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I have had a 3×5 index card with scribbled notes on it floating around on my nightstand, in my nightstand, under my nightstand…for at least a couple of years now. On one side it has written out an embarrassing attempt of deciphering a Nancy Drew computer mystery game (!). On the other side, it has questions.

I can’t remember all the details, but I remember writing these down in response to talking with a friend who was trying to figure out if she should address her husband on some issue that was going on. Whatever was going on between her and her husband, she was torn in the all-too-familiar-to-me fog of indecisiveness, and wondering if this “thing” was a “real thing” to be insistent upon, or if it was one of those “smaller things” that just needed to be let go of.

It’s an often asked question, in many relationships. When do you say something? When do you wait? When do you do your “Christian duty” and voice your wise opinion?

I have this note card floating around and see it and hold it nearly every other day. It holds my place in one book. Finds it’s way to another. Then drops down on the floor. Is lost by my kids as they riffle through my stuff. Then finally makes it home again. I can’t ever bring myself to throw it away. Do I read it everyday? Or even often? No. But I remember what’s on it. And, I did read it this week, and was convicted of how little intentional thought I’ve given to many decisions and opinion-voicing in recent days.

Not all circumstances require some kind of intense analyzing of whether to act or not. But for those things that cause the indecisive to wither away in sleepless agony, and cause the decisive to rashly proceed, I offer these questions. Questions I’ve asked myself, questions I need to ask myself, questions I want to ask myself.

Because, in the end, for the Christ-follower, the decision of how and when to proceed in something, like my friend who wasn’t sure how much of her “opinion” to voice with her husband that day, isn’t about making the right decision, or even making the decision itself. It’s about glad surrender of our opinions to our Savior within the context of our decision-making. Making his name and renown the desire of our hearts, and seeing that desire play out in very real, every day reality through the decisions we make.

I’m sure there are more things one could consider. But, to you who, like myself and my friend, need to prayerfully consider your decisions more often, I offer you our questions to get you started. Maybe they can go on a 3×5 note card of your own and float around your nightstand for awhile.

Thinking through the “thing” I want to make my voice heard on:

Is what I am observing sinful? Unwise? Or an opinion or preference? All matters that come up in life are not direct disobedience. Some may be unwise. Some things may be a personal preference. Knowing the difference will not only help keep me accountable before God, but guard my feelings if my preferences aren’t materialized. 

Am I being asked to wait and exhibit patience? Is this a weak area for someone, who is actively pursuing Christ and needs someone to persevere in patience alongside them? Or is this a “new” phenomenon that’s been brought to my attention, a blind spot that needs to be addressed? Is the circumstance I want to speak into something that needs another opinion voiced about? Or am I just eager to resolve what I am seeing?

How has my prayer life for this matter been? Have I been regularly, specifically praying for this matter/person/situation? Or relying on my own thoughts about the matter?

Thinking through the “response”: 

Is this an area I am prone to wander in? A weak area for me, where sin likes to creep in and flesh enjoy taking over? In other words, do I practically always want to be right? Do I almost always want to draw attention to another’s sin? Do I nearly always want to control decisions or do things my way? How’s the condition of my heart as I approach thinking and acting on this matter? What are my real motives? Am I seeing a lot of “self” in my thinking? Am I favoring something or someone I shouldn’t be?

Am I in God’s Word? Am I reading words on a page, or prayerfully meditating upon them? Am I justifying my “wisdom” and “rightness” by mostly reading others’ words about truth? Where I glean my wisdom from and how intimately I engage God’s Word often exposes how self-focused or motivated I am.

What would/does laying my life down look like here? What does laying down my preferences for another look like, here?

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Mom Enough

I’m not a great advice giver. I never know what to say in the moment. But, I read this book a few years ago and it may have been one of the most encouraging books I had read that was written specifically for “moms.” So I thought I’d share it.

I’m actually not much into “mommy” books, or articles, or whatnot. I usually have to force myself to engage “those ones.” But, I forced myself at the time to read this one, and it gave me a much needed shift in focus. A call back to God’s purpose for me. It chastised me for my selfishness. And reminded me of the hope I have in Christ.

It’s free (two thumbs up!), written by several different gals (which is nice if one’s writing resonates better than another with you), and the chapters are short (you can skip around and don’t have to go in order!).

Download it. And then read little bits and pieces during those agonizingly long 45 minute nursing sessions (hello to staring at blank walls and nursery decor!!!), or even the 45 minute bottle sessions (if your kid is anything like my daughter was…seriously, though, aren’t bottles supposed to be faster or something?!), days when naps go well (glory!), and when the hubby watches the kiddos and you’re set loose, wild and crazy like, to the coffee shop.

Much love to you, fellow mothers. Praying you lay your life down for the sake of the gospel, and that you know what that looks like in the details of your life…in these days.

Find the book here for free at Desiring God.

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kids’ Bible reading

At our house, we have begun nearly all of our “school year” activities. It has been a busy few weeks. But, it’s been hanging over my head that I need to post the actual Bible reading plan my daughter is using. I was going on and on about doing it, so I must be true to my word!

There are actually two parts to her “Bible study/reading.” The first part is a short, 4-day reading plan through a few of the Psalms. My intent with this reading plan is to help my daughter have some consistent time reading in the Word, and to begin learning to engage it. For this portion, though there are some elements of “Bible study” in it, this is not intended to be a thorough treatment of these passages. I also want to be careful to avoid extremes…legalistic reading, pure knowledge accumulation, “mindless” reading, responding purely out of emotion, or without wisdom. It is 3rd-grader approved, and quote, “better than the ones from last year we did.” So far so good, I guess!

I have five weeks of this written out; you are more than welcome to print them off for personal use. Perhaps they will be helpful for some. If they are, send me a note or comment below and I’ll post more as I prepare them.

They could be done individually, the way my daughter is doing it, or they could be used to help foster some discussion together. The Psalms I chose are in no particular order. I wanted to give her a taste of different Psalms, so I’m being intentional to include some from different genres of the Psalms – they are not all praise, they are not all lament. It would be easy to avoid “harder” ones, but I think there must be ways to allow our kiddos to engage all of it at some level.

The disclaimer: I sort of proof read these, and I know when you blog you’re supposed to be great at proofing, but this just didn’t happen, so you may truly find some typos. And, they are totally not comprehensive! After all, this is for a little girl’s daily reading and prayer time. I prayed and worked hard to be faithful to the Word, but I also did not agonize over these for hours on end. I pray there are no major exegetical fallacies (!). That being said, the primary resources I use for our Bible study are Bible Study by Kathleen Nielson, One To One Bible Reading by David Helm, a few resources passed down from my pastors, and my resources from a course I completed at http://www.simeontrust.org.

Second, in my previous post, I mentioned we’re trying to prepare for Sunday mornings at our church by reading through and doing some “Bible study” together so we’re primed and ready for the sermon. I don’t plan to post this portion specifically, because it’s primarily discussion. If you’re interested in the kinds of questions we talk about, though, I’d be happy to give some insight or suggestions! Just send me a note.

We do this typically on Fridays together, and it’s mostly a discussion that takes us around 30 minutes. On Sundays during the sermon, I’ve been having her take notes, listening for three specific things: 1) something we learned together about the passage (this helps us know if we were on the right track!), 2) something new she heard that we didn’t discuss or address (this helps her – both of us! – remain teachable, and appreciate the pastor’s work, teaching, and instruction in the Word), and 3) listen carefully for how the pastor asks us to apply it to our lives (this has been hardest for her to find, I think because it’s at the end of the sermon typically!). On the way home or later that day I’ll glance at her notes and/or ask her about what she heard.

This has been highly encouraging to me. She has gleaned a lot from the sermons recently. I praise God for some of the things his Word has really made her consider and think about during our Friday discussions and Sunday afternoons after hearing the Word preached!

But, lest you think we are super great at maintaining this rhythm – or you observe my daughter on Sunday mornings and question – we have not done this perfectly. This is our ideal, our goal, my vision for my daughter and myself as we study on Fridays. Traveling to see new babies in our family and spontaneous field trips has interrupted our “study” cycle. And sometimes, when we sit down to discuss it on Fridays, it’s just really, really awkward! I ask questions that sound boring or are filled with “ums,” she is unenthused, her eyes are glazed over, and it often has taken a few minutes before we really get to anything very “great.” However, once we finally get there, once we plow down and work together to see what God is saying, wow! God’s Word is real food for us, not plain ol’ words on a page. I just know he is delighting to see us make this effort to know him.

I’m praying these ideas spur many of you on to better and greater ones, as you work heartily to bring your littles before the throne of grace and truth!

Here are the five weeks of Psalm readings:

week-1-psalm-reading-study

week-2-psalm-reading-study

week-3-psalm-reading-study

week-4-psalm-reading-study

week-5-psalm-reading-study

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It dawned on me the day she insisted on drinking water from a mug. A few minutes later, I found her sitting on the couch, Bible open in her lap, head bent in reading, and the mug cupped in her hands.

I realized it every day she frantically searched her wardrobe to find an outfit that matched what I was wearing.

I have seen it as I’ve watched her organize her play make up to look just like mine in front of her bedroom mirror, and apply it on her sweet little face alongside me in the mornings.

And it was confirmed, just the other day, when she informed me that she, too, has her own “theology” books to study, and that she loved the very word itself.

The girl wants to be like me.

I am like someone she wants to be.

Today, right now, as she is learning about life, it is I she looks up to. I am her biggest influence, her most dominant role model. Though they say these days may change in many ways, for right now, she loves it that way.

Do I?

I find myself pausing as I type, after writing that question down, pondering it. Do I love being the one she looks up to? I think about some of the moments this very week when I’ve scorned some of her copycat ways, sighed at her tagalong spirit as I walk through the house, and I am convicted. I am convicted because I know the scorn and sighs that come from me are not worthy examples to follow.

I find my mind drifting to the words of Peter…”what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God…(2 Pet 3:11-12).” 

What sort of people ought we to be, he asks. When our daughters look back upon their childhood, what sort of person will they see in their mothers? Will they see a mother who was diligent to be found in Christ…as she was nagged all day long? Will they see a mother who longed for the Day of the Lord, not in order to escape the trying moment, but rather to embrace it for eternal purposes? Will they see a mother who aimed to be a role model for them while they were young, pursuing godliness, chasing Christlikeness, striving for holiness? 

They will surely remember our sin, our moments of weakness. They will look back upon their childhood and see our stumbles and areas we should’ve grown in. But, thank God for that! Would we want it any other way? For if they remembered perfection, surely that would reveal a negligence on our part. The appearance of perfection is not reality or truth, it does not demonstrate or explain the grace of the gospel of Christ. The truth is that as we pursue lives of godliness and holiness while they follow us around, tugging at our skirts and chattering in our ears, they not only see our weakness and sin, but what we do with them. Will they remember us as ones who embraced the scorn? Or will they remember us as ones who had great humility over it and prayed for the power to overcome it?                   

          
The girl wants to be like me. 

I am like someone she wants to be. 

Am I becoming like what I want her to become? Will I, will we, embrace it? Will we love it?

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great things in 2016

As I look back and reflect on 2015, one thing is loud and clear to me: the year 2015 looked absolutely nothing like I anticipated upon entering it.

We had no idea there would be a sudden job change for my husband, or that we would begin homeschooling our daughter, and, perhaps least of all, that we would witness the birth of a second child, our son.

In these last few weeks since his arrival, in the very early hours, when my house is dark, before the cats are prowling around meowing (screaming) for food, before my daughter is up giving me fashion makeovers, before my husband wakes me for a moment to say to goodbye before leaving for the day…I have held my newborn son. 

I have liked to sit in his room, in the watches, in those early dark hours, and hold him. I have liked to hold him and stare at him, sitting in the old feeble rocking chair I found for a dollar and my dad fixed up for me. 

I have stared at him, and I have cried. I have cried because his chubby round face, so still and so perfect and so lovely, makes me ever so grateful. It brings to my mind all that God has brought about for my family; the external evidences he has given that demonstrate the internal workings he has done. The realized and unrealized burdens that he has lifted, and the quiet joy that he has brought to our souls because of how incredibly merciful he has shown himself to be to us.

I see its realness when I look in my husband’s eyes and see a brightness there. I see its authenticity when I watch my daughter’s selfless attitude and deep love towards her new baby brother. I see its freedom when I search my own heart, and feel the need for his continual mercy.

Watching my family live life, and living it in light of the mercy of our great God, is an astounding, blessed, grace-filled, holy gift; it is a gift that I could never have before imagined until I lived this life, with these people, before this God. It makes my soul fall upon its knees in speechless wonderment. It makes my mind desire to lift itself up to the throne of grace. It makes my heart tremble with humility before the One who has so cheered my flailing, burdened spirit. 

What will this next year hold for us? For me? My husband? My children? Our family? I have made a few plans, a few goals. I want to grow in commitment to the tasks God places before me, and so I pray that I choose to keep at these tasks, and not willingly go my own way in the things I take on.

But above all… in the midst of all that, really…I want to watch God at work, as I have watched him work this year, and the years before it. I want to continue to see my family live life as he works in our hearts to deepen our knowledge of himself. I want to watch him move among the people of my church, opening eyes and deepening faith. I want to watch him expand his flock, bringing the straying and the wandering to the safety of his eternal care. I want to join in singing with the angels, as they rejoice over souls saved. Though I have vision and thoughts and ideas for 2016, I’d much rather it look nothing like I anticipate. I want God to astonish and astound me with his plans and works. I want to end 2016 much like I am ending 2015; in speechless, tearful, joy-filled thanksgiving and praise. 

And so for 2016, my prayers for myself, my family, my church, my community, is this:

Nothing exceeds thy power,

Nothing is too great for thee to do,

Nothing is too good for thee to give.

 Infinite is thy might, boundless thy love,

 limitless thy grace, glorious thy saving name.

Let angels sing for sinners repenting, prodigals restored,

 backsliders reclaimed, Satan’s captives released,

 blind eyes opened, broken hearts bound up,

 the despondent cheered, the self-righteous stripped,

 the formalist driven from a refuge of lies,

 the ignorant enlightened,

 and saints built up in their holy faith.

I ask great things of a great God. 

– from The Valley of Vision

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