Decorating my heart for Christmas

It’s Christmas time again at the Jones’.  I get just as excited as the children at the thought of decorating our home for the Christmas season.  However, I know that it is even more important for me to “decorate” my heart with the truth of God’s word.  With that in mind, I went back to read the Christmas story from the book of Mathew and ditched the mindset of “I have read this so many times and I already know what happens.”

 

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In Mathew 1:18-19 we learn that Joseph was engaged to be married to Mary and she was a virgin; not an exception in those days but the expectation.  However Mary ends up pregnant and it was not by Joseph!  It is certain Joseph was hurt and felt betrayed but even in his pain he purposed not to humiliate her.  He instead decided to break it off privately.  It was heavy on his heart and  he went to bed thinking about this thing.  Ever been there, weighed down with concerns as you go to bed…I have. The Lord saw his heart, saw his pain and provided an answer of peace while Joseph was sleeping.   Mathew 1:20 says as he considered this, he fell asleep and the angel of The Lord appeared to Him.  The angel of the Lord brought clarity to his situation.

Here it is Joseph was in a major life altering dilemma.  It is almost certain that he was hurt by Mary’s seemingly betrayal, but he opted not to put her on blast.  Wow!  What is your first response when you think you have been wronged by someone?  Do you look for every listening ear to broadcast the offense, only causing the wound to go deeper?  Do you immediately go on a revenge mission seeking to inflict the same pain you are feeling?

The explanation given to Joseph and his response blesses and convicts me all at the same time.  The angel of The Lord tells Joseph that the child Mary is carrying was conceived by the Holy Spirit.  Now let’s just be honest here, the explanation just did not make sense, it was foolish…at least in the natural. A virgin getting pregnant by the Holy Spirit?  What?    Who has ever heard of such a thing?  But Joseph didn’t question the explanation, he knew it was from God and that was enough.   He did not go asking for a second opinion. When God tells you to do something, do you wait for it to make sense before you act.  I have learned that I have to be ok with not understanding all of God’s directives, I have to trust that He is God and He knows best.  We often want to wrap our mind around all God is saying before we sign on the dotted line, give up on that method, it is pretty ineffective.  Truth be told, we often won’t understand it all because the plan is always so much bigger than we can comprehend.  Humble yourself, trust God and say Yes!

Joseph didn’t even know what he had stepped into, here God takes this ordinary boy and makes him one of the key characters in the greatest story ever!  In Mathew 1:21-23 the angel tells Joseph that the baby is going to be a boy, name him Jesus and oh yeah, he is going to save his people from their sins.  Then the angel of the Lord tells Joseph all of this is a fulfillment of the prophecies  that were given about the savior.  I  mean can you imagine, receiving all this news in one night.  Jesus simply means “The Lord Saves.”  So in other words, Joseph’s yes brought salvation to the world!  How can your yes to the seemingly impossible bring salvation to others?  Or consider this, how can your no hinder the salvation of others. Your disobedience does not only affect you.  Don’t hinder the flow, play your part and say yes.

My prayer is that you will be  encouraged to decorate your heart with obedience this Christmas.  Stay tuned for part two of this post.  Be blessed!

 

 

 

 

I Train All Day

For the  last 10 years I have been a stay at home mom.  On more than one occasion I  have been asked what I do all day.   Um-mm let me see how to phrase this… I train all day.   Not the kind of training you may be thinking about, allow me to explain.  Scripture tells us to train our children in the way they should go, the God way, the truth way, the blood bought way.  Training is not an option.  Because of our inherited sin nature EVERY child, no matter how cute is born with a desire to do wrong.  Everyday I am training and quite frankly it is hard work.    My job is not to tame my children’s sin, instead I have been entrusted with the job of encouraging them to nail it to the cross through submission to Christ.  Training begins with teaching them the word of God, this is the manual. The end goal is beyond nice behaved children. I want them to live knowing that death and judgment is certain for everyone.  So through my training I am encouraging them  to have a right relationship with God so that eternity can be spent with Him.

I train them not only through speaking the word but by living the word through my actions.

  • I train them  to understand that true love disciplines wrong behavior in an effort to prevent worst things from happening.  I choose not to wink at undesired behavior because of love.
  • I train them to be humble and to have a repentant heart when I say sorry (even to them) when I am wrong.
  • I train them to forgive and extend mercy when I forgive their offenses; not constantly reminding them of what they have done wrong. Dish out the consequence for wrongdoing and move on.  Do not look for opportunities to bring up how they missed the mark.

I train not just concerning the spiritual but the natural, but wait… the two are very much connected.

  • I train them to  not be idle and prioritize that which is important when I choose to cook and clean my house instead of spending too much time on social media.  I also give them the opportunity to work with their hands and allow the mess that comes with learning.

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  • I train them to understand what  honor  “looks” like when their father comes home to a cooked meal and washed clothes.  When my words are tempered with grace and my eyes aren’t rolling when he says something I don’t want to hear.  They are watching more than I realize, and I have had to apologize more than once.IMG_1883

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  • I train them to have responsibilities when I sit in the kitchen  and talk to them for a hour and a half while they clean, a job that I could have done in 30 minutes. Or when I wait for what seems like forever for them to pick up every Lego off the floor and resist the temptation to do it all for them because I can do it faster and betterIMG_1930

 

  • I train them when I allow them to experience the consequences of their poor choices and not always come to the rescue.  “No I will  not allow you to be late to school because you can’t find your recorder for music class.  I told you the night before to put everything in your bag.  Are you kidding me? There is six of you, I cannot keep up with your stuff. Stop crying and get in the van RIGHT NOW!”  True story, I am not making this up.. oh it’s happened to you too?
  • I train them to love who God created them to be when I  allow them to cry because they just don’t fit in with everyone else.  I say a prayer, wipe the tears and tell them how beautiful and special they are because God said so and I believe Him.

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  • I train them to  feel secure through the meals we share as a family at the table.  Letting them know that even with the absence of fine china and a perfectly set table conversations about the highs and lows of our day can flow freely.

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  • I train them to know they are loved by putting my to do list on hold and reading a book with them or just being silly and laughing about nothing really important.

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  • I train them to know dedication when I take my tired body to bed, wake up the next morning, ready to do it all over again and again and again!

Yes, this training thing is hard work.  The struggle is real but so is God’s love, His grace and His wisdom.  I don’t always do it perfectly.   I continue to learn that God gave us our children to train but certainly is not expecting us to do it on our own. We can do this…because of Christ!

 

 

I WANT TO MAKE THAT MAN LOVE ME!

 

I want to do marriage the good old fashioned outdated bible way. I want to be my husbands biggest cheerleader. I want him to be happy to come home because he knows a warm home cooked meal is waiting for him(well most days at least). I want him to know that I respect and love him. I choose to magnify his strengths and pray like crazy concerning his weaknesses. I want him to share his heart with me without hesitation or fear that I may judge him. I want my actions to make him fall in love with me over and over again. I want him to still be happy that he chose me to be his bride even after 13 years of marriage. Now while the feminist may scoff at this and render me as a weak and needy woman, the bible says the opposite! And oh, for the record I am so weak and needy, and admitting this has been so liberating and brought a greater level of intimacy between me and God and my husband (2 Corinthians 12:9). Nevertheless I digress, back to the topic at hand. Have you ever read the bible and the words just leap off the page and you can hardly contain yourself because you finally get it? I recently read Proverbs 31. Yeah that same passage that challenges us women in so many ways. It’s amazing because often times when this passage is discussed, the focus is on all this woman DOES as opposed to who SHE IS! I find it interesting that the passage doesn’t open up with all her deeds, instead, it first highlights how her husband feels about her. “Who can find a virtuous and capable wife? She is more precious than rubies. HER HUSBAND CAN TRUST HER, AND SHE WILL GREATLY ENRICH HIS LIFE. “Proverbs 31:10-12.

 

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I must admit that I have not always proven myself to be trustworthy to my husband. No I have
never ran off with another man but I I have done a lot of running with my mouth. I have never had issues with telling him what I thought he was doing wrong, what was wrong with him and what he needed to do better. When I was done I would expect him to trust me with his thoughts. In short I was a being a nag! I felt very justified in my nagging. I must praise God for his grace because He has brought me from a very loooooooooooong way. Let all the “expressive” ladies say amen! I have already confessed in a previous post that I love to talk but I am learning the delicate art of knowing when to speak and when to be silent. I don’t have to stop talking, I just take my chatting party to God in prayer. I must confess that sometimes as he is speaking, everything in me is screaming, “I CANT BELIEVE YOU SEE IT THIS WAY or HOW CAN YOU THINK LIKE THAT!” However, as I am learning to hold my peace and not always play therapist in our discussions, my husband is sharing more of his unedited thoughts with me. And you know what, I find that when I listen, REALLY LISTEN he is more willing to solicit my advice and comments and a greater level of trust is developed. And it sure is easy to love somebody you trust, dont you think?

Are you serious…rejoice in suffering?

 

Below is a journal entry I wrote shortly after our fifth child Isaiah was born.  A day after his birth, Isaiah had to be admitted to the NICU and eventually underwent three surgeries.  This was a season of intense pain for our family because every day was so unpredictable and his life fragile. Today, Isaiah is totally healed (yes God is still in the healing business).   I chose to post this today because we often look for God to do something new and tend to have spiritual amnesia and rob God of the glory and the praise He deserves for what He has already done.  Today as I reflect on what he did for our baby boy, I will PRAISE HIM!

Journal Entry from August 2012

Yesterday I was gripped with a sudden fear that Isaiah may die.  It pained me to think of this.  I tried with all my might to “pull” through this fear, but it was overwhelming.    I could barely find the strength to fight, I felt paralyzed. I rebuked the devil, declared that God had not given me the spirit of fear but of power love and sound mind, but must admit I was still struggling.  I also felt bad that I couldn’t be there for him at all times to just hold him whenever I wanted and whenever he needed me.   Isn’t this what a mother is supposed to do?  Talk about feeling inadequate and guilty.  As I went through the day, I could hear in a still small voice, “it pleased the father to bruise the son.”  I couldn’t remember where the scripture was taken from, but as I tried to sink in self pity, the scripture kept on ringing in my spirit.  It was puzzling to me because I could not comprehend HOW (not why) God could handle seeing His own son crucified.  I understood the theology behind it but as a parent I couldn’t understand the emotional aspect of it, you know, the feeling part.

Right before I went to sleep last night, I struggled to open the bible, but I finally did.  I turned to the book of James and came across James 1:2-4  “Count it all joy, (ANIKA), [ when you meet trials of various kinds, 3for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. 4And let steadfastness have its full effect that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. This was not even the scripture I was looking for but God knew it was just what I NEEDED!  Why is rejoicing in suffering such a resounding theme in scripture….AWWW!  What is there to be happy about when you are suffering?  I obviously missed that memo yesterday.   I didn’t want to hear what the scripture was saying at the moment but all I could do was smile because I knew what the Lord was speaking to my heart.  As I sat and reread and reread and reread that passage, a great peace came over me, a peace that exceeded anything I could understand (Philippians 4:7).  Amazing how the word of God gets to the heart of the matter and cause all fear to dissipate.

I can’t understand all the why’s behind the what’s during this season of my life, but I have to learn to not just accept it and say the Lord knows and He is going to bring me out, but I have to rejoice (not just lip service) even in this because it is ultimately about God getting the glory and Him perfecting me.

So this takes me back to the scripture that was ringing in my spirit yesterday, I looked it up and found that it was Isaiah 53:10,“But it was the LORD’s good plan to crush him and fill him with grief (Speaking of Jesus). Yet when his life is made an offering for sin, he will have a multitude of children, many heirs. He will enjoy a long life, and the LORD’s plan will prosper in his hands. 11 When he sees all that is accomplished by his anguish, he will be satisfied. And because of what he has experienced, my righteous servant will make it possible for many to be counted righteous, for he will bear all their sins.   God could rejoice in what Jesus went through because He knew what the end was going to be…my salvation, our salvation. Jesus’ story did not end in suffering, it ended in triumph!  God provided an awesome example for me to REJOICE IN THE MIDST OF THE SUFFERING.  It was easy for me to speak faith when all of this began. I thought it would end just as quickly as it started but this is not the case.  Isaiah is still in the hospital, and even after he comes out, there is much adjusting that we will have to do.  There is also another surgery awaiting him when he gets a little older to reconnect his intestines.   I don’t know all the details of Isaiah’s story and what God has in store for him, but I must learn to press pass my feelings and begin to rejoice as I am in the MIDST OF IT because in the end God and God alone will get all the glory!  Can I live at this place EVERYDAY as I wait for the full manifestation of Isaiah’s healing?  I pray for the grace to do just that.