Thursday, December 18, 2014

Conviction #3 - Written by Derrick

This post was to go up last weekend; well we never got to finish it on time, so here it is. Sorry for the possible suspense, or anxiety that it may have caused. :) In case you haven't read the first two parts of the series, here is Part One written by Melyssa and Part Two written by both of us.


The last post that went up was not to be an overarching attack on Christian’s celebration of Christmas. I am harboring no judgmental feelings or attitudes toward anyone. I don’t want anyone thinking we are a family of scrooges sitting at home praying for misery upon you and your family. Nothing could be further from the truth. We want to spend time with you and have fun with you, and study the Word with you, we just will not be talking very much about Christmas trees, decorations, or presents. :)


Another thought that people have is: “Well, what do you have against Jesus’ birth??” Actually… nothing. We absolutely love the incarnation of Jesus. His story of entering into time as a man in order to save us from sin and redeem us from death, began in a manger in Bethlehem. It is an amazing story from beginning to end. Our choosing not to celebrate Christmas has absolutely nothing to do with Jesus birth as that is an event that consistently leaves us amazed and in wonder.


Also, in case you are wondering, our family is full of joy and happiness. It is simply that our joy has nothing to do with “Christmas spirit” and everything to do with enjoying God. We do not desire to rob our children of fun, nor do we desire to be unhappy, but rather we have found the things we enjoy about this time of the year really have nothing to do with Christmas. We enjoy family; playing in the snow, hot chocolate, making crafts and tasty treats, good food, and great times of worship through song and studying His Word. I still get awesome family time as I am on a school schedule, so I get two weeks off!! We choose to separate the fun and joy from the traditions as we believe that those traditions are not honoring to God.


That being said, the celebration of Christmas is only a small part in what has changed in our lives as God continues to lead us. We used it as an example, because not celebrating it makes us really weird to others, and I wanted to make sure that people knew where we are coming from.


The big issue that has been continually impressed upon is God’s holiness. That is the bottom line here. If I view God as the epitome of holiness, absolute perfection, then what should my life look like. Multiple places in the Bible demand holiness from the followers of God. We are to be holy as He is holy. (Lev. 11:44-45, 19:2, 1 Peter 1:15-16, 2 Tim. 2:21)


So, if God is holy, my life is to be a reflection of that holiness. I am not saved by that holiness, because it does not come from me. I am saved by His grace, and then I am given the ability to be holy as He is holy through His Holy Spirit. (2 Thess. 2:13, 1 Peter 1:2, Rom. 8:1-17)


As we study the Bible, and we have been discussing this on Sunday mornings through Leviticus and studying the glory of God, we see that God takes His holiness very seriously. He is neither to be trifled with nor to be taken lightly. We have numerous examples of people in Scripture who did not respect nor fear the holiness of God and received swift punishment. God is holy and expects holiness among all who are near to Him.


As I said, I have no holiness in and of myself that I can approach God. Christ has taken my punishment and has given His holiness in my place. And once this happens I can stand before God and not have to die for my sins… all thanks to Christ and His sacrifice in my place!


Once I have experienced this amazing salvation, my life no longer belongs to me, it belongs to Christ. That means, all of my desires, traditions, and things that I think are important, are now to be crucified with Christ. So that now what is important to God and what He desires becomes mine. My identity is no longer Derrick, but now a follower of Jesus Christ. When people see me, I do not want them to see Derrick, but rather a reflection of God and His holiness. (Gal. 2:20, Luke 9:23, Gal. 5:24, Rom. 12:1-2)


The only way that we can learn of God’s holiness and what is important to Him is in His word. If we want to grow, we need to be faithful students of God’s Word. We must go to the Scriptures for all things. 1 Thessalonians 5:21 tells us to test everything. Everything that is part of our lives must be tested in the light of God’s Word. Christians today are ok with not digging deeper. We are ok with not growing or learning. But if we are truly followers of Christ, we must be willing to put everything aside for the sake of Christ. He is our life now. Therefore, in order to understand what God expects from us, we must be diligently searching the Scriptures and allowing His Holy Word to guide our lives.


I did not begin to understand the implications until about 4 years ago. Since then, God has impressed His holiness upon me more and more as I have continued to grow in Him. I have a long way to go, but more than ever my desire has been to be molded and shaped by His will. I still fight Him on things from time to time, but I desire to test everything I do, say, feel, and think by the Word of God. I do not want to have things in my life that I hold on to, simply because they are important to me. I want to be willing to let go of all that is not honoring to my holy and righteous, King and Father.


Christmas was something that simply did not pass the test. God’s strong words to Israel about mixing pagan practices with worship of Him finally did it for us. But Christmas was not the only thing to go. Another thing that had to go was my love for sports. I loved watching, reading about, and listening to sporting events. I could recite to you all kinds of stats and scores. But… how was God receiving glory through this? How was I reflecting His holiness in this obsession? Why would I not study His Word rather than study sporting events? Why would I not memorize His Scripture rather than memorize stats? My desire for His name to be exalted in my life led me to give up my obsession with sports.


Both of us can recount multiple areas in our lives that we have laid aside and put to death for His glory. Our plans, purposes, hopes, dreams, children, entertainment, hobbies, and… really everything, has been laid on the altar before God. The more we yield our lives to God, the more we give up and lay aside for His glory. And the more we lay aside, the more freedom we have felt. We can so easily become so encumbered by the worries, cares and traditions of this world. God is calling us to experience true freedom and true peace by separating us from the world and the world’s thinking. This freedom is felt more and more as we die to ourselves to become fully alive in Christ.


So, in the end, I am not that concerned with your stand on Christmas. However, I very much desire for all Christians to understand and experience what true freedom in Christ is like. Christmas has been a big one for us, but the more and more we separate from the traditions of men, we experience true joy and peace that Christmas never brought us.

So, what is it in your life? Where is your life more reflective of the world instead of the holiness of God? We have one call here on earth… to bring God glory. Where are you not reflective of the holiness of God?

Friday, December 12, 2014

Conviction Part #2: Our Story (Jointly Written by Derrick and Melyssa)

In our last post, we talked about how God has been stripping away our own prideful and selfish desires and has been replacing them with the desire to follow Him, completely. This is a process that will continue until we die, but it is a process that we have begun to openly embrace. Where before, we were resistant to conviction and change, now, through the power of the Holy Spirit, are open to His conviction and direction. This time around, we are going to look at a specific area in our lives where God has blown up our desires and replaced them with the sole desire to follow Him and worship Him as He has called us to.  Again, this is not out of a desire to bash you over the head in judgment, but rather to lovingly share what God has been teaching us. This is one example of how God has changed us, but there are many more areas of our lives that have changed and continue to change thanks to the conviction from God’s Word and leading from the Holy Spirit.

It is (we think) fairly common knowledge that we don't practice holiday celebrations as a family, particularly Christmas and Easter. If you didn't know that, now you do! It has been a progression for us and definitely not one that we have taken lightly! I can't even tell you how many conversations we have had on this topic over the last 3-4 years. This is our story of discovery, conviction, and change, specifically dealing with Christmas.

Both of us celebrated Christmas growing up, and did so into adulthood. Both of us enjoyed the traditions and sentimentalism of the season, more so Melyssa than Derrick. However, neither of us really had any real understanding where those traditions stemmed from. We were simply always told that Christmas was about celebrating Christ’s incarnation here on earth.

Now, I (Melyssa) really cannot remember what prompted me to do this, but I decided that I was curious about the origins of Christmas and wanted to learn about it. And of course, you can find the answer to just about every single question in the world by Googling it! What I found was shocking to me. I sat there, in my living room, looking at my pretty tree and decorations, and discovered one by one, that all of the things I thought were innocent and lovely were all rooted in the pagan worship practices centered around the winter solstice. Seriously...mind blown. I guess it is pretty common knowledge for most people, so call me ignorant... but I had no idea! I kid you not, my very first thought after reading that was...then why in the world would Christians celebrate it? I was jaded. I did not enjoy much about the holidays after learning this. It was just not the same for me anymore...little did I know that it would change even more as the years went on! But that year, I just went through the motions. I even asked Christians about it and they were like, "Yeah, I knew that, so what?" Once again, mind blown. I was surprised and taken aback by how casually this was viewed by believers.

When the next year rolled around, I decided that if almost every Christian in the world thinks Christmas is good, and holy, and beautiful, then I might as well join them! I explained away all my convictions by telling myself,  "It's been 'redeemed' for Christ!", "We can just make it all about Jesus and God will still get the glory." and "No one really thinks they are practicing pagan worship when they put up a Christmas tree, so does it really matter?" I started listening to Christmas music in October that year (I was pregnant and SO caught up in the emotion of it all!) and went all out with decorating, festivity, you name it. We had a gorgeous tree...I remember it well because it was our last.

After that year was over, we both knew that we needed to stop celebrating Christmas. The more we searched God’s Word, the heavier the conviction was on our lives. We needed to let God’s Word, not our emotions shape our actions. Since then we have strived to be faithful to God’s Word and be loving to others. Our desire now is humility, humility before God, and before others. We do not always say things the right way, we do not always know where lines should be drawn and when they should not… we are still works in progress, as we all are. However, our foremost longing is to see God glorified in our lives, and I know that the more we strive after Him alone; He will help us to work through those details.

We want to share some of the top reasons why we have made the decision not to celebrate Christmas. This list combines things that both of us find important. It also shows things that we have been wrestling with over the last 4 years. Here is our compiled, but not comprehensive, list of reasons why we do not celebrate Christmas.

1.       It is not celebrated in the Bible, nor commanded to be celebrated in the Bible. The apostles never celebrated, nor did the early church fathers.

2.       The origins and most common traditions of Christmas are definitively pagan, there really is no way to get around that. The tree, gift-giving, yule log, mistletoe, garland, caroling, Santa (nope, sorry, not a saint), elves, you name it.  As I mentioned, most think they know this, but most do not know to what extent these traditions are indeed pagan, and most do not know exactly what they were meant to signify. Please, if you are open to this, do some good research on the subject. It may take some time but it will open your eyes to what it is we are using to celebrate Jesus Christ. We must be careful not to allow the traditions of men to get in the way of what God wants. (Mark 7:8, Colossians 2:8)

3.       The pagan celebration was adopted by the church under the rule of Constantine, who “Christianized” the pagan celebrations in an attempt to allow people to become Christians and keep many of the same traditions. It morphed into a Catholic holy day where they attempted to infuse new meaning into the pagan traditions, most of which were retained in the celebration. The Bible speaks pretty clearly on not using pagan practices to worship the true God. (Deuteronomy 12:30-31) For instance, most in the church today would be very oppositional to the incorporation of Buddhist meditation practices into their worship services, even if they gave them new meaning. Yet, this is what we do when we use Christmas and Easter as celebrations of Jesus.

4.       Materialism. This one will probably be one that is a little easier to agree with for some of you. It doesn't take long to look around this time of year and see example after example of greed, materialism, selfishness, all in the name of Christmas. Think about how focused people are on what they are going to buy. How worried and obsessed people get about shopping and getting gifts for their loved ones and friends. How much money is unnecessarily spent on people who already have way more than they could ever need or want? Not everyone does this, and I am glad to see that there is a new trend of simplicity and "less is more". But, overall, this country goes absolutely nuts this time of year with spending. It's out of control. I think gift giving is sweet and thoughtful and something that we should all be in the practice of doing. But, the greatest gifts cannot be bought. The world tells us that they can, and we see ads everywhere we go telling us just what our loved ones "need" for Christmas. I'm telling you, there is only one thing we all need, and it's more Jesus and His Word.

5.       Christmas is always a let-down. It cannot live up the hype. It is so fleeting and filled with unrealistic expectations. Depression is rampant during this time of the year, due to the death or absence of loved ones and friends, or stress from the busyness and chaos. Our children become so hyper focused on gifts that they can think of little else, and then are let down when those gifts do not bring fulfillment. We put so much stock in traditions, that when they let us down, we feel angry and stressed. True fulfillment is only found in God, not empty traditions. (Psalm 63:1-8)

6.       The world celebrates Christmas, in fact the largest Christmas tree in 2010 was in the Muslim country of Abu Dhabi. The world listens to Christmas carols that contain lyrics about Jesus, but are lacking in the gospel. There is no sting of conviction from the true gospel found in Christmas. Most people love the idea of Jesus as a baby… He did not say anything controversial then. Let us be in the world, but not of the world. Let us present the offense of the gospel, the offense of the cross, not a watered down, muddled version of it. (1 Corinthians 1:18-25, Isaiah 8:14, Romans 9:32-33)

7.       Our Worship of God should be enough. Many people feel they need these special days to “jumpstart” their faith, which it almost always does not. Our worship should be grounded in spirit and truth, and it should be daily and weekly. We do have a celebration given us, the Lord’s Supper. Let us allow that to be our reminder, pointing us back to God.

8.       The final reason is one that has been impressed more and more on us as time has gone on. It has been even more convicting as we have been studying through the book of Leviticus. It is the holiness of God. God is holy and demands worship that is grounded in His word; worship that follows His commands. There will be one more post under this conviction heading, and we will focus on these questions: What is God’s holiness and how should it change how we live our lives? This has been the most compelling reason that has driven the nail in the Christmas coffin for us. We will dig into that more in the next post.


I want to restate, this is simply one of many areas in the life of our family that has changed due to God’s conviction on our hearts. However, it is a very controversial and misunderstood conviction. We wanted to share why we do what we do, that this is not some flippant, trivial decision that we have made. It is made through much prayer, study in the fear of the Lord. We pray that we will be open to searching the Scriptures to discover God’s will on this issue. Do not search or trust your heart or emotions, but rather let your emotions be ruled by His Word. 

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Conviction

This post is one that I have never wanted to write. But I'm going to do it anyway.

And this is definitely a "joint" post, meaning that Derrick is in on it 100% and may perhaps be writing some of it himself. At the very least, he will be carefully editing my words, for which I am so grateful.

Conviction. I used to think of that as an ugly word. Something I feared. Oh no...I'm convicted. Great. That means I need to either stop doing something I like doing or start doing something I don't want to do. Fun fun. Probably because it wasn't true conviction, but rather it was a sense of guilt and obligation, which is never very motivating.

It doesn't feel that way anymore, though. I find myself longing for conviction, change, and growth. Since truly surrendering my life to Christ about 6 years ago, I have begun to delight in God's Law like David so often talks about in the Psalms. Here is just one of the many examples:

Teach me, O LORD, the way of your statutes; and I will keep it to the end. Give me understanding, that I may keep your law and observe it with my whole heart. Lead me in the path of your commandments, for I delight in it. Incline my heart to your testimonies, and not to selfish gain! Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things; and give me life in your ways. Confirm to your servant your promise, that you may be feared. Turn away the reproach that I dread, for your rules are good. Behold, I long for your precepts; in your righteousness give me life! (Psalm 119:33-40 ESV)

I used to think that life could be "in-between". I could have my comforts, my enjoyment, my fun, and also live for Christ. I thought that American culture and all of the material wealth and status that comes with it was some sort of special blessing from God. The whole "American Dream", was good, wholesome, Christian, and worth striving for.

I hope this isn't too shocking to the Christians reading this but....that couldn't be more wrong. Look what Jesus said the life of a believer will look like:

Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul? (Matthew 16:24-26 ESV)

I know it's not an easy pill to swallow...but Jesus is pretty clear about the cost of discipleship. Basically, everything this world tells us that matters, doesn't. And everything that God tells us in His Word that matters, does. The reason I long for conviction is because I desperately want more of Him and less of the empty, vain, temporary pleasures surrounding me.

Before I go any further, I want you to know I speak from a place of love, not judgment. The word "judgmental" gets misused more than any other word in Christianity, in my opinion. I hear it thrown out there just about anytime a person stands for the truth of God's Word. "What? You're saying we need to submit every area of our lives to God? How can you be so judgmental?" Let's take a step back and ask ourselves, "Is it really?" If a person is speaking from a heart that is soft towards His leading and truly desires to grow and possibly help others grow in the process, wouldn't that be a positive thing? Truly sinful "judgment" is when you are holding yourself up with pride while putting others down. If I come right out and tell you that you are a "bad Christian" because you don't do things the way I do, then that is wrong. But if a believer is just telling it like it is, sharing their convictions, and showing that his heart is to bring glory to Christ, there is no need for fear when others make such false accusations. Because God is the true Judge, and His opinion is all that matters.

I think it's important to clarify this before I go any further. Because a lot of what I want to share quite possibly could sound like it's coming from a place of pride. It is my hope and prayer that you will see my heart and know that it is in a place of humility that I bring this to you all. God has done so much in me. I am not the "me" I was, and it is all because of Him. I used to love the world more than Him, but He has done this in me:

And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. (Ezekiel 36:26-27 ESV)

So, I don't speak for myself, as if I were someone special. I speak for HIM, who has given me a heart of flesh. I desperately long for His ways and it is my prayer that all believers will have that same longing.

I'm going to split this up into a few posts. Please, if you choose to read them, all that I ask is for you to open your heart and mind. I do not expect agreement, understanding, or approval. But, as this post is so fittingly titled, I am convicted that I should not keep quiet about some things that are so heavy on my heart. I plan to use a lot of Scripture, so it is more His words than mine. So, take or leave what I say, because I am just an imperfect human being. But, fellow believer, I pray that you will hang on His every word. Because it is His truth that truly sets us free.

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:1-2 ESV)

Installment #2 of this "Conviction" series will be published tomorrow. Stay tuned! :)

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Philippians 2:1-11 - The Ultimate Example

I am really enjoying typing out my thoughts on Philippians! I also find that it really helps me to focus as I'm reading each passage. Instead of just reading it and moving on, I'm reflecting and trying to organize my thoughts. There is so much we can learn from God's Word. If I did this study 3 more times, I'm sure I could pick out at least that many more topics to write about! And then a year from now, I would probably see completely new things. The Bible truly is alive and powerful!

This passage is definitely one of my favorites. I am just so blown away by what Christ has done for us all. And I love the mental picture I get when I think of seeing "every knee bow" in worship of our great Savior!

In Chapter 1, Paul talked about how there were some who were preaching the gospel out of rivalry, and not out of the right motivation. He went on to say that he wants the Philippians to be "standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel" (1:27).

In Chapter 2, he tells them how they can achieve this unity in spirit: through following Christ's example of humility--

"Do nothing from rivalry of conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross." (vs. 3-8)

I have always had a longing deep within me to be a part of something bigger than myself. I believe that this is something most people desire, and that God wired us to want to be part of a community. We need each other! However, too often I have allowed myself to build walls, to remain distant, to just be an "island" and not be truly unified with my brothers and sisters in Christ. The reason? Pride. Exactly the opposite of what Jesus has done. Instead of counting others more significant than myself, I have put my own needs and wants first. Because of that, when those requirements were not being met, I decided that being part of a body of believers was not worth my time and energy. I nursed my wounds and hid in the corner, playing the victim and blaming others for my loneliness. The reality is, I wasn't willing to obey God's Word in this area. I didn't want to put others first. I wanted everyone to put me first! The thing is, we can't read God's Word in order to fix everyone else. James says that it acts like a mirror, by which we can see our own reflection. It is not our job to make sure everyone else measures up, but that we ourselves are obeying and following! This is why obeying requires TRUST. Because we must do as He asks, and recognize that His way is always best, whether things turn out the way we would like or not.

Hmmm, that may have been a bit of a tangent.

Anyway, my point is, I needed an attitude adjustment (and still do, from time to time!). And on a daily basis, I need a reminder to put others before myself. To look at their interests and needs as more important as my own. How do I achieve this? This is not easy, because as humans, we are naturally very selfish. The answer? Jesus. It's always Jesus. His example is so incredible. He IS GOD. That is not something to be taken lightly! He gave up position in heaven to become a lowly human on earth. And, that kind of humility is just unthinkable...but it doesn't stop there. No, he didn't just walk the earth for a few decades, being subjected to sickness, grief, hunger, thirst, and exhaustion. It goes far, far beyond that. You see, He allowed Himself to be put to death by us. The same people who He counted as more significant than Himself. The ones who He came to rescue. We crucified Him and He still did not fight back, because His death is what would save us, and He was putting us before Himself.

So, if you are desiring to be truly connected with the body of Christ, follow His example. And in those times when it seems like you're on the outside looking in, take a look at how you're viewing others. Are you seeing their needs? Are you truly reaching out, asking people how they are doing, and praying for others on a regular basis? Are you inviting people into your home, participating in times of study and prayer? I promise you, if you are doing these things, you will be unified with other believers. It will just happen naturally. And, in the process, you will think less of yourself and more of others, just like Jesus has done when He came to live on this earth. And the next time you struggle to sacrifice yourself for others, think of all He gave up for us. It may change your perspective.




Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Philippians 1:19-30 -- What would YOU choose?

While reading through this last section of Philippians 1, I was struck by the way that Paul wrote as if he truly had a choice whether or not he would live or die. I don't think God was leaving it up to him, but I think he was really trying to share openly and honestly about how he was feeling as he faced certain death (and, come to think of it, we ALL face certain death, it's only a matter of when). Verse 21 sums up his thoughts well.

 "For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain."

I've actually reflected on this verse many times in my life. How can dying be greater than living? Well, because of Christ. He has turned death into a thing of victory and joy, if we belong to Him. But life has its perks, too. We are placed here for a purpose. Bringing glory to God is the only way to have fulfillment. It's the only thing that satisfies. That's why he says that to live IS Christ. And, Christ IS life. There is not one without the other. But, Paul was honest when he said,

"I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account."

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Philippians 1:12-18 - the Gospel is all that Matters

Today has been less interesting. And I am ok with that! It is a gorgeous, warm, summery day smack dab in the middle of October, though! Such a tease, because I know it's going to just get colder from here on out. We are enjoying it while it lasts, with some extra time out in the yard playing this morning before lunch. Gotta make the most of these kind of days!

My thoughts on this passage are brief. But I love this section. I love Paul's willingness to just be laid out as a sacrifice as long as the Gospel goes forth. He actually seems to write with excitement as he proclaims,

"I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ." (vs. 12-13)

We've been studying the book of Acts in our mom's group Bible study, and have been reminded of all that Paul went through. It would be easy for him to say, "It stinks that so many horrible things have happened to me, and I am tired of being falsely accused and imprisoned for no reason at all. I give up!" (OK, I'll admit, this is probably what I would have said.) But, because Paul sought to glorify God with his life, he didn't look at it selfishly. Instead, he saw the big picture. He saw that the truth of the gospel was being brought forth and that was something to celebrate.

He even goes on to talk about some others who were preaching the gospel, but with the wrong motives. They were driven by "envy and rivalry" (v. 15) and not by love. Paul could have taken offense by this. He could have been humiliated and hurt and angered by their selfishness. But instead, he was just full of joy that the gospel was being preached.

I think this is important to keep in mind. We should not focus on who is teaching it or what their motives are. As long as the true Gospel is being taught, that should be all we need to concern ourselves with. Maybe someone has a method of evangelism that you do not agree with, or vice versa. For me personally, I am not a big fan of street preaching. I have no problem with others doing it, and I know that people do hear the message and come to faith in Christ. But, do I see myself standing there with a megaphone and a handful of tracts? Not really...nope. I'm just too shy and nervous for that! I get so embarrassed and stumble over my words and...it would just be disastrous. But do I see myself teaching the Bible to a room full of children? Or sitting down to study with a friend? YES. Absolutely. Our methods may be different, but the message is the same. And that is truly all that matters. There is no greater cause for rejoicing than seeing His truth proclaimed to all who hear!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Philippians 1:1-11----Finding the Joy in it All

As it turns out, this week is a perfect time to start a study on being joyful. I have a lot swirling around in my head and my soul is just longing to stop and enjoy God's presence. So that is what I'm doing today, with this blog post. As I just read through Phil. 1:1-11, a few things stood out to me. This isn't going to be an exhaustive study, but just an overview of what struck me as I read. So bear with me if it's not a perfect "exegesis" (Bible College word) of the text. :)

Verse 3 is where my eyes first land:
"I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. And I'm sure of this, that he who began  good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ."

Did you ever notice how easy it is to find the negative? Why is that? I could be having a perfectly fine day, and yet I will still take the time to notice the things that went wrong, and recount those events to anyone who will listen. God is really doing a work in my heart and showing me that this needs to change. In this passage, I think of Paul, who was imprisoned, without much hope of ever being released. As he reflected on his relationship with the church at Philippi, what was he thinking about? He was focused on all that had been accomplished for the sake of the gospel through these believers. Every time he remembered them, he thought of them and prayed for them with joy and thankfulness. It would have been easy for me to sit there and worry about them. "Oh no, what if they forget what I've taught them, what if they are led astray by false teaching, what if they get into petty arguments and cause divisions in the body?" Or I would start remembering all of the negative things that had happened in the church and hope and pray that these things don't ever happen again. But Paul didn't waste his time on all that. Instead, he focused on the work that the Holy Spirit is doing in each one of them, and as a church collectively. He, I'm sure, remembered the rough patches, and the person or two that he'd had a disagreement with over the years. But it wasn't his focus. His focus was praising God for them, longing for them, and confidently assuring them that God is working in and through them.

His desire is for them to continue to grow and bring God more glory. That is what all of us should want, both for ourselves and for the believers around us! Now, back to the present. God sure picked a good day for me to really dig in and rely on Him more as my joy, my strength, and my comfort! Today has been a doozy. Is that a word? Because I've heard it many times, but I have no idea how to spell it. haha! Anyway. It was harder than most, but not impossible. It started off a little rocky when Chloe's tummy decided to send breakfast back up. I don't remember if I prayed initially or not, but I was able to find the calm place long enough to think to strap Elijah into his high chair so I could tend to her. This usually results in a screaming baby, but God gave that little boy a desire to play quietly for about 15 minutes, long enough for me to do all I needed to do. A coincidence? I think not! :)

Right after that, Elijah got his hand caught in the bathroom door. Still not sure how that one happened. But I felt SO guilty for not catching him before that happened! As I sat with him, Chloe came over and kissed his hand. Then, while I was crying my eyes out (because I really did feel like it was my fault), Elijah looked up at me and started giggling. He was laughing at my "ugly cry" face, I'm sure. But it was enough for me to find the joy, yet again.

A few minutes later, I was sitting on the floor, both kids clinging to me. I said, "We need to pray, guys." So that's what we did. Chloe prayed her little 2-year-old prayer and I prayed a short, desperate-sounding one for strength. When we said "Amen", Elijah stopped clinging to me and crawled off to play happily. I think he felt the peace that had just washed over me.

In the midst of all this, a friend brought some clothes to our house for Chloe. We found some things that she really is needing for winter! Also, there was a plastic shopping bag full of those little "ball pit" balls. We went out on the porch and Chloe was beginning to fuss for lunch, which I hadn't had a chance to make yet (she doesn't have a tummy bug, thankfully, another thing to be joyful about!). I grabbed that bag, ripped it open, and instantly there were smiles and laughter all around! More joy.

AND, I'm so thankful my husband has a job close by that allows him to come home at lunch time if I really need him to! He came and helped me fix lunch and get the kids all settled before heading off back to work. That is easy to be thankful about!

This may seem like little stuff. And really, it is. In the grand scheme of life, these are the details. But God is in the details of my life, just as He is in yours. There aren't compartments of life for God. He doesn't exist only in those parts of life where we go to Church, or when we have a Bible study, or sing worship songs. He is there for every part. When I'm sitting at home folding laundry, reading, doing dishes, playing with the kids, or just resting...He is in those places, too.

So...at the end of the day, if you ask me how my day was, what am I going to focus on? The lows, the failures, the stress? Or am I going to remember how God was there in those moments, giving me peace, calm, and yes, even JOY? Let's remember Paul's example. When reflecting, he could have recounted the things that bothered him, but instead, he just thanked God and prayed that these believers would be "filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God." (v.11)

Your turn...what are your thoughts on this passage? Did something else stand out to you as you read? Do you struggle (like I do) to find joy in the craziness of life?
Please share!


Monday, October 13, 2014

New Blogging "Series" - A Study through the Book of Philippians!

Yesterday, our church studied I Thessalonians 5:12-18. As we were being challenged to "Rejoice always and pray without ceasing" (vs. 16-17), I was reminded of my own personal conviction I've been experiencing lately to spend more time focusing on God throughout my daily activities. As a mom of young children, I don't often have time to sit down and open my Bible for study (though I often desperately want to). However, I do not need to do this in order to spend time with Him consistently each and every day. Our pastor then encouraged us to do two things:

1) To remember that we are always in God's presence as believers, because we have the Holy Spirit. And to really make a conscious effort to just BE in His presence throughout daily life.

2) To keep a journal to help us remember all that God has done and is doing, and to use this to give us the opportunity to take time to truly rejoice in Him.

I really loved the journal idea. I used to journal all the time in my teen years, and in college. But after that and now as a busy mom, I just struggle to find the time to write out my thoughts by hand. (And maybe I'm also just a little bit too lazy to write it all out....hmm thanks, technology!) Well, I decided that since this blog is dedicated to many different subjects, why not study a book of the Bible and write out my thoughts on here? I really love just reading through and seeing what jumps out to me. I love how God's Word works like that! Alive and powerful. I need this study time to bring some things into focus and if you do, too, I invite you to join me. Read through the passage I read, and tell me what jumps out at you. Or just do your own journaling! I chose Philippians because there is a lot in there about having joy in the Christian life. And it was also written by Paul, at a time in his life when there wasn't much to be joyful about by worldly standards. He was imprisoned and facing imminent execution. This would have been a perfectly understandable time for him to be extremely discouraged. Yet, he sent this letter to encourage other believers. I think we have a lot to learn from this book (and every other book of the Bible, too ;) )!

I'll start out by reading Philippians 1:1-11. I plan to write my thoughts out on this passage tonight or tomorrow afternoon. So stay tuned. And if you get a chance, read it too and give me your thoughts either on the Growing Together FB page or on the blog! The more people to study with, the better. I love getting others' perspectives!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Matcha Powder...Green Tea Like You've Never Seen Before.


Have you ever heard of matcha green tea powder? Well, if you haven't, you're not alone, because I hadn't either before signing up to review this great organic product from Kiss Me Organics! The actual origin of matcha is something that is not unfamiliar to most of us, however. It is simply the leaves of the plant where we get green tea from that have been ground up into a fine powder. So instead of drinking tea that has been made from steeping the leaves, you are actually ingesting the leaves directly. Matcha is proclaimed to have great health benefits, as it is most commonly known for being jam-packed with antioxidants as well as being a great metabolism booster.

What did I think of it personally? I loved it! My husband did, too. We mostly added it to smoothies, which I really think is the best way to consume culinary grade matcha. We did try it as a hot tea drink, though, and I found that to be really quite tasty too...if you like that strong chlorophyll  taste! I added some honey and it was just right for me. Not everyone likes it that way, but if you enjoy stronger, more leafy/grassy flavored teas (Sounds strange but some people really do), then I'm sure you'd enjoy this as a hot drink as well. This product came with a booklet of all different types of recipes to try. I didn't try many of them because they included cream or milk which I cannot have right now because I'm nursing a baby who is dairy-intolerant. BUT, I really wanted to, especially the lattes! They looked delicious!

Here is the link to this product on Amazon if you'd like to try it yourself. It also has a long list of customer reviews, many of them giving very high ratings! Once again, as was the case in my last review, the price is a bit steep for our budget. However, you only need a small amount to achieve health benefits, so one package will last you a while if you choose to just add it to your morning smoothie or have an occasional cup of tea! We have had ours for over a month and still have more than half the bag left. And that is after using it almost daily. Have you ever tried matcha? Please comment below and let me know what you think, or if you tried this product, how would you most like to use it? Smoothies, lattes, baking, or some other unique way? 




I received one or more of the products mentioned above for free using Tomoson.com. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Yacon.....Rhymes with Bacon?

So, yippee, I'm doing my first product review EVER!




And I'm really excited to be able to do it for such a unique and wonderful product from Life & Food.




"Yacon syrup? What's that?" That's what I said when I first heard of it, anyway! Well, let me explain a bit about this wonderful sweetener to you. To answer the question in my title, no, it is not pronounced like "bacon", but rather has an accent mark over the "o". So it's "yay-CONE". Anyway, it's made from a plant that grows in certain places in South America. The root is juiced and then cooked down to a syrup. The premium syrup is considered a raw product because it is only heated at 45 degrees Celsius. This product is low on the glycemic index, making it diabetic-friendly and a great option for natural sweetener. It also can help to boost metabolism and improve digestion, as it contains a fair percentage of prebiotics.

Now, as for how it tastes. I would describe it as having a mild molasses-like flavor, minus the bitterness. It is delightfully sweet and tasted great with everything I added it to! My favorite was to have it on toast or pancakes. We also used it in our regular homemade salad dressing instead of honey. We used it in smoothies, too, and I am including a recipe for my newest, absolute favorite smoothie made with none other than.....yacon! :)

As you can see, we really enjoyed it! The only down side is the price...on a tight budget, this is a little hard to justify. However, if you only use a little bit of it here and there like we did, it can last a while and you'll get more bang for your buck. If you take the recommended 3 teaspoons a day specifically for weight loss...well...it might get a little pricey for you!

OK, here's the recipe. It's not mine actually, it's Derrick's. I'll be honest, he is the master chef around here. And he usually just whips stuff up, but I asked him to write down the amounts he used, and he kindly obliged! So here it is...my super duper favoritest smoothie in the world created by Derrick Howry! :)

Coconut Yacon Green Smoothie (Dairy Free)
1 cup kale
1/2 cup spinach
3 frozen bananas
2 tbsp coconut oil
1 tbsp coconut cream
2 cups coconut milk (or any kind of milk if you're not dairy free, but the coconut flavor is awesome!)
3 tsp yacon syrup

Serves: 3

Optional:
cocoa powder and peanut butter to taste (This is what makes it my favorite, but not everyone likes it this way...that's what Derrick tells me anyway. I have a hard time understanding why someone wouldn't want a chocolate peanut butter smoothie, but that's their loss I guess!)

I found this video that gives lots more info about yacon, in case anyone is interested!!

I received one or more of the products mentioned above for free using Tomoson.com. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Wacky Wednesday....#ThisIsAllIHavetoGive

I wasn't going to participate in the P31 Blog Hop today because I am just too busy!! But I love writing and it helps to sooth my spirit and calm my anxieties, so I will write a little bit about what is going on. Today is ONE of those days!! Those crazy, never know what's going to happen next, want to just go back to bed days! It's super hot (for northern NH), my husband and I both have colds, I was woken up several times last night, and then this morning we woke up to find out that our oil tank is empty (our water heater runs on oil). So dishes are piling up. Then we find out that our car, which was already in the shop, needs more work than we thought. I am trying to plan to teach our preschool program for our church's Wednesday night ministry and can't get my thoughts together. Meanwhile, I'm still doing all the normal mom stuff! Feeding children, wiping up messes, potty training, changing diapers, playing outside in the kiddie pool, and babysitting two older children. Doing my best to keep them occupied and happy as well! Phew!

So, I was starting to get stressed out and then I just stopped and thought....God's got this. I mean, He's always in the details of our lives, working and showing us things about Himself, right? And since I'm at that point right now where it really is all I have to give...I'm at my max. But He isn't! Because when I'm about to crack under the pressure, then He reminds me that He's the one who has been carrying this load all along.

I often worry more than I should about silly things. Not this time. Well, my sinful nature wants to keep trying to figure out all the big decisions we have to make on top of all the every day stuff. I want to start planning and scheming and think of how I can make it work the best way possible. But....I am reminded, for the millionth time, that I am not the one who knows best! I could plan and plan, but God is completely aware of all my needs and He knows the direction I should take. So I trust in Him to guide me. The reality is, I could give all I THINK I have to give to try to make my plans come to fruition. And...it still wouldn't be enough. But that is ok!! I need Him to guide and direct. I need Him to open doors where He wants and close doors that He wants me to stay away from. I need this because I don't know it all. I can't, and I never will! Sometimes I wish I had more control, I think all of us do at times. But, imagine all of the stress, the responsibility, the fears, and the anxieties that would come with all that responsibility! No, I much prefer it this way. He is in charge, and I follow. I don't have to pave the way, I can sit back and let Him do all the work. That's the life for me. :)




P31 OBS Blog Hop

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Just another Crazy "Crunchy Family"..or Are We?

Disclaimer: This is long. If you read the whole thing, thank you!! But whether you do or not, would you please share a comment below (even something as simple as a smiley face)? I've had some issues with people not being able to leave a comment so I'm hoping to get everyone who reads this to at least try to leave one, so I can figure out where the problem is. Thank you!!

I've been thinking that I wanted to write a post to share more about who we are, for those who don't know us, or at least...don't know us very well. But I wasn't sure where to start until yesterday, after a conversation with a dear friend. We were talking about how it's easy to look at how someone chooses to do something and feel like in order to measure up, we need to be doing the same. It's so hard not to compare ourselves to others sometimes, isn't it? Truthfully, I really struggle with that. It's gotten better lately but especially as Chloe gets older, I find myself more and more influenced by what other parents think and do. It's really kinda ridiculous, because we're all in different places and no two families are alike (or two people for that matter!), which means that no one strategy is going to work for everyone. I'm not sure why we have this whole "Keeping up with the Jones'" thing going on. It's always been a pet peeve of mine when people care so much about living up to someone else's standard....why in the world do we succumb to that? Well, because when we're honest with ourselves, we're all a little bit afraid that we might not be doing things in the best possible way 100% of the time (who does?) and so when we see someone who appears to be doing a better job, we take a mental note and vow to strive to be more like that person. Or we shower ourselves with guilt for not being that person. Or....we justify why we don't do it like that person, better or not, and ignore all the feelings of inadequacy that may come along with it.

Well....this is what I do anyway....hopefully I'm not alone?!?! :)

ANYWAY. I believe there's a better solution. Being realistic and honest with yourself about who you are, and focusing on what God has you focusing on....not what He's trying to teach every single person around you. Because that can be really confusing and I have already lost enough brain cells having 2 babies....so I don't need any more confusion in my life, thank you very much!

Most of you know that our family chooses to go against the grain for a lot of things. Home birthing, cloth diapering, extended breast feeding, natural cleaners, homemade personal care products, building up immunity naturally, home remedies for illness prevention and treatment, chemical-free living, gluten free, food-dye free, (mostly organic) whole food eating, homeschooling (in the future) etc etc etc! I've heard it all....from being told we're crunchy, asking if we're going to ending up being one of those families who use "family cloth" (nope, that's too far even for me!), being told we don't use soap (we definitely DO), and a few variations of "I could never do THAT"  complete with raised eyebrows and perplexed looks.

OK YES! We are that family. We are sooooo weird, based on most people's perception of normal. I used to think people like us were total wackos. Well guess what...."Hi, my name is Melyssa, and I'm a natural living wacko. OH, and I love Jesus, too!!!" But the question that I really want to address in this post is...do these two things go hand in hand? Do we believe it's necessary to do all these things to be a follower of Jesus...and therefore think that all other Christians should be just like us in order to show they really love Him, too?

Nope. Not at all.

These things are not what I call "gospel issues". They don't save a person. They don't make someone better than anyone else. They are mostly lifestyle preferences. They should have absolutely no power to cause division among believers (though sadly, they often do). It's just stuff we do (or don't do). You wash your clothes with Tide? Cool...we are sensitive to the chemicals and scents of commercial detergent so we use soap nuts. You love ice cream sandwiches and brownie sundaes? ME TOO. But I can't have dairy right now because of my nursling and I'm trying to avoid gluten as well. So....we make frozen banana, chocolate, peanut butter, and almond milk smoothies instead. Life is just life and we all make different choices....that's the beauty of the minds God gave us to think and choose and decide for ourselves. He didn't spell it out in the Bible so....as long as we're not blatantly opposing Him, we have options. Side note: This goes both ways....no matter what choices we make, it never makes us better or smarter than someone else or a better Christian (if that's what you're striving for)...it just doesn't work that way.

However, having said all of that, I must add our own personal experience and why we do believe that our choices are an important part of our relationship with God. I tell you this, not to say that you should do it, too, but simply to explain where our hearts are at. Like I said before, we're all in different places.

I could give you a long list of all the benefits we have experienced from changing our lifestyle...but I won't go into that in this post. What I want to do is highlight a few key points to hopefully provide some clarity on where we stand:

1) Natural Living Can Totally Be an Idol (Just Like Anything Else)

If something completely consumes us, we can't stop thinking about it day and night, and we freak out if we can't have it the way we want it...it's an idol. God is clear in His Word that we're to only worship HIM. As believers, we struggle all the time with putting things or people before Him. It's our natural selfish tendency to want to do things our way.  Here are a few questions I try to ask myself to help me refocus:

1. Am I doing this because it's what I believe is what God wants me to do or is it because I want control?
2. Am I stressed out or upset if something doesn't work the way I want it to?
3. Do I care more about the spiritual condition of those around me than I do about this?
4. Do I take it personally if someone disagrees with me or thinks I am wrong?

I read this post on the Passionate Homemaking blog a long time ago before we even started on this journey and I love it. It describes my feelings so well! I encourage you to take a few moments to read it!
 Can Natural Living Become an Idol?

2) Natural Living Is Not Without Its Flaws

It's not a perfect system. Nothing is on this side of eternity. There are natural things that can be harmful (though it is very rare and usually you'd have to consume a LOT before it's even a remote possibility), or that just don't work as well as a conventional method. Case in point, we were having issues with ammonia build up with Chloe's diapers. We did everything naturally to try to "strip" them, and nothing worked long term. We finally broke down and used a little bit of bleach....problem gone. Another example is when I was sick with Hand, Foot, and Mouth at the beginning of June. I had a very high fever...and I know that it's better to leave fevers alone and not try to lower them because it slows down your body's ability to fight the illness. But you know what? It was 85 degrees outside, my temp was unbearable, and I needed to care for 2 kids. So, I took ibuprofen. And it helped me be able to function. So, while I will always go to the natural method first, I'm willing to admit defeat if we have exhausted every option and use a man-made chemical or medicine. If I or my kids are sick and nothing I do helps and we are truly very sick, I will go to the doctor (hasn't happened yet, but that doesn't mean it won't!)....because I'm not anti-doctors or conventional methods or commercial products. I just believe there are a lot of better, safer, non-toxic options that I want to try first. I see all that other stuff as having its place, for sure. And that place is to use sparingly, if completely necessary. Same goes for labor and child birth....but that's another post for another day. ;)

3) Natural Living Is not a Savior

Some people look at doing things their own way because they are hoping it will protect them...that if we take care of our bodies and eat the way God intended (whole foods the way He created them) we will have a long life and never be sick. I am sure that in general, a healthy lifestyle (good diet, avoiding harmful substances, and adequate exercise) causes a person to have a better chance of living longer. BUT, this is not why we do it. Because we believe that God has already decided long ago exactly how many days we have on earth and no amount of worrying or striving can add to that. (Matthew 6) I could have a completely healthy body and die in a car accident. I get that and I am totally fine with it. Because I don't look at this as having some sort of power to extend my life. Instead, because I know that eating and living this way makes me feel better, I want to make the most of my time and energy for Jesus by feeling up to the task. I don't want my love and cravings for junk food to become an idol to the point where I'd rather have that than feel well enough to serve Jesus in any way He wants.
People question why I bother to avoid toxins when there are so many unavoidable ones all around us. "Well, the air we breathe can be toxic, so what's the point of worrying so much? You can't escape everything, you know." I agree, it is impossible. We'd literally have to live in a bubble and this would not be what God would want believers to do. How could we reach out and build community with others if we are afraid of any possible exposure to something harmful? This is where the rubber meets the road....following Jesus is more important that natural living. Here are some "rules" in our house:

1. Food and drink are not issues that should be divisive. So when we are out with others, at someone's house, or at a church function, we don't stress out about what we eat or what chemicals we come in contact with. Fellowship is more important than our preferences. Unless it's dairy or gluten, because those things are specific health issues for us. We usually have something packed for the kids as a backup, but if not, it's not a big deal.

2. We don't argue or debate with people on why we've made these choices. It tends to stir up a lot of emotion and we just don't think it's necessary. If people ask me for suggestions, I am happy to give them. And I am passionate about all the things I'm learning so you'll see a lot of articles and blog posts shared on FB about these topics. And, if you or your child are struggling with a health/behavioral issue and you mention it to me, I might casually hint at a few natural/diet remedies...because I really do believe that a lot of things can be fixed that way. But, I don't want to upset you and I definitely don't want you to feel judged if you disagree (and vice versa)...so I'm willing to avoid that topic in the future. I'd rather have your friendship than convince you why I believe what I believe (except when it comes to Jesus....because this is a matter of eternity, and that's important enough to be willing to lose friends over, as hard as it would be).

3. We focus on what we can do and we don't worry about what we can't. Sometimes, I have a bite of cheese or gluten. Occasionally we go to a restaurant and let Chloe eat breaded chicken or fish. Once in a while (though it used to be a daily thing and I'm over it now), I get an iced coffee from Dunkin Donuts. And often we're so busy throughout the day that at night we're too tired to think about dinner so we order out something that's not all that healthy. My point is, we're not obsessive. We "cheat", and we don't beat ourselves up for it. Because once again, if you get that focused on something, it's clearly an idol, and then, instead of glorifying God, you're putting something before Him. That's the last thing we want to do.



Conclusion: I know this was long, but I'm really hoping that it gave you a better picture of our family, and where we are on the "natural living scale"...if there is such a thing. I'd like to see ourselves somewhere in the middle.  I don't think this stuff is more important than fellowship, commanded by God, or is going to give our family a perfectly healthy, long life. BUT, I do believe that the Bible is clear on how we should take care of our bodies to the best of our abilities, and should be willing to give up anything and everything (gradually, one by one) that we are holding onto simply because we want it. Life is so much bigger than us, and it is a lie from the world that says we should make the most of this short time on earth by pleasing ourselves. Instead, we need to make the most of this time by being willing to sacrifice our wants and desires on a daily basis...to bring God more glory in and through each of us.


Our trust is not in how "crunchy" we are.....it is in Christ. We seek Him and He guides us through all of these decisions....and we place our faith in Him. It's so easy to think we have control....but while I struggle with this at times, I am usually just so relieved that I don't!


Saturday, July 12, 2014

My "Total Mom Fail" of the Week (times two)

Do you ever have days where it feels like everything you do as a parent is just...wrong? I do, all the time. I really want my kids to be well-adjusted, emotionally stable human beings and I don't want to pass a single one of my negative character traits on to them. So when I inevitably let them see a side of me that I don't want them to take after, I think, "Oh no, I'm going to ruin my kids!" As if I alone am the only human being in the world who will have an impact on them and shape who they are.

A good example of this happened yesterday. We decided to get up early and go on a nice family hike. It was a trail that I have been requesting to go on many times over the last few months and we finally had the perfect day to do it. We remembered everything, got the kids all set with their long sleeves/pants and hats for protection from bugs...got Elijah on my back and Chloe on Derrick's back, put our awesome natural bug repellent on, and set out for our walk. I was feeling pretty good about it. A nice day, kids were happy, we were adequately prepared....the perfect scenario. We set off down the trail and everything was fine except for Elijah deciding he didn't like the carrier and wanting to kick and squirm...but I figured he'd settle down eventually. Then, all the sudden I noticed there seemed to be a lot of bugs around us. Then I said to Derrick, "Was there something hovering over there?" At first I thought it was a giant spider, but it flew away. Then, a few seconds later, I noticed another one. "What IS that?" Derrick tells me it's just a horsefly. "A horsefly? They are not THAT big, right?"

This is basically what we were seeing....hundreds of them. I found this pic on whatsthatbug.com  because there was no way I would have stopped long enough to take a picture of the ones we saw!! 
Now is probably a good time to tell you how much I hate bugs. I really do enjoy the outdoors but I really, really hate insects, especially anything that bites or stings. Especially anything that is GIANT and bites or stings. So, when I noticed that these enormous hovering creatures were, in fact, horseflies, I was pretty freaked out. I now noticed that there were not one or two in front of us at a time, but dozens. They would kind of play "chicken" and wait for us to come at them, then start swarming all around. I tensed up, and started walking faster, which did not help Elijah to calm down, in fact, he got more agitated. Then, it got even worse. I felt like I was in some sort of movie with mutant killer bugs. I wanted to scream, but instead I started hyperventilating. I know, what a loser, right? At this point Elijah was full out wailing, and I was done. So, when Derrick finally gave me the out and said we could turn around, I did not even hesitate. "I don't even care what's at the end of this trail anymore, it's not worth it!" So we headed back. Actually, we started jogging back, because now not only were we being swarmed by bumble-bee sized horseflies, but now we were being eaten alive by the most hungry mosquitoes I had ever seen! Needless to say, I was not acting calm. I was upset....I was disappointed that we weren't going to get to finish our hike, and I was feeling guilty for being so freaked out by bugs and being the reason we had turned around. Then, it happened, the toddler spoke up with words that shattered my spirit:

"Daddy....Mama sad!"

So, for the rest of the walk back (which seemed like it took forever), all these thoughts were racing through my head. "I hate that I'm scared of everything! Great, now I'm going to make Chloe scared of bugs, too. I want her to be a kid that's not held back by fear like I was! I want her to grow up and be able to do things and not have a million anxieties about them! Why am I so good at ruining our kids?" And all of these thoughts just made me more upset so by the time we got to the car, all 4 of us were agitated. Elijah mostly because he still did not want to be in the carrier and was not about to settle down since he was clearly feeding off of me. Chloe because she loves hiking and did not want to get back in the car. Derrick because he just wanted me to calm down and I didn't want to. And me because....well all of that. 

As we started to drive away, they both relaxed and Chloe said, "That was fun!" And I instantly realized I was beating myself up unnecessarily, for the millionth time. And we both calmed down too, and just agreed to try going there again in the fall when there are no bugs. Then we headed out for a grocery trip where I brought Chloe in with me and she helped me put things in the cart...then off to a toy and book shop where she had a blast. So all in all, a pretty exciting day for her, the hike (or lack thereof) being long forgotten. I love that about her, she just lives in the moment and enjoys every experience, and lets go of the past. I need to learn a thing or two from my two-year-old. 

This was perfect timing for me because tomorrow, the 13th, I'm starting an online Bible study that goes along with a book by Lysa TerKeurst called, "Am I Messing Up My Kids?". I read the first chapter about how her first daughter was 14 months and in a store with her being a totally crazy toddler, all while she was like 8 months pregnant. It brought back memories of some interesting moments in public places with Chloe while I was pregnant with Elijah! The embarrassment, the feelings of inadequacy, and basically just feeling like your kid just totally schooled you. Yep, been there! I'm so excited to learn from her wisdom as a mom of 5, and am thankful she is willing to be honest about her own struggles as a parent. If you'd like to join the online Bible study, it is done by Proverbs 31 Ministries. You can sign up here. I bought my version of the book on Amazon and I'm reading it on my laptop with Kindle Cloud Reader. They also have paperback available.

My lesson for the day was that, I'm giving myself too much credit if I think I'm the one who can either make or break my kids. They are God's, not mine. He is shaping them and He gave me to them as their mom for a reason. I will make mistakes, I will show weaknesses, and I will return to bad habits that I should be giving up. And yes, they will probably get some of their sin struggles from me. But, what they will learn the most from me is how I handle it when I do mess up. Do I stay in it, or do I let it go and move on? Do I hold onto wanting to be "right", or do I admit I was wrong and apologize? Do I say, "Well, this is just how I am", or do I open up my heart to grow and be changed by God, no matter how hard it is? This is where my example will really matter...not how messed up I am, but how willing I am to grow. 

Growing Together.....I think that really IS the perfect title! :)

P.S. Tonight, after writing this, Chloe fell out of the car while trying to climb out. She's done it by herself a bunch of times and has gotten really good at it so I stopped standing right there every time...and this time I was getting the screaming baby out of his seat. Watching her fall head first was terrifying...I was praying nonstop as we went inside so I could assess the situation. I'm sure all you veteran moms of toddlers are chuckling to yourselves but I seriously considered taking her to the ER since I was alone and couldn't get ahold of Derrick. But, this girl amazes me. She came in, requested to watch Pooh, then asked to use the potty (all while still crying), sat down and peed while asking for a snack. Crying stopped, and she was all smiles, knowing she was getting chocolate chips for peeing on the potty (I may have given her a few extra!). Oh, and, I learned from yesterday. I stayed totally calm and normal on the outside (while inwardly spazzing)....and this helped her to relax really quickly! When I finally reached Derrick, he talked to her and asked her what she was doing. She answered, "Talking on the phone!" (duh, daddy...lol) He concluded from that response that she is most likely ok....haha. Since coming home he has reassured me about 10 times that it's not my fault and that she will be ok. Once again, I am reminded that she is in God's hands, and He is in charge of every step, every fall, every breath. He knows her every need....and even in this, there is no need for mom guilt to overtake me.

Still kinda dreading what that bruise will look like in the morning, not to mention all the people at church asking what happened...oh well, with this independent girl, it's bound to happen again. Might as well get used to it!


Thursday, July 10, 2014

Choose Your Identity...

I just signed on to start working on a blog post, and found a post by a friend that I wanted to read first. When I went to leave a comment, there were these words: "Choose your identity". So really, it wasn't that deep, it was just asking me what name I wanted next to my comment, or if I wanted it to be anonymous. But it was perfect timing because I was going to title this post.....
"Who am I?"
 I am in a lot of different roles right now. Wife, friend, daughter, sister, teacher, mother....the list goes on. I have spent a lot of time thinking of who I am in light of these titles. It's gotten to a point where if people disagree with how I do things, I take it personally. Because if all I am is a mom, and someone thinks I'm a bad one, then where does that leave me? Or if I don't measure up to the kind of wife I think Derrick wants me to be, then am I a total failure? I guess I would be, if those were my true definitions. Thankfully, there is only one role that matters and it is the only one that has nothing to do with my performance.

"I am a follower of Christ."

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

This blogging thing is starting to take shape!

.......I think. 


I have a plan, which is....to write about whatever I feel led to write about. So that's easy. 

I have a format, which is me writing and Derrick adding his thoughts, either all the time or just on whatever topic he feels led to share on. I'm really excited about this part, I think it's going to be fun to do this together!

I have a blog name but...I'm not satisfied with it. Based on what you know about us and the whole joint-blogging idea, what comes to mind? Something short and catchy would be great. :) 

I've also joined a few networks, and my next task is to start connecting with people, then start a FB page, get a Twitter account, and then share share share any blog post, article, photo, product, or idea that I think is awesome. :) The social media part should be easy since I already do some of that anyway! 

I have a lot of things I'm passionate about, and Derrick has a lot of the same passions. So I think we will make a good writing team. But where to start? Well, you'll find out soon....a very open and honest confession from me is coming up in the next day or two, followed by my co-writer's thoughts (which he hasn't let me read yet, so I'm waiting with anticipation!). Looking forward to this new adventure!
If you have tips for me, ideas, suggestions, I want to hear them all. :)

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Milestones: Baby-led Weaning and a Toddler's First Pet

A lot has been going on around here lately! I can't believe how fast these children are growing and changing. When Chloe was a baby, I remember meeting a lady who had just had her third child. She said to me, "Kids are a time warp." I keep thinking about what she said as I've watched my life change so drastically in just 2 years. At this time in 2012, I was in New Momville, exhausted, overwhelmed, and completely obsessed with my newborn. Fast forward to last December, and I found myself a mom of a newborn yet again, except this time with an 18-month old in the mix. Two babies....18 months...whew. Now, here we are in June of 2014. I have this crazy beautiful, wonderful, enthusiastic 2-year old who talks in intelligible language about 90% of the time, and an amazing, strong, funny 6-month old who now sits on the floor and plays. By himself. I mean, I just took apart the Jumparoo because we don't use it with him anymore. What?

So, with every new phase comes new adventures. And since Chloe is obsessed with animals (I think that may be an understatement), we have been talking for a while about getting her a pet. But neither one of us are keen on having a high-maintenance critter. So, when a friend posted on Facebook the other day that she was looking for a home for a sweet little bunny, I thought, "This is perfect!" I think Derrick was surprised that I suggested it to him, because he always thought he'd be the one convincing ME to get a pet. But I knew how happy Chloe would be and that a rabbit would be easy to care for. So, long story short, we welcomed "Bunny Rabbit" (Chloe's term of endearment for her) to our family. :)




(Bunny was not harmed in the taking of these photos. :) )














And if this change wasn't big enough, Elijah decided he wanted to start eating food! I wanted to do "baby led weaning" with Chloe but I was too much of a whimp to give her anything but the mushiest of mushy food. So we did the puree thing and it was fine but, I wanted to go back to my original plan with Elijah, now that I am a braver mom. :) If you haven't read up on BLW, basically, it means just putting food in front of them in pieces they can hold in their hand and letting them play with it, smoosh it in their faces, lick it, throw it, whatever they want. If they swallow some, great, if not...no big deal. Very casual. We've started off with avocado, sweet potato, and banana. He liked avocado until he tasted the sweeter things, and now he doesn't like it as much. Crazy kid...craves sweets just like his momma. :) Here's the Baby Led Weaning website I used to get us started, but it really is just that simple. Messy, yes, but....it is more about the process and the experience than it is about actually eating right now. And I was one of those kids who hated getting my hands dirty so I'm trying to ignore that part of me and let him just dig in and get covered...that's what the bath tub is for, right?
His bib says, "Who put my cape on backwards?" hehe. And also, it did nothing to contain the mess...but like I said, I'm not gonna freak out over a little sweet potato on his clothes. :)



You don't need to put your leg behind me, Mama, I got this! 






These are just a few changes going on right now.....there are a lot of other things that I'll share in the near future! What is new and exciting with you all? :)