Being Confident of This

Grace for the work-in-progress woman

Fear No Evil, Just Write

It’s Five Minute Friday again!

Write.

Writing has been necessary for me from a very young age.  In the early years I wrote for creativity’s sake.  I reveled in developing stories for my pleasure alone, not worrying what anyone else thought.  Even as I grew older, school writing assignments brought a smile to my face while the rest of my classmates groaned.

As a teen, my writing became more introverted – the good old diary was my space of choice.  I could say whatever I wanted to whomever I wanted with no fear of rejection or repercussion.

But at some point in time, we had to start sharing our writing with “peers” in class and suddenly, writing became a little more scary.  I wrote less and less until almost not at all. Although hidden, the urge remained and burst forth in occasional poems, encouraging notes, or impassioned letters to the editor.  I might take it out for a bit, dust it off, and admire the desire to write, yet put it back in the box neatly where it was safe. Safe.

Because the thing about writing is that it’s sort of a portal to the soul, whether you want it to be or not.  A lie detector test.  A forced honesty of character and feeling.

And sometimes I don’t want to be that open with the world.  I fear my words might not be good enough, my ideas not great enough, that I’M not enough.  I fear my failings as a work-in-progress woman.  I fear others might see the real me.  Because as our friend, Lisa-Jo Baker said, control is an illusion, and writing out truths here in this small space breaks that illusion apart bit by bit.

There’s fear in the writing, and sometimes pain in the writing, but also joy, and wonder, and beauty, and peace, and understanding.  Isn’t that the way it is with all things in life? 🙂

I wonder if the psalmist David faced such fears, or if he just wrote because he had to, because it was in him.  Imagine if he had never penned his agonies or his alternating ecstasies.  Imagine if he thought no one would to ever read the words or sing the melodies, so why create them in the first place?  Or worse yet, some might read them and scoff, so why bother?

Fear, Brave, Words, Writing, Blogging

We must write because our Father God has called us to be truth-tellers and truth-spreaders.  We must write because it. is. in us!  We must write because the writing forces honesty, and how can we grow, how can we progress, sisters, if we languish in the illusion that is not?

So, we put on a brave face and just write.

We write happy words and sad words.

We write in victory and also in defeat.

We write hardships and pain and laughter and delight.

We write comfort.

We write, “Me, too.”

We write real.

And we trust Him to do the rest.

Jen 🙂

I’m joining the Five Minute Friday crew again this week over at Lisa-Jo Baker’s place.  We free-write for 5 Minutes on a one-word prompt.  It’s scary; it’s fun; it’s crazy. And so often, it’s oh-so-beautiful.  Join us if you like!

Also sharing with: Wholehearted Home

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More Than a Visit

It’s Five Minute Friday, and the word for this week is “visit.”

Visit.

He came into the world squalling, screeching more like it – his cry so sharp and loud that it was unmistakable, our long-awaited, second-born boy.  When we brought him home, we quickly learned he would be nothing like his even-tempered older brother.  This one, this tiny red-faced infant, would make his demands known.  He would be a challenge to our previous parenting prowess.

Visit, New Baby, Motherhood, baby won't sleep

Sleepless nights turned into weeks, and eventually months, the worn carpet in the hallway testifying to the demands of our newest family member.  We loved him dearly, but sometimes we just wished for peace and quiet or that he would nap longer than thirty minutes.  He never slept “like a newborn” and even today, no matter how late he stays up, he wakes at the crack of dawn.  His Grandad affectionately nick-named him “The Raptor.”

At that time, Daddy had a second-shift job and little time off. He worked hard and long.  And we did, too, trying to just survive that long and lonely winter.

Aside from prayer, it was Grandma’s visits that got us through.  She’d often call at the end of her workday just to check in because she had a squalling, colicky baby once, too – me.  I was known as the baby who cried. all. the. time.  According to my aunt, she once came to visit us only to find my mother sitting on the front stoop crying while I lay peacefully in her arms, worn out by hours of fussing. My mother knew the frustration of the long nights and even longer days of mothering a cranky baby.

“How’s it going today, Jen?”

On the good days I answered, “Fine.” And then I told a story of something new one of the boys learned or something funny the oldest said that day.

On the bad days my silence betrayed me, a silence born of threatening tears.

Knowingly, she asked, “Want me to bring McDonald’s for supper?”

Gratefully I gulped out, “Yeah, that would be good.”

fussy baby, motherhood, colic

And so we waited, the five-year-old boy, and the fussy baby, and me.  We waited for the visit, for the promise of another set of hands and the comfort food they brought.  Her presence itself calmed me as the fear that so often comes with loneliness slowly ebbed away.  When it was time for her to leave, we wore smiles once again, determined to face the challenges of the evening with faith and hope for better days ahead.

brothers, cranky infant, baby

it gets better, new mommy, tired mommy, fussy baby

She always called when I needed it most, it seemed.  She often still does today.  I have no way to explain her uncanny awareness except to say that she’s close with the Lord, and I guess He must let her know when we’re in need. 🙂

I’ll never forget those supper visits, nor the time she gave willingly to be the hands and feet of Jesus to my weary-mama soul.

It was just a visit,

but to me it meant the world.

Matthew 25

34 “Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35 For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; 36 naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me;I was in prison, and you came to Me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? 38 And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? 39 When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ 40 The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’

John 13

34 Anew commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35 By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Jen 🙂

It’s Five Minute Friday, so I’m linking up with the brave and creative crew over at Lisa Jo Baker’s place.  She gives us a one-word prompt and we freewrite for five minutes (-ish). 🙂   No planning, no editing, no stressing.  Come on over and join us if you like!

You may also find me at any of these lovely places.

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Confessions of a Holiday Hypocrite

Rewind a month and a half to the beginning of December last year.  The hope and joy of  the Christmas season lay spread before me as thoughts  of maximizing holiday fun and education swirled through my head.  On this blog, I shared with you our plans for the Christmas Adventure Box and other Christmas traditions.   I envisioned handmade gifts and peaceful evenings at home near the brightly lit tree. I had the best laid plans…and like many best laid plans, they went awry.

Yes, I fell prey to Pinterest Syndrome, quite deadly to a mama’s often already shaky confidence.  Pinterest Syndrome begins with a few deceptively simple ideas, really good ideas mind you, but it grows into a nasty and surprisingly strong anticipation of all things good and no things ordinary or, heaven forbid, even bad.  Expectations soar to incredible heights, destined to plummet at the first sign of potential failure.  And here I thought I was creating a “simple” Christmas this year… (I’ll forgive you if you snicker a little at this point.)

In my defense, the holiday season was progressing suspiciously well for our family.  Thanksgiving came and went with no major incidents, unlike years past.  Everyone was healthy for the moment, a rare winter treat in a family of six.  My husband and I even managed to put up the Christmas tree and lights with no arguing and minimal frustration, despite the circus of craziness that four enthusiastic children create when forced to wait.  We felt like champions!  We had conquered a pattern of holiday frustration for the first time in years!

Then somewhere along the line, life began to get very real.  Our youngest son, four years old,  decided the holiday season would be a good time to test our parental authority, especially at family gatherings and in other publicly humiliating places including the church Christmas play dress rehearsal.  Not exactly the peace I had anticipated.  Our budget grew tight.  I grew stressed about all of the things on my list.

On top of all of that, we became suddenly busy with all of the typical holiday concerts and gatherings.  So much for those quiet evenings at home listening to my favorite Christmas cds. Instead we hustled back and forth from our children’s school to the church, to  the store, to family gatherings, and so forth.  And it was all fun and good and mostly necessary, but it does make one a little weary. 🙂

bare tree, winter, disappointment

For the most part, I was able to maintain the joy and hope of the season, after all there was a lot of sweet memory-making sprinkled into the mix, but I held onto a dark secret.

After all of the praise and promise of the Christmas Adventure Box that I shared with you, we didn’t even manage to do it this year!  At all.  Nothing.  Nada. Zip.  It just didn’t happen.  In fact, the only traditions we managed to hang onto after the decorating of our tree were the reading of the Christmas story from the Bible and our Christmas Eve supper.  I didn’t even attempt to mail out Christmas cards and I had no pictures available for family members like I usually would.  I felt like a failure.

Add to that  a little family drama and my carefully planned and highly anticipated season of hope and joy crumbled before me.  The disappointment that followed was slightly bitter and came with a side dose of  viral illness, as well as over a foot of snow, that kept me and most of our children cooped up at home for weeks…. literally.

I could have blogged about it, but to be honest, I felt unworthy.  I struggled with the disappointment and the frustrations of life that were getting in my way.  And so like most hypocrites, especially those who succumb to Pinterest Syndrome on occasion, I hid from you all.   I quit writing.  I quit taking pictures.  I made excuses and planned to resume in the new year.  And when I was finally struck with the viral plague that entered our home, I wallowed in my misery.  For a few days, God and I were barely on speaking terms. 🙂

Honestly, I’m not sad that I took time away from writing here to spend on such a worthy cause as family time.  But I am disappointed in my hypocritical self, not so much for failing to get the Christmas Adventure Box done – after all, it’s not the most important thing in life and sometimes as mamas we have to pare life down to just the nitty gritty in order to survive with sanity (and with a family who still loves us and wants to be around us…). 🙂

My disappointment is more in my hiding away in blogger shame and silence.

The thing is that I believe in Grace, I really do.  I’m very aware that without Grace, I’d be a hopeless mess, truly I would.  With Grace I still have nothing to boast about except for a God who gives second chances, and third, and fourth, to infinity and eternity, a God who loves me deeply for who I am, not for who the world thinks I should be, a God who through the blood of Jesus, sees the best version of me even when I’m acting my worst.  But like many mamas, I have a hard time extending that grace to my own self.

So, I confess.  I’ve been a Holiday Hypocrite.  In fact, I could be called an everyday hypocrite, too,  because I’m far from perfect, so far.  I still lose my temper. I still forget important events. I still argue with my husband and become impatient with my children.  I’m still selfish with my time.  I’m still prideful.  I still say “no” to the Holy Spirit in so many ways.  I’m still learning who God made me to be.

But that’s the beauty of our journey, sisters, that we get chance after chance to do things differently.  Those failures we feel so deeply are not the end of the story.  We are given infinite opportunities to let our Father God change who we are, from the inside out.  And that good work He began in saving us from a life of sin, He promises to continue to the very end.  We can have complete confidence in that!

red berries, winter, hope

So, keep up the good work, my sisters in Christ, even if your holidays or your New Years failed to live up to your expectations. Fight the good fight.  Run the good race.  And when you fail or fall, let Him pick your hypocritical self  back up again and hold you for a while, heal your wounds if needed, and send you off on your way , but not alone for He runs alongside you.

Don’t let those fiery darts from the Enemy bog you down, not now, but put on the full armor of God so you will stand firm in your faith. No more hiding away, no more pretending to be something we are not, no more fearing what the world thinks.  Just being okay with the fact that we are sinners, helpless and hopeless sinners, but He loves us anyways.  And His work is not yet complete.

“Not to us, Lord, not to us
but to your name be the glory,
because of your love and faithfulness.”

Psalm 115:1

Jen 🙂

You may also find me linking up with any of these lovely blogs.

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Cultivating Christmas: Reflect

Every morning when it’s time to “do hair” we stand in front of my mirrored dresser.  “Look in the mirror,” I tell her in an attempt to keep her still as I comb through the tangles that seem to multiply in her near-black hair overnight.  She chatters and squirms as I comb, my daughter, my mini-me.daughter, reflect

She’s the only girl in our bunch of four, but that doesn’t hold her back.  She’s spunky enough to hold her own with her brothers, tough enough to throw an elbow once in a while, and brave enough to climb the same tall pines in the backyard.  When she comes in the house smiling with dirt on her pant knees and twigs in her long, straight locks, I think – That’s my girl!  Half tom-boy, half princess!

Unlike her twin brother, she’s fiercely independent and prefers playing on her own as much as she enjoys playing with her brothers.  She’s smart and inquisitive, loving learning simply for the sake of knowing.  And when her feelings get hurt, we can expect a good twenty minute pout.  She doesn’t cry often, but when she does, big alligator tears roll down her face from her large, hazel eyes, sometimes silently.

She appreciates order, and beautiful things, and chocolate, and clothes (yes, even at the age of four!), and babies, and animals, and singing, and books, and laughing, and so many more of the same things that I do.

Mother, Daugher, Reflection, Jesus

She’s a reflection of me, both physically and in personality.  My only daughter, my sweet yet spunky princess.

And having experienced the separation of living halfway around the world as a missionary kid, I cannot even imagine sending her a world away (or any of her brothers, for that matter), especially knowing she would suffer pain and temptation, rejection and persecution, and even death.

But that’s exactly what our Father God did so long ago.  He sent us his only Son, His pride and joy, His very reflection, stripped of godly position to become fully human, fully feeling, fully fragile.  He did all of this, knowing what would be required of His beloved Son.  All so that we might know true life and know it abundantly.

Jesus.

He reflects real Light, real Love, real Hope and real Peace.

Because He is Emmanuel, God with us.

So that we might know Him.

How can we comprehend such a love as this, sisters?  That the Almighty God of the Universe would care enough for undeserving sinners to sacrifice the joy of His only Son’s presence in order to gift it to us, so that we might know Him.

That’s the joy of Christmas!

Jen 🙂

I’m joining in with the Five Minute Friday crew this week, albeit a day late. 🙂  We write for five minutes on a one word prompt, no planning, no editing, no stressing.  Just words.  Join in here!

I may also be linking up with any of these lovely blogs.

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It Will Be Worth It All

When we see Jesus, encouragement, hope

Last week we took our four-year-old twins to a doctor’s appointment for a check-up.  Our daughter was excited, but fairly calm.  Our son, on the other hand, demonstrated a major case of ants-in-the-pants!  He combed over every inch of that examination room, up on the table, down on the floor, inspecting every nook and cranny.

By the time the physician’s assistant arrived, I was feeling quite flustered. Then, because it was our first appointment at this office, she began to ask a battery of questions that required actual thinking, which is really hard to do when you are also trying to keep your rambunctious boy from destroying the room!

It’s not the first time I’ve felt such frustration with my sweet son.  Homeschooling for pre-K gives birth to those same feelings of frustration and inadequacy because our son is a very easily distracted learner (typical for his age)!  Even throughout the day, when I’m trying to get his attention or correct his behavior, he pulls away from me, eager for the lesson to be over so that he can move on to better things.

twins fall, hope, faith

I know he’s just being a four-year-old, caught up in his own little world of fun and furious activity.  I just didn’t realize how like him I am, until recently.

I wrote several weeks ago about waiting on the Lord in the midst of seasons of trial and about finding that light at the end of the tunnel, the hope we can only find in Him and in His purposes.  But I must admit, sisters, that I’ve been so eager for the lesson to be over, to escape the trial and get on with what I want to do, that I’ve been an impatient learner.

I keep jumping up from the Father’s feet, scurrying away from this place of discomfort in an attempt to find my own way to peace and joy and rest, thinking that I’ve learned my lesson.  But He knows, He knows the hard work isn’t finished.  He knows the lessons I still need to learn, so He patiently calls to me. And when I don’t listen, He leads me back to this place of physical and emotional trial to resume the lesson because…it’s what is best for me, even if I can’t see it in this moment.

He does this for me because He’s my Heavenly Father, perfectly loving and perfectly knowledgeable. He loves me too much to let me continue down my own path when He knows there is a better way.  Just as I attempt to reason with and teach my active four-year-old son out of love for him, so my Heavenly Father yearns to teach me.

Of course, Satan would have me believe a host of lies about this place of trial:

It’s too painful.

It’s too difficult.

It’s too long.

It’s unfair.

I’m all alone.

But this week, the Lord gave me a few verses that perfectly fit my current circumstances:

2 Cor. 4:16-18

“So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded.

 You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God,

you will receive what he has promised.”  Hebrews 10:35-36

We throw away our confidence, my work-in-progress sisters, when we give ear to the Enemy’s lies.  We throw our confidence when we (and I’m so guilty) wallow in self-pity.  We throw away our confidence when we tell ourselves we can endure no longer.

We forget that we serve a loving Savior.  We forget that He promises to never leave nor forsake us. We forget that our Great High Priest understands and sympathizes with our every pain!  We forget that He has plans to prosper us and not to harm us.  We forget that our hope and strength can come from Him alone and instead convince ourselves that we must somehow manufacture them within us. 

We throw away our confidence and sometimes the weight is so heavy, so, so heavy that we even lose heart.

But the Father, in His goodness, gave me this verse as well:

 “Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying,

yet our inner man is being renewed day by day.

For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory

far beyond all comparison,

 while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen;

for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.”

2 Cor. 4:16-18

My physical body is really frustrating me  lately.  I’m dealing with a lengthy recovery (from the injury at Buttkill Falls), and lately I’ve had other medical issues as well.  And I know many, many others who suffer daily even more so than I.  But the lesson is hard right now, sisters, so hard that I’m tempted to throw away my confidence almost daily.

But we can’t lose heart or the lesson will not be learned! (And this is one I definitely don’t want to have to repeat!) 🙂  Our bodies may fail us; our children may fail us; our marriages may fail us; our finances may fail us; our churches may fail us; even our friends may fail us….but our inner selves can be renewed day by day if only we quit looking for escape.  We cannot pull away like impatient children who are too wrapped up in self to listen.  We must learn to wait for the things that are not seen, the rewards, the promises that we stand upon.  We must persevere!

Because even if the only thing we gain as reward from such trials is a closer, sweeter walk with Him, then it’s worth it, isn’t it?  Even if we must wait until eternity to receive the reward, it’s worth it, isn’t it?  He promises, the glory will be “far beyond all comparison.”

I want it, don’t you?

It will be worth it all when we see Jesus,

Life’s trials will seem so small when we see Christ;

One glimpse of His dear face all sorrow will erase,

So bravely run the race till we see Christ. 

Let’s run bravely, sisters, not losing heart, not throwing away our confidence, persevering to the very end because it will be worth it all

…when we see Jesus.

Jen 🙂

You may find me linking up at any of these lovely blogs.

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Truth, Opposite of Lie

“If you can’t say anything nice, then don’t say anything at all,” right?  Maybe not. For Five Minute Friday, Lisa Jo asked us to write about the word truth. Honestly,I don’t have any great new truths to share with you today, just an old truth that I need to hear over and over again.  It’s part of that work-in-progress me, I guess.

I like the words on this blog to be uplifting, but this week I’m not in an uplifting place.  Instead, I find myself in a let’s-be-honest, sometimes-life-stinks place.  I know you understand because sometimes you find yourself there, too.  And I’m learning to be okay with that.

So, here’s the truth, even though it might not be very nice.

Truth.

This is the week that never ends.

The one when my husband and I cannot seem to get along. 😉

The one when I feel so worn down by life that even simple, everyday chores like laundry and caring for children seem to carry such weight.

And I feel like such a whiner for even writing those words because I know, I know, I know the truth, the truth that so many people have it so much worse, and that I… I live a blessed life in many, many ways.

It’s just that this week has left me feeling so discouraged and lonely and needy, and it’s just not me!

It’s a lie, this feeling that I’m stuck, that life will always be difficult this way, that I can’t……

That’s the biggest truth and biggest lie all wrapped up in one, isn’t it?

I can’t.

The statement is true in a sense.  On my own, I can’t.  On my own, the strength is gone, the patience is gone, the desire to do right is gone.  On my own, I want to bury my head in the sand and stay there waiting for better tomorrows.

But “I can’t” is also a lie because I’m not on my own.  I’m in Christ.  And in Christ, I am more than a conqueror.  That’s right – more, sisters!  In Christ, I am already victorious.  In Christ, I am also fully loved, fully accepted, fully provided for, fully complete.

In Christ alone, my Hope is found.

In Christ Alone, hope, encouragement

Truth.

It’s the opposite of the lies I’m tempted to listen to.

In Christ, I can.

And it comes down to my choice, and your choice. Which one will we give ear to today?

I pray it’s truth.

Jen 🙂

Love this music from Mandisa for a boost!

I’m linking up with the Five Minute Friday crew over at Lisa Jo’s place, where we free-write for five minutes on a one-word prompt – no stressing, no over-thinking, no planning, no editing.  Join us!

You may also find me linked up at any of these lovely blogs.

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Welcome to the Sisterhood

I’m linking this up with Lisa Jo for Five Minute Friday today (even though I wrote it this afternoon) because she chose the word Grace, which I obviously had already written on today! 🙂  Funny how that works out sometimes.  I considered writing another post, but I just feel like this is fitting.  So, I hope my Five Minute Friday friends don’t mind too much. 🙂  It took way more than 5 minutes, but shouldn’t take much longer than that to read!

When this blog first began, I mentioned that God created all of us sisters in Christ unique from one another, and that He did so with a purpose!  Lately, I’ve been reminded of that fact.  Not only are we unique as individuals, but our walks with the Lord will be unique from one another, as well.  Thus, the ways in which we live out our faith will vary from person to person.

Paul describes it well in Romans 14:

 1 Accept the one whose faith is weak, without quarreling over disputable matters…

 4 Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To their own master, servants stand or fall.

And they will stand, for the Lord is able to make them stand.

My weaknesses and strengths will not be the same as your weaknesses and strengths, amen?!  Unfortunately, because they are different, I’ll be tempted to compare myself to you, my sisters in Christ, and you to me.  As a work-in-progress woman, I’m still learning how to have confidence in the woman God has created me to be.

However, as much as I loathe this tendency to compare, I see another, more destructive risk to this comparison game, the risk of self-righteousness.  You see, sometimes I compare myself to another sister in Christ and find her lacking, instead. (Gasp!  Shock and Awe!  Let’s be honest – it happens more often than we like to admit.)

Of course, it’s not always quite that blatant; sin rarely is.  But these thoughts that I don’t even want to acknowledge slowly creep in.  I’m so thankful my children are well-behaved (….because so-and-so certainly needs to get a handle on hers).  Or perhaps you hide it more cleverly in thoughts like this – I’ve studied the scriptures, so my position is biblical (which would make any opposing position unbiblical by default).  When we start thinking we have the corner on the market in knowledge, wisdom, or understanding, look out!  We are due for a major fall

Self-righteousness – thinking we can somehow make ourselves right.

How I wish I fell prey to it less often!

Self-righteousness centers around actions and outward appearances rather than the heart itself.   Oh, how we like to focus on the outward rather than the inward, sisters.  I know because I struggle with it, too!

And that right there is the problem: the tendency to quantify and qualify that which we cannot!  The truth is, we’re all on equal footing, all saved by grace alone and not by works, so that we might not boast.  But how often do we find ourselves boasting in our minds and hearts? I readily admit; I’m just as guilty.  God’s grace cannot be qualified.  We cannot and dare not attach strings to something He gives freely!  And oh, is His grace big, my sisters!  It’s so much more than what I can imagine.

Grace, sisters in Christ, freedom in Christ

You may parent differently, dress differently, celebrate differently, eat differently, educate differently, and on and on.  And the truth is – that’s okay.   Part of finding confidence in Christ, learning to be who He created us to be, is also learning to extend that same grace and freedom to others.  Can I not rejoice in the freedom to be me, yet still celebrate your freedom to be you?

More truth from Romans 14:

13 Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister. 14 I am convinced, being fully persuaded in the Lord Jesus, that nothing is unclean in itself. But if anyone regards something as unclean, then for that person it is unclean. 15 If your brother or sister is distressed because of what you eat, you are no longer acting in love. Do not by your eating destroy someone for whom Christ died. 16 Therefore do not let what you know is good be spoken of as evil. 17 For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, 18 because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and receives human approval. (emphasis mine)

What is the pleasing way?  It is not “a matter of eating and drinking,” not a matter of the details, rather it is a matter of “righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit,” choosing to live by the Spirit.  That choice brings to mind 1 Cor. 10:3:1

“So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”

In the scope of eternity, the “whatever” doesn’t matter, sisters!  The “glory of God” is what matters.  Do you see it?! 🙂

I want to shout for joy because our God is so good and gracious!  He knows our tendencies to get caught up in frivolous arguments.  He spells it out for us – whatever you do – whichever choice you make – if God’s glory is truly the motivation, then go for it, sister!

sisters in Christ, freedom and grace, not judgement, unity, Body of Christ

If we, fellow sisters in Christ, cannot celebrate each other’s choices to follow hard after the Lord, then who can we celebrate with?  This world certainly won’t be encouraging and celebrating us in our efforts to live worthy of the calling we have received.  Such self-destructive behavior can only be celebrated by the enemy, that twister of truth, creator of lies.  And I, for one, do not wish to give him any cause for celebration!

 “Beloved, let us love one another,” 1 John 4:7

We are sisters in Christ.

Let’s build each other up in love, lest we all fall prey to the enemy who seeks to devour.

 “Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.”

Romans 14:19

United in Christ,

united in Love.

Welcome to the sisterhood,

and let the celebrations begin!

Jen 🙂

I’m linking up with any of these lovely blogs.

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The Pumpkin Gospel

pumpkin gospel, pumpkin parable

A few days ago, I shared about how our views on Halloween have changed over the years from complete avoidance to an attempt at redemption.  So, for today’s Mama Monday, I thought I would share a fun fall activity for redeeming a traditional Halloween object.  You can teach a bible lesson, a science lesson, and be a purposeful parent at the same time! 🙂

Two years ago during the harvest season, I was searching for a good object lesson for our group of AWANA kids.  I wanted something fall-themed and something that they could remember year after year.  I found a lot of  great Thanksgiving craft ideas and even Halloween ideas, but nothing that really struck me, until I ran across the Pumpkin Gospel, also known as the Pumpkin Parable.

I realize that carving pumpkins is traditionally a Halloween activity, one some Christ-followers might not deem very “Christian.” And it’s okay with me if we agree to disagree on that. 🙂 But as I read the story of the pumpkin gospel, I knew the parable made sense and would really stick with children.  And I’m learning that even pagan holidays like Halloween can be redeemed!

Kids love holidays.  They love pumpkins and carving pumpkins.  They also love stories.  Additionally, they need to be exposed to ideas over and over again for information to take root.  The Pumpkin Gospel was a perfect fit!

Preparations:  

You will need a table to stand at and a medium to large sized, prepared pumpkin.  To prepare the pumpkin:

  • cut out a hole in the top and clean out the majority of the goo, but save it.
  •  Next, cut out a face with eyes, nose and a smiling mouth, but save the pieces you remove.
  • Then, put the removed pieces back into place so that the pumpkin looks uncut.
  • Set aside a few of the cleaner seeds to use at the beginning.
  • Then, put the rest of the gooey seeds and pulp back in the middle of the pumpkin and replace the top.

The idea is to have the majority of the work done ahead of time so that you don’t have long pauses in your story/object lesson.  You will also need a cookie sheet or tablecloth to contain the pumpkin mess during your story, and a candle and matches.

Story:

Once there was a Gardener who planted seeds in His garden (show pumpkin seeds).  Each day the Gardener cared for the seeds.  He watered them, pulled weeds from around them, and sheltered them from the heat of the sun.  The seeds grew into seedlings, which developed into plants, until one day, they produced fruit – pumpkins!  The pleased Gardener looked out at His garden and said, “It is good!”

pumpkins1

One day, the Gardener went out into his field and picked a special pumpkin (place pumpkin on the table – on top of a cookie sheet or tablecloth, etc. with the uncarved side facing the audience).  It was a bit dirty from laying in the garden, so he brought it inside and gently wiped it off (wipe off exterior of pumpkin).  Now the pumpkin looked clean on the outside, but what about the inside?

The Gardener took a knife and cut open the top of the pumpkin (pretend to cut open the top again and take it off).  And what did He find?  A bunch of slimy, yucky goo! (show kids the goop – maybe even let them touch it if you have a small enough group).  The Gardener wanted His special pumpkin to be beautiful, so He carefully scraped out all of the goo inside until the pumpkin was as clean inside as it was on the outside! (Remove goo and throw away. Show children the clean interior)

But the Gardener still wasn’t satisfied with the pumpkin.  He decided it needed a face!  So, He carefully cut out two eyes, a nose, and a big smiling mouth (Turn the carved side of the pumpkin to face the audience. Poke out the eyes, nose and mouth you carved out previously).  Now the Gardener’s special pumpkin looked clean AND happy.

But the Gardener still wasn’t satisfied with the pumpkin.  So, He put a light inside of it (insert candle and light it).  The pumpkin glowed so beautifully!  The Gardener’s special project was complete.

When friends and neighbors saw the Gardeners special pumpkin, they marveled at how He took something ordinary from His garden, cleaned it inside and out, put His light inside, and made it something extraordinary!

Explanation:

We are like pumpkins and God is  the Gardener.  God creates us and cares for us. He “chooses” us from all of the other pumpkins, but inside we all have the yucky goo – sin. (Read Rom. 3:23 and Rom. 6:23)

Just like the Gardener cleaned out his pumpkin’s goo, God wants to clean out all our sin, too. So, He sent his Son Jesus to die for our sins, to take the punishment we deserved. (Read Rom. 5:8, John 3:16, and 1 John 1:9)

Just like the Gardener gave the pumpkin a new face, God makes us a new creation! (Read 2 Cor. 5:17)

Just like the Gardener put His light into the pumpkin to make it shine, so God gives us His light to shine through us!  (Read 2 Cor. 4:6 and Mt. 5:16)

So, when we let God clean out  our sin, by believing that Jesus died to pay the punishment that we deserve, He turns us into new creations that can shine for Him!  And when others see our light, then they might want to learn how to have a light of their own, too!

Pumpkin Gospel object lesson

In an alternate version, you can also demonstrate the difference between being saved by grace and trying to “earn” salvation through works.  All you will need is a second pumpkin with a face that is painted on (rather than cut out).  The story about this pumpkin is along the lines of wanting to be “chosen” but not allowing the Gardener to clean out the inside.

So, the pumpkin wears a painted face (tries to make itself acceptable on the outside), but inside, it’s still full of yucky goo.  Without removing the goo, there’s no room for the Gardener’s light, so the pumpkin cannot shine.

Many people try to make themselves acceptable to God in their own way ( just like Adam and Eve in the Garden).  They might go to church and act like Christians, and they might even believe in God.  But unless they trust that Jesus paid the price for their sins, then the sin remains on the inside.  They cannot become new creatures without allowing Christ to remove their sin.  So, the light of Christ cannot be in them.   (Read Eph. 2:8-10) This lesson would work especially well with older children, perhaps even youth age.

Note: I have recently learned that there are a variety of books available to help with this object lesson.  Just look up the pumpkin gospel or pumpkin parable on amazon.  If you want a more detailed script for the object lesson, you might consider purchasing one of these books to use year after year.

So, if you’re looking for a fall family activity or even an object lesson for your church or homeschool group, consider redeeming a little bit of Halloween and using the Pumpkin Gospel.  Year after year when children see pumpkins lit up, they can remember the story of Who put the light inside of them!

If you have other ideas or stories for redeeming Halloween, I’d love to hear them in the comments!

Jen 🙂

You may find this post linked up at any of these lovely blogs.

Also sharing this post with: The Mommy Club at Crystal and Co.

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Ordinary People, Extraordinary Children

Child of the King

It’s one of those days when I feel so plain.

A tad, well, ordinary.

And I know, I know, I know the truth.  That I am.  Ordinary.

Except I’m not.  To Him, I’m not.

Why is it such a struggle to be okay with the ordinary when surrendering to that makes us so completely extraordinary?  Why do I look for the praise of man, the love of others, when I know the unfailing love of the King and the pride of Big Brother Jesus?

It’s like this fever within us, the desire to be more.  More than ordinary.  And it creeps up when we least expect it, even when we’re in the midst of reveling in the extraordinary that He reveals to us.

At first, it’s just a quiet whisper.

We shove it aside, hoping it will go away on its own.  But it doesn’t.  It grows stronger still, this whisper that we are ordinary, plain, nothing special.  And gaining strength, the whisper goes even deeper. You are weak. Your faith is weak. You are worthless.

With a groan, we turn to it, not wanting the whisper to be true, but fearing all the while that it is.   Why do we turn to it before turning away, my sisters?

Why do we listen to that whisperer, the Father of Lies?

Why don’t we turn instead to that Voice of Truth?

The Voice that calls us Beloved, Chosen, My People, Redeemed Saints,

Vessels, Lights in a dark world,

Worthy of a one and only Son, Brides of Christ.

Is there anything ordinary about being a bride?  I think those of us who are married would say it’s the day in our lives when we felt most special, most beautiful, most beloved.

There is nothing ordinary about bearing the names He gives us!

Be still, whispers.

Roar aloud, Voice of Truth!

Because Satan is defeated.  And we…we are new creations.  He no longer has dominion over us.

So, be gone foul whisperer!

We.

Are.

Children.

Of the One True King.

Ordinary people, extraordinary children.

We can be confident of that.

1 Peter 2:9

“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood,

a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession,

so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light…”

Jen 🙂

It’s Five Minute Friday, and I’m linking up with Lisa Jo again.  You can join in, too!  Five minutes of raw, uneditted, stress-free writing on a word prompt she gives us.

I might also be linking this post up with any of these lovely blogs.

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Like a Proud Big Brother

One day after our seven-year-old’s soccer game, he waited in line at the concession stand.  The rest of the family waited a few feet away, arms full of camping chairs and water bottles, ready to head back to our trusty minivan.  I watched as our son’s easy grin lit up his face while he talked animatedly with a teammate behind him.  His team had remained undefeated, and he was on cloud nine!  He called out to his younger brother to come over and join them.

As the four-year-old boy bounced closer to him, our middle son’s smile widened and his eyes crinkled.  He bent down to the younger’s level “This is my brother, ” he told his teammate. “Say, hi!” he encouraged the four-year-old.  Pride shone forth from his face as he talked about how he teaches his younger brother and sister how to “do sports” and how they listen to him and do what he says.  He put his arm around the four-year-old in a protective and possessive way, completely pleased to be the big brother.  “Gimme five,” he instructed.  The younger brother gladly obliged and bounced back to where the family waited.

Then, he called over his younger sister, also four, and the scenario played out all over again. She giggling and he smiling in her face.  Her quick wave to the teammate was cute and girly.  She, too, gave a five and then pranced back to join us.

I listened as the two teammates in line continued to converse. “So, they’re like your minions?!” the other boy asked, impressed.  “Yeah, pretty much. They’re my minions.” our seven-year-old nodded his head in affirmation.

As I laughed quietly, I realized how true it is.  They are his minions.

They trust him.  They listen to him.  And most of the time, they do his bidding.  But he also cares for them.  He helps them.  He plays with them.  He loves on them.  He gives things to them.  And when his friends are around, he introduces them with such beaming pride that you would think he birthed those two four-year-olds himself! 🙂

I didn’t think much more of that conversation until later that week when I attended a Beth Moore simulcast.  She spoke on grace and law, how we often trust grace for salvation, but we fail to trust it in our everyday lives.  Instead, we walk as if still under the law, guilty and defeated, when we could be living free and victorious!  

At the end of the day, Beth brought our attention to the fact that we, who are in Christ, are fully accepted by God; there is nothing more or less we can do to “please” Him.  Then, she ended with a speech given to us, one phrase at a time, to repeat to a partner. It was a speech of words about who we are in Christ, and a speech about how Jesus would present us, His sisters of inheritance.

As I spoke the words aloud to my partner, I suddenly recalled my seven-year-old’s beaming face.

And I was undone.

Because that’s exactly how Jesus feels about each one of us, my sisters!  He’s the proud big brother, and in His eyes, through His love, we are something to be joyful about.  

Jesus, our brother

With a smile on His face, He calls me over, puts His arm around my shoulder, and proclaims for all to hear,

“Father, this is my sister, Jen.  Isn’t she great?

Look how beautiful she is!  I love her so much that I willingly gave my life for her, covered her sins in my blood.

She is infinitely precious to me, a daughter of the King.”

The Father smiles in agreement.

The Christ-brother holds out His hand for a celebratory five.

And the angels rejoice!

Jen 🙂

To read Beth’s commissioning prayer (and other goodies from the simulcast – like the Grace Poem), click here.

To find me linking up, check these lovely blogs.

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