I Have Seen Jesus

Now that I have two kids and I stay at home, there are so many days when I feel incapable of being a patient mommy. There are days when my extremely extroverted personality longs for adult companionship and I may just shed a tear if she asks me to read If You Give a Mouse a Cookie one more time. There are days when I don’t cook at all and I scrape together weird leftover combo dinners (like day-old mac and cheese and Nora’s flavor blasted goldfish). Every day I need Jesus.

The last few weeks have been joyful with a new baby girl, and very difficult as I continue to learn how to do life and manage a home with two children. Luckily, I have seen Christ and He has held me close.

In the last month and a half, I have had friends from church come over and hold my kids and read to them when my arms and brain are too tired, or when Matt and I want to go play mini golf. I have had a friend go grocery shopping with me because I was scared to go alone with two babies…we each pushed a cart with a baby. I have had many families bring us meals so I didn’t have to cook and could focus on learning mommyhood times two. I have had a friend watch my girls just so that I could go to the youth service and hang out with Matt and the students I love so much. I have had sweet people hold a fussy Annemarie so that I could eat first. I have had family members come stay at my house and keep me company and have coffee with me and bathe my kids with me. I have been hugged and loved and encouraged in ways I have never before experienced, and through the bodies of His servants I have experienced the tangible love of Jesus. The reality that Jesus uses His Church to be His hands and feet has finally planted itself in my heart and has inspired me to be Jesus for others.

1 Peter 5:7 says, “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” Helpless and overwhelmed, I had no choice but to cast my cares on Christ, and He cared for me. He cared for me so well.

That being said, I have also witnessed this month what the love of Christ is not. Following the presidential election, I can no longer go on social media without my stomach going sour. Here is the sneaky, deceptive thing about social media: it allows people to slice with their words without having to look someone in the eyes and see the pain they have caused. People are able to hide behind their iPhones and computers and write hurtful, divisive statements that don’t reflect Jesus’ love. I have witnessed friendships being torn apart because of one comment on a Facebook thread—I can’t help but wonder if that would have happened so easily if the two parties had been speaking face to face…and I am not talking about the rest of the world.

I am talking about us, Church.

Jesus was not merely a man of words, but a man of action. He is not our Redeemer because of what He promised…He is our Redeemer because He physically came to earth, suffered through a perfectly obedient life as He loved the lowest society had to offer, and died an excruciating death on the cross in order to take the Father’s wrath on Himself so that we could be righteous. He is our Redeemer because His promises are true. The thick holes in His hands, feet, and side prove that Jesus was and is an active lover of His people.

Why then are some in His Church so vocal on Facebook but they don’t feed the hungry? Why are some so quick to tweet their opinions but don’t invite neighbors into their home? Is it more important to talk politics via the internet, or to actively love the people we disagree with? Why do some Church members only have Christian friends and dismiss everyone else?

I cannot answer these questions for myself without shame. (And I totally get the irony that this a blog I post on Facebook…)

But I have seen Jesus. Recently, He has reminded me through His saints what His love is truly like. It is patient and kind. It is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way. It is not irritable or resentful. It finds people in their time of need and holds their babies when they are too tired.

Christians are trying so hard to be the mouth of Christ, when He has already spoken. We are called to be His body. So let’s put down the phones…unless we are going to call old friends and ask forgiveness and invite them over and hug them and make cookies for them. Let’s love others unconditionally and with hearts desiring to serve. Just as Jesus would.

Nesting

Today, we close on our house! FINALLY!  It is truly an answer to prayer because we are moving in over a month later than we had anticipated.  Which would be totally fine if the baby weren’t due next week…

And the fact is that I could really give birth at any time.  According to my most recent appointment, little one is ready and raring to go.  In fact, I am convinced that if I jumped up and down a couple of times we’d be on our way to the hospital.  But I will NOT be doing that, because we still have yet to sign the paperwork on the house, and I would really like to move our stuff in before we bring her home.  It’s a nail biter.  Literally. I have bitten my nails down to the nubs with anxiety.

See, there is this thing called “nesting.”  All the mommy articles and blogs and pregnancy apps talk about it– it’s an instinct that most mamas-to-be have in which they feel the frenzied need to organize and clean and make ready their homes in order to prepare a space for their new child.  I have felt this instinct welling up inside of me the past month, but unfortunately it is hard to set up a nursery when all of your things are packed up and in boxes.  I just want to have her little bed ready, and make sure that both the girls’ clothes are hung up neatly in the closet, and set up the little bookshelf with their new books on it…waaaah.

Instead…we have chaos.  We have a scattering of toys lying around, baby clothes everywhere, boxes clogging up the hallways, and hardly a place to stand.  For a type A neat freak…this is overwhelming.

Originally, the term “nesting” comes from the animal world– birds make nests in order to create a safe place to lay eggs and raise their young.  They use bits of grass, mud, saliva, and scraps of whatever they can scrounge up to make a home for their offspring.  Now while I don’t think this is what “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” means when they describe “nesting,” this sounds a little closer to what my process has been…bits and pieces of whatever I can find sloppily slapped together for the purpose of baby preparation.

….

This morning while I was driving, my favorite psalm popped into my head.  Psalm 84 isn’t the most popular of the psalms, but it has always been so beautiful to me.  It starts out like this:

“How lovely is your dwelling place, O LORD of hosts!

My soul longs, yes, faints for the courts of the LORD;

my heart and flesh sing for joy to the living God.

Even the sparrow finds a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young at your altars, O LORD of hosts,

my King and my God.

Blessed are those who dwell in your house, ever singing your praise!” (v. 1-4, ESV)

Location, location, location is the mantra given as advice to first time home buyers.  It’s the reminder that even if you need to sacrifice certain desires for your house, you want to ensure that you live in a nice, safe neighborhood conveniently close to where you work, worship, shop, etc.

So even though my home will probably not be the organized, clean, Pinterest-inspired baby haven I envisioned bringing my little pink bundle home to…it will be nestled near the Almighty.  I can imagine no safer neighborhood, and my work for the Kingdom is made much easier when I am conveniently in His Presence.  The Sons of Korah write in Psalm 84 that the sparrow finds a home in His courts, and the swallow can nest with her young there.

And Matthew 10:31 says that “you are of more value than many sparrows.”  What joy!

I am thankful that my King and my God has provided a place for my nest, no matter what it’s made of.  I am thankful that like the swallow, I may dwell in his house and lay my young at His altars.

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Exploring the new place!

 

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Nothing gets this girl down!

I’m Not Laughing

Matt and I are living through one of those beautiful seasons of our young married life together: we are going on vacation next week, we are about to move into a brand new home, and we are due to bring home Baby Girl #2 in about a month.

Problem: our house closing date keeps getting pushed back and is currently scheduled for the middle of our week at the beach, our temporary townhome has a refrigerator currently taking up occupancy in the living room, and I’ve been having lots of those pesky Braxton-Hicks contractions.  Oh. And today at the grocery store I got up to the register to pay, realized that my new, unactivated debit card was still at home on the counter, and had to leave my cart full of bagged groceries at Publix with the extremely sympathetic cashier. Throw in some pregnancy hormones and a fussy toddler, and you’ve got a party.

Whew.

I’m struggling, folks, to stay positive and trust in the Lord.  I know He’s got this, and that the mortgage loan paperwork mix-up was not a surprise to God (though it came as a huge, unwelcome surprise to me).  I keep thinking about that lady in the Bible…the one all of us Christian women strive to live up to…the ethereal, resourceful wife and businesswoman…the envied and beloved…the one and only…Proverbs 31 woman.  I can’t stop dwelling on that verse, “Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come” (Prov. 31:25).

First of all, my clothing is currently covered in goldfish saliva juice.  I’ll let you ponder a moment what you think that might be…and I haven’t even showered yet.  I feel very weak, and excruciatingly undignified.  The exact opposite of this description of a virtuous woman.  Where can I get some strength and dignity y’all?

And then, what I truly don’t understand is…

Why is she laughing?  I’m not.  I’m sitting here in the middle of a sea of moving boxes watching The Holiday (praying that an early dose of Christmas spirit will cheer me up) and trying not to tear up.  Seriously, the last thing on my list of things to do today is “laugh at the time to come.”  The “time to come” sounds uncertain and scary.  The “time to come” might include an early baby and a way too-short version of a much-needed family beach trip.  The “time to come” could include any number of situations that I can’t control.  I’m not digging it.

I keep asking God to give me grace and trust…but secretly I am enjoying my little pity party.  There’s a reason for the song lyric, It’s my party and I’ll cry if I want to.  Part of me does not want to accept the inevitable- I want to do what Nora does when she is deprived of something she wants:  I want to sit on the floor and cry and scream and kick my legs and yell until I get it.  Not exactly the image of the righteous woman we glimpse in Proverbs…Thankfully, God is a gracious, patient Father who uses His Holy Spirit to speak to our hearts and teach us when we are wrong.

Just as I pop Nora on the hand and tell her “no,” God has chastised me with His Word for the millionth time.  That living, breathing, double-edged sword has reminded me once more: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9), “…the joy of the Lord is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10), “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand…” (Isaiah 41:10).

And let’s be real honest here.  I am very, truly, extremely aware that I am complaining about good gifts given to me in what I feel is less-than-perfect timing: the beach, a house, a baby.  But Paul says that he boasts in his weaknesses to reflect the power of God, so I am going to continue boasting in how insufficient, weak, and ungrateful I am.

Last Sunday, Matt preached his first sermon in “big church,” and he taught on 2 Corinthians 4:7-18, which begins, “But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.”  The treasure Paul is talking about is the glory of Christ.  The Potter has reminded me that I am a jar of clay; I am fragile and easily broken, but I carry something of eternal worth.

You know what? The Proverbs 31 woman is a jar of clay, too.  She laughs at the time to come because her joy and contentment is not in her housing situation, her family, her business, her energy level, etc.  Her joy is in the Lord.  Therefore, when she cracks under pressure- the light and love of our Jesus shines through and she laughs and rejoices.

My prayer for myself today is that I will laugh at and delight in the future…because Jesus is my future. He is the “time to come.” Every other thing in life is uncertain, but Jesus.  He has saved me forever, sealed my righteousness, and made victory mine.  Though my life may be chaotic for a few weeks, it is full of joy.  May God give me eyes that see that Truth.  I’m not laughing yet, but hopefully soon.

I was reading some prayers from Valley of Vision the other day, and I stumbled across this prayer that I will leave you with:

“There is none all good as thou art:

With thee I can live without other things,

for thou art God all-sufficient,

and the glory, peace, rest, joy of the world is a creaturely, perishing thing in comparison with thee.”

http://www.melmariphoto.com

 

Two Little Girls

I have been a Mom for a whole year. Which is why I probably don’t need to explain my lack of timely blog posts..

This year with our Eleanor has been busy and so fun and a little messy (a lot messy) and I have lost my patience and kissed her face a million times and cried exasperated tears and combed her sweet little hair and sang her songs and taught her to clap and prayed for her. Oh what joy! I delight in her.

And…sometime in September, Matt and I will bring home another little girl, and then we will have two. TWO. When Vicki the ultrasound technician rubbed that warm jelly on my belly and moved the little senser thingy back and forth across my abdomen, I saw the screen and knew in .2 seconds that I was having another little girl. I cried happy tears and looked at Matt’s handsome face as he squeezed my hand and said, “Looks like we’re two for two.” We left the office that morning and I couldn’t stop smiling as I remembered my own childhood spent with my little sister at my side. I pray that just as Hayley and I are best friends, Nora and Little Girl will be best friends. It’s so terribly exciting, and also very frightening. Because let me tell you, I have serious doubts some days that I can even handle one. Thankfully, the Lord is so overwhelmingly gracious, and He will be my ever-present help in time of need (Psalm 46:1).

I have started trying to teach Nora to be sweet with her baby doll in preparation for the new baby. I tell her to hug her and kiss her and be gentle with her, and then I model the proper behavior by hugging the baby and patting her back softly. At this point, she gives the doll big sloppy kisses and proceeds to throw her on the floor. Points for sweetness, but BIG deduction for safety hazard. Hopefully, with five more months of practice Nora’s big sister skills will improve…

The Lord has taught so much from this year of being a mom.  So much.  I remember being eight months pregnant, excited to death to meet my daughter, overwhelmed with joy at becoming a family of three…and being pretty terrified.  Mostly of labor (which, to be honest, I totally had the right to be).  But I was also scared of not being able to protect my child from the unseen, I was nervous about getting her on the right sleep schedule, I was worried that I would become so focused on her that I would neglect my walk with Christ…you name it, I probably feared it.

After the delivery and the first few months of being a mom, my fears began to dissipate as I allowed God to gently guide me through each day.  I began to “cast my anxieties upon Him” and I let Him care for me as I cared for Nora.  Then I felt on top of the world for a while, thinking to myself, “I can totally do this mom thing.  No problem.”

Cut to positive pregnancy test on my 25th birthday.  All the fear has coming rushing back, but a little differently this time.  My mind runs over all of the difficulties that come with having two children instead of one- doing ministry well, maintaining a strong marriage, making Nora feel special, hanging out with friends, visiting family, etc.  I think I have come to the conclusion that pretty much everything is harder with two kids.

And people don’t always give words of encouragement.  I’ve heard:

“Well this baby probably won’t sleep as well as Nora did.  You may not get lucky twice.”

“Two girls? Good luck with the teenage years.” [*side note on the “teenage years” comments: Um. I know.  I was a mouthy, prideful teenager.  Thanks for the reminder that I have what’s coming to me.]

“Just make sure to get their nap times in sync so you have time to rest.”

Despite the occasional negative comment and despite my own fears, I cannot WAIT to bring home Little Girl!  I am thankful that this year of motherhood has etched Psalm 23 ever more deeply into my heart.  In fact, just like my grandma used to recite “The Lord is my Shepherd…” as she fed me when I was a baby, I recite it when I feed Nora her lunch.

“The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want.  He makes me lie down in green pastures.

He leads me beside the still waters.  He restores my soul.

He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” (v.1-4)

I don’t have to fear anything, because the Lord not only promises to be with me and comfort me, He also gives me rest and restores my soul.  Even as I write this, I am encouraged by the words of David.  What freedom I have- to rejoice without fear!  My personality naturally leads me to be anxious and worrisome, and there are times when I will struggle with fear.  Especially leading up to the delivery (I’ve already had one labor nightmare, which doesn’t help).

It sounds like a strange thing, to be afraid of two little girls.  Hopefully easier to raise two little girls than to “walk through the valley of the shadow of death,” right?  Right??  If David can fearlessly walk through darkness and danger knowing that God is with him, then I can fearlessly and joyfully walk through motherhood knowing that my soul will find rest and that I shall not want.  I shall not want for joy, or intimacy with the Lord, or mercy, or grace, or comfort, or rest, or strength.  I shall not want.

Praise God for His gifts that require courage and strength, and that teach us not to fear.  I have learned so much about God’s character from one little girl, I can only imagine how much I will learn from two.

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Mother’s Day Celebration with my own mama!
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Big girl is almost on the move!
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Our 1-year-old!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What will we do if so-and-so is elected?

Confession: I do not particularly love writing or reading about politics.  My heart gets all thumpity and afraid that I will hurt feelings or offend someone or make myself look ignorant or start a comment battle or…..the list goes on and on…

But I am going to be brave and blog about it. I will say– this post was written for Christians.  So if you are not one you will probably hate every word I say with a fiery passion.  So spare yourself and stop reading now.  You’ll just be angry with me, and that serves no purpose.

If any of you reading this are like me, you respond to politics one of two ways depending on your mood at a given moment:

1. You shut out the voice of American politics immediately, having become jaded by the ugliness, falsity, and ever-increasing godlessness that currently prevails in the media and  in the government.  You remind yourself that God is in control and does not need your voice adding to the chorus of complaining, bitterness, and hate that currently fills social media and daily conversation.

OR

2. You become incensed over one or more issues and are inspired to become a voice crying out in the wilderness against a world that wants no part of the Bible or Christian values.  It is up to you to change American government, and if so-and-so is elected then the world as you know it will come to an end.

Depending on how I’m feeling, I usually set my mind on one of these two attitudes.  Some days I tell myself, “It’s hopeless.  There will never again be a servant of the Lord elected as president.  You might as well give up praying, and trust God to humble America in whatever way He sees fit.  Raise your family to the best of your ability and mind your own business.”  But this perception of politics is a problem because God does not want us to stop praying or fighting for His Kingdom to come to earth.  He does not want us to stay in our own Christian safety zone while ignoring the injustices that break His heart.

But the second attitude isn’t quite right either.  There are moments when I get so excited about gains in the pro-life community and I think, “Finally! This company is getting de-funded, their evil has been exposed, we are making progress….” And then courts rule in their favor and I find myself devastated to the point of unholy anger directed at the wrong Person.  I question, “Lord, there are so many babies dying every day.  Can’t goodness win just once?”  This attitude can lead to testing God, and becoming frustrated with Him when American society and government do not reflect our earnest prayers.

So how can we have a healthy outlook on politics, especially as the political scene is heating up and potential candidates are already fighting tooth and nail for the spotlight?

By having a godly, wise perspective that takes both God’s sovereignty and our own responsibility as His people into consideration.  I do not have this mastered yet- I am either dead to the political scene or living in a state of hopeless, crazed fear as I cry out desperately for change.  I think these skewed viewpoints can be boiled down to this: not praying enough or not trusting enough.

I heard a sermon on prayer once by pastor Tim Keller.  He was explaining Psalm 4 I believe, and how two different types of prayer are visible in the passage.  In the first verse, the psalmist writes,

                 “Answer me when I call, O God of my righteousness!
                   You have given me relief when I was in distress.
                   Be gracious to me and hear my prayer!”

This is a desperate cry for the Lord to intervene.  It’s a prayer of supplication, a humble man asking God to do a mighty work.  But later in verse 8, the author says,

                  “In peace I will both lie down and sleep;
                    for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.”

This is a prayer acknowledging that God is in complete control.  The psalmist can sleep at night peacefully, trusting the Lord with all of his heart.  Both of these prayers are good examples for us to follow as we kneel before God.  Our hearts have to constantly be expecting God to work mightily in our nation and to install godly men in leadership positions, while at the very same time trusting Him to carry out His plan.  Here’s a little secret: God’s plan can NEVER be thwarted.  Ever.  The Bible says, “Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand” (Proverbs 19:21).  Whew.  Even reading that verse gives me peace.

That being said, it’s completely valid to be heartbroken over what is going on in the world today.  In fact, it would be a tragedy if you felt no sadness at the materialism, broken family life, and sexual immorality that currently characterizes our once-beautiful nation.  The prophets in the Old Testament tore their clothes, wept over their cities, and mourned.

Jeremiah, commonly referred to as the weeping prophet, writes:

“Oh that my head were waters,
    and my eyes a fountain of tears,
that I might weep day and night
    for the slain of the daughter of my people!
Oh that I had in the desert
    a travelers’ lodging place,
that I might leave my people
    and go away from them!
For they are all adulterers,
    a company of treacherous men” (9:1-2).

He is crying about the moral decline of his society, saying that they are “adulterers” and “treacherous men.”  Sound familiar?  It is godly to be passionate for righteousness.  It is godly to pray fervently that a follower of Jesus be elected as president.  (Shoot, you better be praying that!) Because how can we be a living, breathing, loving city on a hill if our eyes are shut to the evil around us?  We have to trust God and walk in obedience, praying that He uses us to bring justice. We have to keep speaking the Truth even when the rest of the world hates us.  We have to go to sleep at night with peace in our hearts.

Even if the worst happens…and so-and-so is elected.  Why?  Because our God never fails.

Doing Christmas

This Christmas will be unlike any other I have ever celebrated.  This is my first holiday season with a child of my own.

Truth be told, I am thankful Nora is only going to be 8 months old this Christmas– it gives us another year or two before we have to make all the Christmas family tradition decisions. It’s a little sad that parents in this day and age have to consider just exactly how they are going to do Christmas with their kids.  Are we going to do the whole Santa thing?  If so, are we going to go all out (like jingle bells on the roof kind of deal), or are we just going to let them figure out the truth early on?  Do I have the creativity/energy to do Elf on the Shelf, or is it too creepy?  How many presents does Santa bring them? Does he wrap them or leave them exposed?  How many presents should each kid get from Mommy and Daddy?  

It’s really exhausting thinking about it, and the worst part is that however your family chooses to “do” Christmas– you’re pretty much stuck with it until your kids are married and out of the house.  That’s a lot of pressure for new moms and dads that want Christ to be central in their celebration, but don’t want their kid to think, “Why does Santa bring Tommy five presents and me only one?”  Whew.

We still don’t have our answers to 95% of these questions.  I’ve been pondering these predicaments, and asking myself how I want our child(ren) to experience Christmas when they are old enough to have a perspective.  I have come up with a few conclusions:

1.  I want them to see a joyful Mommy.

Here’s the thing.  The holiday season is always SO stressful, especially for moms.  Women are pulling their hair out trying to get the shopping done and the Christmas cards mailed.  We don’t have time to sit down for even a few minutes to think about what it means that God became a baby in order to save us.  It’s the kindest, most selfless thing to have ever happened.  It’s unthinkable.  It’s unimaginable.

Delight in this truth should make us stop in the middle of our shopping and wrapping and Lifetime movie-watching, and worship with hearts bursting with song: “Fall on your knees, hear the angel voices, ‘O night divine, O night when Christ was born.”  I want Nora to grow up noticing that Mom and Dad are joyful as they celebrate the birth of their King.

Easier said than done, I know.  *Note: these are merely the conclusions I have come to, I have yet to actually put them into practice…

2.  I want Nora to see that “family time” isn’t really a thing.

I know this one sounds weird at first.  But the Bible doesn’t say too much about making sure that your family spends time alone.  However, it says a whole heck of a lot about showing hospitality to strangers.  Jesus says:

“When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid. But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.” (Luke 14:12-14)

The author of Hebrews writes, “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers…”(13:12)

*For a few more verses on hospitality and caring for others, check out: James 1:27; James 2:2-6; 1 John 3:17-18; 1 Peter 4:9; Leviticus 19:34; Deuteronomy 15:11; Proverbs 14:21,31; Proverbs 22:9; Proverbs 31:20; Isaiah 58:6-7; Matthew 25:35; Luke 18:22; 1 Timothy 5:3.

Even when Jesus was told that his mother and brothers were waiting outside to speak to Him, He replied, “Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother” (Matthew 12:49).

This is NOT to say that spending time with family is wrong– it’s wonderful in fact!  God has given us our families to love and to cherish.  But as followers of Jesus, we extend His love and mercy to the lost by inviting people inside our homes and serving them.  Just as Jesus poured Himself out for the weary and downtrodden, so we too must show kindness and love to others.  Even those who don’t share the same faith or political beliefs.  Even those who don’t say “Merry Christmas.”

During the holidays, we tend to flock towards our families and enjoy “family time” while forgetting that many people don’t have families or a place to celebrate.  That would break Jesus’ heart– why doesn’t it break ours?

3.  I want Christ to be the source of her excitement.

This one is hard.  Good parents love to witness the happiness on their children’s faces as they eagerly tear off wrapping paper in expectation of what’s underneath.  God is the same way- He loves to give good gifts to His children (Matthew 7:11).

I can’t wait for the day that I give Nora a present and she opens it and is delighted by what I’ve given her.  But…I want her to see that the things of this life pale in comparison to knowing Christ.  The apostle Paul says, “Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ…” (Philippians 3:8).

I want her to learn that the free gift of salvation is more precious than any man-made trinket.  I don’t want the tinsel and lights of this season to distract her eyes from the the overwhelming glory of the Lord.  The same glory that made countless angels cry, “Glory to God in the highest!” (Luke 2:14).

My daughter’s joy can only be complete when she receives her King.

I am thankful that Nora is still young enough that I have time to ask God to give me the right heart at Christmas time.  My prayer is that our family would be joyful givers during this season.  That strangers and acquaintances and friends (and family, too) would be warmly invited into our home and served well.  That our children wouldn’t beg us to speed through the reading of the Christmas story on the morning of the 25th in eagerness to open gifts, but rather they would stand in awe of God’s kindness.

And when this ideal doesn’t happen, and we’re selfish with our time and I’m stressed about whether or not to send so-and-so a Christmas card, and I’ve run out of ideas for Elf on the Shelf, and all Nora can think about is what Santa is bringing her for Christmas, and we don’t “do Christmas” right at all…I can have peace knowing that God is full of grace and mercy, that next Christmas is a new opportunity for our family to do better, and that Christ is still God’s gift to mankind.

Thankful today for the best Gift ever given.

“And they gazed in wonder at God’s Great Gift, wrapped in swaddling clothes, and lying in a manger.  Mary and Joseph named him Jesus, ‘Emmanuel’- which means, ‘God has come to live with us.’ Because, of course, he had.” – Jesus Storybook Bible

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Merry Christmas from the Harris Family!
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Our merry girl

Big Girl Food

Last week we started giving Eleanor baby food.  I was surprised to find it emotionally difficult, giving my child sustenance that was not from my own body.  It was not difficult for Nora, however.  She loved every tiny delicious morsel of big girl food; after the first goopy bite of green beans, she began to ravenously clap her jaws together and her little head dove towards the spoon every time she took a swallow.  She hardly stopped to breathe.  We laughed as she got food everywhere in an attempt to get it inside of her mouth as quickly as possible.  The funniest part is that she’ll eat anything apparently (this must be a genetic trait).  So far, we have fed her green beans, carrots, sweet potatoes, apples, and bananas and she has gone NUTS over every single one of them.

It made me feel a trifle guilty, honestly.  I thought to myself, Should we have tried this sooner? It seems like she’s starving!  It was crystal clear after that first feeding session that she had been more than ready to digest something heavier than breast milk.

It’s truly amazing the way God teaches us life lessons through our children.  As I was spooning sweet potato into Nora’s all-too-eager mouth earlier today, God reminded me that just as my baby needs heavier food for her growing body, I likewise need heavier spiritual food in order to grow.  1 Peter 2:2 says, “Desire the sincere milk of the Word that you may grow.”  Milk leads to growth for a time, but eventually every Christian needs more.  Hebrews 5:12-14 says:

…Everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.”  

It’s so easy to just live life forever coasting on spiritual “milk.”  Going to church and reading five-minute devotionals every morning doesn’t cut it.  (But boy, does a five-minute devotional sound appealing to a busy mom…especially when it just talks about the light and fluffy side of Christianity so you don’t have to actually think deep thoughts about the nature and character of God.)  The problem with this kind of “milk” is that eventually you become weak and stop growing.

Our bodies were meant for more.  We were made to increasingly desire greater knowledge about God that can only be given by chewing on difficult truths and swallowing every aspect of God’s character as revealed in the Bible.  Watered-down devotionals that focus on me, me, me lead to thoughts about…me.  Only the small-minded dwell on themselves constantly.  However, meditating on He who is infinite will grow your mind, heart, and spiritual appetite.  I (want to) desire to read Scripture, contemplate it, study it, memorize it, talk about it, pray about it, and live it out.  That’s spiritual “meat.”

Matthew 5:6 says, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.”

Oh, I wish that I would hunger for righteousness the same way Nora hungers for her carrots; with an admirable focus and eager expectation that cannot be thwarted, no matter the distractions in her environment.  Like her, I wish that I would stare at that spoon with delightful anticipation before zealously consuming every last drop of wisdom and truth and promise.

But I don’t.  I stare at the pages sometimes without eating.  I push away the heavy spirituality and instead consume what goes down easy.  Why do I think I have enough energy to work alongside my husband in ministry without first filling up on the Bread of Life?  My prayer today is that I would feed on the Scripture every day in such a way that its heaviness gives nourishment to my oftentimes fragile faith, so that it may grow.

My season of life makes this so difficult, but I am grateful to be surrounded by faithful women who truly hunger for the things of God.  Surround yourself with hungry people.

I also notice that Nora has trouble keeping the food in her mouth because of that “tongue-thrust reflex,” so I have to use the rubbery spoon to scoop up the food that falls out of her mouth and then I offer it up to her again.  When there are Scriptures that I spit back out because they are hard to swallow, God gently shoves them back inside my mouth and says, “I don’t want you to miss out on a single bit of this.  It’s good for you.”  What a good Father.

I hope He delights in feeding me His Truth as much as I get a kick out of watching Nora eat.  Shes’ a hoot.

"Where's my food, Mom?"
“Where’s my food, Mom?”
Happy, messy girl.
Happy, messy girl.