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faith

FRUIT BEARING BRANCHES

I’ve ventured out of my comfort zone of fabrics and paper and into wood.  See my little tree?

 

 

It’s actually not that little.  It’s 2 feet tall, so it’s a decent size.  I used some sort of plywood that my dad had in his basement.  He was also kind enough to let me use his ban saw and scroll saw, which is pretty trusting of him, seeing that I had no previous experience with either machine!  This was my first solo-wood-creation and I really enjoyed the process… the long process.

 

I have big plans for our little tree.  Right now, I have Bible verses hanging on it.  They’re right in front of our faces every time we sit down to eat.  It helps us to remember to teach the girls new verses and to rehearse verses we’ve already memorized together.

 

 

As you can see, I make sure to pick verses that we can apply… constantly!  Right now, the girls are both asserting their independence and are clashing a bit, so we’ve been talking a lot about being peacemakers and speaking gently.  We haven’t memorized these two verses yet, but I’m pretty sure that they’re next up!

 

I also plan on using our tree for holidays.  My initial plan was actually to make it as a Jesse tree for Christmas, but once I finished, I had put so much work into it, that I decided I wanted to keep it out year round!  The Jesse tree is a way of telling God’s Story of redemption in advent form. Each day in December, we read a devotional and hang an ornament on our Jesse tree.  The ornaments take us from the creation of the world, to the birth of the Savior, which lands right on Christmas day.  For the remaining days of December, we continue to hang ornaments that take us on a journey through Jesus’ life, death, burial, resurrection, ascent to Heaven, and Pentecost. It’s a wonderful way of helping little minds connect the entire redemption story together.

 

I also hope to put together my own advents that we can use with this tree for other holidays.  An advent for Easter, studying Jesus’ life in more depth, and of course His sacrifice.  A study of Biblical love for February, to celebrate Valentine’s Day.  A study of the Biblical history of our great nation for July and Independence Day.  A series on thankfulness and praise for November and Thanksgiving… just some thoughts that have been running through my mind.


I’m sure you’ll be seeing our tree again around the holidays!

FAITH LIKE A CHILD

 

On Thursday, March 1, Clara (3 years old) told me she wanted to ask Jesus into her heart. I was reluctant. After all, she’s only 3 years old, and I wanted to make sure that she really knew what she was doing and that she was sincere in her desire. We talked about it a little bit, and I told her that I would really like for the two of us to be able to sit down with her daddy so that we could all talk together. I hoped to be able to talk that night when Allen got home from work. But, it didn’t happen… that night, or the next, or the next. It slipped to the back of my mind as we got busy with our weekend plans. Clara even asked me two more times, but it was always when Allen wasn’t available…


Finally, on Saturday night, while the girls were deep asleep and I was sewing a project, I became convicted. Since before she was born, I have prayed that God would put a deep desire for Himself and a deep love for Himself in Clara’s heart. I prayed that He would save her at a very young age, and here she was, her heart tender to His call, and I was standing in the way.


What was I thinking?


Allen and I purposefully woke up early Sunday morning so that we would have enough time to talk with Clara. She understood everything. She knew Romans 3:23 “All have sinned…” and Romans 5:8 “While we were sinners Christ died for us.” She knew that she needed Jesus to forgive her of her sins (the specific sins she mentioned were hitting and pushing Macy Jane), and that He is the only way to Heaven. She told us that if she died without Him in her heart, she would go to “fail” – which I thought was a pretty cute and fitting name for hell – but we did teach her the correct word. When we finished our conversation, Allen and I told her that she understood everything she needed to know and then asked if she’d like to ask Jesus into her heart.


She nonchalantly replied, “No thanks” and went on her happy way.


On our way to church that morning, from the back seat, we heard Clara say, “Mama, Daddy… I’m ready to ask Jesus into my heart now.” So, in the van, on the road, we all prayed together.


What a precious, sweet moment for this Mama’s heart.



On Sunday, March 18th, Allen had the privilege of baptizing Clara in our Sunday evening service.




I’m blessed to have the opportunity to disciple my sweet girl and watch as Jesus molds and transforms her more and more into His image.  I’m excited to see what He has in store for her.

BLESSINGS FROM BROKENNESS

I’ve been reflecting on what God has done in my life over the last two years, and I don’t want to keep His goodness to myself, so I’d like to share some of our story.  (I apologize in advance for the lack of pictures and my wordiness!)

 

The hard part is figuring out where to begin…

 

By nature, I’m a fairly independent, self-motivated, self-reliant person.  What I didn’t realize until recently was how much my self-reliance stunk of pride.  I’ve always been a go-getter.  If there was something that needed to be done, I did it.  If there was something that needed to be fixed, I fixed it.  (I sometimes even fixed things that didn’t need to be fixed.)  If there was a problem, I could analyze it and conjure up a (usually) practical solution.

 

Now, don’t get me wrong, it’s definitely good to be a hard worker, but it’s also good to know when to leave things alone and to trust God.  I didn’t have that balance down. Up until the beginning of our marriage, I had never had to trust God with anything big. Everything in life had been pretty well managed by me. Then, God began doing something beautiful.  He began taking my false pretense of control away.  He began showing me that I couldn’t figure out everything on my own; that I couldn’t direct my own life. He did it by taking things away from me.

 

At the beginning of our marriage we were happy DINKs (Double Income, No Kids).  It’s funny to look back at that time now (you know, hind-sight is 20/20).  At the time, I had a tendency to be somewhat tight-fisted with our money.  I knew we were comfortable financially, but never saw our situation as abundant.  I was cautious.  I planned.  I budgeted.  I was “in control”.

 

And then we got pregnant, and when Clara was born, I stayed home with her.  Allen and I both always knew that was what we wanted, so when the time came, it was an easy decision for us. And our income was cut in half.  And there were three of us now instead of just two. So, I became even more tight-fisted, even more cautious, even more “in control”.

 

And then, when Clara was four months old (yes, seriously, four months… not a typo) I was pregnant again (surprise!).  And the economy started turning down.  Macy Jane was born and out of necessity Allen started his own business.  Now, in case you don’t know experientially, starting your own business is hard work… and the first years don’t typically pay well.  We lived day-to-day.  Our needs were always met, but things were t-i-g-h-t.  For awhile I was pretty stressed, always worrying about future needs, but in the midst of it, I began to seek God more and heard Him question my heart, “Brooke, do you have food to eat today?  Do you have clothes to wear and a roof over your head today? I know that you don’t have what you think you need for tomorrow, but tomorrow is not here yet. I am taking care of you today, and I’m already in your tomorrow.  I’ll take care of you there too. Rest in Me.”  And so, I began to release the control that I thought I had.  The burden was lifted from my shoulders.

 

Because Allen worked for himself, he didn’t have a consistent paycheck, so we didn’t know what our financial status looked like until the end of the year when he did his taxes… and that, I’m sure is a blessing.  At the end of the year, we discovered that with a family of four, we lived on half of what we had lived on as a family of three, and one-fourth what we had lived on as happy DINKs.  And, unbelievably, I would describe that year and the year that followed as the two best years of our marriage (to date).

 

Had we known what to expect at the beginning of that year, I know I would have panicked, refused to live that way, and “fixed it”… and as a result, I would have missed out on all that God taught me through the experience.  I’m thankful that we didn’t have an overall picture of our salary for the year until the year was over and we had already survived it!  And truly, it’s amazing to reflect on those two years, knowing what we lived on, and knowing how we lived.  It just doesn’t add up.  We should have been p.o.o.r.  Seriously.  And though I was constantly aware of how tight our budget was, I never felt poor or deprived of any good thing.  Mathematically, the numbers simply don’t compute.  But, there’s no equation that factors in the goodness of God and His provision for His people.  God showed me His power and deepened my faith and trust in Him through this experience.

 

Throughout the same two years, my health very gradually decreased, and my weight very gradually increased.  At a time when I desperately wanted to find a creative way to help our family financially, I no longer had the clearness of mind to plan or the energy to execute any grandiose ideas that I came up with.

 

And then, sweet Clara, got sick, and we simply couldn’t figure out what was wrong with her.  She got terrible welts all over her body that would unexplainably appear, disappear, and re-appear in different locations.  Her stomach hurt all the time.  She didn’t want to be hugged or tickled – ever – because even the lightest touch hurt her belly.  She didn’t seem like the same girl at all.  Our pediatrician said it was just hives caused by a bug bite and that benadryl would fix it.  WRONG.  We didn’t have answers or the resources to find the answers.  We felt helpless.  And it turns out that when we’re at the point that we realize we’re helpless, that’s the very best place to be. Helplessness, or brokenness, forces us to focus on and depend on God like nothing else.  It humbles us, and that’s what I needed in my life.

 

Those two years are over.  We have “turned a corner”.  Allen was offered his dream job, so he no longer works for himself… and it turns out that he likes his new boss better than his old one (I couldn’t resist!).  Clara received expensive medical treatment from some amazing doctors who very quickly discovered what was wrong and effectively treated her.  I have just begun (even more expensive) treatment at the same facility, and have already been diagnosed with Hashimoto’s (a form of hypothyroidism), which explains all of my symptoms, and my health has already begun to improve.  And God has provided for all of our needs each step of the way, including for our medical expenses.

 

At this point, I should feel intense relief because our circumstances are improving.  And I do.  But I also feel some uneasiness.  When things were hard, it was obvious that I had no control, and I had to depend on God like never before.  But now, we’re slipping back into comfortable living.  Our needs are met for today and tomorrow and we’re healthy (or getting there).  Will I forget what God has taught me?  Will I slip back into self-dependence and pride?  I pray not. Now, I can truly say that I would rather live in poverty for the Lord than live in excess for myself.

 

Here’s what I learned during those two lean years that I don’t want to forget…

  • to thank God for His provision today and to trust Him for His provision tomorrow.
  • to seek God and wait patiently on Him.
  • to be joyfully content in want.
  • even at our poorest, we are still richer than the majority of the world.
  • to let go.
  • in a stuff-driven world, to appreciate, and strive for, simplicity.
  • to give sacrificially.
  • I learned that God detests pride, even in the form of my self-reliance, and that when I am unwilling to humble myself, He will humble me because He loves me too much to allow me to continue living relying only on myself, apart from Him.
  • I began to truly understand that He is my strength and my happiness and I will not find those things anywhere else.
  • to get my priorities straight and live according to them.
I hope, whatever God’s plans are for our future, that I never forget the work He’s done in my past.

APPLE OF MY EYE

I just finished studying how we are created in God’s image and are reflections of him when Macy Jane (2yrs) woke up and stumbled into the living room to find me.  She climbed up in my lap and we gently hugged on each other for few minutes before I leaned her back in my arms so that I could look into her face as I told her how much I loved her.  As she was leaning back, she pointed directly to my pupil, in awe, and said, “Macy Jane!”.  In the darkness of the early morning, with the soft glow of light from the table lamp next to us, I realized that as we were focusing on one another she was able to clearly see her reflection in the apple of my eye, and I in hers.

 

eye

 

The meaning of the idiom “apple of my eye” is someone that you cherish above all others, someone on whom the eye gazes with pleasure.  The Hebrew word for this idiom is literally translated “little man of the eye”, referring to the reflection of someone seen in the pupil.  This phrase is used in two ways in the word of God: first to portray the Lord’s careful observance of His people, and second to remind God’s people of how they are to live.

For the Lord’s portion is his people, Jacob his allotted inheritance.  In a desert land he found him, in a barren and howling waste.  He shielded him as the apple of his eye. (Deuteronomy 32: 9-10)

My son, keep my words and store up my commands within you.  Keep my commands and you will live; guard my teachings as the apple of your eye.  Bind them on your fingers, write them on the tablet of your heart. (Proverbs 7: 1-3)

 

Not only does God lovingly, constantly gaze on me, but He also protects me as you would carefully, diligently shield your eyes if anything were to threaten them.  His eyes are on me and His ears are attentive to my prayers (1 Peter 3:12).  In this incredible relationship, He commands that I live according to His ways.  He does this for my own good.  His commands for my life are yet another way that He lovingly protects me.

 

He tells me to guard His teachings as the apple of my eye.  If His teachings are the apple of my eye, the reflection that is on the surface of my eye, then it follows that I must be constantly gazing at His word, reading it, studying it, examining it.  His word and His ways should be precious to me.  As I use my eyes to view the world around me, and the reflection of His teachings is “engraved” on my eyes, they become the filter through which I view everything.  I should be familiar with them, view the world through them, live according to them, and pass them on as I would a most treasured possession.

 

It is so beautiful that as I focus on Him, without being distracted by the things of this world, He is more clearly reflected in me.

1. Stop living according to the ways of the world: Turn my eyes away from worthless things; preserve my life according to Your word. (Psalm 119: 37)

2. Focus on the Lord: Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:2)

3. Wisdom comes from the Lord: If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. (James 1:5)

4. Shine in the darkness: Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever. (Daniel 12: 3)

28 YEARS

Today is my 28th birthday! Yesterday afternoon, we dropped our girls off with my parents, so we have a kid-free weekend! Want to know what our celebratory plans are? So far, last night and today, Allen and I have spent 13 hours in training seminars! Probably not the typical way to celebrate a birthday, but for me, it has been perfect. Three years ago, our governor’s wife spoke about foster care at a Sunday evening service at our church. She challenged the faith community to rise up and care for the broken hearted and forgotten children who are in desperate need of safe, loving, temporary families to care for them. It pierced my heart and I wanted to help, but we quickly had our hands full with two babies of our own who are only 13-1/2 months apart in age. So, for the last three years, we’ve been in survival mode! There’s no way we could have taken on another child. But now, finally, life is calming down, our girls are becoming more independent, and we still feel God calling us to this ministry, so we’re beginning the process of training and paperwork and home studies and background checks… and so many other unfamiliar things!

 

This has been a very meaningful birthday. It got me thinking about how I want to spend the next year, and I’ve come up with some goals. In the next twelve months, I hope to…

Pour myself into something eternally valuable.

Through FaithBridge Foster Care Agency, we hope to become involved in the foster care ministry of our church, first as a respite family, and possibly eventually as a foster family. Our eyes and hearts have been opened to the hurting children around us, and we are beyond excited to be part of an amazing ministry that nurtures, protects, and mentors these young lives while also sharing the love of Jesus with them and seeing ultimate healing occur. Another aspect of FaithBridge that we love is that they have programs in place for the mentoring of the birth families, so that they will grow and change and heal and hopefully be reunited with their children once they’re prepared to provide a safe home and family for them.

Learn to love others more selflessly.

God has been showing me more and more that life is not all about me (really???). Life will not turn out according to my expectations and plans (and that, by the way, is a good thing!). Life is about much more than my comfort (I can hear my parents saying AMEN) and selfish desires. Often, these are painful lessons to learn, but I’m so thankful for them. My life would be shallow if everything went my way and everyone revolved around me. It’s hard for me to humble myself and put the needs of other people first, but it’s such an amazing lesson to learn. It requires that I depend on the Lord so that He can peel my sinful, natural nature away and replace it with His own nature. I’m thankful that He loves me enough to always continue working in me.

Develop deep, long-term relationships.

I loved growing up as an “army brat”. My transient childhood combined with the stability, love, and strength of my wonderful family made me who I am today and developed a lot of traits in me that might otherwise not have been developed, but this year I’ve realized for the first time a few ways that it also handicapped me. I’m an “escape artist”. I never really had to stick out any relationship (other than with my immediate family) beyond the length of three years. So, if someone did something I didn’t like, or something didn’t go my way, I’d think, No problem; we’re moving soon anyway.  I don’t have to deal with this.  I escaped rather than learning to deal honestly and graciously with hard situations. And now, for the first time in my life, I do have to learn to deal with imperfections in people and circumstances, because I don’t plan on moving anytime soon. This is home. God is growing me.

 

I also don’t want to be content with superficial relationships. I want to get into the nitty-gritty reality of people’s lives, because that’s where true depth grows from. I want to be real with people in hopes that in turn, they’ll open up to me as well. I don’t want to put forward a “perfect appearance” when it’s not accurate. I’m ok with sharing that sometimes I’m at my wits end with the kids, the dishes aren’t always done, and no, the tops of my ceiling fan blades are not clean! Perfect people are intimidating, so it’s hard to develop true, deep friendships with them. I’d much rather be imperfect, real, and open, and pray that God will use my transparency to build relationships and encourage others. God did not create us for an isolated existence. He made us to need Him and each other. We were designed to live life together.

Take time, regularly and consistently, to nurture my marriage.

Now that our girls are 2 and 3 years old, we’re finally out of survival mode! Clara and Macy Jane are becoming more and more independent each day. Granted, we’re a long way off from leaving them at home alone while we go to the movies, but they can put on their own shoes, we’re almost out of diapers, and they love to spend the occasional weekend with family. So, it’s finally a great time to rekindle the romance, to make time for weekend get-aways, to go on fun dates, even to do something as simple as having a romantic dinner on the living room floor in front of the fireplace after we’ve put the girls to bed. I’m very excited about this stage of life.

Develop a more intimate prayer life.

Probably, like many American Christians, there’s not much depth to my prayer life right now. It’s so sad to admit that, but I’m being real, right? I do realize the importance and power of prayer, and desire to develop a more intimate time spent consistently in prayer. I’m learning to pray specifically, to pray scripture, and to listen!!! I’ve just created a new prayer journal for myself that I plan on sharing soon, so more about this later.

Worship as a family.

I am convicted that family worship is very important, but I’m still learning how this will look practically in our lives.

 

ON SUNDAYS :: I recently read Treasuring God in Our Traditions by Noel Piper, and one immediate change that we’ve already made is that we have begun transitioning Clara, our just-turned-3-year-old from nursery into worship with us on Sunday nights. In the coming year, I hope to gradually bring Clara to worship with us more and more regularly, with the goal that she will eventually only attend nursery during our Sunday School hour. Noel Piper struck a chord with me when she wrote, “Parents have the responsibility to teach their children by their own example the meaning and value of worship. Therefore, parents should want their children with them in worship so that the children can catch the spirit and form of their parents’ worship. Children should see how Mom and Dad bow their heads in earnest prayer during the prelude and other non-directed times. They should see how Mom and Dad sing praise to God with joy in their faces and how they listen hungrily to His Word. They should catch the spirit of their parents meeting the living God. Something seems wrong when parents want to take their children in the formative years and put them with other children and other adults to form their attitude and behavior in worship. Parents should be jealous to model for their children the tremendous value they put on reverence in the presence of Almighty God.”

 

EVERYDAY :: The girls and I currently have a morning devotional time, albeit not as regularly as I’d like it to be. We begin by praying that the Lord would open our ears to hear His Word, open our eyes to His truth, and put within us a deep love for Him. Then we read from the Jesus Storybook Bible, which we all love, and afterward we finish by praying specifically that the truth we heard would be applied to our lives. It’s a wonderful start. This year, I’d like to commit to studying together every morning, rather than sporadically as we’ve been doing. I want this to become such a natural part of our morning routine that we all feel thrown off-balance if we miss this time together in God’s Word because I want this to become a life-long discipline for them. I also want to do more as an entire family. Allen doesn’t join us for our morning devotionals because by the time we start, he’s already begun his work day. So, I’d like to begin having regular worship time together as an entire family in the evenings. It’s so important that the girls see Allen worshipping God too. It might not be every day, but definitely often. At this point, I don’t know exactly what this will look like for us. I want to read some books that might give me good ideas, like

I also want to begin teaching our girls the Baptist Catechism because I believe it’s important for them to know what we believe, even before they understand it all. It will build a solid spiritual foundation beneath them. I think this will most likely become part of our family worship time.

Institute meaningful, Christ-centered holiday traditions.

Many of my ideas involving new family traditions have also come from Noel Piper’s Treasuring God in Our Traditions. I simply want everything that we do to be something of spiritual significance.

 

THANKSGIVING :: What a great time to worship God, by thanking Him for all that we have and worshipping Him because of all that He is! I hope to shift our focus from food (and elastic-waist pants!) and football to the goodness of the Lord and the historical faith of our forefathers. Before Thanksgiving rolls around, I want to read Thanksgiving: A Time To Remember by Barbara Rainey.

 

CHRISTMAS :: Noel Piper says, “There is no other time in our year set aside to think so happily and thoroughly about who Jesus is and what He’s done. That makes Advent and Christmas a perfect time to put in front of us everything we can think of that reminds us of Him.” I believe that even the classic Christmas traditions like decorating a tree, baking, and giving gifts can be Christ-centered practices if we are intentional about it. But there are also other specific traditions that I hope to begin this year, like decorating a Jesse tree (I’ve already begun building ours so that I will be ready!), advent candles, and a shepherd’s pouch. Before the season gets here, I’d also like to read Stories Behind the Great Traditions of Christmas and Stories Behind the Best Loved Songs of Christmas, both by Ace Collins and The ADVENTure of Christmas, helping children find Jesus in our holiday traditions by Lisa Whelchel to gather more great ideas!

 

EASTER :: Beginning with Easter 2012, I’d like to observe Lent with our girls. Piper says, “Traditionally Lent is a season of sober, realistic reflection on our own lives and our need for a Savior. It is a time for turning away from anything that has kept us from God and for turning or returning to Him. It is a time to pray that God will renew our love for Him and our dependence on Him.” I believe that beginning this practice, even at such young ages will make the holiday rich in meaning for all of us. I also want to begin the traditions of using lenten candles and a resurrection tree.

 

I can’t wait to see what this year holds. I pray that the Lord will define our family this year and build a foundation of traditions, habits, godly attitudes and behaviors that He will build on for the rest of our lives!

BEDTIME PRAYERS

Bedtime is almost always one of the most precious moments of our day.  I mean, seriously, just look at those little heads bowed and hands folded.  They’re learning to be still and quiet… to show respect to God while we talk to Him.  That’s pretty priceless.

Oops… I’m caught.  I guess taking pictures is somewhat distracting to a 1.5 year old who is praying.

All fun and games until Daddy notices.  Seriously?  You gonna do that now?  While we’re trying to get them to bed?

BE STILL

I have a tendency to rush in, full speed ahead. I’m a problem-solver and a hard worker. I like to help when I see a need. … All of these traits make me into a very busy “Martha”. Most Christian circles stress three basic concepts : give, serve, go. Believe me, I’ve got it down. I’ve been giving, serving, and going all my life. I know how to be a Martha. It’s natural to me. What’s not natural or easy is learning to be a Mary, and I believe that is what God wants to teach me right now. I’ve been feeling this check in my spirit that says SLOW DOWN! I feel like God is telling me personally to

Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth. – Psalm 46:10 {the Holy Bible}

I don’t want to rush through life, jumping from one event to the next. Life is about more than that. When I’m busy, the most important things tend to suffer. What are the most important things? Relationships. Simple, right? In Matthew, when the Pharisees asked Jesus which commandment in the Law was the greatest, He answered,

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself. – Matthew 22: 37-38

Ironically (but not coincidentally) this is the Bible verse that I am helping my two year old, Clara, memorize, so it’s a constant reminder of this new, simpler direction of my life. Also not coincidental is the devotional that I just read. Here’s what it says (read it as if it were a letter from God):

Let the dew of my Presence refresh your mind and heart. So many, many things things vie for your attention in this complex world of instant communication. The world has changed enormously since I first gave the command to be still and know that I am God. However, this timeless truth is essential for the well-being of your soul. As dew refreshes grass and flowers during the stillness of the night, so My Presence revitalizes you as you sit quietly with Me.
A refreshed, revitalized mind is able to sort out what is important and what is not. In its natural condition, your mind easily gets stuck on trivial matters. Like the spinning wheels of a car trapped in mud, the cogs of your brain spin impotently when you focus on a trivial thing. As soon as you start communicating with me about the matter, your thoughts gain traction and you can move on to more important things. Communicate with Me continually, and I will put My thoughts into your mind.

“She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what He said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to Him and asked, “Lord, don’t You care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”  “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” -Luke 10: 39-42 {the Holy Bible}

“For God is not a God of disorder but of peace.” – 1 Corinthians 14:33 {the Holy Bible}

from Jesus Calling :: Enjoying Peace in His Presence by Sarah Young

In this busy, busy world, I want to exercise the same wisdom Mary displayed when she chose to sit at the feet of her Lord rather than run around accomplishing tasks. I want to choose not what is good, but what is best.

MEMORIZING SCRIPTURE WITH A 2 YR OLD

Clara and Macy Jane love, love, love Sesame Street and Veggie Tales. I think that Elmo, Bob, and Larry make their worlds go-round! We are very careful to limit the amount of time the tv is on during the day. Typically, the girls are allowed to watch one show a day and other than that, the tv is off and we live as if it doesn’t exist. What amazes me is their memory capacity! At two years of age, and only watching 30 minutes to one hour of television each day, Yogi can quote entire episodes of Sesame Street and Veggie Tales. It’s unbelievable! … and it got me thinking…

I recently shared what I desire to teach my daughters in this post. I want Clara and Macy Jane to be obedient, loving respectful, patient, gracious, honest, joyful, kind, and generous (to name a few), but how am I going to teach them? I am currently teaching them what I desire. When they obey, they know that they are pleasing me. What is infinitely more important than obeying and pleasing me is obeying and pleasing God, and it’s never too early to begin teaching these concepts.

If they obey me, I’d rather them do it out of a desire to please God (which also pleases me) than simply out of a desire to make Mama happy. I want them to know what God says and what is important to Him, so, Clara and I are going to begin memorizing His Word. I’ve chosen verses on topics that are important in the life of a two year old, like obedience, sharing, kindness… but the verse that we are going to begin with is:

… You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  - Matthew 22: 37 {the Holy Bible}

God Himself says that this is “the first and greatest commandment” so I think it’s a good place to start. I realize that Clara won’t grasp the full meaning of this verse as she memorizes it, but she will be able to understand it at it’s most elementary level, and as she grows, God will reveal new depths of the meaning of this verse to her. … And then we’ll move on to a verse about obedience, because right now we’re going through the twos… and obedience comes up in our conversations a LOT!

TEACHING MY CHILDREN

Our girls are learning and growing and I am such a proud mama. My heart is just bubbling over with love. Our sweet babies are (too) quickly becoming sweet little girls. They are loving, kind, generous, respectful… Here are some snapshots that make me smile:

:: In the thick of potty training, Clara had an accident on the kitchen floor. While on my hands and knees, cleaning up the mess, I heard a precious little voice behind me say, “Thank you for cleaning up my pee-pee Mama.” and then she softly patted my back.
:: Clara looked up from her toys and saw that her sister, Macy Jane, was just sitting watching her play, so she voluntarily picked up one of the toys she was playing with and gave it to Macy Jane. I said, “Thank you for sharing, Clara!” and she responded, “That makes God happy!”
:: Macy Jane picks up her baby dolls to hug and kiss them and pat them on the back. At only one year old she is already so loving and tender.
:: In the middle of playing, Clara looked up at me and said, “I wuv you SOOO much Mama!”
:: Allen and I put the girls to bed together every night. He usually ends up laying on the bedroom floor while I read the girls their Bible study. Macy Jane toddled over to him, leaned over and kissed his face. When she stood up and saw that he was pleased with her, she proceeded to sprinkle kisses all over his face!
:: While swimming, Clara told me that she was scared. (She’s cautious in the water.) I said, “Don’t be afraid.” and she replied, “God will take care of us.”

Allen and I are by no means model parents who have it all figured out. We’re still learning and growing ourselves, but moments like these provide encouragement that we are, by the grace of God, doing some things right. We try to model the qualities that we value and desire to see in our girls, like love, affection, respectfulness, patience, grace, truthfulness, joy, trust, kindness, edification, and generosity. We understand that every moment is a teachable moment. These little ears hear every word we say and they absolutely soak up every action and behavior we model for them.

You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. {Deuteronomy 6: 5-7, the Holy Bible}

I don’t just want to raise good little girls. I want to raise girls who will become godly women who will love the LORD with all their hearts, souls, minds, and strength. But such a lofty goal requires intentionality. They won’t just happen to love God because I want them to. They will observe whether or not I love Him, and they will learn from me. If I love Him, my heart will be fixed on Him and it will be apparent in my words and actions. If I love Him, we won’t just talk about the birds, trees, and sunshine when we’re outside playing. We’ll talk about our amazing Creator who made such wonderful things for us because He loves us. If I truly love Him, I won’t just tell Clara not to be afraid when she starts to become anxious. Instead, I will teach her that we have no reason to fear because our God is a good God who loves us passionately, and He will take care of us; we can rest in Him. If I love the LORD, they will observe that I want to spend time with Him and they will learn that the Bible and prayer and fellowship are of great value.

Like I said earlier, I have by no means ‘arrived’. I’m just a woman trying to keep her priorities straight. If God is my top priority, as He should be, then He will overflow into every other area of my life as He transforms me into a godly wife, mama and friend.

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer. {Psalm 19: 14, The Holy Bible}

LOVE ANTICIPATES NEW JOYS

Two Sundays ago, my pastor preached on love! It was such a great sermon, and one little statement jumped out at me. “Love anticipates new joys.” Isn’t that so true? Think about new love. It’s always looking forward to the next meeting, the next date, the next kiss… It’s so fresh, alive, and exciting! Here’s the thing… that shouldn’t end when the newness wears off. Love anticipates new joys. Not just new love. All love. This was such a great reminder to me. With two little, little ones, I can get so focused on the daily needs I am responsible for meeting, that I forget to anticipate anything! I love the idea of looking forward to Allen coming home, the next kiss, stealing away for a special date night, growing old together. I love my husband!

So, as I said earlier, I was inspired. Here’s what I created…

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on it’s own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.  - 1 Corinthians 13: 4-8a {the Holy Bible}

This sweet pillow was a gift to my Pastor and his wife because I love them so much and am so thankful for their godly examples.

- Brooke