Monday, January 27, 2014

That's Quite the Ministry You Have

I've been wanting to write this post since last week, but have just been too busy "doing ministry" to get to it.

It's finally nap time, so I am going to take a few minutes to sit down and write what God laid on my heart.  He used my friend Paula to speak to me.  She didn't mean to challenge me.  She didn't know her words would have such an impact.  She just said them.  Well, really she typed them.  Probably with her thumb, if she types messages on her smart phone like I do.

We were messaging back and forth about her book and she offered to give me one.  And then she was super nice and offered to give me one to give away.  Seeing as how I like to blog and we have middle schoolers over to our house every week, I am sure I know someone who would enjoy reading her book and benefit greatly from it too!

Anyway, she asked if I still blog.  I assured her I do, "when my 3 children let me."  I went on to share that I had actually just posted a new blog earlier that day.  I told her I wasn't sure how it happened since I had 2 daycare kiddos in addition to my 3 girls, but I guess God knew I needed to get out what He had spoken to me and gave me a few minutes.

After my comment about so many kids in the house, Paula wrote, "Wow, that's quite the ministry you have."

Her words stopped me in my tracks.  She didn't say anything profound.

Just, "Wow, that's quite the ministry you have."

Here I am thinking Paula has quite the ministry.  She wrote a book that thousands of people will read.  Because of her thousands of lives will be changed.  Young girls and women alike will be challenged and encouraged.  Moms and daughters can grow together.  And not just here in the United States, as I believe her book is being translated into other languages!  How cool is that?!

I've always wanted to be a published author. I dream of seeing a book I wrote on the shelves at Barnes and Noble or on-line at Amazon.  I, too, want to impact lives and make a difference.  And so, honestly, I find it easy to be just a little jealous of Paula.

Why does she get to work with Nancy Leigh DeMoss?  How is she so lucky to get a platform like that?  Why does she get to travel and talk about her book on the radio and in other neat places?  Why do people follow her blog and not mine? :)  What makes her so special?

That's just what Satan wants me to do though.  That's exactly how he wants me to think.  He likes to see that bitterness and jealous creep into my heart.  He tries to keep me from noticing it, that way it grows and grows until eventually my heart is hardened and I am ineffective for God's kingdom.

So Paula's words not only stopped me from getting bitter and jealous, but also from believing Satan's lies that I'm not making a difference, that I'm not having an impact on people's lives, that I don't have a ministry.

Remember what Paula said?  Paula, the one with the huge ministry that is changing lives and making a difference all around the world?

"Wow.  That's quite the ministry you have."

And she was talking to ME!!!

Granted, my ministry looks WAY different than hers!  I am home changing diapers, wiping snotty noses, cleaning toilets, washing clothes, fixing suppers, reading books, making playdough creations, coloring pictures, bandaging and kissing boo-boos, and picking up toys (the same ones at least 15 times a day).  My life isn't glamorous.  Very rarely do I fix my hair in anything but a pony tail.  My idea of dressing up is to change out of yoga pants and a t-shirt to put on jeans and a different t-shirt so I can go to the grocery store without spit up stains on my clothes.  The only reason I even bother wearing mascara is so that the daycare parents don't think I'm a walking zombie when they drop their precious kiddos off at my house in the morning.  I doubt the 6 kids under 4 really care if I have long, luxurious lashes.

After being a stay-at-home, work-at-home mom for the past 4 years, I begin to question if I am making a difference, if I am having an impact and helping change lives.  I begin to believe Satan's lie that I don't have a ministry.

I'm not writing books or posting blogs with thousands of followers. I'm not speaking in front of large crowds of people.  I'm not digging wells in Africa or saving lives in any third-world country for that matter.  I'm "just" a stay-at-home, work-at-home mom.

And yet, Paula tells me, "Wow.  That's quite the ministry you have."

Like I said, God used her words to help me see the truth, to remember it really.  Her simple statement rocked my world, and changed the way I look at feeding the daycare baby her bottle or stacking blocks with my toddler or playing dress up with my 4-year-old little girl who loves anything and everything princess.  So, as I gone about my day today -- doing laundry, making lunch, breaking up fights about a silly toy, wiping off counters, and helping make blanket forts -- I keep telling myself, "THIS is my ministry.  THIS is making a difference.  THIS is changing lives, the most important lives I know, the lives of MY CHILDREN."

Maybe you're a stay-at-home, work-at-home mom too.  Maybe you work outside of the home. Maybe you're not even a mom.  Whatever the case may be, remember that God has you right where He wants you and He IS using you there to make a difference, to change lives, to bring Him glory.

As you pick up those "lost cheerios that got away" remember what Paula told me and what I'm not telling you today, "Wow. That's quite a ministry you have."

Friday, January 24, 2014

Help Me!

This morning, as I was getting dressed in the dark, so as not to wake up Kyiah, I see two figures walk through my bedroom door.

"Good morning, Mommy!"  Way too early to hear those voices, no matter how cute they may be.  Way too early to see those faces, no matter how precious they may be.

But what can you do?  They're up and ready to start the day, even if you're NOT.  There's no sending them back to bed, as that would only produce weeping and wailing, which would in turn wake the sleeping baby (at least one child knows what side of 7 am to get up on)!  

And so, you put on your smile and greet the darlings with a hug and kiss, forcing yourself to say, "GOOD morning," when really in your head you are screaming, "What in the world?!  Why, WHY, are you up so early?!  Jesus, HELP ME!"

As soon as the cry for help left my lips (figuratively, seeing as how I was just yelling in my head, again not to wake the baby), I remembered what I had read yesterday in Ruth Myer's book 31 Days of Praise.  Her words had rocked me just 24 hours earlier, so why I had so quickly forgotten them.  Well, thankfully, Jesus helped me remember them, and change the tune of my cries as well.

"How often do we pray? We plead for victory when Christ is in us as our more-than-conquering life. We beg for the Holy Spirit as though He were not already indwelling in us, as though He were not yearning for our consent to fill and control us and produce His fruit in our lives. We pray for spiritual and emotional resources as though they were external bonuses. We forget that they are part of our birthright in Christ, for in Him God has blessed us with every possible spiritual blessing, with everything we need for life and godliness. We cry to the Lord to give us things we already have because He is in us. He says, "I am the bread of life, the water of life, the light of life; I am the way, I am the truth; I am the resurrection and the life; I am what you need." He wants us to reply, "Thank You, Lord, You are! You are my sufficiency this moment, this hour, this day. I'm counting on Your life in me - Your love and patience, Your gentleness and guidance and power - to meet my needs and overflow to others."

So, instead of, "Oh dear Jesus, help me!  Give me patience!  Give me strength," and sighing about the long day ahead, already admitting defeat and letting helplessness overwhelm me, I changed my cries to, "Thank You, Jesus, that You are with me, that You will give me the patience and strength and endurance I need today.  Thank You that You are working in me, that You will never leave.  Thank You that You never sleep, that You never grow weak or weary, that You're never tired, that You're never overwhelmed, but always ready for whatever the day may bring.  Thank You, thank You, thank You."

I may still be yawning and rubbing my eyes as I drink my coffee and greens (thinking I might have to double up on both today), BUT at least my heart is full.  I was feeling drained and empty before the day had really even begun, but as my focus shifted from despair to gratitude, I was filled with a supernatural power and strength and joy.  I will have to keep reminding myself throughout the day, minute by minute, that the Holy Spirit is dwelling within me, that He never leaves, and that He not only will give me all that I need to live for Him but that He already has!

2 Peter 1:3-4, 
"By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. We have received all of this by coming to know him, the one who called us to himself by means of his marvelous glory and excellence. And because of his glory and excellence, he has given us great and precious promises. These are the promises that enable you to share his divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires."

God hasn't done this just for me, but for YOU too!!!  I don't know what your morning has looked like so far or what the day ahead may hold for you.  That doesn't really matter.  Regardless of our situation, we NEED Jesus, and thankfully, we HAVE Him -- ALL of Him, IN us, working to accomplish HIS good plans and purposes, to make us more like Him...and best of all, "to make me a joy to Him in new ways."  How cool is that - did you see it?  God DELIGHTS in us.  That right there should brighten your day!

With this in mind, instead of constantly pleading for help, let's join together and cry out to God today, all day long, "THANK YOU!"

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Guilty Pleasures

Lately I have been struggling with something.  Maybe you can help me figure it out.  I sure would appreciate your thoughts, opinions, and insight!!!

You see, recently I have been fighting the idea of dreaming big.  Wait a second.  Didn't I just write a blog post about dreaming big because we serve a big God?  Oh yes, I did.

And what about that one where I shared how Charlie Brown taught me a lesson: you won't know if you don't try.  Yeah, that was a good one, too.  

Then, there's the one about not putting your dreams off until tomorrow, but taking the leap and starting to make changes TODAY.

You would think I was a dreaming all day long, imagining big huge things happening and visualizing all these wonderful changes taking place in my life.  And yet, here I am in a battle with my mind and heart.

Yes, I have dreams.  BIG ones.
BUT, I am scared to believe they can come true.
Maybe scared isn't the word.
I think my issue is that I am feeling guilty about these pleasures.  I feel selfish wanting to travel, to see the world, to take my girls to Disney World.

I look around me and see people striving just to meet their daily needs.  A homeless person on the street corner.  A friend's post on facebook that their family is struggling financially.  A picture of a little girl diagnosed with a life-threatening disease.  An e-mail from a friend questioning direction in life.

And here I am dreaming about touring Highclaire Castle where Downton Abbey is filmed. Here I am planning a hot air balloon ride or a skydiving adventure.  Heck, I even feel guilty about wanting to paint our master bedroom (my husband would really appreciate a color besides the lovely lavender the house came with) and get new bedding.

Am I wrong to dream?
Am I being selfish?
Should I feel guilty about wanting to enjoy life, to have out-of-this-world experiences?

Part of me shouts YES!
How dare I think about decorative pillows when some people don't even have a bed to sleep in?!
How can I even think about buying only organic food when some people would love to simply have a hot meal in their belly today?
How I can be so heartless as to want to go on an Alaskan cruise when that money could feed hundreds of children in a third-world country or build a well so a town could have safe water or make it possible for a family to bring home their child waiting in an orphanage halfway around the world?

At the same time, though, another part of me whispers, "God Himself said He came so you might have life to the fullest."

Did He not create the beautiful, breath-taking places all around the world for us to see and enjoy?  And in doing so, are we not worshiping Him and bringing Him glory?

Does He not invite us to embark on adventures, to learn new things, to stretch ourselves and grow as individuals?  And is doing so, are we not becoming the people He actually designed and created us to be, using our gifts and abilities to their full extent so that we might point out His goodness and faithfulness?

And then there's the matter of balance.  It's not like I want to obtain massive amounts of money just for the sake of being rich or buying the newest, biggest thing.  Extravagance isn't even on my radar.  The desire to do more, to be more, to experience more is though.

Now, I'm right back where I started.  Wanting to dream and dream BIG.  Hoping that as I do, people understand and see my heart.

Yes, I want to see the world.  Yes, I want to go and do things like a hot air balloon ride and go skydiving and even take the girls to Disney World (heaven help me so I don't strangle a princess while we're there or scream at the thought of all the PINK I'll see).  Yes, I want to paint our master bedroom and get new bedding.  Yes, I want to buy only organic food.


I also want to support my friends going to Uganda to build wells.  I also want to donate so my friends can bring their little girl home from China.  I also want to pay for other families to go on dream vacations.  I also want to make my house a place where kids can feel comfortable hanging out.  I also want to randomly bless others all throughout the year, in whatever ways God shows us.

So, I think it all comes down to the heart.
What's at the core of your dreams?
That's what really truly matters, right?

Like I said, I would love to hear what YOU think.
Do you struggle to dream?
Do you ever feel selfish or guilty when you do dream big?

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Praise Him, Praise Him

Praise Him in the morning
Praise Him in the noon time
Praise Him, Praise Him
Praise Him when the sun goes down

I grew up signing this catchy little song.  Now, some 30 years later, I am still signing it.  And I'm still off-key and out of tune, as I was not blessed with any musical ability whatsoever.  My 3 little girls (ages 6 weeks, 2 years, and 4 years) don't seem to mind, though.  They just join in and sing along with me (well, the baby just listens but I am sure she will be part of the choir before too long).

One would think if I am signing the song, I would be living out the lyrics too.  Oh how I wish that was true.  Instead, as we embark on this new year, God seems to be showing me that I am not praising Him morning, noon, and night.  I'm not even taking the time to praise Him as I begin my day, let alone every second after my feet hit the bedroom floor.

And that right there is the issue.  I'm not taking the time.  Making the time.  That's a problem.  A big one.

Yes, I am a busy mother of 3 small girls, but that's not an excuse.  At least not a good one.
Yes, I am a wife and "household manager" in charge of the laundry and cleaning and meals and whatever all else needs to be done to make sure we are clothed and fed and well-kept.  Again, not a good excuse.  Not in God's book.
Yes, I am also a daycare provider, taking care of 3 other precious children during the day.
Yes, I have multiple other things on my plate and wear various other hats.  Don't we all?

Well, then, I guess none of us have a good excuse as to why we aren't praising God throughout our day.

So, let's do something to change that!!

But, let's think baby steps.  I, for one, get kind of overwhelmed at the thought of singing words of praise all day long.  Instead, I just need to practice saying, "Thank you," more often.  As I develop the habit of THANKING God, I believe I will be more inclined to PRAISE Him too.

When I wake up in the morning, I want to thank Him for the new day.
As I take my shower, I can thank Him for hot water.
While I eat my breakfast, I can thank Him for food.

Those are pretty easy though.

How about, when I do laundry, while I am folding and put away countless shirts and pants and skirts and underwear, while I am trying to find the match for the lone sock, I can thank God for clothes to wear.

Or as I load the dishwasher yet again, I can thank Him for the empty dishes that represent full bellies.

When I answer the question, "Why?" for the 487th time or pick up spilled Cheerios or change another dirty diaper or tell the children to stop fighting over a blue crayon when there are at least 9 others in the container of crayons, I can thank Him for the privilege of being a mom, for the health of my children, for the opportunity to be at home with them (even if I want to pull my hair out and am begging for a simple 30 minutes out of the house or even just the chance to go to the bathroom by myself).

It's all about perspective.  And if I can start THANKING God for the "little" things, I bet I will find myself praising Him all the day long.

Today, I started reading a book my dear friend gave to me several years ago.  I pulled it out of hiding, figuring its title 31 Days of Praise was fitting for what God seems to be trying to teach me.  I know I need all the help I can get as I set out to live a life of praise!

I was both encouraged and challenged by Ruth Myer's words:

In spite of all God has provided, including the Holy Spirit's presence and power, we don't automatically praise and give thanks.  Nor will you find praise all of a sudden springing up in full bloom as soon as you start praying about it.  Praise flourishes as you weed and water and fertilize your spiritual garden in which it grows.  It become more constant as you nurture your soul on God's Word and walk in His ways, depending upon the Holy Spirit.  It gets richer and more spontaneous as you grow in your knowledge of how worthy the Lord is to receive honor and glory and praise.

But even then praise does not automatically flow from your life day after day, hour after hour.  You must choose to cultivate the habit of praise, taking steps that will enrich your praise life.

And so, I am going to work on choosing to be thankful.  I want to be intentional about saying, "Thank you," throughout the day, even when I don't feel like it.  Especially when I don't feel like it.

Will you join me?  Let's learn how to THANK God so we can learn how to PRAISE God.

After all, there is another verse to the song:

Thank Him, Thank Him
Thank Him in the morning
Thank Him in the noon time
Thank Him, Thank Him
Thank Him when the sun goes down

Maybe whoever wrote the song knew something about how thanks and praise are connected?
I'm guessing he/she did!