Friday, November 30, 2012

Just Enough, Part II

Fighting a lie with a half-truth doesn't do much good. There is only one foot to stand on, and therefore, not much fighting power. It might help chase the lie away for a day or two, but it cannot strike its death blow.

Last night it struck me - hello! - that is what I've been doing for some time now. No wonder I keep struggling with this particular issue.

When the day drags on, and I am weary, slightly down, and feeling like I've failed, this lie nags me: You're not enough. You can't do enough, be enough. You'll never be enough.

I used to say, "Oh, yes, I am. I can. I'll be enough if it kills me." Not in my words so much as in my actions - I'd try harder, work more diligently on improving myself or the work of my hands. And often I would accomplish it. Then, as life got more challenging, becoming a wife and mom, running my own business from home, serving in the church, etc...I began to lose more and more battles to that lie by fighting with that weapon of Try-Harder (which is, in fact, another lie).

And then the Lord revealed to me that I actually can't be enough. I will never be enough to meet those impossible flesh-imposed standards. Even if I were to be perfect, I would not be satisfied. I need to find my satisfaction in God.

So, I began letting go. Releasing those standards. Raising the white flag and just stopped trying harder. It freed me and I began to live again.

But lately, I've been discouraged, and the lie is back: You're not enough. You can't do enough, be enough. You'll never be enough."

This time I haven't slipped back to trying harder. However, I still hadn't grasped the whole truth. Instead, I've been telling that lie, "I know I'm not enough. I won't ever be perfect. So quit trying to make me think I have to be." It helps for a little while, but it's more like a win by resignation (you know when you played checkers as a  kid and your little brother gave up because you wouldn't move your checkers where he could jump them? Or maybe that was just my brother...). I still felt a bit sad and discouraged and not like the victorious woman I am in Christ.

Until last night I realized this: No, I'm not enough for that impossible standard of perfection. But I am just enough for what God wants of me.

I am right where he wants me. It's true - I honestly can't do anything in my own strength. But that doesn't mean I don't have strength! It is God who equips me with strength (Psalm 18:32)! By his grace, I am the wife my husband needs, the mother my son needs, and the servant the church needs. Me - just as I am - I am accepted by God, and my family, and my church. God uses me as he will and makes me sufficient to obey his call.

Paul wrote the Corinthian church, "Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, who has made us competent to be ministers of a new covenant..." (2 Cor. 3:5-6). No, we are not sufficient, but God has made us competent! He suffices us and those that he reaches through us.

What blessed relief. It takes away the guilt when I feel like a failure. I am covered in the blood of Jesus and the grace and strength of the all-powerful God equips me to live each day. He makes me competent.

So I rest in him.

Be gone, lies. I may not be enough. But my God is...and he has me just where he wants me. It is enough.

Friday, November 23, 2012

An Extra Reason to be Thankful...

This story begins earlier this week, when I asked God to provide more formula for Charlie. It is far from cheap and last month he provided through a friend who had several cans to give us, so I asked him to provide again. I was eager to see how he would answer. 

Last night I decided to brave the cold and crowds and go "Black Friday" shopping for the first time in my life. Well, not the first time, but the first time was in my KS hometown of 8000 people, so...that was no big deal. I'm not a big shopping lover, so I'm not sure why I thought it wouldn't be a big deal, but my logic was that the store I went to was not Wal-mart, Target, etc, so it wouldn't be as busy.


I spent 5 minutes dizzy and rather stunned before I figured out what was going on after we all pushed through the doors at 9 pm on Thursday. I was able to find the deals I was shopping for, as well as a few other things, and then I decided to run back and check the baby section, well, because, that's what a mommy of a baby does.

Then, I saw a small clearance rack. On it sat 5 containers of Similac formula for $8.79 each, marked down from $21.99. Wow. It had nothing to do with Black Friday but I know it was meant for me.

I guess going out in the crowd was worth it.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Free to Walk in Grace

At the end of a long day, in which I feel like I've failed multiple times, the temptation to wallow in discouragement overwhelms me. I'm tired, and I want to do better - to be more. It's a far cry from where I began this morning with a wonderful discovery about God's grace vs. my works.

And yet it's not.

I'll be honest. Today I rolled out of bed feeling defeated. We had gone to bed tired and unready to begin another work week. I've been discouraged about my weight and eating/exercise habits. When I got up with Charles to feed him and play with him for the first half hour of our day, I started psyching myself up to work harder to have self-control in my eating and exercise. Mentally, I was considering how I needed to "learn" to have more self-control.

Then, I had this revelation: Is self-control something you actually learn to do, or work at, or as a fruit of the Spirit, is it something you receive simply by choosing to walk in the Spirit? Paul wrote to the church in Galatia, who couldn't stop sinking back into legalism, the "gotta-do-this-and-that-to-please-God" mentality, "Walk in the Spirit and you WILL NOT gratify the desires of the flesh."

For some reason I think I have always read this "Walk in the Spirit and do not gratify the desires of the flesh." But to see it that way is to totally miss the point! It's to take a fact and change it into a command. Walking in the Spirit keeps me from gratifying the desires of my flesh.

As a follower of Christ, I don't trade in one set of works for another. I don't trade in my please-God-for-salvation works in for become-more-like-Jesus works. Instead, being a Christian means having a beautiful, close relationship with an incredible God who transforms me to be like his Son, Jesus.

After Paul wrote the sentence above in Galatians, he mentioned the fruit of the Spirit in a list: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, self-control. In my first vacation Bible school experience, we focused on this list and how God wants us to do these things. If you peruse the Christian bookshelf you will find scads of books on how to follow this list to be a better Christian - more like the Spirit. Of course, you do it with his help, but you're still the one DOING it.

But even if I somehow manage to enact these in my life, the results are the fruit of MY hands, not the fruit of the holy, omnipotent Spirit of God. Truthfully, though, no matter how hard I try, I fail miserably when I try to show love, to have joy or peace, to be patient, to control myself, etc, in my own strength, working hard to be like Jesus.

As it turns out, however, what I really need to be working at is growing closer to the Lord - deepening my relationship with him by living with an open heart to his leading, communicating often and sincerely with him, confessing my sins and failures and receiving his grace daily (rather than trying to work my way out of the guilt I feel over them!) and getting to know him better through his word.

Paul continued in Galatians, "If we live by the Spirit [which we do as Christ-followers - the Spirit is our source of new life in Christ], let us also walk by the Spirit."

What I don't need to do is learn how to have more self-control, or how to be more joyful or peace-filled, etc, but rather learn how to walk hand-in-hand with the Holy Spirit of God. Then, HE will produce this fruit in my life and I will be more like Jesus.

Back to how I felt this evening...weary and wanting to be better at this thing called life than I am. God gives me grace every day, because he doesn't expect me to actually be like Jesus on my own. No - it is his grace that gives me forgiveness for salvation, and it is his grace that frees me from the need to perform well as a Christian.

What freedom! I don't have to "try harder" to be good. No. I just need to give myself the same grace God gives me, and learn to trust him more to work in me and produce the fruit he wants to see in my life - fruit that brings him glory because he is the one who produces it!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Our Romantic Retreat (A Bedroom Renovation Project)

Nate and I have finished redecorating our bedroom! I absolutely love the finished project. My goal was to change our rather blah tan room into a cozy, romantic retreat. And of course, on a budget! Our landlady paid half of the paint price, so that helped a lot. But, after selling/consigning some things and then shopping consignment and garage sales, I was able to gather all I needed to put together the room. I'm not sure it's HGTV worthy, but it works for us. The blue on the walls definitely ups the cozy factor and there are scads of candleholders around the room now, too. We enjoyed painting together, and I loved doing it all.

Before (like, waaay before...when we first moved in back in March):

And now, AFTER!

 The plan for my dresser is to get a jewelry stand and switch my jewelry from my ancient jewelry box to some glass dishes and stands on the white tray I redid. So my dresser is not completely finished.

I wanted to re-purpose some shutters or a fence or door or something rustic for our headboard, to use as a focal point in the room. However, I opted for a less expensive, more available choice of a headboard and shelves and accessories I found at consignment stores.

Flowers from my wonderful hubby. They are stunning against this gray-blue, aren't they?

Hubby's dresser. A little mix of the old and new.

Our reno was altogether right under $100 for the whole bedroom and all the small accessories - candle holders, mirrors, baskets, curtains, paint, etc.

Light up those candles and it's just cozy and lovely in the evening. The perfect retreat.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Pumpkin Cranberry Deliciousness Bread

Pumpkin Cranberry Deliciousness Bread

1/3 cup butter
1/3 cup coconut oil
2/3 cup honey
2 cups pumpkin puree
4 eggs
1/2 cup hot water
2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. cloves
2 tsp. vanilla
1 cup oat flour
2 cups whole wheat flour
1/3 cup flaxseed flour
2 Tbsp. wheat germ
1 cup chopped cranberries

Cream butter, oil and honey together, scraping bowl. Add pumpkin and eggs, beating until smooth. Dissolve soda and powder in water, then stir into mixture. Add salt and spices and vanilla. Then mix in flour one cup at a time. Stir in cranberries. Pour into greased loaf pans and bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes or until knife comes out clean.

What I absolutely loved about this recipe was creating the ingredients myself. I pulled out my blender and ground up the oats and the flax into their flours, and chopped the cranberries as well that way. The original recipe called for 2 2/3 cups of white sugar, 2/3 cup shortening, and 3 1/3 cup white flour. What triumph to convert a family favorite recipe into this still-scrumptious-but-much-healthier alternative. It tastes sweet and nutty and hearty.

So thankful this morning for small blessings and joys, like the ability to cook with good ingredients, and a nice long nap for baby, and the reminder that God is enough to satisfy my heart. 

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

My Boy

Recently I've been thinking about the challenge and blessing of being the mother of a little boy. Till recently, in my mind, he's just been a baby...but all too quickly he has become a little boy baby and soon the baby will have to drop from his title altogether (although not very soon, thankfully!). 

It fascinates me how, although he is only 7 1/2 months old, you can already see his little masculine side coming out.

He's tough - he can topple over from his sitting position and smack his head on the floor and he'll just look up and you and blink a few times, confused, but not disturbed at all.

He loves a challenge - he owns a giant toddler plastic three-wheeled motorcycle that is his absolute favorite. He likes to lie beside it and pull on the pedal, eat the wheel...whatever he can do to own that bike, he tries. He like figuring out his toys, and reaching for one thing after another, without caring about it once he's mastered the challenge of grabbing it.

He's destructive - knocking down block towers, dumping out bags of toys, etc, are already his favorite things to do. I envision explosions and bonfires in his future.

He loves adventure - his daddy does a human roller coaster with him that involves swinging upside down and around. He has come to equate daddy with wild, crazy can tell in his eyes when Nate holds him that he expects to be dropped upside down!

I began to realize the vast male-female differences before Nate and I started dating, and once we were married they were magnified again. However, now they are written in the sky for me to see! Mommies are not much like their little boys!  Someone (a man) recently told us, "Girls are so much easier to raise than boys!" It made me realize that this is because our society is so feminized. We don't live in a man-friendly culture. Men aren't encouraged to be men...strong, valiant, adventurous. So we try to fit our boys into a girlified boy mold, and the result is that they go crazy. It's hard to train boys to be boys in a culture that wants them to be nice, neat cultured men when they are born with a wild heart's desire to be a cowboy or a soldier or a pirate.

Teaching in kid's church has also opened my eyes to this. Boys need freedom - to have fun, to be crazy, to face a challenge. They need to know that they are respected, even when they are little boys. What a challenge as a woman and a mom!

My heart's desire is to be a mom who lets her son be a boy, yet trains him to behave appropriately and responsibly, to help Charles chase his dreams and tackle challenges and learn to depend on God in the process. It's amazing to see my husband thrill to have a son to teach these things to, and I want to support that with my whole heart. What a privilege I have been given, to be the wife of one godly man and the mom of his son, two fun-loving, affectionate, adventurous men!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Just Enough

Ever lived in one of "those" seasons...where every penny is counted twice before being spent and you breathe a sigh of relief when the first of the month rolls in and the bills are all paid, and where you feel that pinch of "I'd love to go buy this or that but I'd probably better wait until next month"? It's not a comfortable place for an American to be. We like our buffer zone - that extra spending money in the bank or on the credit card. Often our stuff either defines us or at least pleases us to the point of complacency.

I've been thinking a lot about stuff lately. Craigslist and are my two new favorite websites. We made an easy $30 this month by listing books we picked up at garage or book sales. I sold an ugly vase for $12 and used clothes at a consignment store for another $11. Eagerly, I've been scouring our house mentally. Can I get rid of that? Do I have more of those I can spare for a few extra dollars? Charlie is growing and moving and playing with so many toys and I have to admit I'm already thinking, "Are there any toys we could get rid of?" (Does that make me a terrible mom?) :) I know, I'm a little weird...

Another thing I've been doing is updating my wardrobe, by ruthlessly cleaning out my closet and taking things to consignment stores and turning around and shopping from those stores to spruce up my fall/winter wardrobe. I love buying lightly used clothes for good prices, but sometimes I do think, "What would it be like to just go on a Kohl's shopping spree without worrying about how much you're spending?" Then you can start to compare yourself with others and their stuff. It's easy to start feeling like you don't have enough. Like your options in the closet or pantry are limited.

But tonight, as I was hanging up our laundry, it struck me how wonderful it is to have enough. My husband's jeans all lined up nicely...our shirts hanging all color coordinated (per Nate's preference...), jackets, hoodies, scarves, shoes...perhaps we don't have enough to fill one of those massive walk-in closest on House Hunters on HGTV but it is enough! We in the West have this mindset that we always need more, and that we have the liberty to use our money to always get more for ourselves. How refreshing it is to let it sink in - God has provided all I need and will continue to do so, always. It may not be all I want, but it will be enough.

Our country enters a season of thankfulness this month, with Thanksgiving approaching. Closely on its heels comes the worst surge of materialism, starting with Black Friday, opening the Christmas shopping season. Gifts are a wonderfully fun part of Christmas, no doubt. But is my heart truly thankful, or am I discontent deep down, wanting more, more, MORE? And perhaps, going a step farther, I might ask, would I be willing to start seeking to live with LESS, to declutter my life even further?

Starting today I resolve to be thankful for the enough that God has given me. And, I resolve to look for every way to give to others who may not have that enough with which I am blessed.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

The Infestation of Stress

Mommy and daddy and baby. We've been suffering with a lingering cough/cold combo that has left Nate without a voice (very difficult as both his jobs require his vocal chords...customer service and leading worship!) and stressed both of us out. Charlie has been crabby and needy and by late this afternoon, all of us were tired, and crabby.

Great timing to start a project like painting the bedroom, wouldn't you say? We didn't put a lot of strategy into it, but started anyway. Nothing went right. I had to go back to the hardware to buy a paintbrush. We spilled paint. Various other mishaps. We were tense. Charles was fussing. What was wrong?!

Humbly, we went before the Lord together and asked him to heal us and to change our hearts and attitudes. Nate put on a playlist of our favorite songs, and we got back to work. Within a short time the tension had dissipated, but I was most fascinated by our son. Whining and squirming that had carried on all afternoon gave way to happy noises and kicking feet. His tension had given way to peace as well.

It's amazing how God works through the hearts of parents to create a safe place for little ones. When we were in unity, and trusting the Lord, our 7-month-old baby was at peace after a day of stress.

Oh, Lord, may my heart always be at peace in You so that our home might be a haven for our family and for anyone else who may enter here.