversations.  So to miss God’s message would be to ignore Him entirely.

I see the news- the civil unrest, bigotry, injustice, and deep, societal pains, and the darkness runs thick.  We cry for peace, for all of this to stop.  We beg for Jesus to rend the heavens and come down, to bring unity and salvation.  We know that He is our only hope in this mess.

Our children are constantly bombarded with images, messages, and sounds of rage, frivolity, debauchery, and the god of self while we try to shield them from the enemy’s grappling.  I think of Jesus when he said to the disciples, “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer.”  We cannot simply ignore the spiritual forces of evil.  We must dismantle them on our knees.

Distractions abound, and if the enemy can cause us to live under the false delusion that there are no lost people, no hell, and no need to care either way beyond our 9-5 lives then he wins the battle over our short earthly existence.

Be strong in the Lord, then.

This is where we begin and end.  Standing firm in the muck and mire, fully armed, ready to battle the enemy with the Word of God, the righteousness of Christ, the gospel of peace, with faith, our salvation, praying at all times in the Spirit.

I think of my son who is not even two yet, and is always ready to fight.  Everything is a sword.  Even my daughters’ Barbie dolls are weapons that he uses to wage battle against his invisible enemies.  He is ready with sound effects and everything.

In a similar way, I want to be ready at all times to resist the enemy and to stand firm in my faith in the strength of the Lord’s might.  This is not a violent, aggravated thing, this is an acknowledgement that everything is not right with the world and only the gospel will make things right again.  We can protest till the cows come home, but we will get nowhere until we put on the whole armor of God.  This means that we pray.  This means that we immerse ourselves in God’s Word until it pours out of our mouths and lives.  This means that we repent and forgive.  This means that we work out our salvation with fear and trembling through the righteousness of Christ.  This means that we believe everything God says about who He is.  This means that we don’t look to the world’s powers to resolve only what God can.  This means that what we experience from day to day- relational conflicts, work struggles, inner anxiety, temptations to sin, and all that lurks in the darkness of our lives is more than meets the eye.  There is an enemy at work seeking to impair our effectiveness for the Kingdom.  But we are not unaware of his schemes.  There is a God who is greater.  There is a God who saves us and is continually saving us.  There is a God who is at work in us, empowering us to resist the enemy, to stand firm in our faith, and battle the spiritual forces of evil, not with wit, human wisdom, or skill, but with the full armor of God that is available to us if we will just put it on.

 

So Moved

I don’t have wifi yet so writing has been naught and well then there is the whole “we just moved” thing.  We are SO MOVED, people.  All five of us and our belongings are physically inside our new home in Gallatin.  And we are steadily unpacking, arranging, and settling into this space with three kids underfoot.  Speaking of the kids, they are all adjusting well to the transition so far, though it has only been a week.  They like to catch fireflies at night and watch the rabbits outside in our backyard.  

Hop little bunnies.  Hop hop hop hop.


We are not only moved in the physical sense, but emotionally as well.  We are so moved by the outpouring of love and hospitality from our church.  Our gratitude is inexpressible, and we are looking forward to serving alongside FBC Gallatin in the days ahead.  

I plan to write more soon, especially when we get wifi.  But I better stay focused on unpacking some more of those boxes anyway.  When I am not writing, though, I try to keep my bullet journal handy or jot down ideas in Evernote for future posts.  Some topics I plan to write on this summer are “Why boy two-year-olds are Terrible and Terrific,” Bible study and how the system or method you use will not grow you no matter the publisher, teacher, life coach leader, etc., and some current faves (teaser- a new (to me) natural-ish body wash and lotion find, ways to stay current on current events online…I so struggle with this, but I think I found a few helps…Facebook is a bad self-made news filter, and real discipleship for women…courage to connect.  

One final thing.  This pic pretty much sums up how we all feel right now. 😊

JOY for the Simply Complicated Life

IMG_4134Selling a house with little kids is like laying bricks in a hurricane.  Toys, games, shoes, dolls, and random plastic bowls with mysterious goo all seem to magically appear like Whac-A-Mole meets House Hunters.  When the house photographer came to our door on Thursday to take pictures, I welcomed him inside while panting with a perspired face.  I joked and said, “Ha. You caught me.  I haven’t really done anything much today.”  He chuckled.  I barely got the house ready for pictures.  I mean I made it to the final second with mop in hand when I answered the door for the photographer.

The idea is to make the house appear like nobody actually lives there, so that buyers can envision themselves living there.  Remove all clutter, keep kitchen counters clear with minimal appliances, and limit the number of family photos.  Shoving things into closets or under beds is a no-no.  So, I began packing early.  I boxed up appliances I will not be using in the near future, bagged our winter clothes and shoes (should have done that several weeks ago), gave some stuff away, and threw away a lot of unnecessary things like my babies’ umbilical cord clips.  Gross.  I know.  Maybe it was the hormones or the excessive fatigue, but at some point in time I thought those would be keepsakes.  Well, not anymore.  Chunked ’em.

When it was all said and done I no longer recognized my home!  How did I keep my kids from trashing it, you may ask?  Easy answer.  Outside play and Netflix.  Worked wonders for me.  I told them not to play with their toys for about two days.  I let them grab one here and there, but they had to put them back once they were through.  What a concept.  If the only thing I had to manage was clean up all day then I guess my house would stay clean, but then again no one would feel comfortable living in it.  I know I wouldn’t.  It took me all day to keep a clean house, and nothing else got done.  I should add that I washed and dried all of our laundry!  Every bit of it- towels, linens, clothes…that has never happened before…and probably never will again.  Ha!:)

Coming home after our house was shown was nice because my house was clean and picked up.  I diffused lemon and purification oil in the morning and the aroma was still fragrant.  It was quiet.  There was no need for kitchen clean up because we ate out (can I get an AMEN!).  And there were no toys in the kids’ rooms to pick up.  I thought, “This must be what it is like to have a housekeeper.”  Except I got nothing else done.  I ignored my kids all day to get my house to look like this.  Was it worth it?  Yes.  The house, by the grace of God, is now under contract.  Thank you, Jesus!  But, the truth is that I could not live like this day in and day out.  It isn’t real life.

I prefer things to be neat, tidy, organized, and in order.  I am a minimalist and I can usually part with things rather easily.  But, even still, life gets busy, messy, and frantic at times.  Life’s relationship status is always “It’s complicated.”  We cannot control it.  So when we can at least feel calm and at ease with what we can control like our wardrobe, diet plan, decorating, smartphones, and schedules we are able to focus on and manage the real stuff of life like relationships, work, finances, and family matters.

“Simple” is a buzzword today- “Simple Living,” “Real Simple,” “The Simple Show,” simple this, simple that.  I like the way it sounds and feels- no fuss and focused.  Maybe the allure of simple comes from our desire to find joy in the midst of a complicated life.  The Preacher in Ecclesiastes says, “And I commend joy, for man has nothing better under the sun but to eat and drink and be joyful, for this will go with him in his toil through the days of his life that God has given him under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 8:15).  The struggle is real, but there is joy to be found.  It is not that our joy is found in escaping the toil (for we cannot escape it), but that there is joy in the midst of the toil, which is an important distinction for us.

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While getting the house ready to sell this week I was impressed to take my kids to the pool and splash pad to just watch them play.  I had a million things swirling around in my mind- things that needed to get done, calls to make, errands to run.  But for a brief moment I took it all in- my kids’ laughter, exuberant splashing, funny faces smashed in goggles.  Joy.  It was as if God was gently reminding me that this is the stuff life is made of- this simply complicated life.  It is not that this is the full measure of life- playing with my kids, spending time with my husband, personal interests, or going out with friends, but that this is the stuff that serve as welcomed, joyful interruptions in my toil.  Because life is not simple.  It is messy.  Difficult.  And at times disappointing.  But when we find joy in the Lord and in the blessings that He has given us, the simple blessings, then we don’t let the frustration that often comes with our toil own us.

I like this quote from Sally Clarkson: “Now is the time; today is the day. Own your life. Heaven will tell your story throughout eternity. May you live one worth telling. May you leave a legacy of vibrant faith and a pathway for others that is lavished with generous love and the kiss of God’s favor each step along the way.”
Sally Clarkson, Own Your Life: Living with Deep Intention, Bold Faith, and Generous Love

I think leaving a legacy begins by living your legacy first.  I am not as concerned about who will remember me, but if what I am doing is worth remembering.  Was it that I had an immaculate home?  That I was always busy…with writing…with church…with teaching…with worry?  Am I even paying attention to the joy of life?  Sure, there are seasons of great pain, grief, and loss, but am I seeking to have a heart of gratitude in whatever season I am in right now?  We cannot be joyful and ungrateful at the same time.  So, let me encourage you to find joy in your toil.  There is much joy.  Sure, life is complicated, but if we pause, look intently at God’s Word, in His creation, and in all of His blessings then we will see beyond the toil and give God praise in the living, breathing, joy of it all.

Celebrating Summer and a Recipe

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The humidity is rising.  Sun-kissed cheeks, glistening skin warmed by the sun, and active children celebrating the birth of summer.  Relief comes with garden hoses, lemonade, and popsicles.  And after the cooling respite they run back outside for more.

Here is an easy recipe for
Strawberries and Cream Popsicles:

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Ingredients:

1/2 lb. of fresh strawberries, chopped
1 cup of plain yogurt
1/2 cup of 2% or whole milk
1 TBSP Maple syrup
1 tsp vanilla

Directions:

Mix all ingredients together and pour into popsicle molds.  Place in freezer for about 3 hours.  Yields about 10 medium-sized popsicles.

You can also make Orangesicles substituting orange juice for the milk and omitting the strawberries.

Hello, summer!

 

A Sign, a House, and the Memories We Shared

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There is a sign in our yard.

Moving on means letting go, and while I know that this is good and right I am not flippant about it.  I brought babies home here.  There is that black crayon scribble on our laundry room wall that we will have to paint over before we sell.

We made use of the little land God gave us with its lilies and hydrangeas.  We grew peppers, herbs, and tomatoes that eventually became food for the squirrels.  The girls have a secret hideaway behind the shed.  We braved mosquitos, wasps, and a mama squirrel who birthed babies down our chimney.

Many meals were shared around our table.  We’ve hosted friends, neighbors, Bible studies, life groups, play dates, and extended family.  There were birthday parties and dinner parties.  We’ve counseled couples, prayed over burdened brothers and sisters, and were prayed over ourselves.

We survived our narrow staircase, except that one time when Travis fell down them.  He was okay, and made it through without a scratch.  I tried not to laugh.

We tolerated the Fed Ex planes, trains, and the 3am birds in our yard.  We’ve mastered backing out of our driveway without hitting the light pole or our neighbor’s car across the street.  If I ran out of eggs or needed an onion I could walk down the sidewalk to Easy Way (now Curb Market) and buy what I needed.

Our neighbor, Clay, recently moved away.  He always called Travis “Preacher.”  Another neighbor named Kay was our neighborhood watch lady.  She would sit on her porch, smoke cigarettes and let you know the business of the day.  If anything out of the ordinary happened, she’d let you know.  She always asked about the kids and would say kind things to them.  Kay passed away a couple months ago.  We said goodbye a little early to her.

The weekends are for kids running from house to house to jump on the trampoline, swim, and play.  The St. Jude race wraps around our neighborhood, and this past year down our street. We can hear the music and fanfare from the Liberty Bowl on game day.  There is always action.

A lot of sweat went into this house. Travis and his dad painted the interior, and Travis painted the whole exterior himself.  Our cozy bungalow was built in 1917 making it almost a one hundred-year-old house.  It has a history, and I am thankful that our little family had the chance to contribute to its story for the time we were here.

Some say, “It’s just a house.”  And it is- a house.  Brick and mortar.  Dusty.  Creaky.  But there was life here.  Noisy with laughter, some yelling, pounding chubby feet on hardwoods, music, dancing, and a whole lot of talking.

So when our realtor put a sign in our yard yesterday it hit me that our time here is coming to a close.  I got a lump in my throat.  I don’t think it is by accident that I am reading Ecclesiastes this week, and I am reminded that there is a time for everything. Now is the time for uprooting what we’ve planted and dig roots down deep in a new place. Travis has been called to pastor First Baptist Gallatin in Gallatin, TN, and we are excited about this next step in our journey.  Though we are sad to say goodbye to friends and our church family at UABC, we know that God is leading us out.  He is good and He does good (Psalm 119:68).  He is good in giving us a family, a home, a church, and a community to do life in.  And He will do it again in a new place with new people sharing in the grace that is ours through Christ.  But we will always remember Memphis because for us it is where we began.

“And the world cannot be discovered by a journey of miles, no matter how long, but only by a spiritual journey, a journey of one inch, very arduous and humbling and joyful, by which we arrive at the ground at our feet, and learn to be at home.”  ~Wendell Berry