Monday, June 25, 2018

Seasons (and the need of the moment)

Sometimes, you learn new things. Things about cooking or cleaning or health or whatever. And as you’re trying so hard to take care of this wonderful family God has given you, this thing seems like it’s a good fit. You do all the research, you purge the ‘nasties’ that lurk throughout your house, and you settle into new habits and routines to keep your husband and kids healthier. You take notes from the Proverbs 31 woman and work hard to care for the home where your family dwells.

And that’s wonderful!

Sometimes, God starts to put other things in your life. He puts people there who need your time and encouragement. He puts ministries there that call you away from the house. And he puts trials on you that force you to slow down and let go of some things. 

And we try so hard to keep up our routines, to stay on top of these healthy and beneficial habits that are oh-so-good for us. But that’s not always possible. 

Sometimes, the house that I’m called to care for, takes a back seat to life and family and ministry. And as much as it pains me to say it, things can get… gross. 

Today, I pulled back the curtain on the dirty little secret lurking in my bathroom—my shower. The scuzz had slowly compounded during this trying and busy season we finally seemed to be clearing. Crud—my only term for an unnamed substance that made my eye twitch in irritation—had collected throughout the tile and grout of the walls and layered unevenly within the tub in mottled patches. 

Oh, yes. It was that bad. 

And I had tried all kinds of things to get us back to a clean slate… er, shower. Strange concoctions of castor soap and essential oils that smelled like rain in a forest or spice jars in the cupboard. Good old recipes of dish soap and vinegar and other ingredients grandma would have used. Even fancy name brand products that the lady at the party insisted would take it right off. But time had passed, attempts had failed, and it had only gotten worse. 

Today, I was done.

So, I pulled the menacing yellow bottle out, the one that all the crunchy web-sites warn will poison your children and screw with your hormones and kill all of the aquatic wildlife within a 20 mile radius. The one with the warning label a foot long. The one that I had cringed as I paid for it last week. The one I put off buying for month cuz I kept thinking that I will be able to figure out something more ‘natural’ to deal with this. The one that made me want to cry just for considering using it in my home. 

But I was over feeling like I was losing the battle for my bathroom, of feeling as if there was something unholy or less spiritual or at least lazy about using such a weapon. I steeled my nerves, opened the window, pulled on the rubber gloves, and I went to war on my shower. 

I sprayed hastily before I could chicken out, layering the thick white foam, allowing it to melt ominously down the walls, watching it leave bleached trails through the filth that it attacked. I pulled out the small green pad and scoured it quickly, drowning the now brown foam in buckets of hot water that turned by entire bathroom into a sauna of noxious fumes. I squirted it again and again, waging battle after battle against the taunting filth. And when I finally declared the war over, only the drain stopper itself showed remnants of the minerals and build up that I had finally beaten. For the first time in longer than I care to admit, the tub is pure white, the tile is sunshine yellow, and the knobs actually have a little bit of shine.

And I thought to myself, Martha would be proud. 

See, God takes us through seasons. Just as he lauded Mary for recognizing the limited time she had with Him and making full use of that, we go through times when we have to focus on things outside of our home. They might last a week, such as vacation Bible school. They might last a month or two, such as planning major ministry events or caring for the grounds of the church building through the summer season. They might last longer, such as trials that He walks you through to teach you dependence on Him. And we come willing to listen and learn and serve in the way He needs right now. And some less important things slip through the cracks. 

Proverbs 14:4  
“Where no oxen are, the manger is clean,
But much revenue comes by the strength of the ox.”

As Ryrie puts it- There is no milk without some manure. Some disturbance is the price of growth and accomplishment.

We must recognize that these amazing periods of trail and growth are necessary and good. And while in these times, we can’t do everything. Something has to take a backseat for a time.

And then that season ends. 

Yes, Martha should have sat at Jesus feet and listened to His teachings from the moment He entered. He reminded her where she needed to be and I believe she learned from that instruction. But, even if she had started out at His feet, eventually, the dishes had to be done. Eventually, the laundry had to be washed, the house had to be swept, and the tub had to be scoured. And maybe it would have been a little thicker, a little more built up, after the time away. Maybe it would have required something a little stronger than just good old elbow grease.

The issue was never how Martha did the work. It was about her heart. About recognizing the need of the moment, the season that she was in, and making full use of the time of blessing and learning that God gave her. And recognizing when that season had passed, and other needs had to be met.

I think she would agree, that maintain our routines and keeping on top of the mess is best. And she might nod along with the idea that the natural and less abrasive might be better for the regular days. But I think she would have my back when I say that sometimes you have to recognize the need of the moment; even if that moment might need the terrible-toxic-no-good cleaning spray. 

So we pull on our rubber gloves, get down to business, and trust God to care for the health of our family while we get back on top of the manure. Then we simply try to stay ahead on the more mundane duties He has given us for this period. 

Lord willing, I will now be able to use my ‘all natural’ products to keep my shower clean. By His strength, I will fall back into good routines that will prevent the need for an all out war against soap scum and hard water deposits and grosser things. 

And if not, I still have two thirds of a bottle of nasty, horrible, nature-murdering spray lurking under my cupboard. 

May my heart be sensitive to whatever needs there are in that moment. 

(This post is an encouragement to check your heart before the Lord and be sensitive to where He has you right now. I understand that an ounce of prevention saves a mile of stiches, or however the metaphor goes. And I’m sure that you have a lovely little tip or all natural product that you adore using. Please, keep right on using it. I’m okay without it. Thanks for reading, dear one!)

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

humility vs. humiliation

This lesson was a long one from my Heavenly Father. Not hard and heavy, but a slow and steady, Him pointing things out to my mind and heart. It also took a while for me to be able to verbalize it. 

Being humble is not the same thing as being humiliated.

You can read what I mean over at Lauren's blog.

My Redeemed Life - Humility vs. Humiliation

Monday, May 7, 2018

plans and goals

So, I know I'm all, on again, off again, here. Sorry. Life, ya know.

Anyway, I recently wrote a post for a friend's blog.  If you're curious...

My redeemed life - plans, ways, works, plans

Sarah J.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

years later...

I logged back into my blog after two years.

funny, how I look back over time, what I have said/written here, and everything is different and yet, somehow, it's all the same.

I now have an eight year old and a ten year old.  they are smart and funny and a little bit snarky.  They can make their own breakfast, do their own laundry, and help with all major cleaning/work around the house (with much encouragement).  They are starting to think things through before they do it (sometimes), and are kind and considerate towards the feelings of others around them.  Nick and I are defiantly seeing the fruits of our many years of labor in training and disciplining these boys.

And in case all that paints a skewed misrepresentation, they are also moody, sassy, disobedient, lazy boys who watch plenty of netflix, disappear into the basement to avoid school and work, and occasionally come to blows over minuscule differences of opinion.  They are very wonderful, very normal boys.

I am still a stay-at-home homeschooling mom.  I still struggle accomplish the daily tasks that keep a home running, possibly even more than i did when i had littles.  I still fail to get into the precious Word of God everyday, even fail to spend much time in prayer everyday.

God is still growing me, just the same as He was all those years ago through babies and cancer and infertility.  But it has changed.

I am in a very different trial today than i was those many years ago when i last wrote.  I am in a long, very long, trial.  The kind that has been going on for so long, that it's hard to remember what life was like before it.

It is a physical trial, a combination of lots of little things that finally came to a head during Nick's cancer, when I had to be strong for my family.  God gave me a strength that surpasses understanding, but I neglected to care for myself the way I should have.  I ignored my body for many years after that, thinking that it would go away.  But instead it messed with my thyroid, it wreaked havoc on my adrenals, and tried to start up menopause a couple of times.  And this summer, I absolutely fell apart.

I had taken my physical trial to the Lord many times.  But not like this.  This was a new level.

My brain was in such a fog, I couldn't concentrate during church services and Bible studies. Biblical conversations with friends were almost entirely one sided because I couldn't follow them.  And personal devotions felt like a mindless chewing something hard, and dry, and flavorless.

So i would simply sit and pray.  Not as often as i should have.  But I still prayed.  They were short and simple.  A quiet, 'please help me.'

It is an awful hard place to be in when you feel like you can't even think, when you can't find words, when emotions are too exhausting, when you know you are a mess and yet you look just fine from the outside, when you just sit before your God with your hands open and hope He understands what you need because you sure don't.

And yet, He knew.  I knew that He knew.  He's good like that.

And He has shown me a few steps to take that are helping.  But it's still hard.

You see, this is my Isaiah 40 trial.

Isaiah  40:27-31

"Why do you say, O Jacob,
and speak, O Isreal,
'My way is hidden from the Lord,
and my right is disregarded by my 
Have you not known?  Have you 
not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the 
He does not faint or grow weary;
His understanding is unsearchable.
He gives power to the faint, 
and to him who has no might He
increases strength.
Even youths shall faint and be 
and young men shall fall exhausted;

but they who wait for the Lord 
shall renew their strength;
they shall mount up with wings 
like eagles;
they shall run and not be weary; 
they shall walk and not faint."

You see, I think there is a very good reason God puts that last verse in the order He does.

Because some trials hit you hard.  They assault you with such passion, you feel like the many psalmists who say that the world is full of wickedness and that enemies are out to destroy you utterly.  Those are the trials where He gives you wings.  You are filled with vigor and strength.  You rise above it all and you cry out the praises of God.

Some trials are not quite so aggressive.  They prowl around you for a little while, measuring you carefully and stalking you.  These are the trials where He helps you run.  You keep going, you keep fighting, and by His good grace, you push through.

Then there are the trails where you walk.  Those trials that slowly surround you and turn your spirit into a barren wasteland.  The ones that slowly suck you dry.  The kind that you can't see the end of, where you simply have to put your head down against the relentless heat and put one foot in front of the other.  The kinds of trial where the steps are slow and monotonous, and the prayers are simply a 'please help.'  And we get weary... we get so weary.  But we don't faint; at least, not if we are relying on His strength.

I'll admit, there are times in the long trial where I sit down and cry out, "why?"  Where I see that I have no more strength and I simply stop.  But that is the point of that trial.  To show me that I really have nothing more.  And I have to remember to go to Him.

Remember to back up to verse 28.  "He does not faint or grow weary."

And see verse 29. "He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might He increases strength."

When I call out to Him, He gives me what I need to keep going, even if that going is slow and monotonous.

Psalm 18 has been very special to me the past 5 weeks or so.  I would love to pick it apart for you sometime, but right now I will just share with you the verse I have clung to with desperation.

Psalm 18:19b
"He rescued me, because He delighted in me."

Not because I am worth rescuing. Not because He needs me to do thus and such.  Not because of all I've done for Him in the past.  No, His rescue is solely because He found delight in doing so for me.

That has been so reassuring for me.  Because He is the One who is unchanging.  He is the One who always does what is best, what is really good for me.  So thank God that my rescue is because of who He is and not because of me.  

This trial is far from over. Lord willing, I will see it's end before glory.  But until that time, i will cling to the little verses like these that i can wrap my tired brain around, and I will keep walking by His strength.  For His glory and my good.

Friday, January 9, 2015


this week, we have been in the thick of kitchen remodel madness.

i have been battling headaches and migraines, and dealing with a cold that has me coughing when it's least convenient and most annoying.

but lately i've been working hard to establish the habit of preparing.

WHA? preparing?

life is hard this week.  forget preparing!  this is the kind of week you prepare for!

yes, i always used to think that preparing is what you did when you were all caught up and things were easy, so you worked ahead for when the days are ruff.  for that month when you remodeling your house. or that week when you are sick.  that is what you prepare for!

well, occasionally that might be the case.  but for me, that is almost never how it works.

i'm a stay at home momma that homeschools two rowdy boys.  i'm telling ya', things are never "all caught up" around here!  there is always something a mess, always something that needs to be washed, someone that needs to be fed, some activity that is going on or isn't going on due to someone not feeling well.

for me, learning to be prepared is a little different than getting ahead on the easy days.  instead of thinking about what i can do to make the hard days easier, i try to think about what i can do NOW to make LATER a little easier.

recently, Proverbs 14:1 was brought up by a friend.  "The wise woman builds her house, But the foolish tears it down with her own hands."  my friend pointed out that in the book of Proverbs there is no middle ground here.  you are either building or destroying.  nothing is neutral.

that feels a little harsh!  but that's because, like most things, it comes down to the heart.  so often, it's the attitude that determines whether an action is building or destroying.

i may leave a pile of dishes in the sink until the next morning.  but... is it because i have been working all day and i just want to have a little me time and not deal with one more thing right now (destroying)? or... is because the day has been hard and it would do my family well for me to slow down and take some time to rest and recharge so that i can serve them better tomorrow (building).  both ways the action is the same, but the heart makes a huge difference!

now, let us not gloss over the fact that, most often, preparing, or building your house, will mean working.  it will mean doing something!  it will mean getting up out of the chair and taking care of some work that is waiting!

and for each family, a woman's preparations/building will look a little different.

here are three examples of preparing/building that i have been working to make a habit of...

1) making a big batch of soup on Thursday (my "kitchen day") for the family to eat throughout the weekend.  

this is mostly a selfish one.  i hate to cook on the weekend, when many of the interesting projects or fun activities happen for our family.  so, by having something all in one pot that only takes a few minutes on the stove to heat up, we are able to enjoy these activities (or enjoy doing nothing together!) and still have a reasonably healthy home cooked meal.  i'm building my home by being a good steward of my time and my money, cuz we all know how easy take out is!  yes, this will have to change come summer (who wants chili in July??), but if the habit is there, i hope the transition to a cooler dish will be an easy one.

2) laying out Sundays clothes on Friday!

this one is partly for the boys (so that they know what is acceptable church wear) and partly for me.  by taking FRIDAY to lay out the clothes, i have a chance to see if there is anything that needs to be washed and i can take care of it now, before the weekend fun starts.  i mean, there are few things that spoil my attitude quicker than running around the house with hair and makeup half done, looking for a pair of socks that don't "bother" a very particular little man that lives in my home.  not exactly the best way to be preparing a heart of worship on a Sunday morning!  now, my boys have everything they need waiting for them and i have a little less to do that morning.

3) chopping extra onion and cooking extra meat

i love to cook!  but lets face it, sometimes it feels like a never ending chore.  after all, not only do these boys want to eat everyday, they want to eat several times a day!  the nerve!  just kidding.  i love serving my family in this way, but i can grow weary of so much time in the kitchen.  so, when i have a meal that calls for chopped onion or cooked meat, i do double, sometimes even triple, and throw the extra in the fridge or freezer.  don't brown 2 pounds of hamburger, brown 4.  don't cook two chicken breasts, cook the whole bird!  now, next time i need it, it's waiting for me in the freezer and i have just saved myself that step and a chunk of time.  it's usually little extra work, but for me it can make a big difference in fighting off that feeling of always being in the kitchen, which often comes with feelings of resentment or self pity = destroying my home!

now, there will be plenty of hard days where take out will be ordered or the mad dash for specific socks will happen.  and my heart will determine whether i have spent my time building or tearing.

yet, i hope that i will be known as a woman who works hard to build her house.  someone who takes the few extra minutes to prepare so that my home runs a little smoother for my family.  someone whose heart is honoring to my Lord, even when the week is full of tools in my living room, holes in my counters, and headaches that come and go.

praise the Lord for dear friends who point out how black and white the Lord's Word is.  i am incredibly thankful for these people in my life!  i hope that you also are thanking God for these no nonsense people who aren't afraid to exhort and challenge you to do better for His names sake!