Sunday, February 24, 2013

Supremely Trustworthy Forever

"...when gratitude for God's past grace is strong, the message is sent that God is supremely trustworthy in the future because of what He has done in the past."
-John Piper, Future Grace (emphasis mine)

Check out my sister's reflections on Future Grace here.
I needed to remind myself of the above quote today.  Heck, I've needed it most of this week.  My heart is showing much more ugliness than I care to admit most days.  It's been a busy season in our lives with adjusting to being a family of four.  Hubs is also in a busy season at work.  We are tired, often grumpy and feeling the crunch of the occasional late nights at work and at home.  To borrow the analogy of a friend, our hearts are being squeezed, and I particularly am not fond of what I see coming out of mine.

  Over the past few weeks I've been waking up in the morning feeling a growing sense of insecurity.  It seems to touch every part of my life: I doubt my worth as a mother, wife, homemaker, friend, daughter, etc.  I shrink at the uncertainties of the future and how my mistakes in all of these areas could impact it.  Life seems to be flying at high speed and I feel like I'm just holding on for the ride, wondering if anyone is really in control.

I spent some time one afternoon while the kids napped.  I had not done that in a very, very long time and it was needed.  I poured out all of my worries I felt on the pages and was reminded of 1 Peter 5:7:

"Cast all your anxieties on Him, because He cares for you."

As I read the above quote this week from Future Grace,  I am reminded that I do have Someone who is in control of the future and of the circumstances of my life.  I have seen so many ways that the Lord has been faithful to me in the past, often in very hard circumstances.  I am thankful and have so much to look forward to in the future, especially in life in the Lord.  And He really does care.  I apologized to Him that afternoon for dumping all on Him, but I seriously think He didn't mind.  In fact, He reminded me that He is really the only one who can handle them.

God has been faithful in the past.  He is trustworthy.  He will be faithful in the future.

In times like these where I worry about the uncertainties of life, I also turn to one of my favorite songs as a reminder that God is in control and His kingdom is coming.  I hope it encourages you as much as it does me.


Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Children and Oxen

"Where there are no oxen, the manger is clean, but abundant crops come by the strength of the ox."
-Proverbs 14:4

It's  been a rough morning.

Both kids were awake before 7:00 a.m.  My daughter is coming off of a fun weekend at Grandma and Grandpa's and is adjusting to being back at home (re: testing me to see if all the house rules still apply!)  My 3 month old son has refused to nap for more than 45 minutes at a time in the morning, these past few days not at all (Thank God he has been taking a long one in the afternoon!)  He also must be going through a growth spurt because has has wanted to nurse almost every two hours today.  And to top it off, my daughter has been (and there is no delicate way to put this) putting her hand down her pants as a sort of comfort gesture.  Right before her nap she *discovered* something in her diaper.

Needless to say, the following few minutes involved an apology from Mommy, a bath and a change into an outfit with a onesie (access denied!)

On days like this, the above proverb often comes to mind.  When I come downstairs and find every single toy from the toy box strewn across the living room floor, am dealing with various unpleasant bodily functions emitting from my little darlings and/or apologizing again for yelling, I start to feel really overwhelmed.  I start to feel like a failure because I can't keep the house or my children clean for more than an hour or deal with that inevitable temper tantrum.  I think God is using this proverb to remind me that in the midst of all of these physical and emotional mothering messes, much is being sown in my children's hearts.  Every moment becomes a teaching moment that I can use to strengthen them to become wise, independent adults.  A lot of those moments wouldn't be there without the mess.  God is so gracious to remind me that the imperfections of life are often the places we can experience His mercy and training the most!

So many times, I do screw up this whole mothering thing!  That's where this proverb is also a great reminder that I don't always have to have the perfectly clean house or well-behaved children (remember that if you come to visit!)  All of this is a process, after all.  I am thankful that God is reminding me through His Word of the invaluable fruit that is being sown during this training season in my children's lives.  These two little "oxen" sure do make for a messy life, but if I continue to trust God in the midst of this really busy season, I will see how He has used my efforts and failures.  I may not see much progress now, but with much prayer and training, I hope it will come!

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Gratitude, hope and meatloaf

"The Bible rarely, if ever, explicitly makes gratitude the impulse of moral behavior."
-John Piper, Future Grace

This post is one of many in the Future Grace Series  I am doing with my sister.    Be sure to check out her thoughts on this chapter!

I remember the first time I read this sentence.  It kind of shook my spiritual foundation a little bit.  My first experience of Christianity was based on rule keeping.  I always felt that I should follow God's rules because of what He did for me and "be thankful."  But honestly, sometimes it was a begrudging thankfulness.  An "I know I should be thankful so I will be obedient" kind of living.  Sort of like this:

"Starving people would be happy to have that!"  Soul, you should be obedient because you are grateful (or you have this meatloaf, so be grateful and EAT IT!)

Does that make sense?  I am grateful.  Every day I am thankful for the complete and finished work of Jesus' crucifixion and resurrection.  But so often I don't always remember what that means for me in my struggle to be obedient.  And I have to remind myself with God's Word:

" For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.  For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.  For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.  For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees?  But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience."  Romans 8:18-25.

Paul isn't using gratitude here to encourage his friends during a time of trial.  He is using hope.  The hope that we have in Christ of all things being made new (Revelation 21:5).  I think Piper is pointing to that hope as our motivation for obedience instead of just gratitude.  That really encourages me on days that I am weary and struggling or stuck in some sin that I have struggled with constantly.  My obedience can be pretty sloppy (like Ralphie's brother finishing that meatloaf!)  But that hope of what Christ has in store for us in our future is wonderful for me to look forward to.  And for that...I am grateful.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Not perfect, but obedient

"The faith that justifies gives rise to lives of obedience-not perfection, but growing holiness."
-John Piper, Future Grace

In case you missed it, I've begun a new series with my sister!  We are reading Future Grace together and blogging about it every week.  You can read her thoughts on this week's chapter (For Theologians)  here.

I thought Saturdays were supposed to be relaxing.

Honestly, it's just been a normal day here and I'm not sure why, but I just feel so much pressure to get everything done.  I am doing a lot of things that I enjoy (like cooking!) but not finding joy in them and I think I know why: I am trying to do everything perfectly.

I hope there are others in the same boat out there.  You know how it goes: you want the perfectly clean, clutter free house, well-behaved kids, a baby who sleeps through the night (or, God forbid, naps during the day), insert the life you want here.

And don't even get me started on my "imperfect" devotional life.  I'm lucky to read both Spurgeon's Morning and Evening devotionals and the Bible reading plan I started last March and definitely will not finish by this March before I collapse on the pillow quivering with exhaustion each night.  My prayer life consists of "help me!" in the midst of what one of the mom blogs I follow likes to call The Failure Hour (every mother dreads it...that window of time between 4-6 pm where dinner needs to be made, the kids are whiny/hungry and you're remembering all the things you wanted to do during the day that you never got to!)

Speaking of things that need to be done, I read the chapter that I pulled this quote from last night while my 2 year old watched an Action Bible Songs DVD and my 2 month old lay wiggling on the living room floor.  Scanned the chapter would be the more operative word!  But even in the midst of all this "imperfection"  I am encouraged by this book, and the quote above seems rather timely for today.  

Today I am reassured that God does not require perfection, but obedience.  If I am trusting Jesus, listening to His voice and resting in the salvation He has purchased for me, I do not have to worry about being perfect.  The faith I have in His finished work on the cross and His promise to carry to completion the work of holiness He has begun in my heart (Philippians 1:6) is a more wonderful motivator than perfectionism ever could be.

Let that encourage you today.  If you have faith in Christ and are being obedient to Him, He is pleased with you.  He will continue to help you grow in holiness, no matter how imperfect your life may seem.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Iron Sharpens Iron

"When faith is in its fullest operation, it pictures a future with a God who is so powerful and so loving and so satisfying that this future-picturing faith experiences assurance.  Now."
-John Piper, Future Grace: The Purifying Power of the Promises of God

I have exciting news:  I just finished reading the intro to the new edition of Future Grace...and so did my sister!  We are planning on reading a chapter a week together and then blogging about them.  We will be posting every week.  You can check out her blog here.  I have to say, I think she is a WAY better writer than I am (I mean, she can rock poetry...I don't have the guts for that!)

This idea sprung out of us buying the book for each other for Christmas.  We had a good laugh about that (we are twins, after all!).  Then we started talking about how good it would be for us to read the book together and Casey suggested blogging about it.  She said we would have different perspectives since we are in such different life stages (me a married SAHM with two kids living in a small town, she a single lady interning with a 24/7 prayer ministry in the big city).  As she said that, I was immediately envious of her ability to be able to sleep past 8 a.m and not have to drive 45 minutes to get to the mall....but I digress.

I am so thankful for Casey, not only as a "womb-mate" (ha...I don't think I'm the first person who's ever coined that phrase, but I still find it really funny) in the physical sense but for our sisterhood in a spiritual sense.  She by example, encouragement and her own book recommendations has always "spurred me on towards love and good deeds" (Hebrews 10:24).  I'm really looking forward to doing this series with her and once again reading a book that encourages my faith by reminding me of our great God and His promises for us.